Midnight in the Forgotten Country By Marissa Michel

Midnight in the Forgotten Country

ki kote yon lagè kòmanse?
Where does a war begin?

In the pits of dream-starved children?
The ones hungry to capture the promise of a ripe sunrise

in their longing mouths
and hold on to the taste of freedom for a while longer?

Yesterday we were all children
We split the earth with the force of our footsteps

We were baptized in the cool shadows beneath palm trees
and devoured fleshy mangos in celebration

Èske yon lagè kòmanse an silans?
Does a war begin in silence?

Silence like my grandmother in the first breaths of a new day,
as she wraps the coils of her hair into fake silks and plasters on a weathered smile?

Yon po chofe anvan li klou – A pot heats before it boils
she tells me. Beneath her clay surface is something like pain.

Oswa èske lagè etensèl nan BOOM nan yon peta?
Or does war spark in the BOOM of a firecracker?

In my sleep I hear the wailing of my forefathers
Despair has a voice louder than God’s

I imagine the revolutions woven into the tapestry of my lineage
My father drenches each syllable of our family name in pride

Pride. It runs deep and long, a river in my blood
We come alive to the beat of cow-skin drums

and sweat onto the hot pavement
We glisten gold in the midday sun

Lè yon lagè fini?
When does a war end?

My grandfather exhales the dust of rubble and gun powder and
death

our prayers mimic battle cries and we lean on each other like soldiers
We bring dlo nan je, tears, to the altar

I wonder ki jan nou konnen ki moun ki te genyen?
How do we know who has won?

We adapt to discomfort, honor sacrifice. Life is a bittersweet melody.
We are a chorus, singing anthems to the rhythm of our heart beats

Mothers give passed down lessons as peace offerings
They say

Timoun, pa kite evaris kraze gratitid.
Child, do not let greed overpower gratitude.

We forget to care
We fill our hearts with fantasies instead

Nighttime is for hoping. For making wishes to shooting stars
and dreaming of the impossible

The coming of a new day brings fresh battles,
fresh wounds, fresh victories

For now we hold ourselves in the milky moonlight
and offer the air a silent declaration

Nou toujou isit la
We are still here

By Marissa Michel

Biography:

Marissa Michel is a second generation American of Haitian and Puerto Rican heritage. She served as the 2020 Prince George’s County Youth Poet Laureate. In 2020 she received multiple national gold medals for poetry in the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards, and an American Voice nomination. She was also the recipient of the 2020 Diaz-Mattison Poetry Prize. Her newest works can be found in the Scholastic Arts and Writing Online Gallery, Love Letters To the Mothers and Fathers of the African Diaspora, and the Bridgewater International Poetry Festival. More information about her can be found on www.marissamichel.com

Tarantulas By Fatima Sausan Masoud

Tarantulas

In Palestine, my brother built
a makeshift zoo and began to

charge admission: half a shekel
for a full day’s pass.

He caught the tarantulas
every morning with a bucket and

an olive branch. Placed them in
thick plastic bags, hanging on the

garden wall. The tarantulas gnawed
the sides of their homes, pawing

at the sky, chewing their way
toward the domed hills. One

night, a tarantula escaped.
She crawled into my grandmother’s

bathroom. We awoke to the
screams. Grandmother beating

at the tiled floor. The tarantula
running toward the open door.

Grandmother kept hitting, even
when the tarantula was just a spot

staining the blue tile. My brother
stood in the doorway, crying.

The next morning, he took down
the zoo, plucked the bags off the wall,

and returned the tarantulas to
the hills. They marched across

the sand. We watched them run
back to their homes, their bodies

dotting the desert, staining the
landscape like spots on the sun.

By Fatima Sausan Masoud

Biography:

A Palestinian-American born in the southwest, Fatima Sausan Masoud (she/her) holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Texas at El Paso. She lives in El Paso and teaches First Year Composition and Elementary Arabic at the same university. She finds time to write in the in-between spaces when her kids are asleep. Find her on Instagram (@applewhiskey).

Immigrant warrior By Wayne Myers-Taylor

Immigrant warrior

Mother on my mind.
I find her face, her words
In an old jewelry box, filled with her scent.
I saved her perfumes;
Poison, and Escape.

Here in the box are her records;
Her campaign to lay siege to New York.
Her correspondence with governments —
Pleas for sanctuary, proof of work,
Statements of funds, testimony of friends
To her solvency, and her resolve.

The certificate says she’s naturalized
But her photo says otherwise;
Jamaican queen in tiger stripes
Sharply focused in black and white,
Untamed, and ready for war.

