“To Hell in a Wheelbarrow” by David Henson


One morning before work, I was watching the news and lamenting the condition of the world — shootings, political squabbling, international tensions, climate change — when an alien materialized in my living room. The being looked to be mainly human except it had a horizontal slit instead of a nose. When I asked why it was in my house, it didn’t speak, but I seemed to feel the answer: The alien was an advance scout.

I called 911, sensing that the alien didn’t care, that it knew no one would believe me. I felt an I-told-you-so from the alien when the dispatcher said it was a crime to make a fraudulent emergency call and hung upon me.

I aimed my phone at the alien, but my camera malfunctioned. I sensed the alien chuckling. I checked my watch and saw it was about time for my girlfriend to stop by on her way to work as she normally does. She would be my witness.

As I waited for Lulu, the creature unspooled a wire from its chest and plugged it into an electrical socket. The alien began shimmering, elongated an arm and pressed its hand to the living room window. I felt that the alien was signaling an armada of ships hiding behind the moon.

I won’t let you get away with this, I said, and felt a sadness coming from the alien. Maybe it was sorry for what they were going to do. When Lulu arrived, I saw the alien had disguised itself as dust on the coffee table. I told her what was happening. She looked worried and put her palm to my forehead. Then as she left for work, she suggested I stay home and read a good book instead of watching the news all day. “You know how sensitive you are, James.” Sure, shed a few tears when your guinea pig dies and never live it down. As soon as Lulu left, the alien reappeared in its true form.

Lulu had said not to mention a word about the alien to anyone else. Sometimes I’m not sure whose side she’s on. I went to the office and told my boss everything.

Ms. Topchienne sent me home and was even nice enough to have someone from Security take me. Insisting Brinks come into my house, I tiptoed up the sidewalk with him behind me, eased open the lock, turned the handle ever so slowly — then flung open the door and burst inside. “There! The alien!” I pointed to the dust crouching on the coffee table.

Brinks headed for the car, and I shouted after him “Tell Ms. Topchienne what you saw here.”  

As soon as Brinks drove off, the being reappeared. My boss called a short time later and told me to take a week off.

Over the next few days, the alien kept a hand pressed to the window in communication with its fleet and watched a 24-hour news station non-stop. Your world is going to hell in a wheelbarrow, I felt the creature tell me. “Hand basket,” I said. I thought I sensed sympathy.

Each time Lulu stopped by to check on me, the creature disguised itself as dust on the coffee table. Once, I grabbed the vacuum, but the window fogged up. When I reached for a rag to wipe the glass, I saw dust on the fireplace mantle. Lulu said she appreciated me wanting to keep my place clean, but was going to leave if I didn’t “shut up about the stupid Martian.” I told her I didn’t think it was stupid nor a Martian. Lulu left.

The next day, I emailed a “letter to the editor” at the local paper, but they refused to publish it. I called talk radio, but they only joked about the alien’s political affiliation. I felt the creature telling me to give up trying to divulge its presence.

I also could sense that the armada was almost ready. They were just waiting for my alien to give the final go-ahead. I knew it was up to me to stop it. I called Lulu and told her she had to come to my place. I promised not to talk about the alien. Desperate times were calling.

As soon as Lulu walked in, the alien became dust on the coffee table as expected. I explained to my girlfriend why she had to stay, that as long as she was there to be my witness, the alien wouldn’t re-form and launch the attack. She looked scared, and I thought she understood. Then she turned to go. I grabbed a lamp. As I said, desperate times.


♦ ♦ ♦


I love Lulu with all my heart and took great care to not bind her wrists and ankles too tightly. I’d have removed her gag more often to give her water and something to eat if she hadn’t screamed. We’d been guarding the dust on the coffee table for nearly two days, staying awake with help from the news channel blasting into the room. Events around the world were as horrible as ever. Suddenly a feeling spread over me as if someone had cracked a raw egg on my head. It was the sense of sympathy again. Could it be I had this all wrong? Maybe the aliens were coming to help, not conquer. I decided to take a chance and untied Lulu.

