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  • Writer's pictureClay Literary

RAVEN- Issue Six (08/23/2020)

Updated: Aug 23, 2020

Image Source: Jason Sebastian Russo

Honk (excerpt)

Written by Jason Sebastian Russo

(Listen to this poem's audio HERE ON SOUNDCLOUD!)

if being poor is a full-time job

if you’re starting to look like your van

   or it’s starting to look like you

if your boss is an algorithm


if you’re a slave to freedom

if you thought love was a feeling

if good things are just things that stop at the right time

if you’re a bird that loves its cage

if your body feels like a pair of shoes

     that are too small

honk if you’re honking


if you’ll try anything way more than twice

if you're happier than you feel

if you can't or hate to honk

if the problem with ideas is the people having them

if your body is a tomb

    or a clock

    or a time machine

if the next brooklyn is within     as is the real wifi

honk if the way the skin is wrapped around your skull buys you privilege

if you're probably a computer programmed to think it's not a computer if it's always the past


you're horny for truth

& you lost your virginity on the premises of your catholic high school

honk if the molecules that decide they are you

think they're honking


if god exists

but we don’t

honk if the world is a mask for the truth

or, if eating percocet out of the toilet killed people, you'd have been dead in 1999


if it's not death's fault

honk if your fate is to reject destiny


if god isn't a noun


if love can only be mutual

     like color is light reflected back at you

honk if music wants to be played

if the most self-destructive part of you claims that the most self-destructive part of you is the part of you that is attracted to self-destructive people

honk if we lack the analogies

if love made us so we can make it

     or is hard for a reason

     or literally never waits

if you are plural but we are not

if the child you never had is you

if your father is a folder of contradictory emails if your parents are a hotel ice maker next to a vending machine

& murderers 

in reverse

honk if we're good

honk if we get closer, but the moon stays the same size

or if a giant sadness has come between us

or if I've already forgiven you for crimes you've yet to commit

honk if all you inherited was a look of horror

     or if it’s entirely possible that you’ll die 

     of astonishment

Author bio: Jason Sebastian Russo is a writer, composer, musician, and digital marketer based in Brooklyn. He's recorded and toured with bands that include Mercury Rev, Kevin Devine, Hopewell, Pete International Airport, Nicole Atkins, and Guiding Light, which releases a new album in January 2021. He’s also working on a novel and currently exploring forms that combine poetry, music, and technology, as well as scoring podcasts for the New York Times and others.



Written by Ruth Taaffe

I am trying to kidnap a cloud           in a paper bag.

I have chosen which one - that cumulonimbus

anchored          over there above the second hill,

hanging with its belly almost       touching

the land, grey with rain like tears ready to spill

on the shadow       of itself.

Catching hold of it is the first problem.

It’s so high      and far away and what will I use

to collect it up?            It’s just gasses after all,

nothing you can grab. It’s hopeless.     Still,

I have to grasp it. I have to stuff it in this

paper sack       which it could well dissolve.

What if it’s too heavy once it’s in there?

There’s only me to lug it         to the car.

I think I’ll try over-the-shoulder

fireman’s lift and imagine something urgent

burning.           Somehow, while the cloud sits

on the back seat, bag tied with elastic bands,

I will have to call up my contact

and tell them      what the ransom

is for a kidnapped cloud          before I start

tearing bits off it and posting them, warning

after      warning or they won’t see

this piece of sky          again.

Author bio: Ruth Taaffe is from Manchester, UK, and currently lives and works in Singapore as an English teacher. She is taking a Masters degree in Creative Writing with Lancaster University. Some of her poems have been published in the online journals Creative Writing Ink, The Poetry Village, Allegroand in print and in print in Acumenand Poetry Birmingham.


Sometimes, Roses Are Not Red

Written by Kehinde Badiru

& here we do not wish for roses,

if we do, it won’t be red. We wish for different things

we do not take serious. But we handle thinking seriously.

We think / of different things, roses not

part of them. We think of association like

a lame man finding joy in walking well again. We look up

but we don’t bleed, we bloom — for red is vapour here.

Here, entanglements are blessings — impossible to say no, shed off.

Here still, people come with roses. But, sometimes, roses are not red when

received from a jealous lover, he personalizes 

your body — it stops feeling like yours.

It stops and starts, to stop feeling again, so you’d feel like a

faulty wall-clock, needing the love of a clockmaker

And like the episode of two reds:

He makes notes, drops them on the 

broken corridors of love — she connects

to touch, true love, glow, to remember how her tongues

go soft on her first true love — the other girl who brought

the first red roses she ever received, real red. 

Author bio: Kehinde Badiru is a poet, writer and editor. He is the author of Street of Goats and Never Look a Nigerian in the Eye. Kehinde teaches Creative Writing, and is the Editor-in-chief of WriteNow Literary Journal @WriteNowLit. He lives in Lagos, Nigeria, and freelances as an editor, writer, and book/cover page designer.



Written by Matt Mellor

“Fuck this,” Alan said under his breath.

I picture Alan to be someone who is more than a little world weary. Maybe his job as a taxi driver is starting to get him down. All the competition from app cabs like Uber – his knowledge of the roads doesn’t matter that much anymore. And I imagine that he doesn’t know what else to do, maybe it’s too late for a career change. Or, perhaps the quiet voice inside Alan has been growing more confident. Sitting next to his wife as she drives to the supermarket every Friday, or to pick him up from the train station whenever he visits his mother in Edinburgh, or to yet another parents’ evening. Whatever it may be, Alan has had enough. 

“Fuck this,” Alan whispered.

But can he do anything about it? All of Alan’s feelings seem real, they feel real to him. I know they do because I have seen it. He is designed that way. The growing dissatisfaction, waking every morning more and more tired than the previous day. Constantly feeling like he is building up deficits that he will never overcome. He hates his job. Checking tickets on trains running along the coast, east or west, doesn’t matter which one. But everyone is going somewhere infinitely more exciting than his claustrophobic little booth where he waits out the ride between stations.

“Fuck This,” Alan said as he stood up from the table. 

Alan pressed his hands firmly against the kitchen table. Or the dining room table. Or maybe it’s the desk in his corner office. What they – Alan and his wife – call the corner office but really it’s an old utility room, now defunct since the extension was finished a few years previously. It’s a small dank space, in which he can practice his hobby. I see him painting. His pale blue almost see-through short sleeved shirt has specks of different colours on it: blues, green, reds. The small model plane before him proved too difficult to paint. I’m not fond of planes. So instead, Alan has just finished painting a Barbie doll. His hobby is repairing toys. He tells himself and his husband – he has a husband now –  that it’s all about giving dreams back to children. But really, he’s trying to be a child again. The longing passes through his arms, onto the table and doesn’t weaken when he looks at the age spots on his hands. The memories of playing with toys and having to reach upward for door handles feel close to Alan but every time he reaches out he grasps at nothing but thin air.

“Fuck this,” Alan said as he threw a craft knife at the Barbie doll.

The Barbie doll rolled onto its left side. Or its right side. Alan couldn’t believe what he was doing or why he was feeling this way. But the familiar feelings of regret, general exhaustion and dissatisfaction had grown into a boiling rage. Alan knew he was needed and wanted. He had the feeling someone had called him up to stand in this small dark room looming over a fallen Barbie doll. He knew that. I know he knows that. But he had no idea why and no power over the outcome. 

I give Alan a choice. He can do whatever he wants.

He threw open the office door and stepped into a blank black canvas. Nothing, just empty black. He could do anything in here he thought. He scratched the bald spot on the top of his head and hair began to grow. He’d never liked his dirty blonde hair, now it was a thick black mess, which he struggled to run his fingers through. The sleeves of his shirt reached out and downwards and the colour changed to a dark green and his jeans fit him better than they had in years.

He smiled and stepped forward. 

Author bio: Matt Mellor is a writer and poet from Powys, Mid-Wales, who writes to understand the human condition and to feed an open mind. His experiences with mental health influence much of his work and he has over ten individual publishing credits. His latest story was published in DBND Publishing's Solitude, titled Snowfall.


I Placed a Jar

Written by Richard-Yves Sitoski

You needed elements I fear: fire and its opposite. When I could finally bear your ashes, in a box as heavy and black as the untuned piano in a convent parlour, I took you home to water. I could no more commit you whole to earth than make leaves out of humus.

The lake as calm as the brow of a craftsman as he planes a board flush.

I don't recall the path being steep. I marvel at a pack-a-day man portaging the full thousand metres through granite, fallen cedars, black mud. Poison ivy grows thick, hems one tight. Mosquitoes float in Brownian motion, break their holding patterns and target neck, hands, and ankles.

It's the time of fungi, of ramps biting through the floor with uncountable green teeth. They're for tomorrow's fleecy vests. They'll find my Buzz Aldrin footprints and wonder who'd ignore such booty. But I've made the overcast my bagman and the silence my conspirator for a theft in reverse. The trees don't look away when challenged.

The canoe is aluminum, stable as a raft. No spilled-gas iridescence, just a paddle and the antonym of sound.

Today the lake is a teacup carried by a palsied hand. The essential tremor of water: quick ripple and roll and white froth like beer head. There's no beach here. The path ends at water's edge with a rocky put-in. The boulder there is scabbed with lichen, as always there's the charcoal from illicit fires.

I do not trip as I approach, do not fall on slick stones. I do not ask the sky why it is blanched. I do not ask the crows for silence when they're the only friends you had, cronies from the days of rye bottles in backpacks. I have nothing to toast you with except the moistness of my breath and the sweat of my pits, so like yours, briny and alive, warm to the nose.

A Douwe Egberts cloud, loons like TV couples somehow in love, fingers thick with worm slime and cake crumbs of black peat. You'd gut the catch on a flat rock. Near bloodless. Always dead before the knife went in.

The box is opened. The bag of ash is near the size of two human hearts. It is dusty with what looks like milled pepper. It tears badly so that part of you flies into the lake, part of you sinks in the shallows, part of you covers my hands.

I plunge them to the wrists and what remains of you vanishes below the surface. I say nothing.

But I do not stand with wet hands nor wipe them on my pants.

I write your name in water on the boulder, where it will stay until the first drops of rain come pelting down. Until something likened once too often to tears fills every cubic inch of air, and all the lakes in the world, and the vast canyons of all the wheel ruts of every dirt road in history that ever led up, and out, and away.

Author bio: Richard-Yves Sitoski is a performance poet, songwriter, and the current Poet Laureate of Owen Sound, Ontario. He has released two books of poems with the Ginger Press, brownfields and Downmarket Oldies FM Station Blues. Currently he is at work on a multimedia poetry collection that employs augmented reality technology.

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