Editor Notes. In the biting chill of February, I realized I could fulfill a dream: starting up an online literary magazine. I gathered a troupe of like-minded creatives, and we embarked on this adventure together. At times, it had been challenging, but we always preserved. And from our persistent, hard work, I am humbled and honored to present the first issue of the winnow. The magazine celebrates works that will lead you, dear reader, to somewhere unexpected, somewhere wanting, somewhere unheard. Each piece in the winnow has been carefully selected by diligent editors and readers. These decisions were often difficult, and the winnowâ€™s staff spent much time gingerly considering each piece. To those who have submitted pieces, I thank you. To those who worked on the magazine, I thank you. This magazine exists because of you. Above all, know that your visions are worth more than youâ€™ll ever know. While diving into this issue, I hope you find yourself resonating with the poetry, prose, and photography, and I hope the pieces inspire and refresh you, our always appreciated reader.
Rachael Crosbie Founder & Editor-in-Chief Our first issue trails in the wake of an effortful season of submissions. Late hours, lunch breaks, and weekends sacrificed to sift through endless stanzas and paragraphs of confided writers to bring our readers, swiftly budding, the best. The result: a compilation of our vision; a threaded conception aimed at upturning, exposing, and rewriting the main avenues of published work. In the early months of 2018, our Editor-in-Chief, Rachael Crosbie, approached a group of niched writers on an almost forgotten art forum. Her goal: a literary investment by like-minded folk in an online magazine. A swarm of excitement and consent soon followed, rallied by our poetry editor, Lucas Peel, who stitched together the loosely woven writers still hanging around this ancient forum. Roles confirmed, rules written, and quickly after: our aim. It was unanimously decided. A tumultuous submission period pursued. By divine intervention, after weeks of refreshing an otherwise arid email account, and extending our initial deadline, submissions arrived by the hundreds, reaching nearly a thousand. We had a mountain of work ahead of us. It is now November. The following pages are the product of late-night debates and decision making. Our favorite pieces petitioned for and pushed through. Readers and editors alike traversing the mountain peak by peak. The consensus in throes of division: the best. This is us. February through August, weeks and hours, a thousand submissions, condensed into fifty pages. We hope you are as fastened with this varied oeuvre as we are.
Kaitlyn Yates Managing Editor
the winnow staff.
Editor-in-Chief & Founder Rachael Crosbie
Managing Editor Kait Yates
Photography Editors Rachael Crosbie Lucas Peel
Prose Editor Shawn White
Poetry Editor Lucas Peel
Poetry Readers Tristan Sebourn Orooj-e-Zafar
Design Editor Anthony Morris
Social Media Executives Katterina Amanda Tristan Sebourn
Contents. Poetry Carl Boon, At Kushiro...................................................................................................................Page 5 Carl Boon, Obscured.....................................................................................................................Page 5 Joshua Anthony, Loose American Tanka After Don Stinson's 1-80 Energy Romance.......Page 6 Thomas Warmbrodt, In The Shadows And Shade................................................................Page 14 Marcia Arrieta, Reading Three Books.......................................................................................Page 17 Elliot Carter, We Head Down to The Playground, There are No Adults..............................Page 17 Romana Iorga, Time Capsule.....................................................................................................Page 21 Stephen Scott Whitaker, Hammerjoy......................................................................................Page 21 Amit Shankar Saha, Thorns.......................................................................................................Page 25 Kyle Trujillo, Heaven..................................................................................................................Page 25 Jason Dean Arnold, Inheritance................................................................................................Page 29 Diego Aristizábal, Our Money Bills Sweat like Chirps in the Sun.......................................Page 30 Meg Reynolds, Lilacs...................................................................................................................Page 32 David Lohrey, Congratulations..................................................................................................Page 37
Prose Michael Anthony, Chalchihuitl...................................................................................................Page 7 Luke Duggan, My Discogs Wantlist Keeps Growing Because................................................Page 19 Becca Fallon, Sunset...................................................................................................................Page 22 Ben Inks, Human/e......................................................................................................................Page 26 Christopher Overfelt, God Makes Dogs, not Man, in His Own Image................................Page 31 Benjah CC Joesph, From a God’s Slit Wrist.............................................................................Page 33
Photography Sarah Sherman, Tiny Manhattan..............................................................................................Page 6 Greg Guerin, Intergalactic..........................................................................................................Page 13 Sarah Sherman, Untitled............................................................................................................Page 15 Greg Guerin, Sometimes I Wish I Could Fly.............................................................................Page 16 Lina Velasquez-Cuervo, Szn.....................................................................................................Page 18 Greg Guerin, Manual.................................................................................................................Page 20 Lina Velasquez-Cuervo, Desert Things..................................................................................Page 25 Kody Kohlman, Remains............................................................................................................Page 28 Greg Guerin, .25 Century Crisis...............................................................................................Page 30 Lee Ginton, Stay Close................................................................................................................Page 32 Timothy Gerken, Untitled 3......................................................................................................Page 36
Michael Anthony is a writer and artist living in New Jersey. He has published fiction, poetry, illustrations, and photographs in literary journals and commercial magazines. Most recently these include El Portal, LitTapes, Camas Magazine and Gremlin Creative. The American Labor Museum exhibited Michael’s photojournalism essay, “Mill Ends,” on the city of Paterson’s waning textile industry.
Josh Anthony is an M.F.A. candidate (please vote for me) at Eastern Washington University. Josh has appeared in a fingerfull of magazines including Crab Fat Magazine, Gone Lawn, and Anomaly Literary Journal. Contact them here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Dean Arnold’s entire career has been devoted to the importance of education, from teaching in the K12 setting to designing and teaching online courses for post secondary. He currently serves as the director for E-Learning, Technology, and Communications at the University of Florida’s College of Education. His writing has been published online and in print. Jason has no ability to compartmentalize. As a result, his writing, visual artwork, and music (and other creative output) are all extensions of his love for learning.
Diego Aristizábal (Bogotá, Colombia, 1985-) Major in Literature at the Universidad de los Andes(Bogotá) , Master in Literary Creation at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia (Bogotá) with his poetry book "Conjunto Cerrado.” Currently works as a freelance proofreader.
Marcia Arrieta's work appears in Osiris, Otoliths, BlazeVOX, Moria, Parentheses, Local Nomad, Empty Mirror, Daphne, Marsh Hawk, and Eratio. Her newest chapbook thimbles, threads was published by Dancing Girl Press. She has two poetry collections: archipelago counterpoint and triskelion, tiger moth, tangram, thyme. She also edits and publishes Indefinite Space, a poetry/art journal.
Carl Boon lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American culture and literature at 9 Eylül University. His poems have appeared in many magazines, including Posit, The Maine Review, and Diagram. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Boon recently edited a volume on the sublime in American cultural studies.
Elliot Carter is an artist and arts organizer from Alexandria, VA. He found poetry in an after-school poetry club and then in Washington, D.C. with the community-based arts organization Split this Rock. He is a graduate of the D.C. Youth Writing Guild’s inaugural class. At UVa, he became involved with Flux Poetry and Spoken Work, serving various executive positions in the hopes of helping Flux’s community arts thrive. A two-time member of the University of Virginia CUPSI team; a wannabe aficionado of sunflower seeds; and a current college drop-out, he believes communities that form around art and poetry are necessary to find the courage to say the things we need to say.
Lina Velasquez-Cuervo is a creative from South Florida. She likes playing with her food and petting all the dogs. You can find more of her work on her Instagram @limabeanzzz. Luke Duggan is a writer, and is a student at the University of Northern Colorado. When he isn’t writing, he’s running or collecting music. He likes a lot of strange things. He also enjoys observing people, but, hopefully, not in a weird way. He would greatly appreciate it if you checked out his Threadless store at lukedugganwrites.threadless.com. There you can buy shirts with his words printed on them.
