Now I Lay Me Down – December Lace

A withering Jesus affixed to a bronze cross
judges me from a crumbling plaster wall
as I cower, breadcrumb size in a mousetrap closet.

Used candles, long-extinguished worship the altar
with no light from their shriveled wicks, his pickled form
frozen in agony

while my devout other half
sleeps like the angel she is
in a cold bedroom two floors above me,

soft and silent unless I open my throat
for the screams to come out.
(Jesus gets a headache when you talk.)

The only thing I pray for
is to wake up on the other side
of the door, away from the carved icon eyes

that glow in judgement, their verdict already passed
on sins not yet committed coming
from the whispers in my head.

They can read my screaming and they don’t like what they hear,
the candles moving without my touch,
vanilla smoke boiling in the air.

 

December Lace (@TheMissDecember) is a former professional wrestler and pinup model from Chicago. She is a Best of the Net nominee and has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Pussy Magic Lit, The Cabinet of Heed, Vamp Cat, and Rhythm & Bones, among others. She loves Batman, cats, and horror movies.

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Is the Nighttime Like the Day, When We Do Things and Go Places? – Jeffrey Hermann

If you close the book and go to sleep the sentences will fall to pieces
the plots will come unresolved

If you live in New York a little screen in your apartment sees midnight
rain on the sidewalk, people eating noodles from a box

If you leave your teapot and stuffed grey whale out in the yard
then the planets become toys, your house as well

Those are delicate hours, like you were a delicate child at first
living on a dropper of milk, a thimble of breath
Your tubes and wiring were tendrils in a garden

Older now, you pull books from the shelf and read poems
writing down new last lines of your own in a little notebook

And later, after you’re asleep, Pluto seems so far away
I sometimes use the pencil I know you’ve touched

 

Jeffrey Hermann’s work has appeared in Hobart, Pank Magazine, Juked, Houseguest Magazine, and other publications. He lives and works in southeast Michigan.

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Drenched – Randee Silv

Drenched: I was rushing somewhere. Shouts from a megaphone could be heard. They were not in agreement. They were not going to relocate. Others just sat. A few argued in silence. He came towards me. I couldn’t miss him. He put his face close to mine with a cupped palm and mumbled that his contractor had gone bankrupt. Nobody noticed him slipping out. He’d simply put on his street clothes and walked off carrying some magazines with a novel tucked under his arm. No one followed. No one came after him. Seeing how easy it was he knew he should’ve done it sooner. He said he only had nightmares when he was up. When he’s sleeping he’s fine. I was in a pine forest, barefoot. Moonlight. Streetlights. I was pressing a doorbell, but then I wasn’t. I did what the wind did. But it didn’t stop the sounds, not the ones I thought I was hearing but the ones that hadn’t yet come. I started whistling. Throat dry. I stood out in the rain with my mouth wide open.

 

Randee Silv’s wordslabs have appeared in Posit, Urban Graffiti, Maudlin House, Bone Bouquet, Utsanga, Otoliths, and in her chapbooks, Farnessity (dancing girl press) and in Fifteen Collages/Fifteen Wordslabs/Mumtazz/Silv (Nextness Press). She’s the editor of Arteidolia and the journal swifts & slows: a quarterly of crisscrossings.

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2018: a marriage odyssey – Matthew Daley

to let the air out I left
you couldn’t hear anymore
about the abundance of pillows
like I couldn’t hear about
walking around in dark rooms
when all the bills are paid
so I drove because that’s what
you have to do in LA and
paid $25 to see 2001
at 50 years old even though
I’ve owned it since 1997
knowing that when I confessed
on some future tomorrow you’d
mention the obvious things about
the movie not changing no matter
how many times I paid for it
and why couldn’t I care enough
about you to build a monolith

 

Matthew Daley has written commercials, documentaries, graphic novels, and a film that was never released. He has taught every level from 5th grade through Graduate School, always finding ways to sneak great poetry into his curriculum. He’s a father of three, husband of one, and a terrible singer/dancer who tries to turn many of his moments into a musical.

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Family History – Ron. Lavalette

My father always told me
his father always told him
that my father’s grandfather
died just like my father’s father:
rolled over in bed, sat up,
probably sat there a minute
thinking about the weather or
whatever it was that lay ahead,
reached down for his slippers,
groaned slightly, keeled over,
face-first onto the hardwood,
gone. Both of them, gone
in the lack of a heartbeat, gone
forever, before they got old,
regardless of what “old” was,
way back then when they died.

My father broke the pattern:
managed to hang on longer,
managed to avoid the floorboards
until his pancreas ate him alive,
slowly, letting him spend his
last few ancient days in his own
drug-comfortable bed, dreaming.

I’ve still got a few dreams coming,
I think; but these days, when I’ve
made it to ‘old’ but ‘ancient’ seems
unlikely, I wake up, roll over in bed
look at my slippers on the floor,
and feel like I’m flipping a coin
when I reach to pick them up.

 

Ron. Lavalette lives on Vermont’s Canadian border. His poetry, flash fiction, and creative nonfiction has been very widely published in both print and pixel forms. His first chapbook, Fallen Away, is now available from Finishing Line Press. A reasonable sample of his work can be found at EGGS OVER TOKYO : http://eggsovertokyo.blogspot.com

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stung – Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon

for Mary Eleanor Bowes 1749-1800

your Latin verbs danced in declensions/your words winged ideas to liberty/your spirit found cracks in brick walls/your fingers tended fragrant flowers/fondled fruit/your desire sought embrace and climax/your affection mulch and growth/your strength affronted lovers husbands men/men wished to prune you/bend you/bruise you/dead head your breast/nettle your mind/through these trials you knew/a bee’s sting is it’s last

 

Mary Eleanor Bowes 1749-1800 Owner of Gibside Estate, Gateshead, well-educated, amorous, expressive and a passionate gardener. She was the first woman in England to sue for divorce on grounds of cruelty.

 

Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon lives near Newcastle upon Tyne and writes short stories and poetry. Her first chapbook was published in 2019: ‘Cerddi Bach’ [Little Poems] by Hedgehog Press. Her first pamphlet is due to be published 2019/20. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee. She believes everyone’s voice counts.

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Image by Rich Bamford via Flickr, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

Elegy with Mopping and Applesauce Cake – Kyla Houbolt

Jack’s dead now so I can write about him
taking me on a tour of the coast up from SF
eating Vienna Sausages in the back of the van.
Missing those days while I mop this floor
smeared with at least six weeks’
slops and mud smirch on white tile.
Give me the back of the van any day.

Made applesauce cake, remembering when
he came back from a season of apple picking,
hosted an apple party, I made a pie in that dim kitchen,
turned out real well, I’d never made a pie crust before.
He read that apple picking Frost poem, everybody did some
apple thing or other, it was slumming, really, a hippie thing,
go pick apples for a season.

I heard he died in Thailand, of cancer, like most of those men.
Not my ex-husband though, with him it’s his heart.
We argued about how to pronounce Walter Matthau. He said
Mat TOO, and I said MATH ow. He pimped me to Jack
one night. Jack was his best friend from way back.
I was only his wife.

Who knows.

The apple cake is good, the floor is white, next time
maybe I’ll paint a picture on it
instead of cleaning it down
to the bone.

With thanks to Hannah VanderHart for the title suggestion, and for the inspiration to write this poem.

Kyla Houbolt’s debut micro chapbook, Dawn’s Fool, is available from IceFloe Press. She is a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, and most of her published work can be found on her Linktree: https://linktr.ee/luaz_poet. She is on Twitter @luaz_poet.

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The Restorer of the Plankhouse – Shelby Stephenson

for Ashley Langdon

Through his window of work he moves,
muscles flexed, then relaxed as doves
before the season comes in
to make them fly faster and higher.

In summer he wears shorts with holsters
for tools he grabs with ease as if to toast
the sunup to be the east’s chief clerk.
He’s already on the ladder, at work.

For a scant second, he sees me
arrive to say good morning.
Then he looks at the grill by Meco
And says, “Sometime we need to cook some hot dogs.”

For him sweat and sunset come on time.
He takes off his tool-belt and climbs
down his ladder against the fake well’s
roof he made to honor the real

one when the plankhouse was pulled
back in the meadow by two
mules, Black and Gray, whose withers
especially quivered like strings on a zither,

music similar to the carpenter’s
pulling a tendon in the center
of his left leg, in the calf.
He chooses jobs on that behalf,

threatening hurt; the purple martins
circle his head as if they park
in air to be part of the show,
a quiet tribute to this house on Sanders Road.

Without alarm those who enter the doors
he fixed to open good and the windows
he prepared in rooms all by himself,
the low-silled window lights bereft

of memories to all who did not
live here, father, mother, sister; the rot
of loneliness and neglect of furniture
he joins in the center of muscle’s curvature.

He admits he remembers tidbits
of life here he restores a little
at a time; then he stops by often
to check on the place visitors welcome.

Shelby Stephenson was poet laureate of North Carolina from 2015-2018. His most recent book: Slavery and Freedom on Paul’s Hill (Press 53)

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The Bitter Truth – Tiffany Hsieh

There was an old Taiwanese woman who was bitter as a widow, bitter as a mother, bitter as a grandmother. She would have been bitter as a sister, too, but her brother was not in the picture and her bitterness could not be attributed to him. While on her death bed in the hospital, she asked for her only son. He was in Canada and had to be coerced by his wife to fly home. The old woman didn’t really love her son as she felt that he never loved her after he turned thirteen. He had turned out to be just like her dead husband, the high forehead among other things. She also had a way of bringing out her dead husband in her son. Both men were ill-tempered and liked to drink when she was around. Even her grandson, her son’s son, had turned out to embody this male prototype. She didn’t love any one of them and they naturally didn’t love her, and she was bitter about that. Still, the old woman was somewhat satisfied with the fact that she had married the first, birthed the second, contributed to the third. None of them would be who they were without her and she wanted to tell her son that before she died. She wanted to have one last dig at him by telling him that his family would suffer the same fate as hers, because of karma, and that his son and future grandson would not love him just as he did not love her. The old woman’s son held her hand for the first time in more than half a century. As she stared at the hospital room ceiling, he informed her that his son and his son’s wife were a practising child-free couple. They lived in New York with their dog. The mongrel’s name was Happy and he loved everyone including the doorman. After hearing this, the old woman lived to be a bitter person only for another day.

 

Tiffany Hsieh is a Canadian writer living in Stouffville, Ontario. She used to play the piano and work as a reporter. She holds a master’s degree in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of Gloucestershire. Her poetry is forthcoming in Ricepaper Magazine.

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