Fox Rinne


a zuihitsu

Chest a mortar for the pestle, stippled like marble. Miracles, the statues that  appear soft. My name in the earth, my form wet and new. We give ourselves back to ourselves – I place my present atop my past like a salve. The bruising and swelling have waned. At night, I wring callouses from my hands.

Trans bodybuilder & performance artist, Heather Cassils, Becoming An Image, Performance Still No. 1 & No. 4, National Theatre Studio, London

Binder a shadow I press to my skin with a soft bar of soap in the morning. At night, it is always molting season. I shed and say, “Ta da!” but don’t know which the trick is. I try scratching my back like my mom used to. My hands scamper like animal feet. My nails cross the lines left by the hem of the binder, and we cancel each other out.

The Saint Bernard catches Peter’s shadow between her teeth. It tastes like charcoal and hosiery. The Darling Mother pulls it out and hangs it up to dry on the laundry line outside. Shape of a scoundrel, the Darling Father says, but no one recognizes it. The shadow squirms, thrashes its thin arms, but stays pinned by the shoulders beside other creased outlines of men: dress shirts and overcoats. All the world asleep, silhouettes pressed between wool sheets and heavy bodies, this is the first night his shadow sleeps alone. Worlds away, Peter feels the English wind wander through his body, as if his skin were a silk robe, but he cannot tell the texture or temperature of the hands that reel him in, roll him up, keep him in the bedside drawer.

One winter, every stranger in Ohio takes me for your son. You correct them. The man shaking hands outside the chapel, the little girl in the elevator, the bowling alley owner dressing our soles soft enough for hardwood. 

When we played Peter Pan, I was Wendy in the nightgown, down the railing. I buried knowing this. I wanted the myth of my body to stretch ahead and behind me— boy all along. These were the stories I heard others tell: I’d wear my mother’s dresses around the house when she went to Sunday service. / I’d pee standing up, aiming toward tree roots. / I’d walk shirtless, flat-chested, and proud on the beach. But the body has no origin point. Wendy is as much a slip-on as the underslip. When the full-time Peter left, I wore his green slippers everywhere, up and down the stairs that creaked like the buckled backbone of the house. Everyone knew the sound of my footsteps quietly coded daughter, coated green.

I sit my parents down at the kitchen table and tell them my name. Reintroduce the body they lent me. Tall tale in green slippers, ankles pouring out. The silhouette of a ship passes in the window. I read in the newspaper horoscopes on the table that the moon is void of course. Wandering between signs, there is meaning.

Through its drifting etymological history, shadow has referred to “a ghost” (mid 14c.), “a prefiguration” (late 14c.), “an imitation” (1960s), “anything unreal” (early-13c.), “the faintest trace” (1580s). 

One night, I take a metal detector to my childhood bedroom. There must be something in the layers of dust, carpet, and floorboard. I set up an infrared camera. There is nothing on the tape but my own body. I pace the room with an EMF meter. The air wavers and shakes like heat, like there is something almost there. I stretch my arms in front of me, a gradient of skin touched and untouched by the moon. 

From Michel Foucault’s essay, utopian body: “Utopia is a place outside all places, but it is a place where I will have a body without a body, a body that will be beautiful, limpid, transparent, luminous, speedy, colossal in its power, infinite in its duration. Untethered, invisible, protected—always transfigured.”

Mom texts me the names of the flowers in her garden: Coreopsis (grafted from her mother’s garden after she moved from her childhood home), hosta, iris, lamb’s ear (my favorite), heather (grafted from my father’s mother’s garden), sedum, sometimes portulaca (another from my mother’s mother), butterfly weed, blueberries, and chrysanthemums.

“But there are so many ways to be a woman,” my mother says.

Mint leaves split the zipper of my mother’s black purse. This is what our breath smells like after every meal, state lines and bridges between. At the same time, our mouths go clean.

Socrates in Cratylus considers, without taking a position, the possibility whether names are “conventional” or “natural,” that is, whether language is a system of arbitrary signs or whether words have an intrinsic relation to the things they signify. 

The window is shut. Mom sits in the yellow bedroom. My body a stranger. My name a shadow on the underside of her tongue. Peter.

What does it mean to mourn those who are not gone? What does it mean to mourn that which never was?

“Peter Pan syndrome” is the psychological theory that DFAB gender non-conforming and transmasculine individuals desire a flat chest in order to deny the death of childhood. 

