in spite of all wants / I am not a healer / I am not / penitent enough for the gods nor / resolute enough for the unbeliever / my childhood dog shakes, dying, while I do my best to patch his disparate / parts together: / I hold him against / my chest & cover his eyes with a blanket & hum / hoping / his deaf body feels the reverberations / but / he must still always die / & my chest, shifting / unbalanced
& altogether wrong / will remain that way / not that it matters. not / while tenderness is precise & / exacting yet never / surgical, & not while I can swallow / my gasps & breathe / through my skin. not / while poseidon, who puppets each / of my inhales crafts shallow / pools / of mucus in my lungs / & laughs at our / synchronized / anxious / wheezing / is this too much?
are my bones too hollow to be / of mammalian use? / if I remove my favorite / knuckle could you boil / a single-serving broth / drink it at midnight in your bare / numb feet / & learn the syllables trapped beneath my breasts? / would you share / that with me?
the removal of an unwanted mass is not destruction / but maintenance / & I do not need to reconcile / the part of me that begs / to heal / with the immutable / desire to terraform / the landscape of my body
[monologue regarding appalachia, recited to an empty room]
picture me: I bring the half-crushed deer skull up to eye level,
some boy-girl-other hamlet. it is late spring
and I am in love with the sound of the dead
corn stalks crunching under my boots—it is a good, ripe sound
that heralds the coming of vivid newness and when I inspect bones,
there are rules, questions to ask. first, the teeth:
are they sunk into the soft earth where the jaw lay to rest?
second, are the eye sockets gnawed by coyotes, whose
scavenging ways I respect?
third, what will you do with the life you can’t take back?
my skin breaks out in rashes whenever the weather shifts-
that’s how resistant my body is to change, how
the past looks, snow, alighting on grass too warm to hold
its shape—my face, my chest, stagnant while
the seasons snap in and out of place. picture me:
girl-prince of appalachia with a plan of action. first off, I make
ophelia my constant companion and lover
in the loving sense of the word,
second, I take her to the best view kentucky’s got. we watch the sun sink
low while we sink even lower and when the moon rises, we trade
clothes and walk to the nearby village and they call her
“sweet boy” and me “pretty girl,” and they weave dogwood in our hair
and when the clock strikes twelve I transform
back into pretty boy, her, sweet girl.
third, just before the night sky goes pale, bluegrass and daffodils
beneath our moon-shining toes, we see specters in the
snow, falling never settling soft you now
my father is not dead, only the ghost of some undefined
manliness passed on to me and my sisters to make
us dual out our shotgun revenge, but I am too transient, and they
are too sturdy, and the friction dissipates in inaction—accidental rebellion
picture me: I peer into the empty eye socket, expecting hollowness
and instead I am greeted by a wasp who has built its nest
in the half-dome, its legs tapping across the cranial suture,
looking for a fault line, something that might shift the stability
of what it has created. I don’t like wasps, but I’m trying to, so
I put the skull down and don’t pick it up again. it’s better
for me and this skull to part ways. I haven’t even prepared a soliloquy.
[I love you, good-night]
in the darkening pink-gray light,
the grazing deer is quieter than
the chickens who are quieter than
the cat, but only just. I am
anxious about a problem I cannot
recall, or perhaps it’s dysphoria, sitting
middle distance between my shoulder-
blades and sternum.
I wait for the fireflies. any minute
they will begin their gentle drifting
upwards. I used to visit my Grandpa
in Appalachia all summer when I was
small and marvel
at their bodies, this little light of mine—
must’ve presumed they were stepping heavenward.
God would’ve lost me much
sooner were it not for fireflies.
oh, here they are now-
the deer grazed on and
the chickens settled in their nesting boxes, but
the firefly searches for evangelion and never
makes it past the treetops.
I hope they’re well.
I hope you’re well.
I love you, good-night.
Wylde Parsley is a reluctant poet. Their work has appeared or is upcoming in ANMLY, Birdcoat Quarterly, Vagabond City Lit, Rio Grande Review, Every Day Fiction, and various other publications. He can be found on Twitter at @emjparsley.
