Native Son by Steve Werkmeister

Steve Werkmeister is an English professor at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. He was born and raised in Nebraska and now resides in Olathe, Kansas, with his family. His first poetry collection, The Unauthorized Autobiography: Composed of Fragments, Distortions, Mythologies & Lies (PunksWritePoems Press), was published in fall 2016. He has a literature-focused blog at https://stevesofgrass.wordpress.com/, and you can find him on Twitter @SteveWerkmyster.

 

 

Native Son

 

When I was a kid,

every old Mexican I knew

 

claimed their family was

really from Spain,

 

had secret Jewish blood,

or was part Gypsy,

 

deftly denying

the obvious aboriginal roots.

 

It puzzled me, literally.

 

I understand why no one

wants to say my family

 

was shit on by the Aztecs,

& then the Spanish,

& then the French,

& then Americans.

 

No one wants to say

my family got so used to it,

 

we crossed the border

to get shit on here.

 

Everyone wants to be

 

the child Arthur pulling

sword from stone,

the baby in the manger,

the prince, not the pauper.

 

But I didn’t fit that, either,

being half & half, marginal

even among the marginals.

 

So here I am, just what

you see: a not-quite Mexican

writing, a not-quite German

writing, a not-quite American

writing, content to handle my

 

words like berries, to

tend most tenderly

 

my lines like rows, to spend

millennia crafting poems

 

just like the land that wrought me.

 

Track 16 by Benjamin Schmitt

Benjamin Schmitt is the Best Book Award and Pushcart nominated author of two books, Dinner Table Refuge (PunksWritePoemsPress, 2015) and The global conspiracy to get you in bed (Kelsay Books, 2013). His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Sakura Review, Hobart, Grist, The Columbia Review, Two Thirds North, and elsewhere. You can read his scary stories for kids in the Amazon Rapids app. He lives with his wife and daughter in Seattle where he also reviews books, curates a reading series, and teaches workshops to people of all ages.

 

 

Track 16

 

Tonight you asked me

how a kid could just go bad

I told you about standing

at the magazine rack when I was twelve

pretending to read Auto Trader

while stuffing Playboys and cigarette cartons

down my pants to sell at a discount

in the halls of my Christian school

 

The soil can accept

the roots of a tree or the roots

can accept new soil

it doesn’t matter so much as the growth

roots and soil are familiar

and grow like the poem

spreading branches through the margins

of notebooks into computer hard drives

and then maybe even into the lap

of someone I will only curtly brush with words

 

But you kept on asking me

why only some grow

and others do not

and what they will

eventually grow into

 

Let’s hope our daughter never takes

thirty pills of Dramamine at once

going five miles an hour on the interstate

as a dog criticizes her driving

from the passenger seat

 

Sometimes the flashlights of adulthood

shine in childhood windows

police plant drugs on orphans

and take them away again

teenage Abrahams hold

stillborn Isaacs in courtrooms

handcuffs bark on the wrists of star athletes

young prostitutes commit suicide

in plaster casts of Taylor Swift songs

 

In darker years I learned

how to make a burrito in a towel

with Fritos and ramen noodles

while crackheads joked about raping me

somehow I loved you then

and felt you in the linoleum

ten years before we met

maybe the crimes hollowed me out

to hold the rainbow bones of your laughter

I guess what I’m trying to say is that

maybe bad kids grow beautiful loss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Self-Portrait as Chicken Dinner by Erin Slaughter

Erin Slaughter is editor and co-founder of literary journal The Hunger, and the author of two poetry chapbooks: GIRLFIRE (dancing girl press, 2018) and Elegy for the Body(Slash Pine Press, 2017). You can find her writing in Prairie Schooner, Passages North, F(r)iction, Cosmonauts Avenue, and elsewhere. Originally from north Texas, she is pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing at Florida State University. Her first full-length poetry collection is forthcoming from New Rivers Press in 2019.

 

Self-Portrait as Chicken Dinner

 

She is a flocked hen going further

west. Like a rucksack slung

over the shoulder in an old

movie, what she contains is less

important than the visual.

 

When did she become afraid

of her own foolish cluck and scrape

away from the claw-footed earth?

 

For home is not a blank thing

that wanders. For shelter

is a wooden stake

through the heart.

 

And always that dead

ghost glazes her skin, thin

film ruddying feathers.

She names it love and gives up

on soap or articulating hurt.

 

Catalog her contents, blueprint for slicing

open: the cute, crumpled gizzard.

The menagerie of howls caged up

in her heart. When she is hollowed

 

like the animal ribs of a hundred

historical Thanksgivings,

it’s the handles that pierce

corn from either side to keep it

in place. All we cannot bear

to notice as the cob collapses

shucks and lifts its yellow,

 

brittle prayer to a hall of teething

mirrors. To a hallway of mirroring teeth.

