Brandon Shimoda

photo by Matt Walker

The Girl Without Arms

I will be with you always like a maggot
Breeds berates the thing it bathes in love
The glow of unrequited love it says so

Confirms through outfits of translucent skin
The splitting brain of one of three fruits turning slowly
An instrument flower rowing itself through brown water
All of three fruits grown on the backside of a broad farm
Hidden travels slowly over coal

All possible ways to plug the mouth
All possible things with which
To plug
The mouth
Burnt into button ears folded in repose
Drinks the sweat fetching mouths agape

I go to sleep late morning buried
One hundred feet below the ground
Relieve myself into failed and transplanted necks turned out

I go to sleep against the skirts of women
Internations grazing vines beside pools for something to drop of my youth
Girl washing in a porcelain tub
Boy slipping fingers between scales of beady fish
Girl drying beneath the less radiant of two dynamic sodom sun tablets
Boy validating his resemblance to the girl resembles the boy calico garden

I go to sleep to the sound of water dripping from a cold candle hung from a black roof
Pouring skin unto each other’s flames of laughter rising over apocalypse farm

I go to sleep late morning one hundred feet
You looking into the veins tearing through the heels of your feet
Swinging back
And forth
One hundred feet above

Are the maggot’s affections interminable?
Can we make the maggot’s affections interminable?
Let us touch each other over the smear of a waterbird across the ground
Neck twisted scarf snap the air
Let us feed the beak a stick of dynamite
Let us shed ourselves into the network of beams; you slice yourself into a tapering and erectile root rubbed the length of the long face while I watch you slice yourself into a tapering and erectile root second and third while I watch
There will be one hundred other things going on in the mid-distance
Let us call fifty of them forward
Make making a foolish enterprise
Of emptiness
Let us watch the second fifty conform
Into a wailing, white fence, within which an orchard of apple trees
Springs fire against the gathering sea
Numbers make like muscles against actionable sentences
All islands might withdraw
Let us watch the noise raise up the sails
The sea will be complete, unerring in the dark, like a wedding dress
Let us promise to put ourselves to better use than a wedding dress
Let us be worn by death, better than this, a string of soft shells pulled from a spiral of wet, fallopian ribbon taken into the mouth, opening in the sea, out of which a waterbird tears from the plague, tiny ringlets of blood and brain prove awful on the oil of the slow-moving waves, a column of devils shines upward

The Girl Without Arms (2)

A husband
once a horrible
husband is
a depression of catalogued

Black swiids
divide the number of graves
by a snouted balance
Truthful, I say
for my daughter is a spitting image of unmended soil

electrified, Anyway
I cut her
a luxurious rooster from a tree
over a colloid pond
stretched behind her

into the ruins of a dormitory
a single egg
standing upright
on an armoire
in tights

with the nobility of a saint
strutting the rubble
until only the legs
streaming with embodied colors

The girl without arms
wears her pants
making her ass appear
longer than it actually is

with people
trying to coo
without losing too much skin
or falling asleep

Both prove true
The pond is choked with skin
She holds the rooster between her

in the shadow
of beast trees
with ancient lilac blast shadows
Fluster black and lift off

Is it the body
belaboring the wall
while in go caretakers
slipping love to aestheticize the ground into a prize-winning crust
thrown against the wall

The girl without arms makes her way
beyond the market of outsized heads
Babies in bronze
broken into eleventy rings
Nostrils tossed as cold spheres

to the bleached pussy
as love
is a limit of burning
a cold body from a dress
still pious for the emblazoned skin

basic flag cordiality
no hair
vanity. The girl without arms
patterned into a dark animal
I congratulate

the celebration
Pox of young boys looking through my dress
Benefits moving
before me

Young boys sitting on the pulled tongue of a blue
sailing through the scenery
risen to lash a small carpenter
to the struts on his house

Beside a paper plate
a pit of mutts
Gums dropped of fangs
through a working mind
Touch me

I cannot find the means to navigate
the carbonated
into dance. Sleep with me tonight
A black crow on a nervous branch

cannot stand
on the stairs of its blades
I cannot bear success
for the distance it carries my porous gut
from doing

you between the trees
What trees
and flowers
will teach you to learn
relieving ourselves against upholstered boxes

of fruit
and cereal each
season storms with muted camouflage
in an untenable voice
father, Where is the festival being held

I am disposed to do something to her
crossing the peach blossom
The sound of experts on the cross
kissing, You are kissing
Let us go to the festival

The first of these girls without arms is from The Girl Without Arms, a book forthcoming from Black Ocean (early 2011). The second of these girls without arms is from a box of disinterred grave relics, ongoing. Other work by Brandon Shimoda has appeared in book form as The Alps (Flim Forum, 2008), The Inland Sea (Tarpaulin Sky, 2008), Lake M (Corollary Press, 2010) and soon, O Bon (Litmus Press, 2011).


Christine Kanownik

photo by Matt Walker

All Left But Night

spacespaceI suppose
they are all dead by
now, but I'll tell

Christine Kanownik lives in Brooklyn. Her poems, reviews and artwork have been featured in Little Red Leaves, 42Opus, Shampoo, Moria, Delirious Hem and Another Chicago Magazine.


Elisa Gabbert

photo by Matt Walker

from The Self Unstable

Wanting someone to go fuck themselves isn’t the same as wanting to tell them to. The ignominy of living near a major landmark. If this were neo-benshi, I’d say something wise and make everyone laugh. I’d be on the outside. From in here, the music’s incongruous, the food smells overwhelming.

