Friday nights, we find solace
in the renovated Presbyterian church
where we worship the rock step.
Four & six counts. Ourselves,
breathless beneath blue & purple
aerial silks ghosting the ceiling,
waiting to recall their bodies.
They teach us how to coil
our hands into hooks. How to twist
into open spaces, communicate
by touch. How to spin out &
bring someone back. A woman in
red tugs on a man’s suspenders,
brings his face close. I watch
the incline of her pumps swan-dive
into the hardwood, toes rounded
by teal. A chorus of shoes knocks against
the once-holy oak, hymns rising to
meet stained glass & nylon-draped rafters,
tempting the wood back into branches
bathed by light, coaxed by fireflies
into forgotten psalms spoken
by leaves brushing leaves, wind
cupping their green. In the pauses
between songs, we stand in the forest
listening for the sound of falling.
Remembering that we, too, are
Shannon Austin (she/her) is a writer from Baltimore, MD, with an MFA in poetry from UNLV. Her work has appeared in Drunk Monkeys, Rust + Moth, Nimrod Journal, Okay Donkey, and elsewhere. She will never get over the opening pizza scene from Home Alone.
There are words in the English language
that are especially beautiful:
it occurred to me recently
that I thought fondly of
because both words were so
pleasing to the ear.
There are other words, too –
combinations of words.
Equator, Gothic, Patella, Rose.
Peekskill Hollow, Honeydew Melon.
I Love You.
I sit in the car’s passenger seat,
watching the green flow by,
hearing the words over and over,
like waves rolling over the hills.
Liz DeGregorio is a poet, writer, and editor whose work has appeared in Ruminate Magazine, BUST Magazine, Ghouls Magazine, Gravitas, The Tulane Review, Scorpion Magazine, Beyond Words Literary Magazine, Decomp Journal, and more. Her goal is always to make her readers feel understood.
My father played the concertina,
a big box of squeeze and buttons and squeaky noises,
joyous noises, dancing melodies, prancing polkas;
playing concertina practically from birth,
young boy sitting on old wooden steps,
bringing the joyful noise of his sly smile youth
up through the new country of my young life,
joyfully at my wedding, along into the old country of his old life,
playing the concertina resting on his knees sitting in a chair.
My father enjoying life through that concertina, but
also getting so drunk at wedding receptions, burying
the unjoyed, unable to play through;
even passed out, stronger younger men carrying him out,
bumping his head down the steps, as they were drunk too,
but still able to stand, and carry, and bury…
My father played the concertina,
the joyous noise sounding through my young life,
squeaking and speaking of who my father is… was;
now quiet, the concertina,
put away in a box, like my father…
but he still lives, in the old country, of my joyful heart.
James Joseph Snyder is a retired engineer who worked in the product development of medical devices. He was born and grew up in Minneapolis, and lives there now. James has written poetry off and on, starting in grade school where poetry was encouraged. But more focused and regularly writing since 2017.
When body is considered landscape
and maps are considered time, we can feel
what can’t be found through the soil between
our woes, bodies paint mountains using trees
and everything doesn’t have to be tangibly seen
like a lake mountain’s ravine passing through
the canvas. Some will call it art. I am not sure
it is necessary to dumb it down. Some will call it
nature but I think the earth is opposed to that
adjective. I will call it camouflage. We are hidden
from what can truly grow. Encouragingly.
The winner of a performance grant from the Staten Island Council of the Arts and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Thomas Fucaloro has been on six national slam teams. He holds an MFA in creative writing from the New School and is a co-founding editor of Great Weather for Media and NYSAI press. He is an adjunct professor at Wagner College and BMCC where he teaches world lit and advanced creative writing.
consuming our people.
These wounds will bubble over
running in the streets
it consumes us all.
Angela Shanté is an Award-winning children’s book author and poet. She grew up in New York City where she first fell in love with storytelling, spoken word, and Hip-Hop; all of which influence her as a writer. She received an MFA in Creative writing from New York City college where she discovered her love of experimental poetics.
Marriage as of Late
Her shoulders are dog-eared
but wide as Irish goodbyes,
she tries to leave me for good
only after promising she wouldn’t.
She’s got morning absence:
a hole in the mattress
deep as I’d dug it
during that argument about my father leaving me
did that mean I would leave her?
She crawls back to the same hole.
Like a 7PM “goodnight,”
everything she says is moldy
her way of making me feel like a November pumpkin.
She expires on my side of the bed,
hoping I push her into her side
into the hole.
But we’ll sleep on my side
until it becomes a hole, too.
Sleep until there’s no longer a bed.
