‘Snake’ by Britton Gildersleeve

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Winter: and the early harvest moon
rises on the mist of the night wind.
Snake has gone to ground,
seeping like thick fluid
into the spaces between earth’s warm bones.
Strung like the half notes of dew on spider’s web,
Snake’s dreams shimmer.
They flicker between worlds,
tongues licking at the wild honey of our lies.

Struggling deep into the frozen clay we burrow,
shaping with our songs each hand-smoothed brick.
Adobe strengthens through summer,
muddies in the winter rain.
We build the ring around the fire:
one brick upon another through the chilly night.
And Snake listens: even in his torpid dreams
he eavesdrops. His supple belly translates
every whisper the complicit earth yields.
We lean together, our truths cloaked
only in our own illusions.

Snake stirs, each glittering scale tuned
to earth’s fitful quiver. We await him.
Beyond the fire’s lighted circle
Snake rolls, hooplike. His tale
within his mouth, he loops,
inexorable.
What does Snake know?
Like light he is a wave he is a point he is everywhere
among us. He ripples over the wall
of our intentions, our stories that drift
upon the phantom smoke.
He haunts our troubled silences
while we try to rebuild truth.

But Snake reminds us:
truth is not a winter fire
laid against the brittle blade of fear.
It huddles through the night,
thin-skinned animal with wild heart.
While snake, truth’s sibilant guardian
waits, listening.

Britton Gildersleeve’s poetry has appeared previously in Nimrod, Passager, Spoon River, This Land Press, Futures Trading, Lincoln Underground, Atlas Poetica, and Florida Review, and other journals. She has three chapbooks: two from Pudding House, and one from Kattywompus Press. She blogs at https://teaandbreath.com.

Two Poems by Walker Storz

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For Sylvia

You were yr own Hero—
gold Narcissus-
flower turned to lead
Water turned to
ice—alchemy of
death. In your mind,
objects turn
and turn and they
whirl themselves
into static.

You own a million
postcards of yourself:
faded photographs
of statues and ghosts

and a shrine, erected to
your image,
in your mind

which is to say, in
Your house, and
everywhere

When water turns
into ice, it whirls
into stasis with a
deafening flourish

Then, materializing–

a glass
icon of yourself,
chiselled out of
frozen time. That
infinite quantity–those
Crushed bodies, those
long-gone heroes. Castle
walls would not protect
them. And you were all
alone, in the doctor’s
office. A sphere of
soft light, surrounded by
a harsher light–a
Splitting pain–forceps,
scission, the film ripped
from an eye, the fathomless
Glinting fields of
Glass, or ice.

scd nt s prfc

My last lover
told me she
believed in
no afterlife,
and in that moment
the aura
surrounding her
dissipated.
I felt sodden;
betrayed
by materiality
We were (only)
objects
hurtling through
space, always
inevitably apart,
maybe it was
heroic to have
tried to hold
on even for
our brief
interval

I been sinking
further into
my brain, time
unspools like
the parasites from
the guts of a
pig

We had a
mutual fear
of children,
fertility–how
easy it was
to generate a
life with a
careless gesture–
but
what grew between us
was worse

A nihil, feeding on
our little silences,
our turning-
away,
feeding on
time, turning it
against each
other. Even the
air, the simple
dead air, started
to have
implications
like it
had been
laced with them

I wish I could
beat time at
its own game:
bring me my
knife, bring
me my machine
for spelling
terrible equations,
for
bringing the
end to my
hesitance.
Down the barrel,
in the waiting
room, there
is a voice
pointing at me,
saying “you can
write your
story with
me,
you can end
this
chapter”

‘Dust on a tropical breeze’ & ‘Inside out’ by Britton Gildersleeve

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Dust on a tropical breeze

after César Vallejo

Old Saigon will claim me
after I fold my wings, after decades of flight.
Probably on moonday, Lundi, at the grande marché
I will collapse in feathery dust beside the leper at the gate.

I knew this as a child, watching the leper’s outstretched hands
knew I was already half-erased, only a dusty ghost
like the hungry bụi đời who float upon the wind.
I am half Saigon still.

‘She is gone,’ they will murmur, in breathy whispers.
My words will unravel like the silk of cocoons
weaving a sieve to catch the wind.

‘We didn’t mean to hurt her,’ they will say.
‘Who knew she would fall to dust?’

