Wylde Parsley

here is a queer coming-of-age novel without a coming out scene

I would let her 
destroy me, no doubt 
I’m a hapless 
dyke and she’s got 
lemon rind laughter 
that makes me shudder 
through my born-again 
baptist sunday-serious self 
she’s got sacrilege 
written like jolly rancher stains 
around her lips it’s 
like, the flesh is weak 
and willing, giddy 
little stolen sugar packet 
swig from a syrup bottle 
aged like an impatient sigh 
and dripping condescension 
for those who just 
don’t get that she’s 
only and exclusively 
the manic part of manic 
pixie dream girl not half 
as trapped in another life 
I failed driver’s ed 
in order to take it with her 
and we crashed the car together 
and of course it didn’t 
go up in flames like we 
wanted so there’s no use pretending 
we didn’t douse it in lighter fluid 
while licking butterscotch 
ice cream from our sooty fingers


Wylde Parsley is sometimes a writer and always a cryptid enthusiast. Their work has appeared or is upcoming in Birdcoat Quarterly, New Flash Fiction Review, Vagabond City Lit, Rio Grande Review, Every Day Fiction, and various other publications. He can be found on Twitter at @emjparsley.




Jesslyn Whittell

ASMR 99% of You Will Fall Asleep to This Confessional Poem

           Posit climate change as the hand from a person’s warmth taken out 
           of context and uploaded as healing over several types of distance.

           The instructions are as follows: Relax. 
           Be hypothetical. 
           Her touch is the best metric for tired. 
                                                                                 Her mouth is a bubble ceaselessly replayed. I know
                                                                       everything she could tell me. 
           Thank god I have a body to tell me that nothing has changed
           and nothing changes, 

           empathy as ambient noise 
           in a video game 

           trauma as compulsive

                                                                  on the couch with a please-touch-the ache, tracing the dotty
                                                                  lines that are everywhere, things inter-measurable and
                                                                  commiserating. I say body but that’s never what I mean.

You could substitute other abstractions for it, make a variable of me, make gaping that explicit verbal arrangement we have to write about each other while our clothes and sheets dry. This is not a love poem because I have a sense of my body as both a solid object and a vulnerability, it’s a love poem because I kinda love it, the rapid simplicity of unit, of my atomic aura hovering around me like a factual tractor beam, and then the miracle of a hypothetical touch dissolves it all, dissolves me, distance refracted into dissonance of lazy invocations, an association who’s heels get stuck in the fresh-mowed neurons patrolled by the cop in my head, my mouth slack with its own sweet pollution, pollination of literal garbage in the sewers of the cities in my Brita water filter called “low-grade euphoria.”

I didn’t think I’d like being healed but I do. It’s surprising because there is no curse on my lips or stone in my eyes or any other clear demarcation of before and after. I am clotted full of thresholds that don’t lock, cured and recovered. Updated. You can measure the damage, but first you’ll have to coax it out of hiding. It cowers in the weeds of infinite growth, it trembles with deceptively original timing. 

This is a terrible confessional, I’m sorry. I haven’t done this in a while. What else should I tell you? Someone builds houses, and the rent goes up. I’m fumbling the format for intimacy: it looks so like exhaustion here.


Jesslyn Whittell is a grad student in English at UCLA. Her writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from Black Warrior Review, Lammargeier, b l u s h, and The Rambling.




Adedayo Agarau

fine boy writes a poem about anxiety

i ask my girlfriend to pray for me & she pulls my name in a two minutes voice note
throws me towards heaven & receives me with gratitude

i miss everything i worship:
                          a.      my God
                          b.      my woman
                          c.      my mother & grandmother
                          d.     the music flaming from rooms we bless with the heat of our bodies

the way i desire her body is the way anxiety desires me
               i am wanted by all the things that haunt me in my dream

my grandmother, my grandmother
pulling me out of air


                                 on a sidewalk on 7th street
                                 a dead cat is someone’s pet

in ibadan, a dead cat
is someone’s grandmother


                    as a fine boy ko ye ko ni anxiety nau
                    o ni everything to fe, o ye ko ma dupe ni

i thank my God who puts sunlight on my table
who wakes me in the morning & offers me to trembling

who sits outside the apartment near River Landing
smoking a stick of cigarette with menthol switch

who asks me how Nigeria is
who, when i say dáadáa ni,

does not ask what i mean

there is little i can tell you, the anger is towards the door that never opens inside me; i make
eba in the morning & vomit everything later & when my mother calls, she asks why i’m thinner
than h/air

        1.    where will all fear go when god takes over the city?
        2.   whose gratitude will drive the lambs into the swine?
        3.   what am i without the dream where i am gasping for air?
        4.   what name do we give the fire that eats my fingers?
        5.   my mother beads a basket & fills it with water,
        6.   who does she mock if not her son that cannot hold water?

they laugh at me
when i run in 
the blues of

they laugh at me
when i run in
the grey of

i hear their shadows
& dream of their socks

a lizard crawls towards a car
& the driver halts.

i’ve witnessed a car run into a pack
of boys walking tiredly from 

your god is everything 
that lets you come inside.
mother, lover.

this trembling is
not without a destination.
i dance towards fire—

fuck memory.
fuck everything.


Adedayo is studying for MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop’23. His manuscript, The Morning The Birds Died, was a finalist in the 2021 Sillerman Prize. His chapbook, Origin of Names, was selected for New Generation African Poet (African Poetry Book Fund), 2020, while Vegetarian Alcoholic Press published his chapbook, The Arrival of Rain in January, 2020. His poems are published or forthcoming in World Literature Today, Frontier, Iowa Review, Boulevard, and elsewhere. Adedayo is the Editor-in-Chief at Agbowó: An African magazine of literature and art. He is the editor of New International Voices Series at Icefloe-Press. Adedayo edited Memento: An Anthology of Contemporary Nigerian Poetry.




