State of the Wards

She   applies   ink  to   her   lips  and  begins  running
her mouth on  the  page. The   folk   explanation   for
the  irresistible   urge  to eat dirt.  Organs in  the head
are   the last  to live and the first to  die. We   put  our
hands against  our  heads in moments of  shock,  as if
to contain the enormity. As if   you  could grab   hold
of  the moon  with your hand to keep it from cresting
the distant plateau. As if all you had to do was throw
a rock  at   its   reflection in the puddle. It’s black ice,
smooth as a mirror, by morning.

The  rent  moon   disgorges  onto  a hillock,  releasing  an acrid  light. 
I  pull  on  the  bitter   end of the  rope  from which I am   suspended,
watching   the  blood   drain  from  the  leaves, watching the    boughs
swoon  to   the   heavy breath   of autumn. I describe sluggish  ellipses
and   reflect. The   way to my heart is through the suture in my  chest. 
I bequeath   my body to  superstition. My higher  cognitive  functions
were  not present at the   incident in  question. My  memory  registers
only a restless horizon, a  bottomless glass.  Pure  tones, incandescent 
ovals, soft at the edges.

The eye sockets are cups of black ink. That’s where I jab
my barbed nib. It’s coming down in sheets. The dark streets
illegible with it, the storm drains swallow and swallow and
swallow. Ink runs down the billboards, runs down the faces
at the bus stop. It collects and comes to rest right here, reflecting
the lick of moon that hangs like a rotted eyetooth pulled
from the jaw of night. The cups run over. But
blink, and you miss everything.

Levi Andalou

Levi Andalou’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Minnesota Review, Lake Effect, Spillway, BOMB, Virga Magazine, Sugar House Review, DIAGRAM, Cleaver Magazine, Sonora Review, Phoebe, Ruminate, Pembroke Magazine, and Tampa Review. He is a finalist for both the 2018 Greg Grummer Poetry Award and the 2018 Puerto Del Sol Poetry Contest, and a semi-finalist for the 2018 Boulevard Emerging Poets Contest. A reading of his work was featured on the literary podcast “On the Edge.” The Poetry Editor of Black Warrior Review has said of his work: “These poems and their linguistic turns reinvigorate the prose poem.” The Poetry Editor of Washington Square Review called his work “hypnagogic, surreal, and incantatory.” He graduated from Brown University, where he studied with C.D. Wright, Michael S. Harper, and Ange Mlinko. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can read more of his work or contact him at

Ryan Gajda

Ryan Gajda is an illustrator based in Bristol, UK. His work has been seen on billboards, the walls of shadowy whisky bars, giant LED screens and (in the words of one reviewer of his print shop) framed with “a special place in the guest bathroom.” Instead of sleeping he likes to get ink on his hands and light switches while drawing pictures of Bill Murray. You can give him a tiny hit of dopamine by visiting him on Instagram @ryangajda.

First Featured In: No. 12, winter 2018

The Taboo Issue

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