The Agapanthus Collective Issue # 2: Ephemeral Fall 2021 Editors: Junpei Tarashi Surosree Chaudhuri Arli Li Readers: Sinéad Delaney Leo Altman Cover Art and Doodles by Arli Li Layout by Junpei Tarashi
LETTER FROM THE EDITORS Dear Reader, In ephemerality, there is transience: a recognition and loving of something fleeting. Each of the pieces in this issue capture those momentary joys, sadness, people, and thoughts in time, and allows us to linger with them a while longer before they pass. Thank you for picking up this issue, and taking a brief moment to indulge in this evanescent collection by our lovely contributors. As always, we’re so honored to share their work with others, and we hope this makes your day a little brighter, however fleeting. Much love, The Editorial Team
CONTENTS Post-Seizure #24 Carol Shillibeer Room 3 Stefanie Fair-King Storms Shelby Stephenson Come Back Inside Before the Rain Grows Heavy Maitreyi Parakh Embracing Verlaine Robert Beveridge Saudade Aria Emerson Watching it All Edward Supranowicz Vanishing Act b. pick Letter to a friend coming home from the hospital Andrea D’Souza Friday Night, Saturday Morning Andrea Laws Heavy Handed Edward Supranowicz A Conversation With My Mother (Or Perhaps With Myself In The Mirror) Isa Arsén February Emma Deimling The Things a Mouth Can Cook Joshua Effiong Anthem, AZ b. pick
6 7 13 15 16 17 18 20 21 22 23 24 26 28 30
CONTENTS Post-Seizure # 27 Carol Shillibeer For the Call Sonia Charales Raven Trunks Clem Flowers A Distance in Time Olivia Onyekwena March Shelby Stephenson An Observational Study of the Biodiversity of a Very Lovely Field, in the Form of a Sestina Nic LaReddola Hour of the Mouse Catriona Roy When I Eat my Masterpiece Andre F. Peltier Jack in a Box Jamario Cantrell Symphonies Christian Garduno Contributor Bios
31 32 33 34 35 37 39 40 42 44 46
Post-Seizure #24 Carol Shillibeer glittering death, azurite stars shred boats that lunge convoluted seas, love is the bait fish on a rainbow hook small sails of longing, winds descend aeon’s cliffs we follow rills of juiced delights, trills of lightning strikes, dark nights and fur sheets, pink tongues under blue songs, comatose futures trolling for crab black river of promise never reaching the deep the end of us, fallen hours poach in jade waters near-coastal pleas, bright blert of fish, final lunge for perfection, wracked lungs, deep whale-water of long ago open the night, flap you gulls, tender over beak-breaking concrete ephemeral fall iterates the intention of paving stones.
Room 3 Stefanie Fair-King Room 3 is the first door on the left, and it’s the end of the line as far as numbered rooms go. There is no Room 4. Inside Room 3, a countertop holds a cushy pet bed and a stainless steel animal scale. Opposite the counter are two chairs covered in gray fabric. Elevator music pours into the room through speakers fixed to the corners of the walls. For a while, I am the only one in the room, but then a young blonde woman slowly opens the door and enters the room. She holds a gray cat against her chest. Because of COVID-19, the bottom half of her face is masked, but I see kind eyes with watery rims peeking over the top of her face covering. “Hi, I’m Dr. T,” she says. “Nice to meet you.” We’ve spoken on the phone before, and I’ve seen her once in a Zoom meeting, but this is my first time to meet her in person. Because of the pandemic, pets’ owners haven’t been allowed inside the clinic. “I’ve just been loving on him and petting him,” she says as she sets the cat down on the shiny tile floor. “I’m going to leave him in here with you. Someone will be in to talk with you about options.” She closes the door behind her and then it’s just me and Dmitri, my Russian blue mix. He immediately investigates his new surroundings, pacing the perimeter of the small room. Every few steps he pauses to jiggle his front left paw in an attempt to dislodge the catheter which is held in place with bright orange tape. Step, step, step, shake. Step, step, step, shake. I sit down cross legged on the floor, scooting around with him as he walks, petting him and talking to him, but he doesn’t seem to notice me—his attention is elsewhere. Step, step, step, shake. He sits down to lick the foreign object protruding from his front leg. A young woman who is an assistant to Dr. T walks into the room, so I pick myself up from the floor and sit in one of the chairs. 7
“Have you thought about what you’d like to do with his remains? Private cremations start at $200. There are also group cremation options.” No, I haven’t thought about any of that because I thought I was coming here to get him some cold medicine. Also, you don’t have to say it right in front of him. I look at Dmitri who is still pacing. His pupils are large black saucers. “He’s scared,” I say and pick him up and set him on my lap. “It’s Mama,” I say in my baby voice. I’m not sure if he recognizes me with a mask. I don’t look at the assistant again and she leaves the room. I try to hold Dmitri in my lap and pet him, but he wiggles and squirms and I release him. When I brought him to the clinic earlier in the afternoon, I had stayed in my car while Dr. T examined him and also while we discussed her findings over a phone call. She began by saying she could “appreciate” what I’d reported about Dmitri’s sneezing fits and labored breathing. That word “appreciate” stood out to me—it sounded practiced, scripted to validate a pet owner’s concerns and ensure return visits. Dr. T said she had done an ultrasound and found the cause of his labored breathing: a mass—likely cancerous—was taking up a fourth of his stomach. She had been wary of sending him home with pain medicine. The mass could rupture and that would be a bad death. It was advisable to take immediate action. That afternoon I had listened to his sneezing fits, which came in bursts of about five sneezes at a time, and I had watched his stomach spasm, his belly pumping in and out like he had hiccoughs. All morning and afternoon he had moved around the house, from one surface to another, trying to get comfortable, trying to find some relief. He stretched out on hard surfaces, like the cool laminate floor and the coffee table, tossing and turning, never staying in one position for very long. He tried soft surfaces. He sat with me on the couch for a while, his little head resting on the purple blanket that I’d pulled over my knees while I was studying. If I had known that it was his last day, I wouldn’t have spent my time taking notes on kinds of verbs while Unsolved Mysteries played in the background. As I sit with my cat in Room 3, I hear a familiar voice in the lobby. “I’m here for Dmitri.” My husband’s voice bounces around the lobby. “My wife is already here.” “They’re in Room 3.” The receptionist knows who he is before he even walks in. Everyone who is there for a regular appointment knows to stay in their vehicle. It is also the end of the work day, with a few minutes remaining until closing time at 6:00. We are the only ones allowed in. With my husband in the room, Dimitri calms down. He begins rubbing the cor8
-ner of his mouth against the furniture and our pant legs. I am wearing yoga pants and flip flops, which is what I was wearing earlier when I had called to report my concerns about Dmitri. I’d scheduled the emergency visit for almost double the normal rate. The receptionist had said, “We’re closing soon. If the appointment goes after 6:00, there will be an additional fee.” A few minutes after my husband enters Room 3, Dr. T’s assistant returns and resumes her spiel. “Private cremations start at $200. You would come back to the clinic and you’d have a private ceremony. Then there’s group cremation. Or we could just give him back to you and you could bury him.” Dmitri rubs against her leg. “Aww,” she says. He brushes against all our legs. He rubs his cheek against my purse which is on the floor, leaning against the wall. Watching him walk around the bright examination room, his coat suddenly looks more reddish than I have noticed in the past. In his records, his coloring is listed as ‘blue,’ but in this moment I see the tips of his hair gleaming like copper. I am aware that time is ticking and people want to get home. It is Friday, and it is closing time. “Let’s bury him,” I say. “We’ll return his body to you free of charge, of course,” she says. Then she tells us we need to check out now, so that after the procedure we can just walk out. No one wants to take a transaction after–when everyone is crying. “So, for today’s visit it’s going to be $206.” My husband reaches for his wallet, but I interrupt. “I have a card on file.” The assistant nods and completes the transaction. Then she brings in a tray of colored clay samples and asks us to pick one. She says it’s for a paw print. The rows of neon colors, the hot pink and lime green, look garish and inappropriate for the occasion. As the assistant holds out the palette of rainbow colors, Dmitri begins to purr as he rubs against us. I look for a somber color like a gray or a navy, but there aren’t any, so I settle on a dusty blue with flecks of glitter in it. The assistant says that after they’ve baked the clay, they will mail the paw print to us “free of charge, of course.” Dr. T comes in with several vials of fluids. She asks if we want to hold him while she administers the injections. “No, he doesn’t like being held,” I say. Dmitri has jumped up on one of the gray chairs, and I am sitting beside him in the other chair. Dr. T crouches down in front of him. I put one arm around him and with my other hand I rub below his ear. The elevator music still fills the room, and as we prepare to end a life, I consider the poor choice of background noise for this final moment. 9
