Bystander By Jeni Prater

Bystander

She couldn’t walk a straight
line stone-cold sober, always tracing
with bright eyes salt-marbled swirls
pressed into sidewalks. And now, strungout
and stringing together lines
in her head, she was
uninterruptible.

The still nights were the most
worrisome. Her evidence rose
above her in streaks — telling,
morphing into
clouds, conspicuous,
untaken.

To let herself be seen, she said,
was to say something.

To hold her was to hold glossy cortisol
sweat; to know where her mind goes
when she reaches for skin
was to watch her slip
through fingers, unreluctantly—
to watch smoke sink into lungs and
beg for a witness to write
it all down.

By Jeni Prater

Biography:

Jeni is a queer sexual violence and disability activist and works at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center on the intersection of these. While she prefers to collect books and elephant trinkets, she has been published in “Of/When,” “Spark,” “Zetetic” and was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize at Wellesley College, her alma mater.

Cleanse By S.A. Khanum

Cleanse

But I go all knees.
Fold like an ironing board.

Become the corner.
Room myself empty of you.

Jut mountains from my side.
& gather clouds in my mouth.

All feels of charcoal & flint.
All feels of wanting to spark.

But here I am
ship-wrecked, water-logged.

Still the river winding through me.
Still the mountain dweller,

climbing.

Down the rocks,
at the centre of me

where the women be beating
their linens,

the dye of their veils
bleeding the water—

I say thirst & they say a well.
I say quenched & they say carry on.

I say holy & they say water.
I say why & there is no answer.

By S.A. Khanum

Biography:

S.A. Khanum is a writer from the UK.

A SONG FOR OUR FATHERS By Chia Amisola

A SONG FOR OUR FATHERS

Imagine: We, gangrel of seventeen, have watched
the culling. Born of mirth, of myth, of void,

like Binondo-husked television sets – static overrun
or gorged out in flesh testimonies under broad daylight.

Reminisce your childhood hearth. Recollect all those
that you had once sown. Relive the names of your

forefathers, a withered daughter of mausoleum-turned
sins. We will dive, headlong, steadfast, into strife the

older had set up. This preamble wrung for us to
learn the value of our false degrees, broken industry,

incorrect skin. The world you loathe is led by white
men a thousand miles away. Torment grows a stranger

in the pickings of your skin, so be it that your mother
wonders why you hold your language second-hand.

Paradigm of distrust is my southbound severance,
letting go is easy. Rite runs from the narcos-smoked

world that had been forced on me. Rite runs from
Imus-donned wry, fun and nuanced with the way

it rolls off my tongue, estranged and intermittent of
my own depravities disavowed by diction. Or religion.

Or belief. Or lovers. Seventeen shall march towards
insolence, cutthroat hell laid as we dare to be again.

Seventeen holds the Rite of Genesis, untrusted sons
and malevolent daughters accosted of dead horizon,

evergreen to cheap brown or dollar culture. Though,
perhaps, we are the open for a reason. Anyway, all

my story is afterthought to your political agenda,
anecdotal brief to digress again. Pronounce rite for

once, my hearth filled me whole.

By Chia Amisola

Biography:

Chia Amisola is seventeen year-old senior, a lover of language be it in the form of poetry or code, hailing from the scorch of Metro Manila.

THE POET FINALLY WRITES A PERIOD POEM, AND IN DOING SO, QUITE LITERALLY PUTS BABY IN THE CORNER By Harper Russet

THE POET FINALLY WRITES A PERIOD POEM, AND IN DOING SO, QUITE
LITERALLY PUTS BABY IN THE CORNER

after Lydia Havens

my body confesses itself to me
through blood. on the sullied cloth
it hisses, “both the moon
and your emptiness tells me
it is time for you to hurt.”

if we are all indeed half of our fathers,
this is the half that mine gave me:
the half that bleeds, the red tantrum
bellowing for a child.

i hate the term birth control.
i call mine everything control,
holding the blood back on a leash
and watching it strain against rope,
white-eyed and rabid.

my body calls it,
everything aches when i don’t get what i want,
and i want something to cradle
that isn’t your gender-melancholy for once.
give me something warm and smiling.
a new heartbeat. i’m bored with yours.
a baby would have a heart as small as a cherry
and yours is so – so big, so loud,
it takes up the whole room
before that mouth of yours
even has a chance.

my body calls it,
i know everything you’re afraid of.
every poem you write, there’s a baby
hiding under the page calling you mama.

there’s your father loving you again,
his praises one big i-told-you-so,
i-knew-you’d-come-around,
i-knew-you-were-my-little-girl-after-all.

there’s me, your own body,
my praises one big i-told-you-so,
i-knew-you’d-come-around,
i-knew-you-were-a-big-girl-after-all.

there’s you carrying something
that needs love
more than you do.

