Two Poems—Mallory Hobson

Unraveling From the Edges

Yes, I see them from the edges—
Tall things, so close to human, long coat
Or long hair, dark in the window-glass.
I turn, and they turn to only
Curtains, coatrack, figures falling into nothing
After all. And yes, I wake with eyes wide open,
Feeling them snatch at my face, my hands,
With cold, brittle fingers. I feel
Her breath on the back of my neck.
I wake, and they wake as only
The scraps and bones of dreams. Yes,
I start at the slightest sound, every scratch
In the walls, every turn of the screw, every
Doorknob aching to slowly, painfully rotate.
I start, and they start to be only
The cat, the wind, the hum of the lights after all.
I catch my reflection, face pale in the glass,
Eyes nothing but bruises, darkened and torn,
And I think: yes, it is only my mind, only
Unsettling dreams, anxious nerves, jumping
At shadows: but is that really better than
If there were ghosts?

Untitled

I rise, once slumbering, to find
The clear sharp way of being:
No longer something blurred and dark,
Fae-child or dream-thing, only
Myself with solid, waking skin.
My dreams are older than myself—
Ancient things—
Is there anything I could dream
That hasn’t been dreamt before?
Is there anything I could write,
Love song, love poem, lament,
That hasn’t been sung before?
In daylight’s glass-sharp eyes,
I rise, no longer comfortable
Or comforted. They’re gone,
These dreams, soft-edged and wild,
That once were solely mine.

Hailing from the rainy Pacific Northwest, Mallory Hobson’s work has appeared in such venues as From the Farther TreesMookychick, Seshat Literary Magazine, and Dark Lane Anthology Volume 3. Her writing will also be appearing in The Colored Lens Fall 2021. 

photo by Mario Azzi (via unsplash)

Two Poems—Stephanie Parent

Rampion

Young woman with a ravaged belly
Demanding, demanding, while the child within is
Only embryo

She climbs walls, fights brambles
Desperate for nourishment
Tears leaves from the earth
Dirt under her fingernails
Devours it all, vegetable and mineral 
Like a feral animal

Not even birthed yet, the babe in her belly
Has consumed her
She is too young, too tender,
More blossom than stalk
Such a violent burden 
Would surely destroy her 

Relief
When the garden’s owner claims 
The greatest price
For the woman’s greed
                              (Greed that never belonged to her
                              Anyway)

A babe so gluttonous
Needs a witch to lock her in a tower
Bind her hair
Deny her power

What else would this babe, now grown, have ravaged
Had she walked through the world with
Tresses loose
Hands grasping
Eyes open?

She would have taken
Much more than a prince’s sight

Better the tower, the stone
Where no soil births leaves with their
Nourishment dearer than
Diamonds

Dangerous growth, long locks, emerald vines

Chop it all down

Or so the young woman who’s lost her babe
The old witch who’s lost her youth
The maiden who’s lost her choice
Her voice

All tell themselves

Snegurochka

Strange how quickly you re-acclimate
After ten years melting in the sun
Of the West Coast
Your muscles remember the cold of the East
How to tighten and tremble and eventually
Soften
Accepting discomfort
And loss

Like the Snow Maiden, born to that lonely couple
In their lonely cottage
In a land where white flakes blanket the earth
For half the year
She grew out of the couple’s warmth, their desire
Their love
A spark that ignited her into life
But a part of her always belonged
To the cold

You too were born of a couple’s desire
For love
That red, fiery thing they’d never had enough of
Didn’t know how to offer
In a way that didn’t take and take
And leave you shivering

So you ran

So the Snow Maiden ran, with her friends
In the midsummer heat
She leapt over the bonfire
The flames stole her away
Consumed her human spark
And left only the mist that was her essence
Evanescent 

So you, too, leapt over bonfires
Till the flames burned too bright
Blistered your skin
And you had to retreat
To that house in the East
Where the desire for love had birthed you

Too much love, too much warmth
A flame trapped in a fireplace—

You couldn’t release your own fiery tongues 
Of desire
Couldn’t retreat into your own 
Bitter ice

And now, in a winter you remember
Wishing you could forget
You let the ice coat your bones
You abandon the memory of sun-warmed sand 
You know, how matter how far you’ve tried to run
How high you’ve leapt
How deeply you’ve yearned

You can never outrun your birthright
                              (Birth burden)
As someone else’s story
Someone else’s wish

You don’t want to evaporate, like the girl
Who came to life from the snow

As long as you live, a part of you
Always belongs to the cold

Stephanie Parent is a graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC. Her poetry has been nominated for a Rhysling Award and Best of the Net.

photo by Tiko Giorgadze (via unsplash)

In the Pockets of October—Margot Nelson

This year has felt like sucking pebbles—
Every passing day like polished stones
Rolling between my worn-down teeth just to feel
The sip of water in the middle of the night.

