“morning reflections” by G F Harper

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morning reflections

say it with me
in cadence:

what place
is this
called
the land
of the free
what place
is this

pulled from as you would
from the depths
of your lungs to spew
trumpet sketches
to find support in song
in resolute inflection

say it with me
in cadence:

what place
is this
called
the land
of the free
what place
is this

 

to be a brown man
a black woman, unequal
not entirely a servant
but never the same
protecting what little is
mine, in this ever present
modernity

say it with me
in cadence:

what place
is this
called
the land
of the free
what place
is this

I have nothing to give you
my loves, my dears
while you are planning adventures
and campaigns, and victories
our Don Quixote
our abandon America
don’t forget about us
your befuddled laborers
your faithful squires
we who bear the brunt
of your behavior

say it with me
in cadence:

what place
is this
called
the land
of the free
what place
is this

maybe we should ride the horse for a while
maybe our mothers should draw the way
maybe I know how the way homeward
townships await our return from La Mancha
tall glass of water triumph
earth delight
heavy-illume footsteps
out of this desert

say it with me
in cadence:

what place
is this
called
the land
of the free
what place
is this

 

 

 

 

 

G F Harper is the author of Savage Yard: Revised Edition, with individual pieces in La Bloga: On-line Floricanto (2016), Raw Paw: Alien (2015), Dark Lady Poetry (2012), Refined Savage Poetry Review, (2008), and Farmhouse Magazine (2009). Harper attended Saint Edward’s University for a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature with a specialization in Creative Writing, minor in Psychology.

 

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“What It Means” and “Nocturnalist” by Betsy Housten

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Still from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

 

WHAT IT MEANS

It means I walk the world in a shape I’ve only known
since age twenty-four. Or, by a different calculation, since
age eight, kneeling in my parents’ closet, of all places,
hunting for Christmas presents, struck by sudden terror –
what if I was gay. It means my relief was short-lived.
That I didn’t realize just how bad my heart could crack
with such heavy water until the first girl took it in her hands
and broke it. It means I feel a compulsive need to say
things like I used to love men or I’m no gold star, as if everyone
I meet is entitled to a play-by-play of my evolving life.
It means after five years single I sometimes wonder
if I still count. That’s how deep it runs – the way the thing
about me I hold closest can feel like an unending quest
for legitimacy, even in a mind that calms itself with
reason, a body that’s never understood anything more.

 

 

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Still from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

 

NOCTURNALIST

 

 

 

 

 

Betsy Housten is a Pushcart-nominated queer writer and massage therapist. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Cold Creek Review, Vagabond City, Bone & Ink Press, Burning House Press, Longleaf Review, Glassworks Magazine, and elsewhere. She lives in New Orleans, where she is pursuing her MFA in poetry.

 

 

“End of the World Memory” by Jen Rouse

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We sit at coffee discussing
what it means to meet
at abject vulnerability. Everything
catches in my throat, like hearts.

I avoid your hands. The link
that binds my conscious mind
to the mind I might meet
on the other side of the table.

If I have brought you through
from another life, I want
to know why. I don’t believe
in cosmic jokes. But I

believe I know you. And if
I brought you here from stars
or seas, I will not leave you.

If the end of the world
plays out in the background,
I will still choose to see only
you, across from me,

our hands tearing into
chests, ripping out those wondrous
hearts, and trading—
to remember when we

can’t remember the last
time we met or if I kissed you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jen Rouse directs the Center for Teaching and Learning at Cornell College.  Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Poet Lore, Wicked Alice, Southern Florida Poetry Journal, Yes Poetry, Up the Staircase, and elsewhere. She was named a finalist for the Mississippi Review 2018 Prize Issue and was the winner of the 2017 Gulf Stream Summer Contest Issue. Rouse’s chapbook, Acid and Tender, was published in 2016 by Headmistress Press.

“The Invert,” “Flawed Song,” and “Scrapbook” by Lydia Friedman

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Image by Yikartu Bumba Turlapunja

 

The Invert

Again she’s on the prowl.
See the whisper of a whisker
above her lip, the monocle’s claw
tigering her eye, the silk silence
waistcoating her hips – each button a fang
on which a lover may catch.

Which lipsticked voice will catch
mid-croon as she prowls
in tonight? Which saxophonic fang
will she blunt with a whisker
of smoke into silence?
Which brick wall will shy from her claw,

her moonbeam-sharpened claw?
And from what sorry bedbug did she catch
this Charleston influenza? Even in silence
her black brogued foot will tap and prowl
the dancefloor, whiskering
out some newfangled

rhythm as makeshift as her paycheck. Fanged
with a crisp deck, her lobster-claw
Queen of Hearts plays coquette with a whiskered
Joker. But watch her catch
a flapper by the waist and prowl
a gloved hand through that bobbed blond hair in silence:

how much such silence
speaks! Love with its million fangs
shadows her into each speakeasy. Wherever she prowls,
her swaggering mug bears Cupid’s claw
marks – it’s not just lust that catches
this poor cat by the whiskers.

Oh America, you’ve singed many a whisker.
Sauntering home in streetlamped silence
she whistles an old-country catch,
its Yiddish rhymes ribboned to bits by memory’s fang
like those Sapphic fragments half scratched out by history’s claw.
In the sky, dawn’s on the prowl.

Worldwide she prowls, immigrant whisker by vaudeville claw,
steeled with silent-film fangs. This butch sure is a catch.

 

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Flawed Song

 

1.

Consumption’s kiss was impossibly tender.

Like an anglerfish you pulled me under.

 

I have not wit enough to woo.

 

Bewitch me speechless, oh wizard of want.

Call the police on this heart of flint.

 

These youthful terrors are not very pure or true.

 

On Good Friday I gave my last promise away.

With my last match I burnt down Troy.

 

I’m perfectly, bloodily daggered in two.

 

The tarantella ruined my best boots.

An epidemic of silence conquers the streets.

 

2.

Pity poor me, a mute and forgetful Jew.

 

Like all small tragedies, I drag on and on.

No love can unbutton this soft jail of skin I’m in.

 

Desire deludes worse than the flu.

 

Of all sordid creation you’re the utmost harlot.

Look at this laughingstock, this love like a silver bullet.

 

The baker’s daughter sleeps in a coffin of yew.

 

Solstice vampires into eclipse.

Into sweet dreams I relapse.

 

Neglected, my heart beats askew.

 

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Scrapbook

 

 

Lydia Friedman once went on a blind date with a marble statue in Vienna. She lives in New England and can be reached by howling into the void, or at www.crookedbutinteresting.wordpress.com.

“Programme Terminated” by Gervanna Stephens

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Image by Anna Price Petyarre

 

 

And when / the sun sinks / into the ocean at nights / turning it splendid / blue / and purple / and orange / and rainbow / and gay / does it wake / the Merfolk? is Ra’s definition / of a second job or volunteer work or magic / do the tides / splash faster / their slippery sandy shoes / kiss both shore and midnight / and when the sun / drowns / in Poseidon’s bathwater / still warm / home / to portals / and life / and endless moisture / does it lure / the siren / or is it / the call/ which sets the sun?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gervanna Stephens is a girl from the Caribbean with congenital amputation. She is a poet, educator, and a proud Slytherin. Gervanna has had poems published in several print and online magazines, including WusGood.blackWhirlwind Magazine, 12 Point Collective, Spillwords and Anti-Heroin Chic. She hates public speaking, has two sisters who are way better writers than her, and thinks unicorns laugh at us when we say they aren’t real.

“Use” by Chad Musick

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I already know the use of the user,
of mealy-mouthed blandishments, of white lies
spoken by nimble tongues that reek of bleach.

In the nighttime hovels, the net cafes
with webcams duck taped to goose-necked lamps
in private booths, we gather, users and used.

The luckiest don’t sell their hope.
They pay their rents, instead,
by selling the past at pawn shops, the future
at payday lenders’ usurious rates.

Hope is a hungry child with a full set of teeth.

I already know the use of the user,
and he of me, and she of me. Of us.
And if — just if, I swear — sometimes I snort
or smoke or shoot, just a bit. Well. It’s not
the worst thing done to a body today.

The ladies of the day —
who hold their scalpel-shaped noses,
sneer, adjust their sunglasses to give
cutting glances, hide hangovers and fond bruises —
tsk tsk to their older men, who grasp them
with calloused knuckles, shuffle them away
from shame on the sidewalk. They’re mistaken.

Shame is luxury, is pissing through silk panties.
It isn’t when you sell them online after.

I already know the use of the user.
It stalks me in my dreams, threatens exposure —
to cold, want, unrefundable deposits
on wide rooms I would never occupy.

Work hard enough, the Titans bellow down each morning,
even you could reach Othrys’ peak, look down
and see the masses squirm beneath your heels.
Teach them all the use of the user.

