Misha Lazzara

SIX SELF-PORTRAITS

1. Alabastered

Up north, I curled like a cat
on a metallic chipped radiator
warming myself in the snow-
fall streetlights waiting for my
mother to get home from work.
It wasn’t until I hit one-thirty
that I stopped eating completely.

2. Nacreous

I saw the ocean first at fourteen
with the curves of Aphrodite
waltzing out of those clamshell hips.
I was regularly cautioned
that I had no body at all,
a temple, a cage, devil’s playground.
To-be-maintained like the off-
white stainlessness of old, bleached
gym towels. Eventually,
I gave in and bled. Only
oxygen-rich blood is red.
Blood that can finally breathe.

3. Irised

Hazel, a shade of well water,
iridescent with pond scum.

4. Opaline

Never a whisper until
eighteen. I was deemed old enough
to know the truth of my grand-
father’s death—Pearl’s son.
I sat in the drive through, listening,
while imagining myself
eating a chicken finger
from Dairy Queen. Yes, they serve
food. No, I didn’t eat it,
but I swear I would now. At thirty
I discover Pearl had a
sister called Opal. They dug
up jasper with rusted fingernails
and picked black-eyed susans out
west. This was exactly three
generations before I
first gathered smashed abalone
from the Atlantic. Pearl did
lose two full-bodied children
while alive. I lost two inside
before twelve weeks.
All that unwelcome blood.

5. Silvered

After the death of my grand-
mother, I was gifted a box
of molten silverware. I
have never used it because
I’m told real silver requires
real care. Guidance I never
received. Where is that box now,
I wonder vaguely? An attic?
Was it my grandmother’s or
was it her mother’s?
Somewhere, I have a
box of someone’s
silver silverware corrupted
by my own lack of care and
by oxygen. Silver cannot breathe.

6. Mother-of-Pearl

At thirty, I discover Pearl
was a poet—my dream! Pearl
and Opal picked wildflowers—
danced in fields of ochre on western
plains. What was their mother
called? Did it start with an H?
I visited the Dakotas
once as a girl before I
ever even knew their names.


Misha Lazzara is an MFA candidate at NC State University. Her work has appeared on poets.org, Entropy, The Fiction Pool and more. Winner of the Academy of American Poets Prize 2020 at NCSU. Her debut novel, MANMADE CONSTELLATIONS, is out with Blackstone Publishing 2022. Mishalazzara.com

Jacqueline Brown

Parallel Slippers

After Succession’s Season I, Episode II — For Jesse Armstrong and Dad

Marcia asked Greg for the slippers // I went to the department store
Blue checked // Heavy soled brown velvet
They would be in the apartment // The salesman wrapped them/For Father’s Day
Can you put them in there? // You proudly told the nurses your daughter bought them for you
Shiv didn’t want to talk about it // I cried in the elevator

//

Great, get in there and operate, Dr. Google // I’m at the hospital, they’re working on your father
Roman asked for a worn sweater // I still wonder if I knew somehow as I wrapped myself in
yours —

Logan went home
While I got your slippers back in a bag


Jacqueline Brown is an Irish-American studying at the University of Pennsylvania. Her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Placing Poems, The Madrigal, the debut issues of Friday Nights Forever, Prickly Pear Magazine, Truffle Magazine, and The Initial Journal, and elsewhere.

‘Maybe We At War With Norway’ by Bojana Stojcic

(Talking into my tape recorder) I’m going to hide this tape when I’m finished. (Panting against the plastic, keeping the viewer focused on my mouth) I dunno what the hell’s in there, but it’s weird and pissed off, whatever it is. It’s like the Thing, and it’s not because it’s ugly and unpredictable. It’d be a good thing to see it before it sees you, though. (Pausing for breath) At least we know it must come into contact with its host to start replicating before eventually taking over the entire body. It’s because…um…I find it equally disappointing, somehow too deliberate to be taken seriously. What I meant to say is (sweating buckets like an ape) it’s like the Thing, this ice station of ours—all about suspense where everyone’s a potential threat in disguise, and (raising my voice) it’s not like we didn’t have a chance to rewrite the gore scenes and low-key characterization, or at least overcome the stereotype of the loser, or psycho, or hero. (Looking deep in thought, nail-biting scene with a wide shot) No, that didn’t happen (resignation song playing)…it’s not likely to happen, like ever. Turns out we’re nothing but setups for an attack by the Thing, our primary goal being to get jumped on from behind, which leads us to the second problem, and the third—plausibility, the loss of it. (Taking off my glasses, can’t see a thing, putting them back on) We know it has a thing for waiting—that much is clear—or until you’re alone so it can digest, copy, repeat. It’s just that (biting through my lip, adding to a high tension climax) by the time we see Doc, is he still Doc or is he the Thing? And when it’s gone, how the fuck do we know there’s not something left crawling around the Norwegian outpost?

