My mother exploded at the word “cunt” every time my stepfather used it against. The blasts varied on her mood and the context of the argument. When I got to middle school and could swear freely between classes, that was the one word I avoided using. Even when an ex-girlfriend kicked me out of our apartment to be with her new girlfriend, I refused to use that word.

I’m trying this new thing where I stay on good terms with exes, starting with my ex-wife. In some ways it’s worked and other ways, it doesn’t work. One of the reasons why it doesn’t work is her penchant for cockblocking me at every opportunity. She even went so far to call me to tell me she would be in a neighborhood I often take dates to, almost as a warning that she would be in the area to cockblock me. I called her out on it and she admitted to it and apologized. I thought that would be that, until four days later at a monthly open mic we frequent where she rehashes our conversation and drops this line:

“My mere presence cockblocks you.”

I walked away to get another drink to drown the urge to yell at her in public. I stayed in a corner and ignored her until she came up to me asking for me to drop it. I peered over my glasses and told her that was a cunty thing to say and to get away from me.

Word choice in writing, in speaking, is powerful. We hold certain words scarier to say or write than others because of the weight behind them. I used ‘cunt’ in this context to best categorize my ex-wife’s behavior. I didn’t go as far to call her one, though I might have had license to do so. I still won’t call anyone a cunt until they do something especially awful, like murder my cat, or tie me down and read Maya Angelou to me.

Let’s get to the issue, shall we:

In “The Towel”, Alec Bryan asks “Who could sleep with the cackling?” Well sir, with enough Jameson and ginger ale, you could sleep through a Justin Bieber concert with pre-teen girls screaming in your ears.

Alex DeBonis mentions in “A Monster on Long Island” that “Being famous means being held to a higher standard. Extend that standard skyward if you’re well known to children. Because when you fall, it’s not just the kids you disappoint; it’s also their parents, who are hysterically protective of their children’s self-esteem.” The lesson I learned here is never to become famous to children, ever, until they are older. When you make enough money for white people, it’s amazing what you can get away with. Just ask Dick Cheney.

Ashley Farmer, what is it that you want to farm exactly? I hope “Farm Town” isn’t about a Farmville obsession. Even if it is, it is a well-crafted story, perhaps even cultivated.

Alexis Pope’s narrator in “I Am Your Natural Disaster” wonders “Just how many bricks of pollen can I sneak over the Ohio border before they catch me?” Well, since the FDA doesn’t consider pollen a controlled substance, you should be fine. On the other hand, you might have a lot of really pissed off bees stalking you. Also, my heart is not shaving cream. It is a long, poorly thought out dungeon crawl, just to let you know, madame.

One of my favorite lines in B.N. Landry’s “Free Architecture” is this: “When he looked in the mirror, he saw not himself but another person, who had made different decisions. But this, he thought, was only natural.” I know how this feels because I wake up almost everyday. I also only look in the mirror when I need to fix my hair or shave.

Caroline Crew’s poems in this issue have such an interesting contrast, transitioning from the exploration of language to thinking of exploring strangers. It’s like a sequence of dates and baseball metaphors that describe the various levels of heavy petting and other swimming suit area contact.

Chris Emslie’s three poems slowly take flight. I’m not sure the sequence of the poems was intentional. Sometimes the best accidents are happy ones and it works really well.

Christian Harder’s “Love Framed as Other Things” made me take a step back and think. We often frame love as other things since it’s so hard to pin down what love really is. I’ve dated women who are “thick ass hearses”, for real. I also enjoyed the lyrical narrative of “Burkhardt, 1922-1986”.

CJ Burton’s “Star Rot” is beautifully wrong on so many levels.

Colin Gibson’s two poems are rich and gorgeous and full of great lines. My favorite comes from “the creator”: “you he said/are like christmas/everyone’s going to/love you”.

David Tomaloff’s two prose poems are dizzying in a way where the English language vomits and eats the vomit and thanks Tomaloff for the stomach pain.

Eleanor Leonne Bennett has a great eye for unique imagery in her photographs. I wonder if there are authors out there who could turn these pictures into words to even do them justice.

Eric Beeny’s “Children: from Trawling Oblivion” should be read while listening to Bon Iver. Trust me on this.

Eric Ellingsen’s “from The People Called Endless” made me ask myself what is my heart made of. It might make you do the same.

“Horizon Lines” by Ian Sanquist says we’re all cellophane. I, sir, am more pale, chubby, opaque.

I agree with General Washington. McKonkey’s Ferry does sound smutty. Jon Steinhagen makes me smile with his story “Washington Crosses the Delaware, Eventually”. To imagine Washington soliciting women for a foursome is awesome. I would love to see the Revolutionary War reimagined as a Dawson’s Creek-esque series. The possibilities are endless.

Keith Nathan Brown, what would happen if we used Lunesta to cure the “Insomnia of the Soil”? How would our produce taste?

Kenny Mooney’s “Crank House” gives me some good ideas for painting my future condo. I wonder how charming “orange and yellow and sick” would look in my bedroom.

KMA Sullivan’s three poems are prettier than the art she writes about. I could spend more hours getting lost in those lines.

M.G. Martin needs to stop stalking me. At least these two poems need to stop stalking me.

Marcus Speh’s “Three Berg Passages: a Triptych” is best read…by him. Aloud. He’s one of my favorite readers in the independent lit scene.

Mary Sharp’s “Part of a Particle” and Mary Stone’s “We Will Plan Big Things” show off each author’s potent one-inch punches.

Matthew Robinson’s “Lawn Clippings” plays with the title quite well. “Dirty, but not the sin I strive for.” Been there, still doing that.

I did not know that “The Grand Canyon Brings People Together”. Molly Prentiss hides the bodies quite well.

I wanted to yell at Nick Francis Potter for using the title of “Homecoming for Pulseless Sunken Wife”, tricking me into thinking this was yet another story about a widower. I’m so glad I was wrong.

Peter Schwartz’s “3 Kinds of Problems” still make him quite a dateable fellow.

Tania Hershman’s “All Activity is Silent” says so much using so little.

Teach me, Tess Patalano. Teach me how to make the planets fall to my feet. (“How to Address Your Blip Status”) Also, “Cracked Face” is really unsettling and “In the Vein of My Last Acceptance Speech” closes this issue excellently.

These are just suggestions and personal opinions. The only way you can disagree or agree with me is by reading the issue. The power…is yours.

J. Bradley

J. Bradley is the author of Dodging Traffic (Ampersand Books, 2009), The Serial Rapist Sitting Behind You is a Robot (Safety Third Enterprises, 2010), and My Hands Are As Thick As Dreams (Patasola Press, 2011), and the e-chapbooks A Patchwork of Rooms Furnished By Mistakes (Deckfight Press, 2011) and Our Hearts Are Power Ballads (Artistically Declined Press, 2011). He is the Interviews Editor of PANK Magazine and lives at iheartfailure.net.