mantra is I come to you
as the sun makes love
as the moon pocked n broke
turns the oceans over over
despite bad news – she gets up
every damn day – makes
amends with reefs
so bleached she sees
her bones as fish —
chalk coral – boats — metal teeth
blue green algae: the
brown shit bloom
again again she
holds her nose
a giant sucking clam —
sharks, fin-less —
three men cracked the shell at midnight
mantra is — I am treading water
breathing in and out — I am writing you —
poems in n out of my gut
in wish n sparkling
mirrors… you say – I see your light, Liz
& it doesn’t blind you
it makes you love me
more more; more like Sylvia loved
the idea of gas — the idea, of death — I am
a woman of forty-three
and never more than the light
makes the ocean real
I come up for air — it smells so good
I do it so i feel like a man –
i do it so i reek of creating;
mantra is — survival
no thanks to God
human waste is
and I am
not rowing anywhere but
body n mind n hands
clean me over over,
until I say
I’m home — and
read no bible
By Elisabeth Horan
Reflections in Kermanshah
the sky yawns us into existence
spits the lonely image of our crumbling bodies
onto the barren desserts of Kermanshah
we are huddling forward towards some unnameable future
me and my mother, my mother and i
hand in hand, awaiting our past to come and grapple us by the throat
uncertainty lurking underneath the thick of our skin
we are waiting to shed our history like eyelashes,
small and forgetful pieces blown into non existence by the wind.
but there’s a rawness that brews within,
that spills over the samovar gurgling tea
there are memories blooming stellate and hungry across our flesh.
there is a past, a revolution threatening to shatter open our ribs
we storm ourselves into forgetting.
sew our bodies into the sea.
thread silence into our wounds.
it’s so easy to slick the mind into forgetting.
but the heart — it shakes and whimpers, spins the world out of axis,
growling and hungry.
we are two bodies cocooned by the middle-eastern sun
stripped to the bone by a past and an unforeseeable future.
hand in hand. waiting.
By Nazanin Soghrati
Nazanin Soghrati is a 16-year-old high school student from Toronto, Ontario.
A senior walked me to freshman English then pressed his pretty
boy lips on mine. For the first time I felt, beneath his acne-free face and
crest-whitened teeth; a reminder of my vitality. When we first started dating, I
doubted he’d fancy my scarred, ashy knees and beast-like method of
eating, but his light brown eyes sparkled no matter how improper and
foolish I appeared to me. For fun, I tamed his matted braids with my cheap, flaky
gel after school, and to my surprise, we were a happy couple. On awfully
humid afternoons after lunch in his little blue car, he looked away when
I needed to change out of my undershirt. He wasn’t threatened by my
jolts when he kissed my neck, or my unhealthy obsession with
knowing everything about him. His last name started to sound good
lying in front of a hyphen next to mine. For some time, our age difference didn’t
matter until the day we went to his house to play video games. He decided
now was a good time to touch me there, slow and with sensual purpose, I
opened my mouth to utter the words “no”, and his soft, heavy hands applied
pressure to my neck long enough to frighten me into scratching him bloody. He uttered
quietly, “sorry”, and I stood, without words remembered or left in the drying
river of my psyche. I sprinted out the door to the nearest secluded stop
sign and let the lonesome helplessness escape through the strength of my
tears. I got a friend to take me to school the next day, and the sweet face I
used to know looked smeared with regret and sorrow — a feeling I erase with
vacuity. He tried to friend me on facebook, and I saw he had three children with
women one or two years younger than me. For a while I hovered around the gray
“X”, wondering whether he’d know if I blocked him. “Some niggas will always be
youthful” I whisper to myself, yet I can’t help but wonder if those
zig-zag braids still stink of gel, and those hands still look like lions clawed them.
By Nia KB
Nia KB (they/them) is a Black queer nonbinary poet, editor, and educator. They are the recipient of fellowships and residencies from Lambda Literary, The Speakeasy Project, and UTSA’s African American Literatures and Cultures Institute. Their poetry appears or is forthcoming in Eleven40Seven, Z Publishing, Pamplemousse, Brown State of Mind, Lighthouse Literary, and elsewhere. When they’re not blessing stages or writing pages, they serve as Associate Poetry Editor for Fields Magazine, Production Assistant for the web series Gentrified, Curator/Host of the reading series Austin Interfaces, and Teaching Artist for Austin Library Foundation’s Badgerdog Creative Writing Program. If you got this far, they think you should follow them on twitter and instagram at nia_kb.
for sasha wall
in a dark sky
bullet hole— Sasha Wall was a transgender
reddened woman of color fatally shot in her car in
sunset: Chesterfield County, South
the light leaving us behind Carolina. She is one of many
trans women of color killed in 2018.
seat belt stretched
across a darkened space
and no shrill alarm
left in the body
did you know,
was the most dangerous year
for you to be alive?
but of course you know. black woman
and isn’t that privilege— the luxury of not knowing
and isn’t that death—the
luxury of not knowing
as if time could be given
and never kept
spinal cord bent
first into a spinal cord
and then into a question mark
an elongated map
against the backdrop
of the sandhills
and a lonely american flash-
a still picture. just like that.
it is april 1st and i am waiting for the joke to splinter because, like the fool i am, i swallowed the
last bullet-length word in my mouth that had no consonants. it was holy like that. dearest mother
even heaven is the lack of something
and i pray to you because even my god can be colonized, even this body is a pre-existing
condition, worth less than worthlessness. the president’s seeming planned aggression.
presidents set precedents: call them worm-mouth horror-struck lucid nightmare of humdark
and i know,
i know momma. i must tell my audience what i mean humdark: that deafening silence as
the lack of your sisters is given to you. i woke this mourning to find that another trans woman
was murdered every time is a figment of our imagination because if it were real
someone would mention how fast it is moving right?
because momma, i came home to you on a small bus in my lonely state. (texas meaning allies)
i found you with your mouth overcome with fireflies
and i opened up this chest to give you
what i might have called a constellation yesterday
but i now know is an asterism one part of a bigger, ineffable thing.
a still picture. just like that.
a lonely american flash
against the backdrop
of a burning map
that is death isn’t it— choosing the luxury of not knowing
that is death isn’t it— choosing
the luxury of not knowing
because more time could be given
and never kept
in the end,
my God opens her own
bloodied eye— a crimson ring.
not a bullet.
not period to a life sentence.
a long wail,
a horrid blue sky.
a bright, little girl
in her mother’s perfect dress,
and yes, i know that is all
you ever wanted to be but
instead, a perfect crimson red.
a blood departure.
By C.D. LATIN
Christopher Latin (sometimes stylized as C. D. Latin) is a 21 year old genderqueer, pansexual poet of color and an avid reader from Houston, Texas. They currently attend Huston-Tillotson University in Austin where they major in English. You can find their work published/forthcoming in their university’s literary magazine called 900 Chicon, The Ellis Review, and The Heavy Feather Review. When they are not writing they are busy spending too much money on poetry books and clothes.
scripture as exit
there is a girl somewhere
faraway from her sister who is
unconscious and on a table
in a different city with earth the colour of happiness,
surrounded by doctors cutting her open
the girl is speaking the language of healing
into a glass of water:
a tear, tongue rolls of scripture
doused in arabic.
she unfolds each word like it is god
and as she drinks it,
uses the last drops
to rub the right side of her tummy,
she closes her eyes
and sends its powers to her sister
By Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu
Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu’s work has appeared on Ake Review, Brittle Paper, The Bitter Oleander, After the Pause journal, Eunoia Review, and elsewhere. She’s a 2018 fellow at the Ebedi Writers Residency in Nigeria, and is currently pursuing a law degree.
SOMETHING IS ALWAYS BURNING
wherever water becomes a servant to an unseen war. I
for you to know how it is to be an empty basket
under rain. Nothing fills you like
your shadow cleaving a night song into
a devoted darkness. A city
stitches a man’s cut with a fire of needles.
A man says leave and
I’m seeing my body molded like
moimoi in a new widow’s belly. What is hunger
when the heart is enough eternal meal for grief. What
a silenced body if not a damned night
taking the rare shape of tears? A bit, my wound
shifts like a boy’s last breath trying to
wring flames out of his body. A book opens hopelessly like
dawns with no more men to yawn. Everything is now flickers. And
a page is my body, in summary of a rust car. abandoned. You don’t
move further when you’re a tired feet clutched with
1967 slippers on the road linking your absences. a
kind of tremor rushed like wind, arranged my beard a little,
and a grieving dictionary flips to page 404. A subject to a damned city.
My body, a disengaging content, and I’m believing here
that it isn’t an error.
By Mesioye Johnson
Mesioye Johnson is a bird of many colors who writes to heal his darkness and the world around his waist. His works are featured or forthcoming in African Writer, Eunoia review, Sub-Saharan magazine and somewhere else. He is @mesioyejohnson on Twitter