Isabel Zacharias

from flower room

the memory of a tree
is the tree.

                                                                             -   Donald Revell



my thought of this world as a good good world is


                                                                                               the thought of a world with you in it

                         asleep and sweating

                                                                                                                        all over the sheets


                                                as if nobody taught us


                                                                                                                        to hate ourselves.





                                                                                 Petname,
                                                                                 the weather is not getting better

with time. it’s just getting back


                                                 to whichever beginning you choose : the futon of red


petals whorling but you said : purple and took a hand out


                                                             from your body bloody with your blood of all torn


                                                 animals ; actually


                         Buddy we have been here before


but no stars were out & had nothing to cover us so both got soaked as the dew
                     was out sooner,


                                                            no brother caught cold in the shower in the summer


                                   of two-thousand-and-twelve where everything,
                                   even our best jokes,
                                   dissolved. the one with my cuticle picked up bloody and the six


cans carried to my second apartment ; we turned your nineteenth year


                                                                                     smooth between our fingers tossing
                                                                                     silt over shoulder for better
                                                                                     bad luck.

                        I aim to not remember when whoever guards the seasons

                        wakes to switch them. her arrows are holstered ; wouldn’t know how to


                        anyway


here is the stale smell still blessing
            the car, small rooms we make smaller


                                                                                                              by laughing


            I loved you and was
            unconcerned
            and around you the leaves were changing.


                                                                                  One fell ;



                                                              It was so red





& I have been wrong all along ; I let
           my eyes close. 

                      How perfect! How meaningless! mouths given

            faulty directions ,

                                              the now gone morning we kiss on the curb and you thank
                                              my head home ; thank you



           for forgetting, however you do —
           with me, of all creatures —
           in our two red room —



                                                                   I hear Bee trying
                                                             not to cry in front of me,
                                                                   all of her tender
                                          to the touch, there, frightened. I touch her head
                                                           to mine and wish and wish
                                                          & wish I did not understand.

                                               if you don’t like the song, I have misjudged
                                                             this all completely ; well
                                                                      I dream now.

                                                                   there, the buried
                                                           apple seed & getting better


                                                  at hiding what we are from our parents,
                                                                    then each other
                                                      then the best things you say are,

                                                 of course, the things you do not mean.




                                                                   Bee, something
                                                                    will go wrong





                                                                   or many things.




I am thinking of how nice it would be to be with you instead of being alone, like I have wanted so much lately and is so unlike me, to walk close to you because of how nice it is to complain to someone you love about how it is raining again. Even in this season. Is it every season now? But all you need is to be together. Everyone else just walks around miserable. hi, you have reached me and B

sleeping between spring and houses, strangling
each other to stay warm
even all the way into the summer
our old neighborhood curved
like hips with a streetlight hung
on each bone
the cut blossom of us loving
each other
instead


                       drunk with our beliefs
                       or our agnosticism [N.R.]
                       Buddy, we were there


           one layer of softness above and below us,
           but these are all stories you’ve heard before. The stars
           were patched over with clouds and I felt so
           alone until the sun came back and I still can’t
           get out of my body. isn’t that always the problem? [M.S.]




                                                           hallucinated body makes a fist
                                                            finally, gets bad, stupid anger
                                                      even in dreams I am dumb at fighting
                                                                       but I fight now
                                                with all fears and forebodings, punching [S.P.]
                                                            every body back, finally, again
                                                         & again saying I am so sad I am
                                                         so sad I do not deserve sadness
                                                   even love even when there were stars


                                                                          I am afraid
                                                             I have tried everything else



                                                                       and it could be



                                                         there is nothing to thank God for






                                                            and I vacuum my apartment






                                but if love is just a word I use









                                                        to love you,
                                                        then







                                                                                       
                                                                                     I love you



Isabel Zacharias is a writer, musician and radio broadcaster from Kansas. She is a graduate of the Independent Publishing Resource Center’s Certificate Program in Poetry and the University of Oregon’s Kidd Tutorial Creative Writing Program, where she received the Kidd Prize in Poetry. Her arts journalism bylines have appeared at NPR and StoryCorps as well as in Willamette Week, Oregon Quarterly, About Face Magazine and Eugene Weekly. This poem appears in her debut poetry chapbook, notes to next forever, which was self-published in June of 2018. She lives in Portland, OR with Mica and Russell and Egg (a fish) and Margot (a cat). You can order her book at https://www.etsy.com/shop/IsabelZachariasBooks.