Darren Donate



white + splain, after mansplain. 

whitesplain (third-person singular simple present whitesplains, present participle whitesplaining, simple past and past participle whitesplained)

    1. 1.      To explain to the Mexican: they haven’t had
               the real      authentic pozole,

                    the kind
               with bits of     brain, hominy.

    2. 2.      To explain to the Mexican: they haven’t picked
               their teeth clean, the cerebellum

               hanging from a finger nail like
               a true Aztec, Mestizo.          Lifting the

               bowl with both           hands, gulping
               down blood—coming to       gray matter,

               the chunks that     contemplate
               quantities of melanin—suddenly

               molting,     shedding the ivory of
                     your skin—becoming brown.

    3. 3.      To have a white man call you beaner. To have
               a white man tell you not to use that word.


Darren Donate is a first generation Mexican-American and visual poet. He previously obtained his MFA at the University of New Mexico. Darren is currently teaching high school and coaching wrestling in Tucson, Arizona. His work has been most recently featured in DIALOGIST and is forthcoming in Berkeley Poetry Review.




Laura Da’

Why Lazarus

Because a woman was disinherited 
            by a disinterested witness
            in Turkey Ford, Oklahoma
            because she married 
            in the Indian way 
            and zinc was found 
            on her allotment.

For the sake of the sixth born child.
            Last of the animal surname, 
            son of he named 
            for the third son 
            of Jacob and Leah, 
            who ran from home chased 
            by a flickering length of leather.
            Like a contrary land breeze 
            from mountain to sea, 
            not stopping until he 
            hit salt water.

Because my own father’s father
            was made citizen 
            at age fourteen. Beneath the land 
            he tended for his children 
            covered rivers flow 
            under suburban foundations.

Because a park, reservation, or monument bears the same official 
            symbol on the map:

Park, reservation, or monument     .   

            A lonely figure surrounded by endless fields.

Because in removal, 
the Shawnee were not permitted 
            to carry any tools
            that could be used 
            as weapons.

So Lazarus broke ground 
            with his fists and toes, raked red earth
            with a gar’s jaw. Peeled limbs
            from the trees to burn for warmth, 
            slid corn kernels down the side 
            of his forearm into holes 
            quarried with his bare hands.

Because the cougars extirpated 
            from Shawnee homelands 
            track me in my sleep 
            and a knot in a tale 
            shows that the story could go either way.

For the sake of the words of faith:
            no talk, instruction, or translation 
            in native language was permitted
            to the daughters of Lazarus
            at the Seneca Indian School
            even for the youngest pupils. 
            The Shawnee bible 
            being the only exception.

Because an ancestor was the twelfth 
            child of that year 
            and the missionaries 
            tallied the twelfth letter 
            of the alphabet
            and went thumbing 
            through the bible for a name.

Because the etymology 
            of the word martyr is to bear a witness:
            Indian trails holding steady 
            under concrete highways.

Because Lazarus made Jesus weep 
            as a friend and call him 
            back to the world.

For we, the resurrected, 
            so solitary in our vast fields
            need to call out to one another
            by name in this new territory 
            where the fee simple is neither.


Laura Da’ is a poet and teacher who studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is the author of Tributaries, American Book Award winner, and Instruments of the True Measure, Washington State Book Award winner. Da’ is Eastern Shawnee. She lives near Seattle, Washington.




Diamond Forde

Poem in Which I Was Supposed to Write about Cain and Abel, But I’m Tired of Writing about Death

So instead, a houseplant
arching a trellis of its own strong stems,
elephant ear, Colocasia, what my aunt called
Alice, ready for the inevitable mothering
of her own mother, she tended Alice
with the surgical precision of a woman
seaming silver to the sharp ends of the moon,
and even when she yelled at my cousins
for crawling through the jungle-mess
of its large leaves, scattering soil so far
she could find the hard balls of Perlite
trailing, trailing, sometimes she’d let me
water or cull the gold and ghostly curls
of a dying sprout, hung like a wrung-out
washcloth, and in my hands
I like to think she saw a potential to dig,
to muck deep into the manure 
of my imagination, sprout offshoots 
I hope to plant in someone else someday
when I am no longer afraid
to think of myself as a god large
enough that every heart-shaped leaf
dicing light to dust could beat in my own chest,
and I have never made a life 
but I’ve reached into the refuse
they make of our stories and found hearts
hardy as crocus bulbs, and in this poem
I am planting a world for gxrls to live
where kudzu climbs, and is welcomed.


What I Wish I Said When My Stepmother Asked Me If I Planned to Go to My Grandmother’s Funeral

You tell me I’m selfish—it’s true. I’m particular, too—toast my bread on one side, pluck my toenails in my plush-down bed, sneeze and shout so loud our small hound slumbers with an eye transfixed

on the pollen pilling the sill 

and martyrdom, that supposed mechanism of motherhood, won’t tick in me, but there’s a fig tree feathering behind the old brick building at work, and each fall it droops with newborn fruit, green bulbs purpling like bruises, flush with fresh meat, seeds pink as flagging tongues, and there’s a cove cratered beneath the broad leaves, large enough to sit in, to reach for every wine-dark drop, eat, cream its custard against my teeth, and isn’t it divine to hide behind fig leaves? 

or that for each fruit to bloom, a mother dies—a wasp slipping into the fig’s snug end, wings clipped in entry, antennae ripped from their stalks—blinded by a need to breed, which is not a metaphor, just an insect giving body for brood, because love is a force greater than grief 

and we weren’t meant to mother 

but I know love, found it in the joyful tunes of my own breath, in my hands clapping verbs to thunder, in my thigh’s singular notes, and maybe if you’d listen, you’d hear it as my grandmother heard it, 

in her last pulse, that thrum not swan song but a mulch-womb buzzing to fruit.


