Always Them by Amanda Hart Miller

Amanda Hart Miller

Always Them

(Previously published in Apeiron Review)

Little girls can be stolen, especially a little girl with sad, heavy-lidded eyes and a too-small jacket, a girl who carries a stuffed unicorn in the crook of her arm and rubs it against her lips again and again. She waits all alone at a bus stop by a patch of winter-gray woods. The few houses on the street have cardboard taped to the windows and junk on the porches. To put a bus stop here, Johnny feels, someone must have been asleep at the wheel.

Johnny has been watching her now for 41 school days. He marks off the days in his notebook, which he then tucks away. Johnny’s head doesn’t work as well as it used to, so he can’t remember these things unless he writes them down. He writes other things about her, too:


Girlie has ribbons in her hair today but they fall out she keep putting them back in. Girlies hair don’t cover that bruze. Girlie got candy bar today. Girlie stares and stares at the moon this morning I want to be there too Girlie.

On his most daring of days, he trills a bird call and she turns around to see nothing because he’s behind the trunk of a big tree. He rests his cheek against the bark and listens to his heart scurrying back down his throat.

He wears trash bags and rides his bike along the main drag in what is a small town. People say it’s because his wife got burned up in a house fire and he went crazy. He’s written this down. He doesn’t remember that happening, but he does remember lying with Bea after love, her skin silky and scented like almonds and sex, don’t ever leave me but he doesn’t know where she is now. And sometimes he remembers the men under the overpass tying him up and lighting him on fire Ooh-wee… he’s lit up like a Christmas tree but usually this stays deeper inside him in someplace that can’t be remembered but eats him up just the same.

Girlie sometimes tries to trick him, he thinks. She brings chalk and draws pictures on the sidewalk, and she works on them so hard that she has to press her lips together tight so she can think, but suddenly she’ll look up quickly, at his tree. The mornings are getting darker, though. It will soon be the longest night of the year.

After the bus comes and takes Girlie away, he copies her chalk drawings into his notebook. She mostly draws hearts and flowers, and he likes to pretend she draws them for him. When he copies them into his notebook, they are for her.

On January 20th, the sky is much more gray than white. A van pulls up to the bus stop. When the man inside puts down the window and says something to Girlie, she stands up from her drawing and cocks her head. She takes three steps back from the van, and Johnny feels like he’s one of the tiny hairs on her skin—just as bristled and scared. She takes another step back and then looks toward Johnny. He forgets to hide because he falls into her eyes for years before she looks back to The BadMan, who is opening the van door until he, too, sees Johnny.

The man shakes his head and mutters something angry that Johnny can’t hear. The van purrs as it rolls away.

Girlie is smiling at Johnny, thin lips closed and dimples showing. Now there’s this thing linking them, hurtling him through a rabbit hole of jittery nerves so he comes out the other end pumped and fretting at the same time.

The bus comes then and Girlie gets on. He can see her through the window, through her clothes to her skin and even deeper, to her heart sending all that blood around, and even deeper than that, to what it all means. The world has always been just the three of them: Girlie and The BadMan and this block of flesh that is Johnny’s to place between them. With trembling hands, he pulls out his notebook.

Escape from the Siren’s Lair by Stephen Barber

Stephen Barber

Escape from the Siren’s Lair

The ancient who first told the story of Athena’s birth from the skull of Zeus must have had a hangover like this. I may not be the mythic god-king of Olympus, but I surely feel a tiny enraged person trying to burst forth from my head. My mouth feels like it is lined with a particularly old and ratty carpet, and my stomach is a churning maelstrom of cheap booze and chicken wings.

As the world became clearer in the morning light, I realize that the smoke stained, floral print wallpaper and wrinkled pink bed sheets were unfamiliar. There was also a gently snoring creature under the covers to my left.


What had happened? How had a quiet night of libations at the Badger’s Den led me to these odd surroundings? Who or what is this comatose form lying next to me, and for the love of God, why am I naked? All of these thoughts bounced around my already aching skull. Recollection of the night before was still fuzzy; my brain was trying desperately to shift out of first gear.

