Our Crooked Teeth By Lydia Flores

Our Crooked Teeth

Freedom molds itself to molars
but we are made gargle & spit.
born an under bite

brackets, brace, retainer
her teeth in the mouth of
disunited states.

Colgate white the enamel
of a cavity being. I am
mouth against dark

take me, mold me in your dentistry
What of my X-ray? I am here today.

Yellow of survival
floss culture through
swish away the plaque
of what we are.

Root canal your secrets. now
smile, show them your teeth

Dissipate stains of our war
let no one know what you ate

By Lydia Flores


Lydia Flores is a writer and photographer from Harlem, New York.
Her work has been featured in Deaf Poets Society, Downtown Brooklyn, Visceral Brooklyn, Crab Fat Magazine, and several others. Find her at inlightofmysoul.com or @_fearlessocity

2017 Pushcart Prize Nominees

The True North strong and free! (1)

We are elated to announce our nominees for the 2017 Pushcart Prize Anthology! Congratulations to all of these phenomenal poets for the work they are doing and the light they are bringing to the world. Their words are good medicine and they helped heal us during this past year. We hope they did the same for you as well. Read the full text of their poems by following the links below.

A Kind of Ritual By Jasmine Cui


Prayer in Taino War Paint By Juniper Cruz

Oil Painting By Nikita Gill 

Alternative Facts By Athena Dixon 


JUNAID- June 22nd, 2017, Ballabhgarh By Anisha Drall

JUNAID- June 22nd, 2017, Ballabhgarh

He was my age.
He could have been someone
I knew, could have been my friend,
could have been in my school, in
my class, in my bus-
He was my age, but
in a place where the heat can
beat people down until they
are just carcasses flattened
against the ground, age doesn’t
matter, in a place where the
imbalance is imbedded in our
minds, where people with names
like mine feel justified tearing
someone apart, where even a
child can be shredded for the
greater cause, age doesn’t
matter- but he was still my age.
Still just a child, just another boy,
just another human being
excited for Eid- he was my age,
but a train full of people didn’t
care, didn’t do anything, instead
they just stood there, complicit by
nature, they just stood there as
he was stabbed to death, just
stood there, and said nothing-
he was still just my age. He still
had a life ahead of him, a life
of hope and happiness that bled
out of him as he lay there,
surrounded by people indifferent
to his survival- he was my age, but
where I’m protected by my name,
he’s persecuted for his.

By Anisha Drall


Anisha Drall is a high school student living in Gurgaon, India. She likes to read novels, poetry and Tumblr text posts and has been previously published in Germ Magazine and Vagabond City Lit. Find her on Instagram – @anishadrall / @inchoatee .

DNA of the Cell By Eli Binkovitz

DNA of the Cell

All sixteen of us tell the cop the same address
when she asks. We all forget our height
and none of us has ever been weighed.
Only our proverbial lawyer knows why
we were locked together in the street,
or where we had assembled our equipment,
or who was in charge (if anyone).

We are all earnest eyes,
only rolling behind their backs.

Midwestern accent in a blue uniform tells one of us
“I spoke with your imam. He says
remove your headscarf. He says
do whatever we tell you to.”
Cop says / Imam says / Simon says.
None of us believe this story,
or believe we were meant to believe it.

I am unclinked from where we sixteen are
cuffed to the bench,
and photographed and searched
between my toes, beneath my underwear.

I am shuffled to my own cell. I can hear
muffled in the concrete echoes,
a woman crying for help.
My arm, she says, I think it’s broken.
Authorities inform her to expect a doctor
in the morning.

The bench in my cell has gathered
remnants of other inmates:
lint, a litany of DNA,
dust of skin cells, tiny springs
and helices of hairs, all black.

I don’t shiver. My breathing marks
slow time. I am not pulled from my cell
in the night to be swallowed into
the black-site belly of Chicago.

I am not blindfolded in an unmarked
window-tinted cruiser parked in some vacant
dead-grass lot. I don’t feel
the metal muzzle of two
hundred documented human rights violations
(later condemned by the U.N.)
against my temple. Nor am I erased
into the 72-hour static that betrays no trace
of my uncounted names or dates
of countless countless births.

I am not zip-tied at the wrists
anymore, and my hands are not swollen, purplish,
numb, or heavy. I am not waiting for the questions:
Can you bend it? Can you put weight on it?
Can you move it? Can you feel it?
Does it hurt now?
Does it hurt now?
Does it hurt now?

The stone-concrete stuff from which the cell carves itself
blanches pale blue like cold lips.
Painting the liminal minutes with my thin
voice I sing old words too grandiose
for the nondescript occasion of my voluntary arrest.
But I like the tune and the illumination
they fill the cell with, warming it
at the fire of history’s good struggles.

