Neckerchief by Trace McGee
The boy was a rube,
pure Alabama springtime.
The canter of accents served
to distract from packing sounds.
His frail bones on lean chests.
Grip the frail tree
like natives of old Cherokee.
We washed in the green water
covering our shame.
Torrential downpour of
Straight Old Testament, I’m tellin’ you.
Tee pees drowned
in trench-foot funk.
Plant your toes in the mud
and clutch the clay hard.
Weak lats and hamstrings strained
over the slimy floor.
Opaque muck coats the alveoli.
Learn the “J-stroke”, it can save your life.
Don’t “J” your way too far to the tree.
Spider and leech rain
can fill even the best aluminum vessel.
Black boils pinned to toe knuckles.
Lilacs by Mark S. Kenna
not just the lilacs are like that;
not like her, she, she is like the lilacs,
the small flowers overflowing from a vase
like bath tub suds,
not just the port, the patch of amber skin, like iodine,
not just the needle and tubes, the phloem and xylem,
not just the small green light, flashing to acknowledge nourishment,
not just the photosynthesis declining,
or the Krebs’s Cycle, diminishing
not just the smooth pale crown, put under a pedestal of pillows,
or the sunken glass marble eyes,
or the stale marrow in the bones,
not just the blood that washes life over the body,
like a well-timed baptismal, still leaving her to shiver
not just the vibrant red liquid, dripping like Chinese water torture,
or the vapid stare,
not just the syncopated beeping from the white life box,
not just the clip on the tip of her index finger—to tell the doctors she is still alive
not just the starched lime-colored sheets, the polished stainless steel frame of the bed,
or the black rubber wheels,
or the clicking of nurses heels.
not just the doctors clip board, filled with observations, notations,
and hieroglyphic remedies,
not just the inevitable,
but also the lilacs in the vase, wilting
Marshmallows by E. Gray
Snow dipped the pond
to the soft banks
and covered her face.
the fire flowed.
a pale heart
burnt by sun
I tossed myself in the pile of snow
outside my window and got
in the soul of others.
Seattle, WA by E. Gray
And feel it.
wash over you.
prayer makes you clean
rain on the sidewalk yesterday.
Inside your bones.
Black Friday Night by Robert Layman
It’s a beige living room cigarette sauna –
cause dad don’t smoke with the
windows open. The dog hates it
when he smokes, and bit off half
his own ass to protest the oncoming cancer,
gnawing away at holy skin hot spots –
“They told me if I mix Listerine
and baby oil, then rub it over his fur,
then Nuton would stop eating himself.”
but we’re still running out of things to
throw at him so I waved him over and let him sit
next to me on the couch.
We watched Dazed and Confused .
Both of us still know how to laugh at
Ben Affleck, and we’re
kinda hung over while we do it. He won’t
admit his condition, but three empty twelve packs
of Milwaukee’s Best icebergs over the trashcan.
We’re bonded in the living room over the chocolate
suede furniture. And I sit carefully on the cushions,
making sure not to touch the armrests.
I’ve sat here for,
seven long hours, and smoked thirteen cigarettes
without even touching one to my lips.
Tobacco spirits settle between us and the television
like a late night fog at the bottom of a valley,
and my dad asks why my shirt’s over my nose.
We listen to the fluctuating commercials whose
volume shoot at me like terrorism threats.
Tonight I’ll call the girl on the television
so we can have sex with Trojan condoms on,
give her Vagasil because we fucked too hard,
buy a Chevrolet so we can drive off a cliff together,
all with record low APR financing,
and a Traveler’s Rest life insurance so
the child we adopted from Sudan can inherit it.
95.7 FM The Riiiiiiiiide is playing Here My
Train Comin’ in the other room. It tempts me,
as it cuts solos over the fireplace.
I’m gonna live on a whim tonight and
invade the Queen City – ‘cause it’s only a few DUI’s
away from freedom. I look over at my dad
I can’t tell if he’s sleeping,
but I speak to him anyways,
“I’m going downtown to grab a few.”
His eyes don’t open,
but he answers anyways, and
tells me to have a good time.
