Gloriously Wicked By Ailey O’Toole

Gloriously Wicked

Coming out feels like a revolution,

feels like       Rome burning,

feels like the first Pride

re-enacted inside my chest.

I say,        “I’m bi,” and a tidal

wave crashes into my mother’s

bedroom. I slip my hand

into yours and all the birds

drop dead.

Coming out feels like thirteen

slammed doors, feels        like

breath held for millenia, feels

like the Stonewall Riots banging

on my ribs.

I say,        “I’m bi,” and my father’s silence

echoes louder than it’s ever been. I kiss

you and all the oceans

dry up.

Coming out is              a leak

that never stops dripping,

rainwater pooling in every crevice.

It is never easy but

it is always glorious.

By Ailey O’Toole

Biography:

Ailey O’Toole is a queer poet and bartender who writes about feminism, empathy, and pain. She hopes everyone who reads her poems feels less alone in their struggle. Her work has previously appeared in or is forthcoming from After the Pause, Rising Phoenix Review, Ghost City Review, Bone and Ink Press, Okay Donkey, and others. She tweets at @ms_ocoole.

Every Night By Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto

Every Night

Every night I carry the memories of
this place in my palms, caressing each of its
pages, one by one, to feel them,
maybe for the last time.

Here, one is never sure if he will see night
transform into morning, and morning
into another night, and night into another morning,
for many things are wrong in this place.

I remember that particular evening
you met your friend on one side of the road,
laughing, talking about girls and things you never had with him.
And when there were no more words, he left you with a goodbye.
You smiled as he sailed to the other side of the road.
There, he was circled and cut into unrecognizable limbs
by the herdsmen, like a badly done mosaic.
To you, the goodbye weren’t meant to be the last.

Most times you find a woman rushing
home so that night will not meet her.
Nights are deadly here, very cruel. And
when night meets her, you will find her with cloth
stuffed in her mouth to shut her up from screaming her pains,
or you will find her in the morning
with open thighs and drowned in the lagoon,
or you will find her un-whole:
which is to say some boys have unmade her,
deprived her of the strings that held her together,
or you will find her in pieces with missing parts.

When those with rainbow colours
embedded in their black skins speak out
because they’re tired of the anthology of loneliness
and sorrows of the shadows they read,
they are punctured with threats, stones, burning tires, jail terms
or even kidnapped: ask Romeo, ask Chibuihe, ask Arinze, ask Aghogho.

I am at the last page of memories of this place,
it heavies my palms, heart and head.
I fold it and return to my pillow in hope
that I will defeat the night and live on in this place,
burning incenses for it to someday become
a constellation of pacific shades.

By Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto

Biography:

He (@ChinuaEzenwa) is from Owerri-Nkworji in Nkwerre, Imo state, Nigeria and a lover of literature. He has won the Association Of Nigerian Author’s Literary Award for Mazariyya Ana Teen Poetry Prize, 2009; Speak to the Heart Inc. Poetry Competition, 2016. He became a runner-up in Etisalat Prize for Literature, Flash fiction, 2014 with I Saved My Marriage. Recently, he won the Castello di Duino Poesia Prize for an unpublished poem, 2018. And some of his works have appeared in Lunaris Review, AFREADA, Kalahari Review, Praxismagazine, The Rising Phoenix Review and Raffish Magazine.

Home By Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto

Home

―for places struggling

A home is a place that knows the geometry of your body.
A home is a place where your heart yearns to return.
A home is like a child on whose fingers you find flowery dimples.
A home is never a city where fire grows for all things to die.

But my own home is a different home:
My home is a place where dead bodies grow,
Where houses and schools are brought down and left in ruins,
Where children play in their dreams as playgrounds are turned graveyards,
Where brothers carry dirges in their mouths and sing them like anthems,
Where sisters count on their fingers the darkness that adorns their smiles,
Where mothers are scared to birth, nurse and care or even speak,
And where fathers are too afraid to love, too afraid to live and drink.
My home is a place marked by destruction
Where bombs and shrapnel make themselves an abode.
My home is a place where fire grows for all things to die.

My home is an ocean filled with storms and fear:
You can find in it sisters in hijabs―
Whose strings are all broken by boys who
Draw semen between their thighs ― drowned in the lagoons;
You can find in it brothers in bandannas whose lives and lungs
And livers are smoked and dried by mashed leaves;
You can find in it children who know laughter as strangers and who
Are beaten by hunger and decorated by dirt and are adverts for maladies.
My home is a place where fire grows for all things to die.

Yet, every night I burn incenses before I sleep,
Hoping that each dawn will some day
Bring a new smile upon my home:
Where people will grow to age; where love will flower and
Where fire will never grow for all things to die.

By Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto

Biography:

He (@ChinuaEzenwa) is from Owerri-Nkworji in Nkwerre, Imo state, Nigeria and a lover of literature. He has won the Association Of Nigerian Author’s Literary Award for Mazariyya Ana Teen Poetry Prize, 2009; Speak to the Heart Inc. Poetry Competition, 2016. He became a runner-up in Etisalat Prize for Literature, Flash fiction, 2014 with I Saved My Marriage. Recently, he won the Castello di Duino Poesia Prize for an unpublished poem, 2018. And some of his works have appeared in Lunaris Review, AFREADA, Kalahari Review, Praxismagazine, The Rising Phoenix Review and Raffish Magazine.

