not subtlety, and at sundown begin moaning. The veterinarians act more veterinarianly. It must be internal damage. It must be the liver rupturing. Yes, the liver. And that is how these prognoses tend. Diagnosis being […]
Poets are just whisperers, whispering the rose verse, Weaving words as a curse. They wander the groves In order to find doves. They wander the meadows, So they find adagios. They wander the streams, To find the crowns of queens. Poets are just whisperers, Who their lament makes ornate.[…]
your island, before storms and faces crashed on your shores with new names for death and stolen lands, whips and dark nights, histories of ancestors piled in the hulls of ships[…]
The auction block still rides on the black backs of ghosts hurling themselves town to town […]
The chapped lips of last season’s flora, the winter-cracked cattails slowly recovering their limber. Today I saw a willow precisely […]
I want our childhood back to watch the ice break off at the shoreline and float away when the sun begins to warm the waters of Lake Superior early spring. Or spend whole Saturdays planting the pink and purple candy-striped petunias you loved in flower boxes and along the borders of our little sidewalk. […]
Everyday the author takes the bus like a distant hum, I love that. I love that somebody leaves the author a voicemail and doesn’t talk about pain as a thin golden feather. I love that the author calls back.[…]
Two boys pull green oranges from the tree
that hangs over the churchyard fence. They
throw them into the street with such auto-
matic skill that they may be the same boys
sent to kill in any war that will never be theirs […]
With Cleopatra eyes and Sadé skin her words sting clear as Noxema lather:
“Mom, I’m not pretty,” she confesses. “What?” I accuse—“What do you mean,”
I spit and sputter, my mind scrambling to organize an understanding
of this violence she commits against herself […]
I almost see myself trip and shatter
us both on the stairs. I almost see
my arms slip and tumble you over
the balcony to crack on the sidewalk
Some say the Shekhinah is the queen
of presence, pulsing upward through
the living earth, bidding us to bloom
in our skins. The apple orchard
in full blossom. But when you see me,
I am a burning flame,
blonde hair billowing behind.
You have no throne festooned with ribbons,
no needle to embroider my plastic chair,
no silks to shimmer with my light.
I am an environmentalist drinking
from a Styrofoam cup. In cafes, I am silent,
can’t chat about good coffee and bad men. In the sukkah
sleeping under the eyes of myrtle, I dreamt I
was walking in Umm Batin and from under the main street
Hebron’s sewage rose till I was wading,
waste on my face, slogging until I got to a tent
to sip thick coffee and smoke a negilah, a minyan
of black-clad men in a corner bobbing. No
sewage here. It settled back into the earth.
I awoke shivering, sick under the patchy sky,
choking on ashes. I longed to tell my friends,
to dwell in the tabernacle of fellow feeling,
to harvest some compassion, to share
how our eyes always on Jerusalem blinds us to the stranger
who also dwells here, who doesn’t need the sukkah
to know everything is connected—new settlement
bathrooms, sewage leaching into the soil, meat, and cheese.
Next year in Jerusalem the chance of a Bedouin
getting cancer up 60 percent. I opened my mouth
but bees flew out, buzzing about a village girl
molested by her brother. Silence heavy in the sukkah.
In Wadi el-Naam, the health clinic I built to help
sits on a toxic waste dump. I ring out the last drops
of my strength in that village. I now pay to protect
the solar panels. My partner
accuses me of getting kickbacks from doctors.
This land holds magic and poison,
everything that sustains, every toxin.
It gets into your blood. I burn
to be part of the tribe, harvest rainwater,
farm like Ruth and Naomi, tend grapes and olives
without grabbing from those who have so little left.
How can you break bread around the Shabbat
table with those who don’t care?
So I live in a flat in Tel Aviv
no earth between my fingers, no growth to tend,
gates to God closed. My land, my heart
cordoned off with eight meters of concrete
and spirals of wire. The Wall
where papers are checked
and compassion halts.
In Hebrew, the word for person
is adam; adama, soil, has the same root.
I want this place
to feel like home.
