Applying the Jack Vanarsky, of the Oupeipnpo, constraint ‘Straightening the Seine in its crossing of Paris’ to the Mona Lisa

A development of the Jack Vanarsky Oupeinpo* constraint ‘Straightening the Seine in its crossing of Paris’

In the tradition of the French literary avant garde, Helen Frank playfully explores mathematically creative methodologies by inventing and enacting constraints that function as a structure to produce art work. Based in northern England, she exhibits and works internationally as a member of the Oupeinpo, (the visual art iteration of the OuXpo groups who work in parallel to the Oulipo). Her work has appeared in various international publications, some of which are in the Tate Collection (UK) and the Bibliotheque National (France).

Online: Twitter @_HelenMF and blog:

Milk goes bad on a weekly loop. We begin
to envision digital atomic narratives
with festive chyron as decorative additions

to seasonal mindfuck. Research shows
we’re medicating. A condition that’s amorphous
as cotton candy that never disappears

What we relearn during it: how to knead
something other than our time. An intimacy
with want. How to abandon wish

and sew it to a cumulonimbus
the way children exhaust the adhesive
on an entire book of stickers.

We hear the birds now as if for the first time,
but this is a new thing to learn, the illusion
of life – you’ve put the birdsong underwater.

As if we’re losing baby teeth over and over.
As if the bullet with butterfly wings
means a slowing of violence, oh no.

It just relocates when it needs to,
from the school to the home, from the streets
to the body, from the church to the prayers.


(this poem uses a song title that belongs to Smashing Pumpkins)

Samantha Duncan is the author of four poetry chapbooks, including Playing One on TV (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2018) and The Birth Creatures (Agape Editions, 2016), and her work has recently appeared in BOAAT, SWWIM, Kissing Dynamite, Meridian, and The Pinch. She is an Assistant Editor for Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review and lives in Houston.

knee poem

amores-III-xi // perfer et obdura


pry up the patellae // like manhole-covers // check for ratkings&alligators // hiding // in my marrow // fluid // bubbling // after-rain mixed with gasoline // iridescent // flood-warning // these are city-joints // country-small-town-suburban bones // allergic to both dust&grass // autoimmune response // from the // shit // that pours out // of my knees


cat-like recursions // caught in tree // limbs // tangled plastic bags // measuring // both wind speed&dir. // seeking // courage to climb elsewhere


press bruises // into wet // concrete // watch sidewalks // contract&expand&crackle // broken bits of not-stone // mold-made-cracked // genu gestatis // corners cut // with the good leg // stuck // in the storm drain // like fishing line // unlikely // to catch anything // edible


dolor hic tibi proderit olim // ovid

On Degenerative Cartilage or Questions for My Mother

MR Layne is a student of literature and language in Rochester, NY.  Their work attempts to use experimental forms to explain their relationship between their self, their trauma, and their disability.  Although they have been writing poetry since the fifth grade, they have only now begun to seek publication.

In 1959, an episode of The Twilight Zone titled “Time Enough at Last” aired. It ends with a man, alone in a dead world.

This man, surrounded by knowledge and isolation. A solitary paradise. In the last moments, this man, enveloped by books, 

breaks his glasses. An ironic; infamous mishap. This act renders him unable to consume any of the knowledge around him. 

Now, in isolation, the antithetical apex approaches us, the viewer. You are surrounded by knowledge. You try to read. 

You are handed another pair of glasses you must put on. Glasses and glasses, pair after pair. Days pass. Your face is lenses. 

The room you occupy, eventually metal and glass and nose pads snapping and breaking. The metal cuts you as you try to move. 

The light has gone. The focus is much too rendered.

The lightbulb has been crushed by duplicating glass. 

Luke writes poetry and short stories focused on queerness, feelings and the fantastical creatures found therein. His work is scheduled for release in upcoming publications of Plenitude Magazine and Cathexis Northwest.

October Teeth

The Devil does not use our names for the stars, rather he greets them by the first names they ever knew themselves by. I don’t recognise constellations: I keep a childhood memory of my father, his broad, dry hands putting names up there. A present for me.