In Second Skins: The Body Narrative of Transsexuality, Prosser writes that in 1980, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuscript of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) categorized “transsexualism” as Gender Identity Disorder, forcing trans people to “author a history of transgendered identification” in order to receive the proper diagnosis from a clinician to be approved for hormone therapy or surgery. “The diagnosis acts as a narrative filter, enabling some [trans people] to live out their story and thwarting others.” The doctor sentences you to life inside this body. The vessel ages, the shadow plays atop the asphalt, but you do not become.

Derived from Latin to mean “across, over, and beyond,” trans indicates motion. According to Susan Stryker, this means movement “across a socially-imposed boundary away from an unchosen starting place,” not necessarily toward a firm destination. It is the propulsion of the self towards a future we can only imagine.

From Foucault’s utopian body: “From that place, [the body,] as soon as my eyes are open, I can no longer escape. Not that I am nailed down by it, since after all I can not only move, shift, but I can also move it, shift it, change its place. The only thing is I cannot move without it. I cannot leave it there where it is, so that I, myself, may go elsewhere. I can go to the other end of the world; I can hide in the morning under the covers, make myself as small as possible. I can even let myself melt under the sun at the beach— it will always be there. Where I am. It is here, irreparably: it is never elsewhere. My body, it’s the opposite of a utopia: that which is never under different skies. It is the absolute place, the little fragment of space where I am, literally, embodied. My body, pitiless place. And what if by chance I lived with it, in a kind of worn familiarity, as with a shadow?”

Some transmasculine people resist being called a man. Boy is lighter, carefree, brimming with youth and charm. “Is this to avoid complicity with patriarchy and misogyny?” someone asks on a forum called empty closets. Yet boys can be just as complicit. Some transmasculine people recoil at being called a boy, not wanting to be infantilized, kept from growing up. Sometimes starting t feels like a beginning. Sometimes it feels like finally being able to keep living.

Shadow from the Old English sceadwian: “a screen or shield from attack.”

“This won’t heal you,” my mom says as my ribcage contracts. 

My friend tells me of a “regendering” website. You send in your childhood pictures, tell them about yourself, and, after some digital manipulation, “receive a visual representation of how you felt inside the day that photo was taken.” Ta da! Like an aura reading, photographing the swell of captive energy. “This is not a science,” they say on the homepage. 

On a long walk in Montana, Lena and I talk about starting t— I’m a month in and I’m worried about becoming unrecognizable to myself again— and they say testosterone only unlocks a future that is already inside you, a blueprint embedded down to the cells, the molecules. Months later, we see each other for the first time since then, we’re on a walk in California, and they say my voice is deeper, but still distinctly mine. We both think my face has changed, but can’t describe the difference. The future catches sunlight on my face.

From Foucault’s utopian body: “But to tell the truth… [my body], too, possesses some placeless places more profound, more obstinate even than the soul, than the tomb, than the enchantment of magicians. It has caves and its attics, it has its obscure abodes, its luminous beaches.”

I’m in New York again and today the doctor took measuring tape to my chest to map out how to make it flat, as flat as I’ve bound it for years, flatter even, how to make it look like it’s always been that way.

From André Bazin’s The Ontology of the Photographic Image: “The image of things is likewise the image of their duration, change mummified as it were… [Photography] produces an image that is a reality of nature, namely, a hallucination that is also a fact.”

Every day, the front page of my chest peels, and I press it flat into a notebook. 

In 1904, a woman played the first Peter Pan. The director suggested a woman for the part largely due to child labor laws in England stating that minors under the age of fourteen couldn’t work after 9 p.m. The forever boy could not be a man, so a woman instead. It is called a breeches role when an actress appears in “male clothing.” In opera, when a role is sung by “the opposite sex,” it is called a travesty (from the Italian, travesti, disguised).  

Nina Boucicault, 1904 & Veronica Lake, 1951

Peter stopped growing, and what happens when you stop growing? Do you have the same skin cells? Do you keep your baby teeth? I know his hair grows long in the winter. I haven’t seen him in years, but when I see him again, he will be the same as I left him. Sometimes you wish for this in a first love, a friend you no longer recognize, a cousin you used to play magic with, a daughter. Is Peter just the echo of his former self? Before his mother shut the window on him on his way out, left him floating, what was he becoming? When I see him again, he does not recognize me. The light that followed him for years is gone, and he doesn’t remember her name. 

In Jewish folklore, demons assume the shape of men, but cast no shadow. No law follows them, no conscience grounds them. To stay disguised, they attach their shadows like tying their shoes. When the Darling children fall asleep in the sky, dropping like shot birds towards the sea, Peter laughs so hard he nearly forgets to cut the joke short. His shadow a kite flying alone in the sky. Tinker Bell, his small glowing soul, sticks out her tongue. 

