‘Motherhood Mary (Madonna)’ by Rachel Small

Madonna and Child St. Mary of the Cataract

Mary might have chosen a life for herself
Separate from the indigo sky folds
of her robes. Her hands could have
grasped onto the strings of girlhood-
Of beeswax candles positioned bedside;
bits of pressed flowers concealed under
stacked books and cups of chamomile
tea; a list of names written against the veins
of her wrist or snatches of romances held in
her hands by a setting tangerine sun. Honey is
poured from her cup until it smears across a dirt
floor, left to sit. Her choices lie amongst it all.

Rachel Small writes in Ottawa. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in magazines, including ottawater, many gendered mothers, The Hellbore, The Shore, and other places. She was the recipient of honourable mention for the John Newlove Poetry Award for her poem “garbage moon and feminist day”. You can find her on twitter @rahel_taller.

‘For J.D.’ by Damien Ark

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i. all of this hate unending

at the age of nineteen and twenty
i’d spend six to fourteen hours
cleaning and selling fish
high on oxycodone
with a pocketful of calls, emails, and texts
knife in my left hand
i’d cut off a salmon head and
slide it into a sink on the right
full of other fish guts, bones, and heads
as the blade slides down the tail
revealing pink meat
i’d think of you
when crawfish found their way through my glove
pinching me their claws soaked in salt and shit
i’d flatten them with a rubber hammer
i’d stare at their brains and body spattered
and i’d think of you

ii. fish-head soup

i rarely wore a steel mesh cutting glove
and silver scales would often dig into my nails
my hands would scoop up all the slimy viscera
and dump it all into a fifty-pound trash bag
when i’d do it, i’d see myself in them
from ocean or lake to fish hook to styrofoam and plastic
to slaughtered flesh and into dumpster trucks and
dumped right back into the ocean
or to decay and be eaten by maggots on mountains of trash
i fucking felt that
each week i’d sell hundreds of decapitated fish heads
to a man who owned a high-end asian restaurant
whether their eyes were clear and hypnotic
or if they were milky like infectious semen
he would tip me a hundred and fifty
and after my shift
i’d spend it all on my little 30mg instant release pills
smoke out a homeless man that worked in the deli
and beat my head against the steering wheel
after reading your hundreds of psychotic texts

iii. happy birthday

we fucked a few hours ago
i’m playing south park stick of truth
it’s 3AM
and you begin to sob like a maniac
if i won’t commit to you
you’ll commit to suicide
if i won’t commit to you
i won’t be allowed to leave
you bring up your last attempt
i threaten to throw myself out the window
to escape you, even if i end up dead
but by 6AM you have me
still crying, i come home, twenty years old
sobbing into a bloody pillow
as a red house painters song plays again and again

iv. toys r us parking lot

you’re stoned and drunk
you peed yourself and you can’t smell it
you’re too stoned to feel it
you want to get high in the back of the toys r us parking lot
i say that’s stupid, it’ll attract cops
after arguing about it with me, you smoke weed
in the parking lot of an arby’s
and cry even harder than ever before
the scent of piss filling the car
i’m leaving, this is it, but it isn’t
my trauma won’t let it end like this
not until you drunkenly slam your car into someone
and blame it on my anxiety
then make up for it by buying me an anime doll
and get me stoned after i don’t want to get stoned
fish heads
fish guts
why did i never see the red flags
even when you presented them before our first fuck

v. our first fuck

i remember your okcupid
with no profile image uploaded
and just reading david lynch and your taste in literature
was enough to convince me to fuck you as hard as possible
i remember your six feet under poster
you playing Elliott Smith on a Yamaha
telling me that I’d probably like Dennis Cooper
you wanted the lights off and i wanted them on
i wanted to love you in ways you didn’t want
me loving your fat and you hating it
the way it felt inside of you, so warm and tight
even if i did get some shit on my dick
and how i apologized for making you bleed
and after, us sharing our stories about being in loony bins
seay center fish tank and quiet room
it should’ve just ended right then like what the fuck
or at least after you confessed to stalking an ex-boyfriend
in a parking garage and frightening him
oh, that’s probably normal, i thought
sending you a text two weeks later
one of my biggest life regrets

vi. blackmail

i sent you dirty pictures
i remember taking some of them and imagining
that they’d make you think i’m more committed to you
hating you, yet i’d do whatever i could to prevent you
from killing yourself over me
i sent you all these fucking dirty pictures
you sucking my dick
me holding my dick in front of the mirror
dick and face pics ass pics everything
and you sent them to my boyfriend
you threatened to send them to my parents
to my grandmother after tracking down her phone number
you wanted to out me for not loving you
you promised to never delete my nudes from your computer
and so i’ll never delete these words either

Damien Ark is a self-taught outsider writer and an aspiring novelist. You can find and contact him solely through his twitter account.
https://twitter.com/damien_ark

‘Two Sonnets’ by Kristin Garth

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No Promise In A Pastel Sky

There is no promise in a pastel sky,
discovered by a waking eye toward
a window where it waits, a passerby,
perhaps, you hallucinate? No words
it utters, peony caped, fingers throat
until your mouth agape will swallow
his palettes blurred by aqueous eyes. Floats
away in southern skies while you wallow
in homogeny — pittance, molecules
he leaves, geriatric blue. You furrow
beige Berber, nose a dewy pane. Two pupils
constrained would trade this ennui for a pain furloughed
an hour would he deign to meet your eye
and overcome you like a pastel sky.