Heart Of A Little Brown Girl//Quiet By Autumn Smith

Heart Of A Little Brown Girl//Quiet

we
dangle

limbs over each other
like rag dolls
seeking puppet strings

teach us to move

easy
We are
how natural

How quiet my breathing

How limbs
Have taken millennia to form
Even before

we were seeds
in bellies
my fingers knew
to trace your collar bone
The raise
of your stomach

How we have been etched
out of Cypress trees
The humble shake of their limbs
the musk of bark
Still clinging

we puppeteer these bodies
strings tied to the heavens

In the movement of clouds
We kiss the rays
filtering halo onto
our golden skin
grown green
under time’s
calloused fingertips

You floating
in zero gravity
whisper

“goodnight”

It’s the only thing I will ever hear

By Autumn Smith

Biography:

 A Cleveland bred poet, Autumn focused on the rhythm and conveying her ideas through image and senses in her poems. Originally a spoken word poet, she participated in the Brave New Voices competition in 2011, ran a spoken word club and poetry workshops throughout college, and is now a contributing editor for Barnhouse Journal. Through exploration of race, mental illness, and humanity, she delves deeper into her own existence. Her main inspirations are Andrea Gibson, Anis Mojgani, and Naomi Shihad Nye

Bad Indian By Jessica C. Mehta

Bad Indian

Bad Indian, not a speaker—who gives
a damn if they beat it out of my father
in residential boarding school? They say
“Pretendian” & an old man with creamed
blue eyes cackled after demanding my ancestry,

“Everyone’s a Cherokee.” I apologize

for green eyes, pale skin. It’s not enough
to soften cries of “Wana’be clan!
Elizabeth Warren all over
again.” Once an elder
vet spit on my wanting
cheekbones, my braids, that I didn’t know
Lakota. I did not choose my skin

or the trauma curdling rancid
through my blood. We are born into creation
disasters, settled war zones, armed
with chanced defenses so forgive me

that ivory is my weapon. Poachers try
& they show teeth, dressed
in polyester & crafted altruism
but I am fast & I remember. I’m kamama, you really
think you got us all? We still roam
our land, thirteen thousand years is a single heart
beat in the whole story. I am telling you, listen:

I am hungry, matriarch
made too young. My grief’s too big
to contain & like Damini I will starve
24 days to die from broken
chambers—and by god, how you will keen,
spill cracked-bone to your knees, pay
homage to my skeleton, to this bad Indian.

By Jessica C. Mehta

Biography:

Jessica (Tyner) Mehta is a poet and novelist, and member of the Cherokee Nation. Jessica is the author of ten books including the forthcoming Savagery, the forthcoming Drag Me Through the Mess, and the forthcoming Drag Me Through the Mess. Previous books include Constellations of My Body, Secret-Telling Bones, Orygun, What Makes an Always, and The Last Exotic Petting Zoo and The Wrong Kind of Indian. She’s been awarded numerous poet-in-residencies posts, including positions at Hosking Houses Trust and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, Paris Lit Up in France, and the Acequia Madre House in Santa Fe, NM. Jessica is the recipient of a Barbara Deming Memorial Fund in Poetry. She is the owner of a multi-award winning writing services business, MehtaFor, and is the founder of the Get it Ohm! karma yoga movement. Visit Jessica’s author site at www.jessicatynermehta.com.

Sylvia By Kimia Madani

Sylvia

I held hands with your ghost
all through my seventeen,
guided by your words, a balm to my corroded soul

Take me through the crushing tides of seventeen
A deep and sumptuous thing, this cake you fed me
Normally I would spit it back out—

the sugared decadence of a thousand years
of patriarchy. But Anne said, They took you from me
With all the bells ringing

By Kimia Madani

Biography:

By day, Kimia Madani is a writer based in San Francisco, California. By night, she dreams of chasing the silvery cloud banks that hang above her favorite city and spinning in long, unhurried circles on the moon. She believes in writing to escape, define, and reinvent the exhilarating design of her own world. Also in the power of green hair and holographic shoes. The Luminary: A Collection of Poems is her first book.

Market Street By Joan Annsfire

Market Street

At Powell and Market
the street is littered
with sleeping bags
and mud-encrusted bodies.

Tongues speak in circles,
attempt to intercept
the desperate, corporate race,
that happens with extra fervor
on a rainy day.

A bony hand emerges
from its rain-soaked wrapper,
reaches out toward
the rush-hour parade
of hammer heels marking time
on slick pavement.

A man with one leg
has taken off his prosthesis
and is using it
to collect coins.

He looks up at me,
our eyes meet briefly
as he lights a cigarette.

I turn away
and one brief spark of light
flickers and dies
on the wet wind.

His body flattens,
back up against the store window,
his hollow leg
fills up with rain.

By Joan Annsfire

Biography:

Joan Annsfire lives is a retired librarian who lives in Berkeley California and writes poetry, memoir, and non-fiction. Her poetry chapbook, “Distant Music” was published by Headmistress Press. Her poetry has appeared most recently in the anthology “Older Queer Women: the Intimacy of Survival,” Lambert and Einstein and “9/11: The Fall of American Democracy, Casey Lawrence. The Times They Were A- Changing, Women Remember the 60’s and 70’s,” Farrell, Meyers and Starfire. “The Queer Collection,” “99 Poems for the 99 Percent,” “Milk and Honey, a Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry” and “The Other side of the Postcard among others as well as online and in literary journals including, Counterpunch’s Poet’s Basement, Lavender Review, Sinister Wisdom, The 13th Moon, Bridges, The Evergreen Chronicles, OccuPoetry, The SoMa Literary Review and The Harrington Lesbian Literary Quarterly. Her stories have appeared in “Identity Envy,” Readtheselips, Aunt Lute Press blog about the seventies, “Uprooted, an Anthology on Gender and Illness,”and Harrington Lesbian Literary Quarterly, and the just published anthology, “Dispatches From Lesbian America,” edited by Smith, Berber and Capone.