GO FOR THE BALLS by John Tustin

When she got really mad at me
Her hands would gnarl into claws
And she’d go for the balls.
Every time.
She’d start by scratching at my neck
Or my arms
But then, once I began to protect myself,
She’d try to grab my balls and twist.
She thought she had them figuratively
And then she wanted them literally.
I once got eczema on my neck
That began as a cut from one of her attacks.

Some of my sleights were real, some perceived
But over and over
It would end with her tearing at my balls
Like a woman possessed.
No woman did that to me before
And none have since.
I felt quite lucky she never got my balls
Until I realized
I got out of there with my balls
And my dignity intact but
She got everything else.

John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals since 2009. fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online

Your Name by Leslie Dianne

You name had
too many consonants
all scrunched up together
robbing each other of space
still trying to figure out where they
belonged after so many years
of fighting each other
your name had to be said
all at once
in a rush
there was no slow
rolling of your sound
through me
instead it was sharp
and razor edged
and every time I said
your name I
bled consonants
and healed the wounds
with vowel stained rage

Leslie Dianne is a poet, novelist, screenwriter, playwright and performer whose work has been acclaimed internationally in places such as the Harrogate Fringe Festival in Great Britain, The International Arts Festival in Tuscany, Italy and at La Mama in New York City. Her stage plays have been produced in NYC at The American Theater of Actors, The Raw Space, The Puerto Rican Traveling Theater and The Lamb’s Theater.  She holds a BA in French Literature from CUNY and her poems have appeared in The Lake, Ghost City Review, The Literary Yard, About Place Journal and Kairos andare forthcoming in Hawai’i Review. Her poetry was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

PERU by Kiran Bhat

Buraya gelmek için hem dünyanın gölgelerinden geçtim.
Ailemle bağları kopardım,
Tasavvur edilemez renkleri kanadım,
Düşmanlar yaptım, arkadaşlar edindim.

Ama geldiğim yerinde hiçbir şeyim yoktu.
Param yok.
Işim yok.

Sadece kültürüm var,
mirasım ye var,
benim ye var.

Hayatta kalmak istiyorum

I walked through the shadows of the earth to get here.
I cut ties with my family,
I bled whatever colours my blood could turn,
I made enemies, I made friends, I made myself into whatever I needed to be.
but I came, and I had nothing.
I made myself into nothing.
I became nothing.

I don’t have money.
I don’t have work.

But, I have my culture,
my heritage,
and I have come far.

I only want to survive

Kiran Bhat is a global citizen formed in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, to parents from Southern Karnataka, in India. He has currently traveled to over 130 countries, lived in 18 different places, and speaks 12 languages. He is primarily known as the author of we of the forsaken world… (Iguana Books, 2020), but he has authored books in four foreign languages, and has had his writing published in The Kenyon Review, The Brooklyn Rail, The Colorado Review, Eclectica, 3AM Magazine, The Radical Art Review, The Chakkar, Mascara Literary Review, and several other places. His list of homes is vast, but his heart and spirit always remains in Mumbai, somehow. He is currently bumming around Mexico. You can find him on @Weltgeist Kiran.

Digital Paintings by Edward Michael Supranowicz

Edward Michael Supranowicz is the grandson of Irish and Russian/Ukrainian immigrants. He grew up on a small farm in Appalachia.  He has a grad background in painting and printmaking. Some of his artwork has recently or will soon appear in Fish Food, Streetlight, Another Chicago Magazine, The Door Is a Jar, The Phoenix, and other journals. Edward is also a published poet.

Rocks by Stacy Stepanovich

At the Opportunity Complex on the edge of the city, the prisoners bury their dead just outside the compound under mounds of rocks. There is a large, densely wooded area in the back where the earth is always too dry or frozen to dig a single grave. The mounds on the far side of the lot are difficult to build because the ground slopes dramatically towards the flats where the row houses sit empty.

The rocks come from the riverbed near the mill. They are palm sized and smooth. Most are plain and grey like the Northeastern sky, but some are the color of rust and have flecks of gold in them that glitter in the light from the security tower.

Each body is marked with a handmade tombstone: crosses fashioned from smuggled scrap metal, melted plastic and any other items salvaged from the Complex or the mill. The monuments never last long. Guards are fond of destroying them and occasionally a scrap is stolen from a grave with the hopes of fashioning a tool used for escape or suicide. Either method brings freedom. The only monuments that remain are the rocks and the smell of death.

The rocks are carried in long slings. The men heave them across the railroad tracks, over the iron footbridge and up the stairs to the complex. They carry the rocks in the same slings that are used to carry the dead. The rocks are carried first and are always heavier.

Few words are spoken.

Then the men return to their barracks, carrying with them a secret envy of the dead.

Stacy Stepanovich is a writer who lived aboard a boat until it sank. She has a waning tolerance for unsolicited advice and friends who call her Shipwreck.  She has an MFA from Goddard College and a BA from the University of Pittsburgh.  Her work has recently appeared in Jersey Devil Press, The Molotov Cocktail and Banango Street.

Big And Horned by Josh Sippie

I heard her feet scuffling outside the fitting room door. She was uncomfortable the moment I asked to try on these shirts. Slacks? No problem. I got legs like the next guy. But shirts? Different ballgame. Horned bullheads don’t fit so well into the head hole of t-shirts and button-ups can barely clasp this bulging chest behind its cheap plastic buttons. Not my fault. Born this way. I have to wear something and they don’t exactly have a “horned” section at the local TJ Maxx.

They’re whispering now. I think I heard something about “break it, you buy it,” but I know the policy, I called corporate. Any incidental damage to clothing items is not the responsibility of the customer. And I was exactly a customer. More than that though, I just wanted a damn courtesy. I didn’t gore everyone who turned their back on me, someone throw me a fucking bone.

“Everything okay in there?” She says it with enough distance that she could feasibly deny that she had been talking to me. Even though I knew she had. Big, brave fitting room attendant, checking in on the minotaur.

I snorted, shook my jowls. I tried not to be the stereotypical minotaur, y’know, anger and aggression issues, but my eyes were shading red as I stared at the empty hanger on the back of the changing room door. This lobster print shirt showcased my musculature so well and this ladies out here questioning if I’m doing okay—what, why, because I have the head of a bull? I’m doing just fine, thank you very much. But I didn’t say that, I just snorted again, flexed in the mirror. Damn, this is a win. I’ve never fit into a human extra-large before.

It’s a rare victory for a minotaur to find such a perfect shirt in the domain of man.

“Cash or credit, sir?” the cashier asks me. $7.99, what a bargain. I mean, in a world where 75% of the shirts don’t fit over your horns, to get the perfect shirt for the incredibly low price of $7.99? It’s ludicrous.

“Do you take Apple Pay?” Anything that can be burned isn’t a valid form of currency in my book. Plus, I’m prone to accidental arson. I emphasize the word accidental.

“No, I’m sorry, we accept cash and major credit cards.”

I can see fear in her puny eyes. I can smell it in the sour body odor of the customer next to me, buying caramel popcorn from the kitchen section so she can go home and binge-watch Grey’s Anatomy and wonder why she never did more with herself.

“You know what?” The cashier hands me the shirt. “Consider it a gift on the house.”

The rage lifts.

“You don’t have to do that,” I say. There’s guilt now, like I’ve used my disposition for nefarious means. It’s a snap reaction, really. Y’know how when someone cuts you off on the highway, you impulsively cuss and then thirty seconds later you’re over it? Same deal.

“I know,” she says. She smiles at me. Actually means it too, not just out of fear. “But I’d still like to. Have a nice day, thank you for shopping at TJ Max.”

Josh Sippie lives in New York City, where he is the Director of Publishing Guidance at Gotham Writers and an Associate Editor of Uncharted Mag. When not writing, he can be found wondering why he isn’t writing. More at joshsippie.com or Twitter @sippenator101.