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poetry

Counterfeit Children

I got a landmine for my last birthday.
She ordered me to plant it in our yard.
The government had given it away
Because it lost its citizenship card.

They send a maintenance team once a year
To make sure we kneel before it and pray.
I had to sell the new car and my ear,
Only to stuff our dilated mouths with clay.

The neighbours hide in Papier-mâché shelters
When we light pink flares in our garden.
They complain about the fire hazards.
I smile and hide it in our oven.

She scratched out each number on its skin.
We put a dress on it and named it “Fin”.

Swapnil Dhruv Bose is an English Literature student at Presidency University, Kolkata. He loves playing chess and is a massive fan of Charlie Kaufman’s screenplays and the work of Samuel Beckett. He has been published in Ohio State University’s literary journal Asterism. He hopes to become a professor of postmodern literature someday.

Vapor Gold

Burning bright, making heat, it makes sense now,
So between the library and the playground,
I declare myself, son of a star,
And nobody notices, I blame the volume,
Too loud, too proud, the celestial
Requires its deliveries to be soft and silent,
We can’t hear the constellations
Turning in the sky, can we?
Yet they are there, moving, and we all respect
Them enough to give them names,
So I say it again, and the people notice,
While I notice they pretend not to care, it’s okay,
They still respect my whisper

Ben Nardolilli currently lives in New York City. His work has appeared in Perigee Magazine, Red Fez, Danse Macabre, The 22 Magazine, Quail Bell Magazine, Elimae, The Northampton Review, Local Train Magazine, The Minetta Review, and Yes Poetry.

He blogs at mirrorsponge.blogspot.com and is trying to publish a novel.

My Dad Steps Out of a 1987 Chevy Cavalier

A purple dome descends upon our house as
my dad steps out of his 1987 Chevy Cavalier.
Its dashboard bell pings five times
and the garage door shudders. Dad finishes his smoke

as he steps out of a 1987 Chevy Cavalier.
The door shudders down to the concrete.
He stubs out his cigarette on the garage floor.
Inside, blaring sitcom laughter. Full HouseHappy Days.

The door settles in place at the track’s end.
We’re each in different rooms, on the carpets
with the loud sitcoms on every TV.
At the stove, in a mirror, trailing a phone cord

against the carpet, each in a separate room.
Night CourtCheersFamily Ties.
The phone cord trails under the door.
When the bulb times out, he lights another cigarette.

Aaron Brame is the former senior poetry editor at the Pinch Journal. His work appears in or is forthcoming from Indianapolis Review, Heron Tree, Lumina, and Tupelo Quarterly. He lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.

Find him on twitter at @mr_brame.

The Fading of Winter

The mint and spice scent
of my grandfather’s pipe tobacco,
once lost,

found again on the man
in the bus seat next to mine.
Even though memories bid me stay,

I step off at the stop
to walk the seven blocks still to go.
The crunch of the sidewalk salt,

abandoned and useless.
The snow and ice have melted,
but the salt remains

to get stuck in the treads of my shoes,
going along for the journey.
The sigh of the wind past my ears

sings a song of surrender
to the warmth of the air.
My gloves come off.

The puffy dark clouds
that block the sun
reflect the somberness

of my thoughts.
And yet,
I continue.

Josephine Napiore received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Augsburg University. She has previously been published by the University of Surrey, England, and Spectrum Literary Journal; and the DaCunha Global, Sheila-Na-Gig, The Five-Two and The Blue Nib websites.

Her work has been anthologized by DaCunha Global and Cosmographia. Josephine lives in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Her Facebook page is at http://www.Facebook.com/JosephineNapiore.

just once

i’d like to hear
the repentance
of a devastator
broadcast to the world
live and direct
from his deathbed

nothing fancy
just a verbal uttering
rife with the open sores of slashed forests
or the cancer of a dammed river

nothing you could put a spin on
just something real
like the sadness
of an asphalted pasture
or the final choke
from the last of its kind
anywhere
ever

Climbing Sun is a world and inner traveler, body-surfer, engineer, teacher, and poet born in Michigan, raised in Ohio, and educated in Florida, who continues to design structures in South Florida and California where he was based for four decades.

He has taught poetry in elementary and junior high schools. He is the author of two chapbooks and a novel. He holds a Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree from the University of Florida and maintains a poetry blog.

dear diary

            her mother asked…

does he smell arab?

             i imagine sour cream
                                           rusted leather…

Antony Fangary is an MFA Candidate in Poetry at San Francisco State University. His Chapbook, Haram, was published by Etched Press in 2018. He was Runner-Up for the 2019 Test Site Poetry Series, a finalist for the 2019 Wabash Prize in Poetry, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and received Honorable Mention in the Ina Coothbrith Poetry Prize.

His work has recently appeared in or is forthcoming in Welter, The Oakland Review, New American Writing, Waccamaw, and elsewhere.

PORK

It’s the part of farming he despises,
which is why he leaves it to others.
On the day of the killing,
hired assassins come by
and he retreats into his parlor,
puts his hands over his ears.
One terrified scream from the nearby sty
and his leathery face would lose it.

His wife is braver,
peeling potatoes, slicing tomatoes,
in the kitchen,
careful not to slice her finger
while, just outside the window,
men, in blood-splattered aprons,
make quick work of a full-grown boar.

But she didn’t bring that creature
into the world.
She wasn’t there
when the old sow birthed him,
along with four brothers and sisters.

She tells him all the time
that he’s too sensitive.
But she never fattened up
a child for slaughter.
Her womb is innocent.
His hands are guilty.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Hawaii Pacific Review, Dalhousie Review, and Qwerty with work upcoming in Blueline, Willard and Maple and Clade Song.