Dustin Hendrick

Don't Read This

        It's my third vodka tonic and I wait for my husband to come home. He works later than I do and when he gets home he's tired. I'm tired too, but I stay up later than I should so I can spend time with him. Sometimes I don’t want to, and sometimes I don't want to have sex, but I do it anyway because he wants to and it's not his fault I'm so closed off; he probably didn't know that about me when we were just dating. He wants sex more than I do and it makes me feel guilty, and it makes me feel just old. I am old, at least compared to him. I married a younger man and I'm insecure about it. I'll be the first one to visibly age, or perhaps I already am. Each glance in the mirror these days makes me cringe and turn away, even though I still look comparatively good for my age. It was only a few years ago that I thought I was in my prime; a late bloomer but a good one. Now I look like I drink a lot because I do.
        He doesn't care. He sees something I don't, or can't. I'm afraid it's some kind of elaborate lie, and that he's secretly disgusted by the sight of me.
        If I was left to my own devices I'd probably drink less, or at least that's what I tell myself. I'd eat mostly vegetarian. I'd weigh less; it's all booze weight, I say, though we cook like genius maniacs and I always indulge. I come from a long line of hedonists. Resolve always takes a backseat to the moment with us.
        I'd sleep in more, be social if I felt like it, fuck whoever I want – empty, lonely sex but just as satisfying in the moment. I'd read more books and watch less television and be constantly, constantly physically active like the people I see in their shiny form-fitting exercise gear, running down the street like their pretty, fulfilling lives depend on it while I sit in my car at another red light, on my way somewhere to sit some more.
        He drinks more than I do. I worry that I married an alcoholic sometimes. Not that I would have said no. My prospects have always been few -- other gay guys don't like me much. They think I'm offensive; not at all funny, too weird, too goofy, too emotionally inaccessible to date. They're probably right, but my husband doesn't think these things about me, it seems.
        He's home now, sticky and ruddy and tired-eyed from working in the sun all day.
        "Honey, we might have to go to the rollercoaster park while we're in Milwaukee. I miss it." he says as he pours us vodka shots. I already have an almost-full drink sweating down to the coaster on the coffee table, but it doesn't matter.
        We're going to Wisconsin in September to get married again, in front of his family this time, and his lifelong friends, even though we were married in our kitchen in May. I'm not nervous, I say, but I imagine they are, if only to bolster my own confidence a bit. Their only son moved to the big city and found himself a husband. They'll be so disappointed when I show up and I'm all average-looking and plain spoken with weird eyebrows. They'll wonder what falsehoods I invented to trick him into marrying me when he's the thin one, the one with the cool career, the one with the tattoos and piercings, the born extrovert.
        I have nothing inscribed on my skin. My body is a blank canvas of time already spent. A long time ago I was fat. I lost it, through panic and worry more than anything else (Hollywood diet secret, take note). I've gained some of it back, though, mostly by trying to be the fun boyfriend. It worked, apparently, and now I'm the fun husband. But now, by default, I'm the heavier of us and it kills me every day. It's not his problem, but he reaps the "rewards" of it in the form of my obvious discomfort in my own skin, my inability to stand crowds for long, my fear of any perceived spotlight.
        "Did you really just write a story about us?" he asks.
        "It's more about me, but yeah."
        He's sitting on the couch in his underwear. He's so uninhibited I want to scream. I never will be – and I never was -- and I don't know how I can explain that to my almost-and-often- naked husband who has always been rail-thin, perfectly lean, and never gives it a second thought. He doesn't seem to care at all that our relationship might have been attained by way of me sacrificing my resolve to be perfect. I should run endlessly, I say to myself constantly, silently. I should do yoga until I can contort myself into a human pretzel, horrifying but accomplished.
        I can't. I can't. I'm too busy, and that's what I'll always tell myself. I get tired easier than I used to. He's early-thirties, still in possession of some fragment of youth that keeps him going, no matter how overworked, no matter how exhausted, no matter how little sleep we allow ourselves. I'm so close up to forty that I want to die whenever I think about it. I want to die in a crystalline tornado of cocaine and martinis and all of the other unhealthy shit I was still filling myself with when I was almost-thirty.
        He texts me every day to tell me how much he loves me. I always text back right away, but the truth is that I don't know how to love like he does. I'm afraid I'm a liar. I'm afraid that I tricked this person with a void inside into filling my void because I was afraid of starting the process in which someone finds a way to die. I was hungry for something new, something to distract me from myself, and it came, at last, in the form of him, this obvious madman who loves me more than I could ever love myself.
        I did what I had to in order to keep him. I didn't want to be found someday in my sad one-bedroom apartment, dead for days or weeks, unused champagne glasses gathering dust on the kitchen shelf where they'd been placed and had never moved since; placed lovingly, optimistically, in days where there'd been more hope and something to look forward to. I'd rather be someone who let himself go for the right reasons. I'd rather be a liar.
        "Can I read it? Your story about us."
        "No. It isn't finished." I lie, but sweetly.

 

Dustin Hendrick is a writer of fiction, nonfiction, screenplays, shopping lists, and the occasional scathing internet rebuttal. His first publication, a collection of essays entitled Where to Begin, will be released in July 2018. He lives with husband Nathan, a filmmaker, in Portland, Oregon.

Jessica Mehta

Mark’s Tumor (When I Needed it Most)

“How quickly this life does go by.” Tonight
I wrote the last letters
to my poetry students. It’s always been hard,
dishing out compliments (unless I really,
really mean it). My mother died
halfway through the class, a term
dedicated to confession and yoking
sadness from fingertips. Tell me
your best sad secret. Write the love
letter you never sent, the one that hissed
a papercut into your flagina so you took
it as an omen.
How do I rank choice
of line breaks and liberties
with pantoums while my mother burns
at 1,800 degrees? Tell the octogenarian
that his piece on alpaca butter is shit
or the Iowa dropout I should be the one
at his feet? You don’t, but the dead

are furtive messengers. The banker
sent it privately, a poem he’d been too shy
or wise to workshop
into neat numbness. He likened
his tumor to a peach beyond burst,
skin sloughing off like summer tans—and us,
our ridiculous grasping
of it all when in the end, “How quickly,

how quickly this life does go by.”

 

Jessica (Tyner) Mehta is a poet and novelist, and member of the Cherokee Nation. Jessica is the author of ten books including the forthcoming Savagery and Drag Me Through the Mess. Previous books include Constellations of My Body, Secret-Telling Bones, Orygun, What Makes an Always, The Last Exotic Petting Zoo and The Wrong Kind of Indian. She’s been awarded numerous poet-in-residencies posts, including positions at Hosking Houses Trust and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, Paris Lit Up in France, and the Acequia Madre House in Santa Fe, NM. Jessica is the recipient of a Barbara Deming Memorial Fund in Poetry. She is the owner of a multi-award winning writing services business, MehtaFor, and is the founder of the Get it Ohm! karma yoga movement. Visit Jessica’s author site at www.jessicatynermehta.com.

