OFF HOURS By stephanie roberts

OFF HOURS

i’m going to be in love again
used to be the big department stores in the city
closed on sunday
those early morning trains belonged to
black church goers
copped to king james unaware
how rare they were
christmas day you could drive from wall street
to harlem a mile a minute
did it once (can’t remember why)
maybe because i could
like i’m going to love again
in spite of this exhaustion of entropy
consuming my heart like cancer
(never met anyone with heart cancer
or i never met anyone without it)
can’t close stores now
literally a done deal
i’m not on the F heading to the church
opposite carnegie hall
where i sang all four verses shoulder to shoulder
with a tenor from the met
i’m embarrassed to still be off-key
about love
talked about it ten years twenty
(enough already)
let the workers go
home to their families
for fuck’s sake
let’s get sick of talk of love
let’s threaten poets with physical harm
i’m going to love again so quietly
no one will know
i’m home.

By stephanie roberts

Biography:

stephanie roberts has work featured or forthcoming, this year, in The Stockholm Review of Literature, Reunion: The Dallas Review, Room Magazine (Canada), Shooter Literary Magazine (UK), Rat’s Ass Review, After the Pause, The Thing Itself, The Inflectionist Review, and elsewhere. Born in Central America, she grew up in Brooklyn, NY and now lives just outside of Montréal in a wee french town. Her twitter @ringtales, mixes a passion for literature, blacktwitter, resistance politics, and a boilermaker of irreverence. www.oceansandfire.com

That Morning in August By Marie Anzalone

That Morning in August

She told me but this isn’t poetry. Poetry is nice. It
should make me feel good. So, I tried.
I tried to write only of ephemeral kisses and happy
well-fed people. Of carefree sparrows and respect
for my leaders and my great dream of marrying the
right man with nice straight teeth and a morning power
routine and our two perfect children.
Of emotionally safe sex and love of angels
and puppies.

Then I dreamed I was dying in a cage made of
daytime television and bleach and Styrofoam. I
started to hear voices, and they rose as a crescendo
and a trumpet and a nuclear air raid siren.

They told me of what the tree said in its own defense.
The lullaby the wind sang to the pines on their last night
before a visit from men with chainsaws.
I felt what a tired bird feels in your city when one day
everything it knew is concrete.
I read an opinion of war written in blood on the
walls and vast silences of shelled homes.
I read the clinical notes of the night-shift nurse
in San Pedro Sula.
I read what comforted a girl giving birth on a refugee
boat in the Adriatic Sea.

They told me, Poetry:
is what is exposed when the polish of “nice”
wears thin and falls away.
It is what the boy who committed suicide could not
find to tell his family;
and what the kid in a robbery could not say
to his friends.
It is what people who only ever ride in cars miss,
that makes them hate the bus rider;
and what the bus-rider might put into words
if she knew how, and were not too tired,
from riding in buses.

It is the raw freedom exposed when you permit
the loving mother of your children
to ask you, without apology, to fuck me like a whore;
but also, the unit used to measure space between
two lovers who share a bed but no longer
a heart.
It is what the orphan could teach you about the
sanctity of family; as much as saving the life
of the woman who married your ex, also could.
Or the woman who lost her child, blaming the
one who decided not to give birth.

It is what I think you meant when you said, “if only…
I had met you 10 year earlier.”

It is what my friend did not say to his mother in time.
What we did not see in the mirror by Nagasaki’s reflected light
that morning in August; and what those on the ground
did see.
It is my aunt walking into cancer’s battlefield, armed
only with a can of sarcasm.

It is what you miss most when you are so far
from the last place you called home;
and what you see on those inevitable midnight walks
when no place or person or building
has ever been home.
It is the stranger at your table, and the thief
in your family; and that knowing look when you
are trapped in a meeting and you see
the face of the only other person there who
understands you.
It is the guilt of being joyful while others are still suffering.

It is that last fence standing after
a century of wind and waves had their say.

Poetry is the sum total of all things raw and tender,
and more,
that I have ever wanted to, but could not,
say, to anyone, including you,
to and about and for, you. These are all things
I do not think she, living in a house made of straight
protected and committee-approved
lines and desires,
can comprehend today. This is how poetry
has always invaded the houses of those who are
already dead.

author’s note: Inspired partly by a reading of Heather McHugh’s intensely shattering poem, “What He Thought.” This poem was translated from its original in Spanish, which can be found here: http://www.writerscafe.org/writing/zorra_encantada/1882668/

By Marie Anzalone

Biography:

Marie Anzalone is a development worker researching climate change effects in the rural Guatemalan highlands, where she lives with an active volcano in her backyard and a passionate love for all things arts and sciences. She crunches precipitation data and interviews poor farm wives on her good days and humbles herself the rest of the time presenting poetry in Spanish in front of a tough crowd who are quick to remind her of every gender and verb tense error she has ever made. She has been writing poetry for more than 15 years, and would like to offer a few pieces for consideration in your esteemed publication. She is offering the following 5 poems: “41 Fireflies,” “That Morning in August,” “Daily Consumption,” “Maternal Line,” and “The Freedom of a Rainy Day.”

