'The Lost Poem'
by Adam Grabowski
It was perfect. It was everything.
It was a one night stand between genius and concussion.
It was the final and best draft of an anticipated eulogy.
It was the profound epoch of the personal ad renaissance.
It was conceived in a half-dream and written down before it faded.
It was the only reason she went home with him.
It was an eviction notice from a humanist, bathroom wall literature, a perfectly understandable suicide note, the last testament of will.
It was a letter to the fucking editor.
It was guaranteed tenure.
It was to be the greatest speech ever given for an Academy Award for color correction.
It was the great American email.
It was the ratified constitution of a love triangle.
It was the combat journalism of family court.
It was the money ticket, the gravy train, the sweet life, the big payoff.
It had spunk, nerve, moxie, guts, horse-sense, get up and go; it picked up the pace.
It was punctuation kamikaze, a syntax bitch-slap, a stiff kick in the nouns.
It was going to save the orphanage, feed the hungry, forgive and forget, let bygones be bygones.
It was God’s own justification for all the shit he’s pulled.
It was everything. It was perfect and it probably still is,
it was just misplaced in the mail, washed in the jeans, lost in the move, or given away like all priceless gifts are,
or maybe it fell out of your pocket when you pulled out your keys and was left to drift into the storm drain, where it waits for you still,
lonely and floating, holding tightly with the other debris,
terrified of the coming flood.
Adam Grabowski called us from Holyoke, MA.
can’t believe we’re already more than halfway through the fall issue of voicemail poems!
so far we’ve had some badass pieces from Ayla Sullivan, Meghan Privitello, Austin Islam, Allison Truj, Mike Krutel, Zoe Dzunko, Kallie Falandays, Sean Patrick Mulroy, Elizabeth Foster, Mike Johnson, Shannon Hozinec, Kieran Collier, and Lo Poholek.
coming up next: Adam Grabowski, Alexandria Lowther, Spencer Garrison, Leyna Rynearson, Paul Matthew Maisano, Austin Givens, Charlie Manis, Dee Mac, Danielle Perry, and Steve Subrizi!!
you can get caught up on the issue in our playlist above!!!
'Oh Silly Skinless'
by Laura Poholek
my birthday is in 57 days and isn’t that remarkable
i hope my mother sends me a book on taxidermy
because it’s always amazed me how something can seem
alive or not alive
depending on how realistic
the glass eyes are
I want this one:
“The Complete Guide to Small Game Taxidermy:
How to Work with Squirrels, Varmints, and Predators”
over cake I’ll read about
how to make something dead
look threatening again
then that night, in bed alone, I’ll
skin myself and
push stuffing into
press glass into
Laura Poholek called us from Tallahassee, FL.
More about Laura.
'He Thinks He Is a Sailor'
by Kieran Collier
Your skin glows amber in the room
of the boy with hair that has remained untrimmed
for too many months and the speckled chin
with orange wisps like fireflies if fireflies
hid in dark bushes while the children were playing.
His bed is bigger than yours, like an ocean
you cannot understand the scope of because
nothing is blinking on the horizon. You
don’t know what to do with all the room.
He spreads his body out and you try to fill
the empty spaces because that’s what you’ve
always thought you should do with him.
When the both of you fall asleep, you curl into
one tangled mess of sheets and elbows.
You call this making continents, he calls it love.
Kieran Collier called us from Boston, MA.
by Shannon Hozinec
What woman doesn’t wear the name of her god
somewhere below her waistline, hidden in the abyss
borne by the enveloping grin of her funerary skirts?
What woman waits around for a man to name a thing
instead of stitching the very grit of it into her tendons
and reveling in the rich vulgarity of ownership?
The dead travel fast, but the stench of them
even faster. Who tied those lilies to your ankles?
Who tried to hide you away? I remember
a time when buzzard tongue was all I had to offer,
when tender pulp genetics dulled my head and heart,
but now I don wig and gown and am feminine
skull parade, a creation myth masquerade,
Mother Tartare on a death-stained plate.
