The House that Jack Built—Sarena Mason

This is the house that Jack built.

This is the entry: rows of shoes, feet still in them, bones dogs chew.
Slip them on and walk a mile, see what made dead people smile.

This is the living room: dead strings of eyes, bobbing low and bobbing high.
Pop yours out and pop theirs in, perspective’s easier to change than skin.

This is the kitchen: morgue-fridge, priests serve the slain with olives and figs.
Wash your hands in the blood of the lamb, season judgment, slice sins like ham.

This is the closet: body bags, cadaver jumpsuits for teens and old hags.
Tired of living? Pull out a hanger—be warned—death doesn’t kill sadness or anger.

This is the mirror, traveling souls, ghastly gate
for those who loved and loved to hate. Summon
a dead one, green from the grave, ask
what they regret and what they forgave. Too late
for them to change their mind, but you can
walk straight out the house and

live or die.

Sarena Mason holds a B.A. of Science in English, with a minor in psychology, from Middle Tennessee State University, where she was awarded the Homer J. Pittard Creative Writing Award scholarship. 

photo by Dan Meyers (via unsplash)

She Tells People That She Doesn’t Believe in Witches—Wyeth Renwick

She tells people that she doesn’t believe in witches, but
she doesn’t laugh as hard as the others at the old
woman who yells at kids walking by her herb garden.

She tells people that she doesn’t believe in witches, but
she still raises her arm to her neck, as if to twiddle that pentacle
necklace she threw away years ago, when she’s nervous.

She tells people that she doesn’t believe in witches, but
whenever she sees a rosemary bush, she always looks around
to make sure nobody’s watching before stuffing some in her pocket.

She tells people that she doesn’t believe in witches, but
she bows her head and closes her eyes whenever
anybody mentions Salem.

She tells people that she doesn’t believe in witches, but
when her friends ask her what she’s whispering under
her breath, she just shrugs her shoulders and hides her hands.

She tells people that she doesn’t believe in witches, but
she always stays as far away from the fire as possible,
as if one lick will bring pitchforks and torches.

And even though she tells people that she doesn’t believe in witches,
at night, in the dark, when nobody is around to watch,
she’ll stroke the wart she found nestled at the base of her back.

Wyeth Renwick’s poetry and short stories have appeared in issues and anthologies by The Confessionalist, Down in the Dirt, Daily Drunk Mag, and more. She is the founder and editor of the online poetry journal the tide rises, the tide falls. (litmag Twitter: @TFalls)

photo by Content Pixie (via unsplash)

and so long the night—Martins Deep

(best viewed on desktop; to view poem in its intended layout on mobile, please click here)

                                                                        to strangle your joy,
                                                                        ghosts ride to the battlefield
                                                                        on your pillow, at nightfall.

& at nightfall they raid,
because, those whose spears are icicles
do not go out to war in the sun.

at daylight, they perch on your clavicles, biding|   
                                                       & at night, they peck at your eyes till it splits into thin shards
of a mirror trapped full with a thousand reflections|  there is papa in a piece, barking/snarling;
                                                                                              you good for nothing boy!

 you also discover your heart|
imagery:  a piece of brittle mica
                 in the hand of a schoolboy
                 about to attempt shotput on a mount.

nostalgia sheds its skin into things that drink silent screams|
                                                                          under the twin blood moon in your eyes

to get rid of the lingering taste of memory’s breastmilk,
you rinse your mouth with a goblet of firewater         [a potion you really want to believe
                                                                                            can cure you into an amnesiac]
vices, again, offers you other ways 
to be weaned…

27 June/2008    but by means of a scent/song, dreary scenes wander
                             into your web of thoughts
                                                        [the one where you entangle yourself in the process
                                                        till your adam’s apple is positioned between its canine]

bleeding, tonight, you pelt your mother’s god cuss words,
& hope to watch him cloak/shield himself in the grey plumage
of this lamenting owl in the cavity of a dead oak|      to grieve for the faults in the idea of
                                                                                how this tender chalice, that you are, must bear 
                                                            magma to his lips, yet keep from withering. 
but because there is no chink in his armor,
all you hurled at him rebounds towards you|       as dewdrops on your hair.

