This moonless night is bathed by the orange glow of street lamps. Clouds lie low on the mountains, then tendril through the folds of this valley.
Rain begins again, at first a whisper, its voice growing stronger , a
monotonous murmur …
Lorraine Caputois a documentary poet, translator and travel writer. Her works appear in over 250 journals on six continents; and 19 collections of poetry – including On Galápagos Shores (dancing girl press, 2019) and Escape to the Sea (Origami Poems Project, 2021). She also authors travel narratives, articles and guidebooks. Her writing has been honoured by the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada (2011) and nominated for the Best of the Net. Caputo has done literary readings from Alaska to the Patagonia. She journeys through Latin America, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth. Follow her travels on Facebook or through her website.
beautiful ravens pillage this profanity, the venom in my arteries bleeding out like soundtracks to soulless villains scars on the organs, wounded openings an open port, a haven of injury ready for careless remarks i’m in a tender spot
i feel the acid radiating away the pained thoughts but i’m nothing but a thought in the air please, when will i heal i want to feel secure, a safe haven when will my body become my own again not powered by broken beings.
Lotté Jean Elliott is a writer based in Northern England. She is the published author of a fiction novel, THE DAMNED SOCIETY, poetry collections LETTERS TO JUPITER and NIGHTS IN THE SNOW GARDEN and an upcoming screenwriter. She has works featured in Literary Mark, Brave Voices Magazine, Sledgehammerlit and BBC Newcastle.
That evening, Kaitlin and I were together for the first time in a while, sitting on her patio. While I tried to think of something to talk about, she alternated between taking small sips from a glass of water and waving invisible pests away from her face. Her kids were with their dad, and the cat was dead, so there wasn’t anything obvious or innocuous for me to land on conversationally.
I have a bad habit of bringing up inappropriate topics if there’s nothing obvious or innocuous to rely on (kids, pets). I wouldn’t have come to Kaitlin’s at all if I had known my nieces weren’t there. But the point is that I did go to Kaitlin’s, and since there was nothing to inhibit my bad habit, I brought up the Sara Chain Letter.
The Sara Chain Letter was something that happened to us when we were kids, in the summer of 2004. I was a few weeks away from turning twelve, and Kaitlin was thirteen. I remember it was before my birthday because Kaitlin was teasing me about the short few months in which she was “two years older” than me. I’d also had my appendix removed that same week—maybe just a few days before the incident—because I remember being sore and a little woozy.
I couldn’t do much activity, which was why Kaitlin and I were spending so much time on the computer. My dad usually kept a time limit on our internet usage, but he must have felt bad for me after the surgery because the rules had been temporarily lifted. This benefited Kaitlin more than me, since she was healthy. The internet was our main source of entertainment at that time, and she took full advantage of having control over the mouse. I didn’t have the energy to do much else besides sit on a kitchen chair next to her and watch.
In 2004, lots of kids at our school were into weird stuff on the internet. Most parents had no clue what we were doing. Including ours: our dad had only recently gotten a laptop, and it was for work. The kids in my computer lab impressed each other with methods for getting past school-regulated firewalls and shared new sites that hadn’t yet been detected, flagged as inappropriate, and blocked. Despite the school’s best efforts, plenty of explicit stuff was passed around. Mostly sex-related. But scary things were also popular.
One type of school-inappropriate content was called a chain letter. I’m sure you remember. A bunch of text, on a forum post or in an email, telling the reader they had four minutes to send the letter to ten people or else they would drop dead in a week. And other multitudinous variations. Chain letters were the most ridiculed and simultaneously the most feared because back then, it was one of the only things on the internet that threatened to have an impact on your real life.
It was Kaitlin’s idea to find the Sara Chain Letter.
“Connor dared me to look it up,” she said.
Kaitlin liked Connor. I was supposed to feign ignorance until she properly admitted it.
“So do it,” I said.
“He said it’s scary,” Kaitlin said.
