“I Wanna Go Shooting” by Kyle Kirshbom


Tom Levy ran out his house waving his dad’s .45 in the air. On top of the hill, I was in my driveway scratching my belly and looking for a quarter I dropped. I looked around embarrassed someone was watching the ridiculous scene. At school last week Tom bragged how he knew the combination to his dad’s safe. Tom never took a math test he never failed, so the thought of him being able to memorize even 3 numbers was cute, at best. Yet, towards me he ran with the piece in hand—his stupid crooked smile shined brighter than the gun. 

As he ran I thought about a couple weeks ago when I was talking to Samantha outside school when Tom yelled, “Just fuck her already,” in front of everyone. Samantha walked away with red on her face. Tom flashed his crooked teeth and ran off. 

A month earlier Tom came over and handed me a bottle of amyl nitrate. 

Anal nitrate?” 

“No, Amyl nitrate, not anal. But it does loosen your asshole.” 

“Why would I want that?” 

“It’s for buttfucking.” 

“I’m never doing that…it’s gay…”

“Yeah it’s pretty fucking gay. Wanna do some?”

“What do you do?”

“Sniff it. Take a big whiff and you’ll feel like you’re flying.”

I put the bottle under my nose and sniffed like he told me to, passed it back and laid down on my bed; feeling lifted. Tom strongly inhaled and released a big sigh before cracking his neck like an actor playing a deranged person. He looked around my room he’s been in a hundred times as if it were his first, and then at me with the same vaguely menacing look. He jumped on top of me and began grabbing at my hips and pinning my body with his weight with his mouth pressed against my face. I pushed him off and said, “What the fuck Tom,” but Tom got up and ran away without saying anything.

A few years ago Tom slept over. We’d met at camp and got along okay. We joked about girls and liked the same death metal bands. After my parents went to sleep I flipped the channel to find the late night soft-core porn. We watched, then I asked if he minded if I jerked off a bit. He said, “Yeah I don’t care, but could I do it too?” I told him sure and grabbed a pillow. 

“I’m going to create a barrier so we can do it without looking at each other.”

“Yeah, cool.”

Three women fondled each other in a bathtub. I couldn’t tell what Tom was seeing, if it was the same thing I saw.

A half hour later I limped up to use the bathroom. When I came back, Tom was asleep on the floor with his cock still out. I put a blanket over him, turned the tv off, and went to bed. I didn’t see Tom again until the end of summer when we both walked into the same middle school. We didn’t talk about what happened for the rest of our lives. 

Tom’s curly brown hair bounced as he ran up the grassy hill—his eyes barely open. I stood and watched as he got closer. Right before he reached the driveway he tripped on a rock, pulled the trigger and shot himself in the head. His skull landed on the pavement. Blood poured out from his curls, flowing down and around the quarter I thought I lost. I walked over and his eyes were already shut; I couldn’t reach him. 

An ambulance picked him up, the sky was black. Tom’s dad looked at me like I took his son and planted the gun. I wanted to yell what the fuck do you think is going on here? A game? Something passionate? Something psychotic? Like accidents don’t happen? That there’s a reason for this? He got into the ambulance with his son and I got in a police car with a couple cops.

I got questioned by police for a few hours. I told them what happened. They said I could be in trouble. They talked about cooperation, the truth. They asked if I was upset with Tom, or ever thought about hurting him. I knew by telling the truth they’d put pieces together that didn’t actually fit. So I told them he was my best friend. Told them he never mentioned the gun. Told them I never wanted to hurt him. I even cried a little bit out of self-preservation. They carefully studied me, and in my pocket I rubbed my fingers against the quarter with Tom’s blood while I lied through my teeth. 

After waiting in the room by myself they came back to say that judging by the placement of the bullet and the way he fell and where the gun in his hand fell that there was no way I could have planted the gun. A million in one chance. They let me go with my parents. We walked out of the police station, got in the car, and drove home—I never knew a night could be so silent.

I planned on skipping the shiva. Technically I wasn’t invited, but my mom said that Tom’s dad didn’t mind if I was there, which was a good enough message I immediately picked up on. But I still wanted to go to the burial. 

