arousal the harbinger of a flood of blood blood sprinkles on a country’s fresh map vermillion—
vermillion parting desire on a wife’s perceptible head head butt to crash a legendary World Cup dream—
dream emboldens synonyms into antonyms’ golden teeth teeth not transmitting from master to apprentice smiles—
smiles an earnest man signing his marriage certificate certificate the nature of my clumsy talents forgettable—
forgettable first words of manhood clasping a cresting wonder wonder how you tolerated for so long my gasoline breath—
breath taken away from those who went to schools unblessed unblessed light in sooty warehouses crossing out little cheeks—
cheeks docile turning right to left found blued indescribable dead dead clad themselves in shrouds of roses smelled wholesome sad—
sad the untainted hurt of fruit ripened swallowed unbitten unbitten remains the altar of my tongue’s accomplished lack—
lack in the shape of grace every vanquished body realized realized a future mother waist deep in marriage miscarriage—
miscarriage a world I sailed past pushed by inconceivable arousal
Satya Dash is the recipient of the 2020 Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize. His poems appear in Waxwing, Wildness, Redivider, Passages North, The Boiler, The Florida Review, Prelude, The Cortland Review and The Journal among others. Apart from having a degree in electronics from BITS Pilani-Goa, he has been a cricket commentator too. He has been nominated previously for Orison Anthology, Best of the Net and Best New Poets. He grew up in Cuttack, Odisha and now lives in Bangalore. He tweets at: @satya043
Stone trees laden with pendulous fruit Clack: We’ll be your volcano, Grant you just the absence of the boot For one spurt of lava. Go Baltering then to defy the storm
Your dreams are now entangled With the threads of this tapis woven By small hands gnarled and mangled Hunting in lurching looms their stolen Bread, water, school uniform
Hibah Shabkhez is a writer of the half-yo literary tradition, an erratic language-learning enthusiast, and a happily eccentric blogger from Lahore, Pakistan. Her work has previously appeared in Bandit Fiction, Shot Glass Journal, Across The Margin, Panoplyzine, Feral, Literati Magazine, and a number of other literary magazines. Studying life, languages and literature from a comparative perspective across linguistic and cultural boundaries holds a particular fascination for her. linktr.ee/HibahShabkhez.
Fleur Lyamuya Beaupert (she/they) is a queer Australian writer of Tanzanian and Anglo-Indian descent. Fleur’s poetry and prose have recently been published in Not Very Quiet, Speculative City, Rigorous, Social Alternatives, Scum and Meniscus. They work as a policy officer in disability advocacy.
Melinda Freudenberger received her MFA in Poetry from The New School. Her poems have recently appeared in BARNHOUSE Journal, the New Delta Review, and Always Crashing magazine. She is an Associate Poetry Editor at West Trade Review. You can find more of her work on her website: melindafreudenberger.com.
In this highly-unanticipated documentary series, we examine the life of critically-unnoticed artist Justin Davis through the whiteness in his immediate vicinity. We follow the drunk white woman running her fingers through his hair as she passes him in the brewery. When he drives through Missouri’s bootheel, we ask the white state troopers how many armadillos they’ve run over. As he fills up his tank off I-55, we shine the matte white ulnas of John D. Rockefeller. The whole time, his Vampire Weekend CD plays louder and louder in the background. And make sure you catch the series finale where we air an exclusive, never-before-seen interview with the artist as a newborn, sickly, so pale that the nurses thought his mom was trying to steal a white baby. This series has already received acclaim in places like every black square on Instagram, a $5000 bill, and the cheeks of NSA agents who may or may not be dropping in on Davis’ calls right now. We’ve been told it feels more honest than honesty. Like a case, it feels like it’s still making itself. We’ve been told it feels compulsively rewatchable, that the leery hills keep growing their eyes. It’s a cultural juggernaut you won’t want to miss stealing.
Justin Davis is a cultural worker and an MFA candidate at the University of Memphis. You can find his poems and hybrid work in places like wildness, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Apogee Journal, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, BOAAT, and Freezeray. He’s a past Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. He’s a proud union member.
I come from families where men don’t understand how to love me I’ve seen their eyes I’ve lied to myself and everyone else and still can’t seem to get it out of my thick skull It’s not anybody’s job to love me I don’t think it’s a job at all I’ve seen more women scarred than I’d like to I hate compliments as threats Threats as men who should have been protecting me Don’t you know what love means I come from families who carry their secrets to the grave And we’ve all just been endangering ourselves Lives whispering tomorrow away And I can’t say that any of them know me Though I’ve cried and stared dead in their eyes Open and shut I shout when I’m alone and call it thick skin All these familiar hauntings I have trauma and pain and knots that grind Sometimes I think about men like fictional characters People who know what love means Not the men I know God only knows the lives they’ve lived and buried What other women hurt of them And everyday I carry them in my worry like sling-stones to my back I never know who to throw back I never know who I’ll weep for first
Danielle P. Williams is a poet, essayist and spoken-word artist from Columbia, South Carolina. She is a MFA candidate at George Mason University. Danielle strives to give voice to unrepresented cultures, making it a point to expand on the narratives and experiences of her Black and Chamorro cultures. Her poems were selected for the 2020 Literary Award in Poetry from Ninth Letter. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Hobart, The Pinch, Barren Magazine, and elsewhere. For more, visit daniellepwilliams.com.
