The Captives By Yvette Saenz

The Captives

Nestled deep in the clutter of dad’s dimly lit garage,
past the dartboard and the Budweiser poster,
above the lucky rabbit foot and below his black cowboy hat,
the snake hid in the aquarium.

I was seven when dad let me watch him feed the snake.
When dad dropped the frantic mouse,
the snake lowered its head reverently,
an alien wetly opening a pink, glowing mouth.

The snake’s discarded skin was covered in sand,
last night’s crumpled gown. In its barren eyes,
I searched for a glimmer of cruelty or guilt,
but I’d read that snakes can hardly see.
Maybe I wasn’t looking in the right place.
Its soul must have been in the dark corners
of its black, forked tongue,
sewn in skin
that glistened with fiery beams
under the vanishing light of a single lightbulb.

The mouse – I almost forget.

The silent air
kept the secret of death,
whether it mattered at all,
from me.

Reflected in the dark glass
are four lonely captives,
blind to nature’s love for devouring whole,
her genius for letting go.

By Yvette Saenz


Yvette Saenz is a writer from Alice, Texas. Currently an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Arizona, she received a Del Deo Foundation Artist Grant in 2020 and Honorable Mention for the 2023 Academy of American Poets University Prize at the University of Arizona. She received a BA in Social Studies from Harvard University.



It is hard sometimes, this infinite joy.
My world is shadows, sure, like yours.
But these are rendered thin, backlit
by the blaze of green beans almondine, bells
that ring loudest when ringing not at all,
the triple sun that is the nape of your neck,
and me watching it, and you not knowing
I am watching it. What is darkness
when there are marigolds and marzipan?
Where is death when I am in love
over and over and over with you,
when you pass me in the street
a hundred times an hour as a mother
with her carriage, as the old men in their tweeds,
the pickpockets and grifters, the ones
that chase me, the ones that don’t? To keep
my head I hold all this on my tongue, roll it
into something safe, and when you ask
what I am thinking, tell you olive juice.

By Jacquelynn Berton


Jacquelynn Berton is an aspiring poet who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. She received her undergraduate honors degree in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2013. Currently, she works full-time in the field of medical genetics, but never left poetry behind. Her work tends to explore previously uncharted poetic territory, such as love and death. She is not particularly funny.

Under the Thatched Roof By Erinola Daranijo

Under the Thatched Roof

a place of humble beginnings,
where walls of clay stood proud,
and under the thatched roof we called home,
we learned the beauty of hard work and respect.

days were long and the sun blazed,
my mother toiled over the wood stove,
her love poured into every meal,
and my father worked the fields with unwavering strength

but it was within these walls,
under this thatched roof that we found refuge,
where we shared beds and whispered secrets,
and dreamed of a future where our struggles were nut memories

our home was small,
but it held much love,
and even in the face of poverty and hunger,
we found comfort in each other’s embrace.

under the thatched roof,
we learned to find joy in simplicity,
to cherish the bonds of family,
and to never lose hope for a better tomorrow.

our house was a sanctuary,
a place where we grew and learned,
and through it all, we remained resilient,
held together by the love that was poured into every brick

now, as i look back on those days,
i am grateful for the lessons learned,
and the strength that was born under the thatched roof,
a symbol of the unwavering spirit of its people.

By Erinola Daranijo


Erinola Daranijo is a poet and writer from Nigeria. He is the founder of Akéwì Magazine and the author of the micro-chapbook, An Epiphany of Roses, forthcoming from Konya Shamsrumi. His work is published/forthcoming on Brittle Paper, the Kalahari Review, the Hooghly Review, Isele Magazine, Auroras and Blossoms, amongst others. When he isn’t writing, you can and will find him taking a nap in his bed. He tweets over at @Layworks.

An Ode to Cycles, Until It Isn’t By Joel Holland

An Ode to Cycles, Until It Isn’t

chickens lay the eggs lay the chickens / listen, the roads have not stopped
being paved / children lay bikes beside sidewalk streets / there is yelling
in the yard / the silence that follows / the hollow creaks beneath tip-toe’d needs
met wherever the food is kept / eat, sleep / “I’m softer on you than my old man was
me” / repeat history / love sounds like anything else / “help” / empty echoes / pain
we didn’t mean to spread / stains we can’t get out / washers / dryers / spinning, spinning,
spinning / words that live rent-free between our ears / empty beer bottles / dishes pile high /
generation after generation asks the sky “why?” / liquid evaporates into vapor, tapers off to
condensed clouds, down to earth for rain again / this precipitation feeds the seed stage,
germination, growth, reproduction, pollination, and yes, more seed dispersal / each performance
a dress rehearsal for someone else / the deprived student turned giving teacher / the abused child
turned loving parent / there is adjustment in the air / it takes care / we are after restoration /
observe the plane confirm there are patterns we can break from / it is well / despite the migraine
of endless repetition, spun out from that cycle can come something else.

