Lisa Poff

The Separation of Ocean Draining Watersheds

The table between us seemed too much.  
Never have I sat beside someone
at a restaurant. 

Those were the people
I used to make fun of.
What? 
Were they so much in love?

A table is too wide a distance,
greater than The Great Divide.

Nothing should separate us—
no mountains, no wood, 
no covenant.


Lisa Poff is a single mom of two children--one with a rare medically complex condition.  Writing poetry makes Lisa happy, and she hopes her readers feel a connection in this condition called living.  Her poetry has been published in the anthology Stories That Need to Be Told (Her poem won in the Depth category), Crosswinds Poetry Journal, and Runcible Spoon, among others.  

 

Annaka Saari

Applications Welcome

All the girls said
I should kiss
the pretty tan boys
that smile big
and drink Burnett’s
but one of them
raped a friend of mine
and I’ve been
turned off ever since.
I like boys that look like
they’ve seen more years
and more drugs
than I’ve had the pleasure
of swallowing.
You know the ones:
boys that drink Remy
over ice in a stout
glass cup they keep
next to the Taco Bell
plastics inside their
shitty white cupboards.
I like boys with
long unwashed hair
and leather jackets
that smell like smoke
and the Michigan cold.
I like boys with sharp tongues
and short tempers,
boys that will return my jabs
and argue with me
when I decide that
our ship is sailing too smoothly
and I need a little fire
to keep my veins at 97.6
(my doctor doesn’t know
why I run cold
but I haven’t felt anything
in quite a few years so
I think my heart’s the problem).
I was raised in chaos
and nothing says “I love you”
like being pinned to a wall
with insults burrowing
into the blush of your cheeks.
I like boys who will catch
the spiders in tupperware
and let them outside
when they crawl
from my mouth.
I like boys who listen
to Zeppelin and John Denver
not because it’s cool
but because that’s
what dad played on the way to
the tall, brick church
on Wesley Street
while the sun painted the sky
scarlet and pink
and if you didn’t tell mama
he’d get you
a small, black coffee
from the smiling man
behind the counter
at Sunshine Express.
I like sly-smirked boys,
boys that will reduce me
to shreds with biology
and computer science
but let me tear them apart
with the creations of my tongue
and the words of Salinger
and Shakespeare
and the poets I find
in the annals of the internet;
we can use the bricks
we throw at each other
to build bridges
(or walls, if that’s
what you prefer).
I like boys who take up
a lot of space
with their bodies
or their laughs
because I emptied out
my organs quite recently
and it feels nice
to have a flower or two
to put in the vase
on my nightstand.
I like boys who know
how to be sad,
boys who let me rest
my head on their chest
when I’m dreaming
of bed-sheet nooses
and digging my own grave.
I’ll promise to eat
if you play me a song.
You know which one’s
my favorite, babe.

 


Annaka Saari is a 20 year old poet from Jackson, Michigan. Currently, she resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan where she studies English at the University of Michigan. When she's not writing, she can be found watching sad movies and tweeting at @AnnakaSaari.

Ezhno Martin

Murphy was a dignified coke smoker

My fondest memories
          are intimate with the same psychopath
who stole my credit cards three times
                      before I turned him in
          and turned my back on rewinding
                     incurable momentums
      towards meeting mortality

                                 On the afternoon we met
                                       soon after we discovered
                         we both had run away from Kansas City
                 and respected nothing and no one
                              he lay in the middle of a busy street
                             an asphalt angel screaming
            Arbeit Macht Frei!
                         and I found myself flailing
                roaring right next to him
                    so loud they could hear us on the balconies
                over the car horns –
                    I cite the synchrony of the rising shutters
                          and stupefied concentration
                                we commanded over the cookouts
                          we didn't set out to crash – 
                    and when the cops got called
                they dragged us back to the sidewalk
                      and threatened to pistol whip us
                            unless we promised to never do it again
        but since there is no law against being
            a stark raving lunatic
                they had to let us go
                      and we went and got rather drunk
                  on rotgut whiskey on my roof
                          and talked about holding up a convenience store
                  only instead of stealing anything
                            we'd show up with a pillow case full of pennies
                       and threaten to shoot ourselves
       unless they counted them all in front of us
                            twice
                        