Rotations by Sam Lineberger
The day unwinds slowly, though
one still can feel the sky,
scarred with clouds,
swelling out just beyond the horizon,
never again to occur the same.
A man and a woman, shabbily dressed
walk on the side of the street
with no sidewalk-
they are defying the terms.
The air clings to them
as I pass in my car;
I will never see them again.
People can rotate, as well.
We move in great circles-
only a diameter’s length
away from recognition.
The poetic forces persist-
the wind whips loose bits
of tall plants and their arms flail;
waves only last a moment each,
yet their saltiness is as
the saltiness of blood,
coming for another turn
round the atrium.
Tomorrow the sky will hold, as usual,
the walkers will oblige their habits;
literature will survive another day.
We are electricity in a copper loop.
Nearly Forgotten Memory by Sam Lineberger
Barnacled joints; a creaky old man with
boots malleable as cardboard
laced up at seven each morning.
Instant coffee hisses; a domesticated
reaction. His eye twitches in its yellow
socket. The hand quivers.
In the same moment,
loose sugar crystals scatter on the
counter and the bride’s veil tears
on a door-hinge. Her tears
were so sweet then.
His lips purse, even now.
Another Orchestra by Colin Moore
There’s an owl that lives
some ways down the trail.
She swallows mice
and sings vowels to the night.
Her voice floats past the loners
blaring low fidelity banjo anthems
into their craniums,
all scrappy rustic structures
of small-town disillusionment,
melismas of major-seventh angst
and non-sequitur profundity.
They hide glass pipes in their hooded jackets
and build walls of sound
to keep the toxins out.
The winged woman of the woods
sends softly pulsing sonar
which curiously bounces off these dreamers
She hears no return cry,
only writhing rodents
slinking through the leaves.
I wish for cochlear implants
so I can hear another orchestra
of the mother
and her hollow trees.
A Writer Without Substance by Casey Suglia
He is a soul,
lost and doesn’t want to be found,
labeling himself with any word he finds suitable,
because he no longer feels any
He is confused,
because he couldn’t say “I love you”
back to his
11th grade girlfriend who he
lost his virginity to
or force those words out
to a girl when he was 19
who said them first,
and showed him new music albums
and held him when he cried.
“Sociopath” he labels,
and stamps it on his forehead to warn
He is oblivious
because of this self-proclamation he
willingly takes on these labels
just to be identified
because his record collection and novel ideas in journals just
He is pretentious,
the only kind of label giving him any sort of identity
is now the profession of everyone
and their uncle in this town.
Because he believes his knowledge of books,
and music, and the year that Kerouac was On the Road
will help him.
“Depressed” he writes in his journal,
and tucks it away in his back pocket,
where he keeps his pack of cigarettes and
a picture of his mom.
He is ignorant
blissfully to the adoring eyes of the girls who
take the effort to get to
He asks them questions from behind the coffee cup,
gets more personal with each sip of
“Sociopath” he tells them,
gauging their reaction on their face
although he can’t read human emotion,
and demands a hug.
She is used,
lost and needs to be found,
not giving up on
she thought she felt between the two.
“Stop fucking English majors” her mom tells her,
and she takes advice;
etching the words in her mind,
soon to be forgotten.
Homecoming by Jason McLaughlin
There was a spot
out on the deck
where she would lie.
For almost twelve years
she’d picked that corner
and always returned.
It was a staple of the house
to see the penny-colored
dog sleeping against the door.
Even without a bed,
she would choose her place,
scraping her elbows in defiance.
I watched the veterinarians
struggle to find a vein
in her withered old arm.
It took nearly seven
attempts to successfully
inject her with the serum.
Her eyes closed
before the thumb
guided the plunger down.
Seeing the empty spot
on the deck the first time
I visited home was worse.
Driving Lesson by Jason McLaughlin
He must be in a good mood
because the route he chose
for me to drive takes us
to the Lake Worth pier.
As I drive up the hill,
the old instructor permits
me to stop at the summit
of the sand dunes.
He rolls down the window
and hooks an elbow out,
resting it on the hot ledge
of the charcoal grey Taurus.