Then, sleep on the floor.
Christine Donat was born and raised in NY. She attended the State University of New York at New Paltz where she learned the many forms of creative writing. Christine pulls her inspiration from self-analysis and from conversations with the world.
I write you a poem Ade it grows teeth
many teeth & turn them enter me. Like
skid marks I run from the wound causing
mayhem along the causeway of my mind.
Who think say words go grow heavy like
wet woolens? Who think say a poet go
stutter perish deliberate attempts at rhyme
& rhythm? Grief fit bear the weight of music?
Paper fit carry the thirst for my veins to
comb your face with eyelash wash your hair
with hand listen to every gospel every
psalm from your heart? I carry inside me a
hollow trunk eaten by worms & termites;
empty I wander every memory. I write the
poem from remembering & it draw blood
soak fingers with rust & when the tears
patter my paper offering I perceive burning
ash—the goodbye we didn’t think of & if
friendship is love I loved you less more
you loved me & I’m sorry I didn’t call.
Osahon Oka is a poet of Bini/Kwale descent, living in Nigeria. He enjoys solitude, a good book, coffee and cloud watching. He holds a BA in English and Literary Studies. A Best of the Net nominee, his work has appeared and is forthcoming on Feral Journal, Down River Road Review, Lit Quarterly, Ghost Heart Lit and elsewhere. He is the Review Correspondent at Praxis Magazine. He can be reached on Twitter: @osahonoka.
The sky is plump
This is our Somalia,
you and I in the morning.
There is nothing but children of rags.
Hot sun, black backs and drinking sea,
sky and beach where you and me.
Grandfather blows into his phone,
as if into a dictaphone.
Someone is crawling into the market,
a hillock under a slope.
A wet shirt stuck to my leg
cold, hot, sworg.
Sand between your toes, your sand.
It’s easy for me to dance with you.
Above us, the sky is plump, such
gray, not blue.
Humid southern heat.
I hold you with my hand and everything
is yours sticks like a T-shirt and runs nose.
There is only the horizon ahead, and what is behind?
Behind someone’s poor and not our city.
You will raise the spray to the sky, beloved, beautiful.
Maybe black, maybe blue, maybe long, like fireworks
and visible in all directions. To me. And there is nothing.
Be here with me someday.
The sky will be bad, like that.
Or maybe stormy and maybe gold.
Anna Idelevich is a scientist by profession, Ph.D., MBA, trained in the neuroscience field at Harvard University. She writes poetry for pleasure. Her books and poetry collections include “DNA of the Reversed River” and “Cryptopathos” published by the Liberty Publishing House, NY. Anna’s poems were published by Louisville Review and Fleur-de-Lis Press among others. We hope you will enjoy their melody, new linguistic tone, and a slight tint of an accent.
I am building a rock tower, the kind that makes you think of Texas or possibly Colorado. The varied trigonometries and subtle stench of the falls in the distance recede as the dragonflies guide me down a beckoning rivulet. Alone or in pairs, they skip from rock to rock like fairy godmothers, curating my materials with the spontaneous discernment that only insects possess. With each gossamer perch, they gently mock the harsh point of the index finger. I love them, their blue stickish torsos and jaunty meanderings. I did not love them before, but I do now.
Like the wings and the water, the fishes shimmying bodies are diaphanous, their viscera momentarily visible as they nibble the dead skin off my unshaved legs. By the time I lift the fistful of dripping rocks from the ankle-deep water beside the bank of the beck, they are gone, their escape routes as ephemeral as their innards.
The clarion clangor of nearby children is moderated by the rush of the stream. “This might be the strongest current in the world.” “This is the strongest current in the world.” In keeping with little-documented childhood tradition, a girl of about seven chaperones the pack, the others lining the heaviest rocks they can carry across the stream’s small lip. The girl shepherds the stones with naive confidence, stealing a glance at me in my own concentrated stacking. I feel her gaze and turn my face toward her, squinting and imperceptibly generous in the light of the laggard sun. Recognizing the stony dedication of her future self undiminished, she flashes a grin equal parts wise and sheepish and returns to her station with renewed puissance.
The great egret checks in from time to time, appearing here and there, close at hand or far off in the distance. His roles shift seamlessly: faithful mascot, self-appointed watchbird, ordinary denizen. As he circles my realized sculpture, his slender form visible between its fraternal towers, he makes his position clear to me. I feel I’ve joined the ranks of an elite syndicate, a metaphysical cartel.
This lone bird is the yeoman of this territory. He shares the land unbegrudgingly. He is benevolent, but not without standards. He is critical and warm, and when with frisky peer and prudent flap he flies over the falling water, I rise to meet the ripples of his wake.
