Two Poems—Andrew Walker

content warning: some gore

My Arm, Caught In A Bear Trap

I do not have nightmares 
               of my teeth falling out—
they are all there every night
               in spades, like spades.
I gnaw through this stubborn arm 
               caught, catch tendons between the gaps,
swallow enough boiling blood
               to make water taste weaker
than coffee. I can still feel
               my fingers grip the air as if they
have the strength enough to hold me.
               Dark now, the Sun 
is setting but I am still trapped, still 
               hungry, still ripping at the bulbous
veins that noose themselves 
               around my wrist, still chewing
as if the bones beneath were boiled
               in the sweetest brine
my prisoner tongue has yet to taste.

Consider Skin

Even a body rooted in soil 
enough for its anxious, 
tender breath can rot.
                                             Consider skin,
how it protects what is more vulnerable,
a starving mother watching
her children eat: It is not enough, it is not enough
                                             over & over.
It’s the waiting that does it, rips
fresh from dirt like skin from bone
between teeth & tongue. 
                                             Long enough &
the Earth will not recognize it,
this ravenous consumption.
Membrane holds a yolk.
                                             Sew what’s spilled—
hold the Earth & its bodies,
inhale the beauty of two things
blended, bound, together.

Andrew Walker is a writer living in Marquette, Michigan. He is a poetry reader for No Contact and his poetry and prose has appeared in Kissing Dynamite, HADPidgeonholesZero ReadersEckleburg and elsewhere. You can find more of him at his website, druwalker.com, but you can find most of him on Twitter, @druwalker94. 

photo by Raphael Brasileiro (via pexels)

Snow White Goes Gray—Jeana Jorgensen

For every silver hair I plucked
in my thirties, I am sorry;
now they spring up,
a reverse snowfall from
a bed of coal-black hair.

I am sorry too
about the red-hot iron shoes—
sorry that I accepted the corset stays,
the comb, the apple,
reveled in them, even;
sorry that I mistook
every sign from you as
hostility, not a warning.

Married to a prince anyway
I miss my mother,
and I am sorry
we will not grow old together,
because you never showed me how.

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, and feminist/queer theory. Her poetry has appeared at Strange Horizons, Nevermore Journal, Liminality, Glittership, and other venues. Her recent book Folklore 101 is available and is perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about folklore.

photo by Priscilla Du Preez (via unsplash)

Persephone’s Seeds—Vanessa Maderer

In rolls a begotten fog 
Smelling boggish, of
Crushed sage and old pomegranate 
Seeds. The scent roots me here, like
Sleep paralysis dead awake. And,
In my periphery, there lurks
Some otherworldly shadow 
All made up of
Skeletal lace; petrified petals greyed and 
Sheathing an emaciated
Figure. Only her eyes 
Are alive, so quick and angry, and 
Trapped too. 
I tremble and think, is this his
Pomegranate queen?
Buried beneath the weeds, trapped by 
Just those few seeds? 
The injustice radiates from her  
Withered form, with just a wisp
Of former glory, old beauty. 
And then the shadow decays away, leaving 
Just a moldy fragrance that 
Reminds me of 
Rotten roses once 
Sublime
And I know I will never 
Accept the promise of seeds again 
Lest I become 
Persephone’s legacy.

Vanessa Maderer was a young reader turned editor, writer, and finally enthusiastic poet who has recently debuted her first chapbook entitled, Cusp of Dusk after a decade of revision. Now, she has an insatiable appetite for new ideas and themes, and can be found most easily through Twitter at @MadererV. 

photo by Thought Catalog (via unsplash, with credit to quotecatalog.com)

A Swarm Unto Herself—Barlow Adams

I know a woman with a beehive for a head, big as the pyramids, a basket woven by slave hands, fit for a queen, too small for a princess, labyrinthine and honey-trap. She sits in a cemetery older than art, raw-rubbed limestone slick before the first mammoth graced a cavern wall. A buzz, aflame, she sits among the dead, mouth open, a drawbridge for drones—in and out—thoughts and feelings. Sticky feet like muddy boots, treat the wounds even as they scrape her lips. 

I sit in the sting zone with a swollen tongue and golden fingers, dusted with pollen, making charcoal rubbings of ancient gravestones whose names have been stolen by wind and rain. 

“Here lies. Here. Lies.” I trace the truth, place it in her palm, but my words aren’t sweet enough for any servant to carry into her well-combed mind. 

She sings of summer in a thousand voices, yellow and black and labor and sun. We’ll be two more bleached bodies in an orchard of bone. After we’re gone the bees will still carry unspoken words from my throat to hers, as long as strangers bring flowers to honor beloved dead they never knew. Long as I can’t imagine a sweeter place to die. 

Barlow Adams is a writer and poet from the Cincinnati area with a pronounced interest in ghosts, faeries, basketball, and Godzilla. His stories and poems have appeared in many print and online journals. Follow him on Twitter @BarlowAdams

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Afterimage—Sarah Kennedy

The dead, the gentle dead—who knows?—
In tungsten filaments abide. (Pale Fire)

They say that the souls 
of the dead we have loved
find their way home 
by the lights we leave out.

I lit up the house 
with the blaze of your loss,
white and silent as a winter afternoon.

No marshlight this, no burning reed 
nor wisp of tallow; no dancing flame
nor candle-glow, but strong and constant
as the wire snare that laps the throat.

I wait for you, warding sleep,
your cheeks lucent and your gaze dark,
trailing icy finials of night. 
I yearned for the caught breath 
and the locked eye,
the singular rapture of recognition. 

Did you appear, drawn blindly
by waves of incandescent 
brightness? Are you shadow or outline, 
Stranded on the farther shore?

Tungsten casts a cold light,
And the empty phonograph offers no voices
in its ragged dispersals of sound.
There is no vision gorgeous enough to trap you

No diode ever made to catch the crystal of your voice,
but only this ghost at the back of my eye,
A radiant fiction such as
we must gift ourselves in sleep.

Sarah Kennedy is a writer and critic based in the UK. Her work is grounded in the deep magics of ecological process, in myth, metaphor, and metamorphosis. Her poetry and fiction is immersed in the landscapes of her native Australia, of Dartmoor, and of the north downs in Kent. She tweets @WildThymeUnseen.

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The Witch from Rapunzel—Carol Berg

I wanted a daughter I could feed spells to.
My garden, easy to grow, so much soil, so many
roots. The lettuce, succulent green, the leaves

curled into each other like so many hugs.
Who wouldn’t want to eat it? I could build
a garden, but a tower, that was something else.

So when the carpenter and his wife tried to trick
me, I tricked back. I planted the girl
in the tower, like a deep root grows a pine tree. 

She spun her own craft with songs sung in a voice
that left even me undone. Climbing up her hair
was like climbing into her throat. 

No one speaks of me or my hair anymore—it too
flowed around me like the sea flows around rock,
soft to the touch—May sun on first tulip petal.

I ripped each follicle 
out of my scalp.
Not one root grew back.

And now I understand the desire 
of Rapunzel’s mother—the want
of a silk thread inside my mouth.

Carol Berg’s poems are forthcoming or in GyroscopeCrab Creek Review (Poetry Finalist 2017), DMQ ReviewHospital Drive (Contest Runner-Up 2017), Sou’westerSpillwayRedactionsRadar PoetryVerse Wisconsin. Her chapbooks, Her Vena Amoris (Red Bird Chapbooks), and “Self-Portraits” in Ides (Silver Birch Press) are available. Her poems have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes and Best of the Net. She was winner of a scholarship to Poets on the Coast and a recipient of a Finalist Grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. 

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Two Poems—Jayd Green

Froglet 

All was amniotic & suspended in circus fluid – dancers and skaters all around your roundness. You were a bubble, a sponge, a dot. Your neighbour was a newt’s breakfast. 

You are old enough that the newt does not worry you now. It used to push against your cushion – which was belly, limb, eye and mouth all at once – with a precise kneading. Perfect invasion of your maybe-brethren. 

And then land, which is more water than you expect. An embryonic boundary layer. The moon is a great big lung. 

The green sludge that you bed on is slick and gruelling. Hard to eat this explosion of matter and grow. Hunting, however, so easy and smooth. Your tongue is more hand than fist. Pluck a hoverfly, pinch a money spider, pull an ant into you and chew it over like a long thought. This is what you do when the sun cooks the pond at high noon, water soldiers crackling like eggshells. 

There is terror here, and it smells sweet: of sick, and death, which smells sweeter, and draws the ants. An elder lay folded in like a stone, rocking when the breeze hits. Skinbone, blackened, bleached and chewed. It is awful.

You do not have ‘disease’ in your language, so fear takes its place. No, there is no ignoring it now: frogs all dead and wasting, with necrotic limbs and bleeding at both ends. Devilish. 

It comes with you, from pond to pond, awful ghosts trailing like an anchor. You feel safer, alone in dark crevices, and you believe it feeds on fear. You have no science to go on. 

The summer is hot & long & wasting.

The devil’s seat

A whale skeleton suspended 
a cloud hugging the ceiling, a short breath from
caving in the skylight with baleen weaponry. 
If it had washed up on a beach, its fate had been fairer  

than a mother self-beaching to find a lost 
baby while its screeching song still rang 
in her skull, its vibrational pull severed 
between townspeople for blubber, bones still 
pulsing leading local craftsmen to carve it and splice 
it with vertebra which they cut into dovetails 
and wide-tooth combs, bolting it all together with iron 
nails, unable to reconcile why the seat made them sad 
for their sons like they were expecting a war –

offering the seat to the church, which meant offering it to god 
who knew the grieving tune it held, listened in a state of 
contemplation which does not often happen to god 
and we’re not really sure what his answer was, are we? 

but we listen to the fisherfolk because they know what hard 
weather is – they call it the devil’s seat and won’t go near it, 
being far more susceptible to everlasting whale songs than you are. 

and think: how easy it is to see the shapes of dragons
in the silhouettes of silent animals.

