#metoo By Ranjini Malhotra

#metoo

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
the innocent
for them the totality
of this ceaseless war
is nothing more
than a political statement
an unfounded protest
misplaced anger
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
#metoo

By Ranjini Malhotra

Biography:

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 By Tobi Alfier

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

Biography:

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).

Figs By Farah Billah

Figs

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

Biography:

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] By Noor Unnahar

[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

Biography:

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 By Rachel Leonard

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

Biography:

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.

 

Excuses By Mobolaji Olawale

Excuses

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
Diving;
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

Biography:

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

When the Imam Cries By Farah Billah

When the Imam Cries

Sitting next to my mother, under mosaic,
I wonder how Rumi had such an unshakable faith.
How we read poetry about a God we rarely pretend to know.
The bodies hum to it,
The prayers…
The teenage girls sway alongside their mothers.
We are all palms in the wind in that moment.
We are all hands holding onto something important,
finally allowed to feel an energy we cannot comprehend
but cannot live without.
I put down my notebook in the masjid to finish dua.
I don’t know if I’m allowed to have this here.
There are so many questions I have for god.
If we ever meet I’ll ask him. Rumi and his faith sit next to me.
I realize God is the closest thing we have to believing in magic.

The imam cries during the dua.
Ya allah, give us strength to live this life.
They are taking our faith from us.
We are praying for some quiet down here.
My mother looks down at her hands.
I feel her thinking about all the pain we collectively feel.
He speaks in another tongue over the loud speaker
but she understands this heartbreak language.
Her sister sits beside her.
War was stitched into their eyelids a long time ago.

A child cries in the masjid out of hunger.
He does not understand how much.

By Farah Billah

Biography:

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.

THE LESBIAN ALWAYS DIES IN FOUR PARTS By Kate Wilson

THE LESBIAN ALWAYS DIES IN FOUR PARTS

i

the credits hit the screen-
black and white, bruising
and rolling over all of me
like the newsprint of another dead gay girl
and i start carrying sharp things,
tucking them into all the creases on my body my girlfriend may never get to kiss.

ii

it’s so easy to force our blood out of us at the movie theater-
as if dead-representation is better than none at all
i should be thankful,
to look at the lifeless version of every woman I have ever loved on screen.

i should feel so lucky to have a dying image
everyone wants me to aspire to become.

iii
today i don’t want to be afraid
for once, i do not want to hide my face when my girlfriend holds my hand.
today i do not want to unstitch the seams of myself and
collapse into another film where the lesbian dies,
decomposing into a wreath of cracked breast bones.
today, i am tired of making funeral plans.

iv
in this movie, i unbury all my gay sisters.
in this movie, we do not die because some director said so,
and in this movie, we do not put any more violets on graves.
in this movie, we live.
in this movie, we live
in every movie, we live.

By Kate Wilson

Biography:

Kate is from Mammoth Lakes, California. They have recently found a new home in Salt Lake City, Utah where they are working towards a BA in English and an MA in teaching. Kate is a Virgo with a Gemini rising & a Taurus moon. They love swing sets more than most people who love swing sets. They practice regular necromancy & are attempting to escape orbit. They have competed in poetry slams in Utah, Arizona, and Idaho and have toured in Idaho, Nevada, and California. They were also part of Westminster College’s CUPSI team, and competed in Chicago, Illinois.

JUNAID- June 22nd, 2017, Ballabhgarh By Anisha Drall

JUNAID- June 22nd, 2017, Ballabhgarh

He was my age.
He could have been someone
I knew, could have been my friend,
could have been in my school, in
my class, in my bus-
He was my age, but
in a place where the heat can
beat people down until they
are just carcasses flattened
against the ground, age doesn’t
matter, in a place where the
imbalance is imbedded in our
minds, where people with names
like mine feel justified tearing
someone apart, where even a
child can be shredded for the
greater cause, age doesn’t
matter- but he was still my age.
Still just a child, just another boy,
just another human being
excited for Eid- he was my age,
but a train full of people didn’t
care, didn’t do anything, instead
they just stood there, complicit by
nature, they just stood there as
he was stabbed to death, just
stood there, and said nothing-
he was still just my age. He still
had a life ahead of him, a life
of hope and happiness that bled
out of him as he lay there,
surrounded by people indifferent
to his survival- he was my age, but
where I’m protected by my name,
he’s persecuted for his.

