The Cleaving By Samuel A. Adeyemi

The Cleaving

Say, depression is a guillotine kneeling
towards my chest. Say, it is a blade

seeking to pray on my flesh. My body, a
sacrament. My bones, clean alters of grief.

Tell me this calvary will pass over me with
the night, that the morning will be a new

attempt to gather myself. I’m left in shambles
like the language cleft on my terrible teeth,

graceless as a name fumbling on an infant’s
tongue. I have longed to be elegant, deliberate

as a garland, for joy to place a kiss on the soft
of my palm. I am not convinced whoever made

this body desired me relief—I approach my joy &
it turns into a knife. Who will come take this boy

& make chaplets from his hair? Who will press
me into a garden, let lilies fill my mouth? Lord,

unthread me in the wind, till I am the limbs of
a whisper. I want to hold up a mirror & not see

a face—just an inspection of glass, shimmery
like a pocket-sized lake. I want to be some lake;

boneless, cooling my own thirst,
washing anew, tide wrestling tide.

By Samuel A. Adeyemi

Biography:

Samuel A. Adeyemi is a young writer from Nigeria. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Palette Poetry, Frontier Poetry, 580 Split, Leavings Lit Mag, The Shore, African Writer, The African Writers Review, Jalada, and elsewhere. When he is not writing, he enjoys watching anime and listening to a variety of music. You may reach him on Twitter and Instagram @samuelpoetry

CHAIN SMOKERS By Charles Duffie

CHAIN SMOKERS

I know now it wasn’t the cigarettes.
The burning was behind your eyes;
you saw the world through smoke.

You came home like a man going to war,
set up camp on the living room couch.
You occupied our childhood.

Hands, words, and glances struck,
scraped like matches across our hearts
until we felt the burning too.

This legacy of fire didn’t start with you.
Your father left you a smoker’s birthright;
we come from generations of arsonists.

Now you’re gone and I have a family of my own.
This should be easy, breaking chains of smoke.
But how do you build a firebreak against history?

By Charles Duffie

Biography:

Charles Duffie is a writer working in the Los Angeles area. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review of Books, So It Goes (The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library), Anastamos, Bacopa Literary Review, Prime Number Magazine, Exposition Review, Mojave River Press, Meat for Tea, Heavy Feather Review, FlashBack Fiction, Riggwelter, and American Fiction by New Rivers Press.

3 Champagnes Deep at a Wedding Reception By Kristian Porter

3 Champagnes Deep at a Wedding Reception

Kentucky fit like a thrift store sweater,
itchy against my skin, pooling at the wrists.
My eyes always searching for the fire exit,
the soil too dry for my tender seeds.

But I spent that first week with you
lapping up sweet lake air,
amazed at how different Minnesota tasted.

Your mom gave me a necklace,
a golden ring encircling a tree,
and I felt my roots grasp the ground,
growing toward you.

Your dad placed a drunken hand
on my shoulder and said he would only drink
Kentucky bourbon and that you and I
should move to Uptown.

I found a place curved into your collarbone
that I knew would fit smooth against my cheek.
I bought it without trying it on.

I open your bathroom cabinet and find
my mascara right where
I left it.

In a rush down the stairs,
my hand scraped the wooden railing and
I took a piece of you back, buried in my thumb.

The more I sit in airports, the less
it feels like coming home
and more like biding time.

My life is a series of intertwined highways pin-pricked across a map,
memories compressed in a small space between my fingers.
This longing is not to scale.

I find a server carrying another tray of champagne,
and wonder if my bank account could handle another plane ticket.

I cried seeing you in a tux.

By Kristian Porter

Biography:

Kristian Porter is a 23-year-old writer who just moved to Minneapolis from Cincinnati and is still adjusting. By day, she works as a copywriter for a marketing agency. By night, she writes poems about distance, alcohol, and all the places that feel like home. When she’s not writing, she’s probably watching cooking shows with her three cats or wandering aimlessly around a bookstore. She has been previously published by Words Dance Publishing and is currently working on her first poetry collection.

To The Mother Tongue By Shaam Beed

To The Mother Tongue

Mother tells me of a time when she was young:
1996 ESL class, Webster’s Dictionary faded
and yellowed with time, musty like the moss-
green suitcase tucked away in a laundry room in Oakland.
Her tongue, once coated in turmeric and pan-fried
with curry leaves, dipped in oregano-green chutney,
and sour like thick yogurt left on the deck too long,
now tumbles over itself: overgrown roots,
slippery with moss and mossy with age
and aged with the smoke pulling at the hairs
at the back of her neck, smoky thin like
her voice warbling as it travels through the plaster
walls of our kingdom, meekly authoritative,
bending to the will of washed out voices.

Mother tells me of a time when I was young:
2005 trip to India, my sharp tongue laden with language,
experienced with the sharp honks of the rickshaws
during the torrential days of monsoon season,
guided by the high-pitched hum of Grandfather’s oxygen
tank running through the night. Her words are wistful;
she tells me I have lost the mother tongue, my mother’s tongue.
Now it is just a joke, an irony, as my tongue navigates
the twists and angles, each accent misplaced, every nuance
a battle I cannot conquer.

We are all just pawns in a game of speed.
The victors are the fastest at locking their past
in the overhead compartment before disembarking,
the fastest at abandoning their mother in the dust
as they chase their dreams. I have won,
and my mother tongue has escaped me,
but it was warm, and it licked my mistakes
when I was young.

By Shaam Beed

Biography:

Shaam is a student at Livingston High School in Livingston, New Jersey. His favorite subjects include American history and Chinese, and he finds himself often writing about his family, culture, and random subjects. He has not founded any foundations or published any books, but someday he hopes to become an adult.

Skinny By Maggi M.

Skinny

Skinny, you wreak havoc on the world.
I have seen your haunting work
And felt your icy fingers
Inch over my skin,
And shivered under your piercing gaze.
The sound of you makes my body tense up. Skinny, the evils you have inflicted upon so
many are
Unspeakable.
You leave a trail of mass destruction.
Millions of people plagued by you.
Millions of people left emaciated in your
wake.
Millions of people starving, grasping, all
dying,
Most dead.
More kills than a murderer
On the loose.
Skinny, why do you not spare the children? Sometimes you fool those who are not yet
old enough to understand.
Surely you must realize they have only had
10 years of life.
Happy lives
They will no longer remember.
Can you not wait a while longer before you
strike?
Mercy is all we ask.
But you show none
Regardless of age or gender.
You are monstrous,
Lurking in the shadows of the night,
Disguised as “health” and “happiness”.
You lie
As you extend a friendly hand,

Encouraging to take it
With a sly grin.
The people don’t stand a chance.
You give them options,
But that makes it worse.
So many different ways, you tell them.
So many different ways to get to the place
You’re going to take them.
A beautiful place
You promise them.
You make it seem like they are choosing
This vile fate for themselves.
Skinny,
When I hear your name I feel my skin
tighten.
When I feel your chilled breath on my tired,
worn face,
I feel my bones protruding through.
Spinal cord down my back, collar bones
reaching out
For help.
Help,
Please
Help.
You aim to
KILL
And stop at nothing
To get what you want.
When is it enough?
When all that’s left is a
Skeleton,
Are you happy?
Why, then, do you not release your grip?
What will satisfy your appetite?
Is the soul-crushing cry of your victims
Not enough?
Not enough.
Not enough…

By Maggi M.

Maggi is a college senior who is pursuing a double major in Communications and International Studies. She writes to share her experiences with others to help them feel just a little less alone in this world. Aside from writing, she enjoys to hike, play hockey, and walk her dog.

Ten to Life By Cierra Lowe

Ten to Life

9:
I am precautionarily disheartened
by the voluptuous form
that I am genetically likely
to inherit
(though secretly,
I’ve enjoyed the attention)

14:
When boys look at me
I look away
so that they look longer

18:
My body is
a soup kitchen for the lonely;
my heart is a poorly
trained dog that sheds all over strange
blankets and startles the
passersby

23:
Artless ennui for siren song,
I am tastefully barbed
to draw transient samples
of resuscitated avowal from
every set of hands I gnarl

28:
Inhalation in amber;
I convert breathable air
into languid intimation
of the unfulfilled audacity
that my current internment forgives

By Cierra Lowe

Biography:

Cierra Lowe is a poet and half-assed artist living in St. Louis, Missouri. She received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Webster University, and is currently pursuing her BSN at University of Missouri – St. Louis. She self-published her first full-length collection—The Horse and the Water—in 2016, and is currently working on her second. When she isn’t trying to poison her husband with undercooked meats, Cierra enjoys compulsively organizing her belongings, changing lanes in intersections, and monitoring planetary motions. She is currently working on a series of letters to female sex symbols who have tragic ends, and well as an uncomfortable collection of interviews. She looks forward to even-numbered years, and her work has previously appeared in Bad Jacket.

UNITY AND FAITH, PEACE AND PROGRESS? By Adrian David

UNITY AND FAITH, PEACE AND PROGRESS?

A nation built on the tenets of
unity and faith, peace and progress,
has been ripped apart by tyranny.
What was white has now become red.
The very spirit of Nigeria is dead.

Trembling in mortal fear amid curfews,
never has being alive been this hard.
Taking to the streets for justice,
seeing the streets become graveyards.
Where is the unity?

Is it a crime to be young and modern?
Go ask the dead boy who drove an SUV.
Those thought to be guardian angels
turned out to be demons incarnate.
Where is the faith?

The rooster’s crow is no more heard,
as shrill gunshots beckon the day.
The protesting voices sang the anthem.
But now, their epitaphs are recited.
Where is the peace?

Sixty ripe years of independence
boiled down to mean little to nothing.
Enslaved by the colonizers, then.
And now, by a ruthless police state.
Where is the progress?

In memory of the victims of the Lekki massacre in Nigeria

By Adrian David

Biography:

Adrian David writes ads by day, and poetry and short fiction by night. His poems explore themes of society, conflict, peace, and everything else in between, from the mundane to the sublime.

There is something fucking awesome about Billy Joel By AJ Schmitz

There is something fucking awesome about Billy Joel

for Wes

You once said this,
and meant it
at the time—
But I was
wrecked
by it
Seeing those words
while the Detroit Cobras
devastated my ear drums
so loud they blurred
but not enough to
make me ignore the
similarity to
“Teenager in Love”
Diner, simmering on the stove
High Life coursing through my heart.

I needed to go to you
to embrace you
to kiss you;
Call you my brother because
Brother:
there is something fucking awesome about Billy Joel—
Not his voice
or the melodies that
break skin;
Not because his canon
is crammed with bar-room songs
we croon;
But because my mother
loved him &
None of his songs were
featured in her
funeral montage;
& Because I haven’t
been able to
hear him since
But—
you listened &
felt the same way

By AJ Schmitz

Biography:

AJ Schmitz is a writer and teacher who has moved far too many times. Originally from Los Angeles, he has traipsed back and forth across the country with his wife and two cats, earning a Doctorate in PA, collecting tattoos in Fort Worth, and settling in South Bend, IN., all while teaching high schoolers and college kids about literature and life. He has several poems published in and around the internet and a chapbook available through Red Flag Poetry.

Make America Great Again By Sean Lause

Make America Great Again

The house is a shrug with cataract windows.
A wall surrounds it, broken with fears.
Out back there’s someone in a cage.

There’s an attic where a scream abides,
a grandfather clock chock full of secrets.
A mob is coming up the road.

Father Shotgun’s in his rocker.Aunt Shivers glares her hypodermic eyes
at the mourners she sees hiding in the mirror.

Rusted through, the stoveheart of this house.
The television glows in cancer blue,
the floorboards spreading red a stain.

The mother, pock-marked in hate,
sings Amazing Grace so she won’t faint.
Outside, torches chant the night.

The Deputy descends to the cellar,
his flashlight a halo in Hell.
The time has come, there’s no escape…

There’s someone in the doorway taking notes.

By Sean Lause

Biography:

Sean Lause is a professor of English at Rhodes State College in Lima, Ohio. His poems have appeared in The Minnesota Review, Another Chicago Magazine, The Beloit Poetry Journal and Illuminations.

Early Morning in Mesquite Flat By Emily L. Pate

Early Morning in Mesquite Flat

Dawn rises hot, casting morning
so bright it sparks sharp
across the sand dunes,
each an excavation of passing night,
cut with the long belly-lines
of snakes hunting the dark.
Under a mesquite tree,
kangaroo-rat tracks meet
a serpent-curve in a thrash
of displaced erosion. Only the snake-line
slices away from the tree’s fine-boned
shadow. Out here, heat is rattlesnake-hungry,
biting against shade and satiation,
eating sky and sand until
they’re just as wanting. In 1931,
a movie crew found a miner’s corpse
near here, halfway between town and water,
compassed toward a spring he never
reached. Over the hill, that dead town
is time-eaten to a train station
and heaps of half-flat tin cans
taking on rust. A façade is all that’s left
of the newspaper building, blue hurting
behind empty windows.
Next-door sleeps the graveyard,
where ghosts of plaster and chicken wire
curve over absent bodies. One holds
the skeleton of a bicycle, head bent,
its paper mâché hollowness
only another kind of weight.

By Emily L. Pate

Biography:

Emily L. Pate is a writer, avid traveler, and collector/over-sharer of bizarre facts. Born and raised in California, she holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. Her poetry and travel writing have appeared in Funicular Magazine, Willawaw Journal, and The Northwest Passage, and Blending Magazine. She can be found at emilylpate.com.