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The Parliament Literary Journal Summer 2022: ALL-STARS

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Copyright 2022 The Parliament Literary Journal, ISSN 2767-2158 (print); ISSN 2767-2166 (online) is published quarterly in November, February, May, and August. All correspondence should be sent via email to All rights are reserved by the arsts and authors. All works in the journal are conal. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author's imaginaon or are used cously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is enrely coincidental. The Parliament Literary Journal and logo design are registered trademarks. Submissions are accepted for our themed issues and contests via Submiable; details on our submission requirements can be found at our website.

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4/5 Nikki Gonzalez 6/7 Rachel Stempel 8/9 Jill Crammond 10/11/12/13/14/15 Paul Tanner 16/17/18/19/20/21 22/23/24/25 Connor Doyle 26/27/28/29/30/31 Amy L. Bernstein 32/33/34/35 Michael Brockley 36/37/38/39 J.P. Sexton 40/41/42/43/44 45/46/47 Stephen Kingsnorth 48/49/50/51 Caitlin McKenna 52/53 /54/55 Oz Hardwick 56/57/58/59/60/61 62/63/64/65 Madari Pendas 66/67/68/69/70/71 Ranjith Sivaraman 72/73/74/75 76/77 /78 /79 Alan Bern 80/81 Bruce Robinson 82/83/84/85 Nikki Gonzalez 86/87/88/89 Michael Rogers 90/91/92/93 Jay Nunnery 94/95/96/97/98/99 Kevin Vivers 100/101/102/103 Lawdenmarc Decamora 104/105/106/107 Eddie Brophy 108/109/110/111 Lindsey Pucci 112/113 Anonymous 114/115 Natalie Kormos Artistically Inspired Contest 116/117 Jennifer Weigel 118/119 Remy Chartier (ARTIST’S WINNER) 120/121 Don Sandeen (ARTIST’S WINNER) 122/123 Alex Huynh (EDITOR’S WINNER)

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If Shit Goes Down ... This. This right here? This is the All-Stars issue of The Parliament Literary Journal. And know that if I were standing next to you at this moment, presenting you with a copy, I’d add one of those noises that goes something like “oooh wee”, all long and drawn out. And I’d be holding the issue in my hands like the pages are on fire. I’d have to help you understand, you see, that is no ordinary issue you’re embarking on. Two years ago, I started The Parliament Literary Journal on my laptop from my back porch in my little town as a desperate attempt during the first aching months of pandemic, quarantine, and isolation to connect with people. Two years in now and I’ve had the indescribable honor of meeting people from nearly every continent on our planet and sharing in their deepest, most intimate creations. To celebrate this special anniversary, I knew I wanted to spend it with THE ALL STARS -- the writers and artists who, over the past 7 issues have left a particularly indelible impact on readers and on me. I didn’t just want to highlight them in the issue as a demonstration of my gratitude and awe for their talents that they have shared with me and for the people that they are. I wanted to GIVE them the issue. No directions. No edits. The pages were theirs to express themselves in their diverse artistries as they chose. The only thematic thread that binds them together is WHO they are. They are the All-Stars. They are the SUPER-stars. They are the writers and artists whose works I have returned to again and again to cozy up with and feel a firework show of emotions -- a gamut that runs far deeper than laughter and tears. They bewilder me at times; I have certainly cringed once or twice; often I ache; and most often, I sit in stupefied awe that I have had the mad fortune to be in the orbit of these works AND the people behind them. BUT! You won’t find the pages decked out in gold stars and glitter for these All-Stars. They deserve better than gaudy triteness. Instead, I give them the apocalypse. I give them crossbows and kitana. I give them desolation. Let me explain. Ever see the show Lost from the early 2000s? Or the series that followed years later, The Walking Dead? Both shows feature survivors of disastrous or cataclysmic events. The personalities, skills, and backgrounds of each person determines their success in living. Some not only survive, but thrive. Ever since I watched these shows, I study people, especially when 4

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I am traveling. While I’m waiting at my departing gate, I’ll look at the people around me and think: Who would I want to survive alongside of on an island or form an alliance with to battle the undead? Who would be kind? Who would be knowledgeable? Who would be our leader? The same (rather crude) question I ask myself at the airport, I asked in compiling this issue: If shit goes down, who do I want with me? The writers and artists on the pages that follow are my answer. And because there were no rules for this issue, I joined the All-Stars on the page with a story of my own. Not with ego. Not because I fancy myself an All-Star. But because I want to be part of the team. I want them to know that, wielding my Oxford comma, I’d do battle for them unhesitatingly. This issue, too, as all our past issues have, features an Art-Inspired Contest. The artist, Jennifer Weigel, is, of course, an All-Star, herself. Fittingly, her photography was featured in our very first issue and it’s only absolute perfection that she inspired a new batch of future All-Stars. Her photo, “Heading Home” amassed varied interpretations -- everything from ancient Greek mythology to the contemporary war on women’s reproductive rights. Three new talents are added to our Parliament family because Jennifer couldn’t decide between two and, well, rules shmules. Congratulations -- and welcome! -- to Remy Chartier, Don Sandeen, and Alex Huynh whose poems took the very risks that I admire of all the creators in this issue. So, journey through the lands ahead across these pages, where the air is still, the infrastructure buzzes, expending its last energy or stands defiant, albeit with cracks, and the people you encounter are the thrivers of it all. Thank you for the past two wonderful, empowering years. Nikki Gonzalez 5

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Considerations, Predictions, & Manifestations for Chewing-Gum Jezebels 1. Your mother, a poor mouth, is waiting to hear back from you. 2. Before an apology, cradle expired milk in the groove of your tongue to leach its gonebadness, put it to better use. 3. An LCD lobotomy is only temporary but a girl can dream. 4. Body language refuses passion when you’re not a visual person. 5. Get back to your mother, ask What is the temperature of a handjob? 6. Invert the spine of a baby bear, ask Is it good? (This is as God as it gets.) 7. Discover: Mona Lisa is a lesbian. 8. I will master the on-command nosebleed. 9. Insects are no longer profitable. 10. Get back to your mother, ask Is no luxury warranted? 11. Womanhood is permanent or unbearable, not both. 12. Notice the moon is often too bright for my liking. 13. You will talk the perfect amount. 14. I’ve not an ounce of generosity in my hole-body! 15. The only real meat remaining is tuna sashimi—striated, succulent, severe. There’s a pussy joke in here somewhere. (Have you heard more pussy jokes as a woman or as a lesbian?) 16. Get back to your mother, say I offered my womb to the highest bidder. 17. Notice the moon is often too bright for my liking. 18. Get back to your mother, say Milankovitch cycles have made me awful lonely. 19. Blossoms are now contagious—Rejoice! (Better late than never, says the birth control manufacturer.) 20. Be mildly academic, leave enough room for hysterics. 21. I am waiting for the last Beatle to die so I can win my mother back. 6

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Rachel Stempel is a queer Ukrainian-Jewish poet and PhD student in English at SUNY-Binghamton. They are the author of the chapbooks Interiors (Foundlings Press), BEFORE THE DESIRE TO EAT (Finishing Line Press) and Dear Abbey (Bottlecap Press). They live, laugh, love in New York with their rabbit, Diego. 7

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In Praise of Packing Lunchboxes It’s very difficult to plan something if your day is constantly interrupted by dead things. The cat lays two dead mice at your feet, one after the other dropping from her red-tinged mouth and you stop packing the lunch boxes. You marvel at the irony: two dead mice, two hungry children. Somewhere in this house are two mothers with two children depending on them. You think about taking the mouse mother out to lunch. Are all children furred and tiny? you will ask her. Are all children silent and maimed? Depending on the day, you either put the mice in a Ziploc, draw a heart on the bag and feel proud that there’s something new to feed the children, or you focus on the task at hand. If you are a decent mother, you smile benevolently, teeth wide, white, and showing, good humor not quite reaching your eyes. You say, Good kitty. Never change. You never say, They had it coming. You never curse the cat’s ambition. Out of the corner of your eye you see a shadow. You dial your dead ex-husband, but the call goes to voice mail. Not mourning, but you’d like to know what he did with dead mice. At some point, you remember about lunch. As usual, the sticky note on your cupboard door has failed you: Don’t forget to feed them. No one tells you how to mourn. You ask your mother. She says, Try baking a casserole. You ask your children. They say, What’s for dinner? You’re still not sure if your dead ex-husband is dead or a divorcee. Isn’t that a nice word? you ask the cat. Doesn’t it sound like a fancy name? You read papers about division of assets, equitable distribution. You take out the hedge trimmers he left behind, put on the blue flannel shirt he forgot on the back of the bathroom door and measure as much of the house as you can with a tape measure. Should I draw a line with chalk? you ask the cat, then walk back inside to search for a chainsaw. It's still Monday morning, you shout at the mailman. The children have boarded the bus without their crustless peanut butter and jellies, without their clementines swaddled inside seasonally themed napkins and love notes. I’m coming, you shout to the cat. Tell the children. The shadow you saw earlier shakes its head, reaches out and shoves you out the door. Is it any surprise when you slip on the mess of a fledgling that has fallen from its nest inside your porch light? Any surprise that you are overjoyed at the prospect of erasing the death, continued 8

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resurrecting the lunch? Not the death of a mother, but the demise of a life well-intentioned. No one can see the man floating alongside you as you push your cart through the produce aisle, fondle the avocados, wonder how many germs you’ve left, how many you’ve picked up. Ghosts don’t worry about germs, and they don’t have a sense of personal space. Your dead ex-husband is in your personal space, and all you can say, over and over as you wait in the deli line behind a gray-haired woman with her slip showing, is, Nothing has changed. Nothing has changed. You got that right, you think you hear her say, as she orders the last pound of American cheese in the deli case. Death makes for a poor bedfellow. Your memories are cadavers. Your first date after becoming single is a noon-time disaster of dead air, dead chicken, and dead mother-in-law jokes. He’s a nice guy, as morticians go, but his jokes can’t raise a sleepwalker from the dead, and he smells like formaldehyde. You have asked the waiter for three new knives. Each one is duller than the next, and it’s not until you are finally carving your baked breast that you remember the children. They are still at school, and you still haven’t delivered their lunches. 9 Jill Crammond’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Limp Wrist, Tinderbox Poetry, Mom Egg Review, Pidgeonholes, Unbroken Journal, Mother Mary Come to Me Anthology, Fiolet & Wing: An Anthology of Domestic Fabulist Poetry, and others. Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her chapbook, Handbook for Unwell Mothers, is forthcoming in May 2023 from Finishing Line Press. She lives in upstate NY where she teaches art and preK at a nature-based school.

