A Reverie in Joyce Kilmer Forest by Madeline Waechter
The sign told me this was a virgin forest. Never touched by the saws and logging trucks. If I sob my translucent tears all alone, will anyone ever know I am depressed? My feet shuffle through detritus. A whisper of rustling leaves kisses my ears. Only I hear the crack and groan of death. 7:18 in the morning, dressed my old emerald sweater and faded blue jeans, the mourning doves and blue jays serenade me with an aubade. They sing for me, who left you in bed. For me, whose love is deciduous. I shed my feelings annually, like the crimson leaves that cascade from trees. The amethyst you put on my ring finger must be the soul of the hyacinths that line this trail. Saccharine scents floating through the zephyr of arboreal terrain. I always thought I was the leaves of the tree, and you were the steady trunk. You always knew I would disappear in the winter. The chill of December, never my burden to bear. In the sylvan woods, Spring has sprouted. My soul is reborn — and you, you are right where I left you. The sign told me this was a virgin forest. Never touched by the saws and logging trucks. Mother Nature is its only architect.
Baptism Under the Maple Tree by Madeline Waechter
Vermillion hues tornado. I let them kiss me on the descent. Alive again, I’m alive again. Under the harvest moon, absolve me of my terrors— for mother, I have sinned. Embrace me with gnarled limbs. I worship in your waters, fingers graze the pale bark of your skin, two beings never more akin. I lift my chalice to you, old friend. my baptism under the maple tree the rushing river’s end.
Emma by Riley Barnes
Oldest, truest friend Bound by blood of an unknown pedigree We share many things, past titles Like memories of when our beds laid parallel, between the same walls Now, they are separated by mountain ranges, Responsibilities and ambition Distance has made part of her a stranger-- She sings in a language I do not speak, Talks of names and lands I do not know Though, the mother-tongue has not been abandoned, Its syntax, unchanged We exchange it in low tones, only interrupted by toothbrushes and foaming spit Mom tells stories of when we were girls And when she was but a curly-headed pantomime Ruddy knees and wobbly calves, dancing the same strange dances of coming of age Now, her orbit is her own In all its glorious waxing and waning She hangs her own stars these days, with a vision I have not inherited Perhaps not even a gift of the loin, but of her own making She rearranges Orion, hums as she works Casting a once concrete form as her own When her steady chore is done, she takes a step back, Wipes her hands, Next, her brow And hurriedly moves on to Andromeda
For a Friend by Lauren Mercer Orange surroundings Awaken in your sheets, Folded in between blankets of mist fawns frolic in a meadow full of flowers you must have planted in a previous life Tracing outlines of a timepiece in the sky Moving days like flowers growing on a vine Creeping up that brown house They make their way inside to hold you close and keep you safe Hoping your life is as kind as they imagine a god to be Today is a special day Granted a lavender evening Out the window moonlight refracts off the midnight water’s surface Floating in your direction engulfing you in warmth, where a woman is pointing at you in harmony with the violet rays of light. She’s smiling because your happy And she’s there in your happiness I think of all the time I have to spend with you Rolling hills we sit atop watching evening stars And in the night the stars scatter fall upon your bed Covered in gold dust you sleep softly in pleasant dreams that could last a lifetime I hope you feel gentleness surround you And fade into a deep sleep until tomorrow
For Better or Worse, This is the Last Time We Ever Speak by SK Osborn
I am a boring person now. I stopped kissing strangers & drinking Popov. I stopped making a certain kind of mistake & filled its space with so many others. I smoke more now than I used to back then. Back when you thought I had a problem but really I was a virginal saint. Back when I thought I was unhappy in the world but it was really just the home I had tried to make for myself here. I am afraid of my father, ghosts, and a few other things. This much has remained the same. I still carry the same suitcases from my childhood home. I still carry the same shapes of my old shame. The pink box of my old baby teeth & other things I’ve outgrown— The space between your fingers. The dress that makes me beautiful. The dress that makes me sick. The wound my mother left even though she wanted to be gentle. There is forgiveness & then there is coming home & then there is me on the interstate with my sour breath & dirty nails. The split lip of my own old home is a bruise I keep pressing because I have nothing better to do with my hands. I wouldn’t come back & you wouldn’t take me. In a perfect world, the story ends here. Look at me now, if you must. Take a final, starving picture to store in your stomach like the pit of a spoiled fruit. Laugh to yourself. Snarl. Spit. Lament my morbid & thrilling undoing. Carry my ghost or bury it. I would never know the difference.
Holding Tightly Enough to Keep But Not to Break by SK Osborn
The difference is in the fingertips. It’s nothing to do with intention. The bird bones we found in the backyard— I did not mean to crush them. Gingerly, you said, & gingerly is what I meant. I could have dropped them. I was terrified of loss. Of losing. Of asphalt’s unforgiving nature. Instead, I found grief down a different road, hands clenched in safekeeping. I would not let go & then, snap! Body betrays desire. I wanted to be gentle & wasn’t. Does this make me a bad god? A good one? In any case, bone shattered in the palm of my hand. My blood blushing at the surface. The vague sense of your disappointment. Gingerly, gingerly. You split the soft earth, I lay the bones inside. God or no god, intention or no intention, the story is the same: Hands. Fervor. A grief so large we could not hold it.
