Death wears a crown of holly and laurel,
drapes her steed gold and green.
Let me tell you something.
She’s been haunting my dreams again,
Ebony-haired and regal,
a wraith with a siren’s song and elegant wrists.
Now is not your time, she whispers, but gods.
I am splitting apart between bone and sinew,
Turning in my self-dug grave in a grove of ash trees.
I splinter like wood,
am set alight by the sun.
Would I get a crown like yours,
if I close my eyes long enough?
Yushan C. is an emerging Canadian author who writes on nostalgia, identity, optimism… everything, really. She lives in Edmonton, AB and looks forward to starting an undergraduate degree. Her poem, “the ghosts in this house still haunt me”, was published in TERSE Journal; her poems “Atlas”, “epitaph for the living” and “maybe we are our own villains” were published in Edmonton Youth Anthology, Volume 1.
The Edge of Choice is a collection of poems with a focus on mental states, suffering, observation and inquiry. Themes include depression, suicide, addiction, existentialism, and human behavior. Others include various observations of the self – judgement, validation, ambivalence, determination, assertion – and of being unheard, unappreciated or misunderstood. With interesting formats – emotions and reflections are conveyed with occasional rhymes, and frequent multi-layered philosophical depths. The environment can be felt, as well as the context, which often include nature in conjunction with mental states. Some poems can occasionally leave the reader wondering. The book concludes with themes including acceptance, transformation, and recognition of wisdom through suffering.
Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge,Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Reflection in a Glass Eye published by Cholla Needles Arts & Literary Library, 2020. For more information including free e-books and his essay “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at http://www.simonperchik.com.
To view one of his interviews please follow this link
Transformative, the mirror shows
a me I hardly recognize—an evil twin,
a raging doppelgänger. She-devil’s eyes
glow like fired glass. What’s got me so unstrung?Boom box? Or car door slammed against the silence that’s my one safe space? I run inside;
but the cave still echoes with a world I must
find my way back to, call and response
spiraling through time
and urging me to follow. It might have been
a dark conspiracy that set these walls
to ringing. Or I might have missed
a pleasant strain. It might
have been someone singing.
Jane Marston lives in Athens, Georgia, where she has spent many months learning to live with Misophonia, an OCD spectrum disorder marked by a dysfunctional response to certain sounds. In prior years, she has published poetry in journals including Southern Humanities Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Blood & Fire Review, and Crucible.
Shot, Shot, Shot, Joe chants when his college roommate walks in.
My boyfriend Joe bought his first house, and we are ready to celebrate. Within the hour, a plastic cup of red wine spills, and bleeds its way deathly close to a white rug. His twin brother stacks a pyramid of empty Budweiser cans inside the garter snake’s cage. After I slam a few Screwdrivers, the party becomes a blur of broken lamps and hearts, tear-induced laughter, and drunk girls cackling down in the basement. Just before 3:00 a.m., I hear mating calls from the spare bedroom and spot a guy snuggling up to a decorative pillow in the bathtub.
Joe and I fall into bed, and my head spins on the pillow. I wake to grey and plaid shadows, the sheen of a wrist watch. I hear the tinny sound of a mattress coil before I see what looks like Kirk, Joe’s friend from his bartending days, toppling off the foot of the bed. I recall images of Kirk–seconds earlier–trying to jam his hand down the front of my half-zipped pants. I rub my eyes as I try to make sense of it all. I had been lying next to my boyfriend, had felt safe enough to feel the electric heat of his body, to inhale his dank, boozy breath.
I rattle Joe awake, and he tumbles back to sleep. I tiptoe into the next room. Kirk appears to be asleep in the LazyBoy, with his mouth hanging open–he looks like a baby turkey vulture. I stare at his half-open mouth, imagine drool dripping from his hungry upper lip. I want to shake him, turn on the lights, wake the whole damn house, ask: Why, Why, Why?
I stop. Have I dreamt this whole thing? A side effect of my antidepressants is that they heighten the sexuality in my dreams.
I slip back into the bedroom, shake my boyfriend harder this time. I insist that he go and check. I tell him that Kirk is faking, that he’s not asleep. Joe moans and sighs as he is ripped awake, as I tell him what happened, about the thud on the carpeting. A water cup knocks to the ground, an overhead light buzzes on, the mattress bows as he scooches out. I follow Joe to the next room, still wondering if I’d been dreaming–I did increase my dose of meds. Kirk is no longer in the chair. Joe walks to the front door. Soft flurries had collected on the mounds of hard, stubborn snow. He checks for footprints in the fresh flakes–reports there hadn’t been any. No freshly grooved tire tracks either.
Later that day, Joe calls. How could you be so sure? he says. Your drugs make you crazy.
I bite my lip. Know he is done listening.
Before hanging up, he adds, I’d never be friends with someone who would do something like that.
I imagine going to my psychiatrist later in the week, to inquire about the drug’s side effects. Was it possible, I’d ask, that I’d imagined it all?
Flinch as the doctor grazes his hand over an exposed knee, across a sleeveless shoulder, and tells me it’s all in my head.
Susan Triemert holds an MA in Education and an MFA from Hamline University in Minnesota. She has been published or forthcoming in various online and print journals, most recently (mac)ro(mic), Gone Lawn, and North Dakota Quarterly.. She lives in St. Paul with her family, where the animals outnumber the people. You can find her on Twitter at @SusanTriemert
An impulse to end it all, 27 tablets of Amlodipine, and you find yourself in acute medical ward. The doc isn’t content with the stomach pump, so he also puts a pipe in your nose, which is not needed- you both know, but he is adamant. “You might die,” he says, and winks. You feel like running from here. But one more error and he might put you in a psychiatric ward. So you persist, even though the pipe hurts- lingering inside the esophagus, making you feel you’ve got tonsillitis. But you can do nothing, except for maybe… pulling it out? Oh, yes- WINK.
When the nurse comes, she finds the pipe lying on the floor and looks at you with a concealed wink. Your throat coughs and then say- “accident.” Wordlessly, she puts the pipe back in and goes out.
An hour later, a man joins you on the other bed with his daughter. “That devious doc,” you mutter. “He is trying to punish me.” “What happened to him?” you ask the nurse. “Accident. Water on the brain. Hydrocephalus,” she replies. The girl appears to be 8. When you ask she says she is 10. You are 20. His father is 30- a bandage over the head and another one over the stomach. A pipe connecting the penis with a plastic bag and another one disappearing into the head- which the girl has to press every ten minutes, else her father will die. But he does not know that he has been operated upon. Water in the brain. He thinks that he is as fit as no one really is. He commands the girl to help him stand so that he can pee. “Piss in the bag,” the girl says, which pisses him off, and he pulls out the bandage from over his stomach.
An open wound. And blood and gore. It is your first time- so bile in your throat. You close your eyes. And then open them. You need to see- you know, that’s why the doc sent you here. 10 minutes later, the man’s hands are cuffed. The doc doesn’t want him to play with his bandages once again. “He is cruel,” you mutter. The girl stays awake through the night, as do you, listening to the man’s moans. The night is slow. “I’ll be more careful the next time,” you keep telling yourself.
A dropout of various institutes Nachi Keta is a Kidney Transplant Recipient and a neurodiverse writer from New Delhi. His name is a combination of two terms: Nachi, which means ‘death’, and Keta, which means ‘a creative force’. His work focuses on mental health, oppression and the absurd in social and personal.
His words have found a home in various magazines like Perhappened, The Bombay Review, The Howling Press and Sock Drawer, an updated list of which can be found here: nachi-keta.com.
Eight AM. Tuesday September 15, 2020. The Center for Disease Control reports a total of 6,537,627 United States cases and 194,092 deaths.
Phoenix, Arizona. Parked at an outdoor mall, I get out of my car, grab a mask from the backseat, and stuff it in my handbag.
A few cars dot the parking lot. I scan the sidewalks for people. None.
No need to put on the mask.
Standing beside concrete fountain, I take 10 second videos of flowers smoldering in the breeze.
I see him in my lens. He is not wearing a mask.
My hands shake and heart thumps.
Deep, slow, breaths. Exhale. A,b,c,d…
Saying the alphabet is my coping strategy.
I toss the cell phone in my bag, grab my mask, and put it on.
Does he have COVID? Is he a carrier?
A sneeze in my direction could spread millions of his microorganisms and infect me.
