“Night Songs” by Wale Owoade

I listen to a door open its robe
to a street full enough to be a sky
too cruel to be a sky

we were never lonely
just a fire in need of heat

I want to be a wind and wake
an ocean to be a street then
chase out all the water the body
longed for before it turned to ash 

I listen to my wall turn its back
to a street wide enough to be a sky
too bruised to be a sky

I was never lonely
Just a body in need of flesh

I want to be the voice that wake
the world to be a street then
bring back all the peace the light
longed for before it turned to dark

Wale Owoade is a Nigerian poet and creative enthusiast who lives and writes in north-central Nigeria. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in About Place Journal, Apogee Journal, Chiron Review, Cordite Poetry Review, Radar Poetry, Spillway and Vinyl, among others. Some of his poems have been translated to Bengali, German and Spanish. Wale is the publisher and Managing Editor of EXPOUND: A Magazine of Arts.


This entry was posted in Poetry on August 23, 2016

“The Gazers” by Neil Serven

Rollie was convinced that what Michael Stipe was really singing was come into the Winnebago and that “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite” was about child abuse (the evidence in the lyrics: candy bar, falling star, The Cat in the Hat), but nobody on the boards was having any of it. The other newsgroup members pointed him to the FAQ—he pronounced it like a word in his head, rhyming with whack—and congratulated him on figuring out Usenet, now stop being a sorry-assed troll.

They were out there, ducking in and out of rec.music.rem to show off their pistol wits as artfully as the white-dot VAX graphics allowed. He imagined, from how they strung together eloquent sentences or tucked in extensive literary .sigs, that they were English majors like he was, only they blew off their classes to read Baldwin, Nabokov, and Bertrand Russell in paperbacks with their spines broken. They spun hard-to-find seven-inch vinyl at their campus radio stations. They had outsized personas and carried pocket handkerchiefs and drank whiskey in heavy glasses and dashed off verse on cocktail napkins. They got no joy from rage. They didn’t hook up, they made love.

Were he able to swing the postage, he would send everyone on rec.music.rem the new issue of Smug Fossil. There would be one hundred fifty copies of Issue Three, twenty-four pages of poetry and fiction and cartoons and rants folded and stapled and hand-numbered and brilliant. A few souls humored him by tossing a poem or doodle his way, but most of Issue Three was the work of himself and Alyssa, who now sat at the main table of the Writing Center, folding and stapling and numbering the issues and stacking them inside a printer-paper box. The school didn’t know it had loaned the paper. Rollie and Alyssa had hid under the table as Campus Security did midnight sweeps. Then they kept the lights off while the copier went to work, emitting its patient hums and hot black musk.

He logged back into email to see if there was another message from Melody, the sophomore at Ohio State whom he had met in alt.music.betterthanezra and with whom he had been pen-palling for much of the semester, she dropping him lessons in conversational French and sharing complaints about Newt Gingrich. He worked out that a trip to Columbus from New Hampshire would take twelve hours by bus. Melody had mentioned a boyfriend back in October, but since then the guy had thinned out promisingly to a murmur.

The Writing Center was on the top floor of the library. From the darkened room, the windows showed a nice night for stargazing. Howlers were out, stumbling back along the Rape Trail. Through Rollie’s lenses, the new lamps along the trail were halos.

Alyssa had finished with the issues and was now squinting at the Boston Phoenix. “Pavement’s coming to the Middle East,” she said.

Rollie said, “I hate the new album.” It came out hostile. Then he said, “Let me see if I can turn up funds.” There have been more of these suggestions to ditch campus and have adventures in the city. One month ago, a mosh pit on Lansdowne Street: Juliana Hatfield with special guest Cold Water Flat. Their friends disappeared. Rollie had the urge to muscle up against the BU fratholes copping handfuls of Alyssa’s tit as she crowd-surfed. Then she accidentally on purpose put her left shitkicker into one frathole’s ear, and when the guy came to, Rollie was the one he wanted to fight. He sort of felt something for her then.

But Alyssa hung too close. She had read Prozac Nation, and began to suspect that Rollie’s every eccentricity was a warning sign. (Rollie couldn’t finish the book, too annoyed by the platter of opportunities handed to the author.) Alyssa found him on the roof of the science building, stripped to the waist in subzero temperatures, gazing out at the lights of Manchester Airport with Automatic for the People spinning on repeat on his Discman.

The school called his parents. Rollie refused to talk to them. They’d say he was being a brat. Alyssa made him promise to get counseling. His symptoms were consistent with manic-depression, she said. It made Rollie think of the hair dye they sold at Newbury Comics.

Why did he choose to go to school with these unhappy walled-in Catholics, with their flip-flops and Irish kegger politics and pajama drama, their proud aversion to complexity? At other schools, it seemed, you could hang in the lounge all night, pass around a two-liter of Mr. Pibb and watch Barton Fink or S.F.W., and not have to explain any of it, and it didn’t matter if you lacked the thumbs for NHL ’94.

Diane at Health Services—an aunt-type who talked hip and let Rollie smoke in her office, his Chucks up on the split, electrical-taped upholstery—pressed him to find a creative outlet. So he started Smug Fossil. It was cathartic: a fuck you to every hacky-sack-playing, Cider Jack-drinking, Neil Young-listening mock-anguished trust-fund baby who had ever stuffed a towel under a door. If ten people opened the thing before chucking it into a garbage can on the quad—last spring, the pages piled up everywhere, caught in the wind, snagged in bike racks—then there was the satisfactory chance that one or two might bleed a little bit.

Alyssa put the cover on the box, then stretched back in her chair. Her t-shirt rode up. She said, “You’re awfully quiet.”

He was thinking that if he returned to his room he would find Shep’s gray ankle sock slung over the doorknob, insultingly content in its limp threadbareness. On that floor, it only encouraged knock-bys.

“Need a place to crash?” Alyssa asked.

“Thanks. I can sleep here.”

“We were going to deliver these in the morning.”

“I said I can sleep here.”

“Until security throws you out, then what?”

“They won’t find me.”

He did want a cigarette. He would have to go outside, and then he wouldn’t have a way back in.

Alyssa lived in one of the community houses set aside for straightedge kids. Her roommate was visiting a friend at UVM. She and Rollie used the Rape Trail to cut across.

The box was heavy. The cardboard handles cut into his fingers. “I need to stop,” he said.

He shook out a clove cigarette and lit it, and shared it with her.

Alyssa looked up. “You can’t see shit now since they put in these lights. This was the best spot on campus.”

“The science building.”

She looked at him.

“I know a way in.”

“So do I, remember?”

It involved going through a window. Alyssa, a foot shorter than Rollie, had to stand on the box to reach it. The cardboard almost gave way. Rollie then passed the box through the window and followed her inside.

They moved hushedly, though nobody was there, no alarm had sounded. Up four flights, through a service door. They were on the roof. He wedged the box inside the door to hold it ajar.

“Is this why you come up here?”

“Shh. We might see a shooting star.”

But every twitch they spied turned out to be a plane. The airport twinkled to the east. With his head craned upward, Rollie started to lose his balance; he let Alyssa lean against him. They lost themselves in the whirl of blues and blacks and lavenders, the visible static: light-years, ecstasy, shiver of a proof of God.

Beneath his chin she said, “Nobody’s going to read your stupid zine.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Everyone already knows what’s in it. None of it’s you. All your talent, and you’d rather be a creeper in a world that’s crammed with ‘em.”

Rollie lay in Alyssa’s roommate’s bed feeling the weird scratch of flannel, his nose tickled by a strange shampoo. Posters looked down on him in the dark. Alyssa, removing any doubt, fell right asleep on her side of the room. Shadows of feet darkened the light beneath the door. Rollie passed the time making lists in his head. He pondered second acts. He wondered if he should transfer to another school, or drop out and learn a trade. He wondered if he should try Pavement again, if the new album would grow on him.

Serven_Neil_picNeil Serven lives in Greenfield, MA and works as a lexicographer. His stories have appeared in Atticus Review, Pithead Chapel, Washington Square Review, Cobalt, and elsewhere.

This entry was posted in Fiction on August 17, 2016

“Euphoria” by Logan Seidl

When our marriage was bankrupt, jobless,
holding a sign for donations, when our marriage was

a paper plane ablaze, an oil spot, a two dollar bill,
when our marriage was a two and six off suit, a house of cards

above the fault line, sheets folded in the spare bedroom,
when our marriage was an offset victory, frost on the apricot tree buds,

when our marriage was the blue screen of death, the bear market,
the autonomous vehicle, when our marriage was a horse

without a saddle or bit, a zebra with a lion on its back,
when our marriage was decaf coffee, club soda,

a candle without a wick, when our marriage was B.B. King
without the blues, Hendrix without a Stratocaster,

an electric guitar without pickups, when our marriage was a no vote
bill, autumn without the dead leaves, when our marriage was a torn ACL,

a swollen ankle without RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation),
braces in a toothless mouth,

when our marriage was a boxcar without graffiti, a lowrider
without hydraulics, a billboard without a DUI lawyer,

when our marriage was a ski resort with man-made snow,
the mafia without the dons, when our marriage was a corn maze,

skid marks,  colorblind, when our marriage was diseased,
infected, septic, when our marriage was a mechanic without tools,

a sentence without punctuation, a playground without swings,
when our marriage was a failed space exploration

when our marriage was a pocket full
of pennies, a splintered handrail, when our marriage was

the fifteen minute paid lunch,  a faded tattoo,
when our marriage was two sovereign states, an expired passport,

when our marriage was a sailboat without sails, a Ferrari
without red paint,  when our marriage was gangster rap

without the gangster, the snowman on the first day of summer, when
our marriage wasn’t a lanyard, a floaty,

a MasterCard accepted everywhere,
when our marriage was an Esteem that won’t start,

a union on strike,  when our marriage was
in beta mode, the concrete without the rocks, rudderless,

rehearsed, when out marriage was a composition of vacancy,
a pickpocket of selfishness, a deployment of sobriety,

when our marriage was snorkeling the hard candy dish,
the king of hearts, hypnotized by vanity, I was euphoric

knowing you would never watch me turn into a lure
without a hook, the axe with a broken wooden handle,

the lost and confused neighbor we watch circle the block
for hours, who steals our garbage cans,

but now, that shot in the arm is just a track mark.

Seidl_Logan_photoLogan Seidl is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno.  Recently, he has won the DQ Award in both fiction and poetry, and the James H. MacMillan Scholarship for poetry/fiction written about Nevada. His poetry has been published in Crack the SpineConstellationsThe Kentucky Review, Crab Creek Review and The Meadow.

This entry was posted in Poetry on August 10, 2016

“Summer Poem” by Bob Sykora

That summer, eyes lolling over,
eight lanes packed and you licked yogurt
off my forehead. Ignoring

calls from home. In Philly you tried
to quit smoking and I spilled
my drink all over and we kissed or

we fought or whatever. Stale bar
popcorn for dinner and the phone
just wouldn’t stop weeping. I’d sleep

with my hand on her under
the pillow. She’d glow and whimper
and shout for love. Or she didn’t.

The news was the same. Grandpa’s got
the gout again. Dad’s in a splint.
James or Jimmy or someone  

from high school wants to say hi.
Selling coffee at Ralph’s, he seems
really ok. You reached under 

the seat for your secret pack.
Your hand came back dim and soft
and wanting. I didn’t know

a Jimmy in high school. I thought
that place was gone when I left.
We pulled over at an IHOP,

ate breakfast in silence,
left our phones in the parking lot.

sykora_bob_photoBob Sykora is an MFA candidate at UMass Boston and the poetry editor for Breakwater Review. His recent work can be found in District Lit, Words Dance, and Rust + Moth. He can be found online at bobsykora.tumblr.com.

This entry was posted in Poetry on August 3, 2016

“Wet” by Jen Knox

Rough, dry hands pull at our necks, our expanding skirts.
They tug at the flowerbeds below, sweet and thick, unreleased.

Nourishment, a cloud-blanketed sun. We stay in bed like lettuce.
We soak heat like a sponge, till we’re too heavy to float.

Our loneliness is irony, swollen with greedy buds.
Tasting, crunching the earth like carrots and corn, and reaching toward stars.

Dust. Our carcasses are picked at lovingly by birds. Still, we dine.
And each course demands cheers, a tang, a savoring, extinguished.

KnoxJen_photoJen Knox is the author of After the Gazebo, and her short work can be found in The Adirondack Review, Cleaver Magazine, Cosmonauts Avenue, Crannóg, Room Magazine and The Saturday Evening Post. She lives in San Antonio, where she teaches creative writing and directs a Writers-in-Communities program at Gemini Ink. Find her online at JenKnox.com

This entry was posted in Poetry on July 27, 2016