Tools By Amy Lauren

Tools

Constructing a home for my body
with the oppressor’s tools –

softening what is hard,
firming what is soft,

highlighting the wideness
of my eyes and the length

of the lashes, their darkness,
drawing lines on some curves

and casting shadows on others—
almost like any Southern lady spotted

on her husband’s arm at the opera,
clinging to him with wobbly heels–

but only altering aspects I choose,
skin unapologetically expanded,

as if Venus sculptured herself
for the woman who might unveil her,

relishing the chisel on marble,
relinquishing no inch for any man’s eye,

sculpting with my own two hands
with the only tools that fit my hands,

with what tools
my hands can afford.

By Amy Lauren

Biography:

Amy Lauren is an organist in Jackson, MS and recipient of a Pushcart and Best of the Net nomination in 2017. Her chapbooks include Prodigal (Bottlecap Press) and God With Us (Headmistress Press), the latter through the semi-finalist prize in the Charlotte Mew Contest.

On the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting By Melanie Corning

On the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting

They would have been in the sixth grade,
bundles of nerves and knowing,
sagacious sass.
Eleven-going-on-twenty-five.
Double digit tweens.

They could have read
chapter books, learned
state capitals and long division,
won spelling bees.

They could have argued
with their parents about chores
and allowance, wished
and waited for their first
cell phones, first dances,
first crushes, first loves.

They could have gathered
in basements at sleepovers,
unfurling new wisdom
in excited whispers.
They could have written
it all down in a diary locked
with a tiny key, labelled
PRIVET KEEP OUT!!!!!

They could have been giggly
and hard to focus after lunch,
distracted by rumors of snowfall,
running to the window
at the first sign of flakes,
eyes heavenward, mouths agape.

They could have rushed outside,
halfway into snow pants,
and thrown themselves gleefully
into mounds of white powder.

They could’ve made angels,
arms as wide as the sky.

By Melanie Corning

Biography:

Melanie Corning is a writer and teacher in Boston. Her work has previously appeared here at Rising Phoenix Review, as well as The Bread Loaf Journal and a google drive folder called “drafts.”

ON THE WALK TO THE POLLING PLACE By James Croal Jackson

ON THE WALK TO THE POLLING PLACE

Some birds zigzag
below shrapnel clouds
and others, perched
on limbs, chatter
about migration
in this chill
because the leaves
in your yard
are a different shade
than your neighbor’s,
but each tree
casts its own
ballot into earth
and waits
for the season
to change.
Scrunching
all the dead
beneath your boots
along the way
to the church
with the cookies
and machines,
you pass big,
brick houses
with American flags
and jack-o-lanterns’
sunken smiles
on porch steps
and city workers
who have been
fixing power lines,
building structures,
patching roads
for so many months,
and so many months
to go.

By James Croal Jackson

Biography:

James Croal Jackson, a Filipino-American poet, is author of The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017). His poetry has appeared in FLAPPERHOUSE, Yes Poetry, Stonecoast Review, and elsewhere. He edits The Mantle, a poetry journal. Find him in Columbus, Ohio or at jimjakk.com.

Knowledge By Kristin Garth

Knowledge

She knows it as a child. Her fate not bright,
no school bus yellow sun. Its freckled freight
a frolic, friends descend to skips and kites.
Peanut and jam pretend to blend but hate.

She knows it in a dream. A moon a man,
in slumber, seems. His beams become a hand
that parts a curtain, cheery chintz. Backhands
a cheek that wakes to wince then understands.

She knows it in a bed, the hair that pulls a head.
The fingers, darkness, dread. She scream, atones
inside though not a word is said. Misled
through paths of pain that end always alone.

She knows it all and learned it much too soon.
What’s made of sun can never love a moon.

By Kristin Garth

 

The Drifting By Josh Dale

The Drifting

It was an ordinary day.
Saladworks.
East Norriton where I work.
Rain,
O, sanctuary from the rain!
I had this feeling walking up to the door,
as if doom espoused with terrible luck.
As if the human soul has given complete submission
to the cosmos and fate.
I don’t believe in fate,
or think that I am the only human that has ever experienced this feeling,
but stepping into the vestibule,
among the fresh greens and toppings,
and the scant other diners,
it hit me.
A wash of unexplainable depth.
Like the Mariana’s Trench birthing a schism
deep into the mantle
and possibly more;
dark matter,
anti-matter,
pseudo matter,
or something like that.
Or at the very least
a slow whirlpool,
like the kind that forms at a shower drain.
It left my organs indiscriminate of pain,
as if my nerves shut the lights off for a moment,
only if that moment was infinite with(in) nature.
Trump was being sworn in as I opened the door.
‘I’ll create my own today’ I said.
A less-than-usual choice.
I even redeemed $5.00
and added a drink.
‘Your total will be, six dollars and sixty-six cents.’
The cashier said, with a sardonic laugh to boot.
‘I’ll take my chances.’
and stuff my face with disproportion.
The devil was calling for me
in the glitch of the matrix,
and all I could do was laugh in my own little way.
It wasn’t much, but it was all I had today
in madness or in liberty.

