William Doreski

Old Blue Chair

Trashing the old blue chair
isn’t easy. Too clumsy
to haul to the landfill, too ugly
to offer free at the roadside,
it coughs mice from rotten cushions
and smirks through years of stains.

So let’s hack it up and burn it.
I’ll saw off the arms, back and legs,
douse the wreck in kerosene,
and when this afternoon’s rain
begins I’ll fire it. The stink
of upholstery may sicken
half the village, but who cares?
Our neighbor smokes meat daily
so we all smell like bacon.
Our other neighbor piles manure
two stories tall and expects us
to admire the horsy fragrance.

Yes, I’ll use the chainsaw. The scream
of its two-cycle engine calms me,
and the hiss of the chain biting wood
reminds me of the miseries
of childhood. You laugh as usual
at my foolish talk, but the chair
regards us with apprehension
now that the mice have escaped,
and the reek of their nests
ghosts into the hot June sky,
representing lifetimes of stink
and aromas that have refined us
to fit this moment in time and space.

The sky bleakens, mouse-colored,
bringing on the rain. The saw raves.
I splash the fuel on the rubble
and ignite it. The blue chair burns
with blue flame, conferring upon us
the glory of the present tense. 


Blue Pencil

Sharpening a blue pencil
instead of a red or yellow one
I feel professional although
I profess no special profession.
Technicians in white lab coats
always choose blue pencils.
Attorneys pouring over law books
also prefer blue pencils.
Yellow pencil for schoolkids.
Red pencils for scrawling poison
pen letters to taunt police.

The shavings accumulate. The point
looks eager to kill. I empty
the debris into the wastebasket
and set it afire. A wisp of smoke
and it’s gone. The pencil stabs
at the sky, punching a little hole
through which even more blue leaks.
If I’d sharpened a red pencil
I’d have to stab myself to spill
a little red into the world.
If I’d sharpened a yellow one
I’d have to poke a summer squash
and allow greasy little seeds
to weep into common ground and sprout.

Maybe I should just write something
rather than wield a weapon.
Maybe I should write something fresh
and then erase it before demons
copy it into their textbooks.
I punctuate the sky once more,
then settle to work with a brisk
yellow legal pad, the blue words
flowing like a genealogy
in a scrawl only slightly mussed
by plowing through little puddles
of that seepage from above. 


Midsummer Runaway

Having escaped the freak show
by posing as a lawyer,
I arrive at your cottage
with my naked ego shining.

After you bury my stolen
blue serge suit in your compost heap
you clothe me in the standard
American male child outfit:

shorts, T-shirt, and baseball cap.
Nothing weird enough to alert
a suspicious public, only
a slop of human debris to stash

into your spare room where mice
snicker in the baseboards and books
mildew in unread innocence.
How will you explain me

to your tightly buttoned friends?
The days grow shorter. The marsh
sizzles with deerflies honed to kill.
We have to stay indoors and dose

ourselves with gin and tonic
to prevent scurvy and reckless sex.
The freak show police scour
the countryside, but you conceal me

under a tarp whenever
their baying sniffer-dogs approach.
Odd that I never hear that baying,
but your hearing is better than mine.

As summer progresses the heat
generated by that decaying suit
buried in your compost pile
rises in a blue serge haze.

I’m glad I never studied the law
but retained my natural-born
freakish outlook. You love me
for and in spite of it, the stink

of the marsh nightly embalming us
as we lie in our separate beds
reincarnating in layers
of shy but compelling flesh. 


William Doreski’s work has appeared in various e and print journals and in several collections, most recently The Suburbs of Atlantis (AA Press, 2013). 

Kendra Ferguson

I’m bad at poetry but also twitter here is a collection of what falls in between

I’m never moving to Los Angeles I am already chemically imbalanced enough thanks

Maybe all this stuff about millennials being total garbage is true cause I think I should be paid just for sitting here and talking to you

My mom texts me alot asking for news we both know she doesn’t want

Do I like books because they make me smarter or because they look good in a pile on my nightstand when you are fucking me?

Hobbies include google-translating romantic phrases from english to french so I feel lovely and cultured despite the fact that I can’t afford college

I don’t have any money because I spent all my money, not because someone took it from me

Do I even like the things I like or do iI like them because I like who they turn me into?

Once I tried to make a list of the things Ihave never learned but gave up cause one of those things was how to finish what I started

Sometimes I take an advil just in case something hurts and I don’t even know it yet

I don’t think my stupid expensive eye cream is working or am I just this tired: a memoir

I will fall in love with you probably but I also fall in love with sandwiches and nice fabrics 


Kendra Ferguson is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. Her work can be found in Alien Mouth, her twitter @mom_solidarity, and in her many open google documents on her laptop which if you come to her house she will share with you and feed you some bread she baked. She likes cliffs and sidewalks and falling in love and laying on the floor and probably would like you if she met you. 

