by RC Davis

At Rehab

my brain walks around in just its socks.

It picks up pine needles in the back yard

and clears a space for my happiness. G and I laugh

and read our poems until the sun sticks

to our teeth. N tells me to read

from the Big Book of AA when I feel numb

or doubtful. I’ve found a home in myself, finally.

I nest myself in the arms of my bedsheets

every night, and realize that suicide

now feels like a cringy song I used to sing

in middle school. The lake laps towards me.

I breathe into the lungs of my past self.

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RC Davis is a poet from Oak Park, Illinois currently studying at Oberlin College. He was the 2021 National Student Poet of the Midwest. His poems appear in the anthology, Respect the Mic and magazines including Driftwood Press and 3Elements Review.

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by Prosper C. Ìféányí


I had a dream that my mother's

country was on fire, & I was six

feet away from it. Now that I have

a thorn in my flesh. Now that the

clouds are slow moving. Now that

all my dead have the imagination

of a hundred kindred souls. I can

feed my voice to the brittle dry air

of these prairies. Not all skies are

readable; like yesterday, I swear I

heard the clouds deride me in their

thunderous peals. I am filled. I am

filled with all the deaths everything

I love has left me. Unbottled hunger

seeks to claim me. My brother's face

nestling under the pave of death's

garden. A little boy plucks its flowers.

Struts after the gazelles in his stomach.

I find it harder to forgive the room, so

I offer my feet to the dog-nose wetness

of the road. Nothing fills the body with

light than a returning. A sprinkling of

salt on this vain heart. A cannonade

shredding everything inside of me.

Pink petals make the wildest nightmare.

For everything beautiful is doomed to a

kind of finiteness. Nothing blooms in

the body's tabernacle. I still have this

dream of you, brother, coming to me

like you never left—cleaving cicadas and

revealing to me a polaroid of scars.

Why do you come to me with a mesh

of nails ploughing your palms? Are you

Jesus? You coo with the brown pigeons.

You spin on the navel of a pure storm.

There are no stars to caress the keening.

No salt to sweeten the wounds. So stay,

or leave a meaning on the fossiled sands.

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Prosper C. Ìféányí writes from Lagos, Nigeria. His works are featured or forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, New Delta Review, Salt Hill Journal, South Dakota Review, Magma Poetry, Indianapolis Review, South Florida Poetry Journal, The Offing, and elsewhere.

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by Michael Ricketti


Gentle staircase. sand covered wood. the sand covered wood. the gentle reach she descending. unfinished staircase. a staircase of unfinished wood. chisel gouged. I am beside. electric gauged. oil filled. heated. lingered. a tea pressed. a map etched. the fine glass set on its rim. the glass set on its rim. a tulip glass of tea. a tulip glass set on a square glass base. internally. the unfinished wood. the red edged wool. this dark pane. this darker pane. lingered. this wavy glass. on the first floor I am setting back. the doors closed. the doors locked. the windows closed. air in through in crevices. a burdened door taken out. a burdened door taken off. the brass hinges. the mounting screws frozen. I have pressed against.

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Michael Ricketti was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Lenapehoking. He lives in Nicosia, Cyprus where he works as a university lecturer in English and serves at Kuruçeşme Projekt - a community yoga, meditation, education, and art initiative founded with Sevdiye Ricketti.  

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by J. Christopher Fisher

Tidal Lock

In the history of my violence, I only have one regret; it’s that when I was presented my opportunity to kill my coward father, I failed to act. See, my mother was off world, visiting the few remaining relatives that would still speak to her, as her decision to marry my father had been an unforgivable one to most of her relatives. They did not know, so couldn’t consider that her pregnancy had been the impetus of her decision. From the little I heard of them, and the even less I saw of them, I doubted they would have cared. I was an abomination in their eyes, therefore so was she. So, this left me in the care of my father, during one of his sober periods, numbering so few I can recall them all and count them on one hand. He woke me early. He had borrowed a Range Hoover from the local impound, and he asked me if I wanted to go for a quick jaunt out near the synth grove. He promised we could pick balloon mangos and maybe even take a swim in Purple Lake. All I wanted was to be away from him, but I had no real choice.

The ride out was silent. I stared out the side screen, curious how the Triple-Lingos complex managed to stay in constant rotation, both around Friendly Grove and tidally locked to one another. Three spherical balls floating through space like a ballet against the stars. I thought of the people, the droids, and the flowers that might be there, how different they might be, could I ever see them, and if I did, would I find out what it felt like to be happy?

He did it silently, almost casually. He slid the bottle down the seat between my restraint and my belt. What strikes me the most on my memory is my utter lack of surprise, that a father would hand his child a bottle of alcohol, the very substance that, up to that tender age, had absolutely decimated my young life. It felt right, obvious, even necessary. I didn’t flinch, or bother to ask, I simply unscrewed the thin metal cap and drank. The taste was like fire. It burned my tongue and my guts at the same time, and although the burn almost made me cry, I wouldn’t show it. I refused to give that bastard the satisfaction. I only drank more. Soon, the burn began to settle, and an easy peace started to descend upon me.