Jayd Green is a writer living in Norwich. She is currently a PhD student with the University of Suffolk, and Editorial Advisor for experimental poetry publisher, Osmosis Press. Her poems have appeared in Anthropocene, Foliate Oak literary magazine and Royal Rose. Forthcoming, she has a poem in the Broken Sleep Books ecopoetry anthology. Her writing and research is concerned with contemporary nature writing practices, ecocriticism, and the ecogothic. Her twitter handle is @jaydgreen

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We ignored bad omens—Lynn Finger

like raining frogs & dead crickets, 
argued that morning, & baby 
poured soup in her hair.  

You said I’m down to the pier, 
don’t like this stuffy house, 
& I said, when are you 

coming back? & then 
a blanket of ash & gravel 
choked us. We were jammed

together on the floor 
& found later in puzzle 
pieces, stiff & covered 

in crap. & if we had known 
we could go that quick, 
we would have done 

that morning differently, 
skipped breakfast, walked 
to the ocean, watched 

pink starfish in tidepools 
& sat together with warm arms 
touching, heartbeats synced. 

& how I would have loved 
to watch the grey ferocious 
tidal wave come in, 

like I had created this last 
spectacular vision just 
for us. Don’t screw 

with my memories. 
It happened. Let the last 
minnows fall from 

the sky like hopeless confetti, 
too jagged & sad to know 
what they’re even doing.

Lynn Finger’s poetry has appeared in 8Poems, Perhappened, Wrongdoing Magazine, Twin Pies, Book of Matches, Drunk Monkeys and Corporeal Lit. Lynn is an editor at Harpy Hybrid Review and works with a group, “Free Time,” that mentors writers in prison. Follow Lynn on Twitter @sweetfirefly2.

photo by Nenad Spasojevic (via unsplash)

Two Poems—Gita Ralleigh

ritual for the longest night

night is here & i am opening my door to her,
summoning her in, quelling lamp, quenching flame, 
scattering incense: black cardamom, pepper, clove, black salt. 
i want her to enter in stealth, her feet to claw my threshold, 
moths to hover in clouds about her ebony head: argent 
& sable, feathered gothic, muslin, mullein, vestal, ghost.
i want her smoke not fire, her ink distilled from embers, 
limbs etching the chalked moon, indigo tinting my eyes. 
i jaw my mouth wide to imbibe her as medicine, as black milk.

the embalmer dreams of death

death of gloved palm/ death of cell & stain 
death of taint & harm/ death of stigmata & pain
death of rag & gunpowder/ death of bone & flower 
death of vessel narrowed/ death of breath choked
death riding a buffalo/ death swinging a noose
death hurling a mace/ death of green skin/ death 
of red-fire eyes/ death of boar tusks/ death with its
four-eyed dog/ death as minor god/ death as ruler 
death as judgement/ death as ten gilded gates to the 
underworld/ death as seven heavens/ death in his
ruby-glistered palace/ death in her lapis-lined tomb
death at twilight/ death at dawn/ death at noon

Gita Ralleigh is a writer and NHS doctor. She has been published by Wasafiri, Magma Poetry, Under The Radar and The Rialto among others. Her debut A Terrible Thing was published by Bad Betty Press in 2020 and her pamphlet Siren is forthcoming in August 2022 from Broken Sleep Books. You can find her on Twitter @storyvilled. 

photo by Corina Rainer (via unsplash)

GIFTS FOR THE CRONE—Jessica Dionne

The good and fearful people of the village adorn their doorsteps,
leaving gifts they hope will deter the old fury from stealing
their babes from their beds—nine pieces of silver and nine
goat tears, a slab of venison, golden-yolked eggs. Weary of
the Evil Hour they scour their thresholds with a thimble of mother’s
milk, sugared as syrup, toss a scatter of their best millet-grain.
Lilac, cognac, burdock and bone—swollen with shadow. Tiny
pots of jams, both rhubarb and fig, tubes of rouge, a silken night-
gown. A goblet of brewed nightshade and honey, a hand-hewn rattle,
painted with stars. They call her Lilith, Edilta, Yamnos, Lamia,
twelve names in all and whosoever will write them and hang
them above their door will be spared of their green, green grief.
I take note. Write them all down in my book. Slip on the dress,
paint my face, I dip fingers into the rhubarb and gorge.  

Jessica Dionne is a PhD student at GSU and the production editor of New South. She received her MFA from NC State, and an MA from UNCC. Her chapbook Second-Hand Love Stories is forthcoming from Fjords Press. She was the runner-up in Meridian’s 2021 Editors’ Prize, and a finalist in Arts and Letters’ 2020 Poetry Prize, Iron Horse Literary Magazine’s 2020 contest, and Narrative’s 2019 30 Below contest. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Birdcoat Quarterly, Waccamaw, Hunger Mountain, Raleigh Review, SWWIM, Rust + Moth, Banshee (IE), and Mascara Literary Review (AU).

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