STRETCH MARKS by Ivan Ruccione

Translated from Italian by Sara Russel

This poem may be triggering to readers who have experienced miscarriage.


We don’t have children. We were about to have one, but he died in the womb. Sure, I was grief-stricken, and yet it was relief that prevailed. I truly don’t know how we would have managed. In an outpouring of sincerity, I told her. Not even she, Virginia, wanted to become a mother, theoretically speaking. It’s just that she came to wrap her whole mind around it. It’s a thought she can’t free herself from. A tiger that crept up on her from behind and left the marks of its claws. Stretch marks. A thought that opened up subtle fault lines on her olive skin, indelibly tracing the map of the drama. I look at the alarm clock, then at Virginia. She spends her days reading and dying. Nothing else. She doesn’t care for anything anymore. Cocaine, yes, but it’s an occasional splurge. She hardly speaks. Not long ago I asked her to try again and she said no, it’s better this way; it would not have been fair to me. She kills herself with beers. Discount beers that taste like rust and tears. So bitter.
I fumble in my underwear, lightly touching her butt with my hand, while she sleeps face-down. Strangely, she doesn’t notice. What can I say? Not even thunder wakes her up.



Ivan Ruccione’s stories have appeared in Italian literary magazines such as Nazione Indiana, Poetarum Silva, Altri Animali, Cattedrale, and in American AGNI Magazine, Minute Magazine and The Daily Drunk. He is author of a story collection Troppo tardi per tutto (Too Late for Everything; Augh Edizioni, 2019, preface by Helena Janeczek). He was born in 1986 and lives in Vigevano, a historic town near Milan. He can be found on Twitter @IvanRuccione and on Facebook.

FIVE POEMS by Carly Dudek

OF ALL THE THINGS I COULD BE GRIPPING

My hands gripped the steering wheel. 

This feels like this start of all bad stories.

She sat right next to me. We were laughing,

And then I asked her if she had feelings for someone. 



That someone was not me. I laughed. 

She grinned. They were dreamy, lovestruck,

Star-crossed lovers with every reason to tempt fate.

I was enamored with her joy. 



We sat together and stared at the water. 

I imagined a life where I loved her.  

Where I was hurt. Where she loved me. 

Where I denied her. Where we both loved



Each other.


I’M SURE YOU LOVED TO READ WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG

I’m sure you loved to read when you were young.

Now, you forget what I’ve said 3 sentences ago.

I can’t imagine you’d do well with a book of thousands. 



A generation of geniuses 

(And their kids are getting dumber, it seems)

Must have inherited their wit from somewhere

(And it surely wasn’t their father). 



We used to say you were sharp as a whip 

While your body decayed. 

Both brain and body 

Have seen better days. 

So is the curse of age. 



One day,

I won’t know myself.

The universe will end in a

Supernova.

I will end

In erosion.


TO LIE IN BED

To lie in bed, 

Listening to the sounds of a former teen idol

Singing of a love you only wish you knew. 



To feel so full, so much of a heartbreak you assume—

You beg— 

Is fictional, 

Lest your fantasy of solidarity be spoiled. 



For if he, 

Who sings of loneliness, 

Of a void you know so truly, 

Is not alone— 

What does that mean for you?


DO YOU LOVE THE SMELL OF DECAY?

I think about the way  

It’s not really a personality trait 

To say you love the fall. 



When you arrive, smiling wider 

Than I’ve ever seen, crunching

Leaves underfoot, 



I can’t help but think that 

You are the most amazing 

And unique person in this whole world.



You consume me.  



When you think of autumn, 

You think of sun rays and 

Bright reds and oranges and pumpkins. 



When I think of autumn, 

I think of decay and death 

And the smell of rot.


1765 C (TRIGGER WARNING)

This poem may be triggering to readers who have experienced self harm or suicidal thoughts.

I was pink slipped into the hospital
When I was in college;
It was really unfortunate because being pink slipped
Means they think you are a danger to yourself
Or others, but it’s kind of unfair to think about
Because I didn’t want to hurt myself and
Actually, now that I think about it,
I specifically told them that I was thinking about it
And that’s what scared me, because to reiterate
I did not want to hurt myself or others.


Anyway, the food was terrible and some
Girl actually walked up to me and
Said, “What’s your story?” and I
Didn’t know how to respond so I guess
I just told her that I kind of thought about dying
Too much.


Anyway I got out in 24 hours
But it would have been 2-4 hours
Because I didn’t want to die
But hospitals are like the DMV and it
Takes hours to be seen.


Residents used to do a pretty racist
Impression of the Doctor from South Asia
Saying something like “This is not the Motel Six,”
Because you can’t just check out any time you want.
It felt pretty ominous because it sounded exactly
Like the lyrics to “Hotel California.”


Anyway I still think about it all the time
And have nightmares
And overshare with people who just met me
Because my psychiatrist told me I have mania.


