Summer

brother and i by the fire
in a town hanging over the sea.
he talked and i looked off, thinking.
turned back to answer, he wasn’t there.
instead, a dead crow in his chair.

i didn’t know magic and figured
the transformation had cost him his life.
i wept for the death of my crow brother.
grandma buried him in the garden by the hydrangeas.
i was no help.

the whole family gathered to see him go,
right as he came running up from the beach.
he’d gone to the ocean for a dip and a piss.
now he was back asking: what’d i miss?

Feston Altus is a poet based in Portland, Oregon.

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House

traveled up to the mountains on the shadow of a whim.
took my bike, brought a blanket.
short hair and a beard is my preference
in the family’s old log cabin – winter new zealand.

spent the mornings chopping alone
in a maroon sweater. rays can’t fit through the clouds
and one is forced to confront oneself
in the gloom, the white dark of those months.

my jacket, crumpled on that green chair.
the light came dull through the window,
but enough to notice from the toilet:
it sitting there all nice, tiredly woven
into itself. the chair didn’t mind.

a grand feeling of wanting
to be by the fire, with a girl whom i’d love.
but it was good alone, a fullness to it;
nothing missing without my family.

Feston Altus is a poet based in Portland, Oregon.

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Toolbox

“You’ll need a hammer and a Stanley knife,
these screws, five-eighths nails, this vice,
some Allen keys, a wrench, a tube of wood glue.”

Young and bored, obsessed with girls, the muse
and drowning in verse, I looked on
dumbly as Dad’s hands dropped each item

in a wooden box, their echo like earth
shoveled in a pit. Decades later, my hands
grasp that hammer to drive a nail, clumsy

but true, through two planks. Time has changed
the box but not the tools: Dad’s words
thud in my mind as my son watches me

rebuild our front steps for him to sit on.
My father’s rough-hewn wisdom
feels like fair game now, preparation

for the tricky jobs I’ve had to face
since we put him in the ground. Gone, gone
but not just not forgotten – he lives on

in each nail struck, spirit level with my son
as his tiny feet trip slowly up the steps:
These tools will be his when my work is done.

The author of six books of poems, James W. Wood’s work has appeared in magazines and newspapers in the UK, the US, Canada, South Africa and Australia. His 2011 thriller Stealing Fire was selected for the Rome Film Festival. He writes about books and music for newspapers from a rock in the Pacific, where he lives with wife, son and dog. Set sail to find him: @James_W_Wood.

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Hell, Re-Harrowed

It was pissing with rain in that pock-marked town,
so I took a trip down to see the damned
bankers fallen into bomb craters terrorists blasted,
disingenuous carpet salesmen sucking meat sweet
from souls in offices cavernous. Money-ravenous, kernel-brained
yes-men knot yards of yellow silk at their necks,
fat people fear failure, feeble dreams full of sex.
Economists preach to idiots “debt doesn’t matter” –
stipendium peccati mors est served on a gilt-edged platter.
Doctors dole out medicines that deny nature,
death to antidepressants: do better with acupuncture.
Then Lady Money-come-lately cracked off a line
May they find salvation; may their souls be saved
but I just shrugged, said I doubt it, thumbed my phone
till my eyes dried, my battery died. Defrocked
Simonists, all smiles, sell the public quantitative pleasing,
financial unfreezing, fiscal Immodium, a word come
from the Fed could unfuck everyone. A fair ful feelde of folk,
the meene and the ricche,
but who knows the difference?
Grit your teeth and get on, obesity obstructs,
we are indebted to fat and sugar, employed by
sugar and fat, moral, immoral, know-it-all. More than that –
absolutely empty. Populus in tenebrem, dentem pro dente
and the rest of that shit; rex gloriam, dominem virtutem
who fled for the hills, vacated his vocation, faked it
on that cross, no big loss, there’s a cast of craps
who would have done it. For I would mercy all mankind
but nobody would notice; I’d negotiate eternal life
though surely the damned would deny the price.

The author of six books of poems, James W. Wood’s work has appeared in magazines and newspapers in the UK, the US, Canada, South Africa and Australia. His 2011 thriller Stealing Fire was selected for the Rome Film Festival. He writes about books and music for newspapers from a rock in the Pacific, where he lives with wife, son and dog. Set sail to find him: @James_W_Wood.

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LIFE OF PINKY: Pinky Goes To Nursery School

“Mummy, I don’t want to go to school,” the toddler whines.

Inwardly, I sigh. It’s become a daily chore to send the toddler to nursery school.

“Okay, dear, I’ll drive slowly,” I tell the boy in the back seat. Distraction is a harried parent’s penultimate resort.

“Why don’t you like going to school, Russell?” I ask, keeping my voice neutral. “You have friends to play with there.”

The toddler doesn’t reply straightaway. Pinky perches on his shoulder, nuzzling him from time to time.

“Mummy, I don’t want to go to school,” he repeats eventually.

“I know you aren’t keen about going to school,” I say. “We are taking our time to get there.”

“Let’s play ‘I Spy’, Russell,” Pinky offers.

“Okay!” the toddler perks up. “You start first.”

Pinky studies the passing traffic. “I spy with my little eye, something beginning with ‘b’.”

The toddler giggles. “Bus!” We overtake the articulated bus to our left, his favourite vehicle.

“That’s quick, Russell!” Pinky quips. “Now, your turn!”

“I spy with my little eye, something beginning with…’c’,” Russell continues.

“Haha! That’s easy,” Pinky laughs. “Car, of course! We are in one.”

The toddler laughs too. “Mummy’s turn!”

I smile into the rear-view mirror. I have just arrived at the preschool. “All right: I spy with my little eye, something beginning with ‘s’.”

Pinky hops up and down, causing the toddler to squirm – he’s very ticklish. “School, school!” she cries.

Still giggling, the toddler waits as I reach back to help him with his buckle.

“You have a good day together with Pinky,” I tell him, ruffling his hair. Silently, I am giving thanks for having managed another fuss-free drop-off.

Jocelyn Lau is a Singapore-based editor and writer. Her ongoing series of flash fiction, LIFE OF PINKY, is based on an imaginary pink horse that her family owns. She’s the author of two collections of parenting verse, Hey There, Tot! and Excursion to HortPark. Visit http://www.kucintabooks.com.

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Exposure

The influence of one life on another can be detected
in the taste algorithms of both parties. Users also viewed
/ bought / fucked.

Over a thousand people “like” you on OkCupid but no one speaks
a word to you in public. At the local bar, familiar avatars appear
prettier or uglier than your expectations.

Driving home, blank sky fills the windshield.
A billboard brings relief: something
colorful. Something illuminated.

Something not from your own brain.

Emily F. Butler is a high school librarian by day, stand-up comedian by night. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Halfway Down the Stairs, Moonglasses Magazine, and Bone Parade. She writes book reviews for School Library Journal as well as a monthly column for the educational organization, Hilltown Families. You can follow her on Twitter (@EBetcetera) for poems, songs, and jokes.

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[like clay]

Jane Fleming is a native Virginian residing in Austin, Texas, by way of the desert of El Paso. She is currently pursuing her PhD in American Literature at the University of Texas at Austin. Her poetry has been previously featured in KNACK Magazine.

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