‘Pond Poems’ by John L. Stanizzi

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These are poems from a project called POND. Every day, for one year, I will walk to our pond, jot a few notes, and take a photo or two. Then I’ll write a 4-line acrostic using P, O, N, D as my first letters, with the extra caveat of never using the same first-word twice. I began the book on November 9, 2018 – will finish November 9, 2019.

11.20.18
11.33 a.m.
34 degrees

Pluvial night, the rain hangs on as mist.
Opiod-ripples as a branch releases its gems of rain,
normal and lonely an act as releasing its leaves,
downward in silence, all around me the sound of rushing water.

11.22.18
8.54 a.m.
12 degrees

Thanksgiving

Perforated by the wind, each tree creaks, and I see
only the spaces between them roughly outlined.
Nightspot of cloudy ice crowds the spout;
driven ripples ride the thin coastline of ice covering half the pond.

11.25.18
10.51 a.m.
45 degrees

After all-night rain all the snow is gone, pond starting to thaw, stream-beds bursting

Palaver between culvert run-off and Fowler’s pond;
one day in summer, when the stream is dry,
nary a drop of water in the overgrown streambeds,
daydreams will invoke thin ice – a map on black paper, drawn with silver pen.

11.26.18
2.14 a.m.
46 degrees

Rain beginning

Proteges of the wind — cardinals, washed-out goldfinches;
ocular distortions through the ice lifted from the pond;
nebulous tilting shore, strange as Frost said it was.
Derelict images which I embraced consumed again by the choral streams.

11.27.18
12.22 a.m.
35 degrees

Pond completely thawed

Prostrate switchgrass, brown now; not much else green
outside of the coarse cedar, its knuckled cones,
needles, and sweet ubiquitous scent.
Downwind, even standing in two feet of snow, I’ll summon spring.

John L. Stanizzi is author of the full-length collections – Ecstasy Among Ghosts, Sleepwalking, Dance Against the Wall, After the Bell, Hallelujah Time!, High Tide – Ebb Tide, and Four Bits – Fifty 50-Word Pieces. His newest book, Chants, will be out in February with Cervena Barva Press.

“Galaxy Forgotten” by Stephen Ground

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Ever feel like you’re vanishing?

What?

Vanishing.

One second. Let me send this text.

I sigh, slurp my beer.

Sorry, Nick says. What’re you saying?

He’s still staring at his phone.

Nothing. It’s not important.

He’s down another rabbit hole – email, Tinder, gambling on lumberjack competitions. Slack-jawed, he flicks a nimble thumb. I gulp the rest of my beer and stand.

Where you going? he grunts.

The pisser. Do you mind?

I step into the washroom when my phone buzzes in my pocket. I fumble it out and it slips, splashing in the toilet. I slam the lid.

Did you get my text?

My phone, I say. It’s wasted.

Yeah bro, let’s get wasted. He chugs without raising his eyes. I grab my jacket and a beer for the road.

Going to the phone store, I say. Probably already missing messages, tweets, breaking news bulletins. Can’t afford to fall behind.

I’m out the door before he responds. There’s a Cell-o-Phone near our place, and I hurry, crushing the beer crossing the empty lot towards the shell of a shopfront – neon OPEN sign dark. I rush the door and yank wildly, escaping a haunted house – a siren blips and I spin. An old security guard leans on her car.

What you doing there?

I need…a phone.

They shut all those Cell-o-Phones down last month, she says. Brick and mortar can’t compete. They’ve gone di-gi-tal.

I sprint home. He doesn’t notice when I barge in.

I need your help, I say.

What?

I need you to order me a phone.

He chuckles vacantly.

Nick.

What?

Can I use your phone? Mine’s wrecked, and if I don’t get one I won’t be able to check the weather, my bank balance, or work schedule. You know how it is.

Use your laptop.

Don’t have one, I say. Come on, man. Help a brother out?
He’s gone – YouTube, tuned out.

I thread the sidewalk, past swarms locked into screens, magic watches, step-counters – eyes down, lips murmuring or slack, meandering like first-time walkers; dodging mailboxes, trashcans, chained-up bikes and bus shelters, never glancing from their handheld miracles. A video chatter collides with my shoulder, lurching me but continues unaware. It’s simple to fall into the wind-up rhythm of the procession, to weave like a mouse through the walls of a crooked manse, unseen – I slip into a shop near home and snag a Red Bull, pepperoni stick, gum. Paul, the owner, is engrossed in the tv behind him – someone leapt off their balcony in a condo near the Dome. I drop my goods and patter a flourish on plastic-cased scratchers, but he doesn’t turn – the cordless phone he’s clutching falls, arms limp at his sides. I drop a five and scoop my snacks, sit outside and chug my drink, belch loudly and grin at the woman next to me – she doesn’t glance from her e-Reader. I inhale my pepperoni, stuff the plastic in the can, wave a hand in her face then slide my trash in her purse. I pop six sticks of gum in my mouth and wander, stuffing the wrappers in some guy’s backpack then crossing the street. I poach a slice of pizza from a child lost in Pokémon GO!, bum a smoke off a Snapchatting cook down an alley, then, bored, head home – Nick is stretched across the couch, headset on, the dark room blued by his FPS.

