Pantoum for a Funeral

Katya Vondermuhll

While the panikhida is being sung

in the Russian Cathedral on Geary

I am falling into your white bedsheets.

I run my tongue along your skin

in the Russian Cathedral. On Geary

you light the candles for my birthday.

I run. My tongue along your skin,

I say. It has been three years.

You light the candles. For my birthday

you tell me not to stop. Never to stop?

I say. It has been three years

since you’ve been to Confession,

you tell me. Not to stop, never to stop,

you sing. I love the rise and fall of your voice

since you’ve been to Confession.

Arabic is a language I don’t understand.

You sing. I love the rise and fall of your voice

in the Cathedral. The Archbishop places his stole.

Arabic is a language. I don’t understand

the prayers of absolution being read for the dead.

In the Cathedral the Archbishop places his stole.

You consecrate the wine and bread on Sundays.

The prayers of absolution are being read. The dead

is having his final Liturgy. He is lying in a pinewood box.

You consecrate the wine and bread. On Sundays

the dead will not receive. I approach the Chalice, the body and blood.

He is having his final Liturgy, lying in a pinewood box.

You call to tell me the priest from Lebanon is dying.

The dead will not receive. I approach the Chalice. The body and blood

I will eat and drink. Everyone is dying. Soon it will be us,

You call to tell me. The priest from Lebanon is dying.

I am sorry I am writing this, Habibi. I know you don’t want me to.

I will eat and drink everyone. Soon it will be us dying,

falling into. Your white bedsheets,

I am sorry. I am writing this, Habibi, I know. You don’t want me.

The panikhida is being sung.

Small Oyster 2.0.png
Katya Vondermuhll.jpg

Katya Vondermuhll received her B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and her M.F.A. from the University of San Francisco. Her poetry has appeared in Kettle Blue Review, and she has been a finalist and third place winner in Glimmer Train Press fiction contests. Most recently, she was a finalist in the 2019 Summer Literary Seminars Georgia for her poetry. She currently lives in San Francisco with her children and is preparing her novel for submission.


Morrow Dowdle

Maybe it was the shock

that we’d gotten what we’d paid for.

Thinking the inspections had revealed

all we needed to know about flaws

and weaknesses. How little we knew

until the contract was signed,

when we could really start prying.

A quick fixer-upper turned

top-to-bottom renovation.

The initial demolition the happiest

time, nothing at stake in destroying

what was damaged beyond repair.

Layers of broken linoleum atop

a rotting wood floor, the roof

hardly holding on. Concrete piers

holding up the house’s underbelly

dwindling like hourglass grains.

All the little skeletons hidden

within badly patched drywall:

empty bottles, needles, razor blades,

a child’s crumpled birthday card.

Uncovering the decline

from honest duplex to dive bar,

flop house, low-rent housing.

The last tenant’s psych meds

in the trash out back,

pharmaceutical confetti littering

the bottom of the can. Leaving

them for us, as if he’d known

how every improvement

would set us another step back.

Shoring up the foundation

revealing instability in our own.

Repairing walls showing

how ours were crumbling.

The new metal roof exposing

our own leaks.

Even leveling the yard found us

stumbling on uneven ground,

slumlords to a delusion,

years of gloating over something we had

that no one else could touch, or so we told.

Ignoring what buckled and swayed,

what frayed and grew black mold.

Small Oyster 2.0.png
Morrow Dowdle.jpg

morrow dowdle’s most recent publication credits include River and South Review, Dandelion Review, Poetry South, and Sunspot Literary Review. she was a Pushcart Prize nominee in 2018. In addition to poetry, she writes graphic novels, including An Unlikely Refugee. she previously attended Emerson College’s MFA program in creative writing and currently works as a physician assistant in mental health.

Don’t Worry Maria,

Brenda Yates

you gave back the ring and though its absence

is blinding, those

raucous, puzzled, eagle-eyed friends flocking

to your unlit hand

will soon come away, still clucking arched

questions while

forgetting as we do how easily a symbol

empties of meaning,

changes back to itself—tulip, ivory, sable,

radium dial, on and on—

despite advertising. No one today trades

houses for flower bulbs,

and fact is, it rains diamonds on Neptune.

Which even De Beers

can’t buy all of, whatever visions its

founder used to have:

a white man who stood under Rhodesia’s

starry night skies wishing,

he said, to annex the heavens. Daily x-rays

replace the quarantines

and body searches that once found flakes or

pebbles in a worker’s

pocket, his hair, ear, nose or stool. The cost:

lashes. Split

skin bled into the very ground Africans were

forbidden to mine

or own, a history illuminated by dark-skinned

Rhodes Scholars.

Whichever side it arms, bloodstone blinks at

the sun: a guerrilla's

best friend, blind to its dark center. Meanwhile

it rains on Neptune,

falling, glittering, undoing Cecil Rhodes and

what remains of him

ensconced in monuments he built to himself.

Cartels can’t control

forever. Illusions die. Not-really-scarce stones,

man-mades, new finds

(alien or otherwise) won’t be worth killing

for. Rhodes put it at

four thousand years, not quite forever, he'd

be remembered. Perhaps

someone will remember, maybe even while

dumping a truckload of common-as-dirt

rocks to shore up

valuable coastal sands. Who’s to blame

if beachcombers

fling bracelets back into the sea, if fishermen

snag necklaces

and curse? If diamond is just another dirty

word. But, Maria,

I know you’ll understand how beaches

will then look

almost pretty, sparkling as they do with

no other meaning.