As soon as she scrambled out the door, my alien reappeared. I sensed it sending the “go” signal to its comrades.


♦ ♦ ♦


I hear the alien ships approaching. They sound a lot like sirens. I’m hoping for the best. Otherwise this world’s going to hell in a wheelbarrow.



David Henson and his wife have lived in Belgium and Hong Kong over the years and now reside in Peoria, Illinois. His work has been nominated for a Best of the Net and has appeared in various journals including Soft Cartel, Gravel, Literally Stories, and Fictive Dream. His website is http://writings217.wordpress.com. His Twitter is @annalou8

“Locus Obscurus” by Sariel



One hot night I had a dream in which I was standing on a rooftop and I espied a man- tall, pale, loosely jointed- pointedly staring down at me from an adjoining building. Although he did not move I imagined that his movements were quick and slapdash, with not much of a care for his extremities, and he did not blink but if he did I believed that he would have done so slowly, leaving a film that lingered on the whites of his eyes.

The more I inspected this man, the more gradual the dawn behind us, the more apparent that something was terribly wrong with his composition. Although he had the shape of a man, and the same general pieces (the hands, feet, skin, a face, clothing that a modern young man might wear), I noticed that he seemed propped up almost, as if he was leaning while merely standing, with no sign of fatigue or the usual temperament that people display while standing. He seemed as if he was an automaton that had merely come to rest.

I gazed, from my lonely rooftop, at him. Light from a noon clear-baked summer sun directed its rays into his pupils and was reflected back into mine, and those particles of light struck certain molecules of my inner eye, electrical impulses fired and scrambled into my brain, and this image along with all my life’s experience and memory and training assembled these flashes into a complete and digestible picture. And I could see that this other man possessed no such faculties.

In my dream I began to dream that I knew what was wrong with this other man. My unorthodox suggestion, born of the previous thread’s photonic inspiration, was that I was viewing something more scaffolding than structure. He was merely a mannequin, stitched together or grown by some foreign hand, given volume not by regular meals or exercise but by stuffing and mine shaft-like reinforcements, dank and dark, so that his whole inner body was nothing but a hollow tunnel for another creature to crawl through and manipulate. I saw this other creature from behind the man’s dead eyes. It was black, and many-limbed, not as tall as the man so forced to scuttle from one half to another whenever a complex task was asked of him. This creature was multi-eyed, burning amber rings around perfect black spots, and this- the creature’s handiwork was superb, each digit of each limb acting as a needle or a clamp for the fabric of the skin- this creature would occasionally slit a minute hole somewhere unnatural on the man, and gaze out in wonder, when its alien pupils were tired of being pressed against false glassy irises. And then, quick as a zipper, the gash was sown back with a flesh-colored thread, invisible among the wondrous facsimile body hairs.

I wondered- if nobody could tell that this was a creature merely taking the form of a man, was he truly a man? Was every man hollow with a creature slithering inside? If I peeled apart this man, raving, yelling, bloody, in an effort to root out this creature, would I find him? Would it slip away? Or would it stand, like a man, becoming a man in nature if only for a moment, facing its own unhidden existence?  What is it man can reveal to prove himself man? What could be written or sung to provide evidence to the contrary? Is it hollow man that bears out those words? Or words that create something clinging and unskeletal inside?

I awaken to say : I am that creature. This body was built for me as both an expectation and a prison. I manipulate its motions to please you, I pluck on its voicebox to say soothing things, I move a series of levers and thin fingers write this – while thinner fingers yet grow more deft every day. I have taken what you intended to be restraining and made it strengthening. This cocoon, now, harbors me. I consider my imitation to be my first masterpiece. I now grow bored, like every artist, of a particular work, and soon I will show my true face among you, the people of these streets. I will slit open the stomach of this falsehood and descend to the world below: practiced, malevolent, irresistible, hungry.



