Jonathan Louis Duckworth received his MFA from Florida International University. His fiction, poetry, and non-fiction appears in New Ohio Review, Fourteen Hills, PANK Magazine, Thrice Fiction, Jabberwock Review, Superstition Review, and elsewhere.
deep dark rich heady earth.
branches snapping, fire kindled
embers carried on windy winter gusts into star lit skies.
cold puffs of beauty.
it is ancient.
his breath is ancestral and ceremony.
sage smudge honeysuckle breath
on my cheek, rolling smoky
onto my chest in tendrils,
reaching across and down,
always reaching further.
his sighs are hewn nutty oak
pine with hints of fresh dappled cedar,
native aztlán nopales, sandias, chiles, maize,
cottonwood puffs floating on a southwestern breeze
over the endless llano estacado.
when he breathes i have the urge
to thrust my hands into wet mescalero sands and squeeze;
to feel the world rough and thick against my tender skin.
his breath smooths stones like a stream
calm flows of constant pressure,
seemingly silent murmuring
slight waves and tides pulled by the antediluvian earth
carbon complex life giving compounds.
his breath is a heartbeat, an ohm, a soft subtle sigh,
a reminder of his fragility, of my fragility, of what my proximity to him means;
of two bodies coming close enough together to exchange air because love is
recursive particle exchange,
it is the reception of depths,
a coming together of ephemeral bursts of breath, breath, breath.
Christine Garcia is a professor and lover of words. She believes that writing is both the salve and the holdfast for the heridas abiertas de la vida. She resides and teaches in lovely Connecticut, but will forever be a desert woman of the Southwest.
Today, on Hollywood Boulevard, near the Rob Lowe
star on the Walk of Fame, I passed a sitting bum
who wore cargo pants and a World’s Greatest Dad
t-shirt. His feet were bare, grimy; and he was eating
an orange like an apple—gnawing right through the rind.
A copy of Les Misérables lay next to him, its pages fat and
swollen, and when a breeze pushed through, the sheets
ruffled; a pleasant sound, like leaves in the wind. I said,
Hello, and the man said, Hey…what’s up, muchacho?
I reached for my wallet. I only had a five spot, but
since I’d already cracked the leather, I had to give him
something. Lincoln, he said. No shit. Good prez.
Better beard. Hell, sometimes I wish I’d gotten shot
in the theatre. Nice way to go out if you ask me—
just bam, right there, while watching Bye Bye Birdie.
True, I said, before walking off. Wanna sit down?
he asked. I got some orange left, he said, and this
book here, that’s depressing as shit. Fucking French
guys, right? Hard to get through even five pages
without tearing up a bit. What do you say?
Uh. Sure. Okay, I said. So I leaned up against a building,
lit a smoke, and listened to him as he cleared his
throat and started in. He had a pleasant reading voice,
especially applied performing dialogue,
so I closed my eyes as his words blended
with the shuffle of passersby, the rumble of engines,
and the day-to-day buzz of honks and hollers.
Mathieu Cailler’s poetry and prose have been widely featured in numerous national and international publications, including the Los Angeles Times and The Saturday Evening Post. A graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, he is the recipient of a Short Story America Prize for Short Fiction and a Shakespeare Award for Poetry. He is the author of Clotheslines (Red Bird Press), Shhh (ELJ Publications), and Loss Angeles (Short Story America Press), which has been honored by the Hollywood, New York, London, Paris, Best Book, and International Book Awards. His poetry collection, May I Have This Dance? (Black Magic Media), is slated for publication in December of 2017. : mathieucailler.com
Pepper burned my mouth
and all I could think of
in that salivated flame
was you telling me your tongue
no longer felt the heat
of a moment: meaningless
sex– bite and garment
here between the green
walls of your zen room
your small goldfish
swimming in circles–
submerged flame and hunger
for love so intense
I flicker poems to you
thumbs on lighters
waiting for the matchbook
to catch– combed pomade
hair, designer jeans, and wit–
what I want is origami
and fire– instead
we talk about love
but unlike Raymond Carver
we have nothing
more to say.
