~ Issue 5, September 2019 ~
Editor-in-chief Aya Whitfield (@avolitorial) Literary Editors Kavi Kshiraj (@thermonous) Quinn Lui (@flowercryptid) Lianna Schreiber (@ragewrites)
Anatolios Magazine accepts submissions of poetry, prose, and visual art (including photography) during the open submission periods indicated on our site, anatoliosmagazine.wordpress.com. Cover Photo by A bhinav Raina on Unsplash
General Submissions Lilies by Eva Skrande ………………………………………………………………………… 4 The Meditation by Bonnie Billet ……………………………………………………………… 5 recovery by Noelle Penas …………………………………………………………………… 6 Ars Poetica by Zane Johnson ………………………………………………………………… 7 devotional by Eunice Kim ……………………………………………………………………… 8 The Marrow of Purity by Paul Ilechko ……………………………………………………… 9 Eyes Turned Skyward by Madison Lassiter ………………………………………………… 10 youth as a study in immolation by Eunice Kim …………………………………………… 28 Spirit, Give Me by Eva Skrande ……………………………………………………………… 29 I Said A Prayer by Donald Illich …………………………………………………………… 31 Throw Yourself Like Water by Eva Skrande ……………………………………………… 32 exit options by Noelle Penas ………………………………………………………………… 34 oo .
Members Section addeum (sinner’s psalm) by Lianna Schreiber …………….………….………….…………. 36 love you to the moon and back by Aya Whitfield …………………………………………… 37 lowtalk by Lianna Schreiber ………………………………………………………………… 38 oo
Lilies Eva Skrande When I try too hard, my legs wilt: like rose petals unaccustomed to sin. Then I become granules of blue bone. At the very least, I am useful: all cells of me unite into a church for the homeless corn. I start where I always start: in the nave of the throat where the hymns of fish decree that stars shall ride on their backs forever and ever. My flowers, like mothers, warned me to walk straight to practice going towards the sun with books on my head. But I wanted to forgive roses their thorns, to bend like water telling secrets. I grew up in the presence of many moons, some oracular some red with the energy of horses. I slept in homes other than my own to observe the sabbaths. Despite all the bad luckâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the rain, the wind, my arched backâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; I grew up with a mouth full of lilies. They were not afraid of my teeth.
The Meditation Bonnie Billet lie down with your shoulder blades digging into the earth feel the wind falling like flocks of sparrows blowing through banyan trees coconut and travelerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s palms are landscaped in front of white beach hotels there are more than 21 named winds some that travel up over mountains and one that blows for 50 days in the Sahara and Arabian desert reshaping sand dunes In Cuzco hungry children were invited by waiters to eat what the dinners left In Delphi the oracle slept in the holy city of Varanasi I saw the body of a man floating in the grey water of the Ganges the boatman telling me no fire just water for holy men in the holy city of Qom boys threw stones at me when I walked past a Mosque in Rome I was filled with the light of the old masters all the while the planet corkscrews through the milky way Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m back in the bubble of my breath I begin
recovery Noelle Penas it is said that when woman first painted the buffalo in the caves of lascaux it was the severing moment from animal charcoaled with longing and regret. theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll call what we became civilization and democracy i only care about how i become animal again. shedding names and classification wind on fur bare feet on sunwarmed earth incisors sinking into peaches i only care about how i paint movement in the caves and join the wolves hurtling off the cliffs i only care about the becoming on my stomach eye to eye with the turtle the waiting for her to stop being afraid in tender rejection, i lay my citizenship on the pyre tracing shadows with scalpel and add to the cave walls born from fire light a nameless beast of no nation
Ars Poetica Zane Johnson Go down that road, traveler, speak the furies, undressing him before the mirror, the anvil beating anterior to time, the flurries of his sin of self collecting at the foot of the sylver way, and the mirror, itself effaced of glory, were as a theatre of his horripilation. Go down that road, once erased, goaded along with golden feathers, pure voice wafting through azure of glass, to a state of permanent rebellion against the choice between any one of many molted forms mĂ˘chĂŠd of milk and honey. Oiled with their songs pouring about his skull, he volts through the boundary and becomes as a skiff to ferry across his original ocean. This is no road to walk alone. The cliff stands far above him now. Gnats of miniscule swarm the sea-votary, pure voice made pure glyph when pure light dawns upon the protean vestibule, all things thus swarming, and those shells, tokens of perfect communion, richly, blackly, illumined. Where is our everyman now? The wake broken, looking down into the sun, he is being spoken.
devotional Eunice Kim I wake up to July, water-bloated on the sheets next to me and I know going home has never been impossible until now. July lays me down to split my ribs like a tender thing. The rot fevers into my lungs and now the battleground is this girlhood instead of a stranger; July makes of me a whetstone, a killing knife, a wishbone to snap open. Do you think this body will survive me? Ache is a loaded word here, loaded-shotgun word to be pried open. I bite at your hands in an effort to be woundless. Need to drain myself of this bad blood. This static inside me, the feeling that Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m spiraling again. Summer sickness is real and it begs to be felt. I want to learn what it feels like to worship someone and have them walk away from you. I want a second life where I become more than the sum of whatever I did to survive. July pushes me against a wall and slips a knife between my shoulderblades, demands that I learn to birth wings from the scar. I can be your slaughterhouse drain, your mercy killing, your bullet to the head if you want.â&#x20AC;&#x192;
The Marrow of Purity Paul Ilechko A body drenched in joy thicketed and bruised overwhelmed with pollen as wordless chaos works the marrow of purity the same fresh taste of turmoil stitched between the pages of an ancient luminosity are you hiding in the woods? conspiring with birds that cleave tranquility discarded fingerprints embossed in shellac as snowflakes melt
the iron-tasting leaves that still eclipse the lamp-lit room.