Martins Deep is a Nigerian poet & photographer. He is passionate about documenting muffled stories of the African experience in his poetry & visual art. Writing from Kaduna, or whichever place he finds himself, the acrylic of inspiration that spills from his innermost being tends to paint various depictions of humanity/life in his environment. His creative works have appeared, or are forthcoming on Barren Magazine, Chestnut Review, Mineral Lit Mag, Agbowó Magazine, Writers Space Africa, Typehouse Literary Magazine, The Alchemy Spoon, Dream Glow, The Lumiere Review, Variant Literature, & elsewhere. He is also the brain behind Shotstoryz Photography and can be reached on twitter @martinsdeep1.

photo by Priscilla Du Preez (via unsplash)

Orienteering—Kris Hiles

The voice I miss the most belongs to my grandfather,
and the last time I heard it he was dead. I was abandoned
in the wilderness of the station wagon – atlas under the seat,
Dad drove, Mom snacked – as we headed north after the funeral,
and the lights reflecting from the windows lit the ground
like and angel descending. I remember,
on his deathbed he said heaven is somewhere to the north. Maybe
he meant he’d rather be ice fishing in Canada, but we were at a rest stop
when he suddenly spoke, glow, in a fog halo around an interstate light,
“They never listened to me, won’t listen to you, when you’re alone
just hear yourself and you’ll be a god. No one commands a god,
little girl. You’ll find paradise. Just keep going.” Then he looked at me,
disappeared into the thunderclouds. For the rest of the day
the windshield wipers couldn’t keep up with the rain.

Kris Hiles is an autistic queer poet living in a blue house with her plants and vinyl records. She likes snow, the smell of archives, and vintage computers. In her free time, she edits GLITCHWORDS, an online micropoetry zine. You can find her on Twitter at @KrisHiles.

photo by Dimitar Belchev (via unsplash)

Three Poems—Alena Sullivan

Ars Magicae

Witchcraft found me in the womb
where it forced open my mouth
and made me sing my name                   to my mother in her dreams.
I woke to the world with the moon in my mouth,
mystic words like raw and ragged pearls
                                                                        clacking against my teeth.

It struck me as lightning in hot Southern storms,
spells soaking my skin with the rain:
             this is how you weave the future;
             this is how you cast the bones;
             this is how you find secrets in the hearts of men.

It spun itself inside me, spiderweb
silk and strings of starstuff and
                                                          so many secrets,
magic itself a nebula below my ribs,
echoing chorus of worlds long dead or still someday yet to be.

I wore it like a coat:
             frayed witch’s wool and pockets full
                           of hexes,
                                         heartbreak,
                                                        healing charms.
It kept me warm as I wound my way down
             into the squirming gut of the world,
                                         deep and dank and smelling of ash,
                                                                                                  of ozone.

On autumn nights when the moon went dark
I walked wet woodland paths in bare feet,
lungs drowning oxygen and making midnight music of its bloated corpse,
             crackling, crooning songs
             only crows and cats could understand.

Here, now,
it streaks my hands like blood,
                                                                        dry and flaking
as I turn the cards for little girls
who cannot yet see the storm clouds rolling in,
             the multitudinous eyes that open and             blink
from their own shadows.

Now the stars inside me are beginning to show through,
skin worn thin with near a century of spells,
but I will not be afraid—

when skin has gone and my work is done,
I will strike like lightning,
will spin in darkest space,
will whisper from the rolling silver stones of rain:
             This is how you read the leaves;
             This is how you cast the spell;
             This is how you learn the secrets in your shadow.

Love Song of the Swamp Witch Scorned

These thoughts of you have turned to sores:
                                             suppurating,
                                             oozing swamp-smells,
                                             summoning flies that flutter in my gut.
I have found roadkill more lovable than you,
              eaten exoskeletal insects with more spine—
and yet, wax paper wings buzz below my ribs
                                                       at every glance toward your memory.


Tell me, is life really better as a birch tree?
Would life in my arms have been so bad?
It is immaterial now:
                                             you have no mouth to lie to me,
                                             no eyes to lose myself in;
                                             your fingers touch nothing but sky.
I am left to this ugly witchwork:
                                             to peel off your skin in strips
                                             and douse it in light from the moon,
                                             gibbous and gibbering as she makes her way
                                                              towards fullness and madness alike.
It dries white and curling in on itself,
trying to deny me its secrets
                                                         as you did.

One kiss of the buzzard-bone knife
                                                         to the throat of a red-eyed rabbit—
one gnarled fingertip slipped between flaps of flesh gaping—
                                                         all the ink I need.
Letter by letter, line by line,
                                                         I bleed the story into your skin.
It is a love story,
a sputtering song sunk deep—
                                             proof that I was here,
                                                            proof you held me dearer
                                                            than you allowed in light of day.

When it is done,
                                                         when it is written,
I wrap you in ribbons of your own skin,
let your secrets curl around your bones—
brittle now, but thick with words:
                             words you whispered after midnight
                             into amber glasses of ambiguity,
                             words denied when dawn snuck in.


