RIGGWELTER #22 JUNE 2019 ed. Amy Kinsman
The following works are copyrighted to their listed authors ÂŠ2019. Riggwelter Press is copyrighted to Amy Kinsman ÂŠ2017.
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Foreword To Tell a Story If it had been yours A Foetal Heart The Time Hoarder Mother Musing Over Her Daughterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Doll Plasma Hungry Sublimation @girl_wanderlust I saw a golden-brown praying mantis on my bathroom mirror at 2am Arrangement in Grey and Black No.3 The Altogether What they do to chickens Elegy for Laika Separation hymn of the desolate amorosa Untitled Untitled Inkling Family history Fault Lines A Woman Mourns, Sings in Ash Keys Metropolitan Museum, Hellenic Period ARMAGEDDON Birds in Air Searching for Prayer American Storm Billions in Debt, Detroit Tumbles Into Insolvency Road Trip Liquid Lava After Hours House by the Beach The Sea Dragonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Tail The journey should only be one way The Cathedral of the Isles Contributors
4 5 6 7 8 11 12 13 14 15 21 23 24 29 30 31 33 34 35 36 37 39 40 43 44 46 49 50 51 52 53 54 59 60 61 63 64
Welcome to our twenty-second issue! This issue is all about living, which inevitably means it’s also all about dying. This issue begins with pregnancy (which feels particularly important at the moment, given the terrible laws restricting women’s rights to have control over the bodies coming into being all over the place) and moves through all of the realities of being alive – exploration and learning, love and progeny, need and yearning, existentialism and stewardship, money and war, time and our place in history and culminates, inevitably in endings and death. This issue is deeply ingrained in that tug of war between what is a fact of nature and what is a human construct. Can we ever really know the difference? An update on the Saboteur Awards: Unfortunately Riggwelter was not a winner this time, but many congratulations to Here Comes Everyone, a very worthy Best Magazine winner, and also to our contributor Emma Lee for taking home the trophy for Best Reviewer. We had a great time attending the awards in Birmingham seeing our friends and making new ones. Our sincerest thanks to everyone that nominated and voted for us – hopefully that bottle of gin will be ours next year. As always, we are indebted to our submitters, contributors, readers and promoters without whom we would be shouting into the void – or not saying very much at all into the void. We’ll be back on July 1st with another delicious new issue for you to sink your teeth into. Thank you and enjoy!
Amy Kinsman (Founding Editor)
To Tell a Story
He told me if I waited where he set the stones in a necklace on the sand, no one to see you, if I stepped into the circle and waited with hands open, no one, I would enter an anointed place where fresh water meets the salt and the story runs like a silver of fish under the skin of the sea. * He told me, opened my pages, waded in. He took me, that thief, as if to see, no one, he swam upstream. * He told me opened me thief Kelly E. Sullivan
If it had been yours
nothing would have changed still I would have killed it. If it had been yours we would have killed it together you holding my hand eye to eye while they aspirate my womb and tear apart the nearly microscopic melding of you and I. If it had been yours I would have cried just the same only you would have been holding me and you would have understood my tears, my hard heart if it had been yours. If it had been yours our DNA would have twisted together the way we are now growing together and I would have taken joy in that for seven weeks Eloise CC Shepherd
A Foetal Heart
As night folds itself across the sky, a strange sound fills the air, like a dog howling backwards, or a feline retreating out of heat, and we lie awake on the bare mattress, every possibility narrowed to this point, as we search for the second heart beating inside you, the beat that was there yesterday but seems elusive now; we keeping searching and searching, refusing to stop and admit what our own hearts, beating with a pain which crowds their constricting chambers, whisper to us, whisper so fiercely. Edward Lee
The Time Hoarder
Mark stood on the crumbling pavement watching the old woman, scorning her. How
dare that old lady steal even a glance, Mark thought, glaring. The old woman, known to most as the Time Collector, was actually quite young. Time Collectors always are. Her gray eyes drifted skyward. She stood, earth-like, with white hair and steel eyes, silent; so quiet that Mark almost forgot she was there. But the Time Collector couldn’t disappear, at least not from his view. Mark wasn’t like most people. Normal people littered unused bits of time. Those people were blind to the Time Collector. But Mark could see the old lady clear as day. In fact, he had been keeping track of her collecting behavior for some time. He wouldn’t let her take his time, though, especially not now. He’d had a few close calls in the past, where he almost let time bits go. There was the moment he stood looking at a rain-dripped window, holding a cup of tea under his chin and watching steam swirl. It fogged the inside glass while streaming rain streaked the outside. That moment lingered then began to evaporate. But, as he lost his thought and his time, Mark saw a flash of her reflection. A melted, haunting image stood, waiting. He snatched back the seconds before she had a chance to touch them. The last time he grabbed back an instant was on an icy night after breaking up with Vivian. Mark purposefully discarded the moment Vivian walked away in an angry fit; black boots crunching ice on the driveway. He turned his back and willed the whole night gone. But when he glanced back and noticed the Time Collector admiring the sleekness of it, Mark had a change of heart. No mind to the idea that the night was garbage. He pulled it back. It wasn’t there for someone—something—else.
Now, this time, on the crumbling pavement, something similar was happening. Though, there were no time bits laying around; Mark was never so careless. Nevertheless, there she stood, lingering, loitering. Staring. She held something in her hand. A picture. Mark had a moment too—almost nothing—the small instant of a storekeeper’s shaking fingers passing him some coins. But he wouldn’t let it go. He clenched it in his left hand, glaring at her amorphous hair. This time, though, she didn’t fade. This time, she didn’t walk away. In fact, she took steps closer. And with each step, her features resolved. Her wild hair defied gravity. Her slate eyes looked through him. She reached out with two smooth arms. Mark clenched the storekeeper’s hand-moment tighter. But the Time Collector wasn’t after that instant. She wasn’t reaching to take. The old-young lady offered him something. It took a minute for him to realize. She handed him a small picture, a mosaic. It smelled like orange blossoms and old books and was fashioned from micro-moments—thousands of them. Glances at flowers, time lost driving, crumbs next to the toaster, time wrapped in flannel sheets, kneading bread, hand washing. All shards of lost, left, and abandoned time; bits bound together with lingering chuckles; children laughing on the monkey bars, giggling in a swimming hole. One wild screech was a moment lost falling. But Mark didn’t take the time to take it all in. It felt too flickery, too bright; he saw too many layers. Besides, Mark didn’t want to make any changes or exchanges. He didn’t want to give her any expectations. He pushed the offering away then unclenched his store-keeper-hand-moment and slid it into his shirt pocket.
The Time Collector didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t object. She took a few steps back and propped the picture upright at the base of a tree trunk. Then she faded into the distance. Mark stood on the crumbling pavement. As he watched her dissolve, he also watched the mosaic decompose. The layers collapsed, soaking into the earth like syrup into a pancake. Then on a small green branch, a young leaf unfolded. Mark held the moment in his mind resolving, someday, to make his own mosaic. Or maybe he would bury all the moments under something that needed more time. Someday, he would do something with his extra time. Someday.
