ISSUE ONE CONTENTS
Jennifer Jackson Berry
Max Stephen Bajzek
Cortney Lamar Charleston
Stephanie Bryant Anderson
Jennifer Jackson Berry
I make gowns of caution tape.
I wear danger like fine charmeuse,
draped—& everything looks
like lingerie. If the crime is fire,
I’m ready for soot & black
marks to form on my knees.
Chalk outlines rise, respond to me.
I always go home with a whisper
of white on my elbow
where I’ve let you grab & spin me.
Make me look at what
the worst of us leaves behind.
You shuttle the broken boat of your body from apology to I-told-you-so, the terrible echoes spiraling
through canyons. You have failed so long that your mistakes are sentient. They take the form of horses,
snort at your intentions. They siphon away your chaos pint by pint, the one thing still alive in you, until
nothing is left but the draining. You think this will save you, and it does. But not from bad decisions, the
wood of your boat still cracked and dry. The horses drag your carcass to the well. Drink, they say. We’re
not done with you yet.
THE FEAR ANNALS
I find my father in a run-down
Kwik Fill miles away from home,
cellophane crinkling as I finger
the package while standing in line.
He resembles the King of Clubs
and I crease the edge so I won’t
be surprised. My hands make a bridge
as the faces shuffle into one another,
a familiar blur of black and red.
In the rearview mirror, I check my chin
for long, stray hairs. Watch as people
kick the snow from their tires. I rub
the glossy cards against my oily cheek
and flick them out the window one-by-one.
His lung is deflating like a heart-
shaped balloon, Be Mine, it says.
Six pine trees line the edge of our
yard and it’s a one-story white
house next to Rt. 18. Maybe I could
pump him full of air, let him tap
against the water-stained ceiling.
But he’s sagging into his sad brown
chair as I sweat into the receiver.
A gurney rushes in and the oxygen
mask creases into his skin. I try to
remember the names of medications,
of all the hospitals I’ve ever visited
but they all smell the same to me.
The shoulder bag clicks and hisses
as he pulls up a stool, orders a Black
Label beer. Underneath his flannel shirt
the stitches run from sternum to stomach.
In Pittsburgh, he spent days having a hole
in his throat suctioned out, a third of his lungs
removed. My father buys a small stack of rip-off
tickets and lets me pull the tabs. We want three
cherries with an arrow through the middle.
I make a mental list of all the books I’ll buy,
see myself dressed in washed-out bell bottoms,
crop top and big square shades. Best of all, I’ll hire
a driver to take the back roads so I can admire
the rings of the haystacks in every field.
The kitchen chairs scrape against vinyl tile
and a nurse says swab, says tongue.
She isn’t wearing a crisp white uniform
or a tightly pinned bun. I eat handfuls
of Skittles as my mother wipes the table,
stacks papers into piles. He is propped
up with pillows on a bed near the window,
his face an ashy, glassless version of itself.
I sit on the edge of the bed and I can tell by
his expression he knows who I am.
I can’t stop thinking about euthanasia
as my hand strokes his bruised hand,
how maybe we’re all killing my father
with each gentle rub of the gums.
I don’t know anyone in Pittsburgh
but I have a dishwasher I never use
and a balcony that overlooks hilly
streets and rooftops. I call my father
and he says it’ll be all right and I say okay.
It wasn’t anyone’s birthday and I didn’t
bake a lemon cake. Earlier we’d watched
How the West Was Won on the little TV
in the kitchen. We’re both just so worried
all the time, my father looking out the sliding
glass door as I prop my feet against the railing.
When he hugged me goodbye I could feel
the bones in his chest line up perfectly
with the bones in my chest.
I stand beside the bed and look out
at the nothingness that is gravel and snow.
The room smells like a damp towel rolled
into a ball. When my father breathes, the space
between each breath grows into a memory:
at a neighbor’s window watching him in the lamplight
with clenched fists, the coworker’s house filled
with fleas and lice, the cigarette inches below
the oxygen hose—gonna huff and puff and blow
this house up, the cuts on his hands and the dog licking
them clean, the crack of a beer tab and locking
the bedroom door, until finally, the blood recedes
from his arms to his heart, the skin a pale yellow
where it used to be dark.
