To Atom By Athena Dixon

To Atom

This is the summer of our discontent.
a microscopic breaking down.
breaking up.
a microcosm.
a reminder of scrutiny,
a reminder of death.
that black lives don’t matter because they aren’t really lives at all.

Black lives are hashtags
and topics for debate on Fox News.

We are peaceful protests where violence is the invited guest
A welcoming mat for riot gear and respectability politics

We are respectable negroes and a line of roses down a Ferguson street.
Black lives are a graveyard of bodies without names.

Because no one knows the language of this pain.
It is fear of the unknown because the known is never really safe.

Home is never really safe and it certainly isn’t the home of the brave.

Bravery will get you shot.
And walking will get you shot
And cosplay will get you shot
And Wal-mart shopping will get you shot
And listening to music will get you shot
And car accidents will get you shot
And traffic violations will get you shot
And playing with toys will get you shot
And buying snacks will get you shot.
And it will always be your fault.

Because you are big for your age
Because you didn’t answer properly
Because you didn’t signal a lane change
Because you didn’t lie in the street bleeding until the ambulance came

Because you are
Because you were…
Because you are no more…

You are reduced to atom.
To nucleus
To matter
To black
To nothing
To dust

By Athena Dixon

Biography:

Athena’s work has appeared in various publications both online and in print. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee (2016, 2017), a Best of the Net nominee (2017), a Callaloo fellow (Oxford 2017), and a V.O.N.A. fellow (2018). Athena is a member of the Moving Forewards Memoir Writers Collective. Additionally, she has presented at AWP (Boston 2013) and HippoCamp (2016, 2017, 2018).

She is the author of No God In This Room, a poetry chapbook , published by Argus House Press. Her work also appears in The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 2: Black Girl Magic (Haymarket Books).

My Mother’s Scrapbook By Tyler Gadaire

My Mother’s Scrapbook

used to have ivory trim around the front cover,
small delicate etchings, lines like calligraphy,
the center image a plain slab of navy blue, almost wine.

It had ten or eleven pages of my sister and me, photos of us
as children in piles of leaves and sand castles, crib-held
as infants and sometimes, we were overlarge white t-shirts.

But when we pulled it out of our burned house’s remains, it was
black. A slate of grained-ash and charcoal; bronzed.
Most of the photos boiled, their ink bleeding through the pages.

We took time to air it out behind the small hotel that we were allowed
to stay in, the smell of burning in each crisp turn of the pages,
in the edges that cracked and chipped like eggshell. Mother was careful

to ease the book into a new, plastic casing. She carried it from house
to house as we moved through the years –an old china cabinet, rustic
walnut shelves, plastic drawers – each of us carefully inspecting

every page, trying to guess what the photos used to be as we unpacked
our boxes of relics, each new home making it harder to look. But here,
in the new house we call home, none of us can remember where it went

or the last time we saw it. Mother and I go down to the basement,
cleaning the dust and silt out of the damp, musty corners before
we find it slid in between my memory box and a wall of cobwebs.

We sit down on a couple of totes, brush the grit off the cover before
opening it slowly, earnestly; we try to guess each photo again – castles
of sand, my sister and I in leaves – but we barely recognize what’s there.

By Tyler Gadaire

First published by Eunoia Review 

Biography:

A native of Aroostook County in Maine, Tyler Gadaire is a 23-year-old graduate of the Univ. of Maine Farmington’s Creative Writing and English program. Tyler’s poetry has been published in Z-Publishing’s Emerging Writer Series, Asterism and Eunoia Review. Tyler is currently working on a draft of his first poetry chapbook.

THIS IS NOT ENOUGH By Kaitlyn Wang

THIS IS NOT ENOUGH

This is not a drill, the intercom blares.
It is the principal but not the principal.
It is a Code Red but not a drill.

It is a Wednesday afternoon,
but instead of leading us through the next song,
Mrs. Brown is locking the door. We were going

to pull out the xylophones if we had extra time.
We were going to sing happy birthday for Kyle
because Kyle is turning nine, but

This is a Code Red. And this is not a drill.

The blinds: down. The door: blocked. The lights: off.
And the minutes bleed into waiting, waiting—
until a flurry of all clear, lights on, chairs down, file out,

Mr. T. is here to lead us back to homeroom.

As we settle into plastic seats, Mr. T. stands
pale and silent before us. In a low voice, he tells us
he was at the front of the school with the principal.

There was a man wearing a trench coat and sunglasses.
The man was holding a gun. The man was not happy,
even though it’s Kyle’s happy birthday.

Keep an eye on him, the principal said, then hurried
into the office to announce the Code Red
that was not a drill. Mr. T. didn’t dare blink.

Alone, he stayed.

When I was five, I fell victim to
k-i-s-s-i-n-g songs; I thought I’d die
of humiliation. But people are
k-i-l-l-i-n-g children: my age, older, younger,
the adults they might have been.

But we raise our hands to remember—
the spread of red that Code Reds bring,
the sobs and the sting
and the wails
and the grief
and the shots
and the screams
we seek
an end to this.

Because America,
dear America,
we
will
speak.

By Kaitlyn Wang

Biography:

Kaitlyn Wang is a high school senior from the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a poetry reader for Polyphony H.S. and a poetry editor of Soundings, her school’s art and literary magazine. Her writing has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and she is a California Arts Scholar.

WHEN THEY TRY TO CUT THE MANIC OUT OF ME THEY REALIZE THAT I AM AN ALWAYS BURNING FIRE By Katie Pukash

WHEN THEY TRY TO CUT THE MANIC OUT OF ME
THEY REALIZE THAT I AM AN ALWAYS BURNING FIRE

we have seven facial openings/ six coupled/ and then also/ the mouth/
my favorite cave/ my mouth that makes me/ hysterical woman/ open jaw/
manic mouth for the moonlight/ bipolar and bursting/ try to cure me/
with a trephine/ try to dream catch my own broken brain/ drill a burr hole/
and tell me that this is therapeutic/ as you wear my skull on your neck/
as garlic is to vampire/ drill again and again/ and realize that I am still mad/
bare chest screaming/ crying and cawing/ I can’t seem to fit all of this despair/
back into my own mouth/ can’t stop reciting Dante’s Inferno/ can’t hold my breath/
like I used to/ my bipolar is an invisible sun/ can never see when it is about to burn/
scorch this place to black/ blister all of my stupid open pockets/ and no amount/
of drilling/ can shut my jaw/ no amount of skull holes/ will make me holy/
can’t unclench these knuckles/ can’t burn me/ if I am already on/ fire.

By Katie Pukash

Biography:

Katie Pukash is a writer and poet based in Boise, Idaho. Her work has appeared in Ink&Nebula, Breadcrumbs Mag, Yay! LA, among others. She was a member on the 2013, 2014, and 2018 Boise Poetry Slam Team and competed at the National level representing Idaho. She currently has two self published chapbooks.

Last Night in Beijing By Patrick Tong

Last Night in Beijing

after Christina Im

City uprooted straight from the
man’s hand & all the palms needed
to mother it. City shot up to the
moon & still leaning over the dirt.

City orphaned like an injury. Stung
& smeared. City with a sea spitting
blood. Sea’s stomach that kneaded
away all the bodies during the

war–when the bayonets shivered
into the soil & still could not
hide from the invader’s arm.
City where children scrambling

over the balconies strung together in
the sky & how the sun became so
afraid. City swallowed by hunger.
City with cataracts in both eyes

under a tyrant. How to cleave a
thousand flocks of sparrows to
let locusts fill the shadows around
the fields. City with citizens too

honest for those on the throne,
taught how to martyr under the sky.
City where death outraces the
morning, the cruelest economy.