The Key to the Cinema
My psych of genocide
prof invited me to a Friends
of Palestine meeting.
There each spoke around the circle
of their connection with Palestine.
A woman showed an old
photo, opened a box
on the mantel, took out
a key. Outside Jaffa
Gate was my house.
It’s a cinema now.
Her son said he’d never
walk and there it is—
the Cinematheque. Not
the same walls—abandoned,
demolished—maybe what Mahmoud
meant when he said a house
dies without its owner. So
when the dead or dreaming visit,
they see old rooms;
the children’s ghosts chase
each other with a toad when no one’s
around like the day I wandered through
(why open yet empty?), red
ropes holding nothing back,
and from theatre four I heard
Grandma’s soft snore
as she took her rest before suppertime.
The Very Breath of Children Is Free of Sin
from a short passage in Raja Shehadeh’s Strangers in the House
As children were walking home from school
men kidnapped a boy
walking home from school
and shot randomly into the crowd of boys
walking home from school
who ran to the hills for cover.
Children were walking home from school
but one boy had not returned. His mother went
to the prison where she was told her son was kept
she was afraid he was cold and brought a sweater
to the prison where she was told her son was kept;
the prison guard took it from her
at the prison where she was told her son was kept
and promised to hand it to him
inside the prison where she was told her son was kept.
Aching, three days. She waited, yet
the boy was not released
from the prison where she was told her son was kept;
a shepherd found the boy
dead above the village
killed by one of the men’s bullets
walking home from school.
The granddaughter of a captain in Israel’s War for Independence, Joy Arbor grew up in Los Angeles, CA, listening to his stories of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To listen to other points of view, she joined the Compassionate Listening Project’s citizen delegation to Israel and the West Bank. Poems about her experiences have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Scoundrel Time, and Scintilla. She is also the author of the chapbook, Where Are You From, Originally? (Finishing Line Press, 2016). She lives with her husband and son in Michigan’s Thumb and blogs occasionally about genocide and racism at https://joyarbor.net/blog/.
The children pick
the peeling yellow
paint from the bathroom
pipes and lick it
while Mama is gabbing
on the phone with
her sister. Papa returns
from work at four
and takes the yellow
plastic strap out of
the second dresser
drawer and whips
their thighs since
Mama has delegated
punishment for their
during the day:
failure to put toys
picking at sausages
at lunch, plucking
on their walk
Tomorrow they’ll go
to Headstart and tell
the teacher the first
thing in the morning
they see is rets and
she’ll inquire, “Is
rets your dog?”
Jan Ball has had 285 poems published or accepted in journals across the globe in the Atlanta Review, Calyx, Connecticut Review, Main Street Rag, Phoebe, and Verse Wisconsin. Her two chapbooks and first full length poetry book, I Wanted To Dance With My Father, were published by Finishing Line Press. When not writing, Jan likes to work in the garden at her farm and work out in Chicago at FFC with her personal trainer. She and her husband travel a lot but like to cook for friends when they are home.
in college, the men i
gave trembling permission to
scurry inside of me, would,
more often than not,
send me hobbling to the
student clinic. the nurse, as incandescent
as a light bulb with rage,
tells me that sex is not supposed
to require three tylenol. my
roommate, eyebrow raised at
the troupes of grubby-nailed
students, asks if i even
enjoy myself—and so
i allow myself to let them all go,
except for him.
he is so unlike the others in his stillness:
curled over as a comma at the back end
of the bar, hair rapunzel long
and perfumed against the heavy
leather of his jacket. i come to
him on purpose, duck my head
and listen to confessions:
how he misses the touch of newborn
animals now that he has
left the farm his mother raised him on,
how he wakes up with the
scent of birth in his nostrils
and finds it a comfort.
i remind myself
that nothing good has come
from boys who reverently speak of blood
under their nails but
maybe this one is permissible,
this outlier with eyelashes
stark and gentle, who passed a hand
over the flag on his jacket and
spoke of needlepoint with reverence,
who does not hide a soprano giggle
when i tuck a crocus behind the
conch of his ear and whispers,
sweet-eyed and limpid, that he
feels as if i am his
husband, in another universe,
in this one, i close my eyes
and kiss him open-mouthed against
the side of his car, hands sure
and calloused on the curve of
a hip, warn him
that my body greeting his
is nothing short of a
magic trick turned miracle,
never repeated twice.
