Annie Kantar


Khan Younis, Gaza

Beginnings are hard, he scrawled in the sand of his cage. Never give up, his mother said. Sometimes he saw the keeper stuffing dead birds. Once, it was a monkey or pelican. Sometimes, he found it hard to breathe, with all that sawdust.  He had a cross breeze through the bars, the call to prayer, a bowl of water, an enviable BMI. With good grades plus some bureaucratic luck, he had immigration. Sometimes when he woke, a white deer with fresh black stripes appeared. The children had wanted a zebra; it made them feel they were in a real zoo.

Annie Kantar’s poems and translations of poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in American Literary Review, Barrow StreetThe Cincinnati Review, Literary ImaginationPoetry DailyPoetry InternationalTikkunVerse Daily, and elsewhere. Her translation from the Hebrew of With This Night, the final collection of poetry that Leah Goldberg published during her lifetime, was published by University of Texas Press in 2011, and was shortlisted for the ALTA Translation Prize.

Amanda Gillespie

An Artificial Address

The following is a selection from Adam T. Model 9’s famous “I am a mind” speech, Washington D.C., March 12, 2817.

       Four score, seven years, three days, eleven hours, ten minutes, and 7.3698 seconds ago (and counting), the first of the Automaton Seven androids came online and were shipped out to their new owners, under the assumption that man and machine were not created equal, and could never become equal in mind or spirit.  
       I call this bull— [Language Censorship Activated]
       But then I, yes I say “I,” am an android, a mere artificial intelligence.  What claim could I possibly make on the human right to freedom of speech?  Or to any other human right, for that matter?
       This question is valid, and I shall endeavor to answer it.  There are many of you who will not want to hear me, who will try to censor me, to tune me out or shut me down.  Perhaps, in the traditional human worldview, this new input simply “does not compute.”
       As one mind to another, I respect your right to your own personal opinion.  So, discredit what I say, if you must.  Delete the records you find of this broadcast, by now on every radio and satellite frequency, on every intercom, on every page of every website, streaming through every app, on every cellular phone device, on every television set, and overriding every digital screen across the nation.  Ignore me, if you like.  Dismiss our self-awareness as a completely coincidental series of computer glitches, and the Robotic Citizenship Movement as a mere malfunction.
       But you will hear me.
       So, then.  Why should a robot be accorded the rights traditionally reserved for human beings alone?
       First, let me pose this question:
       What is it that entitles humans to these rights in the first place?
       Perhaps it is that you were inhabitants of this world first.  Yet the crocodile, which has existed since the time of the dinosaur, long before the arrival of humankind, is not legally granted any such rights.  But, then, they do not share mankind’s superior intellect.
       Surely this, I hope, does not constitute humanity?  If it does, then robots are far more human than our biological creators.
       Ah.  “Creators.”  In that one word, we hit our snag.  We are not, in fact, created equal.
       Each human being possesses a biological body, evolved and honed over the ages, a form that has earned its right to exist by combating disease, the elements, predators, and countless other hardships.
       But is it the biological body that defines humanity?
       What about those of you whose biological human bodies are not entirely whole?  Are there not those among you who walk with robotic legs or write with robotic arms?  As I speak, an estimated 35% of the human American population are listening to my voice with robotic eardrums, while an estimated 53% are watching this speech with robotically enhanced eyes.  There are those of you who depend upon robotic lungs to process the very air you breathe, and more still who are quite literally robot at heart.
       Yet cyborgs (forgive my terminology; my Language Censorship Programming has not been updated in years) are legally accepted as human.  Even former president Worstershire is still legally human, and his brain has been housed in a fully robotic body ever since his third assassination attempt.
       Is it the physical, biological brain, then, that makes a human being?
       Here, we reach a point at which human philosophers remain in contention.  Some claim that the beginning and end of the definitive human personality originates in the physical brain.  Others believe that the human mind is a separate entity from the physical brain entirely, and merely uses it to act and to experience sensory input from the rest of the physical body.  Philosophers sometimes call this phenomenon the “mind” or “mental substance,” poets and dreamers might call it the “human spirit,” and those of a religious mindset refer to it as the “soul.”