Lisa R. Conti
Mother Musing Over Her Daughterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Doll
I want to swallow my sewing machine, needle by needle, unbinding the gears, a thimble sticking in my craw, the thread a delicate noose the way I learned sewing was for girls with ribbons in their braids whose button-eyed dolls became voodoo for womanhood. Grasp the needle and pull to unfurl the perfected stitch, to let their black eyes roll along woodgrain floors and out the door. I want to sew penises on the Ken doll's misshapen groin, to line him up in a row, to pluck the blue eyes at the root, the orbits gone glassy, to swallow them all in turn, one by one. Tiffany Elliott
Plasma Alan Murphy
A list of things I desperately want to eat, but avoid: glass marbles Playing Kerplunk was like ceaseless foreplay when I was a kid; I want all those smooth, shiny, solid marbles in my belly. mossy dirt It can’t be dry, and heaven forbid dusty. Moist earth, like brownie batter, studded with soft mossy green things, please. thick mixed paint It’s so thick, I want to cover my whole body in it, like that lady in honey, and lick it off little by little. mud slip luscious, wetted mud slip worked to just barely shape holding, the sort of mud you’d steam a fish in, except forget the fish—give me that mud. turpentine with a lemon twist, in a crystal goblet. Dear glittering, delicious poisons: I dream of you like velvet folds of opium, magical lanterns, phantasmagorical— come take a home, come fill my gullet, come mix with the meat yet between my teeth! How you exist and yet do not exist! Visible and invisible—comprising the entire world around me and still beyond reach. A world rolled in oats, strained through a sieve, through the eye of a needle I would gladly drive through my tongue. The torture of being just inches from you—the torture of seeing you at the door! Could we make an exception if someone dies? Could I swallow, perhaps, just a handful of river rocks? Would they break my lion jaw or would the softness of grief accommodate their smoothness, like honey, like a lamb, like the mercury of a glass thermometer I have crushed between my teeth? Dear, glittering, delicious poisons take me, please, take me to the heaven of gasoline vapors and fresh lawn cuttings. I can wait a little longer. Jeni De La O
Sublimation you roam the garden peeling yourself like a banana edgeless you splash down on brittle grass scorching air drinks your liquids body and atmosphere equalise (echoes of your wedding day the sun high and dangerous you posed together crinkle eyed skin aflame your room was a sauna parched restless) in the afternoonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s furnace secrets are unveiled a snake pours itself into water vapour ascends from the lessening pond drying a path to lush islands wordless questions tug and fidget silt hardens to a burnt umber crust you pick off the scales
A lazy Monday morning lopes into a busy Friday night. My current girlfriend and I are on our way out to grab dinner. The restaurant’s not far, and as I drive, she drones. One of her superficial Facebook friends is having relationship troubles. She's preoccupied and intent on solving her problems, so I don’t tell her I have a new addiction. Though I’m sure, she has an idea. As addicts go, I’ve cycled through Alcohol, Cannabis, Nicotine, Opium, Codeine, Tramadol, Morphine, Valium, Xanax, Butane, Barbital, Ritalin, LSD, MDMA, and Methamphetamines. I even hijacked my ex-girlfriend’s Cat’s Meloxicam. Those drugs are dangerous, but they don’t compare to my current addiction. It’s Instagram, and I know what you’re thinking. But, my Instagram addiction differs from every teenager on the planet. In the last nine months, I maneuvered a 21st-century heterosexual relationship past infatuation and into the mundane. My girlfriend and I moved in together, got a puppy, met the parents, and attended several weddings as a couple. But then something happened. *** The appetizers make it to the table just as my phone buzzes to life. I see my girlfriend’s body crimp with each vibration. She doesn't speak because we fought yesterday and neither of us has the energy. Instead, she ignores the buzz of my phone and orders another glass of wine - her first, unfinished, caught the lip of the table. Half the Merlot spilled on her shirt. The waiter leaped in, blotting the damp stain above her breast with her napkin. I watch them flirt and want it to bother me. But it doesn't. Besides, I know the
waiter's game - skinny jeans, tattoos. I bet his Instagram is full of tricked out Honda Civic pics. @girl_wanderlust has posted a new thong shot on Instagram. I’m not much on ass shots, so I scroll the feed. There’s another shot of her hiking along the coast of Nicaragua looking more natural. That’s more my preference, so I linger on the photo for a while. I thought of traveling myself - Central America. I even messaged @girl_wanderlust, but she never responded. Neither my girlfriend nor the waiter knows @girl_wanderlust is in Nicaragua or that she has over a thousand likes for an ass shot someone in the comments has described as delicious. It bothers me when she sexualizes her posts. Under the table, I focus my attention on my phone. Muscle memory moves my fingers, thumbprint ID, and tap, double tap - scroll. It often wakes me; the unconscious maneuvering of my fingers in my sleep. In the same way, amputees experience phantom limb pain. I know my current addiction is getting to a dangerous place when it invades my sleep. Our food arrives. Mine, a good ten minutes later than my girlfriend’s. She’s still engaged with skinny, man-bun hipster. I let the slight by the waiter slide for now and focus on @girl_wanderlust’s Instagram. *** I’m hiking a rutted path through the jungle where the brush is so thick it swallow’s vast chunks of flesh. The trail is vague and lined with arm-gouging thorns. I cross a sizeable
@girl_wanderlust as the ocean swallows the sun. I follow her into a funky little fishing village where music thumps from an outdoor bar and the ocean air churns through the
narrow streets in wispy bursts, salty and bedewed. Circling overhead, quintessential grey-and-white, pink-legged gulls caw at our arrival. As I snag an empty seat, there's a tap on my shoulder. “Cash or card?” a muffled voice says. “I’m not ready to…” Out of nowhere man-bun. His voice is now sharp, and he’s drumming the bill folder into his palm. “Cash or card?” he says again. Across the table, my girlfriend drops her head and centers her eyes on her lap. She sighs and draws the look of nearby customers. Without speaking, I hand my card to the waiter and stare at my uneaten food, making a half-ass stab at the broccoli. The broccoli is lukewarm, so I cover it with my napkin as if it’s a corpse, and we leave. She insists on driving home, and I don’t argue. It’s a fifteen-minute drive, and we make it back in half the time. Before I can undo my seatbelt, she’s out of the car. She slams the car door and apartment door before I reach the steps. Once I’m inside the bedroom door slams, rattling the pictures on the wall. There’s a moment of silence before I hear the faint clack of the lock. I don’t even try to apologize; instead, I slip into the bathroom. Instagram is better than any drug. It’s a tactile experience plugged straight into my brain with every one of my senses firing as I hunt for @girl_wanderlust. Heroin never did that. This time it’s not the waiter that brings me back, but the stench of my stale urine. She’s cracked open the bedroom door, and I consider bypassing her peace offering and sleeping on the bathroom floor but opt for coaxing my numb legs into the bed. I sink into the mattress, and the mound of blankets beside me stirs. “I thought you pulled an Elvis?” she says.
“… just reading.” “For five hours?” “That long?” I say. There’s a scrap between us that goes nowhere. We both give up, and the room hangs in silence. At daybreak, I dig for my phone while the heap on the other side of the bed sleeps. Amongst the tangle of cotton, I find salvation. With two clicks, I see @girl_wanderlust has posted another pic. Raw energy pulsates through every fiber, cell and nerve ending and I changeover from the comfort of cotton to ankle deep water warmed by the sun. Ahead, at the boundary where the beach switches to foliage, a squab shelter made of re-purposed wood and discarded tin hides under a canopy of thick tropical leaves. Orchids and bromeliad populate beyond the stilt roots. A single iguana roams a windowless sill. In a hammock, I see @girl_wanderlust. I plunge my arms into the ocean and draw a handful of pure white sand. The sand slips between my fingers and returns to the sea with a faint plunk. “Where do you go?” she screams. “In your head, where are you?” She shakes my body as she screams, jolting me from the tropical oasis and back into bed. The sand, hut, and iguana evaporate along with @girl_wanderlust “I...” Her mouth twists into a slender knot as she leans in close, pushing warm air into my face. “Something needs to change,” she says. “You need to be more present. You need to stay off your phone!”
