• givalpress

Issue 163

Updated: Aug 17

This issue features




Carlos Allende


An interview with Carlos Allende (CA) author of Coffee, Shopping, Murder, Love (Red Hen Press, 2022) with Robert L. Giron (RLG).


RLG

Carlos, I like to give our readers some background information about authors before we delve into a book. So, in that spirit, do you mind giving us some background information about yourself and your work as a writer?


CA

I’m originally from Mexico. I have been living in Los Angeles since 2009. I write dark comedy and social satire. My first novel was a historical melodrama set during the War of Reform in Mexico (1858-1860); we follow some horrible, greedy people. My second novel was a horror farce, and again we follow some tormented people, and with CSML we again follow some horrible people! I have a pattern, I suppose.


I also teach in the Writers’ Program at UCLA Extension. I am a media psychologist. My research focuses on narrative engagement and narrative persuasion. I teach how to make stories more engaging using psychology.


RLG

I’m sure you have had folks ask if you might be related to Allende of Chile. So, are you by chance?


CA

Only circumstantially. Allende is actually my middle name. My father wanted to call me Salvador Allende in honor of the ex-president of Chile. Thankfully, my mother didn’t let him, but he got away with the Allende. My complete name is too long, and I like how Allende sounds; it means yonder in Spanish. Thus, I made my pen name a shorter version of my complete legal name.


RLG

Do you mind giving us an idea of where the idea for this novel began?


CA

I wanted to shake my readers. I wanted to share with them what it feels like to grow up full of undeserved shame because you’re gay and how that shame transforms into anger, bitterness, selfishness, and frivolity with time. Nowadays, parents are taking their queer teens to pride, but it wasn’t always like that. Have you heard the joke that hell hath no fury like a gay man slightly inconvenienced? It’s true, especially for gay men of a certain age. We gays tend to be a little fucked up. Not because we’re queer but because of how society has treated us. It’s the consequence of constantly fearing rejection. As a teenager, I used to dream that I had killed someone and had to get rid of the body. I would wake up thinking that I had really committed murder but couldn’t remember whom I had killed.


Eventually, I realized that the corpse from the dream represented my gay shame. It seemed like a good idea then to make the desperation of not knowing what to do with a body the central motif of the book, now that I had the maturity to laugh about it. I also wanted readers to identify with, and root for the bad guys, just like gay men have for decades whenever the bad guy was some effeminate, pervy queen (e.g., Divine, any Disney villain). I call it the paradoxical positive effect of negative representation: We identify with those tragic villains not because of their immoral actions but because we understand their pain and what it is to be like them. Perceived similarity enhances sympathy and identification.


Now, I did not want my book to be preachy or a yet-another-boring-coming-out story. Who cares? I wanted my readers to love the ride and keep asking for more. Therefore, it had to be an unapologetically campy dark comedy. Queer people have used camp humor to cope with rejection for a long time, and who doesn’t love camp? Even straight men do. Once I clarified how I wanted my readers to feel and what I wanted to leave them with, the plot was easy to come by.


RLG

I realize that this is a dark comedy, but how is the drinking of coffee an impetus for the fictional characterizations?


CA

Coffee changes your mood. You go from “I wish everyone died” to “I love each and every one of you” after one cup. Jignesh’s impulsive behavior and sudden mood swings needed an explanation.


RLG

I read somewhere that you state you are not a coffee-drinking addict. Something that readers always want to know, without giving your secrets away, are any of these characters fictionally based on real people? Or is this totally a dream world that you have been able to conjure up?


CA

Oh, I have been dealing with caffeine addiction for a long time. I drink only tea for a few months, then fall off the wagon and start drinking coffee again. It’s not good for my stomach, and I suspect it is connected to my allergies — maybe the acidity affects the biome in my gut? Anyways, trying to develop new characters is too much work, so yes, pretty much every character was inspired by the worst possible version of a person I know or a combination of people I know. The two men that inspired Jignesh and Charlie are two very good friends of mine. They have yet to commit a crime, though. They’re wonderful people who love to laugh and make campy jokes. They know I borrowed some details of their personalities for the book, and they’re okay with it.


RLG

For many of our readers who are also writers, I wonder if you can talk to us about your process of writing. Do you research, watch people, or do you simply have a wild imagination or is a combination of all of these? Can you elaborate?


CA

As I said above, I start by defining how I want my readers to feel and what I want to communicate with my story. Then, I watch and listen carefully. Many writers make the mistake of creating characters from archetypes created by other writers. You have to go to the source: real people. The book is set in Los Angeles and inspired by a previous life working on vacation rentals, so I did not have to do much research, except for the gay cruise: I have never been on one. I just watched a couple of YouTube videos. And I called my Indian or Southern friends when I had idiosyncrasy questions. For my previous novels, I did research a lot because they were inspired by historical events, and again, I tried to base my characters on real people. It’s just easier and much more fun.


