Categories
Poetry

Three Poems by John Grey

Lake Ghosts

I love that morning lake fog.

It’s the nearest I ever come

to seeing ghosts.

There is my mother and father,

my three sisters,

misting up in the tranquil transition

of night into day.

We had our disagreements

when they were alive.

But now they’re no longer here,

they walk on water.

A Teenager’s Wheels

I watch my father command the wheel

as he guides the car in and out

of highway traffic

at sixty miles an hour,

eyes and hands and feet

as coordinated as a fencer’s.

Or he’s in the passenger seat,

giving lessons with nothing more

than expression,

as I nervously nudge the vehicle forward

across the expanse

of a college parking lot.

We’re so often in the car together.

Like fishing is for some,

it’s our bondage.

For all the attention paid

to the way ahead,

there’s always a sideways glance involved

and the sense that, like love,

driving is unsuited to solitude.

Yet I can’t wait

to venture out on my own,

license tucked inside my wallet,

every street at my disposal,

one eye on the road,

one eye on the passenger seat

that will look so lost and forlorn

until it’s filled by someone.

Cedar Waxwings

January,

a high, thin cry of zee

draws me to the window.

Cedar waxwings

flash gray velvet feathers

from a nearby bush.

They peck through snow

at barely visible berries,

load up on winter’s chaff

to see them through the lean.

There’s something in a bill,

so small it barely warrants

the lift of a head while swallowing.

But the flock is relentless,

under orders from survival,

pecking furiously

even at nothingness.

My gaze is crystallized

in a window pane,

their essence likewise.

They’re too busy to notice me.

Even if they did,

I doubt that I’d astound their living.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Orbis, Dalhousie Review and Connecticut River Review. Latest books, Leaves On Pages and Memory Outside The Head are available through Amazon.

Categories
Fiction Uncategorized

The Candle Maker

The Candle Maker

By Theodore Clemens

The roof was giving way. Already, it had begun to collapse in on itself. The lintel above the doors was rotting, the shutters hanging by a wizened nail, swinging with the wind. The timbered support beams too drunk to stand; the stone foundations overrun with lichen, cracked. Clearly, the cabin had sunk into desuetude in the days since the candlemaker left. 

Inside, wax drippings covered everything like bird feces. Counters, benches, stovetop, walls—ubiquitous. Insects snared within, fossilizing, preserved. Obsequious armies of ants never to reach their queen. Grumpy spiders dead, unfed. A bottle solitarily stood: the centerpiece of a wax-laden table. It was empty, but the reek of cheap alcohol lingered. Whatever else had been left behind was gone, the space stripped bare. 

The woman slid her finger through the wax and sniffed. Paraffin, she thought sadly. Refined petroleum. Or coal, or shale oil. Clean energy, yes, but what about clean candles? Beeswax, or better yet, soybeans for the apiphobic. 

A wildcat stalked stealthily across a windowless sill, soundless. Black suit, white tie. Wrong, she thought. Tabby fur, wildcats have tabby coats. It turned its head, as if listening. Its gleaming yellow-green eyes met hers. Suddenly, it disappeared down through some hole in the floorboards. Curious, the woman followed. She inspected the spot of the incident but found nothing. Disconcerted, fear edged into her being: she was not yet afraid, but shivers of terror and panic danced around her, waiting to take over.

Hinges creaked. She jumped. 

To her left, the wildcat was watching, encouraging, urging her without words: follow me, come, join me. And just as suddenly as before, it was out of sight. 

This time she didn’t hesitate. The hole was no wider than an oak tree, and she struggled to fit her body through. Down below, darkness abounded. A subterranean blackness, endless, suffocating. She should have turned back, but she couldn’t. She squeezed herself through and entered freefall. Blindly, she fell. She might have screamed but for the taste in her mouth: a sordid mix of dirt and radish greens. She reached out her hands for support but found some material foreign and spongy. A soft, pliable dough into which her hands sunk readily, alacritously. Hastily, she retrieved her hands and tucked them tight to her chest. Her knees curled, and in a ball she sped through that bottomless blackness. Time stopped. She grew and shrunk and shrunk and grew. Her stomach swallowed itself. She was weightless. She was two-dimensional. Spinning, changing, falling. Blackness engulfed her, an ocean: capsizing, overturning, spilling chests and spreading contents whimsically across the seafloor. She fell, dizzily yet calmly, patient yet anxious, fearful but ready, poised. 