Swatch is now a luxury brand. Why this final loss of innocence? Everything was big in the ‘80s. A watch you could hang on your wall. Visible beads at the end of each eyelash. The “so what” school of criticism.

When the novelty of the new wears off, it feels chintzy. The way I feel about strangers is unconditional. They never seem strange. “Strange” has lost its original meaning; it now means “vague.” Everyone I’ve ever loved has failed me, by letting me.

According to quantum theory, there’s a real possibility you could fall through the floor. In some worlds, you do. Statistically, most worlds are boring. Most worlds could be improved with radical editing. If you like karaoke, you’ll love neo-benshi.

Elisa Gabbert is the poetry editor of Absent and the author of The French Exit (Birdsc LLC) and Thanks for Sending the Engine (Kitchen Press). Recent poems can be found in Denver Quarterly, The Laurel Review, Puerto del Sol, The Rumpus, Salt Hill, Sink Review and Sentence. She currently lives in Boston, works at a software startup, and blogs at The French Exit.


Andrew Borgstrom

photo by Matt Walker

523 Points

Your skin and the inside of my gardening gloves and the similarities I noted. When you said you wanted to be tied up, and I thought it was the same as saying you had a headache. The workshop we missed that would have taught us the proper way to measure rain. We bought pets the color of fog. The sculpture we made with the bones the neighborhood children kept putting in our mailbox. The insects and days that answered to the same name. Whatever the mailman said when he brought the mail to the door because postal code didn’t allow him to stuff mail into a box of bones. The things Jesus Christ forgot. You loved the way fresh tomatoes looked on clean wool. The cooking class that would have taught us the correct way to skin oranges and lamb. The fishing lures the neighborhood kids hid in the meat. We named your mom after our dog. I will not speak of the unspeakable. I will not mention the word ______. The way I never told you I inherited an Irish pub. And the way I never told you I inherited Irish blood. The way you never told me you were a disk jockey. And the way you never told me you were a disc jockey. The concerts we never went to since you never told me you were a disc jockey. And the way you never told me you were a disc jockey. The canister of razorblades we kept near the sofa. The scarred sofa we kept too near the canister of razorblades. The things Jesus Christ left in the sofa. The way we put the flag up on the mailbox, and the mailman delivered bones to your mom. And the way I would never mention the word ______. I would use plural in place of singular. You would laugh at my plurality. You would tell me we were a disc jockey. We would volunteer our civilian time as disc jockeys. Jesus Christ would remember. I would mention the word ______, and you would laugh. We would laugh at the poor, and they would be healed by the disc jockeys we were. The disc jockey said there was a war. The bones in the mailbox were yours. I made a sculpture out of you and named it ______.

Andrew Borgstrom ( has recent work in Birkensnake, Abjective, JMWW, Hobart and Kitty Snacks. He lives a $6.90 ferry ride from Seattle and is the associate editor of Mud Luscious Press.


Adam Marston

photo by Matt Walker


Dad is outside of the soil
relaxing a new kind of animal.

“One leg might be enough,” Dad says.
“One leg might be confusing,” I say.

“For you, maybe,” Dad says, “but this one seems okay.”
Dad pats the new animal's one and only paw.

Can't even clap, I say.
“Can still arm wrestle,” it says.
It sounds like Dad.

Not with yourself, I say.
“Now that'd be confusing,” Dad says.
Dad can't find a good shoe for it.

“I guess nothing will fit for a while,” Dad says.
“Look at what it's doing!” Dad says.

“The confusion arrives from our bodies,” it says.
For you maybe, I say.

“Confusion is the _______,” it says.
It sounds just like you, I say.

“It sounds like my dad,” Dad says.
“I can still arm wrestle,” it says.

We are together in the deciding room.

I hate this room, I say.
“What room?” the room says.
The room, I say
The room right now.


1.) They are new and alike.
2.) They are together.
3.) They feel transparent.
4.) They do not smile in pictures, but they could.
5.) They could grow into orange trees.
6.) They understand tree bark, sunlight, soil, roots, rain, branches, leaves, occasional birds.
7.) They will only grow other oranges.
8.) They will grow oranges if they are trees even if they are not trees together.
9.) They feel really impossible.
10.) They aren't heavy at all.
11.) They cant learn anything about oranges.
12.) They will take their names to the grave.

Adam Marston was at the poetry work-study at the Juniper Summer Writing Institute this year and is an undergraduate at George Mason University. He has a squid that is a pink kite.


Dorothea Lasky

photo by Matt Walker

Fake diamonds

I like fake diamonds
Little sparkly assets
Better than a real diamond would be on your finger or anywhere else
Sometimes I think about fake diamonds running thru everything
Like people's blood with not-real diamonds inside
And beds made with fake diamonds within pillows
Would you dream a glittering icy sun
Under such a thing
Teacher, I think of you, too
When I think of things that are beautiful, but are also lost
And what that could mean to have started off so
So that every word you say expresses your forlorn countenance
So that your every shirt bears a sad name
O Teacher Teacher when you put on your sad shirts
Do you cover up a chest and arm of fake diamonds
Does your skin glitter, all the potentiality
Of someone who is so wrong but who didn't have to be
Who is so sad at gravitas
Too lost you will never know it
Who was born a sad man but will die an angry one
Little child, I was born sad, too
Perhaps we can love each other one day
As people who know the universe is not a joke
It's not a joke you know, it’s dead serious
As serious as the dark
It always is
The dark I mean
O Teacher you must know this too
Teacher of nothingness
Teacher of idea with no bread
Teacher of breast and bone
But only lilt in-between vertebrae
Oh, what it is
Why am I surprised
Deep and dark an ocean
The chasm between love and the imaginer

Dorothea Lasky is the author of Black Life and AWE, both out from Wave Books. She is also the author of several chapbooks, including Poetry is Not a Project (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2010). She currently lives in New York City.


