v4 Spotlight

A New Kind of Family

Jule Pattison-Gordon

Beer sloshes in the teen’s
plastic cup; over the blare of
pop he tells me a secret:
Colleges makes orphans
of all of us. We frats boys sign
our own adoption papers.
Because orphans living together
are closer than orphans farther apart.

He taps his shirt, identical
to the other boys’
3 letters, like D-N-A
He says: those boys dancing shirtless
are brothers from another mother
(and another father)
If we don’t have common blood
Heineken is also thicker than water

Hang the mask of loved ones
over the faces of strangers –
add a glasses, a sweater
and Sammy there could be my uncle.
Add the right shirt
and you can be my brother.
How about it?
We already have in common
as much as any siblings start with.
I’d love you in my family,
what’s your name?

 

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v4 Spotlight

The Crone, Friend of the Queen, Is Asked to Advise in Lieu of the Mirror

Justin Holliday

You grant me privilege to speak the truth
without threat of boiling alive or removal
of blackened fingernails, so listen up.

Your skin turns red like wine every time
you stand before the mirror. What is it now?
23 times a day? We all know you’re jealous
of Snow. She frolics in the woods; you’re stuck
in a palace filled with sniveling idiots.
I get it; life is so unfair. Stop visiting the glass
behind that curtain. It’s no secret what you do.
Or get over her. I know, I know. How dare
she be happy after deserting the love
you gave for 18 years? But you never knew
how to govern a wayward child who preferred to rub
elbows, among other things, with woodland
critters and wolfish men. Turn those flinty eyes
toward me and listen: Give her a candied
apple glossed with nightshade. Return her
immediately and I will undo the damage
and Snow will thank you. Now off with you.

 

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v4 Spotlight

Alpha

Emily O’Neill

Sweat pearling like prayers in a novena. Some hurts are ugly
enough to dance with anyway. Some women are wolves. I weave
between her teeth like a howl. Like sinew. Like a song
swollen from loving the moon too much. Stolen
mouth, stolen mouth. This is how the wave will break: bold
and brine across her cheekbone. A kiss sewn through every pulse.
Her height in hours. Her hand in mine. The night, caught
in a single breath like a moth seduced by artificial light.

 

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v3 Spotlight

Men I Would Probably Sleep With

Angel Pulliam

If I had a qualifier
it would be the ability
to read, but I tend
to forget that when hot
breath tickles my ear
and morning is approaching.

 

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v3 Spotlight

These Things Happen To Me All The Time

John Grey

I’d like to think
you were love
but you’re
probably war.
You’re the maggots
that keep the dead bird moving.
You’re wind
that severs
the rotted branches.
You’re the soda bottle
tossed from a car,
rolling across my lawn.
You’re this commercial
for tampons
that I must sit through
so the Olympics
can begin.
You happen to me
in unexpected ways
that aren’t so unexpected
when I think about it.
Like the
day I met you.
A miracle surely.
Wednesday, at it turns out.

 

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v3 Spotlight

Cheesecake

Ricky Garni

My heart is not a clock, but when I opened up my shirt and saw a clock there I couldn’t help but think that way. How fun to have a clock over your heart. Neither clock nor heart listen to each other. They both go thump and click and tock. One over the other. One under the other. They take turns. They fight it out. They never make up. They think it’s funny. It’s funny.

 

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v2 Spotlight

My Mother’s Curtains

Michael Ashley

have hung almost as long
as I have been married,
tattered around the edges
stained by her forty a day habit

I tell her that they are worn
& she should replace them,
she brushes it off
retorting that there’s plenty wear
left in them yet,
they keep the warmth in
& it’s hard to get a well fitting
pair just off the shelf,

predictably
after the second bottle of Chablis
our conversation turns
to my marriage,
she tells me
in that condescending tone,
how my spouse is no good for me
how she’ll never have grandchildren
how it is never too late to turn

I brush it off,
knowing that when I next visit
her curtains will still be hanging
dirty
familiar
& almost impossible to replace.

 

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v2 Spotlight

On a Day Off

John F. Buckley

I like eating lunch over the sink, over the side
with the garbage disposal. About ten feet past
the kitchen window is a thick green leafy curtain
thoroughly screening me from seeing or being seen
by the many vehicles rushing down the freeway
that runs just above and beyond the beige carport,
under a drizzling off-white Orange County sky.

Amidst a life of intricately-woven marriage and
sleek domesticity sit pockets of beloved disorder:
overstuffed sandwiches dripping into the drain,
a dining-room table covered with loose papers
and cases of provisions from Costco, and a dark
puzzling stain on the carpet from unknown causes,
but surely not from the cat or my muddy shoes.

If the family in the apartment downstairs slam
the front door and drive off in their car, I can lean
forward to stare down at their cluttered back patio,
at the trunks of the evergreens before me. I’ll splash
a little water around the sink to clean it, grab my keys,
and then take off in my birdshitty green Civic to run
errands keeping our own lives moving smoothly.

 

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v2 Spotlight

Derelict Mumbled Riddle

Scott T. Starbuck

Now the queen told her henchmen
“You’ve got to let that rocker drown.”
but word arrived on a stolen boat
drifting through the clouds.

I met the octopus in the Seattle Aquarium
and he told me what to say.
He said, “The queen is a blasted furnace
rusting beneath the wharf.”

Nice tits though, but
I tore up her phone number
since love, and not sex,
is what I wanted.

My guitar can love me
if she can’t.

 

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v2 Spotlight

Eat at Sam’s

Kevin Ridgeway

Neon lights embrace us as we pass through the glass portal
into the world of flaming grills and bosomy waitresses
order slips waving underneath the fans caked in grease
and sweat from the brows of short order cooks melting
inside their toasted paper hats

Burgers are a primary specialty, but an abundance of
hard to pronounce Mexican meat platters are universally met
with glee by saucer eyes that water from steam permeating
the open kitchen and the entire dining hall, pyres of
feasts glowing in foil fortresses on table tops lining nearly every
weathered duct tape foam booth housing families gathered around
octogenarian saints

We are not adventurous; we order hamburgers and fries in
oily white bags that drip from the wattage of Sam’s in the
night all the way to our doorstep and to our own table, our
saints long dead and our bodies feverish from that dive diner’s
hothouse of manic personalities and simmering splendors

 

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