It isn’t surrender if the swarm ripens
in time for the labor pains. It isn’t theft
when this necropolis isn’t good enough for the two of us.
A grave looks like a womb if you squint hard enough.
What better place is there for a birth?
When I opened the sodden lid of you,
a thousand hungry flies nestled
deep in my hair, a thousand hungry dark-eyed children
warning me that at a moment’s notice,
that with one collective twitch
they could move me where they pleased -
out of the maw - or into the forge -
or into the heart of the god
whose name I had long ago tucked
between my legs so I would no longer
suffer the passive over-my-dead-bodyism
of creator-in-a-cage, of muted displeasure.
My meatling hymn fell on deaf ears as I dug and dug and dug
but never tired because we, the dead, are patient, aren’t we?
We, the dead, are so, so patient, our innate maker’s brutality
but an inadequate salve for our sorry past, a past that handed
us wires and fucked us into a different kind of decay.
In that history, it was never our kind of dead
who received broad-shouldered boastments,
never our kind of dead who benefited from rosy-hipped
revisionism. We looked too sickly under that halo light.
Our bodies too referential for their liking.
So with a grin I rouge our hunger, and I powder our regret,
because what woman hasn’t wanted to roll the sleeves
of her bridal shroud all the way up to her elbows
and be the reddest at the ball, made live again
using only what she could find
rotting within herself. All we have
is this scavenging - we are hand over hand
with this waking. We scour ourselves with formaldehyde,
our Wondrous Death Fake-Out,
our Great Youth Heist a blinking marquee
under a sad bloated moon. Our Knell of Revitalization,
Our Collective Undeath, Our Lady of Virgin Tissue Donation.
Baby’s First Steady Purpose
served rare on a platter of bones.
Rise. Can’t you hear the opening chords of the revival song,
the death has taken vein and the chorus is ascending.
Creation is a woman’s wound,
and the stitches are all in rupture.
Shannon Hozinec called us from Pittsburgh, PA.
More about Shannon.
by Mike Johnson
From the porch you can see the encroaching wildness
coming over the fence in our backyard.
Some of the verdant wads are Virginia creeper, honeysuckle, blackberry,
poison ivy, poison oak,
no-freaking idea but may still break the fence boards with its heft.
It’s beyond trimming back.
I can hack at this thicket wall and try to tame it, but it’s always there
coming through the cracks between the boards.
We had this fence put up the first week we lived here,
erected by a handier friend and his brother.
We planted the fence within a property easement
that we were supposed
to maintain and keep clear.
It’s basically an overgrown ditch that stays full of standing water year-round
and is home to untold flesh-eating bacteria and mosquito larvae.
It’s a jungle, the heart of darkness,
and from our first enhancement as property owners,
we violated the deed
and our neglect and oversight allowed this
With the fence, we try to keep things in and out.
Wild critters big and small come to the tall, factory-treated wooden border
and try to vault over, hoping to sink their teeth
and pincers and mandibles into
the sweet spoiled hides of our dogs
who charge the fence when we let them out and bark madly
at the alien noises coming from the other side.
I quit drinking for 14 months
to feel the straight and narrow…
built a fence of sobriety and beat back my own issues
that were coming over the
I eventually got tired of it and dipped back in,
feeling finally in control.
The first buzz brought back the inner voice,
the dirty dark self that seems to float up on a high booze tide,
my horse-whispered, domestic side welcomed him home.
Beyond the woods is the highway.
It brings weary commuters and vacationers to and from
sun blasted beach homes that are anchored temporarily
into the shifting dunes of vanishing islands.
From our yard
you can hear the faint thrum
of the traffic and it always gives
any sedentary moment
a nimbus of motion, a blur,
a reminder that this too is impermanent
and that the highway beyond
the mowed yard and the fence and the patch of woods
will be beachfront in a dozen generations.
Mike Johnson called us from Leland, NC.
More about Mike.