Robert Crisp

Shortwave Heartache

The way it came down the wire, I thought
all hope was lost— your voice telegraphed terror
and I received it in the dusty little room where
I receive all such messages, from the mundane
to the world-shattering, it didn’t matter which.
Your beacon was turned on permanently,
as was my receiver. It was a love/hate thing,
heavier on the hate, but there was love at first.

You’re somewhere in Texas now, breathing
in hot, clean air, breaking all the promises
you made back then to keep in touch and turn
to me when dangerous times came knocking
on the thin cage of your ribs and jacked your heart
dials past ten, when glowing-eyed rats began
chewing on your internal wiring, when daylight
emptied itself and let the darkness kiss your hard mouth.

I’m in the room, listening. You’re just not broadcasting 


The Great Radio Silence

The Great Radio Silence began after the Committee
on Decency and Moral Guidance gathered by Lake Ocho
that blistered, vengeful summer, the heat turning
the men into brick-red trolls and the women
into sweatier version of their sharp, harpy-selves.

In the hinterland, a girl dreamed of riding waves
of information into the black, stellar ocean—
an act that would also be forbidden had the Committee
the dark ability to clamp down on the mind and snuff
out futures and block the infusion of hope that still ran

like a current through the people, young and old alike,
whose radios sat like mute children on tables in living rooms
where everyone used to gather to hear what the world
sounded like when it sighed and laughed and loved
and lost and told itself that everything would be okay. 


The Toothy Teethy Sisters

You have toothy teeth, my sisters,
said the Thin Neck Man.

Collectively, they told him about the bloody field
where they’d dump his body, another murder in a long
line of esteemed, legendary (godly, even)
slayings, going all the way back to Big Daddy Cain,
who’d finally had enough of Abel, that whining little bitch.

Now you’ve offended our Ivory Grandmother!
quoth the Thin Neck Man.
And our Alabaster Mother!
Defile not the sacred scriptures!

The toothy teethy sisters bit him to death.
He screamed, but not quite enough,
so they brought him back and did it again.

After, as promised, they dragged his parts
to the bloody field and asked the moon’s blessing,
which she (being a sister, too) granted.

Their shadows trailed them back home,
back to warm beds and conversations,
to unions with snakes that only they understood. 


Robert Crisp currently hides out in Savannah, GA, where he teaches and keeps strange hours and stranger company. He writes poetry as often as he can. 

Scott Kristopher

A Trilogy of African Tricksters


A Four Course Meal with Uthlakanyana of the AmaZulu 

HORS D’OEUVRE’S

From within the woman’s womb, Uthlakanyana demands to be born! “Mother – give birth to me at once. I am very hungry and I want to eat some meat!” The woman is shocked and yet thrilled to have such a prodigious child who has the power to speak even before birth. And just as soon as the woman exclaims the miraculous revelation of her genius child, Uthlakanyana delivers himself into the world. Cutting his own umbilical with his father’s knife – he speaks again: “Mother, I am hungry, where is my meat!”
 

SOUP DU JOUR

Uthlakanyana is of small stature, resembling a furless white weasel in the form of a tiny human child. His repeated deceptions depend on this common misperception. As each day passes, Uthlakanyana continues to discover new means of manipulation to get his meat. On the night before he leaves home for good, he brings all of the birds he has stolen from the villagers’ traps to the hut of the woman who bore him. “Mother, here is my meat. Place these birds in the big pot and lute them down with manure and cook them for me to eat, I am going out for the night.”

Returning to the woman’s hut before the sun finds time to arise, he eats all of the birds, fills in the pot with more manure, and leaves only the heads on top. Then he leaves and returns with the sun yelling: “Mother, I have returned, where is my meat!” Finding her still asleep he curses her, “you have been sleeping way too long – I bet all my birds have turned to manure! This is what happens when one leaves birds to lute past sunrise – I have seen it many times before.” The woman runs to the pot and discovers his accusations to be true. She throws herself at his little feet, begging forgiveness. “You are not even my mother – I gave birth to myself; and now I will leave you forever and make my own way into the world!” And this is indeed what he does.
 

MAIN COURSE

Many months and many years pass as Uthlakanyana adventures the world on his own. Time and time again he gets himself in trouble and time and time again he manipulates himself out of trouble – always using trickery and deceit to save his hide and get his meat.

I remember this one time he came upon three leopard cubs all alone in their den and just as he was about to make a meal of them, the Leopardess returns with the beast she was hunting. Dropping her prey she leaps to attack only to be struck by Uthlakanyana’s melodic voice: “Oh Mother Leopardess, you do not want to kill me – I was sent here to you by your husband to help you raise the cubs and build a better den.” After some additional persuasion she agreed to let the weasel into her service and they eat her meat together. On the following day he built a new den while the Leopardess was out hunting, one with an entrance much too narrow for her to enter. When she returns she is confused and calls out to Uthlakanyana and he explains that this type of dwelling is more conducive to suckling the cubs, which he proceeds to bring to her one by one. 

On the next day he has one cub for lunch and when the Leopardess returns home with the meat he hands her one cub and then another and then the first again to suckle before partaking of the meat she hunted. And the day after that he has yet another cub for lunch and then later passes the same cub three times for her to nurse before sharing her meat for dinner. The next day he eats the last cub and realizing the trouble he’s in plans his escape. When the Leopardess returns she calls to him again and again. Sensing her cubs are in danger she peeks her head in the tiny doorway and sees what has become of her little ones. Enraged, she forces her way into the den as Uthlakanyana taunts her and exits through an even narrower hole and thus returns to his mischievous adventures.
 

DESERT

After many more months and years of getting in and out of trouble Uthlakanyana returns to the kraal where he came from. The poor old woman welcomes him back with tears of joy, still thinking of him as her child despite the many years that have passed. She begs of him to never leave again to which he responds, “I will stay on condition that you and your village feed me every day until I am satiated.” When she agrees he speaks again: “Mother, I am hungry, where is my meat!” 

 

**Uthlakanyana, Zulu (South Africa) 


The Mantis and the Moon

This story begins with a determined Mantis
who believed he could catch the Moon. So as she moved
through the sky, he flew through the trees. At the moment
he came close enough to catch her, his memory
of missing her, and falling, drives him to madness.
And she slips away again – Oh, evasive Moon!

So why, you wonder, was Mantis after the Moon?
Dreaming of her love and adoration, Mantis
sought to be seen as celestial. This madness
possessed him, and he was mesmerised as Moon moved
and danced slowly across the sky. All memory
of his world before her was lost in that moment.

He learned her rhythm and memorised the moment
she crossed closest to his perch. Once each year the Moon
passed so near to his lips. He searched his memory
to recollect every kiss they shared, and Mantis
began to feel so lonely as her zenith moved
her further from the world and him toward madness.

Her distance deepened his decent into madness,
and the Mantis began to plan for the moment
of her nadir. He would capture her as she moved
in for their kiss. Once she was close enough, the Moon
turned her cold cheek to receive his kiss, and Mantis
jumped hard and fell fast, which knocked out his memory.

Shards of light pierced his eyes and stole his memory.
Alone in the dark he was left with his madness.
Only in blindness did sense return to Mantis.
Clarity and peace dawned on him in that moment.
In shadows he found his love requited by Moon.
Deep in his heart he laughed, and then got up and moved.

Slowly his mind returned and his memories moved
behind his eyelids like clouds. But one memory
eclipsed all the others. Visions of his bright Moon,
his burning desire, and plunge into madness
forced him to face reality. From that moment
on, he became the repentant praying Mantis.

The majestic Mantis stands motionless and moved.
Blinded by a moment, now lost in memory
where dark dreams of madness meet the light of the Moon.

 

**Mantis, Khoi-San (Southern Africa)  


Eshu's Elegy For Me

ESHU’S ELEGY FOR ME

I COME TO THIS FINAL JUNCTURE, WANDERING AND LOST,
TO LEAVE MY BODY OUT WHERE ESHU’S ROADS HAVE CROSSED.

THE MOMENT IS BEFORE ME, WHILE MY MEMORIES FALL BEHIND,
AND LIGHTNESS COMES TO BATTLE THE DARKNESS OF MY MIND.

I CHOSE THE WAY OF NATURE BUT HAVE FALLEN INTO GRACE,
AND FAITH HAS FORCED REASON TO BRING ME TO THIS PLACE.

ABANDONING TRUTHS CREATIVELY WROUGT OUT OF DECEPTION
UNBINDING MORTAL FANTASIES TO AWAKEN TRUE PERCEPTION.

MY SPIRIT TRANSCENDS UNTO A HIGHER WILL OF CONSCIOUS,
WHILE MY HEAVY HEART WEIGHS THE GRAVITY OF CONSCIENCE.

AND IN THIS STATE OF STATELESSNESS I BEGIN TO WONDER,
WILL FORM FOLLOW FUNCTION WHILE BEING TORN ASUNDER?