RLG

“Coffee, Shopping, Murder, Love” won the Quill Prose Award given by your publisher Red Hen Press. Congratulations. My follow up question is: You’ve written two other books. Was “Cuadrillas y Contradanzas” written in Spanish? If so, can you talk to us about the writing experience of writing a novel in Spanish vs in English?


CA

Yes, Cuadrillas y Contradanzas exists only in Spanish. Well, I’m fluent in English, so it is not too hard. The problem comes when I try to use an expression that exists only in Spanish or when I try to imitate a specific jargon. While writing Love, or the Witches of Windward Circle, I bought a dictionary of 1950s hipster slang, and that was very useful. Or I interrupt my husband and ask him how to say something.


RLG

I know it is difficult to break into the writing world, but would you say you’re more of a writer for the general public or a writer with the LGBTQIA? communities in mind? What are issues at play with these two audiences and do they ever crisscross?


CA

I would say that my target audience is people forty and older, and if I get specific, gay men forty and older. Everybody is trying to please younger audiences, but middle-aged and older folks get what young people don’t. We’re just happier people. It is a true phenomenon; psychological well-being improves with age, and we understand anger, but we’re not as angry as we were when we were in our teens. Now, while I expected middle-aged gay men to be my main readers—and the best reviews so far have come from them, they get Jignesh and Charlie like no one else does— most of my readers have been straight women. Why on earth straight women love gay bars, and gay books is a mystery to me. I guess women just read much more than men.


RLG

Thank you, Carlos, for taking the time to share your work and perspectives with us and we wish you well.


About the Author

Carlos Allende is a media psychology scholar and a writer of fiction. He has written two previous novels: Cuadrillas y Contradanzas, a historical melodrama set during the War of Reform in Mexico, and Love, or the Witches of Windward Circle, a horror farce set in Venice, California. Based on his research on narrative persuasion and audience engagement, he developed the course The Psychology of Compelling Storytelling, which he teaches in the Writers' Program at UCLA Extension. He lives in Santa Monica with his husband. For more information about this work, visit: www.redhen.org



Laura Isabela Amsel


Una Carta al Castellano del Nicañol


Querido Castellano,


with your wispy lisp from Madrith,

que cochón, que sissy you seem,

shaming el Latino with your prim, proper priss.


I’m Nicañol, your conquering chele tongue conquered,

the speak of real hombres, no de hombres reales

who sport purple pants in kingdoms with castles.


No! I’m mestizo, voseo, seseo, mis S’s finales gone missing;

mis palabras so perezosas they’ve no need of thy endings.

I’m so relajao en mi hamaca aquí, I got no need for your D’s.


I don’t live in the red leather Larouse like you. No, I refuse.

I’m a middle- school chaval, a boy with no use for your spelling,

your dumb dictionary rules. I’m the campesino’s iguana soup.


My mouth’s of the gutter, of litter; its gritty, authentic.

Jodido pero contento, the swish of swept dirt, the tick-

tick, unpretentious, of huts thatched de palma in breezes.


I’m the slap of bare feet on dusty, brown streets,

the machete’s hack-hack and the hoe’s scratch-scratch,

the slither of sand on pitchy black playas, the leather of bats.


The squeal of fat sow on a rope, my mouth llenísimo

de mangos so ripe, fried plátanos, frijoles and rice,

a thick lengua of beef and sweet liver of calf.


The suck and crunch of meat off the hueso,

the broke, tough cuello of a scrawny yard bird.

I am boisterous calle or rutted dirt road,


bounce of bike rickshaws, stench of sudor,

burn of petrol picante, at the back of your throat.

Tires piled and ignited, mine’s the fiery, hot voice of the riot.


Into my Momotombo mouth, I took you, Castellano,

pressure cooked you, Castellano, chewed you into molten,

black magma. I improved you and spewed you out new.


No tuyo, truly,

El Nicaño


Copyright © 2022 by Laura Isabela Amsel.



Epiphytes


Some ferns never leave the earth. Some climb.

Some fall with cedar limbs, laced a lifetime


in filigree of green. When wood molders

into dust, some fall with whittled host,


beetle-riddled bit by bit in hollow

wanderings no one sees. Some fall at once

with an oak, roots ripped loose in rivulets

turned deluge. When it all falls down

around them, some ferns crawl, running

rhizomes along leaf rot looking


for shoulders to hold them. Some drink

damp from boulders’ lichened crevices


trading tree for rocks’ solidity. Some ferns

clench desiccated fists of tendril, waiting


for rain one hundred years to be green again.


Copyright © 2022 by Laura Isabela Amsel.



About the Author

Laura Isabela Amsel was born in the Mississippi Delta region and currently lives in Madison, Mississippi. She holds an MA in Spanish from Middlebury College. Her first published poem appeared in The Gordon Square Review.