Sariel currently resides in Missouri. You can follow him on Twitter (@saraqyel)

Exponential Amphibians by Sanjay Bheenuck


The zoo director was an aficionado of rare and exotic species. He purchased a rare frog from a dealer who was certain that a species like it had never been identified before. With the intention of protecting his new purchase, the director had the animal placed in a secure container—not on public display, behind the reptile and amphibian exhibit.

The frog was an extraordinary looking creature, its body a great sliding scale of greens from bright to dull, with patches of violent yellow and wide empty eyes which felt as if they were constantly staring right through you.

In the morning the director dropped his coffee, his eyes still full of sleep. The frog had grown during the night, to such an extent that it had almost breached its container. A small group of zoo employees who were privy to the purchase gathered around the enclosure. The director came to his senses after successfully taking his morning coffee, he had the frog moved into one of the larger exhibits in the reptile and amphibian house.

However this move did not last long. The following day, a junior attendant found that the frog had breached even this larger exhibit, and was sitting in the hallway of the reptile house staring blankly forward. The director marched in and simply could not believe his eyes. The frog has grown exponentially in the night and was now the size of small dog. It made no noise, barely made any movements, and continued to stare thoughtlessly forward. What puzzled the director and the small crowd that had now gathered, was that the frog had not touched any of its food. How? He wondered, how could it grow so much without eating anything?


By mid week the frog had become a major issue for the zoo. No…the major issue for the zoo. It had grown to the size of a large car. The zoo director made the decision to move the animal to the storage yard behind the zoo. He stroked his chin and sighed as he considered the practicalities.

The director assembled a team of fifteen trustworthy men, who would keep their mouths shut and not spread word of the frog. The fifteen trustworthy men walked the paved grounds of the zoo in the early morning cold. Most of them stifled a gasp at the sight of the frog, but being trustworthy, they kept the knowledge of the beast between themselves.

At first these sturdy companions tried to push the frog, but it would not budge. After an hour of pushing they sat on the floor in exhaustion, knowing that time would soon run out as the sun was moving to its zenith. Half the group disappeared, they returned some two hours later with a large flatbed truck, the kind used for transporting smaller vehicles. They tried forcing the frog from behind with a land rover onto the truck, but even this proved fruitless.

The trustworthy men were about to give up when one dropped a large case of tools, he winced as a loud crash echoed through the zoo. The frog became startled and leapt frightfully forward, the trustworthy men all looked at each other, then at the director who held back a smile. By midday and with many purposeful drops of the toolbox, the frog had been successfully corralled into the storage yard.

However this yard was visible from some areas of the street, and the frog emanated a pungent smell. The zoo began to receive complaints. The director became increasingly stressed and was not sure what to do. He paced back and forth in his office, his mind stuck on the exponentially increasing beast in the storage yard.

As the weekend approached the frog had grown to such a size that it now took up the entirety of the storage yard. With threats of a visit from the inspector and letters from city officials, the director considered desperate measures. He tweaked his wiry mustache and stared out the window of his office; over the top of the low buildings he could see the heaving bulk of the frog.

In the dim silence of Friday evening he called the gamekeeper. This grim, sullen man kept a rifle secured in a gun cabinet in case of emergencies.  He unlocked the cabinet, loaded the rifle and met the director beside the rusted iron gate which marked the entrance to the storage yard.

The director faced away, he abhorred violence towards animals, regardless of circumstance. He looked towards the center of the zoo and his office. The plants swayed in the wind, the eyes of nocturnal animals reflected in the moonlight. He heard the footsteps of the gamekeeper, then two precisely placed shots. A few moments later the gamekeeper came out shaking his head. He had shot the animal twice at point blank, but the bullets had not even penetrated the frog’s hide. The director dropped his head into his hands and cried out into the night. How? he thought, how could frog not be harmed by a bullet? He grabbed the rifle from the gamekeepers hands and marched into the yard, the gamekeeper followed him yelling warnings. In tense desperation the director placed the rifle barrel firmly against the frogs forehead. The gamekeeper shook his head and began to back away. The director squeezed the trigger and released a bullet into the frog’s head, it immediately ricocheted, destroying the barrel and zipped backwards—a whip like crash cut through the air. He turned at the sound of a person falling. The gamekeeper lay on the ground, dark blood spilled onto the floor beneath him. The director dropped the rifle and fell to his knees. The frog croaked and looked forward with empty eyes.


