“The Void Blues” by Harley Claes

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Image by: Ulrich Moskop

My body was seated in my soul under blacklight- bound to analysis though I could bare no judgement as I sit and spin for aural opium.

I had pictured a panorama of my trauma as an infernal, despicable whole.

I made myself sick to purge my past as illness. To forget my incapabilities, I was lenient on rediscovery. But I could not forget the urgency of my depressive, sadist-sucking nature, I was raised a defensive.

Having fallen for an acid casualty- I was mindsick & hallucination dependant, picturing all our visions as prophetic. Realizing as a patient, I was only wracked with delusion.

Now we base the next measly muse

Off of what is stirring within us

An emotional riot

That is streaking across the streets

Begging to be believed

But inside me

Is only a void the size of a fist

 

 

 

 

 

Harley Claes is an experimental poet and novelist from Detroit, Michigan. Her first poetry anthology is titled Pity the Poetics.

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“To Mario Kart from a Marxist” by Kate Wilson

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Dear Mario Kart,

You were the love child of Shigeru Miyamoto and his team in Japan in 1992. Miyamoto, who also created several other popular games, works for Nintendo, which is regarded as one of the absolute best gaming companies in the world, and whose net worth is 32.8 billion dollars. Essentially, you were born of greatness.

You feature characters previously seen in various other Nintendo games – Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Bowser, and the like. You give us a fun, child-friendly venue to go-kart race, collect coins, use power ups, beat the clock, and beat our friends.

In total, there are nine versions of you for almost every Nintendo gaming console – the Super NES, the Nintendo 64, the Wii, the Wii U, the Gameboy Advance, the GameCube, the Nintendo DS, the Nintendo 3DS, and, most recently, the Nintendo Switch. Each new game includes new characters, courses, gameplay, and power ups. You are popular, to say the least. You are so popular, that you have sold 90.50 million total copies. The most recent game, Mario Kart 8, sold half a million copies stateside on launch day alone, and 100 million copies worldwide. Mario Kart, you were born of greatness, born into greatness, and you have been great. For 25 years, you have been a best-selling game that has made its way into the hearts, minds, and wallets of users.

But, I see you, Mario Kart, for exactly what you are. You appear to be a fun, childlike video game, but no, your intentions are sinister. You are not what you appear to be on the surface — oh no. You are deeper than that, as we all are. You are, in fact, probably the most important, avant-garde analysis of the American Dream.

To explain: when someone is in last place, no matter how many helpful item boxes they get, they will rarely advance to first. And when someone is in first place, no matter how many blue shells are thrown, rarely will they decline in position to last, or even to the bottom five players. Upward mobility is hard in your game. Advantages for last place are virtually useless, unless the player is in the very back of the pack, and even those advantages will not put them anywhere near winning. And, in first place, the most common power up is coins, which helps keep one ahead. This is clearly your way of critiquing the American dream! You equate last place with being disadvantaged, or a minority. Minorities may get assistance, like affirmative action, extra scholarships, and the like, but this does not always put them on an equal playing field. And those who are ahead may not receive the same power ups, or advantages, but will receive tax breaks and other help that makes them stay at the top. Upward mobility in economics, and in Mario Kart, is difficult, if not impossible to achieve.

You are not forgiving, or merciful, or kind. You are hard, Mario Kart. You use so many of the same tactics our own economy does. For example, if I were to play you, and be one of the first racers across the finish line, I would be like top 20% of wealthy people in the United States who hold 84% of the total wealth. If I were the first place racer, you could consider me to be like the Walton family, who has more wealth than 42% of Americans combined. However, if I were one of the last racers to cross the finish line, like 40% of Americans, my wealth may be only 0.3% of the United States’ total wealth.

You act as the ever present reminder that only one can win; and reinforce the idea that only one SHOULD win – especially since ties are virtually impossible in Mario Kart, as finishing times are calculated to a thousandth of a second. According to a World Values Survey, Americans value winning more than any other industrialized nation on earth, even though enjoyment of a thing decreases as competition increases. Americans often live within a binary – winners and losers – and we feel a deep need to categorize people on their wins and losses. Moreover, so many wealthy people are considered winners, while poorer people are losing at the game of life, which is a different letter all together. Mario Kart, you display this so clearly – winning is good, and losing is for the unfortunate. You remind us why we strive, and that it is possible we might not make it. But strive, we do, with the hopes of first place.

I suppose, in one big race, we are all on the same Rainbow Road, dodging the same green shells, and revving our own car engines with the hope that something, anything, will propel us forward.

