Kristin Stein

Instructions on Carving

1. Climb the cement steps to the workshop and press the door firmly with your palm so it’s flush against the wall. Unlock the hook and eye latch.

2. Fill a plastic Shop ‘n Save bag with dry wooden shavings to line your gerbil’s cage. Try not to sneeze. Tie the bag’s handles into a firm knot and wipe your hands on your shorts.

3. Above the workbench on a thin, wooden shelf, notice a bruised yellow book. The spine says Carving. You’ve always wanted to learn how to carve. Use a coil of Pink Panther insulation to hoist yourself on the workbench.

4. Feel the dust itch the insides of your nostrils and sneeze loudly. Step backwards but catch yourself on the edge of the shelf before you fall.

5. Reach up. Pull the book down with the tip of your index finger. Let it fall to your feet with a thick sound.

6. Flip through its glossy pages and look at the photos of carvings. There’s an old man with a whittled wooden beard but it looks too difficult. Settle on a duck because it’s the easiest.

7. Find a block of soft wood, like white pine or butternut.

8. Bent over the workbench, trace an outline of the duck on the wood with a flat carpenter pencil. Erase any mistakes.

9. Look out the window at the line of maple trees bordering the rock wall. See your brother stepping out of the hen house cradling brown, white, and blue spotted eggs in the hem of his shirt. Ask if he’ll cut out the outline.

10. Watch him stoop over the scroll saw, his black No Fear baseball cap turned backwards and out of the way. Listen to the buzz of the blade as it cut through the wood.

11. Sit on the back porch by the garden with the heavy black pocket knife you borrowed from your dad. Use your thumb to press against the back of the blade and guide it along the grain. Watch the wood peel away in long, curling strips.

12. The head and beak are harder because they're smaller and have more detail. Do the best you can.

13. Place the finished duck on the plant stand in the living room among the pothos and drugstore ceramic rabbits. Decide carving isn’t for you.

14. When it goes missing, ask your brother where it went. Laugh when he shows you. He tried to fix its head but now it’s tiny and disproportionate to its body.

15. Fall asleep on the couch after drama practice. When a policeman shows up at your door and says there’s been an accident, go with your brother to the hospital in Albany. Sit in the ICU and half listen when two policemen say they need someone to identify the bodies. Notice you’re still wearing the costume from drama, leggings and a black top, but it’s too late to change. Your brother goes to the morgue alone while you curl up on the vinyl couch in the hospital room. Never ask him about it.

16. Sit on the swing by the bare lilac tree and push your stocking feet into the snow. Take a fistful of snow in your gloved hands and throw it at your brother’s dark window. It’s too dry to pack into a ball and scatters in the wind.

17. Find any reason to yell at your brother. Try the make the quiet house loud again. Don’t apologize.

18. When he leaves, don’t say good-bye. Don’t ask where he’s going. Watch him load bags of clothes and books and plastic Ninja Turtle figurines into the trunk of his Chevy. When his car disappears around the bend in the road find the wooden duck and cup it in your palm. Listen for his engine but give up after an hour.

19. Fifteen years later, stand in ACE Hardware and stare at the racks of carving tools. Tell yourself not to cry.

Kristin Stein is studying Creative Writing at Pacific University near Forest Grove, Oregon. This is her first publication.

Sherita Trent

Mrs. B’s Diner

Frankie had worked at Bijou’s Diner for eight years watching people troll in and out past mounds of red clay and adobe.

She caught a customer eyeing her over the rim of his red hard plastic cup. A greenish blue booth illuminated behind him next to a tiled wall colored pink by hanging lamps. She looked away when their eyes met.

Flashes of taupe nail polish caught Frankie’s eye as Ramona fidgeted with her hairnet. She stood before a butcher block cutting board of tomatoes braced for stewing. “I can’t keep this damned thing on,” she said. Strands of her curly hair protruded through small gaps between the light pink net. “But we don’t want to die!” The tomatoes shrieked.

“They’re going to complain about my hair in the food again,” Ramona griped.

She ignored their pleas. “I hate this fucking job!”

Frankie nodded and tugged at a hanging string dangling from her sewn on nameplate. Her uniform clung to her curvaceous frame and sang of starch with each step she took. She could no longer smell the pancakes, onions, and grease that had baked their memory into the yellow cloth.

