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R E C E S S E S
I S S U E  0 0 2

F O R E W O R D

ISSUE 002 is FINALLY here.

It's happened.

I'm so sorry for the delay.

But thank you, all of you.

- SAVHANHA SMALL NGUYEN -

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CONTENTS

|| SARAH KA || CADRIEL HYUNH || REBECCA BROWN || RSN

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SARAH KA

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BRANDON SHANE

CONFIDENTIAL (DAMAGE)

T/W: INFIDELITY, WAR & WEAPON IMAGERY

You crawled to the open curtains like barbwire,

holding your breath as pedestrian armies

marched across the sidewalks with rifled phones,

each snap a potential bullet to end your life &

as the polyester unites in a theatrical performance,

your love once again returns in a flood to amend drought,

dear senator, enchanted broker of wars, power, wars,

reverend atop the oracle-eyed church of delphi, w/

passion turned like a faucet; mechanical man taken

by primal aims & subjects * subject to regulation,

yet there is a charge from your hidden breadth,

megalomaniac animalized to a furnace of desires,

so take this wet kiss, this hug, this unbridled love,

find yourself engulfed in flames, master of secrets;

watch this secrecy erupt in a volcanic blaze.

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JOHN GANSHAW

THE RINGMASTER

You are the youngest but the wisest

You are the reliable one

You are the resourceful one

You are the family anchor

You are the ringmaster of life

 

You provide to everyone except yourself

You listen to everyone except yourself

You support everyone except yourself

You believe in everyone except yourself

You want to save everyone except yourself

But yet you are the ringmaster of life

 

You dream about what could have been

You create opportunities when none exist

You wonder about the world and what it brings

You observe all that surrounds you

You think of everything, even when it isn’t there

You must, You are the ringmaster of life

 

In times of sorrow, you are there

In times of need, you are there

In times of hardship, you are there

In times of want you are there

In times of love, you are there

You are the ringmaster of life, yet it’s not yours

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REBECCA BROWN

SUMMERTIME SONNET

Holidays make me think of boundless space,

Bare legs and arms freckled by friendly sun

Watching dappled shade flicker on your face

Blank diary pages promise unplanned fun

 

The zigzag of cool water makes you laugh

We lick lollies dripping rainbows of fruit

You perform cartwheels on the sunburnt grass

Chuck off clothes to don your mermaid swimsuit

 

But there’s a chill in the waterpark splash

A sharp edge to this hopeful liberty

I hesitate as the cameras flash

And hear danger in the deafening sea

 

These are fragile snapshots I must savour

Stick out my tongue for bittersweet flavour

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CADRIEL HUYNH

THE BLACK HOLE AT THE HEART OF OUR GALAXY

The afternoon where you tell me that what we have is not enough, I sit on the hill behind our house peeling fruit. Skin after skin I shed into a green plastic strainer—the cheap one you bought in Hanoi. You said the trip back home

 

would heal us. Bring us closer in uncertain times.

 

                     We don’t quite understand what healing means. A delve into the countryside, perhaps. The wounds we have carried shall carry us.

 

I sit and dig my hands into bitter peels; The sun drags long talons down my back. Don’t you know when to give up?  I sit with my back against the world. I sit with my back against you.

 

Dandelions bloom even if you try to crush them under your feet. You

 

pledged your love to me this afternoon, many lifetimes ago. Things have changed since then, but you were still my first kiss.

 

Nobody knows it was you, but it was.

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THEODORE FORCER

OIL SPILL

the love of my first home is a love that is twisted,

almost cruel

because the radiator bleeds,

a rainbow of an oil leak

and the walls weep

teardrops warping the paper

 

they diagnose my room with water damage

and I am trapped under a collapsed roof,

tiles stolen

resold

 

there’s a downpour in the dining room

and the ocean breeze

of this haunted town

hangs stale in the doorway

blinking lights fizz and fade out

 

sickness lingers

in mildew and mold.

the wall that keeps the waves at bay is crumbling.

 

red meat bears grease into my bones

and inky stains never lift

(the carpet holds all that has ever been here)

 

sometimes I believe this little town stores so much hate

that it spills over the edges

drips down my hands,

 

but then echoes of laughter ricochet off these walls

language spoken in tongues, like some foreign dialect I don’t know

and the falling of tiny feet bang on these floors like drums

in their clumsy crescendo.

these are the things I am desperately holding onto.

 

we have to belong here,

with this town and all its ghosts.

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CHARLOTTE AMELIA POE

NTH

entropy never looked as sexy as it did on your bedroom floor

"slip into something more comfortable," you say

and i let the void envelop me

oh sweetheart, the blip in the timeline is our heartbeats coinciding

and yesterday is tomorrow is the circling of a black hole

maw gaping and all sharp teeth

did you know that even stars can die?

now think about your own blood and veins and try to tell me you're special

oh, but we're all immortal if you don't trust the narrator

talk about ghosts in machines and solipsism and i'll nod along

you're the only one who can ever know how this feels

so try not to start screaming,

like, the world ends for everyone in turn

and a whimper in the back of your throat

is a lot less gauche

than a bang.

BEE THE ILLUSTRATOR

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FOREST S. RIGBY

PORCELAIN RELATIONSHIP

T/W: IMPLIED SEXUAL CONTENT & VOMITING

I’m familiar with his porcelain contours

Smooth and cold to the touch

Lately I find myself down on my knees for him

Bruises forming against the cold tile floor

Gagging on his bleach cologne

Causing my throat to burn with the exhale

Choking as he forces me to hold my breath

Tears springing to the corners of my eyes

Until a release comes that I refuse to swallow down.

