The Love Language of Raccoon Memes

An Essay by Sarah “Sam” Saltiel, January 2020

Sarah “Sam” Saltiel is a queer, nonbinary artist and writer based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Graduated from the University of Chicago with degrees in English, visual arts, and creative writing, most of Saltiel’s work deals with questions of gender and mental illness, particularly pertaining to what it means to be a body in space. She seeks to investigate matters of identity, intersection, and erasure through a wide variety of mediums. Saltiel has been publishing since 2013 and has works published with Duende, Thoreau’s Rooster, and Storm of Blue Press, among others. All of her work can be found on her professional facebook page, Sarah Saltiel, or on her website:

I didn’t write you into my poetry book. I realize that as you sit on the other end of the couch from me, our feet touching, my computer on your lap. You scroll through the first draft of the book and though I can’t see the screen, I try to picture the words as you would see them. It’s then that I realize that I have four lines dedicated to you— love in reality, and pages about someone else— love that exists only in theory. When you’re done reading, I make a joke about how being poly means I can simultaneously be in a healthy relationship and still keep up my long-standing tradition of pining after emotionally unavailable men, but I wonder (too late) if the exclusion hurt you. Why did I not write about you?

The days after, I keep track of how I sort my thoughts, how each thought becomes actionable. I have a note on my phone that is full of snippets of poetry waiting to be used. As I scroll through it, I notice they are all things that I want to say but can’t. I have a paragraph about coming to terms with a friend who will never love me back. I have entire essays with descriptions of anxiety attacks and depressive episodes, each sentence too melodramatic to say out loud. By comparison, our text conversations read like an ode of all the things I feel okay saying to you, the good and the bad. It is an archive of the things that I didn’t write in poetry because I said them to you instead: care and anxiety, communication and memes, shitty pick up lines and asking about your day. 

The ability to say these things to you still feels novel; I am not in the habit of thinking about love as an act of celebration, rather than one of mourning. Writing about it as such feels alien and unfamiliar and I find it difficult not to turn my love letters into eulogies. There are words I’m used to using when I write about love: “ghost”, “residue”, “as if”. Writing about you feels like it requires a whole new vocabulary and half the words would be memes we found on the internet meaning, “I’m thinking about you”. The other half would be synonyms for all the ways I’m learning I can touch you. Sitting on your lap, limbs entangled. Running my cold hands up your back as you shiver but oblige in letting me warm them up. Poking your adam’s apple and your belly button because I don’t want any part of you to be strange to me. I delight in both the new and the familiar— there would be an entire page of entries dedicated to realizing that it’s okay to hold your hand while walking down the street. An entire chapter dedicated to different ways of saying, “I purposefully don’t put on my jacket when we stand outside at parties. I like the way you unzip your jacket, wrap me in it, and let me steal your cigarette, like you’re inviting me to embody the space that previously held only you. I don’t even like cigarettes, but I like feeling like I am now a part of you”.

I realized when I first started kissing you that I was always the one escalating: tugging at the hems of both our shirts. It’s the product of countless one night stands spent with men who kissed me to fill the quota of perfunctory socially acceptable number of kisses needed to unlock the barriers of clothing. It made me feel dirty to realize I was repeating their patterns, as I if was clay that they had pressed fingerprints into. I worried something between you and me was getting lost in the ridges still spelling out their echoes. I try to slow down now, because if I swallow you in gulps, you might be gone to me, but this is a memory I want to retain. I want to linger by your neck long enough that I can form new fingerprints and use those new hands to hold you close to me, as something precious and powerful, both. 

I feel sometimes like I am a child reaching out to touch your face, asking, “is this okay? I don’t know how to do this but I don’t want to hurt you”. I worry that I will hurt you, because I forget that I have the power to do that. Some days I preemptively put distance between us, assuming that’s what you want, because that’s what’s been wanted from me before: intimacy, but not close enough to burn. Like the day that I curled up in the dark, wombing, entombing myself in piles of blankets after white knuckling it through the day. You messaged me and apologized for not being there. I told you it wasn’t your responsibility to follow me into the depths of every bad day. I meant that to be comforting: “I am not your responsibility so you are relinquished from your guilt”. It was only after that I realized (again) that you don’t want to be relinquished from me, that that distance didn’t feel like a relief to you but a yawning chasm. You were afraid of me being swallowed whole. I am still learning how to let someone toss me a rope without pulling them down too. 

