4 Poems by Andi Talbot

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Tinder

I remember
that first night we met,
smoking with you
on the doorstep
amongst the broken furniture,
the bottles and bed frame
that littered your garden.
Then, from nowhere,
you spoke about setting it all on fire,
and I knew
I wanted to fuck.

Doorman 
We crossed the road
and like rabbits
in headlights, we froze
watching on as the bouncer
bloodied his knuckles
on the face of
a once mouthy man
in his mid 30s

So it was ID at the ready
just in case he was the kind
not to need an excuse
I went first,
both to get it out the way,
and to make sure nobody
bottled it before we got in,

It was a quick, polite
and insignificant experience,
like a first fuck
with much less planning
and a lot more nerves,
but then it was done,
we had made it.
We were in.

Space Monkey

I am not just the fading definition
of my abdominal muscles
I swear there
there used to be six of them

I am not just the collection of ink
buried in the second layer
of my skin,
and no
I don’t regret them
but that doesn’t mean
I love them all

I am not just the colour of my hair
or the lack of my hair
or my glasses
or the fact I wear glasses
or the fact that
without my glasses
the world is nothing more than a blur

I am not just my job
what the hell is
a Warranty Analysis Technician anyway?
and how the hell did I become one?

I am simply, me.

Bank Holiday Isolation

My t-shirt reads “choose life”
while I swig relentlessly
on a can of Carling
my first of the day,
and I already know
there will be more to follow

“It’s bank holiday Friday!”
I tell myself
“It’s allowed”
lighting a cigarette
as I turn up the music
for this party of one.

Andi Talbot is a poet from Newcastle, England. His debut collection “Burn Before Reading” is available now via Analog Submission Press. He is an avid Oakland Raiders, San Jose Sharks and Newcastle United fan. 

“When the dog bit you” by Misha Tentser

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Tell me again
how you felt alive with
the prick of a needle,
the kiss of a flame,
you sprinted the streets of Chicago
until you collapsed on the ground
wishing only for salvation
from what you called “it”

the way “it” infiltrated your life bit by bit
and then all at once
as you sat in front of the mirror
blade in hand,
carving initials into your skin

tell me again how you laughed
when the dog bit you
or cried when mom took away the knives
tell me again how to hold you
as you press tighter and tighter
tell me again how to love you
with my whole being
tell me again how I fell for you
head over heels
tripping on my words
as you sat patiently
looking directly into my eyes
with the warmth of god

tell me again how we sat by Lake Michigan
eating hot dogs and drinking rum
your smile setting my world on fire

 

Misha Tentser is a Russian-American bartender and writer born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. He finds inspiration in the unique strangeness of his hometown, his colorful childhood, and the people he’s met along the way. 

“Love Notes” by Abigail Swire

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All I wanted was a note. It didn’t seem a lot to ask. It didn’t have to be perfect. It could be written in scribbles, like some nearly illegible clue. It could sail in on a fatal breeze folded into a paper airplane.It could be tucked into a locker, a backpack, a desk, this note that never came.

I remember almost everything before and after that first day of kindergarten. It was mid-year, after Christmas, because that’s when you start kids in school who are destined to have traumatic lives.

I remember my stupid outfit, and most of the names and faces of my classmates. After all, we would be stuck with each other for the next ten years. One of the twins took me under her wing. Karen and Kristen. Everyone got them confused because of the names and their identical outfits, but I didn’t understand it. They were paternal twins and had very distinctive qualities. It was Karen who showed me around. She was the friendly one.

In the midst of the introductions, we faced off on the battleground of the kindergarten room with two boys, a redhead with a fat face and a boy with black hair and blue eyes who was the most beautiful human thing I had ever seen.

“Don’t you hurt her,” Karen warned the boys.

“Don’t you hurt him,” the redhead said to me. 

The redhead was on my bus route. That first week he kicked me in the shin hard with his mountain boy boots. But he was the one who, before the year ended, ran across the room and planted a kiss on my cheek and ran away. The last I remember of Brad was ninth grade. By then I had forgiven the kick. He got sent home from school for wearing a shirt that said “Candy is good, but sex don’t rot teeth”, so who knows what kind of life he had at home.