THE VOID RECLAIMS MY MIND AS I CONTINUE DOWN HIS PATH,
ONCE PAST THE POINT OF NO RETURN, ESHU BEGINS TO LAUGH.

HIS WICKED GRIN BETRAYS ME AND I RECALL THE FEEL OF FEAR,
AS MY PITHY PARTS DISSIPATE I PRAY FOR MERCY TO APPEAR.

I AM SLIPPING INTO SUFFERING AND FALLING INTO FIRE,
AND AS THE FLAMES BAPTISE ME I AM PURGED OF ALL DESIRE.

THE BEAUTY OF CREATION IS THAT LIFE NEVER ENDS IN DEATH,
FROM NOTHINGNESS I AM PRECONCEIVED IN MY DYING BREATH. 

 

**Esh-Elegbara, Yoruba (Nigeria) 


Author's Note: Each poem is an oral tradition from specific African Cultural Groups and the structures and styles of my poetry and prose is my own negotiation and reinterpretation of traditional forms – thus the notes in the footer and different fonts. 


Scott Kristopher is a Book Artist and Storyteller from Buffalo, NY . He is also a Barista. In a past life, he was trained to be a disciplined Social Scientist; and in some life before that he was most likely a Baobab Tree 

Meredith McDonough

Birth of the Amazons

Marked by a sign much like Hollywood
the Well of Souls brims with women
murdered by man’s hatred

Not a neat dozen
that could be placed in protective shells
and decorated with red wax on a festival day
but a multitude of eggs
like a salmon brood
multiplying even as I watch

Each woman’s last wishes
tips from the porous membrane
of one cytoplasm to the next
until they roar cacophonously
like the chamber of a conch shell

I coax a single soul from her sisters
by offering her my own skin as succor
I feed her bits of rock and clay
until she feeds herself
first as a serpent then as a bird
then a copy of myself
with veined wings

I leave her for short periods of time
so that her interior voice
is distinct from my own
and her sisters’ lament

She makes adjustments
barreling her chest
so she speaks like a thunder clap
weighting her limbs with tracts of muscle
Gradually she is a fortress
wearing her face as a figurehead

She alters the shoreline
leading her sisters into little tide pools
they evolve in unique patterns
but all end as weapons
She bloods their wings
and names them for flowers


Helen Alexanders Becomes Silver Swan

When I asked the god of war for beauty
he stretched my body like a bow
and searched my line for violence
He took Leda’s scream for my voice
the false feathers from my father for my wings
and plucked my new face
from the puckers of their trammel

He gripped my feet in one hand
my wrists in the other
and set me to flight
obedient as a rubber band

Beauty made in his way
is my pain made into yours

My attempt to be heard
is the shattering of your eardrum
and my insult coated skin
the fire in your husk

He releases me an hour at a time
to rearrange your city of confident men
into my image
a scattered concrete puzzle
asymmetrical and hopeless
as a girl called ugly

 


Dr. Psycho Becomes Captain Wonder

His dream slips
like butter muslin
from his mind to my skin
as we all dream of power in a new body
our thoughts clench into the artless muscle
of a super hero

I catch the shape of his and wear it
viscous and blood-like
It shapes over me like blown glass
twining into veins
Orbing into eyes
Snaking into fingers
His dream and I are an open field of nerves
begging for skin

A face hovers over my own
caught between the vague shape of
Wonder Woman’s
burnt like a prophecy
on cheese cloth
and his own plaster grimace
as he struggles to be
the woman he desires
and himself in his best-bloomed state

I ask him
with the lips of his dream
made malleable
What is our name?
Captain he says Wonder 


The Duke of Deception Becomes Wonder Woman

He takes dirt
calls it Intelligence Loam or Dehydrated Desire
Its brown makes a girl grimace
He sells a new feminism
The first wives shall have jobs
and then second and subsequent wives
shall raise the children
like anthropologists ne primatologists
They will make macramé DNA
and succumb to their own lessons
in color and texture
unstitching and re-stitching
truthing and not-truthing
new faces for him
or at least new ways
to see him as somehow better
than previously understood

The larger and smaller hands eventually devise
a mask of ovals and hollows
topped with untethered hair
When the duke fits it to his face
they call him mother or darling
He collects the shifting foam
of their misplaced desire
a Morse code of hopeful fingertips
to dutifully decode
into a new set of zip ties and wrangles
He’ll place them around each wrist
in thick shining bronze
like wedding rings he says but better


Meredith McDonough lives and works in St. Louis, MO. Her poems have appeared in Arcana: The Tarot Poetry Anthology, Linebreak, RHINO, Juked, Bone Bouquet, and elsewhere. She was also a finalist for the Jane Lumley Emerging Artist Award in 2016.