Barn, Well by Zebulon Huset

And yes, 
he seemed callous 
as he defeathered the dove
but not for the liquid 
that dripped or 
the pepper of bird-shot 
that felled the bird. He held 
his ground against me
despite clearly knowing 
he was wrong.

And yes, I 
was wrong to yell, and 
yes throwing 
the lantern 
was a poor choice.
One I’d forever 
tell myself 
was just
an accident.

And yes the barn
was dry that fall. 

And yes the dogs 
howled around
the fire 
in a half-bay-half-cry.

And yes, I wish
with every spare quarter 
I find in pocket
or gutter
for a time machine,
some elongated trip 
to the past to undo 
that arm motion. 

And 
yes, 
the well
has grown 
a fortune of silver 
off my regret.


Zebulon Huset is a teacher, writer and photographer. He won the Gulf Stream 2020 Summer Poetry Contest and his writing has appeared in Best New Poets, Bombfire, Texas Review, North American Review, Meridian, The Southern Review, Fence and many others. He publishes the prompt blog Notebooking Daily, and edits the journals Coastal Shelf and Sparked.

Heart of Pigs by Elle Reed

Pig heart. Drunk cherry. Fairytale eggplant, slivered, fermented. Squid, raw. Kyoko Samurai. Laguiole, rainbow. Bleed, baby, bleed. The tablecloths all white and bathed in candlelight and red neon.

Daemon takes another sip of saké, I eat the pig’s heart.

“You don’t know what you’re asking for, girl,” he says. His voice is like sand on skin, and his long hair, shiny, untamed, is the kind of hair that belongs to a man with such a voice.

“I’m pretty sure I do,” I say and bite my lip because a man like Daemon calls for vulnerability. Some men need vulnerability. The more rape and murder in him, the more he needs. Somehow, I must have always known he was like that. But, at the time, he was everything I was looking for in the world that I hadn’t been able to find. 

I finger the rim of my saké-tini (orange blossom, jasmine), I look up to him through my eyelashes.

Daemon laughs, I laugh. I let him touch me beneath the table.

#

Why would I join a cult, knowing it was a cult? Why would I go about trying to convince this cult leader to fall in love with me? These are the kind of questions people might ask who are too content with a surface way of doing life. That’s one of the things Daemon taught me: don’t accept the status quo.

Why does a groupie trail a rockstar? Why does she sleep with all bandmates, when she only really wants the one?

Freedom. Alternative lifestyle. Nirvana. Acceptance, belonging. Love, even.

Daemon called us his goddesses. That’s what we were, who he crafted us into, who he already saw in us. Goddesses.

There were six of us: Claire, Juniper, Lex, Venus, Lily, and me, Angel. We lived together in a dilapidated house on Rossmore in Los Angeles. I met Claire first. She was the one who taught me everything about Daemon in the first place, introduced me, opened my world. She told me what I needed to know.

I met Claire in a Food Studies course I was enrolled in at UCLA. Food: Nurture, Seduction, Delusion.

“You know what they say about Daemon,” she said one day after class when I was ready, ready for all of it. Claire’s smile was haunted and exotic, the skin beneath her eyes veinous. “He likes to eat,” she said, “So go, eat.”

#

There is a Venus flytrap in a black lacquered pot on the table beside a candle. It is small and almost purple in the restaurant’s lighting, red on natural green. It has thick, magenta tongues. Was Daemon the Venus flytrap, or was I? Some people are made for each other, is the conclusion I have come to believe.

“Reality is illusion,” Daemon says to me. I know this already. I smile like I don’t. Daemon fascinates me because he more than knows, he lives.

“Do you believe this?” He asks me.

I lift the pig’s heart to my lips and taste it with the tip of my tongue. I smile, “Of course,” I say. His eyes glitter, black, pupils dilated. He has dark hair, unshaven face. Black cargo, a hoodie. 

My chakras are in alignment, yin & yang in balance; my sun is in Aquarius, my moon in Pisces. Three of swords. Heart of pigs.

“Show me,” he says, and I swallow the heart whole.


Elle Reed lives in Michigan with her husband, Austin, and her electric guitar, Polly. When she’s not writing she’s either making love or music. Her work has appeared in The Mountain Goat and Metonym

EPISTAXIS by Salvatore Difalco

The two uniformed cops standing at my door told me I was in trouble, big trouble. One of them, uncannily clean-shaven, looked like a young John Goodman. The other, a short swarthy man, wore a bandito moustache so predominant the rest of his face escaped me. Explain, I said. And they told me stories about my past that could not have been true. They told stories that put me in places I had never been, and with people I had never met. This is all nonsense, I said. How would I have accomplished all this mayhem? Look at me. Look at where I am living. Do these look like the quarters of a criminal mastermind? We’re nonjudgmental, John Goodman intoned. Despite my appeals, they strong-armed me and cuffed my wrists. They threw me in back of the cruiser and with John Goodman at the wheel sped off to a wooded area just outside of town. I asked them what they planned to do to me. What we do to all punks like you, the mustachioed one said. You have the wrong guy, I told him. You’re making a big mistake. Are you telling us how to do our jobs? he shouted, banging the Plexiglass separating us. I needed air. I asked them to roll down a window or to switch on the air conditioner. Do we look like your servants? John Goodman said with a little side smirk. To serve and protect, I said. Those are just words, his partner said, threadbare, shorn of meaning. Slogans keep the people from revolting, he added. I mean clever, well-crafted slogans. Like just say no? I ventured. Both cops turned and glared at me. I had a feeling if not for the Plexiglass one of them would have punched me in the face. They did one better, though. They came to an abrupt stop without warning and my torso flew forward and mashed my nose into the Plexiglass. It smarted like a bastard and my nose began bleeding. With my cuffs on I couldn’t get out the wad of Kleenex I typically carried around in my pocket. I wiped my bleeding nose with the back of my right hand. It was really flowing. I’m bleeding, I said. John Goodman glanced in his rearview and said something quietly to his partner who then turned to me and said it was my own fault. How is this my own fault? I said in my most aggrieved voice. You’re annoying, he said. Annoying? I said. That the best you can do? Anyway, John Goodman said, you may not be a criminal mastermind, but what are supposed to do with you now? Let me go! I cried. We can’t do that, he said. Nuh-uh, said his partner. You’re fucking insane! I cried. Want me to hit brakes again? John Goodman said, shooting me a hard look in his rearview. Please don’t do that, I said, I’m really bleeding here. I mean, guy, I’m hemorrhaging. He’s hemorrhaging, said the mustachioed cop with a chuckle. Good word, said John Goodman. Really paints a picture. Meanwhile, I tipped back my head and pinched the bridge of my nose. It reminded me of a childhood visit to my father’s hometown on the outskirts of Palermo, in Sicily, when I developed severe nosebleeds, real gushers, possibly because of the extreme heat. Uncle Toto drove me to a medico in Palermo who prescribed these little red pills for me—I don’t recall what they were—and the nosebleeds eventually stopped. That’s a poignant story, John Goodman said, glancing sympathetically in his rearview. Well told, said his partner, turning and stroking his moustache. So you’re not going to let me go? I asked. Nah, he said. This made me so tired I just wanted to close my eyes and go to sleep. I didn’t care anymore. We drove over a small wooden bridge then deeper and deeper into the bush, my eyes lidded, warm thick blood pooling in my hands.


Salvatore Difalco lives in Toronto, Canada. Recent appearances in Cafe Irreal and Everyday Fiction.

The Cat Man’s Love Letter by Brian Le Lay

Loretta,
Kites lingered like a sedge of cranes
I kissed the tip of your nose
twice. Twice the sunrays
capsized me. The clumps in cottage cheese
remind me of mountain huts
trapped in an avalanche. I’m through
with this dunce carapace
Once I dreamt red Corvettes
playing chicken, now I dream
the neon cat’s-cradle
of your fingernails, hope-diamond blue
of your blue-blue eyes
Glinting oxen-free, Loretta I dream
rainstorms & cicadas
Tangled in the tenfold tidal wave
of your red-red hair


A Pushcart Prize nominee, Brian Le Lay likes to fiddle with language and sometimes find the funny. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in places like VAYAVYA, Peach Mag, Sledgehammer Lit, and Dream Pop.