Dr. T flushes Dmitri’s catheter with a clear saline, and his eyes widen and he makes a slight attempt to stand, but we hold him in place. The sleeping medicine is next, and it looks like milk sliding through the tube. Dmitri’s body goes limp and his head collapses on my arm before Dr. T finishes pushing the fluid through the syringe. “Wow, that was fast,” I say. “He’s sleeping,” Dr. T says. The next fluid—the lethal one—is bubblegum pink. With the arm I have around Dmitri, I detect the faintest vibration of purring. When Dr. T injects the fluid into his catheter, the vibration ceases. She flushes the catheter again with saline and sits back while I rub below Dmitri’s ear. She checks for a heartbeat with a stethoscope and says, “He’s gone.” She is sniffling. I can’t see very well because I’ve taken off my glasses which kept fogging over because of my mask and my watery eyes. I pet Dmitri for a while longer and then Dr. T scoops him up from the chair, his limp body spilling over her arms. She cradles him like a baby, puts him in the little pet bed on the counter and takes him out of the room. When we emerge from Room 3, my husband is carrying Dmitri in a cardboard box. Out in the hall, we leave footprints on a freshly-mopped floor. We pass a tearyeyed Dr. T on our way out. “Thanks for staying late,” I say. It is 6:24 pm. Outside, the weather has turned. A strong breeze sends leaves spiraling through the air. A cold front has come through, and the flip flops I’ve worn to the appointment are no longer appropriate. __________________________________________________________________________
That night I have a lucid dream—the kind where you know you’re dreaming. In the dream I go into my kitchen, where I find another me who is busy baking for Dmitri’s funeral. The baking me is working some dough with a rolling pin. “What are you baking?” I ask her. The dough spread out on the counter doesn’t look like potential bread or cookies or pie crust. It just looks pale and bland and flavorless. The baking me has spices strewn across the countertops and her white floured hands search frantically for an ingredient that will save the dough. But she gives up on selecting a spice and starts to shape the dough into rings. “I’m not sure what kind of oil you’d use for doughnuts,” I say. “You’ve never deep-fried anything before.” But she is convinced she can salvage her work and ignores me. “It doesn’t matter,” I say. “This isn’t real anyway.” 10
Then a drift carries us away from the kitchen and from the house. I feel sorry for the baking me and consider how to get us home so she can finish her work. How does one get home in a dream? I remember how Gena Davis’ character in Beetlejuice returns to her house, and I too shout, “Home, Home, Home!” Once we were back, I take things into my own hands so the baking me won’t think her efforts were all for nothing. I put some of the rolled-out dough in a small pan and stick it in the oven to bake. The result is something like a flimsy pancake that both the lucid and the dreaming me shared in memory of Dmitri.
The next day I make pancakes from the unopened Bisquick box in the pantry. I try something different as far as toppings go—I slather my pancakes with cream cheese and top them with fresh strawberries and agave syrup. I enjoy my new creation. Then I go outside to visit Dmitri’s burial spot. After my husband and I brought him home from the clinic, we put on our coats, swapped our summer footwear for closed-toe shoes with socks, and went into our backyard and dug a hole where we gently placed our little gray cat. He looked like he was sleeping. Before we covered him, we each gave him a pet on the head and said we were glad that he’d been our kitty. The very first day we had him, when I brought him home from the animal rescue, he immediately jumped on the couch and took a nap. It was like he’d been with us for years. At first his meows were silent—he’d been a stray and hadn’t been around people long enough to know how to ‘talk’ to them. He’d mouth a meow, but no sound would come out, so we had to lip read to see that he was communicating. Over time sound emerged. When we talked to him, he’d emit little squeaks and trilling sounds from his throat. He would greet us at our bedroom door every morning, and he would trill and purr and brush against our legs. He had perfected positive thinking. He’d demonstrate by sitting in front of the pantry door—no doubt envisioning his end goal of Greenies cat treats—until we took pity on him and opened the door to give him what he wanted. He’d also sit and stare at the front door, focusing his attention on the seam where sunlight would stream through if we opened it a crack. He’d sit, patiently awaiting the outcome he was surely envisioning, and once more, we’d take pity on him and open the heavy wooden door so he could look out the glass door and watch the joggers and the couples walking their dogs. Every day, I’d kiss his forehead and his ear and breathe in his velvet fur. 11
My husband asked me once, “Am I crazy or does he smell good?” I said, “I think he smells like baby powder.” He did smell good. When he’d walk down the stairs in our house, his slinky gray fur looked fluid, almost like it was sliding around over his bones. In these moments, it looked to me like he wasn’t really a cat, but a soul posing as a cat, wearing a cat suit. But the cat suit could no longer house him. When Dr. T administered the bubblegum pink drug and said, “He’s gone,” I had looked at the air above him and wondered where he went. Did he look down from the ceiling for just a second before he was pulled back into the creator? I hope so.
