Brian Rosenberger

Rivals

With all the new laws being passed,
And always being somewhat of an adventurer,
With a degree in Botany and farmers as ancestors,
As well as murderers,
Both parents being huge potheads,  
She decided to grow her own.

Her strain called Mantoid,
After the insect that consumes its mate.

Sexual cannibalism.
She smiles when she says it, stoned or not.

She feels like an astronaut,
Trailblazing the Cosmos without leaving Earth,
A flavor, a taste, a high, she’d kill for.

And has.

The plants grow from strategically cracked skulls.

Aimee Nicole

Distraction 

When I say fuck me harder
I mean press both thumbs
into my throat until
you blemish me
violet violent. 

Restrain me
because my skin
is crawling with itches—allergic 
to my own past and it’s begging
me to run from too gentle hands. 

Coat me in syrup that stings
my nose with sweetness
to  camouflage the shame
I carry around in baggage
exceeding weight limits. 

I want my body to bear
the challenge my mind has been 
battling, seconds tick by
on the clock but never tick
towards emancipation. 

Willie Smith

ARACHNE

Arachne 
shuffles off,
her eyes on
the horizon, 
to hang herself; 
to find a 
neglected 
corner 
to dream 
in the dark 
of the mind 
a weave 
to catch herself 
to herself 
to feed – 
self-murder 
ever 
self-involved. 
This time
so wholly 
as to change 
her shape 
to show death 
to be no more 
than a weave 
toward an ever 
receding 
offing.

Carrie Magness Radna 

Sherri

Luckily his spell of love on her  
lasted only a minute  
because she soon recognized
its numerous bullshit layers  
when he made her sell drugs
in downtown Cincinnati.  

She never had a mother 
who taught her to sharpen her knives 
and nails before they would dig for food, 

and her father never told her 
to wear her Wonder Woman costume  
underneath her chic work blazer,  

and he snarled: “Hey, whatssup girly girl! 
Show off some more skin— 
so the druggies could get their hooks 
on the merchandise  
if they’re all staring at you.” 

She, an acolyte and true believer
of Lifetime Television, 
knew that true love didn’t result 
from illegal acts of vengeance, 
and, thanks to these shows, 
she kept a knife in her cowboy boot. 

‘Cause she wasn’t going to die 
in these streets selling wares of meth 
& pills; big cities never did give her 
a thrill—if she got out of there, 
she’ll tiptoe back to Texas 

but she left him two souvenirs: 
a bloody, deep slash in  
one of his perfect pecs, 
the same ones that first lit 
her interest in him, 
and another in his side, 
which snuffed him out 

all because 
he said, 
“You’re nothing to me
but a candy hooker.” 

Michael Lee Johnson

Jasper

Old Irving Park,
Chicago neighborhood
Jasper lives in a garret
no bigger than a single bed.
Jasper, 69, clouds of smoke
Lucky Strike unfiltered cigarettes.
He dips Oreo cookies in skim milk.
Six months ago 
the state revoked
his driver’s license-
between the onset 
of macular degeneration,
gas at $4.65 a gallon,
and late-stage emphysema,
life for Jasper has stalled out
in the middle lane
like his middle month
social security check, it is gone.
There is nothing academic about Jasper’s life.
Today the mailbox journey is down
the spiraling stairwell; midway,
he leans against the wall.
Deep breathes from his oxygen tank.
Life is annoying with plastic tubes up his nose.
Relief, back in the attic, with just his oxygen tank,
his Chicago Cubs, losers, are playing
on his radio, WGN, 720 AM.
Equipment, enjoyment at last,
Jasper leans back in his La-Z-Boy recliner.
He reaches for a new pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes.
Jasper grabs a lukewarm Budweiser beer from his mini-fridge.
Deep breathes, a match lite, near his oxygen tank.

Aimee Nicole

The Meek Will Inherit Obsession

She orders discount lingerie online,
unboxes the pieces while he’s at the office.
Or golfing, or at happy hour,
or searching for more baseball cards
to clutter the spare room with. 

She wants to order a strap on
and peg him from behind.
She wants to be surprised
with a large anal plug lubed up, lights out. 
Be double penetrated in their hotel room
at her sister’s wedding.
Gagged so her parents can’t hear her
screaming behind remodeled walls. 

