I know it all so well

by James Diaz


We pull into the motel
it is fall here in the south
and I am so small

we are in-between,
you know what I mean?

Pops is newly clean
fresh out of rehab
and momma, well,
momma is momma –
a dark cloud settling over us all

the place has roaches and it’s a game you see
I count em
then I run around the parking lot chasing leaves
as they scatter down
in darkest wind

people are sat up on crates
by doorways
lit by sadness and television
and not a one smiles at me
but I know it all so well by now

how happiness is dangerous to people like us
I turn around and my folks have the worry on their faces
what comes next?
I’m too young to know
but not too young to care

I don’t want to go inside just yet
because out here anything can happen
but in there –
oh, I know it all so well.



James Diaz is the author of This Someone I Call Stranger (Indolent Books, 2016), All Things Beautiful Are Bent (Alien Buddha, 2021), and Motel Prayers (Alien Buddha, 2022). They are the founding editor of Anti-Heroin Chic. Their most recent work can be found in Wrongdoing Mag, Thrush Poetry Journal, and Sugar House Review. Instagram: @jamesdiazpoet.

2023-06-04T10:26:43-04:00June 4, 2023|


by Z.H. Gill


Mild and cool’s enough for me. I didn’t know you from across the room. Each night my mother listened to whalesong on 8-track tape. The day shakes. The evening ticks. Sitting in pews in churches I don’t belong to. Each night my mother read aloud from whatever it was she was reading at the time: Danielle Steele, Michael Crichton, Sir Walter Scott, Suttree by Cormac McCarthy, Kamala Das, Jane Smiley. Held the receiver up so you could hear. My mother’s voice you said was impish. I loved you both the same. (Not in form, but in strength.) At parties I’d glide in alone. There were women in the bathroom—talking, maybe crying, I don’t know—but I could hear them, I felt bad about it. My mother showed me how to send flowers through the computer. My father slipped away. My brother met me at the parties. He said to me: Z, you don’t know how to drink a drink, but disappeared before he would explain. (He found a bathroom, I’m certain of it.) You met him once; he made you laugh, before offending you. We used to swim in the ravine—the locals knew to stay away instinctively. We read in diners. The evening sky had forsaken us. My mother wrote but half her letters were lost. I never sang in the shower. We left our friends without saying good-bye. (Your friends, you would have said.) I drew the Tower, I drew the Two of Swords. The day quit while it was ahead, and the evening simply stopped. You drew the Hanging Man, you drew the Four of Wands. I stopped looking out the window. You give up half yourself, my mother said to me, ominously but not humorlessly. Look at your brother, she said, He’s just too much of one thing. I sat in church sucking on activated charcoal. Prolonged eye-contact during the sermon. For better or worse, you gave me my dogmas. I loved you both the same. I’ll be joining you soon. Soon.



Z.H. Gill works in the motion pictures. His writings have appeared in trampset, HAD, and Triangle House. Find them, and more, at linktr.ee/zhgill and on Twitter @blckpllplsrbch.

2023-06-03T11:23:19-04:00June 3, 2023|

Queen of Ghosts

by Mandy McHugh


The ghosts I made are loud and lost
but rarely lonely.
Holding the past,
I keep them
in my presence
slick and dripping
in a sheen of sweat-laced regrets.
I wear them around my neck
like the pearls I never owned
or the silk noose
of his tie.
I take them black
in my coffee,
neat in my whiskey,
but heavy in my crown—
the obsidian weight drowning
out their whispers.
they say.
I agree,
counting the stones again.



Mandy McHugh is an author from Upstate NY. Her debut novel, Chloe Cates Is Missing, was one of Popsugar’s Best Mysteries and Thrillers of 2022. Her sophomore thriller, It Takes Monsters, is forthcoming in October 2023. When she isn’t writing, Mandy enjoys running, car karaoke, and experimenting with various recipes with her two children. You can find Mandy on Twitter (@WriterACMcHugh), TikTok (@authormandymchugh), and IG (@acmchughwriter), as well as her website, mandymchugh.com


2023-05-28T10:10:35-04:00May 28, 2023|

My dad reflects on Stranger Things

by Jane Zwart


My dad complains that it is the same monsters
again and again. Almost everything, he says,
looks like an animal or a man. A dragon is a lizard,
a zombie the smear left of homo erectus.

