Jordaan Mason

Yours / Mine

Your Language

This autobiography is told through a mouth. Gathering the leftover words from my head at the end of the day, I write them down. The mattress decompresses.

My Language

I expect bear attacks in the woods. Trespassers must. I have put snow into my hands and I shove snow into its mouth, which is open.

Your Language

If my autobiography is the length of both of my forearms on top of one another, then this means it is done. I do not wait for someone to say finish.

My Language

A wall in my house shows that I’ve been growing just a little bit, every year.

Your Language

I show my autobiography to him right before we fuck. It’s justification.

My Language

I am calm when I speak. I am calm when bears attack me. You should just let things happen as they happen.

Your Language

A book is what you call a collection of words that have been assembled properly. Until then, it is not a book. I digress.

My Language

Sometimes I ask my mother questions about what I was like as a child. She always tells me: smaller.

Your Language

This mattress is a place for sleeping, and yes we do sleep some nights. Some nights that is all that we do.

Jordaan Mason is the author of (after) bed (oh! map, 2006) and the forthcoming novel The Skin Team (Magic Helicopter, 2012). Things have appeared or are forthcoming in UNSAID, the
Scrambler, NOÖ Journal, and red lightbulbs.


Jack Christian


When I pick Anna up at the airport I park in the short term lot. Her flight is minutes late, and it’s clear I’m going to have to pay six instead of three dollars to the parking attendant. I don’t care because I’ve always had a precious feeling for greeting returning travelers inside as opposed to outside the airport. I’m wearing a madras shirt tucked into my blue-jeans and my new-for-summer Sperry Topsiders. My sunglasses are resting on the back of my neck in what began as a sarcastic mimicry of fratboy style and is now only habit. Since Anna went away to a conference in sunny Atlanta, I’ve been pretending its warm here, too, and have left my coat behind. On my forearms, in the airport’s fluorescence, a barely perceptible suntan. She’s only been gone five days, but when I see her I know her hair will seem longer, the airport providing a somewhat rare occasion to glimpse one’s partner in an anonymous crowd.

Already, there’s a queue of greeters sitting in a half-moon of chairs bolted to the floor for exactly that purpose. In Providence’s TF Green International, passengers come through security and then immediately down two escalators. Giant, bluish sheets of glass obscure them so that they’re silhouettes until the last few feet when they emerge and become full-colored, living and breathing. The baggage claim area is centered around this spectacle. With the best chairs taken, I’m off to the side where I can see the returners and the people positioned to greet them. There are a few men roughly my age, standing, one with flowers, as close as they can get to the bottom of the escalators. A few single women also standing. But I know better. Last summer, the only other time I’ve picked Anna up like this, I stood too close and embarrassed her. She blew past me, slowed to hand-off her red roller-bag, didn’t kiss and hug me until we were back to the car. That was just after our engagement, and I even agreed afterwards that in what would surely be future airport pick-ups that I would find her curbside. But, here I am in the baggage claim, where I’m going to need to see her before she sees me. To not spot her would be, at least briefly, unforgivable.

The escalators start to fill and I watch shadows turn into people who are greeted or not. I count ten possible Anna shapes, get up, buy a coffee, go back to my spot and the guessing. I’m interested in how quickly I’ll know, by the shoes or by the knees. Anna sends a text message that says “Landed” and I send a text back that says, “Awesome.” A younger blond woman comes down talking to an older man before they part wordlessly and her waiting boyfriend comes forward to hug her. Most people walk with purpose and alone toward the baggage belts. A family reunion breaks out in the landing area. Two people begin salsa dancing. The escalators are packed now. All these possible fiancés come toward me then veer.

Jack Christian is the author of the chapbook Let's Collaborate from Magic Helicopter Press. His work has appeared recently in Web Conjunctions and at Flying Object.


Ben Hersey

Excerpts from The Autograph of Steve Industry

Who was the last person went to the mall with you?
            Memba when all the malls were ranches? You’d be in Medford, it’s November and your sweatpants are tight and you have the elastic anklets pulled up to just under the knees and everything is bitter off the Mystic River and all that bitterness is making your face cave in, cave in, cave in like so much shattered stain glass so that your jaw is scaffolding against, like a, a Canadian goose’s idea of a scab? So you go in the mall all horny over fake-girls with maybe five bucks in your sock. Ranch days, baby. Shit changed after the Galleria started and the Square One and those other cathedrals up Rt 1.
            Every time I get to the mall, I’m there with everyone I’ve ever known. Nostalgia, the pelt. One time I saw Richard Simmons at the Galleria Mall. This was right around the time it opened. A lot of people were there and the light was both woodsy daybreak but also so urban neon. Just being there felt like it was WSBK-TV 38 Boston but higher, like when the future used to seem like a snake’s mouth gagged with frosting – that you had to walk through. He was screaming and glistening, a small mongrel far off, but from where I was I couldn’t understand a word. I remember being dressed in black and green vest, which was unusual for me. Earlier in the day, Marissa, a Goth girl I worked with (Sbarro’s) told me “green was my color…definitely.” Her voice was still vibrating in my chest. I was on the second level watching Richard Simmons motivate people on a platform in the distance. I had a job at the mall and I was on break. The feeling of being packaged into my own afterlife was strong and not really unpleasant. I wanted to cup a mannequin’s breast over the way I was feeling. My mind was still hard at work (I didn’t know it then) censoring my body. When the shutdown was made official, three months later, (my girlfriend, Tara, got pregnant) (abortion) I quit and didn’t go back there for a decade. Truthfully, no truthfully, the reason I stopped going to that mall back then was that I found myself going further and further up Rt. 1 to get to where I needed to go, to be who I needed to be.

Name three things you do every day:

1. All profits go to Dunkies. Slurp the battlefield mucus and the coffee sauce of the God-jet directly into my mouth and brain. Complete amputation. Gore.
2. The present complexity: highway falcon-owls fully committed to the parent debt of lost causes remain high up. Car insurance or enjoyment squirt? Blow out the particles of flavor at the trusted attendant. Drive off for hours.
3. A death experience during my afternoon pause. Place a scratch-ticket in the part of me that thinks and searches for phrases. Pluck the winner and blow.

