Before The apocalypse by Rp Verlaine

When Christina’s not looking
I steal the straw
from her seltzer
before happy hour’s fake
cheeriness.

I tell Christina
it’s for D.N.A.
To clone her and she
sorta smiles like one might
during a horror movie.
Where the zombies are
too slow, the Vampires
romantic and mummies
unravel their mystery
faster than whiskey
making even a genius
appear foolish…

as a vulture
mistaking sleeping
rednecks
for fair game
missing the always
live finger on
the trigger.


Rp Verlaine, a retired English teacher living in New York City, has an MFA in creative writing from City College. He has several collections of poetry including Femme Fatales Movie Starlets & Rockers (2018) and Lies From The Autobiography 1-3 (2018-2020).

2 Poems by Kaitlyn Crow

Fever Dreams

The longing in my stomach weighs a thousand tons
and I carry it with me everyday
like it’s nothing.
Sweat dripping down my back,
I’m all shivers and spotting vision,
fighting fever dreams about sticks of dynamite
and bonfires right above the base of my spine –
I’m all push, no pull,
ghost peppers tucked under my tongue,
flames licking at the part of me that fears
until I’m laughing because it tickles
instead of burns.

I’m ice cold until it’s after midnight and I am next to you,
thinking of the woman in the laundromat
sitting on the dryer in her underwear
while her only pair of khakis
cycle through the machine.
The hairs on her legs stand up,
goosebumps forming where flesh hits air.
In twenty minutes,
the zipper of her pants
will burn her thumb and forefinger
as she puts them on.

I think there’s something to be said
for the way fire consumes,
but sometimes language fails us—that’s just how it is.

You know that, though, all pull, no push,
ghost peppers tucked under your tongue, too,
sticks of dynamite strapped to each thigh,
your fire scalding the back of your throat—

oh, baby, I know how it burns,
because whenever you smile,
I cough up ash, choke back your embers.


Staring Down the Barrel of a Toilet Bowl

Hold my hair back from my face, remind me to breathe.
Tell me the fluttering of my heart is only temporary.
Tell me again about your last trip to California,
when the wind lifted you beyond the sky
and you looked out the airplane window
at the stars sparkling so bright,
you thought they were all about to die,
all at once, like they had agreed upon it,

together.

Your perspective on the way stars are only at their brightest
just before they stop shining eats away at my stomach.

I fear I may blind you.

Please, stop looking at me like I am about to explode—
like you want to look away,
but can’t.

Please.

Don’t you look at me like you’re stuck trying to decide
whether I’d become a neutron star or a black hole,
and just tell me what happens next
when stars die.


Kaitlyn Crow is a queer writer based in Richmond, Virginia. Their works have appeared or are forthcoming in Wrongdoing Magazine, COUNTERCLOCK, and Apeiron Review, among others. They serve as an editor at K’in Literary Journal and Chaotic Merge Magazine. Find them on Twitter @queeryeehawpoet and Instagram @kaitlynwriteswords.

2 Poems by Robert Allen

Smoking Together at the Breakfast Table

Somehow cigarettes were
part of the meal.
Bagels and Nutella and cup
after cup of coffee,
only pausing to fully drag
a smoke and breathe it out.
Smoke wafted
from our mouths, noses,
smoke in our fresh
morning nakedness.
Smoke straying into
our hair and squatting like
a brown cancerous cloud.
We didn’t last.
It ended badly.
But somehow
those cigarette mornings,
we called them love.


Circus

Sometimes things
are nearly over
but you have
to smile because
otherwise you’d
break into pieces like
an undoable puzzle.
It burns the
way hot oil burns
with a splash
of magenta and fire-purple
tossed over hands
in surrender and prayer.
So I stay far from the fire now
and smile like a painted clown.


Robert Allen lives and loves in northern California, where he writes poems,  takes long walks,  and looks at birds. More at:  www.robertallenpoet.com

2 Poems by Erich von Hungen

Fire’s Flame

Fire and not water.
Give me fire all alone,
straight, unblended,
fire everywhere.

Let me drink it
till my vessels steam,
my breath paints dreams
and my heart boils with it.

Let me talk with fire for a tongue,
though that fire
turns my lips to molten heat,
it is that which tempers words to steel,
words that still cut when I,
my lips and tongue, are done.

And when it comes to mind,
let it spark out thoughts from the driest dust
where a thought, like fire,
should not be expected to occur.
Give me that, that burning thrust.

Give me fire out for fingers
marking, sissing, branding
every skin I touch
and, too, that for feet, heels scorching,
razing all the ways behind me.
Give me forward never back.
That, give me that.

Give me that.
To sweat more flames in the heat,
the writhing meat of it,
the burning, browning,
disintegrating time of all of it.
Give me that, to rage and writhe,
to gleam and shine and glint
and drip years of it.

Give me hair of cinders,
chest and head,
eyes of coals,
ashes where I undulate,
and wind to carry me
through the forests to your very lap.
Let me flash like stars across the night,
but unlike stars,
let me gather and ignite.

Fire. Give me fire
to reach and stretch and grab,
to demand and take all it
that I can get.

To take like flames in high white grass;
to burn and dye the heavens out with smoke,
to burn until the fire burns out,
to burn without lingering,
to glow until I turn to light.

Name me another place to be,
another purpose than in this light,
this light that gives a place to dwell.

Name me what could be better than it,
than a flame’s outrageous blossoming
and a fire’s burning will.

Name me another place to be, another purpose
than in this light,
this light, this brightness.
Give me that as a place to dwell.


Everything

She ate the apple
out of the pear.
She took everything
and so found more.

She flew the bird out of the sky
without ever messing her dress or hair
and lived the dream
that the rest had dreamt down there,
way down there on earth.

She rode her car beyond the cliff
where the car wouldn’t drive
and came back more alive for it.

She harvested the orchid
from the heart of the rose,
the lion from the man,
the stealth and soul from the panther
without answering for it.

The mystery from the moon, she took it,
without bothering with the riddle,
the tenacity from the tide, that too,
without getting wet.

The sweet from the honey
without the honey itself,
the rest from the night
without bothering with sleep.

The joy from the joyless,
the stunt from the athlete
without taking his feet.

The plus from the minus
without minding the math,
the laughter from the wind, the child,
from the secret electricity of sin.

The good, she accepted,
the bad was her firewood,
and it made her warmer
even than that good.

The spider’s silk,
she unwound to the end,
saving the venom
because you never know
what or when or where.

And when she died,
she’d already been there,
seen it, done it all long ago,
so wasn’t bothered by it.

Find it here, then, as she did,
here and everywhere,
the apple inside the pear.

Take everything,
rejecting nothing, not even despair,
because you never know
what or when or where.


Erich von Hungen currently lives in San Francisco, California.  His writing has appeared in The Colorado QuarterlyCathexis Northwest PressThe Esthetic Apostle, The Write Launch, The Ravens Perch,  From Whispers To Roars, The Closed Eye Open and others. He has recently launched  two collections of poems “In Spite Of Contagion: 65 COVID-19 Poems” and “Kisses: 87 Love Poems”.

Crash & Burn by Lori Cramer

He crashed into my bland existence like the answer to a question I’d never dared ask. A doppelgänger for the leading man in my wildest dreams, he had the chiseled magnificence of a model and the muscled precision of a ballplayer. He issued an invitation without uttering a word, and I rushed to RSVP. Warning lights flashed, golden yellows morphing into crimson reds, echoes of the fire he’d ignited, but instead of slowing down I accelerated. The flames leapt and danced, building to a white-hot intensity—then extinguished without warning, to no one’s surprise except my own.


Lori Cramer’s short prose has appeared in The Cabinet of Heed, Fictive Dream, Flash Fiction Magazine, MoonPark ReviewUnbroken Journal, and elsewhere. Her work has been nominated for Best Microfiction. Links to her writing can be found at https://loricramerfiction.wordpress.com. Twitter: @LCramer29. 

My Buddy, the Moon by H. A. Piacentino

The moon is huge tonight. Its silver light creeps across my countryside, lurks in streets and bursts into houses. I know it does this just to piss me off.

Noise blares long into the night. It starts with the wails of toddlers dragged from glowing windows to beds by frantic parents. They’re joined by the scratching of poets’ pens and followed in turn by the desperate groans of their friends and partners. Long domesticated dogs add howling protests, as if recalling, through some dark magic of the light, times when their kind ran wild, before they were called things like Cuddles. No-one rests and, come morning, everyone is in a terrible mood. My bully, the moon.

This time though, it’s not a piss take. The next night the moon is genuinely massive, abnormally so. People are terrified. Those who can escape do so in rockets that climb quickly and cling to the moon’s dark side. As the moon comes closer, I see its pocked face smiling down at me. I send up waves in wet greeting. It’s been ages since anything bigger than an asteroid paid a visit. My buddy, the moon.

Before I know it, my seas have spilled everywhere, and there’s water soaking into the land. I can’t even tell which continent is which. Screams ring out from those scrambling to higher land. Another restless night. Great. My bully, the moon.

Then my surface falls silent. Silent! It’s been so long I’ve forgotten how good it feels. Was it some point in the Paleozoic? The moon shakes off the stowaways clinging to its back, sending a shower of humanity into oblivion. It touches the point of its Mons Huygens to my Everest in a celestial fist-bump. My buddy, the moon!

When the floods recede, the trees breathe a collective sigh of relief, filling the air with pleasant plumes of oxygen. I begin to feel my seas tingle with the anticipation of new life. I pray to my former residents’ gods that evolution takes it easy this time. Please, no apes, I whisper.


H. A. Piacentino is a new writer based in Glasgow, Scotland. His work is forthcoming in FlashFlood Journal and Night Sky Press. You can find him on Twitter @h_a_piacentino

Fire Follows Fire by Steve Passey

My dad’s old business partner had some money. He attracted all sorts. Everyone had a “business proposal”. One guy had a cattle deal he was pitching. He’d recruited a few other guys, farmers mostly, and he recruited Jim. He took their money and spent it – some on cattle, some on land, but most on who knows what – and they lost it all. Some of these guys had borrowed against their farms and they were mad. They sued, every one of them except for Jim. He just shrugged it off. What is it they say about throwing good money after bad? The others put good money into lawyers and got none of the bad back so that money was gone too. All of them except for Jim had something bad happen. Fires mostly, a barn here, a haystack there, nothing with people in it, but fires. One by one they dropped their lawsuits. The guy who pitched the deal and spent their money wound up owning a used car lot. He’d tell people he was from England and had only been here a while. They’d nod and then, when he left, roll their eyes.

I was told that his own father was an honest man. He had sons too, one from each wife, (he’d left the first for the babysitter,) and I heard they weren’t too bad either.

The oldest boy was riding a motorcycle when he was hit by a car and knocked off the road not a block from our place. Someone called an ambulance. My mother ran out and laid a blanket on him. He lay under the blanket looking up at the sky and didn’t say a word. The dust from the collision and a hot and dry August hung over him and when it settled on his sweaty face, he looked like he’d just worked a long shift in a dirt mine. A single red ant crawled on him. Hornets began to settle on the bumper of the car that had hit him, licking with long tongues and prying up, with the edges of their jaws, the splattered viscera of a thousand lesser insects crushed against the car’s hard steel bumper on its path to the intersection where it met the boy and his motorcycle. The ambulance came and took him away. He had a broken leg.

My mother got her blanket back. She washed it and folded it up and put it away, but a few years later when she took it out again, she unrolled it and there, right in the center of it, was the husk of a yellow-and-black hornet only a little less bright than the ones on the bumper of the car on the day of the wreck. She washed it again, then when it was dry she went out and put it in the burning barrel and set it to fire and burnt it, stirring the embers with a rake until it was all gone.


Steve Passey is originally from Southern Alberta. He is the author of the short-story collections “Forty-Five Minutes of Unstoppable Rock” (Tortoise Books, 2017), “Cemetery Blackbirds” (Secret History Books, 2021), the novella “Starseed” (Seventh Terrace), and many other individual things. He is a Pushcart and Best of the Net Nominee and is part of the Editorial Collective at The Black Dog Review.