Bleed Again By Rebekah Barker

Bleed Again

If something must be shattered,
give it to a child —
barefoot, wailing,
fragile mother: kneeling.

A glass, a bowl, a plate,
a soul,
as we grow,
we dispose.

Sweep, weep, sleep,
shards remain,
new grains
on old ground.

Cover your hands, child;
one day you’ll know.

Rise up, Grown-up.
It’s time to bleed
again.

By Rebekah Barker

Biography:

Rebekah Barker is a graduate student at North Carolina State University, where she studies English literature. In her free time, she enjoys creative writing, reading, and tending to her growing family of plants.

Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) Half-Day Tour, from Seoul, 2019 By John Paul Calavitta-Dos Santos

Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) Half-Day Tour, from Seoul, 2019

Pomegranate grandeur of death –Sitwell

Take the special train from Seoul
to DMZ painted cartoon animals, winged dragons
beyond the light; hundreds of buses, soldiers,
spirits arriving each day to meet your guide,

N. Korean defector whichmeans a helmet of
Invisibility.
Stamp your passports with pretend N Korean stamps
to the underworld, won’t be recognized
immediately but fun to have.

Stand in line to pay Charon—
ur in a war zone now.
See people farming through high powered binocs;
See a model N. Korean city / propaganda village.

To the east electrified fences, landmines
hid in the forest—defuse them.
Listen,
the sirens are silenced, sometimes they tell the people
they are poor because of the US.

Here. Put this helmet on. We are in
deeper than good will will allow;
cross the rubble / go down a tunnel built by
the N. to invade Seoul.

Take the third tunnel on the left. Nothing
to see down here really. Look around,
(dynamite marks). Stop.
strangers. lovers. gods.

Arms of stone press your body against rough walls

I’m glued to Pluto’s cave;

whichmeans there’s an allegory here.
When you reach the bottom, a door, flowers
locked

outside. Don’t enter. When you leave
the tunnel train stations link South to North
for unification, waiting for people waiting in the future.

Coming out of Hades ascend through
a dark tunnel. He kissed me/them.
Sirens weeping…
its no myth.

By John Paul Calavitta-Dos Santos

Biography:

John Paul Calavitta-Dos Santos earned his MFA in creative writing and his PhD in Literature from the University of Washington. His current work draws upon Yelp and Trip Advisor Reviews to critique histories of tourism, orientalism and colonialism, racism and heterosexism. His work has appeared in the LA Review, Found Poetry Review, AGNI, Fjords, among others.

Lessons I Will Try to Teach You By Sophia Rose Smith

Lessons I Will Try to Teach You

You, son,
It’s time you learned.
We are made halved by the things we love:
Open pieces and broken fragments
Shining in the cold rarity of the mind.
When you are split down the middle
You will spool out and stretch into bundles
Braided into the plaits of your hair–
Until it will all fall away.

You, son,
You December
Pulsing into the lamplighter’s evenings,
Red clouds smoldering in dusk’s blue horizon.
When you fall over the tensed shoulders of the mountains
There is no getting up.
You are not the sun.
When you watch the morning unsheathe herself from the night,
You will murmur your undoings
Like the melody of a drum beat.
Like all the senseless mortal murmurings before.

Still, I can’t describe the taste to one so young,
So I will say that it will taste like metal,
Like a jar of nickels–
You know,
The ones grandpa stored on his shelves
And paid you to slip into sleeves.
Remember those mornings,
Your small hands all skinfolds and blueberry jam,
Shaking the coins across the rug?
I wish I had the strength to tell you it would taste like
Gunpowder, like the frozen stare of a deer up a cocked rifle.
But you will know one day.
You will.

By Sophia Rose Smith

Biography:

Sophia Rose Smith is the People Editor for her highschool’s newspaper and founder of Binsey Poplar Press. When she’s not writing, she practices calligraphy and volunteers. Her writing is forthcoming in or has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, Blue Marble Review, The Daphne Review, and Schola Cantorum’s poetry-to-music contest.

When Grieving, Do (Not) Follow These Instructions By Praise Osawaru

When Grieving, Do (Not) Follow These Instructions

x.

revisit the deceased’s place of death / transcendence
& envisage their last moment –
a stillness, & quaff of an endsome air as the heart quietens.

x.

gift their sprit an act of kindness by
committing their days of quietus to heart;
a blade mark on the wall of your body
for every passing day.

x.

deprive yourself of conversations with the living
& submerse in the darkness of an unlit room
like it’s a hot tub liberating you from people’s touch.                                            

x.

permit your stomach the voidness you experience.
let it too rehearse absence like the night’s sky
when moonless.

x.

drain your slumber into the maw of desolation
& contemplate the friendliness of gravity
from your window.

By Praise Osawaru

Biography:

Praise Osawaru is a writer and (performance) poet of Bini descent. He’s a Best of the Net nominee with works appearing/forthcoming in Blue Marble Review, FERAL, Ghost Heart Literary Journal, Glass Poetry, Kalahari Review, Serotonin, Sub-Saharan Magazine, and elsewhere. He was longlisted for Babishai 2020 Haiku Award and shortlisted for the Nigerian Students Poetry Prize 2020. You can find him on Instagram/Twitter: @wordsmithpraise.

Conversations with My Father Between Highway Billboards By Adriana Carter

Conversations with My Father Between Highway Billboards

My father cracks his knuckles against
the steering wheel while driving through
West Virginia mountains and leaves his boyhood
on the asphalt. In the passenger seat,
my father’s shadow spills over me, and
I uncover a boy steeped in a town that inhales
once every decade. A boy who discovered himself
more in the exit than the arrival. My father
tries to remember him by filling the empty spaces
of his vision with the edge of a mirror.
He sees me in the reflection.
Remembers how he didn’t know how to
hold me when I was born because he was afraid
my bones would shatter like the time his friend
threw a snowball through the chapel window
and he took the blame. When I ask my father
about regret, he presses his foot a bit further
on the gas pedal. Tells me about people
he never said goodbye to: A girl who wanted
more than she could give. Another who
collected escape routes until they filled her pockets
and veins with stardust. My father can’t forget
how he stumbled from one city to another
and tried to collect paper compasses
that left cuts across his hands. And I forgot
that objects in the mirror are closer than
they appear. I learn to count
my father’s scars by the number
of mile markers we pass. Maybe someday
the highway billboards will lead us homeward.

By Adriana Carter

Biography:

Adriana Carter is a sophomore at Stanford University. Her poetry and prose have been recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers and the UK Poetry Society. Adriana is also currently the co-prose editor for the Leland Quarterly, a literary journal based at Stanford.

Ritual of Tale-telling By Iheoma Uzomba

Ritual of Tale-telling

There are no tale-tellers, no bagpipes
to thread these words in rhythms:
sounds, seizures, thoughts
that linger and bloat a mind.

So, up on this space between breaths and
what goes for darkness, with torch fires that
cast our figures back in time,
shadows flailing in rush-wind

a man sits on a stool, inherits the mouths
of a thousand tale-tellers before him, their
features reliving and slamming
the crest of nightfall. He begins

with an aside– lulling the spirits that own his
voice, asking for a portion of wholeness– a
bidding to what language would
suffice his course, subduing the

many tangs a man’s throat croons after: twilight,
twilight and its twitch for warmth, twilight & the
consummation of soul. Once again,
he splits the tale in both palms, one

for each child, rubs them in twos until what we see
is a patch of light exiting his fingers, turning clouds.
Our fathers used to say: “nothing would
come alive when there are no tale-tellers.”

By Iheoma Uzomba

Biography:

Iheoma Uzomba currently studies English and Literary Studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Her works appear on Kissing Dynamite, the Dreich Magazine, Fact-Simile editions and elsewhere.

Rockville By Julia Bonadies

Rockville

after “Chicago” by Carl Sandberg

Pre-teen pot smokers raised into
hard drug dealers.
Skinny, white, trailer-trash girls
with lips rings, 
and dexterous dope addicts
turning tricks into hold ups
on sex-starved naval officers
in a seedy motel six.
Alyssa’s mugshot from last week
is the first time I’ve seen her face
since our high school yearbook.
Before her, it was Bret in the fall
found overdosed on oxy,
passed out and picked up
by police in the Taco Bell
parking lot.
Before him, it was Coolidge
getting nabbed for carrying
and bragging on how big he felt
for brandishing a weapon
on his walk home from nowhere.
Before him, it was Cassidy getting pregnant
after a summer of binging and blow jobs. 

They told me I’d hate you,
That I would despise your kind. 
Your sharp tongues, your rough crowds,
Your ways, your words,
Your hard drugs, hard people.
And still,
after all these years they tell me
that you were born to be black and brutal.
And my reply is: yes, you are
tough to love but I still do.
So I ask them,
come and show me another place
where Friday night football games
are a consecutive failure
but the band is always loud and cheering,
the stands always filled by the families
that formed in-between
fights, deals, and deaths,
within teams, clubs, and classrooms
because parents were never in the picture.
Show me another town that knows
how to look out for each other
the way that we do.

Bareheaded boys rolling blunts
with precision in the pitch dark,
Shoveling aside the shit
their parents left inside of them.
Wrecking dirt bikes on rails to trails.
Planning escape routes on the cliffs,
keeping warm with fireball and burnetts.
Building themselves up and out
by the cash they hole up
in their track pant pockets.
Breaking down for the tenth time
when they’re told they won’t make it.
Rebuilding the hope, the bullies 
tried to brand out of them.

They tell me you are past all repair. 
That you are a lost cause,
a waste of my white, privileged time,
A worthless relic I should leave behind.
But I can’t help but believe
that one day you will get better.

The sound of your stormy, husky, brawling,
laughter lifts me out of your ashes.
Your sloppy joy, your scrubby hospitality. 
Your wild embraces, your full faces,
Your hand-picked families
have taught me how to be strong.
How to be loyal in my loving,
liberal in my kindness. 
Lessons, I never could have
learned without you.

By Julia Bonadies

Biography:

Julia Bonadies teaches English Language Arts at Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts Middle, and tutors in writing at Manchester Community College. In 2016, she was named Manchester Community College’s poet representative in the Connecticut Poetry Circuit. Her poetry has appeared in the national undergraduate magazine, The Albion Review, local paper The Chronicle, and various online journals and local college literary arts magazines. She is a film and plant enthusiast who resides in Vernon, Connecticut.

DECADENCE By Ozota Gerald Obinna

DECADENCE

When the rain
comes tomorrow
carrying your house in its belly, do not cry
foul play,
for when it did same to the masquerade,
you said it was a cleansing rite.
Your children today are scattered abroad
with no place to call their root,
they feed on lust and dote evil ___
their stomach habours decaying gases
of their culture,
if they return, they shouldn’t cry foul play for the debris
left of their homes,
for the wind that took them abroad
came for their houses too.
Your lands are growing bald,
and weeds swallowing the norms your forebears planted____
when your children come with protruding collar bones looking
for chow and you have nothing to offer;
do not cry foul play,
tell them the drought that once gave you pasture now owns
your lands.

By Ozota Gerald Obinna

Biography:

Ozota Gerald Obinna writes from Nigeria. He studies at University of Nigeria, Nsukka, He writes to stay happy. His poem Walls was Long-listed in The Nigeria Student Poetry Prize 2020 and his works have appeared in Praxis magazine,Kalahari Review and several anthologies.

Pray the Violence By Njoku Nonso

Pray the Violence

against the world’s iris of slaughter, the snake shivering
beneath the dead sky swallows its eggs—who knows

the kind of animals straying behind this wall undressed by
tiger-claw marks and red moonshine?—I begin to wonder

what made men make bullets instead of babies, something
worthy of enfolding a country’s name into the casketof war,

how we can actually unname anything we touch through
the brittle teeth of hunger—are we on the darker side of

the moon? are we so much afraid of love that we live all
our days on earth believing nothing would save us, grounded

by the soft weight of recurring bad omens?—a handful of ash
pours back into the river’s boundless throat, like a claim,

in the name of bloodied history, in the name of mourning
those who did not survive the maw of violence, those who

are born to carry through the night what’s left at their feet—
animal furs, egg shells, blood & more blood, every abstraction

of emptiness & grief—like clods of wet earth on a shovel’s face
after grave-filling—are we on the darker side of the moon?

are the lights blurred to keep us from hurting one another?
sometimes do you feel like there is a snake stuck in your throat?

are you afraid something might slither through the open door
& unmask your death, sudden like a bullet’s arrhythmic song?

On TV, two birds, wild-eyed, picking off food from rotten bones,
look towards heaven as if in prayers & scamper away—

By Njoku Nonso

Njoku Nonso is a Nigerian Igbo-born fiction writer, poet, essayist, and medical student, who lives and writes in/from Ojoto as a tribute to the spirit of Christopher Okigbo. His works are featured or is forthcoming in Bodega, The Shore, Brittle Paper, Animal Heart Press, Palette, Kissing Dynamite, Praxis and elsewhere. He’s currently working on his first poetry chapbook.

My Skin By Shanice Rose

My Skin

Uncomfortable in my skin.
Uncomfortable from within.
Uncomfortable with who I am.
Uncomfortable, but who gives a damn?
Uncomfortable when you hear me,
Talking about my feelings,
As if black women are unfamiliar
To the idea of healing.
My skin is as tough as nails,
As deep as the sea,
And as rich as cocoa.
My skin is everything, wouldn’t you think so?
My skin pushes men away,
My skin refuses to beg them to stay.
My skin is “too loud.”
My skin is “too proud.”
It doesn’t listen when it’s told,
How dare it be bold?
It doesn’t know how to act,
It’s too “ghetto”, to be exact.
My skin has big lips,
Big breasts, And wide hips.
Its everything you want, just minus my skin.
I guess my skin will just have to deal.
Maybe, just maybe, it will learn to heal.

By Shanice Rose

Biography:

Shanice Rose is a 20 year old Junior at Virginia Commonwealth University, currently studying Mass Communications and Public Relations. She began writing poetry in her 6th grade English class, and has been in love with it ever since. Shanice’s biggest influence, and favorite author, is the late Maya Angelou. In the future, Shanice hopes to make an impact as big as Maya did on the world, through her words or from working with Non-Profit Organizations. She is currently an Officer in a Community Service Fraternity at her school, Alpha Phi Omega, and spends the rest of her free time writing or with friends