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The Antidote

Arsenika would like to thank the following people for their support on Patreon. You make this magazine possible!

Arsenika
Alexandra Erin

Nitrogena
Anya Johanna DeNiro, Dave, Katharine Mills, Erin Hartshorn, Nila Fhiosagam

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It feels good to love her

I bought her a pair of gold earrings that writhe when she walks.
They bring the caramel curve of her neck.

She needs me to be that highlight of gold.

It feels good when she loves my gifts.
It’s the closest she gets to loving me.
Even when I light myself on fire or cry, I see nothing in her eyes.

I see glimmer. She shakes in memory of me.

Still doesn’t feel real; this is the girl that’s mine,
The one I’ve resolved to give sixty years on a plate.
I can’t help it. I love her. She makes me embrace flame.

My hands are tender gloves. She can burn me all she wants.

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The Last Girl

As you probably already know,
I was the only one of my friends to survive
that night.
Sometimes I feel like surviving
was the easy part.
In some ways I never left
that basement
with all the creepy, dead-eyed dolls.
They claw at me in my dreams.
I haven’t left my apartment
in a couple weeks, I think.
Honey, Dad says, you’ve been through a lot,
but you can’t hide in here forever.
Just give her time, my mom says.
The pizza delivery boxes and empty diet soda cans
pile up around the couch.
I don’t even answer the door when it gets delivered.
I’ve given them strict instructions to leave the pizza
on the doormat and to take the money in the mailbox.
After all, anyone at the door
could be wielding a machete.
Not to be gross, but
it’s been a while since I’ve taken a shower too.
Cause I’m still not convinced he’s really dead,
even though I shot him five times and beheaded him.
And every time I’m in the bathroom,
I imagine him ripping open the shower curtain
and my terrified screams
and the dark blood swirling slowly down the drain.
I did leave home to go to the doctor
to get something to help me sleep at night,
but I was late for my appointment.
I was going to drive, but I couldn’t get my eyes
off the rearview mirror,
expecting him to slowly rise up from the back seat.
I wound up taking the bus instead.
So, yeah.
It’s been difficult.
I wish I could talk to Brandy or Jess
because they’re the only ones who could possibly understand,
but Jess was the first one to die
while making out with her new boyfriend, Mike
(God rest their souls).
I really thought Brandy was going to make it,
as we escaped the basement together,
but he got her with the chainsaw,
and I had to flee to the woods alone.
There was a guy in my calculus class
who was interested in me,
and he always did my homework for me.
I thought he was pretty cute too,
but after that fateful camping trip?
I just can’t imagine being intimate with anyone.
As you can see,
I’ve been a real wreck.
But there’s one good thing, I guess.
I’ve been doing this aerobics tape
that I bought while staring at a
late-night infomercial.
It’s geared more for old folks, I think,
but I remember the aerobics instructor saying
that if you’re strong, you don’t have to be afraid.
So I’m going to be strong.
Like Linda Hamilton bad-ass strong.
It won’t happen overnight.
But geriatric aerobics
will turn to jogging
will turn to running
will turn to weight-lifting
will turn to martial arts
and target practice.
Then I will be ready for the sequel.

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Phantom

Prickly back tendrils
alert me to your presence
at my bedside. I pull the blanket
up over my shoulder like a lover
after sex or kissing me
goodnight.

Have you been kept
long in the afterlife?
What have you siphoned
from dumb girls crouched
over Ouija boards, panting
and wishing for something?
Beyond

all I am, I will give you.
None of it I want anymore,
and you need all you can
because everyone you know
has died, and your memories
have been buried, dug up,
and transplanted
somewhere

nowhere near
where you remember.
My body is hot like a chamber
and trembling for the wind
you wisp over my skin
with fingers made of moonlight
and horror so real it makes me
wetter than Heaven and
hotter than
Hell.