Becca Fallon is currently a student at Georgia College & State University where she studies creative writing, marketing, and French. In her free time, she enjoys planning vacations she will most likely never take, listening to live music, and expanding her reputation as a foodie in her hometown Atlanta, Georgia.
Timothy Gerken is a writer and photographer who lives in the Leatherstocking region of Central New York. He teaches writing and runs the gallery space at a small SUNY campus. Recent work include curating “Changing Landscape” at the Earlville Opera House and a solo photography show at the 39th Street Gallery in Prince George Maryland titled “Infrastructural.” He has had solo shows in New York City and Palm Springs. He publishes regularly in Mascular Magazine and recently in Pigeonholes, Cahoodaloodaling, Ink IN Thirds, The Birds We Piled Loosely, and Off the Coast. Timothy has been a MacDowell Colony Fellow and Edward Albee Foundation Fellow.
Lee Ginton uses photography to tell stories. Her happy place is an evening picnic at Bakoven beach after a run on the Atlantic Seaboard. She is currently a medical student in Haifa, Israel. You can find more of her work at flickr.com/photos/leesknees/.
Greg Guerin is a South Florida based photographer, originally from New York. Greg has always had a desire to express himself through art and writing; two years ago he was gifted a film camera and has been obsessed with photography ever since. You can find more of his work on his Instagram @gregslistdotcom.
Ben Inks (from Seattle but residing in Virginia) served 3 years in the army before becoming irrevocably enamored with literature. Now he wants nothing more than to read good books, drink good whiskey, and hang out with his pet pug, Bella. He still rocks a flip phone and enjoys pondering the sinew of human emotion. You can read 3 additional stories of his online at Adelaide Magazine, Creepypasta, and Licton Springs Review.
Romana Iorga (originally from Chisinau, Moldova) is a Romanian-American poet living in Switzerland. She has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Minnesota and published two poetry collections in Romania. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in saltfront, Borderlands, Chicago Quarterly Review, Radical Society, Crab Creek Review, and others. Currently, she spends her days mingling with words, dogs, and children, not necessarily in that order. You can find more of Romana’s work at her blog clayandbranches.com.
Benajah CC Joseph has been a screenwriter, private editor, teacher, chef and addictions counselor. He has climbed in the Rockies, been spelunking in Mexico, and been pen pals with William Gay. He and his wife share their home in the Deep South with Niccoli Vasilievich Gogol. He writes cinema and southern lit reviews. He is working on his 4th novel but feels he is a poet for all the wrong reasons. He blogs at bloodforink.com. Twitter- @benajahjoseph Bloodforink.com
Kody Kohlman is a photographer and filmmaker based out of Boulder, Colorado. He enjoys creating imagery and telling stories of the human spirit outside of walls. He draws most of his inspiration from those closest to him. You can find more of his work at kodykohlman.com.
David Lohrey is from Memphis. His plays have been produced in Switzerland, Croatia, and Lithuania. His poetry can be found in Pangolin Review (Mauritius), Tuck Magazine (UK), Terror House (Hungary) and the Cardiff Review (Wales). He received Very Honorable Mention in the 2017 Global Poetry Contest, Washington, DC. David’s fiction can be read online at EWR, Storgy Magazine, and Literally Stories. David’s collection of poetry, MACHIAVELLI’S BACKYARD, was published by Sudden Denouement Publishers (Houston). He lives in Tokyo.
Christopher Overfelt lives and works in Kansas City, Mo. He received a Bachelor's in English from the University of Kansas and his fiction has appeared in the online publications Gambling the Aisle,Sky Island Journal and others. In the summertime he grows cucumbers and in the winters he takes attendance at the local high school. His fiction incorporates magical realism in very short pieces to create symbols and images in fable like scenarios.
Meg Reynolds is a poet, artist, and teacher living in Burlington, VT. Her work has appeared The Missing Slate, Mid-American Review, Fugue, and the anthology Monster Verse: Poems Human and Inhuman as well as The Book of Donuts. She is the co-director of writinginsideVT, a program offers that writing instruction at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility.
Dr. Amit Shankar Saha is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Seacom Skills University. He is an award-winning poet and short story writer and has been widely published. He is the co-founder of Rhythm Divine Poets. He has co-edited an anthology of short stories titled Dynami Zois and has authored a collection of poems titled Balconies of Time.
Sarah Sherman is a commercial and fine art portrait photographer, concert photographer and lifestyle brander. She grew up in Miami, Florida and made her way to Los Angeles in 2017. Sarah studies photography and imaging at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. You can find more of her work on Instagram @vaguefeel
Kyle Trujillo lived his nineteen years in Southern California before driving to Seattle in 2016 with his partner and cats. He writes poetry of uncanny moods drinking coffee at 3am and also creates experimental electronic music as Sunshine Girl.
Thomas Warmbrodt is a MFA student at the University of Minnesota, Mankato. There he spends his time wandering through the wilderness, missing the big beautiful body of Lake Erie.
Stephen Scott Whitaker (@SScottWhitaker) is a member of National Book Critics Circle and the managing editor for The Broadkill Review. His poems have appeared in Oxford Poetry, Grub Street, and Anderbo, among other journals.
At Kushiro by Carl Boon I hold my grandfather’s violin. For it, the room grows empty, the world a photo album of things we cannot touch: sunrise over Kushiro, March 11, 1943, my grandmother crocheting daisies on a linen napkin— the porcelain, impenetrable air. She would rise to brush her hair. The smoke the sandalwood gave off in flame the smoke of villages to the south, my sister in the schoolyard practicing for the Emperor sacrifice, the dear dereliction of all we prized: sea borders on a blue bowl, my grandfather’s shaving cup, my mother looking up. On a summer day before the war my father pasted the world on my wardrobe. How small Kushiro, how much left to conquer— my wrist, the wrists of my dolls in green cloth. The radio played “Sendo Kawaiya” and the trees at Ashoro had begun to blossom.
Obscured by Carl Boon I want to be a burst of green light or the word children say down the waterslide— something incomprehensible but absolute, something you’ll remember when you stroll İstiklal Avenue and it’s just begun to rain. You’ll look up at a window almost obscured where a woman pours Turkish coffee, having folded the afghan, having made a decision to board the ferryboat tomorrow and never return. She drinks. She takes a bit of chocolate and looks at you because you are the woman she was, who loved in brittle frenzies, who sat in the pub on Mis Street and made birds from napkins and barricades from candles.
Tiny Manhattan by Sarah Sherman
Loose American Tanka after Don Stinsonâ€™s I-80 Energy Romance by Joshua Anthony what sky! and say again, looking up only, every piece of the eye consumed: what sky? left like tourists to observe the dead.