By Joel Holland


Joel Holland is a 2019 college graduate from Union University and 2022 professional program graduate from UCLA. Joel’s first poetry collection, After All, is available on Amazon or wherever you can find your books. Joel is currently sitting in a church in Kansas City, rewriting a poem, and missing Jimmy McGill. He would like to thank his wife, Chlo for encouraging him to send things out.

undomestication By Emily Ellison


in the walls of my heart.
horses whisking,
manes like waterfalls.
my ribcage swells:
a wooden pin
thrashed against,
impacted by restlessness:
receptive as a gong,
defined by vibration:

each brush incapacitating.
thought stampedes.


under an ominous sky I see myself
to an extent, as though beyond
mounding dust
the hooves of my mind send up
running from itself.
running after itself.

sometimes, I will catch a horse.
I try to make it drink
from my hands, yet private ponds
cannot host. yet I must
teach my pervicacious horses
to sip without rippling.

shivery flexes.

sometimes my horses cannot stop shuddering.
sometimes I cannot help

but wish I could see myself straight,
rather than merely in peripheries.
the pupils’ moonless wells
amplify wildness…

sometimes, I will catch
the horse’s insolence
to discipline.

By Emily Ellison


Emily Ellison is a graduate of Texas State University’s MFA in Creative Writing program; she was the inaugural interviews editor of their literary journal Porter House Review (winner of Best Debut Magazine during the 2020 CLMP Firecracker Awards), in which her conducted interviews are located. Her poetry can be found in Southword: New International Writing, Breakwater Review, and Foothill Journal, among other places; she was also a runner-up for The Raw Art Review Walt Whitman Prize for Poetry in 2018. Currently, Emily and her cat-in-crime Pancake are appreciating the pacific northwest.

Mr. Big Man’s Terror By Megumi Oishi

Mr. Big Man’s Terror

she is the shriveled apple
forgotten on your desk
I am the cherries with the stems
forever fresh in the fridge
does that scare her, mr big man

because I see it in her oxen eyes
that silver ring will mean nothing
if the mirror whispers my name
and metal shards of what was once
unbreakable and unshatterable

because sixteen is the perfect age
her bedside clock has a countdown
she knows what happens at sixteen
she knows, and you know:
two years beyond reach

two years that will foster
cherub lips and a voice
smooth, deep, sickly sticky
as the honey in your tea
that pacifies your sore throat

the swell of pretty things
the shrinking of the ugly
with a child’s voice; baby fat
smiling with no questions
but butterflies die within a month

she’ll try to say no, she’s beautiful
but to you, I’m just pretty enough
comme ci, comme ca
so it’s ironic when I dress in white
aren’t I a pretty girl, mr big man

does the shape keep her up at night
the shape that reminds her of the obverse
of the Golden Arches on the paper bag
with oily fingerprints, a slippage hazard
on the hardwood bedroom floor

when you finally come to realize
I’m not a fucking nymphet
my figure will haunt the mirror
and make her cry beside you at night
does that scare you, mr big man

By Megumi Oishi


Megumi Oishi is the Japanese-American author of award-winning works commended by Helicon Northwestern, the Japanese American Citizens League, American Fencing Magazine, and more. Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, she is currently a first-year pre-law English major and Division 1 athlete at Northwestern University.