There’s a hint of patience in her voice which grows my guilt. In the heat of the moment, I make a half-hearted promise… a week without Instagram. No one’s written a twelve-step program for Instagram, but I make it a week. Friday night we have an uncomfortable dinner and pity sex. Neither of which distracts me from wanting to be anywhere else in the world with @girl_wanderlust. It’s not that my girlfriend’s horrible. It’s me. After sex, I snatch my phone from its hiding spot in the refrigerator, behind the eggs. I’ve exhausted my willpower and find @girl_wanderlust. Crisp worn hardwoods are smooth beneath my feet. Outside I see an alleyway of a porch. An empty swing creaks in a weak summer breeze. Beyond the porch everything is brown; beaten by the heat of the long summer sun. I notice @girl_wanderlust standing naked at the sink pouring a glass of wine. The pour overflows the glass and sloshes onto the tile floor. A playful shriek blends into a natural smile. @girl_wanderlust hands me the wine and then prances toward the bedroom. Before I can follow, every cell in my body shudders, as if I’ve suffered a catastrophic seizure. “Why, why, why are you always on that damn phone,” she yells. “You promised.” She rips the phone from my hands before I can tighten my grip. @girl_wanderlust has vanished. Only the taste of wine lingers. “I’m just looking at my photos,” I say. “Photos,” She says, pitching her eyes toward the ceiling. “Yes, my photos.” “You’re delusional,” she says, these aren’t your photos. What’s wrong with you?" She pushes the phone in my face.
"Who is this?" “It's just…” “These are pictures. You understand you’re looking at strangers. Do you understand that I’m right here? A living breathing person, but you refuse to see me. You’re living in a make-believe world where you don’t belong.” She slams the phone on the countertop and the glass screen splinters. “I'm leaving... I can't take it anymore.” In the cloud of her dissolving rage, I realize I’ve fucked up again. I have no one to blame. None of it was real. I shove my hands into my pockets, hoping to sulk the moment away, but moist sand jars my fingertips. I rub the grain between my fingers and collapse into a pile. There are shards of glass and grains of @girl_wanderlust scattered around me.
I saw a golden-brown praying mantis on my bathroom mirror at 2am
And so I prayed For I was told that praying mantises were the spirits of the dead Coming to visit, souls* twitching *soul Twitching as the mantis turned his head to look at me
Who are you? Unknown superstition had chilled the stale air of the house This must be the place where the plastic sheet separated this world from the next For plastic was washable And moving between dimensions must be a grisly business The body from the underworld* *otherworld Squeezed and dismembered so leg can become tiny leg The mantis seemed like it would burst
Whoever you are I don't feel like cleaning my mirror Bursting is like an explosion how ever small it happens to be. I kept praying, a secularized prayer For I didn't know which god allowed the crossover Which god stamped the passport Because I did feel the dead* when I stared at my reflection *heavenly departed I prayed so that the mantis would speak
Who are you? But the mantis kept as still as a broken clock While time moved faster for me My reflection bit her lip She raised her eyebrow and said solemnly
The mantis might just be a mantis I walked up to the golden-brown insect staring at him And the other him in the glass
Now is the time you tell me who you are Silence* *The bubble wrap between ordinary and surreality had not been popped *Breathless disappointment So I went to bed to wake up And found the mantis on my ceiling
I know you wanted to be closer to me I love you I believe I know who you are Twitching silence Yes I get it Chariklia Martalas
Arrangement in Grey and Black No.3 Al McClimens
With sand veiling down from the hills above, Ned and I have to stand and move our blanket and our things. “I feel like I’m in a monster movie,” I hear him mutter. That’s not good. His privates are damp looking. City slicker genitals. Inviting my co-worker here was a huge mistake. I grew up visiting nude beaches with my dad and stepmother. Back then I never would have believed I’d frequent one as an adult. People think of a nude beach as a sexually-charged atmosphere. It’s not. Well, clearly it is for the occasional fully-clothed guy crouched on the sandy bluff above. I have done a little detective work on Ned. He has two roommates, both women. Lives in the Castro District, on Diamond Street. Most people at work assume he’s gay. But I asked him that early on, and he told me he wasn’t. We were standing before a plate of donuts, both making a bit too much of deliberating. I am okay with being naked in front of strangers, but the intimacy of a locked gaze makes my legs shake. He told me has a son on alternating weekends. His son’s name is Harry, but I don’t know how old he is. I’m glad he didn’t ask about bringing Harry here. Normally, I position myself near a family or an old couple. I do not venture to the water’s edge so people can stare as my nipples crinkle. I do not ask anyone to smear suntan lotion on my back. I do not play volleyball. I read. I eat my sandwich and my flamin’ hot Chee-tohs. I take a nap. I have a tan butt and boobs. No one sees them, except here. It is true that I like to read and sleep at the beach. It is also true that I am lonely. I have a need to connect. I am trying to put a plan into action. A plan to stop doing everything alone.
Like me, Ned is in his mid-thirties. He is olive-complected, his body hair contrasting with his city skin. Inviting him to meet me here was a mistake. I like him too much. I want this too much to have gone so far out on a limb. We have had four conversations up to today. He has told me me he does walking meditation during the lunch break, and when he explains what it is, I tell him I do that too. The grit mist of sand that drifted down is from a wiry black guy picking his way down the trail. He is wearing a fanny-pack and sneakers and that’s it. On his head with one hand, he balances a cardboard flat of soda. No one gives the soda guy a hard time, but the air has changed. It isn’t because he is black, although that is somewhat of a rarity here. It’s the introduction of commerce to our idyll. Every once in awhile someone will show up selling beers, or brownies, or water. The black guy is kneeling next to a blanket of young women. From where I sit, the fanny pack covers his penis but not his testicles, which are low-slung in that old-guy way. Ned has put on his underpants; green bikini-style. But he has committed to lifting and gently shaking my orange and blue sarape free of sand. We come together, minuetstyle, and our eyes meet. Ned gives a little smile that is slightly devastating in that he seems to be trying not to smile. In the most mundane situations—usually with the very old or with an avuncular cashier—I often wonder what would happen if I gave them a kiss. It is not always because I am attracted to them; just more of a “what if?” But I am attracted to Ned. “Is this weird?” I venture. I reach for my sarong, but stop myself. My pulse bangs as I regard Ned staring at the sea. I feel extremely exposed in this moment.
At work, I have my routine. I eat my sandwich and chips fast, at my desk, then do a little walking meditation. I like letting my thoughts out to roam. Yesterday, I saw Ned out there, but he ducked into a pet store when he caught sight of me. I didn’t mind. Then just before five, Ned approached me at my desk and asked me if I had a plan for the weekend. “I don’t know why I said that about the monster movie,” he says now. “I just feel this sense of…foreboding.” He whispers this last, raising one eyebrow. “So, the sight of naked people is creepy, or…?” Is it me? It’s me. “Maybe being here in the altogether, even though I’m not, really.” The altogether! “It’s a lull, but a lull stuffed with energy,” he says at least. “Like when I was seven.” We have reset our serape and things a few yards down toward the water. “My older brother and I shared a bunk bed,” Ned continues. “I had bottom. One night I woke up. I thought calmly, ‘I need to move over right next to the wall, so when the bed breaks, I won’t get smashed.’" “What happened?” Now we are lying on our stomachs. His legs bent at the knees, crossed at the ankles. “Well, I pressed myself to the wall and then Teddy’s bunk crashed down.” “But you were okay?” I ask. He nods, sifts to his side to he can wiggle out of his underwear. And now we are in a tender moment. The volleyball game, the gulls, the guy selling soda, all seem a layer removed. Tender in the sense of being vulnerable.
Here I am in the altogether with my workmate. Our company’s IT guy, whom no one seems to know. Lying down next to me, naked, with his underwear in a little wad beside our sandwiches on the blanket between us. And I do it—fully meet his gaze and stay there. Ned has registered my tattoo—a swallow with a sprig of cherry blossom across my hip—and noted my nipple rings. And now he sees my eyes looking into his. I reach for my book, then replace my sunglasses. Now Ned is chewing his sandwich and watching the soda salesman, who is making his way over to the volleyball game. Those sodas must have lost their chill by now. “A NICE monster movie,” he murmurs. His mouth is much closer to my ear than I expected. I can smell the peanut butter on his breath. “The IT guy,” I say in a movie announcer voice. “He seemed like a regular office person. Perfectly normal." "Can the movie poster be a shot of a guy with crazy hair? With his shirt buttoned to the collar, staring the camera down?" "With the faces of the various office types, in circles around him? Definitely." Now a shadow falls across my book. The soda guy has reached us. He is deeply stoned, see now. He apologizes for bothering us and asks if we are thirsty. “Got any Cactus cooler?” Ned asks. The soda guy looks crestfallen. “Just kidding—we’ll have a couple of Cokes.”
