Soft Mouth

by John andrews

 

My mouth wet with dream of cantaloupe
stacks at the supermarket.

Where he bit between my ribs, pressed
the bottom to check ripeness.

A hunting dog drags ducks, 
fresh dead, from the swamp.

Somewhere a man crushed a man.
Pebbles no bigger than a tongue

traced the weakest spot, bowed
legs with sweetness.

Ghost Ocean 16

John reads "Soft Mouth"

 

John Andrews' work has appeared in The Queer South: LGBTQ Writers on the American South, Columbia Poetry Review, Pembroke Magazine, and elsewhere. He holds an M.F.A. from Texas State University where he served as managing editor for Front Porch Journal. Currently, he is working on his Ph.D. in English at Oklahoma State University and serves as an associate editor for the Cimarron Review

 

The Math is Bad

by casey hannan

 

I find glass in the salad. I pick it off my tongue and let it clatter on my plate with the olive pits.
     "Can I take these home and plant them and see if they turn into trees?" the child asks.
     "No," I say.
     "Yes," his grandmother says.
     We give our answers at the same time. No one hears mine. My voice is a tweezer plucking at the hairs of conversation. I could pay for this entire meal by alerting the staff to the glass in the salad, but I would rather not make a scene. If a fly drowned in my wine, I would swallow the fly. 
     The family isn't my family. They belong to my husband. His name isn't really Dandy. I didn't marry that name. I married Dan. His family caught him fixing his hair in a hallway mirror once, and here we all sit with the joke. 
     Dandy turns his lettuce over with a fork. Living in the desert, we're conditioned to look under every rock.
     I fish a small mirror from my purse and study my teeth for cracks.
     No one at the table believes my name is Vonda. The child calls me "mother," which is a name I can't believe. How many mothers forget having a child? There he is, but I struggle to say he's mine. I didn't pay for him. Children are expensive. Not the money. The price.
     Everyone is having a good time. My brother-in-law tells a story about the dog he rescued from teenagers with air rifles. Her body is lumpen with scars. This morning, my brother-in-law caught her sucking the jelly from a discarded condom.
     Big laughs. Small laughs. The child barks. I cover his mouth with my napkin. His nose, too, disappears behind the cloth. I appear to suffocate the child.
     The family watches.
     I remove the napkin and kiss the child on the forehead. The pasta has arrived.
     Gnocchi. Little knuckles. Pasta named for bones. I hear a ringing when food is compared to parts of the human body. My legs have been likened to carrots too many times. 
     "How do you stay the way you stay?" Dandy's mother asks.
     I sip my wine.
     "She exercises," Dandy answers for me.
     Only because my mouth is full. I tell myself he wouldn't answer for me otherwise. But looking back, I've answered for Dandy, too. My marriage proposal wasn't a question. 
     "You'll say yes," I told him.
     He never said yes. We start every day as if he did.
     There's no glass in the pasta, but there's a lizard on the table. The fat, venomous kind that resembles a beaded purse. No one asks where it came from. It's enough for the dragon to appear. We sit in silence and wait for it to pass.
     Or no. 
     The family chooses quiet. 
     I say, "Monster, please." 
     Lizards have ears. Two paper circles of flesh. They pulse as I make my case.
     "My name is Vonda. I hatched from an egg my parents found in the desert. I consumed the soft shell for nutrients. My skin was fragile, but my bones were strong. The poles have reversed. I'm mostly liquid now. I hear it every morning when I run alone. There's a slosh in my belly."
     The lizard drags itself to my corner of the table. I lift it in both hands. My mouth is open. My teeth are intact. I'm not hungry, but try telling me that.
     "The child, Vonda."
     Dandy's mother holds a knife. Dandy's brother notes how I hold the lizard like a sandwich. Dandy himself recognizes the day has arrived where all the equations come out wrong. The child's eyes grow large. The rest of the child stays small. The math is bad.
     I tilt my head back. Dandy places a napkin over my face and over the lizard.
     For the child's sake, I tell myself. But the bitter reptile in my mouth tells the truth. 
     "This is all for you," it says, "and you've waited such a long, long time."

 



Casey reads "The Math is Bad"


Casey Hannan lives and writes near the Great Plains. If you're looking for him, lift up a rock or a log. Failing that, try casey-hannan.com

Oracle

by Jennifer hanks

 

Somehow each wolf skull on your desk
          smells like licorice when
it's in my hands. I am trying
          to be patient, but Canidae
is the family of your heart, 
          Canid, the object of your envy:
you want jowls and inches
          of red fur and I am a coil of river weeds. 

Make me a pillow of milk snakes
          and I will lie down. Let
their tongues flick my ear cavities.
          I am trying to be patient, 
but you've dipped my fingertips
          in milk, you've asked me
to write messages to your god
          that you cannot read
on the canvas of your stomach.

