Ben Kline

Missing Things

Thank you for breaking into my locker to kick off sophomore year, dumping its contents onto my lap in homeroom, lamenting the lack of revelation like an accusation, as if I would do that to you. Thank you for laughing, I laughed too, the only one who knew as you strutted away, as your buddies brayed, slapping your back, swaying to a chorus of Ha ha homo queer. They didn’t know I learned from my grandfather’s pet crow that missing things are thesauruses of secrets you thought you were keeping until that night, years later, on the sofa in your cousin’s trailer, you had returned from Iraq, had more muscles than words, more red than blue in your eyes squeezed shut as I rubbed your pale scalp, counting lumps, laughing about your once pretty black curls that wooed all the girls. Thank you for laughing too, for unbuttoning your shirt, my tongue through your lips, my fingers climbing your ribs, skipping your lost nipple. I traced the hard pink scar across your abdomen, It’s ok, ending with a knot of dead flesh where your navel used to be when your tears were clear, not this strange, luminescent orange.

Be a Good Boy

Mom says We’re going at 2. I’m in the basement, wearing a white tee and long johns, chopping sycamore, drinking High Life from the summer fridge, two cans, four. They didn’t smash as easily then. Glow of the stove like penance. Or persuasion. Promises are just threats made nicely, aren’t they? I shower before we leave. Only whores sweat in church. I still did it for free. Before textbooks, rent and $4 gasoline. Bush didn’t care about me either. Amend that 36 states. Click, pop, zzzzz, one more can. Why not? It’s the best way to experience time. Now as always, same as that look Mom gives when I sigh. Tomorrow as yesterday when I lift that Hustler at the drugstore for the senior bullies who meet me behind the weight room, learning they might like doing more than viewing. 6th can’s a blink. I feel for Father McKenzie. For all he has to know about me, yet smile every Sunday at his magic show. The chalice never sparkles. The wafers still taste like paper. You have to believe. But what are the ingredients? How much cornstarch and yeast do you need to float on a holy breeze? I want to see. It’s been one month since I realized death is blindness and echo. I want to see before I can’t in that time, I’ve committed several, very mortal sins.

Ben Kline lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, writing poems and telling stories, drinking more coffee than might seem wise. His work is forthcoming or has recently appeared in DIAGRAM, 8 Poems, Pidgeonholes, Graviton, Horny Poetry Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Risk Magazine, petrichor, Riggwelter, Grist Online, Trailer Park Quarterly, Rappahannock Review, Toe Good and many more. You can read more at http://www.benkline.online

Jarrett Moseley

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Jarrett Moseley graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in May 2019, where he studied English and Creative Writing. He has been published in Sanskrit Literary-Arts Magazine and presented poetic research at his university’s Undergraduate Research Conference in 2018. He is relocating to Berkeley, CA for the time being, in order to work on his writing and apply for MFA programs starting in the Fall of 2020.

