Cortney Lamar Charleston

The Migratory Patterns of Lovebirds


At dusk, I watch the wind seduce foliage through

the binoculars of an aesthete, taken by how the

petals dance like flames thankful for a brief life.

The days are shortening. An explosion of silence

will arrive soon, the temperature will descend to

indifference. In the wake, tree limbs will resemble

my own fingers: slender and anxious to dress

in whatever is willing to hold them – hopefully

your hand curled around my finger like the foot

of a bird round a branch – but you have made flight

for the weekend, or a season, in search of a warmer

place to nest than the space between my neck and

shoulder. At least, this is what I tell myself when

I feel colder in your absence than is justified by

reading the thermostat. I presume you would call

me a sap for this thought, like a tree claiming it still

feels the beak of a woodpecker drilling its heart for

sweetness. It’s just that I’ve come to see loneliness

as breezes poured too suddenly into emptiness not

ready to receive it, such as my ears at mention of

your name inside a question of whereabouts. Answer:

somewhere over the horizon. But roots like me have

difficulty in moving. Grow to be depended on as

they grow, their anatomy stretched from reaching

for things that aren’t there. Things that lay over the

earth-bend, like you, for a weekend or a season. And in

accordance with the verb of this season, I will fall for

you near September’s end. You will soar over the

horizon until a revolution of instinct completes itself

and lands you in my arms again. You will perch there

and rest. I will support your weight without snapping.

We will pinch the wings of time together with our lips,

so it, a hummingbird with precious nectar, doesn’t fly

off without our consent, because all we are trying to

do is make this last. Make this the last time the willow

weeps a bayou. Make this the last time calling your

name brings a pigeon instead of a dove. Make this

the last time your feathers have itch for movement,

as lovebirds weren’t meant to be migratory. They’re

meant to couple like lines of poetry according to the

meter of their drumming hearts. For some time, your

heart worked without making sound. Gave you life

but no music, forced you to question if you were the

very genus of adoration. But understand you are what

you believe, a marvelous creature blessed with flight

and the luxury of not needing to use it. You, who taught

me that if gravity pulls at each with even temper, the

difference between leaves and feathers lies purely in

my mind, so I think my shoots into aviators, since that

makes us the same kind: two inkblots in the binoculars

of an aesthete changing seasons can’t erase from sky.



Dead Leaves

for Cameron


If autumn is metaphor, it insists the loveliest

things in this world are those leaving it. Dying.

If my life is poem, my little brother is     metaphor.

Lovely. Leaving. Dying.        For the sake of aesthetics,

we can call him November.           It’s fitting flesh. He has

reddish-brown skin and     half his heart is in a grave.

in plotting his own demise he forgot I would be home

come December.      Maybe I’ve been the end of him

from the very beginning. Even our mother

dressed us in synonym. He always struggled

in his English classes; he couldn’t define

himself outside of his relationship to me,

so now he thinks of life as a prison sentence.

We only talk through telephones these days.

I recall                       every call      vividly. One in particular,

sounded like a wrist being slit, a voice running dry,

my brother contracting into himself

like an unspoken secret. A tender laugh

caved between his cheeks. A blush surfacing like smoke.

He burns for the sake of another’s happiness, since he

understands you can’t be a martyr           and die

of natural causes.   So, he curves his mouth

into moth wings. Kisses the heat. Swallows his

pills with a lava flow          of vodka.        Monk-like.

He’d been squinting at his prospects     long enough

to turn the golden-twine of a noose into a halo.

People aren’t leaves despite how easily they fall.

How foolish we are to consider suicides           stunning.

Awestruck by their cold and colors,

so neither finger or protest is raised;

I can only wonder to myself where folk

go once they’ve fallen to the ground.

I imagine he ‘d say they don’t ever reach           heaven,

that he couldn’t find the Lord even while          high.

I imagine that’s the essence of depression, but he knows.

Melancholy holds more     mass      than Catholics do.

He is the heaviest prayer that I have ever lifted.
He needs help, but doesn’t feel easy asking for it.

Not from me. But I understand, because we’re

brothers down to the blue-           jeans we’ve shared.

We both bow out     when bowing down goes awry.
We both draw           into ourselves like wrinkles.

We both know          telephones aren’t happy places.

I wish he would see we have more in common

than the surname chaining our hearts together.

I tell him this, but he can’t see

a locket through the skin.

I tell him his skin should not fear the touch of splinters.

I tell him they are the price of building beautiful things.

I tell him that his spirit is beautiful. I tell him he is black.

I tell him that his spirit should be skeptical of tree limbs.

I tell him to remember. I tell him to always

remember: dead      leaves lives behind.


by Cortney Lamar Charleston

Cortney Lamar Charleston was raised in the Chicago suburbs by two South Siders, but now lives in Jersey City, NJ. He is an alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania and its premier performance poetry collective, The Excelano Project. His poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Rattle, Word Riot, Lunch Ticket, Storyscape Journal, Chicago Literati, FRACTAL and Kinfolks Quarterly, among others.






Cassandra Morrilly

This Might Be The End

I took a pen from the bedside table at the hotel
the one off the highway near the salt marshes,
the highway with two lanes, lined with the swell of seawater rot.

The floodwater had just subsided and the air was biting.
Lots of things had been lost.

I drove there with my windows open in slithering April humidity,
snuck up on the neon sign, crawling ashamed into what would be
too late for introspection.

Met by brown eyes, by fingers drifting out like seaweed.
Suddenly you realize that you’re really there, and
maybe the floodwater has not quite subsided, and maybe
we’re floating corpses, dreaming our last dreams
before the synapses turn to salt.

Death is a thought more beautiful than love, because death cannot be undone.
On the fourth floor, the wallpaper was the color of coral.
I coiled my hair behind my head, you whispered to my toes.
My smooth white belly, my fingers pink and trembling.

I smelled nothing but the crusted salt leftover after evaporation.
Maybe I was dehydrated, I tell myself. Maybe I just need this moisture.
You grabbed the sheets, I grabbed the pen.
Held it in my teeth, bit down on it as if it was all supposed to hurt.
You kissed my wrist instead. You kissed my fingertips.

This is where marriages end—in beds and in banks, signing forms with hotel pens.
Inviting the dreadful weight of him, the weight of knowing
that there are things in life which can never be completed.
I wonder if people die like this, imagining other ways to end a life.

Right here, this is where marriages end—when you close your eyes
and suddenly you’re like threads,
knitted together. Even if you’re pulled apart, they can all see dozens of tiny holes
where once there were guilty seams.
Later, you’ll try to brush the lint away, but it will cling to you.

Later, you’ll be drifting down the highway in the dark.
Someday, the floodwaters will rise up again
and you’ll be on the bridge.


A poem to the one I love

I wish
and in wishing, disintegrate

my lips quivering
how light your footsteps

I pause
what’s left of a honey-coated trick

somehow I leaned into you
kissed the palm of your hand
we were outside, horns slick in the rain

I wish
and in wishing, unravel

falling into my penance wherever I can find it
in kitchens and under stacks of paperwork
until I go to sleep

Wishing is a broken wing
a crack in the mirror, a barely visible scar

I swallow the wishing and the wreckage of the wishing
floats in my mouth

I spit the splinters onto the floor
and sweep them away

He knew nothing of my transition
nothing of the wishes I exhaled into his mouth


by Cassandra Morrilly


Cassandra Morrilly was raised in rural Ohio before receiving a BA in English from Seton Hall University, followed by an MA in Literature from the University of Colorado. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her pack of ravenous terriers, and works for Regis University.


