Tracks

So many things change
but the sad sound of a train whistle in the distance
late at night, coming at me
thru the trees, over the sound of cars
is the same distinct tenor
as when I was a girl of five.

Its lament floats rather than pierces,
trails like an exhale of cigarette smoke—
makes the night soft,
and the predictable rhythm that follows—
ca-chunk ca-chunk ca-chunk,
the wheels moving slowly over the tracks—
lulls me complacent.

A series of notes mimics
the long, moaning squeezes of an accordion
playing a monotone song. The rise and fall
recedes and breathes, comes at me again:
remember, remember, remember.

And I can smell the railroad ties
during long summer days in Texas
when my big brothers and I
went out hunting blackberries,
beach buckets slung over our arms.

Scent of tar, of asphalt and scorched wood—
when the sun intensified everything,
and we robbed green vines freshly
flanking the rails, stripping them of their offerings,
our hands full of booty.

The plastic yellow pail I carried
full to the brim, spilling over with juicy
abundance, all I never knew
I would ever have to miss.

Our stained fingertips,
forearms scratched by brambles
marked us guilty, and rich.

Anne Pinkerton’s poetry and essays have appeared in The Sunlight Press, Hippocampus Magazine, Vita Brevis Anthology, River Teeth’s Beautiful Things, Modern Loss, and Stone Gathering, among others. Her memoir will be published by Vine Leaves Press in 2023.

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Resurgence

By mid-March in western New York, in a crow’s distance from Lake Ontario, the weather begins its annual twitch. It’s the season of flux: ice versus flood. Everything is on the verge of Spring.

For me, Spring starts to show its face on the kitchen clock. As soon as time falls forward, we gain an hour of light and lose an hour of sleep. I am dumbstruck by this. I stare out the picture window, wanting to take a long walk to see for myself— wanting to be a part of the oncoming change.

Soon patterns of sound return to color the landscape: chevrons of Canada geese honk this way, this way. The leader, I’ve been told, is usually female. She knows the way by heart, and I wonder how many in her wedge-flying-in-the-sky are her own children with their partners and their offspring, or siblings and their partners and children; and what about the elders? Where are they in this clan’s V-formation? Thousands of Canada geese return and join the geese that stay through winter. The skies at dawn and dusk resemble an airbase for eight weeks; then, things settle in with the sound of engines: tractors whining as they cut through the muddy, mineral-soaked fields; chainsaws revving in their slicing wood into right-sized logs for next fall and winter’s burning; lawn mowers cutting new grass—that intoxicating smell: green and tender. In the sudden warmth, the peepers, no bigger than an inch, begin to sing softly in the muddy ponds beneath the willows; then louder in their climb up the trees. Their chant: alive, alive, alive, and I am glad that I am still alive, listening closely to their sound inside of sound, as if I could be lifted up and carried along with them.

M. J. Iuppa’s fifth full-length poetry collection The Weight of Air was published by Kelsay Books in May 2022, and a chapbook of 24 100-word stories, Rock. Paper. Scissors. is forthcoming from Foothills Publishing in 2022. For the past 33 years, she has lived on a small farm near the shores of Lake Ontario. Check out her blog for her musings on writing, sustainability & life’s stew.

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On a Theme From Eluard

I annihilate time with a zero.
            —Paul Eluard,
A Moral Lesson

When time’s armor slips on perfect silence
and verbs get misplaced—that’s when traffic shows
the stripe to strike. Reach now—present-tense—

through noise of streets, stray songs, with your zero
(the only blade that can cut time’s throat). Loose clocks
will drip like water on pavement. Lights change.

Take one step. One more. Quick, before it stops
again. Safe, wrapped in adverbs time arranged.

Mark J. Mitchell was born in Chicago and grew up in southern California. His latest poetry collection, Roshi San Francisco, was just published by Norfolk Publishing. Starting from Tu Fu was recently published by Encircle Publications.

He is very fond of baseball, Louis Aragon, Miles Davis, Kafka and Dante. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the activist and documentarian Joan Juster, where he made his marginal living pointing out pretty things. Now, he works doing guy stuff, go figure.