Brooklyn, unsteady and unready
For the heat she was bringing;
Hard island woman, coming out swinging.

By Wayne Myers-Taylor

Biography:

Wayne Myers-Taylor divides his time between writing poetry and short fiction, teaching yoga, and updating websites. Previously, he was a journalist at Good Morning America, World News Tonight, and other media outlets. He lives in Northern California, but Brooklyn is his home.

National Poetry Month Prompts 2021

We are reviving our tradition of sharing a series of new National Poetry Writing Month poetry prompts! We are doing things a bit differently this year by releasing all of the prompts in advance. Our series this year contains 41 new prompts, as well as the entire series of 29 prompts from 2016.

Please pay what you can if you are able. If you are experiencing financial hardships, feel free to download the prompts for free. Out of the funds we receive, 50% of the proceeds generated from the sale of this series will be donated to Ripple Community Center. Ripple operates a day shelter, an affordable housing program, and strives to serve those “who are living with mental illness, who have experienced significant trauma, or have other conditions or experiences that can leave them isolated and alone.”

Click here to start your writing journey

Ancestor Song By Kristina Sargent

Ancestor Song

Thick wool sweaters often covered the
crooked trail of her left collar bone.
The one that never healed straight.
It sang her story anyway,
the way the Appalachian winds,
rains and rivers do.

It sang the story of a yellow field
consecrated in end-of-day, golden light.
The field she was dragged through by her golden hair.
It told the story of the back of a rifle
That was turned on her, when he realized
the chamber wasn’t loaded.

He smelled of whiskey,
and claimed to not remember doing it.
Claimed to never have noticed the
crooked road of her collar bone
that shouted at him
with winding, sing-songy curses,
the way the Appalachian winds, rains and rivers did.
Until the day the curving roads swallowed him up.

And my great-grandmother,
8 months pregnant at the time,
packed her bags of scarves and wool sweaters,
and left.

By Kristina Sargent

Biography:

Many Houses By Oona Mackinnon-Hoban

Many Houses

I will lie and say I do not remember it all –
the creek-bed behind my grandmother’s home,
the fragile sight of deer on the road,
their legs moving like ice across water,
the way I would stretch my palms out wide
and try to cover the sun, lying there in the grass,
a thing waiting to be buried.
I am a child marching towards death,
Lot’s wife the moment before the turn.
I do not dream about it, but if I did
I would be placed right in center of it all
made soft by time and age,
and there would be no horsemen,
no hand broached down from the sky
only the second before the deer was there
and the moment after it had gone,
unharmed, into some part of the world I could not see.
The door will open on its own, a screen blown in
by a summer storm, and I will be able to feel it
thick against my skin – every contact, every mark of pain,
like a hand passing through water
until she turns around to see me,
and it will all disappear, washed down current
carried away into some greater flood.

By Oona Mackinnon-Hoban

Oona Mackinnon-Hoban is a senior at Barnard College, graduating this spring with a degree in English. She was born and raised in Portland, Maine and now lives in New York City.

Hebrew Word for Vegetarian By Shoshana Tehila Surek

Hebrew Word for Vegetarian

Cholent: potatoes, carrots, egg tucked in lamb.
I think of veal, this lamb.

Close quarters in the women’s balcony, where she is
Bleating for a false rubber mother

swatting my leg. She is not my ma, my Ima, my
knee fur matted from kneeling on

lace with small holes to see through,
holes so small that

gender can’t be seen, where
there is no light, where

we are swaying to the daven, where
there is no standing lamb

wrapped in teffilin, we move to the darkness,
boxed in tradition

Canter’s tender version of Torah, G-d’s word,
and this lamb succumbs to Kiddush.

By Shoshana Tehila Surek

Biography:

I am a first-generation American and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, which informs all of my work. I received my MA and MFA in Creative Writing from Regis University. My essays, short stories, flash fiction, and poetry, can be read or are forthcoming in Carve Magazine, december Magazine, SmokeLong Quarterly, Malahat Review, Vestal Review, Cease, Cows, 3Elements Review, and f(r)iction Magazine. In 2017, I was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and I am a 2019 Curt Johnson Prose Award finalist. More of my work can be found at www.ShoshanaSurek.com.

Car Music By Marissa Michel

Car Music

___ settle into the cheap leather seats of your silver Toyota
And let our bodies simmer in July heat
I am drowning
In sweat and so are you and so are
The children selling hot lemonade that costs too much
On a run-down street we pass by
We ___ over the radio as usual
I want jazz
Jazz like Gillespie or Ella or
Chick Corea and his keyboard
Jazz like the songs my mother plays while she drinks
In sunlight on lazy Sunday mornings
___ you don’t
You want to ___ about how
Michael Jordan definitely pushed off Bryon Russel
__  God referees should learn to do their damn jobs
I am listening to the poor engine ___ along
While the air conditioner groans and heaves
Like it’s on the last leg of a marathon ___
God it’s too hot to be driving around in this oven
Talking about nothing
I stare out the window and want to ___
Because the sky is just so perfect
Just so
Perfectly blue
And now you are upset ___ I said I don’t know
Anything about basketball
But you don’t know anything about ___
Maybe that __ a good thing
Maybe I am happy I don’t know anything about basketball
I know the empty air is ___ heavy so
I turn on the radio
And you roll your eyes and keep on driving and don’t say
Anything
Even though the music is too ___

*we
argue
and
talk
and
mumble
and
cry
because
silence
is
too
loud

By Marissa Michel

Biography:


Marissa Michel is a second generation American of Haitian and Puerto Rican heritage. She served as the 2020 Prince George’s County Youth Poet Laureate. In 2020 she received multiple national gold medals for poetry in the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards, and an American Voice nomination. She was also the recipient of the 2020 Diaz-Mattison Poetry Prize. Her newest works can be found in the Scholastic Arts and Writing Online Gallery, Love Letters To the Mothers and Fathers of the African Diaspora, and the Bridgewater International Poetry Festival. More information about her can be found on www.marissamichel.com

nonna By Erika Spadavecchia

nonna

there, lassù
your orthogonal confessional, a pharmacy 7 storeys high
ti intravedo in the margin of your mornings
discarnate, immovable in the Cimmerian window
watering your gerani, gladioli. your fingers fulgurated
vibrating, fondling the ringlets of light: sub-errant guardo, non guardo

above your nest yes, the sky
buries its head vergognoso yes, ungracious
passeri averting both eyes, yes, at your
importunate, murmured canzonette. the faint
concert you sing, just before your perennial
babelic request: lo stoa aspettann, lo sto aspettan.
the pious infanticide

aspetti, aspetti. aspetti cristo, aspetto lui, aspetti as the unmendable thought unstitches
its threads on your skin–like sanguine branches denuded, bent to recline on your prostrate limbs che paiono di neve

guardo, how the corrupted azure pries, contrite
into your days in the nubècola. hears your encrusted
heresies at night, the static silence of your
phone. the inexistent admonitions of sound, one of the
calls you negotiate with christ, from the seed
who has forsaken you, without a word

mentre imbrunisce di già, il ricordo
where you mirror yourself, sola

By Erika Spadavecchia

Biography:

She is currently based in Rome, where she teaches, writes and lives with her fish. She recently obtained an MPhil in Criticism and Culture from the University of Cambridge.

Rambo By Fatima Sausan Masoud

Rambo

Rambo walks me through the path, his ear
tilted toward the sky. He listens
for bullets, cigarette rolled under tongue,
sweat stinging his eyes. He rips apart
the jungle, swatting flies and chopping
tree trunks. The jungle cracks, he says aloud –
“We have to go home now,
mama will worry.”

Rami flies through the path, the air
is filled with dust. Shib shib
grating against gravel, he runs
home. Umm Rami will be cooking
makluba or warak ‘einab. And Rami,
her eldest at seven, will be sent out
with shekels to buy khubz. “Ya walad!”
she yells, “put that dirty plastic thing down!”

Still, Rami and I will chase down the sun,
shekels sweating in his palm as we
make our way to the store.
Ammo Yazan will be there, smelling
of salt and cigar smoke. He will smile
when Rami pretends to gun him down –
“Little Rambo, we should tell Arafat
about you. Maybe then we’d win the war.”

But no one will tell Arafat and we won’t
win the wars. Rami will buy the khubz
every week. And every week he will take
me slung across his chest like a badge.
Umm Rami will still be cooking
mlukhiyya or beitinjan, even as planes
crowd the sky overhead. Even as soldiers
pockmark the street with spit.

After years, Rami will grow and
leave me for a new gun of steel. They will
not call him Rambo, and he will not wear
shib shib while he targets soldiers’ backs.
The new gun will be slung across his chest
a badge, a family crest – a marker that reads,
“shoot here.”

By Fatima Sausan Masoud

Biography:

A Palestinian-American born in the southwest, Fatima Sausan Masoud (she/her) holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Texas at El Paso. She lives in El Paso and teaches First Year Composition and Elementary Arabic at the same university. She finds time to write in the in-between spaces when her kids are asleep. Find her on Instagram (@applewhiskey).