Bison Bison, Jigsaw By Daria Uporsky

Bison Bison, Jigsaw

1
The best sleep I ever got
was in the back of that pickup in a prairie.

Tucked into my 1988 Dodge Dakota long bed — a puzzle piece,
belonging surrounded by stars and sagebrush and bison bison
licking road salt from the hubs,

rocking their baby.

2
The truck rolls to a stop. I tumble out,
un-pinch my nose, and let the blood soak into the dirt.
It is late and completely prairie. There is nothing — no water, tissues,
a receipt on the floor.

100 or so, the herd that I do not see—bison bison,
scattered, the loose pieces to a jigsaw of night.

On all fours, I rub my blood-covered palms
into the earth. No one drives by
[thank the stars it is late]
me looking like I tried to kiss
a wild animal.

In the irony, I look up
at one wild eye and the bottom teeth of the wood bison:
magnificent bovine; largest land mammal of N. America

staring down at a despicable me. A prairie

of bison with eyes stretching open in horror, repulsed
by the new member of their pack: she who muddies the clean night
muttering in tongues to herself.

The stars were so bright, and only the sound
of bison teeth slow-chewing dry grass.

3
It is February in my cabin windows. I watch a herd
run down the hills—wild eyes, hooves, horns
emerging and disappearing through the shroud of dust and snow.

Natives—Crow, Blackfoot, Nez Perce, whoever can say
their ancestors ate bison meat before the trains came.

(I imagine a string of cars, oily faces, oiled hair, coal smoke, hot
rails, hot wheels. Bullets land in dust, in babies, in my gut. God’s
magnificent utterances wasted in a state of lust.)

I watch a few collapse to die. Something collapses
in my chest. I try to make a puzzle out of the wreckage:
try to remember how to love everything
not just in bounty—in chaos,
in death, in nothing.

Later, a grandmother in the cab
rolls down her window and hollers that
she [window starts back up] is cold
and to [muffled] hurry.

I ask how many tags they have. “One.”
A teenager laughs in the dark. Montana accent,
“Some Salish tried to say they hunted bison.”

Everyone chuckles. I don’t get it.

A voice from the other side of the pick-up,
“This is the best sleep tha’ bison will ever get.”

Headlamps jump from the truck. I wish them a
safe drive, wave at the bottomed-out bed,

a horn poking up.

4
I learn Salish were salmon hunters.

By Daria Uporsky

Biography

Daria Uporsky is a freelance writer and nature photographer based in Western North Carolina and Montana. She is most recently published in the literary journal Valparaiso Poetry Review.

Eve, Underwater By Maria Llona Garcia

Eve, Underwater

I was old enough,
and large enough,
that the suds
no longer covered
the tops of my knees,
which rose like islands
above the bathwater.

Then my father came
into the bathroom and
in the name of art
took pictures of me
on a small white camera
I have yet to forget
and I felt myself snap.

I was young enough,
that I hadn’t yet
understood what skin
meant, or what
shame was or
that my body could talk and
tell me to cover up.

I learned about
the Fall of Man
when I first saw
my body through
another’s eyes,
trapped in that small
screen and only partly
covered by dirty
bath water, and felt
that I was dirty, too.

By Maria Llona Garcia

Biography

Maria Llona Garcia is a 24 year old Peruvian poet and occasional prose writer. She recently graduated with a degree in English from Skidmore College, where she was awarded their section of the Academy of American Poets Prize. She currently lives in her hometown of Lima, Peru and teaches English while also working as a newsletter editor. This fall she will begin studying for an MFA in Poetry at The New School.

Error Messages Arrive in Batches By Devon Miller-Duggan

Error Messages Arrive in Batches

Neither prayers nor breadcrumbs can smooth scars.
Neither wasps nor tear gas can build your house.
Neither blue light nor breath can fill your lungs.

I read page after page of plague,
the catalog of horrors:
You will not come back as yourself if they have
dropped you into dark where imprecise machines
force oxygen into your lungs, your blood.
No one stopped the whips in unclean hands;
no one took the guns from unclean hands;
no one tore down the butcher-hooks
or solved the knots that grew from trees.

I know the air itself
can lie, and will.
I pray without my hands.
I pray no prayer.
I touch no others’ hands, nor
my own face. The birds-beak masks will protect
no more than etiquette or peace extended to a uniform.

No thing protects you from
what blood of your blood carried into you, or the air, from
your own skin, from bloodlines running
backwards from invaders, colonizers, viruses, or sin,
from their arrivals and their rapes.

The nosegay in my pocket only marks me
as the next machine to kill or die.
The sanitizer for my hands I carry everywhere only marks me
as the next machine to try to live, or not to kill.

They will wind me in a miles-long scarf,
suspend my cocooned, birthless body from a tree
and let the careless sky erase my words,
though wind will turn what once was me—
revolution after revolution—
I will never find the wings to fly toward.
Confession is a razor across gut strings—
music for no one but crows.

