Skeleton Tree by Kaitlyn Luckow

It’s not like she didn’t plan on coming here. In fact, if she was brave enough to be honest, a part
of her yearned to be here. It all led up to this: home.

The forest, with its skeleton trees that still produced impenetrable shadows, made her feel as if
this was where she belonged.

She looked down at her t-shirt that used to hug her chest, but she didn’t need to be hugged
anymore. This was no place for that. This was a place where all around you moved in. The trees
enveloped you in their arms and held you as close to their ragged trunks and fallen leaves as
they could.

She had been here before; the trees creaked to her and sang her a song that hallowed out her
soul so that she could make it whole again.

****
“You feel like you deserve this?”

“Yes.”

“And why is that?”

“I don’t know.”

“I think you do know. Can you tell me?”

“I’m nothing.”

“Why do you think that?”

“Because it’s true. It doesn’t matter. I don’t matter.”

“Why do you think you tell yourself this?”

“It’s all I’ve ever been told.”

“By others or yourself?”

“By everything.”

“So, is that why you do this to yourself?”

“If I’m nothing, then I should be nothing.”
***

The roots of the trees, the ribs of the trees, jut out of the earth, but she didn’t try to avoid them.
She liked the twinge of the sharp points, liked the way the rough edges took her breath away so
she could try to breathe again.

She looked around, desperately hoping to see her again. Last time, she had disappeared into
the roses before she had a chance to finish. Not this time. This time would be different. This
time, maybe the thorns would keep her.

***
“You mentioned once that you feel better. Is that true?”

“I feel more…right.”

“Describe right.”

“I don’t know. Like, this is me. This is who I am.”

“But it wasn’t always.”

“That’s because I didn’t know.”

“What made you know?”

“She did.”

***
The shadows of the skeletons wilted away to make room for the stars that never came. But she
was still able to see. The only thing she needed to see was the dark.

A gust of wind overtook her entire body and she felt emptily whole as she smiled.

She was here.

She filled her lungs with the wind and breathed out ash. It danced in front of her like blood in
water until the ash started to come together to create her pointed face of razor cheeks and
jutted lips. Her black wings were her cloak that she bathed in and sparse feathers dotted her
skull as the remaining ashes blew away.

Her black wings folded down over arms and she held out her hand.

“Give me your hand, Lily,” the woman said.

Lily held out her hand and touched her finger to the woman’s. Black ink started to fill up her
hand with cold and the black danced around her wrist and rooted itself through her elbow.

The woman smiled down at her when it was filled.

“Welcome home.”

***

“And what has she told you?”

“That I needed to be better. That I wasn’t good enough.”

“Why weren’t you good enough.”

“I was too much.”

…..
….

“And do you feel better?”
***
The woman floated across the fallen leaves and wrapped her wings around Lily.

“My dear, I can finally wrap my wings all the way around you.” The woman kissed her on her
cheek. “And I can finally feel your bones.”

Despite the wings, despite the kiss, Lily was cold.

“Don’t be afraid, darling. It’s okay to be cold.”

She could always read her mind. That was Lily’s favorite part. Someone understood. Someone
made her not feel like, as her mother would say, “crazy”.

“Being cold only means that you can feel.” The woman smiled.

***
“Yes, I am better.”

“Your mother brought you here because you keep fainting. Do you think that’s really better?”

“Sort of.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“It’s worth it.”
***
The woman lifted her wings and held Lily away so she could look at her.

Lily stared back. Hoping she wouldn’t see. Hoping she wouldn’t notice–

But the woman lifted her eyebrows knowingly. “Lily.”

“I know,” Lily whispered. “I’m sorry.” She dropped her head to look at her thigh peeking out
underneath her shirt. The skin bulged up, the lines a gross reminder of all of her mistakes.

The woman put her hand on Lily’s thigh. “Let me help you.”

The black ink flowed from her wings, through Lily’s thigh. As the ink dripped from her body, so
did the fat, so did the lines.

Lily felt relief.

***
“It’s worth it? Is it worth it if this kills you?”

“Do you want it to kill you?”
***
“Thank you,” Lily whispered to the woman.

But the woman didn’t smile back, she didn’t take away her hand. She only furrowed her brow. “It
is not enough,” she said in a flat voice.

Lily’s eyes widened as she looked down at her legs to see them dripping, dripping, dripping with
ink. A black pool filled the forest floor. But it just kept dripping. Her legs kept dripping.
Disappearing. Lily looked back at the woman, panic filling her lungs.

“Please,” Lily said.

“Not enough,” the woman said flatly, not looking at her, but smirking at the pool of black she was
creating.

Lily tried to move, but she was trapped. She couldn’t lift her feet. And it kept dripping.

But then, she spotted it, a flash of red. A flash of thorns behind the woman who wouldn’t stop.

***
“I’m so afraid.”

“You don’t have to live like this. You don’t have to be afraid.”

“Help me.”
***
The roses reached up like flames behind the woman and swiftly grabbed her by the by the
wings. The force tore away her hands. The ink started to dry up.

“But, dear. We’re not done yet. We’re so close,” the woman said calmly as the rose branches
started to lift her up. Her eyes told of panic.

Lily didn’t say anything, frozen to the forest floor amongst the ink.

The roses lifted up its branches and dug it’s thorns into the woman’s skull. The woman
screeched as her feathers started to give way to ashes.

“Lily, you don’t want this. You need to–”

The largest and brightest rose lifted its bulb over the woman face. It opened up its petals and
collapsed over her screams. The thorns disintegrated the darkness into mere ash and all was
silent.

Lily felt something warm slide down her hollow cheek. She lifted up her finger and wiped the
tear across her face.

Maybe she didn’t have to be hollow.

This forest never had to be her home.

Twitter: @kaitlynluckow  Instagram: kaitlyn.luckow

Website: Kaitlynluckow.com

“Skeleton Trees” is a short story that follows a main character as she deals with her anorexia through conversations with her therapists and a magical realism world that she creates to justify her actions against herself.

Kaitlyn is a writer based in Portland, OR. Her roots are in education and she was a high-school English teacher for five years before taking the leap to follow her passion for increasing compassion and understanding through storytelling in writing.

She believes in the ability of writing as a vehicle for empathy. In order to tell stories that unite, she believes in the power of well-crafted writing, honest storytelling, and creating stories that connect.

Her creative writing has been previously published at Wide Eyes Publishing, Barren Magazine, and The Crybaby Club.

 

 

 

Poetry by K Weber : Untitled, Freelance Patient, Support System, Observation

Untitled

nearing the sallow
fen, the natural

eye spots
a cardinal, up-

tick deer.
golden

ragwort creeps
the footpath.

sun escapes
behind a yawn

of trees stretching
limbs to form

an awning. rock
and dust

sleep here
every night

without objection.

This untitled piece is from my 2018 online chapbook/audiobook “cling as ink.”

Freelance, patient

I am terrified
of whatever’s going wrong
with me but I am old
enough to know that
when it feels like a heart
attack, a broken
bone, diabetes,
typhoid, it’s not. It’s all
in my head like the pointy
fingers laughing at me
while I break in half
and halves again.

Support system
There are bones
relying on other
bones. Right knee-
cap is wrong.
Hip pops and thigh
crackles hot. Discs
light up with sparks
on tender meat.
Spinal fluid may
contain a patient
silt. It waits for any
color; determines
today as a mood ring.

Observation
The maple leaves
are little paws
stretching
in reflection. They
want to tap into
the river to reach
past stone and into
each fish.
My back
on the grass,
I eyeball clouds
through oak
and acorn. The roots
grow into me
and I await
dragonflies.

K Weber lives and writes in southwestern Ohio. THIS ASSEMBLY is her 5th self-published online chapbook and audiobook project. Her writing has been included in issues of Memoir Mixtapes, Detritus Online, Black Bough Poetry, Writer’s Digest, Moonchild Magazine, Theta Wave and more! Her photography has appeared in such literary magazines as Barren Magazine and Nightingale & Sparrow. K earned her BA in Creative Writing from Miami University in 1999. More publishing credits and access to all of her online book projects at: http://kweberandherwords.wordpress.com

