Mom By Luiza Louback

Mom

Sweaty fingertips color my skin
mixture cafunés in my hair,

drag affection through my fiber threads.
My stare reflects in my mother’s gaze,

eye-to-eye I see myself in her. I look at the
years gaping mountains carving through her face.

Glimpsing the mangled spinal cord of ancestry,
I crawl in my mother’s back. Reviving the

sugared tangerine taste of childhood
I hug tightly the body that gave me life,

eggshell white lines through her living home.
Our hands clasp with the bond beyond this realm

I baptize my flesh with her scent, touch the
silent trace of my identity in yellowed smile,

vibrant red lips, and flowered dress.
Folded for too long, the crumples are still

visible in the delicate paths around her eyes.
With the surface of my nails, I unearth lost stories,

an immortal past I kiss with dry lips.
The hummingbird in her chest refuses to die,

even after her face became hardened with tropical sun,
my mother still possesses a furious racing heart

that speaks with mason jar honey voice,
holds me up to the sticky sun

letting me taste the dawning of the universe
and the bittersweet coated air.

By Luiza Louback

Biography

Luiza Louback is a Latin-American, Brazilian emerging writer, and high schooler. Her work has appeared in national anthologies and has been recognized by the NY Times Summer Academy. When she is not writing, she teaches English to low-income students and advocates for literary accessibility in Latin America.

letter to a first & cleanest love By Nicole Knorr

letter to a first & cleanest love

reaching for your wrist
bird feather, still

every grain of roof
felt; we wanted to

how exciting it was
the warm of you

day & limitless day
scent of summer
so something
i know—
__

oh mango thrown!
ripe, first smile
chased down drive-
ways, helmet free,
spun sugar ice
held us

raptured water
saw us break
stillness; fill it
with our
sunniest shine

time adorned in
laughter, eternal
girls in their world

of trampoline
springs spent
letters sent to love
we thought missing.

purple’s hue brings
me closer to you

sing green, my oldest
friend; see a leaf—

see a leaf, see a sun
mark its way through;
its prettiest hue results
in me and you

wonder is a god
admired, learned
from your church

dress a ladybug
landed on—you
almost sent her away.
i don’t know that
she wanted to stay,
but i said:
keep her,
a moment,
a day,
in a box
so purple

& we learned a first love
is not your love to keep

our last nights
spent in the back
of a mother’s car

we walked
in light, glow
something so
close. tastable

coming home to you: my
neighbor my sister i loved
to pull your hair and braid it

oldest longing, felt

in my throat where
the word why exists
see it dip down
reaching still—

still, my bare feet on your porch knocking
knocking knocking wanting to come inside
so badly & see my beautiful friend.

By Nicole Knorr

title borrowed from a line in Danez Smith’s poem “how many of us have them?”

Biography:

I am a composer, pianist, and vocalist based in Jacksonville, Florida. As a composer, I specialize in vocal music and setting poetry. Currently, I’m working towards undergraduate degrees in both Piano and Vocal Performance at the University of North Florida. My affection for poetry runs deep; poetry has become synonymous with music itself, in my eyes.

cancún By Leila Jackson

cancún

there was a cough and of course he reeks of death

his name a painted curse         in my mouth

i used to sit here          watch the water           as the sun met itself

a boy i thought i knew            spun me in his oversized jacket

and whispered in my ear

                                                one day, i promise

we used to dream we’d leave this wretched place

go somewhere where birds painted    lotuses into the sky

somewhere ours

i convinced myself there was no end             between his fingers and my spine

there was a cough       or maybe it was a cry

and of course the air reeks of sunsets             of promises not kept

easy to brush it off      my back against the wooden floor of the boat

his mouth spinning the curve of my vertebrae

easy to think this is what you want

when an oversize varsity jacket          seems to fill a hole you didn’t think you had

when empty whispers             seem to swell

                                                                        and take flight

By Leila Jackson

Biography

Leila Jackson is a junior at Georgetown Day high school in DC. She has received several regional awards for her work. In her free time, she enjoys poetry and boba tea.

