fall 2015

I am no longer afraid of it

– Shuli de la Fuente-Lau

I am most content to listen to sounds
from a distance,
like a movie playing on a screen –
and I in the farthest row,
with a bucket of popcorn
with too much butter.
Your voice is like a melody,
just as long as it’s your’s,
and here, another handful
of kernels.

I once had a dream,
on a hot summer night,
when the breeze hung as still
as a swing under that
sycamore tree,
and I woke up in a sweat,
puzzled, and amazed that
I stood in front of the chalkboard
and opened my mouth, and words
flowed out like endless waves,
crashing one after another –
loud, and smooth, and
unapologetic.

When it was my turn,
I spoke about Billy, and Old Dan,
and Little Ann, and angels
that plant a red fern in the
space of the sacred,
and all thirty-three of them
heard my voice and looked
me in the eye,
and when I awoke as the breeze
started again, there was no
sweat on my palms, no
lisp on my lips.


Shuli de la Fuente-Lau is an elementary educator by day and a poet in the in-between times. She currently lives in Penang, Malaysia with her husband and their two cats. Most recently, she was a writer for the VOICES writing program for the George Town Literary Festival. Her writing is ignited by small, ordinary moments and hazy parts of a person’s history.

Dream Boogie

Shuli de la Fuente-Lau

The train rumbled
all the way down, through dusty
towns and past faces, with their
eyes looking after me,
brown from the sun – at mine, black
from the fire.
I have known people
who have hated themselves, but
none more than my father
who tried to wash all that color
out of him and all that voice
out of me. It was the rumble
that gave my words a beat,
on those long rides down
to see a man who
ran as far as he could.


Shuli de la Fuente-Lau is an elementary educator by day and a poet in the in-between times. She currently lives in Penang, Malaysia with her husband and their two cats. Most recently, she was a writer for the VOICES writing program for the George Town Literary Festival. Her writing is ignited by small, ordinary moments and hazy parts of a person’s history.

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                    after Privilege

Brendan Walsh

There is love everywhere
and I soak it from all directions
like a sponge, grow fat and obscene,

unable to wring myself dry.
I self-flagellate, bring the skin
to screaming and the muscles

broken and buried.  I forgo food,
learn the depth of hunger,
true emptiness is not a longing

but a purification of cells, starving
a symptom of rejuvenation.  
Once the self disappears,

my body shrinks skeletal,
I section off my vital organs, liver
(partially used) to my uncle in California,

kidneys to two strangers in Ohio,
my heart to a poor old man
who wants to feel strong again,

the skin for grafts in the burn ward,
my penis (old friend, we have seen
wonderful things) to a woman

who always felt like a boy,
and my muscles—beautiful muscles—
to the skinny ones, the sick ones,

those wasting away, melting in their skin.
But the brain I keep. The eyes, too,
to see the good my body does

when I’m not in it.  You all could
do the same, but knowing
only the wicked would remain

to reap the harvest once we gutted
ourselves, perhaps a few of us
should stick around and own ourselves,

feel brilliant wind on our flesh,
love on our tongues, in our bones,
know it isn’t something to be earned,

but revered and spread equally
to those who’ve never known it,
to those who believe it isn’t deserved.


Brendan Walsh has been published in Connecticut Review, Off the Coast, Mason’s Road, Lines + Stars, Noctua Review, Drunk Monkeys, and other journals. His first collection, Make Anything Whole, was published by Five Oaks Press in January of 2015. From 2013 to 2014, Walsh taught English on a Fulbright Grant in Vientiane, Laos and has also taught in Masan, South Korea. He currently lives in New Haven, CT and serves as Assistant Director of International Education at Southern Connecticut State University, where he earned his Master of Fine Arts. His work has been awarded the Anna Sonder Prize of the Academy of American Poets, the Leslie Leeds Poetry Prize, and a Freedman Prize for poetry in performance. He has been a featured reader at the New American Writing Festival and the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival’s CT Young Poets Day.

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Laryssa Wirstiuk

The first time we slept
together, you called me

“baby,” and I wondered
who you were addressing:

the idea of a being we’ll never
deliver or a perpetual

need to assign pet names.
I still have about ten

pounds to lose before
I finally starve all memory  

and achieve enervated bliss,
the loss of curves and soft bits.

I would like for nobody
to desire what’s left of me,

to pass you on the street
and at once not be “baby,”

not woman, not appellation
you’ve added to your list.

I would like you to be repulsed
by this body you used

to cradle with your painted
arms and words like “baby,

baby, and baby.” My name,
when you swallowed it whole,

had never been more melodic.
Love, I refuse to open my mouth

until you’ve been reincarnated
as something easier to digest.


Laryssa Wirstiuk lives in New Jersey with her mini dachshund Charlotte Moo. Laryssa’s collection of short stories The Prescribed Burn won Honorable Mention in the 21st Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. Her poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have been published in Gargoyle Magazine, Word Riot, Barely South Review, and Up the Staircase Quarterly. www.laryssawirstiuk.com

Laryssa Wirstiuk

I still regret not having tea –
just one date – with the guy
who said he’d read my aura.
I’d still like to dye my hair whatever
color is complementary.
Would violet locks layered
over my yellow shoulders
abort my persona? Would green
highlights restrict my rose mouth?
If you love me, you’ll Photoshop
a crown of lavender atop
my head, cool my wind-scraped cheeks
with flush pink, and wrap me in a cape
of blue ink. I’ve heard children
can look above a person
to his colored crown.
This isn’t the morning
I heard someone apologize for my dog
barking at a black handiman:
“Black” is not to let you know
he’s “other” but that dogs
can apparently see race,
not according to me.
This is crying no matter how wide
the eyes staring back at you smile.
This is mourning
the loss of my vibrance:
the “clean, clean, clean”
my dog likes to hear when she thinks
she’s drowning. With my red mane
I could’ve been Miss Color TV.
I could’ve held muted conversations
with “mengineers.” My features
would help calibrate the future
of broadcasting. “What color are her
eyes?” A tone that nullifies
everything else you don’t know.
They would place bets
for the moment I’d come alive.


Laryssa Wirstiuk lives in New Jersey with her mini dachshund Charlotte Moo. Laryssa’s collection of short stories The Prescribed Burn won Honorable Mention in the 21st Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. Her poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have been published in Gargoyle Magazine, Word Riot, Barely South Review, and Up the Staircase Quarterly. www.laryssawirstiuk.com

Laryssa Wirstiuk

Why bother uncorking the champagne bottle
when you can smash it against a vessel?
What I mean is a ship, but that has sailed
the ocean blue. I still need to find a place
for everything I have stuffed into recycled
boxes originally meant for delivering goods
sold to kids waving sweaty five-dollar bills.
I’ve come to sleep in the bed where everyone
I’ve loved before you and all the men except
you have seen me perform at least ten
different tragedies. I’ve been forced to donate
past lives in order to make room for whatever
this is. Before we proceed, please be aware
that I neglected to disinfect the bodily waste
from the hardwood floor because I needed
to prove I’m organic, made first of oxygen
then carbon. Too bad the elements didn’t
stain. I’m awake where time and distance
inspired confessions to the tune of “I know.”
What’s the point of secrets when bodies
rising can’t keep them? I tried Windex
to uncloud my eyes. I pretended that music
by Ms. Clooney could warm a November
afternoon captured in a patch of interior glow.
I’ll always be that teenager on Church Street
buying a pink, floor-length skirt for free.
My mom says I have more clothing than she
does, but it just appears that way because
my treasures occupy one closet, while hers fill
at least three rooms. I am surrounded by self help
that hasn’t taught me anything about releasing
anger, and I’m sending photos of the crease
between my eyebrows to the man who drove me
to Ferrara Bakery & Cafe while we listened
to Backstreet Boys on repeat. He’s the only one
who still speaks to me. I hate that you’ll never know
my refusal to clean the heap of fresh underwear
I’ve left to cover the area rug for three weeks
because I couldn’t decide which method
of organization would best suit my future needs.
I still feel the aftermath of a kiss on Track Three,
though the symptoms have evolved from quivering
to chest pain to a fear of driving on highways.
I wasn’t invited to the wedding, and people who have
no intention of marrying me ask me why I’m missing
a two-carat diamond and platinum engagement ring.
I’ll never be able to shake the memory of a face
that hasn’t seen snow, especially not in April.
I will not recover from the sensation of leaving
my body and asking that the unseasonable precip
bury me. Remember when we ordered tiny watches
sent by the United States Postal Service? I’m aware
of time only sometimes. You are the cruelest,
and I’m trying to forgive you now that I can test
the rug with my feet. I’m noticing the geometric
texture and fine, blue pile. I ask my dog not to jump,
but the charm of diving into what we call home
is the skirt that no longer fits. I’m refusing food
so that I can rid myself of it. Here’s a curb alert
posted in the same venue that my former chauffeur
uses to find anonymous sex outside suburban
pool halls. I’ll have honey mustard on my fries
with that late-night talk show host who advised
a caller how to remove a tampon with his incisors.
Listen to Yanni on cassette tapes. Don’t drip.
All these years I’ve wanted to be an exquisite
corpse, but I was hoping you’d read the results
after writing – with indelible pen – the closure.


Laryssa Wirstiuk lives in New Jersey with her mini dachshund Charlotte Moo. Laryssa’s collection of short stories The Prescribed Burn won Honorable Mention in the 21st Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. Her poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have been published in Gargoyle Magazine, Word Riot, Barely South Review, and Up the Staircase Quarterly. www.laryssawirstiuk.com

Ron Burch

At the Red Lion, you lean away from me. It is getting close to closing time and we are all drunk here, given how we have entered a new day. You and I spoke for awhile over cool tall mugs of Spaten. We laughed at our lives and spoke of details and even added specifics for each other. You sit at the bar next to me and you seem to be content with my company. I bought you a beer, yes, but I buy one for anyone who spends the time to talk to me so I don’t have to go home to my empty apartment with the one room. But then you catch the time and I suddenly see the worry on your face.

You want to go home with someone. It’s clear as you scan the crowd. You want to go home with someone other than me. I understand. It wouldn’t be the first time. You are 12 years younger than me. Countries collapse in that time. A pet can grow and die. Your once new car stops running. I understand how big the difference is. Yet I cannot help for the conversation that we had – it was smooth and easy. It was natural and not forced full of awkward sentences, not prodded like a cow toward a ramp he didn’t want to take. I made you laugh. Many times. You wiped the tears from your eyes while I looked away to the bartender that I know too well, to the TV screens with the replays of today’s sports.

I will not push. If you choose to spend more time with me, I will take advantage of it and enjoy it. I will luxuriate in your attention because I find it so welcoming and warm. But you still glance around, trying to meet the eyes of that younger man there or that young one over there, better-looking men than me, I admit, but ones who are not returning your looks.

You want to go home with someone tonight, you need that, but you are afraid it will be me. If it is me, perhaps it means that you have lost or lost something or are losing the great fight against that which we really cannot stop. I understand. I lost that fight a few years ago but you get used to it. But fight on, fight on. It is a hard battle to win.

You stand up, unsteady from your wooden seat at the bar, the chipped, black-painted nails of your fingers grasping the bar edge for security, and another man steps to your side. He is young with a full beard and an earring in one ear that bends low beneath his curly brown hair. His tattoo is of fire and I wonder, for a brief second, if he is a firefighter, and I realize that you two do not know each other at all even though he takes you by your hand and leads you out and I know that because it was something I would have done 12 years ago but now I only turn back to the televisions and the reflecting mirror across the bar and the bartender whose name I know well, and, instead, I merely gesture for the check.


Ron Burch’s fiction has been published in numerous literary journals including Mississippi Review, Eleven Eleven, Pank, and he has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. Bliss Inc., his debut novel, was published by BlazeVOX Books. He lives in Los Angeles. Please visit: www.ronburch.com.

Your Hair’s Sour Scent

Alec Solomita

Your hair’s sour scent
is all that seems the same.
Your gait’s gone slow and wary.
Your words scatter like cinders.
Your sadness makes it hard for
Me to lift my arms.
On the odd day your eyes know
something I don’t know, and don’t want to know.
You know where you’re going and might just want to go.
It’s as if the tide was always low
and the waves receding show the jewels
the sea hides beneath its slick black reeds —
polished stones, scalloped shells, and pearls.


Alec Solomita has published fiction in The Adirondack Review, The Mississippi Review, Southwest Review, and elsewhere. Recently, his poetry has appeared in 3Elements Literary Review, MadHatLit, Turk’s Head Review, Literary Orphans, and, forthcoming, Bloodstone Review, Silver Birch Press, and Fulcrum: An International Anthology of Poetry and Aesthetics. He lives in Somerville, Mass.

UTAH SANDSTONE

James Croal Jackson

I run from exceptional red.
Distance. Majestic arches. Loop-
de-loop of common want. Canyons,
or peace of mind. Say Zen. Say
Zion. Watch as wind-up forests
spiral from sand. Leaves whisper
to their coming branches in the vacant
hinge of a song. Don’t they
still reach for you. The lonely hoodoos
eroded in failed embrace. Treble clef,
or trouble. No beats for the metered dream.


James Croal Jackson moved to Columbus, OH after spending a summer in thirty-seven states. Find more of his work at jimjakk.com

Peter Weltner

A Japanese man said to Jack, “Think of yourself
as already dead.  Then live without fear as the dead
do.”  Some harsh looks or words can petrify love,
turn passion to ice.  Eyes in a hallway blazing
with disdain.  Rage attacking in a sickroom.
They turn the heart to stone.  Say it’s washed clean
in a torrent, in a river of remorse that flows
and flows.  The stone’s eroded.  But still it’s stone.
And hard.  After the storm, winds blew so fiercely
the loose sand raced over the beach like dust
across drought-stricken pastures or fire through
dry grass.  Sea foam skittered, light as new snow,
in a blast of freezing air.  A guy windsurfed in white
water that, roaring, rolled over him like an avalanche.

I buy so many CDs, DVDs, and books
because I need to believe I’ll live long enough
to hear, watch, or read them all.  I won’t.
I can’t.  It’s like buying prayers for art to save you.
After the rains had quit, as I hiked up a dune,
I was knocked off my feet by a gust strong enough
to rip kites and  toss a boy with a glider trying
to fly onto the strand.  A seagull hovered near by.
All eyes and beak, it stared down at me, a bird
appearing to dangle from a string, so steady
it stayed despite the gale-like currents.  Flapping
its wings to keep in place, it held me in
its sight, a human afraid of his fate.  And flew
away to glide on wind as free of care as child’s play.


Peter Weltner has published five books of fiction including The Risk of His Music and How the Body Prays (Graywolf), three poetry chapbooks, three collaborations with the artist Galen Garwood, most recently Water’s Eye (Marrowstone), and four full length collections of poetry, most recently To the Final Cinder and Stone Altars (BrickHouse). Late Summer Storm in Early Winter is forthcoming. He lives in San Francisco at the beach.