Robert Eversmann

Dads Digging Holes

Here we are digging holes.
I’ve got mine. And you’ve got yours.
Aint it true.
I’m digging mine, well, because of my daughter. And you, your—
My only son.
The two men set to work on their holes again after a sweat break. The one, the father of a son, took his winter coat off and threw it a little ways away from the hole. The other, the father of a daughter, liked to overheat, kept his jacket on but removed his hat and gloves.
If they came to a rock, they dug it out, kept his rocks by his hole, kept his clothes under his rocks.
My only son is cruel. I can’t stand it. He kept poking his fingers in the cat’s ears. The cat was dying. Hissed, couldn’t hardly move. I told him stop, but every chance he got...
No, there’s nothing worse than a daughter. You’re cursed to want her and want her and want her. She gets all these little changes. And you want her even more. Want every inch of her.
By now both coats were off. The man with the daughter in his flannel undershirt stained with sweat and the man with the son, his shirt too drenched. Their holes now up to their noses. Had to more or less shout just to communicate.
Horrible, the father of a daughter. All I think, all day and all night, What if she comes in? What if she crawls into my bed? What will I do? The man pauses, stares over the handle end of his shovel.
Pity me the father of a son, the father of a killer I’ve brought into the world.
A little water spilled onto each man’s head. The tide’d rushed up and surprised them.
They got out from their holes and laid their shovels aside. The men yelled a few last things to each other and jumped into their separate holes, each man hunched in his own hole with his own rocks in his lap.
The waves came up, as prettily as they do, and filled the holes full, water and sand.

 

Bobby is a bookseller at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. He runs Deep Overstock and 1001 Journal. He has stories in Portland Review, SUSAN/The Journal, Fiction Southeast, fog machine. His website is roberteversmann.com

Kristen Diederich

SUMMER

It all went south after that
small child drowned on the fourth of July, Summer 2012.
All the people waiting for the fireworks with their lawn chairs
and beach blankets, just as they do every year,
delayed only by a minute. It took longer
than that for him to die and even longer for the mother to emerge
from the bathroom, even longer for the birds
to leave that paradise littered with donut crumbs
and rotting fish the following winter— I found a rabbit floating
in Del Lago, just before leaving for good— Wake up, wake up
she was yelling as the girl readied to sing the anthem, unmistakably
the girl I sat next to math class. I wanted to be one of those diving birds
that stayed only for a year, just as you wanted to be with me that night
just as the mother wished it were her instead. To be dead, to be dead,
this white flag. That corner of Los Flores— bring me the flowers
the dirt instead of all this water—
Hold your head up, hold it up
breathe it in, that song.

 

Kristen Diederich, 23, recently moved to Maupin, Oregon from Portland, Oregon. Since moving into her new place, she has found a dog named Sato, a library, slot machines, countless garden beds, another dog named Acer, and the Deschutes. She still wants to say hello to every dog she meets, but sometimes refrains from doing so—Maybe not every dog wants to be approached by a stranger? She loves her shelf- plants, doodling/painting and is in a book club that meets once a month. Her partner just bough her a new camera, which she is over the moon about.

 

Delphine Bedient

THREE SHORT POEMS

1.

I keep hoping you’ll leave your hat
behind when you go so that I can
wear it when you mentioned
a thing you liked about me the other
day did you actually use the word love?

2.

Could we ever be this
couple drinking coffee on
Saturday morning trick
question I work on Saturdays
but maybe Sunday I find
I can never quite have all the
answers there’s always
some part that I
leave up to you.

3.

I want to show you these
trees swaying in the wind at
sunrise the place where I am
now is such a quiet place
anyway the man on the street was
yelling but he said he wasn’t yelling at me.

 

Delphine Bedient is a writer and maker currently based in Portland, Oregon.  Her work has been published by Blunderbuss Magazine, Fog Machine, and Spy Kids Review, and a collection of her short fiction, entitled "Down and Out on a Yacht," is available from Two Plum Press. She likes writing in cursive and wearing sunglasses. 

Jason Matthews

Untitled

The Lake Lucerne Climate Justice Action Task Force met for a third and final summit at the base of Montségur, before dissolving itself and venturing into the mile deep tokamak that replaced the old chateau. Some slogans were slung at the press gallery as a concession to the form. "The time for slogans has ended," Al Gore intoned. "Words must step aside when the future comes knocking." "The future is just brilliant," Bono agreed. The cameras, squeezed between a barbed wire fence and a toy forest buffering the outer edge of a slag heap, could only blink and nod mutely as their hosts filed down into the fathomless depths. This was to be the last time any of these impassioned global citizens were ever seen again.

"I have an inconvenient confession." They were separated from the swag baskets and charcuterie by almost five hundred metres of aluminium and concrete now, but not one stomach protested. A few fit bits beeped, lost in the general silence like tracer rounds in space. "Let the man continue!" interrupted the billionaire developer of last year's top meta-curation app. Eighty-five percent of the app's user base consisted of bots on interracial dating websites. No one in the room had ever used it, and only a few of the worst groomed attendees even recognized the name. While Peter Thiel made a mental note to pull the plug on this human button prompt's project, Al Gore cleared his throat, scanned the room, and resumed.

 "We're straddling the razor's edge of the precipice of a dilemma, friends. The CATHAR experimental fusion reactor isn't going to produce near enough energy to  stabilize the FWB economies, much less ameliorate the global south. It could make the difference between drowning today and starving tomorrow for three billion poor bastards in the tropics. Sure, we could ship compressed steam cells to Bangladesh to process jellyfish into protein, save some huddled masses for a little while. On the other hand, the momentary respite provided by a dip in operating costs could recapitalize the stock of the firms represented in this room, and help us bide our time until something better emerges. The public's going to pass stones, and your shareholders are going to sharpen knives either way. Just imagine all the soup kitchens and AIDS clinics that could have been opened with the resources we spent on hollowing out this mountain.  The math is very very involved, and I must impress upon you how hard this decision will be. Don't worry, I've got some Venn diagrams."

