by Caits Meissner
Once the world was perfect, and we were happy in that world.
Then we took it for granted. — Joy Harjo
Laid down once
to study the
ant’s colony, the tiny world
so easily crushed beneath my foot was
brimming with perfect
the trail carrying a leaf so big we
couldn’t believe it, we were
in awe, and I even—I’d say, a kind of happy
to discover that life came in
this size, at this scale, that
maybe there was so much more to the world
than our rusty swing set, and then
you covered the hole with your finger, we
did, I mean, because I didn’t stop you, we took
in one second, an entire empire and it
didn’t cross our mind again, for
dinner was plated with meat we took for granted
Caits Meissner is a D.I.Y.-spirited, poly-creative writer, artist and cultural worker, and the author of the illustrated hybrid poetry book Let It Die Hungry (The Operating System, 2016). She currently serves as the Prison and Justice Writing Program Director at PEN America.
by Meg Pendoley
love is pussy on a hot stone stoop
pussy is hot is patient
this one out
bring your dyke to work day
and you’re late
hot skin hot lip
of the railing
on my back
last week at the nice beach
called the cops on my chest
and he came
no I don’t think this is funny
no sir I don’t think this is a joke
just that it’s absurd
to be this body
in front of an angry man
with so much power
and so much dust
on his patent leather boots
South Philly presses right up to me
waiting patient on the stoop
part of the neighborhood knows
so shuffles up
in some places you can step
out the door and already be
in the street
sweat spot on a hot stone stoop
waiting for someone
to fill me
or feed me
through afternoon laze
like so sweaty your skin is mirraging
away from you
already done already
on the way home
Meg Pendoley is a restless Sagittarius living in Philadelphia and thinking about alternative archives / slutty queer futures. Meg’s work has appeared in Tin House’s Open Bar, Apiary Magazine, Bedfellows, and Deluge (Radioactive Moat).
by Michael Heyman
“Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.”
Today I’m going to dive into the deepest sea
Wearing my orange floaties.
I’ll bob back up
a wave’s whim,
staying on the surface
another glint of sun
another scudding froth.
fathoms from the light
The cold juts jaws,
Darkness bleaches meat and bone,
Creatures telegraph lost luminescent tongues.
Stares the huge, unblinking eye
or the fleshy blank, where one may have been.
None of that for me—
I don’t need the unmentionable thumblings under me.
My eyes will keep their distance, will not,
pressed between a mile’s water-weight
and the rocky floor, like a flounder’s, migrate.
I’ll stay here on the surface
blowing bubbles in sunfish streaks
Or skimming along,
limbs spread wide.
There is enough surface tension
to keep afloat forever.
Michael Heyman is a scholar and writer of literary nonsense, poetry, and children’s literature. He teaches arthropodiatry and other literary and performative arts at Berklee College of Music in Boston. He once played badminton with The Tenth Rasa: An Anthology of Indian Nonsense. His poems and stories for children and adults can be found in the journals Poetry International, Solstice, and FUSION; and in the books The Puffin Book of Bedtime Stories, The Moustache Maharishi and other unlikely stories, and This Book Makes No Sense: Nonsense Poems and Worse.
by Naila Francis
When the lights dim above the dinner
table, a flickering warmth, and the white butterfly
claps its wings against my streaked window pane,
willful heft of air — what news do you bring?
Have you tapered into luster, lute of open
sky? Was the crossing safe? Midwifed?
Tranquil? A pinprick snatch of time?
I am standing at the ivory gate, seduced
by this trackless night, its cryptic
Everything lives on, a world
around my treble mouth, collapsing
on its tears.
You lived in peace and will go
in peace. That was what you said.
But what of us pilgrims, pinned to all
this lovely peril, span of tangled lives?
I want to praise your boundlessness,
its migratory gold. Believe when the body
is broken, death is a starlit strut
that lifts the spirit home.
Is that where you are, sending postcards
on such fragile wings, even the bluebird
that hopped across my path, each
sudden sway of light?
is the only
Naila Francis is a writer, wedding officiant, death midwife and ardent joy enthusiast. She lives in Philadelphia.
