Lady of the Lake by featured artist Jamila Clarke

      Valance Nation

      Listen. My black voice slices deepest water, breaks beams of sunlight
      apart. Heat escapes; you live for a night in a vacuum of soul. Shrink-wrap
      compression in moonlight, it breathes on tight-lipped ice; coarse, cutting,
      freed. My actual presence revives from the outside-in, calms wolf-pack
      frenzy, hardening your nipples, the petrification of saccharine stone. You
      breathe in, grimacing with fractures, plied together with ringlets of dust,
      ready to burst apart into the pearly crux of new, amateur constellations.
      You dread the personality of night and ask a stranger to erase stars from
      the windshield. Sonograms begin speaking to you with shadowy intent
      and your mouth tastes iron at the back of your throat, becoming flavor
      behind your knees. You try to avoid the revelations held in the freshest,
      black umbrella, but by holding back, you uncover yourself further.
      Tomorrow night, it will still be out there, carried by an eastern wind. You
      fear its leaving as much as its arrival. A new age creeps inexorably toward
      you, desperate to be reclaimed.


Richard King Perkins II

My name is Richard King Perkins II. I am a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. I have a wife, Vickie and a daughter, Sage. My work has appeared in hundreds of publications including Poetry Salzburg Review, Prime Mincer, Sheepshead Review, Sierra Nevada Review, The William and Mary Review, Two Thirds North and The Red Cedar Review. I am a two-time Pushcart nominee and have work forthcoming in Bluestem, Emrys Journal and December Magazine.