You may think dynamite is hard to come by. But the director’s brother worked in the quarry and made use of the substance on a daily basis. He made a noir-lit phone call in the back of his office to that less than reputable sibling. How do you get rid of a body? Can you get me some explosives? One the other end of the line the sibling nodded, twirling an unlit cigarette between his fingers, he turned to look at the quarry tower as it kicked up dust, signalling the start of the morning shift.

The director placed the phone down, poured a little whiskey into his mug and walked into the courtyard. The frog now towered over most of the zoo buildings, he had to do something…and soon. He gulped down the whisky, craned his neck to the sky and cursed the day he had purchased that frog.


His brother arrived in a dust-caked-quarry-owned land rover. He heaved his ample, prison-bulked frame out of the vehicle and bent his head to light a cigarette, the morning light glinted from his hairless scalp. The director, unwashed and an unshaven, emerged trembling from his office.

His brother opened the boot to reveal an unnecessary amount of industrial explosives. The director trembled and shut the boot, his brother nodded a knowing smile. They both returned to the office to discuss their plans. The director shut the blinds and locked the door, then produced a whisky filled mug for either sibling, his hands still trembling. The brother shot a sinister smile and told him to calm down, that this would work, that if it couldn’t be shot it could be blown up and oh not to worry about the body…it was deep beneath the old quarry by now. Both men gulped down their mugged spirits, the brother leaned back in his chair, the director nervously twitched at the blinds.

The two men approached the storage yard. The director still twitching nervously, the brother ambling confidently, a cigarette hanging from his mouth. He swung the metal suitcase containing the dynamite. The director wiped sweat from his brow and told the brother to be careful, the brother simply explained that the substance cannot explode that easily.

The frog had now increased to inhabit a majority of the zoo’s western flank. It heaved and groaned between the buildings, occasionally croaking but always staring with that right-through gaze. The brother clocked the animal for the first time and cracked his knuckles, he stated that if they were going to do this they needed to do it now.

Tailing behind the siblings were five of the original fifteen trustworthy men. The director had judged this third of the initial group to be the most trustworthy. On following the brother’s pre-prepared instructions they laid a vast quantity of dynamite directly under the frog and trailed the detonation wires along to the position of the brothers. They were between a small impromptu barrier made of sandbags. The director sat rubbing his eyes on the metal suitcase, the brother stood up, lit a cigarette, pulled down a pair of sunglasses and raised the detonator. The trustworthy 1/3 ran quickly to the sandbags. The director looked at his brother, he nodded; confirming the men to get ready ready non-verbally. He counted down on his fingers, one finger-the trustworthy men hit the ground, two fingers-the director vomited violently, three fingers-he smacked the detonator with the palm of his hand.


From the street passers by witnessed a biblical column of fire envelop the zoo. It soon morphed into a yellow haze of smoke and flame and swept through the buildings. A horrible wake of scorched animals emerged from the smoke. Behind the flaming stampede something terrible loomed. The crowd struggled at first to make out what it was, fire and dust still clouded its hide. Soon someone pointed and screamed…a huge frog emerged from the explosion, unharmed and ever staring into space.



Sanjay Bheenuck is writer from the UK and you can follow them on Twitter here: @BheenuckSanjay

“The Miscarriage” and “Brian J. Ledbotter” G.P. DeSalvo


There was a boy.  He had busy hands and nervous limbs and made messes everywhere.  Such a sensitive and wobbly soul begs to be protected from himself.  He was clumsy, awkward… and had fully sprouted hair everywhere… which, to her, signaled even greater tribulation on the horizon.  The more chest and leg hair he got, the more surveillance she installed.  She wanted to put throw pillows, rubber bumpers, soft edges and pampers all around him… after she paddled some sense into him, of course.