What websites do you visit the most?

If you were a character in a horror movie, would you survive?
            Snakeskin masks at Pet Smart on the brain as I overheard the other day a guy on the 104 in Malden say “immateriality of the phalanx.” “Immateriality?” Are you serious? You have to be some serious kind of ass-wad to incorporate that kind of bullshit into your day-mare. Sealed ass-holes begging to take a shit, that’s what that is. That’s my horror plot.
            I think about killer’s being smarter than even having to use words like that (or any) but instead their words just are what a word means.
            What a murderer whispers into your dying ear: 
            “Doobie doobie do.”
            Or: “Sha-do da ding dong a ding a ling a lang. Sha-boomp ba bon, a ding a ling a lang.”
            Life is a cock-sucking dream. With regularity: me skipping school going to the Do-Wop Diner in Malden and eating the whole Ted Williams Grand Slam Breakfast.
            The voice of a murderer in every open and motioning mouth.
            A killer’s mouth with the voice of my grandmother’s even though the gloves the killer wore would belong to a goalie with a number one jersey and lighter pads. I’m irritable today.
            I just waited twelve days between the last sentence and this one. I paid special attention today to the misuse of verbs by the band at band practice. Gardenhose was tightening his bass drum and said he had dranken twelve beers last night. Looking back at this business of horror movies and killers, dying must be like that, the lick of illuminated aluminum, baby. Death is a cracked verb.

Were you afraid to go in the ocean after you saw Jaws?

            Eventually, I figured out that the bowling alley was a much better destination for lovers. I’ve loved many a woman candlepin bowler in weekend jeans. Saundra’s were acid-washed and showed off a couple of tight black-diamond butt-cheeks that made my lower back hurt. Hard to look like a strike machine lead singer when you got those power trips dancing to your left. I was crime-dog drunk and when I’m like that a woman’s energy goes triple-dimensional. Next thing I know she’s talking to me from within me: “I like the way you creak.” Sorry, what? “Your jacket. It creaks when you sit there. Good sound.” How she heard it, no idea, but it does not matter. Love had arrived. Lovers have to be in love when it’s time to love, no time for chitchat. I’m So Drunk is the ultimate love song. To Saundra, from Steve:

Animal candy,
Sugar basted – cookies,
There’s a ghost - at the bar (I always point to myself when I sing that)
And I’m trying -- too hard!

I’m so drunk!
I’m so drunk!
I’m so drunk!


Good enough for her,
she just left – with a beer stain on her shirt.
Double entendre
Her name was Saundra. (Depending on where we are – I point the mic at the crowd here)
Have I see myself – since yesterday?

I’m so drunk!
I’m so drunk!
I’m so drunk!


I love you baby!   

Ben Hersey is a writer and performance artist living in Northampton, Massachusetts. He has an MFA from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder, CO. He will be on tour with Heather Christle in late February/early March of 2012.


Amanda Ackerman

Human Time Poem: It Will End When It Ends, And Then This Changes

There are two men and two women, but this does not matter because they are all just one person, cycling. There are many forms of time, like ancestral time, a day or year on each planet, like how long a day really is if you measure the earth’s rotation differently. He wants to sleep with her and her, both of them. The women don’t want to compete. One of them takes the other one’s hand to show solidarity. This is not hostile. Their hems touch. There are cycles within cycles, and worlds within worlds. A man sits so wide. It became a tired and axially misarranged knot, everything was stuck, when the women could no longer turn into the men, and the men could no longer turn into the women. They are mythological. Time is supposed to be their masterpiece. Someone says, tearfully, “I did it because I was desolate. And because I was desperate. I’ve seen the future, and it does not end. Until it ends. It will end when it ends. Then this changes.” One of them says, “I want to buy my body back. My body wants to buy me back. I/body wants I/body. It does not want to buy.” Each of them decides to travel to the four corners of the earth to take up residence, the two poles and the opposite ends of the tropical equator. They bring buckets, they take off their hats, and mythological creatures are never self-censoring when they begin to disgorge profit and unnecessary constraint. In the center of the center there is a flare that is neither dull nor still.

Amanda Ackerman is the author of four chapbooks: Sin is to Celebration (co-author, House Press), The Seasons Cemented (Hex Presse), I Fell in Love with a Monster Truck (Insert Press), and Short Stones (forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press). She is co-publisher and co-editor of the press eohippus labs. She also writes collaboratively as part of the projects SAM OR SAMANTHA YAMS and U.N.F.O. (The Unauthorized Narrative Freedom Organization), whose collaborative audio text project Explanation as Composition was recently featured at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions.


Ella Longpre

Poet Tongues

A scripted dialogue for Hunter S. Thompson and Joan Didion

JD: Jasmine, growing at the garage of the house of my girlhood. The flowers were heavy, hanging from limp bushes. We had to guide them with white trellises. I used to climb up the back trellis to sit on the roof and watch the street through the orange tree, smoking cigarettes. Not many cars went by. When I was old enough, I went for drives instead. But jasmine doesn’t grow along the highway. Once, I passed a Pinto with a steaming engine, and a sign, “Will be back.” A little further down the road, a young woman and a little boy. The sweat was visible under her arms, and he carried with him a wooden stool. I stared at the way he held the stool as I passed them. I’ve lost the scent of that bush by the garage. But I can recall it like no other taste or smell, and could tell you about jasmine.

HST: Sitting in his hotel in Cozomel. The jasmine came in through the walls, the whole building was built with it. He’d lay on this rickety cot, sharing a cigarette with a bed bug the size of a Boston terrier, needing to get the fuck going. But the lazy cloud of light hung over his room in a sticky fog with the oppressive jasmine.

J: That’s you, the “him.”

H: It could be.

J: It could be “he,” “I,” “you,” “we,” “they,” it’s always you.

H: Like you.

J: The story comes out of the voice, and the clearest voice is mine. I make a bad decision and lose the voice, lose the story.

H: Bad decision?

J: While you’re writing. The good ideas you have that ooze through the afternoon at your desk to become major problems.

