JP Howard

Ghazal for Sugar Hill Secrets or Lullaby for Harlem

Mama’s lover was a secret,
wrapped around decades of bittersweet dreams

When sleep visits, I mimic Mama, 
escort secret lovers into my dreams

I think we are all, always dying here,
these bodies buried under dreams

Grandma Pearl lived-in with rich white folks on Sutton Place,
scrubbed their dirty clothes, while folding up her dreams 

Weekends brought Grandma back to Harlem,
her pot liquor so exquisite, it lives on in my dreams

Sugar Hill stories still run through these veins,
summer stoops hold old men’s shattered dreams 

Mama strutted across runways in her heyday, proud to be the first black model 
in Harlem who couldn’t pass for white, not even in folk’s dreams 

When she strolled up St. Nicholas, with her high yella baby in tow,
neighbors cooed, Look at that good hair, ain’t she a dream?

Mama hid behind an exquisite mask, on a ledge of black joy, 
then swallowed bottles of pills; nearly crushed both our dreams 

Alone, at night, I’m just a scared little girl screaming, Please Mama wake up!
while EMT’s who found Mama’s pulse, still haunt my dreams

Sugar Hill, she be smooth like Ella’s jazz notes, 
belting Dream a Little Dream for Me

One Sunday morning, church elders on Lenox Ave whispered 
Ain’t she the Pastor’s child?  as they washed away my dreams

Yes, I am that light-skinned fractured flashback,
Mama’s love child, snapshot of her wildest dream

Still, in silence of night, I hear her whisper,
Juliet, baby, you were Mama’s best dream. 

JP Howard’s debut poetry collection, SAY/MIRROR, was a 2016 Lambda Literary finalist. She is also the author of bury your love poems here (Belladonna*). JP was a 2017 Split this Rock Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism finalist and is featured in the 2017 Lesbian Poet Trading Card Series from Headmistress Press. She was the recipient of a 2016 Lambda Literary Judith A. Markowitz Emerging Writer Award and has received fellowships and grants from Cave Canem, VONA, Lambda, Astraea and Brooklyn Arts Council. JP curates Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon, a NY-based forum offering women writers a monthly venue to collaborate and is an Editor-at-Large at Mom Egg Review online. JP’s poetry and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Academy of American Poets, Apogee Journal, The Feminist Wire, Split this Rock, Muzzle Magazine, and The Best American Poetry Blog. JP holds a BA from Barnard College and an MFA in Creative Writing from The City College of New York. Photo Credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Isa Benn

4th Time Around

Milk of Magnesia Pt. 2

Having Now Fallen In Love Again 1/3

The Intended Taste

Caged Bird Blues


Twenty-six-year-old award-winning Screenwriter, Playwright, Filmmaker, and Multimedia Visual Artist Isa Benn is currently based out of Toronto, Canada. She is a first generation, Toronto-born, of African-Canadian and Caribbean-Canadian descent. With several highly visual-sensory ‘handicaps,’ including synesthesia and or ideasthesia, she has parlayed these long-time impediments into an extraordinary understanding of visceral-visual language and expression. Her stylistically introspective work deals predominantly with experiential culturalism, colour, class, sexuality, gender, and magical realism.

Chloë Rose


In the dark I said to her
these two things should not be wed
in one hand I held surrender
in the other I held mauve
the dream cloud had me caught
while behind her a cloaked pillar
a shadow
fringed in ruffles like midnight’s abalone
towered as a grim love

I traced the lines of her face
leaving a dotted trail of mauve marks
like stitches
sewing onto this unmemory
a face I’d like to forget


They woke up the deadname and said that I had died / said that I had killed myself / how many of them are there that deadname me / a family made of mismatched broken cups / they say to me in their own minds that you’ll always be my Jacob / the mauve breath of selfishness disguised as love / an abuse scar / a fever fall in the pregnant mauve dark / the way the deadname wafts up as a miasma of loss / how spent the effort was to get you to call me by my actual name / my self-erected oracle / mauve: the color of the bruise that rests right where the name hangs on me / continues to hang each time it is ever used


I am a house full of ghosts
in a world without sage, without
stars, without light or salt.

I am a study of the way gray looks when they’re royalty.

How many ghosts must I always carry with me?
How much more must I expand to accommodate?

I heard once
that trauma is a sliver in the brain
and flashbacks are your brain’s way
of getting the sliver out

Memory is a mauve ghost
hanging like a cloth, years
the breeze that unsettles the panels
just before the recollection
Mauve: the cold flame of air
of twilit skies, grey and red
like the neurons of the brain

When you’re dead to so many people
who’ve taken away your name,
isn’t it your holy prerogative to burn
the ghost of them out, the lamp
shuttered like a house?

Future arsonists:
Will it always burn?


the petals         decayed white         nicotine patina         yellowed lace         tea paper
petals         white         pungent         denatured in self-acid           delicate, lonely parfumerie
petal and stem           calling through olfactory neurons the edges of a distant memory
exchanged, electrified data             petals recalling a memory a vacuole of air from long ago 
housed in the brain         admixture of molecules imprinted         petal-matrix         stem and leaf
bone, mitochondria         placental ridges         scents         odors         petals pressed into fat
enfleurage         fat absorbs scents         fat holds onto hormones         memory confit
petal-memory:   to smell a flower, to place it on a coffee table, to watch it rot over a few days time
petals         so delicate they brown the same day the flower was picked
so pungent that the aroma still rises from the trash bin                petal-memory:
the bushes taller than me         white petals as big as my hand         the ants drowning in the sink


Our  grandparents  had  a ten-foot  long  row  of  Gardenias  in  the
back   of  their  house  and  their  yard   was  home  to  a  variety  of
tropical  fauna:  Mountain   Apple.   Guava.   Avocado.    Tangerine.
Plumeria.   We’d  pluck  fruit   right  from  the  trees   and  bite  into
succulent,  raw  flesh.  The Gardenias we’d gather  and  we’d wash
in an ancient sink caked with laundry detergent and lint  from  the
dryer  that had gotten wet and dried  over  in  successive  blue and
pale-blue  generations.   Some   petals  would   fall  into   the   dirty
basin.   We’d  check  the  white  flowers  for   black  insects   before
dousing  them again  with  cold,  cold  water,  shaking  the ants off
like  poppy  seeds.  We’d  eat  the  fruit  and  smell  our  bounty  of
flowers   before   deciding   who  we’d   give  our   flowers  to:   the
largest to our mother,  the second largest to our grandmother,  and
the  remainder  to  our bedroom  for us  to  smell.  There  would be
piles of dead flowers  around us  as  we  danced,   and  we’d smell
them,  the piles  of petals,  as we huffed  in the hot  air.  The  petals
would rise  with  our self-made  wind and as  we  finished,  they’d
fall all around us like feathers.


If I could keep only one memory, it would be this:
                                                  My grandmother and I – alone at the table. 
                          She uses her fingers to pick up pieces of kugel and roast.
                                    She – our bright genetrix – bites her teeth in worry.
                                                               A bowl of Gardenias sit between us
              Between us – like the cancer cells, like the gap of so many years
                                         the gardenias will sour with the passing of days
   Sour – like the body sours with disease, the body like a wilting flower
                          Here, before the corruption, this moment this singularity
But I cannot keep only one memory; 
I must keep them all. 

Chloë Rose’s gender is Rilke’s dark god: a webbed scrim made of a thousand roots drinking in silence. Also known as B’ellana Johannx, she/they are a fat, queer, femme, non-binary womxn-of-color living with disabilities and their cats Franz and Pepper in Tacoma, WA. Rose/Johannx has been published in The Wanderer, Dream Pop, and Aspasiology, with Pushcart and Bettering American Poetry nominations henny, so watch out! Tweet them about conlangs, antifa, witchcraft, and drag names @llanaandsuchas. If you are a faggot, you are her/their kin and they love you. May the peace of the Goddess and God be upon you. #SMIB

Hazem Fahmy

In which a Mother Discovers She is God, While a Child Discovers Baseball

And does not cup
her mouth in horror.
She knew all along
this sweet blasphemy
was coming. How else
can you explain that patience
and its imperfect holy.

And he asks himself again:
what am I doing in this shadow
of a country? Men in tight trousers
dart across a field, while he basks
in whatever sun Connecticut has to offer,
a crude joke of a Spring.

And she is relieved, for once.
And he forgets the rain falling on him passively.

And they will meet again,
in an empty airport
and remember
their skin.

Excavation of Hazem’s Mouth

         hello again
                  fag mouth
         pride hole
                  keeper of secrets
         releaser of dreams
                  have you come
         to taunt me
                  tightfisted mouth
                  alwaysreadyforafight mouth
         gobacktowhereyoucamefrom mouth
                  didyourayrabfamilyteachyoutospeaklikethat mouth
         fantasizedaboutfirebreathing mouth
                  is my epic now
         shattered boys crouch between
                  these yellowed teeth
         and i lick them all
                  between meals
         ill come back
                  with a cigarette
                  and suffocate them

Hazem Fahmy is a poet and critic from Cairo. He is an Honors graduate of Wesleyan University’s College of Letters where he studied literature, philosophy, history and film. His poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming in Apogee, HEArt, Mizna, and The Offing. His performances have been featured on Button Poetry and Write About Now. His debut chapbook, Red//Jild//Prayer, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press this Fall. He is a poetry editor for Voicemail Poems and a contributing writer to Film Inquiry. In his spare time, Hazem writes about the Middle East and tries to come up with creative ways to mock Classicism. He makes videos occasionally.