STORMS Shelby Stephenson This hill has howled and blown around all night. I think of the word “cyclone” my father Would use, a bad cloud coming up. I count The seconds he’d tell when Robert Johnson Got blowed in scuppernong vines way yonder When we lived in the plankhouse and Maytle And me got married, before you were born, And we built this nice brick for your mammy. To live life! Every time I think the wind Might come up and I can push some Spirit In this pen to pose a tug of words thin Though they seem, I receive and inherit Him, his checkerboard, while pines gather ice In rows the Long-leaf marks on Sanders Road. Show perseverance, I say to myself. We know how freedom can be, though a load, Good one for him. This house is safe, my son, But you could throw a possum through the walls Of the plankhouse. How essential to sane Ideals writing the things which mark the fall, 13
Alone, as I am now, my family Existing in chances wind might howl – dogs The foxhounds my father kept to pursue The red or gray, Novembers, Finch’s Bog.
COME BACK INSIDE BEFORE THE RAIN GROWS HEAVY Maitreyi Parakh each breath in the spring air is crisp and sweet, somehow shimmering in the sun. meanwhile, there is that cliff by the seaside, as there always has been, and there is hope dangling off the side, as she always will be. you will not try and save her. instead, press your cheek against the sandy beaches and let the salt weave itself into your hair. do not pretend like she isn’t meant to be plucked off by someone who will care about the glass edges, by someone chooses to close their sky so soon it feels deserved. but less about the savior, the hero of every story, and more about her. the girl i love is a fleeting heartbeat too quick to keep up with / to stay with — which is to say living in her sphere is not something to have bought. here is not our place and so we depart, choosing not to wait until the end of the thread of a line over a line over a line. back at home, sweetness is done cooling off on the windowsill and the night is falling so gently, bringing with it the shadows you remember so consistently, still reflecting on a waning moon. everything is pulling goodnight over the edge together, and i suddenly want the world to dive so deep inside me it never comes out.
Embracing Verlaine Robert Beveridge I sit in this black bar and write drunken elegies to dead poets my hands wrap around my lover’s glass neck kisses strike bone yet I know this love will be the best in a long string of one-night stands it gives me what I need
Saudade Aria Emerson When they leave I hold tight to what remains Cling to the last fragments of loves been and gone. An anecdote you told me once, months ago. Your favourite poem, or song, or flower, wilted slightly. Your takeaway order, your jumper with the frayed sleeves. I’m getting used to watching them discolour, wither, fade, But never go completely. That’s a comfort, at least. You were here, once. I got to love you, once.
Watching it All by Ed
Vanishing Act b. pick Drowning in glitter and hairspray and blood -- all of the above take The same gentle shade of crimson as the pen I can’t seem To grasp. My knuckles crack and fingers break in The name of healing a heart, taking On an ill-fated romance in hopes Love might return from its abandon. It doesn’t need to be Star-crossed or destiny, instead Impending doom is half the appeal. Starved of touch and taste, your temporary skin Fills a void for longer than the season we live within; Thoughts of you nourish me, pulling blood out of clothes long-past laundering
Letter to a friend coming home from the hospital Andrea D’Souza Yesterday, I woke in the middle of the night to the sound of the rain walking in on the wind and the wind chimes at war. Pacing in the dark, I prayed for the bells. I’d been having this dream about my brother as a child, following me somewhere, and even though I led, only he knew what waited at the end of our path like my small reputation, trailing me always to the shame of other mouths. Lately, it’s been harder to separate saints from robbers that greet me. The best way to learn how to steal is to give and then study the hand that pockets your offering, how the fourth and fifth fingers will bend toward touch and what language will pleasure them open as the door that invites in the wind. I learned that from you the night you cooked fish and I made up that fantasy about sitting in a cube with one-way glass walls, mirrors on the outside, windows within. After my prayer, I refurbished the story: The cube lives downtown, somewhere on Market. Inside, I watch strangers as they interrogate themselves, and alone, I interrogate the tang of the world as I swallow its tongue from a chair unseen. At night, I drink wine until the glass room resembles old poems I wrote years ago and no longer understand, and when I’m spilling back, you are there, drinking with me, too drunk to remember who wrote Peter Pan but sober enough to map out your youth as the floor plan of a mall where we buy back lost time or to tell me in earnest how it felt to be the pearl in the ambulance raging, tearing apart traffic like halves of the bread your sky shares with mine, or to role play, no laughs — I will be water, and you’ll be a man who learns there is a god, unequivocally, a god, and the first thing you see is this maddening ocean and I am divine — or to speak my name then turn me by the shoulders to watch as the walls catch the sound and turn gold.
