SPILLED MILK By Harper Russet

SPILLED MILK

we hear the man shouting before we hear
the prelude, and then a scuffle of guitar
against the sidewalk. downtown denver at 1am
is a sky-wide holler made of men who hurt
women on corners carrying their music-makers
in boxes. he screams,

YOU WANNA GO BACK
YOU WANNA GO BACK HUH
YOU WANNA GO

and then,

KILL YOURSELF JUST
KILL YOURSELF

and then
we see the woman gathering her guitar
back into her box, strapping it to her back
so that her spine carries every string.
she makes herself a hearse where music
goes to rest, and then be reborn.

too many women are turned coffin to carry
all the saddest sounds in the world, but she smiles
when dorothy buys her a milkshake and gifts it to her
like a grail, an offering, a secret between hurt women
who have been stripped of sound by men’s fingers
only to make more noise when you give them a proper
vessel. or carrier. and are we all not made to be carried?
how callused are her gracious hands? how many songs
live inside that box on her back? how deeply she drinks
from the styrofoam cup as she crosses the sidewalk
in search of napkins and company. milk has spilled
onto her guitar case, drips in white sugar rivers down
to her tennis shoes. a number is called from the window
of the burger joint, and dorothy becomes carrier of warmth
in a paper bag passed to the woman’s (gracious/callused/carrying) hands.
she laughs and says,

“thank you / thank you /
shit got so wild back there /
i left him / i left him after

three months / been single
years before he came / he
tried to steal my guitar”

i call her hon . a word that denotes sweetness.
you okay out here, hon? like sugar on the air.
she tells us,

“oh yeah / oh yeah he’s just hurt but /
he’ll have a bed to sleep in tonight / and
lemme tell ya / being crazy now isn’t
as / fun / as it was at twenty-five”

dorothy tells her no man is worth a lick of pain,
and the woman nods and nods, blond curls
bobbing beneath a baseball cap.
her laugh is a car crash in her chest,
her mouth two thin tracks of railroad – she is made
of things that carry and carry and carry.
she says,

“i’m gonna make this milkshake spill /
a motif on my guitar case / some kind
of artsy thing”

and she whirls her fingers round and round
until i imagine paint springing from beneath
her fingerprints and marking the case with bold lettering of:

THIS IS MINE / THIS IS MINE AND IT IS NOT YOURS
O ENVIOUS LOVER WHO SHRIEKS TO THE MOON
SHE WILL NOT HEAR YOU / FOR SHE IS MINE / TOO
SHE WILL NOT HURT ME / FOR I AM HERS / TOO

By Harper Russet

Biography:

Harper Russet (she/her or they/them pronouns, interchangeable) is a 24-year-old butch lesbian poet and novelist from Utah. Every poem she writes is an argument with gender, the country, and so many gods. Videos of her work can be found on Write About Now. You can also find Harper on Twitter and Patreon.

folding, falling, fading By Sandra Chen

folding, falling, fading

dinner tonight and every night / chopsticks clenched in tight
fists / knuckles white like raw jasmine rice / wooden ends
scraping china bowls / mouths tied with zongzi strings

her mother swallows words like kuding tea / each
question on her tongue claws back down her
throat / the unsaid ricochets like bullets

the war leads her back to bed / she
pulls out the glass pane / prays
in nothing but leaden bones

cruel dashes stain eyes
like ink / her body
folds and falls

a crumpled
origami
girl

By Sandra Chen

Biography:

I am a rising junior in high school from California. My work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and can be found in the Eunoia Review and Moledro Magazine, among others. I have also attended the California State Summer School for the Arts and the Quartz Young Writer’s Workshop.

Bystander By Jeni Prater

Bystander

She couldn’t walk a straight
line stone-cold sober, always tracing
with bright eyes salt-marbled swirls
pressed into sidewalks. And now, strungout
and stringing together lines
in her head, she was
uninterruptible.

The still nights were the most
worrisome. Her evidence rose
above her in streaks — telling,
morphing into
clouds, conspicuous,
untaken.

To let herself be seen, she said,
was to say something.

To hold her was to hold glossy cortisol
sweat; to know where her mind goes
when she reaches for skin
was to watch her slip
through fingers, unreluctantly—
to watch smoke sink into lungs and
beg for a witness to write
it all down.

By Jeni Prater

Biography:

Jeni is a queer sexual violence and disability activist and works at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center on the intersection of these. While she prefers to collect books and elephant trinkets, she has been published in “Of/When,” “Spark,” “Zetetic” and was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize at Wellesley College, her alma mater.

Cleanse By S.A. Khanum

Cleanse

But I go all knees.
Fold like an ironing board.

Become the corner.
Room myself empty of you.

Jut mountains from my side.
& gather clouds in my mouth.

All feels of charcoal & flint.
All feels of wanting to spark.

But here I am
ship-wrecked, water-logged.

Still the river winding through me.
Still the mountain dweller,

climbing.

Down the rocks,
at the centre of me

where the women be beating
their linens,

the dye of their veils
bleeding the water—

I say thirst & they say a well.
I say quenched & they say carry on.

I say holy & they say water.
I say why & there is no answer.

By S.A. Khanum

Biography:

S.A. Khanum is a writer from the UK.