I Love You… by Lilah Philips
You were the only one to touch me the way you did. The trailing of the fingers, the gentle caresses. And with every touch my blood learned how to sing your name Til the melody spilled over my lips I love you I mouthed to you in the pool I love you I whispered in our shower I love you I screamed against the hand pressed against my mouth I love you I said So softly Hoping you were asleep Hoping you were awake On that last day I didn’t tell you I loved you It wouldn’t have changed anything
Industrial Resonance by Ember Jones
I sit in the back stairwell and breathe in the little spaces between each letter. A quiet, submissive moment spent hunkered in the dim. Outside, I listen to a chorus of cicada, a familiar hum burrowed just underneath all that awkward stillness. Inside, strange yellow fluorescent lights are pulsing to mollify the rhythm of the cicada. Somewhere in the distance, an elevator beeps and whirs softly, dutifully making a slow lurching stop at each floor, grudgingly filling her belly with the knobby elbows and knees and gangly fingers of hungry dreamers and vomiting them back out again at the bottom floor. I feel her tendons aching as she rises again through the dull, hollow shaft, humming quietly to herself in the gloom to mollify the dark. Time doesn’t pass like it usually does, buried here, just underneath the strange yellow corner of the stairwell. I let myself grow a little older. I am thousands of bodies lonelier in a swarm of cicadas, each humming its own rhythm, demanding I listen. I am lurching slowly through every emotion groaning deep and low in my stomach, every little breath drawn achingly between the spaces of each tiny letter. I find myself humming to the sound of the cicadas and the elevator, careful not to draw attention to the body in the corner of the strange yellow stairwell, hunkered quietly in the dim.
June 27 by Haven Meacham
What rare hour can you spare? Only our star's dearth brings you to the garden. You seem so clear, yet I wonder under what shade you will choose to sit. Guided in an orchard of pain, you circle back to find the center. The basket laid bare, Pomona's jewelry dangles in your grasp. Warmth swells low, A fire moon in two cupped hands. I'll kneel at your alter My lust, like some third objective body, will cover you. Cinnamon and musk, I bow my head and drink. I press my offerings on you; and gentle as a wing, you push back. Spreading and blooming like some foreign vine, There are no traps here; Only me, insensate in my giving. Orange juice and nectarines, Hot baths and the sweat between my breasts. Soothing the dissatisfaction of summer, melon dew, and sugar-slick, Venus will idealize Neptune. I'll sip at the spilled wine; and take whatever I can get. Your rings round my fingers, the fruit of dreams. Love with a sacrifice of decency. There is a deep well of new prayers, but no golden dawn will crest to brush our skin
Lían by Riley Barnes
Shotgun rider— The car heavies from applauding the sunrise And stories from home She talks of perpetual eighty-degrees, her father’s boat, and the tidepool she frequents Isoprene and fog cannot dull her scent of sea breeze, Or the fruit she grows in her backyard Instead, she turns it into a different kind of blue, One that binds mountain to the sea Though the tidepool she speaks of is shallow, And its depth wavers, Her passion is waist-deep; I see it when we talk about God At the screaming infancy of morning Other times, she is silent Like praying in the passenger seat As the car’s boxy frame slides and spins and drifts across iced backroads (I am glad she was the one pleading quietly, I do not know if my heathen calls would be answered as fast) Or when she falls asleep under the weight of fractions and informative writing Just like when she was a baby, she tells me, When her mother would drive her around the island To soothe her little mind Miles and miles from tidepools, I wonder How does one manage to make a space feel so much like home, While being so far from it?
Memoria by Madison Stone
please tell me I am good gather up my soft and scattered pieces and rebuild me in your image please tell me I am easy to love please tell me I take up space like a coat rack please tell me how this house will unravel when I am gone how the floorboards will pry themselves loose and the paint will bubble and peel off in flower-petal flecks of ash the sun is down and I am here dressed in white linen and puffy sleeves, please don’t throw a sheet over my head and call me a ghost please know that I am still alive please tell me that I am still alive my body is not a temple my body is a haunted house, please haunt me, please linger in my periphery, please walk these halls of mine barefoot and bathed in moonlight, please don’t leave me vacant holding this silence in the hollow of my chest, please- please think of me when I’m not there please leave a spot for me at the breakfast table please do not consider me gone please tell me I am here again and again and again.
Moon-rhythm by Cayleigh Brown
Lust looks good on me, I think. Like the low-cut tops showing off the plenty of your teeth, calling card of want & have. The way you beam each time before you kiss me hard, moon-rhythm, I’m understanding now the draw of the garrick & stays. Own more pink these days than my closets ever expected to fit, another record, hung neatly beside the fresh-ironed feeling of us joined at the hips. It’s never been in style, this guiltlessness I find myself wandering through lately, but would you look at that, it’s in my size. Might as well smooth my hands contentedly down the fresh tectonics of my own body before we give them something to talk about: you in that button-down you know turns my head, me in a dress I've never worn & won’t for long.