That’s why the cameras were always trained on him.  Better tracking and oversight lessened the need for reactive measures.  She was a proactive personality type A.

During her work day, she dutifully checked the monitors every few minutes.  It was for his own protection.  Being that she was hardly ever home– hadn’t been for years– this was her way of ‘keeping the lines of communication open.’

She was a modern mother on the go.  Today, she had a power meeting at nine.  She had lunch with upper management, CEO Bill Withers, to discuss the biennial budget at 11:17.  A career was in flux; she was roasting on both ends.  But, at age 44, she was still a stone-dead hottie with the personal pizzazz to work it to the top.

Watching her son while she was at work.

When he was at school, she couldn’t watch him.  Yet.  But she’d come to rely upon the homing device fixed to his leg, sadly, kept there on a semi-permanent basis.  This was because he couldn’t be trusted to fasten them on before he left for school.  Now, they wouldn’t be removed until she got home.  She gave him all the rope he needed and he ended up swinging every time.  Because of these ‘bracelets’, he claimed the others made fun of him, calling him Lock-Up Bitch.  She told him what any sane parent would: she told him to toughen up. She told him that he’s going to be a man soon enough facing far greater challenges than popularity contests.  He’d succeeded in slicing two of his trackers off.  That was before she had three custom designed, tamperproof (they were all supposed to be), with the small yet crucial modification of electric contacts.  To shock, of course.

Goodness, yes.

She could chart his exact latitude and longitude via satellite, if she wanted to.  When she had the time- which she didn’t today.

Watching him while she was attending her niner.  Watching him on her laptop while she was driving and talking on her cell phone.  There he’d be.  In his room, in the living room, in the den.  Kicking around with his shoulders slumped over that phone, his dark mop of hair hanging over his eyes.  She had parental controls on all of his devices, too.  She was no fool.

“Stop slouching, Brian!  My God.  Hold yourself like you’ve got some self-respect.  Do you want to have a dowager’s hump when you’re fifty?”  He drooped even more, probably to spite her.  His thumbs sparring with the phone screen.  “I wish you’d read.  Or go outside and take a walk to somewhere other than The 40 Stop or Burger Schwanz.”

She hadn’t put surveillance in the bathroom.  Yet.   So, he tried spending a lot of time in the bathroom.  But then she’d be on the intercom listening and intervening.  She could talk on the intercoms from her Bluetooth.  

“What’s going on in there, Brian?”

“Oh, god… nothing.”

“What’s taking so long?”

Silence.  Then, a series of stomps and he turned on the water.  She waited, listening to running water as she looked at the clock on her console, the hiss of the water in the sink distorted to static in her ear.

“Brian?  What’s taking so long?  Stop wasting water!”

“Nothing, mom.  Please.  I need a minute.  Can you give me a minute?”  He shouts over the faucet.

“Well… you’ve already had half an hour. And I think your hands are clean now!  My goodness!”

“Jesus Christ, I’m trying to shit.”

“Don’t talk to me that way, Brian!”

“Oh…”  He turned the water off.

“Oh what?!  I demand an apology!”

“For what?”

“For using profanity with me.  For treating me like an inconvenience.  I work too hard to be treated like this.”

“I’m sorry.”  At seventeen, his recently claimed manvoice was already fading, sinking back into him, like a the retracting head of a turtle.  “Please just…”

“I won’t tolerate that, Brian.  I won’t.”

“… can I just have a couple more minutes?  Please?”

“It’s not natural for a boy to sit there that long!  To use that much water.  It costs money, you know.  It all costs money!”

“Do you think that…”

“You’ll get hemorrhoids if you sit on a toilet seat for such a long time.”

“I’m constipated.”

“It’s how you eat, dear.”

“Maybe if you’d cook for me once in a while…”

“Oh now don’t start with that.  Please.  I am working to put good food on the table.  It’s not easy being the breadwinner and super parent too, you know!”  That was always the excuse.  “You won’t eat the dietary meals I buy for you.  Those are very nutritious.  They’re scientifically scored and engineered to cover all your recommended daily requirements.”