I’ll never see the light upon the hill
for I’ll perish in these trenches
bleeding like soldiers,
dreaming like soldiers
into a morphine pool,
doing what I love.

In this lunatic parade,
we all dance with the red death
breathing down our neck,
breaking out neck.
And I am the pallbearer
playing the role, and knowing how it all ends,
for I’ve seen it before.

By Josh Dale

Biography:

Josh Dale holds a BA in English from Temple University and has been previously published or forthcoming in 48th Street Press, April Gloaming Publishing, Black Elephant Literary Magazine, SickLit, The Scarlet Leaf Review, Your One Phone Call, and others. If he’s not petting his rescue Bengal, Daisy, he is perfecting his stir-fry recipe, hunched over in the dark like an alchemist. He is the founder and current editor-in-chief of Thirty West Publishing House and Tilde: A Literary Journal.

One Poem By Eleanor Gray

what passes between us was on the road to the otherworld?
wet pine, the wounded hearts of riders, the tears of all time
dark horns that forge the way to sleep

with dreams where love is

before flame, before arrow
nothing was hidden in our eyes, from each other
an evening spattered with mire, the old voice of a sea-vow
forever broken

moony night, sad valley woman, scythe and ax sing
against an unimpeachable wilderness

too many animals for the soul to hold
shivering beneath familiar blue dusk

where the harvesters of night now gather, shadows of
old river crones that collect their wintertoken of wolfsbane,
nightshade, their names and gray hair atangle

will, they too, never know the depths of our world?
in a bell-jar lilies push thin weight, the dark soul of contrition
the throat empties itself onto the black stretch of sagacious sea

the sounds of crowlaw, spilling into every unutterable distance
the heart sets itself out against wolftime pastures, for love of you

water-pale white song, leaf-blind, always, a voice in the forest
rising in the arms of her lover

wearing the silver memory of wolfskin

the hunter with the red spirit, between us, from a place where blood
bellows back to the original wound

I am unrecognizable,
outside of this love, away from you

what world rejects us, winged eros? what is faith
outside of the body? her mouth is lightless
for my death

the dark eye is the hour of autumn,
we cannot rest in this land of the terrible other,
I see her in every mortal dusk

white with her wreath of speechless lily and keep,
bride of evening, lark of wounded wing,
what old gods reside in your promise?

thus, the indigo sea dissolves into her other,
and all is filled with that black and holy love

By Eleanor Gray

Biography:

Eleanor Gray is, well, the other co-founder of Figroot Press. She currently resides in California with her cat, PS4 and a very beloved collection of books. She graduated from Sacramento State University with a BA in English Literature and has been writing and reading religiously for as long as she can remember. It is hard to find an open and vibrant community of other writers; she wishes to attain and commit herself to a little world consisting of other passionate poets, artists, writers and readers.

You can find her on Tumblr at: http://smakka–bagms.tumblr.com/

Are You Happy? By Devon Balwit

Are You Happy?

There, inside the video call, my daughter sits
in a dorm room on scholarship. Her dad and I
plead, be happy, as if it were easy, the tilt-o-whirl
of Heidegger, Nietzsche, and the DSA not
flinging her this way and that, the new regime
in Washington pulling the rug out. She knows
I need her enthusiasm the way I do my coffee,
the way the dog needs to go out. Instead,
she’s circling the same vortex I did and do,
wondering how to mean anything at all. What
have I made, am I making, that could survive
a power outage? In the darkness of no-grid,
where the harvest from cultivating the feed?
My boss anticipates the time when AI work
for us, but that presupposes we know how
to fill our hours, one after the next (and can afford to).
There were decades I would have said yes.
Now, always, I feel the pull of something other
than what I’m up to, as if hooked to an IV
of discontent. Some call this nothing more
than sea-change—those of us old enough
to remember no-Net, unsettled by its omnipresence.
And that is why I look to my children to praise
this brave new world, to say, See, we are
happier than you. Life is better now.

By Devon Balwit

Biography:

Devon Balwit is a writer/teacher from Portland, OR. She has six chapbooks and two collections out/forthcoming in the world. Her poems have appeared here in The Rising Phoenix Review, as well as in The New Verse News, Poets Reading the News, Rattle, Redbird Weekly Reads, Rise-Up Review, Rat’s Ass Review, Mobius, What Rough Beast, and more.