        From there I was sunk
              because Murphy had the rarest of all neurological conditions
                    Hysterical Nihilistic Gnostic Turbidity        
      something that had gone undiagnosed in me
                        until we broke beer bottles over our heads
                  and asked the checkout girl at the grocery store
                        a lot of questions about enemas
                   with dried blood trails down our faces
                               and the canvases of our plain white t-shirts

    We had so many previously lonely obsessions in common
                                namely laughing through trying to kill ourselves
like drinking through the blackouts
                           till we woke up still drinking two days later
              or how he liked sleeping with multiple homeless women at once
                
           I liked stealing furniture and destroying it in the front yard
                 we both liked making everyone around us uncomfortable
                      and violently ill whenever possible
           I started burning bridges and telling off important people for sport
                            he started smoking crack in his closet
               and committing every form of fraud he could conceive
                          to come up with the money for the dope man

           He ended up drowning in the bathtub
                  when he ran out of crack
                             and the Xanax and Somas kicked in
                He slipped under the water
                              returning to the womb
            never to be reborn                 


                  I wasn't there for the funeral –  
no one was –
and now that he's dead
          I'm free to rewrite history
                   so no one can suggest
       he was just a scapegoat

 


Ezhno Martin doesn't believe in god, pronouns, American exceptionalism, most conventions of capitalization, monogamy, any form of censorship, that 9/11 was perpetrated by Muslims, casseroles, coming to a full stop at stop signs, chivalry, patriotism, hand washing after bathroom visits, rough sex, decorum, the importance of biological families, and/or that The New York Knicks are ever going to get their shit together. Ezhno lives in Toledo, Ohio. Ezhno is now from Toledo, Ohio, because that's how that works.

Ellen Lutnick

i’ve been flirting with insomnia recently

i’ve been flirting with insomnia recently / all my other first dates have been far too focused on what my favorite food is / fucking potatoes / at least sleeplessness paints my dreams awake / the colors bleed fever / and flashback hands print my back a canvas / that type of tired that sends your nerves screaming / and you twitch under the comforter / you know / of course you do / i’ve been trying on the slippery edges of my brain / they taste like kiwis on a tongue burnt from too-hot tea / and cold showers are the best way to get clean / that type of chill that tracks needles in your creases / sometimes i feel like screaming / it’s impossible to satisfy the silence / but given the right audience and crazy gets a standing ovation / wanna see a magic trick? / i haven’t slept in 82hrs and when you move your edges smudge / i could pull lighting out of your core / but maybe you’d rather have a rabbit / something a little softer than unraveling oil paints and razorblade brain waves / the edges of the ocean are tipped in silver / and there’s a cure for tetanus at the bottom of a bottle of tequila / at least the picture is pretty / when it isn’t moving / that type of still that burns like a breath held in too long / we’ve all got at least one story like that / an ember stomach-lung / no it’s not like heartburn / don’t touch my fucking french fries / i can finish them myself / without your help / i’m fine / or you’re too normal to tell the difference / i was never that / but i don’t envy you / only your REM cycle / and i’m sick of apologizing / so don’t forgive me for inviting you awake / listen / if i’m not making sense / blame the sandman / blame the rabbit / blame your starch ears and my stark tongue / blame the story / is this a story? / is this even my story to tell? / is this your story? / do you want this story? / will you take these words? / do you take this woman? / have you ever taken a woman? / did you even ask? /

 


Ellen Lutnick is a medical student at the University at Buffalo. She has previously been published through the Cringe-Worthy Poets Collective and EMP Press. She spends a lot of her free time running, and eating French fries, and running because she likes eating French fries.

 

Wanda Deglane

Springtime Dreaming

I dream I am at the movies.
sitting in darkness, surrounded
by a sea of faces I recognize,
all smiling, waiting, shoveling popcorn
into their mouths with curled fingers
and hush now the movie is starting.

                  the screen comes on with a whirring
                  sound, a scene fades into view: Phoenix
                  at the birth of spring, too early yet
                  to shake the cold off its shoulders.
                  we’re narrowing in now- light tan tile,
                  cold and wet. a toilet gaping
                  with its mouth of hell. the song of a piano,
                  lonely and melancholy, not too far away.
                  and a girl, thin and sallow, the purple
                  blooming beneath her eyes like flowers.