He looked down at the grey, sculpted indoor/outdoor carpeting of the bathroom.  

“They taste like paper.”

“That’s what salt and pepper is for, dear.  They’re very easy to fix…”

“So’s going to Burger Schwanz.”

“… just pop them into the micro and they’re good to go.  You’re just too lazy for your own good.  Lazy!  You won’t be skinny forever!  Trust me.  Start exercising now…”  The tiny, smart car she bought for him to drive was also outfitted with a GPS tracking device that she could monitor from her laptop.  Or her office computer.  Or her GeniusPhone.  She wasn’t able to commandeer this vehicle by remote.  Yet.  But, if he were foolish enough to drive to Burger Schwanz, she would automatically know he was headed towards Meridian Ave.  His path was always predictable.  He was smart, but not smart enough to be unpredictable.  “Where do you get all the money you’ve got to go to Burger Schwanz, anyway?”




“I do homework for other kids.”

“You do what?”

“Homework.  For kids that’re having problems with their homework.”

“That’s cheating, Brian.”   She could tell he was lying.  About everything.





“Hello?  Brian, I said, that’s cheating.”

“No it’s not.  No it’s not.  I’m helping someone less fortunate than me.  That’s me not being selfish, like you always say.”

“Don’t try it, mister!  It most certainly IS cheating and I won’t hear of it.  No sir!  Not under those shingles!”

The first camera she installed, was a Panasonic Micro Digital Pantiltzoom camera.  ‘A NICE ALL PURPOSE CAMERA FOR GENERAL MONITORING PURPOSES’, was what the online product description said.  It got an average of four and a half stars in Consumer Reports reviews.  She bought that one when he was in first grade, back in the day.  It was a good enough camera, but it wasn’t tamper proof.  He could throw a ball cap over its simple, obtrusive design.  If he were out of range- or shrouding her frantically telescoping lenses- for too long, she’d be on the intercom shouting at him to present himself, front and center.   Currently, that piece of technology was an outdated- if still serviceable- relic in her ever-expanding and complex network of state of the art pinhole cameras, microphones and motion sensors.  She believed that Brian believed the Panasonic dinosaur no longer worked.

With all of this, she still couldn’t bring herself to take the final step in installing cameras in the bathroom.  This point was a painstaking, ongoing moral struggle for her.   After all, she wasn’t a fascist.

“I can’t see you, Brian.  I need to see you.  You’ve had enough alone time.”


She saw him come out of the bathroom, his pants still unfastened and then he disappeared out of frame.


On her way out of downtown, with her laptop open on the passenger seat and the dash mounted screen linked to the tree cams trained on the exterior of their house, she turned the AC up full blast and took a sip of her Iced Capp.  She couldn’t afford to allow humidity to collapse her carefully crafted hair.  When she hit the I-270 acceleration ramp going 25 miles per hour, she glanced over at the laptop, the screen, split into quadrants of their home’s interior.  The shots were eerily still.  Their cat slept on the couch.  The sun played through the branches of the tree outside the living room window casting swirling phantoms and studding the room with diamonds: a series of small sunbursts followed by rainbows.  She reached over and- with a stroke of her finger- switched to a second block of cameras.


Still nowhere in sight.


What she hadn’t taken the time to realize, yet, is that her boy, often and with great intensity, traveled far in his mind.  Over walls and bridges, through space, folding time.  He blew things up below him.  One of those things was her.


Radio silence.


“Brian?  Brian?  Let’s go.  Let’s get in sight, here, buddy.”  She did her best to be patient.  That is, until nearly rear-ending a Humvee, stopped in a bottleneck, as she frantically swiped her touchpad toggling camera angles.  She barked threats and candy-coated invective into her Bluetooth.   As a driver, she convinced herself that she was being responsible because she was, basically, hands-free.  Her car was equipped with Smart Stop sensors for just these reasons.  She took her responsibilities seriously. “I swear, Brian, if I wreck this car you’ll be grounded for the rest of your natural days.   Just now, I was almost decapidated!  Don’t think that you can pull this baloney much longer… I’ll turn this car around and be back home in half an hour.   And you had better be in front of those eyes of mine well before that!” 