'I don’t know what to call us'
by Elizabeth Foster
I find that I look best
under dim dive bar lighting
with two plastic cups
of cheap red wine
swimming through my intestines
and a rush of endorphins
making it hard to discern
my intoxication from my lust
I’m texting everyone
to tell them that I love them
I have been reading
over your answer
again and again
for the past 72 hours
I’m sitting on the g train
and I’m late to work again
I just spilled coffee
all over my chin and neck
I should have gotten it black because now there
is an alarming amount of bees
licking the glucose off my bare skin
I wonder how they
will react to the caffeine?
I think one just stung me
this bee was so offended
by my inability
to be held accountable
for my actions
that it killed itself
just to spite me
I’m holding a funeral
for this bee
under a blossoming
at the cemetery
five blocks away
from my apartment
I invited all my friends
in reality I only invited you
We are burying the bee
and I am wearing tyrian
my hands are
covered in dirt
and I am laughing
I kern my neck
all the way back
and you are gone
The scar the bee
my cupids bow
Elizabeth Foster called us from New York, NY.
More about Elizabeth.
'recordings of myself, high on mushrooms, 2002'
by Sean Patrick Mulroy
The tape is jubilant at first, as the beginning of the night replays
Laura, who insisted that her name was Desdemona
and I, bite into crackers, cackling at the sound of them,
between our teeth.
After we use up the glitter glue,
after we eat all the pizza and the barbecue potato chips—
after I break out the glow sticks,and we talk about our clothes
and then about our dreams,
recorded history becomes another ball of yarn for our dumb drug-disoriented minds
to tangle themselves in—
and I remember it. Being high. Excited about everything. Laughing like our lungs
were helium balloons. At some point, 18 year-old me says, thanks for listening,
me-in-the-future, I love you!
and I want to die, a little.
Who, cloaked up as I was, in hallucinations of the future,
bright shoed, and impermeable, could concieve
of coming down, and landing as I did, like this? Teenage Sean is mocking me.
I want to slap him.
You don’t love me, you little shit. You never did. That’s why I’m here.
Sitting at this desk crying while you bring up inside jokes from 13 years ago,
as if I will remember them.
Later Desdemona falls asleep, and I’m whispering into the microphone,
All my friends seem like a memory, I miss my room at home.
I’m afraid to sleep here.
My roommates think I’m crazy.
My webpage is so awesome.
Sean Patrick Mulroy called us from Boston, MA.
More about Sean.
'The Girl Who Couldn't Levitate Got a Cold'
by Kallie Falandays
The girl who couldn’t levitate got a cold. She cursed
the microwave for giving it to her, because the T.V.
told her that microwaves were bad and she cursed
the toothbrush for not having a wood tip and horse
hair. She stayed in bed and watched Netflix videos
and pretended like the titles were things that boys
were going to say to her: The Crying Game, The
Crow, Everybody’s Fine, Monsters, Malena, Mon-
sters. And even though her name wasn’t Malena,
she liked the way it sounded when the man on the
T.V. whispered it to her and once she realized her
imagination was wider and older than memory, she
was able to turn into nothing by thinking nothing and
by thinking nothing was able to not for so long that
she convinced herself she was levitating, and that’s
the story of how the girl who couldn’t levitate, levitated.
Kallie Falandays called us from Wichita, KS.
More about Kallie.
'THINGS WE NEVER SAW COMING'
by Zoe Dzunko
You fall apart
at twenty-two, twenty
five until nine, we watch
new clouds do exactly
what the old clouds did—
still we are arrested
by the sky’s vicissitude.
Things we never do: learn
to control the way we feel.
There was that summer
when I was fourteen
and my neighbors
mother had an affair—
I should have seen it
in the way she sang
that song just so.
Do you regret failing
to undo the damage
of others, or is that just
an easy way to hate yourself.
When I was twenty
seven, another summer
to be expected, kept
falling in and out
of love with my choices
my hair, cigarettes, home
made bread, oil pulled
from walnuts, the jars
with foreign labels
only the adults drag
sparkled once or twice.