Inside out

From the gut – the bones, the marrow, the soft & hidden
places. Where who I really am hides, protected. Safe
sequestered behind organs that pulse inflate record
move the seas of blood through the tiniest of tunnels.
Over microscopic bridges without names

Neural pathways crisscross the hidden me, who conceals
her presence in the ocean thrum of inner music, plucked
tendons ligaments the treble strings of artery & vein
each with its own red voice, magnified in community
camouflage for the uncertain

Without – the smile, the warm confidence. The careful
lacquer of manners & skills. All the masks we wear
over our inner lives. Silk and leather and the fey glitter
of carefully polished words. None of it matching
an interior landscape of apocalypse

Britton Gildersleeve’s poetry has appeared previously in Nimrod, Passager, Spoon River, This Land Press, Futures Trading, Lincoln Underground, Atlas Poetica, and Florida Review, and other journals. She has three chapbooks: two from Pudding House, and one from Kattywompus Press. She blogs at https://teaandbreath.com.

‘Mecca in Flames’ by iukinim

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She is walking down the streets of Mecca
Gracefully witnessed the mighty prophet
Dressed in silky white
his figure drowned in light

 

He whispers in her ear
No words to comfort her
Violent worlds from within
She’s burdened by fear
Chased by distress
Her answers far from here

 

This earthly sorrow
Shall go away
She should make amends
And embrace decay
Beyond this land undone
No place to pray

She acted all radical
Where is faith?

Northern Palestine, in 1948
Banished from earth
Down in the conflict district
Faith was sheltered underground
Treated by farmers for 13 days
Later shot by physicists

Continue reading “‘Mecca in Flames’ by iukinim”

‘Warrior’ & ‘Resist’ by Britton Gildersleeve

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Warrior

He was younger than my oldest son, my father.
It was spring it was Europe it was the war
after the war to end all wars. Only fools
believe that war solves anything, he told me
forty years later. What it does, he remembered,
is change the young and kill them and their hope
and their believing. But not their nightmares.

Metal carries internal fissures; heat and water
temper them. Men carry knives more flexible
than combat as sharp as terror as deadly as politics.
Annealing that’s what Europe gave my father.
And death death in foreign languages
death in foreign weather foreign unknowable death
Death that became familiar

Resist

~ for Ishmael Reed

My literary lovers aren’t like me. It is not by choice
that I follow the tracks of black men, gay men, dead veterans.
Who I am is all of these men I never was and never will be.
Somehow, a bridge connects each of us to one another. Cowboys
to angry Indians, men betrayed by women to this woman
who in her journey out of darkness watches
for the light thrown by these men who prowled the margins
floating down the river in boats with words for rudders.
Made homeless by other men always white men of my own kind
my father shouted when I loved you. But the ancient god speaks
Ra
who created everything & everyone even the white sidewinders
reminds me: all pools reflect light. Looking at light is looking within
into the darkness deep within us. Each of my lovers maps
alleys, hairpin curves, and switchbacks of roads
set up to carry us away from bridges, away from all of light’s
illumination. Not to follow is to submit to shadows.
Not to follow is to submit.

Britton Gildersleeve’s poetry has appeared previously in Nimrod, Passager, Spoon River, This Land Press, Futures Trading, Lincoln Underground, Atlas Poetica, and Florida Review, and other journals. She has three chapbooks: two from Pudding House, and one from Kattywompus Press. She blogs at https://teaandbreath.com.

‘Ghazal for a Blue Ridge Home’ & ‘The House Where the Wind Lives’ by Britton Gildersleeve

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Ghazal for a Blue Ridge Home

It is the way mountains smell: conifer & cloud
How mist settles over the horizon’s line of green, conifer & cloud.

Prairies are in my bones, the wide flat blue of open sky
But I am learning this new language, how to speak conifer & cloud.

You can fall in love with a place, even if it is nothing like before
A kind of reincarnation of home, oak & mistletoe to conifer & cloud.

In the distance, the mountain ridge blues to haze, dissolves
Into a softening of trees and coming rain: conifer & cloud.

I wake each morning to this new place, the soft teeth of metal
In this new fragrance – the chilly purity of conifer & cloud.

The House Where the Wind Lives

Has no doors. The windows whisper
to the sagebrush nestled beneath them:
Hold fast, my loves. Hold fast.
Behind the weathered wooden walls
high plains stretch languorously
Their flat bodies supine beneath
the wide pale sky
Mornings, the wind has breakfast
with cloud, whose tendril fingers
reach for sage blossoms
which wind blows across
the sagging table. She smiles.
Cloud shakes his head, and droplets
of rain fall from his white hair.
This is the house where the wind lives
he reminds himself. And smiles back.

Britton Gildersleeve’s poetry has appeared previously in Nimrod, Passager, Spoon River, This Land Press, Futures Trading, Lincoln Underground, Atlas Poetica, and Florida Review, and other journals. She has three chapbooks: two from Pudding House, and one from Kattywompus Press. She blogs at https://teaandbreath.com.