by bail racine
I WANT TO RECORD ALL OF THE SOUNDS THAT COMFORT ME AND THEN PLAY THEM ALL AT ONCE IN A WAY THAT IS BEAUTIFUL
IF I DID THIS YOUR VOICE WOULD CARRY THROUGH EVERY ROOM IN YOUR HOUSE, EVEN IF THE WALLS WERE THICK
I THINK YOUR LAUGHTER WOULD BE THE MOST PREVALENT SOUND, FOLLOWED BY RUSTLING LEAVES IN AUTUMN
I WANT TO CARRY A SMALL PLASTIC BABY IN MY POCKET BECAUSE ONE TIME ROSIE WAS SEEING THIS GUY AND UPON SEEING HER COLLECTION OF SMALL PLASTIC BABIES, HE PULLED ONE OUT OF HIS POCKET AND THATS WHEN SHE KNEW HE WAS IT
I DO NOT NEED A PLASTIC BABY IN MY POCKET TO KNOW YOU’RE “IT”
bail racine (they/she) is a non-binary creator based out of newark, de. they are a taurus and an avid lover of frogs. they would not be where they are today if it weren’t for their spectacular friends, especially their best friend olivia. bail can be found on social media at @father.figur on instagram and @fatherfigur on twitter.
by Samreen Chhabra
I invest in flashbulbs
like one would
in the stock market.
the returns I hope for
are rather tranquil.
Each bulb that lights up
the non-expanse of my room,
illuminates its own designated space
often notifying me of details too harsh.
make corners beam like centres;
turn a night of rest
into chandelier dinners.
I purge conversation out of myself,
What I don’t utter I swallow,
(parentheses serve no purpose)
I birth the disquiet.
Samreen Chhabra is a 22 year student from India. Her academic major (Psychology), passion for theatre and literature have all contributed to her insightful outlook of human nature and the world at large. She writes of diaspora, solitary intrigue and art in the everyday.
by Corey Qureshi
Stop fidgeting, breathe slow
Get water, smell fridge for chemical smell.
Drink water with chemical taste,
Dump water, pour another cup
Drink water, it’s alright
Avoid chemical fridge food, think about money
Drink water, stare at hot screens
Get high, look at poems
Stop fidgeting, breathe slow
Go to drink from empty cup,
think about chemical water
Drink from the sink
Sit in the sun naked, masturbate
Think about food
Think about work
Think about the food at work
in it’s perpetual staleness as i offer it to people
Pour chemical water in the empty cup
Pour chemical water in a yellow bucket,
When I’m open people love it so
they show up and expect something
but I’m working
don’t force yourself on me
why are you here?
i’m trying to fund me and mine’s life
and all the trips to overpriced
Center City food marts. it’s clear
you don’t want to pay for me
you don’t want anything but nastiness
this is the last you get
my throat is wet
my thirst is gone though
Chemical Water on my breath
suck my chest, this is the last you get
(i’m only half here as always)
Stop fidgeting, breathe slow
people never see themselves out
your attitude is fine but
your comfort costs mine
i like to be alone in the morning
Corey Qureshi is a queer writer and musician based in Philadelphia. They spend their waking hours working, consuming + making things, being a parent and lover. Find a list of published work @ neutralspaces.co/q_boxo.
by Jessica Baer
I. We begin to tessellate
Gland unwrapped tin
harbors the burning
How to make a team:
ride stolen horses
slow horses, in the south
yr betting on
to unclaw yr face
In the interim
take down the threads
Bit lips clarisonous
heaped depth crashing
sloped into the sea—
Prostrate before yr death
furrow a maze a way
rapid passing phantoms
coom? Combust, earth
unwinding barrows — rake
poppled with no one
II. We who disband
rayed from the same
source billow to
Earth you tore it roots
subduct — crumbling
errant dreams, we seize
mother my tourniquet
flames circles end
And I pass out
a string — cords
Storms Heaven disturbs
Littered yr bier
break bread come to be
Reflective way signs
snagged chapel bells
dumbly lolling over
The earth the earth
is mordant? Frags comminuted
a rapid transit
frustrated, a tone
bell curves swollen
with the sense you were
My body in the field
electrical power lines
function to me you were/always
function to me?
III. Consummated sweeping
stars don’t know
why they’re eating
It recurs it
And I’m looking at it righthere
Jessica Baer received their MFA from Brown University in 2017. They have a poetry chapbook with Magic Helicopter Press (Holodeck One, 2017) and have been included in journals such as Prelude Mag, Pinwheel, Bathhouse, and Bone Bouquet. Their manuscript Midwestern Infinity Doctrine was shortlisted as a finalist with Tarpaulin Sky press. They also have a forthcoming chapbook of science fiction with Essay Press.
by Christopher James Harley
I want to feel that curly coarseness, touch
The nape with care and dry the dew from hair
Belonging where my chest is facing up.
A shower’s steam decreases, granted time and air.
We breathe the marijuana leaf abed
With heavy lids and tones of blue from news
Disseminating murders, dreadful dregs.
We fill the alcohol and drink a few.
A lullaby can loll us better, babe.
You know it, too, so play a music tune.
The scattered clouds and parted drapes, the scape
Of stars recall to mind the children’s room.
We strive so they relax asleep at night.
You think the stars relate to sacrifice?