After five dozen slides and two hours of moral rhythmic gymnastics, passed in Model UN decorum, the plutocrats settled upon a new course. CATHAR would be restructured as a joint stock company, the French Energy Ministry, CERN, and the IAEA bought out. All ancillary operations would be acquired by the new company, with or without the relevant paperwork.  Tesla's prototype urban pacification Zords would be pressed into service in 48 hours, making appropriations where necessary, fending off overzealous regulators, shepherding the press where necessary, and guarding against all externalities with negative bearing on market liquidity. No one was quite sure what that last directive meant. What was crystal clear was the impertinence of the merely legal in a time of such crisis, and the mounting need to overcome the encoded behavioral tics of the human animal. They had to think in the correct language, in terms of the correct timescale, the correct distance from the malarial stew and alkaline crust everyone else called home. Quaking nerves had to be disciplined, threaded through the eye of their terrifying post-human responsibility.

Jeff Bezos was spooked by more mundane matters: "I'm leveraged to the balls, between lighting this fireball, hosting THE INTERNET, and running a whole multiverse of simulations to make better banner ads. If I don't get to leave this place as Space Jesus, I'm not fucking leaving. There's nothing to return to. Might as well stick around until the reaction exhausts itself in ten thousand years." It was agreed that this necessitated really out of the box thinking. "If only we could free ourselves from these flabby envelopes and become one with the immortal oobleck!" 

The conversation progressed from ways to means, leading naturally to a discussion of quantum plasma informatics. A certain Jiri Hrabal from Charles University had discovered a method of conducting signal bearing neutrinos through super heated plasma, and the magnitude of forces led to chaotic outcomes with the grain and density of sentience. It was said that Jiri chatted for weeks with a Czech translation of the Bhagavad Gita he had subjected to Hrabal projection. In whispered tones, others claimed that the two had fallen in love. Hindu nationalists loudly protested the imputation that scripture could have homosexual tendencies, which only lent credence to the rumors. On June 10th, a BJP gunman cut him down while making gelato in the superconductor lab. Research assistants kept Hrabalized neutrinos bouncing in the bowels of a Planck Institute stellarator until the grant money was exhausted. It was a tribute to the man's genius that he got to die twice, first in ice, and then in fire. 

"So, as it turns out, we're inside the largest brain in on the planet," Justin Trudeau concluded. There was a stunned silence. "I thought Michio Kaku was telling us this story," Malala Yousafzai said. "Oh no, sweetie, he never even completed hazing." "Are you sure? I thought I found some of his hair in the foie gras pate earlier." The disquiet was thick, savoury and spreadable. George Lucas, who had enjoyed his jowls' share of the torture meat, gagged at the thought of those long silver strands. 

"We were born on a rock, but we built a star, and now we get to live in it," Chelsea Clinton offered in summation, giving the group permission to move on. As the former Task Force's only heredity fellow, Chelsea's summations carried unusual weight. As an Oxbridge such and such, she was better qualified than most to hold forth on the true meaning of the threshold they were poised to cross: elements begat their opposites, the dream of the alchemists, and mind was at last repatriated. Heraclitus crackled and roared behind the ruined backdrop of the Socratic universe. It was plain to anyone that the conflagration had to spread before the work of rebuilding could even be considered. And so on.

"Centuries, not years, eons not news cycles. To delay gratification is to be an adult," said a public educator no one liked, "and today might just be the bar mitzvah of mankind." No one paid the slightest attention, so he repeated himself until a pop singer smiled at him.

Bill Nye and Elon Musk locked eyes. "Hey, we're going to need some cots and hammocks. Tell David Brooks to make finger sandwiches on your way up." The pop star smiled at the CEO as her erstwhile paramour disappeared into a service elevator. 

Assembling the proper hardware took less time than might have been expected. Lawyers, engineers, undocumented Cape Verdean day labourers, Michelin star chefs, doctors, and a team of game designers were airlifted to CATHAR in great teeming airborne rafts. The lawyers busied themselves immediately by getting the rest of the impromptu staff to sign nondisclosure agreements. The reactor's floor plan consisted of concentric rings, each as secure as a cell block in Attica, culminating in its giant toroidal heart. The penultimate ring was an observation chamber affording a view both of the core and the outer rings. it was thought prudent to remain here, rather than deal directly with new personnel, whose trustworthiness had not been in all cases tested, a security measure which added tremendously to the workload of Bill Nye, Banksy, and other Science and Art liaisons. 

The apparatus came together so swiftly it seemed like the final, secret goal of its various components. The group was outfitted with EEGs requisitioned from donor hospitals, linked to a Hrabal interface jointly built by NASA and CERN, nicknamed Dreameater. Its outputs were fed into the core. To complete the sensorium, Mark Zuckerberg ordered VR units to connect group members directly to the core, their normal sensory modalities suppressed by a cocktail of psychedelic and narcotic drugs. Fine tuning took more time than assembly: an excessive dose of psilocin reduced Peter Thiel to gibbering insanity, and the game developers spent weeks trying to come up with the correct data environment for the utterly foreign output feeds. It was agreed that normal metabolic functions were too inefficient to countenance, so these were modified with life support systems and yet more drugs. A refrigerated truck delivered organs, blood and stem cells to arrest the eventual ravages of age. Server farms in Oregon ran nonstop predictive models to anticipate problems and frame strategy. 3D printers could manufacture whatever wasn't immediately at hand.

If Busby Berkeley collaborated with Kenneth Anger on a musical adaptation of the Divine Comedy, it would have resembled the social life that formed inside the reactor core. The polymorphous jubilee of pure information proved to be too much for even very rich and open minded data types, and before long the frontier was domesticated with various structures: protocol, etiquette, noblesse oblige, culminating in a tiered hierarchy of rotating solar essences. If sound in this realm were anything more than an analogy, its choirs would have charmed the most syphilitic Renaissance pope into repentance. The dancing spirits were joined, after a time by secondary intelligences (JSTOR's archive was Hrabalized), attendants, emanations, crowns, thrones and dominions. To describe the supra-lunary realm in terms of prosaic thought or language, God's chief punishment on this fallen plane, would be to commit a truly unforgivable sacrilege. When the present account slips into or towards trespass, it is in the spirit of selfless evangelism to the world's clay -- unknowing but animated with latent solar nature -- what the Kabbalists call Olam HaTikun.