Did You Bring the Backpack? By Anna Šverclová

DID YOU BRING THE BACKPACK?

The rules go: whoever brings the backpack
does the fucking.

Learn               back.

Learn               pack.

Learn               strap.

Learn armpit hair. Learn tongue ring.
Learn nail file. Learn bullet vibrator.
Learn nipple ring.

Learn labia majora/minora/clit/hood/taint/asshole.

Learn a haircut. Button-downs in every color.
Learn how to poke your own belt holes
wire-wrap a rock earring.

Learn               direction.
top,
bottom,
switch.

Learn softer.
Learn eye contact.
Learn 2, 3, 4 fingers.

Learn backpack. Learn how we never call it
bookbag or sex bag.

Learn to go back home.

Learn conservative Sunday clothes.

Learn 1 Corinthians 6:9

John 3:16

Leviticus 18:2

Learn normal.

Relearn normal.

Relearn shaved armpits stiletto fingernails JCPenny’s salerack

modest lip colors like beige and champagne

acoustic guitar Bob Dylan Luke Bryan Toby Keith Tim Mcgraw

Learn hair tie.
French-braid.
Fresh shave.

Learn bookbag.
Relearn normal.
Fake normal.
Real fake normal.
Real, fake dyke normal.

By Anna Šverclová

Biography

Anna Šverclová (they/them) is a totally queer sophomore director of Macalester College’s slam poetry team, MacSlams. They were born and raised in the Twin Cities suburbs and they cry whenever it snows. Over the years, they have become an expert in layering. Their secret? A journal compliments every outfit.

the wild(ish) side By Rachel Whitesell

the wild(ish) side

jackie’s still there with red cotton candy hair
ripped stockings and glitter lipstick
she can pen plays that deserve a fare
but she can’t avoid the other needle’s trick

candy’s here too, waltzin through corners
foolin men into thinkin she’s theirs
blonde and pale, the best kind of foreigner
always remembers to feed foolish stares

joes round here tend to come and go
since they aren’t seen as chicks with dicks
yet their commendable hustle is paid with snow
and men still feel they’re crossin the river styx

we can’t skip holly, the original pioneer
the first person to say cunt in cinema
lookin for hot meals was the start of her career
now all her accolades could fit in a Woodlawn basilica

and the missing posters go
doo, doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo-doo
doo, doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo-doo
doo, doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo-doo
doo, doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo-doo

Can you hear it?

By Rachel Whitesell

Biography:

I am a cartoon lover, coffee enthusiast, and mother to my “fluffy” cat, Baby Kitty. I am an English major at the University of North Florida, working towards my bachelor’s degree. I am also a writing tutor at the University of North Florida’s Writing Center. So, my days are usually spent looking at my writing or someone else’s. My poem “Guanyin” was awarded runner-up in poetry for the Amy Wainwright Award for Creative Writing in 2021.

Winter Mornings Like These By Sarah Esmi

Winter Mornings Like These

winter mornings like these
in the Bushwick duplex

I have a hard time distinguishing
the howl of the raw wind
that rattles the apartment door
and coos underneath the slats

from my husband’s humming
low and meticulous
as he scrambles our eggs
and empties the dishwasher

the music of these
moaning and sacred spirits

stirs me from sleep
so that I may start my days
with the simple, vital art
of listening mindfully

as I descend the stairs
to meet the early bustling of the world
and to gently unravel
in the warm voice of my beloved