Gina R. Evers


Learning to Read Tarot

for T.


Don’t make me talk about the moon

how its scales’ sheening

puts a ring around its own finger. Don’t

make me howl or coo or bleed or crawl

up out of the water like a crab searching.

I don’t want to run through the night

tired from playing with spirits, your Ouija

under my goosebumps. How dare you

tug off the apron of my innocence

tell me to cookie press out my desires

because the cards say if I make sweet I can eat it.

Do not birth me as your sister when I am eighteen

and you are twenty, when you know

ten years later we will sit here

in this booth in Los Angeles idling

with waffles and sugar packets and bad jokes about

the fact you have H.I.V. and tomorrow

I will see the ocean, and you will stay here.


Previously published in Quarterly West in 2013.

Copyright © 2013 by Gina R. Evers.



Afterlife


When you and I fall apart, a spider will die in the corner of our bathroom.

Its limbs will curl inward: dark body laying itself to rest

in a corner of sea-green tile. I will not sweep, watching

a whole life become a speck: fuzz of black cotton

from where sweatpants pill between my thighs,

crumb of toast brushed from your lips

after being noticed in the mirror, bit of earth tracked in

on your sneakers or mine. Weeks,

and I’ll seek the dead arachnid

each time I enter its tomb, close the door.

Hair and dust adorning like

amulets and mummified meats:

supplies for the afterlife.

A strange comfort, this debris.

Until you have a day off of work –

I’ll return home,

and the bathroom

will be clean.


Copyright © 2022 by Gina R. Evers.


About the Author

Gina R. Evers’s poems have appeared in PANK, About Place Journal, as the winner of the Gival Press Oscar Wilde Award, in The Comstock Review, Quarterly West, and Copper Nickel, among other publications. She is one of 12 poets featured in Lady Business: A Celebration of Lesbian Poetry (Sibling Rivalry Press), which was included on the American Library Association’s 2013 list of recommended LGBT reading. She has received fellowships from the VCFA Postgraduate Writers’ Conference, Martha’s Vineyard Institute for Creative Writing, and the Lambda Literary Foundation. Evers earned her BA in writing from Ithaca College and her MFA in creative writing from American University. She now directs the on-campus writing center at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, NY.




Brad Fairchild


Vowelish Palares

Winner of the 21st Annual Gival Press Oscar Wilde Award


When we slogged, by air and car,

into that moss and drizzle

from four uneven corners of the map

to convene and wield our age-old argot,

to laugh and sit amongst and caress

the one of we who needed it now the most—

when, waiting in the waiting rooms

of crowded breakfast bars

or ensconced in magazine-ready parlors—

the regular, piped-in divas

filling corners plumb of the room—

a samovar of coffee seeming to resist;

the lost surname of a long-ago roommate

struggling to be heard;

our stories of heart-broken sisters,

and well-and-mal-and-well-adjusted daughters—

over the aromas of sunshine salads,

and mashed potatoes, raspberries,

and shortbread in shapes of famous men;

amid moments of harsh weedy cigarettes

and martinis spilled on bedclothes—

myths of Ezra Pound’s sofa

and the fur throws of early men;

Feydeau’s take on Ted and Alice,

ours on Carol and Bob—

the proud and the prejudiced;

the docent’s life at Tough Buttons

needlepointed hamsas: are the fingers up

or are they pointed down?

What clenched fist was engraved on which

stoney mind these past decades?

Whose art is to be now negated for bad behavior?

There was the handcrafting of tea tins

depicting banal scenes of royalty,

and not a whitesmith amongst us.

And the appearance of a woman with four daughters

all named Claire, in biting adoration;

tales of Grace Jones in silvery shoulders,

singing to the groundlings at 54—

a penny-a-piece and a handful of hazelnuts;

of squatting on Saturna Island

and of east coast rappers vying for attention.

Who could be disinterested in the Irish?

In Motherwell?

Who knows why this court is deemed an avenue?

Or why Jane Smiley at this point

has done a life of Dickens?

Who knows how to kill a mockingbird?

And who knows why

a liver’s enzymes ever go awry?

Why?

The old, wooden newspaper holder

at the breakfast spot—a splintered stick,

split up the sides

(you insert into the slit

the gutter of the paper to keep it stiff while read—

separate prongs, but never separated at its base—

drawn fast, clenched in common aspiration)

is put back in its place

before the permutating of walking order

commences on our way back to the house—

we up front, then you and you,

then me with you, me back—

less organized but as inborn as birds inclined

to head for mossier climes.

Turn my oyster up—

can we not cant, titter,

and bevvy more in

your gildy dolly latty?

And here we are again, in magazine parlor—

discussions of handsy politicians

and least favorite/favorite concerts attended

and knives in backseats of cars—

of indecisiveness in dispensaries—

recorded all, surreptitiously,

in earnest Elizabethan Blackwork—

less Defarge, however,

and more Louis Comfort rendered

in dye-dipped threads.

