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Contributor: Trivarna Hariharan

- -
In the bark of a flowering tree,
a woodpecker hollows a nest for himself.
When he hums, I note that his beak is
full of a grief I will never know.
There is such distance
between us.

With the slowness of a waning moon
as he continues to dig into the wood,
I wonder if this is all it takes to build
a home: a grief, a song—
sometimes both.

- - -
Trivarna Hariharan is an undergraduate student of English literature from India. Her writing appears or is forthcoming in Right Hand Pointing, Third Wednesday, Otoliths, Peacock Journal, Front Porch Review, Eunoia Review, and others. She has served as the editor in chief at Inklette, and is the poetry editor for Corner Club Press. Besides writing, she learns the electronic keyboard, and has completed her fourth grade in the instrument at Trinity College of Music, London.

My Identity

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Contributor: Sravani Singampalli

- -
A man with immense knowledge
Is a tree laden with fruits
I am happy that I can taste them
I am still a budding tree!

Great people are the perennial rivers
I don’t know if I can be like them
Now I am a leafless maple tree
Waiting with patience and faith
For the season of ‘happiness and triumph’!

That crooked man is a pitcher plant
Its bright colour and hair-like structures
Are all his tricks to trap
The liquid inside is his strength
But I am not that poor innocent insect!

People who hurt me are cacti
I am a touch-me-not plant
I am the sunshine in my parents’ heart
Their faith in me is a banyan tree
And my heart is a magnolia flower!

All the beautiful looking girls
Are the tall pine trees
I may not look like them
I am an ugly contorted tree
Still I am happy and lucky
Because nobody can chop me down!

- - -
Sravani singampalli is a 22 year old poet from india. She is presently pursuing doctor of pharmacy at JNTU KAKINADA university in Andhra Pradesh, India.

A Night in Morocco

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Contributor: Donal Mahoney

- -
Middle of the night he flies out of bed
to the commode only to wonder
in the dim light minutes later
if that's blood or simply a good-bye
from his wife’s stewed tomatoes,
a Moroccan dish she found on the web.

When he asked for a third serving
he pronounced them delicious.
So too, he said, was her dessert,
the Moroccan plum mousse
with the dark plums he likes.
Even with the ceiling light on

he doesn’t know now what he sees
so with his medical history he's
speeding at midnight to the ER
where the doctor says better safe
than sorry and orders a fast
colonoscopy to solve the mystery.

When he finally gets home, he tells
his wife when her boss comes over
for that big dinner Saturday night,
why not make Moroccan tomatoes
and her magnificent plum mousse.
He may never forget either.

- - -
Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.


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Contributor: Lynn Cooper

- -
Like an IV drip
trepidation slowly
trickles through me
as I pack

jeans shirts
sundry items
for another trip
back home

This time
there is no room
in my suitcase
for criticism or judgment

I'll bite my tongue
make it bleed
swallow horse pill
words of disapproval

For one week
the only way
I know
to keep peace

- - -
Lynn Cooper is a published poet and former New Yorker, who now resides in Florida. Her poetry has appeared in print anthologies in both states, as well as online.

The River

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Contributor: Blake Garlock

- -
It doesn’t care
I throw pebbles and boulders
But no matter what
It flows on hastily

The dreams of others flow past
Struggling for air
It’s path leads only down
Towards an inevitable end

I could get in
And see where it takes me
Or observe from the edge
And be merely forgotten

The edge is my safe net
Dry and calm, there is no risk
But the river calls to me
So I step closer

Is the risk worth the reward?
Or will I leave the best behind?
But the longer I wait
The more I regret

Whichever I decide
The direction won’t alter
So I step in
But I’m pulled under

- - -
I am a current college student and emerging writer. I enjoy the outdoors and writing.