PSALM TO BE READ WHILE MY DAUGHTER LOOKS AT HER RIBS
Once I was a girl at the altar: dear communicant, kneel here: there was no saint under my veil: the painted female martyrs never
smiled, but looked up into the nave: searching for the sun prismed through glass: the wounds on their backs tell a story: the
stigmata’s scabs painted in a silent field: a drowned saint looks up at terns crying above a sea: O, this field that’s no more: to give up
this earth is to sacrifice my body: my tiny-boned daughter traces her ribs: they’re a boat’s exposed scaffolding: she knows her body
is made well: she doesn’t know someday her body will fall apart and sleep under the flowers she also loves: this boat is at the
bottom of the ocean: the first time she saw her bones illumined, the reflection of skin in the tilted mirror: it was love: holding up her hands as if doves would land there: the girl I was learned about submission: a tinge of teeth along pelvis: daughter, one day you
may be asked to wear divinity in a field: orchid petals, a shawl: and so another world appears: these doves rising out of your throat
are silent: yet they’re louder than everything you love.
The stones that pile up inside my chest
take over my lungs and I call them nuisance.
They clack and clank like Morse code,
I can’t decipher the message.
But I realize it’s something about taking over
as if my body cavity was a living room.
The bossiest stone wants to change the drapes,
the wallpaper is too red, she says,
it’s too dark to read Time magazine.
I no longer can sleep on my back.
The heaviness hurts like a teenager
with a broken heart.
I know nothing of geology,
now it steals my breath, is a heavy beast
I cannot kill.
My doctor says there’s nothing to be done.
Soon, I might as well look Medusa
in the eye, call her lover.
Max Stephen Bajzek
THE LANGUAGE OF MANIPULATION
IMAGE AND LACK
The Actor stands center-stage, buff and beardy. The Actor considers the audience.
The Actor: Observe this.
The Actor begins deconstructing The Actor's body, beginning with The Actor's torso. The Actor removes shirt after shirt, scratching each against The Actor's face. The Actor's beard falls off in clumps.
The Actor stands center-stage, buff and breasty. The Actor considers the gaze.
The Actor: Observe this.
The Actor raises two hands and pinches The Actor's nipples. The Actor twists. The Actor's nipples come loose in The Actor's hands. The Actor brings The Actor's hands together, then apart. The Actor rolls The Actor's nipples in The Actor's right palm like cuff links, or dice. The Actor drops The Actor's dice nipples to the stage floor. The Nipples scatter. The Nipples are still and contemplative.
The Actor extends The Actor's arms to The Actor's sides. The Actor bends The Actor's arms at the elbows, brings each hand in to grasp a nipple-less breast. The Actor's hands twist toward one another and then move away from The Actor's chest, each still gripping. The Actor drops The Actor's tits to the stage floor. The Tits recover themselves from the splat of impact. The Tits begin to dance a mournful dance with one another. The Tits exit.
The Actor's chest gapes but does not bleed. The holes look only like nothing. Maybe like eyes. The Actor meets The Audience's gaze. The Actor exits.
The Poet (from off-stage): My chest gawks but does not see.
The Tits scurry across the stage, tittering to themselves and looking for the cuff-link nipples. The Tits are gelatinous and bloodless, bumbling along like fists.
Cortney Lamar Charleston
UNMAKING A FIST
after Naomi Shihab Nye
The push comes first, the disregard written in a thin brook of
alcohol from his chin to the floor. Then there's a voice deep
inside saying an open hand is the diaspora of a fist, telling
me come home, but I'm not a thug above most things, if
above anything at all. Please understand I'm not saying that I'm
better than a starving gut, that there aren't things I want, need
but can't afford, that I don't have the electric rage of Watts
I somehow can't explain besides the fact a moon is absent
from the midnight sky of my body. And truth be told, I'm no better
than the rope that started this, but my mother raised me right. My
father raised me right. My grandmother and grandfather raised
me right. That's four right turns right there, friend: always been
a square, but I still have sharp edges, corners of my own define
I can put claim to. I still have the threat of my skin to back me up,
the color of everything that has burned to the ground, simplified
to ash and cinder. Yes, maybe he has this, too. It doesn’t matter,
really. I can either put up my dukes and free jazz or let the static,
let the electricity slide so we can both go home dancing without a
blemish on our shirts. And I make my choice, wave the flag within
like there’s a cross painted on it I must represent, but there may
not be difference in the end. A fight found me tonight, regardless
of what I had planned with my peoples; picked some Skittles off
me that I walked four miles back and forth for in the rain. Make no
mistake, I know what I look like. I'm not in a position to say a bullet
doesn't already have my name on it. This is what it is to be prey to an
animal larger than you, to be in its belly from the moment you're born.