Ashely Adams

An Interview with Rachel Carson

  1. Was it the morning trill of song sparrows or spring peepers that you missed when you sat down to work?
  2. Did you hear the soft, wet crunch of an osprey crushing her own eggs between the clack of your typewriter keys?
  3. What does it feel like to do good?
  4. What do you do when good is redefined? When good isn’t giving friendly advice on how to catch pumpkinseed fish?
  5. Does the truth eat lungs? Drip decay-scented chemicals from its nozzle fangs?
  6. How does it feel to have a country that you painted into something precious turn against you?
  7. There’s some irony in the USDA using ants to discredit you, but I can’t quite figure out how to word it, can you?
  8. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the worst thing we had to face was the nipping of ants?
  9. Would you be surprised to find that we’re still eager to fund weapons over how caring for the broken soil and rivers metal-kissed with rot?
  10. I assume you know I ask that for narrative purposes, not because I really believe you’d be surprised?
  11. Did I tell you I saw those stuffed little robins? And that the tour guide who showed them to me said they inspired you?
  12. Inspiration doesn’t seem the right word for a glass box full of birds that have been dead longer than I’ve been alive; what do you think?
  13. How do you survive the enormity of death and the way it claws through family?
  14. How do you cope with those who profit in extinction’s passage?
  15. Was it her arm hooked in yours?
  16. And the sea pooled around both of your ankles, gently pulling you away from the shore?
  17. Did you both love nature like I do?
  18. Because there’s no way a human can love or shape their body that can shock a world full of octopus and komodo dragons and nematodes just above the molten core of the Earth?
  19. Do you mind that I’m reading my personal thoughts on to you a bit?
  20. Or on nature?
  21. Sorry, I know you weren’t a fan of sentimentality and anthropomorphizing of nature, but I kind of need this one, you know?
  22. Why did she burn your letters?
  23. Could she have least done something else to destroy them? Don’t you know I’m tired of smoke and the pretty sunsets they make?
  24. Couldn’t she have thrown them into the ocean you both so loved?
  25. Tossed them into the sea breeze, unable to separate them from the gray and white tangle of gull wings?
  26. Would she leave or watch them until they fell back down into the waves and melt away like glaciers?
  27. Why is it you’ve been dead for decades and still men try to push the blood of the insect sickened under your fingernail?
  28. And say your ghost speaks in a malaria hum?
  29. Isn’t that just the way it is; a woman says no to the taking and their name grows sour in the mouth?
  30. Do you think that sourness also tastes like pesticide?
  31. Maybe we should go back to the ocean?
  32. Do you think we love the ocean because it is so old we can’t hold all the years it’s lapped the shoreline in our mind? Or the way it will outlive us and anything we’ve built?
  33. Maybe just like ants?
  34. Or do we come back to the ocean for some other reason?
  35. Is it the fish’s cry buried somewhere in our hips?
  36. Why can we find such beauty in the way water swallows the land we stand on?
  37. Or the way life can bend and thrive even with all the world’s water and darkness pressing it down into the mire?
  38. Can you tell me how we tell others that the moist and mud-covered are things to be loved?

    Ashely Adams is a queer, swamp-adjacent writer whose work has appeared in Paper Darts, Fourth River, Permafrost, Apex Magazine, and other places. She is the nonfiction editor of the literary journal Lammergeier.

Elspeth Wilson

The Happy Haunting

The body knew I was pregnant before the mind did. When I found out, it made sense in the way hearing a name you half-remember but already know makes sense. Something murmured slotted into place. When I went to confirm what I already knew to be true – because it seemed like the right thing to do – the nurse told me I must be very ‘hormone-sensitive.’ Sensitivity has always been my weakness and my strength. When I was little, I was late home each time it rained because I had to pick up every snail that might perish under a misplaced foot. Part of this sensitivity was crushed out of me over time but it was always there, inherent in my body, inescapable. A destiny written in tears. Here, sensitivity made me sick from the very start but it gave me knowledge and a way of knowing my body that was never articulable in all the sessions about ‘what to do.’ I had known the reason for my sickness from when I was just two weeks ‘gone’ (gone from where? To where?) and this power to discern felt dizzying. I was vindicated, right all along; sensitivity had allowed my mind to go through the body like a comb, emerging victorious with the knowledge that there was something wrong and yet so right.

The duality of the body to transcend and escape through technology, through medicine, through poem and to ground, in itself, in its seed, in its ability to create. The abjection that Julia Kristeva describes the realization that something parasitical with great potential beauty can grow inside you without thought, intention, realisation or agency. These things thrilled, liberated, and constrained me. To know the body will perish but it will not perish now. That it can create another perishable first and so the cycle continues. The ability to get pregnant – a pregnancy without continuity – even this made me glow at my own hidden, obvious, glorious capabilities. I was pregnant not just with a clump of cells but with hope and vitality. We all exist relationally but never is this truer than when there is a parasite, a baby, a fetus, whatever name suits your disposition, growing inside of yourself. To know that you are always dividing but that this time you divide to become more than the sum of your parts is like surveying a construction site through a timelapse camera. Nothing then everything. Pregnancy is banal, literally every day, present but not discussed and yet it is abject, threatening, and transformative.

