“ALONE WITH EVERYBODY” by Kat Giordano

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I was 22, and for the first time
I knew no one at the party

my friends had bailed,
and I just stood there, obscure
at the periphery of beer pong
with the smokers,
laughing when they laughed.

sometimes I’d bend to pick up a ball
that had rolled between my feet.
some guy would thank me
and I’d flinch when our hands met
in the handing-off.

it was kind of quiet there,
in the basement. with the door shut
you could barely hear the music,
the party up above a kind of mass
that swelled and settled
as the ceiling groaned under its weight.

down here it splintered off
into pockets of gossip
and aimless flirting. taken
under the wing of some girl
to a ring of friends riffing
on someone I’d never meet,
I stood darting my eyes
between their faces, searching
for ways around
the velvet rope of their grins.

they’d split to piss and come back
with dispatches from the field:
a pizza lost in transit.
Ryan’s Girlfriend.
some freshman passed out
hunched over the toilet and
when you walked in
you could hear his wet snores
echo off the bowl.

laughing at the right times, looping
all the right animations,
trying not to burp.

maybe the next joke will crack it open
and I’ll slide in,
the perfect size for that space.
I’ll say something
that everyone will laugh at
and they’ll lift me up
on wings of their acceptance,
up the stairs, out the door,
untouchable
and bathing in their light.

at 1 AM the beer was gone
and the basement near-empty.
two guys calling a ride,
another asleep in a lawn chair.
I wove past the stragglers and upstairs
trying to get un-marooned.
everyone left was on the couch
binging Vine compilations
to run out the clock.
it was a cuddle pile –
too much red tape.

I ordered the Uber
and waited out front, where Toilet Boy
was being coaxed back to life by his friends.
hey man do you want water? hey,
run in and get him some water,
make sure he has water.
alright buddy, just a little more
and once we get in the car
you’re golden. is he
going with you? yeah,
he can sleep on my couch.
you’re gonna be fine, buddy.

as I listened I pictured myself
passing out on the curb
and dying alone and friendless
in my own puke.

I spoke my first word all night
passing Toilet Boy to get to the car.
surfacing from between his own knees
with half-lidded eyes, he slurred,
“you’ve got a blood stain on your ass,”
and I said, “thanks.”

 

 

“there are trees here” by Stuart Buck

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there are trees here

that may never know the end of things
not us. we are forever gentle rot

you say look at the sun, here too is
something that waits for its dying

 

STUART BUCK  is a visual artist and award-winning poet living in North Wales. His art has been featured in several journals, as well as gracing the covers of several books. His third poetry collection, Portrait of a Man on Fire, is forthcoming from Rhythm & Bones Press in November 2020. When he is not writing or reading poetry he likes to cook, juggle, and listen to music. He suffers terribly from tsundoku—the art of buying copious amounts of books that he will never read.

“TRASH PANDA” by Josh Sherman

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I want to be a guy who goes bald
and tattoos stubble on his head
I want to be a girl with a bad thigh tattoo
but a pretty face
I want to be born into a family of astronauts
because failure would be reasonable
—if not inevitable

I want to be the dude behind the wheel
of a Dodge pickup truck 

with faux testicles
dangling from the bumper

who ran over a raccoon this evening
that had already been hit
as it tried to crawl onto the sidewalk
using its paws

which still functioned like paws (somehow)

and not care

Instead, I am in bed crying about a raccoon
and the way the wheels rolled over its torso

 

Josh Sherman is a Toronto-based journalist with fiction previously published in Hobart and poetry in Back Patio Press, Neutral Spaces Magazine, and Okay Donkey.

2 poem by Tex Gresham

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dental pick

i’ve used dental picks more often
to clean out spent weed from my pipe than
to clean junk from between my mostly rotten teeth
at the end of the day i’m too high to remember to floss
i’m not in any pain
it’s a good inside joke between myself and myself
that every time i go to smoke and clean out the pipe
with one of those dental picks
i realize i’ve used them more often
to clean out spent weed from my pipe than
to clean junk from between my mostly rotten teeth
ha ha ha
yeah

 

 

both ways

i feel an immense connection to the world right now
in this exact fucking moment
i love it
it’s a pulling in my chest, a cord connected
to everyone i know and those who know me
i feel grateful though i am so distanced from each
it’s a connection, like a call i wished someone would make
the phone in my heart answering, starting that connection
i want to hug people
i want to laugh until i cry with people
and i know like all calls this connection will end
like kind of how i don’t call my dad often
and he doesn’t call me often
but we talk and i love it when we do
we say this thing––
“you know the phone works both ways, right?”
and that’s how i feel about this connection i have to the world
it works both ways
and i feel it now
it has come to me
so when it’s gone i have to be willing
to send out a connection to someone like me
maybe my dad.

 


Tex Gresham is the author of Heck, Texas (coming Sept 2020 from Atlatl Press). He has other work online and almost never posts on Twitter as @thatsqueakypig. He lives in Las Vegas. www.squeakypig.com

“lady at the mailbox” by Tex Gresham

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she used a knife to break into the mailroom
she didn’t have her key
she was on the phone, laughing
her daughter and son, on bikes
they cried at the door because they couldn’t come in
i stood thirteen feet away from them, mask on my face
she used a knife to break into her mailbox
she still didn’t have her key
she pulled out an envelope
she screamed “we got our check. let’s go cash the motherfucker.”
she left the mailroom
i made sure our distance was always thirteen feet
her daughter took off on her bike, rolled into the parking lot
a car slammed on its brakes
she screamed “ay! ay!” at her daughter
her son rode in front of her, pedaled away down the sidewalk
she screamed “ay! we’re going the other way.”
her son didn’t stop
she said “okay. let’s go that way then.”
more to herself than anyone.
she laughed on the phone, followed her son
her daughter went the other way, still in the little street that goes through our apartment complex
a car slammed on its brakes
i checked my mail and got a package from my mom
two shirts and a credit card
they keep mailing the credit card to my parents’ house
before i left the mailroom i noticed she left her box open because she didn’t have a key to lock it
the mailperson will do it tomorrow
i’m glad i left the house today

 

Tex Gresham is the author of Heck, Texas (coming Sept 2020 from Atlatl Press). He has other work online and almost never posts on Twitter as @thatsqueakypig. He lives in Las Vegas. www.squeakypig.com

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. 

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.