Tonight is long, and loving
you is dark and growing
darker with each inch
the horizon takes over the sky.
If you leave before the sun,
I’ll know there is nothing
Phantastic about
you

Only something haunting
in the way you show up
like a fog to creep beneath
my blankets with nothing but death
and dirt. I hope the sounds outside
my window keep you up
with fright, so the morning
will turn you into a
Translucent

Miracle.

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Pledge Week

We, the Sorority of the Cloven-Hoofed Foot,
are looking for girls to join us!

We do no trust falls here, no
pillow fights and promise rings, we
are immaculately pedicured, so gifted
when we speak in tongues
and sour milk with glances; we
go out at any time of night,
unafraid.

You see, being a girl, any girl, is hard,
but being a Cloven-Hoofed girl’s an art,
we don’t do high heels, but boots,
they’re easier on the hoof, we
hide the horns under hairsprayed hair,
teased and twisted to our taste, we
keep the pitchfork at the ready,
hidden under chiffon and silk and softest cotton, oh, we
are hard to say no to.

But mind when we say no, oh,
you know, we say it with curses under our tongues,
fire in our eyes, sisters at our beckoning.

Most Cloven-Hoofed sisters go far in this world, you know,
lacing their words with hellfire, their thoughts
more burning than most, and of course
it takes a certain stamina
to walk with a foot like this one, walk
anywhere, walk
everywhere
and never stop until our hearts freeze over.

So. We are recruiting. Check yourselves, girls,
you got the horns, you got the hoof, you got the hellish tongue?
Come, join as you are, and for a pledge
burn any of the fakeness that they used
to hide the horns, the hoof, the devil tongue:
lashes, push-up bras, heels, smiles, words,
apologies, denials;
girls, come. As you are.

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Sparrow’s Medication Guide

Do not give your worries to other people, even if they have the same condition. It may harm them. Keep them in your mouth, a list under your tongue. Choose a water-soluble paper, flavored ink, let them coat your dry mouth, slide down your throat before you speak.

Tell your doctor if you taste feathers where you shouldn’t, if your shoulder blades hurt from the imperative of wings. Tell your doctor if you experience any unusual birdness of body: an abnormally fast heartbeat, flitting muscle movement, a hollowness of bones. Tell your doctor if the air around you is suddenly sweeter than anything you have ever experienced—sweeter than your first kiss with the first girl you whole-heartedly loved, sweeter than five-year-old fingers sticky with spun sugar, sweeter than the last day you woke up feeling alive. Tell your doctor if you dream of flight.

It is normal to experience side effects. To feel warfare in your blood. Remind yourself that this is for the better. That you are getting better. Write it on your skin in pastel purple, in the softest of ink. Read yourself with care. Remind yourself again. Remind yourself each time your worries are refilled.

Poem borrows language from a medication guide for sertraline hydrochloride. The second stanzagraph features a line from “Ordeal” by Nina Cassian.

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Call to Action in Translation

Find me a new story to paint
wine-dark, where they comb metaphors
instead of beaches, where the poets are not the only ones
bursting with heartache

where men do not make pigs
of themselves, both gentle and beastly,
where all the heroes come home,
and their wives do not know fear,
where the maids, virtuous in necessity
find agency in more than their adjectives.

In which swirling whirlpool does disaster lie?
All of them—
so sort out meaning
seek out new speech.

There are other shores to adventure.

Listen, they are calling
you.

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If Sappho Met Persephone

I love her more than I have poetry for.

Every time I see a pomegranate I want her
to crack open the red shell of my lips, lungs, legs,
and dig out seeds of promised fruit
that has not yet fallen to her feet,
to excavate the ventricles of my heart,
barbaric sweetness
leaving pink honeycomb hollow behind
for the ants to lap at.

I want to stay, want her to return to me like spring,
to keep her,
I recite a prayer of
I miss you, I love you, and I miss you,
please kiss me and
I wish you could kiss me now.
It’s the shuddering edge of July and it is winter without her.