Steven Alvarez

radical / avant garde / poet of color

to be radical / to be experimental / fundamentally positions a kind of marginality to mainstream practices / a correlation to the systematic marginalization poets of color live experientially / lived experience and experimentation emerging consciousness / bounded by words internalized from languages intersecting at borders / as always bound by these linguistic interactions between and through languages / conflicts and congruencies of languages / dynamically pushing back against the power to marginalize / to make for innovative poetry 


Pancho EL PRIMERO / to La Marcaida / Sinaloa // think I smell you / taste yr eyes / dream yr brown hands / groping a map of Tetaroba / open my eyes / see yrs still closed / kiss yr lids w/ thoughts untied / yet only the deepness inside me knows-- / missing the smoothness of yr warm neck / bids me to forget me in you more / fingers opening as roses & sudden / images descending / countries reathing / winds rise / hear yr breath / you breathe: tight (& writhe) / exhale / & my stomach shakes / paint any monstrosities you want / jellybean / poets all the same / words no action / ¿ow to speak? / wish w/ pages of boulders // yes Pancho EL PRIMERO / to La Marcaida / owned by the State / decidedly chose to write // machines speak loudly / definitively // call me call me call me Pancho ordered himself to follow / his desiring destined bones / toward the nude whose back / [margin: La Malinche] / faced his front / entered her / vigorously pumped / dispatched / thoroughly woke her / though considering / nothing else / she woked / turned her glance-- / seemingly expressed a kiss // Pancho dismissed this because a priori his breath / reeked open-mouth sleep / even worse as he sleeps w/ his mouth open // Pancho cd write / wrote/ read / sometimes instead / cloudpiles / hear train choo chaos desmadre / sun shines / clouds run / the blue blue blue / kind can't stand divided / MS letter holdings of Pancho Chastitellez estate / 19 Jun 2000 // Chaley to Pancho // see Olson: recognizing that writing & geometry are always entwined / connected // shapes of letters reflect cultural notions of spatiality / Euclidian space in our letters we inherit mostly from Greece by way of Rome / don't write boustrophedon / nor hieroglyphically / y liverty y susto for algunos // el conquistador es la figura que domina la historia de los años iniciales del contacto hispano-indigena/ y el conflicto dominante es el desequilibrio de la Antigua sociedad prehispánica sometida a un NUEVO ESTADO de cosass-- // PHYSICAL ENJOYMENT Tío / ¡Ay! reason Chastiteyes: / both reality & process how to operate / yes // nothin I cd be / trope / creature from second stage of-- / no more than s-some creature crowing / over own triumph over incoherence // heard this from una ruca cryin / cryin / cryin: // que ya te crees tanto . . . tú eres de Amurika / ya sabes hablar ingles y todo eso // think abt Quetzalcoatl / my true conquistador / is that it helps me / take my mind / off things by / doin something w/ me / sometimes my sweet conquistador / promises that we will do something / & then we don't do it / my gentle conquistador makes fun of me / in ways that I don't like / I wish my darling conquistador wuz different / O BUT WHEN I AM . . . / when I am w/ my adequate conquistador / I feel disappointed / & when I am w/ my antigovernment conquistador / I feel ignored / & when I am w/ my reformed conquistador / I feel bored / & when I am w/ my symbolic conquistador / I feel mad / & I feel that I can't trust my habitual conquistador / w/ secrets b/c I'm afraid my feigning conquistador / wd tell my parent/guardian / & when my abnormal conquistador / gives me advice / my soft conquistador makes me feel / kind of stupid & ashamed / I wish my parliamentary conquistador / asked me more abt what I think / I wish my necessary conquistador / knew me better / I wish my loathsome conquistador / spent more time / w/ me