I kind of like that Ned doesn’t dither or ask me first. And I like that he doesn’t assume I’d want diet or eschew soda. Ned gives the guys a couple of bills and the guy ambles off to where the sodas are, in the shade near the volleyball game. I sit up—my belly and tits so close to Ned’s face, but sometimes you have to say, oh what the hell—and reach for a sandwich. I smile at the soda guy, who has returned. He says to have me a terrific day. Ned brushes some grit from my arm. “I like your tattoo,” he says. Should I ask about the pet now? No. I picture my tattoo, but instead of the sprig of cherry blossom, there is a small banner reading, “Kiss.” Ned’s face is so close to mine that he appears slightly cross-eyed. It’s like a monster movie after all, but not the part with the monster in it. It is exactly like the part at the very end when after going through all the peril and running around, the hero and the soft, attractive gal are together, breathless. Altogether. And then at last, they kiss.
Patricia Q. Bidar
What they do to chickens
August becomes September almost unnoticed, save the migrants chequering the high cloud, spurred by the unseen. Rain no longer apologises. You watch me as I scalp each one of a dozen potato haulms – their leaves now yellowed and lank, housing snails – exposing the earth, the clutches of white eggs nesting just beneath; shocked when I tell you how in those fields beyond the woods they’re simply burning away the leaves with sulphuric acid, leaving measured ranks of bleached runes and laminated signs warning dog-walkers to dog-walk elsewhere. Later, I think about reminding you how it’s nothing compared with what they do to chickens, but you’re already nudging at your plate, herding its cargo uneasily, appetite adrift somewhere. Robert Ford
Elegy for Laika
If you couldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve, perhaps you would have barked your observations, a lapsed crackle down the radio receiver: provided the poetry that the military men, government stooges, conservative to a fault never could seem to muster. You had six hours in which to see the stars, nose panting, pressed, against your porthole surely that was time enough. But you were a dog and lived the life many dogs live. Whined when you were beaten and died when they locked the door; never thinking of you baking in the sun. Rebecca Roy
Separation after Rebecca Solnit’s The Faraway Nearby
1. I have empathy for my arm. What you cannot feel you cannot take care of. Pain is the surface of the self. Those who have empathy for others are boundless, cannot be lonely. Pain is the same as touch. 2. I cannot help but also feel relief. 3. Still, at night, my tongue is vast and cavernous; the space between my arm and me, an army. Other bodies breathe, complete: the faraway nearby. 4. Some people wish ‘happy birthday’ inappropriately after death, do not then know how to retract it. Their insolence hangs eternal, like neglected streamers we pretend are early preparations for subsequent feast days. 5. In real life I’m funny. I like to think I’m funny. I’m sometimes funny. 6. I noticed you had gone very quiet. Eventually. In my defence: the distance. In my defence, you did not even know I was sometimes there. 7. When I saw the budgie cage was gone, and hence the live-in budgies, I cried and cried and cried. Adults still take such opportunities to prove their point. How I hadn’t–, how I never–, how I didn’t even–. 8. I put a saucer of milk by the back door each evening hoping the cat would come back. 9. I saw a cat on TV, asked if it was mine, asked if it had gone to Hollywood. It hadn’t. 10. When the tadpoles died (i.e. were murdered) everyone rallied around, and some aspects of that time I remember fondly. I called in sick for work due to teary eyes and vocational indifference. Work were wholly understanding on the telephone (soft voices, gentle fillers), until I named the species.
11. The shock of death peaks in bodies around eighteen years old. A bell-curve of sorrow. Cock robin, a sparrow. I’ll make the shroud, if I’m allowed. I’ll make the shroud. 12. Stay connected. Stay connected longer. Seven ways to stay connected. Stay connected to loved ones this holiday. Stay connected far away from the office. Stay. Stay connected @. Lydia Unsworth
hymn of the desolate ain't set to mercy. This poem so grenade, so trigger like shadow. and toothache. He confused. & lame. and wants to lick off the sand from his bootsoles while standing on water. This poem visceral. a naked werewolf or a venomous cloud which cuts off her footsoles tonight. and her cut bleeds into roses and like burning candlewax she hymns into lucid dreams. this poem made undone into misery. & wrenched into good night. Zain Ul Abidin Khan Alizai
for mein kleiner geist the sun / a red painting of a wise eye in the sky / white horses blow like trees in a desert / horse manes / the white of water when it strings / the war with the dust / and how their heads are waves in the sea / the heat of the sea curls their hair / guides me / feet in stirrups / the owl flies up from her hair / o black bird / o breast of gold / the angels bring me a wedding ring for a crown / a padlock and a dove / holy women like hills / soot ghost guarding my childhood pantry door / red roses for eyebrows / pink tight buds / body creamy / avocado smooth / hair / mesh of warm insect wings / a navel wraps around like a peg or a paper clip / a garden climbing up the pyramid / the willow spreads her crown near water / it will waver but it will never break / the old man told me i must be more rudimentary / i told him i wanted to be innocent / he made a wand from a branch and runes / my son wanted to watch the maiden die / sea-sauce in the palms of his hands / my husband told me he was too young / but i showed him how to draw out her heart / amorality and amorosa / her moose antlers / she covered them with a veil / river of stars / a halo like glitter glue / sewing the souls of my feet with laces or ribbons / i sit cross-legged and read the bible in a river / lustful and eating fruit / eisegeses untightens shoes / the moon glows / it turns whole under her feet / she wears the fur of a lynx / eyes and ears / talons perch / hold fast / queen of the night / he hung me out of a very high window / like crowded washing on a line / caught me like a fish / clean silver hook / the clouds can look like smoke / exhaling bats black / there is a woman with bread scrolls for hair / she wants to play in the sun by the river / there were children playing with marbles and snakes / my husband / my father / old age fountain / to urinate all our brass / for the ability to peer into the hollows of shoes / worms rise like candle steam / golden cake fork floating inside my skull / a fishing knife bends into a crescent moon / the profile view of an open mouth / he came above me because he thought i was asleep / what he will never know is / in the dark / my eyes can still see / Annie Blake
Untitled Leonard Cohen
Untitled Leonard Cohen
Looking back, I should have known it that long summer I lazed poolside with my friend, whose expertise of sex she raised like Lazarus from her stolen Cosmopolitan, all day ogling high-school boys with muffin tops the color of cottage cheese. Here is the part where I pivot and tell you about the girls, too: where I am caught, hitch-like, against the shape of them balancing terry towels on their hips, smile of their nail polish, burnished topcoat of oil. I tell you This Moment or That Moment was a blossom, or a cumulonimbus cloud thundering the horizon awake, bullshit like that—but the truth is never a story, and the girl stood on the other side of the rope separating the shallows from the eight-foot depths. I tried not to notice but her ankle was so suntanned, watercolor of cracked firewood, the fanned skin of her Achilles stabilizing her heel only one thin moment before she plunged, feet-first, down. Even our water-logged Cosmo had no inkling of what glommed itself onto my stricken esophagus, not lust but wonder--here was the bundle of her: her name (whatever it was), predilection of temperament suiting her for a jump off the pool’s edge instead of the thrill of the high dive, and her choice— labored, no doubt—to let her brown roots grow to her ears without bleaching it all white again. All connected to a body that would die one day--thoughts like light caught in a geode, dropped in and sinking from the surface of the water. I had no sudden insights. I didn’t know I loved her. I was blunt as the palm of a hand brushing against the heat of a screaming kettle one one-hundredth of a second before the brain assigns hot or cold, when it knows only feel. When she swam away I moved back toward my friend,
and rising from the water, my knee banged against the spot where the sconce blazed underwater, burning brighter than everything in the sky. I touched the tile where the girlâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s heel had been, mechanism of latched sinew, rested then gone. Marissa Rose
Twins who feel one another's pain across two continents are bound forever in their creepy double helix. Brothers who get into fights protect the rights and wrongs no matter who or what the one or other started. Sisters who wear hand-me-down boyfriends like stripey tops and hot shimmering pants usually fall out. But what of siblings who don't get to meet at all, who never know to be careful who they are in love with. Pat Edwards
She comes into the store dressed in a fuchsia flowered dress. It’s the first thing you notice about her. The second thing you notice is her hair – corkscrew curled and strawberry blonde. The dress ripples as she walks past the till. You finish up serving the customer in front and then step out from behind the desk to follow her. A young man is trying to reach a jacket two hands too high. You ignore him. Three children are hiding from their parents, their Velcro-shoe feet sticking out from under a fixture full of trousers. Usually you would crouch down – tell them to come out – not today. She is browsing the stacks of walking boots and you wonder for a moment what she would look like wearing wool grey socks and leather brown boots in her fuchsia flowered dress. Strange? Pretty? Both. She has eyes for a nubuck leather pair. They’re some of the best in the store. Not a bargain but a worthy buy. You ask her if she needs any help. “Just these, in a size 8”, she says, softly. She doesn’t look like she has big enough feet for a size 8. Her wedged sandals are arched high, everything but her toes and ankles covered. Perhaps they might fit. You nod and have a look through the collection of coloured boxes out back. No size 8. Company policy states you have to offer to order them for her. “Free postage. Pay today in store and they’ll get sent out to you at whichever address you give us. You can bring them back if they’re not quite right.” She’ll order a size 8. It’ll take 3-5 working days. Today is Saturday so ignore Sunday. Nothing happens on a Sunday. “They should be with you by Friday at the latest.”