The emperor moth atop my tarot deck warns of signs I’ve ignored
Of roots I must bury in the loose soil
Lest I get swept away in the wave of green gold leaves falling too fast, too soon.

Remind me again what we’re doing here?

The emperor and his moth say they’re watching over me,
Remind me of things just out of sight
Remind me to grit my teeth and roll the pebbles into my cheeks
And keep them for the parched cracked earth days of a stolen summer.

When I shuffle the cards again, the fool and I fall to the ground
Hands curled in a cup that can’t hold water
Leaking between fingers pressed together as tightly as I can
And still the water flows down my wrists
And how I wished I clutched a wand or a sword
But the cups have always held me and I am glad to be so loved
Until now
When I am drowning, weighed down by spit-smooth pebbles in my pockets
Pulling me deeper into the thralls of frosted sunflower dead heads
Remembering what I must carry at all times.

The emperor himself can hardly catch his breath.

Beeswax candles, wrapped in paper.
Rough yarn and wooden needles.
Rose quartz.
Calendula seeds.
A mourning dove feather, found on my stoop.

These are the tethers, the moth whispers in my hair 
Drink the ease of a summer morning,
Plant tomorrow’s medicine, 

And don’t drop the pebbles.

Margot Nelson (she/her) is a French-American writer based in Vermont. Her work has been featured in Teen Vogue, Capsule Stories, honey & lime, Q/A Poetry, and other literary magazines. She was nominated for the 2019 Best of the Net: Fiction award and 2019 Pushcart Prize, and is currently working on a children’s book.

photo by David Clode (via unsplash)

ruby-throat—Lora Robinson

when you are the only light 
on the highway, I hope 
you feel my spindle 

fingers twisted in 
your curls, remember 
spiders on your neck

weaving wicked tapestries, 
my voice crackling like 
our pipes in winter.

on the coldest nights
clutch your hands,
your chest- do you remember 

milk and honey, naked and
spread over crimson sheets, frayed 
nails dredging the bays of your back, 

nicotine-stained and brackish because 
I could not bear another night 
drunk. alone. 

read my poems, hung on the walls 
like epitaphs- board up the windows 
and doors, build a mausoleum

visit when you need to remember 
a jeweled hummer fluttering on 
your porch in fading sunsets, fireflies 

beating on glass and wood. 
remember the days you forgot
to feed the wilting orchids-

how you let them die.

Lora Robinson is a Minneapolis-based poet, nonfiction writer and cat-mom to Shark and Thea. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Superfroot, Sad Girls Club and Ethel Zine, among others. Her first poetry chapbook will be published in 2021 by akinoga press. Connect with her on Instagram @theblondeprive and Twitter @starsinmyteeth

photo by Anton Darius (via unsplash)

Offerings—Skye Wilson

content warning: mild gore

I’ll cook for you every Sunday from now
until I rot, feed you fresh-cut trimmings
of my nails. I will delve my love-worn
fingers into the sack of my chest,
pull out a heart, still wriggling,
still bursting, always yours.

Here’s my stomach,
with intestine
and oesophagus tied off,
a knapsack to keep in
the last meal you made me.
I’ll give you all the wishes
you could ask for, pluck out

my every eyelash one by one.
I will wobble every tooth out,
keep them in a fairy jar for you,
ask for nothing in return. Please –

take my femurs to scratch your back or
to shatter if you ever need a toothpick, ice-bath
my organs so you’ll live forever, tin my muscles
for apocalypse fodder, take my veins
and ligaments as spares, leave me
nothing but my tired hands.