We’ve never met, the Devil and I, but if we were to speak and he asked me what I wanted I could look across the upturned earth in the fields outside my window. How it returns to a furrowed and empty October. There’s no such thing as coming back, my mother said, as I was leaving. You just have to enjoy it. I’d tell the Devil that I want a home I don’t have to say goodbye to. 

The Devil would chew the end of a grass stalk like country boys do in American movies and he’d say, well, that’s every home you’ll ever have. And I’d say watch me. Watch me try.

Itinterarium Curiosum 1776

“When the druids, Phoenicians, Chaldeans and the Tyrian Hercules are all confusedly worshipping in  a Dracontium in an imminent expectation of the Messiah, it is time to stop.”  

Stuart Piggot, William Stukeley: an 18th Century Antiquary

For breakfast, William Stukeley eats a hard boiled egg. He’s daydreaming about mistletoe and Greek vases. William Stukeley once walked into a tailors and asked for ceremonial robes in the ſtyle of the ancientſ and does not know he’s wearing a tailor’s old curtains. He invented the druid’s cubit and half of his papers. He went mad in the way of anyone loving something deliciously irrelevant. William used to say the word “druid” with the softness of longing, a hand reaching for the past. Oh, baptize them, Druids of Sermon, Druids of the Christ-not-Born. Oh, Druids of Heaven. Mad and Pagan saints. You know, their temples, like a snake eating its tail in accordance with the moon? Here we are making a country that is our past: mostly imaginary. We’re going out of fashion like a Birrus Britannicus. We’re loving everything mad and Pagan and irreverent.

Kym Deyn is a poet, playwright and fortune teller. They are currently studying for a Creative Writing MA at Newcastle University. Their work has appeared in various magazines and anthologies including The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry, Ink Sweat and Tears, and Neon. They have been shortlisted for several awards including the West Yorkshire Playhouse “Airplays” Competition and the Terry Kelly Poetry Prize. They are one of the winners of the 2020 Outspoken Prize for poetry. You can find them on Twitter @shortestwitch.

Cate McGowan is the author of a short story collection, True Places Never Are, winner of the Moon City Short Fiction Award and a novel, These Lowly Objects, forthcoming from Gold Wake Books. Her stories, poems, and essays appear in journals such as Glimmer TrainCrab Orchard ReviewTahoma Literary ReviewPhoebeShenandoahOkay DonkeyAtticus Review, and numerous other literary magazines. A Georgia native, creative writing and composition professor, MFA graduate, and current PhD candidate, McGowan serves as an assistant prose poetry and fiction editor at Pithead Chapel.

Everything said in the group is to be kept private.

The whir of the ceiling fan’s the only sound in the room. Group members signed an agreement before entering. We know the rules. No putdowns. Show respect. One person speaks at a time. All is confidential, except in cases of child abuse or potential harm to others.

We’ve been screened, talked out our trauma. It’s unlikely that something new would arise, though if it did, we’d be upfront about it.

Things have changed since the former days. No jittering calves or the sight of others’ bodies to put us over the edge. Instead, there’s a smudge of faces—wind-blown features, like the nascent earth.

Diane, the group leader, a fixture in her leatherback chair, speaks through blonde, seventies fringe.

“There’s a road you can take that leads away from your troubles,” she reads from the palimpsest—a wire-bound notebook that once contained line-by-line notes, though the contents have been scratched out and rewritten in various shades of ink. “Not knowing where I’m going, any road will lead me there. Repeat.”

The six to ten of us repeat the mantra, ignoring the poor syntax, dangling participle, and lack of flow. Though we all recognize the quote by Lewis Carroll turned into a song lyric by George Harrison, no one corrects her. Nothing can be allowed to disrupt the next forty-five minutes of rapport and cohesion that we’ve built.

“It’s how you react,” she throws in.

Another noise—not the fan, but the click-clack of our rewards in the small, paper bag she holds: candies in flavors of watermelon, cherry, orange, and lime, sweet and melting like flavored ice on our tongues, like nothing we’ve tasted. When the time comes, we’ll each have our share, but not yet.