There was something about Popov and a hint of shame but a more complete picture was not quite forming. An investigation of this sleeping being under the covers next to me was in order. I leant over and pulled down the sheets to reveal the sum of my indiscretions.

Oh unmerciful Bacchus, what hath you wrought upon me!

The naked wrinkled visage of the Badger’s Den’s most storied and reviled barfly, DeDe, lay before me, a woman old enough to be my mother and in no way the sexy Miss Robinson type. If Helen of Troy’s face could send a thousand ships, DeDe’s distorted mug could sink twice that number.

With this jarring discovery, my synapses began firing and the mortifying memory of the night before began to invade my tortured mind. What began as a quiet evening of beer and billiards had turned into a debauched foray of plastic bottle vodka and reckless abandon.

While the vile liquid was disarming my inhibitions, DeDe had closed in like a hungry wolf to a wounded lamb. With a devilish toothless grin, she put her hand on my lap and asked if I could buy her a drink. Unlike wise Odysseus, I veered right into the siren’s boulder-like breasts. The unmercifully vivid memory of her telling me that I looked like a young Marlon Brando before slamming me into the cigarette machine and latching her gaping maw onto my mouth flooded back. I was not even spared the recollection of how her tongue was the flavor of bubble gum martinis and halitosis.

I began to shudder as the fuzzy details of the events after we stumbled back to her dingy apartment materialized. How she grabbed my crotch with a level of aggression that would have made Michael Jackson uncomfortable. It then proceeded to a coital experience comparable only to being caught in a fat, drunk crocodile death roll.

The decision to flee came quickly; I snuck into the bathroom, finding my crumpled clothes. Glancing at the mirror, I saw that my neck was covered in hickeys that looked like they must have been created by some sort of industrial vacuum. After leaving the bathroom, I went to make my final escape, only to be met with a sight of abject horror. DeDe had awakened and positioned herself between the door and me. Her whole shamelessly bare body jiggled menacingly.

She gave me a leer so filthy that it encrusted my very soul with its profane grime. Before my terrified mouth could make words, DeDe turned around, put her hands against the door, and jutted her megalithic ass towards me.

“If you want to leave, you’re going to have to unlock my door with your key one more time, honey.”

Vomit began to swell up my throat as I stared into the infernal abyss stretched open before me. Wildly looking about, I could see that all the windows had bars and that I was trapped. There was only one option left, and it certainly was not to use my “key,” as DeDe so euphemistically put it. I let out the war cry of a man who had nothing to lose and charged with all my might into the bovine buttocks blocking my path. With a tumultuous crash, the weight of DeDe’s vast carcass splintered the door from its frame, sending me tumbling to my freedom.

Achilles and Patroklos by Angelique Sites

Angelique Sites

Achilles and Patroklos


I have feared this time would come,

for like the wind you have swooped in and taken my heart.

I feared its capture, though it has not been enslaved by you, but set free,

free of wrath and replaced by hope.

Even death’s cold departure could never steal the gifts that you have given me,

for I am left forever changed by you.


-Achilles’ love professed to Patroklos

Imagine if a Butterfly by Rebecca Woody

Rebecca Woody

Imagine if a Butterfly


Imagine if a butterfly could sing.

            oh! The joy that could fill the air.

A glowing aurora of voice would ring,

            the world couldn’t help but dare

To reach out to a sun-soaked flower,

            fingers longing for the capture.

Imagine if a butterfly could sing. 

Yet, instead, as one approaches,

            a fearful, flirtatious flutter encroaches.

A blur of blue and purple flashes

            upon the silky green.

Timid, silent, filled with fear.

never wanting one to hear

The God-granted mystery, to one so dear.

Only God can reveal the beauty

            in the rhythmic beat of the innocent.

Only He can reveal the beauty,

            oh! That day is imminent

When the butterfly will sing.