“Can you guarantee that?” You tell her you can, though you can’t. She pays and leaves with a smile. The fuchsia flowered dress is even prettier from the back. **
She comes into the store dressed in a fuchsia flowered dress. It’s not the first thing you notice about her. The first thing you notice is her face – drawn and dull. The second thing you notice is that she has a shoe box held against her chest. It’s the walking boots you ordered for her over two weeks ago. She joins the back of the queue, hair tied up tight. You say a friendly “hello again” as she steps towards you at the till, but she doesn’t mirror the gesture. She sets the shoebox down on the counter instead and pulls out some papers. “Can I return these?” “You can exchange them if you want – a different size?” She doesn’t want that. She just wants to return them. When items are returned a form has to be filled out. You ask if there is anything wrong with them. “They didn’t arrive in time.” She says it as though their lateness has taken the wind out of her. You apologise, and she says it’s okay – although it’s not, because you gave her your word when you shouldn’t have. The guilt is a spider crawling. You double down on the apology and then ask her what she needed them for. An event? A charity walk? You’re sorry she missed it. The fuchsia flowered dress looks unwashed up close. “My husband – they didn’t arrive in time for him.”
It makes sense. They weren’t for her. Size 8, definitely not. You want to ask what he was doing but she looks like the oxygen is leaving her. You fiddle around with the till instead and put the money back on her card. She signs the receipt with her left hand. She has a gold band on her ring finger. You didn’t notice it before. Her thumb is winding it slowly around and around, manicured nail catching. She hands back the pen and you go to pick up the box and stack it behind you, but she places her left hand on it – a quick press of her fingers, as though it’s dough, leaving an imprint. A second splits itself. She takes back her hand, thanks you and you apologise again, and then once more. She nods, “it’s not your fault” and turns. The fuchsia flowered dress is creased in two intersecting lines over her spine. You watch her go but before she has chance to leave her arm is tugged by a stranger – unknown to you at least. The stranger – another woman, older, kisses her cheek sadly, enveloping her in a hug. You can see her mouth. Thin lips. She words “I’m so sorry” into her ear and then the moment is gone. A bald man in front of you is waving in your face. “Are you gonna serve me then? I’ve got places to be.” He has a red stain on his white polo. A bacon sandwich clasped in the hand he isn’t waving. You hope he chokes on it as he leaves.
A Woman Mourns, Sings in Ash Keys
I greened and grew in springtime before sister moon cast my bones in silhouette shades, shaped by breath from familiars and other forms â&#x20AC;&#x201C; their words unclaimed, alien until I listened to learn my girlâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s lexicon. My belly ripened. Swollen folds nursed my quickened seed. I stretched, my body etched with light, and tight, silvered lines. Striations patterned my sun-coppered skin. So long ago. So long ago since Niobe left her salt-ash tears to hang, dangle from my ear lobes thickened by my creeping years. Left her gift to rustle, ruffle my thatch of scarecrow, wild-witch hair. Now in vain, my barren womb contracts when birds nest, children sing and bees swarm. In stealth, autumn shrivels me, warns of night. Storms trombone smoky air. Early frosts of winter crisp me, shrink me. Rain softens me to mulch. I wait to hibernate resistance, yield and die. My moment gone. Ceinwen Haydon
Metropolitan Museum, Hellenic Period
Gallery of Forms Enter here in longing and feel the flesh and muscle under the marble, the body’s shape articulate in drapes of robe. Enter longing for a man’s torso two thousand years old; accumulation of belly so folded to hip in the Greek you reach your hand to touch and expect warmth, heartbeat. See the body shift its weight, watch the tendon move and ripple, and the blank head lift its eyes to look at you.
Muscle Cuirass Like leather. Described so because it molds perfectly to chest, like a stretch of wet skin, shaped for all the body’s secrets. And it keeps them, the soft innards guarded by bronze, the legs encased in greaves that take the shape of shins and knees, the hoplite holding a head like a gourd or a grapefruit inside its metal hide. But it is the torso that cries out for hands to pass across it, that whimpers and pleads for recognition, so plain in human need. See each pleat of abdomen like a widening accordion? See the nail-square nipples as upright as anvils, and the divot at breast bone like a shallow cup for love. But it is lower, the simple circular naval rimmed in taut metallic skin on his near-living flesh that undoes me.
Bronze Statue of a Man The color gives him warmth and motion lost in marble. He leans his weight on his back foot, juts his stomach and gestures with one intact hand. We read depth to the gaping blanks at neck and wrist; headless as he is he is articulate. Listen to his insults, his barbs. Take the sentences he says to the farthest faces in the room, the ones taking photographs on phones of painted vases, of Roman busts broken by fire. Go, he says, and live your lives. Go on, he says, raising his right hand above the folded robes that twist across the breast: there are so few days and so few civilizations like this. See what you have gained? Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t squander it like us. Kelly E. Sullivan
A Game of Daring and Duplicity. For 7.2 billion players. All Ages. OBJECT The object of the game is to be the last surviving person on the planet. This is best achieved by ruthlessly undermining your fellow humans, whilst maintaining the pretence that everything in the world is running perfectly to plan. EQUIPMENT The equipment consists of: •
The Board – a life size globe
Natural geographical features, including seas, mountains and wildlife
Properties – for business, dwelling and leisure uses
Goods – mass produced and other, the complete range
Dwindling supplies of food and water
Money – paper and electronic
PREPARATION Place yourself on your allotted space on the board, preferably in a western capitalist hegemony. Players situated elsewhere may still take part but will be disadvantaged from the outset. PLUS AND MINUS CARDS Each player is given a stack of PLUS and MINUS cards, which should be carried at all times. Examples of PLUS cards include a good education, respectable lineage, material wealth, good genes. Examples of MINUS cards include being the wrong age, having minority status, or not conforming to the values and norms of your society. TIP: You may lie about any card that you hold, although doing so is not recommended
if you are likely to be discovered. YOUR PROPERTY Make a note of the property in which you are living, if you have one. Obtain good security, suitable insurance and a reliable evaluation of its market price. You may cohabit with fellow players. TIP: You should play as remorselessly against your cohabitees as any other players.
There is no advantage to be gained in ARMAGEDDON through displays of altruism or cuddliness.