                                    she is me. i glance around the theater-
                                    maybe they’ve noticed- but i am met
                                    only with the crunching of popcorn,
                                    pale curiosity glinting in their eyes.
                                    i look back at the screen.

                  there is a boy. i know him too.
                  he unbuckles his belt. makes her kneel.
                  i know this scene. i know how, in an instant,
                  he reduces her from a person to a pile
                  of rotting flesh and bone, a gaping hole.
                  another worthless thing he owned.
                  she shakes her head, her mouth says no,
                  over and over, so he fills it with something else.
                  my heart slams like fists. the air can’t find its
                  way to my lungs. i am trying to stand, 
                  trying to say, stop the movie. make it stop,
                  but i am drowned by the hundreds of voices
                  around me, now laughing.

she’s on the toilet now. his fingers
dig into her hips like scorpion stingers.
her shorts are gone. her mind is gone.
her body, frozen. she’s scratching for her voice, 
scouring. her memory splinters into
thousands of pieces. the world around her
melts away, oozing like lava that takes
her skin with it as it goes. I am crying,
flailing, make it stop make him stop.
and they’re roaring now in demonic cackles.
        
                        the scene changes: days after,
                        or maybe months before. she doesn’t
                        know. she presses the blue-green bruises,
                        tries to squeeze out the venom. she
                       plucks the scabs from her skin
                       like flower petals. he loves me. 
         
              he loves me not.
                
                                               now we’re in her bedroom.
                                               she is folded, crumpled, her eyes dull
                                               and nowhere. her mother is in the doorway, 
                                                choking on sobs. her father is thundering
                                               like a monsoon. you fucking slut. you’re a
                 
                              fucking slut. no one will love you
             
                                  if you give yourself away
               
                                like a whore. she stares at her lap.
                                               she can’t meet his eyes, so he punches,
                                               the rage and shame of a hundred generations
                                               inside him. I’m screaming no god no no
             
                                  please god no
        
                       how many times? he asks her.
                       how many times did you do it

I don’t know, I don’t know
    
                       and he’s hailing blows now,
                       pelting her face. tell me, 
       
                how many times?
        
                                                I don’t know, please, I swear to god
                 
                              I don’t know
        

                       he hits, over and over and over.

HOW MANY TIMES

                        HOW MANY TIMES
                
                                                  HOW MANY TIMES

                       I’m howling now, tearing my flesh
                        and hair apart. I’m begging for mercy.
                       I’m digging my thumbs into my eyes,
                        wailing as the laughter around me
                        grows deafening.

HOW MANY TIMES
TELL ME. 
TELL ME.

        
                        her vision bursts and fizzles out.
                        she’s seeing stars. 

                                                she makes up a number
                                                and begs to die.


Wanda Deglane is a night-blooming desert flower from Arizona. She is the daughter of Peruvian immigrants and attends Arizona State University, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology and family & human development. Her poetry has been published or forthcoming from Rust + Moth, The Wire’s Dream Magazine, L’Ephemere Review, and Former Cactus, among other lovely places.

 

Sarah Kersey

No Story

One boy got tall and they had to stop him from growing.
How could something so small hurt so much?
One girl got her nipples pierced without her parents knowing.
Old men insist on moving without a crutch.

How can something so small hurt so much?
“I don’t know how I did it.”
Old men insist on moving without a crutch.
“I’ll suffer for a little bit.”

I don’t know how I did it.
I take so many x-rays now.
“I’ll suffer for a little bit”
They say with wincing brow.

I take so many x-rays now;
Again and again
They say with wincing brow
“I’m in a lot of pain.”


Sarah Kersey is a poet, musician, and x-ray tech from New Jersey. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Mortar Magazine, Literary Heist, The Harpoon Review, Fire Poetry, The Fictional Cafe, and elsewhere.  She is an associate editor for South Florida Poetry Journal, and is a guest reviewer for Aji Magazine's Fall 2018 issue.  Her blog is at sarahkerseypoetry.wordpress.com.

 

Shana Ross

O Gets a Call from a Forgotten War

And suddenly home was far away and incomprehensible
The mundane things clouding your judgment with clutter
Like that movie where someone sleeps and the forest
Swarms in around, you wake up and

             I got a phone call from my sister in Syria
             The time was there around three a.m.
             I said to her why have you not slept yet.