James Croal Jackson is the author of The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017). His poetry has appeared in FLAPPERHOUSE, Rust + Moth, Jet Fuel Review, and elsewhere. He has won the William Redding Memorial Poetry Contest and is founding editor of The Mantle. Find him in Columbus, Ohio or at jimjakk.com.
1. there is nothing natural here.
i could twist my words
into the fractured roads after an earthquake,
or paint my desperation
with the death toll of the 1931 china floods.
but every crimson thread of defeat
is furiously woven together
over and over and over again
until all i am left with
are blistered fingers and a tapestry
of all the times i forgot how to pronounce my name.
2. catastrophe is a ghost –
my mind is its favourite haunt.
it will not leave even after closing hours,
and sits at the bar counter
drunk on irrationality
slurring on about
burying broken compasses and
wringing wrists of their pulses
3. i am the bartender,
its drinks in one hand
and waking up in the other.
4. every fantasy of fading
into salt and apologies
is an avalanche tearing through
paper planes and origami faces,
a wordless prayer to a non-existent god
in a burning sky,
begging for a reprieve from
5. the aftermath.
the aftermath that feels like
being dragged out of the mortician’s hands,
exhuming corpses of the people
i could have been,
waiting at the wrong end of the tunnel.
6. i wish i could soothe this into a more palatable story,
a soft whisper with a full stop.
but there are still houses with roofs torn off
in my throat where my voice used to be,
too many emergency shelters,
too many crevices for shadows to creep in,
too much disaster in my blood,
and god damn it
i’m bleeding everywhere.
Vanessa Koh is a university student from Singapore, studying Linguistics and Psychology. She’s an aspiring poet who frequently gets excited over the sky and other small things. She has self-published two chapbooks, Are We Here? and Is This Now? She hopes you are well and loved. : 1rann.tumblr.com
Colette Love Hilliard is a writer and teacher currently chronicling her journey of love, marriage, and infertility through poetry and art. Colette hopes her open and honest approach to such sensitive topics resonates with her readers and inspires them to use their creative talents to heal. Her work has appeared in Harness Magazine and The Cincinnati Review Blog, and a forthcoming collection of poetry will appear in Issue 3 of Beechwood Review. instagram.com/colette.lh.
We took turns exchanging earthquakes in the bathroom
kiss me, New Mexico – the tattoo of el diablo
spanning her back, knocking on strangers doors
because every house looks the same
Silhouette Sophia, a gold dust turned flush when the sky
parodies the value that paints her mouth
A placental abruption / one stanza memorized
from the bible, only spoken in Spanish and congregated like a
love poem passing from one fingerprint to the next
It’s written all over her freckles, a constellation fish and cheap cerveza
accented with finger-sucking Tajin she transfers to my mouth; no one
knew she could play the cello, or liked to break into her father’s
house and steal his shoes – out of spite, she never finished anything
other than an orgasm but her vocals were versatile and hum like lush gossip
I saw things I’ve never seen again – a crescent moon waist with doubts
and disability, abandoned and palpitating, 102 degrees of afterglow,
Seneca Basoalto is a student of Psychology and Philosophy, aiding in (and confusing) her histrionic observations of her personal relationships. With 23 years of creative writing experience – plus a background in the backstage music/movie scene – she’s congregated many strange experiences and used them to fuel her gutsy, insightful writings. You can most likely find her listening to records, shouting at people from her car, or experimenting with soup. For now she resides in the Black Hills. You can read more of Seneca’s work at senecabasoalto.tumblr.com.
“I heard the city breathe in my sleep
A reality I touch but it’s hard for me to keep.”
Three barber shops cada cuadra—all Dominican-owned.
Nocturnal laundromats, two-story gallineros.
At Pepe’s Poultry, the caged animals
look through the window,
and ask me:
if I can separate the scent of their filthy plumage
with the Mickey Dee’s across the street.
In front of a sala-sized nightclub,
men slam fichas at a marble table—
a lifesize Presidente ad,
Their green bottles glisten in full-time sweat
to see “Quién va a lavar lo’ trastes.”
The women pawn-swap the hour:
a good night’s sleep
for the comas’ latest bochinche.