Previously Published in

NAME MAGAZINE (2020)

AARON SANDBERG

THE FLY (MERCY)

How dumb

to think

my sleep

was dreamless,

my dreams

full of sleep.

There’s the difference

between the scream

and the pain. 

 

I'm not the kid

anymore, kneeling

next to the bed,

asking for god to give.

Now, it’s a good

enough prayer

to wish I were

good enough.

 

But I can answer

unasked prayers.

 

Bugs buzzing between

the screen and the pane —

 

I get up in the night

to slide open the glass,

 

crack the door

to let in light,

and let the flies fly out.

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YUU IKEDA

MIDNIGHT BRUISES

Instead of human emotions,

inhuman alcohol

flows into my blood vessels.

 

Seasons become monochromatic,

the moon hides behind haze,

voices of bygone days disappear.

 

In a blanket,

I'm listening to screams

of me crumbled

by heartless bullets.

HEART

she can't draw

the picture of Heart.

the silhouette distorts,

just wanders.

she doesn't know

the color of Heart.

the innermost discolors,

just floats.

vague pain

and

hazy warmth

soak into her brain that

is thirsty for humanity

and is dominated by

monsters.

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JAMES KANGAS

RICKY'S BLUES

Finally, it was laughable--

how he left you in the theater like that,

like a partnerless glove after he’d sat through five

minutes of the movie, itching for a brew

to suck down, a worked-up claque at his favorite dive.

Magnet-eyed as he was, the little

metal molecules in your body had jerked

you across the room to his side the first time

you saw him, he had that effect

on people. And since you had glowed

brighter than the rest, brighter

than the Dixie Highway Jesus, your eyes

huge as shasta daisies, he’d chosen your blossom

to fry, your hearth to start calling his

Holiday Inn, your wharf of sleep to unmoor you from

at 3 a.m., banging on your door after he’d

closed the bar, run someone else’s

panting tongue through the wringer like a washrag.

 

A wreck after three weeks of this, you slouched

in the flickering light through some starlet’s ruin,

her mascara running like Pitch River Falls, and when

he didn’t come back to pick you up, you lurched

next door to the doughnut shop, gulped four scalding

coffees, kissed your bubble good-bye, and phoned

your friend Mary to take you home. Then he got

pissed because you’d left, called you, called you

every name in the book. What balls! It took

another week for you to have it out with him.

That was the most lacerating affair you’ve ever had

the stupidity to put yourself through. That was

the most electrified you’ve ever felt, you said,

whether it was love or rut you didn’t care, too bad

it was a psycho playing cat and mouse, he gave you

gooseflesh and you were thankful, he made your brain

churn like a hive of bees, your blood go crashing

through your body, your bones sob how they’d come alive.

 

 

Previously Published in

Embers (Old Saybrook, Connecticut |Spring 1990)

LORI CRAMER

WHAT TO DO WHILE HE'S DATING SOMEBODY ELSE

1. Buy a spectacular outfit, anticipating the date you’ll have once he’s free again.

2. Hang the clothes in your closet.

3. Wait.

4. Tire of waiting.

5. Decide you deserve to look spectacular right now.

6. Slip into your new outfit.

7. Go to the eatery he frequents.

8. Select the seat at the bar that has the optimal view of his favorite table.

9. Order a pomegranate martini.

10. Anticipate his arrival.

11. Follow him with your eyes as the hostess seats him across the room.

12. Freshen your lipstick, fluff your hair, and prepare to “accidentally” run into him.

13. Sigh loudly when she appears and joins him at his table.

14. Startle when a guy in a baseball hat asks if he can buy you a drink.

15. Say you’ll take another martini.

16. Discover, as you converse with him, that the guy in the hat is smart and funny.

17. Remember you are smart and funny.

18. Look up just as the man you came to see strolls by hand in hand with his girlfriend.

19. Try to recall what you ever saw in him.

20. Laugh.

BEHIND THE BALLAD

You think you know me because of the song. As if a person’s essence could be captured in three minutes, thirty-four seconds. Sure, my ex composed a beautiful ballad. Those impassioned lyrics. That romantic string arrangement. No wonder he collected six Grammys. Who doesn’t want to believe the fairy tale? Wild rocker tamed by true love.

 

The thing is: The song isn’t about me. He used my name, yes, but the motivation for those carefully crafted lyrics? Money. Not love. To my ex, feigning feelings is just part of the game. Sentimentality sells. Even when it’s fake.

TWO OF US

We talked too much, laughed too much. Our heels, ultrahigh; our skirts, ultrashort. We fixed each other’s hair, told each other how fierce we looked.

 

We smoked too much, drank too much. Our nightlife, wilder than wild; our taste in boys, “the badder, the better.” We partied with businessmen, ballplayers, and bands, told each other “We got this.”

 

We stumbled too many times, fell too hard. Our pain, suffered in silence; our problems, hidden from the world. We guarded each other’s secrets, told each other that boys will come and boys will go, but friendship is forever.

JULIE ALLYN JOHNSON

NUESTRA SEÑORA DEL CARMEN

Here sits a man.

I mean — a torso,

with a head.

 

Flaps for arms, stubs where legs

would have extended

from twin trouser

appendages, tied in knots

lying limp & useless

on the sun-bleached concrete.

 

He’s propped up curbside

just off the Playa’s

strangled thoroughfares,

its church’s

white-washed

stucco walls

a calculated backdrop

to those glassy, vacant eyes.

Each day’s endurance

facilitated no doubt

with a meagre array

of medicinal nirvana.

 

What keeps the faded toluca basket

safe, with its sparsity

of American dollars, Mexican pesos?

