to a childhood friend By Mira Jiang

to a childhood friend

remember the spring we spent clearing brush from
the grove between the pitted stone walls, grit crunching
between our teeth, hollow vines and limestone campfires
flickering shadows in the night
lost in worlds of warrior clans and mermaid queens
before running home to watermelon smoothies.
remember the fraying tire swing, sunscorched rubber
scalding our hands, we jumped at the peak
and joined the mockingbirds among the trees
if only for a moment.
remember the day we painted our names
in front of your old house, fingers stained with colors
of tropical islands we imagined we could escape to
before california took you away.

remember this and know that when i say
i want to see you, i don’t mean you
miss-debate-champion-track-athlete-
with-a-stony-smile-and-haunted-eyes
i mean you, the girl who shot arrows
at the mulberries, built leaf forts in the fall, danced with
pinatas around the room, chased crickets
in the yard, read books in the treetops, and watched
the stars rise curled next to me on dewy grass before
the fireworks lit up the sky on the fourth of july.

where did you go?

By Mira Jiang

Biography

Mira Jiang lives and attends school in a suburb near Dallas. Apart from a brief stint in China, she was born and raised in Texas. Her work has been recognized in contests from Hollins University, the Poetry Matters Project, and the Geek Partnership Society.

Exile By Palak Parikh

Exile

The saffron rain spits on my flesh.
I walk home from Nani’s, my hair
blistered yellow like deities

ethereal, hijacked. Vagabond dark peddler
sells them to me. Arms outstretched
bloodshot irises and asphalt

fingers and tarred gums.
He chants a bhajan that bleeds
past my ears, I hear nothingness

even though Nani just sang it
to me. His garam masala breath splits my lip
searing them into two petals. Two

screams: mine and the doll. His child eats
the face of the doll, it sticks between
two teeth. Her face massaged clean

in dirt. She looks just like me. I smile,
she stares. To her I am just a body, a body
she wants to eat, but cannot. Mama used to

pluck eucalyptus leaves, strung
them into a necklace for the martyred
deities. My eyes welter yellowed tarnish

as they melt the rotten
eucalyptus tree like the British Raj
shrapnel that killed great-

Nana. I watch the scent ravage
through Mama’s village, reminded
of the martyred bodies in Paradise

and Chico. But in this nation,
the alive are still living. And I
rot.

By Palak Parikh

Biography

Palak Parikh is an emerging Indian-American writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. She is intrigued with writing as a means to foster female empowerment and connect with first generation Americans. She often explores topics like feminism, race, and cultural mongrelization. She has been recognized by the California State PTA and Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. When she is not writing, Palak enjoys drinking coffee and trying new exotic foods!

the joshua tree gave me its blessing By Mia T. Hamernik

the joshua tree gave me its blessing

birthed me from          desert death and 
snake rattle 
swaddled in strange silhouette
i buried the first of my 

beginnings
bound together by       sticky caramel spread
from               south america
abandoned by              father’s tongue
i come from                 dried fig and dragon myth
from the era of                       superheroes 
and                  revolutionaries
in bedtime stories and childhood texts
the words that grant us adult strength
raised me to expect more     from       the world

i did not become a person until i was fourteen
when Mouth realized its mobility and 
was quick to defend Self and Stigma

drew 

from childhood revolutionary texts                                        inspiration from magic and mythos
to deliver verdict         to villain                                              strength from starship explorers

at eighteen i exchanged arid   desert and
mediterranean coast for
humid dusk                             and cicada song
abandoned mother’s tongue                for mother’s land
encountered                                        mother’s identity and
claimed it as my own
forged mother and father tongue        into skeleton key
to construct my own bridges and holy texts

i mistook my first snowfall as wildfire ash
confused the numbness of my nose as
smokescreen instead of burning winter intent
so i rewrote the list of things 
i knew
to say
you are still being made.

By Mia T. Hamernik

Biography

Mia T. Hamernik is a California native pursuing her bachelor’s degree at Washington University in St. Louis. She likes to remind people she’s Latina by bemoaning the severe limitation of Mexican restaurants in St. Louis and listening to Bad Bunny on full blast at every opportunity. She has not suffered a foosball defeat in six years.

American Beauty By Ally Blovits

American Beauty

They’ll turn her gay. Those girls she hangs out with,
wearing suits to dances and cutting their hair short.

The room is dim, blinds closed as always,
something about a glare on the TV screen.
Papa is telling me about the girls who are
infecting my cousin in between bites of
fruit and cheese, neatly sliced on his plate.

She dresses like such a boy. I hate the way she
dresses. I hate the slit she cuts in her eyebrow. I
wouldn’t let her out of the house like that if she
was my daughter.

The TV blares on behind me, playing
reruns of old westerns. The cowboy
hero lifts the damsel onto his horse.
He rides off while she is still adjusting her
layered dress draped sidesaddle. Her hat
blows off in the wind. It lands in the dust. 
I take a bite of the plum Papa cut for me
and let the skin snap between my teeth.

*

We all thought she was so hot.

My date sits across from me at the round
cafe table, describing how he and the boys
drooled over the girl in his class. I cup
my hands around my hot chocolate mug
and stare at the mural on the wall
over his shoulder. The painted girl
is kneeling on the grass holding a daisy
between her thumb and forefinger
admiring it without tearing from the earth.

She kicked her legs on the chair in front of her
and- you wouldn’t believe it – her legs were as
hairy as mine! As soon as we saw that, we were
all like ew, nevermind.

He laughed, shaking his head, his hair
bouncing slightly under the layer of gel.
He got up to refill my water cup. The painted
girl’s painted hair is the same color as the wheat
field behind her, the same color as the sun.
She has a hint on a smile tilting on her lips.
I crossed my legs under the table and wondered
if the boy’s story was from before or after we started dating.

*

Hey sweetheart, you need help with that?

My coworker is leaning on the shelves in the back
of the store, where we keep the 500-gram fireworks.
He ignores the new truckload of boxes
but offers his calloused hand to me
as I carry a ladder to the front of the store.
The box next to his elbow is the firework “American
Beauty”. On the packaging is a woman in leather
laying on a black motorcycle, her skimpy
clothes barely more than undergarments,
her bedroom eyes staring blankly. I decline
his help and walk past him and the motorcycle girl.

Well, there’s no need to get huffy. I was just offerin’.

The stock boy two years younger than me passes by
straining under the weight of “Green Envy”
which displays an angry red-headed woman
with only leaves to cover her, and “Sexy”
which shows a woman in only lingerie
and feathered wings. The man yanks his baseball
cap further over his gray ponytail and leans back
against the shelf, nothing to offer the boy.
The glossy women on the fireworks boxes watch
me wipe gunpowder from my brow
and climb the ladder, unassisted.

*

My roommate sits cross-legged on her bed,
tapping her slender fingers against her cheekbone.
I look up at her, her paint-splattered freckles,
her dyed maroon hair tucked behind her ear.
She stares back at me, eyebrows knit together.

I don’t know. I can’t think of a time someone treated me
differently because I’m a girl.

By Ally Blovits

Biography

Ally Blovits is an undergraduate student at Michigan State University studying creative writing and theatre. When not in East Lansing at MSU, Ally lives in Grandville, Michigan with her parents and her twin brother. Ally’s work has previously been published in Apiary Magazine, The Sheepshead Review, and LAMP poetry collection.

Helen By Kristen Perillo

Helen

Your life was for the birds.
Three days after you’ve gone,
red-winged blackbirds
and sparrows still sit at your sill,
looking for seed.
In the window,
the cat sleeps,
dreaming of mourning doves and other manna
she’s never known.
In the field beyond your fence,
squirrels wait in trees for seeds from the feeder to fall,
deer wish for water to be poured in bird baths like wine,
and starlings watch the door for your resurrection,
hoping you’re about to burst forth
carrying bits of bread and crusts,
cupping victuals in your venerable hands,
communion for crows.

By Kristen Perillo

Biography:

Kristen Perillo is a writer and high school English teacher in Buffalo, NY. Her former fitness blog was developed into a memoir, Following Fit, and her writing can be found at kristenperillo.com.

To my Abuser By Audrey McGuinness

To my Abuser

I want to run through my body and lock every door inside of me,
I want to live in a dark box where I am invisible,
I want to stack furniture against my heart.
I want to stretch myself so thin and far apart
That any ropes still snaking around my body burst
And fall slack to the ground.
I want to slam the blinds closed
And dance and scream inside my head
Until every part of you runs out of my eyes and ears.
I want to stand on the roof of my life and scream
“NO”
Until it gets through your thick skull that
I never wanted it.
I want to plant a tree made out of what is left of myself and eat its fruit.
I want to cut you out of myself with giant ceremonial scissors.
I want to float above everything and watch my world go on without your abuse.

By Audrey McGuinness

Biography:

Audrey McGuinness is from Oakland, California and is a first year at Macalester College. She has dedicated a great deal of time and energy to processing trauma, abuse, and assault, and balances these experiences by seeking beauty in mundanity. She writes when poems start writing themselves in her head.

For You By Siri Greene

For You

i try for you like the world is on fire
and i live for you when you don’t want to anymore.
i’m sorry your dad told you if you pressed your thirteen year old
lips against hers and felt something
he’d kill you and now the world won’t be the only one burning.
i’m sorry your stuffy white priest in stuffy white clothes
clenched his hands around your throat
after he groped your budding breasts
and told you that’s the only kind of touch you need to like.
i’m sorry i didn’t pin you up against the wall and show you how passion feels
when i knew your eyes were hungry, begging “taste me”.
i’m sorry he tasted sour, they all will for us,
he’s just itching to pull up your skirt and show you he can make you straight
(if you two only spend one magical night together).
isn’t it enough to watch him come? selfish bitch.

i’m sorry parades feel too big and her hand feels too small and
you’re starting to believe there’s just no place for you between it all.
but i try for you like the world is on fire,
i write for you so you don’t have to,
and i love for you so we never have to apologize again.

