Smoothing the Cranial Curve of a Ghostskull

Can’t shift this sticky Hoosier summer. No walks off the front porch anymore. My hair won’t behave and it floats like a cloud. My hangnails are drying up and my armpits are wet and the sky is a chalkboard of plane exhaust streaks. Ants nip at my dirty feet and crawl up my dirty jeans and the wind tickles the base-fuzz of my spine. I shaved my toes and still stepped on bees. The house chimes an idle litany. My dead dog’s dishes are asleep in the backyard. I scrambled barefoot over the prickle-grass, trying to find some remnant of her dried shit, but I missed the spring and the softening and now the bluebells by the stoop have turned beige. The basketball on the driveway bakes inside its mud shell. The cars hum down Carlisle. The monarch butterfly I’ve been trying to catch since first grade jitters in the peripheral. I don’t turn to face it. The wind dies. A fly pisses on my arm. A branch cracks by the road. A squirrel sneezes at me and I bark back. He scurries into the tree crown as my hair haloes.


kristinelangleymahler_headshotKristine Langley Mahler is a memoirist experimenting with the truth on the suburban prairie outside Omaha, Nebraska. Author of Curing Season: Artifacts (WVU Press, 2022) and recipient of a 2021 Individual Artist Fellowship from the Nebraska Arts Council, Kristine’s work was named Notable in Best American Essays 2021 and 2019 and is published in DIAGRAM, Ninth Letter, Brevity, and Speculative Nonfiction, among others. She is the director of Split/Lip Press. Find more about her projects at kristinelangleymahler.com or @suburbanprairie.

Epitaph by Kelsi Lindus

We made art. We wept. For no reason. There were tidal patterns in our souls that we could not understand. We had souls, we suspected. We knew very little. We saw colors and we named them. We burned things, yes. We burned everything. We took it all and we used it and we did not feel bad. We turned off the television. We cupped small lifeforms in our hands. It grew warmer. We looked for mushrooms in the dirt. We hosted dinner parties. We drank til we were sad. We never learned. We learned to forgive ourselves and continue. We held the door for a stranger. We were all just babies once. We were all so anxious. We invented occasions to feel warm and generous and sorry. We let the stains set. We put off the important things. We made love. We said love but didn’t mean it. We meant to say it more. We regretted everything and nothing. We were hard, then so soft we couldn’t bear it. We made dramas of our suffering. We could not get out of bed. We humiliated each other. We used our hurt in hurtful ways. We embraced. When it rained, words came to us, and we sat alone and wrote them down. We sang, and the singing broke our hearts, made us kind again, made us better listeners. We were terrible listeners. We were terribly selfish. We built cathedrals and would not let each other in. We were boring. We grew bored. But sometimes we stopped as a bird swooped, plunged its body through the water, reemerged, soared away. We knew to watch. We knew it to be beautiful. We knew.


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Kelsi Lindus is a writer and documentary filmmaker living in the Puget Sound. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from AutofocusX-R-A-Y Literary MagazineCloves Literary, and elsewhere. She can be found online at @kelsijayne or kelsilindus.com.

EUPHORIA=WHEN I HELP THE BODY REMEMBER IT COULD BE MINE by Bojana Stojcic

Every morning I have my usual crise de panique on the way to work—my regular I want
something, and then I don’t, there’s no time (when is the right time), I have nothing to lose, I
have nothing to gain, what if I fail, or even worse, what if I don’t—only this time the fatigue and anxiety drug on well into the day, and it wasn’t until I released that I finally found some relief, which was pretty wow, the way the new mother feels energized by a few hours of sleep, the way she forgets the moist sickness rising up in her throat when the baby pulls on her nipple and her heart beats faster, before hormonal shifts, before exhaustion, before guilt, before the blinds drawn shut, the house forgotten, before pressing her face into her arms, hands digging deep into her flesh like it’s a peach, before pulling the skirt over her head as if to disappear, as if to dissolve into the air and be gone gone gone, before I woke up tired as fuck again the following day, before I was there but elsewhere. In the shower I stayed worried, though I knew if I panicked, I’d feel way better, more myself, so after cell-scrubbing cleansers, after toners, after serums, I put my head between my knees and let it bang in.


