Before Ink Drains out of the Night Sky
before the predawn cackle of pigeons
on the sidewalk at the hour the devil roots
in the radiator my bedroom light switches on
who will die first which of us
can better support hard loss
Bonnie Billet wrote into her early 30’s and was published in POETRY among other publications. She started writing again after retirement and has been published in Rhino, Entropy, Dunes Review, Gyroscopic Review, and Yes Poetry among other journals. Bonnie worked with her husband and small crew as a landscape gardener in NYC. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, son, and dog Drizzle.
I love stepping out into the steel-slick world after a heavy rain. Surfaces shimmer with the sheen of possibility. The current of change still crackles the air. Cool and scented clean of motor oil and exhaust, the stagnant sewage fumes emanating from storm drains. We don’t realize what fresh air smells like until it rains. Like the sparkling of swimming pools and the richness of freshly tilled earth.
But I don’t like the earth worms. Flushed out of the soil by the water, littered onto driveways and street. They wriggle and squirm but cannot burrow into cement or caliche. You see them in stages. Flashing fleshy pink. Pulsing purple-gray. Darkened and dried into crisp curls. I transfer as many as possible from solid surface to soft soil.
“Are you really helping things?” my husband asks me. “Maybe you are upsetting the natural cycle. Depriving a bird of a feast. Food it needs for its young.”
When we returned to the house, I continued my earthworm transport service, lifting them from the edge of our driveway with a leaf and tipping them into the grass. One was much more active than the others I transferred without issue. The second the leaf made contact with its body, it jolted into the air, coiling as it landed, a ring of jerking and writhing that continued for several seconds. Once stilled, I tried again to the same unsuccessful result. I finally managed to slip it between green blades, but with all its convulsing, it ended up sliding back out onto the cement. I didn’t want to risk damaging it in my determination and decided to leave it to its own devices. When I came back out to throw the trash a time later, it had disappeared. Had it found its way into the soil on its own? Or had it made the journey from gullet to gut of a grackle or mockingbird? Either way, perhaps, as should be.
Maybe the reason I don’t like the sight, the reason I scramble at salvation now, is the memory of the segmented bodies squirming before me as a child. The plastic knife in my hand. The false idea that I had just created ten new creatures out of one. The frantic flutter in my gut when I learned, as I remember, even miracles like regeneration have their limits.
Melissa Nunez lives and writes in the caffeinated spaces between awake and dreaming. She makes her home in the Rio Grande Valley region of South Texas, where she enjoys observing and exploring the local flora and fauna with her three home-schooled children. Her essays have been featured in FOLIO, Yellow Arrow Journal, and others. Her poetry has been published in Susurrus and Alebrijes Review.
“At night I read the Marquis de Sade, Artaud’s poems, and my algebra book. I’m dead unless I’m in love, most of the times I’ve been in love nothing’s happened no I dream. I’m never going to see Jean again: I follow Jean everywhere, I lay in my white cubicle, Jean walks off with another teacher ignores me. I hide in a black corner, I’m invisible; I see Jean put her arms around another person and kiss him. She lays her head on his shoulder. I’m not sure whether I’m a male or a female. I withdraw into a tiny ball, black.” – Kathy Acker, The Childlike Life of the Black Tarantula by the Black Tarantula
on the porch
of the asylum
and watch me
I go by
They have nothing
better to do
on the napkin,
She had better hair
when I touched her neck
A New York lawyer
bought her a drink
At the asylum
they were on the porch
it was four in the morning
her red hair and kisses
in the full moonlight
it didn’t seem
like it would ever end
until the car folded in
windshield covered us
like a shattered moon
of our bodies
they must still wonder
on their porch
why I never pass
the asylum anymore
just like I wonder
why the car stopped
and why her hair
flowed down over my body
with the bits of glass
Robert Beveridge (he/him) makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp.com) and writes poetry in Akron, OH. Recent/upcoming appearances in Wishbone Words, The Deadlands, and table//FEAST, among others.
Go into the front yard & feast on chokeberries
shove whole fists of pokeberry stems
red & grape bubble gum bleeding
handfuls of crowned cow parsley
of hemlock laced & lanterns
of rusty sumac wicking upward
some people can’t stomach the notion
of poison / the thought of the thing
alone is enough to become
Back lawn a cicada seething
embraces the wasp’s pulsing waist
Adrian Dallas Frandle (he/they) is a queer poet & cook based in Connecticut. He lives close enough to a lighthouse that it shines in his windows at night. His two chihuahuas were banished from the bedroom for snoring too loudly. Work forthcoming at Daily Drunk Mag & elsewhere.
We seem to be at odds, the ghost hunter and I. I want the murdered boy to go away. I want him to stop sobbing in corners, turning on the teakettle and tormenting the cat. The ghost hunter – Ned, his name is – wants the ghost boy to stay. He wants to talk with him. He says Ouija boards and automatic writing are ways to communicate, if you are dead.
“We are teaching the dead to communicate with us,” he explains to me.
I was on a shark-sighting expedition once, in the Florida Keys. I paid to go on the boat, not in the cage.
“We’re out here every day, yeah?” the charter captain said between scoopfuls of smelly fish guts he called chum. “We come to the same place, they are catching on.”
There was a free dive option for the fearless. You could actually get out of the cage and swim with the sharks. They had video from previous expeditions.
“Is that a good idea,” I asked, “teaching the sharks to associate humans with food?”
“Like the bears at Yellowstone?” he chuckled, and never did answer my question.
“He’s not much of a speller,” Ned mused. “Lights. Electrical impulses. He might be able to answer with blinks, one for yes, two for no.”
“And how many for ‘will you please leave?’”
“Look, Jamie, I thought you understood. We have to find out what the ghost wants.”
“What if he wants me to leave? See, I want him to leave. If he wants me to leave, we’re in a quandary.”
“But why would you want him to leave? It’s his house too.”
The shark expedition did not disappoint. There were several species – bull sharks, hammerheads, and black tips. The free divers – three of them – swam with two guides, one of whom doubled as a videographer.
The captain handed me a snorkel and told me to get in a surface cage, don’t say anything because he’s not charging me. There’s a tiger shark there, he said, and we don’t see them all the time, he said.
I was in the water only a few minutes when a bull shark suddenly spun and grabbed the photographer by the thigh, swimming downward while she flailed and blood seeped in a red blossom. There was a flurry of fins and divers and then the injured woman was on the deck, and I was on the deck, coughing up what I’d swallowed and more afraid than I’d ever been.
“We’re really going for it tonight,” Ned says. “I’ve got some more guys coming with really sensitive equipment. They are super excited.”
Maybe I’ll sell my house to them, I think, retreating to the one room of the house that isn’t wired for ghost talk.
Colum has been coming to breakfast every morning for nearly two weeks. I don’t know what to say to my mother and sister about it. They act like he’s not there. They don’t pass him anything, or set his plate. I’m not sure what will happen if I ask why they don’t see Colum; it might lead to an argument. They might ask me if I’ve begun drinking again and why do I have to carry on like that? He’s been dead since December. It’s February now.
He smells a bit. Fungal. Like old gym socks. I can’t believe they don’t at least notice the smell. I’ve taken to burning candles in the morning, so that now breakfast to me smells like green apple, gym socks and bacon. I can scarcely eat any more.
I want to ask Rosaleen about it, if she sees him. She’s 10 years younger than me. I want to ask her, and yet I don’t want to ask her because she’s too young. I’m the older sister, I should know more about things than she does.
This morning, I set Colum a plate. I’m putting down a juice glass when my mother asks me why I can’t warn her if I have a friend coming for breakfast.
“It’s for Colum,” I say.
“For Colum,” my mother says. She removes Colum’s plate and puts it directly into the dishwasher.
“Oh, come on, Mother! He’s right here, he’s sitting right here in his old place!”
Rosaleen looks at me with eyes big as serving platters. I retrieve Colum’s plate from the dishwasher and put it in front of him. “Colum, would you like toast?” I ask. My mother reflexively jerks her hand and bacon grease spatters. She crosses herself rapidly.
“Here, I’ll butter you a piece.”
Colum won’t look at me. It’s like I’m the ghost.
“Get out!” my mother shrieks, and I feel the drops of holy water as she flings it at me, at Colum. “It’s bad enough he’s here, you don’t need to talk to him! Get out, you’ve brought bad luck to this house!”
Rosaleen’s wide eyes are now wet eyes. “Mother, what’s wrong with Claire?”
My mother is serious, she wants me gone. For the bad luck.
I go to work, I stop for a beer after, I meander home. The house is dark and the doors are locked and the key under the mat is rusted. I look around me and I don’t know everything but I know something has happened, that my world has changed and I’m somewhere outside of it.
Epiphany Ferrell lives perilously close to the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail in Southern Illinois. Her stories appear in Best Microfiction 2020 and 2021, Best Small Fictions 2021, New Flash Fiction Review, Ghost Parachute, Dream Noir, and other places. She is a two-time Pushcart nominee, and won the 2020 Prime Number Magazine Flash Fiction Prize. Find her onlince at epiphanyferrell.com and @Epiphany Ferrell.
the sun rears, pierces the lawn
with a green glistening spear
at its mercy
I step into the day
a dozen crows plummeting from their perch
the silver maple always first
as it takes its time to die
leaves purring along the gutter
like sharpened blades
against thumb tips
as I make
my catalogue of steel
stiff hands pouring
over the cluttered workbench
dry ribbons unspooling down my knuckles
where the spindle sander
tugged a layer from them
the woodshop drenched
in dust, leather and split wood
that forever fall
a vivid red across my hands
Samuel Burt is a poet and artist from Iowa, currently pursuing his MFA at Bowling Green State University. When not writing poems, Sam carves wooden spoons, paints watercolors, and cooks good soup. His work may be found in Arc Poetry Magazine, The Journal, and Salt Hill.