I think you know what
that means without me
having to explain it
but let me try: you cry
in a supermarket halfway
through a Jewel song
with milk gleaming so
white in a red basket;
watch your grandfather die
many times in fitful sleep
and wake up with a need
to record his stories—once
he flew that plane through
the Grand Canyon and who
will remember but you soon.
If you know anything about
misattribution of arousal
you might understand
that we are not machines
and I’m not certain we
ever really loved each other.
But running on hunches
I start to accept that
all of my allergies were
programmed by myself.
If you believe this fact:
a rats fear of cats to increase
the likelihood of transmission,
perhaps you start forgiving
yourself for those feelings
not yours to control. I believe
I am loved, I believe I am in love
as though you whispered
that truth against my sleeping
face, nightly. If you know
something about failure
you understand why it hurts
to be fucked sometimes,
when one heart is flatlining.
I am often so unsure, I think
if you were to play to me
my own heartbeat and sped it up
at the very moment I imagined
I should feel desire, I would
believe you, even if I did not.
Zoe Dzunko called us from Melbourne, Australia.
More about Zoe.
'Clinging Hard in the Warbles'
by Mike Krutel
Parted, burning chorus lumps and all uncertain
waves—the center breaks, no dawn with just a little
bedding, down-collapse, the feathered pass-at-will I’m
one. A black the sky can hold, can hammer,
light surround what light is is a glitch that moves and
all the figures—pilings. Finely spread and finely
faltered. I am blood confused, consumed, am with, the
water burning bright adorns. I switch, and all that
drops of splitting I am pulled to tinder-strike like
unremark’ble ambulations creased and razing
hours the day I mean along. It takes some tendons.
Takes some noise that pressured mends the weak in I am
hearing noise and rounding out my clenchfull gut my
lean in alter, clattered frame. The creature doesn’t
have a number doesn’t need one. Goes the trouble
wreck the creature flits in unexpected terror-
form the creature dense in action boils down in
fruity redux, fuse of butter, solid pitch of
hardened swarm and love. No hook, no curved and cutting
instrument the roux that breaks us—side from side we
count the saved to count the lost, we hanged or reddened
creatures lost, allotted finer films of broken
signals—tygers, lemon pipes, and every thing-ed
leap is culled, is in. With what is built this body?
Meaning, don’t forget to be unbuttoned. Softly—
Broke—some level pulls the whole the chatter
watches, held alone. A choice in not between a
body. Milky coin to toss above the oceans
poles go on—go on for days so shadows’ shadows
form of light and creatures eyes are open, eyes are
up to nothing more. A tumble mouth of stones in
creatures, vast horizon sweat in creatures I am
here with rices—skin it does the feather shaking
shakes the kind of weather tonnage—music rises…
slow, correction: music rides its hardened back so
long across the sand my leans they mispronounce.
Mike Krutel called us from Akron, OH.
More about Mike.
the good news: we have staff to handle all the submissions now
the bad news: john’s deleting all prior submissions so they can start fresh
we are very VERY sorry
'Death by Drowning'
by Allison Truj
The Pachyrhinosauruses died by drowning in a flash flood
in Alberta 70 million years ago. At the animatronic dinosaur
amusement park where I work, we’ve got these
robot versions of them and literally all they’re programmed to do
is moan into the rocks at their feet when guests walk by, like,
at least the T-Rex gets to roar and wag its arms and shit?
The Pachyrhinosaurus is used to this kind of double standard.
Is used to every single guest walking by thinking it’s the Triceratops.
Reads the sign that says, “Death by Drowning! Flash Flood!”
and knows it is so close to being a T. S. Eliot reference,
but it is not, the way that I keep finding boys
who are so close to loving me, but do not.
The Pachyrhinosauruses have the most concerned expressions
on their faces, rocks at their feet and no water in sight anywhere,
waiting for their own destruction that will never come.