He has published two novels, three chapbooks and two full-length collections so far. His first chapbook won the Negative Capability Award. Titles on request. A meager online presence can be found at https://www.facebook.com/MarkJMitchellwriter. A primitive web site now exists: https://www.mark-j-mitchell.square.site. He sometimes tweets: @MarkJMitchellSF.

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Night Lesson

After machines
have gone to sleep,
their red eyes blinking off,
armored souls start to move—slowly
as infants—
trying to touch
the lost sense memory
that turns night to morning—
and rolls the moon
back below
a pink horizon.

Clocks will
do their work
while you try
to remember
what prayers are for.

Mark J. Mitchell was born in Chicago and grew up in southern California. His latest poetry collection, Roshi San Francisco, was just published by Norfolk Publishing. Starting from Tu Fu was recently published by Encircle Publications.

He is very fond of baseball, Louis Aragon, Miles Davis, Kafka and Dante. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the activist and documentarian Joan Juster, where he made his marginal living pointing out pretty things. Now, he works doing guy stuff, go figure.

He has published two novels, three chapbooks and two full-length collections so far. His first chapbook won the Negative Capability Award. Titles on request. A meager online presence can be found at https://www.facebook.com/MarkJMitchellwriter. A primitive web site now exists: https://www.mark-j-mitchell.square.site. He sometimes tweets: @MarkJMitchellSF.

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Nine Holes at the Elks Club

My father pulled me along with the cart,
the irons and woods rattling, leather socks
hooded like monk’s cowls. I enjoyed playing
with the multi-colored Ts, sticking them
in the soft earth, but the balls themselves,
dimpled, glossed with promise, held the early
morning light. Dad gave me a cast-off, cut
and grass-stained, to put in my pocket, to roll
across the green while he lined up a putt.
He preferred the course before work,
the sun climbing, the dew untouched.
Soon, the day would become too busy
for a father and son, his wing-tipped spikes
            holding us together.

After 43 years of teaching English in public schools, Al Ortolani lives a life without bells and fire drills in the Kansas City area. He walks regularly with his rescue dog Stanley. Stanley is mostly non-verbal, but he appears to enjoy the sentiment in a well-voiced poem.

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Controlled Burn

            By late afternoon strong winds
pick up down the main lake channel.
I let the flames rest, cool to ash.
I wet them with the garden hose, coals
sizzling, gasping in the flood of water.
For my own fire, I down bottled beer,
watch the blackened scars
at the bottom of the hill for a wisp
of smoke, a wave of heat in the late sun.
The evening news is full of flames,
kindled from dead leaves and windfall.
It is difficult to hold back a fire.
Flames leap the pit, the scratched ring
I’ve raked to rock, to nothing.

After 43 years of teaching English in public schools, Al Ortolani lives a life without bells and fire drills in the Kansas City area. He walks regularly with his rescue dog Stanley. Stanley is mostly non-verbal, but he appears to enjoy the sentiment in a well-voiced poem.

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Grandma’s elevator

I slip through the cheap threads of your beaded curtain
            the one with the shape of teardrops
            whose color I can no longer recall
and send the strings off on a chaotic little dance
before stepping out. The milky hallway light flickers alive
at the sound of plastic clashing against metal frames

A spectrum of grey stains the weary old walls—its scars
            barely showing through
                        layers of faded and fresh tattoos
In a corner, the moldy skeleton of an abandoned Victorian chair lies
with three legs facing up

Suspended is the sweet, thick smell
of something sticky cooking on the stove
            She’s always liked that kind of food
            father would repeat at your grave
            And so, every year of that same, wretched day
            the mountain crows would find a glutinous treat

The light dims out as I slide into the magic little box
            the silver cage that shut away my last memory of you
and turn to face your silhouette
Bye, I say, raising my hand like an awkward student
who doubts their own response. You remain
tensely standing, hauntingly silent
hands by your sides like a soldier awaiting order

But there was no response
Before the elevator took me away

Rellie Liu is an undergraduate junior studying Biology and English at Stanford University. She was born in China and raised in Vancouver, Canada.

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Ode to my “Garage”

You stood, at the end of a street lined with maple trees, where plucked dandelion stems lay
abandoned under piles of glowing maple leaves, and weaved memories from our first encounter

into the coffee-stained carpet by the front door. I was six years old and had no clue of your existence
twelve hours ago, when you were still walking on the other half of this Earth. It’s big enough

to park two cars, the realtor told my mother as we walked towards you, hand in hand.
But I knew my mother only had one. And so, I took to it as my duty to fill the other half of you

with broken bicycles and worn-out toys. You never complained about how much space I took up,
about how much love I stole from under the roof that we were meant to share, the roof that’s

our father—but my mother did. And every time I banged the car door so that a blue, moon-shaped
dent appeared on your walls, she reminded me that I was the inseverable link between you and her,

that my veins bore the same strong concrete you carried in half of your floors, and that you
would be cared for—regardless of the whispers that rained down from grey Vancouver skies.

Your bravery is something that I can never replicate. At seventeen, you knew to store the pieces
of your broken childhood in locked boxes. At seventeen, you were the thread that stitched together

a house for three women. At seventeen, you learned to love me like the sister that you always had.

Rellie Liu is an undergraduate junior studying Biology and English at Stanford University. She was born in China and raised in Vancouver, Canada.

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The day when Jade decided to scorch her left arm

I was ten when I met Jade
inside the dull blue, somewhat decrepit building
of Liaoning’s provincial swim team training center.

There, weary old stairs sighed under the weight of sore legs
as they bore limp and lactic acid-filled bodies back to their dormitories.
There, iron-framed bunk beds lay clustered in dimly lit rooms.

Out the dusty hallway window that overlooked two pools
of silently thundering water, a red banner swayed above the flags.
Wrinkled by time, yet still as solemn as ever, it glowed

under brightly lit ceiling lights
—and cast a vivid glare on every droplet or streak
of water that clung to our bare and trembling bodies.

Trembling, as we waited for the slipper bottom to leave
its imprints, as our capillaries contorted to form the strokes of whip scars.
He was only a coach, and yet we were only disobedient children.

Through a foggy piece of plastic, black and blue tiles melted
into one another, like layers of new and old bruises, until all that was left
was the sight of skinny legs standing in the heat of a misty shower.

That day was like any other.
Chlorine hung thick in the stale air, sodden hair, and damp bed sheets;
it seeped from our pores and dissolved the blood that clogged them.

Jade stood still, bare feet on cold cement, as the razor blade
nipped her ear and strands of wet hair fell beside wrinkled and puffy toes.
That day was like any other. She tasted the bitterness of rubber

from the cheek that sustained his blow, landed so firmly
that even before the pain hit, she decided: That day was not to be like any other.
So when ringing faded from her ears and tears her eyes, Jade gave in

to the smell of water—
boiled in a kettle as a single sandal lay folded
between clenched teeth—pouring down on flesh.

Rellie Liu is an undergraduate junior studying Biology and English at Stanford University. She was born in China and raised in Vancouver, Canada.

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The Daily News

I am sober today
and read the last page
first. Each want ad

is a drawer
in the morgue
cluttered with type,

marked with a price tag.
I open the dresser
in my room

and lie down in a field
of dandelion seed
like down

raising me up
in a cloud of removal,
my sins erased,

my belief
in the world restored:
vases of rose

water evaporating
into the hymn
of air

under the closing credits
and your best
friend calling you

through the shrill ring
of a bicycle
approaching you

from behind to tell you
you will
live.

Native of Boston, MA., Stelios Mormoris is CEO of Scent Beauty, Inc. Citizen of Greece and the U.S., Stelios was born in New York, and lived most of his adult life in Paris.

Stelios is also a contemporary artist, specializing in abstract oil painting. He studied in the Creative Writing Program at Princeton University as a student of William Meredith and Maxine Kumin. He received a B.A. in Architecture from Princeton University, and an M.B.A. from INSEAD [Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires] in Fontainebleau, France.

He has been published in Crosswinds Poetry Journal, The Fourth River, Gargoyle Magazine, The Good Life ReviewHigh Shelf Press, Humana Obscura, Midwest Poetry Review, Press, South Road, Spillway, Sugar House Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Verse, Whelks Walk Review and other journals.