By Devon Miller-Duggan

Biography

Devon Miller-Duggan has published poems in Rattle, Margie, The Antioch Review, Gargoyle, Massachusetts Review, and Spillway. She teaches Poetry Writing at the University of Delaware. Her books include Pinning the Bird to the Wall (Tres Chicas Books, 2008), Alphabet Year, (Wipf & Stock, 2017), The Slow Salute, Lithic Press Chapbook Competition Winner, 2018). She also directs the Poets’ Corner Reading Series, a joint project of the English Dept. of UD and St. Thomas’s Episcopal Church in which poets read (mostly) their favorite poems by other poets—a cross between Poetry Outreach and Story Hour for grown-ups

Seething Brains By Rose Ruixi Zhang

Seething Brains

Blue bird, bamboo, bubbling brook.
Fill your chest with scents of wood.
Sunset, soft light, tender night.
Sleep tight—
Something’s not right.
What if—
Something’s not right.
Think.
Think pleasant thoughts.
Thoughts.
Too deep in your thoughts.
Sink.
Sink down in this muddy pond.
Fill your chest with muddy air.
Bubbling.
Bamboo boat made of bamboo shoots.
Float.
Where to—
To the fall.
Fall and you will fall asleep.
Sleepless, long day, endless noon.
Noontime white and blinding.
Firing, burning, burnt.
I’m freezing.
My hair wet and heavy.
Tangled with seaweeds.
Sea waves wreck my bamboo boat made of
Bamboo shoots that fall apart.
Let them fall.
What if—
Let them fall.
Moonshine, sea salt, shimmering sand.
This silence’s heavenly.
Until—

By Rose Ruixi Zhang

Biography

Rose Ruixi Zhang was born and raised in China. She came to the US to study Shakespearean tragedy and psychoanalysis at a women’s college in Massachusetts. She has worked as a librarian, a psychology researcher, and an English teacher. She prefers to write in English, her second language, even though sometimes it takes her two hours to compose one good sentence.

Colors on a Quiet Georgia Street By Isaiah Kye Diaz-Mays

Colors on a Quiet Georgia Street

In Memory of Ahmaud Arbery

A red lynching was held in white daylight.
Absent rope, truant aid. A blue flag waved

above a battle prolonged for eons. Two assailants
exhibited prominent proof of chalky privilege

while boasting blatant fear for Black pigment. The
pavement matched Ahmaud’s skin before his t-shirt

was soaked scarlet. Three silver bullets cancelled his
bloodline, spawning blaring screams of justice across the

world, because a Black boy in a colorless t-shirt jogged
down a quiet Georgia street.

By Isaiah Kye Diaz-Mays

Biography

Isaiah Diaz-Mays is a writer currently enrolled at Dartmouth College with aspirations to be a poet, novelist and screenwriter. Born and raised in Hudson County, New Jersey, his inspirations are James Baldwin, Terrance Hayes, Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou.

Elegy By Cass Coale

Elegy

Deadest friend, you are the Huge Feeling.

This winter we staggered in the snow, more than ever,
and when it melted there was mist – hard as a wall.

On weekends we commuted the smokiest rooms –
leaving without our coats.

You here the way in which a headless deer
can still stare,

in which zero is also a number,
in which, when you are alone, you are with yourself –

wrong – when you are alone there is nothing to you
but the people who know you are alive.

To know you were alive is worse than to know
you are now dead. Any boy who wouldn’t kiss you I hate

and I long to tell you, as if it is something I am longing
to be told, that I knew you.

That everyone who did not love us was wrong.

By Cass Coale

Biography

I’m a student at Kenyon College and an Associate with the Kenyon Review. My poems have been featured in Voicemail Poems and the Glass Kite Anthology.

First Time Mom By Bernadette McComish

First Time Mom

I am not able to press my lips
to his temple, not yet.

His father is a shithead far away
not a partner nor a husband,

not of much consequence.
His mouth can not breathe

into the walkie-talkie of my bellybutton
blow kisses to his son’s temple

whisper to him in Spanish
read him The Little Prince,

sing Mazzy Star, play guitar
like he promised.

My son will have to wait
to be outside,

break out of me before
he can feel his father’s love.

Children aren’t always conceived in love
even if they are loved.

I can’t press my lips
to his temple, not yet.

At least the dog can rest her head
on the temple beneath my skin.

Two heartbeats she hears
and doesn’t question why.

By Bernadette McComish

Biography

Born in a blizzard in NY with the gifts of premonition and manifestation, Bernadette McComish is an educator and fortuneteller. She earned an M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence and an M.A. in TESOL from Hunter College. Her poems have appeared in The Cortland Review, For Women Who Roar, Slipstream, Flypaper Magazine, Peregrine, and a finalist for the New Millennium Writers 41st poetry prize. Her chapbook— The Book of Johns was published in 2018 by Dancing Girls Press, and her second chapbook is forthcoming from Lily Poetry Review in September 2021. She teaches High School in LA, and performs poetry, and produces shows with The Poetry Society of New York making poetry accessible to everyone.

the spaces between knuckles and thighs By Kristine Ma

the spaces between knuckles and thighs

it’s summer and you’re bored so you suggest we skinny dip in the neighbor’s pool.
you jump the fence like you’ve done it a million times, and perhaps you have,
and i swing myself over but my hair snags on the rotting wood fence.
you motion impatiently so i crimson and tug myself free.
leaves long, half-dyed strands streaming like spider banners in the july wind.
the pool sign says keep out but you’ve been barging into places you shouldn’t have
been since we were kids and so you sweep everything off in one motion and dive in.
suddenly, i feel as dizzy as when you snuck us into your mother’s wine cabinet when you were ten.
you tug at the hem of my sleeve with waterlogged fingers, so i pull it off to reveal another layer.
then another. then another, like a russian doll, until i’m left
with skirt and tights pooled around my feet and shivering in lingerie.
you ask me how i survive in this heat, and i feel goosebumps inching up my arms.
i sweep my hair to the front, shiver again when the breeze hits the exposed nape of my neck.
cover myself with my hands as i inch first the lace socks, then the shoes
down my heels and test the waters.
you stare at my naked collarbone until i submerge myself.
your hands work beneath the water,
spinning a tale, until i feel your fingertips brush against my stomach.
it’s no time to be thinking about it surrounded by chlorine and half-dead dragonflies,
but i want something more and i’m not really sure what it is,
because i want to always count my blessings and you give me everything.
pressed up against the brick school wall when everyone’s gone, behind the old pizzeria.
throats exposed and vulnerable and hands around wrists and lips and breath
so glorious and addicting others just might call it religion.
sometimes the moon brings high tides and you kiss me so hard on the beach,
we leave imprints in the sand.
what else is there to want?
perhaps to hold hands; maybe a head on a shoulder—
but how embarrassingly juvenile.

By Kristine Ma

Biography

Kristine Ma is an Asian-American writer and high school junior hailing from Michigan. She received three national gold medals and several other recognitions from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Additionally, her poetry has been recognized by the Young Poets Network and appears in The Hunger and Bridge: The Bluffton University Literary Journal, among others. When she isn’t writing, she can be found playing piano and oboe, watching anime, and dreaming.

The Treehouse By Erin Miller

The Treehouse

She sits there before me cross-legged
in our tree-house sanctuary,
away from the prying eyes of our
conservative, born-again Christian parents.
A girl’s place well-known in these
restricting confines of our known society.
Nearing thirteen but not quite there,
she looks at me,
a miniature Aphrodite,
her blond hair shimmering from
where the sun hits it.
Blue eyes peering into my own hazel green.
Me, a female Ares
unkempt bright auburn hair,
bangs I brush away from my face
with my hand.
She looks at me slightly trembling
If I was a man, I’d kiss you.
We stare at each other not moving,
silent, unsure of what to do next.
The staring contest continues and
we both break eye contact.
Do girls kiss girls?
I put down a Pokémon card and
make the next move in our game.
Our sapphic moment forever in
the back of my mind.

By Erin Miller

Biography

Erin Miller is an artist and a poet. She has an MFA degree from Arcadia University in Creative Writing and has had her art exhibited in numerous galleries such as but not limited to Phoenix Arts Gallery, New York Art Connection, and the Pahrump Valley Museum. Currently, she works as a teacher in the state of Nevada. Her past publishing credits include Daily Star, Lesbian Connection, Poetry and Covid, and Ovenque Siamo.

the circle By Reanna Holmes

the circle

Damp moss under my heels, hands wet and muddy
Sturdy rocks guiding me safely through each step, each leap
Riveting conversations with the trees;
some you have to go up high to talk to
other stories stay rooted to the Earth
Just be kind and ask for consent first.
I know all the pebbles along the trails and in the rivers,
the rapids sing to me as they wash over wounds, healing.
Drink from her and you will know the Truth
A mirror she gives you, you may be confused
Look deeper, she tells you, it’s an inward journey
Feel connected to the Life that surrounds you
Dancing in the rain, heart racing up the mountain
Listen to the sorrows, the triumph, the legacy
Watch the branches in the wind, the clouds rolling over hills
The stars at night, and the silent rise of the morning
and know that you are part of all of this.

By Reanna Holmes

Biography

Reanna is a 23 year old Service Coordinator with their Master’s in Social Work. They have been writing casually since they were in middle school to express themselves emotionally and spiritually. Their passions lie in social justice, decolonization, environmental healing, radical love and change, and queer community. Reanna identifies themselves as a “jack of all trades, master of none” and dabbles in dance, painting/visual art, drag, poetry, music, urban exploring, and more. In their free time they enjoy being in nature and spending time with their partner and furry companions.