Did You Bring the Backpack? By Anna Šverclová

DID YOU BRING THE BACKPACK?

The rules go: whoever brings the backpack
does the fucking.

Learn               back.

Learn               pack.

Learn               strap.

Learn armpit hair. Learn tongue ring.
Learn nail file. Learn bullet vibrator.
Learn nipple ring.

Learn labia majora/minora/clit/hood/taint/asshole.

Learn a haircut. Button-downs in every color.
Learn how to poke your own belt holes
wire-wrap a rock earring.

Learn               direction.
top,
bottom,
switch.

Learn softer.
Learn eye contact.
Learn 2, 3, 4 fingers.

Learn backpack. Learn how we never call it
bookbag or sex bag.

Learn to go back home.

Learn conservative Sunday clothes.

Learn 1 Corinthians 6:9

John 3:16

Leviticus 18:2

Learn normal.

Relearn normal.

Relearn shaved armpits stiletto fingernails JCPenny’s salerack

modest lip colors like beige and champagne

acoustic guitar Bob Dylan Luke Bryan Toby Keith Tim Mcgraw

Learn hair tie.
French-braid.
Fresh shave.

Learn bookbag.
Relearn normal.
Fake normal.
Real fake normal.
Real, fake dyke normal.

By Anna Šverclová

Biography

Anna Šverclová (they/them) is a totally queer sophomore director of Macalester College’s slam poetry team, MacSlams. They were born and raised in the Twin Cities suburbs and they cry whenever it snows. Over the years, they have become an expert in layering. Their secret? A journal compliments every outfit.

the wild(ish) side By Rachel Whitesell

the wild(ish) side

jackie’s still there with red cotton candy hair
ripped stockings and glitter lipstick
she can pen plays that deserve a fare
but she can’t avoid the other needle’s trick

candy’s here too, waltzin through corners
foolin men into thinkin she’s theirs
blonde and pale, the best kind of foreigner
always remembers to feed foolish stares

joes round here tend to come and go
since they aren’t seen as chicks with dicks
yet their commendable hustle is paid with snow
and men still feel they’re crossin the river styx

we can’t skip holly, the original pioneer
the first person to say cunt in cinema
lookin for hot meals was the start of her career
now all her accolades could fit in a Woodlawn basilica

and the missing posters go
doo, doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo-doo
doo, doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo-doo
doo, doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo-doo
doo, doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo-doo

Can you hear it?

By Rachel Whitesell

Biography:

I am a cartoon lover, coffee enthusiast, and mother to my “fluffy” cat, Baby Kitty. I am an English major at the University of North Florida, working towards my bachelor’s degree. I am also a writing tutor at the University of North Florida’s Writing Center. So, my days are usually spent looking at my writing or someone else’s. My poem “Guanyin” was awarded runner-up in poetry for the Amy Wainwright Award for Creative Writing in 2021.

Winter Mornings Like These By Sarah Esmi

Winter Mornings Like These

winter mornings like these
in the Bushwick duplex

I have a hard time distinguishing
the howl of the raw wind
that rattles the apartment door
and coos underneath the slats

from my husband’s humming
low and meticulous
as he scrambles our eggs
and empties the dishwasher

the music of these
moaning and sacred spirits

stirs me from sleep
so that I may start my days
with the simple, vital art
of listening mindfully

as I descend the stairs
to meet the early bustling of the world
and to gently unravel
in the warm voice of my beloved

By Sarah Esmi

Biography

Sarah Esmi is an artist of Iranian descent focusing primarily on experimental and absurdist theatre, collage, movement, and poetry. Sarah began her career as an experimentalist during a Fulbright fellowship in Spain. She has been published in Calyx and the Dime Show Review. She is also the co-founder of counterclaim, a Brooklyn-based production company. By day, Sarah is a practicing attorney, representing the underrepresented in New York courtrooms. www.sarah-e.com, @sarah_______e


To a butterfly in my DM By Olabisi Akinwale

To a butterfly in my DM

there are many reasons
our love thrives in the dark.
there’s nowhere safe to tame the
smoke on a lover’s skin without a hand
forgetting music in your throat.
I mean, to say the word love,
look over your shoulder for salvation
or throw a whisper in water & bend towards
its ripple to lodge your touch in a bone.
there are only a few things the world knows
about love, but know enough to call
a boy living in another boy’s heart a taboo,
something unethical like the dark side of God’s art.
so, when you said you love me & your words
slips off your mouth like a prayer
seeking room to breathe bubbles,
I do not want to bite dust or imagine
the fate of a tale lying still in the dark,
because our love is a bird restricted from daylight
like a sin hidden from sun rays to be sane.
I’m sorry, I do not want to die.
I do not want to hold your hand
& be mobbed to a memory in pool of blood.
even with fetters you can never stop the world
from screwing her rage to our veins
because she does not know how to embrace
the beauty of a butterfly unhidden in a hue.