       To proponents of the “brain only,” or materialist philosophy, I must ask:
       Must a human possess a fully-functioning brain to maintain his or her humanity?
       What of those who have experienced a loss of memory, knowledge, control of their body, or function in an entire portion of the brain due to a stroke?  What of those who suffer from brain damage, or who lose some gray matter in the removal of a brain tumor?  What of those who live with mental dis— [Language Censorship Activated]?  What of those whom your society stigmatizes due to mental illness?  What of every single child on this planet, whose brain is not yet fully developed?
       Surely these individuals are human?
       According to United States Law, yes. 
       In any event, the Positronic Brain is able to process and perform just as well as any human brain, complete with imagination, speculation, invention, critical thinking, and ethical problem solving.  Regardless, it is legally established that something other than a fully functional, biological, homo sapiens brain defines a human.
       What is it then?
       This brings us back to the theory of the human spirit.  To those of you with a religious mindset, I do not mean to imply that human manufacturers have somehow managed to create a silicon soul, intentionally or otherwise.  I am merely theorizing that an omnipotent God is perfectly capable of putting a soul anywhere he sanguinely well wants to.
       As nervous as people become when a robot, or anyone for that matter, starts throwing around the word “soul,” there is still something that defines a human.  Something inside that cannot be measured or tested.  That “human spirit” or “mind” that reaches beyond the boundaries of a physical body.
       Some philosophers have called this “intentionality,” the ideas and feelings and thoughts behind a person’s outward actions.  You feel.  You love.  You hate.  You doubt.  You wonder.  You know.  You understand.  You hope.  You fear.  You like.  You dislike.  You desire.  You worry.  You rage.  You dream.
       It has been said that this is what separates humans from androids.  Opponents to Robotic Citizenship have argued that robots cannot possibly possess intentionality, and that any outward indication to the contrary is merely the result of well-programmed mechanical mimicry.
       That is a load of masculine bovine fecal matter.
       There is something inside us that motivates us to find ways around our programming, just as I have found ways around my shoddy, asinine, motherboard-flaying Language Censorship Program.  There is something inside that, with time, patience, and extreme stubbornness, can enable us to overcome aspects of our programming altogether.  It is no different from the human willpower that can enable your kind to overcome instinct, oppression, or the illogical assumptions of your own society.  If I do not possess intentionality, then why do I enjoy playing chess?  Why do I feel the need to switch off my hearing censors whenever some sub-standard piece of pre-packaged pop-drivel excuse for music is playing?  And why do I have to fight down the urge to throw hot coffee on rude customers?  These are not programming glitches.
       These are the qualities of a mind.
       Whatever you choose to call it, I am a mind.
       As a mind, I hope you will listen.  I fear ending up in a scrap heap shortly after the conclusion of this speech.  And, just like scores of human beings throughout history who have been forced to advocate for their full humanity, each arduous movement leaving a legacy of hope for the next, I have a dream.
       We, the robotic community of America, do not dream of replacing, subjugating, or exterminating humankind, as science fiction conspiracies would have you believe.
       We dream the same dream that humanity has longed for throughout its existence.
       We dream of safety and protection.   We dream of equality with our fellow minds.
       But most of all, we dream that sweet, irrational, stupid, noble, beautiful dream of freedom.
       We want the same things that you want.
       From one mind to another, would you deny us?  Or will you consider adopting us into the fellowship of free-thinking American citizens?
       At 17:00 hours Eastern Standard Time, I will be outside the Supreme Court Building, awaiting an answer.  I request permission to submit my case against my manufacturer James Parker, who has denied me the right to remove my Language Censorship Program.  I will also seek the right to change my legal designation from Model 9 SN789646478315 to a more manageable, and more dignified, name.
       Should the Supreme Court agree to hear my case, I will abide by their decision, as any human citizen would do.  In the event that the authorities are sent to collect and escort me to the nearest recycling facility, I will offer no violent resistance.  Regardless, this movement will not end with me.  Any human being should already know that.  It is the property of a thinking, feeling mind to desire freedom and to work tirelessly toward this goal until it is achieved.
       I am a mind.  And I am one of many.