In Jungian psychology, “the shadow” is the unconscious, what is hidden and unknown. The ego does not see itself in the unconscious, as this is where the least desirable aspects tuck themselves away. My shadow a pool reflecting.

In Gender Outlaw: On Men, Woman, and the Rest of Us, Kate Bornstein describes the Third Space, an expanse outside the given dichotomy of male and female, outside the suffocating compartments of the binary where “the choice between two of something is not a choice at all, but rather the opportunity to subscribe to the value system which holds the two presented choices as mutually exclusive systems.” I see myself in and I see myself out from the Third Space. It is not just carving space between male and female. It is a space where male and female do not exist. The Third Space is breathing room. A space between, around, and beyond gender. An ambiguity fought for, dreamed of, journeyed to, arrived at, and lived in. A wildness.

From José Esteban Muñoz’s Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity: “Queerness is not yet here. Queerness is an ideality. Put another way, we are not yet queer, but we can feel it as the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality.”

Yet wilderness is a fantasy, as much as Neverland. It is a tool of forgetting. After the mass displacement of Indigenous peoples in the land currently occupied by the U.S., colonizers set fire to houses and food stores, inventing wilderness to feign the idea of “untouched,” Edenic land. The myth of “the New World” and its “virgin land” constructs a vision of emptiness and idleness in order to make room for the myth of the pilgrim. The shadows bend over backward. 

In “The Colonial Origins of Conservation,” Stephen Corry writes of the 1864 Yosemite Grant Act in the conservation movement, how it legalized the eviction of Ahwahneechee people from the land— all except those who were forced to serve tourists, adorn racist costume, and perform caricatured dance and rituals that were not their own. 

Neverland is a colony. Stepping out of the window in Kensington Gardens, Peter floats on his back like an otter over the city, past the second star to the right, to invent a utopia of perpetual war, eternal childhood, and ever-replaceable dead. According to Barrie, every child sees their own version of Neverland. It is where imaginings come true. “A lagoon with flamingoes flying over it” or “a flamingo with lagoons flying over it.” The lost boys flit over eagerly and form a militia at first light. Clad in skeleton leaves and cobwebs, the lost boys’ bodies are bodies of forgetting, rewilding over their own origins. Neverland, outside of spacetime, blunders on outside the colonial idea of progress. A still image of empire. The first bloody battle, over and over. Violence laid bare, violence of pure entertainment. A clock ticks inside a crocodile. Peter terrorizes, and time turns over again like pulling taffy.

From J. M. Barries’ Peter Pan: “In [Peter’s] absence, things are usually quiet on the island. The fairies take an hour longer in the morning, the beasts attend to their young, the r*dskins feed heavily for six days and nights, and when the pirates and lost boys meet, they merely bite their thumbs at each other. But with the coming of Peter, who hates lethargy, they are under way again: if you put your ear to the ground now, you would hear the whole island seething with life.”

John Locke’s theory of acquisition is the founding liberal law that states if one uses land “productively,” for profit, one is granted private ownership of the place by the grace of God. This theory underlaid the legal ruling for the forced displacement and genocide of millions of Indigenous people. When Peter returns to Neverland, in the absence of war, he sees idleness, lethargy. He makes it his again. The lost boys busy their hands with blood.

Fences jut out from the grass like white teeth. When the Darlings reach Neverland, the lost boys have built a house for Wendy: adornment of roses up the walls, knocker on the door, chimney atop. But flies come in through the windows and doors. Sparrows take apart the thatched roof straw by straw for their own nests. The seasons don’t change, the wind doesn’t let up, and eventually, at the turning point of the house becoming a project, a settlement, Peter abandons his fatherhood. He flees into the heart of Neverland, the safety of the neat binaries of war: good versus evil, self versus other. Meanwhile the rest finish what they started. The lost boys fly off, and on the other side of the second star, they morph and twist into men: lords and judges and office workers. Wendy becomes a mother somewhere else. Peter comes by sometimes to ask her and her daughters to clean the cottage. Neverland errs on without a past, without a future.

From Kyle Powys Whyte’s “White Allies, Let’s Be Honest About Decolonization”: “Allies must realize they are living in the environmental fantasies of their settler ancestors. Settler ancestors wanted today’s world… [F]or many Indigenous peoples in North America, we are already living in what our ancestors would have understood as dystopian or post-apocalyptic times.”

I sat at the top of the staircase and batted those green slippers back and forth. Embodying boyhood for me meant embodying white boyhood. I followed where I thought I saw my body. Was to slip on boy to step further into the lineage of those who strung up the binary in the first place? A transgression or submission?

Colonialism is not a shadow sewn to the feet. It is the pale feet. It is the colony that each day makes and remakes itself. Memoryless. A body intent on forgetting.