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fuck the working class trust me, I’m one of them and I’m telling you: fuck us. as a shopworker I have been subservient to my own all of my adult life and all they’ve ever done is push me around and try to get me fired. even during the pandemic we “key workers” didn’t get any respect: in fact, our neighbours gave us even more abuse while they infected us. a shop worker in this country will not go one shift without being threatened insulted and accused by their fellow class brethren under the narcissistic opportunism of “customer service” continued 10

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and then they have the deluded gall to complain about the lack of staff and self-service machines? about unemployment and lack of jobs? about mental health and unjust hierarchies without any irony? what miserable self-destructive cannibals they are, the fucking working class: they get the faces and the children and the governments they deserve but I don’t deserve any of them so I say fuck ‘em: it is after all what they and therefore I want. 11

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new job … but it’s the same old night shift. the same old staff canteen, with the same old monobrowed meatheads, scratching and farting in the corner. you feel their piggy eyes on you as you sit down alone in the corner opposite … then some gangly lad comes in. he looks around, nervous. until he clocks you, that is. and then he smiles – a little too wide – and heads straight for you. great. the same old work creep latching onto you as always. he takes a seat next to you. not opposite, no – next to you, so that your thighs are touching. your thighs are touching the whole time he’s sitting there and he just sits there the whole time, not saying anything, just sniffing and humming while your thighs touch. and you’re going mad, you’re about to turn around and stick your thumb in his eye, gouge it out and spit in the hole, you feel so violated – suddenly there’s all this noise, desks bumping and chairs scraping, everyone’s getting up and heading out. the shift must be starting. even gangly lad deserts you. so you’re at the back of the throng, following all those shapeless man buttocks out onto the shop floor, when the meathead in front, he shuts the door and turns to you, trapping you in. it’s just you and him now, in the same old staff canteen of the new job. that gimp you were sitting with, he says. you don’t wanna be associating with him. I know I don’t, you agree. oh do you, yeah? he mocks you. let me tell you something about your little gimp mate. he’s not my – he paid his sister to do a shit on his chest. you just look at him a minute … he paid his sister, you repeat, to do a – continued 12

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a shit on his chest, yeah, the meathead nods. that’s right. and how do you know this? she told me. she told you? she happily confided in you that she performs incestuous scat for money? yeah! his fists rest on his hips when he boasts: been banging her, haven’t I? you’re banging her. yeah! you’re banging someone who shits on their brother for money? I think I’d rather shag that gangly lad, you conclude. and you walk past him but you don’t go onto the shop floor, o no, you don’t even clock on: you grab your coat off the peg, go through the warehouse, duck under the shutters, walk diagonally through the delivery loading bays and across the car park until you reach a wired fence. you duck through a hole in that, and find yourself in some back lane, the same old back lane these supermarkets always have behind them. and you’re walking … and there’s a rumble … and behind the littered bushes to your right, you see the roof of a train rattle by. that’s tantamount to reassuring, for if the train’s just passing through … why can’t you? 13

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A Peek Into the Diary of Tanner: Excerpts boomer bitch who lectured me for 6 minutes about the plastic bag charge: think of all you achieved today, giving your big speech to a minimum wage taxpayer who can’t even answer back to you, let alone the government who enforce the bag charge. think of all you achieved today when you sit in traffic, huffing and puffing. think of all you achieved today when you’re blubbing over cold dinners while your piece of shit husband is still at the office, getting violently sodomised over the desk by his barely legal intern. think of all you achieved today when you wake up at 3 a.m. in an empty bed, so alone and bored that you put a bread knife to your fat neck and silence all the rage between your ears with awkward slashes that take a fair few jagged wet minutes. think of all you achieved today, and all you achieved today can be your final thought: my face, looking at you across the shop counter, bored. 14

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that customer with his hands down his pants scratches at his balls with almost as much venom as the security guard does, but not nearly as venomously as my floor supervisor does his. And I never did mop up that puke in aisle 5: by the time I got to it, it’d already dried up, like a comparatively flat brown pizza: I just kicked it under the shelves and went. Tanner was born tomorrow. He's been earning minimum wage, and writing about it, for too long. His cat knows your sins. Uh huh. 15

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suspension 16

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same day service 17

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honk if you heart america 18

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Advertise Here! 19

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BLM 21

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Don 22

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Elle 23

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for lease 25 Connor Doyle is a photographer and filmmaker based in the Chicagoland area. Using a number of analog film formats, Doyle’s work focuses on the idiosyncratic details of daily life in Northern Illinois, specifically his native Wheaton, IL. Though often trivial, his subjects capture the formal beauty and potency of these everyday sites, urging his viewers to reflect on the significance of their lived experiences. Connor’s work has been published in the High Shelf Press, the Hole In The Head Review, Humana Obscura, and the Burningword Literary Journal. You can visit his website at

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Aborning Meaning—look at how long it took me to grow this body from a primordial cellular legend, all striving and push, desperate to be first out of the starter gate, bursting slursh, a chaos of slicked flesh, sloughing off the amniotic mess in a rage to get on with things: oh but what a disappointing mess, the world, dry land, dry bones crackling against pavement; if only mitosis had kept me better informed, I would insist on emerging as a salamander, an axolotl, a starfish, regrowing limbs at will, endowed with gifts suited to rebuffing wounds, disappointments, the coming slaughter; meaning—look how long it took me to reject this body and crawl back into the unlit womb, regressing until it became nothing (a bell jar). 26

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Nocturnal Cosmos Ambassadors from the Andromeda Galaxy visit on Tuesdays at 3:33 a.m. my head lifts from Pillow Earth, nods to my sleep-disrupting friends cruising by on their way to somewhere, anywhere, everywhere others follow from the Milky Way, to tease or torture, dropping by on Saturdays at 2:22 a.m. hormonal/diurnal rhythms cannot account for cosmically precise disruptions. I am visited from the beyond, my flesh pelted in the wee hours by hadrons, photons, leptons. 27

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Kike He says the word so casually conversationally in conversation with others he may as well say ‘water’ or ‘bread,’ it’s that easy I am fourteen hearing ‘kike’ spoken out loud by an adult I barely know someone has warned me—who?— someone who wants to shield me against incoming mortar fire who suggests I wear a flak jacket or maybe just learn to duck that’s why they teach me the word, to be on the look-out I’m standing there when he says it, not six feet away In that moment, I am passing, I am the one passing as ordinary white not jew white because he’s not saying it at me, I’m included in the general sentiment, painted with his filthy brush like everyone around me continued 28

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still, a taste of— this— but only a taste as my body vibrates with fear and anger and shame just this once because the first time didn’t really count: birthday parties to which I was not invited being a little jewish girl in a town of old new england wasps. I don’t find out until years later. 29

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Going Fourth/Bad American Karma You are naked but for the spangle-flecked blanket, all tiddlywinks, stars, and sparkles, enfolding you like a seashell’s whorl, a superhero’s cape, an all-purpose excuse for avoiding entanglements that might pierce your flesh or leave even the slightest, faintest trace of purpose or pity or something uncomfortably in between— a bruise of some kind. Blanketed, you stride down the avenue like Lady Godiva without her horse, the streaky fabric streaming behind you like a flowing river of golden locks. Clever how your tender flesh, all hidden and be-layered, denies the witnesses beholding your passage the satisfaction their gnawing hunger demands. You wish not to be followed or even understood, but to get so lost, the blanket itself grows weary, its grip loosens, or your grip loosens: impossible to know for sure. The locomoting blanket loses steam and grinds to a flat halt on the pavement, or the grass, or the stony shore, wherever and whenever you part ways. The spangled blanket made by fingers the size of a buttercup’s petals: More hungry witnesses denied a satisfaction of one sort or another. Let some stray waif or fairytale-besotted oaf take up the blanket, stained with your exploits and half-veiled intentions. Let them stage a new parade, perhaps flesh-baring this time, the blanket more prop than cover. You will paddle away toward a cool, clear, baptism, a ritual purification to wash off the last of the spangled blanket’s filthy microbes. You get away with everything, yet again. 30

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Amy L. Bernstein writes stories, essays, and poems that let readers feel while making them think. Her novels include The Potrero Complex, The Nighthawkers, Dreams of Song Times, and Fran, The Second Time Around. Amy is an award-winning journalist, speechwriter, playwright, and certified nonfiction book coach. When not glued to a screen, she loves listening to jazz and classical music, drinking wine with friends, and exploring Baltimore’s glorious neighborhoods, which inspire her writing. Learn more at 31

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The Widowmaker at Owl Light A Bards on the Run Poem Aloha Shirt Man finishes off a poem about a woman who collects roadkill skulls. The fragile craniums of nightbirds. The souls of possums. He is typing poems for hire on a gunmetal-gray Underwood in an abandoned warehouse that hosts a twentieth century speakeasy. Two highpockets in zoot suits escorting even taller women in Prohibition dresses pass by as Aloha pecks out the first line for a waitress named after a state famous for its peaches. He hums “Sweet Georgia Brown” while imagining himself a virtuoso accordion player. Although he thinks Squeezebox might be the bee’s knees as a juke joint moniker, he autographs his poems The Widowmaker. Claims he can “erase” unwanted spouses with the Underwood backspace key. At the bar, Stilts and Goliath argue over how to jury-rig fuse boxes into robots. Ignoring their sequined Shebas who tap their stiletto-heeled feet to “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody.” Two keystrokes later, the goons vanish, replaced by the ghosts of barkeeps eager for a last-call hustle. A crackerjack pick-up line from beyond the pale. The widows celebrate their windfall with a devil-may-care jitterbug to the dance floor. At his typewriter, Aloha tinkers with a poem for an artist who crafts sculptures from dryer lint and the gum she scrapes from the bottom of her shoes. The ghosts of moonshine runners mingle among the revelers, picking pockets and switching key chains. Having worn away the arrow on another backspace key, Aloha downs a shot of Heaven’s Door whiskey, an appreciative bump from another newly-minted widow. 32

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Grift Pocket Memoir from Nightmare Alley As you approach the showman’s trailer, a ferris wheel looms over the carny stalls like a B-movie behemasaur slavering over metropolitan prey. The man who greets you from behind a disarrayed desk once kidnapped a mute woman from a camp of rejected wives. But the showman does not know you turned the hanged-man card upside down. Nor that you once fleeced a judge and trusted a woman who wore scarlet lipstick like a bludgeon. A matricidal fetus stares at you from its thalidomide jar among the carny’s collection of pinhead skulls and hinterland heirlooms. The showman senses the dead fathers in your wonderland eyes. And suspects you were born to be the shadow that lingers in midway spook shows. “Enoch,” you say, remembering the dead child’s name, and draw your jacket around your sunken chest, the colorless coat you looted from a sleeping pigman after the hobos drove you away from their circle of Jake-leg hootch. As the carnival boss settles a thimble of freak-show gin into your trembling hands, he offers a gig in a geek cage. With a pallet to sleep on under a miscellaneous tent among blue moonshine and chicken crates. This is how the rest of your life begins. 33

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Reporting to Mars from the Country of Side Eyes, Tenderloins, and Skeleton Keys Twenty-nine percent of the naked apes identify blue as their favorite color. Green is their second choice, followed by red and purple. The plural of blue changes a color into a form of music that celebrates coming up short and standing on the outside while looking in through a window at something that’s always out of reach. A man has the blues when the woman he woos drops him like a hot potato for a different man who keeps more portraits of presidents in his wallet. The blues visit a woman when she wants some sugar in her bowl. When she wants a Mercedes Benz while she’s driving a rust-bucket El Camino. A potato is a root vegetable that can be baked after its eyes have been peeled off. People who catch hot potatoes toss them to someone else like they’re throwing away bad luck. Many years ago, the naked apes chose their presidents by voting for the tallest, oldest white man who promised to put a chicken in every pot. Some of those candidates wore white wigs. Some of them took pride in knowing nothing. Now the naked apes trade pictures of those presidents for cheeseburgers and blue lipstick and patio furniture. Sugar grows on large swaths of land, and some naked apes sprinkle sugar on the cereals they eat for breakfast in the crockery they call bowls. The youngest naked apes insist on eating Fruit Loops and Trix. Cereals that are red and green and blue. Only three out of a hundred naked apes confess their favorite music is the blues. 34

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Sunday Brunch at Cafe Patachou The waitress serves me a mocha latte with my Omelette You Can’t Refuse. She tells me my drink was made with oat milk while I debate the merits of dishes named after movie lines. Some like it hot. Gentlemen prefer blondes. Like the old steel worker I am, I wonder how oats are milked. How the improbable rises to plate du jour. The barista swirled a heart on top of my beverage. And the wheat toast I ordered as a side is almost as delicious as a French pastry. When I sip my drink, I taste a hint of mocha and the creamy flavor of an exotic milk. Later I walk past the stalls and kiosks of a neighborhood art fair, where I admire black-and-white photographs of an Underwood typewriter with a sheet of paper rolled halfway up the scroll. The only word in any of the mounted photos is “Love.” Followed by a comma, a pause. The machine of a vintage that might have been used by Humphrey Bogart or Robert Mitchum if either had played Ernest Hemingway or Dashiell Hammett. The waitress spoke with a Caribbean lilt. And wore dreamcatcher earrings and a Killing Eve t-shirt. I’m lost in Indianapolis, far away from the gyro deli where I once wrote a poem about a phone haunted by the calls of someone else’s jilted lovers. I’ve arrived at my destination without any memories of my journey. Where I search for the answers to questions I no longer understand. Michael Brockley is a retired school psychologist who lives in Muncie, Indiana where he needs to have a tree cut down so his pollinator garden can get more sun. His poems have appeared in Hobo Camp Review and Wild Word. Poems are forthcoming in Book of Matches and Unbroken. 35

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Slow Drip Sometimes it feels as if I am hanging by a thread held together by a paperclip. Life seems little more than a bed I have rented for the night. That’s not to say I am ready to release my grip. My fingernails dig in deep. I have still more words at the cusp of a drip on to a page for one to ingest. 36

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Hacked Apart I wish life came with an expiration date the kind you find on a yogurt lid. If it did, we could have shaken hands and buried the hatchet in time before it hacked us apart. What is it they say? Pride comes before a fall. That was me to a “T” Not that you were much better but then your letter opened my eyes. An apology was the last thing I expected as was the invisible ink. 37

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The Scent of You I gulped down your scent Like fever-water, 38

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39 J.P. Sexton grew up in the most northerly point of Ireland - the Inishowen Peninsula. He writes about his native homeland, people and places around the world where he has lived and worked and basically all kinds of random thoughts. He has been published in The Irish Times, The Garda Review Magazine and The Connaught Tribune. In 2016 his memoir; "The Big Yank - Memoir of a Boy Growing Up Irish," was published on Amazon as was "Four Green Fields..." in 2018. He is currently editing a sequel to his memoir titled Drawn to Danger (working title).