Months after you read my poetry book, a friend messages me and unprompted says that they are taking a break from reading my writing because they don’t want their mental health problems to consume their life. They ask, inoffensively, if there are other things that I write about. I bristle for a moment and respond that trauma and mental illness show up so often in my work because they are inextricable from my lived experience. A piece absent of that narrative would be a fiction. 

It’s a fair question though. I characterize the months since I’ve moved to the desert as being punctuated by panic attacks and the feeling of slow suffocation. In some ways, that characterization is a fiction as well, because there are many things that it does not account for. The pride of publishing my first poetry book. The giddying independence of decorating my own apartment. The calm every morning before work when I drink my coffee, my cat headbutting my arm until I let her crawl under the covers. And again, you. 

You have not known a version of me without my nerves strung tight as an entire string quartet, just waiting to spiral into discordance with a single wrong note. I’m not sure if a version of me without my neuroses exists, but sometimes I forget that there are parts of my personality that are not centered around the act of trying not to want my own death. My ideation is not my identity, nor is my rejection of it. Increasingly though, I find the urge to remind myself of that: though this struggle is inextricable from me, it is not me in my entirety. I’ve started trying to make a list every day of the things that make me happy. A lot of days I forget or the effort seems insignificant, but I still do it, telling you that I want to refocus my brain lest I collapse myself into a singular dimension. Mostly though, I find that telling you that there are other parts of me is just telling you something you seem to know already. 

I’m not sure how something human slipped through the cracks in my anxiety but I’m glad that you have seen me whole. It helps ground me, so I keep writing my list because you are one of many things that I don’t want to slip through the sieve of my perception. Even if there is a grain for every panic attack and every day I spend curled into my couch, I still want to catch all the other grains, count them and call them by name: 

1. The plant that a friend brought to a party as a gift for me. 

2. My boss, who patiently taught me how to drive. 

3. The leftovers in my fridge from the first recipe I’ve taught myself in years: coconut curry lentils. Made more flavorful by the friend who came over to cook it with me. 

4. The sunflower dishes that I bought when I moved here. I wanted reminders of things that would make me happy. 

5. The nod my dance instructor gives when I enter the studio to practice. My presence has become familiar and there is comfort in that familiarity. 

6. The mismatched assortment of furniture and kitchenware given to me by my mother, my grandparents, and my coworkers to fill up an apartment that haunted me with its emptiness. 

7. The tattoos on my body: reclamation of disputed territory. 

8. My college roommate who calls me several times a week just to check in and tell me about the trials of law school. 

9. The illustrations that I made for my poetry book after drawing for two days straight. Trying to take pride in my ability to turn pain into something beautiful.

10. ?

10.The day you came over and I peeked out of my dark apartment at you, wrapped in blankets like I was shielding my raw shivering nerves. I made you build a pillow fort with me like we were kids — we drank red wine, ate cookie dough, and had sex until you couldn’t breathe and had to grab your inhaler. I asked you if that meant that having sex with me took your breath away. I didn’t have to tell you that day that I needed you to hold me. You did anyway, because for you it wasn’t conditional on my feeling bad or good, you just did. We padded our consciousnesses with blankets and pillows and a table from my living room that we turned on its side. It made it easier, for a few hours, to forget my suicidal ideation, because it made me feel young enough that I didn’t know what death was anymore, didn’t have to grapple with it, let alone my own. There are no cure for things like me, but it reminded me that I don’t have to make my own pain my hobby, that I can make that habit rusty with disuse. The fluttering of your heart when I pressed my hand against your chest is the tenth grain. 

I know that I can’t list my depression away, but you remind me that I don’t need to see myself as a poison, that I don’t need to absent myself. So I start my list again because it may not be everything but at least I’m trying. I take pictures of my cat to remind me that there are soft things in this world. I look up new recipes because my body deserves to be fed. I collect your freckles in my pen in case I decide to write about something other than trauma.

