wrestling fig trees with a blackberry bramble and a gold belt • franciszka voeltz

wrist-splinted max
talks about rigging up a bike
for one-handed operation
while i slice dried figs
and corinne slices tomatoes thin
and soula tends to the frittata

_______

awake/not awake
vancouver water in my neti pot
they say that smell is the sense
most strongly linked to memory

_______

wrestling fig trees
with a blackberry bramble
and a gold belt
the three of us
plus two women from the
neighborhood
(simultaneously cheering us on
and telling us to be careful)
bring the ripe red insides
to our mouths

_______

soula leads us through the largest
community garden in canada
takes us to the quince tree
and makes us guess the fruit
which is ripe in late september
when it turns bright yellow
and loses its fuzz
_______

main and first
around the corner
from the pacific central sign
perched over the old train station
we walk over the heat
of fresh-pressed blacktop
moving faster than the backed-up traffic

_______

soula explains
that because vancouver is a port city
a lot of things get brought in
and left here
like heroin
like crack
like cocaine

_______

corinne tucking honeymoon flowers
from the mythical land
behind her ear
along the train tracks
in other worlds
these flowers are known as
pearly everlasting

_______

three mason jars of cold water
on blackpink formica table
at the foundation
where i am an overlay
of past and current selves amorous
bewitched
splintered
whole/healed

_______

rainbow aqua busses
moving slow along the water
science world to our right
the curve of metal
holding us up
eyes closed
i am not sleeping
i am filleting you

_______

two stories
from two cities
in one day
about tossing furniture
from balconies and third floors
roll top desks
and a baby grand

_______

your name
is more
than holy


-
by franciszka voeltz, from 8 August

Wilmington Hotel • Kristin Peterson

we are in no Wilmington motel

we are beneath no Wilmington motel - we are pinked in shorts

we are not breaking a sweat - our panties do not face the street

we go home and we work it all out - she stays up late on stage

and I sleep inside me - we get itch cream inside the rose garden

we wear the nights down with red velvet curtains and monstrous lounges

we thrift outside pagan pride - we scheme to gain nothing - we scheme

- for a cup - of jasmine - for a cup - of amethyst

- we are so heavy with purchased meaning

- we avoid each other's eyes inside the heavyliddedness

of an occidental rock concert - we bless each other's hearts under the soaked umbrella - under the rain - under the stares of such southern folk

the southernmost folk - we are using our caucasian tape to hold the world up

- we are shoeless under this sudden southern pour

we are shoeless - skimming stones up blacktopped hills up escape routes

we are learning what it really means to bless another's heart

we are taxied home - we are swift door shut and locked - we are talked out runnels dried under hardwood floor and sleeping bags - we are in/between

two stately buildings - like cowboys - facing East and facing West

poised to draw a biker's fleet against a biker's fleet - but the cascades

frighten every fleet away - we fotograph our knees - shelly buys our drinks

i am dripping in the misogyny of the place - the fuchsia on billiards

the waxed abdominals on plush screens - the faerie lights glyphing over

a scene: a blue-most fountain - an empty concrete dance floor - a triplet

of young lesbians chittering at the gaffs of the skirtless and sweatered stranger a triplet of young lesbians alert at the emphatic new-found woman

pleasured to be heeled - unfettered in wig purchases - unspun in identity convinced not one of us will forget her - unforgotten by rulebook - by law

and i promise – i bless this promise - that i will do it all - this forgetting business i will forget the disrespect to balance – I will dispel the swift occultation of the becoming a woman - and ask you questions and questions

that will pressure you to find the right answer - the answer where it turns out everyone waits outside

by Kristin Peterson, from somnieeee

The Ghosts We Inherit • V.C. McCabe

The invisible felt   in tick tock pocket watch time,
hand wound in memory  of more innocent years.
When the word 'family'  meant whole, meant safe—
or did it?   Nostalgia is an unreliable narrator.

Rewind the tape,  let's play it again
to see what never happened.  The lies 
we tell ourselves to sleep at night.   To look
ourselves in the mirror,  in the eyes  

betraying truth   we're so desperate to hide.
Smell once more the hearth fire smoke,   taste
the fresh baked homemade fears   made quaint.
Photos reveal reality  as we choose to portray it.

You rebel, you miscreant, how dare you   breathe
a word unapproved by committee.   The open wound,
your mouth, a bloodletting  of secrets, a sin
that heaves hell   upon your own shoulders.

