The Grip by Arielle Mara LaBrea, from Issue #40

The grip

You would whisper in my five year old
ear, “If you get lost, I’m not going
to come looking for you” while we
walked hand in hand through Hershey
Park, while my father was in line
buying food for us. It was always a
tenuous grip—your perfectly manicured
fingers around my chubby digits. Your
threat of abandonment is the oldest in
my memory. I was the most disposable
of your creations, the dark haired,
blue eyed picture that resembled nothing
you ever wanted, or needed.

Setsunai by Courtenay S. Gray



Photographs last a lifetime — put me in her place.

I insert myself like you insert yourself inside me/at least what I had imagined would happen. 

All that was before, the monochrome photographs — stoic hands rested beneath your chin like an Adonis. 

Japan became your safe haven — your retreat. 

We could have gone there together — the maraschino cherries abreast in our hotel room/the jazz piano playing on the record you brought in your case. 

The black void of sky — echoing icy breaths/the energy of coitus and tangible lust metastasising. I am the feeder of your dreams, rebirthing nostalgia with its vanilla pod perfume. 

I would dance with you to ラビリンス by Mondo Grosso ft Hikari Mitsushima — my hair pasted with starry glitter, my red nails tracing your back. 

Our song, electric with the soft baby blue it now exudes — a palette cleanser for being too happy, too content. Before, she reduced you — under the thumb of hinged fragility. 

Grief is to be sleepwalking — to be a victim to yourself. The scent of you sticks to my nostrils — vetiver and musk merging to form a powerful organism that haunts me. 

In the shimmered silver shadow of the mirror — my mouth is agape, savouring the remaining maraschino cherries. The glassy syrup travels down my neck like how you peppered your kisses. 

Courtenay S. Gray is a writer, poet and essayist from the North of England. She has been featured in publications such as Vamp Cat Mag and Trick Zine & Thorn Lit Magazine which she edited for before its termination. Courtenay is a 2020 pushcart nominee. 

Twitter: @courtenaywrites


All The Pretty Lights by Kendall A. Bell

In December, the day disappears by about five p.m., so I make sure that I turn off all of the lights in my house by 4:30-ish. It’s not like I need them on, anyway. I’ll end up in the living room, either lying on my back on the well worn rug in the middle of the room, or on the aging loveseat that never closes up right away when you want to stop reclining. I stare at the tree’s blinking lights for what seems like an eternity. I watch the outdoor lights pop on as night commences. I stay motionless, stuck in the wonder of the holiday season, like when I was a young girl in the back of my parents’ car, when we would pass by the houses of people much better off than we ever were. I love Christmas lights. Those Decembers were much colder than what passes for the holiday season now, but you can thank climate change for that. It was just me in that huge back seat, clad in the warmest mittens and a pink puff ball hat, my eyes scanning all of the bright lights in wonder. The best memories were of me helping my dad with decorating the tree. “Be careful untangling the lights, Chelsea,” he’d say, and I’d make sure that my small hands never let any of them clink together or hit the floor, even if we had carpet upstairs. I knew the kind of wrath I’d face from my mother’s prying eyes and the judgment that my father seemed to always have reserved for me. It’s why, to this day, I’d rather be alone in this house, like right now, than be surrounded by family that does nothing but wait until they’re face to face with me to tell me how disappointed they are with my life choices. I didn’t ask to be stuck in a relationship that only I was fighting for. I didn’t ask to be left before the holidays for someone that could pass as my younger sister. I didn’t plan to quit college or work at a job that doesn’t come close to paying a living wage, but I digress. This isn’t about them, and it isn’t about feeling sorry for myself. It’s not about how depression bores itself deep into my bones and leaves me empty and alone. Well, maybe it is a little. It’s more about escape than anything else. These lights are my escape. This seven foot, artificial, pre-lit tree is my escape. All of the decorations are my escape. I wish this were a winter wonderland. I think that everyone, given the chance, would take the movie version of the holidays, where snow is falling, and friends are knocking on your door, presents and freshly baked sweets in tow. Most everyone would love for their dinner table to be perfectly set with dishes and silverware, wine glasses and candles. It’s not the reality, though. The reality is this right now: the ache in my left hip and sciatic pain. It is me tilted towards the window where I can focus on the tree and watch the sun slowly set over this quiet town. There are a few gift bags under the tree. My mother sent me her annual card with a check in it. I’ve taped the six Christmas cards that were sent to me on the front door. Most of these people, I never see during the year. It’s ok. If there’s one thing that I can count on, it’s my own company.