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Here’s canvas stretcher; type for art if studio - or battle field, where medic’s bear as their first aid. A hoop spread cross, rough risen ground - dust, where buried life, to dust, not engraved pristine bleached stone mark, serried parade of gravestone ranks laid Commonwealth Commission grass. The irony, this private site misspells surname of the deceased, whilst names as worth his sacrifice, Frank, soldier Kingsnorth, far off land. To Be Frank, Private 40

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Liminal What was the moment you arrived, when you, the child, could be shown off, and they seemed proud to name you theirs? That liminal, transition point, when you know more than they, for sure, and they know that, with awe, inside, not adolescent in pretence; for it’s your ground, they visitors, not entertainers, entertained. It took no craft, but punt and pole, a bridge of sighs to navigate, a competence few strangers find, and shirt, bought Delhi, on my back. 41

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She wants to leave, too far the home, while health permits the timely move, beside our daughter, nurtured boys - twice monthly visits, not suffice. She younger, caring has a price, and as my wife I promised her. Our cottage dream - for ease I put it in her name - with ceiling wood and open fire, the quarried stone and furnishing, tattered, old, patina time of memories, most good, some pain. Compact, but yet three double rooms, grandchildren gathered in their prime. The garden, triangle of green, dug compost to compose the soil, wisteria, clematis climb, over fawn stone, half-timbered front, and shrubs with berry overload, red wax and shine, some purple pearls, live tadpole pond with kingcup whorls, like Devon lanes, my naïve youth, plucked primroses of teenage days. My view of dreams, dun bracken, heather on the hill, the hamlet hanging from its side, red brick where workmen mined the lead, and buzzards wheeling out their turf, no lens, zoom ten, such common treat. And in the village, end of road, first doctor I could trust and talk. My Scattered Place 42

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A near community of faith, an open table of diverse, where strangers welcomed in as friends, the place to be, belong, believe, where this old pilgrim thought to rest. She wants to leave, downsize my term, and as my wife I promised her. Maybe while still my mind remains, this earth yet be my scattered place. 43

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Without my specs, I saw a cheese, well-ripened, past its sell-by date, hard cheddar mixed with herbal flakes, goat gouda stuffed with fenugreek - but study clarified the stitch in plastic, not a leather seat. That sets the age - assume not staged, conglomerate, synthetic mulch, but stratified, a grating rind, absorbent tissue for the moss, wherever dip or needle hole. Unpromising to propagate, like buddleia in bomb site crack, yet here it is on moulded shape, a host for green and creeping things. Though saddle-sore, I don’t think staged - it takes me back to Cambridge days, drop handlebars - no sturmey gears - just pedal power and lecture notes, in woven basket strapped to rear, and padlocked to a college rail or thrown, if late, tutorial. Indeed, here framed, it might be mine, bike lost, occasion such as this, poor time-keeping, that machine thrust to ground for theft outside the school - that session, thief in paradise; the life expectancy of wheels a resurrection bicycle, in tandem, saprophytic style? Re-Incarnation 44

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I carried a Pisa pile towards the door desk, greyish tinge. The bright street frontage, poster glow felt-tip scrawl announced, not Alexandria, but fire damaged stock for sale. High School me, taken self to town, found this people-free paradise; miser pocket-money in pig-skin purse and upstairs warehouse, rickets stairs. Cubic capacity, volume of books, as if building razed, scarred library, leaving untidy, uneven brick foundation course which might totter, crumble, bravely stand, though interleaved mortar might fall about. Column or torus, cheapest heaps, towers, footstools, pilae stacks, with floor before another plinth, classic publishers fading pink, a hypocaust for everyman, Dutton, Dent and Routledge, English bricks in global walls. Picking through rough rubble site, bombsite pages still bound, intact, I sifted authors, faint pencil fly just a dime/tanner, though ‘just’ is mine. Juvenile choices from printer’s block tray, lines with words, incunabulae of literature, devoured by hungry, on every page of history, Taking Stock A portrait of the arst as a young man, but with the seeds of blooms sll on display… continued 46

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appetite never satisfied. Short boy, still teen, conservative in style, probably in jacket, tie, like tight-rope walker stretched balance reaching towards cash register. I waited while she totted total shillings spent. Seeing selection for my shelves, she posed was I a teaching man? Now feel six feet tall I chuckled, denied, but volumes carried, swelled with pride, a glow recalling embers laid around these for basement prices paid. If she could read those light lead-marks, eye-sight good in that dinge site, more confident my bus stop stride. Though fifty on, two yards from here, those tomes look grand; yet still unread. First published by Literary Yard Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church due to Parkinson’s Disease, has had pieces published by on-line poetry sites, printed journals and anthologies, including The Parliament Literary Journal. His blog is at 47

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Wedding Ring Hairball I want you to ask me to marry you. Not because I want you to ask me to marry you, though if I were to marry at all, I’d like it to be you. But we both know you’re not the marrying type and I don’t mind either way. I just want you to want to ask to marry me. I want to feel your heartbeat in my coronary and have your signature on my hospital chart. I want your name next to mine in my obituary and I’d like it if someday we were buried next to one another. What I’m saying is that if we were two women buried in Heptonstall cemetery who died 100 years ago our tombstone would read ‘cait and her dear friend’ because you are my dearest friend. What I’m saying is that I think when they cut me open they'll find your hairs growing on the inside of my chest and that’s why I got a little itchy when you’d been away for too long, and each nervous butterfly was a hairball growing in size waiting to be coughed up when you closed your eyes and maybe the way I can’t be away from you for more than a few days is the strands wrapping around my intestines trying to tie me to you, making me sick as you draw away. So I’ll walk you back in, I’ll twirl you through my door, down my stairs, into my bed. What I’m saying is that the soles of my feet are blistered from treading barefoot in your footsteps, hoping to go through life beside you without disturbing your peace. What I’m saying is that the calluses on my hand match the calluses on yours and I want you to marry me - Maybe or maybe I just want you to never leave. 48

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Sea Foam - Sea Tomb Sea/ sea foam/ cradle/ tomb/ cut glass/ last chance/ slow dance/ shadow work/ cut the tie/ cut the cord/ learning knots/ thread/ threadbare/ ribbon hair/ shibari/ untie me/ rope/ burn/ ropeburn/ strangle/ stagnant water/ anchor/ cage/ stranglehold/ stronger/ slave/ hold/ held/ welder/ would you Hold her Be stronger Burn for her Strangle in her hold Tie yourself up in knots to fuck and be fucked up Would you unravel to cover her in a shawl of your well wishes - net of kisses - to become a threadbare gent Would you mind if she had to cut the cord 49

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Hush If you’ve never seen skin bubble and blood begin to boil you’ve never been told to hush. The way the black slowly creeps in, replacing the scarlet as it crescendos into burgundy hues, and the ooze that accompanies it. The crackle and the pop not from anger but release. I’ve been told since I was young I am too much, too loud, too sensive. My mother told me being around me was like walking on eggshells. I spent the next seven years scared to be enough, silencing the tremors that threatened to erupt from the soles of my feet. I shrunk down and had to coax the lullaby from my voice box just to sleep soundly at night. Allowing my scars to fade and heels to plant, every day I allow my volume to climb is a new summit. Every me I split my ribs open and unfurl my lungs like stage curtains opening the performance, I brace for the crics. It was never my mother’s fault for being afraid the world would not be big enough continued 50

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to handle the velocity of my trajectory. Or that I might one day reduce those I love to ash in my volcanic, panic zone. She could hear the hiss, see the rising smoke I slowly emit when she got too close. I know some days I must shh. I can somemes be too much. Caitlin Mckenna is a queer, socialist, vegan poet from Leeds, UK. After completing her Master's in Creative Writing Caitlin has been working as a writer across the North while performing at events in Leeds, getting published in various journals from Fragmented Voices to Grim and Gilded, and completing her debut chapbook, coming August 2022. With a deeply confessional style and an unapologetically confrontational voice, Caitlin’s poetry covers a wide variety of topics including mental health, sexual violence, and sexuality. 51

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Butterflies Everywhere 52

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Ever After Every time we meet it’s the same story or, at least, a different story with the same inflections. A dull day at work: there’s the pause. A bruise-black sky and the streets rippling like ripped silk: there’s the quizzical modulation. We have painted our windows 70s white and rammed our pockets with ice cubes to stave off the imminent heat, while pop songs and graffiti remind us that the openings for living our best lives are narrowing with each intake of breath. Once upon a time, you explain to the tune of a piano in that Casablanca bar, there were eleven boys cursed into swans. Mist gathers to the cough and sputter of a light aircraft and sighing strings, and I tell you about my mother’s mother, her hair a shining spider’s web, her apron overflowing with magpies beyond number. Your hair brushes my cheek like soft rain. Every time we meet it’s the same story, though the words are always different. 53

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The room is how I like it, with its polished chrome stools and tasteful LED glow. At one end, a vintage arcade game synthesises explosions and emotions in an ecstasy of colours. At the other, the chequered floor falls away to the sea a hundred feet below. Rapt in the game, the boy who never grew up, sloppy in hand-me-downs, batters buttons as if he knows his life depends on it, shaking tiny universes in and out of being. His schoolwork will never be done, and he’ll be up all night, polishing chrome, populating the worlds he’s fashioned from his pent-up rage, and pining on the edge of the abyss for a life more like sitcoms or sci-fi novellas. And lest I be misunderstood, the boy is not me and his worlds are his own, just as my words are my own, polished like chrome and falling away at the edge of a room that resembles a vintage arcade game. I don’t know how many lives I have left, but I hope to spend at least one with the woman who bumbles in with a basket of books, flush-faced, in an ecstasy of colours. Retro 54

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Oz Hardwick is a European poet, photographer, occasional musician, and accidental academic, whose work has been widely published in international journals and anthologies. At time of writing, his most recent publicstions are the prose poetry chapbook Reports Come In (Hedgehog, 2022), the co-edited (with Anne Caldwell) book Prose Poetry in Theory and Practice (Routledge, 2022), the album Paradox Paradigm with interdimensional space rock band Space Druids, and a magazine interview with rock legend Arthur Brown. Oz is Professor of Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity University and his cat is called Louis. 55

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Testify Humberto sprinted across the middle school’s parking lot. He was in such a hurry he had forgotten to lock the Ford’s doors and grab his wallet. His gait was long and light. It surprised him how sprightly his forty-one-year-old body could still move. For a brief second, he felt exhilarated to allow his body such freedom of movement. Humberto felt unbound, until he had to throttle his speed and enter the long, cool corridor of offices in the administration building, which separated from the main row of classrooms. They hadn’t told him much on the phone. It was hard to hear the vice principal clearly in the shop. An old Tercel was getting lifted onto the stack for a rotation and the boys were arguing again about Obama—the car had a large HOPE sticker on the rear which had promoted the rantings and debate. The mechanics would debate anything. They took exquisite pleasure in forming their arguments and counterpoints. And when all else failed to change their opponent’s mind, they elegantly told them to go fuck themselves. Humberto had left right before the eat shit and die began. Was Yessenia okay? He wondered if someone had hurt his daughter. He couldn’t take another loss. They couldn’t. The secretary nodded while he explained the call and who he was. She clicked away in her black pumps to see if the vice principal was ready. The woman was attractive with her mousy features and curious brown eyes. Humberto felt a shock of guilt for admiring this woman. After everything, he still wore his wedding band. When the secretary returned to the front desk, she waved for him to follow. She led him to a modest office in the back. Before departing, she whispered, “sorry about your wife.” So she had heard, Humberto thought. They discussed gossip more at those PTA meetings than student performance. “Thanks,” he said and gave a polite, toothless grin. He still didn’t know how to react, but she seemed to mean well, and he liked looking at her. Her freckles made him think of lazy summer days. In the office, there were diplomas and certificates all over the walls. There was a large mahogany bookshelf that ran along the length of the wall. Humberto thought all these books were for show. If he asked, he’d bet the VP didn’t even like to read. 56

