Best of 2015

M. Alden

i think at night something like my heart drips from my mouth and stains
the covers, and here is where i lost you and traced the question marks
with a cold index finger, told myself the answers
are in your gospel (i’m with you no matter what)
and still i believe in your aureate heart, somewhere still at odds
like clovers growing up in concrete. i see your little knees,
purple braille from kneeling too long in gravel and grits poured out
by your stepmother who took her cues from storybooks.
i see you the way you said and more,
patchwork man of stars and beasts.
if i let the steady rain in my periphery flood my sight and hold
very still, i think your words are heard, and your chestbeat
bruises what’s left of me, and i think at night i see you in everything

at night is when i sang you to sleep in foreign tongues with a
fingertip trace on your back and at night is when i made my home
nestled between your ribs, my provenance and best hope.
and at first this was enough, to fall into tomorrow with one dazed
blink of lambent eyes and murmured hallelujahs,
thank the faceless sky for its providence, at first it was
enough, and at second thought you want more than what I was
allowed to ever give except you already took it, i’m in your pocket
small and warm on your skin on my shaking body on me
again but love, i said ;

did i whisper? extinguished voicebox and white flag eyes,
i did not even put up a fight at the end I am still in your pocket,
my tongue and my memory in your hand for careless keeping,
and to this day (368 later) i am nothing but your tattered mattress
something like your vestigial heart leaking onto the sheets
and when you take a second, third, tenth lover i sag under
the weight because this bed was not made for three.


i felt a lump in my left manboob yesterday
Ace Kingsly

i checked again—the lump’s still there

(a manly way to go)

can men even get breast cancer?

(why are you grabbing your manboob in the first place?)

i was soaping it in the shower

(you haven’t showered in three days)

i rub my nipples when i masturbate sometimes


i could be a corpse a year from now

(you’re fine. now go take out the trash)

how does oblivion feel?

(death is the ultimate corner-cutter)

eternal unconsciousness sounds relaxing

(you’d never have to figure out how the hell a 401k works)

impending death would make my conversations more interesting.

(never have to get that lumpy body in shape)

i’d never be disappointed by another series finale

(never have to talk about the mortgage in a gray office)

never have to watch another friend fade away

(never have to stare slack-jawed at your tax form year after year)

never regret not making a move on the girl with the outer space leggings

(never have to put that novel in your head onto paper)

seriously, I should’ve made a move

(never have to take out the fucking trash again)

i’d never have to take out the fucking trash again

(go take out the fucking trash)

i’m busy

(there’s still life in that flabby sack of flesh)

okay, google, can men get breast cancer?

(the nsa is laughing at you)

sounds like it’s rare

(i’m laughing at you)

still, they’re saying i should see a doctor

(you’re fine)

could be a cyst

(you’re fine)


(you’re fine. the trash can awaits)

Leigh Ann Kyle


Swayze says “Hello.”


r. miller

It was the light cast by the feeble stars that finally did me in – I threw up my hands, having already thrown up my errors in judgment, and made a wonderful attempt to shout something profound and luscious with meaning at all those weak-wristed lights, but all that I was able to belch was

“… the literal fuck?”

Luckily, I’ve been able to focus all of that rage inward, but at what cost? What cost? These days, my perception of things is an abandoned house in the country, fallen completely to disrepair, as you can see by the way the shutters have rotted from their hinges,

and whatever glass there is
is broken glass,

and the peeled strips of paint like overgrown fingernails.

The interior is just an abominable tableau of trash and damaged furniture. But there’s the underlying sense that yes, this place once made a rather comfortable living space for some family of four in another time, and your imagination pulses with all kinds of halcyon scenes;

brother and sister
in the backyard,
playing games they’ve invented
only for themselves,

while mother
and father
watch from the porch,
mother resting her head
on father’s shoulder
as the warm twilight
slowly coaxes her to sleep,
her hand in father’s
much larger hand.

He turns his head,
buries his nose in her
floral scented hair,
and kisses her
on the crown.

These scenes, juxtaposed with the present state of affairs erupt in a single question: What the fuck exactly happened? And of course, you’re too horrified to speculate.


Derek Childs

Ought I risk becoming monstrous
to satisfy my lust? It has been said,
by some, the cultural barrier
between two lover’s,
though seldom reinforced,
can be cursed
by an awkward fate. If love
is to blossom between two hearts
from opposite corners of the world,
in which sweet copulation occurs,
the romantics, rather than suffering
at the hands of separation,
will be transformed
into horrific beasts.
Though it could be argued,
the hideousness
of such grotesque malice
would keep two people
from considering an affair,
the pain of not being next to you
would be all the more unbearable.
I would risk being mutated
into something vile,
if only to have you forever
at my side,
your smile,
so satisfying and so kissable,
being a blessing,
regardless the form it takes.
I am afraid
of not having you,
and though society cannot abide
such selfishness,
the pureness of my heart’s affection
proves the honesty of the commitment
I openly vow
to cherish.
If animalistic love
is what we must make
after the indoctrination,
then I shan’t produce threats
against the contaminating magic
for allowing your heart to remain
to my own.
If erected walls,
designed to stopper those
of different culture
and language
can be surpassed,
the burden
of beastly transformation
is certainly a simplistic hindrance,
and as I put
my lips to yours,
man or beast,
you will know the honesty
of my love for you.


Jent Garrison




Brian Andrade

The cigarette finished
Its corpse dispersing into the air

Pink lips expose brutal teeth
Tongue sneaks a taste inside

Hands hold together, I follow yours
From the heart, to the stomach, to the cock

Zipper unloosens, I see its
Presence, eager and throbbing

Mouth opens
Feeling an unknown weight inside

It’s your grace
Ready to implode inside of me

Hands hold the back of my neck, a moan expels
While my throat is pushed

Caressing my hair, your dirty hands touch my face
I await a climax

holden lyric

He was happily suffering there. Behind the bars. He had hailstorms in his eyes and a noose around his fingers.

“Do you think they’ll make a TV show about my struggle?” he asked his only visitor, Didgeridoo, a fan of his writing that flew all the way from Mississippi to ask him the meaning of the typo in his novel.

Didgeridoo refused to believe it. He muttered on about how the misprint affected his life. He spoke of the trip into the forest he took, accompanied by stale mushrooms. He explained how he understood his purpose in life.

“I am a tree,” he said, “you are the forest. You harbor me; you hold me in your stomach and digest me.”

“I do no such thing! The earth, it’s the earth that digests you. It says you have a bad aftertaste.”

“The blow numbs my tongue.”

“Stop eating it.”

“I don’t. It finds its way. We all find our way.”

“There is no way. Just an endless road that reluctantly takes you forward.”

“Roads are so incredibly boring. They have disgust written in the concrete. Stop. Yield. Do not enter. Why can’t life be a limitless sky?”

“Because the sky is a limitless sky. And death is everywhere.”

“Won’t it let me in?”

“No shirt no shoes no service.”

“I am barefoot.”

“How unfortunate. Did you bring the money I asked for? All of the presidents. Hell, even Sacajawea, the old bird, has what I need.”

“I have a straw and half a candy bar.”

“Useless! You’re useless to me!”

“I am broken. I need a fix.”

“There’s no fixing you.”

“Write me something.”

“I’m writing you off.”

“Digest me.”

“Too tough. You’re too tough.”

“Make me tender?”

“I’ll spit you out for the vultures.”

“I need a fix. I am broken.”

“Give me a break.”


Willie Watt

She’s lying in bed next to me and I feel like someone should have a cigarette. The only smoke in the room is invisible and it’s rising off my skull. There’s a fire in the pit of my gut, but it isn’t the warm glow of post-coital bliss.

Rage is too strong a word, but it’s the best that can be expected from language. Anger is too weak. Frustration, too weak. Disappointment, too weak. They’re all part of it, though, in their own way.

She rolls over and looks at me with her big blue eyes and she smiles an early morning kind of smile, and I know she has no clue that the cogs of entropy are spinning in my head. She’s got a tattoo on her shoulder that says happiness, but it’s in some foreign language. I think it might be Sanskrit. She got it at a cheap parlor while studying abroad, and I’m pretty sure the artist intentionally inked her with a completely different word. Probably some alien vulgarity. Not that she’d know, or take the time to look it up.

She yawns and stretches and her stomach elongates. I’m reminded of a taffy machine in an old fashioned candy store I once visited. She puts her warm hand on my cold chest and everything is color. A burst of synesthesia.

The hum of the ceiling fan is a vibrant purple, the vibrations of a Gibson in the next room a dark scarlet, the rain on the sliding glass door a crystalline forest green.

Her hand slides down to my stomach, her fingers gentle, maternal.

I find myself looking out the glass door and each rain droplet is a vivid warning. They tell me it’ll pass for now, kid, but it will never go away. I’m about to argue when I realize that she’s saying something. Good morning, I think.

I offer a weak smile in response and ask her how she’s feeling.

She replies, every dream is a good dream when I’m with you.

I fight the urge to punch the bedframe.

I ask her what she wants to do today, and she launches into a sermon about perfect rainy days. She says she’s inspired to drink tea and read all day by a warm fireplace, but I know that she never drinks tea, that the last novel she finished was the fourth Twilight book eleven months ago, and that there’s no way anyone in the state is starting a fire today when it’s ninety degrees outside and humid enough to make a rainforest commit seppuku.

I nod and say that sounds lovely.

Lovely. The word is acrid in my mouth and the desire for a cigarette intensifies. There’s a pack of camel crush on the nightstand with three cancer sticks remaining. I know if I light up she’ll ask for one, smoke half of it, get a headache, and waste the rest. I briefly entertain the thought of smoking all three at once like I’m part of some cheeky comedy routine. The rain gets louder. I remember a Kurt Vonnegut quote where he talked about committing slow suicide via cigarettes. I wonder if genius is just the ability to say something unique about tired habits.

Do you want to fuck me?

I’m about to answer in the affirmative when I realize it’s the raindrops again.

Suddenly I’m outside. The water is cold and crisp. I’m making love to an incorporeal entity. The universe holds me down and fulfills every repressed childhood fantasy. I’m swimming in bottomless oceans, orgasmic infinity. For a moment everything collides, senses breaking down and morphing, congealing, coercing sanity with a gentle lullaby. Everything is perfect and infinite, and then a dark thought creeps into the corners of my consciousness. I make the fatal mistake of opening my eyes and there is dark water everywhere. Up and down become meaningless. I remember that I am afraid of open spaces. I remember that I am aquaphobic. I remember that I am afraid of infinity. I remember that I am afraid of sharks, and perfectly on cue a Megalodon of Babylonian proportions appears in the distance, a rapidly approaching dark speck whose threat is as all-encompassing as it is incomprehensibly real.

I panic, but in the aquatic endlessness motion is as nihilistically pointless as sex and love and drugs and life and purpose and knowledge and happiness. I am caught in a thought loop of potential recourse. Every possibility of escape becomes a link in an ouroboros composed of past and future failures.

The speck in the distance grows larger and larger and now I can see teeth. Every primal instinct lurches into overdrive, but the paradox is unbreakable. My genes, evolved from African forefathers whose Nietzschean purpose was to avoid claws and fangs and tusks, become hysterical in their solipsistic terror.

The Megalodon is clear now, a portrait of apocalypse composed of lemniscates and drawn in shades of indigo. It is swimming so fast, the gap between existence and non-existence decreasing with exponential rapidity.

I close my eyes in denial and I see every color, every shape, every abstract conviction I’ve ever clung to.

I hear a distant sound, like an old air-conditioning unit outside a bathroom window.

Suddenly I know I am dreaming.

The sound gets louder, clearer, and now I can make out syllables.

Wake up sleepy head.

I jolt upright, my palms sweaty and flat against the mattress. In my head her words repeat over and over like a mantra. Every dream is a good dream when I’m with you, every dream is a good dream when I’m with you, every dream is a good dream when I’m with you.

The water droplets laugh at me and I instinctively reach for the pack on the nightstand. With shaking hands I manage to light the little fucker. Smoke fills my lungs. I lean back and exhale a stream of gray relief.

She looks at me with her big blue eyes and smiles an early morning kind of smile, and she asks me for a cigarette.