This is when we ask ourselves,

out of sheer perversity,

but in all seriousness,

for the years are upon us now,

and enzymes have begun to go awry,

“Whatever happened

to Virginia Woolf?”

And will you choose to laden your pockets

or instead, revel

in the slimy exhilaration

as your foot

first touches the mossy riverbed.


Copyright © 2022 by Brad Fairchild.


About the Author

Brad Fairchild’s writing has been mostly for the stage, but his poems have appeared in such places as Qarrtsiluni, Phoebe, My Gay Eye, and most recently in Tilted House. He holds an MFA in dramatic writing from the University of Georgia and lives in the Atlanta area with his terrier, where they enjoy napping and working on found-object sculptures.



Brian Farrey-Latz



G-y

Runner Up for the 21st Annual Gival Press Oscar Wilde Award


I knew what it meant to be a faggot

before I knew what it meant to be gay.

--Shaun David Hutchinson

Dictionaries are cold, unfeeling

and maybe that’s as it should

be. Their blunt definitions

strike gently, unlike the fire-

laced words slung by

hatemongers. “Names will

never hurt me,” a common

rejoinder to assure children

their skin will benefit from

layers of emotional scar tissue.


You know a word is bad when

delivered as an enfilade,


marrying a machine gun’s rigor

to a child’s truncated ken.


Words without meaning

can be feared, so much so that

even dreams resist learning

the true definition.

My flesh, fifth columnist that it is,

can explain the word but won’t.

The only hint it gives

is that the meaning starts

at the top of my arm hairs

when they stand fully erect

and ends in that haunted

space just before you touch

me.


Copyright © 2022 by Brian Farrey-Latz.



About the Author

Brian Farrey-Latz received his MFA in Creative Writing from Hamline University in 2008. His debut novel, With or Without You, was named a Stonewall Honor book by the American Library Association. He has twice won the Minnesota Book Award and received a McKnight Artist Fellowship in 2017. His poem, 1988—A Footnote, was awarded runner-up in the Christopher Hewitt Awards in A&U Magazine.



Chris Forhan


Industrial Gothic


What we saw at dusk, smutting

the sky: the rust-glutted ironworks,

tanks and stacks and scuttles, cathedral

of fetor and soot, self-blessed

by waste: a bilious stew

oozing from boilers into grated drains

(whose ghost stokes the flames?)—

factory smelting beauty

to a rancid slag, the stench of which

we can’t burn from our brains,


we who imagined the place to begin with,

we who adore it and are desolate.



Previously published in Cerise Press: A Journal of Literature, Art, and Culture, Vol. 2, No. 6, Spring 2011.

Copyright © 2011 by Chris Forhan.



About the Author

Chris Forhan is the author of the forthcoming nonfiction book A Mind Full of Music: Essays on Imagination and Popular Song (Fall 2022). He has also published a memoir, My Father Before Me, and three books of poetry and has won a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and three Pushcart Prizes. He lives in Indianapolis, where he teaches at Butler University. Visit: www.chrisforhan.com.


Yahia Lababidi


Tell me,

who's to say where poetry starts and where it ends? said another scribbler-in-the-margins of that great book of Longing. Copyright © 2022 by Yahia Lababidi. Aphorisms:

1. Cynicism is a degenerative disease. 2. True poets, like mystics, are messenger pigeons. 3. When in doubt, be patient and praise. 4. Learn to recognize the spiritual benefit in affliction. 5. For better or worse, we might fall in love with our prisons, until it blurs our vision and we cannot see the bars, imagining we are free.

6. The page is a stage.

7. Counting on large miracles prevents us from recognizing the countless small ones, daily, granted.

8. With Inspiration one cannot speak of leading — only seek to be a worthy dance partner, capable of keeping up and being spun like a top.


Copyright © 2022 by Yahia Lababidi. About the Author Yahia Lababidi, an Egyptian author of ten collections of poetry and prose, has been called "our greatest living aphorist." His original sayings and poems have gone viral, are used in classrooms, and feature in news outlets/cultural institutions, such as: Oxford University, PBS NewsHour and NPR. Lababidi's latest work includes Desert Songs (Rowayat, 2022), a bilingual, photographic account of mystical encounters in the desert, as well as Learning to Pray (Kelsay Books, 2021) a collection of his spiritual reflections. In early 2023, Fomite Press will publish Lababidi's forthcoming book of new aphorisms, tentatively titled: Quarantine Notes. Visit: https://www.pw.org/directory/writers/yahia_lababidi

Nick Lashaway

Lift Me Up


Under heaven blue

looks just like you

I saw the sky

I saw what’s true

lift me up now

take me to

holiday funny

how I always knew

all along

no matter what was said

people dying to live

you shakin your head

don’t matter cuz it’s true

nothing is dead

And I will turn the light on…

And I will turn the light on…

know it’s true

And I will turn the light on

For him and you


Copyright © 2016 Nick Lashaway.



these strips that conceal


the meaning of mine

I’m lost in thought

but just wasting time

when days go by

they travel in packs

they knock on the door

but I just want to relax

Can dreams come true?

when you’re lying in bed.

you need to have initiative

that’s what mom said.

my prayers are mistaken

for cynical punchlines

about a boy that remembered

but couldn’t do it in time.