Charly Santagado graduated with highest honors from Rutgers University in May 2017 with a major in philosophy, and minors in creative writing, dance, and music. She is the founder and artistic director of ~mignolo dance~, a nonprofit contemporary dance company based in Metuchen, NJ. She is a freelance writer for Dance Informa and is passionate about dance criticism. She won multiple creative writing awards for her poetry at Rutgers and her work has been published in the Blue River Review, Interim Poetics, and Z Publishing House’s Emerging Writers Series and Emerging Poets Series.
21 /with loneliness
The first time I told a girl I love her I had to repeat and stretch; it is a joke; it is a joke nigga… Why? My mother said I am my father’s appearance, and like him I am not capable of loving a thing. In this poem, let me first describe my mother as [fill in the gap as you please]. The memory I have of my mother are insults and [fill in the gap as you please]. Some mornings I stand before the mirror to see the kind of man my father is. My mother delicately says I am too silent to be tolerated. I do not know if I miss you, father but I know that birthdays are reminders for what we have lost. Fuck! I miss you dad I really miss you I miss you by my breath. If this poem is a wishing machine, I wish you were here as I held this glass in celebration of another year. To think, I do not know your face father but I have a world of gist for you. I want to tell you that I made it. I fell in love. But she walked away from me too. I asked her /what do you want? what do you want my love? She opened her mouth as if she chokes. I said here is water. take. drink. Here is cake; eat. be well. Here is a flower beautiful like you. She said: take your curse, digest your sorrow, own your misery. I guess she never lied / maybe my mother was never wrong.
Ayobami Adesina is a closing student of social work at the University of Ilorin, Nigeria. He resides in an isolated apartment where he laughs all day at memes on Twitter via @aiadesina.
The Caspia Flower
Delight flickering in the candelabrum,
my eyes kept ferreting your smiles.
The purple heart-stealer,
crouching silently in the darkness,
teeming the air with the celestial fragrance,
the leeway flung open with a joyful mindset.
I prayed for the safety of us both,
shedding tears over our reunion,
The wind made the string line of tassel curtains
swing back and forth incessantly.
Hale and hearty as we grow old together,
nascent buds of the flower standing to relentless blow
of the howling gales
take roots in the soil.
A dragonfly stopped at the window pane lattice,
An emblem of our courage and perseverance,
The rainbow overarching the sky bears witness to the omen,
“After the storm comes a calm.”
The heartbeats we’ve shared along the way,
resonating with sweetness of the Éclair,
a raid on our tongue tips,
dipping in the honey taste of your kisses,
watching the marsh-rosemary in full bloom.
Besides teaching pupils with learning difficulties at Dounan Elementary School of Taiwan, Yi Jung (Jolene) Chen used to write scripts for illustrated picture books and poems in English, Chinese and Taiwanese languages as well. Provided given the opportunity, she would like to have her poems published by reliable journals and shares her poem with people around the globe.
So quiet in the house. Though I
am not up early, others chose
to sleep a little more. It’s Saturday,
a day when weekly needs
have slipped away to clear a space
for weekend to appear.
to hold a thought inside my mouth
and savor every flavor note
before I’m forced to swallow,
and admit that time, that seemed
to be on leave, has reemerged,
full force, to have us act
the parts that someone scratched
on to our rolls.
a mighty sweep, a wind appears
and whisks the hours clean
of gentle dreams; no skin of hope,
just bones assembled, joint to
joint, that may or may not have
the strength to bear the weight
of day, already late.
back to earth, another day climbs
to the crest to view the graveyard,
littered with more bones, whose markers,
weathered by the storms that often
hinder progress, bear little witness
to the passings.
All things are connected. That’s the premise of what William J. Joel does. Each of Mr. Joel’s interests informs each other. Mr. Joel has been teaching computer science since 1983 and has been a writer even longer. His works have recently appeared in Common Ground Review, DASH Literary Journal, The Blend International, Liminality, and North Dakota Quarterly.
A Nice Boy
A tall, thin man crashed into me in the crowded airport; spilling me and my comic books across the floor. My chin throbbed from smashing it on the ground.
“Are you ok, son?”
I didn’t understand a word as he lifted me off the floor and picked up my books. His voice had a lilt, like a glissando. I liked the sound, but stood there silently, noticing moist blue eyes under arched eyebrows. He reminded me of Opa. I already missed him. I missed everyone.
“Are you ok?”
He kept standing there. I began worrying that he was angry, though his expression belied that. I dared not rub my chin, lest it set him off. He noticed my comic books weren’t English.
