Howl for the half By S.A. Khanum

Howl for the half

A field, eventually blends to blue.
Not bruise, just stain, I meant forever.

The wind, a ribbon, gliding west to east,
my fingers never quite reaching, how I try.

A crown of petals, it was: you sail, you settle.
It is never as easy as this.

Remember how your mother wove her palms
through your hair, but your ends still split.

How there was never a choice, you had to choose.

Dirt to your memories.
And dirt to your questions.
And dirt to your thoughts.

You were told to bury them long ago.

There is a spring that has laid claim to your flesh,
splays roots through your bones, so deep,
flowers grow under-ground here.

You, with thumbtack thorns on your knuckles,
a rose, blooming, dying, in your lungs.

Bottle this, name this perfume: ‘battle lost’.
How I come home everyday reeking of it.

And where is your tongue, your real tongue, when they ask:
And what are you: founded or unfounded?

A girl is the whole sky—

No.

No moon. No stars. I meant alone.

By S.A. Khanum

Biography:

S.A. Khanum is a writer from the UK.

The Commandment By Akpa Arinzechukwu

The Commandment

Everything goes –
A government bent on achieving

Kill everyone who is not like you
& I am not like you

My shoelaces the colour of the sky
My semen the colour of the rainbow

A bowtie to match &
God in prison –

Really not a type to fit in –
A noose around my neck &

Everything goes –
A body not mine & a deity locked away from
My reach –

To be used against me – to be my
Kind is to be cursed bruised rejected & killed

By Akpa Arinzechukwu

Biography:

Akpa Arinzechukwu is a Nigerian photographer and poet. His work has appeared on Litro, Sou’wester, New Contrast, Kalahari Review, Packingtown Review, ITCH, Eastlit, and elsewhere. He is a joint winner of 2017 inaugural Sophiamay Poetry Prize.

Flower Beds By Chloe Williamson

Flower Beds

I dreamed all summer of lying beneath the wildflowers
Roots like fingertips reaching carefully towards me
I dreamed all summer of soft, cool earth
And the sound of rain running through it
I imagined un-existence abstractly
The way I used to dream of summer air in autumn
Death seemed too harsh a word
I dreamed a softer leaving
I craved a magnolia’s death —
Painless, beautiful, a fragrant falling

I dreamed death beautiful
The sweet smell of a rotting rose
The gentle rest of dew on petal
I dreamed the deep oblivion of old roots
I imagined myself Ophelia in the bathtub
Head resting heavy against the porcelain bottom
I imagined sprays of cherry blossoms at the surface
Branches trapping me there, underwater
Decadent, murderous blooms

I toyed all summer with these fantasies
Played Virginia Woolf dress up
Lined the pockets of my father’s too-big coat with stones
But found the river too fast, too cold
I pulled a leech from my ankle after wading in
It was softer, smaller than I expected
More defenseless, less frightening
I could not bear to kill it

I held the thin skin of a poppy petal between my fingers
Felt its velvet veins illuminate my pulse
I dreamed thunderclaps and hail stones
But woke only to the claustrophobic pounding of my heart
Inescapably, improbably committed to survival

By Chloe Williamson

Biography:

Chloe Williamson graduated from Wellesley College in May of 2016, where she completed an honors creative writing thesis exploring intersections of identity in rural Eastern New Mexico. Her work has previously appeared in The Wellesley Review, El Portal, and the Brushfire Literature and Arts Journal.

Refugee By Lorna Rose

Refugee

You flood your lungs with the ripe stench of fish and bodies and fuel.
The dinghy motor whines against the night.
Salt air grinds your skin ‘til it’s bloodied and threadbare.
You squat: no room to sit since leaving Sabratha.
Your body clenches tight to its bones
and shrill muscles shriek and weep and lock up.
You are trapped inside.
Damp t-shirt clings to goosebumped flesh under a tattered orange life jacket.
But what life?

Next to you a shaking woman holds her boney baby
and cries.
She has shit herself.
Behind you a leathery man mumbles and mumbles for water.
You turn to see his eyes roll hollow
and his mouth slack open.
With each breath your shoulders and chest brush someone else.
You smell the stink of desperation,
the gray rancid smell of rotting humanity.

You see the Italian coastline and your heart speeds up.
Your vision blurs as tears come.
Finish school.
Find work.
Do good.
Live.
Just live.
From somewhere behind there’s a jolt.
Motor goes silent.
From the dark there is yelling.
Then the floor tilts.
And the lights of Lampedusa go black.

