These Deigning Burns

Leave off the Slave’s Soft Cruelty
by dGabe Evau

Leave off the slave’s soft cruelty
The worms that eat your mind
Beware of friendly sympathy
To feelings not your kind

Ours a wretched lot, to bear
the joys of Spring, + bury them
Some would deign to take our
rotting corpses + marry them

Truth is splashing in the stream
Follow footsteps into dreams
Winding paths, terrible wrath
Nothing’s what it seems

Fire burns to carbon dust
Sturdy stones in which we trust
Precious metals, clothed in rust
fail to shine, yet beckon us

                    on into the Nightmare,
                    Midnight’s vanity
                    Dawn discovers right where
                    we left our sanity

*****

dGabe Evau is the last bohemian and poet-magistrate of Cambridge, MA.

The Layers In Between

Vacancy
by Catherine Zickgraf

You love me here
where we meet at our graves.
Jesus saves, if you let Him.
And I know the Bible
is just an arm’s length away
in the drawer under the ashtray. . .

the cheap painting above the bed,
like a headstone in the gold dust of afternoon,
I’m dressing fast, leaving the room—
the kids’ bus is almost on its way.

Since the beginning of our days,
they’ve stacked dead folks who can’t pay
in pauper graves, digging a massive hole,
laying nailed-shut boxes in layers and rows
like motel rooms where we secretly fuck
and decay.

My spirit is a slave to my blood flow.
I practice my idolatry on you.
And in the in between days without you,
I wake up thinking about you.

But when I scarf my arms around you,
I coil your limbs, swim your currents
of rain, flow my blood through your veins—
I harbor you,
hold you home inside me/kneel beside
your streams through my yard. . .
you pulse like stars
throwing sharpened swords.
You force the heat through my heart.

Here we are in our skin again,
here we are in this trance.
You make me shake when you pull away. . .
The days go by,
I know the earth will break apart.
But you spin the world in my direction—
it rotates around my heart.

*****

Catherine Zickgraf has shared her poetry in Spain, Puerto Rico, and throughout the continental US. See her perform at youtube.com/czickgraf. She hosts Augusta, Georgia’s MAD Open Mic every Thursday, yet homeschooling her boys inspires her the most at the moment.

Signs Among The Spanish Moss

INTIMACIES IN BORROWED LIGHT
by Darius Stewart

I’ve chosen a quiet place in this great old house,
wandered the rooms,
gazed out the windows: Spanish moss
tangled like silly string in the cypress,
great mounds of it floating in the pool

where a couple may have taken a midnight
swim, brushed the strands from their arms, maybe
mistook them for exposed veins—fibrous, infected,
relentlessly inescapable. This is where my imagination turns
whimsical to glum, I know, though I can’t help but wonder

if this empty house signals the end of their love,
if the signs were in the sky pockmarked with stars,
as though the cosmos had unleashed its grief
upon the world: Spanish moss & stars: the signs?
No . . . forgive me. It may be the silence is too ingratiating.

I’ve forgotten what it feels like to curl one’s body into the curl of another
& wait out the night in cathedral silence,
just a kiss or two at the nape of the neck
for assurances, because, after all, this moment
is one of the great palaces of the world: intimacies

in borrowed light of the moon or lamp-like glow
of a hundred fireflies just outside your window, you listening
to wave after wave of latticed sounds filling each room
with possibilities of surviving the night, & waking
the next day eager for the hours to peel away

until you reach the hour when everything repeats.

*****

Darius Stewart was born in Knoxville, TN, in 1979. He holds degrees from The University of Tennessee and the Michener Center for Writers (a B.A. and an M.F.A., respectively). He has been previously anthologized in two volumes of The Southern Poetry Anthology series, The Best Gay Poetry 2008. He’s been published elsewhere in Callaloo, The Seattle Review, Meridian, and dozens of other journals. He has authored three chapbooks: The Terribly Beautiful (2006), Sotto Voce (2008) and The Ghost the Night Becomes (2014). He bartends for a living because it makes more money than teaching, and lives with two dogs: Fry (his) and Waffles (his housemate’s, who doesn’t think he’s an artist, but he is).

Valuing The Mortal Moon

The “Just” in “Just Friends” is Misleading
                    For J.
by Lynn Houston

It should have always been like this.
The effortless presence, the light
airiness of ease with ourselves, the complicit
nods to our restless aging bodies.

Tonight you tell me of snow illumined
by your headlights, lighting up the ride
home, the snow that will keep us all
from work tomorrow, guiding us,
even now as it starts to fall
more steadily, to the important things:
fire, wine, each other.
Snow never errs in the quiet
it obliges us to value.

I used to think of you as hands and fingers
to fondle me, imagine your lower lip that lights up
like the moon when you’ve grown a beard
resting on my nipple after tongue touch,
how you would sound, the gentle pitch
of pleasure cries I wanted to wring from you.
You were exotic then, an unknown.

Now, you are one of few constants.
A reliable satellite in orbit around the shifting
tilt and gravity of my daily planet.
Instead of that delicious, faint hairline
above the waist-band of your jeans,
I dream that one day when my father
inevitably dies, you are there with me,
holding my hand in the graveyard.

More than a hundred orgasms, I need
this new thing that we’ve become.

*****

Lynn Marie Houston’s poems have appeared in Painted Bride Quarterly, Poydras Review, Hartskill Review, Alyss, and others. She is the author of The Poet’s Playground, a book of poetry exercises for beginners. After graduating from Hartwick College and spending time in Switzerland on a Fulbright grant, Houston earned her Ph.D. from Arizona State University. She now lives in a vintage Airstream camper on the East Coast. When she isn’t teaching English, she tends her honeybees and kayaks local rivers.