THE NIGHT KEEPS COMING IN ASH PICTURES By Mesioye Johnson

THE NIGHT KEEPS COMING IN ASH PICTURES

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

Biography:

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

i.

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

ii.

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

iii.

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
iv.

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

v.

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

vi.

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

vii.

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

viii.

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

ix.

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

By Amanda Huang

Biography:
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

Biography:

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

Biography:

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.

CRIMSON RED By C.D. LATIN

CRIMSON RED

for sasha wall

crimson ring
in a dark sky
bullet hole—  Sasha Wall was a transgender
reddened woman of color fatally shot in her car in
sunset: Chesterfield County, South
the light leaving us behind Carolina. She is one of many
trans women of color killed in 2018.

seat belt stretched
across a darkened space

and no shrill alarm
left in the body
vacate

did you know,
every year
was the most dangerous year
for you to be alive?

but of course you know. black woman

and isn’t that privilege— the luxury of not knowing
and isn’t that death—the luxury of not knowing

as if time could be given
and never kept

hunched over
steering wheel
spinal cord bent
first into a spinal cord
and then into a question mark
an elongated map
waiting

burning
against the backdrop
of the sandhills
and a lonely american flash-
bang.
a still picture. just like that.

**

it is april 1st and i am waiting for the joke to splinter because, like the fool i am, i swallowed the
last bullet-length word in my mouth that had no consonants. it was holy like that. dearest mother
even heaven is the lack of something
and i pray to you because even my god can be colonized, even this body is a pre-existing
condition, worth less than worthlessness.       the president’s seeming planned aggression.
presidents set precedents: call them worm-mouth horror-struck lucid nightmare of humdark
and i know,
i know momma. i must tell my audience what i mean       humdark: that deafening silence as
the lack of your sisters is given to you. i woke this mourning to find that another trans woman
was murdered every     time    is a figment of our imagination                    because if it were real
someone would mention how fast it is moving               right?
because momma, i came home to you on a small bus in my lonely state. (texas meaning allies)
i found you with your mouth overcome with fireflies
and i opened up this chest to give you
what i might have called a constellation yesterday
but i now know is an asterism                               one part                     of a bigger, ineffable thing.

**

a still picture. just like that.
a lonely american flash
back.
the sandhills
against the backdrop
of a burning map
because

that is death isn’t it— choosing the luxury of not knowing
that is death isn’t it— choosing the luxury of not knowing

because more time could be given
and never kept
because,
in the end,
after,
my God opens her own
bloodied eye— a crimson ring.
not a bullet.
not period to a life sentence.
instead,
then,
a long wail,
a horrid blue sky.

a bright, little girl
spinning haphazardly
in her mother’s perfect dress,
and yes, i know that is all
you ever wanted to be but

instead,              a perfect crimson red.
a blood departure.
a silence
made permanent.

By C.D. LATIN

Biography:

Christopher Latin (sometimes stylized as C. D. Latin) is a 21 year old genderqueer, pansexual poet of color and an avid reader from Houston, Texas. They currently attend Huston-Tillotson University in Austin where they major in English. You can find their work published/forthcoming in their university’s literary magazine called 900 Chicon, The Ellis Review, and The Heavy Feather Review. When they are not writing they are busy spending too much money on poetry books and clothes.

scripture as exit By Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu

scripture as exit

there is a girl somewhere
faraway from her sister who is
unconscious and on a table
in a different city with earth the colour of happiness,
surrounded by doctors cutting her open

the girl is speaking the language of healing
into a glass of water:
a tear, tongue rolls of scripture
doused in arabic.
she unfolds each word like it is god
and as she drinks it,
uses the last drops
to rub the right side of her tummy,
she closes her eyes
and sends its powers to her sister

By Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu

Biography:

Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu’s work has appeared on Ake Review, Brittle Paper, The Bitter Oleander, After the Pause journal, Eunoia Review, and elsewhere. She’s a 2018 fellow at the Ebedi Writers Residency in Nigeria, and is currently pursuing a law degree.