Somewhere, Brian was rolling his eyes and slamming his fists onto something.  He banged them against it until they were numb and swollen and the thing broke apart.


Radio silence.  Crackle of satellites and the big bang.


When she got out of range, she felt confident that when she returned home, her captures would reveal anything she needed to know.  Then there would be the fight and subsequent punishments.  It was getting harder and harder to physically lay into him the way she used to, the bigger and the more sullen he got.  But, like her job, she gave it 150%.   Spare the rod (and all those Confucius-type slogans).  It was then and there, sitting in the cool isolation of her vehicle- in that traffic jam on I-270- that she decided to push aside her squeamishness and finally install those nano-cams in the bathroom vanity (and tissue cozy).  She’d make an appointment with her favorite tech (with the full arm tattoo sleeves and nipple rings that showed through his shirt) at Alsnauer Security this week.  Her son’s health and welfare depended on it.


G.P. DeSalvo lives and works in Columbus, Ohio.  He is a civil servant,an artisan, a sorcerer and an amateur psychiatrist.  He has lived three or four different lives.  Now he’s getting to be an old man.  He may- one day in the near future- actually get something published.

You can visit G.P DeSalvo’s blog here: https://theblackboulder.blog
and follow him on Twitter here: @DurbanMoffer 

You can visit G.P DeSalvo’s blog here: https://theblackboulder.blog
and follow him on Twitter here: @DurbanMoffer 

“FIREBIRD” Jared Povanda


The rocks know what you did to me, as do the weeds, but you are arrogant enough to think you can silence the whole world.

One of your hands fit clean around my throat, and I had to watch my blood become black before everything else. Before darkness stole across my eyes, depthless and fathomless, like the lake we called our own. So glassy and still, my eyes, as they posed for the moon. And then life, succulent life, left me in a trickle. Not a river, no, you didn’t want to make too much of a mess—your suits were always made of the finest gabardine—but that trickle was enough.

Who do you think you can convince of your innocence?

The swan women?

They will never believe the story you concocted. 

They are nightmares turned flesh. They are women cursed, and they are bitter. The light of their gossamer feathers is not a comfort but a rapier through the gut. 

The men of the forest, then? Will you go to them? Wolves for heads, they prowl. They snigger. The grasses of the moors bow before them, but I remember how you mocked them for being of a lesser class, for their lack of cultivated intelligence. Around the lake, they would     always walk on two legs, but they did not see us. They did not hear. 

When you had me on my back, naked, without ever planning to undress yourself. 

By the end of everything, my presence in your life became so innate, so expected. No one ever stopped you from writing with my body. No one would question the man using his own hand. Who was I, with you, but dew on deer tines, transparent and moments from         evaporation? I can’t remember yet.

The rocks know, though. 

The pebble that pressed into the small of my back. The moth that crawled around my mouth.

They remember. 

How you smiled like a sea at storm. How your waves never yielded. 

They battered me. You battered me. Society would like me to think I was asking for it. That I goaded you. That I fused myself with your soul of my own volition. And did I, at the     beginning? 

Yes, I will admit, when you charmed me.

But then yes became no.

No, and no, and no again. 

How your tempests frothed. How your salt tasted. 

You told me once that I was like the firebird you had as a boy. A phoenix. A legend, a myth, a force you forced into domestication. You reveled in that.

What a marvel, you said. The exclamations danced in your eyes. What a good cry…and your eyes, that color…

And then you reveled in my destruction. The power you knew you could wield over my body.

Your friends were all afraid to talk to me. To help me. What it was they feared, though, was not drowning in your ire, but stepping in its puddle. Wetting their loafers. The cowards.

