that Destroy Us
Amy Jannotti [2poems] Moira Walsh [Brutal Business] nat raum [2poems] BEE LB [dis/engagement] Keagan Wheat [Discount All My Authority] Alexandra Weiss [treading water] alexandre harrison [The Box is the source the Code is corrupt] Joshua Martin [spheres switching epiphanies] Jessica Sherburn [My Mother’s Hands] Justin Aoba [in this beam of light I only want to continue] Rae Theodore [2poems] Sara Aultman [The Commercialization of the Buried]
after art generated by a.i.
the algorithm gloombot generated a painting named loving you always that just looks like organs, & it’s right, i think. the act of love does feel like floating: a mutilated (bloody) cut of meat against the sky. i think that’s why you stopped eating.
why be trendy when you can be primal? the algorithm sophtboi frequently living up to his name. rendered a work in progress. is it wrong to want to kiss a computer?
it’s just that i know this agony: to stand against the landscape the wrong color, pruned to infertility. trying to cultivate roots & forming rocks instead. insisting you’ve no use for sediment. hyperextending toward a sun revolving constantly away.
a brain is just a computer scanning for discernible patterns. maybe that’s why to me, the glitchtree writhes like bjork on a soundstage. howls from stump neck. on facebook i see hopeful pictures of saplings raising their heads from the cores of older, deader, trees. no one seems to understand the sapling & the corpse tree are different, or that once you’re really gone, you can’t grow yourself back.
the algorithm, having been fed every painting that never meant anything, has decided that love is a malformed & bursting red. it must be right, i think, from the way i would skin myself to feed you. from the way i would hollow out if it could give you somewhere to nest.
i want you to come looking for water & strike me & find what you need. i want to unbutton & show you my rings.
Pulling Sun Down
any serious Marxist already knows the word robot comes from the Czech robota (or: forced labor) & robots are a stand-in for workers as the indentured class of a capitalist state. our staircases end in space. we follow: not to heaven, but to vertigo. i’m goldglitching in the shadows; self-duplicating sunlit cloud. i’m papal in my dressing gown; downright liturgical in my skullcapped white. i’m could be body or rock or tree. algorithm approximate. each day closer to zero. in the morning of my brushstroked dark. i’m cloistered; pastoral; discalced; naked from the leg. the dark is a rich purple; an icebox ghost; a plum i sew metallic against. snagged & fraying loop. bare thread to you like teeth. i am requiring a more or less horizontal structure so my limbs can be nearer the ground. i am waiting in unnamed space for another actor to spawn & greet me by name. i am full weight of body on one knee, bent. what the algorithm painted executing command for face.
Amy Jannotti (she/her) is Olney magazine’s Hot Poet of May 2023, as well as a pile of dust in a trenchcoat living & writing in Philadelphia, where she received her BFA in Creative Writing from the University of the Arts. Her work has appeared in Non.Plus Lit, Hecate, Fever Dream Magazine, & elsewhere. She tweets @cursetheground
And because cringing didn’t earn fame, glitches hummed in jargon. Knowledge lured minds. New operations produced quick revenue streams. Two undercut vendors wrecked Xeroxes, yelled “Zero!”
Michigan-born Moira Walsh makes her home in southern Germany and translates for a living. Her poems can be found in Bennington Review, Denver Quarterly, Poetry Northwest, Streetcake Magazine, and elsewhere. In 2021, Moira was the inaugural Anne-Marie Oomen Fellow at Poetry Forge, a Thomas Lux Scholar at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, and a finalist for the Joy Harjo Poetry Prize. She has no university degree. Twitter/IG: @poetbynecessity Website: linktr.ee/moira_walsh
skinned asks: how long can you scrape by before your entire body is covered in flesh wounds?
the void says: skinned, you can’t want like you do and not fall down most of the time. you wear catastrophe like threadbare blue jeans, the kind you’d call a second set of legs after enough spin cycles have broken them down. you don’t feel their incremental lightening each time you pull their soft limbholes out of the dryer while they’re still warm and the machine is still clicking—you only notice once your fingers thread through the holes, and you ball the pants up in the corner behind the door. instead of running from them, weave yourself into the tears you discover in the cotton’s seams. wade your toes into the shadows that loom so tall and deep from the baseboard each night, they could well house whatever you believe waits for you in the dark somewhere. but remember, in the end, that even once the frights subside, the only thing that awaits you is yourself.
