The Woman: A Witness

The woman wakes to the pressing weight of the world. Her square sunken room is washed up in boxes to pack, trinkets memories to stuff into the throats of silences. Freedom is a sack of wet feathers, her sternum is cold, and the heat of the wrong season. Outside, a car oinks, rushing, at the cafe she sucks a bright sip of coffee, loud shouts, motorcycle oils. Wriggling slivers of sunshine dazzle in the cafe window, importing squares of sunlight on the table, one sun diamond unrolls against the baritone of her hand. A pretty wind slaps a candy wrapper against the windowpane. The man’s question is dipping: to go to Jerusalem? To leave the the freeways dizzy? The ocean to slap like a great theme upon the sand aglitter? She sits down her cup. Emptily. Beaches writhe in her ribcage. Nightclubs coo inside her stomach. Easy to say yes then to consider it. Gathering the strung out armors of the man’s question, her heart is a shoal licked in trash, outside, the sand-clapped wind slows to a somber strut. A drunk man enters the café, he is hollering, he is squeezing a dead seagull by its wet blue throat. The ocean steps in discreetly. It’s 10 am a faceless patron says quietly out loud.

 

 

Vanessa Saunders is the editor-in-chief of Helium Journal. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she is currently an MFA candidate at LSU. She has previously been published in Stockholm Literary Review, Lighthouse journal, Haight Ashbury Literary, and others.

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First Kiss

She is not sliding off a cliff stepping into the man’s red car. She is not falling like a
Silk porous unbearable hot dusk broken by the murmur. His car engine runs like open
Water, I’m stuffed he says, groping loosely his stomach. Thanks for dinner she says.
It was really liberating, he smiles, daylight but a moon is dropped like a low pearl open
Scent of shoals and evenings. A telephone pole dominates the raw blue. His hands
Brush her face. Chest pulses. His mouth is warm like gasoline and wood. Sitting in a
Room of his own. Her fabrics blush against the wounded seats. Underneath the skin
Is bare. Wordless or dumb. The man in the red sweet car. His eyes spindle at
Various attentions. Goodnight. Shut door. Evening is spilled onto the woman’s
Bedroom window like a milk. Clutch her pillow, her head rattles like a fecund car
Engine. The man’s face bounces across her soft canals. Her face trembles. She
Runs to the sink. In the mirror her face is hell. A water. Don’t know.

 

 

Vanessa Saunders is the editor-in-chief of Helium Journal. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she is currently an MFA candidate at LSU. She has previously been published in Stockholm Literary Review, Lighthouse journal, Haight Ashbury Literary, and others.

Dislocated Heart

the trains
took away
the mountaintops
leveled
the side of the bear’s home
earth body
dynamited
& hauled away
the vanished live
in clouds now

how difficult it is
to start again
with monsters
building pipelines thru
your ribs

the train took
my baby away

Lisa Panepinto is the author of two poetry collections, On This Borrowed Bike (Three Rooms Press, 2013) and Island Dreams (Cabildo Press, 2009). Her writing has appeared in The Accompanist, Maintenant, Pittsburgh City Paper, Planet Drum, Red Flag Poetry, and more. She is poetry editor for Cabildo Quarterly, an online and print literary journal.

Talking to Your Mother

unable to tell her your feelings towards transporting
fossil fuels along the columbia

and burning coal trains on tribal land
just saying i feel like a caged animal

find your peace she says
walk on the beach

hide in the dark brick
with blinds closed

open the windows at night
to let the stars in

secret breath of earth
come to me when no one’s around

 

 

Lisa Panepinto is the author of two poetry collections, On This Borrowed Bike (Three Rooms Press, 2013) and Island Dreams (Cabildo Press, 2009). Her writing has appeared in The Accompanist, Maintenant, Pittsburgh City Paper, Planet Drum, Red Flag Poetry, and more. She is poetry editor for Cabildo Quarterly, an online and print literary journal.

Food Sovereignty

the houma of louisiana
blessed the beginning
of shrimp season
as oil spilled thru
their watersheds

politicians said
the cost of protecting
the estuaries is not
worth your community

the houma sow
their healing plants
on higher ground now

 

 

 

Lisa Panepinto is the author of two poetry collections, On This Borrowed Bike (Three Rooms Press, 2013) and Island Dreams (Cabildo Press, 2009). Her writing has appeared in The Accompanist, Maintenant, Pittsburgh City Paper, Planet Drum, Red Flag Poetry, and more. She is poetry editor for Cabildo Quarterly, an online and print literary journal.

