the grunt of stalling
engine on the bend
upped the bird from
the roadside – its feathers
fussy and dark tripping
headlong into stubble
fields and dry earth
the thing evades us
as soon as its arrived
hush rubs against
dull land that smothers
but as gold
light snags the glass
and the bird looks back
at us inert I press
my hands on the dash
shudder as quiet over
takes quiet – it’s like
the bird knew we
needed it to stumble
glossily into view
you turn the keys
with a choked whine
warning lights still flashing
Christopher Lloyd (he/him) is a writer and academic. He teaches and writes on race and memory in contemporary US culture. His stories and poems have been published in Fruit Journal, Impossible Archetype, —algia and elsewhere; his micro-chapbook PUT MY HEART DOWN is forthcoming from Ghost City Press (2021).
My dreams are older than the firstborn star – the night sky told me so before being devoured by the ravenous rays of a new sun. I never saw daylight again. I fell into an endless dream and slipped through time. I saw a star being ripped apart by a supermassive black hole, its spaghettified remains passing through the event horizon. To ease the horror, I emptied my mind and opened my ears to a ballad of deep rock Galactica. It was a thing of poetry; of silence, the loudest sound in the universe. The other stars quivered in front of this cosmic giant drunk on a billion suns; they told me its distorted mouth chewed on stardust. I remember how they glistened, like teardrops on flushed cheeks against the blazing brilliance of a red-hot star collapsing in on itself–a supernova lasting but a brief second, its luminosity doomed to stretch beyond death, in matterless universes.
The primordial explosion left a hole in space, where elder dreams went to die. In my dream, I wake up cradled in the tenebrous spiral arms of a remote galaxy. I bury my skeleton in a star-shaped casket and wait for my dying light to reach a lonely soul looking skyward on a distant planet.
Sukanya is a writer from India. Through her writing, she attempts to explore the surreal, the unexplainable anguish, the deep, dark, and everything in between.
Closer to the Underbelly
I grew up swimming in shadows of canals cut
through patches of land suburban backyards
Fresh blood soaked knees torn apart by gravel
the size of match heads, the pieces of asphalt
fighting their way towards bone, tendons,
The dead of summer brought cloud-streaked
skies and chills from the heat of two suns,
burning from the center of my chest.
My skin bloomed, scorched and screaming
for muddy relief as hands trembled around
tubes of expired topical.
I was far enough from the street
for screams to crash and crash against the afternoon,
and nothing stopped the searing, not even
when my blood ran dry.
It Started With A Nosebleed
The front of your shirt bloomed
red poppies from a break in your nose.
I leaned forward, catching blood
in my cupped palms. Only red
against a room so dark.
Your hands gripped the porcelain sink
and spit out mouthfuls of it.
Careful not to choke. Lingering
closer towards the mirror and saying,
it has to stop eventually, right?
I couldn’t make meaning of it,
of what made your blood
darker than mine. You said
I’ve just never seen so much
of it before.
Bleached hand towels soaked red.
Specks of blood blown across the mirror.
My hand on the back of your neck
and your blood on the backs of my hands.
It did stop eventually.
Your t-shirt washed out baby pink
beneath the tap water. Color
traveled back to your cheeks, and our
mouths tipped up at the sight.
We left the bloody towels soaking
in the sink, and knew well enough
there was no going back.
‘Ribs’ on Repeat
I moved slowly into the thick of summer,
honey cooling the back of my throat and
ripe pomegranate seeds in my wordless mouth.
My parents smoked their Marlboro Lights,
silhouetted against the garage door
and burning bright orange with each inhale.
Moonlight shared the bed with me,
sneaking in through a slit in my curtains
and letting me hold her in my sweaty arms.
Divine nights and saintly mornings,
bloody mouths kissing bruised knuckles
and your fingers at the base of my neck.
Running palm-up into clandestine streets,
calling your name, singeing my skin,
peeling oranges and sucking them dry.
Katie Strubel (she/her) is a queer writer from Idaho. Her words have appeared in The Southern Quill, Route 7 Review and are forthcoming in Agapanthus Collective. She is a recent creative writing graduate and is at work applying to MFA programs. You can find her on Instagram @orangesorbay and Twitter @lemonsorbay.