Issue 1.25

It Is Not A Bird

It is not a bird watching me. Its eyes move like a bird’s. Its head turns like a bird’s. It sits outside my window at night, dusk arrival, settling into scrub spruce. Charcoal shadow, its mask. Fading sunlight, its brief revelator.

It is not a bird watching me. Its eyes follow my every move. Kitchen to table, hand on pen. This bare window lets in too much. I need something more impervious: velvet or vinyl. I am nightfall resolved.

It is not a bird watching me. Its eyes have gravitational pull. Its eyes are dead stars, drawing my face to its abyss. I cannot concentrate on this, here. My attention is there, on that limb, in the tree.

It is not a bird watching me. Its eyes are insolent, brazen. It knows what comes next, what comes after. It has seen the spring and the fall. It warms itself on my thoughts, its silent beak cawing in my ear.

It is not a bird watching me. Its eyes are unconcerned. Its feathers unruffled. It sees everything: the ladder at the trunk, the axe by the door. It’s not as if I haven’t tried to fell the thing daily.

Ren Pike grew up in Newfoundland. Through sheer luck, she was born into a family who understood the exceptional value of a library card. Her writing has appeared in NDQ, Train, Rabid Oak, and Pithead Chapel. When she is not writing, she wrangles data for non-profit organizations in Calgary, Canada.

Walking in Willing

One night you’ll take your feet, grown soft and cold, to the river.
Old ferns throw their monster’s shadows there, fit to loom a body
small within its skin. Night’s water ripples restless – full
of eyeless eels, dripped streaks of pale milk, a queasy light to yaw
you to the runway. The candle-road you’ll find to follow goes
where trees are lured unkind (even to one another). Persist. Push through
thick arguments of thorn and scrape and bleeding bark – the house plays hide-
and-seek. You’ll know you’re close when burning sugar
sours the wind, when you’re scared by song and breathing in spent smoke
of wishes always better than the cake. You’ll know you’re warmer still
when tiny bones of ghosts float in, flash constellations
in the ink – a fish, a mouse, a cat, the game, oh all the games
long lost. And there’s the door – wide open now, and yes
it always was. The house alone knows just how tight you’ve closed
your eyes for years, the clagging fear that’s sealed you shut. And you will run
that endless hall, barefoot and half your size, you snarl of creature wordless all
your worth and weight unwound, and tear the ugly curtains down
from every room. There in that place the dusty streaming light it can remake
a skin so smooth, so bold, new page. There’s not a myth or terror-
tale on earth that hasn’t been retold a thousand ways, and that house
where you’re afraid to live, it will be eaten by the woods. Keep this story
by your bed. The terrified pulse inside you is reading it aloud, and dying
to believe it even now.

Ankh Spice is a queer-identified poet from Aotearoa (New Zealand), obsessed with the sea. His work is widely published and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net this year. He co-edits for Ice Floe Press and is a poetry contributing editor at Barren Magazine. You’ll find him and a lot of sea-photography @SeaGoatScreams on Twitter.

Catharsis in a box of Cracker Jack

Louis-Auguste felt particularly out of sorts that night. Although the hand painted sign above his faux prison cell claimed he was The Most Marvelous Man in the World, in truth he was nothing of the kind. It was now nearly twelve months to the day when raucous, rambling Sylbaris, as he was known then, chased a rum bottle down a path that would take him from the calaboose to the circus where he now found himself.

They said he was the sole survivor of a deadly volcanic eruption that claimed the lives of an entire city. But his liberation––his karmic pardon––he came to believe, while indeed miraculous, had actually been the beginning of a longer and more humiliating criminal sentence to be carried out far from home. He would now serve his time before the thirsty, eager gaze of the salt-popping public, beneath the warm glow of the stage lamplights and in deafening proximity to that most jocular of jailers, the carnival barker.

Many times had Louis-Auguste wondered why he had not perished in the great pyrostatic wave, that diluvial punishment that forever washed away the people of St. Pierre. What had they done, after all, to deserve such definitive castigation? Could they have been that much more wicked than he? Sure, take the whites, he reasoned, the Békés… but the Martinicans too?

He often dreamt, on arid Midwestern nights such as this, when the rousties drove their creaking caravans across the sleeping deserts, of trading in his fickle fame and scarred-back souvenir for the chance to have perished along with his people, their hot, sea-sprayed faces squinting against the sun, taking one last look at the fiery, vengeful god atop his angry mountain throne, looming over their silent city of death.

Then suddenly, there it was, that familiar nightly call to attention, the tell-tale clinking of those long, bronze keys that re-staged his doom. “Step right up,” the bastard had invited, and the crowd funneled in, lapping up the white foam snarl lashing from those thunderous lips and that prickly, pliant tongue. For their amusement, night after night, he is once again imprisoned, confined and chained to the solitary darkness where he once passed a lonely, stuporous night of the damned, while outside, his world perished. He is henceforth rescued, disinterred, and delivered, in perpetuity, into the hungry arms of an unfriendly world, another colony of stillness and ash.

“All this for a nickel,” he lamented under his breath, to which a ruffled Brighton youth, his face pressed up against the bars of the cell, replied with a drippy, lascivious malice: “Smoll pryce t’ pay fer duh most marfflous blayck in de world.” Louis-Auguste sank down on his stool as the youth spat at him from the foot of the stage, prompting a stern, though hushed, reproach from the momentarily distracted showman, “Hey, that’ll be another five cents, kid!”

Ian Deleón (he/him) is a lifelong cinephile, tortured artist and aspiring film director. He received a BFA in video, installation, and performance art ages ago, but is currently preoccupied with developing screenplays and researching early film history, particularly the German kind, and especially of the horror variety. Some of his favourite films at the moment include: The Tin Drum, Cruising, Tongues Untied, and anything by Polly Platt. Find him on Letterboxd and Twitter @iandeleonarts.