When Deer Shed Antlers

Flash
Josephine Greenland


Photo Credit: Noodlefish/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

Contractions hurt like twenty bones fracturing simultaneously.

Fear twists inside me, more alive than the child wanting out of my womb. I bite down on the antler velvet, feel sinewy, vascular skin, raw and bloody against my tongue.

Taste the deer’s spirit, they say. Shed your fear like the deer sheds its antlers. Become the deer.

I close my eyes. Rub antlers against legs, velvet peeling off like old paint from a wall.

I stand tall, let the pain bleed out.

Birth is re-birth.

Afterwards, I remove the milky vernix and see my fear transformed in the newborn’s eyes.

Courage.

pencil

Josephine Greenland is a Swedish-English author living in Edinburgh, Scotland. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Birmingham. Her debut novel Embers is forthcoming with Unbound in March 2021. She was a finalist in the 2020 Literary Taxidermy Competition, won the 2019 Bumble Bee Flash Fiction competition by Pulp Literature and the 2017 Fantastic Female Fables competition by Fantastic Books Publishing. Her work has been published in twelve online and print magazines. She works as an English teacher and enjoys playing the violin and hiking in the mountains. You can follow her on Twitter @greenland_jm. Email: jm.greenland[at]telia.com

Bruises

Flash
Ala Fox


Photo Credit: Abby/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

Once he observed a bruise on my arm and he pressed it—softly. Softly he said: “I like how this looks on you,” and he kissed me.

I pressed it too—gently. Gently I kissed him, and I smiled.

*

Once, Perry saw the bruises on my arms and he frowned. He observed their pattern and thought he read a story there.

“Did somebody do this to you?” he asked.

I said nothing, but my heart skipped. Perry thumbed my bruise and pressed down.

“Tell me his name,” he said.

I met his eyes but said nothing. I wanted him to say more; I wanted to see everything there. If he keeps speaking, perhaps I won’t have to. And I don’t want to lie to him and I want to lie to him.

“You don’t have to tell me,” —Perry.

Then, abruptly: “It’s fine if you like it.” He says this offhand, as he drops my arms and looks away.

“But if you don’t, you should tell me.”

Now he is staring at me. He grabs my wrist and holds it firmly. His grip tightens as I begin to squirm. “Who was it?” he demands. I can feel his fingers on my bone; tomorrow there will be a bruise.

*

Later, I observe the small purple knot blossoming on my forearm.

Was this love? My heart skips, falters, trips, jumps again.

I hold the picture of his face, angry and confused, as he’d clamped down on my wrist. I remember the neat fingernails, boring crescent moons on my skin, and bite my teeth against the hopeful smile that escapes.

Was this love?

pencil

Ala is a Muslim-American daughter of Chinese immigrants. She writes in English, Python, Arabic, and Javascript. When not programming, she contemplates on life and love in her essays. She is passionate about racial equity and Oakland. Twitter: @alalafox Email: fox[at]origin-of.com

“Every meal begins with your hands”

Poetry
Simon Perchik


Photo Credit: Jonas Tana/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Every meal begins with your hands
dry and around your forehead
squeezes into its hiding place

—in such a darkness both shoulders
slump forward till they hear
the tablecloth pulled closer

fed air and a shirt collar
left open, waiting to lie down
where a plate should be —it’s the sound

your fingers make when drop by drop
a makeshift lake is pieced together
from a missing vase —wherever you eat

it’s night, still wet, bending over
and hand to hand breathe in the smoke
from a chair no longer there

—you eat from a chimney, reach up
with your eyes covered by a bedsheet
still warm from roses and ash.

pencil

Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Reflection in a Glass Eye published by Cholla Needles Arts & Literary Library, 2020. For more information including free e-books and his essay “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website. To view one of his interviews please follow this link. Email: simon[at]hamptons.com

a brief history of my pubic hair

Poetry
Ann Pedone


Photo Credit: Steve/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

I.