Uprooting what was planted  before your birth.
Setting a wildfire back through history,   a kindling
of your family tree, branches   turned to ash
by the match you lit, gnarled roots   no one wants

to see, buried so deep  not even hell can touch,
what lies beneath will devour us.   Better to
self-inflict revelation  than perpetuate heritage. Who 
we are is what we do,not the blood in our veins.


by V.C. McCabe, from Give the Bard a Tetanus Shot

Our Skin Has So Much to Say • Wanda Deglane

you are 13 years old and made of fresh 
cotton- half of you is tied to the sky. the other
half only knows how to fall apart. your friends
are shoving push pins into their hands during
class. they come to school each day wearing more 
and more horizontal lines on their arms like
new bracelets. sometimes they start to spell
the beginnings of words. unfinished thoughts. 
misplaced mourning. you can’t stop your eyes 
from searching for scars. you’re watching warily 
each time your friends come too close to railings. 
a callous teacher tells you, don’t worry. if they jump, 
all they’ll do is break bones. 
so you take matters into 
your own hands, begging them to stop, to
apologize to their own limbs. they blink at you 
like you just don’t understand, and maybe you don’t. 
one night, you dive your fingers into a lit candle 
without thinking. you jerk away immediately, 
terrified at your own boldness. and tentatively, 
you try again, letting flame lick hungrily at your 
fingertips, then your wrists, then all the places 
grief has touched your body. as the fire slowly dies 
out, you lean back into bed, drunk on the smell of 
burning flesh and vanilla, tracing your blisters like 
new constellations in the dark. you’re whispering, 
I’m sorry. this isn’t personal

by Wanda Deglane, from Bittersweet
Originally published by Selcouth Station.

Like Acheron but Not • Chloe N. Clark

Like Acheron but Not

 

My sister told me once that she
made a river
when she was young
she told me how she dug 
her fingers through the ground
till water welled like blood
from her scalp after running the comb
in her hair too hard.

 She said the river
smelled of damp, rot, 
dust, the inside of treasure
chests in the rain-felled
house. And the river
was the color of rust water
finally run clear but she knew
that it held rust once.

She said it sounded
like bells underwater,
the kind fish might hear if they were 
called home for supper
and that it tasted of the forest 
after the burning, the pavement,
the parking lot formed.

She asked if I wondered
what the river felt like.
I wondered how
the river dreamed,
what it remembered,
who it longed for.

She asked again
but I shook my head
afraid that she
might tell me the river
just felt cold.


by Chloe N. Clark, from Your Strange Fortune
Originally published in Booth

So What • Franklin K.R. Cline

Palpable dread now all over the silvery 
slink of each day. We have been listening
exclusively to songs that feature real drums

and handclaps in order to remind ourselves
of the rhythm of humanity.
It’s not really working, so we try

sex, which doesn’t work any better but is 
more fun. I don’t know 
if I can make it past my Caspers,

but I try at least a little every day. And, you know, this tarnished 
land groans with every step anyway.
So I look up. There’s a bunch of buildings and shit in the way of the sky. 

-Franklin K.R. Cline, from So What

When You were Hitting Me • Joe Altamore

It felt very much like being pelted with a softball.
Like the one we used to throw around the yard.

Remember when I threw it too far? Over the fence.
It landed right on the neighbor's deck.

 How he was angry and wouldn't let us have it back.
So you took me to the store and bought a new one.

 "Man, fuck that guy, I don't know what his problem was.
If he doesn't like us, he can get the fuck out."

 
"Get the fuck out."

"Get the fuck out."

"Get the fuck out.


-by Joe Altamore, from Monolith of Now

Your Smile is My Valhalla • Rena Medow

Falling asleep to your voice, I sign the symbol for infinity
with my pointer finger along my hip bone.

When someone tells me they love me
I am no longer surprised. Of course

I love them back.
Love being a motionless word— a feather in a birdbath.

“I love you”
is not a debate between petals.

A bloom is no longer a legislature,
a heart no longer a gavel
but a vase.

I made mine with clay and when it came out of the kiln
it was so full I forewent flowers.

by Rena Medow, from I Have Been Packing this Suitcase All My Life, So Why is it Empty?

I Don't Shave My Pussy, a Defense • Kelsey Marie Harris

No city ordinance can citation the height of my woman weeds. My pubes are a protest of a thousand mighty women, locking arms in solidarity. You want to scale my fence. Enter unannounced. Jump around like a metal head in a mosh pit. No sir. My cervical sanctuary is no mosh pit. It is a Mexican bakery filled with sweet dulce de leche. You will not bake your bread here. You will not crack my eggs, or pour your sour man milk inside of me. My pubes are a barbed wire fence cultivated to macerate your flesh. 