I make my armor of keratin sheets
Tiny paper thin superficialities, this American life
Like nails to chew on, you can worry it for days
Like a dog with a bully stick.  Inevitably,
You hit the quick, you chew through the hardened forms that
Prevent understanding, protect you from falling
Into the enormity of grief

             She said, I’m trying to sleep but I couldn’t. Why?
             She said, not just me all the people who live in the town
             Are still awake.  All the people afraid to sleep
             From the sound of the bombs that fall over our heads.
             And all the kids are crying like always.
             And, she said, no one knows
             If we will live for tomorrow or not.  All we can do is just
             To pray to god to keep us safe.

So my friend with the sister cries and cries and then cries to me.
I am unsure myself how to live and also keep living; that’s the luxury of here
Where words are cheap and plentiful and float away like
Balloons that will fall far away and become incomprehensible.


Shana Ross is a poet and a playwright with an MBA. She lives in Connecticut and works globally as a consultant and leadership expert. This decade, her work has been published in Anapest and two issues of SHANTIH.

Kami Westhoff

Girls of Gore

We float dead-man on the lake's curdled skin with fish-belly faces. 
Our mouths are full moons, irises eclipsed by black hole pupils. 

We are barefoot and forest-bound, hair a tantrum of twigs and leaves.
We run, we trip, we fall, we belly up, resist the knife with only a scream. 

We dangle from rafters, wait for the chainsaw's snarl. We are bisected, 
brothed, buried. Our skulls become the bowls he will drink us from. 

We go to bed, or step into the shower, or put a pizza into a preheated oven.  
We don't slap away our boyfriend's hands when they slip under our skirts. 

We babysit in apple-bottom shorts, our tits taut, nipples aching for the suck. 
We have younger brothers, slightly less attractive friends, dogs named Toby. 

We are born from a nightmare on Halloween, Friday the 13th, senior prom.
We are rarely shot, audiences prefer the slit, stab, skewer, impale.  

Once, we fought back, but it only made things worse. We've learned we
were designed to suffer, we wait for our chance to make it magnificent.


Kami Westhoff is the author of Sleepwalker, which won the 2016 Dare to Be Award from Minerva Rising. Her work has appeared in various journals including Meridian, Carve, Third Coast, Passages North, The Pinch, West Branch, Threadcount, and Waxwing. She teaches Creative Writing at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA.

James Diaz

It's My Sadness, Does This to Me

I said my body is filled to the brim with trauma
 
which one?
                    you asked
 
there are more than several skins
hanging off the weakest limb inside us

 
it's a long walk
 
                               between here and there
and not every skin                        makes it
which one are you wearing,          
 
I think it's the same one
      but I’m not sure
 
you show me a scar that runs from your wrist up to your elbow
 
see here, this isn't the same skin
I've shed several layers since this happened
since he put this there

 
doesn't it still itch I ask
 
only when I let it, you say
 
only when I let it.

 


James Diaz is the author of This Someone I Call Stranger (Indolent Books, 2018). He is founding editor of the literary arts & music mag Anti-Heroin Chic. His work has appeared most recently in Occulum, Moonchild Magazine, and Philosophical Idiot. He lives in upstate NY and occasionally tweets @diaz_james.

 

Etc.

Two Sad Boys

6:30 AM
Late November
I climb into the passenger seat of a minivan as old as I am
I say “good morning” because I don’t really know what else to say
He says good morning too 

He drives and we talk
Grabbing the words that float around us and piecing them into normal people conversation
It was probably just bullshit
I don’t even remember what we said
But I remember what he did when we got out of his van
He slung his arm around my waist and pulled me in

The first time you kiss someone is always the hardest 

In his room, he turns out the light and I am quietly grateful
Not because I don’t want him to see me
 But because the thought of bodies
Our bodies
Moving together in the dark is a beautiful one
And I like when things are poetic without me making them poetic 

I tell him I’ve never been with a cis guy before
And I think he’s surprised
But it’s dark and I’m not really paying much attention to his face right now 

He doesn’t treat me like a blushing virgin because I’m not 

I tell him it’s been almost 3 years since someone made me cum
And I think he takes that as a challenge 

