Fluorescent Mammals

What else would happen
to tawny down under blacklight
except colorize, tie dye, 
and astound? 

Elysian fields gotta bloom
somewhere. Except to say
that humans made Elysium up,
sending our measly derricks 
plumb down— 
and springhares invented this:
secret libraries erected
in open air, paper-marbled
volumes spiraled sky high
from ground to 
whiskered cornice. 

My life had stood a pastoral
poem green and pristine.
Undiscovered glens 
waiting for a hippie
with a tab to find them
or a medicine woman 
with mortar and pestle
to grind them.

Here I am, a child of the ‘80s
just biding One Day at a Time,
waiting for Schneider,
my building’s hapless super,
to show up sheepishly
wielding the ultimate boon:
one bulb of black light. 

Meanwhile, springhares wear
Jupiter’s clouds as hidden
skin and platypuses
have settled in, gliding past 
permission and pictures.
They’re out here living—
disco ball dancing 
to music subdermal, 
platypussing through
midnight water, 
emerging beaded in
flamboyant kit. 

River-glittered Janus,
dancer at a rave, she
knows it’s last call,
boogies on her plot,
bucks up her bill,
and shoots her shot.
I want to go
with her. 

I want to go.
To a place where what
swirls beneath
our surface
is only: 
                         B	E	T	T	E	R
Signifying
nothing other than fuck it—
let’s be beautiful in this tangle
of roots together. 

In darkness, I watch
her bright body streak, 
course, and dart.

Her expression flickers.
I’m a mirror.
What’s here is there,
within, without.

Whether we’re
ENOUGH 
is an absurd question.
Head to toe, we’re animals
efflorescent—
bodypainted in poetry
underneath
selfsame coats.



____

L.J. Sysko’s work has appeared/is forthcoming in Ploughshares, BEST NEW POETS, Radar, Limp Wrist, SWWIM Every Day, and Painted Bride Quarterly, among others. BATTLEDORE, poems of early motherhood, was published as a chapbook in 2017 (Finishing Line Press). A 2022 Palm Beach Poetry Festival Thomas Lux Scholar, Sysko has been honored with both Virginia Center for Creative Arts and Delaware Division of the Arts Fellowships; her poetry has twice been shortlisted for the Fish Publishing Prize, judged by Billy Collins, and has earned finalist recognition from Marsh Hawk Press and The Pinch, among others. She is a reader for The Common and a Delaware State Arts Council board member; she can be found online at ljsysko.com.

Venus and Minerva in Quarantine

Beauty’s feeling fugitive
furtive and sallow
in her bathrobe 
standing ragged
at the fridge

Wisdom peers in
like an owl perched 
on a midnight limb—
once she was Madame X in her dark dress,
vamp with a raptor’s eye,
aloof to
matters mundane as
dinner until 
they slithered 
suggestively
by—

Now, silence strings itself
on a necklace 
between them
as fragile as life. 
Calendar pages
fold into pearls
hoping to surf 
on Beauty’s shell

or, failing that,
to try once more
for Wisdom’s attention—
bills, bones, teeth
coughed up as a pellet



____

L.J. Sysko’s work has appeared/is forthcoming in Ploughshares, BEST NEW POETS, Radar, Limp Wrist, SWWIM Every Day, and Painted Bride Quarterly, among others. BATTLEDORE, poems of early motherhood, was published as a chapbook in 2017 (Finishing Line Press). A 2022 Palm Beach Poetry Festival Thomas Lux Scholar, Sysko has been honored with both Virginia Center for Creative Arts and Delaware Division of the Arts Fellowships; her poetry has twice been shortlisted for the Fish Publishing Prize, judged by Billy Collins, and has earned finalist recognition from Marsh Hawk Press and The Pinch, among others. She is a reader for The Common and a Delaware State Arts Council board member; she can be found online at ljsysko.com.

Anti-Aubade

No language.
             Just late morning light
glazed in the hairs on your
                        skin, set in the sweat

of my pillow. I don’t need
            you to brush your teeth—
in fact, I don’t need you
                        to get up at all; I have

practiced poise for this
            like I practice music.
There’s a string section
                        of dust motes passing

in front of the window
            as the cat walks across the sill.
Each pawprint a syllable
                        in a word I dare not say,

or a record of what happens
            here. Of what wasn’t heard.
No need for consonance;
                        I quarter-rest next to you all

            morning waiting for the coda,
bring the reed to my lips
            before our bodies' chorus.