By Siri Greene

Biography:

Siri Greene (she/her) is a first year at Macalester College. She grew up in rainy Seattle and loves expressing herself through poetry and music. She writes poems as a way to heal, and often explores mental illness, sexual assault, and queer identity in her work.

Dakar By Anna D Sene

Dakar

I never knew I would miss the heat of your sun,
That decorated my black skin with pearls of sweat.
I never thought I would yearn for your sand
That made my house smell like petrichor in your rainy days.

Today, I opened my windows and did not see your face
So, with my mahogany hands, I attempted to fill
The fading sunglow hole left by the daffodils The daffodils
of your gardens.

I wore my clothes and smelled,

the wintergreen dream scent of my grandmother
The perfume of her warm love
Her hugging voice and tender look.

I put my shoes on, and stepped on the road,
But did not meet elders around a baobab,
Who greeted me with smiles,
Waving hands while playing Checkers.

I waited at the corner of the street, next to the bakery
And could not see the faces of my childhood friends
To keep playing hide and seek,
And tearing joy trying to reach mangoes at high peaks.

So, I went back to my room disappointed
But the lap of my mother had deserted
Her soft hands were not in my hair
Her big palms did not hold my face,
My tears splashed loudly on the floor.

I looked at the mirror with puffy eyes,

Desperately searching for the wisdom in my dad’s look
Or the kind lines in my brother’s book
Maybe the cycle of the moon over my rooftop.

Nothing stared back.

But a lonely girl waiting for the echo of home
Her Mahogany hands attempting to fill
The fading sunglow hole left by the daffodils
The daffodils of Dakar.

By Anna D Sene

Biography:

Anna Diagne Sene was born and raised in Dakar. Anna started writing in English to get out of her comfort zone, and to reflect on her life as a Black Muslim woman. Outside school, she likes reading, meeting new people, drinking bubble tea, and eating cere, her favourite Senegalese meal.

Big Girl Things By Karese Burrows

Big Girl Things

I thought I wanted you teach me big girl things,
where I’d forget what was childish or juvenile.
So I fell into you, because I thought you’d catch
me before I hit the ground, small, jagged pieces
of me scattered everywhere, big ones too. Maybe
you were terrified. Maybe I changed, became
something too heavy and you moved your hand
away. I’ve never heard a heart beat as fast as I have
than in that car with you, on those nights, driving
down quiet, empty highways, where I learned big
girl things, mistook dream for reality, let you take,
and go on taking because I thought you’d keep me
safe. But maybe that car was really a cage, and your
hands were just big, beautiful lies, inlayed and blinding,
sharp like blades, trying not to scratch but still leaving
a wound. Either way, what did you teach me? What
did I learn from you? That maybe love is really just a
mirage, some unsolvable thing that leaves us twisted,
possibly mad. That maybe kisses are just small, violent
agonies and big girl things are as unbearable as they
seem. What else? I don’t really know. The only thing
left to say it this: you are the impossible thing I am
trying to forget, and yet, still keep remembering.

By Karese Burrows

Biography:

Karese Burrows is a poet and graphic designer from The Bahamas. Her poetry has previously been featured in The Rising Phoenix Review, Harpoon Review, L’Ephemere Review, Penstrike Journal and Words Dance Publishing. Her first chapbook This Is How We Lost Each Other was published by UK independent publisher Platypus Press in 2018 and can be purchased from Platypus Press, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. She can be found at kareseburrows.tumblr.com.

Prayer for the Next Black Boy By Mia M

Prayer for the Next Black Boy

This time, I’ll say
“[black boy] put his hands up”,
and I’ll mean class participation.
I’ll mean roller coaster.
I’ll mean dancing,
not police raid.

This time, I’ll say
“[black boy] had chains around his wrists”,
and I’ll mean jewelry.
I’ll mean they had diamonds in them,
gold.

This time, I’ll say
“[black boy] was unarmed”,
and I’ll mean he finally opened up to me.
I’ll mean this
beautiful
brown
body.

This time, I’ll say
“[black boy] fell to the ground”,
and I’ll mean football.
(American or European.)
I’ll mean basketball,
wrestling.
I’ll mean he got back up
because

this time, I’ll say
“[black boy] will be buried”,
and I’ll mean in the crook of my neck.
I’ll mean between my legs,
so he’ll still see heaven.

This time, [black boy] will say
“I can’t breathe”,
and he’ll mean damn, she was so fucking beautiful when she walked into the room.

He’ll mean don’t call the police,
and, there’s no need for an ambulance
because

this time, his blood will be rushing to his dick and not out of his head
onto the pavement on the side of the road.

By Mia M

Biography:

Mia M is a nineteen-year-old Congolese girl currently living in South Africa. She is a social activist studying Human Rights Law and Gender Equality Fundamentals who likes to write poetry loosely based on those themes. You can find her on Instagram (@whereismia.exe). Also see her gender justice movement on Instagram (@move4men).