The wind carries the smell
of the beach: salt, sand,
and sawgrass scent replace
old leather and fresh smoke.
The teal Atlantic laps softly
at the shoreline, rearranging
seaweed and mackerel carcasses,
Coors cans and hollow condoms.
I stall the lesson a little longer,
casting my eyes over the ocean
at the deep blue soft curve
of the hazy horizon.
The islands are out there,
just over the swell of the atlas:
the tongue of the ocean
where we pulled out the tuna
and Dad took a nap
while I listened to the engines
synchronize and the boat
planed up for the first time
under my hands as I slowly
weaved between Cays and coral.
The car window rolls up,
hissing a command to drive
west, back to the school
before the storm starts.
He begins another cigarette,
sliding the window an inch down,
the dark wall of rain ahead
sneaking into the car, replacing the sea.
Burn by Jennifer Deane
my bulimic ex-boyfriend taught me how to purge.
body hanging limp and willing over the balcony rail,
I wondered if you’d be disappointed or proud.
with two fingers
I stoked my uvula.
paused for: my stomach to catch up,
to trail the idea long enough to want it lurched out.
my feet were above the sky as I clung to my concrete ceiling.
two burst blood vessels gave me blackened eyes, red cheeks and clean spit
which fell insignificantly to discarded bottle caps
and spliff butts.
it was 2:33 in the morning.
I ambled back to a girl’s room
two bodies raging, everywhere and nowhere.
fucking each other.
maneuvered through clusters of limbs
with cups and lighters.
I took my shirt off.
relieved a bed of its stiff condition.
let it sigh around me.
relished in my nakedness.
three voicemails, all from you.
my body was soft and smelled like an alley way.
insides, all in knots. turbulent like untamed sea.
I dropped my phone in an ash-tray.
I slept. and didn’t.
ignored a flashing screen,
four voicemails, all from you,
didn’t dare to dream.
Hibakusha (“explosion affected people”) by Jennifer Deane
Hiroshima: August 6th, 1945
among atomic shadows
knowing that they will not last as long
as their mysterious, unsettling company, those
as if immaculately grown out of the ground,
they scatter the city like mushroom clouds:
a mother and her child,
a priest outside his church,
businessmen and briefcases,
all preserved from that great force.
in their rigidness, their permanence,
no pulses, the bodiless shadows,
equally lifeless, the humanoid shells,
disfigured and aimlessly ambulating
from hardly permitted heart beats and pulsations,
skin slipping off in gloves from the effort of grasping a lifeline,
or in sheets from tossing in sleep,
wondering if they’re awake,
this is a silhouette of life,
these are frameworks of what once was,
After the Reception by Jarre Hamilton
Sea of yellow
Parade of black
A suitcase waited for its owner;
The driver waited for his payment and then
The monster waited for its next victim
So I repeat this lullaby for you;
In hopes it will be cradled by the gales
And the stars will shoot it far across the velvet depth—
Across this celestial plane, diving into your world.
Because I’ve been leaping through worm holes
Trying to release you from the city’s infectious grip.
For while I sit next to Ursa Major and Minor with
The gift of the moon as my pillow and the meteors, my show;
I see you down below, brittle bones and on your own.
I wish my body—
Six feet under and
Six months dead,
Proved not so useless to my own flesh and blood.
So please dearest sister—
Leave the city of metal and lights,
Of grime and greed.
For I am not in heaven nor hell but
The world here is so…but nothing’s real
And down below is so…but everything’s possible
Midnight Planting by Miranda Mash
We dance upon our mother’s skin,
our bare feet clicking
a spell of fertility.
Tonight, we are alive.
Our bare feet clicking
in our mother’s hair
tonight. We are alive.
We rearrange the rocks
in our mother’s hair.
Turning, one by one
we rearrange. The rocks
shift beneath our heels,
turning. One by one,
we drop the seeds, a silent
shift beneath our heels.
Under the moon’s eye,
we drop the seeds in silence
as mother’s breath stirs
under. The moon’s eye:
open and wide, blue
as mother’s breath, stirs
a spell of fertility.
