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How I’d Spend It by Heikki Huotari

How I’d Spend It by Heikki Huotari


All those opposed to raising your right hand should raise your left hand. One spider-man is asking where’s the nearest phone booth. Neither plummeter nor levitator be. You’d wonder where the ultraviolet went when you bathe in infrared. If what the masses had were not contagious you’d ignore it. Of the algorithm’s biases you’d wash your hands. The algorithm surely has a plan.

But having thoughts in thousands I’d be rounding down. The accident is happy and the harmony is cognitive so to what exit are dissenting voices to be shown? An antiquated state of grace, a tool of no known trade, the self-selected sample averages are all over the map. Throw money at me, I’m a problem; don’t throw money at me, I’m a problem. If the lily will not spin the lily will not eat and no one knows that I just won the lottery but Jesus.

When near-death experiences are reported by eyewitnesses eyewitnesses are we and we apologize to all we have offended pass it on. When mirrors turn like sunflowers to face the poster child and not just for the fun of spinning we the semifinalists are waiting in the rain. Dark matter is nothing to laugh at. To illumination be amenable or hence. It’s your move moon, my statement’s made.

Heikki Huotari attended a one-room school and spent summers on a forest-fire lookout tower. Since retiring from academia/mathematics he has published poems in numerous journals and in five poetry collections. His manuscript, To Justify The Butterfly, won second prize, and publication, in the 2022 James Tate Chapbook Competition.

It was on the train when I saw the watercolor ducks by George Clarke

It was on the train when I saw the watercolor ducks by George Clarke


It was on the train when I saw the watercolor ducks. They were there when we surfaced in the embrasure, somehow half the bridges of my life folding into deflection. I started taking the hydrologic cycle seriously after Monica showed me envelopes she made from scrapped paintings. The boundaries between water and color are not laid up in heaven, she said, or seemed to say, which is why these sorts of structures are key terrain in combat situations. It was the Manhattan Bridge, if it matters, and it was the old kind of morning, softened gardens of a thousand dyes. Honey and blue gum through the decking like hammered tin. I was convinced there was a missing element, one that could explain my propensity for uppers and weather reports. A man filming the skyline in a cap that reads “computer rehab” in green monospace and it was faded and corduroy from dissecting PCs in the sun. He might be in his sixties. An empty cup rolled past, got stuck under a stroller. He might have played baseball or once won a twenty-five dollar gift-card from the dentist’s annual trivia contest because he had two appointments in one week and turned in his answers at the second one after going home to ask his brother for help. So it was easy to imagine speaking to him. A theory of distance. The spilled coffee caught the light and we charted its avulsions. I asked about the video and he told me he couldn’t get a good take. This would be his last time going into the city. As if a video would prove anything, he said. It could prove the ducks, I said. He said the ducks could go to hell. It was easy: the two of us on the roof, by the computer, talking about the glass footbridge, the Ponte della Costituzione, which was in the news, both of us remembering and reciting the official’s statement: “We can’t always do poetry, we must give security.” Breaking your neck on a glass bridge is ever more poetic than crossing its amendment. I mentioned the key terrain. It’s the same in literature, he said, or minigolf. A copula, I said. Sure, like, Jesus. This asshole makes a bridge you can’t cross without writing a poem and gets upset when people sue him. Then we are quiet. The cup rolls back out, into the coffee. The ducks: dripped back and proving nothing. We’ll disappear on the other side, back into what we call underground. I’ll get out at Grand St. like always and Monica will meet me at the theater like what I wish was always. I’ll try to describe the waterfowl and how I watched an old man film his face instead of the skyline. The sun made our eyes water. As if to keep burning it must draw a film. Is it too obvious? We can’t always do poetry and before you say anything, it’s because I love you and my phone is going to die. I have no groceries at home and there are ducks painted in the river.

George Clarke is most recently from Louisiana. He is pursuing an MFA at Brooklyn College where he is a Goldstein Scholar and Capote Fellow.

Untitled 28 by John Muellner

Untitled 28 by John Muellner

After Cindy Sherman


Barefoot outside 508, Cindy

has locked herself out of her own place,

and for what? To retrieve the mail:

took the elevator with all of its rattle

and mildew notes down to the lobby

late at night just to find there were no letters,

again. She could have stayed under the sheets,

or in the Saarinen tulip sipping her sidecar,

but instead paces the hall. The television set

still burbles to itself inside, a kind of nonsense

that might ring true if someone came

close enough. The reticent hallway is unnerving

in comparison. No envelopes in hand, she grips

her nightdress, anemic armor, tight

in near fist. She doesn’t want to be seen

so bare, empty handed, and yet, she must

if she wants to finish that warming brandy

and join the suffocating voices in her apartment.

