by James Reidel
Will definitely keep you in mind if anything comes up. But that is my job, to keep you in mind. This was hope meant as hope but I feel like something is being taken away from me. Maybe that is the mercy here—that I should not dwell on myself and let others do it for, keeping me in mind. That said, how could I wait for the holidays now? Or open a card? Or fashion yet another fresh desk calendar from my life insurance company, with its sturdy cardboard lean-to of a leg. How could I ever stop my hands from shaking for tab A into slot B? Don’t you want to the last man standing, to see how it’s done? I must have stood for too long (if anything comes up). I must have really risen like a balloon this time, because today I can see that hundreds, thousands, millions have let go of the ropes, let go of my tug and pull on their weary arms informed by their feet, too, made sore for the children lining the avenues who weren’t and aren’t even alive yet. And I do entertain the notion that I sucked the air out of the room on them, indeed, before I ever left the hanger.
Already the weather is looking better from up here. Never mind me. The moon says I am easy to work with, a real understudy, a team player, one who shows promise, a diamond in the sky repeating my mother. And that said, let’s revisit this keeping me in mind of all people! If it even produces a cough not unlike blowing out a birthday candle on a cupcake, I am set free. And to your anything, to what comes up, just know the air gets thinner as I rise. Know that my ropes snap in the coldest of winds and they feel like whips, my gentle and mildly wasteful buoyancy a thing of the past. Know that they will more than strike pain—they will draw blood. Know that only the highest can rain on a whole parade, and you cannot imagine the garden one can see when everyone opens an umbrella below. More to the point, know that I will kick at your blue fingers should you ever reach for my ankle, my bare foot, with their blackbird wings trying to reach the power of that proverbial butterfly that stirs up a hurricane, while the rest of me joins the wide insatiable mouth on the world, of blue sky so up close, all that I can see.
They are a people of color, too, a vast family of extinguished carbon. We have, however, these images, the first and last, often the only one ever taken, which tolerably suggest and allow for this ethnicity of sepia tones, of daguerreo- and tintypes, that race of the sun-picture. They wore such albumen complexions, breathed to life with these hygienic, almost tribal tattoos of rose ink to blush the cheeks. (And is it so unhealthy to dwell on them? To walk through Babyland and wonder which picture goes with who?) Prized for their immaculate stillness, they could be posed in how we should spend all our days in nothing but dreams or contemplation—especially those girls with immaculate and consumptive brows freshly sponged with vinegar, holding a rose, a catechism, or a book of verses—or those youths as though they fell asleep at a drinking party—the only thing missing being their lodge pin. Infants in their mothers’ arms, as though drugged from the last time they nursed, their christening dresses fitted over limbs still supple or easily snapped into place, posed with siblings still showing the hurt look of being chided not to smile, not to fidget—this when photography was another kind of art, one summoned at all hours like medicine, when its invention could set above even that of chloroform, when it captured only a little of this noble trait, like a Hapsburg lip, that of our ancient anonymity, which was once as common as air, somewhere, wrapped around Neptune, perhaps. We would explode if we ever breathed it.
James Reidel has published poems in many journals as well as Jim’s Book (Black Lawrence Press 2014) and My Window Seat for Arlena Twigg (Black Lawrence 2006) and has very recent work in the March 2016 issue of Poetry, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, and the forthcoming Hawai’i Review. He is also the biographer of the poet Weldon Kees and a translator who has published works by Thomas Bernhard, Georg Trakl, Franz Werfel, and Robert Walser. He is currently working on a collection of prose poems. In 2013, he was a James Merrill House fellow.
Reflex Response to Gravity
by Gianni Skaragas
My brother shouts to no one in particular, an insult he had once known, old hurts fragmented yet orderly— a new land in his empty pockets. He damns the bulb hanging from the ceiling and fires his toy gun at random intervals until he lays it on my mother’s dress, a dry riverbed between us. Ηe spouts all kinds of threats, a long nickering white marble thoroughbred with bruised lips, propelling his wheelchair furiously toward the picture of our father. “Can we leave the bulb on till I'm asleep?” he says as he runs a hand across his eyes dimming away the past. He lowers his voice as if he feared waking someone, his mouth drawn tight—it never means one thing: It’s the face of an insect gazing through his eyes; it’s the sharp smell from the weeks-old vase of hyacinths; the shame building in the big-headed child, the wars of our boyhood over his shoulder. My brother’s enemies are shadows, the hawk’s response to an airplane for which neither the sky or gravity can be blamed.
