Two poems by Niki Baker

Mantle

In fossicking
among abandoned memories
searching for the gleam of precious things
I have learned
to let my focus slip

I used to hunt for pearls
where I expected them to be
in the grand gestures and
scattered around the milestones
the places where everybody looks
and nobody finds

In the quiet spaces
the cracks between
that is where the jewels wait
stars at the edge of my vision

I see one
where I am safe and small in the circle of your arms
listening to the metronome in your chest

And other moments
as if emboldened by the first
come crowding
the scent of sawdust and oil
the knowledge of making and mending
curls of wood licking from the jaws of a plane
worn grips and keen blades
your thumb through the fragile mantle
of a gaslight
your hand on the back of my bicycle
and your voice
full of every emotion
keep pedaling
pedal

I rode away
left you behind
in the tender cruel way that children do
and the gifts you thought you gave me
are forgotten
but my life is filled with pearls and stars
from all the quiet spaces

 

 
Night rain

the city’s neon colours
blur bright
against a wet black canvas

every streetlamp
brags alchemy
haloed in raindrops

night slithers gutterward
while a gust of lamplight
pirouettes into a side street
and yesterday’s news
finding it has the alley to itself
waltzes for a moment
with the breath of the storm

 

 

Niki Baker is practically nocturnal, enjoying the world best when the stars are out and most of the people are in. She has received recognition for numerous short stories, poems and travel articles, and is currently seeking a publisher for her first full-length novel. Find her on Twitter at @NRBakerWriter

Three poems by Jenna Velez

eclipsing

The sun is a drowning god
In a sea of dark skies
The moon hangs itself
While people dance under its glowing corpse
Animated and ghostly
A dinner party of people half alive
Still wanting
A touch that doesn’t hurt
When i ask you to hold me
I meant love me for this fleeting moment
Because you are bigger than the earth
And i’m desperate to be in your orbit

So i’ll take after the moon for a while
And you can eclipse with me one day
But for now i am a glowing corpse
All tragic, all magic
Dance under me, lover
Even that i can’t call you
But you don’t have a name
Cannot be confined to letters
Signed ever yours

 
menage a trois

i was on display
in red light waning moon
to two lovers
both did not love me
and i loved that

i was held down
and propped up
on pillow soft pins and needles
the way they like
me as a doll
all sex and contortion

i was left as crumpled paper
rotted fruit peel and cigarette butt
i was nicotine replacement
while he kissed the real thing
while she lit him and took a drag
while they burned and burned
i was merely the filter
a good thing caught in the way
and god i loved that

 
times of famine

you fell into me
in a theatrical kind of desperation
i know you’re still trying to feel something
in a way that says i am bleeding
and i want you to be a scab
but platelet lover
i will not always be there
to keep you alive long enough to die
to keep you warm long enough to strip midwinter
to keep you here long enough to leave
to eat in times of famine
but this is a glorious exception
we are all hungry for someone
to fall into
in a defeated kind of nosedive
headfirst into arms/legs/hearts/it hurts
but your blood is sweet
and it’s cold
and you’re leaving
me again
for more permanent pleasures

 

Jenna Velez is an emerging poet and essayist from suburban Philly. She currently runs the blog By Death, She Lives with Rhythm & Bones Press. Jenna has two forthcoming microchapbooks BLOODY SPIRIT AND BATHROOM RITUAL (Bone & Ink Press, April 2020) and THE WHORE MADONNA LEADS THE BLACK MASS (Maverick Duck Press, July 2019). She tweets @northernbruja and can be found at jennavelez.weebly.com

Three poems by Tianna Hansen

A Vessel for the World’s Passion

feel your fingers grip skin
teeth bite my bare shoulder
indent my flesh, leave your mark
do not be gentle, unleash your inner desire
to conquer on my swollen wetness, leave me
sore and wanting, begging on my knees for
another drop of love to swallow whole.
release inside my mouth, linger on my tongue
thick honey to soothe my throat, sore from screaming
love declarations & holy sacraments laid at your altar
perform this worship on my body, cover me with your
warm salty essence, let me drown beneath you.
show me the goddess you see as you touch my flesh
towering beauty captivating your mind, I am
temptation incarnate.

 
Dripping Honey

between my legs / a garden grows /
moist and soft / full of vibrant life
my pussy is a beehive / dripping honey
and men / their tongues extended
crawling on the ground / beneath me
begging for a drop / begging for a taste /
to suckle this sweetness / from between my legs
consume my love potion / and become
captivated / in the sight of me
in the smell and taste / the heat
of that budding / beehive /
buzzing constant / with electric lust.

