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.

SOMETHING IS ALWAYS BURNING By Mesioye Johnson

SOMETHING IS ALWAYS BURNING

wherever water becomes a servant to an unseen war. I

say this

for you to know how it is to be an empty basket

under rain. Nothing fills you like

your shadow cleaving a night song into

a devoted darkness.  A city

stitches a man’s cut with a fire of needles.

A man says leave and

I’m seeing my body molded like

moimoi in a new widow’s belly. What is hunger

when the heart is enough eternal meal for grief. What

erupts from

a silenced body if not a damned night

taking the rare shape of tears? A bit, my wound

shifts like a boy’s last breath trying to

wring flames out of his body.          A book opens hopelessly like

dawns with no more men to yawn. Everything is now flickers. And

a page is my body, in summary of a rust car. abandoned. You don’t

move further when you’re a tired feet clutched with

1967 slippers on the road linking your absences. a

kind of tremor rushed like wind, arranged my beard a little,

and a grieving dictionary flips to page 404. A subject to a damned city.

My body, a disengaging content, and I’m believing here

that it isn’t an error.

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

Notes on Sexual Experiment By Nia KB

Notes on Sexual Experiment

Solid floor, vacant den, pinned up
frizzy locs sitting to the side of an oval
face. Smoke pillowing the musky air
complimented by a muscled amber
man pointing a grin at me.

A mustache feels different on my lips. Hands usually
used for destruction feel different constructed
on my waist. When he hits his purple-green weed
then kisses me, the difference exchanges
through our hips. Take off your clothes first.
I obey, with caution.

I’ve only slept with women, so why
is my tinder on “men & women”? The search
engine compliments my scrolling wonder
I stumble upon a seemingly cute profile
that lives 5 miles away. Shawn it says.
How will I sound screaming the name Shawn.

His room has no furniture besides a futon.
An assortment of knitted and store-bought
blankets with candles and coconut oil color
the cushioned side. As I ride, I look out
of his curtainless window, wide-eyed.

The pain I feel when he first lands
comes from an unrealized pleasure; I mean,
what is sex with a man if not a missile
entering a warm bed of darkness? When he rubs my
chest with coconut oil heated on his kitchen stove,
I can’t help but wonder when love
will kick in. I hold his hand to maintain balance.
I feign eye contact so he can go faster.

When I fucked Faith with a strap-on
sexuality felt like a college friend that moved away.
When you see them, it’s all love, but
they’re often not here. Like a car, her lungs filled
with smoke until the heat becomes unbearable — Please me,
daddy.
And I certainly did. There was no doubt I was lesbian
then. I wasn’t around to confuse me.

Thin sideburns, semi-snagged back tooth, patchy
left cheek bone birdlike-yet-husky chest pumping —
Funny how air becomes a rarity when we fuck. I look
away from your face as if to deny the power I lend to you;
the unmarked grave of my virginity or
the science experiment I’ve made of you, & this, & it
Sit on on the futon & break your gar, boy
I’ll just sit, wishing this wasn’t happening
Wishing I didn’t (kind of) like it

I tell my best friend after I ghost you,
“That nigga was crazy, so he’s cancelled,”
I lie. Neglecting the time
you bent me over a suitcase (& I let you) or
the time(s) we didn’t strap up (& I almost
said I love you) or
the time you mentioned your mother and I
just climbed on top–
This is just sex, I get it, but at least
just try to care a little.

Face-holding, coarse lips slipping wet salt
slapping when I ask (only when I ask)
Harder. Rub my insides with your
shallow lack of shame Touch me
only when you lose grip & we need to hold hands
Love me
only when I’m so confused that I need it
I want love to make a mockery of my golden star
disintegrating from this sky I’ve built
in the shape of your back

I go to the restroom at work and blood escapes
when I pee. (Is this what deflowering looks like?)
I nurse my newly tender area, wash my hands
with lavender soap, look in the mirror and smirk,
(Will this make me more of a woman?) The thought
disappears, I go back to work.

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.

Teacher By Joan McNerney

Teacher

She hoped some would leave,
rise above dirty factory gates
past plumes of smoke spewing
from the cement plant.

Occasionally when discussing
great American novels, the walls
shook. Ravines were blasted
for more rocks to crush into powder.

She wished they would not become
clerks for soul-less chain stores or
cooks in fast food joints where
smells of burning grease lingered.

What was the use of teaching literature
and poetry to these children who would
soon grow listless? Their spirits ground
down like stones in the quarry.

By Joan McNerney

Biography:

Joan McNerney’s poetry has been included in numerous literary magazines such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Poet Warriors, Blueline, and Halcyon Days. Four Bright Hills Press Anthologies, several Poppy Road Review Journals, and numerous Kind of A Hurricane Press Publications have accepted her work. Her latest title is Having Lunch with the Sky and she has four Best of the Net nominations.

December Clear By Marjorie Moorhead

December Clear

When every leaf that’s going to fall is off its tree;
when just the trunks stand tall, and branches
mark their lines in the sky;

when you can see through to any nests,
and see clear the view behind
and beyond every stand and thicket;

wind allowed to whistle between and around,
and no buffer for the barking dog
whose voice echoes through the yard,

across the road, to the other side of town.
No padding. No fluff. No mitigation.
Just stark and clear and true.

Leafless trees no “mincing of words”;
revealing the sky, showing
clustered clouds previously obscured.

These days feel like there’s no running for shelter;
nowhere to hide. Ills festering un-cured.
Caught in a flashlight’s beam, are things

in place as they’re meant to be? Are we deer
in the headlights, seeking moments of clarity?
Do our branches reach strong; offer a basket

widespread, sprigs woven with verity?
Like a scalp newly shorn, what is revealed?
Winter’s sun lights lichen on bark, scarred and smooth.

Cold wind sings through crisscrossed
twigs’ lace of open spaces,
narrating a ballad of the trees.

By Marjorie Moorhead

Biography:

Marjorie Moorhead writes from the NH/VT border, where she tries for a daily reverent walk. Her poetry is in three anthologies. A chapbook, Survival: Trees, Tides, Song, will be out in May 2019 from Finishing Line Press. Her poem “Taking a Knee” will appear in The Poetry Box’s Poeming Pigeon this Spring. Marjorie has many poems at sites from Indolent Books (What Rough Beast; HIV Here & Now), Rising Phoenix Review, Sheila-Na-Gig Online.