Category Archives: Leo

Ode to My Physical Therapist by Marlena Chertock

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Ode to My Physical Therapist

My feet up on her thighs —
her stomach so round —
a seatbelt around us
to stretch my spine
and she says push
through the pain.
Like pain is something
I can speed up and pass,
leave in the rearview mirror.

She’s made me cry
twice. Tears dripping
through the face-hole
in the massage bed.
But I feel better with her
hands on me than I do
with anyone. Pain
is more manageable with
her petroleum jelly and palms.

After monthly twice a week visits
she can’t say
my pain will go away.
It will always be there,
a woodpecker forever
jabbing my lower left back.
His beak sending
shooting vibrations
along my trunk.

Marlena Chertock

Marlena Chertock is the Poetry Editor for District Lit. Her first collection of poetry, On that one-way trip to Mars, is available from Bottlecap Press. Her poems and short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Dear Robot: An Anthology of Epistolary Science Fiction, The Fem, The Little Patuxent Review, Moonsick Magazine, and Paper Darts. Find her at or @mchertock.

I’d Chew My Own Heart If I Could Reach It by Cecilie Klingenberg

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I’d Chew My Own Heart If I Could Reach It

I chew on my lips until they bleed;

I guess that’s why some things I say come out so raw.

Just to love, without claiming

it’ll have to be enough, even for the thing in me,

that hoard hearts


to hang them around my neck.

I’m sorry this is all so bloody of me,

too soon, too much.

Like biting into my lip when it’s trying to heal.

But I want to press my bloody mouth to the salt water in you,

just to feel it sting.

Cecilie Klingenberg

twenty-something poet living in London, but comes from Northern Norway. Collects mugs, sugar packets from different coffee shops and frequently has to sit down and contemplate life because Leonard Cohen songs exists. Self published a chapbook called Kelp Song late in 2015 and runs the tumblr blog which updates often.

Sea Legs and Empty Hands by Cate LeBrun

print by Elle Moss | Shop | Facebook

sea legs and empty hands

a man walks into a bar. people laugh at dependency like
it’s in on the joke. isn’t it? aren’t we. i am the laugh lines
of my father above pools of whiskey tinted blood, wars
waged for decades against drinks that drowned fists.
we’re all tired in one way or another. i’m exhausted
drool on my chin from nights spent by the TV trying
to drown out the noise. family trees hover and haunt
like hangovers, gin halos buzzing behind the glow of sins
i committed before last call. before the last call we got from
him, the last call about him. the bottle by the bed, his body
and the floor one woven masterpiece. a decimal and a
hat trick for a BAC. two daughters. two daughters

i remember relatives who carried their sickness
the way i carry memories the way they ran from theirs

i want to help. i want to turn from everything they are.
everything i am. my aunt’s ribs, her bloated stomach
moving with a heavy life shallowed. things i didn’t see
because peace wasn’t a hand i was willing to shake. maybe
clichés are really clutches, bad jokes just lies we tell ourselves
to remember what it feels like to laugh. i keep running back to
them and other things: nights spent on the other side of the door,
forehead pressed to the wood kissing your palm. fingers clawing
at any part of you that will keep me afloat. i’ve built boats
from the wreckage. i’m split driftwood on shorelines.
there are holes in me everywhere

a man walks into a bar- all sea legs, all empty hands. in my
head, he walks back out.

Cate LeBrun

Cate LeBrun is a writer and special education teacher from Pasco, Washington. She loves dad jokes, extensive waffle menus, and a nice chat every now and again. Her prose, poetry, and short stories have been published in Gonzaga University’s literary journal, Reflection, and on her mom’s refrigerator.

The Little Things by Carly Racklin

All of my Love by Alex Garant
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The Little Things

Tomorrow’s dust flares up, lets out its first breath
from the mouth of the sun, turning
over and over itself,
a pit in a peach-colored sky.
And I have no one to wake up before.

Your name is summer, is sweet
at the back of my throat.
Just like that, just when I forget
everyone I meet points you out,
a pink stain on the neck of my shirt.

Mornings are evenings without you
painted in the fumbling of elbows and flickers
of your eyes in the mirror next to mine.
I long for those moments of accidentally
grabbing the wrong toothbrush.

I wonder, how many
fragments of you are scattered across this city?
Your hair, a flaxen web on the wall.

I like to imagine
that your coffee is always too sweet
when you make it without me.
That you make too much
for just yourself.
I like to imagine
that somewhere, in the network of drains below us
the leftovers of our lives
are rotting away together.

Sometimes I think I see you
in your mother’s woven hat
swaying on the concrete, in café windows,
smiling into a stranger’s lips.
But it is never you.

Your absence is lazy, always dragging
its feet and fighting me
for headspace, leg room under the blankets,
those still, silent moments before falling asleep;
it whispers sweetly in the dark
to me.

Like you said, it’s the little things that matter most.
And the memory of you is still you,
even if some parts are missing.
Even if I can never get your smile right,
it’s better than nothing.
Isn’t it?

