How Silent Are the Bodies

Seth Stringer

It’s late spring. The white lilies are beginning to bloom, the cypress in your backyard has grown taller, and I’m in the funeral home once again. I’m three bodies away from your corpse, and I can still smell the formaldehyde mixed with the cologne of flower arrangements. I interrupted the rehearsed flows of I’m sorry for your loss, and you look just like him, to go see your barnwood case. Any minute I swear you’ll move your face, open your eyes, maybe say something wise? A second or third cousin I had never seen came up and said, Did you know that they put plastic caps under his eyes to keep them from moving? 
Your skeletal body wasn’t the same I once knew. Your wrinkled neck mushy, your face unrecognizable. The cancer ate your hands, your nails, your teeth, and the small amount of hair you had left. Pink lights accented your mouth, slightly agape, as if you were trying to say something. The mortician thinks it was a job well done. The family gathers around to see you one last time before the case is closed. An eruption of cries and tears orchestrated the closing of your casket. You though, are still mute. How silent are the bodies at a funeral home.

Night Shore

Seth Stringer

As the shoreline flooded with seagulls, and the stars began to shine, it brought back a memory, a question I had for my father. 

What are the stars? I asked. Some are angels, and the rest are people who have been forgotten. Will people forget about me when I die? Yes, and that’s the way it always is. You don’t need to worry about fame or being significant. God appoints those people. What if God has appointed me to be known forever? No one is known forever; some are just remembered for longer. Even Shakespeare’s sonnets and Beethoven’s sonatas will yellow and crumble. But for now, they echo in the canyon of life. Only God’s words will live forevermore. I’m terrified of death. One hundred years from now, when we’re both gone, this conversation will live among the stars. Look up whenever you’re afraid and see how many exist in the fragments of time. Look up and see how many lives once existed. We are nothing. We are but a simple drop of rain in the tempest. 

After the memory left, I took to the wind-driven waves. I floated and gazed at the stars, and I couldn’t wait to become one of them.

A Phantom’s Eulogy

Griffin L. Smith

This is but a melodic mistake. 
Awaking from my psychotic break, 
I tense up, disturbed and confused. 
I just know evil is amused. 

My brain zaps, quakes, and shakes 
like a spear jolted through daybreak. 
Of the events, what am I to make? 
Okay. It all started from a handshake. 

Then it led to disaster. 
Don’t call the forecaster 
for this hurricane of events. 
I can’t set this precedent. 

I suppose when it rains, it pours. 
God can open and close the doors, 
but I feel like I’m losing. 
So, who’s really keeping the scores? 

They tried to write me off, 
but I didn’t write back. 
I wish I could claim that line, 
but it came from a quarterback. 

I keep trusting in myself and failing, 
up all night and still not prevailing. 
It’s often that I feel like bailing. 
A letter of surrender is what I feel like mailing. 

Maybe it’s best if I stop now, 
calm down, take a look around. 
Will I be a One Hit Wonder? 
I’ve got to make a new sound. 

Let’s drink some water, take a few breaths. 
Let’s sit in a chair and watch the fire rest. 
Let’s open up the holy book and read what’s good, 
and reinvent ourselves like God knew we would. 

I’ve spent a lot of time in prayer 
in a dark room with a pen in my hair 
under the light of a candle flare, 
taking some long overdue self-care. 

You don’t deserve it, 
but the pain is worth it. 
The devil wrote you a letter. 
You’ve just got to burn it.


Caroline Lewis

With the flash of the firework, 
our eyes light up, 
our hands wave sparklers and strew rose petals carelessly– 
across the lawn, across the years. 
The smell mingles 
with that of the gunpowder, 
and together they become the nostalgia 
of a memory in the wind. 

As you scrunch your eyes and laugh, 
as you bite into a ripe strawberry, 
I see myself 
in your eyes 
and when I touch you, 
when we laugh, I am reminded 
of the smoke of a vanished firework 
lit up and glowing 
with the flash from one after; 
a ghost, a memory 
becoming reality for a split second– 
a second too late. 

we are children in our small world, 
dance with me one more time… 

We are young; 
our laughter spins on through the years, 
growing, I think, more diminutive 
as we grow taller 
and the gap grows wider, 
but amid the stars and the sky and the smoke, 
something is immortalized. 

Somewhere between the flash and the smoke 
there is life, life and oh, so much light. 
I will always meet you there in the space between, 
where our hearts reside 
and our memories touch. 
We will never be here again, 
but we will never be far apart. 

The world is big and scary, 
but here, we are oh, so small, 
here where the roses bloom and the fireworks burst 
and we are young and bold.

Cursed Knowledge

Hayden Lanier

Many years ago, three boys teetering on the cusp of adulthood were enjoying a relaxed walk through the forest. The boys’ heads were swarming with thoughts and plans of the future. Careers, spouses, children, wealth, joy, and prosperity were on the horizon for each of these bright young men who were leaving their pasts behind and looking ahead to what was in store for each of them. 
Having recently graduated, Alden, Clay, and Briar went on a trip before parting ways. This is what brought them to the aforementioned forest. This trip was a brief respite that all three adventurers agreed was well-deserved and necessary before embarking on their own individual journeys. 
As they walked, the trio heard a sudden rustling that alarmed them. Stopping in their path, they saw a man emerge from the trees. He could not have looked more unlike the three boys whose stroll he had interrupted. He had a dirty white beard that reached his waist and long, stringy hair the same silvery color. His clothes were old and tattered and the man stalked towards them with the aid of a walking stick. He stopped when he reached them, looking the boys dead in the eyes. 
“What is it that you seek?” the man asked. Understandably, the boys were confused. Alden asked this strange man what he meant. 
“What is it that you seek?” the man repeated. Not having an answer for his question, Clay told the man they did not know. “I possess the depths of wisdom unattainable to you,” the man declared. “I see the future.” 
Still puzzled, Briar spoke up this time, asking the man for his name. “Unimportant,” the man replied. “Do you wish to know how you die?” he asked. 
Surmising this man to be an old cantankerous crackpot, the boys laughed in his face. 
The man’s expression grew grim, almost angry. “I will not be mocked!” he screeched, and as he did so, a clap of thunder roared through the region. A bolt of lightning struck the man’s cane, almost as if summoned, but he was left completely unscathed. Seconds later, the sky returned to the sunny, cloudless canvas that had been displayed moments before.
Startled by the events that just transpired before their very eyes, the boys whispered among themselves and concluded that they would hear what he had to say. Someone who commanded their attention in such a way surely deserved at least a moment of their time. 
They told him they would hear what he had to say. 
“Alden…” he commenced, despite not having been told any of the boys’ names, “you will die a young and tragic death in a few years’ time. Beset with the lures and temptations of the world, you will guiltlessly indulge in all forms of pleasure, and it will be your demise.” 
Alden pictured such a dreadful and brief future while the man continued speaking. 
“Clay,” he continued, “you will develop a disease for which there is no cure and die suddenly when you reach middle age.” 
Deeply troubled, Clay continued to listen as the strange old man predicted the third boy’s future. 
“Briar, you will live a long and affluent life, endowed with all the wealth and possessions one could possibly desire.” 
Jolted and delighted by the positive nature of his fortune, Briar smiled openly at hearing these words. 
“But please, who are you? Why are you telling us these things? Do you even know if they are true?” Alden asked the man. But he disappeared on the spot without warning, leaving no trace that he had ever been there. 
The boys continued on their walk in an eerie silence, traipsing on edge, prepared to be startled or to see the old man return at any moment; but they never saw him again. Although they told each other that they did not trust the strange man’s predictions, Alden, Clay, and Briar all surmised in their hearts that they did believe what this man had told them. His intriguing and mysterious nature both captivated and unnerved them while somehow adding validity to his prophecies. 
After this trip, the boys parted ways. They became men. Though the exact words of the old man they met in the forest that fateful day were forgotten, and the trip became a mere memory, his prognoses stuck with them and changed the way each man lived. They took his words to heart. 
Alden, determined not to succumb to the wiles of the world and allow them to steal his life, lived carefully and thoughtfully. He did not indulge his flesh but did only what was profitable and good for his emotional welfare and the betterment of others. As a result of his chosen lifestyle, Alden lived a long life filled with joy and when his end finally did come, he met it with grace and peace surrounded by a loving and caring family. 
Clay obsessed over his health and made every effort possible to avoid being overtaken by a disease. He ate all the right foods and exercised for years, regularly checking with a physician. But when he reached what the old man called middle age, Clay was diagnosed with a deadly illness. He passed away soon thereafter; his life cut short in spite of his great aims at avoiding such a tragic end. 
Briar, on the other hand, lived recklessly. He partied long and hard, holding back nothing that his heart desired. He knew he would live long and have everything he had ever wanted. If that was how it all ended, he could live however he pleased! So, he did. Notwithstanding, the decisions that Briar sowed reaped detrimental consequences and Briar died as a young adult. His existence was claimed by the sins and foolhardiness of his youth, having never attained the earthly riches he was promised.

