PORTLAND, Cinthia Ritchie

by Cinthia Ritchie

I fucked the UPS man that summer
I spent in Portland and the pavement 
glimmered in the heat and the cement looked 
so white it blinded me until 
I suddenly knew how it felt to walk in clouds.

I was living in the psych ward
but out on day passes, and all the aides
said how well I was doing, isn’t she doing well,
I was a model patient, except
in the afternoons when I knelt
in the bathrooms of post offices
and blew off the UPS man,
his skin damp and sweaty 
because the air conditioner in his truck
didn’t work worth a damn.

Heat in my veins, my mouth, my blood,
he made me taste and smell flowers:
blood reds and pinks, peach the secret shade
of the skin between my legs. I would weep
when I came, my wrists stretched
tight over my head, palms opening 
and closing around all those colors.

He never knew my name,
only the way my hair flowed around my face
and the songs that leaked from my mouth 
when I came. I told him I was a plant,
a petal, that I opened when he touched
me, but we both knew
it was a lie, that I was nothing more
than flesh, bones, a tongue
that waited flat and heavy between my lips.

When I got out, I spent the first night
in his bed, awake all night listening 
to his chest rise as if the secrets of my life 
might be hidden inside his throat. 
When the room began to lighten, 
I slipped outside, stuck roses inside 
my clothes, those cool, damp petals
kissing my skin as I walked away from him,
down toward the river, where I could only dream
of jumping now that I knew flowers 
grew from the ground and not from  
my greedy, yearning mouth.


Berlin in the 1920's, Alexa Von Poremski (Ink, 2015), Allen Forrest
Berlin in the 1920’s, Alexa Von Poremski (Ink, 2015), Allen Forrest

[Image: a black and white sketch of a woman seated in a chair, turning and leaning over the back with her head propped up on her folded arms. The woman has short black hair which reaches down to the end of her ears, styled in an a-line bob. She is wearing a sleeveless garment with a belt around the middle.]

Born in Canada and bred in the U.S., Allen Forrest has worked in many mediums: computer graphics, theater, digital music, film, video, drawing and painting. Allen studied acting in the Columbia Pictures Talent Program in Los Angeles and digital media in art and design at Bellevue College (receiving degrees in Web Multimedia Authoring and Digital Video Production.) He currently works in the Vancouver, Canada, as a graphic artist and painter. He is the winner of the Leslie Jacoby Honor for Art at San Jose State University’s Reed Magazine and his Bel Red painting series is part of the Bellevue College Foundation’s permanent art collection. Forrest’s expressive drawing and painting style is a mix of avant-garde expressionism and post-Impressionist elements reminiscent of van Gogh, creating emotion on canvas. You can find his website at: http://art-grafiken.blogspot.ca/.

VENOM, Wil Gibson

by Wil Gibson

She sprouts a sunflower 
from her top lip, says 
“what I miss most is the fireflies,”
I call them lightning bugs. Now 
I'm afraid to ever write 
another poem again.
She thinks I’m gonna 	
die young. Told me so 
in a morbid pillow talk 
and I think maybe she’s right.
I don't tell her that. I say 
I'm the strongest man 
alive, that I’ll live 
forever. She smells the lie 
like fresh cut grass and waits 
for me to say the right thing 
again like I always 
knew I should. 
I try to be clever but the attempt 
is a strike three in the 
top of the ninth. The bases 
were loaded with questions 
about the way other people 
feel and suffer. My whole life 
has been a YouTube video 
waiting for better resolution. 

I’m not anyone’s 
new year. I’m barely 
enough time 
to be late for my own funeral.
Someone told me that I 
look good in green, seems 
to fit my skin tone more 
than another broken window. 
I envy 
her confidence 
in the face of fear and 
long for my own private 
grave site near a 
river somewhere so my ghost 
can’t cross the street. I don’t
want to haunt anyone. I just want 
to be with someone who won’t 
make me pay a toll to wrap their mind 
around my shoulder like a torn robe.
The last time I saw a light so fractured
I had a seizure. Sometimes my seizures 
are more real than I am. More denim than 
silk, and I have no room to hide this empty 
bus seat. This is just another fire to burn and I
wish I didn’t already know that she is all smoke.

