‘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.

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.