Mercury’s Emperor

by James Himberger

Before him a desert
Crowned in glass
Scratching its life
From the dim beams
Of the Pleiades.
Of what little comes
Much is made of it.

The precipice beckons.
New modes and disorders
He contemplates.
A stone’s throw
Will break the feet of clay
And fell the colossus
Constructed against itself.

Behind the portico
Statesmen sigh, perplexed.
Sprawled on the arms of clocks.
When all veils are lifted
There is little that can be done.

Amid the shattering glass,
He smiles at the forms and shapes
That dance upon the hurtling shards,
Like a sunset fragmented
Across the horizon.

For a moment,
Arches, spires, columns
Arrange themselves
At speeds unholy
By arts unknown.
Kingdoms of the elsewhere,
Unimagined republics,
Crackling with strife,
Living and dying all at once.

But within this swirling basin,
No great chain reanimates
Of bodies corporate,
Glinting with incarnate crowns.
Their pastures do not throng into Heaven.
Nor do their phantasms stream into stone.
No, the vaults of those solemn architects
Do not mingle with the stars.

And yet, a far off country can be seen
In hazy outlines of possibility.
Memories of a future lost,
Their fragments recovered only
In cracks and hisses
Between transmissions:
“I will come. But not yet.”

Instead, powers undreamt of fill the air.
Managers of the sovereign void,
Mark divisions over the globe
Dripping circuits of gleaming slime.
Pulsating, but not breathing,
They restrain vast winds and waters,
With grim institutes,
Bringing forth a new desert
Its vitreous diadem restored.

All that was before,
And all that comes after
Are useless to him.
His life is spent
In those moments of collapse.
Each one a private Valhalla
Every shard enshrined.
And the hoary gods lead him
Up avenues, through gardens,
In the dying light,
To take his place
Among the statuary
In the final alcove.

Dead Fish

by Sarah Goldstein

this river, like all
rivers, has at last run dry
she no longer asks
if I thirst, if I wander
as she goes to fetch water

these questions that, so
long ago, my ears once heard
these crumbling words, flow—
sink and are swallowed
perhaps become fish



Dear Vera

by Matthew McGovern

Dear Vera,

How long it took I do not know, but over the hills and through the woods, my letter found its way.

I’ll write to you until we’ve chopped down all the trees and left none for paper. Until each and every last wellspring – of ink, oil and inclination – has dried. Until the USPS goes bankrupt and carrier pigeons have gone extinct. Until carpal tunnel wrenches my wrists and there are no more ways for my words to get through. 

Having said that, I’ll neither email nor instant message – direct, indirect or otherwise – I’m categorically opposed. You see, despite my zeal, I’m afraid you will read me right off the bat, and leave me as such, merely ‘read’, crossed off a to-do list or, worse yet, lost in the ether. Web worldwide and images moving, I want to be more than a figment or pixel. 

Digitized words are a distraction like a fruit fly or gnat, batted away, a bright screen piquing from which you turn. Instead, please stop for a moment, hold the envelope scuffed and traveled, before opening with a penknife or peel and tear in. I hope you can acquaint yourself with my odd lettering that weaves and bobs and abbreviates, thoughts which wind across the page and escape their given partitions. 

I aim to be legible in the full sense of the word, but  what’s the harm if you have to squint and decipher, hold up the letter to your eyes? I invite you close! May there be no gulf between these words and what reaches you. 

Two stamps and a kiss, I send my words. Be in good health and high spirits, we’ll see each other again and I require no reply, foremost I want to be read true. Namely, by you. 



To the government (or whoever masturbates to my mail),

by Anonymous

Words are omnipresent, they are dictators of a population. The Mandate of Heaven, Constitution, Communist Manifesto, Magna Carta have provided a historical lineage of political leaders owning the spirit of the masses. Doomsday preachers on Houston, children in the rural villages of Yunnan, even the great grandchildren of John F Kennedy all recite the prayers of such statuesque and now nameless leaders (do you know who drafted the Treaty of Westphalia?). I, for one, admit I have remained trapped in this genealogy. In fact, a portrait of George Washington officiated my marriage, he watched me sign off on the government’s possession of our every thought. Now I insist on enacting my revenge.