I suture my spellwork surgery with vermillion and white,
silk thread binding
                             truth,
                             bark,
                             rabbit’s blood.
The moon,
                             hanging fat and dripping pearls down your arms,
                             silvering the midges and swamp flies,
                             pooling at my feet like blood.
A kiss,
                             first and after, to seal the spell:
                             every passing eye will read your naked secrets
                             and no sober dawn
                                                          will be able to bleach them away.

Shade of the Moonkeeper

I’m having too many thoughts in these last months and I—
I can’t sleep. 
I can’t sleep, there are ghosts in my room 
and one of them’s you and she’s holding the moon 
like it’s fragile glass, like it’s old, old paper, 
and she’s speaking in a language she’d chide me to remember and 
I don’t know the words but the tune is familiar—
she’s saying that she’s gone home. 
 
Gone home to the summer fields found down the winding middle way, 
dancing like a raindrop to the sea. 
She shines 
silver from the inside and she’s drinking faerie wine like it’s water—
like it’s water—
and she still smells like amber, but now elderflowers, too, 
and she moves like she’s dancing and sets aside the moon 
on a bookshelf in the corner of the room—
the little bookshelf 
in the corner 
of the room. 
 
And she holds out her dancer’s hand and she says, 
“Hey there, my girl,” and the world 
shrinks down, folds close like moths’ wings 
and old dreams 
and other silky midnight things, 
and for a second, for a moment, no time has gone, 
we’ve just kept living on, 
she never slid out of her body on that dawn and  
away, 
away.  
 
I take up the moon because I know that it’s not fragile; 
it’s too busy beating hard between my lungs, 
too busy giving life inside my breast,  
putting light into my bones so I don’t rest—
I know it’s strong, strong as steel, 
strong as dark, primordial clay—
so I take up the moon and I 
take up her hand and I 
breathe as she fades and I stay, 
and I stay.

Alena Indigo Anne Sullivan was born to witches and raised in a neopagan community in the North Georgia mountains. She spent her formative years being homeschooled by her mother and traveling the world with her father’s Celtic band, Emerald Rose. She holds a degree in Anthropology and an MFA from the Stonecoast MFA Program for Creative Writing with a dual concentration in Poetry and Pop Fiction. Alena is a fiction writer, poet, and visual artist who focuses on identity within narrative and the repeated cultural patterns formed by storytelling. Alena’s short fiction and poetry have appeared in Strange Horizons, Rich Horton’s Years Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, Goblin Fruit, Star*Line, Luna Station Quarterly, and elsewhere. Alena also runs Sealskin Studios on Etsy, where she offers custom embroidered spells, pagan prayer images, sigilwork, and various other magical objects as she creates them. You can find links to her work on her website at alenasullivan.com, shop her magical artwork at etsy.com/shop/SealskinStudios, or reach her on Twitter @tea4tuesdays.

photo by Dollar Gill (via unsplash)

Hellabora, Patron Saint of Dark Blooms—Jenny Wong

…black star, baccara, raven girl…

Sometimes, she’ll toss a little kindness
to the blackberries
whose white flowers
gave birth
to small fruits,
burnished bunches
glossy with shadow and sweetness.

But her first loves are the petals
who remember sombre beginnings
underground
before the crack and crumble of sky
revealed their centres
were the color of candle flame,
dark velvet unfurling
away from burning light.

Jenny Wong is a writer, traveler, and occasional business analyst.  She resides in the foothills of Alberta, Canada and tweets @jenwithwords.  Lately, her writings have been more about indoor things, but she still dreams about wandering the streets of Lisbon, Singapore hawker centres, and Parisian cemeteries.  Publications include From the Depths, Luna Station Quarterly, and perhappened mag.

photo by Annie Spratt (via unsplash)

A Bit of a Meltdown—Karen Steiger

I casually disemboweled myself the other day
in front of a crowd of people.
They gaped at me as my intestines spilled out
onto the dirty, gravelly pavement,
but no one did anything about it.
In the moment, it felt really good,
like something I had been waiting to do for a long time.
And these people deserved to see my evisceration,
the long red and pink ribbons of my entrails
like an overly stretched out Slinky.
Afterwards, I felt quite embarrassed.
It’s not really normal behavior.
Messy. Hard to put everything back
where it had been before.
People are going to talk about it,
ask me if I’m okay.
Do I look like I’m okay?
This is my colon, right here in my hands.
Do I need to apologize for being unprofessional?
You’re not supposed to try to stuff everything back in.
Instead, wrap the organs in a sterile gauze
and calmly walk yourself to the hospital.