Eyes Turned Skyward Madison Lassiter
“You know, Mach,” Rust said, her gaze never leaving the pitted metal above her head, “I’ve never actually seen the sky.” Mach shifted next to her, the edge of his sleeve brushing against the metal panels making up her arms, barely enough pressure for her sensors to pick up. She wished she could feel the fabric, know its make from the fibers, or understand terms like scratchy or soft or smooth. Mach had tried to explain it in a way that she would understand, but having nothing akin to actual nerve endings made it difficult to describe. Rust was the First, the experimental version of their Creator’s greatest invention, barely a step above a normal android. She had never needed taste, or smell, but most of all, she had never needed ultra-receptive sensors. Mach let out a low sigh that shook the mechanisms in his chest into a musical cacophony. “It isn’t possible,” he said, voice a rumble of gears and rubber chords. “I don’t know why you’d even want to.” She tilted her head higher, and let her ocular sensors stutter closed for a moment. Of course he didn’t. They weren’t allowed outside the mansion. Creator had very few rules—don’t do anything damaging to themselves or each other, don’t take the curtains off the windows, don’t try to fix something without consulting Creator first—but the most strictly enforced rule was to never leave the mansion. Even Creator hadn’t left in the past two or so years. Everything he’d needed was delivered to him, carted in the underground passage next to his workshop, no personal interaction required other than a telegraph. One human and four androids inhabiting an empty shell of a home, ghosts of their own creation. Rust blinked. The roof above her was painted blackish blue, dotted with holes where light was shining through. Creator had helped Rust craft it during a lull in his work, given her pictures and diagrams to follow. He taught her about the patterns stars made, how they moved with the passing seasons. When she had finished it, he had placed his hand on the dome of her head, something she often found herself pressing 10
into, and told her it was a striking likeness. Rust didn’t think she did the night sky justice, but when she asked to see the real one, just to see, Creator had smiled a secret, sad smile and told her no, she could not go see the sky. Rust hadn’t understood why, but she was built to follow Creator without question, so she didn’t ask again that day. “I know,” she said after a long pause. “I would never question his reasoning. I simply wish I could see the sky.” Mach shifted again. He’d never understood her lust for the outside world. Mach was the youngest of her siblings, barely two years old. He was content to stay where Creator deemed safe and never question about the world beyond their walls. He was young yet, of course, but none of her siblings ever shared her curiosity. “I hope—” she said, letting the shutters over her eyes close once more, blocking the sight of her false stars. “I hope he will change his mind soon. I would like to see the sky before I rust away completely.” Her body shifted as Mach shoved her. She blinked again, neck creaking as she turned to look at him. His eyebrows were furrowed, mouth a grim line. “Don’t s ay that,” he said, his lungs chiming in with a loud grinding sound. Rust cocked her head. “What, that I will rust away?” she asked. “You’ve seen me, Mach.” It wasn’t as if it was a strange thought. Patches of her bronze shell were discolored and corroded, small wires spitting electricity from holes that had yet to be mended. What little of her body that wasn’t bronze was mostly rust at this point. She was an old machine, already prone to breaking down at the slightest stress. Eighteen years was ancient for an android. Most were scrap by the time they reached a decade. “I cannot live forever,” she said, as gentle a reminder as she was capable of. “I was the First, a prototype. I hold no use anymore.” Mach shot up. Rust followed suit, her hinges grinding at the pace. He was already stalking away, his lungs whirring out his anger, by the time she made it to her feet. Rust followed with her own stiff-legged gait, cursing. Her joints needed oiling again. 11
Mach’s anger carried him through the caverns that made up their home. He stumbled over loose tools, crumbled metal sheets, moth bitten rugs and heaps of dirty curtains. The stone around them weeped; either it was raining above ground, or morning had started to break. Creator would be awake—if he even slept, that is—and Mach likely knew that. They soon reached the ornate double doors leading to the Creator’s main laboratory. They were sootstained and singed, the decoration once scrawled across it lost to mistakes that ended in fires. Still, it seemed a beautiful piece of workmanship to Rust. To hold up so long that it was the second thing she remembered was worthy of pride. Mach didn’t stop to knock. He pushed straight through, mechanical lungs hissing with his furious breaths. Rust followed as closely as she could, hand reaching out like she could somehow stop his wrath from reaching Creator. She was the First. Creator said that meant she was the eldest, the protector, the nurturer. She should be able to calm him with a touch even if he was the Fourth, the little brother, the firebrand. His anger flared hot enough to glow. Though she couldn’t burn, Rust stayed a step away, her hands helplessly stretched out towards him. Beyond Mach’s stomping, Rust saw the top of Creator’s wild head shoot up at the sound of the door and Mach’s rowdy lungs. If she had a heart, she thought, it would be twisting in her chest at his look. His greying hair was curled with sweat, dark eyes squinting above the deep purple bags he carried with him everywhere, like his exhaustion was a handkerchief he kept in his pocket. His glasses had once again been tied together in the middle. The hands he used to push them back up the bridge of his crooked nose were charred and bloody at the tips. “Mach?” he said, his voice a croak. He sat up up from whatever it was he was working on now. He seemed surprised to see the Fourth in his workshop. His expression did not extend to her. She was just as familiar in his space as the tools he’d neglected to drop. Rust’s chassis filled with a warmth unrelated to her mechanisms.
