Years ago I went over to my parents house and my nephew was there playing with my father. He was three years old at the time (my nephew, not my dad). My mother was in the kitchen leaning with her folded arms over the kitchen counter looking into the living room watching them and smiling. My father was tossing my nephew into the air and catching him again. When my nephew was in the air he'd laugh and squeal and then he'd land in my father's hands and he would look happily and expectantly at my dad with his fingertips in his mouth. Then he'd be airborne again and life would be hysterical once more. I watched a couple of these revolutions and then I went into the kitchen and kissed my moms cheek. I said to her about my nephew, "that's a brave little boy. Daddy's throwing him pretty high. I'm surprised he's not afraid." My mom kept leaning and watching and smiling and said, "he's not brave. He just doesn't know there's any reason to be afraid. He's never been dropped before."
I think that explanation of happiness or the lack of it explains so much in my life.
Bio: Jason Powell is a New York City Firefighter in the FDNY and an avid people watcher. He spends all of his free time and (some of his work time) writing and reading and eating chocolate covered pretzels.
Edgar Hudon CC
At my aunt’s funeral, a cousin approached me.
Said her son just started working the ambulance
as an EMT. His first suicide call was last night.
He phoned his mom at 2:AM sobbing,
describing the situation in vivid detail:
the nylon rope denting the man’s neck--
his bulging, cartoonish eyeballs
and purpled cheeks.
I told her I’ve been a paramedic for thirteen years.
Sadly, I don’t have many firsts anymore.
But that’s not true.
I recently cut down a Mexican cowboy
hanging dead on an oak tree in full serape
and sombrero. Clad like an old soldier
in full regalia as dawn flamed over hillcrest.
It was like a summer painting. Morning light,
false promise of new beginnings.
I pull compassion out like a claim
when sent to witness. Or bluntly acknowledge
how fucked up something is without letting
my heart seize in coldness. This is how it goes.
What I see on the street is not a lie.
I am here to speak
for those whose eyes have frozen.
I am a floating rib, a punctured lung. And when
blunt force trauma impinges upon a person
toeing the boundary line of death
I don’t slink or run away. I breathe for him.
I try to fix him. I know I can fix him. Why can’t I fix him?
I nudged the gun off the nightstand,
hooking a finger to move it away
from the beaten woman. It was heavy
as dark thought. She had old, yellow
crescent moon bruises under both eyes-
a black one on her cheek fresh as soot.
A shotgun sat propped in the doorframe.
The kitchen a hoarder’s nest of dirty
bowls and bullet castings. Melted aluminum
in rigid globs poured all over the countertop
from a man who made his own ammunition
and liked to punch his wife. Dispatch sent
an ambulance and a fire truck. The scene was
unsafe. We called for police. Every shadow
in the hallway was her husband emerging
armed and dangerous. We stood the woman up,
belted her on the gurney, watching every entrance
and exit. A single shot ripped out.
We ran down the driveway, yelling on our radios,
pushing the woman forward into the rig. Cops
arrived with blazing lights, encircling the trailer
as we fled across the street. The woman started
shaking her head, said he finally killed himself.
She was pretty stoic about it. Strong. Then she asked
if the ambulance ride cost anything. I have Medicaid,
she declared. I don’t really want to go to the hospital
but I guess I can’t go home neither. She sighed
then laughed. I don’t have any money, nada.
I told her not to worry about that now, let’s tend
to your injuries, get you the help you need.
She gave me a smile and a pat on the cheek.
I can’t wait to get the bill, she deadpanned.
I have insurance
but I know
in this country
your preconceptions of me.
in imaginary tameness.
I will get upgraded,
leaving my bones
in a wireless heap
as water spurts
off my firewall.
I bleed you
like a heart surgeon
the unclamped mystery
I am utter instinct-
the unfenced coyote
the leashed dog
in the weed patch.
I shed my soul,
leaving cosmic traces of it
in seashells: anaerobic
echoes of magic.
I dip into your digital ocean.
A fearless shadow,
an ominous ripple--
a dorsal spike
of species unknown.