By Harper Russet

Biography:

Harper Russet (she/her or they/them pronouns, interchangeable) is a 24-year-old butch lesbian poet and novelist from Utah. Every poem she writes is an argument with gender, the country, and so many gods. Videos of her work can be found on Write About Now. You can also find Harper on Twitter and Patreon.

Old Times By Deonte Osayande

Old Times

Why did I begin
to like cheese is
a question that is too
easy for me to answer.

Your fried chicken tasted
of ninety six, good times,
gym shorts and Sega Genesis,

my shoes all drawn on and my mom
in the kitchen. It takes me back

to a simpler time, mac & cheese, chicken
and greens, not a care in the world, I was
carefree. No zealots or bigots. No terrorists
or 9/11 or fear, just a young boy, his dinner

getting cold and sonic the hedgehog. Gotta
go faster was his catchphrase but I wish
I could have taken it and rushed back

to these peaceful moments of the past.
Asking me why I’m so fond of these

times, I try to tell myself
he’s a good guy. Growing
up together, played on the same

basketball courts with one another
but I can’t shake the badge, the uniform,
the betrayal, how someday I might just be
another black life to him on the other side

of the gun and he might remember
reasons to punish you. What happens
when that becomes him? When the gun

is pointed at him and he doesn’t have
enough time to pull out his badge
or show his ID. I wonder if black lives

will matter to him then, calling them
rowdy kids looking for something
to protest. Nobody notices how

protesters don’t riot when murderers die,
but when an innocent man is killed instead.

By Deonte Osayande

Biography:

Deonte Osayande is a former track and field sprinter turned writer from Detroit, Mi. He writes nonfiction essays and his poems have been nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology, a Pushcart Prize and published in numerous publications. He has represented Detroit at multiple National Poetry Slam competitions. He’s currently a professor of English at Wayne County Community College, and teaching youth through the Inside Out Detroit Literary Arts Program. His first full collection of poems entitled Class, is now out with Urban Farmhouse Press.

Flower Beds By Chloe Williamson

Flower Beds

I dreamed all summer of lying beneath the wildflowers
Roots like fingertips reaching carefully towards me
I dreamed all summer of soft, cool earth
And the sound of rain running through it
I imagined un-existence abstractly
The way I used to dream of summer air in autumn
Death seemed too harsh a word
I dreamed a softer leaving
I craved a magnolia’s death —
Painless, beautiful, a fragrant falling

I dreamed death beautiful
The sweet smell of a rotting rose
The gentle rest of dew on petal
I dreamed the deep oblivion of old roots
I imagined myself Ophelia in the bathtub
Head resting heavy against the porcelain bottom
I imagined sprays of cherry blossoms at the surface
Branches trapping me there, underwater
Decadent, murderous blooms

I toyed all summer with these fantasies
Played Virginia Woolf dress up
Lined the pockets of my father’s too-big coat with stones
But found the river too fast, too cold
I pulled a leech from my ankle after wading in
It was softer, smaller than I expected
More defenseless, less frightening
I could not bear to kill it

I held the thin skin of a poppy petal between my fingers
Felt its velvet veins illuminate my pulse
I dreamed thunderclaps and hail stones
But woke only to the claustrophobic pounding of my heart
Inescapably, improbably committed to survival

By Chloe Williamson

Biography:

Chloe Williamson graduated from Wellesley College in May of 2016, where she completed an honors creative writing thesis exploring intersections of identity in rural Eastern New Mexico. Her work has previously appeared in The Wellesley Review, El Portal, and the Brushfire Literature and Arts Journal.

Refugee By Lorna Rose

Refugee

You flood your lungs with the ripe stench of fish and bodies and fuel.
The dinghy motor whines against the night.
Salt air grinds your skin ‘til it’s bloodied and threadbare.
You squat: no room to sit since leaving Sabratha.
Your body clenches tight to its bones
and shrill muscles shriek and weep and lock up.
You are trapped inside.
Damp t-shirt clings to goosebumped flesh under a tattered orange life jacket.
But what life?

Next to you a shaking woman holds her boney baby
and cries.
She has shit herself.
Behind you a leathery man mumbles and mumbles for water.
You turn to see his eyes roll hollow
and his mouth slack open.
With each breath your shoulders and chest brush someone else.
You smell the stink of desperation,
the gray rancid smell of rotting humanity.

You see the Italian coastline and your heart speeds up.
Your vision blurs as tears come.
Finish school.
Find work.
Do good.
Live.
Just live.
From somewhere behind there’s a jolt.
Motor goes silent.
From the dark there is yelling.
Then the floor tilts.
And the lights of Lampedusa go black.

By Lorna Rose

Biography:

Lorna Rose writes creative nonfiction and poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in A Quiet Courage, Red Fez, Mothers Always Write, Literary Mama, and others. Her current project is a memoir. Connect with her on Facebook at facebook.com/bigthings2 and on Twitter @LornaARose.