[concerning fatherhood and self-destructive tendencies…]

Dad warned he’d never wake me
a third time on school mornings,
so when I resisted, could not bring
myself to rise and face those adolescent
days, he bombarded me with shoes
or rolled me out of bed with a lift and flip
of my mattress. Once, he poured
a pitcher of ice water the length of
my sleeping teenaged body. My father
was a lovely man but could not
suffer a boldface indifference to his
authority. So much goes unappreciated,
unheeded, unnoticed: love’s austere
and lonely offices
. But my dad was not
the common martyr. He craved
true tribulation, occasions to rise to,
or to be brutalized by, so he crafted
his own adversities, and overcame
them, and didn’t, and kept going,
made a misadventure of his life,
and of ours. Anything to ward off
the anonymity of the ordinary.
The dull day-to-day was his ruin,
but he wouldn’t let it be mine.

Steve Lambert was born in Louisiana and grew up in Florida. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Pinch, Broad River Review, BULL: Men’s Fiction, Longleaf Review, Emrys Journal, Tipton Poetry Journal, Madcap Review, Sky Island Journal, Into the Void, Spry Literary Journal, The Gambler, Deep South Magazine, The Cortland Review, and many other places. In 2018 his poem, “A Serenade for Larkin,” won Emrys Journal’s Nancy Dew Taylor Poetry Award. He is the recipient of three Pushcart Prize nominations and was a Rash Award in Fiction finalist. He is the author of the poetry collection Heat Seekers (Cherry Grove Collections, 2017). He lives with his wife and daughter in northeast Florida , where he teaches at the University of North Florida.

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self-portrait as domestic fowl

mother told me   that great grandfather got   mauled
coming home   from the apothecary   in the night—
big black hound broke   its rotting teeth on his arm until
ginseng and gingko   spilled,   fused in the air   with fear.
(his wife’s half-moon belly   survived   but he did   not)

i’ll tell you these   truths: passion   is a li(n)e of
A’s splattered   down a page, Tchaikovsky   hidden
between first chairs and   varsity letters collected.
ivy-rimmed throats   spewing   honey words, honey souls.
darling,   don’t you see this is the currency   of the future?

there were fourteen of them   in a space meant for two.
their   matchstick ribs heaved   in the   jiangxi cold. they
shuddered   into each other—could feel an   animal
hunger   wrapping its fist around the room,   squeezing until
seven were left:   darwinian theory   at its finest.

look at the antlers   growing from my parents’ head,   one
above each eyebrow but   they’re made of bark   instead of
bone.   branches to the past. one for   a fatherless baby who
became a grandfather.   many more for   babies that
never   became fathers. mine at the end,   ivory and whole.

i swear   i’ll rule kingdoms greater than this.   i’ll search
for history   under every clover   and in every alleyway
to have more   than the vestigial remains   of something
fleeting   something gone. something   unlike the colossal
concrete   china outside my window   right now.

i chew on individually wrapped almonds   wondering
how chickens   can clamber to lay eggs   for someone who
will never   make them anything   but fat and stupid—
after all   they were dinosaurs   not so long ago.

Nicole Li is a high school junior at Shanghai American School who loves words in all their forms. She currently reads for Polyphony Lit. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, as well as appeared in Polyphony Lit and Germ Magazine. When she’s not writing, she might be debating, daydreaming, or discovering strange new podcasts.

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Irasshai: Welcome; Come In

The first time we meet you bow at my feet.
Five years on, I home-stay.

You buy me the biggest nightie in Japan.
I needn’t wear my own.

You replace my chopsticks with a knife and fork.
Serve, not rice, but thickly sliced foreigner-

friendly bread, spongey and insipid.
You tell me I look like Cupid.

You nod as I talk your language,
I mustn’t improve: I’ll no longer sound cute.

O Mother Tachibana. O Mrs. Standing Flower.
I think I have your number:

I’ll always be the other.
And yet, I am the mother of your grandson.

Alexandra Corrin-Tachibana trained with the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and has enjoyed poetry all her life. She was shortlisted for the 2018 Fish Publishing Poetry Prize, and her work has been published in print and online in Silver Needle Press, Newcastle University’s Bridges anthology, Typishly, Eunoia Review and Snakeskin, and is forthcoming in Streetlight Magazine. Alexandra relished the opportunity to read at Crossings: Newcastle Poetry Festival 2018, and will read at the AWP Conference as a delegate of Silver Needle Press in March 2019.

