Neither prayers nor breadcrumbs can smooth scars. Neither wasps nor tear gas can build your house. Neither blue light nor breath can fill your lungs.
I read page after page of plague, the catalog of horrors: You will not come back as yourself if they have dropped you into dark where imprecise machines force oxygen into your lungs, your blood. No one stopped the whips in unclean hands; no one took the guns from unclean hands; no one tore down the butcher-hooks or solved the knots that grew from trees.
I know the air itself can lie, and will. I pray without my hands. I pray no prayer. I touch no others’ hands, nor my own face. The birds-beak masks will protect no more than etiquette or peace extended to a uniform.
No thing protects you from what blood of your blood carried into you, or the air, from your own skin, from bloodlines running backwards from invaders, colonizers, viruses, or sin, from their arrivals and their rapes.
The nosegay in my pocket only marks me as the next machine to kill or die. The sanitizer for my hands I carry everywhere only marks me as the next machine to try to live, or not to kill.
They will wind me in a miles-long scarf, suspend my cocooned, birthless body from a tree and let the careless sky erase my words, though wind will turn what once was me— revolution after revolution— I will never find the wings to fly toward. Confession is a razor across gut strings— music for no one but crows.
By Devon Miller-Duggan
Devon Miller-Duggan has published poems in Rattle, Margie, The Antioch Review, Gargoyle, Massachusetts Review, and Spillway. She teaches Poetry Writing at the University of Delaware. Her books include Pinning the Bird to the Wall (Tres Chicas Books, 2008), Alphabet Year, (Wipf & Stock, 2017), The Slow Salute, Lithic Press Chapbook Competition Winner, 2018). She also directs the Poets’ Corner Reading Series, a joint project of the English Dept. of UD and St. Thomas’s Episcopal Church in which poets read (mostly) their favorite poems by other poets—a cross between Poetry Outreach and Story Hour for grown-ups
Blue bird, bamboo, bubbling brook. Fill your chest with scents of wood. Sunset, soft light, tender night. Sleep tight— Something’s not right. What if— Something’s not right. Think. Think pleasant thoughts. Thoughts. Too deep in your thoughts. Sink. Sink down in this muddy pond. Fill your chest with muddy air. Bubbling. Bamboo boat made of bamboo shoots. Float. Where to— To the fall. Fall and you will fall asleep. Sleepless, long day, endless noon. Noontime white and blinding. Firing, burning, burnt. I’m freezing. My hair wet and heavy. Tangled with seaweeds. Sea waves wreck my bamboo boat made of Bamboo shoots that fall apart. Let them fall. What if— Let them fall. Moonshine, sea salt, shimmering sand. This silence’s heavenly. Until—
By Rose Ruixi Zhang
Rose Ruixi Zhang was born and raised in China. She came to the US to study Shakespearean tragedy and psychoanalysis at a women’s college in Massachusetts. She has worked as a librarian, a psychology researcher, and an English teacher. She prefers to write in English, her second language, even though sometimes it takes her two hours to compose one good sentence.
A red lynching was held in white daylight. Absent rope, truant aid. A blue flag waved
above a battle prolonged for eons. Two assailants exhibited prominent proof of chalky privilege
while boasting blatant fear for Black pigment. The pavement matched Ahmaud’s skin before his t-shirt
was soaked scarlet. Three silver bullets cancelled his bloodline, spawning blaring screams of justice across the
world, because a Black boy in a colorless t-shirt jogged down a quiet Georgia street.
By Isaiah Kye Diaz-Mays
Isaiah Diaz-Mays is a writer currently enrolled at Dartmouth College with aspirations to be a poet, novelist and screenwriter. Born and raised in Hudson County, New Jersey, his inspirations are James Baldwin, Terrance Hayes, Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou.
I am not able to press my lips to his temple, not yet.
His father is a shithead far away not a partner nor a husband,
not of much consequence. His mouth can not breathe
into the walkie-talkie of my bellybutton blow kisses to his son’s temple
whisper to him in Spanish read him The Little Prince,
sing Mazzy Star, play guitar like he promised.
My son will have to wait to be outside,
break out of me before he can feel his father’s love.
Children aren’t always conceived in love even if they are loved.
I can’t press my lips to his temple, not yet.
At least the dog can rest her head on the temple beneath my skin.
Two heartbeats she hears and doesn’t question why.
By Bernadette McComish
Born in a blizzard in NY with the gifts of premonition and manifestation, Bernadette McComish is an educator and fortuneteller. She earned an M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence and an M.A. in TESOL from Hunter College. Her poems have appeared in The Cortland Review, For Women Who Roar, Slipstream, Flypaper Magazine, Peregrine, and a finalist for the New Millennium Writers 41st poetry prize. Her chapbook— The Book of Johns was published in 2018 by Dancing Girls Press, and her second chapbook is forthcoming from Lily Poetry Review in September 2021. She teaches High School in LA, and performs poetry, and produces shows with The Poetry Society of New York making poetry accessible to everyone.
it’s summer and you’re bored so you suggest we skinny dip in the neighbor’s pool. you jump the fence like you’ve done it a million times, and perhaps you have, and i swing myself over but my hair snags on the rotting wood fence. you motion impatiently so i crimson and tug myself free. leaves long, half-dyed strands streaming like spider banners in the july wind. the pool sign says keep out but you’ve been barging into places you shouldn’t have been since we were kids and so you sweep everything off in one motion and dive in. suddenly, i feel as dizzy as when you snuck us into your mother’s wine cabinet when you were ten. you tug at the hem of my sleeve with waterlogged fingers, so i pull it off to reveal another layer. then another. then another, like a russian doll, until i’m left with skirt and tights pooled around my feet and shivering in lingerie. you ask me how i survive in this heat, and i feel goosebumps inching up my arms. i sweep my hair to the front, shiver again when the breeze hits the exposed nape of my neck. cover myself with my hands as i inch first the lace socks, then the shoes down my heels and test the waters. you stare at my naked collarbone until i submerge myself. your hands work beneath the water, spinning a tale, until i feel your fingertips brush against my stomach. it’s no time to be thinking about it surrounded by chlorine and half-dead dragonflies, but i want something more and i’m not really sure what it is, because i want to always count my blessings and you give me everything. pressed up against the brick school wall when everyone’s gone, behind the old pizzeria. throats exposed and vulnerable and hands around wrists and lips and breath so glorious and addicting others just might call it religion. sometimes the moon brings high tides and you kiss me so hard on the beach, we leave imprints in the sand. what else is there to want? perhaps to hold hands; maybe a head on a shoulder— but how embarrassingly juvenile.
By Kristine Ma
Kristine Ma is an Asian-American writer and high school junior hailing from Michigan. She received three national gold medals and several other recognitions from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Additionally, her poetry has been recognized by the Young Poets Network and appears in The Hunger and Bridge: The Bluffton University Literary Journal, among others. When she isn’t writing, she can be found playing piano and oboe, watching anime, and dreaming.
She sits there before me cross-legged in our tree-house sanctuary, away from the prying eyes of our conservative, born-again Christian parents. A girl’s place well-known in these restricting confines of our known society. Nearing thirteen but not quite there, she looks at me, a miniature Aphrodite, her blond hair shimmering from where the sun hits it. Blue eyes peering into my own hazel green. Me, a female Ares unkempt bright auburn hair, bangs I brush away from my face with my hand. She looks at me slightly trembling If I was a man, I’d kiss you. We stare at each other not moving, silent, unsure of what to do next. The staring contest continues and we both break eye contact. Do girls kiss girls? I put down a Pokémon card and make the next move in our game. Our sapphic moment forever in the back of my mind.
By Erin Miller
Erin Miller is an artist and a poet. She has an MFA degree from Arcadia University in Creative Writing and has had her art exhibited in numerous galleries such as but not limited to Phoenix Arts Gallery, New York Art Connection, and the Pahrump Valley Museum. Currently, she works as a teacher in the state of Nevada. Her past publishing credits include Daily Star, Lesbian Connection, Poetry and Covid, and Ovenque Siamo.
I have written too many poems about evergreens. About pines and firs. About trees that, like me, don’t change and go long winters like they’re not cold. Deciduous is a word I can’t bring myself to embody, though I want to
be like the Easter Trees outside that die, live, then die again. Never scared of change or of being forgotten. Happy to give their old flowers to the ground. I want to
turn red and wait, naked, for spring. To shift with the breeze. Anything, really, except for the humdrum of another winter where I am clothed, but still underdressed.
By Maria Llona Garcia
Maria Llona Garcia is a 24 year old Peruvian poet and occasional prose writer. She recently graduated with a degree in English from Skidmore College, where she was awarded their section of the Academy of American Poets Prize. She currently lives in her hometown of Lima, Peru and teaches English while also working as a newsletter editor. This fall she will begin studying for an MFA in Poetry at The New School.
Damp moss under my heels, hands wet and muddy Sturdy rocks guiding me safely through each step, each leap Riveting conversations with the trees; some you have to go up high to talk to other stories stay rooted to the Earth Just be kind and ask for consent first. I know all the pebbles along the trails and in the rivers, the rapids sing to me as they wash over wounds, healing. Drink from her and you will know the Truth A mirror she gives you, you may be confused Look deeper, she tells you, it’s an inward journey Feel connected to the Life that surrounds you Dancing in the rain, heart racing up the mountain Listen to the sorrows, the triumph, the legacy Watch the branches in the wind, the clouds rolling over hills The stars at night, and the silent rise of the morning and know that you are part of all of this.
By Reanna Holmes
Reanna is a 23 year old Service Coordinator with their Master’s in Social Work. They have been writing casually since they were in middle school to express themselves emotionally and spiritually. Their passions lie in social justice, decolonization, environmental healing, radical love and change, and queer community. Reanna identifies themselves as a “jack of all trades, master of none” and dabbles in dance, painting/visual art, drag, poetry, music, urban exploring, and more. In their free time they enjoy being in nature and spending time with their partner and furry companions.