A Story of Her By Alicia Liu

A Story of Her

One

I kissed her because
she was beautiful
and I wanted to know
what pretty tasted like

Pretty tasted of dreams
dopamine and tears
Pretty tasted of illusions
hallucinogens and dew

That sprinkles her soft
but harrows her hard

White marble cuts a form
eyes too hold in the palm
of my pupils precariously

Fluid stone stagnant flow.

Two

We went to water.
Hell is hot pitch tar.
We are in a hot spring.
Similar, my love?

We went to church.
Hell is for homosexuals.
We are in damned love.
I pray, pray tell, if similar, love.

Sanctification, sodomite.
Divinity, dyke. Marble
morphs, horns form eyes

She is sin. Pope, pulpits
press more weight on my heart.
Stop, breath becomes air.

Three

It took Jesus three days.
It has been three months.
Bouts burst, tears tear down
my deflated heart.

The sea reminds me
of marble and hot springs
Wading in the water,
wanting to be washed

but too scared to take the plunge.
She’s drowned for all I know.
But, even after three months, I know
my body has no gills.

By Alicia Liu

Biography:

Alicia Liu is a rising sophomore at Swarthmore College. She’s currently undecided about her course of study, but she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, baking, and photography.

the worst things i remember By Shanna Williams

the worst things i remember

  1. the day i met you i told 7 people i met my soulmate
    how fucking embarrassing is that
  2. i still have the photo booth pictures we took
    you stole a $5 out of your girlfriend’s wallet
    and we kissed so hard
    my gums bled
  3. i gave up every part of myself to become
    small
    easy
    casual
    chill
    i am none of those things
    i am bad at being vulnerable
    i don’t want to look
    weak

    i would drink bleach before letting you see one tear roll down my face
  4. i dream about you every other night
    while sleeping next to other people
    i wake up and see their face
    smell their breath
    touch their shoulder
    it feels like purgatory
  5. just another dumb girl in love
    i don’t want sad songs
    i want to punch you numb in the face until you
    want me back

    By Shanna Williams

    Biography:

    Shanna Williams was born + raised in San Francisco, where she still resides. After an 8 year hiatus, she is writing again.

Daybreak By Taeyeon Han

Daybreak

The moon is a silver sigil —
a remembrance of how there is always something bigger than us. Moonlight spills down like a vine, its granular smell,
its cascade of smoky ribbons kissing the air; it takes its time.

The light settles in my mouth. It’s sweet and biblical — sun-wet and parcel-wrapped.
Our language is riddled with the slick:
we share the light like limeade and our tongues soften to silk; I can’t remember why I was upset.

If we let it, the cacophony inside our clammy chests could measure us out like a necklace,
drip-drying at daybreak.

Come over here, we can send a package back to the generous moon: these balloons won’t be a smoke signal like the last time,
we are wedded to the daylight now.
I press an ear to my mother’s chest and
I can hear a hundred thousand hooves coming, all in due time.

When the sun tips over the horizon,
let’s not be afraid to lick our wounds clean.
We must ascertain what moves quickly between us, restructuring and redefining the mezzanine.
No longer cacophony-ridden, our remnant of speech, is most honed.

I am proud to say that I don’t know where the light ends and where I begin.

By Taeyeon Han

Biography:

Taeyeon Han is a student in California. His writing appears or is forthcoming in The National Poetry Quarterly, Eunoia Review, and American Library of Poetry. He has been nationally recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the Pulitzer Center, and finger comma toes. Other than creative writing, Taeyeon loves to read historical fiction, sing at karaoke, and find new restaurants.

I Want the Glacial Erratics in Prospect Park By Bonnie Billet

I Want the Glacial Erratics in Prospect Park

to love me      but they don’t

                       I want the red tailed hawk
perched in the mulberry  

                           to startle and fly from the tree

when I walk under the drip line
I want Brooklyn raccoons

                            to stay in their trees

because they’re bigger and smarter

                            than country raccoons

when my mother died          her friend
said he was sorry she’d left me

                                   a single dollar in her will

I promise          I will destroy the alter
I built for my mother

 I will not have dinner
with anyone who can only meet me in soho

I will make friends

                                   with people who like me

By Bonnie Billet

Biography:

Bonnie wrote until she was in her late thirties She was published in several journals including POETRY. She started writing again after retirement and has been published in several journals including Entropy, Ravens Perch, Dunes Review, Oxidant/Engine and RHINO.