 

                        Ever Yours,

                                    Kate Wilson

 

 

 

References for Further Reading

History of Mario Kart’s characters & creator:

https://web.archive.org/web/20130625232227/http://www.nowgamer.com/features/1148204/super_mario_kart_the_complete_history_of_nintendos_kart_racer.html

Nintendo’s Net Worth:

https://www.forbes.com/companies/nintendo/#

Nintendo as the best gaming company in the world:

http://n4g.com/news/2038482/why-nintendo-is-the-best-company-for-gaming-culture

List of Mario Kart games:

https://www.mariowiki.com/Mario_Kart_(series)

List of Nintendo Consoles with Mario Kart games:

http://nintendo.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_Mario_games

Popularity of Mario Kart Games:

http://www.vgchartz.com/article/250157/mario-kart-a-sales-history/

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe sales:

https://www.polygon.com/2017/5/1/15502234/mario-kart-8-deluxe-sales-record-nintendo-switch

Item boxes & power ups based on current position:

http://www.watchmojo.com/video/title/Mario%20Kart%20Franchise%20Retrospective/

Affirmative Action:

https://www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/aaps/aaps.htm

Minority Scholarships:

https://www.scholarships.com/financial-aid/college-scholarships/scholarships-by-type/minority-scholarships/

Minority opportunities may not create equality:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/opinion/sunday/does-affirmative-action-do-what-it-should.html?mcubz=0

Tax breaks for wealthy Americans:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-27/trump-plan-s-business-tax-cut-seen-as-major-boon-for-the-top-1

Financial upward mobility:

http://www.epi.org/publication/usa-lags-peer-countries-mobility/

Economic Disparity:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/economic-inequality-it-s-far-worse-than-you-think/

Wealth of the middle class & rich:

http://www.nber.org/papers/w18559

Walton family wealth:

http://changewalmart.org/how-rich-are-the-waltons/

Ties in Mario Kart:

https://www.reddit.com/r/mariokart/comments/353cqs/is_it_possible_to_tie/

Winning & losing:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201208/why-do-we-have-obsession-winning

Winning survey:

http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/WVSOnline.jsp

Happiness and winning:

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/00222102033004002

 

 

 

 

Kate is from Mammoth Lakes, California, and currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah where they are working towards a BA in English and an MA in teaching at Westminster College. Kate is a Virgo and lesbian who loves swing sets, their dog, and their girlfriend. Their work has previously been published or is forthcoming by Pressure Gauge Press, Write About Now, Rising Phoenix Press, and Rag Queen Periodical, among others. They are currently a poetry editor for “ellipsis… Literature and Art”. You can send Kate photos of the ocean on Twitter at @pasta_slut.

“Out-of-Body” by Wanda Deglane

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Out of Body

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wanda Deglane is a psychology/family & human development student at Arizona State University. Her poetry has been published or forthcoming on Dodging the Rain, Rust + Moth, Anti-Heroin Chic, and elsewhere. She writes to survive. Wanda is the daughter of Peruvian immigrants, and lives with her giant family and beloved dog, Princess Leia, in Glendale, Arizona.

 

 

“Surface Tension” by Gary Hartley

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Image: Tracie Cheng

The oil has spilled and we know it is coming. It will not be contained. There will be no expertise right there where it happened and none when it arrives, because it is us here, just us, with no expertise. Beaches await dark blankets and dead feather beds.

Over there, the robots are heading our way, from inland and on planes and from the places that the majority can only describe in terms like ‘nowhere’. We have made eye contact but not acknowledged each other meaningfully. We reap some benefits at this point of course; they have not pulled their guns and we might well venture to imagine that they never will.

We comment more and more on things, often with tenuous-at-best grasp of said things. Mute, we type everything out. We ensure there is no nervous tension this way, no silences for our eyes to take in.

Soon, the water shadow is upon us, part of our lives. We cannot sit on beaches and sip fizzy drinks and hope for, if not the best, not the absolute worst things all at once.

Smaller and smaller issues we find worthy of commentary. We let nothing go unexpressed; grasping opinions and acceptable formats from what was once dead air. As we tap tap we flick glances at colleagues and rivals and that’s, naturally, the same thing.

The once-living creatures and the floating plastic bottles are now the same sort of ephemera, croutons in abandoned soup that no service industry staff member will be seen dead collecting on a tray for improved aesthetics.