Skye Wilson is a Scottish poet with an MSc in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh. She loves rugby, words, and ugly shirts. Find more of her work at skye-wilson.com

photo by Kev Bation (via unsplash)

Excerpts from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”—Jeana Jorgensen

The little mermaid’s sisters swam up to where she sat on the dock, and they presented her with a glittering knife. “If you kill the prince,” they sang in forlorn voices, “you can return to us under the sea.”

The sky is red, the sky turns orange, the sky weeps purple with grief. The little mermaid is stunned when she is finally allowed to swim to the surface to see the sky: such a giant block of one color, so different from the undulating watery views she grew up navigating. She knows this is temporary.

“But think again,” said the witch, “for once you are human you can no longer be a mermaid: you will never return to your sisters or swim underwater; if you fail, you will become foam on the crest of the waves.”

Her sisters try to tear the unconscious man from her arms. “Traitor!” they scream at her, for rescuing this human from the depths, but though she is the youngest she is the strongest of them all, and she beat at them with her tail while propelling the human up towards the surface.

The prince asked her who she was and where she came from, but she looked at him sorrowfully for she could not speak. At long last he brought her home to his palace, where beautiful female slaves, dressed in silk and gold, sang and danced. The little mermaid clapped her hands but carried sadness in her eyes: oh, if only she could sing sweetly once more.

He was kind to her. She would always remember that.

The oldest sister’s birthday was in winter, so when she swam up to the surface for the first time, she saw large, beautiful icebergs. They glittered like diamonds and shone like pearls under the moonlight, and all the ships that came near veered away from the frightful storm that arose when the oldest mermaid hoisted herself onto an iceberg to watch the human-made objects cavort.

When the little mermaid goes ashore, there are no more icebergs.

She cast one more lingering glance at the prince, and then threw herself from the ship into the sea, and thought her body was dissolving into foam. The sun rose above the waves, and its warm rays fell on the cold form of the little mermaid, who did not feel as if she were dying. 

She takes the knife her sisters gave her and uses the legs the sea witch granted her to find the king among men, the one she saved, and she catches him in a net of charming eyes and smiles. She waits until his meetings are over, until his slaves are gone, until his compound is all locked up.

She saw the bright sun, and all around her floated hundreds of transparent beautiful beings; she could see through them the white sails of the ship, and the red clouds in the sky; their speech was melodious, but too ethereal to be heard by mortal ears, as they were also unseen by mortal eyes.

The sky is red, the sky turns orange, the sky weeps purple with grief. The knife falls from her bloody fingers, and she hopes she is not too late, that the thrumming of her human heart is exhilaration, that the burning of her skin signals the flush of victory, and not the encroaching thirst of the sun that eradicates seasons, evaporates seas, igniting and ending the world.

Jeana Jorgensen earned her PhD in folklore from Indiana University. She researches gender and sexuality in fairy tales and fairy-tale retellings, folk narrative more generally, body art, dance, sex education, and feminist/queer theory. While most of her time goes to teaching college courses at Butler University and publishing her research, she also writes fiction and poetry. Her poetry has appeared at Strange HorizonsLiminalityQuatrain.fish, and Glittership, among other publications. Her poem “The Witch’s House” was nominated for the 2018 Rhysling Award, and her short dystopian story about reproductive rights, “The book you find when you really can’t afford to get pregnant,” won the Spider Road Press Feminist Flash Fiction Award of 2018. She also teaches dance, blogs at Patheos, and is constantly on Twitter.

photo by Jana Sabeth (via unsplash)

Two Poems—Jack B. Bedell

Ruskin and the Children at Chamonix

He brings them down into the valley
         one at a time, hoping they will have

words to make their local ghost
         real to him. It’s always shocking

how little fear the children hold
         for the apparition. They accept her

spirit as if it were a squirrel gathering
         food along the trail, always disappointed

in him for not being able to see the woman
         raking leaves in front of them, her back

bent into the labor. They know this is
         a lonely place, though, and will only go

so close to the ghost before they beg him
         to leave the grand-mère to her work.

The children have no heart to stare
         into her bare skull’s holes, no need

to disturb the secrets she has pulled
         into piles around her feet.