Anyway, it was in the first few weeks after I started kindergarten when a lady from the office came to pull me out of class. I thought I was in trouble. I followed her into the principal’s office. The principal was female. These two women looked at me like they didn’t quite know what to do with me, like I might sprout wings and fly up in a corner. I waited.

It was just the Valentine’s Day party. Everyone was excited. I thought I was getting away with something but, no. The school had been notified that I was not allowed to participate due to religious reasons.

“Well, that’s ok. You can sit here,” the principal said. She put me at the corner vault with a little desk reserved for troublesome children. The office secretary brought me a napkin with a party cookie on it and a paper cup of punch. She looked at me with pity as she set it down.

“Here you go.”

I picked up the cookie, which fell apart. So I sat there and ate my crumbs with red sprinkles. Thus began my long journey to becoming a social pariah.

I used to check for a note from a secret admirer. I became obsessed with the idea of having a secret admirer. Other girls got notes in their desks, but my desk stayed neat and empty. I got a “Neat Desk Award” every month of fifth grade. Valentine’s Day in particular would have been a good time to get a note. Every year we made those heart shaped paper folders that were stapled together and hung them on the back of our chairs. No one came to pull me out of the party, but ever after I felt like an infiltrator, waiting for the authorities to appear at the door. I had one girl friend, Brigette. We were both untouchables when it came to other girls. Maybe because we were both tomboys or because we were quiet and artistic. We compared our valentines folders.

“Look at this one,” Brigette said with disgust. She slid her valentine over. It said “From a sicrit admire”.

I never had a secret admirer that I am aware of until I was 18. There were no notes. I got other kinds of notes, late night letters of remorse, apologies fueled by alcohol and cocaine. Most of the secret admirers I didn’t even know about until 10 or 15 years later when I heard it through the grapevine from the one guy friend I had left.

“You know so-and-so, right? Yah, he works in my office. He said he was gonna ask you out once, but he was too intimidated.”

By then it was nothing. I subconsciously blamed the secret admirers for being spineless. And, as for me, they could just catalogue me away with the rest of their wasted opportunities. It was up to me to be the person to give my world what it needed. To take the risks, where angels fear to tread, beyond the realm of cowards and unwritten letters. Now all I’ve got left are some petty words. That’s my song and dance. The dance is a private thing. So here’s a song. Not to myself or even necessarily as a gift to the world.

 

FROM A SICRIT ADMIRE:

“Don’t get me wrong

If I’m looking kind of dazzled

I see neon lights

Whenever you walk by

Don’t get me wrong

If you say, “hello”, and I take a ride

Upon a sea where the mystic moon

Is playing havoc with the tide

Don’t get me wrong

Don’t get me wrong

If I’m acting so distracted

I’m thinking about the fireworks

That go off when you smile

Don’t get me wrong

If I split like light refracted

I’m only off to wander

Across a moonlit mile”

~The Pretenders

 

Abigail Swire writes fiction and non-fiction. She served time as a journalist, mad scientist, and assembly line worker, among other things. Abigail has published articles and short stories for various media.She is currently working on her first novel, The Factory.

“A Little Herbal Remedy” by Elliot Harper

Hot pepper tea, chamomile tea and dried fruit teas

Jeff stares at me blankly. I look from him to the herbal tea bag in my hand and then back. I try again. “A little herbal remedy, ayeeeeee.” 

Nothing. Surely, he knows what I’m talking about? I point at the gently swaying tea bag hanging from my raised hand. “You know, herbal tea, herbal remedy, like Ali G.” I wait apprehensively for some recognition. “Who is Ali G?” 

I’m crestfallen. The younger man has asked the question I feared the most. “You know the character? A chav. Always asking daft questions and talking about smoking marijuana? Me Julie?”

 I suddenly realise I’m still holding the camomile tea bag in the air. I slowly lower it down to a respectable height. Jeff’s still blank. “Never heard of him, mate. What was he? Some reality TV star or something?” 

This isn’t going the way I planned. “You must know him, the character of Sacha Baron Cohen?” 

