Alien Buddha Press Celebrates Pride Month 2023

Alex Carrigan

Victoria Scone Serves an MRA’s Head During Afternoon Tea

Before the next episode,
something for the sapphics.
Can’t wait to piss off the misogynists more tonight xo.

Y’all know “fish” is a banned word
in the UK franchise of Drag Race, right?
Cast are categorically not allowed to say it.
The BBC recognizes this word’s meaning.
You have a problem with “gatekeeping your language?”
CC the BBC.

Take note of the openly blatant misogyny
in the replies, comments, and public posts.
It’s always been there.
Now they just have something mainstream enough
to say it loud about that you’ll see it yourself.
Are you surprised? I’m not.

Funny thing is my drag performance
is pretty damn vulgar.
I talk proudly about my lived queer stereotypes,
my vagina, my weight on the regular,
because that’s my lived experience to speak about.

That’s why I’m saying it now…
on this tweet…
about myself…
not about anyone else’s preferences…

checks notes
It’s my vagina.

A lesbian in plaid?

My fans are the sexiest, just saying.
Everything reminds me of them.
We all kissed shortly after.
Let the showmance commence.

This would be such a camp house.
Imagine the karaoke nights.
Don’t threaten me with a good time.

Source: @VictoriaScone

Alex Carrigan (he/him) is a Pushcart-nominated editor, poet, and critic from Virginia. He is the author of May All Our Pain Be Champagne: A Collection of Real Housewives Twitter Poetry (Alien Buddha Press, 2022), and Now Let’s Get Brunch: A Collection of RuPaul’s Drag Race Twitter Poetry (Querencia Press, 2023). He has had fiction, poetry, and literary reviews published in Quail Bell Magazine, Lambda Literary Review, Barrelhouse, Sage Cigarettes (Best of the Net Nominee, 2023), Stories About Penises (Guts Publishing, 2019), and more. For more information, visit or follow him on Twitter @carriganak.

Katie Proctor

poems from Helicopter Honey

love poem untitled
my love affairs begin unrequited / when
they walk into my dreams
uninvited / my body ignited /
when I close my eyes I only see
you / I don’t know how to fix that

it’s you / and it has always been / too
much / for me to handle /
you made me like new /
they picked me / from the shelf / like
day old roses / less than second best

now i smell like lemonade / and the
suede / of your shoes /
I prayed / for a night without
you / but I knew you’d come back /
like a bloodstain / against broken ivory

Say Less (We’re Easy)

In our do nothing kind of love, we could walk in the park, peaches and mango by the water, you’re sweet like strawberries and miles from tea with saccharine. I want you here to say you’re proud when I wash my hair, wrap me up in lilac and kiss me with lemon and lime. I’m busy most days or I just don’t feel right, it’s okay even if you’re far away, you don’t ask twice and send a letter instead, stickers and pictures and flowers not pressed but growing wild between and around us. It can be serious and whatever you want it to be, grass so green this could be somewhere prettier, and the songs do sound like you just as they did on the car ride home, one bar in the corner shop and the wrapper of a vegan ice cream folded right there with the paper bag from the afternoon where I learned what your hand feels like in mine. It’s true, I see us in the raspberry fields drinking Diet Coke, and I know it’s easy because you don’t say anything just to say it. I would hold you there, gingham blanket and salty skies of sienna. It’s okay to smile, safe without expectation, locking the sound of your laugh in my heart and keeping the key in a pocket I’ll forget about. I love you and I’d run away with you. Thank god I don’t have to.

July (Ice Cream and Hyacinths)

I wish for you at midnight, blackened eyes and cherry lips, you’d
kiss me and taste like lollipops, sugared and glossy-eyed under
purple light, smoky and hot and hazy. And I would miss you in
chapters as though a story of angels dancing in July, hands
on my hips leaving bruises that remind me in the early hours,
ice cream and hyacinths, you all over me in shades of summer
sunburn. I want the look on your face to live forever in crescent
moons and flickering stars, freckles in gel pen, silver smile and
pomegranates. Persephone watching us, blooming in soft violets
at her throat and rubies at her knees, we are doubled in denim,
anomalous and crowned in carnations.


feels like being a few shots down in an emptying city-night bar,
clinging to the banister, dancing with a mirage in a matching set,
flowers and stitching coming loose and building a memory in the
floorboards, july’s ivy climbing the walls. we will live here when
it’s dark and the wine is gone, grass has grown under our feet,
desiccated shadows between the bedsheets. afraid to touch you
and let go again, it’s stinging like a dying bruise, glowing like a
searchlight, the morning after reminding me i’m your helicopter
honey, a butterfly with flimsy wings and crescent-moon limbs.
found you in an unfamiliar city, drunk and deferential, countertop
bottles and your heart hanging out to dry with borrowed clothes.
and there you are, sweet and icy and biting in a home we built
in a week, summer’s neon clouds casting dizzy shadows on an
ancient shrine. it’s us, paired angels in the park. don’t you see
us now?

Katie Proctor (they/them) is a 20 year old non-binary lesbian poet from Yorkshire, England. Their writing explores themes of love and emotion through a maximalist style and queer lens. They are the author of Seasons (2020), HELICOPTER HONEY (2022) and A Desire for Disaster (2022). They are the editor-in-chief of celestite poetry, a journal of creative writing. They are a first year student at the University of York, studying English and Related Literature. You can find them on Twitter and Instagram @katiiewrites and online at

NJ Gallegos

Safe Harbor 

I peered through the skunky haze. Smoke hung in the air, composed of dank weed—some from the joint perched between my fingers—cigarettes, and belches of fog from a dry ice machine in the corner. Ambiance or some shit. Classmates gyrated in the living room, dancing to Top 40s music, moving like they’d grasped an electric fence.

            Ugh… why did Julie drag me here?

            “C’mon Erin, it’ll be fun!”

            Sure… so much fun! Not one fucking person has spoken to me all night, other than the weird art kid with a paperclip dangling from his earlobe—Damon—who asked me where I went to school. Of course, he didn’t recall kindergarten when we were “line buddies” and literally held hands every single fucking day at lunch and recess. Despite my better judgment, I offered him a hit. Soon, we were passing the joint back and forth. When the joint was a mere roach, he reached into his wallet and extracted a… condom? Stamp?

            “Thanks for the Mary Jane. If you like weed, you’ll love this,” Damon said, placing the paper in my palm.

            I stared at it. It was roughly the size of a postage stamp and displayed Papa Smurf with swirls in his eyes. “Uh….” I groped for words, worried I came off like a total dweeb in front of Damon. Even if he had crooked black eyeliner and running mascara. He was the only person to speak with me all night. Other than Julie, who found her crush right away. They were in a back bedroom playing OB/GYN, staring at each other’s cervixes.


            “It’s acid. Try it.” Damon squinted at me and sighed. He placed another square on his tongue. “Like this.”

            “No, duh,” I replied, feeling idiotic. How could I be so sheltered? I copied him, wincing at the bitter taste. “Damn, this tastes like shit.”

            “Yeah… but it’s worth it.”

            “What’ll happen?” Someone dropped a red Solo cup and lukewarm beer splashed over my high-top Converse. Peals of laughter erupted. I briefly considered yelling, “What the fuck?!” but clamped my mouth shut. What’s the point? No one ever noticed me, no one ever picked me for kickball. Famously, they’d picked Rob—a legitimately blind classmate—before picking me, a girl with 20/20 vision.

            Damon heaved himself off the couch, leaving the scent of stale farts in his wake. “You’ll see.” He weaved through the writhing human masses and disappeared.

            “Great. Should be a blast,” I muttered to myself, taking a swig from my Dr. Brown’s cream soda, liberally supplemented with Stoli Vodka filched from my parents’ liquor cabinet. Fire bloomed down my esophagus. My brain hummed pleasantly; my social anxiety mildly improved by the Indica joint my brother handed me with a wink before I left. Smoking weed always calmed my nerves and although the news says it’ll turn me into a schizophrenic, I don’t really give a shit. It’s the armor I donned to get through the shitshow of life.

            Someone changed the music station—thank GOD—and EDM beats filled the air. Synthetic music always spoke to my soul, and I nodded my head to the beat. Tiësto morphed into Above and Beyond, which bled into Daft Punk’s “One More Time”. Rapidly flashing lights of yellow, blue, and red filled the room and the air swirling around me throbbed with the music. My limbs became weightless, and I fought against their desire to float to the ceiling like the smoke rings the jocks were blowing after taking rips off of a hookah. A light pressure on the couch next to me tipped my body to the left. I startled, craning my head downwards.