H: You should get a program on your computer for a fist to jump out of the screen and punch you when you are about to make such a mistake.

J: Actually, I try to write my first drafts on real paper, with some kind of ink, right in front of me, to touch and sift through. Even on a typewriter if I have to.

H: I didn’t take you for an old fart.

J: Poets used to write their lines with their tongues. Then, smudgier ones with drippy fingers. The saddest invention is the invention of the pen, because now the words don’t come from our bodies, they come from some other place. Who knows where they come from?

H: Yes! he shouts. I am so glad you said that. Fuck! The word is no longer us, we are no longer the word! We’ve become part of this whole writing process, part of a mechanism of writing, as if we’re pulling the words out of the air, or from a script, from a source of predetermined meaning, and not out of our guts and throats—like we’re a press, a machine, churning out what someone else authored. I want to write “Snakes!” on this floor, in red, with my ass.

J: My god.

H: Don’t you? he shouted.

J: Ha. I mean, I’ve heard these things.

H: What things have you heard?

J: The way you walk into rooms, a low voice. Boastful, like you have the walls of the universe in your belly. Your voice fills these rooms. Then you destroy these rooms. You extend your acidic tentacles out into these rooms and gather every lamp, every dark corner, every splinter of a chair, to your gaping blue mouth, and you gobble them up. So then you have these rooms in your belly, too. Underneath your crusty, flappy brown jacket. And then, what you spin out of the contents of your belly! Long, voluminous, luminous threads, wound from strands of poison that could pierce a man’s nostrils, or his thigh, and fill him with words that could crush his lungs. Words that could crush a coffee cup sitting next to them on a table. And at first, the man is terrified—he can’t breathe. But then he finds he is breathing new breath. And you, your hulking figure leans back in your chair and has a good, long laugh.

H: Jesus, Joanie! Oh, the whale fat of my soul! I want you to do more talking.

J: What I want is for you to gather that purple afghan up to your chin, look out that window and think about whatever it is that you’ve never let us read. Then I could talk for hours about your face.

H: I’d rather swallow a fire that’s consuming a box of screws, screws crusted with lead paint sucked from your dead grandmother’s fingernail polish. You want everybody to be still. You eat still, silent rooms to taste their silence.

J: And you eat them just to chew them up. Like cud.

H: Chewing tobacco! I love spitting them out. I can’t stop spitting them out. I’ll spit them into the air and catch them with my waistband, a cartoon clown with oversized pants.

J: Here, take that tobacco of those rooms and roll me a cigarette with it, I’m dying to smoke.

H: That lamp. Do you see that lamp?

J: No. Where would it be if it were?

H: There.

J: I see.

H: There’s a lighter by the base of that lamp, there. I would love to sit and have a smoke with you, Joanie. Joanie D and me, having a C. Let’s sit on that roof you used to hide on as a girl, with the jasmine. My god it’s been so long since I’ve held that fibrous, bountiful stench in the hairs of my nose.

J: Nothing moves behind the orange tree. On a day like today, it’s so quiet. Everything is distant, you can hear the thoughts of strangers as they walk by, if they would walk by.

H: Yes! Yes dammit.

J: They’re so heavy, their thoughts. You can hear the suffering of the world.

H: If I could hear the thoughts of the world, I’d shoot them into the sky for us all to lay eyes upon. Then we’d be in on it. You might say, free.

J: But I wonder how we could be free with all those messages pressing down on us. New strata of sadness in the atmosphere.

H: For us to investigate, for us to know!

J: Ha! To lock us down in a vice.

H: To embrace us, to be fucked. To fuck so hard until you can’t tell who is being fucked. The words—the words you want to touch—and yet you shrink away from them!

J: Not my words, the words that hold too much, I want to touch my words on the page.

H: Fuck the words. You’re worried about being separated from the page, that beige emptiness. That’s what you love.

J: Get your fucking boots off my roof.

H: I’ll smear my boot shit on your roof until you tell me some words that don’t come from your own body. You have to take them in through yourself from the outside and then belch them up, or you’re just spitting up untruths.

J: I’m sorry, but there’s no method to the way I spew my thoughts.

H: There is, there’s the method of never giving yourself to anyone but yourself. You have no great loyalties!

J: And where are your loyalties? In your faxes and telegrams, your packets of reds and joints wrapped in pouches of tin foil? Drugs wrapped with gold ribbon.

H: His voice becomes breathy and he says, I put on every skin of this earth. I put on the dirt, I put on the moldy sand and all the fish shit that sits at the bottom of the ocean, I put on the boring blue carpets of office parks and vacant linoleum church halls, I put on bingo balls and bongo bags, I put on every ugly and mundane and brilliant shining jacket of this world. But you. Even when you walk through someone else’s house, you wear your own skin. You’re ripening in it, and you taste yourself. I’m rotted, and you are so mellow.

J: Mell-lell. Mellooooo.

H: Mellon mellow, mellow mellon.

J: Yellin. Yellow mellow. Well-oh.

H: That fucking song played on a jukebox in Vladivostok as I sipped my final 10c glass of vodka.

J: That song played on the record player the last time I made love to my first great love.

H: What a fucking stupid ass song.

J: There you go. Did you put something in the tobacco.

H: Just a little mary jane, for flavor. He exhales.

J: Why do you keep narrating your speech, like that, like a sportscaster?

H: It's the addiction. To ESPN. Haha!

J: Are you just so used to fictionalizing yourself?

H: You mean that all of my writing is thinly veiled autobiography. Sometimes, I don't even veil it. Again, like you.

J: But each time you do it, you're putting a distance between you, number one, and your self, number two.

H: How do you mean, he grumbles.

J: You talk as if your voice has no body, just a fist. Or like your body is always thinking.

H: Jesus, Joanie, are you kidding me? Jesus fuck. My voice has no body? Of course my voice has no fucking body. He pauses. But a writer never has a body, anyway, to start with. A reader has no… concern for a writer's body--

J: I'm not interested in a reader, here. I'm not talking about writing. I'm asking you about your fucking body, man, and your voice.

H: My voice! My low voice that occupies space only to fill it with words.