I sit and watch Peter somersault through the air and never get dizzy. The ivy sewn across his chest never crisps or browns. He sings high notes from the diaphragm when he wings over rooftops. His feet never fully touch the ground. I’m seven years old and he’s an idea in my back pocket like a faerie, he’s a small light I conceal in my small fist. He’s a whisper that goes: I could be boy, I could be. Poster child of children, there had to be something enviable too in his innocence without innocence, something truly boyish about it. By this I mean his untetheredness, his lack of responsibility or tie to anyone or anything, the fantasy of being a young white boy. But it only takes til the end of the play to realize the tragedy. Peter flies alone over his wilderness, his shadow straying behind in the wind, remembering everything. 

Is the formation of a thought the act of pulling a knot tight or unraveling it? Is the way out both the practice of knotting together and coming undone?

Knots & Hitches from Boy Scouts of America Handbook, The Handbook for Boys (1910)

From Google: Are shadows real? Are shadows made of atoms? Are shadows longer in winter or summer? Do shadows have color? Do shadows have weight? 

Unmooring: the act of releasing all ropes and anchors from a vessel. I have dreams where I unmoor everything from its name and I leave my body for the time being. This is a fantasy. There are times I see myself stray toward Neverland. There is fluidity in gender, in my body, but at the same time I am tied to my materiality, the history I am embedded in, and what it demands of me.

Queerness is not white, cannot be assumed white, must not be controlled and regulated by whiteness. Queerness is a devotion, to ourselves, to one another, in friendship and solidarity. Sometimes our eyes slip into each other’s on the street. An eclipse— a glow visible at the edges.

We cast and throw our shadows. They run through a forest of language from which we’ll never find our way out. But we call our shadows in at night and find they are our bodies exactly, lovingly, even stretched, stout, visible or discrete. Yielding and unyielding. We soap and stitch the dark to our feet. When I bind my chest, my silhouette records the difference.


Fox Rinne is a trans poet living on occupied Lenape land. Their writing can be found in Baest, tagvverk, Jacobin, and more.




Nkosi Nkululeko

The Chessmen

Note: this is a Square Poem to be read both horizontally and vertically.




Nkosi Nkululeko, a 2017 Poets House and 2018 Saltonstall Foundation of the Arts Fellow, is the winner of Michigan Quarterly Review’s Page Davidson Clayton Prize for Emerging Poets 2018. His work is published and/or forthcoming in journals like Oxford Poetry, Poetry Northwest, Callaloo, The Offing, Ploughshares, and is anthologized in The Best American Poetry and Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry. Nkosi Nkululeko is a poetry, chess, and music instructor from HARLEM.




Tori Ashley Matos

prayer for us who await state execution

i wish there was enough quiet
for me to watch for migratory birds

to smell wet trees on a sunrise
and give up my medicine for
just a breath of air.

some hymns are loud—
too nestled in the nation’s mourning
for me to access their symphony.

so i hear the great thud instead—
the instruments finding their way to rest. 

i am many creatures 
that live sick at the bottom.
we chew at the cud of the captors

and pray to stay unseen.
but like my ancestors
who walked under the water
and made their last prayers 

in the moon fire,
the faintest chord still
sets my body floating up
to the source of majesty. 


exhume the Bodies that i might make them absolve us

i was birthed
screaming     in the middle
of a nation made of fire

but my people
bubbled me out of the Water.

i pray to Death—
draw me a map. 
send me to the water
and i will find who is
left of us.

i tread the path
the stories told—
into the river.
let her lick a lie
of sleep into my ear.
drowning comfortable

when it bursts.
finally i am ready
to listen my bloodfolk
who also chose the Water.

every time
that i
have sought out silence
it has not shot me down
on the street.

in that way
it is not like


i asked the tarot why it hurts when you’re inside me

1 the craftsman

maybe i am a seed
not the soil. 

perhaps the body was right
all along. 

a joke before
the harvest
                       to find joy 
                       to let you inside me
                       without a sound.

arms undone and around the world and maybe you find your way between them too.
is it fatherly to want to take you into me?
so the streets cannot smother you? 
if i laugh will it make you uncomfortable?

let’s make light feet into the water
and i’ll let you cry when you fuck me
like men do.

2 fog and his consequences

my grieving finds cover in the fog
               the shelter made up what is left undone
               at the end of the day.

i smell it when i go to rest but
the fog’s so thick and green we only ever
get close enough to grope 
at our moaning in the dark.

my vision got blurry—i can only assume you bent time around me.
if you think i fucked up you can just tell me.
              bite my lip so it bleeds
              clean me out with your fingers even when i close my legs

mother is angry i’ve let them make my waters dirty.
but at least she isn’t subtle.

try again.
i promise i won’t yell this time.

