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.
It’s quiet when you forget. At first. They warn you that the stimulation will result in memory loss, but they don’t tell you that what you’ll be left with is grief. You will trade your recollection for your mind. You will face a gaping hole where experience used to be. There is sadness in forgetting, but you’ll regain yourself, too. Pain fades and scars emerge. It is slow but not gentle — unfortunately. There is a price for everything. This, too. That is why there is grief – you are better and yet you cannot remember how or why. It is quiet when you forget because the silence is what remains. After. The silence is a sorrow sonnet, reminding you not of what was lost but instead of the fact that you lost it. Say hello, though, now. Introductions are my new saviors, tiny initiations of person, place, and thing. Petrified and preserving, I am returning. It is not so quiet.
Ashley Sapp resides in Columbia, South Carolina, with her husband and furbabies. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of South Carolina in 2010 and has written for various publications. Her work has previously appeared in Indie Chick, The Daily Drunk Mag, All Female Menu, and the Common Ground Review. She is a bibliophile who enjoys traveling, tattoos, and photography. Ashley has written two poetry collections: Wild Becomes You and Silence Is A Ballad. Twitter: @ashthesapp
Jonathon Todd is a poet and musician, living in South Philadelphia. His work deals with observations mainly written between breaks, trying to find humanity outside of and within labor. His work has been featured in Philadelphia Stories, Prolit mag, and Protean mag among others. His chapbook Over/time was recently released from Moonstone Press (2019).
I do not sleep tonight, my eyes choose the certainty of light / stare up at the ceiling and write poems in the air as the night brews and boils outside, then again as the night calms in the anticipation of dawn. The world stops revolving & I’m stuck in this cocoon, so I constrict my lungs with the need to breathe / again / to rejuvenate the wilting flowers in the heart of my being. The internet carries my mind into the horror of a man who now wears a necklace of thorns. I do not want to imagine these thorns as skeletal hands squeezing the breath out of a man, bathing him in his life blood, because can one know what it means to die / to be dead & still look it in the face, unflinching? I know so much about sins because their claws have made a map of scars around my head, but death is an alien bringing extraterrestrial fears into this alliance of bodies. My depression is a mirror & blasphemy is a mountain. But repentance is thunder breaking rocks into powder. I imagine myself in the body of the judge / in the mind of the convicted / in the breath of a bystander and find peace in the remembrance of God and the hereafter’s promise of justice because life is built along the road of death / & death is a crossroad to glory or another death.
Timi Sanni is a Nigerian writer and literary enthusiast studying Biochemistry at Lagos State University, Nigeria. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in Radical Art Review, Writers Space Africa, Ethel Zine, Cypress: A Literary Journal, Rather Quiet and elsewhere. He recently won the SprinNG Poetry Contest 2020 and is the recipient of the Fitrah Review Prize for Fiction 2020. When not writing or studying, he is either painting or exploring new places. He is an editor for Kalopsia lit. Find him on twitter: @timisanni
five exits down, on the shoulder of the highway golden yellow scratches against epicardium and loss finally rings bright against loss, bladelike, (thin as coreopsis, her favorite flower,) sharp as the intent that smithed it with bleeding hands. and there’s a vow in the sound it makes: it says, “I’ve been here before and will come again;” it says, “I’ll climb;” it says, “these roads I line came after me; I was the first guide;” it says, “I am a life held between trembling fingertips, and a weapon both;” it says, “in either shape, I am a stage of grief.’ knees buckle in roadside soil, the door alarm clicks and it says to me, “you ran very far, but I grow everywhere you can go.”
“you shaped me for sacrifice”
I exist in three places. In the first, I’m nine and digging a little grave for the first rattlesnake I killed. I bury it in two parts: body and shovel-separated head. I hate myself, but the dog doesn’t die. In the second, I’m four and being dragged past the rabbit hutch. There’s one less. I can’t count them but I know, I know, I know that there will be rabbit blood on blue sheets. In the third, I’m twenty-four, sitting on a park bench, and thinking about being nine and being four. I’m thinking about how I was taught to buy protection with pieces of me. If I lied about the abuse, he wouldn’t kill a rabbit. If I swallowed any feeling for the rattlesnake, I could protect the dog. They said the rattlesnake cost less, but it wasn’t the rattlesnake’s fault (wasn’t mine—). Saving the rabbits cost all of me, but I never shook the conditioning (“you’re saving them, a little hero”). I was a price. I was a price and I paid my price. I paid it without understanding the worth, the lie.
Grass and gravel crunch beneath my shoes. I’m twenty-four and saying, “No surprise I’m fucking broke.”
Isabel J Wallace is a queer writer and registered nurse working in North Florida. The swamp has left her predisposed towards ghost stories and the certainty that something is always lurking just out of sight. She’s been published in Malaise: a Horror Anthology, as well as in Smitten: this is what love looks like. Wallace has upcoming publications with Stone of Madness Press and Passengers Journal.
I realize the tides in my brain are shifting once I’m singing along to my phone and running the sponge in sudsy circles inside and around the lip of the next to the last dirty bowl that rests atop the kitchen counter
I recognize a calm heart and peaceful breaths and wonder if my mania is muted less severe than the patients seeking care at the place I am employed
For when I find myself cleaning the kitchen washing the messes righting the wrongs wringing the sadness
for a moment I find myself happy
Lindsey is a writer born and raised in Upstate South Carolina. She has words in Emerge Literary Journal, X-R-A-Y, Emrys Journal, Red Fez, Schuylkill Valley Journal and more. She spends her time at home raising a strong, confident daughter. Find her on her website at https://r3dwillow.wixsite.com/rydanmardsey or on Twitter: @rydanmardsey.
[TRIGGER WARNING, SEXUAL ASSAULT]
i don't mean to disturb you,
the thunder in my head rattles every night,
your eyes, a somber shade of lapis,
whimper, isn't my love enough?
and it is, it is, it's always enough--
i just forget that when a hand
lands firmly on my shoulder,
it's your pink, plump, sugared lips
awaiting our wake-up kiss,
not the thin grin of a breathing gargoyle,
the one that clawed my breasts,
tore my labia til they bled.
being still helps me get through the hours,
you say, they all say:
smile, baby, smile, smilebabysmile, ssss mmmm iiii llll eeee
but smiling is what got me
hurt in the first place.
Shelby Bevins-Sullivan is an attorney. She has published work in And So Yeah Magazine, The Harpoon Review, The Blue Hour, and other places. Her poems are largely confessional, focusing on sexual trauma, the denial of justice, religious hypocrisy, and their interconnectedness.