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Bojana Stojcic, a native of Serbia living in Germany, has work featured in Barren Magazine, Spelk, Okay Donkey, MockingHeart Review, and Versification, amongst other publications. She wishes she could just put her feet up and heave a euphoric sigh of relief.

The Foundation for the Foreseeable Future by Jeffrey Hermann

I was an orphan once. Lucky me it can’t happen twice. The story was my parents were a dime and a penny. She wore a long, elegant coat with a belt. He was a gun misfiring, or an empty suitcase. I can’t remember.

We played baseball in the yard behind the building. I remember. There was a runner at first, two outs. The batter was behind on the count. Our team felt lifted into the summer air. The pitcher looked into the clouds. He dropped the ball in the dirt, walked to the fence, opened the gate and disappeared. I lived in left field.

One morning I thought I saw them passing by in a car. They looked like two competing geometric shapes. Two hotel guest keys. Two identical planks of wood. She wore the sky as a hat. He held a bird in his mouth. A little struggle still in the wings.


Jeffrey Hermann’s poetry and prose has appeared in Rejection Lit, Variant,
UCity Reivew, trampset, JMWW, The Shore, and other publications. Though
less publicized, he finds his work as a father and husband to be rewarding
beyond measure.

My Father, The Lover, The Fighter by Alondra Adame

My father bellowed ballads on Sundays during and after his morning showers before driving us to the flea market. My father transformed into Chente, Jose Alfredo, Pedro Infante, Javier Solis, Antonio Aguilar, the great voices, the ones que tienen la voz, he asserted, thumping his fist against his hairy chest, real stage presence, macho bravado, their chests rising and falling with all the drama of the star-crossed lovers in their songs. It is when my father speaks to me about them that I learned they are not only real singers but have real hearts, real stories, real heartbreak. I learned that my father is a romantic. I learned that my father is a romantic in spirit but not in practice. I learned my father was once a fighter who became a lover. My father who became a fighter again. I learned that my father does not love to fight but often fights with people he loves. I learned from my father that this is what it means to be a man. I learned that I do not love men like my father. And despite that fact, I love my father and the way his crying makes it look like he’s singing and the way his apologies sound like soft love poems.


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Alondra Adame is a Chicanx essayist, poet, and educator. They currently live in Chico, California where they teach and take walks with their partner and their dog, Buu. Their writing often revolves around family, identity, and the Chicanx experience in rural northern California. You can find more of their work in The Nasiona, PALABRITASFlies, Cockroaches, and Poets, and more. Follow Alondra on Twitter @alondrathepoet!

A Perfect Day by Michael Akuchie

Today there is not a lot that the sun is saying—the thick layer of clouds keep back the sun’s venomous beam. The windows of sky are ajar. The wind is what leaps from the fine decor of heaven. I am camped by the slender frame of a tree, wind sways toward the shoot of leaves. I love a weather without the charge of heat.


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Michael Akuchie is a poet and essayist residing in Nigeria. Wreck, Michael’s debut chapbook of poems was selected by José Olivarez to receive the 2019-2020 Hellebore Poetry Scholarship Award. He is continually inspired by mundane things.

One Good Thing by Claire Taylor

One good thing is a pile of steamed crabs on butcher paper. Last night I dreamed I knew how to put out fires. My arms were sprinklers. We ran through the spray laughing. Nobody said the apocalypse is coming. Nobody said we’re running out of time. It was already over and we couldn’t remember how it ended so we ate popsicles and danced to Queen, our lips and tongues as red as a blaze. To eat a crab, you hold a knife to its shell and bash it with a mallet. You dig your fingers into every crevice, pull out the meat. Someone on Twitter says it’s the worst first date food. Someone on Twitter says you can make your own currency. So I pick the petals off all the flowers and pile them up like coins. I roll them into a ball and we kick it around the yard. When our son scores a goal he falls to his knees in mock celebration. I let it in on purpose. I let it all in: the shadows and the street lamps, the sound of the highway thundering like a waterfall at the edge of the world.


CTaylor_PhotoClaire Taylor is a writer in Baltimore, Maryland. She is the author of two microchapbooks: A History of Rats (Ghost City Press, 2021) and, As Long As We Got Each Other (ELJ Editions, Ltd., 2022), as well as a children’s literature collection, Little Thoughts. Claire is the founder and editor in chief of Little Thoughts Press, a quarterly print magazine of writing for and by kids. You can find Claire online at clairemtaylor.com or Twitter @ClaireM_Taylor.

