How to Eat Yourself
by Jade Quinn
This is how it felt in my body: My stomach digested itself. I ordered only soup. I worried about my heels that made me taller than him. I said to meet me under a purple tree. He knew its name.
He did everything right. I’ve learned not to trust men who do things right.
Three weeks is too soon to wake up in each other’s beds this many times.
If you asked him, he’d still say we’re strangers.
We make birthday plans without each other.
He doesn’t do PDA, he says. But he does not object to the sidewalk in plain sight of bus stop strangers. What he meant is he does not show indication of romance when he is amongst his associates.
He finished with his left hand. I asked if he was left-handed, and he replied, “With this, I am.”
He said, "Be selfish." I told him I came to the opposite conclusion: to be generous. It took a few minutes. I swallowed. I told him it tasted good. I meant it. I expected nothing in return.
I count the hours up to 48. If we talk again, we will not acknowledge the silence. We will remain cordial and talk about how busy the work week was.
It’s not that he consumes me but that I consume myself, much like the ouroboros.
I prepare for future suffering. I suffer today. I suffer so that the future suffering will feel like an old shoe. I’m a fish in a net, still living.
I inch away from the platform. The train departs. My tendency is to wait til the final minute, soak in the climax, let the spirit guide me to a solution.
The spirit does not guide me. The animal claws for the safest solution, one that is easy to retract.
I lost the keychain that night. We each bought one, a cat with a bread on its face. I worried this loss was a symbol of death. I was not wrong.
Jade Quinn is a Los Angeles native and homelessness relief worker. Her writing includes poetry, prose, and hybrid forms; she is also an art model and photographer. A graduate of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, her writing and photography has been featured in fields, Metatron, HEAVY ATHLETICS, (b)OINK, and more.
by Mitchell King
Fourth of July
This is this last poem where you love me.
Water balloons wet my white shirt, boys playing in the neighborhood, waiting
for the explosions and the glitter that comes after—
the boom boom boom as thunder in the heart.
For the one boy whose father is away from home I make
a garland of weeds and one bluebonnet—a gift of green and blue on this rare night
when the cicadas have more secrets than I do.
Of course I wanted him to love me. To play house where I was his wife
and he my salesman always leaving late for work—the other boys
would be our children
and keep me company while I worried about their father all day.
Has he eaten? Is he cheating? Are there pettier girls than me?
Do you see where this is going? This is the last poem where you love me—before I tell you the
truth—before the cicadas erupt from their husks in laughter.
I place my garland on his head. I tell him
what he already knows about the heat, how our shirts are wet
from water balloons—how we should probably take them off. This is the last poem
where you love me and how I learn to hate myself.
In my grandparents’ backyard/America/
you were the first boy
to turn my face away.
The Mysterious Disappearance of Dolly Parton
So she’s gone. So I can’t handle it.
So everyone has their missing person.
So I drown and undrown in the Ozarks pulling boy
bodies from the water. None of them are mine—or none of them can die
for her like they want to. So life is a mystery.
So life has a purpose.
So atoms fall back together after a millennia of godtime that my heart
won’t last long enough to live patient for.
My heart is dying. As is my body.
So the dead aren’t special then.
So the water in the lungs is a baptism.
Inside and out.
Inside and out and the loss is sparkling like a rhinestone.
We’re all made out of stars.
So we’re all celebrities crooning at the Opry or the moon. When the boy comes
out of the lake//out of the clouds//out of time
no one believes him like when I
came from the mountains with dust on my hands
and I left fingerprints like an echo on the bodies I touched
no one believed I had done a duet with the moon though I was bored
by the earthly splendor of his dark forelock in the black water that was not space.
It doesn’t matter that I loved them.
So I’m not a prophet.
So I’m not here to heal your wounds. Or mine.
So I’m not in love in the Ozarks—
I searched for everyone we lost
and found they’d forgotten our names.
Mitchell King is a runaway witch living in Kansas City. Someday he hopes to colonize the moon.
Roads in a Map
by Tara Isabel Zambrano
In our teenage years, Jerry and I grow tails. The skin around the new appendage cracks, little red fissures appear like roads in a map. “It‘s very uncomfortable,” Jerry says as he tries to sit still in his chair. He looks at me and I squirm in my seat. We’re worried we’re different. The tails whip us when we steal, we throw up when we lie.
My tail wraps around me when she wants to snuggle, slap against land when she wants to confront, mostly spends her day knocking around the old warehouse. She has a mind of her own. One day I dip her in a bucket of seafoam green paint and she hangs limp as if she is dead.
Jerry’s tail is red like lava, coiled around his arm like a snake, ready to strike. When I’m standing next to him, I see a brown-orange chemical seeping from the cracks. It glows in the dark and makes me want to touch it, braid our tails and walk together.
Sometimes our tails drag us into our past lives. We lie down in long pastures, walk through deep mud and swim in rivers. We visit morgues, stand next to the graves with funny names, stop by the temple of Goddess Kali where we were sacrificed as goats. Coldness settles in the pit of our stomachs. A whiff of fresh meat asphyxiates our tails. The landscapes slump around us, held up by small hills and a black statue of the Goddess, her hands fanned out. Our tails grow darker, swollen and stiff like a milk breast, as if they’ve swallowed our cruel past. We hold them close, cuddle them like babies.
