Category Archives: Poetry

Mycology — Switchback’s 2018 Contest Winner

the man creeping behind my tongue is an angry man
he sounds like me, rusted, like a busted garden gate that aches to be used, like me,
older, a Tony grown into Anthony, a Scooter grown into Scott, a regret grown into grief
I hide him in memories, like

that blind date in Fall Creek,
a wannabe punk who loved Paramount Pictures,
wore black and white fishnets, gripped
the back of my neck and reeled me into her painted face
to eat me like a pie contest, a messy kiss
so hard and a tongue so eager it vined through the back of my neck,
waved to the stoned goths on the couch watching us, watching
Cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s watching us

the man creeping behind my tongue intercepts words as they are thrown, tosses
them down to gastric juices and Tebows a victory stance to the language rising
from hydrochloric acid, like a skeleton in the pit of a William Castle film,
words on an invisible wire, like confidence, battered, worthy, stripped
of meat and muscle and shaken for effect by someone out of shot

she made me her instrument,
kept one Horus eye open and her Wite-Out nails
latched onto my thigh, a tense moment of change
between lips, she, Wadjet,
the papyrus-colored one sucking ink from idea,
a cobra composing in an orifice, undulating, hypnotizing
and lulling me to do what is asked under pungi mantra

the woman creeping behind my tongue punches my uvula
when I unbox my childhood, makes laboring sounds with repetitive jabs,
a prize fighter practicing revision with one fist tucked behind her pregnant belly
I hide her in extended metaphors, like

her tongue writhed in my throat
and licked bitterness from my scruff
waved goodbye to the goths
and dove, determined, to my guts,
lapped up all vocabulary, slurped
at sinking etymologies, and grew
and grew and grew, cordyceps unilateralis
on an ant, changing identity, leaving important
organs to sustain and feed the spore

the tongue hardens to stalk and bursts alphabets over my fruiting body


Howd_Eric_MachanEric Machan Howd (Ithaca, NY) is a professor at Ithaca College where he teaches professional and technical writing. He is also an MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) candidate at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Eric’s poems have appeared in “Nimrod,” “River City,” “The Healing Muse,” and “Yankee Magazine.” He writes, lives, and loves in the Fingerlakes region of central New York with his glorious spouse, Katharyn Howd Machan, and their two cats Footnote and Byron.

Photo Credit: Jim Stafford

We bathe in miles of dust

because it’s a type of hunger
that drives the small changes
in ourselves: hair of wasps,
pit-mine eyes, sapwood bones.

But what if we fill our bellies so fully
that we begin to chew the sun,
which in turn chews us
like a rough road through a rubber tire?

Will the mirror then expose
the give-and-mostly-take nature
of our bodies? There will be a time
when we no longer remember

north, south, the race to the dollop
of light at the day’s end.
It’s not that we’ve been taught
to fear nightfall, but rather

the moment when our machinery
hesitates and begins to run
in reverse. There will be a point
when the mirror tells us that,

really, we’ve been consuming
ourselves, leaving nothing except
salt-sweetened scars traced
like fragile roads across our skin.

It’s hunger that cannot be satiated
even with bright knives of open sky.
We’ll feast on gravel until we lie
scattered like fallen birds in the fields.


Dane Hamann Bio photoDane Hamann works as an editor for a textbook publisher in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from Northwestern University, where he also serves as the poetry editor of TriQuarterly. His work has recently been published in Calamus Journal, Half Mystic, Wildness, and Water~Stone Review, among other places. He can be found at www.danehamann.com.

From how small a split will we supernova

when a constellation
of gears spins
and gnashes within us?

We are strange factories
of heat and light.
Sometimes nothing

seems as fragile
as the motions
of our machinery.

Listen to the howl
of our engines.
Listen for the click

of two cogs
not quite meeting.
Time shears us cleanly

but not every force
is as forgiving.
There are hidden points

of failure within us.
Each memory of you,
I’ve made by burning

a wavering match
in front of my teeth.
I wanted to be a vessel

for fire. I wanted
to be held by your
gravity, aflame

and dying like the sun.


Dane Hamann Bio photoDane Hamann works as an editor for a textbook publisher in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from Northwestern University, where he also serves as the poetry editor of TriQuarterly. His work has recently been published in Calamus Journal, Half Mystic, Wildness, and Water~Stone Review, among other places. He can be found at www.danehamann.com.

Hand to Hand

I’m up at night thinking about my writing hand. Every left-hander belongs to a tree. A bushel of “right-brained” creators. Something like a preschooler’s ancestry project: a lineage reincarnated for an afternoon as a swarm of toddlers’ hands, parading in crimson paint, surrendering to the perpetual joke of being caught red, catch-phrased into oblivion. I am forever linked with this mechanical minority, these hands that, on average, will kill me nine years before my counterpart. Hands that keep me up at night for not being right. Hands that put me more at risk of alcoholism, dyslexia, stuttering, violence. I will go to the shooting range and figure out my gun hand. Maybe it will be the same as my camera hand, my softball hand, my mayo-spreading hand. Maybe it will contain a finger one gene off from a killer’s, or a victim’s. Surely she must have used her left hand at some point that day: to trail a sentence, to bookmark a life, as the killer did his killing, circling the library red.



Rachel Janis holds a BA from Knox College and lives above a coffee shop in Galesburg, Illinois with her fiancée, cat, and hedgehog. Her work has also appeared in Booth and Gravel. You can view her website at racheljanisart.wordpress.com.