the decades of Anigma Morandarte By Eryka Renata

the decades of Anigma Morandarte

anak: the Tagalog word for “my child”. a term of endearment. see also bebeko.

Anigma Morandarte is twenty-four years too old.
in her / white wedding dress / straight faced / with anguish
photographs plastered / at the credenza
my father / sitting on the organ chair / holding Anigma Morandarte / by her waist
she clutches / her pregnant belly / waiting to be torn open / at her womb
they wait patiently / for bebeko / my sister / to be born / too early
the same day / the Savior was born
Anigma Morandarte cries.
instead of myrrh and frankincense / the body of God / gives her / salt

Anigma Morandarte is twenty-eight years too old.
she’s standing / at the stove / of the basement kitchen
it is dark / there’s light / barely peeking through / the iced over window
but maybe everything is dark / when you are three / viewing through eyes / still foggy
Anigma Morandarte coughs / on the dust / she looks over her shoulder
the bird clock / little hand at the cardinal / big hand at the mockingbird
Anigma Morandarte / pulls the bagel out / from the toaster / two dark brown halves
it smells / like cold fire / the basement air /fills my nostrils / with ash
she’s holding a knife / she scrapes butter / from the silver tin
Anigma Morandarte cries.
there is blood on the white / there is a deep gash / cutting through / the diameter of her palm
Anigma Morandarte creams the bread / she is still crying / no sounds / from her mouth.
anak, your bread is ready / she walks to me / sitting on the basement stairs
I love you, bebeko.
i look / at the bread / there is still red / at the circumference
i bite / and i taste / her blood / and its salt.

Anigma Morandarte is thirty-three years too old.
the callous / of her own Mother / sitting on the white tile / of the kitchen
little hand / at the nightingale / big hand / at the owl
two bowls of rice / steaming from / the black pot
anigma morandarte cries.
she forgot / to turn off / the stove / the rice now burnt
her mother / screams at her / youngest child / of her useless soul / her unbirth / too old
Bandit / the family dog / sits on the white tile / with me / eight year old / anak
he is so scared / he pees himself / the floor / wet / yellow
Anigma Morandarte’s Mother / slams the dog / into his urine / rubs his face in it
Fucking dirty animal.
i do my best impression / of anak / and hold him / urine and all
when i press / his ears / to my cheek / i could smell / salt

Anigma Morandarte is thirty-seven years too old.
i cannot / see her / it is / too dark / eyes foggy / the bathroom door / standing between us
Anigma Morandarte hid / all the house keys / in the toilet / far from / anak’s hands
i can imagine / the bird clock / both hands / at the owl
my back / braces against / the bathroom door / my twelve year old hands / clawing at the hinges
mom, please come out, i’m scared, mom, i’m so scared. i hear water / running / farther away
Anigma Morandarte cries.
i sleep / in my sister’s room / the Savior / and we hold our breath
we think Anigma Morandarte could surely be dead by tomorrow morning.
little hand at the cardinal / big hand at the mockingbird / yet she sits / on the living room couch
good morning, bebeko / Anigma Morandarte smiles / there is breakfast on the counter.
i look / and i see / bags of salt

Anigma Morandarte is forty-four years too old.
she is miles away / i almost can’t picture what she looks like / at this time / in this light
the caller id interrupts / Anigma Morandarte / i press her up to my ear / and anak listens
bebeko come home, bebeko I have bread, bebeko I’ll boil you water, my anak I love you, anak,
anak / i’m anak but no other names / anak I need you, anak I’ll die without you / i am crying / no
sounds / from my own mouth / Anigma Morandarte speaks / and i can still taste the salt.

By Eryka Renata

Biography

Eryka Renata is a poet from the Chicagoland area. Dedicated to craft and the avant-garde, much of her work borders the experimental while maintaining the realism of everyday life. She believes in the complex combination of art and storytelling, wishing to amplify her voice to offer a unique lens in which she sees the world. Renata is also a student of psychology who dreams to spread a long breath of compassion and empathy wherever she goes.

Violet is my Name By Diepreye Amanah

Violet is my Name

Don’t you dare tell it otherwise.
I walked into the fire with my eyes wide open,
my skin glistening with gasoline,
my hair dripping alcohol, my mouth full of sawdust,
and with cans of kerosene snug sweetly in my palms—
and it blazed—burned me through and through.
I would not pretend like those others do, and say
it made me stronger and wiser.
It burned me is all, until I was charred and crisp.
It burned me until I am cinder and dust.

You know. You know I listened when they said
that a father is a daughter’s first love, and I loved him.
I think he loved me. He was the first man
to praise the dull brown of my eyes, the timid tilt in my walk,
the gruff of my voice, the dark of my skin, the sour of me.
No one else would. No one else could.
When I looked to my mother, she put the Bible in my hands,
said God loves me. Said nothing else mattered; God loves me.
But my father, he watched my hips, the tiny curves of my breasts,
asked me to dance, to leap, to fall, so I did, like I was made for it.
When he offered the kiss, planted it in my heart
like a long overdue apology, I took.
When he offered more, I took.
I knew they used to be my mother’s and now they were
his wife’s and they should not be mine, but I took still.
I took his arms, his throat, his lips, his toes, his thighs
I swear I was looking for God.
It felt of God. It tasted of God. It looked of God.
The sweat on his forehead.
The scarlet on the sheets.
The bleak beauty.

But now I must leave. It ends tomorrow.
I am sick.
My belly grows.
I am afraid it would have his face and voice.
Then what would I say to his wife? To the people? To my mother?
So I must go. It all ends tomorrow
But you all must know:
Violet is my name.
Carry me in your hearts.
Violet is my name.
I am not asking for your pity.
I am not asking for your hatred.
Just that you see it as it is and tell it as it is:
I did not seek it but I did not resist it either.
Violet is my name.
I walked into the fire with cans of kerosene snug sweetly in my palms.
Violet is my name.
I choose you— you with your eyes on this solemn page
awe-struck, disgusted, intrigued, appalled—I choose you.
Remember me.

By Diepreye Amanah

Biography:

Diepreye Amanah is a senior studying English and Comparative Literature at UNC-Chapel Hill. Her poems appear in Carolina Woman Magazine, the Health Humanities Journal of UNC, and as prize winners in the 2021 A.R. Ammons Poetry Contest. Her poem is forthcoming in Up the Staircase Quarterly.

How Pious You Made the Flowers By Alisha Wong

How Pious You Made the Flowers

I can remember when we kept vigil in Eden,
your hands, blighted and vulpine, pressed me into
violets, into baptism. Salvation,
you Sinful soul; Water, you Wilting orchid.
On the third of March, you describe me as
a girl seeking her own undoing. I braid stem
into a crown, a Holy thing, until you called it
Divine.
I’m willing to confess that the zinnias in my garden bed
are overwatered. That you imprint foxglove & cornflower &
nectar onto your body
even after they decay. (What boon of the heavens
would I have asked for if I had known?)
Loneliness bore me a child of moss and ivy.
Watch: you arrange them like lattice across my skin
until they partition my flesh
and all that seeps out is devotion.
You see, I hid thistle in the confessional, licked dew off stained glass
just so you could redeem me. (I would’ve asked for less cruelty.)
I tried to carve myself into your likeness, into your image.
Ritual felt like your lips blessing mine. Does fondness
gleam or burn? I never found out
if mine did.
For years, you watched me sink my teeth into piety,
into girlhood, into something I could never quite own.
And when Death unveiled me, planted me in a coffin
for secular longing, you told the blind,
the mute,
the lame,
the leper
that I was a martyr.
They never saw you upend my body, call your hands
on my neck penance, bury me in peat for renewal.
I had once asked you if you would miss me if I died.
No, you’d still always be here, you replied.
Soil cordons root, allows all the water to soak into vein
without filling its share;
Of course I will, I say. I reach out and follow you into Sky.
Of course I do.

By Alisha Wong

Biography

Alisha Wong is Chinese-American from Minnesota. Her writing has been recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, Waldorf University, and St. Mary’s College among others. Her other works are published or forthcoming, including in The Heritage Review, Up North Lit, and The Phoenix. In her spare time, she enjoys calligraphy, fashion, and black coffee. She will graduate high school in 2022.

Summer 2016 By Sophia Ivey

Summer 2016

Cherry Coke–
Colas on sidewalk
Benches, roller–
Skating on top of parking
Garages. Tight stuffy
June air squeezing
The beads of sweat
Out of us like how we
Would pinch our waists
In the mirror until
We couldn’t breathe. Waxing
Each other raw in your mom’s
Master bathroom. You painted
My lips with your cherry tasting
Lip balm, licking my bottom
Lip, while you changed out of your teal–
Colored swimsuit in the other room, I wondered
If your lips tasted the same as his. Smoking
Anything we could buy, rolling
Blunts on grandma’s back porch
While she napped on the off–
White couch. Pulling
Soggy condoms out
From between my legs
While he got dressed in the
Bathroom. That pink-tiled bathroom
In early July where we shoved white
Powder up our nose and he and I fucked
On the beach. The sand leaving
Rashes on my upper thighs blending
In with the swollen mosquito bites, days
Feeling dryer, burning my tongue after
He dared me to lick the concrete, I
Couldn’t taste for weeks, until kissing
Cherry flavored lips for the first time,
Prickles of your stubble legs brushing
Against my cheeks, everything was cherry
After that, everything was cherry.

