COVER DESIGNED BY KIP KNOTT
PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIP KNOTT
READ WITH CARE
SHE COULDN'T SCREAM
Nicole Starker Campbell
because always in this nightmare
the fist punched down and filled her throat
squeezed her glistening, meaty heart.
arms and legs thrashing in tangles of silence and sheets
NICOLE STARKER CAMPBELL
Nicole Starker Campbell left the cubicle to pursue work that doesn’t require wearing shoes. She currently lives and writes in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta and her favourite people tell her she's a cool aunt.
your legs interrupt the light beneath the door
bruised to the next power
this looks like a good place to
make a bad decision
my guilt nurses traumas
my scars and shame tell the story
According to her daughter, Lizz reads books and talks on the phone for a living. She also hikes, writes, paints, and books flights to see concerts for funsies.
POETRY BY Silk~
There's more where that came from!
photo by Erich Von Hungen
erich von hungen
The gurney with the sheet pulled to the top,
the hospital room with the smell of disinfectant,
the soundless television like a candle burning,
the sirens always approaching like a choir singing;
this stiff, still picture of good-bye too hard and real for any eye.
ERICH VON HUNGEN
Erich von Hungen is a writer from San Francisco, California. He lives under a giant Norfolk pine in a century old house between Golden Gate Park and the Pacific Ocean,
where he creates poetry that explores the darker side of life. He has launched four collections of poems: Witness: 100 Poems For Change, Bleeding Through: 72 Poems Of Man In Nature, Kisses: 87 Love Poems, and In Spite Of Contagion: 65 COVID-19 Poems.
Find him at https://twitter.com/PoetryForce
artwork by Dan Farkas
THE FOURTH DIMENSION
I exited the taxi, negotiated the short walk on a gravel road alongside giant hedges, a patch of grass, barbed wire fencing, and passed through the gate proclaiming “Arbeit Macht Frei.” I stood in the main yard of the preserved Nazi work and extermination camp outside an upper Bavarian town called Dachau. The weight of the place was palpable and amplified a ballooning amalgam of incomprehension and sorrow. The storm of emotion took me toward a disconnection from reality. I contemplated how the fourth dimension, time, separated me from awful fate. I shuddered…more than once.
Dan Farkas is an itinerant New Yorker currently exiled in Cleveland. His joys in life come from creative writing, photography, Elton John, Steely Dan, his wife and kids, and sometimes the NY Rangers. His latest published pieces are “Summer’s End on Erie” in The Birdseed Magazine and “Ascension Song” and “A Late Lunch” in The Prompt Magazine. His Twitter handle is @DNARNADan.
I match with a dying man on Tinder. His account disappears. I go to bed, wake up, swipe left on a friend. Then I set out to return a flower crown I rented from a costume shop (the flowers were fake). I must pass through my old neighborhood. A street sign is marked with three dots; according to Reddit, these were painted by a schizophrenic boy who believed his third nipple to be a third eye. A mailbox reads “666”; a tricycle leans against it. It’s December and 70. Everybody’s beautiful and dying right now. Everybody is the Earth.
Brittany Menjivar is six feet tall in her favorite boots. In 2021, she graduated from Yale, where she majored in English and Film radicalization and haunted house studies. Her short film "Fragile.com" (dir. Alison-Eve Hammersley) is available for streaming on the ALTER YouTube channel, where it has received over one million views. Her poetry has been published by pan-pan press. Follow her exploits on Twitter and Insta @BrittMenjivar.
We live behind the curtain-
Just past earshot of the main players,
where depravity and drugs change hands;
We sneak up as the gallery begins to fill -
everyone carrying in rotten vegetables and
propaganda right past security.
Scott Cumming unsuspectingly went to see Garden State wearing his Shins tee. He has been published at The Daily Drunk, Punk Noir Magazine, Versification, and Shotgun Honey. His poem, “Blood on Snow”, was voted the best of Outcast Press Poetry Things We Carry issue and nominated for a Pushcart. His collection, A Chapbook About Nothing, was released in December as part of Close to the Bone's First Cut series.
Twitter: @tummidge Website: https://scottcummingwriter.wordpress.com/
My old aunt’s watery eyes
drown cataracts and myopia.
I must move nose to nose till
recognition lights up a smile
but recall not so long ago
when she frowned to see me gay.
*James beat our Angry Robot with this poem
A native New Yorker, James Penha (he/him) has lived for the past three decades in Indonesia. Nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and poetry, his work is widely published in journals and anthologies. His newest chapbook of poems, American Daguerreotypes, is available for Kindle. His essays have appeared in The New York Daily News and The New York Times. Penha edits The New Verse News, an online journal of current-events poetry. Twitter: @JamesPenha
CLOTTING IS A GENDER PROBLEM
just when i think i have it contained
my body wakes
like a hive from hibernation
and the red remembers
Skyler James (they/them) is a writer, nomad, and unyielding advocate. They write compulsively and their work can usually be found in deeper arteries. They can usually be found in the woods, around a dumpster fire, or on twitter @tender_eldritch.