We see the briar pit and we want so badly to stick in it, for the experience firstly, then to tell friends and strangers and strangers as proxy friends, maybe go on to pitch it as a long-form work. The effect of the sun’s rays on the semi-liquid blackness is beautiful in a way. We do not vocalise, mouths stuck in rigid ohs as we ponder the lexicon of disaster.

There will be no humans coming to take our jobs, nothing that convenient. We will not be able to shout at their strange languages and funny clothes. Hard loss pollutes memories, but there will be some recall of this as the epoch when we could have done the solidarity thing, but dodged it for reasons that seemed practical at the time.

Near-dead bird can’t fan off the gloomy gloop, wings now in the hands of those flight non-experts that can be bothered with ideas as old as intervention. Solvents in the water, nothing ever solved but we pass comment, of course. Takes so hot the soles of our shoes melt, molecules creeping towards a water-bound family reunion of sorts.

Slip slapping in as ever, the sea, stoic in just another of its doomsdays. They say the ship’s been plugged. The robots don’t mind either way as they stare into mirrors, aspiring for more convincing emotional reactions. Their makers say the loving machines will clean up messes in future, there will be nothing like this, this all-too human thing. Their creations nod and smile; practice could possibly make perfect. The only sticking point might be price, but we’ll cross that smart bridge when we’ve coded it.

It never mattered that we had no expertise. That ship had sunk and the library had long shut. Not in my day, those thoughts and words that came before, those laughable irrelevances. Speak now or forever something bad. We comment and comment again, wondering if there’s an economic angle to this paragraph or the next. Everyone else is thinking the same thing. We might write about that too – shrink-wrap the new news, string it out to whatever word count is vogue.

It is what it is and a dozen or so other stock phrases for courage. Keep eyes closed, leave all communication devices on the sleeker-than-ever-before sand and do what’s necessary. The time for stepping in was yesterday and you blew it in a long, bad conversation – the only way is out. We walk into the oily water, watery oil, first ankle then waist-deep. The gloopy weight feels a bit like armbands, meaning it’s that time again. It’s time to wonder if it’s OK to feel reassured.

ENDS

 

 

 

 

Gary W. Hartley is from Leeds, but has lived elsewhere for some time. He used to co-edit The Alarmist magazine, and has a book of poems out on Listen Softly London Press. He communicates into the digital void via Twitter: @garyfromleeds

 

 

 

“liminal edgings” by Savannah Slone

Susie Kim
Image by: Susie Kim

liminal edgings

 

 

 

 

 

 

Savannah Slone is a queer writer who earned her B.A. in English: Professional and Creative Writing from Central Washington University and is completing her M.F.A. in Writing at Lindenwood University. Her poetry and short fiction has appeared in or will soon appear in Manastash Literary Arts Magazine, Creative Colloquy, Heavy Feather Review, Boston Accent Lit, PaperFox Lit Mag, The Stray Branch, The Airgonaut, Ghost City Press, Sinister Wisdom, decomP magazinE, Maudlin House, FIVE:2:ONE, Foliate Oak, Pidgeonholes, and Luna Luna Magazine. Her debut chapbook, Hearing the Underwater, is forthcoming publication at Finishing Line Press. Savannah lives in Skykomish, WA, where she works a handful of part-time jobs and cares for her toddler with autism. She enjoys reading, writing, knitting, hiking, and talking all things intersectional feminism.

“WHERE WERE YOU WHEN THE GREAT FISH CAME GNAWING?” by Cavin Bryce

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“To Bloom Not Bleed” by The White Deer

The Earth existed then as one all consuming ocean spotted with a single island near the equator. It was a thin strip of sand only four feet in length at its widest point, but warm and soft so the native boys never complained. The sky was only ever perfectly covered in thick, morphing clouds. It rained incessantly.

On this island lived a pack of feral boys, the last of the humans. Their skin was honey colored, a hue reminiscent of sunlight refracted through amber. The boy’s sported differentiating features spare their skin tone; the colors of their eyes, shapes of their bodies, and thickness of their hair all varied greatly

In front of their beach was the ocean and behind it existed a world of vines and trees. Eyes of all sizes watched them from both the ocean and the forest. This observation was constant. Sometimes, these glaring eyes carried voices with them, starving voices from a dead world. If ever they wandered too far into the brush, or the ocean, the boys were quickly hunted and ripped to shreds by the monsters that watched them from afar.