Had she needed the mail so badly? It is only

when she stands outside of it, after she

has left and come back, that home looks

like a dark unfed casket.

John Muellner is an LGBT writer who holds an MA in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing & Publishing from the University of St. Thomas. His work can be read in Gertrude Press, Denver Quarterly, New Delta Review, Court Green, and elsewhere. He lives in Minnesota.

Come with Me by JC Reilly

Come with Me


to the bower   and sit in the dark

green swing      we can   read each other’s

(not palms but)   recipes   bus time tables

repair manuals     we can sing

about balaclavas   and top   hats

we can tell      tall tales


once I found   a mouse

living in    my dresser   the drawer  was  tricked out

like a flat    there was a little bed    there was

a book shelf   and a 50s retro     dinette

the mouse was reading   the Wall Street   Journal

mice are dirty     capitalists  like that


but I can see    you don’t believe   me

the mouse    did not believe me  either

when I asked it to      move out

the sudden air stirs     the leaves

you pump the swing     begin whispering

about a bowl of stolen    cherries      and 46  dimes

JC Reilly is the author of the narrative poetry collection What Magick May Not Alter and the forthcoming chapbook Amo e Canto, which won the 2020 Sow’s Ear Poetry Prize. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in many journals, including Black Fox Literary Magazine, Hole in the Head Review, Antigonish Review, and PoetrySouth. Follow her @aishatonu.

Loblolly Pine by Holly Cian

Loblolly Pine by Holly Cian


None of it matters, the complete genome sequence. Resinous,

the thick yellow like a polluted sky, the tree reaching over

and bearing its needles. Like a playhouse of balls, thick

and enough to swim through. The imitation of water.

But yellow as some bogs or the dull stripes of a spider

as it clings its web across your porch. An occupational

moon. Seeds taken to space and returned, then rediscovered.

Are all seeds open to the wider world? Most often,

our habitat can kill us, but so can where we’ve been.

A tree with a straight base and the insects crawling

around it. A cloud struck from view. Around us,

the small kickback of a motorcycle, the space of energy

and sound. The lower lands has stretched itself

like an unworn sheet. Yes, it is singular. Yes, it stretches

like a body long after the crash and pressure of time.

Holly Cian holds a BA in creative writing from the College of Charleston and an MA in literature from Western Carolina University. Her poems have been published in Pinesong, The Great Smokies Review, Sixfold, and in the anthology Witness: Appalachia to Hatteras. She lives in Asheville, N.C.

My Last Rodeo by John Blake Oldenborg

My Last Rodeo by John Blake Oldenborg


near the university

sanctioned horse


festival they learn

how to roam on


retractable leashes how

to pirouette mobius


strips in tomorrow’s

torn up turf these


no ordinary specimens

not from fetus


jars packed hundred

fold into roaring engines


the piebalds graze and you

can’t know instant coloration


you impersonate young vultures

ready to drop upon me


fellow field grazer dancing

in my brand-new ostrich skin

John Blake Oldenborg (he/him) calls Tallahassee home but currently attends the University of Nevada, Las Vegas where he is earning an MFA in poetry. Some of his poems are forthcoming in Misery Tourism, New Note Poetry, Rat World Magazine, Bullshit Lit, and appear elsewhere online. Twitter: @LMFAOldenborg  Email: [email protected]

Like a Flock of Newly Shorn Ewes by Taylor Leigh Harper

Like a Flock of Newly Shorn Ewes by Taylor Leigh Harper


Monty ignored the cavity on her lower third molar for as long as she could—she was successful for a little while, coming up with myriad ways to distract herself from the occasional jaw-clenching pulsating or toe-tingling aching—until the cavity started to sing. Even then, Monty tried to cover the cavity up, humming over the soft whine the holes produced. She was looking up online tutorials to teach herself how to whistle when her older sister Maureen made her cut the shit out.


“Mont,” Maureen said while peeling a tiny, cute orange in Monty’s doorway. “What’s that lovely buzzing noise all about?”


Monty tongued the cavity, hoping to silence the noise long enough to distract her sister. “What noise? What are you eating? Why didn’t you bring me one of those?”


Maureen held the little precious peel of the tiny, cute orange in one hand. She popped a slice into her mouth, then offered Monty a piece with the other hand, as she said, “Just go to the dentist. You’re starting to sound like Mom.”


“Don’t be mean,” Monty said, even though she knew Maureen was right. Their mother had made all sorts of strange sounds before she lost all her teeth, which had been not long before she died. Her mother’s rotting molars had loved “Marcha Real,” while her chipped canines—ever so lingually inclined—played a haunting rendition of Chopin’s “No. 1 in F Minor.”