Poetry by Peach Delphine : Weight and Shadow

After Granny passed
they divided her possessions,
an aunt took her best cast iron
painted them with country themes
for kitchen decorations.
The three legged camp oven
I dug out of the trash,
her favorite gumbo spoon,
the iron pot,
potato masher,
her old knives,
black handled from fat,
and the old chipped serving bowl
she taught me to hone them with,
on its unglazed foot.
Pawpaw would say, “if you need a blade sharpened, take it to Mama”
then I came along,
flesh made whetstone,
and taught the knives to sing,
so many tongues sprouting verdure,
so much cutting in those pots,
so much emptiness filled,
ciphers of transformation incised.
An unnatural relationship
is what she called it
before dragging me in front of Pawpaw,
“look at the child’s arm,
look at the child’s leg”
and they both wept,
“Why?”
left unanswered on the linoleum.
Echoing hollowness,
how to say broken,
how to say, “this cut is smoke, this cut is flame, these cuts are sea, this the language of
laceration”
wind of emptiness swimming in the grove,
staring out the screen door
oranges in bloom, bee heavy,
sink dripping, mockingbird
rendering some other bird’s song.
Time does not dissipate
the weight of their fear
still heavy in my hands,
their grief still a shadow

in every reflection.
The iron pot still on my stove,
the spoon in its rest
and every blade in its place,
honed effortless,
glittering book of psalms

Twitter @PeachDelphine

Interview: Editor of Bone & Ink Press Jessie Lynn McMains

Hi Jessie,

Thanks for the interview.  I have read some of your poetry & have seen your

Ideas for numerous chapbooks & zines, and in ways I think we are working

In the same circle for the most part in uniting people through poetry.

Q1: How do you stay motivated, or keep hungry to edit zines as well as putting

Out creative works yourself? What motivates you, or what about poetry/writing helps you explore what you are most passionate about?

 

I honestly am not sure how I stay motivated. Being the editor and publisher of both an online magazine and a small press as well as trying to find the time for my own writing is exhausting and frequently demoralizing. I have too much to do and not enough time to do it, and about twice a week I have mini freakouts where I think “I’m gonna quit it all!” I say this not as a complaint but as an honest statement of how difficult it is. I suppose what keeps me going with both writing and publishing is that these are the things I feel most powerfully called to do. All I have ever wanted to do is make art/be an artist. Over the course of my life, I have had training or experience in pretty much every form of art, but writing is the one I’ve focused most on, the one that’s been there for me when nothing else has. And running a press and magazine is an extension of that—since I got into zines at a very young age, I’ve always been publishing other people’s work as well as my own, and when I was 16 I vowed that one day I’d have my own small press like Henry Rollins did with 2.13.61. So writing my own stuff, and helping other people get their writing out into the world, are the things I am best at, and I do them because I have to.

Q2: You have strong passions in regards to writing and influencing poetry in the LGBTQ community, How good does it feel when your editing someone’s work,

And you can feel the piece is making a statement and not just words?

I do have 2 siblings whom are both poets/writers in their spare time as well. They haven’t always had as many writers to choose from to draw influence.  What works of yours or others from your past books, zines, would you recommend the most to those looking for strength to being their “strongest” self and draw out the most confidence in who they are?

 

I don’t consciously choose to publish pieces that make a statement. I find writing that’s overly didactic, or preachy, or feels like it’s beating me over the head with a message—even if it’s one I agree with—pretty boring. What I look for are pieces that tell the author’s stories and truths and tell them well, in a way that grips me or surprises me. By stories I don’t necessarily mean clear narratives, and by truths I don’t mean facts. I mean that my favorite pieces feel to me like the writer had to write this particular piece, like there was something in there they needed to say, and by extension, the reader needed to hear. In that case, I suppose they are making statements, in a way. My aim as an editor is never to overwrite the author’s vision, but to help them tell their truths in the best way they can.

As for other people’s work I’ve published that I wish I’d had access to when I was younger, here’s a very short list, in no particular order:

I love all the pieces I’ve published, but the above are the three I feel the most personal connection to. If you wanted to know all the authors and pieces that have encouraged me to be my truest self, not just the ones I’ve published, the list would be a lot longer.

Q3: Obviously you’re a fan of classic rock with your themed editions of your zines. A fan of Bruce Springsteen, and I believe I saw Thin Lizzy mentioned as well.  What role does music play in coming up with lines to your poetic works? Do you have many music thematically based zines throughout the years?

 

I am a fan of a lot of classic rock. I’m also a fan of punk and indie rock, and ska and reggae, and soul, folk, country, jazz, cabaret, classical, opera, pop, weird unclassifiable stuff. I love music and it is one of my biggest inspirations. I often riff off lyrics when coming up with poetic lines, or I listen to instrumental pieces and try to fit the cadence or form of the poem to the rhythm or feeling of the piece.

I’ve published quite a few musically-themed issues of my own personal zines and books I’ve self-published. Even the ones that aren’t musically themed have music threaded throughout because, as I said, it is one of my biggest inspirations. Both my newest chapbooks are music-oriented—TGWTMC is all poems inspired by Courtney Love, and ftfafm references all kinds of ‘90s songs. As far as compilation zines or books that are musically themed, the Springsteen anthology is my first. I’ve tried, twice, to publish a Clash-themed fanzine, but the first time I put out a call I got five submissions, and the second time I got…zero. Maybe I’ll try again in the future, though I think I know who I wanna pay tribute to with an anthology next, and it’s not The Clash.

I also have a few other music-themed projects in the works, both personally and with Bone & Ink Press. Personally, I’m working on a chapbook inspired by Lou Reed/his music. And two of the first chapbooks B&I is publishing in the fall are inspired by musical figures—Alex DiFrancesco’s Bird is the Word takes its inspiration from Iggy Pop (and his pet bird, Biggy Pop), and Marion Deal’s Cool Talks, Dead I Guess was inspired by Jim Morrison.

 

Q4: Top 5 Bruce Springsteen songs? I obviously enjoy the Born to Run, Dancing In the Dark, I’m on Fire, but there is this song Highway 29 I seem to enjoy the most from the Ghost of Tom Joad.  A little bit lesser known over all.

 

In no particular order, and subject to change—except the first one, which is forever my all-time favorite Boss tune:

  1. Atlantic City
  2. Backstreets
  3. Dancing in the Dark
  4. No Surrender
  5. Thunder Road

 

Q5: I’ve grown up in the Midwest (besides a year living in New Orleans in 1999) all my life.  Living in Southern Indiana & Western Kentucky there is always many people you run into who aren’t always open minded.  You live in Wisconsin, correct? How much does your environment play in coming up with ideas for a story or poem?

 

Yes, I live in Wisconsin. I have lived in the midwest on and off for most of my life—I was born in Lansing, Michigan and lived the first part of my childhood in various Michigan towns (mostly Flint), I’ve lived in two different Wisconsin cities (Racine, which is my current location, and Milwaukee), and I lived in Chicago, Illinois for five years. I’ve also lived in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia area) and California (Oakland).

To answer your question—environment is hugely important to me when coming up with ideas. In fact, after music and nostalgia, places are my next biggest inspiration. Places I’ve lived, places I’ve traveled to, I’m obsessed with places. I often find myself writing about whatever place I miss most at the time (whether that’s a city I haven’t visited in years or a local bar that’s now closed). Sometimes I’ll just look through photographs (either ones I’ve taken or ones by other people) of places I’ve known and get inspired to write. Other times, if I’m feeling uninspired, I take a walk through my neighborhood or a drive out into the countryside to see what I can see and then write from that.

Q6: I’ve been writing seriously since around 2001, and just in the last year at 38 years old began self-publishing books and now the Fevers of the Mind Poetry & Art Digest bookzine. I went a few years without writing much at all between 2012 and 2016.  (getting married, becoming a Father) then in 2016 my dad got sick with ALS and passed away on Christmas Night.  I began to write more seriously again, and then returned to reading in public again.  Having Generalized Anxiety Disorder it doesn’t make things easy at times, and fears of sending my own work to presses and zines.    All of this is to lead to the question When did you begin reading aloud, writing seriously, submitting to presses and zines, and inevitably deciding to begin your own zine?

 

I’ve been doing all those things since the ‘90s. I got my first poetry acceptance from a magazine right around the same time I first made a zine of my own—both when I was 12. By 13 I had a monthly column in my town’s newspaper, at 14 my first book was published, and by 15 I was reading my poems at local open mic nights. I’m not trying to brag, here; in fact doing all that at such a young age means I get down on myself for not being more successful/further along in my career. But then I remind myself that my stuff now is very different from my stuff then, and the name I publish under has changed multiple times over the years, so in effect it’s like I’ve had three or four separate writing careers. Not to mention the years when I was still writing but not sending anything out for publication, either because of bad times in my life or just because I was focused on other stuff.

