GUILLOTINE: By Marilyn Melissa Salguero

GUILLOTINE:

When I name my abuser, they write my accusation off as a witch hunt,
Said I was swept up in a false passion, a movement of school boy ideals,
Called me unpredictable, a violent thing,
Said “Honest men are not safe with her around”
They all gathered in crowds to protect him & shielded him with their blind allegiance.

Who am I to call the king a pauper?
After all, didn’t he make me what I am?
Used his platform to build me into an icon,
What a heartless iron maiden I am,
A loud and lying thing.

Well if I am to be made into an symbol of a revolt gone wrong
then let me be the femme fatale
La guillotine.

Fierce & Unforgiving,
A pointed piece of work.
I was built to provide a gentler end to things,
Something to soften the blows,
something that sat so pretty & looked best when splattered with crimson,
I offered peace of mind in the form of a severance pay,
Lost my mind along with every waiting and bowed head.

I was an offer of humanity until it was taken from me,
Until my body was used to satisfy
his bloodlust, until his hands stripped me of all things human and left me splintered,
A submissive & quiet thing.

How easily am I blamed for the all bodies.

& Isn’t it the history of woman to be vilified for her search of justice?
To be blamed for the blood on her hands
But never once asked who made her a widow?

So if I am to be remembered as the scaffolding,
Let me also be remembered as the blade,
All sharp edges and unforgiving swiftness,
Let me be the “fallen woman”.

The one who drags every man down with her,
Watch as I takes his name and claim it as a war cry,
become both hero and executioner,
Call me maneater as I leave him as nothing more than bones,

Let justice be my legacy.

And when you tell my history,
Let my truth be a mirror,
Tell them how kings, kavanaugh’s, and criminals all trembled the same way,
all looked the same in the light of my reflection, no splitting hairs between them
Tell them that I was
Cold and piercing,
And exact.

And remember,
How the crown of every king splits apart so easily
And how they all run red

By Marilyn Melissa Salguero

Biography:

Marilyn Melissa Salguero (she/her/hers) is a Guatemalan poet who puts the SALT in Salt Lake City, Utah. She is the human equivalent of red wine, crushed velvet and using humor as a poor coping mechanism. Melissa her work centers on her life, relationships, and identity. She has been featured on Write About Now Poetry and Ink & Nebula. She was a member of the Westminster 2018 & 2019 CUPSI team and was a finalist at the 2018 Utah Arts Festival Indie Slam. When not yelling about white boys or making God metaphors, Melissa can be found feeding her online shopping addiction, blasting Gloria Trevi, or living up to her title as the quintessential “bitter ex girlfriend poet”. Her work (along with her emotional overflow) can be found on twitter @_Miss_Marilyn.

Dear Bucket List: By Annie Ma

Dear Bucket List:

I want to find peace.
Run three laps around the globe,
Wear the flags of a thousand cultures,
And drown myself in living.

I want to shake hands with an alien,
Find a five-leaf clover.
Fly above the city superhero-style,
Create the scientifically most
Perfect piece of music.

And I want to find love.
Discover what it means to be
Simultaneously consumed and freed.
Make vows at a glittering altar,
Have so many grandchildren that
I know love in every single city.

I want to vacation to the Lighthouse of Alexandria.
I want to throw my graduation cap to the skies.
I want to celebrate my birthday next month.
I want to visit the new modern art gallery.
I want to finally finish Les Miserables.
I want to eat at Beppe’s tomorrow.
I don’t want to die.

My hands shake; my body shakes.
I don’t want to die.
Eighty years later I will
Envy the fair complexion
Of walnut skin;
The springing agility
Of a lumbering elephant.
Wait for the sun and salute
As it awakes;
Live near the ocean
And listen to its lullaby every night.

The girl in the bathroom mirror
clutches a gun
each heartbeat a gunshot
i don’t want to die—

By Annie Ma

Biography:

Annie is a high school senior at The Harker School in San Jose, where she is the editor-in-chief of the school’s literary magazine, HELM. Her poetry and prose have won several Scholastic Writing Awards. She is the founder and president of Book Bank (www.bookbank.org), a nonprofit organization that serves underprivileged communities by collecting and distributing free books to K-8 school children.

Brown Girl Survival By Sarah Fathima Mohammed

Brown Girl

She girdles a hand-woven khadar scarf
Brown skin shimmering through endless fires
Fighting as a crouching tiger
Only to face wage cuts, hijab bans but
Her worn hands clutch the warmth of prayer beads
Timeless beauty and strength still inside her
Through the white noise that whispers surrender
As she embodies the last embers in darkness
She rides through borders sees buried crimes
Her brown virtue is eternal

Survival

representing wisdom from the fallen in her homeland
echoing brown can survive and will survive
waiting for her to turn to rise wild power within
no blood, no sweat or tears will stall her path
hear her grandmother’s tales of submission
with her khadar scarf flapping without the backbone
to vanish in and out of vision just to survive
her grit feeds, her faith breathes, her will survives
her crouching tiger will never fade
she will impel the survival of her culture

By Sarah Fathima Mohammed

Biography:

Sarah Fathima Mohammed is a high schooler from California. In 2019, she received a silver medal for the NJCL national creative writing contest and a gold medal for national Latin. Her work has been accepted in Canvas Literary Journal. She has been accepted and will attend Iowa Young Writers’ Studio in 2020. She enjoys writing various pieces in literature and Latin; creative writing, to her, is a raw form of self-expression that can be conveyed at any depth without the worldly barriers. When she is not writing, she teaches English to disadvantaged students, plays music to raise funds for kids in hospitals and enjoys archery.

Exodus 1949, Shaanxi By Spencer Chang

Exodus 1949, Shaanxi

for my Grandpa

here the ocean is an entire continent of hunger,
children cup a handful to their mouths to discover
their palms, once an entire grassland grazed warm
by blood, now withering fissures across parched hands.
the ocean is deaf to paper skins shredded against
the wind singing, a melody we devote ourselves
to perfecting. despite our size, we are still very much
mendable. fold our backs into wings and our tongues
into wind. stretch our spines beneath the ocean floor,
to one day be uncovered hardened into diamond.
even in our blood you’ll find traces of steel
from rusting shovels. we have nothing
and everything to give. our tongues growing
calloused from suffocated prayers. bruised
ghosts that hide beneath our hardened skins will break
into clouds and land with the gentleness of rain, of history.
moonlight projecting our shadows into giants. sextant.
compass. some days I swear I’m becoming more of a vessel
for the stars, drifting across skies and oceans for anything
to cling onto, but call it home and we’ll never reach it.

***

we keep our hearts wrapped in our lungs
and lose a little every time we breathe.
you create a new life by erasing the other.
how unfaithful can one grow to their body?
we still carry the ashes of our homes
like a skeleton. there used to be stars where
I lived. we would pretend to pinch them
from the sky and rub them into our palms.
sky full of ash, sky full of dirt, sky full of
charred bonedust. now the stars seem
more distant than ever. now we stretch
the sky into a shadow into our past.
this body is not clean. I’ve been trying to forget
the names of family, even my own, trying to wash
myself of my own blood, until I started bleeding
from everywhere. even in language we’re inseparable.
in chinese, we don’t say goodbye. we say zàijiàn,
zài for again, jiàn for meet: I hope we meet again,
so zàijiàn bàba, zàijiàn māmā, zàijiàn. zàijiàn

By Spencer Chang

Biography:

Spencer Chang is a writer based in Taipei. He is also a dancer and freelance web designer in his free time.

Responsibility By Zoe Canner

Responsibility

after Grace Paley

It is the responsibility of the earth to be in motion
it is the responsibility of the woman to remain
alive / it is the responsibility of human nature to

remember &remind / it is the responsibility of the
privileged to take our easy-to-believe asses &say
for fucks / say for fucks / mate / this train is

moving on / this train is moving forward / we will
not go back / we will not go back / we will not go
back / women / two spirit / trans / nb’s / poc

indigenous / neuro-divergent / disabled / we will
not go back / have made strides / &girl / oh man
oh woman alive / oh folks alive / people alive

we have mega strides that remain for justice
but it is the responsibility / before they shoot me
down / before they pull out my organs / before

they search the house of the murdered
before they tie up my limbs / &locs / it is the
responsibility of this poet to cry out &say / we

will surely not go back / man / we will only
move forward in this life / you will not break us
have not broken us / cannot break us / cannot

colonize our souls / our bread / our corn / our
sons / our daughters / our children / &the night
you cannot colonize the moon / tho you can

advertise on spaceships / you cannot win back
our minds / we are awake / we are not going
anywhere / we are wide wide open / &on the side

of right / on this side of justice / we will not
go back to hangers / we will not go back to
hangings / we will not go back to hiding in

attics / we will not go back to picking cotton
to railroad work / to internment camps / we will
not go back to dying in the desert crossing

human-made borders for a better life / we will
not go back to accepting slick stereotypes
centering the comfort of the long-time comforted

we will not go back underground / we will not
go back to pretending we are smaller than we are
we will take up space / we will laugh heartily

we have staying power / we heal / we borrow
you say / this is my world &you are just living
in it / well / buddy-oh / this is our world / too

&we will not go back in the closet / we will not
fall into ourselves &over ourselves to put your
comfort over our lives / you don’t set the

normal anymore / we will not go back to
apologizing for your mistakes / inactions
carelessness / we will not go back to cowering

&sinking so you can prop yourselves up on
our backs / we will not go back to hearing
you take credit for our decency / brightness

compassion / loyalty / jokes / ideas
temperament / bodies / you’re either with us or
you forget yourself / this country is still full of

hope / in a world of female genital mutilation
so-called settlements in the west bank / what
i call / apartheid / sex slavery / colonization

brainwash / child slave labor / censorship
ours is full of hope / always has been full
of hope / &that’s not saying much / but it’s

saying enough where i can hold my head
up high / &say / no matter who is a / judge
there is only our strength / our numbers

our heart / our grace / our legacy / our arc
&it is bending / man / it is bending
judge / it is bending / nb / it is bending

sweet / sweet / woman / we will not
kill / &we will not sleep on freedom
& w e / w i l l / n o t / g o / b a c k

By Zoe Canner

Biography:

Zoe Canner’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Laurel Review, Arcturus of the Chicago Review of Books, Naugatuck River Review, SUSAN / The Journal, Maudlin House, Occulum, Pouch, Matter, Swimming with Elephants, The Birds We Piled Loosely, Chaleur Magazine, Nailed Magazine, Indolent Books’ What Rough Beast, and elsewhere. She lives in Los Angeles where she indulges in hilly walks at dusk when the night-blooming jasmine is at its peak fragrance.

Red Weather By Cindy Xin

Red Weather

This is where it ends: Limbs unearthed to light,
your breath swelling the laundry— farther, then closer.
If your daughter had returned, you’d show her
to write a real letter, one that is consumed and
never forgotten. If she had returned, you wouldn’t
be standing behind the pool, tinsel scattered
copiously upon the surface. She wouldn’t have
left your arms for the ones of the world, the barbed
wire fingers igniting her hair. She wasn’t a child.
You had taught her about choking hazards and
powerlines, the decadence of pollen on the arms—
the danger of forgetting the body one begins with.
How loneliness hurts, but how it worsens once a
boy can stick his teeth in it. Or if you hadn’t said it,
you had definitely shown it, tied it to your neck,
burned it into the oxygen. Nights drawled recklessly
around the living room, crept everywhere, stole your
things, left her a hostage. But it had been raining.
Things had been falling. You had been forgetting.
Hadn’t you left the door locked throughout the day?
Hadn’t the dishes been half-washed, not too clean
as to attract any wreckage? This is where it ends:
Your hands wrinkled, even before the rain. The rain
leaving, leaving, leaving. The sun returning without notice.

By Cindy Xin

Biography:

Cindy Xin a junior in Albany High School in California who enjoys writing poetry, listening to music, and staring at the sky. Her work is forthcoming in Earth Island Journal, Half Mystic, After The Pause, and Glass.

 

By the Railroad By Katherine Vandermel

By the Railroad

1864 (Drink)

117 Chinese boys.

Weedy, half-baked men. Egg-yolk
bruises. Butterfly ribs, flat faces. They walked away
from eastern dreamsongs into red America
to grow oil-black dahlias—

stems thick as wrists. They make dough
from dried blood.

Here at the railroad, shards of sunlight
cut their ivory monolids
until the crescents brown. These Laotian boys,
they work alongside countrymen—

their breath pongs of chicken stir-fry & fermented
rice cauterized in dialect.

A Western knife minces their Cantonese, tongues
laden with pork fat, fried, then burned
into metal. English whole,
elusive. Miners, Orientals, Aliens, all Crocker’s pets—

orange peels painted on china.

Tracks chiseled into bone
beyond the marshland, men built
the spine. They labor to one day ride it:
Work every day until you can start living.
I hear it often—

the throats’ filigree
suspended in the tap, on the lips
of our dixie cups,
before we swallow.

By Katherine Vandermel

Biography:

Katherine Vandermel is a writer who strives to use language as a tool to resist the erasure of marginalized ethnic communities. She loves music and a good, warm croissant. Her work has appeared and is forthcoming in Alexandria Quarterly, Blue Marble Review, Poetry Resistance from Youth, and has been recognized by Behrend College and the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.

To Proud Boys By Kanchan Naik

To Proud Boys

Your flag is the color of sun-stained backs
drenched in the blood of their brothers,
drowned by the stifling stench of cotton residue,
drizzled in gashes ruptured by men
who looked so much like you.
Your stars were once stitched
from bruised fingers in bare attics,
every thread tamed into fabric
you hoist into a screaming sky.

Perhaps you won’t hear me
over the whistle of pepper spray,
but damn.
I would walk across
this injured American earth
that belongs to its wounds,
And whisper in your ears:
the brown man cries not of the burden on his back,
but because the white man thinks so deeply
of his own.

But alas,
this earth between us,
ablaze in nervous laughter,
laughter at the sightless pride
of a boy.

By Kanchan Naik

This poem is the recipient of a Scholastic Gold National Key.

Biography:

Kanchan Naik is a junior at The Quarry Lane School in Dublin and the Teen Poet Laureate for the City of Pleasanton. When she’s not doodling or writing poetry, she is most likely untangling her earphones or looking for something that happens to be — much like herself — lost.

Vacancy By Serrina Zou

Vacancy

Come apocalypse
& I unhook the cosmos From its thin air, stitching
Fish eyes for immortality,
Experimental like burning
Incense to suction vivisection,
A hemisphere for a crown.
How incomplete. How real.
At the end of every movie,
The seats soften into
Clay between the sweat
Of my palms & I hold
The universe hostage
If only for a second,
Enough for Jurrassic
Bones to crack my
Ligaments, & for
The first time I undress
From the skin of my home,
The thistle of my immortality
Replaying the timeline
Of the next life. Inside,
The galaxy bathes in its
Threadless clocks, unwinding
The asymptotes toward
Infinity & how the gods
Heaved at their failed
Birth, an act of pure
Creation lost to myth.
How foolish to believe
That paralysis forced
The inertia of this unbroken
Law, the hint of earth
Scaffolding against its
Mold. It ends in salvation,
Somewhere in the tombstone
Of excavated ocean, so please:
Take these broken dreams
& paint the secret sky.

By Serrina Zou

Biography:

Serrina Zou is a junior at Basis Independent Silicon Valley in San Jose, California and a 2019 California Arts Scholar in Creative Writing. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Just Poetry!!!, the Asian Pacific Fund, In Parentheses Magazine, and the Bay Area Book Festival. When she is not writing poetry, she is either catnapping or avidly devouring novels.

We Look for a Ditch By Jess Witkins

We Look for a Ditch

In every direction
the green hills, rolled
for miles
outside the car windows

The sky grew
mountainous,
turning the color of rocks,
taking up space
like a fist

What do we do,
my husband asks,
if there
is a tornado?

A ditch, I say,
we head for a ditch,
and we drive along, searching
through our windows

But the farmlands of Minnesota
on an old, back highway
have other plans,
only pastures,
spanning outward and on

Like edges of the earth,
they curl forever,
and there is no ditch
on this stretch of road

We turn back
to face each other
afraid

By Jess Witkins

Biography:

Jess Witkins is a Wisconsin-based writer, blogger, and storyteller.
Her work has been published in local and national magazines. She is
president of the nonprofit writing community, Mississippi Valley Writers
Guild. Most recently her poems have appeared in *Ariel Chart, and s*he has
an essay titled “The Funeral Photographer” *in the anthology, *What
Remains: The Many Ways We Say Goodbye,* with Gelles Cole Literary
Enterprises.