J.B. Stone

Atypical

i was not your “neurotypical” kid
atypical was more along those lines

i used to
re-imagine all of the taunting
all of the laughs from those looking in—

because
I was their sad clown crying out,

because
I could hear noises a bit louder than everyone else in the room,

because
even though I would try to be at a two
when I am told to bring it down from a fifteen
i turn the knobs on my personality meter the opposite way
and bring it up to a twenty
because I would have public breakdowns
where my quiet ramblings
would descend into intense screaming sessions

i am still not your “neurotypical” man
i am still the atypical, 
because
i still feel awkward in conversations
when I know I shouldn't
because
my spectrum is always changing its labels, 
because
i still over-think everything,
because
i still say sorry way too much,
because
even though I have blossomed into this social butterfly
            my wings still crack and break apart
when I try to fly too high,
because
i still provoke awkward facial expressions
and eye rolling signals,

because
dating to me is like a social kamikaze,
            as I plunge myself out
only to watch life blow up in my face
but do you want to know something?
My brain is beautiful,
because
it's not bound by a spectrum
because
behind its imperfections
is talent and ambition,
because
those with autism should be respected and loved
for being themselves
         not abandoned and loathed
for being different
because
i do not have a disease,
it’s called a mental challenge
and I leap over and conquer it every day
because
i am not your statistic
and I will not let this define my whole
just a fraction of my being,
because
it's still something I take pride in, 
because
no one is normal,
One day, we all will die

and I plan to live the rest of mine
being me, because
over a poet, 
over a storyteller, 
over a wordsmith,
over a son, 
a grandson
a brother, 
a friend, a lover,
the best I can be in this lifetime...
is me


J.B. Stone is an emerging poet/fiction writer from Brooklyn, now residing in Buffalo. Stone’s work is featured and/or forthcoming in The Occulum, In Between Hangovers, Steel Bellow, and Riggwelter Press. He also will soon be coming out with his short fiction mystery noir entitled Serve the Servants, slated for release in May 2018.

 

Thomas L. Winters

My Grandmother’s Tattoo

Her tattoo says she hates herself
but loves her soul to death,

says she was raised on religion
but found other drugs more powerful—

Communism Crenshaw crushed dreams;
the crushed chin her father gave her.

Her tattoo (if you look close enough)
says her father tried to rape her.

Says she’d rather keep the memory
and suffuse his power in her scars.

She vomits out the love she eats
between her seedless bagels beet borscht soup

disgorging all through words teethed—
her very own scrabble puzzle,

her very own heroin to reject inject—
an endorphin-driven cycle slowed in ink.

She cherishes the pain of the needle;
forgets her past as it croons to her flesh:

its whirring like a purring elephant
lest her arms rain life on ceramic earth.


Thomas L. Winters is a writer from Ontario currently developing a chapbook of dark, surrealist poetry. After dropping out of university he struggled with finding a fulfilling path on which to excel creatively, but has since devoted himself to writing the stories and poems that he once only ruminated on. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Grotesque Quarterly, OCCULUM, Figroot Press, The Sandy River Review, and Corvus Review.

Kristin Garth

Christian of Troy

Bikinied battalion, Miami Beach, 
his mythic visage, the blondes beg, beseech. To sword
(his scalpel) sirens submit.  Beauty bleached,
Botoxed, skin deep commit.  For lipo lord,
cornflower eyes, open Gucci wallets, spread
Pilates thighs.  Suave surgeon sovereign, 
their plastic prince, Da Vinci beauties bled,
by flesh convinced.  Vampiric charm, red stains
on scrubs; females are easy to open,
impossible to love.   Abandoned child
of rape, forlorn for father’s eyes, slick grin.
All women porn or patient, cut, defiled. 
OR, sedated, or on silk sheets, black,
he only trusts a woman on her back


Kristin Garth is a poet from Pensacola and a sonnet stalker.  Her sonnets and other poetry have graced the pages of Occulum, Moonchild Magazine, Fourth & Sycamore, Anti-Heroin ChicMidnight Lane Boutique, Paper and Ink, Here Comes Everyone: The Brutal Issue, Rise Up Review and many more publications.  Her poetry dollhouse chapbook Pink Plastic House:  Three Stories of Sonnets will be released in 2018 by Maverick Duck Press.  Follow her on Twitter: @lolaandjolie.

