February Poem #2: The Calving

by Jennifer Roche


February calves
and turns the city
the color of ash. Every/
where is one glove. Every/
thing seeps. The pineapple chunk
picked from a Pyrex bowl in the fridge
tastes like a cold, thready sun
and the lone pulley of spring. 

Ghost Ocean 14

Jennifer reads "February Poem #2: The Calving"

 

Jennifer Roche is a writer, poet, and editor who lives and works in Chicago, IL.

 

A Version of Panic

BY JOSHUA WARE


Crickets swarm from your mouth, chirping a twilight lullaby of American-made longing and regret. A mythological image portends cataclysmic confetti, animal dreams, and the bleating of abstract sheep into complex geometries of love. My catalog outlives daylight and expands into the corners of my bedroom. Apollinaire wrote of a bird that changed the twentieth century; I am writing about a crate of purple figs, their smooth skin altering the trajectory of your life: an omen foreshadowing an otherwise unforeseeable moment. A poet hides in the hand-sewn gold lamé pocket of another poet. Train-whistle coffee accompanies our compositional duets. We share the same time zone, and a secret sleep made of sound. Winter snow will dust our worlds, bit by bit, soon enough

Our Momentary Awe

 

We are all brief, existing breath by breath in a state of momentary awe measured by the sorrow punctuating every inhalation. Just as the sunflower's fiery bloom opens and ascends, its yellow inflorescence will wither into a browning husk during autumn's brilliant madness. The change of season is not a metaphor for life, but a rapidly altering backdrop for all our daily quandaries. Yes, the pain of living obscures us all, but darkness affords a vision wherein everything is equal: pitch black, shapeless, deforming us into mystery. The fact that you can embrace your broken friend on a cold hardwood floor, and then email me at night, proves this to be true. The singular instance of touch escaping us is no less powerful in its brevity. The wisdom of impermanence in our delicate lives speeds me closer to you

 

Joshua reads "A Version of Panic" & "Our Momentary Awe"

 

Joshua Ware lives in Cleveland, OH where he teaches at Case Western Reserve University and writes for Vouched Books. He is the author of Homage to Homage to Homage to Creeley (Furniture Press Books, 2011) and several chapbooks, most recently Imaginary Portraits (Greying Ghost Press); How We Remake the World (Slope Editions), co-written with Trey Moody; and SDVIG (alice blue books), co-written with Natasha Kessler. His work has or will appear in many journals, such as American Letters & Commentary, Colorado Review, Conduit, Gulf Coast, New American Writing, and Third Coast. 

On Silence

BY mark magoon


If only the entirety of the world
was the circumference of this neck.

Just imagine what hands could do
at such great size.

I have thought about killing everyone
so I'll tell you about my mother.

She thinks that right now, terrorists
forego sleep for sodomy.

She thinks that right now, terrorists
are voting for another black president.

4,500 people died in the time it took
to read that couplet and like always

large numbers seem believable
and authoritative, and pressing.

Dinner with my mother
makes me thinks of my mother.

My mother makes me think
of her mother and her sister

and her brother and her father.
One time my mother said 

Mark, none of this matters.
She was talking about life.

Life is a plan explained in screams.
Religion is a scream for those with nothing.

A war can start in many calls.
And my family is so quiet.

The Last Time


I was called a faggot. I was walking
down the side of the road taking pictures and

because it was prom or some school dance,
because the young man who borrowed his brother's truck

wanted so badly to impress
one of the girls seated in the back,

(both of whom were wearing purple dresses)
because they wanted to laugh

and shoot gravel up behind them--I was called faggot.
I think it was because I was taking pictures or

maybe because I was taking pictures and
because I was a stranger, but mostly,  just because,

I think. And this was back when I had my ulcers,
back when I burned out the lining of my stomach,

all the way through, gone with vodka, with Tylenol
and only blood to let go. And blood to shit.

This was back when I wanted more than anything
to call some place home. And that was the last time.

 

Mark reads "On Silence" & "The Last Time"

 

Mark Magoon writes poetry, short-fiction, and secret songs for his dog. He lives in Chicago with a wife far too pretty. 

