on learning to love the space I take up By Leila Jackson

on learning to love the space I take up

There’s something freeing about showing
my bare walls my beauty–
my windows shut, my towel
round my head, no skirt or corset to hide
the lumpy silhouette where my hips meet the air.
Something about dancing the waltz
at night, after learning it in grade six
opposite a boy with sweaty hands
who laughed at my lopsided face for three years
and singing, loudly, off-key
to my only beautiful audience.
She stares back at me, thighs
rubbing together, dimpled and stretched and scarred
and all her own, and smiles
and claps
and weeps.

By Leila Jackson

Biography

Leila Jackson is a junior at Georgetown Day high school in DC. She has received several regional awards for her work. In her free time, she enjoys poetry and boba tea.

YOU MIGHT NOT BE STRUCK BY LIGHTNING AS YOU WISH By Ellen Huang

You might not be struck blind by holy light,
                                                            jinxed by an angel,
                                                                        implanted with surround sound of the heavens
                                                and told what you need to do.
          You might not find your

                        curled up fetal position,
                                    jumbling twisted pretzel,
                                                stressed out spaghetti monster—
                                                            all pulled apart and straightened out to be like others
                                                                                                                                    as you wish.
You might not be tormented with pleasurable fiery match
                                                (price tag says match made in heaven)
                        or an arrow piercing your heart,
            soon giving all that hangs over a place to rest—
At least not the same way.


But you will find yourself admiring lightning unafraid
                                                and loved so deeply that you cannot die.
                        Your hell and torment in love already spent, passionately,

                                                you’ll discover a bright

                                                                        new season

                                                                                    underground

                                                                                                as earth trembles.
                                                            You will feel a peace whirlwind you to dance,
perhaps yet another thing others won’t understand,
                                    but your heart will reach your fingertips

                                                                        and stretch out through all your ligaments,                                                                                                                                        your soul the fire.
                       

From here you can see the path to paradise is littered with celebration
                                                                        colored with pride as it was originally created
And it won’t matter what they jeer
                        how a hero should look, how a prince should lead
                                                            as you link hands, always beloved,
                                                                                                and spin right into His arms,
                                                                                                                                    finally free.

By Ellen Huang

Biography

The rumors are true. Ellen Huang does own a cape. And it feels so nice, especially when she twirls it like this. In other news, she’s an ace writer of speculative fiction with a huge emphasis on progressive faith and platonic love. She reads for Whale Road Review and has pieces published in Ghost City, They Call Us, miniskirt magazine, horse egg, Ice Lolly Review, Exhume Lit, and more. She lives in San Diego with her pan roommate, but her future home would probably be the eclectic mansion from Knives Out. Follow if you wanna: worrydollsandfloatinglights.wordpress.com.

la elegida By Mia T. Hamernik

la elegida

i. 

as a child
i did not fit my name
marshmallow vowels
beneath tongue
rubble consonants
generous crevasses carved
into lip

as a child
i did not want
to fit my name
because it was 
raw meat and
barbed wire and radio static
places with history but no name
i have never                             met another                             with my name
bitter                possess
small               the mark
of someone who does not know
where she belongs
it has never meant a good thing
some things do not survive
translation

i did not want
to love my name
because it showed facets
that i wished to 
grind to sand
it is a promise
that my ancestors
killed for greed
my ancestors
were killed for greed
or—
they fled one war
only to end up in another
shoved into black falcons
rotting in ditches
disappeared  
in death flights
and secrets

ii.

a woman told me
i was wrong, que
mi nombre tiene otro
origen hebreo, que significa
la elegida
the chosen
i have realized my name
was not too big for me
that it was the mouths of others
whose tongues lacked the desire
and experience
to appreciate its flavor
to digest it

iii.

i have a secret name
M o y o c o y o t z i n
she who creates herself
my flesh is colonized
but i am mestiza to the bone.

By Mia T. Hamernik

Biography

Mia T. Hamernik is a California native pursuing her bachelor’s degree at Washington University in St. Louis. She likes to remind people she’s Latina by bemoaning the severe limitation of Mexican restaurants in St. Louis and listening to Bad Bunny on full blast at every opportunity. She has not suffered a foosball defeat in six years.

The Last Jeopardy Episode By Ally Blovits

The Last Jeopardy Episode

I’ll take painful memories for 200, Alex.

I arrived at your house after dinner,
muscles aching from a long week at work.
I almost didn’t want to come.
My day off spent entirely in bed was a nagging wish
I ignored as I knocked on your door
and let myself in.

What are excuses?
I was used to the darkness of your living room,
used to the TV at top volume, but something about you
that day was different. You taught me to make you coffee
by shouting instructions over the TV into the kitchen.
It was bitter and dark to realize all the things
you could no longer do for fear of straining yourself
or tangling in the tubing of your oxygen machine.
I remember thinking how useful it will be
if I could make coffee for you for all my future visits.