Levi Cain was born in California, raised in Connecticut, and currently lives in Massachusetts. Their work can be found in The Hunger, Red Queen Literary Magazine, and other publications.
1. noun. presence, as in constant
ex: “the mother is here.” see also: mama, mommy
see the child cry out in fear, in loneliness
see the presence quiet the child
see presence beyond himself
2. verb. to rear, as in to create
ex: she mothers and mothers and mothers
until she is no more and the child is
overwhelmed. see also: to tend, to weed,
as in gardens, as in minds, as in impulses
3. noun (archaic). one, as in symbol
ex: the gravestone was engraved simply
mother, as in “she longed to be—”
as in “they longed for her to be—” see also:
blessed; see also: have mercy, mercy on us
Andrea L. Hackbarth lives in Palmer, AK, where she works as a piano technician and is a mother to a rambunctious boy. She holds a BA in English from Lawrence University and an MFA from the University of Alaska Anchorage. Some of her work can be found in Mezzo Cammin, Gravel, Measure, and other print and online journals. More information about her poetry can be found at www.thelostintent.com.
Christine Imperial is a queer Filipino-American poet. She is currently pursuing an MFA in creative writing at CalArts. She won the Loyola Schools Award for the Arts for her poetry in 2016. Her work has been published in NoTokens,Heights,Rambutan Literary,among others.
Triptych of the Adobe-Cotta Army
East Palo Alto, Circa 2000 AD
My fingers are desperate
to unearth the ruins
of my countrymen.
Only to find a Tesla
on the second floor
of our apartments
—now a parking garage.
The Amazon logo
smirks above me,
like a biblical cloud.
Out here, hooded saints
tore the covenant
of earthly silence.
Passed out Zig-Zag
leaflets, to preach
the gospel of skin.
in long white tees,
at a bautizo. Pressed
against my lips,
the cholo chalice
kill it blood.
My chest flushed
at watching boys bronze
A driveway floodlight,
the barrio’s moon,
casted their bodies.
As they placed bets
against the armors they carried.
A fist tucked
inside a hoodie,
his knuckles spelling
the names of ex-lovers.
Each letter tatted
with a rusted clip.
whose colors shouted
to the block
who he fucks with.
Until asphalt swallows
him again, and Marías
now mourn Jesús
outside a sagging fence.
Wreathe his chain-
link with lit candles,
cardboard signs saying
“We miss you.” Streamers
without the heated balloon
that promised flight.
Consider the clothesline as a bandolier
slung over weathered soldiers,
whose uniformes still clung
to apartment balconies.
Quien cedieron sus tierras
to raise the wrinkled flags
of blusas and neon vests.
Consider this Aztec sacrifice:
a father offers an empire
his daily flesh. Kneels
on the melted tar
of its tongue, winces
at the body turned legal (tender).
All to nurse the newborn
with this vision,
una vida mejor.
And so Father cradled my head
inside asphalt. Prayed
for our rite
to simply wade.
los frijoles ya se quemaron
as suitcases chuckle
through our home.
in gabinetes, cash
mamá inside her black
es que ahora,
that in reno
or fresno, or
the broad shoulders
of a califas carretera
a fitted red dress,
botas de tacón,
freshly dyed hair
at the nights
con la misma fé
she once had
for these walls,
that is to say,
i wish i’d been there
by your side
in the courtroom,
when apá buried
inside the bench.
realizing then, he
wasn’t the sole owner
of this house
para que viera
the broken pieces
on car seats
where the water broke
from your eyes,
& see, the exact moment
Apology to Her Majesty, Queen Cardi B
Whereas Jimmy prolly can’t pronounce
your name; whereas that green mink’s
mad loud for primetime yuppies; whereas
pasty mugs quietly sipped the Bronx
in a canned Q&A; whereas tickle-me-
white, the color they blushed
after you hollered, Eyyuum!;
whereas was it with, or against you?
Whereas dey prolly ain’t ever seen
homegirls wreathe you
as their patron-saint—
lil’ Lauras wit dey laurels,
whose mouths run the block
searing chisme over hot concrete
and toe straps; whereas blessed b
the scented velas of acetone and plugged-in irons;
and still you trill
the hymns of jainas;
You who told the limelight,
Don’t get too close cuz I ain’t put
no lotion on my hand; whereas se ríen
as you explain your name, how Henny’s
the suture of Black and Brown hands
who killed a forty for each hour
on the job, who lick wounds
with liquor’s promise of numb;
whereas the smh tías who gawk
at the peacock tat running your thighs,
and sigh, cómo hemos caído; whereas
that part in “Motorsport,” where you bent
in front of butterfly doors, hollered,
I’m the trap Selena!; whereas the bark
that tickles my skin, as it does in the shade,
when me and the fellas untuck
the gaze we’ve longed to spliff all week;
whereas errtime I aimed homeboy’s head
like a slingshot, a young women-turned
pair-of-legs passing through the quad,
and eyes carve onto bare flesh;
whereas I chewed a human being
with a dangling mouth,
and called her redbone, feigned
to stare at the dead men
she hefted; whereas I respected
the spine of a book, the tattered
cloth of hardcover,
more than her own.
Whereas these temples of Hoteps
whet teeth with passed-down
stones, our crumbling masonry,
beret down plazas chanting
freedom, yet in dorm parties
bite off a brother’s tongue,
so he speaks nothing
but our worst hungers;
that snarl, who’s the lookout
today, as we try to outsmoke
each other, for the dogs we is.
May I catch the fang she spits
back, chew on my own question
No, are you with or against?
And I too am inside that studio,
clapping with them.
Therefore, be it resolved, Cardi,
Queen of the Bronx, this apology:
may the two-legged perros
claw this gangrene out,
so the tender vespers
that flock our word
not recite our catechisms.
May you, and all the women
who’ve guided my life,
never see the eyes
I once hawked.
Antonio López received his BA in global cultural studies and African-American studies from Duke University. He’s received scholarships to attend the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, the Home School, Tin House Summer Workshop, the Key West Literary Seminar, and the Vermont Studio Center. A proud Macondista (2018) and CantoMundo Fellow (2019), his nonfiction has been featured in PEN America and his poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Palette Poetry, BOAAT Press, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Acentos Review, Permafrost, Huizache, Tin House, and elsewhere. He received his master of fine arts in poetry at Rutgers University in Newark.
I am not a girl who is pretty in all seasons.
With the russet of fall painted on my mouth
the scar across my face (climbing from the lip)
Splits the silence with a noise less like Mozart,
Closer to clanging;
Rock metal, metal and rocks.
Winter blues recall the time,
Drowning in surgery, waves of wire
The blood didn’t beat strong enough to bat back the tide
of the specter of grief cast on a child struggling to grow a face
acceptable to Polite Society
Nursing a lifelong fear of the sea.
In the peach blush of spring, here I am Alive.
Flowers bloom open-lipped
And no picnicker cares if a cleave in the petals
Reveals bees too far apart, whisper-whistling.
Too focused on flitting licks of honey,
Brief inevitabilities; flirted dreams.
In summer, it is Ivy.
Roasted skin pock-marked in daylight damages
Remade, remarked as Cute, Youthful,
Have hidden away the red thread, a stuck floss.
And those sweetly glinting late-night sunsets
Draw all eyes, momentarily, to greater climbs of color. Mottled, Perfect.
Then the dark. The sky glittering freckles.