Do watchful eyes

monitor this pobre alma from a distance?

 

A family member

or — more darkly — someone

he once held up as savior,

cashing in now on the guilt

of wealthy tourists,

the pious and curious?

 

My obliterated, despondent, angry heart —

 

The sun shines too harsh & fierce in Quintana Roo.

 

I look away — aim my camera elsewhere.

MACKINAW

Watch as Jane makes headway in her struggle against the ravages of ego lost, of ego consumed, of ego deftly manipulated along the bitter shores of a surreptitious lake in the Upper Peninsula where she grieves for five sisters whose betrayal still stings, for a mother who made none of it happen and then all of it

happen, and her father—well. Her father whom she adored although some would question why that

might be. The Grand Hotel was a bit fancy for her tastes, the shoreline condos and B&B’s too excessive

for one of her simple origins. She prefers rusticity as host for her creature comforts. Listen as Jane draws

a bead on an eastern screech-owl, her fingers tapping a frost-coated fence post, her suede-trimmed hiking boots tamping down last night’s snowfall as an eerie stream of silence whistles through stands of balsam

fir and paper birch, unseen purveyors of the island’s darkness. Smell the tang of greed in the air, the pretentious odors of inauthenticity. Savor the marble-slab fudge, the rainbow array of taffy, the rancid aftertaste of money boarding the ferry back to the mainland. Witness Jane’s resolve to disregard the onus of crushing despair. Celebrate with Jane as she strides ever forward, vowing to reclaim her once-lost life.

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CHRISTIANE WILLIAMS-VIGIL

TÀHIRIH

T/W: MODERATE VIOLENCE

Red, frayed scarf twisted around her neck,

severing her enlightened mind from thick air.

Resilient body thrown down a well

icy, black water stained with her.

Women are told not to speak.

Stay home.

She said no.

Her voice rises from out the past,

challenging and screaming for Women’s Rights.

If I stay quiet,

I am equally guilty as the hand that choked her.

If I fight,

I risk meeting the same demise.

And so be it.

I will speak regardless.

And roar with all the sound within me.

Silence me not, until all women taste freedom.

 ELLA NO QUIERE

AFTER  TRANSLATION OF BAD BUNNY'S 'ANDREA'

There is a wolf-howl song written in bleeding ink for her. She

 

wishes they wouldn’t sing it on live feeds. She doesn’t

 

want recorded and rehearsed gestures. They only want

 

to rain viral, analytically measured love on her. Just a

 

show for the millions watching. Buying flower

 

after flower, to enhance, filter, and saturate this as just

 

another layer of the fantasy. An idea that

 

translates into likes and follows. ‘Subscribe to see more.’ They

 

don’t please the oceanic depths of her heart. They don’t

 

know the bonds, like the roses, have already wither-

 

-ed and this is over for her.

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SONYA DEVYATKIN

SCORPION HOURS

These are the scorpion hours

when day hasn’t broken yet

but night has already passed

and the minutes have grown little legs

that crawl flatty

on and through your body.

 

These are the centipede minutes

that stampede through your mind

as they resurface memories to the foreground

and shut your will to a lock-jaw.

 

These are the cold and dry minutes

that seep into your nostrils

and tickle at the nape of your neck

 

They don’t quite haunt you

but they cause the slightest bit of unease

that leaves you

perpetually restless.

CLEAN THE CRAPPER

Have you ever really cleaned a toilet?

Gotten down on your hands and knees and

scrubbed the shit, worth centuries,

off the marble palisade?

 

Have you ever really seen years worth of shit

condensed into one small globular sphere -

a miniature Earth of excretion

as gloopy in its gunk as it drips

as it sticks to your facade of home and space...

 

Once you have, hand over mouth,

cleaned a toilet used by someone who is not you

used for years and years,

used to release and relieve themselves of

digested gluttonous junk,

you will finally see what reality is like,

you will finally see what adulthood is.

 

What is it, you might ask?

 

Well, why don’t you just walk over to the toilet bowl

stick your hand in there

search out that very ugly, very real

truth which is:

 

you eat, you sleep, you love,

you shit,

and then you die.

 

That’s all there is to it.

That’s all the toilet bowl can tell you.

And for that,

you ought to smile.

RSN

LACHLAN CHU

A MAYBE LIFE

Somewhere else

there’s a morning window of summer.

 

Here I wake to a cloud-high city:

dead night and

an elegy of almost-sunken stars—

the fiesta lights here are

rain-rusted bars &

blustered old Carlos’ talking box.

 

30 feet

Northeast,

a television screen meets life.

The figure trapped in the frame begins to speak,

but it’s too dark in his place

and the window is too far.

 

I don’t know most of the men next door,

but he is called Carlos.

Carlos who I find myself watching:

 

sometimes

while the stove ticks, my hands sweat-spat,

full with the buns I had picked up on the way back from work.

Sometimes

On Sundays of dry switchgrass and burnt sun-oven slate.

On Sundays of shrill ice-air and beard-white wind.

I put on a jacket that covers my arms & pants that cover my legs & gloves & shoes on those days.

I don’t like those days because I like my arms & legs & hands & feet. You liked them.

When there is nothing to do but sit,

and the books are too hard

& the work is too hard,

 

milky evening splits brisk into somber night, and I see the stars.

The grass feels wet, and it feels green. It was one of those days yesterday.

& it rained last night.

“I can see yours up there, Papá.”

 

I remember him telling me how his star was the tiny one being scooped up by the big spoon.

I never told him that it was really the big dipper.