“It’s just a chain letter,” I said.
Kaitlin leaned back in the desk chair and peered through the threshold of the office, presumably to see if our dad was in listening range. When she was satisfied that he was at a safe distance, she said, “So you wanna do it?”
Mostly I wanted her to go to the virtual pet website we liked so I could watch her play. But I was too tired to call her out for trying to impress Connor. So I just said, “fine.”
Kaitlin stared at me, testing my sincerity. I stared blankly at the computer screen. Then she went to a search engine. Or, I assume she did. Searching is so ubiquitous now that it doesn’t sound right to say she “went to” one. In any case, she searched Sara Chain Letter, and we were brought to a sparse white webpage with a block of black text.
I am Sara. I am 13 years old. I was murdered by my neighbour. I went to his house after school. My parents were at work. He murdered me with a knife. He stabbed me over and over. If you’re reading this, then send this message to 13 more people in 13 minutes. If you don’t, I will HURT YOU. I will come to your house tonight at 3 A.M. I will be by your bed and kill you like I got killed by my neighbour.
I started to giggle, but it didn’t have a chance to leave my throat. Kaitlin scrolled down, past the text, and there was the image. The photograph. Kaitlin said, “oh,” and scrolled back up quickly. But we both saw it.
The dead girl in the photograph was lying on her back, naked. The frame contained everything above her belly button. She barely had breasts, I remember. Her neck was turned at an unnatural angle, and her mouth was too wide open. Her eyes were round and staring away from us. Her skin was tinged green. Her hair was stringy and dark, and there wasn’t that much of it.
I’m sure Kaitlin screamed first. But we were both screaming when my dad bolted into the office, yelling, “What? What? What happened?” Kaitlin was hysterical. I remember it oddly as if there were two of me, one hysterical and one watching, seeing all three of us. Kaitlin sank to the floor, on her knees, sobbing; I sobbed in the chair and wondered if I was going to throw up; my dad rubbed Kaitlin’s shoulders because she was closer to him. I remember that everything hurt like hell.
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“It was probably fake,” I said to Kaitlin.
My dad had set us up in front of the television with plastic cups of water and slightly burnt frozen pizza. Neither of us were watching TV. Kaitlin shrugged and nodded. Her face and eyes were still wet.
My dad was on the phone arguing with our cable company, demanding that they take down the page. This was a time when people still thought someone out there had control over what went online. The idea of the page being gone didn’t make me feel better. We’d already seen the letter. We’d already seen her face.
I recovered myself enough to eat the pizza and then sought out Dad. He was sitting at the desk chair, fruitlessly reading the user policies of our internet service. I sat down in the same chair I had so recently, so innocently inhabited; it now had an ominous energy.
I don’t remember the details of our conversation. But I know I asked him, “Is that picture real?” Because Dad looked at the computer screen, at the bouncing geometric screensaver, and said “Yes.”
I went back to the living room.
“Kaitlin,” I said
“What?” Kaitlin said sullenly. Her water was still undrunk.
“I was right. Dad found out the picture was fake.”
Kaitlin said nothing. I took the lie further.
“It was a movie prop.”
A cartoon character on TV screamed Oh my god!. I remember that because the voice had the cadence of natural speech as if the character had responded to me.
“Okay,” Kaitlin said.
I felt it was my responsibility, a new role that I’d acquired, to protect Kaitlin from the disturbing truth. I used this new role to bolster me that night, lying awake as the clock got closer to 3 AM. I was strong, Dad had decided I was strong—and obviously, I was stronger than Kaitlin. I did not need to be afraid that the thing I had seen would appear. And Sara did not appear.
I didn’t tell Kaitlin the last part when I mentioned the Sara Chain Letter on her patio. But that didn’t stop her from wrinkling her nose, swiping at another invisible fly, and saying, “I do not want to talk about that.”