Madison J. Salters has been published internationally in outlets including Armstrong Literary Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, HuffPost, United Nations Press, TripAdvisor World Guides, The Untitled Magazine, Wanderlust, and more. She is editor-in-chief at The Toolbox, nonfiction editor at Ruminate, and fiction editor at Ragazine.CC. Named the 2019 Uncomfortable Revolution Writing Fellow, a UNESCO Ambassador of Cross-Cultural Dialogue, and a “Wunderkind” by Westchester Magazine, she also serves as a JOLT and Speakizi lecturer on storytelling. She helped translate the documentary “Queer Japan,” and her first play, An Infinite Resignedness, was produced in Paris in 2018.
אמר רבי יודן Rabbi Yudan taught:
פעם אחת חזר על כל המניקותOnce, Mordekhai searched but
ולא מצא לאסתר לאלתר מיניקהcould find no wet nurse for Esther,
והיה מיניקה הואso he nursed her himself.
My breasts judge a handshake,
have five-o-clock shadow.
I know the proper verb
for a deal with God is To Cut.
The first time my hair stuck
in her soft baby gum,
I simply extended downward
my morning shave.
I fondled the swelling
above my heart
and named it glory
instead of shame.
Only once, after she’d dozed off
I lodged her head
in the crook of my elbow
and stretched my neck down
tugging the nipple up
to lick a drop from the tip.
I regret knowing that I taste
nothing like a woman.
Joshua Sassoon Orol is a trans Jewish poet from Raleigh, NC, writing with the texts, tunes, and stories passed down from their mixed heritage family. Joshua completed an MFA at NC State University, and received an Academy of American Poets prize while at UNC Chapel Hill. Their poetry can be read in recent or forthcoming issues of Driftwood Press, Mud Season Review, Nimrod International Journal, and Storm Cellar.
Today I find comfort in the thunder’s holy growl.
Hunger sometimes smells like petrichor: dead
bacteria awakening our most primal sense to the promise of replenishment.
All this while, I’ve been singing along: Honey, please try to understand
it’s time to love
your woman. Maybe it is time to make me your woman,
to let the soft animal of your prayers become mine for devotion.
Today I mourn the way you corner my gaze in your eye,
waiting for me to reach deep into you and fish out some requital.
My love is leaking like Dali’s time and I deserve to be loved back
Into myself. I wonder if this giving is a loss or an echo
and what I am to do with
Your lips breaking a harmattan open and pronouncing black boy joy
The bottom of my heel cracking at the joke
Your tongue grazing down my spine
and my breasts sagging to meet yours…
Knowing I should be held not as meteors are discovered:
long after their time, funneled by obsolescence
but fondled as ribbons in the sky do each other:
stretching a graze to an entanglement, whatever which way the wind blows.
Immaculata Abba is a Nigerian writer and photographer studying history and comparative literature at Queen Mary University of London. She was selected for the 2017 Writivism Creative Writing Mentoring Scheme and has been published in Brittle Paper, Saraba, Popula, and others.
—Do you have a fear of losing people?
I once rustled moonlight underneath the blanket
and threatened to keep it. I unwrapped it slowly
like sand loosed by waves, a child with one present
come Christmas morning.
—Do you feel that being black makes you a target?
If shooting holes into darkness was not a sport,
then each glow, each bend and arc, each reach
and fiery flicker of stellar assortment would be a lie—
—Who did you vote for?
All I wanted were bodies back.
—Why do black people run from police?
The concrete is hot. These are new shoes.
As sons and daughters of Mercury, we are partial
to wind sprints, Julys and Junes.
—Slavery was such a long time ago. Why can’t you just get over it?
(Sisyphuses. Gluttons for punishment,
you’d joke.) Because some of us swam
to the sea’s depth, told us this secret:
—Michael Brown is in so many of your poems. Did you know him?
I often viewed the Arch’s bend over a small piece of St. Louis
like it owned the city. I, in my school bus, passed—never able
to connect both ends.
—Who is Icarus to you?
A canary on the heels of antelope. A Pegasus without wings.
—What have you learned from protest?
I’m in love with the sound of freedom, the way the top teeth
sink into the bottom lip, the way the tongue hovers in suspense,
before bouncing suddenly to the roof of a mouth
like a mallet striking a lever; the puck rising to toll the bell,
the last consonant ending in a kiss.
—What do you hope to accomplish by writing this poem?
I hope to release a hummingbird from the palm of my hand,
watch it fly off on little wings.
Raised in St. Louis, Missouri, and San Bernardino, California, Chaun Ballard is an affiliate editor for Alaska Quarterly Review, a Callaloo fellow, and a graduate of the MFA Program at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Chaun Ballard’s chapbook, Flight, is the winner of the 2018 Sunken Garden Poetry Prize and is published by Tupelo Press. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in ANMLY (FKA Drunken Boat), Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Chiron Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Frontier Poetry, International Poetry Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Rattle, and other literary magazines. His work has received nominations for both Best of the Net and a Pushcart Prize.
Light folds around her yellow-silk
like a pillar-candle
Shadows round her cheek curve
press below her nose
On her left
a thickened impasto
of fading paint
and varnish layers obscure shapes and
it’s hard to see a dark boy
brown skin black hair without a stroke
to wash over him so he remains
vague as a footnote
in a language
that I barely know
Is he the slave-boy beaten
by her husband?
Brutal is the imagination
seeping through generations
like a sweep of paint that could
be a smooth yellow
gown or a puddle
or yellow light
from torches waving in the night
Aileen Bassis is a visual artist in New York City working in book arts, printmaking, photography, and installation. Her artwork can be viewed at www.aileenbassis.com. Her use of text in art led her to explore another creative life as a poet. Her poems have appeared in B o d y Literature, Spillway, Grey Sparrow Journal, Canary, Amoskeag, Stone Canoe, The Pinch Journal, and Pittsburgh Poetry Review. She was awarded an artist residency in poetry to the Atlantic Center for the Arts.
My floor could possibly be coming apart
but I’m hanging on for now
& for good reason
Catastrophe should only be used
as the name for a fragrance
that only exists in a fictional universe
One where a person starts every day
with a montage full of clues
I’ve spent the past week
trying to remember any particular moment
from my middle school existence
I’ve got nothing
except a general feeling
that my t-shirts were too big
& the thought that
I should’ve taken every opportunity
to garden with my grandma
Why would you say this is sad
Without anything to look forward to
the world isn’t affected much
It says right here this is blesséd
Aretha Franklin Has Died
that anybody is able to think about anything else
But I’m being unreasonable
even about myself (eye-roll upon eye-roll)
That’s what the edges of memory are for
Covered in foam
Hoping to be jumped in
though prepared for the inevitable slip & fall
Glory be what makes us love the ground
as much as what floats above it
When I think of dying I think
about where I’d like to be forever
I’ll forgive you for guessing incorrectly
I’m dancing in the kitchen I’m making a meal
for a person I love a song is playing & what a song it is
Oh I wouldn’t mind being here for a long time
Dalton Day is the author of Exit, Pursued (Plays Inverse) and a preschool teacher. He lives in Atlanta, and can be found at tinyghosthands.com.
Rally (n.) 1650s, originally in the military sense of ‘a regrouping of renewed
action after a repulse’
I confuse the armored buses for deliverance a line of colored
steel some tarnished some spit—
shined My surprise at this release of white
bodies Their flocking together
Their delivery of renewed action
the guns hanging from their waists
so many baseball bats even,
one wrapped in rusted barbed wire
I imagine their knuckles exhausted from tight-gripping
all that power Their revival from this
banding together— one moving mass
of enthusiasm I am standing:
a body radiating in the stilled heat
no clouds to encase a sliver of the sun
Sweat trailed my thighs my jawline
I wished to be rinsed washed away
I wished for a different kind of fragmenting
I never recognized the buses’ departure
The fade of roused bodies I was left
in still silence The city ate up by the quiet
Kiyanna Hill has roots in Petersburg, Richmond, and Charlottesville, Virginia. She is a MFA candidate at the University of Maryland.
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