Instead, I turn and walk to my car.
Diagnosed as an adult with Obsessive Compulsive and Anxiety Disorders I learned to manage my symptoms.
I pay attention to the signs: sweating, dizziness, and rapid heartbeat. I have retrained myself to breathe.
Relentless worries about health, illness, and dying are my triggers.
Taking prescribed anti-anxiety medication helps to quell these symptoms.
September 5, 2020, Action 6 News Philadelphia reports, “US Surgeon General Dr. Adams advises the states to be ready on November 1, 2020 to distribute a COVID vaccine, just in case.”
Pressure from the White House to vaccinate America before the November 3rd elections terrorizes me. It takes years of patient trials for a vaccine to be safe for the public.
Nightmares of government mandated injections plague my dreams.
My peer led mental health support groups stopped meeting in-person months ago.
I have tried Zoom meetings and stopped. I miss the face–to-face contact.
Masks are mandated in town. My friends are going out to restaurants.
Lonely and sad, I want to go out, too.
Sunday September 6, 2020. I leave home At 7 AM for Wal–Mart. There will not be too many people there.
Deep, slow, breaths. Exhale. A,b,c,d,e…
Masks required, I put on two pairs of gloves, and a mask.
Inside I spend time avoiding others and locating items.
I turn away to avoid facing anyone nearby.
Hearing someone sneeze behind me, I cringe.
The store is out of the cleaning products I want. I grab some hand sanitizers and two boxes of gloves.
I pay with a credit card at a kiosk. No need to use a possibly infected stylus to sign my name.
Grabbing my bag, I leave the store, exhausted.
I stop by a park to destress. I get out to stretch my clenched neck, spine, legs, and arms.
Watching a few horseback riders circle the area and boys playing with a Frisbee, this day seems normal.
It is not. COVID has not, “Gone away like a miracle,” as President Trump said.
I get into my car, go home, and take a nap.
Marilyn June Janson was diagnosed with OCD and Anxiety Disorders at age 21. She manages her symptoms and triggers with prescribed and monitored anti-anxiety and depression medication. Ms. Janson is a small business owner and instructor living in Arizona with her husband Ed and Bella Rose, a cat.
This book is a powerful narrative – it lifts the tip of the iceberg to expose the cataclysmic realities of mental illness. Themes include trauma and abuse, isolation and suicide, and hopelessness and gratitude – with tones of despair, desolation and resignation.
Emotional scars are communicated in visceral depth. Most striking are the psychotic and depressive experiences, which translate as highly educational and an invocation to empathy. Readers can observe the resonating psychic pain as well as moments of gratitude and glimmers of hope. The triple entendre with parental mental illnesses compound the weight, yet it’s clear in this case that certain bonds can never die in spite of mental illness. It’s a moving experience, and a validation of the human spirit.
Some evenings, I want to dance until it clangs against my ribs loud enough to be heard.
Outside in the sun in the lingering chill of February, light glints off my chest, blinding. Steel shines just under the skin of my sternum. Is the blade finally going to rend me in half? Or is my body exorcising it like a splinter?
I press my hand to this new breastplate. I do not want to die in the daylight, but I fear turning inward to discover I have been hollowed, and am still walking.
In an unseen future, something could grow in that cleaned-out space; a pruned-back bush dormant for a season, a year, a decade. Any blossom would be an epiphany.
A stem in my hand.
Jerica Taylor is a neurodivergent queer cook, birder, and chicken herder. She has an MFA from Emerson College, and her work has appeared in Impossible Archetype, FERAL, perhappened, and The Fabulist. She lives with her wife and young daughter in the woods of Western Massachusetts.
morning crow escorts the furnace feasting in your chest with
the rhythm of your heartbeat. what do you do to the heart losing its crown to the wind? you crawled as a wounded
snail to the doctor and the banshee scream that pumped from your mouth
plastered on her table at her report: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. you’re chewing hope as the wheel leads
you to the theatre, and the crumps grow wings:
I…will… live I…will… live I… will…live
Grace Alioke is a Nigerian writer and poet, decorator and a student of University of Benin. She writes only when her pen draws her. Her works have been published in Praxis magazine, Analogies & Allegories, Havilah Woman, and forthcoming in others.