Ruskin and the Devil’s Rain

Even as the drops cackled against his front
         windows, he could never allow himself

to retreat into the house’s warmth. Always,
         the draw of thunder and winds arguing 

through the front orchard kept him pressed
         against the scene like breath on glass.

This living rain pulsed. It growled and slandered
         in dark bursts. Whether lightning ripped

overhead or not, he could feel the shape
         of an old man leaned against tree trunks

across the way, staring toward his home.
         This storm always came hungry

and would not leave until he felt its want
         marry his own. Desire. Desire and sheets

of rain he dared not touch, insistent
         as the lap dogs nosing his pants 

in hopes of one more bone to get them
         through the throes of that night’s noise.

Jack B. Bedell is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. Jack’s work has appeared in Southern Review, Pidgeonholes, The Shore, Okay Donkey, EcoTheo, The Hopper, Terrain, and other journals. His latest collection is Color All Maps New (Mercer University Press, 2021). He served as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017–2019.

photo by Yann Lauener (via unsplash)

Two Poems—Amy Wolstenholme

Conjunction

First, when I am a blue-veined old woman with a raven
tame on my shoulder, I will call myself Calleich, goddess of winter.  
I will call on the storms, laugh at pedestrians scowling, wonder 
why women still hide beneath colour // men under black, 
why gender umbrellas? I will say to the rain, which was never he // she
but simply us, tilt my face to the sky and wonder how many 
recycled lives this drop has passed through, until mine. 
Later, when I am middle-aged and merely a goddess, I will race 
to catch a bus in the half-light, get laughed at by teenagers when 
the door closes two paces further. The sun will be out-blazed
by the petrol in the gutter and I will stand, mesmerised by oil, 
sweating the make-up off my face. The death of the Earth 
is sometimes beautiful, I’ll say // guilty about not feeling guilty.
When it rains I’ll duck in my collar, watch the rainbow shudder
(dissipate). Later still, I am twenty-two and barely a woman, 
I stand one evening and realise I don’t believe in God anymore // 
go to a graveyard to think on it, kiss someone in a club 
for the taste of gin // try to approximate a heart breaking. 
Walking home, after failing to keep our sweating hands
aligned, I was a sprawling child who said I wish I could do magic
pointed a stick to the clouds and thought hard about striking 
light. The sky stayed sloe-blue and only drizzled this time,
as the foundling finally cried beneath the blackthorn hedge. 
The moon swung down or up, full and ripe. Now you must 
put out a hand and pluck it, stolen in your back-pocket, lonely
as the ten-pence you one day leave behind on a bus. Call 
me girl if you must // I never knew how to say: It’s time.

Now I dream of you

and this I know, there is always a girl in a black cloak standing somewhere
on a white hill. What we cannot know is why she points skywards, 
why her beckoning cloak suddenly becomes wings. Perhaps this is only me, 
writing terror from the wrong-end, through the lens of sleep she is simply asking 
why. I would say it has something (a little) to do with flight, how feathered things 
are tethered not by gravity, but the wind. 
(Come, let us think no more of this, the moon is brief and beautiful.)
The winged-girl is pointing to the sky; we cannot know why she is crying. 
This night is crystalline and curved, I would say undisturbed 
but there is always a way to shake the sphere of a dream-world. 
The snow violently returns to air, falls pale again. Tethered by the hand 
we begin (or end) by wayfaring, girls like us easily taken from the land. 
When I am asleep, I tell her, I wake in thought of you
Suddenly we are moved to a great distance; two stick-women reaching. 
Perhaps there is something addictive to a dream pointing back, dreaming of you. 
I hang, even-breathed and bloodless, cloaked in my duvet of snow. 
This is a crime, she says, (I know) the only words she owns are mine. I cannot 
apologise – trapping her (myself) the only love I know how to give.
She holds out a candle, I hold her briefly 
alive. Love, I say, pinch out this small, false light. 
(The moon is beautiful and brief.)
Why?
I wake with the vision of her silhouette, rooted to the dark-side. 
My love, when I am gone does your world shake to nothing 
or do you still reach out a hand to catch the snow? 
I would say, this she knows. It hurts a little 
(something) like this. 