It wasn’t their mother’s fault she couldn’t care for her teeth, not when some days had been so miserably heavy she couldn’t lift herself out of bed. Monty wanted to remember her as a woman who lived as long as she could stand to, not as someone without teeth and without clean hair and without any laughter and without much energy left for affection and without any beautiful songs or nursery rhymes or hymns left to sing.


In the dentist’s waiting room, Monty swore she smelled oranges again. Maureen was thumbing through a two-year old magazine, no citrus in sight. Monty thought about crying—maybe if she threw a fit, a real tantrum like she did when she was younger and such outbursts were more acceptable—she wouldn’t be dragged back into a cold white room to sit on a cold plastic chair while a dentist dug around in her mouth with their room temperature, gloved hands.


But her cavity had begun to carol, loud and just slightly off key, so Maureen and the receptionist and all three other patients waiting were doing their best not to look at Monty. Even if she threw herself on the ground, nothing would change what was happening, or what rotting had already begun.


Dr. Santos was older than Monty expected. Her white hair was cropped short, and of course her teeth were also wool-white, even, and completely silent. Monty wondered if maybe her mother might have grown old enough someday to look like Dr. Santos.


“Have you ever had a cavity before?” Dr. Santos asked.


“Arve nhgla thad ploun,” Monty tried to say without biting down on the dentist’s rubber-covered fingers.


“Ah, you’re lucky. Your dental hygiene seems fine, except for this one tooth.”


“Chaow whad eah et?”


“It’s not all that bad,” the dentist continued. “We’re in the very early stages of decay.”


That word made Monty’s stomach hurt. She imagined herself tossing an orange back and forth between her hands. The feeling of the fruit’s pitted flesh. The weight of such a small, tender thing. The realness of something not there, not quite, just out of her reach.


“We’ll fill it, and you’ll be good as new,” Dr. Santos said. She was marking up a chart, her hands finally out of Monty’s mouth.


“Will it hurt?”


The dentist smiled. Monty willed herself not to cry. Her cavity began to hum again, something low and unfamiliar, sweet and sad.


“I love Emmylou Harris,” Dr. Santos said. “I’ll make sure you’re all numbed up. You’ll only feel the needle, and not even that for very long.”


The dentist stepped away to get her assistant, who would watch Monty’s cavity be filled up as a live demonstration in her dental school education. Monty wished she had asked for Maureen to come back, even though her sister probably would have laughed if she had asked to hold her hand. Maureen still would have done it, though. She would have laughed, but she would have held Monty’s hand, if she admitted she was scared of the pain to come, however brief.


While the dentist prepared her long syringe, Monty focused on what she could see and taste and hear.


Monty could see the white walls surrounding the square windows. Outside those windows, she could see green leaves. She could see the blue sky beyond that. She could see the tiled ceiling. She could see the bright yellow light they were shining down into her mouth.


Monty could taste Dr. Santos’ gloves once again. Peat, she thought—the rubber tasted like peat. She could taste a little bit of bile rising up in a nervous fit. She could taste her mother’s perfume, a lingering mix of sandalwood and seawater, lemon and cassis, alcohol and lime.


Monty listened. She listened to the dental assistant turning on the water pick. She listened as Dr. Santos counted down from three before sticking her gum with novacaine, and then she couldn’t taste anything at all. She listened for a metal fumbling—someone reaching for a chisel, then a hatchet or a hoe, to begin filling the little holes that had eaten away at her enamel as a moth to fiber.


She heard a final song, a dirge-like hoedown being drowned out by all the dental tools. Monty was listening as closely as she could while her cavity bleated on in French about all the things she wished she had told her mother, and all the things she might yet admit to Maureen, and still all that might be heard if she could just let herself cry.

Taylor Leigh Harper is a Filipino American writer living in Southern California. Her writing has appeared in LEON Literary Review, The Ilanot Review, SPLASH!, In Parentheses, and elsewhere. She is a contributing writer and curator for agoodmovietowatch. When she is not writing, you can find her on twitter @misstaywrites.

Mine, My Own by Hibah Shabkhez

Mine, My Own by Hibah Shabkhez


We looked at the mountain in all its pristine glory, drifting wistfully past on the screen. We looked, and we knew desire: the urge to seek out this new mirage with its promise of beauty, of love, and paradoxically, of peace. We looked and already we knew also the first delicious pangs of impending heartbreak, for surely no reality could live up to this gauzy ephemeral soaring of tree and sky with mountain-slopes building heart-frames around it like earnest middle-schoolers. In reality there would have been mosquitoes, and bad odours, and shoes that slipped or broke outright, and it would have been too hot, or too cold, or raining. In reality… But I shall never know it, this bittersweet reality we planned for and laughed over. This mountain I could not climb for want of breath shall forever be the loveliest peak in the world, with the most amazing view. Suddenly I miss something I never had, that was never mine to miss, because you climbed a mountain I could not. Suddenly it becomes the lightning rod for all the envy, for all the anger, for all the heart-poisoning misery of perpetual exhaustion I have secreted inside me, for it is no longer one more pretty hill from a random net video; it is a thing we were meant to share and could not, a thing breath denied me and did not deny you.

