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Denise Berger

Eddie Brophy

Alyssa Cressotti

Connor Doyle

Craig Finlay

Stephen Kingsnorth

Caitlin McKenna

Emily Rose Miller

Michael Moreth

N. Nagy

Safiyat Naseem

Will Neuenfeldt

Ruth Niemiec

Rachel Stempel

Paul Tanner

Chachee Valentine

Brian Yapko

with contest winners

Justin Byrne

Liz Hart

Tatia Veikkola

Denise Berger


    When I was 19 I did a string of ballet turns all the way around the Monet room at MOMA.  The guard looked straight ahead, giving no indication that he saw me.  I was lucky to get a nice one; it could just as easily have been one of those authoritarian women with her hair in a low bun and a permanent scowl.  I wanted to tell him, “This would make Monet happy”.  It’s what I honestly believed. 


    Monet aside, it made me happy to embody --- literally --- the colors at Giverny at once bright and blurred, the roundness of the flowers, the breeze moving through the grass, the light.  It made me happy to let joy wave through me, let it become instantiated in the world.  It felt almost like an act of worship; I felt that thankful to Monet (and to MOMA, and to Art) for releasing what it felt like to be free, for giving me that touchstone.   


    Objectively I knew it was a cinematic thing to do, spinning through the gallery.  I was keenly aware of the visuals (even if no one was watching).  But it was more than just aesthetics.  It was actually my reality in those days, stealing moments out of my life just to be me, the way people go to a movie in the middle of a busy week. 


    Now 30-ish years later, I find myself across the country at MOCA, in a room full of Ellsworth Kelly color field paintings.  I have that same visceral response, but all I want to do is be perfectly still.  The vastness of a single color, the expanse, the openness to possibility, the limitlessness, the ability to fly and the quiet invitation to come look more closely.  This is my life now.  I recognize it, I know I’m home, and yet it’s still new enough that I just stand there inhaling it.  The brightness, and the subtlety. 


    The green could go on forever, or it doesn’t have to.  Nothing is externally imposed, not lines or shapes or extra colors.  It is its own reference point.  There’s endless space to just be, and the energy of movement is endless too --- floating, stretching, soaring, air rushing in my ears, ballet turns for miles; and stasis.  There’s a feeling of the sacred in standing here too, not quite an act of worship because I’m not dependent in the same way, but an act of reverence for sure.  Thank you (canvas in Kelly green), the Spirit in me recognizes the Spirit in you.  Namaste.   

Eddie Brophy

Leave the Funerals for the Dead

I mourned the internment of salad days

as a noctambulant specter

paying emotional ransoms

with inebriated regret

when the clarity of trauma

emphasized the tangibility of my end

through the egregious melancholy of myself

cataloging haunted memories

in a library of sordid thoughts

renewing the dread of

Eldritch musings

waxing existential

esurient for ennui

imbibing these dire affirmations 

and pontificating nihilism

with redundant trepidation

amassing a wealth of agonist creeds

wayward and ambivalent

with the child in repose

the man cannot relax

trying to mitigate futility

cadaverous in his head

put the little boy to sleep

and leave the funerals to the dead

Alyssa Cressotti



I see you watching. I’m trying to be subtle in my performance but we both know I’m a liar.

Well, shit. Say something.



I think about the girl you fucked down south on your grandmama’s couch. She’s married now. Not to you.

She thinks about it, too.



If I die, I want to haunt the streets I roamed as a kid, as a young lady, as a woman.

I want little girls to play Bloody Mary, but with hubcaps and coffee cups.



There was a lot of nervous energy that night. It’s what happens when grown people play kiddie games.

You want me to say, don’t you? Always.



I haven’t seen you in a few years, but the digital approximation of your face is enough to conjure you in dreams and in silent moments. During rides down long stretches of road.



We hurt each other. You more than me, but hurt just the same, nonetheless.

I warned you. I told you that if you kept talking, I might get used to hearing nice words from bad boys.



My heart is more than the stone of a fruit. More than the peach pit you whiled around, more than its clacking against your teeth.

More than the swipe of spit up the back of your forearm.



If you came back, I wouldn’t even know what to do with you.