Friday Night, Saturday Morning Andrea Laws stale naked body bumpy skin raw tiles filtered water a FLASH: laughing, beer, dancing midnight feasting, and escorting an old friend home hands brush back excess, breathing into submission of spitting out sneakers the kiss became the scale weighing on one side a life partnership based on human flesh pressure off resisting bitter air scratchy cotton naked body anew 22
Heavy Handed by Edward Supranowicz
A Conversation with my Mother (Or Perhaps with Myself in the Mirror) Isa Arsén Even if I never tell you, I will never stop coming out to you because there is no end to the outs from which I must emerge with you. You want to protect me from the parts of myself I will always keep from your eyes with a juvenile sort of secrecy—but I want you to quit falling on my sword when you don’t even know why I’ve sharpened it. You are made of contradictions, willful ignorance, your blinders made from the jagged cardstock of fearing all things you do not understand. There’s a portrait of Frida Kahlo in your house, but you think communism is a dirty word. You think what I am is a cry for help. And yet you love me so fiercely that when my fingertips are bleeding from digging desperate solutions up from my very marrow, you think it’s because I’ve bitten them down out of fear of what lies beneath. I know what lies beneath. I’ve taken it by the throat and held it so close it’s nearly between my teeth, screamed in its face until my throat tasted of blood and then perhaps even kissed it a little—open-mouthed, sloppy kisses that went nowhere but meant everything. I’ve devoured it whole and let it sit in my belly until I was swollen, sated, pregnant with it. When it didn’t suit me, I heaved it right back up yet couldn’t get rid of the pieces remaining in my veins, my spit, the hallways of my heartbeat. They make me angry. I try to keep them in the dark so polite company doesn’t stare.
That basement, cold storage, my guts are more familiar to me than my reasons might ever be to you. Still I try to feel at home with you, because I love you. I can never quit loving you. I try to talk to you about how it feels sometimes: air caving in, all electric, that static-whine before the storm rolls in. What storm? Hell if I know, but I can smell it like iron on the air. You pause for a moment with the phone line crackling like so much of that pre-lightning tang. You take a breath and simply call it a sadness. The Sadness, capital letters. You get it all the time, you tell me. It’s been there forever. I pause too, then and before and every time I think I’m brave enough now to show you the pieces I’m desperate to exhume from the straits of my long, creamy bones. My breath stops itself behind my teeth, looks both ways, steps down off the curb to the street—but sure, I agree out loud, it’s just The Sadness. The speeding train of relief and regret that passes screams with grinding steel, two rusted-out cars hitched to each other—a near-miss. When we hang up, I set back to digging. That crackling roil bloodies my hands as ever as I go, deeper, deeper, deeper, never reaching the bottom of what I am amid the timbers my body borrowed from you. Once I’m through and nursing my ragged hands, suckling on each finger after coming up dry, I think to myself: what good is Sadness if it doesn’t fucking leave anything behind?
February Emma Deimling i am a corpse of rotted flowers that never bloomed, nostalgia cropped up in my throat like cut stems and the peeled seconds before dawn. my parents always wanted a child; i always wanted to be older— another year counting down the days until 7:38 AM on an uneven winter day. february is left behind every tuesday, every time the snow thaws, and the groundhog turns away from the shadows to the withered buds buried beneath. the wind spits through the branches and empty husks of teeth, hollowed out and gray—ungreen. february— such a hollow word, hollow and unbirthed,
the in-between of death and resurrection, frail winter one warm day from wilting. i was born on an uneven february day, one warm embrace from fading. i was supposed to be a spring bud, but the winter snatched me up in its frost-tipped clutches. i always did like the cold but only on forgotten tuesday nights, left behind.
The Things a Mouth Can Cook Joshua Effiong
all my life i have been chasing setting sun/ my heart running towards its yellowness at evening./ but this breeze of forevering is chilling my bones/ & the quake intoxicates this compound of flesh./ they say healing comes when you have/ mastered the art of release, i tell you it is not true./ perhaps, it is only a speck of life’s prismatic plumage/. i watch how grief slip into the fenestrations/ of a mother’s skin. smile that illuminates her face./ at least, if her son had preinformed her ab with the blueness of day/ this would taste better. /does grief ever choose
i don’t know who taught the wind/ the theory of tranquility/ because everyday i see her pass by/ i wish to be indoctrinated./ the othe a stray bullet/ transformed a boy’s body into paper./ lifeless/ & it was jus him/ run the street like a kite swimming in the blue sky./ too often i am forced to envision/ the many ways death visits a man./ in the disguise of sleep/ or daylight robbery./ punctuating/ the fl
here, i begin the baptism of my spirit/ by submerging the cacophony of my thoughts./ in the name of realization/ i take a first dip & allow the water impregnate my being. in the name of exorcism/ i take a second dip/ purging/ & disentangling. finally i coverted the half of the yellow sun/ & emerged/ dripping/ dripping in th
./ decolorizing the bout his departure its’ taste?
er day st yesterday i saw
fleeting breath in his lungs./
y/ he name of recovery.
