- Sloth — Kimberly Sewell
- my dad says i have an infinite ability to forgive & yet — Leela Raj-Sankar
- Requiem for the Envious (Whatsoever We Lack in This Life May We Find Bestowed Upon Us in the Next) — Elizabeth Walztoni
- I Looked Up To God — Emma McCoy
- Dopamine — Louise Machen
- if you’d like, this ghazal can be about god — Avery Yoder-Wells
- Glory — Santucci
- Inheritance — Angel Rosen
- Jim Carroll — John Compton
- Nature, discriminative, is bitter toward all things aberrant, still the aberrant exist, persisting — Shine Ballard
- Don’t Tell Me You Don’t Dream — Kevin A. Risner
- Lunatic Arpeggio — Ray Sharp
- Importance of Time Keeping — Seluna Drake
- Python — Kelsey Fuson
- Visions in the Valley — Enna Horn
Kimberly Sewell is a creator from Pueblo, Colorado. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing from Regis University. Kimberly lives with her husband and their seven rescue cats.
my dad says i have an infinite capacity to forgive & yet
i carry only anger in my perpetually clenched fists in the line of my jaw in the curve of my spine; my dad says i have an infinite capacity to forgive & yet i can hold a grudge like a promise. anything can be a weapon if you’re willing to bear the cost. & by that i mean i’ve spent the last four years taming my fury until i could hammer it into a polished sheet of silver, sharp as a new blade cleaving through butter. & by that i mean i’ve spent the last four years trying to tame my heart, too, but it’s no use— i still wake from dreams of running my fingers over a perfect ring of teeth marks in your left shoulder with my pulse beating wildly out of my throat, mouth filled with saliva & tasting of copper. my dad says i have an infinite capacity to forgive & maybe he was right once but i’m my mother’s sweet daughter who soon turned bitter & more than anything, i want a better end to this story. who wouldn’t? even you want to feel like you didn’t suffer for nothing, but i guess karma comes for us all & now neither of us has anything to show for our misery except the sticky note you left on my mirror apologizing for something you hadn’t done yet. you spent hours dry-heaving over the sink, consumed by guilt that was all you had to offer me, like my answering machine was your confessional, like you thought i wanted to sit in my half-dark kitchen & open & close my hands around the air silently while you blathered on & on i’m sorry i’m sorry i’m sorry three months too late in that peculiar robotic tone that always meant you wanted me to fight with you. & of course, what you really want (even now) is me back in your pocket, your superheated breath on my neck, for me to forgive you, to keep giving in, your way or the highway, to let you keep pulling & pulling until the thread finally breaks. my dad says i have an infinite capacity to forgive & yet all that’s left in me is this desire for vindication, serene as a tidal wave. you want a better resolution. who wouldn’t? stalemates aren’t satisfying to anyone. i thought stagnation was my fate but today i woke up with steady hands, despite the blood under my nails. who knows? maybe it’s yours.
Leela Raj-Sankar is an Indian-American teenager from Arizona. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in Yuzu Press, Brave Voices Magazine, and CLOVES Literary, among others. In his spare time, he can usually be found watching bad television or taking long naps. Say hi to her on Twitter @sickgirlisms.
Requiem for the Envious (Whatsoever We Lack in This Life May We Find Bestowed Upon Us in the Next)
I can't see things as they are; I was born with an eye condition that originates in my brain. The world flickers away from me. When I was a child I cried for what everyone else had, an empty field of vision. I can’t sleep well; nothing is easy for me. All my nightmares are about being stuck somewhere that makes me late to work. I would like to live a more worthwhile life in dreams, I would like to be better than this. I can’t stand up quickly; I feel like falling over. Sometimes I feel the world turning through my forehead. I was told once that this feeling, if occurring clockwise, indicates a soul released to heaven. I can’t carry much weight; I have developed nerve damage in my wrists. Light comes in my window to lie on the carpet. I think it holds something. I think I can't have it, grasping at whatever portion of the world I pass through until my hands won’t close. I can't sit still; I can't feel the same thing twice, I can't keep the same face in my mind. If I look away I will never look back again. Let me go home and by that I mean let me see what comes next.
Elizabeth Walztoni’s writing appears or is forthcoming in Schuylkill Valley Journal Dispatches, scissors & spackle, New Note Poetry, and elsewhere. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. She is a fiction reader for Sepia Quarterly.