You say you love the silt
          I am covered in; I am trying
to be patient but I am
          no river's mouth. Do not
make me your oracle. Hand me
          a bowl of seawater and I will sip it
but no eggs will spill
          from my lips. I am no mother
of wishing fish.

I've tried it silent, your hands
          clawing my back,
your mind in permafrost,
          my tongue a stone. 
I am trying to be patient
          but what saint
would regrind your bones?
          What potion of mine
would give you sharper teeth?
 
You imagine for me
          a corset of scales: 
it's the undertones of my skin
          you mistake    for light.

 



Jennifer reads "Oracle"


Jennifer Hanks is an MFA candidate at the University of New Orleans. Their work has appeared in Arcadia, PANK, Muzzle Magazine, and Word Riot, among other journals. Their essay "Bird Language" was finalist for Sundog Lit's annual nonfiction competition. They read for the excellent Quaint Magazine. Their chapbook, The Unsteady Planet, a collaboration with illustrator Julie Herndon, is forthcoming from Instar Books in 2016. You can find more of their work at azura09.tumblr.com.

The Same Tree

by Dalton Day
 


All the crows flocked to the same tree. The branches sagged with their weight. They plucked out their feathers. See, every crow was really a boy. When all the feathers were plucked there would be a tree full of boys. A murder of boys. You were distracted, watching them by the window when I asked you, Did you see the meteor shower last night? But your heart was already broken. You were already on the floor, cutting your fingers as you tried to fix it. You were already in the yard, throwing bread for the boys flying around, who were just looking for something dead to eat.

 



Dalton reads "The Same Tree"

 

Dalton Day is a trembling dog person, Pushcart nominee, & MFA candidate in The New Writer's Project. He is the author of the chapbooks Fake Knife & TANDEM, & his poems have been featured in PANK, Hobart, & Everyday Genius, among others. He helps edit FreezeRay Poetry, Souvenir Lit & can be found at myshoesuntied.tumblr.com & twitter.com/lilghosthands.

(cold light)

by emily wilson

 

(cold light)


I. For a man who has taken off his,
you are       very interested       in mine.
                                                               The ring of my grandmother,              
its turquoise eye to which you pressed lips, slipped          off at the shore,                                                                                                                              lidded
                                                                                                            with a braid                                                                                                            of sterling silver.
Your first experience with divinity occurred when you broke into your grandfather’s office, stole Hebrew scrolls which read for those who are
not dancing.              

II.                                                                                I want to define your body
                                           by its synonyms:       rip tide      civil twilight;
                        present mine in return:
milk teeth                             sugar sore. What have we learned of intimacy?        
I know
to free a firefly
from a web, one must
rotate counterclockwise. Atlantic pier Ferris wheels and a floodlit dusk:          suspended                         
                    spokes, each bulb a body ensnared. Latin for you are being                         carried. You are  


(rituals)


I.                                                                              August is a clever alchemist
                                                          ,forced to     amputate its      own foliage.
When I tell you I fear
blindness                                                        ,I mean I fear my body
losing
its ability
to reflect light.
                          I mean soon we will have to pay for satiating the wingspan
                                                                                                         of our hunger.

II. We make rituals                                                                        
of night.         I press         the blistered                                                          
                                                                             white of your palm. Love
,you whisper                                                                                                 ,don't
                                                                                                                       drain                                                                                                                       the storm

                                                                                                    from my skin.
Teeth to jaw and I ask       ,Please      ,when the mapmakers find my bones
let them resemble a constellation.                      


(landscape)


I.                                                                Offstage you practice photography: 
                                      insects itching         around golden       tickseeds.
Blooms with no
pollen promise.   
How
could
a hollow
                              hunger cause such swelling? You pixelate these images,
                 project them on stage. Everything in still frame dehydrates.

II. Long exposure of firefly flight,
you believe,       will reveal       fluorescent letters,
                                                               language in luminescence.
All I see:                                                                                                       gilded
                                                                                                                    spheres
                                                                                                              in splinters.
                                                                                         Silence. Shutter speed.
We are all guilty of imperfect attempts to mirror stars; grant the lightning bugs a private failure. To be ashamed of the color of this thirst.             
             

(satellite)


I. Rotation is a ritual
          in forgiveness.       When we       make love
                                                                        ,I pretend my body
is the concrete beneath                                                                         dancing
                                                                                                                         ,feet
                                                                                                                    pulsing
                                                                                           and shadow-slapped. 
                                                                 You lay the last syllable of my name
                                            underwater and teach it to float.

