A Poem by Stephen Langlois

Stephen Langlois’ work has appeared in or is forthcoming from The Portland Review, Gigantic Sequins,  and Big Lucks, among other places. He has been nominated for multiple Pushcart Prizes and is the recipient of a 2015 NYC Emerging Writers Fellowship from The Center for Fiction. He also curates and hosts Brew: An Evening of Literary Works, a monthly reading series held in Brooklyn.

New Video Editor!

We are thrilled to announce that Julia Madsen has joined the REALITY BEACH editorial team as our editor of video submissions, which will open soon.

Julia Madsen is a multimedia poet, teacher, and tutor. She received an MFA in Literary Arts from Brown University and is currently a doctoral student in English/Creative Writing at the University of Denver. She has shown video poetry at Outlet Gallery in Brooklyn, NY, and her work has appeared in VICE’s “The Creators Project.” Her poems and multimedia work have also appeared or are forthcoming in JubilatDrunken BoatCaketrainFlag+VoidWord for/WordCloud RodeoSmall Po[r]tionsDelugeDreginald, TagvverkAlice Blue ReviewDevil’s LakeVersalCartridge LitCutbankBlack Warrior ReviewTL;DR MagazinePoetrySeen, and elsewhere. You can read/view more of her work at www.juliamadsen.com.

Two Poems by Kevin Bertolero



Perhaps it’s time again to consider hiring a new cartographer. With Google Maps and a star chart, a fifteen-year-old boy found an Ancient Mayan city, and I still struggle to understand why I needed to take tenth grade geometry. Overlaying constellations onto the cities, far from the seacoast, away from the riverbeds, he knew the system needed to be completed. He saw that the world didn’t end in 2012 but wanted to know why. Maybe we should start to redraw the maps—time to reset and clarify the lines that divide us. Africa is too small, and we still don’t use the metric system. The Mercator projection has failed us beyond belief and we all know it. If we start over, maybe we’ll see what we’ve been missing all along. Maybe we’ll recover all we’ve lost; the abandoned seaports and the missionaries trying to gather converts, the Las Vegas watershed and the Worlds Fair. Everything was bigger then, Paxton’s Crystal Palace only standing for a matter of months, the frame solid and the exterior ready to shatter. There wasn’t time to waste on preservative acts. Instead, the fire took it away and everyone just moved beyond the cast-iron skeleton, dancing instead in the vacant pool halls and laundromats, the washeteria in Fort Worth bringing in most of the business. You and I, we can look at the maps over hamburgers and milkshakes from the twenty-four hour diner and consider where to go from here. Our hometowns only ever look alive at night.






Think of the filmmakers and the artists, the videographers and boom-mic operators—the conjurers of depth and cinematic dust-light. But where do the researchers find their subjects? Dana says that documentarians can live to be one-hundred-and-twelve, but I’ve learned to recognize a reliable resource when I see one. This is not it. When the lights dim in the theater and the screen stays black, we know enough to be complacent and amenable. The end will never come at this rate, or so we like to think. But now we’re in your basement and the lights still aren’t coming on. I’ve seen enough film to predict what happens at the end. I can even write the lives before they happen.


I only want to feel happy, like Ponyboy leaving the Paul Newman feature. Where is my ride home? I’ve learned, though, that the best directors leave themselves behind on camera. Ineffable, but substantive enough for us to feel them plotting. They find the darkness of the movie house to be soothing in a way that reproduces natural darkness, but the kind that is only available in select locations. Not in the city lights and suburban plazas, but in the open ocean, salt water and sea air divided.


I have a habit of leaving the movie before it’s over. Not before I’ve figured it out, but before the credits roll. I’ve never seen the lights come on at the end. I count previews and check my phone to see what remains, always something else to do. Dana says I need to dedicate myself to the film, to focus on what the director is trying to show me, but I can’t. The medium is manipulation, and these American eyes can show me nothing else.


Kevin Bertolero studies literature, philosophy, and art history at Potsdam College. He is the poetry editor for Mixtape Methodology, founding editor of Ghost City Press, and the author of From the Estuary to the Offing (2015). He tweets @KevinBertolero.



One time, years ago, the poet Erin Dorney and I walked through the Baltimore IKEA showroom and wrote a poem inside each ridiculous space.