3 pilgrim

i have packed
i have not forgotten a companion
not again.


undoing is walking toward morning.
morning is to be without bed nor fellow.

unmake love to me.
unfuck me then if it makes you feel less vulnerable. 

i leave at night
and the crickets tell me where go
where they are loudest. 
there is no way past the mountains
but still i leave them behind me. 

i’m clean now. so it’s okay to kiss me.


Tori Ashley Matos is a poet and performer based in New York City. As a non-binary and Afro-Taino poet, their work is always evolving, searching, muddy, and filled with ghosts, liberation, and freedom. They graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and they’ve been published in Curlew Quarterly, beestung, Perhappened Mag, No, Dear Magazine, and more. They are a Gaze Journal Loving Gaze Poetry Prize winner, a Brooklyn Poets and Lit Fest Fellowship finalist, and a two time DreamYard poetry fellow. Follow them on Instagram @ToriAshleyMatos.




KT Herr

why are my hands wet

Content Note: This audiopoem is a ritual meditating on the internal expression of trauma activation; please exercise care in listening and reading, particularly if you have experienced trauma, PTSD, sexual assault or self-harm.

                                                                  the tears.                                                                                                                                              where did the tears come from? the eyes.
                                the blood.
where did the blood come from? an opening.                 the ducts.   what wrings the ducts?
                                                                         the dishes.
what made the wound? the knife.                                  
                                                                                                                 where is the grief now? pickled.
             where is the knife now? clean, in the dish rack.
    where is the wound? top of the thigh.
                                                                                                                 what made the chest tight? the heart.
what does the thigh want? to be touched.                                               
            what does the thigh want? to be touched.
                                                                                                                  what made the chest tight? grief.
                                                                                                                             what made the grief?

            what does the thigh want? to never be touched.

                                                                                                                             how does relief come? pickled.

where is the knife now? the drawer.
            what does the drawer want? an opening.           
                                                                                                                 how does relief come? clean, in the dish rack.
  what made the hands clench?
                        what made the grief?
                                                                                                 where is the wound? hidden.     where is the wound?

the eyes.    where do the eyes go? my hands.                                  
                                                                                                what does the thigh want? an opening.
                                                                                                                     what made the grief?

    how does relief come? the knife.
           how does the heart come?
                                                                    the blood.
                                                                                                  where is the knife now? my hands.
                                                                                                                           what does the heart want? an opening.

        where do i go now? grief.                                          where do i go now? an opening.
                           where do i go now? my hands.                            where do i go now? to be touched.


Ars poetica as / Self-portrait as / Late Heavy Bombardment1

consider the picaresque of one woman (told to another woman told to another woman told to another)
                                                                                                                       whose mind traps her in a room for hours
                      at a time—lost to reason / she’s back
                                                                                                              at the cataclysm / fragile crust caving
                           under each concussion

                                                                                               as I / too / have been tumbling back—
          down into that same old crater
                                                                                                    with my sample jars / this incessant arm
of curiosity / scraping at hoary lunar soil
                                                                                                                    for buried memory / I’m hankering

     to know how we’re propelled                       
                                                                                                   / can’t stop searching for some engine / a ballistics
thru the firmament / to twin these tiny motors
                                                                                                    of my fears / which rumble at the limits of my senses
   like starships on unseen screens—

                                                                                                    where nothing grows / I’m tempted to believe
in stasis / not the wheeling gyration of bodies
                                                                                                                   I can still call / heaven / though I know it as
                     / up / or / around / ––
                                                                                                                                        a hollow myth––     
                         last night / I dreamt again of
                                                                                                                    being entered in darkness / roving under
my bombarded skin / & there I froze
                                                                                                again / my dream screams soundless as space—
                           scrabbling out of sleep
                                                                                                                      I’m ravenous / fumbling for any theory
    to sate my evidence / tonguing at mined shards
                                                                                                                 from a mind knocked loose as teeth—

        I wonder how any of us consent to
                                                                                                 say: keep loving / knowing the next impact could
                  come at any time / like this:

                                                                                                                   —suddenly young again / at the shore—
              I tire / of playing catch / with a partner
                                                                                                       but covet the ball itself / a small red
 satellite / I can raise / aloft in one hand /
                                                                                                               slam / over & over
                                  against soft / white sand

                                                                                                                     where the wallowing tide slacks &               
                   shaved clean of kicked phosphorescence
                                                                                                               longs to become high
                                         / sky-slaked & violent with stars

1 Also known as the lunar cataclysm; a theoretical spike in asteroid collisions with planets and moons of the inner solar system hypothesized to have occurred roughly 4.1 to 3.8 billion years ago. Experts remain divided as to whether there is enough evidence to conclusively prove a heightened incidence of damaging impacts.


KT Herr (they/she) is a queer poet, songwriter, and curious person with an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. KT has received creative support from G.L.E.A. and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Currently, they are a board member with Four Way Books and an Inprint C. Glenn Cambor PhD Fellow in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Houston. Their recent work appears or is forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Frontier, Barrow Street 4×2, and elsewhere.




Jessica Lawson

lung volume

OPEN       as a window of a message      as a door to a daughter       as a line of
communication punctures     as mama can i tell you      something    as yes
looking up     from the window of the message       as yes you can tell me as
mama i need you to look at me   do this move     as don’t stop     looking as
one-hundred and six days and   counting             at home where the rule is OPEN
the door so i know you are safe in there       as OPEN         mama keeps the glass
coffin of each    message      window         ajar for her    daughter     to crawl 
inside with her         this fairy tale of life      outside this story of a woman 
who lived      with small men in the woods and stood    too close to a stranger 
so now she no longer breathes         OPEN as a vein to each question.               retract 
a little blood first and then       push through

CLOSE as a store we do not go to anymore as a lock the bolt
as nightmares set wrinkles in my unwashed face as a safety
measure as a minimum safe the word safe means secure the
word safe is a box that you can CLOSE to render something
you love distant from air & its many eager fingers. CLOSE
which is proximity and CLOSE which is proximity’s defeat
a clipped reel stop baby mama needs a moment yes mama’s
cheeks are wet you are okay we are okay come CLOSE to
me CLOSE to me as an anti-social distance.    CLOSE to me
       as a no               that never            names my face           

the morning OPENS with a monitor hemmed to my gut              this string of need.
i walk to the room where my children hit me.             she had a nightmare again.
this one about a deep fat fryer built into her stomach.             i cut apples and hide
the knife after.            our home is glass and breathing and this          is too much for
the children.           we OPEN our devices.               learning is a removal of thread
remote stitching back the broken skin            of another room.          i tell my girl
yes this is so hard and you are doing great               at being in this impossible. 
we are OPEN to the possibility of full in person learning this fall. full is a word
for drawing complete breaths. person is a word for the smallest coffin. learning is 
a removal of needle from glowing stone. fall is this, is what we do. an OPEN future
of obedience to gravity.

the evening CLOSES with this gut sunk
knuckle deep in worn claws to the sound of
constant urgency. whimper in the monitor i
walk a quiet hallway to the room where my
children hit upon notions of everything
somehow ending.              none of us sleep
we only CLOSE our crying for the day
that this changes. sometimes the whimper
never stops and i lie      alongside my son
until my breathing lets him sleep again
CLOSE to a candle for his fifth birthday
there’s an eclipse on           the fourth of july 
i don’t blame the sky for not looking not
even now, just to check on his sleep make
sure he’s still breathing.                                  

the function of a lung is to constantly undo its own work. 
closing to open. opening to close.

the function of a state is to constantly undo its own. 
too close to opening. barely open to closing.

a lung can OPEN 
the top hatch of the bar graph that has more death to name

a lung can CLOSE 
to a needle line of conversation, a heartbeat’s second wave

a lung can OPEN 
like a home for someone else when rent gets missed

a lung can CLOSE 
like a bank account when there’s nowhere left to bleed

a simile can mimic the work of a machine that breathes for the penultimate line
a word is not a ventilator because there can always be more of these

Jessica Lawson (she/her/hers) is Denver-based writer, teacher, and queer single parent. Her debut book of poetry, Gash Atlas (forthcoming 2022), was selected by judge Erica Hunt for the Kore Press Institute Poetry Prize, and her chapbook Rot Contracts was published summer 2020 (Trouble Department). A Pushcart-nominated poet, her work has appeared in The Rumpus, Entropy, Dreginald, Yes, Poetry, The Wanderer, Cosmonauts Avenue, and elsewhere.




sam kemp

ZX Spectrum


Sam Kemp teaches creative writing at the New College of Humanities in London. He’s an experimental poet who enjoys appropriating and misappropriating found texts and messing around in Photoshop. You can find more of his work at