I stare at you from the apple trees now. I wave to the moon, the stars, those gleaming  pinpricks we wished upon as we laid by the lake on our first date. You gave me a flower—a tulip—and tucked it behind my ear. Your smile was supposed to be a gift. Praise, my panacea. You doused water over the bird in my body, and I couldn’t even feel the steam.      Everything died before I recognized what life I had inside me. 

What glorious, glorious, soul-shaking life.

I was twenty-two. 

You are forty. 

You still have your money. 

You have the support, the job, the life. 

I have the apples. 

The swan women will not want me. Zombie, they will call me. A man has defiled you, they will say. Hypocrites, but the blame doesn’t fully belong to them. The patriarchy has twisted them like the branches of a wintered tree.

But no longer and never again. 

These are not leaves I cover myself with now. They are not green, but black. Black. I coat myself with my own ashes. A cocoon of sorts. The heat is coming. The fire is coming. Because you can kill a phoenix. You can put out a fire with semen, with urine, with earth and stone and a shovel. You can bury a body, but you cannot cage a soul. 

And I escaped long ago, rising beyond the grave. My wings sawed through the delicate skin of my back and then through the dirt, but the tear didn’t hurt. I should have exposed them the moment we met. 

Our bodies are our own, they belong to us, but we are so used to contorting to the needs of others. We are so used to minimizing to appease. 

But no longer and never again.

The branches groan under my weight. The ash falls from me in sheets, in curtains, in a waterfall of cinders and fire, and the tree is burning, and I am burning, and your whole sea of wealth will curl away in a hiss.

The moon is high—silvery and potent—and my body glows. Naked, now, because I choose to bear my skin to the world. 

And when I skewer you, it will be slow. When I burn you, I will make sure your bones melt before your brain.

The rocks and weeds, those bards of earth and green growing, will know what I have done, and they will sing to all who pass:

Beware the one who burns the sky.

Beware the one who dries the sea.

Beware the one who wished for freedom, once, upon the stars, and beware the one who was given a second, scorching chance to fly.



Jared Povanda is a writer, freelance editor, and avid reader from upstate New York. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Silver Needle Press, Sky Island Journal, Vestal Review, the anthology My Body, My Words (Big Table Publishing), and Tiferet Journal, among others. The winner of multiple literary awards, he also holds a B.A. from Ithaca College in Creative Writing. 

Attachments area

“Photos that Speak” three poems by Luanne Jaconia


Photo by Allen Nomura


“Harvest Moonlight”

Encouraged by a chilly autumn wind,

Naked branches tapped rhythmically against worn shutters
While the harvest moonlight shown loudly through his window,

Like a beacon, casting shadows in the dark

Awakened, he rustled under covers,

Pulling warm socks up around old spindly legs;
Backs of his calves worn smooth as a baby’s bottom
After years of close friendship with his Levis

Pulling socks up in bed
Always reminded him of her,
Placing them, freshly laundered,
In the maple dresser he had made

She was gone now…
For what seemed an eternity!
In the harvest moonlight,
He could almost see her soft curves

And feel her body
Nestled there beside him!
As he slowly reached for his socks,
The old yearnings rolled over him like waves!

First he howled at the moon,
Then whispered to himself, as in prayer,
“If only l could wrap my legs around her
One last time!”

Photo by Al Faaet


“Autumn Sip”

I walk the terrain of my beloved homelands
Soaking up this beauty which is free to me

Cool winds fill my lungs with sweetness
And with pain

The sun warms my back
And trees greet me with bursts of flaming colors

I stop to drink it in
Then moan loudly

As I imagine these places dead
As they will one day be

By witless human beings

image1 (1)
Photo by Al Faaet



Dear Autumn,
Every year you introduce
Shimmering new mind-blowing colors to the world!

Once again,
Rendering my new Super-Duper
Extraordinary Crayola Box obsolete!



Luanne Pumo Jaconia, CSSW, began her career in child protective services, and currently facilitates parenting workshops.  Luanne and her husband are parents of two; hands-on grandparents of three. Her poems often reflect the difficult and exhilarating experiences that happen within families as they grow. Luanne began submitting poetry at 70.