At some point he asks me if I’ve lost count
And between my giggles and gasps
I say
“I think 4” 

And this is not love
This is two sad boys fucking on an air mattress as the sun rises
Pink morning pouring through curtainless windows
And I don’t even care
All I care about is this moment as I’m in it 

The second time
We don’t even fuck
It’s 11:05 AM
And I’m sitting on his front porch finishing a cigarette 

He has curtains now
The room is dark as we curl together
He smells
So good
And we just sleep
And I have just slept with many others
Friends and lovers but this
Was another level
And I don’t know how or why but
It’s the best 

Yesterday
At 4:27 PM
He told me he has a girlfriend now
And I am quietly disappointed
Even though I know I shouldn’t be
There were no promises or expectations
But still I had hoped for at least one more night
Or early morning
With this boy who made me feel so comfortable
So unguarded
In this world in which I am always uncomfortable
And guarded 

I tell him I am happy for him
And this is true
I am always happy for my friends when happiness comes to them
Even if it’s at the cost of my own
Especially if it’s at the cost of my own 

I am happy for you
And sad for myself
And back where I started.


Etc. is a 22-year-old performance poet from Jamestown, New York. A lover of the art and power of words, they have been writing for well over a decade. Etc. uses their poetry to help others understand them, but also to help understand themself. They write about being mentally ill, being trans/non-binary, being queer, and sometimes, about being in love. They really love cats.

Troy Kody Cunio

lunch poem, 2:29am

I often think of Frank O'Hara
and I have no idea why.

I'm not much of a poet anymore.

I just stare at the blank page,
afraid to dirty it.

I listen to the radio at midnight
and sing along to the news.

I watch my friends crying
and hope they'll give me some scraps
of their leftover suffering to help them eat.

I sit in the moon
and wonder at the marvelous-
ness of body.

I clean the pint glasses
and dream.


Troy Kody Cunio lives in Orlando. Their work has been published in Dream Pop, Voicemail Poems, Great Weather for Media, Rising Phoenix Review, The Literary Bohemian, The Beech Street Review, and others. They have performed at slams, open mics, dance parties, punk shows, art museums, streetcorners, and messy breakups all over the country. A Best of the Net Nominee, Troy won the first Poetry Slam Incorporated Online Slam and is the uneditor of Rejected Lit. Yes, they would like a hug.

Gayle Ledbetter Newby 

Those Who Have No Country
 

Lucy Victoria Smith to George Washington Smith, 1917

 

 

Dear George,

It is winter now, and the bones of the earth lie empty, 
uncovered by the trillium, sage and bleeding heart,
blooming lovelies when you walked away.

The barn is falling
the beams reflect our aging joints, 
our slowing hearts and clouded lungs.
Wash is sick with gout,
too much rich food, the doctors say.

I am weary with recollection.
Thoughts of my daughter buried under the oak, 
her brief and terrible union with a violent man. 
My youngest girl is living now in town, her children wild
among the drifts of cinder near the cotton mills.

The other boys are hard like Wash, 
they give no affection to their wives or girls,
They are iron and do not bend to tears
or vows, but break those who hurl against them
their innermost gifts.

Why you left, my lovely son, I know, if no one else admits.
You do not love this bitter land, this bonebreak from sun to set,
You love a forbidden sonnet or a trill of mockingbird, a painting poised
above a table filled with sunlight.

I pray the bullets in France are merciful and swift.


Gayle Ledbetter Newby has been published in the Broadkill Review, decomP, Gravel Magazine, Hiram Poetry Review, Literary Orphans, and others. Her first chapbook Once Appointed (Plan B Press) was published in the fall of 2017. Gayle has worked as a teacher, librarian, and as a social worker. She lives in Mississippi.

Michel J Carter

Spring into Summer

1. 
Cellophane swaddled tulips peek
pink from green vestments, their sturdy
stems held by a rubber band doubled
taut, tripled.  At home I’ll cut
them at an angle, place them in water
with a penny (green pitcher scrolled
with berries) so they’ll last.  Outside
a spring storm, rain fine as sea spray.
They sky’s white as my faded jeans.