Stelios’ debut book of poetry titled The Oculus is forthcoming from Tupelo Press in September 2022.

Stelios has held positions on the Boards of the French Cultural Center of Boston, Historic New England, the Fragrance Foundation, and ACT UP.

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Crossing

breathless
   in the bight’s
current, the
   sailor glides
inches above
   horizon’s edge
gleaming
   like a knife.

A coral-tinted
   sunset seethes
in ribs of sea,
   blackish where
the sails drag
   ragged shadows
from which he
   can’t tear free.

He clenches
   the bristled rope,
rides subsiding
   pain, those violet
veils of storm
   when he learns
he cannot
   cry or measure.

He tacks away
   from the little
shingled houses
   dotting leeward
shore, watching
   what he loved once
dwindle—skirts
   the last strips

of sun slashing
   the white caps’
whispers, races
   along the pin
pricks of light
   on the shore road
into next day,
   into the balm

of sun, sleep.

Native of Boston, MA., Stelios Mormoris is CEO of Scent Beauty, Inc. Citizen of Greece and the U.S., Stelios was born in New York, and lived most of his adult life in Paris.

Stelios is also a contemporary artist, specializing in abstract oil painting. He studied in the Creative Writing Program at Princeton University as a student of William Meredith and Maxine Kumin. He received a B.A. in Architecture from Princeton University, and an M.B.A. from INSEAD [Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires] in Fontainebleau, France.

He has been published in Crosswinds Poetry Journal, The Fourth River, Gargoyle Magazine, The Good Life ReviewHigh Shelf Press, Humana Obscura, Midwest Poetry Review, Press, South Road, Spillway, Sugar House Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Verse, Whelks Walk Review and other journals.

Stelios’ debut book of poetry titled The Oculus is forthcoming from Tupelo Press in September 2022.

Stelios has held positions on the Boards of the French Cultural Center of Boston, Historic New England, the Fragrance Foundation, and ACT UP.

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Potato Chips

I asked the waiter for a bowl
of potato chips
in a quiet diner on a summer island
while the craw of winter

gripped outside, the stark
daguerreotype of leafless trees
caged behind the mullions
birds sputtered against

while inside I took
small pleasure watching the flare
of steam emit from the spout
of a shiny percolator,

and fill the room
and make the few patrons here
feel warmer, buffeted
from some far-off storm, and we

glanced at each other
and nodded as if it was understood
we were safe
under the aroma of toast and butter

and Maxwell House in the red canister
my mother used to make
turning up here
along with the silver AM radio behind

the counter which I asked
the waiter to turn on,
and the radio announcer
as far away as South Bend, Indiana

came on with “Satisfaction”
by the Stones, his arch enthusiasm
cracked by the crisp bite
into the trough of the crescent,

loud, yes—delicious, certainly—
but cut by the melancholy
which overcame me
like salty fog drifting in off the surf

as my older sister with chipped
painted nails and a stolen
plastic ring offered me a large potato
chip I could barely put

in my five-year-old mouth
so she broke it in two, and the pact
was set: that we were two halves
of one potato chip

which we held between
our teeth in sync
while we squinted at horizons
dashed with black ships

ready to crash more
breaches, ready to go to war,
to drift from such placid stations
and vanish with our vacations.

What world was this our parents
railed about going to hell
in a handbasket
,
smacking newspapers in their laps

while we proceeded to crunch
the potato and the salt
softening in our mouths under
our humming in unison?

We tuned them out
with our transistor radios, blithe
to the sand grating our bathing trunks,
and mother shouting let’s go

into the wind picking up
and then I looked down into the bowl,
almost empty,
at the last flakes of chips

and I wet my finger to press and
pick up each one of them
with the voracity of a wizened adult
hungry for the lost

fragments of the child, sidling in
striations of sand
with a soggy chip in hand
looking for mother, father, sister.

Native of Boston, MA., Stelios Mormoris is CEO of Scent Beauty, Inc. Citizen of Greece and the U.S., Stelios was born in New York, and lived most of his adult life in Paris.

Stelios is also a contemporary artist, specializing in abstract oil painting. He studied in the Creative Writing Program at Princeton University as a student of William Meredith and Maxine Kumin. He received a B.A. in Architecture from Princeton University, and an M.B.A. from INSEAD [Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires] in Fontainebleau, France.

He has been published in Crosswinds Poetry Journal, The Fourth River, Gargoyle Magazine, The Good Life ReviewHigh Shelf Press, Humana Obscura, Midwest Poetry Review, Press, South Road, Spillway, Sugar House Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Verse, Whelks Walk Review and other journals.

Stelios’ debut book of poetry titled The Oculus is forthcoming from Tupelo Press in September 2022.

Stelios has held positions on the Boards of the French Cultural Center of Boston, Historic New England, the Fragrance Foundation, and ACT UP.

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Tips for parenting during lockdown

The advice says
keep a routine,
get outside,
limit snacks,
oversee crafts,
make learning fun,
reduce stress,
avoid conflicts,
be everyone,
have everything,
breathe;

                        So she collected a possum skull
                        stranded in a rushing stream,
                        scraped off its flesh,
                        rinsed its blood and brain matter,
                        boiled away its fat,
                        and immersed it in hydrogen peroxide
                        in a yogurt container in the garage
                        until the bones were bleached pure
                        and the fanged jaw
                        smirked down from the shelf
                        to show her children
                        what a mother can make
                        out of the putrid decay
                        left at her feet.

Caleb Wolfson-Seeley is a baker and father residing in Williamstown, Massachusetts. He was a 2022 finalist for the Adina Talve-Goodman Fellowship for early-career writers of fiction whose work speaks to issues and experiences related to inhabiting bodies of difference.

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Sugaring season

Bury me under a sugar maple,
my father said,
and let its fiery autumn crown
be my gravestone.
Put my body to work,
nourishing the soil as it has held me,
feeding my maggot undertakers,
returning me,
atom by atom,
to the stars.
And at the spring thaw,
when the sap starts to flow
I will be in each trickle,
each hopeful drip,
announcing my arrival with loud
and constant plink plinks,
the tree adorned with a pail
to collect each drop,
a slow and steady snivel
and occasional sob,
the forest sharing your grief each year.
Boil the sorrow and heartbreak
until it is thick and golden,
and let my grandchildren’s mouths
become sticky sweet
with its syrup.

If that isn’t resurrection,
I don’t know what is.

Caleb Wolfson-Seeley is a baker and father residing in Williamstown, Massachusetts. He was a 2022 finalist for the Adina Talve-Goodman Fellowship for early-career writers of fiction whose work speaks to issues and experiences related to inhabiting bodies of difference.

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The Poet

She was trying to say that we’re all dying
inside and out, walking farther than we’ve
worn appropriate shoes for. Who among us
hasn’t felt duped by the salesman for implying
his smile would come home with us? Ah,
the empty rooms fill with dust too quickly.
She dreamed about rolling around in it to put
the parts of herself that’d sloughed off back.
It’s the kind of thing the brain gets up to
when given too much time to mull. The poets
on their back covers all looking to the side
as if to say, “Did I remember to take
the chicken out of the freezer?” Making gods
out of flickering bulbs. A strange smell lingering
misdiagnosed as wisdom. There are so many
lies it’s nearly impossible to categorize them
other than by touch and sometimes taste.
The mouthfeel of love. The worn edges of loss.
Dying her hair was the only way she could think
of to hide from the bone man’s steady gaze.
Standing quiet on an elevator, hoping he won’t
try to talk about the weather. When the bell dings,
he gets off with her, follows her to her desk.
It’ll be like that, forever. Her, trying to get
something done. Him, bragging about his bass
boat, bony leg propped on her desk edge.

Raised on a rice and catfish farm in eastern Arkansas, CL Bledsoe is the author of more than twenty-five books, including the poetry collections Riceland, Trashcans in Love, Grief Bacon, and his newest, The Bottle Episode, as well as his latest novels Goodbye, Mr. Lonely and The Saviors. Bledsoe co-writes the humor blog How to Even, with Michael Gushue, located here: https://medium.com/@howtoeven His own blog, Not Another TV Dad, is located here: https://medium.com/@clbledsoe. He’s been published in hundreds of journals, newspapers, and websites that you’ve probably never heard of. Bledsoe lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.

