Funeral in a Time of Plague By Devon Miller-Duggan

Funeral in a Time of Plague

I sat shiva with blocks of faces on a screen.
We were a poster presentation of sorrow,
a rubbing-raw away from touch.
None of us could say we’d been.
The dead had been. We were a gallery.

No earth in our hands before the sitting, not-sitting,
no shovels of earth pouring the comforter of earth
upon the dead. No pebbles sing their song of here.

We said the names of the dead, as though we were
a gridded sieve to catch the gleanings from a tel.

Our patchwork of faces and sorrow, faces together in rows
like cards on a table without fortune or predictions, only
face up, next face, next face, and words
as the layering of soil, shovel after shovel, to lay a body down
to rest.
See my square, which is my own stone. Here.

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

A Star is Born in Plainfield By Tylie Shider

A Star is Born in Plainfield

A sonnet for Dii Jon Allen-Jordan

Look. Listen! God told me I am the light
Said the roses in a crack of concrete
Said the mileage on his feet on the court
Said his darting eyes from city to coast

Light like me circles the earth and returns
Said the pothole which cradles the water
Said the world under the ocean seafloor:
I may deepen but I will not be moved

I am the light above and beneath us
I am the thin space between you and me
I am the pulsating fists in the air,
And the air which the fists are pulsating

I am the heart which will always love you
I am the cloud which falls on us as rain

By Tylie Shider

Biography

Poet, playwright, and filmmaker Tylie Shider’s recent plays include Certain Aspects of Conflict in the Negro Family (Premiere Stages, 2022), and The Gospel Woman (NBT). He is a two-time recipient of the Jerome Fellowship at the Playwrights’ Center and an I Am Soul playwright in residence at the National Black Theatre(NBT). He holds a BA in Journalism from Delaware State University and an MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU. A proud member of the Dramatist Guild, he is currently a Professor of Playwriting at Augsburg University.

SUMMER LOVE By Bryan Joe Okwesili

SUMMER LOVE

This is how a heart breaks twice,
this feeling of being utterly lost.
-Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

5.
Try to breathe. Again.
Then, find yourself.

4.
Smash the camera against the wall.
Regret nothing but its silver frame, the colour
of the sky when you first kissed him in Rio
behind erect dreadlocked palms.
Before your mirror, pule your eyelids to the sides.
You know you are lost.

3.
He is smiling in your camera.
You are smiling beside him.
Two men exchanging their hearts in
a flash of whiteness.
See, love is solely made for pictures.

2.
Recall the absence in your bed.
The smoothened space where he once buried you
and took your name under the moon.
Take the thought of his moans in your hands,
his waist searching for fire in your body.
Feel the flames fill your loins.
Feel yourself longing to burn. Again.

1.
Reread his text, slowly, cold in uncertainty.
In your head, erase the words ‘sorry’ and ‘love’.
Do not say it is a semiformal letter until you bath
and can’t recall where he tattooed his lust.
It is how to feign baptism; to be anew in thought.

By Bryan Joe Okwesili

Biography

Bryan Joe Okwesili is a queer Nigerian storyteller and poet keen on telling diverse African queer stories. He is a 2020 Pushcart norminee (SmokeLong Quarterly). His works appear and are forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly, SLICE mag, Shift Mag, Foglifter Press, Brittle Paper, Praxis Magazine, Afritondo, Ghost City Press, Cypress, Shallow Tales Review, Lunaris, Kalahari Review, and elsewere. He is currently a student of Law at the University of Calabar.

How Can I Tell You? By Ulrich Zachau

How Can I Tell You?

You hear me sing the Queen of the Night;
dark streets become my opera house.
Golden boy, angelic face,
Brilliant crystal voice, sky high.

When bullies beat me down, can you hear
my choir boy howls? Who wipes my tears?
Body screams! Torn pants spill red.
Real boys do cry! I sob.

You feel my touch on ivory keys
coax bliss from Chopin’s Funeral March.
Blue eyed, melancholy boy:
tender hands strike iris chords.

When homophobes hurl taunts, can you feel
their vicious scum stick? Who hugs me tight?
Faggot boy! Gay-bashing kills.
Muck black fingers play my grief.

You taste my thirst of youth. Growing up
is bittersweet, dark chocolate chips.
Mountain boy climbs sunny peaks.
Clouds send leaden feet downhill.

When machos call me fag, can you taste
the poison? Who cures not me, but them?
Boy, what boy? Check: boys are straight!
Brains, pink yearnings: Hide them well!

You smell the lilac blossoms I’ve picked.
I hunt the globe for beauteous things.
Flower boy. Matisse, Miró,
Kahlo cobalt for my soul.

When former friends heap scorn, can you smell
their acrid contempt? Who shares my joy?
Lonesome boy – must fight – gray mood.
Pals are scarce. My spirits flag.

You’ll see me shine in triumph one day:
when sun meets rain, my bow will be drawn!
Boy in paradise. Love paints
life with gorgeous colors there.

