Scott Ferry

Scott Ferry
writes too much about ghosts. And his children. Someone should tell him, but until then you can find his work in American Journal of Poetry, Cultural Weekly, and Misfit, among others. His second book is about to drop on Main St. Rag is called Mr. Rogers kills fruit flies.

gift of sleepless rivers

i try to put my daughter to sleep
but she kicks against the black sheen
and i barely lift above the ~~~~
worms and white whales slip

into the ~~~~ her shins rub off the starry blanket
it is july and willows won’t grow in swamps
snakes won’t apologize for blanketing
under ~~~~ her scapula jabs my arm

and her heat boils the ~~~~ her eyes
are counting the star lights above her window
she knows insomnia already the ~~~~
which musics inside a salt accordion

i gave this to her through dark dominos
latticed in serotonin-starved ~~~~
and now she makes bargains with the ferryman
at either end of the ~~~~ like i have

done for years but i am luckily sleep-rich
lately and she is poor but her eyes finally close
her thin boat sliding through the ~~~~
(we insomniacs know the blank mouth

of the ferryman is wrong on either shore)
she flips a dorsal elbow through the ~~~~
her silver teeth chatting math
and under the ~~~~ i see her abandoned oars

God as distraction

1. “God damn it!” my father bellows to my mother and sister
through the drywall and cement i’m sure all the way
to the off-white house to our south—
silence we steal and strawberries along the borders
and to the white-haired lady in the cream house to the north
with the cacti in rock and the kitchen smell of burnt frosting
with her 5 cats—i hope to God she doesn’t hear him

     2. My daughter refuses to turn on her zoom screen
because her classmate (who she struck with a tree branch
yesterday when he wouldn’t leave her sacred rock)
is now talking about not hitting people on the playground
she weeps in a curl of muscle and all i can do is raise my voice
lift her shaking into her room where she screams when i shut the door
and listen to the recording of my father in the electric hallway

3. My last year of teaching the anger became a cramp that cancered
my throat when the girl in my class began crying in the conference room
her teeth slicing my accusations of her not complying
with my rules—my skin flat deflating in ribbons as she cried
and her parents silent and the Assistant Principal handed her a tissue
and i think now what kind of monster makes a girl weep
in front of her parents? what empty wind clears an airless room?

     4. The Minarets tooth through the white shoulders and hips
below Mammoth Mountain i see my father’s sunglassed eyes
in the March sun i notice a rare grin he clicks his orange boots into skis
my gloved hands loose before gripping poles and pushing off again
i can almost forget there were breaths between the clinching
and if he knew a God it was here in these short delays outside the gondola—
the stolen panoramas of granite and tooth—the distracted connection of earth and sky

     5. After he dies he keeps coming to me in the bathroom (either while
i am on the toilet or standing in the shower) just long enough for the tasks
in my hallways to stop screaming just long enough to be distracted
by the camera’s soft-light blurring my insides and to feel his calm
rinse into the room (a calm i wish he had allowed himself for more than
three breaths) and i think on my daughter and her temper and how to soothe
her nerves with an electric glove—how to teach her to love her own hands

Nwuguru Chidiebere Sullivan


Nwuguru Chidiebere Sullivan
is an emerging writer from Ebonyi state, Nigeria. He’s a penultimate medical laboratory science student who explores medicine in the day and worships literature at night. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in several literary journals; both online and printed. He was the winner of 2018, FUNAI CREW Literary Contest.

The Cold Psalm of A Clueless Sailor

In this poem, I’m a lost sailor 
drowned by the violent tides of his tears.
If life is a journey proceeding through water,
I’m a boat sailing through a troubled ocean.
My body is so close to raging water bodies/ 
very prone to flood;
a muddy soil partying in a waterlogged horizon.
everyday breaks into a heavy downpour,
to contain these, 
my soul becomes a streamlined trunk — adaptation 
Or am I not floating upon this blue brine
with my legs & head camping at the top of a humidity 
beyond the sea level 
while my hands flip through the stratum/layers 
of this ocean in search of a firm grip?
My birth does not come with a compass.
to wedge these storms/skip these rocks 
& embrace a tranquil dock,
I must spread my worries into a map— spur
I don’t even know when(where) this journey 
will end— clueless,
but I know I’m a balloon pregnant with still air,
a leaf of cocoyam sitting upon this ocean,
I’ll not drown
I’ll float for long
I’ll end somewhere far from here.