This seems to click. I see recognition in his eyes. “Oh, you mean the guy from Les Mis? Yeah, I know him, he’s funny in that.”

I smile uncertainly. Les Mis? Does he mean Les Misérables? I’ll just agree. It’s safer that way. “Yeah, that’s the guy. He did a comedy character back in the late nineties. Hilarious stuff.” Jeff smiles and grabs his coffee. “Sounds good, mate. Anyway, I got to get back.” He quickly departs, leaving me alone. 

What just happened? I drop the bag in the mug. It bobs around, slowly turning the water brown. I slump in a comfy chair in the breakout area near the kitchen. I need a moment to compose myself. The gravity of the situation has just sunk in. 

I stare down at my mug. Chamomile tea. Not normal tea, not coffee. Decaffeinated chamomile tea. I drink it because I don’t like to have caffeine after midday. I’ve never thought about it until now. It’s obvious. I’m past it. I’m slowly marching into middle-age with a cup of chamomile tea in hand and quotes from long-forgotten televisions series. 

I sigh deeply and whisper as I stare into my mug. “A little herbal remedy, aye.”  

 

Elliot Harper is a bloke with a ginger beard who writes fiction. He’s also the author of the dark science-fiction novella “The City around the World” published by Sinister Stoat Press, an imprint of Weasel Press.

2 Poems by Lee Anderson

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venlafaxine at bedtime

my dreams have gotten
weird. it’s like
i’m remembering them more / but they’re longer
and deeper

like there was a thick pane
between me and my experiences
before,
i couldn’t
reach in / and feel myself
not like / digging into a cleft pomegranate.
the jewels / crunch / between my knuckles
the white mesodermal tissue / sticks
under my fingernails. i can’t
remove it even if i tried.

here,
my peers sit in white pods / on a lake
or maybe / an abandoned shallow
swimming pool
and i hop from pod to pod /
trying to befriend them.
here,
i get into fights / with my family under/ bridges
and i can feel that / crunch

for once.
i wake up
overjoyed.

 

 

i swallow people whole

today, the truth is
the mirror i shattered on
the bathroom floor.
the truth bends like that sometimes when
the timing isn’t right,
the silver buckling before it / snaps.

i pause, pick the / flesh from between
my teeth. one day,
i will know these rivers
as well as my own name /
but today is not that day.
for now, i will /
revel in the
beautiful lack of understanding
that the world has

of me.
one day, i will know my true / strength
but i sweep the / shards up
today
and wait for
tomorrow’s mistakes.
i am ready.


Lee Anderson is a nonbinary MFA student at Northern Arizona University. They enjoy pets with human names, decently-priced gluten free food, and videos of the ocean. They have been published sporadically but with zest. 

 

2 Poems by Stephen Ground

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Slow Kill

flawed, beaded light billowed and twisted
an effigy destined to drown in cold flame

two decade wick dipped in sour toxins
long & deep / enough to sizzle
undercover, then explode

a crippling spike of other worlds
poured in through an open door
flattened by chaotic ticks

utterly random / exactly on time
expectation’s death, unexpected

 

Space Toe

it’s quiet here, where I fought to be.
stable stars anchor my floating, helplessly
in control, an astronautical ballerino
missing the Earth and People after pressing to
erase them from skies by removing the factor of
me like a clicking crawling man-sized bug,
a big toe hopping astral stairs,
an interstellar metatarsal begging
mouthlessly/psychically to be
beamed inside a passing pod to recharge
my sometimes-hole, fill my cup with
alien love, then launch from the airlock
while my hosts are distracted with
bigger things and questions, implements
of labour – calipers prods tubes and cups suckling
air like suffocating catfish, half-baked little
greys sunk in tubes of goo. I float again,
frozen on the other side, xenomorphic,
free, a toe song away from a
welcome to feed, a fill and a doggie
to drag along when I leave.

 

Stephen Ground graduated from York University, then migrated to a remote, fly-in community in Saskatchewan’s far north. He’s since returned south, co-founding Winnipeg-based Pearson House Films, where he acts as writer and producer. His work has been featured in Bending Genres, Back Patio Press, Flash Fiction Magazine, Typishly, and elsewhere.