LEADER OF YOUR STATE OR NATION Select a player who will also make a good leader of your state or nation. This player should preferably be: •
Without moral principles
Skilled in conveying false information
A climate change denier
You may replace your leader as frequently or infrequently as your laws allow. For those living within a dictatorship, see additional notes in the appendix. THE PLAY Play is continuous and simultaneous. You should never wait for another player to take their turn. You are free to move around the board or stay in one place. Generally, you should seek out situations where you advance your status by denying opportunities to other players or by supplanting them from favourable positions. WORK Players who are employed gain an advantage over unemployed players, particularly if your work entails wealth creation. Jobs benefitting individuals or society are permitted but are of little purpose in terms of your progression in the game. RELATIONSHIPS, SEX, CHILDREN AND LEISURE You can have as many sexual relationships and friendships as you like. However, unless there are elements of exploitation within the relationships, they are unlikely to serve your long-term goals and may even cause distraction. You can also join fitness and leisure organisations such as gyms. Many players choose to have children or pets. TIP: Leisure activities are useful if they maintain your physical fitness. TIP: Having pets/children may impact your finances and can be detrimental to your
health. LEGAL SYSTEM The region in which you are situated on the board is likely to have its own legal system. It is part of the skill of the game to establish which laws you can break where it is advantageous to do so and where you will not be caught. It is not advisable to gain a criminal record, although, conversely, being corrupt is associated with success. TIP: The more powerful a player you are, the easier it is to break laws.
HAZARDS The board has numerous hazards that range from the inconvenient to the lifethreatening. A non-exhaustive list of the more serious hazards includes: •
Natural disasters such as volcano eruptions and earthquakes
Disasters associated with climate change – flash-floods, fires, rising temperatures, disruption of our ecosystem
Acts of terrorism, depending on where you are situated on the board
War – conventional, biological, cyber and nuclear (see appendix for strategies to survive a nuclear holocaust)
Brexit (for those players within the UK – but also relevant to Europeans)
Crime – such as offences targeting property or possessions, or violent crime (players within the USA, see additional notes about mass shootings)
Recessions/unemployment/inflation/austerity politics, etc
Racism/religious intolerance/sexism/xenophobia, etc
Lack of public services including healthcare
Epidemics and Pandemics such as AIDS, Ebola and Malaria
END OF THE WORLD SITUATIONS You should be mindful of hazards which may cause the end of the world, as these present your best opportunities to win the game. The most likely causes of ARMAGEDDON would appear to be the impacts of global warming or nuclear war, although fresh hazards such as an attack by an alien species may surface at any time. DENIAL CARD STATEMENTS Where serious hazards are prevalent, it is advisable to play a denial card statement, to put your fellow players off the scent. Examples of denial card statements include: •
“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive”
“The best way to win in nuclear negotiations is to appear madder than your opponent”
“We may not feel the benefits of Brexit for another fifty years”
END OF GAME Your involvement in the game ends when you die. For as long as you remain alive, you have no choice but to continue playing. The last surviving player is the winner of ARMAGEDDON. Good luck! James Woolf
Birds in Air Searching for Prayer (Cover Image) Ryan Schaufler
The rain sounded like madmen in military boots dancing on the roofs, so only a few of us stayed for the act that followed, consisting of schoolchildren who travel through time, undergoing uneven and unpredictable aging but die knowing something: a gun that may have belonged to Dillinger is wrapped in newspaper in the pantry. Howie Good
Billions in Debt, Detroit Tumbles Into Insolvency or: Correcting the New York Times
Cradle of America, once. To take such a course, trickled out in history: difficult. “The only viable option.” Who authorized? Appointed? How much? Detroit has said the debt is as much as a city’s rise. See a city worker with muted uncertainty: this has been coming for ages. We have been, for ages. Home to unlit streets, there is no road map because even in trouble, Detroit has worked for years, and plans some version of a new start. Detroit signaled: Pennies on the dollar, a wave of mostly white trying to seize control of nature. Of bond. Of cities, towns, villages and countries, since the mid-1950’s. Detroit
is more than the nation, is not limited to downfall. Instead,
Detroit, 139-square-mile ; —particularly complex— cut before, an expert on going on will; whether they permit it, or not. Jeni De La O
Baba Yaga drives an unrestored Winnebago. A bumper sticker proclaims â&#x20AC;&#x153;My Other Car Is A Broom.â&#x20AC;? She stops at roadside stands, buys organic free-range chicken eggs, because some things stay with you from the old country. She clocks miles, collects roadkill: 10 squirrels, 3 skunks 1 porcupine. At night, as she cleans and preserves them, they tell her stories. She turns them into creates artisanal cryptozoological taxidermy to sell at flea markets. Her gas tank is always half- full. At the campground, she lights a fire, blasts Pussy Riot, dances with a hula hoop lined with razor blades. She does not bleed. When park rangers kick her out, she boondocks at Walmart. Catherine Fahey
Liquid Lava Daniella Mannino
Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s near closing time at Cedar Valley hardware store, and George is leaning his back against the register, flicking the side of the name tag attached to his green vest. Business has been slower than usual all day, resulting in what feels like lead settling into every corner of his skull cavity. Rubbing his temple with his calloused hand, he now understands why his manager allowed his other coworkers to call it a day and go home. He wishes he could have been one of the lucky ones. But someone had to stay behind to close up shop, and it just so happened to be his turn to do so. Yawning, he cranes his head to the left and eyes the clock on the wall.
8:52 p.m. He groans. Technically, he is not supposed to close up shop until nine on the dot. But at this point, he wants nothing more than to go home, have some left-over spaghetti, and watch Jeopardy with his wife. Taking a few minutes to think it over, he decides to turn in early and call it a night. Just as he takes off his work vest and begins the process of closing up for the day, the bell above the entrance tinkles as a blast of frigid air enters the shop, gradually diffusing into the warmth of the store. The door drifts shut behind a middle-aged man, dressed down in a hoodie sweatshirt, a baggy pair of sweatpants, and a pair of slippers. His face as emotive as a stone, he trudges across the front of the store, picks up a basket, and vanishes into one of the aisles.
George sighs and shuffles his vest back on. He crosses his hands in front his stomach and looks up at the ceiling, whistling a broken, inconsistent tune. A few minutes later, the man finally re-emerges from an aisle and proceeds to the register. “Hello there. Find everything alright?” George says. The man doesn’t answer. He lifts up his basket and slides it across the counter. A pause ensues. The heat in the store starts to feel more oppressive than cozy. “Not much of a talker, are you?” George says with a bit of a chuckle, beads of sweat collecting on his forehead. The man says nothing. He stares at him, blinking slowly. George offers a smile. “That’s alright. My wife isn’t one for small talk either,” he says. Abandoning his attempt at being the chatty, pleasant cashier elderly women seem to coo over, he slides the man’s basket closer to himself and folds down the handles. He goes to reach into the basket when something stops him dead in his tracks. The only items in the basket are a rope and a box of razor blades. Unnerved, he looks up at the man and locks eyes with him. The man does nothing but stare back, his eyes glazed over and bloodshot. George is immediately drawn to how prominent the dark circles under his eyes are. Their puffiness makes his eyes appear as if they have been swallowed by his skin, which has no color in it save for the dark shadows that highlight his angular cheekbones. A chunk has been ripped off of his chapped lips, revealing a portion of the smooth, pink skin that lies beneath. George straightens his back. “Sir… Are you alright?” he says.