-by Kelsey Marie Harris, from The Jolly Queef

The Needle • Holly Day

if you could play your fingerprints
with a phonograph needle
what do you think your song would be? is there
an SOS of pops and snaps
in the ridges of your thumbs
or is there an overture waiting to be heard
buried in the whorls of your index finger?

if you could play your skin like a slab
of mint vinyl, would your flaws resound joyous
in bagpipes and flutes, would your wrinkles sound like the ocean
would your calluses rock hard? or would it all be a mess

some unlistenable cacophony
a recording of your failures
silent angers
old age?

-by Holly Day, from In This Place, She is Her Own

Explaining Poetry to a Dead Rabbit • Sierra-Nicole Qualles

Destiny is negative
All manners of circles come pulsing
It's not noisy
But to read it backward is sacrifice
It is like forgetting how you died
how that eagle snapped your neck
and called its children up for breakfast
It is me by your side
shoe to head nudging
Saying sorry only to the blood and waking up

How tiring it is when you are your only fear
When the cost of letters 
segregates the opened mind

To see the blades of grass as you do
For you to know what it feels like to be safe

The separation of skin and bone has widened
for the words

That endless highway keeping me up
that last touch of dirt crawling in your ear
and the creek from here to sky 
motioning complete


by Sierra-Nicole Qualles, from Loose Cannon

Saudades • Jianna Jihyun Park

Hugging small legs in the tub, I used to watch
mother cup weary water and submerge her face
leaving a patch of soap on the edge of her temple
that beat softly with the ticking of a clock.

Drops slide along my arms, gathering at elbows
to drip next to my feet. Mirror ripples
permeate my soles like mercurial longing
as I lather a layer of self-assuring lies.

But when warm water erodes my face
I count, bent over a porcelain basin,
how many grams of skin I shed each night
into the drain, gray memories swiveling.

Her water shadows must be crying
My small cupped hands, drowning.

by Jianna Jihyun Park, from Contusions

The Need for Power is Crushing • Carly Inghram

The need for power is crushing

 
And all the world is my trouble. Meanwhile, the observer is becoming
good at doing its task. At the principal beach the beach is an actor, 
acting out Black ppl serving me/each other. The edges of society blur 
like the side of a window overlooking the city lights/ Black on Black crimes. 
Reality is a soft bellied woman. Tasks of a citizen include: slugging
a rope into knots and watching carefully its growth. An appeal

 
to the ground is not a dwelling place nor do I have the time.
Circle the viewfinder in all places it appears. I want for you, my lover,
to cross over that busy street, and run to me with food and no bricks
at all. Do not build me a single thing. Love is its own discipliner says a teacher. 
Gripping at a relationship, I say. The sheer panic of not being able 
to consume a rock sitting still in wet roots. 

 
Language has no mission. English acquires more 
and more knowledge. Words enter me as relationship. 
This single brown bag I carry is my life. The structure of the sea
is new again as a boy rides his bike wiping the air 
with his arms extended. The gap between his foot pressing down 
and his realization of motion is slim and potent.


-by Carly Inghram, from Sometimes the Blue Trees

Organica • Sam Pekarske

so, how stressed are plants?
stressed through stems and
stamen-somethings I can’t
conceive / pronounce, they’re

all leg, all the time / you try
to stand for that long, you’d
wither and decay, too, you’d
let leaves compost, you’d
give it all up for soil and rot.

quantify-- how much less
stressed is my soil than a
plant, how much less of an
issue are my leaves / the
false fronds of my ankles

twitching and always out
of love with the breeze, you’d
find a way to hate ferns
if I were a lot of flora, you’d

lick black and brackish paint
against my stem / leaf /
flowering parts to choke out
photosynthetic must-haves--

an uneasy death and a very
stressful exercise in decay.

-by Sam Pekarske, from Alms for the Bored

Just Now • Fritz O.K.

Just Now 

          By the window, caring for a stupid bird
 I lost it.  Found myself a sprinter 
 in a fireplace all sealed up. Cutting boxes,
 7Ws of natural light condensed to a single
 picture frame. Ugly. Not defined enough to 
 comment. Not here just now but smoking
 by the window

                         not funny but I guess that’s your opinion.

 I never really cared but looked. Could never re-
 define the need to stare at every feather
 crooked. Didn’t think enough about 
 the outcome.

   Every single bird I know  
is angry with me. Every single
window is a fucking prison.