Hey, I say. Can we talk?


No answer.

Nick. Can you please pause the game?

Nothing. I leap between him and the tube.

Can you pause it one fucking second?

He’s off the couch like a mama grizzly, the tube her favourite cub – grabs my shoulders, lifts, slams me through the coffee table. I possum in the rubble, and Nick returns to the couch, slides on his headset and grunts something to his team, then plays. I crawl to the hall, searching for a sane person, uninfected; struggle next door, knock, the door cracks – my neighbour, baby on hip, framing the three of us with a selfie-stick.

Rachel, I wheeze. Help.

She snaps a burst, slams the door. I stand and lumber next door, and the next – behind each parasites, leeching from their hosts. I shake them, shout in their faces, but not one looks up.

I’m catching my breath in the lobby when it hits me.
I approach a teen, madly tapping his touchscreen – I can tell by screen proportion, multiple lenses, and casing that it’s the newest model, the one I desperately need but can’t source. I hover, wait for my moment, then lunge – try ripping it away but he fights, small but vicious, snarling, swiping at my face. I raise my fists, but he calmly returns to typing like a supercomputer.

I skulk home, ignoring Nick, into my room to the balcony that costs an extra two seventy-five a month for the privilege. I lean, listen – my city roars like a distant army, cache of millions impossibly out of reach. I step on the ledge, brace on the wall, peer into a pit of twinkling flashes – LED whitewash of a world that no longer knows the dark. I dangle a foot over nineteen stories between me and the sidewalk, just to see if it fits; breathe deeply, bend, wobble, prepare to release when I hear a voice from the lip of the void.

Rob.

I turn – Nick, drinking a juice pouch, holds a small box.

What’s that?

Just came, he says. Courier.

I clamber off the ledge and take it; he ambles to the couch without another word. Whatever it is, someone bought it online and had it shipped to me – zero human interaction. I tear it open – inside, a note: Happy early birthday, Sweetie. Love, Mom.
Something better than all the gold in the federal reserve – the newest model. My hands shake as I undress it – clutch my prize, saviour, charger in hand.

 

Stephen Ground’s work has appeared in Dark Ink Magazine, Temenos Journal, and Flumes, among others, and is forthcoming from The Flexible Persona, The Sunlight Press, and Flash Fiction Magazine. A graduate of York University’s Theatre and Community Arts programs, he has migrated back to his hometown of Milton, Ontario after a seven-year retreat – first in Canada’s far North in a remote, fly-in community, then the prairies.

www.twitter.com/stephengroundw1

‘Paramour’ and ‘The Fear’ by Wil Michael Wrenn

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Paramour

He had not loved
or been loved in years;
he had forgotten how it felt.
And then one day
he saw her,
and instantly he knew.
Now she comes to him
whenever he needs her.
On moonlit nights they meet
and walk hand-in-hand
over rocky ridge and sandy shore.
On bright, clear days,
they stroll at sunset
along abandoned beaches.
On cold, rain-soaked evenings,
they sit by a fireplace
and talk of dreams and wonders.
So, he is no longer unloved,
no more sad and alone,
no longer empty and unknown.
They laugh together
and cry together,
sing and sigh together,
and all he has to do
to be with her
is to call her name,
and she will come to him,
right there by his side.
Then the past with all its sadness,
loneliness, and emptiness
will melt away into the mist
as he leaves it all behind
and starts each day anew,
filled with the presence
of his paramour,
ever faithful, ever true,
his loving paramour –
of the mind.

The Fear

Besides death,
maybe what I fear most
is that I’ll really learn
to live life to the fullest,
that one day I’ll be soaring
high above it all,
having glimpsed the meaning
or even grasped it,
and just at that moment
when I’m most alive
in every fiber of my being,
something will happen to my wings,
and I’ll crash back down to the earth,
and my life will be snuffed out
without ever really knowing
or being known.

Wil Michael Wrenn is a poet/songwriter who lives in rural north Mississippi. He has an MFA from Lindenwood University and is a songwriter/publisher member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP). His work has appeared in numerous journals, magazines, and anthologies, and he has published a book of poems. His website can be found at: http://www.michaelwrenn.com/

“Wolves are Here” by William Falo

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Time ticked away on Alex’s research without him finding a single wolf. The island was once filled with howls at night, but after a month of listening he heard nothing while his food supply dwindled down to a few granola bars.

There was only one day left until the boat arrived. A year of research and he found nothing. The day he left home, his wife said she might not be there when he got back because a life of solitude was not her idea of a happy marriage. She accused him of loving wolves more than her. The rare time he got a cell signal, she didn’t answer his calls or text messages.

