Jo Guldi CC
i’m so good at problems
once on a dare,
i put my body into bridge pose
and let everyone in the room
there is a true story in my mouth
foaming up the mountain
knives in the kitchen
i give up
i hold a cup
and the faucet mouth
coughs out a river
healed with disinfectants
i increase the risk of
by doing nearly
there has to be a way
to convince you
i don’t mean any harm
even when i say
i don’t care
there is no fixing
my front tooth is chipping away
and i’m sure that means something
is wrong inside of me
were my tongue can
it takes more than guts to
ask for help in America
it takes a sense of worthwhile
that needs constant
i am laughing about
i’m sure that has come
and gone by
the whole time
when the singer asked what we thought
at age 25 i thought
my father died
it’s hard to think
i make jokes about
my body in mutiny
my mind like
i don’t want to make myself
a little button crimped
and pinned into
holding it all
together we can make a dent
in a cop car
if we stand in front of it
and brace for impact
when i am walking
i am trying
thinking hips first like
head a horse to
a watering hose
watch it lap
i am thinking
gushing crystal out
i am looking at a sun
ribboned mirror thinking
summer is the favorite
and if you succeed
to lead your hips
the men tell you your
legs deserve a mouth
with big dicks in it
trying to be sweet
spit glows and rotates
do you need a ride
do you need some help
do you got a man
do you have a means to
when i am walking
i am thinking
how to be held
against the giveaway
of frame and
what are the consequences of
i am a body for a dumpster
i am a body made of confusion
and my delusion is a glint blind
and mirrored antagonism
when i am walking
i am thinking
of the spit glowing sweetly
and me on it
for successfully leading
with my hips
and when i am sitting
i am thinking
of the hips that lead
and the split of them
gushing crystal out
i am thinking
hips first to lead a horse
so thirsty it can’t think
the grass is green
i am wondering how long
i can park a shitty camper in the alley
before the city notices
knocks on the window
tells me to leave
my little piece of canned ham
too fuzzy hot in the condo kitchen
home is no where for long
how about that dream
america, you look stupid
new manifest destinies
escape from society
little queer wonderlands
escape is not
to move your sick
into the country
and let the earth
hurt to heal you
escape is not
turn back time
and farm yourself
the big rot sucks
the life out and it
follows you like a
in the time it takes to unlearn
the landlord inside each of us has
too much invested to
i’m not here to tell you
your visions of the future
are syndicated and crass
but i would like to know
what you tell yourself
edie roberts is a gender mess blessed with excess anxiety and midwestern disposition. they currently live in Detroit, MI and dream of fully-automated leisure utopias and the end of scarcity. their books include Ain’t Life Grand (pitymilk, 2020) and Everywhere You Go (bathmatics, 2019) among others. follow along at https://edieroberts.wordpress.com/ - twitter @squabtasticcc
Bart Everson CC
When Gillian’s Here
They’re loud tonight.
These voices that clamour.
Standing by the kitchen window with the sky behind her - as sullen and moody as she is, shot through with the deepest blue of the darkest night.
She’s been standing there for a while now, and she hasn’t said a word.
She’s running the tip of a finger over a burn on the side of her hand.
Just at the base of her thumb.
She’s done it getting a cake out of the oven. A week ago.
One she’d made. Which isn’t something you’d imagine she’d do.
But she did. She does. And it tasted good, but the scars still there, and in this cold winter, in this kitchen that’s stayed dark for too long, the scar turns purple, milky, and she worries at it,
Because she doesn’t want to look up.
Raised simultaneously by David Bowie and Virginia Woolf, Natascha Graham writes fiction, non-fiction and poetry, as well as writing for stage and screen. She lives with her wife in a house full of sunshine on the east coast of England. Her play, How She Kills, was performed by The Mercury Theatre in August 2020 and broadcast on BBC radio in September. My second play, Confessions: The Hours, has been performed by Thornhill Theatre London, and both have been selected by Pinewood Studios and Lift-Off Sessions as part of their First Time Filmmakers Festival 2020. Her poetry, fiction and non-fiction essays have been previously published by Acumen, Litro, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Gay and Lesbian Review, Yahoo News and The Mighty.
Colby Stopa CC
While I Was Sleeping
I did not hear Kathryn screaming,
six doors down and cold in her flannel nightdress,
calling for help from her dewy backyard,
her silver walker shining by the watchful eye of the moon.
Long before the police came, I had already closed my windows,
checked for strangers behind my shower curtain,
retired behind the locked door of my room,
and lay there, dreaming of my own sweet comfort,
because that’s what I do while I am sleeping.
Two days later, while I napped in the afternoon heat
with Oprah on, they came again, the police
with their shiny weapons drawn against the pain
of our houses. They called for Sheila, across the street
with her beautiful, dark-stained garage door and trellis roses.
Come out, they said, don’t do it.
I woke up then and wished those police would poke
their long nightsticks into the deepest closets of all our houses,
that they would upturn beds and dusty bookcases and accuse
all the sick and crazed and suicidal among us,
cleansing our houses each by each until they found him,
in that corner house just out of sight of my own,
the man I call uncle who once molested me, my fifth grade friend,
my little cousins since then for twenty years,
while I’ve feigned safety, while I’ve feigned comfort,
while I’ve been sleeping.
Hayley Mitchell Haugen holds a Ph.D. in 20th Century American Literature from Ohio University and an MFA in poetry from the University of Washington. She is currently Professor of English at Ohio University Southern, where she teaches courses in composition, American literature, and creative writing. Her chapbook What the Grimm Girl Looks Forward To appears from Finishing Line Press (2016), and poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Rattle, Slant, Spillway, Chiron Review, Verse Virtual and many other journals. Light & Shadow, Shadow & Light from Main Street Rag Publishing Company (2018) is her first full-length collection. She edits Sheila-Na-Gig online: https://sheilanagigblog.com/ and Sheila-Na-Gig Editions.
Colby Stopa CC
After a summer of living in his car,
after the DUI, the stint in Tent City,
decades of denial, fits of angry texts,
shakes and sweats over a barbecue grill,
a broken window. After near-death drug
deals, lying passed out in a fellow junkie’s house,
his sister sobbing into her phone, me behind
a bathroom door in another state trying to calm her.
After years of 12-step meetings (mine), tying my life
to mantras like let go or be dragged, letting grief
be a marinade to soften me ala some paraphrased Rumi poem.
After praying to my dead friend Jamelle, asking her to look
for him, look after him, wherever he was. After searching
strangers’ faces for his for over a year, he resurfaces,
altered. After he found in a black sack in his dad’s garage,
the book, Message to a Troubled World, written by my great
grandmother, channeled through an Ouija board in the 1940s.
After he could quote passages from the book like scripture.
After the methadone clinic. After looking for a church.
After handing water bottles to those holding cardboard signs
at street corners. After scavenging backpacks from bulk trash,
gifting them to those he met along the canals, those who carried
their belongings in plastic bags, he now stands in a place where
he tells me he’s never been this happy, serving others, the answer,
a place where he finally feels he fits— in a room stacked with milk
crates and boxes with graphics of bananas, metal shelves piled high
with iceberg, red bell peppers, striped melons, cukes and squash,
row upon row of Kashi, Kraft mac and cheese, Campbell’s cans, jars
of Skippy and grape jam, the crew of volunteers clad in khaki pants
and Pure Heart t-shirts, their arms and legs in wheel-like motion, food to box,
box to the next arms in a line that forms outside the door. My son grinning,
his open hand sweeping the room, pointing to produce, day-old pastries, dairy,
meat, eggs in the walk-in fridge, beams of Tuesday sunlight scattering through
the glass, falling on all in the scene, his face and eyes wide, effervescent, lit.
Susan Vespoli writes from Arizona. She's had work published in spots such as Rattle, Mom Egg Review, Nailed Magazine, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse.
Jo Guldi CC
when my imaginary therapist asks me how I’m feeling
I say mostly just disappointed in baseball players who banged
on trash can lids in neighbors for using so much fertilizer in the blue-green algae
blooming in the lake in the way my body is spreading out in all directions in the way
that marriages can sometimes end not happily ever after in the way that surgeons minimize
after effects in the way doctors don’t believe women in how insurance works in the
way that multiple people keep calling my mother claiming to be her grandson in urgent need of
money in the way they wait for her to guess his name in the way that someone stole all
the mailman’s Christmas tips in how everyone bought the books but no one read them in
how all those red flags are still flying on the streets of this old town in how more than 70
million people how I need you to look me in the eye and explain it to me
The Physical Properties of Some Milk Chocolate Candies
I want to tell you something about m&ms
not just where they melt and where they don’t,
but other things like how much space they take
up on my tongue. Or how much time it takes
to finish off one family size bag
in a pandemic. Lately it seems like
so many things surrounding me are all
a scam. Insurance, passwords, teeth cleanings
at the dentist. How many times can one man
win the state of Georgia? I admit sometimes
they change their colors depending on the
season, but believe me m&ms will never
leave you empty handed. Honestly, we were
never that great to begin with.
Susan Barry-Schulz is a licensed Physical Therapist. Her poetry has appeared in The Wild Word, SWWIM, Shooter Literary Magazine, Barrelhouse online, South Florida Poetry Journal, The New Verse News, Panoply, Bending Genres and elsewhere. She grew up outside of Buffalo and now lives in a lake neighborhood in Putnam County, NY with her husband and one or more of her 3 adult children. It all depends.
Jo Guldi CC
I am the reflection of my mother in the stagnant water.
Who said I am my mother? Me. But I am not her.
I could never be her reflection:
I am the water.
I had a dream about a wedding. All that they ever
told me was that I would never go anywhere.
That I was too infatuated with gold,
that I was not good.
In my dream, I was walking down the aisle.
But the prince was absent.
Who needs a prince when a woman can rescue
herself from the wedding, eat the cake,
run off with the dowry.
There is a pain in my heart that is not the pain
in her heart. Useless to compare really,
there is her pain, and there is mine.
What is mine is not hers.
She is not even my mother.
My mother, the perfect picture of a fifties wife,
always swept something under the vacuum cleaner,
would do laundry by hand, and would not
make a fuss, she’d do it for me.
She loved me.
And I her.
When the betrayal happened, I was young.
She spun the story like Rapunzel.
I was forevermore wary
of women like her, taking shape, taking
my form in front of my eyes and convoluting it.
They’d dress me up as their favorite dummy,
and they’d exact their revenge of their very own
It wasn’t by coincidence that my mothers all look alike.
They all stare at me with that sad look
of pity. As if they knew, as if they always
knew, that I have always known
them for who they are.
For they are who they are: women
like me. We women who get caught up
in stories of each other, then prick blood
from each other’s webbed fingers in search
of the prince.
You who do not believe in stories, not even
in mine, you who would like to believe evil
is still in the grey, tell me what happened
with my guts, my blood, and my glory?
I think, you would say softly, if you were here,
it has turned into a soiled wedding dress
you don’t deserve to bear.
In the dream, the wedding dress evaporates into a million
dark mouths to kiss my everlasting dream
to be something like a mother.
Hollow and hallowed, the dream in the shape of a mother.
Forget the princely counterpart, you beg of me, the one
that was only ever sometimes mine.
It is me, in the mirror, smiling sinisterly at me. You,
there, in the mirror, tell me what I did wrong.
My mother, the first abandonment,
has shiny curls she could still twist in my back.
The loss, our loss, a displacement and a cavity.