This duality of fear, of excitement, of thrill, of self-loathing, of indecision was enabled through knowing I had possibilities. Freedom begets freedom. My mind was able to hold my body’s hand, allow it to explode and explore, cocooned in the fact that I had a choice with a capital ‘C’. Not all choices are various. Not all choices are thought through – some happen in the body. So it was with me. The mind reasoned, anguished with indecision, and then the body spoke. Quick, confident, decisive. Sure. Yes, to me this felt like a baby and yes, I was in love – with myself, my partner and with potential futures. But knowing this was not – could not, should not – be a possibility right now.

An abortion born of love. A pregnancy much enjoyed and much wanted whilst it was there. Despite the sickness and the pain, clarity, a greater definition of future and life. It might be considered gauche, vulgar or harmful to the ‘cause’ to revel in the happiness brought by a pregnancy that ended in self-directed termination. But what is choice if not different shades, perhaps not all appealing to everyone, but without which there would be gaps in the spectrum. Talking about abortion is often seen as navel-gazing, done to death, that age-old gendered charge of ‘self-obsession’. Yes, we have heard a lot about abortion but maybe – clearly – not enough, if restriction after restriction after restriction happens in plain sight. Talking about abortion not purely as something ‘difficult,’ something that has to be hard and can contain no softness, no areas of light, reduces space and puts our narrative on one narrow path.

Freedom to choose means freedom to speak. It means not thinking abortion stories are ‘boring’ because boring means settled, a done deal, static. As a writer, seeing calls for personal essays accompanied by guidelines that request these ‘come from the heart’ but state that abortion is not a suitable topic because it has been written about ‘too much’ imply that these shared stories have reached their purpose and their end. Quite aside from the impossibility of a homogenous ending, positioning writing about abortion as signaling a lack of inventiveness suggests that there is no new ground within a multitude of experience. It is conservative in the implication of a settled landscape and unimaginative itself. Abortion is as various as the people who have them. Danger lies not only in denial but in dismissal.

Judith Butler teaches us that we should be careful of what we reify in an attempt to liberate. We should also be wary of what we ossify through our boredom, our ignoring of history, our lazy thought that this fight is over and we don’t have to listen anymore. To people who are too much, too emotional, too focused on themselves. Too marginalized to have their voices heard to begin with. Many who know their history too well to rest easy never stopped fighting. But to the rest of us; be careful what can seep into your bones and calcify whilst you sleep.


Elspeth Wilson
 is a researcher and writer interested in all things gender and sexuality-related. She is a big believer in blurring boundaries between ‘art’ and ‘academia’ and always looks for innovative ways to approach research. She is very new to creative writing but feels like it has been missing from her life for some time. You can find her on Twitter at @ellijwilson or see her work on pleasure post-trauma on Instagram at @projectpleasurable.

Lucas Wildner

Ode

to the poop in my lover’s rectum
When men beg, I do not believe them.
But I oblige any man who wants me
Forgive last night’s intrusion.
He invited me in.
Which is to say I stayed silent
about my index finger’s report,
obeyed his instructions like any guest would.
While it is true that I am learning
never to shame the body for its terms,
at the time I was only thinking
about how his prostrated body posed
a question I wanted to answer.
Dark star, would I were steadfast as thou art.
Soon heat and friction melted me into rubber,
leaving you, ore, as I had found you,
patient on your journey,
wrapped in folds of his muscle.
You, who knew all along
what the body holds it cannot keep.

Lucas Wildner is a poet, essayist, and teacher in southern King County. His current project examines the relationships between internalized homophobia and white privilege. Recent and forthcoming work lives at Night Music Journal, Honey and Lime, Nice Cage, birds piled loosely, and elsewhere. On Twitter @wucas_lildner

Donte Collins

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Donte Collins is a Black, Queer American poet. Named the inaugural Youth Poet Laureate of Saint Paul, Minnesota, they are the recipient of the 2018 McKnight Artist Fellowship for Spoken Word administered by the Loft Literary Center and winner of the 2016 Most Promising Young Poet Award from the Academy of American Poets. They are the author of the poetry collection “Autopsy” (Button Poetry, 2017) a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award. Collins is the recipient of the 2016 Mitchell Prize in Poetry from Augsburg University and are an alum of TruArtSpeaks, a non-profit arts organization based in the Twin Cities cultivating literacy, leadership and social justice through the study & application of Spoken Word and Hip Hop culture.