J: Your voice that is a projected void! An extension of your gut, a voice that hungers!

H: Bullshit. At the end of the day all I am is a pile of words. And that's all you're interested in. You don't want my body, you want me to have one so I can write about it, and you can absorb more of my words, lay your flat palm on more pages.

J: Your words? Your fucking words? You don't understand. I don't want anything to do with your words. I've never cared about your words. What about your chest cavity, your jaw. I own your body, I love it so much.

H: You crazy bitch, you can't own something you have no responsibility for.

J: And you do? You offered your body up to the earth and the sky and I fucking grabbed it.

H: My body.

J: I know your body, I know what you drink. We come from the same time and place, don't you see? We both gravitate toward the sun. Tepid, fetid humidity, baking rotted orchid nectar into our skin.

H: No, no-- you might want the sun to photosynthesize your inborn misery into writer juices, but I follow the sun to find the sand, lifted by the wind. I've only ever wanted to be flayed by the wind.

J: For whatever reason we rise, we emerge.

H: Sometimes, an open empty well will unsettle you.


J: You're not even shaking.

H: I'm gonna roll another one. Dig?

J: Sure. You know, I can almost hear the blues coming on over the PA.

H: I told you, you are so mellow.

J: Mellow can be swell you know?

H: It isn’t the blues, by the way. This is the last jazz song they ever played before God invented the blues.

J: Christ, your face is a pallet of shadows in this twilight.

H: Look at your arms. If we stitched cheesecloth to your fingertips and your elbows, I think you could glide.

J: If I could glide, I would glide over you.

H: Ha! Ha. We’ll see, Joanie D. We’ll see.

Ella Longpre lives in Northampton, Massachusetts. She works in a library and makes music in the band dust savior. Some of her writing can be found in NOÖ Journal, at Flying Object, on Futurepoem's blog, and in old magazines. Her fiction has appeared in Dinosaur Bees, and her poems have appeared in Summer Stock.


Kristen E. Nelson

Home, still

i. Place

When you brought me to your home for the first time, I knew the mountains and the grandfather Saguaros. I found my ocean from the top of those mountains. I looked down and felt small. Winding roads. I was dizzy.

ii. Weather

There is no such thing as weather; there is only heat. Heat that destroys Quick, Easy, Moisture. I never felt mortal before this Heat. “I am walking on the sun,” I said. You said, “Wait for the rains.” They came and smelled like sex, and I understood your love of the creosote desert. I reached for you in wet desperation. You made me wait a few more days. My city was instant gratification, but we were in your city now.

iii. House

That first time we fought, I hated you more than anyone has ever hated. I hated you more that afternoon than any other moment since. I ran to the guesthouse, sat on the floor, and tried to decide who was safe. I sucked the strength out of those old bricks. I sucked the tree roots that were destroying those old pipes into me from below. I didn’t lock the door, but when you tried to come in, I held up my hand, pushed it towards you, and kept you out. A few months later when you ripped up the guesthouse carpet without a facemask, it was not the mold that sent you to the emergency room.

iv. Person

Our neighbor, now my friend, confided that he used to call you “The Bulldog” and me “The Nice One” before he knew our names. This made sense. This older man saw some of my favorite parts of you. Your fierceness. Your protective nature. Your passion. Your wrinkled forehead. Nice was all he saw of me. You were the only one allowed layers.

v. Sky

I am traveling farther and farther away from you, Love. There is more distance now than there has ever been. “I miss you” is so much smaller than this. You hover over me like a thunderstorm threatening. But there is comfort in the things in the sky that are loud enough to make me run for safety. The clouds and their ominous warring.

vi. Other House

I visited you in that other house. The one with the murals. You snuck your small, scarred hand into mine, and I remembered: you love me. You smelled exactly the same, and I noticed before you pointed to them that you were taking better care of your feet. I have heard “I love you” since that night. I have laughed at love with parts of lovers still inside me. Not because I didn’t believe their sincerity; I did. She loved me the best she knew how. He loved me the best he knew how. He loved me the best he knew how. She loved me the best she knew how. And so on.

Kristen E. Nelson writes cross-genre texts. She has recently published work in Tarpaulin Sky, Trickhouse, Cranky Literary Journal, Quarter After Eight, In Posse Review, and Dinosaur Bees. She is a founder and the Executive Director of Casa Libre en la Solana, a non-profit writing center in Tucson, Arizona; a curator/editor for Trickhouse and a production editor for Tarpaulin Sky Press. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Goddard College and teaches English and creative writing in Tucson, Arizona.



THIS (#1)

The truth has stumbled home and she’s tired, gone to sleep. She’s hapless and mediocre. Who comes next? Apathy? Stains? A dance to mark the dissolution of the town at midnight? And all this time we knew—the reservoir’s always been coming whether or not we want it, whether or not our land’s been bought. Let’s hide our steeples and get out of here. The dust is riding along the field’s tops, just as the old men promised. The trees are broken right down the middle. This is not an appropriate game for children. Send the children to Salem. We’ve got bills to pay with the fine grease of our bodies, we’ve got to chop the trees correctly if only for the dignity of what we used to cradle. Let the water come or let it wait. It doesn’t matter, for we all plan to be ghosts here anyways, sulking in wet beds, tapping our neighbors with clay in the night.

THIS (#2)

Late at night J teaches me how to gamble. You’ve got to look at the mud on the track, he says. What’s the weather like? Where’s that cloud hanging? How big’s the jockey, how thick are his calves, and what’s he got on? He teaches me about all kinds of differentials while drinking a certain kind of beer. Listen, he says, there are so many things to take into account. He writes a long list with a tiny pencil in all capital letters. He never learned how to write in lowercase. The beast could die, he warns. You might never see it coming. The track could have glass shards in it that they never told you about ‘cause not one person on this earth is honest. Do you understand me? Never forget: when the bell rings, everyone’s watching. J takes me to a bridge in New York and says, Look. That’s where the bombs will fall someday. He says, we won’t be anywhere near there when it happens, because I know a thing or two about running. I can run on any kind of surface or layer. Even one that’s atomic. I'll grab you up when it happens, put you in my sidecar, so don’t you worry about anything, I’ve got all the numbers and their respective cards in my pockets. This country’s not going anywhere, not without me, he says. Not if I have anything to say about it, and I do. Just look at all these numbers. At least one of them is the answer. You have to win someday, it would be impossible not to, as long as you kept trying and never died. And he pulls all the paper and guitar picks out of his pocket, lays them out on his linty palm, leans in, and asks, Right? and says, Right.

THIS (#3)

J’s fake wife is on the stage again. He says, she’s the goal. That’s who you should be, might be, in time. Although it will be hard considering your heavy load in some places and your flat emptiness in others. You're just, well, listen—it’s hard to be beautiful when you’re a poet, he warns, you can’t have everything. It's hard to be beautiful when your straining is so clear. J’s fake wife shakes her jewelry and smells like wine. She says things like Come here baby, but no one even knows who she is talking to, and everyone wishes she is talking to them. In reality she’s talking to nobody but herself, who she is stranded within. Yes, like her, J says.

THIS (#4)

Now, if you'll remember, I met you at a hospital. You were very large and I had just arrived four seconds prior. You said, I’ve waited a long time for you to marinate enough to be alive. You’ll get bigger like a man, you said, no matter what your genitals. One day you’ll be bigger than a man, and then you will populate even me with your stories. You were right. I am as large as a sun and my words arrive just like I did, darkly and in the snow; by foot—very thirsty. More thirsty than any of my masters. Shiny and downwards like a sieve. I couldn’t have told you that I’d always known all this—I was too small then. But now I am a person, detached and sated, so far from tender.

Carolyn Zaikowski's fiction and poetry, as well as her critical work on feminism, veganism, trauma, and language, has been published widely. She is also the author of a novel, A Child Is Being Killed (Aqueous Books, 2013.) She holds and MFA in Creative Writing from Naropa University. Find her at


Nathaniel Otting

for Robert Kadis

On the 20th of January, Lenz
walks through The, maintains,
No, she is the Robert Walser.
Fewer, it was raining on Lenz.

Further, I passed by a cobbler's
workshop, which reminded me
of the poet Lenz, a genius, but
unhappy, who learned to make,
and made, shoes while his soul
and spirit were unhinged, wrote
the Robert Walser of The Walk.

On the 20th of January, Lenz
disappeared. Either Lenz
disappeared or the 20th of
January did. Did Lenz or did
disappear. No: Lenz was
lacking, no rain. Of lawn
after morning: No Lenz.

Of lawn after morning: Lenz.

Well, then there was walking, on
Lenz, all around Lenz, past Lenz,
Lenz walking through the Lenz.
There was more walking, by Lenz.

Lenz, walking, January, the 20th,
probably January, probably Lenz.

Lenz, probably walking, on January, no,
lacking January, past January, the 20th.

Why not walking on January, why not on the 20th,
why not walk through the January to reach the 20th,
why not January on Lenz, no. No January. No Lenz.

For: only mountains, mountains, mountains, mountains.

Let January equal the 20th. Let the 13th fever. Let Lenz.
For object, read flying. For first, read only. For if, read of.
January, Lenz, 20th, Lenz, 19th of centuries, 20th of Lenz.

Nathaniel Otting works at Unnameable Books.


Ruth Lehrer

Wishing Ill on People

Really, it’s not that general
Really, it’s mostly specific
for a good reason
with a fine line
between vengeance and spite.
I don’t wish they would die
No, really I want something
more drawn out
like a landscape
with lots of layers
You think you’re done
with the sheep
and then you see
the watching wolves.
Really, like that
but more painful.

Ruth Lehrer is currently reading restaurant menus.


Ngoc Doan


of the season
some other love affair
alike, you’d say
you’ve always loved

or in comparison
these mosquito bites
over bodies

for nuisance and pleasure
it has rained

in our mouths
we’ve held it
the tip of it

we’ve work

reverberations, mur-
murs/ the walls
to apprehend

of man apart

we do not have

Ngoc Doan is reading Joseph Massey's At the Point.


Olivia Valdes

God Talk Dance Craze

God is giving a graduation speech. He is clutching a decoupage tissue box. When God cries, 18th century goats scale the cliffside of his throat. I feel sorry for God until everyone else does. I am not unlike God, though I doubt we could ever be friends. He does not pride himself on his dearth of Confucian wisdom, which he disguises by alluding vaguely to Dionysus. God figures, as long as it ends with an –us. God is not fooling anybody. Everyone wants to go to prom with God. Upon observing God, I first think iron focus!, then community service. God and I both know the question on everyone’s mind. When he was young, God would not even touch a plate of chicken nuggets, and now, look at these peaks and valleys, the stubborn color scheme of sky, those mysterious Eskimos, all the unintelligibly foreign maps.

Olivia Valdes is reading your mind, and also The Facts of Winter, written by Paul Poissel and translated by Paul LaFarge.


Andrew Leland

Spit in the Lock

and the knob turns. I don’t have a biological son, I have a dog.
He notices nothing. A biological emergency
isn’t as fun as a spiritual one. A capon of regret
is preferable to a soupçon of desire. A plate
of brown rice with seasoned beans, steamed veggies, and a stainless cup of tahini sauce.
This is the shampoo I use to wash my hair a-mornings.
This is the computer I use to write games that I sell
for money to buy yeast for my bread.

How do you make yeast at home?
Float into your sheep’s warren mooningly, morningly, warmingly,
balls bound tight
in the gauzy ballet dancer’s big bundled package.
Fill their troughs with hämmertaschen and bloat.
Computers that working poets use,
not like yours. A swelling breast
at the malls of New Jersey completes the final steps required
to become official “Sister Malls” to the malls of Mérida.
A soupçon of desire goes on sale there.

I like my garbage adulterated. Try,
but don’t try so hard
that you resemble one of those fractally self-satisfied Berkeley undergrads standing indoors
at graduation in a dark auditorium standing in a permanent California autumn,
fluent and white in Spanish, tenth in their families to graduate,
minds ringing with recent theses, a chorus onstage,
genitals scrubbed and bundled in affordable underwear.
Dust still caked on the numbed nubs where their tonsils hung.
The memory’s ice tray is reasonably cluttered,
well organized and coated
with an agreeable amount of fuzz,
a productive mold like penicillin
grown over the whole shebang.

