At first, the ants would just hang out in the bathroom sink. There would be two or three, or sometimes as many as thirty, milling around aimlessly or just standing still twitching their antennae. I liked to think maybe they transcended the group mindset of their species, abandoned the mission, climbed up the mesa and found God, discovered individuality, lost themselves, let go ultimately even of survival, rose to the infinite and embraced death as an inevitable feature of reality, and there was something beautiful in that. Or maybe they were just digging the grime, lost and confused that the scent of water had brought them to this synthetic and empty place, exhausted. Maybe chemicals in our cleaning agents just contaminated them beyond all recovery.

Regardless, I needed the sink. Sometimes I would run the water gently to see if they’d scatter, and sometimes they did, but usually they just stood there, let the water rush over them, and down the drain, drain, drain they went.

Well, what was I going to do, pick them up? I would have crushed them—a faster death maybe, but they were still ants after all, even if they weren’t into the typical invasive acts that designate vermin. Who’s to say they weren’t headed for the garbage can next? Watching them wash away, I wondered how many ant drownings it takes to shift the karmic weight of a human life. What are the consequences? Who balances us?

They were gone for a while.

About a month later, they appeared in the kitchen (sink, again), this time forming trails, reaching toward the stove and the pantry. This I could not abide—crawling on my cutting boards, up my shirt while washing the dishes, turning up dead in the rice. Sometimes I could get to work and find one climbing up my arm or leg, having stupidly survived a journey of incomprehensible distance. I hated them for it, and flattened them whenever I had the chance, no longer cognizant or concerned with their little ant lives, because now they were my enemies, even though they weren’t trying to hurt me.

I held off on poison for a while. Poison just didn’t seem good for the kitchen. But the problem essentially wasn’t letting up so when someone suggested it while I was at the store, I bought a canister and sprayed up the place and swept the crumb-size corpses and I thought the problem essentially would be elsewhere for a while. Maybe it was.

Earlier I came down to find them in massive ranks, spilling through all corners of the house. In one night they’d cleared all food from the cabinets. I opened the refrigerator to find they’d been in there, too. In fact, the whole refrigerator was gone. I should have been scared, or confused, or impressed, but there was no time, because they started in on the countertops next, and then the furniture. As the walls went down around me, I sank into deteriorating concrete foundations, stamping my foot until my shoes were gone and they devoured my pants and shirt and my hair and my underwear and all I could see was the stars overhead.

These days I’m laying here, bald, naked, aging in the dirt, slowly putting down roots, taking it one day at a time, wondering what it is they saw in that sink. Wonder if God is like that.

 


 

Philip Mittereder is executive editor of Mad House Publications based out of Philadelphia, PA and the other day and the rest of the day and I have to be a good day to be a good time to get a new one is a great day to be a good day to be a great day after the game is a very happy birthday to my house in the world.

consider the girl the girl in front of you is not
the girl you are on TV a girl’s legs are straight
as a ruler straight as a switch you see how a girl
has two mounds for knees two round mounds
of dark sand for knees and legs which are less
than straight how is a girl a girl with round mounds
for knees and legs less than straight how is a girl a girl
if she wears two faces if she must learn two ways to arc
her eyeliner two ways to dress the almond eye and the
hooded eye but who is I when I can’t be seen except
for what you see so many girls girls with milk skin girls
who smell of rosewater whose hair beams a gold paved
road when struck by sun you see this girl and you
are not this girl so what girl are you are you a girl
what is a girl who is not a girl and what does a girl
who is not a girl become?

 


 

Lea Anderson holds an MFA in poetry from The New School. Her work has either appeared or is forthcoming in SWWIM, Jai Alai Magazine, and Luna Luna. She received honorable mention in Boulevard’s 2017 Contest for Emerging Poets. You can follow her on Twitter @leaeanderson.

Progress casually pre-decided       It’s three in the afternoon and there’s a thought
suggesting that everything happening

is happening at the same time.

[1] The emerald cockroach wasp is so named
for its incandescent blueish-green exoskeleton

and the unusual nature of its
neuro-parasitic reproductive cycle.

conclusions to be arrived at. You shouldn’t
pet a dog backwards, you shouldn’t

fear dying. [2] The wasp aims its hook-like sting
at the centre of dopamine production

or ganglia. Aware and incapable of triggering an
escape-reflex The sun opens like a sore

and the world keeps turning. the cockroach host waits
and gestates numerous, hungry offspring.

I’m seeing dark splotches out of one eye
and should I have started smoking?

Might’ve been beneficial to the image I was trying
to cultivate, could have been a kind of safety net.

I could say something like, “I’m down to a pack a day!”
to no one in particular.

Specifics [3] of the roach’s metabolic alterations:
you could sever my brain stem and I would continue

to regress in a linear fashion. It’s reflexive.
Put me by the windowsill, water me and call me Gus.