I add that to the list; after

Tell dad the plural of “mouse” isn’t “mouses”

Tell dad he pronounced the word “refrigerator” all wrong

 

I see him chuckling when I read it to him.

I see him asking me how to say perro,

chuckling when my words are more broken

than his spirit.

 

I knew he couldn’t hear me, but sometimes it’s better to say things out loud.

I knew he couldn’t hear me, but sometimes it’s also better not to say things out loud.

(Like the broken taillight

or the four parking tickets.

Or the fact that I sold

his old T.V.)

 

I stood up

and walked back home.

But I didn’t want to be back at that apartment.

I didn’t want to be home on those cold days

where I covered my skin

& I didn’t want to tell dad that I kept his papers since

November 4th 2009—

—So it never made it on the list.

 

I stood up

and walked back home.

& I walked to Carlos’ door because

I wanted to watch his T.V.

that never turned off.

 

I never knocked.

& Carlos never answered,

& Carlos never smiled his big brown, bearded smile

& Carlos never said it was nice to meet me

And come in, come in.

 

So tomorrow,

in a maybe life,

I’ll promise to stop by for a drink.

REGENESIS

It’s hard to believe that Sisyphus was a wise man

when he knew it was as easy as letting go, simply

stepping to the right and watching the rock tumble

down into somebody else’s hands.

 

Everyone argues, but it’s obvious how they all desire

each of their cells to know its human composition,

how they do what they can to make their molecules

realize the beauty in their tiny calligraphy.

 

I’m certain I have something profound to point out,

so perhaps there is magic in the boulders piling up

in the stoic man’s arms; maybe people can force

atoms to know what they create.

 

I concede that a habit can sometimes be titanium. But

it is true that if you remove the blindfold at the edge

of the bridge, there is an immediate retreat to safety,

a deep gravity that’s primordial.

 

What I’m saying is that pushing a boulder up a hill

is just another symptom of depletion. Everyone knows

that there is an end to the journey, but they all think

it happens when you collapse.

 

The voyage is not over until you reach the top

of the mountain, which only exists because

the crushed are reincarnated as living—another

body fills the slot, moving at first,

 

deforming underneath like wax or clay, decades

of pushing before revival. The peak is a cliff, it’s

shaped just like a bridge, and it doesn’t matter

if every atom of you knows whom it composes

 

because there is a rock not far back, and it is moving;

someone is pushing it; you topple over the edge

like carrion into a machine.

I AM FLOATING BELLY-UP

A boy squats in the dirt and sucks on cough drops

while another does pull ups on a broken shower pole.

The image slides out in a hunted grayscale, starved

like beetles beneath the creep of newborn steam.

 

The lens is pointed now at a deer with no antlers,

and it bends its neck and pushes its shoulder blades

like caution. It knows how the sky muddles into cold

cave water before the storm bores through the forest.

 

The sun does not shine onto everything, and I tell

myself you need an empire to become illuminated.

One of the boys has a father who will saw and glue

the head of the fawn. He will rot by my camera forever.

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TATIANA PEREZ

TO DIE OR NOT TO DIE

MUSINGS ON THE SAD GIRL ERA

To be sad is cool. To be unwell is profound after all the greats in human history suffered. Van Gogh cut off his own ear.

Small talk includes the SSRIs you've been prescribed, "Zoloft or Prozac?"  Go on Goodreads and you can find curated reading lists titled "sad girl books" that consist of work by Ottessa Moshfegh and others. Type in sad girl on Letterboxd and you find dozens of watchlists that always have Girl Interrupted (1999) or The Virgin Suicides (1999) on the top of the list. These stories are set in dreams cityscapes, lonely apartments featuring flawed characters.

I must admit I too fell into the spell of the sad girl. I found profundity in melancholy existences. Though I try to remind myself it was me up against full marketing teams crowded in boardrooms.

It's worth noting the internet's, largely social media's, role in the

popularization of this aesthetic. I mean who wouldn't be intrigued by

slow edits featuring sad characters tinted in blue color grade with dreamlike audio in the background. Everything and anything can become aestheticized if there are a few good edits featuring scenes from obscure films and enough people participate in using the hashtag.

The term sad girl is much more a descriptor now much like the manic pixie dream girl. I view these two more similar than dissimilar. Though the manic pixie dream girl needs a male protagonist to function, the sad girl needs only herself. So maybe times are changing for the better.

Lackluster humor aside, I empathize with the considerable number of young girls on the internet being fed unhappiness in the shape of rounded cakes obscured by sweet frosting and red trim icing.

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MONIQUE ROWE

LOST IN GREY

The grey-haired woman sat in the rocking chair,

back and forth.

She has been like this since dusk.

 

Humming under her breath,

I tried to hear the tune, but all was inaudible

as the wind lashed the trees

and the heavens gave way to a downpour.

"Winter is coming," she said.

I resisted the urge to correct her

as I realized her old, wrinkled skin still

remembers the bite of blizzards

despite now living in a tropical paradise.

 

She existed in limbo —

halfway between my loving Gran and

the other half, the immigrant fighting

to attain the frigid American dream.

UP THE TEMP!

Dogs foaming,

cats gasping.

The bed, a slow-cooking oven,

mercilessly steaming my already

coffee-toasted skin.

Rivulets of sweat give daily massages,

kneading out more liquid

from my dehydrated pores.

 

The lawn pants for dews,

longing for its glory days.

The sun continues its assault,

with its heavy-handed belting —

bruising, welting, melting,

leaving a scorching trail.

 

Who would have thought redness

was visible on black?

Or black could actually

crack?

Stripping lips, headaches, thirsty,

the sun’s a slave master, unrelenting

in its abuse

overheating us wave after wave.