I Looked Up to God
(After Katie Manning)
as I was climbing Babbel / that ruined tower / more rubble than pride / the tour guide told me / “off limits” / in a language I barely understood / I started climbing anyway / because I knew I could / persisted / on the very highest point / the stone where God broke all words / into a kaleidoscope / Why I choke / on the five love languages / I spoke something more ancient / more shattered / more pride than rubble / when I asked God / if will I always love this person / she paused / caressed my face / there will always be someone / to love beyond reason / I wonder if this is what / the light bringer felt / right before he was cast from Heaven
Emma McCoy is a poet and writer trying her very best. She is a peer reviewer for The Whale Road Review and a nominee for the AWP Intro to Journals project. Her work can be found in place like The Jupiter Review, Catfish Creek, Paddler Press, and others. Catch her on Twitter: @poetrybyemma
Your eyes fix on mine with a changing sobriety unsmiling and deep – mahogany pools of deliberateness governing the tone of this interchange. There’s a power in your quietness I ache to experience. The power in your quietness is an experience. Spoil me. Your hand gently takes the length of my hair around your painted fist until the softest pull exposes my weakness. What is there to resist? I close my eyes and retreat into you under your reign feeling your fingers work their way around my neck and I exhale for a moment, I’m not there at all. Sometimes, words end in me and are slow.
Louise Machen is a Mancunian poet and a graduate of The Centre for New Writing at The University of Manchester. Her poetry likes to explore relationships through the use of narrative and visual detail and has most recently appeared in Grand Little Things and The Olney Magazine.
if you’d like, this ghazal can be about god
do not wonder if i dream in color/for i love volcanoes/ash-gutted pipes and nightmarish red rage. if recurring allows for revision/by now, secret passages must smelt me/to novel-read rage. behind stamp squares are sugarbox boilers/walls smell uncertain/i crawl under carapaces. this house lists pacific/dreams plummet the parapets/lousy for rats, tying tales with thread rage. and you must be king/yes, if i am the sponge/of sanctified mazes/you, headed minotaur, drink. he is the rattle and taste of oranges/from basement dispensers/wrath-watered, bread rage. our kitchen lights burn/toast pops into carpet/this plastic-plate cleansing forks of my wrongs. stick-stained with snaps/his voice holds forgiveness/i bite under anger, shamefully dread rage. when he thatches our hands/like taffeta kindness/i must admit, i always woke before confirming his sprawl in my sepulcher basement/protection/seaming floorboards and praying to shred rage. he talks to myself/“you’re too uptight, avy”/but how can i not loathe this lean-to of bodies? how can i drink love in old orange juice cups/they taste more of apples/volcanic/dear red rage.
Avery Yoder-Wells (they/them) is a queer poet studying creative writing. They sing in a treble choir and enjoy collecting small facts to inflict on others. On weekends, they can be found with their two cats.
Santucci is an artist and writer from the Cleveland, Ohio area. His work can be seen in Barzakh Magazine, Variety Pack, Star82 Review, Ponder Review, Break Water Review, and others.
I gave the doctors my xeroxed anatomy, my photocopy bones. Then I went on a date with Bottles Capone, anything to upset my father. I am tired of misogyny but it is on every alcoholic’s breath and God loves alcoholics, his favorite children keep their throats coated with gin. Every bastard father smells like this sin, does he not? They all wear the same white t-shirts, not a single one unstained. Their shaky grasp holds two things: the neck of the bottle, the neck of the daughter.
Angel is a chronic tweeter, TV-watcher and list maker. Her recent publications can be found at angelrosen.com/publications. Her second book, Blake, is expected to be released this spring.
heroin & heroin for 20 bucks & heroin in the bathroom stall while your dick gets sucked by an old fag & heroin on the basketball court & heroin at your mom's house & heroin on the rooftop while a man falls to his death & heroin as your friend's go to jail & heroin with a needle you find on a stranger's table & heroin at 3 a.m. to comfort withdraws & heroin arms & heroin eyes & heroin mouth & heroin heroin heroin sung like a ballad
john compton (b. 1987) is gay poet who lives in kentucky. he has published 2 books and 5 chapbooks published and forthcoming: [books]: trainride elsewhere (august 2016) from Pressed Wafer; stranger in the attic of clouds (december 2021) from dead man’s press inc; [chapbooks]: that moan like a saxophone (december 2016) from kindle; ampersand (march 2018) from Plan B Press; a child growing wild inside the mothering womb (june 2020) from ghost city press; i saw god cooking children / paint their bones (oct 2020) from blood pudding press; to wash all the pretty things off my skin (sept 2021) from ethel zine & micro-press. he has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies.
Nature, discriminative, is bitter toward all things aberrant, still the aberrant exist, persisting
To resent is to err. Fine : i am in err—
or . . . .
Shine Ballard, the woefulwritman, uses notebooks . . . and ekes by a pencil.
Don’t Tell Me You Don’t Dream
Kevin A. Risner
float in an inner tube in a smudgy haze. breathe, look at the world shriveling up. You’ve got to believe me: We’re in an uncontainable disaster. shake snow off my coat, particles in the sunlight. become a cat stretched beneath crepuscular six o’clock. Life felt simple at seven, either the age or the time. remember nothing when lifting my head off my pillow, roadblocked in the deep end. I was only running away from a dream from monsters, from evil men, from night, from the unknowns I know. slide off the edge of the earth. climb back up. Don’t tell me you don’t dream. Please don’t tell me it never happens to you, to others. wake up heaving, slip to the underside of an iceberg. never stranding in the perfect weather: only blizzards, monsoons. How to hide from it all? How to hammock in a spot where there’s nothing left? glance at the mirror, see my own reflection. And the longing clear as day sits frozen forever. I’m in an uncontainable disaster.