Her creative writing and essays and short stories have been published in the Namaste Human Rights Journal of the University of Connecticut (2010), and several times in The Larcenist, Rising Phoenix Press, and Versewrights. She has published three stand-alone books of poetry, which may be found under her author profile on Goodreads and on Amazon, and has had works included in several creative writing anthologies. The five pieces she is offering have not been previously published through any print format other than her personal blog on Writers Café.

love song for an alcoholic, from an alcoholic By Emma Bleker

love song for an alcoholic, from an alcoholic

I am unfamiliar when the clouds come
across your eyes, and still, you have no mother.
she is buried somewhere, same as my father:
different knives, and still, the same bed.

you suckle from days-old bottles like
honey can birth itself, like nectar is not hard-
earned, like a body could sacrifice
without giving something in return.
I, too, reach the end and wonder where
is more.

I offer the palms of my hands, take bites
from my arms in communion, pray I will
find another way to fill my belly. you ask how
to keep your eyes open while being gutted.
I tell you the fable of stitches as I, a myth,
bleed out onto the kitchen floor somewhere
back in the dust of 2010.

you ask with your mother’s teeth, through
your father’s mouth. I cannot find the words
to say that you were the one who taught me.
we fashion our fingers into fishhooks,
I become my mother’s cheeks and my father’s
secret-keeping,

we become tiny sliver moons that find
their first meal inside of one another. you sleep
outside and hope to be raked up. I crawl backward
into your skull and cannot sleep for weeks.
It looks so much like my own,

sourness and god wrap their bodies around
one another until we cannot tell the difference.
I spill the honey on the carpet, you tell me
to look away, as if I cannot recognize the sound

of desperate teeth and tongue clawing
at what is not yet soaked up. I hold your head

and call you by my father’s sickness,
by the name we share: we bring
the knives into bed and teach them

how impossible it is to sleep still
when they are tugging at the pieces of us
that have already been opened. blood recognizes
blood. thirst is the god of glass.

we make ourselves a home of bottles
and call the graveyard a cathedral.
I am love and all its hatred when we are
empty tin at the edge of the bed.

I am both my mother and my father:
the pleading to stop and the promise
that he never begun. and so in this bed,
we are four: that dichotomy of we.
we both are, breathing, knotting in what in
me loves what in you, and what in me
is flood, come to hold onto you.

and if we are the bottom of the bottle
we were born into, we will always
reach it. if we are the bed of our
parents, we will always be undone.

By Emma Bleker

Biography:

Emma Bleker is a 21 year old writer working for her English degree in Virginia. She has previously been published in Persephone’s Daughters, Cahoodaloodaling, Yellow Chair Review, Thought Catalog, Rising Phoenix Review, and Skylark Review, among others. She probably wants to be your friend.

Firegirl By Erin Jin Mei O’Malley

Firegirl

1.
We used to paint our foreheads
with soot gathered from overturned logs.
He made me believe in rubbing dirt
into our brown skin,
that it could make us darker, holier.

2.
There was no need for night, half-moon bites
shadowed my collarbone.

3.
My mother once called me a pyromaniac
for running twigs through the fire and waving them
in the air to catch oxygen. For staring too long at the smoke
without blinking. She never once said anything
about the way I used to look at the boy
who seared his name along my spine.

4.
I have not forgiven myself for the unused
fire extinguisher in my closet.

5.
No one ever told me to
tend to the fire. The blaze told me
to grow wild with him, and oh god, I did.

6.
The burn under my left thigh is still tender
as if the raw flame still licks the skin.

7.
His hands remind me of the way I shrieked
when I touched the handle of an iron poker
and felt the scorch
of metal branding my palm.

By Erin Jin Mei O’Malley

Biography:

Erin Jin Mei O’Malley is currently studying in Germany as a Speedwell Scholar. She has previously served as a Genre Editor for Polyphony H.S. and is the Co-Founder of Sooth Swarm Journal. Erin has attended workshops run by the University of Virginia and the Kenyon Review. Her work been recognized by Hollins University, Columbia College Chicago, the National YoungArts Foundation, the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and others.