Carly Racklin

Born and raised in New Jersey, Carly Racklin loves stories of all kinds, but is passionate about the fantastical and visceral. When not writing or drawing, Carly can be found watching horror movies, taking pictures of birds, and plucking at her bass guitar. She is currently a student at Arcadia University, studying creative writing. Her work has appeared in The Misty Review. You can read more of her writing at: .

slaughterhouse by Spencer Wollan

Squirrel by Natalie Voelker


when the bleeding stopped    all i could think of was you.    and how close your
body comes to a tourniquet    but that’s not why i was thinking of you    i wasn’t wishing
you could turn me into a lullaby    like you did with your baby last summer:    i was only
thinking of your breasts    like i shouldn’t be    like tiny unplucked hens    and the float of
our mary jane high    and our shared dance    and how high you were the tuesday night
when the moon was trying to eat us    in the dark    and the boys on skateboards
fluttered behind you into a gas station    and how i sat    so unpretty and so unbelieving
on the curb    when the bleeding stopped    all i could think of    was the pregnancy test
in cvs. and how    we stood on the toilet seat like royalty    and the two red lines made us
into warpaint    made us swallow each others sweat    and promise ourselves that we
would make the lightning stop    and how it rained, how it rained    and how your mama
with the broomstick    and the tightest hands    called you a slaughterhouse    and then the
afternoon in your room    with the candles and a switch blade    & we stopped hearing
our names    and swore we saw the Holy Ghost    and how the night it happened    i lay in
your bathtub    naked and slimy-sticky-smooth    and cried for the lock on the bathroom
door    and cried for your corpse baby    and cried for things i kept forgetting    to spit out
of me    and how the nighttime    kept throwing its teeth at you    and how faceless we
were    how hellish we were — and how when the bleeding stopped i stopped seeing
you. — and how when the bleeding stopped    six months later i walk into a cvs    and
you’re buying gum.    and you crack at the sight of me.    like you can’t remember how
this ended.    like you don’t remember shanking me.    like you don’t remember    waking
me up to tell me    you’d already killed yourself.    me, in pieces by the raccoons    you,
on the trampoline    you never wanted to really do it!    just wanted me to look at you with
my eyes this time!    you’re too afraid to have me over for dinner now    too afraid i’ll take
your dearest friend away    your darkest clock    your precious prostitute of an illness

            cause i recovered  /  cause i amputated  /  cause i broke the spell  /  cause i call
            this sadness what it is  /  and you just call it mistress

Spencer Wollan

Spencer is a 16 year old who lives everywhere. She travels the world completing semester-long programs as an alternative to mainstream education. Most of her work is inspired by Sylvia Plath and Frank O’Hara. Her pieces have appeared in GERM Magazine.

The Virgin Mary Considers Consent by Lauren Yates

Painting by Seon-Jeong Kim

The Virgin Mary Considers Consent

They’ve found another imprint of my face on a grilled cheese
sandwich. This one’s on Ebay for thirty-six thousand, but I’ll
never see a cent. Sometimes, I wonder if this was part of God’s
marketing plan. If he chose me because my face looked best

on buttered bread. That’s why they never stoned me for being
unwed and pregnant. Any marks to my face would have ruined
the market for Virgin Mary-shaped grilled cheese makers.
And they couldn’t just replace me the way they did Aunt Vivian
on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. That may have worked for
an NBC sitcom, but not for the mother of the Son of God.

What people don’t realize is that I was born without sin.
When people hear “Immaculate Conception,” they think,
“virgin birth.” Really, only I could give birth to Jesus,
since I was born without the curse left by Adam and Eve.

I hear people talk about free will. How God could have
made us robots designed to worship him, but instead we get
to choose whether to love him. If we all have free will, then why
was I born without sin? Who decided I would be righteous?

Was it like The Truman Show? Was I an orphan adopted by a
corporation without parents to provide consent? Or, am I more
Rosemary Woodhouse. Selected by Satan to be the one to bear
his child. They say it is a blessing that I was chosen, but no one
asked me if I wanted this. I was twelve when the baby was born.

If I had asked for an abortion, would the clinic have burned
down? If I had thrown myself from the citadel walls, would
I have survived by a miracle? God, what if I had said no?
Would you have forced me to bear my own Savior?

Lauren Yates

Lauren Yates is a Pushcart-nominated poet who is currently based in Philadelphia. Her writing has appeared in Nerve, XOJane, FRiGG, Umbrella Factory, Softblow, and Melusine. Lauren is also a poetry editor at Kinfolks Quarterly and a member of The Mission Statement poetry collective. She is currently a Poet in Residence with the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery at Drexel University. Aside from poetry, Lauren enjoys belly dancing, baking quiche, and pontificating on the merits of tentacle erotica. For more information, visit

After by Naomi Thiers

Storm Chaser by Joel Robison
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At times we feel the fresh earth
lift itself
back into place after the torque,
the screech of damage
twisted it

spun it sudden—
a delicate toy hurled
into the rush of traffic.

Two days of brittle gray, metal
pound of rain and wind
turning the sky to a kettle lid
that clamps but can’t contain
the boil: trees smashing their backs
toward earth, branches and
balconies corkscrewed,
shopping carts
drifting upstream.

Then a cloak and a calm,
even ambient light blacked out.