Christmas is almost here, and I don’t expect a call from my best friend, or even my mother. There won’t be a pot luck or a secret Santa at my job. The Christmas present I give myself will be the semi-annual sale at Bath & Body Works. For now, I’m content making this pie for myself, knowing that I won’t have to share it, as I don’t know another person who likes coconut custard pie. I’ll cook for myself, and maybe make some cookies, too, and let the entire house smell like my childhood. Christmas night, I’ll lie on my back, a belly full of savory and sweet, and stare at the lights, my emptied gift bags at my side, my dog curled in her bed and aloof. I’ll think about how many more of these I want to endure, now that I’m older, less important, and less attractive than I’ve ever been. I’ll think of all of the pills I have in the bathroom: ibuprofen, naproxen, percocet. A glass of wine and a buffet of pills to get washed down by a full glass of moscato. Maybe it’d be the best present I could give myself. My body wouldn’t be discovered for weeks, maybe even months. I never have the nerve to actually do it, though. Instead, I just lie here in the dark, on my back, stare up at all of the lights and cry like a fucking failure. The kind of anguish I harbor never seems to get any lighter. It feels like a boot in my chest, getting heavier by the minute. Everything seems to be fuzzier right now from down here. It’s happening faster than I had imagined. These lights are so pretty.

Kendall A. Bell’s poetry has been most recently published in Crepe & Penn and Pink Plastic House. He was nominated for Sundress Publications’ Best of the Net collection in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2018. He is the author of two full length collections, “The Roads Don’t Love You” (2018) and “the forced hush of quiet” (2019), and 27 chapbooks, the latest being “the frail spine of us”. He is the publisher/editor of Maverick Duck Press and editor and founder of Chantarelle’s Notebook. His chapbooks are available through Maverick Duck Press. He lives in Southern New Jersey.

Two poems by Kristin Garth

Kristin Garth is a Pushcart, Best of the Net & Rhysling nominated sonnet stalker. Her sonnets have stalked journals like Glass, Yes, Five:2:One, Luna Luna and more. She is the author of seventeen books of poetry including Pink Plastic House  (Maverick Duck Press), Crow Carriage (The Hedgehog Poetry Press), Flutter: Southern Gothic Fever Dream (TwistiT Press), The Meadow (APEP Publications) and Golden Ticket from Roaring Junior Press.  She is the founder of Pink Plastic House a tiny journal and co-founder of Performance Anxiety, an online poetry reading series. Follow her on Twitter:  (@lolaandjolie) and her website

Four poems by Simon Perchik

You become a shell, this time
hardened by so many times
though the dress is empty

–your arm around the Earth
lets nothing brush against the sleeves
except the soft dirt that remembers

clearing out a place for snow
to be scattered the way you dead
give way to the great weight

pressing against your wish
that everything be as it was and you
no longer broken apart by those stones

you let pass through your fingers
–it’s all uphill and grass is everywhere
struggling to bring you to the surface

with nothing in your heart :a buoy
taking the lead as it used to
beginning to fill with air and marble.


And though this door is locked
it leans into the evenings
that hollowed out the place

for its marble and grass
where you still hide, afraid
make the dead go first

–they already know what to do
when the corners are no longer enough
and with your finger become

the sudden breeze filled with moonlight
and distances opening the sea
holding it over the fires –pilings

are useless here, these great walls
cringe from the cries rain gives off
where a morning used to be

and you are following it alone
as if there was a light in the window
waiting for you to come by.


You can’t stop, talk
and far from your mouth
wait for the grass

as the same sound
between your fingers
lowering for lips

–you talk the way rope
takes so long to die
–over and over and over

empty your mouth
filling it with thorns
with shoulders, afternoons.


It was a lake, used to bodies :islands
With an everlasting sunset and the glare
From jewelry, veils slowly drifting down

As the footsteps that now weigh so much
–it came here the way an icy stream
enters a slope that can no longer right itself

has no water left to give, no nights, no arms
though you are reaching for these dead
by hauling off smaller and smaller stones

on tip-toe, paving your hands for the unease
already smelling from wood, rope, holes
hidden in bracelets and never let go.

Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Reflection in a Glass Eye, published by Cholla Needles Arts & Literary Library, 2020. For more information including free e-books and his essay “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at