Small Oyster 2.0.png
Brenda Yates.JPG

Brenda Yates is a prize-winning author of Bodily Knowledge (Tebot Bach). Her reviews, interviews and poems can be found in Chaparral; The Tishman Review; KPFK Radio 90.7 (Why Poetry); The American Journal of Poetry; Mississippi Review; City of the Big Shoulders: An Anthology of Chicago Poetry (University of Iowa Press); Angle of Reflection (Arctos Press); Manifest West (Western Press Books); The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume VI: Tennessee (Texas Review Press); Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California (Scarlet Tanager Books); Unmasked: Women Write about Sex and Intimacy after Fifty (Weeping Willow Books); and Local News: Poetry About Small Towns (MWPH Books) as well as journals in Ireland, the UK, Portugal, Israel, China and Australia.

The Summer of the Squid

natasha king

The squid that unfurls from my body now

is not the same squid as the one my uncle dried on

the kitchen porch all summer.

That squid was dead, bleached to

a pale ghost, a wizened ghoul of the sea,

rotting gently in the heat of long sleepy days,

brining the house with its

unctuous, undine proclamations.

June, July, August. That was the summer

I had a family. More than my parents and my brothers.

That was the summer I was my baby cousin's favorite

because I sang him afternoon songs

and chased him around corners and through the

backyard grass, his legs plump and silken like

tiny carp and his liquid eyes as huge as

any cephalopod's. That summer the kitchen smelled

musty with dying mollusk incense

and I left my little brother

crying in hot cars and bathrooms and shopping malls,

abandoned like an old snail shell. Yes, in the dead-squid days of

the summer I turned nine,

I was adored and like the world's

shittiest older sibling, I left everything else to rot,

because I didn't yet have the limbs to love everyone enough.

But I do now. Oh,

I do now. The squid unfolding from me

has the wet red arms of the living deep

and tentacles enough for all.

I smell like my brother's sweaty sobs,

I smell like the breathing sea.

It's been years and I am nobody's favorite anymore,

but god if I don't have arms, arms, arms.

Small Oyster 2.0.png
Natasha King.jpg

Natasha King's poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Glintmoon, Lily Poetry Review, and others. She lives in North Carolina and reserves her spare time for writing, prowling, and thinking about the ocean. She can be found on Twitter under @pelagic_natasha.

your mother asks for grandchildren, again

 nicole heneveld

She has no problem with you taking your time, really, no problem at all, so long as you remember

to wear your watch & to watch your mouth & to track the tick of the second hand & the traveling

of eggs by the baker’s dozen & to remember the degrees of separation—to separate the eggs, to

organize, divide, cling to the wall if you have to, wait for the arrival of something strange &

swimming, someone who spent a childhood doing backstroke or sidestroke or breaststroke so as

to make the caress Olympian—don’t forget: cooking time, the heat, the waiting, the anticipation;

don’t forget the possibility of failure or deformity; don’t forget your own sonogram with the

Warnings & the Option for Removal & the Debate over you & how your mother won the Debate;

don’t forget that she delivered you into life, &, if possible, you owe her another one, &, after all,

time is ticking & you ought to consider your legacy & your potential for love, for a brood of

children who’ll love you unconditionally, until you inevitably ruin them, because you are ruined

yourself & there is nothing to be done about that, nothing at all, except to save them from you

before they need saving, which is almost what you wish your mother had done; don’t forget the

blood & the cramping & the mood swings that send you into the kitchen to crack your eggs against

glass rims; don’t imagine a little girl with your mother’s blue eyes watching as the shells break,

wanting you to teach her how to bake & how to swim & how to tell time.

Small Oyster 2.0.png
Nicole Heneveld.jpg

Nicole Heneveld is a writer based in New York. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing from Adelphi University. Her work has been published by Gods & Radicals' 'A Beautiful Resistance,' The Rondeau Roundup, and Awakened Voices Magazine.

Some Tips For the New Silver Sneakers Instructor

Leah Mueller

Put a group of elders

in a room with a massive tub

filled with rubber balls,

and invite them to play.

They will comply

within seconds, glad

for the break in routine.

Watch them throw

the balls to each other,

while one of the guys

shakes his hips to jazz.

The elders will play

the whole hour

if you let them:

tossing balls

back and forth,

running around

the room in circles.

At the end of the game,

you’ll need to tell them

to return the balls

to the container.

They will comply,

but they won’t be

happy about it.

When noon comes,

they’ll have to return

to being old, and no one

looks forward to that.

The elders will

show you their scars,

detail their operations,

recite a long litany

of body parts, removed

for one reason or another.

They will thank you

for teaching them yoga.

They will cover

their bodies with hats

and jackets, then leave:

stoic, fortified for traffic.

You’ll scoop up the

debris of class,

return everything

to its proper container.

The rubber balls lie inert

in piles, securely covered

until the next time

the elders come to play.

Small Oyster 2.0.png
Leah Mueller.jpg

Leah Mueller is an indie writer and spoken word performer from Tacoma, Washington. She is the author of two chapbooks and four books. Her next two books, "Death and Heartbreak" and "Misguided Behavior, Tales of Poor Life Choices" will be published in Autumn, 2019 by Weasel Press and Czykmate Press. Leah’s work appears in Blunderbuss, The Spectacle, Outlook Springs, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, Mockingheart Review, and other publications. She was a featured poet at the 2015 New York Poetry Festival, and a runner-up in the 2012 Wergle Flomp humor poetry contest. you can find her at and


Vivienne Popperl

My sister says she remembers

seeing our grandfather

recite his morning prayers.

She sat in the low blue velvet arm chair

swinging her short legs.

She stared up at him

as he swayed

back and forth,

his lips opening and closing

releasing scratchy whispers

into the early morning sunshine.

I think I saw my brother pray.

Or maybe it’s a photo I remember.

He wound black leather straps

around his left arm and across his forehead

so that the little black boxes

containing the special Hebrew words

were tied close to his heart

and as frontlets between his eyes.

I didn’t know what frontlets were

until I searched in the dictionary:

A decorative band or ornament

worn on the forehead.

Girls could mouth the words

but never bind them next to their hearts

with soft leather

or as frontlets between their eyes.

Maybe that’s why my father,

his voice icy quiet,

ordered me to remove

the narrow ribbon

patterned with flowers

twisted around my forehead,

holding down my dark curly hair.

Small Oyster 2.0.png
Vivienne Popperl.JPG

Vivienne Popperl lives in Portland, Oregon. Her poetry has appeared in Rain Magazine, VoiceCatcher, an online journal of women’s voices and vision, The Poeming Pigeon, and Persimmon Tree Journal. She was honored to serve as a poetry co-editor for the Fall 2017 edition of VoiceCatcher magazine.

 the emperor of ice-cream lies

linda kennedy

“The speaker is telling us and everyone in the room that death is cold,

even ugly and final.”

—Andrew Spacy, Analysis of “The Emperor of Ice-Cream” by Wallace Stevens

Breaking the grip of your big brother's hand,

you run

out onto the highway chasing an unseen

thrill, blinds you to the tractor-trailer.

Your brother stands on the curb turning

to stone,


On my bike, I ride past where you lay almost

all covered in the whitest white sheet,


not hyssop washed but blood-of-Jesus clean.

I still see it,

your brown foot exposed,

full of wander and wonder—

you like some august Roman resting

under that semi-pergola,

I could have called out and you would have

sat up to see. When I returned you had left. I bet

you went to the drugstore, sat at the soda fountain

draped in your toga, laughing at your reflection

in the back counter-to-ceiling mirror as

your foot

spun you around

on a red vinyl stool,

one hand holding a cone laden

with scoops refusing

to melt, the other,

with each spin,

gliding lightly over the counter's edge,

ceiling fans whirring.

Small Oyster 2.0.png
Linda Kennedy.JPG

Linda Kennedy is a musician and writer in the Richmond, Virginia metropolitan area. She received the Leslie Shiel Scholarship for Creative Writing awarded to Writers Who Read through The Visual Arts Center of Richmond. Her poems have been awarded in competitions and appeared online and in print, including Muse/A, 3Elements Review, Stoneboat, and Nonbinary Review.

 Archimedes’ Father Discovers

His Son’s Sketches

aaron brame

The ways he confounds me. Pages of

moons, wheels enmeshed, levers with

strength to transport objects heavier

than me, even. Can’t slay his first stag,

but turns our stream so spring hares

arrive in the dozens. Look how he

sleeps now, tangled in sheets, spheres

spinning on threads all around us.

Small Oyster 2.0.png
Aaron Brame.jpg

Aaron Brame is the former senior poetry editor at the Pinch Journal. His work appears in or is forthcoming from Indianapolis Review, Heron Tree, Lumina, and Tupelo Quarterly. He lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee. Find him on twitter at @mr_brame.


Josslyn Turner

Out of the letter that shakes in my hands

like a vulnerable leaf in a nuclear wind.

Out of my mother’s arms and the words,

“I still love you.” Out of strangers’ stares

that crawl over my new skin. Out of fear

of loneliness in a new world.

The cry I bring down

from the boy

belongs to the woman I’ve become.

I am my mother’s daughter, though I still hear

my dead name. She still tries to sound out

the one I chose.

Small Oyster 2.0.png
Jossyln Turner.jpg

Josslyn Turner is a transgender poet, writer, and abstract artist. She is currently an English Major at Modesto Junior College with a goal to earn a BA in English and an MFA in poetry. Her poems have won 3rd and 2nd places respectively in MJC’s Celebration of the Humanities. Other works appeared in South 85, Across & Through, Penumbra, and Voice of Eve. She lives in Waterford, California where she crashes on her mother’s couch and co-parents two boys.

 grandson’s wedding

Sharon Scholl

He looms above flower baskets.

bridal tulle streaming overhead,

this boy who sunk plastic boats

in my bath water

Who dispatched two mats to the washer

learning to urinate standing up

Who went shrieking through my house

on the trail of Easter eggs

Who hated school from day one

and never changed his mind

Who blocked the driveway

with his skateboard ramps

Who picked any scrap of green

veggie from his pizza

Who lavished a quart of wax

on the chrome of his first truck

Standing there with new suspenders

squeezing down his shoulders,

dragging all those worlds behind him.

Small Oyster 2.0.png
Sharon Scholl.jpg

Sharon Scholl is a retired professor of humanities and world cultures who convenes a poetry critique group and is poetry coordinator for the Florida Heritage Bookfest. She has chapbooks Summer's Child and Message on a Branch in circulation. Individual poems are current in Sky Island Journal and Red Wolf. her website for poetry and music is

less buoyant

Charles Rafferty

Yesterday, the meadow was full of daisies and black-eyed Susans. It felt like a million small

balloons were lifting it into view. Now they are baling it into tidy blocks the horses will eat all

winter, ingesting a field that floated where now we see only tracks. This is always the case. The

moon shows up like a cigarette hole, and the weather keeps milling our mountains into sand.

Small Oyster 2.0.png
Charles Rafferty.jpg

Charles Rafferty’s most recentcollections of poem is The Smoke of Horses (BOA Editions, 2017). His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, O, Oprah Magazine, The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, and Ploughshares. New prose poems are forthcoming in The Gettysburg Review, The Cincinnati Review, Gargoyle, Salamander, and Plume. His Twitter handle is: @CRaffertyWriter.


Merit Badge

John Repp

In a corner

Of the same tent a small boy in a coat

Sobs and sobs...

- Allen Grossman

Mike’s transistor crackles a mystery

from 1940. He says, “My pop loves

this show.” It’s 1965, but I don’t say so.

His mess kit floats between us.

After Kirchner paired-up the troop

for bare-knuckle bouts round the fire,

my three uphill punches landed in the air

beneath Mike’s chin, so he kicked my legs

from under me. Then the rain came again.

Lard-ass me. Swamp Thing him. I rattle

the dead flashlight. The radio sells scrapple.

Mike can’t read a compass. I can’t swim.

The boxing bored Kirchner, so no one

earned dinner, but you can’t expect better

when you fail to lash a lean-to, fail to orienteer,

fail to work flint & tinder, fail to march

by the left flank march by the left flank march

in the black rain that rivers among the pines.

The pain in my bladder is biblical. Kirchner hates

what pathetic excuses we are. I like Combat!

Mike says The Gallant Men look like his pop’s

old platoon. I can’t explain Boy Scouts

to my son.“Why did you do what you hated?”

What an adventure the soaked sleeping bag,

its plaid flannel, its leaky, vulcanized shell,

the stink of boy-sweat & mildewed canvas.

I split the sleeve of saltines my mother zipped

in a bank-deposit pouch. The organ deepens

the mystery. Mike gives me his canteen

& I give him the crackers, a slice of cheese,

half the chocolate bar I’ve been hoarding,

but the radio dies & the rain goes on,

all of us way too old to want our mothers

to come for us as they’ve always promised

to come carry us out of the all-night rain.

Small Oyster 2.0.png
John Repp.jpg

John Repp has two chapbook collections forthcoming: Madeleine Wolfe—A Sequence (Seven Kitchens Press) and Cold-Running Current (Alice Greene & Co.). He grew up along the Blackwater Branch of the Maurice River in southern New Jersey. 

poetry by jonathan yungkans


 Say This Is a Street Therefore People Walk Down It

after John Ashbery

Raccoons hunt trash cans for Snow White’s apple. It’s like brewing

trouble or coffee through a nylon stocking. Don’t think

about the glass slipper, it’ll be fine.

This isn’t chopped fairy tales, just keeping my metaphors

in something approaching a row, since ducks are nowhere in sight:

scattered by shotgun interruptions of a genetically-unsound mind,

fired in random directions as my thoughts danced tracks

northbound toward Union Station.

Some days, this feels like the place where myths come

to die, discarded like cigarette butts flicked to somersault and chill,

ossify in a Philip Marlow reflection, past words, into chess pieces

close-up and personal on Rick’s board in Casablanca,

while I blur Bogarts, amalgamate

loners in a lonely place, the road alongside my house.

Anger flash-cartwheels as it did with Dixon Steele, another Bogart;

its fists work me. Cigarette butts, coffin nails in Bogie’s parlance,

line the street, a row to hammer down the casket lid.

Coffee’s black, the morning rancid.

The raccoons left a peanut butter jar beneath a bush.

I can spread what’s inside for my most important trauma of the day.

My words play tricks on me with fractured slogans—most important

trauma of the day, Attention Derailment Disorder

refuse thrown from brain to street.

My wit’s the glue that keeps this plywood laminated,

tacked onto joists into a floor through which I hope not to plummet,

while the L.A. skyline devours an orange supermoon as it descends,

as if we still grew oranges in earnest, the apple

of my eye booked in a fairy tale

on Amazon. Raccoons find Snow White’s fruit;

each takes a bite, then drunk-staggers to sleep it off under a pick-up.


Through Eyes, Into Eyes

i look you back from looking through me lone wolf

—Jim Kacian

What could pass as my own madness pads in animal form

across what’s left of a neighbor’s abandoned lawn, climbs

up cement porch steps—long silver-haired, lean, quick:

a wild dog or wolf, too big for a coyote—who disappears

as black air wraps its cold around me in my glider chair,

me awake from hours stretched into a slow, starved roam—

and reappears to stare directly at me, across a breezeway

it could hurdle with ease were it so inclined, ice-blue eyes

unwavering from my green. Six feet of air and inclination

separates us in pre-dawn stillness. Only its eye color betrays

some forbearer might have known steps like these—no wolf

has blue eyes, not a mirror’s silver-blue— and here a pair,

gazing into me like I’m a pier glass, and me back into them,

a reminder that, yes, this is me, mind starved and on prowl,

trapped like an animal who gnaws off a limb, leaves a trail

as it hobbles off, gives no thought of being blood-tracked.

