Love, Dungeons, Magic, Dragons or Some Combination Thereof Will Save This Marriage

By Marvin Shackelford

Featured Image: Power Shots by Sam Warren

My finest moment, the occasion that defines me as a person. Okay. You have to imagine the cliffs. Sheer and bleached in the light of a moon or two and rising from the foam of a screaming ocean. The sky is bleeding down in a magical haze, and a horde of monstrous creatures roars nearer. That happens all the time. This isn’t metaphor. They’re armed and armored and charging from the landward side, and the petulant face of a dead god breaks open out over the waters. His teeth drip with death and his eyes are storms, literal lightning and thunder and hailstones, bearing down on where I stand at the edge of the world. He’s starting to take physical form. He’s getting real. I’m the focal point of the material plane for once in my miserable life, and I thrust the crystal, that plain-looking clear-color gemstone pulled unwittingly from a dragon’s trove, I drive it straight into my heart. Breastplate undone and hair flinging in the wind and my lover wailing as I drop into his arms. Our enemy screams and begins to fade. I’ve saved the world.

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Clue Junior

By Luciana Arbus-Scandiffio

I cut the crowd loose, I stack the deck twice
I feed you shrimp cocktail
I sort through the loose mail
When it rains, it worms and we blow the house down
Wishing on the wick
I am the boss of this clique!

My uniform is a pebble, my mouth
Hums trouble. All I do is stay inside
One-legged, I hide
In the clutter of my mothers
Turning red with permanent marker
Wasting hours with Colonel Mustard

Eating ring-dings for dinner
Singing happy birthday forever
On Facebook, searching father
Then deleting my browser
Faceless, I cower and wave to the mirror
Eating the angel hair of the dog

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Sonnet (I Have Two Moms)

By Luciana Arbus-Scandiffio

In the seventh grade we debated gay marriage. I was con.
I stayed home. Kept my hair in a braid and kept my braid
to myself. Tucked my name like a secret up my sleeve.
Wore hideous loafers. Ate full-sized boxes of Twizzlers.
Became rigid, a painting. Still Life with Social Studies.
My skullcap, full of doves. My face, a hot button.
Press it! Pierce my timid ears. In the bathroom eating
a turkey sandwich and Jenny dragging my zipper down
to see what was there. Con: my whole life riding
on a hyphen. Con: my hands blue with luck. An eyelash
on my finger. Two of anything can build a bridge.
The love makes me lonely. The love makes my family.
A slogan of roses. A crown of sugar ants
eating through the gymnasium floor.

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Mr. Cosmos

By Jill Christman

Featured Image: Shadows by Sam Warren

It matters not who you love, where you love, why you love, when you love or how you love, it matters only that you love.

~ John Lennon 

This morning I made a single-cup drip coffee and poured too much water through the small yellow cone. When I lifted the cone to peek, strong, black coffee filled my white mug to the brim. 

Nay, not the brim, I thought. Past the brim. I hung onto the edge of the counter and brought my eyes down level with the top of the mug, marveling at the way in which the coffee arched up out of the mug, a bitter mountain, the strength of the surface tension pulling the coffee molecules beyond what seems possible. I would like to die on a coffee mountain, I thought, straightening my legs. I hadn’t yet had even a sip. Maybe it was time. The house was so quiet I could hear the muted ticking of the wall clock in the kitchen, thumping her plastic hands around inside her plastic face, bearing witness to the wonder of the coffee rising up and out of the mug, ticking off the seconds of our lives. 

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Poem for Paul Who Never Forgets My Birthday Even Though I Never Remember His

By Alyssandra Tobin

paul says                                careful with the benzos  
& I’m like                                                  I think of you
whenever                 my therapist brings em up      &
he’s like aww                     dunno if sweet’s the word                     
but it’s nice                                        to be thought of   

okay    sure     let everyone see  my cute belly     let
everyone know                    I covet some people I’m
supposed to hate                       paul’s stupid meth’d
out calls unbearable       his empty bottles his days
& months       wild-eyed                  & away

once                                we wore each others jeans  
his tiny gold waist                   in my teen girl pants 
now    on the phone                      he says what’s up
ya fuckin guinea!           he teaches me to play iron
man      he gives me that   ninth step apology  that
making                                  of meandering amends   

me     so  scared  of  dying                &  him  always                                     
chest deep in it                          I sit so quietly       a
very good dog                        in her dim little room      
but he            gives me cocky courage                  he
gives me  warm love        that boston street salt
kinda love              that let’s never brawl kinda love    
that I’ll kiss your dirt love          that I’ll help you lie
to chicks love       that mall parking lot love      that
if I’m a blight                     you’re a blight kinda love    
that noogie     that cackle      that snakebite     that
augur        that    yeah                          I’ll call you on
your bullshit pastures               if you call me when
my dumb pig jumps her sty         off to somewhere
cleaner than both                    our loud green yards

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I Love You Too, Bro

By Alex Howe

Featured Image: Mun by Sam Warren

for Catya McMullen

Beauty rears its ugly head – Assassins

You can be non-suicidal and less than jazzed about being here, two
Juuls at once like a pacifist dragon or the mild Dionysus of bad

ideas. Skip the Trix rabbit’s abjection: gift yourself the gift of
desperation, the terrible utility of popcorn for breakfast. “Whatever

you find uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium becomes its
signature, cherished and emulated as soon as it can be avoided”

explains Brian Eno bombing by on rollerblades into the flip phone
flipping shut into his fanny pack. The hotel’s Mahogany Hall

blooms two hundred vape plumes the moment the emcee mentions
prohibition on same. These teen alcoholics don’t drink, they bong

Monster, fuck senseless, talk about drinking. Pray to doorknobs.
Play Mafia. Splash the ping-pong ball into the cup of Red Bull.

Drop the sick beat. Crack your glow stick.

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Turn To Kristen Bell

By Alex Howe

for Darcie Wilder

Turn to Kristen Bell and ask if you should do something a little
reckless. “You know the world is ending, right?” She’s not the
person you go to when you want to be talked out of something.
That’s what probation officers are for. Kristen Bell doesn’t think
people take yolo seriously enough. It’s tough to argue with her. She
says, “What’s a little reckless?” You tell her you’ve always loved
her. Love-loved. She laughs. “That makes sense. No offense.”
You’re starting to have second thoughts about flying this plane into
Exxon headquarters. You’re starting to panic. Name three objects in
the cockpit. Name an animal that cloud resembles. Estimate the
plunging angle of descent. As if sensing your turbulence, Kristen
Bell says, “Have you ever seen First Reformed? With Ethan
Hawke?” “Daddy,” you respond. “Exactly,” she whispers. “Daddy.”

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Domestic Chess

By Andrea Bianchi

Featured Image: Pink Rat by Ellery Pollard

1. His first move is checkmate.

2. A punch that expels the laughter from my stomach as I stand before him at the end of our chess game.

3. “Wipe that smirk off your face,” he hisses beneath the Saturday morning chatter and jazz of the coffeeshop. “You’ve been gloating. Taunting,” he says. And yes, after our first sips, I did tease him to try for a victory, challenge him to a game of chess. Wanting to imitate another couple, heads bent intimate over their own little world of 64 checkered squares, at a tiny table just a bishop’s diagonal from the sofa where we sat.

4. He waits there afterward, tense on the cushion’s edge, when I return from the restroom, from a respite after his loss of the competition, his loss of composure. But his eyes pierce my smile as I pause in front of him. My stomach at the same plane as his arm. And then his fist connects level with the center of our lives.

5. It breaks the rules of play—and of the law, and of our love. Our months of happy Saturdays at the beach. Dinners beneath twinkling lights. Fights, arguments, yes. But afterward, mornings under the sunlight-checkered bedcovers, where we fed each other breakfast and curled together with our cats, as we mapped out plans for our shared weekends, then our first shared apartment. Our relationship’s next moves.

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My Daughters Sometimes Dress as Ladybugs

By Brian Simoneau

Featured Image: Untitled by Tanner Pearson

and I hope they won’t
outgrow it—little heroes
flitting leaf to leaf
in their polka-dotted suits
of armor, their vicious
pursuit of the feasting
pest that destroys what
beauty these days still lives.

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