Here are my demands:


Fuck me
Fuck me every singe day, even when I’m crying
Especially when I’m crying.
Use my tears as lube and fuck me
until I start crying again


Chant my name, the name of my hermit crab, street name, grandfather, middle school science teacher whose toad like eyes remain repressed in my vision
Chant like you believe that Franco existed outside of the Iberian
Chant until the words you shriek are a generation’s doctrine
Chant until each little red book is worshipped in chapels, mosques, schoolyards
Chant until declarations outlive the image, until Mao is not just an Andy Warhol portrait
But a secular god
Chant until Mount Rushmore is Olympus
Chant until your esophagus fractures, collapses
Chant until it’s just sounds, a yodel through your teeth
Chant until even Roosevelt gets hard


Open each door you come across
Before I pass,
Kitchen cabinets, cars, chests, books
All doors must remain unhinged.
I want my face to smash into all open doors, shins bruised battered, A/C units
Plummeting from your open windows
Keep them open
Wide enough to free each syllable
Sentences mean nothing
Unless they’re open
Open high enough
Open low enough
To where my blood and the words commingle
Form an unmovable mass that keeps the doors open


Clean your hands before you touch me
Please God
Not with Mississippi tap,
No holy water
No mountain, snow, valley, river, glacier, sleet, rain, acid
Cleanse your hands with the creek water
By our house
And If the water runs dry
Wade in the dirt
Wait until the creek flows
Sit in the stars
Expect the creek to flow it always does
Rub your hands until they’re raw
Only then can you touch my skin, hair, toes
I want you to steal my words with your pristine hands
Translate your touch into writing
Into a notarized pledge
Feel my theories
Letting only creek water drop on my brow
Letting only the flow of each sediment build upon my mantras


Read my thoughts
Repeat biased opinions back at me
Back to back
Create a dictionary of my images
Speak my transgressions
Regardless of my apologies
Wait for the moment
Wait for the anxiety before our first kiss
Wait for me to blackout, unfettered and filled with a Stalinist rage
Wait until I’m so emotionally exhausted from carrying the limp body of my desire that
I can hardly rise
Then pounce on my words
Vomit these phrases back onto my shoulder, pour units of language down my tank top
Fill my boxers
With the constitutional doctrine of my love for you


Marry my tongue, feel the saliva
Drip down your throat
Think of it when you’re showering
When your fingers
Have touched what I own
What my words own
When you start cumming in the shower
Think of your vow
The transcendent paper certificate
Your commitment to my legalistic possession of you
What is our love without a judicial signature
Without a vocal claim, our relationship is merely a transition phase
A waiting game
Where this social contract
Is purely carnal
So when the cum starts dripping down your leg in our shower
Don’t think of my face, not the minute details of my hip bones
Revive the promises
Wordy affirmations of power
Remember the documentation trapped in the fourth floor of city hall
The verbal agreement I’ve shoved down your throat each night since
Retain that spit for it is no longer mine


Kill me when it’s time
Publish my diaries for I want to live forever

Is this not how you expected me to build a nation?
A family only exists with demands
Words piling on each other
Fulfilling the primal urge to exist infinitely
When you meet my demands
I no longer exist
Just words
But my words are what’s always been
Where would Russia have been without Lenin
There was no Lenin
Simply words
Sufficient to rally a population
Peace, land, and the orgasmic desire to remain submissive
The toe-curling, eye-rolling, leg-shaking gratification for oppressive language
Terror and words are codependent
If no-one died this wouldn’t exist
And so I demand you to follow them
But do you really have a choice?

Stardust Soul

by Meghan Davis

Hovering nearer time and again
Iced planets spiraling around each other
rotating about separate axes
Steady gazes remaining tethered
peripheral to the parallel trajectory
carved out beside them

An alluring, inconceivable glimpse spurs
ceremonious slowing of elliptic orbits
Reversing direction, beginning to align
Timidly drawing warmer

Until gravity overwhelms hesitation
and celestial bodies collide
in an earth-shattering explosion
Sending shockwaves across silent plains
Melded afterglow burning up
remnants of endured solitude
Piercing once empty darkness
with freckled light

Waltzing Practice

by Moumina Khan

A majestic palace, a darkened stage, a cloudless sky, a blank page

A clock in the background.