The Gleaming by Jeremiah Sater

Jeremiah Sater


The Gleaming

Gleaming grandeur attracts the many,

drawing them into a forever trap.

Possibility of escape is rare,

though can be found when all is lost.

When escape is seen,

they often turn back,

never knowing life without

that gleaming grandeur.

Held tightly within its grasp,

at first they may have resisted,

while accepting the fate,

but now resting comfortably.

The gleaming grandeur holds them in awe,

blinding them from the things around them,

never knowing what truly should be seen,

trapped with the grasp.

They hold onto it,

serving it, rather than it serving them,

forgetting what should control what,

living forever in its grasp.

Forgetting their past,

and those outside the light of the grandeur,

they walk with the blind,

the blind leading the blind.

But can those blinded find the sight filled?

impossible is not impossible,

but first they must look past the blinding gleam,

to see that there is life beyond it.

The gleaming grandeur only controls

what the heart allows in,

bringing reality to perspective,

the grandeur loses its hold.

The gleaming grandeur will always remain,

near the heart,

waiting to enter,

to fade out reality, slowly regaining control.

Extremes by Patty Apostolides

Patty Apostolides



No man is an island
or an oasis.
Although at times he feels
maybe through lack of understanding
or by choice,
or by unexpected circumstances,
there are always others to
prompt and nudge him along,
to remind him that life is more than
just his little world.

No man is an ocean,
all encompassing, forever moving,
never at rest,
even though appearing calm on the surface,
underwater currents flow
from seething schools of fish.

Although at times he feels
by constant juggling of events
or by waves of circumstances that
flow into one stress or another;
there are always others to
slow him down, to bring him peace,
to remind him that life can be lived,
one moment at a time.

To find balance requires a pacing of the self,
particularly when we witness
a time to grow and a time to rest,
a time to laugh and a time to mourn,
a time to cry and a time to heal,
a time to create and a time to appreciate,
a time to live and a time to die.

Life is a mixture of extremes that
can be chaotic if man dares not make choices
to find the inner balance of his soul –
where there is no time –
and learns to be one with his Creator.

Beauty Is Pain by Katherine Mazzola

Katherine Mazzola

Beauty Is Pain          


As the straps embedded themselves deeper into my skin, I continued to ask myself why. “Why am I doing this to myself?” The slightest movement would drive the wire deeper into my ribcage. The minute I saw my reflection, the heavens opened. Pushed up and perky, my breasts looked great!

Temptation by Chelsea Kershner

Chelsea Kershner


My heart fights your advances,

but my body yearns to be yours.

Smoldering stares left me paralyzed.

Every bone within my body

is no longer my own to control.

Left to crumble without your command,

I stand in my own skin,

begging for the words hanging from your lips

 to speak my name.

My spine aches for your touch.

Your ice cold fingertips,

are the only craving I need satisfied.

The veins in my body

are wired to light with the growl in your voice,

and my fragile neck is connected to be broken at your will.

The fight for control of my own body

has left me ragged and drained.

I have surrendered control of every inch

and yet I feel I have not surrendered enough.

A Wish on Replay by Taryn Owens

Taryn Owens

A Wish on Replay

The silk of her voice floats
on the air around me
her voice deep blue, lovely purple
and elegant black

There is a whirlpool of passion I am caught in
as I close my eyes and allow
the emotion to carry me to a place
only God could have created

The rush of this colorful tornado takes
the hues from her voice and
paints them across my imperfect body
transforming me into an angel

And the shadows that had made
obvious my imperfections are
drowned in this beauty of an invisible voice

A protecting voice that warns
the shadows that made me unbeautiful
the vibrant paint becomes my clothing
my defenses and fear fall away
from this color that is music
that is voice, that is passion
that is love

Without warning the whirpool escapes
from the air that surrounded me
into a place I could never hope to touch
the finality of the end
replaces the tornado in the air
for a few breathless seconds

And then I smile

Only a hint of the angel
that her voice created in me

I walk over to the CD player

And hit replay