3 Poems by Kyla Houbolt

The water hole

Bless This Discomfort

No.
I am tired of almost everything.
Letting in what light there is.
Strange dolls lined up against
a mystery. It’s just a stone wall.
We all see how insane it is,
our world, that normal.
Time to sing louder
reset the clocks to no digits
slow cook all plans
dance on the head of a pin
watch yourself spin
widdershins then
sunwise then
both at once.
Banish masks. Breathe free.
After all, home is only
a temporary location
among the great wheeling stars
and the only real question
is who you are.

 

Water Hole

I’ve never seen a lion
but look at them, gathering at the water hole,
how thirsty they are, how they lap
up the brown water with huge raspy tongues.
Can you be satisfied with a picture? Say,
a picture of food? You can nearly smell
the spicy juices, but lions need
a real drink. Chasing down prey,
gnawing bloody joints — it’s thirsty work.
Once the lions are all gone,
we can imagine the water hole,
its loneliness, one lame
antelope drinking,
a breeze carrying dust.
We remember
not to inhale.

 

Mapless

How much of a life
is a long walk in the wrong direction
and who’s to say anyway
wrong or right because always
alongside the edge of any trail
there are all the things: small bits
of glass, occasional flowers, torn nests —
even once in a while a whole
book might be stumbled across
possibly a boring book of
formulas for calculating the girth
of fasteners but it’s equally possible
you’d find a book of your very own ancestors’
secret stories, and say you find
such a book but it is in a language
you do not recognize and it is
musty, besmirched, has missing pages
and say you pass it by
or even carry it to a trash bin
and toss it in and then
your ancestors begin
finding your dreams?
Who’s to say that was a wrong
direction? Maybe they just want
to say thank you, our stories
belong in the trash, we never
should have told them, allowed
them to be written, we will grant you
three wishes now. And then, as always
it’s up to you, how sweetly you’ll
make a mess of your life
this time.

 

Kyla Houbolt’s debut micro chapbook, Dawn’s Fool, is available from IceFloe Press: https://icefloepress.net/kyla-houbolts-dawns-fool-a-microchap/ . Most of her published work can be accessed on her Linktree: https://linktr.ee/luaz_poet and she is on Twitter @luaz_poet.

PABST BOY STUNNA WINNERS

PABST
PABST BOY STUNNA by Lindz McLeod
Dark liquid throttles past
his tongue; sweet carbon roars,
wrapped in black and white silk,
move into fifth gear.
Picking up speed inside a
crushed tin cage. Boy,
you sure do know how to dress-
wide grey tie like a safety ribbon,
topped by bewildered brows
coagulating into joy.

 

Method of Choice by Kyla Houbolt

Worked in a factory in South Baltimore when I was about 22.  Me and my girlfriend on our days off used to walk to the corner bar, sit around drinking Rolling Rocks and eating barbecue potato chips. Baltimore was a beer town. Lots of neighborhood bars opened at 6 am, guys would sit at the bar, have a few to take the edge off the day before their shifts.

Nobody we knew would drink Pabst though. It tasted like sour piss with sugar in it, watered down. Any bar that had Pabst on draft (and surprisingly there were a few) we’d buy a bottle of something instead. But much later I did find one good use for it.

I was living in San Francisco, and one year there was lots of rain after a drought. I was trying to garden. The snails were a terror that year; the sudden abundance of water must have made them overbreed. I watched dozens of them actually race toward the garden when daylight struck. Snails don’t much like tomato plants but that year they would eat anything. 

If you don’t want to use poison, the best way to control snails is to set traps. Beer traps. Pabst was real good for that. Cheap, and nobody wanted to drink it so a six pack could sit around longer than a day. Fill little cups with beer, leave them out for the snails to drown in. Which they did, en masse. Only problem with that method was occasionally forgetting the location of one of the traps. Leave a bunch of dead snails in a beer pool for too long and the odor will almost make you pass out. But it was Pabst, so you never felt like you were wasting good beer by letting all those snails rot in it. And there would always be plenty of the six pack left, to fill more traps with. Because nobody was going to drink that stuff. As for the snails, they died happy. Pabst was just fine with them.