I’ve split in two, limping through moonlit brushwood

while the reasonable part of me follows the trail of drops,

an expert tracker, who knows what a cornered beast will do,

especially at night, when torment bays at its highest pitch.

I watch myself through canine eyes, no bird awake to break

stillness. Sitting in this chair, I still feel teeth grind on bone,

crazed and lucid, in a stare-off, ready to dine on each other,

while night, as it circles, devours us both, leaves nothing.

Small Oyster 2.0.png
Jon Yungkans.jpg

Jonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based poet, writer and photographer who earned his MFA in Poetry from California State University, Long Beach. His work has appeared in Anastamos, Quiddity, West Texas Literary Review and other publications. His poetry chapbook, Colors the Thorns Draw, was released by Desert Willow Press in August 2018.

Muslim Prayers

Rebecca Ruth Gould

My udon noodles were longer,

thicker & probably tastier

than your beef tongue.

I never found out

because I forgot to eat,

as I often do when captivated

by someone.

I grasped the chopsticks

in my hand & watched

you check your watch

every five minutes.

You were working to a deadline.

There was something wrong—

yet also right—about being

together with you,

eating pan-Asian in St Pancras,

you telling me about your wife’s

previous sex life & me

projecting my every thought

of you onto someone else—

so that our friendship would

never abandon its purpose—

& the Muslim formulas

that we repeated as infidels,

binding our heresies together.

‘In sha’ Allah. If God wills,

there will be mercy on us.

I thought about how

it would have been to be

a sibling to you, or a lover

or just a friend, unburdened

by expectations.

I thought about your wife too

& the strength of her will

& you reading stories

to your daughter every night in bed.

All this passed through my head

as you stood to pay the bill.

A life lived well flashed before me

& I just wanted to tell you:


As-Salamu Alaykum.

May God be praised.

May peace be upon you.

Small Oyster 2.0.png
Rebecca Gould.jpg

Rebecca Ruth Gould's poems and translations have appeared in Nimrod, Kenyon Review, Tin House, The Hudson Review, Salt Hill, and The Atlantic Review. She translates from Persian, Russian, and Georgian, and has translated books such as After Tomorrow the Days Disappear: Ghazals and Other Poems of Hasan Sijzi of Delhi (Northwestern University Press, 2016) and The Death of Bagrat Zakharych and other Stories by Vazha-Pshavela (Paper & Ink, 2019). Her poem “Grocery Shopping” was a finalist for the Luminaire Award for Best Poetry in 2017, and she is a Pushcart Prize nominee. She can be found on twitter (@rrgould) and Instragam (r.r.gould) and her website is 

 Gibby Argues with Mom About Boys,

joe cottonwood

about freedom, about

It’s not like when you were a hippie, Mom.

Mom takes Gibby for a driving lesson.

Both still steaming, Gibby not concentrating

so they stop at Pescadero Beach.

Pacific waves flatten as they lap, foam, cool toes.

Look — a seal! A fat furry sausage

in sunshine, lying sidewise behind boulders.

It must be injured, Gibby says.

A tension of body, quiver of muscle.

In the eyes, a focus of internal force.

She’s in labor, Mom says.

The seal sighs. Her sides bulge, rise,

then nostrils blow little storms of sand.

Not like people, Gibby says.

Huh? Mom asks.

She doesn’t scream in childbirth, Gibby says.

Neither did I, Mom says. In real life

it’s not like the movies.

Gibby nods, chewing a lock of hair.

Neither is sex, Gibby says, for all I know.

Yes! Mom laughs. For all we know.

From outside the circle of rocks they watch.

Gibby records with phone as a seal pup emerges,

squirms randomly until mama spanks with a fin,

guides her pup flopping to a teat.

Gibby whispers Happy birthday little seal.

Then to Mom, sternly: Okay. I’ll drive us home.

And again, as if Mom missed it: Okay.

Small Oyster 2.0.png
Joe Cottonwood.jpg

Joe Cottonwood has built or repaired hundreds of houses as carpenter/contractor in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His latest book is Foggy Dog: Poems of the Pacific Coast. Find him at

Partners in Crime

David Rojas

It's 8:33 A.M. and we are in the habit

of holding hands as we walk to coffee.

These city folk are in the habit of being

at their horns again. On the sidewalk

some indefinite number of backpacks,

purses, and briefcases shadow past.

Nuns flock a crosswalk in black habits.

The sun is wringing through the clouds

but the night chill clings on.

The buildings, the dirt, the street vendors,

the bird-less telephone lines are all identical

to so many yesterdays. But today,

there is a couple spooning on the sidewalk,

in a sleep so deep it makes your mouth water.

A scooter without a muffler whirs

and backfires past. I feel wakeful

and jealous. They drool on.

They are facing each other with eyes closed,

her head is pillowed by his arm; her painted

lips are aimed at his heart and loaded heavy

with something redder than breath.

Honk. Chalkboard breaks groan and screech.

Honk. You let go of my hand and walk around them.

Honk. Engines putter. Honk. Feet drag. Honk. Voices shuffle.

Honk. Sirens!

His head is anchored to concrete and his back

is to a wall, but the rhythm of a different place

is in his chest; it is as if her susurrations were spells

cast that kept his subconsciousness afloat.

Their bodies move like a single seashore

and physical boundaries appear displaced

and blurred by gray waves of emissions.

