Three poems by Susan Richardson

Condition of My Heart

Over months of unfurling secrets,
and trying to decipher the chill in your gaze,
the threads of deceit snap me in two and
change the condition of my heart.
I stitch myself into a mantle of chastity,
keeping myself numb to the pleasure
of your touch, but through the reverie of 3 a.m.,
your fingers bring my body back to life.
Desire burns emotions.
I fall into the familiar scent of your skin,
doubt collapsing beneath the heat of your eyes.
We are a rage of fire and forgetfulness,
until time resumes its bitter pulse.
We exhale, and the room turns to ice.
I pull a heavy cloak of resentment
over my shoulders, and step out into the day.
Without my conscience.  Without my heart.


Stiff Trigger

If I used a razor, I would warm the blade,
delighting in the comfort of tepid steel,
and watch life pool in crevices on the floor.

If I took pills, I’d lay them across my palm,
sacrament for a wanting tongue,
penance doused in bitterness,
tugging on my eyelids with welcome force.
If I used a gun, it would be an antique,
with gilded barrels and a stiff trigger,
a relic of ravaged lives held gently to my lips.


Your Promises are Collapsible

I sit in a locked car, wading through the
gravel of my nerves, skin prickling with caffeine.
Your betrayal is spread out across the dashboard,
photos of you sneaking into a cheap motel at
lunchtime, hidden behind the door of room#5,
caressing much younger skin than mine.
The stench of infidelity clutters the floor.
Chasing off rage with packs of cigarettes,
I inhale the hours, alight on the precipice of
catching you in the guileful arms of your secret.
Your promises may be collapsible, but so are mine.
My heart has succumbed to the taste of deceit.
I spread myself thin under your lies,
waiting patiently for you to slip into the deluge.


Susan Richardson is living, writing and going blind in Los Angeles. She shares a home with an Irishman, 2 pugs and 2 cats. She was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa in 2002, and in addition to poetry, she writes a blog called Stories from the Edge of Blindness.  Her work has been published in: Stepping Stones Magazine, Wildflower Muse, The Furious Gazelle, The Hungry Chimera, Sheila-Na-Gig, Chantarelle’s Notebook, Foxglove Journal, Literary Juice, Sick Lit Magazine, Amaryllis, and The Anapest Journal, with pieces forthcoming in Eunoia Review.  She was also awarded the Sheila-Na-Gig Winter Poetry Prize and will be featured in the Literary Juice 2018 Q&A Series.


Two poems by Alla Vilnyanskaya

Mother of Pearl

I was living in a room
sleeping in a bed
enclosed in barbed wire

A wire
out of which
I should have been extracted

You were the girl
my father fell in love with

My father’s father fled the Ukraine
during the Nazi occupation of Kharkiv
Leaving his wife and son

They ate potato peels
and crawled over severed limbs

You were the girl my father fell in love with
and cried for on a train
going from nowhere, to elsewhere.

(First Published in Zaum)




One day you come home you find
you don’t have a home
no house
no door

Your name is the first
Then mine
We speak of the women who have died
the month goes something like this

How will you save her? Your only child.

I eat sap from the trees.
Sap reminds me of love
And teardrops.


Statistically speaking

Men’s lives run shorter than the lives of women
But somehow that doesn’t seem like enough

You find some type of vocation, perhaps
you will no longer have time for us.

I pour my heart out
Into a cup
you say “there’s a spot”

In the new world
Women no longer give birth
The process of childbirth
Is too painful and grotesque

We all live in tree houses
And wear vines

They say all men are evil
Especially the good ones.


Alla Vilnyanskaya was born in the Ukraine and came to the U.S. with her family as a refugee. Her work has previously appeared in Zaum, Poetry International and Boog City. She is currently working on her first book.

Two poems from Devon Balwit

There, the Similarity Ends


At session’s end, she cradles

my head in a towel, rolls it

back and forth in all the gentle

spirals the spine is made for.


This time, as she readies me,

the smallest swathe covers

my nostrils, trapping my breath

in a quick gasp, and reminding me


of waterboarding, of victims

drowning and reviving,

the pinching off of air

to force confession.


I wonder if the brain

suffers beyond the immediate

alarm, whether neurons die,

and with them, memories, those


of gentler touch, say, of different

kinds of gasping, the spending of

passion, the passing of beauty.

Sheltered as I am, I know


the tortured changed, but how—

at the cellular level, or only

in attitude, wary of sheets

on the line or dishtowels


draped over the faucet? Freed,

I gather myself amidst spruce-

scented candles, choose

my memories, and leave.



The Lower Self


Not a nest, but hair, yanked, blood-spattered.

There are scratch marks, skin


beneath nails, and bruises waiting to lift

their message from within.


Rage wafts an acrid stink. Beside myself,

my nostrils flare to suck it in.


I know now the time to return, but I

prefer this dark twin.


In the morning, shame crushes me,

just as fallen roof beams pin


survivors. I hyperventilate, croak

for help in a voice reed-thin.


This aftermath should suffice for warning,

but it’s a place I’ve often been.
(after Cristina Troufa’s The Lower Self)


Devon Balwit teaches in Portland, OR. She has six chapbooks and two collections out or forthcoming. Her individual poems can be found here as well as in Cordite, Rattle, Posit, The Ekphrastic Review, Peacock Journal, and more.

The Sun Is A Secret Legend In The Dark by Paul Koniecki

the sun is a secret legend in the dark

on nowhere’s edge
the blinds let in

a runner
of moonlight

like some old movie
we forgot we loved again

the deep regularity
of your breathing

tells me you
may really be asleep

our neighbors are

branches on windows
and tongues

against the gin
writing and writing

i am numb with
silent noise

you roll in
to me

and i
am lost


Paul Koniecki is a Dallas poet who hosts Pandora’s Box Poetry Showcase and Vellum Ouroboros Poetry Open Mic Salon at Deep Vellum Books. His last two books, After Working Hours by NightBallet Press and Reject Convention by Kleft Jaw Press, are for sale online, now.