Three Poems by Michael Battisto

Ghosts Without Moonlight

What happens when there is no longer any moonlight
for our ghosts to belong to?
They keep trying to resettle into their old names.

They pick through scraps
of the morning’s silences.
They wait inside our mirrors

through the still afternoons,
then add their regrets together
into another evening,

where they flutter around the streetlights murmuring,
using our lost buttons as currency,
counting the syllables remaining to us.


Another Winter

Soon it will be another winter. All our voices
will be seen. The trees will no longer
offer us oxygen. The grey roads

will wrap themselves around our feet
and beg for salt. We will have to eat
from the other side of the world.

While telling fantasies to our children
to make them believe there might be
some reward to all this.

We will join with the others in the ceremonies
of renewal. Which we know mean only
that we are growing older.


Allow Yourself to Sleep

November was mourning. We remembered
the voices of friends. Now
it is the first day of winter.

The deaths continue. They are
documented. An afterlife, as a number.
We exchange one technology

of memory for another. We write
over faded photographs. Then write over
what was written. Can you remember, clearly,

the faces and names of all your lovers?
Language is an accumulation of errata.
We were writing as our friends became statistics.


Michael Battisto has work that can be found or forthcoming in About Place Journal, The Shore, Josephine Quarterly, MoonPark Review, HAD, Frogpond, and elsewhere. Born in Chicago, he has lived in New York, Wyoming, Arizona and Texas. Now he lives in Oakland, California. Find him at michaelbattisto.com.

Courtney LeBlanc

BETTER THAN SEX
~ after Marissa Glover

My mom grins, her small
teeth on full display, drops
her voice and says, It’s called
better than sex cake
. Her friends
giggle in response. I’m nine
and unsure what sex is – I know
it’s something that happens
between a man and a woman, but only
after marriage, otherwise it’s forbidden –  
I learned this in Sunday school. Sometimes
I balance naked Barbie on top of naked
Ken and put a blanket over them. 
They’re having sex, I tell my younger 
sister and she nods as if
she understands. Years later I will try this
cake and it’s so sweet my teeth ache.
I try not to think of my parent’s sex
life but when I heard my mother say
this, her smile wide as she swallowed
a piece of the confection, she had four
children at home – two teenagers
and two under ten. The cake probably
was better than their sex life.


Courtney LeBlanc is the author of the full length collections Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart (Riot in Your Throat) and Beautiful & Full of Monsters (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press). She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Riot in Your Throat, an independent poetry press. She loves nail polish, tattoos, and a soy latte each morning. Read her publications on her blog: www.wordperv.com. Follow her on twitter: @wordperv, and IG: @wordperv79

Two Poems by Diane Callahan

Makeup Palette

Dipping into those shades of my body
the labia pinks, polished collarbone
dirt beneath fingernails, left armpit mole
the lights and darks, colors I can’t blend
or won’t
trying it on for someone else
when I’d rather be colorless
like air, breathable air
and on my own
I’ll mix as I please.


A Study in Lavender

Cut off your limbs, grow in new soil. We are the not-yet-bloomed, the shoot in your side.
They tell us to calm the nervous system, so we make lavender lemonade, put a pot on to
boil, one cup lemon juice, fresh lemons, two cups water, cold water, strained, sugar so
you can swallow it down. Lavender on the wrists of prostitutes, lavender on the tongues
of heretics, lavender days and nights at the cabaret. We prune and prune and prune, but it
never softens the energy, only entices the open flame. Let us keep our domed shape, and
take our sprigs to your neighbors, the one with the weeded garden, the other who rules
over mud, and to the stone houses still standing after the wilting of time. Lavender will
remain at the end of the world, if you let your fingers caress the dirt, if you let its
fragrance bleed into the harvest. The seeds of flowers begin with your open palm.


Diane Callahan strives to capture her sliver of the universe through writing fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. As a developmental editor and ghostplotter, she spends her days shaping stories. Her YouTube channel, Quotidian Writer, provides practical tips for aspiring authors. You can read her work in Translunar Travelers Lounge, Short Édition, Riddled with Arrows, Rust+Moth, The Sunlight Press, and semicolon, among others.