The tape recorder slides out of my hand and falls through the floor. (Through cracks, knotholes or as a result of shrinkage of floor? Think about it.) Those who wandered off alone have gotten back with silly grins on their faces, some still claiming this is pure nonsense—doesn’t prove a thing, others screaming cut me loose, dammit, having lost count of who was infected and who wasn’t. Clearly, this takes the fun away but no one said the Thing was fun. (Facing the camera) I dare you to watch the screen.

(Turning my back)

I thought you’d feel that way, the Thing’s lip curls into a sneer.

(Throwing dynamite at the Thing, prolonging the reveal as long as possible) Yeah, fuck you too!

***

Deleted scenes: the greenhouse’s roof ripped away, causing the marijuana crop to freeze (too difficult to pull off), more Norwegian corpses (lack of time/ budget), ship looking more sophisticated (leaves too many unaddressed implications behind), scotch in hand, smiling my Thingy smile. (No need to start the whole “perhaps the Thing will bring back more of its kind” crap—it’s nihilistic enough.)


Bojana Stojcic comes from Serbia / lived in Canada / lives in Germany, where she writes flash, cnf and (prose) poetry. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Versification, Brave Voices Magazine, Punk Noir Magazine and Sledgehammer Lit. In her opinion, if we all do the thing, we may just stand a chance.

Eric Fisher Stone

The Ecstasy of Owls

The sleep
Of reason is not darkness, but another kind of light.
—Sophocles, from Antigone, Don Taylor trans.

The owl gazes from an oak,
his clockwork face grandfathered
in wood. When the park is closed

for visitors, the barred owl murders
the wind, whisking to powerlines,
clasping and slurping a vole.

To make an owl, one must multiply
infinity by mottled twigs,
spells of unreason, beak,

talon, and nightly queries,
Who cooks for you? hooted
to the moon’s hammock.

Naming the darkness between planets,
he glides the wordless country
before birth, after death, beyond

jade jungles with undiscovered frogs,
white shingles of polar caps.
His wings blaze like gossamer fire

from burst stars where grass spurs
in terrible pleasure, and the world
turns in the black cherries of his eyes.


Eric Fisher Stone is a poet and writing tutor from Fort Worth, Texas, USA. He received his MFA. in creative writing and the environment from Iowa State University. His poetry collection, The Providence of Grass, was published by Chatter House Press in 2018. His second book of poems, Animal Joy, is forthcoming from WordTech Editions in October 2021.

‘Ghost Cat’ by Andrea Lynn Koohi

Cats are everywhere these days. 

“Look, a kitty!” my 4-year-old son Jack shouts, dropping his fork to his plate and pointing out the window. 

I look out to our backyard and sigh. Indeed there is a kitty, and it’s one I’ve seen before, tiptoeing across the garden soil as though it thinks I can’t see it. White fur popping like snow on coal. 

“I think he likes our backyard,” Jack says as the cat lowers its backside behind a hydrangea. 

“Indeed,” I say, glaring at the cat and then remembering the other cat I’ve been meaning to bring up all day. Lucy, my sister-in-law’s cat – dead for two weeks already, and I still haven’t told Jack. She was probably about a hundred years old in human years, but what comfort is that to a kid? Plus, he loved her. 

So I’ve let the days pass with Jack’s ignorance intact. I’ve watched him play Doctor with his own “kitty” – a ratty old plush with a resemblance to Lucy I could really do without. 

“Time for your check-up!” he told the plush this morning. The cat’s bent-whiskered head fell grotesquely to the side, but Jack didn’t mind. Plastic doctor’s kit in hand, he set his small hands to work.