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Yessenia was in the chair across from the Vice Principal, Mr. O’Hare. Humberto took the seat next to his daughter and scanned her face for signs of damage. She looked so much like Mirta it was hard for him to not feel an immediate lump in his throat whenever he looked at her. It had been thirteen months since Mirta’s death, and yet the pain felt ceaseless. Humberto thoroughly believed it’d never end. “What’s going on?” Humberto asked. “I got here as fast as I could.” Humberto was still in his mechanic jumper. There were oil stains on his chest and sleeves. Although he had become inured to the shop smells, he imagined he probably stunk heavily of gasoline and sweat. He felt out of place, especially compared to Mr. O’Hare who wore a navy gabardine suit with a checkered pocket square and gold horn-rimmed glasses. This was the type of man who knew which fork to use at a fancy restaurant. Mr. O’Hare cleared his throat. “I wish we were meeting under happier circumstances, Mr. Sandoval, but your daughter was caught self-harming. We also found this in her bag.” He delicately held up a box cutter. Had she pilfered it from Humberto’s toolbox? What was Yessenia doing with it? What did self-harm really mean? Humberto’s English had barely improved since moving to the states. Everyone at the shop spoke Spanish, which didn’t incentivize Humberto to practice his English. With the Gringo customers Humberto got his point cross with elaborate hand-pointing and gesturing. He wished for Mirta. She had studied English at La Universidad de la Habana. “Your daughter set off the entry metal detector this morning. We found this on her person.” Mr. O’Hare daintily put a boxcutter on his desk. Humberto recognized it as the boxcutter he kept in the catch-all for packages. He wondered if he could ask for it back but didn’t. “Her intention may have been to self-harm, but she hasn’t been the most cooperative. She’s going to receive two-weeks of outdoor suspension.” “Two weeks?” Humberto wanted to ask more questions, have the man explain, but nothing came out of his mouth. Much of his mental bandwidth was being used to translate the English to Spanish and then his responses from Spanish to English. It felt like trying to change a tire on a moving vehicle. Humberto said, defeatedly, “Okay.” As Humberto and Yessenia walked out of the office Mr. O’Hare said, “Also I’m sorry for your loss. If it were my wife…” his voice dimmed, perhaps uncertain whether to finish his thought. Humberto 57

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had learned that the other side of sympathy was a self-centered gratitude at having been spared a similar fate. “Take care. Thank you for coming in.” On the ride back home, Humberto kept looking at Yessenia. Would the universe take from him again? What was wrong with the girl? Why would she hurt herself? Had he misunderstood Mr. O’Hare? Was she trying to harm her classmates or herself? The moody fourteen-year-old girl next to him picking at her nails seemed so different from the pig-tailed munchkin he used to take to Amelia Earhart Park who’d beg to go higher on the swing. “More, Papi!” She’d demand, smiling her gap-toothed smile. “Pa’riba!” At a red light, he cleared his throat. He needed to know what was going on with his daughter. “Show me.” “Show you what?” She leaned away from him. “We’re on the road, Dad.” Dad? She had stopped calling him Papi when she started at that Our Lady of Lourdes, which Mirta had insisted would be better than the assigned public high school in Hialeah. He hated the sound of the word “dad.” It was more like a chewing noise, empty, incomplete, hard on both ends. When she said it in private, Humberto wondered who it was for? None of her little Gringo friends were listening, which meant something in her really had changed. This was who she was now. Surely the girl that said Papi and insisted on spending every moment outside would have never self-harmed, surely. But that was a girl who still had a mother, a counterpoint to Humberto. “Basta. Lift the sleeve. Are you trying to kill yourself?” Yessenia pulled at one of her red slapbands. “No,” she said weakly. “You can’t make me.” The light was still red. Humberto leaned over the center console and grabbed her wrist. With his other free hand, he rolled down the black cotton fabric of The Ramons jacket she always wore over her school uniform. “Dios santo. What is this?” A Kia behind them honked. The light had changed, and Humberto released her. There were rows of cuts down her arm like tally marks. The scars and scabs were deep, and he took this to mean she had been cutting for a while. Humberto kept his eyes forward on Le Jeune Road, but what he had seen lingered. He could see the wounds in front of him as if it were an afterimage effect. They stopped at the light on 42nd and NW 6th Street, near the OceanBank cinema. Humberto 58

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thought of Mirta’s body in the hospital after she’d been T-boned by the driver. The bones in her legs had skewered through her thighs, her chin had been partially collapsed, and her front teeth had shattered—she had once been so proud of her smile. She’d find any reason to smile, whether it was for a Zebra Longwing that had landed on her shoulder or because the clouds that day looked like a banana rat. Bodies change. Now, buried in the ground, he imagined her body was still changing. “Why do you do that?” He demanded. His gaze bounced between the road and his daughter. Yessenia pulled her legs to her chest. She wiped the sides of her eyes. Humberto asked again, louder. She cried into her sleeve. “I miss her.” He scoffed. He missed her as well. But he wasn’t causing a scene or hurting himself. He couldn’t understand this behavior. If you missed someone, you’d honor them, Humberto thought. You’d do everything in your power to make them proud. Mirta jumped through a million hoops to get her into Lourdes, Yessenia knew that, and still let herself be suspended. Malagradecida. “So do I. But you don’t see me acting like a crazy person. ¿Qué te pasa? “I don’t know,” she whimpered. They were almost home. Humberto thought of calling the shop owner to see if he could get an extra two hours before they closed or come in earlier tomorrow. He was already calculating how much his next paycheck would be and if it’d be enough to cover rent, or if he’d need to get another payday loan. Chewy, one of the older mechanics, was always looking to leave early to go fishing on the Rickenbacker. Maybe he’d let Humberto cover his closing shift. Yessenia’s head was between her legs while she cried. The noise of his daughter weeping should have made Humberto feel sympathy, or pity, for his girl, but instead he felt rage at himself (for raising such a weakling) and at her (for not better managing her emotions). Everyone was upset by what happened to Mirta. Everyone. “Stop crying,” he said, pulling into the duplex’s parking lot. “How are you ever going to find a husband acting like this?” She grabbed her Jansport from the backseat with the white Tamagotchi her mother had bought her. Humberto didn’t get out of the car. “Make lunch. I have to go and make up the hours I lost because of you.” He could hear his own cruelty. It was almost as though he was observing himself but couldn’t stop. There was something addictive about this behavior. A power he had nowhere else in his life. She was the only one he could take his rage out on. “And don’t kill yourself while I’m gone. 59

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Dramática.” They locked eyes. Yessenia really was a physical replica of Mirta, especially the way she expressed her anger. Both women clenched their jaws, flared their nostrils, and pinched their brows. Yessenia swallowed. “It should have been you.” She stormed down the driveway, past the aloe vera shrub Mirta had planted, and worked her key into the door’s lock. That selfish little girl. She didn’t care that Humberto’s paycheck would be short. She didn’t care about missing school. She didn’t care about how her behavior reflected on the family. He lowered his window and called to her. “Ven acá. Come here.” She couldn’t talk to him like that. Who did she think she was? Was this how all her Gringo friends spoke to their parents? “Apologize,” he said. “Discúlpate.” “You first.” “For what? For putting a roof over your head and buying you clean clothes? For paying that head shrinker for you? Tell me. For what do I need to apologize?” “Dad! You’re being really mean—” “Yours is the worst life ever, right? La pobre. No one’s suffering worse than Yessenia Sandoval. Do you know how much that fucking school costs us?” Humberto listened to the low growl of the engine. For moment, he mistook it for his voice. “We’re not rich, Yessy.” “I hate you!” Yessenia shouted, tossing her backpack to the ground. That also cost money. Humberto had driven to three Sports Authoritys to get her the right backpack. Her hands gripped the edges of the window. She spit on Humberto. Suddenly, his rage seized him. “I hate you too!” He yanked on one of Yessenia’s braids, hard, and she fell forward, hitting her chin on the car door. Humberto thought he heard a pop. After a breath and a realization of what he’d done the anger chilled. Had he really hit his baby girl? He killed the engine and opened the door. “I’m so sorry—" “Why do you get to live? And mom dies? Yessenia cried. “You should be the dead one! You! You! You!” She picked herself up and ran into the duplex. “Yessenia!” Humberto noticed the neighbor who lived in the front duplex was outside, probably pretending to water his guava tree but really chismosiando, listening. 60

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He picked up her Jansport and noticed the Tamagotchi was beeping. It needed food or to be walked or something. Keeping this little thing alive was hard work, he thought while looking at the flashing digital screen. Back at the shop, Chewy agreed to let Humberto cover his remaining shift in exchange for splitting any customer tips fifty-fifty. Humberto needed all the money he could get. It still astounded him that lawyers could charge $150 an hour. They made his whole day’s pay in sixty minutes. It almost felt criminal. While rotating a customer’s tires, he talked to Nacho, one of the mechanics Humberto had started with in ’98. Nacho had three daughters, so Humberto felt comfortable talking to him about Yessenia. Nacho loved offering advice, yet a lot of his family success seemed due to luck and his put-upon wife’s involvement. “¿Qué hago? What do I do? I don’t know how to talk to her,” Humberto said, lifting the car on the rack. “We have the hearing soon.” Nacho wiped his hands. “Bueno, have you apologized?” “This again. For what?” Apologizing was one of the many things Mirta did for him. Every time Humberto had messed up (forgetting to pick her up from soccer or using one of her dresses as a wash rag or not noticing that she had changed up her hair), Mirta would sit on Yessenia’s bed and apologize on his behalf. Sometimes Humberto would press himself against the door, listening. Humberto’s parents never apologized. They would act like nothing had happened and then talk about world events, as if to say that there were bigger offenses happening elsewhere. Humberto’s spine ached. Years at the shop had ruined his posture and bones. He thought of not rotating any tires and just telling the customer he had. “She’s taking the stand in three days. The lawyer says she can help our case. She was in the car when it happened. He says she can show that it was gross negligence and not ordinary. She saw the driver on the phone. The phone! Can you believe that? And the fucker says he wasn’t on his cellphone. I need her to be normal. She can put the bad man away. And it’s like she doesn’t care!” “That’s a lot of pressure on a kid.” Nacho picked at a callous on this thumb. The skin came off 61

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in a long curling string. Nacho tossed the skin onto the floor. “Were you an hijo de puta to girls when you were younger?” “No. Why?” Humberto didn’t think so. He opened car doors for his dates, never got handsy, and always understood no meant no, and not keep trying. Gestures that at the time seemed chivalrous, and now that he raised a daughter seemed like the bare minimum. “If you were an asshole to women, the universe gives you girls.” Humberto stretched his back. The movement seemed to give him temporary relief. “So what does that say about you? You have three daughters.” Nacho flashed a devious smile. “And all three have taught me to shut up and say sorry.” For two days Humberto and Yessenia ignored one another. They were like trains on programmed tracks. Each timed their excursions to the bathroom, and neither lingered in the living room. Humberto wondered if her silence was a punishment. He’d read an article about how Jehovah’s Witnesses practiced shunning. It was supposed to be so excruciating that the sinner would have no choice but to return to the flock. On the third day, Yessenia was in the kitchen serving herself ajiaco and mumbling to the Tamagotchi, which she bounced in the cradle of her palm like a sleepless new-born. This would end tonight. Humberto needed to make sure she was prepared to speak to the court and testify. The driver was a celebrity chef, renowned for his upscale Mediterranean restaurant on Alton Road. Despite what the chef had done people still patronized his restaurants, and last month has appeared in the paper with the Miami Beach city commissioner. Humberto was afraid that people would rather preserve a rich man’s dignity than honor some immigrant woman’s life. After passing the breathalyzer, the chef was escorted back to his Coco Plum house. Humberto’s goal was for the chef to be charged with vehicular homicide and receive the maximum sentencing of fifteen years in Florida. This, his attorney had informed Humberto, would not be easy. He took Yessenia’s plate out of her hands and sat at the table. He’d give the food back once things were set straight “What are you doing?” Yessenia grasped for the ajiaco. “I’m hungry.” 62