By Olabisi Akinwale

Biography

Olabisi Abiodun Akinwale is a Nigerian Poet & Writer, an explorer of grief, silence, beauty, loss & everything artful that meets the eye. A Best of the net Nominee, Best Student Poet- Federal University Lafia 2017, first runner up- Poets in Nigeria (PIN) poetically written prose contest 2020 among others. His works have appeared and forthcoming on Rising Phoenix, Split Lip Magazine, Kalahari Review, Agbowo, Praxis Magazine, Tuck Magazine, Lunaris Review, ACEworld, Nigerian NewsDirect and elsewhere.

Iola By Dee Allen

Iola

 For Michelle Duster, great-granddaughter of Ida B. Wells-Barnett

Pages of the Living Way
Newspaper, which reached readers
Every week, was how the public
Saw eloquent words and met

Her, Iola

Told many of her harrowing tale
Of injustice turned resistance:
Boarded a steam train for work, Nashville bound,
First class seat taken, comfy ride for

Her, Iola

The White conductor disapproved,
Did his damnest to remove
Consign to a smoky, crowded
“Coloured only” car, disregard for

Her, Iola

Promptly answered him with her teeth,
Fastened onto pale hand, bitten deep,
White passengers cheered as she was dragged out—
This episode wasn’t over for

Her, Iola

Contested the egregious matter in court
Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, her opponents
The judge awarded $500 in damages
Soon to be lost, company appeal against

Her, Iola

It was the sudden shooting of three
Successful Black grocers, all good friends, because
Southern White businessmen despised competition,
That brought that schoolteacher to her typewriter, motivation for

Her, Iola

Shone truth’s light on ghastly wrongs
Between the Evening Star & Free Speech
Until hatred’s fire was set to her printing press
Added stress on the journalistic princess, Memphis off-limits to

Her, Iola

New York City, Northern refuge
Safe enough to continue the deluge:
Reports on Southern horrors acquired
From talks with victims’ relations, fleshed out by

Her, Iola

The record of the South continued to go red
From any hick town producing Nubian dead
From shotgun shells, bullets, fire and rope
Enclosed around the necks of humanity, counted by

Her, Iola

That never fails to chill the soul
Commonly used method of control
When Blacks came up, supremacy cut them down—
Allegations of rape of White women found false by

Her, Iola

Chicago, England, Wales, Scotland—wherever she did a speech
On the crime of lynching—Preach, lady, preach—
America isn’t the land of the free
If you’re not free to be Black, the gist from

Her, Iola

“Separate but equal”—official falsehood
Separate and substandard facilities—never good
Signs at public places turned away dark faces—
The basis for a fight for equality, which began with

Her, Iola.

By Dee Allen

Biography

African-Italian performance poet based in Oakland, California. Active on the creative writing & Spoken Word tips since the early 1990s. Author of 5 books [ “Boneyard”, “Unwritten Law”, “Stormwater” and “Skeletal Black”, all from POOR Press, and from Conviction 2 Change Publishing, “Elohi Unitsi” ] and 38 anthology appearances [ including “Your Golden Sun Still Shines”, “Rise”, “Extreme”, “2020: The Year That Changed America” and the newest, “Geography Is Irrelevant” from York, England’s own Stairwell Books ] under his figurative belt so far.

COMBUSTION By Nidhi Agrawal

COMBUSTION

The three letters GOD symbolizes the basic causes of creation; generator, operator, and destroyer. Shiva/Sadashiv/Adiyogi is the third god in the Hindu triumvirate and his role is to destroy the universe to re-create it. He is the destroyer of illusions and imperfections of the world, paving the way for the beneficial change.

Rudra Mantra/ Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra (Incantation)
Verse of the Rigveda

I

Om Trayambakam Yajamahe Sugandhim Pushtivardhanam |
Urvarukmiv Bandhanan Mrityormurchhiya Mamritaam ||

II

The incompleteness of desires
sits in the nest of snakes
Underneath my flesh.
I have chased the wild
Around the world
In the forest
On the ocean beds
In the realms of the tectonic plates
On the hilltop.
He could not be located.
I want him,
Without him, I can’t exist.

III

The consciousness deluge
Beyond time.
Am I in love?
Because I don’t care
What will transpire now!
Or is it lust?
I am shadowing the physiology,
Keeping my third eye latched.

IV

Shiva!
Open the third eye
Consume the fuel of incompleteness
And give off the ashes
I am complete.
Who cares what will happen now?

By Nidhi Agrawal

Biography

Nidhi Agrawal is an Ex- Communication Designer with five years of extensive experience across media, entertainment and design space.

Nidhi believes that poetry is powerful and it defines the richness and diversity of mankind. Her works have been published in South Asian Today, Indian Periodical, Ariel Chart, Life In 10 Minutes Press, Spill Words Press and are scheduled to go live on Muse India and Setu Journal, her story has been accepted by Women for One and Women’s Web.

Her achievement in National Institute of Fashion Technology’s entrance 2013 has been recognised by The Telegraph, Jagran Media and Radio Mirchi. Along with, she was also bestowed with the prestigious title of Inspiring Alumni of the decade and Society’s pride in the education sector by her school in 2019.

She strongly believes that poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder; a tool that keeps her going in life and is driven by her intense physical and emotional trauma encountered through her medical condition.

Ohio By Grace Stalley

Ohio

A green plot squared
off diamond shaped
island of mapped land
hit me like a home run
summer shakes hands
I solemnly swear
supper sings
in the cicadas
sameness lies on the windowsill
simple sounds
solid streets
the purring of pets
sitting pretty, positioned
like a potted plant
it was painstaking
to pull up roots
yet out across Lake Eerie
I see a suspicious shape
hopeful and haloed
a lighthouse hangs like home!

By Grace Stalley

Biography

Grace Stalley is a resident of Brooklyn, NY and works as a writer’s assistant in the television industry. She is fascinated by the divide of cultures represented by each region of the U.S. and how those cultures inform one’s perspective. At the age of two, Grace was adopted from China. She grew up in a small suburb outside of Tampa, FL where her family still resides, in addition to Ohio.

Ghost By Lauren Folk

Ghost

The ghost
befriends the neighborhood dogs and
chatters at the fat squirrels
who forget where they buried
their fourth or eighteenth or forty-third acorn last fall.
Those lost acorns might grow eventually,
unfurling
the broad greenery of their
upside-down skirts
into the sky.

The ghost is where she was,
where she used to be.

The neighbors grow their zucchini and yellow squash
and beans
and whisper when they think she’s gone.
She knows her lingering disturbs the rest of them—
the husbands and wives
and their children and their Golden Retrievers.
Their curiosity simmers and bubbles,
popping up like mushrooms behind her
on her daily walk in the shade of the black gum and the wych elm.
The murmured questions do not trouble her.
She cannot answer them anyway.

She is mostly happy.
As was her life before, so is her afterlife:
Each night, contentment slips into bed
next to her like a
lover;
peace and quiet pace her halls,
admitting no unrest, no indecision,
no unruly disappointment.

Often, instead of sleeping, she will visit the river.
Some children who are now grown
built a raft out of old wooden pallets and inner tubes.
It idles in the bend of a narrow channel.
Its makers are long ago and far away,
and now it belongs to her.
On warm summer evenings,
after sunset but before moonrise,
when the fireflies
blink their romance into the gloaming,
she pulls away the vines
that have crept over the wood
and sails the waters in her little bark,
one hand drifting in the current,
one hand raised to brush the leaves of the willow tree and the dogwood
as she passes silently below.

By Lauren Folk

Biography:

Lauren Folk (she/her) is a freelance editor, writer, and photographer. She graduated from Smith College and is currently earning her MA in English from The University of Akron.

Saudade By Luiza Louback

Saudade

In my mama’s language,
saudade means a yearning

for a love that has vanished
or never existed.

A root knotted in honey,
whirling inside our soul,

circling our bones
and starving us to death.

In my mama’s language
Latinity is an unwitting river,

a wind coated with torn wounds
sand ashes of wilted homeland.

Each grain is a red vein
rippling and mourning like riptide,

vowels shaped like breaths and prayers.
Mama melts our faces in light,

scalding tiny pieces of myself
as I unearth lost stories of an entire continent.

Mama squeezes our hands together,
hardened calluses waded and wet

trembling to still move
bones soft and oily flesh

raw heart and
courage dripping blood

scared all that is left are forever stained
open veins of an unreachable land

Deeper than any tree root
worn smooth by ancient rivers.

By Luiza Louback

Biography

Luiza Louback is a Latin-American, Brazilian emerging writer, and high schooler. Her work has appeared in national anthologies and has been recognized by the NY Times Summer Academy. When she is not writing, she teaches English to low-income students and advocates for literary accessibility in Latin America.

Night Reddened by Maple Leaves By Michelle Park

Night Reddened by Maple Leaves

Tonight the moon shines
in bittersweet luminescence
like a dying lamp. The light clambers
through the thin stretch of road
against the ripples of houses, diffusing
into the windows that are all shut tight.
The street grows a shadow,
one that becomes more vivid, when day
becomes night. An ajuma
sees the street lights hiss, suddenly
shutting out – gone. The woman
follows, turning her lamp off.
And a businessman, who halts his Kia
in front of his house, sees bland dust
winnowing through the street: empty
yet filled with everything it’s made up of.
He recalls a year ago, coming back to a home
that’d make one warm – the smell
of pajeon, softly golden, now
wistful, burnt. He sights a sandpiper
standing on an Aspen branch, probing
at the vastness of Yeonhui-dong
now swallowed by the darkness
almost muted, never slicing
through the silence. Soon, the bird’s wings
begin to flutter, taking off into nothing,
the man now alone. His eyes
trail along the slightly peeled hanji pasted
on the door of his hanok, remembering
the wailing noises of his children
running down Jeungga-ro reddened
by fallen maple leaves.

By Michelle Park

Michelle Park is a 15 year old, high school freshman currently living in the Philippines. Many of her poems are about nature and her memories from her childhood. She loves to eat food, and during her free time, she likes to play soccer, dance, and listen to music.