Anthem, AZ b. pick Rooted here in cactus Bones and cattle teeth And a moon, blood red. Your skin pricks with Goose flesh and Prickly pear spines. Love is stored in flesh, Or so you’ve said, scooping Pulp from barbary figs. You lean into the starlight Basking in the glow of August; your face disappears into the slopes of the Superstition Mountains. Counting cracks in the escarpment and Crows, left for roadkill, as Vultures circle overhead.
Post-Seizure #27 Carol Shillibeer mind follows along windy paths made by the memory of kites in summer fireworks in the late days of heat, a baseball game where no one musters energy to run, sleeping on, sleeping on, sleeping tumbled homes, shattered windows mosaics of glass prayer places post-hurricane, snakes that cross roads at stop signs sleeping on, sleeping on, sleeping, adamantine scars yellow star at the nadir of the most recent historic cycle, white roads’ puling whine, chittering sleep, saltwater pools after dark an old wooden rook, artificial dark, round, round on metal wheels on the corpse of the moment a silver broach, ennui’s shelter energy fizzes uselessly, sleeping on, sleeping on, sleeping perception’s inherent amnesia, pilgrimage for the wounded
For the Call by Sonia Charales 32
Raven Trunks Clem Flowers Nebula on the deadmoon figures Death & the ocean sludge Bleeds thru the mountains Sage crowns set our skulls ablaze As the shards of the red arch Take on the Holy Light Coyote night runs in the air Gold rush did minimal damage To the volume of the splendor We know no one in the formal world Can ever lay a claim to & I get a glimpse of a blue iris Braided into your hair As I get a soda kiss Before we get caught up In the swaying, sighing hymns Of the decrepit fire escapes While the stars scrape The low alleyways
A Distance in Time Olivia Onyekwena we soak up the sun rays at the prompt of a celestial sign heat waves bound in seasonal harmony leaving the summer days in between hours of not so deja vu the places where ice cream cones stay melting alas, a brief moment of chill blown across the atmosphere in tiny wind bubbles pulling the moon and the stars together to an orbital overdrive but you know this already neither of us own these seasons each one coming at will like today, autumn with its falling leaves.
March Shelby Stephenson The month of the windy hill, after the ice storm Knocks out power and leaves me with hope My cell might keep ringing for normalcy While the full moon wreathes its orange. Jupiter stays near as seeing for good the sky If we could, infinitesimally we. Cricket needs grooming for the weather Warming the days blowing by the trees. March: go out to the Scag and start it, Mow the meadow with grace for green, For the purple martins, too, I first saw On the 22nd, a male scout, and a female. The sheer weight of fits and starts Saves me from sameness, gives a mysterious Liveliness to itches, yodeling, memory. Black and Gray want to pull the plows. I want to see Percy at the door again. “Do you have some weeds I can sling?” Ah! The question comes before lawns, When the yard on Paul’s Hill is naked. 35
Go get the slingblade, I say, And cut the ironweeds. He shuffles off Like someone seeking nonchalance and gayety, Someone silent, small, and singular of all things. The Scag stays ready; I must be careful. The hillside is steep and slides in the ditch; Makes a burden which shifts out over my worries That I shall not take chances when mowing. I shall not offend the last dandelion. Leave it for the dream repetitive universes know, For the fact of imagination and eternity The truth of things stays low for, like a hog. Tubers turn to worms for Middle Creek. The sand lapping the bank is white. It is good in the right place, As bad is good in the wrong place. The time longs for rides on donkeys, a palm Sunday and a Good Friday. Christianity takes a long time. The supreme month marks March when God is busy.
An Observational Study of the Biodiversity of a Very Lovely Field, in the Form of a Sestina Nic LaReddola the air is coarse with pollen, atmosphere cloudless and warm, the grass i step through grows three feet from the ground and is ablaze anew with early ongoings of a healthy spring, all the same life that returns here every year to nest: snakes, songbirds, feral cats, foxes, fawns, field mice and swarming gnats and doves and rats. in the dry decay of someone’s skull a young rats-nake awakes from brumation and waits, still until something warm and moving catches its attention and teeth, or until a field biologist kneels down and gently lifts him from the ground to admire his smooth black scales and the mites nesting between them, fat with blood, feasting, celebrating spring. this place is a minefield of mammal dens in early spring, squirrels in dry grasses, an overgrown truck full of muskrats. a pregnant fox digs her burrow, then digs up a rabbit’s nest and dutifully she crushes soft skulls between her jaws, warm blood marks their birth and deathbed, seeps into the ground, and burdens those who bear witness for their field.