Before, Jerry and I would talk all night about about moving to a big city, getting a job in a circus. I’d dream of washing his feet and tail every night. I’d feel happy to be with someone for whom having a tail was a blessing or at least, an ease, just another heartbeat. I used to draw Jerry and me side by side, our tails in the air like extra hands of the Goddess. That was before Jerry started smoking. That was before he threw up all day because he believed that lying is what makes us human. That was before he snored like an earthquake and cried in his sleep. When he tried to laugh, I could see the back of his mouth filled with lies and a part of me secretly liked his moodiness punctuated with his toothy grins. I wished to disappear in the rapture of his deceit, I wished to light a fire under his tail.
Jerry moves fast inside me. He is holding my hands, my tail tucked behind, pressed under our weight. I see his shadow flickering on the wall, his tail jerking, like a madman dancing. I want to resist him but a voice in my head keeps asking me: Why?
Jerry’s tail has gone bad, like a turned vegetable. He thinks she might recover if we plant her elsewhere. I find a blade, sawed and toothed, slide it close to Jerry’s tailbone. He lets out a scream and his tail falls, limp, bleached. He slowly rises, his breath heaving, his feet wobbling. Flies gather around his tail. “Leave it,” he says. His sound is raw, his gaze crooked, the wound on his backside already forgotten. He lights a cigarette. The stink deepens as he stands next to me, blowing out the smoke obscuring his face. He touches my belly, feeling its tightness and a light swell. “Not too long now, my love,” he says, a grimace folding at the corner of his lips as he watches my tail wag, curl and fold.
Tara Isabel Zambrano lives in Texas and is an electrical engineer by profession. Her work has appeared in Lunch Ticket, Vestal Review, Moon City Review and others. She has fiction upcoming in The Minnesota Review.
by Yuxi Lin
Yuxi Lin is a second-year MFA candidate at the NYU Creative Writing Program, where she received the Lillian Vernon Fellowship. She lives in Manhattan. This is her first publication in a literary magazine.
by Chrissy Martin
Would you believe I used to be
Heather? My mother in her naming,
deciding if I breastfed like a Heather,
spit on the nurses’ smock like a Heather.
In those four days, was I closer to the
slender body of the heather plant, its
delicate shrubs shooting out pink and
violet heads? Heathers only thrive in
rocky soil; what mother wants to forecast
the need to become a weed in the broken
sidewalk—the unstained lotus flower
stalking through the thick mud?
My mother said purple looked so much
better on me in the days of my first name—
during those Heather days.
Does your mother think of what
she has done? Giving you a name
before you even had a face to speak it to?
Just a mush of a pea head, body as big as a
cranberry bean, summersaulting through an
autumn without A/C. Your mother, sweating
marbles, chanting to the soft new swell
of her belly, Christian Christian Christian,
forgetting you were a child and not a prayer.
Do you ever want to go back to that space—
the one before the cracked spines of baby
name books, the scratch of a pen crossing out
possible yous until one became a circle,
became a name then a man then a prophet.
Let us crawl back into that small, unnamed
space, whisper everything but names into
the wide caverns of each other’s mouths.
Chrissy Martin is a PhD candidate at Oklahoma State University and a recent graduate from the Poetry MFA program at Columbia College Chicago. She also holds a BA in English from The University of Akron with minors in Creative Writing, Women’s Studies, and Popular Literature and Film. She is the Poetry Editor for Arcturus and has previously worked as an editor for Columbia Poetry Review and RHINO Poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Amazon's Day One, Voicemail Poems, MISTRESS, (b)OINK, and Lit.Cat.
Forestiere Underground Gardens
by Anna Potter
My adolescent masturbatory fantasies involved disembodied male chests, like decapitated ancient Greek statues hovering just beyond reach. The palm reader off Highway 99 notes: “all private goals are neurotic.”
We enter into things in ignorance. There is no other way.
The fog obscured the corpse, pushed off the cliff by a bobcat, or so we surmise. There is no other way to account for the deer’s legs, broken in half like a pair of twigs.
Each new love gives me pause. Each gain only increases my fear.
When we reached the top of the mountain, we could see the smoke hovering above where we’d been. We notice now how the majority of the forest’s tree trunks are charred around the base, as if they’d sprung up from flames. We hear thunder in the distance. We check the map. The shortest path down the mountain is four miles long. We have no food, no water, no phone.
“Be a woman. Stand on your own two feet,” the palm reader advises.
At the museum, we see that sequoia seeds are small and light, like a flake of oatmeal. Fires help clear out the scrub and debris from the base of the trees and heats the soil to make is soft and permeable enough for the tiny seeds to stick and stay.
The common water flea, asexual and smaller than the head of a pin, has up to ten thousand more genes than a human of any age.
We are going to have a baby.
Anna Potter is freelance copyeditor, a former James Merrill House fellow, and a Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has appeared in phoebe, Contrary Magazine, jubilat, Poetry Daily, and elsewhere. She is currently working on a book of short stories. She can be found online here: annapotter.org & @_anna_potter