Serotiny By Rachel Egly


I stand tall under the operating room lighting
of my father’s kitchen. Laid out as I am with
skin sterilized and cut back,
nerves and organs exposed, I tell him
I am bi.

I can smell our dinner beginning to burn.
He stands at the stove with his back to me and tells me
it will pass.

Do mountains come to pass?

I understand mountains.
Although their spines are strong,
they have been molded, smoothed;
caressed as they are by water
for millions of years.
Their worn-in bodies become homes
for so many animals, plants, trees.

I read once about a kind of pinecone that will
only grow after it has been
set on fire
Serotinous, they are called.
High in the same mountains, their parent trees
wait for wildfires to sacrifice themselves
for their seedlings.

I stand tall at your side, finally
playing myself in this grand opera.
Say I’m no longer acting.
Say the stage is on fire and I can feel
the wild heat of it,
can hear its lyric burning,
but I do not shy away like a frightened animal;
Instead, I take your hand and sing along
while the flames finally find me.



Rachel Egly is a bi poet, engineer, and ecologist in love with all things water. Her work has previously appeared in Words Dance and Ghost City Review and is forthcoming in Vagabond City. She currently lives in Chicago with her partner and cat, where she catches crayfish, naps as much as possible, and spends most of her money on good food.

I sing of black boys, brown boys, sweet boys By Ernest Ogunyemi

I sing of black boys, brown boys, sweet boys

—after Jussie Smollett

I make no apologies for the colour of my skin,
what I wear on my bones is not a plea. though
you call my body a dark house, unfitting for the light.
the song in my throat is not a request for your hate,
the flowers I grow on the earth inside me is not a debate with you.

I ask when it stops being sin for black boys
to be seen, when the time ripens enough for coloured boys
to walk the streets of America and not be walled,
and not be raised, and not be questioned, and not
be touched till touching itself becomes a synonym for

burning. I ask when the black, brown and red
blood of coloured martyrs becomes a bright-enough sign
on our doorposts to make the angels of death pass over.

but until then I sing.

I sing of black boys, brown boys, sweet boys.
I sing of boys who, though stretched and thorned
on all ends, though broken like slashed water, have
forged themselves a voice from the language of fear.
I sing of boys who like god, boys—gods, have
painted themselves into a rainbow in the sky,
this sky, you call it your sky,
to remind you that we are here, that
your hands around the neck of our voices is
not enough to tie our tongues, that
your palms slapping fire into our bones is
not death, it is a request for our singing.

 By Ernest Ogunyemi


Ernest Ogunyemi is an eighteen year-old writer from Nigeria. His stories and poems have appeared in Kalahari, Acumen UK, Litro UK, Literally Stories, The Rising Phoenix, and many more. His story was recently featured in Erotic Africa: The Sex Anthology, published by Brittle Paper, and he was recently selected to participate in the Goethe-Institute Afro Young Adult workshop. He has a short story collection and novel in progress.




My body bears the
magic of a mirror. I mean to

say I reflect on an old age of
what burns in places spooned with
fresh pictures and grief.

the day crawls into my nails
in motion of dust. A velocity of

ruins wearing my body well.                      Night

falls like an empty room’s echo

on my palm and that’s the beginning of
darkness     wearing a shoe into

my veins.                              At times, nights buckle our faces with fear and

a touch of water.                                                         do not run

                     is a little boy’s body

writing smoke on silent songs wringing the

wind into a remembrance of impartial wreckage.

I         won’t          run

for my legs still hold the distance between two rivers
walking my body with pictures and new razors.           

By Mesioye Johnson


Mesioye Johnson is a bird of many colors who writes to heal his darkness and the world around his waist. His works are featured or forthcoming in African Writer, Eunoia review, Sub-Saharan magazine and somewhere else. He is @mesioyejohnson on Twitter

sickle cell By Amanda Huang

sickle cell


this estuary is far from a haven
rather, i wade in the depths of
a tumid womb, the collision point
of tangled veins carrying
brackish water. the shrimp
clump together in the brine,
millions of thin crescents that
drift as red bodies


you haven’t grown
for however long we’ve
known each other. every year
the other kids ask how you got
out of the mile run in PE, how
you got your parents
to let you skip so much school.
you say the truth
just breathing makes you feel
like everything has gone into
disarray and every aching fiber
is curdling

one kid asks how
he can fake those symptoms too


dig shrimp from the water.
hold them to the sun and watch
their bodies wither, light
filtering through each of their
callow appendages and i
cannot help but think how odd it is
to hold a life in your hands, how
odd it is that something
could be so fragile

when we come over for brunch
your mother takes the tulips from
the dining table and throws them
in the closet. you never told us
that flowers had been coming for weeks


i wonder if there are enough
estuary shrimp to blockade
an entire vein. the brackish water
would still and fester


you keep saying that you live
as a murmur in the midst of static,
that your life is not made of sound but
the product of echoes in space.
besides that you don’t
talk much anymore


your family’s never
had a faith but now you’re devout


the shrimp keep drifting in,
they keep gathering.
they swallow up space within
your aching veins and the
water has started to stagnate.
we can only hold so many
in our palms but we will try


this estuary is far from a haven
but you are treading water

By Amanda Huang

Amanda Huang is a junior at Millburn High School, where she is a senior editor of her school’s literary magazine. Her work has been nationally recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and JustPoetry, and has been published in TeenInk and in the Word magazine.