Copyright © 2016 Nick Lashaway.


About the Author

Nick Lashaway is an American poet and actor. Nick started writing poetry when he was about 11 years old. He wrote until his passing in May of 2016, in a car accident. Nick crammed a lot of life into his 28 years and took great pride in writing. According to his mother, Lisa, he would be thrilled to be published. RIP

Sara Letourneau


Twilight in April


The pond

is on fire tonight.


The shadows

swallowing

oaks and pines

into dusk

are such a radiant black

that they almost gleam

gold.


Vermilions

serenade

ambers, indigos,

and lavenders.


And though the clouds

are wisping,

the water

resting,

and the birdsongs

diminishing,


the world has reached

a coda—


a reminder

that it is always waking,

always rousing,

and perhaps

too candescent

to know how to sleep.


Previously published in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of The Aurorean.

Copyright © 2019 by Sara Letourneau.


A Strange Easter


Easter Sunday, April 2020


It’s Easter Sunday, and I’m alone

in my dining room, Skyping with my parents

and my brother over orange juice, black tea,

and raisin bran with strawberries.

It’s nothing like the homemade carrot muffins

or German apple pancake we’d eat together

in Mom and Dad’s breakfast room during Easters past,

when it was safe for us to visit.

But this year, safe means washing hands constantly,

covering one’s mouth and nose in public,

and standing six feet away from each other.

This year, in the time of COVID-19, safe means

staying home, seventy miles away from my family.


Our conversation goes as usual:

“How are you doing?”

“I’m feeling well. You?”

“Same here.”

The rest is nothing new, either:

Mom and Dad’s projects around the house,

my brother’s upcoming (virtual) closing on his condo,

my freelance editing work,

the first daffodils to bloom in our yards.

Yet this semblance of routine is punctuated

by reminders of life upheaved:

“Did you wear your face mask at the grocery store?”

“We’ll leave takeout for you by the garage door.”

“Will we get to celebrate Mother’s Day together?”


And all the while, I wonder if I lied.

I may be feeling well, but my longing to reach

through the laptop screen and hug my father,

kiss my mother, and riffle my brother’s hair

pulls like a sore muscle.

Before I know it, the past rolls off my tongue:

“Remember when we were kids

and we’d come downstairs on Easter morning

and read the Easter Bunny’s message, spelled out

in fridge magnets, then hunt for the exact number

of chocolate eggs mentioned in that note?”


My brother chuckles, says, “Yeah, I remember that.”

So do Mom and Dad, and the reminiscing resumes.

And for a moment, the holiday returns to its jovial,

pastel self. Yes, it’s a strange Easter,

the distance between me and them hasn’t changed,

but we’re together in our mirth,

together in our remembrances,

together in the tender ache for what was

and our gratitude for what still is.


Previously published at Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene in April 2020.

Copyright © 2020 by Sara Letourneau.



The Spider


The spider knows what she is doing

when she picks the exact place

where she’ll spin her web.


She builds her home herself

using her body and the silk she creates.

She needs no help, no instruction.


The spider does not hurry her construction.

She knows her work is painstaking, that it takes time

to form what will sustain her.


Her shelter, her invention, is a product

of her intuition, connecting her to branches, rafters,

blades of grass, and dead flowers.


The spider sees in many ways:

her eyes, the sensitive hairs on her legs,

the dainty plucking of strands on her web.


This helps her determine whether the fibers

need reinforcement, a potential mate has come to visit,

or a fly has been trapped for her next meal.


The spider means no harm. If you find her in

your house, invite her to stay and feed on

the flies that pester and the mosquitos that bite.


If she prefers your backyard, let her live there instead.

Her feet will not absorb pesticides into her

bloodstream, and she will crawl to a safer tree.


Whatever you do, do not remove the spider from your world.

If her kind were to vanish, other insect populations—

and their diseases—would multiply.


She cannot afford to be lost to legend, found only in

the stories of the weaver Arachne, the trickster Anansi,

or the Cherokee grandmother, the Lightbringer.


So when you see the spider on your wall

or the frame of her web on your porch,

ask yourself if it’s necessary to kill her,


if it’s necessary to wipe that corner clear

with a broom when you know

she will only come back to rebuild it.


Copyright © 2022 by Sara Letourneau.