Limbless Sun

Because the sun is limbless in Africa
its footmarks are shades gulping shadows
the same way a boy is a darkness swallowing
grief, I wish to lend time feet, to lend 
an arm to the sun & stretch these black tongues
into a gravid litany; the kind that lures mercy.
To these bare & blunt blades— our bodies,
may we stop exhibiting strength around dead animals, 
after we’re done stripping the tooth of time its scathe— the lips;
I fear what the rain will do to it
if we keep naming sunrise differently
according to the time each man wakes up.

Colourful Figurines on A Black Canvas

Yesterday, hell sniffed our bodies into its nose
as scents of tobacco.
Hades collected our salty tears as soured rain 
with a keg designed for holding
liquid bodies.
We’ll raise a monument of prayers.
We’ll rue such colourful figurines.
Today, another man is smearing the moon
with the blood from his daughter’s thighs;
transforming the vast center to a tapering tail,
like how a highway narrows towards its apparent end.
Tomorrow, a mother will fetch a pretty protea
with her baby’s umbilical cord;
trotting visions away without guilt 
like the hands of a clock moving.
They’ve drowned a monument of sanity.
They’ve ruined this colorful figurine.
Two days ago, a boy’s body became a pilgrimage center
where people visit, yet barely know; 
no one cared to know how his smiles 
toppled over his hidden tears.
Two days later, a girls heart became a cemetery
where venoms drifting from broken boys are buried;
we built a cemetery by adorning a chapel.
We’ll raise a monument of prayers.
We’ll rebuild this colourful figurines.
Last year, many tripped into slumber when the vodka of life
hurt their chests. 
This year, we’ll snub death by sipping more hope. 
We’ll paint our black bodies as pretty figurines. 
We’ll name it a beautiful nation.

Andreas Fleps

Andreas Fleps
is a 29-year-old poet, based near Chicago. He studied Theology and Philosophy at Dominican University, and has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as High Shelf PressSnapdragon, Allegory Ridge, and Waxing & Waning, among others. His debut collection of poems entitled, “Well Into the Night” will be released by Energion Publications at the end of the year. Battling Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder since the age of fivehe translates teardrops.

The Trumpiest Trump That Could Ever Be Trump Is Trump:
A Satire Poem

“I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”
Jump ship Jesus? It took him three days to rise.
I came back from COVID in two. COVID asked,
Mr. Trump, how did you get better so fast? I told it even
when I am sick, I am better than everyone’s best. I get
the best of best. All of the best combined is less than
my least best, which is the best. And, boy, can I breathe.
Out of breath? Never. No one has ever breathed as much
as me. I breathe underwater, better than fish. I could
drown, yet still be breathing. I am air. People breathe me
in, I breathe so well. More alive than life. You might not
know this, but god breathed into me first. I was Adam
before Adam. Grabbed Eve by the pussy, she loved it.
She loved it when I whispered in her ear to eat the apple.
She said my voice is music. Entrancing. And I love
music too. Listen to it more than sound. I am every
ear that’s ever heard. In fact, music listens to me.
I composed Mozart in case you didn’t know. Narcissus? Me?
No, I fell in love with my face far before he did. Instantly.
No one has ever fell in love with themselves as fast as I did.
Beautiful? I am the best beauty. I am the most beautiful me
that could ever be beautiful. More beautiful than an astronaut
seeing the earth from above. Never been to space. But I have
more of it. So much dark the dark can’t see. The stars? They ask,
Mr. Trump, how can you be lighter than light when you are so dark?
I win light. I won all of the light. I light all lights. And then there was light,
but first, there was my light. If you stacked all the stars ever on top of
each other, I would still be taller. Taller than a red giant,
my hair flaps across the universe. Speaking of big things, I like strong guys.
But no one is stronger than me. I am all arms flexed at once. I have never
been to a gym, but I lift the gyms. Bench-press buildings, the concrete can’t
believe it. It asks, Mr. Trump, how are you as big as a building?
Let me tell ya, buildings are scaled after me. I am the most building
a building could be. Bob the Builder? Better than him. Built the economy.
Built this country before it was a country. I built the world before god did.
He asks, Mr. Trump, how can you build better than me? I said god, I am
the god that asked god for another god and got me before I was a god.
Boy, did he agree. I am the answer to every question. I am all answers.
No answer could answer an answer better than me. Right? Names?
I know them. I have one actually. No one has a name like mine.
If everything ever had to have a name, it would be mine.
I named names. I knew my name before I was named. They ask,
Mr. Trump, how could you be so smart? I say I don’t need smarty-pants,
I am smart in regular ones. More genius than any genius.
Every genius ever has said, wow, Trump sure knows how to be a genius.
He wins genius. Boy, do I win huh? I won before winning
was winning. When I win, I win twice. Winning wins me.
Winning asks, Mr. Trump, have you ever lost? I say I have never
known loss. I lost loss, forever. I could only lose to myself, and I
never lose. Never been lost either. Always know where I am.
Compasses got their directions from me. More north than penguins.
More south than upside-down penguins. More west than the sun,
it rises after me. Not even the east has as beautiful sunsets as me.
My face is a sunset. Oranges ask, Mr. Trump, how can you be more
orange than us? I say I’m so orange people could juice and drink me.
Best orange juice you could ever have. If oranges could drink orange
juice, they would drink my juice, not theirs. More orange than the
sun and twice as bright. I burn the sun, it doesn’t burn me. I’ll tell ya,
if the sun doesn’t stop its solar tantrums, I will fire it with fire.
We don’t need it, we have tanning beds. Tanning beds ask me, Mr. Trump,
how can you lay in us for so long? I am the best at being horizontal.
Nothing is more horizontal than me. l can lay and lay, no one can lay
for as long as I lay. The dead ask me from their graves, Mr. Trump,
how can you possibly lay longer than us? I tell them that I would never
let death catch me. Anyone who dies, well they shouldn’t have. Though if I die,
I would die way better than anyone has ever died. The grim reaper would retire,
say that was the best death I have ever seen. So, let’s make America
great again and again and again and again, but time? I have all of time
in my hands. Time times me. I own time. Time travels through me.
Clocks think I am great. They ask, Mr. Trump, how can you know every law
that has ever existed, and order so much McDonald’s, you shit out golden arches?
I tell em I know laws, I know the best laws. Laws follow me. I give orders to order.
No one is more orderly than me. Chaos doesn’t exist because I ordered it not to.
I’m the greatest president of all time, aren’t I? 