What do I feed you? Do I need to take you for walks? Are you even crate-trained?



I dunno if you’ve noticed, but the world is ending.

Should we get coffee?

Connor Doyle

Let Go, You're Choking Us

connor doyle let go.jpg

Craig Finlay

Holy Colors / John Singer Sargent Finds the Wind

Holy Colors

Holy colors - deep autumn orange and          yellows and reds. I can imagine strapping a crown of twigs to my head, and a mask for my face, and dancing the round dances through fields pregnant with corn and soybeans, until I collapse roadside in spent, orgasmic satiation. A dance of submission, of humble, beseeching desperation in this insulating and forgotten tract of Illinois. A place no one travelled unless it was home, or else accidentally. And then to make these offerings. To hang a deer from its back legs, to open its throat, to quench the thirst of the gods in the grass. To return a   stillborn child to the soft earth by the new moon. To return to work in the hammer       factory of the field on Monday, while heaving Gaia breathes into life the dawn’s fog, the    distant deer on the frost-flecked grass, the steam of the Casey’s breakfast pizza, the colors of our grandparents’ dens. So dark, that   blood-black wood.

John Singer Sargent Finds the Wind​

Americans are always shocked that they breathe differently abroad. In hindsight—it’s so very obvious. Does the water from the tap not taste different even on the coasts? That’s not what Madame X was thinking as she looked off to the side of that room. German air, Swiss air. John Singer Sargent - and we know not to trust a man with three names - famously brought jars of Tuscan air with him when he moved to London. It was the inspiration for Dracula’s boxes of soil - Bram Stoker saw the painter with his face buried in a jar, crying for home. Later, when John asked, the winds  started. Waves of them, lashing the rain into London, clearing the London Fog for a time. He released himself and began a slow spiral upward. How the crowds cheered, watching the winds hold John Singer Sargent to her breast so he could feed.

Stephen Kingsnorth

What You See / Perdita 

What You See


Is this revealing truth displayed,

unhealthy busy-body trade,

excuse to revel, innocence,

or proof my evil not alone?

The character learned of myself,

dismay of haughty moral code,

self-justified, ordinary,

or everyone with common traits?

How would I know unless laid bare,

but too late then, my guilt withdraw,

manipulated into scare,

the boredom of confessional.

So what you see is what you get,

the writing on the wall or tin -

if that offends or less attracts,

I’m happy with accepting friends.

The questions posed tell what you hear,

your motivation, clear exposed,

investigative journalist -

is that for fee or public good?

A politician on the make,

the secret service, classified,

control of state, behind the scene?

The space too crowded for my thoughts.

If you don’t like the hat I wear,

but choose to lie, the white in wait,

I like gentle humility,

scaled honesty for friendship paced.

So lay the needle, kidney bowl,

if deed abandoned or complete;

we dance along, masqued ball in play,

my frame in step as swing away.


What sprite from bloody vessels streaks

when vaccines are brought to the vein

of flesh beneath the dermis skein?

Which fanlights break within the brain,

far from the zygomatic arch,

so synapse finds another course?

How can I tell what I don’t know,

some legend wrapped around my core, 

imbibed from youth, spymaster’s child?

The training not to bury truth,

but to deny my commonwealth, 

incorporation of that stealth.

That’s why the couch is used to tap

unanswered questions, laid out pose,

the frontal lobe now centrespread.

Beyond the veil, cortex arraigned,

my stories ranged, sac fluid womb,

to now, feared episodes ahead,

in unadulterated form.

If only I could break within,

find art and poetry on whim,

might I disrobe my Perdita?

Caitlin McKenna

Brittle Bones

Last week a guy did something to me.

I don’t think I need to elaborate.

Because to draw out the tale would be to get tangled in the web

and the web is not what is important.

I am what is important.

And I stopped myself from talking about it

or from crying to my mother,

because I was scared of what she would think.

Because some days, I look at my bare thighs and recall

every time I have asked to be kissed and I cannot help

but to conclude that is why he had deemed he could.

I know that no one is ever asking for it but

when it comes to my own body,

sometimes, I feel like the exception.


It’s not like the first time this has happened, but it’s still so raw. Not like

unpicking the stitches on old wounds and allowing them to ooze but like

a fresh cut,

and I think it must be because he seemed so nice. He seemed so

nice. But there were a thousand red cards held up

from the time he told me he could feel no empathy

to the bodies in his likes

and every late night text that lay in between.

I’d argue I was moth to the flame, bull to china shop but that is derivative

and if you are still reading this you already know what I mean.


Because it seems like we broken people

are drawn to those who are most dangerous

like we find comfort in the hurt and the instability

of those we know will never love us. Because real love risks

rejection, abandons the safety nets, and free falls into the dark,

and I cannot handle rejection.

I know repression is the root of obsession but it’s a week later and I am

drinking wine from the bottle, unable to cry, on my bathroom floor, where I

have come to feel so at home and everyone who knows me expects me to

spiral but I don’t but I don’t know how to unravel

because it all feels too tightly wrapped inside, like a cord restricting my

throat and I know I have already lost the thread of this metaphor somewhere

inside this poem.


I unfollowed everyone he knows,

just in case.

I’m trying to find a way to process what happened;

And saying it out loud sounds like a threat.

And there are words we never say.

Words that hurt too much.

And poetry once felt like an escape

but if language is the bed.


If language is the bed can I just say

that I no longer feel safe sleeping on my own.

I still can’t explain what happened

Or how I feel about it. But here’s my best try:


My bones began to splinter when I turned 15

and realized there would be secrets to hold forever

and the pressure of it all

started to grate on me

until little by little

I crumbled away.

Emily Rose Miller

This Womanhood

is fresh scars inflicted by myself 

                  and a bandaid

rash on my hip next to a floating tampon

string trailing like a lure 

    into my prickly

bush. It is marinating in the too-hot bathtub filled

with the disappointing remains 

   of a four-dollar

bath bomb, gone just as quickly as I lost

my self-esteem. It is plucking 


of once-dried-now-sticky-again blood

off the surface of the water 

         and wiping them

on the stained porcelain to be cleaned later. 

It is mistaking the scab on my leg 

        (from shaving, of course) 

for a bug and watching the skin on my stomach 

roll as I slouch up in panic. 

         It is nails 

just a tad too long and too jagged to pleasure 

myself with, and not having 

           the energy to bother

with the uncomfortable dildo I hide under my bed. 

It is the itch of my sunburned arms 

          and the tan

line I scowl at across my crotch and across my 

boobs. It is wishing I’d have 

            enough misguided 

strength to gouge my skin again with the razor

I balanced on the edge of the tub 

      for this very reason. 

It is staring blankly at my browned nipples,

instead, wishing they wouldn’t sag 

         quite so much. 

                      This womanhood.



Michael Moreth


michael moreth chair.jpg

N. Nagy

residues of memory

I will fill my lungs, balloon them with air. I will pinch my nose and dare to leap into the depths of truth. I will give myself, mind and body, to the currents, letting it pull me where they may. But, oh shit, am I scared.


It’s photos that bubble up first, the collection of them through our years together and I guess it makes sense that it’s not the moments I had with you that conjure but the photos that I’m left with because that’s what’s real and it’s what I have to hold on to as tangible because I need something of you to hold and memories are like a mist that escapes your grasp when you reach for it and, as you know, too, from proofing my lectures for me -- I was so proud to have your touch to those, by the way, and your touch to all of me, of course -- as you know memories can be fabricated, turned into a hodgepodge of reality / fantasy / realityfantasy like: did you kiss me in the forest, did you stop on the trail to take hold of me and press your lips and body to mine as I clutched at your arms willing them to never let go or was it in the alleyway with coffee still lingering on our tongues or is the mist of memory tickling the truth here and fucking with the circuitries of my brain, fabricating images and sensations out of desire alone but even so, even so, with the photos I don’t have to worry, the photos ARE truth that you were there with me once and that I could make you smile -- I did, I have evidence -- and damn it, I want to make you smile again, you were happy with me, do you remember like the photographs, do you think of those happy times I wonder this all the time and I attended a talk at Princeton with Duane Michals who knew about proof and knew truth could be found inside of a darkroom in a mix of chemicals and I desperately wanted you to be there next to me our seats so close like they were one so our legs pressed together tight like we are one body, three legs or sitting on your lap if you’d let me, your hands on, your lips on, your fingers in as the old photographer shared his career, shared the image with his scrawl below that read:

This photograph is my proof. There was that afternoon when things were still good between us, and she embraced me.

and you’ll know that I do as I always have and it’s not just the talk that I wanted you there for but the growing list that spools for miles now of all the things that would make you smile like did you know there is a School of Disembodied Poetics and I have some puns, too, and I tell you all of these in my head, of course, and we laugh and I laugh because you laugh because it’s beautiful when your guard is down and I’ll always be grateful that I got to see you in moments with your guard down because it’s rare and I treat it as a priceless gift and these are my truths and, I know, I let the truths spill once before but in a meanspirited way that time and I know it hurt you because I wanted it to hurt you but it’s a hurt you deserved because you always forget that I am here and real so I strike at you to remind you, to scream to you to lookseefeel me so now I just need to hear that you feel it that you think of me that you have lists and photographs for me, too

Let it spill, will you please?

Don’t hold it silent.

Let it all spill out.

For me.

It’s time.

Safiyat Naseem

The Same Blood

They’re afraid of me.

The people,

A glance of the mirror- and I could tell,

An elegant visage- no contrast of them


With five fingers and toes- I stand confused,

The abhorrence in their eyes

My body bruised.

Do not speak- it’s unwise.


To the liberals and literates- I seek help,

For the agony of Injustice, they’ve felt.

But I witness, no hands extend,

For thy sewed mouth shut, on my rend


I cut my hand- to verify my blood,

Red and rutilant, dripping down the mud

Elated I was- to find it regular,

Only less wrathful and whited sepulchre


Gathered my nerve- to them I went,

Why this hatred, why this resent?

To my question they silently nod,

‘Is that ‘cause I pray to a different God?’

Will Neuenfeldt


Two days

in sweatpants,

the scent of sweat

cakes on my crotch,

baking through boxers

I feel its frosting

spread in darker

shades of grey.

Working from the waist up,

Co-workers are unaware

though I suspect they see

smoke billowing from below.

Tonight, I’m relieved

to blow out the candles

under a hot shower

in my birthday suit.

Ruth Niemiec

Tiger Snakes

The January sun burns hot in these parts. Peak Aussie summer and we are broken down. A busted tyre on the side of the Murray Valley Highway.
I pick up a water bottle we’ve been sharing all the way across the state. Cloudy, warm swill. I roll the circular bottle between my palms and press the bare skin of my lower back right up against the warm and sticky vinyl passenger seat in our 1984 Holden sedan.
He tells me we have no spare tyre and we’ll have to flag down a passer-by. I consider the chances of one in the next hour and think to myself slim.
The windscreen is smeared with the greasy innards of bugs. An inevitable massacre of a road trip. The death stained windscreen makes me queasy. Can’t sit still so I step out of the car, slamming the Holden’s heavy metal door behind me. It thuds and in my dehydrated, sleep-deprived state I swear I hear it echo over Lake Boga, which we’ve ended up beside. An irregularly circular patch of crusty terrain. Used to be filled with water and jet-skiers.
The road’s asphalt is dark and hot and refracting. I quickly walk over it and reach the dirt bank beside the road. Stopping there, I scan for Tiger snakes and once more for Brown snakes, which are harder to see and blend in just fine with the dirt and scrub.
I shield my tired eyes from the burning sun and look up over the lake. There’s nothing to do but wait and as I consider the uncertain length of time we will be waiting here, my chest aches dully. I rub sweat off from under my eyes and correct my ponytail.

I’ve got a paperback book, somewhere on the back seat. A run of the mill romance novel I picked up at a rest stop. It was the only book that didn’t have a cover faded to pastels, in the basket just inside the door marked “$1 Bargain Books” so it made my choice easier. I had flipped through it to make sure all the pages were intact. Didn’t bother with the blurb, the cover image said enough.
When I put it on the counter to pay, the rotund middle-aged man with a wispy grey moustache, peppering his thin top lip flashed his eyebrows at me and then curled his lips up into a little smile. He told me it was a good choice and I shrugged. I put the dollar on the counter so our skin wouldn’t touch and then I walked back outside into the blistering heat.
As soon as I got to the car, I threw the rags to riches novella onto the back seat and waited, rolling a cigarette to pass the time. My dirty feet up on the dashboard. Pink nail polish on my toenails almost entirely worn off.

I’m 20 metres into the dry lake when he calls after me. He asks me what I’m doing and tells me there’s bound to be snakes out there. I tell him it’s all the same, over here or over there. They could be anywhere. Probably spiders too I mention.
It’s so quiet. I focus on the silence and stare at the cracks in the dirt. I consider how long it takes for them to form and how quickly they disappear when and if the rains come in. Nothing much to do out here, nah. Nothing much to do but stay awake and wait.
There’s a tree between the road and the lake, but you’d call it more of a log sticking up out of the dirt, really. There’s a large, flat rock at the foot of it and so I wander over and sit on it, letting my legs hang freely over the side of it. I find a comfortable position and stare into middle space.
He’s lit a rollie. The shuffle of his shoes sound, along the asphalt quickly, then slower on the dirt. He tells me we are out of water and I nod. I take the cigarette from his offering hand and drag. His body blocks some of the sunlight. The nicotine is relaxing but I instantly feel guilty and hand it back to him. He says it’s bloody hot. I nod. He says we should have prepared better. I clap my eyes shut.

After some time, doing nothing seems like a great effort, so I make my way back to the car to retrieve the book I don’t really want to read. I stick my upper body through one of the back windows and stretch an arm to grab the book. I hear a motor in the distance

and so I move quickly, shuffling backwards, away from the car. In the distance is a white truck. I call out and say help is in sight. I wave both arms around over my head and in front of my body. He jogs out and stops by my side frantically starts waving too. We start saying hey, quietly and then louder and louder the nearer the truck gets to us. The truck moves closer into view and we realise its carrying livestock. We look at one another. I stopped eating meat months ago. I tell him I don’t want to stop a livestock truck and he shrugs. He tells me it might be our only chance for a while. He reminds me we are out of water and that it’s bloody hot. Yeah. I nod.
The truck comes to a stop and the driver, a grey bearded bloke in a faded green singlet asks us if we’re okay. He shakes his head and tells us we should have a spare tyre. I agree with him, then drop out of the conversation. I make my way back towards my tree and rock. I’ve got to get away from the bleating.

He jogs over to me and tells me the truck driver can drop us off at the nearest servo and from there we can call for help and source a tyre. My eyes are closed and my throat is dry. I swallow and I tell him there’s no way I am getting on a livestock truck. No way in hell. He tells me to stop being dramatic and I tell him to go without me, I will wait. I sense his hesitation to leave me by myself, but he’s too tired for a fight and knows I’m stubborn, so he tells me I should suit myself and he will see me when he gets back. He walks towards the truck and turns back one more time to ask if I’m sure I want to stay, with the snakes he adds. I don’t look at him. I tell him yes.
The truck brakes ease off and the bleating fades into the distance along with the rumble of the motor. I hop off the rock and kick a pebble.
Nah, nothing to do but sit and wait.

Rachel Stempel

Gag Gifts I Sell Myself

I’m about as female as a blood clot or bubblegum.

I always want something bad to happen.

How selfish, I know, but we all think it.

I start watching live camera feeds online. 

I’m interested only in ones from Ukraine 

but I’m scared I’ll see my mother. 

I don’t know why—

why I’m scared

why I think I’ll recognize my mother 

why I’m telling you this.

I find razorblades repulsive but not as much as babies.

If I can convince myself I’m dying, I’m dying

and I’ll go guzzling 

smoke & hyaluronic. 

Coughing hurts the alter ego I left in seventh

grade algebra with up-skirt shots of Kate Moss.

I’ve gone through three rib cages since.

This one is titanium, installed

after my father’s third near-death experience.

I heave like a horse in hopes 

it will spark like flint an argument.

I close my eyes and know exactly

the perimeter of affected tissue.

I’ve a steady hand.

I’ve an unsteady gag reflex.

I could impale myself

with the perfect-diameter tube, serrated and

gouge a floating gap 

between neck and body. 

I’m already dead 

from the neck down—a party

trick for the virtual age. 

I could customize the instrument

like a strap-on too perfect

for a soon-to-be-widowed orifice

or a goblin shark’s jaw—

both easily dislodged. I promise 

you, Reader, I won’t go 

rogue. I have high hopes

for a virtual age installment of rapture.

I like miscellaneous best.

I’d clean outside my windows if it would change your mind.

I’d steady one foot on shelving and another on your chest.

Am I crushing you? 

Do you want me to?

I mistake small dogs for infants in my peripherals.

I’ve already told you how I feel about babies.

I’ve noticed a lot of small dogs on YouTube.

Some dogs are rather ugly—

you can tell when a dog was a clown

in a past life. 

I advise against yearning, specifically

star-yearning. Specifically,

if you’re afraid of kidney stones.

The archive is incomplete but has already recorded

how I wax and wane in front of a floor-

length mirror. It’s the dance I do best

with myself.

I dream a zipper materializes on my back 

but I can’t reach it.

At least I don’t exist

at the intersection of art and technology.

Paul Tanner

various forms of arrogance

they made you redundant 

and you went back to your hometown,

back to your mum’s 

and when you went out,

which was a lot,

because sitting in your old bedroom with grey hairs 

was too sad, 

you kept running into old acquaintances,

never friends, 

it was always the meatheads 

who’d bogwash you and the other geeks at school, 

and they’d be all like:

what you doing back here? didn’t you get a big fancy job?

the twee plebs, you were on 8 pound an hour 

and had a shoebox apartment in Liverpool, 

it’s not like you moved to Wall Street. 

anyway when you told them what happened 

they were still cruel:

they didn’t mock you or laugh. 

no, worse

they only went and sympathised: 

to have them of all people 

tilt their head, squint and go aww?

that was a most patronising knife, 

skewering both your adult and childhood hearts:

one on top of the other like satay 

and you went back to your old bedroom in your mum’s house

and yeah, it was still sad 

and yeah, you were even greyer, but


erm …

fuck. just FUCK, you know?

Chachee Valentine


Chachee Valentine pain.jpg

Chachee Valentine

failed suicide

Chachee Valentine failed suicide.jpg

Brian Yapko

Lapis Lazuli

middle of the night

insomniac i

lay awake rote-recalling

useless trivia

[what is lapis lazuli?]

sweat staining my pillow

anguishing if

my knowledge-base

is competitive/acceptable

[what is porphyry?]

i studied art and

architecture i am the

apotheosis, the veritable

master of those questions

[what is carrara marble?]

i am an educated man --

maybe too much so.

[what is corinthian?]


so alone 

so damned alone

[what is romanesque?]

i cannot remember

how to be happy, i

cannot remember

[what is the hagia sophia?]

i cannot remember

why i am here,

or should be, or how to

get unlost

[what is the answer?]

what is the answer?

The Art-Inspired Contest

Richard Thompson

based on this artwork

La Donna 


Justin Byrne

Symphony of Flowers

The stone balcony has been fading 

For years.

The crack has been sneaking up the wall

Since she moved in.

The color has been missing from her hovel

Since he passed.

Day in and day out brought nothing,

Nothing but a hollow feeling,

That she never felt like she would break from.

Her world was dull.

Then as winter yielded to spring,

The flower shops began blooming on the streets.

One with lilacs, another with tulips, and several with

Lavender and wisteria that popped in the sun.

Slowly, very slowly, color began seeping into her 

View again.

She would walk out on the fading balcony,

In front of the cracking, bare wall,

With tea in hand,

To catch a glimpse at the symphony of flowers.

After two or so weeks of luminated street vendors

Peddling petals to pedestrians passing by,

The grandmotherly figure shuffled on her slippers

And slipped out the faded blue door.

She was going to only buy one flower.

After two or so years of a lifeless dinner table

And lack of conversation between television programs,

She was ready to bring back some life.

She would only buy the one

And put it beside his photo.

She arrived at the vendor directly below her balcony,

Who greeted her with a gentle smile,

And gestured towards the vases on the cart.

The old lady nodded and began to inspect,

Up close,

The arrangements in front of her.

There were yellow chrysanthemums,

Pink roses, 

And tulips that faded from to pink to white.

Just like the cotton candy he always loved to buy her.

She returned home with the single flower in hand

To place by his photo on the bedside table. 

The old lady grabbed his chipped coffee mug,

Filled it water,

And set it beside the photo that she woke up next to.

He was smiling,

She returned the gesture with moist eyes

While the tulip rested beside him.

The room finally seemed to gain luster.

She grabbed her purse and left again.

The stone balcony shines like rainbow,

For the first time in years.

The crack hides behind a waterfall of flowers

Since she smiled with him.

The color has returned to her home

Since she regained purpose.

Day in and day out children stare up,

In awe and amazement,

At the old lady’s balcony.

Her world was bright.

Liz Hart

Open to the Wind

when I die I want to be
lying under the lilacs
vulva open to the wind
dry as the dirt around the azaleas
purple as the primrose
how many days of the blue jays protest
hawking at my lazy arms to throw the seed
before a neighbor notices
my bare ass frozen to the patio
slipped while watering the clematis
give all my money to the Audubon Society
it’s all buried out under the tulip bulbs
old pickle jars, some I didn’t
even bother washing out first
don’t burn my bones up
tie me into the roots of an oak tree
let me become the worms and the mycelium
all but the little bits of flesh peeled
from my back when the fire
fighters drag me off the balcony
it won’t be a long time until I die
plenty of minutes to hang
succulents from little iron rods around the door
clip off daisy heads and let them fall
listening for the sound of the toddlers
delighted by the rain of petals

Tatia Veikkola

Her Pale Envelope

           Grandma was impatiently staring at my bedroom windows. I knew it even without opening the old wooden shutters and looking out at her colorful balcony. Still in bed, I was remembering grandma’s latest bedtime story, which she sent me yesterday. Every day, she would write a short adventure story for me, put it in a pale envelope, insert old wooden cloth pins all around it to give the letter some weight and throw it to my balcony. The distance between our windows was just ten feet. When I would go to my balcony, the pale envelope and grandma’s kind eyes would greet me every morning. After the greetings, grandma would ask me how I liked her story and once again remind me that I should not open the envelope until the bedtime. Then we would talk about the topics which interested me very much. For example, we talked about soccer, a massive box of Lego recently bought by my parents and adventure books. I was always happy to hear, that grandma knew every team and player I mentioned and that she would always agree with me whatever I said about soccer. Though, I have never seen any soccer game on her TV screen, which was perfectly visible from her room to mine. That’s how we lived during lockdown in Italy, seven years old me and the grandma.

          She was not my real grandmother though, but everyone in the neighborhood called her grandma. She loved colors, flowers and writing. That is what she has always told me. Although, as a boy I was not especially fond of flowers, I was sure that her balcony was the most beautiful in the whole neighborhood. I could see those rainbow colors and her beautiful stories in those flowers. While watering, the grandma would tell me that as soon as the lockdown was over, she would take me to a soccer game and an ice-cream parlor to treat ourselves with a sweet delight. We loved talking about it. In our imagination we would fly over the old narrow streets of our small town, gliding like shadows over the brick-colored roofs of rustic cafes, shops and very old, but stunning fountains, where water, reflecting the sunrays, would shine with a thousand sparkles. Oh, we absolutely loved dreaming about it!

          Though one morning I could not see her pale envelope or her smiling eyes. Almost all day long I waited for grandma in my balcony, impatiently staring at her windows. But she would not appear there to water her beloved flowers or throw her pale envelope towards me and talk happily about our future adventures together. I was told that she went to heaven. Whatever kind of place heaven was, I was sure that grandma went on an adventure there, perhaps even visiting ice-cream parlors and attending soccer games. “But how could she go without me?!” I was devasted. For a long time after, I would longingly wait for her pale envelope to appear in my balcony.

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