She watched Mach hesitate for the briefest second at the tone before surging forward, looming over the desk where they had once all been simple ideas. His hands slammed down against the wood. Trinkets and tools rattled underneath his palms. “Tell her she’s wrong, Creator,” Mach said, head bowed towards him. His tone was thin and much too young, a child pleading with a raging storm. Creator rose from his chair like a half blind beast. Rust’s arms fell back to her sides as his hands, unsteady and rough-looking, wrapped around Mach’s trembling wrists. His much larger fingers could crush the boy’s bird-like bones if he’d had half the mind. They had wrapped around Rust’s wrists much the same way. Enveloping. Kind. “Wrong about what, my dear boy?” he asked, tone gentle and calm, like he was talking to Nelly the Second in one of her fanciful rages. He didn’t ask who. Creator drew Mach’s wrists away from the table, guiding him to an ancient but lavish settee at the side of the room. It was the same one that Rust would rest on, mindlessly blathering about something or another, studying star charts or languages or even recipes she never had the ingredients to make. She followed closely behind them, a careful eye on her Fourth in case he decided to run off in a frenzy again. He went willingly, his lungs whirring dangerously in the sudden hushed air around them. He sat down in a rush. Creator, letting go of one wrist to push his wandering glasses up again, joined him, keeping the other wrist firmly in his grasp. Rust kept her standing position, wavering helplessly between kneeling at Mach’s side or sitting on the lounger near Creator. A sudden pointed finger entirely too near her shutters stalled her thoughts. They blinked slowly at Mach’s wavering hand. Her expression felt far too blank, metal features too stiff, carved from bronze and never moving. “Rust says we will let her Fade,” Mach said. His eyes were much too bright, pilot lights glowing with a fervor that sunk deep into Rust’s wires. “She says she will leave us. “Tell her she’s wrong.” Mach used his free hand to grasp at Creator’s rolled up, oil spotted sleeve. “Tell her we will not l et her.” 13
Two sets of wide eyes turned to her, then. Rust sunk into herself as far as she could, unforgiving bronze shell halting her progress. Their faces were agonizing, twisted in a pain that she had caused simply by stating the truth. And it was the truth. She would Fade as all automatons Faded. Her mind would break down, degraded by years and use. Her body would corrode and her joints would clog. Fine motor skills would slowly become impossible. Her voice box would fail, leaving her mute, then her ocular sensors would go offline, blinding her. It would be exceptionally slow and yet altogether too fast. It was inevitable that she would Fade. They all would. Creator should know that better than anyone. But Creator, oh, his gaze was the worst. Beneath those glass lenses she had so lovingly repaired time after time, his dark amber eyes were rheumy, a deep sense of something she could not name but felt in her hollow bones dragging down his bushy eyebrows. He was worrying his chapped bottom lip between his teeth like he was the young man of her earliest years rather than the old man he had become. Rust watched expressions she had no names for warred on his face. “Are you?” Creator paused for a moment that lasted three lifetimes. “Fading?” If she could truly feel beyond that which she had been given, Rust thought that nodding in confirmation would have been the most painful thing in existence. Creator bowed his head low, letting go of Mach’s wrist to bury his face in his palms. He was smearing blood and soot on his sweaty forehead, hunching his shoulders in and clenching his fingers against his skull. Mach, beside him, curled his arms around his buzzing torso like he could keep his overworked lungs from bursting out of their metal shell. All was silent for a moment, barring the usual chittering of mechanisms that were little more than background noise anymore. Eventually, Creator raised his head from his hands. His eyes, beneath skewed glasses, were agonized. “Why did you not mention this?” he asked with so much fervorous intensity that Rust felt suddenly small, crushed under the weight of his gaze. 14
She twitched. She wanted to blame it on faulty wiring, but in truth, his voice tore at her insides, tangling copper wires and tearing bronze like it was paper. She didn’t have a clear answer for him, not one that would satisfy. She would Fade eventually. They all knew this. It wasn’t important to mention her cognitive functions deteriorating, or her joints clogging more often than usual. Creator was working days and sleepless nights on his newest machination. Nelly and Brink, the Second and the Third, were disappearing for hours on end somewhere in the mansion above their heads. Mach, for his worth, was not dreadfully observant, and she never liked upsetting him. They didn’t need her complaining about her Fading when there was nothing to be done about it. Something in her silence must’ve given her away, because Creator let out a long sigh that sloped his shoulders. “How long?” “Two months,” Rust said, because at least now she could give them something. She shuffled forward on stiff, congested knees until she was kneeling at his feet. They were at eye level, now—she could see the tears that threatened to leave his glassy eyes. “I am incapable of analyzing how much longer I have left.” He choked, his gnarled hands reaching out towards her, like a ship to the dock. He grasped at her shoulders. Once, again, a thousand times more, she craved the feeling of warmth she could have felt through his palms, the wrinkles adding texture to his skin. It was undeniably cruel to know what she should feel and still be unable to. “But we will not let you,” Mach said. His eyes were too bright, glowing beneath his skin. “We will n ot, right, Creator?” Mach’s innocence was as endearing as it was cloying, even with the gravity of her fate weighing on her shoulders. Her chassis twisted. He was so young, so inexperienced. He’d heard of the Fading only in passing, when Rust or Brink couldn’t get Nelly to shut her jaw in time. With his advanced systems, he wouldn’t have to worry about Fading until long after their Creator had passed on. And yet here he was, the Fourth, begging the man who had created them to break Fate’s hands and change the inevitable. Rust thought it would have tasted saccharine on her tongue if she’d had one. 15
