Fun with Xerox

July 1, 2018

It all started when Johnny lifted
her, laughing, onto the glass,
and as the green beam
scanned her ass he kissed her,
still laughing, their mouths
smashed and shoulders shaking.
He thumbed the print-out from
the tray and adjusted the contrast
on the machine, making gleeful
beeps with his forefinger then
telling her, Hop up there again.
She What if my ass gets cancer?
even as she turned backward,

raised her skirt, which bunched
and tightened over her thighs.
He What if your pussy gets herpes
from you-know-who? 
and they both

knew-who, and she’d flushed at that,
because she was dating Todd
who she didn’t like because Johnny
was dating Angela from another
department at the time
and she’d flushed again,
her ass warm, her cunt hovering
over the inner workings of the copier,
thinking of Angela who wears silk
blouses and would never
do this with Johnny or anyone else,
who would never have herpes.
She knows how mean grown
men can be when they turn, in a flash,
back to boyish. Still, now,
even the whir of the microwave oven
turns her on, the dull thud rumble
of the dryer, the soft click of the toaster —
any otherwise cold, inanimate thing
made intimate by electric current.

Amber Shockley

I think of it as coming
back to myself,
like a second cousin
visiting from the states
As if I’m waiting in
the airport terminal,
hands full of sweat
and a note stapled to my chest
I can’t remember when
I first became a space to be filled,
an empty vessel floating
in between the veil
But I’m starting to feel
like more of a splutter
than a storm,
and it’s moments like
this that make me think God
is just fucking irresponsible
I find myself digging
for my sense of wonder
at the bottom of my music box,
like the folded ears
of a saxophone player,
sitting across the bar
As if I’ll slide my hands
across the slime of my exterior,
slip back into my identity
like an old coat
While I tumble into the
empty bellied passion
of a man with small hands
and an inability to say my name,
hoping I’ll come across
my purpose for life
while drenched in his cum

Kaylene Mary

And have I loved you?

June 28, 2018

And have I loved you long enough by now?
A nod, a touch, our portion is all spent,
but that is what the grudging years allow.
No one can make an everlasting vow
to love, since only meagre time is lent.
So, have I loved you long enough by now?
Experience alone does not endow
strong spirit in a mortal element,
but that is all the grudging years allow.
There is no axiom to teach us how
to bear the mystery of slow descent.
Can I have loved you long enough by now?
Only the trembling hand, the withered brow
remain to show us where the music went,
but that is all the grudging years allow.
In spite of everything, then, let us bow,
begin the dance, defying precedent,
for I have loved you long and long by now,
no matter what the grudging years allow.

Conrad Geller

Kissing as a religion

June 26, 2018

In 19th century Rome it was said that the monks
kissed the backs of their hands as a sign of repentance.
Oh, how I repented as a Catholic girl, even as I kissed you —

kissing and repenting, kissing and repenting — as I pulled your top lip
with my teeth, biting ever so gently. How absurd to think
kissing gets any better than the first time you leaned over me,

breath thick with Jack and Coke, that rogue teenage elixir,
and whatever warp speed hormone instigates back seat sex
and what is now considered nothing but a little teasing

in the area of petting. Sounds like a zoo, kissing does, back then
travelling north on the county road just after dusk, after the cattle
lumbered off on their arthritic hocks, kicking up dust that smelled

like manure and left us alone in your idling car in the middle of the pasture.
I’ve fought the urge for years to write a poem about your lips, for which
I can only think in terms of “exquisite” and other adjectives strictly forbidden

in poetry classes — your perfectly aligned teeth, your soft boyish whispers.
Sometimes I think I was never actually there in the afterlife of your words,
those jerry-rigged one-liners bolstering my heart, stopping, not stopping

in my ear as you pulled back my hair. Now I think there was nothing to repent for,
nothing to confess. If ever there was a sin for which penance was required
it would be for never kissing like this not once since.

Susan Doble Kaluza

Pervert

June 24, 2018

The week before my mother died
I went to a feminist theory seminar
and even though I can describe myself as nothing
other than happily married, I wanted
another woman. An old-school butch —
the kind of woman who exudes lesbian
through every pore of her being, the kind of woman
who sits comfortably with her legs apart,
who stands forcefully, both feet
firmly on the ground, the kind of woman
known as ballsy and, on occasion, a ball-buster,
the kind of woman whose eyes sear
femme’s bodies, make our nipples
go hard, our clits erect, our pussies
wet, the kind of woman I desire.
And it was not just that I admired her power,
not just that I appreciated her sexual being
walking through the world, glancing at me,
giving me the benefit of lust. No, I had to
indulge in the full-frontal fantasy.
During two days of seminars, I imagined her hand
carefully inserted in my vagina, her long fingers
first stroking my muscular walls, gathering
the rhythm of sex, opening my vagina
to accommodate four fingers, a thumb,
then squeezing; I imagined how
my body would yield for her, how my lips
would quiver when my body erupted
into orgasm. I imagined looking into her eyes
as the ripples of my orgasm slid her tighter
and more deeply into my cunt. I imagined making
her the new core of my body, my second, slutty heart
in the way that only sex and lust bring
two women together. I imagined sucking her nipples,
laughing with her in the afterglow.
I imagined how much she would want me after I took her
whole hand inside me, and, though I do not
believe this, when my father called to tell me
about the bleed in my mother’s brain
and how I needed to come home to help him
with the work death entails, to mourn with him,
to bury my mother, though I do not
believe this at all, I could not help but think:
I caused my mother’s death with my lust.
Her death was G-d’s punishment for my desire
of someone outside marriage, G-d’s punishment
for my continual, unrelenting lust
for women, which my mother had condemned.
I could not help but see her in death
somehow justified in her anger, in her continued disappointment
with my perversity. I could not help
but think: I am the pervert
who caused my mother’s death.
I could not help but hear her final,
fatal words, crushing the lust,
the joy from the fantasy: all along she knew
I would kill her, and after her death,
she would hiss, I told you, I told you so.

Julie R Enszer

The fence we walked between the years
Did balance us serene;
It was a place half in the sky where
In the green of leaf and promising of peach
We’d reach our hands to touch and almost touch the sky,
If we could reach and touch, we said,
‘Twould teach us, not to, never to be dead.

We ached, and almost touched that stuff;
Our reach was never quite enough.
If only we had taller been,
And touched God’s cuff, His hem,
We would not have to go with them
Who’ve gone before,
Who, short as we, stood tall as they could stand
And hoped by stretching tall to keep their land,
Their home, their hearth, their flesh and soul.
But they, like us, were standing in a hole.

O, Thomas, will a Race one day stand really tall
Across the Void, across the Universe and all?
And, measured out with rocket fire,
At last put Adam’s finger forth
As on the Sistine Ceiling,
And God’s hand come down the other way
To measure Man and find him Good,
And Gift him with Forever’s Day?
I work for that.

Short man, Large dream. I send my rockets forth between my ears,
Hoping an inch of Good is worth a pound of years.
Aching to hear a voice cry back along the universal Mall:
We’ve reached Alpha Centauri!
We’re tall, O God, we’re tall!

Ray Bradbury

Vulnerable

June 19, 2018

My virginity was stolen from me at the age of fifteen
No longer innocent, just impure and unclean
A few years later, thinking I was in love
I fell easily into him, believing he was the one
Giving him all of me, all the little pieces
Opening up and sharing all my secrets
But I was abandoned once again
Leaving me more broken in the end
Countless nights trying to drink the pain away
What’s wrong with me? No one seems to stay
No future anymore, no goals or happy life plans
Just being used and so many one night stands
Vulnerable to anyone who shows me any interest
I please them and then they make themselves so distant
Every night I know I’m being used and then forgotten
But I keep failing myself, falling for lies then feeling rotten
I’m trapped in my past and the ship continues to sail
I want to land on the ground and break free, but all my efforts fail
But still I refuse to give up shining hope
I’m choosing to leave my past and escape this sorrowful slope
This story is one I used to fear to share
But my past no longer defines me for one day it will end a fairytale

