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Humpadori Soldiers
by Vidhu Aggarwal

Our song is a bog, an outfit of sink and preservation.
A stubborn tow of muscular affection, a drag
on time, a drag on matter. Ingest us at your

Twelve toy soldiers,
holed up in the marsh-phlegm,
in a loamy whiteness,
plunging our fingers into our own or each others mouths,
forever probing
the unlikely weather—

We’re twelve hunks or fuck-ups, lost or moribund,
onward and inward
into the suck: the prettiest one is mine, the prettiest one is mine.

Can you pick out your favorite from the agents of malevolent damp?
Gather the troops from the flesh?
There are traps lurking in the moldering pages, pockets of shock:
The flesh is scary,
guarded and inspected like a crazy business, full of dumb
globules and lesser talents—slurps
and little hairs—

O! Why are we still excited, why are we fused together, why are we good?
We invite conjecture,
a fugue in the world. A fair body is made—
in the cold lag,
in the absence of what
you might consider a desirable self: our wooden boy
wants to be blown
into metallic petals and woodchips. He is the fulcrum
of our union, our own sad
If you take him, you may join us in our song, but
we’re not responsible
for any injury incurred
in the violence of the exchange.


A Driving Instructor's First Brush With Death
by Arlene Ang

It had all the eyebrows
of John Donne. He thought
this is how a mathematical problem
becomes Hitler’s moustache.

He added another windshield to his face
as Mrs Delaney mistook
the brake for the gas pedal.
She turned her head, left then right,
like a missing person.
He could see her reflection from the fender
of the other car—the one that
she insisted resembled a victim of outer space.
And there he was: inside
a bumper sticker, conceptualizing
death as a cowboy
with sore gums. Her perfume
brought him back, dug
itself into his nostrils, pulled out
his nose hair one at a time.
He called it Jesus. He called it
son of a bitch. He called it
Mrs Delaney, please restart the car.


by Star Coulbrooke

One snow drop flings itself crookedly from the sky,
then another, as the wind gets insistent, rattling leaves
that cling to stubborn plums, pampas grass rustling
like taffeta brushing a young girl’s thighs.

I stand in the carport, my dogs nosing around the yard,
sniffing the spongy earth as it sogs down for fall.
Winter hasn’t begun and already I ache for spring.

Autumn’s first dawn should take on the sheen
of polished organdy, the dresses Mother sewed,
two apiece every fall, worn to a dull fade by Easter.
Spring meant crisp bodices, full skirts, flounces,
taffeta measured from the bolt, patterns traced and cut
with pinking shears, the itch of crimped, raw seams.

I feel raw in mountain wind that carves
history, its unfurled naps and textures
resisting weaving and sorting.

I call the dogs; they bound up to me, wagging,
snow melting on their steaming coats.
Inside, storm over, thin strands of morning sun
baste the windows with polished light.


You Can Use the Colored Pencils Any Way You Choose
by Charmi Keranen

It’s a crap shoot, baby, which puts me
in mind of the drunk you saw at
the Kentucky Derby, reeling at the
door of the Port-A-John, a woman
helping him with his exit, his fly undone,
his dick hanging not nearly as spectacularly
as the way he fell head first into the waste
water runoff. The crowd groaned. In the
spirit of frankness I will say I approve
of shit in poems, of collective groans. I’m
tired of sighs and shufflings. Tell me again
about how Remy shat himself in the kitchen
and stopped drinking for three entire days.
I’ve got my colored pencils sharpened.
I like the color brown.


by Lauren Hilger

an omen:     like a nectarine
in an open palm


when saul falls off his horse
he loses his name, his darkness

there are some of us with swords
over our heads like haloes.


Winter Canticle
by Joanna Pearson

The Donner Party, 1847

The children curled inside the tent
gum a boiled ox hide.
Wind lashes solid Alder Creek—
the oxen all are dead.
Back in Illinois she wore
pink ribbons in her hair,
her husband shifted in his sleep,
panning gold all night—
all their dreams of westering
still heavy boughs of fruit.
Now the blizzard sputters,
and the baby faintly sighs.
She tucks him to her shriveled chest,
pressing his lips to nurse.
His ribs are like an ivory fan
a lady holds but will not spread.

They sang, those early months along
the easy sloping trail,
nightly clutched the womenfolk,
their folds and apertures.
The stars were flecked, cold elements
in riverbeds of sky.
He breathed the sweat of day’s end,
rubbed the grooves
cut by the harness in his hands.
They slept the fierce, clean sleep
of animals, pressed close,
soft rump to gut, jigsawed,
breath hay-warm as a barn.
Now his wife is trapper’s rope,
the babe cool in her arms.
Another fellow lost today.
They gulp and close
their eyes, shiver
in raw communion,
melt the snow to broth.


And Everyone Will Know
by Natalie Bryant Rizzieri

Stay quiet, stay dark, despite the way
each day pricks the helix, stars circle black,
circle back, despite cringe that kneaded skin
that day your brother’s mind dissected itself
and you thought matter could be arranged
with metal brands
as if dark plumes secreted
the gray when life moved away from him,
the torsion negative.


Gather the teacup from London
swiped off the table, the pieces
of your father, thrashing on the family acreage,
no matter how they flayed your body
because you saw his voice break in air,
waves battered an already fraying shore.


Promise you’ll never be good enough
when the curvature could not be
sharper. Write that letter, send it far,
what reader will guess unmentionables?
Pinnings, skirt to head, hair smoothed
back, your friend’s father touched your
breasts into existence. Tell only that
they stalled until the last minute in quiet
defiance. Why mention the mundane
when holy impositions have the same refrain—


—if you love me. Lose your life for my sake,
for whose sake, for nothing, for him and
him and him who closed windows that faced
the peaks, swirls of ponderosa pollen, and
you didn’t step outside to not expose
helical strands with their silent mutations,
spiritual whip marks, beatings, semen, splinters.


I mean, you would have yellowed
in that pollen and it’s hard to come clean.


by Stephanie E. Schlaifer

The room that they

have brought us to

is dark           you cannot

see the body

     not because of this

but because of this

you might expect

a service      someone

to officiate

but it’s nothing

but waiting

you and the room’s

true elephant

handsome as a piece

of furniture   accordingly

appointed          Purposely,

no one is looking

in it          Ask why

it is so dark

why the room

is red      why

the room is always

red      and gracious

as a hotel bar

a red room

like the one

on television         heavy

curtains covering

false windows

a riddle in its sleep

which hastens you

to navigate

an opening               Imagine then

an otherwise clear

night in winter

sharp glass

a quarter-mile from the

Fort George

Island Bridge

the glove compartment


her chest                And now

so many visitors

cake makeup

a barricade

of tacky wreaths

If navy blue

is dark enough

ask why

you cannot

see the body


by Mike White

There is a bloated cadaver on a silver table.
Bruised like a blueberry muffin.
There is jazz on a radio with bad reception.
The mind we know must defend itself.
Or do we mean extend itself?

Anyway it is time to begin.
He scratches words on a legal pad.
Not the words he is thinking.
Bruised like a blueberry muffin.
Bruised like a blueberry muffin.

And the body is opened.

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