Diamond Forde’s debut collection, Mother Body, is the winner of the 2019 Saturnalia Poetry Prize. A Callaloo and Tin House fellow, Diamond’s work has appeared in Boston Review, Honey Literary, Obsidian, Massachusetts Review, and more. She serves as the Fiction Editor of Nat. Brut, and she lives in Asheville with her partner and their dog, Oatmeal. diamondforde.com.




Amy M. Alvarez


from the Tagalog bundók & Cebuano bukid: 
each meaning mountain, rurality, folded-up
land far from ocean, from Proto-Austronesian
bunduk: higher ground. When American

soldiers menaced the Philippines after
the nation declared independence from Spain,
Filipinos used bundók as cover, descending
on an army used to prairies, to brown faces 

protecting sacred ground raging across 
open field instead of behind trees raining
fire down the bundóks. Those soldiers 
birthed the bastard word “boondocks” 

in these mountains, migrating meaning 
toward remote country, hinterlands 
where the people, in their estimation 
(and what is the estimation of a nineteen-

year-old American boy worth?), were less 
civilized or civil. I imagined a boondock 
being watery wasteland and didn’t expect
it to mean “mountain” in my stepfather’s 

first tongue or in Cebuano, Cebu being part
of the archipelago I know well from my time
with church folk who proselytized to the choir,
molding Protestants from Catholics, but also 

running clinics, providing materials to teachers, 
giving teens community, inviting young trans 
women to hang out, delight in sisterly love. I met
my first out trans friend in Cebu at fifteen; 

she taught me the Cebuano word 
for cockroach as a gag: uk-ok. Bakla 
is Cebuano for gay man and transwoman.
bakla     bukid     beauty    bundók 

Jennifer Laude was a bakla, Filipina beauty 
murdered by American marine in a bathroom
stall because his own desire was distasteful 
to him. He could not understand the forests 
of her bundóks. The murderer was released 
after five years of a ten-year sentence. He—
and I don’t bother naming the man from
the boondocks because names are themselves

honorifics—had AC in his cell, was paid a quarter
of a million dollars while he twiddled the thumbs 
that held Jennifer’s head in a toilet. The US military
will remain in the Philippines in exchange for vaccines. 

Babaylan: from the Austronesian balian—
a word for shaman from the pre-colonial 
Philippines. A babaylan was almost always
a woman like Jennifer: shamans by nature,

guided by spirits of ancestors who brought
them back to their bodies after traveling 
to astral boondocks until colonizers drove
them into the mountains. I wish a medium 

beyond words to guide Jennifer back to her 
body. I wish an army of bakla babaylan: 
beautiful, fearless, thundering down the
bundóks, fire streaming from their painted lips.

Amy M. Alvarez is a Black Latina poet, educator, and scholar. Her work focuses on race, ethnicity, gender, regionality, nationality, and social justice. She has been awarded fellowships from CantoMundo, VONA, Macondo, VCCA, and the Furious Flower Poetry Center. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Ploughshares, New Ohio Review, River Styx, Colorado Review, Crazyhorse, Alaska Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. Born in New York City to Jamaican and Puerto Rican parents, she now lives in Morgantown, West Virginia, and teaches at West Virginia University.




Cassandra Lawton

Two Truths

*Choose the method of reading the truth as you see fit

Once you were gone, our—my—mother secluded herself in the master bathroom. At 16, I acted like a child tiptoeing through mom’s room; more worried for her than myself. In the darkness, I remember her purple silk comforter tossed across her bed from a poor night’s sleep. She’s never been one to sleep well.

I sat against the door on plush red carpet, listening to mom crying. She would suck in the air, and it would come out in rasps one after another. A debate to go in ensued, but I knew she was waiting for you and not me. Somehow, I worked up the courage to knock on the door.

“Come on in,” mom’s voice reverberated through the door. With the noise of toilet paper twirling and being ripped, I knew she was preparing to present the face of a strong mother. 

I ambled across each bathroom mat as if I moved toward something foreign and terrifying. The light glistened on mom’s tear-streaked skin. Despite her attempts, one tear after another slid down her cheeks. I worried the streaks might be permanent at the end of all of this.

Ash from the joint resting between her fingers fell onto Ozzy Osbourne’s face in the ashtray below. With a sigh, she lifted it and took a drag. The smoke blew out in broken wisps. I wondered if anything would be the same now. We said nothing. After all, what was there to say? If I was you, it would have been different. I could have reconciled everything. But I was not you, and you chose to fall, taking us down with you.

~ ~ ~

Once she left, I steadied myself on the edge of the large plastic bathtub across from my mom who sat on the plush toilet seat in the master bathroom. Just two hours prior mom had been smiling, laughing, but now, the bags around her sunken green eyes looked cavernous. The tear-streaks coating her cheeks threatened permanence. 

“Did you know?” Mom asked, her gaze pleading me to have the answers—asking me to make everything better. 

I wouldn’t lie to mom like she did. I wouldn’t make the same mistake. 

“I had no idea.”

