The Hour of Forgiveness – by Anna Keeler

The Hour of Forgiveness

Brazen may have laid down the title of ‘loving boyfriend’ long ago, but if there was one thing he thought he did right, it was protection. His body fabricated intuition from the same collagen as his primordial stone eyes, and this concept became a constant in his personality. He anticipated words that flinched against the throats that birthed them, catching the lifeless bodies of secrets before they could thump against the floor. Even when his own legs were cut from out beneath him, he found the vigor to put others first. But his boldened nature could never be retroactive.

He may have cared for Allegheny, but he couldn’t provide protection.

He spent countless nights at her side, trying to stitch his fingers between hers and pull her from the past into the present and despite his sustained presence at her side, he could shake the feeling of loneliness from her psyche. That same feeling that wasn’t kind enough to grow fangs and claws, but rather, took on the exterior of an angel. One that took memories and mangled them into soft words which were pooled in the dips along her ears. Words that were far worse than she would ever use for herself.

It’s my fault.          

I know that I deserved it.

It was moments like these when those lies got to her. “Brazen, I want to be alone.”

Her words ticked across his face, but didn’t break the skin. “No,” he said. “You don’t want to be alone.” She made an effort to look cross, toneless tears betraying her. “I don’t need anyone else telling me what I want.”

And it was those moments that made him want to take his body apart brick by brick and enclose her in hyperbole and metaphor; the sweat built into his muscle that could absorb tears, the bones that were reconstructed on the prospect of survival. Most important, a mind too durable to be occupied by gray matter and lungs assembled on the backbones of bloody screams. A citadel of himself wasn’t capable of  her salvation — he knew that, as much as it pained him to admit. But it would take the burden of durability off her shoulders for a moment.

Deep down he knew that wouldn’t be enough.

Not when Allegheny dragged around the carcass of that inner child, and on her worse days, left her strapped across her spine. She let that girl’s tears sever the vertebrae with barbed wire, and color anemic blood with sickled crayons. She fed her, bathed her, even well after the notion of innocence was purged from her vocabulary.

She lets that little girl abuse her, in words that he can never see.

On your feet. You know you deserved what you got.     

He tried, in vain, to carry both girls, both of them terrified to divorce from the past. Because carving away those ties meant acknowledging they exist.

“I love you,” was all he could offer.

Peeling back the sheet, he took her left arm in his hands, cradling her wrist close and safe. His fingers worked down the more sensitive areas, halting over the harsher, still stiff tissue. Like the rinds of a sabertooth’s jaw pooled their frustration into her flesh, isolating opal veins and branding them with the mnemonic of her turmoil.

The marks didn’t register in his mind as her scars. They should have belonged to someone else. As deep as she cut, she could never be un-molested. No matter how much blood she tried to pour into her former self, that girl was never coming back.

Her body was lifeless as she swallowed down sobs. Her words came weak, “Please don’t leave me here alone.” Her conflicted tone didn’t go unnoticed, nor did her hesitant moves. She wanted to be held. But didn’t feel like she deserved it.

He couldn’t love her. Another way he knows he’s failed.

That’s the only thing he seems to know, because he doesn’t know how to help her until she allows anyone inside those grottos. The ones she’s isolated from the world, because she was so afraid to work wade through them.

Wherever the thought came from, he surprised them both when he said, “I think it’s time that you forgave yourself.”

She sat upright for the first time in hours and let the conflict wage its battle inside her mind. Her silence was painful, like being trapped in the back of an alley with no option but to climb or face what’s feral. In her mind, those trepidations could fight against their secular constraints, any metaphor leash too overburden for sedation. It didn’t matter that the men who hurt her were dead, it mattered less that she was physically safe.

She couldn’t see Brazen. All she saw was her younger self. And for the first time, he saw her too, all bloody knees and plasma eyes, lips frisking a withered ‘no!’

He could tell she didn’t know that she’d screamed that word outloud. She didn’t hear that same word slip from his own tattered mouth.

This moment should have felt bigger, and in its own way, more cathartic. He should have shamelessly slipped back into the role of her patron. But through a lens of comprehension, the strength he once held somehow left him.

He held her and she cried, and she felt harder in his hold, like she’d aged ten years in the last few moments.

“I want to be alone,” she said, sobbing into his chest. Seconds later, “You’re too nice. I don’t deserve this. I don’t.”

Burying his face in a her hair, he realized she wasn’t stronger. In fact, her limbs and joints had become more disconnected. Her sobs curled into his neck, like she was trying to scale his plexus and bone and crawl into his skull for an escape. Because he was the one that was different, the one that would never treat her that way, and she indulged his herculean roots until they took hold inside her own skeleton and forced the bond of her shoulders and hip bones.