Barista by Blaize Dicus

Blaize Dicus is a graduate student at the University of Central Oklahoma. His thesis questions genre by melding prose and poetry to tell one narrative that explores the influence of internal and external forces on identity.

 

Barista
She loves A$AP Rocky. She listens to every word her mother tells her. She cuts her curls short. She hears, You look like a boy now. She doesn’t care what her father says. She cries alone, in her Pottery Barn comforter. She cries with him, under a flea-infested Walmart fleece. She makes coffee for the pinstriped-crew-cut. She finishes her Psychology for Adults homework at two a.m. She orders herself a new sofa. She never sits on it. She just wanted to prove she really was Jennifer Garner with that stupid wishing-dollhouse. She makes a vanilla bean, two pumps caramel, three shots of expresso, no water safety-net for the nineteen year old nursing student. She never sees her again. She calls her brother, her expert, to ask if she should apply for other part-time jobs. She hangs her Associate’s degree on a nail she beat into the wall with her seventeen year old temper. She feels our dad’s boots on the hardwood floor. She waits until they stomp concrete. She knows he won’t tell her goodnight. She knows what he does in his man cave. She feels he’s gone. She feels safe. You can be anything you want unless the government tells you that you can’t. She doesn’t know what to do with her grandmother’s tits. She thanks the boys. She doesn’t get another job. She rolls her eyes while making a chai. She pauses to look—buzzed neck, pearl earrings, and a painted-purple lip. She wonders if she felt like her, too.

Electrostatic & Magic by Mitchell Nobis

Mitchell Nobis is a writer, an educator, and an aging pickup basketball player in Metro Detroit. A Philip Levine Prize semi-finalist, his work has appeared in English Journal and other publications. He co-authored Real Writing: Modernizing the Old School Essay, a book for writing teachers. Find him at @MitchNobis.
Electrostatic & Magic
Our atoms are
           99.9999999999996% empty,
yet here it all is, everything.
Here we are, empty.
Maybe that explains the anxiety that keeps us awake at night.
Here we are,
          0.0000000000004% matter
and the rest a wicked brew of
vacuum & abstraction,
our empty space filling itself at night
with…well,
maybe with magic.
Shitty magic, it would seem, but perhaps still magic.
Is that what keeps us up every night, dark & unknown
I’ll lie there, listening,
eyes closed to the dull streetlight seeping through the blinds,
feeling my heart thrum
like a train rumbling across America—
rumbling over tensions, rumbling through time,
keeping an eye on the trestles, praying they hold together,
trusting in the Science & Magic
of the train I ride.

Poetry by Josef Krebs

Josef Krebs has a chapbook published by Etched Press and his poetry also appears in Agenda, the Bicycle Review, Calliope, Mouse Tales Press, The Corner Club Press, The FictionWeek Literary Review, Burningword Literary Journal, the Aurorean, Inscape, Crack the Spine, The Cape Rock, Carcinogenic Poetry, The Bangalore Review, 521magazine, Organs of Vision and Speech, Tacenda, Former People, The Chaffey Review, The Bohemian, and The Cats Meow. A short story has been published in blazeVOX. He’s written three novels and five screenplays. His film was successfully screened at Santa Cruz and Short Film Corner of Cannes film festivals.

Here are three poems by Josef Krebs. We hope you find them as engaging and dynamic as we did.

 

And tremors that begin in your hand

And spread to the city

Are no longer a factor in the war that followed

The turmoil a mere residue now of unforgotten dreams

And ideological stubbornness

Or ignorance

The eyes that saw no longer hesitate to witness

But the images drip away barely burning into the soul anymore

As if taste buds had died along with retinal ganglion cells

In order to protect the no longer

And the no longer innocent

Alike

 

 

 

 

As the thesis of existence inoculates us to our last departure

I rapture over past

Memories of other

That no longer is

As if a moment had passed

Into past

A droplet reabsorbed into the collision between water and sky

That might come around and around

As distance becomes foreshortened into thesis and antithesis

With all lost from the let go get go

In order that a new race might emerge

 

 

 

 

Distance accounts for half the effect of inconclusive adaptability

As direct dialectic deception gives the perception of equality of opposites

When the balance is all off

And one should make a stand for something however simple and multilayered if not multi-angled

Or is all just perception and necessity of the moment

With no tense balance possible

Beyond the momentary interaction with those you love too much

“Tall Tale–A Lumber Camp Massacre” by Gina Marie Bernard

The snow arrived at 11:11, superstitious numbers for the Cass Lake loggers:
    four parallel pines announcing the banking storm.

Men had been promised a day and a half of women and whiskey,
    and drug themselves from the forest, footfalls heavy as felled fir.

These thirsty birlers—Norwegians, French Canadians, Irishmen—carried
    upon their shoulders broad axes and serrated saws,

but buried deep within their woolens they bore darker truckage:
    national pride and prejudice as sharp as crushed juniper.

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