Gianni Skaragas objects to love songs he has never listened to. He writes in both English and his native tongue. His work has previously appeared in World Literature Today, Tower Journal, Midnight Circus, Crannóg, and elsewhere. He is the author of five books in Greece, six plays, two sitcoms and three drama series. He is a Fulbright Fellow and a recipient of several grants and fellowships in Europe and the United States. He is a member of the Association of European Journalists. You can also find him at gianni-skaragas.wix.com/gianni-skaragas.
by Eve Kenneally
I put a story in the sink about it, mean
as a rattlesnake, everything already
browning. Honey you have nothing to be
afraid of, not these glowing lemon sap
girls, muddy socks, threading carpet,
silence. Copper wire. Friends share.
I'm not sure who I'm saying this for: we all
know the benefits of cross-stitching. Your throat
will string itself for haunted shelving, hands
putty in the sink to lick the salt
from my shins.
In this kitchen I gum shards
of plate, use my hands to feed. This
is something new: I left
its plastic by your feet. Looking young
is a forgiveness, is a claim, is a way
to shake things back. Is a way
to make repairs, to smooth the flat
plate of forehead, sinking
come spring. Of not waterproofing
all the spares, letting the boots crack
through. On the drive home, you speak,
slow, to carry the time:
can you imagine
what this would do
to a human body
PRETTY BABY MORPHTHING
Brooke Shields needs a tampon, needs a lighter, needs
a god. Splits Waldorf skulls like apples – call her
Camille. Ivory soap between her & her Calvins. A naked
ten in Spiritual America. No more than a Tupperware chain
of confidence, tight swell, post-partum Michael Jackson
was white too. The Midnight Meat train, yes sir, they’re just
asleep. Assaulted dream, a caramel cloth thing with sailor
boys, making anything dramatic with vague science. The press
of mother-in-law’s tongue, of cutting quick. Feeling it all reach
at once, biting
come back into the corners.
Eve Kenneally is a second-year MFA student at the University of Montana, from Boston by way of DC. Her chapbook, "Something Else Entirely", will be released by Dancing Girl Press in 2016. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Yemassee, decomP, Star 82 Review, Sugared Water, Blue Monday Review, and elsewhere. Find her on Twitter @eveveve418.
by Oli Spence
Our faces fall—
faded, reflected in
dark mirror water.
Morgue table or shoreline-
perhaps both, with children splashing
in waters that take life from those in search
I wriggle my toes, push down on stones that
pebbledash my skin and cut saturated flesh—
stinging as salt crystallises
in sun drenched wounds.
I see faces in the waves,
and voices in the swell,
names no one knows.
Oli Spence recently graduated from The Cass School of Art with a first class degree in Fine art, and lives in London, U.K. Whilst studying, he discovered a love for poetry and became interested in a practice that seeks to combine and intertwine poetry and visual imagery in multidisciplinary ways—through video, sculpture, and painting but mainly through using found images and vintage photographs, using them to inspire his writing. Oli believes that poetry is a way of seeing the world and seeks to bring something of his interiority through his writing. olispencepoetry.wordpress.com
Dissection and Lamentation
by Ani King
Height, weight, bruise and bone.
The why incision, the how incision,
shoulder to breast, and again.
Breast to stem. A beginning after the end.
Tongue and teeth, a fence, no, a net,
to hold in the taste and texture of roe.
The throat, the voice and breath,
the now absent thrum
The brittle cage, the large heart,
where the body's dark wine once ebbed and flowed,
rivers and streams and dams, veins and arteries
and fatty silt.
The livid flank, the ropes that tie the stomach down,
the world consumed,
bite by meaty bite.
A never empty table, a full glass,
Cigarettes and salty olives and the legs,
my god, the legs on those women,
the legs on that wine.