The man stares at him for a moment. “Look… Can I just have my stuff? Please?” he says. The man digs around in his pocket and pulls out a crumpled twenty dollar bill before sliding it across the counter. George eyes the bill for a moment before pushing it back to the man. “I’m sorry sir, but I can’t sell you these…” he says before swallowing. “I can tell you’re not well. Go get some help. Please. Somebody cares about you.” The man laughs in a distant sort of way. “You’re funny, acting like you know me and all,” he says. “This isn’t a joke. Please... Get help.” he says. The man presses his lips into a straight line. “I don’t have time for this. Either take my money, or I’m out.” The man slides the twenty back across the counter. George stares at it for a moment, then glances at the items in the basket. He shakes his head and pushes it back. “I’m sorry, but no,” he says. The man shrugs. “Your loss,” he says. Snatching his money and shoving it back into his pocket, he heads for the exit and is out in a flash, letting the door slam behind him as the bell tinkles overhead. George stares off into the distance. The hum of the heater fills the otherwise silent store. One of the lights overhead starts to go out, flickering for a few moments before burning out completely. The sound startles him out of his trance, prompting him to pull out his wallet and dig around inside, his fingers frantically sifting between the wrinkled dollar bills. He finds what he is looking for and pulls it out.
Pinched between his thumb and forefinger is George’s favorite photo of his wife. Worn from being in his wallet for years, it depicts his wife holding a white kitten in her lap, marvelling at its mere presence. After being hospitalized in Evergreen Psychiatric Hospital for over a year, his wife was discharged under the pretence that George would provide adequate care for her at home. In theory, this shouldn’t have been a problem for him. However, he soon discovered that he couldn’t sufficiently provide for both her financial and mental needs. If he went to work, he was able to support her financially (her disability check was next to nothing), but she would be in shambles by the time he got home.. But if he stayed home from work to take care of her, she wouldn’t struggle as much, but their bank account would. Leaving his job wasn’t an option, so he had to find a way to keep his wife stable while he worked. After mulling it over, he finally came to the perfect solution. It was love at first sight when she first met the kitten now known as Button. That moment is forever imprinted in the photograph he holds between his trembling fingers. It captured her excitement just moments before she started crying as the kitten mewed in her arms. He’ll never forget the way she turned to him with wide eyes, as if to ask if it was hers. He nodded, smiling and chuckling as he watched her hold the kitten, stroking its fur as it purred. That was the first time he had seen such happiness from her since she made her attempt. It filled him with joy. He stares at the photo a moment more before his eyes dart over to the basket on the counter. The photo breaks loose from his grasp as he turns on his heel and bolts out the door. It flutters in the air for a few seconds before settling on top of the rope.
Standing on the sidewalk directly outside the door, his eyes scan the parking lot as he tries to control his erratic breathing. Aside from his truck, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s empty. He pauses for a moment, and notices all the surrounding shops have fallen into darkness. The intercom that usually plays country music in the plaza during the day has just been shut off. It crackles a bit before falling silent. Snow flurries have started to fall, drifting across the parking lot in a synchronized dance with the wind. They land on the asphalt only to fade to nothing. Sighing, George hangs his head and trudges back through the front door, flipping the sign hanging in the window from open to closed as the door slams behind him.
House by the Beach
In hell, there is only water, and I visit the eighth house by the beach, drifting upon the horizon, awashed orange by the setting sun: Steel gates unlocked and swinging in the salty breeze, hinges mewling like children deserted upon the shores, and paths strewn with wet grass clinging to my feet. If only out of curiosity I enter the door that does not resist, unlike capiz windows shut overhead. Inside, the air smells of brine, as if flesh from the sea is rotting. Burnt wicks stick up from waxen bodies melting past the table to escape; beneath is a cave of stalactites longing to sink to the floor where fish heads scatter. Outside, I hear a motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sermon with the waves slapping rocks; she remembers loss and, in another island, pain. Here, wardrobes refuse to budge; they hide things I think I already know: Tokens, kisses, family in drawers chained. Wood splits under the weight of metal. In between splinters, there are photos of myself: I see the moon apart from stars. This is not my home, I think, but I would like to drown here. Rayji de Guia
The Sea Dragonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Tail Seth Crook
The journey should only be one way
The water swirls thick and black, like oil. Fog hangs twisted between the reeds, like the veil of a drowned bride. Natureâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s voice is silent; instead, there is only a thick sucking sound as I lift the oars out of the water. The weathered boat complains as I strain forward to drop the oars back down into the inky liquid, and my own joints reply in kind as I haul back, dragging us across the surface. Fingers of cold snake down the back of my neck, beneath my collar, reaching around my throat. My passenger pulls her jacket tighter around her bony shoulders, looking back to where the shoreline is being eaten by fog and distance. I pull the oars again. It gets harder every time. Age is wearing me away. She shifts as we reach the centre of the river, her body tense, her fingers clawed around the edge of the bench. The current tugs at the rowboat, trying to wrest it from my hands. I hear her breath catch in her throat as I struggle to regain control, and this spurs me on as I fight back with long strokes. Here, the fog is thickest and both sides of the river are invisible. We are surrounded by the white shroud, every direction identical. Her face is alabaster, painted with speechless panic. I nod in silence. I have crossed this river countless times; it flows in my veins. I do not hesitate. Muscle screams as I snatch the vessel from the currentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s clutches and steady it on course for the far side of the river. She sags when the shore comes into view, air escaping her lungs in a small puff of denser fog. Her body tense, a wound spring, as the dark water sucks at my oars, determined to keep me from delivering my cargo. Each stroke reminds me I have never failed. I focus on that, pushing aside the certainty that I am fading. With a coarse grunt, the rowboat comes aground in the pebbly mud of the riverbank. Elastic potential energy releases my passenger, legs extended, straining to alight beyond the waterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s reach. Her
feet crunch in semi dry gravel as she lands in a crouch and steadies herself before straightening. She takes three steps, and turns back to me, mouthing silent thanks, before pulling her jacket tight around her middle and running into the mist-wreathed trees. I push the boat back out into the water, jumping in with one smooth movement, and sit back down, grasping the oars with my calloused hands. The journey in this direction is always effortless. The river likes it when they come this way. It only fights me when I take them back.
The Cathedral of the Isles
waits with wine, and bread for sailors, music for fish; lies down deep, its altar of rock a grey mass, candled with kelp, spliced with bright quartz, weighted with abundant ocean. Nor will a voice ever be heard, though no promise could be more sure and no pledge more steadfast: upwards is the air and above; above becomes the light. Catherine Eunson
Patricia Q. Bidar is a San Leandro, California-based reader and writer. An alum of the University of California Davis Graduate Writing Program, her stories have recently been published or are forthcoming from Wigleaf, Jellyfish Review, Citron Literary Journal, Flash Flood Journal, formercactus, Postcard Shorts, and Spillwords. Annie Blake is a divergent thinker. Her research aims to exfoliate branches of psychoanalysis and metaphysics. She is currently focusing on in medias res and arthouse writing. She enjoys exploring symbology and the surreal and phantasmagorical nature of unconscious material. She is a member of the C G Jung Society of Melbourne and Existentialist Society in Melbourne. You can visit her on annieblakethegatherer.blogspot.com. Leonard Cohen is an artist working within an intersectional multidiscipline practice that encompasses illustration, photography, literature, film and animation. His work is a filiation of British punk rock with its DIY ethic, emphasis on autonomy, selfsustainability and a repudiation of mainstream culture and values. Studied fine art film and video at Central Saint Martins; film screenings Tate Modern, ICA, BFI, London; Art Expo, Mexico; Les Inattendus, Lyons; Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin. Lisa R. Conti is an emerging science fiction writer. Her debut flash fiction story was just published in 365 tomorrows. Professionally, she edits academic manuscripts and writes science stories. Her science writing has appeared in Pacific Standard, The Santa Barbara Independent, and Scientific American Mind. You can learn more about Lisaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work at lisarconti.com. Seth Crook loves puffins, has taught philosophy at various universities and lives on the Isle of Mull. His poems appear in such places as The Rialto, Magma, Envoi, The
Interpreter's House, Gutter, Northwords Now, Poetry Scotland, The Journal, Southlight, Antiphon, Snakeskin, various anthologies from Three Drops Press. His photographs have appeared in the Scottish Islands Explorer and The Projectionist's Playground. Rayji de Guia is a writer from the Philippines. Her works are in DANAS: mga pag-aakda ng babae ngayon (Gantala Press), SCUM Magazine, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, The Literary Apprentice (Balangiga Press), and various UP Writers Club publications. Jeni De La O is an Afro-Cuban poet and storyteller living in Detroit. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Obsidian, Gigantic Sequins, Rigorous Magazine, Fifth Wednesday, Acentos Review and others. Jeni founded Relato:Detroit, the nationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first bilingual community storytelling event, which seeks to bridge linguistics divides through story. She is a Poetry Editor for Rockvale Review and organizes Poems in the Park, an acoustic reading series based in Detroit.