A SONG FOR OUR FATHERS By Chia Amisola

A SONG FOR OUR FATHERS

Imagine: We, gangrel of seventeen, have watched
the culling. Born of mirth, of myth, of void,

like Binondo-husked television sets – static overrun
or gorged out in flesh testimonies under broad daylight.

Reminisce your childhood hearth. Recollect all those
that you had once sown. Relive the names of your

forefathers, a withered daughter of mausoleum-turned
sins. We will dive, headlong, steadfast, into strife the

older had set up. This preamble wrung for us to
learn the value of our false degrees, broken industry,

incorrect skin. The world you loathe is led by white
men a thousand miles away. Torment grows a stranger

in the pickings of your skin, so be it that your mother
wonders why you hold your language second-hand.

Paradigm of distrust is my southbound severance,
letting go is easy. Rite runs from the narcos-smoked

world that had been forced on me. Rite runs from
Imus-donned wry, fun and nuanced with the way

it rolls off my tongue, estranged and intermittent of
my own depravities disavowed by diction. Or religion.

Or belief. Or lovers. Seventeen shall march towards
insolence, cutthroat hell laid as we dare to be again.

Seventeen holds the Rite of Genesis, untrusted sons
and malevolent daughters accosted of dead horizon,

evergreen to cheap brown or dollar culture. Though,
perhaps, we are the open for a reason. Anyway, all

my story is afterthought to your political agenda,
anecdotal brief to digress again. Pronounce rite for

once, my hearth filled me whole.

By Chia Amisola

Biography:

Chia Amisola is seventeen year-old senior, a lover of language be it in the form of poetry or code, hailing from the scorch of Metro Manila.

THE POET FINALLY WRITES A PERIOD POEM, AND IN DOING SO, QUITE LITERALLY PUTS BABY IN THE CORNER By Harper Russet

THE POET FINALLY WRITES A PERIOD POEM, AND IN DOING SO, QUITE
LITERALLY PUTS BABY IN THE CORNER

after Lydia Havens

my body confesses itself to me
through blood. on the sullied cloth
it hisses, “both the moon
and your emptiness tells me
it is time for you to hurt.”

if we are all indeed half of our fathers,
this is the half that mine gave me:
the half that bleeds, the red tantrum
bellowing for a child.

i hate the term birth control.
i call mine everything control,
holding the blood back on a leash
and watching it strain against rope,
white-eyed and rabid.

my body calls it,
everything aches when i don’t get what i want,
and i want something to cradle
that isn’t your gender-melancholy for once.
give me something warm and smiling.
a new heartbeat. i’m bored with yours.
a baby would have a heart as small as a cherry
and yours is so – so big, so loud,
it takes up the whole room
before that mouth of yours
even has a chance.

my body calls it,
i know everything you’re afraid of.
every poem you write, there’s a baby
hiding under the page calling you mama.

there’s your father loving you again,
his praises one big i-told-you-so,
i-knew-you’d-come-around,
i-knew-you-were-my-little-girl-after-all.

there’s me, your own body,
my praises one big i-told-you-so,
i-knew-you’d-come-around,
i-knew-you-were-a-big-girl-after-all.

there’s you carrying something
that needs love
more than you do.

By Harper Russet

Biography:

Harper Russet (she/her or they/them pronouns, interchangeable) is a 24-year-old butch lesbian poet and novelist from Utah. Every poem she writes is an argument with gender, the country, and so many gods. Videos of her work can be found on Write About Now. You can also find Harper on Twitter and Patreon.

Old Times By Deonte Osayande

Old Times

Why did I begin
to like cheese is
a question that is too
easy for me to answer.

Your fried chicken tasted
of ninety six, good times,
gym shorts and Sega Genesis,

my shoes all drawn on and my mom
in the kitchen. It takes me back

to a simpler time, mac & cheese, chicken
and greens, not a care in the world, I was
carefree. No zealots or bigots. No terrorists
or 9/11 or fear, just a young boy, his dinner

getting cold and sonic the hedgehog. Gotta
go faster was his catchphrase but I wish
I could have taken it and rushed back

to these peaceful moments of the past.
Asking me why I’m so fond of these

times, I try to tell myself
he’s a good guy. Growing
up together, played on the same

basketball courts with one another
but I can’t shake the badge, the uniform,
the betrayal, how someday I might just be
another black life to him on the other side

of the gun and he might remember
reasons to punish you. What happens
when that becomes him? When the gun

is pointed at him and he doesn’t have
enough time to pull out his badge
or show his ID. I wonder if black lives

will matter to him then, calling them
rowdy kids looking for something
to protest. Nobody notices how

protesters don’t riot when murderers die,
but when an innocent man is killed instead.

By Deonte Osayande

Biography:

Deonte Osayande is a former track and field sprinter turned writer from Detroit, Mi. He writes nonfiction essays and his poems have been nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology, a Pushcart Prize and published in numerous publications. He has represented Detroit at multiple National Poetry Slam competitions. He’s currently a professor of English at Wayne County Community College, and teaching youth through the Inside Out Detroit Literary Arts Program. His first full collection of poems entitled Class, is now out with Urban Farmhouse Press.