The cabin became colder and ice crystals even formed on the inside walls. The wolves needed him. If he found any proof of their existence, they would reintroduce more of them, if

there was no sign of them the project would be terminated along with his research. They needed

evidence that wolves could survive here before they reintroduced more of them. Without the proof, wolves would never howl here again.

The exploratory walks became shorter, but more dangerous. Recent snow made the ground treacherous. He went farther than usual since he was scheduled to pull out the next day. On the top of a hill, his foot slid on the frozen ground and he tumbled downward until he landed on a ledge. The pain in his leg seared, but he almost yelled out in joy when he turned around.

Wolf tracks led to a den. He pulled out his flashlight and shinned it into the darkness.

“A wolf.” He stepped backwards. The wolf stayed on its side and didn’t move. He picked up a stone and threw it. It hit the wolf’s side with a thud, but it remained motionless.

The wolf was dead.

He stayed there a long time thinking how much time he wasted here. He could be home with his wife, maybe starting a family. Darkness was coming and it brought bitter cold, but he didn’t feel it when an idea hit him. A deceptive, bad idea that could save his research.

He dragged the wolf’s body out of the den. It was stiff, but not that heavy since it looked so thin. Sickness and starvation probably caused its death.

He found sticks and with all his strength he hammered them into the snow. With a painful leg and weak arms, he propped the wolf up. The wind increased making him fear it would collapse along with his plan.

He moved farther away and snapped pictures of it. In the pictures, the wolf lived. He pulled out the radio collar he always carried with him and activated it. He emailed the people involved with the wolf research. He sent just three words along with the pictures. Wolves are here. It was a lie. Back at the cabin, a program on his computer came to life and started tracking the collar on a map.

Alex walked in different directions, he made the collar travel on the map. He walked farther then he normally would and with darkness closing in on him, he took a wrong step on the

a frozen creek and the collar slipped out of his hand and fell into the crack in the ice. It sank.

He grasped, but missed and he watched as the light on the collar turned from green to red. Red meant a dead wolf.

“Damn it.” He stayed there trying to retrieve it with a stick until the red light on the collar went out. It was dead.

♦♦♦

The boat bobbled in the water when he got aboard.

“How did it go?” The captain helped him load up his gear.

“No wolves.”

“I thought I heard howls a few days ago, but maybe it was the wind.” The captain steered the boat away from the island.

Alex took out his cell phone and got a signal. He called his wife. She answered.

That night, on the ledge of a hill, a propped up dead wolf fell over. Next to it, two wolves sniffed the ground. They looked around then raised their eyes to the stars and howled into the night.

 

William Falo writes flash fiction. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Ginger Collect, Newfound, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Fictive Dreams, and others.
Twitter  @williamfalo

‘Milk’ and ‘Honey’ by Amie Norman Walker

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Milk

I fold my sheets, neat, something real not loud

Neath’ blankets rhythmic wants understand
Wonton me, magic charm, gestures folding
open armed at an angle.

Weak knees turn pirouettes, instead of resting weep face, run,
discern, cry nothing against societal rhetoric, filthy thick,
might exalt backside.

Rattled me bones, learn what we have here is down right into
the linens empty, indeed, term it retrofitting a fuck style,
measurable to the new era.

Hi. I like you. Brand new delusions refine love in comical censorship,
bared teeth laugh laminate across tickle spectrums,
when I belly up you, new style.

Hold me down, sheets and all, neat.

Honey

Slow as January creeping on,

Slow the hours steep,

Backward as if to repeat a tremble so weak.

Mercy, bathed in its medium,

No more laughter, no comedic air

To cleanse a palate ready for war

Against all the prophets asleep in their chair.

Pull my hair dealing a reason to wait, palpable state.

Slow like honey on springs thaw,

Slow down, empty, slow down raw,

Intentions rake the communal call.

Honey down dripping into song

Rip apart the aftermath, weep where you bleed

Across an understandable distance, desire

Won fighting, inspired,

Sucked up oxygen ready to fall

Into the heart of abandoned boyhood

Forth comes a stampede of what would

Be fatalities ring, a woman made to sing.

Amie Norman Walker is from metro Detroit, Michigan. Writing in her free time, she works in the community mental health field, while raising two children. Find her previously published work in Ash Tree Journal and X-Ray magazine. She tweets at @crawlintohabits

Collages by Shane Jesse Christmass

 

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Shane Jesse Christmass is the author of the novels, Belfie Hell (Inside The Castle, 2018), Yeezus In Furs (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2018), Napalm Recipe: Volume One (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2017), Police Force As A Corrupt Breeze (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2016) and Acid Shottas (The Ledatape Organisation, 2014).

He was a member of the band Mattress Grave, and is currently a member in Snake Milker.

An archive of his writing/artwork/music can be found at www.shanejessechristmass.tumblr.com

Instagram: @sjxsjc

Twitter: @sjxsjc