Ink Cloud Archive

Ink Cloud 2019


  1. "Lovers Like Us" by Julia Carter
  2. "Dear Grandma" by Morgan Cooley


  1. "of pain" by Michael Johnson II
  2. "The Reading" by Steven Philip Lively

Lovers Like Us
by Julia Carter

You kissed me with poison from your last lover still damp on your lip
I swallowed it down like the sticky sweet tea you served me last June
And then I asked for more, more of this fire running rampant in my veins
More compression, depression, cutting off my air supply
Until my eyes grow milky white where irises used to lie

You crack wide open like a cicada in September, shedding yourself,
Burrowing into darkness where you’ll hide for the rest of my life
I cloak myself in the remnants of you, pulling your skin taut
Over my too bigness, squishing myself into your vacant chest cavity

“Love me, love me, love me,” I chant as I lay on my back
Surrounded in you, inside you, but never really having any of you
While you have all of me in my entirety, crooked teeth and knotted hair
Completing you with my incomplete, soothing myself over all your cracks

When I am everything you need, will you finally love me?

“Use me,” I pray as I worship the soft skin draped over the hollow
Where clavicle and shoulder come together as one
I write my sins across your ashen skin
The tip of my tongue my fountain pen

I need you to break me in the most glorious of ways
Rip me open, hollow me out, feast on the blood and flesh
Until all that is left is the essence of me and all that I lack

Dear Grandma
by Morgan Cooley

You told me
I was worthless
Just a pair
Of forgotten shoes
The dog tore up


You told me
I would never amount to anything
Just seeing the
“failures” of my parents
Under the weight of your disapproval

Walking away
On Thanksgiving
I won’t forget

A line drawn
Through the word family
Between Grandmother
And Granddaughter
Unforgotten words

Thanksgiving was
In a different home
Held together without blood

You told me
You refused to help me
Pay for college
Because I am
The way I am

Through the pain

I made it here anyway.

of pain
by Michael Johnson II

a youngster—
to wit, just a boy.
age three
barefoot in rain puddles
stamping away tears
from some long-gone
Mom's twisted face
his eyes down
wet feet
breaking the cycle
of pain

of pain
well known by his
for whom he dances
kicking up drops
that sparkle
morning sun
new life on
dead grass
he laughs
barefoot and dancing

The Reading
by Steven Philip Lively

"It's like we're on
a train," someone says.
There is four feet
of thin worn carpet
in the northernmost aisle
of this narrow bookstore
Where the local poet,
A published, prolific professor,
Prepares a Power Point
presentation prior to performing.
~Those P's wrote themselves~
In this single aisle,
A woman has collected
seven seats, six stools
to serve as satisfactory
sitting options squarely secured
~Those S's were stretches~
for the incoming anonymous
manifest of friends, colleagues
who conduct themselves like
strangers or companions on
a metropolitan commute or
lengthy return to relatives
whom they see less
and less each year.
We're trained from youth
to be still, civil,
engineered from our childhood
to be polite. Always.
As the bookshop's car
fills with late arrivals,
We shed our layers
and peel away ourselves
To become more comfortable.
And those who arrive
before the poet's departure
from real life realize
that they are suddenly
seatless. They'll see less
with coats draped over
their arms like towels
or plain white bedsheets
that danced in backyards
of our grandparents' youth.

Ink Cloud 2018


  1. "Irma" by Danica Navarrete
  2. "Muddied Earth" by Josalein Valenzuela


  1. "Sophie Didn't Make the Cut" by Jaclyn Garver
  2. "November 5th and It's So Far Away" by Steven Philip Lively

by Danica Navarrete

There’s a special kind of terror
When your mind goes into spasms
Living over one thousand miles away
From everything and everyone you’ve ever known
Counting down the days until its possible destruction
Staying close to my social media
Watching my friends and relatives
Pack up their bags in a panic
Gather their most treasured belongings
Leashing up their pets
Shuttering up their windows with pure steel
Rearranging furniture in their homes
Attempting to save them In case of a flood
Saying a prayer for their safety
Double checking their lists
Playing Tetris in their trunks
Strapping themselves into their cars
Ready for a lengthy journey
Hoping they have a home to return to.
Struggling to find fuel for their cars
Desperate for bottles of water
Residents and tourists all fleeing at once
Traffic is reduced to a tortoise's crawl
Tensions rise as she progresses closer
Tuning in to weather stations
Listening to the meteorologists 
Like I was the firmest believer in the
World’s largest church
They speak of the worst peril the
Gulf has ever seen
My heart and my lungs are shrinking
My stomach is melting in the hottest lava
In the most devilish volcano
My limbs are trembling
I can’t find the power to move from my seat