Instead, she sits pretty in mesh tops,
taking selfies in the bathroom mirror. 
Deleting all the evidence of her rebellion
before he returns to his throne. 

Wolfgang Carstens

they had

this thing—
call it a bond,
a game,
their special secret 
moment.

he would only
phone her
when he was
blacked-out drunk.

they’d talk poetry,
philosophy,
art.

she 
was in love 
with his mind

and 
made him promise 
to never stop. 

this secret 
Jekyll and Hyde love affair 
went on for years.

when Jekyll
quit drinking,
however,

Hyde
stopped phoning—

breaking
a promise he
never made

to a woman
he couldn’t 
remember.

yet,
every time 
the phone rings
late at night

she never
forgets.

Jason Melvin

Art is Everywhere

I took a shit today
size of a toddler forearm
the kind that makes you exhale
proud of the work accomplished

It periscoped above the toilet water
surrounded by wet white paper
A flick of the silver handle
it started to pirouette
a ballet dancer   
white swans swirl
and dance around their spinning queen

As the undertow began to pull down
it dropped to the side
rubbed along the bowl
drew a perfectly straight
brown line
before disappearing into depths unknown
a crayon smudge
on perfect white porcelain
form held as showered from above
glistening as the water rose

Tell me I’m not beautiful

John Yohe

Kiss the Witch

I

The witch
is polishing her nails
on all twelve fingers

The witch is changing
the oil in her motorcycle

The witch is dancing
to Texas Blues
undulating her body in S’s
while rolling her hips in O’s

The witch is singing
in a minor key

The witch is being misunderstood by many people

The witch
surprisingly
does not wear black all the time

The witch
is wondering what to write

The witch is wearing sexy underwear
but only for herself
they make her feel good

The witch is swimming naked
in a cold mountain river

The witch is calling down thunder
and lightning
just because

The witch is conjuring demons:
Here little demons
come to Momma

The witch knows 
that you know 
that she knows
that you think she is crazy
but she’s ok with that

The witch is swinging her pulaski
next to the fire
and her face
is smeared with sweat
dirt and ash

The witch
is camping out in the desert
with the eyes
of ringtail cats
watching her

The witch is directing a movie that takes place
in the near future

The witch travels all the time
by bus or train
or she flies

The witch is drinking massive amounts of beer

The witch is vomiting and regretting

The witch is practicing her fiddle

The witch would like to see peace in her lifetime
but also wishes the loud annoying people
next to her
would shut up

The witch is tuning her guitar

The witch is not casting a love spell
on you
that is so passé
if you can’t love her for herself
then fuck you

The witch thinks you have a lot of growing up to do

Nevertheless the witch will make you a chai with soy milk if you want

The witch should be working on her next novel
but
she is forgetting to do something

Have pity on the witch
she works hard
and compared with most people in the world
she is doing less harm
than most

On second thought
the witch doesn’t need your pity

The witch
just wants your respect

The witch is seriously thinking about becoming a lesbian

The witch has fantasies

But the witch also likes the cock

There is something about men

Which is both good and bad

But the witch supposes that is true of women too

The witch thinks she could be a nun
and live in a cloister
and not talk much
and meditate

But the witch goes out for a walk
barefoot
and it’s a nice day
there are lots of people out
and then the witch thinks that she needs this too
and would wither in a cloister

The witch is confused

The witch goes into a café
to have a jasmine tea
and think about it all

II

And what does the witch think of you?

Does the witch think of you at all?

How can you talk to the witch?

Should you call the witch?

Should you send the witch an email?

Should you write the witch a poem?

Yes says the witch
you should always write the witch a poem!

But you don’t know if the witch really means it

You are never sure of the witch
and what the witch wants

You are not even sure the witch knows
what she wants
except for general things like happiness
and fat-free frozen yoghurt with M&Ms

But you?

That might depend
on the witch’s mood at the time
and how good your poetry is

She might not even approve
of referencing poetry
in a poem

But you think that if the witch got to know you
and invited you over for dinner
you might be able to finally kiss the witch

After some intellectual conversation first of course

And a bit of wine

Perhaps you could take a walk with the witch
in the semi-darkness
through a tunnel of fireflies