Bystander By Jeni Prater

Bystander

She couldn’t walk a straight
line stone-cold sober, always tracing
with bright eyes salt-marbled swirls
pressed into sidewalks. And now, strungout
and stringing together lines
in her head, she was
uninterruptible.

The still nights were the most
worrisome. Her evidence rose
above her in streaks — telling,
morphing into
clouds, conspicuous,
untaken.

To let herself be seen, she said,
was to say something.

To hold her was to hold glossy cortisol
sweat; to know where her mind goes
when she reaches for skin
was to watch her slip
through fingers, unreluctantly—
to watch smoke sink into lungs and
beg for a witness to write
it all down.

By Jeni Prater

Biography:

Jeni is a queer sexual violence and disability activist and works at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center on the intersection of these. While she prefers to collect books and elephant trinkets, she has been published in “Of/When,” “Spark,” “Zetetic” and was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize at Wellesley College, her alma mater.

Cleanse By S.A. Khanum

Cleanse

But I go all knees.
Fold like an ironing board.

Become the corner.
Room myself empty of you.

Jut mountains from my side.
& gather clouds in my mouth.

All feels of charcoal & flint.
All feels of wanting to spark.

But here I am
ship-wrecked, water-logged.

Still the river winding through me.
Still the mountain dweller,

climbing.

Down the rocks,
at the centre of me

where the women be beating
their linens,

the dye of their veils
bleeding the water—

I say thirst & they say a well.
I say quenched & they say carry on.

I say holy & they say water.
I say why & there is no answer.

By S.A. Khanum

Biography:

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

A SONG FOR OUR FATHERS By Chia Amisola

A SONG FOR OUR FATHERS

Imagine: We, gangrel of seventeen, have watched
the culling. Born of mirth, of myth, of void,

like Binondo-husked television sets – static overrun
or gorged out in flesh testimonies under broad daylight.

Reminisce your childhood hearth. Recollect all those
that you had once sown. Relive the names of your

forefathers, a withered daughter of mausoleum-turned
sins. We will dive, headlong, steadfast, into strife the

older had set up. This preamble wrung for us to
learn the value of our false degrees, broken industry,

incorrect skin. The world you loathe is led by white
men a thousand miles away. Torment grows a stranger

in the pickings of your skin, so be it that your mother
wonders why you hold your language second-hand.

Paradigm of distrust is my southbound severance,
letting go is easy. Rite runs from the narcos-smoked

world that had been forced on me. Rite runs from
Imus-donned wry, fun and nuanced with the way

it rolls off my tongue, estranged and intermittent of
my own depravities disavowed by diction. Or religion.

Or belief. Or lovers. Seventeen shall march towards
insolence, cutthroat hell laid as we dare to be again.

Seventeen holds the Rite of Genesis, untrusted sons
and malevolent daughters accosted of dead horizon,

evergreen to cheap brown or dollar culture. Though,
perhaps, we are the open for a reason. Anyway, all

my story is afterthought to your political agenda,
anecdotal brief to digress again. Pronounce rite for

once, my hearth filled me whole.

By Chia Amisola

Biography:

Chia Amisola is seventeen year-old senior, a lover of language be it in the form of poetry or code, hailing from the scorch of Metro Manila.

THE POET FINALLY WRITES A PERIOD POEM, AND IN DOING SO, QUITE LITERALLY PUTS BABY IN THE CORNER By Harper Russet

THE POET FINALLY WRITES A PERIOD POEM, AND IN DOING SO, QUITE
LITERALLY PUTS BABY IN THE CORNER

after Lydia Havens

my body confesses itself to me
through blood. on the sullied cloth
it hisses, “both the moon
and your emptiness tells me
it is time for you to hurt.”

if we are all indeed half of our fathers,
this is the half that mine gave me:
the half that bleeds, the red tantrum
bellowing for a child.

i hate the term birth control.
i call mine everything control,
holding the blood back on a leash
and watching it strain against rope,
white-eyed and rabid.

my body calls it,
everything aches when i don’t get what i want,
and i want something to cradle
that isn’t your gender-melancholy for once.
give me something warm and smiling.
a new heartbeat. i’m bored with yours.
a baby would have a heart as small as a cherry
and yours is so – so big, so loud,
it takes up the whole room
before that mouth of yours
even has a chance.

my body calls it,
i know everything you’re afraid of.
every poem you write, there’s a baby
hiding under the page calling you mama.

there’s your father loving you again,
his praises one big i-told-you-so,
i-knew-you’d-come-around,
i-knew-you-were-my-little-girl-after-all.

there’s me, your own body,
my praises one big i-told-you-so,
i-knew-you’d-come-around,
i-knew-you-were-a-big-girl-after-all.

there’s you carrying something
that needs love
more than you do.

By Harper Russet

Biography:

Harper Russet (she/her or they/them pronouns, interchangeable) is a 24-year-old butch lesbian poet and novelist from Utah. Every poem she writes is an argument with gender, the country, and so many gods. Videos of her work can be found on Write About Now. You can also find Harper on Twitter and Patreon.

Old Times By Deonte Osayande

Old Times

Why did I begin
to like cheese is
a question that is too
easy for me to answer.

Your fried chicken tasted
of ninety six, good times,
gym shorts and Sega Genesis,

my shoes all drawn on and my mom
in the kitchen. It takes me back

to a simpler time, mac & cheese, chicken
and greens, not a care in the world, I was
carefree. No zealots or bigots. No terrorists
or 9/11 or fear, just a young boy, his dinner

getting cold and sonic the hedgehog. Gotta
go faster was his catchphrase but I wish
I could have taken it and rushed back

to these peaceful moments of the past.
Asking me why I’m so fond of these

times, I try to tell myself
he’s a good guy. Growing
up together, played on the same

basketball courts with one another
but I can’t shake the badge, the uniform,
the betrayal, how someday I might just be
another black life to him on the other side

of the gun and he might remember
reasons to punish you. What happens
when that becomes him? When the gun

is pointed at him and he doesn’t have
enough time to pull out his badge
or show his ID. I wonder if black lives

will matter to him then, calling them
rowdy kids looking for something
to protest. Nobody notices how

protesters don’t riot when murderers die,
but when an innocent man is killed instead.

By Deonte Osayande

Biography:

Deonte Osayande is a former track and field sprinter turned writer from Detroit, Mi. He writes nonfiction essays and his poems have been nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology, a Pushcart Prize and published in numerous publications. He has represented Detroit at multiple National Poetry Slam competitions. He’s currently a professor of English at Wayne County Community College, and teaching youth through the Inside Out Detroit Literary Arts Program. His first full collection of poems entitled Class, is now out with Urban Farmhouse Press.

f(x) By Sarah Wang

f(x)

inspired by f(x)’s 4 Walls music video

Last spring I shattered my family’s porcelain teacup,
stepped over its exposed white shards,
watched as my bloodflood soaked into stolen soil.

They say the body will only stay in the air
when the canopy of the forest unfurls itself, and the mind
finds a slant of yellow daylight to claim its own.

There’s a k-pop girl group called f(x),
who exhale the empowered femininity of Pegasus.
With them, I found my sunray in the ultraviolet forests of Jeju.

f(x). Function. It computes everything & nothing.
A versatility that disrupts, one that dissembles the window
as a portal to beauty and replaces it with a mirror.

Still, there are those who fringe our forest with axes.
They label our language a malign venom,
sleep on our synchronized dances as a trained roboticism,
slander our eyes for burying thread after calling us chinks.

But even if they invade our forest, slash down every last branch,
we will rebuild like we always do — this time in the water,
our bodies surrounded by fallen peony petals coalescing into a flower path.

This year when spring rains down,
I catch the porcelain cup before it drops,
preserve the warmth of pu’er tea with wrapped palms.

By Sarah Wang

Biography:

Sarah Wang is a Chinese-American high school senior living in New York. Her writing has been recognized on the regional and national level by Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and she has attended workshops by The Kenyon Review and The Winter Tangerine. She serves as editor of her school’s newspaper and literary magazine. When she is not writing, she enjoys finding new music and going on food adventures.

Bones Uncovered in the Dirt Saquina Karla C. Guiam

Bones Uncovered in the Dirt

A daughter I’ll never have
lies buried in the garden.

During siestas, she holds my hands,
asking me to open my eyes.

But I am terrified of seeing her face—
what if I see my father in the tilt of her head,

my mother in the sigh
of her lungs?

What if I see an old family history
scribbled on her skin

with a black sharpie,
but she’ll never claim that inheritance?

This poem was previously published by Public Pool

By Saquina Karla C. Guiam

Biography:

Saquina Karla C. Guiam is a writer from General Santos City, Philippines. Her work has appeared on Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Djed Press, Outlook Springs, The Maine Review, and others. She is the Roots nonfiction editor of Rambutan Literary and the Social Media Manager of Umbel & Panicle, a new literary magazine about all things botanical.