when i can’t sleep at night
i eat black wine gums
& pretend i’m a baby bird.

you tell me we got smarter
when we started cooking
our meat.

i wish i wasn’t
such a raw thing.

i make up rules for myself
& then i break them.
i promise i will drink less

& walk more & call my mom.
i promise i’ll stop living
so much inside my head.

if i wasn’t so tired,
i think i could sleep.

 


 

helga wants everyone to have a good day every day. they’re the author of MELODRAMA (ghost city press 2018) & their work can be found in peach magazine, spy kids review, tenderness lit, & elsewhere. they tweet @helgafloros

Take river polished stones: circle the grave count 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4. Una para cada elemento. Earth Wind Fire Water. Uno. Dos. Tres. Quatro. Tierra. Aire. Fuego. Agua. Let rich coffee grinds mix with worm-chewed minerals. Dig and dig a cornered moat to keep them out and you in. Embody this diamond: the center refracting particles in a cascade of color.

*

Cradle the bulb that will rise. This ovum waiting to be laid in a cave that will shield it of the world from the shadows on the wall. And this egg will do nothing to replace the egg that grew and spread legs and arms through a cracked shell. But you will the petals to open a mouth to the moon. 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 You will them: smell the piel that rots beneath these toes, the skin rising in putrid glory.

 


 

Valorie K. Ruiz is a Xicana writer fascinated by language and the magic it evokes. She currently lives in San Diego and she is assistant flash fiction editor for Homology Lit. You can read more of her work on her website at www.valorieruiz.com or follow her on twitter @Valorie_Ruiz

maggot asks what’s wrong
well i misread stendhal on love
i saw peril as pencil and gave
it my all expecting an eraser
at the end of it o
and the biggest sunflower
on the block has died i always
wondered how such a skinny
stem could support its full head
it was just living that kept it
face up i guess and the sparrows
are pecking away tonight on
the bachelorette i hear descartes
instead of date card every time
maybe it’s all my fault
not you maggot born here
in my roommate’s pan
but i mean everything else
heard through fuzzy device
meaning soul this summer
will never end i heard
someone larped their own
funeral i want to larp
how i thought the summer
would go forgiveness
i love kleenex
i love falling apart
as demeter i loved hades’s
pouch of souls too much
to play the part and said
i like your pouch of souls
maggot we are not the same
but we are close here
so alive in the kitchen
but so drawn to rot
maggot says be well
inhabits the other
is lacanian etcetera

 


 

Cori Hutchinson (@tough_button) lives in Brooklyn and works in a library. Past work can be found on CONFLUENCE and has been read at the TFW reading series. She is assembling a chapbook-length manuscript called AKIN 2

Kootsie does this trick.  It’s me and Kootsie, Kootsie all the way, and I taught her.

    ‘Leap leap,’ I’ll go.

    She knows the word now, and so she does.  

    Me the teacher, a dog’s best. And there’s an audience here: Passing people. First thing they look away but then they can’t help themselves. As they go by they stare, though mostly they’re pretending not to. They want to see a bit of something that’ll tickle em pink. Because where do you find that, this day n age?  There seems to be a shortage. It’s a happy thing when you can’t help laughing. A bit of a laugh’s worth havin.

    All of this when Kootsie was in her prime, like. When she was really here. I still see the gal jumpin up and up and taste her clammy kisses on my lips. The pulpy-moist experience of that and the way her spaniel ears go a loppin and a floppin as she springs.  I know I’ve said this as if it’s all still happening. That’s to lift my spirits up, and also because I keep forgetting that then is not the same as now.

    Though in any case, she is still present in a manner of speaking. For she’s right there in my heart while I am here. And it’s also true to say that in the dustbowl of the universe, a tongue, once pink, flies and settles as it will.  In bits of course – stands to reason the tongue will have gone to dust. But everybody knows that dust, even when it’s blown away is somewhere. The watery aspect is missing, I’ll give you that. Plus the smell and the smile. So I’ll try to put things in the past from now on, though now and again I might slip up.

    ‘Go for all you can get girl, it aint that much. Is what I used to say.

    When K was here with me, that was a time. Me an that dog, I can see us now, clear as you like, sittin in Lincoln’s Inn, a-sittin in the Fields there for the world and ‘is uncle. Her and me. Dog and Madog.  A revelation.