There is so little in horror we cannot trace back
to an ordinary beast: shark, snake, doberman, bear.
Occasionally, the predator is mostly mouth,
of course, carnivorousness where speech should be,

rows of teeth at the opening of a tube that both
suctions and screams. But the best monsters
either look like us or like the dark churn
of something more gray than age or smoke or ash.

The best monsters: like us or like a sky hungrier
than a mouth. My dad is not complaining, really,
about our shallow imaginations, about the sameness
of the creatures we conjure to scare ourselves.

His grievance is with humankind: we are voracious;
thus most of our monsters think us meat.
We are voracious; thus the unthinking thing: it swallows
us up in an unbeing even less fitful than death.



Jane Zwart teaches at Calvin University, where she also co-directs the Calvin Center for Faith & Writing. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, The Southern Review, Threepenny Review, TriQuarterly, and Ploughshares, as well as other journals and magazines. She frequently publishes book reviews and, with Timothy Liu, is co-editor of book reviews for Plume. She is on Twitter and Instagram @_janezwart_. Her website is janezwart.com.

2023-05-27T10:47:07-04:00May 27, 2023|

Bless Those Who Cry Silver After Midnight

by Rebecca Connors


Take that bag –
that 20 pounds of nightmare –
& empty it under the cover of night
while beetles & bats cling to hair or
imaginary numbers.
Release octaves
of hoarded photos, borrowed t-shirts, love
letters with abandoned addresses.
What happened before
is irretrievable. Drink whiskey till
amber-eyed, dare to throw china dishes
against the wall – a startled cat, fragmented
forget-me-nots, nicked wallpaper –
until the fever falls, my fingers cooled.
I’m moon hungry. I am the key of G.
I am years distant
in another constellation & I still can’t forget
all the times bed-rocked or land-locked.
I want to pound my knuckles raw,
my voice inside me tea-kettling.
I want the past to know my evidence,
see the way to resolution.
Tenacious like a city racoon
chittering underneath an open window &
scrambling through mistakes –
How can I accept all my
bents & burdens?
Drink up honeysuckle. Rest my head
against the world.
Know my home and know I am home:
parched grass, nightbirds
the delicate scream of dogwood petals.


Rebecca Connors (she/her) is the author of the chapbook, Split Map (Minerva Rising Press, 2019). Her poems can be found in DIALOGIST, Glass Poetry Journal, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal, among others. She is the co-founder of the virtual literary arts space, The Notebooks Collective, and earned her MFA from the Solstice Creative Writing Program at Pine Manor College. She lives in Boston with her family and two cats. Follow her on Twitter @aprilist, Instagram @aprilistwrites or visit her site at aprilist.com.

2023-05-21T11:13:45-04:00May 21, 2023|


by Christina Linsin

CW: Medical procedure, patient restraint, and self harm.


I still remember the taste of the tube,
charcoal powdered worm inching, one-eyed,
it burned, choking out charges, then slurping slurping
more intimate than fucking, insatiable depths,
eternal sucking. Flashes of fighting, voices insistent
I gave them no choice; I tied their hands.
They tied down my hands. I still remember the
empty quaking. They said it would hurt more
later. In the morning my mother, crying
consternation, my father still, distant. I remember
each an accumulation, passing down more
than length of bone. Every tragedy is second-hand,
they’d passed down their alone – look
what you’ve done to me my mother demanded;
I could not speak. Her hands leaped in waves from her lap,
seeking someplace to go. I wanted
someplace to go. Still. Slow. I remember
the ward quiet except at night, keening
echoes amplified; everything white – floors, sheets,
walls, wounds – all fluids licked clean.



Christina Linsin is a poet and teacher living in western Virginia. Her poetry examines connections with the natural world, the complexities of mental illness, and the difficulty of creating meaningful connections amid life’s obstacles. Her work has been published in tiny wren lit, and she has work forthcoming in The Milk House, and Still: The Journal. She can be found on Twitter @ChristinaLinsin.

