Look. Listen! God told me I am the light Said the roses in a crack of concrete Said the mileage on his feet on the court Said his darting eyes from city to coast
Light like me circles the earth and returns Said the pothole which cradles the water Said the world under the ocean seafloor: I may deepen but I will not be moved
I am the light above and beneath us I am the thin space between you and me I am the pulsating fists in the air, And the air which the fists are pulsating
I am the heart which will always love you I am the cloud which falls on us as rain
By Tylie Shider
Poet, playwright, and filmmaker Tylie Shider’s recent plays include Certain Aspects of Conflict in the Negro Family (Premiere Stages, 2022), and The Gospel Woman (NBT). He is a two-time recipient of the Jerome Fellowship at the Playwrights’ Center and an I Am Soul playwright in residence at the National Black Theatre(NBT). He holds a BA in Journalism from Delaware State University and an MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU. A proud member of the Dramatist Guild, he is currently a Professor of Playwriting at Augsburg University.
This is how a heart breaks twice, this feeling of being utterly lost. -Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
5. Try to breathe. Again. Then, find yourself.
4. Smash the camera against the wall. Regret nothing but its silver frame, the colour of the sky when you first kissed him in Rio behind erect dreadlocked palms. Before your mirror, pule your eyelids to the sides. You know you are lost.
3. He is smiling in your camera. You are smiling beside him. Two men exchanging their hearts in a flash of whiteness. See, love is solely made for pictures.
2. Recall the absence in your bed. The smoothened space where he once buried you and took your name under the moon. Take the thought of his moans in your hands, his waist searching for fire in your body. Feel the flames fill your loins. Feel yourself longing to burn. Again.
1. Reread his text, slowly, cold in uncertainty. In your head, erase the words ‘sorry’ and ‘love’. Do not say it is a semiformal letter until you bath and can’t recall where he tattooed his lust. It is how to feign baptism; to be anew in thought.
ByBryan Joe Okwesili
Bryan Joe Okwesili is a queer Nigerian storyteller and poet keen on telling diverse African queer stories. He is a 2020 Pushcart norminee (SmokeLong Quarterly). His works appear and are forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly, SLICE mag, Shift Mag, Foglifter Press, Brittle Paper, Praxis Magazine, Afritondo, Ghost City Press, Cypress, Shallow Tales Review, Lunaris, Kalahari Review, and elsewere. He is currently a student of Law at the University of Calabar.
You hear me sing the Queen of the Night; dark streets become my opera house. Golden boy, angelic face, Brilliant crystal voice, sky high.
When bullies beat me down, can you hear my choir boy howls? Who wipes my tears? Body screams! Torn pants spill red. Real boys do cry! I sob.
You feel my touch on ivory keys coax bliss from Chopin’s Funeral March. Blue eyed, melancholy boy: tender hands strike iris chords.
When homophobes hurl taunts, can you feel their vicious scum stick? Who hugs me tight? Faggot boy! Gay-bashing kills. Muck black fingers play my grief.
You taste my thirst of youth. Growing up is bittersweet, dark chocolate chips. Mountain boy climbs sunny peaks. Clouds send leaden feet downhill.
When machos call me fag, can you taste the poison? Who cures not me, but them? Boy, what boy? Check: boys are straight! Brains, pink yearnings: Hide them well!
You smell the lilac blossoms I’ve picked. I hunt the globe for beauteous things. Flower boy. Matisse, Miró, Kahlo cobalt for my soul.
When former friends heap scorn, can you smell their acrid contempt? Who shares my joy? Lonesome boy – must fight – gray mood. Pals are scarce. My spirits flag.
You’ll see me shine in triumph one day: when sun meets rain, my bow will be drawn! Boy in paradise. Love paints life with gorgeous colors there.
When silence shouts my name, can you see my heart? Hear it beat the truth? You can! Grateful boy. My world is whole. It gets better every day.