With a nod, mom’s gaze returned to the ground as ash from her joint dropped into the ashtray that rested on her lap. At that moment I wished she would be angry, throw the ashtray—scream curses. I wanted her to show the same emotions that were building inside me. Confirm rage was a solution and that my anger was justified. 

But she did nothing more than lift the joint slowly, laboriously. Sucking in the toxins, she held them in for several moments. I worried she would suffocate, until she blew out the smoke in one smooth motion. It filled my vision, trying to cover up everything that happened. 

We sat in silence, listening for the door to open—for her to come back. But it was all in vain; she would never come back. 

  ~ ~ ~

Surrounded by foldable dollhouses, poorly proportioned dolls, and small plastic boomboxes, we crafted the lives of others.

“This is Robin.” You flailed around a doll with brown hair and Sharpied nose ring. “She lives with her mother and three siblings. Her father’s a drunk and left.” You were drawn to tragedy even back then. “And she’s in love with Dave.” 

Dave wore black cargo pants and a tight London T-shirt. He was a Christmas present from your mother last year, not that it mattered which doll was yours or mine; we never used to care whose was whose. 

“Mandy also loves Dave.” I held up a doll, dressed in an orange dress and black plastic heels.

“And Robin hates Amanda.”

“But Dave loves them both and has to choose.”

We played for hours—teetering between happy endings and false beginnings—before my mom honked her horn from the driveway. 

“Come on girls, pack it up.” Your mom hurried into the room as if two seven-year-olds would know the dynamics of time. 

“Just a little longer?” you begged. 

Your mother frowned; the eyeliner unable to hide the deep circles beneath her eyes any longer. She was going through a hard time since your father left. 

With our request denied, we packed up begrudgingly, throwing the dolls into their designated tubs. You grumbled, “I wish we lived together.” 

“Me too.” I believed that things would be better if our dream came true. Did you?

~ ~ ~

I prepared an excuse as my mom’s car rumbled into the driveway. The white two-story home came into view, and the sparkling, blue four wheelers sat in the driveway like trophies. As a child, I never understood how my cousins could get new things while my family still had an ancient box TV in the living room. 

When my excuses failed, I said goodbye. I was greeted by my aunt as my cousin, Lori, proudly showed off the gap between her two teeth. We were only a year apart and had been best friends for as long as I could remember. 

As she led me to the game room, we passed the massive fish tanks, a small shark turning around and swimming toward us as if it was ensuring its presence was known. Before we got to the game room, I eyed the massive TV that took up nearly the entire wall in the living room. Once inside the room, she presented their newest pinball machine and bean bag chairs. 

I pretended to be excited, faking a smile and pressing the buttons. I followed my script and ignored the knotting in my stomach. I pushed aside the voices in my head that begged to just go to Lori’s room and play with dolls like we always did. 

I didn’t want to see her family’s newest things. They were intimidating, and the jealousy gnawing into me was hard to contain.

~ ~ ~

The hospital smelled of chemicals and my grandmother’s laundry soap as I moved across the tile toward your mother’s room. I only visited her a few times when my mom and dad made me. 

I disliked the abundance of loud noises: the beeping, the machines, the people. I hated the sight of your mom thinner than ever with wrists even my child fingers could fit around. The machines hooked up to her, the hair falling from her scalp, her sunken in eyes lacking the color they once had.

I told myself I didn’t want to see her, that I didn’t even like her. It was terrible, really, to say such things about your mother. But to me, she was the person that would force me to eat onion-filled goulash and called me “turkey.” I found the nickname horrible and never quite understood what she meant by it. 

More than that, the fact your mom was in the hospital meant you didn’t want to play with me anymore. That you were sad. And I wished things would go back to normal again. By visiting her in the hospital, I was admitting things weren’t normal. That there was a chance that things would never go back to the way they were. And they didn’t. 

When your mother died, we got our wish. You moved in with me and we became sisters. 

~ ~ ~

I forced myself to cry at my aunt’s funeral. It’s horrible really, but when my aunt’s remains were buried, I was excited. 

My aunt was young when she died—in her thirties. It was a surprise for everyone. “Candle in The Wind” by John Elton played in the background on a cheap speaker.

Tears streaked down my father’s face as the black casket was lowered into the ground. Beside him, my cousins sniffled into tissues, sobbing. My mother and grandmother wept. I stood with my father on one side and Lori on the other, begging the tears to come. I didn’t want to look insensitive.

Even though I was young I understood that my aunt’s body was in that casket. That meant I wouldn’t see her anymore. It meant Lori and her siblings were parentless. I knew it was a sad moment. I willed the tears to come, managing to pump out a couple. I hoped the tears were enough to make everyone believe I was sad. I hoped they covered the smile threatening to tug at my lips.

A couple days before the funeral my parents asked me how I felt about Lori living with us. It was a dream come true. We’d finally become sisters—spending the night together, always. We’d be closer than we ever had before. 

~ ~ ~

I scampered across the blue carpet toward the bathroom in the middle of the night. It’d only been a little over a year since you moved in, but you were failing in school, getting into the wrong friend group, and drifting away from me. We barely talked anymore. Your lamp was on and I stopped to listen. You whimpered, taking deep breaths one after another. 

I can’t remember if I knocked or just walked in, but I recall the sight on the other side of the door.

Knife still in hand, you hunched over your bed, your arm laying on the side table as if it were art on display. Blood bubbled up before curving down your arm, forming a path to the carpet below. 

“Don’t tell her,” your voice was hoarse. You never called her mom even though I thought of her as our mom back then. 

I shook my head, the picture of you etching itself deeply into my memory. “I won’t.” 

