The Charcoal Issue, our fourteenth, was published in 2018.
You can now order The Charcoal Issue with our publisher, Wayne State University Press!
They say to fall into the river.
They say not to let it carry: no bodies,
no bodies, not me.
Francisca Lia Block
My brother walked in first and then I followed him.
I always followed him.
Eurydice tells us her favorite memory with Orpheus
Once I told him a heart’s purpose was to make heart noises & he said he wanted to stick a match in my mouth. It was late & we were both tired &
sometimes when we heard each other speak, it was like the sky went white & flat.
We do not know where the children came from. Some say they emerged from the woods behind the elementary school. Others claim an unfamiliar white bus with dark windows unloaded them, sped off.
Ekphrasis for Snow White in her Glass Coffin
I. This one looks at her and thinks
in death she’s even warmer.
Her cheeks bear the blue of flame.
An Excerpt from a Memoir
One is not born a woman, yes yes, one becomes a woman, but when I was seven I went to summer camp, despite being highly agoraphobic, as I was convinced by my third grade teacher that Jesus would meet us there and enter my heart
The Discomfort Index
There is no personal space in Vegas. It’s like they got to the desert boundary of their Mojave oasis and realized they had to turn back, fold in on themselves, maximize the limited resources and cram.
We warned the boys about the cliff, the one out there in the island cove. It loomed over the beach, with scraggly trees and grass alive in its crevices.
Ashleigh E. Gill
The Woman Who Ate Foxes
The woman who ate foxes believed they could heal her. She liked the gamey strings of tough meat stuck between her teeth, the matted lumps of rusty fur scattered under the table. She ate them raw.
Raquel Vasquez Gilliland
“How Lines Came To Be Drawn On Human Hands” & “Exiles of the Wild Moon”
When humans first emerged from a cave in the earth, our hands
were smooth as the skin of milk. It was said that each hand could
speak. Not in the way you and I speak today, but an ancient sort of language, one that used the voice of twig, grass, stone, star.
When I Am Not Joan of Arc or You Bring Me a Bowl of Green & Purple Olives
I am made for our own goddamn kitchen
I’ve wrecked us &
cannot light the stove pilot out
& clicking box of casino matches
my hands juddering Sometimes you carry
watermelon not gently
Village of the Red Mothers
The Charcoal Issue Poetry Award Winner as judged by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
The night you were born, a village grew up from the frozen ground in Siberia.
In the beginning, the house walls were cartilaginous and uncertain.
As you grew older they hardened into bone.
Another man left me the day after I turned 26
and Oprah turned 62.
After the balloons popped. After he and I took shot for shot.
After he produced a blue rubber dildo.
In Hell, a boy, kindly and congenial, comes down a crimson dune at sunset to bring you cola in a bottle and a glass of crushed ice on a wicker tray.
“Summer Faces” & “Mercury Night”
Sunflowers never salute historians, because every summer the flowers are busy waiting for black deaths to appear on their yellow faces. They never look down at the cracked ground, even while the light shadows of the historians crawl away to the nameless town.
The view from the ████████ bus /
I am ██ woman ███ disappeared before
reciting the last ███████████ eulogy.
██████ even ██ able to grant ██
that much, after all ██████.
El Alma de la Máquina
La silueta del maquinista con su traje de dril azul se destaca desde el amanecer hasta la noche en lo alto de la plataforma de la máquina. Su turno es de doce horas consecutivas.
The Soul of the Machine
Translated by Jonathan Wlodarski
The silhouette of the machinist in his denim suit, sitting atop the machine’s platform, stands out from dawn to dusk. His shift is twelve consecutive hours.
Ol’ Captain Kurt
Kurt thinks back to his father’s stories of mermen
who swam too far upstream, rejected the cold,
cocooned in sailor bones, and, in the third winter rose:
whiskered and sturgeon.
“Still in the 21st Century” & “Disaster Doesn’t Have to be Spectacular”
The little girl and the bear use an adding machine to ring up the dead.
They press their cheeks to the equals sign. Hello? Hello? No one is there.
Nothing is equal.
It used to be that we cousins would play a game.
We’d pretend that the L-shaped steps of our grandmother’s house
were a grocery store check-out. The moss hung sad and reckless.
Something’s Up With Alice
Have you heard about Alice? Disappearing Alice, who is both magician and rabbit? Just like Timmy, always falling down wells, leaving Lassie to bark for help. And we search high and low. We shine our flashlights along the Delta bank, half-expecting to find her facedown on the rocks.
The photos of the boy were taken
first in play, but when one
emerged in the darkroom’s
bath of her son’s back stained
“I Will Have Forgotten You by Sunday” & “Bad Hunter”
UFC fighting plays on the TV in the bar—
men, with ground up teeth, smile through
blood and do backflips from fences.
The Charcoal Issue Prose Award Winner as judged by Helen Oyeyemi
This week on Unpresidented!…
The Presidential Contestants move into the White House and face their first Presidential Task: Moving into the White House! Looks like the light packers will have an advantage. First Contestant to unload their moving truck wins National Security!
Rion Amilcar Scott
The Problem of Heat Loss
And so that year there was the summer and then there was the winter, no autumn between the two. One Sunday we found Old Darrion had died alone in the afternoon from heat stroke on the reddest of the Code Red days, his body baking in his attic.
which is to say we left
the house, jogged
down the pavement,
pedaled a bicycle
by a cornfield
“It’s your fault I’ve got to make the rounds through the forest several times a week.”
I’m talking about ash that has the
shape of an apple.
Pantoum for When the Skies Clear and We’ll Know
we’ve poisoned even the vultures.
My plate is clean
just like you taught; white china on red cloth.
I’ve returned the dishes to the cabinet. My plate is clean
as freed bone.
A Real Spacesuit is a Little Envelope of Earth Conditions
When our mothers were astronauts, we sewed space
-suits from donated wedding dresses
so we could buy better thread. We sewed day into night
C Pam Zhang
We raised bone to scaffold our mothers’ houses. Joints lashed fast with sinew, pale ribs curved to beams like long strange teeth. We made a game of construction, bared our tiny canines and giggled.
“The President and His Bodyguards” &“The True Story of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice”
Once upon a time, as far back as I can remember, there was a wayward boy named Henry whose parents were very poor. The father was a jobless mechanic, and his mother did housecleaning for rich families.