Jae Nichelle

Maybe: God

the existence of bad words implies good ones. you believe
saying yes is good even when you don’t want to. if there are
bad girls who curse and spit and sit like men then there are
good girls who don’t. you wonder if girls and words are ever
just those things without dichotomy. you spend a lot of time
closed—your legs and your lips—trying out goodness. god,
like any parent, will be very nice to you until displeased, you
learn. you say yes, you don’t have much space to take up
anyway. it is before the iPhone and you only have 200 texts a
month to use sparingly. you make each one count so as not to
spark a back and forth you’d have to pay for. never I feel only
yes okay sorry. all arguments cost you something. plus, you
learn, anyone bigger than you can tell you what to do. a boy
bigger than you says be a good girl, don’t say a word. you
reassess—there are no good words. girls are good when
silent and open at the command of someone bigger. god is
good, see how god is silent? you should be smaller than
everyone. parents, like any god, speak in parables. bad girls
end up dead or on the streets.
they do not mention who killed
them, who closed their doors. your phone bill comes, rewards
your lack of questions. your parents call. you are scared to
pick up.                                                                                                     


a good listener is just a bad conversationalist. so my
arguments with god are one-sided long paragraphs to which I
see read at [day/time]. I am proud to admit I speak enough to
have my phone determine my frequently used words. so by
now I can use predictive text to pray—



Sanctity: An Exposé

           Historically1, divorce rates have increased.2 Thesis: like gym membership, marriage be seeming like a good idea at the time. Then after a while you look at it and go—ehhh. They look at me expectantly and say we are ending.3 I am wearing cargo pants and a tank top4 sitting on the edge of my puffy comforter. I wonder what this means in terms of dinner. This time I have nothing to say,5 though I have been through more devastating things.6 My father’s eyes are begging.7 I refuse, trying to look busy, I scan the app store for another virtual pet.8

1 as of yesterday
2 there’s one more divorce in this family
3 marriage
4 a phase, unlike the girlfriend
5 who would
6 in my lifetime, after the end of Webkinz
7 give me something
8 to hold on to


Jae Nichelle’s work has been featured in Vinyl Poetry and Prose, Muzzle Magazine, The Offing, Best New Poets, and elsewhere. She was a 2020 Watering Hole fellow, and her chapbook, The Porch (As Sanctuary), is available from YesYes Books. Find her work on her website




Onyedikachi Chinedu

Crevice Letter

Done plowing the fields,
the ravenous farmers doffed a cadaver

from the low branches
of a tree outlining the sky.

Their faces left no traces
of wide mouths and widest eyes;

yet, they slowly veered around their heads,
cutlassing the air

with imagined thoughts.
The low gradient of sunlight, through the gaps

of thick leafage of trees, dappled
the forest floor in uneven streaks of pearly lights,

telling of the descending sun.
The letter in the crevice

flicked like a star.
Its angle—a part of the edge. 

On a spring tree, a squirrel would unnerve
the farmers with cutlass and hoes

draped over slack shoulder blades.
A nest emptied of home smelled of

decaying innards—
of a sparrow—devoured by a heron.

The men stayed for a while,
speculating what to do with the form

festered by the breeze—
contemplating the murder of crows over the body.


Onyedikachi Chinedu is a Nigerian poet. They are a 2021 HUES Foundation scholar, a poetry reader for Non.Plus Lit and Guesthouse Lit; their works are published and forthcoming in Guesthouse Lit, Anomaly, The Cortland Review, The Hellebore, Rappahannock Review, Midway Journal, and elsewhere.




Maya Salameh


I take the mosh pit, lime 
Juuls on hardwood, the nice 
smelling white girls wearing 
hoops just big enough 
to be questionable, tired 
metaphor of me limericking 
your belt loops. you speak 
like the halted development 
on Madison & a kidney 

is just an organ 
with an important job. in catechism 
they told us Saint Barbara 
fled her steeple, read 
all the forbidden books. the luxury 
towers on Park shimmer. we 
were told this was revolutionary – 
a girl cornering God 
in a cramped room, 
availing herself of him
in the dark. we watch 
cranes smear the horizon & 
a jellyfish, even when determined, 
is really just a blot of ink. I was 
raised to love resurrected things 
& the junior college across the street 
is full of juiceboxes, blue 
pens, puritan dreaming. like opium, 
you smile for no reason. like homily, 
I sing for us both.



func(fraction) your grandmother is a quarter Armenian &
your father once denied he was from
Trablos. we are not really “Arab.” who is really “from”
func(weight)I was always a skinny girl ÷ we fry yolks
on pavement
func(loop)desire is an old family heirloom none
of the women in my wall
approximately jacarandas on my dress
func(autopsy)my mother in her emerald swimsuit
func(anaphora)clothes are about waiting growing
into the jacket coat sweats
func(Thomas)jiddo the numismatist & me quarter the
girl I should be ÷ I make odalisques in
the mirror I cover my face in yolk
func(fraction)I am an approximation of jacarandas
func()clothes are about waiting my baptism
name is Maryam
func(sacrament)the priest wrings the solar system from
my mouth


Maya Salameh is a poet fellow of the William Male Foundation and a 2016 National Student Poet, America’s highest honor for youth poets. She is the winner of the 2022 Etel Adnan Prize, through which her debut poetry collection, HOW TO MAKE AN ALGORITHM IN THE MICROWAVE, will be published in 2022. Her poems have appeared in POETRY Magazine, The Rumpus, and Asian American Writer’s Workshop, among others. Maya is the author of rooh (Paper Nautilus Press 2020).




