Cassette Tape by Nick Barrows


If I could annunciate
had better diction
I could be eating M&M's in space by now
but I am just a winter house spigot
gurgling to the outside
Waiting for hands
Waiting for mouths
Set to a frozen melody
to burst out
on rhythms of hiccups
rattled and rusted with green
A valve not completely closed
with drips
drips
drips
Swearing and husking these dyslexic visions
stammering on to the over growth that fouls hawked
From septic to satellite missing all the faceted things in the middle
Sounds and colors trying so hard to reach
Forms unraveling and twisted, long strands bursting from the casing
to be rolled up again by the inadequate pencil
the feeble pinky
Muted
Fearful
Misspoken
Drawled tones that lose an effective resolve
like being bullied in a teen idol scene
Cracklings of the petrified misgivings shoved in a looker
or plunged into the commode 
All the mail boxes have been smashed
All the eggs thrown
No more toilet paper to javelin
For the rest of the tenure banging out cross-wired message
on garbage can keyboards atop landlord desks
riddled with trinkets and the forensics of a maniac
A pile of old lighters with no special story
They were just to light cigarettes

Untitled / Emily Gundlach


This is for you
This is for you, sitting there, right now, with words bubbling like
     lava just beneath your skin
And silence like cotton in your mouth.

This is for you, world-wounded and battled-scarred and carrying a
     weapon up your sleeve and waiting 
for someone to ask you to put it down.

This is for you, fresh faced and bright eyed, not yet experienced in
     this life and yet aching to know the 
limits of your soul – you are ready.

This is for you, thinking the best I can do today is just keep the
     needle out of my arm, the bottle from my 
lips, leave the cake in the display case and not touch that person i
     know i will hurt – you can do better.

Five years ago, I walked through the world,
With the wind blowing clean through me,
Slogging through an ocean of emptiness every day
Wind blowing clean through me, bones cold and brittle
Body just a coincidence, brain just a nuisance, existence a waiting
     game-
This is for you who have been there.

All I have to give you is my story.

Four years ago, my heart was shattered like the stain glass window
     of a cathedral
Smashed with a rock thrown with deliberate destruction
And I kept telling my mother “my chest hurts, I can’t breathe, my
     heart hurts”
She, worried mother, furrowed brow, dialed the doctor,
But I said "it’s not that heart”
This is for you, right now, who understand.

All I have to give you is my story.
All I have to show you is this light inside me.

Three years ago I found the key to a quiet space in my soul that I
     didn’t know existed
It fit perfectly in a lock I didn’t know existed
But had been trying, unconsciously, to pick for years.
Now with wavering resolution, shaky hands, uneasy eyes
I lit a match to a candle in small secret place
And ignited a bonfire
This is for you who have found a way out.

All I have to give you is my story
All I have to show you is this light inside me.
All I have learned is that the only things that separate us 
are a few inches of space and air
And I become alive when we drop the everyday act of being ok and
     reveal our raw selves
I become alive when I see the light turn on in someone else’s eyes
And I am painstakingly present and I am aware of Each. Breath.
And I become alive in the presence of the divine.
And this moment is divine.

I can tell you this.

There will be more pain.

We are all wounded by life.
And this is for you, when you are sure you have lost your way
And when you stumble in the woods and when you are lost in the
     shadows
Look for my lantern.
I have a map and I think I know the way
And I will walk with you, singing, until we find our way home.

All I have to give you is my story,
All I have to show you is this light inside me.
And this is all for you and it is all free
And all I have learned is to love something
Take chances
Be unafraid of life

This is for you.
Because now, it’s your turn.
This story is for you.
It is hope
It is a promise.
You are ready.

A Drop of Honey by Don Gaddis


“Bye, honey.”

He said it
with a casual
Southern-sugar-daddy-gentlemanly drawl.
Surely I misheard,
or he misspoke.

Honey.
My mind drifted
and pilfered back through the years,
as if rummaging through a tin
of empty candy wrappers.

Nothing.

No “Baby-doll.” 
No “Sweetie-pie.”
Just the one, platonic drop of honey,
newly planted on my cheek-ear
via random phone call;
the sonic equivalent of a reflexive kiss,
that which seldom passes
from one man to another,
even when blood
sticks the two together
amiably.

I... didn’t... know... how... to... feel,
other than embarrassed.
I had rolled around in it.
A meager drop.
Alas, my honey starved soil was human.

Either he misspoke,
or I misheard.
Or he really loved me.