The Korean American is a prideful sunflower Twisting to its own image, rebellious as a Mottled pear. Chartreuse hums juicy promises Olive pigments lose to the cool and warm Shades of skin flash dance in an ad for girls 12-14 Our colors baffle biological discourse The pantone wheel shows no shade can be marketed To all of us. At recess, I’m tired of identity so I Sign up for sports. I dog the ball and shoot to Shatter. Barely miss the goalie who withers thin before A basket mouth of redwood limbs. As the ball connects The goal shivers, grows tumescently above the field I am frozen in my leap and kick. I blink Darkness and collapse.
The Korean American disintegrates Twisted nettle. Proud armor for a lunchtime Game. The goal shivers, ruptures grass in the field Unctuous earth bubbles loam and in the Turnover, a pear hums to keep its Juices. Baffling biological discourse Olive pigments army crawl in the Skin towards each other The pantone wheel shows no shade can be sold To all of us. At recess, I’m tired of identity so I Become a worm. I dig in the earth for Shatters of dirt. Barely register the basket Mouth of redwood limbs creeping above I normally feel everything around me.
we tongue our losses we weave songs from pulsing and nothing else a jubilee of blood butting tenderest wrist we beat the air in C-major until our shoulders shake center keys lightning eye between eyes central root ruptures earth-made filia fray down a red-centered plume takes the belliest cake we tongue our losses we weave stories from what’s happening and nothing else it happens now everyone I’ve ever scared is already scared everyone I’ve lied to is here now all the music of my youth has gone to bed fifth chakra stutters as I swallow kumquat my neck reads : a debilitating mass lives here trust no neck no wrist no frail parts of you hidden in pits we tongue-sing a happening and nothing else we beat ourselves pink we bust down we bus it downtown we ride our crowns to after home we take the drum in our skin to mean our bodies live we tongue our losses we weave ourselves into cilia until the room is warm
Mihee Kim (she/they) is a Queer, Korean-American artist and poet. Her work has been nominated for a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize. Recent publications include: Asian American Writer’s Workshop, Foglifter, JetFuel Review, Apogee Journal, and poems are forthcoming in Anomaly. She earned a B.A. from UC Berkeley and an MFA at California College of the Arts. She lives, organizes and creates on Chochenyo Ohlone land, also known as beloved Oakland, California. Mihee is also Managing Director of Kearny Street Workshop, a longstanding arts nonprofit for Asian Pacific Americans.
It’s the eyes slit into walls, half open lids that tricks. The lips beneath the eyes blue & frost-bitten. Corpse pose. But a crowbar jams against cut and quartered,
clicking tongues to find the jigsaw of other parts. A foot in the door, a silent wrenching turning beneath the ground. Nearing exhaustion, slit eyes with lids half closing. Half breathing.
Feeling for the one other body part, a hand, a rib, a foot, a labia at a time. Where are you, the inner thigh calls to vastus lateralis. Furrows of corpse flower, quartered and twinned yet firm against cuts & crowbar.
A jaw’s gotten free and is having dinner with the dandelions. Behind the supper party, a knee and a femur knock on the door with cracked walls, shutters half open. Let us back in.
Outside loose limbs make cacophony with their reaching and clacking, hitting elbows into table corners, crowns into leg bones. Knocked out into corpse pose. Waiting vultures in fours opening beaks like crowbars.
The unpeopled people make slits into walls, can see half dissolving selves in parts, whole, or half-rendered. The crowbar useless to the coffin.
But it’s corpse that feeds the fauna, forests the tree its crowns. & only the mouth drops into the earth, only voice textured in fur, velvet in fissure and sediment. It can never be lost without its tether.
From under the earth, waiting to hear what I’m doing just yet and what mercy opens its eye.
lines for future folds, reference points, hidden or interior lines.
An old recipe of heart songs and nightmares.
Folds get unfolded: the blood, the veins, the cells, the bones.
Collapsed, secreted, warped. A traveling purse that takes a virus whole and lets it burrow into the spirit-matter.
This is how a year of illness sheds leafs from a fever-tree.
The in-and-out sight of your last love, his dark lashes.
Bloody coughing, half-sleeping, breathing cut and rough,
do the body and the mind exist in the mirror images, combined with double squash, swivel fold? Everything hazes as they
exist side-by-side, in this common valley of sick. Points are brought together at a single spot of destruction
to believe that we are so irreducibly complex—all it takes is one blow.
Folds get unfolded, in any case. The inside reverse fold, used to change direction of a flap, and inside the body’s well sits mountain, valley, rabbit-ear folds creased along the walls:
birthing flaps that wave like tattered flags the white flutter of surrender or the triumph of a woman’s skirt in spring.
I’m going to die like this.
Winter had ended and still I could not sit up. Leave me here, I tell my husband.
The mind the body the mind the body I am the object combined in three easy steps:
pre-crease forever, then collapse and collapse.
Leslie Contreras Schwartz is the 2019-2021 Houston Poet Laureate. Her fourth book, Black Dove / Paloma Negra (FlowerSong Press, 2020), is a finalist for the 2020 Best Book of Poetry from the Texas Institute of Letters. Her work has appeared in Missouri Review, Iowa Review, [PANK], Verse Daily, Pleiades, Zocalo Public Square, and Xicanx: 21 Mexican American Writers of the 21st Century (University of Arizona, 2022), edited by ire’ne lara silva, among other publications. She is a member of the Macondo Writers’ Collective, and is a proud disabled Mexican American poet with roots in Texas and Houston going back several generations. She teaches writing workshops in the community. She is also currently a faculty member at the new Alma College’s MFA low-residency program in creative writing.