I don’t think I said anything else, but I remember grabbing the knife and forcing you into the bathroom. My fingers shook and you held back a scream as I washed the cut, pouring hydrogen peroxide over the wound. The chemical mixed with the blood, leaving an odd pink color streaking the sink. 

The carving itself was indistinguishable, but I bandaged it up before we returned to your room. I told you I wouldn’t tell anyone each time you asked. We fell asleep back-to-back in your bed together that night. 

~ ~ ~

Despite living in the same house, we were more distant than ever. At first, I tried to play and talk with Lori as if everything was normal. She didn’t want to play or talk or sit together. She was hurting, and I didn’t know what to do. 

In the middle of the night, when I would wake to use the restroom, I recall several nights where I’d pause outside her door, listening to her sobs. I’d debate if I should go in and try to help. But each time, I’d wonder how I was supposed to help her. I’d keep walking, use the bathroom, and return to bed. 

The alarm went off at an ungodly hour, and I wished I didn’t have to go to school. Begrudgingly, I slid out of bed, threw on clothes, and walked to the kitchen. I made peanut butter toast and checked the time. As I sat in the dim light—the sun not even awake yet—I waited for Lori.

Eventually, she emerged. We said nothing to one another, as she prepared a Toaster Strudel for breakfast. I was observant and noticed the fresh cuts and gashes on her arms. They were puffed up, parts of it turning white and oozing, smelling of chemicals. I almost asked if she washed it or what happened—but I settled on saying nothing. It was better not to bring attention to it. 

We walked to the bus together but sat in different seats. I sat in the hallway for lunch, while she snuck out to try the next drug her newest friend group got their hands on. We had separate classes and didn’t see each other again until the bus ride home. We walked back to the house, side by side, saying nothing. We let the suffering fester.

~ ~ ~

Before our—my—mom was crying in the bathroom, we were playing cards with the family from Norway. It was my 16th birthday. Great grandma made my favorite cake, and we all gathered around the table. Everyone but you. The relatives from Norway just happened to be there that day, but it made me feel special. Like they also wanted to celebrate with me.

You wouldn’t leave your room since that morning. I remember feeling disappointed that you hadn’t been there to sing happy birthday or for the cake. I tried to be happy, knowing if I wasn’t that it’d look bad in front of the company.

They spoke in Norwegian and I asked what certain phrases meant. We laid down our cards and mom had won the round. She smiled, taking the pot of quarters and dollar bills in the center of the table.

The dog began barking as a car pulled into the driveway and stopped part way down. We tried to figure out who it was when you stormed out from your room, three garbage bags in hand. Everyone’s gazes locked on you, but it was mom that stood up, her chair slamming against the wooden frame around the window.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m leaving.” Your eyes were red from crying but you acted confident.

You and mom began screaming. She told you to go to your room; you refused, saying your boyfriend was waiting for you. Mom followed you down the driveway as the shouting got worse. The Norwegian family asked what was happening. I didn’t know what to say. I had been kept in the dark. 

You hadn’t told me of any of this. Of these plans. Of your unhappiness all along.

~ ~ ~

Two hours before mom and I were crying in the bathroom, we were playing cards on my 16th birthday. Lori chose to spend the day in her room instead of celebrating with the family. We had my favorite kind of cake with fresh strawberries in between the layers of cream and rolled almond paste on top. The relatives from Norway happened to be there. It felt special to have company over that day, with everyone sitting around the table together.

I was grateful Lori hadn’t come out of her room. She’d been in a poor mood all week and I didn’t want her to ruin the party. I was worried about her bad attitude and dramatic nature embarrassing my family while we had company. 

As we laid down the cards, my mother won the round. She grinned, explaining that she was keeping the pot in the middle of the table so we could all play again. Before we could deal another hand, the dog began barking and a car pulled into our driveway. The timing was too perfect as Lori rushed out, three large garbage bags trailing behind her. 

“What do you think you’re doing?” My mom’s voice was harsh as if she expected an attack.

“I’m leaving,” Lori stated simply as if she had been planning it with us for weeks. 

She stormed out the door and down the driveway. My mother followed, screaming at her to come back. I wondered if she did it purposefully at my birthday party when company was over. It wasn’t sadness that came, it was rage that bubbled deep in my chest. It stung as tears swept down my face.


~ ~ ~

After the night I bandaged your cut, I remember being closer to you. We sat together on the bus, joking and laughing. We parted ways only for the classes that we didn’t have together. Every other moment we were together, even at lunch.

I thought you’d abandoned the drugs, the poor decisions, the bad friends. I thought we were okay.

I dreamt of graduating together. Of us walking across the stage, smiling just at one another. You used to say you’d become a model, a singer, or a makeup artist. I believed in your future. In what you could become. We’d go to college together. We’d stay best friends. I’d talk to you every week, sometimes more. We would heal together.

Did you dream of anything like that? Did you think of me at all? 

~ ~ ~

The lights flashed one after another off the boy’s car as the police officer stepped out. I stood on the deck and grandma left with the Norwegian family; they were going sightseeing. 

I did nothing as you and mom destroyed what remained of the relationship between you two. You were 17, and the officer said he couldn’t stop you from leaving. Our—my mom—was holding back the tears, begging you to stay. You didn’t even look at me as you loaded the bags into the trunk and got into the car. As the cars left, mom’s shoulders sank as she retreated into the house. She’d lost. 

I wondered if you even considered telling me your plans. If you’d planned it this way purposefully so it would hurt us more. I questioned why you had to drag us down with you. 

You never came back, and we haven’t spoken since.