JULIO RAINION

JUNE TWENTY-FOURTH TWENTY-TWENTY-THREE

I WANT MY SON BACK, i cry to the moon, the trees, the wind

(whoever will listen)

impassively, they lean in, feathered boughs glistening with mourning dew

they know as well as i what bridge he’s crossed

i’ll drink forgetting-liquor and

lose myself once more.

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PAWEL MARKIEWICZ

TREE-LIKE SONNET

I beguile a blazing courage of ebony.

I bewitch a brilliant audacity of elm.

I captivate a dazzling daring of the holly.

I entice a vivid endurance of hornbeam.

 

I enrapture a flashing fearlessness of fir.

I magnetize a glistening firmness of wattle.

I enthrall a glittering fortitude of birch.

I hypnotize a golden gallantry of maple.

 

You carry away a luminous guts of pine.

You enrapture an intense heroism of oak.

You delectate a meek-radiant prowess of lime.

You ensorcell a shimmering spunk of redwood.

 

We wow a shiny tenacity of poplar.

We spellbind a silvery valor of rowan.

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JACK JOSEPH

ABSTRACT ABYSS

Awoke with my head in a dictionary -

No abacus to account for any abbreviations.

Alphabetically, words adorned a literary

Artwork of alliterations.

 

Abashed by the sight of an abbot on my right,

I abhorred actions set ablaze.

Awestruck in an abstract abyss I did alight

On an accidental arcade with my eyes agaze.

Abruptly there was an aberration:

A brief and sudden drop in standards.

Acutely aware, I’d had an ablation

And been assigned to a hospital bed aside two grandads.

I then beheld an abomination:

(Not a snowman; but still abnormal)

Due to that awful operation,

My abdomen had been adapted into an alternative domain portal.

Actually astonished, I asked my allies

Are you able to affirm I’ve not gone crazy?

Awkwardly assured and of me they did apprise

That in my abdomen there was an aperture with an astral baby.

BEWILDERING BUBBLE

Blocking out the hospital babble,

I could see the baby through my body’s burgeoning window

Playing itself at both backgammon and Scrabble.

I then became bewitched by a smell like Bisto.

Born into this baby’s bubble,

I barely had the chance to bust a heartbeat.

A blink and a burp, I was soon in trouble,

Bathing in a boiling broth bittersweet.

Swimming in a bisque: thick rich soup;

Bewildered by a bishop

In a birthing pool

In his birthday suit.

I bundled out the bowl

To get a better look

And I felt a beta wave behold

Me like a bête noire somewhere in this book.

The bishop was betoken

Of a black beast,

Behaving like a bogeyman who couldn’t be broken

Whilst my bemusement still would not cease.

CASCADING CARTOON

Cooked in a cauldron of cosmic outcomes,

As the ceiling came down like a cavalcade.

I was caked in soup and concrete crumbs

When the floor caved in! Commenced to cascade!

Carrying me caught in a cocoon,

The concrete waterfall turned into cash.

The landscape changed into a cartoon

And cranium first, I coasted into a creche with a crash.

Confused by collapsed computer systems

And children who’d fallen asleep,

I crawled through coins and cuspy crayons,

Certain that a cretaceous creature had begun to creep.

Was it from the church?

A member of the clergy?

It covered me with its lurch,

As I cowered with consternation of catching the lurgy.

The closer that it got,

It looked like a clown,

Causing my blood to clot

And my capacity to conceive to close down.

TRIPTIONARY - CONTENTS

Abstract Abyss

Bewildering Bubble

Cascading Cartoon

Déjà vu of Defecation

Endless Entrapment

Foetus at Football

Glittering Grub

Hourly Hallucinations

Insane Incarceration

Joyful Jarring

Knocking Back a Keg

Lucky Lungful of Lexis

More Misshapen Meanings

Narrative’s Needlework

Offbeat Odyssey

Pepperami for Pterodactyl

Queensberry Quagmire

Red Room

Sibilant Sentence

The Tyrant’s Toes

Ugly Urn

Versatile Vocabulary

Was the Workpiece Worthwhile

X-axis

Yin and Yang Yells

Zizz

GARETH WRITER-DAVIES

DIVAN

I’m lying on the sofa

naked

reading Orientalism by Edward Said

Berlioz is on the turntable

I am stroking

a cat

Goodness me

this is not

how I was bought up

in the Calvinistic chapel

and the Boy

Scouts

like atoms that repel and attract

life

can be one too many books

picked at random

from someone else’s

shelf

how difficult it is

to be

oneself

I put on some clothes as the cat licks her pads

oh to live

and not think about it

FREEZER #2

her theory

was that the past


was best packed into tupperware

and frozen


deep in the freezer

like spent fuel

from a nuclear reactor
 

in due course

it could be examined and defrosted


or just stay

in the depths

amongst ice cream and stray chips
 

then we went on holiday

and whilst away


there was an electrical failure

we came home to death and destruction

EYE LEVEL

I had the expensive oil tank

taken away
 

widened the slab

and put a summer house on it
 

which didn’t quite fit

so I sit on the overhang
 

with the flowers at eye level

and watch the honey bees work
 

in our iridologic world

it’s good to be humble
 

get down to the bees

and see what they’re up to
 

next year I’ll plant more flowers

sit on the same step
 

figure out

how I can do things better

Screenshot 2023-08-02 at 00.30.27.png

ARUSHI (AERA) REGE

ON THE TOPIC OF MODERN DOMESTICITY

dear my love / you’ve got me thinking about / bile green couches we hated / tables in the middle / right in our living room / you’ve got me thinking about / potted house plants or succulents we’ll inevitably kill / you’ve got me thinking about / getting married to en jeevan or kannazhaga or baharla ha madhumas / even though our weddings aren’t structured that way / perfect first dances that aren’t canon in d / i don’t know how to tell you i’ve never loved anyone more / you’ve got me writing out love letters / as if i was mahmoud darwish / lines like “i’d let you bury your heart in me, if it meant you’d say” / like “i don’t think i’ll ever know how to stop loving you” / like “darling, please, just tell me how to love you in a language you understand” / dear my love / you’ve got me thinking about making tea and coffee / just the way you like / too much cream too much sugar / you’ve got me thinking about cutting up fruits / peeling tangerines / my fingers sticky with the juice / as i feed them to you / you try to cut me a slice / i laugh / i eat the tangerine / i kiss you / i taste them on your lips / sugary sweet / dear my love / you’ve got me wanting domesticity / an apartment in the city for just the two of us / a cat or a dog or any pet we decide on / you’ve got me wanting love / in all of its domesticity / in knowing that i’d read your favorite books / watch your favorite movies / and you’d do the same for me / you’ve got me wanting a perfect life / one with you

IRINA TALL NOVIKOVA

HEAVEN IN HER HEAD

In that world where there are only stars, I will find small fragments of reality, there is

Nothing but her own thoughts.

It was as if something was penetrating into her, into her blood ... and when she made an incision in the skin as tiny as from a needle prick, the sea leaked out of her and several fish fell out of this blue. She cried and realized that she had become like those people who exist above and who, like gods, can live forever ... She did not need her life and she realized that it was time for her to leave, where the sky and stars would swallow her ... Feelings will remain here, in a house with four windows and a single door the color of fallen leaves... She gathered her things, took a deep breath and left without finishing her evening coffee....

 

 

The ones that never existed, those she thought about... What could they be, the blue ones lived upstairs, the secret city... And the ones from below never went up, never turned blue... But she was the first to the lower city had to go upstairs... It didn't bother her, her feelings left her and only the swifts that rushed about her windows screamed strangely. She began to understand from the voice and probably would have been able to answer one of them, if not for her inner timidity ... The timidity of the "innocent" that she became ... In the evening, she went to the big tower, where she applied, the only thing that was checked by the clerk , it pricked her finger, it seemed he was insensible, but it did not deceive her, she felt his smell, the one that a living creature experiences, he sweated a lot and now his reaction showed that he was frightened and probably very much, his palms were wet ... But outwardly it did not appear in any way, he took papers and a short silver flask, opaque like his face ..

It became like a mirror...

The lower ones very rarely worked in the administration and he probably distinguished himself before he was hired. She became even more somehow strangely cool and she squeezed her palms tighter ..

 

 

She swallowed the cold lump in her throat and froze, another clerk came out from behind the counter, there was a blue bandage on his shoulder, he opened his palm in front of her ...

Her voice was cold as a steel string "When you felt the change.."

There was no interrogative intonation, only cold indisputability was in her voice.

She did not open her hand in front of him, only slightly bowed her head and looked into his eyes.

"Yesterday I heard the birds and understood what they were saying..."

"Birds..." - his eyebrows slightly raised and lowered - "what kind of birds were .."

- "Swifts... Their nests are in the house across from mine.."

"You were always watching them..."

- "Sometimes I listened to them .."

She gave her a small notebook, black with a blue edge and an almost invisible "NP" on the cover.

- "This book ... At the very beginning, the address, where you will live ... Now you can not communicate with your family ... "

Then she looked back, looked at the counter, the clerk hadn't come yet.

She

Then she took out a dark corner from a pocket on her chest and said, in the same metallic voice, "Hide, read later .... And don't talk about swifts ... Sparrows, pigeons, pick up any birds, any ..."

She turned around and left...

“It’s as if he didn’t tell me ...” - her thought somehow strangely moved inside her and froze like a fish, as if waiting for prey ... “Let, let, let ...”

Screenshot 2023-08-04 at 18.36.57.png

DANIEL CLARK

WHEN LOWERED FROM THE LORRY

vie for safety:

wriggle and squirm and thrash.

 

Life is… insufficient?

The seasons change. In autumn,

 

leaves spiral to soil. In winter,

they freeze; in spring,

 

they thaw.

When lowered from the lorry,

 

they see a slither of sunlight,

a small glint

 

of transcendent gold. Run!

Run! Run for the light –

 

but.

As soon

 

as. As

soon

 

as, in-

stant

 

lung w̶h̶e̶e̶z̶e̶ r̶a̶t̶t̶l̶e̶ r̶a̶s̶p̶ collapse.

Life is

 

wriggle. And squirm and thrash

and collapse

Screenshot 2023-08-06 at 21.34.07.png

STEPHANIE L. HAUN

SCRAMBLED OR FRIED

She pulled a half dozen eggs from the refrigerator and carefully set them on the countertop. She concertedly walked to the range and turned on the largest burner to medium heat.

 

She rummaged through the cabinets, looking for the perfect frying pan. She looked over at her husband. He sat at the table, reading the newspaper, oblivious to her movements.

 

“This is perfect,” she said as she pulled the heavy skillet from the cabinet. She walked around the table, stopping behind her husband, skillet in hand.

 

With a twisted smile on her face, she raised the skillet. “Scrambled or Fried?”

CHIARA CROMPTON

UGLY BABY

I dreamed I had a baby,

just Had not the process of had.

It was an ugly baby.

(I’m not afraid to say when a baby is ugly,)

and it was.)