A friend once said that I value my time
over the time of others. And I have to laugh

when I remember. independent movement is almost
entirely suspended. The wasp instead relies on tugging

the roach’s antennae to guide the much larger insect
Of all things, the cornflower blue wallpaper, absence of

radiator key, cured linoleum floor receding over concrete; I can’t
stand to be here, especially at night.
                                                                   slowly and reflexively forward.

I think when I die, insects will begin to fill
the recesses of my body. [4] once hatched

the larvae take particular care to consume non-vital
organs as to complete their maturation

Whole successive generations living out their lives
entirely unaware of the outside.

entirely within the body of their host.

I think when I die, insects will begin to fill  

the recesses of my body. [4] once hatched

the larvae take particular care to consume non-vital
organs as to complete their maturation

Whole successive generations living out their lives
entirely unaware of the outside.

entirely within the body of their host. 

Accept that nothing will ever feel right again.
Maybe this has all happened once, or even twice already.

I’d need graph-paper to prove it. But you can’t be wrong
if everyone else is dead.

 


 

Ian Goldberg is a poet, performer and the procurement head of abyssal content. At the moment he’s working with the Barbican Young Poets and tumbleweed-ing across the Hampshire poetry scene. He’s eager to discover the depths we can sink to – together. Follow him on Twitter @CoelacanthPoems.

A Witch’s Lullaby to Her Unborn Child

     The sun is brilliant, bright and warm, shining on my island and its many creatures like a babe being swaddled, rocked by its mother. But I have not had a mother for centuries; I bet her fat tongue still floats heavy in its pretty mouth spewing secrets and jealousy in my father’s radiant halls, trying to keep his interest.

     I, on the other hand, shy away from the light, preferring the shadows, the crevices in between. I have always found familiarity with darkness, with the cloak that blocks the sun.

     My father is golden, eternal, and he watches me closely, intent on keeping me caged, on keeping in me in check, fearful of the storm swirling, brewing up above on Mount Olympus. Yet still I collect my herbs and build my spell in spite of his burning gaze. In spite of the god of lightning. They will not command me.

     No man will.

     I work slowly yet pointedly, I must not make an error. My child, a boy sitting low and kicking fiercely in my belly, must be protected, shielded from both Titan and Olympian gaze. No one is coming to save him or me, not his father, a mortal, or any other creature.

     My son and I are alone.

     He will be half god, half man, and that makes him a threat to many, but mostly to me. Finally my father, the god of the sun, and Zeus, the god of lightning, will have something that can destroy me. If my son dies I will be undone, a hollow conch shell with no song, no longer the farmica feared for her transformations or her intoxicating and sometimes deadly herbs.

     My son grows larger each day and more eager to escape my belly to enter the world. So I continue to gather my herbs and add layer upon layer to my spell, and I will everyday for the rest of eternity.

 

Overdone Meat

     The hardest part is getting the facial expressions right. The slight slant of frown lines on the forehead, the curve of a smile forming. Worry in the eyes. The eyes are how you know whether or not it work work.

     He comes to the gallery late, after hours. He has been my companion the last three months. I don’t like the term boyfriend, yet he insists on calling me his girlfriend. His name is Robbie. I have a three-inch tall oak wingback chair in my hand and am ticking light brush strokes on the tiny legs to give them a more weathered look when he barges in. I am almost finished this project–a replica of the old manor on Boston Avenue. The commission will pay my rent for the gallery for six months, so no detail can be overlooked.

     I left the door unlocked, which is my custom of late. This manor project has consumed me, making me forget that sometimes things go bump in the night. That I should lock up the gallery after hours, especially if I’m inside working. I know better, I know how men can be, yet I never saw him as a threat. I’ve become so used to dealing with the inanimate, with shaping something into the tangible, a beating heart in a pliable chest, that I forget I can’t control every person or situation with an X-acto knife and my hands.

     At first Robbie was sweet and shy. His face flushed lightly when he first asked me to tell him more about my work. About what it’s like to create miniature versions of homes, towns, and people. Have you ever thought about making me? Or, or someone you know? Color spiked his cheeks. I smiled and said, Trust me, you don’t want me to make you. He frowned. It’s just that I usually make miniature versions of things from the past, I said. Manors from a former time, those of glory. Historical figures to be commemorated, immortalized. He nodded. So for you to make me I’d have to be dead, he said. I remember he laughed at this, and it crackled in his throat. I swallowed and smiled, my lips pressed tightly together, acidic bubbles forming on my tongue.

     My once timid, joking companion is now drunk and angry, the wormy veins on his temples beating. I am distracted by the thought of how to carve such a thing onto a doll when his fist goes through the wall of the manor’s parlour. The burgundy velvet chaise lounge is cracked in two, one half skittering across the gallery floor. I marvel at how small it looks, how fragile, when in the parlour it seemed large and opulent. It took me two days to make the parlour, and six hours to make the chaise. He doesn’t care though. He is shouting, telling me he’s had enough. That I always choose my dolls and houses over him. That he’ll show me just how stupid they are. I let him finish, trashing two months of work and six months of rent.