life raft By Elisabeth Horan

life raft

mantra is I come to you
as the sun makes love

as the moon pocked n broke
turns the oceans over over

despite bad news – she gets up
every damn day – makes

amends with reefs
so bleached she sees

her bones as fish —
chalk coral – boats — metal teeth

blue green algae: the
brown shit bloom

again again she
holds her nose

her stomach
a giant sucking clam —

sharks, fin-less —
three men cracked the shell at midnight

mantra is — I am treading water
breathing in and out — I am writing you —

poems in n out of my gut
in wish n sparkling

mirrors… you say – I see your light, Liz
& it doesn’t blind you

it makes you love me
more more; more like Sylvia loved

the idea of gas — the idea, of death — I am
a woman of forty-three
and never more than the light
makes the ocean real

I come up for air — it smells so good
like you,

I do it so i feel like a man –
i do it so i reek of creating;

mantra is — survival
no thanks to God

human waste is
so disappointing

and I am
not rowing anywhere but

into your
body n mind n hands

clean me over over,
until I say

I’m home — and
read no bible

By Elisabeth Horan

Reflections in Kermanshah By Nazanin Soghrati

Reflections in Kermanshah

the sky yawns us into existence
spits the lonely image of our crumbling bodies
onto the barren desserts of Kermanshah
we are huddling forward towards some unnameable future
me and my mother, my mother and i
hand in hand, awaiting our past to come and grapple us by the throat
uncertainty lurking underneath the thick of our skin
we are waiting to shed our history like eyelashes,
small and forgetful pieces blown into non existence by the wind.
but there’s a rawness that brews within,
that spills over the samovar gurgling tea
there are memories blooming stellate and hungry across our flesh.
there is a past, a revolution threatening to shatter open our ribs
we storm ourselves into forgetting.
sew our bodies into the sea.
thread silence into our wounds.
it’s so easy to slick the mind into forgetting.
but the heart — it shakes and whimpers, spins the world out of axis,
growling and hungry.
we are two bodies cocooned by the middle-eastern sun
stripped to the bone by a past and an unforeseeable future.
hand in hand. waiting.

By Nazanin Soghrati


Nazanin Soghrati is a 16-year-old high school student from Toronto, Ontario.

First Boyfriend By Nia KB

First Boyfriend

A senior walked me to freshman English then pressed his pretty

boy lips on mine. For the first time I felt, beneath his acne-free face and

crest-whitened teeth; a reminder of my vitality. When we first started dating, I

doubted he’d fancy my scarred, ashy knees and beast-like method of

eating, but his light brown eyes sparkled no matter how improper and

foolish I appeared to me. For fun, I tamed his matted braids with my cheap, flaky

gel after school, and to my surprise, we were a happy couple. On awfully

humid afternoons after lunch in his little blue car, he looked away when

I needed to change out of my undershirt. He wasn’t threatened by my

jolts when he kissed my neck, or my unhealthy obsession with

knowing everything about him. His last name started to sound good

lying in front of a hyphen next to mine. For some time, our age difference didn’t

matter until the day we went to his house to play video games. He decided

now was a good time to touch me there, slow and with sensual purpose, I

opened my mouth to utter the words “no”, and his soft, heavy hands applied

pressure to my neck long enough to frighten me into scratching him bloody. He uttered

quietly, “sorry”, and I stood, without words remembered or left in the drying

river of my psyche. I sprinted out the door to the nearest secluded stop

sign and let the lonesome helplessness escape through the strength of my

tears. I got a friend to take me to school the next day, and the sweet face I

used to know looked smeared with regret and sorrow — a feeling I erase with

vacuity. He tried to friend me on facebook, and I saw he had three children with

women one or two years younger than me. For a while I hovered around the gray

“X”, wondering whether he’d know if I blocked him. “Some niggas will always be

youthful” I whisper to myself, yet I can’t help but wonder if those

zig-zag braids still stink of gel, and those hands still look like lions clawed them.

By Nia KB


Nia KB (they/them) is a Black queer nonbinary poet, editor, and educator. They are the recipient of fellowships and residencies from Lambda Literary, The Speakeasy Project, and UTSA’s African American Literatures and Cultures Institute. Their poetry appears or is forthcoming in Eleven40Seven, Z Publishing, Pamplemousse, Brown State of Mind, Lighthouse Literary, and elsewhere. When they’re not blessing stages or writing pages, they serve as Associate Poetry Editor for Fields Magazine, Production Assistant for the web series Gentrified, Curator/Host of the reading series Austin Interfaces, and Teaching Artist for Austin Library Foundation’s Badgerdog Creative Writing Program. If you got this far, they think you should follow them on twitter and instagram at nia_kb.