Urban Geography by Wendy BooydeGraaff

Our small-town high school urban geography class rode the yellow bus on the QEW to
Toronto to observe the gridded mecca of skyrises and underground malls. There on Queen
Street near Church, a man—a jovial man with three shirts and two jackets, a Santa beard and
a warm palm—said I was beautiful, the mirror image of Princess Di, she with the perpetually
bowed head, pearls and memorable black dress, now part of a wardrobe curated by art
museums. I tossed my long kinky hair and blushed—me, with the tight light jeans and slouch
socks, a baby pink t-shirt tucked in exposing empty belt loops, and my red school jacket with a near-invisible gold chain around my neck. You! my friend said, the one with pixie blonde hair, and upturned nose, disgust dripping in her eyes. He just wanted your money. Of
course, I said, and dug in my purse to find another loonie.

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Wendy BooydeGraaff’s fiction, poems, and essays have been included in Nymphs, MORIA, Splonk, NOON, and elsewhere. Originally from Ontario, Canada, she now
lives in Michigan, United States.

Instructions for Telling the Truth by Maggie Wolff

Lie. Don’t tell the doctor you don’t sleep more than a few hours a night, go days without eating, a week without showering. If you tell her the truth, the words you don’t want to hear will split you open again like a backache kick from inside the body.

Wait. Wait it out as long as you can. Hold on to fibers until they shred and slip, emptying your palms.

Speak. Tell the truth. But don’t tell it all. Tell the doctor just enough that she will say what you don’t want to hear, we need to increase your dosage, but not enough truth that she ups the meds too drastically. She says this can be temporary and we will see how you feel on the increased dosage. You tell her, I still want to feel, but you know even that is a lie somedays.

Take. Take the new pill added to the old pill to achieve the right dosage. You tell yourself, this doesn’t have to be hard, because the body knows how to swallow. Don’t beat yourself up for upped meds. The brain isn’t as well trained as the throat. You know this already. You know this by now.

Wait. It will take weeks for you to possibly feel better again. Wait and let it pass over you. Wait and sleep through it as the increase zombifies, nullifies, quiets the too loud parts of you and performs a brain drain. Wait and do what the body wants: sleep or stay awake all night, eat water for dinner or chewable food, wander from room to room like a ghost without the baggage or stay in bed ankle chained to the empty inside you. Wait and see, the doctor says. Wait.


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Maggie Wolff is a queer writer. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Black Fox Literary Magazine, The Lascaux Review, Saw Palm, and Qu Literary Magazine. She is working on her first poetry collection, which follows three generations of women as they navigate depression, addiction, and suicide. She is a poetry candidate in the MFA creative writing program at the University of Central Florida.

Hollows by Monique Quintana

California reads like an old school map with monsters on the periphery. Teeth turn to tiny white crosses as grave markers, spitting out holy water from basins lodged in a wall of adobe and stone. Those monsters are my cousins a thousand times removed, telling burnished hands to work, searing their heads out of the soil to bark orders, moist soil, dry soil, beach sand as dark as my sister’s hair. My sister sleeps in her bed again, and her hair is growing. I send her apps with whale sounds to drown our mother’s scolding, even though it’s good for us. I’ve heckled mornings running and swallowing the bugs and the dry heat of my town. My rental was built in 1927 and the closet only has room for two party dresses. Down the road, fruit grows, plucking my father’s fingers as a boy. The mist burrows in the scales of fish swam from Michoacán, making them whistle tales about fake clouds and giants sleeping under grass to make mountains to protect us from fault lines. My sister sleeps in her bed again, and her hair is growing.


Quintana_Headshot_SP21Monique Quintana is a Xicana from Fresno, CA, and the author of the novella Cenote City (Clash Books, 2019). Her work has appeared in Pank, Wildness, The Acentos Review, and Winter Tangerine, among other publications. She has been nominated for Best of the Net, Best Microfiction, and the Pushcart Prize, and has been awarded artist residencies to Yaddo, The Mineral School, and Sundress Academy of the Arts. She has received support from the Community of Writers, the Open Mouth Poetry Retreat, and she was the inaugural winner of Amplify’s Megaphone Fellowship for a Writer of Color. You can find her @quintanagothic and moniquequintana.com.