ENTER CAVE |   |  . . . in the beginning was the DEAD . . . |   |  McTlán / al Norte / AZtlán |  vivid [sic] desert / sand / heat / vacancy |  “no eres betwixt or between cabrón |  “brace yrself coz I’m the Mex next to más |  “& images flicker & pass pos: |  “mucho maas deeper pues . . . |  “¿ye want carnitas ? / ye’d better respect my aGuad-loop ¿eh? |  “¿ye don’t respect her? / & I’ll send ye right to yr ma . . . dray” |
& there upon |  fewer than few postcards |  hates writing postcards dislikes limited |  space generic greeting hi here’s what I see everyday sd |  hope you enjoy yr monsoon see you when I get back sd . . . |  how insipidly impersonal . . . y tengo sed |  marble hand /nothing |  like that & alive / deeper deeper |  sloppy pelotas deeper |  pain / groping wild nail |  driven deeper then |  extrapolated terrible thing is |  broken fists gripping pit deeper still yet . . . |  maybe this falls from |  broken fists |  further deep into McTlán |  & sweaty brows that forget |  broken fists |  & humbleness two tumbleweeds/ |
M |  c |   T l |  á |  n |   |  broken fists  |  / branched in union / branched  |  broken fists |  as one / one sickness / dry / deeper |  broken fist |  & scorched union |  & scorched hands holding firm stopped  stopped |
up Chaley heard: |  ¿how calm wd one feel? |  ¿how scorned? |  ¿how separated? |  then down loosed he fell deep & deeper into that plumpy shit McTlán |  ¿how learned? |  alas all wd say
alas |  alas general dismay |  alas wish for more rhymes |  somehow beside |  alas |  alas |  alas wings |  alasssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss |  sssssssssssssssssssssssss |  yet called twice to something nay |  tain’t no sin |  take away yr skin |  & walk walk walk away in yr bones |
into nothing |  nothing [double struckthrough] |  before arriving in |  McTlán |  aL |  nORTE |  AZtlán |  dismay |  dismay general no dismay O |  O |
Chaley arrived presently— |  deeper into pool of cess McTlán |  skyscrapers / shadows / smoking obsidian mirrors |  upward looked noticing INFINITY parked nearby |  others stopped to marvel as well |  all saw how water held infinity above her |  all saw how |  all saw how |  Chaley had to conduct himself w/ controlled |  elegance say nay to frantic exuberance |  made way up toward swell of earth |  little mound |  O |  O |
O O |  maybe hill |  maybe grande |  hell if Chaley wd know |  made his way up there & found |  that pyramid |  yeah imagines his surprise |  think of that shit |  pyramid grass grown over here |  so you know ain’t like no complete fiction |  tell you what—C |  O |  O O O |  O |  O O |  O |  OO |  O |  O |

OO |  O |  O |  O [double struckthrough] |  O |  O O |  O |  O |
they |  took that castle dismantled |  stones from this pyramid to build a church down the hill O Holy Rompecabayza |  & C: read abt another one conquerors built & the church takes those stones down to makes that |  Tlatelolco’s model green |
O O |  soundtrack & lesson this like |  ¿asking for a goddamned lesson? |  M c T l á n ’ s p l e a s u r e s |  give me a lesson & we’re waiting—two demons platicando |  ¿waiting for who? |  looking at one another / away / |  & A HUEVO GÜEY—away |  fase uno: waiting to become / human dead / ¿zombies then? |  fase dos: stacked ourselves w/ wit ¿what part |  of illegal don’t ye understand beaner? |  for these demons nothing but living dead exMexes |  & indeed upon inspection w/ exes in their eyes |  ¿we’re what? |  waiting |  simultaneous: |  waiting to go [double struckthrough] |  home [double struckthrough]
Steven Alvarez is picture. Steven has short dark hair, faint mustache and goatee stubble, and dark eyes. Steven looks straight ahead, smiling with closed lips. Steven wears a dark felt hat with a short brim all the way around; the cap of the hat is not visible. Steven wears a white cotton henley shirt with three translucent brown buttons, the top two of which are undone. Upon the shirt is printed the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe), in canary, ochre, and black, with the white cotton ground showing through in negative space. Steven wears an unbutton suit jacket with notch lapels, the collar slightly raised behind the neck. The jacket is of a gray twill, possibly a sharkskin or hopsack weave.

Steven Alvarez is the author of The Codex Mojaodicus, winner of the 2016 Fence Modern Poets Prize. His work has appeared in the Best Experimental Writing (BAX), Berkeley Poetry Review, Fence, Huizache, The Offing, and Waxwing. Follow Steven on Instagram @stevenpaulalvarez and Twitter @chastitellez.




DJ Ashtrae

These poems were written in California and New York. “Versus” reconciles the differences between two towns in Southern California, Fontana and Bloomington, one incorporated and the other not. Each line contrasts elements and characteristics of each. Each line blends. Every “vs.” is a line-break that is not a line-break. I think that this poem shows that while we belong to our hometown, we exist and depend on others. “XXXO FM” is what my friends, visual artists, call “box poems,” and it contains fragments that are assembled in a way that generates poetry. Or, these fragments create a poem from materials that were not meant to be poetic. I feel that this aesthetic speaks to my identity and upbringing. I am gay, chicano, and from San Bernardino, California. 


