Issue No. 19, Winter 2016

A Phase of the Moon
Ruth Asch

The moon was never so much a face as now,
tilted away in gaping sorrow.
Pallid and yet bright,
grey brows, mouth corner tips
arced in comic, graceful pain:
Pirouette, shadowed by the night.

Glittery, and slightly tattered –
it is only a sticker pasted on the sky:
an ardent child’s fancy,
long since faded and forgotten;
but still there, weeping. Why?

What was Moon weeping for
those many years ago,
when innocence still shone?
Why is the agony there still?

You are so old, Moon,
and your expression frightens me:
your eyes look where I cannot see.
It is a childish thing.

You are so pale, Moon.
The whole globe in your liquid look;
intense and strange your beauty’s hook:
the strong Sea sighs and follows.

The waters of the world are in your sway;
the illusion-led lunatic,
the werewolf, the women awake
feel your silent presence and obey.

Blue shadows hover at your feet;
white birds glimmer your dispatches…

I am small, my life no fantasy.
And yet somehow –
that look is meant for me.

Ruth Asch is a poet, in the rare moments she can run away and seek inspiration. She is also a mother, and sometimes a teacher. She writes in many different styles and enjoys attempting the impossible – poetry translation from other languages. There is a book of her early poems in print: Reflections (St. Austin Press 2009), and she has been published in many literary journals since. (Clusters of her work can be found online at Peacock Journal, Mediterranean Poetry, Classical Poets, Poetry Atlas, Bamboo and elsewhere.)

Issue No. 19, Winter 2016

Building Soil (Hexagram 35)
Mark C. Childs

Decades of lint, skin cells, ash
pressed in cesspods, stardrive simmered,
toiled, tilled by cultured microbes,

deep watered, turns to humus –
a cosmos of promise.
Soil develops as does language.

In the last year Mark C. Childs has published 17 poems in 11 different magazines. Mark is the author of the award-winning books The Zeon Files: the art and design of historic Route 66 signs; Urban Composition; and Squares: a public place design guide. He is also the author of Composing Speculative Cities (Analog 2016), a newspaper series, and numerous academic urban design articles. He is a Fulbright Scholar and was on MIT’s international tiddly-winks team.

Issue No. 19, Winter 2016

Katharyn Howd Machan

“Why did she talk to the wolf?” asks Maia. “Why didn’t she ignore
him?” —Caitlin R. Kiernan in
The Road of Needles

Because he’s a little black cat
rescued from a dumpster.
Because his eyes gleam
tawny pumpkin
and Halloween is near.
Five claws and an almost
sixth on both his too
long paws: who can resist
hell incarnate? Girls
need a beast who promises
soft, the creature who purrs
wild and tender. Forget
his scratch will call forth blood
the shape of an ancient key:
his pointed teeth are full of moon
and he grins
with the pronoun me.

For three and a half decades Katharyn Howd Machan, picking up where Rod Serling left off, has taught creative writing at Ithaca College in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. Her specialty courses, besides in poetry, are Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy, Women and Fairy Tales, and first-year seminars called Fairy Tales: The Hero’s Journey. Her poems have appeared in 32 published collections (most recently WILD GRAPES: POEMS OF FOX [a kitsune shape-shifter]) and many magazines, anthologies, and textbooks.

Issue No. 19, Winter 2016

Dah Helmer

Today’s damp light
sheer metallic gray
quiet as glass

Across the street, children
running in reds and yellows
are wind-blown leaves

How elementary autumn is
with trees like old sculptures
with sparrows on leafless branches

With autumn something is always rusted
always dead, and the ordinary
chatter of crows seems louder

A brown moth pounding the window
for warmth
splays its fine powder

Last night’s faint rain was scraping earth’s
dry plate
hungry for dust covered leaves

a few drops here
a few there
nothing really

Dah Helmer’s fourth poetry collection is The Translator from Transcendent Zero Press. His first three books are from Stillpoint Books. Dah’s poetry has been published by editors from the U.S., the U.K., Ireland, Canada, China, the Philippines, Spain, Australia,and India. His poems recently appeared in Straylight Magazine, River & South Review, The Cape Rock, Acumen Journal, Sandy River Review, Indian River Review, and The Linnet’s Wings. Dah lives in Berkeley, California where he is working on the manuscripts for his fifth and sixth poetry books. Harbinger Asylum Magazine has nominated Dah’s poem “Some god” for the Pushcart Prize.

Issue No. 19, Winter 2016

In Redwoods
Merridawn Duckler

I imagined the man handling flares was handing out sparklers,
huge trees turned us into children with forbidden treats.

Still I held fast as my tires slid in the switchbacks;
since the past can message us at any minute.

Breaking into coastal towns, in milk fog
we bobbed like bait to Mendocino

where landowners were only armed with rakes.
I relaxed. I chilled. I forgot, but I never forget.