Open, wide, and blue,
we dance upon our mother’s skin.
Mother, You’ve Erupted by Miranda Mash
Our house is engulfed in flames,
yet I feel as though we’re drowning.
I would swim, but mother today
you are a mechanical ocean.
The wild turbulence of your waves
cannot overtake the point of combustion.
So men in suits come with their ladders;
with hoses cocked, they begin their emission.
Smoke rises thick, filling the sky with
the black pollution of my childhood.
Mother, is there any sight as lovely
as watching history burn?
I wonder if we will reinvent the past
amidst the delicateness of ash showers.
The ash that lingers in the air like half-made snow,
we realize, is nothing more than couch confetti.
Men no longer in yellow leave
us to dig in our soggy treasures.
Covered in wet soot we emerge from the charred
skeleton of our home like coal miners.
Our possessions look less important smeared into
our skin, but mother the pictures are only singed.
I realize these pictures are only burning outlines
of what a family used to be, not what it is today.
Abandoned Places by Miranda Mash
I’m a shadow passing through
empty screams of existence
where flowers once grew.
The walls have lost their hue
in the rain’s heavy insistence.
I’m a shadow passing through.
Forgotten faces whisper adieu.
Pieces of life lost in the distance
where flowers once grew.
Shattered glass and tattered shoes,
the true masters of subsistence.
I’m a shadow passing through.
Floating memories stain the view
singing gray songs of resistance
where flowers once grew.
Dead laughter, the wind’s déjà vu
fuels nature’s consuming persistence.
I’m a shadow passing through
where flowers once grew.
Poor Richard’s Almanack by Marie Claire Bryant
this country drove me a little wild
they tease me about why I came here
rain snow and galoshes run in the streets
I sat on the wet sidewalk with Poor Richard’s Almanack
you with your shovel
reading aphorisms and song lyrics on your phone
the sleeping fox catches no poultry
silver leaves the sky
in whatever shape seems right
on that day
on that day
another time, months later
I shrugged and leaned back on the wooden bench
I don’t pretend my gutters are overflowing with intentionality
I have the credo of a girl who sallies forth into a hailstorm
pushing an empty wheelbarrow, collecting frozen fists of water
as they collapse out of blue science
Ben Franklin wheeled thirteen virtues, but never a holy book
my dad climbs up into the February morning
murmuring indebtedness to his god
myself, nobody knows
myself, give me something for to bow down
alongside plates of sweet wine
the magnificent burgundy crucifixes cheaply made in Española
suddenly swinging from my stomach
have you mistaken three times today
just doing things
because they felt right?
I try to eat something green with the fortune cookie
I try to stay on topic
my hand breaks under an omen of ice
and I fall asleep as the pain splices north south east west
each morning when you open your eyes
survey the groundcover for ciphers:
a pink tulip cup, a warm pool of baptismal water
my dreams are dead, so I hear music differently
my dreams are a handful of raisins, now I can eat time and space
the world is splintering
into a million gold pieces for the taking
& you have to go to sunny California to get one
Horizontal by Katelyn Sabet
The quiet was not pregnant; it was barren as a man.
But it twisted like a woman round the wrist of your left hand,
And it dragged a solemn sigh and cough from those who watched below,
And it sucked and tucked itself inside the one you had in tow.
The air was not so heavy; it was easy as a breath.
But it settled on the head of you as sure and clean as death,
And it danced and tugged the hair-tips twirling upward, slim balloons,
And it quietly and finitely alluded further dooms.
The wedding was no grander than the funeral would be.
They found a frugal pleasure in the same embroidery.
The same loved ones attended, and the same churchman presided.
The elderly were overheated; the children were excited.
You were lovely, he was solemn, there was many-a loving fondle.
You were celebrated samely, only slightly horizontal.
Feather Earrings by Maggie Apple
with the feathers
are still in my room.
It’s been a very long time.
What I like about you is
when met with my
The oranges you eat:
Peeling them as
You talk about science
And lost things—
“The Science of Lost Things”
You bit your lip
As you wrote it down
On a scrap
I still have here,
your feather earrings.