By the time we reached Purple Lake, I was reeling. I couldn’t quite focus and in the full glare of the artificial sun, the horizon seemed to have come unglued, I felt as though my feet were no longer my own. My father came quickly out of the Rover and started off through the thick of the mango grove. I stumbled to follow him, horrified that I might be abandoned in this condition. We were hundreds of clicks away from anyone or any settlement. My mind began to race that maybe leaving me here was his plan all along. I ran to catch him, my short legs getting tangled in the undergrowth. When I was but 10 meters back of him, he slowed and turned, smiling. He yelled for me to hurry along; he had a surprise for me. Only then did I notice the bundle tucked under his arm. And the fresh bottle he had in his free hand.

When we finally reached the clearing, I was choking on my own sweat. My legs and arms were a warrant of cuts and bruises from the rushing undergrowth, and my feet were numb. My tongue felt like a furry caterpillar trapped behind my teeth. I fairly collapsed in my father’s general direction, but he scooped me up, set me right, and handed me the fresh bottle. I drank with a greed and desperation I had never known. Only when the contents were drained did I notice the unrolled bundle laying on the clearing floor, a long cartridge rifle, and ammo. I had seen him use it before, mostly to scare scrappers and mongrels off the court. I had even touched it once, when I found it hidden in the larder behind the loo, the cold steel and worn wood sections feeling terrifying and fantastic under my fingers. I traced the curves in the dark, then, sensing the items shattering potential for violence. Now it lay on the ground before me.

My father had stumbled up the way to place our emptied bottles on a range fence post cross beam. Three empties all in a row. Had it already been three? I didn’t know and didn’t care. I didn’t understand the rules of this game and it made me nervous. My father brought the rifle behind me, thrusting the barrel through my underarm, and placed my finger on the trigger. He told me to breathe, to look past the target, to squeeze, DON'T pull the trigger. His hot, alcohol breath at my ear was grotesque, and I thought about my own breath. Would it now reek as his, as he so often did? Was I now his equal? I washed these uglinesses from my thoughts, and I pulled the trigger. I only managed to catch the bow of a low hanging branch, and my shot whipped the beams, dislodging all our targets. My father bellowed, called me an idiot, and that it must be the filthy poisoned Roma in my blood that ruined my aim. As he stumbled back to reset the bottles, my eyes burned with drunken tears, all rage and pure hatred. To be here, mocked and scared, and failing, and having to endure it all with this horrible creature chiding me was unbearable. I cocked the weapon.  The sound was loud and resounding in the mango grove. My father clearly heard the report. He slowed, only just for a moment, then seemed to linger, being overly fussy as to how he replaced the bottles. He took his time. He never turned back to face me. He was waiting for my shot.

I did not shoot him that day, or on any of the other days that followed. And the smile he wore when he finally turned and walked back to me remained his default expression to me from them on. He had given me every opportunity, the reason, and even the alibi, but I had not had the heart, the fire, the minerals to end my enemy. My heart was a coward, so I took that shot, one million times over, in my mind for the rest of my life.  And I always drank like I was dying of thirst, back there, shamed, in those mango groves.

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J. Christopher Fisher has been working and publishing for the last 20 years under the name J. Fisher, as well as a host of noms de plume. In that time he has had works circulating from Balzac to Berlin, and published 3 formal poetry collections on the Frontenac House label (Death Day Erection, bulletin from the low-light, and iii). He has a fresh cluster of poems and flash fictions out for consideration, with 2 short pieces having been accepted this week.

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by A. Kathryn Davis

For Good

Melie and Ty broke up and got back together for the weekend so I threw a brunch. Hash browns and vegetables, coffee-but-black, hippie shit. The next day, the day when they broke up foreverforgood, alone again, I turned the oven up, high. Not even to clean it. I wish. Anyway, I didn’t know it then. But I’d left half of it, that meal, behind in there, warming, while we talked-like-normal the next room away. In case someone wanted more. 

Anyway, when I threw the blackened pan at the curb for the birds or the dump truck, I’m not sure which, my shoulders felt tight. I mean that I felt sorry. The pan struck the concrete with a clang—the sort of sound you feel. The sort of sound that passes through you, like a bat’s screech, like a fork sunk in a wall. Like the sort of thing that will go on forever.

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A. Kathryn Davis is a writer from the palm of Michigan. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from Grand Valley State, where she served as editor-in-chief of the university’s literary journal, Fishladder. She’s earned several awards and publications for short fiction, including in journals such as HAD, Potomac Review, Third Coast, and elsewhere. She works as a film producer and director, and is at work on a contemporary Young Adult novel, with which she participated in Tin House’s YA Workshop.

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