TOWNIE BOY, 1989
After their fight, she drove sixty miles in a Jane Fonda leotard to the church theater, where halfway into her piroutte, a tattooed stagehand winked. Junk car mechanic, boyfriend of pregnant redhead, not his, he assured, townie lowlife, her boyfriend would have called him. Weeks of sweet fumblings on the green room couch, cast parties guzzling sea breezes, dizzying falls onto his waterbed, shadow swirling to Journey ‘til dawn. That Sunday morning, massaging her foot under a booth at Spigley’s Diner, she told him she’d ended it. He stared down at his eggs. The kid needs a father, he said.
Phyllis Rittner writes poetry, flash fiction and creative non-fiction. Her work has been published in the Journal of Expressive Writing, HerStry, Friday Flash Fiction, Fairfield Scribes, Six Sentences, Sparks of Calliope and others. She is the winner of the Grub Street Free Press Fiction Contest and a member of The Charles River Writer’s Collective.
What Doesn't Kill Me Better Run by Oh de Leval
leia k. bradley
Like anything straddling ripe and rot, I am on the verge of attracting flies
girlhood desperate as low hanging fruit; once shooing lovers with church fans, now knives
Doe-dead on the side of the road, fruit flies swarm ’round the knees, horseflies gnawing at neck,
roadkill limbs (mine) strapped to the hood of a pickup, headlights hot between the legs
In the meantime, swatting
LEIA K. BRADLEY
Leia K. Bradley is a Southern born, Brooklyn based writer and lesbian love witch, as well as an MFA candidate at Columbia University. She has work in Poetry Project and Ubiquitous and can be found dancing through candlelit speakeasies or climbing barefoot up a magnolia tree with a tattered copy of Stone Butch Blues tucked into her dress. She is currently celebrating her first divorce.
You made a fort in our backyard when I was little,
Covered in blood from victory wounds and bent nails.
I forget about it until the funeral director asks,
"Oak or Mahogany?"
Megan Cassiday is a wannabe poet and education student from Michigan. You can find her on twitter @MeganLyn_
MY FATHER TAUGHT ME HOW TO COLOR
between meth binges
my old man scribbled
against the road
between the lines
over the median
into the tree
Jenna Manley is a poet, author, and artist who lives with her fiancé, a mischievous cat, and a very handsome dachshund mix. She has been published in Cold Moon Journal, #FemKuMag, and Paragraph Planet. You can follow her work on Twitter at @jenna_e_manley.
Mouths are gaping wounds
gashed by God
Just a 21-year-old who loves dogs, cheesecake, and writing the occasional micro poem :)
i don’t want things to get too deep
but tell me if
you ever get him hard
Tiffany Shaw-Diaz is a nocturnal soul who can be found haunting her local library when not writing or wrecking havoc. Follow her on IG and Twitter @tiffanyshawdiaz.
THE POETRY GROUP
Poets gaggle in head bobbings
of sympathy if not admiration
for the self-skinning that bares
the bleeding muscles of their souls
"Flayed Autopsy Skin" by The Trauma Shop
Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. He’s had over three hundred stories and poems published so far, and six books. Ed works the other side of writing at Bewildering Stories, where he sits on the review board and manages a posse of nine review editors.
On Birth, Balloons, & Bated Breath
The digital clock blinks of red and reeks of beer. Someone spilled a can. Or took a leak. All details fleeting. All bones aching. Stroboscopic effects proliferate. Pulses palpitate. My shift begins at 9:00. The alarm’s LEDs must have tripped. Then stopped. All laces untied. The Converse smell, too. Of mulch and mayhem. Conversation too much to ask. A solitary balloon levitates in the room’s far-right corner. Shadowing the door. Its power stretched of lavender hues. I’ll be late for my shift. Not because of over-consumption or under-preparation. It’s the allergy, of course. Latex a potent foe since birth.
Jen Schneider is an educator with a legal background. She likes words and stories with unresolved conflict. She’s a fan of late nights, long novels, and saying “No” (sometimes “Yes”), too.
poetry & photography by
there was no beginning
the metal tools scraped my insides
and the doctor pulled the remains
of my tiny embryo and now
versification regular contributor
Victoria Toykkala (v.m.t), 24 is a writer living in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Her work has appeared in Tiny Wren lit and is forthcoming in DRIECH and Bullshit Lit. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @vmtpoetry
SHE WANTS TO FORGET
She wants to forget why she stays ass planted on a wooden barstool while a serpent's tongue slathers her soul with toxic waste from yesterday's trash. She wants to forget the blistering kiss, the zealous eyes, the blindsiding hands. She wants to forget the endless pleas when she spots him with another and another and another. She wants to forget when he says it isn't his; her stomach falls, her breath hits pause til rising guts spill self-disgust. She tries to forget, goes back to forget—Never forgets.
