Carolina Hemlock//Abigail Pearson
Behind my teeth i hide poison
It is dipped on my tongue and
Laced in my breath
I am nothing if not
A goddess of death
Waiting to go down between your legs or
Bite you between your ears
The blood i love best is white
Not red or brown or golden
Taken from the souls of men who call my name on sidewalks
I am steady
Like a full grown tree
The axes my parents bring to my base
Bounce back on their own hands
While there may be rocks from time to time
How We Met Our Mother//Drew Cook
than the Reynoldsburg
than a German Baptist
in the parking
lot of a boarded-up
in the crowd
around the cage
MMA for Jesus
like watermelon gum
see too much
in the falling pattern
of a single, shedded eyelash
I Introduce My Son To Fire//Issa Lewis
Razor-sharp smoke scent lines our noses
as we creep closer, the wood hunks stacked
Fire needs breath,
The heat blankets our faces, presses like hands
over our mouths to keep us at a distance.
Fire is private,
has no want for company.
At two years old, my son sees only
feathered licks of char as patterns
to trace with chubby fingers—
Is It fear I wish to strike?
Or is it holding on?
Stand back, I tell him,
we respect the heat, take what it gives,
not asking for more.
The face of flames
constantly turns away.
Why does it burn? he asks with his eyes,
the corners of his mouth,
words still cradled in his throat—
I want to say
memories are flammable.
Pieces of seasons, dried and brittle:
we would rather they were ash.
because it’s hot.
The Promotion//Jahla Seppanen
“I’m afraid of falling down,” she says. I laugh. No, no, why’d you laugh. “Go on,” I say.
“I’m afraid of falling down and feeling so much pain that I faint and never wake up.” She glances around, hushes, reels back in, and sips her coffee. “How’s the office been?”
“It’s good. Busy,” I say. “Jeff wants me to fly to Indianapolis to meet the president.”
“That’s wonderful, darling.”
She takes another sip of coffee but nothing passes her teeth. “I ought to get a straw so I don’t stain,” she says, shaking into her body and sitting an inch taller, pulling a gold compact from her purple purse. “Hideous,” she says, “stained and yellow, and this blemish…”
She’s young and beautiful and so thin that the engagement ring I gave her for New Year’s slips around her finger as she tracks the problems in her face. For the record, I think she’s flawless. I reach across the round café table and adjust the diamond. She smiles. “You’re always taking care of me… when do you go to Indianapolis.”
“For how many nights?”
“Two… three, maybe.” A couple walks into the café, the man wearing the same beige slacks and black coat as I am and the woman in checkered dress pants and a white blouse like Marie. “They look just like us,” I say, “Only she doesn’t have a ring.”
“I need to get it cleaned. Maybe I’ll wait until you go to Indianapolis.”
“Get it done this weekend.”
She takes another sip and the coffee slips over her tongue and into her mouth without touching her front teeth. I can’t help but wonder why Jeff wants me to fly to Indianapolis for the DM meeting with the east coast team. There’s really no need to have me there. I’d hope it’s to begin my grooming for a promotion. I’d love to get Marie pregnant after the wedding in May. She can still do her writing and submit to magazines. Wait, there may be a position opening up in the New York branch. Jeff won’t leave Colorado so they’ll have to relocate me, which isn’t a problem. Marie hates it here.
“Did you?” Marie leans forward coming into my low gaze.
“Sorry, love, what?”
“You didn’t hear me, did you?”
“Of course I did. You said you’re getting the ring cleaned this weekend.”
“Yes, but after that.”
“I don’t want to play this game…” our doppelgangers kiss by the cream and the woman laughs much louder than is appropriate for the small space and covers her lips, blushing. He bites her fingers away and whispers something sweet.
“Nevermind,” Marie says.
“No, tell me.”
Marie has been without a job for eight months but it’s no financial strain. I like providing for her. She makes about two hundred dollars a month by writing her magazine stories. I like showing them to my friends at work and calling her a writer. She was very unhappy at her last job so I told her to quit. It took a couple months but finally she did. Now I’m waiting for the wedding, and to get her pregnant so she has something to do with her days. Alone at the house, she gets depressed. “I feel like I’m dying from the inside out,” she said last week. How am I supposed to respond? She cooked a great spaghetti squash with grass-fed beef and basil tomato sauce that night. I thought we were doing good.
“I don’t want to have to say it again. It’s embarrassing.”
“No, it’s not. Tell me.”
“… I was trying to tell you how afraid I get about falling. Terrified, I’m terrified of it, literally frozen. My muscles hurt, I’m so afraid, and you just wiped it away.”
“I heard you.”
“But you didn’t say anything. I want you to say something.”
Our doppelgangers were at the table behind Marie. The woman drank a cup of black coffee. She didn’t have a ring. I finished my coffee and considered getting another. Maybe there’s a DM opening in Florida. We’ve never talked about Florida but at least it’s not cold. That’s the part Marie hates about Colorado. She says it’s mostly the cold that makes her so sad. It would be just as cold in New York if I was promoted there. Yes, their grooming me for a promotion.
Abigail Pearson is a 22-year-old queer writer of novels and poetry. She has a black cat that she loves to cuddle with as she drinks tea and reads Dostoyevsky. Abigail has published poetry collections and short stories, her latest work A Mad Woman’s Voice can be found here: https://payhip.com/b/A47O
She resides in Eugene, OR.
Drew S. Cook
Drew S. Cook grew up in the Ouachita Mountains, and the sights and sounds of that region continue to inform his writing. In his life, he has been many things: an expert in obsolete operating systems, a rather disappointing former child prodigy, and a Bipolar I. He is also a student of literature and writing and begins doctoral studies at the University of Louisiana in the fall. His poems can be found in Nimrod, Pleiades, and elsewhere, and he has a couple of manuscripts that he would love to talk to you about. Drew’s current project explores the distortions that arise when oppressive ideologies are applied to Old Testament narratives.
Issa M. Lewis is the author of Infinite Collisions (Finishing Line Press, 2017) and a graduate of New England College’s MFA program. A runner-up in the 2017 Lois Cranston Memorial Poetry Prize and 2013 winner of the Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize, her poems have appeared in journals such as Mom Egg Review, Jabberwock, Pearl, and Naugatuck River Review.
Jahla Seppanen was born and raised off-the-grid in Madrid, New Mexico, cruising in her father’s Porsche 911 and renting Elvis movies from the old Boarding House. She earned a B.A. in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College in New York. Her fiction has appeared in Fourteen Hills Review, Litro UK, Niche, The Bookends Review, and others. Her vices include tequila and long runs. Follow her on Twitter @JahlaSeppanen