When silence shouts my name, can you see
my heart? Hear it beat the truth? You can!
Grateful boy. My world is whole.
It gets better every day.

By Ulrich Zachau

Biography

Ulrich Zachau has worked in international development on six continents for more than three decades. He enjoys writing, plays the piano, cares about education and LGBT+ inclusion, and likes blueberries and penguins. Originally German, he has family in Asia, Europe, and the US and is currently on his way from Bogotá to Munich and Bangkok.

Aubade with Paint Fumes By Sophia Liu

Aubade with Paint Fumes

I sleep in your room tonight because they are
painting outside. They perch on wooden planks and

wash over our eggshell wall with a new layer of white.

Ma insists that the formaldehyde will somehow kill me,
as if this new air hasn’t years ago.

There is something to it—the bed frame pushed adjacent to
the wall, the orange moon flickering along the stem of your

glass lamp, the heater chorusing like your thumping heart,
the linen drapes that smell of the boy you used to be.

While placing bowls in the dishwasher, you once told me how we
tore down our crumbed walls, how we spend extra hours shoveling snow,

how you walk at night unafraid & alone.

You call this opulence; I call it leaving.
I call it loss.

You’re on the playground,
balancing on the unstable stepping stumps—

still bespectacled, still wearing a grandma-knitted cardigan. You had
forgotten today’s banana in your backpack, browning the baby blue.

You’d let us wash our feet in the same chipped plastic bowl;
our dirt swimming into one, our bodies fitting into one another.

Paint clumps and cracking, its drips leave a trace

along the wall like a dried tear down your scaled skin,
only to be recoated, then recoated.

The first time we fell in love we didn’t know it; or:

the first time I fell in love it framed me
a painting too Daliesque, too sun-drunk, I ran,

I ran towards the white daylight,
the pirouetting spheres,

I ran and woke up.

By Sophia Liu

Biography:

Sophia Liu lives in New York. Her poems and art appear or are forthcoming in the Perch, Storm Cellar, the Ekphrastic Review, Whispering Prairie Press, Underblong, opia, and elsewhere. She has been recognized by the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the National Council of Teachers of English, Smith College, and Hollins University. She volunteers as a teacher for the Princeton Learning Experience and wants a pet cat.

Dayenu By J. C. Pucci

Dayenu

And then we realized
their memories were not blessings
but the ancient curse:
and you shall multiply
like the stars in heaven
and the sands on the earth,
shunned and stepped upon
How Avraham had misheard:
the hope of otherwise had covered
his ears.

This was how we met the end:
without undue rush or pride
a song of ascents, we went on crooning
in the very moment when we could be no lower.

Some spoke of simple things —
ineffable and complete
like the strength of wanderers
and poets. Others
mouthed wordless fears of
immortality undone.

Mere existence was our battle cry,
short and sweet little lives
like spots of honey we sat
observing everything, acting mostly
and in this way
we went on counting stars as if of shared fate
of some perpetual life.

That we would burn away, too
like the stars in heaven
that we would be swept away, also
like the sands of the earth
this we ignored in tremendous oblivion.

And then we realized
their memories were not blessings
but not quite a curse
and so we pretended that the stars would go on forever
and the sands would be a constant on earth
and that this world was mutable
and it was more mutable than us.
and this became our blessing
and for a moment, at least,
it was enough.

By J. C. Pucci

Biography

J. C. Pucci is a poet, teacher, musician, and accomplished daydreamer. She received her Ph.D. in Italian language & literature from Yale University where she also teaches Italian translation.

How Two Find a Wound Nonexistent By Isaiah Diaz-Mays

How Two Find a Wound Nonexistent

I’d be open to surgery if I believed
the problem was solvable, but learning you
inside and out taught me that all solutions are

nonexistent,

similar to how our bond became a festered flower which
floated off into the night after that argument on your balcony
when you cursed me to hell and told me I’m just like my father,

a wound

you love to strike and slice every time the organ hidden deep
within your chest gets shattered, pieces you use to carve me up
then somehow

find

a way to bury me every time you check my phone and see her name appear
across the screen you cut deep, deeper than the distance I dig between your

two

thighs every time I go over, and as we fuck, you spit out words filthier than the mud your friends drag my name across in vain as they watch the boomerang bang us both across the head since I love you unconditionally and you love me twice as much, even when the conditions are most sickening. Leaving those who can’t comprehend, questioning

how?

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.

Speech Delay By Erin Miller

Speech Delay

Playing pogs all day
kindergarten classroom bliss
no words from my lips
classroom goes outside to play
bullied for my lack of speech

Speech therapists come
to our house in Springtime
try to make me speak
therapists finally leave
I look at parents and speak

School, I use my voice
teacher is surprised to hear
classmates still make fun
now I’m the class clown
teacher labels special ed

It will be long years
before the mistake is fixed
I just enter the next class
fall asleep, easy to pass
wasting time until freedom

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.

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.