A Lakeside Story

BY Melanie Abrams


There is a place by a lake, and the people who find it never find it by accident. The people who sit by the lake are motley and mottled, with bleeding toes and hacking coughs. Some of them are old and wrinkled; one of them is fourteen years old, and has the word "sock" tattooed on her ankle.  
     The place by the lake is grassy, but the grass is thin, and dirt creeps out from underneath the grass and stains the bare feet and clingy pants of the people who sit by the lake. The water of the lake is murky most days; once or twice a year, it is as clear and golden as the famed drinking fount atop Olympus. Towards the middle of winter, however, it tends to dusk, until it is as dark as a dark circle, and as heavy as the water of the river Styx. Never, in all my years of sitting there, have I seen the waters ripple, twitch, or move.
     The people who sit by the lake hardly notice the changes; that is not why they found the lake in the first place. The people who find the lake have nervous, twitching fingers and irksome habits. The people who find the lake have firecrackers shattering their skulls from within, and no eyelids whatsoever. The people who find the lake burn from the marrows of their bones to the jostle of their kneecaps; they cannot find a comfortable position to sit in, they cannot stand the heat, and they shiver in the cold. The people who find the lake often do not leave.
     Sometimes, the people who find the lake do leave. Some of them will grow still and grassy over time, and looking into their eyes is like watching rain and buttery sunlight bounce from a shining green leaf in the springtime. They will stand up, and they will breathe deeply from their stomachs, and hobble off to face the world in their unwashed, threadbare clothes. Most of us are glad for them, some of us no longer see them at all.  
     I have watched twenty humans' lives extinguished by the lake, slowly and laboriously. The people who die by the lake hardly notice what is happening, but continue to sit cross-legged by its banks, as the dirt creeps upwards and petrifies their limbs. They are overtaken by fungus. Their skeletons sit there still, cross-legged and motionless, the skulls uplifted, eye sockets ablaze.  

 

Melanie reads "A Lakeside Story"

 

Melanie Abrams is an undergraduate studying biology at MIT. One of her flash fiction pieces appears the National Scholastic Arts’ Best Teen Fiction of 2013. When not writing, she also loves to sing, draw, act, ballroom dance, and play in the mud.

Creature Feature; or, The Book of Monsters

BY C.J. Opperthauser


You could call it a restraint but often I sleep better than mummies but often an equal amount of bandage. Last year I ran all knuckles and knees, all werewolf if you can think it, picture that, picture the moon and the voodoo and whatever else the recipe calls for. Of course there were nights of sleeping and of bedroom, of closet curled up nervous between boxes, pale on flatness no lightbulb nothing. Then there were the dreams of flying, the nightmares of wisp-fog and falling, the vampire flutter equal dark and tilting. I never could but in movies. In movies I never could either. The lake monsters were spot-on but still the coldness in deepness shiver. Lagoons all black and so my eyes from blue, and so my skin from pale, and so cartilage until the smoke-chatter claimed it dreaming and fine. Now the cracking creaking slowness without age so something like a zombie but not entirely directed graveyards. Streams an issue. Small thuds internal and I know it's coffin elated. Call it what you will but it's mine inside me and so the free-fall.

 

My Best Friend Cassie is Turning into a Bird

BY courtney flerlage


We hadn't talked for weeks. The day it started you came to me first, arms outstretched and palms facing up so that I could see the striated, white shafts of blood feathers pimpling your skin. You had rubbed your arm raw trying to shake them, but it hadn't helped, instead leaving your pores smarting red. I stayed up until 2:00 am extracting each shaft with a pair of tweezers. You closed your eyes, squeezed my free hand against the pain. Each feather I pulled free was stunted and undeveloped, whisped at the tip with the beginnings of feathers. They left pink, raw pockets in your skin when I pulled them free. I could only smooth antibiotics over the sores and give you aspirin for the pain. The air was fuzzy with feather slivers that had detached and floated away, catching me in the back of my throat. "You're the only person I've told," you said, eyes bloodshot, shining. 

***

I sip blonde roast in the café as you swallow stones. Your digestive system is shifting, your throat quietly pocketing into a gullet. You vomit when you try to eat anything but organic. Like a dove eats gravel you need the rocks to grind your food. "Do you think love is a real thing?"    You tilt your head back as you swallow a pebble. "Of course," I say.
                                                                                                            
A couple seated to the right of us turns to stare. Finding their gaze, you watch them with eyes like black holes. They look away. You pick another rock from the pile on your plate and roll it between your thumb and index finger. 
                   
We used to talk about visiting the ocean, as if it was landlock that kept us apart and not the lover-crush heat you craved. Our friendship was too sterile and stagnant a love for you. "I wish it weren't," you say. "It would be so easy then--we could explain it all away as something animal. It wouldn't eat us alive when we lost it." You pop the rock in your mouth like a pill and roll it between your teeth before you swallow. I imagine the feel of it as it pulls down, heavy, tugging against the body's soft tissues. "It's just so hard to go back to normal once you've been loved like that." You've said the word love so many times now it's just a sound, the buzz of a wasp in the air. 

***

Last night you dreamt we let your feathers grow and you took flight. The earth fell away to a white lawn of clouds and you forgot the green flush of forest and distant iolite sea. "I was weightless," you say. "I barely had to work. I just sailed up. My bones are hollowing out, you know. I can hear the creaking leak in the middle of the night. Pretty soon I could fly if I wanted."

"What kind of bird were you?"
                                                               
"I want to be a hawk. Or maybe a seagull."

We see them in parking lots, fighting sparrows for garbage scraps--great white birds with clean, sharp wings. I imagine you sipping seawater, mountain stretches carving the air between us. "You don't get to choose what bird you are," I say, as if I know the rules. As if any of this was ever something I could control.