We have separate wings
made of the same nest, flying
opposite directions around this globe
until we meet along its roundness.
You weep at the corpse leaf,
the silver water that winters
on icicle and eave, in our wind-
blown house. Searching
the smooth muscle of memory
for a pinprick of blood welling--
the first place you lost me.
I think I will change, but,
I only regenerate- you hear echoes
from impassable slopes
it’s not worth the climb.
Days elide platitudes;
mist reveals and re-veils
as dawn-iced light
dimples the soil
in its never-ending creep.
I will thaw and begin trickling
down the mountain to feed the creek
where you hunch over hardened stones
slick with what we are unable to keep.
Afraid to swim, to separate,
we anchor ourselves together
under all this crushing weight.
Bio: Joe Amaral works 48-hour shifts as a paramedic on the central coast of California. He loves spelunking outdoors, camping, traveling, and hosting foreign exchange students with his young family. Joe’s writing has appeared in awesome places like 3Elements Review, New Verse News, Panoply, Poets Reading the News, Postcard Poems and Prose, Rise Up Review and Writers of the Portuguese Diaspora. Joe won the 2014 Ingrid Reti Literary Award.
The arithmetics behind the hug
When out of numbers,
we could count the heartbeats
and the way they softly translate into hugs.
One at dawn,
cracking the shells of the day,
two more at noon,
in the steaming warmth of the senses,
half a hug,
as you command the core of the day
a couple of hug-free hours,
embedded in thought,
bearing resemblance to the tarried clouds.
As for the rest of the longing embraces,
too many to tally,
too few to save,
they shall fall silently between the starched sheets,
to shelter from all the harms of the subtraction.
Of bones, mostly.
The way they rise beneath the flesh,
like the sling of a restless bow,
yearning for the straight arrow
to deliver the palm-to-face moment
of the day.
Its fashionable tingle,
way deep, within the innocent marrow,
sweet to the tongue,
bitter to the eye.
Only in sleep is Time at ease.
Wholly in the solace of the child,
bones grow unhindered
of the coating pulp.
So you will never know
what lurks behind the blades,
when the cage is anointed with blood.
Accrual of habit
Love never changes midweek.
It takes a long weekend
to ruin the random understanding
of its death,
the agony of longing and all those
broken embraces hanging midair.
I wish I could settle on a kiss
as my first move,
but then, there are cinders
in my mouth and a great heaviness
coiling at my feet,
and the taste of burned dreams
seems honied, as well as bitter.
Still, today is a young Wednesday,
so let us agree on
a trace of gentle tenderness
and speak less through the week.
Bio: Clara Burghelea is Editor at Large of Village of Crickets and an MFA candidate at Adelphi University. Her poems and fiction have been published in Peacock Journal, Full of Crow Press, Quail Bell Magazine, Ambit Magazine, The Write Launch and elsewhere. She lives in New York.
The music is on: the start of your paradise weekend,
turned up to hurricane levels to blow through dusty minds,
cobwebs of the working week.
You believe in a heaven behind drugs, a realism
away from nine to five cubicles, with death waiting
each morning on top of steel countertops.
Reincarnation comes in pill form for the kids:
the up-tempo distraction ate like rats on placebos,
yielding to crazed coma/soma states,
scooping up the heavy beats with both hands,
laughing at those broken flies who do not know
how to turn on their wings,
sucking at hearts with spider teeth and eyes
unknotting the tangles in their kidult webs
until the speakers blow.
No one admits to being casualties of the club scene,
breaking up the dance, each disposable mind chaperoned
by what you cannot run from.
Gather those ugly druggies crucified on the dance floor
in the name of amusement. Heaven has become clouded,
weeping for all the infant fallen
so quick to mature
and yet so premature
Lost to the Night
I am Sid Vicious in the Hotel Chelsea
swimming in a drug of sweet winter;
tasting like oblivion
as I wait, lost to the night.
The night of black bra and panties
with lunar white resting on her belly,
the seas of the moon filling
with junkie blood, and stainless tears.
Her skin appears to have found peace,
while I want to spin her round my earth,
roll her love right through my sky.
The orbit is over. We die.
sing into the chaos
all the mute thoughts
of drug-riddled pimps
looking for the biggest prizes
search under the rocks of fools
drown the milk
but ignore the milk stool
while laughing at the sky
you whore yourself
only onto your own desires
masturbation is an ultimate goal
of empty self-fulfilment
rub in this achievement
align the eyebrows correctly
and stare into
your nicotine coffin
Bio: Colin Dardis is a poet, editor and arts coordinator from Northern Ireland. His work has been published widely throughout Ireland, the UK and the USA. Colin’s personal history of depression and mental illness is an ongoing influence on his work. One of Eyewear Publishing's Best New British and Irish Poets 2016, a collection with Eyewear, the x of y, is forthcoming later this year. www.colindardispoet.co.uk
Recovery Journal: Jan 7th
Now-a-days the nicotine is a bee
with wings pulled off--
but I still need the sting.
A hold-me-over cigarette
to dull the insomnia.
my god I used to sleep so well
I carry the night into first shine
I say goodmorning lover
because I am still unsure
of what to call your teeth
if I am already swallowed.
no more hard stuff
I’m off the shit now
I can make it
Bio: J.David is from Cleveland, Ohio; likes Phoebe Bridgers; and hopes to one day become lovely.
The Ministry of Loneliness
Artificial human bones are permitted on domestic
flights according to the official
memo released on Valentine’s Day and the television
is saturated with snowboarding
teenagers, the purge of high school students, primordial
tears of politicians. You tell me you
found a dead body when you were eight years old, the one
the police were looking for down
river, you thought she was a tree stump but the shredded
linen blouse required a second look,
your sister threw up the scrambled eggs and half-cooked
bacon your mother served that morning.
Your father said her eyes were gone, swallowed by radioactive
crabs and turtles who savored the juicy
flesh, she jumped, you tell me 50 years later, and you never
found out why. I want to insert an ice
pick into my frontal lobe, the sanctuary of my tear glands,
it’s no mystery to me that she wanted
buzzards on the highway’s edge, that she pushed herself through
the concrete surface of water, that she
wanted to die without stranger’s saliva or bullets on her skin.
Bio: Beth Gordon is a writer who has been landlocked in St. Louis, Missouri for 16 years but dreams of oceans, daily. Her work has recently appeared in Into the Void, Quail Bell,Calamus Journal, DecomP, Five:2:One, Barzakh, and others. She can be found on Twitter @bethgordonpoet.
If only this poem would write itself.
Proof I'm no poet – no one at your
memorial service believed I was.
Science scares me now –
how I'd vanish into my head;
it was as if ‘dead like that.’
Did that kill you, the daughter
you never saw, songs of
loss in Irish bars – tearful
generalities – your little girl
growing up on her own?
It's not so wrong to judge. Let's worry
for children, the damage they suffer:
their absolute need for parents. Your
service, the talk of fluorine chemistry,
intricate successes. And who am I
to write of failure – drifted, wasted –
angry as a wasp at a window?
Long first-term afternoons, Inorganic
lab, Oxford blue into violet. Whirring
magnetic stirrers, heart-ache colours,
transition metal ions – surely that's
magic? Somehow it’s passed me by.
Imagine a hot afternoon, somewhere
in America, sidewalks and successes,
places with tenure and funding and
citations of publications. And then,
think of a girl who wants to see her
father – when he can't ever see her.
She's not invisible, but the strongest
spectroscopy won’t bring him to light.
Well, that’s it – all in the past – who can
count the bits? These constant seconds,
views from windows, odd thoughts on
old conversations – ‘we’re the loneliest
men alive!’ you joked – the morning our
finals started. No way to say I remember.
(for Sean McGrady, 9th April 1964 – 12th August 2017)
Bio: Paul Sutton, Born in London, 1964. Five collections - most recent from UK publisher Knives, Forks and Spoons Press: "The Diversification of Dave Turnip", March 2017. "Falling Off" (KFS, January 2015) was Poetry Book Society Recommended Autumn Reading, 2015. US Collection "Brains Scream at Night" (2010) from NY publisher BlazeVox.