Some of them are vegan,
others have bellies full of chicken and cheese.
Congratulations! Sam puts his tongue in Sarah’s
mouth and his hands grab her bottom and her tongue
goes into his mouth and her eyes
have never been open. I want her
to grab his wang through his gown
but she won’t. Just kissing, her
hair tied behind her head, her
belly full of couscous and squash.

Andrew Leland is reading Tres Tristes Tigres.


Neila Mezynski

Girl In Two House

She live in two house. One of them nice other not. One day she went out. To the store. Find if she was there maybe in the bread or carrot island. She was not either. Forlorn she not be crystal clear in her seeing of those other things, about. Lettuce or turnip probably more in the fudge way. Leafy. Cocoa. Bean. She asked the shopkeeper if he knew her in the biblical sense not but in the knowing way as in does she look like Marilyn or Toulouse or someone of that eek. Finding a way out he looked looked at nothing in particular, her in particular. She want not to be in two house but one was the place he was there too listen to her play piano violin, doesn’t matter play listen listen play. All day sit feet listen. Mac. Don’t talk stick foot in mouth sweat turn strange pink lie leave fast no time for to listen to the sound. Don’t watch she won’t go her way then. Where. Listen.

Girl In Two House II

She play all day all day she play piano too. Don’t ask for much don’t need. Only. Listen. Bob. She play and enjoy for to. No proof. Outside not look inside. Happy. Feet to bask. Need herself her instrument. Chopin. Confound kitty nice smile lemon cake some chocolate for Johnny I, 2. Pretend is all. New house. Tipover dream, lots to think then be. No never mind he don’t vant she do plenty smelly fish in little pond big. Her. Go visit carrot lettuce man for quick mindless answer while spraying. Come home be nice smile play some piano for to listen. Foot baskin. Call her Toulouse, she’ll stay long. No remorse. Keep nice one give you torn. Okay. A hard time, you too? Me me. Plenty of fishy waters. Crystal clear when she do good piano playin.

These selections are from Yellow Fringe Dress, an echapbook from Radioactive Moat Press (Jan 2012). Neila Mezynski is the author of Glimpses from Scrambler Books, a pamphlet from Greying Ghost Press, echapbooks from Patasola Press and chapbooks from Folded Word Press (Feb 2012), Mud Luscious Press and Deadly Chaps Press.


Mary Wilson


The more specious bits of carbon on his shirt–front (Michael’s)
otherwise aglow with nothing (that is, clean) delivered Michael

from his need to state the proper shirts of things, which he admitted
(Michael) to his kids were varied—one of them in blue with specks

of yellow one of them in red beneath a picture of his father
(Michael’s) and the little one in diapers hugged the banister along the stairs

when Michael, suddenly with wings or he imagined leapt up
and absorbed the little one, the nervous-father Michael

in his arms and flushed and scolded, Michael
speaking in parental tones, which out of context may have sounded

like the clucking of a nervous mother, absent from the picture
(Michael’s) and by means of this heroic gesture, Michael

saved the little one from falling into colorless disaster
and his shirt–front (Michael’s) swelled with pride

Mary Wilson lives in Providence, Rhode Island, where she is working towards an MFA in Literary Arts at Brown University. Her poems have appeared in Gobbet, Digital Hamper and (occasionally) her blog:


Joanna Howard

In Absentia

Someone had gone missing and didn't want to be found. The path to the embassy curved between short, plump palms. I adopted a quick pace in the shadows, and kept an eye over one shoulder. Through the open door, a costume party unfolded down the stairs. The footman announced the names. I slipped in unnoticed on the commissioner's arm in the beaded ensemble of Salome.

Who knew who was who? I watched them file in. An inventor arrived on the chime of the clock in a white coat and wig. He brought with him a mechanical doll who swayed up out of a giant tapestry bag, and wafted just out of his reach. She attracted the notice of the finer set with her long neck and careful gaze. As long as I watched her, she held her character. I know that later that night, at the buffet table, she emptied a sugar bowl onto the head of a new lover while across the room, her escort, brooding, soaked his throat in rum punch. The things we do to each other!

For my part, an artful diversion began when the bigger band, in striped jackets, took the stage. In the pause, the dancing guests held their position in an unlikely tableau, shortly, before the muted horns gave over to a thundering continental swing. Partners exchanged across the patterned tiles. The Sheik snatched up my hand, and we took the floor. He had a firm grip, the kind of legends. His eyelashes, darkly lined, beat softly against the hem of a perfumed head scarf. Eau de cologne. He led toward the terrace doors, and out into the moonlight.

Briefly, I felt I had been drawn into something legitimate and sweeping. I came this far to unwind the mystery, though I can't imagine why. That's hardly the way it should work. Still, I wanted to hear what he had to say. I suspected I had already failed at his native tongue. If he was guilty, he didn't want to confess.


Sarah Schwartz


My happiness is so slow, close
to petrified. Sentiment
is sediment. First and leftover.
Never the thing, grown or seen. Groan or seed.
My astonishment at matter
what matter can not contain.
I am not ashamed to be a decent carrier,
a seedling vessel, a skin-shy iris.
Mouth, I said humble.
Rush pink rush.
Creep aster.

Is there anything to be read in the shooting
star columbine. Shooting columbine. American vetch.
We have all been locoweeds. We have all been trailing
four o’clocks. American vetch. To my mountain lover,
I am sorry I am stuck with this heartleaf bittercress.
Uninterrupted days of bricklebush. I once called myself
a difficult flower, not having the name for the flower I am.
No nodding onion, no sweet cicely, no wild candytuft.
Call me red pussytoes. Call me death camas. Call me bastard toadflax.
Sing wild cosmos, if you can.
If not, just sing American vetch.

