| Alani Hicks-Bartlett |

first in naples, now in rome,

i set out to swallow silver coins.

the pink charms of the sails and the paper blue spirits

are yours now.

even illness pierces the darkness.

all of your appalling kin look dimpled and glow

like soft white moths.

as they flicker together in the darkness,

bound by some secret, dark project of greed,

anger rises in my heart like a solitary uncharmed fish,

a current ignored, a morning overthrown.

many of your constituents are missing.

the hellhounds are on fire, ruthless.

this is a dukedom we have all begun to dislike,

all of our unchristened vanities have become appalling

and the white spiders, who were never truthful, begin to bite,

whispering that you must swallow your preconceptions

of good islands and indulgent women,

or barter them—cast them aside for the fatal, selfsame panaceas

and the prickly, governing spirits you’ve made us all choke down.

here, the only one you love faints away over time.

her stony meditation is zippered tightly around her

like a rigid burial cloth.

the blood that you pour down her throat

no longer causes the flutter of her eyes, of her veins.

the travelers have caused this.

now, she has traded an oxidizing throne for the gray,

suffocating corner, speckled with dust,

and the only indulgence she allows are shredded cloths,

assaults by kindred souls with their skeins of human flesh,

and the thousand unmentionable crimes.

the new liars have truly forgotten

that once, before the final war, you had begged for mercy,

with your gentle hands clasped,

and your snowy voice a froth of tears and sighs.

i sent what was left of my dark, seeping eye

to you by messenger,

to warn you of this fateful spell,

but the young headless boy lost his sail among the hoary rocks,

and drowned there again and again.

Alani Rosa Hicks-Bartlett is a writer and translator who lived in the SF Bay Area but now enjoys the Autumn foliage of the East Coast, where she finds herself increasingly in a nudiustertian mode. Some of her recent poems and translations have appeared in The Stillwater Review, IthacaLit, Gathering Storm, Broad River Review, The Fourth River, and Mantis: A Journal of Poetry, Criticism, and Translation. She is currently working on a collection of villanelles, a series of translations of love poetry from Portuguese and Medieval French, the complete works of the Italian writer Amalia Guglielminetti, and a collection of villanelles.

An Olfactory Aria

| Ellen Skilton |

When Maslow charted the human

hierarchy of needs

he labeled food a mere necessity

but what my taste buds touch

fuels more than digestion,

each morsel part of an olfactory aria

that hums through all the homes

where my table has been set

for palate pleasures

and the minor chords that bind us 

Jumbled joy and homemade aromas

In beet-juice lipstick and rouge 

on my toddler face

those lamb chops I keep pleading for

and the Monday night steak dinners

the orangest of orange Fanta

and Bossa Nova playing

baked potatoes joining sour cream and butter

dancing alongside roasted onions

blue cheese dressing flirting with creamy French

That peanut butter and butter sandwich

leaves a patina of heartburn hues

over the thrill of a thirteen candled birthday cake –

a sleepover cacophony,

and kickball in the church basement

midnight pizza dough stuck to the ceiling

after truth or dare leaves us unsteady,

famished for the daytime contours of friendship –

those pop songs of the afternoon radio

less audible in the haze of the night

Pumpkin, lemon poppy seed, banana lime coconut

quick breads singing love songs on Saturday mornings

or gift-wrapped under a tinseled tree

decaf earl grey and hot cocoa carols

warming the throat and smoothing the edges

dark chocolate dreams whispering secrets

in bittersweet harmonies

I could sing in my sleep

Ellen Skilton is a professor of education whose creative writing has appeared in The Dewdrop, Cathexis Northwest Press, The Scapegoat Review, and The Dillydoun Review. In addition to being a poet, she is an educational anthropologist, an applied linguist and a Fringe Fest performer. She is in the second year of an MFA Program in Creative Writing at Arcadia University. She is also an excellent napper, a chocolate snob, a swimmer, and lives in Philadelphia with a dog named Zoomer, a cat named Katniss and some lovely humans.


| Amanda Leal |

We ribbon through the Blue Ridge Parkway, in the backseat

of Laura’s Honda Element, fragments of rainbows bouncing

from the crystal dangling on the rearview mirror, pink surgical masks

face up on the dashboard, like flowers unfolding,

or my life, gradually, falling open.

The sawtooth of the mountains rises

with my boyfriend’s finger, as he points them out to me,

as though he pulls their blunt gray shapes to their position

against the sky. He thrusts his cold hands between my thighs,

and I think of my son, at home with his father for the weekend,

how I would hold him on my lap right now,

my arms around his bubble jacket, and press my cheek to his golden curls,

blazing in the glow of the sunset. Even at the Overlook,

I see everything through his eyes — the craggy rocks stacked

like books on the west side of the road, the frost in the grass

that crepitates beneath our sneakers, the naked arms of the birch trees

against the blue, humming mountains. Spray paint marks

the damp wooden barricade, reading: TELL THE TRUTH,

as though it can be hidden in a place so open, the thin air

spiriting from my mouth as vapor. Suddenly, I realize

how grateful I am that I left my son’s father,

that I dismantled his depression as a weight I had to carry,

his dark eyes, deep set in his skull as though pushed in

by someone’s thumbs, still watching with judgment,

the ingratitude he would have felt even here,

where the final light of day brims upon the shoulders

of the mountains. I imagine my son, being held in his arms

rather than mine, his eyes that match his father’s,

but growing more understanding each day,

like a river that accumulates sediment.

I can still feel his padded hands in my fingers,

how they will be waiting when we reunite,

as the sun seems to set from the ground up, darkness creeping

up the skirts of the mountains, my boyfriend’s red beard

that drains of color, as we turn to one another,

our breaths falling from our lips like smoke.

Amanda Leal is a 28 year old poet from Lake Worth FL. Her work has been
featured or is forthcoming in issues of Levee Magazine, Sky Island Journal,
Pine Row Press
, and others.