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Celebrating one year of Paperfinger with 12 days of artists!
Audrey Bernhardt was featured in The City Issue!


    Celebrating one year of Paperfinger with 12 days of artists!

    Audrey Bernhardt was featured in The City Issue!


  2. 30

    J’Lyn Chapman’s Beastlife

    An inversion of nudity. The cloying pelt and underneath the body pubescent. Emanating, it reflected your love. Then later, I shed hairs and absorbed it.
    Not a going into primordial but a return. Like the river followed through canyon, cresting and climbing, dismantling the way by which we come and engendering it. 
    I’m not saying we’re animals. 
    I’m saying, the strangeness of phenomena calibrated by the desire to invent a new experience. 

    I sent a message to the blank face of the universe. It rose on the back of gaseous matter. It was something about survival, but I do not remember what.
    My body was a different shape then, including the desire part, which was scabrous, wet, and infected.
    Newer than the collusion of the past and the present, newer than disjunction as an ethics of boredom or acedia. An injunction to listen and receive it. 
    Three years ago, I detached from the stricken tenderness of all things. So I am no longer concerned with invention and transcendence so much as with possibility and pragmatics. 
    But that is not entirely true: first a lake wasn’t there and then it was. I was anxious because I wanted to admire it in the manner of grinding into it. 
    The urgency of happiness was a real dictum, a sense of variousness and sublimity. 

    I maneuvered into the quick by first feeling tender toward corners and then toward parameters. I did not know what belonged where and so misplaced it. 
    In fact, everything started to disassemble itself, tiny holes developed in leaves.
    Debris and the familiarity of my garbage—I recognized and didn’t what I vomited—seeds so small my fingers hurt to touch them.
    Everything began to disassemble itself. No it wasn’t fall. It was apprehension of the body. My tawny kneeling knees burned at their edges.
    Everything started to disassemble itself, so I cased my body in caul. Mercurially, the fragmented world gathered into papule, and I asked: 
    but isn’t everything we love a sticky wound? and: is eating natural?
    No eating is natural, the pets said. No manner of eating is natural.
    So, I drank various milks. I craved something outside my body, which was flesh—scintillate, carnivorous habits. (I simply have no taste for you.)
    I craved yellow, red, and fat. I savored sounds in trees. Fell asleep to anticipated rhythm. 
    My hunger often exhausted what remained. Paragraphs of sleep ran contrary to staccato movement.

    I tried to teach myself discomfort or muted chewing.
    I thought calamity of evening. I thought poison. I thought lead and mulberry. 
    Three years ago, I wanted calm detachment and then I wanted more.

  3. 2

    Blueprint for saving a life

    A moth stuck upside down, soot stranded,
    soft feather abdomen caught in cement webbing
    spun around doorframes under the shed

     in my backyard, I watch white wings flap with
    willpower I can only imagine, exerting beams
    my hands can see, forces that move sunflowers

    toward the brightest star. Wings flap, but the moth
    can’t fly away, spider noose too entwined.

    The rain comes now, a curtain of droplets.
    I can’t stop looking at the moth, this is just the way
    life is, accordions on their sides in velvet cases, photographs

    of skeletons and phantom lips. The girls eat citrus sorbet
    close by, watch delicate winged creatures fall victim to
    micrathenas hyperventilating, waiting for powder wings to

    take a beat bereft of heart, slowing blood
    the intestines go first. So when I cut the web’s line, the moth

    doesn’t fly away. It’s on its belly, soaking in the summer shower
    It couldn’t have already forgotten how entrapment caves the spirit,

    but then again, I watch it crawl back under the door it was trying
    desperately to flit away from, so fuck it, it’s just
    shrinking, waiting for rain or spider’s final mouthful.

  4. 2

    Blood Oranges

    I don’t know how to play guitar

    In eighth grade I tried, bought a big blue
    acoustic guitar the size of my torso, the neck

    longer than my arm, too wide for my tiny
    hands to plant a chord, too big for me.

