Mother America By Cassie Premo Steele

Mother America

When a woman
Is about to give birth

She can ask for an epidural
When the pain gets worse

When a parent
Gets a text in the day

Saying What should I do
Do I hide or run away

Every baby comes from inside
The call is coming from the house

Maybe there should be a wall
Around us after all

Because if all we are is numb
No one should come here anyway

By Cassie Premo Steele

Biography:

Cassie Premo Steele is a poet, novelist, and TEDx speaker. She has published 6 books of poetry and has been nominated 6 times for the Pushcart Prize. Her most recent book is The ReSisters, a #1 bestselling LGBT YA novel. She lives with her wife, dog and chickens in South Carolina.

x as symbol for all things lost By Abdulbaseet Yusuff

x as symbol for all things lost

all that we cannot explain, we name x
x is what i call a friendship as old as yellowed letters
& as distant as two atlantics

there are distances even telegrams can’t bridge

when you move back into the city years later,
we meet at a park
& sit by the fountain. x sits with us too
x, now, is a silence stretched taut by cobwebs

i ask “how did we lose contacts?” you say “life!”
x again

we watch our sons mould a friendship in sandcastles
& in them, we see ourselves in elementary,
kicking mangoes eaten inside out by bats, laughing
& promising to build our houses side by side

i ask why you shaved your head
you reply by saying i have gained weight

weeks later, i hear from your wife that you died
of cancer; that you had been battling it
i am ashamed that i didn’t know of it
after the funeral, she gives me an old photograph
of you and some friends
she assumes i’m in it, but i am not.
i cut off your part of the picture &
i put you in my breast pocket

x is two lines — two friends — with a brief intersection
& a lengthy divergence

By Abdulbaseet Yusuff

Biography:

Author_Photo_Abdulbaseet Yusuff

 

Abdulbaseet Yusuff is a Nigerian writer whose works have appeared in Brittle Paper, African Writer, Praxis Magazine Online, and Memento: An Anthology Of Contemporary Nigerian Poetry (Animal Heart Press, 2020.)

lacuna By Eunice Kim

lacuna

i borrow my mother’s sadness tonight &
distort it over me like it will replace the
history. the god of my childhood is jaundiced,
a silverfished body in the attic. the house
i grew up in—soft & muffled, cinnamon
-colored. here is where i broke my arm, here
is canary that died nine years ago,
here are the footsteps that ran up the stairs
in the kitchen light & here is where it hurt the
most. the pathways i stopped remembering,
the ones that reached a terminal velocity.
haunted houses lack a sense of legibility, which
is to say, humans are incapable of
recognizing a dead thing. i scythe the lupine
leftovers of my body. i sing fake elegies for
the asleep. the air textures itself with the
quietest violence & just because i bled here
doesn’t make this room a holy space. just
because i tried to build an altar doesn’t
mean this city is jerusalem.

By Eunice Kim

Biography:

Eunice Kim is a Korean-American writer living in Seoul. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Polyphony, The Heritage Review, Vagabond City Lit, and more. She currently works as a staff reader for The Adroit Journal and a volunteer writer for Her Culture.

 

in a telephone conversation with my father where he enquires about my marriage plans Chisom Okafor

in a telephone conversation with my father where he enquires about my marriage plans

a dagger       navigating through      a gulf of wire curls
meet        the centre point         of my forehead
just after       he spells out          the words

lost between       the frontiers of         the things
i desire         and what        i must be
i want to tell him           about the ringing         cold

or about         the house sparrow         who homeless
after her tree         was felled          had made
her nest         just at the edge           of my windowsill

instead i say         baba         i don’t think          the telephone
line       is clear enough          for this
conversation

By Chisom Okafor

Biography:

Chisom Okafor is a Nigerian poet and Nutritionist, who was shortlisted for the Gerald Kraak Prize in 2019. He edited 20:35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry and presently works as Chapbook editor for Libretto Magazine.

herbal By Maggie Sun

herbal

grandma plucks a brilliant orange opium flower

and crushes it in her mortar. centuries of abuse,

death, and green skin make our tea this afternoon.

the pot she drips hot water into is nearly translucent

like the history of the country we are drinking from.

i wonder what the rickshaw boys would think to see

this ignorant tradition. perhaps they would look away

and continue yelling for their next customer.

perhaps they would know, think sadly to their own

browning pipes, warn us through their drooping eyes.

trade is money, trade is silk, golden embroidery, spice, but

trade is also death. the poppy melts a little. evaporates.

i wonder if grandma knows.

By Maggie Sun

Biography:

Maggie Sun currently lives in Arcadia, California. She loves collecting phone cases and hairpins. Find her on Instagram @maggiesuun!