 
Army of Women

I became a woman once I bled
once I ached deep in my womb,
trembled throughout my bones.
my fight for retribution ended the same:
with blood trickling down my legs, unbidden
like scarlet lace tracing the origin of
my aching, absorbing wounds into the
earthen grip of mud, feet rooted beneath
the soils and becoming one with a forest of
ancient trees, arms outstretched as limbs
and hair no more than leaves and
winding serpents. we turn men to stone
with a single glance in our eyes, melt
down from our waxen poses to become
something other than stiff sculptures
perfected by shaking hands. stand
rigid, refuse to fall as we guard our
earth mother eternal and lead our
daughters along the winding forest path,
a trail of dead leaves & peeled bark-skins
shed from our naked bodies. we will be
gathered, stripped bark and pulp
circled around each other worshipping
each woven night, worshipping
the moon. whole in every phase.

 

 

Tianna G. Hansen has been writing her whole life. She recently released her debut poetry collection Undone, Still Whole (APEP Publications), focused on overcoming trauma and reclaiming her body. Her three-poet collaboration A Victorian Dollhousing Ceremony, a dark fantasy poetic opera about the facets of trauma, just released. Tianna is the founder and editor-in-chief of Rhythm & Bones Press. Find more of her work at CreativeTianna.com, follow her: IG @tgghansen24, TW @tiannag92, FB @tiannaghansen.

Three poems by Amanda Crum

Magpie

I was craving something simple
So I went out and bought a bar of Ivory soap

It smells like being seven
In a decade before money

Trailer park baths at dusk
To wash away the grass-itch

From a young age I was a magpie
Attracted to the shine around the edges of things

But now I look for purity
Where I can find it

In the way the sky looks like a pearl
Just before the sun disappears

And the sound of a key
Turning the tumblers in a lock

Where before we overlooked
Now we pray for vision

 

 

Afternoon Rebellion In A Trailer Park

Far from any highway
a billboard erupts from weeds
and tempts us trailer folk.
It’s not what I wanted,
to climb that fence
and rebel,
but I do it to show
I’m a good sport
as God-light flickers
and breaks up the stratus.
Post-storm always smells
of damp blacktop
and secret things surfacing,
like the sudden knowledge
that something inside me
is thrumming. That field
is waiting golden and untamed,
a nameless thing crowding doubt
from the atmosphere. Is 9
too young for desire? The want
creates a push and pull, cotton-bud safety
and lovely, deckle-edged danger,
delicate balance like a ballerina en pointe,
muscles quivering in hushed and perfect
agony. The outside world awaits.

 

 
Cookie Cutters

I once watched the creation
of cookie cutters,

how they are rammed by metal rods
around a particular shape

to bend and succumb.
Always the supplicant, too afraid to ask

for something different.
What if they steeled themselves

like I never did
(jackknifed over the sink waiting for him to finish),

refusing to be pliant in favor of
their own future selves

and what they would have to live with?
Now when I think of that time

my mouth erupts with
gingerbread and sparks

and I wait to see
which one will keep me full.

 

Amanda Crum is a writer and artist whose work has appeared in publications such as Barren Magazine and Eastern Iowa Review and in several anthologies, including Beyond The Hill and Two Eyes Open. She is the author of two novels, The Fireman’s Daughter and Ghosts Of The Imperial. Her first chapbook of horror-inspired poetry, The Madness In Our Marrow, was shortlisted for a Bram Stoker Award nomination in 2015; her story “A Shimmer In The Parlor” was a finalist for the J.F. Powers Prize in Short Fiction in 2019. Amanda’s middle-grade fiction book, The Darkened Mirror, will be published in the summer of 2019 by Riversong Books. She currently lives in Kentucky with her husband and two children.

Leftovers are by Frank Karioris

Leftovers are

Leftovers are, as I’ve said before,
one of the great joys of life.

Anyone who can’t see this, doesn’t
know the dictum: soup is always better the second day.

The power of food to move, mold, and make
us is best displayed in day-old bread

made into croutons, or breadcrumbs;
or the way that cake get ever so slightly crispy;

the cheddar goes a shade of darker white and hardens,
crunching down in beautiful tones.

The made-to-order-ness of a meal put together from parts,
the order of palettes is challenged in that moment.

 
Frank G. Karioris (he/they/him/them) is a writer and educator based in Pittsburgh whose writing addresses issues of friendship, masculinity, sexuality, and gender. Their work has appeared in wide ranging publications, including the Hong Kong Review of Books, Burning House Press, Truth-Out, Maudlin House, and the Berlin Review of Books.