It was fair of her to say since I knew this was not something I should have brought up on a perfectly nice summer evening. Bad habit. We had not discussed the Sara Chain Letter since it happened, not once in seventeen years. To be frank, we hadn’t discussed much at all in at least fourteen of those seventeen years. Since our mother died—not long after the chain letter incident, actually—we had grown apart. We were very different people, and grief had made that obvious.
Kaitlin took a sip of water. “Also, you remember it wrong.”
“What do you mean?”
“You fell asleep on the couch. Dad told me the photo was real. Not you.”
“That’s literally impossible,” I said.
“You must have overheard us while you were sleeping,” Kaitlin said. “And then dreamed it was you.”
Something about her matter-of-fact tone made me suddenly, viciously angry. I knew I had to temper my reaction. Flying off the handle would only give her a greater sense of superiority.
“I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to upset you,” Kaitlin said. “But I guess you knew all along.”
So much for tempering. “Okay, this is stupid,” I said. “Because that is just not true.”
The moment had stayed with me—Dad confiding in me that the photograph was real—because it was evidence that I had a stronger emotional constitution than Kaitlin, a resilience she lacked. I’d held the suspicion for years as a kid, but this memory represented the first proof. It must have been me, or else how would I have felt secure in the belief all the years after?
“You were on painkillers,” Kaitlin said.
“You were coming off anesthesia.”
“I couldn’t tell you because you would have been upset.”
“Well, obviously, I knew, and I’m still here. So.”
“And am I too.”
Kaitlin rolled her eyes. “Don’t be like this.”
“Be like what?”
“We’re trying to have a nice evening, and you’re starting a fight.”
“Just because I think you’re wrong doesn’t mean I’m starting a fight.”
“Let’s just call Dad and ask.”
“This is ridiculous,” Kaitlin said.
I was already dialling. Dad answered; we exchanged short evening hellos.
“It’s nice that you two are together,” Dad said.
“Yeah. Can you settle something for us?” I said. I heard Kaitlin scoff. “Remember the chain letter website? The gory one that me and Kaitlin saw when we were kids?”
“Yeah, the Sara Chain Letter. It was, like, a scary letter, and there was a picture of a girl’s body at the end. We saw it and freaked out.”
“I don’t know….”
“Dad. The dead girl. On the internet. There’s no way you forgot about that.”
“I never had anything to do with the computers in our house. I hated all that stuff. Still do.”
Kaitlin and I exchanged glances.
“Dad, you didn’t forget. It was such a big deal,” I said.
“Put him on speaker,” Kaitlin said.
I did, with some familiar resentment. Kaitlin always thought she could accomplish whatever it was I had failed to do. That had not changed, not since we were children, not since she told me matter-of-factly that I didn’t care enough, and that was why our mother wouldn’t visit me in dreams.
“After the appendectomy, Dad,” Kaitlin said. “That summer. We were in the office, and you let us play on the computer with no time limit.”
“Yeah. Oh, hun. The picture of the dead body? Oh. Hun, that was your mom.”
“What?” I said.
“That was your mom. She was home with you two. I was on that big work trip. ’05, right? ’04?” He paused as if in reminiscence. “She didn’t give you a time limit? Ha. She never told me that.”
Kaitlin stared at me.
“She didn’t tell me what happened until I got home. She didn’t want to upset me. There was nothing I could have done,” said my dad. “Plus, she knew I was sensitive to that kind of thing. I could never do blood.”
Greg believed in God the way most people believed in breathing. He found that not everyone liked this about him. He was thin, starting to grey, and wore wire-framed glasses that aged him more than necessary. His wife had liked it. For a time. Now it was just him and the baby and God.
Then, God told him that he was dying. This was important, God said because dying opened out your options. It clarified things. Greg took the prescription the doctor had given him, nodded solemnly at his prognosis, and wheeled the baby’s stroller out of the hospital.
He looked at the baby, a tuft of blonde hair curling ’round her head. She wasn’t really a baby anymore; last month, she’d started to toddle around the house. She’d already ripped more tassels off of the tablecloth than he’d been able to sew back on.
God was right, Greg thought. Dying did clarify things. He folded the stroller up into the back of his car and gently strapped the baby (toddler, almost) in. He started to drive.
He met Sam after he’d been driving for most of the day. The sun dripped orange light over everything. Sam’s coat looked like a flicker of flame, lit up by the car’s headlamps as they stuck out a thumb and hitchhiked. They had the collar of their coat pulled up and their hat low on their head, like a detective in an old movie. He let them get in the car.
“Where to?” he asked.
“Wherever you’re going,” Sam said. Their voice was androgynous and made Greg pause. They were waiting for a response.
“I don’t know yet,” Greg said. “Only I think I’m supposed to bring people with me.”
“Sounds fine to me,” Sam said. “That your kid?”
He blinked at the question. “Yeah, she’s mine.”
“She got a name?”
“Lucy? Cute,” they said. Greg continued driving.
Eventually, Greg got too tired to drive, and the baby was restless, so they pulled into a motel. Sam winced as they got out of the car, sucking in the air through their teeth.
He picked Lucy up and balanced her on his hip. “You okay?”
Sam shook their head. “Not really.”
Greg got a chance to look at Sam now. They were a bit younger than him and altogether too present. Their eyes. Like something burning. “It’s serious, isn’t it?” he said.
“Yeah,” They replied, surprised. “How’d you guess?”
“I’m dying. Six months, maybe a year, if I’m lucky. God told me to get in the car, and I found you. There must be something in it, a method to His madness.”
Sam snorted. “Sorry to hear that. But there’s no such thing as God, Greg.” He shook his head. “I think there’s others. And we’re all going to go together.”
Sam was looking at him like someone trying to make shapes out of clouds. “If you say so.”
They got a twin room. Sam drank cheap decaf coffee, sat on the floor, and stretched out their legs, reaching forward to touch their toes. They wore a shapeless skirt and striped socks. Every time the baby toddled towards them, they’d gently spin her around, and she’d giggle.
Greg sat in his undershirt (Sam said they didn’t mind) and tried to talk to God. It wasn’t going very well. He’d sit there and think, Oh God, oh King of Kings, oh Almighty, won’t you please tell me where I have to go tomorrow? Won’t you please tell me what I have to do next?
Then, while waiting for God’s response, he’d think about how the car probably needed looking at and how he didn’t know how far he needed to go and how he really ought to tell the baby’s mother, but then the baby would be taken from him, and Greg had never loved anything in this world as much as he’d loved the baby and by that point, his heart was beating too loudly to hear God over.
“Are those tattoos?” Sam asked, gesturing to Greg’s arms with their coffee cup.
On Greg’s arms were colourful markings, red and yellow, blue and green. “They’re feathers,” he said by way of explanation.
Sam made a noise of understanding. “What’s God saying?”
God, ever aware of the need for good timing, piped up.
“Go, and be healed,” Greg said, repeating him. His voice was flatter than God’s and less luminous.
“Lol,” said Sam, for the hell of it.
They met two Swedish tourists in the parking lot the next morning. They were humming “American Pie” and taking pictures of the motel sign. When they saw Sam and Greg with the baby, they dissolved into coos and giggles. Lucy moved her chubby hands towards one of the Swedish tourists, waving at them.
“Excuse me, ladies,” Greg said once they were finished fussing the baby. “Are you looking for God?”
The women looked to Greg and muttered between themselves. Sam frowned. “They won’t fit in the car.”
“Car?” One of them asked, peering at Sam. “Oooh, Car, ya?” They pointed to a shiny corvette over to the side. “No problem.”
Greg smiled. “See? No problem.”
When they stopped for lunch a few hours later, the corvette pulled into the same parking lot. The Swedish tourists continued to take photographs, their hair shining in the sunlight.