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“Oye, are you ready for tomorrow? Did you look over the papers the attorney gave us? Are you practicing?” “I’m not going tomorrow. It’s stupid.” She reached once more for the food, but Humberto lifted the plate out of her reach. “Fine. I don’t want any of that nasty shit anyways. I’ll go to McDonalds.” She stood up from the table and walked out. Humberto followed her as closely as a shadow. “What do you mean? You have to. You were there! You saw him on the phone! Don’t you want to put a bad man away?” Yessenia was outside now, storming down the driveway, ignoring everything her father screeched. Soon they were on West 65th Street. She waited by the crosswalk for the light to change. Humberto stood beside her. He’d get through to her. He would. “You don’t care that this comepinga is going to get away with killing your mother?” The light changed and Yessenia bolted down the street. Humberto tried to match her speed, but the pain in his lower back returned and camped at the base of his spine. “So what do you care about?” Humberto demanded. “Tell me. What’s important to you? Trying to kill yourself? Missing school? That Tamaichi thing?” They were a block away from the golden arches. Yessenia hadn’t said a word. Once they were inside, she got in line to order. Humberto stood behind her. He used to take Mirta to McDonald’s on their date nights. He felt ashamed that the value meals were all they could afford, but Mirta always reassured him that it was all she needed to be happy. “It’s about the company, not the food. Besides, even rich people eat McDonald’s,” she told him, dipping a fry into his Oreo McFlurry. She once dared him to go into one of the tubes in the jungle gym if he wanted a kiss from her. He got stuck halfway in. He could hear her raucous laughter and snorting as the crew of teenagers yanked at his heels to pull him out. “Yessenia, please.” His hands were trembling, and his mouth felt overly dry. What would happen if she didn’t testify? Could he convince their attorney to reschedule? Maybe Humberto could talk her into a written statement instead. There were three people in front of Yessenia. Some were still unsure of what to order and hmmed and ummed. Humberto grabbed Yessenia’s shoulder—to outsiders he must have seemed like a creepy old 63

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man hounding a teenaged girl, but he didn’t care what others saw or thought. “You used to be sweet. I used to tell people I had the best kid. You were so nice and happy. What happened? When you were little, you’d run up to me when I got back from work and give me the biggest hug. Why are you like this?” He rubbed his eyes. The silence was getting to him. Between not getting to say goodbye to Mirta and this he was beginning to realize that silence really was a punishment. He was owed a response. He raised her, spent money on her, worked a bullshit job for her. He bared his teeth. “When did you become such a bitch?” Yessenia said nothing. When she reached the front of the queue, she ordered a McChicken, value fries, and a soft serve chocolate ice cream. Humberto’s stomach began growling as he smelled the peanut oil and salt wafting towards him from the kitchen. Yessenia took her receipt and waited by the semi-functioning soda machines. Humberto followed. “You’re not going to say anything?” She looked away. “You were in the car with her. You saw everything. If you don’t testify, we may not win. No one will hear what happened, what we lost, what it’s like for people like us. Everyone gets to take from us. Fuck us over sideways all the time. Not this time. Please. Not this time.” Yessenia folded the receipt and looked down at her sandalias. There was dirt on her toes and heels. When her food was ready, Yessenia took her tray and walked to the outdoor dining section across from the kid’s play area. There was a family eating across from them. One of their kids swam in the ball pit, while the other worked his way to the center of a sundae. Humberto followed. He sat across from her and continued. “I can leave the room when you testify. Or drop you off and then pick you up.” His breath was quick and choppy. He felt the chapped skin on his lips beginning to crack. Humberto wished he had ordered some fries or a McDouble or something. He felt his blood pressure dropping. “Please, say something.” Yessenia looked at him blankly and then took a bite of her sandwich. “It’s not going to bring Mami back. None of this will.” Suddenly the rage of the situation, of his life, of every injustice he had had to ignore for the sake of his citizenship and family pulsed through his body. This wasn’t an offense he could disregard. The fury radiated from his back, up his shoulder, through his forearm and out his palm: He slapped 64

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Yessenia across the face. She tumbled out of her chair and onto the plastic foam floor. “What the fuck?” Yessenia held her face and worked to pick herself up. The family across from them had seen the whole incident. The mother stormed over to Yessenia and lifted her to her feet. Holding Yessenia, the mother said, “I’m calling the police.” She shifted and scanned Yessenia. “You alright, baby?” “No.” The mother glared at Humberto. “Don’t you dare move.” Humberto tried to explain but the mother shook her head. She wouldn’t let him speak. He was doubtful he could articulate himself well. And what was there to articulate? He had hit her. There was no ambiguity there. It wasn’t a courtroom; he couldn’t try to make his case in the play area of a burger joint. The way the mother preened and fussed over Yessenia made Humberto feel even more inadequate as a parent. A stranger was better with his daughter than he was. Thirty-two minutes later the police arrived. Yessenia and the family testified to the assault. “…And then he hit the girl square in the face. We saw it all. I’m sure it’s also on the store’s cameras. I think I saw him kick her too. He was wild, officer, wild.” “Yes, he slapped me…Yes…Mhm.” They cuffed Humberto, read him his rights, and placed him into the back of their beat-up Crown Vic. From the window he could see Yessenia. She was rubbing her cheek and talking to the mother. After a beat, Yessenia fell into the woman’s arms and cried into her chest. The mother rubbed Yessenia’s hair. Humberto could almost hear the cooing sound he assumed the mother was making, like a lullaby. As the car lurched forward, Humberto realized he had gotten what he wanted. Yessenia testified and a bad man was being put away. Madari Pendas is a Cuban-American writer, translator, and painter. She is the author of Crossing the Hyphen (Tolsun 2022). Her work has appeared in CRAFT, PANK, Sinister Wisdom, and more. Pendas has received awards from the Academy of American Poets, FIU, and two Pushcart nominations. 65

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Moonlight Goosebumps: Honey, Through the uneven emptiness Of these dancing leaves of Our favorite Kadamba tree, rain out into me as cloud soaked Moonlight Goosebumps 66

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'Why do you love me?' he asked her. ' Because, you know how to love, what is love, and value love, you need nothing other than love, You dive into my eyes and breathe freely in my heart, You spill your soul into mine and I become you, I always feel how precious I am and I preserve myself for you, I always feel there is more love inside me for you, you are that dew, where my sun becomes rainbow you are that mist, where my tears grow feathers ou are that valley, where my fragrance solidifies into fruits. I know you are the lonely moon and I am the only wolf, and I know my howl will echo endlessly in your eternal moonlight.', she replied. Why do you love me? 67

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Your Tender Lap: I was a nomad wandering In the streets of love Seeking a humble abode. I delved the deserts, Climbed the mountains, Hunted the pearls And slept fainted On the river bank. When woke up The river was no more But I found myself Floating on your tender lap 68

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While rolling down Teardrop just halted On the lips to give last kiss, But lips were busy Holding the breath. Halt 69

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About Words: Your words shall have no strings attached. They shall be hung aloft from the heart And to be wafted out from the soul. No bonding No Jealousy No preference Shall hold them back from flowing. Your body and soul may not be yours But for sure your words are. 70

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Ranjith Sivaraman is an upcoming Poet from Kerala, a beautiful state in India. His poems merge nature imagery, human emotions, and human psychology into a gorgeous tapestry of philosophy. Sivaraman’s English Poems are published in International Literature Magazines and Journals from various locations like Alberta, Budapest, Essex, London, New York, Indiana, Lisbon, Colorado, California, New Jersey, Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc ,Kerala ,Texas, Chennai & Toronto. Mr.Sivaraman, was a finalist in The Voice of Peace anthology competition 2021, organized by the ‘League of Poets’ His Poem ‘Shortest Distance’ was released as Music Video in 2022. ( ) 71

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TRIPPED UP & Dropping to the ground 72

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TRIPPED UP Sometimes when I stub I want to fall down Into fine floating Critical angle Without the landing Not our Icarus But another flyer Closer to the ground No one can stop me That’s the same problem But there’s no sunshine Near midnight in hall Travel to empty I will keep stumbling Even over nothing And end near seated Not all parallel To earth hovering Lovely but obtuse Above and never Quite finishing up Down or laid full out 73

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Dropping to the ground The only thing dropping to the ground That may not flinch me Now is my body, different wincing. All else falling down Startles and flinches me head-to-foot And sole-back-to-crown. Then, wide ovalling around Berkeley’s 3rd World Strike Rallies, 1969, to duck arrest Again and lose my Probation to Cincinnati jail. Protests broad, multi. Still would I drop down, avoid police And National Guard, Helicoptered nerve gas, Reagan’s tests. These demonstrations New warm my heart but bring me to shake In new ways, worry. They’re past overdue and lovely in Their wide breadths and scopes. But Virus will not rest infecting. Yelling and marching Must be masked and who will quarantine To protect those loved. Everyone brings back Antebellum Not for an old South, But for the new one flinching in birth. All now should startle Over new long Civil War again. How can this one end Without a bloodying red of our States, Our states of calmed mind Thrashed into shadow and dimmed far down. ••• And I gathered in PTSD from my pregnant wife Falling out of bed, Her brain bleeding. Her recovery Never happened: endless Her loud yelling and no near recall. After 40 years At times I still cannot sleep with ease Heart, head race until Finally I rest. This is Virus, too, And startling keeps on Moving us all in new directions. ••• Terrible. Doubting How survival can manifest this Dropping to the ground.

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Sandy 1 Hawai’i became a state in August 1959 when I was still nine in Honolulu I called my birthday dog ʻeleʻele one* black sand after my crush dark-haired smooth-skinned Sandy though no one else knew it all these years later recollecting Sandy though we never spoke 2 Weight, Love I have waited for her all these years though I have her though she may be dead and dying and still she leads me on straight paths through park and wood near her beauty temple city she is my many-eyed dark secret I call Love *pronounced élay élay óhnay

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Weeping for Beings 78

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Retired children’s librarian Alan Bern is a published/exhibited photographer and the author of three books of poetry. Alan is cofounder with artist/printer Robert Woods of the fine press/publisher Lines & Faces, Recent awards include: honorable mention for Littoral Press Poetry Prize (2021); flash fiction finalist for Ekphrastic Sex (2021); first runner-up for the Raw Art Review’s Mirabai Prize for Poetry, 2020. Recent photos published include: , and It is clear that Alan favors both hybridity and complex collaboration: he performs with dancer/choreographer Lucinda Weaver as PACES and also with musicians from Composing Together. Thanks to Abbe Blum for her help with this sequence. 79

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Today's paper offshore in the driveway its sustenance a requisite, its consequence demolishment, a heaving between fires and the ancillary columns, those antic unlives neither there nor time to awaken, the paper gives me meals, I'll let you know how that ripeness feels, the tangerines that woke you, avocados and pecadilloes, shopping carts in the afterlife, the cameras' curiosities, the tourists in their aisles, zealous pilgrims all the while in want of a toehold of a purchase, of a finite horizon amid a torrent of deals. There's a question that seats itself gingerly at the register, just what to pay for, what to steal. *** Suburban Threnody 80

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Aubade Violins in the morning well before the opening bell, no thought to any breath we’ll know, as long as we may take one: Inside the cats are quiet, drowsy, no more apple carts to empty, no more dishes to employ No thought to any close impending, or so I suppose, they’ll be well done of all of this before to long. That’s how I think the story goes. *** Recent work by Bruce Robinson appears or is forthcoming in Tar River Poetry, Spoon River, Rattle, Mantis, Two Hawks Quarterly, Peregrine, Tipton Poetry Journal, North Dakota Quarterly, and Aji. 81