Two Poems by Derek Webster

Teaching

Don’t say “Geiger counter.”
Don’t say “Last night I lost a friend.”

Say “We’ll take that up tomorrow.”
Say nothing, or pretend.

Don’t ask for the note.
Don’t hear the girl who weeps.

Ask how the story should end.
Close the blinds. Repeat.


King Canute

When people talk of Canute, said my father,
they talk of his madness

and vanity, ordering his soldiers
to beat back the waves of the sea.

He was teaching them something, said my father
as we walked along the strand,

but no one was listening.


Derek Webster’s Mockingbird (Signal) was a finalist for the 2016 Gerald Lampert Award for best poetry debut. He received an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis and was the founding editor of Maisonneuve. His poetry and prose have appeared in many publications including The Malahat Review, The New Quarterly, Boston Review, The Walrus, and elsewhere. He lives in Montreal.

Dan MacIsaac

Picasso’s Minotaurs

L’art n’est jamais chaste.
– Picasso

Freak unmasked
in the cubist maze.
Or a blind beast led by
dove and starlight.

Brute lurid in the labyrinth,
tuft a rampant brush.
Or a double-pronged helm
looming over a deaf-mute.

Man-bull straddling
a voluptuous sleeper.
Or behind an opaque drape,
post-coital, that sated pet.

Never a laggard ox
plodding old and numb,
hauling a cart creaky
with bored surrealists

or indifferent critics.


Dan MacIsaac writes from Metchosin. Brick Books published his collection of poetry, Cries from the Ark. His poetry has received awards including the Foley Prize from America Magazine. His work was short-listed for the Walrus Poetry Prize, The Nick Blatchford Occasional Verse Contest, and the CBC Short Story Prize. In 2020, his poems appeared in numerous journals including filling stationTrain, and Canadian Literature.

‘Cicatrize, or, After the Restaurant Closes Down’ by Samantha Moe

I focus on the small crabs, whose bodies were grey, but I remember them as perhaps blue or purple. I focus on lettuce leaves, the smooth surface of hard boiled eggs, the scars on your hands, the way the counter presses into my collarbone. The lights, the lamps, the rugs, the guests.

I think about you at all hours, but only when it’s late can I leave the house, drive into the wooded veins of town, and dream. Music heightens the experience. If I focus too much, if I am too influenced by my surroundings I get drawn out of it. With proper inattention I become lost, I am crying, I can see you.

It’s always about the ocean, even though we’ve never gone there, not together, anyway. I know you love the ocean, too. I wish I knew if you loved me. 

I have gone to the ocean several times this past month, and every time I message you. Here are my feet, wading through the too-sticky water, the waves are so small, I’ve nearly stepped on forty hermit crabs. Here are mollusks I’ve placed in my pocket, hollowed out and broken, just like me. Here are my hands, I wonder where yours are. I daydream about the way you used to lean on the counter. I wonder how you would lean if you were in the sea. Would you lean into me, or the sand? Perhaps I should come back in my bathing suit. I’m far too afraid to sit in these goopy lines, which run all over the ground. I hear the woman behind me asking her husband what they are. He doesn’t respond and she says maybe they are eggs, maybe they are trash. He says he doesn’t know. 

I lean on the car to scrape sand off the bottoms of my feet. Later that night I return to watch the sun set. I am not alone, and when the strawberry moon appears, it’s so beautiful I want to cry. I try to take a picture to send to you but the clouds intervene. They don’t want me to give everything away. I can’t help myself. 

Melted berry compote you would reduce on a stove in the back. The idea of connecting each of the walk-in refrigerators to create one chilled experience. The blue apple eggs I have created in my mind’s eye, they contain ghosts, you cannot cut them without a proper knife. The food in the kitchen is unreal, surreal. No matter what I do I am always thinking about your presence in prose. No matter what literary space I try to occupy myself with, no matter what reaches of my memory I dive into.

