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Issue #4 | Zero Readers

Pre-Dawn

Tomorrow knocks again
So patiently
Carrying the pain of her children
And asking us to let her in
For she is a solitary traveler
With only one door to try






D.W. White is a graduate of the M.F.A. Creative Writing program at Otis College in Los Angeles and Stony Brook University’s BookEnds Fellowship. Currently seeking representation for his first novel, he serves as Founding Editor for L’Esprit Literary Review and Fiction and Excerpts Editor for West Trade Review, where he also contributes reviews and critical essays. His writing further appears in or is forthcoming from The Florida Review, The Review of UnContemporary Fiction, The Rupture, Necessary Fiction, Chicago Review of Books, and elsewhere. A Chicago ex-pat, he now lives in Long Beach, California, where he frequents the beach to hide from writer’s block. He is on Twitter @dwhitethewriter.

Twenty-First Century Red Riding Hood

The world is my mother and Mother is a witch,
she says, a psychological horror protagonist
walled in, exit forbidden sans consent.
Lest the teen princess be exiled.

The hearth is ravenous, cavernous,
cold as the word no.
The screen is her ladder,
her savior.

Purveyor of Prose. Playground Pariah.
These epithets? Remnants of rejection.
The prince in print is amber light
caressing her getaway caravan.

Clandestine chat logs leave faint whispers
of Steam.store. Late-night roaming the digital
woods, the howl of a gray wolf;
dressed in Santa’s skin, bearing gifts.

Compliments at sixteen,
to Twenty-first Century Red, are gold.
Thinks she’s really Rapunzel, hence her thirst,
for nectar and knife.

Phone screens ignite paper-thin innocence.
The Wolf sends directions to dark dorms, himself
buzzing, iridescent blue. Leaves maps to the restricted
rooms out in the open.

So she sees the bait, the line, the hook,
the looks, the likes, swipes right.
She stuffs both feet into unbroken boots. Bleeds.
For a mirage of a man, and the world.

Los Angeles-born Filipino-American poet Rachel Alarcio’s work has appeared in and is forthcoming in two award-winning WriteGirl anthologies, Exposition Review, Red Ogre Review, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, at LAX’s Terminal 7-8, and elsewhere. They are a 2019 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Short Story Medalist. She is currently working towards her B.A. in English from Kalamazoo College. Her favorite foods include Brie cheese, adobo, barbeque, and arroz caldo. She also loves cats, despite being allergic to them. Find them @rachelalarcio on Twitter, @raechillout on Instagram, and at rachelalarcio.com.

The Stress of Poverty Lowers the Capacity to Learn

I’m climbing out of this secret.
At the benefactress soiree,
I tuck a ladder inside my ear to remind myself
no personality lives beyond the person.
Often they die long before the bodies.
I don’t explicate myself as a mere body
the way publicly funded aphorists do.
Class ciphers are always in the alibis:
I cast a ballot for the hangman,
my parents were cheery engineers, etc.
Howling at us, the nightingales
nest beside the erratic tick of this clocktower,
this hip venue where the birds seethe for quiet.
Every judgment relies on evidentiary simulacra
and my eyes are quiet as a painting of my eyes.
Their brown is a brown of an unsold past.




Brandon North writes from Ohio, where he obtained an MFA at Cleveland State University. He edits the newsletter Never a Contest. His work appears or is forthcoming in Voidspace Zine, Essay Daily, The Cleveland Review of Books, and elsewhere. More at: brandonnorthwriter.wordpress.com

melt

there’s a shade of blue
that pulls in with the clouds
over the glacier
where the ice pushes back against Apollo
begs the navy, canary meshing open
to give it coverage
from the rushing of the melt

it prefers the greys which protect its cover
its vulnerability lies
in picture perfect
human preference
for a gaze
which glorifies our version of beauty

but for that glacier
to be still
to know firm ground
requires a scale of cloud which cushions
its experiences of Mother Nature
how its sheath of ice cascades
and saves its cracking for the ultimate moments of unbecoming
it unravels when it’s forced

how sharp the sound of departure from self
booming down the gullies
through ranges
full of other beasts
whose ears perk to hear
the universal sound of
letting go





Elizabeth Ellson (she/her) is a midwesterner who has transplanted firmly into the east side of Los Angeles. She is the host of I Offer Poetry, a podcast that aims to share poetry the way we share music: fluidly and accessibly. She was recently published in Blue River Review and is a sucker for 80’s love songs | @ellsonelizabeth | http://www.elizabethellson.com/

Precarity

i.

if i’m telling the truth—and i am, this time—
every time i look at myself in the mirror i’m looking for someone else.

this secret dialect, disguised in broad daylight, selfhood split
in two: perceived and imagined. the gap is so wide it echoes.

what ungodly thing i am,
and outside of dreams—how?

conceive of ourselves with whose womb?
whose blood to wash us anew each month?

whose wonderful life is this?
whose good enough?

ii.

allow me this one thing:

a moment of surety. unhesitation.
certain. yes. yes in all its shapes.

yes in the heatwaves off in the distance,
yes in the expansive nothingness overhead,

yes all the way through my body and into the ground.
sure. sure. sure. sure.

iii.

this is it: i want to be here long enough to see the streetlights turn on.
see how the sun dips behind the hill and leaves us with the blessed dark.

and i want to be here tomorrow, too, for the next day
already fading, just for the chance to make myself sick on sun.

and if there is transformation in this,
some impossible, holy birth, i will be this body’s god.





Alex Sosebee is a writer, circus teacher, and stage manager from Ithaca, NY. Their work has previously appeared in Breakwater Review. Alex edits for Kalopsia Literary Journal.

Wormwood

“The city’s name is the same as one of the Ukrainian names
for Artemisia vulgaris, mugwort or common wormwood.”
Etymology of ‘Chernobyl’, O. S. Melnychuk

“… and the name of the star is called Wormwood.”
Revelations 8:10-11

And the angel’s palm opens, tilts,
and from it an absinthe star falls
to the woods,
to the rivers, which stand still in waiting,
illuminating the lace of butterfly wings,
weaving through the ranks of birches.
In the hush that follows, each dewdrop
shivering in the field turns to bitter water,
every blade of grass darkens to rust.

And still the seething star
plummets, melting away all shadows
in hottest shades of blue, and hides
itself in the root cellar of the world:
amid blood-black beetroots, clotted mold
and turnips swelling like tumors,
there it rots forgotten,
and if it still wails its siren song, it is as good
as silent when there is no one left to listen.

The woods have grown. The waters run.
Aboveground, banks of wormwood wave
behind dusty windows, swallowing the town.
The angel lingers, its face unweeping,
its absent eyes bleached blind by the sun.





Ieva is a poet and scientist. Her first publication was at the age of nine, in the form of a short fairy tale. More recently, her poetry has been published in Ink Drinkers Magazine and in the Renard Press New Beginnings anthology. In 2021 she founded the Orangery Literary Society, an online community for up-and-coming writers. She currently lives on a tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic.