1. "Afremov Rendition" by Lauren Sink

     

  2. Philosophy Graduate Student

    An Ouroboros tail in mouth
    I sit in class and stare
    at your push-broom mustache,
    contemplating the profound
    question: would it be
    morally acceptable for me
    to shave the thick bristles
    off your face? Of course,
    I’d probably displace
    a complete civilization
    of Platos and Aristotles
    behind the theoretical
    curtain that shades your upper lip,
    constructing speech with logical slips,
    premises you unleash in lecture,
    frowning at conjectures from students
    who overlook the facts.
    If A is justified in believing B
    and B entails C, then I am
    justified in believing that
    your glass mug is not full of tea
    when you mention consensual
    sex between man and dolphin,
    ask us to debate the ethics
    with a sound and valid argument.
    When Socrates swan dives into
    the herbal hot tub you’re sipping,
    I think maybe the world
    as I see it is a lie,
    the universe nothing more
    than dirt trapped inside
    the feather-duster under your nose
    or a paradoxical snake’s
    essence spinning infinite
    like a barber shop pole.

    Karen Bourne

     

  3. Martha Meets John

    I know she wore a sun dress:
    the hem hovering over the tops
    of her long plump thighs, the white
    skirt stark against her golden.
    She was sixteen. 

    I know he wore only jeans: wild-eyed,
    ready for everything, every bit
    of it. He was twice her age. 

    She was already looking to drown
    herself in the sweep of someone—
    the humidity collecting in pools
    behind the back of his neck
    behind the soft backs of her knees. 

    She does not yet know how violence
    can be served at room temperature
    like a late supper. 

    He does not know how to stop;
    only how to take what she has to give
    and she wants to give and give until
    everything is filled with the anesthetic
    light of winter morning; quiet and empty. 

    If I could’ve taken my mother’s child
    hand in my child hand then led her away.

    Blanche Brown

     

  4. Mirror

    Looking is an itch in the back of the eyeball,

    stretching the lower eyelid, lifting the upper eyelid,
    clawing at the filmy ball to reach the sore, to reach the itch.
    I cannot soothe it

    I twitch and move, bend, manipulate, this body, this face.
    Lift the hair. Move the hips. All wrong.
    I bleach my teeth and delicately paint and erase the same surface. 

    My fingers reach into my skull, looking for the back of the eye,
    With long vengeance nails, blind scratching.
    If I could reach into the reflective surface, pull the ugly out of me.

    Pulling the string of ugly out of me.
    Unveiling the ugly out of me.
    If I could only reach the back of the eye, I would claw the little balls raw.

    — Polina Bastrakova

     

  5. Ghost of the Digital Age by Savannah Gerlach

    In any given room I predict which of my friends and which of my strangers will die first. I note which ones will marry each other, rob banks, and which ones will reappear in my plot-lines thirty years later. When I stare at myself in the mirror, trying to identify my own end, a nictitating membrane lowers itself over my eyes and stops me. When I heard that you died ten days after graduation I looked for you online. I went to the usual places: profiles, search bars and the Herald Sun. The obituaries didn’t know you had a birth or death date, only that you were “joyful and beloved.” It didn’t know you tunneled into your computer screen after school, just that you had “big plans.” A month later I forgot your last name and a year later I went digging again, curious for fossils, but the pages were gone.

    Every now and again, when I roam the web at 3 a.m., curved over my desk, my protein bars and thermos flask, the aluminum stars hanging shapes in my window, craning and reforming into constellations millennia before we notice the patterns, I mistake you for a chat room ghost. Your screen name stands in silence on the screen. You join conversations to listen, then you wander off into the terabytes, the Amazon wish-lists and the Minecraft planets, the pixelated wastelands.

    I’d like to tell your family that memory, these days, is an infinite physical space never fully erased but preserved in the deep files, running through the bloodstream of databases of rocket launchers and racing stocks. ERROR 404 just means you’re somewhere else. 

     

  6. Binge

    Wednesday night sessions inside my dad’s shop
    where blue collar beer bellies escape
    frozen tray dinners, work calls or wives
    with old man gossip and southern slurring
     
    behind three garage doors and our back deck.
    I am home on summer break
    watching ten Netflix episodes
    pajama-clad with a tall glass full
    of chocolate milk when I am called
     
    to play sober taxi for Barry.
    He stumbles through headlights,
    fumbles with the door, falls
    into the passenger seat
    and Dad steps up to my window
    laughing at the squinty-eyed man
    who drops his purple bag
    of half-full Crown Royal
    to the floor as he wrestles

    with the seat belt. Drive careful
    and I do. My dying air freshener
    will not cover the smell of vomit.
    Barry asks about college,
    says my ex-wife is a
    whore, daughter wants
    nothing to do with me.
     
    He’s glad that classes are going well.
    I watch him survive the key gauntlet,
    bending to lift the mat, slow-motion
    momentum planting his face
    against the screen door –

    all spotlighted by high beams.
    But the lights are off
    inside the empty house
    and his Crown sits
    forgotten in the floorboard.
    I find it when I park at home,
    overhead bulb absorbing
    shadows around the purple drawstring
    I now remember packed full
    of marbles in the toy chest.

    Karen Bourne

     
  7. "The Silent Council" by Linnea Lieth

     

  8. Separation

    Sliced until the tip is sharp,
    the bamboo stalks prick
    through the supine victim’s skin 

    like a patient stitch, still sprouting.
    Cradled in the low belly of a boat
    the intended’s lips crust with milk
    and honey, the only sound the hum and buzz
    of insects picking at 

    soft bowels and softer flesh.
    When the drop hits, the pain
    is a relief. The art is in the moment before,
    the water’s slow squeeze like a fist

    hovering above the stalagmite of brow.
    Your goodbye is a flimsy reed,
    a toy canoe, a child’s sigh,
    an insult to the artists I survived before.

    Lauren Bullock

     

  9. Interview with Gail Z. Martin, author of Ice Forged

    Aisha Anwar: Who encouraged you to read?

    Gail Z. Martin: My mom was a kindergarten and first grade teacher, and she read to me from the time I came home from the hospital as a newborn!  She read to me until I had many of the stories memorized.  As I grew up, requests to buy books or go to the library were never turned down (I can’t say the same for other items I wanted to purchase!).  Both of my parents and my grandmother, who lived with us, were readers, and I always saw books in their hands.  Many of my friends growing up were also readers.  One friend and I had to climb a tree to get away from the neighborhood bully, but we took our books up with us and were pretty happy up in the branches.  Another friend used to come over and we’d each find a comfy chair and a good book and read in companionable silence!

     AA: What are your childhood favorites?

    GZM: When I was little, it was the Dr. Seuss books and the Winnie the Pooh original books by A.A. Milne.  The original Winnie the Pooh stories were well written and not just the super-simplified little books they are today.  A.A. Milne wrote paragraphs that could go on for half a page!  When I got older, I loved Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden, the Meg stories and any of the “girl detective” books.  We didn’t have “YA” books back then, so I read anything with a ghost or a vampire in it, including Dracula, Macbeth and Edger Allen Poe.  I also read books of ghost stories, and anything I could find about King Arthur.

    AA: What or what drove you to become a writer?

    GZM: There were stories that I wanted to read that I couldn’t find in the bookstore, so I decided to write them myself!  I started out writing what today you’d call “fan fiction”—stories based on the characters from TV shows and movies, creating new adventures within the framework of someone else’s world.  My friends enjoyed reading them and wanted me to write more, which taught me that I could entertain people.  Eventually, I started writing my own worlds and characters and just kept on going!


    AA: What’s the title of your newest book? Where can readers find it?

    GZM:  The newest book is the first in a brand new series.  Ice Forged is Book One in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga.  It’s available in bookstores internationally, on Amazon, and on Kindle, Kobo and Nook—and soon, it will be available as an audio book, too!  The second book, Reign of Ash, will be in stores in April, 2014.


    AA:  How do your ideas take form? What do you find inspirational?

    GZM:  Ideas come from everywhere.  I might watch a TV show on The History Channel or on The Discovery Channel or somewhere like that and see something about an old object, a long-ago war, a biography, etc., and I get thinking, “What if…”  The same thing happens if I am reading something historical, or visiting a historic site.  All kinds of little things create ideas, and I build off those ideas for bigger things.  I find historic sites and learning about history, myth and legend to be very inspirational!


    AA: Are you working on anything new?

    GZM:  I just signed a contract with Orbit Books for two more books in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga series, so I’m working on the next book, War of Shadows, for 2015.  And every month, I bring out a new short story on Kindle, Kobo and Nook in two other series, my Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures series and my Deadly Curiosities series.   I’ve got some ideas I’m also working on for an urban fantasy book and some steam punk stories, so we’ll see what happens!


    AA: What do you enjoy most about writing?

    GZM:  I enjoy sharing the characters and stories in my imagination with other people and having those creations come to life for readers.  That is so much fun!


    AA:  What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

    GZM:  Never give up.  I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was 14, but my first book wasn’t published until I was 45!  Sometimes, life gets in the way for a while.  It’s a business with a lot of rejection, but if you believe in your stories, you’ve got to keep trying until you break through.


    AA: Your daughter’s coming to UNC in the fall. Does this mean you’ll be in the area for any projects or book signings?

    GZM:  I hope so!

     
  10. "Study of a Cardboard Object #2" by Anthony Hamilton