silent, treacherous By Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu

silent, treacherous

palm slashed and dripping,
i am seated on the bathroom floor, alone.
a fabric of darkness only i can see
is so close it could be the skin clinging to the immediacy of my bones.
there is the sun, too, breathing through the window
for a glimpse of this different kind of deflowering.
there is always a silent treacherous witness to these things.
sometimes,
it’s a song pouring out your computer on a starless night
sometimes,
it is the woman next door, whom you called mama,
who sprayed a song over your childhood like
scent over flowers
it is she, peeping as
a male body sheds trust like garment,
tries to pour into your 6 year old self that first night, one hand
back and forth on your back like the sound of many soundless things breaking.

other times, it is god watching. watching. from above.

there is always a silent treacherous witness to these things
today, it is the sun

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.

Serotiny By Rachel Egly

Serotiny

I stand tall under the operating room lighting
of my father’s kitchen. Laid out as I am with
skin sterilized and cut back,
nerves and organs exposed, I tell him
I am bi.

I can smell our dinner beginning to burn.
He stands at the stove with his back to me and tells me
it will pass.

Do mountains come to pass?

I understand mountains.
Although their spines are strong,
they have been molded, smoothed;
caressed as they are by water
for millions of years.
Their worn-in bodies become homes
for so many animals, plants, trees.

I read once about a kind of pinecone that will
only grow after it has been
set on fire
Serotinous, they are called.
High in the same mountains, their parent trees
wait for wildfires to sacrifice themselves
for their seedlings.

I stand tall at your side, finally
playing myself in this grand opera.
Say I’m no longer acting.
Say the stage is on fire and I can feel
the wild heat of it,
can hear its lyric burning,
but I do not shy away like a frightened animal;
Instead, I take your hand and sing along
while the flames finally find me.

 

Biography:

Rachel Egly is a bi poet, engineer, and ecologist in love with all things water. Her work has previously appeared in Words Dance and Ghost City Review and is forthcoming in Vagabond City. She currently lives in Chicago with her partner and cat, where she catches crayfish, naps as much as possible, and spends most of her money on good food.

I sing of black boys, brown boys, sweet boys By Ernest Ogunyemi

I sing of black boys, brown boys, sweet boys

—after Jussie Smollett

I make no apologies for the colour of my skin,
what I wear on my bones is not a plea. though
you call my body a dark house, unfitting for the light.
the song in my throat is not a request for your hate,
the flowers I grow on the earth inside me is not a debate with you.

I ask when it stops being sin for black boys
to be seen, when the time ripens enough for coloured boys
to walk the streets of America and not be walled,
and not be raised, and not be questioned, and not
be touched till touching itself becomes a synonym for

burning. I ask when the black, brown and red
blood of coloured martyrs becomes a bright-enough sign
on our doorposts to make the angels of death pass over.

but until then I sing.

I sing of black boys, brown boys, sweet boys.
I sing of boys who, though stretched and thorned
on all ends, though broken like slashed water, have
forged themselves a voice from the language of fear.
I sing of boys who like god, boys—gods, have
painted themselves into a rainbow in the sky,
this sky, you call it your sky,
to remind you that we are here, that
your hands around the neck of our voices is
not enough to tie our tongues, that
your palms slapping fire into our bones is
not death, it is a request for our singing.

 By Ernest Ogunyemi

Biography:

Ernest Ogunyemi is an eighteen year-old writer from Nigeria. His stories and poems have appeared in Kalahari, Acumen UK, Litro UK, Literally Stories, The Rising Phoenix, and many more. His story was recently featured in Erotic Africa: The Sex Anthology, published by Brittle Paper, and he was recently selected to participate in the Goethe-Institute Afro Young Adult workshop. He has a short story collection and novel in progress.

 

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.