But I know: they already know the uses.
Atlas’ shrug would not topple the planet.
It has always been us who bear the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chad Musick is an epileptic, autistic editor with a PhD in mathematics and several published poems. He lives in Japan with his family and is working on his third novel, though none are (yet) published.

“Cornsequence” by Kristin Garth

 

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{Editor’s note: we encourage you to listen to the audio file of Garth reading “Cornsequence” here.}

 

The spirit took your eyes away. They did
not blink once yesterday. Contemplation
a mirror lake, self reflection, morbid
mistake. Blind maternal insurrection.

A husk, your body, in cornfields, was grown
for children — brittle mommy/yellow corpse.
Cornsilk brunette, for meadow smiles alone,
the spirit takes your lips. It leaves remorse.

You did not know you were a sacrifice —
harvested hollow to play nice. Cracked skin
still scented of the wild — aroma vice.
The spirit takes the nose, last scents of sin.

A crafted warning is a cornhusk doll.
To love a child requires no face at all.

 

 

 

 

 

Kristin Garth is a poet from Pensacola, a knee sock enthusiast and a sonnet stalker.  In addition to TERSE. Journal, her sonnets have stalked the pages of Rag Queen Periodical, Occulum, Drunk Monkeys, Ghost City Review, Luna Luna, Anti-Heroin Chic, Faded Out, Mookychick and many other publications.  Her chapbook Pink Plastic House is available through maverickduckpress.com

“Verum, n.” by Erin Emily Ann Vance

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Image by Lina Kusaite

 

Verum, n.

This rough star crackling in the
broken pot, slipping the acrid red fumes,

into my eyes
jags in the flow of hot
syrup, like the long nails of a delicate
and unwashed child
trailing her fingers across the glass
of a cool lake
covered in moss,

moss-covered.

The hard bark spiny and
alert, the banks like wounds,
along the mud-red shores,
my nose burns with the acidic
blood lake, the slow spin of the
star singing
‘Oh sink, sink,

sink.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Erin Emily Ann Vance’s work has appeared in numerous journals, including Contemporary Verse 2 and filling station. She was a 2017 recipient of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts Young Artist Prize and a 2018 Finalist for the Alberta Magazine Awards in Fiction.

Find her at www.erinvance.ca and @erinemilyann on Instagram and Twitter.

“I SLICED INTO MY NAIL BED WITH A RAZOR BLADE BY ACCIDENT WHILE LISTENING TO RANCID AND WASHING OUT YELLOW HAIR DYE, AND DESPITE THIS BEING POSSIBLY THE MOST PUNK ROCK THING ABOUT ME, I STILL SCREAMED AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS, ‘OH FUCK'” by Kate Wilson

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Image: “Oak Creek Canyon” by Kim Knoll

of course this is all to say I collected the droplets of blood in a little glass vial with a cork lid and added plant growth hormones to stop it from

growing stagnant

it smelled horrible like all those times my dad made me go on long, awkward walks with him after it rained and the earth was wet and full of life and I tried to stop smelling it but it became

ritual to open the jar

again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again until the cork

broke off

and I had to do something with it to keep myself from throwing it against a wall or drinking it so I considered

burying it

But didn’t like the ramifications of littering my own blood-jar and burying things makes me very, very sad because I am terrible at letting things go so instead I dumped the blood in the river and I know that makes me a

                        Really Bad Person

Because now of course I cannot stop thinking about where the stream runs to and the final resting place of that water and how maybe I just

poisoned the entire world

With my own blood but I guess it will be filtered out if our tap water comes from that particular steam and my mom used to tell me about how when her dad died they spread the ashes in the ocean so I guess the fish drink enough death anyway but then humans eat the fish so I guess we also

consume our own rot

And I can’t help but imagine all the PETA pamphlets I’ve been handed after punk shows and then subsequently thrown them away and how terrible of a person I am for still eating

other being’s flesh

But when I tried to become a vegetarian it became so hard for me considering I can only afford to eat at my school’s one cafeteria which just reinforces that I am a

Really Bad Person

And also a quitter but my mom also always told me overcommitting oneself is dangerous and also that overthinking things isn’t going to solve anything and I think maybe she was right since my aunt always called me a worry wart which of course is to say a

Very Anxious Person

But it can be very rewarding to worry for example I always finish my homework on time and I usually try really hard but sometimes I think it would all be easier if I just didn’t try at all because then I probably would not be so concerned about where the fuck

my blood ends up

When I dump it into the river just to get rid of it so I can stop thinking so damn much about how fragile we are and how much we all bleed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.