 I always return to the foyer, I return to your hands, ghost cookies, wax paper, grease pencils, pearl earrings, skull earrings, candy corn, rotary phones, freshly vacuumed rugs. Swamp dust and storm puddles, alligator balloons, stuffed animal gifts, a plate that a child drew a smiley face onto. Sitting on hands, exchanging secrets for birds, watching those same birds fly in and out of the chest like it’s nothing, like magic is just another Tuesday. Loving five o’clock, loving everyone. Everyone loving everyone else. Everyone losing everyone else, then everyone gaining. The gentle way that rain falls on the house—this house. The house lit from within. The house yellow and soft against the night, though painted gold, paint flaking to reveal brick, brick stretching into the earth. I’m in love beneath the storm lamps. When I get home I’m coated in bugs.

The restaurant splinters in my mind’s eye, the way it splintered in Fall. I remember holding hands above filled sinks, forgetting the alphabet when weeded, beer hidden in the fridge, cookies tucked away where the butter should be. I was a nested sentence, I was a hostess, I was a panic attack, calmed only by strangers’ hands on my body. 

I love the birds you love. It feels like they make a nest in my ribcage, maybe my heart, though perhaps that’s the lingering effects of a panic attack. What are the other parts of my body that I have completely forgotten existed because I am so completely obsessed with the heart? There are so many. I fear I cannot remember anything beyond hands, heart, lungs, veins. What else is there? I am not taking care. I am relapsing in the employee restroom with my wine key pressed to my left shoulder. 

I wish you would write on me with grease pencil. Tell me the secrets you have left. I have only one, and it’s that the bird fits perfectly inside of my mouth just like a jawbreaker, but I have to be careful not to squish its feathers. 

Tell me your favorite phone number. Tell me what you think is lovely about the world. I miss the cobwebs and the caramel hallway that was always cold. Privately, I want to write softly. I only want to feel soft things, to encase my memories, to come home with shoes in one hand, keys in the other. I want the smell of summer soap in the air, the healthy green hue of trees whose leaves are wide as my palms, sky full of arbor edges and stars. To walk around the edges of the lake, to hold your hand as you guide me. 

Sometimes I am in love with the emptied husk of a restaurant, replaying conversations with every guest, incapable of pause or indifference. These days it’s all head-first, all of the time. And when I’m not daydreaming about you, I am afraid. 


Samantha Moe is a queer creative writer and editor. After receiving her M.F.A. in fiction from Converse College, she wanted to pursue her PhD, and is currently studying creative writing at Illinois State University. She writes about food, researches restaurants, and she loves nature writing. Her work has appeared in Overheard Lit Mag, and she is the recipient of an Author Fellowship award from Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. When not writing she illustrates a 1,000-foot art piece.

Stephen Jackson

The Seat of All Thoughts

— for Michael

We sat on a moss-covered log
in the trash-littered overgrowth
of Skinner Butte, smoked pot,
talked philosophy and gods but

mostly about how we, ourselves
are gods, how this particular log
was “the seat of all thoughts”
from which we, in our infinite

wisdom, controlled the entirety
of the world, then you with your
wet brown eyes, your twisted
let’s fuck smile, brought up girls

and the subject shift made me
want to slit my mental wrists
when in retrospect, I could’ve
leaned in and given you a kiss.


Stephen Jackson lives and writes in the mystical Pacific Northwest. Other work appears in The American Journal of PoetryFERALA Journal of Poetry and ArtImpossible ArchetypeStone of Madness Press, and Wine Cellar Press, as well as on the 2019 International Human Rights Art Festival Publishes platform. @fortyoddcrows

Kenneth Pobo

AT A SEASIDE CAFÉ, I WATCH

Poseidon dance—
for a frightening god,

he’s light
on his feet, a Gene Kelly

of foam. Seaweed wraps
around his ankles, forms

two anklets, his cloud
jacket flapping.