Rust reached out, laying one of her hands on Mach’s knee. Creator slid his hands from her shoulders, piling them in his lap and holding himself too stiffly. “There is no letting, Mach,” she said, gentle and calm like he was a spooked animal she was coaxing to calm. “The Fading can only be stalled, not stopped. “And this body is too far gone.” Rust squeezed his knee, careful to apply only enough pressure for him to feel. “I cannot be fixed. I was only a prototype.” Mach jumped up once more, Rust’s hand falling limply from his knee. She watched his face as anger reignited, leaving fire beneath artificial skin smoldering, lungs whirring musically in his chest. It was like watching a furnace burn out of control, coughing out embers and billowing smoke. He spun on his heel and stormed back out of the workshop. Rust watched him go, her chassis twisting with too many emotions to name. But there was no stopping him. Mach was the closest to human that Creator had ever managed. He needed time to himself, to cool down and think through things. As much as Rust wished to run after him—or, more rather, limp after him—she had to let him gather his thoughts. “You should have told me,” Creator said. Rust looked back at him. His eyes were piercing beneath the dirt and oil and metal shavings. “What could I have said?” Rust asked. She slid to the floor to rest her congested joints, folding her legs underneath her. Creator slipped to the floor in front of her, once again gathering her hands in his. “Anything, my darling girl,” he said. “Anything at all.” “And what could you have possibly done, if I had said anything?” Rust asked. She pulled his fingers towards her ocular sensors, inspecting the charred and bloodied digits. He’d been working too long again, became clumsy enough to hurt himself. She needed to grab the medical kit. Creator would be just as likely to leave the wounds to fester if she didn’t take care of him. Rust paused. A sudden thought occurred to her, something she had never expected to think about. Once she was gone, who would care for Creator? Who would bind his wounds, force him to sleep, cook him meals that would sustain him on his creating binges? 16
Certainly not Nelly—she was too scatterbrained, too prone to forgetting her own needs for days at a time unless one of the others reminded her. Mach was too much a firebrand to take care of anyone, a child in all but form. Perhaps Brink, the Third. They were the other caretaker, the mother hen to Nelly’s irresponsibility. But their creation left them weak, copper body bending and shattering with the lightest force. They couldn’t carry Creator back to his bed when he finally fell asleep on his work table, they couldn’t stay too long near heat like blow torches or ovens. Oh, Brink would try. They would take over where Rust no longer could. In the end, though, no one could do what Rust did. No one knew how to handle Creator as the First did. Weathered hands left hers, reaching up to frame her face. Creator’s eyes were shining in the dim light of the halogen bulbs, lips quivering with some suppressed emotion. “I could have tried to save you,” he said. The gravity of his tone was overwhelming. He pressed his forehead to her corroded dome. “I could have figured something out.” They sat in silence for a moment. Rust could hear Creator’s breath, harsh in his old lungs, rough in a throat that was more used to smoke than clean air. She could barely feel the variation as he trembled against her metal head. Her shutters fluttered open, catching on the tears leaking down his withered cheeks. Her arms wrapped around him, trapping the hands that hadn’t left her face. Oh, her automated heart ached for him. Unlike the others, Rust was privy to all their Creator had lost. The mansion above that had been empty before even her creation, the awards and medals stuffed in forgotten cabinets or closets, and none of the androids had ever asked. It was something Creator did not particularly hide but did not speak of either. She hadn’t asked. Not at first. Even in all her exploration, she never asked about the empty spots where paintings once hung, or the dresses she found in an old bedroom. It was during one of these rambles that she had stumbled upon a room filled with pictures. They were portraits from a time before her creation, faded a bit with age 17
and covered with dust. Their gilded frames were dull and cracking, hanging crooked on walls that were crumbling and eroded. Only the drapes hanging over the boarded up windows kept the rain and snow out. When she had been built, the picture hall had been the one place, beyond the outside world, that was forbidden to her. The house was hers, the workshop, any of the rooms, but not that one hall. Rust never quite understood why—it was a dark, musty building draped in maroon fabric and dust—but she was built to obey, so she did as she was told. But one night, as she was wandering the house trying to wear out her lust for the stars, Rust had heard a soft crying coming from that forbidden place. She knew who it would have to be. In a house of ten bedrooms, there were only two occupants: Rust, and her beloved Creator. So she ignored her programming and looked inside the hall. The Creator had been on his knees in the middle of the room, pools of dusty maroon surrounding him like bloody water. Three paintings were uncovered, smiling faces glinting in the light of the single lantern settled beneath them. On one side was a young Creator and a beautiful woman. She had long, dark hair that spilled in perfect tresses down her simple, yet elegant, gown. Her eyes were a warm green that smiled just as widely as her full, rosy mouth. She had her arm hooked through Creator’s, standing snugly against his side. On the other side was the portrait of a young child, a girl no older than six. The child was smiling just as widely as the beautiful woman, amber eyes wide with childlike wonder at whatever had been beyond the frame. Her hair was dark and wild, swirling around her head and down the front of her simple white dress. Her feet gave the impression of a swinging motion, knocking together with pent up energy. If she could leave the confines of her canvas, the child would have been dancing. But between those two was a large, brightly colored painting in a silver frame embossed with painted flowers. An older version of the woman stood embraced in Creator’s arms. The girl stood in front of them, a gap-toothed smile peeking out beneath her wild mane of dark hair. It could have been a snapshot of their life had it not been colored so carefully, brush strokes gentle against the canvas. 18