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


To a butterfly in my DM By Olabisi Akinwale

To a butterfly in my DM

there are many reasons
our love thrives in the dark.
there’s nowhere safe to tame the
smoke on a lover’s skin without a hand
forgetting music in your throat.
I mean, to say the word love,
look over your shoulder for salvation
or throw a whisper in water & bend towards
its ripple to lodge your touch in a bone.
there are only a few things the world knows
about love, but know enough to call
a boy living in another boy’s heart a taboo,
something unethical like the dark side of God’s art.
so, when you said you love me & your words
slips off your mouth like a prayer
seeking room to breathe bubbles,
I do not want to bite dust or imagine
the fate of a tale lying still in the dark,
because our love is a bird restricted from daylight
like a sin hidden from sun rays to be sane.
I’m sorry, I do not want to die.
I do not want to hold your hand
& be mobbed to a memory in pool of blood.
even with fetters you can never stop the world
from screwing her rage to our veins
because she does not know how to embrace
the beauty of a butterfly unhidden in a hue.

By Olabisi Akinwale

Biography

Olabisi Abiodun Akinwale is a Nigerian Poet & Writer, an explorer of grief, silence, beauty, loss & everything artful that meets the eye. A Best of the net Nominee, Best Student Poet- Federal University Lafia 2017, first runner up- Poets in Nigeria (PIN) poetically written prose contest 2020 among others. His works have appeared and forthcoming on Rising Phoenix, Split Lip Magazine, Kalahari Review, Agbowo, Praxis Magazine, Tuck Magazine, Lunaris Review, ACEworld, Nigerian NewsDirect and elsewhere.

Iola By Dee Allen

Iola

 For Michelle Duster, great-granddaughter of Ida B. Wells-Barnett

Pages of the Living Way
Newspaper, which reached readers
Every week, was how the public
Saw eloquent words and met

Her, Iola

Told many of her harrowing tale
Of injustice turned resistance:
Boarded a steam train for work, Nashville bound,
First class seat taken, comfy ride for

Her, Iola

The White conductor disapproved,
Did his damnest to remove
Consign to a smoky, crowded
“Coloured only” car, disregard for

Her, Iola

Promptly answered him with her teeth,
Fastened onto pale hand, bitten deep,
White passengers cheered as she was dragged out—
This episode wasn’t over for

Her, Iola

Contested the egregious matter in court
Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, her opponents
The judge awarded $500 in damages
Soon to be lost, company appeal against

Her, Iola

It was the sudden shooting of three
Successful Black grocers, all good friends, because
Southern White businessmen despised competition,
That brought that schoolteacher to her typewriter, motivation for

Her, Iola

Shone truth’s light on ghastly wrongs
Between the Evening Star & Free Speech
Until hatred’s fire was set to her printing press
Added stress on the journalistic princess, Memphis off-limits to

Her, Iola

New York City, Northern refuge
Safe enough to continue the deluge:
Reports on Southern horrors acquired
From talks with victims’ relations, fleshed out by

Her, Iola

The record of the South continued to go red
From any hick town producing Nubian dead
From shotgun shells, bullets, fire and rope
Enclosed around the necks of humanity, counted by

Her, Iola

That never fails to chill the soul
Commonly used method of control
When Blacks came up, supremacy cut them down—
Allegations of rape of White women found false by

Her, Iola

Chicago, England, Wales, Scotland—wherever she did a speech
On the crime of lynching—Preach, lady, preach—
America isn’t the land of the free
If you’re not free to be Black, the gist from

Her, Iola

“Separate but equal”—official falsehood
Separate and substandard facilities—never good
Signs at public places turned away dark faces—
The basis for a fight for equality, which began with

Her, Iola.

By Dee Allen

Biography

African-Italian performance poet based in Oakland, California. Active on the creative writing & Spoken Word tips since the early 1990s. Author of 5 books [ “Boneyard”, “Unwritten Law”, “Stormwater” and “Skeletal Black”, all from POOR Press, and from Conviction 2 Change Publishing, “Elohi Unitsi” ] and 38 anthology appearances [ including “Your Golden Sun Still Shines”, “Rise”, “Extreme”, “2020: The Year That Changed America” and the newest, “Geography Is Irrelevant” from York, England’s own Stairwell Books ] under his figurative belt so far.

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.