Kenneth Pobo is the author of twenty-one chapbooks and nine full-length collections. Recent books include Bend of Quiet (Blue Light Press), Loplop in a Red City (Circling Rivers), and Uneven Steven (Assure Press). Opening is forthcoming from Rectos Y Versos Editions. Lavender Fire, Lavender Rose is forthcoming from Brick/House Books.

‘Reset’ by Vera Hadzic

The man living across the hall is old. We call him John, or Mr. Wallace when we’re intimidated by the shelves of skin on his cheeks. Lately, John’s been knocking on our door whenever he has a problem with his computer. He uses it to play solitaire and to Skype his granddaughter, but sometimes it acts up. So some of us head to his apartment and tinker around. I have to slow each step so I can walk by John’s side. We move slow enough for the marrow to drip down the walls of my bones, pouring viscous and thick like sand in an hourglass. In John’s apartment, all the clocks are frozen. It’s 10:12, 8:26, and 3:02 all at once, and the calendar is still flipped to October even though it’s March. The place is littered with photographs—capsules of people I’ve never seen. The fridge babbles (it doesn’t always work, either). The smell of cigarettes wools over every item. Smoke unchains from the end of John’s cigarette, carving footholds in the air, climbing to the ceiling. I watch it spill from his lips, unscroll from his nostrils. John dissipates into the grey, sending out light through the orange throb of the cigarette and the flint of his eyes. Sometimes he reminds me of a sleepy dragon; or a stone knight, eroding under moss. When the computer’s fixed, John stands up, thanks us thoroughly, sends us on our way. 

The police sit us down in our kitchen and try to establish a timeline. I don’t think the interrogation lasts fifteen minutes. Then again, our apartment doesn’t have a clock. We use the stove to tell time, or our phones, or the Fitbit charging on the granite counters, never worn. Terri is the one with a good memory, and she swears she saw John getting his mail a week ago. I tell the police about the time I was sick, and the hallway was dark, and two kids at the door gave me some bullshit story about coming in to check our cable. The police officer, the one with a toothbrush moustache, asks if I thought they were suspicious. I said, our apartment doesn’t have a TV. He asks if that was over a week ago. Just to make sure we understand the timeline.

The new neighbours move in six months later. They’re a young family—a couple and their baby, who they dress in tiny pink shirts and bushy flower bows. When I meet them on the stairs, they say hello, smile, ask about the previous owner. I say what the police said—it was definitely a robbery. I don’t say that it was probably the two kids in the dark, that I should have paid more attention. That maybe if I’d given them some cash, this could have ended differently. I don’t think about how it was us who found him—Terri and me. She has a good memory, but mine has become intentionally bad. I try not to remember him, so I focus on the details. The pulled-out drawers, closet doors thrown open, boxes, books, clothes swarming the floor. All of it hazy, distorted, blurred and spotted like there’s fungus growing over it, frothing over the fabric and swallowing the light. Our new neighbours don’t need help with their computer, but they do invite us in for a drink. The clock in the kitchen and the one in the living room both read 7:32. 

I think about how easy it is to reset a clock.


Vera Hadzic (she/her) is a writer from Ottawa, Ontario, studying at the University of Ottawa. In the past, her work has appeared in Crow & Cross KeysKissing DynamiteRejection Letters, and elsewhere. She is an editor for Wrongdoing Magazine and can be found on Twitter @HadzicVera.

Favour Iruoma Chukwuemeka

Before the White Side of Hope

Point me a
body shredded to dust
voices ground to gun-like powder
graves unnumbered
and stars quenched from earth’s skyline
I will point you
Heroes who ate rotting mangoes as breakfast
Before they walked to their death
Men who saddled children on broken backs
Crawled over to the edge and
Let them fall on the white side of hope
While they waited for death to find
them for its own breakfast
or women who travailed in birth amidst gunshots
for a name to be remembered
while they died without names.


Favour Iruoma Chukwuemeka is a creative writer and poet from Eastern Nigeria. Her works have been published in The Mbari Story Place, The Shallow Tales Review, Kalahari, The African Writers and elsewhere. She analyses African literature for pleasure and enjoys volunteering.