It was in front of that middle painting that the Creator had kneeled. His head was buried in his palms, glasses on the ground against the wall, spiderweb cracks in the glass and a bend in one of the arms. It did not muffle the bitter sobbing permeating in the stuffy room. Rust had paused in the doorway, then. She wasn’t supposed to be here. She should not know the face of his grief. She should not have opened the door. But her metal chassis had contorted at the thought of leaving him there, alone, crying at the still faces that acted like they wanted to come to life, in a pool of dark purple blood-fabric while the lamplight flickered and the wind whistled through crumbling stone. Her feet had moved automatically, freshly oiled joints rotating silently and smoothly. He didn’t move as she approached. When her hand closed around his shoulder, he didn’t flinch. One hand left his face to grasp her wrist. It was the first time she’d wished she could feel his touch. He’d introduced her to them, later, when he could breathe without breaking into a sob. The woman had been his wife, Emeline. The stars to his night sky, he’d said once. While he contented himself with his mechanical creations and the budding world of science, Emeline had dedicated herself to the simple act of life. Her small vegetable crop always seemed to yield twice what it should, and he joked that she made nearly as much money as him when she sold her flowers in Ank. The most gorgeous flowers in the city, he’d said. The girl was his daughter. Aurelia. She could run ten miles and still have enough energy to run five more. Enigmatic and bright, she’d been his greatest joy bundled in wild hair and overlarge eyes. They were everything to him, and he was never afraid to show it. That fearlessness, that fierce love, he said, had gotten them killed. When the Chamber of Kings asked their Head Inventor for machines built to last wars and he’d refused. He wanted to create, not to destroy. And so he was laughed out of the council chamber. They hadn’t even the courtesy to strip him of his titles there—no, that came later, in a letter signed and sealed, two days after the mysterious death of his wife and 19
daughter. He hadn’t had the chance to bury them before he was stripped of everything he’d worked for. And so her artificial heart ached for the loss he felt, the losses he would continue to feel. He’d built himself a family out of scraps and dreams, forgetting he would eventually have to wake up. After a time, Creator pulled away. His red-rimmed eyes had dried. Tear tracks had carved paths down his sootstained cheeks, showing smudges of clean, wrinkled skin. He pulled her forward and pressed his lips against her forehead, the slightest pressure. “We still have time,” he said. It sounded like he was trying to convince himself. He patted her cheeks once before finally releasing her. “I will figure something out.” Creator staggered to his feet. Rust rose as well, joints sticking a bit after so much time kneeling on the cold stone floor. Creator grasped at her shoulders as she lurched forward, just barely keeping her upright. His hands were shaking. She could see the movement as it travelled up his arms. He ushered her over to the abandoned settee, helping her lounge against the plush, time-softened velvet. As he buzzed around, gathering tools and oil and other mismatched paraphernalia—as well as the medical kit at Rust’s behest—he looked so much like the man he’d been when she’d first opened her eyes all those years ago that her chassis warmed. That man had been young, freshly disowned by his family and removed as the Head Inventor for the Chamber of Kings in Ank, the city to the south of his estate. He’d been sharpened by grief and cloaked heavily in his loss. It had taken her months to drag the true Baron Solomon Gilfoyl out from the black stone shell he’d carved himself into. Rust could see that shell, now, falling into place over wide, sad eyes. Because of her. Because she was Fading and he hadn’t noticed. Creator helped clean out the joints of her knees, elbows, ankles, wrists. He took more time than usual, asking her to manipulate her limbs in strange ways, cleaning every cog and every spring with a careful concentration he usually reserved for the final 20
step of a project. It took nearly two hours to complete all the work, including Rust cleaning Creator’s charred fingertips and wrapping them tightly in gauze. After that, Creator returned to his work table. He shoved everything to the side, sheets of metal scraping against forgotten tools and pulled his sketchbook out from a drawer. When Rust tried to get up and join him, Creator pinned her with a glare. “Rest a moment, my dear,” he said, his voice much softer than his gaze. “It will give your body time to adjust.” So Rust sat back, staring at the vaulted ceiling while Creator set to work. Any other time, it would be normal. Rust would be reading about whatever she found interesting while Creator answered all of her dozens of questions with a quiet smile. Now, though, the room felt cold and still. Silence permeated, filling the space between her and Creator with a thick anticipation. It felt like he was waiting for something. Something that Rust was unsure she could provide him. “Creator,” Rust said before she could think to stop, craving an end to that quiet, “would it be possible for me to see the sky?” She felt the urge to slap a hand over her motionless lips despite the futility of the gesture. Creator’s shoulders tensed, his pen poised right above the page. Out of the corner of her sensors, Rust saw a shudder pass through him. “No, Rust.” Creator’s words were harsh, like he was speaking through teeth clenched tight enough to cause pain. “You are not to leave the mansion. You know this.” She did know this. How many times had he told her such before she’d stopped asking? But still, she’d felt the urge to ask. This could be her only chance. Her one, final wish before she Faded away. Was it really such an awful thing to want? “But why not?” she asked. She felt like a child, begging for an explanation that would never be thorough enough. Metal clanged as Creator slammed his hands down with a force that knocked a few gears off the table. The sound echoed in the room, a hollow bell ringing a funeral tone. 21
“You are not to leave this mansion, Creation One,” he said. His voice was a low growl Rust felt deep in her copper bones. “That is final.” More questions bubbled to the surface, but Rust stayed her thoughts. He would not be swayed. Not in this mood, at the least. These were the times in which Nelly, notoriously loud and unapologetic, would find a quiet corner to sit and be still. She’d already pushed too far. There was no use in even trying. That tense silence turned stagnant in the wake of his declaration. Rust could only stand it for a few minutes more. Creator didn’t even notice as she stumbled to her feet. He was writing furiously in his notebook, ink already smeared on one cheek. Rust watched him for a moment. She took in the full image of him, committing memory space to his visage. The wiry, wild grey hair like a cloud around his head, the burn scar on his cheek that warped his smile into something softer, the crow’s feet and wrinkles that weren’t there at the time of her creation. He looked so much different from that man, the man she sometimes saw in uncovered portraits hidden in long-abandoned halls. The man she committed precious memory space to was the one who created her, the one who molded her into who she was. She owed him everything. Then, she turned away, walking through the same ornate doors she’d known all of her existence. The first door she’d ever walked through. In a way, it felt like a goodbye. Rust wandered up the stairs to the main level. Half a thought, barely worth the title, rolled around in her mind. She stuttered to a halt in front of one of the boarded up windows. A faint light spilled through a crack in the bloated wood. She held out a hand, letting the light catch on her bronze shell, reflecting a scattered beam, craving the faint heat she might feel from it. Why shouldn’t she leave? Immediately, guilt flooded her systems. She shouldn’t question Creator’s will so nonchalantly. He had given her everything. He had given her her very existence. But still, the thought remained, a cobweb clustered in the corner of her processor. 22