Finally, she slowed and contacted the ground. It was soft, sandlike, but ungraspable, almost like some sort of carpet. Cautiously, she opened her eyes. The light was as blinding as the dark. How long was I spinning? Quickly, she banished the thought. Posted on the ground in front of her were footprints like trail markers deliberately placed to guide the way. She got up and brushed herself off, but she was totally clean. Not even a speck of dust. 

The passageway was uneven, even hazardous with its pitfalls and jagged edges, and the footprints careened left and right to accommodate. She followed as best she could, eyes flashing up and down from trail to surroundings. Thrice did she almost fall, but always she kept her footing. Miles she must have traveled before the path narrowed. It was nearly impassable. Blood filled her body, her heart beat madly, muscles tensed. There’s no turning back. She turned, flattened herself against the passage wall and shimmied through to the other side. Breathing became difficult, her body sandwiched between sheets of unknown rock. But in the end, she succeeded; one step at a time, one foot delicately before the other. 

The trail opened onto a hexagonal field. Flowers, vibrant and variegated, rung the perimeters. A spring flowed around its edges, and there was a ramshackle bridge of rusted iron. 

“Turn back,” a voice warned. “This is not your place.” 

But she knew. She couldn’t turn back now. Not even if she wanted to.

A figure approached, withered and wrinkled, hunched and hooded. Golden rays cloaked them. The air grew cold. 

“Go,” they warned; though the voice was soft, sweet, like honeyed donuts and homemade apple pies. “This place is not for you.” 

But she couldn’t move. She couldn’t go. Not even if she wanted to. 

Face-to-face, the figure unveiled herself. Beneath the glowing robes rested a face aged by death. Pallid skin taut to the bone. Teeth missing, decayed. Eyes sunken. “Go,” she said again.

The woman smiled. Tears welled in her eyes. 

“But I never got to say good-bye.” 

 


Theodore Ludwig Clemens is a local of Buffalo, NY. His interests include avoiding the cold, chasing the sun, and eating with chopsticks. A proud member of the LGBTQIA community, he loves traveling the world.

Categories
Uncategorized

Letter From the Editor: 6

Categories
Poetry

Two Poems By Aaron Sandberg

Fortune

The dog tipped over the trash,

sniffed week-old egg roll with his snout,

found the cookies we couldn’t crack,

swallowed two still-folded futures,

then like us: gagged, hacked

one out.

Transit

We watched as

         the new one

in foreign tongue

         tugged on

his shirt

         and asked him

to tell her

         how to get

to the bus—

         which could take her

to the train,

         which would make her

board another,

         which would get her

to the work

         she was promised

from this land—

         and listened

like her life

         was held

in his hands,

         whispered

his words

         and then

doubled back

         until she

could hold to

         the first

before learning

         the next,

like walking

         the wire

taut over

         the canyon,

both trembling

         but trying,

then showed her

         what’s meant

by tunnel

         and ticket,

and when she

         had repeated

all steps

         back to him,

tore hearts

         when she asked

if we

         could explain

how then,

         together,

to get her

         back home.


Aaron Sandberg thinks ‘cellar door’ sounds fine, he guesses. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in West Trade Review, Asimov’s, The Offing, Sporklet, Lowestoft Chronicle, Abridged, Giallo, Right Hand Pointing, Monday Night, and elsewhere. A Pushcart-nominated teacher, you might find him—though socially-distant—on Instagram @aarondsandberg.

Categories
Poetry

Two Poems By Deryck Robertson

Disclaimer: When viewing these poems on a mobile device, we recommend turning your phone to the side for the best viewing experience.

Coloured Pencils

A box of coloured pencils

     (or, pencil crayons au Canada)

Lies unopened in my tired mind;

24 pointed tools of potential

Courtesy of

Crayola Canada, Lindsay, Ontario.

New dreams of

Golden yellow dawnings & mahogany red sunsets,

Fresh jade greens and emeralds blooming

Under white clouds leisurely floating

Through aqua blue skies.

Each moment in time becoming more

As the origin is reduced to

Unsharpened stub ends and broken tips

Lying at the bottom of what remains

Of the worn cardboard box.

At the end,

Only the oranges and browns remain.