‘Loneliness is Going to the Movies’ by Chris Rojas

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When I was younger I thought I could feel less lonely if I consciously chose an interest that was widely popular. In middle school I was having a hard time finding other kids interested in Harry Turtledove novels and the Franco-Prussian War, so I set out to establish an interest already in vogue with my classmates.

This plan seemed like a safe a bet—everybody likes movies. And for a time, it worked quite well. A large part of why movies are the default for first dates is because it counts as spending time together, but you don’t actually have to start and maintain a conversation. Then after the show, you have an obvious conversation topic. The same goes for dysfunctional families and their affinity for any kind of shared viewing experience. If there is just one TV show or genre that everyone can agree on, an hour or so of unity and tranquility can be achieved while everyone silently participates in one thing. When you’re in middle school, trying to figure out how to stop being a complete child and manage adolescence, quite a few social engagements have that uneasy feeling of a first date or a family on edge. Movies serve as a handy “free parking” spot throughout all of this chaos.

But over time, most every appreciation sharpens into an interest and is then honed into a specialized obsession. There are sports aficionados who want to tell you about specific plays in the 1976 Super Bowl. There are gearheads that insist on explaining the details of Pontiac V8 engines to people who drive Corollas. I’ve even met feminists eager to tell registered Republicans about every intricacy of the 1980s “porn wars.” So it goes. And so it went for me and film. When I was 13, it was easy to find guys interested in watching Quentin Tarantino’s latest. When I was 16, and wanted to see Moon, it was a harder sell. By the age of 19, I had gotten my hands on some VHS tapes of Lina Wertmüller movies never released on DVD. Boy was it tough to find anyone to watch those with me. Inside of just a few years, my interest in film evolved from a social outreach tool to a burning, and very niche, obsession. I do not mean to denigrate my cinephile ways—at least not entirely. Film has brought a richness to my life that I will appreciate to the day I die. But the irony of having first dived into movies as an avenue to a greater social life and ending up just developing another often-unshareable interest is, well, depressing.

Continue reading “‘Loneliness is Going to the Movies’ by Chris Rojas”

Four Poems by Jude VC

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Axiom Brain

Axiom brain. Barbed wire flower. What did
you think you were trying to achieve.
Point A to Point B gets you
very carsick if you don’t close your eyes
along the way.
Metal green. Sharp grass. How did they
make you feel that kind of pain.
Or did you dig the glass into your own wrist
when you knocked your head on its shelf.
Dream. Miracle. Post office pleasures
where the greatest joy you know of is daydreams
in dullness. Bleeding in the dark.
Desperate, sick, sick. Sick, sick. Sick.
Twist the glass in deeper. Love achievement, loved
barbed wire. Flower? What did you think?

But only as much as they’ll let you

He moved in with me not a long time after the
incident, the one everybody remembered for once.
Of the things he brought with him
was his Knife Collection, which I had to put somewhere
other than in the sleeping bag
he kept Sleeping in [even though I told him
“there’s a guest room”]
[aside: I made it for him, or for SOMEONE because I knew
that not all of us could keep going it alone]

But anyway, you look out for your friends,
he moved around a lot
in all the ways I could observe anyway
still thinking about his things
like I’d think about mine

the mechanics of the House were his primary interest
“Quiet they’ll hear us below”
was an attempt at shutting the screams
that could almost be pitied
[pitiful screams too but
what can you do]

His sleeping bag became a mattress
in my room
he didn’t want to get a proper bed
but he moved in There with my provision
that he get to keep his knives in that room with him.

They made their way under my bed, incidentally.

He wouldn’t move to the other side of the room
where I could keep a
closer eye on him
Like I said, sharing a space with a body was bad enough,
how about sharing a bed with one?
[I try to care about people. but. well.

It feels lasting

in the land of feeling
[which is last]
it will not do (be done) to take time
away from it

we have all hour[s] to
lose that part of our minds

 

feeling will last
an hour but not without being done

and mind your time away
it’ll land soon enough

 

and in which away is the time
the hour the feeling
that loses the land of minds

[which is last?]

A List of Lighted Things

Houses ,streetlamps ,lanterns ,candles ,buildings before night ,stars ,other celestial bodies
none of them being mine
because mine is not visible

Jude VC does not exist but it wrote these words anyway. When not sticking words together, Jude draws weird-looking angels (during the day) and holds in-depth conversation with stars (at night). The latter consists of a lot of inarticulate yelling.