Demand Your Grief

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Contributor: Samara Golabuk

- -
demand your grief,
possess it like a lug
from the Jersey Shore
possesses a woman.
Require its fulness,
command it to shred its way
into your heart muscle,
fracture its way into your bones,
order it to choke your blood
to standstill, valves fluttering.
Roar its ferment, whole-live being,
the black ink of it, swallow
not willingly, but gorgeously,
feverishly, starvingly,
inhale it whole,
so you can begin
to digest its pieces,
the molecules alter,
one after another,
becoming us, but brilliant,
soon enough

- - -
Samara is a Pushcart nominee whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Inklette, Eyedrum Periodically, Anti-Heroin Chic, Eunoia Review and others. She has two children, works in marketing and design, and has returned to university to complete her BA in Poetry.

Rhyme and Reason

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Contributor: Scott Thomas Outlar

- -
Is that hawk screaming
about whether or not
it believes in the existence of God?
Or simply seeking
across the distance
with a signal for its lover?

Is that blade of grass
straining against gravity
to grow taller toward the sky?
Or allowing its roots
below the ground
to do their business behind the scenes?

Is that cloud concerned
about bunkers being built
in fear of bombs?
Or being carried carefree
by a gentle breeze
blowing through the air?

Is that star all bent out of shape
over the latest debate
raging on cable news?
Or shining as a beacon of light
to more galaxies
than can be fathomed?

Is that leaf throwing a fit
about cold weather
as the season begins to shift?
Or brightening the woods
with a brilliant autumn hue
before falling back to the soil?

Is that wave cursing at the moon
about the way in which
it’s made to move?
Or crashing upon the shore
with a splash to fulfill
its natural fate of ebb and flow?

- - -
Scott Thomas Outlar hosts the site where links to his published poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, reviews, live performances, and books can be found.

Drinkin' Shine and Feelin' Nothin'

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Contributor: Ken Allan Dronsfield

- -
We’re cornstalk cowboys,

drinkin’ shine from jelly jars.

Burning ice cold flaming tears

toasting every Friday night.

Life lost in evanescent dreams

all the while in a gifted stupor.

An apparent suicide attempt

on the porch after midnight.

Cross-eyed gazer to the stars

thoughts rattle about the brain,

kindergarten fun eating paste

and thinkin' bout the untouchable

prom queens and cheerleaders.

Perhaps a bit short on looks,

but I’m so freakin’ shy by nature

thinkin' I'll just sit right here drinkin’

shine, feelin’ absolutely nothin'.

- - -
Ken Allan Dronsfield is a disabled veteran and poet from New Hampshire now residing on the southern plains of Oklahoma. He loves life!

An Email on Sunday

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Contributor: Donal Mahoney

- -
Some emails
are more difficult
to receive
from a child
long out of college

the daughter who writes
her cancer is back
but the doctor says
with chemo and surgery
things should be fine

and all the while
the father wonders
why she didn’t call
at midnight and let
the telephone scream

hysterically in the night
to deliver the news
a computer is too
cold a messenger
to deliver hot terror

on Sunday morning
while machine guns
of sleet drive
bullets too bright
into the ground

- - -
Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Power of Now

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Contributor: Mahinour Tawfik

- -
Like east and west is awake and conscious
The power of mind couldn't be less ominous
If the slave transcends taking over his master
Swirling back and forth from before to after

When all but now is a sense of illusion
Deriving its power from pleasure or pain
So fragile the mind is to abide the confusion
Of an identity derived from phantom of remains

Inattentive to the truth in this whirlwind
Handing over its limitless power
To the thought feasting upon one’s mind
Cause its survival commands it to devour

For a moment I stepped from this battlefield
Not only aware of the events but conscious
Neither aiming an arrow nor holding shield
Not a convict not a victim but an anonymous

I've seen the master handing over the reign
Since then misery has dwelt the kingdom
Like the thoughts that took hold of the brain
Grieving the past pleading future for freedom

- - -
Mahinour Tawfik, a 24 year old - Egyptian senior medical student.