About the Author

Sara Letourneau is a poet, freelance editor, and writing coach who lives in suburban Massachusetts. Her poetry has received first place in the Blue Institute’s 2020 Words on Water Contest and has appeared in Mass Poetry’s Hard Work of Hope and Poem of the Moment, Aromatica Poetica, Muddy River Poetry River, The Avocet, Constellations, Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene, Soul-Lit, Amethyst Review, The Aurorean, Golden Walkman Magazine, The Bookends Review, and Canary, among others. Her manuscript for her first full-length poetry collection is on submission.

Visit: https://heartofthestoryeditorial.com.

Margaret McCarthy

Alone, Again, Or—



Winter, quiet and forgetful as an old man, shuffles up from behind, quickly overtakes me by surprise; and then sits down suddenly, heavily, and stays.


Copyright © 2022 by Margaret McCarthy.




The Word


Is

Out- Escaped with a vengeance, a prisoner of war. With a power leap to the kill it sprung with quick cat-like grace far above and beyond our heads. Who saw its shape, what form it took? Perhaps

a bird that was her soul.


Copyright © 2022 by Margaret McCarthy.



Lament


I have seen

I have seen blue

I have seen green so pure and abundant that to be among them is to forget the word lack.


I have seen a bold cadmium yellow sun spread itself gladly over all that I loved; rich as a perfect gold neck torc it encircled me, or unusual Eastern garments.

Richer than men of state or any king, was I…


I have seen and possessed the most tender of landscapes,

each view unfolding itself before my eyes as I walked; I see each one now, gentle as friends.

There is not one I can do without.


All I adore becomes food and water to me, desire my life-fuel.


All I desire has died; my eyes shut tight at what's before me now – in this place where I can neither stand nor sit nor lie, eat nor sleep, here, where there is no comfort. I am locked as an empty room with nothing inside to steal.

I am dry as a country without poets.

Some losses are beyond tears.

So this is a drowned place.


My own death hardly matters now.

(I forgive it)


But what of all

I've touched and loved? (This world, its menagerie vanish with me)


Copyright © 2022 by Margaret McCarthy.



About the Author

Margaret McCarthy’s poetry collection Notebooks from Mystery School (Finishing Line Press, 2015) was selected as a New Women’s Voices Award finalist. Celtic myth and spirituality are a continual source of inspiration for her work. Her poetry has appeared in numerous literary magazines, journals and anthologies including: The Pagan Muse: Poems of Ritual and Inspiration (Kensington Publishing), Cyphers Literary Magazine (Ireland), The Albero Project (Italy), Working Papers in Irish Studies (Nova South Eastern University), HIV Here and Now On-line Poetry Project, Gargoyle Magazine and Poetry New Zealand. McCarthy works as a professional photographer in New York City; her photographs have been widely exhibited. She publishes a web broadside, A Vison and a Verse, www.avisionandaverse.com combining her imagery and poetry. Visit: www.margaretmccarthy.com



Bryan R. Monte


The Mirror of the Medusa


My personality is infectious

so people keep their distance

or cover their mouths when I open mine.

An alien shipwrecked on this hostile planet

with supernatural powers X-ray and infrared

men freeze in the headlights of my glance

as I, telekinetically, unzip their pants.


No longer the hunted, but the hunter

mothers sweep up children in my path

warned by the beacon of my earring.

I am everything everyone is talking about and more—

I am learning how to conjugate their secret desires.

Say want, wonder, w a n d e r, WAIT!

I melt wedding bands with a single stare

I am the mirror of the Medusa.


Copyright © 2022 by Bryan R. Monte.



Foucault in California


Michel Foucault (1926-1982)


How dangerous it is to go out these days

the ground always shifting under my feet

telegrams of subterranean terrors

molten fissures that will not heal.

Each new shakeout leaves fewer standing

as I stumble in these rolling hills

and afterwards take a silent census

counting backwards to map the fracture.


Learn to read the geology, I said.

How each new era suddenly appears

sharp and discontinuous, layers of hard, gray shale

suddenly replaced by soft, red sandstone

but stacked as neatly as books in the library.

Until the archive is upended

shelves twisted back upon each other

fence posts separated by several meters.


Words have lives of their own

constantly mating and mutating

they deserve our interrogations.

Call me silly and I will know

I was once bless’d.

Say something sucks or pisses you off

and I will moan my approval of your good taste

your unwitting acquisition of the queens’ English.


Everywhere there is a record and I must respond to it

whether maculate or inarticulate, I must (re)uncover it:

I am the archaeologist of angst

the cartographer of crazies

the savant of surveillance

translating the tremors in my body

into the eruptions of books in the library

my brain boils with my discoveries.


Copyright © 2022 by Bryan R. Monte.