By Sophia Ivey

Biography:

Sophia Ivey is a Senior at FSU studying English Literature. She plans to go on to receive an MFA in Poetry. She loves everything arts and craft and baking!

ON THE TABLE SITS A RIPE PERSIMMON By Angela Ahlgren

ON THE TABLE SITS A RIPE PERSIMMON

its orange-spice skin so suited
to the late-fall day it’s like

a substitute for dry leaves.
The bright jewel flesh tastes

like light on the maple tree:
tiny lanterns luminescing

in the sun. When you bite
into this fruit, you risk the pucker

of tannic acid, more tart than lemons
or the driest cabernet,

but if you let it sit and ripen,
the soft warmth on your tongue

will be one sharp pleasure
in a day undistinguished

from the rest—a string of waking
working sleeping; the breakfast

dishes, email, the re-heated dinners;
an hour or two of television.

On the list you make each night
of the things for which you are grateful,

you write down, “persimmon,
brittle green cap, risky flesh.”

By Angela Ahlgren

Biography:

Angela Ahlgren is the author of Drumming Asian America: Taiko, Performance, and Cultural Politics (Oxford UP, 2018), and other essays on performance. Her poetry has been published in Talking Stick, Kippis, and Amethyst and Agate: Poems of Lake Superior (Holy Cow! Press, 2015). She is Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre and Film at Bowling Green State University and lives in Toledo, Ohio, with her Border Terrier, Juniper.

things that cannot be By Phusathi Liyanaarachchi

things that cannot be

you cloth me again
circle me
with conch linen
of a bed stripped naked

once,
for skin on skin

twice,
for prayer parched lips

thrice,
for things that cannot be

you circle and then
you stop
facing me
—no white elephants—
eyes bare—hands empty—lips blue—
as blue as the earth that I moved
the first time

just to hold your hand

By Phusathi Liyanaarachchi

Biography

Phusathi Liyanaarachchi is a poet from Sri Lanka. She graduated with a BA (Hons) in English from the University of Colombo. Her work has previously appeared in Love in the Time of Covid: A Chronicle of the Pandemic and Indian Literature. She is currently seeking a home for her debut poetry collection, ‘Becomes Water’.

dead girls and dead names By Annalisa Hansford

dead girls and dead names

The fabric from my binder grips
the skin around my chest so tightly
I can barely breathe.

When I try to sing along to that
new Taylor Swift song,
the one about dead girls haunting small
towns, similar to how dead names
haunt rebirthed souls,
my lungs give out, rendering
my hymns inaudible.

Before running to the other side
of the street to get to my
bus stop, I try to make out faces in
these automobiles speeding
past me. Accelerating as if
my body is a mere hallucination,
unforgiving as if my pain
just a figment of my imagination.

When I get to the other
side, my heart beats to the
tune of butterflies buried within
my stomach, pressing on
for an escape from their
captivity. My breathing
quickens to the rhythm
of my skeleton’s
insecurity.

On day trips to large cities like New York,
I whisper to my body in advance to forgive
me. The tightened cloth I use as a barrier
between my psyche and my anatomy
digs into my flesh, weighing me
down as I carry the burden of
century-long oppression and
injustice on my back.

My body wishes it
could transport back in time,
back before I existed,
back when I was nothing
and felt the same.

When I was merely the
blood and sweat
of my parents who had yet
to meet and intertwine
their hatreds together.

Now I have blood of my own,
which I bleed proudly at the utterance
of slurs. They give my wounds a home.

By Annalisa Hansford

Biography

Annalisa is from the lonely suburbs of Plymouth Meeting, Pa and will be attending Emerson College in the fall of 2021. They have received recognition from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and have been longlisted for Grindstone Literary’s 2020 International Poetry Prize. In their free time, they enjoy listening to indie music, rubbing their dog’s belly, and eating vegan ice cream.

Amen, Amen By Diepreye Amanah

Amen, Amen

Yes, me too:

                        my head—

                                            it’s a funny one:

so full of

                  many tiny bodies

                                         that twirl and whirl

                                                                     like gas molecules 

high on kinetic energy,

                                                        the source renewable 

                            per microseconds—

these thoughts 

                          triplicate themselves

                                                             and shrink up

                                     almost

simultaneously

                                   like an unending conversation

                  between

                                         autopoiesis

                          and 

 apoptosis,

                      until they are just multiples

                                                               of these lingering few:

“What if this is all there is

                                             when “this” is nothing?

        What if the past had happened

                                                      on a different day of the week? 

 What if tomorrow leads nowhere

                                                       or never comes at all?

What if it has all been a mistake?