Jen Gann

photo by Matt Walker

Mrs. Jones

Mrs. Jones plucked her broom from the corner and pressed her cheek to the wooden handle. She slumped her shoulder against it and moved her face up and down. A splinter tickled her skin, excitement trilling through her limbs. She pressed her cheek harder to the broom. The splinter pierced her skin and she ground her cheek firmer, grunting softly and adjusting her grip on the handle. When she pulled away, she left watery blood streaks behind. A splinter lodged in her left cheek.

The bomber was Mrs. Jones’s boyfriend but he was often busy. He was a lone wolf with his own life’s specific interests and demands, he said. He needed time and space to let his mind roam. He’d only exploded something in front of Mrs. Jones once, a tiny baby bomb he’d baked into a cake. They set it in the bathtub and watched from the doorway. Batter and frosting spattered onto the walls. Mrs. Jones clapped her hands with glee, then flung herself toward the bomber.

When too much time went by without the bomber, Mrs. Jones put baking soda into film canisters and lined them up on the kitchen table. She stood with her broom, clutching the handle in anticipation. She closed her eyes as soon as the vinegar made the small explosions. She pretended the bomber’s coarse voice coming from the broom.

“Boom,” he liked to whisper.

Mrs. Jones went to the mirror. She saw her small studio, with its island separating the bedroom from the kitchen. A package of noodles was open on the granite counter. A pot filled with water sat on the unlit stove. Mrs. Jones turned her cheek and poked at the splinter. Each poke sent a tremor of pain through that side of her face.

She poked it hard once, lodging it deeper. Blood seeped from the wound. Mrs. Jones smiled. She turned her covers down and put the broom beneath them, drawing the sheets up over the handle and patting lovingly. She hummed to herself and turned off the other lights in her studio. She climbed into bed beside her broom, wrapped her hands around him, and whispered into the bristles. She said Mount St. Helens and Hiroshima. She dared him to combine chemicals and tape and throw them into mailboxes and listen for aluminum tear, the thunk of a wooden post. She fluttered her lips against the bristles, the handle. She felt the ash on her lips, the dust in her nose. She nuzzled her splinter against the metal rings that kept the handle and bristles together. She fell asleep, the possibility of a future rumble quieting the wound in her cheek.

Jen Gann's work has or will appear in American Short Fiction, Annalemma, Gigantic, elimae, and others. She lives in California and is online here:


Elaine Castillo

photo by Matt Walker


Note: This story features multiple unattributed citations from Mark Musa’s translation of La Vita Nuova by Dante. The hope is not that the quotes merge so seamlessly into the body of the text to be undetectable, but, on the contrary, that the “original” quotes become so mutilated and unsightly (as in a botched cosmetic procedure; as one discovers fresh mold in an ancient vase) that the courtesy of any gentle reader would favor aversion over citation.

I first saw the girl on the ninth day of the ninth year or something or something it was a special day is what I am trying to say a special day in the celestial sense, numerically speaking the date was exceptional. She is nine years old and I too am nine years old although in spirit only if I were before God I could not say I am nine years old but rather that I am twenty four years old but we are not before God or at the very least not right now (later I will tell you how you can tell). So it was when I was nine years old in spirit and nearly thrice that in body that I first laid eyes upon the fair Beatriz de los Santos. BEATRIZ DE LOS SANTOS! Shall we not be grateful to the Spaniards who gave us the possibility of such naming arts? Beatriz de los Santos had been in this life long enough to allow the starry heavens to move a twelfth of a degree to the east in her time. BEATRIZ DE LOS SANTOS BEATRIZ DE LOS SANTOS BEATRIZ DE LOS SANTOS daughter of a just-murdered Basilan province mayor BEATRIZ DE LOS SANTOS not yet a fifth grader BEATRIZ DE LOS SANTOS garlanded in sampaguitas!

Carried away again I return. When I first saw Beatriz de los Santos she was dressed in the most noble of colors a subdued and decorous crimson, girded and adorned in a style suitable to her years featuring with an ingenious gesture towards her natural androgyny and in fact near virility which was not distasteful in the least but only augmented her allure the words BULLS 23 and with this I rejoice for the number’s nearness to my own age although I know too that 23 here will refer to the basketball player Michael Jordan but this too is a most excellent and wise choice as a model for anyone in youth even a girl. Indeed I have found Beatriz de los Santos lacking in none of the qualities desirable in a young girl whose destiny is greatness for even when we lifted her off the ground shrouded her head and taped her mouth—her mouth her mouth but that is for later—her motions of protest still refused all recourse to the crude. Seeing her thus one of the most secret chambers of my heart for I have multiple but I will say one of the truly deep and deep chambers began to tremble so violently that even the least pulses of my body were strangely affected. Strange for though I am sensitively-souled I have never been one to quiver before beauty yet now I realize this signifies that I had never before known the splendor of true and the trembling the violent trembling in that deep and deep of chambers spoke these words Here is a god stronger than I who shall come to rule over me.

Elaine Castillo was born in the San Francisco Bay Area and now lives in England. She has recently completed a novel called POSTCARD, about Sappho, migrants and detention centers in Europe. More information not available here.


Ben Segal

photo by Matt Walker

Loved Ones

The girl who loved him was dating the boy who loved him, which made both of them happier, even though he was neither of them.

