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

Like Acheron but Not • Chloe N. Clark

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

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

Wasted • David J. Thompson

She slept on her couch, was still there

in the morning, wrapped in a blanket

and hugging her little dog.  She mumbled

something about coffee, gestured

toward the kitchen.  I was stirring

in some sugar when she turned down

the tv, and yelled out that she’d called

a limo service to take me to the airport,

they’d be here in about an hour or so,

I’d better shower and pack.  Then she turned

the tv up even louder than before.

 

The day before we’d been drinking heavy

at her brother’s birthday party, ended

up after dark real wasted out in the woods

with a bunch of people I didn’t know.

She grabbed a blanket and a bottle

of wine, took me off by the hand

behind some trees where she started

kissing me.  I wanted to kiss her back,

but I felt too drunk or something,

just laid there real still trying to hold

her tight enough to maybe stop time itself,

but it was no good.  She pulled herself on top

of me, pushed down hard on my shoulders. 

When the hell are you going to ask me to marry you?

she asked in the same voice she used with her dog

when he peed on the carpet.  Can you please

just tell me when you’re going to get around to it?

I wanted so badly to tell her, but by then she was sitting

on my chest and I could barely breathe.

-David J. Thompson, from Grace Takes Me

Amourosity II • Maura Lee Bee

He sat on the floor of the living room

eating pizza crust and dreaming 

again of the days falling slowly

behind him, dripping as sweat does

on cold Sunday mornings

 

And between his mother’s rom-coms,

and arguing with his brother over

who would get to use the tv next,

he would lay on the floor

and count the crooks in the ceiling

the way he would count stars 

 

He would tap the air, 

the outline of imaginary sparks

waiting for something,

something he could not understand

just yet.

 

He asked his brother how girls taste,

and he said it depended what lipgloss they’re wearing,

and Peter couldn’t help but wonder

for years

how he could love the flavor of someone else’s lips

if he didn’t even know how his own must taste

by Maura Lee Bee, from Peter & The Concrete Jungle

from "Bone Diary" • Isabel Sobral Campos

Bone Diary

[“Fantasy:” from Greek “a making visible”]

 

In the fractured dark

the sacrilege of

thighs          A fear of

 

my smell    The blood

flowing down

 

the groin        It touches

the left and right inner thigh

rouge on leg cheek, a paltry wound

a rub          all animals can see now

                                          me

My reliquary flows deep                        

and reeks of daubed dirt

 

“I am not my blood”

“I am not an estranged maternal gift”

 

Boyhood

all mine shaped

as rainfall inside cell:

a mute rune

 

Fed it to the pigs

and porcupines

-by Isabel Sobral Campos, from Your Person Doesn't Belong to You

Come Play with Us • Lindsey Frances Pellino

janus and his double faces:

god of portals, custodial passage—

where there is a mirror there is a ghost,

guarding, keeping, mirage

mopping up glacial drip of blood

on a cloth fiber mop.

 

janus and his double faces

was our father.

 

he poured bourbon into polished glasses.

we like to pretend our faces shone in the light

and it took the might of a hundred bricks

not to smash them on the bar and in the face and face

of our new host.

 

we watched him spiral down staircases

drag his knuckles on the carpet till they sparked

stuck his fingers in a typewriter and prayed

for it to bruise his intentions.

 

he must have been a good man,

once,

or maybe he was forever this caretaker

this boatman, this janitor.

but our mother loved something,

married someone,

doused in lace and holy sacraments,

got pregnant by some entity

and we

crawled out.

 

janus and his double faces,

no wonder there were two of us.

we would cower in the pantry

brush each other’s hair with our fingers

until we could breath again.

 

his cabin fever rose,

the ice wouldn’t melt.

we would peel back the wallpaper

and find floods of ink

listing every sin and madness

rushing from around corners

like the flooded nile.

 

and when we died,

how the blade thudded

like he swung it

through air,

slow gurgle of oxygen and

we glued to the wounds.

 

we only wanted to go home,

somewhere warm and glowing like a city,

not this labyrinth of ice.

we just wanted to play

with a little brother,

riding our bikes outside,

at dawn, no stars, just us

on pavement.

on pavement.

on pavement.

 

by Lindsey Frances Pellino, from Hysterical Sisters