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poetry

What Light Does

The sunlight is warm and wide
and tender, resting

on the kitchen countertop,
the fruit, the veins in my hand.

The oranges have gone a bit
soft, the apples are delicately

bruised. But they look so new
in the light. I wonder at what

the light can do, how it reflects
off of the old thin scar on the back

of my hand where the cells
have knit themselves back

together. It’s so pale, in that silver
in that sliver, a little brighter than the rest

of the flesh, so finite, luminous,
singing in the afternoon’s hazed glow. 

Cassandra Baliga is a recent graduate of Purdue Fort Wayne with a B.A. in English. She’s had work appear in The Red Booth Review, Confluence, and ANGLES, and is a two-time winner of the DeKalb County Snowbound Writer’s Contest. She loves to read, write, and eat too much string cheese, which she shares with her dog Scrufaline.

The Foreign Husband’s First Family Reunion

It is our first encounter and
Paco is unusually distinct,
even as he settles in near me.

His history is whispered,
and all identify him for his
complexion. I wonder if

he knows they chatter
about him; know he speaks
smatterings of English but

prefers silence in a room that
cannot understand him. 

Since Kiera McCabe began writing in earnest two years ago, she has worked diligently to find her own voice as a poet. In this time, she has found that she gravitates towards writing narratives grounded in memory, lineages, and identity whilst exploring breath and form. Oftentimes these poems are tied directly to her own experiences as a child in the rural Pacific Northwest.

The Earth Called Back

I used to talk to animals and plants.
I had an imaginary friend: a giraffe named Lulu.
When I went to school and learned science,
they told me to leave Lulu behind,
that the earth couldn’t speak to me.
I studied and read, I took the tests, learned the facts,
and I believed the teachers, until—

I closed my eyes on the mountaintop
and listened to the wind as it brushed
against my hair and skin.
The earth became a symphony of
birdsong and wings flapping amongst the clouds.
Cool mist rolled in and wrapped itself
around my body, singing its own kind
of poetry.

Then I opened my mouth and said hello
to the canyon down below.

The earth called back to me: hello     hello

Eliana Franklin is an emerging poet who studies at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, with a major in Creative Writing and a minor in Environmental Studies. She made a New Year’s resolution to practice mindfulness every day in 2020–and that has radically changed how she thinks about writing poetry. She has previously been published in Headwaters Creative Arts Journal.

Snow

Winds wrap snow

round our house
this winter night

a white ribbon

we will not
see when morning

sun melts it.

Philip Vassallo’s nonfiction, poems, fiction, and nonfiction have appeared in Sewanee Review, Chaminade Literary Review, Southern Ocean Review, and other publications. He received a New Jersey State Council on the Arts Playwriting Fellowship, and his plays have been produced throughout the United States. He is the author of three books on work-related writing: The Art of On-the-Job Writing, The Art of Email Writing, and How to Write Fast Under Pressure.

living like a tree

the bare arms
of the tree reach
in supplication
but receive little
– except sun and rain

can I too,
reach out,
and accept
all I need to live?

Rebecca Dempsey is a writer based in Melbourne Australia. In her spare time she has undertaken archery lessons, and a year of longsword classes. With 2020, she suspects they could become useful.

Effort

We have an apple tree

and we want to farm apples, but
we want them to grow
on their own, ripely sweet
each indulgence,
made sweeter by the knowledge
that we didn’t lift a finger.

How do we cultivate?
What are we doing with
our natures?
All we seem to grow are twigs!
They need sun.
Of course, they need sun.

Maybe we aren’t apple farmers after all.

Adam Coday is a confessional poet who says “hark” and “no-no square” in casual conversation, so he stays home a lot. That’s why you never hear from him.

April

spring rains
wailing of the sandhill cranes
like some wounded wraith crying out,
“pay attention! look about!
all this precious plenitude
is headed for the drain.”

Marie Burdett is a young poet currently attending the University of Central Florida as an environmental studies major. In addition to writing, she enjoys birdwatching, swimming, beachgoing, and scuba diving. Her favorite writers include Robert Frost, Wendell Berry, and Mary Oliver. She aspires to be a farmer someday.

