poetry

Table of Contents

“Miasma” by Hayley Hammerstrom

“we were out of time” by Connor Beeman

“A Bad Night” by Riley Hensley

“Suburbia Noir” by Hayley Hammerstrom

“The Palo Verde and Her Vending Machine” by Emma Keefer

Miasma

Hayley Hammerstrom

Sweet, sleeping flesh
all yellowy satin,
jaundiced and meek
in the flush of mock suns, which
stud the billowing, electric sky.

In the black womb of night,
you are freshly minted
with songs not yet sung
and teeth not yet fizzled
away with acrid tongues.

How pretty your mind looks then,
the neurotic puppets have yet to be strung up
with mouths ajar, singing songs
of masochism, demented illusion –
no, it’s quiet now before the funeral march.

Before my love runs through the damned funnel,
your perception marbled with suspicion.
No, you still reciprocate, smile not yet Cheshire.
Caressing me with hands not talons
that aim to both cut and burrow.

Your chest still bows and caves
as midnight casts her opaque mantle.
I see the furnace burning ice-blue
through your skin, which spreads
taut across the Parthenon-pillar rib bones.

And that arctic tumult lies beneath
the silken eyelids now immobile,
yet how it churns in the
naked presence of brightness,
unbridled by night’s incantations.

But, oh, how skin does
tick like manic-clock cantatas,
and by half past two,
between daily death and dawn,
you begin to unwind like floss.

The great loom of you
unweaves itself, a
backwards stitch work of
hellish dexterity, where
cross-bred moths and silkworms

work like dynamite to
dissect your embroidery,
to eradicate what love still persists
and stamp it into an unrecognizable
pool of fingernails and eyelashes.

When at first you have been
dismembered by these monstrosities
(with names like greed, jealousy, and uncertainty)
your body emanates a smell of
damp earth and sugarless cinnamon.

It is not the living rind of you,
with its grenadine-infused vessels,
which court mosquitos and me;
it is a skin of purpose –
to return to the gymnasium of soot and souls.

Yet, like all fantastic collapses,
there is an inevitable rest,
and for you, it is the arrest of the senses
into the realm of inconvenient ignorance.
Goodbye, my dear love’s sensations.

I lie awake with you beside me.

Now, there’s only
putrid, dead flesh
all necrotic and pearly blue.
Sing me one last song
to which my ear has a long-held schema –
that funeral march –

and we will repeat this putrefaction again
as you tumble down the damned funnel.

Tomorrow.

we were out of time

Connor Beeman

my father was ten minutes from campus. 

he drove the SUV down the highway with intention,
and my life was at my feet, packed into crates and boxes. 

the bed,
the one I could no longer call my own,
laid bare on its frame. 

the desk looked unused,
and if I imagined the thin layer of dust that would soon cover it,
it could have always been that way. 

the bed was bare,
the desk was clean,
and I was alone in that room. 
you had already left town. 

the words we didn’t say were heavy in their absences,
joined only by the plans we never saw through
and the grand schemes we’d hatched but let fall to the wayside. 
we’d always been too busy. 

you came over earlier,
but you were only there to return a book I’d lent and hadn’t even come inside.
it was strange seeing you after goodbyes had already been spoken.

A Bad Night

Riley Henley

the bottle of Jack is sitting out
next to a shot glass on the counter 

a plate’s remains lie in the trash can
though shards are still scattered across the floor 

there’s a new gaping hole in the clock
the size and shape of an apple 

silence wraps around our bodies,
the sudden outburst terrifies me 

the yelling still rings in my ears
i can’t forget the volume of his rage 

it is the quietness of war, the moment
after the gunshots stop 

when his clenched fist is at his side
he is a bomb and i am unsheltered 

i wonder if mom heard
i wonder who she would defend 

Suburbia Noir

Hayley Hammerstrom

#238715: He used to wear shoes with tread that was clumped with tar from the still-hot slicks of Tarmac clinging to the remnants of the old race track.
Before the blanched cobra snuck up his arm, the days would flicker by in their prosaic sequences with pleasing laughs and naïve, blue skies that matched his parents’ kitchen where I kissed him on the tile floor, which he later used as a canvas for a yellow-white powder halo. 

Unlike #238715, #982760 didn’t take so well to Narcan; he got his halo
in the mail about a year and a half after first wayfaring into a valley of tar.
Not long after, I saw him shut himself up with steel tiles
and mortar inside a cheerless and mutable mind of only one track –
His eyes cast back the interior, turning gunmetal-grey from cornflower blue,
nothing but a sheen of abalone remained in his shell, nothing but a flicker. 

#399512, the brother of #982760, is now amongst the wraiths who flicker
between the mud of earth and the barbed wire that segregates them from the halo- land, the realm of seraphs and sylphs, not the syphilitic blue- green orb, which fed him fentanyl-laced blackness, the obstructing tar that ate holes into his vessels, that left him a paralytic in the snow with only track
marks to indicate the once boisterous voice now quiet as mortuary tile. 

They were all acquaintances with #344962 who lived near me in a house with a tile- laid bathroom in the basement in the fairyland suburbs where candles flicker
on and off like indecisive pumpkin-spice firecrackers and the neighbor- hood moms track
steps while their sons and daughters bathe in indolence and pills, growing halos
stealthily, grotesquely. #344962 made it out, though, loved the rich tar beneath a BMX bike more than the white mistress, more than resigning to a body icy and blue. 

I knew him best, #344962. We used to gallivant around graveyards ‘til the nights grew blue.
He used to yell obscenities and hallelujahs, which glided across the carpet and tile
in our best friend’s smoggy house. He told me a year later he’d suc-cumbed to tar
lungs and bones reverbing with phantom pangs, the only sentience, the only flicker.
A person reduced to only necessary visceral response. A person ex-pecting a halo.
Now, he’s the enigma, pointe-dancing on a shuddering railroad track – 

And he, and the others, and the ones before and after all play the same track
of sparrow-winged sirens whose voices flow through syringes and stain their faces cobalt blue
like vast cathedral windows depicting Jezebel with an aureole, a halo composed of dreams deferred and faith that’s mottled and gangrened, Girih tile- work of wretchedly miscalculated dimensions. I still watch the Virgo lighter flicker,
the one I used to share with #344962 when our vision turned tar- 

thick with saccharine Malibu and scalded marijuana residue trans- formed to tar.
These recollections bring joy of his persisting breath almost snuffed out, though they flicker
between aging vignettes of his foaming mouth and mangled arms cast out on the shower tile. 

The Palo Verde and Her Vending Machine

Emma Keefer

Sitting next to you in the sand and dust,
I carve a design at your feet.
Your hum,
Soft and steady,
Reminds me to keep moving, but 

“I don’t remember how I got here.” 

Pushing from the ground,
I take three steps away from your stationary abode.
Sand turns to asphalt
And that transforms into concrete.
A metamorphosis jolted to life
By one who jumped over fissures and sang, 

“If you step on a crack, you will break your mother’s back.” 

Here in the brick city,
I close my eyes and picture the white-light emanating from your screen.
The buzz behind my spine.
I remember the gentle chill that pressed into my flesh
And the night I walked miles out of town
Just to catch my breath because 

“My world was screaming, but no one else could hear it.” 

A stout Palo Verde and metal were oil and water
Until I stumbled to where you stood beneath her loving arms. 
Unlikely allies with separate goals,
I wonder how you grew so close.
You fight to show the strength of civilization
In the deepest corner of a desert storm.
And she teaches patience and ephemerality,
And treats every day as her last 

“And it may just be the last.” 

But even bricks built from the fossils of the past,
Crumble when the smallest fractures spread too far.
An Arizonian vending machine in the 3 am chill,
Forgotten by those no longer lost,
Will someday run out of change.
And a Palo Verde in the sun
Will lose her leaves.
But the gentle hum of distant memory
And the chill of a tired machine
May give a lost soul the courage to travel home.
For the first time in years,
I dream of the place where I can be cocooned by
The gentle embrace of humanity alone.
For the first time in years, 

“I miss home.” 

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