He was in the clear tube, in sections, drifting apart from himself. This made confusion for him, as he was used to a certain consistency of self-cohesion. He was aware also that she and the boy were holding hands, that the touching was inscribing a love for him within the enactment of romantic love.

The proximity of love and loved, loves and lovers inscribes and invokes, multiplies the concept of love through the order of relations that he, she, and the boy inhabit. His arm is to the tube's side and his thoughts are to fingers. His fingers are separating and his nails are floating free from their beds.

The portuguese man-of-war is actually four different symbiotic organisms. Together they are one jellyfish. The boy who loved him is actually, as is the girl, until he dissipates entirely.

Ben Segal is the author of 78 Stories (No Record Press). His chapbooks 'Science Fiction Pornography' and 'Weather Days' were published by Publishing Genius and ML Press, and his short fiction has appeared in various publications including Gigantic, The Collagist, Eyeshot, and elimae. He is also the co-editor of The Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature.


A. Minetta Gould

photo by Matt Walker


I find myself
a loaded potato in Canada
and in a relationship with the highest pitch
a grand piano can feed off of. I feel
as though I might die without eating
pomegranate seeds or without an understanding
of bureaucracy, spelling and otherwise.
Because we can’t do
lunch today, because we spooned
with Fred Astaire, because urine is good
for the shrubbery, we realize
because to be no because

I find myself understanding the end
of the movie before the rest of the band does.

A. Minetta Gould was raised in the mittens by a beautician. She's since transplanted herself to the West where she worries herself with rust, the epic, and pagination. A. is the Associate Editor for Black Ocean & edits the online journal Lonesome Fowl.


Jason Bredle

photo by Matt Walker

Orange Crush

It doesn’t matter how I die,
I want the news reports to say autoerotic asphyxiation
is something you once said to me that I never understood. And now,
you’re gone.
I sit in the co-op, drink carrot juice and think about the day
we insisted the juicers
make us carrot juice the same orange as your shirt,
how they made you remove it
so they could hold it up to the juicing machine
and match the oranges exactly.
We took a photo of you and the juice for the university’s
ping pong bulletin.
It was mostly ginger,
like the way you insisted you’d always wanted the square
because you knew it would fit and I’d always wanted the circle
because of its silver top
even though you’d always wanted the circle
because of its silver top
and I’d always wanted the square because I knew it would fit.
Now I sit in my apartment
and think about that photo
because I can’t look at the photo
because I lost it sometime during the two years
I pretended it was 2005.
I moved eight blocks away and convinced myself I was starting over.
For the next two years I’d drive frantically
around the city crying with animals wearing cones
who were also crying.
See, I was missing something,
which is why
I often panicked.
See, I was lost,
which is why
I often picnicked.
Even though I wanted to know what I was doing I didn’t know
what I was doing but things kept moving forward moving forward
moving forward and you said this
and I said I understand what you’re saying but I’m thinking this
and you said
this isn’t going to work, it’s not going to work,
and at the time, at the time I was devastated
as I stood in the lot of a supermarket where I’d no longer be able to shop.
And then I met Caren,
who took me to the top of her building,
filled a sleeping bag with warm water,
placed me inside and pushed me down three flights of stairs.

Jason Bredle's book of poems, of which this is one, will be released from Magic Helicopter in December. A chapbook of his poems was released today from Chapbook Genius, and can be read here.


Mary Hamilton

photo by Matt Walker

Me and Theodore climbed to the top of the water tower because we were scared of the tremors beneath the dirt.

There is nothing wrong with lanterns under your skin. The way they bump and quiver when you run. There is nothing wrong with they way their lights follow each other, dark to light, making a flashing wave of lit up lantern shapes all up and down your arms and legs. There is nothing wrong with the way they itch when they rotate and push at your skin from the inside. Let them move. Let them agitate. They are the light that will guide you into the night. Into the battle that rages on the other side of this hour. When that trollop called night sees you coming, an army of you, bringing this lantern light into her house, she will squeal, she will burn, she will howl at the way a muted and shallow little light has invaded her home.

There is a certain faith in the body's ability to heal. In the way a broken bone, set correctly, will find its way back together. The way a scab forms over a cut. The way strained muscles ease into a painless routine. There is a certain faith that the body will return and return again. The body will defend against the demons that cut us down, that bury us. But where do we turn when the pain persists? When the mole gets bigger? When the breath gets tender? When the demons are your own body, attacking, treason from the inside? Are we supposed to just give up and go, voluntarily, into that perfume of rot called twilight only to be swallowed by the selfish maw of night?

Light those lanterns, light them all, each and every one. There is no shame in the pattern that reaches across your backs. Take pride in your own defenses. Take pride in the light we've made here together on this day.

On this day, we stand together, shoulder to shoulder, watching the blue of our youth pulling her own skin back, to make room for the sad, bleak, anonymity of night and all the violence and crud that she brings. Crawling through her hair and over her skin, eyes, in through her holes and out through her mouth. A putrid witch of a thing. When I say charge, charge into that sky. Into that gloating black night. Raise your weapons and make war.

I said take up your weapons and make your way into the belly of night. Slash apart her mud veil. Cut her through front to back. Make of her chest a hole. Make of her arms kindling to burn on my pyre. Tell her eyes to stop their weeping. Prepare your destiny. Prepare your mind, body, and soul. Charge into the night with rage and pity. And know that while some of you may fall and some of you may fly, if you are lucky, no one will be there to see you reeling, incomprehensibly, into darkness.