-by
Fritz O.K. from Trash Bird

thanatotalitarian • Dylan Krieger

by show of hands, how many think freestyle breeding is still a feasible idea? how many see the throughline from dr. kevorkian to mother theresa? in the middle of the arctic sea-melt, i’m aborting scores of polar bears for jesus, but somehow to dignify my suicide with last rites is beyond reason. somehow tying my fallopian tubes into a bowline is still considered ill-advised, despite my familial predisposition to psychosis, cancer, cults, and violent crime. despite my own nightmarish memories of being kept alive. sometimes the ghosts shriek so loud i fear they’ll never quiet down, that libido’s so strong the death drive will never win out. so i redirect my sex down reckless detours of upset, fishnet my breakfast in a banana hammock leaning left, and petition the government to unite our long-silenced uterine borders under a newly issued formal order: armies of darkness, come hither. we need you now, in all your grizzly mouths and gizzards 

-by Dylan Krieger, from The Mother Wart

Overheard at a Bar Near My Home • Al Russell

"I lost fourteen teeth that day.
Gambling.
Not my teeth.
Other people's."

Notes of this man's voice
make me imagine the gnashers
he could have stolen
had he been better at craps,
musky yellow molars
mushy with bad-apple-brown spots,
incisors chipped down to
points finer than felt-tipped pens.
His opponent, original owner 
of the tokens, might could get a new set
with the money he saved
betting his teeth instead.

 "I want diamonds, Ben,
flatout diamonds!"

  . . . He'd say to the jeweler-dentist,
and happy Ben might saw
into a lump of rock and extract
canines shinier than God's teeth if he has them,
plugging the bloody sockets, dark garnets
dripping down and clotting gingival
around the new choppers.
And did our barroom narrator
get any souvenirs,
playing that poor sap
for his rotting bicuspids?

"He coulda lost the top row easy, 
but I just knocked him one good."

The storyteller spits a jagged sparkle
to the bottom of his glass.


-by Al Russell, from Children of the Anxious City


 

Why my eyes get heavier • Orooj-e-Zafar

Pain was once the taste of a headache

on the bridge of my mouth, the quiver 

of my hungry fingers, the pining

pangs and the screams of every cell

that made me.

 

But pain matured:

now it precipitates to weights

and gravity

making my every projection

a center to act on.

 

I am a host.

My ends are vulnerable,

easy to encompass,

simpler still to cut open.

 

So hear this—

 

When you ask me to walk a mile

in your shoes, know that I couldn't even stand

my own.

-by Orooj-e-Zafar, from heart the size of a loosening fist

Blah • Kelly Sexton

For the d and the b

 

When you have been off playing with death in rural America I am sedated on the couch…

Staring at dried out carnations and a life-sized yoda…

 

But sometimes you call with tales of tails and curly laughter…

And I laugh under my frown…

 

“every night I dream that I’m bald and have no teeth.  I think it’s something to do with sexual inadequacy.  My tictac dick, is that it”…

 

And, yes, that is it.

 

And in that dream I had…

Where he was trapped in his house…

Bloodied and frenzied…

He couldn’t see me…

He was years away…

States away…

But I was still outside his door

 

He had large calves…

I always thought he just bought pants that were small at the bottom…

 

You never really look at someone’s calves…or eyes…

 

And he randomly meets people of great importance at coffee houses I hate…

He claims the encounters are random, but we all know he spills his coffee on them and uses apology as a clever introduction…

 

He doesn’t like ‘dick’ or ‘fucking’ jokes…

(some things you learn the hard way…)

Or vodka…really…

But for the most part…the fucker loves everything…

Or at least likes…

I almost wonder if when he falls he thanks the ground for catching him…

Or thanks the sky for not pushing too hard…

 

I think I must have met him on a mountain…

Analyzed him over the wide terrain…

With dual-turned backs and a dharma-bummed whistle that said

‘I’m not like you’…

 

And I laughed under my frown…

 

And I never thanked you for putting your earplugs in so you wouldn’t hear me puking in the bathroom…

And for pretending to be sleeping when I walked past you to get to the porch…

Where I would puke again…

(over the railing this time…)

And frighten that family of squirrels…

 

And it makes me wonder…

 

Where o where would I be without the d and the b…

Greatest asexual threesome the world was to see…

-Kelly Sexton, from Dear Mr. Phillips, Thanks for the Brandy. i hate what i've become

Days of Robert The Food Processor • Noah Burton

Low to the ground, under the table, Robert never gets dizzy. Not plugged in. Not spinning, grinding up walnuts or blending a root.

His red round button unclicked, bladed brow arch unquivered. Then a hand grabs on to his chord, slips it into the wall socket. A timer ringing over the oven. Robert's vertigo kicking in

in the emulsification of

an olive oil based salad dressing. Nauseous. A golden sea

in his head, whirling.

-by Noah Burton, from Look Out Animal