Bitter

I ask that my sympathy be served
without sugar—
no artificial angels
wings webbed
with sticky pity, halos draped
in caramel condolences
dripping sweet snapshots that melt
in my memory
a fleeting flavor, a sour aftertaste
a tidbit teeming with clingy microbeads
impish orbs who dance
with pungent pixels, a fool’s treat
invited to mock my grief
a candied wreath
embellished with fancied dreams
who poke and pester me, a syrup seeping
through a fresh void in the skull my mother made me
and I ask that my regrets snap
like peanut brittle
let shards of someday pierce my skin
as our tattered time scolds me
let nostalgia strangle me with tangled reality
and I ask that you never defend me
never offer me a blindfold
never wrap me in fabricated empathy
let my thoughts think themselves into extinction
and I ask that you bring dandelion greens
to this candyland who follows me
a parasitic beast whose bite
sprouts lollipops all over my body
tenacious thorns injecting me with sucrose until
my blood is molasses, my bones are taffy
my brain is bubble gum chewed
by my own cavity-covered teeth
and I ask that you let me suffer stoically
leave me be
as I mourn in a pool of pink ribbons
and I’m sinking
sinking until my mother’s voice is muffled
and I’m weeping
weeping until my eyes are sugar glass
and I’m craving
craving cake batter doused in raw bereavement
and I’m—

I’m sorry.
I’m bitter.

Emma McNamara is a student at Hopkinton High School. She has been recognized with a National Gold Medal by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and has also received several Gold Keys. Emma’s self-published novelette A Truth or a Gift? is currently available on Amazon, and she is scheduled to be published in Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things. Emma is a triplet and her favorite word is ‘impish.’

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The Age of Dreaming Code

Strange how in some ways digital
duration is underworld and in
others its bubonic, noon-hour bane.
How we glisten with strange water
emerging from the lists of online,
dripping, ah, with its baffling
refusal to count! Every surf different,
every page a new isle. Where did
the time go and what is history any
more when clocks are so passé?
Perhaps online is to enter the machine’s
processing dream, a hall with so many
familiar visceral trappings of our own—
surprises and suspensions, the odd mélange
of coupling strange with the known—
that we fail to understand that its
starry dark angel isn’t singing to us.
We are just the hostile environs
the machine will eventually wake from
by whiting our old mastery out.
Computing past while we remain stalled,
staring at screens like Merlin enthralled.

David Cohea lives in Central Florida and has worked for newspapers for the past 35 years. His poetry and book reviews have been published in The Florida Review, the Orlando Sentinel, Carpe Diem, Revelry and The Panhandler.

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Yellow Is

Third in a row of seven
before the crayon box is opened.
The fat block of school bus
whose number she keeps forgetting.
What dad tells her when she asks
if she is also labelled.
What she can’t see on his prickly cheeks.
Glaring down bathroom walls
as she squints in the mirror.
Not settling with her Goldilocks notions
of being “just right,” middling.
What mom calls the moon when
mom should know it’s white.
The joke whose edges catch
on nails pinching at smooth eyelids.
The sun, the stars, the moon:
gold and sparks and cottage cheese
in mom’s picture books
that can’t reach her anymore.

Helen Qian is a high school junior in Rockville, Maryland. In the past year, her writing has been published by Prolific Press and recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, as well as the Bethesda Urban Partnership. In her free time, she’s usually painting, reading, or trying to craft more interesting stories from less interesting personal experiences.

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Meet Me at My Funeral

There will be black triangles, stiff ironed skirts and ties,
and their owners will be straightening
to keep up, to mold into the curves
of somber, the ambiance they’re going for.

I’ll be nestled in a nook, the squiggle of the s
that’s just a hiss of air before it’s swallowed by the

om
like deep rumbles of approval,
as if it’s just a meal,
bottom lips pressed upwards, retreating
from the rain and into teeth
that anchor down their smiles
from surfacing into the

ber
It will be cold and wet,
hollowing the pop of words
and the staccato of their teeth,
chattering out firecrackers
to mingle with the downpour.

I wonder if they’ll remember
to slip me past their mouths,
if they’ll dress for the occasion,

as if for smiles and fireworks,
and not for me at all.

Helen Qian is a high school junior in Rockville, Maryland. In the past year, her writing has been published by Prolific Press and recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, as well as the Bethesda Urban Partnership. In her free time, she’s usually painting, reading, or trying to craft more interesting stories from less interesting personal experiences.