____

Jacob Rivers is the author of the chapbook Eros the Length of a Sentence. He manages a global humanities network at The Hannah Arendt Center, Bard College, and lives in Hudson, NY.

To the woman weighing lemons at the grocery store

Last night you dreamed you could drink up all the air
            between maple branches and moonshine.

It tasted of hemlock tips, resinous furring
            sour and then bitter as the green underside

of sea ice approaching a country made
            of narrow rain.

Who will smell the twist of oil behind your ear,
            who will sigh against your morning?

Who will ask, where have you been?



____

Carolyn Oliver (she/her) is the author of Inside the Storm I Want to Touch the Tremble (University of Utah Press, forthcoming 2022), selected by Matthew Olzmann for the Agha Shahid Ali Prize. Carolyn’s poems appear in The Massachusetts Review, Indiana Review, Cincinnati Review, Radar Poetry, Shenandoah, Beloit Poetry Journal, 32 Poems, Southern Indiana Review, Cherry Tree, Plume, DIALOGIST, and elsewhere. Carolyn is the winner of the E. E. Cummings Prize from the NEPC, the Goldstein Prize from Michigan Quarterly Review, and the Writer’s Block Prize in Poetry. She lives in Massachusetts with her family. Online: carolynoliver.net

Owls in Stereo

Owls on either side of the house
in the coolest hour of a summer night

                                         when I wake to bend and draw
                                         up the sheet at the foot of the bed—

relay, pause, relay, then move on a little
further. I track them, one with each ear,

                                         owls in stereo, and then follow
                                         the zippering rasp of their fledglings

into the same dark, branch by branch.
I wait until the air has stilled once more

                                         before stretching, elbows pointed
                                         away from my ribs, letting a small

sigh that won’t wake you escape, and wonder
what on Earth I would ever do without you.



____

Michael Metivier (he/him) is a writer, editor, and musician living in Vermont. His work has appeared in EcoTheo ReviewLAABjubilatCrazyhorse, and African American Review, among other journals, and is forthcoming in Bennington Review and Northern Woodlands.

Dry

After a drought the ground
must accept what the ground

can accept before the creek
can fill, for the creek

is not a gutter, but permeable.
Consider this first storm preamble

one soon forgets but nevertheless
establishes theme. . . unless it never

rains again, in which case
it is coda, the creek: a crease.


___

Michael Metivier (he/him) is a writer, editor, and musician living in Vermont. His work has appeared in EcoTheo ReviewLAABjubilatCrazyhorse, and African American Review, among other journals, and is forthcoming in Bennington Review and Northern Woodlands.

Holy Jesus-Free Bingo Hall

I dropped into your white dream like a drunk lost bat, 
only days after you dropped out of mine. 

The titanium light-room littered with banquet tables, 
draped in white like a Last Supper Bingo event, 

one where Jesus and the apostles went missing.
The intense light came from an unseen place, 

everything a glowing shock of x-ray.
Your spare littering of possessions, a humble display,

the church sale no one showed up for, including you.
Helen Reddy was ready, her relics spread over a table, 

your weird little secret, one of many. Autographed LPs, 
stashed in a pink gift box, her toothy smile 

leaping with confidence, like deer tails, off the covers. 
I touched them. You appeared next to my shoulder like magic, 

tall and vibrant, my height, smiling, happier than I’d ever seen you. 
You assured me you were fine with your olive, sparkling eyes. 

Your black shock of hair, a Rorschach nest splashed against 
the white shout of everywhere canvas.

“It’s waiting, you said,” without moving your lips, 
speaking about Harold’s tricked-out, Jaguar hearse.

You would have to go out some strange way—in Max style.
Red taillights glowed against wet black asphalt, unfurling 

from the edge of a brightly lit holy Jesus-Free Bingo Hall, 
into your shimmering, satiny, starlit sky.

Mist rose from twin tailpipes like cigarette smoke, 
and then you were gone.



____

Koss is a queer writer and artist with an MFA from SAIC. She has work in or forthcoming in Diode Poetry, Cincinnati Review, Hobart, Kissing Dynamite, Five Points Anti-Heroin Chic, North Dakota Review, Feral, Chiron Review, Prelude, Lunch Ticket, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Spoon River Poetry Review, Feral, Lumiere, Rat’s Ass Review, Best Small Fictions 2020, and Kissing Dynamite’s Punk Anthology. Keep up with Koss on Twitter @Koss51209969 and Instagram @koss_singular. Her website is http://koss-works.com.