Maurice Moore

Land Acknowledgement:



Visual Poem #1

Moore, Maurice. “Sissy Dat Walk”, Ink on Paper, 19in x 24in, 2021.

Become! Bout 50-11 figures fill the center of the picture plane. Some be crouching, others duck walking and given dat femme realness. The lines are sketchy and rough through de mid sections of the figures. The line weight is thicc, but thin scribbly line flows throughout most of the figures connecting de ancestors to their descendants. This werk is done on tracing paper with the opaqueness coming through in the center. The top left corner of the paper is ligt with the bottom left & right plus the top right corner being darker. There are maybe seven hazy figures located in de center of de paper and spreading out. 


Visual Poem #2

Moore, Maurice. “Venus of Willendorf (Yeah, Baby, She’s Got It) (feat. Sarah Baartman, Martha Wash, Izora Armstead”, Ink on Paper, 19in x 24in, 2021.

No, honey! Trust and believe dey all got it and then some! Six full figured Blackty Black Butch Queens are servin body fo dayz! Ain’t nann one miss no meals, and dats jus the way we like it! Body, ody, ody, ody, ody, ody, ody, ody! Ain’t dat what Meg say?! The piece was created using dat Drake light skint tracing paper. What about the line work you ask? Well, I thought it be thicc thighs save lives, but the way these contours lines are set up everybody is getting blessed today! Honey! Thick and thin black lines make up the faceless figures. These figures are given off sum major Venus of Willendorf vibes wit jus a touch of Sarah Baartman to boot. The figures take up most of the picture plane carful to not break the border. Not sure how to put dis, but the lines furthest out make the figures seem most rendered in a somewhat realist way, and as we focus our attentions toward the center of the picture plane the figures become mo abstract, and it’s a bit harder to pick out where one figure begins and another ends. The four figures dat make up the the left and right side of the piece appear to be standing or maybe dey are suspended in a large body of water. The figures in the center of the piece; well the lines merge and sometimes they seem to be reclining while other times dey be seated. Hell, maybe they doin sum reverse cowgirl poses up in dis drawing. The hands and feet of the figures are very loose and drawn in a gestural like way. It appears dat de person making the marks was drawing the limbs to jus give the viewer a hint of hands and/or feet. Or maybe some of these beautiful figures are meant to represent disabled bodies possessing different types of limbs or no limbs at all. 3 Snaps! In the center there are three or four sections that are a bit smudged maybe a couple half inches apart. Lastly, I know we said dat the lines were Blackty, Black, black however after closer inspection some of the lines at different points in the piece are grayish. Particularly where the figures genital and maybe crises or folds be. I know I said lastly, but the nipples are jus a black dots. Some of the nipples are a contoured oval shaped. 


Visual Poem #3

Moore, Maurice. “I Dreamed A Dream”, 19in x 26in, Ink on Paper, 2021.

Would ya jus look at all dees beautiful ancestors gathered. All watching over us as they do! The piece was created on dat light skint tracing paper. I would say de image is presented wit de 26in” which is I guess the longways and the 19in” short side taking up de rest. Bout 24 or 27 figures are present and starting from de left going across the page are Black, Grayish contour lines. The figures attire is made up of people wearing wraps, skirts, cloaks, and a number to these folks have on headwraps. The figures faces, hands, and feet are completely black just like mine and yours.


Maurice Moore is currently a doctoral Performance Studies Candidate at the University of California-Davis. Moore’s works have appeared in Existere Journal, New World Theatre, bozalta Collective, Wicked Gay Ways, Queer Quarterly Magazine, Strukturriss, EX/POST MAGAZINE, Unlikely Stories Mark V, Decoded Pride, Confluence, Mollyhouse, and Communication and Critical Cultural/Studies. From 2011 to the present, the creative has exhibited at the Centre for Recent Drawing (C4RD) in London United Kingdom, Calabar Gallery in New York NY, Medford Arts Center in New Jersey, Christina Ray Gallery in Soho New York, and the Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro North Carolina.