Elegy for the empty we cannot say By Kara Dorris

Elegy for the empty we cannot say

The snow cannot hide
disappointment over the idle
& the dead. & it’s true
we too have nothing to offer
but a soft-wet emptiness
snow already understands.
We let our ditches
become washed-out bridges.
Our road-kill, trophy mirages.
Let gold meridians
& guardrails disintegrate
into breadcrumbs & suggestion.
We mountain weightlessness
into weight, lone into loneliness.
We learn to pull on flak jackets
& silence gracefully
without gracing our skin.
We learn to tread with stealth.
Earrings jangle
like an aftermath of traps.
But still, the snow cannot forgive us
easy captives, fat depressives
lost in surrender. We cannot
forgive each other.
Snow days remind us why
we long to drive into a volcano
or drive-in movie
to forget our weight makes
its own ghost in snow.
We simply cannot give
each other what we need.
It’s not that we don’t know how
but that we refuse
to be someone we are not,
the other refuses too.

By Kara Dorris

Biography:

Kara Dorris earned a PhD in literature and poetry at the University of North Texas where she teaches writing. Her poetry has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Southword, The Tusculum Review, Harpur Palate, Cutbank, Tinderbox, KYSO Flash, The Tulane Review, and Crazyhorse, among others literary journals, as well as the anthology Beauty is a Verb (Cinco Puntos Press, 2011). Her stories have appeared in Wordgathering and the anthology The Right Way to be Crippled and Naked (Cinco Puntos Press, 2016). She has published two chapbooks: Elective Affinities (Dancing Girl Press, 2011) and Night Ride Home (Finishing Line Press, 2012). She is also the editor of Lingerpost, an online poetry journal.

I was Four When My Mother Decided By Donald Paris

I was Four When My Mother Decided

to try kill herself in a Tampa trailer park.
Sand spun around her feet as she called
one of her sisters to let them know she
was leaving me alone to watch her.
She told me how she hated the taste
of charcoal. Some nights, I stare
into the wall at the end of my bed counting
specks in the shadows of street lights wrapping
around my feet, wondering what charcoal
tastes like, how there is no one for me to call,
and thinking about the story my mother
told me where her siblings left her
to die in a snowbank in Syracuse.

By Donald Paris

Biography:

Donald Paris graduated from Queens University of Charlotte’s Creative Writing MFA program. His work has appeared in The Other Journal, Sonic Boom, and Public Pool. He can be followed on Twitter @DonaldParis

Icarus Lessons By kmp

Icarus Lessons

what muse sings for the girl who carries her body
like a vial of graveyard dirt dug out of her own tomb
strung from a chain around her neck?
i. weight is more than mass and gravity

the half empty gallon of milk expires the same day
as her birthday; she’s not sure she has faith either
of them will make it till then, but her grocery list is
just the staples: bread & wine & toothpaste.
she forgoes the first and last.
ii. ginger sprouts between her teeth & she likes it

and she’s got time for her mother and she’s got time for
the sweet old lady who runs the till next to hers and flips
through her coupon book twice to make sure she didn’t
miss anything and she’s got time to indulge her aching
femurs, on occasion; please, don’t ask her to give more
than that
iii. the future stretches forward; more threat than promise

please muses, can’t you spare some stray thought for
icarus born a girl, not lovesick for the sun just desperate
to get her feet off the ground in a world where melted
wax is every daughter’s birthright & her lily bones were
built to crest the waves
iv. still, the fall has always been worth the flight

By kmp

Biography:

kmp is a southern californian poet and aspiring lit major work two jobs to put herself through college. she wants to know everything, feel everything, be everything; she won’t settle for less. kmp has recently had poetry published in The Wall and the Spring edition of Werkloos, “In Limbo,” as well as in her chapbooks “UNBOUND” and “Ask Me a Question//I’ll Write You a Poem.”

I Am Not an Immigrant By Ty Kia

I Am Not an Immigrant

I am not an immigrant.
I do not have the honor.
not to claim that name as my own,
for I am but their child.

for I did not cross oceans as they did.
really, I never had to learn how to swim.
I knew from birth how solid land felt
and never once dealt with the doubt
that comes from knowing there is no earth
to hold you if you fall, no point at which
you are not at the mercy of the waves.

For I did not see traditions as they did.
My eyes were clouded by the conceit of youth,
and teared up at the observation of customs.
They, on the other hand, were steadfast,
expressing full faith in the old traditions,
finding them at times misguided
but never half-baked.

For I did not fight battles as they did.
Never did I bear the burden of adversity.
Nor was I crucified on the cross of low expectations,
hearing through ears muffled by the blood
that trickles from crowns of prejudiced thorns,
“You don’t belong here. Go back where you came from,”
after having come so very far.

For I have not yet come so far,
though I have so far yet to go,
since I was born in this place,
this place where beginnings are born.

By Ty Kia

Biography:

Ty Kia is a high school student growing up, or at least giving the pretense of growing up, in Illinois. A first-generation American of Thai heritage, he seeks to add his own spices to the melting pot and plans to devote his life to studying the cultural implications of entropy.