It was overcast, and a good sized crowd. I hadn’t realized all the people Tom knew. Family, friends of family, people from school and their families. So many people, an eventful mourning. I walked into the crowd from the back, making my way to the front. Tom’s dad was delivering his speech when he saw me, paused, and continued. I stared at him, then at the casket Tom was in. The rabbi said a few prayers, then Tom’s dad and the other pallbearers lowered Tom into the ground. The rabbi said a final prayer, and everyone threw bits of dry dirt into the grave. People left to sit shiva at Tom’s house and suddenly I was alone. It began to rain. I reached into my pocket and tossed the quarter to lay with Tom. I called heads, but couldn’t tell what it landed on. 

As I walked home in the rain, stepping on cracks in the sidewalk, I felt like a movie was being played in an order that didn’t make sense; I couldn’t shake it, but my life up to this point hadn’t felt the slightest bit linear (instantly I craved something to soothe me out, something that’ll focus everything on a fixed frame that has no backwards or forwards, just to exist without existing, be, but not continue) then my fucking phone started buzzing; it was mom, asking where I was. I told her I was going for a walk, that I didn’t know when I’d be back, she  said she put money in my bank if I got hungry, “ thanks,” I said and that I’d see her maybe later, and she told me she loved me and so I said it back, then all at once, after hanging up, I remembered Tom without a firm grasp on any single memory we may have shared together, and in the haze of this memory collapse I dropped my phone and felt the screen crack and shatter. I tried walking, but couldn’t lift my legs, I tried standing, just couldn’t, I tried bending over to reach for the broken phone, and couldn’t, so, and as the wind picked up and the acidic rain pelted my coat, blurred my vision, and all the street detritus carried off the ground, whipping itself in a gust away in the distance, finally, a sinking, I sunk to the ground, into the cracks of the sidewalk, my body melting and spreading itself into the seams of the broken concrete where everybody walked on or over, and suddenly felt everything I am and everything I’ve encountered becoming increasingly connected, and permanent. When the city paves me over with fresh crushed rock and sand mixed with water and cement I’ll drown into oblivion like every spider’s web that’s washed away by a storm that seems to never end. The end is a deletion, an edit. Cemented.

Kyle Kirshbom is an American writer. He recently broke down and published his entire manuscript onto its own instagram page @DogShitPoems. His writing has been featured in SCAB, Holler Presents, and Sybil Journal. 

“A Methodical Approach to Sleeping Alone” by Hallie Nowak


Step 1: Light a candle. Break some incense.

Step 2: Admire the pile of dirty clothes at the foot of your bed. (Look, but don’t touch.)

Step 3: Turn off the lights to hide the pile of dirty clothes at the foot of your bed.

Step 4: Sit down on your bed that is too big for just you and barely close your eyes.

Step 5: Remember the fingertip of the first snowflake of winter on your eyelash.

Step 6: Remember the time that you locked yourself out of your apartment on Christmas Eve.

Step 7: Forget that you’re alone.

Step 7: Forget that you’re alone.

Step 7.5: Remember that you’re alone under the swollen moon and the pinpricks of stars and the cold, clear voice of winter. Everything leaks through the hairline crack in your window. A breeze bursts against your sallow midriff.

Step 8: Pluck the petals from your skin and carefully stack them on the corner of your bedside table. Admire the way they wilt, that dusty scent of your loneliness.

Step 9: Are you alone,

Step 10: Brood about the way you squeeze the toothpaste the wrong way.

Step 9: Or are you lonely?

Step 11: Get out of bed. Check your dim reflection obsessively. Note the discoloration under your eye. Note that the discoloration under your eye is the ashen scarf tangled in the bare fingers of branch in Moody Park. 

Step 12: Stroke the sad subtle indent his body left in your memory foam mattress.

Step 13: Make yourself cry.

Step 14: Weep until you feel a spirit leave your gasping mouth. 

Step 15: Flip the damn pillow over.

Step 16: Remember that the human capacity for love is infinite. Remember to lock the door to your house. Remember that your roommate makes breakfast for dinner. Remember to watch for shadows of men in the street. Remember that IHOP is open 24/7. Remember to brush your teeth. Remember the inky kindness in your cat’s eye. Remember the warm breve latte in your hand at Old Crown. Remember to feel everything. Remember to feel nothing. Remember that you are a Scorpio. Remember that everyone is alone: that no body is alone.

Step 18: The snow outside the window collects onto the glass pane next to your bed. The portable heater says 79 degrees. Your loneliness collects thin shards of ice. Your bed is warm. Your pillow is cold. How beautiful it is to be warm in a room collecting snowbanks. How beautiful it is to be not lonely; to be completely and irrefutably alone: 

in dreams; in sleep; within; without; alone.


Hallie Nowak is a poet and artist writing and residing in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where she is in pursuit of her undergraduate degree in English at Purdue University Fort Wayne. She is the author of Girlblooded, a poetry chapbook (Dandelion Review, 2018). Her work can also be read in Anti-Heroin Chic, Honey & Lime, Okay Donkey, and Noble/Gas Qrtrly where her poem, “A Dissected Body Speaks,” was awarded runner-up for the 2018 Birdwhistle Prize. 

Twitter: @heyguysimhallie
Instagram: @hallie_nowak


“The Skylight” by Abigail Stewart


Her new job was a quiet place, exactly what she wanted after five years in food service — the soft tapping of keyboards, muted music piped through ear buds, an occasional outburst of laughter, undertones of conversation. 

She answered email queries and took her shoes off under her desk. She ate turkey sandwiches on white bread in the break room. She drank the free coffee. 

At first, the office seemed too bright, sunlit where she expected shadows cast by fluorescent tubes. Until she noticed the skylight. A 3’x3’ cutout of outrageous blue against a cream ceiling, light beamed down onto her wood composite desk like a beacon. She felt beatific, a barefoot saint tending to the needs of the disembodied masses. 

Clack, clack, clack. 

Someone had left a jade plant, discarded, at an empty corner desk. She brought it with her into the light, watched it straighten and lift its arms up toward the sun. 

She dutifully checked her inbox.

“Are you a boot?” an emailer inquired. 

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand your question. Please refer to our FAQ here,” she responded, per company guidelines. 

“Are you a bot? Are you real? I’m not giving my information to some Russian hacker.” 

“Yes, I’m real. How can I help you today?” 

The contact went quiet, as they so often did, the invisible lines of cyberspace irrevocably severed. Perhaps she had given them the assurance they needed in order to sleep that night. 

Clack, clack, clack. 

Keyboards, as always, and an undertone of something new, more insistent. 

Her eyes trained upwards. Two pigeons were scrabbling against the plastic covering of her skylight – she thought of it was hers now. From underneath they were inflated rafts, bug eyed, overstuffed, and grappling on a clear ocean. One had a piece of twine wrapped around his tiny, orange foot, buried deep into the flesh, a functional part of him now. 

She watched. 

His other foot, the good one, shot out like a gasp, vengeful and quick. The smaller pigeon fell, his bug-eyes pressed against the glass, looking down at her. A small rivulet of blood trailed from his chest. The other pigeon, no stranger to pain, gave one last nip to the neck of his deceased enemy before disappearing. 

The lifeless bird cast a long shadow on her desk. 

Her email pinged, a response from the emailer: “Russian hackers interfered with the election, so I need a picture of you to prove you aren’t a bot. Hold up three fingers.

No one else noticed the dead pigeon until it began to smell, only then did maintenance remove it. 

Abigail Stewart is a writer from Berkeley, California. She lives in an apartment filled with plants and books and breakable things. Her poetry has appeared in literary magazines, but mostly on bathroom walls. She writes a blog about books and dungeons & dragons: http://www.ageektragedy.net. She tweets at @abby_writes. 

“APHORISM REVIEW: GIVE A MAN A FISH…” by Ferdison Cayetano


Complete it! Go on. It’s 100% true, and definitely one of my favorite sayings!

I don’t know what the big deal is, though. Giving men fish. What’s the harm, if you have the fish, and he does not? Generosity is a virtue. Teaching? Teaching takes time, effort. It could take years. Taking a fish out of your front jacket pocket and slapping it into a man’s hand, however, happens in an instant. You can keep giving him fish and giving him fish, for weeks and weeks and weeks. For ever.

It’s no problem, you say, even as you see his enthusiasm for fish and the light in his eyes dim with each passing day. His family can’t remember the last time they didn’t have fish for dinner, he says, and they tire. But you do not tire. You never tire. His polite attempts at refusal turn into outright attempts at avoidance. But you find him anyways. 

You always find him.

One day he sees you on the street and he runs the other way, but you run faster still. He trips, and on his knees he begs for mercy that will never come. You stuff a flounder down the front of his shirt. He limps away, sobbing. No matter. He’ll appreciate the next one more.

You open your mailbox and find a restraining order. A couple of hours later you are on the grassy slopes behind his house, exactly three hundred yards and one inch away from his back porch. You aim a jury-rigged t-shirt gun into the sky and fire, again and again and again. Fish arc through the sky. 

Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. 

Tilapia shatter his windows. A light breeze carries the screams of his children.

Fish delivered to his workplace. Fish ordered to his table at restaurants. Fish in his bathtub. Fish in his son’s cradle. Fish in the trunk of his car. Tiny guppies come pouring out of his cereal box instead of Wheaties. He looks in the mirror and he’s greeted by the dead-eyed stare of a mackerel tuna. 

The months of fish stretch into years, and you never miss a day.

It’s too much. It’s tearing his family apart. His wife takes the children out of state while he’s at work, and when he comes home that day he finds a rainbow trout on his living room table, twitching on top of the divorce papers.

Forty or fifty years into the future, on the very second of his death, you slash your wrists open and bleed out on your kitchen floor. 

In the formless void between worlds you flare your nostrils and catch the scent of his soul, which is ascending to Heaven. He’s almost there. He’s so close, but now you have him by the ankle, and he kicks helplessly as you drag him away from the light. You haul him into the black depths of the ocean, and you haul him deeper still, down into the earth. The darkness and the cold and the pressure, a million million tons of dark and cold and pressure– it all would have broken him, if he were not already broken. 

And in that suffocating madness something is pressed into his hand.

Give a man a fish, and he’ll scream. He’ll scream forever.


Ferdison Cayetano is a current student at the College of William & Mary. You can connect with him on LinkedIn and give him a real job before he commits to being a writer

“Hot Lunch Program” (poetry & visual art) by Cyd Gottlieb

Gottlieb_9_Hot Lunch Program_2019 - 300dpi.jpg[Hot Lunch Program; 2019; Ink, graphite, watercolor pencil, pastel, and charcoal on toned tan paper; 6 x 8 inches (15.3 x 20.3 cm)]


Gottlieb_Hot Lunch Program_2019 - 300dpi.png

Cyd Gottlieb works out of Toledo, OH. Her creative contributions have channeled themselves by way of the ICA/Boston, ChaShaMa (Brooklyn), the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Toledo Museum of Art, Harvard University Press, and Instagram (@pischonk02). Presently, she tends bar through tone and serves face with an eye.

“Losing a Whole Year” by Clara Roberts



  1. The memories come to you in ECTseizures—even the overlooked and dusty ones. A psychic told your parents before you were born that you were going to be a “hero child”.  You can say this—you are no such thing; that psychic had a dyslexic premonition.
  2. DecemberA small psych unit, your twelfth stay within four years—this time for methamphetamine psychosis. The voices in your head become muted by the benzos and anti-psychotics your distracted doctor prescribes. You traverse the hospital halls reminiscing about getting high.



  1. At another hotel. Is it night or day? You see escorting as an endless vortex of self-erasure. But the thick cash, right? When you work on your own and are addicted to drugs, all the crisp money you make goes to the drug dealer. The money is deadwood at the end of the day.
  2. January Hovering around 88 pounds.—body  by meth. You and Kevin do drugs in the tent he’s living in. He’s an intellectual, despite being a transient derelict. You always share your drugs with Kevin because you feel guilty when you keep everything to yourself.


  1. People have morally bankrupt behaviors when this compulsion disguises itself as your brain telling you to go into your mom’s magenta bedroom and steal her jewelry.
  2. “You’re not stealing thatmuch from her,” you say to yourself.

“She doesn’t even wear these things anymore,” you rationalize while guilt still burns through you.



  1. The girl’s (my) heart clings from balancing graduate school, drugs, her fiancé, other men, parents, and sickness. She gets sick when the drugs are not around, but becomes the sickest when she has them.
  2. The girl reads about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death on her phone after she does her shot of heroin and cocaine. She wishes her speed-ball was as strong as the one her favorite actor injected at the time of his demise.



  1. At the age of 23, the girl learns that sanity is not permanent. The girl believes Baltimore is assisting in her downfall. The drug game is killing her. She is killing herself because dying is a consequence that comes with the territory. She is addicted to not only drugs, but the lifestyle—the copping, the scum-fucks who seem more unfeigned than any of her former private school friends, the dilapidated houses where she spends all day in an opiate-induced haze—a dimness that takes her to a layer of Earth where pain from the past and present do not exist.
  2. As the girl looks at the track marks stitched down her arm, her vision gets muddled; her limb does not look like one anymore. Heroin says He loves her. She loves Him too, but in a different way than how she loves Kevin, her drug boyfriend, her bodyguard, her confidante—the lover who kisses and licks the blood streaming down either of her arms. The girl fakes a smile and welcomes death as her outcome.


Clara Roberts is a graduate of the MA in Writing Program at Johns Hopkins University. Her nonfiction work and poetry have been published in Adelaide Literary Magazine, From Whispers to Roars, Gravel Magazine, Heartwood Literary Magazine, and trampset journal. She lives in Baltimore where she finds material every day to write about in her journal.

“Noon at the Chicken Factory” by Sam Machell

R u still at the chicken factory? Ive just finished conducting the autopsy so im gonna send a bunch of info. Call me when u can


The arsenic content found in the chicken itself was negligible and the contents of the stomach had barely begun to digest at the time of death. It was a botch job, they just sprinkled it in with the breadcrumb mix. Like this is barely even attempted murder – would’ve just given him some stomach ache


I also tested the chicken, fries, and gravy for any other kind of bacteria/contamination but found nothing


There are no contusions on the skin, suggesting he was alone in his car and there was no struggle or awareness


Cause of death seems 2 b asphyxiation. The trachea and lungs are bruised and blackened indicating smoke inhalation. Otherwise critical burns across the limbs, torso and neck but all below the surface? The burns seem to have affected the interior tissue and muscle, specifically the areas around the joints, but not the skin. If I didn’t know the circumstances I would say he died in a fire


But get this as well, his lungs were punctured from the inside. Black from smoke but one large gushing hole torn open, still red. The tear is smooth and precise. Almost as if something inside burned its way out. It’s v hard to explain i dont know if ive ever seen anything like it. Sorry being a bit unprofessional here im just a little freaked out


Im thinking it must have been something he ate?




im still here yeah


But youre not gonna like my theory


He returns his phone to his pocket and flicks a feather from his arm.


The factory floor is sprawling and brown and rattles like a steel cage where he stands alone, dressed sharp in that old coat, 6’ 3” and all, his commanding presence with gun bulge pointing the way like a dowsing rod, huffing, fingers on his chin. The workers all scurried when he asked for time to think. There flickles right now that tang on the tongue: his salivating sour guilt. But he enjoys the power and smiles. Huffs. On his hip the warmth of steel coffee raises heat.


Although devoid of life, the floor heaves like a lung wall or a wheat field when the ancient ventilation conjures up and rustles the years of defecation and cannibalism past, pecked raw feathers, rose-tinted glasses. The residue has been trampled flat by the thousands of claws over the years and the years, the poor swarms of concentration, but that doesn’t seem to have stopped the smell.


Strips of steel rods suspend intermittent feeding stations – wire domes that hold the grain and hormones like his office lamp holding fragile the light across his framed degree and crumpled conspiracies. This is free range and they get away with it. 100% British meat. Huffs up some gristle. He got KFC on the way. Irony never lost on him. They charge him when he’s not in uniform. It didn’t taste like he remembered. A blood vessel got lodged snapped electric between a canine and incisor plus mayo down his shirt.


He visualises the space to reconstruct the ordinary, eyes closed, detective instincts tuned: darker than he expected: bodies so close they merge as one, an organism… screaming, swelling, pecking, clucking… individual motion a mystery. Assuming of course these birds have capacity for such thought? Does it matter? The muscles swelling and screaming from hormones and pecking. He doesn’t eat beef but once tried a bite of a girlfriend’s steak.


He crunch paces across the shit stained feathers.


the chickens have vanished




across the whole factory, Solder


est time of death?


Just after midnight


I asked to view the CCTV footage


at 23:30 the chickens are there


at 00:30 they’ve gone




and between 23:30 and 00:30 the footage is corrupted. It’s just a white screen


Crunching steps bring legs to the corner where the breezeblocks begin to slope. The camera is mounted 11 oclock facing his feathered absence expanse. In the fisheyed dark he notices other hangers on, threatening to fall. Bringing hands automatic he dusts his coat again and it snows, slowly; fast forward.


Darker stains on the floor sign the presence of blood. As always, his suspicions are confirmed. He’s a genius of course. These chickens were not debeaked. And that would be written on a poster with pride. Spits disgusted.


Without the brooding of a hen chickens do not learn what not to peck:


breasts become boneless bites
wings under heat
gristle molten gravy
bit dippedive fries to
sweetness soaked clothes
and celluloid ovals
rosypinned through the nose.


He doesn’t have to tiptoe to find the roots, where the wires enter the wall like parasitic spinal worms, partway melted where it must get hot. Acrylic camera casing seems spotless… but he finds evidence of tampering with the connection: beneath the socket a distinct mark, about two inches in length, three scars scratched deep. An accidental trace? Curiously animal in intent. Could a chicken have really carved concrete so sharply?


Where he then takes a rubbing


and somewhere sonorous
a rooster sounds.

I’m going to be here a little longer


looking for a certain witness…


She removes the latex gloves once she’s closed the car door. Her father insisted it when she flew the family Focus through medical school, when post-dissection blood prints pinched at the handles or wheel, and it has since become ritual. A man obsessed with cleanliness. He threw a highchair across the room when her mother once spilt gravy.


In the rear view she reapplies lipstick and halfway wedges her paperwork into the passenger seat.




Truth manifests in void.


Yesterday wasn’t a whole lot clearer, either. Where did sense go? Never in her career had she seen household bleach behave in such a way. To corrode the organs to a coagulated curd? And the smell! The smell! In what could have only been a few hours? Chemically impossible… let alone the husband whose cause of death remains a mystery.


The 9-5 corpses’ mutilated material seem more alien than ever – fumbling with her keys – one day smeared into the next dismembered sliced fat layer peeled back across the weekend.


More bodies wheeled in throughout the rest of the week too:


deep fried


And however many days ago she had to scream down the phone at her superior when some deranged picnic basket pork chop cannibal came knocking at the windows of the morgue with ketchup round his mouth. The pharmacy shut down. Her husband’s medication slipped into her handbag from the stockroom. Everything sweating. A tower beginning to bow. Plus the paperwork incomplete and near nonsensical not to mention her psychological / physical suitability checks just around the corner…


She clutches the silver crucifix through her lab coat


and her draining image of self rumbles as a truck rolls by: pig snouts snuffling from between the slats, and straw in the wind spread West down the road.


Catch up with me tomorrow my head is all sorts of messed up


I really don’t know if I can keep doing this Ramuli


This is beyond me now


I’ve been losing hair at an increasing rate


It’s not just a streak anymore I’m grey


Hey come on I need you you can’t quit


What would I do without you?


And I think I’m onto something anyway


But what though? What this time? As always? This is what he always says before dragging her, shedding, into some glistening/puffy room of weirdos. Pray to God it won’t be aliens this time.


She pushes down the handbrake and lets the car roll back into the grassy knoll where it softens still. The car park like an unfilled form dissects the tarmac into boxes. No insects anywhere. The titanic pylons across the fields buzz and crackle. The land drops away. She can’t stand those piercing LED headlights, violent blue. Like the one facing her from a few boxes away, engine idling with a menace she imagines she can hear through the windows. The car practically trembling with predatory adrenaline. Metal veins pumping gas and fumes. No flies on the windscreen…






She feels obliged to reorganise the facts.

I’m heading home


He breaks into a run.
Sam Machell is a multidisciplinary artist based in Plymouth, UK. He’s interested in post internet confusion, the eerie projected self, and collapse.