(And a five! Six! Seven! Eight!)

Words dance and leap and twirl

Spinning through sentences and pirouetting around punctuations

With carefree smiles, gliding effortlessly through invisible lines

Their adorning adjectives glistening:

Splendid diamonds dangling off the swells of letters

Verbs, their beckoning smiles gently grabbing eyes and tugging them along the pages,

To dance the night away, lost among the whirling colors of ethereal nouns bedecked in finery



Spun from ink and paper

Tone and cadence reaching a cresceNDO

Then thundering down, arms outstretched as if to


A perfect landing, balanced on poised toes. A smile, a final bow, and the curtain falls.


A pile of ruin, a creaky stage, a sun­blocking cloud, a passing age

A pen, hovering over a page

Poised between blue lines

Ink pooling behind a ballpoint tip

Quivering, tremoring,


To replicate the words dancing through the mind,

Until they spill off the paper and smudge onto the desk and coat the fingers

in the ebony residue of their performance.


And a five





A tremble, a want

Ink escaping the crevices between the balled point

Dripping through the air, ready to dance and twirl onto the blank page that arrives closer and closer­­–oh, already it is straightening its form to fall into a perfect shape­­– hand outstretched, landing in a


A blemish

An ugly, misshapen smear

A ruined page, a procession of mismatched words tripping over their feet

Tumbling and crashing into each other

Landing in a misshapen heap

Piling up in crossed ­out sentences and becoming

dark sludge until they press up against darkened bodies, their weight crushing chests and pressuring thoughts and slowly stealing breath from lungs as they force themselves down throats

and snatch strangled gasps and squeeze out hot tears that drip onto and blur those invisible lines

until you can’t breathe and you’re drowning and you’re closing your eyes and…

And a five. Six. Seven. Eight.



A ring of ashes, a darkened stage, a discolored sky, a tarnished page.

Fingers curled around a poised pen.


A diamond adjective, an alluring verb,

A midsummer’s ball, twinkling just out of sight in the corners of thoughts


Hand just out st r e t c h   ed

A lit match, a brewing storm, a shushing audience, a focusing form.

A pen touches the page

An intake of breath, the piercing first note of a waltz

The words dance again.


by Madison Reid

We are sitting in an Italian restaurant, sunlight tickling the table between us
Should I get a tattoo, I ask, I think I want a bird, maybe on my sore hip bone
You tell me I’m being cliché And that maybe you’ll ink a raisin on your heel
or something

Time and Time Again

By: S.J. Swoap

No one has more time and less use of it than a living man with a dead wife.

He sat in the movie theater, not looking at the empty seat beside him, the only empty seat in the theater. He stared instead at his watch, a fiftieth anniversary gift.

Four minutes from that theater was the high school where they’d met, and he’d asked if she had an evening free to see a movie with him.

He’d bought her a ticket to that showing and this one too.

Three more minutes down the road was the church where he’d worn a black suit and she a white dress, and they’d both said, “I do.”

The lights dimmed.

Two minutes’ walk around the corner was the house where’d they’d spent their minutes together.

It was a reshowing of that same movie they’d watched on their first date in high school.

One minute farther was the hospital where she’d lain in bed, he’d held her hand, and the nurse had said, “push,” and he’d cradled their baby boy; next to it was the train station where the boy, grown now, had gone off to war never to return; and there’s the hospital again, her in the bed again, he’d held her hand again, but somber then; and the church again, in a black suit again, tears then, and roses laid on a grave.

He looked up from his watch as the show started. He had all the time in the world now.

The Caricature

By: Joseph Harmon

If he were anything at all, he thought he might be a homing pigeon. That night, he tripped over a crack in the pavement, split his knee, and tracked a trail of blood spots through the halls of their building. Maribel had to go back and clean it up so it didn’t look like a murder. While she took care of business, he sat on the kitchen floor and buried his head in his hands. It was half a joke.

She came back through the door with her hair coming loose from her ponytail, falling apart in little ways but surging toward him, somehow in control. He felt the familiar warmth spread from his stomach as he watched her. It was sunny and dumb, sort of like liquor. It was also a reminder: he was magnetic through all of his mess, and that was why he was a pigeon. The magnetism was in their brains, it told them where to fly. He could screw it all up but find his way home.