The blue and red lights flashed off the boy’s car as the cop stepped out. The Norwegian family had left with grandma so they weren’t subjugated to the screaming any longer. I didn’t go with them and stayed behind. 

I watched through the kitchen window as my mom and Lori destroyed what little remained of their relationship. The officer said he couldn’t stop Lori from leaving because she was 17. My mom said she was stupid for leaving, I agreed. 

As she loaded her things into the trunk and the car left, I’m certain she didn’t look back. I remember wondering if she ever cared about us. Once mom returned to the house, I could hear her crying from the kitchen.

Lori never came back, and we haven’t spoken since.

Cassandra Lawton is a student in the NEOMFA program. With a Master’s in social work and an MFA, she seeks to research the healing benefits of writing in therapeutic and community spaces. She has served as the Assistant Editor, and later, Editor-In-Chief of Jenny Magazine. She has flash fiction published or forthcoming in Bridge: The Bluffton Literary Journal and Rubbertop Review, nonfiction published in Entropy, and poetry published in Volney Road Review.




Kate Webster translates Ilona Wiśniewska

from Ice People (Lud. Z grenlandzkiej wyspy)

The journey to Uummannaq takes thirty-three hours and twelve minutes. The plane from Copenhagen flies to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland’s biggest airport, which is both a hub for arrivals and a waiting area for those travelling farther afield. In Kangerlussuaq, a windless -28ºC greets you with a slap on the cheeks, and the icy sun stamps them red.

Greenland, or Kalaallit Nunaat (‘land of the Greenlanders’ – kalaaleq means Greenlander), is politically part of Europe, but geographically part of North America. The world’s largest island, eighty percent covered in ice and inhabited by just over 56,000 people, is divided into five municipalities: Sermersooq (‘place of much ice’), Qeqqata (‘the Centre’), Kujalleq (‘the South’), Qeqertalik (‘the one with islands’), and Avannaata (‘the North’), where Uummannaq is located. Avannaata has an area of over 520,000 square kilometres and a population big enough – at just over 10,000 – that most of the benches in the waiting room and outside the small airport are occupied. By the entrance there’s a sign showing how long it takes to reach various places. Ten hours to Tokyo, five hours forty minutes to Rome, just three and a quarter hours to the North Pole. Given that the shape of Greenland is said to resemble a polar bear, from the thighbone in Kangerlussuaq to the front right paw in Uummannaq it’s only four hundred kilometres in a straight line, even though the trip takes twenty hours.

The helicopter to Uummannaq accounts for the last twelve minutes.

In the queue to board I meet Ann, the director of the children’s home, who suggests we stick together. A few hours later I’m picking up scattered children’s shoes, and at nightfall the moon is the only thing I recognise in the landscape outside the window.


No one here has been waiting for you and they probably won’t miss you either.

You’re just one of the many people they encounter for short periods of time, so they don’t get too attached.

Don’t you get attached either, because you’ll hurt both them and yourself.

Sit down to eat when the others sit down.

Get up when everyone’s finished eating.

We’re hiring you because we’ll be able to send the children on holiday with the money we save.

Don’t forget, you can’t be on your own with them.

And write, but not about our children. 

End of health and safety briefing.


Following the snowstorm that cut Uummannaq off from the rest of Greenland for two days, Karin, a Danish teacher, arrives on the island. It’s the day of the funeral for a teenager who killed himself a few days before. Karin was his caseworker for two years at the children’s home in Tasiilaq, eastern Greenland, where the boy had been sent from Uummannaq due to concerns about his mother.

Everyone knew him here, so the children’s home hosts the kaffemik, the traditional gathering for any occasion, attended by everyone in the town. The tables are laden with Greenlandic food – most importantly, mattak, raw whale skin as hard as cartilage, cut into cubes or sliced directly from the carcass. Mattak is rich in vitamin C, which is why there’s no history of scurvy in this part of the world. Dried whale and seal meat and all kinds of fish are also served, everything sprinkled copiously with salty Knorr flavouring and washed down with Coca-Cola or Faxe Kondi, the Danish equivalent of Sprite. Alongside the meats, a variety of cakes and sweets are laid out. The most important thing is that there’s a lavish spread, enough for everyone. The door is open, no need to knock or announce your arrival. The kaffemik lasts long enough for everyone to show their face. You can stay as long as you want. Some come for a few hours, others have barely touched the food before they’re saying goodbye. There’s no obligation to talk to the person sitting next to you. They say it’s impolite to impose yourself on your neighbour, even if all you’re doing is introducing yourself. To make it easier to find the right address (the buildings in Uummannaq are numbered not according to their position on the street, but the order in which they were built), flags are hoisted outside the house hosting the gathering. White and red with a circle of inverse colours in the middle, symbolising the sun – white and absent in the winter, red and ever-present in the summer. Greenlanders have only had their own flag since 1985, but its colours still reference the many years of Danish rule. The flagpoles are taller than the trees here.

During the kaffemik in sky-blue house number 1451, Karin listens to the musical performance with her head buried in her arms. A little while later, she’s perched in the bedding storage room, where we can talk in peace. She’s thirty years old. She talks in a whisper, but not so that no one can hear her. It’s more of a habit that everyone picks up after being in this part of the world for a long time.


“Lots of my patients end their lives by suicide. In psychiatry there’s a difference between those who threaten to kill themselves and those who just do it. People who are suicidal don’t ask for help. We get the most cases on Fridays and Saturdays,” says Henrik, one of two doctors in the local hospital, which has seventeen beds.

