ABSTRACT By Charles Duffie

ABSTRACT

I’ve turned being awake into a practice,
hear the rain’s soft approach and feel called,
God throwing pebbles at the window.

My wife stirs as I pat the dark to find
yesterday’s jeans, yesterday’s socks,
a sweater branded with yesterday’s job.

The rain is loud on the sunroom’s metal roof.
I stand back from the tall windows like a man
trying to appreciate an abstract painting,

the lower thirds Rothko’d with leafy black,
the sky’s translucent darkness layered above
and Pollack’d with wires and a gap of stars.

The Metro sounds lonely as a freight train.
I remember being inside those bright rectangles,
speeding west, heads bowed as if in prayer.

By Charles Duffie

Biography:

Charles Duffie is a writer working in the Los Angeles area. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review of Books, So It Goes (The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library), Anastamos, Bacopa Literary Review, Prime Number Magazine, Exposition Review, Mojave River Press, Meat for Tea, Heavy Feather Review, FlashBack Fiction, Riggwelter, and American Fiction by New Rivers Press.

August in Mulund By Shaam Beed

August in Mulund

Misery is a word I only know
through the milk peddler’s arrival with
warm plastic pouches of milk and the paper notes
that rustle softly in his near-empty apron pockets.
The cheap plastic chair bows
under his weight as the aroma of burnt chai
fills the air and mustard seeds sizzle in oil.

When I see Baa standing at the stove,
her right hand stirring with a stainless steel spatula
and her left resting on the small of her back,
an apology loiters at the edge of my tongue,
hovering like the menacing rain cloud above,
but my teeth are the dam that keeps the torrents
from rushing out.

I finger the edge of the table.
The cheap marble-patterned paper
has peeled off, leaving only old wood behind.
One wheel is lost, and it leans
ever so slightly to the right. I roam to the window seat,
where the monsoon’s tantrum has left its mark.

I know that summer has run off with the morning crows,
leaving me alone, here, in Mulund.
I see my grandmother, wailing atop her inflatable mattress
and reaching for the black telephone resting on a stool,
her arm the dogwood branch hanging over algae-
covered pond, dripping in toasted skin and lilac bruises.

She telephones her son; the landline rings but her throat,
full of unsung abandonment and longing,
is a closed corridor. He does not answer,
and her whispers, soft and rasping like the air
whistling through the grated window,
are lost in translation.

I watch the old playground, now muddy
and covered with ivy, but it sits untouched.
A door slams upstairs, a rickshaw’s horn
rings in the distance,
and the rain begins its relentless downpour.

By Shaam Beed

Biography:

Shaam is a student at Livingston High School in Livingston, New Jersey. His favorite subjects include American history and Chinese, and he finds himself often writing about his family, culture, and random subjects. He has not founded any foundations or published any books, but someday he hopes to become an adult.

Wartime Ghazal By Angela Gabrielle Fabunan

Wartime Ghazal

Illusion, the thought that you could go on
as you did in peacetime—in your house
watching the news without notice
complacently not knowing that
this is a time of war.

Who knows what war is
when you’re not affected, yet
at your doorstep, on your streets,
in your homes and in your cities,
it comes knocking: this is a time of war.

Who could care about new shoes, now
that lives are at stake, never forget,
know your enemy, know who you are
in this time of war.

What brought us here, where we stand
in a nationhood that was never solidified
into what could have been, what is a
Filipino in a time of war?

A fighting spirit that believes in principle,
in the dignity of human lives,
in reclaiming what’s been lost to us
because of this time of war.

By the window, the artists look
at the situation and gage:
yes, this is a time of war.

Pity the illustrado that cannot look
at his own shadow. A poem will never
start a war, but the ultimate farewell
of words do not bring about peace, either:
This is a time of war.

By Angela Gabrielle Fabunan

A Letter to Mata Hari, dead at 41 By Cierra Lowe

A Letter to Mata Hari, dead at 41

I can envision your pilot,
roiling within his apartment that
mourning—despicably
frying eggs and renouncing
your conception. As if
your essence was merely insult
to his injury.

I bet you were born on Rosh Hashanah.
I bet you used a rib as a hatpin.
I bet that those twelve barrels seemed a curious affection
as they peered upon you—
and so you blew a kiss
to the firing squad.

You were made deaf by
God’s silence.
It was bullets that made love to
your body for the last time.
They say you wore white gloves.
They say you kept your face to the sky.

As blood wept from your abdomen,
it gathered around you like still-blind
offspring, hungry for its mother.
You were 41—with legs curled
beneath you like an impossible
chair—when you fatally birthed
the first Rorschach test: to France,
it looked like moral ambiguity.
To Maslov, it looked like insubordination.
To your creator, it looked like spilled ink.