He kissed Maribel on the neck and breathed in her laundry smell.

“Shouldn’t have happened,” he mumbled into her ear.


“The knee.”

“Oh, the knee,” she said, remembering, and fetched the first aid kit. “You’re no superhero.”

“What?” he said, even though he heard her.

“You bleed like everyone else,” she said.

He wanted to argue. No, no bleeding. Ty had tried to call him a cab, but he had walked all the way home. He needed nothing, no one. He was invincible.

Then he started to crack himself up. Invincible, who was he kidding? His head was just hollow, filled with the same old echoes. Work the next morning was an alarm in the background.

“My earbuds are broken,” Maribel told him. “You want to be a superhero, you can fix those.”

“What happened?” he asked, barely moving his lips.

“They went through the wash.”


“Sometimes I get little shocks when I listen.”

“Like that thing to start your heart. Defrill…”

“Defibrillator.” Maribel knew what she was talking about. She rubbed her hands together to mimic the paddles, and he imagined how that jolt of electricity would feel when it tore through his body. She would know how to make it painless.

“Hey, you saved me,” he said, before she could touch him.

She fixed him with a complicated look that his mind couldn’t untangle.

“Clear,” she said. “They say that right before, so everyone knows about the electricity. So they can get out of the way.”

He nodded, that was all he was good for, and she settled her hands over his heart.


*  * *


Lately, on the way to work, he had noticed people looking at him in the street. Their eyes looked as vacant as the goldfish Mom had got him as a kid. So blank, but they were searching somehow. As if they might know him, as if they expected to find answers in his face. What the hell? He was no answer.

He emerged from the subway and tried to savor the movement. He worked as a security guard and had to stand still for hours on end. When he got antsy, he tried to convince himself that it was better than, say, coding. Up in those shiny glass towers, tapping out numbers for no good reason.

He felt best during his smoke break. He breathed out, he could see it in the air, and it was that easy to create something.

Back in the day, he and Ty used to smoke together in the tunnels. There was a creek that ran under the nice neighborhoods, but it was just a trickle, so they stood on the edges and their sneakers got a little soggy but that was it. They’d spray paint the walls with all kinds of wild shapes, and they’d talk about—not about the future, exactly, but about how things might be. The little feelings that melted in and out, when he couldn’t be sure whether they would come back or if that was just the paint fumes talking.

That didn’t matter with Maribel, because they were both funny people. Everyone got the same boring normal things delivered to them each day, but funny people knew how to scramble them up into something electric. They couldn’t leave it stale and flat, no sir. Most people won’t tell you that because they don’t want to let you in on the trade secret, but he’ll tell you. He’s honest that way.

They had been introduced at a party. Her friend, Melissa, shoved them together. She had been a little tipsy, a wild gleam in her eye that reminded him of a racehorse straining for speed.

“Maribel,” she had said, pointing at her like an Uncle Sam “I Want You” poster. “You have to meet him. I know you two will get along.”

They had said hi, and he had bugged his eyes out a little bit in Melissa’s direction. Saying, look at this, but also making fun of the idea that anyone would point out a thing like that. He operated on a different script and he could show her the way out.

Maribel had looked at him and it was clear that she understood, but she flicked her eyes to the party. The way out was all around them, pouring drinks and laughing. As they continued to talk, he had known that someone real was standing in front of him. So many people just repeat what they hear, too locked in to follow him down interesting paths.

“You ever hear about racehorses?” he had asked her.

“Yeah,” Maribel had said, quick to the sarcasm. “I get that all the time.”

“Oh, well, never mind then.” He pretended to be deflated, but she kept a straight face.

“No, tell me. When you start off so bold, you’ve got to finish it.”

“Your mom tell you that?”

“No, I told myself. Why would you assume that?”

“Seems like mom advice.”

“Well, thanks.”

“So, racehorses,” he said, acting like she was really holding up his story here, interrupting his wisdom. The conversation was beside the point. She started to laugh but not quite, folding into herself and forward. She reached out to touch his shoulder, as if to say, you’re too much, as if they had known each other for years.

He had told Maribel how he had done debate back in high school and one of the topics had been that. They mistreated the horses, some people covered it up, and there were lots of ethical concerns. He was the second-best debater, and that came as a shock to everyone. They expected him to only be good at football.

“I just tell ‘em, well, I’m a battering ram with a brain,” he remembered saying.

He hadn’t finished high school after all, but got his GED. He had tried community college, but that just felt like more of the same, wasting his time in those cramped styrofoam cubes doing work they told him was important, when he knew it wasn’t important, when he was busting his ass trying to make rent during the day. Maribel was in school then, playing their game. She wanted to be a nurse practitioner.

She had driven for different rideshare companies on the side, and had even lived nocturnal for a while to get by. She had said that her favorite time to drive was four in the morning. The streets were empty, she had said, all yours, and any passengers that you picked up were too lost to care how fast you went.

“Did you book it?” he had said. “I would’ve. All the way up to 100, past 100, and then I’d go anywhere, I’d go to…” He had tried to think of a destination, somewhere far away, but he couldn’t name one.

“Where should I go?” he had asked her.

“Nowhere,” she had said. “Stay right here.”

Melissa stayed by them for a while, struggling to keep up with their conversation.

“He’s such…such a caricature, isn’t he?” she had said to Maribel.

“He really is,” Maribel said, leading her to the couch for some water. She meant to say ‘character,’ but it felt better that way, more real. Over her shoulder, Maribel threw him a smile.


*  * *


Usually, he and Maribel texted each other during his smoke break. They pretended to need each other desperately, and part of them meant it. They acted like they hated each other when the other didn’t respond. There were exclamation points and emoji and memes that neither of them understood. Today, radio silence. Her appointment was at 5:30, and that was all he could think about.

He thought about her plans up ahead, and what she would look like running gurneys down halls, saving lives. He thought about his own mom and how her plans were derailed by having him. When his dad stepped out, she stepped up to the challenge. She had been a real superhero, providing for them and giving him a real childhood, somehow, as best as she could. Nothing like Ty went through. He thought about what kind of father he would be, letting the old movies and cartoons echo through. He could almost smell the Cheerios ground into the carpet.

He left work early and didn’t let the kids in the street bother him. Soft hair, wide open eyes. They’d get along because they were both open to anything.

He passed a ghost bike on his way to the touristy section. It was painted white, flowers in the front basket but no photograph to break his heart. That had almost been him. He had crashed as a kid, cracked some ribs, and Mom had feared the worst. He thought about the randomness of endings.

He had wanted to do this for weeks. There was a guy drawing caricatures at the end of the street. He stopped him before he could close up for the day and asked for just one more. The guy agreed, maybe seeing some desperation in his face, maybe just out of human kindness. It only took ten minutes.

He met Maribel at the bus stop and hugged her close, the caricature folded up in his back pocket. On the way to the clinic, she told him stories about her childhood best friend, who was acting ridiculous as usual and dragging herself out of another disaster. He let her take the lead, but they were both laughing and both meant it. When she imitated her anatomy professor’s voice, that got him every time. He knew that she was hurting in a way that he couldn’t access.

When they arrived, he settled onto the sofa in the waiting room and helped her fill out the paperwork. He squeezed her hand when they called her name, when she stood up to go. He had the rest planned out. When she came back, he would take her hand and they would leave that tiny room behind forever. He would pull the caricature from his pocket and show her. She’d laugh. Anyone would. It was funny and it was accurate, his features pinched and swollen, jaw comically square, all adding up to something extra-real. That’s how I want it to be, he would tell her. That’s how I am with you. Together they would find their way home.

They Watch the Moon

Inspired by the Trevor Paglen photograph of the same name

By: Ethan Resek

There are no roads to this place.

There are no sentences leaving this place.

There are no moons in this place

Even though it might look like it.


I express my love for this place.

I express my love for this place

With my eyes looking down.

A book and a mouth told me.


Yes, a book and a mouth told me

To look up instead of down. But I look

Down in shame. Ears open, ashamed.

Looking down in shame into the


Core of the earth, the core of the earth,

White disks dug into the core of the earth;

I love these disks dug into the core

Of the earth, into this core of my earth.