It’s jaw was skewed,

Like there was wire running through

The same as her Dad’s I thought,

without the process of dad.

So I kept her in my inside coat pocket.

Her,

apparently.

And she never cried.

Never made any sound apart from speaking once,

“Happy”,

she said twice.

Back in the pocket.

My dog is off the lead,

harassing people,

and I have a tiny baby in my pocket,

and I keep thinking,

I hope my dog will be okay,

I hope my dog will be okay,

if I leave it outside the café.

If I go inside to eat something that’s caught my eye

In the window, it’s something soft, shiny and yellow,

and when I go to buy it,

I bump into all sorts people I have known through my life

from university, college, secondary school, primary,

and some, their faces softly focused,

are from before.

And we talk.

Ah but jesus where is the baby?

It’s in the coat’s inside pocket.

It’s very quiet.

Is it dead?

A head poking out.

Thank god,

not dead just quiet.

Not dead just quiet.

What would they do

if it was?

I just forgot and oh god where’s my dog?

It can’t be my fault just to forget.

No process of had, just had and there it was.

Just had.

So there.

I spot the dog down the road.

Thank god.

I put my tiny baby back into my pocket and go for tea.

SMOKE (OVER-ACHIEVING FIRST BORN)

I lean out of the window

Because I don’t smoke

The balcony is for smokers

Like my sister or my mum

(or a balcony like it from when she was young)

“Have you been smoking indoors?”

I didn’t hear her response

But he didn’t knock at my door

So I assume she did me a solid

Or she didn’t and he assumed she was lying

And didn’t think to knock

Didn’t think to look

From the adjacent bathroom window

to mine

I light five candles

Drop my sister a message

Bathe

Air my knickers

And roll a butt towards the neighbours roof

No harm done

Because I don’t smoke

SHOP GIRL CRONES

On weekday night shifts

The supermarket keeps the shop girl team to three.

 

Under their night-time stewardship,

the shop is most itself.

 

There is no tinny radio,

but you will hear the Shop Crones echoed in three melodies.

 

The Crones know well,

the shop to be an independent soul.

 

So, when it is hot,

they huff tobacco leaf behind the bins and laugh a lot.

 

When it is cold,

they huddle in the breakroom and share (in solemn tones) their hard-won wisdoms.

 

Some nights, when one is sad,

they thank the shop to offer them its alcoholic remedies and sob.

 

Always, as the morning comes,

they suds the floor in tandem with a patient and unrushed tenderness.

ANDREA WAGNER

(DIS)MEMBER

I wish I could take out all the little pieces

Lay ‘em down on the table, analyze, look them over,

Count all the angles, note the color and the size,

Measure up the sides so I can know them, exactly,

Quantify these parts that don’t add up but might

If I look hard enough, really look, and try, and

Don’t force yourself, honey, but

What went wrong with you? and

I just can't seem to understand all the little pieces

look them over, count them, hold me up to the light,

Where did it go wrong? Where did it go wrong?

Lay me down, measure, analyze, little pieces,

Each phrase held down, sedated, tranquilized,

Tell me right now what's wrong with me,

Because I can't, I can't.

JAM JAR

How can I long for something I've never had?

 

I keep my thoughts for you nestled in a jam jar, crowded over

by other neglected fridge necessities.

 

My hands glide over, again, again. Sometimes reaching, but

maybe next time.

 

Eyes looking, longing

To open it

Dip the knife in and out

And spread them out to really see

 

But I close the door.

 

Even when expired,

I can't bring myself to throw it out.

HELD TOO TIGHTLY

Sometimes I really wonder why it is I can’t be happy.

 

I give way too much:

Too many letters, too much care,

A look too adoring, too obvious,

And maybe it’s…scary

 

I can’t hold onto my flowers

Because I hold too tightly

And the stems break

 

It’s like I’m not allowed

Am I not allowed?

Because they’re beautiful, and I’m not?

Because we’re both pretty?

 

I want to hold my flowers

My memories

My daisy girls that aren’t really daisies

 

But the stems

My stems

Keep breaking.

EDWARD SUPRANOWICZ

Screenshot 2023-08-04 at 18.45.09.png

HON CORBETT

FALLEN FLESH

Strange to see a good steak

Innocently sat on the pavement.

Dead -

Firm and fresh and red.

Not held in plastic or a flimsy factory tray.

This one juts proudly out of its paper white packet.

He knows who he is.

Bought from the butchers that morning,

He sits politely next to the peppered bird

shits outside memorial park.

He’d get up and run back to the field,

If he only could. But as life comes, and goes

the next dog’s a lucky dog

who stumbles upon it.

Screenshot 2023-08-05 at 23.10.36.png

BRAYDEN NORRIS

TRYING TO STOP LOVING YOU

I’m trying to stop loving you

I know it’s much too late

The only way to free myself

Is slipping into hate

It’s easier for you, my love,

Your love for me is small -

You can let it wither down,

Become nothing at all

 

But me, I’m handcuffed to your bed,

My watch and phone are gone

My virgin flesh is left exposed,

I simply can’t go on

I’ve nails in my hands and feet,

I must accept my fate

I’m trying to stop loving you

I know it’s far too late.

UNTITLED 250423

How much more can be done for love?

I regret almost everything

that I have done these past months

 

But even so we climb again and again

to the top of the same hill,

and I cannot weep, and

you cannot tell the buildings from the trees

 

Tomorrow, I will build a house

over where we died.

I will cover your body in leaves

 

And I will come each day to

sweep this tomb clean,

and dry your faded eyes.

THIS DARK HOUSE

I recall a time when this house was smaller.

Standing by the open window, smoke plays off my lips.

