pumpkin has entered the chat by M. Roanoke

Bitches, please.

Come at me,
with your
sweaters
and scarves
and seasonal
drinks,
your campfires,
treats,
your crisp-cool air and
cozy glee.

Tell me
how you
live for spooky season
only
when you have
died for it.


M. Roanoke (they/them) is a queer crone and folk artist based in Kansas City, Missouri.  Their interests include anything subtly outrageous and/or gently menacing. Their work has been published or is forthcoming in “Focus on the Fabulous: Colorado GLBT Voices,” and Bureau of Complaint. They are on twitter @gangyrothstein.

Look You in the Sky by John Martino

You had two heads, and now you’ve
lost one. Big bang sky with a spread
of stars where your brains should
be. Nothing exceeds like necessity.

Every inch takes a mile. Every mile
a destiny. Way, way down inside,
where the mass is always meaner.
Always the flat-top monster, never

the fright-wig bride. Last night,
you wandered lonely as a Rover
vaporizing rocks on Mars. And what
were you thinking with all that red light

cradled so recklessly in your arms?
Indigenous minds want to know.
The torch mob’s in the village, yo!
Can’t you hear that missile blow?


John Martino is an educator and writer currently residing in Hong Kong. His poems have appeared in Another Chicago MagazineConnotation PressThe Bitchin’ Kitsch, and frak\ture, among others.

The Mist Maiden by Jeremy Scott

Veronica was only 14 years old when her wicked stepmother plunged the ice dagger into her heart. She was a beauty, nonpareil, the captain of the junior varsity cheer squad, beloved by all that knew her. The jealousy swelled in her stepmother’s cold heart until one day, she decided to do the unthinkable and kill the poor girl. The stepmother took all the hate that she had stored up for the girl and formed it, shaped it, poured it into a mold, and stuck it in the freezer to set. At the end of the night, during the witching hours, the stepmother took the dagger she had made and snuck into the girl’s pink and purple Disney Princess themed room, killing the girl in her sleep.

As the knife sank into the center of the Veronica’s life, she let out an ear-piercing scream, deafening the evil stepmother permanently. The stepmother was thereby indicted and tried for murder. It was a big sensational news story, making it into the National Enquirer and was even featured on one of those low budget true crime show docuseries.

Though the girl had perished, her spirit remains. Haunting the early morning hours of her town, she is formed in the mist, ethereal, ever present. Locals have reluctantly grown used to hearing her scream out in the near darkness, as the fog is settling into the early autumn mornings.

“There’s the Mist Maiden again,” they say.

“Wish she would keep it down sometimes,” they say.

“Poor girl, she didn’t even get to go to prom,” they say.

The Mist Maiden is harmless, as long as you stay far enough away. Her scream has been known to freeze those who risk commuting to work during the thick mist she creates. The hospital has had to stock up on space heaters and those metallic space blankets just in case someone is unlucky enough to be frozen by the power of her voice.

The father of the girl cries each night over his loss and searches the fall roads before dawn, hoping to track down the Mist Maiden and return her home, but like all 14 year olds, she is stubborn and refuses to appear for him. He has consulted with priests, ghost hunters, witch doctors, mediums, all of who tell him that it’s not too late for reconciliation. She just needs time to process what happened to her. Like most children of divorce she blames herself for what occurred. He just wants her to bring her back, tell her that he’s sorry for being gone for work and leaving her with that woman, even if she is going to remain incorporeal and stuck at 14 for the rest of his life.

Desperate beyond measure, he finally decided to form a dagger from all the tears he shed for her. Using the mold that the stepmother left, he froze the tears and planned to stab himself out in the middle of the country highway that the Mist Maiden most frequently haunts one October morning. He reasoned that if he can’t bring her home, then he could be with her instead. But, before he could complete the act, the Mist Maiden appeared to him. He dropped to his knees in relief, the dagger of iced tears slipping out of his hand and shattering on the ground. It was overwhelming finally seeing her after all those years. He begged and pleaded with her to come back and live with him. He told her that he kept her room just the way she liked it. She agreed to come home after seeing him repentant and willing to go to any length to be with her.

The early mornings of the fall are quiet for the townspeople now. They rest easy knowing that they can commute to work through the mist without fear. The father went on to take a remote work position with his company so that he could stay at home with the girl. They fight and argue; just like any family does, but in the end they know that they love each other and that is enough. She’s no longer the Mist Maiden, but just your typical, run of the mill, ethereal girl.


Jeremy Scott (he/him) is from Albany, Georgia. He’s @possiblyarhino on Twitter. His debut novella, Marginalia, will be published by Alien Buddha Press. His work has been published or is forthcoming in All Guts No Glory, Angel Rust, BOMBFIRE, Fifth Wheel Press‘s flux digital anthology, Selcouth Station, Versification, and others.

COFFEE & WEED by J. Martin Strangeweather

The Bushdoctor, Monday, December 19, 12:48 a.m.

I’m stoned. Feeling comfortably dense, heavy. My mind, however, is soaring, tallying wrongs committed against me, flipping through the rolodex of life’s disappointments, beating myself up trying to work out issues that I gave up on years ago. Attempting to solve myself. Cannabis does that to me sometimes, especially the sativas. It’s past midnight, and the Russian kid working the smoke bar told me the place closes in ten minutes. He’s one of the nice ones. Asked me if I was alright and did I need any help getting back to my place. Not all budtenders are that friendly. Most of them are snobs. In their defense, they have to deal with greenhorn stoners all day long, people who don’t know their shit and can’t handle their mud. A few coffeeshops prefer to cater specifically to Dutch citizens, selling strains grown only from Dutch genetics. That doesn’t stop the line of tourists from overflowing out their doors. Boerejongens is one such place. Their budtenders wear old-timey outfits with gray vests over collared white long-sleeves, sporting curled mustaches and slicked hair neatly parted down the middle to evoke simpler, happier, more racist times. The grass is always greener, right? I wouldn’t exactly say the guy behind the counter at Boerejongens was rude to me, but he was a tad condescending.

The Dampkring, Monday, December 19, 1:26 p.m.

Mouths filled with slogans, heads full of commercials, hearts overflowing with Hollywood—the American tourists are out on the prowl in the Red Light, including me, but I’m looking for something else. The truest answer transcends our ability to formulate its question. Everything’s an illusion except for the way illusions work. The process by which illusions present their illusion is the only thing that’s real, meaning not an illusion. I used to think the answer would come from within. But now it seems to me that within is formed entirely from without. From things outside of myself, if such a boundary even exists. My bucket of a self, a bucket of near-infinite volume, able to hold the sun, the moon, the stars, whatever I fill it with. All my experiences. All my guts. All my bullshit. All my selves. None of which are mine. None of which are enough. I’m missing something. Something I must’ve overlooked. Like, maybe everything.

The Grey Area, Monday, December 19, 3:48 p.m.

I took another puff. This time it tasted salty, like sweat, or tears. Suddenly the joint called out to me, “Take another hit! Smoke me!” I’m not being figurative here. I’m serious. The joint actually spoke. It didn’t have a mouth or anything. It just sort of communicated telepathically. So did the ashtray, which said, “Deposit ashes in me!” Within seconds everything was vocalizing its desire. The chairs were saying, “Sit on us!” and the tables were saying, “Place things on us!” and the walls were saying, “Hang things on us!” and the ceiling was saying, “Seek shelter under me!” and my cottonmouth was saying, “Drink something!” and my soul was saying, “Appease me!” and the world itself was crying out, “Order me! Structure me! Figure me out!” Dropping the joint into the ashtray, it cried, “Nooooo!” in a high-pitched Mickey Mouse voice.


J. Martin Strangeweather is a poet, a painter, a teller of tall tales, and the Chief Executive Prognosticator & Oneiric Director of Thaumaturgic Research for the Santa Ana Literary Association. He graduated from UC Irvine’s MFA program in English and Fiction, also earning degrees in Philosophy and Art History. Magister Strangeweather resides in a secretive little art colony somewhere in Southern California, where he teaches ornithologists how to sing the language of the birds. 

Verushka’s Earrings by Cassandra Rittenhause

Everyone said Connie Shapiro looked like Snow White. Ivory skin against cropped black hair, the exquisite blue eyes. Even at 46, she retained a fairy tale presence. In the heat of June, she threw amazing parties at her home in Long Island. The talk tonight was Woody Allen – and his girlfriend. The Shapiros lived in his apartment building uptown.

“One moment, she was plain, guys. We saw her in the elevator. Just some girl with hair in her eyes. And then Soon Yi blossomed. ”

Her long time friends, Daphne and Lucas Evans, lounged at the deck, and swirled their brandy, all tension.

“That’s ridiculous, Connie!” remarked gorgeous, voluptuous Daphne. You could tell she was getting drunk and when she drank she got mean.

Her eyes were translucent sapphire. She had cheekbones like glass. Like Connie, her hair was cut short now, in a trendy shag. Bur unlike Connie’s smoky darkness, her hair was pure wheat, lush as it had been in college at Hofstra.

“Mia Farrow was the beauty. A real deal movie star and Woody left her!”

“You’ve got to admit,” her husband chimed it. “He always liked teenage girls more than women. Remember Muriel Hemingway in Manhattan? His girlfriend does homework!”

“Thanks a lot, Lucas,” she snapped.

“Ahh, Muriel Hemingway!” crowed Connie’s husband Ruben. He adjusted his glasses, shielding dark eyes. “What a knockout! Such a beauty.”

“I think I need to go home,” murmured Daphne, coldly.

Daphne strode down the stone path, her kitten toe heels clicking awkwardly. Staggered might be a better word. She hated these Long Island parties. Lucas loved the Shapiros, they were their closest friends, but at times they could say the most lacerating things. They were brilliant, clearly, and liberal, but they made her feel like a bimbo.

Maybe it was because Daphne was a WASP, with those traditional Westchester roots. Her academic professor father Hank had raised her with values. But the Shapiros were a touch nouveau. It was undeniable. Of course, the Shapiros had the biggest house in Manhasset, a house keeper and a swimming pool and real Warhols. Of course, this talk about Woody Allen was on his side, their fellow mensch.

They drove home in near silence. When they finally were back at their condo in Westchester, they undressed. Daphne slipped on a silky, beige negligee. Lucas did not even look at her figure at all. Here it was again. Another night, of silent treatment mused Lucas. You never knew Daphne’s moods.

“So what’s the deal? Does Woody have an Asian fetish? Does every man?”

“Now, I don’t think it’s every man,” chimed Lucas, loosening his tie. ‘Lighten up, Daphne. No more! Let it go!”

The first time Daphne caught him cheating, it was with her best friend Verushka. That little domestic moment had been frozen in her brain. It was a winter party at the Shapiros (those culprits again!). Verushka, who was Indian, was wearing a turtleneck and dangling earrings. They were sparkling gold hoops. Against her sparkling ebony hair. She was clearly buzzed. Lucas, who at that time, in his 30’s, had long blonde hair to his wide shoulders, looked a little like Jeff Bridges. He was a handsome, beautiful man, the Nordic type, and girls loved him.

They were just talking, with coy looks. Laughter. Him next to her on the couch, the both of them intent on where this flirtation was going, not caring that it was like a crazy train going to crush Daphne.

Sometimes when she ruminated on that moment, the moment she caught them laughing, she thought it was worse to catch them talking than actually cheating. That betrayal was more violent, and it lit up her pit — a gut instinct to attack him. Still, she was an upper class WASP. One didn’t fight, or attack things, or get jealous. One turned the other cheek.

That night, Daphne lay on the bed and looked at her chic vases, and paintings, and curtains, all done in the lovely 90’s style called Shabby Chic. It suddenly struck her as dated. She felt ridiculous. She thought about Soon Yi taking from Mia, with the cruelty of youth. She thought of a boy she knew in high school who had loved her, but she had not wanted him. Lucas glowed in the shadow of the bathroom, his stomach and chest bare. He seemed unattainable.

“It must be nice to be you,” she spoke, her voice cold and brittle as the night. Lucas walked towards her and held her. She let herself cry, that almost luxurious feeling of submitting and giving up. Maybe it would get better, she mused. Maybe this is how things went. Were they stronger now? He traced his fingers over her bushy eyebrows.

“I love you, Daphne.” he said and kissed her forehead. And she held him. This was enough.


Cassandra Rittenhause has been in over 20 journals, among them Eunioa Review, and White Ash Review.

This Isn’t the First Poem About a Government Death Ray by Richard LeDue

Put tinfoil on my windows
to keep out the heat
and government death rays,
but it’s almost autumn now,
so it’s time
to let the windows show the neighbours
the colour of my underwear,
while the colder weather
proves the government’s evil plots
coordinated by seasonal workers.


Richard LeDue (he/him) currently lives in Norway House, Manitoba with his wife and son. His poems have appeared in various publications throughout 2021. His first chapbook, “The Loneliest Age,” was released by Kelsay Books in 2020, and a second chapbook, “Winnipeg Vacation,” was released in September 2021 from Alien Buddha Press. As well, his third chapbook, “The Kind of Noise Worth Writing Down,” is forthcoming in early 2022 from Kelsay Books.

2 Poems by Cheryl Snell

Disquiet

Ice fringes the bare birches. Black crows
pour across the frozen sky, cawing
after an escaping hawk. The wind
waits for my body to fall in on itself─
such a long time coming, this white static─
my spine cracks like knuckles under a valve
convinced it’s my heart. Despite all
protections paid ─ mountains of kale, etcetera─
I’m no longer myself here. I’ve lost
my keys, my last address, the big picture.
Every night this week this winter
I’ve stood under a lace of snow
while freedom seized the sky─
birds clouds moon─
and felt my body fill with another
kind of melancholy. From the silence
inside my solitude comes an impulse
to explain it ─ but I’ll never utter the words.
What would be the use?
I know how slippery they sound
and how subversive memory can be.


Recursive Angel

It was years before I understood
the sun’s last yawn through winter maples;
the yard all harrowed field, exhausted
by false starts. Why must the season end
with trees dying to such an ambiguous yellow?
It misleads those of us who’ve given up.

I wasn’t always so gullible. Through
my fogged mirror, I could touch the face
of my mother, and I knew what was in store.
While I stopped looking, the fading continued,
with flicker enough for me to imagine
what more I’d lose and all I’d leave behind.

I was startled by the halo of moons
and the shapes emerging from a muffle
of dusk at first, but now I’m clear eyed
as the child I was, dreamy and melancholy.
Watch her, knees to chest on the porch,
drinking in the bright garden of the world.


Cheryl Snell’s books include four novels as well as poetry collections from Finishing Line, Pudding House, Moira  Books, and other small presses. Her work has most recently appeared in Eunoia Review, One Art, and The Rye Whiskey Review, and others. She lives in a suburb of DC with her husband, a mathematical engineer.