Every time the poet Erin Dorney and I go to an IKEA, our energy skyrockets. It’s something about the affordability. About the lighting. Maybe it’s the language. The meatballs. Some of my verrrry best tweets have come from letting IKEA wash totally over me. As Erin said in our interview, “The first time I was in an IKEA, I was blown away…I had never heard of it before…I didn’t know it was a thing…I was overwhelmed…everything I wanted to buy could fit into my two-door Honda Civic.”

We were inside an IKEA showroom in Bloomington, Minnesota last weekend when I asked her some questions.



Erin, picking up a white tea-kettle:

I will buy a vessel today. 90% sure.


Erin, after a woman behind us says, This is more me than my living room is me

One of the weird things about being in IKEA is that I’ve shopped there with different partners who I have lived with over the years. So when I come here, I’ll see things I used to own. And it makes me think about that person, that time in my life, like why did I even like that magazine holder?




Me, pulling a Swedish book out of a chic, orange bookcase:

Make a found poem out of this.


Erin’s poem, sourced from page 51. of Klaus Rifbjerg’s Bilden:

Hon hann
satt som de
nästan I
inte se att
lite för sig
hade sagt
punkt och slut
och ut på
bra bild
sig I helfigur


Erin’s poem translated:

she could
sat as
In almost
not see that
some of the
had said
point and end
and on
good picture
In the full-length



Me, by the window overlooking the parking lot and Mall of America:

Can you explain how the poem “Test” was written?



I searched for the different phrases on twitter. Like “the boy questioned” and then from all the tweets that came back, I wrote down the ones that stuck out to me. Anything that was interesting. There were so many ways that each phrase was taken. So, I just did a bunch of different phrases like that. Then I went back through and deleted until the ones that were left worked together.

Then I had an idea to make it a multiple choice test. I thought that was an interesting form. Basically, I got the content and then put it into a form.

It was fun to play with.



What is ‘interesting’?



Language used in a surprising way. Like, a combination of words that I wouldn’t think to put together. But as soon as I see it, I’m like, “Yeah, that’s exactly it.”



Is it a feeling?



It’s more like a visual. Especially if it’s on a page, like with my erasure poetry. A word or a combination of words will just pop out of the page. My eyes are just drawn to them.int-5


Me, holding the above FEJKA:

Give this thing a name.



SPRIGSTEN. It’s like the Swedish Bruce Springsteen.


Me, behind a stack of Christmas presents addressed to “Dylan” and “Lydia

Avian Quarantine is one of my favorite poems of yours. I remember when you wrote it.


Erin, also there with me behind the presents:

You were there.



And I remember workshopping it with our friends at the big dinner table at our old house in Lancaster.



We didn’t live there then.



Okay well…



I think it’s almost like three years old.



Well I remember you always saying it was your favorite poem too.



Yeah, for a long time it was.



Why do you think it was rejected so many times?



I don’t know. It wasn’t resonating with anyone. Maybe it’s because I know the picture that inspired it but other people don’t?



Say more.



Avian Quarantine is an ekphrastic poem in response to a photo in the book called “An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar,” by Terrance Simon. There’s these birds in glass boxes, a quarantine before they can enter United States. Any bird coming in to the country has to be quarantined for thirty days or something. The poem was a response to that image.

I don’t know. I don’t know why it was reject so much. I remember sneaking it into batches of other poems that were nothing like it. And some would get taken but never that one.



I didn’t even remember that it was ekphrastic. I do remember you saying, “No one likes this poem.”






Except us.


Erin, as Nickleback’s “Far Away” plays through the store:

I don’t know what to say. It resonated with someone at Reality Beach. As an editor, I know that some poems hit you and some don’t. Maybe it just wasn’t catching people the way it caught me, the way it caught Reality Beach.




Why did you submit poems to Reality Beach?



I was blown away by the first issue. I never read online lit mags cover to cover. Especially in one day. But I did with the first issue.

Their aesthetic is like what a person on TV in the 80s would be warning everyone what the future will be like.




What risks have you been taking in your poetry lately?


Erin, as both a man with one leg and a woman with one arm shop behind her:          

I’ve been working on projects lately. I’m almost done with the October project, which was to create a found poem every day from Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. I had never read the book or seen the movie. That was a challenge because the vocab he uses is so strange and dark. That’s been fun. The book is not quality writing at all. I would like to think Stephen King agrees with me. Because he never wanted it published anyway.



Me, by the baby beds:

Tell me about a time you couldn’t write poetry



*is silent for awhile*


Me, whispering:

 Just let the question wash over you.



Right now.



Tyler Barton and Erin Dorney edit Fear No Lit, a web and IRL literary organization.

For more information about Tyler, visit him here.

To learn more about Erin, visit her here.

To read Erin’s amazing poems in Reality Beach Issue Two, click here.


High School Neurotic

An OCD List

By Michael Seymour Blake





Stick your hand out the window. Extend your pointer and middle finger, making them into little legs that run alongside the car. Your mom is driving about 40mph. Vigorously pump your fingers to keep up with the passing landscape.

Jump over every tree that comes your way (miss once, and dread will be your world. A vague dread you can’t quite place).

Flick the light switch near the front door on and off, on and off. Keep the rhythm going. On the 18th flick, stop. Don’t breathe. Don’t do a thing. Just stand there, staring. Did you get it right? If not, start over. Your head will begin to ache in anticipation of the next steps. Don’t let it distract you, or you’ll be here forever. Once you’ve finished, you may move on to the next room. (Ignore your mother saying “that’s enough of this nonsense” as you move from room to room. 15, 16, 17. Keep proper rhythm.)

When you’ve made it to your bedroom, adjust everything on your shelves. Every book, knickknack, toy. Adjust it all. Move it back and forth. If it feels right, move it again to be sure. Nothing can be pointed towards the bed, so take care, be vigilant. Anything less than perfection will cost you another 15-20 minutes of readjustments. Keep going until that boiling dread settles down. (It’ll be back soon, but don’t worry—we have other ways to distract it.)

Tap each shelf. No set number of times, just until it feels right. It could be 10, 50, 150 times per shelf. (You’ll be stuck on this step often, huffing and puffing with frustration, face burning bright red. Don’t be discouraged, you always figure it out in the end.)

Pace around the room, stopping a foot short of the wall in either direction. Back and forth. (I know you’re tired. It’s been a long day at school and you have a lot of homework, but you need to focus on what’s important right now.) Back and forth. The sound of your shuffling feet is like a mother’s gentle hum, soothing and safe. Pace until your legs ache. Pace until you can’t think. Back and forth.

Open the closet door. Now close it. You know the drill. Open. Close. Gusts of air fan your hair back and tickle your eyelashes. Whoosh. Whoosh. Enjoy it. There’s a hoodie hanging from the knob. Metal zipper smacks wooden door over and over. (Annoying, isn’t it? Keep going, and don’t you dare touch the hoodie. Don’t even think about touching that hoodie.)

Walk to the bed. Keep the sheets smooth and flat. No wrinkles, no creases. Make sure to run your hands over it until the skin on your palms feels tender and irritated. Keep going. You’ve got to be sure. Don’t touch the bed again until it’s time to sleep. Not a second before.

The dreaded pager ritual. The pager (google it) is on the floor next to the TV. (You still remember the day it fell off your desk and landed there, pointing right at you, taunting you. You still remember the tingling, nauseous realization that it would now be your duty to have it stay there forever.) Take off your shoes. Now your socks. Never touch the pager with your hands. You may only adjust it with bare feet. Position yourself over the pager. Using your big toes, wiggle it one way, then the other. It needs to be perfectly straight. More perfectly straight than perfectly straight. It needs to feel right. (You’ll stand here for an hour, sometimes two. Adjusting, readjusting. Feeling ridiculous, your thighs and calves aching, your forehead sweating, tongue peeking out between dry lips. You go sort of numb after the first 15 minutes. It’s better that way. The pager is facing clip down, delicately balanced on that little strip of plastic. One wrong move and it will flop over and you’ll need to start again. This can happen at any time, day or night.)

Time to get sneaky. Creep into each room and spit twice in the corner. Any corner will do. (This part takes some degree of stealth. If your mother sees you, you’re through.) One, two. Next room. One, two. Next room. (Your mother works hard to afford this little home, and here you are spitting all over it. Don’t be ashamed, focus on the task at hand. You’ve come too far to give up now.)

Eat. If your mother made something, grab it, heat it up. If not, make some cereal. You earned it.

Flick the light switches again on your way back to the bedroom. Each and every one. (You’re almost in the clear, but don’t get cocky. A screw-up here will cost you at least an hour of crippling self-doubt. Mountains of nausea will rupture in your stomach, your headache will linger, the rapid pulse already pounding in your temples will increase.)

In the bedroom, sit on whatever section of the floor nothing is pointing at. Mind the pager. Breathe for a little while.

Start your homework. You’ll have about an hour until the light switches start calling again.

Don’t end this on an odd number.

Much better.