LUCKY FIN By Adrienne Novy

LUCKY FIN

In first grade, you are playing on the jungle gym.
You are climbing by the monkey bars and you tell your friend, Ava,
that one of your arms does not go up all the way,
that your parents say you have to be extra careful playing games because of it.
She does not believe you and grabs your left arm and forces it
to straighten above your head. She does not know that she is hurting you.

Later that year, Finding Nemo is released in theaters.
This becomes your family’s favorite movie.
Nemo has one fin that is much smaller than the other.
He and his father celebrate that he is different.
This part of you still feels unlucky.

Nemo pushes himself to swim as hard as he can out into dark waters
to touch the underbelly of a boat.

You and Nemo both force yourselves forward
when you are constantly told you shouldn’t.

By Adrienne Novy

Biography:

Adrienne Novy is a poet and teaching artist from the Chicago suburbs studying Creative Writing and Education in Saint Paul, MN. Her work can be found in FreezeRay Poetry, Voicemail Poems, and on Button Poetry. She loves dogs, a good blended chai, and writing in coffee shops. She is a strong believer in that it’s possible to be both cute and powerful at the same time.

SPLINTERED PADDLE By Joe Balaz

SPLINTERED PADDLE

Wen da cop wen approach
da homeless guy in Chinatown

da man wen reach behind his back
and whip out wun canoe paddle.

Den he wen swing dat ting
and hit da officer in da head

knocking da buggah out right deah.

Latah on at da hospital

da emergency room staff
had to pull out all da splinters

before dey wen put in da stiches.

Dey also had to treat
wun broken arm

and wun bad knee sprain too

foa da adah cop dat wen fall
wen he wen try use his taser.

Da guy wit tattered pants
saw da move

so he wen reach down
and grab da pavement

to pull it up like wun carpet
undahneath da surprised officer’s feet.

Moa police came racing
down da street

wit all da sirens blaring.

Da destitute guy
wen just laugh at all da commotion

and den he wen melt like wun phantom
into da sidewalk.

Wen da cop wen approach
da homeless guy in Chinatown again

it wuz déjà vu part two

but it wuz unlike da dream
da guy just had

aftah he wuz awakened from wun nap.

“You know,

you lucky I not going arrest you again
like I did last time,

so pick up your backpack and leave.”

Da homeless guy
walked down da sidewalk and disappeared

just like da cop and da business owners
wanted him to.

By Joe Balaz

Biography:

Joe Balaz writes in Hawaiian Islands Pidgin (Hawai’i Creole English) and in American-English. He edited Ho’omanoa: An Anthology of Contemporary Hawaiian Literature. Some of his recent Pidgin writing has appeared in Rattle, Juked, Otoliths, and Hawai’i Review, among others. Balaz is an avid supporter of Hawaiian Islands Pidgin writing in the expanding context of World Literature. He presently lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

If Feminism is for Ugly Girls By Kaity Gee

If Feminism is for Ugly Girls

If feminism is for ugly girls,
Let me be ugly.
Let my face be covered in boils and sores.
Let my teeth rot into pieces.

If all you desire is
a pretty face,
A woman who sits silent and
Nods to coarse words,

Make me screaming and savage–
Make me the woman
Yelling
Louder than a freight train.

If all a woman is,
is but an object,
Let me be the Medusa whose
Head of snakes will turn you to stone.

Let me be righteously terrible,
Let me be scar-faced­,
For I will bear my trauma
Terrifyingly
Where it is plain to see.

Let me be untouchable, undesirable,
Let other women laugh
At my Crooked nose and
Jagged teeth.

Tell me man,
With my hair of snakes
And rotted smile–
Do I petrify?

By Kaity Gee

Previously published in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine

Biography:

Kaity Gee is writer from Bay Area, California, currently studying at New York University. Only eighteen, she has already been making a splash in the creative writing world, winning twenty-three regional and two national Scholastic Writing Awards in addition to other regional and national awards in only the past two years. Kaity’s work has previously been published in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Avalon Review, Sweet Literary Magazine, Five:2:One Magazine, and in American Library of Poetry’s anthology, Eloquence. Writing has been an integral part of her life: words have changed Kaity’s life, whether it be on the pages of a classic or her own sprawled onto the parallel veins of an open notebook. She hopes her words breathe life in you. She hopes her words leave you breathless.

Mugwort By Ashley Loper

Mugwort

If this were 1693
I would be blamed
for blighted crops
and winter sickness.

My bloodroot hair would foreshadow
drought,
fires,
stillborn births.