Mary Hamilton is a writer, teacher, and optician in Chicago where she is also the co-host and co-founder of the QUICKIES! reading series. Her chapbook We Know What We Are was recently published by Rose Metal Press. Her work has appeared in Knee-Jerk, Fiction at Work, Smokelong, Noo, and various other lovely places. She blogs about inspirational sports movies at


Davis Schneiderman

photo by Matt Walker

From The Canterbury Tales:
General Prologue

Here bygynneth the Book of the Tales of Caunterbury

Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open eye-
(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seeke.

Bifil that in that seson, on a day,
In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay
Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage
To Caunterbury with ful devout corage,
At nyght was come into that hostelrye
Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye
Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle
In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle,
That toward Caunterbury wolden ryde.
The chambres and the stables weren wyde,
And wel we weren esed atte beste;
And shortly, whan the sonne was to reste,
So hadde I spoken with hem everichon
That I was of hir felaweshipe anon,
And made forward erly for to ryse
To take our wey, ther as I yow devyse.

But nathelees, whil I have tyme and space,
Er that I ferther in this tale pace,
Me thynketh it acordaunt to resoun
To telle yow al the condicioun
Of ech of hem, so as it semed me,
And whiche they weren, and of what degree,
And eek in what array that they were inne;
And at a knyght than wol I first bigynne.

Davis Schneiderman is a multimedia artist and writer and the author or editor of eight works, including the novels Drain (TriQuarterly/Northwestern) and the forthcoming blank novel, Blank: a novel (Jaded Ibis); the co-edited collections Retaking the Universe: Williams S. Burroughs in the Age of Globalization (Pluto) and The Exquisite Corpse: Chance and Collaboration in Surrealism’s Parlor Game (Nebraska); as well as the audiocollage Memorials to Future Catastrophes (Jaded Ibis). His Busted Books YouTube channel ( takes deconstruction seriously. His “Un-Death of the Author” Series, of which this selection is drawn, finds Schneiderman’s name on other author’s works. He is Chair of the English Department at Lake Forest College, and also Director of Lake Forest College Press/&NOW Books. He edits The &NOW AWARDS: The Best Innovative Writing. He can be found, virtually, at


Chris Toll

photo by Matt Walker

One night I was in the Club Charles – just me and one of my demons out for a few drinks. I was sitting in the banquette nearest the door. My cell phone rang. I pulled it out of my pocket and accidentally dropped it. It took a funny bounce on the seat and slipped into the crack between the bottom cushion and the back cushion. I dug around for it. I found it – and I also found a sealed envelope. The envelope was incredibly old. In bold script, Para A. L. was written on the front. I stood up and stepped closer to the front window. In the backwards pink glow of Cocktails, I opened the envelope and pulled out a single sheet of paper. I gingerly unfolded the sheet. A poem was written in Portuguese. Beneath the poem was scrawled a signature – Eddy Poe. I contacted my mother’s niece who lives in Richmond, Virginia. She told me that in the summer of 1826, when Poe was 17 years old, he traveled to Brazil. He took only the clothes he wore, a greatcoat, and his foster father’s sword. He forged identity papers and said he was 25. He enlisted in the cavalry, and troopers and officers soon noted his ferocity in battle. I showed the poem to several Poe scholars, and after some research, they concluded that he wrote the poem for the wife of a wealthy merchant. They also concluded that an angry mob chased Poe into Venezuela. How the poem ended up inside a banquette in the Club Charles is a mystery.

Money Never Weeps
by Edgar Allan Poe
(translated by Chris Toll)

The time machine flickers.
Tiny explosions devour the control panel.
A blue-skinned sentient biped
lies in a slowly growing puddle of green blood.

Brainwaves operate the omnidimensional rifle.
A brave stands inside the treeline.
He keeps killing white devils on the beach
until the big wooden ship sails away.

The Queen of the Vampires mounts her skeleton horse.
She has assembled an army of zombie shamans.
They storm Jerusalem and rescue Jesus.
No cross is erected on top of Golgotha.

I trade my rare coin collection for a bottle of absinthe.
O Dark Beauty, I meet you at the cotillion
where a graveyard dances with a shopping mall.
I love you in life and I’ll love you in death.

Chris Toll is a poet and collagemaker who lives in Baltimore, Maryland. He co-curates the Benevolent Armchair Reading Series. His next book will come out in 2011. It will be called: The Disinformation Phase.


Susan Tepper

photo by Matt Walker


So my sister hooks me up with this girl who just got out of the looney bin. I'm not shitting you. Lucinda, the girl's name. A situation straight out of a horror movie. Except my sister says she's a very cool girl who got screwed by life.

Anyways… we make a plan to wear red T-shirts and meet near the sign outside Chuckie Cheese.

And she's not bad from a distance, her blonde hair in a perky pony. I wave and she waves. But then we get close and she's got these little stickers stuck to her face. A few on her cheeks and three lined up across her forehead.

I'm reading some really small letters and numbers on them. I'm wondering if they're passes to get in and out of the looney bin— like they stamp your arm to get in a club.

She looks straight through me. “Fruit stickers, William, if you must know.”


She taps her forehead reciting: “Lemon from Chile, Sun World Black Plum, 4038 California avocado.”

“You wear fruit stickers on your face?”

Lucinda smiles beatifically. “I only eat fruits and vegetables.”

I scratch under my T-shirt cursing my sister for setting me up with this sticker chick freak.

“Um. Do you think you could peel them off for the movie?”

She squints. “Why should I?”

It is a good question. I'll give her that.

She's waiting; her face looks hungry.

“I believe in meat,” I say.

Susan Tepper’s new novel, What May Have Been: Letters of Jackson Pollock & Dori G (co-authoerd with Gary Percesepe) has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Additional books by Tepper include Deer & Other Stories (2009), and the poetry collection Blue Edge. Tepper hosts FIZZ, a reading series at KGB Bar in NYC, and is Assistant Editor of Istanbul Literary Review.