 

Supernova Vacuumed By Meimei Xu

Supernova Vacuumed

for Laura

No – you are not the type of girl
to explode-boom-balloon burst
dynamite, or sear
nuclear fire. You

are not the flames that lick
at mercury-heels, the coal
pumped, smoke furnaces
click-clacking engines, not

the gnashing xylophone teeth, the
dancing bones, nor the headstone
haunting, nor the bull bucking
kick-smash-killing–

No. You are not kinetic. You are immobile
to the observer four seats away, but you
rattle– the glass of cherry pop that
wet-wobbly-circles the tabletop,

a humming to a
deep rumble underfoot. No –
you are not a lingering mushroom cloud, not
the boom, but the sizzle of soda

not the mourning fog, but
the mist of sputtering bubbles. At the bodily
level, you still like liquid. But you
spotty-laugh, you shifty, lifty

toes, you dance-fingertips, you
eyelid-vibrate hummingbird quick – on a
microcellular level you buzz, you butterfly, you
synapse-spark, you nerve-arrow, you are

a time lapse, a fast-forward field
unsheath-bud-bloom-dy-ing in four snaps, the
lava spew-hardening, the fish-to-lizard-
to-crawler-to-ape-to-poet catalyzed, Pangea

power-hammered-split like a cracker,
segregation under thirty seconds, week into day, Creation
crammed, Big Bang vacuumed into the
popping steam of carbon. You are potent –

potential.

By Meimei Xu

Biography:

Meimei Xu is a junior at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta, GA. She is a recipient of a 2018 National Gold Medal for Journalism from the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, and her nonfiction and poetry will move onto national judging this year. Her work has also been recognized by the Library of Congress. She currently works as a content writer for the Adroit Journal and has attended the 2018 Kenyon Review Young Writer’s Workshop.

GUILLOTINE: By Marilyn Melissa Salguero

GUILLOTINE:

When I name my abuser, they write my accusation off as a witch hunt,
Said I was swept up in a false passion, a movement of school boy ideals,
Called me unpredictable, a violent thing,
Said “Honest men are not safe with her around”
They all gathered in crowds to protect him & shielded him with their blind allegiance.

Who am I to call the king a pauper?
After all, didn’t he make me what I am?
Used his platform to build me into an icon,
What a heartless iron maiden I am,
A loud and lying thing.

Well if I am to be made into an symbol of a revolt gone wrong
then let me be the femme fatale
La guillotine.

Fierce & Unforgiving,
A pointed piece of work.
I was built to provide a gentler end to things,
Something to soften the blows,
something that sat so pretty & looked best when splattered with crimson,
I offered peace of mind in the form of a severance pay,
Lost my mind along with every waiting and bowed head.

I was an offer of humanity until it was taken from me,
Until my body was used to satisfy
his bloodlust, until his hands stripped me of all things human and left me splintered,
A submissive & quiet thing.

How easily am I blamed for the all bodies.

& Isn’t it the history of woman to be vilified for her search of justice?
To be blamed for the blood on her hands
But never once asked who made her a widow?

So if I am to be remembered as the scaffolding,
Let me also be remembered as the blade,
All sharp edges and unforgiving swiftness,
Let me be the “fallen woman”.

The one who drags every man down with her,
Watch as I takes his name and claim it as a war cry,
become both hero and executioner,
Call me maneater as I leave him as nothing more than bones,

Let justice be my legacy.

And when you tell my history,
Let my truth be a mirror,
Tell them how kings, kavanaugh’s, and criminals all trembled the same way,
all looked the same in the light of my reflection, no splitting hairs between them
Tell them that I was
Cold and piercing,
And exact.

And remember,
How the crown of every king splits apart so easily
And how they all run red

By Marilyn Melissa Salguero

Biography:

Marilyn Melissa Salguero (she/her/hers) is a Guatemalan poet who puts the SALT in Salt Lake City, Utah. She is the human equivalent of red wine, crushed velvet and using humor as a poor coping mechanism. Melissa her work centers on her life, relationships, and identity. She has been featured on Write About Now Poetry and Ink & Nebula. She was a member of the Westminster 2018 & 2019 CUPSI team and was a finalist at the 2018 Utah Arts Festival Indie Slam. When not yelling about white boys or making God metaphors, Melissa can be found feeding her online shopping addiction, blasting Gloria Trevi, or living up to her title as the quintessential “bitter ex girlfriend poet”. Her work (along with her emotional overflow) can be found on twitter @_Miss_Marilyn.

Dear Bucket List: By Annie Ma

Dear Bucket List:

I want to find peace.
Run three laps around the globe,
Wear the flags of a thousand cultures,
And drown myself in living.

I want to shake hands with an alien,
Find a five-leaf clover.
Fly above the city superhero-style,
Create the scientifically most
Perfect piece of music.

And I want to find love.
Discover what it means to be
Simultaneously consumed and freed.
Make vows at a glittering altar,
Have so many grandchildren that
I know love in every single city.

I want to vacation to the Lighthouse of Alexandria.
I want to throw my graduation cap to the skies.
I want to celebrate my birthday next month.
I want to visit the new modern art gallery.
I want to finally finish Les Miserables.
I want to eat at Beppe’s tomorrow.
I don’t want to die.