By Anisha Drall

Biography:

Anisha Drall is a high school student living in Gurgaon, India. She likes to read novels, poetry and Tumblr text posts and has been previously published in Germ Magazine and Vagabond City Lit. Find her on Instagram – @anishadrall / @inchoatee .

DNA of the Cell By Eli Binkovitz

DNA of the Cell

All sixteen of us tell the cop the same address
when she asks. We all forget our height
and none of us has ever been weighed.
Only our proverbial lawyer knows why
we were locked together in the street,
or where we had assembled our equipment,
or who was in charge (if anyone).

We are all earnest eyes,
only rolling behind their backs.

Midwestern accent in a blue uniform tells one of us
“I spoke with your imam. He says
remove your headscarf. He says
do whatever we tell you to.”
Cop says / Imam says / Simon says.
None of us believe this story,
or believe we were meant to believe it.

I am unclinked from where we sixteen are
cuffed to the bench,
and photographed and searched
between my toes, beneath my underwear.

I am shuffled to my own cell. I can hear
muffled in the concrete echoes,
a woman crying for help.
My arm, she says, I think it’s broken.
Authorities inform her to expect a doctor
in the morning.

The bench in my cell has gathered
remnants of other inmates:
lint, a litany of DNA,
dust of skin cells, tiny springs
and helices of hairs, all black.

I don’t shiver. My breathing marks
slow time. I am not pulled from my cell
in the night to be swallowed into
the black-site belly of Chicago.

I am not blindfolded in an unmarked
window-tinted cruiser parked in some vacant
dead-grass lot. I don’t feel
the metal muzzle of two
hundred documented human rights violations
(later condemned by the U.N.)
against my temple. Nor am I erased
into the 72-hour static that betrays no trace
of my uncounted names or dates
of countless countless births.

I am not zip-tied at the wrists
anymore, and my hands are not swollen, purplish,
numb, or heavy. I am not waiting for the questions:
Can you bend it? Can you put weight on it?
Can you move it? Can you feel it?
Does it hurt now?
Does it hurt now?
Does it hurt now?

The stone-concrete stuff from which the cell carves itself
blanches pale blue like cold lips.
Painting the liminal minutes with my thin
voice I sing old words too grandiose
for the nondescript occasion of my voluntary arrest.
But I like the tune and the illumination
they fill the cell with, warming it
at the fire of history’s good struggles.

The bench is fitted with a thin, dirty mattress,
which I carefully balance on its side.
Maybe I have to sleep here, definitely
someone will. Someone whose hair is black.
I take a fistful of thin tissue
from the steel toilet-sink, kneel
before the neglected bed-bench
and start cleaning up the place.

I don’t even get halfway done before an officer
opens the door, looks at me wiping down
the blue-lip stone stuff as if she’d walked in on
some strange ritual or unauthorized lovemaking,

tells me I’ve been processed, time for me to leave.

Why did you do that? She asks in the hallway.
I realize after I start to answer
In case no one else was going to
that I don’t know whether she meant cleaning the bench,
or chaining ourselves together in the street
to demand the state stop pouring our hearts into
love letters made of guns and money.

By Eli Binkovitz

Biography:

Eli Binkovitz is a Jewish, genderqueer emerging poet living in Chicago. They have a degree in German Studies from Oberlin College and in 2007 contributed to a translation of Thomas Brasch’s collection of poems “What I Wish For Myself” from German into English. Their favorite poet right now is Daniel Borzutzky.