At first the boys would travel deep into the jungle, swim out into the blue expanse of the ocean, in an attempt to uncover any evidence of their forgotten past that may still remain undamaged. Many of them perished during those endeavors, and the curiosity of the remaining children was eventually made obsolete by the drive to live. Their food sources were thinned to tiny fish, the children of colossus parents, and an assortment of berries. The boys ripped into the slick bodies of fish with a near animal instinct and consumed everything raw; scales, flesh, bones, and fins, everything but the eyes. Even the youngest of the pack would snap the head off of whatever he could catch and slurp their organs up savagely.

Water was collected in crudely woven baskets, or in containers that washed onto their shore. The largest of these containers was labelled: 2% Skimmed Fat. It held a lot of water.

 

 

One of the boys was named Gardner. He was gentle, with soft eyes and a light touch, one of the few who took initiative to look after the smaller children. One morning he woke up before all the other boys and waded into the shallow water bordering himself and the great beasts. There, he rinsed his hair and stared into the rising sun’s rays. He heard the whispers of lesser creatures, as one always did when they neared the water or forest. They whispered promises of a kingdom in the sky, above the infinitely raining clouds, where he would reside after death. The sirens talked of a place where hunger and pain didn’t exist, where the sun kissed your skin. Amidst these whispers came a great booming voice that drowned out the lesser creatures.

“It’s over,” the dominating voice said.

“What is?” Gardner thought.

“Your life. Your species.”  Gardner scoffed. Nothing could reach them on the shores.

“Come, boy, swim out here and see what is left of your people.”

He hesitated, straightening himself in the shallow water.

“Come, come and see why you are so content on your puny island.”

  ⧫

The rest of the boys awoke to see the eldest of them paddling out into the ocean. They screamed bloody murder at their comrade. His name, Gardner, clung to the moisture in the air, vibrated with the force of their confusion and sadness. He hoped, as he paddled, that they would be safe without him.

When Gardner reached the trench he turned to the shore of his beach. He could see nothing but a blur, heard nothing but distant screeches and pleads. When he looked down into the ocean, he saw nothing but an encompassing blackness and jagged rocks. As he plummeted into the water, deeper and deeper, there still was nothing but rock and water.

“You lied to me,” he thought, “there’s nothing here.”

“And that is what’s left. My siblings and I, along with the boars and great apes, consumed your civilization long ago. Out of sheer pity, we have allowed your pack to survive all this time on that pitiful island.”

Dead, glowing eyes each the size of the moon appeared suddenly from the blackness. Beneath them, a mouth cracked opened and revealed aisles of jagged teeth that emulated, in size and shape, an ancient mountainscape.

“We can’t stand to see life so idle any longer. Before you were demolished, your people found meaning in activity. It is cruel to keep you like this, unchanging and unmotivated.”

It was hard to admit, but the beast was right. Day after day the boys ate, washed themselves, and played. Then the next day they did it again. It was all without purpose, without an ounce of understanding.

Inside the intestines of the monster, Gardner saw entire cityscapes in crumbles. There were vehicles and neighborhoods, even entire islands floating in gastric acid. Memories of a time long ago flooded Gardner’s brain. He remembered his brother, his mother.  He hoped that this beast would take his home in one fell swoop and that none of this brothers would feel any pain. There was the slightest feeling of hope, as his last breath oozed from his lips, that he would see them again in that place where it never rains.

“Not on my lips anymore” by Elisabeth Horan

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Image by Nydia Lilian

Your sexual preference is the strand
of spider web across my eyes
this morning,

Annoyed, I swipe
it away; it is perfect and persistent;
it laughs at my effort, yet
doesn’t let go.

My wanting you is for what –
I don’t know – as if new clothes
would make me

Somehow happier – more complete –
as if a male outfit
could dress me less like a pauper,

More like the butch empress who shuns the
requisite lesbian clothes

Our time was not for naught but smacks
of chocolate mints after dinner,
you want one so badly
especially after ordering only a salad –

In the parking lot
a well meaning couple,
(whichever one you choose)
says,

There’s a little something on
your face,

And I know it so well, brown and green –
the warmth of it: smears just like our body parts.

I still pray for us, reunited, but your taste is
not on my lips,
not on my lips,
not on my lips –
anymore.

 

 

 

Follow Elisabeth Horan on Twitter @ehoranpoet

“How a Girl is Born Brutal” by Weslyn Rae Newburn

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Image by Ignacio Cobo More

 

 

I spent the summer pretending
my legs were confined in a sheath
of iridescent scales, swimming with
eyes closed, nose pinched tightly shut.

The burn of chlorine in my throat,
greasy shine of sunscreen on my shoulders,
cool juiciness of lemon yellow freezy-pops,
that tasted nothing like real lemons.