Stephanie Bryant Anderson
LIKE THE BLACK HOLE CARTOGRAPHER WHO WENT HUNTING FOR WALNUTS
When the door closed this time, she knew it
would be different. She saw his eyes—emotionless
ticks that had grown into the plural patterns
of empty walnut shells. Someone once
star-mapped Aries the Ram, and generously
gave him horns. I am strong as an Ox—
he reminded her as she stood to leave. Reminded her
that she was the Year of the Rabbit with closed curtains.
Safety over risk, she recalled looking at the door,
but her body lied, it could not carry her there.
You cry too easily— he said, after the first hit
into her eye-bone crunched, sounding
the way the nutcracker sounded when breaking
open walnuts. He stood over her
using the same angle God used to look down from.
But, here, for her, there was no longer a down—
BLOW HER UP
More than just outdated blow
up dolls, their wigs drip off
the rigging and coalesce with
your own true desires.
They can be curvy,
they can have “curvature of the spine,"
they can be bloody Red
Velvet, Angel Food Cake,
White, Brown, Black, one of each, threesome
bound, twisted, identical twins with enormous breasts.
Plump or smooth toned thighs constructed
from the latest high-grade rubber
feels better than real flesh.
It doesn’t smell synthetic,
even when it burns.
You get to choose your own fire cracker
hair color, eye color, butt size, nipple shape
and the sounds they make when their mouth is open
or stuffed or gagged or banged into misshapen oblivion.
We have a special room for the best
selling blood drenched screaming ones
with no eyes and two extra holes.
HOUSE ON FIRE
NEITHER TRUE NOR FALSE
My lips, the words in my teen diary, my pelvic detours are all tamper-proofed. A woman (or was it
a man?) told me we had once slept together but I didn’t remember it. Undoubtedly I was drunk.
For a while I was convinced I knew all the dirty things that happened in the dark. I had no desire
and needed a theory to ride with. There are always plenty of disciples hanging around to nurse
my belief in eventual vindication. Some are friends, others get paid. Now I’m not so sure. In which
case, just swallow the pill. Or refuse to swallow the pill. Going round in circles: sweet carrot cake,
sweet Cosmo, sweet Vicodin, sweet heroin, sweet carrot cake. And then this line from a fictionalized
memoir: All memories are false, however true. And: Don’t believe a word of it. After a while the man
said we’re going to need your signature. Right here. Yes, you are signing your life away. Until it vanishes
into a small squirt of whale ink frozen on the deed.
Issue One Contributors
Stephanie Bryant Anderson lives in Clarksville, TN with her two sons. Recent publications include Vinyl Poetry, The Dressing Room Poetry Journal and The Sow's Ear Poetry Review. Her debut poetry collection, Monozygotic | Co-dependent, is to be published by The Blue Hour Press in Spring 2015. She edits Red Paint Hill Poetry Journal.
Kelly Andrews' poems have appeared or are forthcoming in PANK, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Melancholy Hyperbole, Apeiron Review, Weave Magazine, and Pear Noir, among others. Her chapbook Mule Skinner is available from Dancing Girl Press (2014). She coedits the online journal Pretty Owl Poetry, is a poetry reader for Hot Metal Bridge, and has a hand in creating B.E. Quarterly, a sometimes-quarterly zine.
Max Stephen Bajzek is a mad fancypants aural and visual synaesthesiast living in Pittsburgh, PA. His work can be found at https://soundcloud.com/where-is-he-red-gunner and http://max1975.deviantart.com.