Her first anthology "Dark Secrets" was released April 2016 in USA by KCL publishing company in South Carolina
She was one of the participants of the 9th international poetry festival in India September 2016,
She was featured in the local Indian daily newspaper besides the former features in multiple anthologies and online literary Magazines {Creative Talents unleashed – Ripen the page – International forum of literature and culture of peace}.

She received a certificate of appreciation from world poetry Canada, Vancouver.

She currently working on the release of the second Anthology "Once upon a Dream."


| Filed under

Contributor: Charlotte Ozment

- -
We speak in tongues
left hanging, warped by
forces that tug on our
inner struggles, the lines
of community drawn, static,
etched on hearts pounding
and lone. . .and finite,
with boundaries that are
loose, too far-flung to couple,
too alien to meet.

- - -
Charlotte Ozment is a homesteading Texan living on several acres full of devas, dogs and squirrels. She finds words hidden in the world around her and can sometimes put them to paper before they fade.

Life is But a Dream Shaboom

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Contributor: Michael Kagan

- -
Shout it down
Scream louder
Stomp it into
the ground
Hate it
Spit on it
A damning expression
With your teeth
Ours the beautiful shorelines
Visions of future
Versions of past
Somewhere we dream together
A complicated battle
Inside a mystical plan
The source of inspiration knows
Nobody knows best
A heartfelt tapestry
Hangs in this improbable place
Feeling it's way back
through pitch black
Terrible mistakes to forgive
And overcome
A passionate rock and roll rumble
Uniquely evolving perspective
Some more abstract than others
History watching closely
From inside the dream
Twisting and churning
Not one straight line
Fighting hard to keep alive
The perpetual invention
Heart and soul
Life is but a dream

- - -
Mike is a jazz musician
He discovered his passion for poetry a few years back
He has been published on Leaves of Ink, The poet community and Indiana voice journal where one of his poems has been nominated for Best of the Net anthology.


| Filed under

Contributor: Sanjeev Sethi

- -

As you wish them luck on their journey
you distance yourself from the process.


Testing the fragility of my heart
you toughened it to such an extent,
my physician cancelled the prescription.


Wherewithal from dead words is
malison lugged in musette bags
across minds: is there a faultless
way of saying thank-you or sorry?


Full-scale mirrors in beauty
salons play mute matchmakers.
Inflorescence of feelings
is propitious when vanity
is at its most valuable.


On seeing another
journalist being
feted, I squirm.
Seen too many
with wobbly knees,
weak memories.

- - -
Sanjeev Sethi is the author of three books of poetry. His most recent collection is This Summer and That Summer (Bloomsbury, 2015). A Best of the Net 2017 nominee, his poems are in venues around the world: The Stray Branch, Ann Arbor Review, Empty Mirror, First Literary Review-East, Right Hand Pointing, Peacock Journal, Grey Sparrow Journal, The Synesthesia Anthology: 2013-2017, Rasputin: A Poetry Thread Anthology, Scarlet Leaf Review, London Grip, Peeking Cat Anthology 2017, and elsewhere. He lives in Mumbai, India.

Daughter They Dote On

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Contributor: Donal Mahoney

- -
Gallivanting again
she’s now 33

where she goes
ever a mystery

Her parents bewildered
are ill and retired

they watch her kids
seven so far

quints and twins
sires unknown

this time it's Nome
the twins were told

to meet her soulmate
found on the web

she was a nun once
cloistered in Rome.

- - -
Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

Scenery of Time

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Contributor: Sravani Singampalli

- -

I have been married to misfortune
For almost eight years
Failure is my mother
Perseverance is my father
I never thought that optimism
Would be my best friend.
Lots of things have changed
The shade of that old mango tree
Which was once the realm
Of two romantic souls
Is now a classroom to many students.
The small serene garden beside it
Where I used to sit and contemplate
Where I lost my favourite key chain
Where I once took first steps
With my cute little feet
Is now a big bazaar.