The bench is fitted with a thin, dirty mattress,
which I carefully balance on its side.
Maybe I have to sleep here, definitely
someone will. Someone whose hair is black.
I take a fistful of thin tissue
from the steel toilet-sink, kneel
before the neglected bed-bench
and start cleaning up the place.

I don’t even get halfway done before an officer
opens the door, looks at me wiping down
the blue-lip stone stuff as if she’d walked in on
some strange ritual or unauthorized lovemaking,

tells me I’ve been processed, time for me to leave.

Why did you do that? She asks in the hallway.
I realize after I start to answer
In case no one else was going to
that I don’t know whether she meant cleaning the bench,
or chaining ourselves together in the street
to demand the state stop pouring our hearts into
love letters made of guns and money.

By Eli Binkovitz


Eli Binkovitz is a Jewish, genderqueer emerging poet living in Chicago. They have a degree in German Studies from Oberlin College and in 2007 contributed to a translation of Thomas Brasch’s collection of poems “What I Wish For Myself” from German into English. Their favorite poet right now is Daniel Borzutzky.

Dream, Lines By Jack B. Bedell

Dream, Lines

In these dreams, my father stands
inside our front door frame,

storm screen swung open,
can of Falstaff sweating in his hand.

I am push-mowing the yard,
doing my best to keep my lines

straight, alternating dark
and light like a baseball field.

My work is slow, every dip
in the yard pulling the lines

off square, making fluid
what should be set hard.

The whole time, he watches
each pass, not a line showing

on his face. If he cares
whether my pattern holds tight,

I can’t tell from his sips of beer.
His eyes follow me, though,

and I know the cold air
spilling out the open door

means something, even
if my lines slant.

By Jack B. Bedell


Jack B. Bedell is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. His latest collections are Elliptic (Yellow Flag Press, 2016), Revenant (Blue Horse Press, 2016), and Bone-Hollow, True: New & Selected Poems (Texas Review Press, 2013). He has recently been appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards to serve as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.

Sobriety: Days Two, Three By Marley Stuart

Sobriety: Days Two, Three

In my experience, the second day is hardest.
Day one is easy—after a binge, the knee-jerk
reaction kicks in. But the second night
there’s no reason to abstain other than to keep
the streak going. And the streak isn’t even long enough
to hold real weight. I shouldn’t be counting in days,
but nights. That’s when I’m forced to choose.


I shower early, cold, and get in bed.
I give up on a book and toss and turn.
My wife asks what’s the matter.
It’s the light of her phone—I can see it
even with my eyes closed. It’s the room, too hot.
It’s the sound of trains outside.
It’s none of this. I tell her, nothing.

My mind keeps going back to Bill.
Not long ago, a friend and I went over
with cards and beer, and Bill was delighted
it was Schlitz. Shlitz! He couldn’t believe it,
wiping bloodshot eyes behind glasses.
I knew he had two chips for two years sober,
but I asked anyway, you want one?

He tapped the top for two hands
before cracking it, and didn’t even drink
it all. We played bourré, let the pot build up.
No one won—my friend and I left without counting
our chips and took the ice chest with us.
The next time over there, Wild Turkey
in the cupboard. And then I got the text—Bill’s dead.

I sweat through the sheets, dream of big houses
with strangers in all the rooms. I get through
the next day. Now it’s night three.
Did I say the second was hardest?
That was so naïve.

By Marley Stuart


Marley Stuart is a graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars. His work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Xavier Review, L’Éphémère Review, and About Place. He lives in New Orleans with his wife.

Economies of Scale By Tobi Alfier

Economies of Scale

This, she learned her first day
at bartending school:
make six at once. You won’t need
to sell your soul in a bikini
for a decent job, your tips
will be to the moon and back,

just how you love
your kids and the man
who made them.
To the men with their ungainly
step, iron-toed boots, biceps
and lunchboxes passed

from their fathers, pictures
of fighters and pin-ups
in lids, a prayer on the bottom
for safe days and safe keeping,
she made Jack and Gingers
all night, five-thirty till close.

For the women, smooth and silky,
graceful as the sound of nightbirds
in dark trees along the river,
sadness a fable of loss on their faces,
she made perfect White Russians—
well vodka, Kahlua, real cream,

the same cream she’d pour
in their coffees before they were escorted
to anywhere. Where they came to a bar,
so did the men. She judged not.
She smiled, watched the night air
tremble with cold, pocketed their warm cash,

eyed the clock, listened
to pick-me-up tunes on the jukebox.
No one lingered in the doorway,
asked what she was doing later,
just like she wanted. Freed in the chinablue
moonlight she heads home, heart suing for peace.

