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Ashley Shaw – Cannibalized Romance

Cannibalized Romance

i seek shelter from the bomb
of your bloated tongue
your sneer, an angry gash
frigid words blur your lips
land like fists on mine
inkblot bruises stain my neck
i shed my dress
trembling red rose petals
limbs and skin and desperation
clinging until we are spent
i inhale the nicotine from your skin
apologies are a filtered afterthought

caught in the haze
of our better days

you peel back your spine
reveal low trees in dusky tones
i peek over your horizon
lips trail a pink sunset
an angry sliver of teeth
hovers there, bitter and
creeps between the discs
you are shocked by my
electric moonlight
as we cling beneath
sullen armchair feet
my slow hands tend your husk

we are radiance
on our better days

Ashley Shaw

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Thom Mahoney – A Four-Letter Word

A Four-Letter Word

When Hillary left, Jenn ran through the living room to the window seat where they had read together while rubbing each other’s feet, where they’d sipped tea and dreamed of tomorrows and all the glorious days after that. She kneeled on the brocade cushion and watched as Hillary bounced down the steps from the front door to the waiting car, her hair pulled up in a high pony tail that swung from side to side as she walked. She could remember Hillary wearing her hair like that only when she washed her face before climbing into bed at night.

Then she watched as Hillary hefted the suitcase high in the air and swung it on top of the 4Runner and bungeed it in place. It was the twin to the suitcase she and Jenn had gotten the winter they took that magical cruise to Mexico.

Outside, the day was warm and the sky was bright and cloudless, and all around trees were budding a ridiculous lima bean green. Birds danced from limb to limb, fat and happy.

Jenn leaned her face against the window as Hillary climbed into the passenger seat and followed the rusty-red truck as it pulled away from the curb and turned out of sight.

Then she climbed into a pair of green sweatpants and her old, grey pullover cable sweater with the holes in the shoulders, and she pointed her toes into the Curious George sock slippers Hillary had given her for Christmas and peeled back the quilt comforters and crawled in and curled herself into a tight ball and began to cry. And she cried for a long time, talking to herself, telling herself that in the morning, she would see once again the person she used to be. In the morning.

After midnight, or it might have been later, she could no longer cry anything but air, raspy hoarse air that sounded like the spring wind passing so easily through the hole in her heart, the emptiness in her tomorrows, the sudden vacancy in her life.

So, she gathered the quilts and her pillow, and she shuffled into the living room and loaded a Janis Ian CD in the player and wandered around the darkened room, the moonless night coloring it as dry and as dead as her heart, touching first the edge of the desk and then the framed photo of her and Hillary at her sister’s wedding, the sun in their eyes, their arms linked together. Happy times.

“My heart could sleep,” she said, aloud, to the no one that was there. “If I could turn to stone.”

By Sunday night, she wondered if Hillary had left her on a Friday so that she would have time to heal, or time to grieve. It was so like her. And she knew then that she had known love.

- Thom Mahoney

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Bryce Taylor – What Henry Middleton Had Meant To Do Before Dying

What Henry Middleton Had Meant To Do Before Dying

He had meant to visit Rome, to feed pigeons with fresh Italian bread in the warm shadow of St. Peter’s. Over breakfast he would have swapped stories with fellow pilgrims: a young Parisian filmmaker, perhaps; a one-armed sculptor from the Bahamas; a Canadian bureaucrat who enjoyed mystical visions within the confines of his cubicle. 

He had thought of learning Greek, had daydreamed about translating the New Testament into English, not for publication, but for his own intellectual and spiritual enrichment. He had meant to look up local courses that could accommodate his schedule. 

He had wanted to take up bird watching. Slight callouses would form around his eyes from the binoculars, and he would recognize other bird watchers in the grocery store, not only from their own slight callouses, but from the gentle attentiveness that would accompany their every glance. One of them, perhaps, would be a middle-aged widow by the name of Diane, whose green eyes would appear to discern the presence of angels in an avocado. 

He had intended to become something of a film connoisseur, an expert in Hitchcock, Bergman, Malick, Kaufman. He would watch his favorites dozens of times, write essays with unprecedented observations, post them on a blog that would gain a steady readership. Eventually, a book publisher might notice his work and send an eager email. 

And he had meant, just once, to sit down and observe an oak tree as he had observed one in the 5th grade, when Mrs. Galli had taken the class outside to write. Somehow his poem had gone missing, and he wanted now, decades later, to write the same poem, to use the same metaphors, to compare the branches to wild roller coasters, their tips to fingers reaching up, reaching out, touching only wind.

Bryce Taylor

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H.E. Saunders – The Devious Nap

The Devious Nap

I never intend to set about napping; it catches me off guard, seduces me and pulls me away from consciousness before I can scarce protest. It must be a calm day, or a day when I have too much to do, or a day when I am bored, or really any kind of day at all, because naps are devious in that way.