Coyote’s neighborhood vs. Imp’s. Fontana vs. Bloomington.

More taxes, sidewalks, street lights vs. parties and gangs.
Mechanized Fontana P.D. vs. Highway Patrol in khakis and wanna-be sombreros. 
Parking in the yard vs. the garage.
Fire hydrants vs. roads ending in sky. 
Murky dawn vs. the salivating song of the Ice Cream Man. 
(The loudest thing) Imp playing Call of Duty vs. Chevy Impala playing 
            Kendrick Lamar. 
Sirens, hoots, howling wind vs. growling, purrs, toilet flushes. 
Gas stations vs. liquor stores. 
Feathers vs. chasm.
Chasm vs. feathers. 
Hills vs. fields. 
Fans vs. air-conditioning. 
Blur vs. Atmosphere. 
A clogged sink vs. potholes in the road.
Kids blocking the driveway vs. Fernando leaving the fridge open. 
A power box vs. poles and wire. 
Afternoons of machines idling, humming vs. mornings smelling of dirt.
In both eggs, used cars and blankets sold on the side of the road. 
Go outside to talk on the phone 
            in the cascade of the freeway 
                        houses never buildings



he kisses the sun in front of all the neighbors as I feel the knots in my / back, swelling in my ribs, my bite and its chain reaction in the rest of / my, breath and its little wind over the bloodshot valley, clammy and / left with sorrow from a fuck-up, strange beeps through the 99-cent / oblivion, either crying or hankering for homicidal doggies ++++++++++++ / an iron legend braces an ATM, pinned to my ex’s wall, in a parking lot, / in a cemetery, in an echo, dream feast of gin and pizza, marble or / saliva reservoir—reservoir—reservoir ++++++++++++ looking, becoming, / fall putting on too participate in the “never said” trafficked feelings / when to mourn is to suffer 4 times a second, fools crazy for the sun +++ / +++++++++  sexual when it comes to friends, desperate in Babylon, / nearer to the rose gardens and the jigsaw’s echo, “Tell me please what / I’m afraid of.” so sleepily, sapodilla when expecting a tangerine I might / bite, pull out, and then devour, a century I might run into in a / basement wearing reflective sneakers, sitting with hands bent and legs / crossed on a sidewalk in Downy, in the thrall of meaningless sex, up & / down, border lakes, rub and rejection, they’ll let me go hungry, they’ll / feed us from a toaster, they’ll put on notre disco for free


DJ Ashtrae is pictured, as reflected in a full length mirror that bends right (sinister). DJ is wearing a white mask that covers the face from forehead to nose, and is shaped like that section of a human skull, speckled with red, yellow, and blue dots. DJ is also wearing a tan bandana folded over and tied as a headband beneath the mask. DJ is holding a white cord that disappears behind the mask in the hand pictured right, held to the side at waist height, and a rosegold iPhone in the hand pictured left, which is held at shoulder height. DJ is shirtless, wearing knee-length black shorts, and barefoot. The room in which the mirror stands has white or offwhite walls, and a dark wooden board floor. Behind DJ is a white bed or couch with white pillows, on the board or arm of which hangs a camouflage patterned jacket or blanket, colored in drab and tan or offwhite.

DJ Ashtrae (Joshua Escobar) was the Dean’s Fellow in Writing at the MFA Program at Bard College (Class of 2017). He was a Merit Fellow at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley (Class of 2016). He is a CantoMundo Fellow. Caljforkya Voltage, his first chapbook, was published by No, Dear/Small Anchor Press last fall. 




DeMisty Bellinger

I began “Portrait of a Lady of a Certain Age” a couple of years ago and didn’t finish it. Back then, I thought there was no room for an anti-capitalist, genre-bending poem. Feeling rather anti-capitalist, I needed to return to the poem after November, 2016. I worked on the form, not wanting it to look like anything normal because I didn’t feel like anything was normal anymore, and extended it quite a bit. I wanted the poem to be a dreamscape that is not quite nightmare, then a waking where life still is surreal somehow. And I wanted the woman to be straddling the world of consumerism and disgust, I wanted her to be obviously black without calling her black. Lastly, I wanted it to look like prose, but not necessarily make sense as a prose form—not an essay, not quite fiction, and too long for a prose poem. 