What was the harm, leaving? In the nearly nineteen years since her creation, Creator had never once given Rust a straight answer. All the books she’d read, all the art and the poetry and the textbooks she’s consumed, had never had enough to warn her away from the outside world. What was so terrible that Creator closed his home so tightly? It didn’t seem logical, especially from a man so driven by logic. Rust walked aimlessly further into the mansion. She passed windows draped in heavy curtains, halogen bulbs sputtering with the effort to stay lit. She’d never noticed it before, how dark and stale those halls were. How could Creator stand it? The whole place ticked like a clock a few seconds behind, a belated click a half-beat before her mechanical heart pulsed under her feet. The house was like the inner workings of an automaton. The guts that hid behind her bronze shell spilled out into dimly lit rooms and darkened hallways. It was cold and dark and so, so lonely that Rust could hardly stand it. And Creator shut himself away here willingly. But who was he to keep her confined as well? Rust stuttered to a halt. She hadn’t noticed where she’d been walking, so lost in her drifting thoughts. The mansion’s main entrance loomed before her, barely visible beneath heavy velvet curtains and the boards covering the vaulted windows. The handle was drenched in rust, leaving a spattered stain on the floor beneath from rain that would leak through the broken glass beneath the barricades. Dust settled around her, clinging to her shell in a fine layer. No one had disturbed the main entrance in years. Not even Brink on their cleaning sprees would come this close to the outside world. She reached out. Under gentle pressure, the wood covering the windows dented, bowing in from years of water damage. Just beyond the normal range of her audio sensors, Rust could hear a soft swishing sound. She’d heard it before, sitting beneath one of the windows in the library. Rain. It had begun to rain outside. Rust drew back. Part of her expected the sight to shift in front of her, change into this horrible, clawing thing Creator seemed to think it was. But the door remained the same—a solid, cold portal to the world she so craved to be a part of. 23
What was the harm? Rust wrapped her hand around the doorknob. She could just take a step outside. Just to see. She wouldn’t even leave Creator’s lands. She could walk out, drink in the view, and come right back in. No one had to know. Rust turned the knob, mildly surprised when it moved easily. To think Creator would keep the front door unlocked despite his firm stance. The guilt in her chassis solidified. The door swung open with a long, mournful groan. Rain poured in. Rust stepped out. Her bare metal soles clattered against slick stone. The path outside the door spilled from wall to fence, solid concrete with a few small planters set against wood pickets. The dilapidated gate at the end of the path was barely hanging on by its hinges, creaking back and forth in the stiff breeze. What greenery there was left in the planters was wild and overgrown, weeds and vines crawling across the stone walkway. Calling it greenery was a bit much, though—the plants looked dry and dead, crumbling to dust at the faintest touch of wind. Rust pushed forward. The gate moaned as she opened it, hesitant to let her through. Rain pattered against her bronze shell, pressure so gentle her sensors could barely pick it up. She took one step past the gate, then another, before she shuddered to a halt on the thick stone road. Her visual sensors strained through a fine mist of rain, looking for the city she knew was just beyond Creator’s land. Her mechanical heart ticked out a rapid tattoo. This was the only time she might be able to see the world she’d never be able to join. To set ocular sensors on the world beyond her pitted sky. Anticipation was a sharp, sparking wire in her chest. At first, she couldn’t see it. She expected a city of gold, towering buildings shining in the dim light that strained through the thick, rain-heavy clouds. She expected elegant windows spiraling towards a dove-grey sky, color and light and laughter ringing in the air. Instead, she caught glimpse of a dirty smudge on the horizon. For a moment, it looked like a dirt mark on a page, barely worth the thought it took to see it, something 24
she would wipe away with a cloth and forget about with the next word. Then, she closed her shutters and reopened them, and the sight swelled in front of her. It was a whole city congealed in yellow fog. Thick black smoke trailed from tall towers all around, spilling into a sky choked of color. Skeletal forms hovered over smaller, congested houses, casting long shadows in the dim light of the afternoon sun straining through grey clouds swollen with rain. In the distance, a sharp, mechanical scream sounded. Then another. Then another. An echo of agony rippled over fields of dead, brown grass and broken-branched things that might once have been trees. The city writhed with life, maggots squirming over a decaying carcass, fat on the spoils of another predator’s prey. It was nothing she had expected. It was f oul. “Do you understand, now?” Rust turned her head. Creator stood behind her, his notched glasses askew and his arms loose at his sides. He cut a dark silhouette against the sun-bleached walls of his ancestral home. Creator didn’t look at her, only past her, into that fetid city. “This is what I didn’t want you to see,” he said. He waved a hand in front of him, across fields of dead grain. “This is what my world has become.” Rust looked out again. Her metal soles scraped against the concrete, pitted and scarred. It was a solid slab under her feet, no green, no growing things. The city before her wailed, a forlorn child orphaned by fate. Above her was a sky void of stars, void of life, void of soul. Is this the world she so craved? Lifeless, screaming, brown and grey and suffocating under the weight of its own rotting veins? “How?” Rust asked. She didn’t know what she was asking. How did this happen? How could he abandon a world in such desperate need? How could he have kept the truth from her for so long? She couldn’t decide. So many questions sparked in her processor, but none of them filtered through her voice box. Creator sighed. He stepped up next to her and planted a hand on her shoulder. Her own hand went over his, clutching it, trying to draw strength from his presence.