 

Ryan Quinn Flanagan

Nightmare Scenarios for the Lonely Dreamcatcher

peering over embankments
with sugar refinery eyes
salamanders for walls giving you
the crawl about
and three lamps standing in a room
where dust has gathered like an angry mob
to take your goodies away
torches raised high like arms on fire
slogans because they are easy
and the boys on bikes have grown up
with the chain
fumbled with the grease of
slippery days
    
when you find me
know that I have never known
myself

behind tinted windows
the motorcade rolls
on.


Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many bears that rifle through his garbage.  His work can be found both in print and online in such places as Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Literary Yard, and The Oklahoma Review.

 

Kevin A. Risner

First Flight

The first time she was
on a plane the runway a thick parallel line
concrete below freshly mown
grass above then sky above that
with those yellow letters & numbers
on black past our line of comprehension

increasing speed does little
to stem the nervousness of being
airborne we shudder & shirk & shake
& the lilt that sends us hovering
that’s when I turn & see
her eyes watery not with fear

with amazement
that this metal beast has laughed
at wind at clouds at sun at Icarus
& we tilt to the side so we can see the terminal
& we tilt to the side & notice the shape
of Cleveland’s tallest buildings

this other time it’s not her first flight
when skies are splotchy & covered
with an invisible route that has us
guessing when we’ll touch
concrete the engines roaring
right after that moment of impact

it’s as if something’s wrong
but nothing’s wrong
we slow down
we close our eyes & lean back
& we hope it will be like that
forever & ever amen.


Kevin A. Risner is currently ESL Coordinator at the Cleveland Institute of Art. His work can be found online in multiple locations including Rise Up Review, Rising Phoenix Review, The Wire's Dream, Noble / Gas Qtrly, and others. His first chapbook -- My Ear is a Sieve -- was published last October by Bottlecap Press.

 

Amanda Negron

A Requiem for an Abuser

When I was young and innocent and starving
It was then that mother started to turn sour
An apple snatched from a tree too soon
She showed me that monsters hide in the shadows of our lives
They tuck us into bed and give us kisses goodnight
Her love would slip off like a cheap silk nightgown
With my heightened awareness came a greater sense of apathy
I became like the sickly sight of roadkill
Every time we crossed paths she pulverized me a little bit more
We’d cling to the obligatory love we shared
Feeding into the stigma of a mother-daughter relationship
But does blood not flow down the drain as quickly as water? 
When every day is a world of hurt, you learn to let go
How do you forgive the unforgivable? 
The answer is that you don’t


Amanda Negron attended the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to get her BA in English. She has been published in numerous journals such as Askew and Tipton, and is currently working on her first novel.

 

James Croal Jackson

KIMMY GRANGER

The green blanket over your head– 
Kimmy Granger gets fucked
by a fake photographer
on your iPhone in my hand.
Meanwhile, you ride me, moaning– 
it’s snowing– December’s waning  
autumn days– awaiting a kind of fate
under flicked-off lights
in the gray of afternoon. 
Before this, we reminisced about
the early days– laying in bed my hand
in your hair listening to music.
Then late July laying in grass saying
the ways we make each other happy.
Which is why I must rewind this clip
over and over to the part where Kimmy
is smiling and laughing before
the whole thing starts and
I pine for the blanket, your
green thread and lint.