Stethoscope to the heart. Thermometer to the mouth. Here’s a bit of medicine. Look, all better now.

The thing about secrets is that they’re kind of like cats. If I keep them locked up, my whole world creeps with their presence. I sense them in the shadows like silent stalkers, slinking around in the corners of my vision, lurking in places I thought they couldn’t reach. It’s high time I set this one free.     

I take a deep breath and turn to Jack. 

“So you know your Aunt Sara’s cat, Lucy?”

His face lights up and my chest aches instantly. I should have known better than to look at him.

My eyes find the cat outside again, now lounging ghost-like on the freshly cut lawn. Suddenly it hits me that we’ve been here before. Not at this table, but in the car, the day I told him my mother died. Our bodies were just like this, in fact – facing the same direction, looking out the window, sparing me the need to look at him. 

The message on my tongue feels heavier now. “Well,” I say, staring harder at the cat, but now seeing my mother’s cat, snow white as well. “Remember when we talked about how, when animals and people get old, they die?” 

Jack says nothing, but I feel his body tense, a spoon of peas forgotten in his hand. 

“Lucy was very old and sick.” I’m hauling words like bricks now. “She died a few weeks ago.” 

No response. 

I know the sort of thing I should say to him next – “It’s ok to feel sad – I feel sad too” or “I know you loved her and you’re going to miss her.” Validate their emotions, I read somewhere. Let them know it’s ok to feel.  

“So,” I say. “We won’t be seeing her anymore.”     

My mother. The cat. The cat. My mother. I close my eyes to clear the jumble in my mind, but now I’m seeing the road again. My hands are gripping the steering wheel and I’m delivering the news in the very same way. A passing fact, a tale of spilt milk. We’re seeing tons of these cases, the police officer said. Given her history, it was bound to happen eventually.  

I open my eyes and glance at Jack, who’s still looking forward, eyes wide. 

I’m hoping this plays out like it did in the car. He’ll stay silent for a minute and then change the subject, it won’t be a big deal when he never mentions her name again. 

Finally Jack speaks, his voice too small for the boy I know. 

“Nothing lasts forever, right Mama?” 

I scour my brain for something comforting, but his words sit between us like a newly formed crevice. There’s nothing I can think of to bridge it. 

“That’s right, Jack,” I say. 

My mother used to leave out three bowls of kibble and three bowls of water every day for her cat. When I asked her why and she said “just in case”, I remember how I laughed and changed the subject.

Stethoscope to the heart. Thermometer to the mouth. Sometimes there is no medicine. 

The cat climbs the wooden fence at the back of our yard and navigates the top with perfect balance.


Andrea Lynn Koohi is a writer and editor from Toronto. Her work appears or is forthcoming in The Maine Review, Pithead Chapel, Cabinet of Heed, Idle Ink, Streetlight Magazine, Emerge Literary Journal and others.

Lisa Trudeau

Lady Slipper

Look you say – orchids veined like human hearts
Blushed and pulsing under late May pines
Pick one and they all die

This thought inhabits you. It will not leave as thoughts should. It grows out of your mind and
into the room. Magic. Mutation. Medication cannot harry it away. You will not eat. Thought
spoils food. You cannot sleep. Thought lurks in dreams. You cannot leave the bed. Thought
squats in every room, comfortable and patient.

Cypripedium meaning Venus slipper, acaule without stem, as leaves rise green and wide from
the base, uninterrupted stalk mounts to pink lipped petals, puffed, coronary, cleaved, thumping
with color on the right forest floor – right acidity, right moisture, right light. They grow in
families, perennially bound far below the visible bloom. Symbiotic.

shift her
with sweetgrass with sage
smudge sickness from her chemistry
purge impulse through sand and ash
saturate her
at the end of a day at the end of a dry dark season
roll her down from heavy skies
then ember her
stoke her bright again
with blueberry branch
blossoming white bells

Things take time.
Eight years from flower to seed.
Lady Slipper is easily disturbed
in her moss-mound bed, curtained by ferns,
broken by browsing deer.
Things take time.

A chickadee alights on your window sill,
Tilts its eye toward you then flits away.
Look you say, When I was a child, they would land in my hand.


Lisa Trudeau is a former publishing professional and independent bookseller. She lives in Massachusetts. Recent work has been published by or is forthcoming from Typehouse Literary Magazine, Neologism Poetry Journal, The Inflectionist Review, Levee Magazine, and Dreich Magazine among others. 