Karen Steiger is a poet, fiction writer, and breast cancer survivor living in Schaumburg, Illinois, with her beloved husband, Matt, and two retired racing greyhounds, Giza and Horus. She is the founder of her poetry blog, The Midlife Crisis Poet (www.themidlifecrisispoet.com), and her work has been published in The Wells Street JournalArsenikaBlack Bough PoetryAng(st), Twist in Time, PerhappenedKaleidotropeMineral Lit MagRejection Letters, and others. You can find her on Twitter at @maisedawg.

photo by Timon Studler (via unsplash)

Somnolentia—Louise Mather

she waited for the snow to harbour
bewitched by somnolentia

she ripped ivy with her thumbs
unleashed apple bark

plummeting in ringlets
flecks of lace

she bit the tallow
down to the roots

spat thread and trussed molasses
burnt to the other side

of the candle
larvae

buried long ago
were they humming

molecules
could they be free of convulsions

she asked about the trigger
whether the word

whole

meant archaic
numbness or trauma

she didn’t know where
to put them

returned to the lilac bough
asphyxiated with callous rain

bricked leaves wrenched with gales
nothing if not upended

how could she tell
if they were alive

for the beholder of logic
the delusion of languor

she knew that if she was dead
there could still be a sense

of something other than
stillness

in the debris
as the world continued to move

either way
they would be carried along with it

Louise Mather is a writer and poet from England. You can find her on Twitter @lm2020uk and her work/upcoming work in Streetcake Magazine and The Cabinet of Heed

photo by Halanna Halila (via unsplash)

Two Poems—Jack B. Bedell

Lethologica

There’s no good
                                        reason
to swallow
                                        your words.
Let them float
                                        past
the tip of your
                                        tongue.
Say what you need
         to say                    now,
because you’ll be
         a ghost
                                        soon
enough.
                          Those white shoes
you have on
                                        look
just like chickens,
                                        and
there’s alligators
                                        waiting
right down the bank.

Ghost Swell, Henderson

“Find beauty, be still.”—W.H. Murray

This swamp never stops breathing.
          Find shade somewhere
                        and string up a hammock.

Close your eyes. The bug whine
          dips and swells, water
                        laps against the roots 

of trees. You’ll learn to hear
          distance, the sharp flaps
                        of wings. Quiet your mind

and you may even pick out
          claws scratching down cypress bark.
                        Keep at this until the sun

drops past the tree line and you’ll
          feel the hum of spirits
                        gathering on the lake’s surface.

Remember, you are always free
          to linger here. Just be still.
                        Mind your beating heart.

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 ReviewBirmingham Poetry ReviewPidgeonholesThe ShoreJuke JointOkay DonkeyEcoTheoThe HopperTerrainKissing Dynamite, and other journals. His latest collection is No Brother, This Storm (Mercer University Press, 2018). He served as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017–2019. 

photo by Elvis Bekmanis (via unsplash)

Two poems—Grace Alice Evans

by the river

down by the river, we deprive
ourselves of our bodies. strip down to the bones
dampened by autumn’s longing breaths, the glow
of summer’s caresses ebbing away.
down by the river, we grieve
burdensome crystals plummeting
from our eyes — the tears which
we are still afraid to shed.
down by the river, we
lower our heads, rinsing our eyelashes
in the water, as we drink —
giving in to the lust to
feel.
down by the river, we hold
hands. defeated promises. oh, to
float away. to let our dreams take us,
their songs tender, lulling us into a boundless
slumber.
down by the river, i whisper my
amends —
i should have come alone.

a memory/in the chamber

the flare of daylight has long set behind the veils –
twilit gusts now rasp against the precise patterns.
i kneel on the floor, a centrepiece
in a sterile chamber, pastel halogen reflecting
against walls of glass. i should await
the moon, for the night-tide oeuvre, a perfect
time, but
i reach into the hollows of my mind,
recovering an image of what once was –
mahogany locks against smooth cheeks,
fingers intertwining with those of monsters, nails
bitten to the core
of the apple spit into embers of remorse,
making them burn,
as i turn
it over –
‘i long for you.’
oh, how i long for you.

Grace Alice Evans (she/her) is a LGBTQ+, mixed-heritage poet, writer, sound/visual artist and survivor, whose work explores living with mental illness, trauma, recovery, and the dichotomy between the inner and outer worlds. Grace’s social media handle is @gracealiceevans.

photo by Marc Wieland (via unsplash)