                                              What if this is a mistake?

                                                                        What if I am the mistake?”

What if       

               what if,

                             what if,

                                           what if,

rolling around

                                   in these

   triple spiral labyrinths—our minds—

                                        siphoning our sleep, 

            seizing our rest.

How do we release them, 

                                             escape from them,

when it’s our hearts that beat

                                                 the drums that guide their feet,                   

      when it’s our blinking

                                           that violins them into sway?

How, oh how do we break free?                          

                            Well, there is work to be done.

So come with me,

                              come with me,

                                                          put on your good shoes,

                                     wear a hat,

bring some water too,

                                           come with me,

                                                                we are walking all the way

                                     to the big gate;

bring your God along,

                                whatever they may be,

                                                         that they might walk with us

                             pray for us,

pray with us:

                       Joy,

                                let us in,

                                                amen.

Fill our mouths, our hair, our eyes

                                                      our bellies, amen.

                   Joy,

                                we see you in there

lonely old man,

                           lice crawling in your beard,

just let us in,

                       we have oils, we have comb.

     Joy,

               you sick old man

                                            we have lotion

for the sores 

                     on your shriveling skin,

                                            we have syrup for your throat

                                   Joy,

       let us in, amen.

Don’t you see the cobwebs on your furniture,

                                               hanging from your dining hall?

Come on, let us in Joy;

                                     we are children, parents, teachers

we are writers, artists, musicians,

                                                    we are cooks and bartenders;

we will sing with you

                                        we will eat with you

      we will dance with you

                                         we will talk with you, read to you,

we know you are sad 

                                      just like us Joy,

please let us in,

                           let us glimpse 

                                                 your grandsons and granddaughters,

and if you won’t, please pray to their big bright brown eyes

                                                                                                  for us:

                                 pray that they steal our suffering,

  steel our souls,

                                  still the noise,

                                                           steal us out of these

  triple spiral labyrinths—our minds.

By Diepreye Amanah

Biography:

Diepreye Amanah is a senior studying English and Comparative Literature at UNC-Chapel Hill. Her poems appear in Carolina Woman Magazine, the Health Humanities Journal of UNC, and as prize winners in the 2021 A.R. Ammons Poetry Contest. Her poem is forthcoming in Up the Staircase Quarterly.

The Bite of a Rat By Natalie Hampton

The Bite of a Rat

I wear gloves to cover the tears
in my fingers. Rats bite: nibbling

as I sleep. They call my flesh
sugar, ask if I had ambrosia for

dinner. I say I’m on a diet. They bite.

Middle of the night: my mom
calls my dad a rat, a scavenger,

digging his claws into abandoned
trash. I asked whose trash she was,

who discarded her, and she told me
to sleep with my hand outside the
covers. The rats bite.

I peel blisters off like stickers,
tangerine skin behind, salt to the

touch. Do you see the red circle in the
center of my palm? I clench my fist

and dig; my nails form a zig-zag X and
I wonder if I poured water in the

crevices if it would erode into a canyon
of the body. My hangnails are a secret.

I pull them off one by one and bleed
through the crevices, ripe for the

bite of a rat.

By Natalie Hampton

Biography

Natalie Hampton is a rising junior at the Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in the Creative Writing Department. She has been recognized at the National level of the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition and by the Harris County Department of Education, the Young Poets Network, the Pulitzer Center, and Ringling College of Art and Design. She serves as an editor at Polyphony Lit and Cathartic Literary Magazine. She has taken online workshops and classes with Iowa, Brown, Sewanee, and Ellipsis Writing.

Intrusive Thoughts By Sammi Yamashiro

Intrusive Thoughts

I live, I live

in an icebox: its floor, its ceiling
is prettied with killer whale teeth,
neatly lined like the finest numbing crystalline.
Its daily grind grinds me.

You observers conclude I am whole
but internally, I am bifurcating:
separating to the point where I shall never alleviate.
A branch still attached could never be a tree.

Commence the dreamscape, draw the curtains:
‘Tis eternal midnight here in this damned refugee camp.
The Jap? The islander? spreads like she is melting
butter. The foreigner, the alien plays dead

on the bed. Don’t act the role: embody the character.
Commence the meal! Blow her brains out.
‘Tis now a showerhead fully
rampaged, rebelling against

my life, my life.

By Sammi Yamashiro

Biography:

Sammi Yamashiro began her poetry journey in high school and has had multiple poems featured in several anthologies (Train River Publishing, Sunday Mornings at the River). She self-published her poetry collection “The Peach Pit Mask”, which reached #1 in New Releases in Asian American Poetry on Amazon Kindle. You can read her writing on Instagram (@sammiyamashiro) or visit her website (sammiyamashiro.com) to find more of her work.