Portrait of Lady of a Certain Age

I’m in a department store in the women’s accessory section. Elevator music is playing, though I don’t think I’ve ever heard elevator music in a department store (or in an elevator) or anywhere and I’m looking at pairs of pantyhose, or tights, or Lycra or Spandex, and nothing is quite my size. Almost my size—too small or too large. I take folds of Nylon or Lycra or Spandex between my index finger and the tall finger and run my fingers along the smooth, tiny bumps. They won’t fit.

Someone is feeding me something sweet and they ask, “Do you taste the honey?” And I’ll answer, “Yes, yes, I taste the honey.” “Do you taste the brown sugar? It’s rich. It’s organic.” And I’ll say, “Yes, I do taste the brown sugar.” “And do you taste the vanilla?” “Yes, I do taste it. I taste the vanilla.”

My hair itches, but I won’t scratch. I hit my head swiftly with my flattened hand to disturb the scalp—the closest I’ll come to scratching. I either cannot mess my hair up because I’m going somewhere or because I am getting a relaxer.

I am breathing both silently and heavily. I am crying into my pillow. I shake lightly. I don’t want to disturb the person I am in bed with. I am not married. I do not know if there is someone in bed with me. I cry more because I do not want to die alone.

I wake up. I go to the department store and circulate through the men’s accessory section. I say to a clerk, “I want to buy a wallet, but I don’t want it to be leather.”


DeMisty D. Bellinger’s writing has appeared in many places, including WhiskeyPaper, The Rumpus, and Blue Fifth Review. She is a contributor to Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse, edited by Grace Bauer and Julie Kane. Her chapbook, Rubbing Elbows, is available from Finishing Line Press. DeMisty teaches creative writing and lives in Massachusetts with her twin daughters and husband.




Danielle Lea Buchanan

I transgress. I bear witness.

Subversion is an intrinsic value inherited in order to survive. Growing up in adverse, violent, impoverished, transitory environments is to be a ‘deviant,’ which manifests into linguistic lawlessness. Tribulation affords me the ability to experience the jabberwockish, neologistic logic of the world. My diction ranges from fever-pitched vulgarities and bombastic colloquialisms to the stoic and academically austere: a lingual promiscuity. Chasms between socio-economic environments create an auditorium of aesthetics, textured dissonance, hiccupping cognition and lexical contortion. Institutionalized language is euthanized language; I tread nimbly. Language is a system to be deconstructed to decimate conventional history and recalibrate time—time into a velocitous verticality as opposed to plodding, horizontal progression. I twiddle with syntax to resuscitate. To think of a single letter as an organ, a word as an airway, the sentence as a respiratory system. To seal my saliva, my mouth against every stroke and blow convulsive rescue breaths until Lingua Franca gasps into re-existence.


       Close your town. Lock the poem away in a chifforobe till quarantine’s end. It’s contaminated with the plague. It begins bubonic. The key? Hide it. Abandonment sharpens objectivity. Even if the poem’s population is 215 in boonie, backsticks Ozarks. Even if you’ve just got a guinea, billy, donkey or rusted claw foot filled with radish and skunk nest. No one enters. No one exits. Outside, Canonic critics in Cadillacs carry canteens, binoculars, sawed offs. Gatekeepers shoot your heifer, noose your darlings. This all in the name of refinement, homogeny, de-clunking. You’ll try secretly hoisting rhubarb and limas to prepositions by basket and pulley. Don’t. Contagion is a risk. Let two months pass.

       Open town. Unlock the chifforobe. The poem: partition pages into hoods placed under authority of a syndic. Some stanzas are so dicey you don’t drive through after 7 p.m. and couplets are ply wooded windows. Lock doors at every enjambment. Silverfish infested couches are fire lit next to dumpsters that possums sex in. Your sestina smells homeless. Draft one is rough. Begin marginalization.

       Create a newly segregated word document titled “Section 8.” This is a form for the unformed. This is humanity’s orphanage. Better manslaughter in one’s own hands the neck of lexicons most loved. Duct tape mouths of dangling modifiers. Hogtie kicking and pulling adjectives, highlight them. Paste them into termite infested studios. Open new document after new document tabbed “Lower income,” “rehabilitation,” “alternately abled,” “mentally disordered.” There’s infinite megabits and white space for the oppressed to stagnate in.

