by Kelly Weber


I walk out to the field of blackbirds          the day the law’s words change     the day men in another state   shallow voices rasping over grass     axe the individual mandate     Strike this paragraph               change it to zero     strike this paragraph          changes in coverage and I trace   red wounds of their wings          hidden among lines     of brome and song     my voice soft and my smile   for men          buried somewhere beneath          my left  rib     I say blackbirds I am sick    what pre-exists          me          has always been the word          laid down by men say blackbirds    they tell me my body is too much    to cover         small bones litter prairie and broken edges     of water   in here   my brown boots and my black tights find a way through to the shallows   of dirt     say blackbirds     what pre-exists me besides moon         under bridge? Besides throat          you are made of? I could make     a tall grass   to cover everyone    fill the mouth   with weeds   I could make these breasts          reveal their red   and the blackbirds scream          my shape back to me 


Kelly Weber is the author of the chapbook All My Valentine’s Days Are Weird from Pseudo Poseur Press, and her poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in upstreet, Mud City Journal, The Midwest Quarterly, Nebraska Poetry: A Sesquicentennial Anthology, and elsewhere. Her work has been nominated for the AWP Intro Journal Award, and she has served as an artist-in-residence at Cedar Point Biological Station. She is an MFA candidate at Colorado State University and an editorial assistant for Colorado Review. More of her work can be found at

an ekphrasis by Jason Harris

Gratitude for the way we make it work

 after Deana Lawson’s photo, Woman With Child


“How much a dollar cost?”

Kendrick Lamar 


my arm a tool. my thumb a tool. 

my couch too. you cain’t clock, 

mama say, no 9-to-5 on ya ass

dreams. she still dreams of workin’ 

from home. how much a new couch 

cost? i ask god. how many ways, god,

can a couch be used for somethin’ 

other than sittin’? one day as a kid i 

woke up to my daddy, who mama say 

ain’t shit. usin’ the couch as a hospital 

bed my ass but my daddy, he somethin’ 

to me. mama was gone that day & 

there was no nurse in white. no nurse 

in blue. only, underneath a bag of ice

wrapped in a wet rag on top of mounded

flesh, a black eye. what good is a tool 

that don’t work? what good is a tool

not used right? 




my arm a tool. my thumb a tool. 

my couch too. i sit everyday & stare 

blankly into a mirror. like it’s a camera

or somethin’. hopin’ it’a capture somethin’ 

worthy enough to be called pretty. my face 

a tool. if i turn it this way, you use me 

like that. if i turn it that way, you use me

like this. my body a tool. my body: 

(no matter the day it comes) a gift. 

a baby, maybe mine’s, maybe not, wails 

underneath my collarbone. doctor say 

i need to eat. another child, my baby girl, 

everybody mistake for a boy, sucks 

his thumb. i mean her thumb. my child:

a girl. the pink birds on her shirt mean

she a girl. the mind a tool if you let it.




assumption a tool. judgment a tool. 

curiosity too. dependin’ on how 

you use ‘em. ‘magine, if my arm a tool 

& my thumb a tool & i take this couch 

back to where i got it, what i could 

then do with that money.


Jason Harris is a poet and NEOMFA candidate. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Winter Tangerine, TRACK//FOUR, Longleaf Review, Wildness Journal, Cosmonauts Avenue, and others. He is the Co-Editor-in-Chief of BARNHOUSE Journal, a contributor for Watermelanin Magazine, and lives in Cleveland, OH. He can be found on social media @j_harriswrites.