Jennifer Jackson Berry is the author of the chapbooks When I Was a Girl (Sundress Publications) and Nothing But Candy (Liquid Paper Press). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Booth, The Emerson Review, Harpur Palate, Moon City Review, Stirring, and Whiskey Island, among others. She is an Assistant Editor for WomenArts Quarterly Journal and lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Cortney Lamar Charleston lives in Jersey City, NJ. He is an alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania’s performance poetry collective, The Excelano Project, and a founder of BLACK PANTONE, an inclusive digital cataloging of black identity. His poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Rattle, Beloit Poetry Journal, Eleven Eleven, Folio, The Normal School, Chiron Review, J Journal, Kweli Journal and elsewhere. He has received nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.
Juliet Cook’s poetry has appeared in a small multitude of literary publications, including Diode, ILK, and Menacing Hedge. She is the author of more than thirteen poetry chapbooks, most recently including POISONOUS BEAUTYSKULL LOLLIPOP (Grey Book Press, 2013), RED DEMOLITION (Shirt Pocket Press, 2014) and a collaborative chapbook with Robert Cole, MUTANT NEURON CODEX SWARM (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2015). Cook's first full-length poetry book, “Horrific Confection”, was published by BlazeVOX. Find out more at www.JulietCook.weebly.com.
Risa Denenberg is an aging hippie currently living in a place of stunning beauty on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. She earns her keep as a nurse practitioner. She is a moderator at The Gazebo, an online poetry board; reviews poetry for the American Journal of Nursing; and is an editor at Headmistress Press, publisher of lesbian poetry. Her most recent publications are In My Exam Room (The Lives You Touch Publications, 2014) and blinded by clouds (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2014.) More at http://risadenenberg.weebly.com.
Susan Gofstein has a BFA from The Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA from the University of Washington. She’s taught painting and drawing for over 20 years, most recently at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her mixed media work has been exhibited nationally and she has been an artist in residence at Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, Centrum and the Ucross Foundation. She currently lives in Bloomington, Illinois. You can find more of her work at www.susangofstein.com.
Michael Higgins uses photography to create a distorted diary. The intent is to capture the emotional context of daily life, but resist easy classification and summary. He has a background in software design and information visualization. In his day job he uses visual tools to make complex decisions simpler; in his photography he hopes to reveal complexity in the seemingly simple.
Sarah Lilius lives in Arlington, VA where she’s a poet and an assistant editor for ELJ Publications. Her work can recently be found in Stirring, Thirteen Myna Birds, and the San Pedro River Review. She is the author of What Becomes Within (ELJ Publications, 2014). Her website is sarahlilius.com.
M. Mack is a genderqueer poet, editor, and fiber artist in Virginia. Mack is the author of Theater of Parts (Sundress Publications, 2016) and two chapbooks forthcoming in 2015, Traveling (Hyacinth Girl Press) and Imaginary Kansas (dancing girl press). Hir work has appeared or is forthcoming in Fence, Adrienne: A Poetry Journal of Queer Women, and The Queer South (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2014). Mack is a founding co-editor of Gazing Grain Press. Ze resides at www.mxmack.com.
Nicole Rollender is assistant poetry editor of Minerva Rising Literary Journal and editor of Stitches. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets, Harpur Palate, Salt Hill Journal, The Journal and THRUSH Poetry Journal, among others. Her full-length poetry collection, Little Deaths, is forthcoming from ELJ Publications. Her chapbooks are Absence of Stars (dancing girl press & studio), Bone of My Bone (Blood Pudding Press) and Arrangement of Desire. Find her here: www.nicolerollender.com.
Donna Vorreyer is the author of A House of Many Windows (Sundress Publications, 2013) as well as six chapbooks, most recently Encantado, a collaboration with artist Matt Kish from Redbird Chapbooks. Her poems and reviews have appeared widely online and in print, most recently in Sugar House Review, Stirring, Poetry International, and Escape into Life. She is an assistant poetry editor for Extract(s), and her second collection is forthcoming from Sundress Publications in 2016.