Green Room

I used to think a green room
              was where jealous people went
                           for a time-out.
                           You could slay some dragons, travel
              time, sleep with a prince, skydive, save the world,
whatever it took for you to learn to want the life you have.

Megan Wildhood is a creative writer, scuba diver, and social-services worker known for her large, idiosyncratic earring collection. Her poetry chapbook, Long Division (Finishing Line Press, 2017), ruminates on sororal estrangement and volleying the challenges of growing up on the planet that’s very nearly on fire.

An excerpt from her novel manuscript was published by AMP Hofstra’s literary magazine in May 2019. Her other work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Sun, and Yes! Magazine. She regularly writes for Real Change and Mad in America. She wants to connect with other weary humans around issues of mental and emotional distress, creating real community from the ashes of individualism and finding real hope if only as an act of defiance, in these tattered days. You can learn more at meganwildhood.com.

Cows

After we’d killed the deer out on the highway
the cows would stop me staring, how their hides,
blotched like world maps, twitched ripples, the wide
swing of their tails as they chewed lovingly
at corn we filled the troughs with, the blue veins
bulging from their sacks, the sensual innocence
of handling a slobbery pink teat
and watching the tube bubble then run white.
At forty-six, still with my natural smile,
I’ve felt the vegan’s scorn and have indexed
the noxious scent of methane in one pile.
It ever weighs in with the generous monster
I’d stand beside in my mere needfulness.
Her weight could’ve crushed yet let me lean against her.

Michael Steffen lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. He has published in venues including Another Chicago Magazine, The Boston Globe, The Concord Saunterer, Harvard Review Online, Ibbetson Street, The Lyric and Taos Journal. His first book Partner, Orchard, Day Moon was published in 2014. David Ferry described the book as “keen with observation, of what things actually look like, what the wind feels like, how things grow and rot.

Flip-Up Day

That year we learned.
D’Nealian forms; the tinny reek
of Salisbury steak, the scorched
tomato-sugar sauce on square-cut crust;
markers scented like no fruit on earth;
ammonia, bleach, floor polish, chalk dust.
At the end of the week, torn
knees anointed in mercurochrome,
we became initiates reborn
into a new ritual.

“Friday!” sang the boys
(which boys? You know which boys),
“Friday!”—the minor third
of Airball! and klaxon wails—
the so-called calling contour
a leitmotif above the playground noise.
“Friday! Flip-Up Day!”

They dove then for our skirts,
yanking the hems to our waists
while we crushed our knees
together, counter-grabbed a flimsy edge,
twisting vainly to salvage
a modicum of modesty—

the opposing forces could
part zippers, tear seams;
the surprise could make you pee,
a sour damp scald of shame—
and though we’d holler
Stop! and screech their names
(you know which names)
they never did—

and nor, that I recall,
did any teacher:
It’s just a game;
boys will be boys;
and it’s not as though
you were getting hurt,
and you should have known
not to wear a skirt.

E.A. Bagby is a multidisciplinary artist based in Chicago. Her writing has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, as well as on stage with Strange Tree Group and Sansculottes. She is also the lead singer and songwriter for Liz + the Baguettes.

Ode to a Latte

my mother
bought me a latte
               in a drably fancy
                              park cafe

it was in a
little, plump mug,
         mug-blue like a
robin’s egg,

and glistening
           glistening because
the sun pushed

glimmery rays
          glimmering
its creaming froth

the top layer,
          a dopey duvet
on a bed that

parents tuck
           chirping children into,
smiled at me
with its
         smooth face,
marked by mocha’s

          dazzling coffee heart,
seeping into the
          fluff

i stared
         back at it

not brave enough
         to blow a willful wind,
to thrust the
          coffee heart,
          the smooth foam face,
into utter chaos,

like the
       wrapping on a birthday gift,
coffee
          suds shredding into
muddled and clumped
disarray

yet the drink
taunted me
           its smile slurred

summoning me
         to sip it

to fill my mouth with

         fuzzy warmth,
then to
          flow to my veins,
my fingertips,
my toes, all of me,

a sweatshirt
          for my bloodstream
          it rallied to be my
                   bloodstream’s sweatshirt

i pulled that mug
        to my lips,
drenching my sleep-soaked
morning
in what it
         needed

Jessica Horton is a freshman at Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Her short stories have been published in iWRITE’s 2019 Anthology, and have also been recognized by Scholastic Art and Writing Awards with an honorable mention, silver key, and gold key. In her spare time, Jessica enjoys drinking coffee and walking her two dogs.

The Forgetting

Mouth wide, bloody and pleading, palms extended, my need is ugly and unrelenting. Long after my head has processed the loss and my hands have adjusted to the strange empty air, there is still
my traitor heart to contend with, hungry and howling.

The larger pieces fall away quickly and details too specific to weigh become ether and drift. Those things which remain linger like smoke, yellowing the light, casting dirty shadows. Remnants of smells, coffee, and amber, wet fingerprints like bruises, salty lips cracked and
forgotten.

Sometime later, obsolete messages appear like harbingers. Long after dreams of rescue have been discarded, strange fortunes told in hindsight wash up along the shoreline. These warnings, of lukewarm sex and tepid tongues, come too late to save us.

The heat of betrayal and oaths disavowed burn away flesh, leaving only teeth and bones. Artifacts of a story told in reverse. What remains is only the forgetting, which wears away at this story like water along stone, slowly erasing details and changing the landscape.

Suzanne Lea is a coffee drinking, bleeding-heart liberal, bookworm. She has been published in numerous online and print journals, including the anthology Crooked Letter i: Coming Out in the South, with a foreword by Dorothy Allison, published by New South Books.

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