One is almost certain that even in their sleep

they seek each other, that in their dreams they hold

hands so tight that they merge and extend into one another,

like cast shadows, and you could not decipher

where one ended and the other started.

With a certain hunger their bellies almost touch

and her opposite leg hugs his body. She holds to him

with the hopeful tenacity of some industrial grade glue

just holding together a cardboard house;

he holds her back as if she were home.

There is a cup, sideways and empty,

just out of her finger’s reach. Behind them,

in a clear bag roost a bottle, old and dubious,

with its label ripped off. I contemplate on the bottle;

and hope it was not a commercial strength solvent

but rather a magical potion of patience and love.

You are yonder now, the hand I once held

is waving at me from across the street

and suddenly it all feels like a crime

scene; I mustn't lose your fingerprints.

Small Oyster 2.0.png
David Rojas.jpeg

David Rojas studied engineering and English at the University of South Florida. He currently resides in Hanoi, Vietnam. He is part time English teacher and a full time street food enthusiast.

it could've been worse

Kate LaDew

says the man across the desk from a few inches above me,

chair high so he must look down, the way dictators do

it could've been worse

not all the girls of this world are as lucky as you

I describe the features I saw over me that night and as the pages flip,

sketch artists don't do their own work these days,

a series of eyes and mouths and chins and noses meld

a boy appearing who looks like any other boy says the man across the desk

leaning back and away, signaling the end of our conversation

as if we were old friends and I must catch a train

it could've been worse he reminds me, eyes on the door, not all girls are as lucky

and I continue living, going to sleep, when I do, with the lullaby

it could've been worse it could've been worse it could have been worse

and I don't tell anyone because then they would know

and the fear of it could've been worse

rising like an echo from someone I love

is more frightening than any hand over my mouth

the times when I remember god,

like an old friend who's caught a train and forgot to wave, I say


please don't let all the boys of this world grow up to be the man across the desk


please don't let all the girls of this world be as lucky as me

Small Oyster 2.0.png
Kate LaDew .jpg

Kate LaDew is a graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BA in Studio Art. She resides in Graham, NC with her cats Charlie Chaplin and Janis Joplin.


Cameron Morse

My mother-in-law You Qiong knees the washing

machine onto the balcony in rubber boots.

Most evenings she washes our clothes by hand

in front of the television, a plastic basin between her feet,

and hangs them above the kitchen’s cast-iron stove.

Most mornings I find the hot water heater already on

when I shuffle into the bathroom because she beat me to the button.

On the balcony, Theo discovers a shovel, carrying

its rust-bitten head in both hands. He picks up a repurposed can

of pineapple juice and looks at mosquitos drowned

at the bottom as if he might lift the sawed off rim to his lips.

I pluck a pinwheel from a flowerpot and entertain him

briefly by blowing it into a blur. You Qiong wraps

the mouth of the spigot with silicone tape as a way of getting

the hose to attach. Tells me to get lost, go back,

pouring detergent in her palm. She swishes her hand

around in the churning water’s wad of underwear and socks,

the sun-flowered blanket cover Theo peed on

in between diapers, his secondary sleep sack and onesie pajamas.

Afterwards, Theo and I grab handfuls of bubbles

from the diminishing mound of squishy foam. He runs them

to the makeshift bench and smears the board. Again and again,

he runs back for more foam and the board darkens with his disintegrating

handprints until You Qiong sees and makes us quit.

Small Oyster 2.0.png

Cameron Morse lives with his wife Lili and son Theodore in Blue Springs, Missouri. He was diagnosed with a glioblastoma in 2014. With a 14.6 month life expectancy, he entered the Creative Writing program at the University of Missouri—Kansas City and, in 2018, graduated with an M.F.A. His poems have been published in numerous magazines, including New Letters, Bridge Eight, and South Dakota Review. His first collection, Fall Risk, won Glass Lyre Press’s 2018 Best Book Award. His second, Father Me Again, is available from Spartan Press and chapbook Coming Home with Cancer is forthcoming in Blue Lyra Press’s Delphi Poetry Series. For more information, check out his Facebook page or website.



Kendra Preston Leonard

There’s gold in your mines, Brazil:

the gold from Avó’s teeth.

There’s silver to be found in the mud:

the necklace my irmã always wore.

My sisters, my cousins, the canteen cook,

your father, her brothers, their aunts,

the house the teacher lived in,

the store that had the best acarajé,

now become the new place to mine.

The headboard of lattice

above the mud-crushed bed,

the glasses and tires and helmets,

the lunchbags and pencils and cups

become relics.

Have you found bronze, bombieros,

searching for all you can find?

That might be Tio’s medal,

the one he wore for luck.

I see the helicopters hover

with bodies in their nets

bringing a funeral

to those who wait

in the graveyard.

We all carry the coffins

thought they’re not always full

a box brings consolation

to the grieving.

Is there a hand in your net, with a ring, bombieros?

A ring with a date inside?

Perhaps you have found my amante.

Show me, and I will know.

Small Oyster 2.0.png
Kendra Leonard.jpg

Kendra Preston Leonard is a poet and librettist based in Texas. Her work has appeared in vox poetic, lunch, and other venues, and her latest opera libretto, The Harbingers, will be premiered this October in Chicago with music by Rossa Crean.

Girl and Buffalo

Diane Glancy


a Pawnee girl taken by Osage and escaped from them lived with the

buffalo where she learned

They have plays for winter evenings before the stars began to tell their


I drank their milk because there was nothing else.