After sleep, we emerge
register in our cells the absence of howl,
walk onto sodden grass, limbs
accounted for, sun like a greeting,
and—her skirt its familiar blue,
unfaded as ever and slightly
rippling—she steps unconcerned before us:
our sky.

Naomi Thiers

Naomi Thiers grew up in Pittsburgh, but has lived in Washington-DC/Northern Virginia since 1980. In 1992, her first book of poetry Only The Raw Hands Are Heaven won the Washington Writers Publishing House prize. Her other books are In Yolo County and She Was a Cathedral (Finishing Line Press) and her poetry and fiction have been published in Virginia Quarterly Review, Poet Lore, Colorado Review, Potomac Review, Grist, Sojourners, and other magazines. She has taught composition and poetry at several universities, a Montessori school, and homeless shelters. She works as an editor for Educational Leadership magazine.

Letter Home by Claire Nelson

In Wake of the City by Tyler Rayburn
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Letter Home

His pants were black, and I wasn’t sure
if we were going to fuck, but he said,
“I’m gonna take my pants off these
are really tight.” And they were. Really tight.
He lives in a warehouse by the tracks.
You would hate him. At night,
the train sounded like it was cutting
through the bed, between us, cold bolt
of light, and I was cold and unmoving.
I missed you then. He sells jean cutoffs
and Goodwill clothes at double price.
He’s a businessman. You would like that.
I’m watching VH1 and it is so terrible
I junkfood wish you were here; I literally
fruit roll up. When he wanted to come
inside me I said “I don’t know you,“ and he,
“Yeah, you’re on birth control, right?”
I shouldn’t keep calling him.
I see my drug dealer more than I see
my friends. She is dying of lupus and I think
she really might die,
and I can’t stop thinking.
He said a lot of stupid things. You did too.
I made you macaroni, meatloaf with bacon
and brown sugar. You said, “Your love is
a closed fist. Mine is an open palm,”
I said, “My drug dealer is in the hospital again.”
The oven popped shut on my arm,
a rectangle of skin hissed.
There’s ash and mashed pill
in the grain of my dresser.
I press my tongue
to the wood, it comes up black.


Claire Nelson

Claire Nelson is a human woman living & writing in Savannah, GA. Her works have appeared inside your eyelids and on soggy coasters in the Palace Saloon.

the memory of a single thread by Hawa Y. Mire

Delicately Bold by Caryn Drexl
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the memory of a single thread

I’m forgetting you even as I struggle to remember you. But life has become about the living. No one tells you that is what grief will slowly begin to fade into. After the hole and the terrible emptiness, you begin to fill the spaces with life and living. I’m not startled every time someone says my name, I can say she’s dead, and not hold tears to my chest like a bullseye.

What’s its like to die? I wish for one more conversation with you, a soft afternoon of sitting at your knee asking you the questions I felt too unsure to ask before. What was it like losing the love of your life? What was it like losing three children, a country and a war? What was it like to flee, to be a visitor to everyone else’s land? To have children all over the world who forgot you as soon as they were on a plane away from massacre. What was it like to love? To lose a love, to not want another? What are the things I don’t know?

Tell me everything in an afternoon of xalwo and shai. Tell me all the secrets you took with you to your grave. Tell me of your favorite child, tell me of my mother young and married, tell me of her mother, my other ayeeyo. Sing me a story your mother told you as a child. Sing me the stories you sang my father. Just sing to me and let me sit here a while breathing in the perfume you wear and the colors you are so proud to sew into skirts, the hair you faithfully dye red with henna to hide the silver and grey. Just let me sit here a while with you and hold your hands, rest my body against yours and remember what you look like. Just one afternoon together, soft and dreamy and warm again. Did I say life was for the living? You are still alive within me. Even as I forget I remember. Even as I forget, I remember.


Hawa Y. Mire

Hawa Y. Mire is a diasporic Somali storyteller, writer, and strategist who writes about Blackness, (dis)connection and (un)belonging. Her writing is seated somewhere between oral tradition and the written word, celestial and myth, past and present, ancestry and spirit. Every piece is in conversation with vivid landscapes laden with imagery that seek to evoke a particular line of inquiry. The hope is that for a few moments the reader cannot see where they begin or end, but engage with a path strewn with questions that lead the way back deeply into themselves. :

Groundless by Gregory Luce

Clouded by Caryn Drexl
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5:47 and already
one of those mornings when
I wake after four hours sleep
snatched from eight hours in bed,
light trickles weakly gray
through the blinds,
the pillowcase is soaked
and my legs are tangled
inextricably in the bedclothes,
and the cat has jumped on
and off the bed three times already.
I’m barely clinging to one
of the 5000 fingers of Lokeshvara
and must remember if my hands slip
I will free fall through space
but happily there is no ground
to hit.

Gregory Luce

Gregory Luce, author of Signs of Small Grace (Pudding House Publications), Drinking Weather (Finishing Line Press), and Memory and Desire (Sweatshoppe Publications), has published widely in print and online. He is the 2014 Larry Neal Award winner for adult poetry, given by the Arts and Humanities Council in Washington, D.C., where he lives and works for the National Geographic Society.: