a bird’s song is sin By Ernest O. Ogunyemi

a bird’s song is sin

for boys like me
who do not know
how to kill
the fire burning
in their bodies.

how many times will I come
here to the stream to wash all the filth away?

Father whips me every day, but
the devil has become part of me—my other half.

Mother brings home bottles of holy water
for me to drink, it is to cleanse my mouth of

all the impure loves I have tasted—
a girl’s lip hides between my gums

a boy’s name puffs my cheeks on the sides
the name of a boy you love cannot be hid

love is glaring. a bird’s song is broken
into bits. I pick it up for mending

and the song is crushed between my palms.
beneath my heart lies the thoughts of you

in my eyes a dream of you, little bird leaving
to leave—not live—is your only option

the other option is burning—breaking
it is the fire that keeps the ship at bay.

Father takes me to the font, calls God
his son, and spirit, and dips me in

the water. I have come here a million times
perhaps this time my eyes will not

fix itself so hard on a boy who looks like
Eden’s apple, tastes like heaven’s song

a boy soft like the feel of manna, melting
into flakes on my tongue. how he never

dies, how this love seems
eternal, yet trapped in now.

I touch my wetness
in the dark
and fire dies in my heart
in my heart—AMEN.

By Ernest O. Ogunyemi

Biography:

Ernest O. Ogunyemi is an eighteen-year-old boy singing in words from the corner of his room in Nigeria—to the world. His works have appeared in Kalahari, Praxis Online, Literally Stories, Acumen UK, and elsewhere. He is learning to walk on water, not when it freezes.

At Yee Shun Milk Company in Macau, Where They Only Serve Two Things: Hot and Cold Steamed Milk Pudding By Stephen Briseno

At Yee Shun Milk Company in Macau, Where They Only Serve Two Things:
Hot and Cold Steamed Milk Pudding

So what
that we spent an hour
searching for this place
tucked along Avenida de Almeida Ribiero,
steam steeping the open room,
instead of bumming the hours
away on Hac Sa Beach.

So what
that nearly every seat
was occupied with patrons
composing music from the soft
plink of spoons chiming porcelain
and dishing about the glut
of tourists who had just waltzed in.

So what
that my hands swallowed
the fragile cup like a bouncer at a tea party
or how the red beans floating
on top resembled atomic pintos
slathered thick in cherry
red lip gloss, unsettling
to my American eyes.

So what
that it had the consistency
of warmed-over yogurt
lounging in a plastic tub
for some cheap hotel’s continental breakfast
or that you didn’t care
much for its lean sweetness.

I was
finally living
off of crumpled plane
tickets and battered
suitcases and the collected
ink of customs stamps
in the back pages
of my passport.

I had
gone up to the kid
I once was (narrow and confined)
and unbolted the door wide
to the seductive side streets
and delicious hidden corners and
dicey food stalls
of the world.

And besides–
Bourdain
recommended this place.
By God,
I’d slurp up
every
bit

By Stephen Briseño

Biography:

Stephen Briseño’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Memoir Mixtapes, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, 8 Poems, formercactus, Bone & Ink Press, and Rabid Oak. He lives in San Antonio with his wife and daughter, teaches middle school English, and drinks far too much coffee. Follow him on Twitter: @stephen_briseno

Seedling By Stephen Briseño

Seedling

I cradle my daughter in
that nook between bedtime
and sleep. Her breathing
settles, a calming sea,
when a memory of a photograph
sails to mind: a boy washed
up on some Grecian beach
face planted in the sand
like an exposed seed.

I ask the night:
What fruit comes from such
a seed? What will
it bear?

His father’s voice answers
me between shadows
of stuffed bears
(so similar to my own)

–nothing yet everything
–nothing yet everything
–nothing yet everything

By Stephen Briseño

Biography:

Stephen Briseño’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Memoir Mixtapes, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, 8 Poems, formercactus, Bone & Ink Press, and Rabid Oak. He lives in San Antonio with his wife and daughter, teaches middle school English, and drinks far too much coffee. Follow him on Twitter: @stephen_briseno

Hardwood By Katie Pukash

Hardwood

I sweep the floor twice a day.
Hardwood is funny like that,
always knowing which soles to bear
and which to borrow.

I am going to be sorry for this-
for the dirt I have created.
So much sweeping.

Everything in our apartment is unused.
I wish I could say the same about myself.
Pristine- Acetone- Spotless-
My palms have aged,
more olive orchard than apple tree.

I found out today that I am a Pisces Moon.
I do not know what this means,
but I read articles supposedly about myself
and wonder if the bathtub is done filling.

There is a gap in between the floorboards
and our bedroom door.
They will never meet faces,
brush elbows.
Unless I release the hinges,
snap the screws,
say goodbye to the stain,
nourish all the wood back to its birthplace.

Trees never die of old age.
My living room floors died
of a broken heart.
I think.
I guess that is what happened.

My broom broke yesterday.
There is so much dirt now,
collecting, gathering, keeping.
I am not going to be sorry for this.
I am not going to be sorry for this.

By Katie Pukash

Biography:

Katie Pukash is a writer and poet based in Boise, Idaho. Her work has appeared in Ink&Nebula, Breadcrumbs Mag, Yay! LA, among others. She was a member on the 2013, 2014, and 2018 Boise Poetry Slam Team and competed at the National level representing Idaho. She currently has two self published chapbooks.

Never Knew He Wanted Tianna G. Hansen

Never Knew He Wanted

he picked up another bottle
only the first of the weekend which
I knew would be drained by the end
of the day, ready for another, ready to
inhale and consume the way
he took apart my heart and ate it whole
drank it in bits, in rough sips the way
he downed the alcohol
never even noticed how
my heart cried every time I saw
his eyes grow bloodshot and his mouth
hang slack; how I yearned for nothing more
than to have his love and hear him say
he loved me
I stayed because I knew he did
in his own way – he told me he
couldn’t stand to be abandoned
after his dad abandoned him that day
he told me over and over, after
the alcohol had gone to his head
sometimes he was angry and others
he was sad, the way he always got before
reliving that day when he lost it all
I allowed him to destroy me too
thinking I deserved it, promising I would
never abandon him, but in the end I did,
in the end it was self-preservation
after becoming a lemon in his cocktail
something for him to suck on then toss aside
nothing more than small satisfaction
when he wanted it, never in gentleness
always rough, how he took me
and I will never forget the night, it was
the new year, that was when it sealed
inside me –drunk before midnight struck
he didn’t even recognize me
when I moved to dance beside him…
when we finally made it home
I was so angry, I wanted him to see
instead of looking at me so blankly,
blank stare took me by the throat
in one thick hand, choked the air right
from my windpipe and I thought
this is it, this may be how I die
tossed me to the ground like a rag doll
and that’s all I ever was in his hands –
pliable. Rags. Nothing.
I used to think I was special –
how stupidly ignorant of me
nobody could be special unless
they gave him what he sought
filled a hole that was unable
to be filled and promised him
a forever he never knew
he wanted.

By Tianna G. Hansen

Biography:

Tianna G. Hansen has spent her whole life writing and intends to continue this with her recent husband by her side and her wonderful cat Stella. She started her own indie lit mag in June, Rhythm & Bones, and has continued expanding with the most recent project an anthology for survivors of sexual abuse to come forward and share their stories. Follow her work at CreativeTianna.com or check out her mag at RhythmNBone.com. She’s also on Twitter @Tiannag92.

Small Town Pantoum By Tyler Gadaire

Small Town Pantoum

Long winter nights, negative-fifteen wind chills
and snow drifts threading themselves over hills
and through single-lane streets in attempt to sew
this town shut in an endless sheet of white.

Snow drifts thread themselves under Amish wagons
and decade-old Ford trucks, tire studs stripped bare.
This town is stuck in an endless white: Out of work,
Out of hope. The potato harvest provides less and less

each year and farmers, in their rusted-out trucks and bald tires,
grow weary when fixing their tractor heads and bale lifts,
out of hope that the next season might give a little more.
Kids like Chris or Jim come out of high school and don’t

hesitate to leave, unwilling to help their folks fix what’s broken.
People like Chris don’t want to get stuck here another year,
kids in high school like Jim’s brother want more than empty
barns and abandoned mills. They don’t want to just get drunk

on moonshine every night at one a.m., getting stuck in small
ditches by the elementary school after hours of doing donuts.
They want to forget about McCain’s and Allen’s Coffee Brandy,
They don’t want to think about coming home, because home

is just a sinking town that falls deeper into the long winter
nights and negative-fifteen-degree wind chills. They just want
to drive away, avoid the horseshit and potholes on Center Street
and race down the single-lane roads like it was their first time.

By Tyler Gadaire

Biography:

A native of Aroostook County in Maine, Tyler Gadaire is a 23-year-old graduate of the Univ. of Maine Farmington’s Creative Writing and English program. Tyler’s poetry has been published in Z-Publishing’s Emerging Writer Series, Asterism and Eunoia Review. Tyler is currently working on a draft of his first poetry chapbook.

Modesty for the Living By Katie Pukash

Modesty for the Living

I cover my skin most days.
Modesty suits my trauma
like the neighborhood watch
or
that year that nothing bad happened.

My hair is the loudest part about me.
Purple.
Keeper of all that is behind a locked door.
I attempt to be a locked door.
Until I realize that being human means
Open Season.

It means that these clothes don’t do shit
to protect me because
we can’t install deadbolts into our chests.
We can’t be invincible in the ways we want to.

I wish nothing could render me raw-
but even my turtle neck has a lose thread.
I bet if you pull on it my entire sweater will come apart.
String by string.
Until all I have left is
a pile of polyester in my hands
ready to become my father.

By Katie Pukash

Biography:

Katie Pukash is a writer and poet based in Boise, Idaho. Her work has appeared in Ink&Nebula, Breadcrumbs Mag, Yay! LA, among others. She was a member on the 2013, 2014, and 2018 Boise Poetry Slam Team and competed at the National level representing Idaho. She currently has two self published chapbooks.