“Where’s my rice! I need my damned dirty rice!” Bijou’s most frequent customer, Mrs. Badillo, shouted as Frankie absently filled her water cup.

“Coming up in just a minute, we’re making it extra special for you today!”

Frankie feigned a smile. She’d forgotten the order long ago.

Mrs. Badillo’s shoulders settled back into themselves. In the kitchen Frankie ladled dirty rice from the crockpot into a vintage Campbell’s soup bowl. Rice kernels had dried to the crockpot’s walls. The spices filled the air with offensive heat. “Ramona…Ramona!” Frankie hissed.

“What?”

“I need you to take this out to Mrs. Badillo.”

“Fine but you’ve got to take over this chili. I hate that mean old bitch. She’s in here barking orders like she owns the place everyday and she doesn’t even know my name!” Ramona ripped her hairnet from her head, and grabbed the bowl from Frankie. “Smells like shit.” she murmured and sashayed toward the door between the kitchen and the dining area.

Frankie pushed open the employee exit and took a breath into the crisp air.

Blue sky and cerebral clouds hovered above.

She twisted her black and brown ombre box braids into a makeshift bun atop her head and hurled.

Mrs. Maria Jose Badillo prided herself on being the first customer to jingle through Bijou’s glass doors every morning. Her white square table with chrome edges glistened like a throne still damp from a fresh wash.

She loved Bijou’s Diner, more than she loved most things, because as a child her family frequented the same diner on Sundays. By age five, ordering was her favorite thing to do. It was the anticipation during the lapse between asking and receiving that made little Maria Jose feel alive. Back then, the waitresses had fawned over her. They’d praised her brown Shirley Temple curls, not yet touched by bleach and topped her milkshakes with overflowing cherries. It brought them joy to cater to the little girl’s every whim. Now that she was a grown woman and could do as she pleased she lodged herself in her peach booth by the glass block windows that obscured her view of the outside. After an early dinner she’d hustle home to watch reruns of her favorite talk shows and to wind her hair around pink plastic rollers in preparation for the day ahead.

“Bijou’s Dirty Rice: a spicy blend of sausage, bacon, peppers and tomatoes served in a bowl fit for a king!” the menu description read. It was perfect, and it was her order.

Mrs. Badillo eavesdropped as teenaged newlyweds took photos of themselves holding their baby over a spread of waffles and hash browns. They tossed a coin over which photo to submit to a reality TV program. Delighted, Mrs. Badillo scribbled their happenings into her notebook.

Mrs. Badillo wrote daily about the random ensemble of characters in the green booth within plain view of her own. She sipped cheap canned beer with a straw and discretely captured disjointed stories. She planned to write a book comprised entirely of Bijou’s customer dialogue. She’d send it to Oprah and it would surely be put on her list of Favorite Things. Then, everyone would see that she had always been there, writing their script, and running things under the surface.

What if, Mrs. Badillo fantasized in horror, she was to arrive to the diner one day to find someone in her booth just sitting there, just sitting like they owned the place? She imagined, with righteous pleasure, such an altercation and the biting words she would use to reclaim her station.

At times, she ruminated over the fantasy. She found justice in it. Mrs. Badillo had once been closer to middle aged, and for a time she’d been a teen. She imagined no one considered she too had been a baby and with wide eyes seen a frying strip of bacon sizzle and speak.

Frankie woke abruptly at 6:00am on her day off. Light streamed in and reflected the lime green cast of wallpaper onto her skin. Her small brown feet landed on the ground and crumpled the papers beneath them. “Shoot!” she whispered sharply. She gently brought the college application to her lap and ran her fingers over the fresh crease.

Frankie didn’t know what she wanted to study. “Business.” She’d answer when expectant customer eyes pried for a response. She was no more interested in studying business than she was in continuing to live in her parent’s basement in the desert.

Ramona, who squealed cheerfully when Frankie dished out gossip and laughed at all of Frankie’s jokes, was the main reason Frankie hadn’t walked out on Bijou’s years prior.

Bijou’s Sausages in a Blanket! The idea popped into her head with urgency she couldn’t shake. She had vowed “Never again!” after the last time Ramona had forgotten to throw out the expired milk, which lead Frankie to vomit milkshake along the edge of the parking lot.