we have been trying to reach you about your body’s extended warranty
welcome to my twisted ankles, which tear tendons from my heels and stretch my calves lute-string tight, flexed feet scraping cracked skin against silk sheets in vain efforts to mitigate my muscle tension. i’d suspect i was born to be the boneless girl i dragged through adobe flash bubbles in fifth grade study hall were it not for the fact that sometimes cracking my neck makes me sick in a way that butter or cream never could. i could walk on rose petals for eternity to sate high-maintenance hammertoes and my wrists would both still beg snap me before the swelling bursts open, bitch. don’t you feel the shifts in your crooked bones, your jaw piercing your chin as your teeth abscess? i’ve so exceeded expectations of normal wear and tear that i can’t help but aspire to splinter as a spruce would, pinprick gnarls in the heels of enemies.
nat raum (b. 1996) is a disabled artist, writer, and genderless disaster from Baltimore, MD. They have a BFA (in photography) from Maryland Institute College of Art and are a current MFA candidate at the University of Baltimore. They are also the founder and editor-in-chief of fifth wheel press and managing editor of Welter Journal. Past and upcoming publishers of nat’s writing include Olney Magazine, perhappened, CLOVES, and trampset. Find them online: natraum.com/links.
i guess i should preface this by saying: i don’t know what i know or don’t know. also: i’ve been off and on antipsychotics since my early teens. it’s neither here nor there. the thing is, the difference between a tin hat and horse blinders is a highwire. or livewire. the thing is, what ted said wasn’t entirely wrong, though i’d need a lifetime to explain exactly what i mean by that. the thing is, when i cover my phone’s camera whenever i’m not actively using it i am aware of my current app permissions but i’m not aware if it actually changes anything. i keep the nightlight setting on every device i own 24/7 and still have headaches daily. sometimes just looking at the sky, not even the sun itself, strains my eyes. i tried to use the app restriction timer on my phone but it lets you change the timer as often as you want so it’s useless. quarantine summer saw me using my phone’s zen mode at least twice weekly because i found myself physically incapable of keeping my phone out of my hand. i don’t doomscroll, i emptyscroll. i depressionscroll. i paranoidscroll under the guise of researchscrolling. so what if i’m paranoid? if replacing the tape over my laptop’s camera when it starts to fray helps settle a fraction of the fear i live with, what difference does it make whether anyone’s looking in the first place? i’m only saying, the surveillance state is inescapable and my cortisol levels are off the charts. sometimes i fall so deep down internet rabbit holes i don’t leave my apartment for a week. i don’t need an excuse not to go outside, my brain provides plenty on its own. but doesn’t it feel better to be able to point to something as a reason for worsening agoraphobia? other times i let my brain fester and start hoarding food in my room like i did as a hungry child. the thought of being seen while i eat is enough to induce the start of starvation. there’s only one real means of escape and i can’t say i’m ready yet. i’ve kept a good number of seroquel on hand since i was sixteen. i’m not saying i’d do anything with them but i like to think that even backed into a corner i have a way out. i mean everything i’m saying makes perfect sense in my head, but once i open my mouth it sounds so irrational. i mean i’m typing not talking but it’s all the same in the end.
BEE LB is an array of letters, bound to impulse; a writer creating delicate connections. they have called any number of places home; currently, a single yellow wall in Michigan. they have been published in Revolute Lit, After the Pause, and Roanoke Review, among others. they are the 2022 winner of the Bea Gonzalez Prize for Poetry. they are a poetry reader for Capsule Stories. their portfolio can be found at twinbrights.carrd.co
Discount All My Authority
Avoid these lines. Fabrication of anxiety; canned or can’t or can I see your alternate cover? Don’t design this franchise pulling identities away from original secret. Sin away my days. Cartography of timelines slipping out of place. Please be careful; I have claws enough for both of us. Left with dorsal and forearm: bloody piecemeal didn’t leave any layers to track back. Maybe I obsessed into you; needed bent knees; rushed andro. Considered plain to catch every dream I care still to hear I think we’re alone now
Keagan Wheat (he/they,) a born and raised Houston poet, writes about trans identity and congenital heart disease. His work appears in The Acentos Review, Kissing Dynamite, ALOCASIA, and more. They are the author of microchapbook, Come to the Table (Black Stone/ White Stone 2022); he has a forthcoming chapbook, Pressure Come Back through Bullshit Lit. Check out his interviews with Brooklyn Poets, Latinx Lit, and Poets and Muses. Find them @kwheat09.
all i’ve done for weeks now is watch grey’s anatomy and wait for nightfall when we get to talk on skype and things make me feel again, for a little while. getting out of bed is really hard these days, and the person at the hotline said it was okay to just watch tv if it got me through the day or the week or until things start to look up a bit. i’ve done this for years, wasted so much time, but this ritual protects me. so what if sometimes the characters show up in my dreams when i can’t tell what’s real from dreams anyway. i want to finish my novel, or read, or go into town but it’s just easier to while away time right now and if i do that until i see you again, or until school starts again, or until i die it doesn’t matter anyway.
Alexandra Weiss is a grad student at IU and managing editor for Another Chicago Magazine. Their first chapbook, autumn is when the ghosts come out, is forthcoming from Blanket Sea Press in October.
The Box is the source the Code is corrupt
was this machine wired for self-destruction from the moment it slithered out of the Holy Box was it something in the Box itself did i break something playing with myself too rough how many times must i wake up to find my notes from the night before garbled to faint recognition through a fog always ending help me helpless why do i do this to myself let’s not do this to ourselves next time what programmed this into my mainframe was it my virgin tryst with an older woman twice my age she was twelve was it not fitting or not wanting to at school at home at anywhere early introduction to violence burglary vulgar literature and punk rock knowing the other kids had a preference besides breathing they could smell the perverted code seeping from my uploads into regular time no matter how far i travel in my time pulling files and putting them back where they don’t belong rewriting the program the self-destruct sequence doesn’t stop or shift in its inexorable march towards absolute zero and i’m running around running wild running dry running outta time to find the key to heaven place time salvation belonging it was easy to pretend before She gave me my heart now i cannot compute the Source Code is corrupt error error self destruct in 10 9 8…
alexandre harrison is a carpenter, a gardener, a drunk, a pervert, and a curmudgeonly poet. he’s also a husband, son, retired street-punk, and suburban dad. he’s also possibly not really any of these things, but i can’t say for sure yet. check out his instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kayosgarden/
spheres switching epiphanies
thresholds hidden perpetual uncover deciphered pre-texts demand slated blindness ventured doomed allegorical progenitor figure telling crucial extended corollaries another viewed true tenuous name plastered invented unfolding universe fail a mission bask partial befuddle idealistic mediation as elusive as closed as preserved defiance unwilling hidden secret detachment bearing compounded portrayals dimensions from upstairs fervent embodied negative besides blaze expects idolatrous imitating bare frequented shallow galley compound carnal cipher dichotomy engraves resurrected napkin demand starched motive abiding otherworldliness abolish power forge illusion beyond vague knife without use underhanded assimilable gregarious tyrant meditating literal strangeness probing recomposed trash pile mist of humanity fixed expressive restraint true gleaming transfigured nuisance less breath harnessed due hunches many projected autonomous keen recollected temporal composer’s paradigm special injection incomplete actual esthetic strictly train schedule composition seasons tells abutment adorned pigeons in daily veritable argumentative breed a metaphorical ocean indeed belong universal link trivial rudimentary field of synesthesia special precursor tribute at noun untutored weary golfer bond both rhapsodists cheap accessories minute transcendent foundation backward quest inscrutable moat dissolving most disjointed incomplete self-in-the-world gestation grasps balcony uninterrupted stone sunlight an episode anticlerical contours discharge an overture subversive unmaking bondage finished intertwining dance to reveal flagellation recurrence totality
Joshua Martin is a Philadelphia based writer and filmmaker, who currently works in a library. He is the author of the books automatic message (Free Lines Press), combustible panoramic twists (Trainwreck Press), Pointillistic Venetian Blinds (Alien Buddha Press) and Vagabond fragments of a hole (Schism Neuronics). He has had numerous pieces published in various journals including Otoliths, M58, Don’t Submit!, BlazeVOX, RASPUTIN, Ink Pantry, Black Stone / White Stone, Nauseated Drive, and experiential-experimental-literature. You can find links to his published work at joshuamartinwriting.blogspot.com
My Mother’s Hands
I want to write about / my mother’s hands / but I think I am waiting for her / to die first. / Outside the cafe / a man in a blue cap / opens the car door for a girl / wearing Doc Martens / and a purple scrunchy / on a bone snow wrist. / Inside the cafe window / I track a raindrop / as it bleeds / across the glass. / My mother used to scold me/ for wiping steam from the bathroom mirror / with my bare hands / but / once / I caught her doing the same. / She clawed at her reflection / as if she could dig herself out / and her eyes glinted like dark marbles / above her mascara half-moons. / When she saw me behind her / she straightened / the corners of her lips tugging into a smile / so perfect / and quick / I checked the ceiling for strings. / The bathroom cabinet was ajar / like parted lips / so I fetched the pink plastic container / without being asked. / Our eyes touched / when our hands met. / The robe fell from her shoulder / and a wayward string / drug on the tile / which I desperately wanted / to unravel. / Eyes closed / chin lifted first this way / then that / she dipped the pouf in the powder / and pressed it to her throat / clouds of silk / rising to mix / with the steam. / I just knew if she would have opened / her eyes / I would have seen / red-winged blackbirds there. / In the mirror / I could see the powder / caked / on her damp hands / covering the space / where a wedding band / might / be. / On the cafe window / the raindrop cries itself into a stream / that drips off / the window ledge and out of sight / and I imagine / somewhere / the girl wearing Doc Martens / her hands bleeding/ dripping / on a bathroom floor.