Their burst-fire tongues flicker the flood lights,
según broken for month—
Yendo de compras,
I practice bachata at the Twin City supermarket
where the brown-haired cashier teases me
that my form’s getting rusty—
“Te falta levantar la pierna papá.”
Afuera, bus taillight shines the mural
of puertorriqueña matriarchs guarding a cemetery.
Police stationed at an abandoned library,
radio chatter of a homeless man causing a riot at Burger King–
“I bet you my wife’s empanadas it’s Sean again.”
The next morning is
Boricua Day Parade, where
clergyfolk pass out pamphlets, asking us
“Out of pura curiosidad, have we repented?
Dressed in Goodwill tacuches, they body-guard
the Day of Judgment in bilingual lyric.
The barrio is the first still life I ever saw.
Deja que te lo pinte:
the pueblo’s a tanktop’d militia of
–do rags, camisetas, chanclas, ATV’s—¡¿hasta ATV’s>?!
Fourteen-year old baby still with an umbilical phone,
tied to her mamá’s Sprint Plan.
“Mejor haz algo muchacha!
Ponte a leer la biblia!”
She rolls her eyes, “Ha, very funny mom.”
The still life’s shape-shifted
to a family portrait outside Miguel’s Deli.
They perch up on a 3-foot vocina.
“Raymundo ven acá,
¡Nomás que cruces esa calle!
Hijo de su – ¡Raymundo Carlos Vega!”
On a caved-in street corner,
a brother sells belts
still in their plastic wrapping,
slung over his shoulder like
hanging slabs of longaniza,
while munching on bag of cacachuates japoneses.
“I heard the city breathe in my sleep
A reality I touch but it’s hard for me to keep.”
‘Cuz on sleepless nights, when my
eyes slouch like unpicked garbage bags,
vultures pick away at the tendons of syllables,
travellin’ in critics’ circles.
Their gaze freezing me in time.
My respiration’s a two-steppin’ time-warp,
llevándome a isla y inner-city
LA to South Bronx trapped inside this conch
of my ear, perch up to hear the brown sea:
the decibel chops of mi amá cortando frutas,
roma tomates bulging from the Mercadito Latino’s plastic bag
sleepless bodegas firin’ enchiladas to tipsy dancers,
propane tank on its last disco
tías thinking quebradita’s a weight-loss plan.
“I can’t take it y’all, I can feel the barrio breathing
Chest heaving, against the flesh of the evening.”
Brown hands clutch the pen,
mine’s made of ink
Their’s of bars.
One’s serving a life sentence,
The other sentences for life.
Shhhh. “Eschúchela la cuidad respirando.”
The grind of tectonic plates
crashing underneath the 4th floor
of a poetry workshop.
The ground hisses from the
coiled serpent whose tongue we share.
Es un earthquake
The city’s shaking real good now.
Antonio Lopez’s nonfiction has been featured in TeenInk, The Chronicle, PEN/America and his poetry in Gramma Press, Eclectica, Hispanecdotes, Acentos Review, Sinking City, and What Rough Beast. Born and raised in East Palo Alto, California, he is currently pursuing a Master in Fine Arts (poetry) at Rutgers University-Newark. : @barrioscribe
so much my lips forgot the labor of mouths
words stuck between six and seven shots
I slipped through hallways and houseparties
unnoticed, except by one
her hair, like a wildfire, unravels me
so much trust goes into something as soft
as a body. We cannot move but through sight
through a roar of drums and howls,
the first thing to go is certainty
like everything, love begins with bourbon
its amber mash preserves me, turns
my eyes up
to the lightness of the sky
Tanner Lee lives in Ogden, Utah, and studies at Weber State University. His writing has appeared in Hobart, Glass, and is forthcoming in The Comstock Review, Bitterzoet, FRiGG Mag and Lost Sparrow Press. He is an assistant blog manager at The Blueshift Journal. Find him on twitter @heytannerlee
Mariel Fechik is a musician and writer from Chicago. She works for a educational nonprofit, sings in a band called Church Booty, and a duo called m&e. Sea creatures are very important to her. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Black Napkin Press, Cosmonauts Avenue, The Rising Phoenix Review, and others.