Boris Kasimov CC
Don’t get drunk
when it’s a full moon.
Or do. What do I know?
It’s fair to say that I have struggled
to love my life—or even, at times,
like it—the heavy July days spent
under sweat-damp sheets,
heat lightning opening
the corners of the room.
When you know something
will pain you terribly,
but you do it anyway, is there
a word for this?
If so, it lives in my breast pocket.
When you get down-and-out sad,
you might need to print out
a Mary Oliver poem
and eat it.
Or call your mom if you don’t have a printer.
At night I pray to the patron saint
of rest stop bathrooms
and ask him to intercede for me-
for the terrible things I’ve done.
I figure he probably doesn’t get
many prayers, so maybe
he can fit me in quick.
The idea of happiness is like the knife
I use to open my medical bills.
It’s wild we get this one small life
and have to live it end to end.
Wherever that is.
Brett Elizabeth Jenkins lives and writes in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Look for her work in The Sun, Beloit Poetry Journal, Mid-American Review, and elsewhere.
Bill Tyne CC
conversation with the universe in spring
grow your hair to the moon, they say.
but start with your ass. they remind me that my body
is still a useful tool even when it feels pain,
even when it can’t move like it once could.
i tell the universe how grateful i am to still be hungry.
they say, keep eating & then, be eaten.
i reheat the macaroni, i stand under the sky, i let the fresh
heat move me around in its mouth.
do you feel that? the universe asks.
& yeah, i sure do.
Lemmy Ya'akova is an advocate for y2k low culture, a film photographer, a popcorn enthusiast and a cat parent to their overgrown son, Moose. Their work can be found in HAD (Hobart After Dark), Brave Voices Magazine, Fifth Wheel Press and more. You can keep up with their jokes on twitter @lem_jamin and read their work here: https://linktr.ee/lem_jamin.
John Brighenti CC
POEM FOR THE DECEASED AND ALSO THE LIVING FEATURING A DEAD BUCK
for my papa
Let me just say it plainly: I am the granddaughter
of a dead papa—whose spirit left like smoke-
straight up and out the window. We had years,
he was always old to me. When I was told
he had a bed at the local hospital, I was washing
dishes—oh no, I said. It’s fine,
they said. Oh no I don’t think so, I said.
I wish the narrative was more romantic.
What if I was near a mountain stream when I heard
he was dying? What if I was climbing a small
hill with white Edelweiss flowers swaying near
my feet? Please, someone tell me to stop.
There is no romance in ceasing. In the ceasing,
to absolutely cease.
He once told me about the last
buck he killed on a snowy October morning. It
wasn’t a clean shot so he tracked the beast
to exhaustion. He said: I came up to it, dying.
His eyes locked on mine—wild with panic-
there was no way to mercy without death.
And this is how it was when I laid palms to his fading
heartbeat. And this is how it was when, gaped, open,
and strained, his mouth begged for air. I say this to say,
now hear me:
I have lost solid ground-
and especially when it is quiet and bats fall
from the roof—when absolutely I am almost asleep
and the air moves in gray lines. Let me say it again:
it moves in gray lines.
Erica Anderson-Senter lives and writes in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She teaches high school English and Creative Writing. Her first full length collection, Midwestern Poet’s Incomplete Guide to Symbolism, is available through EastOver Press. Her work has also appeared in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, the once CrabFat Magazine, Midwestern Gothic, Off the Coast, and Dialogist among others. Her chapbook, seven days now, was published by The Dandelion Review. Erica hosts free literary events throughout her city to bring poetry to the public. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing through the Writing Seminars at Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont.
John Brighenti CC
And in July I am losing track of myself near a tide pool
I see your reflection in the shallow end of the tide
pool. It’s another greasy July day and I am already
sick of myself. We crouch on sun-hot rocks whose slick
surfaces our mothers have warned us from, flip-flops
in one hand, an old bucket in the other, I wait to capture
the crab. But she doesn’t want to reveal herself, and I am
distracted by iridescent mica, a stone my father used to tell
me was worthless. I remember once when I was even younger
he gave me a crate full of amethysts to keep, later swapping
with me for a fossilized fish, as if to say, if you stay right here
you too will be beautiful. But I am sliding on new hot rocks
careful not to get too close to you. We don’t love each other
anymore, but I still love you, the difference being there is no longer
a love collective, no longer an us, no more phone calls, we won’t
sing nicknames into shells, but I know I’d call the lobster Bunny
you can be Ray of Sunlight on Silt, or Mint Shells Hiding Deep
maybe The Brine and The Banana Popsicle Stick Burning a Hole
in my Pocket. I want to give the joke to you but you call me a Sagittarius
before walking into the sea. And I am still here, and anyways, what’
the point in leaving when people sometimes change, maybe you come
back and we do everything right, this time when I call you answer
I won’t admit I care too much; I’ll go to the beach by myself, wouldn’t
it be fun to love the perfect me, the me who isn’t reaching a hand down
below and grabbing, frantically, at any crab. The new me is quiet, maybe
even be asleep on this rock, hair spilling over the edge, the crustaceans
give me a trim and you’d walk over, say how you got it all wrong, you’d
be like oh, I love how casual you are with your neck on the ledge, and my heart
wouldn’t even be in my throat, my hands wouldn’t scratch at my sides
I could say, I forgot you loved bunnies, and you’d be hurt yet intrigued
that I named this crab for you, can I name other things, too?
Yes, the new me might say. She’d rise, half asleep and hungry, slide aviators
down her nose, and say, look, you see that? And we would look at the sand dunes.
That is a dove. She’d point to the ocean foam. That is a checkers game. She’d nod
at the sun. That is a clover. She’d point to her heart. And that is an empty pail.
What color? You might ask, thrilled by the lack. Hmm, she’d say, because it would
have to be the opposite of your favorite color. Green, she’d say. And we would laugh
and laugh before new fathers arrived, loving fathers, fathers who knew our middle
names and fathers who didn’t yell, a field full of fathers to take us home,
and we’d fall asleep in the back seat of a grey minivan, warm and coated in sand,
maybe we’d be holding hands, maybe we’d go back to your house, and one
hundred fathers would cook us one hundred dinners. Everyone would get our names
right. Everyone would stay, and the new me would rest easy, knowing I’d never
have to say love again and mean it. The new me out there, somewhere, even now
without scars, without grape blunt wrappers and crush letters.
I think she might be twirling a lettuce leaf around like a parasol, I think she hears
you, my darling, you are saying over and over again, and we start crying from
laughing so hard.
Windy Blue Nights
Your father’s dinner table spread includes a red candle in the center, melted just enough so it looks like a caved-in tomato, or maybe the caved-in heart of a blue whale, you don’t recognize shapes, you’re uncertain. Your stepmother cradles a puppy’s head like a baby, your sister is next to you and trying not to cry. No one speaks to you for over half an hour. The house smells of spices and red wine. Your body knows the score, knows how to make your heart into a diamond pin so as not to alert the others that you are still something to be yelled at, not someone.
And the kitchen floor is warm, there are identical sets of espresso mugs, stirring spoons, mason jars whose linings are soaked with olive oil, each stuffed with leaves from his garden, you start to wonder if the plants keep track of the yelling, do the trees remember who did the planting, because if your sister dragged dirt into the house he would have yelled at her, if he wasn’t happy with his knees he would have blamed your stepmother, but look at how green the leaves are, he says someday if you get your own yard you can grow something, too.
Correction: he says if you get your own lawn.
At night you walk around the first floor—you’re not allowed on the second—looking for something to take with you. An item to remember the house, because your father says they’ll be moving but he doesn’t know where yet, and likely won’t tell you when the time comes. They’ll disappear from your life, just like others before them, just like your other family members who never wanted anything to do with you. But you’re alone in the night, and your scars are now healed, or whatever that means because they’re not going away.
Don’t you remember deep blue nights spent sobbing on this floor? You carved a way out for yourself, so why do you still feel stuck.
It feels good to drive away.
You leave at dawn for the ocean house, house closest too salt and brine, house of a thousand burnt secrets, wrapped secrets, secrets tucked beneath leaves, twisted in branches free of berries, your ex’s cigarettes still damp in the faded sun. Ocean house has many nicknames, but you can’t talk about that right now. It’s not time, yet, to peel away the layers of hurt, to reverse the dissociation—if such a thing is even possible.
Healing is leaving, healing is never, healing is always, healing is the quiet pocket of night when, windows down, you are driving around in the New England cold, yes you are crying but you left your tools at home, you’re tossing words into woods, you’re hoping to reach someone someday, maybe in the middle of the night, maybe not, too reach each other with green hands and flowers for lungs, we’re not going to yell at each other, you can lay down your armor, but keep it within arm’s length, healing is healing is time is absurd, is tired, is late, is waiting, maybe, waiting.
Sam Moe (she/her) is a writer of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. She is pursuing a PhD in creative writing at Illinois State University. Her work has appeared in The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls, The Shore, Levatio Mag and others. She received an Author Fellowship from Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing in June, 2021.
Peter Corbett CC
“Look, horses” and the Myth of Codependency
Okay if I don’t need
I still need a friend. And a lover
and a sky so big it makes me a little sick
to think about.
I still need a reminder about my mittens
or I’ll forget my mittens and
I still need someone in the passenger seat
to say “Look, horses” when we pass horses
or I might miss them.
If I miss the horses I don't know what could happen.
When you left me, my need didn’t go with you.
Sometimes feminist discourse asks us to brag about being alone.
I would rather brag about the time I was so sad
my entire community had to take me on as a group project,
even the kids, who put my bones
back together like Legos.
When you left me, my need spread out in every direction
it bled like ink and
I let them
fold me in half, then everyone took turns saying what they saw in me.
Lilly Perry is a New York-based poet and sexual health educator. She has competed as a spoken-word performer on stages across the globe, and she is the creator of Water and Other Bodies (2019), a spoken-word album. Lilly published her first chapbook, Anti-Body: The Little Book of Longing in 2020.
Peter Corbett CC
on sword swallowing
you ask me about the red and i say it’s blood
or rust or pomegranate spit crescent moon-ed
beneath my fingernails / guts
are guts / all the same
when shredded / so watch me suck
down my claw-bits with the red
of a scream / -ed out throat /
i have always admired the blade
swallowers in the big red
tent / how they guzzled excalibur’s brethren
back into the stone / the stone being
guts / the stomachs
being scabbards / there is no fortress
quite like the windpipe / where i send
my pink-chipped brittle to be born again
as scrape / so the keratin shard may grow up
as a knife in my stomach / i used to kid-scissor
cardboard into sabers that blushed
against my brother’s cheeks / a blitzkrieg
in the living room / the rules decree
that if the television is wheezing
out war the children will be playing
soldiers / once we ran
out of rivalry we turned our daggers
inwards / kept the rapture snug
in our gullets / the rules decree
all nail-biters will grow up
to be jealous of sword
swallowers / we’ve spent
our lives eating thorns / they devour the garden
in one red gulp.
Eliza Gilbert is a freshman at Vassar College who is currently working on her BA in English.
Shawn Brownlee CC
Aubade with Limited Visibility
I wake worrying about dying, about my husband
dying: who will die first, how and when; I worry
about our only child going on without us, perhaps
alone. My husband announces there is a heavy fog.
Open the blinds, I ask, I want to see what I can’t see.
When my mother decided to die, she closed one eye.
The other remained open. The open eye revealed
nothing. At times I thought I could make out a kind
of language through the crepey lid of the closed eye,
the way the eye fluttered behind it, the way the capillaries
pulsed. Our eyes, through fog, begin to discern shapes.
A shape is a thing, darkened: car, tree, building...
Its outer edges only, which can be perceived
as something entirely different from the thing itself.