Hibah Shabkhez is a writer of the half-yo literary tradition, an erratic language-learning enthusiast, and a happily eccentric blogger from Lahore, Pakistan. Her work has previously appeared in Black Bough, Zin Daily, London Grip, The Madrigal, Acropolis Journal, Lucent Dreaming, and a number of other literary magazines. Studying life, languages, and literature from a comparative perspective across linguistic and cultural boundaries holds a particular fascination for her.

When I Storytell Myself by Brittany Brewer

When I Storytell Myself by Brittany Brewer


I want to say that the Midwest does not live in my body—instead I share that I was pulled from state to state five times before I was twelve. I share the first choice that was mine was to leave, to move to a city over ten times the population of smalltown, Indiana, known as home to the company that supplied Michael Jackson’s casket, and unironically teenage, we declared the town slogan should be, “Everyone is dying to live here.” From twelve to twenty-one I was saturated in a Midwest state of mind, I felt heavy, uncertain. The only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to inhabit a space that was bigger than me, where there were so many people moving and being that I could disappear, that I could slip out of the strange skin I had donned by default and slide into another, experimenting in and out and around bodies in order to find my own footing. I did this urgently. I scrambled to subsume myself in order to seek some kind of clarity, running from 6,000 towards 80,000 towards 178,000 towards 1.8 million in search of the safety promised by different bodies, by more bodies. And each time, I want to say that I came closer to knowing myself. I want to say that I had grown more expansive, more queer, more pleasure-seeking than my midwest self could stand to contain. I want to say that it’s easy, being back, that when I walk down these new small-town streets in this different midwestern town, that I feel safe. But still, I find it hard to breathe; the midwest clings to me like a forgotten favorite sweater—one I lived in then but the fabric festers against my skin now—somehow still smoke-soaked from almost decades distant nights of communion, of bonfires in the boonies, of boy-girl pair-offs. The smoke lives in my body…I can taste it, the pinewood tendrils curling eternally around my tongue, permeating my lungs, my cells. I inhale deeply and close my eyes. Nestled in the blackness in my periphery, little firecrackers languish too close by.

Brittany Brewer (she/her) is a queer writer, [theatre] artist, and educator who has lived and grown across eight states. Brittany is also the producer and host of no small parts podcast. She is an alumna of Indiana University, Brown University, and the Arden Professional Apprenticeship program. Currently, she lives in Michigan where she is also a doctoral student at Michigan State University. For more, follow Brittany on Twitter at @brittanymbrewer or visit

New England Secrets by Brittany Brewer

New England Secrets by Brittany Brewer


She walks into the barn, a solitary space suspended in time; it could have been featured in a B-level horror film if it had any sort of structural integrity, she muses to herself. It almost feels like a joke that she has trekked all this way to chase this spectre: a story she heard once, a barn she never visited and wasn’t certain still existed, and that she is here all just to chase a ghost, her mother’s ghost, the one her mother told her about seeing one time when her mom was twelve and limber and bloated with possibility—possibility now punctured. All she has is textures of a tale: her mom’s fulfillment after finishing a long day’s work, the magic of the minutes after midnight, of finding friendship in unexpected places, and a sudden, sharp sound accompanied by a sulfury smell like when fire first ignites. She remembers this ghost occupied her mom’s belly, the hearth of her spirit, and each time her mom uttered the tale, an ethereal mist crept from her mother’s lips, chapping them as it passed through, and lit stars in her mom’s eyes. This was the intimate possibility of connection. All she wants is to hold a piece of her mother inside her like her mother housed that ghost and to know that things will somehow end up okay, that magic might be real, that the inexplicable and unfathomable are tangible futures you can hope for. As the minutes edge past midnight, there is a sharp pop, a glistening something seeping in from the rafters, and in that moment she thinks, maybe we are connected, maybe we are all made from all the same pieces and parts as our mothers and hold the potential to contain an extraordinary secret.

Brittany Brewer (she/her) is a queer writer, [theatre] artist, and educator who has lived and grown across eight states. Brittany is also the producer and host of no small parts podcast. She is an alumna of Indiana University, Brown University, and the Arden Professional Apprenticeship program. Currently, she lives in Michigan where she is also a doctoral student at Michigan State University. For more, follow Brittany on Twitter at @brittanymbrewer or visit