bless the noble decomposers who circle the field, messy vultures and thorough isopods, tiny spring-tails, kindly return dearly departed biomass to the ground. it’s comforting. life after death comes as maggots and rats gnawing through abandoned body... the corpse remains warm under the midday sun, even in the shadow of a blue jay’s nest. and it’s the perfect locale for the perfectly built nest. year after year, i’ve come back to study this field in spite of the damage that’s been done. how it can warm the heart, how this ecosystem thrives as it should, all through spring. even the abandoned research outpost houses its rats, consumed by weeds and only one strong storm from meeting the ground. spray paint on the door tells me The End Is Here, then drips to the ground. above it peacefully swarms an illiterate hornet nest and behind it lives a happy flea-covered colony of rats and in front of it lies a blissfully unaware field. all missing the decaying memo of the apocalypse this spring, following their annual instinctive protocols for when it grows warm. i hope that helped to ground the spray paint prophet, walking through a warm sunny day in this nest-dense wilderness. i hope they enjoyed the beauty of spring-time in my subject of perpetual study, and the wild lab rats of my untamed field.
Hour of the Mouse Catriona Roy Forget the witching hour – Who even sees flying broomsticks these days? – it’s a different time of night that frightens me. Under garden moonlight, lamplight and stars, He looks quite cute, scampering in the grass. Otto, we call him; a furry wanderer, welcome But not indoors. I’m a night person, A stay-up-and-write person, alone in my room. Or so I hope. The slightest rustle in the dead silence, The quietest snuffle, and my attention breaks Like it’s spring-loaded, SNAP. He’s on the rug by the fireplace. MY fireplace. Devious, sneaking wee shite, I call him. You’re not welcome in here, my private abode. In here, he’s an apparition of that mysterious hour, of The deep, the dark, the uncanny, the unknown.
When I Eat my Masterpiece Andre F. Peltier Two eggs in a skillet; scrambled and left alone. They begin to bubble in the center, crisp and brown around the edges. I slide them in the butter and quickly flip. A work of art. A masterpiece. As they land in the heat, I turn off the stove… the warmth of the pan will finish the frying. Crumbles of goat cheese, chives, thyme, sliced asparagus previously cooked set aside now sprinkled before the fold. The creation slides perfectly onto the plate. With tea and toast, my creation kick-starts the day,
and I’m ready to face the world as I devour my artwork one bite at a time.
Jack in a Box Jamario Cantrell
Laughing at a jolt, I would query on what shook you like salt and pepper shakers over a clearly plain meal. It was in the kitchen, late-night dishes in bleach, when that edge seized me. Phantom air – how I wished it were shadow that taught me what a fool found funny. I wish it were a joke, the edge of the eye feels a stare and knows something is there. To turn, and find nothing is worse than a terror. Roaches, not a Cheshire cat, live in the kitchen. A black man is washing dishes, not stumbling over the imaginary giving way to empty space. No roaches
to be found, not over a single edge. Let there be some shape to block light or at least the thought that a gaze over a shoulder will not be met with a vast stillness, where any sound would be welcome. Where any shape would tell a story of a man with an edge – a fool not wound on a spring.
Symphonies Christian Garduno And when you start to dream with it that’s when it sounds the best Symphonies without any musicviolins & violets & violence and when you can’t dream without it then that’s the worst What’s happening is not abstract, it is happening, as a matter of fact California dreams end up California schemes I said- you kind of play it like Ravel you kept playing and you said who the Hell is Ravel Symphonies with no music are playing & they sound so strange when you aren’t listening
It’s a crazy line you draw when there’s no light at all we slide into one another like gravity you were born & you don’t have to explain it to me I know where you’re coming from and if we never really start then do we have ever to finish? And over at the bookstore they’re reading the story of your life can you please hurry with that final chapter poverty makes us practical high on your perfume takes me a century to write a line -something to sweeten the dealthat’s all you said in a language very old & unknown we were relatives of time I walked diagonally across the bridge That’s when you begin to make up your own prayers