Karen Crawford currently lives in the City of Angels where she writes to slay demons one word at a time. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Rejection Letters, A Thin Slice of Anxiety, Potato Soup Journal, Sledgehammer Lit, among others. You can find her on Twitter @KarenCrawford_
debut poetry by
she told me
Women hold secrets
but I wasn't
ready to understand
M.E. West is a life long voracious reader who writes about dark topics such as loneliness,
depression, death, trauma, and motherhood. She is an astrologer who does birth chart readings
and spends time with her family and two children with autism. She enjoys travel, bookstores,
cozy spaces, coffee, podcasts, and has an odd sense of humor.
THE DEMON IN ME...
the demon in me
hates the demon in you
but they never hurt
Only we do that
versification regular contributor
Bob Carlton (Twitter @bobcarlton3) lives and works in Leander, TX. Living a life of no outward incidents worthy of note may be why he writes. Or not. At any rate, his meager publication record and two Pushcart nominations have turned him into an insufferable bore to those who must listen to him, especially unwary editors attempting to solicit interesting and exciting bio notes.
The safety pin came out the other side of my lip, red & chrome like a car crash.
The thread ditched the needle, snatched by the sandstorm, fed to balding daisies.
All I have left of the dustbowl is sagging motes of memories, zigzagging lightning bugs
That crumple on my windowsill the same way Jared did after the grand mal seizure.
You don’t need more than a foot of tar to drown, less than an inch of air to asphyxiate.
These days, I steer clear of scarecrow smiles and starch-sleeved hucksters,
But I am still envious of their Heaven-set gaze.
Paige Johnson @KettyKat8 is editor-in-chief at Outcast Press. Her strip club story, The Blue Hour, features in their first anthology: In Filth It Shall Be Found. Her debut poetry book, ‘21 & Over, about everything from murder to molly and manic crushes will be released this summer.
FROM YOUR LIPS TO SATAN'S EARS
You lay me against the metal of the fence. Half an ear lost to a pinch of barbed wire, blood signature across the NO TRESPASSING sign. What transgressions did we leave over that thorned barrier? What secrets buried in that land that wasn’t ours? You lace your kiss with reassurance, cognac, floral notes on plastic flowers, to never live, to never die. She whispers, Thank God, when I walk through the door, but part of me is still on that fence, echoes of your ecstasy ringing in what used to be my ear. Years from now she’ll kiss my scars, lament the skin she never got to love, but she’ll never touch that ragged spot, knowing without asking that it still listens for your name.
Barlow Adams is a trespasser at heart and has left pieces of himself scattered across the tri-state area, hung like ornaments on barn doors and broken windows, perched high on spikes of gated communities. Sometimes he wonders if those are the most important pieces of him. But usually he doesn’t. Follow him on Twitter @BarlowAdams
We smile over breakfast, making the best of it,
Despite the previous nights, malice words, we carry on
An uneasy alliance, for the sake of the children, what a farce
I take whiskey with my coffee it helps the medicine go down.
versification regular contributor
PUNK OF THE YEAR 2020
James Lilley, 33, is a married father of three from Swansea, Wales. He works as a network engineer by day, is a retired professional boxer, and an active Bareknuckle and MMA fighter. Lilley has been writing as a hobby since he was young, recently deciding to take the hobby more seriously by beginning his degree in Creative Writing.
MOST RECOGNIZED PUNK CONTRIBUTOR
ISSUE AFTER ISSUE, OUR PUNK REGULAR, KIP KNOTT, DELIVERS POETRY, PROSE, AND ARTWORK
three pieces by,
I used to believe the river
of my childhood was an open wound
seeping blood and sulfur,
that its source lay somewhere below
the earth, fed by all the dead miners
who call Hell their home.
Vertical & Horizontal
I cut both ways,
just to make sure.
In my recurring nightmare, Buff howls as he licks a dozen dripping puncture wounds around the arrows that porcupine from his body. I call him to my side, but the chain around his neck yanks him back to the maple tree that anchors him to this world. And when I take a step toward him, the arrows—as if pressed by some unseen hand—work their way deeper into his flesh and release fresh rivulets that stain his blonde fur red.
I taste the salt of bitten cheeks inside my mouth when I wake. The empty basket at the foot of my bed stares back at me like Buff’s one open eye when I found him by the skid marks on the road. My brother’s rhythmic breathing in the bunk overhead nearly lulls me back to sleep. But when I hear a distant barking, I know what dog guards the gate on the other side of consciousness.
Back in the 1980s, Kip worked for five years in the Department of Zoology at The Ohio State University. His desk sat between two rooms: "The Live Room," which was filled with aquariums full of live leeches and terrariums full of hissing cockroaches; and "The Dead Room," which was filled with buckets of preserved fetal pigs and hairless cats for students to dissect. He is a writer, photographer, and teacher living in Ohio. His most recent book of poetry—Clean Coal Burn—is available from Kelsay Books. / Website: kipknott.com / Twitter: @kip_knott / Instagram: @kip.knott