City with a name that doesn’t kick
off the way Richmond does.
A language that betrayed the
cupping of your tongue. Or

are you the traitor? City with
foreign footsteps nobody can
scrape back their blood from.
These godless tracks. Children

who were taught to pray over
the same road they died on. As
if every story ends as soon as
it starts. That romantic. City ripped

clean from your birthrights. No
more secrets to hold. City with
three chambers. How it used to
sit so normal when it was farewell.

City crossed. City shrinking. City lost.

By Patrick Tong

Biography:

Patrick Tong is currently in his junior year at Adlai E. Stevenson High School, located in the ghostly and anonymous suburbs of Chicago. He serves as a second reader for Polyphony H.S., a copy editor for their blog Voices, and his work has been published by Eunoia Review. Unfortunately, he has a tendency to accidentally stave off his piles of homework by spending hours on a single piece. Besides editing and writing, he enjoys playing tennis, attempting to play songs on the piano by ear and failing, or listening to music in the limited free time he has.

a love poem, after By Ernest O. Ogunyemi

a love poem, after

a prayer will not fill the void.
loneliness is                salty salty drops of yourself
taste like butter                              slippery, melting into
nothingness;               a thousand prayers is
not enough pills for forgetting                     memory is
a bro-              ken         mirror       your body is
a warm tea in a                       leaking cup.
this is what grief tastes like:
the river runs                 into the ocean, silence eats
into the fabric of                     your soul, you are
a small bird         creeping       into itself for warmth
electricity dies in your veins           the cold seeps through your bones
could she return                                 you would mold
your heart into               a sweet song, lay it
an offering at her altar                her body, which
you call a feast,                              a temple, the world would be
smaller             no reaching for things you never get, all memories
become heaven                      your palm a petal
opening itself to                      the sun.
a crab digs a       hole in your soul, deeper deeper
deeper still                       you are finding home—
home is                a lone street on a moonless night
without stars                   you spread your        voice
a bouquet of flowers                  in the wind, may it
bear it far                                     fireflies touch the night with colors
you cannot say                 what a touch of light is
every color is red             in your eyes, droop-
ing down her thighs,       a cry is layered.

By Ernest O. Ogunyemi

Biography:

Ernest O. Ogunyemi is an eighteen-year-old boy singing in words from the corner of his room in Nigeria—to the world. His works have appeared in Kalahari, Praxis Online, Literally Stories, Acumen UK, and elsewhere. He is learning to walk on water, not when it freezes.

a bird’s song is sin By Ernest O. Ogunyemi

a bird’s song is sin

for boys like me
who do not know
how to kill
the fire burning
in their bodies.

how many times will I come
here to the stream to wash all the filth away?

Father whips me every day, but
the devil has become part of me—my other half.

Mother brings home bottles of holy water
for me to drink, it is to cleanse my mouth of

all the impure loves I have tasted—
a girl’s lip hides between my gums

a boy’s name puffs my cheeks on the sides
the name of a boy you love cannot be hid

love is glaring. a bird’s song is broken
into bits. I pick it up for mending

and the song is crushed between my palms.
beneath my heart lies the thoughts of you

in my eyes a dream of you, little bird leaving
to leave—not live—is your only option

the other option is burning—breaking
it is the fire that keeps the ship at bay.

Father takes me to the font, calls God
his son, and spirit, and dips me in

the water. I have come here a million times
perhaps this time my eyes will not

fix itself so hard on a boy who looks like
Eden’s apple, tastes like heaven’s song

a boy soft like the feel of manna, melting
into flakes on my tongue. how he never

dies, how this love seems
eternal, yet trapped in now.

I touch my wetness
in the dark
and fire dies in my heart
in my heart—AMEN.

By Ernest O. Ogunyemi

Biography:

Ernest O. Ogunyemi is an eighteen-year-old boy singing in words from the corner of his room in Nigeria—to the world. His works have appeared in Kalahari, Praxis Online, Literally Stories, Acumen UK, and elsewhere. He is learning to walk on water, not when it freezes.