"Crow Prayer" - Michelle Castleberry

"Crow Prayer" - Michelle Castleberry

Oh, Lordy!
Because you already know our hearts, 
Lord, we only pray so the others hear. 
Because you do not render this as blasphemy, 
we can say we believe less in You than magic. 
We believe less in magic than in the found corn chip, 
the stolen rivet, or button. For these are all testimonies of You. Take this as You will.
We have creation hung in our jaws and cough
our thanks from high nests for each perfect unlivable law.
We keep track of the breakage, 
for You love a tally.
We sound the alarm for the dumb ones
including those two-leggeds You adore.
We sing our praises from the craw
“Aw, thankee very much; we are much entertained!”
Who is so hardened, Lord, that they cannot hear our song?
Which is 
Awe!Awe!Awe!




"Crow Prayer" by Michelle Castleberry appeared originally in Still: The Journal. She is a writer and social worker in northeast Georgia and has been a featured reader at Athens Word of Mouth. Her work can  also be found in publications such as The Chattahoochee Review and The Atlanta Review. Her first book, Dissecting the Angel and Other Poems. was finalist for Georgia Poetry Book of the Year for 2013. She is a Fellow with The Makery through the Hindman Settlement School in Kentucky.

"Winter" - Rob White



"Winter" - Rob White


Like most gifts, I brought you home in a box
You’ve been trying to get back into boxes ever since
My girlfriend said I needed a companion
So together we adopted you
She wanted the fluffy one
But your wide golden eyes spoke to me
A companion you became
Long after girlfriend was gone
A tiny chirping sprite
Unable or unwilling to form a meow for most of your life
You spoke in squirrel noises
A chirp in greeting when I walked in the room
A cry of announcement when you jumped on my lap
A squeak of surprise when I snuck up on you
Except when the door was shut
At which point you became a howling bobcat
Sliding your tiny hand under the door to rattle the obstacle until passage was given
You’ve slept curled up near my neck since the day I brought you home
You purr the loudest when I’m talking or singing to you
I can always count on you to climb on top of every piece of Ikea furniture as I put it together
Your version of helping, I think
We’ve moved together countless times
Two vagabonds still searching for home
Though now I realize that home is where you are
And as you never seem to mind the change of surroundings
I assume that you feel the same
I named you Winter after my least favorite season
But you have become my favorite thing
My best friend
My confidante
My constant companion even and especially when times were tough
Though I doubt you speak English
You are a Russian Blue, after all
I know you’ll purr when I read this to you just the same
If there are four chambers in my heart
You’ve crept into one of them
Like the box I brought you home in
And there I’ll hold you forever

"Echoes" - Ellen Wynne





"Echoes" - Ellen Wynne


With
all
being
unified,
we curled still in sleep,
part of an unborn universe
wound into an unspeakably small dense white-hot coil,
the speck in which was writ the whole divine blueprint awaiting a soundless explosion.

We
were
expelled,
torn apart,
flung spiraling out
to wander through an untold void,
and in cold and black-dark nothing to unfurl ourselves,
frail amnesiac orphans stumbling one over the other in search of light and heat.

Still,
when
we pause
to look up,
our eyes shine in awe,
reflecting the burning bodies
that stare back at us across the gulf of space and time.

"LISTENING TO THE BAND NEUROSIS WHILE PAINTING THE HALLWAY GREY" - Alex Johns



"LISTENING TO THE BAND NEUROSIS WHILE PAINTING THE HALLWAY GREY" - Alex Johns

It makes sense to wear headphones
while you improve your home.
What one might wonder, though,
is “what does something
called Neurosis sound?”

Right now, it’s how
humanity
enters The End;

The radiant breaks down into life! they cry;
like a canyon falling in,
the gradient of paint getting thin.

They sound like
the sun
one day
changed its mind and decided
to suddenly tumble from the sky,

the medicine men raging from every perspective,
the heaviest band there is.

Instead of a roller, I’m using a brush,
not because I’m a craftsman,
or old fashioned,
clearly not,
but since I’m desperate
and determined to stay that way,
still wearing punk rock shirts
at this age.

I remove the smoke detector,
like a troubling mole,

my brush darkening the off white,
wiping out what was,
what can never be again.

You and me as we were
and
aware of where we should have been.

That’s what they sound like:
The fear the Lord arose
to sneak away in the night,

left nothing but a scribbled note,
a last honey-do list.

That’s Neurosis:

music that chews you up into
your own

personal
apocalypse.

There.

Done.

Alex's collection Darwin's Book of Saints was published in 2018 by Aurore Press in Cincinnati.

"Dry January/Ex-Dream" - Jay Morris


"Dry January/Ex-Dream" - Jay Morris

The first, second, and third days tremble through the week
Stumbling and nascent, their legs shaking off the weight of entering the world
Anew
Senses sharpen like knives on the whetstone
Appetite and thirst shift between stagnation and craving
How odd to think of you now…

On the fourth and fifth day my stomach
Sends me quaking into the kitchen with appetite and thirst
Renewed
I toss together kale, spinach, arugula, and olives dressed with tahini and garlic
When I first met you
You were dressed in bourbon and ginger
The night flushed in your cheeks and eclipsed your demeanor
Earth’s shadow pours blood over the moon

The sixth and seventh days convince me
Of my power over the urge
I button up my shirt, slip into oversized slacks
Crank up the car and it sputters with the weight of age and rust and moisture
Before ambling through the driveway, scraping past the shoulders of bushes
Their waxy leaves winking in the winter morning light

When I first met you
I noticed your eyes were the color of hazel
They danced between green and cold
The same way the sunlight does, bouncing from leaf to leaf
On tree to tree

How odd to think of you now

As all my poisons are dispelled from my body

"Lo-Fi Labor" - Jay Morris




"Lo-Fi Labor" - Jay Morris

Find me in my real life
Hardworking and laborious
With a loosening knee
And a tightening mind

If I told you I"d been working since I was 12
Would you believe me?
If I worked myself to death
Would you call it noble?
Stick a Benjamin in my mouth and call it a flower.
Hope it pays for my Uber across the river Styx?

Thought if I did my life right it would all make sense
But now im slugging through 60 hour work weeks for dollars and cents
My mind is unraveling
My loose knee is throbbing and im swirling and recessed
The void in me twirling and depressed

Words can't be flowers when you're working past the 9-5
And the 9-5 becomes the 6-3
But I know you'll stick a dollar bill in my mouth when you bury me

Haunted by the ghosts of all the time I've killed
Trying to stuff the hungry maw of a bank account
Listening to lo-fi hip hop in my down time
Hoping I can unwind in time
Before I clock back in for my next shift



"Lo-Fi Labor" originally appeared online at Jay's website.

"Heru's Path (The Still Dawn)" - Daniel Mapp

"Heru's Path (The Still Dawn)" - Daniel Mapp


We shall seek Truth's fire,
Before His stern eyes rise,
When Men meet as ranks,
Linton that come to weep;
In the fence's broken wire,
That we pass like nomads,
For a lost heritage beyond,
Twin Oak's ghetto and hate,
By their savior's final dawn.

"Take away my paintbrush" - Eileen Clark

"Take away my paintbrush" - Eileen Clark


I lie awake and miss you in my heart

longing for your touch

yearning for your words

I miss you

and you become everything

you become the Prince Charming I always wanted

riding away with me on your magical horse

finding my shoe at the ball and searching all over town to find me

you become the air I need to breathe

when I was perfectly capable of breathing on my own.

you become the end game

the final goal

the winning shot

the perfect answer

you become Adam

before original sin was brought upon man

untainted

unscathed by evil

you become my fairy princess

granting me several wishes

telling me to pick wisely, but not to wish for more

because you can only provide so many wishes

you become the sunset and sunrise

your storm clouds fuel my garden

and allow me to dance in their rain

your smile is rejuvenating

and your hands are warm

as the dark days are painted over by my paintbrush of longing

longing

the perfect remedy to forget everything that has ever happened

the ideal fix to any broken relationship

the final ingredient to unhealthy conversations

the bandaid

that tapes over the holes you left last time you were here

longing

paints over my past

and creates a brighter future

filled with hope and love and reconciliation and broken promises

taking away the pain of the old

and inducing excitement of the new

longing

the only drug I need to forget who I am

where I was

where I am

and where I want to go

"Red Beaded Gumbo Prayers" - Danelle Lejeune



"Red Beaded Gumbo Prayers" - Danelle Lejeune


Red like the Mardi Gras beads that turn
under my fingers. Father brought
them home from a bar on Bourbon Street.
I wrap them around my head, body; and dance
around the kitchen. Red like the garnet rosary beads
nailed up over her bed to warn spirits away.
Convinced the house was full of ghosts.
Poker-playing demons taunt her from the corner.
Feufollet blinking in the darkness when she closes
her eyes. In the kitchen, a pot of gumbo boils
through her mother’s aluminum pot, cracks
and spills into the flames. The kitchen fills
with smoke. Blood-red tomatoes washing
over white enamel. Red, like the fear she gave.
Mother Mary Full of Grace, protect us from this
battered lace. Red. Red. Red and lovely, scared
and curled on the kitchen floor, pregnant
with her third, fourth, if you count the one
never born. The red, spilled and sticky
on the floor. So red.



Danelle Lejeune was a featured reader at Word, January 2019. "Red Beaded Gumbo Prayers" appeared online at Literary Mama in 2017.

"Bliss" - Dennis Bagwell



"Bliss" - Dennis Bagwell

Poor Monsters bride!
Resurrected from the dead by massive electrocution
Feeling faint and unsteady on her feet
That awful gown
Face all scarred
The worst bad hair day in history
 
And what’s in it for her?
 
No bride’s maids
An arranged marriage
By a deranged doctor
To a poorly dressed, hideous monster with a drinking problem and no manners
A smoker with an unreasonable aversion to fire and limited conversational skills
Not to mention he’s prone to occasional fits of murder and he expects her to live in his damp, moldy dungeon in wedded bliss
Naturally, she rejects his romantic advances and this unreasonable imposition on her pursuit of happiness
So he mumbles an incoherent threat and blows up the laboratory in a murder-suicide 10 minutes after he meets her
What a dick!