We Were Blind Drunk By Noon

We were blind drunk by noon. I woke up in my car when the sun was fading out. My grogginess fell away, replaced by mounting horror. We were in the parking lot of the LL Bean flagship store. I had no idea how we’d gotten to Freeport. It was three hours away from our houses. You were passed out in the backseat, your forehead pressed against a gallon jug of windshield washer fluid.

Your beard was scruffy and quite blond. I rubbed my own beard, enjoyed the dull scratch of it against my palm. I needed a drink. There were bars in this town but none of them were for us. We were no good. Freeport is a tourist town meant for people who wear boat shoes, capris, tasteful asymmetric haircuts. Not for us.

I shook you awake. You dry heaved over and over into whatever empty thing was close – a McDonald’s bag, a travel mug, an empty fifth of rum. I wiped the spittle off of your mouth with the sleeve of my sweatshirt.

It was dark by the time we got out of the car. You said you needed air. I was still shaky on my feet. There were several LL Bean stores arranged around a central courtyard. We went into the one with bedding. You wanted to climb on the display bed, like a child. But we couldn’t risk the cops discovering the empty bottles in the car, nor the other things that the light of a cop’s flashlight must never touch.

I looked at the cardboard cutouts of healthy men with square jaws. Their beards were lovely. I told you about a YouTube video I’d seen where they told you how to set your eyes so they looked better on camera. “It’s called squinching,” I explained. You nodded and told me how your face looks greasy in every photo. I told you it wasn’t true. You put one hand on the cardboard cutout.

You jerked away to look at us in the mirror. You were not a healthy man and neither was I. We had broken backs. We met on a lobster boat and then we broke our backs. On the sea there is no law so we snorted oxys together. You got them from your sister-in-law, initially. You hadn’t mentioned her in months and I was afraid to ask.

Lobstermen get off work at six in the morning and are blind drunk by noon. We continued the tradition, even though we can’t work anymore. There is a scar that runs down half your right thigh and I have never asked you why.

The shop girl was nervous. She muttered into her radio and a burly man appeared. He glared at us. I wanted to pull you away but you wouldn’t quit it. You unfolded every shirt in a display of polos. I was forced to promise that I’d buy you a beer. Still you wouldn’t go. “Rock Me Amadeus” played on the store PA. You told me that the guy who sang that got drunk, snorted a bunch of cocaine, and crashed into a bus. You laughed. My teeth chattered at the thought that we are the kind of men who laugh at that. The burly man was coming closer. I convinced you.

In the car you stuck your head between your knees and complained of vertigo. I wanted to tell you that we need each other. I wanted to place my hand on your shoulder and let you know that we’ll be together until one of us dies. Then I would tell you how that will never be long enough to qualify as “forever.”

But I couldn’t. We had to go. I sped towards somewhere we could be alone.

 

 

Meagan Masterman’s work has previously appeared in Unbroken Journal, Reality Hands, Specter Magazine, and more. She lives in Massachusetts and grew up in Maine. She haunts twitter with the handle @MeaganWords.

Suburbia

In the foreign lexicon,
there is a word for space.

It opens, and
carpenter ants file out,

forward momentum
of the villain and the god.

Middle-class ennui
lacks stakes.

What will advance the plot,
save for Archimedes’ proof,

the caves of Lascaux,
an iridescent fly?

Dead, I burrow deeply
in the earth’s soft trough.

I awaken to a two-car
garage, flanked by

a four-bedroom colonial,
and above it all—the

mirage of affluence—
a blue, all-sheltering sky.

 

 

Virginia Konchan is the author of a collection of poetry, The End of Spectacle (Carnegie Mellon, 2018), a collection of short stories, Anatomical Gift (Noctuary Press, 2017), and two chapbooks, including That Tree is Mine (dancing girl press, 2017). Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, and Best New Poets, and her honors include an NEH fellowship and an Illinois Arts Council Award. Co-founder of Matter, a journal of poetry and political commentary, and Associate Editor for Tupelo Quarterly, she teaches at Marist College.