‘name a god before it’s over’ by spacemortuary

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you can’t breathe, i know.

i get it.

i can only speak when you ignore me.

luckily –

(whether for you or for me) –

you always do.

look, there’s this tape, a fucking cassette, this neurological mess of thick black tape rolled neatly into this godawful crinkling static VHS that i cannot claw out of my fucking skull no matter how hard i try probably not even if i poured acid all over this shitty hunk of meat encased in bone atop my stupid fucking neck no matter how hard i try lord knows i have tried and my flesh crumbles at the memory alone so FUCK YOU.

i still wake up with lungs full of mud.

it’s not a metaphor for what you think it is.

you don’t get it, you don’t care, you’re still ignoring me.

i’m so tired. i’m so tired of watching that fucking tape. yes, i fucking am how would you know otherwise and just because sometimes i play it at will doesn’t mean i like it, it doesn’t mean i like it and you won’t ever understand why i do it so stop trying.

it entered me freely. i don’t know when. but i let it in.

look, sometimes i just want a reason. and you gave me one i can play back over and over and over and it doesn’t stop and it goes over and over and over and

just pick one already and pray.

spacemortuary is an aspiring tattoo artist from the Pacific North West who’s just out here tryin to draw as many flowers and spread as much hope as possible. pancakes and strawberries and twitter @spacemortuary

‘The Student’ by Rossignol Eliot

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A young man rewrites his suicide note constantly.  It is his ambition to leave a note that can be described only using the strongest adjectives.  He thinks of the notes in terms of acidity, flavor, gestalts of swirling color–like a chef or a painter.  But he is not a good enough writer to make these visions come to life.  The suicide note is an exercise in style for him, but it is not a mere exercise in style–he wants to end his life urgently, but he cannot until his note is perfected.  He doesn’t attempt to write anything else but this one note anymore.  Writing feels like a chore.

Now he has started to dream that a committee of professors is responsible for grading his note.  They sit with pallid, disappointed faces that constantly seem to crumble as if carved out of lime; their voices similarly disintegrate at the end of phrases.  They must approve his note for him to be allowed to die.  But they never do.  They are always annoyed with him for arriving slightly late, which he always seems to do.  His anxiety builds like air condensing, becoming a roaring silent mass.  He remembers fear only vaguely.  He used to be scared of death, although it would be more accurate to say that he was apprehensive of what he would find afterwards.  Some aspects of the meetings overlap perfectly with previous meetings, making it nearly impossible to keep track of how many there have been–but some details stand out, giving a hallucinatory experience of labyrinthine trails of memory, worried into an archive with angry red ink.  Time has started to feel depthless, and he starts to feel as though he cannot breathe.  The loss of bearing does not feel exciting or liberatory, because he knows that he cannot escape his surroundings without an orientation.  There is no ground to kick off from, this is quicksand, a sinkhole in the nadir of the universe.

I present–without comment–a small, finite number of his drafts, which are now infinitely accumulating.

Note 1

I hate you so much.  It’s acid in me, it’s a reflex, it’s red bile up from the pit of my stomach the second your voice touches my skin.  

It’s like classical conditioning, you taught me to hate you.  You yelled every day until your veins were popping out of your head and your voice started to grate on me.

I didn’t want to hate you, but like someone who is realizing a shameful sexual desire, I grew to recognize the inevitability and fixity of my hate toward you.  

I don’t know what’s wrong with you.  Speculation seems like too much work, and irresponsible.  Your parents were nice and fairly normal.  I imagine you developed some kind of encrusted ego early on.  Your physiognomy suggests this stubbornness.  A thick teutonic skull designed to headbutt others, to aggress, but not to be penetrated by anything, not by a hint of empathy.  

You can be moral or ethical sometimes, but only in a way that serves your ego.  You always need to be able to pat yourself on the back for what you do.  

You are sometimes right about things, but in a manner that is so horribly wrong.  You hold onto those kernels of being technically correct even while everything you do is not “right” in the sense of spiritual alignment.

There are a lot of reasons I have to do this, but I needed to let you know about yourself before I go.  I guess I’m being your mirror.  Take a look.  

You didn’t drive me to this on your own, but I can’t say the way you acted wasn’t a contributing factor.

Grow up, you fucking angry, gnarled bitch!  You ingrown soul!  Stop being so angry and get to the root of the anger.

You can keep bellowing, but this time I’m really leaving.  For good.  You can yell and yell at me all you want but I won’t be here and your voice will hit the walls until they reverberate and give you back nothing but yourself and you realize you’re in hell.

Note 2

I always had grandiose aspirations.  Maybe if I had lived longer, they would have not been that.  Maybe they could have been realized.  Some people just get bad luck.  Sure I grew up with a middle-class family, some cultural and financial advantages, but not enough to offset my body falling apart.  Health is wealth.  Safeguard it if you have it.  

