I Am Not an Immigrant By Ty Kia

I Am Not an Immigrant

I am not an immigrant.
I do not have the honor.
not to claim that name as my own,
for I am but their child.

for I did not cross oceans as they did.
really, I never had to learn how to swim.
I knew from birth how solid land felt
and never once dealt with the doubt
that comes from knowing there is no earth
to hold you if you fall, no point at which
you are not at the mercy of the waves.

For I did not see traditions as they did.
My eyes were clouded by the conceit of youth,
and teared up at the observation of customs.
They, on the other hand, were steadfast,
expressing full faith in the old traditions,
finding them at times misguided
but never half-baked.

For I did not fight battles as they did.
Never did I bear the burden of adversity.
Nor was I crucified on the cross of low expectations,
hearing through ears muffled by the blood
that trickles from crowns of prejudiced thorns,
“You don’t belong here. Go back where you came from,”
after having come so very far.

For I have not yet come so far,
though I have so far yet to go,
since I was born in this place,
this place where beginnings are born.

By Ty Kia

Biography:

Ty Kia is a high school student growing up, or at least giving the pretense of growing up, in Illinois. A first-generation American of Thai heritage, he seeks to add his own spices to the melting pot and plans to devote his life to studying the cultural implications of entropy.

THINGS I WISH I KNEW AT 17 By Zaynab Quadri

THINGS I WISH I KNEW AT 17

i.
the agony of this is temporary.
you are in the middle right now,
lost in one of those cornfield mazes
with the dirt in your shoes
and the bushes swallowing you whole
and the stars too distant to feel
like comfort, and you keep running
into walls trying to claw your way out–
but i am in a helicopter flying over you,
a picture below me that you cannot see,
and i need you to understand that
the end of this hurt is closer than you think.
and there is such sweetness on the other side.
you may arrive with thorns in your palms
and blood in your mouth, but you will
arrive.

ii.
i know, i know, you have so many questions,
but he is not the answer.
he is not salvation.
he is just a man in a blue sweater
who is trying his best, and
he isn’t enough. he can’t be.
this is the answer:
survival is a waiting game, a game of stealth.
you have to wait, and live, and absorb
enough from the world around you to realize
that the light at the end of the tunnel
was always in the pit of your stomach
where you thought nothing grew.
the light is you,
and when you do survive this,
you will know what everyone else always knew–
that you were worth
the pain of metamorphosis.

iii.
you cannot know how young you are
until you aren’t anymore.
so let this old lady a few years down the line
let you in on something no one thought to tell you
when they were putting you in honors classes
and fawning over how precocious you were:
you don’t know how much you don’t know.
you are so young, so wonderfully and deeply sensitive.
you deserve to be protected,
but you also deserve the truth
about the way things are.
i wish i could wipe the tears from your eyes
and explain it all to you in gentle, easy words.
i wish i could raise you myself as i am now.
i wish, i wish.
but such is the way it is,
when you are seventeen:
nothing i say will make sense to you
until the world has already broken your heart.

iv.
nobody likes themselves at seventeen.
you are still a pie half-baked and lumpy,
bubbling and contorting to a shape
you can’t visualize yet.
i don’t mean to sound like a cliche cat poster, but:
hang in there, baby.
don’t let anything or anyone steal your softness.
don’t take the sins of those who wrong you upon yourself.
don’t treat yourself as the exception to
happiness. forgiveness. joy. vulnerability. compassion.
do take yourself seriously.
do take time to read and talk and learn and grow.
do surprise yourself, on occasion.
and trust your instincts, even when they mumble.
take the leap and post your poetry on the internet,
regardless of its quality— you’ll be astonished
what you will accidentally come to mean to people.
this life is wilder and weirder than you could have ever known at seventeen.

and sometimes—that doesn’t have to be such a bad thing after all.

By Zaynab Quadri

Biography:

Zaynab Quadri is a first-year PhD student in American Studies who dabbles in poetry and fiction whenever she’s not wrestling with research papers. She thanks you for your time.

blue rose with thorns By Jacquese Armstrong

blue rose with thorns

blues
and resilience
brought me forth
among cotton pickers
juke joint regulars’ mason jars
full of hooch
saturday night brawls
and Sunday best pressed
seeking redemption of the soul

among the yahsuhs
and nawsuhs
and “crazy niggers”
who dared to
color in between the lines

among hearts
broken and pasted together
with sweat/dirt tears
that transformed them whole
through a family Love

among the educated
and subdued into
senselessness
living in fear of shadow

among artists
who dared to voice
among artists
who dared to play
among artists
sewing intricate
blood-stained blossomed tapestry of life
and chemists
baking cakes//

among swinging tree
festival sites
of “pick-a-nigger” injustices
by hungry hordes of animated
circus clowns
(and we dare remember the names/lives
of strange fruit with bowed head tears)

amidst the hurting
and the loving
and the leaving

amidst the birth and death
and diaper changing
taking in others wash
to feed hungry mouths
and all the other
stuff
that makes a life//

i came forth.

i?…
i am jazz.

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.

老美 By Sarah Feng

老美

this is what your mother did,
and mine, too, gutting

their dialects like they did fish
in the smoke-province of Zhi Jiang.

the stuff comes away in long,
curling strips. my mother cries

when it happens. yours doesn’t.
in mandarin, the word mi

means secret, and also thick,
dense, but really those are

all the same thing. how can
a secret live without a mountain

of bone glass to burrow in? (you tell me
it can flop around and then asphyxiate.)

*

i am told not to romanticize
the poor in china. still, i write stories

about sinking the cleaver into a fleshy carp.
its skin splitting by the seams.

clouds above, moon swimming.
my mother tells me

this is not how it works, sarah.
we crouch and wait for

our breaths to nose our skin.
bones drier than silt, we spit sweat.

no secrets here, says the girl,
says the woman.

now we thumb them down
our mouths. count stars
on denim on oxford pocket
dictionary.

By Sarah Feng

Biography:

Sarah Feng is 14-year-old Californian, a lover of coffee and dogs, and a steadfast advocate for the Oxford comma. Her works have been recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the California Coastal Commission, the Write the World Novel Writing Prizes, and more, and her writing appears in a handful of literary journals.

bottleneck By Mariel Fechik

bottleneck

i start by liquefying myself / the length of me draining down a green /
bottleneck, cold and sea-colored / i purchased it for 75 cents in a thrift
store / seven miles south of brown county, indiana / where my mother
had a premonition / about how i would become a pool at the bottom /
of someone’s driveway / and this is where i finish / the bottle rolling itself
down the street / looking for somebody else to contain

By Mariel Fechik

Biography:

Mariel Fechik is a 22 year old Chicagoan with a bachelor’s degree she isn’t using very well. She sings in a band called Church Booty and writes poetry that she gives up on and then comes back to in the end. Her work has been published in The Black Napkin, Phosphene Literary Journal, The Stardust Gazette, and Montage Arts Journal.

Three – A Tableau By Vijaya Sundaram

Three – A Tableau

Child on his side, heaving,
Dust, and chaos, an acrid chemical.
Within, all goes silent, but
Pain roars through him like
An express train.
Like a fish on the sand,
His body heaves, he tries to speak
Struggles to breathe,
Bewildered by the attack.
His lungs fill with foam,
Like a sea surging inward.
Ami, Abi! Ami, Abi!

Man races through suffocating air
Searching for his wife, his children,
And stumbles upon their bodies,
Arms flung out, eyes gazing skyward,
Still as birds in a painting.
Time loses its hold,
People blur into nightmare shapes,
Someone puts an arm around him,
He wails aloud, an animal sound.
He sees the boy on his side,
Gasping on the sand, a stranded fish.
The man stumbles over to him, strokes his hair,
“Breathe, child, breathe, I’m here.
Hush, all will be well. Don’t die.”

The boy’s eyes
Fill his vision, like a planet
Coming closer. Here is horror,
Here is comfort.

Far away, you click through your FB feed
Reading, writing, and finding
News, outrage, horror.
Hooked on fear, you shake if off,
Click on a video of cats taking a bath,
A momentary respite, a smile,
Like a hand parting dense rain-clouds,
And you feel better.
How nice! You can laugh, or weep,
– what a privilege!

Then you go cold.

You see an image –
A child on his side, gasping for breath.
A hand grips your viscera,
And you struggle against grief,
You feel a net closing
Around you.

Your own child is safe,
You remind yourself, but
The net traps you,
As you struggle to
Take in air.

Why is it raining indoors?

By Vijaya Sundaram

Biography:

A native of India, Vijaya Sundaram has lived in the Boston, Massachusetts, area for the past 25 years. She is a singer-song-writer, guitarist, poet and writer who spent seventeen years as an 8th Grade English teacher at a local public school.  Only recently feeling the urge to publish, she’s been sending out her work to various literary magazines. Vijaya has been published in literary magazines Calliope and The Phoenix Rising Review. You can read more of Vijaya’s work on her blog, StrangeLander2015.

BELOW MY MOUTH By Moira J.

BELOW MY MOUTH

is a river running cold
into fields of squash and wheat,
my belly is gentle soil, upturned with
hands rejoicing in the rain that blesses them—
clear kisses from ancestors. I am white-capped
like snow and cedar, good medicine is stowed
in my hips, for they carry the earth.

My eyes are east-facing windows,
delighted in the morning sun that cleanses me
with prayers sent upwards.

My legs are grown from the ashes of a
painted woman, whose sons once fought monsters
on the earth, borne during a thunderstorm where lightning
scraped itself as oil paints of white across the sky.
With yucca leaves to insulate my feet, I would walk

thousands of miles to cross the bridges
to White Mountain, where upon the rocks of
my peoples’ birth,
the ghost of my grandfather will feed me
tiswin and rabbit meat.

By Moira J.

Biography:

Moira J., or Gaagé Dat’éhe (Quiet Crow), is a mix’d Indigenous writer who explores the messy world of being agender, queer, and biracial. They explore sexuality, spirituality, trauma, displacement, and kinships in poetry, origin stories, and creative nonfiction. They have their Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling. They currently live and write in Oregon with the support of their spouse, and the family pet: Dana Scully. Moira J’s work has been featured in Girls Get Busy zine, i-D Magazine, Toe Good Poetry, Naugatuck River Review, Bayou Magazine, and more. They have upcoming publications with Sea Foam Magazine and The Account. You stay updated on Moira J. by going to moiraj.wixsite.com/home, or on Twitter @moira__j.

Beyond Beautiful By Kaylee Jeong

Beyond Beautiful

Inside the chapel I spent many hours
just looking, at the walls, through

my clasped hands at the ground, at
my thighs. I was young

and didn’t know too much, except
you were only beautiful with the bones

coming to the surface, like a body pushing
against the face of a frozen lake. A body

I ran from, some day in December
after pulling my best friend out of the water,

not from her, but from her voice, which was screaming
my name. I hid from my name

though it clung to me softly. Like drops of lakewater
to my skin, tears to a false eyelash, asking

to be held the way water holds a girl
even when she doesn’t want to be beautiful anymore.

Lies, unlike life rafts,
don’t float. And just like everyone else

the difference between me and unlovely sank
to the bottom: she fell in slow motion

chasing it the same way sinners chase
prayers. The way the lifeline lingers just out of reach

of the drowned. We were static,
clutched in silence and heard the lake calling.

Clutched in ashes, the woods or the chapel burning,
but never both. The chapel never quiet enough.

I stared at the water dripping from her hair
and it was so loud I put beautiful aside

and tried for alive instead. Didn’t know
there wasn’t an answer, just wrung the lake

out of her ponytail, held her like the anchor
she pretended to be. Didn’t know

dear God was another way to say life raft,
or tell me the way to lovely is to breathe.

Inside the chapel, I wait. The girl stumbling
from the fissure. The bones or the ice or both

melting away by sunlight. Inside the chapel,
another hour looking, light drifting through the body’s stained-glass windows.

By Kaylee Jeong

Biography:

Kaylee Jeong is a high school student from Portland, Oregon who is still trying to know her way with words.