My hands shake; my body shakes.
I don’t want to die.
Eighty years later I will
Envy the fair complexion
Of walnut skin;
The springing agility
Of a lumbering elephant.
Wait for the sun and salute
As it awakes;
Live near the ocean
And listen to its lullaby every night.

The girl in the bathroom mirror
clutches a gun
each heartbeat a gunshot
i don’t want to die—

By Annie Ma

Biography:

Annie is a high school senior at The Harker School in San Jose, where she is the editor-in-chief of the school’s literary magazine, HELM. Her poetry and prose have won several Scholastic Writing Awards. She is the founder and president of Book Bank (www.bookbank.org), a nonprofit organization that serves underprivileged communities by collecting and distributing free books to K-8 school children.

Responsibility By Zoe Canner

Responsibility

after Grace Paley

It is the responsibility of the earth to be in motion
it is the responsibility of the woman to remain
alive / it is the responsibility of human nature to

remember &remind / it is the responsibility of the
privileged to take our easy-to-believe asses &say
for fucks / say for fucks / mate / this train is

moving on / this train is moving forward / we will
not go back / we will not go back / we will not go
back / women / two spirit / trans / nb’s / poc

indigenous / neuro-divergent / disabled / we will
not go back / have made strides / &girl / oh man
oh woman alive / oh folks alive / people alive

we have mega strides that remain for justice
but it is the responsibility / before they shoot me
down / before they pull out my organs / before

they search the house of the murdered
before they tie up my limbs / &locs / it is the
responsibility of this poet to cry out &say / we

will surely not go back / man / we will only
move forward in this life / you will not break us
have not broken us / cannot break us / cannot

colonize our souls / our bread / our corn / our
sons / our daughters / our children / &the night
you cannot colonize the moon / tho you can

advertise on spaceships / you cannot win back
our minds / we are awake / we are not going
anywhere / we are wide wide open / &on the side

of right / on this side of justice / we will not
go back to hangers / we will not go back to
hangings / we will not go back to hiding in

attics / we will not go back to picking cotton
to railroad work / to internment camps / we will
not go back to dying in the desert crossing

human-made borders for a better life / we will
not go back to accepting slick stereotypes
centering the comfort of the long-time comforted

we will not go back underground / we will not
go back to pretending we are smaller than we are
we will take up space / we will laugh heartily

we have staying power / we heal / we borrow
you say / this is my world &you are just living
in it / well / buddy-oh / this is our world / too

&we will not go back in the closet / we will not
fall into ourselves &over ourselves to put your
comfort over our lives / you don’t set the

normal anymore / we will not go back to
apologizing for your mistakes / inactions
carelessness / we will not go back to cowering

&sinking so you can prop yourselves up on
our backs / we will not go back to hearing
you take credit for our decency / brightness

compassion / loyalty / jokes / ideas
temperament / bodies / you’re either with us or
you forget yourself / this country is still full of

hope / in a world of female genital mutilation
so-called settlements in the west bank / what
i call / apartheid / sex slavery / colonization

brainwash / child slave labor / censorship
ours is full of hope / always has been full
of hope / &that’s not saying much / but it’s

saying enough where i can hold my head
up high / &say / no matter who is a / judge
there is only our strength / our numbers

our heart / our grace / our legacy / our arc
&it is bending / man / it is bending
judge / it is bending / nb / it is bending

sweet / sweet / woman / we will not
kill / &we will not sleep on freedom
& w e / w i l l / n o t / g o / b a c k

By Zoe Canner

Biography:

Zoe Canner’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Laurel Review, Arcturus of the Chicago Review of Books, Naugatuck River Review, SUSAN / The Journal, Maudlin House, Occulum, Pouch, Matter, Swimming with Elephants, The Birds We Piled Loosely, Chaleur Magazine, Nailed Magazine, Indolent Books’ What Rough Beast, and elsewhere. She lives in Los Angeles where she indulges in hilly walks at dusk when the night-blooming jasmine is at its peak fragrance.

To Proud Boys By Kanchan Naik

To Proud Boys

Your flag is the color of sun-stained backs
drenched in the blood of their brothers,
drowned by the stifling stench of cotton residue,
drizzled in gashes ruptured by men
who looked so much like you.
Your stars were once stitched
from bruised fingers in bare attics,
every thread tamed into fabric
you hoist into a screaming sky.

Perhaps you won’t hear me
over the whistle of pepper spray,
but damn.
I would walk across
this injured American earth
that belongs to its wounds,
And whisper in your ears:
the brown man cries not of the burden on his back,
but because the white man thinks so deeply
of his own.

But alas,
this earth between us,
ablaze in nervous laughter,
laughter at the sightless pride
of a boy.

By Kanchan Naik

This poem is the recipient of a Scholastic Gold National Key.

Biography:

Kanchan Naik is a junior at The Quarry Lane School in Dublin and the Teen Poet Laureate for the City of Pleasanton. When she’s not doodling or writing poetry, she is most likely untangling her earphones or looking for something that happens to be — much like herself — lost.