[the organ breathers] • erik fuhrer

the organ breeders took a day off to be organ breathers because there was a typo on the memo that day and they were bred to be literal so they took a deep breath and pressed their lips against the cold skin of a cirrhotic liver which miraculously sputtered and spit as they exhaled and life spilled from its ocher body 

 

triumphantly the organ breathers continued blowing their life into the liver’s puckered flesh in slow steady streams 

 

once it blushed they placed it in the body of a young mare which instantly revived and bucked its mane in joy

by erik fuhrer, from not human enough for the census

Originally published in Microfiction Monday

a while longer • janelle cordero

he wants another dog / his died over a year ago / went off by herself and never came home / one of the kids found her down by the creek and drug the body back / every time i see a dog on the television i smile he says /  doesn’t matter what kind of dog or what the dog is doing he says /  he’s close to 93 now but he’s healthy i tell him / why not get  another dog i tell him / he gets his exercise and eats right i tell him / he doesn’t drink doesn’t smoke i tell him / maybe i should start he says / i talk about something else / maybe i should start he says again mostly to himself / loneliness is the only word for it / lost his wife years ago / and now the dog he can’t bear to bond with anything or anyone else /  loneliness is all that’s left / i spot a bird’s nest by the front door when i leave and i tell him about it / his eyes light up and i know it will be enough to keep him here for a while longer / 

by janelle cordero, from woke to birds

The Reflection of Sky in Patches of Water on a Desert • Marream Krollos

It is all so obvious now
All right in front of you

Water was once together 
Then it separated
Into separate strands 
Of its separate selves

Sun is scarce here
It puts pressure on your skin
Clamps down on your skin
Cold found under your skin

As knees bend and ache 
Knees more than just bone 
Knees have brought you 

To this glacier 
This a white desert
You have come with knees 
To see desert
To see how desert 
Is beautiful still

To know some ice 
Cannot contain molten rock 
That becomes the land
A mind slowly curdling out 
Imagining it wants to be 
Trampled on 
Covered by moss

Blue sky in this clear water 
On a black desert of cooled lava
That had bubbled and raged red once
While the people stayed cold blooded
No lava under their skin
That boils with want  

This mountain of clay 
Shaped by hands
Squeezed and molded 
Glazed with green
The people speak of sulfur
The people speak of age
The earth’s crust writhes 

This mountain is silent
She stays still wondering
Why do I swelter and swell 
If I only spilled
If I only am 
Unintentionally

You try to reach like the glacier 

It too has perspired over time 
Attempting the climb
Over the mountain 
To reach its people

But the land here is skin
Like you it is skin 
It parts to be filled
Risking all dark scars
Risking its own uniqueness
Unoriginal to its people
The land is made and remade   
Only heat from under the sea
Like all land is

by Marream Krollos, from Sermons

Unprotected Lexicon, pt. 11 • Alexa Chrisbacher

She deserves this as much as the figurines on a tiered vanilla cake. 

Juice and Lex. Beads of oil in a warm bath. Do you remember dancing in late snow outside the bar? A white balloon tangles on the power line. 

 
Lex feels swollen on certain streets, in her room, walking through the market. Clumsy, or this t-shirt is too tight. Bleached teeth and mascara in a high school bedroom. Taking Juice’s pants off on a pullout couch. Catching the corner of a door frame. An indigo dress hangs in a closet for Thanksgiving with her 

grandparents.  Are you seeing anyone these days? Don’t worry, one day you’ll meet a man who will change your mind. 

 

Lex feels visible from very far away. 

 
In an empty and dry place, there is no name for what she is, queer. There’s no word on the family mantle for a love like aperture. Eyes like Arizona. 


An expansive, delicate spreading. There are plenty of words for what she's not, for poured concrete and mortar. Can you stand on both sides of a wall? Starved for language. 

 
The history of words falls short of a safe grammar, short of self. What would we be called? A Macrosoma soul, perched on a windowsill, if she were named divine—


by Alexa Chrisbacher, from Unprotected Lexicon

from Good Grief • Mikey Swanberg

*

 

 we take nothing with us 

   I know because

 

the grave is no roomier

    than a twin

 

but when my girlfriend & I split 

   there was still the matter of the mattress

 

our mattress 

   & the good beer cups

 

our good beer cups 

   & the hours

 

like cheap cookies 

   breaking to crumbs 

 

all through the apartment

    as we tried again 

 

to break apart ourselves 

    you can take anything 

 

you want if you just wipe down 

    the shelves


by Mikey Swanberg, from Good Grief

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