Chalchihuitl by Michael Anthony Crimson mesas rose out of what was once an ocean floor as the sea-foam green convertible clocked eighty. The car blew by trucks heading for Mexico, buses ferrying Japanese tourists to desert golf courses, and pickup truck after pickup. At this pace, they’d make Tucson by three. But, without warning, Cody steered up the Ina Road exit, stopping at the end of the ramp. “We don’t have time for this,” Zoe said. “We’ll make time,” Cody grumbled. It was their first exchange in the hour since Cody smelled another Salem on Zoe’s breath in the rest stop back near Pichacho Peak. The car pointed west towards Saguaro National Monument. With thick limbs upraised in supplication, clusters of cacti crowded the side of the two-lane blacktop creating a forest of leafless trees. Another turn and the pavement became gravel. They passed a pockmarked yellow road sign, clearly a target for local youths practicing their marksmanship. The road ran a gauntlet of saguaro, prickly pear, and brittlebush, then narrowed to little more than tire tracks. Skidding to avoid a coyote pulling at the remains of a rabbit, Cody slammed the brakes. “Sorry,” he said in a cold voice. Zoe turned to him. “I can’t just quit.” “No! You won’t quit,” Cody shot back while looking straight ahead as though talking to himself. “That’s not true. I’ve tried.” Zoe hoped this would persuade him. Cody cut the engine. The instant silence made both aware of the alien world around them. Only the hum of distant trucks on the interstate pierced the stillness. “Zoe, I thought it might get easier, but this is eating away at us every day. It’s not healthy, for you or me....” Cody’s words trailed off. Then, he added, “Look, I don’t know how else to say this...” He paused, not for effect, but in search of the precise words. Zoe heard the uneasy ring of finality. “What are you trying to say?” she demanded. “I can’t go through it again.” The clucking bark of a Scaled Quail hiding in nearby sage distracted Cody. Parched desert soil blew up from beneath the car and drifted in the open windows, dusting everything pale ochre. “Can’t go through what?” Zoe asked.
Cody sighed; then told Zoe what he meant; and, more importantly, why. *** Cody Walters grew up on a small farm in Gallatin County near the state line where they raised soybeans and alfalfa. Most mornings, his parents, Harley and Gladys, were up by 4:30 and didn’t go to bed until 10. Married at eighteen they had four children in less than seven years with Cody being the oldest. One of his earliest memories was of a frigid winter morning when he stared through an ice-crusted window at his mother smoking on the porch outside. Wearing Harley’s plaid wool jacket over her blue flannel nightgown, she was trying to clear fluid-clogged lungs. The coughing curled her spine as her frosted breath mixed with blue smoke in the freezing air. With ashtrays in every room, the Walters home reeked of cigarettes. When they had visitors, the house fogged so thick with smoke that the only way Cody and his siblings could get fresh air was to open the bedroom windows, no matter the temperature. When Cody was ten, Harley took Gladys to see Doc Crosley about why she was feeling so tired. The doctor told Cody’s mother to lay off the cigarettes. He also referred her to a specialist in Evansville. Gladys remained in Evansville for tests. The following Friday, while the younger children stayed with neighbor Vinetta Wingate, Harley drove Cody and his sister, Maryanne, to pick up Gladys. She was waiting at the front door and even though she was smiling in that gray Sunday church dress, all could see she’d been crying. Maryanne and Cody sat in the car while their parents met with the specialist for two hours. When they finally returned, an ashen Harley walked slowly with Gladys clutching his arm. The ride home was silent. Maryanne and Cody sat on either side of Gladys in the back seat. She fell asleep twice, waking only when one of the children moved. Harley said nothing and didn’t even put the radio on. The siblings were afraid to ask why their parents were so quiet. When they neared the Wingate place some half-mile from their farm, Harley pulled off the road and parked under an enormous elm tree alongside a branch of the Saline River. Harley’s eyes met Gladys’s in the rear view mirror and without turning around told the children the doctors said their mother had cancer. Trying to ease her children’s fears Gladys said, “Doctors believed they caught it early.” Maryanne asked where the cancer was and did it hurt? Gladys told her there were some spots on her lungs. And no, it didn’t hurt. Afraid he would start crying, Cody said nothing. He just wanted to get out of that car and run until he couldn’t breathe. Gladys made Cody and Maryanne promise not to tell the others back home, whispering they were too young to understand. Harley also told Cody not to let anyone else know either, saying, “All it takes is one person to hear a story and it’ll be circulating through Equality before the hens lay another egg.”
Gladys went for treatments every other week. Some days she would come home and go right to bed. Those nights, Harley would sit on a chair next to the bed holding a bucket. Gladys sometimes coughed so hard she would nearly stop breathing. At times she was too weak and spent the night at the hospital. Doc Crosley would stop by the house to speak with Harley on the side porch while the children were shooed away. Gladys returned to Evansville four months later where she stayed for twenty-two days after an operation to remove a cancerous lung. She lost some forty pounds. Her face was drawn; her skin sallow; and, her eyes vacant, sinking deeper every day. When Harley brought Gladys home, he helped her into bed while Maryanne and Cody bathed the younger ones. Standing at the top of the stairs, Cody overheard Harley speaking on the phone with his grandmother in Paducah. The boy didn’t hear everything, but what he did crushed him. Harley said Gladys wasn’t responding to the treatments; then added, “Doctors say all they can do is make her comfortable.” Until that night, Cody had never heard Harley sob like he did after hanging up the phone. The boy peered over the railing to see his father crouched on the bottom step, hands over his face, his back heaving. The boy padded down the stairs and nestled in Harley’s arms. Though he had seen his father wield a twenty-pound sledge to drive fence posts like they were toothpicks, the man now appeared frail. Cody kept telling his father it would be okay. Harley’s tears soaked Cody’s pajamas as he kissed the boy’s head. “Your mama is really sick and she ain’t going to be able to do much around the place. I’m sorry you’re going to grow up sooner than any of us wanted.” After that night, Harley and Cody never talked about what needed to be done. They just did it. The children brought Gladys bowls of soup and chicken chopped into bite-sized pieces. She often couldn’t swallow; sipping the broth instead. When Gladys did manage to get some food down, it usually came right back up. Her arms withered to the thickness of kindling. The slightest bruise turned her skin purple, then a ghastly yellow-green that lasted for days. She was now on oxygen and couldn’t get out of bed without help. One morning, when Maryanne had taken the younger ones to Mrs. Wingate’s, Cody heard Harley yell, “Cody! Come quick.” The plea for help was coming from the bathroom upstairs. As Cody rushed in, Harley told him to stop; close his eyes; and, hand him a towel. Gladys had collapsed. Bent over and off balance, Harley was struggling to get his unconscious wife out of the tub and the shower still running. He cautioned Cody not to look. But, as Harley lost his grip, he relented. “Brace me, so I don’t drop your mama.” It all hit when Cody stepped forward.
His mother was little more than a skeleton, her body shrunken, colorless, scarred. A jagged seam, red and swollen, ran from the middle of her collarbone, down the center of her chest and wound around back just above her kidney. Father and son carried the robed Gladys to bed. Harley called Doc Crosley. Cody waited in the hallway while the doctor examined Gladys. He silently raged at the cancer, the doctors, even God for failing his mother. As he opened the door, Harley said, “Your Mama doesn’t have much time. I need you to stay here with her while I get your brothers and sisters.” Cody sat on the bed, holding his mother’s motionless hand. Her once clear nails had yellowed; her hair was nearly gone; and, her face immobile, yet pained. While reciting the twenty-third psalm, Cody felt Gladys squeeze his hand. Her eyes fluttered. Her lips moved. Cody leaned close to hear what she was trying to say. The words came slowly and with great effort, “Cody, I love you. You’re a good boy. Please...” He waited for his mother to finish but she drifted away. Cody put his mouth to her ear and whispered. “I love you too.” Trying to keep his mother engaged until the others returned, Cody recounted how she pulled him around in the snow on a sled she had crafted from old orange crates or how they would catch butterflies in the meadow behind the corncrib. He even joked about how they secretly fixed the glass on the front storm door, so Harley wouldn’t find out and explode. Gladys woke around seven the next morning and muttered in a halting, raspy voice, “Son, don’t ever smoke.” Before Cody could agree, Gladys closed her eyes as her one remaining lung pushed out its final breath. With Gladys Walters now buried in the Congregational cemetery, Harley rested his hands on Cody’s shoulders and said, “You’ve been a big help this past year. I want you to spend next week at Grandma’s while I keep the others with me. Go fishing with grandpa. Let grandma take care of you. I’ll pick you up next Sunday.” Cody’s grandmother, Albina, would make him three meals a day, each bigger than the previous. She’d practically wash Cody’s clothes before they hit the floor and wouldn’t let him so much as lift a finger to help. After a pre-dawn breakfast, Grandpa Burt and Cody headed over to the service station Burt owned on Clarke Street. Cody filled the water barrel and stacked oil cans in racks near the pumps. While inside grabbing another load, he saw his grandmother step from her neighbor’s car and call Burt over. She held a handkerchief to her eyes as she spoke in what sounded like sobs and gasps. Burt hugged Albina, then turned towards the front door, squinting directly at his grandson. Cody froze. Oil cans dropped from his hands and rolled across the greasy wooden floor. “Cody,” Burt sighed heavily, “there was a fire last night…at your house…and…it was bad. No one got out.” Then, Burt’s voice deserted him. He simply held the boy.