How to Pray at the Mosque By Sabina Khan-Ibarra

How to Pray at the Mosque

unlock the mouth that holds many truths

first, remove your shoes
like this

cover your head,
a saadar wrapped around you
like this

stand in a line
imam’s words fill Allah’s home
like this

say, Alhamdulillahi
rabil aalameen. reflect
like this

forehead to the floor
prostate. connect
like this

speak to Allah
supplicate
like this

if you hear a sudden click,
a shout, or what sounds like fireworks, run away from doors
like this

children stacked
like dishes. quiet and fragile. hide
like this

there are times that white poppies
bleed down minarets.
like this

read subhanallahs, alhamdulillahs and allahu akbar
on fingers. implore perfumed peace.
don’t look back
like this

safety is a fairytale uttered
when all is silent. protected. say, Ameen
like this

By Sabina Khan-Ibarra

Biography

Sabina Khan-Ibarra is a writer and an educator. She is a recent San Francisco State University Graduate with an MFA in Creative Writing. She currently resides in Northern California with her husband and two children.

Desert Psalm By Anna María del Pilar Suben

Desert Psalm

The desert is soft and fragrant with creosote—

burnt matchhead mingled with honey.

Joshua trees crowd the landscape like city-dwellers

waiting for a bus, leaning into the wind,

arms outstretched, as in warrior pose.

The sky is matte and cloudless, forever-blue

diamond cornflower, melancholic azure,

permanence yearning to engulf, to devour.

I pick up a cigarette someone left for dead,

half-buried miniscule shipwreck smoked

down to its filter. There’s no outrunning:

even the Mojave isn’t immune to avarice.

Slow down your breathing, whispers a Joshua

doing a backbend. The air I hunger for,

the wish, the wanting—settles inside me,

next to the ghosts my mother breathed

into my bones a lifetime ago.

By Anna María del Pilar Suben

Biography

Anna María del Pilar Suben has worked as a contact tracer and social worker for people diagnosed with Covid-19. She received her BA from the University of Rochester, where she studied psychology and creative writing, and was awarded the Pearl Sperling Evans Prize by the Department of English.

QASIDA FOR MY MOTHER By Huma Sheikh

QASIDA FOR MY MOTHER

I think of Mother hobbling to the shore not on New York’s 

Oakland Lake where I run and the buses pass. OM spray painted 

on bus stop windows, next to LGBTQ posters. 

They might as well be mandalas on telephone poles. Ibadah 

Mother would say. I wonder if the boy who tacked them there 

has the same feelings Mother does about the crows on top 

of  the telephone poles around her house fattened on cumin, staple rice?

Still I can’t see her.  I run past the Asians, the Hispanics, 

the Whites and the Blacks, like a memory’s pebble, a bullet skittering 

East toward Kashmir’s Jhelum, 

a war-fed river running down from the mountains, 

me strapped on Mother’s curving buttocks, 

the safe hold of a shikara-boat oar, 

splashing past the streams.

By Huma Sheikh

Biography

Huma Sheikh is a doctoral fellow in Creative Writing at Florida State University. The recipient of fellowships from Callaloo, William Joiner Institute (UMass Boston), University of Massachusetts at Amherst, East-West Center, Hawaii, she has studied literary nonfiction with Christina Thompson at Harvard, and worked as a journalist in India, China, and the United States. She was the Assistant Online Editor for the Southeast Review, Fiction Screener for Orison Books, Stringer and Reporter for Plain Talk weekly and Ka Leo newspapers in South Dakota and Hawaii. The winner of the Adam M. Johnson Fellowship, Charles Gordone Award, and the Dean’s award for Outstanding Academic Performance and the award for Excellence in English at Long Island University, Huma is currently at work on her memoir and poetry book. Her work has appeared and forthcoming in Consequence Magazine, Arrowsmith Journal, The Rumpus, The Kenyon Review, and others.

candied scorpion By Robin Gow

candied scorpion

i wanted to run the knife
through sugar. with dried figs in my pockets,
i coaxed spiders from their bitterness.
taught the fox to waltz. in the graveyard,
using a tomb stone as a coffee table
we read the news & decided the world
wasn’t the world anymore. watched as
an airplane crashed into a jello mold.
witnessed the death of the final birds.
each turned into feathered tortes.
what does it mean to truly swallow?
in my chest i felt the insects
as they rebelled against destiny.
some bugs had rosary beads. some were
rosary beads. god tastes like smoke
& oranges. a pile of rind. candied scorpions
fresh from between the floor boards.
removing the stinger with two fingers.
a jar of venom. a jar of poison.
the scorpions, eaten whole, awake
inside my ankles. whispering their sugars.
trying to gasp. i want to consume
everything that could kill me. press car rides
between my ribs. swim with rocks.
ask the bear for a spare coin.
the bus route is a spaghetti zoo. no telling
what street will be the next ice berg.
one more bite & then we can head out.
teeth to the moon. cutting out lips
on the rims of soda cans. the dream
is carbonated. i am never full.

By Robin Gow

Biography

Robin Gow is a trans poet and young adult author from rural Pennsylvania. They are the author of Our Lady of Perpetual Degeneracy (Tolsun Books 2020) and the chapbook Honeysuckle (Finishing Line Press 2019). Their first young adult novel, A Million Quiet Revolutions is forthcoming March 2022 with FSG Books for Young Readers. Gow’s poetry has recently been published in POETRY, Southampton Review, and Yemassee. Gow received their MFA from Adelphi University where they were also an adjunct instructor. Gow is a managing editor at The Nasiona, a poetry editor at MAYDAY, and the assistant editor at large at Doubleback Books. They live in Allentown Pennsylvania and work as a community educator on Domestic and Intimate Partner violence.

Your Nissan Stanza By Meghan Kemp-Gee

Your Nissan Stanza

Ten. I am lately tired of claiming that the
world won’t hold together. I lately
have had enough of suspicion of
artifice and forged connections. I am
lately tired, and it is late, and you are
tired and you are falling asleep. Four oh
five. I will drive and you will lean your head
on the window and it puts you to sleep. One oh
five. I dedicate this sundown to my
predecessors in the carpool lane, who
ease me down to thirty with cascades of
brake lights signing that they’re all already
doing what I’m about to do. I will
complete the choreography, I will
drive while you sleep. Six oh five. I dedicate
the fire over Santa Clarita to our
passing on the left, to the checking of our
rearview mirrors, our most benevolent
yielding to out-of-state license plates
on an obfuscated onramp. Ninety-
one. To the never-dark night sky I
dedicate the way that at least on
the San Diego Freeway one is not,
can never be, completely all alone.
Fifty-seven. To the one last workman
standing still beside a floodlit open
excavation site, I dedicate the
possibility that he rhymes. We offer
him a decreased speed ordered by orange
signs and so the world is changed around him:
we move differently. This is to say, your
car, my care, this is all yours as you are
mine to transport. I offer movement through
named channels, arteries and metaphors.
Twenty-two. I offer the moment when
after we merge the GPS doesn’t
know where it is yet. Five. I offer you
Los Angeles, which is so hard to end
in any direction. I promise that
someday we’ll move home somewhere with lower
rent and universal healthcare. Ten. I
promise that wherever that home is will
always rhyme with here. Four oh five. And here,
I promise you that we are so, so small.
I offer you that. I promise myself
that we live here to prove this to ourselves,
to be counted and skipped over in these
self-melting numbers, that we must live here
so that we never get proud. One oh one.
I want to go back to those forged connections
across artificial structures. I want
you to see what I’m doing for you. Don’t
wake up, just sleep and watch me drive. Sleep and
see how it’s too late to make another
way for me to be. One. Lend me your car.

By Meghan Kemp-Gee

Biography

Meghan Kemp-Gee lives somewhere between Vancouver, Los Angeles, and Fredericton NB. She writes poetry, comics, and scripts of all kinds. She won the Poetry Society of America 2014 Lyric Poetry Award. Her work has also appeared in Copper Nickel, Helen: A Literary Magazine, The Rush, Switchback, Tincture, Stone of Madness, Altadena Poetry Review, Anomaly, Autostraddle, and Skyd Magazine. She teaches written inquiry and composition at Chapman University. You can find her on Twitter @MadMollGreen.

Reunion By Katy McAllister

Reunion

is too strong of a word and not
enough of one. How little we still know
of one another,
too long the length of our bodies
unstretched, too many miles between
the press of our lips, like laundry lines strung
between buildings. How domestic.
You always hated that.

We should wait for tomorrow –
like light could cleanse the sins
from our bodies, draw out poison. I say
that this waiting has been long
enough. Instead we kiss
in the way you drain venom
from a wound, bite
down and pull
years of bitterness from blood.

These bruises will linger,
laconic and tight lipped. Your grip
on my hands is the kind that begs,
fingers remembering
the ways we are best loved.

In the kitchen, the drip of coffee and sizzle
of water on the hotplate, sink full of weak winter
sunshine. It is easier
like this, morning light
softening sharp
edges. Soak in it, let the loss of two people
who have crossed oceans
be mourned.

By Katy McAllister

Biography:

Katy is a garden enthusiast from Michigan. She enjoys sunshine and being left alone like many cats.