the night statics 
with the heat of your invite.
you shape soft rubies of lava 
in your throat, 
turn me to devour. 
my body now whistles
with the steam of no mercy. 
i sprawl on your veranda 
like summer’s first breath.
you linger, disturb my waters. 
these rivers dissect
only to be seamed together 
by sinew of moonlight, the air 
hollow of birdsong
until you exhale their bones.


Ami Patel (she/her) is a queer, diasporic South Asian poet and Young Adult fiction writer. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and Tin House alum. Ami’s poems are published in various places,including perhappened mag, The West Review, and Moss. You can find her online at amipatelwrites.com.


Lugging your body  
is my new talent

For dinner I order
a bowl of spaghetti for me 
ice for you
speak about work     war     politics
You don’t 
interrupt

When I take your body to the zoo
I prop it up
near the cheetah cage
hold your eyes open
I say     isn’t it sad
how she’ll pace for miles
but go no where 
You agree

At church 
you fall on the floor
They shout     Slain in the spirit!    
and it makes me wonder if you’ve changed 

They say a man dies 
the same way he lived
I say you’re better 
company now –
Me     taking you for ice cream
You    keeping your hands 
to yourself

If God is too busy 
to decide where you belong 
He’s welcome 
to consult with me


Cyndie Randall’s poems appear or are forthcoming in minnesota review, DIAGRAM, The Florida Review, Frontier Poetry, Crab Creek Review, and elsewhere. She works as a therapist and lives among the Great Lakes.. 


I woke up to another shitty day in the Kingdom of Magic. The first shitty thing that happened was that I was out of my favourite breakfast cereal, Enchanted Pebbles, and had to wait around for six whole minutes for a new box to be spit out by the Have Whatever You Want Shoot. And the note that came with it, telling me I deserve supreme happiness, was slightly less lovely than the note I got last week with my double order of Euphoria Swirls. I’m starting to think the Council is conspiring to have me kicked out or something. I mean, why else would I get such a shitty note?

The next terrible thing to happen was that while I was waiting for the bus to take me to work, one of the fluctuating balls of energy from down the street – I forget which number – came and sat beside me and started trying to have a conversation. About how beautiful the sky looked. Can you believe it? I couldn’t either. I’m just sitting there, minding my own business, looking out at a perfect landscape of trees and water and yes, an admittedly beautiful sky, but do I look like I want to discuss it?

When the bus came (three minutes late, by the way), I sat as far away from that annoying blip of energy as possible. Luckily I saw my best friend, fluctuating ball of energy no. 764, sitting on the back seat. We’ve been working together at the Bureau of Satisfaction for a while and usually I feel as if I can tell them anything, you know, really be myself. But something was different today.

For starters, when I sat down, no. 764 said: “How are you today?”

How are you today. What the heck, right?

Flummoxed, I replied: “I’m fine.”

And no. 764 said: “Are you sure?”

And then I said: “Well no, actually, I’m doing kind of shitty.”

Then no. 764 just looked at me, glowing all different colours like a rainbow, and I started to get really uncomfortable. I said: “What’s with you? Normally we totally get each other.”

“I’ve changed, no. 381,” they replied with a long exhalation of radiant air that almost made me vomit it was so pure and beautiful, “I’ve realised the truth. The Kingdom of Magic is divine, and I am grateful for all it has to offer.”

“Oh, shit,” I said, “you’ve been to see the Enrichment Officer, haven’t you?”

“So?”

“So, don’t you know what they say about those freaks?” I lowered my voice, “They brainwash fluctuating balls of energy like you and me into thinking all sorts of wild things.”

“Like what? Life here is good, and we should enjoy it?”

Exactly.”

“I don’t know, no. 381. Frank has some interesting theories.”

“Who the heck is Frank?”

“The Enrichment Officer. You should drop in some time; I could put in a good word?”

“Urgh – no, thank you.” We rode in silence for a bit, no. 764 undulating beside me as a procession of perfect landscapes passed by the window. Then I said: “so, what, you and Frank are like best friends now? What about me?”

The bus stopped, and no. 764 wafted away from me.

“Frank has just helped me to realise some stuff. We’re not best friends. Don’t worry so much!” No. 764 was almost off the bus, their voice dissolving into the surge. “Please get help, no. 381. I love you!”

So, yeah, that was like the fourth shitty thing to happen to me that day. I decided right then and there that I wouldn’t be meeting no. 764 for lunch anymore. Really the whole incident just proved my theory that you can’t trust anyone but yourself.

At work I spent the whole day checking in with clients to measure their levels of satisfaction with the Council’s service. Seven of them were 100% satisfied. One requested greener grass in the parks, for which I put in an immediate request. And another asked if they could book a tour of Enlightenment Palace. Fluctuating balls of energy are so predictable.

When I got home my housemate, fluctuating ball of energy no. 197, was waiting to present me with a message from the Bureau of Enrichment. I met them near the entrance portal to our living quarters, glowing all yellow with excitement. “Here,” they said, floating right into my energy field as if they’d never heard of the concept of personal space, “Open it! I’ve been dying to find out what it says.”

I couldn’t be bothered to tell no. 197 how stupid they were, so I just opened the thing and watched as a sparkling mass of pure joy erupted in front of me. After, like, an annoyingly long and colourful demonstration of joyousness the mass finally shifted to the point: an invitation to meet with an Enrichment Officer the next morning. I immediately suspected no. 764 as having something to do with this, and doubled down on my scorn.

“Wow!” said no. 197, wafting all around me, “usually you have to be referred by a friend to snag a meeting with an Enrichment Officer! You’re so lucky, no. 381!”

That was when I got really mad. Channelling all my strength into enveloping no. 197 in a hurricane of explicit rage, I shouted: “I! AM! NOT! LUCKY! BECAUSE! THEY! ARE! GOING! TO! BRAINWASH! ME! YOU! STUPID! IDIOT!”

Then before I could even see no. 197’s reaction (which was probably crying and whining) I entered the portal to our living quarters and went straight to my room.

As hard as I tried to think of a way to get out of this meeting, I knew it was futile. The Council would be all over me like a putrid rash if I didn’t show up. The next morning, I found myself in the lobby of the Bureau of Enrichment, and was directed to an office on the second floor. The office belonged to Frank, aka no. 764’s new best friend in the whole Kingdom.

“Please come in,” said Frank as the door to the office opened and I wafted reluctantly inside, “and help yourself to anything from the Have Whatever You Want Shoot. It’s premium-grade, so your order will arrive within seconds.”

Unbelievable.

I ordered some Celestial Chocolate Scratchings, though, because why not take advantage of the opportunity?

“So, shall we talk about why you’re here?” said Frank, whom I now noticed was shaped like a big star, pulsating with glowing gold specks.

“It’s OK,” Frank continued when I didn’t reply. “Just take your time.”

I tried to focus on a board on the wall, which had motivational sayings on it like “You can shine brighter than the brightest ball of Enlightened energy!” and “Anything is possible in the Kingdom of Magic – all you have to do is believe (in the statutes of the Council of the Enlightened)!”

I wanted to barf, but that might’ve been because I had just inhaled a whole package of Celestial Chocolate Scratchings.

“OK, I’ll start,” Frank said, “most of the fluctuating balls of energy that pass through this office are here because they require an attitudinal adjustment. Is this something you, no. 381, could perhaps benefit from?”

“No.”

“You don’t think your attitude has been somewhat…coarse since you arrived in the Kingdom of Magic?”

“No, I do not.”

A ripple of contemplation rolled through Frank’s energy field.

“If you would like, no. 381, I could tell you a story which might illustrate my point a little better.”

Might as well kill some time, I thought. “OK. Fine. Do what you need to do.”

“Thank you.” Frank took a pause, settling before a large window overlooking fields of lavender. His gold specks brightened. “Once, there was a young human being named Madeleine. Are you familiar with the concept of human beings, no. 381?”

“I think I remember reading something about them. They consist of physical matter?”

“In a sense, yes. They are made of energy, like us, yet their energy is contained within a vessel which roots them to the ground of their planet. Are you following me so far?”

“Yes, yes, I understand. I’m not stupid.”

“I know. You are an intelligent, brilliant being, no. 381. Never forget that.” Frank shuddered towards me as a sign of recognition. I resisted the urge to shudder back.

Frank continued: “Madeleine was a promising young human entering her prime. Her parents loved her very much and she had a group of close friends. She was two weeks away from graduating high school, receiving top grades in her final exams. To celebrate, Madeleine and her friends went for a drive to the beach. They were going to light a bonfire and dance beneath the stars.”

Frank’s energy darkened, and it was as if a raincloud had floated over the room. “Madeleine never made it to the beach. The driver of the car veered sharply when he saw something in the road, killing himself and his three passengers. The police report showed he had been drinking earlier in the night.”

I found myself growing angry at these dumb human beings, angry at Frank, angry for being forced to listen to this crap.

“I don’t like this story,” I shouted, ballooning to twice my normal size. “What does it have to do with me? Why are you telling me this?”

“Now, 381, settle down. It’s OK.” And although I was still angry, I did what Frank said, because something in his voice was strangely calming.

“I want you to forget yourself for a moment. Imagine that you are Madeleine. Can you do that?”

“I don’t see the point.”

“The point will reveal itself, but you have to want to see it. Do you want to find a deeper understanding of yourself, and your place in the Kingdom of Magic?”

“Fine. Yes. Whatever.”

“Brilliant. You are already making progress. Now I want you to put yourself inside Madeleine, really climb into her physicality, her mind. Become her.”

Something weird was happening. My energy began constricting, coiling itself into the fleshy form of a human being. An invisible force was pulling me to the ground and holding me there.

“Take your time. Tell me when you have merged with Madeleine’s being.”

“I think I’m there. I’m her.”

“Wonderful. Now I want you to imagine the moments following the ending of your chapter on Planet Earth; you are beginning to transition into the next realm. Your life energy is lifting out of its physical form. You are no longer burdened by matter, by mortality. You have been given another chance.”

“Another chance?”

“Yes. A new chapter is starting. You have been gifted with a second life in the Kingdom of Magic, a wondrous utopia where you can have anything you want… so long as you follow the guidelines set out by the Council of the Enlightened. How does it feel?”

“I… uh…amazing. It feels amazing, Frank.” Glittering spectres were dancing around the room, waves of harmonic energy rippling all around us.

“How would you express your appreciation for this second chance at life?”

“I would do anything. Anything the Council asked me. I would be happy, all the time. I would spread the message of joy and appreciation to my fellow fluctuating balls of energy.”

After some time, the waves subsided, and Frank floated before me. “Good. I want you to hold on to that feeling. Express gratitude and dedicate yourself to serving the Council, to showing your appreciation for all beatitude in the Kingdom of Magic. Can you do that, no. 381?”

As Frank spoke, I could feel the spiral of energy at the centre of my being turning in a new direction, the colours in my spectrum glowing brighter than I had ever seen them glow.

Frank was waiting. I exhaled a gasp of radiant air, which lit up the space between us like a flash of firelight.


Jade is a Bristol-based writer specializing in fiction, film criticism and screenwriting, and is currently working on her second novel. She believes in the transcendent power of writing to open us up to other worlds and experiences, exploring themes of love, trauma and authenticity.

https://linktr.ee/jade_green
@_verdoux

 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: http://www.helenfrank-who.blogspot.co.uk

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.