According to Greenland’s main newspaper ‘Sermitsiaq’, forty-seven people took their own lives in Greenland in 2016, ten more than in 2015 (in 1987, there were a record sixty-nine suicides). Thirty-five were male and twelve were female. The fact that increasing numbers of young people, especially men and boys, are killing themselves is a cause for concern. Half the people who died by suicide in Greenland in 2016 were between the ages of ten and thirty. It is said that the longstanding division of gender roles requires men to be indomitable and brave, and not to show their feelings, so many choose a solution that gets the attention of their loved ones, at least momentarily. “Men are like puppies that have slept on the ice since birth,” I hear as soon as I arrive. “If they survive, they stand a chance in life.” Henrik and I met at the kaffemik on the day of the funeral. He was on duty when the boy shot himself. In his free time, the doctor is a musician, so he played the accordion at the wake.

In mid-March, the night begins to move south, and in the late evening the sun projects silent films on the icebergs. The birds are already flying north, but it’ll be at least another two weeks before they arrive here. Beyond Henrik’s windows the white sea stretches to the horizon; a taxi drives along it in one direction, two scooters in the other. The doctor remembers a time when only dog sleds traversed the ice.

“Growing up in Uummannaq was the most important thing that’s happened in my life. I graduated in medicine for the sole purpose of returning here,” he tells me. “My father was a doctor too, that’s why we were living here. It was 1962. I was eight years old.”

Henrik is now a well-groomed sixty-three. We speak in Norwegian.

“At school we were split into Danish-speaking and Greenlandic-speaking classes. Our class had six pupils, theirs had twice as many. At home we had a Greenlandic kiffaq, a maid who looked after me and my siblings. We made friends with Greenlanders, we wore Greenlandic fur clothing, we spoke Greenlandic, but even when we were young, we could already see big differences between us. We lived practically the same as people in Denmark, in big houses with running water, while our friends were crammed into small houses, which were certainly warmer than ours because of the coal stoves in the middle, but you couldn’t live like that for long.”

Henrik is sitting on the sofa in a rented house, two blocks from the children’s home. There are no particular comforts here – the furniture is worn, the walls grey, the linoleum slippery. It’s clear he’s made himself at home here over the past year, because neither the dust nor the dirty windows bother him.

“Why did your homes have fences?” I ask. 

“It was protection from the dogs. They’d sometimes kill children who fell over, so our parents were terrified for us, especially since a neighbour’s child had actually been torn to pieces. We respected the dogs out of fear. Whenever we went somewhere new, we’d carry a stone with us. We’d throw it if they came too close.”

Henrik’s stories are accompanied by long, drawn-out howls. Just a few decades ago, every family in Uummannaq had dogs. Nowadays, for the 1,300 people there are around 1,500 dogs, and that number is falling. Greenland is a modern country; yet it’s clear when you look out the window that the island is far from the established centre of the world, so transport has to pick up pace too. The relationship between the size of your sled dog team and your social status still holds in the far north. A thousand kilometres south things are different, even though the children still learn to mush from a young age, and it’s common to see youngsters running around the streets of Uummannaq swishing sealskin whips.

Even more common are the brown circles in the snow, trampled down at chain’s length. On the periphery of each circle several layers of frozen dog poo have accumulated, the contents of their guts on display. The smaller piles closer, the larger ones further from the dog’s nose. The excreted dry food, the urine and the dogs’ fur are all the same shade of rotten hay. The dogs gnaw away at these remnants methodically, though it’s unclear what system they’re implementing – fresh first, or frozen. 

Nothing is wasted here.

The dogs have kennels on the land. The ones that pull sleds spend a few months a year out on the ice. They establish a hierarchy amongst themselves by force, but they submit to the humans. That’s how it is here. Greenlanders only give names to selected dogs. Dog sledding is the traditional way of travelling off-road, because the animals alert people to polar bears, are resistant to cold and hunger, and if necessary, they can be used as food themselves. From the beginning of my time in Uummannaq, I’m told that these close relatives of the wolf are work tools, not friends. Nobody lives an easy life here; nature is stripped of all sentimental attachment, towards both animals and people.

And everything is done for a reason.

The fact that aggressive puppies are killed because they won’t run well in the sled dog team. Just like any team, no one – including the humans – can be scared of the other members.

The fact that the hierarchy between man and dog is established by force. But if a kick needs to be dealt, it’s aimed at the ribs rather than the flesh, because the dog has to be healthy and in good shape.

The fact that the dogs are driven using a whip. It’s cracked on one side to turn the sled in the opposite direction.

The fact that there are no kennels on the ice, so the dogs will grow good quality fur and survive the winter. And the fact that when they die, their fur is used to make trousers or gloves.

And also the fact that dead dogs are either burned or dumped in the rubbish.

The dogs’ whines, the only sound on an island frozen in a silent sea, bore into my head and cause physical pain. It gets to me the most at night, after waking suddenly, or just before falling asleep. In the howls I can hear the crying of old people or untuned instruments. After yet another night spent with my ears pricked, an idea comes to mind: the fishing blowholes that riddle the sea. Diameter too small for a person, but a dog would fit.

“The barking is the sound of my childhood. The dogs don’t howl out of hunger anymore,” explains Henrik. “Back then they were always hungry, and they ate each other. If you had a puppy, you had to keep it in a pen, because if you forgot to close your gate the adult dogs would get in straight away and kill it. We had dogs as well. Everyone did. My father would drive the dog sled to patients in the neighbouring villages. I remember the moment we had to leave. I can barely talk about it, even today. I’d rather have died than return to Denmark,” he recalls.

After the family’s return, they settled in an upscale district on the outskirts of Copenhagen. Henrik remembers overhearing adults’ conversations in which Greenlanders were referred to as primitive, lazy and intellectually disabled.