Simon by Amelia Rhodes
White paint chips on the garage door, you sit right in front of it, criss cross applesauce, caramel candy in your mouth. You never match your own fantasies, your own perception of who you could be, it has a way of wearing you down. There are traces of what it means to be lovely in your stride, and each step has trouble hiding you. The air holds pieces of you in its elusive drafts, your hair, your scent, your breath. I want to leave you on our collapsing porch, with the decade-old yellow Capri Sun straws embedded in the cracks, the wasps that nest in the moldy striped umbrellas Dad bought when we moved in, March ’83. I could just drive away in the rusted Ford, leave the ancient tabby cats to starve, leave the tap water on, forget you tensing your hands on the blue chair every grandkid unwraps their birthday presents on. Remind me of why I am here again, can you? I hear the drip in the sink in your never ending mess of a kitchen, chaos. I am the only one you don’t fold at the sight of. Who hurt you?, presses into me, biting and oozing, can you not see that I too have been weeping? There are endless cleaning days, endless cycles that pull at me, tear you apart. You are the loudest silence. You are what it means to really end. There is a house down the street we pass on walks after dinner, you got your first kiss there when you were young, tell the story like no one has ever heard it, walking on air that night, you loved it. I can wrap you up in more balmy days when I was in college and you were just a kid wandering North Raleigh roads, I can leave you to your firsts, pray your lasts are not so soon. I sometimes try to sleep, you are constant and still, the blue glow of the television igniting you, you have your thumb in your mouth, like a child. We both wake up to the drip of the kitchen sink, I guess I can stay a little longer.
So Long by Kristian Brown
It’s been so long that I’ve been here. The leaves are changing again– falling and floating down into shallow moving streams and still puddles, stagnant between moss covered rocks like bits of of orange and yellow confetti or sprinkles on a birthday cake or fish food flakes that miss the mouths and sink to settle onto the bottom. It should be so beautiful– when bright falling flashes of decay slalom from treetops on a downward course through crisp mountain air. It is beautiful. I know that. It’s just been so long since I’ve seen it. Three years, now since that fall, When the light was lost in me and the whole wide world went dark. And the leaves changed and they fell as I fell, as I opened my mouth to suck in the air but swallowed the water, breathed deeply down this cold, dark mountain water, where then a single, yellow leaf bright and dying flowed in and down and settled into the stagnant, mossy nook between two rocks where my heart used to be. Since then, nothing has moved me or moved in me. It was as beautiful then as it is now, I’m sure. But still, I cannot see it.
Terminus by Madison Stone
there is nothing profound in the quiet that follows. no bird-song or ivy overtaking that shell of a city, and no foxes dozing in the rib cage of a house and when Prometheus is gone to ash in the soft and tender throat of some divine carrion leaking crimson tar on the side of the road the eagle with the bent neck will not rouse no soft rains will fall, and the soot will not descend like flecks of snow, tumbling to rest on the tip of your tongue trees will not burst from cracks in those vestigial streets like forgotten limbs, reaching towards the overpass this place is not a place of honor there is no art in this suffering
Three Versions of the Self: A Pantoum by Ember Jones
One by one, step by step. I think that you could conquer the world like this, those dark, lustrous vines crawling towards the light, though you are smaller than you will ever be. I think that you could conquer the world like this, just you and your notebook and the things you claim as your own. My dear, though you are smaller than you have ever been, you stare down the black shadow of the future, unmoving, just you and your notebook and the thoughts you claim as your own. Do you feel the weight that the world presses on you as you stare down that black, unmoving shadow? I wonder where you found that courage, little girl. You feel the weight of the world on your shoulders and still you stand. Are you yet unsteady? I wonder where you found that tenacity, little girl. I did not make it for you— so how do you still stand so unsteadily? I slept and woke, and in the morning you were changed. I know that I did not give it to you, though I wish I had, this strange new fire, burning foolishly inside your chest. I slept and woke and you were changed. My dear, I grow slowly, gradually towards the light, so unlike this strange, foolish new fire burning within you, so unlike the little girl you used to be, idle and muted. I reach for the light slowly and gradually, and you are someone I won’t be for years— so unlike who I am now, muted and idle. I want to love you. I admire how you take up space. But you are someone I won’t be for years yet, though quiet and smaller than I will ever be. I’m coming to love you, and to admire the space you will take up because I know that you could conquer the world like this, even though I am smaller than I have ever been. We’ll just take things one by one, step by step. You could conquer the world like this. Dark, lustrous vines crawling towards the light.
When I Bought My First Pair of Roller Skates by Victoria Sykes
they gripped the blood out of my feet and swung me through the dorm halls like a drunk wind. I cruised indoors illegally–taunting the restaurant workers on campus Get the hell out of here! until they kicked me out. When I brought the skates to my parents: I think I might join derby, they looked at them and me and: If this is your way of telling us you’re a lesbian, you can leave. So I left. I’ve grown fond of the taste of metallic bloody salt in my mouth, purple knees inked arms and lesbians.
Amelia Rhodes (Associate Editor)