 

2.
Under a glazed sky saturate greens glow
wetted at the end of the day, rain invisible
as a fishnet, fine as sea spray.  So what
if you don’t love this world?  The sky’s
white as my faded jeans signifying the failure
of the manmade. Spring’s a pollen factory,
a hay fever Manhattan Project. Sharp slick rocks.
Stingers sharpened in hive after hive.  The world
dangerous, cunning. You can’t live without
it. Dark Marxist heart dependent on the greedy
market: you have to eat. Can’t eat theory
can’t eat books: swallow your poison, bright buttery
corn, right off the cob.


Michael J Carter is a poet and clinical social worker who lives and works in Connecticut. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College he holds an MFA from Vermont College and an MSW from Smith. Poems of his have appeared in such journals as Boulevard, Ploughshares, Provincetown Arts Magazine, among many others. He lives with his two hounds and spends his time swimming and knitting.

Isadora Gruye

The less we talk about trans-generational haunting, the more difficult it is to sleep with you

In your dreams, 
you become your great-great granddad
and besmirch the colonel
for waxing his mustache like a frenchman
and for playing his victrola
while you do the trench work. 

Some nights, you re-enact
his belly crawl across the Somme fields, 
calling out for more rum.  
Your tongue twisting the words
to a faint 1916 moan.


Isadora Gruye is a writer and photographer living in St. Paul, Minnesota. She believes in cartographers and beekeepers but has little need for maps or honey. She is founder and co-editor of Nice Cage, and her poems can be found in various publications online and in the tactile world. 

 

Charlie Brice

Kickback

You hear the cackle and scratch
of chickens on the front path, 
feel the pulpy soft
of poppy petals, gladiolas,
forget-me-nots,
grass like velvet—
the door’s creak that opens
to the musty interior with odors
of bread, cabbage, and comfort.

You yearn for yesterday:
dawn baling or ploughing,
wine and headcheese for lunch,
an afternoon nap, then
a trip to the hardware store
for a new pump handle.

At dinner there’s talk
of the poor bloke killed
when the oak he took down
kicked back on him.
After pie and tea, stories
of your Irish uncles,
their long black beards,
the Troubles, the grenades
they hid in their book bags
before they walked to school.


Charlie Brice is a retired psychoanalyst living in Pittsburgh. His full length poetry collection, Flashcuts Out of Chaos, is published by WordTech Editions (2016) and his second collection, Mnemosyne's Hand (WordTech Editions), will appear in 2018. My poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Atlanta ReviewThe Main Street RagChiron ReviewSLABFifth Wednesday JournalPlainsong, and elsewhere.

Brad Liening

Poem (Sometimes I Think Netflix Doesn’t Know Me at All)

he’s never thought
of wading hip-deep
into a bombed-out 

Wal-mart full of
vomit toting a bag
of human remains

just as she’s never
thought of selling
her blood on eBay 

for better blood
via PayPal their
scraped metadata 

surviving them both
as her bottled memo
lost for 1,000 years 

bubbles up to its
museum inclusion
as his hologram 

rises out of a ditch
full of broken mo-
dems while a low 

cloud dense with
particulate moves
over a city famous 

for love


Brad Liening lives in Minneapolis, MN, and at bradliening.blogspot.com. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bad Pony, Faded Out, Nokturno, and elsewhere.

 

Marne Wilson

A Beautiful German Woman

It started my first morning in Berlin.
Standing in the hotel elevator, a German man behind me,
I looked straight ahead with American reserve,
only to see our reflections in the mirrored door.
He was gazing frankly at my bottom
as if it were the Mona Lisa.
I expected something to follow from this--
a pick-up line, a wolf whistle, maybe even a little pinch.

But when we reached the bottom floor,
we went our separate ways,
both of our days a little brighter,
with no messy entanglements or expectations.

I started noticing this everywhere—
in restaurants, at the zoo, in the mall.
Men looked at me as if seeing a rare and beautiful butterfly,
but then were content to move on,
leaving nothing behind but the traces of their admiration.

I went to Germany an ugly duckling
and came back a beautiful German swan.
Now I will paddle proudly down the Hocking,
and if I am the only swan there,
that will only increase my value.


Marne Wilson grew up in North Dakota and now lives in West Virginia.  Her poems have appeared in such places as Poetry EastAtlanta Review, and Sweet Tree Review.  She is the author of a chapbook, The Bovine Daycare Center (Finishing Line, 2015).