The image of Bijou’s laminated white menu with red letters had imprinted itself upon her memory. Toward the bottom right side of the menu, just under the biscuits and gravy, her favorite item was announced:

Bijou’s Sausages in a blanket: three link sausages wrapped in blueberry pancakes served with real maple syrup.

She fastened silver hoop earrings into place and contemplated stale cereal as she slipped her arms through a green track jacket with white stripes.

Frankie arrived to Bijou’s Diner minutes after opening.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Ramona greeted her with a warm embrace.

Frankie tested two booths before she chose the one she’d already known would be the most satisfying.

She bathed her pancakes in butter then drowned them with maple syrup. The bell above the glass door chimed as Mrs. Badillo made her entrance into Bijou’s Diner. Frankie averted her eyes. She disliked Mrs. Badillo because of the way she flailed her arms about when she gave direction as if Frankie were her personal orchestra. It unnerved her, unexplainably so, how Mrs. Badillo wore her bleached hair in a square pyramid of hard curls. Most of all, her constant presence reminded Frankie she might be fated to live out the rest of her days alongside Mrs. Badillo in Bijou’s Godforsaken Diner. Of course she’d sat in the woman’s booth on purpose!

Mrs. Badillo approached briskly, her peach sweat suit swished loudly with dramatic effect.

“I was sitting here.” Mrs. Badillo announced.

“No you weren’t. I just saw you come in.”

“This is my seat.” She couldn’t believe the girl’s nerve.

“There are lots of other empty seats. Look there’s that nice corner booth.”

Frankie pointed to a booth with foam stuffing breaking through its red cover. They paused to take a look.

Frankie wondered why Mrs. Badillo’s eyes twitched back and forth between her and the customers who seated themselves in the adjacent mint booth.

Mrs. Badillo suddenly retrieved Frankie’s Tabasco sauce and coffee mug and firmly set them atop the nearest empty table with a dignified clang.

“What are you doing?” Frankie held fast to her plate as Mrs. Badillo attempted to tug it from her grasp.

A half eaten sausage link rolled off of the rim and onto Mrs. Badillo’s white tennis shoe. The remnants of a grease stain would live on in the fabric of her laces.

Mrs. Badillo’s brown eyes boiled. “Listen, hussy—” She started.

“Excuse me!?” Frankie’s voice was filled with incredulous delight; she couldn’t wait to recall each detail to Ramona.

“Who do you think you are?” Mrs. Badillo pronounced each word with sharp incantations. “I’ll get the manager and I’m sure he won’t be so kind!”

Frankie barely stifled a snort “Mrs. Badillo, I am the manager,”

“…Oh…” Mrs. Badillo shifted. She released the plate. It clinked softly against the Formica tabletop.

“I didn’t recognize you outside of your uniform. You should have said who you were from the beginning.”

Frankie juggled the weight of her livelihood before opening her mouth to say what she had always wanted to say.

“I don’t know how you didn’t recognize me. I serve you all of the time and even if I were a customer do you still think it would be ok to treat me this way?” Frankie asked.

Head held high, Mrs. Badillo made her way toward a red stool at the bar. She had learned long ago to feign confidence in the face of embarrassment.

“Bijou’s Dirty Rice?” A pretty girl with a giant Afro asked. She stood behind the counter; readied to scribble Mrs. Badillo’s order into a notepad. Her white linen nameplate read “Ramona.”

“Ye—” Mrs. Badillo interrupted herself.

A chalkboard on the columned wall behind Ramona caught her eye. It shouted “ASK ABOUT OUR SPECIAL!” in capital peach letters.

“…What’s today’s special?”

“Fried pickle sandwich with aioli.”

“That sounds quite strange.”

“It sounds strange but it changed my life.”

Mrs. Badillo reached for her notebook. “I’ll have it.”

“I’ll have it.” Mrs. Badillo scrawled in blue ink. It had never before occurred to her to incorporate her own dialogue into the narrative.

“Mrs. Badillo, I do declare!” Exclaimed the pickles from their jar of juice.

Sherita Trent lives in Portland, Oregon. She studied creative writing and visual arts at the Evergreen State College. She enjoys singing at the top of her lungs to the same song on repeat and watching relational reality TV.  You can view her mixed media portraits on Instagram @ofquirkywonder.

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.