 Amy Wolstenholme is a scientist by day and a poet by night, originally from the beautiful Jurassic Coast. Whether slicing up a genome or carving out a stanza, her work comes from a place of awe and love for the natural world. Her recent work can also be found in Magma and in several places on the Young Poets Network. To see more of her work find her at @AmyWolstenholm3 on Twitter.

photo by Nick Fewings (via unsplah)

Two Poems—Brittney Corrigan

Riding the Ichthyosaur

After Mary Anning

The fish lizard rises through a cliff bed 
as her linen pouch of stone bones clatters: 
devil’s fingers, snake-stones, verteberries 
clack their fossil bodies, shift and slide.

Her brother finds the skull—pointed jaw
and conical teeth—but she summons
the rest of the beast. Basket of torso, flippered 
phalanges beneath the unsung fingers of a girl. 

All those invisible years, I picture her riding 
the sea dragon: one hand reining its skeletal 
spine, the other gripping her crude extraction
tool. Plesiosaurs surface through Jurassic waves,

Pterodactyls circle her on bony wings. She dodges 
lightning, drags Darwin along in her wake. 
In the churchyard, her ghost saddles up. Splinters
the stones to expose both monsters and men.

Peatland Aisling

They’ve taken the skeleton
Of the Great Irish Elk
Out of the peat, set it up
An astounding crate full of air.
—Seamus Heaney, “Bogland”

and I rose from the dark,
hacked bone, skull-ware,
frayed stitches, tufts,
small gleams on the bank.
—Seamus Heaney, “Bog Queen”

In the dream, Heaney’s bog queen comes leathered 
and fox-curled, saxifrage-ringed and riding the bones

of a giant deer. Within its prehistoric antlers, short-eared 
owls swivel tufted heads and stare. Hen harriers circle

blue-grey bodies against a greyer sky. Where the great beast 
steps, orchids bloom. Around the coffin bones of its feet, 

a flock of curlews whistles and darts. The bog queen opens 
a mummied fist, a dozen hares rushing from her fingers, 

sprinting into wintergreen and heath. Her voice long gone—
a ghost light in the buttery bog—I hear its changeling plead

in the otter-slick gloom. Ache and branching of my heart
into sphagnum moss as the bone deer stoops to graze. 

The peatlands sigh and syrup carbon from the air, absorb 
my breath. And the bog queen’s hands turn to pipewort, 

her sternum to a merlin’s breast, a collarbone of wings.
The bog keeps what it keeps and we take what we take.

From the bog queen’s darkened skull, a whooper swan.
Skeletal deer disassembling. Peat soaking me to the bone.

Brittney Corrigan is the author of the poetry collections DaughtersBreakingNavigation, and 40 WeeksSolastalgia, a collection of poems about climate change, extinction, and the Anthropocene Age, is forthcoming from JackLeg Press in 2022. Brittney was raised in Colorado and has lived in Portland, Oregon for the past three decades, where she is an alumna and employee of Reed College. She is currently at work on her first short story collection. For more information, visit http://brittneycorrigan.com/

photo by Pexels (via pixabay)

Two Clever Ravens—Lorelei Bacht

Retracing my steps. 
Places where I’ve died: a house,
A field, a forest. 

Two clever ravens
Circle over the orchard: 
Peasants dislike them. 

Wind in the rye fields,
Poisoned wells and bloated sheep:
I know who did it. 

Blond maidens in starched
Costumes: one step, two steps, three –
Your turn to be dead. 

One in a ditch, one
Watching from the highest branch – 
We will meet again.  

We travel through time. 
A bundle of sentience pushed 
Into human shapes. 

Different where and when. 
I’ll come back. New face, new name – 
Will you find me then? 

Once I was a fish;
You the riverbed at night 
Strewn with molten stars. 

This time, I have hands. 
Touch me. Deliver me from 
Being born again. 

Lorelei Bacht is a European poet living in Asia with her family, which includes two young children and a lot of chaos. Her current work is primarily concerned with gender, motherhood, marriage, and aging. Sometimes, she manages to convert the elusive beauty of her dark visions into poems. This year, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in such publications as OpenDoor Poetry Magazine, Litehouse, Visual Verse, Visitant and Quail Bell. She can be found on instagram: @lorelei.bacht.writer and @the.cheated.wife.writes

photo by Jr Korpa and Šárka Krňávková (via unsplash)