Editor’s note: From the moment I read Sarah “Sam” Saltiel’s poetry collection, I was hooked. She has such an incredible way with words: so raw and piercing I often end a reading with tears in my eyes. I am proud to be publishing Saltiel’s poetry chapbook. It is especially in contrast to this aching poetry memoir that this essay shines with hope, connection, and deep love. – Ava Balis

Saltiel’s poetry chapbook, a thesaurus for the way water returns, will be published with Riza Press in Spring 2020. Inspired by writers such as Maggie Nelson and Anne Carson, a thesaurus for the way water returns deals with the jarring effects of physical and temporal displacement, leading the reader through the emotional topography of a narrator in surroundings that are simultaneously familiar and horrifically strange. 

What Love Means to Me

An essay by Taylor Boileau Davidson, December 2019

Taylor Boileau Davidson is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work explores the boundaries between intuition, femininity, and mysterious spaces.

One morning I woke up to a text from my best friend, she wanted to skype. Her and I have been friends for a little over four years, and much of it has been long distance. She had done a year exchange in Amsterdam, and moved to Toronto after finishing her degree. And when she texted me that morning, I knew exactly what it was about because she’d never once texted me like this, needing to skype that same day.

She’s always been independent, always taking on new adventures in her stride. She is so practical, so courageous, taking in the facts without too much concern; some concern, but never too much.

Of course, she doesn’t see herself this way. She thinks that she gets over worried and overly attached. But she, unlike me, will always turn towards her studies, her career, her health and well-being after a letdown, in a way that I never could. She was strong being on her own, and after each failed relationship she brushed herself off and got on with things. Taking herself from Amsterdam, to Toronto, to London UK where she is studying a Masters in feminist thought and
policy at one of the most prestigious universities in Europe. I was the one who texted her when she was abroad, who booked skype calls, who messaged her regularly with updates and asked her how she was. It’s just the way we are. But that day, she needed to skype and I knew exactly what it was about.

The minute the call landed she confirmed my suspicions. She says “I met someone.” and that is all I needed to know. But she wanted me to understand, so she went on with the details of how they met, and she said “It felt like I’d known him forever.” And that’s exactly what I was hoping she’d say.

I’d experienced this same thing when I met my husband. That thing that is so frustrating to those who have yet to meet someone they recognize in this way. The recognizing someone who is just like you, who understands who you are, and you them. But that telling of knowing what you know when you know it is an insanely irritating answer to a question that can’t possibly be given a satisfying answer.

My friend didn’t quite know just yet that she knew. She had a hunch, but it was still budding and she was scared that calling it by its name would chase it away. That’s also what I felt when I met my husband. And a fear of having what I knew was in front of me, something I didn’t necessarily think I was capable of or deserved.

Love doesn’t really erase any of our self doubts, or the pains we grew up with. It doesn’t make things easier. It calls for us to grow, it calls us to face all the things in ourselves that we don’t like.

I see my friend and I see her courage, and I feel so grateful that she called me. Isn’t it a gift to be someone who is called in earnest to be told of this scary, blooming thing occurring in someone’s heart. My brave friend who takes on each adventure in stride, who never feels the need to record every detail of her incredible journeys or send me endless pictures, turned to me because I would know what she means, and what it means for her to tell me so. It is the evidence of a thing I’d told her often, when aimless men would walk in and out of her life.

Finally she understood. She could see it coming around, and it will continue to turn. It reminds me of this poem I found that I used for inspiration when writing my wedding ceremony:

Santiago by David Whyte

The road seen, then not seen, the hillside
hiding then revealing the way you should take,
the road dropping away from you as if leaving you
to walk on thin air, then catching you, holding you up,
when you thought you would fall,
and the way forward always in the end
the way that you followed, the way that carried you
into your future, that brought you to this place,
no matter that it sometimes took your promise from you,
no matter that it had to break your heart along the way:
the sense of having walked from far inside yourself
out into the revelation, to have risked yourself
for something that seemed to stand both inside you
and far beyond you, that called you back
to the only road in the end you could follow, walking
as you did, in your rags of love and speaking in the voice
that by night became a prayer for safe arrival,
so that one day you realized that what you wanted
had already happened long ago and in the dwelling place
you had lived in before you began


A poem by Lydia Falls, December 2019

Lydia Falls is a writer and elementary school teacher who currently resides in Pound Ridge, NY. Prior to this, she lived abroad in South Korea and Taiwan for four years. Lydia’s poetry is rooted in reflection and self-discovery, an ongoing process shaped by travel, nostalgia, and fractured memories. Instagram: @lydiafalls_

i think he may be the fall–
the impassioned shades
that light my soul on fire.