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The Luxury of Grass The dog barks, calling to me. There’s desperation in the sound of it, a yelp that’s needy, that crescendos into a high note like a pleading question. Or maybe not. Maybe that’s just me projecting. I’ve seen the dog here at this park before, a park of just a few acres, named after a local serviceman killed in combat in a war fought long before I was born. I can’t pronounce the name, though, and it seems disrespectful to fuck it up as I do, so I say instead, “I’m going to the little park.” A brown pond sits as the undulating centerpiece of the park. Cream-colored frothy swirls of pond scum float defiantly along the banks. Kinda like a large mug of coffee. And even though I can walk around it in less than ten minutes, half the time it takes for me to drive here, I make the drive anyway and I walk the loop anyway. I disappear here. It’s the magic of the place. To look at it, you’d laugh. There’s not much beauty to be found, after all. Nothing by the looks of it that connotes magic. It’s more navigating your steps over geese shit than around flowers; it's more the squealing sound of trains brisking past along the tracks so close you could feel their wind than soothing bird chirps. You’d laugh indeed. You’d say “Ha! Magic here? HERE?! Where the pond’s fountain is so broken it spits sporadic like an angry old man, grown vicious and unpredictable with age? Here?! Where the deer carcass is still decomposing alongside the tracks having lost its race with the 7:58 commuter train to the city?” But, yes, I’d say to you. I insist there’s magic here. Humble though it may be, the rest of the world can cease to exist here. And that is, quite simply, fucking miraculous. Others come here for the magic, too. They, like me, are regulars. Having discovered what this little park offers, they come. We are all escaping here. Or finding something here. Or avoiding something. And so we walk the loop, circling, circling again, in a sober, enchanted parade. But right now the dog is still trying to get my attention. Small, scruffy, old, it’s on a lead that doesn’t extend far and the dog pulls each inch of it taut, straining to keep me in view as I walk further away. And it barks. Still pleading. Still desperate. Still hopeful. I relent; turn towards it and our eyes meet. He looks hopeful for a moment. His legs lock and his neck lengthens in anticipation of… of something. I lift my hand at my side and wave one of those awkward waves where your hand moves quickly side to side, fingers rigid and stuck together. I wave at the dog like this and then I give it a little shrug. It’s a gesture that tries to convey all at once: that I want to but I can’t; that I just don’t have anything to offer, not even to you, Dog. The dog watches quietly for a moment and barks one more time. I hear futility in it now and I’m pretty sure that’s disappointment in his eyes. Maybe it’s just my eyesight going but probably not. The other end of the dog’s lead disappears inside a shabby clunker of a car pocked with rust holes and held loosely together with silver Duck tape. But even the Duck tape is giving up hope, slowly Dedicated to Roger and his dog 82

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jumping ship, curling itself into truthful despair. The car is pulled up close to the edge of the parking lot, against the cement curb that becomes a small field of trimmed, pale green grass. An old man sits in the driver seat, door swung open, the loop of the dog’s lead hooked onto just one of his fingers. His arm is stretched and unbending in a way that gives his dog a few extra inches to roam, a few more steps of grass to take. His arm must hurt, I think, held so straight for so long. With this, my own arm imagines the cramp, taking on his pain sympathetically. It’s their routine each day. They are regulars that need this park, too. Each day, the old man loads up his shabby dog into his battered car and, a few minutes before the clock hits 9, they putt-putt-clank into the lot of the park with the difficult-to-pronounce war veteran’s name because, though he cannot walk himself, the man treats his dog to the feel of some grass. Even if it is only the few square feet that the length of the lead permits. The old man’s head lifts -- from a paper in his lap? from dozing in his seat? -- to his barking dog and tells it to hush. But the command is wrapped with love and it lands softly. And so I go on, away from the dog and towards the pond to walk my loop. My loop. And as I do, I let my thoughts spill from my mind without trying to collect them. They fall amongst the geese shit. Passing the fading sign that announces the park’s name and the list of all those important people -- community leaders and do-gooders and big-pocketed people that dug out this pond and paved the path that winds around it and cut ribbons and planted the circle of trees, barely seedlings still with heavy white plastic tubes wrapped around their young, growing trunks supporting their ascent into the world -- I think of the serviceman. I practice his name, my tongue limbering up to the twists of vowels and consonants. I might even be doing this aloud, puffing out little whispers of sound that the branches of the little growing trees catch and hide amongst their leaves. In doing this, in saying his name again and again, I inadvertently conjure him next to me. (Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary…) Uniformed and medaled, he begins to walk alongside me. But his gait is lumbering, heavy with regret. I tsk inside my head, knowing we’re going to get passed by another walker at a pace like this, but I quickly feel guilty about the thought and brush it away. I called him forward, after all. He’s my responsibility now. So I slow my pace to walk with him and try to think of things to talk about. I do what I do when I’m nervous, which is to say the first thing that bubbles up into my mouth without vetting it. “It’s really nice that they named this park after you.” He just nods a slow up and down motion that makes it look like his head is too heavy for him. I’m surprised ghosts’ heads have any weight at all. And so I go on, committed to my foolishness as I am now. “It’s a really nice place,” I lie. He gives a half-smile at this and, without words, points to a sign that’s been bolted to a wooden post standing tall amongst the reeds along the pond. “WARNING. DANGEROUS ALGAE BLOOM.” In smaller print, the sign warns of eating fish from the pond or permitting a pet to drink from it, and a list of possible unpleasantries should any of the water touch any part of your body. (Rash. Fever. Poisoning. Death.) “Yeah,” I say. “That sucks.” Just a few lumbering steps further and he is pointing again. This time, his finger is directed 83

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downward to the cement path in front of us where someone has spray painted in white a penis and a pair of testicles. It’s cartoonishly disproportionate. From my experiences, anyway. I’d be terrified if that dick came at me. From the tip of the painted penis spurts little white lines arcing up and to the right, in the direction of the train tracks. I wonder for a moment if this was intentional; if there’s any message behind it. Or just artistic whim. “Oh, man,” I say to the ghost vet. “Why? Why do kids love to draw penises everywhere?” And there is real disapproval and genuine apology in my voice. But he surprises me by laughing a bit and talking. He says, “Soldiers, too.” His voice is deep and gravelled. It’s really nice and I immediately want to hear it more. It’s the voice of a man I’d want protecting me. It’s not the voice of a man that says things like “Hooray!” or “Yipee!” “Really?” I ask him. “Soldiers drew penises?” “Oh, yes. All the time,” he says. “There’s artwork from my battalion alone all across Vietnam.” “Hmm,” I offer, intrigued by this. “You too?” He doesn’t answer. He just smiles sheepishly. And we walk on. A spindly tree branch has blown onto the path and he instinctively reaches out to help me around it but his hand just passes through me. He shrugs an apology that I’m familiar with and I can feel him growing forlorn. I’d try to cheer him, to offer him the reminder that he left a mark, he lives on -- he has legacy! -- but he’d no doubt feel the insincerity of my words. He’d know I wouldn’t want it this way, either. Instead I point to the purple heart pinned to his uniform. “What happened?” I ask him. He closes his eyes for a minute and takes a deep inhale. I suspect this is just out of habit, not out of necessity for air anymore. He readies himself to tell me his story and I feel myself instinctively bracing for it, too. But when his words begin to spill out, a train comes roaring past. And it’s one of the long ones with extended cars because it’s rush hour and everyone’s trying to get to their jobs in the city. I can’t hear what he is saying but I can see tears fill his eyes and there is a stream of blood leaking from his hairline by his temple now. He’s finished before the train fades away. “I’m sorry. I didn’t catch any of that,” I say, gesturing towards the tracks, now empty. He shrugs. “It’s not important anyway.” And we walk. I want to shake him. He’s becoming a cumbersome weight on me. But before I can think of words that would send him away, we have finished the loop and the rusted car in the parking lot and the old man and his dog come back into view. This time the dog doesn’t see me, lost in the smells and the feel of the grass under each slow step of its paws. The vet ghost and I stand quietly at a distance and watch for a while. And I wonder what he’s thinking as we do. Did he have a dog once that he’s remembering? One that yipped and yelped at his feet as he left for war? One that whimpered for a while - just for a while - when he didn’t come home? Or is he focused on the man, instead, resentful that he didn’t get to be that old, himself, a struggle though it is? Together we see the old man gently coax the dog with sweet promising words and soft tugs at the lead back into the car where it clambers up on his lap and remains before they clank-putt-putt 84

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back out of the lot. And when the car is out of sight, the vet ghost talks. HIs voice is even deeper now. “They come back again at 2.” “Really?” I say. “Again? For the grass?” This is news to me. “Every day,” the ghost vet tells me. “That’s kind of beautiful,” I say. “It’s such a gift.” But I feel more than this and so I add, “But kind of sad, too.” He just nods solemnly and then fades away. Not so much as a goodbye. Alone now, I walk over to the dog’s spot of grass. I notice it has begun to wear. Patches of brown earth peek through in a half-circle shape the length of the dog’s lead, staining a shape in the ground where old paws dig to return, letting the ghosts out as they do. As I drive home, guilt sits with me. There’s an ache in my chest, my heart slowly pumping ‘could haves’, ‘should haves’. Tomorrow, I’ll go, I emphatically decide. I’ll return to the park and offer the old man to take the dog myself for a longer walk -- around the loop perhaps -- where the grass is still green. Even if we have to walk slowly. Even if we walk with ghosts. Even if I should really butt out. Even if this is not what I go there to find. I feel soothed by this decision, the ache receding some. But that evening, it begins to rain; a red scroll across the bottom of the TV warns of snow, too. And I know I won’t be at the park tomorrow and, even so, the grass would be buried anyway.

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excerpts from the upcoming novel and motion picture HE DREAMT LIGHTLY For one season, Bobby Neale rented a room with some friends in Ann Arbor. He had grown bored of Vanderbilt in the summer and, at the invitation of friend, packed a bag of clothes, tapes, and art supplies and took a Greyhound up to Detroit from Nashville. The overnight ride took about 12 hours. He had preloaded with pot and had a pocketful of cocaine and ecstasy for the trip. The bus cruised along like a slow boat, rising and falling like the ocean waves. Bobby dozed off and briefly woke up to catch the twinkling lights of Louisville and Fort Wayne. While gently falling asleep on the ride, he composes a journal entry. HE DREAMT LIGHTLY Written by The Star Plane Watcher Eventually you’ll forget me but I don’t have the time to let you go without your eyes. I’m blind. Praise the messenger. I’m the messenger Representing the sender. One more time I invade your dreams one more time. Without my eyes you must see with your hands. Or see with your mind to expand and withstand the old plan to crush the creative process Then a snap jerks him awake. He thinks it was all so real. How could this parallel world exist in only a vision? The tastes, the smells are all there, designed by an astral hand Then taken away so quickly. Surely this is a prank of sorts. continued 86

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When he was there, the roads, the houses were all familiar. Only slightly kiltered in the strange way that an author pens a tale. The dreaming boy’s creative mind dredges up a world of thought that only further confirms this whole idea of a parallel plane actually existing. There he was, a writer flowing with emotion. There, in the clouds of creativity, the words just came without interruption. Now under the shade of a real tree, the actual breeze fans the blades of a churning engine whose limits are defined only by four walls, a roof, and an insatiable appetite for coffee. He feels the difference writing there in the astral realm and Writing here on earth. Seems so strangely similar Only separated by a slight tweak of reality. There in the clouds, he calls it sleep writing. Here on earth, he calls it dirt sculpture. Wherever it happens, it feels magically therapeutic. Time stands still waiting for the energy to stop traveling. Only Time knows how long it will last, but he and Time have a deal. Bobby took the train to Nashville from rural Georgia. He had made plans to aend a party there with a friend. He had a girlfriend drive him to the staon and drop him o. The long ride was relaxing and slow. He saw the backs of railroad towns as they crept through the nearly deserted burgs without stopping. They rolled through a crossroads with only a gas staon and a liquor store. The sign read CLIMAX, GEORGIA: Populaon 456 “Feels good coming and going”. An old friend at college had told him that he had grown up there and it was horrible. Bobby saw this as a sign to never stay anywhere that you are unhappy. continued 87

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The train connued to creep along. Bobby imagined he was on a sailing ship to Africa. Onboard the imaginary trip were only a few crewmen and a few other civilians who had paid very lile money to ride for 3 1/2 weeks from Miami to Africa aboard a shipping vessel not intended for passengers. Bobby imagined that he had le all of his troubles behind and was starng a new life on the other side of the world. Slowly coming back to reality, he connued to daydream while riding the slow train. He imagined that, in a bag, he would carry his drawing supplies on the ship. And he would draw images of his old neighborhood. He oen saw roosters in the backyard of his neighbor’s home and would draw them occasionally. The biggest rooster would stay sll the longest and he would study its feather paern and replicate it perfectly with a hint of a shadow from sunlight. Bobby’s mind was taken back to the ship sailing through the rough waters for weeks. He seemed to discover a new way of thinking about his perspecve: To live outside of your current perspecve and to see the world through the eyes of everyone else. And to not let all of the outside forces aect you personally. This posivity the Bobby felt seemed unlike him at mes. He would swing back and forth between understanding his chemical imbalance and geng lost in a river of emoonal doubt. Somemes coming up for air to see his mother and sister reaching for him to save him and holding on for a moment but gently losing grip and geng swept away in an uncontrollable whirlpool of despair. Bobby’s end of life isn’t gruesome. He simply wants to go swimming. Pushes his arms and develops gills. His arms turn to wings and his eyes glaze over. His focus becomes sharp. He rises out of the water now a bird whose wings are on re. The salt water boils, he is shed from his astral feathers. With no delay, he swirls around the earth and moon; he jets o towards the sun and explodes into a million lile stars and each one of those stars forms its own galaxy. 88