Snake Song

Des Killian

Mandibles yawning wide 
she speaks with a dual tongue 
a voice never clearer 
than when laced with vitriol 
attempts acidic sweetness 
A little sugar to douse 
the dripping sour 
venom hiding behind 
her volatile smile 
Should a snake be made 
to sheath her fangs 
to curl in on herself 
muscles straining against 
the will to unwind and 
lash out at a world so harsh 
Held back only by the desire 
to be softer 
She will never be warm blooded 
yet she longs to wrap 
her adoring body around 
Not in death’s final grip 
no, she craves Ouroboros 
a ferocious love that feasts on 
itself unending

Carrion Church

Des Killian

See no evil 
looming high above 
beady black and vacant eye 
watching the world decay 
as they wait idly by 
Hear no evil 
piercing screeches, church bells toll 
words written in red unheard 
auriculars or willful ignorance 
covering their ears 
Speak no evil 
preachers spew vile 
while gossips whisper and leer 
condemning the innocent 
Do no evil 
feathery palms black 
with misdeeds 
sweep their sins away 
every lovely Sunday 
Vultures sit atop the parapets 
as birds of prey file inside the pews


Des Killian

One bag or two 
how much do I leave 
with you 
so many thoughts like this one 
strewn around my mind 
dirty balled-up anger 
and linen-scented love 
piled up in the corners 
Watch your step 
the floorboards are 
worn thin 
Our foundation is 
our shingles too loose 
to weather this storm 
Hurt pours in 
feelings flood our throats 
I expected you to be 
my shelter, my safety 
instead accusations echo 
through the drafty walls 
doubt drips down 
and tears fall across 
the window pane 
confrontation clouds 
my judgment 
I should know better 
than to make a home 
out of other people’s 

You and I have 
such pretty curb appeal 
peel back the drywall 
you’ll find two broken people 
moldy wounds blackening 
from the inside out 
skeletons rattle every closet door 
ghosts from the past 
haunt our hallways 
monstrous eyes peer in 
green orbs awaiting our 
next move 
Can we escape this 
condemned reality 
is it too late to start anew 
the cost of repairs 
is becoming too high 
I’d take a loan out on 
forgiveness if 
only to build a future with you

