Up in Smoke

By Erin Ollila

I used to sleep with a man who would wake me up in the morning to a lit cigarette and a cup of coffee. I thought that was so romantic – being woken up by kisses from a man I adored, taking a drag of his cigarette while I watched him light one of my Marlboro Menthol Lights with his monogram-engraved silver Zippo. The coffee was always too hot; I’d lean over his side of the bed to put the mug on the scratched hardwood. I’d lay back, pull the sage sheets around my more-than-likely-naked body and watch him get ready for work. I loved the way he put on his socks: Instead of leaning down to pull the sock over his foot like most people do, he lifted his foot off the floor and put on the sock midair. He’d then stand up, stuff his foot in his black Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers, grab his keys, and head toward the door. Inevitably, I’d have to stop him from kicking over my coffee. He had no nightstands.

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We Speak as One

By Claudia Anderson

I don’t know how many of us are here now. Our weight steadily increased until one day the machines lay silent.  The parameters of our existence really do not bother us much anymore. Weight and length and color are nothing more than shadowed measurements of something once thought important.

We are tired, some of us more than others.  Our collective consciousness is slowly seeping out of this world, thoughts of ever-after more a smile than a possibility.  I think there are six of us here on this flatbed. We mouth colors of Regal Black and Arctic White and Matador Red, but no sound comes out.  Perhaps that is what we were once called.  It doesn’t really matter now.  Our identities no longer lay within the tints of our shell. The cold September wind is whipping around us, rhythmically snapping some long forgotten trim against someone’s bumper.  We lay together, six tall, waiting for our last road trip, trying to remember what we once were.

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Bill D. Hicks

William D. Hicks lives in Chicago, Illinois by himself (any offers?). Contrary to popular belief, he is not related to the famous comedian Bill Hicks (though he’s just as funny in his own right). Hicks will someday publish his memoirs, but most likely they will be about Bill Hicks’ life. His poetry has appeared in Christmas Ideals Magazine, Outburst Magazine, The Legendary, HorizonMagazine, Breadcrumb Sins, Inwood Indiana Literary Magazine, The Short Humour Site (UK), The Four Cornered Universe, Save the Last Stall for Me ,and Mosaic. His art appears in The Blank Page Handbook, The Legendary, and as cover art in Anti-Poetry.

Aqualung

By Medea Isphording Bern

A private soundtrack plays for us who venture down, who kiss the surface goodbye and plunge, feet first, under the waves. The big blue, our languid concert hall, offers measure after measure of muffled hush, accompanied by the ‘schlippp-pssshhh’ of the diver’s rhythmic breathing and the pop and crackle of a thousand jamming reef dwellers.  Aside from an occasional percussive rap on a tank, the chime that draws attention to some elusive or reclusive marvel–a turtle, a hammerhead, an octopus–we flutter toward the sea floor in near-perfect, crystalline silence.

Neutral aural compliments psychedelic visual.  A benign patch of sand sprouts eyes, orbs that dart staccato in their sockets like a watch’s spastic second hand.  A pretty, frilly, sponge-covered rock suddenly sprouts a tongue and uses it to stun a passing goby, swallowing it instantly. Blink, and you miss the spotted eagle ray flying over a knob of lime green brain coral, the snowflake eel warning away intruders, the coral crab playing its castanets.  Glide slowly, all senses ‘go’, and Neptune will reveal the secrets hidden inside every crevice and crenellation.

I was born with seawater in my veins, and curly red hair that, when wet and plastered against my skull, could pass for seaweed.   Our family passed weekends slicing Florida’s shimmering blue waters in our 19’ dive boat, ‘Mal de Mer’ (‘Sea Sick’ en français.)   Several times a year, we traveled with dad’s dive club, the North Osprey Otters, down to the Keys, boat in tow.  We slept on deck or in pup tents on the marl of uninhabited out-islands.  We washed everything–hair, clothes, dishes–in the sea with lemony liquid Joy (according to old timers, it cuts the salt.) We gave wide berth to the grinning barracuda that always hovered under our hulls. We floated within schools of Spanish mackerel, piscine clouds of citrine scrawled with horizontal turquoise stripes, a communion unlike the usual wine and wafer, but that left us feeling reverential and a little bit holy.

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Seaside Boi

By Maya Lionne

The girl was saying something, but he didn’t hear any sounds coming from her – just a rash of noise that had begun with the words “Are you a fucking tranny?” Rain slapped the windshield hard enough to drown her out and for a moment, he thought about staying and dealing with it, trying to educate her, trying to help her understand that he really was a guy, that he just had to “spend some time in the shop” getting some parts corrected, removed, or added. That his name really was Nicolas and yes he bled every month, but he’d been taking testosterone shots and his high tide would be history soon enough, and he really liked spending time with her. But he didn’t stay. He didn’t offer any explanations or education, didn’t offer understanding. He just unlocked the car door, stepped out into the rain, and slammed the door behind him. She waited a full zero seconds before she started the car and drove off in the opposite direction.

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INTERVIEW: AJ Janavel

thewaiting

AJ Janavel is the creator of the all ages webcomic Must Be This Tall about three kids who go on huge adventures that just happen to take place in their backyard. He sometimes goes by Alfred James, because he wants to feel fancy. 

In this interview with Paper Tape editor, Kristy Harding, Alfred talks about the origins of Must Be This Tall, his process and inspiration, and whether or not cheese whiz is essential in a Philly cheesesteak sandwich.

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Why We Don’t Buy

By Harmony Button

I never used to snooze. It was the button on my 1990s Big Lots clock radio that I never fully understood: why wake up just to suffer in limbo, knowing more real sleep is not an option? Then, I met Jason, and suddenly I started wearing skirts, hitting snooze, and learning to cook artichokes. Jason is a handyman photographer who knows how to appreciate poetry: with a spoon, unwittingly. Sometimes, I catch him mouthing words just for the sound of them. Festoon, my breadbasket Rothschild! he rumbles from the belly, impatient at red lights. I had found my own dream of a common language. I found, at least, a basis for comparison.

Like most other addictions, snoozing leaves me disoriented and unsatisfied, and yet, I really do enjoy it. I can take a look through the spyhole in the door and tell the morning knocking to be patient while I find my slippers, fix my figurative coffee. The morning steps back, wall-eyed face blurring into sight, and shuffles foot to foot, a package of day in his hand. He rings again. Leave it on the doorstep, I shout from inside, but the muffled voice of morning says I have to sign for the delivery. I sigh and open the door, clutching bathrobe tight at the neck. It’s a new day, the morning says, handing over the package while I sign on the dotted line. Funny, I say, I thought it might be my new self.

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