            A fluffy black cat with jaundice yellowed eyes calmly looked at me. His tail curled around two massive paws.

            “Ohhhhhh a kitty,” I murmured, reaching to stroke the cat’s head. He—somehow, I felt his masculine feline energy—pressed his fuzzy head into my palm. A motor deep within sparked, purrs vibrating my hand. “Hey little guy, are you having a good time?” I asked my new friend.

            The cat tilted his head upwards, and those yellow eyes examined me, peering into my soul. Rather than feeling awkward, I felt… seen. His pupils dilated, almost obliterating the brilliant yellow and strobe lights flashed within. 

            Imagine my surprise when he answered me!

            “Erin, I’m doing peachy. How about you?” His mouth moved with the words, sharp white teeth flashing in a kitty grin. Every note was a rich baritone. I’d correctly gendered the cat without even peeking at his naughty bits!

            My mouth gaped open. Talking cats? Jesus, maybe the weed had already turned me into a schizophrenic! My mind raced: padded rubber rooms, tight-fitting straitjackets, and syringes filled with amber filled liquid. Was that my future?

            “Close your mouth! You don’t have a fly in there, do you?”

            I snapped my mouth shut.

            “That’s better!”

            The moisture evaporated from my mouth, and I took a swig of my drink. Better. I cleared my throat. “Are you actually here, next to me? A talking cat?” I shook my head. “Or have I finally lost it and I’m strapped to a chair getting electroshock treatment?”

            He rolled his eyes—could cats roll their eyes?—and said, “Erin, grow up. You took drugs. Damon gave you acid! You’re hallucinating!”

            “Oh yeah. But… wait… if I’m hallucinating, are you even here?”

            His eyes narrowed. “Maybe, maybe not.”

            “You know, this is some real Cheshire Cat shit you’re pulling now. Are you about to give me riddles?” I continued to stroke his fur, raking my fingers through his luscious locks, and glanced down at my hand.

            It had disappeared into the mass of black fur.

            I fought the urge to rip my hand out of the cat’s pelt, reminding myself you’re just high, you’re on drugs. Calm down Erin. You want someone to call an ambulance because you lost your shit? I squeezed my eyes shut tight.

            Looked again.

            The cat turned his head towards me. His yellow eyes transformed into twin full moons. Sparkling. Briefly I thought of werewolves being lured out of their human forms, so luminous were his eyes! Luckily, I’d stared up at the moon while walking from home to the party—sneaking maybe was more accurate—and it was a mere sliver. A Cheshire Cat smile moon—how fitting.

            “Why aren’t you having fun with your classmates?” he asked, cocking his head inquisitively to the side. The strobe light caught his whiskers, transforming them into mini rainbows that bobbed with each movement.

            Far out.

            I paused. How was I to answer that question without seeming like a total shut-in weirdo like the Unabomber? Of course, I was a weirdo, chatting with cats instead of people.

             “Well… I just feel… awkward around them. Different. I want to talk about stuff like WW2 and Star Wars, but they’re more interested in fucking each other—certainly not fucking me, I’ll tell you that—and doing dumb shit then posting it to TikTok and sending dick pics on Snapchat. I don’t know… I feel like I don’t belong with them.” I gestured broadly to the room and tore my gaze away from his. His eyes had morphed into spinning red spirals, the kind that denote hypnotism in all the old cartoons.

            The room in front of me had transformed.

            Instead of the smoky haze and random people loitering about, I saw—

            An… ocean?

            Damn, this acid was something else!

Rather than air, clear blue water filled the room. I’d seen the same water in advertisements for the Florida Keys. Waggling algae rose from the floor—no, from the sand! Nestled within the sand: pink coral, a massive wooden treasure chest, and several gleaming pearls from a nearby oyster. A bevy of sea creatures replaced my horny classmates. Clownfish and every other fish from Finding Nemo, hammerhead sharks—each staring about hungrily, manta rays, and seahorses. They flitted about here and there, moving fluidly within the water.

            “Hey, do you see this shit?” I asked the cat, turning once more towards him.

            He’d changed too.

            A clear bubble encased his adorable fuzzy head. I still could see his mouth with two small pointed fangs peeking out, but below that, a sleek white diving outfit. Some real 20000 Leagues Under the Sea shit. Strapped across his back—a massive harpoon. How a cat with no opposable thumbs was supposed to use such an implement was beyond me.

            “Sure do,” he replied. Bubbles floated up from his helmet as he spoke. Was such a thing possible when he was safely ensconced in his suit?

            “Hey… uh… you there. You doing okay? Your face looks weird,” came a guttural voice from my right. The words were pure gravel, irritating and abrasive. The halting words were a sure clue they’d searched their memory banks for my name and came up empty. Thus, I was just you there.

            I spun towards the voice’s owner.

            A bright light blinded me, and I blinked rapidly, trying to adjust my eyes. Starbursts bloomed within my vision, but slowly subsided.

            I really wished they hadn’t once I caught sight of the abomination in front of me.

            Bulbous white eyes—milky, like curdled dairy—stared at me. Blind, they had to be blind, but… they saw me. Filament thin, razor-sharp teeth protruded outwards from a cavernous maw and as I watched, a small piece of flesh belched out of the creature’s mouth.


            “Sorry about that, excuse me,” the creature apologized sheepishly.

            I could only gape in reply.

            Well… gape and stare.

            Whip thin… whiskers?… wiggled around my head, some brushing against my cheeks with a cold wetness that made me shiver and think of green seaweed sticking to my legs after a dip in the Atlantic. A light winked on, bright and blinding, then off rapidly. During the off cycle, I glimpsed a bobbing dark circle attached to a long tendril attached to the thing’s forehead—if such things had foreheads.

            The bright light…

            It came to me, an anglerfish! One of the bottom dweller horrors that lured their prey in with the promise of light and food. Then the poor unsuspecting fish ended up impaled by horrific teeth and ended their brief life digesting in a vat of acid or whatever lived within what that beast called a stomach.

            The anglerfish’s mouth opened wider and, in that moment—trippin’ on acid or not—I was certain I would be a midnight snack for the beast.

            I peered down at my hands, hoping that a glimpse of my pink flesh might ground me in reality, but—


            Instead of hands, I had fins.


            I let out a shrill shriek and leapt up, violently elbowing the anglerfish out of my way. Its scales rasped against my skin and I simultaneously felt unspeakable dryness but also a slick wetness that left my hand—my fin?—slimy. All the other sea creatures gawked at me and my wailing—bulbous black eyes, rolling yellow globes all turning in my direction. I cut through the water like a terrified Michael Phelps, charging towards where I figured the front door was—roughly anyway—going full-bore, all out.

            Distantly I heard an earth-shattering crack that reminded me of dropping a watermelon from a great height and then the pain seized me. My nose crunched, and I felt nausea roll through me as the cartilage bent. Hot wetness spurted from my nose. Blood. The sea cliff directly in front of my face flashed, changing into an ordinary wall adorned with pictures of a smiling family.

            My vision went black.

            I was gone.


            I woke up.

            Sunlight streamed through the lacy curtains, and underneath my chin, my Mario Kart comforter.

            Back in my bedroom!

            An intense throbbing tore through my head and nose, and I cautiously took an inhale through my nostrils. Staunch resistance. I tasted pennies in the back of my throat, my exhalation whispering across irritated mucosa. Groping for my phone, I located it underneath my pillow. I’d cracked the screen to shit last night. Great. My parents will just love that! I turned on the front camera and took a gander at my face.

            Jesus Christ.

            I resembled a hungover raccoon. Black and purple circles ringed my eyes and the bridge of my nose appeared to have doubled in size. Even more charming… I had two tampons shoved up each nostril, the strings waggling with each movement of my head. That would explain the whole breathing issue. I considered removing them but elected against it. Seemed like way too much work. My hair rose from my head in a rat’s nest that looked suspiciously like an angel’s halo in the stained-glass windows at the church I attended as a child before I became a godless heathen.

            This shit was why I didn’t go out in public, instead preferring the safety of my room and my gaming systems, books, and streaming services. Look what fucking happened when I left the house! Homecoming was coming up too… not that I had a date, but I wasn’t likely to score a date looking like I’d gone a few rounds with Rocky Balboa.

            “Shit… what happened last night?” I croaked out, talking to myself. My voice sounded rusty and disused, as if I’d spent the previous years stuck in a coma, completely mute.

            “Dude… you just got really high,” came a voice from the window.

            The tendons in my neck creaked as I sought the voice’s owner.

            A fluffy black cat.

            Wait… the cat from last night?

            “Hey! It’s you! Are you… real?” I asked hesitantly. I’d learned from my health class—in between looking at pictures of diseased genitalia and admonishments that if I got pregnant, I would ruin my life and die—that acid could last awhile. Years later even, as acid flashbacks.

            He nodded kindly and hopped nimbly from the windowsill. My bed creaked when he jumped on it, his weight indenting the mattress where he sat.

            Real enough.

            “Listen kid, you could say thank you. After you lost your shit last night, I made sure they called your stoner brother, not your parents. He’s rather innovative with his use of feminine hygiene products, don’t you agree?” I touched my tamponed nostrils and blushed. “So… how about you go downstairs and get me a saucer of milk or something? I’m fucking starving. Also… I need a place to stay. How do you feel about cat adoption? I’m disease free and won’t scratch the furniture. Probably not, anyway. No promises.”

            I considered his proposal.

            Eh, why the fuck not? I wasn’t going to homecoming and needed a friend.

            Plus, I liked animals far better than people.

            “Eh, why not?”

NJ Gallegos is an Emergency Medicine Physician who enjoys horror, medicine, and wicked women looking for revenge. She lives in Illinois with her wife and two cats. In her spare time, she enjoys binging reality trash tv, brewing beer, and running while listening to EDM so she can drink said brewed beer.

This fall, pick up her debut novel The Broken Heart with Winding Road Stories, starring Casey Philips, an abused housewife who receives a heart transplant from a serial killer and develops a new taste for revenge. Bring peroxide, it gets messy.

She has two novellas: Just Desserts with Black Hare Press and a chapbook Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires with Alien Buddha Press.

Short stories published in: The Alien Buddha’s House of Horrors 5The Alien Buddha Skips the Party 2Gore 2: A Halloween AnthologyDark Mirrors: An Anthology of Horror.  In 2022, she won first place in Alien Buddha Press’ Horror Showdown.

One of her most favorite stories lives in Hellbound Books Anthology of Splatterpunk, featuring a rogue physician exacting street justice on a bad dude.

Other stories are percolating, don’t you worry. Head over to to sign up for her newsletter and follow @DrSpooky_ER on Twitter.

Geoffrey Marshall (An Excerpt from Flyover Country )


Back at my car, I saw the cop again, leaning on the cruiser’s fender. He had lifted his sunglasses up and was taking in the sight of my jammed-packed boxes and bags, squished up against the windows. I also had a suitcase full of shoes, a laptop, and a duffel bag stuffed with the usual hodgepodge of electronic devices, plus charges and cables. I had squeezed in pretty much everything I figured I would need before the moving company delivered the rest.

He said something to his partner then walked over my way.

“You car’s pretty full,” he said, “Didn’t know you could fit so much stuff inside a Corolla.”

“Moving cross country,” I told him.

“Figured you were just passing through,” he said. His eyes were green. Nice.

“That’s me, just passing through.”

 “You should think about getting out of here as fast as you can,” he said.

“Excuse me?” I said, still standing inside my open door.

He looked startled himself then spluttered, “No, I didn’t mean it that way.”

He looked like he was going to say something else but I just hopped in my seat and slammed the door. The sooner I was out of Antioch the better. I dunno, maybe my tires did squeal, just a little. Could be. I zipped through town back the way I came. Saw it all again twice. I guess it took about a minute or so. There was the hill. Hard to explain the relief I felt when I descended the hill, and left the town behind me. Now a straight run back to the Interstate and I could put this place behind me.

After that, there was just a couple more days of soul crushing driving with nothing but cows, trailers and rusted out cars up on blocks to jazz up the scenery. When Naomi was right, she was so very, very right.

 I flipped on the radio — just static, hissing in my ears. I tuned the dial but there wasn’t much to be found. Ended up on some local FM radio show — Afternoons with Delilah. Well it was something anyway. But Delilah wasn’t playing music just then. She sounded pretty concerned. Turns out a dam burst somewhere around here and surge-water was flooding the valley.

I had crossed a river a mile or two off the highway and now I was heading back that way to get on the Interstate. Damn it Delilah, what river are you talking about? After I thumped the dash a good number of times she finally got around to telling me — and yes, it was my river. Worse news too. This whole area was some kind of flood plain. All except for that goddamn cow paddy town Antioch.

Anyone within ten miles of cow paddy town was advised to turn around and head back. Fat chance Delilah, I was going for broke. I dug my nails into the steering wheel. No way was I going to be trapped in this town, keeping company with Erma and Jimmy. I could just see Naomi shaking her head. “Girl, you brought it on yourself,” she would say, in that I-told-you-so voice of hers. When she’s been proven right she loves to rub it in.

I saw lots of traffic — cars, pickup trucks, tractors — you name it, and none of it was going my way. It was the opposite of my trip in. Now it seemed like I was the only one heading out.

Heading out, that was, right up until I saw a surging mass of mud, waist deep and devouring the road as it oozed my way. Fast. Like really fast. I jammed on the brakes.

I swore out loud and pulled my u-turn as fast as I could. “Oh shit,” I spun the wheel. “Come on baby,” to my car, “Let’s get out of here.”

 I stomped the gas and held on to the wheel with all I had. I sped full tilt back to cow paddy town, a wave of water, mud and who knows what else nipping at my Corolla’s bumper.

Somehow I made it to the base of the town hill. It looked like Jimmy had a barricade set up on the out-of-town side of the road. To tell you the truth I hardly noticed as I flashed by. Seems like I had left just before they set it up. Lucky me.

I got a few blocks in and pulled over. I was a ways up the hill and the higher elevation made me feel safe enough, at least for the moment. The sky was blue, the birds were chirping — and I was surrounded by a flood zone. I walked down to the barricade, quite honestly in shock from the events of the last fifteen minutes or so. My boot stilettos were a little unsteady on the crumbling rural tarmac. Much as I loved them, I could see I would soon be swapping them for sneakers.

“What’s going on?” I asked Jimmy.

“Dam burst,” his buddy checked me out but Jimmy just kept his gaze on my eyes. “Couple of minutes after you left the station. Stan and me,” he pointed his thumb at the other cop, “we headed over here to keep folks from leaving.”

“You let me go,” I pointed out.

“At the time I thought you could make it back to the highway, and, well, you did kinda drive off before I got to telling you what was going on.”

“What about other roads? Is there any way out?” I knew he could hear my desperation but I had to ask.

He laughed, “Ahh nope, two roads on either side of the hill is all we got. The other road’s underwater, just like this one.” He nodded towards the road coming into town, the one I had just set a speed record on. I followed his gaze. It was gone. The goddamn road was gone. The surge was over but the waves were lapping at the base of the hill, some fifty yards away. It looked like any old lakeshore, except for the road that led down into the mucky murk.

“River’s flooded the banks. This whole area’s submerged to about three feet. They reckon we’ll see five before it peaks. You cut it pretty close. Lucky you made it.”

 “Lucky? Yeah,” I said, wondering whether being stranded in this hayseed town could be considered lucky.

“At least you’re safe,” he said, “not like some other folks.”

“There’s people out there?”

“A good number are stranded in their houses,” he said. “We’re figuring out what to about it right now. Most of the feds are working on sandbagging the bigger towns downstream and checking out what to do with the dam. Looks like we’re on our own for at least a couple days.”

“Oh my God, let me know if I can help,” I meant it too. Being stranded was no fun but he had me thinking about the people trapped in their houses.

“Right now, just get yourself up to the church. That’s were they’re putting together our HQ.”

I walked back to my car. Whatever was going to happen, it looked like I was here for a while. I puttered the rest of the way up the hill. The town was an island now. Under the clear blue sky and hot sun I found it difficult to imagine the calamity that had ringed the small hill. The service station was jammed with cars when I drove past. Looked like every car left in town was there, topping up.

I saw the steeple — the center of town and the highest point. I pulled into the parking lot. Empty spots were scarce. Most of the inbound traffic I had seen earlier seemed to have made its way to the church. I wondered how many other were like me, stranded and alone in the cow paddy town. First thing I noticed when I got out of my car was the view.

Listen, this wasn’t a mountain, but the church was on a strange little bluff at the top of the rounded hill and I could see in all directions. Water. Water, everywhere and endless, muddy like a slow river, but churning with debris and studded with trees, farm houses, grain silos, the roofs of a few cars.

When I had stared for a few minutes and nothing much changed, I headed to the church. They had the doors at the side entrance propped open. There was a whiteboard sign that said ‘Flood HQ’ with an arrow pointing down a set of stairs just inside the doors. I can’t even tell you the last time I was in a church, apart from Naomi’s wedding. When I got to the bottom there was a large room with a bunch of tables.

A few people were arranging more tables and chairs and even a few cots had been set up. A dozen or so people were sitting around the tables, eyes glued to their phones — my fellow temporary residents I assumed. A lady sat at one of the tables and was scribbling furiously on a notepad. Whatever it was about her, I just knew she was the one in charge.

Seemed like I got her attention too. She looked up when I approached — maybe my heels were kind of noisy on the hard floor. Who knows? In fact every single one of them stopped what they were doing and watched me cross the room. On my way over she gave me the old once over. One of her eyebrows, hoisted up in the air, waggled at me while she checked me out from bottom to top, in that order.

Not like I was making any fashion statements to the church ladies, if anything I was dressed pretty low key. She started at my stiletto heeled black boots, then moved up to my high waisted cropped jeans, the white shirt, rolled up sleeves, a few bangles on my right wrist, smart watch on my left. After the detour to my wrists she continued to my silver earrings — narrow dangling spirals always rotating, unless I stood very, very still. So never. Of course my sunglasses were in the car. My hair, black and straight, was in a pixie cut. There. What else could you want to know?

Totally tasteful and so not outrageous it was almost boring. But still, I figured it was as good an outfit as any to be wearing for those occasions when you get stranded in cow paddy town. So, I didn’t get the look she gave me. Well, I did. Look, I guessed she could see I was trans, if you want to know the truth. Not that I cared what she knew or thought she knew.

“Can I help you?” she asked.

Honestly I didn’t know what to tell her. I introduced myself. Found out her name was Patricia. Still had no idea what to say so I just told her, “I got stranded, by the flood. Jimmy, I mean officer —” I realized I didn’t know his last name when I drew the blank.

“I know him,” she finished for me. “He sent you here did he?”

I said he did and I just didn’t know what to do at this point.

“None of us do hun,” she said. The other church ladies went back to whatever they were doing. Show’s over folks. “Why don’t you just find a place and sit down. We won’t have the full picture for a while yet. You can sit on one of those cots over there for now.” She waved me towards the small row of cots set up on the wall. That’s when the lights went out.

She was pretty upset about the power. A handful of glowing faces materialized, as people checked their phones or even turned on their flashlight feature. I checked mine. Still had signal — but for how long? I had to wonder. Patricia was yelling for someone named Jerry to “fire up the generator.” It took Jerry a while but eventually the lights sputtered back, accompanied by the background rumble of the diesel generator.

Then Jerry was back. Literally walking backwards through the door. He rounded the corner into the hall, holding up the front end of a stretcher. Jimmy had the rear. They were carrying Jimmy’s buddy — the other town cop. Patricia fluttered beside the stretcher and directed them to one of the cots on my side of the room.

“Is there a doctor?” Jimmy called out as they transferred the cop to the cot.

Patricia shook her head, “Dr. Guthrie lives down the road.” She looked around, her head swiveled, “Jerry, run and get Dr. Guthrie.”

Jimmy shook his head, “He retired twenty years ago.”

Jerry scurried off, following orders I assumed.

“He’s all we have hun,” she said. At least it wasn’t just me she called hun.

I spoke up, “I’m an EMT, can I help?”

Patricia and Jimmy both looked at me. Her eyebrow was back up and Jimmy was giving me that stunned look. Christ. The standoff lasted for all of three seconds before they jumped out of the way and tried to thank me, both talking over the other in their awkward cow-paddy way.

I checked the cop’s pulse, “What’s his name?” I asked.

Stan, they said.

“What happened Stan?”

He looked at me, “Tractor ran over my leg,” he said.

Jimmy nodded solemnly.

“Goddammit I’m so sorry Stan,” a man cried out from behind me. I didn’t turn to look. Stan’s pulse was good, his voice was clear. I checked his leg, swollen alright, just above the ankle. We cut away his pants to expose the injury. His ankle was purple as an eggplant.

“Do you have any ice?” I asked Patricia.

“Hold on hun, we have some in the kitchen.” She returned with two bags of ice.

“Let’s keep him steady until the doctor arrives,” I said.

I settled the ice on either side of Stan’s leg and covered him with the blanket from my cot. Then we waited. Jerry’s voice soon came from across the hall, and there he was, Dr. Guthrie in tow. The doctor looked ancient but he jumped right in and began tending to Stan.

I got up to leave, but the old man touched my arm. “No stay,” he said. He had a gentle smile, the old man did. “I think I’ll need your help.”

So I stayed by his side and watched him tend to Stan. Part way through, he handed me a black bag.

“He needs something for the pain,” he said, “Just make sure no else one knows what’s in that bag.” His look wasn’t so gentle then but it’s not as if I needed any convincing. Hadn’t I seen enough overdoses for a lifetime?

I gave Stan the pills, hiding what I was doing from the rest of the room. Even the church ladies. What am I saying? Especially the church ladies. Then I went back to helping the doctor and in a few minutes he had the leg splinted up. With no immediate access to x-rays and the patient not in distress there wasn’t much else for us to do.

Geoffrey Marshall is a writer in Aurora, Canada. His novella Flyover Country (published by Alien Buddha Press) is available on Amazon. Other work can be found on the Kaidankai podcast, A Thin Slice of Anxiety, as well as the MoonPark Review and a few other places. Upcoming work will also appear in Schlock!, Idle Ink and other venues. Find him on twitter @g_k_marshall.

Donny Winter
most of these poems appeared in Casting Seeds

Twisted Trunks

“You never grew right,”
they’d say, keeping me root-bound
in a plastic pot,
labeled abomination
subject of an agenda.

“You’re all invasive,”
they’d say, uprooting bodies
from our rain gardens,
but little did they know
that our twisted trunks still grow.

My Hands Were Always Soft

They would always joke
and say, “don’t be a fairy”
when I got dirty
with oil, grease, or grime,
no, my hands were always soft—

garden soil cleanses,
exfoliates the self-hate
left behind by them,
now, I let them laugh—these hands
weave the life sustaining them.

The Toybox is Empty / the Sandbox is Full

Etched from eave-cascades,
the gravel sandbox had filled
with tractors, dolls, spoons–
and somehow, the rain could
never wash our spirits away.

Once Innocent Fireworks

We remember well
the long, tired afternoons
when the sun would sink
westward, behind thunderheads
and the night veiled overhead.

We’d play in the field
until the lightning bugs came,
signaling “it’s time,”
kaleidoscopes of color
spiderweb above the moon.

Now, joy has gone gray
as we sit at home, alone,
while parades go by,
while fireworks peek above trees
far from where we are yonder.

Now, we quake in light
of the hollowness of cracks,
the thunder-sadness,
now, these colors have gone grey
and the stars are too dim to see.

Now, as smokescreens whirl,
these once innocent fireworks
have lost their spirit to me.


They scoff at us because we stole June from them long ago,
robbed them of their rainbows, and dressed up to read to their children in libraries.
Through these hysteric-lenses, we trample through monochromatic streets
like politically correct kaiju, topple warped skyscrapers, and all while we spit flames
at the half-thought Bible verses launched at us as “friendly fire.”

They insist, “why doesn’t this or that group get a whole month to celebrate,” then
check boxes next to state-elected despots who ban the words we speak, the art we create,
then remind us that they go to church, thus, have every freedom to hate.
In the span it takes for them to cast library books into overflowing school bins,
political podiums perform as pulpits for the sake of “protection.”

They shout, “you’re indoctrinating our kids,” while never sparing the ultimate rod
that spoiled us: the specters of fire lakes, salt pillars, and eternal damnation.
Then, they target stores with daggers dressed as words until the shelves are reduced, relocated, or stripped of every fleeting rainbow, button, and sticker etched with Pride,
because apparently any rainbow-exposure leads to moral turpitude.

They berate, bully, and still squirm at the thought of us
because we’re mirrors reflecting the people they’re capable of being.
We reflect the love we’ve fought so long for, unfathomable to them.
We refract the years of isolation into belonging, then bend their hate
through the prisms we’ve become to cast a light they’ve never had.

Our centuries of tears are a gentle summer storm quenching parched
soil they’ve refused to tend, and our stories cultivate landscapes
for the seeds we plant to germinate in a better world.
So, while their hate fades in whispers against the wind,
our parading footfalls are thunderclaps, our words lighting strikes, and our Pride nitrogen rich

because it takes more than just the sun to make a rainbow.

Photo by: Emily Cummings, Emmarie Photos

Donny Winter is an LGBTQ+ poet, educator, and activist residing in Midland, Michigan. He currently teaches Creative Writing at Delta College. His two full-length collection of poems, Carbon Footprint (2020) and Feats of Alchemy (2021) were published by Alien Buddha Press. Winter is a four-time Pushcart Prize Nominee and a Best of the Net Nominee. His work appears in numerous literary journals, magazines, and blogs including: Sonder Midwest, Awakened Voices, CultureCult, and Lothlorien Poetry Journal. To read more of his Winter’s work, visit his website: or subscribe to his poetry YouTube channel, DonnySpeaks.

C E Hoffman

poems from Blood, Booze, and Other Things in Nature

Bugs Everywhere

Would love to be rid of bullshit, but that wouldn’t be human, would it
the ants are busy in the grass as
for I am off that path, wove unto the road of whoknows
I know nothing except

there’s a golden bug on my cardigan
birds chirp/shed feathers
friends help friends (when they can)
I haven’t found an apartment (yet)
bugs comb their antennae with their hands.

Prenatal Yoga aka Relearning Breath

It’s weird being the only dude in my pre-natal yoga class. Not that
I’m always male, and I guess this active uterus gives me a free pass, I mean
its lease has got no vacancy
and I really don’t mind being called a little lady
For all these roles are in me
swirling, ever

And I know people are (re)awakening
‘cause heads turn to our lights as we bounce down the street
sure some seek to crush us but damn we’ve done that for centuries
crippled all minorities
twin spirits,
matriarchal deities.

Yet even as we the students against our teachers thrash and scream
forever are we learning.

It’s nice being the only guy in my pre-natal yoga class. I kinda like
“passing”, pretending this journey’s a little less complicated. Not that
I’d ever choose another path,
for I love myself exactly as I am.
You don’t need a dick or a clit to do downward facing dog, to
enhance the inner spirit,
embrace a rose quartz to your chest.
For it is in the absence of breath
those spaces betwixt thought and existence
where we find ourselves
perfectly human.

And I know it’s strange to find peace in a space of appropriation
‘cause 8 outta 9 of our faces are white
so when it comes to “passing”
I really can’t talk, can I?

It’s weird wanting to cry in my pre-natal yoga class.
To be split so asunder, these flames of joy and stress
light-headed wonders, to cradle a soul I don’t own,
to realize I’ve never actually felt my pelvis
never really sensed where my breast is.

The teacher nudged my shoulder to show me
the proper way to extend, release
and I was so fucking humbled
tears bubbled up in my belly, Suddenly
grateful for the holes in my coat pockets
even thankful for my rape
for it is only through losing touch
that we learn to connect,
and again relate.

Broken Bones/Souls

Nothing is guaranteed.
We live in bones that break.
There are wasted weekends,
sagging beds,
there is freezer-burnt colostrum.

Sometimes it’s easy to let go.
Sometimes your soul’s broke.
Life is never simple;
would we want it so?
There is power in scars,
lessons in lesions;
there’s a girl living on the coast.

Hungover Thoughts

Ah well.
Life is love and love is hell
at least that’s what I tell myself
when you’re hungover and we’ve both fucked up
so much we can barely touch.

I’m sorry I hit you. It was uncool.
I’m sorry he served you tequila.
Fuck his girlfriend, fuck margaritas,
I’m proud I walked home alone.

C.E. Hoffman (they/them) is a screenwriter, author, poet, publisher, and cat lover (not necessarily in that order.) A grant winner, recipient of a Silver Honourable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Award, and winner of the 2022 Defunct May Day Chapbook contest, they wrote their first novel at eleven years old, and have continued writing ever since. They’ve been published widely online and in print since 2010, and edited Punk Monk Magazine since 2012.

Current releases include SLUTS AND WHORES (Thurston Howl Publications, 2021), BLOOD, BOOZE, AND OTHER THINGS IN NATURE (Alien Buddha Press, 2022), GHOSTS, TROLLS, AND OTHER THINGS ON THE INTERNET (Bottlecap Press, 2022), and NO ACTUAL SIN (May Day Press/Defunct Magazine, 2023.) LOSERS AND FREAKS is forthcoming from Querencia Press. Find their publishing CV at, follow them on Twitter @CEHoffman2, and listen to their podcast Scribbles & Spills.

Sean Hanrahan

poems from “Ghost Signs”

Wishing Star

I am defensive about Ben Affleck.
He was the first gay crush
my friends knew about.

My roommate bought me the Armageddon
poster where he surfed a missile
as only beefcake can.

He smirked as he handed rolled Ben over.
Ben rode in on a breeze that opened my closet door
a styled hair’s breadth that let few inside.

This poster grew haloed with nicotine stains.
I would look at him, sigh, and
rub one out for my own action-movie hero.

He later played Batman in some mediocre films,
and I was there cheering him on
hoping he’d kapow Superman.

Like a gay man from an earlier time,
he always seemed unhappy
flavoring his depression with bourbon.

I connected with him there
depressed but without his good looks.
He must have felt absurd surfing that missile.

People judged him for his alcoholism,
the women he dated, his ugly tattoo.
But I held on to my crush, posterless.

Seeing Ben look old on a talk show tonight
reminds me how many years ago that photo shoot was.
The nineties finished only last week, right?

My never-existent straightness only recently forsaken.
I imagine the missile with a 1997 Ben Affleck must still be
streaking across the sky to serve as my wishing star.

Bryan with a Y
For BR

I didn’t make it—the cancer got me, but you already knew that. I can see the life you’re living. I know you’re doing the best you can, but I’m not impressed. Thank you for remembering some things about me—my floppy hair, business degree, and size twelve shoes. I certainly remember you—brazen college drunk with the disdain all artsy students had for practical majors. Mouthy, pontificating senior, but we still made out in your bathroom. Everything sterilized by lust as I watched you pee. You were so much shorter than me—22 and barefoot. Your kisses tasted of Marlboros and warmed Icehouse. A confusing interlude in a closeted time. To think gays can French on the Quad now. We were at the fag end of an era. You graduated a year ahead of me, and we never spoke since. You forgot my name, but felt entitled to superimpose my face over a few regrettable fucks. Don’t worry, I must have done likewise. Tricks don’t linger once you’ve passed, the kisses do. Somehow you re-remembered me a week ago as if I were one of your favorite fictional characters returning for a special engagement. You shuddered as you remember our rational fear of being Southern and gay the year they found Matthew’s corpse. We never realized we had possibilities and fifty or more years to live. Or at least, you did. I died at 33, the Jesus year. But between us, I was always the martyr.

You thought you were in the closet, but everyone knew. The same statement could be made about me. It’s hard to be objective about your own story. We both were melodramatic. We both had gay voice. We had those mannerisms that made us stand out if we ever used Greek Row as a shortcut. I think we both thought the other was handsome. I know I thought you were the only one. We both wanted the romantic experience, the cusp of alternative freedom, but I pulled away first. Smoothed my flannel. Angry throbbing against my denim and your cords. Did you resent me, the way I resented you for kissing me a truth I’d rather not have known?

While you were off doing those lovely stupid things that make up a life, my days consisted of chemo, platelets, blood transfusions, big scary Latin words. Anger and tears and gratitude and unimaginable pain and reflection. Did you ever bump down those West Virginia roads an hour or so away from campus? It resembled that feeling. Did you ever find the forbidden tunnel under the Quad? I did. I hope you did, too. Did you ever go to Blue Hole or Reddish Knob to watch the sunset over Appalachian rusticity? Fulfill all those silly traditions you regret not doing around the age of 40? That must be the age you are, and I would have been soon.

You never met my partner, nor I yours. Weren’t you in New York at some point? I thought that’s where you had gone. But that’s not where you are—I see the Liberty Bell crop up a lot. Just so you are prepared, Death is like watching a reality show all the time—strangely turned only to acquaintances’ lives—that’s the rub I guess. Sartre got it half-right. You don’t get to choose whose Earth you follow
as the living don’t get to choose their, for lack of a better term, guardian angel. How did I suddenly appear in your mind that night? What was the summons for my haunting? You were just watching tv. A mutual friend told you about me a decade ago. You hoped it wasn’t me, but you could not remember my name. Too much living to do, huh? Too many concerts to go to, or plays or fancy dinners? Friends dissolving in the meal planning or laundry folding. They may come back to you as scenes from a misremembered miniseries. Did I know him or did I see him on TV some random Thursday night where I ate cereal for dinner?

You like to travel? Good. I loved Barcelona. You were there the year I died, perhaps that’s another tethering. We may have met in my death dreams of that glorious city. We both have sashayed (we give good camp) down Las Ramblas downing cheap cava at nondescript tourist trap cafes. But back to your memory, I cropped up during your binge watching, your downtime, your wasted moments. I died before that craze. I died before you although you were older than me. Ever play Russian Roulette with your friend’s timelines? Wonder which one will go first? No? I admit it’s not nice. But everyone, except oncologists, thinks they’re immortal, that they’ll see their friends go and be the last peer standing. The last one to tell their time-sensitive, woefully specific stories no one wants to hear, but everyone yearns to tell. Very special episodes of not much. Please tell my story, your version of it. It gives me more years than I actually had. You can picture yourself old, right? Not me, not your long-time friends? You’ll be interviewed about something if you live long enough—gay life before it was trendy, back when your only role model was yourself and that other flamboyant kid who didn’t give a shit and rose above it. Name that kid after me. It’s not true, but I would have liked it to be.

This poem could be a memorial to something we never were, never could have been then, but a few years later might have been. You may have very well been my role model, was I yours? All gay people had one. With gay men, that hero worship also takes the form of jealousy, in case you are confused. You know it’s a shame I didn’t live long enough to see gay marriage legalized or gay people granted federally recognized employment rights. So much happened the decade after I died. We never dreamt this shit could happen in 2000. We’re treated like human beings now, but of course, it could all go away like this keg stand of a life. Remember how scared we were? We always had friends, but there were those who hated us. Those real and imagined frat boys who threatened us. They still exist. They still hate. You know what I miss the most? Late spring on the Quad. My long legs stretching out warmed by the sun, not too concerned about skipping class. since I felt too lazy to walk for fifteen minutes, (or was it five?), and I wanted to enjoy the scenery my tuition paid for. Our campus is so large in my remembrance—it crowds out so much of my life. Can you see it, too—the hippies playing hackysack; the one guy who brought his indieband-stickered guitar case everywhere and sometimes played an emo tune he wrote; the blonde girls stepping in sync, swapping salad recipes, and logistically planning their party hopping? The ‘90s were totally hopping and random, right? I miss running my broad hand through my luxurious hair. Do you know chemo steals your hair? It’s like I was a gay Samson. All my strength was gone. Who knew vanity was such a life force?

I miss talking to our mutual friend—the one who lived below you in that ramshackle student apartment. I think you hung out a lot. How’s she doing? I’ve been trying to find her channel. I have nothing but time. Sorry to be busting your chops all the time. I just thought I’d find a better friend to haunt. I’m glad to have a view of someone’s life. Enjoy yours. It’s shorter than you think it should be, although so much of it feels endless. The good times are over in a flash, but they are all you’ll take with you, and yes, our kiss was a good time. I see the slight upturn of your lips as I hazily come into focus, our full lips electric, conducting ecstatic waves that almost opened the locked door. You don’t remember doctor visits, workdays, DMV visits, the banalities of life, but you do remember each kiss.

Your kiss was one of my favorites. Was my kiss one of yours? Yes, my lips were that soft. Yes, we should have gone for it. I realize we wouldn’t have lasted, we were incompatible, but damn it would have been worth a shot! It’s funny how one never was can consume you decades later, but I didn’t live to middle-age so maybe inventory taking and roads that never forked are obsessions I never lived to see. If we were breeders, if we had been a few years younger, we would have taken that shot. We both, in our varying degrees of aliveness, know that and will always be a tad resentful we were born too early, or we did not meet each other late enough. It’s time for another channel. I’ll tune back in another decade for so. But write about me, write about us, write about yourself and pretend it’s me. What’s the difference? We are what people choose to commemorate.

Sean Hanrahan (he, him, his) is the author of the full-length collection Safer Behind Popcorn (2019 Cajun Mutt), the upcoming full-length collection Ghost Signs (2023 Alien Buddha) and the chapbooks Hardened Eyes on the Scan (2018 Moonstone) and Gay Cake (2020 Toho). His work has also been included in several anthologies, including Moonstone Featured Poets, Queer Around the World, and Stonewall’s Legacy, and journals, including Impossible Archetype, Mobius, One Art, Poetica Review, Serotonin, and Voicemail Poems. He has taught courses on Chapbooks, Ekphrastic Poetry, and Poetry and the Body. He hosts a monthly poetry series for Moonstone Publishing. He can be found on Instagram as gaycakepoet.

Noah David Roberts

poems from What I Do In The Dark

Stars Go Out

The first time I saw the stars in years
I stood under a canopy of leaves with
a red-haired sprite of a person next
to me marijuana in each hand
we stared & I know or
used to know many of the constellations
painted upon the darkness which
suffocates us from above where it
broods & bleeds beads of light
my hand outstretched upward and
I don’t know what I am talking about but
some things are impossible to explain
& I fell in & out of love &
desperation & salaciousness and
sequences of grief which have left
unbearable & immovable marks
upon my arms & chest. You can always
tell a star from a planet because planets
stare endlessly & stars go out.

A witch told me that a great fire would come
it would cleanse the tar from the fields
wash away the ash the soot from our mouths
floating into dust in the sky looking back
at our faces as they are illumined by flame
& spark alight something that would
never burn out but it’s been years and
I have seen the end in different ways
like the bombs in the city like the
sleepless in the streets like the apocalyptic
revealing of all secrets like truth serum
is infecting our water supply like all
are screaming at the sky waiting for the fire
like their lives depend on it like there
are no more secrets to be spilled there are
no more secrets between us I know now
who the stars are & what they say
there are trees & branches that will
sprout from your body there are
leaves & sticks & rocks & roots
all coming from your torso the trunk
raising to the canopy the twigs evolving
with the seconds into bigger twigs
& logs that float their way above you
will always be in the forest until
the coming or not-coming of the fire.

Blood Orange

Citrus; sour and bitter
fruit of my love,
antithesis to what I
had been searching for
for years.

I move with shock
through anxious nights,

move through conversation
and sadness
with wands spellcasting
towards the sky.

Unfocused and desperate,
terrified and thrown off
in a fearful rage reach for
the cloak of my gender
and cast off my performance of skin.

And I am nonsensical,
touched by the love
of the universe,
place kisses on genderless bodies

there is an evolution
in every rotting orange.

Turn toward the candle
lighting the desk upon which
lies a scribbled letter to my younger self.
Spattered in tears and blood I know
that person would not have known me
when I was born.

Yesterday I wept tears of intense
grief for the parts of me
my younger self would have loved.

Pulling apart a blood orange in morning,
I lick the seeds and eat the flesh
of my past, have love and sadness for
that which I did not know.
They were not here to hurt me.

I cried after my first pride march
that same day.

When I was a boy, I was full of
hatred and dysphoria, overwhelmed
with the confusion that inhabits
the space where my gender should be—
empty space, nothing defined.

I wish to give knowledge of
the power of knowledge,
how it grows changes
and rots in the sun. How it sends
signals through electric wires,
sends pulses through the past,
how acceptance feels.

Letters scattered on the wind,
music scattered in the air,
something missing
that was never really there—

now my therapist tells me
that I belong. When I say
it isn’t about the fruit
but about what the seeds can do,
they tell me that the pulp of an orange
is just as valuable; that
the flesh of such a fruit, tempestuous,
scintillating, ephemeral, temporary,
is as mutable as one’s identity. That it
should be consumed like our past selves.

This is all well and good, but an orange
still withers and turns black
in the sunlight. This is why
I only keep them out at night.

Walking Through Wet Forest, Descending Through Damp Logs

Take off your shoes & run through the moss,
I miss the city it is night
& there is nothing in the sky.

    I watch a slug on a leaf
            trailing along the edge,

a balancing act between floating & falling

            between slowness & peace
    & I have stood so long

under streetlamps that the night sky is an afterthought

    to the living & I felt so silent

standing under those conifers even while your
fingers intertwined mine

            with an emptiness that

would become cataclysmic. Now disintegrated,
the leaf smolders on a log

& cinder floats like lightning above my insect eyes.
I have dreamt of your descent
& wept, waking.

Throwing Stones

To all the soft stones I have laid my lips to
a letter in ripples of water.
A gestating engine empowered
on the wind, swallowing
clouds & from the sky falls my body.
Red ants crawl over bare feet & dirt
comes underneath the fingernails and
kneecaps scab on treeroots & I’ve never
had a lucid dream but I imagine it’s
something like drowning, only
your lungs never fill with water, only
it is tranquil in its viscerality. It is
raining & I am dehydrated,
my spinal column is made from blurs
& broken branches & there is a
nature within me that is hiding.
Split a stone with a hammer, take
a shard & place it in your pocket
as a teardrop falls from my eyelash.

Rays of Sun in a Dusty Apartment

Leaning into there/There where the blood of a pig/slop on the floor/boards of water/desperately trying/to live/It is a silent place/atrophy/like razor blades/or knives/Nowhere is/a flower crown tied around my/skull/A sculpture is/a body of flutes/oxygen/& desertion/Why am I/in love/Like a bird’s feather/floats down the air currents/Like there are/rivers in the/particles of dust/that hang in the sunlight/There is drama/in meandering spots/at the edges of eyes/like sleep/Paralysis of dusk/opening the veil/the veil of/Another dimension soaking through/my eyelids/& wasting away/the ghosts of those/things that haunt.

Noah David Roberts is a non-binary poet based in Philadelphia, PA. Roberts is the author of 5 collections: Us v. Them, Strips, Slime Thing [and other poems], Final Girl Mythos, and What I Do in the Dark. Since publication of their first book, Roberts has been published in Bullshit Lit, Tribes Magazine, Horror Sleaze Trash, and more. In 2022, Roberts won the Judith Stark poetry contest. Roberts is a reader at Graphic Violence Lit, and loves cats. Their Instagram handle is @the.apocalypse.poet.


SPOTLIGHT: ‘Screaming in Tongues’ by Jacob Strunk


                “Wanna play Asshole?”

                “What’s Asshole?” Casper looks up at the older boy, who is picking at the long stem of a flower, peeling away layers and dropping bits on the ground.

                “It’s like Horse, only it’s Asshole.”

                “Oh.” Casper looks down at his hands, brown with dirt. The two had earlier dug a hole near the back fence where Casper’s mom couldn’t see. David had dared Casper he couldn’t fill it back in with his hands, then pushed him in from behind. “Yeah, sure.”

                David springs to his feet, dropping the twisted stem on the ground.

                Casper looks down at it, sad and mangled. It’s one of his mom’s peonies. He stands. David is already around the corner of the house. Casper can hear him bouncing a basketball, the faded orange one that had been his father’s. He follows the sound.

                David is shooting, bouncing, dribbling. David is running, back and forth and back and forth, calling his own shots.

                “Three points. At the buzzer. Oh!”

                Casper stands at the side of the driveway, watching his cousin run to retrieve the ball. David shoots again. This time, the ball misses the net and backboard, leaving a black spot on the white paint of the garage.

                “Dickens goes for the lay-up and – oh, he was robbed!”

                Casper watches this for a moment more, then heads toward the house’s back door. As he approaches, he cranes his neck to look around the side of the garage, into the backyard. There, on a ladder, is Jamie, David’s older brother. Casper stops and watches him. Jamie is sixteen and shirtless. He has broad shoulders and a shiny brown back. Casper watches sweat drip into Jamie’s armpit as he reaches up with a paintbrush, swiping it along one of the house’s eaves.

                Jamie is listening to his New Kids on the Block tapes on a paint-spattered boom box. Casper can’t stand the New Kids on the Block.

                “Hey,” he says, walking over to Jamie. “I like this music.”

                Jamie looks down, smiles, shakes his head. He dips his brush in the can at the top of the ladder, reaches up again. A splotch of white paint hits his shoulder. Jamie wipes sweat from his brow, drops the brush into the paint can, and reaches into his pocket. He pulls out and lights a cigarette, sucking shallowly. He looks down at Casper and extends it out.

                “No thanks. I don’t smoke.”

                Jamie laughs.

                “Maybe I will, though. Not now.”

                Jamie takes a drag, wipes his forehead again. He’s looking up at the eave, inspecting his work. Casper looks up, too, sees Jamie’s progress, broad strokes of fresh white from one side of the eave up into the middle, just above where Jamie’s standing.

                David and Jamie have been staying with Casper and his mom for the past week. She is paying Jamie to repaint the house. White. Just white. Casper doesn’t know why she wouldn’t paint it something fun. Blue. Or green. Something to show the world how happy they were, the two of them. He had even offered to paint it himself one morning. He ate his cereal. She drank her coffee. He could do it. He’d just need a tall ladder. His mom had smiled at him, sweet and disarming, then looked out the window.

                Casper hears a crack and fizz and looks up to see Jamie drinking from a can of Pabst. He wonders where it came from.

                “Hey, where’d you get that?”

                Jamie just chuckles. The fingers that hold the Pabst are white with paint.

                “You can’t drink.”

                Jamie flicks his cigarette into the lawn towards Casper, who shakes his head and heads back to the driveway.

                David is still shooting, still narrating his own plays. He notices Casper standing at the edge of the asphalt and tosses the ball to him. Casper misses it and has to retrieve it from his mom’s plants along the side of the house. He walks the back to the driveway, wiping clumps of mud from it.

                “Okay, you can go first,” David says. “Because you’re little.”

                Casper doesn’t respond, just searches the blacktop for the perfect spot, scanning with his eyes. He finds it, a leaf stomped on the ground, mashed into a smear of green on the pavement by energetic Keds. It’s perfect. Casper goes to it and faces the net.

                “You can’t make that. You’re way too far away. You should move in closer.”

                Casper ignores him. He dribbles the ball, once, twice, awkward, then heaves it toward the net. It misses the hoop by a full two feet, smashing into the aluminum garage door with a loud crash. The door rattles on its track. Casper hears David laughing, but doesn’t look. He goes to the bushes, retrieves the ball, bounces it across the driveway to his cousin.

                “David!” It’s Casper’s mom, calling from an upstairs window. The two boys look up. She is leaning, has her face pressed against the screen. Beyond her, the room is dark. “Please don’t step in my flowers. Thank you.”

                Casper smiles up at her. She smiles back, winks, mouths Hi Sweetie, then pulls her face from the screen and is gone. Casper’s smile lingers a moment and he stands there, shielding his eyes from the sun.

                “Please don’t step in my flowers, meh,” David says in his best old lady voice.

                “Well, you were.”

                “Well, you were, meh.” David steps to the center of the driveway and fires the ball. It bangs off the backboard and through the net, bouncing clean and straight on the pavement beneath. David easily catches it, then throws it – too hard – at Casper. “Make that.”

                Casper catches the ball this time. He steps to where David was, looks at his cousin. David shakes his head. Casper steps back another step. David nods, smiling. Casper bounces the ball once, then sets his sights on the backboard. Easy shot. Dead on. Straight and true. He throws the ball. It bounces off the rim, then the driveway, then the side of the house. Casper cringes, expecting his mom to shout down again.

                “Ha! That’s A!” David is clapping, bouncing, running in circles, fists in the air.

                Casper walks across the driveway, over to the house, where the basketball lies amidst his mom’s peonies. One of the flowers is driven into the dirt, its petals broken, its stem cracked. Casper frowns, trying to straighten it again.

                “Come on, pussy. I ain’t got all day.”

                Casper picks up the ball, wipes off the mud and flower petals, and tosses it to his cousin, who is jumping up and down in the driveway, pounding his fists against his chest.

Clint White is Alien Buddha’s Featured Artist for June 2023

ABP- Hi Clint. Thank you for taking this interview. Back in March, ABP was fortunate to publish your flash collection “Decalogue Dreadfuls”. It’s been called “Like a razor blade hidden under a tongue or a flesh-eating virus embedded in a cough” and was one of our bestsellers this past spring. What can you tell us about this collection.

CW- Hi Red, good to chat with you. Dreadfuls is a collection of 20 horror flash fiction stories, organized around the 10 Commandments. Two stories per commandment. Someone told me the stories themselves are like the old EC comics (think Tales from the Crypt), which were extremely moralistic. There’s a lot of comeuppance in this collection, so I like that comparison. I’m going for contemporary takes on EC comics and the old penny dreadfuls from Victorian times.
I also like the idea that more theological readers might pick up the book and draw connections between each story and the commandment to which it is tied. I put a lot of time and thought into what those connections look like to me, and I hope to hear from others what they see, too.

ABP- Can you share one of the stories with us here?

CW- Absolutely. Tied to the Third Commandment (regarding blasphemy), here’s “Black Soil”:

Black Soil

EPA said it was carbon dumping years ago that turned her soil strangely black. Deborah disagreed. Some nights she’d hear low moans from the woods, volatizing from the ground itself.
Lawyers declared the soil safe. Deborah knew better. It stole her husband. Once a witty, beautiful man, he became a forest dweller; his nails grew long and if she got close he’d scratch at her, grinning.
The police left open a missing person case for him. They didn’t believe her. She’d watched from the window that night. Inside a band of rawboned trees, black streaks fingering up their hides, he screamed and sank, struggling, into the soil.

The government abandoned cleanup plans. So, she dug for him. In autumn sunlight she gutted the black moaning earth where he disappeared. She found him after night fell. Cradling his skull and sobbing, she welcomed the soil as it groaned closed around her.

ABP- Where does your inspiration come from? Who is your favorite writer? What is your favorite book?

CW- Like most authors I’m often digging around in my personal history and daily life in hope of finding a story to sensationalize. But reading is a deep well of inspiration, too. Themed horror anthologies, and the submission calls the publishers write for them, often spark fun ideas for me. I also read lots of flash fiction collections, especially James Thomas’ Norton anthologies. Those contain all kinds of unique structures and approaches to plot I find exciting. When these plots and those structures meld together into something novel, that’s when I’ve got a piece I know I’ll finish.

Some of my all-time favorite writers are Shirley Jackson, George Saunders, and Flannery O’Connor. And I’ve read some incredible flash fiction lately from Amber Sparks and K-Ming Chang.

In the past couple years, the best book I’ve read is either Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven or Carmen Maria Muchado’s In the Dream House.

ABP– How do you feel about the state of the horror genre today?

CW- I don’t know if there’s been a better time to be a horror reader. You’ve got a few big hitters delivering bestsellers on the regular, like Paul Tremblay and Stephen Graham Jones. Ellen Datlow keeps putting out a best-of-the-year collection that is essential reading, full of fascinatingly wrought stories. And of course, there is a vast cauldron of indie writers and presses out there, pushing the genre into increasingly diverse, surprising, grotesque, and artful directions. That’s the corner of the genre dearest to my hellbound heart.
Probably my favorite ongoing publishing project in horror is Death Head Press’ “Splatter Western” series. Each new book in the series I read spins yet another fresh and gut-wrenchingtake on the sub-genre. I’m hooked. And horror cover art doesn’t get any better than what Justin T. Coons has been cooking up for these books.

Finally: horror publishers have warmly embraced the novella form, which is a great development and still, I think, a hard sell in literary fiction and other types of genre fiction. It’s the ideal form for horror in my opinion: lean and mean, readable in one long night if possible. The novellas today’s horror writers are cranking out are just chef’s-kiss superb.

ABP- What is the art/lit scene like in Columbus OH these days? Have you been to any readings or other artsy events?

CW- Columbus is not the cowtown of my youth! It’s vibrant and ever-changing. It’s the only growing city in Ohio. (Suck it, Cincy and The Land.) This town has a vibrant literary scene that’s gaining national acclaim, with local luminaries such as Hanif Abdurraqib, Maggie Smith, and Saaed Jones. They’re all incredible. Big poetry town, apparently. We also have this phenomenal indie publisher, Two Dollar Radio. I’ve been to their HQ for readings from folks like Kristen Arnett and Rax King. Dude, we have, like, several excellent indie bookstores? I thought that was a dying breed. Is that just a Columbus thing?

I haven’t really met any horror fiction writers around here, but I do want to find a few and see if we can whip up some horror reading events around town. Maybe get a scene going. And down the road, in Yellow Springs, resides one of my favorite horror publishers: Grindhouse Press. I have several Grindhouse novellas on my bookshelf and Kindle. Each one is gruesome and fun.

ABP– Are you working on anything new?

CW- I’ve been writing a lot of hitchhiker stories lately, full of serial killers, cults, starships, and literature-obsessed cryptids. We’ll see where all that goes. Maybe it’ll all fit together the way I’m imagining; or maybe not, and I’m left with a handful of flash pieces I can rework and send out for anthology calls.
I’m also tinkering with a splatter western novella of my own, something like The Exorcist in a hell-on-wheels town. I figure I should cash in on this country-western name I was given, right? I’ve got a pitch, Death Head’s Press! My DMs are open!

ABP– Thanks again for taking this interview, Clint. If there is anything else that we have not covered that you would like to share, announce, promote, or anything else, feel free.

CW- Thanks to you, too! I enjoyed it. You can find me on Twitter: @clintrwhite. I’m not the most prolific tweeter and the site’s a bit of a hell hole these days, but when I’ve got something coming out, that’s where I announce it first. Have a great day!

SPOTLIGHT: ‘Under a Quiet Moon’ by Michele Mekel


Harbinger of death
on wing and wind,
the starling freely
entered my abode—
seeking only safety.

Quickly, though,
it became like us—
frantically searching
an escape.

First published in eMerge (2022)

Freecycle Sadness

Left curbside for free,
gently used emotions yours.
Pick up required.

First published in The Post Grad Journal (2021)


Maybe the Phoenix
was meant to make ashes look
simply radiant.


The recently deceased line up for games.
First, red rover—
then dodgeball.

But it’s just not the same,
passing through one another—
no friction, no pain.

A version first published in Black Poppy Review (2021)

Pocket Change

The ferryman’s token
—now gone—
yet the tang of metal lingers
beneath my stilled tongue.

First published in Backwards Trajectory (2021)


My tattoos yearn to break free
of lines and static shapes.
Their colors seek sovereignty—
not subjugation.

First published in Deathcap (2021).

SPOTLIGHT: ‘Wings In Flight’ by Sandra Whiting


Beep, beep, beep

The alarm
cut through
the room
like a sharp knife
through dense air.

I look
out my window
and up
towards the sky.

Bleak and gloomy,
a permanent gray.

A regular
the past year.

I inhale my surroundings,
then exhale a sigh
so heavy
it sounds as if
the weight of the World
were just expelled
all at once,
wondering why
I should expect anything else.

It was better to accept reality for what it was.

Better to not think of some
fairy tale
of blue skies,
happy holidays and
home-cooked meals.


I put on
my favorite pair
ripped jeans,
a steal
from the local
and one of
my younger sister
Courtney’ s
too-tight shirts –
even for her.

due to the current fashion trend
I can pretend
as if
it’s a crop-top.
I reach
for my favorite cover –

Dad’s plaid shirt,
of course.

That shirt –



It reminds me of a sweeter time.

A time
when people
the name “Cassie”
and actually cared
what I had to say.

A time
actually cared
what they
had to say
in return.

A time
where there was
enjoyment and wonder.

A time not like now.

  1. Down the hall I go,
    past my
    who has his
    head-set on again.

I’m just a shadow.

A nothing.

Unless part of his
gaming World.

But why shouldn’ t I be?

Wasn’ t he invisible, too?

  1. I walk downstairs,
    as if I’m walking
    to my demise.

Once excited for what stood at the bottom.

dreading what I might find.
The dishes are stacked
like a mountain
in the sink.
Bread crumbs
form a trail
the overflowing garbage can,
and the only sounds
I can hear
are the thoughts
swirling in my head.

No breakfast.

Someone has to take out the trash.
Guess it’s going to be me.

When does the bus come, again?

Cuz’ it
looks like
I won’t be getting
a ride
from Mom.

Speaking of Mom,
where is she?

Now I stop my thoughts.
I already know the answer.

  1. School is OK.

I’m definitely
not part of
“in” crowd,
but that doesn’t matter to me.

Or does it?

I sit with the thought
for a moment
and decide
I have bigger things to worry about,
like if Mrs. Smith
will notice
I didn’t do the readings
or even worse,
that I’m wearing the same outfit
from two days ago.

Later that day,
I meet up
with Maddie and Rachel
at lunch.

We laugh
and talk about things
kids our age
should –


The homecoming dance

School football team

For a second,
it almost feels like
the time known as

Then the bell rings,
and it reminds me
I’m one period closer
to returning to
that hell-hole
others act
I’m supposed to love.