F 150

Rusting truck beds carry

The memories of adventures

Of beat up backpacks and

Dusty, rutted roads

Tie downs and ratchet strap

         Reminiscings

Each scrape, bruise, bubble

         and dent

A story written in metal

That someday will disappear

Into the soil of time

To fertilize the imagination

Of those that long for

The things that

Rusting truck beds carry


Deryck N. Robertson lives and creates in Peterborough, Ontario. His work has appeared recently with Melbourne Culture Corner, Northern Otter Press, TunaFish Journal, Burnt Breakfast Mag, and The Minison Project. He can usually be found in Algonquin Park with his family of paddlers or thinking about practicing his trombone. His latest self-published zine will be printed as soon as he finds enough empties in order to pay for it.

Categories
Uncategorized

Letter From the Editor: 5

Categories
Creative Nonfiction

My Heart Is Good and Yours Is, Too.

My Heart Is Good and Yours Is, Too

By: Laura Eppinger

Last week I turned in the keys to my old place so we could move in together. Time to let your one-bedroom go, too, but first we’ll have to liberate it. Let’s just say, you keep a lot of clutter.

It’s not like I haven’t seen your bathroom packed with more skincare products on one shelf than I’ve purchased in all my life to date. I snap on rubber gloves so we can get to the bottom of it all, make sure your floors are lemony clean. You look down at your feet, embarrassed.

There was a time I’d gag or call you messy piggy. I’ve been a rotten girl with a mean streak. I don’t joke or judge right now.

Thus far I thought the only way to keep love alive was to look the other way. But now I’m holding a furry glass in my hand, and pitching it in the trash instead of trying to save it. Who knows how many months it’s been since you poured yourself a Monster and drained it?

I stare directly at this neglected bachelor pad. It’s time to get to work. Your playlist makes me swoon: Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine, Smashing Pumpkins. You sigh like you’ve tasted something sweet when “Perfect Drug” begins.

You attack the kitchen, ensuring every chopstick is wrapped with its mate. I linger while your back is turned, to hear you chiming in. I sing along too, in wonder and recognition.

So I take the bedroom, sweep up an impossible amount of hair (while I don’t keep enough to gather a ponytail). There isn’t a crevice without your DNA; it’s peeking out of the fibers of the yellow rug, wedged into corners of board game boxes, and lacing the weird arches of your PC-gaming chair.

I joke: you’re lucky I don’t practice that kind of magic, because I could use your hair and make you do anything I wanted.

You can do that anyway. Just ask.

But I’d kneel to kiss every goddamn Magic card. (It would take days, your decks seem endless.) Every spike in Gundam armor, every Pony figurine. Of course you are not your stuff, but I want to touch all the things you touch, every manga cover with its teal lettering.

Trust me, I am surprised to find love at 35. The weight of all that time. After the slow creep of decades of men who made me wilt. After inviting vampires in through my window, knowing I was worth less than the dirt of their graves. After the burn of diet soda in the throat, a rebellion of stomach lining. After all those cigarettes stained my teeth, the hunger in a ruined mouth. 

Here I stand, left to rediscover my own skin. I loved songs about toxic love before I’d even been kissed. Did I use them as a blueprint? 

The parched years are over. My vampires, all staked.

I cradle the next stack of DVDs, tuck them into a box for storage, then zip ribbed sweaters into plastic bags. The stitching is ordinary, the stitching is safe.

But here is a new thrill: desire without compulsion.

I’ll ask you later if you’ve read that recent interview with Trent Reznor where he sips green juice and beams about being a dad. But not now—in this moment, we’ll stick with the beat.

We hear: I got my heart but my heart’s no good. We’ll sing it but not live it.

Our hearts are healthy as yolk, wholesome as ginger in rice.

My heart is good and yours is, too.


Laura Eppinger (she/her) is a Pushcart-nominated writer of fiction, poetry and essay. Her work has appeared at The Rumpus, The Toast, and elsewhere. She’s the managing editor at Newfound Journal.

Categories
Poetry

Portrait of a Mother on the Eve of Spring Break

Disclaimer: When viewing these poems on a mobile device, we recommend turning your phone to the side for the best viewing experience.