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Born in Tennessee in 1972, Michael Rogers has lived separate lives between youth and old wisdom. Writing has been an outlet to create a world that has been a sort of semi-autobiography and a way to preach activism and understanding. Self therapy in revealing dark secrets has helped Michael cope with the ridiculousness of life. In his own words. 89

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Traditions I thought I saw his spirit ascending. It was like smoke from a candle you reckoned could never go. Momma held out her hand. Almost before I knew it was there, I grabbed it. She said, “Bow your head, close your eyes,” and I did and her weak fingers, loosening one moment, tightening the next, shook and were sweaty. She addressed the Lord after that like how you would someone whose name you remember but whose face you can’t quite recall. Then she began on this prayer she couldn’t have ever repeated. Then it was like she’d never do anything else, the way she dropped onto the couch and sat there, staring out into the room, not expressionless, her eyes seeming to take it all in, and not knowing what to put together, I could only stare at her. I wanted to move. But I thought she’d have looked at me and I didn’t want that. She breathed in, an abrupt, deep breath, and stood. She went to the kitchen. I heard her in there, opening and closing the one cabinet, opening and closing the other. I heard the bottle being picked up and dropped steadily. She came back and I guess if I hadn’t known her and known exactly what she’d end up doing, I wouldn’t have been able to tell a thing. Once she got back, she sank onto the couch and she said, “Momma’s gonna have to lay and rest her little eyes for a while,” and she laid back, her arms overhead and her eyes closing as she fell. She told me, “You my child. You my only child. And you always be my only child. Oh, yes, you will.” I could see when she was asleep from how her stomach went up and down and then I just couldn’t help myself. I went to the kitchen and I took some swigs. The only other time I’d ever drank before that was with my old man. We drank gin and he took me for a drive. He said it was tradition—driving your boy around the back streets with his first taste—and my old man explained how his father had done the same thing with him when he was my age and his grandfather the same with his father and how I had to do the same with my son. He told me stories about when he was a boy growing up here and how he’d get in fights. On our way back, he told me about his first kiss. “Her name was Lucy Taylor, an older girl, and she was actually the one that kissed me,” he said, the road empty on every side of us, his dull eyes twinkling in the dusk. I don’t know why I did it or when I decided I would. It was like that moment was supposed to be a certain way. I was supposed to go and open that door. My throat and stomach burning, I was supposed make my way down those steps. The night wobbled like it had when we got back home from our drive and were going up those same steps, unaware of how late it was, off-continued 90

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balance, laughing about everything all at once. I watched my shadow appear and disappear depending on the streetlights. Nothing happened until I made that first turn way at the bottom of our street. What happened was I saw this woman bundled up in an army jacket. The clothes she had on besides the jacket, a white tee shirt and jeans, fit her loosely. She was right at the corner, sitting on the curb with her legs hiked up in front of her like someone who’d accepted a long time ago that this was all there was going to be. She asked for some change and when she saw me digging into my pocket, she stuck out her hand as I dug deeper. I gave her all I had without looking at what it was. She said, “Thank you, sweetheart.” She said it loud too. But I didn’t know what I was supposed to say back. All this time later, I still wouldn’t. I just ducked my head and put my hands in my pockets and turned the other way and kept on. After a while, I finally looked up at the stars. I found one that seemed memorable and tried to convince myself that it was the right one, ours, and then I convinced myself that it didn’t matter and made a wish. I closed my eyes when I did. It was like everything was spinning when I closed them and when I opened them, I felt the air newly and I ended my wish by saying, “Please, please.” Then I made a promise that I wouldn’t make another wish until whomever I had wished to and was making the promise with granted my wish. I whispered the promise part. Everything before that I’d done in my head, these thoughts that began in the middle of the last one or with two running parallel just as outbursts that’d flash so bright only to fade, about where you go after it’s over, thoughts better suited as wishes. Once I was done, I noticed my breath, the light gray clouds it was forming. It didn’t feel like it’d gotten any colder. I might’ve been breathing harder. On the other hand, I could’ve just been getting more used to the cold. * I reached that park on Mulberry, somehow, as though instinctively. I pressed my body against the basketball court’s fence, squinting at the court. I was going to go inside. But then I didn’t know what I’d do when I got in there and I wasn’t willing to chance it either. That’s why I just sat down at one of the metal picnic tables. I sat facing the court. Different parts of it lit up because a car passed. The car’s echo remained even after the car I felt was too far gone and the parts of the court that its headlights had made visible seemed visible for longer than they should’ve been. I gazed at those parts as they faded into the more permanent darkness, thinking I could shape from them and from what I knew the rest of the court. continued 91

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We’d play all the time. I was just starting to get good. We’d usually play until a little after the streetlights came on. A few times though, we’d still be out there when the streetlights were all we had. Those were the best times. He’d tell me things that I don’t think he’d have told me if there were more light, things that you don’t want your boy to see you struggling to express but that are nearly impossible to make clear since you’ve got to start telling him before he’s even capable of understanding it all anyway. One night he showed me the constellations and the North Star. He said as long as the sky was there I’d never get lost. We picked our star that night. I did wind up going onto the court and having no idea what to do. I just walked around and I threw my arms up like I had a ball in my hands and I held my follow-through like there was actually a ball arcing in the air and some game was on the line. That was it. Then I left. I knew my way back home. The whole time, I wondered where you looked to get lost. I took a shorter way, cutting through the park, the school’s parking lot, a few backyards. I remember I didn’t open the front door right away. Eventually, I did and saw everything the same as when I’d left. Surveying the house, wiping my shoes on the entryway’s rug, it was like no time had passed since I’d left and I stood there, absorbed in that sense of no-time, believing that if I moved not only time but also all those other things that go along with it would start again. Of course, I had to move. I went upstairs and ambled through the hall and from room to room just delaying the inevitable, which was me going into their room. I’d seen the door, open slightly, whenever I wandered the hallway. I pushed it with my fingertips. I saw the pictures first, leaning in their frames on the dresser. They always would be up on that dresser across from her bed, their frames’ wood finish darker and smoother than the dresser’s ornamental and dinked and engraved wood. I saw us smiling. She’d have awoken to that every morning. The only place I could go next was back downstairs. I had to at some point, anyway. I went through the kitchen to the room where she was, laying as she’d been, and standing on the other side of the room’s opening, I reached in and switched off the lights. She must’ve heard it or felt it or something because she woke up. Her head’s outline, dark and frazzle-haired, rose and turned from side to side, all the while nodding as if to rhythms her dreams had left her. She grabbed the couch. Failing to get up even halfway, she scraped her fingernails against the leather and the leather made this faint squeaking noise and then she sank into the cushions, which seemed to sigh under her weight. She adjusted herself some and said, “Baby.” I turned the lights on. “Baby, is that you?” she said, her eyes closed, falling asleep, and I turned the lights back off. 92

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Jay Nunnery is a writer, teacher, and musician, who calls many places home: Wisconsin, New York, Louisiana, and California. Recently, he completed his short story collection, Alms, Louisiana, a collection of twenty-one, interconnected stories. Currently, he is working on a screenplay called The Circuses when he is not teaching high schoolers or making music. 93

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Asteroid 94

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For Louise N. 95

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Oaks at Sunset 96

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Spiderweb 97

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x - a 98

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A Statement from the Artist: I have been a photographer for over 40 years and I am constantly amazed by what the world has to offer if one just takes the time to see it. I have no preconceived notions as to what I am looking to photograph and with an open mind and eye my images are very instinctual, reflexive. Not spur of the moment but watchful of those moments as they come into view. 99

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A Call for Submission In the interest of fairness, please submit to your opponent not by tapping out, but by covering you (hee-haw mass esemplastic) one! two! three! I tell you not to break the hold once & for all. The approximate length & width of the ring can testify to the size of the Punjabi Playboy puffing smoke rings (‘cause moths are oracular) from prison that you (hee-haw mass esemplastic) thought was an ancient gumbad of manuscripts & cathode rays. ------ In light of ping-pong & peer reviews, please follow the submission guidelines & observe the smooth delivery of promos guided by an abstract of 300 to 500 words (‘cause moths are oracular). After your proposal is approved, you will be invited to cheer on the hope of the other paper: to do a Spinaroonie. Unpublished words always turn into birds. You (hee-haw mass esemplastic) remember that! ------ If maintaining wrestling kayfabe is now out of style, then I’ll have to apply an ultimate kimura or a figure-four shoulder lock on CoViD-19. continued 100

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101 ki mura kimura kimura kimu ra kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimu ra kimura kimu ra kimura kimu ra kimura kimu ra kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimu ra kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimu ra kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura ki mura kimura ki mura kimura ki mura kimura ki mura kimura ki mura kimura ki mura kimura ki mura kimura ki mura kimura ki mura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura kimura

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The seasons, the rickshaws go color-blind. A lot of reasons are making the chickens persevere in the depths of their emotional hibernation. They capitalize and persevere. An Eluardian instance. Dear, are we ready to be kaleidoscoped? Spring Rain: An Epilogue Here we are at last, alone picking up pieces of pure bark, without loneliness, far from the consumption of luxury and cement from corporate deliria. I open my eyes with a sight as clear as this reality pounding my heart like crazy—that’s you, my dearest. Ah, I cannot lie it’s you and your luminous mind that fill the world with mynas! There are naked lights swirling in peach and tropicalia, subterranean night rains too are in bloom for faded melodies to flower right in your silent face. I got lost in the night for so long, without a heavenly outcome like the smell of jujube escaping the parentheses of memory, but when the night surrounded me I was born again. I can now recognize your rays of rays, because you are to embrace your life anew.

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Untitled #2 (dialectical materialism, or this Night on two legs) A flowing sand and an invincible church surround your patience, and deep with its radiant beyond —this Night, this blue-junk country on two legs, celebrates love almost reduced to a wraith at the edge of the city 103 Lawdenmarc Decamora is a Filipino poet with work published or forthcoming from Michigan Quarterly Review, The Common, Peripheries: A Journal of Word and Image, The Margins, The Seattle Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Mantis: A Journal of Poetry, Criticism, and Translation, among others. He is the author of the poetry full-lengths "Love, Air" (Atmosphere Press, 2021), "TUNNELS" (Ukiyoto Publishing, 2020), and the recently published chapbook "Dream Minerals One" (Ghost City Press). His poetry has also been anthologized in The Best Asian Poetry 2021-2022 (ed. Sudeep Sen), Contemporary Surrealist and Magical Realist Poetry: An International Anthology (ed. Jonas Zdanys), Meridian: The APWT & Drunken Boat Anthology of New Writing (eds. Ravi Shankar et al.), to name a few. He lives in the Philippines where he teaches at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila.