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Late-Stage Brunch

Half the people are afraid the world
is changing. The rest of us are afraid
it won’t. The days fail so spectacularly
someone should be taking pictures.
If you’re looking for a partner to get
serious about procrastination, I’ll get
back to you on my availability. Open
the windows to let the birdsong in.
Plot murder on the neighbor who always
gets hummingbirds. An eruption
of squirrels whenever I toss something
in the dumpster. Happiness on a horizon
that forever moves forward. Eventually,
you’ve got to stop chasing it. Sit and admire
the way it lights up the distant sky.
Have a scone with your tea and don’t
think about whom you’d rather share it with.

Raised on a rice and catfish farm in eastern Arkansas, CL Bledsoe is the author of more than twenty-five books, including the poetry collections Riceland, Trashcans in Love, Grief Bacon, and his newest, The Bottle Episode, as well as his latest novels Goodbye, Mr. Lonely and The Saviors. Bledsoe co-writes the humor blog How to Even, with Michael Gushue, located here: https://medium.com/@howtoeven His own blog, Not Another TV Dad, is located here: https://medium.com/@clbledsoe. He’s been published in hundreds of journals, newspapers, and websites that you’ve probably never heard of. Bledsoe lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.

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Footnotes On Her Disappearance

Your hair under my shirt. Air dented
by a missing presence. Lingering
pheromones in unexpected places.
Was I cooking in here or in love?
When I see you again and you say
you’re doing fine, don’t lie with
your eyes, argue with your boyfriend
when you think I’m out of earshot.
Just be fine. We gave each other so
much, there should be some left
to take with. There’s a book
graspable only in certain lights
that lists the names of all we’ll
never touch again. But the dead
don’t die just to ease our days.
They say when you love someone
they’re with you always. This, too,
can be a curse. They say men look
for their mothers in other women.
So maybe it’s my fault you were
broken and fading, while I held
your hand and tried to think
of something nice to say.

Raised on a rice and catfish farm in eastern Arkansas, CL Bledsoe is the author of more than twenty-five books, including the poetry collections Riceland, Trashcans in Love, Grief Bacon, and his newest, The Bottle Episode, as well as his latest novels Goodbye, Mr. Lonely and The Saviors. Bledsoe co-writes the humor blog How to Even, with Michael Gushue, located here: https://medium.com/@howtoeven His own blog, Not Another TV Dad, is located here: https://medium.com/@clbledsoe. He’s been published in hundreds of journals, newspapers, and websites that you’ve probably never heard of. Bledsoe lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.

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Birds in the Graveyard

Something to understand about life
is that when you describe the birds
you heard chattering as your mother

died, a cousin or a stranger will argue
that they were squirrels or a different
species of bird or maybe they were

cars on their way to church. You can show
them pictures, produce field recordings,
it doesn’t matter. Reading this, you’re

thinking I’m saying that people are
the worst. What I’m saying is that
the birds in this poem meant well,

but none of us realized they were just
trying to find a mate, some food,
and they were probably made up

for poetic effect anyway.

Raised on a rice and catfish farm in eastern Arkansas, CL Bledsoe is the author of more than twenty-five books, including the poetry collections Riceland, Trashcans in Love, Grief Bacon, and his newest, The Bottle Episode, as well as his latest novels Goodbye, Mr. Lonely and The Saviors. Bledsoe co-writes the humor blog How to Even, with Michael Gushue, located here: https://medium.com/@howtoeven His own blog, Not Another TV Dad, is located here: https://medium.com/@clbledsoe. He’s been published in hundreds of journals, newspapers, and websites that you’ve probably never heard of. Bledsoe lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.