This flowering of spontaneous self organization served a practical end, however baroque the results. Lacking an insulating medium, the signal carried by the neutrino chains tended to migrate, and unless identity was to be abandoned as an outmoded concept, the signal (a person named Al Gore, or in any case an EEG feed rendered in tertiary code) had to rebuild itself recursively, weaving through the latticework of the great flock, crossing and blessing itself at the first sign of contamination. No system is fool proof, and the early years of the community were upended by heresies and gaffes: Slavoj Zizek argued that since the reactor constituted a single mind, all the constituent persons were merely complexes, and ought to be eliminated; Jimmy Wales' consort turned out to be his own Wikipedia page.

In some ways, life carried on as before: Warren Buffet traded stocks when he wasn't trading his very substance with Lady Gaga, the Clinton Foundation issued press releases to the outside world, no one liked Bill Nye. The equilibrium between the superficially normal and the new cosmic dispensation carried on smoothly and invisibly until the day it was irreversibly shattered. "Predictive models indicate that we've been in the core too long!" Zuckerberg announced without language. "Boot out or face permanent nerve damage and maybe death!"

Readjusting to bodily existence proved to be traumatic. Music was no longer music, fellowship and pleasure were pallid in comparison with what they had known before. Bono would not stop screaming, clutching his eyes and gagging on his feeding tube. In order to calm him, Richard Branson stroked the inside of his mouth, and switched their catheters in a show of camaraderie. This did not have the intended effect. "I vote we kill him," Oprah said. "This isn't a democracy, and that's not an option," said Al Gore, hierophant of the dance even here. "I command ye motes to combine with our fallen companion. Find stray sparks of yourselves in his weak flesh." It began slowly, with an errant tongue, here, an imperious breast there, but soon enough, Bono's sobs subsided, and most of the community found themselves knotted together like rat kings. They were thrilled on by the familiar communion, but thrilled harder by its frustration, the constant jarring against an impermeable barrier. Male and female, young and old, all the basic oppositions of the incomplete were not easily relearned. When satiety came, it was both too sharp and blunt, nothing like the recombination enjoyed in the core, information loss and not information exchange. Limbs and orifices parted, and in the viscous puddle that remained, they found Bono's crushed corpse.

"We need new bodies, these ones are too frail," Michio Kaku said, wiping a gob of semen through his silver locks. Zuckerberg thought it was feasible, and sent Bill Nye retrieve a window so he could do the relevant calculations. "It turns out we have enough biological material, stem cells and the like, to 3D print ourselves better bodies," he said, triple checking the numbers, "but some questions remain, like how is Michio Kaku here?"

"Isn't it obvious?" Jeff Bezos tweaked Chelsea Clinton's right nipple, and stroked his chin. "We're inside a simulation, and a paradox was inserted during troubleshooting. And not just any simulation--it's probably one of mine. Laszlo loves doing that, and Earth One Laszlo must too." Zuckerberg was nonplussed, insisting that it could just as easily be one of his. Elon Musk made the same objection, on the grounds that his dick felt too much like itself. "Here at Tesla, we don't just simulate reality, we enhance it."

"Who else is running sims?" Malala asked. A couple dozen hands went up. "Why does Starbucks have an AI program? Never mind."

The implications were as vast as they were tedious. No one noticed that the hierophant had left halfway through the discussion of the relative merits of the Matrix sequels, or noted the rumble and shriek of machinery coming from the printing lab. It was only after every method of experimentally testing the simulation hypothesis was rejected as either impractical or stupid, that anyone questioned the faint metallic tang in the air. The sound of machinery was replaced by something else, a rasping, wet and muffled, like an octopus clad in wool. Something heavy was being dragged through the adjacent corridor, and it was coming fast. The doors were ripped from their hinges before the group could mount a defense, and the room was filled instantly with the reek of seminal fluids. "Behold!" Al Gore roared out of his 27 orifices, "pay obeisance to me, your hierophant, clad in his true form! Each of you has a place inside of me, surrender not to the temptation of fatalism or doubt! There are no accidents in this flesh maze! There are no accidents!" A pseudopod wrapped around Malala, and thrust her into an engorged sphincter head first. Al Gore wept with pleasure out of tear ducts surrounding a dolphin sized phallus. Enfeebled by years of suspended animation, no one could run or put up much of a fight. One after another they found their appointed place inside the gurgling slime filled ductwork. Elon Musk tried to bargain with it by straddling its pendulous penis, stroking it until another one emerged, and then another. The ejaculation fired with water cannon force, drenching a few unfortunate spectators and blinding Musk. Soon, the entire group had been installed, moaning as vili-like appendages stimulated their small pathetic erogenous zones. "Now, to attend to the final mystery," Al Gore told his flock, and ripped through the graphite barrier of the reactor core.

A single silver hair was drawn, measured, and cut.

 

Jason Matthews is a Canadian writer trapped in a higher ed Meshes in the Afternoon-style infinite loop.

Is Sullivan

And Now to Earthworm

Me? Earthworm. I point to myself with the boneless arm that is my body.  
I am bound to silence, save my weekly weather forecast.
And now I am at work. And I straighten my tie and look.
I look into the camera just before it begins to roll. And I blink my eyes.
Now I broadcast, pink from the palm of a wrinkled hand.
It has rained. I know this because I am out of earth.
Please do not return me to soil just yet, for I am at work.

It might rain again.

And now, I have said all I can say regarding the weather.
And I return to earth in silence.

 

Is Sullivan lives in Portland, OR. They are on Twitter @phglem.