Snapshot: The Cow and the Girl By Louhi Pohjola

Snapshot: The Cow and the Girl

The cow looks irate, fettered
to the back of the iron-wheeled cart
that is poised to flee from bombs
spitting high overhead

In the grainy image, its nostrils snuffle fear
while the girl watches, hands on hips,
in a thin cotton dress, small breasts
nudging the fabric. She is rooted
in this place

like the bellflowers she plunked into a jar yesterday

A slight tremor of silky birch leaves
in the early June breeze and pine needles
that slap against the farmhouse roof are coded
messages from the advancing front:

Best to sweep the kitchen floor quickly and get out, girl

She drives the cart towards sanctuary,
to the train that will usher them west, away
from the windows and doors of their world.
But the cow’s belly, bloated from foraging,
prevents their passage and the girl’s
desperation, written in wildish tears,
leaves them both frantic and left behind

along with the glass jar, the bellflowers, and the iron-wheeled cart

She guides her best-loved by the worn-out rope
around candle-white birch and bilberry bushes
where they fall asleep on the spongy floor,
pungent with chanterelles, and where they are found,
the girl’s arm across her neck, in trampled
lingonberry flowers, their bloodied white bells

ringing out the end of the long winter’s snow.

By Louhi Pohjola


Louhi was born in Montreal, Canada, to Finnish immigrant parents. She was a biologist before teaching sciences and humanities in a small high school in southern Oregon. She is an avid fly-fisherwoman and river rock connoisseur who lives in Portland, Oregon, with her terrier who thinks he is a cat.



The person next to you will tell you
the dying never want to hear that they’re dying
And will question every past order of fried-anything
the dying never want to hear that they’re dying
And will think about all the lovers they never showered with
the dying never want to hear that they’re dying
Because their mothers always told them to save this body
the dying never want to hear that they’re dying
Because this body isn’t the body being saved
the dying never want to hear that they’re dying
And if you ask them again, they’ll tell you
the dying never want to hear that they’re dying
That fear is a shade deeper than red
the dying never want to hear that they’re dying
That it collects itself in memories sweet enough to choke on
the dying never want to hear that they’re dying
Because salvation is for the holy
the dying never want to hear that they’re dying
Because the holy are sitting in the room next to you
the dying never want to hear that they’re dying
Lost in the offbeat of the tempo
the dying never want to hear that they’re dying
Watching how the seconds are melting off the face of a clock.

By Jodi Balas


Based out of NEPA, Jodi Balas is an “always developing” neurodiverse poet who uses a variety of methods to expand her craft and is searching for innovative ways on how poetry could be evolved and cultivated. Currently she is working on her first Chapbook, titled “The Art of Molting” where she draws inspiration from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief to center the book’s theme. Jodi has work published in The Willawaw Journal, Grand Little Things, The Times Leader and is a contributor of the PA Bards.

updates from when we last saw each other By Caro De Sa

updates from when we last saw each other

other let’s be honest – i sucked at the violin.
there’s that one video of us playing “Ave Maria,”
the sound of you strumming the guitar so beautifully
interrupted by my bow hitting notes
too flat or too sharp.

you would’ve never seen it coming,
but Caio plays the guitar just like you.
music made from “Eterna Saudade”
sounds like eyes pooling with water
and i love you and i want you here.

i remember when you watched me dance,
cried like i was performing at the bolshoi
even though i still didn’t understand beats
or how i was supposed to communicate grief
with a body i wasn’t living in.

i still recognize you through Cavatina,
hear you telling me to sit with you
to drink a little coffee and split a baguette.
i wonder whether you’d recognize me too.

By Caro De Sa


Caro De Sa (they/them) is an emerging poet from Miami, FL. Most of their writing focuses on grief, queerness, and imagining elsewheres/otherwises. They are currently pursuing their undergraduate degree in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity with a minor in Creative Writing at Stanford University. Outside of writing, they enjoy spending time with friends, dancing, and eating hot cheetos.

Dysmenorrhea By Emily Buckley

‘painful, disabling cramps in the lower abdomen’

Few people feel where their ovaries are.
I guess people know the rough placement,
they could point and pick them out on a chart.
They vaguely know how the misplacement

of growing tissue, and of bleeding cysts
make the ovaries flood with hormones
and make stabbing pain and swelling persist.
They don’t know it aches down to your bones.

Now I know where my left ovary is,
cupped in inflamed flesh, feeling writhing strife.
It’s walking across a tightrope, and its
balancing on the edge of a steak knife.

When it falls, and tears its fragile skin
waves of pain erupt through my abdomen.

By Emily Buckley


Emily is an English Literature and Creative Writing undergraduate student at Lancaster University, and a passionate poetry student taking classes with Eoghan Walls and Paul Farley. She has been featured in Flash Literary Journal, and won second place in their 2020 Freshers Writing Competition with her hybrid piece She Stood on the Doorstep. Originally from Manchester, Emily’s poetry focuses on sexuality, religion, and chronic illness.