By Ulrich Zachau
Ulrich Zachau has worked in international development on six continents for more than three decades. He enjoys writing, plays the piano, cares about education and LGBT+ inclusion, and likes blueberries and penguins. Originally German, he has family in Asia, Europe, and the US and is currently on his way from Bogotá to Munich and Bangkok.
I sleep in your room tonight because they are painting outside. They perch on wooden planks and
wash over our eggshell wall with a new layer of white.
Ma insists that the formaldehyde will somehow kill me, as if this new air hasn’t years ago.
There is something to it—the bed frame pushed adjacent to the wall, the orange moon flickering along the stem of your
glass lamp, the heater chorusing like your thumping heart, the linen drapes that smell of the boy you used to be.
While placing bowls in the dishwasher, you once told me how we tore down our crumbed walls, how we spend extra hours shoveling snow,
how you walk at night unafraid & alone.
You call this opulence; I call it leaving. I call it loss.
You’re on the playground, balancing on the unstable stepping stumps—
still bespectacled, still wearing a grandma-knitted cardigan. You had forgotten today’s banana in your backpack, browning the baby blue.
You’d let us wash our feet in the same chipped plastic bowl; our dirt swimming into one, our bodies fitting into one another.
Paint clumps and cracking, its drips leave a trace
along the wall like a dried tear down your scaled skin, only to be recoated, then recoated.
The first time we fell in love we didn’t know it; or:
the first time I fell in love it framed me a painting too Daliesque, too sun-drunk, I ran,
I ran towards the white daylight, the pirouetting spheres,
I ran and woke up.
By Sophia Liu
Sophia Liu lives in New York. Her poems and art appear or are forthcoming in the Perch, Storm Cellar, the Ekphrastic Review, Whispering Prairie Press, Underblong, opia, and elsewhere. She has been recognized by the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the National Council of Teachers of English, Smith College, and Hollins University. She volunteers as a teacher for the Princeton Learning Experience and wants a pet cat.
And then we realized their memories were not blessings but the ancient curse: and you shall multiply like the stars in heaven and the sands on the earth, shunned and stepped upon How Avraham had misheard: the hope of otherwise had covered his ears.
This was how we met the end: without undue rush or pride a song of ascents, we went on crooning in the very moment when we could be no lower.
Some spoke of simple things — ineffable and complete like the strength of wanderers and poets. Others mouthed wordless fears of immortality undone.
Mere existence was our battle cry, short and sweet little lives like spots of honey we sat observing everything, acting mostly and in this way we went on counting stars as if of shared fate of some perpetual life.
That we would burn away, too like the stars in heaven that we would be swept away, also like the sands of the earth this we ignored in tremendous oblivion.
And then we realized their memories were not blessings but not quite a curse and so we pretended that the stars would go on forever and the sands would be a constant on earth and that this world was mutable and it was more mutable than us. and this became our blessing and for a moment, at least, it was enough.
By J. C. Pucci
J. C. Pucci is a poet, teacher, musician, and accomplished daydreamer. She received her Ph.D. in Italian language & literature from Yale University where she also teaches Italian translation.
I’d be open to surgery if I believed the problem was solvable, but learning you inside and out taught me that all solutions are
similar to how our bond became a festered flower which floated off into the night after that argument on your balcony when you cursed me to hell and told me I’m just like my father,
you love to strike and slice every time the organ hidden deep within your chest gets shattered, pieces you use to carve me up then somehow
a way to bury me every time you check my phone and see her name appear across the screen you cut deep, deeper than the distance I dig between your
thighs every time I go over, and as we fuck, you spit out words filthier than the mud your friends drag my name across in vain as they watch the boomerang bang us both across the head since I love you unconditionally and you love me twice as much, even when the conditions are most sickening. Leaving those who can’t comprehend, questioning
By Isaiah Kye Diaz-Mays
Isaiah Diaz-Mays is a writer currently enrolled at Dartmouth College with aspirations to be a poet, novelist and screenwriter. Born and raised in Hudson County, New Jersey, his inspirations are James Baldwin, Terrance Hayes, Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou.
i. forbidden city plastic fans spin. heat rolls off of the streets, tangible, shimmering. a girl and her friend lick at melting, overpriced popsicles. colored sun-umbrellas and bucket hats float above the beijing streets. washi tape and notebooks. red pillars and gold trim. evening sunlight. two souls drift, suspended in the fields of asphodel, ethereal.
ii. dongcheng station ponytails high, dipped in sweat, ascending and descending on crowded subway stairs. freezing air conditioning in the cars. on the ground, a poem written on the back of a wrinkled receipt. the paper was thin and smooth, the lettering small, first letter noticeably thicker than the others: an attempt to get the ink flowing. silence echoes on the beijing subway.
iii. wudaokou neon signs of bars, magenta and cerulean spill onto the streets. bubble tea in our hands, rolling thoughts and tapioca pearls around in their mouths, both doughy and sweet. cold rain against warm skin, cinnamon apple candles. street food: cold skewers in a cup, spicy oil pooling in the paper bottom. hot pot: duck blood, red, turned dark gray in tarnished metal. memories: smiling, holding alpaca-shaped lollipops up to a camera.
– iv. sanlitun shopping bags in hands, overly fancy ice cream stores. loneliness floated on their minds even though they were together. astronaut and planets painted on the black statue of a dog, face covered with freckles of stars. lampposts spray mist that disappears like clouds of breath. cicadas sing, a droning elegy. summer is ending.
– v. 798 art district every word written– heavy with the weight of you. we held handles of painted umbrellas, sat on acrylic benches. strawberry smoothie, mango smoothie for her. we sipped through our plastic straws in silence. i can still taste the cold sweetness in my throat. a bent paper clip falls out of her pocket. i pocket it. cinnamon apple perfume on my skirt.
By Kristine Ma
Kristine Ma is an Asian-American writer and high school junior hailing from Michigan. She received three national gold medals and several other recognitions from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Additionally, her poetry has been recognized by the Young Poets Network and appears in The Hunger and Bridge: The Bluffton University Literary Journal, among others. When she isn’t writing, she can be found playing piano and oboe, watching anime, and dreaming.
Playing pogs all day kindergarten classroom bliss no words from my lips classroom goes outside to play bullied for my lack of speech
Speech therapists come to our house in Springtime try to make me speak therapists finally leave I look at parents and speak
School, I use my voice teacher is surprised to hear classmates still make fun now I’m the class clown teacher labels special ed
It will be long years before the mistake is fixed I just enter the next class fall asleep, easy to pass wasting time until freedom
By Erin Miller
Erin Miller is an artist and a poet. She has an MFA degree from Arcadia University in Creative Writing and has had her art exhibited in numerous galleries such as but not limited to Phoenix Arts Gallery, New York Art Connection, and the Pahrump Valley Museum. Currently, she works as a teacher in the state of Nevada. Her past publishing credits include Daily Star, Lesbian Connection, Poetry and Covid, and Ovenque Siamo.
I was old enough, and large enough, that the suds no longer covered the tops of my knees, which rose like islands above the bathwater.
Then my father came into the bathroom and in the name of art took pictures of me on a small white camera I have yet to forget and I felt myself snap.
I was young enough, that I hadn’t yet understood what skin meant, or what shame was or that my body could talk and tell me to cover up.
I learned about the Fall of Man when I first saw my body through another’s eyes, trapped in that small screen and only partly covered by dirty bath water, and felt that I was dirty, too.
By Maria Llona Garcia
Maria Llona Garcia is a 24 year old Peruvian poet and occasional prose writer. She recently graduated with a degree in English from Skidmore College, where she was awarded their section of the Academy of American Poets Prize. She currently lives in her hometown of Lima, Peru and teaches English while also working as a newsletter editor. This fall she will begin studying for an MFA in Poetry at The New School.