In Case He Doesn’t Make It


The only time I ever met a partner’s parents was when X came home from hospital the second time, accompanied by his black-haired Texan father and sisters, who breezed past in the living room, even though I’d paid the bills while he was gone, even though he’d had it before we met, even though he’d lied about it when I’d asked, as they headed down the hallway to his room and closed the door.


His rebel, remarried, redheaded mother arrived just after they’d left. She entered with a stubborn stare, walked straight to his room, and shut the door. A few hours later, a honking taxi betrayed her getaway and I chased her out the door and down the stairs, grabbed her coat sleeve and said: “I need a name, a telephone number, and an address, where I can send his body, in case he doesn’t make it.”


Copyright © 2022 by Bryan R. Monte.



About the Author

Bryan R. Monte was a finalist for both the Hippocrates Prize Open Poetry Competition (awarded second place) and the Gival Press Oscar Wilde Award in 2021. His poetry has appeared recently in the Arlington Literary Journal, Irreantum, Italian-Americana and Kaleidoscope Magazine as well as in the anthologies Voices from the Fierce Intangible World, (SoFloPoJo Press, 2019), and The Hippocrates Prize 2021, (The Hippocrates Press, 2021), and is forthcoming in Without a Doubt (New York Quarterly Press, 2022). He edits Amsterdam Quarterly and lives in the Netherlands.



Dorothy Neagle


Girl Call


I was a girl, meaning

not allowed to touch my own body


when it pleased me. Not allowed

to bleed and show it. I had to hide


the blood and all its cousins.

I had to lie about it. On our farm


I was allowed to be dirty, but I

could not be strong. When I reached


my full height, I was not allowed

to own what I knew of where the


briars broke my skin, how the

green paint inside a blade of grass


got inside the scratches, left me prickling

when I went to bed without a bath.


Fragile is what they called me instead.

But I remember, anyway, how I grew


up in the woods, inside of books, burned

my eyes looking up at the sky


and I touched what I liked, and I bled

when I was ready, and I was rarely


your idea of clean, but whatever you

thought clean was, you were wrong.



Previously published in The Fieldstone Review, Issue 13, Part 1: Plastic Identities.

Copyright © 2021 by Dorothy Neagle.



The Wizard of Obscenity


The art monster ate my second baby

and the third and fourth ones after that.

I wrote their flesh away in pen and ink,

my paper powdered with the fine bone dust

of their white teeth.


I watched my daughter grow

and grieved and grew tired of grief. I grew

tired of dwelling in the gap between

plans and dreams. Children are real, but

motherhood is a false sense of certainty.


I came across myself as an old note

folded pocket-sized, its edges grayed and

fibrous, its tarnish disguising its use.

It made the tender, crumpled sound

of something good to eat


as a pair of tiny hands

unwrapped its truth. Take a solitary

thing: divide it. Can you come up with a

new way of saying it is broken in

two? If you multiply by half, you are


reduced. When power only

comes from hiding, where is the wisdom in

that? I don’t want words like sacrifice,

deprive, resent. I want to watch my dog

sleep in the sun


while I write this poem.

I want not to be pestered by my own

contentment. I played house. I played school.

My daughter will do it, too. None of which

predicts the future or precludes the fact


that it is up to you. You alone will

suffer indecision, die holding your

breath. So instead I’ve gone ahead

and chosen between regrets.

Ambition is a nasty word for a girl.



Copyright © 2022 by Dorothy Neagle.



About the Author

Dorothy Neagle is a Kentuckian who lives and writes in New York. Her poetry has appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies, including Epiphany, Pedestal, and Portland Review, and her first book of poems was recently selected as a finalist for the St. Lawrence Book Award. Her nonfiction has appeared in Memoirist, The Nasiona, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Visit: www.dorothyneagle.com




John O’Dell

Unaltered


For Sale: wedding gown, size 12,

never worn or altered, matching veil.

An exorcist’s incantation to rid her

of the elegant ghost that haunts her

each time she opens her closet, sees

its long sleeves, long months of winter

darkness alone, and feels its Victorian

neckline choke her with burning rage.

Its covered buttons seal her soul’s

shame, pearls and sequins, beacons

guiding to blame. She shuts the door

and sits by the telephone, a hearth fire

laid, yet unlit, a journey mapped, never

made, a river never seeing the sea.


Copyright © 2022 by John O'Dell.



Sequence


Before death,

murder.

Before either,

delight, knowledge,

then labor,

blood, birth.


Then, envy,

a first brother’s

blood, a

tricky delivery

of a last rite


from a soon

to be very

ordinary

intended end.

Before all this,


before

Guernica,

Auschwitz,

Hiroshima,

My Lai,

Rwanda,

Darfur,


void.


Then light.


Copyright © 2022 by John O'Dell.



Cancel the Sergeant at Arms


I once believed every funeral

should have a sergeant at arms

with authority and inclination

to rough up and eject the insincere.