A D Jameson

photo by Matt Walker

Mothers and Daughters: Four Conversations

—Do you remember being stung near to death by paper wasps?
—No. When did that happen?
—When you were seven, in the summer of ‘09. We’d gone to summer at the lake.
—Hamilton Lake?
—Kennedy. We didn’t know what was wrong with you at first. We stood grilling tuna steaks, when we heard you bawling down by the water. You’d bothered a nest, with your shovel.
—There are wasps at the beach?
—Sand wasps.
—I had no idea.
—The mind blocks painful memories.
—I had no idea.
—Except for the wasps, it was a fine outing. Uncle Nicholas grilled the tuna steaks to near perfection.
—Did Father summer with us?
—No. He traveled, on a business trip to the Vatican.
—What business carried him there?
—He was swindling them. He cheated them out of certain priceless statues, e.g., Cellini’s Nymph of Fountainbleau, if memory serves.
—Thus the priceless Cellinis in the foyer—
—I dressed them, when I was younger, in cloths and beads.
—No, that was Veronica. You feared them.
—Yes. You wouldn’t go anywhere near the foyer; you’d shriek and cover your eyes and try to run.
—I had no idea.
—Veronica adored those statues. She stood there for hours, singing, dressing them. She named each one of them.
—Tell me again how she died.
—You shot her through the forehead with Father’s crossbow.
—I don’t remember.
—And through the chest. It was rather a bloody spectacle. You’d been playing at Beatniks and Swine.
—And she was the Beatnik?
—No, she was the Swine. You were the Beatnik, in the midst of a Beatnik rebellion. You’d found the weapons shed unlocked.
—And I shot her through the chest and the forehead?
—It was accidental, of course. You were only thirteen, didn’t know that the crossbow was loaded.
—I had no idea.
—The weapons shed should never have been left unlocked. We fired the Beatnik who was responsible.
—I had no idea.
—She died at an inopportune time, Veronica did.
—Did Father cry?
—He wasn’t there. He had left for the War.
—Which War was that?
—The second one. I begged him not to go to the War—I pleaded and begged, but to no effect. He remained unmoved. “The opportunities,” he told me. “War offers such wonderful opportunities. Museums, private collections...”
—I remember him, a little. Wielding his crossbow. Wearing his cap and goggles, his silk scarf billowing.
—He cut a dashing figure, I must admit.
—You adored him.
—I adored him.
—How, then, did he die?
—He isn’t dead.
—I had no idea.
—He lives quite comfortably in Munich.
—He never came home?
—The War had changed him. He wrote me a letter. He wrote, “The War has changed me. I’m going to live in Munich, quite comfortably.”
—What does he do there?
—What did he do here?
—Have you heard no more from him since that time?
—Only once, in a postcard he sent ten years later. Its front was a picture of the Harlequin. On the back he wrote, “I am living here still.”
—Did he make any inquiries as to me?
—No. He never cared for you. I never could convince him that you were his child.
—Am I?

—Mother, was I adopted?
—In what sense?
—In the sense that you and Father didn’t conceive me.
—You are certain?
—You were cut from my womb by Cesarean section. I’ll show you the scar, if you like.
—I like.
[The mother lifts her shirt.]
[The mother lowers her shirt.] —You’re unusually sensitive to sights like scars and blood.
—That disappoints you.
—You will never be the surgeon that your Father and I dared dream of.
—I am sorry. Grandmother—your mother—was a surgeon, was she not?
—She was. It was she who performed the Cesarean section.
—Grandmama? But she’s so old! She sits in a chair all day, so senile and palsied.
—At that time she was a master, ranked at the top of her field.
—Was she gentle?
—She wept all the while she made the incision. She wept, but her steadfast surgeon’s hands refused to shake.
—I’m afraid I can’t picture it. Not Grandmama.
—She didn’t shy from the sight of my womb slashed open, you nestled inside. Inverted.
—Was that what had caused the need for emergency surgery?
—Yes. You had turned around in my womb, such that I could not push you out.
—I’m sorry I did that. In my defense, I knew no better at the time.
—I may yet forgive you.
—Do you resent my having asked about my adoption?
—I may yet forgive you.
—All children naturally doubt their parentage. They wonder as to the means by which they got here.
—Some children have better cause than others. ...Your sister Veronica was adopted.
—Adopted? Veronica, my twin?
—She’s not really your twin. That’s a little stratagem of your Father’s and mine, instigated so that she wouldn’t suspect adoption.
—Yet she and I are completely identical! We are exactly alike in every conceivable sense!
—Your Father and I requested the agency send us a wholly equivalent child.
—But this is impossible!
—Birth itself is rather impossible, yet it somehow happens daily.
—Two infant girls, born miles apart, yet absolutely identical!
—Lacking a surgeon’s instincts and training, you are ignorant as to the marvels of modern surgery.
—Your sudden announcement, Mother, has rendered me stunned!
—Bear up, my child, bear up.
—Your shocking disclosure has stricken dumb all of my senses!
—Bear up, bear up.
—Your revelation burns like a dagger in my ear!
—You are old enough now, at last, to be able to handle the truth.
—I fear that this knowledge, when made widely known, will spell the end of Veronica!
—She’s always been weaker than you. I pray thee, do not tell her.
—Mother, I must now confess my ruse. I am Veronica, the forgery twin, your adopted daughter.
—Are you? I did not suspect. I’ve never been able to tell the two of you apart.