II.                                                                                 September seeps brilliant
                                                            and bored       into our        hotel room.
                              Bronze as the inked
airplane                                     drifting over the wrist  
of
your
fretting
hand. We use the same devices to record music
                  as we do the messages of our dead. I worry this does not                             frighten you.


(filament)


I. When the wind hibernates
in caves           of crisp             and chill
                                                               ,your circuit is over.
Tread worn down on tour bus tires, the constant spinning           of vowels
                                                                                                              on asphalt.
                                                                                                          Your whisper
                                                                                      webs my skin in shivers. 
A valve is a vow in pressure. I've found the octave
at which your name becomes a spell.

II.                                                                                   My last words to you are
                                    in a dying           language of short           wave lengths
                                ,saturating the film of your frame
in silver                    nitrates. My abdomen bloats in              bioluminescent loneliness.
You
slip
the ring
back into its orbit near your knuckle                          ,elliptical and eclipsed.

 



Emily reads "(cold light)"


Emily Wilson is currently pursuing an MFA in poetry at the University of North Carolina Wilmington as a graduate teaching assistant. Her poetry, translations, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Asymptote, Bustle, Green Mountains Review, PANK, Passages North, and The Raleigh Review, among others. Nominated for inclusion in the Best New Poets series and for an AWP Intro Journals Award, she received the 2013-2014 Kert Green fellowship, was first runner-up in the 2014 Indiana Review Poetry Prize, and won the 2012 Emma Howell Memorial Poetry Prize. Follow her @Emmy_Golightly.

Sleep Patterns

by Gabrielle faith williams
 


Outside a store open late
there was a lemon tree.
But not the whole tree.
It had blood fruits instead
of lemons. This is where
I danced w/ my sister.
She told me this is where
all things glow. But back
then I called her by another
name. She said this tree
had too many flowers so
we renamed it the hush
tree. This meant something
to someone. On Saturday
she tells me I can keep my
wisdom teeth. I settle for
water w/ no paddle. Sometimes
she looks like a gun from the
inside. Her small spaces, her
skull, etc, etc, they glow. I said
someone died. After that people
stopped bathing, stopped
brushing their hair. Everyone's
fingernails grew to enormous lengths. 

 



Gabrielle reads "Sleep Patterns"

 

Gabrielle Faith Williams received a BA in poetry from Columbia College. Recently she has been accepted at The University of Nevada, Las Vegas for an MFA in Poetry. She was a 2013 Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in LEVELER, Fairy Tale Review, Kind of a Hurricane Press, and Columbia Poetry Review. 

The Beginning of Remembrance

by kyle beachy

 

Sometimes I'll remember, for example, the period, which some might call a phase and which, speaking realistically, couldn't have lasted longer than two or three months because neither of us had yet developed the faculty for commitment. During this period or phase the primary objective of our days and nights was the secret, small-scale relocation of small and lightweight and otherwise negligible objects. I would slip into my brother's room and choose an object and take it away to some other part of the home, where I would then leave it, sometimes in plain view, other times hidden or partially obscured. Gradually this game of ours would claim more and more of a day until at some point, though neither of us would have admitted as much, it had effectively taken over our lives.
     He had fallen, is what happened. In fact I remember him wanting to show me the footage of the fall, remember my view from the couch that afternoon, and the particular shape of my brother's head in front of me. These were the years of staticky rewind patterns stuttering across the warp of a screen. He played his fall then rewound and played it again and again and I sat there watching it and him and in some sense myself until eventually I stood and went down the narrow hall, the only hall, to my brother's bedroom and picked up a magazine that I found flayed on his bed, then headed to the kitchen to hide it up with the plates in the cupboard above the sink.
     I want to tell you what it was like once this game really got going, but am not sure I can. It was like living in hotel staffed by workers who have recently decided, by cabal or secret meeting in the boiler room, that they would like you vacate. Our environment was turned against us -- I had a constant dreamy sense that something disappointing was just over the horizon. But there were good parts too. For example, the game was better when I knew he found the thing before he knew it was missing. And it was best on those two or three times when my sisterly instinct told me he had found the thing at that exact moment he realized the thing was missing. This was an alienation to peel back the skin from your head. He was taller than me by this point, and had his little scumstache coming in. And although we were not what anyone might call thoughtful young Americans, the game had the strange consequence of forcing our hands. How valuable, really, was a thing whose absence could go unnoticed?
     Imagine the scrutiny our game triggered, the profusion of suspicion. We slept swaddled in doubt.
     And it went on, over and over again, our little game of sibling brutality. When he managed to un-tacky my posters, leaving my bedroom walls bare but for a sad geometric storm of grease-slick, and rolled them into tubes he then leaned into a teepee formation in the backyard, waiting in a folding chair with lighter fluid and matches until I came looking for him, and then bending to light the thing and sitting back into the chair and staring lifelessly, watching not me, nor my reaction, but only the flames, this was when the game reached its end. My brother had built a kind of pyre for the guidelines of our system, and this was when I declared the game over by screaming in the helpless voice I had back then, beginning to cry, and going back inside.
     Other times I remember him as a tiny little thing always squirming. I remember the day that I realized that my little brother was going to become bigger and stronger than me, and began to understand what power meant, and I remember pinching his soft skin to no avail, holding him two-handed in front of me with his puffy legs dangling and tiny fingers clenching at the very same air that I was breathing, and staring into a boy's face that would not change, no matter how hard I pressed my thumbs into his little chest.