John Dorsey


John Dorsey
grew up in Greensburg, Pennsylvania and lived for several years in Toledo, Ohio. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Teaching the Dead to Sing: The Outlaw’s Prayer (Rose of Sharon Press, 2006), Sodomy is a City in New Jersey (American Mettle Books, 2010), Tombstone Factory, (Epic Rites Press, 2013), Appalachian Frankenstein (GTK Press, 2015) Being the Fire (Tangerine Press, 2016) and Shoot the Messenger (Red Flag Press, 2017) and Your Daughter’s Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019). His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and the Stanley Hanks Memorial Poetry Prize.He was the winner of the 2019 Terri Award given out at the Poetry Rendezvous. He may be reached at


The Wind in the Alley or The Prairie Electric

     for Garrison Keillor


leaves do not blow
down the cobblestone
of cornfields

dying is not quaint


when a river runs low
there is only so much blood
a hawk can witness

at its basin


when a young girl
dreams of the future
it is not your body

only hers

to be concerned with.


Shitta Faruq Adémólá & Adebayo Oluwatomisin

Shitta Faruq Adémólá
is a Nigerian Poet,  Writer, Graphics Artiste, Bag Maker and a budding French Linguist  with poems and stories appearing or forthcoming in Libretto Magazine, Kalahari Review, Madness Muse Press, Icefloe Press, The Trouvaille Journal, Parousia (Christian) Magazine, African Writer, Jalada Africa, ARTmosterrificEboquillsNanty Greens, Mad Swirl, Ngiga Review, Communicators League, A Country Of Broken boys; Boys Are Not Stones Antthologyand elsewhere. When he’s not writing, he’s either daydreaming about fair ladies or playing Scrabbles. Say hi on Twitter @shittafaruqademola.

Adebayo Oluwatimisin
is a young writing enthusiast studying Criminology and Security Studies in Chrisland University. She is a lover of discipline and music, and when you don’t see her reading books on Security tips, listening to Simi, or collecting people for counselling, she is writing something down on paper she does not want to show the world.

Finding a Key to the Door of Redemption 

blood lies on the street of my lips.
I am fuming it with the redness it carries.
one day, in my fatherland, my voice is my enemy,
tattered like the heart of a boy cast into
the cold of the night.
as days rolled by like a clock, my voice becomes faint,
my lips powerless and my words turns into an embryo.
the burns that choke me do not have a name – an ellipsis.
spaces between words & after I tried to
define the darkness around my journey,
I found my name a lost vintage, too.
I lost not only my voice, but my dignity and my home in the hands of rebellious recalcitrances.
like a child’s play, I became an alien in my own abode – grief’s revised name.
I topple with the grief that gives me a
birth mark of thorns & running
is, after the blood coloured in my eyes,
the best way
to call it a day. 