2023-05-20T11:44:05-04:00May 20, 2023|

A Seascape to Drown In

by Kaitlyn Dada


A seascape to drown in
has rock walls to sit on,
individuals scattered,
perhaps sand farther down
it reminds me of what
came. Love is a wet word,
blossoming, with claustrophobic
vines, endless drops moments
unrepeatable, can’t
purchase a tear from a
starfish. A relief to
realize despite drowning,
because I’m drowning, wading
through waters fearing death
and absence of you, treading
water spitting something
stupid there is no shore
no hole no reason to
fear: faceless, smothering
breath, past suffocations,
eyes too focused on tears.
We met there I thought passing.
Here you are still, with me.
I sing of moments returning
to form memory. I
carry you with me my
mind in this sea, beside
me a boy holding my
hand as if only mine
fits, one moment lifts me
to the surface I can
breathe I can blossom isn’t
nature specific look
where you came ashore, slowly
beside me.


Kaitlyn Chisholm Dada is a playwright and performer utilizing memoir to embrace humanity through documentation. She began her love of storytelling as an actress and produced her first play in South Carolina in 2017 but most recently graduated in 2021 with an MFA in creative writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She aspires to be planted and present deep in the outskirts of the Windy City as she explores what nature has to teach her, and as a result of this philosophy is not active on any social media pages.

2023-05-14T09:43:02-04:00May 14, 2023|


by Peach Delphine


on the seawall in a dress almost cerulean,
eyes stacked with clouds, lightning tangled,
wave riding wind, the right hand won’t repent
the left still sings of cutting,
all those dreams of being
human, blown out to sea,
drowning beyond horizons arc,

it ain’t never done, till we’re gone, even then,
laceration flowers, bears fruit, stacked flights
of stars climb from behind sandbar and shelf
cloud, trash can on concrete
echoes of thunder,

weather dialog, conversation liquid as grackles,
planting guava, digging beds for cowpeas,
we no longer talk of fleeing, the queer endure
what they must, blade beneath my tongue, time
of hand a defining principle of human interaction,
the only safe space is interior,

clarity is what clots in the wound,
once we are gone someone else will have to bleed,
flowering iron and rust,
the safely seated will cut you loose,
fingers dancing on the gunnel,
self care is never cheap,
in the triage of necessities we’ve already been tagged,
not that they were ever our bodies, organs of the state,
just a breathing space,
so many have claimed this flesh
for their own, the state has nailed my tongue
to a dead name
as gatekeepers whisper condolences
from behind bolted doors,

those of us who no longer exist commend you,
authorized identities intact, as we diminish,
fog through which night treads,
heart of pine longing to burn,
a runout delivered
by lightning and a rising creek,
we are what must be
destroyed to be seen,
another articulation of smoke
as mirror empties itself of all reflection,


Peach Delphine is a trans poet from Tampa, Florida.

2023-05-13T10:30:58-04:00May 13, 2023|

Condensed Version

by Fred Pollack


In that language, a friend is the Sun,
a lover Night, a loved one Air.
There are many forests, and a horror of forests,
so Forest makes its power felt
in many of the few crimes
(which don’t seem few to them) that culture has.
For the most part, Fire goes unmentioned.

Strangers to metaphor,
plants, people, animals cluster
agreeably, for the most part, around their nouns.
An earthly missionary
would find himself a sort of stingless Bee,
forget his knowledge of what they should know,
accept a seedbag and pick up his hoe.

Of course not everything or everyone
belongs. If, late in youth or late
in life, you seem too sad
or lonely (an untranslatable word), they
call you a Pilgrim, though to no known shrine,
and consecrate you to the nameless stars,
and send you away.


Frederick Pollack, is author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure and Happiness (Story Line Press; the former reissued 2022 by Red Hen Press), and three collections, A Poverty of Words (Prolific Press, 2015), Landscape with Mutant (Smokestack Books, UK, 2018), and The Beautiful Losses (Better Than Starbucks Books, forthcoming 2023). Many other poems in print and online journals.

2023-05-07T11:35:04-04:00May 7, 2023|

If I Were a Language

by Amorak Huey


What shapes would your tongue make
learning me? What if a single word
meant sky and kiss and stranger? If another
meant both touch and hush?
What if every word of me — every one of them —
came from your body, what then?
What would you name me?


Amorak Huey is author of four books of poems including Dad Jokes from Late in the Patriarchy (Sundress Publications, 2021). Co-founder with Han VanderHart of River River Books, Huey teaches writing at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. He is on Twitter @amorak and Instagram @amorakhuey.

2023-05-06T10:56:03-04:00May 6, 2023|
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