Jos Charles is a southern california writer and founding-editor at THEM – a trans literary journal. They have poetry published (and/or have publications forthcoming) with BLOOM, Denver Quarterly, HTMLGIANT, Metazen, Radioactive Moat, boosthouse’s THE YOLO PAGES, as well as variously online. Their writing has also been featured on Huffington Post, BitchMedia, Entropy, Medium, The Fanzine, The Quietus, interviews with GLAAD, LAMBDA Literary, Original Plumbing, and other pieces forthcoming.
Two days ago, my job went missing. Yesterday, my house went missing. And then I went missing too.
For some reason, I can’t stop moving. I would like to stop moving and settle down.
My job is a three-dimensional rectangle with four floors and is mostly filled with people I do not care about. But two days ago, when I cycled to work, it had been replaced with a hole. I looked down into the hole and saw fire.
Upon walking home a day later, my house was gone. My house was a warehouse unit with a car garage next to it. That, too, had been replaced. But this time, it had been replaced with a mass grave. Everybody inside of the grave was naked and pink.
And today, I woke up but when I opened my eyes everything was red. As if my eyes were closed. Around me, the sound of traffic but the sound was muffled as if two pillows were cushioning my ears.
My vision slowly came back. I was on the floor. I couldn’t get up. My legs had been replaced with walking sticks.
This couch is uncomfortable.
Things got better for a while. I came back. I was conscious and my legs were legs, my arms were arms and my head was still intact. This is the way life should be, with everything in place, where years go forward and minutes die in seconds.
Suddenly, everything was worse. I was sitting in a chair at the top of a Georgian townhouse in 1765. Samuel Johnson, writer of the first English dictionary, and other artists, were taking turns kissing me all over my body and I didn’t say no.
And then they taped my eyes open and my glued my hands to a Nintendo Entertainment System controller. Johnson laughed at me and I asked: why me? No answer. I was forced to play Duck Hunt. Duck Hunt is a two-player game. Player 1 controls the ducks.
Back to reality, I decided to go and buy a flute of bread to satiate my hunger.
Outside, the weather blinded me and I couldn’t see again. All I wanted was to go back to work and resume life as it was.
I woke up in a field. Cows surrounded me. I was thirsty so I grabbed an udder and sucked. No milk came out.
Upon returning home, three of my high school friends were sitting in my sitting room. I asked why and they said they wanted to talk about my absence. Theodore remarked that my drug abuse was ‘pronounced’ and I said: please leave.
My job came back to work. So I went back to work.
My colleagues commented on my shaking.
Upon returning home, I had a shower and all my skin came off. I went to dry myself. An elderly gentleman called Fellows told me that’d be a bad idea. I went up to the roof of my apartment block and dried off my skeleton.
Don’t worry, they told me.
I was told that I could take a two-week holiday. My boss said I looked thin. His assistant said I looked like a skeleton. I told them that I was a skeleton. I told them I was trying to find my skin again.
They fired me. Now what?
My house didn’t want me either. It told me to leave. I asked if we could talk this over and my house said nothing.
I asked my friends for help: could you help me out/have you got a couch I can sleep on/Just until I get back on my feet. The answer was no. They said they didn’t feel safe around me.
I went to the library and found a small opening behind a bookshelf. I now lived behind a collection of medical journals. I would travel out every day to bring provisions for my new home. I had a pillow, a yoga mat for my back and some tarp for a cover.
I learned many things in my new house. But there are only so many times you can read about Central African lymphomas and ambiguous genitals.
An artist named Koonig said I could stay at his place. He picked me up because he liked my legs. He said to me: “do you like my apartment?” I said: “Sure.” And I did. He laughed and patted me on the back. My jaw fell off. He said: “the ceilings are high. Don’t hang yourself in here!”
The weeks passed by. I liked Koonig and he liked me. I was not sure whether I was coming or going most of the time. I asked Koonig just to check. “Koonig, am I coming or going?” He said neither and this didn’t really help.
Koonig got me back on my feet. He gave me some new skin. I wasn’t moving around all the time anymore. People weren’t forcing me to play games I didn’t want to play. People weren’t kissing me on my body against my will. Time was suddenly finite and organized.
Koonig sat me down and stroked my legs. I looked at one of his paintings. It was of a man sitting down having his legs stroked by Koonig. I struck Koonig aside the head with a tire iron.
I left the house. I ran far away to a mountain and looked out on the city. The lights were moving. I had a headache because I felt every single person in the city moving. I just wanted to stop moving and be surrounded by silence and a black blanket of darkness.
And that’s all I remember: how pretty the world looked when it wasn’t there.
Bio: Oliver Zarandi is a writer. His work has recently appeared in Hobart, Electric Cereal, theNewerYork and The Boiler Journal. He’s working on a collection of short stories and a novel. Find him on twitter: @zarandi.
THEORY OF ASH
Behold the THEORY OF ASH!
shouts the woman in the public square
whose face is a carnival mask.
Some spectacle is surely about to take place.
What will you do when your mother is dead?
What will you do when your mother is dead and you come
face to face with the woman whose face is a carnival mask?
The Man of Good Questions asked.
What could I say to The Man of Good Questions?
I lay down with the Injured Thing in the grass.
And that’s when the crowd gathered. They gathered
in refutation of all refutations. They gathered in the absence of
anything else. What is the meaning of the THEORY OF ASH?
