Unlove poem by Amber Auslander

UNLOVE POEM

Cloak my salvation in bath-water, blood lover.
Your second row of teeth has gone too long unnoticed.
Teach me to floss those gums to bleed.
Teach me to notice mouths again.
This painted beach swarms with krill carbon, mineral shapes
Staining bleached coral on your bathroom floor.

You only know how to speak in lavender, you accuse.
You only know how to bring out the worst in me.
I watch your breaststroke turn to sink.
Hesitating dive as I follow you under.

Beneath the waves, we propel ourselves through opposing lights.
Your skin, blending into blue. Mine, a target.
I cannot tell when your eyes find crimson,
Only that a passing flounder whispers a warning.

When did this happen to us? I cannot ask, swallowing you first, propelled from floodgate.
You reply without question, When jellyfish took up residence in your neck.
We dissolve in slow motion against this current,
Divisions taking their place in our guided drift.

Back then, I could not separate my blood from the salt.
Now, you cannot separate the wound from the healing.

Proposal. Let’s engage in an exercise: three laps.
Interspliced. My buoyancy balancing.
We wonder: why not float open.

 

Amber Auslander is a nonbinary poet with a passion for clowns. They wish they were kidding. Follow them on Twitter @corpsedroid for some poetry updates and even more screaming.

Two poems by Mick Theebs

It is an incontrovertible fact of science

It is an incontrovertible fact of science
that people are born with
holes in their hearts and
that over time these holes
seal themselves up.
However,
there is a substantial segment
of the general population
whose hearts do not mend.
These poor souls wander the earth
with chest pains and indigestion
in search of a miracle cure
to seal up that gap inside them.
They go from doctor to doctor
rattling tin cups
searching for something
to plug their hole.
Passersby will drop whatever they see fit
into dust-caked cups─
mostly rosary beads and religious tokens
but among the sacred baubles
some of these wanderers are fortunate enough
to get something else.
Maybe a couple of dollars or
a tube of lipstick or
even some PYT’s phone number.
If they can’t count on someone else
to fill these holes
they’ll use bits of chewing gum
or chunks of steak (medium rare)
or if they’re really in trouble
a cigarette butt and
a few drops of vodka
will be just fine until
they find something more permanent.
Sometimes these travelers succumb
to the emptiness inside them
but those are rare instances and
more often than not
they fall to whatever
patch they have jerry-rigged,
whether its bacon grease,
high quality personal lubricant,
or good old fashioned
Mexican black tar heroin.
A heart can’t beat properly
when it’s clogged with all that refuse.
It might get along in the short time,
but that’s no way to play the long game.
The rub isn’t that these holes can’t be filled,
but that there is no single cure.
We have not found
a master key for these many locks.
Rather,
a key must be handcrafted
with tender touch
and caring caress
for each individual hole.
There is no easy way out.
Denying the very existence of these holes
will not put blood in your veins
or oxygen in your lungs.
There is only one way
to fill that hole in your heart
and you probably
saw this coming
but it’s

 

 
How it feels to lose your hair

It’s a lot like falling out of love.
It doesn’t happen all at once.
It’s an insidious
gradual thing
You pretend it’s not happening
but it’s as slow and inevitable as a glacier.
Each day you lose
Just a small piece
A little here
A little there
Leaving a trail of it
Wherever you go.
Sometimes it will make you
Curse the world
And wish for it to burn.
Other times it will be
a benchmark of the past
that will make your heart twinge.
In the end,
It’s best to just
cut it off
entirely.

 

Mick Theebs is serving as the Poet Laureate of Milford, CT until 2020. In addition to poetry, Mick also writes prose, satire, and scholarly articles. His work has been featured in a wide swath of books and publications, including Massachusetts’s Best Emerging Poets, Tiny Flames Press, and P.S. I Love You. More of his poetry can be found in his book Somnambulist. For spicy takes and dumb jokes, follow him on Twitter @MickTheebs.

Three poems by Emily Pritchard

Snowdon

We lost our father in the mountains:
on Snowdon, where the land
is pinched

into sharp ridges, the air
clearer than glass, the light

creating endless shadows
where he might have been
but wasn’t.

We could see to the horizon and it
was empty. My spit

turned white with fear.
Our voices rose – the air
we breathed pure helium –

and every cry bounced back to us like calls
put through to voicemail.

When we came down it was late.
The tarns held what was left
of the day’s light.

(previously published in Tower Poetry Summer School anthology, 2016)

 
Afon Dwyfor

At Afon Dwyfor –
where in last summer’s woodland
we picked blackberries –

we take handfuls
of you from a plastic sandwich bag
and for a moment you are

solid and substantial,
like holding your hot firm hand
as you sat on the sofa

with eyes closed, finding
you could no longer stand
or walk.

We trickle each fistful
of soft pale-grey ash
through fingers

or throw it so it hangs
like a cloud of smoke, lands
in complex patterns

and is carried away
to where the current expands,
thicker and darker

than I knew water could be.
Upstream, a fallen oak spans
the banks like a bridge.

The task done,
I edge along this grand
old tree to where,

half way across,
the river is so loud I can
speak without hearing my voice.

 
Strain

I press my father’s thumb
firm to my eyelid, feel

the hatchling’s
heartbeat, here

then gone again, dog
dreaming behind my eye.

Strain, spasm, tremor, pulse,
something

stirring, hive inside
a wall. Insect

wings, doubt
that nags.

Tiny wise goddess
waiting to burst

through, moth
against pane,

tapping Morse code
for let us rest.

 

Emily Pritchard is a poet and reviewer, studying for a Masters in Poetry and Poetics at the University of York, UK. Coming from a performance poetry background, she has taken part in the Roundhouse and BBC Edinburgh Fringe poetry slams, and hosted the Slay on Words slam in York. In 2018 she won the Helen Cadbury Award in York Literature Festival Poetry Competition. Find her on Twitter @poetrypritch

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.