     He doesn’t realize the power my work holds, but he will.

     He stumbles out when he’s done, King Kong smashing into tiny buildings as he goes. It looks like a tornado has come through the gallery, leaving houses, schools, and museums totally obliterated.

     I allow myself one sob and then I go to work.

     I leave the gallery in its annihilation; I can clean up the mess later. I go through the door to my office and then down the stairs to the basement where the old kiln is. It rumbles, gurgling to life as I fire it up. I head to the supply room to the left of it. Inside, I grab six square pieces of wood and one of my premade male dolls. I go back upstairs, lock the front door, and set up a station among the wreckage. Then, with an X-acto knife, I begin to whittle the doll’s face, giving him Robbie’s u-shaped chin and a thin line for his mouth. I take the tip of the knife and ever so gently dip it into the wooden flesh of the doll’s temples, twisting to make it look like a tiny snake is wiggling on each side.

     The last thing I do is his eyes. I want to capture Robbie’s rage and ignorance and the baggy, darkened half moons underneath his eyes. When I’m done my former companion stares back at me, his eyes wide and crazed. This will work, I tell myself.

     I set up a room with the pieces of wood and a hot glue gun. I place the Robbie doll inside my creation and press down to make sure his feet are secured to the floor. I have made a room with no windows and no doors for him. A prison to teach him. A prison he’ll rot in. I swear his eyes are pleading with me, the half moons blackened with fear. “You have no one to blame but yourself,” I say to him before sealing him inside his prison.

     Carefully, I lift the room. I carry it on flat palms down to the stairs and to the kiln. It is humming now, buzzing with fiery hunger. I unlatch the door; it swings to the right. I place the room and Robbie inside. Leaving the door open, I take a step back. I want to see the edges of the room blacken and curl in on themselves. I want to hear the pop of the wood disintegrating and the cough of the Robbie doll as the real Robbie’s lungs fill with smoke and he begins to choke.

     Don’t get me wrong, it’s not often I use my powers for such ugliness. But you don’t mess with a woman’s livelihood and get away with it.

     It won’t be long now; things work faster in miniature. Robbie, my jealous, idiotic companion of three months, will be dead in a few minutes. The official cause of death will be smoke asphyxiation after a random fire started in his apartment. The coroner will report his blood alcohol level was through the roof, and the police will decide he was too drunk to make it out in time.

     I sigh, shaking my head. “Such a shame,” I say. “I could have had the dining room done by now.”

     A croak whines from the flames. The room and the Robbie doll are a shapeless mass now, which means real Robbie’s almost gone. My mouth twists into a smile. I step forward and close the door to the kiln. It’s time to go back upstairs and begin the Boston Avenue manor again; I have a deadline to meet. I decide to leave the kiln roaring while I work, the fiery blob bubbling and snapping with my companion’s last smoke-filled breaths. After all, I’ve always preferred my meat overdone.

 


 

Christina Rosso is a red-headed siren and bookstore owner living in South Philadelphia with her bearded husband and two rescue pups. Her work has been featured in Twisted Sister Lit Mag, Across the Margin, FIVE:2:ONE Magazine, and more. Visit https://christinarosso.wordpress.com/ or find her on Twitter @Rosso_Christina.

unborn

blood stretched like
gum from coy teeth

red string in the toilet bowl
like a single hair, or a stitch

undone—feminine evidence
is usually death-related

little blood noose, my
gallows reek of decay

the scaffold between my thighs
fell open and strangled you

 

yesgirl

the yesgirl, the
fuckgirl
is all tongue
and no tastebud

is declawed like
a housecat, spayed,
is splayed—
her father always said

I will break you like
an animal
I will beat the feral
out of you

to break a man, you
must be more prey
than mate, to
break a woman

—you can’t.

 

bloody mary

root rotten
sweet tooth

sob-webbed
stomach

silken innards
bloody my palms

shear my flesh
velvet offering

to whichever
spirit is listening

 


 

Rebecca Kokitus is a poet residing in the Philadelphia area. She has had poetry and prose published in various journals and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2018. Her poetry chapbook, Blue Bucolic is forthcoming from Thirty West Publishing House in 2019. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @rxbxcca_anna, and you can read more of her writing on her website: https://rebeccakokitus.wixsite.com/rebeccakokitus.

 

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paul aster stone-tsao (he/they/we) is a taiwanese-american trans*masculine poet, dancer, and multidisciplinary artist currently based in brooklyn. his work on silence, terror, memory inheres in movement, sound, and is dedicated to exploring and reckoning with what it is to survive the aftermath of catastrophe // to retrieve what still churns in the current of childhoods lost to the torrent of language not yet able to bear its own recognition. he has performed in venues including the pfizer building in bk as well as the walt disney concert hall in la. they are a 2019 Kundiman poetry fellow.