Dublin’s rowdy streets surround me, shops shackle me to my routines, Rome’s old Kyries rape me, England’s imperialist memories break me, America’s black and white fifties families flash ever before my eyes. I find the key, gasping for breath, no more breakdowns or suffocating, flying-driving-running through dirty demonic Dublin pubs, roadlines-shrines-bright green fields yield to desolate dead Skellig Michael and the end of the earth apocalyptic Aran Islands, searching-grasping-finding-…What? Delphic Self? No anything but, knowledge and college already teaching me Joyce’s universality of particularity. Then what? Why go on in the caged rat race? Selfless saintliness led to several nearly successful suicide attempts. So why- balance? Really, back to ancient Aristotle again? No no, this time no balance, no monastic saintliness, no hedonistic selfishness, all of it banished like Baudelaire, ripping apart and reveling in the ravaged earth like Rimbaud, drunk on wine, drunk on water, drunk on poetry, drunk on sodomy, drunk on virtue, drunk on vice, drunk on creating, drunk on destroying.

by Ross Knapp


Ross Knapp is a recent college graduate with degrees in philosophy and literature who’s also an MFA graduate student in creative writing and poetry. He has an experimental literary novel and various poetry publications forthcoming. Originally he was planning on law school or a PHD in philosophy before deciding to pursue poetry and writing as a career. Some of the poets he admires most are Sappho, Virgil, Li Po, Hafiz, Francois Villon, Dante, Keats, Whitman, Akhmatova, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Eliot, Pound, Crane, Millay, Thomas, Sexton, Lowell, Ginsberg, and Plath.


The moon’s red-faced hymen is crestfallen;

eclipsed by a trilogy of cloven sol kisses.


Our universe is not one.


Mechanical bulls are wrangling in ‘The House

of the Rising Sun.’ The sorority girls are all bowlegged

from bar shopping their reversible jeans. Their frat

boys left snipe hunting for lost birds of paradise.


‘Where have all their trappings gone—

long time passing?’


‘Stoned People’ are awakening in their old sweat lodges—

changing cubic zirconia cornerstones into granite ballast

rocks and new altar tops.


Near Nowata, Oklahoma, a shaman rolls the tombstone

blocking Cutfinger Cave over maggots passing through

on a sacrificial cat—

and the spirit of Chief Pokegon wanders.


 by Kevin Heaton


Kevin Heaton is originally from Kansas and Oklahoma, and now lives and writes in South Carolina. His work has appeared in a number of publications including: Guernica, Raleigh Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Vinyl Poetry, The Adroit Journal, and Mixed Fruit. He is a Best of the Net, Best New Poets, and three-time Pushcart Prize nominee.

Bounty, Ground

Miss Sandy is the kind of equestrian who requests the counsel of her gelding, Saul, on matters she involves herself in. “Saul,” she asks in a tiny voice that is compelled by the standing on her tippy toes. “Saul my darling boy, what should I say to the diggers?” She told him they’d been there this past afternoon, that they’d cupped their hands over their foreheads and looked out past fenced pastures and the stock dog pen, and said that they’d be back with instruments and warmer coats. “They said the purpose was to relieve any assumed debt and it’s wrong of them to assume anything.” She put her hand through the gate, resting her palm on his nose. “What do I do?” The horse ruffed his ears, bent down, sniffed the fertile ground, and thought of rain.

by Chase Eversole

Chase Eversole lives and writes in the Midwest. His work appears or is forthcoming in The Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle, The Brazen Review, and others. He blogs on the weekly at


Beached What Found in NYC is Dead

-CBS news headline, 12/27/2012


What is it on the shore among the cockle shells and sea grass,

the beached thing, swelling, gulls pecking at the sores: this question

straining to breathe under its own gravity. The biggest questions

exist uneasily here. I love when they call me ‘wera,’ she tells me.

and of course, I don’t ask. Somewhere along the coastline, Zihua:

the wind tastes like the rim of a margarita glass, the Mexican boys trill

their r as they say it. They teach her to cha-cha and to tango. They wake

still drunk and naked on the beach, seaweed reeking, and the sun stuck

in the dunes like it won’t ever rise, black dog chasing the gulls,

orange morning slowly pouring itself over her salty yellow hair:

a mosquito in amber, maybe, or some other time-stopped thing—maybe

the flash-frozen moment of a first kiss or a goodbye. There is more than one way

to be stuck. A question is an auger, boring into the amber. Don’t ask.

Queens, New York: I’m there, walking Palmer Drive in search of a question,

and she’s telling me across three thousand miles, wera, wera, wera—she trills

like they taught her, no sign among the waves of the Rockaway

of the thing ending its life on the shore, before it even knows what it is.


by Brandon Getz

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