CALL, Robert Beveridge

by Robert Beveridge

It is sometimes an act
of superhuman will to dial
the seventh digit. To listen
to the phone ring, anticipate
a voice on the other end.

In a roomful of strangers,
anyone could be your perfect
complement. How hard
does that make it to walk in?
The stomach turns in upon itself,
the eyes water, mouth dry.

It is all we can do to recognize
the snap as ball nestles
in socket. Ever human, our perverse
first desire is to test its flex, work
the raw joint. But it is true
that only the best will feel oiled.

HOLMES’ USBS (II), Lucas Scheelk

Holmes’ USBs
by Lucas Scheelk

“What do you call a bee that lives in America? A USB.” - @BakerStBabes [Twitter: 15 Feb 16 – 1:55PM]

Honest-to-God, it was the strangest item Watson saw at 221B Baker Street. Holmes,
On the other hand, did not hesitate to grab one of the flying objects from atop the skull,
Lay it under a microscope, and examine it. Holmes smiled, with a small laugh, “The
Material is of advanced plastic. The outer layer protects the inner layer, sliding with
Ease. What surprises me most about this, Watson, is the pattern on it. Perfect bee
Stripes. How peculiar. Its scent is not from any local plastic manufacturer. This

Unusual contraption might be American.” “But Holmes,” Watson replied, “Even you
Surely can’t assume that. I know your fascination with the States, and its criminals,
But this! It might as well be alien! Holmes, have you, before today, ever
Seen such a thing in the nineteenth century?” Holmes sighed. “I have not, Watson.”


by James Moran

When your body collapses onto mine,
I expect you to make me feel small:
smaller than the head of a burned matchstick;
a promise tucked beneath a whisper;
cavity in a tooth.

When it’s over I’ll be a broken-winged sparrow 
in your hands, a shattered compact mirror; 
clod of dirt you mistook for a rock, 
now clay and ash slipping through your fingers 
in a stream of dust.

Whether you like it or not,
you’ll make me into these things 
because I’m willing to become them. 
And when you come inside, 
nothing can prepare you 

for what I’ll become next,  
what I end up becoming.

STUTTERING, Cinthia Ritchie

by Cinthia Ritchie

You know about silence, not the silence
of shaded fields but of nights
where the wind forgets to move
and the flat, salted weight
of your own stupid tongue.
You don't speak unless you have to,
your throat a stingy lump
that refuses to give up words.
The heat of your broken speech
is so great you often escape
to the bathroom,
press your face against cool tiles,
imagining rain or snow or the cold,
clear blast of a freezer door opening.

At a dinner party,
you rub butter over your lips,
press your elbows against
the polished table, smile
at the man with the fraying
cuffs and long, dark fingers until
his body falls in step with yours
and you lead him home, your hands sliding
beneath his shirt, each touch a vowel,
a syllable, a long, teasing hyphen.
There's so much you want to say
you can't keep your tongue away
from his skin: even your saliva
drips words across his chest.

This man talks a lot, whispering
and asking, thanking and demanding,
the moist hum of letters slipping so effortlessly
from his lips that you can't help
biting down, hard, on his neck,
your throat washed with the warm,
slippery taste of his fluent blood.

When he finally leaves you dance
the cat across the room until your teeth ache.
You haven't spoken a word all night
and your voice presses your throat
like newly-splintered wood.
You open your mouth: yell, scream, shout,
your words breaking and snapping
with the useless urgency of damp ash.
Cinthia Ritchie writes and runs mountains in Anchorage, Alaska. Find her work at Sport Literate, Best American Sports Writing 2013, Evening Street Review, Water-Stone Review, Under the Sun, Cactus Heart Press, Daminfo Press, The Boiler Journal, 101 Words and other literary magazines and small presses. Her first novel, Dolls Behaving Badly, was released from Hachette Book Group.

16, Thalia Rose

by Thalia Rose

1. not everyone will like you, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t like yourself. it’s natural to feel sad when things don’t turn out as you want them to; it’s also natural to feel happy when things improve.

2. human emotions exist for means of communication. your sympathetic nervous system triggers an increased heart rate and dilation in skeletal muscle so that you know to protect yourself or to flee. your reactions have been finely tuned for your survival.

3. scenario: a friend of yours doesn’t hug you or joke around with you as much as she does with her other friends. when you talk to her, she usually brings up deep subjects and you ponder them together. she doesn’t seem to do this with her other friends.

4. reaction: your mind as a broken record. the thoughts deafening. “it’s winter. this time of year, you should be dead in the ground. no one wants you around.”

5. reflection: different personality traits radiate around different people, so interactions vary. your relationship is not marked with a stamp of nullification for not being identical to other relationships. relationships function uniquely and separately. your relationship is not less valid or less reciprocated, and you certainly aren’t less of a person.

6. your emotions are valid: forgive yourself for your anger, your fear, and your sadness. tell yourself: i will never stop wishing you well! you will never stop changing for the best!

7. you are more comfortable when you forgive yourself, and you make room for positive experiences.

8. it was a big deal that you survived another year.

9. fifteen was the age nostalgic for other ages. you slipped away from its sentimental ideology and pessimism.

10. sixteen is done with nostalgia. sixteen is independent. sixteen makes its own breakfast (an omelet with kale and watermelon juice), sixteen picks out its own clothes (albeit, an oversized sweater), sixteen is late for school (with an iced coffee). sixteen is self-centered, and that’s better than fifteen’s self-deprecating! selfishness is natural to a certain extent, as sixteen only pilots itself.

11. even when the sun rises like a scythe, your honesty and determination will restore the order in your life. “you didn’t cause all of your own problems and you have to solve them anyway.”

12. don’t allow yourself to romanticize bad habits. mistakes are inevitable, but don’t tell guilt and discomfort “make yourself at home” or “stay as long as you want.” don’t give them free reign.

13. defend yourself when necessary. apologize when you mess up.

14. standing up for yourself is not crude. apologizing is not weak.

15. be confident in change, if nothing else. there is going to be a future larger than everything that is weighing you down. you’ll see more vivid sunsets than you could imagine, you’ll see them at new altitudes from new places.

16. kindness to yourself comes in many different forms. kindness to yourself was when you stayed up on the porch with a blanket over your shoulders and a cup of tea, watching the sun rise. kindness to yourself was when you allowed yourself to cry. kindness to yourself was when you brushed your teeth – as simple as it sounds. kindness to yourself was eating three meals as your doctor told you to. continue to be kind.

Thalia Rose is familiar with DBT and succulents.


by Carly Smith

It is 11:04 a.m. The cursor blinks on my computer screen, an aberration against the pure white of my word document. It flashes on and then off, black and then blank, I have watched it do so for too long. The cursor almost replicates my thinking process; my thoughts blinking quietly, appearing and then dissolving into a blank space, before I can even grasp at them. I cannot elaborate on anything that enters my mind, or turn the thoughts into sentences that could sit, malleable yet solid, on a computer screen.

I have been awake for two hours, since I somehow managed to pull myself out of my bed and into my computer chair. I have a bad habit of spending too much time tucked between my sheets, whether my eyes are open or not. Waking is difficult, my muscles soften too much in my sleep and my head weighs me down. Usually, I feel as though I am holding the heaviness of an unwounded sergeant who has lost a thousand troops in war. I am getting better at resisting the urge to roll over and pull the blankets over my head, although it becomes grueling sometimes. The sooner I can get out of bed, the sooner I can start writing, I tell myself. However, when I do manage to leave the sheets, I mostly just sit in front of a blank screen for hours at a time, my mind not allowing me the ability to think at all. It’s not that I don’t want to do anything, it’s that I can’t do anything. There are projects to finish, drafts to begin, and research to obtain, but my brain simply won’t let me get started.

