Little doll stitched together with sweat and sacrifice,
Have you never been wounded? Have you never stood on the river bank,
Someone’s favorite child alone? Do memories bruise you?
Have you ever wondered if you can do it— Overcome your petty tendencies
And finally become Your better angels.
Do the people you love seem to grow Ever distant? Have you suspicions
That you have caused this? Do you ever want to curl up and hide
In some shadowed corner of 1972? Do you cry in color?
Can you find it? That one small coal Of goodness still flickering inside you?
What gives you solace now Your free will has fallen into a sinkhole?
Time to gather the frothy waters Around you like foamy skirts.
And try again. The scorched and bleeding Earth will make life hard,
But there are doves who moan When you return from a long journey.
There is your ability to marvel At the size of your own shadow
In the July grass. There are people Who love you, still.
By Michelle Patton
Michelle Patton received an MFA in Creative Writing from CSU Fresno. She won the Ernesto Trejo Award for poetry and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poems have appeared in The Atlanta Review, Southern Poetry Review, Zyzzyva, Prairie Schooner and others. She teaches English at Fresno City College.
That fertile land of plains and its golden river of histories—I wanna go home to Chinaland —dressed in my tribal clothing of sashes red and green.
The music of qeej will direct my path, the songs of nruas will keep my pace—home to China I will go —dressed in my tribal clothing of sashes red and green.
My packed lunch of qaib ntim su, my white horse at the tips of my fingers—back to Chinaland I am heading —dressed in my tribal clothing of sashes red and green.
My khau noog upon my feet, my paj ntaub of partings gently by my side— home to China I will go —dressed in my tribal clothing of sashes red and green.
Boats of money: silver and gold of varies sizes, nyiaj txiag xyab ntawv will burn to ash—back to Chinaland I am heading —dressed in my tribal clothing of sashes red and green.
My journey is long, exhausting, and tiresome—but home I will be. My ancestral lands at last. —yuav mus suav teb paj tawg lag.
RED (she/her) is a Hmong artist in central Wisconsin. Currently a junior at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. RED’s poetry stems from personal experiences of having lived through various adversities and struggles (genocide and the like). Her debut work was showcased in the Wausau Poetry Walk. She has worked as a bilingual victim advocate for domestic violence/sexual assault and is now teaching an ELL class at a non-profit organization. RED’s favorite thing to do in her free time is eating fruits, with Mangosteen being her ultimate favorite.
Today, I hung your faith in the streets, drying them of prayer, and was reminded of the
intimacy of belief. How you cradled the rifle by the throat, like a newborn,
loaded it with worship bright as a peony. My wrist diving into
flesh as I unsewed parable from the skin, each scarlet sigil against mankind.
Home is gone. Now you hold me by my fins of silk, by the whites of my eyes.
Here is the body of a crucifix: lovely, romantic, romanticized. Here is a cage. Baba, I say, except
it doesn’t mean father. I am asking how to face a god with cracked teeth and bleeding jaws.
I am asking how to be saved.
By Bohan Gao
Bohan Gao is a seventeen-year-old Chinese-American writer from North Carolina. She has been recognized for her writing by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers and her work is published in The Enviroactivist, Addanomadd, and Exurbia, among others. Outside of writing, she likes playing soccer, going out with friends, and losing herself in crowded cities.
If so, and the night washes us of our collective mind, why do the crows know to stay together on the oak tree in the winter, terror the ice enshrining
its bare branches, roadkill on the street they share, bats overhead swooping so fast that only an individual mind can perceive them
while crows sleep together but we never see their bodies in the dark, black feather against black night. I asked you about Kant’s
categorical imperative, to act in accordance with rules that can hold for everyone. I said, This is how I try to live, as long as the rules
demand kindness and not supplication to authority. Outside an old man in a wheelchair rolls on ice toward the door of the dentist office
and I hold it open for him. But at night sometimes the guillotine falls when I dream of driving in the snow and not checking my speed,
running into the oak tree and you with your big hands on your eyes, weeping in the passenger seat. I’ve never known equanimity
except when my ideals settled in my hips or grew lush long before the harvest, maybe without it; maybe the stalks of corn tip
and enter the soil like the romantic power of imagination or the transcendence without the abstract ideal to name it, consume it.
When we give up the road to understanding we cease to see the world, housing our fears of the unknown in oak trees that grow so familiar,
satellites becoming our celestial bodies. Yet God is written outside of Reason and a niggling feeling that all you have done has been worth it,
even the devolutions that taught you reason’s limitations. I have found a home. I have learned the crow’s detachment
from any symbol in its murder, and I have driven to a madness where we should all at some point go. The amber light of exhaust and sunset,
the stretching light waves, set my body on fire, and the crows, balancing on a patina of ice, drink the light and do not give it back.
By Kika Dorsey
Kika Dorsey is a poet and fiction writer in Boulder, Colorado. She has a PhD in Comparative Literature and her books include the chapbook Beside Herself and three full-length collections: Rust, Coming Up for Air, and Occupied: Vienna is a Broken Man and Daughter of Hunger, which won the Colorado Authors’ League Award for best poetry collection. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times. Currently, she is a lecturer at the University of Colorado in literature and creative writing. Her novel, As Joan Approaches Infinity. In addition, she works as a writing coach and ghostwriter. In her free time she swims miles in pools and runs and hikes in the open space of Colorado’s mountains and plains.
Like a stone born from my body, you came into this world cold and still. The sky drained of color as they took you away my body was an exit wound, I sunk into the mattress a foreigner to myself. Your eyes never did open.
Cardboard epitaphs, folded napkin eulogies— we buried you in the backyard because there was nowhere else to go. You were cradled in that black mud, the earthworms watched over you as the dry grass whispered its lullabies.
I laid in the bathtub, my skin flayed back like a peeled peach. The ceiling tiles dripped condensation and whispered your name, which I never said aloud. That house held me like a child and rocked me to sleep.
Slowly, we must learn to live with hands that cannot heal the ones we love.
By Nicole Q. Nguyen
Nicole Q. Nguyen is a Philadelphia native writer and academic. Her work attempts to reconcile the deeply confessional nature of poetry with her own unwavering love for the art of storytelling. Many of her works explore the intersection where the foreign and the familiar meet. Nicole is proud to hail from a long, unbroken line of avid lovers of literature. Find her on Instagram @NicoleQNguyen
the year I was suppose to give birth in the spring,
the year Mount St. Helens erupted, the year John Lennon was shot?
Maybe my longing should have been less.
Maybe my body should have done more. ~ All season long a stilled lullaby beats between barren ribs.
The geese bleed into the sunset.
Should I believe, what will be, will be? ~ Near Puget Sound a mother orca pushes her dead calf
around the waters for seventeen days and one thousand miles.
She struggles to keep her baby afloat before letting go. Her lament:
a barren lullaby.
How long do we carry the things we’ll never hold?
How long do we carry the stories that need to be told?
By Louisa Muniz
Louisa Muniz lives in Sayreville, N.J. She holds a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from Kean University. Her work has appeared in Tinderbox Journal, SWWIM, ONE ART, Palette Poetry, Menacing Hedge, Poetry Quarterly, PANK Magazine, Jabberwock Review and elsewhere. She won the Sheila-Na-Gig 2019 Spring Contest for her poem Stone Turned Sand. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and a Pushcart Prize. Her debut chapbook, After Heavy Rains by Finishing Line Press was released in December, 2020.
They locked the doors to the Augusta House in 1973. Home to transients, broken widowed men, old ladies and their cats. They swept out those nearly destitute remainders, padlocked the doors, and demolished it. The baroque columns replaced with the concrete brutalism of another faceless bank. Yet as I make the turn onto Memorial Circle and past Rotary Cleaners, I can smell the sweet tobacco and my eyes see the old Fat Cats of Maine’s Gilded Age, with top hats and gold pocket watches, engaged in discussion before they trek down State Street to the Blaine House. Clouds of pipe smoke mingle with the wax of handlebar moustaches as they shout about mill rates and transportation bonds quaffing bourbon and beer. This sepia-toned daguerreotype. This transmission from 1873. I can see all of it. Because everything bleeds.
It’s like this. She is approaching the Augusta Airport in her yellow Piper Cub. The runway guarded by a tank from Camp Keyes, turret pointed at the sky. Her father sits in the co-pilot seat. This is her first landing. She is taking the Cub down alone. The wind is intense. The puny metal of the wings begin to buck on the descent. The engine sputters. The Piper begins to shudder in this instant gale and as the engine finally stalls, her final cough transforms into a chickadee’s call. The gale transforms into a hurricane and the summit of Winthrop Hill returns. The airport is gone, the tower replaced with an elegant hillcrest. Low, rounded slopes sprinkled with the stately homes of Augusta’s wealthy Fathers, who look out at the Capital Dome and Gannet’s Woods, and talk of the possibilities of air travel as their horse-whipped stagecoaches approach Winthrop Street. The whip crack is the backfire of the Plymouth Fury that now descends Winthrop Street. I am parked next to the tower watching the Piper Cub land. It sits safely on the tarmac. She stands close to her father as they walk away. I can see all of it. Because everything bleeds.
It’s like this. They call it the Calumet Bridge now. Then it was the Father Curran Bridge. The Father Curran Bridge bleeds through as I cross the oily water. Upriver, the bleak-Blake-Satanic mills of the Edwards Dam harvest the hydropower of the Kennebec for simple pedestrian paper. For that we have a river that rots of sulphur in the summer. For that we have mercury fish. My grandfather’s Industrial Harvester is idling outside the entrance. It is the cold dark of December. The exhaust is clouding. He is going home. From the AM radio I can hear a cresting flute and The Marshall Tucker Band’s “Heard It In A Love Song”. The twang of Doug Gray’s vocal mixes with the earth loop drone of the AM signal; the final flute note fades into the chime of St. Augustine’s bells as they strike six. He puts the Harvester into gear and roars away. His exhaust envelopes me and the Calumet Bridge bleeds through. The Edwards Dam is gone. The fall line of the Kennebec has returned to smoke water vapor. The smell is intoxicating and fresh. I inhale that gorgeous smoke. I can see the salmon jump. I can see all of it. Because everything bleeds.
I remember the first time. Summer, 1978. Dust motes swim in the tobacco smoke while Pablo Cruise’s “Love Will Find A Way” plays on WABK. I run out into the sun to my mountain. The one I saw on TV. The one where mountain grown Folgers comes from. The one where I ran away. Always running. Up the wide path to the crest the sky opens. Out in front of me is our whole neighborhood; laid out on the green grass of suburbia. But it was more. It was what was, there and not there. It was and wasn’t all at once. Right there. I saw the future and the past bleeding out of our little red house. I saw the neighbor’s pond evaporate and then rise. I saw Charles Kelly’s general store on Dirigo Road empty out, dust settling on the bodega shelves packed with Shur-Fine vegetables and Chef Boyardee cans. I saw 20 years pass in the space of a moment. I saw futures that never came to pass. I saw pasts that never were. I saw all the timelines, the dark and the light, sweating out in blood all around me, pouring into the present, a time palimpsest, hiding in plain sight behind everything I see.
It’s like this. Sometimes I’m here. Sometimes I’m not. Because I, too, bleed. Time is a permeable membrane and I am osmosis. I flow through the membranes to places I am not. I thought the blood was only the past, but the blood is everything all at once. The future and past are both open to me, but in all this time what I’ve never seen is myself. I am never there. I flow to places I am not. I can see my parents with other children. I see houses they lived in that never were. I see my wives with other husbands. I see their children. I feel their joy. I see my brothers at Christmas with someone else. He looks like them. They give gifts to him in a house I do not know. I flow to places I am not. My friends are playing “Dungeons and Dragons” in the basement. I know the group. But this party has a different druid. I see my echo in his face, but it is only an echo. I see a headstone with another name. The choir of my life stands apart on the grass in the rain as he is interred. I flow to places I am not. Nature has found an aberration she wishes to correct. Nature abhors a vacuum. I flow to places I am not. I am osmosis. I can see all of it. Because everything bleeds.
“Palimpsest” originally appeared in Volume 41 of The Northern New England Review and on my personal Medium page
By Shawn Keller
Shawn Keller is an amateur poet living in Brunswick, Maine. As a young man he studied history with the heart of a geographer, and then left New England to explore America. He rode out four hurricanes in Florida, and dipped his toes in the Pacific next to the Santa Monica pier. His poetry is concerned with a sense of place, and the never-ending journey we embark upon to find that mythical place we call “home”. His work has appeared in The New Guard and The Northern New England Review, and online at Literati Magazine, The Charles Carter Anthology and The River. Social Media Links: Medium, Facebook, Instagram.
In every application form, They ask for my native language
Yet they don’t have my language, In their options of world languages
They force me to choose someone’s elses mother tongue As mine, because I can speak it like a native
Oppressor taught me that foreign language as mine They fined us, they built shame/ respect of a language
So I learned another’s language as mine I speak in it, I read in it
They took us to build them, So we are lost to the global
How can they include 3000 languages of world? So they left, insignificant identities like mine out
They talk of violence and inclusion But they left me out of diversity
To be included I always choose urdu Though my mother speaks pahadi
By Nimra Tariq
The poet is from a small semi- autonomous state Azad Jammu and Kashmir, administered by Pakistan. She writes on themes of grief, politics, conflict, gender, loss, and love. Her work is deeply influenced influenced by her family and friends. She wants her work to have a positive impact on reader’s life.
how much a year can change. the world itself inverted, shaken. snow-falling backwards outside. flat on my back i watch the same stucco patterns shift, or maybe life is one long fever and i notice the burning in bits and pieces. this year i don’t toss and turn with the hundred aches of a lover, or the lovelorn. my eyes have been opened so long they’ve dried in their sockets. i hardly think i’m seeing out of them, or maybe this is the world: no hazy blush turning every object, every face a shade of pink. so many colors abound—and the abundance tears me apart. flat on my back, a year’s change flowing over my mind like a trance, like a vision—there’s no going back. no snow falling onto an expectant, pointed pink tongue. winterland, wonderland, shimmers as if behind a mirror and i try and i try to let my hands slip through beads of mercury to the other side. to the pinkened snowscape, to the place i loved.
By a a khaliq
a a khaliq is a poet and medical student from the midwest. she writes, in the tradition of kafka, to close her eyes.