by Chris Castro-Rappl



God of salt and starting lines

hear me

You whose war-drums sound through our soles

rhythmless on rubber

a thousand thousand beats from the gun

Watch over me

your steel cords through my ankles and knees,

your great fist around my heart

your smell

of black powder in my lungs


You whose lungs are uncut by cold

though we exhale

like locomotives, grant my thousand prayers

May my

shoes stay tied my gut settled needling in my calf

be nothing

Keep the salt from my eyes take my salt

as sacrifice

don't let my ragged breaths tear my lungs

but let the girls

with the rolled up shorts see you in me

your long stride

your lean around the curves, muscles pressing

against skin


Chris Castro-Rappl is an attorney, teacher, and graduate of the creative writing program at the University of North Carolina. His work has appeared in Abyss & Apex, Haggard and Halloo, and the 2018 Rhysling Anthology.

by Stephen Morrow

A Collection of Stories



I had a way of getting broken down by men, unwittingly and incrementally, quietly even, so that no one would know until months after the split. I simply disappeared from public view even though I stood there, often out in the open, under an awning or two, with my hands up near my face, incredulous. 

I was in a bath, the water long since cooled, more wrinkle than body, and suddenly it occurred. I am alone. That’s my toothbrush on the sink, my coffee-browned, half-blue bristles. These dogs: my dogs. I have been eating alone, sleeping alone, waiting for someone to turn off the overhead light. 

Once during a marathon of some television show that had long since overstayed its welcome and even its goodbye, I went looking for him. Tommy, the tiny one, licked at my beard as one-lighted I drove west over a series of bridges. A man can pass over so much water that he feels wet, out to sea. My blues got bluer, purple even, prosey, so that everything I thought sounded vaguely familiar but oomph-less, like I had learned to talk by watching newspapers blow about a busy street. I couldn’t blink straight. 

I pulled into his sister’s driveway. Then I reversed out and parked on the street. Tommy’s tongue searched and searched. I leaned into it. 

Carla said he had long since gone.

“Dead?” I asked, a little too hopefully, and was turned away. 

“Out of town.” 

I couldn’t recall a time he’d been in it. He’d spent the past five years looking in my opinion too closely at locomotives. He’d been within this town, suspended, waiting to be plucked out, a mosquito stuck in amber. I was just one more malignancy that could be removed. 

I knocked on Carla’s door again. This time it was the boy, a lean seven if that, embarrassed but not yet old enough to get the empathy right. I said, “Thanks,” and he said, “What for” without a question mark. I asked for an address, a phone number, possibly, even a scent. I said point the way but not too specifically. 

“Focus on Friday,” he said.

Some phrases kids don’t so much learn as absorb. I felt in the way but of what I did not know. 

I decided to drive by the places we used to frequent, not because I expected to see him but because I wanted evidence, an alibi maybe, that I hadn’t given up. Tommy curled up and tried to sleep. He looked like a loose bundle of twigs that someone in the woods was getting ready to discard. 

He used to ask if I cared. Of course,” I said, “but people care differently.” My father, for instance, could squeeze his face into the tightest sponge of care. He could look like he hadn’t seen water in years. I, on the other hand, hadn’t the vocabulary to care so specifically, so all my apologies came out vague, neutered. 

“I’m sorry for saying all that.”

I should hold my tongue. Or maybe someone else should hold it. 

He was out there not immediately present. I checked my watch. It was Dora the Explorer thirty. I made many critical yet accurate and even clever comments about this watch when he handed it over, unwrapped, a little scuffed about its plastic face, as a thrift-store birthday present. And yet. And yet here I am with a wrist and a place to put it. 

If he were here, I would say: “I was there, ya know, dead-set on getting between your eyes and the horizon.” 

My heart was in all the right places at all the wrong times. 




Venturing Forth

I couldn’t get in love and not for want of trying. Meaning I didn’t want to try? I didn’t try to want? Nah. Mary used to say, “You’re trying,” as in “You annoy me,” and though I knew how she meant it, I took it a different way. I always took it a different way and on the rare occasion that I didn’t take it a different way, I certainly took it. 

But then I started to venture forth. So much so that I appeared to be leaning. 