Two Poems by Meggie Royer

Surrender

We collected them like talismans
from every roadside and hill,
sky bloodshot with gold, softness
rising in our throats at the sight of their stillness,
eyes plucked from some of the rabbits like pearls.
Your mother married a man who sent her into the river,
held her body as it thrashed like the minnows
that later drained from her body.
It was a way of love for us, the fawns curled with wet,
sparrows stripped of their wings.
Each one, when set alight,
sent a plume into the dusk;
we considered this
a kind of baptism.


Gone Fishing

They kept saying the woman was on the roof again,
perched like a heron with toes curled over the edge.
They’d caught more fish that week than any other,
trout with their blush of pink smoothness,
tuna slipping through palms,
faint touch of salt, dusk spilling over their bodies.
You live like that, you live like a ghost,
what space must there have been
between her wanting to stay
and her wanting to leave, something like grief,
something like the seconds between
the hook and the catch,
the thinking better of it
and the release back into water.


Meggie Royer is a Midwestern writer, domestic violence advocate, and the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Persephone’s Daughters, a literary and arts journal for abuse survivors. She has won numerous awards for her work and has been nominated several times for the Pushcart Prize. She thinks there is nothing better in this world than a finished poem.

‘Old Habits’ by Ciku Gitonga

At 11 p.m., the Ottawa airport was nearly deserted. I sat there surrounded by my luggage, an island on a sea of blue carpeting.

“What are you doing on the ground?” I didn’t look as he came to stand beside me. “Hey, come on, it’s gross down there. Shoes have been everywhere.”

“Mm-hm,” I said, not moving. “I’m tired.”

He crouched beside me and took my hand. 

“I know, baby, I know. Look, we don’t have to go back to—” Instinctively, he paused as some people walked past us. I hated him for that second, for his reflexive accommodation. “We don’t have to go back all the way to Mum’s. The lady at the desk said that we can stay at The Marigold free of charge for tonight. Come back tomorrow morning for the new flight.”

It was good news—a part of me acknowledged it, and another part stared absently at the passing feet of a large family rushing to gate 12, thinking nothing. 

“How would we even get there?” I said. I was still not looking at him. Lifting my gaze seemed too much effort. 

“The airport shuttle,” he was saying. “We should start moving to the stop, actually. The next one leaves in, like, 20 minutes.”

“Mmh.”

Now he placed his hand on my chin, tilted upwards. “Hey,” he said. I looked at him, then away, gently chastised.

“I’m sorry. I feel like shit.” I had since this afternoon, when I woke up at 5 p.m. to the tinny blare of my birth control alarm. We’d stumbled in well past sunrise, fallen asleep fully clothed. There’s something depressing about waking up in the afternoon. I’d had a whole day planned to cap off our trip. A morning jog along Rideau, brunch at a nice little place in Byward. As I lay in bed, the back of my head gradually gained momentum to a steady, sharp thudding. He’d moved to press himself against me, hand reaching for my breast, and I’d shot away, ran to the toilet bowl to heave. 

This was on Kibanja. On all of them, really, but on him especially. Throughout the night he’d hovered like a fucking odour, closer than anyone in the ring of friends. On the Uber to the bar, I’d promised myself silently to show enthusiasm—we’d fought the day before about his friends, our voices hushed and hissing in his mother’s guestroom. It had scared me to see his nostrils flared and his voice sharpened—sometimes I forget that his cool, almost neutral expression is not permanent. Afterwards, lying naked in his arms, I had promised to try. And I did—I immersed myself into his circle last night, feeling like a swinging hatchet plunging into the rings of a tree trunk, tightly bound and ancient. 

When I first met them, Kibanja and Stef and the rest, I saw how they carried the years with them, and how the years melted away in their gestures, echoes of freshman days. He became different with them—regressed, I guess. It was repulsive. Like how he became around his mother, sitting in adolescent complacency as she bustled about. When he reached for me across his childhood sheets, I instinctively recoiled. 

“Kibanja was there for me when no one else was,” he had said during our fight. “He helped me stand up to the guys who were giving me shit at Ridgemont.”

“But he takes advantage of you,” I had said.