Leviathan By Dorothy McGinnis

Leviathan

so the poet tells me i’m the smartest girl he knows
the poet tells me i’m the kind of girl men can’t help but fall in love with,
sings me sea shanties, poet reads books to me all night,

so the poet tells me that everyone lies about him,
the poet tells me people hate him, talk about him as a bad man, this leviathan
poet calls this is “redemption arc”
poet falls in love with the way i see him as a gleaming deity,
some greek testament to willpower.

poet drowns me in subtext like the damsels in all his poems.
poet says he is not the sea monster he looks like in the night.

poet does not pull the seaweed out of my throat
makes joke about what “consensual” really is.

i talk to other poets about the way he hurts us
the way everyone lets him.

his writing was so beautiful
no one notices that the pages were all drowning.

By Dorothy McGinnis

Biography:

A poet from Salt Lake City, Utah, Dorothy does her best as much as she can and also confirms she is definitely not twenty two very small baby ducks disguised as a 19-year-old woman. Dorothy has represented Salt Lake and Sugar house at the National Poetry Slam (2016, 2017) the International World Poetry Slam (2017), the College Union Poetry Slam Invitational (2017), and has been chosen as the representative for the 2018 Women of the World Poetry Slam. Dorothy teaches poetry at Skyline High School, a role she loves. Her work has been seen in the Rising Phoenix Press, Feminist Thread, and the her two chapbooks, titled “On Becoming a Volcano” and “O Bless Rivers Even When they want to Overflow.” Her work has been nominated for Sundress Press’ Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize.

Preexisting Condition By Eric Allen Yankee

Preexisting Condition

It doesn’t make sense anymore,
this house we’ve been building
for 241 years now. The foundation
is sinking and the termites chewed through
the black and white walls of the 1950s,
the peace & love revolution of the 60s,
the foggy memory of the 70s,
the desks that schoolchildren
cowered under in the 80s,
the full bombs and fat jail cells of the 90s,
the dusty rubble of the twins of New York in September and September
and September
and September
and always September.
It will always be September here,
every time the crows cry
“Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!
Send those people home, Jesus!”
And we may look back at the ashes
of the house we set on fire
all by ourselves
and find that another white supremacist
complaining that their right to incite violence is being threatened
is a rusty nail that always seems
to survive the fire
and this insures there is no insurance
that will ever cover
this country’s preexisting condition
except maybe Langston Hughes old friend
Revolution.

By Eric Allen Yankee

Biography:

Eric Allen Yankee is a member of the Revolutionary Poets Brigade of Chicago. His work appears in The People’s Tribune, Calamus Journal, Five 2 One Magazine, RISE (2017 Vagabond Books), Overthrowing Capitalism Volume 2 & 3, The Good Men Project, and others. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He is the author of RIOT (2017 Finishing Line Press), American Bullet (2017 Atomic Theory), and Bees Against the War (2017 Locofo Chapbooks).

This tree that grows on Ragnarök By Ashely Adams

This tree that grows on Ragnarök

a sestina

I am the snake eating the roots of the world,
haloed in the penumbra of wings
whining with coagulated dust.
You and your sword try to cut me open,
but I am a thing that cannot die,
a body spilling flies and rust-hued ruin.

How could you stop my ruin
rise through your gilded palace, a world
built on chain and nail? Your pulse dies,
the fluttering of steel wings.
Gasp your starved ribs open
and sharpen my scales on its sphagnum dust.

You and your plow lick breadbasket dust
off lips parted, alone in dry ruin.
I make teeth from the dark where the riverbed opens,
tongue of curdled jetstreams ringing the world.
Each sigh parts soil from stone, your wings
fall against time’s husks, as if the memories could die.

Still, you build this dying
replica of my heart on this spoiled dust.
But its fangs and wings
break against my eon bones; ruins
mark our serpentine trails in a world
breathing vengeance and skin broken open.

I work your brittle crust open.
Scratch the mountain until it swells, dies,
drain the fractions of the world
I’ve left; churning your dust,
burying tusk and flint,            a ruin
made in the spread of pyroclastic wings.

Your empire suns burn in my jaws, corona wings
drip the flood, split the bark open.
Set loose the wolf furred in manged-ruin.
You and your kingdom die,
leaving only leviathan dust
under your final stars, flickering from the world

And when you are gone

I will mend broken wings and no one will die.
They will turn open and whisper into the dust
of the snake that brings ruin, eating the roots of the world

By Ashely Adams

Biography:

Ashely Adams is an MFA candidate in nonfiction at the University of South Florida. Her work has appeared in Flyway, Heavy Feather Review, Fourth River, Anthropoid, Permafrost, OCCULUM. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and was selected as Best in Show for the Antioch Writers Workshop Fiction Fellowship contest.