What is the irony of hindsight?

We talked for a while without much to say.
I told you about work, putting a positive spin
on the mundane days, either for your benefit or mine.
You told me stories of your past, wild days,
your college band, selling rare coins, and buying your house
and it didn’t matter that I’d heard the stories before
or that it took twice as long to tell them
between your gasps for breath and raspy coughs.
Finally, you put on the newest episode of jeopardy
and I didn’t tell you I watched it at home before I came.

I’ll take trying to be a good granddaughter for 1000
I only guessed the questions I knew the first time I watched it
I didn’t want you to think I was some kind of genius.
You got every geography question right
and I got the ones about musicals
and you said hey, we make a pretty good team.

What is knowing the answer all along?
You were tired and I was tired, but I didn’t want to leave,
Didn’t want to call this for what it was, what it would become.

What is a bad feeling in my stomach?
I didn’t want to believe it, thought I was being pessimistic,
thought it was anxiety trying to predict the future.
But the next day, when we got the call,
I cried before anyone told me you were gone

By Ally Blovits

Biography

Ally Blovits an undergraduate student at Michigan State University studying creative writing and theatre. When not in East Lansing at MSU, Ally lives in Grandville, Michigan with her parents and her twin brother. Ally’s work has previously been published in Apiary Magazine, The Sheepshead Review, and LAMP poetry collection.

America Trembling By Kristen Perillo

America Trembling

for Marie

I can hear America trembling.
Her frail fingers shake as she plays
each pallid key.
She sings
songs of caducity,
of resuscitated memory,
of infirmities since made well;
her voice declares victories,
feathered caps hung from laureled limbs.
But it quivers
and throbs,
straining where it used to spangle,
the roar of insignificance
catching in her goitered throat.

By Kristen Perillo

Biography

Kristen Perillo is a writer and high school English teacher in Buffalo, NY. Her former fitness blog was developed into a memoir, Following Fit, and her writing can be found at kristenperillo.com.

LAKE MICHIGAN// QUEER SISTER By Anna Šverclová

LAKE MICHIGAN// QUEER SISTER
a contrapuntal

Lake Michigan is so large, she has her own tide,
ocean sneaking through our hiking boots,
she knows I know
there is something bigger:
the earth’s curved
rocks

a sign of something
uncontrollably queer, she is
disruptor, cliff-etcher,
in tonguing waves
like ocean
most natural unnatural

beast
like an act of God, she swallows
all that swims too deep in her body

I am holding oceans within myself,
too
We are
A deepest sisterhood
Of strangeness and danger
defiant, crying

to hold ourselves
so deeply

my sister tells me,
she is bisexual
she is married to a man, and
she loves him, but she is drawn to
lady hips, smooth
in the palm of her hand

she knows already, she is
beyond beautiful,
she is phenomenon
woman who dare love woman
she does not tell anyone else this
declaration, but me:

sister. I am praying to the tears that
our mother’s hate
might dissolve.

I am trying not to smile
hard.
closest now, together,
in the silence
we can wink
our whispers of sameness, because

queer is
quiet.

By Anna Šverclová

Biography

Anna Šverclová (they/them) is a totally queer sophomore director of Macalester College’s slam poetry team, MacSlams. They were born and raised in the Twin Cities suburbs and they cry whenever it snows. Over the years, they have become an expert in layering. Their secret? A journal compliments every outfit.

Ode to Clean Sheets By Audrey McGuinness

Ode to Clean Sheets

When I want a fresh start,
I strip my bed and fold my naked comforter on a bare mattress,
Destroying a nest that has gone too messy
To feel like home.
I pour thick soap into the small tray whose
Sole purpose is to dispense and be refilled,
And wait for sudsy water to reset my sheets from
Two weeks’ worth of sleep,
Anticipating the cold in me being undone by
Warmth like paper fresh from the printer.
Balled together,
My sheets have tried to make themselves
In the absence of a bed.
I breathe in the smell of comfort only brought by laundromats
And worth the metal clink of quarters.
I dance my way from corner to corner of the mattress.
Billowing out like sails, cotton and linen
Fall slowly into place before getting folded between
Bed frames and mattress edges,
Forming crisp lines and tucking no one into bed.
I wash myself next,
Slipping between lightly-perfumed sheets with wet hair that
Will dry as tangled as my sheets go overnight.

By Audrey McGuinness

Biography

Audrey McGuinness is from Oakland, California and is a first year at Macalester College. She has dedicated a great deal of time and energy to processing trauma, abuse, and assault, and balances these experiences by seeking beauty in mundanity. She writes when poems start writing themselves in her head.

The Nothing By Siri Greene

The Nothing

is it suicide if it’s pretty?
the dramatic downfall, the artwork
i was 17 when i started taking antidepressants
“are you worth it, though?” she asked
but in the way that didn’t need speaking.
i think it was day six of forgotten showers, toothbrush, and comb,
when she realized i was choking on my own thought cud,
climbing onto my roof to stare into the gravel below
and reflect my body down to a bloody mural…
rocks ingrown to my skin, checkered pieces wishing they had moved a bit faster,
played a bit earlier.
then i started spitting out my food halfway down my throat
the gears would get stuck and i couldn’t move
my mind whirring down, powering off like an old 2008 macbook,
until it all stopped and life became tedious once again.

when i screw nails into my skin,
my turquoise veins become clouded with clots
and i’m not blue anymore.
i’d like to bark at the moon
and creep barefoot on the walls,
stalking my shadow and the woman i see trapped in the mirror,
her face dripping down her neck.
if i set off the smoke alarm, i could be the only one in the building dancing in sprinklers
and someone would have to get me, wouldn’t they?
move your bikes over to the other sidewalk, kids,
we’re trying to save a girl that can’t be saved.

maybe one day i’ll get funny enough to check myself in,
and i’d scream and claw just for fun,
so they have to wrap vines around my wrists
to call me safe.

that’d be a wednesday, wouldn’t it?

but this is all too tangled up in my head for me to speak out loud,
even two therapists can’t decode a girl who’s buried herself
so deeply hidden in gnarled weeds
whispering,
read me, please.

By Siri Greene

Biography:

Siri Greene (she/her) is a first year at Macalester College. She grew up in rainy Seattle and loves expressing herself through poetry and music. She writes poems as a way to heal, and often explores mental illness, sexual assault, and queer identity in her work.

2020 By Anna D Sene

2020

Paris,
Sisters and brothers. I had missed the
Explosion of tastes that comes with a cere, and
The comfort of food eaten around the same bowl.

I rushed to printers and full metros between Porte Brancion and Concorde,
Feeling the weight of my black hijab flowing on my young shoulders
And the pressure of my blackness in the white crowds.
As never before.

Saint Paul.
A life of adventures in higher academia.
Movie nights with salty abundant popcorn followed
Study days roaring with nervousness in complex papers and numbers.
The freedom to stretch my feet on the granite grows smaller
Each day that goes by. Masks on. More indoor nights and introspections.

Bergen.

I can still hear the laughter of the reunions
Smell the perfume of our friendly hugs
Taste the smooth melody of warm meals we
Shared on a rainy day in January 2020.

Vines,
I recall the hikes between the dense green Norwegian
trees , the salty sweat lingering on my
Smiling face, stunned before the birds spreading its
Wings over the soothing Fjord.

Flekke
Friends. Chiquitas, we called each other.
Dancing in the kitchen while cooking jollof rice,
Taking pictures in our clothes smelling like a mix of garlic and pepper,
Our faces, breathing sisterhood.

A year passed, but still one more had to come.
Studying together from the early afternoon till
the cooling Fjord mirrored the moon
We cheered each other up, when grades made our moods dull.

Little did we know that the final year would be cut short.
What about the dresses we needed to try before graduation day?
What about jumping in the fjord after writing the last exam?
What about the last dinner in the Flekke bubble?

We rushed to pack, muttered sobbing goodbyes, unexpected
In one last breathtaking effort, we smiled at the
diplomas , and watched each other fly for what
Could be the last time.

The freedom to stretch my feet on the granite grows smaller
Each day that goes by. Masks on. More indoor nights and introspections.

By Anna D Sene

Biography

Anna Diagne Sene was born and raised in Dakar. Anna started writing in English to get out of her comfort zone, and to reflect on her life as a Black Muslim woman. Outside school, she likes reading, meeting new people, drinking bubble tea, and eating cere, her favourite Senegalese meal.

Things I Don’t Tell People By Karese Burrows

Things I Don’t Tell People

I often cry alone in public bathrooms,
in the stalls at the very end because no
one thinks to look there first. Sometimes
I’m too afraid to want thing; I yearn too
much, down to the root, so much obsession
wracking this asphalt body, it quickly
resembles hunger. Tell me: what could be
more tragic than the act of not getting thing
you desire most? Craving it so badly that
you run headfirst into anything that smells
like an offering. Somedays existing is hard.
Somedays I’d rather stay in bed and collapse
beneath my sheets, think of all the ways one
can hurt without even leaving a room. I am
sometimes this girl underneath. Solemn.
Semi-rotten. Squishy in certain places, almost
fragile to the touch. Still; I want love to rock
me violently. Stretch me to the point of snapping,
like string.

By Karese Burrows

Biography

Karese Burrows is a poet and graphic designer from The Bahamas. Her poetry has previously been featured in The Rising Phoenix Review, Harpoon Review, L’Ephemere Review, Penstrike Journal and Words Dance Publishing. Her first chapbook This Is How We Lost Each Other was published by UK independent publisher Platypus Press in 2018 and can be purchased from Platypus Press, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. She can be found at kareseburrows.tumblr.com.