    I must have quit shortly before college,
    when I quit everything that was me
    there were cornstalks replaced with palm trees

    veins couldn’t help but sizzle in the sun.
    I realized all the tourist propaganda was a shiny pot

    boiling with fizzy lies, but we can’t touch them,
    they will give us blisters. Look at my tiny hands
    browned flesh, oblong bubble pocks, they aren’t from

    burning my hands on the broiler, although I can’t get
    the naan out of the oven any other way, but

    there needs to be time to get the table set just right.
    You know the hummingbirds stop by for citrus
    this time of evening, this time of year, when the sun

    is casting lavender fields across the clouds.
    “We should get married in a lavender field” Ryan winks,

    with tiny birds strung all about. I’m thinking of humming
    birds, how they eat our citronella world, how they also love
    every smeared and sparkling shade of red.

  5. 1

    The architecture of windows

    The windowpanes became blackened,
    edges of the frame, crystallized sea glass. 
    I couldn’t stop looking 

    at the filthy angles, but I couldn’t stop seeing
     the way her arms collided,

    akimbo as she fell, I couldn’t help her
    from drowning in all the soot, I wasn’t me
    my hands already graying.

    “It was gray all around us” Holly chants beside me,
    then we weren’t talking anymore.

    There were so many flakes of ashes falling
    from the clouds that day,

    the air thick with burning  oaks and cedars
    along  the Florida-Georgia line, bonfire havens.
    The wind carries it to me, and Holly

    is drowning, soot clogging black eyes and ears and
    then I’m not trying anymore.

    There is salted rain, but no resolution
    I couldn’t find rags to wash her ragged
    bones away.

  6. 27

    The Architecture of Dustpans

    I couldn’t stop

    looking, stop

    in the soot,
    I wasn’t me

    it was gray
    all around us

    we weren’t holding hands
    nothing stopped

    Holly was drowning
    soot clogging

    eyes and ears
    we weren’t holding

    on anymore
    there was rain
    no resolution

    no rags
    to wash rags

  7. 5131
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  9. 1

    Coffee and Pie

    She walks through the open doors: long arms akimbo, blue eyes so round, and unusually watery and red. These eyes are already telling me how this “catching up” over pie and coffee is going to go.
                 Holly and I give each other big smiles, and the hug we share doesn’t involve the usual manic clinging people associate with two girls seeing each other after a period of time. There is no high-pitched screaming and running and clucking like turkeys. Her arms are long soft ribbons around me, with the essence of a dead fish. I pat her shoulder blades and we part.
                We make it to a table and the catching up begins, which is a lot of her talking, and a lot of me keeping my mouth to myself. An Air-Pot of coffee is placed on our table, along with strawberry rhubarb pie. I pour, sip the depths of the earth while I listen to her confirm everything I had thought about her, about us:
                “I’ve been day drinking all day at the pool,” the red eyes explained. Do you ever felt like you have a friendship where living is a competition? Where upstaging is the name of the game?

    “I like your necklace,” she says to me.
                I hold it out, the little crystals and flicker in the diner light, “I got it when we were hiking in North Carolina. They were selling them at the top of the mountain.”
                She responds, “I got so high and went to the pirate museum, got this ring,” she flashes a plastic jolly roger ring. Wasn’t there a popular phrase recently, cool story, bro? Is there a “cool story, bro-ette?” I pour another cup of coffee from the pot and gulp the words back.