Villagers would be banned
from wearing shades of red.
Men and their excessive fear
tunneling centuries of ignorance.

I do not know if I am a Witch.
but I do know I feel more at Home
inside the thickets of rosemary and green briar
inside the full Moon of a coyote’s mouth.

It always rains
when I am angry
and the electricity flickers
when I cry.

This body is my feral announcement.
This body made of dirt and thunder
Loam and loud noises
Bloodsap and bellowing

For my 13th birthday
my father taught me seven different names for salt
showed me how to urge tenderness out of his garden
how to lean into the seasons.

So now
because of vegetables and vigor
I am lashed to a pyre of solitude
left not to burn, but to brave the darkest of things:

womb and bone and brain.

By Ashley Loper

Biography:

A fan of dark fruits, dark chocolate, and dark, rainy days, Ashley Loper started birthing poetry like gentle rabbits out of her body at a young age. Her poems draw inspiration from the natural world, the human condition, and all the equal measures of brutality and softness that exist in between. What she lacks in logic, she often makes up for in parable. You can find her literary best friends at http://goodreads.com/feralocity.

No By Lili Leader-Williams

No

He doesn’t know the depth to which I can sink.
He’s not privy to shower sobbing sessions,
has only witnessed the tears I’ve allowed him to see.

Try as I might the troubles don’t end
with a kiss upon the forehead, reassurance
that he still loves me.

There’s still the warm May sun to remind me
of sparrows against an aqua skyline;
still the taste of salt rimming the inside
of a child’s lips — still the shame of a diagram
lawyers used to mark my fucked up family.

It’s an unkindness, healing. It’s a bitter
old acquaintance that knows which rib
the knife can slip between to cause
the most damage.

Not your fault. That’s what they say.
Not your fault that you cried at your first kiss,
first (voluntary) time. Not your fault, they say,
that you can’t see a rhododendron bush
without shuddering. Can’t see your husband
come to you as a pillar of need without
remembering what was stolen.

Can’t hear drum beats without a heartbeat
reminding you that little girls everywhere
suffer worse than you.

Except it is.

Every time I pass a face that pushed mine into the dirt
with a meek glance to the left; Every time I ignore
the unmistakable signs of suffering from another;
Every time I keep my mouth shut as though the gun
is still against my temple, it’s my fault.

It’s all our faults.

By Lili Leader-Williams

Biography:

Lili Leader-Williams lives in Washington State with her husband and two cats. She has been published previously in Cahoodaloodaling, Slim Volume: This Body I Live In from Pankhearst, and Alliterati Magazine. Her dearest ambition is to make sure you don’t feel alone.

Stitches By Peter Faziani

Stitches

Unforgettable moments
in broken fragments
like breaking irons
into rapiers
long forgotten dangers
of doing stupid things

Six years old

Winning wars

Touring Mars

And I can’t get back there

And I can’t reinvent it
but I can provide it
for you two.

My history leveled
broken bricks
shattered glass

I dreamt of offering you
the dreams I could only fantasize about
and when chimes ring and I’m taken back
to places I never wanted to leave
because I’d just have to go home

But your smiles tell me
that these things are not for naught.

By Peter Faziani

Biography:

Peter Faziani is a 3rd year PhD Candidate at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He is also the Editor-in-Chief for Red Flag Poetry. His work has appeared in journals such as Words Dance, Silver Birch Press, The Sandy River Review, The Tau, Images, and other journals. He is a Michigander living in Pennsylvania with his wife, two daughters, and two corgis.

Darwin’s Garden By Ellen Girardeau Kempler

Darwin’s Garden

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives…. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

– Charles Darwin

Here in my backyard
it’s survival of the fittest.
Even the aloes seem to collapse
into themselves. Azalea leaves darken
and drop. Camellias fail to flower.
Peach trees yield impotent fruit.
Leaves rustle like demand letters.
Branches rattle like percussive bones.

We count water drops like coins,
filling basins, buckets, barrels—
collecting shower water before it heats.
We sprinkle planted pots
with half-drunk glasses,
pitiless pools of tablecloth-dew,
thimblefuls of leaf-damp.

Just 150 years ago,
prospectors sluiced snowmelt-streams
that rushed from high-Sierra vaults,
weighed the dust and nuggets,
then banked their wealth in cities
spreading roots like weeds.

Those salad days of gold and growth
now seem like green mirages in this thirsty state,
whose promise wilts fast in waterless waves of heat.

By Ellen Girardeau Kempler

Biography:

Ellen Girardeau Kempler is an award-winning nonfiction writer and poet. After a 25-year career in nonprofit communications, a layoff inspired her to enroll in a poetry workshop in Ireland and launch her website, Gold Boat Journeys (Creative Cultural Travel).  She believes in poetry’s power to reach hearts, change minds and move people to action.

Memories of Kosovo By Trish Shields

Memories of Kosovo

she lies
quietly
in death’s embrace
head bobs as she’s undressed
with care

her life easily read
each crease speaks volumes
layers of clothing no surprise:
refugees plan carefully
clothes ward off cold
a rifle’s butt
insulating them against war

forms of self-preservation
aid in the aftermath of life
holding flesh to bone
entombing secrets of corruption:
metal casings hidden like jewels
exposed in the folds

partially skeletonized fingers
dance preponderately
her dignity still intact
as life’s touch is removed

later
in the dark
pondering life
my head lolls in death’s strict
echo

By Trish Shields

Biography:

Trish Shields was born in Saskatchewan, Canada, but grew up in Europe.  She has studied creative writing at the Algonquin College in Ottawa, Ontario.  ‘Soul Speak’, a book of poetry published by Troubadour Books, was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award in 2001.  Trish has two books of poetry published and her work has appeared in numerous anthologies.  Her poetry and short stories have been published internationally. Trish’s novel, ‘Inferno’ is published by Baycrest Books.  Her first chapbook, Coast Lines, is co-authored by Katherine L. Gordon, released in February 2007.  Trish was asked to edit M.E.Tudor’s book entitled The Perfect Proposal, which was published in 2015.

Homeless By Jenna Neece

Homeless

There was a time I pictured the homeless
As drug addicts, child molesters, and lazy people.
That’s what I was shown when people talked about them.
I thought a dollar given was a dollar wasted,
Imagined the dirty man walking into the liquor store to buy a pint,
Not him buying a hot meal to fill a growling stomach.
No, I believed what I saw, was told, and didn’t ask questions.
They never showed me the younger sister taking her big brother
Out in the country, so he could pitch a tent because she didn’t
Have the money to feed both of them,
So she gave food because he wanted to do it on his own,
Because he needed to do it on his own, so he could turn his life
Back into something worth fighting for.
They didn’t show me the sister crying in her bed that night,
because she couldn’t fix what’s wrong,
Because she couldn’t make it right that some people have to hit
Rock bottom so that they can have solid ground
To crawl back to their feet again.
The only thing they ever hit the bottom
Of is their $120 dollar bottle of wine they drank with dinner.
No, they never showed me a picture of someone
Like me, a little sister, letting her big brother do it the hard
Way because she has to, he has to overcome a felony record,
A past addiction he fought off, a lot of anger at life,
And the sensation of being alone in the world full of people.
He has to do it to become the man he wants to be,
That he can be. They don’t show anyone that.
They judge the less fortunate because they have never walked a mile
In somebody else’s shoes that were found in a dumpster
Behind the local grocery store and happen to be a half size too small
With a hole in the toe that lets the December wind scrape
Against their skin. They judge them from their life of luxury,
But someday, it will be their turn to be judged, maybe my turn.
Wouldn’t it feel righteous for them to see the smug look
On our face as the flames lick our Gucci loafers or stilettos?

By Jenna Neece

Biography:

Jenna Neece is an Oklahoma native. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and is working on her MFA in Poetry Writing at Oklahoma State University. She works as a GTA for Oklahoma State University English Department, is PR Coordinator for the OSU Writing Center, and in August she was a featured poet on featuredpoet.com with more work forthcoming.

Private Property By Lauren Kayes

Private Property

This land is my land, he snarls
In an oil-spill of dark ink:
God blessed this land for those like me.

He plans to catch us like mice, like rabbits,
Jaws snapping spines, rope tight ‘round ankles,
Hearts in ruddy hands beating blood-bright.

But we are trembling with the reckoning.
We patch each other with forest mud and fur and feathers
Rolling wheat and rustling grass,
A reclamation as we march
And march and march
Down that highway called freedom,
That highway carved in canyon walls
By all our salt and fluid
Squeezed drop for drop.

Our bones, bleached by desert sun
Our flesh, rotten beneath redwoods
Our open veins, widening rivers
Our atoms, scattered to the lifting fog—
Becoming more,
Becoming America.

Oh, false king, this land is ours:
In the golden valley
We wear crowns of stars.

By Lauren Kayes

Biography:

Lauren Kayes is a queer, disabled Jewish woman, and a writer of fiction and non-fiction. She lives and works in Los Angeles, California.