I wanted him to want me more than
his ex I wanted him to keep fucking me maybe even
marry me so I ignored the voices of Gloria Stein
em and Judith Butler in my head and I
did it agreed to be waxed shaved smoothed
plucked and aloe
veraed I spread eagled myself on a table in a strip mall wax
ing center and opened my legs spread my legs held my legs
high behind my head and opened, when asked to, like a butter
fly

I told him it looked liked a drowned rat or a twelve
year old girl I told him I felt like a porn star at least from the
waist down but every month I called in my appoint
ment every month requested the one waxer who made me
feel a bit less uncomfort
able 18 appointments over 18 months until he
left me

my friends scolded me called me a stooge for the patri
archy questioned my feminist loyalties and asked me
how after twelve years of French post-structural post
colonial post-modern critical theory in grad school I could have
done such a thing I felt humiliated duped be
littled like I had succumbed to some
thing that I had vowed to
fight against

II.

six months later in a hotel room some
where on the mid-Peninsula my new boy friend my current
boyfriend asked me if I had ever seen the Courbet painting L’Origine
du monde

full-on center lies a woman stretched out on white
sheets naked mid-thigh to breasts legs open revealing a thing so
weirdly dark so lush and thick almost
irrational in its openness almost
obscene in its mystery so wild with possi
bility that you can’t take your eyes off
of it
right then and there I decided to
let it grow

over the following months I watched it monitored
its progress like a baby’s first steps washed and
dried it after every shower bought pairs of see
through panties so he could see the newly
sprouted hairs peeking through but I was nervous
what was he going to think would he
hate it ask me to shave it off leave me for some
one else

surprisingly it came in curlier than I
remembered looked blonde almost
in the sun light shimmered
like gold dust in the shower
and now it dances
when he is
on top of me
blooms when our bodies meet
is shy when he falls
asleep retains the
deep cypress scent of his skin
alive insatiate
a dark amber dark in the full
watery gathering that is my body

pencil

Ann Pedone is an independent scholar and writer who graduated from Bard College with a degree in English Literature. She has a Master’s degree in Chinese Language and Literature from UC Berkeley. Ann is the author of the chapbook The Bird Happened. More recently her work has recently appeared in Ornery Quarterly, Riggwelter, Main Street Rag, Poet head, and Cathexis Northwest, and The Wax Paper, among others. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Email: ann.pedone[at]gmail.com

Two Poems

Poetry
James Croal Jackson


Photo Credit: brx0/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

Decade Dead

I exist in a perpetual state of thirst
and cold. I think I live in winter
and I don’t even like Christmas.

And I don’t like Christ, the dead
man left hanging. Were he to have
magic, that would be a good time.

And his rich Daddy. Abandonment
issues, for sure. My dad wasn’t
rich and he only abandoned me

when he was dead. Then was
the void of the voice. All
appliances in the house breaking.

My mother and I don’t know
shit about plumbing. Dad patched
pipes while I cast Raise on my

fallen Final Fantasy fellows.
It’s been ten years and there is
still everything to learn. That’s

ten years more of everything
I haven’t learned.

 

Red Lobster

The host stares blank pages at us,
mumbles in the vicinity of lobsters
in that overcrowded blue tank.

The waitress sings the menu,
points to CrabFest (overtures /
variations)—we are here,

always, for Cheddar Bay Biscuits,
the perpetual stream birthed in wire
baskets that make our intestines scream

minutes after paying
the check.

It is July 6th and fireworks explode
over trees
and, of course, we think them gunshots

because we are in a public parking lot,
our bodies full of grease that could drop
any minute in this America,

two-thousand-nineteen.

pencil

James Croal Jackson (he/him/his) is a Filipino-American poet. He has a chapbook, The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017), and recent poems in Sampsonia Way, San Antonio Review, and Pacifica. He edits The Mantle Poetry and works in film production in Pittsburgh, PA. Email: jamescroaljackson[at]gmail.com

Three Poems

Poetry
Marchell Dyon


Photo Credit: Geoff Bosco/Flickr (CC-by)

The Winter House

All the stars are frozen
The town crier blows heated air from
His lungs into his frostbitten fingers

Shaking them as if somehow
Freeing his fingers from the cold
He cries winter is approaching all is well

Even in their slumbering heat
Bodies press together not out of love
But out of necessity

Even in dreams they hear him wail
Through the night snuggled in their false security
The last log burns maxing out its warmth

There’s only the distance of their bodies
There are only inches of cotton blend between their naked selves
They will not share, separate blankets now,

Soon separate beds across town
One in the sight of the town crier
The other only in earshot

News about the winter house travels faster than light
Other ears like deer perk up so soft and so velvet
To catch snippets of sound, listening for cold words shouted

Ringing like church bells
Before the silence
Without prayers, they climb into bed,

They are past redeeming
Their anger bathes in silver shadows
Shadows glistening like tinsel

Time moves in and out
So, does the snow

 

The Winter Train

Always, she imagines how she would go
Tonight, this thought came to her
Swifter than other nights

The thought that she should leave him
She saw herself mentally writing
Her escape letter

Her letter would simply read leaving,
No more black eyes, forever gone, Jill,

She would then pass unafraid on the winter train
Dazing up at the moon, watching trees bare white

Happy to count the stars,
Happy to see them twinkle deep in the night sky
Happy just to be rid of him
Happy to be free

To watch
The snow falls like she does now

For now, she will be better
Next time,
She will be quicker, more agile in her steps

She mumbles this frozen prayer on the wind.
She believes this as she turns
Her frosty key into the front door lock.