You never say to yourself “Wow, today would be a great day for a nap. I will go home, walk the dog, nap, prepare dinner, sort laundry, and tidy the house.” No, no. Instead what we say is “I will be productive. I will go home, walk the dog, prepare dinner, sort laundry, and tidy the house.” Of course you can insert whatever other events you would like in this scenario; perhaps you hate laundry and absolutely refuse to do it unless you are down to only one pair of clean underwear and one pair of slightly used socks. I will not judge.

I personally love the fluff of clean fresh clothes and the warmth of them as they are just finished in the dryer. I love nothing more than to bury myself in their inviting softness and heat; to pull a collection of blouses and towels to my face and let the warmth tingle through my skin. It reminds me of when I was young and my mother would pile mounds and mounds of laundry onto her bed for sorting (I have four siblings so really it was a mountain) and I would dash into the room and throw myself headlong into the heap.

If I was quick, or she was in a playful mood, I would be able to burrow between the pants and blankets and socks and school uniforms and curl up like a kitten. The joy was always short-lived, however, because she would either snatch me from beneath the laundry and task me to sorting and folding, or she would leave me be to play, but the heat would dissipate too quickly, escaping through the sleeves and thin fabrics. And I would be left in a pile of nothing; a mountain of chores and stack of responsibility. But the memory of those moments in my kitten laundry cave is so delicious that I cannot stop myself from pulling my toasty laundry to my face every time as I pull it from the dryer. My eyes close and my heart sighs and my skin tingles.

But laundry isn’t always so indulging and sometimes a nap surprises me when I am trying to hide from responsibility. I suppose some would call it stress napping but I call it playing hide-and-seek with reality. All of the to-do lists and bills and appointments are very firmly stuck in the calendar, while my naps are endless diversions that care nothing of the calendar, if they even acknowledge it. And when I awaken, usually to find I have just missed an appointment or to-do item, I am always surprised at the devious nature of the nap.

When I call my missed appointment to apologize (and reschedule – reality requires it) I never tell them I was napping. I am quite sure the person on the other end would not understand. He or she would assume me to be lazy or inconsiderate, when really truly I am a simple victim. I made no plans to miss our appointment, to leave reality behind. The nap reached out and snatched me; kidnapped even! To be angered with me is to be angered with the victim. I was helpless as my eyes drooped and the world became hazy around the edges. I was still planning on going to my appointment, so my nap, ever so deviously, slipped my mind into a dream. Perhaps it’s a moment’s wandering about how the pool feels right now, on this hot summer day; how I could dip my toes into the water and let the coolness tingle up my leg, my side, my back up to the top of my head and the chill runs back down and the water is so bright and enticing and . . .

– H.E. Saunders

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William Greenfield – Dusk


There is an ebbing of spirit;
The part that marvels at a sailor’s sunset

or finds solitude in the noise that crickets make.
In the coming twilight I will perform a life sustaining
walk past rolling leas and century
old farm houses. My arms and legs will
function like the involuntary beating of a heart.
I do hope that one day soon
a resolute spirit will resurface;
one that yearns fascination, like those
that come and flutter their powdered wings
seeking but a brief respite from the darkness,
one that can laugh along with a farmer’s
children at the morning bus stop,
one that can acquiesce to the
fading light of days.

William Greenfield

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Kim Peter Kovac – Garcia Lorca and Darwish at the Alhambra de Granada

Garcia Lorca and Darwish at the Alhambra de Granada

A frail man with a shock of hair and transparent skin shuffles across a red stone courtyard in the heart of Andalusia.  Amidst a cluster of buildings, he knows he must find the Citadel, and is drawn right, right, and then left. A Nasrid archway crowned with an arabesque leads to a long, dimly lit corridor, ending at a wooden door strapped with iron.  As he lifts his fist to knock, rusted hinges chirp, and he enters an impossibly tall cylindrical room lined with shelves overflowing with parchments and books.   As he slowly scans the rows of writing,  a soft swirling sound fills the room, a deep song of distant voices that covers his skin, enters his body, spirals within, and finally fills his heart.  At that moment the light switches in a pulse-beat to a hot white.

Now visible is a wiry younger man rising from a chair.  His piercing obsidian eyes smile gently: Ahlan wa sahlan, Mahmoud.  As the frail man replies Muchas Gracias he is surprised to speak in a tongue he does not know.

You look like . . .

Yes, jameel sha’er.  I am Federico.

But you were executed decades ago, yes?

Naam, I was. Shot in the heart.  Then my duende brought me here, to this place of death and words.

Federico stands very still and chants softly, not Spanish or Arabic, but ancient syllabic sounds, low and counterpointing the room’s choral song. After some time – either very short or very long – he speaks.