Lindz McLeod is a writer and poet from Edinburgh, Scotland. She enjoys archery and picnicking in the moral grey area.

Kyla Houbolt’s debut micro chapbook, Dawn’s Fool, is available from IceFloe Press: https://icefloepress.net/kyla-houbolts-dawns-fool-a-microchap/ . Most of her published work can be accessed on her Linktree: https://linktr.ee/luaz_poet and she is on Twitter @luaz_poet.

“Trying Out New Author Bios” By KKURRTT

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KKUURRTT went to a college and a university.

KKUURRTT is a writer with few accomplishments worth mentioning.

KKUURRTT has been published here and there, but do you really even care where? Like does it actually matter or is this just the game we’re supposed to play to make it in the literary industry. If I don’t participate in the game am I relieving myself of the tension, or just exacerbating the whole situation? Is this bio in fact a bio? And that, in and of itself, makes things much worse?

KKUURRTT is currently trying out new author bios.

You might be able to find KKUURRTT at next year’s AWP.

Sent from KKUURRTTs iPhone.

KKUURRTT is too humble to write about himself in the third person.

KKUURRTT wrote for his sketch comedy troupe in college and a music blog in his twenties.  Somewhere in between he wrote a feature length movie that was released on DVD and select streaming services. It is now time for him to get a new life. Tick tock.

KKUURRTT was 6’5” and a friend to all birds. He is currently buried in an undisclosed cemetery where he doesn’t do anything but slowly rot. One day, soon, he won’t even exist as a distant memory, but merely a chiseled etching on stone. He can’t wait for that day either.

KKUURRTT can be found on twitter at @wwwkurtcom.

“Allergic To” By KKURRRTT

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allergies and nose drugs don’t work super well together / doing ketamine in my friend’s apartment but they have a cat and I’m also snorting cat hair right up the old ding dong left right take me out back behind the shed and shoot in me in the back of the head / because its like are they even working am i even working? / why are drugs but allergies even and now i’ve got this psychedelic head cold or cloud hanging over my head and I’ve got to blow my nose but it’s all stuffed up and it’s like maybe I shouldn’t have taken drugs in a house where I’m allergic to a cat / normal people don’t get themselves in this situation do they? / but drugs are for taking so what does it matter if the place they are taken isn’t pristine perfect ideal conditions / this is just one life but which we live it / and now my nose is stuffed and my head is weird and this was all part of the plan so what am I even complaining about? / like I signed up for three months of a subscription service for good old stuffhead nose powder and I might as well do it exactly where it’s going to have the worst possible sensation for the passageways that run in and around and behind the skin of my face / blow it all out in a tissue and it feels really good for a second like really good like you didn’t blow all of the drugs out but you did blow all the bad stuff out and you’re clear minded for a fraction of a second and you remember how to do your taxes or at least that they’re due next week and you haven’t done them yet and then it’s all stuffed up again / clogged drain / pulling out a strand of hair so long that by the end it’s completely gray, and not just like a slight gray but a full and healthy not salt and pepper GRAY and eventually it keeps going and comes out as bone-chillingly stark white / snotty child boogies hanging off his face like somebody help him / he’s at the park and oh god doesn’t anybody have a tissue for that boy? / this is what I feel like right now / I’m this boy dripping non stop snot from his nose and it wont stop no matter how many tissues we give him or me / they dont have enough tissues they dont make enough tissues we need to turn factories into tissue making factories because this kids fucking nose is so runny it just wont stop not matter how many tissues we hand him and he blows and it keeps going / should we develop a plug for nostrils because this country is going into an economic depression just making booger paper for this boys nose? / oh please thank you for your service I know we didn’t solve anything but at least we addressed the issue / was it worth it, you ask? on the other end of the short high / yeah sure / snort a little kitten dander with a bit of kitamine and it’s like whatever it takes to get you out of your mind, right? / some people sniff jenkem so it’s like I can take a little bit of pollen in my powders, it’s all part of the process or the problem / Look it was an accident / I didn’t think about it alright? / I’m still gonna do it next time / Keep blowing my nose til morning.

KKUURRTT is glad you read his thing. He can be found on twitter at @wwwkurtcom