Sammi Yamashiro By Sammi Yamashiro

Duffel Bag Girl

It is August 26, 2019: I rush through Naha Airport to board my plane to Narita, then to Houston…

Never was a…
Never was a…

Semifluid coagulation, concealed by an orange rind. 
My hips pocket my pulp
fiction, revolutionized.

What gaudy contents! 

                     Desiccated raisin of a torso;

                     My shoulder, a coat rack, balances the duffel—

                     barely secured on that waxing crescent moon.

                     It is I, bolstering the single ton, 

                                                                        all on my own.

Hush now, fellow passengers: a baptism is in session.  

                                                 Let this be the lesson:

The TSA agents hack
at my dermis with their x-ray gaze.
Performing an exorcism, the deepest cleansing.

Bleach the layers of my cake, clean-cut.
Annihilate my enamel, corner up the blanket
till you expose my nail beds.

You are the colonizers ransacking 
the beniimo fields, hurling molotovs at Shuri Castle.
A fifth time wasn’t good enough?

Underneath my rubble lies the hymns of Heaven.
Hatch out of your egg, my blinding song!
You moths follow the crumbs to my sticky light.

Christ has crossed my heart with His 
scarlet thumb. A message 
bleeds forth: Do not hope to die.

                     Another chance is your fundamental right.

                     So onward, girl!

                     Your neighborhood’s stowed safe 

                     in your duffel bag, in the pocket

                     of your hips.

My shriveled-up Sequoia forests
leap across tectonic plates. Away from this greenhouse mess.

A refugee who will not plead—
a title that fits my fingertips!
This feels illegal. This entrances me.

I shall gladly do time. 

By Sammi Yamashiro

Biography:

Sammi Yamashiro began her poetry journey in high school and has had multiple poems featured in several anthologies (Train River Publishing, Sunday Mornings at the River). She self-published her poetry collection “The Peach Pit Mask”, which reached #1 in New Releases in Asian American Poetry on Amazon Kindle. You can read her writing on Instagram (@sammiyamashiro) or visit her website (sammiyamashiro.com) to find more of her work.

How Pious You Made the Flowers By Alisha Wong

How Pious You Made the Flowers

I can remember when we kept vigil in Eden,
your hands, blighted and vulpine, pressed me into
violets, into baptism. Salvation,
you Sinful soul; Water, you Wilting orchid.
On the third of March, you describe me as
a girl seeking her own undoing. I braid stem
into a crown, a Holy thing, until you called it
Divine.
I’m willing to confess that the zinnias in my garden bed
are overwatered. That you imprint foxglove & cornflower &
nectar onto your body
even after they decay. (What boon of the heavens
would I have asked for if I had known?)
Loneliness bore me a child of moss and ivy.
Watch: you arrange them like lattice across my skin
until they partition my flesh
and all that seeps out is devotion.
You see, I hid thistle in the confessional, licked dew off stained glass
just so you could redeem me. (I would’ve asked for less cruelty.)
I tried to carve myself into your likeness, into your image.
Ritual felt like your lips blessing mine. Does fondness
gleam or burn? I never found out
if mine did.
For years, you watched me sink my teeth into piety,
into girlhood, into something I could never quite own.
And when Death unveiled me, planted me in a coffin
for secular longing, you told the blind,
the mute,
the lame,
the leper
that I was a martyr.
They never saw you upend my body, call your hands
on my neck penance, bury me in peat for renewal.
I had once asked you if you would miss me if I died.
No, you’d still always be here, you replied.
Soil cordons root, allows all the water to soak into vein
without filling its share;
Of course I will, I say. I reach out and follow you into Sky.
Of course I do.

By Alisha Wong

Biography

Alisha Wong is Chinese-American from Minnesota. Her writing has been recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, Waldorf University, and St. Mary’s College among others. Her other works are published or forthcoming, including in The Heritage Review, Up North Lit, and The Phoenix. In her spare time, she enjoys calligraphy, fashion, and black coffee. She will graduate high school in 2022.

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

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 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.

magnolia By Sarah Esmi

magnolia

It wasn’t until the weeks before the birth
that she spirited herself onto the page
whole
and blooming

her mind
a magnolia
dislodged
from between
a few stones
flowing
downstream
towards
a
great
cascade

The baby was born before the fall

so the water
lovingly diverted the ornament to
a long-lost stream that was less loud
but just as strong
brimming beneath
the flower’s underbelly

and wedged the soft star
inside another cluster
of earth,
inside
patches of
moss

where the petals
unfurled
and consoled one another

For a time
she feared the waterfall
ultimate and roaring
would dry up

she listened every morning
for the thunder
of its plummet
to be sure it was still brilliant

it never ceased

And soon enough
the current unhinged the blossom from the quiet 
and propelled it back into the main rush of foam
where it spun like a saucer
into the flow of the froth
dancing and skipping
atop the music of the water
glistening and buoyant
until it reached the edge
of the great plunge

and happily dove
into the effervescence

ephemeral
and free

By Sarah Esmi

Biography

Sarah Esmi is an artist of Iranian descent focusing primarily on experimental and absurdist theatre, collage, movement, and poetry. Sarah began her career as an experimentalist during a Fulbright fellowship in Spain. She has been published in Calyx and the Dime Show Review. She is also the co-founder of counterclaim, a Brooklyn-based production company. By day, Sarah is a practicing attorney, representing the underrepresented in New York courtrooms. www.sarah-e.com, @sarah_______e

Brown By Daphne Hall

Brown

No, moons of honey—dusted with gold.
They sit comfortably behind the
curtain of eyelashes no
man is ever grateful
for.