The Man of Good Questions is asking now. (Ascending the stage
is the woman whose face is a carnival mask.) I don’t know, I tell him.
I cannot even begin to describe the beauty of what is about to happen.
Bio: Sarah Schweig is the author of the chapbook S (Dancing Girl Press), and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Atlas Review, Black Warrior Review, BOMB, Boston Review, Maggy, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Philadelphia Review of Books, Verse Daily, The Volta, and Western Humanities Review, among others. A graduate of the University of Virginia and Columbia University, where Ben Lerner awarded her work the David Craig Austen Memorial Award for Poetry, and former Ruth Lilly Fellowship finalist, Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers Conference, and Emerging Poet Resident at Poets House in Manhattan, she works as a senior writer at a criminal justice think-tank in New York City and studies philosophy at The New School for Social Research.
People Think I’m Disgusting
because I have
a huge house.
restrooms to rest in,
washrooms to wash in,
and water closets
to hold my water,
while I shit
in the yard.
Bio: Brendan Flaherty is an LA-based freelance writer, originally from the Hartford area. His work appears at Fast Company’s Co.Labs, McSweeneys.net, the LA Fiction Review, among others. You can read more of his short writings at BrendanFlaherty.net.
from Don’t be like that.
From behind the tree you can see her mouth. She can see you & the mouth says help me. You could. There is a basket, a blanket, a skirt.
You think of the field stripped beneath the power lines. You return with scissors.
A light shines on slices of wood. A light shines when you shut the door. You use the branch to cover the mouth.
& the blanket spread beneath them. Truly, they don’t know yet what they are weeping for. The sound of stone on skull is like a kind of crying: everyone closes their eyes.
He puts a chocolate in each hand, loose but useless. When he looks at them, he sees himself.
It was bound to happen, you know. It was only natural.
They are going to lie a long time now.
What you’ve done so far, you’ve only done to their bodies. They have one last place left in them to reveal to you. Little by little they remove the dress of your grip.
They do not go very far.
Bio: Lisa Ciccarello’s first book of poems, At night, is forthcoming from Black Ocean. She’s the author of several chapbooks, including Worth Is the Wrong Word, recently out on Black Cake Records. Her poems have appeared in Tin House, Denver Quarterly, PEN Poetry Series, Handsome, Poor Claudia & Corduroy Mtn., among others. She edits poetry at draft: The Journal of Process.
the holy thought can’t kill me, it can only burn through me at a steady pace. fastened to an electronic lit- parade. bad thoughts + cool chicks. come find me. but leave me mounted. crystals randomized. parasites setting me up for a ritual rolling of the dice. don’t let me be maaaaagik. this time. I hear postpartum depression is trending. but I’m transcending valves for fun. talk to me please. somebody, I can’t hear you. there is laughter in this magazine and it’s eating all the content they told me I am allowed to have. this is a primitive kind of transition. a kind where you lust. tell me about your palm. I want to eat it. consume the feelings. but I’m not sure how to, yet. yet. I am running tassels gold through my fingertips and counting sideways. 7, 5, 9, 6….I’m starting to get into ritual vaping and cinnamon lost bread as it falls through me. don’t test me.my my disruptive innovation is taking a toll on my insides and I’m trying to be someone who works with their hands but I’ve lost all the brick to the mortar. I’m going to bow down and insert dirt into my kneecaps, and shake my my body sideways. and when the futuristic Hasids look at me they will be jealous of my brows. this is what it means to daven. I am really only in it for the artifacts and jewels.
Bio: emily is getting into radishes. she also writes poems and co-edits the online journal glitterMOB.
What We Make of Her
Happy Meal Barbie wears two-inch heels.
Hair pulled up in a yellow pile and hands
on her hips in a swaggering way, I’m lighting
the match to her plastic narrows and then,
I’m lighting it again. Eyes grow wide as she begins
to flux, to soften, and blue is a sink in a pool
then it pours. Rereleasing my strike, I illumine
her pucker, replace kiss for a smear. In my mind
mopping away stains, blood lips from her face
like a plaster wall set to come down two weeks,
one week, now, followed by a bandaged attempt
at smoothing over. Features come back or don’t,
the way a house turned salon is still a house,
Nesquick and Fun Dip are still a diet, but not.
Barrettes, pinkpants and a big blonde bag puddle
to the side in their own shock and I let them,
body a fizz. Face cools, face hardens, and I take out
my Sharpie and I fix her myself.
Bio: Laura Romeyn is pursuing her MFA in poetry at Columbia University. A poem of hers most recently appeared in Leveler. She lives in Brooklyn and can be followed on twitter @LaRomage
Everything Will Be Fixed by Love
Everyone woke up hungover
Everyone woke up in the wrong bed
Everyone had the wrong shoe
on the wrong foot in the wrong weather
Everyone was so hungry
then everyone ate too much
Love me everyone said
Love me first everyone said
Fix me everyone said
Fix me first
Bio: Elizabeth Clark Wessel is a founding editor of Argos Books & co-editor of Circumference: Poetry in Translation. Her poems and translations have appeared in DIAGRAM, A Public Space, Guernica, Sixth Finch, Lana Turner Journal, and Boston Review. She is the author of the chapbooks Whither Weather (GreenTower Press, 2012) and Isn’t that You Waving at You (Big Lucks Books, forthcoming in 2015).