By Lorna Rose

Biography:

Lorna Rose writes creative nonfiction and poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in A Quiet Courage, Red Fez, Mothers Always Write, Literary Mama, and others. Her current project is a memoir. Connect with her on Facebook at facebook.com/bigthings2 and on Twitter @LornaARose.

PTSD By Jack M. Freedman

PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder
Prone to serious depression
Pain that seldom dwindles
Processing the same day
Plaguing the soul, drowning
Playing the sounds daily
Poor times seem definite
Pessimism that seems deadly
Perpetually torturous, strikingly demonic
Passion terminated, seemingly destitute
Pouring tears, streaming down
Perusing the sorrowful darkness
Photographic, the static dimension
Pass through Satan’s doorway
Pass the sour diesel
Prescribed thirty seven drugs
Pilsner, tequila, sangria, diazepam
Parched, taste sullied, dry
Pariah to society, derelict
Prone to steady decline
Praying that screams dissipate
Prone to suicide, damned
Primordial threats, safety diminished
Peace threatened, seeminigly dead
Passion tranquilized, sudden demise
Past the summit, dropping
Plummeting, the soul deadens
Praying that solitude dissolves

By Jack M. Freedman

Biography:

Jack M. Freedman is a poet and spoken word artist from Staten Island, NY. He is the author of Serotonin Seas, Never Lick the Spoon, Tobias, and Art Therapy 101. Publications in which his work can be found include Unquiet Desperation, Espresso Ink, Boston Literary Magazine, NYSAI Press, typoetic.us, AIPF di-verse-city, POSTblank, and Free Lit Magazine.

Nameless By Beth Sherman

Nameless

I am the cook who works 16 hour days
but is always, always hungry. I am a
cardboard box growing soggy in the rain,
bigger than a table but too small for
shelter. I am lacquered nails, shiny and
glistening, painted by women whose
faces no one remembers. I am statistics in
newspapers – percentages of bodies,
multiplying exponentially, lousy Math. I am
anonymous fingers sewing buttons
on shirts in a series of airless rooms. I am my
great-grandfather, who arrived here
penniless from Poland, selling knives off the back
of a cart on the Lower East Side.
I am the voice at the door saying, “Come with
us now. Don’t make a scene. Do as
you’re told and no one will get hurt.” I am bodies
stacked by the side of the road,
shot in the head, gutted, maimed, set on fire, reasons
to flee. I am the visa that is just
out of reach, like a prize in a booth at the Jersey
Shore – the claw descends and picks
up the wrong object. I am hidden in the shadows
of your garden, behind the gray
poplar, my face turned away, the air busy with leaves.
I am responsible for job
losses and crime and even terrorism
or so they say. I am children waking up
scared each morning. I am the siren two
blocks over, gaining on you fast, that
thin high scream.

By Beth Sherman

Biography:

I received an MFA in creative writing from Queens College, where I teach in the English department. My poetry has been published in Hartskill Review, Lime Hawk, Synecdoche, Gyroscope Review, The Evansville Review, Rust + Moth, Silver Birch Press, Zingara and Blue River Review and is forthcoming in Calamus Journal. I am a Pushcart Prize nominee and have written five mystery novels. @bsherm36

Mercy By Claire S. Lee

Mercy

Backtrack six months and the boy
who fell dead to the police is alive,
wriggling spineless down the alley-
way, beat on rhythm, not knowing
that the earth would try to swallow
his still-warm body one night
but gag on the lifeless heap.
The earth is a mouth
that cannot be fed. Even after,
cool asphalt bays for his skin
the same way hawk desires rabbit.
If only he hadn’t been
blowing those pretty kisses
from a cocked hand-toy
to trigger the fear-ridden pulses
that shoot to kill,
bullet exiting clean through
his skull and leaving him sprawled
like a butchered bird, bullet still soaring,
burrowing itself so deep
in the sinews of the sleeping town
that surgeons
were rendered useless.

By Claire S. Lee

Biography:

Claire S. Lee is a student at Canyon Crest Academy. Her writing has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and appears or is forthcoming in *82 Review, Blue Marble Review, and Eunoia Review, among others. She works as an editor for COUNTERCLOCK and as an editorial intern for The Blueshift Journal. Though she loves poetry and nonfiction, her favorite genre is historical fiction.