Every time I attempt to think, my thoughts just bounce back, as though there’s a brick wall in my mind which wishes to repel everything. There is a mug next to me which I have drained of coffee, and a spent sheet of multivitamins which were supposed to increase my level of focus and performance. Nothing has pushed my brain past the languid stage of morning and into a highway of productivity. Even when I tried to read a book in order to increase my thinking process, I found my eyes reaching the ends of the pages without having actually read any of the words.

I am slouched, my left foot sits on the chair, and my right foot rests on the floor. One hand is poised on my keyboard, and the other I run through my hair, scratching at my scalp out of frustration. I am feeling panicked about wasting my time but too sad about my inability to think to be able to do something else.

I know why I cannot concentrate, but I am reluctant to think about it because I know that doing so will simply make me bitter, so I continue to stare at the screen, still scratching at my scalp as though I am digging for gold.

Mental illness has clouded my life for some time now, presenting itself in the form of various conditions. Today, it is my post-traumatic stress disorder which is affecting me the most.  I developed post-traumatic stress disorder after a particularly tumultuous childhood, during which my parents were mentally ill and were not in any capacity to protect me from my physically and emotionally abusive brother. Post-traumatic stress disorder, while limiting my memory and my reflexes, also affects my concentration levels and thinking capacity. When I have been triggered, it is difficult to focus on anything, and I cannot complete even the simplest tasks, no matter how hard I try.

These kind of mental blanks used to occur when I had recently come into contact with my family, but since I have relocated from Brisbane to Melbourne, and removed myself from whatever physical triggers were present in my home city, I thought that I would never have to deal with a mental block again. But I was foolish. I forgot that whenever I write about my trauma, I trigger myself, instead of performing an act of catharsis.

I have tried on many occasions to write an account of the experiences that led me to trauma. For the past two years, I have been working on an extended memoir where I discuss the trauma I experienced in my childhood, and how it has effected the remainder of my life. While the act of writing about the trauma is purgatory, it is not until later that day, or even the next day, that I begin to feel the mental blockades that occur after I have been subconsciously triggered.

And my mental blocks aren’t the only things limiting me from writing my memoir. I have a large portion of memories which are missing, gaps in my life which I am trying to restructure so that I can actually write about my life and not just the scatterings of memories that I have of it.

There are only some portions of my childhood that I remember – scratches on my face, bites on my arm, bruises from being hit with a cricket bat. All of them add up to a scathed mind which cannot match memories to times, dates, or even places. It is all a nonsensical landscape where I imagine mismatched collections of events floating around suspended in space, with no gravity to send them to a common ground.

Every now and again one will return to me, often when I have not even attempted to retrieve it. I will be in a mundane and otherwise unremarkable location – the reception area of a psychiatrist clinic, on the train to work in the morning, the kitchen of a friend’s house.

When I do remember an event, though, it’s as though the memory never left me. The memory will flash through my mind and I will think of it as though it never went missing at all, as though it was just an old favourite shirt that got lost in the bottom of my closet.

One morning, when I was sitting in front of a new psychiatrist, she asked me if I had ever been injured so badly that I had to seek medical advice. I had been to psychiatrists before, had been asked this question many times. But for some reason, on this occasion, the memory popped straight into my mind.