By Tobi Alfier


Tobi Alfier (Cogswell) is a multiple Pushcart nominee and a multiple Best of the Net nominee. Her current chapbooks include “Down Anstruther Way” (Scotland poems) from FutureCycle Press, and her full-length collection “Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn’t Matter Where” is forthcoming from Kelsay Books. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).

Diagnosis By Meghan O’Hern


I have borderline personality disorder,
at least that’s what the doctor says.

She explains the symptoms:
dissociative episodes, unstable self-image, self-harm
a checklist of my existence
walking the border of psychotic

It’s bipolar without mania
she says with a saccharine smile
I’m pretty sure that’s depression, but I don’t say anything

A too-bright pamphlet “Borderline Personality and YOU” is sitting in front of me
I flip through the pages
easily crosses lines between depression and anxiety
both neurotic and psychotic
written in colorful letters
as if that washes away the stigma

She hands me a prescription
in the same breath tells me medication may not work.
She lists the potential side effects and asks if I understand the diagnosis
I don’t, but I nod anyway.
Stumble home lost in sea storm speculation

Maybe google can make me feel less alone.
What causes borderline personality?
Treatment for borderline personality?

The search spits back calloused responses.
Trauma in childhood, heredity, neglect
Therapy. Hospitalization. Medication.

When I finally tell someone
he listens to the string of symptoms
agrees with the diagnosis.
I am swallowed by rage and sadness and confusion
he wasn’t supposed to agree with the doctors?

I’m not crazy, I just feel so much
Reminds me all the two a.m. calls to a suicide hotline aren’t healthy.
Promises me this isn’t a death sentence,
just a word for all this feeling.

By Meghan O’Hern


Meghan O’Hern is a graduate of Bradley University’s English and Creative Writing Program. Their work centers on mental illness, identity and healing. More of their work can be found on facebook and tumblr at Meghan O’Hern Poetry.

#7459 or The Last Known Photograph of Diane Arbus By Kate Wilson 

#7459 or The Last Known Photograph of Diane Arbus

I have begun drinking cough syrup despite not having a cold
And dreaming of those days my old friends would do horse tranquilizers
Which is a barbiturate
Which I just learned is ketamine
Which, I suppose, is to say both ketamine and my name start with a K.
Why are you sitting in my bathtub, Diane?
It’s been two days, this was supposed to pass.
You cannot pull tragedy from our arms, Diane;
You cannot separate the blood from the anesthetic it is choking on.
If art was supposed to save you,
Why are you buried in a cemetery that doesn’t hold your name?
You were a photographer,
I guess it make sense you’d shoot
Yourself like this.
Diane, did you know your last photograph is an angel number?
Do you ever think about how water does not drown,
Even when it is full of humans?
Diane, do you ever think about your ex husband while you’re kissing that married man?
Do those hands still remember holding you? Or more importantly
Does your body remember holding those hands?
My girlfriend falls asleep in our bed,
And I wander the streets alone.
I do not think she notices.
I am tired of this skin.
Is your body still yours if you give it to the ground?
You cannot undark room yourself, Diane.
Depressive episodes are not camera obscures,
You cannot Vermeer yourself onto a new canvas.
In that final crescendo, did you realize
You were trying to undevelop yourself?
Did it work?

By Kate Wilson 


Kate is from Mammoth Lakes, California. They have recently found a new home in Salt Lake City, Utah where they are working towards a BA in English and an MA in teaching. Kate is a Virgo with a Gemini rising & a Taurus moon. They love swing sets more than most people who love swing sets. They practice regular necromancy & are attempting to escape orbit. They have competed in poetry slams in Utah, Arizona, and Idaho and have toured in Idaho, Nevada, and California. They were also part of Westminster College’s CUPSI team, and competed in Chicago, Illinois.



It almost felt alien to me,
not hearing a whistle as I walked
past a group of boys, not feeling
the heat of a stranger’s glare on
my back, or more accurately,
my ass, not feeling exposed with
every step I take, not feeling
like meat waiting to be turned
into a meal, not feeling like
a target, waiting to be shot at.

I had forgotten what this
warm breeze of freedom felt
like, forgotten that I too had
a claim to public spaces,
forgotten that my identity
counted as much as theirs did,
but can you blame me?

Who can remember who they are when
in the eyes of the world, they
shapeshifted into a beast to
control centuries ago? Who can
reclaim a freedom they’ve never
gotten? Who can hear the
sound of harassment over and
over and over again, and not
respond to abuse as a mating call?

Who can blame me, when
something as simple as walking
down the street as a human being
is a luxury that I’ve never been given?

Instead, all I’ve ever
been in this place, is afraid.

By Anisha Drall


Anisha Drall is a high school student living in Gurgaon, India. She likes to read novels, poetry and Tumblr text posts and has been previously published in Germ Magazine and Vagabond City Lit. Find her on Instagram – @anishadrall / @inchoatee .