That summer my bitterness festered
like the smashed green anoles on the back porch.
Guinea wasps stirred in my Pepsi
and I didn’t feel sorry for them.

Your forgotten girl, I prayed
for the sun to scald and blister you –
make you shrivel up like watermelon seeds
in hot, dry crabgrass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weslyn Rae Newburn lives in Tallahassee, Florida. Her work has previously appeared in The Eyrie, The Blue Hour, The Blue Hour Anthology: Volume ThreeAlong the Forgotten Coast: Selected Poems, and Alphanumeric. She likes film photography and collecting roadkill to create spooky stuff. To read more of Weslyn’s work, please visit: weslynrae.webs.com.

 

“Broken Story” by Kim Peter Kovac

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therapy dog lying on bride on gurney in hallway /startle / crunch / swirl / roll roll roll / dangling upside down held by the seat belt / car roof now floor / dog visiting other patients once he knows his mom is okay / thinks she’s okay / can’t self-forgive / desperately trying to steer / crunch / guilt / shock / pink cloud / how could the hospital miss the concussion / rolling three times / metal crunching / thankful for the dog-car-harness / broken nose  / banged up / what happened? / separated shoulder / slightly separated self / shoulder ghost in the torn ligaments / broken story / surgery months later / broken car / broken psyche / crunch / ambulance with self and bride on stretchers, therapy dog riding shotgun / sling / PTSD from the concussion / startle reflex / writing around, not into / morphine / no surgery / oxy / sling / responsible / humpty dumpty drove in the car / humpty dumpty can’t find the scar / can’t drive that freeway for a year / PTSD / concussion / startle / she’s hurt way more than me / guilt / crunch / shoulder still galumphs a bit despite the vorpal scalpel going snicker-snack / anxiety is yours, sayeth the lord / which lord? / I thanked Yahweh, Allah, Buddha, Zoroaster, and the 33 million Hindu gods / can’t focus / roll / avoidance / crunch / Sertraline 50-100-50-100 / off for three weeks to reboot / can Virgil guide me through the nine circles to the time before the three revolutions?  / antidepressants having to reboot? / WTF? / dog still protecting the bride when he senses her fear / or startles / my pink cloud is back / startle / rolllllllllllll / spiral / crunch / nice morning for a drive to New York //

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kim Peter Kovac works nationally and internationally in theater for young audiences with an emphasis on new play development and networking.  He tells stories on stages as producer of new plays, and tells stories in writing with lineated poems, prose poems, creative non-fiction, flash fiction, haiku, haibun, and microfiction, with work appearing or forthcoming in print in The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Frogpond and Mudlark.

“Fear and Perfume” and “Roosting Chickens” by Catherine B. Krause

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Image by Sara Andreasson

 

Fear and Perfume

You are pulling into the parking lot of the One Stop Mart. There is a large muscular man with an iron cross tattoo and a red beard standing next to a motorcycle, looking at you. You pay attention to the space you are parking in. Don’t give yourself away, you say. Walk like you have nothing between your legs. Smile.

Check the mirror. Why haven’t you gotten your eyebrows done lately? Gender doesn’t care if you rebel against it. Look both ways. Step out the car. Lock it. Eyes on the door. Chest out. Smile but not at him. Smile to yourself. Don’t look at him. Open the door and walk into the shop. Get your coffee and go.

Pour coffee. No cream, no sugar; they will make you fat. Put on the lid. Walk up to the counter. Smile. Chest out.

“Will that be all for you today?”

“Yes, thank you.”

“One thirty-nine.”

“Here you go.”

“Thank you, honey. You have a good day.”

Smile wide and beam. “You too.” You passed. Walk out the door. The man is gone. Go to your car, get in. Good job. You’re safe. Drink your coffee. Make a note to get your eyebrows done. Breathe.

 

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Image by Stanley Donwood

Roosting Chickens

Monetize the series of tubes no matter how
no matter what goes up through them
no matter if it must come down
the bullets fly our stocks go up
and no one’s gotta worry about a thing
because we live in condos
drinking Johnny Walker Blue
and microdosing vaping popping addy
as the world destroys itself around us
Atlas Shrugging at those peasants
mortgages and private schools
but suddenly a shot burts out
and titans fall like redwood trees
and no one gives a fuck
except the media and Internet
all ready to give their hot takes
thanks to you.

 

 

 

 

Catherine B. Krause is a queer, disabled, and polyamorous transgender
woman living in Niagara Falls, NY with her girlfriend, landlord, three
cats, and PTSD.