I was getting all sorts of ancillary yet positive emotional states attached to my person. Several co- workers, including Mary, who together had once described me as “just enough,” now tried to set me up with friends and acquaintances. They could see some green beneath the rubble. I felt like the end of a war. 

But I always said no. 

“I’m busy.”

“Doing what?” 

“Keeping the lights on.” 

I had a sneaking suspicion that venturing forth with a companion would mean not venturing forth, or not always venturing forth—that there would be some waiting, some slowing here and there, some general stagnancy. 

When Mary called, then, I didn’t so much answer the phone as lift it cautiously from its natural position and place it near my ear, eager for the chance to set it back down. 




The Interior

“If you stay on track,” he was saying, “you can buy a new car.” 

But I didn’t want a new car. I wanted an old car with well-worn vinyl seats and indentations that allude to a leaner, possible me. 

“A new car has this smell that says success,” he said. “No one can take that away from you.” 

“He” being my boss, Ross, a middle-aged white male with floral neckties and the occasional puzzling Band-Aid placement. Today his ear started bleeding in a meeting. His face thus became a no-eye zone. No one had the authority to tell him. The room grew tense with averting eyes. We kept close watch on the agenda. 

“For the smell to really work its magic, though,” he said, “you will need to get as many people as you can—especially women—inside the car. It’s all about the interior.” 

Ross winked at me, but sensing that I had been blinking when he winked—I had not been—and that I had missed his gesture—I had not—he winked again. The office HVAC had for weeks been drying my eyes a faint red. I couldn’t help but blink. Ross winked and winked. 

This, I thought, could go on all day. 





He had children all over the city with women who still appreciated him. Which is difficult, he was told. He drove a Mercedes but in such a way as to imply it was a Nissan. He would not take coffee from one establishment into another establishment. That was a rule.  

One woman was his special confidant.

“Clarissa,” he said, “you’re my special confidant.” 

He said it as if it were a question. She was busy affixing the boy’s clip-on tie. There was a funeral to be attended. There was an obituary to read—homework. 

Clarissa patted the boy’s head through a thick mangle of curly hair, and while this did not comfort the boy, it did comfort her. 




Business Cards

I thought I was old, but then I got older, so I guess I was young. 

This was when the rain assumed an oppressive position above us and I refused daily to open an umbrella. The result was a permanent wetness. I resembled a puddle that could not get evaporated. 

“Did you shower with your suit on?” Cindy asked. 

“I’m leaking,” I said. 

I didn’t exude much in the way of sentiment, which, according to Cindy, made me look lost, like a boy looking for his mother in a department store. 

“I’ll carry an atlas,” I said. “You can call me Shackleton.” 

“Didn’t he die at sea?”

“Before that.” 

I passed out other people’s  business cards. Why not? I had a drawer full. People were eager to give me one, two. I collected an enviable variety—glossy and matte, standard or squared, soft or sharp edged, linen and cotton and plastic. The only similarity was in the names and titles: printed with confidence—too much confidence if you ask me. 

No one asked me. 

Sometimes I passed out two. “If you need me,” I’d say, “call her or call him. They know where to find me.” 

In September, I bought a new car because I thought it’d take me places. It never occurred to me that I would  have to choose the places. I tried merging onto highways erratically, jerkily, following invisible, arcing paths toward the median. My car beeped. My car jerked us back on track. 

I tried buses, but the ticket spoiled the surprise. I tried taxis, too, which is to say I argued with drivers all over town. 

“Where to?” one said.

“You don’t need the to,”  I said back. 

“Where do you want to go?”

“I don’t know. I just want to go.” 

Then I asked him for a card. 

In late September, the weather cooled and pumpkins started insinuating themselves into conversations and onto porches. I couldn’t recall what my face looked like amongst all the available expressions. I could, however, feel that I wasn’t long for this world. I could feel, too, that I wasn’t short for it. I was size-less for this world. 


Stephen Morrow’s poems and stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Kenyon Review online, Tammy, The Laurel Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Columbus, Ohio.