We’ve Hardly Begun And

already have ruined this great
bullish experiment, the shining hill
city with no real sense of lasting
design or weight, flowers placed on an
empty casket. Too late. Most mistake any men in scrubs
for doctors: dazed by the prospect of good health, patients
guess incorrectly. Then, when begins the pitch —
Hey! A medical supplies salesman? Who let you
in the operating room? It is flim-flam for sure, like no
jam on your peanut butter sandwich, or the
knife used to slice strawberries from the garden, twitching
loose to nick your thumb. You should be careful,
maybe look for helpers in the world, those
nice morticians coming from upstate to move bodies
out of overcrowded NYC. See? It’s not hard to
plan ahead, to make wishes known so you don’t end up
queued last and lonely, hoping for a
real doctor or sandwich maker, at the very least
some daisies to brighten this empty room. That may be
too big an ask, butter yellow when the skies grow gray and we are
under it all — sleet and hail, gale-force winds, snakes leaking
venom as they fall from above and land to wrap around our
wrists like bracelets, like something gold and rubied
Xena might wear when she arrives to save our skin. I’ll always be with
you, she says, right after accidentally stabbing her best friend.
Zoinks! Bet you didn’t see that coming — the end, I mean. The end. 



____

Laura Bandy attended the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers PhD program from 2009 to 2013, where she received the Joan Johnson Poetry Award. In 2018, she won first prize in the ‘Trio of Triolets’ contest judged by Allison Joseph, and received third place in the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award/ Illinois Emerging Writers Competition that same year. She has had work published in Soft Skull’s Saints of Hysteria: A Half-Century of Collaborative American Poetry, Ninth Letter, Sin Fronteras, River Styx, TypoPithead Chapel, and The Laurel Review among others, and currently has poems in Midwest Review and Longleaf Review, with work forthcoming in The Florida Review. Her chapbook, Hack, will be out with Dancing Girl Press in 2021. Laura hails from Jacksonville, Illinois, home of the Ferris wheel.

In This Night of Storms

              —for Gabe

After singing you 
to sleep, I lay you down.  
Outside, a week of heat 
ends in streaks 
of lightning and rain.  
A close strike 
cracks the black egg 
of night, blanches blue-white 
the curtains by your crib. 
You sleep, though suddenly 
illumined like bone 
in an x-ray, like a candled egg.
Air and earth boom, 
then rumble back to a solace 
of water and wind.
Small in this thunder, I 
lean over your crib, listen 
to your breath, and wonder 
what the lightning struck,
and where and when 
it will strike again.



____

Matthew Murrey‘s poems have appeared in many journals such as Prairie SchoonerPoetry EastSplit Rock Review, and Under a Warm Green Linden.  Matthew is the recipient of an NEA Fellowship, and their debut collection, Bulletproof – selected by Marilyn Nelson – was published in February 2019 by Jacar Press. Matthew works as a public school librarian in Urbana, Illinois, and can be found online at https://www.matthewmurrey.net/ and @mytwords on Twitter and Instagram.

Hurricane Family

               
               When hurricanes come my daddy prepares
                            by rooting soles into the floors of our house,
               rooted into the wetland his daddy poured Lord Calvert’s into.

                            No longer a buckra’s sharecropper,
Grandma Lizzie and Granddaddy Silas rooted
               a bottle tree of twelve
                            inconceivable indigo children.

                            My daddy repeats to my ma,
                We’ll be fine,
                            and I believe.

                                          When the hurricanes came, it moved me
                            more than I wanted. I hooked my innocence inside.
                                          Wild water became swords. My sisters and I played in
swooning pine. Dark, slick, splash, and I was terrified—

                my thoughts of trees falling on top of mobile homes,
people waking with blue Earth inside their rooms,
                worlds swept up for miles out all around,

                            and in our front yard—I was afraid
                                        while we ran, we danced, and we leaped.



____

Marlanda Dekine’s forthcoming collection, Thresh & Hold (Hub City Press, 2022), won the New Southern Voices Poetry Prize, selected by Gabrielle Calvocoressi. Dekine is the creator of the self-published book & mixtape, i am from a punch & a kiss. Their poems have been published or are forthcoming in POETRY, Emergence Magazine, Oxford American, Southern Humanities Review, and elsewhere. Dekine is a Tin House Scholar, a Palm Beach Poetry Festival Langston Hughes Fellow, and a Fellow at The Watering Hole. Their work is obsessed with ancestry, memory, and the process of staying within one’s own body, leaving spells and incantations for others to follow for themselves. They live in South Carolina with their wise dog, Malachi.