Dear Hiring Manager by Sarah A. O’Brien

no, I don’t really consider myself
proficient in a design program I
can’t afford

I have never met a deadline,
but I’m sure I would be polite and
we’d hit it off right away

am I the ideal candidate for
this position? well, I am experienced
in many creative… positions

skills, skills— I have some.
I hope to grow in this company,
2 whole inches, maybe

attention to detail,
except for the detail that I’m broke, but
that’s why God created credit cards

to be honest, no desire to work here,
already bored, don’t like your décor;
send prompt payments please

(living at home is a huge drag.
I’d much prefer to wake up
nude beside my boyfriend)

thank you for your time
I look forward to hearing
great news from you.

Sarah A. O’Brien enjoys dark chocolate and light wordplay. Sarah’s work has previously appeared in The Alembic, Every Writer, The Screech Owl, Snapping Twig, Ampersand Literary, Third Point Press, Unbroken Journal, and is forthcoming in Allegro Poetry Magazine. Follow her adventures: @fluent_SARAcasm.

Arriving at the Edge by A. J. Huffman

Arriving at the Edge

of a mind, I knocked twice on a door
that might have been a wall,
painted to look like a door. If it opened,
the mind was mine, and I was
free to make a home among the illusions
of cracks that were really crevices
leading nowhere in particular. If it remained
shut, the mind was a mine,
an illustrious trap set to explode at my touch,
which would also make it mine,
I guess, though in a temporary trespassing
kind of way. So I stood, fist raised like a gun,
aimed at a frame I might enter
or shatter, and I realized as the wind came
to coerce the initial contact
between flesh and focal metaphor
of stability, that in the end, follow-through
was really all that mattered.

A.J. Huffman has published twelve solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses. Her new poetry collections, Another Blood Jet (Eldritch Press), A Few Bullets Short of Home (mgv2>publishing), Butchery of the Innocent (Scars Publications), Degeneration (Pink Girl Ink) and A Bizarre Burning of Bees (Transcendent Zero Press) are now available from their respective publishers and amazon.com. She is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a two-time Best of Net nominee, and has published over 2400 poems in various national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, Bone Orchard, EgoPHobia, and Kritya. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press. http://www.kindofahurricanepress.com.

Living With a Boyfriend who Suffers from Depression/ Excerpts from a Self Help Novel Written by my Four Ex-Girlfriends by Steven J. Rogers

Excerpt from Chapter 1. Written by Michelle.

In college, when we first started dating, he made me mix tapes. You remember cassettes? He’d make collages out of pictures he cut out from art magazines and cover the cassette case with them. I still have some. I think they’re in my parents attic.

Even though he had the best taste in music, the tapes would veer down these bizarre esoteric paths. “Sicilienne” by Bach would be followed by “Girl from the North Country.”Midwestern indie hip-hop would follow Cuban Trova. It made listening to the tapes as cathartic as it was jarring. In retrospect, I should have known he would have trouble functioning in the world. There’s a defined order to things that I don’t think he ever understood.

After we graduated, we moved in together to save money on rent. Back then rent wasn’t as crazy as it is now, but we still had trouble paying it. I think he expected something good to happen. Like if he graduated, worked hard on his art, he could get a job with a BA in Fine Arts. I didn’t have such lofty expectations. I waitressed with my BA, but he could never hold down a job.

Once, in the middle of the day, I came home and found him asleep in the living room with the lights turned off. I assumed he lost his job at the shipyard. I woke him up and said some mean things — things I regret. At first, he didn’t respond, just sat there with a blank expression on his face. Then, out of nowhere, he punched the wall.

I cowered and put my hands over my face. I wasn’t afraid, it was just intense. It was so rare that he showed any emotion. He walked out of the apartment. He seemed as surprised as I was. The next day his stuff was gone, his key sat in the middle of the kitchen table with a bouquet of tulips, and note that read, “sorry.”

We saw each other once in a while after that. It was unavoidable, there were mutual friend’s parties, the coffee shop on the corner of eighteenth street, but we never talked. There was never any kind of finality in the break-up. I resented that. I wanted the end to mean something

I don’t know if I think he was depressed. A couple years after we split I saw an episode of The Sopranos, where the main guy is talking to his psychiatrist. She tells him that depression is just anger turned inward. Maybe that’s true, or maybe human emotion is slightly more nuanced.

Excerpt from Chapter 2. Written by Sarah.

You can’t control the way anyone else feels, but you can control your own emotions. The only thing you can do to make yourself truly happy is to live for others. Live for your community, your family, the people you love.

I know it’s silly, but I also think windows are important for happiness, or, at least, the right approach to windows. It’s more important to have a window that faces east than faces west. In the morning, when you wake, open that window up. Let in the sun. The life of the world is in the sun.

I read what I just wrote, and I don’t like it, but I don’t know what else to write. Who am I to tell people how they can deal with someone who is sad? No one can be happy all the time.

Most of the time, when I try to be happy, I feel like a selfish narcissist. I lived with a boyfriend who was depressed all the time, and after a few years together, I glommed onto that sadness. In a way, it felt natural to be sad. Comfortable.

The more I think about it, the more I think my earlier advice is garbage. If you try to make a difference in your community, go to a city council meeting or something, all people do is yell at each other.

What does it even mean to live for your loved ones?

I think I’ve read too many self-help books.

Excerpt from Chapter 3. Written by Jane.

I have a dog, he’s what they call a rez mutt, mixed with so many different breeds it’s impossible to tell exactly what kind of dog he is. He’s brown, about thirty-five pounds, and the sweetest animal in the world. I found Puggy on the outskirts of the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation during a road trip when I was eighteen. There isn’t another thing in the world I love as much as this dog.

He’s seventeen now. I’ve had him by my side longer than I lived with my parents, longer than I was in school, longer than I’ll ever hold down a job. It’s hard to imagine a day when he’s gone, but that day is going to come sooner than later.

Puggy’s hips are displaced, some days they hurt so bad he can’t get out of bed. I take him to physical therapy, but it doesn’t seem to help anymore. There’s hard little balls that grow on his neck, and chest. I worry they’re cancer. He had cancer when he was eleven, but I got it treated. It cost nearly twenty thousand dollars. I’d spend that much every year if he could be healthy again, but that’s not the way mortality works.

By all accounts, Puggy should be dead. Fifteen, twenty years ago, before treatments for animals with cancer, he would have been. A hundred years before that, he probably wouldn’t have made it to five. I love him, but I really need to let him go. That’s the way it is with love, you just have to let it go.

Humans suffer a similar indignity through science. When we first crawled out of the primordial soup we’d be lucky to live for fourteen years before some wild beast had us for lunch, or the common cold killed us. People aren’t dogs, they aren’t easy to get along with. To expect people to be able to tolerate each other for long periods of time, when we weren’t even built to live much past puberty, is simply unnatural.

Appreciate your time with others, but don’t push yourself to unnatural levels of familiarity. If you have a boyfriend who has a great, creative career, a zest for life on good days, and an incredibly dark view of the world on bad days, learn to appreciate your time with him. If your dog loves him, that’s even better. Realize that it wasn’t meant to last, and when things get dark, it’s time to move on.

Excerpt from Chapter 4. Written by Sarah (a different Sarah).

Sadness makes people funny. Somebody said that once. I think. Or did I just make that up?

He was funny. Cynicism permeated every word that dripped out of his mouth. We’d watch the Republican debates, the local news, awards shows, and he would have me rolling with dark quips about the general decay of humanity. There was a point where the cynicism was too much to be around. Every joke a little bite at the core of my soul.

I don’t think about the bad times, though. Once someone is gone —

Time is the essence from which life is made. Somebody said that once. I think. Or did I just make that up?

Maybe I’m not making the right point here. Memory is fickle, the older I get, the more time I spend with misplaced nostalgia. Nostalgia can be as crippling as depression.

Maybe dwelling in nostalgia is better than waiting around to die. Somebody said that once. I think. Or did I just make that up?

Steven J. Rogers is an avid canoesman and beardsman from Northern Wisconsin. Alas, he currently lives in Los Angeles, California. Steven is not an absolutist, so he is willing to accept the idea that there might be a hell. If there is, he’s pretty sure that it would involve writing bios. He has a BA and MFA which he’d happily trade for some beer money. To learn more about him, and his upcoming publications please visit http://www.stevenjrogers.ink.

Thunder Moon by J. Archer

1. Thunder Moon

Tonight, we see the Thunder
Moon stretch a shallow arc
Across the sky. My children
Are safe in their beds, all of
Them still awake; still
Whispering summer secrets.
And that moon is the color
Of tea stains on a white
Paper napkin, where my
Mother has laid the Lipton
Tea bag to rest- the liquid
Slowly spreading to a rough
Approximation; or the color
Of her fingers, years of
Smoking Tarrytons and the
Messes of child-rearing; the
Grease and the tar and the
Sin. She found Jesus, way
Back when- when her teeth
Resembled that color, before
We were monied enough for
Cosmetic fixes- during the
Times when we were thrilled
That the essentials were
Covered- back then, we’d
Sit in the back yard on Coyle
Street- a ten by ten haven from
The ravenous city, behind our
Brick row house- with our
Neighbors all around, and we’d
Lift our arms when the wind blew
And crack jokes about the heat.
Once, while playing trivial pursuit,
My mother told me “Son,”
Over cup of Lipton tea and
In a haze of cigarette smoke,
“Be patient.” “I know, I know,”
I said, an astute six or seven
Year old, “patience is a virgin.”
And how the neighbors laughed
And laughed, because every joke
Is better when you’re outside in
The heat, below the summer moon-
Even the unintentional, or maybe
Especially. But I’ve never seen a
Moon quite the color as this.
Maybe I needed my Mother
to have died for this moon-
For the tea stained, cigarette smoked,
Kiddos-tucked-safely-but-still-
Whispering-Moon to mean what
It means tonight.

Writer, Poet, Songwriter James Archer believes that contemplation leads to revelation, and that somewhere between most and all revelations are things that are obvious, or should have been. He likes the ocean, and dislikes rules, and is very fond of both cheese and fudge, separately. He is stuck in the middle of this beautiful and terrifying culture, just like you.

Swans by Alice Walsh

When you slept I opened your chest, the sides of your rib cage creaked open to the wardrobe of you. I wove that thin silk through your beating. Threaded you to me – to mine. Then closed you. Kissed you shut. With warm oil I made the sign of the cross on your eye lids, throat, heart. When you woke you pulled me to you and said you had the strangest dream.

We two were. Together we twirled, entwined. I didn’t end, you didn’t begin. The rhythm in you played me. I tied you, untied you. Thumb twisted gentle at the notch of your neck. We searched each other. White cloths fell from us. Fire warmed the sweat on our skin, breasts, ribs. We feasted on flesh by flickering light – licking, sucking, suckling, salts, tears. We drunk the universe from the shallow pools of our bodies.

They stood still and silent looking at us with lust and disgust. We didn’t stop, couldn’t stop, writhed, contorted, grimaces demonic – flushed with ecstasy a two-headed Siamese banshee wailing. They chained us, hunted us from the underworld through the trapdoor, our feet never touched the ground. We soared majestically up and up and up into the ether milk sprinkle of stars. We didn’t look back. For the first time I saw your great wings open and swallow the sky. The chain hung down between us. You showed me the constellation of Cygnus, while the sun followed behind us

*

Too many things have broken for this not to happen, for this not to be what it is. The scenes and sequences needed to occur have crashed across our path with such ferocity that it seems impossible to refute this gorgeous truth. I am falling, falling into the feathered white breast of you. The ice the ice – it does not crack here, there are so many things I do not know about you. There are so many things.

I want to know all that you are, that you have been, I want to meet your every mistake walking backwards. Your treasured lost loves hidden in drawers, your small stacked heartbreaks placed between books. Will you go with me into that good night? Us two, dressed like bombs – we will go out like sparklers, the fabulous colours of our souls exploding across the navy of the night.

I have fallen into you, I have fallen further than I ever knew. I know now what I can become.

*

You became unchained from me, saying it wasn’t what you wanted. I kicked the shackle against rocks and stones, it would not break. I did.

Blood burned fabulous against the white of me. You couldn’t bare the sight. I watched you walk on water. I watched your vast wings open and close, open and close until you turned from a white star to nothing out there in the wind.

Then I wondered did we still see the same moon? Were my stars your stars? Your land was so different to mine.

Hope, suddenly a diminishing thing.

*

Even if you came back you would not be you. You undid me, still do. You are so much more than feather and bone. You are of the earth, water and air. Return me to my fire of hurt – unravel the stitching, peck out each suture with great care, untether your feathers from this. You were never mine to begin with.

Close your eyes now you cannot see me, this abstract fallen undone thing. Cover your ears now you cannot hear me sing sorrowful from across the stream. Kiss me for the last time, let that great swan song soar – you are not mine, you never really were.

*

You danced around yourself, so afraid to stand still and stop pretending to be so unafraid. Did you ever stop pretending?

The curves of your sadness were familiar to me. The day tattooed on the skin of your soul. I felt near to you when the needle kicked black blue on my arm. A song played, no one knew where I was – least of all me.

I could see the gather and unravel in you. You could see it in me too. We were both reaching. We were each other’s pins and buttons. We needed something small to stop us from falling apart.

In my Polaroid memories you click your jaw, smoke rings jump from your asshole mouth and drift through the air – the ghosts of kisses, all kohl and coolness. Your hair hangs down, strands caught in the brush of your eyelash flicker when you blink, two turquoise irises disappear behind thin veils of skin. I stop breathing until I see them again.

I am lost somewhere on the continent of your cheekbone invisible words come from your mouth the speech bubble bursts.

I bite my bottom lip and don’t hear a word.

*

What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?

Your eyes are in my eyes.

You say I saw these swans once, two of them – flying across the blue. I heard them before I saw them. They were such a force, how they owned the sky. They made the most magnificent scene.

What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?

Your eyes are in my eyes.

 

Alice Walsh lives and works in Dublin, Ireland. You can read more of her musings at alicewalshblog.com or follow her on twitter @al_icewalsh

The Space between the Stars by Joshua Sczykutowicz

A tree is beginning to grow from her mouth, branches and vines twisting and sprawling from between shining teeth and atop her pink tongue writhing. Small flowers, yellows and whites, pinks and blues erupt from reaching branches longing to touch a sky too far above to ever reach. They are unknowing, believing that if they could only sprawl an inch further — if they could just long for that black and purple sky, set atop sand-storm dunes and orange canyons of stone unending — then they could finally find their place in the midnight lands alone.

Roots are bleeding out of her now, feet crossed like a modern Christ in feminine form as her arms outstretch like branches of their own. Her eyes, shut serenely bear long lashes pointed down, lids facing upward to that same destination as branches desire. In space, she thinks, I will not need to see; blackness unending is all there will ever be.

She has not seen the stars in so long, despite their photographic glow reaching here now, candles amongst the flame that is the low-hanging moon above this desert nightmare that she will never want to leave. Light has failed to reach those eyes long enough for her to believe it will never return again. Steeped in darkness she no longer dreams of stars and marbled galaxies. Her branches will sprout and brightly colored blossoms will wisp away in winds she was never meant to grow within. As they fall, I will collect them, hands reaching into burning sands beneath to grasp paper-thin flower petals already drying, moist tissue between delicate fingers and caressing hands.

I hold her now, and hear her branches groan towards me, feel her roots try to wrap around and pull me in, not knowing a gardener can never truly connect to its growth. But I have not planted her, and to call myself a gardener is to elevate my position here, to lower hers to mere greenery and mindless life.
No, she set her feet in these sands; she waited for the fast and falling rains that pass for moments overhead, nurturing suggestions of life dissipating just as they are recognized. I am just an onlooker, a man who walks within a forest and stands before a tree he knows is more than him, something that was and will be long before and after he was either of these things.

If she could see into this forest of which she is the first to grow, she would not see her gently crossed legs like carefully drawn charcoal shadows, suggestions of shape, nor would her eyes fall upon the pale, pained arms holding the air above. She would only see the spaces surrounding, only know that there is so much emptiness, so much space unfilled.

It is her point of view I must defy, I know. I must cause revelation through action. If I water her planted appendages enough, if I brush her languid hair and wash her weathering skin as dust and sand turn to mud, trickling down her ankles entwined, then maybe the sun may shine through the moon strong enough to reach those shut eyes still. And she will know her blossoming branches, and she will know this beauty I admire.

I used to wish the sun could rise in these wastes. I used to look up at the sky and stare at the swirling stars and glowing ripples in the fabric lain atop this earth, and imagine that aching moon turning round once more and these rising canyons ahead casting their obsidian shadow over illuminated sands, and now I know it will never happen. I have learned the love of midnight; I have found the beauty in these spaces. I step backward and stare at her form before me, and start to see the space between the stars above. I know that amidst this black there exists so much light, if only her eyes could adjust to see.

Josh Sczykutowicz is a young author from central Florida. His work can be described as experimental, visual, alternative, dark and literary fiction His writing fixates on tone, mood, atmosphere and imagery filtered through specific points of view presented by layered, complicated and complex characters. His work has appeared in The Fable Online. He can be contacted at joshsczykutowicz@gmail.com

we think we know what love is but we don’t think it’s enough by Joseph Parker Okay

that was the night we were drunk and had sex and were still drunk afterward. let me narrow that down — it was the night you used the bathroom then came back and caught me looking at myself in the mirror. you made an irritated noise and said, “you’re always doing that.”
“i know — i’m sorry,” i said, “it’s just an insecurity.”
“well yeah, i know.” we decided to get back into bed and shortly after turning the light off you finished your thought with, “i just didn’t know you knew.”

there was that night we got drunk and somehow legitimately argued over a song from the black parade — you left so i went to bed. in the morning i woke up remembering fragments of the night before and tweeted an apology @you.

there were those other nights we were drunk and argued over other small things and sooner or later i would take a deep breath and ask, “are we doing okay?” you’d make an irritated noise, you’d say, “yes we’re fine — why do you always ask me that when we drink?”

i waited for you to connect the dots but the picture didn’t seem to come together until the night we saw kevin devine open for brand new at that outdoor festival — it could have been the fourth of july but then again it could have been any other milwaukee summer night.

afterwards we were drunk and arguing again but sobering up and burning out. it was obvious we’d been wavering atop some very high up and far away precipice for an unknown-but-drawn-out amount of time — i still remember how my stomach lurched the moment i realized we’d finally plunged over its edge. you might have said something passive-aggressive or you might have not said anything at all. i disappeared into the crowd and left you standing there.

Joseph Parker Okay lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He’s been worrying a lot about the sunrise lately. You can follow Joseph on twitter, or check out his site.