She will continue to try to make herself invisible
As not to enrage his heated fists.
Fists he had promised to keep frozen
Time and time again never to thaw

Here again in this prison she called home
She knows now she haven’t yet
The strength to leave him

Her thoughts of leaving on the winter train
Keeps her warm at night, keeps her sane,
Keeps her alive…

So, another winter, she will dream of leaving
Till her heart and mind tells her it’s time to go
On nights like these

Still she imagines herself moving fast in slow motion
inching passes rooftops
Sugared with just enough frost, just enough snow.

 

Clocks

She watches
As I wind the figurative and literal clocks
Time to us is precious
Years are blessings
But some days aren’t always miracles.

She breathes with every second
Her heartbeat is like a stopwatch rhythm fading
Her breath is a cold smoke rising in the air
Mother and daughter now life companions

As for the clocks, I wind them tight
To get us through the night
In her voice frosty as hinges
She chimes many thanks to me
I answer her by covering her chilled feet
Again, with her electric blanket

There aren’t many hours left to my gray companion
I savor these moments
Before all clocks stop

And I’m left alone
With only the companionship of silence

pencil

Marchell Dyon is a poetry enthusiast. She enjoys reading poetry wherever she can find it. Once she was nominated for the best of the net prize for her poem “As I Stand by My Window Dreaming of Falling.” Her most recent publications are Toasted Cheese Lit Journal, Trouvaille Review and Medusa’s Kitchen. She has constantly developed her craft despite having both schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. She continues to write in Chicago IL. Email: marchelldyon[at]yahoo.com

Last Thursday Night

Poetry
Madeleine Claire


Photo Credit: Claudio Marinangeli/Flickr (CC-by)

Last Thursday Night

Do you remember what you told me
last Thursday night?
Rain battered the paint off our old pickup truck
as you drove on,
reminding us of another job that needed doing
that neither of us could afford.
You kept your eyes fixated on the road,
yet I was certain I could feel them on me,
criticising me, hating me.

Do you remember what you said?
Probably not.
What was one more comment
in our relationship where your disappointment
was practically writ on the browning wallpaper
of our apartment,
weaved into the threadbare stitching of our couch?
What was one blustery Thursday evening
in this world where time and days were counted
for monetary purposes only,
anxiously massaging hands
as we waited for the next paycheque,
counting how long we could last
on the next loan?

But I remember your words,
sharp as your wit had been when we had met,
back in the days when love had held us together
and not the common noose of debt around our scrawny necks.
“You’re a failure.”
Perhaps it was the worry of the rent
that we could no longer afford
that made you say it,
but the rain and the anxiety and the chugging of the truck
made a gluey knot that stuck to my heart.

I had failed.

We exited the car mutely,
the memory of a time that had once been
filled with our laughter
and lusting irises
silenced and erased
by the hand clenched around my vocal cords
and the hopelessness that pricked a tattoo of tears in my eyes.

I had failed.

I’ve been thinking about your words all week.
I have let the initial pain, like hot, choking syrup,
harden around the cavities in my chest,
maturing into something stronger.
Anger. Determination. Ambition.

Yes, I have failed.
I should not have spent my time driving secondhand pickups
or living in a dingy apartment.
I should not have been working three jobs
or eating reduced-priced, near-expiry-date meals.
I should not have been with you.

Perhaps you don’t remember last Thursday night,
but you will remember this Thursday evening
when I walk out our squeaky door
with my few belongings that you haven’t pawned away
to begin my new life.

Do you remember what you told me
last Thursday night?
It set me free.

pencil

Madeleine Claire is a young writer from Calgary, Canada. When not writing or reading, she can be found in the mountains getting inspiration for her next piece or simply climbing trees, and occasionally getting stuck in them, too! Email: madeleinee.claire[at]gmail.com