Kevin A. Risner is an Ohioan. He is the author of Do Us a Favor (Variant Literature, 2021).
Lovemaking heard through a motel wall like violin practice of the insane. Snow-capped mountain like one shoulder glimpsed when a loose blouse slips And a thin black bra strap reminds me of the poem about your second-best panties. We dress our thoughts in black and white words as if wearing truer colors would be Admitting too much. Hands that know their mind, a kind of dumb eloquence.
Ray Sharp writes poetry and short fiction from his home in America’s Pacific Northwest region. His poems have been featured in dozens of print and online journals and his poetry collections include Memories of When We Were Birds (Red Dashboard Press 2013) and Dating Tips for Conservatives, A New Poetry Primer for a Desperate Age (2017).
Importance of Time Keeping
Prince Industria has no time To sit, no respite to ever grace Her ruby throne. Thrashing and lashing, Each second a sharp scrape Of the unforgiving clock, A measure of our value. She counts each tick, Keeps careful track Of this worth. For our sake, of course. Save us the precious time As our knuckles crack And backs ache She does the hard work of Adding our hours Subtracting the frivolous minutes Allotting our schedules Pacing the precious sleep, Never too much. We cannot allow the cogs to stall For fear of the whole machine crumbling When they realize It is already broken. Diligent be the workers Whose tyrants lie in sloth
Seluna Drake (she/her) is a high school English teacher, author, poet, and artist. Most of the time she passes as a chaotic creative who spends way too much time on video games and not enough time talking to her therapist. She also considers herself a witch, INFP, and an advocate for youth and marginalized voices.
My sister unhinges her jaw and swallows me whole. inside her cavernous body, I find my brothers playing a game of monopoly. They say, Oh good you're here— we've been stuck in a stalemate for years now. They both own half the board but neither of them lands on the other's properties. One of them has a beard now. I ignore them and sit on the floor. I stomp on the lining of my sister's stomach, scratch it with my fingernails. I know she won't spit me out, but I can give her indigestion.
Currently, I am studying English at Arizona State University. My poetry and fiction have been published or are forthcoming in LandLocked Magazine, perhappened magazine, Strukturriss, and CLOVES Literary.
Visions in the Valley
You had a vision, scattered, bones dried across the desert, where time was a flat circle, a wheel turned on its side. Your head, a loaded minefield, shackles to your brain stem, and your body, absent from the other version of the world. There, the creosote, the exposed lizard bellies, the crash of a separate plane, a collision alongside what you have left. Still yourself with your breath, glance towards the left and spot the rattlesnake beneath the coolest rock, a desert storm unfolds behind your red-clay eyelids, your cheekbones crash against the taut deerskin of the great drum, of its hollow side. Without the white-blooded anger of the conquerors, this, the world, it could have been; the world, a cactus flower, not a broken stem. How has your soul, fettered to a corpse, become the stem? That vision in the valley of the dry bones has never left, it folds itself within your neck, like corn dough, the world shrinks narrow, thin as coyote teeth, shattered as they desert their prey for a cool drink of water. So we vanish in the side of the great, thundering ire of the beings above us, a roar, a crash. A grandmother rode on the back of a wooden wagon, the crash of her rose-soft soul, tethered to a renamed body, petals to the stem of a weathered youth, she is the creosote, she lies on her side. In the vision, she speaks to you of the wheel, the medicine she left in the guidance of animals, of clan-names, old lettres in the desert clay, red as her skin, red as her blood, as she bled for the world. Smoke rises from the east; somehow, there is nothing of the world that claims space for you. Red-hot justice, a thunderous crash, a retelling of stories around that bonfire. Stories are not what desert you, and the desert sand, a story. A whisper-shout from the reed stem of a pipe glowing yellow with the promise of peace. Nothing is left. Take your anger to the sweat lodge, its opening side faces towards the east. Know many things. Know nothing. Animal side, animal rugs, once you spotted a fox, in your version of the world, a fox ripped clean open, you feel ripped clean open, slightly to the left. The world of your ancestors dangles on the thread of the crash of spears to bones, of snapping the trail of roses from its stem. The vision ends. You are left with the world. You are left with the desert. Take what you have left. Bury it into your open side. Your life began in the desert. Your anger ends in the world. Glance up at the sound, the crash. Grow out of your bloodied stem.
Enna Horn is an author, poet, and polyglot currently living in midwestern America. If they don’t have their hand to the pen, they can be found with their hand to the plough — sometimes, literally. They enjoy antique shopping, drinking copious amounts of dark roast coffee, and reading Gothic literature. They can be found haunting their Twitter sometimes, @inkhallowed .