Portrait of Girl as Eden By Joyce Ker

Portrait of Girl as Eden

I saw you breach the earth with pockmarked seeds.
You raked the leaves and chipped the roots. You tore
each rose and watered thorns. You stole my dreams,
they died on crisp white sheets. With you, I’d soar—

I once believed my gated wrists, my hips
that swayed and cracked like sugar just for you
meant love. You called it love and slit my lips
and kissed my feet. We danced in endless blue.

Now all the little beasties in my womb
are crouching, breathing fever, pelvic rust.
The marks you left—each beast, each purpling bruise,
the lists of sacred places not to touch.

Come dawn, I’m pure, I’ll drown them one by one—
I’ll hold back tears—their pulse, your breath long gone.

By Joyce Ker

Biography:

Joyce Ker is a freshman at Johns Hopkins University whose poetry has appeared in TAB Journal of Poetry & Poetics, Tule Review, Louisville Review, and Boxcar Poetry Review. Her work has been recognized by the Lex Allen Literary Festival Poetry Contest, Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest, and the California Coastal Art and Poetry Contest. A California Arts Scholar and alumna of the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio, Ker has been nominated for the Best New Poets anthology and the Pushcart Prize.

qīngmíng By Katherine Wei

qīngmíng

I dance around a flaming luminescence
of bones being mended; unapologetic.
while lint licks dust off the furnace,
embodiments of departed relatives
carve a sliver of a silhouette against
the rusting walls of their once home,
my home.

I see them pop sunflower seeds open
with their molars, not their canines
& their carcass lays idle, yet their souls
waltz gracefully around the tawny tea table
where nǎinai used to sit,
sipping mòlìhuā chá,
delicate, delectable, deafening.

April of every year I feel their presence;
eyes piercing into my paper skin made of
dense red pockets, choking on large bills
that I mustn’t keep for myself,
firecracker stomp on my eardrums,
listen: it’s playing the music of the
deceased.

sometimes I can see their wrinkles,
lapping to the rhythm of the pendulum
in the grandfather clock—
years of their lives accounted for in soft sways;
Yéyé of ninety-two.
he plays mahjong.

his quivering breath incites a wave—
characters resembling pictures that I once knew,
maybe when I was five,
maybe when I could still distinguish the two halves of my tongue,
maybe when my Chinese was not twisted shambles
of flashing cartoons.

tsunami of tones,
curving up and right and left and up.
my vocal cords glued. stuck to my spine.
ash detonated up and up into the air,
listen: it’s whispering faint cries of pain,
it’s annual tomb-sweeping day.

By Katherine Wei

Biography:

Katherine is currently a sophomore attending BASIS Chandler in Arizona. She likes to skateboard, paint acrylic portraits, and play volleyball. Her writing has been recognized by Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and been published by Risen Zine, Page and Spine, Life in 10, and many others.

Broken Sanctuary By Sarah Street

Broken Sanctuary

It was almost a comfort
to know that                            we could still dissolve
into ourselves.
The truth
is that a body too familiar            with this earth,
with its knife-cut borders and
hand-carved hills and
days so holy                                          we start to believe a god exists,
is a body too long rented –                                   a body that
unravels into
tendons and
bones thick
with maggots. Once, in the                                       imperfect
part of the sea, the body          could                                                     float;
it could weigh itself                                                      like it weighs
its own blood, in teaspoons,
then in buckets.                                                                          And
its face looked so perfect                                                and real,
muscle so pink
it looked almost                                                        gummy.
But we, too,
were fooled
when it crumbled into dust.

By Sarah Street

Biography:

Sarah Street is a junior and Writing Fellow at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta, where she also writes for the school newspaper and edits the literary magazine. Her poetry has been featured or is forthcoming in Aerie International, DoveTales: An International Journal of the Arts, Just Poetry National Quarterly, The America Library of Poetry, and Live Poet’s Society among others. Sarah’s work has been recognized by the New York Times Student Poetry Contest, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, Writing for Peace Young Writers Contest, and River of Words Poetry Project. Sarah’s writing frequently explores themes of children’s rights and social justice; she is passionate about promoting diversity, advocating for human rights, and inspiring unity through writing, music, and community service.

In Which a Funeral Director Prepares for His Nine Hundred and Twenty-First Cremation By Chisom Okafor

In Which a Funeral Director Prepares for His Nine Hundred and Twenty-First Cremation

A last pack of masks has been torn open this morning
and no one knows when another
consignment would arrive.
Before now, the embalmer had sighed and said:
we hit the reset button soon, when the lasts
of these protective clothing are used up,
or improvise
with (un)used garbage bags in the place
of disposable overalls
or silk handkerchiefs for face masks,
or cellophane bags for surgical gloves.

But this isn’t happening today, instead
two dozen spaced lines of guests
await their beloved, six feet apart,
outside the makeshift tent morgues ─
this microscopic name having redefined
even how the living mourn their dead
for this means a journey to a last resting place
bereft of cortège
and only a gurney for companionship.

Soon, nightfall would descend
like a dreaded prophecy,
the rains would come in their time,
thick and surging, and the sun
would advance daily, circling the sky
in lazy degrees over the hills, homebound
and flowers would bloom in early spring
as though the world
would ever remain the same after now.

But not here, not for the custodian of bodies
who readies his gloves for yet another session,
taking great care to isolate afterwards,
from the dripping love of a wife
and the waiting warmth in a daughter’s hug
after long stretches of sleepless nights.

By Chisom Okafor

Biography:

Chisom Okafor is a Nigerian poet and Nutritionist, who was shortlisted for the Gerald Kraak Prize in 2019. He edited 20:35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry and presently works as Chapbook editor for Libretto Magazine.

As the Beautiful Boy Pens Girl By Alexa Theofanidis

As the Beautiful Boy Pens Girl

after Germaine Greer

I am simply unshaven–you lapping up each sand-strung
curl: the night, a bowl to scrape clean.

A tongue twisted out from under me
to shape-shift, another seeking to bare my cheek.
I emptied lighters with my ire. I stripped alone
after feeding my fingers to the distended jowls of
a mother. Everyday, I watch you
deflate with more flesh and circle
the flame:

bloodied prints tucked against
our fists knocked up with silk which
fluttered across our bodies
as hinges to
twilight demure.

Here, I’ve shuffled our missteps into a light-footed draft.
Don’t neglect
these shapes we massage into
pictorial violence.

By Alexa Theofanidis

Biography:

Alexa Theofanidis attends St. John’s School in Houston, Texas, where she is the co-Editor-in-Chief of the literary magazine Imagination. She is also the recipient of two regional gold keys and one silver key from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.

CYST By Maham K

CYST

Mother stinks of blood & bleach. Eggs
& antiseptic. Grease & dish-soap.

Yank out + gut the child: thin, pink lemon slices.
Wipe the snot & froth & hold for applause.

Noose of braid. Thwack! Cockroach guts smear
dingy tiles. Sun & oil freckle the wall. Hair clots

on the floor. “I’m not going to be my mother.”
What a fucking joke. Here’s a bald fact:

You’re as yellow as the melons around you. Here’s
a pile of meat, sir, to wife. Here’s your order.

What good is a mind? Put it in the oven. Hit it
with a shoe. Set it on fire. Mail it back to god.

By Maham K

Biography:

Maham K is a poet, artist & medical student from Karachi, Pakistan. She has been published by Indige Zine, Berry Magazine, Soliloquie Magazine, and Luna Rio Zine.

amor de mis amores By Antonia Silva

amor de mis amores

I am young and gay / my first summer in oregon / I dig irrigation lines / learn to love the
cloudless skies / fix broken sprinklers / cherish the golden raspberries / wrestle weeds from dirt sunbaked / stuff my mouth full of fresh blackberries / prune wild roses / every sprouted muscle / a reminder of my lineage / from a family of earthworkers / all of us / molded in mud / sculpted with soil / I meet my first lover / in the garden / both of us on the run / history a thicket of thistles / our tongues knock kisses / plum pits and cherry skins / bodies unfamiliar / even to ourselves / we forget our family names / journey out to the woods / dive into clearwater / river rush of divinity / a salamander god suns on a rock / regards us with one eye open / no es un mal de ojo / more kin than sin / under the cloak of opal pools / I sing to my lover / ponme la mano aquí macorina / ponme la mano aquí / tu boca una bendición / de guanabana madura

By Antonia Silva

Biography:

Antonia Silva is a queer Mexican-American poet from Santa Ana, California who currently lives and works in Portland, Oregon. Antonia’s work is published in Tinderbox Poetry Journal.

Mannequins By Jayant Kashyap

Mannequins

I see your hands / shaping the waves after the
slightest onset of dawn in a lime coloured city

under the sun’s / hidden scalp. The wetness
of the dew yet covering the triangularity of

the ryes in a slithering / slight slime observes
your now already hardened hands with a warm

softness; the ryes you once told me were the
plaits / of the daughters of the mythical men that

died in battles below our carved / wooden book-
shelves your cut marble silhouettes in the middle

of the nights, their daughters running to them
with pitchers / full of water feeding them some

bread the men’s backs on a reddened ground
then laying themselves down by their fathers

waiting / for the sun for hope for ages now their
plaits the rye reaching out drying themselves in

the sun of memories of a million years shouting
those out to us in silence; sometimes / you tell me

to listen to them. Sometimes your hands reach
in, meet at a horizon, grab the powdered white

entrails in ladled mouths. Next morning you do it
again until, you tell me one day, there’re enough

horizons to count; at other times there are no
horizons and I gather sometimes it’s your sadness

that hollows the marble sometimes / your happiness
makes it infinite like longing rivers like light

touching a pupil like a soft breeze made up of
calmness

like /
yourself

By Jayant Kashyap

Biography:

Jayant Kashyap is a Pushcart Prize-nominee, and one of the founding editors of the e-magazine Bold + Italic. His poems have appeared in Barren, StepAway, Visual Verse, Perverse, Outcast and other magazines. His debut chapbook, Survival, was published in 2019 by Clare Songbirds, and Unaccomplished Cities is upcoming from Ghost City Press.

herbal By Maggie Sun

herbal

grandma plucks a brilliant orange opium flower

and crushes it in her mortar. centuries of abuse,

death, and green skin make our tea this afternoon.

the pot she drips hot water into is nearly translucent

like the history of the country we are drinking from.

i wonder what the rickshaw boys would think to see

this ignorant tradition. perhaps they would look away

and continue yelling for their next customer.

perhaps they would know, think sadly to their own

browning pipes, warn us through their drooping eyes.

trade is money, trade is silk, golden embroidery, spice, but

trade is also death. the poppy melts a little. evaporates.

i wonder if grandma knows.

By Maggie Sun

Biography:

Maggie Sun currently lives in Arcadia, California. She loves collecting phone cases and hairpins. Find her on Instagram @maggiesuun!

 

Supernova Vacuumed By Meimei Xu

Supernova Vacuumed

for Laura

No – you are not the type of girl
to explode-boom-balloon burst
dynamite, or sear
nuclear fire. You

are not the flames that lick
at mercury-heels, the coal
pumped, smoke furnaces
click-clacking engines, not

the gnashing xylophone teeth, the
dancing bones, nor the headstone
haunting, nor the bull bucking
kick-smash-killing–

No. You are not kinetic. You are immobile
to the observer four seats away, but you
rattle– the glass of cherry pop that
wet-wobbly-circles the tabletop,

a humming to a
deep rumble underfoot. No –
you are not a lingering mushroom cloud, not
the boom, but the sizzle of soda

not the mourning fog, but
the mist of sputtering bubbles. At the bodily
level, you still like liquid. But you
spotty-laugh, you shifty, lifty

toes, you dance-fingertips, you
eyelid-vibrate hummingbird quick – on a
microcellular level you buzz, you butterfly, you
synapse-spark, you nerve-arrow, you are

a time lapse, a fast-forward field
unsheath-bud-bloom-dy-ing in four snaps, the
lava spew-hardening, the fish-to-lizard-
to-crawler-to-ape-to-poet catalyzed, Pangea

power-hammered-split like a cracker,
segregation under thirty seconds, week into day, Creation
crammed, Big Bang vacuumed into the
popping steam of carbon. You are potent –

potential.

By Meimei Xu

Biography:

Meimei Xu is a junior at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta, GA. She is a recipient of a 2018 National Gold Medal for Journalism from the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, and her nonfiction and poetry will move onto national judging this year. Her work has also been recognized by the Library of Congress. She currently works as a content writer for the Adroit Journal and has attended the 2018 Kenyon Review Young Writer’s Workshop.