The speaker
Is not
The poet,
I cry indignantly.


Carly Dudek (she/her/hers) holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and a passion for writing that frustrates her to no end. Her academic interests include mental health, adaptation theory, and aesthetics. She currently works in residence life for an arts boarding school.

FOUR POEMS by Mia Ochoa

2,200-SOMETHING MILES OF WISHFUL THINKING

if I told you every story of when I’ve thought I’ve met a ghost

I wonder how many you’d believe

lately I’ve been thinking about these sort of things

how late you’d risk staying up to talk to me

when I’m sleeping on California time

it’s not like my timezone here makes any more sense

I complain about it every chance I get

nonstop dreaming about waking up in Chicago

getting real food and meeting someone new

who’ll make me think the west coast beaches

are a little too tacky for a corn lover like me

am I a nihilist for thinking, if nothing is real

then I should be able to have you?

in the end I guess I’ll never know

(chew up the thoughts,



spit them out)

I keep thinking of the girl I loved and how badly I want to love her again

but she’s stayed the same, timid reverence staining her cheeks

despite the temptation, I’ve quit my habit of chivalry

in fact, I’m not sure I care for

anything anymore

now I’m driving further from you 

ending up just as close

cutting states in half with my toes, I carried

something from coast to coast

maybe it’s the allergies, or all the bad moods

intergenerational pain marked in every chromosome

I hope it washes away in the mountains,

sweated out in salt water

so when I come back I’m stainless, polished

ready for the things about you that I’ll never know


HARDLY A MIRACLE

the weather app said it was 80, but it felt more like 60

as me and my mom stood outside the doctor’s office

then we got a phone call allowing us inside and

in 2 hours, I ended a 2 year streak of being med-free



here’s how I did it: speaking too softly at the front desk

forgetting my ID, gauchely trailing a nurse

to a room I had never been in before, filling out a form I know 

like the taste of my fingernails



it told my doctor I have mild to severe depression, but given my history

she immediately began the “you’re not a failure” spiel

I nodded along to soften our eye contact

with the strength of a washed-up jellyfish, I agreed to SSRIs (again)



you see, I’m always a good girl at therapy and what happens in between bi-monthlies 

but stress is something you’re born with when your family’s one step away from Hereditary

which wasn’t a scary movie, by the way. Honestly, 

it was boring



anyway



my real problem is 

the space from me and my dreams shifts like the New Madrid Seismic Zone

while I waste energy selfishly gnawing on my bones

and the real kicker is, ever since I was little, I’ve had a thing against Jesus

wanting to prove I could do that schtick better than him



I mean come on, I’m 19, I need to grow up

pain isn’t sent from heaven to save me from sin



with my mouth sewed shut, I avoided mentioning any of this

we decided on 20mg of fluoxetine

before I left, a nurse had to draw a blood sample

lucky me, I remembered which arm works better, the blood

splashed in the tube like someone turned a tap on

I squirmed, thinking of how I hate veins almost as much as wine

she asked if I was okay, I said yes



it was a celebration


GLITTER BAND-AID

This poem may be triggering to readers who have experienced self harm.

the equivalent of getting a bomb in the mail

grim metaphor, but that’s the world today

I have canyons in my flesh that were taken from me

the second I saw you, my sleeves rolled up

and instead of drying blood, glitter sparkled

spilling out onto these gritty plastic floors

everyone knows now

on lonely nights, every night 

I clean the mess by snorting the piles

and piles collecting in my bedroom

at least that’s what people assume

the truth is I let you stick to the walls, 

repaint the sides of my bathtub

then I spend all night calming my heartbeat

“I love you” arrhythmically repeats its dance

until I get up the next day

smearing your glitter on everyone I know


SEPSIS (KARMA, AS THICH NAHT HANH WOULD SAY)

if you keep your hands half open on your lap

on a road trip, they feel twisted upside down.

I’m not as bitter and confused as before,

but my pain is still rotting inside.

maybe my words have gotten weaker

because I’ve given up on ever being happy

and I’ve given up on the fantasy of dying.

only inches separate me and my dad.

my head turns to the fields, frozen and lonely.

I wish people didn’t just call me “cool” or “funny”.

my soul must’ve made this choice

long before I was born.

while I stare at the cracks in the highway

I think of how the me I know never deserved this,

but I know I am eager, and when given the option

I prefer to get the worst over with.

this life I’m not meant to be fulfilled,

I’m meant to suffer past when I can’t anymore.

and when I grow old and die my small family will cry

and you’ll sit on my lap as you hold my hand.


Mia Ochoa is an anxiety-riddled Hoosier with an infatuation for heartache and fantasy getaways. Beginning with short horror stories in elementary school, she has used writing as a way to materialize her skewed view of the world ever since. Mia is currently earning her BSW at Ball State University.