Inside the diner, Sam found a girl sitting in one of the booths. She had notebooks piled up on her table, next to a Bible and a milkshake. She watched Sam placidly as they approached. Greg hovered uncertainly beside them.
“Do you live ’round here?” Sam asked.
The girl shook her head. “Passing through.”
The girl shrugged, running a finger ’round the edge of her glass. “Depends. I’m looking for something.”
“Yeah?” Sam asked. She glanced between them, taking in Greg’s inside-out shirt, Sam’s detective hat, Lucy biting her bright plastic rattle.
“I collect religious experiences,” she said. “A preacher with healing hands in Philly, a boy who sees angels in Vermont. I once had a guy in Maryland who painted on his stigmata every morning and said he used to see Jesus at the Wawa. He liked soft pretzels.” From her bag, she picked out a foil packet of pills, popped two in her mouth, and took a gulp of her milkshake.
“Why?” Sam asked.
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She didn’t say anything but pulled a face that suggested she didn’t want to go into it. She was very small and bird-like, her curly hair pulled away from her face in twin puffs.
“Fine.” Sam’s eyes flicked briefly towards Greg. “He says he can talk to God.”
The girl considered Greg for a long moment, then smiled. “Ah,” she said. “Perfect.”
That was how they met Reba.
That night, Greg tried to talk to God again. The Swedish tourists talked amongst themselves, and Reba scribbled into her notebook. Sam flung Greg’s prescription at him.
“Doesn’t matter,” he said.
“Fuck doesn’t matter. Take your fucking pills.”
“Don’t swear in front of the baby.”
Sam stuck out their tongue, and Greg smiled despite himself. They seemed to get bored of this line of conversation and turned to Reba. “Why him, huh?”
Reba looked tired, and the writing in her notebook was shaky. “A lot of what I record is nonsense,” she said. “But sometimes you can just see God on someone, Sam. I don’t know why.”
“God,” they snorted. “God on Mr. Bad-Tattoos-Won’t-Take-His-Pills?”
“You came with me, didn’t you?” Greg asked.
“Nowhere else to be,” Sam said. “Do you know where we’re going yet?”
“Not yet,” Greg said.
Reba said goodnight. She was staying in the same room as the Swedish tourists.
Greg looked at Sam and wanted to sigh, but he didn’t as he felt that exasperation wasn’t useful right now. “I don’t know how to explain God to you, Sam,” he said.
Sam looked very tired in this light, all their burning dimmed. “Yeah, I figured.”
Greg thought about God and about the task he’d been sent on. “It’s all His Will. We’ll finish this journey; we’ll get well.”
Sam suddenly looked close to crying. “Sometimes I see things.”
“Sometimes, I just know things are going to happen. There’s no voice in my head; it’s just how things are. But it hurts now. I knew that I had to find you; I knew about Reba too. I think they might be the last things I’ll ever know for sure. I don’t know how—” They held their head in their hands. “—I don’t know how to die with any sense of grace. I think I’m going to go out like a light.”
Greg put the baby down in her travel cot and wrapped his arms around Sam while they cried.
They met Dillan when they pulled into a gas station, and he was on the cash register, letting the local kids walk out without paying for their gum. He had deep shadows under his eyes.
Fifteen minutes later, he was in the corvette with the Swedish tourists and Reba. In the car park, he’d looked at Greg like someone looks at a clear night sky. All the stars. He’d said, “Holy shit. I believe you. I really believe you.”
He didn’t even call to say that he’d quit. Just left his name badge and keys on the counter and walked straight out.
One night when they were sitting together outside in the warm air, Reba asked Greg to talk about God. He said there was the God of his childhood, the God his mother had instilled in him, the Gods of the churches who found him uncomfortable, and a voice that swung through his head like a green and glowing pendulum.
“No one,” Greg said, and he looked unusually sad as he spoke, “Tells you what to do after you’ve seen the burning bush. No one tells you how to keep going while the impossible is working through you. God does not make himself obvious but is visible in the ripples.”
The nights in motels were getting expensive, and none of them were well enough to sleep in the cars. He was getting worried about Lucy, too; the long drives were making her cranky and irritable. She wasn’t happy. Even Sam and the Swedish tourists were struggling to make her smile.
Dillan rounded on Reba one night while she was filling in her notebook. “Why bother?” he asked her. “Why should there be anything left of any of us?”
“Someone has to take notes,” she said. “Someone has to care.”
Sam told him to knock it off. Dillan looked pale and shaky.
“How much further is it?” he asked. Greg shook his head slowly, and Dillan deflated. “I don’t have any money or any insulin left. I want to do this, Greg, but how are any of us supposed to keep going?”
“I don’t know. I’m really sorry. I’m really sorry.” He worried he was failing them. Or maybe he was failing God, somehow. He looked over to Sam and thought of them curled up and crying. “I’m going to do my best by all of you. I promise.”
Eventually, it was decided that the Swedish tourists would pay for Dillan, and Sam would have to sneak into Greg’s room and sleep on the couch. “Take the bed,” Greg said.
Sam smiled, laid out on the sofa, hat placed over their eyes. “I’m good.”
“You’ll hurt in the morning.”
“Oh, and what’s new?”
Greg didn’t respond, and after a few moments of silence, Sam tossed their hat onto the bed.
“What?” Greg asked.
“I’ve been thinking about the Swedish tourists.”
Sam sat up. “When they talk amongst themselves, they’re not speaking Swedish.” They caught Greg’s puzzled expression and sighed. “No, seriously. A language… has a sound, right? It makes certain shapes, follows certain patterns. If you listen, it’s just… jibberish. They’re not speaking anything at all except for the stuff they say in English. I think… I don’t know. I think they’re aliens, maybe.”
Greg started to laugh. “Are you serious?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I am. What’s—”
“Sam, you don’t even believe in God, but aliens? Are you kidding me? Holy shit.”
Sam smiled in spite of themselves. “Don’t swear in front of the baby.”
They agreed to switch places halfway through the night when Sam got up to pee, but by that point, Greg was too tired to move, so they laid in the same bed and dreamt.
They took turns with the driving through the long and increasingly uncomfortable days. Technically Greg could have asked Dillan or Reba or one of the Swedish tourists/potential aliens to do it, but they’d fallen into their own kind of rhythm.
They’d sit in the tinny rumble of the car’s engine and chat shit. Sam found out about Greg’s ex-wife (her name was Helen), Greg found out about Sam’s time at college (they’d majored in anthropology). Sam was good at distracting Lucy when she got bored.
God was coming through louder all the time. Sam had developed a tremble in their hands that everyone pretended wasn’t there.
The road was wooded on both sides, a streak of grey sky above their heads. It reminded Greg of the roads near where he’d grown up. Sam pulled over.
He frowned as they got out of the car and braced themselves on the hood. “Sam? What’s wrong? What are you doing?”
Sam shook their head. “I need the air, I can’t—I can’t concentrate on anything anymore. It’s not safe.”
“We’re so close, now. I’ll get one of the others to drive. Hell, I’ll drive.”
“I don’t want to do this.”
“Sam. Sam. I know you’re tired, but—”
“You’re full of shit. I’m too ill to be here. And what the hell am I doing anyway? Following some crazy guy with a baby and bad tattoos and—”
“They’re not tattoos.”
Sam looked at him and blinked. “What.”
“They’re feathers.” Greg looked around for other cars or people. Even the corvette was a way behind them. He took off his shirt. Running across his arms and down his back, patches of colour, greens and blues and reds. The patches had a feathery quality to them, as far as faded tattoos went, but that was all.
“What are you on about?”
“Put your hand on my back.” When they shot him a look, Greg insisted. “Please.”
Sam reached out and sunk their hand into the thick, downy feathers. They ran a hand down his back. Feathers. In any colour, you cared to name.
Greg turned to face them and realized they were burning again, like the moment he’d first seen them from the car window. “You’re impossible,” they said and kissed him.
He cupped their face. Their lips were very soft, and they were very nervous.
“Greg,” they said. “I spent so long trying to die when I knew. I knew, and I saw it coming, but now I don’t want it.” He held them, and they wrapped their arms around him.
“We’ll be okay,” Greg said, not sure if he really believed it.
Rather than talk about what they were going to do next, Greg suggested they find somewhere that sold coffee. The Swedish aliens pulled up in the Starbucks drive-thru maybe ten minutes later. Sam sat on the hood of Greg’s car with their coat collar pulled over their face and their striped socks on display. They had a decaf coffee in one hand and the baby on their lap.
“Mm,” Sam said. “I like this part of the country, at least. It’s near where I grew up.”
Greg turned to them. “Really?
“I grew up in Maine, didn’t I say? A podunk town called Cleanliness.”
“What? That’s where I grew up,” Greg said.
“What? How did we not know each other? You’re older than me, but, seriously?“
Greg wasn’t really listening, though, because running through him was a voice roughly the size of a forest. It was made of light, with an accent particular to heaven. He knew where they needed to go.
Even the town’s signage joked about being “Next to Godliness.” They’d just never expected it to be true. Greg’s old car idled next to the corvette as they all got out and tentatively looked around.
“Greg, Sam,” Reba said. “Dillian and I have something to tell you. Before we do this.”
Sam’s smile was like sparks coming off a fire, quick as a flash. “You guys grew up here?”
“And you’ve lived an impossible life?”
“The one thing I don’t understand,” Greg said, carrying Lucy in his arms. “Is the Swedish Aliens.”
The Swedish aliens looked between each other, and one of them spoke. They were blond and almost identical, with very white teeth. “Oh, no, no. Tour-ists. Tour-ists.”
Sam shrugged. “Method to His Madness? When was the last time anything in your life made a single lick of sense?”
No one could think of the last time anything made a lick of sense, so they went back to staring at the sign.
“Have you ever thought about flying?” Sam asked suddenly, breaking the silence that had settled.
“All the time, can’t do it, though,” Greg said. “No wings.”
“I bet you could if you tried.”
“I tried. I can’t.”
Sam smiled, the face of someone who couldn’t talk to God but sometimes had profound truths presented to them during moments they least expected. “Yeah,” they said. “You can. And the rest of us are going to walk into that town behind you and realize that we’re already miraculous.”
Kym Deyn is a poet, playwright and fortune teller. They have a Legitimate Snack forthcoming with Broken Sleep Books, as well as work in Carcanet’s Brotherton Poetry Prize Anthology. Otherwise, they have been widely published in a range of anthologies and journals. They are the winner of the 2020 Outspoken Prize for Poetry.You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, and their website.
Jules was sinking and no one really got that. They’d say hey, how goes it, what’s up, catch you soon. She took the 38B in the a.m.; you could set your watch on that. You’d see her at the bus stop in rainbow-colored rain boots, pink slicker, flowered skirt. Ear buds dangling between stringy locks, smudged eyeliner hiding slits that stared at ants on the ground.
You didn’t see scab-pocked arms where a razor dug in deep the night before. Or fingernails that gripped the green lunch bucket, nibbled into broken skin. You didn’t hear the rattle in her head on the dark days or pay attention when she crossed the street seven times.
Jules was just always there standing near the weeds waiting, waiting for the 38B. She was always going somewhere, the girl who was going nowhere.
Susan Milleris an editor/reporter for USA TODAY newspaper who enjoys creative writing as a hobby. Her poetry has appeared in several publications, including Whimsical Poet, The Dillydoun Review, Gemini Magazine, Common Ground Review, Months to Years, Under the Bridges of America, Sandy Paws and the Arlington Anthology. She had a short story published in Beach Life.
i hold fear under my tongue like a lozenge. that sharp cherry taste lingers, tingles all menthol and memory.
it sweats. coating my throat and coloring my pharynx with permanent marker.
every inhale reminds me, every exhale reminds me, of something i don’t want to remember.
Catie Wileyis a lesbian writer from Maryland. She’s a contributing editor for Story Magazine and a poetry reader for the winnow magazine. Her work appears in Stone of Madness Press, Wrongdoing Magazine, and warning lines magazine, among others. Find her on Twitter or at catiewiley.wordpress.com.
when you say you love me, my ears are full of applesauce. i hear the sounds but never the meaning behind them.
every day, i try to shake the applesauce out. i try and i try and i try, but it’s no use. i can’t use a q-tip. no spoons allowed. a fork would never work, too much risk, and i’ve never wanted an ear piercing anyway.
you say you love me and i want to ask you to write it down. in pen, not pencil. hell, a sharpie would be better. write it down so I know i’m not imagining it. write it down so i can hold it in my hands. write it down. the muffle will linger.
Catie Wiley is a lesbian writer from Maryland. She’s a contributing editor for Story Magazine and a poetry reader for the winnow magazine. Her work appears in Stone of Madness Press, Wrongdoing Magazine, and warning lines magazine, among others. Find her on Twitter or at catiewiley.wordpress.com.
How do you write? How can you think? How can you be free? There is no way…
You’re looking for no place. You have come about in an age where angels are dead,
all stars dying.
Dwindling instead of burning,
meaning without Meaning.
Bonaventura didn’t claim the self was god,
though I wish he did.
He said the self can become- can join god.
The self can never be lost,
it can always be augmented.
All things lead back to center;
all can be absorbed,
all leads up.
There is no distinction between lost and found;
The self is always journeying,
so if it’s lost it’s on its way;
if it’s sure of itself, it should keep the path.
The journey never wavers from the soul’s circumference.
S. T. Brant is a teacher from Las Vegas. Pubs in/coming from EcoTheo, Timber, Door is a Jar, Santa Clara Review, Rain Taxi, New South, Green Mountains Review, Another Chicago Magazine, Ekstasis, 8 Poems, a few others. You can find him on Twitter or Instagram.
What is there worth Wondering if all’s inclined against it; If all’s determined to destroy the wonder and amazement Innate in us: If the world to wonder at defies our wondering, Is our natural sense of wonder not an antagonist to Nature And to god that we are stubborn devils in the pit wasting Mystic powers pouting, O earthly interpreter of heaven? O align with Bonaventure, with our grandest saints-
the path to what’s worth terming god is through the world that hopes we discover in it the wonder that reaches for it;
it is our worldly robes that obstructs our heart’s wonder from touching the wonder in the lowly stones.
Wonder wants to wander and wants wonder.
S. T. Brant is a teacher from Las Vegas. Pubs in/coming from EcoTheo, Timber, Door is a Jar, Santa Clara Review, Rain Taxi, New South, Green Mountains Review, Another Chicago Magazine, Ekstasis, 8 Poems, a few others. You can find him on Twitter or Instagram.
Love never rests. It moves, in Death, you to and fro
over glades, dells, the moor,
Deserts, what land there is to trespass; loves do so
hand in hand. Death
Is the wind that chills the living’s skin, but lovers
are not disquieted,
They amble in the weather as though all is sunshine
always and nosegays
Lined created. They may. For those that stroll the earth
contented in eternity;
Sleepless through the legion sorrows fought off
in life; to ramble
With amorous, undefeated spirits in rumored darkness,
though their spirits’ armor,
Its dents and scars and cavities from life’s swords show:
Love moves them all
The more on and on and on past the power their gravestones.
S. T. Brantis a teacher from Las Vegas. Pubs in/coming from EcoTheo, Timber, Door is a Jar, Santa Clara Review, Rain Taxi, New South, Green Mountains Review, Another Chicago Magazine, Ekstasis, 8 Poems, a few others. You can find him on Twitter or Instagram.