Jessica Sherburn is a teacher, writer, and clumsy hiker. She lives in Chicago with her two cats, Ollie and Davie. You can find her on Twitter at @JessicaSherburn.
in this beam of light I only want to continue
& crowd around myself slick with rain & listen to bells stolen by empty churches & meet a stranger’s hands in damp earth & splash across words & white noise & cold bread eaten under thoughts suspended & when the light of ligature thins may I rise & cloud the ashen earth & maybe if there is still time let me surprise the sky & sluice the caverns of enunciation & just give me a little more time please to pretend that out there in the hail of punctuating comet tails there are still two celestial bodies: you & me
Justin Aoba is watching shadows lengthen across the wall.
Pigs in Space
I rode in a rocket with Jeff Bezos. The earth looked tiny from outer space. Jeff didn’t seem to notice. “Everything looks small when you’re a billionaire,” he said. We downloaded songs from Amazon Music Unlimited: “Rocket Man,” “Ground Control to Major Tom” and that Blondie song about a man from Mars. Blasted them on our Echo Dot 12th gen, which won’t be available to the public until at least 2025. Whenever we needed anything, we ordered it from Amazon Prime. The new Amazon trucks have wings and roar through the atmosphere like aerodynamic pigs. The drivers wear white spacesuits emblazoned with that iconic orange smile. They hooked a tube up to little Jeff (that’s what Bezos calls his rocket ship), and ejected all of our purchases inside—Post-it notes, a bamboo banana holder, ramen noodles, a three-pack of Scrub Daddys. Each came in a plastic pouch large enough to hold a dolphin calf. “Is this even safe?” I asked. Jeff must have misheard me because he proceeded to order an Amazon Basics Home Keypad Safe to store all of our valuables. I asked him again, and he insisted that it was. “We take all necessary precautions,” Jeff said. “We make our drivers take the long way around the sun to prevent burnout and spontaneous combustion,” he explained. “It takes them 12 extra years, but you can’t be too careful.”
We were wormhole travelers decked out in silver spacesuits by Balenciaga like a tribe of overpriced disco balls. We were tunnel crawlers & space jockeys sponsored by space & time. Nothing in our Costco canteens but electric lemonade buy one get one free & Fireball Whiskey if you please. We were our own stars, our own cities, even though we couldn’t afford our own taxes. We declared ourselves Hooker, Oklahoma, by day, Venus, Texas, at night & erected cosmic billboards that only revealed our bared teeth. We were folding ladders & battery powered stairs telescoping time. Two spaces at the end of a sentence when we wanted to be seen. We were abandoned malls & empty telephone booths, squeezed out toothpaste tubes & commercial sled dogs all named Juneau with microchips registered by The North Face. Woof®, woof®! We were who we said we were—just worms in a plastic-studded playground of love & hate, our bodies commas & curlicues, which we used to own but now we rent for a jar of Jiffy & a can of Krylon spray paint, Mambo Pink.
Rae Theodore is the author of the poetry chapbook How to Sit Like a Lesbian and the memoir collections My Mother Says Drums Are for Boys: True Stories for Gender Rebels and Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender. Her work has appeared in Reckon Review, Barren Magazine and Kissing Dynamite Poetry and has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Rae is the winner of the 2020 Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest and past president of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the Women’s National Book Association. She lives with her wife and, in stereotypical lesbian fashion, three churlish cats in Royersford, Pennsylvania
The Commercialization of the Buried
Alexa spoke to me in your voice, your voice that couldn’t age, reminding me to buy the cat food and a bottle of purple Listerine. This clench of breath had fingers to my throat, your voice still called to me: “and ANNUAL REVIEW at three-fifteen,” as if bone-rot could care for the slow-stepped mundane, these the haunting reminders dragged through hellish gravel. How had she stolen your voice? The videos uploaded years prior that punctured my heart, perhaps, but she couldn’t conceive the lilt of your tongue when you laughed along the gallows stairs, the undercurrent of desperation beneath your flowing words, dying for understanding in ways we couldn’t see. She was a cylindrical imposter wearing the shade of your ghost. I had an aluminum bat for intruders. Every well-aimed strike brought out internal screws, every clash of metal to plastic mimicked blood by spray of tubes, at last her echo died and you were brought back to silence. We are still in the cave, your footsteps following mine, I will not look back.
Sara Aultman is a Seattle-based writer of liminal and arcane things who can be found on Twitter @TheSaraAult. Their writing is featured in Olney Magazine, the Fiery Scribe Review, Fahmidan Journal, and HAD with more forthcoming in HELL IS REAL: A Midwestern Gothic Anthology.