In their plays, they were a ship surrounded by the sea.

They tried to read as the ship’s library rolled. A table moving over

moving waves.

I was away from the tribe and the tribe that had taken me.

How the ghosts of the sea were ships.

They told these stories. The stars told? Yes yes.

The buffalo talked to one another. The way stars saw the ships that lifted

their sails and passed through the night.

The buffalo grunted and snored as they slept. The sails came closer.

The library on board opened its pages. We would learn what they were.

What they said. What they meant.

I slept with the buffalo. Their breath was a cave where I hid.

I listened to their plays.

It would not be what I would have guessed. Even the buffalo did not

know. But something was there. Already their foot on the shore.

It would be different than we guessed.

It would drive into us. Like a prairie blizzard. Fierce and pushing what

was in its way.

Often as a girl my deer-skin dress on backward my moccasins on the

wrong feet.

Small Oyster 2.0.png

DIANE GLANCY is professor emerita at Macalester College. Currently, she teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Carlow University in Pittsburgh. Her latest poetry books are "It Was Over There by That Place," the Atlas Chapbook Series, and "The Book of Bearings," Wipf & Stock. Other books published by Wipf & Stock: "Mary Queen of Bees" (novella), "The Servitude of Love" (stories) and "The Collector of Bodies, Concern for Syria and the Middle East" (poetry). Her awards and other books are on her website


Born and raised in desert towns hundreds of miles apart, L. I. Henley and Laura Maher were connected through mutual acquaintances in the poetry community in the summer of 2017. Though they’ve never met in person, their correspondence began first over email, then through these poems. The poems trace in real-time the growing connection of two strangers, uncovering a shared archaeological dig of lost loves, regrets, questions, and other half-buried artifacts of memory. Place, both geological and historical, are at the center of their correspondence, as are concerns about climate change, gender-based violence, and political unrest. Writing poems in correspondence allowed them to be both writer and reader; turns out, the differences between those roles are less important than just being present to what develops on the page.

Music / advice

L. I. Henley

I think the best advice I ever got came from music,

how to really feel it when you’ve been wronged, how to slow dance

with your heartache, tune your longing like a trumpet.

The music said, You can stop feeling this anytime you want. But why would you

want to?

The sadness had a warmth, like a stove, and I pressed my hips to it.

Would you believe me if I told you that even now, married to my truest love,

I sometimes miss that music? Did you know I sometimes sing?

Blues, mostly. I like it slow like that, predictable in rhyme and bottomless in grief.

I go out walking, after midnight, out in the moonlight...searching for you-eww...

The weeping willow kills me every time.

One time I played the role of a wife pushed to the edge

and died from pills on an outdoor stage while Patsy Cline sang, “Crazy.”

I can’t remember why the wife was depressed, but I’ll never forget

the long-leg spiders all over my body

as I lied there dead.

I was sixteen and had my first on-stage kiss and death all in the same night.

Isn’t that what all girls want—the night-hushed drama of it?

Do you sing? Do you sing when you go out walking under the night sky?

I pretended the crawling, the tickle, was fuzzy light coming down from the stars.

The stars are very close tonight, I told myself. The stars are very bright.

My high school boyfriend had driven all the way to Idyllwild to watch the play on opening night.

I was ready to break up with him, loving the end as much as the beginning,

wanting that good music warm in my hips,

and kissed the boy on stage (my play husband) extra long.

Then I died with a dramatic stagger,

a prolonged, silent gape, my mouth an O that sang out O’s above the heads

of the audience.

That was twenty years ago. I want more kisses, more birthdays, more life.

Still, it was a good, dreamy death—the best I’ve ever had—

with spiders and stars and people watching. My O’s floating off into the pines.



laura maher

What warmth we have known, turning our cheeks to rest on hot sand,

soaking up sunshine through skin, flushing with desire—for life, or a kiss, for a poem—

or catching spring winds by our hair.

A heat like this—I know it. A heat like this, warmth like I could consume it.

You say—the sadness had a warmth—we know how sadness can be a comfort has much as it can scald.

I wonder:

can my memory of something hot

work as well to prevent a burn, the shock of it blooming

as easily as early spring poppies flush the mountains in gold, in yellow?

These, named California poppies, were blown by warming winds too.

With winter shorter and stranger every year, I return

to all the ways that a human body can scar or mend, can want or create.

Though I will plant my legs firmly into the earth, this tells me

this desert is rare, its frailty its strength.

I look at the mountains,

or hear soft Os drifting from California, and I know just as well that

there’s as much magic as there is science in every transition, I swear.

If I could leave my skin, my body, would I?

Small Oyster 2.0.png
L. I. Henley.png

L.I. Henley was born and raised in the Mojave Desert town of Joshua Tree, California. She is the author of Desert with a Cabin View, The Finding, These Friends These Rooms, and Starshine Road, which won the 2017 Perugia Press Prize. In October, 2019, What Books Press of Santa Monica will publish her fifth collection, Whole Night Through. Her work has appeared in Tupelo Quarterly, Zone 3, Spillway, Waxwing, Rhino, and elsewhere.

Laura Maher.jpg

Laura Maher is the author of the chapbook, Sleep Water (Dancing Girl Press, 2017). Her poetry and prose has appeared in Quarter After Eight, The Common, Crazyhorse, The Collagist, New Ohio Review, and Third Coast. Laura holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Arizona, a Master of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Master of Fine Arts from Warren Wilson College. She lives, works, and writes in Tucson, Arizona.