The constellations across his face,
etch his back,
join at the shoulders,
trickle down his arms
to his finger
tips.

There is a lone star. It rests
on the top of his lip.
My gaze catches
his pull. We
unite.

They connect as if
our love is a telescope,
brushing up against the sky.
I am Galileo, he is
Venus.

Through phases of eccen-
tricity, we everlast.

By Daphne Hall

Biography:

I am an aspiring educator, partial to my cat Gwen, thrive in melodrama and am a recovering Baptist. I am currently attending University of North Florida for my bachelor’s degree in English with a dash of Creative Writing and Social Welfare.

COMBUSTION By Nidhi Agrawal

COMBUSTION

The three letters GOD symbolizes the basic causes of creation; generator, operator, and destroyer. Shiva/Sadashiv/Adiyogi is the third god in the Hindu triumvirate and his role is to destroy the universe to re-create it. He is the destroyer of illusions and imperfections of the world, paving the way for the beneficial change.

Rudra Mantra/ Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra (Incantation)
Verse of the Rigveda

I

Om Trayambakam Yajamahe Sugandhim Pushtivardhanam |
Urvarukmiv Bandhanan Mrityormurchhiya Mamritaam ||

II

The incompleteness of desires
sits in the nest of snakes
Underneath my flesh.
I have chased the wild
Around the world
In the forest
On the ocean beds
In the realms of the tectonic plates
On the hilltop.
He could not be located.
I want him,
Without him, I can’t exist.

III

The consciousness deluge
Beyond time.
Am I in love?
Because I don’t care
What will transpire now!
Or is it lust?
I am shadowing the physiology,
Keeping my third eye latched.

IV

Shiva!
Open the third eye
Consume the fuel of incompleteness
And give off the ashes
I am complete.
Who cares what will happen now?

By Nidhi Agrawal

Biography

Nidhi Agrawal is an Ex- Communication Designer with five years of extensive experience across media, entertainment and design space.

Nidhi believes that poetry is powerful and it defines the richness and diversity of mankind. Her works have been published in South Asian Today, Indian Periodical, Ariel Chart, Life In 10 Minutes Press, Spill Words Press and are scheduled to go live on Muse India and Setu Journal, her story has been accepted by Women for One and Women’s Web.

Her achievement in National Institute of Fashion Technology’s entrance 2013 has been recognised by The Telegraph, Jagran Media and Radio Mirchi. Along with, she was also bestowed with the prestigious title of Inspiring Alumni of the decade and Society’s pride in the education sector by her school in 2019.

She strongly believes that poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder; a tool that keeps her going in life and is driven by her intense physical and emotional trauma encountered through her medical condition.

Ohio By Grace Stalley

Ohio

A green plot squared
off diamond shaped
island of mapped land
hit me like a home run
summer shakes hands
I solemnly swear
supper sings
in the cicadas
sameness lies on the windowsill
simple sounds
solid streets
the purring of pets
sitting pretty, positioned
like a potted plant
it was painstaking
to pull up roots
yet out across Lake Eerie
I see a suspicious shape
hopeful and haloed
a lighthouse hangs like home!

By Grace Stalley

Biography

Grace Stalley is a resident of Brooklyn, NY and works as a writer’s assistant in the television industry. She is fascinated by the divide of cultures represented by each region of the U.S. and how those cultures inform one’s perspective. At the age of two, Grace was adopted from China. She grew up in a small suburb outside of Tampa, FL where her family still resides, in addition to Ohio.

Ghost By Lauren Folk

Ghost

The ghost
befriends the neighborhood dogs and
chatters at the fat squirrels
who forget where they buried
their fourth or eighteenth or forty-third acorn last fall.
Those lost acorns might grow eventually,
unfurling
the broad greenery of their
upside-down skirts
into the sky.

The ghost is where she was,
where she used to be.

The neighbors grow their zucchini and yellow squash
and beans
and whisper when they think she’s gone.
She knows her lingering disturbs the rest of them—
the husbands and wives
and their children and their Golden Retrievers.
Their curiosity simmers and bubbles,
popping up like mushrooms behind her
on her daily walk in the shade of the black gum and the wych elm.
The murmured questions do not trouble her.
She cannot answer them anyway.

She is mostly happy.
As was her life before, so is her afterlife:
Each night, contentment slips into bed
next to her like a
lover;
peace and quiet pace her halls,
admitting no unrest, no indecision,
no unruly disappointment.

Often, instead of sleeping, she will visit the river.
Some children who are now grown
built a raft out of old wooden pallets and inner tubes.
It idles in the bend of a narrow channel.
Its makers are long ago and far away,
and now it belongs to her.
On warm summer evenings,
after sunset but before moonrise,
when the fireflies
blink their romance into the gloaming,
she pulls away the vines
that have crept over the wood
and sails the waters in her little bark,
one hand drifting in the current,
one hand raised to brush the leaves of the willow tree and the dogwood
as she passes silently below.

By Lauren Folk

Biography:

Lauren Folk (she/her) is a freelance editor, writer, and photographer. She graduated from Smith College and is currently earning her MA in English from The University of Akron.