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You’re a Legend Until You’re Born

There are mass shootings on your behalf, riots in the street, technology dedicated to viewing your heartbeat.

The world is color-coded based on what you’ll be. Shoes are gifted early for the protection of your feet.

Your home is sacred, enclosed and warm. Strangers wish you well and pray you aren’t harmed.

Your name is debated, searched for, and created. Your life matters without compromise, no gray lines can complicate it.

To hell with your sick mother although you’re the disease. No one cares about the burdens you’ll carry in your knees. They simply want your arrival, and once you’re here they’ll quit.

Like they do with all legends, they’ll eventually forget.

Andrea Jefferson is a creator residing in Southern Louisiana. Her chapbook Stray Curls and Dirty Laundry was released digitally in 2018.

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These empty blister packs left around the flat
are prerequisites.            This is the price of love,
or what this is.            And the side effects –
the longer sleep, the occasional bleed… –
are signs things are working.            We are working:
I can’t remember the last time the crisis team
were called.            When the allegations came,
I forgave you like a Christian.

Patrick Wright has a forthcoming poetry collection, Shadows on the Ceiling, published by Eyewear (2019). He also has a pamphlet, Nullaby, by the same publisher (2017).

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Survival Horror

Having got past the loft with its lunging beast,
rummaged through the piano,
my avatar consigned afternoons to Derceto Manor.
A dark mirror of school:
dragged by a zombie to the tune of Chopin’s L’adieu.

With each resurrection I was more skilful
with my fists, shotgun or sabre,
vigilant too in saving prior to exploring new rooms.
Each night I filed myself at the foot of a staircase,
moving through catacombs.

I slept on problems, no web access or walkthroughs,
let my psyche be the house,
my dream be the labyrinth, my self be the haunting.
A polygon and inventory,
lumbered with a biscuit box, oil lamp, statuette,

retreading footsteps, dealing with angry paintings,
Indian arrows, axe-throwers, I died
many times over. I leafed through occult books
for clues on how to kill winged sentinels on the balcony.
The grimoire on a giant worm:

its words were instant death.
Evading library vagabonds, the hardest part,
duelling with the pirate or blasting carnivorous birds.
I was most scared by the laugh of Pregzt.
Who am I? – I’d ask myself.

A gramaphone played Danse macabre to ghosts of dancers.
The key was on the chimneypiece.
Bullies in the cupboard, under the trapdoor, the chest.
I failed to trigger a secret mechanism.
Saved on a disk in the loft: this stasis of adolescence.

Patrick Wright has a forthcoming poetry collection, Shadows on the Ceiling, published by Eyewear (2019). He also has a pamphlet, Nullaby, by the same publisher (2017).

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Roller Disco

Did I grow up in a circus?
Clearly a clown, coin-fed;
acrobats, sequins, a roller rink…
Clearly knife-throwers –
gangs aiming for my father’s head.
He wore a disguise, an identikit.

Bulldozers grazing Odeon chairs,
ephemera of the flicks.
Recces of upstairs rooms –
guanoed sills, a Spider-Man figure,
Mad Max memorabilia,
a hint of perfumes, hairdos…

Unhomely. At the grand opening
I lost myself, far side of the rink
under a glitter ball,
before skaters performed,
while mum mopped the entrance hall.
I’d go off on wheels –

a ghoul drawn to where, last night,
ribs broke on a barrier.
They told me tales –
a body walled up, unearthed in the work.
It wasn’t in the news.
Or of a ghost or two.

Was it a haunted house?
The balcony’s tasseled curtain:
the site of a tragic fall.
The silver of those strips, they’d twitch
on a breezeless upper floor –
the dark behind it. Then distracted:

after stories of cold spots,
chairs stacking up, unseen hands –
father busy with partners –
I moved to ankles, thighs, skirts
by a changing room door.
Was I the ghost? Was I always alone?

Patrick Wright has a forthcoming poetry collection, Shadows on the Ceiling, published by Eyewear (2019). He also has a pamphlet, Nullaby, by the same publisher (2017).

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