Torpor

Daydream ourselves into a cave not quite
a hibernation craved — more torpor, weeks
we’re licking dreams from dirty floors. Daylight
outdoors for carnivores in frigid creeks,
an afternoon to make their kills, more gaunt
each day and less fulfilled. When December
buries poetry in acres iced, taunts
fragility, our tendons remember
tranquility is always a dream
away. Requires a quiet place to stay.
Pardon the salmon for a day for streams
cerebral, more sublime, the month we make
a feast of our subconscious minds. Rebirth
us ferocious into feracious earth.

Kristin Garth is a poet from Pensacola and a sonnet stalker. Her sonnets have stalked magazines like Five: 2: One, Glass, Anti-Heroin Chic, Occulum, Drunk Monkeys, Luna Luna, TERSE. Journal and many more. Her chapbook Pink Plastic House is available from Maverick Duck Press, and she has two forthcoming: Pensacola Girls (Bone & Ink Press, Sept 2018) and Shakespeare for Sociopaths (The Hedgehog Poetry Press Jan 2019). Follow her on Twitter: @lolaandjolie

‘Amazon Prime Day’ by Wallace Barker

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My little sister uses an oxygen mask.
It’s not clear whether she really needs it.
Some suspect she conned the doctors into prescribing it.

She keeps a dog named Janet confined
to a chainlinked pen and it shits everywhere.
Janet lives in squalor but no one knows what to do.

The other dogs have the run of a large kennel but will try to kill
Janet if they can reach her and Janet is small.
She can’t defend herself against larger dogs.

My sister lives in a single-wide trailer on my parent’s land
with her husband and no one is allowed to enter her home.
Probably because she is a hoarder.

I go home for a barbecue and see from across the driveway
the overgrown entrance to my sister’s house
and I see Janet in her pen.

We look away and talk about lunch.

‘Two Poems’ by Justin Karcher

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The Patron Saint of Law Students Who Want to Change the World

There are microscopic radio stations
stitched into every American flag in town
you can’t see them, but they’re there
broadcasting an endless series of encoded messages
“this is the law of the land”
or “no one cares if you live or die”

one day, well-meaning law students lose their minds
because of the hopelessness
they break into janitorial closets
in downtown office buildings
they take all the mop heads
& rub them in piles of bad cocaine
until they kinda look like powdered wigs
then they put on the wigs
& march to the sea to start a revolution
but it’s not really the sea
just a large parking lot
that’s been painted blue & covered in salt
suddenly their well-made plans unravel
before their very eyes

so they gather their frustrations
& take aim with stylus pens
they pretend to shoot seagulls
walking along the beach
looking for taco scraps
but it’s not really the beach
just a small strip of sandpaper stapled together
they get on their hands & knees
& touch the imposter sand
they ask one another
“When was the last time you touched sandpaper?”
they all agree that it’s been awhile
that it’s probably similar to intimacy
that you kinda forget how it feels
& when you touch somebody you actually like
it feels totally weird
like you’re not meant to do it

after some awkward silence
they take a motorcade of Ubers to Target
where they loudly cry
while wandering through Dorm Room Essentials
they sit on cheap couches & kiss the air
at invisible friends that were once flesh
they ask one another
“Remember when making out on a couch
was the best thing ever?”
they all agree that tongues don’t taste the same
that it’s probably similar to a lobotomy
that you kinda forget you miss something
until you find out that somebody took it away
that when we sleep
there must be a concerted effort
from a hungry memory vampire
who sticks straws in our ears
& sucks out the small memories
that mean the world to us

the law students are losing
their collective mind
they buy all the pillows, X-Acto knives
& Elmer’s glue at Target
they go into the parking lot
& start cutting up all the pillows
they ask one another
“We need all the feathers
do pillows even have feathers anymore?”
they all agree that it’s best to be optimistic these days
that it’s the only way to fly
they take off their shirts
& whatever feathers they do find
they glue to their shoulder blades
they try to fly
but don’t get very far
so they sit on the asphalt
& wonder what to do next
they tell one another
“Let’s sue evolution
because we never sprouted wings
let’s sue the American dead
that still control the land
their voices do terrible things
let’s sue the night air
for turning us into terrible lovers
all we know are flings”

by nightfall, there are law students
jamming X-Acto knives in their ears
& when their blood hits the ground
well-meaning flowers bloom from the asphalt
& they spend all their nectar
trying to save a dying sun
but eventually they realize
no one else cares if it lives or dies
so they go into debt
deeper into dirt
& wither away