We come out of the backcountry to the news,
this sad music of the world. Bombing at a summer camp.
A teenager murdered his parents, threw a party.
Out of my guzzling window, the sun bounces down
to touch peaks. The glazed Tetons
are still rolling, credits of a summer daydream.
The grass just won’t learn to self-destruct, as we have.
I am not speaking for anything but my skin
in the cricket-swept air. Just these two eyes
awash with the continual surprise of Parnassians. Yes,
hold your hands that way, bound. Wildflowers abound.
I am yellowing as this meadow, dusted by our tires.

On the path that eyes have deemed beautiful,
traffic sputters in the snow. Red tracks are not, after all,
blood marks, do not necessarily lead anywhere, probably
signify buried flows of water. What fish feed there?
At Lake Solitude, a man seems to be pointing his camera
in my direction, the sun still a spotlight, even at this height,
in this heightened quiet. “There’s a mean cloud coming,”
she says to my weight-hunched back. There’s a cold lake
not waiting for us. Rippling, a sparkle set. “We are all tourists here,
except for the bears.” What would it mean to belong here?
To have made a home from sapping sticks?
Have I belonged anywhere yet? She wants
more vistas, more sun, more shade. She wants
what will unfold in her design. Language works
at a distance, cannot enter. The true lake of solitude
has not yet been seen, will not be named.

Sarah Schwartz is currently pursuing an MFA in poetry at Brown University. Hailing from the Midwest, she has spent the last five years displaced, first on the West Coast, and now on the East Coast. Find more of her critical and creative writing at and, and forthcoming in Catch Up and Sun's Skeleton.


Evelyn Hampton


Jim is no longer a character in a story I have written—I have liberated him from obscurity and now he is transitioning to a new form in the manner of larvae, adolescents, and souls.

I’m finding I’d rather be surrounded by the possibility of Jim than concocting the reality of him. Now I look at a cloud and wonder how he is doing, where he might be. When I come out of the theater after seeing a movie, blinking and not yet acclimated to my life, I wonder whether I might catch sight of him half-formed, a Jim still partly a fiction, like a ghost with real hands leaning against a building, smoking.

I also have this sense of Jim when I wake during the night to go to the bathroom. I think that he is there, or part of him is in the kitchen, sitting in a chair; not on it, but inside of it, inhabiting its upright shape with shifty, transitional qualities. Jim, in this condition, is like a language that is dying.

It is possible for one who is transitioning to a new form to become old before the transition has finished; to die, even, in the midst of becoming something different. Then it is like acid rain—Jim oozes out of the air above a corporate office park and falls onto the chassis of the world. Or Jim, the protoplasm that’s left of him, migrates toward a different transitioning object and lodges within its folds, complicating its density with soul.

Recently my father had a cyst above his eyebrow lanced. Within was a tuft of hair, two tiny fingernails. A twin. A Jim.

But I think I like Jim how he is now, a possibility. I can listen to the wind and wonder which of its decrements are him becoming less and less himself. When a cough comes out of a room where nobody is, I can think of Jim instead of my own death. In this way Jim has begun to function like beauty—possessed of changeable so intangible qualities, visible while shifting his even more desirable qualities out of reach, reminding me that desire can never achieve final satiety, is always only partial, half-achieved; the other part, like Jim, transitioning beyond reach, assuming that’s what he’s doing, that he hasn’t simply gone to sleep, or, I have mentioned the possibility, died. “Beauty dies my death for me and makes me see it”—Jim said that before I allowed him the freedom to become, if he transitions that way, a green ray.

I read about the green ray yesterday. When the sun sets in perfect atmospheric conditions, with no land mass for many hundreds of miles and no moisture or atmospheric pressure, you have a good chance of seeing a spot of green the color of a Mr. Yuck sticker where the sun has just set. It’s brief, lasts maybe a second. Then it becomes someone else.

Evelyn Hampton is the author of We Were Eternal and Gigantic (Magic Helicopter Press) and Lost Body Projected (Mud Luscious Press). Her work has appeared in many places and is forthcoming in New York Tyrant. Visit her at


Gene Kwak

One In The Cylinder For An Occasion Such As This

Gun to my chest, I admit, okay, it wasn’t the wisest to mention, mid-coitus, to Bobbie Ann that her little pride of Yutan—Charley Rose—was starting to really shape out in the back end; that those gymnastics and tumbling classes had really firmed things up. This bad decision made worse because Charley Rose wasn’t my blood; had been pulled away from her own father some six years ago because he had turned just such an imaginable offense into action. Bobbie Ann screaming to me that, at fourteen, Charley was starting to get a fair shake on things, starting to untwine herself from the ugliness that life had bound her up in. I shook my head and nodded, naked, that yes, of course, it was a stupid thing to say, but how else was I, thick in the rear end of Charley’s own similarly-shaped mother, supposed to respond, in half thrust, when the words Charley Rose and gymnastics and butt came from the lips of Bobbie Ann? Only later did I realize that she was referring to Charley Rose’s hang ups uttered to her mere moments before I’d come in and pulled Bobbie Ann upstairs, not having seen her for three days from an out of town work stay, and tearing a rabid one into her bottom flesh pocket. I hear a hollow click, click, click and realize that either Bobbie Ann is great at proving a point, or she’s biding her time, trying to find the right one.

Gene Kwak is from Omaha, Nebraska.


Daniela Olszewska

the trouble w/empty containers

before going to bed, you spray all yr friends w/glue made out of hooves + horns. they die quick but painful deaths. you spend the night dreaming that you’re snorkeling in the gulf of mexico + meremaids are giving you high-fives w/the bottoms of their mermaid tails.

you wake up to find that every previously empty container in your apartment is now sprouting a new friend: teacups, bags from the grocery store, the mopwater bucket, that plastic lining of what used to be a vanillacherry-scented candle, pill bottles leftover from last year’s breastbone surgery, some of late aunt susan’s striped + polka-dotted hatboxes, yr bellybutton (the first time in yr life you wish you were an outie…), a doll carriage, a cracked piggybank + a purple suede purse yr dad sent you on yr brother’s birthday (b/c, lately, he’s had a really hard time keeping up w/things like who was born when).

most of the new friend heads have mouths, the mouths whine that they are thirsty from the toes on up. you can’t see any toes. or even arms. the new friends w/mouths claim their toes are welded to the bottoms of the previously empty containers.

