Former English Major Rediscovers His College Essays

The pleats of the accordion file have softened
like the folds of my neck. Rusted staples sink
into yellowed paper beds. Such Tragedy
of Recognition in Aristotle, Sophocles, Beckett
and me. A plethora of plethora’s. Ubiquitous
ubiquitous. The Compression of Time
in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – unafraid
to state the obvious, I see. And George
Tesman: A Character Study. Who is
George Tesman? And who is this
self I keep reading about? The self
does this, the self does that. We can even
Travel with the Self in Three Nineteenth-Century
British Novels. I wonder if the self who wrote
these words is different from, say,
myself? Am I the same boy under his little
desk lamp dissecting The Imagination
of Wordsworth, Keats, and Shelley as if nothing
in the world, not love, not war, were more
crucial? The same boy whose own Images
of Utopia were, let’s face it, not to be found
in Johnson and Coleridge but in the professor’s
handwritten praise with that A underneath?
I wanted it then, I want it now, I guess
I learned nothing about Jouer et Jouissance
in Roland Barthes’s Le Plaisir du Texte.

Bill Hollands’ work has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as RattleDIAGRAM, North American Review, and Boulevard. He was recently named a finalist for New Ohio Review’s NORward Prize and Smartish Pace’s Erskine J. Poetry Prize. He lives in Seattle with his husband and their son.

“Revelations” and “In the Dreams I Do Not Have” by Gretchen Rockwell

Revelations


if I were to tell you the truth / I’d say I’ve been thinking about / sharks: how they keep moving / or they die / is that a lie? I told you / I wasn’t thinking about much / that I was fine / the storms rolled in over my head / clouds a thick thumbprint over the Tay / the rain hid many things / I am very lonely here / thank god for my new friend I keep saying / because otherwise I would truly be alone / like a shark / in the midnight waters called home / shark embryos sometimes cannibalize each other / sharks spend their lives solo / I understand that / I close my eyes and squeeze / so hard I see red / and remember / sharks don’t sleep like we do / instead / they have periods of motion / and periods of rest and so / maybe / this is just a restful time / 		I was never any good at resting / 

In the Dreams I Do Not Have


I see myself surrounded by storm. 

The conditions are always right for lighting, 
power sparking between cloud and sky. 

In the dreams I do not have, I see dark waters 
and a choppy wave crashing over the bow, 

spume frothing in its wake. I am always very 
small against the sea. I am always very small 

against the grief. The sky breaks through 
often in these dreams. Salt on my tongue, 

gulls screaming in my ears. Water crashing over 
the bridges, spraying my feet. Still, I stay afloat. 

Gretchen Rockwell is a queer poet who can frequently be found writing about gender, science, space, and unusual connections. Xe is the author of the chapbooks body in motion (perhappened press) and Lexicon of Future Selves (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press) and two microchapbooks; xer work has appeared in AGNI, Cotton Xenomorph, Whale Road Review, Palette Poetry, and elsewhere. Find xer at www.gretchenrockwell.com or on Twitter at @daft_rockwell. 

“Disclosure” and “Corrective” by Liz Ahl

Disclosure
 
 
the print you skim
or just scroll past
 
before you sign is so fine
you might think it's just
 
the skin of my face, or
the slick surface of my eye,
 
the shifting lie of its hue—
a shady hazel shifting
 
as the light shifts,
revealing, concealing,
 
some sentient color
that supposes it knows
 
what you'd best
like to see.
 
Corrective
 
 
For a holed-up year I wore my glasses  
on a chain because I didn’t need to see 
across distances, or rather the distances  
became so vast, clear vision was beside the point. 
Nothing new to see here in this blur of house 
I wore like an exoskeleton while screening 
an approximate, beamed-in world.  
 
In the brief post-vax pre-Delta window 
I visited the optometrist—his face so close to mine— 
weird, sudden proximity-passing-for-intimacy, 
no acclimatizing phase, no exposure therapy— 
only his naked stare, and how I had to  
stare back as he plodded me through my choices, 
this-or-this-ing me towards “corrected” vision. 
I got the new glasses I supposed I’d need 
to move back into the world, called “progressives,”  
a lens that promised to fuse multiple visions
into an invisible menu of options, lineless, fluid,
rising from close to middle to the far distance. 
 