Simon Kim

MORE PANCAKES

You said my name quietly

after I kicked over a newspaper stand

the air was wet & not enough

I woke up today & the sky was gray

solid & blank like another ceiling

another poem that is & isn't about you

parents & what we must accept from them

violence the necessary unceasing present

the insistent receding of everything

bats flutter out across the evening

but we can't hear them

little fish come up for morsels

a bundle of prairie weeds

an unknown monarch on a coin

oil of oregano burning the throat

a barn collapsing over many winters

pizza boxes are not recyclable

hellhounds lurk sniffing the breeze

wet towels on the bathroom floor

in korean there is only one word

for the colors blue & green

your eyes are blue but you eat a lot of vegetables

I told the uber driver that I have so much anger

the lake was like a thoughtfully folded napkin

cranes in the sky construct condos

a friend told me when they broke up

her boyfriend said that he wanted to murder his father

I said I know exactly how he feels

after work I cried about what a terrible feeling

that is to be able to have with someone

 

Simon Kim lives in Chicago with his cat, Prince. He also tweets @walcum.

Becca Yenser

TODAY I WAS IN A MOVIE

Today I was in a movie and wasn’t properly dressed for it. It was one of those movies that’s shot in a bad neighborhood, in someone’s crappy side yard. The chair I sat on had a Band-Aid stuck to it.

But that wasn’t the bad part. It was like everything had been purposely aged or mildewed or deformed, but in actuality, that was just the natural progression of things. The dog had three legs. The piano—inside—was next to a stained futon, and the sheet music was crispy.

The bad part was that I wanted to fuck the cameraman. I was supposed to be a shoulder, but every time he talked I wanted to turn, to see the lip of his cap, his fat lips, him deaf and beyond us in another world.

He continued to shoot my shoulder, my arm, and maybe my left hand. I think the guy I was staged to interview was intimidated by my breasts. They are only 36B.

After the shoot I went home with the cameraman. We took a nap under too many blankets. He had a fever and I stroked the back of his head. I had to go, to take my dog out. On the bike ride home, a few guys whistled at me. My dress was too low and my breasts were too big. It was getting dark—I didn’t know I was gonna be in a movie.

 

Becca Yenser is the author of TOO HIGH AND TOO BLUE IN NEW MEXICO (poetry, forthcoming, Dancing Girl Press). Her prose and poems appear in: Dostoyevsky Wannabe, The Nervous Breakdown, CHEAP POP, Paper Darts, Metazen, 1001 Editors, Fanzine, Eclectica Magazine, decomP, HOOT, Entropy, and Filter Literary Journal. She is a first-year MFA candidate in Fiction at Wichita State University, where she is an editor for Mikrokosmos Journal. You can read new writing at https://www.inknode.com/beccayenser.

A.M. O'Malley

WON’T HURT TO SIT IN THE TRUCK A WHILE

I’ve been trying to pretend that the way you said, what’s up?
like a gauntlet thrown in the dirt, is just a necessary part of living.

You stood in the driveway with snow on your sleeves and you said, you’re all I’ve got,
I ground the key in the ignition and drove home on an icy road.

That was the last time you wanted me to be close.
You knew that I would have followed you into traffic like a dog.

You have become something else and now I’m all that’s left
because I’m careful I’ve always been more careful than you.

These are hard lessons like ruinous dams, contaminated rivers, blood on hot tar.

 

A.M. O'Malley is the author of Expecting Something Else on University of Hell Press. She currently resides in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Find her at www.amomalley.com

Jessie Janeshek

Bombshell/Teensploitation

I didn’t move today                               felt the temptation
             felt movie pressure                                like I should conjure engines.
I didn’t know which candle                   pink or white bullshit
             to help the jewel thief’s daughter
solve the crime.

I needed a night book                a day book                  a maze
             my party            my problem
brass lips           black confetti                the majorette dress
              Clorox and soap and dense days anointed with flame.
I sent the past some evidence
              her curls bleached so carefully
like a Marilyn zombie.                                 I sent the past some evidence
             you said we want to see the wig
                           you burned before the murder
             we want to see the cloche hat blood soaked in your distance.
We want to conjure             your ghost sans religion
               want to truss you up                           like a dead James Dean—


I’d died before that reel my spooky action
             her confession.        She became a better actress
at a distance                   the new wave.

I could come at any time.            I could cry the dog is old.
            He lost his teeth.                          I played three women in the movie
                                              or one man on TV.
I could use the whip ride            to hook you back in time
            starlet theosophy                         shove you to your knees.
You could sit on my grave          I could stick out my hand…



Jessie Janeshek's second full-length book of poems is The Shaky Phase (Stalking Horse Press, 2017). Her chapbooks are Spanish Donkey/Pear of Anguish (Grey Book Press, 2016), Rah-Rah Nostalgia (dancing girl press, 2016), Hardscape (Reality Beach, forthcoming), Supernoir (Grey Book Press, 2017), and Auto-Harlow (Shirt Pocket Press, forthcoming). Invisible Mink (Iris Press, 2010) is her first full-length collection. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and an M.F.A. from Emerson College. You can read more of her poetry at jessiejaneshek.net.

Russell Jaffe

CIVIL COPING MECHANISM FOR WHEN YOU REALIZE

Everything is shrouded in mystery
And what happened next you would not believe.

Sometimes you
Ask for help
On Facebook.
Or want to.

Everything must be a commodity.
Feel your fingers pulling down across your face.
See the acrylic on the canvas.
Everything must be a commodity.

Like a bullet into the body, and then a cyst around the bullet,
Facebook has become a part of the consciousness. Not another world
, But an oft-untapped part actualized.
Like a finger into the pre-industrial wound to fetch that bullet

, Things really were simpler. There was a wilder time undocumented.
It was easier to be, if you were privileged. Maybe the best people can do is
The assembly line.
Convenience, the enemy of joy. Judgment, the unmoving stone peopling the flow, getting
Mossy.
Entertainment, the hamster wheel of complacency. And how we train it.

When you do things right,
Everything blows up at once
, Exactly like when everything
Goes wrong.

 

Russell Jaffe is the editor of TL;DR magazine, teaches at Loyola University in Chicago and Fusion Academy in Oak Brook, and stars in literary study guides for Course Hero. He is the author of the poetry collections This Super Doom I Aver (Poets Democracy, '12), INTROVERT//EXTROVERT (Punk Hostage Press, '14), LA CROIX WATER (Damask, '16), and Civil Coping Mechanisms (Civil Coping Mechanisms, '17). Russell Jaffe: a zone radio. 
 