Ani King is the Editor in Chief of Syntax & Salt: Stories, A Journal of Magical Realism. She lives and works in Lansing, Michigan, where it snows Monday, rains Wednesday, and could be summer on Friday. She has a cat, as is expected, and a family of giants. For a comprehensive list of available work, please go here. @aniking; @syntaxandsalt
On Bray Road Melancholia
by Chloe N Clark
Some wolves keep their dead
in one place—easy to catalogue
the losses when the bones
can be counted. These wolves
remember the shape of land
before beasts built roads,
stories passed from snout
to snout; stories kept close,
warming bellies with the smell
of deep forest, running stream,
the collecting mosses under paw.
Ghost imprinted forests
hung like shadow play curtains.
The wolves’ bones shift in earth, beasts
metal claw shovel them loose.
The wolf watches, sniffs the air for memory,
the smell of new nothing, and shifts
back into the darkness—sometimes still
spotted at night, always disappearing.
Chloe N. Clark's work appears in Apex, Bartleby Snopes, Hobart, Lockjaw, and more. When not teaching, baking, or writing, she is usually tweeting @PintsNCupcakes
Bill Wolak—a creative writing professor, poet, photography, and collage artist who hails from New Jersey—contributed all of the psychedelic artwork to our third issue. Due to the nearly 2,350 miles between us, we weren’t able to sit down for a cup of joe in the same coffee shop; a conversation mediated by the Internet was our only option. Below, Wolak talks about his technique, obsession with the human form, and the occasional all-nighter.
Spilled Milk: Tell us a little bit about your creative process.
Bill Wolak: It gets harder and harder to work during the day because of the constant interruptions. Therefore, I usually have a longer period of sustained work at night. Sometimes I work all night until dawn.
SM: How do you know when a piece is “finished?”
BW: When I think that I’ve completed a work, the best thing to do for me is to put it aside for a few days or weeks. Then after some time, I take another look at it. Sometimes I will find something missing or I will decide to simplify what I have done. But it’s always a good idea to let it rest for a while.
SM: What risks have you taken to get where you are?
BW: To make the commitment to work in the arts is a risk itself. Failure seems to surround you, especially when you’re just beginning. Then, little by little, you publish whatever it is that you’ve been working on alone for a very long time. The process is very solitary, and sometimes there is very little positive feedback about your work. The artist, any artist, has to develop a certain fearlessness just to go on. Then it’s necessary to cultivate a state of relentless striving to make the connections necessary to get your work published. Also, you must overcome the fear of the constant rejections.
SM: What inspires you? Generally or, like, at this very moment; what are you obsessed with?
BW: The human form is one of my obsessions. I always come back to the face and the body. Sometimes my work can be extremely abstract. But in most cases, somewhere lurking in the piece is the influence of the human body, nakedness, sensuality, sexuality, or ecstasy.
SM: Do you see your poetry, photography, and collage work in conversation with each other? How so?
BW: Sure, the poems, photographs, and collages begin as dreams or obsessions or hallucinations that I begin to play with. Lines of the poetry appear as titles of collages. Images in the photographs influence the poetry and so forth. As long as you keep creating, there is always a conversation going on between the various modes of art that beg for your concentration, your undivided attention. Out of that interplay, some development, some innovations may occur.
SM: What are the raw elements (figurative or literal) of your collages?
BW: For the most part, I use engravings and prints from all books to make my collages. Sometimes I use the old cut and paste method, and sometimes I employ digital techniques. It depends on the possibility that is opening up imaginatively as I am working.
Bill Wolak is a poet, photographer, and collage artist. He has just published his twelfth book of poetry entitled "Love Opens the Hands" with Nirala Press. His collages have been published in over a hundred magazines including: The Annual, Peculiar Mormyrid, Danse Macabre, Dirty Chai, Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal, Lost Coast Review, Mad Swirl, Otis Nebula, and Horror Sleaze Trash. Recently, he was a featured poet at The Mihai Eminescu International Poetry Festival in Craiova, Romania. Mr. Wolak teaches Creative Writing at William Paterson University in New Jersey.