Beyond the dividing wall, the mother with the arched eyebrows and frayed nerves herds her kids to bed. At the same time my mother lays a towel over the claw foot bathtub to wash my long, tangled hair. I hear the kids next door fighting over the Viewmaster, the one they can never really use, because they stick their thick fingers through the fragile film of the wheel. My mother digs her fingers into my scalp and I cry, silently, repression a skill. I pretend I am a house with twinkling lights strung across my rafters, party favors in pastel iridescents on tables with bows where my imaginary friends will join me. The Prell slides into my eyes and I can’t tell if I am crying or just stung. It is not the washing as much as it is the rinsing, the deficits and subtractions of everything. The Italian Presbyterian minister who soaked in this same tub a generation before my parents claimed it, may have been plotting how to lure his people from their papal tendencies. Coal was an option. Give with one hand, take away with another. Allow gratitude to be the dominant emotion. My mother’s fingers catch in the snarled strands of my hair, though my scalp throbs with cleanliness. I hear the kids crying through the wall, an extension of my family by sheer virtue of proximity. I can’t let them go. I could poke a hold through the thin wall and meet them eye-to-eye, but it would take them years to understand my needs; how there would always be critical corners I would find it forever impossible to navigate.


Michelle Reale is the author of Season of Subtraction (Bordighera Press,, 2019) and In the Blink of a Mottled Eye (Kelsay Books, 2020) among others. She is the Founding and Managing Editor of OVUNQUE SIAMO: New Italian-American Writing. She has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

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.

Inside and out, but preferably kept away from others. This is more socially acceptable than the alternative. Short brutish bristles extending well past the edge of the nostril, nearly long enough to utilize in the brushing of one’s teeth. Save that $2.99 every six months.

Surgical process to remove the cheekbones so that one may fold their face in half and clean (at least the bottom row) with what the lord hath giveth. Bit of trouble reaching those back molars but it’s all about a really good dental plan nowadays anyways. Once a month by a professional instead of twice a day by oneself truly comes to about the same standpoint. There is a counterpoint, but enough dentists agree that they don’t bother with it anymore. 6/10 at least.

Tried those trimmers mow-the-lawn upside down, but broke upon impact, whirring blades caught on the thick ropes hanging like stalactites, crystal encrusted but instead of precious gems it’s dried mucus and hardened into something it’s better not messing around with. Give or take the snot but this is the ride of a lifetime and they’re not about to let go because of wishes made to goblins.

Grant passage for finger pick. Navigating through the brush as only Jungle explorers are fully qualified for. Find some solid gold and bring it to one of those 1-800-CASH-4-GOLD spots where they’ll offer nothing in return for the find of a century. Return to whence it came.

Only one solitary hair and pull on it to find out what hurts so good. Is this kink? Think about wearing a mask with only the nose exposed, picking one by one until nothing remains. Ask partner after partner but none will comply, so at best it becomes a sort of masturbatory sadomasochism.

Nothing left to do but to admit defeat, bridge the gap between nose and moustache as if there never was a distinction to begin with.


KKUURRTT is glad you read his thing.

http://www.twitter.com/wwwkurtcom
http://www.neutralspaces.co/KKUURRTT

The Mall in My Hometown is Underwater Now


Sun in an Empty Room
after Edward Hopper


Rachel Sandle (they/them/theirs) is an MFA-dropout-turned-crisis-counselor whose writing has appeared in Bad Pony Magazine, What Are Birds?, Indicia Lit, and others. Rachel lives in Lawrence, KS, where they write, draw, and photograph vanity license plates. You can find them on Twitter @floating_orb.

A Letter From A Million Crayfish

My love said
she wanted me to eat more
and tickled my ribcage
like a xylophone. The day she left me

a million crayfish laid siege upon a restaurant
in the heart of Paris. A stranger threw an orange at me,
it turned to stone and broke my arm.

I didn’t strike him back because the orange
that became a stone that broke
my arm turned into a small bird and flew away. I hated it
though I love flying things
and I loved the crayfish though I revile crawling things.

At home, I put socks on
rather than go to the hospital.
I make foie gras out of spite.
The floor leaks water and fills
with a million crayfish who
want to give me hugs and eat me
after I cook in some butter.

They puncture my eyes with cloves
pulled from my Christmas oranges that
then become stones and then birds
flying away. They tickle my ribcage
and titter about all the good fat there.

I want to tell the stranger and all of Paris that
my love has turned into a million crayfish, stabbing
me, eating me. My speech comes out
in a series of rushed eighth notes. I am dispirited,
I have no clue what sort of bird an orange becomes.


My Friends

Most weekends, bats fly
into my mouth at odd hours.

I spit them out and invite them to sit for a while.
I make them tea and dote on the winged things.

I ask them if it is true, about Dracula.
They tell me it is all true, about Dracula.


Evan Williams is an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. His work has appeared or will appear in DIAGRAM, the Rockvale Review, and Belt Publishing’s LGBTQ Anthology. He can be found on Twitter @evansquilliams. 

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.