I’ve been sick for over a year and things are getting consistently worse.  There’s no perceivable logic to this.  I’m very alone and I”m going mad.  It doesn’t feel like only a year has gone by.  I’ve lost track of time.  

I am pathetic.  I stink.  I am disheveled.  I waste the little energy I have, since I don’t feel like there’s any hope.

My family sees me as a burden.  My family is held together only by neuroses and obligations.  I guess that’s redundant.

I won’t be what I wanted to be and I can’t be what I wanted to be.  There is a nascent animal part of me that knows exactly the cards it has left to play and knows that there are no missteps allowed.  

I need to trim the fat.  I am the fat.  I am the waste, and I am flushing myself.  I will try and face this oriented in such a way that I can fly through whatever’s coming next.  I am very frightened.  I’m shaking.  I feel a foreboding like I might go to hell, or have already been.  

Pray for me, it’s the least you can do

shantih, shantih, shantih

Note 3

Scd nt scnd tr

Suicide Note second try

Negative capabilities is the only way to

Achieve grace

I have a lot of hate saved up for you guys because you really could’ve helped me and you didn’t.  Because you were busy and it didn’t seem like a crisis.  

I actually value life a lot, but only within certain parameters.  Once it becomes formless and stretches on without resolution, an immanent limbo, it needs to be given form.  Whether that form is an end or some other kind of limit is not clear.

I am so tired and basically breaking down all the time.  

The way I can tell that I’m starting to accept my suicide is that all my memories are becoming ghosts that keep me company.  They feel closer, they are more and more fleshed out while I grow more translucent and febrile.   They are helping me have the courage to do it.  A real poet, a real magician, won’t die alone.  He will die surrounded by his very real fantasies.

The last five months have been like a bad high.  Time stretches on in a really monotonous way.  It goes by incredibly fast and I barely move.  Whole cities are built around me.  I also haven’t managed to really hibernate enough to heal , but I try and keep up and not only do I fail but it makes me worse.  

Honor suicide.  That’s what this is , I suppose.  Negative capabilities is how I can achieve grace.  Editing.  I don’t have the energy to produce much or to steer things the way I’d like them to go, but I can die with some honor just by making my life a narrative.  By putting an end to this limbo.  By cutting.  

I know you don’t deserve the hate.  And I love you.  But I can’t help but have resentment for all of the living and healthy, because I’m about to regret this forever.   In my life, it’s always too late.  

Note 4

If my meds stop working for me that would be the final straw.  I can’t accept being mediocre or having heart problems.  Neither of those two possibilities are ok.

I’m done with all of the nihilistic lies i’ve told myself or that have been told to me and i’ve believed.  I have standards and if I can’t meet them I gotta go.

Definitely one reason is things with L____ but also that’s not a fair thing to put on someone and I guess the main reason I wanna kill myself is because I know it’s not fair to feel that much about that and I know I can’t handle my emotions and instead of lashing out I just want to destroy myself.

I’ve always wanted to go to my own funeral like in Tom Sawyer, and when I think about killing myself, there’s an element of still believing that–imagining showing up to my own funeral with a sense of spite, hoping I can watch people missing me.  Honestly that’s probably not how it would go–knowing how people treat their dead bougie junkie friends around here–like mourn for a bit and then just use them as social capital…

Nobody would miss me enough to follow me down…

(baby let me follow you down)

I had a series of disturbing semi-lucid dreams last night, all set in the near future, all very real-feeling and banal…  In all of them, I was just as selfish and small-minded, just as trapped by my own petty fears and neuroses, as I am now.  Things were the exact same or slightly worse with L__, with ___L  Maybe I had relapsed with booze and it was really far from a rosy view of drinking–I was just back in the same narrow/boring/depressing space but even more intractable.  It was the worst possible outcome of my near future and it felt so hellish and dark and horrible.

I think I had respiratory depression last night–I was in a really dark heavy dream-space

The only thing I want anymore is to burn one really deep brand into the earth/into society–one brilliant mark before I leave

My old running coach got it right–my main problem is self-pity.  I always drop out early/give up because I feel too much self-pity for the pain I feel.  Everybody feels pain, but I take it harder or something.

Now my mind is going b/c of insomnia.  I don’t know the cause exactly but even when i take pills i can barely sleep 5 hrs.  My mind is eroding.  Unreality is seeping in.   This is really desperate.  I’m not acting desperate though, I’m acting passive as usual.

My body is going.  I can barely sleep through the night, and that’s what i need the most.