Morgyn Harris

WHAT THE BODY DOES

June 17, 2018

Our son plays a German child in Hansel and Gretel
and dances with a girl dressed in braids and a pinafore
once in Act 1 and once in Act 2 but when they do the show
twice on a Saturday, sometimes she falls
the third or fourth dance.
Later her mother tells me she has cystic fibrosis
but she doesn’t want him to know.
When I was 12,
there was a girl on our 8th grade cheerleading squad
whose muscles snapped like a rubber band
when she tried to straighten her arms
so I tried to hold them for her
like a violin. She had a limp
and couldn’t do the jumps so we put her
in the back row. She had blonde hair though
and a big house where we spent the night
sitting on our sleeping bags in the basement,
rubbing the plastic threads
of the red and white pompoms together
until they curled. We pretended we didn’t see
the girls on the walls, naked women in cheap frames.
He must have cut them out of magazines
but the way they look now
in the blue room of memory
is like paintings, their skin pink and thick.
I see him at the kitchen table
after his daughter has left for school,
dipping his brush in the paint and sliding it
like a hand over their breasts which some of them
hold in their hands like gifts, and they’re perfect, circle
of nipple in circle of flesh. He likes the clean lines
of their legs, how the muscles lie neatly along the bones.
Later when I no longer knew her
I read about him in the paper. They had a day care
in that house where I slept
under the kitchen and heard him open
the refrigerator at night and felt the light go on
and the pressure of the low arches of his feet
on the linoleum. And of course he touched them,
the young girls in their flat chests
with their arms they could hold up straight.
He was heavy so when he stepped
the ceiling sank a little and I wondered
if the other girls saw but I thought
they were sleeping, I could hear their soft breaths
like a metronome. His daughter was broken
and the basement the kind with fake wood
panelling and orange carpet with bits of food
caught in the shag and stains from the dogs
and maybe he hoped the girls
would help and he didn’t think of us
or maybe he hung them there so we would know
what he wanted.
Today I am 41 years old. I know that man
was wrong and I think of how it felt
to be young and sleep beneath
the cross of a painted woman.
I know, also, that he loved his daughter.
He came downstairs that night with her mother
carrying bowls of chips and plastic cups of punch,
and I could see it, the kindness that flooded him
so when he walked he spilled a little,
and he was ashamed like she was
of what the body does.

Laura Read

When I Was Straight

June 16, 2018

I did not love women as I do now.
I loved them with my eyes closed, my back turned.
I loved them silent, & startled, & shy.

The world was a dreamless slumber party,
sleeping bags like straitjackets spread out on
the living room floor, my face pressed into a

slender pillow.

All night I woke to rain on the strangers’ windows.
No one remembered to leave a light on in the hall.
Someone’s father seemed always to be shaving.

When I stood up, I tried to tiptoe
around the sleeping bodies, their long hair
speckled with confetti, their faces blanched by the

porch-light moon.

I never knew exactly where the bathroom was.
I tried to wake the host girl to ask her, but she was
only one adrift in that sea of bodies. I was ashamed

to say they all looked the same to me, beautiful &
untouchable as stars. It would be years before
I learned to find anyone in the sumptuous,

terrifying dark.

Julie Marie Wade

Spirit Medium

June 14, 2018


Now that my pen is made of glass
I pray to write of this loud tree
and not simply fashion — blues and organdies
and other appurtenances — taffeta, pagoda sleeves.

Now branches scratch the bowl of sky, leaves
massed loosely in torsade, flounces
deepening to knitted flowers, dead hair
braided into wigs — a tree on fire with birds.

Nothing sounds like this loud tree — branches
have grown richer, louder still. Each bird like
a smoke-stained leaf, like mittens worn at meals.

Flocked with birds, the tree remains. Wings puff
and return like crinolines in wind.

Life now: delicate butterfly, a hairnet made
of my own hair, parasols raised everywhere,
tasselled roots and ribbon ruches, sugar-lead,
bone dust, feather. Day and night, the sky
makes permanent the tree’s singular pattern:

a dress burnt into skin. Now that this pen
is made of glass, I cannot measure
a sunbeam — I cannot catch a flame
with these lace fingers. Light darts from every
reflective surface like a velocity itself.

Branching, birds, and since you left: everything
I wear is made of glass.

Still, your image has reached my eye so gently
inside this light. Upon this slant
of sun cutting across this page. My body burning
for you like a tree.

Once philosophers tried to weigh a sunbeam, built
a machine so delicate, thinner than a fly’s wing.
But the sunbeam left the sun more quickly, could not
be balanced on a scale. Love itself

is made of glass, is the burning tree. Ethereal lace,
brocade of all our seeing, weightless
yet still falling upon that sight, belongingness —

what is held by the beloved. What bright
light can be seen so clearly, unobstructed
like sunbeam passed through glass, or your
voice branching like the loudest tree, the place

where your hand lands so gently, then lifts off
before I even feel it. Like a thousand
ruffles pulled

over my head, like a thousand birds.

Sarah Messer