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

Biography:

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

A LEPER BEGS THE SON OF GOD By Brianna Albers

Prayer in Taino War Paint By Juniper Cruz

Oil Painting By Nikita Gill 

Alternative Facts By Athena Dixon 

MEDUSA WRITES FOR TEEN VOGUE By Dorothy McGinnis

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

Biography:

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

Biography:

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

Biography:

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

Biography:

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

Biography:

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).