He pushed back at the thought of clemency, and the inclination for an end, and the brooding notion to think about himself.

“It’s not your fault,” he said, extorting his selfishness from the comment.

“Brazen. I’m not your fault either.” He pretended not to hear her, instead focusing on rubbing circles on her back.

“I’m sorry,” he said, doing his best to shelter her from his own defeat.

The foundation rippled from the inside, but he did his best to hold her form together.

Even when he failed, she’d forgive him in the morning.


Anna Keeler is a poet and fiction writer attending Rollins College in Winter Park, FL. Her work has been published or is upcoming on, Crab Fat Literary Magazine, Red Fez Literary Journal, Indiana Voice Journal, Potluck Magazine, Leopardskin & Limes Literary Journal, The Merrimack Review, Cleaver Magazine, The Writing Disorder, Outsider Poetry, The Chaotic Review, and Smaeralit.


Rod Says Number 12 Looks Just Like You – by Tessa Livingstone

Tell me, Reverend: is life so stinking cheap that you can throw it down the drain?

I’ve got a worthless, miserable little life, but I also have an instinct for survival.


I know I had a nervous breakdown. I know I had it on a plane.

I know it looks to you as if the same thing is happening again.


Look, there’s someone on the wing. I’m not imagining it; he’s out there!

Don’t look, he’s not out there now. He jumps away when you see him.


Fasten your seatbelt, sir. We must muddle through these things.

Push up and push out because if you stop, it’ll get you by the throat.


The truth is, this isn’t real flesh. There aren’t any real nerves under there.

Each of us woke up one moment and here we were in the darkness:


No knowledge of what went before. No understanding of what is now.

No knowledge of what will be.


Your whole life has been a fantasy, a parade of illusions,

and now you can have it all to yourself.


Look! Remember what I told you before, about seeing something outside?

There’s a man out there. A—a gremlin! He’s tampering with the engine.


Hurry, hurry! He’s out there! Look, Reverend, he’s pulling up one of the cowlings!

There’s a man out there! Would you look! Would you please look in the name of—

tessalivingstoneTessa Livingstone lives and writes in Portland, Oregon with her haunted clown doll, Jack.

celestial 13 anomaly / add colour to taste – by Peter Bracking

celestial 13 anomaly

infinitely rarer than cerulean moons

artemis armed gorged to burst edge

one : a whole lot of zeros

full this isolated 13


rarer than night overcast g street june evercold

neon breathes whiskey

pheromones disguised as musk

sing antennae jolts

desparate dna dance

moves earth and sky wheels

early am wakeup sirens rude



unique as that


add colour to taste

mix the light now

fold it impossibly in into itself

producing crenelated twilight creeping preceding

that bowl of shy city stars soon

this mix

light enfolding dark

balancing dancing a pinheadful

at a time


Peter Bracking tells tall tales. Earth point: a tropical metropolis


Words have literally been published from ocean to ocean to ocean by some really great literary mags in a growing number of countries on half the inhabited continents.


The only occupation is being a beach bum. Peter is the artistic director of Utter Stories.


Self aggrandizement:

The Frozen Sky – by Rebecca Harrison

The Frozen Sky

Marilla walked in blue shadows. Before her, the glacier towered in chill heights. The air felt like waiting wind. The snow breathed silence. She huddled into her furs. The blue glaciers were once skies, but when coldness had cloaked the world, they’d frozen and sank. She picked up a small piece of the blue ice – it fit in her palm. She held it to her eye, peered through and saw the long ago views from the ancient skies – lost lands and seas.

About her, snow fell and wind widened but she only saw the vanished world. Through the ice, she watched warm lands flowing beneath gone away skies: rivers and forests, mountains and plains. The piece of ice began to melt and in it she watched day thicken into dusk. She stood still in the pale morning while she followed flocks of strange birds on the night winds.

The ice shrank between her fingers. She saw lakes blooming with reflections of unknown stars. She watched the old world until the piece of ice was gone. The snow had stopped falling. She forgot the lands seen through the blue ice. She trekked home. Only when the snow fell did she remember the vanished world beneath the old skies.


Rebecca Harrison sneezes like Donald Duck and can be summoned by a cake signal in the sky. Her best friend is a dog who can count. Through the WoMentoring Project, she was chosen by Kirsty Logan as her mentee. Rebecca’s been nominated for Best of the Net, and her stories can also be read at Paper Darts, Maudlin House, The Wild Hunt, and elsewhere.

Poetry Collection – by Adam Levon Brown


I exist in the shadows

of an empty stomach

and broken dreams

I strive for the stars

while sitting amongst

the windswept clouds

I stare in the direction

of the soliloquy sun

while biding my time

I jump at the opportunity

to share a piece of myself

in the bleak December rains

I live for the unexpected

and the train-songs sung

by the unknown poet.


