Pure Star

A trumpet played out
of the hole in my chest.
Long pining notes
sailing up into the air.
I tried to grab one
in my hand but they
split in two whenever
I got too close. Nothing
to worry about, nothing
I could do anything about,
so I put my hands under
my head, listened, wished
I had learned an instrument
but I never had the time,
the patient, or the talent.

Anthony R Cordello lives and works in Boston. He has work published in decomP magazinE, Jellyfish Review, Jersey Devil Press, Gravel, and The Airgonaut.

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Death or Serious Injury

Friday and I was driving all the way home to
sit in the one chair that did not double as a toilet
and watch my father lurch through a dream.
I stopped for gas and flipped open my wallet
to find something very off with my license:
My fugue-state face was gone from the photo,
replaced with a scan of a large battered brain.
I held it to the cabin light. I flipped it over –
there was a website trailing off in gov but
my phone froze before the page could load.
I did not know what else to do besides start
pumping gas, standing under a sign where
cell phones, cigarettes, and my fugue-state face
were circled and crossed out in blood.

Anthony R Cordello lives and works in Boston. He has work published in decomP magazinE, Jellyfish Review, Jersey Devil Press, Gravel, and The Airgonaut.

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She said it was not a cavity but
a ghost interred in the molar.
She asked if I had been around
any fresh graves recently so
I painted a picture of how I
came to collapse at a cemetery
last Sunday night, Monday morning.
I had the police report if needed,
I was in the same pair of jeans.
They were comfortable jeans.

She explained the extraction as
a very simple procedure that
could only be performed at night
outside the border of the city and
inside a ring of string and candles,
involving the usual instruments
soaked in the urine of a dog fed
the first fruits of harvest.

A week preceding I had to carry a
white staff in my left hand.
On the night before I had to sleep
with a pillow between my legs
in a bed shaped like a boar.
The day of I could only eat salt,
only drink gin filtered through wax.

I had to take a maintenance pill on
the day after, then again in forty days,
then in six months, then nine months,
then a year and every year afterwards.
But at least it was not a cavity.

Anthony R Cordello lives and works in Boston. He has work published in decomP magazinE, Jellyfish Review, Jersey Devil Press, Gravel, and The Airgonaut.

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Domestic Bricks

His bedroom was full of books
bound in gold, studded with gems.
The ivory covers depicted scenes
I had only heard of before.

A wedding, a car crash, a shattered window,
a house with a hula hoop around the chimney.
I went through as many as I could take.

They were stacked to the ceiling in towers,
arranged in grids and rows that shrunk
any actual living space to a t he had filled
with a nest of blankets, a shower caddy,
and a dusty green banker’s lamp.

No closet, no windows, of course.
None of it surprised me until I tried
to leave and could not find the door.

Anthony R Cordello lives and works in Boston. He has work published in decomP magazinE, Jellyfish Review, Jersey Devil Press, Gravel, and The Airgonaut.

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When We Talk About the Weather

Your heart starts flat like sheetrock and then the rain comes and chips it up and pocks it up with little divots but the rain also washes away the silt that would kill you if it never got tended to and the older you get the more the running water forms paths and canyons through the rock and the more it rains the more it erodes and the more it erodes the more it can contain, the more room is made, to be filled with so much more than rainwater.

Robert John Miller’s work has appeared in New Flash Fiction Review, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, and Peregrine. You can find more stories at https://robertjohnmiller.com. He lives in Chicago and is working on a novel.

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The truth is, I don’t remember the first time I drove past and saw piles of dirt where my gymnastics academy once stood. It seems like an important thing to miss—that moment of visual confirmation. The solid truth that the place where I grew up was gone. I expected to see the ruins of the training center where I grew up and feel it like a sucker punch to the chest. I expected to cry in a long, single-shot frame. Something Oscar-worthy. Something to replace the flowers I couldn’t lay on a grave. What actually happens when you say goodbye to anything is a slow dying off. It pulls like gravity and leaves a phantom loss.

First, your gymnastics coach mentions his plan to build a bigger gym. You are nine years old and think he should add a loft area to play in. He laughs. You imagine it will be like the Olympic training facility you see on TV. You imagine yourself as a champion.

Then you are 12 and your coach doesn’t want to teach you a difficult skill. You are too tall for him to catch easily. He says you’ll have to wait until summer camp where there is better equipment. You remember the promise of a new gym and feel slightly cheated.

Then you are 15. You are big and strong and gymnastics is your life. You work as a coach for the younger girls, then have your own practice at 9pm. It is a school night. Your coach apologizes, the gym is too full at any other hour. He shows you blueprints. They are coated in plastic and feel alien to your chalky hands.

Then you are 17. The gym has been sold but you will keep it for another year while the new one is under construction. You will be using the brand-spanking-new facility in July. Wait, August. October. January. March. May. The new building isn’t here. But time is up, the old one is coming down. You leave your own high school graduation party to sign the walls and say goodbye.

You think this will be over cleanly. You feel that you deserve for it to be. It is June and the summer tastes like lemonade and car exhaust. It is a thick sort of heat and you are packing for a new school and a new life when your coach calls and asks for help.

The day after your graduation ceremony you drive on autopilot to the place where you grew up. Your cap and gown lie crumpled in the back seat. The gym is moving to two temporary locations. You still work there. You are still a gymnast. And you spend the next four days tearing down your life with your own hands. Load beams and bars into the truck. Rip up the floor. Pry out the boards. Gut the body. Throw out a bucket of sweat-stained grips and wonder which were yours. There is so much dust in the air you can hardly breathe, but for the first time you can clearly see the entire building—stripped bare. It is bigger than you thought. Smaller, too. You thought you’d find more than cement at the bottom of the foam pit.

Smeared with grease and sweat, you stand next to the coaches who raised you, and for a moment you simply stare.

It was a white building, you practice saying. It had red accents and a banner with the silhouette of a gymnast.

The place that looked like a barn? Someone will inevitably ask.

You will laugh a little. It did look like a barn.

I broke my foot in there, you practice saying. There are two handprints in the turf under the trampoline. I wrote my name in the ceiling from the top of the climbing rope. There are grooves in the floor from the beam that squeaked. I dented that wall crashing off the uneven bars. It didn’t hurt, not then.

You are still staring at the building. When you breathe you inhale chalk and dreams. You can almost taste it, but the smell has grown faint. You load up the last truck and drive away.

That summer, you quit going to practices. You are 18 now and the dream is over. You still work as a coach at the temporary gym—a temporary place for a temporary life. You are late the first day because you go to the old building by accident. It still stands but it is hollow. You can see that now.

In July, you start making detours. Someone honks at you for going 30 mph in a 45. There is a bulldozer in the parking lot. You keep driving.

You roll down the window as if it were obstructing your view. There—you can see it now! The building lies in ruins. Tomorrow it will be dirt. Next week they will dig a new basement. Next year you will do a double take.

You are driving faster now. It is a day that ends in Y. It is any day at all.

Jessica Powers currently studies English and Anthropology at Tulane University. She lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with her family and cats. She was a gymnast for 15 years.

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I don’t dream (of American royalty)

King or Queen,
I don’t dream of American
royalty. I see a man and a woman
climbing the front steps of a slum
in blistering Chicago
and sheltering from the swelter
of a rock and a bomb

Cicero and Birmingham.

Queen and King,
I recall an enlightened
declaration that wasn’t worth
much if you count paper as
weight or gold over ash in
the mouth of Moses

I just hear
I Am A Man
in Memphis
and the memory of four
young girls in the twisting
bell of Coltrane’s sermon
to King’s after the girls were
laid to rest

And then Mrs. King,
say the given names:
Coretta Scott
having to raise her own klan
when the King was slain.

Jeremy Nathan Marks is a London, Ontario-based American. Recent poetry appears/is appearing in Poets Reading The News, Unlikely Stories, The Wire’s Dream, Writers Resist, Cajun Mutt Press, Bravearts Magazine, Poetry Pacific, NRM Magazine, Alien Pub, and Runcible Spoon. His short story, “Detroit 2099,” will appear in the Stories of the Nature of Cities 2099 anthology in 2019.

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