The Burn

Alicyn Harris

Sarah let out a sigh. “Do we have to visit the creepy old house?” She groaned. It was almost sunset, and she was ready to go home. They’d been hiking all day. 
“This is the last stop, I promise,” James responded, glancing over his shoulder at her and smiling. He paused for a moment, observing the house that sat in the middle of the clearing and was surrounded by woods. “I’ve read stories about this house. Some old couple died here.” 
Sarah stopped beside him, looking out at the half-burned house on the hill. “What were their names?” She asked, looking over at him. 
“Margaret and Edward Smith,” he answered. He looked back at her with a wide grin. “Rumor has it they still haunt this house.” There was a small pause as he looked up at the house for another moment. The sun was setting, casting eerie shadows across the meadow. Without another word, he started walking again. 
“Where are you going?” Sarah called after him, though she knew perfectly well where he was going. He had a curious nature, and she knew he wouldn’t leave until he’d explored at least some of the house. When he kept walking and didn’t answer her, she followed after him. “I don’t think this is safe,” she muttered under her breath. 
James reached the house several moments before Sarah did. She warily stepped inside, nervously glancing across the room. The structure seemed weak, especially the remainder of the ceiling that covered them. It looked like it would collapse at any moment. When she found him, he was standing in the middle of it, a blank expression on his face. 
“What are you looking at?” She asked, walking over to stand beside him. She followed his gaze to a spot on the wall that he seemed to be transfixed on, but nothing was there. It was an ordinary wall. “What is it?” She asked again. He still didn’t answer, just continued to stare at the wall. She placed a hand on his shoulder, but he didn’t move. “James?” 
Still, there was nothing. Sarah began to grow more panicked. “James? Come on, this isn’t funny.” When there was still no response, she shook his shoulder. Her heart began to race. Something was seriously wrong. 
“Boo!” James suddenly shouted, reaching out and grabbing the hand that was on his shoulder. Sarah shrieked and jumped backwards. He was laughing at her. “That was hilarious,” he said, laughing so hard he could hardly speak. “You should’ve seen your face.” 
She punched him in the arm. 
“Ow! That hurt.” He winced, rubbing his arm. A smile was back on his face after a few moments. He started walking through the house again. 
Sarah was shaking her head at him, but she still had a small smile on her face. “Okay, you’ve had your fun, can we leave now?” 
Just as she said that, the faint smell of smoke filled the room. Her brow furrowed in confusion. “Where is that coming from?” No one else was in the house and there was no fire going. It seemed to grow stronger by the second as if they were standing in the middle of the inferno that had destroyed this house over 100 years ago, but there wasn’t any smoke in the air. It was a perfectly clear night. The moon was shining brightly overhead. She gazed upwards, peering at it through the holes in the ceiling. 
“Something’s wrong…” James murmured. A shiver ran through him, and floorboards creaked in the other room. 
Sarah glared at him. “You’ve already scared me once. You won’t trick me again.” Sweat trickled down her forehead and she reached up to wipe it away with the back of her hand. It had been a cool autumn day earlier, but the heat seemed to be gathering in the house. “Can we please leave? It’s hot in here and I want to go home,” she complained. The floorboards creaked loudly in the other room, making her jump. 
“Relax,” James said. “It’s probably just a raccoon or something.” 
A figure, an apparition, appeared out of the darkness. She had a withered face and wore tattered clothing stained black with soot. She seemed blurry and unfocused, and Sarah wasn’t sure if it was her own vision blurring or if it actually was this woman’s appearance. She looked down at the elderly woman’s feet and found that they weren’t touching the ground. It took her only moments to realize that she didn’t have feet at all. Her body faded into nothingness, only empty air, yet when she moved the floors under her shifted and creaked. Moments later, another figure appeared beside her, this time a man with burn marks covering half his face. 
The two of them stared at the young couple, unmoving and completely silent. Their eyes were like black holes, a deep and dark abyss. James and Sarah were almost in a trance as they looked back at the ghosts in front of them. In the back of their minds, they wanted to scream and run, but they found their feet unable to move. 
A light began to grow in the eyes of the elderly couple. It was dim at first but began to grow and light up the entire room. Flames erupted throughout the room, pouring out of the eyes of the ghosts like a dragon’s breath and consuming the house.
An old couple walked down a wooded path in Maine. A small town, where they would begin their new lives, sat at the end of the path. An old house was behind them, slowly being consumed by the flames. The old couple walked hand in hand, small smiles on their faces as they walked along through the darkness. It was a quiet and peaceful night apart from the roar of the flames and the screams coming from inside the house.

Help Myself

Emalyn Sharp George

If there is one thing that I have learned
It is that I am going to be burned
There is no worth in trust
It just makes me feel like I’ve been flattened by a bus 

It is better to be alone
Than to keep getting broken
My friends all leave me a little more hopeless 
I’ll rely on myself only
Even if it leaves me lonely 

I hate when life proves me right
I wanted to believe things would be different tonight 
The world is the same old mess
And my old methods still work best 

I’m not going to sit here and wallow in my pain 
There’s so much more that I have gained
I know that no one is worth my time
I know that someday I will be alright 

I can’t stop the flames
But I can fortify my armor
What you plan to destroy me with 
Will only make me stronger
Like a sword being forged
The heat stretches and grows
I’ll be sharper than iron
When exposed to the cold
So heat the fire up hotter
I won’t break or melt
I know better now
How to help myself.