“Think of me as your navigator,” she entices, “and you as my cadets.”

We all nod and smile, though we’re unnerved, the way orange being both a fruit and a color is unnerving. Normalcy is dangled in front of us, when we hardly recognize each other.

Birds are chirping somewhere: chickadees calling from the soft folds of the sky. The sound was never clearer. She continues her overture, her riposte against silence, smiling widely.

“Remember, it’s not what you say. It’s what they hear.”

As we tell our stories, the familiar chorus rises.

I bake. A lot. 

That’s good, Linda. It’s helpful to have a relaxing hobby. 

I like to bake my brains out. It helps ease my stress.

Of course it does.

To forget the pain. 

Normalize and convert it to good.

The aggression. His.


It’s hard to describe. You had to see it to know, like the Seven Wonders of the World. 

I wish it were different. 

What, Robert?

Life would be different if I were white. 

Or straight.

Or female.

How different?

Better. Comfortable in my skin. Settled.

So what if you’re a rolling stone?

More like the shadow of one.

Film noir had the best actors.

I like to stare.

We know, Gavin.

I like staring at people for long periods.

Maybe you’re curious.

Do you know any famous starers?

You look like James Dean. 

Like or at?

This is your safe space. 

Know what I really wish?


I wish I could be the way I am, and my appearance didn’t matter.

That’s a very common reaction. 

It’s natural to want to withhold some information.

It’s natural to feel nervous sharing your feelings.

The fan sighs overhead, a syncopation of beats through dull, gray air.

Gavin is looking at me now. Glaring like the eyes of deer at moonlit dusk. Like the reindeer stitched onto my brother’s famous sweater that he always wore in family Christmas photos. The ones where the whole gang’s superimposed on a mountain scene in front of meditative pines, my mom beaming with promise.

I want to play with your sex.

“Let’s talk about safety,” Diane proposes. “Any road can be a safe road if you let it.” 

The poor syntax continues. The rapturous monosyllables and inversion with no clear beginning retreat from black-and-white waves to grey. 

A siren whines somewhere. They warned about people like us. The boy we all knew, and the girl. The boy-girl no one did.

He’s closer now. Close enough to touch, though we’re in separate rooms, waiting on candy and a bittersweet salvo to carry us into the night. I can feel his hand creeping up my thigh, tapping at the juncture of flesh where leg meets hip. He could be looking at anyone, but I know it’s at me. I try to remember where I’ve seen him: in a theater or stadium, out the back window of a car that drove to a restaurant. It’s hard to remember. It feels like flashes from some vaguely remembered dream.

The screen crackles, magical woo, and we’re here—the whole group together. Diane shakes the bag of candy. Gavin draws his hand away as her arm flexes—a strength-training exercise, a chance to build positive imagery. Slow breathing, muscle relaxation. Her eyes soften when it’s my turn.

“Want some?” she asks, jiggling it like the calves we’ve imagined.

Katie Nickas writes flash and short fiction exploring conflicting identities. She is drawn to strong, unapologetic characters encountering difficult situations. Her work is published or forthcoming in magazines including Asymmetry, Dear Damsels, Five on the Fifth, Idle Ink, and STORGY.

The trilling lifts me from sleep like heavy red curtains on opening night, except it is already day, and I’m making coffee. The sunlight grafts my window with glorious light and I want to drop down to my knees, hallelujah the shit out of this life before the kids and wife wake, before the news breaks like a chestnut with tales of new bombs and old systems, before social media reminds me Mercury will soon retrograde and Amerika is still racist as fuck, killing her black babies. I want to pluck each sparrow from the locust tree in my front yard and swallow them,

for there’s nothing a
lonely body loves than
a little morning song.

Marina Carreira is a queer Luso-American writer and multimedia artist from Newark, NJ. She is the author of “Save the Bathwater” (Get Fresh Books, 2018) and “I Sing to That Bird Knowing It Won’t Sing Back” (Finishing Line Press, 2017). She has work featured in Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Paterson Literary Review, The Acentos Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Green Mountain Review, Hinchas de Poesia, wildness journal, and Harpoon Review. Marina is a recipient of the Sundress Academy for the Arts Summer 2021 Residency fellowship. As a visual artist, she has exhibited her work at Morris Museum, ArtFront Galleries, West Orange Arts Council, Monmouth University Center for the Arts, and Living Incubator Performance Space {LIPS} in the Gateway Project Spaces in Newark, NJ. She is founding member of “Brick City Collective”, a Newark-based multicultural, multimedia group working for social change through the arts. You can find her on Twitter at @maketheunknown and IG at @savethebathwater.

By age 35 you should have saved enough money to gather into a small pile. You will then dig at least one hole— the recommended number is three—in the shape of an object. Sweep that money into the hole, or those holes, and cover it or them with dirt. You are an adult now.

By age 35 you should be old enough for your thoughts to lengthen in the afternoon. Google “warning signs of degenerative disc disease.” Welcome the unmaking of your temporary and frankly embarrassing human body.

By age 35 you will know if your tongue carries the blessing of Profane Speech, at which point you may address the Orb without counsel present.

All hail the Orb.

By age 35 you should look down at your feet, then to the pier as it bends toward a horizon swallowed by a sea with no bottom. Some people walk slowly to the end, while others sprint and jump. Still others—friends, admirers, partners, people you trust—stray to the sides and fall. Be grateful that you are dry, for now. Do not judge those who fall prematurely. That’s for a vengeful Orb to do.

All hail the Orb.

By age 35, you will have forsaken the Orb. You will deny it when cast into the pit and accused by the others, but your voice will falter under their shouts and the monotonous ringing of the bell. The masked priests will sense your weakness. Their eyes are trained for it.

By age 35, you should know that the acid content in a marinade breaks down proteins in the outer layer of a steak’s connective tissue, softening its surface texture. As that connective tissue shrinks, it becomes easier to chew. In that pit, surrounded by dozens of hooting swine in tattered yellow robes and veils just like yours, you are the steak soaking in each hollered recrimination, each demand to confess, until you too are broken down.

By age 35 you should consider seeing a doctor, then look toward that hole, or those holes, you filled with money. Feel water seeping into your socks. Consider time as an ocean, lapping at the shores of your body. Consider erosion.

By age 35, you will know the euphoria of confession. The noise, the energy of the crowd, and the repetition of the bell are in fact a premeditated cup and squeeze of our need for belonging, a transcendental experience for some, a throbbing narcotic pleasure for others. In all cases, they provide the same shortcuts for large-scale connection as public singing and dancing. Karaoke and the humiliation of a pilloried felon are social rituals of a kind, one might say.

By age 35, you will shriek yes I have forsaken the Orb to the congregation as their stones rend your garments and bruise your flesh. You will bare your back to their whips. Yes you will scream, yes I am guilty. The coma surrounding each toll of the bell settles in your ears as blood soaks through your robe. Your connection to this audience, fellow worshipers of the Orb, has never felt stronger. Your heart swells with love for them, for the Orb, for this chance to unburden yourself.

By age 35 you should have Googled the term “plantar fasciitis” after moderate physical activity at least once.

By age 35, you will learn a sinister purpose of euphoria. You have participated in this ritual before, outside the pit. You have thrown rocks and lashed whips, lulled into stuporous obedience by the bell, the crush of the mob, the commands of the masked priests. You have seen the awful truth of it, that every confession is followed by an execution. The entire mechanism of this ritual is to make you forget that when your turn comes. The priest’s final blow is quick and sharp, not cruel at all, like a cold whisper in your ear.

By age 35 you will leave this world and embark upon a pilgrimage to a city under black stars; there, you will dehumanize yourself and face the Orb. There will be neither tears nor crying, nor extradition, nor pain, only the wind flicking sea mist upon your face.

All hail the Orb.

Dave K’s work has appeared in [PANK], X-R-A-Y, Barrelhouse, Cobalt, and Queen Mob’s Tea House. His first proper novel, The Bong-Ripping Brides of Count Drogado, was published by Mason Jar Press in November 2017. He lives in Baltimore, where he is a species of minute air-breathing land snail.