He pointed at me.
I nodded. My mother returned from the carousel with our suitcases. I ran to her as he handed over my things, apologizing.
“I knocked him over. I’m very sorry.”
My mother answered in halting English.
“He iz ok.”
The man pulled a dollar out of his pocket and crouched down to hand it to me. I looked at the strange bill.
“Zay sank you.”
I didn’t understand the instruction.
He patted my head then rushed off.
I rubbed my chin as I examined the bill. It was green and white and warm. I held it against my cheek. It smelled musty. My mother grabbed the suitcases and headed down the corridor to join my father, brother and sister in the customs office.
“Komm schon, kindchen.”
I ran to keep pace.
We entered a small office. A small aluminum tree with blinking colored lights sat atop a grey file cabinet. Two red paper bells in opposite corners and a gold garland connecting them framed an otherwise bare wall. Hardly cheery. The man talking to my father reminded me of the bald sidekick in The Great Race. I watched it with my uncles and aunts in Höchst, the week before we left. I laughed until tears rolled. Especially during the pie throwing scene. My father motioned to my mother.
My mother took over signing paperwork, while my father dealt with my fidgeting infant sister who’d just awoken and began crying. My brother stood next to his chair, with his arms wrapped around my father’s leg.
“What is the nature of your visit?”
“Ve arr nut visiteeng. Ve arr leeveeng heer.”
“No. Ve arr komming heer.”
“You’re returning from a trip?”
“Ach… Ve hov movet heer.”
“You’re moving here?”
“Customs gave me the wrong information.”
He ripped up the forms my mother had been signing and pulled new ones out of his desk. My father frowned.
“Was ist loss?”
She shushed him.
“Do you have your visas?”
She handed them over. He held up my mother’s and father’s while checking their faces against the pictures.
“This man is your husband?”
“How long have you been married?”
He bent forward to fill in the forms. The blonde fuzz on top of his head looked like the fuzz on my sister’s head.
“These are your children?”
He held up our visas to match our faces.
“How old are they?”
“Von, feif und zex yeaz oold.”
He winked at me as he handed the visas back. I clutched my comics close to my chest. My mother stroked my hair and whispered that I should tell the man what she taught me. I shook my head.
“I EM eh NAYSE BOYee.”
My cheeks burned. My mother beamed at her polyglot son.
“I’m sure you are, kid.”
He handed me a candy from the same drawer in his desk. I put it in my mouth, then spat it out. Butterscotch. What a cruel trick. My father smacked my head.
My head hurt. Not merely from the smack, or the fall. The unfamiliarity of everything; the bright lights made my temples throb… my eyes burn. The cacophony of beeping trams and rolling luggage and rushing travelers and staccato announcements over intercoms… I hated it here. I missed my uncles and aunts and Oma and Opa. I missed my friends. How was I going to make friends here when I couldn’t understand anyone? Everybody talked like they were chewing gum. Ngow, ngow… I bit my lip to keep from crying. I failed. Which set my sister off again. Which angered my father. My mother snatched my sister from him and sealed our fate with a flourish of her wrist. She slid the forms over to my father to countersign. It was then, with those signatures, that I realized that my parents wouldn’t look out for me. The packing, the goodbyes, even the flight- it all seemed reversible, but this action was indelible. The epiphany started me sobbing. My brother joined in, making it a trio.
“Verdammt noch mal!”
My father picked up my brother and yanked me hard, towards the door. My mother apologized to the man as he handed back our visas.
“Dey arr verry teyered.”
He nodded. The door closed. My father, brother and I stood in the bright hallway. I could still hear my sister crying over my own. My father jerked my arm and glowered down at me. I stopped crying immediately; though my shoulders still convulsed.
My brother stopped as well; knowing it was prudent. My father sighed angrily and lit a cigarette. He ran his hands through his hair as it dangled between his lips. It burned to the filter before the door opened and my mother came out with my sister. She’d stopped crying and was sucking her thumb.
“Welcome to the United States.”
“Sank you verry match.”
My mother handed him the paperwork along with my sister, ignoring his question. She picked up my brother. I took her hand as we headed down the long hallway towards our connecting flight. I looked up at her as a tear hit my forehead.
Raffi Boyadjian emigrated from Frankfurt, Germany as a young child. He lived in Los Angeles with one very thoughtful dog and another that was pure id; both greatly loved and greatly missed. He now (still) lives (in L.A.) with his wife and young daughter. He’s a graphic designer by trade, a composer by heart, and a confounding writer. He was looking forward to getting a male dog to restore gender equanimity but somehow ended up with an amazing female dog.