***

You are losing the ability to speak. You tell me your throat hurts, and I know it's because your voice box is peeling into two chambers to form a syrinx, the vocal organ of birds. Sometimes when you talk you replace words with tones, and it becomes hard to understand you. "I don't mind it," you say. "I never had many good things to say anyways." Eventually, you cant talk at all, only sing. You write to me on paper, "I feel home buzzing inside my head." I think of the blood cells of migratory birds, thick with iron to pull them to their nests each year.  "At night I can only think of where I've been," you say. "I need to go back." 
                                                                                                        
Centuries from now when they find our bones in separate states, they won't have me to ground you in the right time, mistaking you for some Mesozoic half-creature. They'll finger the shells at your crown, the soft soil that will turn your bones to stone. They'll shrug, as if to say, This one's been a long time underwater.

 

Aaron Coats reads "My Best Friend Cassie is Turning into a Bird"

 
Courtney Flerlage
received her B.A. in English from Hollins University, where she served as an editor for the undergraduate literary magazine Cargoes. Her work has appeared in the Alabama Literary Review, Paper Nautilus, and Written River. She currently lives in Southern Maryland.

The Existence of Uncles

BY Duncan Campbell


Who wastes any thought on uncles?
On being an uncle? Uncles,
the dead-end of genetics:
they don't have children of their own
and so become best-known as uncles.  

The most dangerous part of the family
is always the uncle. An uncle is often a sheep
in sheep's clothing, or its opposite.  
Uncles are nearly extinct
in the western hemisphere; 

unloved brothers will go forth and multiply
the population of uncles.  
Uncles are the first to go bald.  
If one finds something precious
has gone missing, an uncle 

is usually to blame. In many cultures
individuals predisposed to witchcraft
will curse their enemies with a lack of uncles.  
Without an uncle one will become
impoverished, unlucky, and dumb.

 

Duncan Campbell reads "The Existence of Uncles"


Duncan Campbell holds an MFA in writing from the University of New Hampshire. His poems have appeared in burntdistrict, El Aleph Magazine, elimae, Stoneboat, Sun’s Skeleton, and Transom, and he co-edits the multi-genre literary journal Paper Nautilus. A chapbook, Farmstead, Fire, Field, is forthcoming from ELJ Publications.

Oppenheimer and The Pacific Ocean Have Their Weekly Chat, 1939

BY Matt Broaddus


You jet down the coast in that Chrysler of yours carrying a storm. Smoking up the air. That and the cigarettes. Mr. Thunderhead, I'm telling you, I can smell it. The masses of air, columns of water colliding. It's familiar, the scent of disaster on you. I miss the days when you guys rode around in your little boats and I smashed them whenever I felt like it. I was emperor of East and West then. I was sovereign of storms. 

You're still the king elemental. What does it matter if I travel at incredible speed along the coast road getting into car wrecks with friends? I never die. I pick flowers for everyone. Purple, pink, and lilac which is kind of like purple but not. I pick flowers along the beach. When my feet touch the sand a cloud armada forms over you in the distance.

When you first arrived in California I felt like dancing. I was wild for your cumulonimbus hair stacked so high, your cesium blue eyes. I followed you up and down the coast on a highway of white-capped pyramids. I threw cyclones around the ring of fire. 

Who can I hurt, pacing in a tiny office in Berkeley, California, as I build my cities of thought? I am the mayor, travel the avenues, wiggle my eyebrows to make my theoretical palaces behave.

I think I was in love with you for a long time. It was a quiet recognition, like the first billion years when you hadn't been dreamt yet. Just a furnace of vents boiling sulfur in primordial trenches. It was like watching a cluster of stars claw the sky as it spins. And standing still. Lonely, maybe. It's hard to tell the difference between the two.

Loneliness and love are just other words for singularity. 

Other words for catastrophe. Tempest. Typhoon. Tsunami. And all so pretty. You're learning Sanskrit and picking flowers for the faculty members' wives. That storm you carry with you is contagious. I'm beginning to understand how ill I grow around you. Below, volcanoes bloom. Everything that crawls is crawling up my continental shelf. Something is cracking--the world maybe.

So last night I had the guys over for drinks, as you know. Everyone was sad you couldn't make it. I cooked, so it's probably for the best that you didn't show. We started talking about career trajectories, which was really just a veiled conversation about fate. I told them, "I don't ever want to find the thing I'm looking for." To be honest, I'd be dissatisfied to come to a conclusion. I have no terrible vision for myself. I'd prefer not to destroy the whole earth.

Looking across the bay you'll see San Francisco become Tokyo and Tokyo become San Francisco. I'll swallow California, and the sun will drink me up before it eats itself, and the whole spinning accumulation will collapse into a drop.

I miss the horse called Crisis I used to ride around in the desert. I was the only one who could ride him.

 

Matt reads "Oppenheimer and the Pacific Ocean..."


Matt Broaddus earned his MFA in creative writing from New York University, where he was a Writer in the Public Schools Fellow. His poetry has appeared in LEVELER and is forthcoming in Heavy Feather Review. This year, Matt is curating the poetry for photographer Richard Koek's annual arts magazine celebrating New York City. In the fall, he will begin his PhD in English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Matt currently lives in Virginia.