My mother and me, in the mirror staring back
with something I am trying to unravel myself:
I was born formless but of form, my origin
is my beginning to transform, but every
cupped water is the water molding itself
to my hands. Shift the form, and I shift
the water. Shift the water, and I
We were made from the banana tree,
look at your palms, iha,
you who’ve grown in this city of eyes
like the pineapple, feel
what it feels to be alive,
peeling fruits for every ounce of juice
you have in you,
how it will never satisfy, or be satisfied,
or how a plant like you needs water only
as much as they have,
not more, not less, but an empty sky
held up by your sewing, by your tending
the garden with care,
who taught you how to dance like that,
who taught you to impress
with a tambourine, your aunt Judalyn’s
time on the stage about to be over,
and soon, you will rise
like the dough with which we make
bread that will never go stale,
have no fear, under the guidance of the Maestro,
your fate will be sealed.
Angela Gabrielle Fabunan was born in the Philippines but grew up in New York City. Her first book, The Sea That Beckoned, was published by Platypus Press in 2019, and her second book, Young Enough to Play, is forthcoming from UP Press in 2021. Her poems have been published extensively in Asia, the UK, and the US. She lives back and forth Manila, Olongapo City and New York. One day, she might settle somewhere once she ends the search for a home. Her website is agfabunan.journoportfolio.com.
Jo Guldi CC
It appeared to everyone in town
Garnet lived solely on cheap lager.
Only the few who glimpsed
inside the drafty, two-room dwelling
he kept with an ancient, toothless mother,
knew protein came from snared rabbits
transformed into soup.
In this way, country alcoholics
have it better than counterparts
forever sauced in the city--
rodents are much more desirable there,
especially if boiled
on a wood stove with carrots, celery--
a dash of salt and pepper.
Against the odds, Garnet remained
upright on two legs, and two wheels,
performed odd jobs for liquor store liquidity;
cycled converted railway beds,
chainsaw on parcel carrier
with case of Schooner in front basket.
Imagine a scarecrow
whose stuffing is removed
by fearless crows for their nest;
flannel shirt, olive drab pants hang
loose on a T frame,
one hand manages the handlebars,
one tips back refreshments.
A sweetness pervaded
Garnet’s yeasty persona.
True—others took pity,
hired the villager most famous
for his incredible capacity,
paid him to mow a lawn, or limb a tree.
Even in this febrile state,
he remained committed to an ailing mother,
elderly home-bound friends like my grandparents,
with whom he gossiped and played cribbage.
When you passed him on your bike
he always smiled in recognition,
through sawdust-sprinkled beard,
transcending his bleary-eyed appearance.
Each Halloween, Dad drove us
to a real haunted house,
revealed his costumed kids
to sunken ghouls grinning
with glistening gums by the fire.
Was this ritual to honour their past
work relationship when they carpooled,
before Garnet’s ambition to drink
outweighed desire to work?
An unspoken thank-you
for entertaining his elderly parents?
They beckoned us forward
with shaking hands, one at a time.
Stuffed pillowcases equally
with entire contents of a box
snack-size potato chips,
knowing we would be the only spooks
to dare haunt their door that night.
I wondered how two adults can live
together in such cramped confines.
Answer: Garnie spent little time there
other than to cook, pass out,
and make sure
his mother still drew breath.
Jordan Trethewey is a writer and editor living in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. He is also a husband, father (to two kids, a black cat, and a Sheltie) and beer-league softball player. Some of his poetry, fiction and non-fiction inhabits on-line publications such as Visual Verse, Fishbowl Press, Red Fez, The Blue Nib, Terror House Magazine, Califragile, Jerry Jazz Musician and Spillwords. Jordan is an editor at redfez.net, and openartsforum.com. His latest book, Spirits for Sale, is available on Amazon. His poetry has also been translated in Vietnamese and Farsi. To see more of his work go to: https://jordantretheweywriter.wordpress.com.
Douglas Arruda CC
We both hate when you have to cut my nails.
I’m trying to quit but my mouth is already sick
with the taste. I never meant for your wrists
to ache or to be the cause of your pain. Sometimes
I wish things never went my way. You wish
you can lend me your head. You don’t
understand why I’ve been trying to jump
out of your hands instead. I’m not good
when things make sense like our closeness
lying together in bed. And I know I once said
I was planning on a surrogate but when strangers
compliment our face, I forget. A river runs right
through our palms. The reader said the mouth
rests in our hearts. But you made yours so small
and I never grew any more after that. I wish
nothing was ever your fault but I don't know
how to give up. I want you to live until
the very end just like a little kid. Where
your body ends and where mine begins,
the thinnest lines wrinkle and stretch. Please
forgive me for all I did.
Alex N. is currently an undergraduate student in New York City. Their work tends to take the form of poetry, song, and/or horoscope. They can be reached through twitter or instagram, @mukbangbby.
Bart Everson CC
a truncated sestina
cleansed at last of burial ash
you return to tell of angels falling from the sky
the fire where you lost yourself as day turned to night
in brittle madness
streets brushed with unspeakable dust clouds embers
burning the city silent
how your subway car suddenly shuddered silent
the ground above heaving as towers fell to ash.
trapped below, none of you knew. only embers
of wild confusion igniting distrust. even there, with no sky
you tasted the coming madness
humanity’s dark night.
you helped a pregnant woman to the street like night
joined the tide of muffled footsteps, silent
exodus across the bridge toward what? this madness
knows no borders. eyes burning with tears and ash
you walked blind 9am daylight wiped clean from the sky
dawn of a new era hissing like embers.
back turned on a vision once sought, embers
of love swath the night
like neon in the sky
rain down in silent
questions: what was true, what was ash.
on the third anniversary of 9/11
a tart wash of sun streams through the double paned glass
summer’s inconsolable push
like a child’s desire. a pat a hush not nearly enough
to quell fear want.
empty echo early morning reverie.
‘neath a rising tide of silence scratch of pen to paper:
commiseration of ink and sweat about the cost of a single step.
these vain attempts to dress wounded hours
expose the frailty of language
while regret eats through the day like acid.
this acrid spell burden of expectation scraped raw
each bend stretch a reminder
simple poetry of sinew and tendon
lost to the confused grip of past and present
the innate way fate twists meaning.
what’s unwritten has different value lessons
embedded in cells like rings within mighty redwoods
hidden save for the cut of the logger’s saw
— but who could translate wood to paper
strength to vulnerability
it’s all a foreign language now
*body language first appeared in the 2008 Magee Park Poets Anthology, published by the Carlsbad City Library.
Originally from Southern California, Cheryl Latif emigrated to the Pacific Northwest in 2001 to live under a sky that speaks several languages. Her poetry was first published in Between Sheets, a Cal State Stanislaus literary magazine (1978). She didn’t submit again for some time. Now her work has appeared in a variety of local, regional and national publications such as New Millennium Writings, The Comstock Review, Spillway, How Luminous the Wildflowers, Magee Park Poets and more.
While in San Diego, she curated/hosted a weekly poetry series in San Diego that featured poets from across the nation and across the pond.
A copywriter by trade, she relishes fooling with words.
Kaarina Dillabough CC
HOSPITAL VISIT IN WINTER
He told me that winter
was the time of death;
that ice pierced the heart
of every living thing
and snow pulled a shroud
over the barren earth.
But looking at him
lying in the hospital bed -
arms desiccated twigs
and skin that’s bruised
with leaden skies - I tell him
it’s the time of hibernation.
That trees will be born anew
and birds will cluster on boughs
to become silhouettes of leaves.
I don’t know if he can hear me
but I swear that meltwater
starts to trickle from his eyes.
Susan Darlington’s poetry regularly explores the female experience through nature-based symbolism and stories of transformation. It has been published in Fragmented Voices, Algebra Of Owls, Dreams Walking, and New Feathers Anthology among others. Her debut collection, ‘Under The Devil’s Moon’, was published by Penniless Press Publications (2015). Follow her @S_sanDarlington
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.