Now, my step and my convictions

become less certain; those vultures

who settle on the brittle, leafless

boughs of our words and deeds


resuscitate us, their mute revisions

give us a life we’d surmised,

yet somehow evaded. Then,

at that reception after the burial,


cramming their mouths with meat

and wine they listen, amused,

to all the other skewed versions.

They shake their heads, swallow


quickly and say, No, not really,

not so. Over the clatter of forks

and knives, lips and tongues

shape the syllables of our names


which will drift awhile longer

in the motes of fine summer light.


Copyright © 2022 by John O'Dell.



About the Author

John O'Dell, who hails from Australia, grew up in the USA, and uses locations in his poetic imagination. His poetry has appeared in The Potomac Review, The Baltimore Review, The Birmingham Poetry Review, The George Mason Review, The Atlanta Review, and others. Work appears in several anthologies including Free State: A Harvest of Maryland Poets, and Hungry as We Are and Maryland in Poetry. He was a 1997 Individual Artist Award recipient from the Maryland State Arts Council and is the author of three collections of poems, Painting at Night, (Little Cove Press, 1994) At Beauty’s Pawnshop (Xlibris, 2013) and Sons and Tattoos (Main Street Rag, 2021).





Stephanie JT Russell


Promethea Interprets Talmud

While Dying in the Rest Home


Go ahead. It’s time. Ask if you are here.

Ask what, if any, is the difference between

right and wrong. Now forget what you

believe is right. Some if not all of it has likely

changed, before you even thought to ask.

When right became a casualty of too much

unstructured time spent with wrong.


Like turning to detour down your beloved

old farm path to find it sere and overgrown.

Disappeared from your record, just like

that. The way everything you take as real

evaporates in the keen blister of an old wound

polished raw. Or a new one, in more or less

the same spot.


Ask. Conjure the anamnesis of your original

self, immersed in a never-ending unknowing.

Where only the question, still wordless on

your parted suckling lips, was all that mattered.

You, the question, and someone wiser to

patiently deliver the truth. As if you would

fathom what to do with such a thing, if it even

existed. Or could be counted on never to change.


Ask. Shake the wishful mirage from your eyes.

Pretend desire is not the architect of your fate.

That you are in command of right and wrong,

the certainty that you are here, saddling

ghosted horses in gossamer cribs, taking stock

of your many golden hectares, late September light

tarrying on farm paths you insist have not given way

to another life not yet lived or remembered.


Ask, damn it. Then admit how well you know

the persistent deceit of will.


Copyright © 2022 by Stephanie JT Russell.



Requiem for the Dervish

Beneath that wide skirt

a sky-bright serpent whirls

for you, unfastens the cirrus

to weep down your pointed foot

and work a beaten treadle, long

enough for you to slip away

like mist over glass, tithing up

the last frail tissue of memory,

pulled tight to harvest your

crumbling graces as they fall,

one hush limb at a time.

for Adnan Sarhan


Copyright © 2022 by Stephanie JT Russell.

About the Author

Stephanie JT Russell is a prolific interdisciplinary artist, published author, educator, and cultural worker. The most recent of her nine creative nonfiction books is One Flash of Lightning, a poetic treatment of the samurai code (Andrews McMeel). Russell’s poetry has been anthologized in books and journals such as Words Upon the Water, Oakland Out Loud, Xavier Review, The Winter Anthology, Silver Birch, and Sequestrum.


Russell’s visual art, poetry, and performance work have been featured at numerous venues, including The Everson Museum, The Berkeley Museum, The Griffin Museum of Photography, The New Museum, The Albright Knox Gallery, Bowery Poetry Club, and Circlolo Pickwick. She has been a visiting artist and guest lecturer at New York University, Eastern Mennonite University, The Stone House, The NY State Theater Educators Conference, and the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding.



Elena Suárez


Como los ‘dreamers’


Como los ‘dreamers

me formé en otra parte

en un segundo idioma

por pura suerte.

Como los ‘dreamers

opero en dos idiomas

el inglés para lo rutinario

el español para lo del corazón.



A diferencia de los ‘dreamers

no pude quedarme en la nueva patria

por pura mala suerte.

Existo subsisto

en una suerte de exilio

separada de mi nueva patria

de los compañeros

de los amados

de los muertos

de allá.



Y ahora

el demagogo de acá

rivaliza con los mejores demagogos

de allá

amenaza a los ‘dreamers

‘extranjeros’ ya convertidos

—al pasar tanto tiempo—

en ‘ciudadanos sin papeles’

los amenaza con

despojarlos de la casa la familia

la única vida que conocen

mandarlos al exilio

a una patria desconocida

separados de los compañeros

de los amados

de los muertos

de acá.


Cuánto quisiera ir en su lugar

para así salvarnos a todos

de la angustia del exilio.



Copyright © 2022 by Elena Suárez.



Like the ‘dreamers’


Like the ‘dreamers’