the sum of our suffering
our collective shame
will never be enough
for those whose eyes
are tightly closed
to the sins
of this world against
for them the totality
of this ceaseless war
is nothing more
than a political statement
an unfounded protest
a laughable hashtag phrase
they silence our voices
by shaming the victims
of violence and rage
it’s as if they think
we sought their praise
but when I heard their taunts
it didn’t matter,
somehow, I knew
the most courageous thing
that a victim can do
is to stand up for
those who can
no longer speak
and claim to the world
By Ranjini Malhotra
Ranjini Malhotra is a poet of Asian Indian descent living and working in Ohio. She has a degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and is presently working on her Master’s in Instructional Design and Performance Technology. She enjoys writing poetry and believes in promoting beauty in the world around us through words and images.
Pilgrimage in the Old Country
Late in the day and I’m shoulder-deep in shadow.
My coat, buttoned high as possible
to keep out the frost. In each pocket
a hot pretzel to keep my fingers flexing,
the odd chance that a photo comes my way
and I need my hands.
In fog, even distance seems to roam.
Where is that tavern, that scent
of boiled beef and cabbage,
of Slivovitz, the plum brandy of winter,
the warmth, the music—
I want to live to a ripe old age,
not wind-beaten and frozen.
Always a bar in the train station.
I follow the tracks, my breath
blows smoke signals in the gunmetal night.
Whose idea was this, this journey,
or was it flight? Find me a bartender
with sympathy and an overpour
while new snow whispers
at the visionless window.
By Tobi Alfier
Tobi Alfier (Cogswell) is a multiple Pushcart nominee and a multiple Best of the Net nominee. Her current chapbooks include “Down Anstruther Way” (Scotland poems) from FutureCycle Press, and her full-length collection “Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn’t Matter Where” is forthcoming from Kelsay Books. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).
We took after Sylvia that night,
letting the figs fall to the ground.
The moon watched us as we stood
at the bottom of the sea, picking up
the pieces the tide forgot to keep.
Scavenging the cave inside me feels like
writing poetry to a wall that had never
faced the sun. The tide pools called me into
the dark, called our name as if we were one
thing. One thing. With figs in our pockets,
with one hand in the water and the other
on your heart, I walked into the ocean
holding my breath for a moment before
giving it away like a gift. For you, Virginia,
I thought. For your pack and your blood,
for the lighthouse you built for me.
We took after Sylvia that night,
letting the figs fall to the ground.
We told ourselves we’d rather die than
make a decision.
By Farah Billah
Farah Billah is a contemporary painter and poet from Sacramento, CA.
Widely recognized for her photo series Coriander Cats, her work has been featured on Buzzfeed, Pop XO Daily, HYFN, The Dhaka Tribune, and NBC News. She is the author of Wrong Turns Lead Here, her debut collection of poetry in the United States.
Farah believes in the ocean, the forest, and solid street food. She believes the art already exists and we are simply messengers of the art. We must honor it as such.
[Part Everything Daughter]
After Ocean Vuong
I trust water as my mother
trusts Surah Yaseen to protect
me from every satin wolf
outside. Who would I be if not
a cinnamon body
part salt water part everything daughter
born in a city by the sea so generous
it didn’t swallow us.
Smoke built a house only to
name it a heart and I swapped
it with the one mourning inside me.
It ignites before it breaks. There
is a God I begged forgiveness from
and was given everything else. If you
ever see me smoldering; assume,
I must be apologizing with a heart on
the verge of breaking.
By Noor Unnahar Siddique
Noor Unnahar Siddique is a writer from Karachi currently living in Thatta, Pakistan. She got her Intermediate of Commerce (I.Com) degree from Khatoon-E-Pakistan College, Karachi, but never returned to business studies ever since. Her work is based on the lives of women, her life as a young Muslim in a modern world, the ache of leaving home, and social issues of her generation. When she is not writing, you will find her making art journals, filming videos for youtube, and taking aesthetically pleasing photos for Instagram. Her first self-published collection of poetry ‘Yesterday I Was The Moon’ was published in July 2017.
THIS IS NOT A LIFESAVING DEVICE
declare Amelia’s inflatable water wings
in heavy black type. She wears them like
arm badges clearing her for the deep end.
While in Shenzhen a girl Amelia’s age swims
in sweat, neck-deep in the mechanical purr
of factory. She breathes smog, burns palms.
I watch Amelia’s thin limbs flutter. She floats
on latex lungs filled with air from my own organ.
I hold my breath. I pray to angels; I remember
That Christ was both god and child. But a mother
in Shenzhen knows no savior. She wraps
her child’s scarlet fingers in scrap.
Bows her head, bites her tongue,
knowing there’s nothing to be done.
Amelia pulls her body from the pool
I hear the wet spat of doughy feet on deck.
Then a dry skid and a siren cry–she falls,
Skinning her cantaloupe knees on concrete
while the black-tongued conveyor belts lap
up latex and spit out sex dolls, condoms
and bubblegum-pink Barbie pool floats.
I plant a latex Band-Aid on her bleeding skin
like a tiny cartoon kiss. I coo all better, knowing
bandages only cover wounds they never heal
and to that tar-mouthed belt in Shenzhen
every item tastes the same–like burnt rubber,
hot metal and a silent child’s singing skin.
By Rachel Leonard
I am a recent graduate of Indiana University Purdue University where I studied Spanish and Creative Writing. Since May, I’ve put my career on hold to travel. Currently based out of Sydney, Australia, I plan to spend the next several years exploring myself and my writing. Other work can be found in the Indianapolis Review and Genesis Literary Magazine.
For some Nigerian whose name I do not remember
They say when it is time for death,
He comes in the form of excuses-
Charred bodies, paper-white palms,
A female child reloading a machine gun
With broomstick arms.
They say death wears many faces
But the taste is the same.
We lick our wounds and affirm this
In the way the blood doesn’t clot in our mouth
Turning into tears, then into alcohol.
I have replayed these scenes in my head
But my taste buds pick up no signal:
You in the air
Just below the third mainland bridge
And above Lagos lagoon
Water swallowing you
And all your vulnerability in one deep gulp
Like mother’s arms;
The news coming on the TV to meet
A sea of censuring hisses in the audience
Then some casual talks, then some giggling.
They say death has many faces
But yours isn’t one of them.
They never tell us that later
When the small fishes, crabs and lice
Come to meet by your side
There will be no casual talks or laughter
They will go straight into the act of nibbling.
By Mobolaji Olawale
A medical doctor, graduate of University of Ilorin, Nigeria. He has had works published in Brittle Paper, The Kalahari Review, Afridiaspora, Scarlet Leaf Review, Tuck Magazine etc. He writes from Lagos and tweets from @theBolaji
The woman has a name.
a still-born lodged
between the ribs;
The buses careen past her,
see a body
before they see a sister;
They tell the driver
to speed up–
and lean back,
The rain washed rangoli
onto her lips,
Jalebi-glazed eyes synthesize.
Peel back her saree,
Tucked under the side of her blouse,
Saliva thickens when you add lentils;
simmer on a low heat–
ready to serve.
No one eats;
The food gets cold,
It crusts over.
the soles of her feet
tuck seeds under the dirt,
but they’ll never break bedrock,
Leave that to the apple trees,
Their white flowers
will never soften her landing.
The cause of death:
By Akhila Bandlora
Akhila Bandlora, a sophomore at BASIS Phoenix, resides in Arizona. She has been awarded eleven times regionally through the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, where she serves as co-president of her local affiliate. Additionally, she has been formally published by Young Authors of Arizona and fromthebowseat.