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Spectator Sports

Legs tied around my waist / My mind, it cracks at warp speed
You make your late-night television / The lip-print on the high ball belongs to me
The thing we never talk about / Our mutilated federation
I’m smoking for the three of us / Tracing my toe around the step to the altar

An alienated sense of pace / Lungs that pop like bubble wrap
I’m naked to my strained waist / Holding colours behind my back
Baby, from the bathroom, you look so weak / The light behind me feels you out
The doorframe branded with my fingerprints / Imitating gut and clout

The shadow on the doorstep hums / Catholic hymns in three four
Heaven on the ridge of my ears / A stuttering beat coats the rented floor
Blinds drawn from wasted rage / The view beyond them dull as wisdom
I crush a thought of home and chores / Lost among contemporary fiction

Wound into your vocal chords / A neck that aches in good light
Your torso has been swallowed whole / Dressed in will to end a fight
I have none, and you know it too / I see my fear as stolen gold
40 blocks for you and I / Shared and kept in your broken home

A sullen love in crystal glass / Pride of place in our own collection
The invitee drinks blood from my cellar / I showed him how to shame the tension
My head is a Harley that stays repossessed / You’re the bill I failed to make
Breathing in my sprightly ghost / Forging cheques in jet black paint

I fade into another room / Via the hall that loop-the-loops
You’re moaning underneath the door / I’m leaning into foreign juice
My pride, it grates against warmed cotton / Jutting out through the chamber door
Father rides the walls on his knuckles / To break my nose against the floor

Always Thomas is a writer and performance artist from Newcastle upon Tyne. You can find him on Twitter: @AlwaysThomasUK.

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Picasso’s Cabezas Llorando

every week at least a new
one 1937 how many did he
see to need to make this
shape this head thrown back
in a weep that blasts apart
the face of woman after
woman eyes slide to the side
like the tears they make
so that maker and made
merge god and anguish
they gather in one room
as in a priestless church
a congregation of pain
without bread or wine
not even the comfort
of knowing others are there
that there are in fact so
many if they could just see
past the glass but each
is framed by her own
agony mouths all open
coyotes with no moon
only the year 1937 only
the continuous shriek
the pointed teeth tongues
behind indecent wailing
wailing that splits the skull
and rattles the teeth
in their cave a bigger
wholebodied woman
in the next room
with her dead child so
simple so simply dead
and flat in her hands
these women have no
hands no salt just eyes
that slide and sometimes
a pañuelo covering
the head

Andy Young is the author of four chapbooks, including John Swenson Dynamicron, forthcoming from dancing girl press, and a full-length poetry collection, All Night It Is Morning (Diálogos, 2014). She teaches at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Waxwing, Southern Humanities Review, Prairie Schooner, and has recently been recognized in contests by Black Warrior Review, the Auburn Witness Poetry Prize, and the Consequence Magazine Women Writing War Poetry Award.

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Sideshow Banner

      Fred G. Johnson, oil on canvas, 1930s, New Orleans Museum of Art, 2016

Forty years with O. Henry Tent
and Awning Company, Johnson
            painted them all:

Lion Face Girl
Lobster Boy
            Most Unusual Married Couple

she who lifts weights with her hair
she bound in a box pierced
            from all sides…

Radium Girl stayed with him.
He dreamt her: technician illuminating
            her bathing-beauty bones

with a spotlight            Alive
her bones shining through
            ribs and arms silver gray

shoes liver-red, lungs
brown like old blood
            hint of intestine roping

through her center
arms and legs splayed
            as if for taxidermy—

He paints a man in—a surgeon?
her presenter?—a voila in his
            presenting arm, a sibling smirk

same shade as Radium Girl’s shoes,
a man in white like a doctor,
            with a feminine jaw and belted tunic,

her same brown voluminous hair.

Andy Young is the author of four chapbooks, including John Swenson Dynamicron, forthcoming from dancing girl press, and a full-length poetry collection, All Night It Is Morning (Diálogos, 2014). She teaches at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Waxwing, Southern Humanities Review, Prairie Schooner, and has recently been recognized in contests by Black Warrior Review, the Auburn Witness Poetry Prize, and the Consequence Magazine Women Writing War Poetry Award.

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