James McKee

Sound Effect


Come the dawn, clean through

my usual downstream drift

of random, qualm-suppressive

dreaming, there cuts a, not sound,

but sound’s hind-edge lull.

Stranger still, to be found

awake where the walls that make

for a house dissolve like doubt,

and all there is is our street’s,

bound in grief and not shamed

by its pain. Before this room’s accum-

ulations can again occlude

my gaze, I’m heading where, bare,

wrongs too embedded not to wring

their truth from song after song

prove how leadenly they’ll linger:

like granules in the tissues, but longer.


A day still loyal to its night.

White noise resumes while what illumines

dims. That, thus, seems that. Or

does it? Before fluming off

where next means same, let’s name

every hope this reveille hypes.

Let’s reclaim we will from you shouldn’t,

can from could’ve but couldn’t.

Let’s not wind up ended up

still deadending here. Declare

that we’re hearing rusty hasps

wrested off, and I’ll laugh, Yeah.

For those wondering whether or no

what needed breaking in fact

got broke, my take on it is

we should just make sure it did.

But as for you who long to hear

only the fist-eyed grunt

of a tightening grip, I won’t

cheer or chide such fear.

An hour ached-for as ours

blazes too briefly to waste

on a case as lost, a cause

as disgraced, as now is,

at long, long last, yours.





Friends, I’m having one of those days.

Everything’s bad and getting worse.


It’s obvious by now that for all the valiant

and selfless striving, most of us won’t


change fast enough for it to matter.

The trash, the cars, the meat, the water:


do your part or don’t, trust science

or that guy on YouTube, it’s the same. Friends,


as a poet I shouldn’t be writing this, but

my mood’s in no mood to worry about


how it makes me sound. Well, challenge accepted.

Ask yourselves this: what were you expecting


when you breezed in here past a title

like the one above? Something squalid and personal,


all binges, breakdowns, and performative trauma?

Sorry to disappoint, but in my disclosure


the catastrophe on display is you, not me.

Fact is, friends, I’m ashamed for our species,


and for most of us as individuals too.

I wish it wasn’t like that, but it is. Boom.


So you can understand why I’m always

coming back here, this bright noplace


where I’m never too proud to remember

kindnesses shown me when I was poor,


or lonely, or foolish, by someone with nothing

to gain. Because here, the rinsed light of morning


never quite fades from the view out over

green quiltworked fields, orchards, a river


sweeping grandly off toward the sea beyond.

And today you came, which makes me glad


because why shouldn’t it? It does. It will.

Here I wish you, I wish us all, well.


James McKee

James McKee enjoys failing in his dogged attempts to keep pace with the unrelenting cultural onslaught of late-imperial Gotham. His debut poetry collection, The Stargazers, was published in the spring of 2020, while his poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Spoon River Poetry Review, Another Chicago Magazine, New Ohio Review, New World Writing, The Ocotillo Review, Illuminations, CutBank, Flyway, THINK, The Midwest Quarterly, Xavier Review, and elsewhere. He spends his free time, when not writing or reading, traveling less than he would like and brooding more than he can help.

All That We Are

charlotte said


there are times when i feel like i’m observing

myself from a constellated distance in the same

way one would look at a starry sky or a pastoral

scene or a bloody gory picture show


and when i see myself


in this way


i am wearing a full length black dress

and my head is shaven in a haphazard

and misbegotten manner

and the background is so white

that it becomes a sort of nothingness

not quite an ethereal nothingness

but a quivering nothingness composed

of floating particles of debris that could be

flecks of white ash from raging wildfires

and so i wrap my quavering white

hands around my shuddering body

like a cowering child in a torrent of criticism

and all i can see are a set of white hands

wrapped around a flowing black dress

in front of a spectral white nothingness

and my chalk white face is emotionless

and my eyes are painted black coals

devoid of compassion or empathy

and i am struggling to keep my mouth closed

because i know if i open my mouth

i will release a stream of swarming plague locusts

and these locusts will be filled with lechery and greed

the sort of lechery and greed that devours defenseless

acts of kindness and helpless acts of tenderness


James Butcher

James Butcher’s work has appeared in Rivet, Prick of the Spindle, Midwest Review, and Cream City Review.

If Right Now Everything Stops

If right now everything stops, and there is no longer re- but only de- (decay),

Autolysis: self-devouring. Your cells deplete themselves from the inside out. Within seventy-two hours, your swollen heart desists. Orange peels decompose six months later. Cotton socks decamp within a year. Wool sweaters and milk cartons depart in five. (Every carton of milk you drank in elementary school is already gone without a trace, and isn’t that surprising?) Twenty-five years later, your leather shoes defect. Tin cans and tissue (the kind which makes you soft to hold) take fifty to degenerate. Bones and batteries, a hundred years defiant.

Plastic, that twentieth-century debutant, carries on through the 2500s. Only the sun will touch it, photodegrade those polymers into microscopic morsels. Half a millennium to demolish the great graveyards of Dasani, Fiji, Pellegrino, Aquafina, Poland Spring, oh, La Vie. Half a millennium despoiled by every diaper you ever shat. And the ocean breaks down its microplastic detritus last.

Your teeth do not decay for tens of thousands of years. That is not as long as it takes to depose the skyscrapers, debris fields crumbling down to quartz for the wind or the water to disperse. Anthropic fossils press patterns into stone: earth’s interior design. There are mosquitoes deposited in resin, resins deposited in rock, rocks deposited in water. Pirates’ gold fillings do not depreciate, and neither do the diamonds of the brides. Glass bottles, those stubborn webs of silicon, take a million years to deteriorate to sand.

Then finally it is the deathless age of Styrofoam. A quiet planet blanketed with desiccated snow.

And a plaque on the moon still bears dear Richard Nixon’s name.


Hannah Story Brown

Hannah Story Brown is a writer and dramaturge based in New York, dreaming about green cities. She graduated magna cum laude from Columbia University in 2019, and her work has been published in The Seattle Times, the Columbia Journal of Literary Criticism, and the Columbia Daily Spectator.

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