How to Perform A Bad Reading
of Lee Edelman

The narrator clings
to the epithet, the child
to the queer faith
of theory. I say this

to say that boys grow chain
to the site of meaning.
Meaning, I do not want
to drive the void machine.

I want arbitrary, pathetic
pleasures. A billboard
proposing a fictive passage
through a foreclosed bar.

Or one waif day,
spinning a tomorrow
unseen by the future.
A gap in the grave.

Language scavenged from “Queer Theory and the Death Drive,”
after Tyler Bradway’s “Bad Reading.”

How to Perform a Bad Reading
of Eve Kosofsky Sedgewick

Gap pleasures. Delay
the spectacle. Part
the texts. Lose
a few objects
in evacuation.
Lump the double
entendre. Attach to
the markers. Demand
the fantasies you think
the text denotes,
hurling to find
the pushy
of the

Language scavenged from “Tendencies,”
after Tyler Bradway’s “Bad Reading.”

How to Perform a Bad Reading
of Jack Halberstam

Dani Smotrich-Barr grew up in Michigan and recently graduated from Wesleyan University. They have work published or forthcoming in Vagabond City, Birdcoat Quarterly, giallo, Cease, Cows and STORGY, and won the 2020 Dorchester Prize from Wesleyan. You can reach them on Twitter @smotrich_barr.

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.

A golden shovel

“Why couldn’t the bicycle stand by itself? It was two tired.”

He should have been one more stick in the spoke. Why
couldn’t he have wobbled like all muddy tires? Why couldn’t
he have been a man that said, Look Ma, no hands! as the
road rolled out uneven? Another asshole who rode her bicycle
like the wind, then was gone with it. No kick-stand,
casualty on the hot summer pavement. Instead, one by
one, my father peddled faith into us. The church, itself,
quietly consisting of our small, tandem family. It
was the last time wind was ever at my back. When I was
balloon and vesper. It takes so much energy to mourn for two,

And I am so tired.

Lannie Stabile (she/her), a queer Detroiter, is the winner of OutWrite’s 2020 Chapbook Competition in Poetry; the winning chapbook, “Strange Furniture,” is out with Neon Hemlock Press. She is also a back-to-back finalist for the 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 Glass Chapbook Series and back-to-back semifinalist for the Button Poetry 2018 and 2019 Chapbook Contests. Lannie currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Barren Magazine and is a member of the MMPR Collective. She is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominee.

Twitter: @LannieStabile

After “800 db cloud” by 100 gecs

I paid two demons twenty bucks and the boof
weed to build me an evil radio with a bone dial
that screams when you turn it — a knuckle needle
rotating in giggling counter clockwise between stations
of damned souls watching cartoons and drooling

into bowls of forlorn cereal and white dudes doing
podcasts which are really just opinions which are really
just the diggings of an archaeologist who thinks
he’s discovered a dinosaur but the whole time he was
digging over a landfill so he puts a toilet bowl on

his head and runs around screaming I’m a
diplodocus I’m a diplodocus until he plummets
into his own hole and is later dug up by an even less
competent archaeologist who thinks this is evidence
of neolithic plumbing. He will probably get tenure.

I do not hate him. I too am addicted to myself
and need the future to be eaten by wolverines.
He said is this radio FM and I said yeah it’s FM:
Fuckin’ aMazing. He did not laugh. I was
Fully Mistaken. I am a lonely hominid.

Nicholas Holt has a B.A. in Creative Writing from Florida State University. He is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets award. His work has been featured in or is forthcoming from The Kudzu Review, The Shore, Peatsmoke, and Okay Donkey.

Twitter: @goblinluvr

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.

Every time my husband walks outside
I am afraid someone
will make him asphalt
And I will be the widow

mourning. In the morning going
to view the dew of the body,
they stole from me.

No one ever gets their just due.
How we know the suspect caught
will get off and fly

the coup, go back to the streets
to find someone else to send back
to dust—a decrescendo of earth.

The ground song we knew is gone.

Just like the sky we were aiming
for was a reflection and we were all diving
into empty swimming pools.

Each of us coming back as crows
that fade too fast for them to catch
us. At night I listen for the sound

of my husband’s disappearing.
Wait for the officer’s pound
at my door. This Blackness

is a death sentence, and inevitable sorry
for your loss. Mouth gaping, eyes closed, hands
waving from the vibration of names
turned to headline.

A hymnal of hurt and healing settled
in lungs that can’t rest.

Khalisa Rae is an activist, poet, and educator in Durham, North Carolina, and a graduate of the Queens University MFA program. Her recent work has been seen in Damaged Goods, Terse, Crab Fat, Glass Poetry, Brave Voices, Hellebore, Honey & Lime, Tishman Review, The Obsidian, Anchor Magazine, New Shoots Anthology, Red Press, Roses Lit, among others. She is Managing Equity and Inclusion Editor at Carve Magazine. Her forthcoming full-length collection is debuting from Red Hen Press Spring 2021 and White Stag 2021.

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.

Corey Qureshi is a writer, musician and parent based in Philadelphia. They work at an LGBTQ+ center and freelance as an arts journalist. You can find other work by them in petrichor mag, Rigorous, Voicemail Poems, and Broad Street Review among others. Find them on twitter @q_boxo.

If god can feel anything, it would be guilt
For the red futon in the middle lane of the highway
His skinned hide
detones the pride of a meteorite
as tireless, flagrant grins strict around.
screech the pavement
and a rusty pick-up lowers onto an unfolded road

each day,
a fist stuck in the air
stuffed Japanese pastries at midnight
under tickling July Christmas lights
waking up the ring app

dipping watermelon in thick, spiced chocolate
carmine slurps a multicolored popsicle—
reaching blue— the text of his teeth
spared a tinge of tint in the wooden stick
while squinting with magnetic scars of outburst.

If anything could strike a collision.
It might collide at a distance.
It would collide right away.

Stephanie Gonzalez is the daughter of Nicaraguan immigrants. She is a graduate of the Accelerated Master of Architecture program at Florida International University. She treasures her old Moleskines full of chicken scratch and loves indie and folk music, watching things grow and everything tea and topped with strawberries. You can follow her on Instagram @stephiee_xp