“The thirst of ingenuity,” he said, bitterly. “We took and took and took. We drew from the very earth to fuel our ambition. By the time we realized we were draining the life from the ground we stood on, it was too late.” He scoffed. “I tried to tell the Chamber of Kings that we reached too far,” he said, quiet, like a shameful secret. “Emeline was the one to convince me to speak up. Her garden was dying, choked from the smog. And if one woman couldn’t keep a small garden alive, what hope was there for the farmers? Creator shook his head. “She didn’t want our daughter to grow up in such a barren world. But I was laughed out of the chamber, stripped of my title, sent away with my tail between my legs.” Creator breathed in a shuddering breath. “I went to them to fix what damage I had wrought. Instead, they took the very life from between my fingers.” “But I’ve seen your creations,” she said, pushing the words through a voice box clogged with something too deep to name. The plans she’d pored over in years past, the contraptions that lay half-finished in every corner of his workshop, all of them had the capacity to repair such damage. Perhaps not immediately, perhaps not even in his lifetime. But it was a start. It was something. “You have had the chance to change the course. What stays your hand?” The laugh that left his lips was void of any joy. “Look before you, my dear,” he said. “The city is a cesspool. Why should I build for them, if this is what they do to themselves?” Rust closed her shutters, dipping her head towards the ground. She had no answers for him. The world she had lusted over from the moment she learned there was something beyond the walls she’d known her whole existence spread before her, and yet she didn’t want to take a single step closer. “This world is worthless. Let it wither and die by its own hand.” Rust blinked her ocular sensors open. A sea of stone met her vision. But something interrupted the monotonous grey. Rust cocked her head, her shutters closing a bit in focus. She kneeled down, fingers questing forth for that splash of color. 26
It was a flower. An anemone, if the book of flowers she’d consumed years ago was to be believed. Her bronze digits caressed the delicate petals. It was a little flower, washed in pale purple, barely the size of her thumb. Rain pooled on its face, and yet it held together, relentless in the face of drowning. Rust looked up, once again finding the city at the edge of her vision. Sunlight fractured through the clouds for a moment, the storm breaking up just beyond the horizon. Dark skeletons lit gold in the light. As she watched, the people milling around paused to look. A jolt of laughter rang out across the field. Was this the world she wanted? No. It was not the world she’d learned of over eighteen years of books and paintings and poetry. This was not the world she expected to find when she finally stepped outside of the only home she’d ever known. But was that such a bad thing? Was it so terrible, to find something unexpected, something to care for? She turned back to the flower, following its path to the stone road and finding the crack it spread through. It was small, almost invisible to the naked eye. And yet there the flower stood. Alone, but bright in the face of all that grey. Resilient. Hope bloomed in her chest, hesitant and fragile, but viscous. “Who are we to decide their fate, Creator?” Rust said, voice barely carrying past the rain. The storm picked up once more, swirling around her, and yet the flower stayed, grounded, roots sinking deep into the stone. “Who are we to say?”
youth as a study in immolation Eunice Kim it was summer and we were aching, burning with the tenderness of it. the conflagration chewing up your skyline —citrus-fire licking the lines of hair i shaved off. in the space between august and july, a litany of things we tried to call dreams: the forest in the shape of your mouth. the name i chose to hack a coffin from. wilderness taking back the lot behind the woods and the abandoned train tracks and the back porch of someone else’s house. halfyellow moon. girlshape in the dark, playacting at being a graceless dead thing. when the dogs run free, i name them roadkill in reverse. it’s wildfire season and all of us have been starved beyond compare. tell me we haven’t buried it yet. the summer we were wounded by the light, let’s go back there.
Spirit, Give Me Eva Skrande
after Juan Ramon Jimenez
Spirit, give me the ability to become a boat where there is no song. Give me the opportunity to believe in a world whose pages turn slowly when there is debt. Teach me how to carry my suitcase of memories on my back when I am afraid of dusk. Enable me to walk without sadness from one bridge to another in the gardens of melancholy. Show me what to do if others hurt me. Guide me to open windows when the chambers of the heart are dark with smoke. If I can never stop wandering, let it be on blue horses. Allow me to believe for the second time in the innocence of daylilies. Forgive me for the lions of my mountains, from the footprints of blind candles.
for turning away
Teach me to love rivers even if sometimes I must cross them to get to my finches. Help me make an altar of stars to bow in front of the evening though I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t afford a dress and new shoes. Forgive me my leaning house. Escort me to the hives where bees make their honey that I may see their churches 29
and pray in the language of tulips.
Help me to understand
that despite the body Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve been given, I am only the dream of roses.
I Said A Prayer Donald Illich The sun ran ahead of my life. It gave me hours and light, then disappeared from view at night. I loved darkness more, because it disguised time, its movement through the world, shadowed by an unconscious moon. The rays always woke me through window blinds. I shut my eyes, said a prayer that I would stay forever in this universe and not die. The sun dragged me forward. I yanked back, but couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t resist.
Throw Yourself Like Water Eva Skrande
after Miguel de Unamuno
to the dry fields
where the wheat dreams of love. Or into June and July like soft rain. Throw yourself like a gazelle of light into the room of a child afraid of the dark.
Forget the lone house
at the end of the road or worrying about which broom you will use to sweep the cobwebs in the corner
of memoryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s porch. Throw yourself
like a dove
into the soft light just after dawn.
like a moon onto the dark path of refugees, like a heart into the calling body of the days-old daffodil. Throw yourself like soil to grow what has yet to be, like trust into the field of everything you were deniedâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the boats, dinner among the day lilies, the bright blue world of the round hydrangea. 32
Throw yourself like fire into the river of extinguished stars, like hope
into a valley filled with thunder and debt. Throw yourself like morning
into the cells of those unfairly jailed
like love into the emptiness of newly-orphaned roses.
exit options Noelle Penas i used to think freedom was striking a flame to my tongue, offering my wrist to the seduction of steel. that bravado would at least provoke an answer from god. it doesn’t even have to be a blessing. i’d settle for rebuke; used to think my voice was in the cigarette lighter and the scorching would speak for me when i didn’t know how to raise my voice used to bite my wrist until it bled, to hold back the accusatory wreckage straining from behind my teeth. i found my answer in another pile of dead locusts on a july night heaped on the back porch, like angels fallen from the powerlines. a body count of every wound against myself. whatever it takes, i pray. i just wanted to be heard and i thought seeing red was equivalent to making a noise, used to think agency was the ability to self destruct like my prayer was a countdown and my body was the bomb but now i think maybe freedom looks something like when coyotes flee the light under the big stretching radiance of the evening sky i wonder if the streetlights find the shadows of their paws thrumming over the asphalt. i wonder if their coyote hearts are shouting, i’m alive! if they know winter is over, or if they never noticed.