Mahmoud, your duende, your dark djinni, knew the third time surgeon’s steel pierced your heart would be the last.  In the guise of a hoopoe she guided you here to the home of the hopes of your tribe.  She knew that when the deep song of this room filled your heart, it would stop. 

And it did.

Chant with me.

Mahmoud now begins to chant, a slower rhythm and a microtone lower than Federico.  A glow the color of the desert moves from his feet, up through his torso, and out his back.  There the light becomes hoopoe wings, which free themselves and swoop up and down the room’s cylinder.  Federico offers him clear water from the Fountain of the Lions, and gestures for him to select something to read.  Mahmoud finds an ancient leather-bound volume, sits, and gently opens it.  As he blows the dust off, the printed words separate from the page and begin to fly, over his head, over Federico’s, up and around the room, like hundreds of tiny hoopoes.

Kim Peter Kovac

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Debra Danz – What She Found

What She Found

She found a finger swimming in her split pea soup.  It was fraternizing with the carrots and onions, acting as if it owned the crock it swam in.  She insisted that the finger jump out immediately. When it refused, she bit it, only to realize that it was her own – it throbbed for a while.

She found a foot on a warm sandy beach in St. Thomas, so she invited it to join her in the tranquil sea but the foot wouldn’t move.  She watched it from a distance still hoping to find a way to persuade it, but she couldn’t.   Much to her dismay, the foot sank deeper and deeper into the sand until it was swallowed up – it didn’t leave any prints. 

She found a golden nugget wedged in her tooth. She ordered it to sparkle and shed some light, but instead it dulled and fell to the floor.  The nugget said that it would wait there for someone who might enhance its luster; someone brilliant and polished; someone who was worthy of its radiance.  She stiffened in discomfort and spat out the tooth that the nugget had filled – the hollow tooth rolled into a curbside sewer.  

She found a child’s mind at the bottom of her laundry basket. She stared at it for a very long time wondering who might have lost it.  As if the child’s mind could read her thoughts, it pointed to her.  The mind begged her to move on but she didn’t quite know how to interpret that.  When she told it that she had already exhausted her journey, the mind didn’t cry, it didn’t even whimper; it just waited to be bleached, pressed and neatly folded in her drawer – she wrinkled it and hid it under her bed.  

She found a soul dangling in her closet and wanted to know just how long it planned to hang around. The soul replied, “For all of eternity”.   She considered that to be an unacceptable answer, as she needed more space for her new clothes.  She urged it to vacate by telling the soul that it had no purpose; after all, she wouldn’t be caught dead wearing it.  Insulted and saddened the soul flew off in a huff, leaving only its debris to be swept away and more than enough space in her closet – enough space to fill a God-gap.   

She found a bleeding heart crushed under the Twin Towers. It was grieving and wailing, its   pathetic panting prevented it from beating harder.  Its arteries were still attached and stretched out like strong branches beneath a cloudy sky, the kind she could hang on or even embrace, if need be.  She requested that the heart beat faster and stronger; the heart obeyed.  Placing it inside her chest, she adopted it as her own; it didn’t pulse for very long – the tempo changed.

She found an old woman grunting and groaning. When she asked if she could help, the old woman said, “No”.  She questioned the response but the woman didn’t answer.  She looked deep into the woman’s eyes, which mirrored her own reflection and then she kicked her – knowing that the hurt would be her own. 

She found a wedding ring at the bottom of her jewelry box and demanded the ring to slip over her swollen finger but it claimed to be afraid of the teeth marks.  She spun the ring in circles until it was dizzy and disoriented; she spun it so fast that it pleaded for pity.  Finally she put it on a golden chain and wore it as a necklace – it burned a hole in her skin. 

She found her diary standing naked in the window of a bookshop; the pages were dog-eared and it was offered at half price.  She went inside the shop and reached for the diary but it winced with pain as it shed its cover.  The pages fell to the floor one after the other, unmasking their misgivings and mishaps.  There was only one blank page, and it was left standing – she tore it to shreds.

She found her shadow sneaking out one night and followed it to the rooftop. Suddenly it lost its balance and fell; she snatched its hand to save it from a 20-story plunge.  The shadow weighed too heavy for her frail hand so she lost her grip on its fingers and they slipped away one by one.  Surprisingly, its bruised and bitten ring finger was the last to let go; she decided to detach it from the rest of the hand in order to keep it for memory’s sake.  Whilst the shadow was still in decent, she summoned one final request – all she asked for – was another chance – she didn’t find it.

Debra Danz

Author’s Commentary:

“What She Found” was written while I was battling with grief over the loss of my husband. It was meant to describe my attempt to redefine my identity and reemerge as a functional human being. It’s a collection of my innermost thoughts on grief and how I viewed mundane tasks while balancing the burden of hopelessness and despair. At some point I was overwhelmed with sorrow and looked for a way to detach myself from it – but I didn’t find it.


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