In the toilet I saw under the door
Doppelganger shoes of her, the drunk who ruined four men

and then went slyly into today’s convent, dementia. I felt the flare catch
my mind, racing to a dark beach, where my mistakes barked out their orders.

I sat across from you. Don’t you see? This was a woman for poison apples.
You put your arms around me, becoming one more lover to un-tower.

Merridawn Duckler is a poet, playwright from Portland, Oregon. Recent poetry in TAB: Journal of Poetry and Poetics (best of the web nomination), International Psychoanalysis, Otis Nebula, Rogue Agent, The Offing, Unbroken Journal, forthcoming from Blue Lyra, Free State Review, Yellow Chair Review, Crab Creek Review, Literary Orphan, Birds Piled Loosely, TXTOBJX, inter/rupture. She was runner-up for the poetry residency at the Arizona Poetry Center, judged by Farid Matuk, and a finalist at Center for Book Arts and Tupelo Press. Recent prose in Poetica and humor in Defenestration. Finalist for the 2016 Sozoplo Fiction Fellowship. Awards include Writers@Work, NEA, Yaddo, Squaw Valley, SLS in St. Petersburg, Russia, Southampton Poetry Conference with Billy Collins, others. She’s an editor at Narrative and the international philosophy journal Evental Aesthetics.

Issue No. 19, Winter 2016

Day of Reckoning
Matt Morris

That morning, the sun didn’t
rise, so most of us
stayed in bed, teeth chattering
in the dark. Wouldn’t know how

long exactly, what
with the clocks all broken & time
itself pretty much
the same, but eventually

we laced up our boots tight, threw
an extra couple
logs on the fire, took a deep
breath, then another,

& went about our little
lives, business as usual.
You can’t hide your head
in the sand
, the mayor told

the town, because it’s
frozen solid
. Pointing to
heaven’s blank slate, he said, It’s
hard to understand

the gods. It’s even harder
someone in the crowd
interjected—to like them.
Thinking back, it may have been me.

Matt Morris has appeared in various magazines and anthologies, such as DMQ, 88, Hunger Mountain, New York Quarterly, Runes, and Utter. He has received multiple nominations for the Pushcart Prize as well as Best of the Net. Nearing Narcoma, his first book, won the Main Street Rag Poetry Award. Knut House Press recently released his latest collection, Walking in Chicago with a Suitcase in My Hand.

Issue No. 19, Winter 2016

Flowers That Fly
Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

Once, before certain plants
had learned to vine, bees sprang
from the feet of men, and from women,
flowers. No one knows why.
It was just the way things were.

Perhaps eleven thousand years ago,
bees stopped flying up from
men’s footprints. Men, stricken
with longing and loss, left to find
where their bees had gone.

They wandered for ages
and along the way, they came
upon a cinnamon mountain that
croaked and creaked anytime a cow
or mare or nanny goat stepped
near it.

By then, men’s longing
had turned to anger. Finding
no bees, they blamed the flowers
for their loss.

Each sunset lily and gold dandelion
and blue-tipped thistle and sweet
foam yarrow reminded them
of warm, wet earth. It reminded
them that their feet no longer birthed

They saw, too, that the great
cinnamon mountain groaned
when flowers neared it. They took
this to mean it was wise
and holy.

They set a town at the valley
and built a gate around
the spiced mountain.
They marked it as forbidden
for women, cows, mares
and nanny goats to touch.

This rule governed the sacred
Mount Cinnamon for seven
hundred and thirty decades.
In that time, flowers, too,
were declared offensive,
and all women and girls
were ordered to enclose their feet
with leather.

Women couldn’t even touch
cinnamon ground from mountain
trees. They made their rolls
and pudding and pies with gloves,
and the men enjoyed hot-spiced
treats most evenings.

A girl of thirteen named Inona
once tasted a fingerful of cinnamon.
It reminded her of deep summer
and distant trees and she thought
she heard the mountain groan
her name.

She approached the mountain
priests, who, by then had also
sworn to never touch any female
creature, and asked them a question.

Most high sirs, if no lady
should touch the great holy
brown mountain of cinnamon,
then what about the moon’s
spiral light?

Indeed, the mountain did let
out a long, low grunt with every
full moon. The priests, who up
until that point had accused some
chicken or mare or woman of
crossing the threshold monthly,
saw the child was right and set
about rivering the mountain
with silk before the next full moon.

And while they wove
and argued and tangled their silk
veils, the girl Inona leapt
over the gate. She was halfway up
the mountain when she ripped
the leather from her feet.

Flowers poured from the prints
of Inna’s feet, gasping with life.
Streams of magenta clovers
and sunny chrysanthemums
and wild lavender roses
and fiery strawflowers streamed
up the mountain. Indeed, rather
than silk, the mountain became
rivered with color.

The mountain creaked until it sounded
like thousands of round rusted bells.

The men dropped their silks
and ran after Inona, but it was too late.
She’d reached the top. This is where
the land shook and tore just a sliver.
Strange light rose from the mountain
cut, and out flew butterflies.
All the world’s butterflies. No one
had ever seen such a thing before,
so everyone thought they were flowers
in flight.

No one knows why
fluttery petals of emeralds
and sea foam blues and honey ambers
came from that crack in the earth.
This is just how it was.

And from that moment on,
flowers stopped growing at the feet
of women. You see, one girl
had given her foot-wings
to the earth. Because of her,
we have flowers that fly.

Raquel Vasquez Gilliland is a painter and poet inspired by myth and folklore, lupine and quartz. She lives in Florida with her husband and son. More of her work can be seen at

Issue No. 19, Winter 2016

Baba Yaga
Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

Mamas and papas always
tell the children strange old
tales to keep them away
from the wood. Baba Yaga
will get you, take you by
the hair into her big, chicken-
foot home and eat you!
Baba Yaga,
the fearsome and toothless
gossip, but as God weaved
and knotted it, I met her once.
Truly. And Baba Yaga
is a kindly lady, at least
she was to me.

I did get lost in that deep
oak wood. Well, half oak
and half saguaro back then,
and it was the night
of the white blooms.

I came upon a brown cottage
made of dirt and bone.
The door opened before
I could knock.

Madam, I said, Are you
the Baba Yaga?

She was strange
in that she looked young
and old at once.

Well, Baba Yaga’s a bit
nicer than La Llorona
or Queen of Harlots.

So you are?

I’ve a thousand names,
little one, so yes,
Baba Yaga will do me

She was knitting and
the home smelled like
buttered toast.

I asked her if she
planned on eating me
and she said,

I eat the green
from the leaves
in autumn and I eat
the moon about once
a month, but never children,
and never hares.

She let me ask her
a hundred questions;
said it wasn’t rude
because she was lonely.
She said she was born
in an apple orchard
five hundred thousand years ago,
that she was married once
but her husband was too stupid
for her tastes, that she
has too many children to count,
and that her given name was Eve.

But after she said that,
the name Eve,
she blinked quickly
as though she realized
she had told me something
she didn’t want me to know.
At that moment, she
kindly escorted me out
with bread, blackberry jam
and a jar of wildflower

Right there was
my home, like she’d been
my neighbor all along,
and when I turned to say
goodbye, it all had
the lady, the bone and
the dirt,
leaving only
long chicken scratches
in the clay.

Raquel Vasquez Gilliland is a painter and poet inspired by myth and folklore, lupine and quartz. She lives in Florida with her husband and son. More of her work can be seen at

Issue No. 19, Winter 2016

Mercury from Mariner
Allison Parker

This satellite goes out
and it doesn’t come back
until you love the work.
It’s a crash, really—
But no one gets confused,
No one greets you like an old teacher
To say you wasted it all up. You wasted
your talents, they say. You
get this satellite out, and it won’t
come back until you love the work.
On the surface of mercury, my work is far out
like the moon, too far to touch myself again
like the moon touches beam and shade.
The only Mariner sees my work is
hot like my tongue upon wake. It knows
emptiness never stains, just sits in my
stomach and I stop working. I stop.
So I must love my work and love you,
love the red haze around the iris,
the blood-shot knives of your veins,
the smoke coming out of nostrils.
The satellite never returns until we love the work.

Allison Parker is a writer and English instructor living in Wilmington, NC. She graduated with an MFA in poetry in 2002 from UNCW. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry East, Cobalt, Fjords, Lilies and Cannonballs, The Oklahoma Review, Scissors and Spackle, A Sharp Piece of Awesome, and The Lyricist. She currently performs with the sound art troupe 910 Noise.

Issue No. 19, Winter 2016

Mercury from Earth
Allison Parker

Mercury is a woman.
She is fast, she is full of gab
and she circles me and comes in
for a kiss when I hug her goodbye.
She sneaks it. I know her fists
will never break my skin.
She tells me when I look up at her:
A woman cannot abuse a woman. She can
only tease her, whisper her name, start rumors.
She can perhaps break your heart. But you will
find another. A woman does not hurt,
she is not like the release of a man’s fist, not
like his demands. Only an injured woman could abuse.
This woman wants to carry the message of war.
She is the toothless suit, the silly pugilist.
She is the critical eye under heavy lids, sizing you up.
This is when she becomes the shell of a pitted planet:
a powerless woman.
And only then does Mercury become a man.

Allison Parker is a writer and English instructor living in Wilmington, NC. She graduated with an MFA in poetry in 2002 from UNCW. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry East, Cobalt, Fjords, Lilies and Cannonballs, The Oklahoma Review, Scissors and Spackle, A Sharp Piece of Awesome, and The Lyricist. She currently performs with the sound art troupe 910 Noise.