This poem was previously published in Dime Show Review.

By Cierra Lowe

Biography:

Cierra Lowe is a poet and half-assed artist living in St. Louis, Missouri. She received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Webster University, and is currently pursuing her BSN at University of Missouri – St. Louis. She self-published her first full-length collection—The Horse and the Water—in 2016, and is currently working on her second. When she isn’t trying to poison her husband with undercooked meats, Cierra enjoys compulsively organizing her belongings, changing lanes in intersections, and monitoring planetary motions. She is currently working on a series of letters to female sex symbols who have tragic ends, and well as an uncomfortable collection of interviews. She looks forward to even-numbered years, and her work has previously appeared in Bad Jacket.

716.4 mi. or Sometimes I Get Dizzy Because a Stranger in the Supermarket Smells like Colgate Toothpaste and Black Coffee By Kristian Porter

716.4 mi. or Sometimes I Get Dizzy Because a Stranger in the Supermarket Smells like Colgate Toothpaste and Black Coffee

We are a taffy pull,
a tango with tired feet,
a never fully unpacked suitcase.

Two years ago, we met in the middle,
two sets of shaky, familiar hands,
and I’ve been running to you ever since.

Through a bus window somewhere in Wisconsin,
I watch billboards for cheese and clean gas station bathrooms blur together, a space inside me hollowing,
scattered pieces leaving a trail down I-90.

Every mile marker a field of dandelions,
I close my eyes and blow.

Crying in an airport isn’t like crying for real.

I remove my shoes, a mosaic of myself
on the metal detector screen,
but no one stops me.

I want to bury myself in your bed and melt into its seams,
so tired of ripping myself out by the roots.

I check the weather where you are,
desperate to connect our dots.
Cincinnati is shining, but storm clouds cover Minneapolis.

How jealous I am of the rain and its nearness to you.
My toothbrush sits on your bathroom counter,
dry.

My hands reach out and find nothing
but discarded calendar pages,
red x’s bleeding all over the sheets.

By Kristian Porter

Biography:

Kristian Porter is a 23-year-old writer who just moved to Minneapolis from Cincinnati and is still adjusting. By day, she works as a copywriter for a marketing agency. By night, she writes poems about distance, alcohol, and all the places that feel like home. When she’s not writing, she’s probably watching cooking shows with her three cats or wandering aimlessly around a bookstore. She has been previously published by Words Dance Publishing and is currently working on her first poetry collection.

LUCKY By Abby Caplin

LUCKY

This morning a small moth got caught up
in my hands, its body leaving a smudge
of brown powder on the wrinkled bedsheet

I was slapping out, the way you
taught me. I’m lucky, born twelve
years after your cousins worked

a Lithuanian forest with shovels, gunshot-
tumbled into the pit, earth moving for days
with those still alive, like restless

children beneath a blanket. I’m sixty-five,
two years older than you when you had
your surgery— tubes draining yellow fluid

from your belly, the raw meaty gap
of your gauze-packed incision.
Nurses changed port dressings,

IV tubing, infusions, bile-filled
ileostomy bags, and your night nurse
rocked you in bed as you begged

for your mother, cowering from dog-sized
insects on the ceiling. I get it now.
Already the California sky has turned

an orange I’ve never seen before,
and that marvelous idea you loved to tell
your civics students about is cracking and falling

sideways, like those sand towers we once
carefully slid from paper cups, guarding them
from breakers, until we couldn’t.

By Abby Caplin

Biography:

Abby Caplin’s poems have appeared in AGNI, Catamaran, Love’s Executive Order, Manhattanville Review, Midwest Quarterly, Salt Hill, TSR: The Southampton Review, Tikkun, and elsewhere. Among her awards, she has been a finalist for the Rash Award in Poetry, semi-finalist for the Willow Run Poetry Book Award, finalist for the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Award, and a winner of the San Francisco Poets Eleven. She is a physician and practices mind-body medicine in San Francisco. http://abbycaplin.com

Possession By Joe Shetina

Possession

Cinderella

There is a devil in this stone floor; I can see 
its profane face in the cracks, through the suds,

pronouncing itself with every new brush-stroke, 
grunting through proud yellowed teeth,

yellow as the eyes of the woman asleep upstairs who
stands over my shoulders in spirit, the heaviness

of her lavender boot at my neck, and pushing me down 
into the fumes — Mother’s touch — into the cavernous mouth

of this stone beast, blue hairs sprouting around the hole, 
the same that sprouted from his face — Father’s fancy — Pride

lost in a bucket of soap and water — 
the stone beast stares, unaware that its face is only

a Pixie Dust Dream inhaled in a back alley, bathed 
first in mud, then in sugar, then in magic

and chased with a salty, dirty-kneed cocktail — 
to take the edge off. I lick cleaning product

from between my fingers with the exuberance 
of a child with a corner store lollipop, and lap it

from the folds of skin around my knuckles as a 
thirsty dog does the corners of its bowl. I fall back

in the blue-bearded devil’s mouth, and luxuriate in its warmth. 
Its throat is a new dress, tailored perfectly to my form.

This is my 2 AM dress, for when the decent are in bed 
stuck together in clumsy performances of ecstasy,

or drifting, distant as ice floes who shared the same ocean by 
unhappy accident. He likes my 2 AM dress because

he can’t see it in the dimness of the alley. He calls himself Prince, but 
he is not very charming. Nothing is very charming about back alleys,

2 AM, or Pixie Dust Dreams. His breath smells like pineapples, 
and I convince myself this means he cares. I find comfort there

in his citrus mouth, and he finds it in mine, which smells like floor wax. 
Soot clasps to the spots on my 2 AM dress that are pinned

between the ground and my knees. My eyes burn 
as the wind slams my face and I look down

To the alley’s floor, the filthiest floor 
I have ever seen. The devil is there too.

By Joe Shetina

“Possession” was previously self-published and published on Medium (Scuzzbucket).

Biography:

Joe Shetina (they/he) is a writer based in Chicago. Their writing has failed in some of the industry’s finest competitions, having been cited in the top 15% for the Academy Nicholl Fellowship and given semi-finalist status at the 2019 Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference. They hold a BA in sociology from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and an MFA in Writing for the Screen + Stage from Northwestern University, where they also taught Foundations of Screenwriting courses as a graduate assistant.

luna By Jenna Cooley

luna

i do not have the words i need to explain this sadness to you.
there is no translation. the bones are as they have always been:
the bones are cold. in the winter they are colder.
the sky holds the sun in its teeth. these teeth clench.
this jaw clicks. the universe is a reflection on silence.
in silence the throat retreats toward the lungs
every ache of the body is worn to a prayer.
it is hopeful to imagine a martyrdom.
it is selfish. from silence the moon regresses to silence.
i regress to my self. meaning i regress
to the hollow between bear and crumble. i regress
to silence. i cannot explain to you the weight or the ache
of undoing. how exhaustion unthreads the posture
or tightens it. everything a drawing in. a praying back
to the infant darkness. the soft waits past the brim
of sadness. i gather my tears and wait
and am washed back to the beginning

By Jenna Cooley

samsara smells like carbon By Dana Blatte

samsara smells like carbon

a phoenix first must burn; 

this is how you cull the fire from the feathers

necromance the ashes into a new existence

and christen it reincarnation: the birthing

of a serpentine soul,

the vise around your stillborn heart.

remember,

even chalcedony and agate

                        turn to onyx if you apply enough pressure;

                                                even ichor

            coagulates to cinders

                                    if you incinerate it long enough.

                        they say ashes to ashes

                                                            so i say light it up;

burn the snakeskin on a pyre

                                    and watch the phoenix

                        rise.

By Dana Blatte

Biography:

Dana Blatte is a sophomore in high school from Massachusetts. Previously, she has been recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers and NaNoWriMo’s Young Writer’s Program. Additionally, her work is published in or forthcoming from The Aurora Review, The Heritage Review, and Second Revolution. An aspiring illustrator, author, and polyglot, Dana dreams in lyricism, fairy tales, and obscure indie music.

I Saw God in San Francisco By Emma Mayer

I Saw God in San Francisco

The locals call the bay a place of grace;
You can see God when you walk Lombard Street.
The tourists say their souls have been replaced
By cable cars, crab, and veils of concrete.

But when the fog settles in and the bay
Begins to bellow, those souls disappear—
As the addicts and junkies’ skin decays
Like the undead; diseased and lost in fear.

You can see God in clouds of smoke exhaled
From lungs burnt black by chasing hope too much,
And in the corners of the city that failed,
there are people who use drugs as a crutch.

But in cathedrals of lofty redwoods,
I sat and saw God reach his great hand down
and grab the Golden Gate; beneath their hoods,
veiled from the rain, some swore they saw God frown.

By Emma Mayer

Biography:

Emma Mayer is a junior double majoring in English and Communication in Colorado. She has been writing poetry ever since she could remember and believes words have the power to change the world. You can follow her on Twitter @emmamayer1996 and Instagram @__shmayerxx.