The Shekhinah, The Key to the Cinema, & The Very Breath of Children Is Free of Sin

The Shekhinah

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

been home.
A long
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/.

Rets

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
transgressions
during the day:
failure to put toys
away promptly,
picking at sausages
at lunch, plucking
the neighbor’s
lilies-of-the-valley
on their walk
to Jewel.

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.

Jesus Wears a Puerto Rican Flag on his Jacket and a Flower in his Hair

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,
another lifetime.

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.

A Definition

mother

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.

Na


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, los frijoles ya se quemaron, & Apology to Her Majesty, Queen Cardi B

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.

Whirling dervishes
in long white tees,
bum-rushed me

at a bautizo. Pressed
against my lips,
the cholo chalice

kill it blood.

My chest flushed
at watching boys bronze
into adobe-cotta.

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.
Cocked belt-buckle

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

voy
a tenderlos,
as suitcases chuckle
through our home.

sobres stashed
in gabinetes, cash
in chamarras.

mamá inside her black
mustang, rezando
bluetooth misteros
con cuñadas.

what’s changed,
i think
es que ahora,
la creo.

that in reno
or fresno, or
the broad shoulders
of a califas carretera

is her—

a fitted red dress,
botas de tacón,
freshly dyed hair

blushing—
at the nights
that paint
her face

con la misma fé

she once had
for these walls,

burgundy,
off white,
rosita.
that is to say,

i wish i’d been there
amá,
by your side
in the courtroom,

when apá buried
his face
inside the bench.

realizing then, he
wasn’t the sole owner
of this house

named grief.

cómo quisiera
levantar
su cara,
para que viera

the broken pieces
of me,
on car seats
& bedsides—

where the water broke
from your eyes,
birthed me

a man—

& see, the exact moment
i buried
my boyhood,

amá sabrá
que hacer.

 


 

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.

Not Your Color

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.

Mordekhai

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 הוא
so 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.

Dis/obedience, Synecdoche, Vice Versa, & Machinations of the Absurdly Happy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anna Wang is a high school student from Illinois. Her writing has been recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, Hollins University, Columbia College, and the National YoungArts Foundation, among others. Her work appears in Hyphen, YARN, Red Queen Literary Magazine, and elsewhere. When she isn’t writing, she practices spoken word or attempts to puzzle out a lighthouse jigsaw.