Finally wearing them, I practiced aiming 
my nose, turning my whole head to fully face
what I wanted to see, but even then,
I also had to tilt my head up, down, 
slide my eyeballs—newly, vividly aware 
of those wet orbs revolving in their sockets— 
aware, too, of my neck and head—
of swivel and tilt—and as I put my body
through these motions, I thought I finally understood
 
what my dad had been doing, his odd head movements  
as he sat in his recliner, still alive, hardcover novel  
open on his lap. I imagined he was, as I was now,  
trying to find the correct angle, moving
the newly strange parts of his own body,
making trial and error adjustments so that he might
lift the words from the page into focus. 
But this vision, too, may well be off, a distance
still far, too far, no matter where I point my nose,
all I’ll never see. 

Liz Ahl (she/her) lives in New Hampshire. She is the author of several chapbooks and one full-length poetry collection, Beating the Bounds (Hobblebush Books, 2017). Her poems have appeared recently in One Art, Lavender Review, and Limp Wrist, and are forthcoming at West Trestle Review and Quartet

We Spat the Moon Out with Our Foamy Toothpaste

Summers, when the city was low on power, we had blackouts almost every night. Oil was replenished in kerosene lanterns, wicks were cleaned and trimmed in expectation during the afternoon. It was so humid, the night seemed to swell and double in size, a whale filled with strange song. We begged for the same ghost stories, trembled with fearful pleasure at the same moments each time. I was afraid of being touched by the moths. They frittered about the flames until they dropped unpredictably with singed wings. Without power, the taps dried out to a trickle. A relay was created by the adults at the municipal tap outdoors, rapidly filling buckets for the bathroom and steel pots for the kitchen then passed backwards. Lots of shouted instructions, mostly ignored. The kids made a line with their toothbrushes. We brushed our teeth in the grass and rinsed our mouths with the startling cold burst from the tap. It felt like moonlight had gushed into our mouths. Like all magical things, it wasn’t safe to swallow, we knew.

Yamini Pathak is the author of the chapbooks, Atlas of Lost Places (Milk and Cake Press) and Breath Fire Water Song (Ghost City Press Summer Series 2021). Her poetry and non-fiction have appeared in Vida Review, Waxwing, Kenyon Review blog, Voicemail Poems, and other places. She serves as poetry editor for Inch micro-chapbooks (Bull City Press) and is an MFA candidate at Antioch University, Los Angeles. Yamini is an alumnus of VONA/Voices (Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation), and Community of Writers.

The Long Grass

the second law of thermodynamics says that entropy always increases with time

that first step in, the long, green grass squeezed beneath my shoe, a rock path, a house, fresh eggs, a drumbeat, the cinnamon smell of burning candles. Just moments before, my mind had numbed itself to only make sense of the grass clutching at my bare legs. Now I have steel thoughts. All around me the bitter emotion of nature, spurned as she was, the low hum of a thousand insects, the cracking of the harvest left behind, the crowds of dying plants, crushed by summer’s retreat, my feet. And then the panic rises that there would be no end, just interminable walking, mining autumn’s satisfaction against my drudgery, observing the way my spirit crumbles, trapped running. I carry a little box of pins inside my skirt pocket, nestled against my leg, and, every time I take a step too large, it jostles and jumps. I am wrapped in the familiar smell of sweet insomnia, wanting to smoke and wipe the sweat from between my breasts with something more than just my first and second fingers. It tastes of a heat that leaves my body too quickly. I dream of showers. I unrecognise myself. I recognise myself too well. Above me, a bird squawks and I watch it circle, feathers so black it is more than shadow, swooping arcs into the sky, movement in time to my elevated heartbeat and it seems to know in me that I have always been afraid of the way a bird can so easily fly away

SK Grout (she/they) is a writer, editor and poet. She grew up in Aotearoa New Zealand, lived in Germany and now splits her time between London and Auckland Tāmaki Makaurau. Her debut pamphlet What love would smell like is published with V. Press (2021). She holds a post-graduate degree in creative writing from City, University of London, and is a Feedback Editor for Tinderbox Poetry. Her poetry and reviews are widely published in the US, UK, Europe and the Pacific, including Ambit, Cordite Poetry Review, dialogist, Glass, Poetry Wales and Finished Creatures. Website: https://skgroutpoetry.wixsite.com/poetry

roots

Note: Source text is Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, page 268 