       Construct as many literary penal colonies as needed. Alphabetic asylums where forced sterilization is performed on Lingua Franca. Rehabilitate lower cases. Douse them in ice baths after electromagnetic cognitive therapy. Machete limbs of metaphors that gangrene ate. There’s poetic images $1,340.00 past due in rent. Build payday loans on top of every comma. There’ll be barbequed squirrel and broken family reunions when you log out because these words do not doze: the mauled verbs that hobble on crutches, amphetamine addicted clichés, triolets riddled with head lice. Similes in perpetual states of existential crises.

       Take Draft Two to Salvation Army’s food pantry. Caucasian writer lore is anemic, severely iron deficient. File scribbled epiphanies in moleskin notebooks under “Juvenile Delinquent Detention Center.” Evict meth huffin’, country bumpkins from the sonnet. Too heavy, they bust convention’s bed springs. The mad, the vagabonds, the criminals, the beggars, the off-colored, lines that stumble drunkenly, the alliterated poverty. These literary influenzas epidemic elitist white pickets. Upload them to me. I’ll breastfeed neologisms. Somewhere, inside one of these decrepit homes, a little girl dressed in a fleece My Little Pony onesie wears brass knuckles to bed. Delete this documentation.

       Do I enact to language what life has dealt me? What to my body, I to the paragraph? I too slaughterhouse Britannica’s physique—just as he did, coming in at 4 a.m., rubbing a slippery cursor on my lips. Fragmented on a mattress, I scramble syntax outside these edits. It’s not experimental. It’s survival.


Danielle Lea Buchanan’s poetry, hybridities, collaborative art, fiction, book reviews, interviews, teaching guides and oddities have appeared or are forthcoming in McSweeney’sMid-American ReviewAnomaly’s Radical: Avant Garde Poets of Color, New Orleans, Puerto del Sol, New Delta ReviewNoemi PressPsychopompHobart, New York, and other elsewheres. She was shortlisted for the Master Review’s 2016 Fall Fiction contest judged by Kelly Link, and winner of Passages North’s 2017 Ray Ventre Nonfiction prize selected by Jenny Boully.

Aya Satoh

M. NourbeSe Philip writes in Zong!: “we differ / are we mad /or merely men without maps / in an age where truth is rare”. This quote has been circling my mind for months. Although Philip’s book is about the murder of Africans aboard a slave ship in 1781, this particular moment leapt across centuries and asked me to consider what it could mean in 2017 in the United States. More than ever now, we need voices that speak rare truths, that force the reader to stare uncomfortably into this mapless place, and create a small path into the liminal space that myself and many other poets and people of color inhabit. These pieces for Anomaly’s Radical: Avant Garde Poets of Color were inspired by Philip’s quote, and written into the silence between language, languages, and truth. 


My veins run hot and thick with soup / the options: / 豚骨 / だし / お茶ずけ / 麦茶 / カレー(うどんのつゆ)  // Empty the witch of her indigo resin / let it drain in a passive sense. // The thicker the noodle, the more I desire it— / this serious scientific work is radically confused. / Every night a tiny needle a small bat. // Blood sausage never made it big in my hometown but oh did we swap my blood with / soup. // confusion awaits / in the wings // {} // Sing me through this aeration / Sing me under this slurp // You’re right, / お茶より血。


Pull mud past the teeth // to sieve the pebbles out // the grassblades that sharped in the rain // This technique I’ve used / an entire life / perfecting. // And we spent years eating the foundation / sifting bone shards dumpling bugs butt ends of cicadas // it is significant and difficult / that my lunch tastes of rot or stinking feet to them / how its strings ooze over my chopsticks and onto their offended palate // mud fry with rice mud cakes beaten to compliance mud ball stuffed with teeth // When my tongue falters I use my finger instead


birthplace the weather / Gosh it’s a cold one what a shame you can’t speak your own language / better / I could’ve sworn you were wearing a different costume earlier / Wasn’t it you in that sheetdresscoathatdresspantsskirt / X / It’s just that you’re the same height / and the same hair / and the same eyes / and the same jasmine oolong matcha zen / and the same accent American but foreign / and the same shade of yellow / and the same utensils / and the same geometry that slant just so / and the same we we we we we we we / We are made mad / we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we / we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we / we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we // We are made mad


Aya Satoh was born in Nagoya, Japan and raised in Massachusetts. She is currently pursuing her MFA at the University of Montana, where she is a poetry editor for CutBank Literary Magazine. This is her first publication.