BLACKBIRDS by stephanie roberts

BLACKBIRDS

for frank o’hara

toni morrison would say, he dragged that child by her hair. her hair!
her fellow red-wingeds sprang to her like mama blue jay
will come at you, gloves to the ground, and flat out belt you
in the head if jay jr. is sitting on the patio table.

just bikinis and bare feet, they flapped around—rage-afraid.
their Girl pressed through the earth, in her pink triangles,
with that brute of a crow perched—glock and badge fists
wound in the braid of tender feathers under authority’s uniform sneer.

a thirty-something, forty-something, fifty-something, sixty…
rat, in khaki cargo shorts, tan polo shirt, ubiquitous go-team baseball cap
and sandals, strolls past mayhem as a ten year-old colonialist unnotices
a slave auction or a southern man a lynching. scarecrows off-duty
compassion’s cornfield.

across and over patio tables of devilled eggs, seven-layer dip,
barbecue chicken, collards, codfish, patacones, suya,
satay, tamales, kimchi, hummus, coleslaw and prosecco,
crow’s brother, auntie, cousin, niece, will be the one to tell me
how hard cops have it. they know in their sleep, their
fledglings are not a species endangered.

in the background, miles davis blacks in blue.

they cry and cry red wing blackbird—the god-made resting place
for slugs. amen and amen. nothing to see. here.

By stephanie roberts

Biography:

stephanie roberts has work featured or forthcoming, this year, in The Stockholm Review of Literature, Reunion: The Dallas Review, Room Magazine (Canada), Shooter Literary Magazine (UK), Rat’s Ass Review, After the Pause, The Thing Itself, The Inflectionist Review, and elsewhere. Born in Central America, she grew up in Brooklyn, NY and now lives just outside of Montréal in a wee french town. Her twitter @ringtales, mixes a passion for literature, blacktwitter, resistance politics, and a boilermaker of irreverence. www.oceansandfire.com

Gorgon’s Lament By Megan Kim

Gorgon’s Lament

The language of my grandparents was aborted in my childhood.
I wanted to eulogize it, but I did not have the words.

I line my eyes with my ancestors’ ashes, color my lips with gochujang.
I think I am doing penance. For what, I do not know.

The white woman sprinkles grains of pity on my wounds,
says, Darling, not everything is about race. I cannot answer her

because my mouth is filled with rice. I am chewing on
chink and gook and they get stuck in my teeth.

Choking, I cough, Maybe not. But maybe more than you think.
She doesn’t respond. I look down— my hands are invisible.

America, who will bridge the gap between your dream and your truth?
I try, but I am only a half-realized echo of the diaspora, a ghost

who haunts the chasm and cannot reach the other side.
America, you are Athena, untouchable in your crown of reason,

your golden hair smelling like a battleground, metallic
and unyielding. I am Medusa, raped on your sacred shores

by the sea who claimed me for himself, that watery expanse
who caresses continents but belongs to no land.

America, you have turned my black hair to serpents.
You have made me a monster, and now no one will meet my eye.

By Megan Kim

Megan Kim is a mixed-race student currently living in Oregon. She is the founder and editor of her high school literary magazine and holds a state championship title for poetry recitation. She believes in art as a means of expression, healing, growth, connection, and activism. In her free time, she enjoys adventuring with the people she loves. More of her writing can be found at magpiedreams.tumblr.com.

Blues on crack By Jacquese Armstrong

Blues on crack

and i am inside my mind
controlling the levers that
guide my lifeless shell
through the universe
the machine is outdated

every highway a
dead-end street
to insanity-in-a-box
lost in space like
will robinson

rising at noon i
pull the shades down
drown in mattress and
pillow again smother
my head in
cover i
am an ostrich
i don’t want to know

three-fried brain
hollowed eyes sinking
like a raft with a hole
down
to my concrete feet

see black in
Light
grey storm skies/
optimistically embraced
like a childhood buddy
lost to the rains
the air’s stench can’t upset me
corrugated skin and i
could care less about exfoliation
my mind left without me

wrap myself around myself
in a corner so tight i
can’t rock/head on knees
no tears a
straitjacket looks
inviting
i am not lucid

winter sings arias january
through january in an irritating
mezzo-soprano the
bareness of trees in thick wind
like dinosaur bones in a small room exhibit
i am
frightening
smoking newports 24/7
it
satisfies my taste for
food pacing the floor
guarding the door
from thought police ‘cause
they may storm in
and arrest my carcass…

(and when someone makes
you laugh you
envision being with them
forever. no cost.)

guilty innocence
brown/grey the
stylist’s dream thoughts
on a loudspeaker
like the cars rollin
through the streets
i think i’ll go dig my grave

stepford wife presentation’s
grey ghost gives
up the life

not looking back.
Blues on crack.


By Jacquese Armstrong

Biography:

Jacquese Armstrong is a writer/poet residing in Central New Jersey. Her chapbook, dance of the shadows, is to be released in June. Her work has been previously published in GFT Presents: One in Four, For Harriet and Black Magnolias Literary Journal among others.