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Breakfast Plans

Michael worked from home, today,
which means bacon and eggs and naan.
I’ve spoken to him before about
the truth of wheat toast, but he remains
unconvinced. All of us sing in our
own ways. For some, it’s a dirge.
For others, a call to eat.
Steph invited E and I to breakfast
Saturday with her and Donna. We’ll
be in the middle of packing, which
means yes, of course, at the bougie
French place over where all those
rich people’s kids live. It was Steph’s
birthday recently, which means I’ve
got to bring a gift. I know the perfect
book, but it’s already packed. The real
problem is I’ve done too good a job
of gift-giving in the past. When you do
things, people expect you to keep doing
them. They say life is all about baby
steps, but tell that to the bank. The shattered
egg has to put himself back together. Do
you really think a bunch of horses
and bureaucrats will help? Mostly, they’ll
try to assign blame and then leave
on break. This is the way of bureaucracy.
When E was little, she didn’t even crawl.
She scooted, hand up to grab the world.
I would like to say I’m not worried.

Raised on a rice and catfish farm in eastern Arkansas, CL Bledsoe is the author of more than twenty-five books, including the poetry collections Riceland, Trashcans in Love, Grief Bacon, and his newest, The Bottle Episode, as well as his latest novels Goodbye, Mr. Lonely and The Saviors. Bledsoe co-writes the humor blog How to Even, with Michael Gushue, located here: https://medium.com/@howtoeven His own blog, Not Another TV Dad, is located here: https://medium.com/@clbledsoe. He’s been published in hundreds of journals, newspapers, and websites that you’ve probably never heard of. Bledsoe lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.

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cancer

something blackens inside.
maybe it is stomach acid, after blanching my tongue
in bitter chocolate. i am scared something will shatter
if i smack my lips.

mom clings to the landline phone, ripped from the stand.
the screen pulses orange. somewhere across the world there are hands
who worship this same heartbeat –
there are fingers that must hold a face, but
i can only picture limbs
splayed like arteries, singed, sewn shut.

i cling to my sister and her limbs are crushable.
maybe this is as good as love gets –
it doesn’t eat organ after organ and punch through the flesh
like that other thing.

my sister squirms and tells me to get off.
my dad makes another wire transfer, says it’s the way of the world.
i carry my own body instead, slip upstairs. i know
the goddamn world, i
lie on the floor
and make friends with my nail clippings,
snap them in half like all the words i didn’t write –
callus, branches, hold

i stare at the hospital-white ceiling
and it might be the last thing i see
too.

someone told me you can’t write well about anything
until it’s dead to you.
and i can’t decide
if i’ve written this well enough.

Ziyi Yan is a student at Greenwich High School in Greenwich, Connecticut. In her free time, she loves to sing, dance, and (obviously) write. At any given time, she is probably reading poetry in her room. Her work is published or forthcoming in The Phoenix, elementia, and The Greenwitch. Her work has also been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

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The Train Home

On the train there are people with all kinds of minds. They’re going home to all kinds of rooms designed by different kinds of architects. There are architects who call the future a storm and then there are architects who as children read a book about a wise old king who had eleven clever daughters. One daughter died at a tragically young age but was remembered bittersweetly. They still name things after her, like dawns and trains. One daughter promised never to marry until a man bested her in single combat. One daughter kept exotic chickens and named them after famous actors. One daughter stayed out too late in the wrong kind of moonlight and was transformed into a white-tailed deer. One wore yellow shoes every day of her life. One spoke only in cracks and rustles because she wanted to preserve the native language of endangered trees. One was a calligrapher and spent decades contemplating the delicious commonalities between the words clever and eleven. One was a great mathematician-philosopher and wrote a celebrated treatise on the question of whether things happen twice or whether they only really happen once. One was an explorer and a naturalist who wrote about her adventures then buried the books in the ground so only advanced civilizations could read them, in the future after the storm. One daughter should have been twin daughters but she ate her sister in the womb. The last and youngest daughter was a poet, and in his wisdom the old king counted his blessings and banished her forever.

Meghan Kemp-Gee lives somewhere between Vancouver, BC, and Fredericton, NB. She writes poetry, comics, and scripts of all kinds. Her poetry has appeared in publications including PRISM international, Copper Nickel, Altadena Poetry Review, and Train. She teaches composition and co-created Contested Strip, the world’s best comic about ultimate frisbee. You can find her on Twitter: @MadMollGreen.

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After the Storm

The freeway underpasses
will be a good place
to decide the new
anatomy, what each part

means. The heart was once the seat
of love. Now it will
be the liver, or
love will live in the fingers.

The liver will be the seat
of envy. Envy’s
fingers will filter
through the bile. And our sorrow

will live in our stomachs, growl
after the storm. Late
invasive species
will get seats at the table.

The fauna gets a little
wild. Wolves will live like
lost dogs. They will live
in Los Angeles and hold

their meetings under onramps.
They’ll bury the old
stories our bodies
are now holding in reserve.

Meghan Kemp-Gee lives somewhere between Vancouver, BC, and Fredericton, NB. She writes poetry, comics, and scripts of all kinds. Her poetry has appeared in publications including PRISM international, Copper Nickel, Altadena Poetry Review, and Train. She teaches composition and co-created Contested Strip, the world’s best comic about ultimate frisbee. You can find her on Twitter: @MadMollGreen.

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The Wolf Returns Your Call

It has a question.
It wants to know what
you mean when you say
Seem. For example,
when they say that You
don’t seem like yourself,
it does not know what
Seeming is, so it
can’t tell. You tell it
this is a question
of taxonomy.
This is a question,
this is not a pet.
This is a question,
a wild animal.
Do not touch the bars.
Keep your hands to your
self. Come home wearing
someone else’s clothes.
Don’t be mistaken.
What do they mean by
Do not feed. Do you
understand what that
means. Do you find it
confusing for some
reason, when it licks
your face and asks you
questions. What happened,
it asks. You’re crying.
What does crying mean.

Meghan Kemp-Gee lives somewhere between Vancouver, BC, and Fredericton, NB. She writes poetry, comics, and scripts of all kinds. Her poetry has appeared in publications including PRISM international, Copper Nickel, Altadena Poetry Review, and Train. She teaches composition and co-created Contested Strip, the world’s best comic about ultimate frisbee. You can find her on Twitter: @MadMollGreen.

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The Hotel Room

In the hotel you get drunk and watch movies on HBO, a period piece and back-to-back buddy cops. This hotel room is not a room where anything bad has ever happened to you. For the rest of your life, every room will be a room where nothing has happened yet. Things happen once and don’t happen again. Every room you will ever be in will be a new, brave-peopled world. The remote control on the corner of the bed will do the right thing in the third act. The ice bucket is a bit of a loose cannon. Your wakeup call calls in a ten-ninety-one. The buzzing lamp will beg its sensible live-in girlfriend to take it back, the stain on the ceiling complains that it doesn’t get paid enough for this shit. The hand towels have the wrong taste in music but everybody learns to get along in the end. The empty bottles complain about the bad coffee at the precinct. The front desk calls and apologizes once and for all for any inconvenience. The room opens up and offers you everything. They should call an exterminator. There are animals moving behind the walls.

Meghan Kemp-Gee lives somewhere between Vancouver, BC, and Fredericton, NB. She writes poetry, comics, and scripts of all kinds. Her poetry has appeared in publications including PRISM international, Copper Nickel, Altadena Poetry Review, and Train. She teaches composition and co-created Contested Strip, the world’s best comic about ultimate frisbee. You can find her on Twitter: @MadMollGreen.

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The Wolf Makes an Appointment at the OB-GYN

I just had some quick questions. I was just calling for a routine checkup. My first question is what are you saying. My next question is what do you mean by contraindication. What do you mean by sexual preference. What exactly are you offering me and can I avoid eye contact and can I say no thank you and

Look, is this one of those things where the story’s author finds itself complicit because I was just asking questions I was not following orders I was just writing things down and I didn’t ask for any of this. It’s not my fault if the cattle don’t keep track of their numbers, it’s not up to me whose clothes I’m wearing and if fawns go missing. What I am asking is,

Look, it was just body language. It doesn’t mean anything. I’m just saying I was hungry, it was just a hotel room I paid for. I was only baring my teeth for show.

Meghan Kemp-Gee lives somewhere between Vancouver, BC, and Fredericton, NB. She writes poetry, comics, and scripts of all kinds. Her poetry has appeared in publications including PRISM international, Copper Nickel, Altadena Poetry Review, and Train. She teaches composition and co-created Contested Strip, the world’s best comic about ultimate frisbee. You can find her on Twitter: @MadMollGreen.

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