One morning, Tyler had been chasing me around the house. He often chased me around the house. It would normally start in the kitchen and he would chase me up the stairs and down the stairs and into the bathroom and down the hallway and up the stairs and down the stairs and into the kitchen and into the family room and into the dining room until we ended up in the lounge room, me standing on the armrest of the couch in the left corner, back pressed against the wall. Sometimes he had a knife in his hand, sometimes his hands were empty. One morning he had a video game case in his hand. It was a Tom & Jerry Playstation game that came in a VHS case from Video Ezy, the way that you used to borrow them out back in the early 2000s. This VHS case had a chipped corner, and the edges were jagged. Tyler cornered me in the back of the lounge room, and I had my hands over my face. The jagged edge of the case came down on my head like a farmer trying to decapitate a chicken. I felt it sear my consciousness with pain, a continuous concrete throb. Once I managed to compose myself, I chased him around the house, trying to get him back in some way. I caught up to him for the first time, and I pulled on his hair with one hand, and placed my hand on my head with the other. I realised my hand was wet, and wiped the moisture away, thinking it was sweat. I removed my hand and noticed that my fingers were dripping with blood. I ran outside to Father, who had been sitting, staring at the trees outside while all of this was happening. He looked at me and walked to the cupboard upstairs. He came back with an old towel, one I hadn’t seen before, for me to put on my head. He walked to the garage and started the car, and drove me to the doctor. Tyler buckled in next to me in the back seat, mouth closed. We sat in the waiting room, not saying anything, until we were called to the first doctor available. The doctor had a white-toothed smile and he stood in front of a wall full of drawings his children had made. He put a bandage on my head and sent me home, joking with Father about “kids causing trouble on the school holidays.”

“What can you do?” Father half-asked, half-joked. He laughed, the polite awkward laugh he uses when he isn’t sure if something is funny or not. He paid the medical bill at the front desk and drove us home, like he was just picking us up from the cinema. When Father pulled the car into the garage, Mother was closing her car door. I was clutching my head with my left hand and holding the bloodied towel with the other.

“Not again,” the look on her face said.

I stared at the psychiatrist, stunned and unable to speak. Now this memory reappears often, as though it was always there.

I don’t know how many more memories I have waiting to come back to me. But I feel as though my life will be a continuum of childhood experiences reappearing in my brain, and the malleable nature of my past makes it particularly challenging to write a coherent piece of work.

I think about my post-traumatic stress disorder all of the time, probably more than anything else. I think of the ways it has limited me and I think of who I would be without it. Someone a lot more capable, but with less of a story to tell. I am determined to speak about my illness. Maybe one day I will be able to do so without the negative mental repercussions that accompany it.

Carly Smith is a Melbourne-based writer with a keen interest in the writing, publishing, and editing fields. Smith recently graduated from a Fine Arts: Creative and Professional Writing degree at the Queensland University of Technology, and is looking forward to expanding her experience in the literary industry. She has volunteered at the SLQ Brisbane Writer’s Festival and completed work experience at ACP Magazines. Smith has also achieved publication in Cow, Hide Journal, and was long-listed in the 2015 Scribe Non-fiction Prize.


by David James


the life and death of me
sleeps upstairs

in his crib, a towel for a blanket.
Henry, my youngest grandchild,
about pieces of toast the size of cars
		swimming in a sea

of lemon rice soup.
my heart falls out
when he smiles at me

or says, “Wow, oh, wow.”

we spent an hour this morning
climbing up the stairs,
climbing back down.


there are no words pure enough
for the love
of my three grandchildren.

they are my personal gold mines,
my new stars, oceans yet undiscovered,

glorious miracles.		


I turn 60 next week
and already find myself calculating

how much time I have left
		to see them graduate, marry, have kids of their own,

struggle to lift the weight
of the future

off my tired back


which they will not be able to do,
of course.


life is an opening of your fist
and a letting go.

you give away pieces of yourself here,
lose small pieces there, and hope
someone sees them,

picks them up, maybe even keeps them,
tucked away
in a dresser, a glove compartment,

a hole in the back yard.

borges was right—a man dies for real
when the last person
in the world

who remembers him



I have sixteen years left,
if the lousy actuaries		know what they’re doing.

maybe I can prove them wrong.