My local bakery sells donuts at .90 cents I walk there at dawn to remember my mother My mother isn’t dead, but we are strangers now. This walking to bakeries was our shared ritual. I called them panaderias back then Although we never spoke when we walked I suspected she was in search of something significant but now there’s a swollen country between us and I’ll never know for sure
on my way to the bakery, I pass through a lake that long ago belong to a slave-owner until the Earth stole it back and swallowed it whole. Lake Eola isn’t a lake- it’s a sink hole named after the slaveowner’s sweetheart. A story as southern as pecan pie, peach cobbler, and white supremacy.
Today, the air is thick with the stench of sulfur and trees grow triumphantly through the water. if I arrive before the sun wakes I’ll find a flock of American White Ibis sleeping serenely in the Cypress Tree, insensible to the violence they rest in Even in the dark, I notice the irony but I know better than to think of it thoughts like these make ghosts out of sanity I slide a soggy dollar to the birdlike women at the bakery, and she hands me a stale donut above us, a dozen lazy buzzards ride thermal ways around skyrises.
By Grecia Espinoza
Grecia Espinoza is a Brooklyn based poet. She moved to New York to start her M.A. in English and American Literature at New York University. Her writing is inspired, almost paradoxically, by the language of confessional and Black Arts poetry both of which have been the center of her research. . She’s currently working on a poetry collection that she hopes to finish by the end of the year.
Botticelli’s The birth of Venus: goddess of love goddess of everything warm blooded & doomed to desire Desire born from pink oyster lips pinnacle of womanhood just out of reach hair like liquid sun pouring down pale satin flesh breasts like pearls next to soot stains on my chest eyes like churning oceans the way mine are dead kelp the way mine are oil spills.
Jupiter only has eyes for a blushing planet of rust commands heaven to let her dance twice a day morning and night the whitest star in the sky burning imprints in man’s eyes but I am star-eater I am black hole & wildfire smoke darkening his pink lungs.
O Venus why curse a brown beauty with Desire? Kali may be fierce but Durga still sleeps in her heart yearning and woman. Botticelli paints blue eyes gold spun hair buttercream white skin so white that it looks like sidewalk chalk on my brownness like a halfhearted eraser mark that couldn’t get the job done.
By Jasiah Hasan
Jasiah Hasan is a 22-year-old poet and writer from Portland, Oregon. She studied poetry at the University of Virginia. In her free time, she loves hiking, cooking, and oil painting.
Plato once asserted that justice, in the scheme of morality and goodness, ultimately comes down to compromise. We discussed it in class, so it must be true, but tell me, philosopher, if perhaps I could arrange for a meeting with your dust and bones—
Is it a just compromise, every time a girl of color is violated in her own home, and must then continue greeting her abusers with respect for the rest of her life? Is the silence that shrouds her voice and mind a contract, a law we write and pass with the absence of communication?
A lack of votes cast is its own kind of unanimity, is that it?
Why must culture and societal norm be both a set of colors and an ineffable fabric covering; a dust jacket to hide the figures of young women and a curtain to draw over society’s eyes?
Does our definition of literacy come down to nothing more than the spaces between the lines we refrain from speaking, the lines families draw in the earth around a daughter, her monthly bleeding and her rights, like the bars of an iron cell? Cells of a jail, the cells we pass down like genetic traditions of smaller size— If we can just use the ones within ourselves to lock the demons and the diatribes away, what need have we to convince the powers beyond our reach to give us the space and equity we plead and pay for?
If we double-cast our indoctrinations as judge and jury, doesn’t it then become true, that we have no need for an executioner? Is that the essence of righteousness— getting lives to withhold themselves? If everyone involved is only darkened by responsibility, and not in the skin, can we still consider them clean?
Maybe if our girls can all be fair in complexion, whitened by bleach-smelling creams and denial, then the rest of us can be saved.
You’re well-read, aren’t you? So consider this state of human nature and explain: Why should a mother have to forgive destiny every day through her child’s life and not her own?
Elaborate for me that much, how you in your Republic could presume to speak for a world that is not so operatic, not so opulent in oral tradition as the men and gods you aimed to inspire.
I’m not outraged, but what I am is privy to the bargains made below the tables that sit over my head; the weights we deem (we’re told) are worth carrying, and the lonely, allegedly lawful lives they lead us down.
This story might not be all mine to tell, but it is mine— my right, and my duty to question.
Because when Virtue’s hands are so shadowed by lost dreams and personhood— how can we behold it blind, make our every action a prayer for it as we do?
Think, student of Socrates: did your mentor and nurturer ever tell you that you were all he had? Did you ever have to face the ideas of the past that challenged you alone, have to teach and take care of him from the beginning the way he would’ve done for you?
Did he ever tell you that the great problems of your present arose from dependency on the systems that you spent your whole life learning how to define?
Can you, old man, comprehend a world where a child is not a child; where women are women by the age of fifteen; wherein even from the shelter of another land and another generation, some verdicts are felt every day?
This life — like philosophy — is just as much about questions as it is answers, and so though I don’t know you, still I must ask: if these compromises are the substance of justice,
then is this form of justice really worth it?
By Adhya Kona
then is this form of justice really worth it? This poem speaks about a type of injustice that is a part of both my family and cultural history, but beyond that affects countless of other girls, women and families as well. Women who bear the wounds of abuse are made to take them silently, but that silence isn’t something that ends with the edges of their bodies and minds; it becomes a shroud wide enough to settle over their whole lives. This is a poem for the daughters who were told they couldn’t have sleepovers because of the possibility of being violated and repeating history, and just as much for all the mothers who had to say those words to their children.
Adhya is an academic writer, creative prose enthusiast and poet whose work often reflects the narratives that are undeniable as a young person of color and a child of immigrants discovering their voice in a changing world. She is a current member of the 2022-23 Seattle Cohort of Youth Poet Laureates, has mentored the University of Washington’s Writer’s Workshop, and her work has been previously published in the Prometheus Unbound: 2021 print anthology as well as Embodied Experience: A Community Dialogue by the Henry Art Gallery. When not writing, she can be found overworking her Spotify account, adding to her endless book collection, and reading her work onstage.
The leaves move with sound when the traffic stops and then there’s you and the end of work, of a life built with so much care it is brittle. Bowie, headfirst in creation, embraced chaos. His wife has your sister’s name: magnet and faith in my beloved languages, which is really how you drew me and I stayed: for the mornings when you play the guitar like a giggling spring, all life, and I decide to write like water and not a fist, for the evenings when the traffic stops and you appear in the loud, loud leaves.
By Mina Hassan
Mina Hassan was born in Chicago and grew up in Karachi, Pakistan. She is a Master’s student at the University of Oxford and a co-creator of the South Asian literary magazine DHOOP Journal (www.dhoopjournal.com ). Her chapbook Flying South: a Collection of Winter Ghazals was recently published by Bottlecap Press.
From the very first time, Fire burns inside. Licks and rolls inside my veins, Determined to kill. Even if that means a part of me with it.
My crown litters the floor in big chunks of hair. My heart beats fast. My skin goes sallow. My head grows tired.
Gone is vanity. Makeup applied to mask illness, Not for beauty. Clothes worn to comfort a weathered body, Not for style. Wigs placed so others won’t stare, Not for fun.
Fear loves to torment me. And ask me questions like, Will I wake up tomorrow? How much time do I have left? Am I strong enough to finish this? And they don’t know why, This is the reason I can’t sleep at night. Because I worry it’s my last time.
Fast forward 5 months, To my very last round. My face is as white as a sheet. Stares are no longer discreet. All that is left is the fire. I feel it ignite something inside of me. I rise from my chair one last time, Like a phoenix from it’s ashes. And I walk away tall, I’m finished with chemo.
By Megan Pinon
Megan Pinon is a 30 year old Mexican American who lives in Los Angeles and practices as a licensed operating room nurse. She rediscovered her love for writing when she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at 27 years old. Poetry and journaling has given her the gift of expressing herself during the hardest moments of her life. Her pieces “The Phoenix,”“Underwater,” and “Broken” reveal her experiences during treatment and explore a quiet strength despite her losses. She is currently enjoying life as a survivor in remission with her companion dog Luke.
moor into lifeboat moor into canals unknown to meet you
on a kayak lightweight
huddle in a curl
position hands to take on gloves
porcelain rectangle floor tiles no motor no noise
what language is that bedroom beats
your voice catches salt sight
egrets wings in the tiles in the brackish water between florida tiles of this
tongues in mouth linger
on tongues against teeth
water taffy clear
murky mangroves sea grape waves
swap out of bed curl
in a kayak
navigating through you
your veins chambers
By Stella Santamaría
Santamaría was born in Los Angeles, daughter of a Cuban father and Guatemalan mother. Stella holds an MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) from Saint Mary’s College of California, recipient of the School of Liberal Arts Dean’s Award. Her poetry has been recently published in The Acentos Review, Nine Mile Magazine, The Rumpus, Courtship of Winds, Juked and The Brooklyn Review, among others. She is The Sandra Cisneros Fellow at Under the Volcano 2021 and an alumna of the Community of Writers. Currently Stella lives in Miami.
A 6-hour flight, a wedding ring, a fabricated vow. No family or friends alone in an unknown country amongst uncertainty, isolation, dead ends. I wake every morning grateful and resenting the decision I made, escaping one battle only to be thrown into another my own children will never understand. But I can’t help but wonder how different it would’ve been if I had stayed unmarried even after all this time.
By Subrina Ally
Subrina Ally is a freshman undergraduate student majoring in Childhood Education with a concentration in English at Pace University in New York.
my feet kiss dirt like a teenage boy on his first first date
dirt roads; varicose veins on an old town. not butterflies I got moths in my stomach, fluttering for a new flame a honeymoon pilgrimage to the snake woman mountains there was a girl who waddled with me on the rim of the ice rink who I didn’t ask out, for fear of treating someone like me as special. I run in front of a girl I did ask out, we’re in the foreplay before a breakup I yell down the driver with dried-stretched deer-jerky vowels— like I used to, like Norteńas do. she knows the accent but not in my mouth so she’s made uncomfortable a valley made from the implication between two legs in its center a church a white blanket
By Artemisio Romero y Carver
Artemisio Romero y Carver is a Chicana poet and activist. She is a YoungArts Merit Award Winner for Spoken Word and Santa Fe’s 2020 Youth Poet Laureate. Poems by Artemisio have appeared in publications that include Inlandia Literary Journal, Rigorous Literary Journal, Pasatiempo Magazine, and Magma Poetry. Her writing has appeared in the following anthologies: Dreams of Montezuma (Stalking Horse Press), Everything Feels Recent When Your Far Away (Axle Contemporary Press), and A Tiny Grain of Sand: The National Youth Poet Laureate Anthology 2021. She is currently pursuing degrees in sociology and studio arts at Washington University in Saint Louis. She also goes by Arte.
His hands Run down The cold of my spine. I say: What is it like to have a Ba who loves you?
The first chill of autumn brush my knuckles My tongue curls around bitter hawthorns inside Sugar kisses. Pray, to earth do young girls seed Their puberty. Hem your dresses, he says. Keep an eye on the road, he says. There be murderers
But the only man I see murderous behind me is him. Knuckles dug deep Into a stranger’s waist. Bleeding like an Augusta’s sun. Do you often think of me? When your fists are on a foreign body, kissing a skin you do not know so deep, every contour, every trace, every screech when we are wounded bred From your own?
I reel every morning to disressemble you. Our overlapping tongues still groom the same story. They rave a tale of generational trauma that smells like stale but tastes like candy. We feed it to them, like napalm’s gold trimmings.
His hands Run down The tip of my hair. What is it like to have nothing to say to a psychologist?
For every one of them I pull you out and lynch you a thousand times. Lights shake above him like a halo. I say, When in reality, we rip clothes, we rip Laolao, we rip Jia But you never touch My hair. Ba, this part I’ll never tell How you saved a part of me just for him.
So I can ask him now What is it like to have a Ba who loves you? So whole It breaks What is it like to have no one to lynch a thousand times?
Tell me and I’ll believe.
By Tianyi Shen
Tianyi is a Chinese-born, boston-based poet who explores familial conflicts and generational heritage through the medium of a second language. She has been recognized by the Scholastics Arts and Writing Awards, The Kenyon Young Writers Anthology and her school’s literary publication, the Spire. In her free time, she can be found cuddling her cat.