Cereal

My daughter             before my eyes
placed her clenched fist begged me guess what was
inside it tugging           at my chest until it popped

a plastic button         off my yellow collar
It was little enough to fit inside her fist         but I knew
it wasn’t that Weren’t all my buttons stitched

neatly in a row below my thorn-specked chin      But
this one         rolling toward the darkness under the couch
By the dull blade of light             what little squeezed through

the blinds and their shadows I could make
out a gold speck a fragment              of our breakfast
that morning One insignificant day          in the past

when I was a boy          the side of a cardboard box
said my future daughter’s heart would be
the same             shape as the little bouquet of her fist

Mario Chris is a student in the Creative Writing MFA program at San Jose State University, where he also tutors at the Writing Center. He has poetry forthcoming in the Cæsura 2020 print edition. He lives in Hollister, CA with his family and their Boston terrier, Bosco.

Spawn

Away from the camp, the rowdy clan of quarrelling cousins and barking dogs, I’m knee-deep in seeded grass and yellow rattle, gathering elderflower clouds by roads my uncles laid just days ago.

I had watched them work: their salt stained t-shirts and combat twilers, tipping aggregate and broiling bitumen in a liquorice path; the air steaming with the wash-day tang of coal tar soap.

I had listened to their Romani ćhib and coded slang from the borrowed van we’d made a home. On my lap, Nan’s almanac pictured seasonal foraging while mirage rivers hazed the new-laid byway.

Now, standing by the boundary post in the bird bicker and swishing cow parsley, dwarfed by early hogweed, I see the path flicker again in fracturing dun wavelets.

Over the scuff of my shoe, under the spring-flaked hawthorn, froglets ripple the lane between wastelands, drawn towards the ditches. I could gather a jar of pets but we Romani roam free and few share our paths.

They cross the road that will blister come this or another summer, that winter frosts will split for new springs to puddle, grasses to seed; ills that other gangs will claim to fix.

Perhaps the wilder places, the atchin tans and landscapes with their hidden patrin, will shrink or be re-formed as manmade spaces barred to trespassers and the old ways will retreat, be reclaimed, or move on.

Twilers, Romani for trousers.
Romani ćhib is the Romani language.
Atchin tans are Romani stopping places.
Patrin is a sign or signpost used by Romani’s to indicate directions or places. It also means leaf. 


Karen Downs-Barton is a neurodiverse poet from the Roma community. She is a Creative Writing Masters candidate at Bath Spa University, UK where her manuscript explores experiences of a Roma child growing up in the state childcare system.

Her work is forthcoming or published in Ink, Sweat, and Tears; Tears in the Fence; Night Picnic Journal; The High Window; Alyss; The Otolith; The Fem Review; The Goose; The Curly Mind; Persian Sugar in English Tea; amongst others. Find her at: https://thepapercutpoet.wordpress.com

Horsenden Hill

A crow breaks from the oak
Canopy, pecks at dried-out
wet-wipes and
picnic-remains. A woman in
Half Moon Pose, her small dogs
beside her. Her hair matches
the dry long grass through
which the warm wind
pushes toward me
the black butterflies.

Giles Goodland was born in Taunton, was educated at the universities of Wales and California, took a D. Phil at Oxford, has published several books of poetry including A Spy in the House of Years (Leviathan, 2001) Capital (Salt, 2006), Dumb Messengers (Salt, 2012) and The Masses (Shearsman, 2018).

He has worked as a lexicographer, editor, and bookseller, and teaches evening classes on poetry for Oxford University’s department of continuing education, and lives in West London.

Chinese Cabbages

My grandma was lying in bed
She was only skin and bone,
and could not even swallow rice porridge,
but she kept reminding me
to go and water the Chinese cabbages
in the corner of the garden
She was getting worse day by day,
while the cabbages she planted
grew nicer and taller

By the day of my grandma’s funeral
the Chinese cabbages in the garden
had grown to a rabbit’s height
She would be buried in the corner
where the cabbages were
I had to pull them up one by one,
holding back my tears

Wei Zheng, born in Jingzhou, Hubei province, works for China Mobile. He has written poems since the early 1990s, and his poems have been published in Poetry Journal, Poetry Exploration, Stars Poetry Journal, Poetry Monthly, Tianjin Poet, and other important poetry magazines in China.

Stone fruit

I kick off boots to find blisters, like broken
cherries soaking the white cotton,

and outside the snow becoming its own branches
and roofs and steeples, every angle hugged

until the whole afternoon
is somehow less sharp –

I was not slower than my despair,
I could walk out, fresh-socked,

band-aided into the blizzard. But the way
white gushes down and every shape

becomes a mere shroud, the way the seconds smother me,
a branch falls and my spine follows sluggishly.

I flinch at the thought of taking space, of anything
as slight as sleet proving me solid. Instead I stay in bed,

pitted, laying long like a twig. And I think of God, of all things
I think of God, but the only prayer I know is famine.

Mariana Kovalik Silva is a poet born and raised in Brazil, but she spends most of her time in the U.S., pursuing her education. Her work was featured or is forthcoming in the California Quarterly, Blue Marble Review, DoveTales Journal, Passengers Journal, and the Two Groves Review.

Flintknapping

ever heard about the therapist who murdered the depressed?
says his grief sharp as a blade continued into the bottom end

loudly, loudly, ever so loudly… the tinny-sound of a bell, yunno,
is inhumane, the jarring of grief & snap-snaps into dawn could

have you lip-taped with red songs or— a rush of welcoming hands.
& of course, anything with teeth is a blade. anything with fingers

has pines or nettles or awls or saws. a blade tore into the minds of the
wolves & wore them inside out. grief has never been the enemy

it is humans who nurture flowers with blade hands. blade people
with blade reason, blade faces with blade tongues. blade feelings for

blade liberality in a blade world. I love blades. how they cut away from
your body, make sure no body parts are in the cutting path or interfere

with it. the subtlety of flesh-tearing, the grand opinion it holds, unfazed.
a blade’s last urgency is not blood, but dust. each skin an algorithm for

earth’s final bed. what shatters from a blade still is blade. what ruins & sharpens
it. what rusts & unrusts. what leaves us throttled is not what is done

but what stays in the doing. nights with claws, days shackled in teeth.
what do we have to live for when the end is coming with thistles?

Aremu Adams Adebisi was nominated for Best of the Net, Pushcart Prize, and Fringe Play Festival in 2019. He has work published in Storyscape, RIGOROUS, Rockvale Review, Newfound, Third Wednesday, and elsewhere. He serves as an editor for ARTmsoterrific as well as a panelist for the Gloria Anzaldua Poetry Prize. He tweets @aremudamsbisi.

what to do with all the strawberries

Cara, indeed I will cherish them. I would not yearn for them to change, would not tactlessly translate their sugars into pie.

We regard them collectively as a poem without a home. Anticipation and acquiescence vie daily for control in the crowded channels of the hypothalamus. Wide as the desert, but hospitable.

The scientist felt a pronounced need for something whole that used to be green, slowly extrapolates the sun seeping from the smallness of their frames. Rarely does one face coincidences of such wrenching impossibility.

She brought them to her lips, made them bleed. Covered her tracks with the darkest chocolate she could locate. Let the forward stains begin again.

Lynette Ng is a union shop steward at her workplace. She enjoys picket lines, public libraries, and hearty plates of pasta. She has no interest in the low-carb lifestyle. Originally from Malaysia, Lynette now lives near Boston, Massachusetts, and will continue staying there if the powers-that-be bring back rent control.

Manure

I eye the headless robin
half-hidden behind the fence board
bodiless when it rises
to perch legs-only on a spot
of manure; a smallest earth.

There are miracles here,
scattered clumps of them
among clustered sprouts
of spring grass, higher
where last year’s droppings dried
and sank;

watch long enough
and a field’s worth
will vibrate and bounce
like those old jumping beans.

You wouldn’t think they’d move
any way but down

yet in a sound of great washing
like upward rain
up they all go as winged shit
or a flock of swallows –

one miracle
made of many
whose fate, like ours,
is to flutter up into the branches
and become leaves.

Hiatt O’Connor has received multiple honors for his poems, including the Miriam T. & Jude Pfister prize from the Academy of American Poets. He is published in The PRISM, The Allegheny Review, Tiny Seed Literary Journal, and by the Academy of American Poets. He lives and works on his Maryland farm.

Drifting Deeper

We’ve been there

the silence of reeds

all around us

the talisman 

being offered

veiled in its own

expectation

that something     will 

finally move

after centuries

of stillness

that a breeze      will

glide over it

or a ray of the setting sun

ineffably acquainted

from ancient mornings

when we were

grains of sand

and had forgotten

how to kiss

Victor Pambuccian is a professor of mathematics at Arizona State University. His poetry translations, from Romanian, French, and German, have appeared in Words Without Borders, Two Lines, International Poetry Review, Pleiades, and Black Sun Lit. A bilingual anthology of Rumanian avant-garde poetry, with his translations, for which he received a 2017 NEA Translation grant, was published in 2018.

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