When my boss isn’t around I tell guests
that they were the dumbest dinosaurs, just waiting
for the water to carry them away. I tell guests, “they didn’t know
that they couldn’t swim.”
Last night, I told my first ex-boyfriend Ian that
all I wanted to do was fall off the face of the Earth
like they did. We pile into his car, seven years,
three failed relationships with other people,
and the stick shift between us, our knees so aware
of their distance from one another, and pulled
onto the long sideways glance that is Interstate 78.
We just figured that if there was ever a road that led
to where the edge of the Earth meets infinity,
that road also probably leads to Allentown, PA.
He sings loudly and switches lanes without signaling,
and I am positive that I have finally discovered
the way I’m going to die. He says, “write about us
dead on the fork between Allentown and New Jersey,”
and I imagine them digging up my thickheaded skull
saying,“They didn’t know that they couldn’t drive.”
I was considering telling him that I still loved him
as soon as we hit the straight-lipped line of the horizon,
but we never reached it,
and I never tell guests that the skulls we found
had huge predator’s bite marks on them, that
what they were doing was escaping,
and isn’t it such a better story that they had a choice
whether or not to get what they wanted?
That sometimes three months go by
And the boy you never told you loved
Is dating a beautiful girl you know you’d love, too?
Isn’t “dumb” just another way to say “not quick enough?”
Isn’t this an easier story for me to tell every guest?
the Pachyrhinosauruses moan loud
and sad into the rocks at their feet.
I sit cross-legged, forehead pressed
against the fence, and mutter,
“I just don’t think that I can swim, either.” I expect
an answer but receive a whine instead.
They have been dead for 70 million years
before anyone I have ever loved has been alive,
and I shake my head at my feet, moaning.
Allison Truj called us from Boston, MA.
More about Allison.
'think of all the grain alcohol'
by Austin Islam
think of all the grain alcohol that lies dormant in bottles in the world right now
think of all the animals in cages secreting eggs and making faces for the camera
think of all the avalanches that have folded into themselves this time this year
i tell you that i am glad you got the job at a ‘milk bar’ with flavored milks
you tell me that you are nervous and you need to practice first
instead of listening i am watching a juggalo video subtitled ‘faygo up the pussy’
think of all the methane expelled by cows in bondage for a fajita platter
think of all the oil pipelines that have yet to be built in our lifetime
think of all the corn syrup in cylindrical trucks on the highways
i see you keep going online and offline in my ichat buddies list
i can chat with your gmail account and your aim account if i want to
think of all the impurities in our drinking water after the industrial revolution
imagine if the libertarians had their way, what would we turn down for
you said ‘when you feel like you want a drink, just make a cup of tea instead’
i’ve had seven cups since noon, my heart is racing, and i still want a drink
this is the innate feeling that the marketability of my face will peak at age twenty-four
Austin Islam called us from Pilson, Chicago, IL.
More about Austin.
by Meghan Privitello
God prayed for rooftops and got the alphabet. Houses were to come first. Then umlauts. Then love. Instead, it starts with After and follows with Before. If ancestry is a tracing back, forestry must be a going forward. On a test: If (you pin a photograph of Artaud to a tree), then (matrimony). God watches while you rearrange your desires from Aching to Zero. There are __________ species that haven’t been named. If we do not name them, there will never be a record of their eyes. If I found I could love a child, I’d call her Olive, I’d eat her before the world ends. My mother is a house. She came first. Then gunshots. Then love. God is when you cry at your body. God is what the president calls a lo mejor. If my name starts with M, I am sisters with Morose, Moonrise, Machine. I remember when giving birth to animals meant a future of luck and hauntings. Haunting: an object that acts out in terror. Memory: an emotion made of string. God calls you terrible names. You still show him your noose. Loss is what comes after xylophone. Xylophone is how we strike our longings into sounds, how our violence sings.
Meghan Privitello called us from Ventner City, NJ.
More about Meghan.