—Mother, I realize now I’m much smarter than you and Father.
—Daughters your age often come to just such a realization.
—I am amazed that you’ve managed to keep me alive thus far, let alone successfully raise me to sexual maturity.
—No minor accomplishment. The doctors predicted you would not live past four.
—I was sickly?
—Yes. You were premature. When born you could fit inside a shoebox.
—Most newborns can.
—A very small shoebox.
—No doubt this was due to some error on your part, mistakes that you made during my gestation.
—I will admit the possibility. At that time, it wasn’t known that pregnant women should not drink or smoke.
—Did you drink and smoke?
—No. But at that time it wasn’t known that pregnant women should not ride roller coasters. I may have ridden a roller coaster.
—I’m overcome with relief I’m an only child.
—Your Father and I would have liked to have had other children. But after your birth, we feared that the risk was too immense.
—Would that you had shouldered that risk. A brother or a sister may have made my unpleasant life more endurable.
—How cruelly we have wronged you, my precious peach!
—Did you and Father never suspect that I was a genius?
—I had concluded as much. You had me enrolled in the Idiot Track at school.
—Where you proceeded to fail every one of your courses. We never had any hopes for you, academically.
—I was frustrated by my teachers’ insipid fawning, the stupidity of my classmates and by the Idiot Track course materials.
—Yes, we realized as much by the time you reached junior high.
—Now I’m doing quite well.
—You’ve made up for lost time. But even still, you fall far short of the standard of genius.
—I spoke only relatively. Surely I’m smarter than Father.
—There’s truth to that statement, I must admit.
—Father bungles numbers.
—Equations and sums are not one of his strong suits.
—He misquotes Shakespeare as a matter of routine.
—It’s true, he does.
—“I have done nothing in the care of thee, / My dear one, thee my daughter.”
—He’d do better to reference the source text before reciting.
—“Now my skin’s all o’ergrown, / What complexion I have’s mine own.”
—Time has, very sadly, not treated his once peerless memory kindly.
—Father fancies himself a respectable scholar, yet he is a fool.
—One wishes he’d think a bit more clearly before he babbled.
—You could have done better yourself. You could have had somebody better.
—I don’t recall having been wooed by wizards or by royals.
—You never gave other, more preferable men the proper chances.
—I was in love, in love, in love.
—At the very least you should leave your husband, my Father, at once.
—I am in love, in love, in love.
—You should have known better than to mate in Indiana.
—I was in love with the endless cornfields and the standard regional accent.
—I am sick of the corn. I may with training manage to lose the accent.
—How dreadfully cruelly we have wronged you, my precious peach!
—You make a mockery of my pain!
—It would be best if you left this house, this state, this country at once, and got on with your life.
—I intend to. My luggage is already packed. I’ve purchased a ticket for the Evenstar Express.
—You will be happier in some city overseas, where your genius will take root and find full flower.
—I shall not repeat the life-crippling mistakes that you made with Father.
—Turn to the wind and find for yourself a new direction, my precious snow pea!
—And I’ll certainly never duplicate your catastrophic error of procreation.
—Then I take it you’ll be having the operation, after all?

—Momma? Where do babies come from?
—They don’t come from anywhere, darling. They simply are.

A D Jameson is the author of the novel Giant Slugs (Lawrence and Gibson) and the prose collection Amazing Adult Fantasy (Mutable Sound), both forthcoming in late 2010. His work has appeared in The Denver Quarterly, Birkensnake, elimae, Caketrain, and dozens of other journals; more is forthcoming in Fiction International, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. Adam is also a video artist, performer, and an instructor in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's Writing Program. In his spare time, he contributes regularly the the group literary blog Big Other.


Amber Nelson

photo by Matt Walker


You bellowed all the solitude
like a historically intriguing paint.
I was so backwards.
America, are you window or current?
Your significance little spikes a piquant suffering.
You’re an untenable, modern decadence
& I am drastically horny.
I aftermath like such a masked lady.
You’re depicting on virtue.


  A shiny mother wore the white straw of her arm, packing it over and over again in her box like a pinecone wedding a wound in its descending.
  What wires chain in your interest? stopped her.
  My bird, she was lost as she looked out to him.
  Oh, no, he sinks.
  But wouldn’t the day spread into intersected box-filler?

These poems are selected from Amber Nelson's book, Your Trouble is Ballooning, forthcoming from Publishing Genius in 2011. She is the co-founder and editor for alice blue.


Paul Siegell

photo by Matt Walker

With her machine gun soaking in breast milk, she’s smoking
Marlboros before the Ouroboros. I put my prayers in zero. A
laughingstock on TV, he took an arrow to each elbow, hasn’t
been the same since. Johnnie Cochran holds up the cock ring,
shows the jury, calls it “Exhibit X.” Tattletale scavenger hunt.
“That’s diabolical,” he says. “Well, sayonara, Aram Saroyan!”
Nowadays, converting your aversions into druthers is nothing
like converting your perversions into the good old missionary.

Two weeks ago Leonardo DiCaprio dreamed that Cleopatra
was hosting karaoke night at the KOA Kampsite just outside
Des Moines, Iowa. Lust was inevitable. So was the “OUT OF
ORDER” sign that Renoir painting on the outhouse door. They
were giving pretzels for prizes, but instead of salt they had hot
pepper flakes from the chiropractor factory, which helped him
make sense of why, wild in the next campsite over, old Pontius
Pilate was doing Pilates. Manna from Heaven scavenger hunt.
Weird thing was, he had the same exact dream again last night.

