Ajnabi (Foreigner) By Ramna Safeer

Ajnabi (Foreigner)

Mama, I miss my language.
My tongue hits the roof of my mouth and
comes back homeless.
I am sad for Pakistan. Our home in the hills
is still there, Mama. Hussein and his truck of milk bottles
still pass our mango tree at dawn.
The tattered rope of your broken swing still
kisses the wind. In April, when the breeze makes the hills
start to whistle. Mama, the chariots all have broken wheels
and nowhere to go back to. Mama, I hear men
come home from the bazaars and see drones sitting
at their dinner tables instead of daughters.
I hear the daughters are going blind but the drones can see
an unshaven beard from miles away.
Mama, this ground does not taste sacred, this soil does not breed beautiful, this
house is little
more than skeleton.
Mama, Pakistan is the boy in your dreams,
sitting at the steps of the white mansion, between the
skyward pillars, his bare feet in a puddle of children’s hands.
Mama, I miss my language. Urdu asks to
sit in your throat, not near your teeth where it is easy
to spit it out. Urdu asks to use your breath,
so it can make nests of your lungs and
fly only when the nation is ready.
Mama, my tongue looks for a hook and sees only
dead fish. Mama, there are nuclear bombs being tested
in our jewelry boxes. Mama, I miss my language and
the smell of the mosques opening their doors
all at once. I miss the way bending your hands in prayer,
God or no God, Allah or none, teaches your fingers
the difference between let’s meet again and
maybe one day

By Ramna Safeer

Biography:

Ramna Safeer is a pre-Law English Lit student. She is a writer, blogger, researcher, activist and perpetual coffee-spiller. Her poetry has been previously published in The ASUS Undergraduate Review, Atwood Mag and Words-on-Pages Magazine. Her essays and articles have appeared in The Huffington Post, New Canadian Media and The Queen’s Journal, where she works as the Editorials Editor. She is the founder and blogger at CherishChai.com, an online space that maps her journey to recapture her Pakistani, Muslim heritage. 

Dear Friends By Jordan Hamilton

Dear Friends

If they ever put me on trial for war crimes
it will be because I have been a willing soldier
in the war on your loneliness
committing acts of genocide against your despair
They will sentence me to hang
because I refuse to lay down arms in the
battle against your regrets
The world will see an example made of me
for taking friendship so personally
And as they walk me to the gallows
I will stand tall and my last words will be a
promise to all of you:
“My loyalty is like the horizon
you can never really see the end
My arms are strong and they will always
hold you up
I can carry your burdens
just as easily as my own
My heart may have trouble loving itself
but there will always be room for you to rest here”
I promise I will never leave you behind
All of this
Has always been for you
I want to make your heart beat so fast
You never forget the song your blood sings as it
rushes to your fingertips
I believe
despite popular opinion that your every breath
is as precious as diamonds
never give it away to anyone who can’t appreciate
the luster
precious
like the last bit of hope in the Pandora’s Box that is your chest. Never let it escape.
Let every kiss
you ever get
dance on your tongue like it’s the only language
you’ve ever spoken
Hold on to every friend you ever make
the same way the full moon holds on to the tide
And remember
No matter what they say
You
are absolutely beautiful
So be beautiful
and dance
like no one is watching
even if you are the only one who can hear
the music
Sing like no one is listening and your
voice is the last chance the world has to
hold itself together
And live
like it’s the only thing you’ve ever loved doing
like life is the last thing your grandmother
ever gave you
or the first thing your father ever
taught you
hold it in your hand like her rosary or like
his hard work & self respect
And when you breathe
feel the air in your chest
like it is trying to escape.

By Jordan Hamilton

Biography:

Jordan Hamilton is a 23 year old poet from Aransas Pass, Texas. He was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 2014, where he learned to stare open eyed into clouds of CS gas while reciting Buddy Wakefield’s “Human the Death Dance.” He thinks punk rock can save the world and find his dreams in the stories of strangers. He wants you to know that your survival is the highest form of courage. His work can be found at workingonhumble.com or in audio format at jordanhamilton.bandcamp.com

When I Was 11 I Was A Hollow Girl By Kimberly Siehl

When I Was 11 I Was A Hollow Girl

When I was 11 I thought I had been here long enough.
The bags under my eyes drooped so low like a hammock that could hold a hundred people.
The cracks in my chapped lips looked like currents in the dead sea
opening like canyons when I tried to speak.
When I was 11
I cried more than I spoke
because words couldn’t say how
my bones felt like they were collapsing inside of me because my brain
stopped telling my body it was needed.
The tips of my fingers couldn’t feel the sunlight anymore
They only twitched at the thought of picking up the kitchen knife.
When I was 11
I would wake up
disappointed to hear my mother’s voice in the morning
because it meant I had woken up
and not stayed asleep.
I tried to read books and sing songs
but I was filled with minor keys and unwritten stories
that nobody cared to listen to.
When I was 11
The girls at school wondered why I was always absent
And boys asked why my eyes were always so puffy.
I would take a breath and swallow the words that tied a noose around my esophagus
And I would smile until they turned away.
When I was 11
My best friend was a doughy girl that always wanted to have sleepovers
And a woman who my parents paid $160 a week to listen to my silence.
I was a shell
a carcass
a layer of skin
trying to understand why some had warm bodies
and why I was cold to the touch.
When I turned 18 I realized that there was music inside of me
that couldn’t be silenced.
The bags under my eyes are from
staring at the stars at night
and the freckles on the cheeks of beautiful people that pass me on the street.
Sometimes I feel hollow inside
and forget how to get out of bed
but I want to be here now
and I want to plug the holes
that let the light escape for all these years.
When I was 11 I thought I had been here long enough
but I had only just begun.

By Kimberly Siehl

Biography:

My name is Kimberly Siehl and I’m a 20 year old student at The College of New Jersey studying clinical psychology and spanish. I love writing, singing, dogs, and good food.

Last Train Out Of Montmorenci Falls By W.K Kortas

Last Train Out Of Montmorenci Falls

It left the depot relatively unencumbered;
Passenger service having been discontinued the winter before,
So the engine and the few sad cars pulled out
Containing no more than a few sacks of mail and an antique air compressor
Headed down to Dubois for either repair or euthanasia.
In truth, you couldn’t blame the PRR folks;
The branch line hadn’t been profitable for decades, if ever at all,
The business of business being business and all that.
That said, the perfect reasonableness of events which transpired
Did not make them any more palatable.
Mind you, it was not just mere nostalgia
Which the engine’s farewell trip served up for those concerned:
Oh, there was a full complement of that,
For there was no telling how many folks
Had waited, ostensibly patiently, at trackside
For a new suit or bridal gown from Kaufman’s or Horne’s
Shipped all the way from Pittsburgh,
Or had waited, in tears one way or the other,
For a loved one coming home from one of the wars,
Stepping onto the platform all smiles, medals all but on fire in the sunlight,
Or carried off, flag-draped and cherry-lidded,
(The band playing in the tempo the particular case called for)
And the oldest of the old-timers still talked about the fateful day
When Tiger Joe Margiotti, Elk County born and bred,
Stood on the platform, the entire town there,
Cheering as one as they would never cheer again,
Waving farewell as he headed to Pittsburgh
To hear from Boss Lawrence the words we all knew would be said:
That he was too Italian, too Catholic, too rural
To receive benediction for the pursuit of statewide office,
And it wasn’t that you still couldn’t flag down the Trailways bus
Which ambled into town twice a day except Sundays,
Stopping at the jerry-built plywood shelter in front of the defunct Rexall
(Ostensibly a temporary measure, but there three years now.)
No, it was something more than that,
Intangible and yet portentous and awful,
For we had always suspected (and, deep down,
Known it to be as factual and true as our own names)
That though we had thrown rice and confetti at our successes
And wept or swore under our breaths at our failures
No differently than folks in Erie or Johnstown or Pittsburgh
Or, if we allowed ourselves the odd flight of fancy,
New York, London, or Beijing,
Our shortfall of tall buildings and traffic lights
Underscored the notion that our laughter, our cries,
Our dids and didn’ts were lesser things, of no real importance,
And the train’s final departure, its chugging labored and funereal,
Was the final sentence in an obituary written over an extended period of time
(The death itself a lingering, discomfiting affair,
Drawn out and piecemeal, like our fathers and uncles
Losing a finger here, a pinkie there
In the roller or pulp dryer back before the mills closed down),
Leaving us nothing but a pair of rails
Narrowing together like some middle schooler’s perspective drawing
Into a point in some faraway and unseen nothingness.

By W.K Kortas

Biography:

W.k. kortas is an itinerant civil servant living in Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains.  He lives and works by the axiom “Mediocre means better than some.”

Compass By Ramna Safeer

Compass

North:

Mama stepped off the plane that first time
with nothing but a shawl and sequined slippers
and her ankle fell into a foot of snow.
She says the cold changes things.
Wheels stop going and sky turns icy
and shoulders turn away for good.

South:

Love like birds flying to warmer places,
like little Pakistani boy, with
rubber sandals and a spool of kite string
clutched in his hands, running, running.
Love like little Pakistani boy growing up
to have a daughter, naming her after
everywhere he has never been, after
oceans that divide.

East:

Back home, the rickshaw men drove
down streets like no brakes, just onward.
Girls would jump onto the bumpers
and know this was flying and
borders were just lines drawn in the sandbox.
Ask the men running the dessert stalls
which way the wind was blowing
and they would throw fistfulls of sugar in the air
and watch it be taken by the breeze and they’d say,
in the direction of sweeter things.

West:

Winter, and I am warming my knuckles
against my dorm room narrator and the cold
has chafed my lips down to no feeling.
Mama calls and says three Muslims have been shot
and be safe, Ramna, say nothing, keep quiet,
be kind even at bitterness.

I am turning the radiator up all the way
and knowing that somewhere, the rickshaws are
on roads burning with heat and somewhere,
the equator runs through my Grandma’s home
like a vacant ring of snakeskin.
Here, the cold is changing things.
Parking lots are battlegrounds and gunshots echo
and kids follow the wind too far and
home forgets ever to see them again.

By Ramna Safeer

Biography:

Ramna Safeer is a pre-Law English Lit student. She is a writer, blogger, researcher, activist and perpetual coffee-spiller. Her poetry has been previously published in The ASUS Undergraduate Review, Atwood Mag and Words-on-Pages Magazine. Her essays and articles have appeared in The Huffington Post, New Canadian Media and The Queen’s Journal, where she works as the Editorials Editor. She is the founder and blogger at CherishChai.com, an online space that maps her journey to recapture her Pakistani, Muslim heritage. 

Genesis By Emily Palermo

Genesis

In the beginning,
we held the universe
in our mouths and
stardust dripped bloody
from our lips.

We were celestial and
we were hungry and
we were magic.

In the beginning,
we loved like monsters,
splitting our bones wide open,
setting our broken bodies on fire,
licking poison from our wrists.

We were hollow and
we were titans and
we were terrible.

In the beginning,
we reveled in our unholiness,
in the freedom of our sins.
We never asked for forgiveness and
the world burned and
burned and
burned.

We were wild and
we were wide-eyed and
we were forgotten.

We will rebuild the kingdom out of teeth.

By Emily Palermo

Biography:

Emily Palermo is a nineteen-year old aspiring writer from Louisiana, where she is currently pursuing a degree in English Literature. Her greatest influences include Richard Siken and Margaret Atwood. In her free time, she likes to frequent coffee shops and bookstores, talk about her dog, and wax poetic about Vincent van Gogh. More of her work can be found at http://starredsoul.tumblr.com/

The Sky Misses You Too By Valentina Thompson

The Sky Misses You Too

I’ll move to Oregon,
walk downtown, I won’t
avoid the puddles.

I want to live in a place
where the sky misses you
too.  I want to linger in
this damp body, shake with
all the ways we can’t touch,

they’ll say pneumonia.  I’ll
say your name.  They’ll list
the symptoms, I’ll say, she is
gone.  Treat my frame like
a diagnosis.  Fold my medical
bills like a love letter and

mail them without the postage.
I will find sleep that night
knowing something about you

will have to
come back to me.

By Valentina Thompson

Biography:

Valentina is a 20-year-old queer writer out of Long Beach, CA with a habit of writing to people who don’t love her back and always smiling at strangers. She is currently majoring in English, Creative Writing with a minor in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, and if lost, can often be found in any small coffee shop on a rainy day. http://theseoverusedwords.tumblr.com/

100 Cups of Coffee Later By Kimberly Siehl

100 Cups of Coffee Later

It will be September and your skin will be sun-kissed
and slightly worn from his rough hands
and wandering tongue
and you will feel as if you could
sprout wings from your vertebrae.
A few months will pass and you will find yourself tangled up
In his dark blue sheets in a room that smells like sex
and glade plug-ins
and you will wonder why nothing has smelled this good before.
Some days you will hear him laugh
and see him smile at old couples
and pet dogs that pass him by on the street.
A few months will go by
and he will stop gripping your hand so tightly
and will start to forget how you take your coffee.
Cream and sugar is fine.
You settle for tea.
A few weeks will go by and you will ache
and the veins in your arms will be the only
things that remind you that color still exists.
A few more weeks will go by and you will
take yourself on a long walk.
And just when you think you’re okay,
you will see him drive by in his beat up ford
listening to a song on the radio that probably reminds him
of a girl with brighter eyes
and steadier hands.
And just when you think you don’t need him anymore
you will leave him a 60 second voicemail of you crying
and you will try to hang up before he can start to smell the vodka
through the receiver.
It is over now and you can’t fall asleep at night
because you can’t close your eyes without thinking
about his favorite movies
or the way he licks his lips when he looks at you.
But you will meet someone else someday
who will start a fire in your belly
and will create a new light under your skin.
And when he asks you how you take your coffee,
smile at him with those beautiful teeth
and tell him you drink it black.

By Kimberly Siehl

Biography:

My name is Kimberly Siehl and I’m a 20 year old student at The College of New Jersey studying clinical psychology and spanish. I love writing, singing, dogs, and good food.

The Harvested Man By W.K Kortas

The Harvested Man

He nurses his coffee, by himself most days,
But occasionally with the one or two others
Who constitute the bulk of the clientele of the diner
(Low-slung building faceless, nameless
Although those who remember a day
When the village was at least borderline prosperous
And home to more than a few hundred wan souls
Still refer to it as “Kitty’s Place”,
Though its namesake has been dead and gone some five decades),
One of the few going concerns which implausibly remain,
Seemingly through nothing more than sheer inertia,
In the drab little downtown along Canton Street.

He languishes over his cup for as long as the mood hits him,
There being no discernible reason to hurry
(Indeed, the diner itself, once open before sunrise
Now dark and silent until a leisurely seven-thirty or so),
His place not really a working farm these days,
Just a smattering of beef cattle
(Milking and stripping out more than he can manage now)
And what acreage of corn he can get in the ground.
Eventually, he totters out of the front door,
One sleeve of his shirt rolled and pinned up
(Its former occupying member removed
After the incident with the ancient and malevolent corn binder),
Moving toward his truck with an all-but-one-legged gait,
His left-leg jigsaw-puzzled by an overturned Farmall
Some years back (most days he reckoned he’d tipped the tractor
By failing to shift his balance to accommodate driving one-armed,
Though if he was in a black enough mood he’d put it down
To an old Iroquois curse placed on the entire St. Lawrence valley.)

One could say, if he was a poet or some other damn philosophical fool,
That these partial sacrifices served to ward off some even more awful finality.
He would have none of that, of course–in his own cosmology
The gods and demons most likely have bigger fish to fry,
And, as to the prospect of some inexorable wreck and ruin,
He is of the opinion that what he has given up to this point
Is both ample and sufficient.

By W.K Kortas

Biography:

W.k. kortas is an itinerant civil servant living in Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains.  He lives and works by the axiom “Mediocre means better than some.”

Saffron By Ramna Safeer

Saffron

She tied her shawl, saffron red,
tasseled at the ends, to the
bumper of a rickshaw and
watched it go, like blood through
wind’s veins.

Pakistan sky bending over,
as if in prayer, as if to cup its hands
and whisper into them, “Love my
people, kiss my children.”

Mama smells like alleyway shisha smoke
and equator summer and paprika.
I am three. Learning to walk.
Learning the cobblestone braille
of these streets. Skinning my knees,
learning again.

Peshawar is province frozen
in goodbye. I remember it as the place
I wanted to go home to, remap the
valleys of. Walk along the path
Mama used to take to school.

A hundred and forty kids.
Bent beneath desks. Air tastes
like metal, like iron. Saffron runs
through cracks in the floor.

Pakistan sky clenches its teeth.
Pakistan sky bites its tongue.
The rickshaws seem to cut their
engines all at once.

Pakistan sky lead heavy, like whistle
lost between lips, like shawl loosening
from bumper, trampled and beaten,
like a nation shedding its shards
after a day of target practice.

By Ramna Safeer

Biography:

Ramna Safeer is a pre-Law English Lit student. She is a writer, blogger, researcher, activist and perpetual coffee-spiller. Her poetry has been previously published in The ASUS Undergraduate Review, Atwood Mag and Words-on-Pages Magazine. Her essays and articles have appeared in The Huffington Post, New Canadian Media and The Queen’s Journal, where she works as the Editorials Editor. She is the founder and blogger at CherishChai.com, an online space that maps her journey to recapture her Pakistani, Muslim heritage.