Moonwalker by Jay Morris


My family always told me to be wary of those whose eyes had been

damaged from looking too longingly at the moon on cold nights
     wishing for the healing

of the bruises on their hearts battered by the institutional
     marginalization

Of a society that has consistently told them that they had no place

In the rays of the sun

They didn't know I was one

Of the moonwalkers

Of the dayfearers struck dumb by the brilliance of a star withheld
     from them

Knowing the isolation enforced from within and without when
     confronted with the

presence of majority rules put in place because the majority rules

The pulpit, the schoolyard, the business sector, the political
     parties

That we must conveniently hear about through the grapevine because
     our

Invitations conveniently get lost in the hate mail

Do you know what it's like to have your name branded in a burn book

Because you love someone who has the same pieces as you and you're
     told

Time and time again that you could never fit

The feeling of never asking for a prom date because

Best case scenario you'll end up on a pity date with the girl
      everyone thinks

Is your girlfriend anyway

Worst case scenario you'll end up with a black eye marking you as
     the boy whose

Mirrors break a little too easily when he hears the word faggot

Walking on pieces of shattered glass trying to keep the idea of self
     concept alive

Underneath the unconvincing production of heterosexual mimickry

I will never forget the day you said you were gonna kill me

When the secret pixelated out the graveyard of hastily deleted
     internet histories

And google searches

I was still your breed but somehow I wasn't born the same

This is for the boys who cry themselves to sleep at night thinking
     they

Can drain the gay away

This is for the girls whose idea of love is undermined by society's
     patriarchal

preoccupation to turn their intimacy into entertainment

Life is yours

This is your anthem

When the pulpit calls you an abomination

Life is yours

When the schoolyard bully screams sissy or dyke

Life is yours

When you feel like your floodgates are gonna overflow

Because the earthquake of your anxiety told

the tsunami of your grief to surge with more

Spirit than you thought yours could handle

Life is yours

Life is yours

Life is yours

When grasping for hope has broken your fingers

Remember that suffering is only pain that lingers

When you allow it to

When it's easier to wallow in the cesspool of your own defeat

Remember that your victory is just above the surface

Waiting for you to break it in

And claim the life that is yours

Even if it exists on the dark side of the moon

Being able to navigate the ancient depths of its craters

Will mark you as a a full-fledged moon walker

To those just beginning to find their way

Two poems by Alx Johns


 
Shapes and Spaces

I had to put together a damn puzzle
of the United States,
one state at a time.

Good thing I've traveled a bit,
read some books,
seen a map or two.

I knew Delaware was tiny and topward
Texas was the big, dumb-shaped one at the bottom
California on the left.

Rectangles in the middle,
squiggly states on the east.

See, it was one of those wooden
puzzles, the pieces of which
might stick in or to your foot
if left on the floor
which they were,
which is why I was stuck in this sudden
geography test,

the sort of which my college students can't pass.

I stalled on Mississippi, relative to Arkansas,
far away, actually from Georgia,
even more from northeast Georgia,
a smaller town, a smaller neighborhood,
a smaller house, a smaller room,
some terribly small pieces.

The more you look at, the sharper the lines.


Leaving a Town

Orioles lift from the wire
dive into dogfight swerves

as the train clacks through
the backs of heads headed somewhere
along the path to the airport.

Before you leave a town for good,
run hard through your neighborhood

waving your hands and
screaming apologies
and gratitudes

Run 'til you sweat.
Show them you knew they existed.
Show them everyone matters.

You'll return some day to your city
no longer yours:

the embryos of buildings,
skeletons of buildings,
the ghosts of buildings,

places, shapes, spaces
redefined, new lines and angles,
new streets not like
the one with the bungalow
where the woman wailed
and stamped her feet when her son
died in a stupid way
not the one with the record store and the restaurant
whose owner owned a wolf,
not like the glass highrises reflecting

the setting sun just the right hues
to make you smile and wonder.

There's no place like home.

There's no such thing as home.

Psalms of My Hands by Ginny Jones


Tortured souls I know all too well
Hell, I am one of them—
Melancholy to the core.
If you only knew the pain I’ve borne
You’d know my need to write these poems.

Yet, as it stands, so do I
With ink stained pages
These think pained sages
Chronicle my journey from despair
To joy and everywhere in between
On an eternal search for destiny
A quest that leaves me wanting—
Haunted by the memories.

These are the psalms of my hands
Testaments of broken dreams and broken hearts
Unspoken things that once captured me
‘Til I was freed by these words

These are the psalms of my hands
Mentions of redemptions from sensations
Temptations, degradations, and toxic relation-ships
From the pen to my lips

These are the psalms of my hands
Unleashed with a purpose to disperse
Dispel and compel those things back to hell
So, listen well and take it in

These are the psalms of my hands
And with open palms, I demand that you stop
Hear me, no need to fear me,
Just join me on this journey of life.

As I share what I write and narrate a story
Of hope and healing
And every feeling that led me there
Through these, the psalms of my hands.