You’re a pushover, always have been, I had wanted to say. 

Last night I watched them: he, hanging on to every word, downing the shots as Kibanja egged him on. I remember the stories he told me about grade 12, how he’d get beers with his new ID while Kibanja and his lacrosse friends waited outside. Afterwards, he’d walk behind them into the woods, following their long shadows.

“One time they got me to drink so much—it actually wasn’t that much—and I was puking everywhere. Kibanja didn’t even want to drop me off home because Mum would know what was up. God, they roasted me for that night for, like, months.”

“So you had to walk home alone?”

“Well, yeah, but—”

I smirked. Kibanja was their centre when they all got together. They moved like waves at his frequency. His little band of misfits. I watched, ordering one drink after another, pretending to laugh with Stef. 

I had said: “It’s like you haven’t, like, grown up at all—”

Now he was holding both my hands. “Look, it’ll be just the two of us in a big hotel bed. You can relax. I’ll give you a massage. Eh?”

The skin of his palms was damp and warm. I imagined the patches of sweat he’d leave on the hotel sheets. I imagined the hotel room deep in darkness, after I had given in, after he’d finally fallen asleep. I would look at him from across the bed. His features went even softer in sleep, and his body curled inward like a fetus, like a wilting flower. And I, stiffly staring.

Now, on the airport floor, I looked up and matched his smile. I rose when he pulled me up with him. As I stood, I fought the sudden urge to vomit.


Ciku Gitonga is a second-year student at the University of Ottawa, studying Political Science. She immigrated to Canada from Kenya in 2016. She enjoys writing, mostly fiction, and sometimes poetry. This piece is her first to be published anywhere, and she is very excited. 

Two Poems by Anthony Aguero

Moping About in Palm Springs

Spent the next three days sported on
The back of my dad’s bike: dark spokes,
Orange rim, yellow handlebars, a red and
Filleted heart more like a roasted bird,
Or the bike was exceptionally ordinary.
We were soaring through the ozone.
He was coughing up a lung or both.
To be unflappable and frantic. I smiled
And my skin was burning from the scorch
Of mistakes a daring Sun leaves behind.
I was his majesty and that’s whimsical
To briefly consider. He, my courter.
I, too infant to know how to fear a god.
My mom is clutching her chest, holds
A fear so ripe it cannot be caged in hands.
At times, I know so little about the mechanics
Of flight or, even, forgiveness. Except,
That I’m here giving my arms to the wind.
The sun brushing the very skin our backs.


Seeking the Blanket of the Sun

Or the moon.
Or the stars. Dead body
Of gasses scattered
Throughout the skies.

We’re moving
The centerfold to the living room
And dancing around –
All flesh and pure air.

The light pours in.
I stick out my tongue to taste
The milk
And severity
To this witnessing:

Fingers interwoven,
Legs trembling in sweat
— we’re tasting the
Red off plump cherries.

And how easy
I confuse taste for warmth
Or
Vastness or abundance.
We’re moving, we rise.

We continue to make ourselves
More
Like the blanket
Of some warm sun.


Anthony Aguero is a queer writer in Los Angeles, CA. His work has appeared, or will appear, in the Carve Magazine, Rhino Poetry, Cathexis Northwest Press, 14 Poems, Redivider Journal, Maudlin House, and others. 

Matthew King

On Plato’s Phaedrus 229

There’s a bend
in the creek
you pass by
every day
that someone
who doesn’t
pass by there
might say is
the scene where
it’s said that
a god swept
away a
young girl who
was dancing
to make her
immortal

And you’d think
but not say
the north wind
carries down
where you stand
in the steam
from the storm
sewer source
of the creek
the spirits
distilled from
the fish that
remain there
rotten to
their oily
essentials

He’d know what
you’re thinking
and say if
you’re clever
you’ll make it
metaphor
keep passing
look past her
ashamed she’s
still dancing
immortal
at the bend
in the creek
where it’s said
the altar
is hidden


Matthew King used to teach philosophy at York University in Toronto, and is the author of Heidegger and Happiness. He now lives in “the country north of Belleville”, where he tries to grow things, counts birds, takes pictures of flowers with bugs on them, and walks a rope bridge between the neighbouring mountaintops of philosophy and poetry. You can find him on twitter: @cincinnatus_c_