Orion headless

Poetry, art, found objects

Adoption, change of name and measurement

by James Diaz

Touch light against interior,
begin with the reverse side of that moment,
come into your body again, go over the rolled edges
of possibility. This is not
a diatribe about grace or
about what happens when grace
is removed.

I know how low
the memory can sit
before it breaks with the first knot
that tied it’s voice
into story- I remember
just how elastic we had made our world,
bidding on the items in our own back yard,
taking out restraining orders
on mutually shared phantoms,
forgiving, eating, and sleeping-
in that order.

After you sprint up from that prior experience-
how things will not change,
how pattern is molded with idea,
be committed to consistency
and return to word what sentence
had only begun in us by visualizing
the fine line of this loss.



poetry by Dah

The tan ropes are rattlesnakes
that tie and untie themselves,
clumps of spines untangled
from earth; loops and S’s
curling like damaged ribs.

My body is a tight cage that
the snakes move away from.
My hands become closed canyons,
manzanita, sage leaves, moon-dew
marked by footprints.

I watch you pick one up, feeling
distress from its rattle cut into
my nerves. Heat from its mouth
hisses, like splintered glass. You
hand it to me. A necklace. A noose.

It crawls through my fingers:
skinny road-lines on a map
charting the back fields that
lead to the foothills. Red dust
flames in the air. Dry rain falls.

A voice says: “It’s a conspiracy.
This is how they do it: They shed
their skin to be unrecognized
in the future. Their shed skins
are thoughts with blank memories.”

The voice continues: “Be cautious
of the young ones. They’ll charm you
with their bodily curves, then secretly
overthrow you, defame you, and
trouble your future.”

I stand here in the red foothills and
can see that the snakes have no empathy.
Like a shot, something burns my ears and
burns my hand: a hot pistol. Suddenly,
dawn sun-paints my bedroom.

I lie silently still listening to my mind’s
unfinished opinions; the insides of my thighs,
fiery, like a venomous bite; the sheets cast off,
like shed skin, and my thoughts burn like
torn pages or dry mouth.


The Checkout Line

by Brandon Bell

I stopped in Sud’s for a beer after getting fired from my temp job for my “inappropriate use of a copier.” It was Wednesday afternoon. A few roofers cramped together at the bar. I’d gone to school with the bartender. I recalled his name when I saw the picture of our high school baseball team taped to the mirror. Adam Wescott, that was the bartender’s name, squatted in the front row. Martin Spaulding, our star shortstop, towered behind him.

“What happened to Martin Spaulding?” I asked. “I always assumed he’d become a senator or at least a controversial internet mogul.”

Glossy eyes fixed to the poker on the TV, Adam rattled out details about Martin: He’d lost his baseball scholarship to Western Kentucky University because of a “drug thing,” he had two sons by different women, and now, at age twenty-four, he ran a cash register at Kroger.

I went to Kroger to see Martin, swooped by the checkout lanes and down aisles and waited for him by the floral display outside, but I never found him. Figuring Adam had fed me bad info, I hoofed it back to Sud’s.

“Does the guy even work at Kroger? I’ve been there all damn day,” I said.

Adam glanced up from his paperback. “Night shift, asshole,” he said.

I returned to Kroger at midnight. Only one register was open and, sure enough, it was manned by Martin Spaulding. As if ashamed of his six-three frame, he slumped down while chatting with the grinning old guy whose groceries he was ringing up.

There wasn’t a bagger, so the groceries piled up on the belt after Martin scanned them. Without saying a word, I positioned myself at the bag rack and packed up the groceries. The rules of bagging hadn’t changed in the few years since I’d worked at Kroger: group like items (cold stuff, breakables, household cleaners) together, don’t put too much weight in one bag, etc. Martin scanned groceries as if I wasn’t there.

“Put my milk in a bag,” said a factory worker in line. It wasn’t his turn—the groceries I was bagging belonged to the old guy.

“Bag his milk,” Martin said.

“Sure,” I said. “So, Martin, how’ve you been?”


“Hey. I hear you’re a father.”

“Yep,” he said and then read the old guy’s total off the screen.

“You need help outside?” I asked the old guy.

“I imagine,” the old guy said. He was wearing a loose gray suit, as if he expected to die soon and was dressed for the funeral. I loaded the groceries into the back of his beat-up pickup.

“Won’t your stuff blow out?” I asked.

“I drive slow,” he said.

“You’ll have to drive super slow. Otherwise you’ll lose this,” I said, holding up a bag of lightweight perishables.
“If I lose some I lose some.”

“Is that part of getting old? Like you don’t get hung up on insignificant shit like your groceries blowing away?” I asked Martin after I got back inside.

“I said put my milk in a bag,” the factory guy said.

“Milk in a bag,” Martin said.

“I forgot,” I said. “Do you still play baseball?”

“Why would I play baseball?” Martin asked.

“Because in high school you were a stud, as they say. And now you work at Kroger. I don’t know, man, I feel like I’m fated to help you. See, through a strange turn of events I saw your picture. When I saw it I thought, I need to help that dude. Maybe I can turn your life around. Help you become something better than a cashier. Is that possible? How can I help you, Martin?”

Staring blankly, he hefted a bag of charcoal.

“Price check?” he asked.

The rest of the night I spoke only when spoken to, bagged orders, and occasionally collected carts from the lot. At dawn an elderly lady took over Martin’s register. Martin stretched his arms overhead and yawned as he headed for the exit. He seemed satisfied, relaxed, and superior.

“Don’t let her work you too hard,” he told me.

“Okay,” I said, bagging fast as the lady fired groceries down the belt. “See you tomorrow.”


the stories we’ll tell

poetry by Holly Day

Thoughts on the Solstice

I’m so afraid of getting out of bed
In the middle of the night, and forgetting it’s winter
Of stepping outside in my nightclothes and slippers
And freezing to death out on the porch. And I know

It’s a silly thing to worry about
But children do it all the time, dream
Bright dreams of summer and of chasing butterflies
Only to fall through thin ice and drown in their sleep.

Why should I be any different?

Read the rest of this entry »


for far-flung waters

poetry by Nicolette Wong

Take Me To The Next Wasteland

Sand flaps and strews. In every direction
heaves the chorus of departure—
Where are the gods who reap
the chimera of sea?

                                   I rebuke my name
where your ring rusts into braille scars
of the earth, onto the bones of days—

Read the rest of this entry »



by Steve Prusky

“Be brave. Stay strong,” he says, though he is neither. Insincere encouragement the dying – a captive audience – must often hear. Spongy purple flesh fills in where three ribs thrived, her numb legs are married to the dash; she has never been so aware, alive. “Hold on . . .” Spent airbags drown her in mud brown ponds of woven nylon. Each shallow breath she draws sheds chapters from her past. “Help’s near . . .” Her eyes, less lucent now, fight dreamless sleep, peek from under flitting lids. “Stay with me . . .” She focuses on him – the cause of this – with quick bursts of clarity, grasps the significance of his frightened gaze, spurns his fake sincerity with loathing that outlasts death, “You’re doing fine . . .”


Jacob McCombs’ Middle Name

by Kana Philip

Jacob Entwistle McCombs pushed in the stake that forced his surplus tent into a perfect, upside down V.

He picked up a stick and called, ‘c’mon, boy’ to Thaddeus, and threw the stick down amongst the mossy river rocks.

When Thaddeus brought the stick back, his leg fur sagged with wet. Jacob scratched Thaddeus between the eyes and read a three day old newspaper.

“John Entwistle died of a heart attack,” Jacob said, “I wonder if Dad heard about it.”

Later, when it was dark, Jacob pulled out his flashlight and unfolded a map on which he’d circled many towns and cities in red marker. Under Thaddeus’ panting oversight, Jacob drew a new circle, this one is pencil, around Sanford, Michigan.


Suggestions and Portrait

by William Blome

It took having a third wife for me to be lucky enough to grow all the zucchini ever needed for our entire block to feast on roast squash most of the summer; nonetheless, I never could stop worrying about which of the other ‘hood women were soft and luminous enough for me to ask to sit for a good-size, pastel portrait. The selection process took me longer than I thought it would, but I finally made my choices, and I jotted their names on slips of blank fortune cookie paper which I then banded to the frightened feet of a young starling I had caught pecking about communal tomato plants. I next hurled the bird at the ladies’ tenement building with all my might, but somehow, the shocked starling found the wherewithal to shake things off and fly away before either girl (Jasmine or Inez) ever knew she’d been chosen to pose.

But not being an artist who gives up easily, I travelled a fair distance and trapped a snowy egret; I brought it home and more-or-less repeated the banding and hurling process, though here again, I watched the battered bird fly off before I imagine either of my subjects ever saw my note. No, it wasn’t till one of my wife’s close friends, herself over-stuffed on zucchini and washing it down with a bottle of water-clear vodka, suggested I write out my request on a page of decent stationery and strap that bad boy to my own leg before I next staggered onto the lawn in front of Jasmine and Inez’s building; no, it wasn’t until this friend further suggested I then buckle over and play dead on the grass for as long as it would take either or both of the beauties to find me—no, it wasn’t until I heeded those grand suggestions that I can now report I’ve chalked fantastic and lovely results.



by Susan Tepper

Don’t love me
I have nowhere
to take you:
no bed
no couch
no table
no floor
no car
no woods
no stream to lie near


Blue Impossibility

by Peycho Kanev

I prefer not to see the words that I am writing,
so I take a look through the window:
I see a dog walking outside, sniffing at the trees,
pissing in the bushes; white and brown dog,
and this is real enough to believe in it,
but I say:
Oh, brother this is not possible,
because I do not want to look at the words I am
writing right now,
or the words that I am not writing,
but the blue sky laughs,
this wide and grey sky tilts slowly upon my sheet;
this is impossible –
the fog and the brightness in me opens up,
memories of heavy rain or just my fantasies for rain?
The sounds of the approaching storm are crawling
towards me:
I close my eyes –
not wanting to see the words that I am writing,
and I open them up again to see through the window
only this dead dog.


other constellations

don't lose your head