My memories swoop before me
Riding my bike with my dad
Down to the little Cuban market
For chocolate milk and donuts
He’d drink Café Con Leche
Learning how to swim
In a hotel pool
My mother in the water with me
Teaching me to kick and use my arms
With dozens of palm trees above
Performing in musicals
When I was sixteen
Making lifelong friendships
And walking down that same auditorium
As I won second place in a beauty pageant
Reading my first college acceptance email
While I was sitting at work
A brick and mortar soap shop
Which I loved dearly
Tears welled up, and I never felt more proud
My entire life could be
Washed away, in a matter of days
I cannot help but imagine the sight
Of watching my old school and home
Meet their certain death
There’s a special kind of terror
When your father says he’s staying behind
With all of this in mind, I’m frozen.
I don’t know what his fate will be.
Irma will come, and we will wait and see.

Muddied Earth
by Josalein Valenzuela
I find myself wanting only:  
         To plant kisses in the hollows of your cheeks,
         And to watch your blushes bloom.
But everything is muddied.
         The earth—shallow where I’ve buried my pain, 
         Coming back up each time it rains.
Yearning for another time when you would: 
         Color me with crayons.
Splay the colors and lines and patterns,
         From my collar bones 
         All the way down to the soles of my feet.

Sophie Didn’t Make the Cut
by Jaclyn Garver
Kid art can contain some serious
truthbombs. This piece caught 
my eye, reeled
it in, turned my iris into a minnow whose
attention flickered to the glittering lure:
two purple heart outlines, floating
in a sea of whitespace, torn 
into large pieces
then reassembled, stapled
to purple construction paper. Tiny violet veins
separate the puzzle pieces still. 
The larger heart is torn down the middle 
(twice). It has loved and lost, perhaps, 
sacrificed itself wholly. The smaller heart is intact
mostly. Just the tip,
the lowermost part of its
anatomy, is severed. You can barely tell
it was ever injured at all.
I imagine the larger heart, 
the puzzle-piece heart, 
belongs to a teenager named Tom, whose 
first love first kiss first lay
had her head turned by another, 
who has begun active participation in her
second love second kiss second lay.
Tom tears
at his shirt, rips
at notebook pages after
scrawling letter after letter:
apologizing, name-calling, pleading wishing hoping,
bargaining, shame-spiraling, weeping raging moping.
And the second heart? Her owner is
wrinkled, plush, lovely, and
hard. When Sophie
smiles, it doesn’t crinkle her blue steel eyes.
She boasts her wisdom, for when that lover nipped
her heart tip, Sophie mixed cement with
water, sand, and gravel, 

slapped globs of mortar in the valleys,
took a seat behind the concrete and
crossed her arms.
At first, hopeful others bombarded
Sophie’s wall, pelted it with love letters 
truth seekers
life livers
writing asking searching
for a heart like hers.
Then, the missile strikes faded,
the noise subsided. No more
bombs blasts curses.
Not even a pebble tapped lonely against
the second story window.
(All hearts contain beauty fragments
that existed like dust long before God clicked her heels
and this whole tumbling yes
flickered into everything. 
Some hearts, however, contain more than their peers’.
Tom don’t know nothin bout that, but Sophie is certain
that within her resides oodles of wisdom
of the mystics and philosophers,
the artistics and logicians.)
Last night, in the sesquicentennial Meeting of the Minds,
Hafiz, Socrates, Frida, and Alan Turing
swore in new members. Just three made the cut:
Nicholas Winton, Emmett Till, and an Indian woman
whose story has never been told.
Before the meeting adjourned,
the holy foursome reviewed and approved the candidate list
for 2168. Nestled between my mother and Sandra Day,
in sweet and excellent company—there 
resides Tom

November 5th and It’s So Far Away
by Steve Lively
Brittle leaves dance
Through Everytown and scatter
Little League infields
Where ghosts and memories steal signs and bases.
Gray takes over at First;
Charging Second, the first flakes drown mounds,
Rounding Third, the deepest snow
And lowest degrees,
And during all these months ahead, 
Home is where we tend to be.  

Highlights reel inside me–inside us–
That 2-2 count,
An insurance run in the ninth,
The unmatched tension of extra innings on the road.
We strain to recall single games, plays, scores,
But it all seems to be a rushed mirage now,
A complex continuum
Where the wisest men around
are outfitted like the outfielders.   

Each player, each team,
And each fan
From box seat to bleacher bum
Wringing hands for October rings.
Rookies–babies to some–
Will breathe
Big League Chew in their most dormant moments.
Our noses fill with the scents of old cigars and fresh popcorn.  

The game hibernates
And the players and spectators–
All of us Brothers, Mothers, Fathers, Sisters–
Invoke the patience of a September call-up
And trust that their eyes will find the lush green,
The damp brown, and the crisp white lines
That must hoist us through this chilly half of the year.