Arielle Tipa

Rabbit's Foot

It's 8:59am and I stir my coffee counterclockwise for good luck. I wait until 9am to take my first sip and I finally know what sequence is. I decide to go to the DMV since I can't afford a movie ticket at the moment.

A woman at the DMV is begging Doctor Blank to motivate her relapse. The sight of her orange bonnet makes me itch and everyone smells like a federal holiday. A child stares at me while I make constellations with my mosquito bites. Everyone is waiting for their number and so it feels like a deli counter with televisions. The television programs advise us to call 1-800-???-???? in case one doesn't have their insurance card during a nationwide catastrophe. VHS footage of an American flag comforts us during this stressful time. 

I walk outside to check the contents of my purse and a woman stands next to me. She lights a cigarette and licks her lips like a file clerk and I think she knows I'm looking at her.

"Smoking is very acceptable in China", she says. Her Yorkshire terrier pops out of her straw tote bag and sneezes. I bless the dog as a courtesy and the woman rolls her eyes.

Now I can say I got sun poisoning in October.

I go to the Trader Joe's next door and I taste licorice soda for the first time and I'm having a reality crisis. Someone drops a coin next to me and says I should pick it up because I'm young and they're paying with a senior discount card and non applicable coupons. I oblige and offer them a licorice soda.

A patron reads the news aloud from her phone: Mass home invasions across the state. Major accident on the expressway. Kylie's pregnant. The opioid epidemic. I leave the store and I keep teeth in my pocket for a safe drive home. 

 

Arielle Tipa is a writer and editor who lives near a haunted lake in New York. Her work has been featured in (b)OINKAlien Mouth, and thread, among others. She currently runs Occulum, a journal of the unabashed and unorthodox. 

Adam Tedesco

Headspace

Render presence to an absolute
chromatography of maps

A balanced subtraction
of signified and fire

Here’s the shape of the thing
in how what we are reappears
painting agency
thinner jar untopped
loosely held in greased hand
trembling purple
beneath the skin
the curve of earth’s depressions

The desire to remember
a name
is no less desire
than cancer
tongue
or meat sauce

A type of love that slowly
takes the breath
Leaves a body hollow
rounded, soft and burning

 

Adam Tedesco is a founding editor of REALITY BEACH, a journal of new poetics. He conducts interviews and analyzes dreams for Drunk In A Midnight Choir. His recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Entropy, Gramma Daily, Funhouse, Fanzine, Fence, Cosmonauts Avenue, Hobart, Powder Keg, and elsewhere. He is the author of several chapbooks, most recently HEART SUTRA, and ABLAZA (Lithic Press).

Kirby Knowlton

millennial pink

the bay window of my lower back
keeps me diligent and afraid
i’m tired of men comparing my body
to pastries they’ve sworn off
but mostly i’m tired of crop tops
there’s a new name for an old color
and it keeps me up at night obsessive
i spend money i don’t have on pink
i’m trying to build a nest so pretty
that no one would dare disturb it
in school i learned a mother goose
is hardwired to protect her eggs
if one rolls away she makes a croquet
of her neck and brings it back home
she has no choice it’s in her blood
if you place any oblong thing near her
any soda can or hourglass or tennis shoe
she necks it back just the same
there is beauty and there is cruelty
and there’s what we leave behind
so that another might use it

 

Kirby Knowlton is from the south. You can follow her on twitter at @KirbyKnowlton.

Sara Sutter

I Tried to Make You Fall in Love with My Avatar


It's painful, how he watches

her mouth. His pineapple slice

eyes. Everyone gathers

at the stream, stars bright

against the sky. Idol, ideal, idle, so

lovely,— she needs it out 

of her, as though pushing out is 

feeling. Gray balcony

where communist Yugoslavia 

tobacco factory workers lived. 

Romantic/authoritarian

narrative—idea of lineage, but mostly

sorrow burrowed in her 

hips. Pink fish

growing fewer in the brown

river. A rosy film. Gives her 

love to the Great Internet 

Hunt, its infinite interference 

patterns and potential 

mates. Endings make

for such glorious suffering. 

So it's like that. Can't decide

when it flies or hatches, all 

dividends of a circle, #9. Theory 

that it should be 

easy, but all theories feel difficult, like

knowing someone = harder 

than kissing them. When we 

start at once, minutes fall 

into new shadows.

 

Sara Sutter is a poet and professor in Portland, Oregon.

Ben Kessler

In the Baleen

The gastropods find ways
to amuse themselves

They gather around
the table and take turns
engaging in a little Mumblety-Peg
Converse on how
they have only now
acquired a taste
for orange juice with pulp
The littlest ones play
cops and robbers

All of this is possible
until the great beast sucks them in

 

Ben Kessler lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. He is an MFA student studying fiction at Portland State University.