When I stroked my mother’s hair, her closed eye
moved back and forth. When I sponged her mouth
with water, she gripped the sponge in her teeth.
I understood the eye’s movement as love, or Thanks,
but what if it was Stop. What if my touch was
agonizing to her. I took her biting the sponge as thirst,
but what if it was simply reflex, nothing more.
The deodar cedar’s silhouette emerges through the haze,
the arms from the trunk thrusting out and curling up
in opposite directions. The tree is two people, back
to back. How two people move away from each other
while still touching. Then the fog clears, and it is
simply a tree. Out of the silence a car starts its engine.
The banality of this terrifies me. I don’t want anyone to die alone.
Elisabeth Adwin Edwards’s poems have appeared in The Tampa Review, Rust + Moth, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, The American Journal of Poetry, A-Minor Magazine, and elsewhere; her prose has been published in Hobart, CutBank, On The Seawall, and other journals. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and a Pushcart Prize. A native of Massachusetts, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and teen daughter in an apartment filled with books.
Peter Corbett CC
The last time I said Do you know who I am
I was so high, I really didn’t know. I asked my buddy
who slurred, You are Dicky, definitely Dicky,
he spun around, wild-eyed, said,
But I am so fucked up, man. I just don’t know.
He spilled to the ground, sat lotus posed,
cupped the word “Do” in his upturned palms.
Doooo, he crooned. Dooooo, like a mantra.
Doooo. Doooo. Such a far-out word. He exhaled hard
and “Do” puffed into dust. Next he held the word
“You” between his thumb and forefinger. “You” shone
like a blue gemstone. As he peered into it, I saw his eye,
bright as the snow moon and cried. I saw
right through that that jewel – an image,
my beautiful friend, older, his Saturn-wide smile
a vision of how he’d married Rose,
how she’d unraveled,
was an off-leash Doberman about the littlest things:
a missing snippet of paper, a harsh word from years before,
concealed behind clouds.
She’d walk off in the night, find her way
to an all night cash-and-carry. Under the buzzing blue lights
she’d sob, beseech the weary shift worker,
Do you know who I am?
My buddy looked back at me through
that same lysergic acid-etched lens, saw
a gauzy future – me living a perfect life
with a perfect wife, with our perfect kids.
So a few years later when his Rosey really did come undone,
Dwight didn’t tell me, he just fell from my life. He changed
his phone number, pulled the blinds tight.
After his kids had grown he finally called. We met for coffee.
Over the steaming mugs, he told me of the lunacy, said the crazy was half magic,
that Rose brought tea in china cups to old women living under bridges,
spoke Truth with cats and dogs.
she’d run into the woods,
her skimpy robe snagging on brambles.
be gone til morning - or the next.
their kids and hitchhike to dive bars in Indiana, sleep
on restroom floors, not call for weeks,
finally come home
and tear her hair into ragged wads and stuff it
down the drains.
He looked up from his still-full mug, his hands
cupping it as if it were still warm, said,
“Now, Dicky, you know who I am.”
Fifty years later, he is the only one
who still calls me “Dicky.”
Dick Westheimer has—with his wife and writing companion Debbie—lived on their plot of land in rural southwest Ohio for over 40 years. His most recent poems have appeared or are upcoming in Rattle, Paterson Review, Chautauqua Review, RiseUp Review, Minyan, Gyroscope Review, and Cutthroat. More can be found at dickwestheimer.com
John Brighenti CC
The one who left
How do you love the child of the one who left?
Children are a blessing, my mother says.
Should you keep a little love warm? For when you need it?
What if the child blames you for the one who left?
Or worse—blames themselves, my mother warns.
Keep love warm, she says. You’ll need it.
How do you mother when you’ve been left?
Keep the blessings warm, my mother says.
Don’t blame the one who left.
What if you still love the one who left?
Love the blessings, she says. They will keep you warm.
Don’t blame love. You’ll need it.
Shannon Phillips is a freelance copy editor whose most recent chapbook, BODY PARTS, was published by dancing girl press. She also founded and runs Picture Show Press and A Moon of One's Own.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.