Contributor Bios Isa Arsén is a writer, climber, and too-many-feelings-haver based in Austin, TX. Her work centers on love and loss and the spaces in-between, from the quiet and beautiful to the hectic and horrifying. She has been featured in the anthology “Throbbing Tales” (2019), the April 2021 edition of Stone of Madness Press, and a forthcoming issue of Opia Magazine. Robert Beveridge (he/him) makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp.com) and writes poetry in Akron, OH. Recent/upcoming appearances in Blood and Thunder, Feral, and Grand Little Things, among others. Jamario Cantrell is a black, gay cis-man poet. His poetry is concerned with the gravity of the human condition found in everyday life and subjects, often with a focus on language and identity. You’ll often find him studying Japanese and reading in cozy blankets. He lives at his family home in Riviera Beach, FL where he is currently at work on his first collection of poetry. Sonia Charales is an ambitious individual who finds expression through poetry, stories, and artwork. She studies science and literature as a college student and works as a writing tutor. Emma Deimling is a queer writer who currently works as a writing tutor at the Ohio State University’s writing center. She has been published in numerous magazines, the most recent being October Hill Magazine. You can find her on Twitter @EmmaDeimling. Andrea D’Souza is a graduate of Princeton University where she studied Operations Research and Poetry. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Contributor Bios A Nigerian by birth and Studying Science Laboratory Technology at University of Calabar. Joshua Effiong is a lover of poetry & here he finds freedom. His works has appeared/forthcoming in Eboquills, Kalahari Review, Shallow Tales Review, Rough Cut Press, Madrigal Press, Warning lines, Hearth Magazine, Mausoleum Press etc. Author of Autopsy of Things Left Unnamed. He also find joy in photography and reading. Connect with him via Instagram @josh.effiong and twitter @JoshEffiong Aria Emerson (she/her) started writing aged 4 and sent off her first (terrible) story to publishers at 10. She doesn’t think she’s changed much since then. As a writer, she draws from personal experience, mythology and dreams, and in her spare time she can be found harmonising to anything in earshot and caring for her bonsai. Twitter: @EmersonAria Stefanie Fair-King loves coffee, books, cats, and Oxford commas. She has degrees in English, philosophy, and liberal arts. Her work has appeared in Grey Thoughts, Superpresent, and Fiveminutelit. She and her husband live in Texas. Clem Flowers (They/ Them) is a soft spoken southern transplant living in spitting distance of some mountains in Utah. Maker of a fine omelet, but scrambled egg game needs some fine tuning. Nb & bi, they live in a cozy apartment with their wonderful wife & sweet calico kitty. They can be found on Twitter at @hand_springs777 Christian Garduno is the recipient of the 2019 national Willie Morris Award for Southern Poetry. Garduno is a Finalist in the 2020-2021 Tennessee Williams & New Orleans Writing Contest. He lives and writes along the South Texas coast with his wonderful wife Nahemie and young son Dylan. Nic LaReddola is new to poetry, they come from the STEM side of town but have some humanity left in them.
Contributor Bios Andrea Laws currently resides in Lawrence, KS, working professionally in the field of scholarly publishing at the University Press of Kansas. She graduated from the University of Kansas, with two Bachelor of Arts degrees: one in English with a focus on creative writing, and one in Film Studies with a focus on film theory and criticism. From 2009 to the present, her poetry has been published in three compiled books of poetry, five literary journals and magazines, and featured on four poetry blogs. In her spare time, she volunteers as an associate editor for the online journal Bewildering Stories. Olivia Onyekwena is a writer from Nigeria. She enjoys reading poetry, fanfictions and watching football matches. Some of her works have been published on Northern Otter Journal, Orange Blush Zine, Lazy Women and Warning lines Mag. Maitreyi Parakh is a student and sometimes poet that enjoys the symbolism of cherries and other red fruit, Makoto Nagahisa’s cinematography, and having dinner with the people they love. Andre F. Peltier (he/him) is a Lecturer III at Eastern Michigan University where he teaches African American Literature, Science Fiction, Afrofuturism, Poetry, and writing. He lives in Ypsilanti, MI, with his wife and children. His poetry has recently appeared in In Parentheses, The JFA Human Rights Journal, Griffel Magazine, Fahmidan Journal, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, About Place, Open Work, The Write Launch, and the anthology Turning Dark into Light. Many of his poems are forthcoming in various journals. In his free time, he obsesses about soccer and comic books. @aandrefpeltier b. pick is a lesbian poet based in small town Canada. b. is an Honours B.A. Candidate in English and Cultural Studies at Western University. Their work has recently been featured in Hecate Magazine, The Madrigal, and SAPPHIC, among others. Find them on Twitter at @_bpick.
Contributor Bios Catriona Roy (she/her) is a physics student at Edinburgh University who writes science news articles and poems in her free time. Her loves include old books, taekwondo and The Beatles. She tweets @RoyCatriona and blogs at https://raincoatginger.wordpress.com. Shelby Stephenson was poet laureate of North Carolina from 2015-18. For thirty-two years he was editor of the international literary journal Pembroke Magazine. His recent book is Shelby’s Lady: The Hog Poems. Carol Shillibeer lives on the west coast of Canada, in the Salishan Territories. She has pieces in a variety of journals. Edward Michael Supranowicz is the grandson of Irish and Russian/Ukrainian immigrants. He grew up on a small farm in Appalachia. He has a grad background in painting and printmaking. Some of his artwork has recently or will soon appear in Fish Food, Streetlight, Another Chicago Magazine, The Door Is a Jar, The Phoenix, and other journals. Edward is also a published poet.