I was born with a thick head of black hair: my father’s.
It survived the pulls, cuts, styling, dyes, creams, oils and gels throughout my teens.
Now it’s falling out in clumps along with my faith: the chemo is failing.
Who knew They would arrive in my lifetime? Who knew They could hold the answer to ridding us of it once and for all?
Now my hair is thinning, falling out in life’s natural cycle, as I tell my grandchild of the day They landed and changed our lives forever.
His eyes grow wide as he listens, and when the story ends, I ruffle up his thick head of black hair.
— L.P. Melling
L.P. Melling has prose poetry in ARTPOSTmagazine, The Molotov Cocktail, and L’Éphémère Review. He won the short story contest ran by the Russell Group of universities while completing a BA in English, and was a finalist for the Writers of the Future contest. When not writing, he works for a legal charity that advises and supports victims of crime.
Identification: Adults average 5-6 feet. Live birth. Color varies. Form: Head, trunk, protrusions at shoulders and hips called arms and legs.
Similar Species: Nothing on Homeworld.
Voice: Wide range of inflection, limited hissing.
Range: Entire planet although not naturally aquatic.
Comments: Apex sentient. Exterior covered in skin with patches of hair; no protective scales. Legs restricted to locomotion; useless for sitting, unlike coils. Arms used for carrying and eating, although our mouth tentacles function better for both.
Note: Planet also supports a beautiful creature of sleek and elegant design that can swim, crawl and fly effortlessly. They call it snake.
— Lauren McBride
Lauren McBride finds inspiration in faith, family, nature, science and membership in the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA). Nominated for the Best of the Net, Rhysling and Dwarf Stars Awards, her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in dozens of publications including Asimov’s,Dreams & Nightmares and The Grievous Angel. She enjoys swimming, gardening, baking, reading, writing and knitting scarves for troops.
Editor’s Note: This catalog poem—a field guide of sorts—is symbolized by a Hominoidea lineage tree (Dbachmann) and silhouettes of the evolution of man (clipart max) and a snake (kisspng).
One by one the doctors let their leases expire at this cathedral of the hurt. Hallways spider like mazes. Addition after addition. Sisters of Mercy begging to the blessed, Please we need more room. Who’d resist them? Their pure, white uniforms, their rosary prayers said over victims of The Great Flu Epidemic. Warm cloths laid on children’s legs, on soldiers blinded by numeral’d wars. Sirens were silenced.
I stand beside the Patron Saint of Children
behind a chained door never locked before. We’re obsolete, Aloysius and I. George Thomas, the first baby born here, died of old age a decade ago. My heels echo down the polished hall, and I whirl to groans and cries: chorus of agony, a choir of praise. Thousands left this launch headed for worlds far away. I am left to empty rooms, hear the last rites of ghosts. My bones now lie in corners, specks of dust.
— Ann Thornfield-Long
Ann Thornfield-Long, a co-author of Tennessee Women of Vision and Courage (edited by Crawford and Smiley, 2013), has poetry appearing in Artemis Journal, Riddled with Arrows, Silver Blade, Abyss & Apex, The Tennessee Magazine, Wordgathering,Liquid Imagination and other publications. She won the Patricia Boatner Fiction Award (Tennessee Mountain Writers, 2017) for her novel excerpt “The Crying Room” and was a finalist for her fiction in the 2017 Chattanooga Writers’ Guild Spring Contest. She was nominated for the Pushcart, Best of the Net and Rhysling awards, and awarded a 2017 Weymouth residency. She edited and published a weekly newspaper for six years. She’s a retired nurse and medical first responder.
Editor’s Notes: Though not immediately apparent, the two 10-line verses are structured with decasyllabic lines, while the one-line central verse has 11 syllables, and is pivotal in the poem. An image of Creedmoor State Hospital’s Building 25 (founded in 1912) is overlaid with a rusted chain (Jooin) and a woman ghost (pngimg). The great influenza pandemic in 1918 killed over 50 million: https://www.cdc.gov/features/1918-flu-pandemic/index.html
Yes miss please and thank ye. Lovely plate if I do say so myself, the missus would die if she saw me dirtying this with my greasy fingers, she’d give me a fair rump of it, but if you say all’s fine, then who am I to say naught against it?
The biscuits are lovely, mum, baked them yourself, now did ye, ah well, that’s too much kindness for the likes of me, my wife takes good care of me, despite the grousing, so I’d not want you to think I’m wanting anything as far as that goes.
The tea? Well, mum, I must say I’ve had nary a taste of something what made my mouth go quite as edgewise as this, I mean to say I love the taste, but my lips want to give a quiver once it’s past, if you pardon my meaning. It’s very good. I think I might need a quaff more, though, to judge its true quality.
Begging your pardon if I don’t hold the teacup rightly, I’m a rough man, mum, with flat fingers, comes from shearing the sheep, not fit for finer things, my pardon, pray forgive me, the missus says I’m not fit for proper conversation, but we seem to be getting on all right, what with my roughness and all.
Haven’t seen the Mister around lately, mum, and that worries me, what with the loss of that lamb last week, and the howls of the wolves lately. Bad business for the sheep, mum, even with me carrying my rifle into the hills every night. My missus hardly sees me at all these days. Not that she complains, mum, not that she complains.
A bit more tea, if I’m not being forward. Thankee, mum, but seems there’s something missing in the taste, not that I’m blaming you, mum, you know your tea, you and your people, but there’s something not right here, let’s try this, again begging your pardon, but the missus makes a fine tea herself, I carry some with me for the times when I’m tending the sheep and the Mister forgets I’m there. It happens, mum, but I’ll never say a word against him, he’s a very busy man.
Just a touch, missus, there you go, sip slowly, ah! No, don’t take a sip of your own brew, just let this play about your mouth, let it linger. We call it lambswool tea, the missus and me, just a laugh for us when we look at the fields and flocks and remember that they once belonged to us and now we can’t even afford enough fleece for a sweater.
Lambswool tea. Big laugh, mum. We can’t afford tea, and we can’t keep the wool. So we make the tea out of whatever’s handy. And free, mum, and free. Oh, but nothing’s free now, is it, no, its all part and parcel, all bought and sold, all bartered or battered or stolen.
Your mister loved lambswool tea, mum. He told me so himself, right after his first taste of it. Did I mention the missing lamb, and the wolves? Sure I done so, mum, you must remember. Only they weren’t so much wolves as big dogs, I’d guess. Hungry dogs what would never touch a lamb. We trained them that way, have done for centuries, mum.
How’s the tea, love? Bit too much of the Irish in it, is there? Oh, you look all tuckered of a sudden, mum. Begging your pardon, though, but before you go to napping, tell me—can you hear the dogs howling? They sound right near to me. Very, very near.
— Mikal Trimm
Mikal Trimm has sold over 50 short stories and 100 poems to numerous venues including Postscripts, Strange Horizons, Realms of Fantasy, and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.
Editor’s Notes: The symbolic collage of teapot and wolf seems to fit the flash-poem, a delightfully horrific tale.
I can’t see too far past my own broken nose without my glasses,
but I know exactly who pulls up in the driveway,
The bud of my Marlboro Ultra Light 100
wheezes into my lap,
makin’ the other holes in my jeans look like a pattern.
I don’t mind.
They’re not the only genes of mine
that come with holes and ashes in ’em.
Barkley’s work boots slap dirt down
on the porch that he knows I’ve swept, today,
as he grunts “Supper done?” in my direction.
Would he come home if it wasn’t?
The shutters on the outside of the windows need a new coat
of magnolia-colored paint.
There’re chips sneaking down the wood,
and baring our poor to every vacuum and carpet cleaner salesman
that makes the mistake of picking our porch.
By this time at night,
Mama’s already in bed
in her faded pink muumuu
and praying that her daughter comes to her senses.
She’s optimistic that one day
I won’t love a man whose licks sting less
than the silver spittle on his chin,
that one day I’ll kick my smoking habit in the ass,
and hold my Tesla lighter to Barkley’s greasy flesh.
But she knows me better.
She knows that the second my flame took,
I’d throw my body on top of him
like a smother blanket
hugging the heat to death
to save a man who would gladly
barbecue his meals on my bones.
The screen door jitters shut
as he leaves me with my coping cloud.
Desperate, I drag out my last glow
and place the remains in the flea market, crystal ashtray.
My battered body stands and turns me towards the door,
towards the kidney bean filled chili I made for supper,
towards the dinner party that I throw, nightly, for silence,
towards cleaning plates and pans as quietly as possible
because the clinking gives him a “goddamn headache,”
towards one more cold night next to a mistake
next to a choice
next to the temptation to light up another Marlboro
and tap the ashes
onto the “highly flammable” warning label sewn into his pillow.
— Alecz Yeager
Alecz Yeager is a 22-year-old writer from South Carolina. She is currently finishing a BA of English at Winthrop University. She has previously had a prose piece published by Soft Cartel. Her poetry style is often narrative and tells some sort of short story. Her passion for writing stems from her belief that stories are what guide every new generation. Stories are what carry on the memories of the past.
Editor’s Note: I had photographed the flames in a fire ring on Halloween night (at a local microbrew in Knoxville, TN). The image I imagine in the fire, pareidolia, is spooky, a demon-angel on fire, or some other sinister creature aflame. It is fitting for the piece.
The last bird on Earth
nudged her new dead chick.
It had been so strong,
then the white spots came,
just like she had seen
on her beloved.
She left the dry nest,
perching on a rail
hot with rusty scabs.
With a ruthless glare
through the silent road’s
She sang her last song.
— Mickey Kulp
Mick Kulp is a writer, father, and effing bug slayer who is not allowed to buy his own clothes. His creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry have appeared in numerous consumer magazines, newspapers, literary journals, and three books of poetry. His recent publications are found in Assisi Journal, Gravel, Torrid, Literary Orphans, Yellow Chair Review, Silver Blade, Illumen, Haiku Journal, Broke Bohemian, Chantwood, Folded Word, Georgia’s Emerging Writers, and Gyroscope Review. His complete portfolio can be seen here: http://mickeykulp.pbworks.com). He is a member of the Gwinnett County Writers Guild and founding member of the Snellville Writers Group. In 2018, he created the ‘Books and Beer’ reading series to benefit the local food co-op.
He lives with his wife and a dozen larcenous squirrels in Atlanta, GA. His next book is coagulating nicely.
Editor’s Note: The superimposed images of a songbird (from Daily Mail Online) and an apocalypse background (from https://pokeheroes.com/forum_thread?id=32225), echo the irony in the poem. The melancholy is accentuated by the pentasyllabic lines.