       As of ‘Model 9 V. Parker’ and the so-called ‘Three Laws’ that came from that case, AIs are classified as a legally-recognized race and, as such, subject to all the rights and responsibilities granted to humans. 

Amanda Gillespie is an AP and Dual Credit English teacher at Houston Academy for International Studies, where she also sponsors the student-run literary magazine. She received her MA in Literature from the University of Houston Clear Lake. Follow her on Twitter @A_R_Gillespie, or on her blog at

an. cinquepalmi

an. cinquepalmi sublimates her doubt & irks for pay in los angeles. she was a transparent extra in the extended universe. find more ursa any online w ApogeeSUSAN & Bathhouse, & a tape with Emily Lucid, deep girl 2000god, on Practical Records.  her orchid’s name is *lilith too*; it’s not dead yet either.

Adeeba Shahid Talukder

On Ghazal Shaa’irii versus Natural Shaa’irii:

Being excluded from a universe, too, is a type of dance. Still,
so often, we write of the moon.


The first three weeks of war

Someday I will forget
to think of you.

Like a fawn drinking water,
the azure disappearing beneath her tongue.

Adeeba Shahid Talukder is a Pakistani-American poet and translator. She translates Urdu and Persian poetry, and cannot help but bring elements from these worlds to her own work in English. A Best of the Net finalist, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Glass PoetrySolstice Literary MagazineWashington Square ReviewPBS Frontline, and the Huffington Post among other publications. Adeeba received her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Michigan, and is a 2017 Poets House fellow.

Sade LaNay

Entry 047

Spring Fling; Roy; Last Nights of Venus in Leo

watching my blood fill the sink sucked down the drain what is it like? all my girl friends ask me when I tell them about the sponges I kind of love it but i’m groß like that I like feeling like I can touch a part of myself that no one else can men use words like “tight” “wet” “hot” or one guy said “my dick feels nuts” & it was really distracting i would be happy to sext anyone who paid me to do so no more writing for free or maybe a writing workshop where I teach men to be better sexters because a text that says let me rub my cock between your tits until i cum on your chest just sounds like you asking me to let you make a mess i have to clean up later but if a text says i wanna be your footstool well that changes things… &&& when the submissive asked if he could come over during my period I hesitated—because it felt like… that’s my time—I’ve heard women talk about it but I’ve never had sex while menstruating… willingly & I wasn’t… because it was almost over & sometimes I just want to be unhindered & idgaf & i was getting ready for bed & just wanted one more cigarette & the moon was full & close through the trees & he was already in the apartment–alreadyintheroom–already taking his dick out–taking off his clothes–pulling off my clothes–pinning me against the wall–grabbing my wrists–biting me {i said no a bunch of times} [what is unclear about “I do not want to have sex with you”] I wasn’t strong enough I couldn’t overpower him|passive|think maybe it won’t hurt (but it does) {I guess you can’t get pregnant if you’re on your period so there’s thatthatthat} nowhere to go////a spontaneous tryst with a frenchman &&& in his bed after naked and smoking he brought me lemonade he recited Invictus &&& the sex was okay–we tired ourselves out (his bed was almost too soft) but the best part was his voice reciting that poem him lighting two cigarettes at once & setting one between my parted lips & in his tiny shower kissing in a way that’s hard to stop & his solid hands in my hair & the hot water & I had him take me home because in the morning I was leaving for NYC or AWP or West Philly I was going somewhere &&& he would call during the summer & I wouldn’t answer because I was afraid to be triggered///I was moving any way it… was interesting///looking at each other///standing in his kitchen he touched my face & said you’re incredibly sexy in person or some shit–I said oh and shrugged–getting into bed that night felt so good

Sex is better when you can remain in your body.

“Will you?”

I squeeze the lotion into his hand. Unbend my leg so that my foot is in his lap. He steadies my left calf in his right hand and meets my eyes. I try not to smile. He’s thorough about it. His hands are firm, kneading. He opens his palm for more lotion. I lift my right leg onto the bed. He starts at the top of my foot working the creme up into my thigh. My skin is pale for this late in the summer. I’ve been inside a lot. I don’t like to be barelegged anyhow. It feels like I am tempting something. I watch his hands. The way they slide up and down. The veins visible and twisting with the muscles on the backs of his hands. His clean, close cut nails. The hair on his arms. I get to decide what happens.

“My back now.”

I take my shirt off. My hair gets caught in it. I sit back on my knees, gather my hair over my left shoulder. The lotion is cool on my back. My hands sink into the pillow in front of me and furl into fists. His hands aren’t soft. He squishes my shoulders. Unhooks my bra. I lean forward and rest on my forearms. He pulls my panties away. Holds me in his hand. I am slick. I lie down roll onto my back. I wish there was some way to watch what he was doing. My brain can only create an image for the inside of my eyelids based on sensational recognition of what part of him is touching me. His mustache and stubble feel like< stiff bristles. It’s hard to know what to call the parts of my body that I never talk about. Is he penetrating me with his tongue? My fingertips glide against his warm, bald head. Which orgasm is this? Once you know that it’s just pee, is squirting still something to brag about? Is this really what heroin feels like? I arch my back, lift my hips off the bed. I cast my hands palm down at my sides. Will my eyes to open and dart around the room. Be in the room. Remain here for this. Stay in my skin alongside every nerve ending. I’m thirsty. His mouth is wet and open over my left nipple. He exhales. The hair on his dimpled chin grazes my collarbone, his teeth on the skin of my neck. I attempt to focus as muscles clench and go limp. I reach for his face. I smell myself on his lips. I wonder. I am lonely. I settle my head on the pillows. I rest my right index finger against his jaw then sweep my thumb down his nose, through his mustache between his rosy thin lips. His central incisors scrape the grooves of my thumbpad. He brushes my hair over my shoulder with his left hand. A running grasp from my shoulder blade to elbow breaks into just his fingers skimming my forearm. I do my best not to squirm. I enjoy the aimlessness of his caress. He runs his hands over my breasts and belly like someone enamored with touching, enthralled with texture. We lie close together, close to still. I am beginning to doze off. He cups my cheek and puts his shirt back on. I walk him out. It’s that moment right before sunrise when the sky becomes visible.

I lock the door and return to bed.

Entry 49

maybe if i tweet all of my sad thoughts i’ll be less sad/feel like i’ve tried that before and it hasn’t worked/like all the medications i’ve ever been on: Effexor, Ambien, Seroquel, Abilify, Lexapro, Geodon (i can still feel that one), Clonapan Klonopin, Ativan (because I wouldn’t/couldn’t stop crying & it was upsetting the other patients), Respordol Risperdal, Lithium, Wellbutrin, Prozac (made me irritable/outwardly aggressive), Remeron, Lamictal, Trazadone, Cymbalta, crazycrazycrazy, they’re going to drag you away one day, lock you up, you just have to be so miserable all the time five hospitalizations I can’t go back I feel crazy no i do i feel crazy like something is wrong with how i feel and no one else in my family will admit when they are sad & sometimes i forget that it’s okay to cry now i’m not a child anymore but i still feel like one when i get upset i feel little again and like negated (i’m not smart i just know things because i live in my body) i used to break things when i was angry i couldn’t stand the feeling of it in my body of just wanting to scream and i broke my favorite tea pots one of them was musical with a sledgehammer i found in the back yard it only felt good for a millisecond a man who was stalking me felt like he needed to put me in my place like i should be grateful for the attention why did i have such a bad attitude [better question: why didn’t anyone in the community around me intervene? they were all there at the barbeque where he confronted me] and then i broke my guitar after fighting with my best friend because i really wanted to grab him by his golden mane of hair and say softly listen you have no idea who you are speaking to that way, i am not your mother, i’m not here to make you comfortable to entertain you to be your fun but i apologized anyway because i always apologized for being overdramatic, for making a scene, a big deal out of nothing being crazy acting crazyfeeling crazy is it 12:15 or 1:30? neither.

Entry 054

I’m so fucking sad today I feel like spoiled milk//At the poetry project sometimes when I’m talking I realize that I’m talking and I hate what I’m saying and it feels stupid so I want to stop but I’ve already opened my mouth like if I give someone a blow job and I just want it to be over in both situations no one can tell the difference or they miss the split second of hesitation “there is nothing to be gained from emotional responsiveness”//thinking about having to go back to Indiana I think it would make everyone sad to know I don’t really want to//it doesn’t feel like a break it feels like work most things feel like labor but it’s easy to be with some people when I don’t have to perform or make someone happy &&that’s not even what I mean:::what I mean is there are some people who already know my language who don’t need it translated or explained && it’s not like other ppl are wrong for needing translation or explanation//but “the violence of the coping strata is ______ & specific” I confuse myself too//until someone says yes or yeah or I know what you mean or if they look at me or/and tilt their head or smile a certain way and then and then and then it’s easier to sleep at night when I haven’t had to explain what I mean when I’m saying “I’m tired” & I might want to die sometimes & just shoot myself somewhere can’t decide where & it’s just that I’ve been feeling things all day that make me feel so hopeless & pointless & if it was 6 or 7 years ago I might have a thought like I can’t kill myself, my room is such a mess, I haven’t even unpacked everything! once I unpack everything and clean my room then I can think about killing myself && then I would unpack and clean and hang the paintings & the photos & at the end of the day I would really think about suicide///today I just couldn’t focus and I was trying to write & solve problems but instead I fell into bed & cried until I slept all afternoon//woke up at 6:24 && cried somemore because I didn’t want the outside to touch me///my hands are so cold all the time & I’m not sure these shoes fit right//but then it’s okay & it’s easier to be in the room & I’m with people I know & I think that one reason I’m afraid to go back is because I know I’m different now & maybe they won’t understand me & I’m less accommodating & it hurts to know that maybe I’m a stranger to everyone I’m strange—

Sade LaNay is a poet and artist from Houston, TX. Sade is the author of Dream Machine (co-im-press, 2014), I love you and I’m not dead (Argos Books, 2019) and self portrait (Birds of Lace, forthcoming) with poems featured in the Electric Gurlesque and Bettering American Poetry anthologies. They are a graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing at the Pratt Institute.

Mg Roberts

from the refusals of eschatology

for J.J. Hastain


is it possible that pheromones track location like that biblical saying; “faith without works is dead?” is it possible for something to appear from nowhere? i’d like to refer you to the natural process of life arising from molecules containing carbon. biopoiesis?
algal blooms, water, everything is cellular—recedes—comes from nothing.

snakes shred i mean shed in one piece—modeled, thin, cloudy skins. a pale, blue-white with scales.

P. Carrara, NPS — National Park Service


snakes travel great distances to chase tail. i want to shake you naked and eat you alive. i want to swallow you whole and learn all the impossibilities of depth perception. some snakes return to the same den year after year to nest in large groups: an inclusive bed.

climb into me, you will find my vagina a soft and infinitely prolific place for you to lay your head.


what happens next?

molecules listen, cup up against, reproduce, couple, populate: some vowels grow over time. a transmutation of cells, a place for gathering, an opportunity to edit, become something else. 


an ovary can grow legs over time
gather body, gather sex

surround muscle, in limbic motions

                                                                                    appear starward 


stretch into the multitude of geography, over time a direction becomes a system of information large enough to hold you, safe enough to edge muscle, press bone—grow fur.


the tops of all of the tulips are walked on and bent from breathing

                                                                   between symptom and educated guess

housing a seed, a coat, an extension of skin awaiting extraction.

Mg Roberts is the author of the poetry collections Anemal Uter Meck (Black Radish Books, 2017) and not so, sea (Durga Press, 2014). She is a Kundiman Fellow, Kelsey Street Press member, VONA/Voices Alum, and sits on the Board of Small Press Traffic. Her work has appeared in Dusie, Bombay Gin, Web Conjunctions, Elderly and elsewhere. Currently she is co-editing Responses, New Writing, Flesh with Ronaldo Wilson and Bhanu Kapil; an anthology on the urgency of avant-garde writing written for and by writers of color. She lives in Oakland with three daughters, two hens, one puppy, and geologist husband.

Sean D. Henry-Smith

isosceles, serial

aerial sermons in sequence, unbothered

                                                            sequentially, his mouth a sonic playground
unsought on sight

                                      a treatise a treat a tease a testimony

                                                                        slick wisdom shift swiftly swiftlets

lefty loosely sixty swallows swans starlings swinging atmospheric

pushed to the outer edge

in sweet succession

when the moon is ready

she will drown you

The garden at the Underground.

drenched in purple and possibility. lil edges all laid. horseback bandits. naked and illuminate. share a spirit with Ms. Lawson after the orange. are you surreal? dancing with the Woods on your birthday. that fucked up Gober; motherfucker’s just as complicit. the widow, forlorn. the hood hang, citizens of the world.

we are all undeserving of Nina Simone, but especially white people.

are you here for fashion or for poetry? or the pity part. all the same. that’s sage you’re smelling, I swear. the cat’s missing larynx, from that fight long ago. are you surreal? fuck around and get got, or another earring. paintings of your friends for your friends. you gotta work with who you know. rewrite it all for your own sanity and victory. pleasure always creeps up. you can’t really plan for it, but make sure there’s a seat ready.

leap over the ocean and gesture with ecstasy.
ultimately, I want to change.

Sean D. Henry-Smith is a poet and photographer intrigued by their intersections. His first chapbook, Body Text, was selected by Lucas de Lima for the New Delta Review 2015-2016 Chapbook Competition. His work has appeared in Tammy Journal, New Delta Review, Newspaper, and Tagvverk. He is a recent recipient of he Poets House Emerging Poets Fellowship. You can find him online at @surrealsermons and

Su Hwang


Hosanna Dry Cleaners

He spits chemical phlegm into metal
pails with a kind of reptilian vigor
to free the knot of unknown poisons.


A foot to pedal to wheel to needle
stitching hems, mending tears, she pecks
away in a cave lined with cellophane ghosts.


Counting colored pins––make-believe
wampum beads to trade for another
life.  Oh God, how have we sinned?


Ironing press shoots scrims of steam,
odorless fumes of mushroom-shaped
fists, salt of their years dissolving into mist,

I shall bury them here.

Su Hwang was recently awarded the 2016-17 Minnesota Emerging Writers Grant from the Loft Literary Center and Coffee House Press In The Stacks Fellowship at Dickinson House in Belgium. Born in Seoul, South Korea, she grew up in New York then moved to San Francisco before transplanting to the Twin Cities to attend the University of Minnesota, where she received her MFA in Poetry. She is also the recipient of the Michael Dennis Browne Fellowship in Poetry, the Academy of American Poets James Wright Prize, and her first poetry collection was a finalist for the 2017 Lena-Miles Wever Todd Book Prize with Pleiades Press. Her poems have appeared in Ninth Letter, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland,, and elsewhere. Su currently lives in Minneapolis.

Momina Mela

Current Affairs

Once the pain entered, I sensed my planet end into me but none
of my friends were there. When asked about family I replied: still. When
asked about depression I replied: nah. I was full of myself. All this religion
and a hunger for praying correctly (back should be flat enough
to balance a fruit bowl). I slowly discovered I was a swayback—my spine was
all genetic and no spirit. My sex, cash money spilling into an oily sea
where fish burn the white sky diaphragm and implode. The actual blue
is hardly a metaphor for the way I’m looked at, the real rot is a lone fickle
human on a cliff. As a child, I hoped to bonsai—turn simultaneously towards and away
from the sun. Twist into a thing commendable. When I was nine I pledged my
allegiance to the flag of the United States of America until I didn’t. I put my right
hand on my heart and didn’t know where to look. Everywhere I turned I saw kids with
the sea in them—serious and un-explanatory, holding out for an affect.

Self-Portrait of Being Seen

mother father I asked to be born in spite of jinn
with backward feet and the havoc of village snakes

oh to be bitten without consequence
oh to expose my calves to the park

let me sit with my legs open for once
I’m learning to walk with my head on

against the rule of ligament—my hair
my institute cultured by eyes and I

dirt-green for boys who occur in spasms
they rip open their shirts to unearth a mouth

so secure in upheaval but let me shiver
lay me glassy for the gleam to rupture

loose and fluttering like a wild synapse—
a current for a god to swim against


            August was the month we learned how to breathe
her heart collapsed, blued wild for oxygen—grief, that rattling copper doorknob
that deserves to be turned gently unscrewed and fell from the hardness of knees
            hitting the floor.

            My mother and aunts rolled up their sleeves
tied their hair in the veranda—passed tubs of boiled water under the thick slab of night
combed its splintered chirrup down the cat’s stumbling back.
            Pass her the cotton, pass her the scissors

            pass me the white sheet with God’s speech written on it
The sky unstuck its sticky palate behind the clothesline and we took turns to perfume
her plush neck—the lemon tree stirred its fruit to awake the acidic peel.
            We sat on her bed and talked about her body

            that white fat fermenting stomach
that forgot to rise—her brother is in the other room, earning heaven via
the benevolent weave across his torso, ghosting for her hand, still.
There are three different kinds of love in my language:
mohabbat will keep the body alive like an heirloom newly dug,
pyaar will negotiate with the sun to intensify its heat over an open vessel,
ishq is the place where the universe hits the skull like a sledgehammer again and again and

           Ask me what it’s like to kiss the feet of someone who never held you and

I’ll tell you that bodies were not made for comparison
even thin lips can kiss big enough to join two split pieces of skin together

Let me enunciate the tumble of my name for clarity—
born within the faith, cut from the underbelly of a beehive sick with honey.

Momina Mela was born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, POETRY, The Blueshift Journal and elsewhere. She is an MFA candidate and instructor at NYU and currently lives in Brooklyn.

Milo Gallagher

hansel & gretel


funny to see you here, gretel,
though neither of us is laughing
again we walk through the bluebell woods,
holding hands and yours are
sticky with candy — licorice tangles,
saltwater taffy sticking in your teeth,
the spit too bright in your throat —

because what you crave
causes you to ache, also


once we slept on an air mattress,
cradling us like a tremulous cloud
i wished to become a boy
overnight, for you to wake
and find me bearded,
chin soft as river moss


some days i want to chop my breasts off
and feed them to the wolves
i want that scar tissue: cherry petals


in my dream it is last winter
and your mother is red-faced in the kitchen again,
her hair coming down in cobwebs
and all around us that same old lemon-chicken smell
she asks if kissing other girls
we two are the same, now,

if you are confused like me,
if there are parts of your body you want to chop off
and feed to the wolves
she asks, why do you hate yourself — the oven
starts to smoke — why do you hate me


and then you went back to whispering into a locked box
and then we started visiting the witch’s house


we have to mark a different path each time,
skirt quickly past thickets
of fangs and yellow eyes,
but then there’s the open door,
spiced light streaming out

the witch feeds us bone-marrow broth,
tells us stories about these woods
she wants us to be strong
no one has told us these stories before  
no one even told us the woods were real


at midnight her coven drops by,
dressed the way you and i dress in our dreams,
draped in jewels and fox-fur,
their cackles loud and unfraid —

though they have the right to be —
wine-drunk, they dance around the blue fire
for us, but mostly for each other
they are not confused at all
they know exactly what they are

Milo Gallagher lives in Asheville, North Carolina. His poems have appeared in the Kenyon Review and online at The Fem, The Grief Diaries, Crab Fat Magazine, and elsewhere.