 

Q7: I absolutely love the piece Lilac Palace, 1987 which I read from Kissing Dynamite. Which style of writing do you prefer writing in? A prose, poetic, Sonnet, or fictionally?

 

I love writing in all styles, honestly. Sometimes I get an image or idea and just start riffing on it, not sure whether it’s going to be poetry or prose, fiction or non, and the piece sorta dictates its own form. I’ve gone through different phases with my writing, where I’ve focused more on one style or genre. These days, I mainly write poetry and things that fall vaguely under the poetry umbrella but are hybrids of fiction, essay, and poetry. That’s one reason I love poetry—there are fewer hard-fast rules than there are in other genres. You can tell a story without having to follow a strict narrative like you’re supposed to in fiction, and you can write about your own life without having to stay tied to absolute fact like you’re supposed to in non-fiction.

Q8: How did you become known as Rust Belt Jessie? Do you read as Rust Belt Jessie, or is this more for online reasons?

 

I christened myself Rust Belt Jessie about eight and a half years ago. I’ve lived in the rust belt all my life except for my two years in California, and I became even more obsessed by it when I lived in California because I was so homesick. While I still lived out there, I gave myself a stick & poke tattoo on my left wrist, that says “Rust Belt,” and at the time I was looking for a new pen name and thought of Rust Belt Jessie. I mostly use it for online reasons, and for fun. It’s not a pseudonym—I publish as Jessie Lynn McMains—but I’m Jessie Lynn McMains aka Rust Belt Jessie.

 

Q9: When did you begin Bone & Ink Press?  What do you think has been your best or most talked about issue so far?

 

I began Bone & Ink Press in early 2017, to publish the collaborative chapbook I wrote with my friend Misha Bee Speck. From the get go, I knew I’d eventually publish books by other people and start a lit mag as well. As I said above, I’d been planning on one day starting my own press since I was 16. In early 2018 I said now is the time and opened Bone & Ink Press up for submissions and also put out a call for the first issue of Bone & Ink Literary Magazine. I can’t decide which issue has been the best—I’ve loved all of them and I think they keep getting better and better. Our most read and talked about issues have probably been Vol. 4 (June/July 2018) and Vol. 6 (October 2018, the Halloween issue).

 

Q11: Suggest some Lydia Lunch songs I should look for.

 

I’d suggest checking out everything she did with Teenage Jesus & The Jerks. I also love the cover of “Some Velvet Morning” she did with Roland S. Howard and the cover of “Heart Attack and Vine” she did for the East of Sunset soundtrack.

 

Thanks for the interview

 

BIO: Jessie Lynn McMains (they/them) is a poet, writer, zine-maker, small press publisher, and spoken word performer. They are the author of multiple chapbooks, most recently The Girl With The Most Cake and forget the fuck away from me. They have been publishing their own and others’ writing in zines and chapbooks since 1994, and have been performing their work across the US and Canada since 1997. They were the 2015-2017 Poet Laureate of Racine, WI,  they/she / writer / recipient of 2019 Hal Prize for Poetry / The Loneliest Show On Earth coming Feb. 2020 from @BottlecapPress websites working with include: recklesschants.net , boneandinkpress.com  or follow them on Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram @rustbeltjessie

Patience of egrets (c) Peach Delphine

This shore of conch and mangrove,

Rain, our mother tongue,

Cast down as glyphs beaten into sand,

It requires the patience of egrets

The long glide of pelicans

To endure the loss of your hands

Weight of your body in the warm night

As clock light breathes against the ceiling

 

This weather of absence, so much moonlight

Contained by scars, delicate

Tracery of struggle, cartography of dreams, your words still summon to this shore,

Congregation of spoonbills gathered for tide

 

The shyness of alligators,

The call and response of owls,

A world not yet fallen into shadow

The plumage of night folds into palms,

It requires the roots of mangrove

To weather these waves, long fetch

Of sleepless absence,

Each day a shell curving upon itself

The sound of emptiness 

Coiled within my ear, the sand of loss

Pouring from my hands

 

Follow @peachdelphine on Twitter