From here I can see you standing - my god - in the grass, the wind grasping at your hair,

ablaze amidst dying leaves.

You call to me, but I cannot hear you anymore.

 

Your name carved into my wrist.

It keeps me tethered here,

to this dark house. Thank god - I have no desire to be adrift again.

I will take this love

for what it is.

MAHVASH K.M

THIS MOURNING

She’s caught in the rush of hurrying feet

Snippets of conversations

Of laughter, exclamations

She’s caught in a tidal wave

Of teeming, streaming life

She’s caught in the swell

Of people of voices, of sights and smells

Riding the vital wave

Pushing ahead

Her silk scarf catches the breeze

Of swelling, surging humanity

She feels it pull

Floating just a little in front of her

She quickens her step

Her feet instinctively keeping up

With the urgency of life

She feels something

In her gut, the pit of her stomach

A ripple, almost a laugh!

She inhales deeply, she can’t place

This sudden lightness of being

It feels out of place

This morning, mourning

She had felt like lead

Now like vapor she rises up

Colourless, clean

In that moment she’s someone else

Propelling her body like a comet

Lighter, brighter almost serene

 

She arrives at her gate

8A

The same number, the place

Where this very morning

She had buried them

She had forgotten

For a few moments

Who she was

She was desolation and grief itself

Wearing the bruises of loss

Mourning only this morning

It all came back dawning

As she came to herself

As her blood remembered

And curdled inside

A freezing, heaving cauldron of chills

She sank into the depths of her seat

9B

There was a sequence

Monumental, compelling

To her agony

She had to remember

She couldn’t forget

Her world had ended

When she had buried her dead.

WHAT DREAMS MAY COME

I had a dream last night

You were in it

Fuzzy, unclear

But the hook was there

That had plucked you from somewhere

Inside my head or maybe

From some deserted place in my heart

It wasn’t an act

Of which I was aware

I had no say

In the furtive way

You appeared around me again

Even if you were phantasmic, chimerical

In that time, you were real

A swaying, decaying bridge coupling

The physical and the figmental

It left a bitter aftertaste

In my mouth when I awoke

I brushed my teeth

With renewed vitality

(My dentist would be happy at least)

I spent the day going over the locks

I had put around certain memories

These escapes

Even in my dreams

Made me restless, agitated me

When I was awake

Tonight I will have my dose

Of vitamins and minerals

(They promise all sorts of well-being)

So that when I dream

The bolted doors inside of me

Keep holding their integrity

 

But even if they lose their might

Releasing spectres of the night

I know that in my waking hours

In dissecting and determining

The cryptic whys and wherefores

Of night-garish visages

Invading, distressing me

These dreams, these unbidden images

Have already lost their sting

They have shed their whipping wings

To fly at me when I’m asleep

Through all of my monster-proofing

And so deep down inside

Something tells me that tonight

I will dream of other things.

Screenshot 2023-08-04 at 21.50.26.png

GERRY FABIAN

REGARDING EFFICIENCY

The little details

like fridge baking soda

make all the difference.

Like a balanced checkbook,

knowing the exact amount

leads to sound decisions.

As simple as a regular oil change,

confidence in performance

can carry the conference.

And simple surprise roses

for no reason at all,

extends many warranties.

DANCE HALL COURTING

With lips like razors

you slice love

like a Chicago slaughterhouse.

The carcasses in your closet

hang like the ghosts

of great buffalo herds.

 

After we make love,

I always sleep

with one eye open.

EXECUTING ANGLES

This once equilateral triangle

has become an invasive isosceles

and I am the bottom line.

There is an irritating confusion

between inches and meters.

Like a broken rhomboid.

The opposite sides

are no longer equal.

And the right angle-

the perfect 90 degrees-

has crashed from the weight

of those with no mathematical

codes or measures.

Screenshot 2023-08-02 at 20.18.43.png

ARTHUR DEHART

WALK

I take you on a walk, you don’t know where we’re going, and I don’t tell you.

The mountain air is crisp and there’s even a little bit of a breeze.

It smells like heaven,

The smell of it almost about to rain,

The frogs and birds creek,

Croak,

And moan.

 

You ask me where I’m taking you, I tell you it's to tell my dad bye, pappy too.

We won’t be here for long, but did you know my grandma sleeps with my dads ashes so we will have to say goodbye to his empty grave and one day I’ll put him in a necklace so I’ll never have to say goodbye. You nod. Rightfully silent and concerned.

 

This is the day I finally leave Tennessee, you don’t complain as I take you into the cemetery. There is no gate in this gravesite in the hills. No creaking, just gravel crumbling as we drive past the sign.

 

The Mountains protect and provide for the graves and I can almost hear the gods of the Appalachian mountains in the wind. They open the gates to hades and all of a sudden there are white figures sitting on the graves, legs crossed.

Lucid or barely dreaming,

I ask you this as a ghostly mother holds her baby,

Who can finally coo in her mothers arms.

 

I take a menthol cigarette out of my pocket and there he is,

My wispy grandfather with his dark skin,

And dark hair of the natives he descends from,

Sitting with his blue cotton shirt that I used to hang onto when he’d throw me in the air.

The patient man that raised me,

Sits on his own grave,

An empty one sitting next him, my grandmothers name carved into it prematurely,

Like an omen.

 

“How is everyone?” He asks me.

“They’re gone.” I reply and hand him the cigarette. He takes it and lights it.

 

You hate my family reunions because they concern you. With the amount of empty tables they concern me too.

MARTY ROGERS

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SHEILA MURPHY

INGENUE IN TOMBOY CLOTHES