first exits

For submissions, [isacoustic*] is on an indefinite hiatus.

The one person I am is not always the right.

Reflections on the works of others will continue.

Be healthy, or keep others.

-Barton

person Meghan Sterling, two poems

Meghan Sterling lives in Portland, Maine. Her poetry has been published in Rattle, Glass, Sky Island Journal, Cider House Press and others. She is a Hewnoaks Artist Colony Resident in 2019 and 2021. Her first full-length collection is forthcoming from Terrapin Books in 2021. Read her work at meghansterling.com

~*~

Apology After the Fire

Worn down, the sea rolls beyond sight,

sand stretches the way a shadow is cast
from rock. The sun an unwanted heat.

We have grown our flowers in the shade of the razed forests,
our faces wrapped in gauze, our hands cupping the water

we save from the occasional rain and muddy stream.
How did we arrive here?

My daughter throws her scraps to the dogs
that wander along the highways that once were rivers

that once threaded themselves
through a softening of green.

My daughter knows the meagerness of water,
our constant searching.

But winds, fires, mud, rocks
are in abundance where once there was

grass, bud, butterfly.
I want life to bloom around her the way she blooms

and for her to know the quiet of leaves,
the hum of growing things,

these few seeds I nudge into flower as apology.

~*~

Camera Lucida

We were in love then. Early winter,
the alleys like paper scraps of snow.
Seeking each venue as if the next reading
could deliver salvation.
I wrote on scraps,
refusing to show the others,
letting those scraps grow damp between fingers,
pushing them against the seams of satin pocket liners.
In the alleys, we smoked Marlboros,
shaking in our acrylic gloves, in coats with too-short arms.
We quoted Kafka, pretended we had read everything.
You carried a small suitcase with journals, pencils,
sharpeners, a protractor—you wore your eccentricity
as an accessory. Without money for meals, we ate at bodegas,
saved our pennies for museums, for jazz.
You stole your books from the Strand.
We went for long walks in Park Slope,
looking into windows lit with abundance,
dreaming of living better than
boxes on the stairwell, found furniture.
Everything smelling of last week’s cooking.
At night, we huddled on the mattress,
read passages from Barthes’ Camera Lucida,
shared joints rolled from the cheapest shake.
But poverty wore, frayed like our sleeves.
You stayed out later, I started reading English novels.
Your father offered you a salary
to study business, and when spring came,
you tossed your suitcase out the window
into the muddy alley, your papers soaring
like white birds.

~*~

person Melissa Eleftherion, two poems

Melissa Eleftherion (she/they) is a cis queer human, a writer, a librarian, and a visual artist. She is the author of field guide to autobiography (The Operating System, 2018), & ten chapbooks, including little ditch (above/ground press, 2018) & trauma suture (above/ground press, 2020). Born & raised in Brooklyn, Melissa created, developed, and co-curates The SFSU Poetry Center Chapbook Exchange with Elise Ficarra. She now lives in Northern California where she manages the Ukiah Library, teaches creative writing, & curates the LOBA Reading Series. Recent work is available at http://www.apoetlibrarian.wordpress.com

][

Time Pocket

“Time has pockets”
said DiPrima or was it
Dickinson
herbarium like
love song
catching us up
and so we gather or are
gathered someone else’s
memory glow
a breath – is
that all there is
to connect

even now time feathers
dandelion lignin
and rockface
we ascend &
            didact
suction
– stand clear
of the closing doors –
we metal
in the metal
clang of commute
and consequence
how we must sound
all fingers in the camera
amygdala in the bottle brush

][

seafoam

all the cortisol
driving over Richmond Bridge
how shining mountain
magnanimous in distance
becomes oil refinery
the sky blue headache
again after wildfire sinus
we mask up to
drive the box to the
box store to buy more boxes
for our boxed escape
we need a boxed escape
we all need a little box to go green with

][

{ Unfinished Murder Ballads – poems – Darren C. Demaree }

Unfinished Murder Ballads
poems, Darren C. Demaree
w/ photo accompaniment of Ryan Barker’s ‘Midwest Nostalgia’
Backlash Press (2020)

~

The premise of blood is a color.
-from The Facts Persisted

On the occasion that flood brings you a painted body, know that I had everything to do with it…
-from The Cage Is Unwound By The Poetry Of Death

As if hiding in Eden after hearing a pop-gun, the poet Darren C. Demaree makes short work of vast vision in his Unfinished Murder Ballads, a collection of implanted cares and layered addictions as played for those still awake inside the cinema of the abrupt. Whether ashes or trailings, Demaree finds the evaporated clue and spirits it toward the character actor whose family feels abandoned by exit. Nothing in this meditation overstays, and at times it seems that words are at a loss for people. If the verses here make their first impressions hoping to access the fractured archive of impulse survival, the bodies that said verses nourish know, or pretend to know, that paranoia has only one hand. Water helps vacancy find a vein, and water goes everywhere baptism is not. Poison is the shortest story, and paint protects the frostbitten. A pair of bicycle legs dreams submergence, and a camera dreams god. Not everything comes to pass, but in the etching of this death music, in the crooked humming of shared worship and separate goal, a stillness is reached. Vignette is no small church.

~

reflection by Barton Smock

~

book is here

person Imran Boe Khan, one poem

Imran Boe Khan has recent work appearing, or forthcoming, in places such as the Rumpus, Cosmonauts Avenue, Yes, Poetry, and Sixth Finch. A previous winner of the Thomas Hardy Prize, Khan is a lecturer at Bournemouth University, and lives in Christchurch, Dorset.

When You’ve been Assigned the Addict

It begins with the one person you love
growing accustomed to the pleas, the threat
of a goodbye tied to an internet history. Trust
can be melted like ice, all that’s needed is the right
heat – a betting slip on the sofa, a Merlot under
the sink, the weight of a one night stand creased
in a brow. Forget the hands of their mistakes, forget
the sickness holding their form. There are too many
windmills smashing into too many neurons to bother
waiting for the version of you a little more merciful
than yesterday. I have gained nothing from what I have
waited for. No return could mask this abandonment.
A prodigal son is nothing but impermanence.

person Mark J Mitchell, one poem

Mark J. Mitchell was born in Chicago and grew up in southern California. His latest poetry collection, Roshi San Francisco, was just published by Norfolk Publishing. Starting from Tu Fu was recently published by Encircle Publications. A new collection is due out in December from Cherry Grove. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the activist and documentarian, Joan Juster. A meager online presence can be found at https://www.facebook.com/MarkJMitchellwriter/

~

K’s POSTCARDS

The room has three doors
all locked
from the otherside.

*

An earthen burrow
surrounded by no trees.
The mouse
does not sing.

*

Dirty straw in a cage
that seems perfectly empty.
An artist has vanished.

*

The long dark attic
holds only damp sheets
and judges.

~

person J.D. Nelson, one poem

J. D. Nelson (b. 1971) experiments with words in his subterranean laboratory. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Cinderella City (The Red Ceilings Press, 2012). Visit http://www.MadVerse.com for more information and links to his published work. Nelson lives in Colorado.

~/

the lost apple of the walking ones

I arrived on a bush plane
mud makes me mad

salad green had something to say about eating nice words
the tortoise was bug-eyed and surprised when the hare swam by

why is there a drawing of a head on the wall?
the eyes are mandalas and the mouth is a portal into the next room

that train of travel will get you back to the square where you started
the apple was a circle on the board and it grew and grew and now it is the board itself

a young hum to start in the back of the ward
after the recollecting his honor will have the high toast ceremony

to make a name as the king of eating
I have the same recommendation for you

/~

person Ajay Kumar Nair, two poems

Ajay Kumar Nair is a student and writer from Chennai, India. His work has appeared in Isacoustic, Rattle, The Bangalore Review and Muse India among others.

~

Grey, & other inflammable objects

It’s Diwali & there’s a feast. Snake tablets grow
into black unwanted things, bitter molasses-like
statutory warning-like, visuals of oral cancer

& other burning birds. Conversation-like,
like conversations, louder words, smiles put on
bright rivals for the rocket clawing at the night

with its final breath. Its final breath a whistle.
Chakri, whistlingly, spins like an angry little galaxy.
On third street, a car honks before a 1000-wala

both strange to waiting-
honk, boom.
honk, boom.
honk. boom.

All of this, of course, you cannot eat
the mound of plain steamed rice is golden brown now
the way you pour curd over it-

first the peak, then the fringes
& wait for them to meet.
The day after- newspaper bits blown off

ash & other grey feelings, & a sighing rain
sweeping everything away, dousing the lakshmis
the sparrows, Hercules Deluxes, Two Sounds
that rolled off, fell off, unlit into the grass.

~~

Where two things meet

do you remember all the bodies you’ve entered
I remember the house my grandparents moved
around in & by the house I mean the place where
the gabled roof met the sky in a line so distinct
that kingfishers perched on it waiting – waiting
by the house – I mean the rain on me & the rain
I wanted to be – I mean my grandma, her bones
firewood, snake-gods in her name & thighs &
the girl for whom the sun rose – by the house
the day I had not slept but had waded with frogs
& fireflies inside those frogs, to see the girl for
whom the sun rose drag a fallen palm leaf – her
eyes which saw mine guiltless – anywhere the leaf
falls, wherever the sun is vision my eyes are citizen.

~

person GJ Hart, one poem

GJ Hart currently lives and works in London and has had stories published in The Molotov Cocktail, The Jersey Devil Press, the Harpoon Review and others. He can be found arguing with himself over @gj_hart.

/*****

Raw

Nothing between
the coffee I share
with the snail pressed
against glass
and trade deals,
and borders – on TV
an octopus tucks light
in its pockets, becomes
that moon we ran to
and still ache from –

I watch its muscles land
like gulls as my gaze
foams through
its heart – that night
I ate sushi
in a restaurant
on Battersea Rise –
I remember
Allegro Non Molto
and each bored
mouthful.

*****\

person Michael Prihoda, one poem

Michael Prihoda lives in central Indiana. He is the founding editor of After the Pause, an experimental literary magazine. His work has received nominations for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net Anthology and he is the author of nine poetry collections, most recently Out of the Sky (Hester Glock, 2019).

//

America as ever-burning forest

can you see
this from the moon?

if something is out
there, tell them

turn around
before

we witness
the light

that indicates
they’ve already died.

i’d rather see wet,
blank expanse,

not wonder at
salvation’s timing.

\\