Tim Goldstone

Tim Goldstone
has roamed widely including throughout the UK, Western and Eastern Europe, and North Africa, before settling deep in rural Wales. His poems and stories have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including The New Welsh Review, Stand Magazine, The Offing, Anti-Heroin Chic, Red Poets, Doghouse, Ghost City Review, Déraciné, The Mechanics’ Institute Review Anthology 15; and is forthcoming in Flash – The International Short-Short Story Magazine, among others. Prose sequence read on stage at The Hay Festival. His writing has also appeared on BBC, Waterstones, and Sherman Cymru Theatre websites. Scripts broadcast on TV and radio. Loiters in Twitter @muddygold


In the still-dark morning
binmen found her amongst
the pecked and pulled at bin-bags,
curled into a ball against the cold and rain,
cheeks aching from tears
that all her life she’d learnt to dam.

Nurse, as skilled and experienced and steady
in the operation of caring
as a brilliant battlefield surgeon,
makes with extraordinary precision,
using only sleep’s highly unstable anaesthetic
(no sedation can be risked before tests)
the first delicate incision –
a gentle stroking of the forehead,
where, with breathtaking daring
she starts to release,
imperceptible as the growth of new ferns,
the young, tightly clenched fists.

Now Nurse knows only too well
the grueling march to come
to reach the stockpiled horrors
dumped deep in the dark;
knows only too well
what needs to be released –
and until that time comes
Nurse will lower her own eyelids,
let her own tears roll down and down –
as once again
her indefatigable banners of kindness
unfurl – readying themselves
for that first dangerous incursion
into a runaway’s darkness.

Chisom Okafor

Chisom Okafor
is a Nigerian poet, nutritionist and dietitian. He was shortlisted for the Brittle Paper Award for Poetry in 2018, the Gerald Kraak Prize in 2019 and the Jack Grapes Poetry Prize in 2020. His work appears in the Indian Journal of Literature and Aesthetics, Prairie Schooner, Rattle, Palette Poetry, Frontier Poetry, SAND Journal, Ghost City Review, Jacar One and elsewhere. He presently works as Chapbook Editor for the Libretto Chapbook Series.


Some places become homes by habit

What is greater: the distance between
these bodies, or their need?

            ─ Leila Chatti.

I know, by science, the exact time it takes to row from one end of this river to the point
where it glides into the Atlantic, somewhere off the distant islands of São Tomé.

I know, provided the energy exerted between two equal strokes of the paddle remains
constant, what it takes to sail across vast swathes of water, unmarked

except by seals of light in the dying sun. One day, bathed in sun­spill and a shade
of orange like the yolk of an egg, I rowed with my lover to a place

where none but the river hawks could find us ─ as they journeyed home in formation,
after the day’s labour ─ where you could see the pebbles, brown

and slippery, nestled closely underneath the clear body of water. Here, we stopped to wait
for deep into nightfall, when we’d let ourselves be struck by the gold

plummet of the moon, while the reverberations overpowered us in a nocturnal symphony,
and the damp smell of decaying timber rose like a thousand voices

from the body of our fisherman’s boat. My lover had thrown little stones into the river,
to see the ripples spread apart and dissolve within in a circumference,

then in ­between strokes of the paddle, I heard him whisper to the evening air: in this place
of waters, every gay man is a gambler, throwing a random dice

with his own life as wager, after which  he disappeared through a trapdoor and would
never be seen again. But tonight, as I look up to the full moon

in its bright elegance, it seems as though he’s back to lean again, against the hairy layers
of my chest, drawing imaginary vignettes with the tips of his fingers

as we let the canoe navigate itself away from questioning eyes, as yet again, we return home
to a familiar smell, but also to a new aching and begin again,

the simple rites of floatation.




Damian Ward Hey

Damian Ward Hey
has had poetry published in several places, including Poetry Pacific, Truck, and Cricket Online Review.  His work will appear in the upcoming anthology, Poets with Masks On.  He lives on Long Island and is a professor of literature and theory at Molloy College.