you spray these new friends w/what’s left of the glue made out of hooves + horns, but you don’t really have enough to do any damage. now the new friends are angry b/c they get that you’re trying to send them into an untimely but quick but painful grave. the new friends start listing all the problems w/yr body + yr home décor.

you feel the beginnings of a panic attack coming on. you curl up in the cabinet under the kitchen sink + call up yr stepmom, who is a psychic + a dentist (though these talents never get used simultaneously). yr stepmom says not to worry, that something similar happened to her back when she was in her mid-twenties, before she married yr dad. yr stepmom tells you to get out of the cabinet + pack up like you’re getting ready to run errands. she tells you to remain calm, to make steady eye contact w/ the new friends, but to refrain from speaking. she says try not to even listen to them, if you can help it. once you get out of the building, she says, get on the anonymous FBI tipline + tell them that there are terrorists residing at yr address.

this sounds like a reasonable plan, except for one small detail. you ask yr stepmom but what about the new friend growing in yr bellybutton. yr stepmom, who’s an outie, sighs + tells you that there are some problems best discussed between you + yr real mother. so you call up yr real mother, but she just gives you the same advice about making calm eye contact + tipping off the FBI.

Daniela Olszewska is the author of two full-length collections of poetry, Citizen J (Artifice Books, forthcoming) and cloudfang : : cakedirt (Horse Less Press, forthcoming). She sits on Switchback Books' Board of Directors and serves as Associate Poetry Editor of H_NGM_N. Daniela is pursuing her MFA at the University of Alabama, where she teaches creative writing in conjunction with The Alabama Prison Arts & Education Project. Her piece arrives from the Gene Kwak wheel


Ally Harris


But that face death has never proper greeted you, curious pet. The drooling heat, that
lampy branch that bocks the pane, literarily ad nauseam the beckoning finger closest
come. Wring still your wrists despite whatever what it does to you, that 50-pound canary
dead on your heart, botching efficiency reports in the spring balm that oils the window
in little handfuls. Still, the day, old diorama, child’s plaything, useless without the proper glass to see it under. So, to work: maintain a healthy lack of paranoia. Get along now but perhaps don’t always. Rearrange that rainbow wig of light into a halo.

Ally Harris is a recent graduate from the Iowa Writers Workshop and has poems at Diagram, Tarpaulin Sky, Sixth Finch, and the Agriculture Reader. A chapbook of poems is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press.


Jon Papas

Tuxedo Extreme Unction

“at the mall there was a séance / just kids no parents / then the sky filled with herons” – Kanye

We mash dribbly candles on the hoods of Kia Sportages,
lipstaining ankhs onto pastel mall-maps, throwing
cans of peppermint bark and snow globes at dome lights
to set the mood, to call ghosts among crashing glass and chocolate.

Yards of pretzel dough inscribe the circle. Universal remotes
and pipe wrenches clamping the entrance doors shut. We cut down
the Cajun-Asian sign from the food court and use the plastic saxophone
as spirit trumpet. Five-color Wii hand straps bind us together, the interior

of the circle covered in spilled black cherry Fribble. The manager
of Abercrombie and Fitch lies unmoving in the center, a catalog
covered in sweet pea bath gel stuffed in his mouth. The youngest
kneel in milkshake clapping muffin trays together, showering

the corpse with Build-A-Bear hearts. Us kids know the truth.
No one ever matures. They just taint and harden. Pure and hot
is what’s for dinner. Close up the mall with us inside so all
the parents draw close. We’ll have a sacrifice like you

read about. The skylight ceiling goes dark with wings.
Talons bottlecap across the roof, the younglings covered in milk
speaking heron with human tongues. The devil rides the ring-road
in Oakleys and a lime-green windbreaker. Ragtop. Mall-squatter.

This ends in new world, and a Le Baron crinkling beneath
a typhoon of fryer grease. The manager augured into a spaceship.
The toddlers shepherding the parents with lawnmowers,
golf carts, drinking Julius. The sixth-graders clamp their thighs

to their ankles with vise-grips, the third graders their hands
to the Macy’s jewelry counter. Barcodes sewing lips shut.
Open ourselves up and read out the pattern of truth. Smash their
cheekbones with PlayStation controllers. They will hear the truth:

we step cracks, we break backs.

Jon Papas is a poet living in Boston. His work has appeared in We Are Champion, OCHO, Willow Springs, and PANK.


Katie Jean Shinkle

When Holding You Isn't Enough

Our Father has his head in his hands, he is weeping into his hands, he is rubbing his eyes with the back of his gloves riddled with fiber glass and wood splinters and mud mud mud and wiping his hands on the backs of his pants that we cannot tell are jeans until much later when our Mother has to cut them off of his legs because they are melted and singed and gristled on his body and he is laughing laughing laughing and weeping weeping, he is weeping when we enter the room. Mother is holding him like a baby, cradling his head on her chest like a frothy infant, they are a uroboros together, wedded in weeping and laughing, they are both weeping and both laughing and speaking softly and Father is filled with soot and ash and smoke and mud and dirt and stink and now Mother’s dress is filled with soot and ash and smoke and mud and dirt and stink and Father’s hair is standing up on end and matted and there is a smell of burnt hair on everything, burnt wood on everything, burnt garbage, sweet like animal flesh, on everything everything. He is yelling now, he is yelling and kicking the blankets on the bed and the sheets are getting dirty and the comforters are dirty and all of the blankets and he is kicking the blankets off the bed and he is soiling every surface, the only clean part of his person are his eyes where he was wearing goggles that could not withstand heat as evidenced by the warp in the middle of them. We are told to go away and to come back and to go away and to get back here by our Father and we shut the bedroom door and take turns putting on the goggles and making faces in the bathroom mirrors, faces with one side completely black, fried, bubbled, uneven, sunken in and shattered.

Katie Jean Shinkle is Managing Editor of Del Sol Press, Assistant Poetry Editor for DIAGRAM and current Nonfiction Editor of Black Warrior Review. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Poetry Journal, Staccato Fiction, dislocate and BlazeVOX, among others.