Portrait of a Mother on the Eve of Spring Break

By: Tamra Plotnick

through the parlor window
I witness
my last umbilical issue
load her distilled yet spindly
wonder into a hired car
and stream away

trailing behind
a long buried yet noodling crevasse
an invisible emptiness threading my core
that she began spinning since her womb exit fifteen summers back
that holy filament hooked onto her suitcase wheels
stretching my hollowness
past prospect

I stand behind glass
these wafery walls of skin
vacant of her
         glamour, grace, gall
this empty arc of bones
pressing against my own architecture
         prayers, poems, partners
so as not to cave
under the weight of
         values ill-instilled
         quests unshared
         talk too tacit
         bonds unbound

like Demeter
I forfeit color and verve
with her departure
though blossom’s promise looms a day away
and the charge is to view flamboyantly all

till the return of my Persephone
I will
spring
break


Tamra Plotnick’s poetry and prose works have been published in many journals and anthologies, including: Serving House Journal; The Waiting Room Reader, Global City Review and The Coachella Review. Her book In the Zero of Sky, Poems will be released by Assure Press in 2021. She has performed her work in multimedia shows in New York City where she lives, dances, teaches high school, and malingers with friends and family.

Categories
Fiction

The Sun Was Just Rising

The Sun Was Just Rising

By: Mercury-Marvin Sunderland

“Are you scared?”

Julius’ phone was unpleasantly pressed to his ear. He sighed. The hospital was so quiet.

“No,” he responded. “I’m not scared. Just worried.”

“You’re just so young—”

“I’ve known this for a long time. I don’t want kids. I’ve been sure of that ever since I was ten. I just don’t want to be pregnant. You know that I’ve been saying that for a long time.”

“But I want—”

“This isn’t a thing about you, Mom. And besides. I’m not your only son.”

He listened to his mom’s silence. He looked out the window. The Sun was just rising.

“Besides,” he continued. “You know that I’ve always been a big fan of adoption. I’ll do that if I ever change my mind.”

His mom continued to be quiet.

“It’s gonna be okay, Mom. The surgeons know what they’re doing. And they’re a lot more trans-friendly than those ones at you-know-where.”

“That’s good, honey.”

Julius bit his nail, and then stopped. He’d been trying to quit that habit for a long time. Painting them didn’t help as much as he’d hoped. He usually liked to paint them in the colors of the trans flag. Blue, pink, white, pink, blue. They were so pretty and they’d get so eaten up by his anxiety sometimes.

“Is Diego there?”

“We broke up, Mom.”

“What?! When?!”

“Like, two months ago. I thought you knew about that.”

“Well I-I’m sure I—”

“Mom, it’s okay. I know you forget stuff. It was mutual. We’re just friends now. But we’re giving each other space.”

“Oh, honey, I’m so sorry.”

“Mom, really, it’s okay.”

Julius sighed.

“Mom, do you have work today?”

“Well, yes, but that’s not in for a few hours.”

“You’re a schoolteacher, Mom. Go back to sleep.”

“I—” she hesitated. She sighed. “I just get so lonely. It’s been so long without any kids in the house.”

“Mom, I’m twenty-five.”

“Well, don’t you have a few hours?”

He looked at his watch. “It’s starting in an hour, yes.”

“Then we have plenty of time. Isn’t it going to hurt?”

“What, and childbirth doesn’t?”

His mom sat there, silent.

“Look, Mom,” he clarified, rubbing his forehead. “I know you want what’s the best for me. But I’m my own person. I can know what’s the best for me. Or whatever version of me you’ve made in your head. Even if it wouldn’t be the best for you.”

The Sun was getting in Julius’ eyes. He pulled the drapes. His mom was quiet.

“Besides, Mom. You know this will help. I won’t get the cramps every day any more.”

“Okay, dear.”

“I need to get ready. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Love you, dear.”

“Love you too, Mom.”


Mercury-Marvin Sunderland (he/him) is a transgender autistic gay man from Seattle with Borderline Personality Disorder. He currently attends the Evergreen State College and works for Headline Poetry & Press. He’s been published by University of Amsterdam’s Writer’s Block, UC Riverside’s Santa Ana River Review, UC Santa Barbara’s Spectrum Literary Journal, and The New School’s The Inquisitive Eater. His lifelong dream is to become the most banned author in human history. He’s @Romangodmercury on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Categories
Uncategorized

A Letter From the Editor: 4