addeum (sinner’s psalm) Lianna Schreiber Lord, I am a fruit that wants for teeth— I am honey-of-the-desert or perhaps a pear hive abandoned to the hot heart of the sands; and Lord, I am wanting for another’s thirst. does that make me unsightly, my Fig Tree? do I disgust You with these deep and haunting lusts? does my fever repulse the quake of Your branches, the fall of Your yield? o; a thousand locusts You could send and still I’d think it love— a thousand plagues, a thousand wars, a thousand deaths by famine; I’d live each gladly, like a moth. I’d live ardently. You could not tell my body from the fire. You cannot. only teeth, my Joy, only teeth may discern the rend of the flesh from the melt of the marrow— only teeth, none of them Yours, yet each still unsayably holy.
love you to the moon and back Aya Whitfield an â&#x20AC;&#x2039;apex predatorâ&#x20AC;&#x2039;, also known as an alpha predator or top predator, is a predator at the top of a food chain, with no natural predators of its own.
a pale crescent-claw carves open midnight & the sky trembles in silent pain. beneath the trees, through light-gap leaves, you breathe the broken scent of cedar. child, you are far from home & the forestâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s shelter will not last. long talons of lightning dark basalt & white-gold love in the toothed night hunter-moon feather-moon black sky wounding who is the hunter & who is the hunger? in the river, a white lotus. in the undergrowth, white jasmine. myriad glimmering eyes & teeth, reflected light silver-bright & stalking. your own heart, brimming with sweet heat unmistakable, downwind from the light. bone-illumined
ancient & waking hunterless body of light wolf-moon lion-moon unblinking love means consuming here at the beginning & here at the ending look up. the light entranced. press your body to rending talons until the bones burst from beneath your paper-skin. the teeth, the red, the illumination. to be devoured softly was never in your blood.
lowtalk Lianna Schreiber for Luce
in the honey of candlelight, a woman traces the curve of a scythed moon—she pricks her finger on the point of it, and I, the sun disrobed, I dip my heavy head to kiss the life from her. Selene, Selene, mother and mistress of Stars—lady of Ondines, vassal to Terrors, friend and lover of dark Dreams— a thousand years I could slumber here, cushioned on the soft of your thumb; a thousand and another, if only you would have me. white jasmine would incense my nights, the garden of it asong with heavy robin-rills and hillstars, humming from the deep of your pale blood— and Olympus would seem ashen to me, a head of sand in sackloth where you are molten silvergold. o—Selene, Selene; do other Gods revere you, my lover, my weaver? do they abhor you, their horror matched in flame by only so wanton a fever 38
as mine—? do they fall in worship ’fore your gilt feet, all fearful, all paroxied—? o; forgive me. I am drunk on you and again a reprobate blasphemer. let me talk low instead: god-woman, it must be that Eros poured himself your veins to fullness in those days when Dawn bled new, staining the cherry-wood of life’s cradle; o, it must be that he himself painted those lips, that sinner’s bow which now invites me— god-woman, it must be that you were fashioned for me; my blessing, my bespelling.
Author Biographies EVA SKRANDE is the author of the forthcoming Bone Argot (Spuyten Duyvil) M y Mother’s Cuba (River City Poetry Series) and a chapbook, T he Gates of the Somnambulist (Jeanne Duval Editions). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Anatolios, Ploughshares, Clockwise Cat, Agni, Prick of the Spindle, among others. BONNIE BILLET wrote until she was 40, was published in several journals including Poetry. She started writing again after retirement. In the last year she has been published in So to Speak, Yes Poetry and been accepted for publication at Rhino. NOELLE PENAS is a third culture kid, part time satellite, and junior in college currently studying Visual Arts & Human Rights. Her portfolio can be found at: http://noellepenas.com ZANE JOHNSON is a poet and translator from the German. Recent work can be found in Asymptote, The American Journal of Poetry, Cold Creek Review, and Signaturen Magazin. EUNICE KIM is a Korean-American writer living in Seoul. She has poetry published or forthcoming in Rose Quartz Magazine and The Hellebore Press. You can find more of her work at i vyburied.tumblr.com PAUL ILECHKO is the author of the chapbooks “Bartok in Winter” (Flutter Press, 2018) and “Graph of Life” (Finishing Line Press, 2018). His work has appeared in a variety of journals, including Manhattanville Review, West Trade Review, Yes Poetry, Night Music Journal and Rock & Sling. He lives with his partner in Lambertville, NJ. He can be found on Facebook and Instagram. MADISON LASSITER is a nonbinary writer and recent graduate from the University of Kansas with a degree in Creative writing. They are looking forward to completing an MFA in the coming years and hopefully completing a novel before they graduate. DONALD ILLICH has published poetry in journals such as The Iowa Review, Fourteen Hills, and Cold Mountain Review. He won Honorable Mention in the Washington Prize book contest. He recently published a book, Chance Bodies (The Word Works, 2018). Twitter: @donaldillich LIANNA SCHREIBER is a Romanian author. A self-described “Neoromantic”, her work mostly concerns itself with human nature, mythological and folkloric truth as well as tradition, and the most defiant of emotions — love. She can be found @ ragewrites on tumblr.
AYA WHITFIELD lives in Massachusetts, attends school in New Jersey, and writes intermittently. Some of the following are true about Aya: might actually be a moth, collects exorbitant amounts of polyhedral dice, drinks far too much tea, and can be found as @avolitorial on Patreon, Tumblr, and most social media.