THINGS I WISH I KNEW AT 17 By Zaynab Quadri

THINGS I WISH I KNEW AT 17

i.
the agony of this is temporary.
you are in the middle right now,
lost in one of those cornfield mazes
with the dirt in your shoes
and the bushes swallowing you whole
and the stars too distant to feel
like comfort, and you keep running
into walls trying to claw your way out–
but i am in a helicopter flying over you,
a picture below me that you cannot see,
and i need you to understand that
the end of this hurt is closer than you think.
and there is such sweetness on the other side.
you may arrive with thorns in your palms
and blood in your mouth, but you will
arrive.

ii.
i know, i know, you have so many questions,
but he is not the answer.
he is not salvation.
he is just a man in a blue sweater
who is trying his best, and
he isn’t enough. he can’t be.
this is the answer:
survival is a waiting game, a game of stealth.
you have to wait, and live, and absorb
enough from the world around you to realize
that the light at the end of the tunnel
was always in the pit of your stomach
where you thought nothing grew.
the light is you,
and when you do survive this,
you will know what everyone else always knew–
that you were worth
the pain of metamorphosis.

iii.
you cannot know how young you are
until you aren’t anymore.
so let this old lady a few years down the line
let you in on something no one thought to tell you
when they were putting you in honors classes
and fawning over how precocious you were:
you don’t know how much you don’t know.
you are so young, so wonderfully and deeply sensitive.
you deserve to be protected,
but you also deserve the truth
about the way things are.
i wish i could wipe the tears from your eyes
and explain it all to you in gentle, easy words.
i wish i could raise you myself as i am now.
i wish, i wish.
but such is the way it is,
when you are seventeen:
nothing i say will make sense to you
until the world has already broken your heart.

iv.
nobody likes themselves at seventeen.
you are still a pie half-baked and lumpy,
bubbling and contorting to a shape
you can’t visualize yet.
i don’t mean to sound like a cliche cat poster, but:
hang in there, baby.
don’t let anything or anyone steal your softness.
don’t take the sins of those who wrong you upon yourself.
don’t treat yourself as the exception to
happiness. forgiveness. joy. vulnerability. compassion.
do take yourself seriously.
do take time to read and talk and learn and grow.
do surprise yourself, on occasion.
and trust your instincts, even when they mumble.
take the leap and post your poetry on the internet,
regardless of its quality— you’ll be astonished
what you will accidentally come to mean to people.
this life is wilder and weirder than you could have ever known at seventeen.

and sometimes—that doesn’t have to be such a bad thing after all.

By Zaynab Quadri

Biography:

Zaynab Quadri is a first-year PhD student in American Studies who dabbles in poetry and fiction whenever she’s not wrestling with research papers. She thanks you for your time.

blue rose with thorns By Jacquese Armstrong

blue rose with thorns

blues
and resilience
brought me forth
among cotton pickers
juke joint regulars’ mason jars
full of hooch
saturday night brawls
and Sunday best pressed
seeking redemption of the soul

among the yahsuhs
and nawsuhs
and “crazy niggers”
who dared to
color in between the lines

among hearts
broken and pasted together
with sweat/dirt tears
that transformed them whole
through a family Love

among the educated
and subdued into
senselessness
living in fear of shadow

among artists
who dared to voice
among artists
who dared to play
among artists
sewing intricate
blood-stained blossomed tapestry of life
and chemists
baking cakes//

among swinging tree
festival sites
of “pick-a-nigger” injustices
by hungry hordes of animated
circus clowns
(and we dare remember the names/lives
of strange fruit with bowed head tears)

amidst the hurting
and the loving
and the leaving

amidst the birth and death
and diaper changing
taking in others wash
to feed hungry mouths
and all the other
stuff
that makes a life//

i came forth.

i?…
i am jazz.

By Jacquese Armstrong

Biography:

Jacquese Armstrong is a writer/poet residing in Central New Jersey. Her chapbook, dance of the shadows, is to be released in June. Her work has been previously published in GFT Presents: One in Four, For Harriet and Black Magnolias Literary Journal among others.

老美 By Sarah Feng

老美

this is what your mother did,
and mine, too, gutting

their dialects like they did fish
in the smoke-province of Zhi Jiang.

the stuff comes away in long,
curling strips. my mother cries

when it happens. yours doesn’t.
in mandarin, the word mi

means secret, and also thick,
dense, but really those are

all the same thing. how can
a secret live without a mountain

of bone glass to burrow in? (you tell me
it can flop around and then asphyxiate.)

*

i am told not to romanticize
the poor in china. still, i write stories

about sinking the cleaver into a fleshy carp.
its skin splitting by the seams.

clouds above, moon swimming.
my mother tells me

this is not how it works, sarah.
we crouch and wait for

our breaths to nose our skin.
bones drier than silt, we spit sweat.

no secrets here, says the girl,
says the woman.

now we thumb them down
our mouths. count stars
on denim on oxford pocket
dictionary.

By Sarah Feng

Biography:

Sarah Feng is 14-year-old Californian, a lover of coffee and dogs, and a steadfast advocate for the Oxford comma. Her works have been recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the California Coastal Commission, the Write the World Novel Writing Prizes, and more, and her writing appears in a handful of literary journals.