Gifts of Burden

I carry around my misery

like a bag of presents

I present them to everyone

I meet along the arduous journey

Suffering for you, self-pity for them

and a bit of darkness to top it all off

By giving these gifts away, I am

freed to experience positive emotions

By giving these gifts away, I can

relate to you in ways that simple

Consumerism fails to do.

I will walk the lonely road

and settle in silence when

the day is over and done.


Architect of Dreams

The madness washes

over me like waves of relief

I can feel my mind

begin to warp

into the multi-headed


I push open the door

and reveal my true being

That of both a saint and

a sinner, hellbent to

callous the inner

markings of my heart

I drop the multitudes

of philosophical

progeny which

have been created

I run naked

through the realms

of paradoxical dreams


Matrimony of Thoughts

Ricocheting off my brain

like cedar doors on a hot, humid day

Your voice cannot penetrate

the inner workings of peripheral


Moody malignancy

performs the ensemble

in fast forward renaissance


Split the atom and

now we end


Adam Levon Brown is a published author, poet, amateur photographer, and cat lover. He is owner of Madness Muse Press; a micro-press that publishes dark poetry, and a book  reviewer for Five 2 One Magazine.

Poetry Collection – by C.C. Russell


Simply because sometimes

when I come back

to this town,


all I want

is to trace the route

through the red

push-pins on the map

of us


to see if anything

is left.


Previously published in Arsenic Lobster – 2015 anthology



I want to be a footnote in your single sentence, a history of waters and the chemical constitution of summer air – outlined and credited, denoted in small subscript by a single digit.  I want to be the wordy explanation of your choice of dialect – your justification.  I want to be quoted, if even indirectly, by your life.  I want to be a clean reference, further proof to back you up.  I want to be a footnote in your single sentence, a footnote longer than the sentence itself, the convoluted back-story behind the words that have been decided on, the words that – though diminuitive – finally say all that needed saying.


   Previously published in Firewords Quarterly



The rain across your face, hair stuck

in backwards commas to your forehead,

I suppose I should have said it –

something stupid, sentimental.


Wyoming fall trees, black branches

against slowly whitening sky,

we touched palms to fingers;

a quiet kind of language.


We walked together, coats catching

in a slow sort of friction.  We taught each other

small new words for anger, for lust,

slight words towards forgiveness.


Hours in a parked car

trying out new sets of rules,

how to break each one.

The night you asked me to kiss you.


Just once.  And the night I said no.

Ice formed on the windows, your face –

cracked shadow.   Suppose I would have.


Previously published (print only) in Grasslimb


PHOTOGRAPH – Jennifer 1993


She looks up from her Taco Bell

as the flash

snaps her skin to light,

raises her middle finger

towards the ceiling

of the trailer, the hand

thrust towards the lens.


If I’m right, this is the final picture

that I ever took of her.

If I’m right, I deserved

the gesture.




For I have also stopped

to marvel

at snowfall.


I have photographed

moments of wonder

in the attempt

to remember.


I have also trusted

in the sanctity

of my neighbors.


I have stood

and heard

the simple crack

of gunfire.


I have been witness

to the same nights as you

and I am still



For that, I offer

my apologies,

small as they may seem


and a pledge

to remember

your name.


ccrussellC.C. Russell lives in Casper, Wyoming with his wife and daughter.  His writing has recently appeared in such places as Tahoma Literary Review, Word Riot, Rattle, and The Colorado Review.  His short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions, and Best of the Net.  He has held jobs in a wide range of vocations – everything from graveyard shift convenience store clerk to retail management with stops along the way as dive bar dj and swimming pool maintenance.  He has also lived in New York and Ohio.  He can be found on Twitter @c_c_russell384909712_e76e91d716_o

Yesterday – by Paul Tristram


She twirled it around

her finger,

it didn’t break

because she

willed it not to.

Yesterday didn’t matter

and tomorrow

can fuck right off.

It’s jagged

when you think of it.

So don’t fool yourself,

it’s a grind unacceptable,

a price too fucked up

to pay.

There’s no logic

in the teeth

behind you.

And that is not

the correct way to play.


Paul Tristram is a Welsh writer who has poems, short stories, sketches and photography
published in many publications around the world, he yearns to tattoo porcelain bridesmaids
instead of digging empty graves for innocence at midnight; this too may pass, yet.
Buy his books ‘Scribblings Of A Madman’ (Lit Fest Press)
‘Poetry From The Nearest Barstool’ at

And a split poetry book ‘The Raven And The Vagabond Heart’ with Bethany W Pope

You can also read his poems and stories here!