The mice were caught
in the glue traps
we had put down
in the utility room.
They’re, trapped, I said.
Alive, she said.
For now, I said.
We saved them, she said.
The mice, I said.
The residents, she said.
From the mice, I said.
They’re horrible, she said.
The residents, I said.
The mice, she said.
Oh, I said.
They carry diseases, she said.
Which ones, I said.
All of them, she said.
Such as, I said.
Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, Bubonic plague, Salmonellosis, Rat-Bite Fever, Leptospirosis, Lymphocytic choriomeningitis, Monkey Pox, Lassa Fever, OMSK Hemorrhagic Fever, Argentine hemorrhagic fever, Bolivian hemorrhagic fever, Sabiá-associated hemorrhagic fever, Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever, and Tularemia, she said.
Is that all, I said.
Among others, she said.
I see, I said.
They’re the ideal vehicle for spreading diseases, she said.
I think they’re kinda cute.  Big round eyes.  Cute little ears, little praying hands, I said.
The mice, she said.
The residents, I said.
I see, she said.
They’re trapped, too, I said.
Alive, she said.
For now, I said.

Kevin M. Hibshman

Kevin M. Hibshman
has had his poetry, reviews and collages published around the world, most recently in Rye Whiskey Review, The Crossroads, Drinkers Only, 1870, Synchronized Chaos and Medusa’s Kitchen. He has edited his own poetry journal, FEARLESS for the past thirty years. He has authored sixteen chapbooks, most recently Incessant Shining (2011, Alternating Current Press).He received a BA in Liberal Arts from Union University/Vermont College in 2016.

I Want My Happy Ending

After accepting small-town alienation before I even knew I was queer.
After losing my religion.
I’m not southern.
I’m not talking about my temper.
After the partial meltdown of TMI which was only miles from our home as children.
After coming down with a cute little virus called “Guillame-Barre Syndrome” that did god knows-what to my nervous system.
After having to learn to walk again at age sixteen.
I want my happy ending.

After working menial jobs with marginal humans for too many years.
After HIV and the suck-ass Reagan Era when we all lost something or someone.
After the stolen elections of Baby Bush and the horror of 9/11.
After my best friends in poetry all died in rapid succession.
After watching America lose the war for decency.
I want my happy ending.

After learning that my partner had been diagnosed with a chronic illness, leaving him debilitated, age thirty-nine.
After surviving the many scares and dares of the calamitous 90’s only to wake up bewildered in the new millennium with willful ignorance on the rise.
After being locked down and shut in due to a global pandemic that spread faster than the government’s lies.
I want my happy ending!

Nadia Arioli (nee Wolnisty)


Nadia Arioli (nee Wolnisty)
is the founder and editor in chief of Thimble Literary Magazine. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in Spry, SWWIM, Apogee, Penn Review, McNeese Review, Kissing Dynamite, Bateau, Heavy Feather Review, Whale Road Review, SOFTBLOW, and others. They have chapbooks from Cringe-Worthy Poetry Collective, Dancing Girl Press, and a full-length from Spartan.



Everything has a skin
you can take off at least once.

Have you seen a knife
skim the surface of paper?

What is it I can give–
my fingernails like bone confetti?

I had a dream I was given a clone
just so I could have an abortion.

You wrote in your poem about Lent
Please love this too.

The neighbors will say of my home
Don’t go there; she eats old birds. 


The Deal with Necco Wafers

A void opens up in apartment 5A. Three, youngish people are trapped on different parts of it, the woman in the kitchen stage left, the tall man in what is left of the living room, upstage, and the bald man is down stage right. The woman puts her hands on her hips and cocks her head. She looks annoyed. Well, she says to everybody and nobody. The tall man is by the couch, cut off from the kitchen. Rats. I can’t get to the cereal, he says, gesticulating wildly. The bald man makes soft, animal noises.

In Seinfeld, the characters are obsessed with food. They are always stuffing their gullets. Snacks, milk, juice are a must. The titular character in his stand-up routine remarked that when you’re a kid, your whole world is candy. I thought, has anything changed for these people?

But what stood out to me the most during the pandemic of 2020 is the sort of ease the characters have with eating. We all wish George would be a little more uneasy—watching him eat is horrid. For a nervous man, you’d think he’d be more discrete with his enthusiasm for food. The four go out to eat like it’s nothing. They come over to Jerry’s and peruse his snacks. What ease! What comfort to go to your best friend’s house and eat their cereal without having to ask. I miss that unspeakable make-your-self-at homeness in a place that’s not my home.

Hey, says the tall man, Will ya toss me a box? A box, asks the woman, what do you mean a box? Of cereal, says the tall man, becoming agitated. What did you think I meant? Sure, I can try, says the woman after making a rueful face, and she walks around the counter into the kitchen. She looks into the built-in shelf and discovers only dust.

Here, your mother says, Let’s practice again. You are sitting in your dining room, at what is called the kid’s table. You and your younger sister share a plastic table to the side of the grown-up table where your older sister and parents are allowed to eat. It doesn’t seem fair because you are seven and Sarah is only five. It doesn’t seem fair that you get treated the same way. You had protested the matter a few months ago, because Claire was eating at the grown-up table when she was seven. Your parents explain that it’s because you still eat messily. This is largely true, and your cheeks burn. You know this. It’s your fault you still eat with your mouth open.

Your mother hands you a Necco wafer. The body of Christ, she says. You are determined to get it right. Lips together, you think to yourself, preparing for the moment you stick him on your tongue. Out loud, you say, Thank you.

Huh, that’s odd, the woman says, No cereal. What do you mean no cereal? There’s always cereal here, says the tall man, whose agitation seems to have swung around to bemusement. He only cares about two things, this guy: Cereal and Superman. Isn’t that right, George? The bald man doesn’t respond but makes soft, animal noises.

I had a friend like that, a person who I could be at-home with when I was not at home. I guess I still do. But past tense works for me too. She and her husband moved away during the pandemic, and that is very rude of her. I’m bad at people moving. I act like a little kid whose ball has been taken away. I pretend it’s just not happening, will never happen, and ignore the whole thing until it’s too late.

So much of friendship centers around food. We meet our friends for coffee. Later, when we are better acquainted, we meet for dinner. When she and her husband would visit my house, they’d always say, we’ll pick up one or two things, but it would wind up being absurd. Enough cheese to feed a village. An army of sausages. Three different kinds of crackers. I should have felt embarrassed eating it like that, but I really didn’t. Because that’s how old friendships work—you let them feed you without a second thought.

Well, what else does he have? asks the tall man to the woman who is strutting around the small kitchenette with more confidence than would be expected of someone walking so close to a void. Um, let’s see here, she says, now opening various cabinets. Pretzels, peanuts, ew, that looks old, um, kasha, some candy. Do ya like Necco wafers?

Your politeness gets a laugh. No, no, Nadia, it’s Amen. It means ‘I believe’. So you have to try again when you are finished crunching down on chalk. The wafers taste like old teeth with sugar but not in a bad way. You like the yellow the best. You and your mother are saving the purple for your father, the only one who likes licorice. He calls that color black, but you know better.

Your mother holds up a pink one. The body of Christ, she says, again. You say, Amen. She places it in your sweaty palm. You use your right hand to pick it up and put in on your tongue. Lips together, you crunch on Christ.

Yowza, says the tall man, flapping his arms, I haven’t thought of Necco wafers for years.

Nothing happens for a beat.

For all their shallowness and callousness, there is a beauty to the kind of friendship we see on Seinfeld. It’s not deep or profound or something that’ll go down in books—but a certain relaxedness, familiarity, and profound lack of embarrassment. There are friendships that will aspire you to greatness, help you weather the storm, and change your character for the good. But then there are friendships you can just be at home in—and that is hard to come by, especially when one is stuck in their house, watching television one doesn’t even particularly like during a pandemic.

I said goodbye from the porch, six feet apart, in a mask between stuffed olives she brought with her. This is a friend I’ve known for twelve years—almost half my life. This is a friend who was there. Someone whose apartment I’ve long thought of as a safety-net. Once, I came over, and we were both very tired, so we took a nap in her bed. I always figured, if it all goes to shit, if I lose my job or my mind, I’ll just go there.

Yeah, what the heck, toss ‘em over, Elaine, says the tall man. Okay Kramer, says the woman, Ya ready? Ready, says the tall man, I was a ballman once, remember?

Things have been good, more or less. The good thing about living through my twenties is things had a way of settling down. I find a job that doesn’t suck. I find a partner who doesn’t drain the love out of me—chipping away at my sense of self so that parts come off in shards. The bad man is long gone, but the other day, I thought of my body, the enormity of it, and how I can’t think of one square inch anywhere that hasn’t been criticized by him. All of this was too big, this was too dry, this bled all the time. It was good to go to an apartment you didn’t own and be with someone who fed you and didn’t think of your body as a problem that needed fixing.

I don’t need that place anymore. But it was good to know it was there.

The tall man gets ready to catch. The woman gets ready to throw. The bald man makes soft, animal noises.

The real Christ doesn’t taste so sweet like Necco wafers. He’s more of a Styrofoam and sticks to the roof of your mouth. You’ve tongued Christ from the roof of your mouth. It does not, as far as you can tell, give you any special advantage at blowjobs as an adult.

The woman tosses the wafers, while making a smirk, which quickly turns into a dismayed frown. The candy goes down into the void with a woosh. No thud is heard. Nothing is heard for a while, except, of course, the small, animal noises coming from the bald man.

My oldest friend comes over and we sit on the porch. We talk about her family, large and in each other’s business. We talk religion. We talk about Trump.

It wasn’t my fault, says the woman when that moment is over. How was I supposed to know it would be sucked down there? It’s like this thing has a mind of its own. Um, want me to toss ya the pretzels?

Nah, that’s okay. Pretzels didn’t work out for me that good the last time. But I am hungry. Say, where is Jerry anyways? Aren’t we supposed to meet here and get Chinese?

As child, you love communion. The whole ritual of it. Marching with the adults to the front of the church. The same thing every time. When you are ten you write a poem; While God holds me in His Hands / I hope Him in mine / The circle is complete.

You take poetry class in junior high, and the teach complains that your poetry, while good, is focused on the macabre and morbid. Both of you are Catholic. What did he expect?

And that year you learned a new word: Macabre. It too stuck to the roof of your mouth. Macabre.

A buzz is heard on the intercom. The woman is the only one that can reach it, due to the void in the living room. She is distracted by going through the fridge and laying everything—pickles, old take-out, bottles of Snapple— out on the counter. She sniffs the orange juice, makes a decision in her face, and takes a swig from the carton.

The buzzer, says the tall man, Get the buzzer. I’m very busy, says the woman. But you’re the only one who can reach it, protests the tall man.

A second buzz is heard.

Alright, alright, says the woman, Jeeze. She moves towards the buzzer. The phone rings. The tall man moves to get it but realizes he can’t; the void is where the phone usually is.

We move into the garage because it is so hot out but leave the door open. I say this is supposed to be safer this way. I pour the olives into bowls, and we eat them. It’s odd that she brought olives, when we both love sugar, her desserts, me candy.

The woman pushes the button and says, Yeah? and a third man’s voice is heard over the intercom. Hi Elaine, it’s me. I forgot my keys. How’d you’d forget your keys? You always put them on the coffee table near the phone, says the woman, sounding like a very wet bird who is annoyed at being wet. Yeah, yeah, says the third man, Just let me up already. Well, you better hurry. says the woman, We were supposed to leave for dinner an hour ago. I don’t want to have to wait. Can’t we meet you in the lobby?

No, no, says the third man, I want to come up and look for my keys. Just let me in, would ya? She unlocks the door. Alright, okay, she says over the intercom, and sighs.

The phone rings again. No one does anything about it, but they all look at each other with no particular expression.

Perhaps communion is why you stay Catholic as long as you do, with a heart as queer and empty as yours. Promised redemption is fine, but it’s going to have to get pretty grim to get there. In a family that eats their young, eating God is the ultimate power-move.

When you tell your few non-Catholic friends about communion, they are horrified. And you think you should have been too. You think God is bread. God gave his only son for our redemption, and we just proceed to eat the man? What the fuck? What the actual fuck?

The door opens, and the third man enters, out of breath as if he had been running. He pauses, What the? he says as if exaggerating, with his eyebrows up and palms up. He looks at the woman, then the tall man, then the bald man who is making soft, animal noises. Well, I guess that’s new, says the third man, as if trying to amuse someone not in the room.

The phone rings again.

Curious if his keys are down there, the third man inches from the doorway to the edge of the void, and peers down into it, making his face long with concentration. He looks into it a good while then suddenly jerks back. He asks the woman, Hey, while you three were waitin’ on me, did any of you think of looking at this thing?

Then it’s time for my friend to go. Texas saw three jobs, and I’m not sure how many nervous breakdowns.  In a month she will move across the country with her husband and her dog. I want so badly to tell her try. I know mental illness is real, I know, but please, I need you to try. But I don’t. I mostly listen and tug at my fingernails.  I laugh at her jokes, even though I don’t understand them some of the time. That’s all I remember of the visit. I can’t make it more than it was. I still have the half-finished jar of olives in my fridge.

No, I—says the woman.

Nah, says the tall man.

The bald man makes soft, animal noises.

Well, I did, says the third man, And let me tell you, I’m not impressed. I saw, I saw a man, and he had my same exact haircut. I mean, exactly the same. I think he really looked like me.

When you are eleven, though, a dentist discovers your mouth is misshapen. It juts out like the prow of a ship. Your teeth are bent so far forward your lips can’t cover them. That was why you ate with your mouth open. No one thinks to apologize to you for all those nights sent to your room from the supper table. Your parents are angry at you for having a misshapen mouth that will cost god knows how much in braces. You won’t be eating much candy for the next few years.

And the braces work. You remember that ache. All wired up and teeth moving slowly back, back, back until your lips can cover them, until your lips can close. On Sundays, you fish little bits of Christ from their wires.

You remember your last communion, in college, graduation day for your friends the class above yours. You knew it was going to be your last, too. One more hit of Styrofoam, one more tongue scraping. You have a cigarette right after.

For the first time, the studio audience laughs, nervously at first, but then louder and louder, a robust laugh, a laugh with a future. The audience keeps laughing. The audience keeps laughing. The audience keeps laughing. The audience keeps laughing. Over the laughter, we hear from the bald man, soft, animal noises.

And then you do all sorts of dirty things with your mouth. All kinds of bad, swirly things with your tongue because you wanted to. And still later your mouth gets dirtier—shouting as loud as you could that you never, ever said yes that one night junior year. Your mouth will demand no one interrupt you, and people will laugh until they realize you’re not joking, and then laugh anyways. Your mouth will refuse to be put at the kids’ table. You can eat any goddamn table you please, even if you leave a trail of candy on the ground after.



I don’t want to read your diary,

but I do want to hold it up to my ear,
like it is a seashell, and I could listen
without invading and know where you live.

She emailed me, once, the sentence,
“I was re-reading your diary, and I’m worried
that you might find us invasive.”
I chose to find this funny.

The same way I chose to find jokes
about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder funny.
Oh, you tucked in my shirt label because you have OCD?
Oh, you only use pens with good ink because you
are so fucking special?
Jabs about cute quirks and annoying habits.
The need for clean spaces, perfection,
or mismatched socks.

Because there was nothing adorable when
I bought three sets of plane tickets
for my sisters and I to fly out, when I had
to take time off work, with no explainable
explanation, when I visited her in the hospital
and read her diagnosis. It wasn’t a quirk
when I couldn’t cry at all until I realized, mid-piss
there was still a bloodstain on the bathroom wall.
There was nothing funny
about her email when I realized it was sent
the day before she tried to kill herself,
and there was nothing funny about the times
she told me I wasn’t good enough.

I don’t want to read your diary,

because I would probably write in page numbers
and read in eleven page segments.

My mother is the one with OCD, not me.
I don’t have OCD.
I don’t have OCD.
I don’t have OCD.

I don’t have OCD.
I don’t have OCD.
I don’t have OCD.
I don’t have OCD.
I don’t have OCD.
I don’t have OCD.
I don’t have OCD.
I don’t have OCD.
I said that eleven times because eleven is a safe number it’s safe the way six is safe because it divides
so neatly
in groups of one and a half
in groups of one and a half
in groups of one and a half

in groups of one and a half
in groups of.

It feels safe the way I pick at my fingers, long strips of flesh
like wallpaper that bleeds raw like grapefruit.

I don’t want to read your diary,

but I do want to hold it up to my ear.

I have an urge to know what part of her behavior
is her mental illness
and how much of it is her being a bad person
and what parts I inherited. 

I want to know. But I won’t.
I won’t pick it apart like wallpaper
that bleeds that bleeds that bleeds that bleeds that bleeds that bleeds.
I won’t chew
and devour
and dissect
and swallow
and examine
like a scientist, like those fucking nurses
that prod, that prod, that prod.

I won’t cut you open
because I am choosing not to.
I’m choosing to close the door on this one—and there might be blood on its side.
I’m choosing not to determine which part goes where
and reassemble
and reassemble
and reassemble
until we make sense.

I am choosing to
love—and no amount of handwashing
or counting
or timing
or criticizing
will undo. And I don’t know where you are or what you’re thinking or
if you even know half of what I am, but I am choosing, I am choosing,
I choosing, I am choosing,  I am.

I don’t want to read your diary,
but I do want to hold it up to my ear.