A million volts shot through Cody’s trembling body as his brain grappled with what he just heard. Crying, Cody asked, “No one? Not Maryanne or Gary? What about Philip? Maureen? Dad?” Burt guided the shaking Cody outside to Albina who took him under her arm and into the waiting car where she held him against her shoulder. As the car made a U-turn, Cody saw his grandfather on the side of the gas station. He was smashing an exhaust pipe across the windshield of an old tow truck. Burt Walters raised that twisted tube of rusted steel over and over, all the while yelling, “Harley! Harley! Harley!” In the weeks after burying his family in a plot alongside his mother, Cody wandered around his grandparents’ house in a daze. Some nights, he awoke, thinking he smelled smoke. Other times, he thought he heard Maryanne crying for help. With no appetite, Cody lost weight. The Gallatin County fire marshal said the fire began with a cigarette that likely had fallen from Harley’s hand and ignited the carpet next to the chair in which he was found. His report indicated the fire was fast moving; and, as confirmed by the medical examiner, all had died of smoke inhalation. Cody lived with his grandparents until he went to college. Despite the devastation smoking had inflicted on the Walters family, Cody began sneaking cigarettes. Ironically, he felt connected to his parents when he did. The month after graduating Northwestern, Cody decided to confront his past in Equality. Once there, he located the family plot he had not visited since the fire. Cody lay across the graves, the freshly mowed grass pricking his neck as he stared up at a cloudless azure sky. After some time wondering what his brothers and sisters would look like had they lived, Cody stood; brushed his pants; and, rested a pack of Parliaments on his father’s headstone. He never touched another cigarette. *** “Why didn’t you ever tell me that before?” Zoe asked through tears. Cody scoured the desert landscape, then said, “I never told anyone.” Zoe rested her hand on Cody’s cheek. It was warm. “Wish I could promise you I’ll quit. But, honestly I can’t.” Cody replied, “And, I can’t watch another person I love be destroyed.” With both sensing the denouement of their time together, the remaining thirty minutes to Tucson and the balance of the evening passed somberly. They shared a quiet dinner before strolling through artisan shops where they purchased a few items before returning to the secluded inn. After slipping into bed, Cody gave Zoe one of two silver bracelets he bought while she had been looking at Zuni pottery earlier.
She studied the hand-wrought band with three rows of small cabochons, “It’s beautiful. I love turquoise. Is yours the same?” “Same design, but red coral, not turquoise,” Cody said. “The middle stone of the top row is missing and the middle stone of the bottom is turquoise.” “Why?” Zoe wondered aloud. “I asked the silversmith to remove one stone and to switch one stone from each. The switched stones symbolize the way we’ve become part of one another. The empty setting represents that we’ll also be incomplete.” Cody rested a small, clear plastic envelope containing a coral stone in Zoe’s palm “That’s the missing piece from my bracelet. You’ll always hold that which completes me. I’ll keep the one that will do the same for you. Maybe someday we can complete them. But, until then they’ll remind us of what we meant to each other.” There were no shouting matches, no arguments; just tears, long embraces, and one final night of intimacy. The following morning, Zoe drove Cody to the airport where he caught a flight east. She remained in Tucson. *** Cody found a new apartment just outside Indianapolis where he joined a consulting firm that specialized in regional infrastructure planning. It was hardest for Cody at night when he slipped the red coral bracelet from his wrist. He would wonder how Zoe was doing and told himself he should call her. When first separated, they spoke every week, but recently less so. Though they talked about how she liked living out west, neither mentioned the issue that drove them apart. Cody figured if Zoe had conquered it, she would tell him. Zoe said nothing for fear of reopening that old deep wound. This particular Friday was no different than the previous twenty-four since Cody left Tucson. Proposals and projects awaiting review blanketed Cody’s desk. His phone rang. “Cody, there’s a FedEx box and an envelope here in the lobby for you,” the receptionist said. Figuring they were likely more requests for proposals, Cody opened the envelope first. He was right: a bid spec for a wetlands project. Then, he tilted the box. Out slid a mat board to which were affixed a brochure for the inn where he and Zoe had spent their last night together; a lipstick-tinged cigarette snapped in half; and, a blue airline ticket jacket. Opening the jacket, Cody found a small coral stone in the very same plastic envelope he had placed in Zoe’s hand months earlier. It was stapled to a ticket from Indianapolis to Tucson for the following day.
Intergalactic by Greg Guerin
In The Shadows And Shade by Thomas Warmbrodt A tree pillars from the earth, tangle of limbs longing for sun. I am gathered here with my demons, convincing them to try the oysters, holding the half-shell out to them in one hand, a smile of lemon in the other. They whimper obstinately, frightened by the nautical messenger with its song of salt. I show them the way, first squeezing the lemon, then tipping the shell - passenger and all - into my mouth. They relent, each one gathering up an oyster and wedge. I remind them not to chew, that this is how we give thanks for having grown so delicious, for having found its way to our hands, for reminding us of the sea. I remind them of this but they have not listened. They drown the mollusc in lemon, the shell spilling over, dumping the oyster into their mouths, and they chew, and chew, and chew. Their faces contort, grimaces slither out from their mouths. I can see the trust between us breaking down with every crash of teeth against teeth. Then they swallow, retreating beneath the trees great girth. I sit with myself - knife in hand - breaking apart the things I love. Meanwhile a squirrel saunters down the tree’s trunk, indifferent to my demons and their chorus of howls, eyeing the food arranged beside me. I offer him the half-shell and the wedge. He cradles each in his tiny paws, going through the motions I detailed. Finally a long sigh escapes him, rippling down the length of his tail. Smacking his lips he exclaims “thank you thank you, oh thank you!” “Why it has been ages since I last dined on something so fresh”. It’s nothing I tell him, and it was nothing really, nothing at all. He thanks me again, running his hands through his tail. Then he is back off into the tree, muttering endlessly in his ascent. “My dear my dear I just swallowed the sea and tasted the sun”.