‘and if we are both
he said,
‘falling in the same direction
your hand in mine,
we have achieved
a kind
of stillness,
have we not?’

everything moves around us but we do not.

When We Found The Knicks… Together

A story by Hilary Jane Smith, December 2019

Hilary Jane Smith is originally from Northern California. A graduate of Chapman University’s Film and Media Arts program, she has found her voice in cultural critique and poetry. She is a professional based in New York City. She loves “love,” her city, and her partner.

I’ve been brainstorming how to write my wedding vows for a few months now. It’s challenging for anyone, but I feel like our love is so straightforward it’s difficult to craft a literary masterpiece summing up the last 4 years in a neatly packaged speech. My fiance, Charlie, and I are your run-of-the-mill late-20’s couple who watch Netflix documentaries, cook with a cast iron pan, and have corporate nine-to-five jobs. I’ve mulled over the defining pillars of our relationship, our shared interests, as average as they are, and there’s really only a few things that stand out as definitive in terms of how we fell in love and why we continue to grow together. To put it simply, it’s really all about sports – and lately it’s about basketball.

I met Charlie over four years ago when we were both living in Southern California. We were both transplants – I grew up in Northern California, and he had moved from New York to work for a sports agent as a research analyst. I loved that he was from New York. I had an affinity for New York City, like most women who came of age on a diet of Carrie Bradshaw and Mad Men. In particular, I loved the sports history of the city. My favorite book in high school was Jonathan Mahler’s Ladies and Gentleman: The Bronx is Burning which detailed the turmoil of the city in the 1970’s and the lead up to the Yankees 1977 World Series season (it was later made into a great ESPN series of the same name.) That book was the perfect mix of sports and culture as zeitgeist. I think it’s overall emblematic of sports’ relationship to the city. The history of New York teams always possessed this romantic, literary quality to me; they were like a living breathing example of a David McCullough book – baroque, but informative. 

When Charlie and I decided after a year of dating to move to New York City for job opportunities, that’s when I knew our relationship became much more life-changing. Moving across the country with a newer boyfriend might be a bit naive, but we knew that our commitment, was something that would hold us together as we emerged into an urban landscape on Charlie’s hometurf.

Although I was extremely eager to move, I had my own athletic affiliations and personal history to consider. I knew in my mind that I would always identify as a Californian, and I would never relinquish my life long fandom of The Oakland A’s. As a team, they have their own complicated history, filled with emotions and potential stadium moves that I have suffered through. The amount this team has embedded into my soul is its own essay on love and sacrifice. Thankfully due to Charlie’s background as a collegiate baseball player, he completely understood my love of the A’s: their strengths and weaknesses, and how invested I was in their success. That was something we’ve always succeeded at as a couple; we understand those intense feelings of ebullience and anguish a fan has no matter which team they support. We’ve played for and supported organizations that have their share of shortcomings, but make you believe in them. It’s like watching someone commit so fully to a cause they know will most likely fail, with the best case scenario is to get people to talk to one another. Sports fans of opposing teams can often paint each other in a villainous light, but we have always been appreciative of each other’s teams (even if it is The Yankees.) I don’t know if it was our own maturity, or just our love of the game itself, but we always were able to love and cheer each other on. He could see that type of emotion in me, and I could see it in him with his own affiliations.

We’ve been in New York for a few years, and now that we’re getting married, we thought we’d take our relationship a step further. Outside of baseball, our fragmented support for hockey and casual interest in college basketball wasn’t satisfying our urge to adopt a sports organization as an alternative. We really wanted to commit to adopting a team together much like other couples seek out a furry friend to join the family. We would support each other’s respective MLB franchises during the season, but we wanted a mutual love, one we could share together. We could have this new passion to nurture and grow with, strengthening our bond. After taking a deeper look at the things we shared, we knew that basketball was the one sport we both loved but hadn’t taken seriously. We had been out of touch with the NBA, and with our own histories, it seemed like the perfect fit for our journey together.

Charlie and I both played basketball with CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) growing up. My father was a high school basketball coach, and my sister and I were avid Nintendo 64 “NBA Hangtime” players. If I see the game in a barcade now, I’ll immediately queue up my two-man team of John Stockton and Karl Malone. Charlie graduated from Georgetown University at a time when the basketball program was in disarray, but continued to support them. Now that Patrick Ewing was the head coach of the program, they were on the upswing. He had that connection, we were both finally New Yorkers, and it seemed like a natural progression to us becoming full-hearted New York Knicks fans.

I watched a game or two and was sold on the idea of a new season with a clean slate. We went to the NBA Store on 5th Avenue, bought New York Knicks t-shirts, and I began to religiously watch the games and familiarize myself with the players. It took only a few games before I realized what we had done, and Charlie knew it all along… this was not going to be an easy commitment.

It was an active decision on my part, to open myself up to The Knicks and their fanbase, as a big step in our relationship. However, with this came dealing with a lack of institutional knowledge of how bad things really were, how they hadn’t improved over several years, and their emotional baggage. It was going to be a much more challenging relationship than I realized. Charlie was much more pragmatic going in, prepared for the worst and the stresses that came with loving something so problematic. He cautioned me about this before we committed, but I was so eager to dive right into the deep end, I ignored a lot of the warning signs. They’ll get better! The history of the team and Madison Square Garden sells itself. It’ll be a fun activity, just the two of us!

Yet there was still so much toxicity to unpack in liking this team. They were not playing well, lacked motivation, and started the season in a dismal place (they are still currently in last place as of this writing). They lost by over 20 points to the Cleveland Cavaliers followed by a press conference with the GM Scott Perry and team president Steve Mills complaining about the coach in what looked like an attempted coup. Each time we watched, Charlie would get more and more frustrated, with both of us on opposite sides of the couch stewing in disbelief over how awful our newfound family addition was. This was supposed to be our rom-com rosy montage of doing kissing high-fives and joyful screams for a team that has been featured so many times this way in the rom-coms of my teenage years. The reality of it all was, this team was not going to be a euphoric montage of slam dunks and vicarious wins. This would be a relationship with an organization that would test our limits.

There was a moment after that game I referenced with the press conference, when we were listening to Stephen A. Smith, the messianic broadcaster on ESPN, tear down The Knicks organization. He bluntly yells into his mic that they are “straight-up trash,” and my shame was so severe you could have seen it seeping out of my pores.

Why did we commit to them? It wasn’t too late, we could just write it off as a couples project that didn’t work out, like that time we tried tandem kayaking. I felt so low and ashamed so soon into this relationship, I didn’t know what to do. I assumed Charlie felt the same, knowing he had his reservations going in.

That’s the thing with having a relationship with a sports team, you better be prepared to deal with its entirety: all of the flaws, history, and self-destructive behavior that goes along with it. Charlie and I had a fairly easy-going relationship with each other, we didn’t think about things in the same way with our new one with The Knicks. Our status as fan, was something we had to address almost as if we had adopted a dog: we had to show up for our team and be there for them, even if they repeatedly peed on the rug.

The Knicks played The Cavaliers a week later and dominated the team; yes the Cavs didn’t have their star player Kevin Love in the game, but the win was enough of a flint to make me feel good. Charlie was still a bit uneasy about it, but he too saw the promise. They were set to play the Dallas Mavericks the following week who featured the Knick’s old star Kristaps Porziņģis returning to Madison Square Garden. The game was an epic showdown with The Knicks winning at the buzzer, and we finally got our victory kissing high five moment I had been waiting for.

We’re at peace with our decision to become Knick fans. When I say at peace, I mean “for the time being” because we know it’s evolving. We’re committed and taking it one day at a time. There will always be challenges and we might not be on the same page. Even when we’re losing, I still feel that deep connection to Charlie I’ve always felt, even if it’s in our shared frustration. It’s so great to know that you’re supporting something together. We believe in the same group of people and have been bound by our shared spirit. We’re in this together: us, The Knicks, New York. But that’s what relationships are: love and devotion, and hoping that one day you’ll see your team win it all, together.

Love in Different Stages

A poetry collection by Shaneka Gearhart, December 2019

Greetings! I am Shaneka Gearhart, an all time poetry buff, and a lover for good language. Currently, I am a student at Stockton University focusing on Literary Studies while dabbling in some creative endeavors. Usually, I would pinpoint some of the work that I find to be most notable, but I have been enjoying the current issue all to well. And so, I am submitting a snippet of my work to be considered for publication in your journal.

I have curated a small collection of poems, “For the Mothers who Did Not Wish to Be Mothers,” “It was the Darkness that Humbled Me,” “Warnings,” “Morning Devotion,” and “The Hurt that Comes with Loving a Broken Woman.” Each of these poems tackle the different stages of love because love comes in many shapes and can encompass a plethora of emotion. I use these poems as vessels to explore and learn about my own concept of love.

Furthermore, I must add that this a simultaneous submission, and upon acceptance elsewhere I will be withdrawing my submission. However, I look forward to hearing from you, and I thank you for your time and consideration.

Morning Devotion

I wake to your arms draped over

my naked body, your breath echoing,

small ripples escapes the opening of your lips.

There’s a bird on the patio pecking

at the forgotten cacti. The sun had dressed and risen

long before us. And I have no desire to break the passage

from your body

to mine.

The Hurt that Comes with Loving a Broken Woman

                             (for J.C.)

What a feeling this is to be loved

by a man who holds no resemblance

                                               to my father.

The grave distinction of satisfaction

and love, like the babe waiting

nestled in the mother’s lap for the father

to return, like a knight in the moonlight.

                   He saved me.

The darkness, which he grew somewhat fond of

turns to light, beams of yellow shines through

our windows, I am wrapped in his arms.

                          And I think this must be love—

He holds me in all of my morning glory, he feels

the cracks on my skin and rubs them smooth,

and I cut him, breaks the skin,

                             and the sticky ox color blood runs.

Communion / Without Reservation / Sea Change

A poetry collection by RC deWinter, December 2019

RC deWinter’s poetry is anthologized in Uno: A Poetry Anthology (Verian Thomas, 2002), New York City Haiku (NY Times, 2017), Cowboys & Cocktails: Poetry from the True Grit Saloon (Brick Street Poetry, April 2019), Havik (Las Positas College, May 2019), Castabout Literature (Dantoin/Hilgart, June 2019), The Flickering Light (Scars Publications, June 2019), Pointed Circle (Portland Cascades Community College, June 2019) Nature In The Now (Tiny Seed Press, August 2019), in print in 2River, borrowed solace, Genre Urban Arts, Gravitas, In Parentheses, Meat For Tea: The Valley Review, Pink Panther Magazine, Southword 37 and appears in numerous online literary journals.


let’s go my darling   on a quiet walk to nowhere   to everywhere
    the world awaits   no need for words
we’ll simply   be   together
   in time  in space   in love

the world awaits   no need for words
   as we wander   exploring the fierce beauty of this garden
in time   in space   in love
   we’ll know the perfection of circles completed

as we wander   exploring the fierce beauty of this garden
   fingers entwined in love knots of forever
we’ll know the perfection of circles completed
   in the silence of devotion

fingers entwined in love knots of forever
   we’ll simply   be   together
in the silence of devotion

   let’s go my darling   on a quiet walk to nowhere   to everywhere

without reservation

the house is
quiet i know where
you are   in
the study on the settee
   head in hands   brooding

i watch you
silently from the
doorway   you
know i’m there
but make no acknowledgment
   i don’t expect one

i know there
are things you cannot
share and would
not even
if you could   you carry the
secrets of what lies

beneath the
frosting of the world
   the darkness
of what we
call diplomacy   but is
really something else

   memories nothing
can erase
etched in your
brain   your bones  your very soul
   for which there is no

   so i offer none
but when you
come to me
    wrapping me in the blanket 
of your sorrow   i

take the pain
   and refashion it
with my lips
you i love everything that
makes you who you are

Sea Change

As you handed me your soul
you said, “I used to think
I would go to the sea.
Now I will run to you.”

You said, “I used to think
I’d always be alone –
now I will run to you,”
as you kissed my saltwater cheeks.

I’d always be alone
if not for you.
As you kissed my saltwater cheeks
I promised to be your ocean.

If not for you
I would go to the sea.
I promised to be your ocean
as you handed me your soul.


An art piece collection by Thomas Osatchoff, December 2019

“Love is why things happen….If love is an inflamed gift giving itself in flood form, then it could be concluded to cancel out as in fire + water. Yet love is experienced. Without knowing the exact causal forces, we experience a mysterious folding together without cancelling. On April 1st, 2018, I arrived from Sao Paulo for a one week stopover in Vancouver to stay with my brother at his apartment (where I made these pieces and where they remain, as far as I know) after which time I went to Manila. Why was I coming? Why was I going? Why was that the last time I saw my brother?….Love is lack of separation and therefore there is. Separation. Things happening. That is why. Love.”

Thomas Osatchoff, together with family, is building a self-sustaining home near a waterfall. Recent poems have appeared in Abstract: Contemporary Expressions, Breakwater Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, and elsewhere.

re / integration

A poetry collection by Jenni Kate Baros, December 2019

If YouTube views are any indication, scores of people enjoy watching videos of U.S. soldiers surprising their loved ones with an unannounced homecoming. These viewers think that these surprises, filled with kisses, laughter, and tears, are what love looks like. And at times, it does. However, when the cameras are turned off, military couples enter into the days following deployment, a time the military refers to as “reintegration.” The following poems come from an unpublished collection written by the wife of a combat veteran. These pieces explore what happens after a soldier comes home from war. Giving voice to the silent ranks, “Known”; “Self-Help”; and “Standard Issue” reflect upon the effects of deployment on love, and what it looks like to pull through, together.

Jenni Kate Baros is finishing her graduate thesis at Eastern New Mexico University. Prior to becoming it’s editor, Jenni Kate’s fiction has been published by El Portal, and she received the ENMU Writers’ Retreat Top Honors for Poetry. She lives in Colorado with her husband of 21 years, teenaged children, and two obstinate, silver Labradors.


It is not good for human to be alone.
Little one, little one.
Let me in.

My onion skin burns around seltzer fingertips
 sliding wet, slow, between thighs
               like so much barbed wire
 – aware of eucalyptus gasp and lobo tongue catching on fences,
rattling garden shelves until incense –
               myrrh and coriander,                paprika, anise –
vials topple
Constantinople and my bones
come undone.

I shake violent purple sunrise over Ephesus, beyond the tents of Kedar. This quaking doesn’t stop until                                        this body, like my name,
is ours
            and my own.

It is not good for human
                Ya’da. Ya’da. Ya’da.
to be alone, little one.
Little one let me
in. One life. From


A barracks of plywood and
cardboard-backing hold self-help
regiments, leaning one
against another

Black Hearts
How Emotions Are Made

A battery of nimble-backed
binders hold the line between
plans for when you came back and
how to live while you’re gone.

On Killing
When War Comes Home

A platoon of government
-issue training
manuals stand at the ready
next to rosters of date night starters.

Every Man’s Battle
Moral Choices

A sentinel of ink at attention
– hurry up and wait – on a journal
of beige and brown. The pages
inside are blank.

The Love Dare
Hold Me Tight

A brass top supports
the lamp you’ve had
longer than me,
lighted still,

Do Hard Things
Helping Those Who Hurt

with a bulb that, in
twenty-two years,

Die Empty

we’ve only changed

Standard Issue

an Army-wife
that holds
breath and poster-board
for return. Hot air balloon
packed away
after flight,
all colors and silk whispering
back into a space
no bigger
than a duffle bag.   

Which is to say, I
am Mary-madre
to the false-caterpillar Magdalenes
in Cherry Bark Tortrix lashes 
surreptitiously avoiding eye contact
and a public spectacle because we all know.

Cocktail crepe frail, 
a Dead Leaf with delicate thin legs, dangling over
sensible heels, to shield
against flag wrapped
pine boxes.

Chequered Skipper, lean and coiled piston anticipating a spark,
next to Class A’s
and new medals clink
windchimes. Updating

ribbons, promotion packets before the board

and the scones have to come out of the oven. 

Remembrance of All Things Past / Nancy / In One

A short story and poetry collection by Andy Betz, December 2019

Andy Betz has tutored and taught in excess of 30 years. He lives in 1974, has been married for 27 years, and collects occupations (the current tally is 100). His works are found everywhere a search engine operates.

Remembrance of all things past

The season provides the wife and me the rare opportunity to see another year through our eyes of 27 years ago.  Our tree has half of the required lights and only a select few ornaments.  Not all the lights have working bulbs and most of the ornaments have seen better days.  The tree stands a mere three and half feet, but we place it on a box, near the front picture window, elevated, so that passersby may view the top of what they believe to be a full tree decked out in full regalia. Presents have always been sparse, but meaningful.  It is the quality of the intention and not the quantity resources that continue to make our memories.

We began this marriage on a small budget and big dreams.

We have never moved past this starting point.

By now, we wouldn’t have it any other way.


Four days after first meeting the woman, who would be my wife, I planned for the most epic date we would ever share.  I rented an elephant.

Not just any elephant.  I rented and thirty year old female Indian elephant with a nice disposition and fully trained to accept riders with equally nice dispositions.  The owner said her name was Nancy.

I brought my date, soon to be my fiancé, soon to be my wife, to the park to meet Nancy (and her trainer).  I paid the cash and Nancy lowered herself for the two of us to climb aboard and take our place.  Having never done this before, we were in for a treat.  Nancy weighed almost five tons and walked as gracefully as any beauty contestant winner ever.  She kept an even gait, and remained within the limits of the area designated for “pets not on a leash” (park rules at that time).  Nancy covered three laps around the park and became distracted only once during a brief encounter with a Frisbee crossing her path.  Undaunted, and without any assistance for either of us, Nancy returned with her charges unharmed and only slightly tattered from an occasional brush with tree limbs not normally encountered by pachyderm unassisted humans.

The final portion of the date included both my soon-to-be-wife and I feeding Nancy her afternoon snack of selected grasses and grains.  I asked if Nancy could have chocolate and the trainer had no reservations to the contrary.  Accordingly, we permitted the most agile trunk to remove small squares of Hersey’s chocolate from our open hands to her awaiting mouth.  I am beginning to believe most of the world’s problems can (indeed) be solved by the application of this confectionery.

After a few well-earned rubs behind Nancy’s ears (another first for the two of us), we departed by walking toward our car.  I blew my future wife’s mind with a Biblical level of randomness and creativity, virtually impossible to surpass.  We became engaged soon afterward and have been married ever since (27 years and counting).

Had it not been for Nancy and a few pips of Milton’s finest, who knows how my life may have become?  I owe, at least, the onset of a great marriage to a 10000 pound female and her natural instinct for chocolate.

In One

In one nanosecond, light will travel the length of my shoe
In one microsecond, I fell for your soft coos
In one millisecond, I began pitching woo
In one second, I can spell or perform jiujitsu
In one minute, a cup of coffee will brew
In one hour, I can create my world famous beef stew
In one day, of marriage, you gave me your first honeydo (list)
In one week, of marriage, you called me your babu
In one month, we could vacation through Katmandu
In one year, my interest will accrue
In all my life, I could not find another you


A poem by Joy Daussin, December 2019

Joy Daussin is a 36 year old stay-at-home mother of two who loves drawing, reading, writing, and sharing her passion for art with her children. Her poems have been published both online and in print. She writes to purge herself of negative and destructive thoughts.

Warmth is

            A whispered “I love you” against

                        Lips trembling with passion

Warmth is

            A summer evening on the front porch

                        Children playing nearby

Warmth is

            A look traded, unspoken communication

                        Instantly understood

Warmth is

            Feet mingling under a shared blanket

                        Body heat shared

Warmth is

            Reading quietly in the same room

                        Soft glances exchanged

Warmth is

            The connection between two people