Melody Serra‘s passion is teaching and empowering others by sharing what she has learned. She helped launch an arts and crafts program at a children’s hospital and also taught at San Quentin State Prison. Melody hopes to inspire youth to explore and expand their creativity through web development, writing, and art.

our language of accidents

i misspell angel & call you
my angle. both are true.
 
you, the bright space between
lines that leads to where we meet,
 
my intersection of light beams.
 
i never know which direction
we gleam, but whenever i speak,
i am speaking towards your shine—
 
​***
 
my phone capitalizes your whole
name, recognizes love before i do.
 
my bigtall love growing
beyond my toes! a trombone
brassing out my mouth!
 
i’m bringing the whole band
& blasting piano keys:
 
what a fortune, to write
in your lifetime,
 
to adore each note & ring.
 
​***
 
autocorrect changes i love you
to i live you. a supreme truth.
 
i live your presence, your absence.
at death, your ghost, its long prints
of moans.
 
i live you i live you i live you
 
in every shape of home.
 
my angle. i live you.
backwards & forwards, forested
& open-fielded, with all my fingers & throat.

Samantha Fain is a writer from Indiana. Her first chapbook, “Coughing Up Planets,” debuted with Vegetarian Alcoholic Press in March, and her microchap “sad horse music” debuted with The Daily Drunk in May. Her work has appeared in The Indianapolis Review, SWWIM, 8 Poems, and othersShe tweets at @smnthfn. Find her at samanthafain.com

A Thin Orchestra of Love

It’s how you sit 
in the middle 
of everything, waiting 
for the Woolf in me. 

I used to think 
of love as a reduction 
of self. How the act 
of loving diminished. 
An always setting sun. 
I think of how you are there,
open and waiting. And 
ultimately empty.
If only. 		
                 Two women set out on an
adventure. A hand gently rests. They
sneak gin from a tarnished flask. It
will matter more to the one in robin’s egg
blue. The other will know all of the right
flowers to arrange at dinner.

In blue.
                        She will say, But I did 
love you once
and your fingers 
of silk. Your cheek 
so cold. 

If hours. 
                    Ended and nothing stopped
the way you are the edge of glass. Sand
and fire and storm.      
 

Jen Rouse is a poet and playwright. She directs the Center for Teaching and Learning at Cornell College. Her work has appeared in The Citron ReviewPithead ChapelCleaverAlways CrashingMississippi Review, and elsewhere. Her books with Headmistress Press include: Acid and TenderCAKE, and Riding with Anne Sexton. Find her on Twitter @jrouse.

SUNBEAMS

Come in I tell the fleas
 
opening my legs
 
it’s time to make a movie
 
on this first day of winter in my bed
 
white worms of cellulite
 
and half a glass of warm red wine
 
freshly showered
 
pink scum between the tiles
 
sunbeam floats particulates of skin
 
part of me in bed
 
and part of me on my credit card
 
lost like a meteor in the black hole lens
 
lost in the middle
 
of viral interdependence
 
can you move faster I ask the fleas
 
I don’t want to lose the light
 
I am not in exile
 
I must tell myself I have time
 
and then eradicate my apprehensions
 
the fleas swell and swallow me
 
and you too
 
in the moment you come
 
to me I ask you
 
why should we be different
 
than detectives
 
in a novel by my bed
 
stiffs discovered in a forest  

love is not a punishment
 
sometimes I forget and have a laugh
 
I open my heart like a scab
 
one day there won’t be any winter
 
through the lens the light bends
 
to a single point

Sara Wainscott is the author of Insecurity System (Persea 2020), winner of the Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize. She lives outside Chicago. www.sarawainscott.com

The Old Moon in the New Moon’s Arms

Is it that hard to see why I moon about you?
You are the heavenly body from my point of view.
You think I luminesce? My ashen glow is from the Sun
and from you. That’s why I’m made new when you are full.
You see through my nightside even in my darkest phases,
so I sliver silver, and if I cannot close this distance,
I’ll save space in my crescent for your shadow.
 

Sean Beatty is a poet from Raleigh, NC. He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill where he completed an Honors Poetry Thesis, and is currently working on a M.S. in Physiology at the University of Louisville. His poems have been published in The Daily Drunk, Figure 1, CP Quarterly, and Ice Lolly Review. Follow him on Twitter @seanw0ww.