     “I’m gonna apply again to be a Disney cruise-member. I think they didn’t accept me because my attendance history during my Disney internship. But whatever, I’ll apply like seven more times and hopefully by then they’ll know I’m serious and pick me.” I stop listening, and focus solely on the thick, graying mug nestled between my palms. The rich, brown liquid lolls slowly in the container. I think of coffee’s facets the acidity, the depth, the body. Holly is a French roast, full-bodied and abrasive, smoky, stands alone.
                “You should go to $6 pitchers tonight, I usually go but I lost my license when I was out in Maryland before coming back here to school for the semester, and the bouncer I know isn’t working, so I can’t go.”
                “Beer? No, thanks.” Holly doesn’t seem to remember or care that I hate beer, that the only bar I’ll ever be sitting at is an espresso bar. It’s apparent. She is a blend from Africa, I, a blend from South America—we are not of the same earthy glow at all. The light curls of steam rising from her cup hold up drinking stories like trophies. As if nothing in life could ever be complete without being drunk or high. As if this is all the world has to be prideful of.

     “Oh, you’re only here for two days? I’m going to Orlando tomorrow… Or Tampa… dang.”
                “Tampa?” I ask, making my first move to keep the conversation going, to get her to talk more about him.
                “That’s where Will lives now.” Will. A boy she met after I had graduated and had never heard her speak of until now. Even though we were good friends in college, when she left for her internship with Disney World, we communicated less and less. After I graduated and moved, a texting conversation once every couple of months seemed good enough. Distance is a tool that can be used to isolate. But although she never speaks to me about Will, I know all about him.  I know he’s a pool hall hustler and a piece of shit. I know he’s pushed her before.
                But I also know Holly. I’ve sat with her hundreds of times, giving her all the gems of advice that my brain can produce from life experience and hardships, because when it comes to live and love, I’m a master of disasters. I should have been telling my advice to a wall—at least I know my words aren’t ever going to get through it, there’s no hope for a wall. 

    I take a last sip of my mug before we get up to say our goodbyes, noting how it only takes a minute for the coffee to go from hot to cold. Just as the coffee cools, so do friendships. We walk outside; say it’s been good catching up. But it’s a lie. And as she drives away, the miles take us farther and farther apart again. This time, I will let it stretch us out, let her do her own thing, since she will anyway.
                This time, I know there’s no hope for Holly, she’s a concrete wall. I don’t say you shouldn’t trust a man who says he’s faithful and betrays your body and personal space. I don’t say trying out for Disney cruises instead of educator positions is a waste of time and money. Instead, I see her as she’s falling, like a leaf flittering down to the ground you notice out of the corner of your eye. When you look down you see a weightless white moth, wings stretched out in perfect symmetry with gray designs matching its concrete grave. You want to pick it up, but you just look at it, knowing it’s too late. It’s dead and there’s nothing that can change this fact.

  10. 2



    One minute I’m sitting on the veranda, in my favorite rocking chair, watching the rather large wasp try again and again to go through the screen instead of using the door it probably came in through, the screen on that door has never been attached correctly, wasps and water beetles find the way in so easily, the next minute, Emily has collapsed. Well, first, Emily is falling backward, a warped piece of plywood, restricted, without arms to catch itself, it’s falling flat to the ground, and that’s what Emily is doing, eyes and mouth wide, voice saying nothing, then she’s lying flat on the veranda, looking up into the cosmos, seeing things none of us are seeing. It’s haunting how things got this way, five girls, none of them bring Emily to reality. She doesn’t recognize worried looks, dangling hair, her own mixing with pollen and dirt blown in by westerly Florida winds.  “Can you sit up?” Sit? Up? No.  I find Holly, and she’s at her phone, debating to call the police. There’s primitive fear in her eyes. Wasn’t it her idea to give Emily what she wanted? I feel vanished. No one is calling the police to this house. They say it doesn’t take more than five minutes to get back to ground. Once the sizzling and the face-numbing have stopped, it’s like being dropped back into the here and now. Only after these points on the map have been established does the world find you again.

300ish days of writing.... For O'Hara!* "Now I am quietly waiting for the catastrophe of my personality to seem beautiful again, and interesting, and modern"--O'Hara. Follow me! I'm an Editor/Co-Founder of a creative arts magazine. Submit to PaperfingerArts@yahoo.com AND check out each digital issue at issuu.com/Paperfinger ! <3
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