Paul Siegell is the author of three books of poetry: wild life rifle fire (Otoliths Books, 2010), jambandbootleg (A-Head Publishing, 2009) and Poemergency Room (Otoliths Books, 2008). He is an editor at Painted Bride Quarterly, and has contributed to The American Poetry Review, Coconut, EOAGH, NOÖ, Rattle and many other fine journals. He has also been featured in two national music and culture magazines, Paste and Relix, as well as the Philadelphia City Paper and elsewhere exciting. Kindly find more of Paul's work at ReVeLeR @ eYeLeVeL.


Elizabeth Barbee

photo by Matt Walker


Adam and I collected dishware. We hoarded drinking glasses, ceramic bowls, champagne flutes, and terracotta serving trays. Each night I carried a glass of milk to bed. My mother was thrilled. Usually I poured the contents out my window, soiled her topiary, and stored the empty glass in a canvas bag. No one seemed to notice it was missing. I stole morally, taking only generic pieces from the kitchen cupboard; nothing crystal, nothing sentimental, nothing once wrapped in silver or tied with a bow.

I wasn’t sure of Adam's methods, but his haul was impressive. He had a guitar case filled with porcelain napkin rings, jewel-toned shot glasses, and a coffee mug stamped with the name 'Kim'- a point of much curiosity, because he knew no one by that name. At the end of each week we convened in the journalism darkroom and hid our loot behind tall stacks of photographic paper and Polaroid film. At some point we discovered we had 33 breakables between us, the sum of our ages. We took this as a sign.

During lunch we padded our backpacks with newspaper and carried the dishes to the old football stadium. We were alone among the insects flitting about abandoned bleachers. I wore oven mitts and sunglasses, my hair piled high like a Hindu God's. Adam put on a pair of swimming goggles, tugged the sleeves of his sweatshirt over his hands, and grabbed a plate. Cranking his right shoulder like the handle of a music box, Adam bent the opposite leg and flung the dish toward the scoreboard. It shattered and fell to the ground, a firework exploding.

He laughed. I selected one of the champagne flutes, one of the first pieces I’d collected. It took us less than four minutes. When we were finished, we surveyed the shards of purple, white, olive green, and blue. We stared in reverence. Adam took a picture with his phone. A bell rang and we broke from our trance and walked to fourth period.

Elizabeth Barbee lives in Austin, Texas. She researches MFA programs during the day, works the front desk at a performing arts studio in the evening, and writes when it seems necessary.


Brian Oliu

photo by Matt Walker

Barnes & Noble

If you know who I am, tell me what I was reading. The clothes, certainly, you will get correct, as I don't bother with color -- grey shirt, grey shorts, grey shoes -- an ensemble that might remind you of your grandmother's silver collection: the one that she would bring out for special occasions -- Easter, of course, Thanksgiving, once every few years. I know what I was wearing. I know where I was standing: among the magazines, the eyes on the covers paying me no attention. Here is the face of a basketball player. Here is the face of a woman who has lost a considerable amount of weight. I am proud of both of them. I know that I am proud of both of them. I know what I was drinking: a coffee the color of cola: if you thought it was cola, stop -- if you thought it was cola you do not know who I am, you don't know what I was reading. The ice cubes had long since melted -- the water inside of the plastic container matching the condensation on the outside. I would've come over to you, to the table near the window where you sat, but I would have no place to put my drink--it would've left a watery broken ring on the table, and I could not put you through that again: those nights where the boys with their parents bank cards bought you drinks they thought you liked because they were drinks you pretended to like -- they were too red, too sweet, they curled your tongue like a thin paperback in a backpocket, though I would not describe your tongue this way: you know the story of Lennon and Chapman and Salinger and that is something I don't want you to think about: about blood, about The Dakota, about autographs. When I was a child I would write my name on the front inside cover of the book -- this book belongs to. The book I was reading did not have my name in it -- it was not mine, it did not belong to me. Those books my mother read to me before I went to sleep did not belong to me either. I fear that it was too late in the day to be drinking coffee. If you know who I am, you know this. If you know who I am, please tell me what I was reading. Tell me what I was reading so I know it was you.

Brian Oliu is originally from New Jersey and currently lives in Alabama. His work is published/forthcoming in Hotel Amerika, Caketrain, Hobart, Sonora Review, Ninth Letter, New Ohio Review, DIAGRAM, and elsewhere.


Sommer Browning

photo by Matt Walker

At the party I can’t work. I pull from the bookshelf
a biography of wives. It is brief.

I look up ‘event horizon’
reapply my silly wardrobe:

evening, spring, needles, peas,
the sun, if it was born stuck and freaky,

and the earth, the day we married.
I just can’t work. The pier is in pieces.

The boats pulling the other boats say yes
along their watery routines,

over abysses like they’re footholds.
A bird is the invitation you say yes to.

The world’s busses may be late. It might have snown.
And the earth, sold out of wreathes. Wasn’t it?

a house is an employment of trees, a crowd is a path to a door.

if this is a stage
then ask if this is a stage.

the light of a cigarette outed by snowflakes, no privacy
in the crowd when it’s burning.

if we feed the sun we give away velocity.
i dogear the daisy blooming against the clapboard.

nothing will happen
we tell the sun,

if it does
watch me catch it.

it’s your ice, the dust in your gun when i rush the stage,
if this is only a stage.

can i build it for you?
the carpenter frames us in destroys movement like a photograph.

can i build this house for you?
a ring circumscribes an answer on my hand.

Sommer Browning writes poems in Denver. She is the co-editor of Flying Guillotine Press, a handmade poetry chapbook press. Either Way I'm Celebrating, her first book of poems, is coming out with Birds, LLC in early 2011.