James says I remember this horse
I say I do too
This is the playground horse
we used to ride
when we were kids
that carried us far away
What’s it doing here
in this small strange park of dark
leaves and ghost white doors?
We’re all grown up but the horse
is exactly the same
We hold hands tightly
and look over our shoulders
It was a long time ago but
our mothers may be coming
through those old doors
looking for us
This may be their ‘bad time’
James says I’m afraid
I say I am too
The horse says I remember
BIO: Tricia Marcella Cimera is a Midwestern poet with a worldview. Her work appears in many diverse places — from the Buddhist Poetry Review to the Origami Poems Project. Her poem ‘The Stag’ won first place honors in College of DuPage’s 2017 Writers Read: Emerging Voices contest. Tricia lives with her husband and family of animals in Illinois / in a town called St. Charles / by a river named Fox / with a Poetry Box in her front yard.
You always looked politely bored,
Smiling but absent
As you pencilled life into the
Creeping vines entwining
The lines of your book.
How rude, I’d think, while sanding
The sparkle off youthful eyes.
At the end of class you would resurrect
And sit on the edge of my desk and tell
Me how your parents were
At their wits end. If only you would eat.
If only you would tell them why.
And I would nod wisely.
One day you drew a butterfly
And flew it all around
And you told me it was a thank you
For listening. The others
Don’t understand, you murmured.
I didn’t understand. I’d just learned
How to give the illusion of listening
Whilst planning a lesson.
And then a girl-shaped hole appeared
And poured black all over the day.
Your wet-eyed friend wept
And whispered you’d died.
And I laughed. Because young girls -
Especially those with frosted eye-lashes
And freckles like gold-dust -
Did not just die.
For a short time, in the staffroom,
We talked about the futility and the sadness
And the waste of young blah de blah life
Whilst doodling our own red scribbles
Over the work of girls who would soon
Disappear from our lives -
Just as you did-
Only they will leave as solid
And vital as trees
And you will merely be
Fluttering and flickering
An ever diminishing light
Until you fade away
Like a child’s breath
On a frosted pane.
The mOOn falls
And spills milk-light
Onto white flesh lying
On pillOwed slab.
And shreds intO
Skin on wrOng bones.
The mOnstrous sky
Holes my mind and
Rips out a shrill lucidity
The terrible brightness
Sears my heart and
Shrieks it into flames
And tears apart the
And sucks out her sanity
And devOurs legs and eyes and lungs.
My mOuth twists into O
CannOt scream down
The spectacular hOrror
Of nOthing - rioting through
The night and gObbling up
The last remains
BIO: Donna L Greenwood is a writer of weird stuff who lives in the north of England with her anti-social cat and slightly more sociable daughter.
Paolo Margari Candidato CC
The light was not for me
You've done as well
as the sun is
accepting; unlike me
in times of lightning
Irregular twilights, accident zones;
three dead, one wounded,
a dawn, where coyotes
Who knows why
things must rotate,
our selfish orbiting
heads, filling up more
than their circumference
Worth - our time, on Earth
nothing if not fervent; inane -
I did not do as well
as you, In following
1am is the blackest
hole, purpled suction of
The needle draw.
The water, not clear -
dawn felt nothing for me;
came not for me -
With Devil straw, inserted,
blessedly, I considered it then;
forgive me, son, for
it seemed like a friend.
I do as well as I am able, without
knowing your older face, nor
how it compares to your brother’s
I take no chance in saying sorry
knowing I was not, most things
a dad should be.
But I can sleep, perpetually in
the boy I often wronged
Has survived, dare I say,
flourished, in life; even in
white glare of daylight.
Bio: Elisabeth Horan is a poet/mother from Vermont, who enjoys working with horses and spending time with her two young sons. Her column Arsenic Hour is featured at TERSE. Journal. Her first collaborative chapbook comes to life this March at Moonchild Magazine. She teaches English at River Valley Community College. Follow her @ehoranpoet and firstname.lastname@example.org
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.