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Poetry | Zero Readers

Misplaced Karenina

I am perhaps in awe
of your feathered-cap majesty,
you hypocrite princess,
our transplanted Karenina
of a Kremlin motorway.
What good or what rot,
in being a century short or tall,
when I cannot put thumb and finger
on your oily roots …
I see such strange wounds
in your sideways gaze.
You are inverted, translucent
before my searching eyes.
Around us, in evening’s light, gleam
far fewer fields.
Only god-abandoned husks,
left scorched, empty, as configurations
of any good atheist’s faintly-familiar famine.
Everything given and, so, everything taken.
With your hair neither
wet nor parted,
and I,
neither living nor dead.

Aniket Sanyal’s poetry and fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in APOCALYPSE CONFIDENTIAL, D.F.L. Lit, Terror House Magazine, Expat Press, and Daily Science Fiction among other places. Aniket was born in India, lives in New Jersey, and is a graduate of Rutgers University. He can be found on Twitter @AniketSanyal6.

The Letters Between Us

Did you hear the horse thunder and taste the dust
in your cabin? The wild hooves kicked up a storm
last night. The hours passed as I reread your letter,
licked the envelope flap you sealed, traced your name, 
and wondered if you were reading my poems.
Nothing fills this pit except your words—
cursive and hurried across the yellowed page. 

In a parallel universe we’re on a ranch, 
on horseback, gathering cows, fencing 
the earth, as if we could control the wild. As if 
the shelter we built to weather the storms will 
withstand such winds and hail. Perhaps 
you wear a cowboy hat and are open 
to my embrace and my kiss. Perhaps there’s
no other place but here with the dust and mist. 

Flames beyond the curtains were all that 
reflected in your eyes that last night. The day
before the horses stopped their trot and the water

dried up due to drought. Are these hoofprints
left on my doorstep the only souvenirs? Are the letters
scattered around the cabin all that’s left? What 
else can I do but sit in the burnt pasture and wait? 

Cat Dixon is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection What Happens in Nebraska (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2022) along with five other chapbooks and collections. She is a poetry editor with The Good Life Review and an adjunct instructor at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. Find out more at her website: www.catdix.com

Point Nemo

I was told truth is the oak
that holds

its leaves each winter. A promise

As it turns out, I forget
the rules. I never can

know them. This one is another
mask for doubt.

This one is the cover
for an empty bed.

This one is the sheet drawn back—
the old clothes

gathered in the corners
of every room I’ve ever known.

Evening settles like ash
on the snow. Another bird

on the feeder. Does it realize
the emptiness

it fills? This one is the sense
traced on a sheet

of frost. The cold that takes
residence between glass

and bone. This one is the moment
that passes

as soon as you arrive.
The bird lifts

from the feeder. Flies off
because it does

what birds do. If I knew
the rules I would make

my home like a bird—
gather the things that are

most important: This Stick. This Thread.
Safe in the knowledge

this one is the truth that holds
everything together.

Mark Imielski is an attorney who lives in Geneva, Illinois with his wife Christine and children Harris and Gabby. He is fascinated by the “why” which informs all of his work. He aspires to write more than one poem per decade.    

I Was Told I Was a Natural Pianist

Your words have faded, once perched
between the lines, now aloft in eddies
more erstwhile than eccentric, that distort
the shape of sadness that hangs over
more than it looms. Your shadow
has lengthened, once tailored to an acerbic wit,
now high off karmic eutrophy, spins
redbud stories into redwood sagas
that in their grandeur still cannot hide
the kinds of trees they are, and at one time,
years ago, yesterday, your words were yours
and mine as well; they once held hands
in dark hallways, at farmland weddings,
where they echoed and wed, irrespectively,
indifferent to the sound made by a promise to bounce off the walls forever,
a euphony ohne worte, a song without words,
where one person plays two voices
and it sounds good.

Luke enjoys cooking tofu, qualitative research, IU’s prolific body of work, and playing video games with faraway friends. Is also an M1 at UCSD. Hopes to make some music soon. One time.

the cha cha slide

the DJ wants us to do the cha cha slide.
the DJ wants our claps our stomps our
“cha cha real smooth”—the DJ
asks us to give breath to death and
breathe seething into laughter and stand
a couple feet apart on the laminate
dance floor and turn our insides into
our outsides. the DJ would like us to
shout our father’s name. the DJ
would now like us to shake each
other’s hands blithely. the DJ implores
us to throw out our phones. the DJ
wishes she could remember what color
her eyes are, but looking just reminds her
of those zoo lemurs that always
populate her nightmares. look now,
the floor is shaking with sweated sole.
listen, the speakers are playing that
song always on the tip of your
tongue. the DJ would now like us to
recall the first time we were injured
by faith, would then like us to forgive
faith. it couldn’t have known the bite
of its fangs.

Claire Heinzerling is a trans writer living in Colorado. She writes because it reminds her to breathe.


He tucks the $5 into his sock
and looks up at my baby

When my son was a baby
I used to sit up all night
to make sure he was breathing

I am screaming
in my head
he is also screaming
in his head

With practice we can
listen past the screaming

Yes, I say
I hold my breath
so I can hear my son’s breathing
but sometimes my heartbeat
gets too loud and

I need air

Air, he says

Merri Andrew writes poetry and short fiction, some of which is published in Strange Horizons, Five On The Fifth, Cordite and Baby Teeth. She lives on Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country in Canberra, a city hiding in the sub-alpine bushland of Australia. Merri can be found on Twitter @MerriAndrewHere