I suffered with cancer
Yes! Cancer of negative thoughts
Until I met my best friend
For the very first time
At this magnificent place.
The place which everybody
Believed to be super-haunted
Beholding that inhabited house,
Rotting banyan leaves and
The lighthouse beside it
In the unusual decaying darkness.
I found this place captivating
Many ghostly rumours
Originated from this place
They said they had seen
Skulls and skeletons
On the junk heaps of rotten leaves
But I saw a little flower
Emerging out of those rotten leaves
When the first rays of sun
Hit the earth.
There was no more uncertainty
In the air as it was before.
That pleasant day
When I sat on my balcony
Staring at the night sky
I could see the twinkling stars
Telling me many stories
Stories of people who lost many things
Who kept on losing and losing
But never gave up!
Stories of those inspiring people
Who turned tragedy into victory
My dreamy eyes captured this moment
It has made fortune
Fall in love with me.

*Bazaar – A market place.

- - -
Sravani singampalli is a 22 year old poet from india. She is presently pursuing doctor of pharmacy at JNTU KAKINADA university in Andhra Pradesh, India.

A Woman

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Contributor: Samara Golabuk

- -
A woman

knows about blood.
Pain is in her nature,
the kiss and pull of it,
the binding wisdom of it.

we are perfect salt crystals,
bromide bald and frilled
with skirts and comfort.
The wild dogs
of puberty petrify us—,
we walked slow so life
will not scent us, send
us its feral hounds to ram
quick-gust snouts at our heels.
Those dogs are eager
for a taste of Achilles,
the white soft bar of it snapping
and wet in their grinning jaws
that drip and wolf at moons.

Mars, the crone—her red battle surface
gone to dust—scuffs and chortles
at us, our ample emptiness,
our shying, a florist of it flourishing
young girls — cherished blue dew-blossoms,
fragile and succulent to be held
so near the sun.

- - -
Samara is a Pushcart nominee whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Inklette, Eyedrum Periodically, Anti-Heroin Chic, Eunoia Review and others. She has two children, works in marketing and design, and has returned to university to complete her BA in Poetry.

Lessons I've Learned in 18 Years

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Contributor: Mae Santillo

- -
0 : you are a concept of an idea & still you have more love than your father or mother or father’s father or mother’s mother have ever felt in their lifetime. you will never know how important this is, but you’ll figure it out someday.

1 : sleep a normal amount of time for once in your life, there’s more to life than laying in bed.

2 : your aversion to normal people clothes & lack of embarrassment is admirable. try to laugh at yourself when you get older.

3 : you get called beautiful everywhere you go. you will always be beautiful, try not to forget it someday. I know it’ll be harder than it sounds.

4 : he’ll kiss you on the cheek after your cat scratches you. keep friends like this around. you’ll miss them too much, otherwise.

5 : you take a picture wearing your father’s shoes, this is a metaphor that you used in the wrong poem.

6 : one time you got into a fight with your teacher because she told you that you weren’t drawing a zebra correctly — you’re still bitter about this. how the fuck are you supposed to draw a zebra in kindergarten?

7 : you won’t remember this in a while. try really hard to remember it, even if it doesn’t work.

8 : learn. learn everything. don’t share what you learn. it’s alright to be quiet. don’t let them tell you that you’re wrong.

9 : you’ve always been a ray of sunshine, even when you’re not. keep this desire to see the world a better place, hold on to the good things in life. be so selfish you don’t let anyone else see it. keep it to yourself. as long as you’re happy.

10 : you’re still so pure & no one will ever imagine you broken. you never will be. even when you feel like it. you never will be.

11 : I’m sorry for the next six years. I will always be sorry for them.

12 : it’s okay to be lost but stop allowing others to define your morals. stop doing things impulsively, stop hating yourself. I love myself. I want to live.

13 : be careful who you trust. there are secret friends, and there are gossip friends, determine accordingly. at this point in your life — TRUST NO ONE.

14 : you are worth so much more than you give yourself credit for. throw away every apology you have ever written. it will be worth it. I promise. start to trust people again, please, I know it’s hard but you’ll need them.

15 : the feeling in your chest that the world is trying to squeeze the life out of you will go away eventually. someday, you will be able to breathe again & it will be glorious.

16 : it’s okay to not to tell anyone about yourself at first, never make yourself feel bad for being distant. learn to accept it. find people willing to love you for it. people will begin to love you for it. it’s okay if you let them, you’ll know what I mean by the time you’re

17 : allow yourself to fail. allow yourself to try again, allow yourself to be second best at everything. allow yourself to start living. people want to see you living & god those people will piss you off but they will miss you more than anyone if you are not living. do it for them, if nothing else.

18 : keep living.

- - -
Mae Santillo is a seventeen year old senior at Arts at the Capitol Theater in Willimantic Connecticut.

The Plum Tree

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Contributor: Ken Allan Dronsfield

- -
How did the despair become

fluid for clear, dry eyes to shed?

Why did the burden on the heart

allow the stress and cause the beat

to finally stop now limp to the touch?

I've learned to live bringing such pain,

to bear as a heaviness and darkness

conjoin in a ripe nectar squeezed from

my mind creating an apathetic caste.

In these times of death, we hum our

dirges and become oracles of peace

while pounding that holy black book

forever bound by the millions of souls.

Remorseful, I've learned to inhale deep

as I await my turn to be quickly plucked

from that great plum tree of life, ripe as

I search for an epistemic loftiness below.

- - -
Ken Allan Dronsfield is a disabled veteran and poet from New Hampshire now residing on the southern plains of Oklahoma. He loves life!

Natural Reflection of Your Palms

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Contributor: Scott Thomas Outlar

- -
This is my breath,
the same as yours,
the same as dust, the same as ash
when it all comes to an end,
but held deeply within
steady lungs
that long for truth
while we’re still here.

This is my flesh,
the same as yours,
the same as tissue, the same as sinew,
but without
fiber optic connections as of now;
and never will be,
so don’t dare try me
with temptations
toward such so-called system upgrades.

This is my blood,
the same as yours,
the same as a river, the same as the ocean
where we all swam
before the expansion
of our evolution
was set into forward motion.

These are my hands,
the same as yours,
the same as caring, the same as giving,
the same as taking, the same as wanting,
the same as needing to hold
everything that is loved
firmly within their grasp.

- - -
Scott Thomas Outlar hosts the site where links to his published poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, reviews, live performances, and books can be found.

Holding Out

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Contributor: Michael Magyar

- -
John held out his small hand to collect coins
from passersby. Leaves fall and he catches
them too, their crisp gold,
sense of hope.
The streets of NYC were dirty
and so was he. His father and mother hold the cardboard signs
asking for help.

John’s sickly hand becomes weaker each day,
as he keeps his hand extended for someone,
anyone, to help.

The call goes unanswered
leaving the husband and wife
in pain and forever restless,
with winter's fierce sting,
they are left
like the frostbite spreading through their fingers.

- - -

Bird Talk

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Contributor: Lynn Cooper

- -
Pushy pedantic parrots
discuss philosophy
global warming, extinction
give wordy, high flown speeches
while I, a self-restrained canary
become lost
in their avian rhetoric

I want to screech
above a tweet
show them more
than a bird's brain
instead I chirp
flutter wings
fly swiftly over their heads
for their open mouths

- - -
Lynn Cooper is a published poet and former New Yorker, who now resides in Florida. Her poetry has appeared in print anthologies in both states, as well as online.

Agnostic Afloat

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Contributor: Donal Mahoney

- -
You were a good boy,
following your parents' advice,
never going out in the rain.

At the sound of rain
you dove under the bed,
bawled and shouted,

“Come out, come out
wherever you are"
but no one came out,
not even you.

When your parents died
your uncle gave you
boots and a bumbershoot
and out you went
whatever the weather.

The rain in Spring you found
a wonderful thing and not
so bad in Summer either
until the flood roared in
and you floated away.

Noah and his ark sailed by,
Noah on deck
between two giraffes
smiling and shouting,

“Come out, come out
wherever you are"
but no one came out,
not even you.

- - -
Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Color Of Water

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Contributor: Milton P. Ehrlich

- -
At sunrise, over pale blue waters,
damselflies, who just returned
from Trinidad, dance a calypso,
flashing bare behinds—
luring dragonflies behind cattails,
sea lavender and mangroves
in a celebratory estuary.

The reddish heat of passion
and the pale blue waters
turns into an extra-spectral
color of magenta.
Aquatic creatures of the deep
join the party, blowing bubbles
as if it was New Year’s Eve.

Much like human beings,
ancient flying insects do
whatever they have to
for a moment of pleasure.

At sunset, over navy blue waters,
sated dragonflies with transparent wings
use their multifaceted eyes to find
an empty knot-hole in an old oak tree
for a safe place to sleep.
Ghosts of insects sleep in the silent country
of the floor of murky green water
filled with forests of eelgrass.

A golden setting sun streams down
on old birds who forgot how to fly.
Clinging to each other, they sing
remembered tunes from yesteryears—
strolling in the rippling shallows of the shore
overflowing with schools of silver alewives,
making all God’s creatures feel rich.

- - -
Milton P. Ehrlich, Ph.D. is an 86-year-old psychologist. He is also a Korean War veteran who has published many poems in periodicals such as the “Wisconsin Review,” “Descant,” “Toronto Quarterly Review,” “Chariton Review,” “Vox Poetica,” “Red Wheelbarrow,” “Christian Science Monitor,” “Huffington Post,” and the “New York Times.

By The Side Of The Lake

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Contributor: John Grey

- -
I bend over the waters,
make reflection,
as if the surface needs more skin.

You're behind me somewhere,
crushing the grass
in your struggle to be comfortable,
dipping into the book
that opens a door for you,
rooms to glide away into
and leave me here.

How easy it is
to slip into your own self,
to be as autonomous
as the silver shining rock,
the blur of fish tail.

I don't think
and I'm thinking about me.
I stay in this spot
like nothing else can.

A breeze springs from nowhere,
delicate and dreamlike,
devotes itself to the flutter of my hair,
the cooling of my cheeks.

I dip my hand in the water.
My images rises and falls
firmly in place.
The ripple of a lake
is not movement,
I discover,
but its stillness magnified.

- - -
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

The Deep Blue

| Filed under

Contributor: Sonny

- -
The peaceful ripples,
the deep blue crushing force
Covering sandy shores
While it shines and shimmers,
howls and roars,
Aqua paradise and God’s angry power.

My emotions can be buried,
or they can be spread out,
but before anyone sees them,
the ocean comes washing
my hermit crabs away.

Life has high tides and low tides
that sometimes pull me under, try to drown me,
But give me enough strength,
And I’ll keep swimming until I reach the sandbar.

- - -


| Filed under

Contributor: Milton P. Ehrlich

- -
Most people think
it’s like going to sleep
and never waking up.
Some worry they may
not be dead-dead,
and will have a panic attack
in a windowless coffin.
I figure it’s no different
than pissing and moaning
over a rejecting lover.
Life was her name,
and she doesn’t love
you at all anymore.
You better develop a muscle
to wrestle with hurt feelings.
Your relationship is over.
It may be time to kill yourself.
She doesn’t give a rat’s ass
about whether you live or die.
You can now float through space
with rocks and dirt in your mouth,
dead ants will cling to your teeth.
Smile, and say hello Mr. Death.

- - -
Milton P. Ehrlich, Ph.D. is an 85-year-old psychologist. A Korean War veteran, he’s published numerous poems in periodicals such as "Descant," "Wisconsin Review," "Rutherford Red Wheelbarrow," "Toronto Quarterly Review," "Christian Science Monitor," "Huffington Post," and the "New York Times."

Ghost Bike

| Filed under

Contributor: Christine Jackson

- -
From the back seat,
I glance up from my Twitter feed
to catch
a blue flash in the car headlights.
My Uber driver blasts the horn.

"You see that kid?" he says.
"Almost turned his blue bike white."
He pulls the car onto the highway.

"I’ve seen the white bikes around town,"
I say, "painted all white, even the tires."

"Ghost bikes," the driver says,
"chained around a bench or stop sign
where a wise ass kid
thought he could outrun the light,
then his luck runs out.
Neighborhood ghost bikes
mark where the kid spent his last second
on earth. Don’t know why."

I say, "Maybe if one kid sees it
and thinks twice,
there won't be another ghost bike
on that block."

From the front seat,
a turn signal ticks
off seconds in the silence.
The driver says,
"Me, I think about the folks of the kid
who won’t come home again.
On my way to work,
I pass my own boy’s ghost bike.
Every damned day."

- - -
Christine Jackson teaches creative writing at a South Florida university. That is, she is supposed to teach, but no doubt learns more from her students than they do from her. Her poems have appeared in many online publications, including Ekphrastic, Remixt, and Verse-Virtual.

All Wildfires Start Somewhere

| Filed under

Contributor: Juliet Duchesne

- -
It started off slow, smoldered like the cherry tip
of my last cigarette. We flew across the cities like gods, soaring
past ninety-five miles on the interstate. We watched street
lights streak by: painted bolts as beautiful as Zeus’ glory,
imprinting jagged beams across our eyes. The endorphins crept
through my frontal lobe, spread through my brainstem,
my bloodstream, like embers resting in my hands. I can’t remember
where we were driving to, maybe to the end of the world.
All I knew was that my body craved a small glimpse of heaven
that I could only reach with the vial, the pill, or the spiraling smoke
that floated beyond clenched knuckles on the steering wheel. My heart
hammered underneath clammy skin; high on the fire that started
deep in my lungs, burned through realities I wished I could leave
behind. My cranium flooded with dopamine that doused receptors in
a crippling euphoria. I felt like I could only see the full picture
through dilated pupils. Like the moon, my eyes waxed full as time
went on, engulfed me with visions I never knew possible, twisted
colors tangled in a feverish haste through black sun irises, and
flames that made my mouth water. But it all ignited so quickly;
it seemed everything turned to ash before I could exhale.
I tilted my head back and laughed as the car carried us
to the edge of sunshine, ready for us to embrace
the horizon’s lips with a blistered kiss.

My mother rolls her eyes when I tell her I love her;
she knows it’s the money in her pocket that I’m after,
that my robotic-coal smile holds no weight.

She knows that if I just listened to her when I had the chance
I wouldn't have rotten away from the inside out.
And it makes me sick to my stomach because she’s right.

I told her there was nothing to worry about,
but she notices dark plum bruises growing on my tender nerves,
and I can’t feel warm tears leaking from my sunken sockets.

I flinch when she rests her palm on my shoulder,
and pray that she doesn’t notice, but I know she knows.
She wouldn’t walk back into a burning building.

She asks why I have been gone so often,
why I can’t even manage to peek into her auburn irises.
Her gaze feels as if she’s trying

to soothe my wounds with lemon juice and vinegar—
like searing barbed wire pressing further
into the already weak chambers of my heart.

Her eyes always attempt to incinerate the toxins that cling
so desperately onto the woven fibers of my body.
So I flinch when she looks at me,

the same way as when I feel her rough wool sleeves
brush against where my bicep meets my forearm, like silver
phantom needles piercing through my already torn skin.

I asked him if
he could remember a time
before we began to paint
our lungs black;
when our skin was still soft,
when I could wash my face
back to life—He said,
why does it matter?

I told him I’ve become
more ash than person.
That I burn my fingertips,
hoping I can wake up
from this, but I keep
sinking further into the
coals—He said,
just have another hit
and you’ll feel better.

- - -
Juliet Duchense is a first year college student studying Secondary Education in hopes to be an English teacher one day. She loves writing, reading, and absorbing as many stories as she possibly can. She is just trying her best.


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