Charlie Moses

Consolation

            I laid in bed staring at the shadows on my ceiling—distorted and shifting, my arm burning and swollen with an infection, but I was feeling okay. I was thinking about how nice it would be to share my bed with another and also thinking about how nice it was to get to sprawl out alone—my arms and legs extended to the corners of the mattress. And I felt those hot waves of anxiety that make my cheeks flush and I felt there was something wrong with my body. Surely there must be something really, truly wrong. Surely I will lose this limb. Surely I will not wake up tomorrow. I wanted to come to terms with the idea of my death. I’d come to terms with it before. I was going to die, if not tonight at some point, and that was fine. Death is good. Death is not losing the fight. Living is not a fight we’re winning. These shadows on the ceiling rose and fell as my mind danced. When I was young, while running wildly through the woods, I came up on a gully and saw a stark metal structure standing five-feet tall. The ground was covered in crisp leaves and I delighted in their crunching below my feet as I walked closer. The structure was square shaped and the hollow bars that stretched from side to side were covered in rust. It looked like it once stood in a schoolyard and below the corrosion I could see its blue and yellow paint. I’d found it. It was mine. A treasure. A relic from the forest. And I rolled it through the woods and down the trail to my house. It made heavy thudding sounds against the floor as it toppled over and over again. And my legs began to hurt. Began to burn. Began to sting! An excruciating sting!! And when I looked down wasps were flying out of the ground and stinging and biting my legs. It was an entire hive of them. I didn’t scream or yell. I was in shock and I sprinted the rest of the way and I couldn’t feel anything. I don’t remember finding my mom. I remember she was there and I remember she sat me in her lap and put toothpaste on the stings and bites. I remember how wonderful it was to get to sit in my mom’s lap but I don’t remember the pain.
            My arm pulsed and burned. I took four ibuprofen and got up to make myself a pot of tea and while the electric kettle warmed up I sat down at the kitchen table and I wrote about all of the people I loved who’d gone away. I wrote to them and for them and for myself. I stared out the nighttime window at the red flashing lights of the cell towers on the west hills. I’d driven up to those before. I stared at the yellow and white flickering lights of the houses balancing on the side of the mountain’s face. What a brave place to build a home. The kettle clicked. I got up and poured the water over lose chamomile in a copper pot. The flowers swam in a circle together. Three broke loose to the center when the water stopped pouring. I put the lid on and reached up into the cupboard for my favorite mug. My left arm extended—heels coming off the ground. It’s the mug my roommate left behind when she moved out—dark teal, the same color as the keys on my typewriter. I didn’t wait for the tea to steep. I filled the mug and cupped it in my hands. I drink hot things when it’s hot outside. I run hot. I like cold showers. I produce steam. I often look like I’m wearing blush. My hands are usually shaking. I cannot wink my left eye—only my right. My left eye twitches. I put my glasses on. I don’t like to wear them, but lately I have to when I write. My right arm pulses, but does not burn. The ibuprofen is helping. My writing is helping.
            My mom held me in her lap and ran her fingers through my hair. She didn’t say anything about my crying. She wasn’t upset by it. It felt right to cry. I wasn’t embarrassed. Why can’t I cry now? Why can’t I cry for this pain? Why can’t I cry for my friend? It feels right to cry now. My body wont let me. It’s trying to protect me. I tell people I’m okay. I’m trying to protect them. Though maybe it’s true. Maybe I’m okay. I’m trying to protect myself. At some point I left my mom’s lap or she had to go. I remember my legs in an oatmeal bath—staring at my appendages. Or was that chicken pox? I remember it looked like chicken pox—fiery red dots covering my limbs. I didn’t go to the hospital then. I didn’t need to. I was going to live forever.
            I pour myself more tea. I hope the antibiotics take. I wonder if Judy’s family will have a funeral for her. Her daughters said they didn’t want to. The hospital wouldn’t take her body out of her house because it was heavier than reported six weeks ago. I sat in the house with her daughters that afternoon. They’d found another service to take her body away. Her bed was in the front room and her imprint was still there. I tried to eat lunch and have conversations. I drove home alone and cried on my floor. I begged her ghost to sit with me when I dreamed. It hasn’t yet. My right arm pulsed. My pot of tea was almost gone and I felt I could lie down again. My mind was steadier. The pain was duller. The lines in my curtains projected their shadows onto the wall—limbs reaching out together for nothing in particular. Could I still reach if I only had one arm? Maybe I don’t need to reach at all anymore. I think I can sleep now.
            Some nights my mom would work late at the church and my siblings and I would be there with her. We’d run through the pews, eat communion hosts freely, and splash each other with holy water. We’d light too many prayer candles and make up prayers for everyone we knew. My first kiss was downstairs in Tony Rinella Hall where we’d have coffee and donuts after 10:30am Mass on Sundays. All of the lights were off and his name was Brendan Hagerty and we always used first and last names then and we had no idea what we were doing and after our lips touched we ran away from each other and I hid behind the statues of saints. Saint Francis was my favorite. I dreamt of him recently—I was being chased by a horse through the woods. I could hear its hooves getting closer. My lungs tightened up and I darted between tree trunks and over logs until I fell. I expected to be trampled but it didn’t come. I rolled onto my back and saw thousands of spiders floating down from the sky. They shielded me in their webs as the horse trotted slowly past. The statue’s shadows often played tricks on my anxiety. The bathrooms had a green hue and smelled like powdered soap. For a long time I could fit between the bars of the gate that divided the classrooms from the rest of the church. I went to daycare in those classrooms when I was three and four years old. They fed us dry Cheerios for snack and I would escape before nap time and slip between the bars of the gate to hide in my mom’s office underneath her desk. It’s my first recollection of separation anxiety. I thought she wouldn’t come back for me. I thought she didn’t want to. And I always cried when she did because it was such a relief. On the days I couldn’t escape I kept myself occupied writing stories and drawing pictures. On the days I could escape I’d get in trouble but I didn’t care. The water in the church always tasted like metal but I didn’t care about that either. At the time I liked praying to God. It felt similar to making a Christmas list. Gloria Steinem says if your God looks like the ruling class you know youre fucked. I knew that was the case when I was 16. By that time I was getting paid to lead Mass in song as a cantor which made it trickier to leave the church. My mom working there and my dad playing drums in the church band also made it trickier to leave the church so I did things like staying seated instead of going up for communion and not saying the prayers with everyone else. I would sing and leave. I don’t think anyone noticed but I think I wanted them to. I still enjoy the lilies in the prayer garden during the Paschal Triduum and the candlelight Mass for Easter Vigil. They’re the sad songs of the Catholic album and I love sad songs. The candles come with a little paper donut to place above your hands so the wax doesn’t burn you. I always played with the wax and let it drip on my hands anyway. I still do.



Charlie Moses is a writer, performer, and visual artist from Portland where she owns and operates Kenilworth Coffeehouse. She has published creative nonfiction work in Knee-Jerk Magazine and Map Literary. Her upcoming collaborative album Feels Duo will be available mid August of 2017.