 

 

 

Kyle Beachy is author of the novel The Slide (Dial Press, 2009) and an assistant professor in the MFA program at Roosevelt University, in Chicago.

In Review

Hacked at the knees / magical and insane: a look at wastoid

Wastoid by Mathias Svalina. Washington, DC: Big Lucks Books, November 2014. 166 pages. $14.00 paperback.

Mathias Svalina’s Wastoid is a new animal we all need to marvel at. It’s a long storm of beautiful fairytale nonsense and wonder. It’s all about love and it is love. It’s frustrating to categorize a book like this and I usually try to avoid it. Instead I opt for a description fed by the book’s attitude and aesthetics and hope that the reader will color the book’s genre as they see fit. I so badly want to make a list of everything that’s present and shining in Wastoid; allow me, at least, to try.

Poetry is rooted in love. It circles around the lyricism of love (how moonlight changes the pigment of his/her hair et al.) and requires a love of words. Still, Svalina’s book really does deliver a new framework and color of love, a fresh shade and relieving sigh. In a fantasy world where anything goes, where fairytales are brief and hilarious and perfectly descriptive of the maddening deepness and indescribability of true love, Svalina gives a continuing nod to the Surrealist poets through wondrous images and objects, but in an entirely reinterpreted way.

The first time I met my lover he was a praying mantis. He extended one long green leg toward me & offered me his iPod. I inserted them into my ears & heard a sound I could not identify. It sounded like two wet bones rubbing against each other, but also like lakewater lapping off a handful of wet hair. Then I understood the sound. I was inside my lover’s heart & the sound was his blood, how a glass of cold water on a hot day undoes itself.

From that very first page, the expectations for what short prose-block poems about love might be are hacked at the knees and shown a new child. The surreal world Svalina points us to is magical and insane and therefore indicative of love; Svalina recreates that freefall love feeling where things blur past and nothing is certain but everything is of another world, a new world. At the same time, Svalina doesn’t let this world of love become too serious and stone-faced, letting his surrealisms explore how ridiculous these moments might get.

I arrive each morning to the sun smiling that smile that’s like, Dude, seriously: jaeger-bombs. And the sun says Sup? And I’m like, You know.

While humor can be an engine, it doesn’t necessarily flesh out the entire body. Svalina is careful to blend goofiness with beauty. In the very same poem, a few lines later:

And then even the dirt is gone & the sun & I are suspended & the generator’s snarl sounds like blood. … I think I liked love better when he was a synonym for blood.

Love is never a singular object and nothing is a singular object in Wastoid. While there’s often an immense distance between the two loving figures, we get moments where love can connect two points we never really ascribed a distance to.

I fell in love with my sight. My sight may grant a thousand errors but each proves his presence. On nights when all I can do is stand beside a friend as he talks to someone else & then move on to stand beside another friend and so on, I reach my hand below my eyes & my sight holds me & there is nothing that cannot be downloaded somewhere.

In this passage one of the senses connects the speaker intimately with another of the senses. Love transcends not just distance, but perceived boundaries of identity and sentience. Yet, again, Svalina’s moonlit-sort-of magic is struck down and set into place with a quick turn in “downloaded” — a modern reference which means, again, distance and connectivity muddy things even further.

Elsewhere in the book an actor falls in love with his own photograph, and the speaker’s lover, an ever-changing passive character, has bear’s genitals. The lover moves into the speaker’s eyes. The lover rents the speaker’s love by the hour. The lover is the Fourth Crusade. A man falls in love with a bomb strapped to another man’s chest and with each of these we are forced to reconsider what sort of connection love really is and where it can operate. Lovers are never obvious and Svalina is certainly never obvious.

I’ve made a list of Svalina’s scenes that I love—they are indicative of the book’s power. Of course there are so many worlds in this Wastoid that we’d need eight types of telescopes and some new elements to really show and feel them all, but this list is a good surreal skim. I’m in love with each page. I’m in love with them on my laptop screen.

C.J. Opperthauser

 

 

 

C.J. Opperthauser writes in his kitchen & blogs at thicketsandthings.tumblr.com.