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I Love You All the Time Precocious boy evanescent or incognito every Friday in the living room felt like a middle school dance beatific teeth and wealthy smiles are getting all the laugh tracks and happy endings while I get the domestic eldritch shaft than a somnambulist lumber from a toddler’s slumber “You love me ALL the time,” I pick him up and embrace the fleeting joy of a romantic mortally wounded by their own unfathomable delusion he takes my hand to the land of nod snoring in my ear with puppy dog breath arbitrarily throwing haymakers appendages crack my ribs I wake as their collateral damage, comfort is a war zone they keep you awake all night begging you not to leave them, the fatigue makes me sick but then their voices resound you love me ALL the time and my tired and bruised lungs speak I love you all the time. 104

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The Silent Hurt pestilence in my heart ambivalence coursing through my veins disencumber the vanity of her complacent violence expunge all the nightmares of another stoic antonym fear lulls me to sleep corpulent with righteousness until my will stymies the antidote of the rage comfort me, the darkness she left heal me, the trauma of her anger I’m not a victim I was the symptom of an arbitrary crime you wrest my name you raped my innocence you cultivated a narrative called it a family now you’re trying to hang me for my integrity and before I die, I’ll call you what you are this wasn’t a mother, she’s the witch 105

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The Notebook Poem If you’d let me be sincere then maybe time would let you in if I’d let you be curt then we’d realize love isn’t punctual and there’s still a place for you and me to recover all the nostalgia and turn all those fleeting moments into opportunities to begin again when life told me to let you go and wisdom told you to walk away we’ll meet back up in some spot cultivated by the patience of hurt now there’s nothing left of that pain the only resolve is to embrace what we are soul mates separated at birth best friends antiquated by generational refrain if we still find each other in the end then soul mates, is all we need to remain when I’m a meandering anachronism and your ego feels too vain steal a notebook from my desk and I’ll steal another tear from your heart remember how I always thought of you and never tell me how you felt the same. 106

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Eddie Brophy is an award winning poet and novelist. His debut novel "Nothing to Get Nostalgic About" was published by Atmosphere Press in 2020 and won the Literary Titan Gold Award in 2021. His poetry book "Autumn's Eulogy" was published in March of 2022 by BookLeaf Publishing. His poems have appeared in several publications including Ghost City Press, Terror House Magazine, and Oddball Press and his short story "The B.K.R. Killer" was published by Haunted MTL. 107

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Sketchbook 108

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The Woman in White 109

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Wall of Glass 110

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Lindsey Pucci has a B.S. in Art Education from U.W. La Crosse where she was the recipient of the Carol Quillins Scholarship Award for her digital photography. Her work has been shown in the La Crosse Center for the Arts and The State Street Gallery in Wisconsin as well as being published in Nightingale & Sparrow. She teaches and lives with her husband and young son in Minnesota. 111

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The Letter I Can’t Send Nah, no bio, thanks. Maybe just tell everyone that they still haven't given me back my copy of Piranesi. I mean, they can keep it -- that’d be fine -- but they've got to talk to me. They were brave for a bit. I saw what they could be and it was beautiful. I wrote that to them in another version of this letter -- a nicer one -- but I can’t send that one either. I worry for them. I suspect they're not okay. How could they be without lying to themself? I wish they'd remember how happy they could be and choose it. 112

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The Measure of a Breath How do you begin to measure, the life that someone has lived? The moments of elation, the friends made along the way, the hardships survived. Persistent as we are, to categorically organize the moments we endure, Measuring up our lives on a scale, reaching numbers for ourselves to reassure. Distance travelled, numbers reached, hours, months and long years spent, The additions, subtractions and tallies lost along the way, what has it all meant? Are we to measure by the meaning of the number of friends we’ve met? Or by the lives to which we gave meaning to, a spark in their hearts we set. Can we measure by the sum of all the profits, compounded through the years? Or by heart-stopping moments of bravery we had, overcoming our greatest fears? Measuring perhaps by the places we’ve visited, traversing widely across the globe, Or the places that visited us in these moments, immersive moments we have known. In a seeming race to accumulate the highest number, until the final moment left, Time has marched on all along, a ticking heartbeat, a thief so deft. When that final moment approaches, what does all of your life lived come down to? No more time left to inflate your numbers, nothing left to do. In that constant running of the race, did you ever pause a moment, To feel the wind, smell the rain, listen to the words your friends had spoken? Did you ever see the sky a canvas, to the day’s parting spectacle? Or were you adding up the things you did and didn’t do, calculating to the decimal? Had all of the moments you were on the Earth, been spent and never lived? Have you only ever received and never known the joy to give? Had you ever been lost in the beauty of a moment, that takes your breath away, Ever felt the stillness of a quiet memory, in which you felt forever you could stay? All through these moments, we meticulously attempt to measure, Are the very things that make our lives each our own, life’s very treasures. The times our hearts raced, or calmed to the stillness of distant thunder, Our minds captivated by constant learning, held in fascinated wonder. continued 114

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Times of happiness, that could never be weighed or measured, Only the heartbeats to mark our joy, the accompaniment to these living treasures. The pounding in our chests, when we endured horrors, or trials too hard to bear, The despair when at times it seemed, our bodies were robbed of any air. Times when our hearts had broken, the fibres strained to the very ends, When it seemed our tested beings, could never be whole again. Still through these moments, the times of trials and great joy and of peace, We found strength and hope and something more, the seemingly simple act to breathe. Though each spark of life so very different, unique in so many ways, To each their own hardships and happiness, the ways in which they live their days. Something we all share, the opportunity of a breath, Each one measuring the moments in our lives, not ticking off the time we have left. In each breath is the occasion, to rise to make it your own, Embracing the emotions, times and chances of the moment, right down to your very bones. So when you take each breath, with each one live that moment, Feel the entirety of the flow of air, to each wonder, your mind do open. For perhaps each life, from its peaks to its very depths, Is the way we rise to the occasion, of the measure of a breath. 115 A 2020 graduate of University of St Andrews, Scotland (Biology BSc), Natalie is now completing a Masters in Business at the University of St. Andrews. Natalie competes on the horse polo and ballroom dancing teams in addition to taking part in golf, sailing and reeling. Natalie began writing poetry when her mum read Hailstones and Halibut Bones to her at a very young age. Natalie’s work has been featured in North American and Canadian poetry competitions hosted by Creative Communication, The Poetry Institute of Canada, The Royal Canadian Legion and Polar Expressions Publishing. Her work has also appeared in the internationally curated anthology by Wingless Dreamer and online journal You Might Need to Hear This. Natalie has been featured in The Parliament Literary Journal's inaugural issue as the Ekphrastic poetry competition’s Artist's Choice winner. Her work ‘Implosion’, has been published in the summer issue of The Parliament Literary Journal and ‘If You’re Being Me, Then Who’s Being You?’ has been published in the autumn 2021 issue. Most recently her work ‘The Voice Behind the Curtain’ has been published in the Parliament Literary Journal’s spring 2022 issue in May. Natalie has a great passion in writing to share messages in a rhyming form for all ages, that challenge perspectives, inspire innovation and allow for creativity.

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featuring “Heading Home” Jennifer Weigel 116

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Jennifer Weigel is a multi-disciplinary mixed media conceptual artist. Weigel utilizes a wide range of media to convey her ideas, including assemblage, drawing, fibers, installation, jewelry, painting, performance, photography, sculpture, video and writing. Much of her work touches on themes of beauty, identity (especially gender identity), memory & forgetting, and institutional critique. Weigel’s art has been exhibited nationally in all 50 states and has won numerous awards. Fine Art Painng, Photography & Jewelry: hps:// Conceptual Art Projects: hps:// Wring: hps:// 117 ARTIST’S STATEMENT This artwork is part of my Reversals series. These works in this series are intended to reflect upon art, beauty, human nature and time. Symmetry is supposed to be beautiful, but when it is executed too perfectly it can become grotesque or off-putting. Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO explored this in Beautiful Mutants, utilizing found historic portraits in symmetry to create strange and eerie scenes and individuals. In my work, I have intentionally worked with images of traditional art, especially garden sculpture, which is seen as capturing the most beautiful or serene or peaceful but has historically represented only particular subjects, especially attractive young women, mothers and children. The juxtaposition of symmetry and traditional images of beauty becomes a sort of "uncanny valley” in ways, like how computer generated portraits become eerily both real and not real, just enough off from normal as to not be believed or trusted. They become too lifelike and yet not lifelike enough, and the result is creepy. In the case of these images, they become less believable, less lifelike, and yet we cannot ignore the human element in them and so they trigger a sort of unease. Heading Home questions whether one is coming or going. I am reflecting on both past and future in present, not just in the physical, but in all aspects of being. Where am I and how did I get to be here? Where am I going? Where do I want to be?

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standing in the doorway she is the doorway peplos and chiton draped now about her feet shoulders squared one hand grasped upon the doorframe her stomach covered by tapestry of choice stay in go out go home alone go home with him call him dance the flashing lights the backseat his fingers his lips cigarette smoke wisps he bite of leather delicate soft burning on her tongue after another choice unrepentant tell him tell her mother tell the doctor tell no one pray to Zeus pray to Gaia pray to Hermes pray to Hera and the sun arms open staff in hand she stands for delight embrace detach alone and after… the fallacy of doorways is two when potential is infinite If Janus Was a Woman 118

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Remy Chartier is a queer and trans author, hailing from New Hampshire. For two years, they taught a class at San Francisco State University, on transformative fiction and the importance of uncensored creativity in an increasingly capitalist society. Above all else, they identify as a teller of stories. Their work can be found in The Ana quarterly arts zine, Decoded Pride, or by visiting 119

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Widow Mother. Black hole hearth. Grace. Heart place. O, heliotrope hands, amaranthine eyes! O, diamond teeth, mathematical mind! Let her phenobarbital smile, lithe you, for a pretty, little while. Elixir! Nectar! Such exquisite spells await! Spirals! That ache that hives you & hastens at the rate of what feels like delay, that contrives you to interpolate your matrix into mating with the very dance itself, to move inwards into the vortex mouth, sublimate unto the trance, that advanced, infinite echo: Feel it. Silent. Inside. Hear it aloud. Without. That corundum drum beat, emanating storm, to subsume & adorn you in its fetter ornaments, that she space these things outwardly, organized, & museum them, inwardly; her web is complex. The Great Change imminent is on its way like a comet: Are you prepared? She watches! Your confusion, joy, despair. Let her assist you in your time of need. The whole world is about to unite now. Don’t be left out! Won’t you be part of The New Everything? O, Seer! Oracle! Sphinx! What of these holidays? Fly us to the interstellar atmosphere! To the aggregate ultimate womb! Beasts! What mouths you? What breathes your senses? What tentacles of eventualness massage your consciousnesses? What electricity touches you, O, dears? Feel her! Heal her! I could kiss you forever! Will you kiss me?! I am fire as ember! Hold me & burn with me! How can we say no? We say, Yes! Hold me. Yes! I’ll be your shadow. Invoke me. Yes! I’ll be your sacred, secret sin, your private onus, your ego’s egg. & she unwraps her blood baskets—empty—ready to fill with floods of others. Leave it to your children to shudder at these thoughts they’ve not yet had. You! You have no time for that. Run! Run into her arms! Become her army! Flood her! O, savage goddess, deliver us! Clay savages! Be thusly delivered! Can you see in convex? Can you hear in tantric? Let her in! Let her calm your delusions with infusions of solutions, your infusions of solutions with delusions. The new age of aeonian sages shines animal upon the future annals & vacant faces of the inhabitants, who stand, empty, on the blank, abdomen address, of the barren, outcast earth. Like a veneer, the satellite’s pale smile, a sliver of indifferent slumber, silvers us, our number climbing downward towards perdition, into the shivering, screaming affliction of Gehenna. O, lordess of darkly light, illumine us with your aluminum, that we might ignite the universe, & traverse our station into the infinite! ! Untitled (Widow Mother) 120

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Don Sandeen is a writer/artist/performer. His work appears or is forthcoming in The American Journal of Poetry and New Note Poetry Magazine. 121

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Sisters, bright body to body, Love, Ecclesia and Synagoga, Each the slim sanctuary, Twice sylph, together, nested naked glyph Most beauty most bare – in sight, Ring light, the same reflection sees what should Be given, life to the living – What is given, the heavy human weight. Their observers have watched them Through pure development, now vitrified And porcelain, posturing Perception, and cheers for strength – Valkyrie! There, with feelings of French ballets, The Grand Piano Hall 00, Those larger pale mallows prove Something – prodigies in self-portraiture, Recital, earrings, stone-wired Wrists and fingers, small attire – the endings Of high societal evenings, Requirements of mutual undressings. Audiences in their bed, Both too skinny, to each two largenesses – Beastly wings, though a heavy Surface broods and beats, are paper-thinnest Like prettiest twins – imprinted Beings are for being’s sake essential – Earth-kisses on the whole foot Stepping forward despite itself, meeting The cold strides of space between – Its terminal solemnity doubles Loss and so outpaces all else. Ecclesia and Synagoga 122

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Dr. Alex Van Huynh received his Ph.D. in Biology from Lehigh University and is currently an assistant professor of biology at DeSales University. His poetry can be found in multiple literary journals and his first full-length collection will appear in 2022. 123

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