Untitled by Sarah Sherman
Sometimes I Wish I Could Fly by Greg Guerin
Reading Three Books by Marcia Arrieta headache transubstantiation. there are owls hidden in the oak tree—vision & loss. loss & vision. paint by number days. connect the dots. soliloquys in winter. ranches & orange groves. the quiet of the river or the lake. meditative umbrellas. sweatshirts. we walk in sand. we revere the sun, look to the moon for guidance. the angels protect us. the birds remind us to listen.
we head down to the playground. there are no adults. by Elliot Carter our knees skin. we laugh at that. no indoor whistle. we stay way past the sun. rouse sweat around our collars. and all but where we haven’t grown into yet. the places we both already somehow knew. and ignored. and we never even think about replacing the water anyway. we’re not thinking about what happened. or where she touched me. or what he stole from you. or if it happened in that room we all slept in. if you can still sleep. we just dangle our feet. until they are bloodless. there are no nightmares here. we never wake up. mouths to the sky. from anything. we never grow up. to remember. anything. just me. a child. just you. a child. standing next to a swing set. smiling. when the butterflies land on our knees. and aren’t looking for a drink.
Szn by Lina Velasquez-Cuervo
My Discogs Wantlist Keeps Growing Because by Luke Duggan
I was a collector. I collected stamps, insults, and grasshoppers as a kid. The insults and stamps came naturally, but I had to hunt down the grasshoppers. I found them by my neighbor’s house along a wall decorated entirely with six-charactered, green-mountained Colorado license plates -- and dirt. More accurately, I collected the limbs of these natural constructions. I loved to watch their architecture destroy itself. The detached leg of a grasshopper reminded me of my own legs; they seemed bony despite the lack of bones in a grasshopper’s anatomy. Sometimes the removed legs contracted in my hand. The three-legged jump of a failing hopper was always worth my study. Without hind legs a grasshopper cannot jump, but I discovered that it doesn’t stop them from trying. Without the front legs, they become clumsy acrobats achieving multiple complete front flips before landing without a net. When put together in a container for extended periods, the grasshoppers would often eat each other out of the fear of confinement: think prison, a rough public school, or a house with you, your spouse, and your children in it. They seemed like little lego houses; detachable interlocking parts that I never could put back together. Like a stair in a staircase or an hour in a day, the tobacco chewing head of a grasshopper could not be removed cleanly. Could not be arranged to fit somewhere else. Could not be salvaged when wasted. I wasn’t good with legos as a child, but I knew the many ways in which grasshoppers could suffer. I was learning the ways in which I could suffer, and it was nice to have a common thread with something. Here are the varying ways I’ve murdered grasshoppers. On accident, I’ve mowed over tens of thousands, scorched tens of hundreds, and stepped on tens of tens. The body count for my intentional atrocities is too painful to enumerate, but the methods include: scorching, drowning, starvation, removal of legs, removal of wings, removal of head, and exposure to death carrying aerosols. I mostly remember playing Slayer’s “Reign in Blood” for a cage of thirty or so one night. I played it too loud. They were dead by the morning. They ate each other, or died in the chaos, and It was my fault. I stopped collecting for years. I’m still a collector. Now I collect grief, resentment for others, and metal CDs. Grief and resentment can’t be sold so I buy the next best thing. I used to sort by color and size -- starting with small blue and ending with large orange. Now, I sort alphabetically and chronologically -- starting with 1349’s “Liberation" and ending with XXRB’s “Sixth in Sixes.” Each album carries a piece of the death I caused. I can’t kill an album. It is the same part of me that collected those creatures to kill that collects jewel cased disks with paper inserts to admire. They’re reminders of my capacity to kill. I hold this capacity close to my center with a tight fist. I can corral this capacity as long as the blood travels around the ivory knuckles to create eddies around my nail cuticles. I can crush the killer in me like a demolished stairway, like a dissected day, like the broken, eviscerated remains of what was once a grasshopper.
Manual by Greg Guerin
Time Capsule by Romana Iorga
We dug a hole at the back of grandma’s garden, where we had laid bodies to rest in matchstick boxes, each grave with its makeshift cross of twigs and brambles, as if beetles, too, had a god, or a church, or a soul. It was the pull of a future in which we were happy, doing the things we dreamed of with people we dreamed of, our lives unfurling their tendrils far from home, in a garden whose patient keeper would know our value. We knelt in the dirt with our charms, letters, and trinkets, trading insipid presents for the unknown. What else did we put in that shoebox, what kind of promise to last us through years of drought, blight, and uprooting, each one of us wrapped in loss like a seed in its fruit?
HAMMER JOY by Stephen Scott Whitaker The carpenter turned into a beam of light and fell through night’s window and built a stage for the big show going up in the low weeks after fixing gushes n’ leaks of three weeks of spring rain. There’s only so much a theater can claim. A handsome building, the pain that comes from repeating the same words. The carpenter knows. He sings secrets to the birds.
It is what we don’t remember we miss the most. We never went back, yet the tug is warm and constant. Whatever magic we called on has done its duty. We know we were loved, possibly even happy, and that the past we buried still grows within us, awaiting a suitable moment to burst into bloom.
Sunset by Becca Fallon “He was conniving,” the mother said as she sat on the edge of the boardwalk with the daughter. “Scheming, deceitful, manipulative.” Each word was little more than an observation, and the daughter knew to stay quiet until the speech’s close, so she hummed in agreement and took a lick of chocolate soft-serve as a means of encouraging the monologue forward. “People come in and out of your life,” the mother said. She flicked down her sunglasses from the top of her head and dipped her toes in the cool Atlantic. The sun stared at her with its sword and scepter, but she just returned its gaze with an assured indifference. “They stay long enough to hurt you in just the right way.” “I love you, Mom,” the girl said, letting it hang in the air with the seagulls and their chirp that came in with each tide. The mother squeezed the daughter’s forearm and gave a sad smile, then busied herself with counting the planks that stretched from the luxury spa to the upscale restaurant that she sometimes treated them to whenever she tried to convince herself that they weren’t struggling to get by. It was painful enough for the mother to deal with the consequences of failure, but having a girl who looked up to her felt as if she’d plunged the wound into the saltwater below her feet. The daughter placed her weight on her mother, hanging off of her like an escape ladder. It was nearing dinnertime, so the ever-swelling belt of people calmed to a soothing lap, leaving behind just a few happy parents who were forgetting their own problems for the evening. The mother drew circles in the daughter’s hair as she closed her eyes and breathed in the crisp sea air. “Just a business decision, he told me. We needed to change the language for logistical purposes. Not —,” she stopped and looked away, blinking a few times, determined not to cry in such a public place. “Not so he could steal my business from me so quick that it’s like the past eight years of my life never happened.” The daughter looked down at her feet, noting the paint chipping off of her nails as they rested on the surface of the water. “You did so well though,” the girl said. “You couldn’t have known.” She saw the storm strengthen in her mother’s eyes. From this angle, the drops would have fallen into the ocean as if they were a small storm. The mother sighed as the daughter pulled her in for a hug. They stayed like that for a while; patrons of the boardwalk noticed the loss of the easy air as they strolled by and couldn’t help but notice the two women clinging to each other as they put a damper on the July evening. “God, it’s like looking into a mirror,” the mom said to the daughter after pulling away, though their emerald eyes were the only attribute they shared. The girl’s carob-colored hair dulled the luster of the mother’s amber roots. “I see my ambition in you, my passion.” A wave crashed against the wood stronger than usual and the mother welcomed the intrusion. “I can only hope you don’t inherit my failure as well.” The girl picked up a stone and tossed it into the water, noting a lighthouse off in the distance. “You didn’t fail at a thing,” the girl said. “What he did is all on him.” The sun was starting to give up on them, and their shadows decided on a late dinner across the boardwalk.
The girl stood up and reached her hand out to her mother. “Come on, we can get through this,” the girl said. She pressed her belief in her mother with the same calculating eyes that wrote exposés for the college newspaper in the 90s, worked their way up the corporate chain to shatter the glass ceiling later that decade, and convinced the bank to provide a loan for a virtual reality dream in the new millennium—as if they were investing in the future itself. The mother locked hands with her, pulling herself up. “Okay,” she said. They trudged across the navy-lacquered wood and the girl, to tether her mind to something, was sure to keep track of any imperfections that met their soles. She counted eleven unusual knots within the planks, and six splintered pieces that would have hurt to step on if she hadn’t have put back on her worn sneakers when they got up from the edge of the water. The mother drew inspiration from the opposite half of their setting as she stared up at the ferris wheel at the center of the marina. She envied its stability—how it would spin at the same speed for three minutes and then stop in increments at each cart to unload and take on new, excited bodies. It would do it, just like that, for ten hours each day. From the top of the ferris wheel, the world outside was a network of glass. She wanted her three minutes of pretending to trust it like it had her best intentions in mind. “What am I going to do?” the mother said as she noticed a hot-air balloon descending with the sun. Her jeans were still rolled up to her knees so they wouldn’t get wet, and paired with her red blouse and dressy sandals, she looked a bit out of place, even to herself. “Where do we go, Mom?” the girl asked. “We’ve got a plan, don’t we?” “Yeah, I’ve got one,” the mother said. She didn’t, but she figured that the energy that left her when she voiced the volition would configure into a noisy breeze that would sweep them off to their next opportunity, whether it be in a bustling D.C. shotgun apartment or just another New Jersey borough a couple of calculated pitch meetings away. It didn’t—not right away, at least. “I know you, Mom,” the girl said. “We’ll find a way through all of—” “Watch, your ice cream is getting all over your hands,” the mother said, reaching into her purse for some brown paper napkins. The girl had neglected her soft-serve for so long that it had begun to drip down her fingers to the palms of her hands, and the way the chocolate glistened was almost ethereal, as if all of their strife was a script and the mother would walk away with her career as soon as the scene was finished. “I can’t do anything,” the mother said. “I really can’t.” She couldn’t hold her worry in anymore and let out her ache in impatient tears. The girl looked up at her mother and gave a soft laugh. “Your tears drip kind of like ice cream,” she said. She reached on her tiptoes to wipe one away. It was dark now, and the rest of the visitors at the boardwalk started to flood out of the restaurants to the parking lots that had just been paved the weekend before. “Maybe it’s time to go home, huh Mom?” the girl said after a period of treading in silence. “It’s getting kind of late.”
“Yeah, I’ll get out the ticket for the valet,” said the mother. She took the opportunity of rummaging through her purse to wonder how much longer she’d be calling her house “home.” This thought arrested her all the way there, as she hardly recalled wafting over three crisp bills to the teenage boy who had her keys.
Desert Things by Lina Velasquez-Cuervo
Heaven by Kyle Trujillo
Thorns by Amit Shankar Saha The meteorologists announce there's low pressure in my latitudes. Darkness climbs over cloaked canopy as rainclouds gather like prickly heat. Lights gawk through funnels of basking flies and wink with flaccid leaves. The wind carries whispers of desolation amidst the trees. The mind chews on malignant risks of treading on doldrums of memories. A depression is not a depression unless it kills, so I die everyday. We hold the ends of winter quilt to fold it one last time.
Heaven is wet dynamite. Heaven is a cure for venereal disease. Heaven can’t grow a beard. Heaven is nothing at all. Heaven wants to be skinny. Heaven taps on rumbling bellies. Heaven thinks of dessert before dinner. Heaven is for babies born without mouths. Heaven is the last asylum. Heaven is for sunflowers that don’t bloom. Heaven chopped down a cherry tree. Heaven stutters when talking about sex. Heaven is made of earwax. Heaven is for tap-water or cauliflower. Heaven is a microwave meal. Heaven is out of toilet paper. Heaven is for whiny moths. Heaven cheats at tennis. Heaven is somewhat damp. Heaven is the dam of a large beaver. Heaven is a sudden tortoise shell. Heaven contains beds of lettuce. Heaven is for pristine gravel. Heaven shops eternally for a couch. Heaven is for white mice. Heaven is where stuffed animals live. Heaven will expose its belly to rub. Heaven laughs at all the wrong times. Heaven paints everything the same color. Heaven wakes up with a little bit of semen on its leg. Heaven considers suicide with ease. Heaven is for stopped clocks. Heaven isn’t going anywhere. Heaven is a six letter word. Heaven is for placid khakis. Heaven sews two rooms together. Heaven is for passive-aggressive pigeons. Heaven is neither here nor there. Heaven is for pencils with erasers. Heaven is the light in the refrigerator. Heaven wants to see you naked. Heaven presses the yellow snooze button. Heaven is caffeine free. Heaven is for whispering archetypes. Heaven is for safety scissors. Heaven shaves sleeping cats. Heaven is a transparent commercial. Heaven is for fish. Heaven is boiled water.
Human/e by Ben Inks I’ve been thinking a lot about death. Of the moments before it, specifically. I’ve been ruminating since we returned home from a weekend at the beach to a moribund fox writhing on the front lawn. He (I imagine it as a he even though I never bothered to check) was in bad shape. He looked like he’d just popped out of a microwave. His skin was cracked and chipping like old clay, mange, I suspect. Only a few patches of dirty yellow fur remained. A final defecation resembling a ball of tar or fresh asphalt laid by his hamstrings. At the time, I wasn’t sure what had happened to him, but in retrospect, I believe it was just old age. I was saddened initially, but now I’m happy for him. So, what do you do when you come home to a dying animal? My animal—my sweetheart lab— barked and whined when I took her inside and away from the fox. I guess she must have known what I couldn’t. We called animal control—only animal control doesn’t work weekends so instead they sent a polite uniformed police officer with a well-defined and sculpted fo-hawk. I thought when he arrived: the uniform, the gun, the hair, must take a rather long time in the morning. He said there were two options: put him out of his misery or wait for him to die naturally. “Shoot him right here and now?” I asked. “Do you have a gun silencer?” (The tubular James Bond things that make the shot sound like a DEHW! sound.) His cheek pulled into a lopsided smile, and he shook his head. “Well should we warn the neighbors? This is a quiet cul-de-sac I live on.” (What if ninety-year-old Mrs. Jenkins calls 911, and then we—the cop and I— have to explain to her that we just shot a poor dying fox on my front lawn.) He sort of shrugged as I pondered the next move. Apparently it was my decision as a landowner. In the end I couldn’t do it. I kept on hearing my own pooch barking from the window. Barking “No” in a three-beat cadence like how she barks. Rho Rho Rho! Rho Rho Rho! No No No! And they’re too much like dogs. If only for different genus, family, or order, I’m not actually sure how they’re different, but the similarities are undeniable. The policeman told me to call again if I needed help with the body. He was very cordial but when he stepped into his cruiser, I overheard him say to the slinky radio mic clipped to his shoulder that there would be no lead-coated euthanasia. No big bang to end life. The radio chirped some type of affirmative code, red 4 or something, and then he muttered, “It would be the damn humane thing,” before peeling off. I was left with a dying fox, a barking lab, and the policeman’s cold honest words of releasing misery, of easing a difficult passing. He almost had me with those words. But do we do the same to humans? Grandma’s got a week to live, she’s really struggling here. Welp, better go fetch the .357. No, of course not. There’s hospice. There’s a comfortable bed and gentle music, there are volunteers to sit bedside if you don’t have any family. Albeit there’s medication, which was impossible for the fox. In lieu of drugs, I stretched an old purple towel over him and dripped filtered water into his yawning mouth. I hope it brought him comfort. I stayed beside him as his snout hinged open wider and wider, struggling to take in oxygen. His throat rattled a few times, and his body stretched obtuse. Finally, he shuddered to the side as if bested by simple gravity, and that was the end of it. My girl lab stopped barking from the window, somehow acutely aware. It is a strange phenomenon to witness faint life become no life. To watch something become nothing. It’s hard to explain, but that moment was more than just blood ceasing to flow, oxygen failing to deliver. That the transformation was so startling, so abrupt, yet so drawn-out and difficult there had to be something else at
work. You can almost sense something leaving him. Whether that was his soul, I’ll likely never know. What I do know is that fox had thirteen other lawns on my cul-de-sac to die on, and he chose mine. If natural death is this difficult to achieve, how difficult should it be to produce an unnatural death? Shouldn’t it be more difficult than natural? The weapons forged through history, weapons worse than guns that do this in large numbers are a testament to how wayward we’ve gone. Over 45,000 people in Hiroshima ground zero. The natural process short-cutted for that many in a single day is almost incomprehensible now because of a poor little fox. It began to rain as I shoveled dirt around the body. A microcosm of worms, maggots, and other bottom-feeders would soon wiggle through to complete the process. Their innate sense of purpose planned so skillfully. Nothing wasted, nothing out of synch. Is this life random? Are we here because of gaseous dumb luck? An endless string of precariously stacked coincidences? Perhaps that sounds nice and intellectual in an inflated, glossy view of life—if you need things cold and calculated and geometric. But this little fox has me yearning for something more. We need to be redeemable, otherwise what’s the point? The 45,000, the 1 decaying fox. After replacing the shovel and entering to wash up, my good-girl lab was on the couch with paws under her dopey chin. Her eyes shifted to mine and mine to hers, and for a moment we could communicate beyond words, beyond simple doggie commands. She wagged her tail at me, and I spoke softly, saying, “I’m not sure I deserve your unconditional love, my old friend. But I’m glad you’re still with me.”
Remains by Kody Kohlman
Inheritance by Jason Dean Arnold “I was on my way someplace and got distracted and had to follow the traces of a ghost.” Into we don’t believe
a former lover
a redwood tree
a fugitive space charged particles, carpenters
an archived memory
we’ve never been
we’ve never been
doubles bleed me shaking again
moment of unseen
weather moves moving moved us through rooms & streets evidence of what was not
is everywhere is everywhere
endlessly revealing a symphony Seattle evening history
circles the wreck
as angel of dark & recognition
ethereal suspension reflects a doorway in Savannah
a worn terrazzo ghost haunting me before you were born
Our money bills sweat like chirps in the sun by Diego Aristizรกbal The sweatdrop stripteases, hitheringly, as the month of May boils the traffic jam that shakes her chatting fingers. It is the world where mothers have been appeased earlier in the month, and now the relatives must start shivering when thinking about the State, that landlord so stern, who is asking about its rents.
.25 Century Crisis by Greg Guerin 30
God Makes Dogs, not Man, in His Own Image By Christopher Overfelt When Jacob finds the face of God, it turns out to be the face of his dead dog. His dog is sitting up looking at him with its long tongue hanging from its mouth, only half of the dog’s skull is shattered, hanging by a loose flap of skin down its neck. Jacob stands over it, a pistol gripped tightly in his hand that shakes violently like grass in a storm. The dog’s tongue curls like meat charred in a fire as it speaks to Jacob. You have wrestled with God and with Man and you have prevailed, it says. Jacob stands still for a moment and then trains the pistol again at the dog’s head and fires. A violent explosion of meat and gore is expelled from the back of the dog’s head, but still it sits up and looks at Jacob, its hot tongue panting. You have wrestled with God and with Man, and you have prevailed, it says again. Jacob blinks a few times and then spits, rubbing his chin with the top of his hand that holds the gun. I’m done wrestling with you, he says, not to the dog but to the sky that lies overhead, faintly illuminated by a sunken sun. He imagines his mind stretched thin across the atmosphere from horizon to horizon, its ragged edges beginning to unravel. Lightly illuminated, already some of its fabric is fading into darkness. It is a sky filled with pain, punctuated with scattered clouds of staggering emotion. You never would obey me, he says, now looking back down at the dog. You won’t even die when I want you to. I won’t go until you bless me, says the dog. Jacob lets out an exasperated laugh. Ok, I bless you. My whole life? asks the dog. The beatings, the cages, the eruptive anger and snarling snips at strangers? All of it, says Jacob, waving his hand away. I bless all of it. The dog now stands on all fours and begins to dig in the soft earth with its claws, the dirt flying back from its front paws behind it. Dropping the pistol, Jacob takes up the shovel lying at his feet and begins to dig with the dog. When they finish, they both stand before a deep, wide hole, the sides of which have been shaved smooth by a shovel and through which protrude roots that have been hacked and chopped apart. This hole is too big for me, says the dog, sticking its snout down into the hole and examining their work. It’s not for you, says Jacob, dropping the shovel on the ground. The pistol shakes violently in Jacob’s hand once again as he brings it to his own head. The dog’s heavy tongue goes still as it watches Jacob. I bless you, says the dog. I bless the fire you started that burnt your sister when you were six years old. The beaten animals and women, the abandoned children, the jails and hospitals that rang with your cries of torment, the failed suicide attempts and the churches were you wept and repented again and again. I bless all of it. Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have striven with God. Israel squeezes the trigger and lets the bullet enter his head. Like a soothing rain on scorched earth, the bullet liquifies and pours through his brain, mercurial, repairing the broken synapses, the torturous thoughts and the crippling anxiety. Climbing down into the hole, Jacob lies flat on his back and he knows in this sleep there will be no nightmares or psychotic episodes, no paranoia or mania or addiction. The dog, too, climbs down into the hole and lies with Israel, its body curled in a tight spiral with its head on his chest. Their sleep is heavy and undisturbed with no twitches, spasms, or any signs of pain.
Stay Close By Lee Ginton
Lilacs By Meg Reynolds Across a twilit yard, I stepped barefoot into the neighbor’s grass to pilfer lilacs through Adelbert Twitchell’s fence without disturbing his chickens. This, the first time I stole anything besides a wedding dress from the Barbie doll that belonged to my neighbor’s son: flowers and an hour outside my mother’s eye. In wind they wavered on the boughs. I thrust both my arms into the bush, up to the shoulder, to blindly snap the blossoms down. They fell to the ground in amethyst hushes. Standing in a plastic cup at my bedside, all night their sweet, heavy musk stitched into my hair and the darkness.