    Would come across the circle, netball players. On anther planet. Stuck there in their sensible shorts and tee shirts. I ask you. Me-an-Koots a doin our routine. They can’t help but laugh, and me, I’m avin a giggle myself.  But nothin bad-like, never that. My pet. K, on display for all. And you know what, she adored that. Didn’t get enough attention I wouldn’t wonder. Before she came to me.

     Some of the players have a bit of side to em and the laughter comes out like a statement to that effect. They have their hands half way across their mouths so you won’t see but you will see.  But what the fuck, the doggie’s appy and it don’t matter about the way they laugh cos K’s big enough to overlook such a thing as meanness, and so she does.  We got our audience see and that’s the thing that counts. Then there are the legal types who strut along the paths as if they own the place, and the oliday makers and the omeless lollin on the grass. All sorts steppin forward, comin to snigger and guffaw.  But at nobody’s expense. For at the end of the day. K’d be doin what K’s adoin whether there was anybody watching er or not. A fact. That dog she had star quality, nothing less.

    They was appy days.  Kootsie the little girlie, the diva in the dog-a-log, and me. Thing is though, in another kind of a way it aint so fuckin funny. Because havin a pet teaches you what life’s about; shows you a few things that’ll bring you close to a sense of tragedy. First of all there she’ll be in the wee-widdle-pup days. I see her in her perky puppyness clear as clear. This dog was a stray one before she was mine, as they say. And then she was owned, or me, I was owned.  You know, the way dogs spray everything. Omnipotent, omnipresent. All of that.  Woof-Woof

    Dear God, man’s best dog gone, hot dawg, dogged for a day. Friend. Well, that’s the way it was with us then, before she went.  When that doggie died it did my heart in, I admit it freely as once upon a time I would never av believed it could av appened. But some of us can’t take an ending so we tells ourselves there isn’t one. Man’s best; dog’s best. Ad infinitum, so to speak.  I love that pooch, dead or not dead. She might be gone but what we were together – nobody can take that away: So fuck mortality. She’s still here as far as I’m concerned. Ice-cream up to me eyebrows. That dog. How she leaps and licks. Eternal like.

    You little darling, you dirty old bleeder. How comes your breath stinks when you’ve just gone and got the three holy letters juxtaposed and who cares about the order of the thing? OGD is as good as gdo.  But that shiny coated animal. Nothing closer to perfection than the slinky slippery hair she had. For in the way of things¸ at least in our image of things, silk equals gorgeous and puts the S in sunny. That little King. Charles, as it happens. Now gone.

    But what I have to get to, and really want to capture, is the moment. The day that every dog should have their own fair share of. For there’s no doubt at all that my best little K girl, she had hers. I’m telling you, if you’ll just take my word on this, that a doggie can do a trick, and be that pleased to have done it. And takes a pride. Say attention seeker if you like, but is that so bad a thing to be?  Anyway, up there went Ms, her pink tongue a lappin and lickin and a sucking in all the sugary mulch. Slop slurp and who could say a thing against such a innocent activity, laugh all those that may. Kiss-kiss.

    Laugh!  Kootsie and her trick.  Which works in sunlight only, I av to say.  It would never be right in the rain, would never be right in the dark with a lamp. Purely a sunshiny lunch or afternoon thing.  Sweetly warm, it has to be. Kootsie’s leapin up and up. You can’t teach a dog tricks they don’t see inside of themself. You can’t teach a dog to clean the toilet seat but you can teach her how to lick up ice-cream on the hot-doggie tongue no messin, clean as clean. Give or take the odd bit of saliva. The dog drool that’s seepin out of her at the thought; at the wish.  Lush milky stuff, she’ll be thinkin. But not in words, cause she don’t know the words as such, do she. She sticks with the sensibility. That’s enough for me and for the both of us.

    Ms K. In the best sun of the day. The lunchtime prats in the park.  On the way to

pitch or pub or caff, they all give K a look an a half.  The shopgirls and the netball girls, and the waiters starin out of the cafeteria.  And the office workers and the legals. all lookin sideways as they go. At Kootsie jumping up to the face of the man.  If he is a man, they’re thinking, as I can see writ plain. Well the dog’s eyes are shining, hair aflying in its wavy way. Ears akimbo. Up she goes.

    It was a time n a half she had; we had together, in the smelly wet and licking time we call life.  And the size of the audience we were capable of commanding you’d hardly credit. It was Kootsie who drew em, of course. I played the organizing and constructing role; was the stage manager seein to the props, goin into M&S, buying up ice-cream by the barrel load. I was the director, so to speak. But Kootsie was the charismatic pet they came to see. K lickin and lappin that mush from my face.  Lap lap, till all was gone. It was her finest hour or two in Lincoln’s Inn. The very best.

     She’s dead now that dog.  Same as everybody comes to in the end. Now me I’m not so far behind but there’s still a bit more mileage in the dogless days. .I’ve got over the shock of seein Ms K hanging up her pail in the tooth and nail last fight she had. When she couldn’t breathe, and she just lay there with those two black eyes lookin at me and understanding I couldn’t do a single thing.  She didn’t blame me. She knew I knew she knew. Dog tired as she was. She could not go on. Then it was the Happy Hunting Ground as came forward and offered her a home. And I think of her in a little vanilla and minty chipchoc doghouse – for who’d have the heart to deny K what she was used to in this world on a weekly if not a daily basis?

    She looked at me all those sundae afternoons ago and I clipped on the lead to her designer collar.  Then off we went to fetch the chilly substance of every child’s dreams, and then strolled down to L I Fields where we found ourselves in sunshine. And K for keen we were to get started before it foamed away to zilch. She’d be crouchin down on the ground, with me bolt upright on a bench. Both getting ready for the start of our best performance yet.  

                                                                   #

    There’s a little crowd now, of regulars who know what’s coming next.  An they’re all, ‘Oh look at that dog, look at that man. Look there’s ice-cream on the lips of the man and the dog licks it off.  Disgusting or what. Who’d be a man like that, call it a man anyway? What does he think? Poor fuckin loser, poor bitch of a dog, if it is a bitch.’    

    We’ve got a nice cherry flavoured ice-cream in a cone and it’s a bit melted but not so bad that it’s run to trickles. So I plasters it over my face like shaving cream and K gives her bum a little waggle and starts to yap.

     an I says, ‘Go girl go.’

    And so she does.

    She leaps up the first time and mops up a fair glut. Mid-air her body’s jerkin an wriggling, then she’s down and swallowing all the luscious creamy stuff.  

    Then I says, ‘Girlie,’ in a drawn out way with a gurgle at the back of the throat she likes. And a jostle of saliva on the tongue mimicking the slurp of remaining melty sorbet in a glass being sucked up by a straw.  An I say it again and again till every last dollop of the ice-cream’s gone:

    ‘Go girl, go!’

     We were all there in this life when we were able and dog willing, but I can’t say a truthful word to you about the dusty next.  

    I’m sitting on the bench on me tod now but in my mind she’s a leaping high. Her spaniel ears go fly-about. Soft as silk in my eyes and face.  Only a memory but it soothes my pain. Hair of the dog that kissed me.

                                                                  End

 


 

Jay Merill lives in London UK and is Writer in Residence at Women in Publishing. She is runner up in the 2018 Alpine Fellowship Prize, a Pushcart Prize nominee, the recipient of an Award from Arts Council England and the winner of the Salt short story Prize. Jay is the author of two short story collections (both Salt): God of the Pigeons and Astral Bodies. She is published in such literary magazines as 3: AM Magazine, A-Minor Magazine, Bare Fiction Magazine, Eunoia Review, Jellyfish Review, The Literateur, The Lonely Crowd, The Manchester Review, Storgy and Unthology 10. She is also published in the US in Anomalous, CHEAP POP Lit, Crack the Spine, Entropy, Epiphany, Foliate Oak, Ginosko, Gravel, Heavy Feather Review, Hobart, Literary Orphans, Lunch Ticket, matchbook, Matter Magazine, Per Contra, Pithead Chapel, Prairie Schooner, SmokeLong Quarterly, Spork, Thrice Fiction, Toasted Cheese, Trafika Europe, upstreet Literary Journal, Wigleaf and other greats. 

The birthing tent was my favorite.
We’d be right with the crowd, pouring in
to the white flapping doors to find the
best spot on the metal bleachers. In
the middle, a cleared patch of hay and
a small aisle, so the three farmers
could lead in the expectant mother.
The width of her middle exceeding
her hip bones, spanning longer than my
father’s wing-span. And to see her round
body moving from the oncoming
calf, the bumping legs, the snout, calf and
mother struggling together. There
was something alarming about it
all. Even after my own mother
had told me about my birth and said
that one day I should do the same. It
was a rush, she claimed, to reproduce,
to test the birthing hips. It’s said that
the child goes through more pain than the
mother. Bruising, skull morphing pain.
We would watch entranced, crowd leaning in,
elbows on knees, as the announcer
would narrate, “The hooves are coming!” “Don’t
leave yet!” “You’ll have to see how fast she’ll
stand!” And then the calf, silky with warm
amniotic fluid, approached by
mother and farmers to clear the nose,
to lick the head. The crowd cheering, as
if they hadn’t known what could have come.

 


 

Lisa Folkmire is a poet from Warren, Michigan. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts where she studied poetry. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including Atlas & Alice, Glass, Gravel, and Timber. She is also a reader for The Masters Review.

Twitter: @LisaFolkmire

     Sam wanted to convince his wife he was ready to have a baby, so he patted down a five-pound bag of flour, searching for holes and tears. Satisfied, he wondered if he should give it a name. After all, everyone has a name. That’s how you know they’re a person. Flannery, Fletcher, Floyd, Florence. Florence. A little girl. He could put a pink bow on her.

     He buckled Florence into the passenger seat and lamented his lack of forethought. Maybe he could borrow a car seat. Rob’s son had just outgrown his. Sam could drop by.

     Rob tisked. “I was kidding. A bag of flour is nothing like a baby. It doesn’t eat or shit or piss on your face.”

     Sam crossed his arms and leaned forward. “Are you offering up my godson?”

     “I don’t think you’re ready for that.” He buckled in the car seat, righted himself and placed his hands on his hips. “Come inside. Have a drink. Bring the flour.”

     That first cool sip of beer rolled across his chest. Fresh spring air blew through the open window over the sink. The sound of ripping caught Sam’s ears. The cat hissed violently and bolted from the living room.

     Florence’s head was slashed. There were wet patches from the cat’s tongue, teeth marks. Clumps of her innards spread across the couch. Nausea ripped through him. Rob thumped the couch to scatter the flour. Soon it looked like nothing had happened.

     “I should probably get going,” Sam said. He hoisted Florence onto his hip and headed for the car. She didn’t feel lighter, just harder to keep together. Flour spilled onto his flannel shirt, and he tried to brush it back in but specks floated toward the grass and caught the sunlight in a sprinkling of ash.

     When he got home he left Florence on the dinner table so he could use the bathroom. Carrying her around was straining his muscles just enough that he noticed. He’d have to get a BabyBjörn. That would show Jessica he was serious.

     He washed his hands and returned to the dining room to find Florence missing, no clumps of flour in sight. Sam went into the kitchen and there was Jessica, scooping flour by the cup onto a sifter. His mouth dried out.

     “Thanks so much for getting flour,” she said. Her eyes squinted with happiness. Her hands dusted with Florence. “We were almost out and I wanted to use your blueberries before they went over the edge.”

     A cup of Florence was inside the bowl, a cup lingered on the sifter. Her brains were scrambled and he was supposed to be happy about it. “What are you making?” he croaked.

     She grinned. “Blueberry muffins.”

     Though he was torn between his love of blueberry muffins and the flour child he’d adopted only two hours ago, he didn’t ask Jessica to pause. Now that Florence was eternally divided, she was like any other bag of flour—completely insignificant—and hopelessness crept into him.

     As he watched his wife gleefully split their daughter in two, it occurred to him that her constant equivocations on the subject of children may not have been all about him and his lack of experience. Her excuses piled like ash in front of him. Enough to make Florence unnecessary for muffins.

 


 

Chelsea Stickle lives in Annapolis, MD. Her work has previously appeared on The Fem and Jellyfish Review. Find her on Twitter @Chelsea_Stickle.

Ode on Errant Nail
A Quiet Place (2018, Dir. John Krasinski)

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Self-Portrait as Girl in Pink Lingerie
It Follows (2014, Dir. David Robert Mitchell)

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Jacqueline Boucher lives, writes, and teaches in Kansas. Her work has been published in Cartridge Lit, The Rising Phoenix Review, BOOTH, Smokelong Quarterly, and other magazines. Her life goals are to write a book-length love letter to Hannibal Lecter and to convince her cats to pay rent. She can be found on twitter @jacqueboucher.