 


James Croal Jackson is the author of The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017). His poetry has appeared in Hobart, FLAPPERHOUSE, Yes Poetry, and elsewhere. He edits The Mantle from Columbus, Ohio. Find more at jimjakk.com

 

Eva Griffin

NY, U?

all bruised
giddy on a rooftop
a photo of you cooking
shining pink by the barbecue
disposable
meat spitting
and your skin sings back
licks its lips
wipes tender ribs from your glasses
your own crack laughing
at a joke I can't hear

is it true you have other friends?
their names are new to me
I read them once
and then again
over and over until I thought they were mine too

in a dream we are all ripping meat from bone
throwing dead off the roof
waiting for the slap of flesh on concrete
and each fall is another face I found online

that contact
I can smell in your hair
all these other fingers through it
each strand I worked hard for
thought I'd wear around my neck
thought I'd hang from it
dangle like fresh
glistening sweat punching bag
from a building I'll never see


Eva Griffin is a poet living in Dublin and a UCD graduate. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Tales From the Forest, All the Sins, ImageOut Write, Three Fates, This Is Not Where I Belong*, and The Ogham Stone. She is the former Visual Arts editor for HeadStuff.org.

 

Alexander Buchanan

Clay Pots in the Suburbs

Can a star-chart tell me you were brought to a Fugazi show as a child?
Can it tell me if you'll drink all the Rose in the fridge?
Twenty-four packs are the smell of a chlorinated pool
Backseat of a tinted window Uber
Perfect holiday sleeping with you
Whirlwind data
And I can feel it / I can feel myself growing
When I slip into an orgasm induced vision
There's a man repeating
"I'm a good father"
And I don't know if it's me, or a sitcom dad
Calm and catch me
Some classical composition sleep-break
I dive into the void
And I live on your table
I wish I could strangle my midnight self
Unroll the khaki
And brush the cat hair from your turtleneck
Sometime really early in the morning
An eyelash curls up toward
A soft and beige feeling
You spoke so soft of foreign film, and this mint oil
I can't execute any command
Tied to an oxford sort of design
I gallop and listlessly fumble with defunct library cards
Day-dream of "river hangs"
Gah, I feel like I want to be buried with ancient stones
That somehow glow blue
But I promise blue isn't my favourite colour
Once I took off I knew it wouldn't be like
So many car rides with my ma'
To grab batteries / like we were grabbing them for the sun
One trillion sunsets witnessed
I made orbit to find debris
In formation, and in the shape of your first car
Hovering above shifting plates
A whole world about to crack like porcelain
My helmet felt like wet hair
I called your old Nokia
You couldn't pick it up in time

 


Alexander Buchanan is a poet and space enthusiast living in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. His work has been featured in Little River Literary Magazine and zine projects.

 

Kaleigh Spollen

spilling

The land yields
under oxhearts with their
swell, fieldlocked and
glistening.
It’s not enough
to water them once -

you kneel in the fog gap
watch cows watch their young
with liquid eyes. Pale skies drape
over vetch alive and thrusting
with summer heat. Your tongue is white.
My muscles are loose like
the outline of a great star.

The man on the radio
talks of children shedding viruses,
speaks of
vesicles and lymph, a flu that struck early.
It’s only September and
there is chervil but
there are things
that unspool from your mouth
I can’t gather

in the wake of afternoons
slipping into dusk into fevers into
chaparral, dry like thin threads of wood
and tomato warm on our gums
and cool hands
and sleep -

I carry
water in the dark
so you can lap it up
viciously, 
your teeth a band of lit matches
in the meadow.


Kaleigh Spollen is a writer currently based in Oakland, CA.

Nick Stanovick

I-95

That day, you drove seven states,
America's asphalt spine guiding you south,
all the home you've ever known a dying
light in the rearview.

during the lost miles, the long hum
of hours, the electric glossolalia
of crickets, you imagined
all your Loss in bones
at your feet. your father's weathered cheeks.
the sunny grin of youth.
nostalgia the kerosene setting the pile
alight. and you are turning from it,
just another sort of death, so you cry--

each tear a face
each face a reason
you cannot sleep.

no wonder you murdered
menthols on the steps at Lincoln's feet,
the sky hickied by purple cloud
your boy tossing laughs into the wind

you both rattled by the weight of ceremony, 
of ephemeral and unexpected
funerals. everyone is waving
bye, no flutter of percussion
in their chests. memorizing the shape
of your back.

 


Nick Stanovick is a graduate of Temple University, a Babel Poetry Collective alumni, and an International Poetry Slam Champion. His poems have appeared in Spillway, Vinyl, Public Pool, Rising Phoenix Review, Drunk In a Midnight Choir, and SickLit Magazine among others. He’s currently a Masters candidate at Auburn University, where he studies Composition and Rhetoric and eats many grilled cheese sandwiches.

 

Amanda Stovicek

Dad’s Grief Caravan

We ride hot air in black balloons. The casket hangs
below us—chicken in a butcher’s window, swaying
 
like a pendulum. The balloons’ burners sputter
flames interrupting the pastor’s elegy, sweat blooms

on his brow. In one hand the book, the other
a yellow megaphone crackling verses for us, 

black-clad mourners and blue-coverall’ed pilots.
The baskets wobble on the wind, air currents rumbling

in whale-speak—we crest the treelines like waves.
Oak and elm, rippling green oceans of arms—

reach for us. Our caravan of black balloons.
We hold purple hydrangeas in our mouths

and wear dark sunglasses to cover how gray we really are.
The pilots have taped their smiles down—

cellophane strain. Who travels this way anymore?
Not the dead. 

We had to read the will three times
before we picked up the phone to call for this circus.
 


Amanda Stovicek is a poet and teaching artist from Northeast Ohio. She has an MFA in poetry from the NEOMFA Program. Her work has appeared in The Birds We Piled Loosely45th ParallelThe Bookends Review, and elsewhere. You can find her on Twitter @amae099.

John Andrews

Bear

says you can stay in my house with me
     till I cum inside you. Remember
     what fill means, hours waiting:
     your car before a mechanic

     maps out every engine crack. 
     How many warning lights
     can actually be solved through
     Prayer? His money,

     you want to take everything
     with his name on it, go so far
     as to make him beg, like he
     believes it, till he 

says a young boy like you needs
     A man to remind him his job
     is temporary, boys south
     of the border are lining up

     to test the beds of every house,
     find the fruit they like the most, 
     start picking. Buy time,
     more so leather underwear

     A harness, something to hold
     his attention, sweet meat,
     offer a loin, whatever
     piece left worth salting. 

say you’ll never find a meal hot enough.
 


John Andrews' first book, Colin Is Changing His Name, was a finalist for the 2015 Moon City Poetry Prize and was published by Sibling Rivalry Press in 2017. His work has appeared in Redivider, Ninth Letter, Columbia Poetry Review, and others. He holds an M.F.A. from Texas State University where he served as managing editor for Front Porch Journal. Currently, he is Ph.D. student at Oklahoma State University and an associate editor for the Cimarron Review.

Marisha Gene Hicks

The Dangers of

when my dad’s not in the backyard
smoking cigarettes and joints and grading high school English papers
I steal butts out of his ashtray
I steal his weed
he usually hides his weed
in a metal box under the couch
in a plastic film canister in his sock drawer
in a plastic baggie in the inside pocket of his corduroy suit jacket deep in his closet

I find some weed in my dad’s cowboy boots
after my friend tells me
her dad hides his weed in his cowboy boots

my mom catches me with cigarettes
and makes me write an essay
The Dangers of Nicotine
my mom catches my sister with weed
and makes her write an essay
The Dangers of Marijuana
the essays are due at midnight
I write mine at a party
on the floor
next to the couch
where my friends take bong rips

my mom writes lesson plans at the table in the den
we watch Princess Di’s funeral
we watch Friends
the first time I see Friends without my mom
I think to myself
last Thursday when Friends was on my mom was alive

my dad picks out three matching urns with silver dolphins
he says my mom likes
liked
dolphins because dolphins are free

during the memorial service at our house
I hug my sister who is in shock
her arms are limp

I don’t wear eye makeup that day
I don’t wear eye makeup for at least a month
I stop smoking cigarettes
I don’t think my sister ever really smoked that much weed

I donate my mom’s wigs to the same American Cancer Society
where she made us pick up pamphlets
about the dangers of
smoking cigarettes and marijuana
for our essays

my mom never tried a cigarette
my mom did not smoke marijuana
my mom made my dad smoke cigarettes and marijuana outside
my mom died of lung cancer
my mom taught us the dangers of


Marisha Gene Hicks likes kittens and saxophone players. Her writing is published in Gravel and Peach Mag. Follow her on Twitter @cryybaeb.

Benjamin Niespodziany

Swamp Water Sponge Bath, or: Three Poems

 

One.// Bittersweet Breath

I drunk dialed my third grade teacher
last year, planning to use curses of windstorms,
hearse words of blisters, inquiring as to why
she had to make fun of my alfalfa sprouts
at that age, enough shouting my way
for me to lock myself in the bathroom of too much
shaking to figure out to exit from the inside,
ask her why she saved her friend from choking
at an Olive Garden but continued to call me
a Little Shit to my mother after wine at an event
on an early evening on a Thursday. When I called,
myself a slur pot, her husband
answered and I played it cool, a lip-stirred fool
pretending to be a gym membership looking
for Mrs. Blackberry, but when I mentioned her name,
he sniffled or he sneered, I couldn't tell from the phone screen
smear, then he muttered, “She's gone for good,”
and I told him I was sorry to hear that, that I'll be sure
to cancel her subscription and remove her from the calling list,
my breath strong enough to light a stove.

 

Two.//A Satchel of Paper, a Pocket of Nails

What do you call a blank scrap of paper nailed to the wall? If it's in your kitchen, do you remove it? Do you add to it? Do you lick it in search of invisible ink and sit around to see what happens? What if the paper is in a museum? Do you weep at its potential? Do you tell your friends about it? Do you ponder it for months? What about if it's on a man, bleeding in silence in the middle of your daily elevator up to your cubicle? Do you pry it from his heart and watch him bleed out? Do you pretend like everything's fine? Do you write on it, using the pen in your breast pocket and giving the man your phone number, telling him, “You can call me at any time if you ever need anything”? I have no idea what I'd do in any of these situations. That's why I'm asking you.

 

Three.// Creek Stomach

He's sick all the time
because he flosses his teeth
with river water. We call him
Creek Stomach. His mom
knows the school secretary
by the sound of her greeting cough,

six cigarette breaks a day
to keep the nerves aloft. Creek
Stomach has his mom call him
absent every other Tuesday,
sometimes a rare Wednesday,
where she tells the receptionist

it's something to do
with his stomach, 'Maybe
a watermelon seed sprouted, finally
started growing in there', but even the lady
on the other line at the school
doesn't find out until later that Creek

Stomach was actually never sick,
instead was in therapy sessions
for stabbing a student with a fork
when they were both in kindergarten. 
Now at a new school, Creek Stomach
doesn't want the story to bleed

into the rumor barn haystacks.
He'd prefer to resemble a swamp
kid or a dirtball over a sword
demon with classmates looking fearful,
so he tells everyone his family
doesn't have good water, makes him

sick every other week, but he thinks
he will be back to normal by tomorrow.
“We're expecting a new sink
any day now. My mom promises
everything will be better
this time around.”

 


Benjamin Niespodziany is a librarian at the University of Chicago who owns and operates the multimedia art blog [neonpajamas]. He has had his poetry featured in tenderness, yea, 1833.fm, and Water Soup Press. At the end of 2017, he self-released a chapbook of prose poems known as Dress Code Aquarium.

Natalie Solmer

Portrait of the Divine with Severed Head and Blue Lotus Stem

Kali has been creeping out
of my goddess card deck, declaring herself
in the face of the woman I’m painting.

She coats her in baby-blue skin she pulls my self-
destruction out of me like silk
and swallows with lolling tongue. 

I dream a giant centipede in the bathtub
and crush it, bloodless. To dream a centipede
means you have little faith. To kill it means—

Am I really demolishing my faithless body?
It’s humiliating that I still must look after it:
bathe it, clothe and feed and wipe my skin,

protect it from the house centipedes— 
silverfish that come out after midnight.
I mash their bloodless bodies

and flush their hundred hair-thin legs.
I remember once, by following the directions
in a book, I felt kundalini burn a current

on the altar of my spine. It terrified, and didn’t come
when I sat in meditation, but during the twilight
between sleep and wake. I stopped following then.

Someone asks where I got my shame.
I can’t remember. I’ve shed my old body.
This new body looks so old.

There are skulls around my neck now,
though you can’t see them. I used to fear
the blade in Kali’s fourth hand.

That’s all over now. My black Divine Mother
bare skinned and shameless, dances on her prostrate lover, 
foot dug into his heart. My legs feel like dancing.


Natalie Solmer is the founder and editor in chief of The Indianapolis Review. She had a former life as a florist and horticulturist, and now teaches writing and English in the Indianapolis area. Her work has been published in journals such as Willow Springs, Tinderbox, Anomaly Literary Journal, Cimarron Review and Glass: A Journal of Poetry. You can find her at www.nataliesolmer.com

 

Damian Rucci

Garden State Slammer

 

The only rhythm in my chest
comes from the bass
of the black car beside me
in the parking lot
of McDonald's.

I'm so bored I could die.
So I'll smoke some more marijuana
day dream of hotel rooms in Toledo,
car rides down route 66 with
the mid-western breeze
on my balding scalp

There has to be something better
than the sea foam of the Atlantic
with her social security lullabies,
Beer chugging union workers                                                   
toast the garden state to sleep
with sand in their boots
and decimal points in their heads.

America's armpit wants me to trade
the muse for a white jacket and a knife.
Cutting meat is a respected profession:
seventy thousand in blood money
is enough to start a life,
enough to buy a ring,
raise a couple of kids, 
pay off that credit card debt
and die 

 


Damian Rucci is a writer and poet from New Jersey whose work has recently appeared in Beatdom, Eunoia Review, Poetry Breakfast and basements and coffee shops across the United States. He is the author of two chapbooks Tweet and Other Poems (Maverick Duck Press 2016) and A Symphony of Crows (Indigent Press 2015) and a split Former Lives of Saints (EMP 2017 w/ Ezhno Martin). He was the founder of the Poetry in the Port reading series and editor of Street Poet Review.

 

Paige Melin

things I want to say to people but don’t

Can you just fill this with vodka?
Like how much would that cost?

--

I actually don’t eat cereal anymore due to my insect phobia.

--

I realize that you
were thinking in horizontal
lines, & I –
vertically.

--

If that’s your low-key way of asking if I know a drug dealer –

I don’t.

--

I will always be afraid of men. If that’s misandrist, 
add it to the list. I’m arachnophobic, too.

--

You were always kind of hot, 
in like an I-would-never-date-you kind of way.

--

I’m not willing to be your fuck girl.

But I am willing to be devastating.

--

We close our eyes when we kiss to shut out everything else sensory.

--

How many people on earth
are taking a deep breath in
at the same time as you?

--

Am I too far in a hole? Oh no, 
I’m just dancing around the rim of it not entirely sure
how to fall in or how to walk away. But anyway,
what would you do even if I were?

--

In seven years, you never screamed my name once.

--

I trade one form of lifetime commitment for another
because I’m that cliché.

--

Pro tip: Don’t be cheap as fuck.


Paige Melin is a poet, editor, and feminist from Buffalo, NY. She is the author of the book of poetry Puddles of an Open (BlazeVOX, 2016) and the micro chapbook MTL/BFL//ÉTÉ/QUINZE (Buffalo Ochre Papers, 2016). Her writing has won awards through the Academy of American Poets and the Albert Cook, Mac Hammond, and John Logan Prize for Poetry. She co-founded and edits steel bellow: a purely buffalo literary magazine. She has an M.A. from the University of Maine, where she served as Editorial Assistant for Paideuma: Modern and Contemporary Poetry.