From a God’s Slit Wrist by Benjah CC Joesph I am tired and old at 17. The group I run with has a “no resuscitation policy”. After you’re dead, or seem dead, after all the snore-like gurgling noises and the ashy face, someone’s gonna getcha for your shit and we gon’ bounce. Fast. I got a watch that the only moving parts are my eyes and the second hand. You got one to four minutes. New Orleans Dean and Lorrie had an apartment on the West side of the Sip where we slept some. Lorrie had changed her name to Regina and then to Laura then Jai. Not until Thibodeaux Jai was dead, no indeed, but the day she smelled burning skin from back around the apartments dumpster, she had been Jai. Frankly, it sounded better on her. The first Jai only had a partial in her mouth, so she sounded a bit like Elmer Fudd if he had been Creole, black, gay and a transvestite. The day Darla drove up in an old El Dorado with some weight to get rid of, was my birthday I thought. Dean sat with me under the awning as a hiss and thud caused us to look left. What we saw was Thibodeaux Jai lean then fall face first into the garbage fire. Dean nodded as I looked imploringly for him, for anyone to save her, to rescue her face from the fire, her eyeballs and hair… to save her. Darla just lit a cig and sat in the car. As I moved to heave myself off the railroad tie, Dean gently put his elegant and filthy hand to that area of the elbow that is reserved for cops to you or you to a girl. We gotta save her, dude. But we aint in the saving game. I grunted and watched her burn. Her hair, eyes, everything was gone, her nose had even split mocking her face with another mouth to laugh at her pitiful condition. Later that night she was drug out of the fire pit and her jean pockets turned inside out. “Crack? Melted crack? What the fuck dude!” Probably any one of us could a gotten her out of that fire but we didnt, what we did do and what we done times a plenty since was to “putter in de swamp”. The hissing crack arguing all night with the cicada’s, the rustle of the waters and the slow low moo of the buck gators. Swamp takes care a everything, even memory. Dean had grown up somewhere else. Tattoos of a type, style and placement suggested that he had determined quite young that the world’s opinion of him was not to be of any pressing concern. He sold heroin for a long time under the moniker of Dodger but as with most things down here, affects just get doped up and slurred and slung by folks who ARE doped up. I would love to tell you that the da’ga was deep and weighty, like a Marcus Aurelius of the Quarter but he wasnt. I wanna tell yall that he made it out, but I cannot. Eventually the weight of the world will do what it will, ask Atlas; but at the end of the day when I sit on my farm porch, watching the sun bow to the moon I am filled with such despondency, inestimable, that I never made it out either. Nobody made it out…not really. Before we have a choice, we are already made.
NYC Alarmed. He was always panicked when someone knocked. Usually they just walked in and then he bled. It seemed that NYC wants to kill me, he would often hum to himself. It rhymed, and it was true but if it was true because it rhymed, then, then, he thought, he’d really be onto something. Leveling the majority of spent time as protracted built-in “rawity” and manly “consumption” was a lot like power-lifting he thought. The goal is the process and revenue stream…goalmouth. He shook a bit and waddled to the door. On the “boob tube” the 5:30 news that he never missed was buzzing and clicking while he had sat astride her beds cast-off 600 threads. It occurred to him as he wheezed out his belief in the vastness of her lack of intrinsic significance, that he knew it was her; even as the slow protest of the springs cried for all involvement. Sprawling, eclectic, certainly not New Yorky but maybe somewhere else with equal value; the apartment felt with some degree of legitimacy. Lacy black ends to thick well-hung curtains, silver peeking at top. Long windows, overlooking much of the alley betwixt the skyscrapers, were always open for smoke. Loosiph had dropped by earlier, to gloat over something but never got to that, tackling instead a smattering of D J Pancake, what Blake meant by “How do you like your blue-eyed boy, Mr. Death and what Cunningham’s Law was. When Loo asked about Darla, he thought he was talking about Jai and thought about Dean. “Mainly I just eyeball her now, our lack of interest in commonalities prevents much, but like a good dog, you got to stay married.” “Dogs are not monogamous.” “Like a wood duck then…” He often wondered about the stains on the front door, she must have done it. They ran about shoulder high on him. Tripped or in a hurry or eager, or all of them. He thought possibly he was a transmuted lesser god or something akin to it. Cursed be the others out there like me he often thought, to feel the air like a “emotive barometer”, to know but with only a spiritual certainty about much. The door again, no harder. Hand outreached to clear the eyehole, the crack of the lighter, television going to special broadcast. “Hello Darla.” From Racine Parish he knew her, formed from the peat bog and liable for no damages. Old Miss Caroline’s bank money but nothing in this new land, ways off from even smell o’ Dixie. Theatre of the absurd for her to be here with not but several days between them, but then who would think. Jeans no shirt to hide the rolls and rolls, again… “Hello Darla”. “Your brother is dead.” He heard, Yobrothasdae’d. From the television, “Authorities now claim Kurt Cobain is dead of an apparent gunshot wound to the head. Kurt Cobain dead at 27.” She knew it was over because he was dead. He as well. Infinite arms arrayed against them. Some piece of her had wanted it. Some piece of him. It had been raining and they stood by the window, by the alley, in the foreign city, and knew it was all too hard. Stood they did, in love, with the wet “green” ghosts already busy carving the details of their new faces.
Ch.2 North Louisiana/New Orleans I believe that the lauded Harold Bloom once noted in “Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?” the best description of existentialism, whether in life or in an evolutionary philosophical sense, was that the war in man between the animal and the social mores and norms of our race were inherently incompatible, causing a rift in the actions, thoughts and instinct; a schism. This lines up, unfortunately, with Freud and his convoluted genius. It is impossible to leave Freud out of any academic discourse on the evolution of the science of motives, influence and bastardization but we’d all probably like to. Be it the coke head’s ideas or Marxian or whatever, something divides us fundamentally. I think about it a lot but have formulated no substantive opinion other than money being but one occlusive factor and that education is no good if there is no moral form to fill with the schooling. Education, breeding, family, skin color, intelligence. Everyone I knew, knew that these are the factors that produce an actualized life full of meaning. Yet, as fundamental as these truths were laid out to me, as I moved about learning all facets of academia under the careful eyes of many who cared deeply for me; I was ethically and morally bankrupt-set adrift, with no shore in sight. With that firm realization very young I knew I couldn’t stay around my family. I moved. New Orleans It was always a trial to not be doing something. Stillness was foreign. The good thing about dope was that you were always doing something. Boredom was the worst, at least to Dean and the entire troupe, they lived variously and haphazardly off the pier side of Elise running up and down Chartres. Bywater into the Quarter and back out. To many things that bite for me at night in the Quarter, some of the others spent time picking pockets and passing vitamins as Molly. My first trick was supposed to be a roll but before I got to The Maison, picking my way through the Woldenberg, who do I see but my high school girlfriend Laney. You know the camera trick utilized by cinematographers in the 90’s, maybe earlier but I wouldn’t know? Its referred to “dolly zoom,” a “push-pull,” a “reverse-tracking shot,” but is often referred to as “the Vertigo effect.” Well I got a case of that shit. I cannot express in clear terms the psychic blow it had on me. It was as if God was real and prosperity gospel has been Biblically explained and I was now in the middle of Jehoshaphat Phat City. Lottery fucked by the Nobel Peace Prize with Cream Cheese Icing. Now I had to get her not to want me dead and forgive me for her momma.
Untitled 3 By Timothy Gerken
Congratulations by David Lohrey People have been trained to turn in their neighbors. It’s the mood of the country. Call 911 if you hear a baby crying. No one can afford to walk away. It’s the mood of the country. The animals are skittish. No one can afford to walk away. There’s no fuck–you money. The animals are skittish. Set up a Facebook page that shows you care. There’s no fuck-you money. Get pics of you holding dying children. Set up a Facebook page that shows you care. It’s the smell of the land. Get pics of you holding dying children. Cry. It’s the smell of the land. Tell them you love naked children but only when they’re starving. Cry. Be sure it goes on the college application. Tell them you love naked children but only when they’re starving. My daughter’s writing an essay on Steven Biko. Be sure it goes on the college application. If she doesn’t get into Duke, Vanderbilt will do. My daughter’s writing an essay on Steven Biko. The water tastes funny. If she doesn’t get into Duke, Vanderbilt will do. The horses won’t stand still. The water tastes funny. She’s volunteering at the valley hospital. The horses won’t stand still. She better run for office, too, and join the chorus. She’s volunteering at the valley hospital. Have you tried the hibiscus and blackcurrant tea? She better run for office, too, and join the chorus. My wife recommends the Vegan Victoria with strawberry and rhubarb. Have you tried the hibiscus and blackcurrant tea? I prefer the rye toast with parsley puree. My wife recommends the Vegan Victoria with strawberry and rhubarb. Tell them you love naked children but only when they’re starving.