but no one weeps for them

The Patron Saint of Valedictorians Who Become Junkies

All over America
they’re reciting the speeches
they wrote years ago

standing behind makeshift podiums
in vacant lots
where their high schools used to be

the broken glass
the deflated basketballs
but they’re still optimistic

they were supposed to be
the saviors of their families
straight-A students

who crafted science fair volcanos
out of old beehives
and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos

using rusty box cutters
cutting open each Cheeto
draining lava from its crunch

then taking all the sting
from their families’ backyards
and stacking it like a mountain

the heat of their potential
melting the hallucinogenic honey
on the lips of everyone around them

but something went wrong

look, no matter where you’re from
there’s always a fistful of scarecrows
aimed at your heart

nights of waking up
in abandoned libraries
surrounded by piles of dusty old books

and dirty underwear
still searching for the right words
that can undress the world

‘Two Poems’ by James Stelzer

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Breakdown

On Saturday the Car and his wife held a dinner party for their neighbours.
After three drinks the Car began to leak toxic fumes,
choking everyone present.
“You’re exhausting me!” exclaimed Becky, the Car’s wife.
The room fell silent.

Later, under the covers of their bed
the neighbours discussed the events of the evening:
“Oh, how awful”
“How do they continue to live like that”
“Won’t somebody think of the children”

Nobody called a mechanic.

19th . October. Saturday.

I’m rewatching The Terminator in 2019
and thinking about the mechanics of time-travel.
It’s unfair
that the product placed on Kyle’s feet feels perennial,
but every dog with a role in this movie is long-dead.
Hang on a minute…
Did Arnold Schwarzenegger invent deepfake technology?!
Fuck you, asshole.

James Stelzer is a writer/vocalist who hails from a British town that isn’t quite London. Outsider art fills him with hope (and some other emotions that are weird and deeply confusing). You can find him on Twitter at @ABadIdeaMachine.

‘Increasingly Volatile’ by spacemortuary

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I come from a sleepy little hellhole that churned out a couple more humans than it knew what to do with, so it took their lives: some with shotguns; some with bricks; or maybe

just maybe

they took them of their own accord.

It’s hard to say what’s predetermined and what isn’t.

I guess it’s all a matter of what you believe, but there isn’t much left to believe in anymore –

just the shadow of a man etched into the back of that old decrepit farmhouse you’ve driven past 100,000 times but God Damned if you still can’t remember the color of the front door.

And whether or not you think you act upon this world or it acts upon you doesn’t matter, not in the slightest,

because either way, a relatively undesirable target is to blame for the things that happen to you that you wish just wouldn’t.

But they do. And they will.

And the door’s still closed, it’s always been closed (what fucking color was it?)

and nobody has ever gone in because you’ve never seen it happen and you’ll never know who or what lives in there or why and someday it will burn down or just be gone and their eyes are on you they’ve always been on you and their eyes never close and lord knows your eyes can’t look away fast enough –

and there’s nothing here for any of us
and none of us are here enough
for anyone


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

 

‘Aztec’ by Bort Champion

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The life of an Aztec sounds pretty cool

The flower war and uh the flower and song

As well as tomatoes, corn, beans, a giant fucking floating city

For real though, it’s like a European painting

But hold up, all these flowers are seeped in blood!

You could switch out blood and flower in this poem and it’d still work

I think, anyway, shouts out to Hungry Coyote.

Bort lives in Springfield where his sister gets all the credit. @Aenurx22.

‘Two Etymology Poems’ by Matt Mitchell

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THE ETYMOLOGY OF MOUTH

(n.)

Old English mup “opening of a gate to a country of teeth sharp enough to gash the moon.” Garden of thorns made from pink cheek exoskeleton; colony of cul-de-sacs at the end of my great aunt’s street; voice whispering jetstreams into the vacant sky; air filled with flecks of dandelion; the color of summer; taste of bare neck in early morning; lips split open in the shape of glaciers from air conditioner horsepower; what undresses my ribs & arranges my birthmarks into constellations; cathedral at the head of a river where I open the earth & sing my love into.

THE ETYMOLOGY OF NEEDLE

(n.)

Pharmaceutical jargon naedl “small, pointed instrument for carrying an ocean of life through the fabric of a body, etc.,” from endocrinologist’s mouth naethlo, literally “an elegy of permanence wrapping around God.” Meaning “piece of magnetized steel in a compass,” or ruptured artery in my thigh after insulin needle splintered through fatty muscle, or my translator for a death waiting behind a whole map of skin tearing.

Matt Mitchell is a writer from Ohio. His first chapbook, you’re my favorite garçon, is forthcoming from Ghost City Press in 2020. Other words he’s written appear right now, or will soon, in places like BARNHOUSE, NPR, Gordon Square Review, Frontier Poetry, and Glass: A Journal of Poetry, among others. He’d love to talk to you about basketball.