K.B. Carle

One Last Pirouette

I’m in line at the dry cleaners waiting to see if Ximena can wash the bloodstains from Mya’s pink tutu. My phone vibrates in the palm of my hand and I think about answering, but permit my pre-recorded voice to do all the talking. The detective – whose name I can’t remember but always sounds like he’s in the middle of a hiccup – never has the answers I need. If he’s not the one leaving me a message, it’s probably the woman who never stops sweating, trying to organize another Black Lives Matter protest, with my baby’s name plastered on posters and sung in chants she’ll never hear. Either way, both of them just want me to list all the facts I can remember from that day, leaving my throat dry.

My eyes catch the x’s marking the lost days on Ximena’s calendar hanging below the old television leaning on the edge of its stand. X’s marking every day my baby’s not here. I let my eyes follow this trail until I see the circle my baby drew months ago in purple crayon, the center of a flower with green petals, after Ximena promised to come to her recital.

I look away when I hear Ximena’s footsteps from the back. She appears between dangling plastic-wrapped clothes, and all I can think about are corpses. How all these clothes are here, hanging and unclaimed because their owners don’t need them. Plastic hiding them away like the body bag zipped along my baby’s center. Numbered outlines of who their owners are, same as the news reports marking where bullet shells fell around my baby’s body.

Lester Holt appears on the television, going over everything happening in the world. I see how many teeth I can count before his lips close to sound out the next word. I don’t want Ximena thinking I’ve just been standing here ignoring my phone, that I don’t have anything better to do now that I don’t know what to call myself.

Then, I hear it.

Mya Louise Collings, daughter of a single mother, shot, and my baby’s face is all over the television screen. I don’t know what comes out of my mouth, maybe a yelp or a cry. Ximena is leaning over the counter speaking Spanish to me, which keeps my ears clinging to every word. It’s nice, listening to something I don’t recognize coming from the mouth of the only person I can talk to.

A new reporter, one I don’t recognize, is going through the motions, leaving out that my Mya was in the middle of a pirouette before a bullet pierced her skull. I know because, when I found her, her arms were still raised around her head, fingertips still meeting in the middle.

On the television, the faces of neighbors who’ve never said two words to me start sharing their sorrows over the death of my daughter. That poor child, so young. That little girl was always smiling. You hate to think it could happen. All of them never noticing Slim in the shot, shaking his head and spitting whatever his teeth dig from underneath his fingernails on the dirt behind them.

Stoophead Slim, Mya’s nickname for him after she heard me calling him stupid and throwing my good house slipper at his head, is on his regular perch two stoops down from mine, talking out the side of his mouth. He doesn’t give much up to the reporter, only says he heard the shots. I try to tell Ximena the whole story, but before I can she’s holding my hand and nodding. Like she knows Slim was the one who broke the door down, saw me cradling my child’s body, and had enough sense to grab my phone from my purse and call the cops. That Slim stepped in when no one else did while the little body in my arms became cold and firm.

Mya had been practicing her pirouettes. Sent me out of the room so I wouldn’t see. No spoilers Mommy, was the last thing she said.

Stoophead Slim is replaced by news of rising gas prices. Ximena understands the words I don’t need to say. I can tell by the way her tongue clicks after flicking the roof of her mouth, and she says something else in Spanish. I know from her tone and the way her free hand is moving she’s cussing that reporter out.

She never lets me go, even while she’s looking for the remote, she’s still holding my hand.

“How long—” I still can’t say before my baby’s blood stain is gone.

“There was a lot. Too much.” Ximena keeps her eyes on the television. “Maybe you—”

I tighten my grip on her hand to get her to stop. To keep myself standing. Mya was in the middle of a pirouette. Practicing to be perfect.

Ximena’s thumb is swiping away all my tears and, though I try to lower my head, she keeps it raised and facing her.

“I will fix.” She lets go of my hand and disappears into the back.

My eyes shift from the television back to the calendar and I try to remember all the dates that mattered in the rhythms Ximena used to swipe those x’s on days that are gone. I remember meeting the man I loved for a day, peeing on a pregnancy test in the subway, telling my mother I was pregnant, holding her when she cried. Giving birth to Mya. Mya learning to crawl, run, walk. Her first ballet class. My mother dying. Explaining what death means to my child. Mya’s sixth birthday.

And today, a purple circle with green petals, my baby’s last drawing.

“Ximena?” No matter how many times I cry for her, my voice keeps stretching past the hanging clothes, my mind filling with all the little girls getting ready to spin on stage while I’m here, clinging to what’s left.

Sausage People

Sunshine through the blinds mimics hall lights peeking through Girl’s cracked bedroom door. The scent of cigarettes. The pop of Big Red chewing gum. Footsteps that make her floorboards cry.

A soft caress from the hand of her father’s best friend while he lowers himself in the crook of her bent knees hidden under her covers.

His fingernails scratch her like sweet ant legs, tipping past the elastic of her pajama pants. Don’t it feel good girl?

She swallows all the tears, chokes on every noise, making her body tremble under her covers. He takes Girl on long walks when her Daddy is sober, through the woods and spits Big Red in spots he later tells her he’d bury her body. Wads like the one he leaves behind when he kisses her stomach.

Sunshine through the blinds gets Girl’s nose itching with the rememberings of burning bacon and the lemon her Mama squirts in Girl’s eyes, her Mama claiming she’s trying to add a little kick to her tea. At least, Girl likes to believe every time her Mama stings her eyes is an accident but knows memories can shift and turn into pleasant bits to hide away.

One thing Girl knows for sure: her Mama left three years ago, when Girl was six, between putting the bacon on the stove and kissing Girl’s forehead good morning.

In Girl’s rememberings, her Mama brushes curls slick with sleep sweat from Girl’s forehead. Lips press hard on Girl’s skin trying to reach bone. The crack of her Mama’s voice like trees breaking from the root when she promises Girl will understand someday.

How her Mama disappears in the smoke just before it sets off the alarm.

Girl’s Daddy is balled fist, spit flying fury as he chases after her Mama. Girl waves to her from the doorway, her Daddy clinging to the handle of the red pickup truck with rusted popped pimples saying You ain’t shit without me.

Murmuring You promised things would be different.

All while Girl keeps on waving, waiting for her Mama to wave back.

Sunshine through the blinds pricks Girl’s skin like stepping on her Daddy’s clipped toenails embedded in the hall carpet. Girl is nine and looks like her Mama. That’s what her Daddy shouts when she runs from flying beer cans.

What her Mama might say if she came back.

Since her Mama left, Girl is her Daddy’s Mama, cleaning up his mess just so he can make more mess. Puts jam on both sides of his toasts, learns to scramble eggs, but never how to crisp bacon.

They are sausage people now.

Sunshine through the blinds tastes like something Girl never wants. Something hot, making her taste buds rise in rebellion. Something familiar, that she can’t shake, like these days living with her Daddy in a routine she’s tired of repeating but doesn’t know how to stop.

Mornings are for cooking and trying to remember her Mama’s fading face while Girl stares at her reflection in the window. For pretending not to hear her Daddy cry for the woman he loves and the bitch that left.

Afternoons are for cleaning up the aftermath of her Daddy’s sorrows and tantrums.

Evenings are for chats about nothing. For beers, cigarettes, Big Red gum, and the smell of cinnamon before bed.

Nights are for her Daddy’s best friend and cricket songs. For lowered blinds, rememberings of her Mama’s kisses and aching arms waving goodbye.

For broken bodies waiting for that sunshine through the blinds.


K.B. Carle
 lives outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and earned her MFA from Spalding University’s Low-Residency program in Kentucky. Her stories have appeared in CHEAP POP, genre2, Jellyfish Review, Milk Candy Review, and elsewhere. She can be found online at http://kbcarle.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter @kbcarle.

Allison Albino

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Allison Albino is a poet and French teacher in New York City. She studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and has an MA in French Literature from NYU.  Her poems have appeared in Poetry Northwest, Punchdrunk Press, The Lantern Review, Pigeon Pages and the Apeiron Review. She’s received fellowships from the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, The Fine Arts Work Center, and Tin House. Allison was also elected for the AWP Writer to Writer program and has twice been a contributor at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.