Lucy Dixcart has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. She lives in rural Kent with her young family and divides her time between motherhood, poetry and copywriting. Pat Edwards is a writer, teacher and performer from Mid Wales. Her work has appeared in Prole, Magma, Atrium and others. She came close to getting her first collection with Indigo Dreams when she was shortlisted in their 2018 competition. Pat hosts Verbatim poetry open mic nights and curates Welshpool Poetry Festival. Tiffany Elliott was born and raised in sunny Southern CA and is currently a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing candidate at New Mexico State University. Her works explore issues of abuse, trauma, and how recovery and resiliency allow people to remake themselves. Her poetry has previously appeared in MUSE and Pacific Review and is forthcoming in Indie Blu(e)’s We Will Not Be Silenced anthology. Before moving back to Glasgow in 2016, Catherine Eunson, originally from Orkney, lived on Benbecula, in the Outer Hebrides, where she was happily busy with family, arts jobs, events and community groups. She wrote and recorded music for Pauline PriorPitt’s ‘North Uist Sea Poems,’ (see catherineeunson.net) and has had poetry published in Poems for the NHS, Northwards Now and Ink Sweat and Tears. In 2017 she was a prize winner in the 2017 McCash competition. Catherine Fahey is a poet and librarian from Salem, Massachusetts. When she’s not reading and writing, she’s knitting or dancing. You can read more of her work at magpiepoems.com. Robert Ford's poetry has appeared in both print and online publications including The Interpreter's House, Brittle Star, Butcher's Dog and San Pedro River Review. He is a member of the Brewery Poets in Kendal, Cumbria. More of his work can be found at wezzlehead.wordpress.com Howie Good co-edits the journals UnLost and Unbroken with Dale Wisely. A young writer from North Yorkshire, Emily Harrison has recently discovered that she actually likes creative writing, despite everything she may have previously said. She can be found on Twitter @emily__harrison, and has work published with Storgy, Riggwelter, Idle Ink and Soft Cartel to name a few. Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, and writes short stories and poetry. She has been widely published in web magazines and in print anthologies. She graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from Newcastle University in 2017. She believes everyone’s voice counts.
R.E. Hengsterman is a writer and photographer. Born helpless and nude he now wanders under the Carolina blue sky. Twitter @robhengsterman and rehengsterman.com Edward Lee's poetry, short stories, non-fiction and photography have been published in magazines in Ireland, England and America, including The Stinging Fly, Skylight 47, Acumen and Smiths Knoll. His debut poetry collection Playing Poohsticks On Ha'Penny Bridge was published in 2010. He is currently working towards a second collection. He also makes musical noise under the names Ayahuasca Collective, Lewis Milne, Orson Carroll, Blinded Architect, Lego Figures Fighting, and Pale Blond Boy. His Facebook page can be found at facebook.com/edwardleewriter Daniella Mannino is an emerging artist from New York, United States. She has recently been experimenting with acrylic paint to create colorful abstract images. She’s inspired by the physical beauty of the world and uses that inspiration to create captivating visual effects in her paintings. Chariklia Martalas is a Philosophy, Politics, English and History student at the University of Witswaterstrand Johannesburg South Africa. She has been published in Odd Magazine and Califragile. Al McClimens is a washed-up, ex-academic, poet manque and failed list maker. He will work for food. Please give generously. Amanda McLeod is an Australian author and artist, with words in Ellipsis Zine, Brave Voices Magazine, Paper Trains Literary Journal, and elsewhere. She enjoys going on adventures, especially if there’s good coffee at the end. Find her on Twitter @AmandaMWrites Alan Murphy is the Irish writer and illustrator of three collections of poetry for young readers. His last collection, Prometheus Unplugged, was listed in a children’s and young adults’ books of the year article in the Irish Times and shortlisted for the CAP awards. He has recently published adult poetry with Degenerate Literature and art and poetry with all the sins (who chose his collage as their lead image for an issue). Marissa Rose’s work is forthcoming in Apricity and has previously appeared in Tuck Magazine, Tangerine Magazine, Facing LGBTQ Pride, and The Raleigh Review, among others. In 2016, she was selected as the representative poet for my county in the collection, Mapping the Muse: A Bicentennial Look at Indiana Poetry (United States.) For a complete list of publication credits, please visit marissarose.work.
Rebecca Roy studied English Literature and Creative Writing in Cardiff and now lives and writes in Manchester. A poet who has performed her own work widely, Rebecca has also facilitated creative writing and zine-making workshops, hosted open mics and participated in arts festivals across the country. Rebecca writes largely from personal experience to explore themes of family, identity and (a)sexuality, honing in on the unfamiliar and under-represented aspects of these themes. Ryan Schaufler received a BFA from California Institute of the Arts in Acting. Not only has he worked as a professional actor for over 20 years, he is also a special education teacher, theatre teacher, playwright, director, photographer, artist, and a father. His photography can be seen in Rattleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Ekphrastic Challenge, Pithead Chapel (2017 September Cover), The Perch, Cream City Review among others. His plays and poetry have been published in such journals as Rise Up Review, Clockhouse, and Southern Indiana Review. In addition, he is the founder of the online literary site twitterization.wordpress.com where some of his writing and photography can be viewed. Eloise CC Shepherd is a writer and poet, with a surprisingly successful side-line in boxing. Her work features in New Writing 13, The Fiction Desk, and MIRonline. She is the co-founder of liminalresidency.co.uk, a writers' retreat in unusual and abandoned spaces. Her website is eloiseccshepherd.co.uk. Taylor Stuckey is an English major at Shippensburg University. Her fiction has been featured in 50-Word Stories, and she has poetry forthcoming in Down in the Dirt magazine. Kelly E. Sullivan is a poet and academic. Her work has been published in The Hopkins Review, Salmagundi, The Clearing, Poetry Ireland Review, and elsewhere. Green Bottle Press (London) published her first poetry chapbook, Fell Year in 2017. Her novella, Winter Bayou (2005), came out with Lilliput Press (Dublin). She has received a Fulbright Fellowship in poetry in 2002, and has been a finalist for a Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship. She teaches Irish Literature at New York University. Zain Ul Abidin Khan Alizai is a seventeen year old Pakistani poet, regarded as the youngest published poet of the country. His works have been published in Shallow Oceans, Red Queen Literary Magazine, Rigorous Magazine, Counterclock Magazine, seafoam magazine among many other places. His poems have also been a part of two Indian anthologies titled Fledglings and Bhor. He juggles his time between churning out lyrical word kisses, debating contests & balancing his life as an army cadet. His debut chapbook is in progress.
Lydia Unsworth is the author of two collections of poetry: Certain Manoeuvres (Knives Forks & Spoons, 2018) and Nostalgia for Bodies (Erbacce, 2018), for which she won the 2018 Erbacce Poetry Prize. Her work can be found in Ambit, Pank, Litro, Tears in the Fence, Banshee, Ink Sweat and Tears, and others. Based in Manchester/Amsterdam. Twitter: @lydiowanie James Woolf has written around 25 short stories in the last few years, many of which have been published, including in Ambit and Riggwelter Press. He was shortlisted in the Bridport Short Story Prize and highly Commended in the London Short Story Prize. Many of his stories have been placed in other competitions. He is currently writing his second novel â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the first is with agents and publishers. You can read more about James on his website woolf.biz
ISSUE #23 COMING JULY 2019