Jacob Robert Bennett

Which is to say,

it shouldn’t bother me. It shouldn’t be

on my mind – his hand on

your ass in an Uber, your invitation

to his office Christmas party. The resentment should

feel cheap now. For what would

broken glass do? A median crossed, a

torn bumper, a drunk sheriff

off duty. What is

a eulogy, but an apology?

Small Oyster 2.0.png
Jacob Robert Bennett.jpeg

Jacob Robert Bennett's poetry has appeared in Hobart, The Monarch Review, Quail Bell, and is forthcoming in Genre: Urban Arts and The Helix. He lives near Washington, D.C. Instagram: @jacobrobertbennett

How to Forget

Eleanor Goodbody

1. go to a river. breathe in winter until your throat hurts. stop. pretend you’re throwing your body into water. picture it. you float now. soundless. aching. calm.

2. kill time by biting fingernails. stain your sheets with blood. press a shower head to your stomach. drink hot coffee with a straw. think of pain as a stinging comfort.

3. walk and walk and walk and walk and walk and try to carry a bed up four flights of stairs.

4. let yourself grow tired of flowered bedspreads and fire escapes. don’t think about how you left your phone on the bathroom floor last night or how he wrote a poem on your garbage can.

5. wait in the heat. until sweat lines your body. jump a fence. keep walking yourself home until you’re all gone.

6. pick a point. forget it. walk around in circles. confuse yourself. understand that the weather doesn’t care about heartache. tell everyone you meet that you can tell a lot about a person from the way that he says goodbye.

7. stand in the middle of the street until everything is silent. muffled. soft. watch the sun set. walk in wet socks. check your pockets.

8. take a train. pack all the mornings and trips to Manasquan into a backpack. hold onto all of him as you board.

9. start showering in the middle of the day. don’t try to recognize roads or buildings. only pay attention to the mist that hangs in air. reach out. feel the rain.

10. realize that he never promised to write words on the inside of your forearms. fuck him in that small hotel room shaped like a cube. in his bed by the window. blinds closed. slow breathing. he’ll break a rib. or two. you won’t care.

Small Oyster 2.0.png
Eleanor Goodbody .jpg

Eleanor Goodbody is recent college graduate. She grew up in New Jersey and currently lives in New York City. Twitter: @norabadbody Instagram: @noragoodbody

The Garden Behind the Moon

Reena Choudhary

It didn’t rain all summer.

Instead of water, my father used prayer

for his garden. Despite his friends’ laughter,

he planted spinach and lettuce,

countless rows of cucumbers

in beds lined up meticulously

ignoring old people’s warnings

about the drought.

Every afternoon, he pushed his hat back,

wiped off his sweat,

and looked up at the empty sky,

the sun scorching

the acacia trees shriveling in the heat.

In July, the ground looked like cement.

Like the ruins of a Roman thermal bath,

it kept the vestiges of a lost order,

traces of streams long gone.

He yelled at me to step back

from the impeccable architecture

of climbing green beans,

the trellis for tomatoes,

although there was nothing to be seen,

no seedlings, no tendrils,

not even weeds,

just parched, bare ground—

as if I were disturbing

the hidden sleep of seeds.

Small Oyster 2.0.png

Reena Choudhary is a Graduate from Delhi University (INDIA). she worked as a senior executive in Logistics Company then also worked in an Immigration Company. she is a mother of 5 year old son. she writes short stories and poetry. you can read it at ",

Women’s Work

Abbie Kiefer

In the hours before my son,

I wrenched at bedrails,

wailed like a tornado warning,

puked hot crackers into waxy bags.

Each time she circled my cervix,

the midwife lauded the bravery

of the body —

capable, she assured me,

of doing the necessary work.

During his paternity leave,

my husband probably cut the grass twice.

Only once if it was dry.

Walking and re-walking the length of the lawn,

laboring impassively under Adam’s curse.

Or maybe he called the neighbor kid.

Gave him 20 bucks and the gas can,

sent him in as surrogate.

Small Oyster 2.0.png
Abbie Kiefer.jpg

Abbie Kiefer’s poems are forthcoming or have appeared in december, The Penn Review, The Comstock Review, The Sow's Ear Poetry Review, and other publications. She’s a stay-at-home parent who has also been a newspaper editor and a copywriter. Find her online at

Skipping in the Vortex

Nathalie Kuroiwa-Lewis

You remember what it felt like once

to be the kid bounding

on earth so soft

bounding on tufts

of poppies and daffodils

planted on the edge

of a driveway

that no man’s land—

a periphery of space


where the wild unfurls

into an unknown

between yours and his

and how impossible it seemed then to


the bright reds and purples

beneath the feet


this is mine—

this is yours.

Small Oyster 2.0.png
Nathalie Kuroiwa-Lewis.jpg

Nathalie Kuroiwa-Lewis is an Associate Professor of English and Writing Minor Director and Writing Center Director at Saint Martin’s University, a private, liberal arts university located in the Pacific Northwest.  She is also a board member of the Olympia Poetry Network.  She has published poetry in OccuPoetry, Social Policy, Penny Ante Feud, THAT Literary Review, Dark Matter, In Layman’s Terms and the Aji journal.  Nathalie lives in Olympia, Washington and in her free time, enjoys taking long walks, riding her bike and travelling with her family. She can be found at the following sites: