She was a pebble like me
washing through the river
but I heard her smile and I saw her thoughts:
and wanted to be like her
a selkie diving again and again
into the Irish sea –
she came up through the ocean
and whispered mischief in my ear
take a selfie with me she said
and we counted out the ways we might snapchat
infinity as if ours – ours – ours –
the bar was vast and smoky around us
and in the ceiling: a circular opening
shaped like a spaceship
through which the sky was closed to the stars
later I stepped into the Cremorne streets
feeling the planets spin in unison
the cherry trees in winter black as glass
against a mythic eyelid sky
Jennifer Harrison has published eight poetry collections, with her ninth ‘Sideshow History’ appearing later this year (from Black Pepper Press). She is currently Chair of the World Psychiatry Association’s Section for Art and Psychiatry and has received the Christopher Brennan Award for contribution to Australian poetry.
After Joelle Barron
These eyes are travelers,
watching you inject
your gender, empty
show the process
of loving your body
and these eyes search
inside pages, while
my mind is inside
the blank spaces,
but these hands did
not need language
to feel something
beautiful and these
ghosts know it like
they know my name,
I’m burning and these
ghosts burn them-
selves into my going,
they keep branching, diving,
and these eyes try following
as these hands kiss each
tree they find which
makes a city quiet and
the city erased my name
and the city can fall
silent but it is different than
the absence of sound.
Ayşe Lara (she/her/they/them) is a UBC Creative Writing student, studying and living on the unceded territory of the Musqueam people. They hold an English BA from Trent University.
Saris by the Seaside
I love stumbling upon photos of Indian ladies by the sea.
My mother matches her beauty mark
with her kumkuma, hidden inside glossy white borders.
Grasping their braids in the breeze, I see them
hitch up their saris and fold the silky waves
jauntily above their haunches.
Pleats get tucked away with modesty –
their knobby knees and chubby calves lighter
than the bellies above their petticoats.
The photos bleed into motion – flowers lain down
to the Arabian or the Kaveri,
aunties splashing and wishing
The spirit uplift wouldn’t slip away
like their saris slide back to earth,
gold-stitched edges dipping into polluted waters
Mirroring the glimmer of the sun
on its slow crawl to the horizon as, haltingly,
the photos quiet once more.
Archana Sridhar is an Indian-American poet in Toronto, Canada. Her chapbook “Renderings” is available through 845 Press, and her chapbook “Our Initials Were U.S.A.” is forthcoming with Ethel micro-press. Archana’s writing can be found at www.archanasridhar.com.
The Day After Martin Luther King’s Assassination
Friday, April 5, 1968 – George Washington High School – 181st Street, Manhattan
Empty halls, few footsteps, no horseplay
in the Heights today.
I can’t pretend to teach those few who show,
sit atop desks nailed to the floor.
Radio tuned to news: fires, storefronts smashed,
looting in Harlem, home to many here.
A tearful Darlene asks, “Why do they hate us?”
At twenty-four, in the city less than a year,
what did I know?
Andrea lifts her guitar
looks to me for a nod
strums, sings folk songs she’s written.
We sing along.
The final bell demands we
Scent of mimeograph hand-outs,
chalk dust in the air.
Climbing out of the subway far from school,
shoppers crowd sidewalks, kids play in the park.
Daffodils at the corner bodega
catch my eye.
The question echoes in my ears,
begs an answer.
I have none.
Janet Banks’ essays and poems have been published by Parks & Points, Bluestem Magazine, Cognoscenti, The Rumpus, Entropy Magazine, and other online sites. She is developing a collection of poems about aging, the concept of time, and the need to create a future as you grow old.
lunar new year
the sun rinses
the stark winter branches
with a wash of pale
across the street
a child muffled snugly
in a throbbing blue coat
the undissolved ice
& now, from the bus
people sparkle & spill
like a jar of glowering
in their glass-fragile skin)
my mouth is a boat
flooded with green tea
and my heartbeat:
a grace note, redeemed
what wealth have I hurried
to the light
of my life?
Esther Ra is the author of A Glossary of Light and Shadow (forthcoming, Diode Editions) and book of untranslatable things (2018, Grayson Books). Her work has been published in Boulevard, Rattle, The Rumpus, and PBQ, among others, and received awards including the Pushcart Prize and 49th Parallel Award. (estherra.com)
On 17 February, 1999
the world tumbles down, home is the only heaven
or enough earth to place our feet. Mother says,
gather around children and starts telling us how
she birthed me- her first son, laying in a cot under a
leaking roof as the old midwife, half blind with the
burden of her own age chanted, push push push.
She said she didn’t do what she had been told, instead
she prayed, Bhagwan let me keep this child for myself
and held me in the warmth of her womb for as long as
her body allowed. Greed is one of the seven sins
and mother didn’t hesitate to lick it because
she had been told, a child is his mother’s only for
nine months before father comes to claim him.
So praying was the only trick but when has divinity
ever given women anything to keep and soon I crawled
out of her clutches and into the claws of the world.
She said the cry of a woman at birth is similar to the
tears shed at a funeral- both the by-product of loss.
With rain in her eyes, she saw the multiple possibilities
that could kill a child- their own negligence,
their poverty, snakes or scorpions, age or disease
and she was sure when she didn’t hear me cry
that if nothing else, then gods themselves.
As the world outside burns and birds lift in the
darkened sky, she agrees how unplaced her fears were,
how she didn’t have to worry about her rights
on something she birthed because even gods know,
before a child is his father’s son, he was a wish,
a prayer on his mother’s tongue.
Ashish Kumar Singh (he/him) is a queer poet from India and a postgraduate student of English literature. Other than writing, he reads and sleeps extensively. Previously, his works have appeared -or are forthcoming- in Chestnut Review, 14poems, Mason Jar Press, Native Skin, Tab Journal, Blue Marble Review, Trampset and elsewhere.
the weatherman says summer / and my mother says pomegranate / together, we crack open the large fruit like a forbidden geode / glistening magenta gems reflecting / across our wide smiles / dyeing us pink / my mother picks the beads / one by one into a yellow bowl / by the table / quiet light streaming in from the open window / into her eyes / she squints, pausing only to wipe the sheen from her black brow / a prayer at work / the pomegranate is an empty mouth / and we’ve happily taken all the teeth / she hands me the bowl silently now / and the weatherman says sunny / as I take it from her.
Sophia Zuo is a poet living in Taiwan, previously located in New York. Her poetry is published or forthcoming in Berkeley Poetry Review, Capsule Stories, and Taiwanese American. In her free time, she likes abusing her Spotify subscription and crying over baby capybaras.
Misophonia, or How To Be Trans & Be Quiet
I hate unclean sounds: sloppy ones from
those who have the privilege of breathing
or eating like being alive is not a big secret to keep.
The nuns used to soak a washrag & force it
over the corners of my mouth after a meal,
hold the back of my head like a hook in the gills
while I went stiff & bucked,
I learned to lick my face & plate spotless.
Do everything through my nose, which cannot
say the wrong thing. I swallowed the coin of keeping
my mouth closed like the good neighbor girls
who were never sent out to play with bodies of
social tender. Imagine my gender
did not belong to the highest bidder.
Imagine I was known before I was collateral
for a good Catholic home. Imagine I believed
in being loved & heard by the same people,
that I am not some dykeboi who now dreams
of cutting their stomach fat straight off the bone
for a chance at getting misgendered
in the opposite direction. Then I might like
things to sound alive. I might sit
in the corner, jaw angled like a ladle,
& slurp up the leftovers of my meals
from my nailbeds, no longer afraid
of anyone noticing. Maybe then
they would all use the right pronoun.
Abhainn Connolly (they/them) is a trans and queer poet that splits their time between Drogheda, Ireland and the Pacific Northwest of the USA. Their recent work can be found in Oxford Poetry, Poetry Ireland Review, HAD, and more. Their debut collection DEADNAME will be released in 2023 with Write Bloody UK.
SORREL SOFT SERVE
I love summer like I invented it
fat red flowers, tomato toast
& being bitten. mostly I want to lie down
for some time in the dirt that made me &
dream a little. in my best dream, there
is your body sunsetting mine
drifting lower to warm me.
I can’t hold you like this but
begin to feel you everywhere.
i want to be your dark honey girl, barefoot
in a skirt telling the future before i make it.
let me carve my name into the forbidden oak
of your back, hold your head in my hands
black as mercury, the Guadalupe at night.
let me kiss your lips firm & unsmiling
like it doesn’t bring me back to life just to do it
I love you like I invented you
like a spartan ready to die about it,
to tear my clothes, to fall on every sword from here
to the sea, minoan blue.
mostly i want to eat sorrel soft serve with you
somewhere as wet as it is green
where heat whistles through
the gap in its teeth
Imani Nikelle is a (forever) poet, (sometimes) florist, and (budding) filmmaker based in Brooklyn, New York. Her poems start with questions and end with memories. More of Imani’s work can be found in Sweet Tree Review, Changing Womxn Collective, and Wax Nine Journal.
“What building is that?” my mother asks, looking emptily out the window from her hospital bed.
“That’s my elementary school,” I explain. “We’re not far from your house. Remember you used to walk me there when I was in kindergarten?”
She examines the school’s silhouette, brow furrowed in confusion as the sun creeps closer to the roofline, shadow shrouding the red brick pattern of the structure across the street. The green paint once coating the bell above the side entrance has chipped and faded; only a few dull flecks remain. I can still hear its jarring, military ring; see the children lining up single file; smell the mustiness of the cafeteria as the doors open, and mothers gather on the curb to give one last smile to their waving children, disappearing one by one through the double doors.
“Do you have school tomorrow?” she asks.
“I do,” I lie, trying to join her, to be a denizen of the world she now inhabits. She’s here in this rehab facility to get stronger, they tell me, to more thoroughly heal after her surgery so she can be safe at home. But I know wellness is behind her, somewhere back in a world where she still has my father, her sisters, a house full of children to cook for and the recollection of all our names.
She starts as the phone rings at the nurses’ station just down the hall.
“We better get in line,” she warns, grabbing my wrist, thinking she’s heard the bell across the street. “Ma will be mad if we’re late for school.”
“We have time,” I say. “That’s just the warning bell. Ma wrote us a tardy note so we wouldn’t get in trouble.”
“She knows we’re here?”
“Of course,” I reassure her. “Ma knows everything.”
Her lips form a smile that fades almost as quickly as it appears, and as the last glimmer of sun dips down behind the school, my mother nods off, exhausted by the long day she thinks she’s endured.
James M. Maskell has taught high school English for over twenty years and writes in the early mornings before heading off to class. His poetry has been featured in Loud Coffee Press; and his first non-fiction work is forthcoming in Windmill: The Hofstra Journal of Art and Literature.