“To make matters worse, I ended up in a Danish school with a thousand children. It was all control and discipline – three minutes for this, two for that. We had to walk in pairs, hand-in-hand on the flat pavement, and watch out for cars. I was a bit too perverse for my peers,” he admits with a laugh. “In Denmark everything was stuffy, but in Greenland you grew up around sex. My best friend and I always used to lie down together, studying our penises, and that seemed completely natural to me. The Greenlander way of thinking was simple, the same as it is today. Here, sex is like food, it’s spoken about with no unnecessary tension, it’s practised openly. My friends didn’t understand who I was, and I didn’t understand their way of thinking. At school they were always talking about football or TV programmes, but in Uummannaq there was no TV and we didn’t play football.”


“The essence of our life is chaos,” says Ann the next day. “If you want to adapt, be patient and treat the constant changes as an attempt to live the Greenlandic way. Nobody grows attached to places here, people have always been ready to move on.” She hands me the keys to the house I’ll be living in. It’s the third this week. “Oh, and the fridge is full.”

Since the session with Lars, the Danish alternative therapy expert who helped me untangle some of my behaviour patterns and shed some light on my childhood diagnosis, she keeps checking to make sure I’m not hungry. She has diabetes too, she knows what to watch out for. The key ring says number eleven. It must be one of the old houses in the centre. When we get there, I discover it’s the one with two doors. The key fits the Greenlander entrance, but after clearing the snow, it turns out the door is unlocked.

The yellow house with green shutters is both elegant and neglected. The owner travels often, so when he’s away he rents it out to those in need of somewhere to stay, most of whom won’t return here. They leave the toilet blocked and mould in the fridge. The fence surrounding the building is tall; you can’t see the interior of the property, nor the plastic bags strewn in front of the entrance, ignored by the rubbish collectors. The decorations on the rafters evoke a ship that was due to sail further north but got stuck in the ice. From the stern you enter the kitchen and defunct laundry room, and from the bow you reach a living room the size of two Greenlandic dugouts. The upstairs corridor is lined with musty carpet, a row of colourless furniture against the wall. The wardrobes are empty, there’s no clean bedding, only slept-in sheets smelling of greasy hair and insomnia. The corridor leads to two bedrooms. In the first, the floorboards creak in the corners, there’s a scattering of withered dead flies, and a sturdy hook hangs above the bed. In the second, there’s a door to a bathroom with a bathtub, where insects awoken by the sun are beating against the window with a view over the chains and dogs in the distance.

Time probably stopped in this house just as the Danish doctor’s son was developing the restlessness that would last him a lifetime. Downstairs I find boxes filled with furniture, quotes about happiness and a flat screen TV.

I watch the Sunday summary of the week’s news on KNR, in Greenlandic with Danish subtitles.

Politics: The local government election campaign is underway; after the main news there will be a debate between representatives of the major parties.

Environment: The polar bears have arrived. Three have been killed in the last week.

Culture: Greenlandic artist Julie Hardenberg has presented two new pieces – a Greenlandic flag covered in fair hair and a Danish flag covered in black hair – which have provoked a lively discussion about relations between the two nations.

Society: According to the latest report, there has been no improvement in youth welfare. Parents are still abusing alcohol and hashish. The Minister for Children spent a month in Kujalleq district and has expressed concern. She is recommending the equal treatment of youngsters from urban and rural backgrounds.

Health service: An increasing number of complaints are being made by patients regarding the lack of specialists and unsuitable medicines available in the hospitals.

Weather: Warmest in the south (-7ºC), coldest in the north (-28ºC).

Adverts: Fashionable glasses, eyelash extensions, a helpline for victims of domestic violence (‘Violence doesn’t solve problems. Violence creates problems. We’ll help you solve them. Give us a call’), and a springtime campaign for Air Greenland with a competition entitled Takuss, meaning ‘see you’.

In the evening, when the red rays of the sun are still illuminating the heart-shaped mountain, the lights come on in town. Through the kitchen window I can see boys playing football in the car park in front of Pilersuisoq grocery store. The pitch is white and slippery, the ball green, the players are wearing trainers and no gloves and shooting into a makeshift Euro Pallet goal. The thermometer on the window shows -22ºC. Every now and then, a car cuts across the pitch from the petrol station towards the two fuel pumps, or some men appear offside carrying canisters for scooter fuel. In the morning they’ll open up the shop, where only three buttons work on the produce weighing scales: white and red onions and potatoes. Within a few weeks, even those vegetables will run out.

I wonder what former tenants saw from here. Maybe building number one, which is nowhere to be found, was where the shop is now? Was my predecessor only warm from the knees up too? Based on what Henrik said, homes were heated with coal and there wasn’t enough heat for the whole building. As I watch a hazelnut rolling across the floor, I wonder if the house was uneven from the start or grew contorted because of the permafrost and irregular occupancy. Who has spent more time here, Greenlanders or Danes? What’s the purpose of the window in the wall that looks like a post hole, and what used to hang on the hook upstairs? My train of thought is interrupted by the football thudding against the wall. I run outside to give it back, the boys return to their game without a word, and I return to heating water, because the hot water from the tap was only enough to cover the bottom of the bathtub. Five saucepans later, lying in the tub, I can hear the ball bouncing off the walls repeatedly, but I’ve left the gate open.


Translator’s Note:

In the spring of 2017, Ilona Wiśniewska, a Polish writer, reporter and photographer, spent three months living in Uummannaq, a small town on the central-western coast of Greenland. Ice People is a work of literary reportage based on her time there, a riveting account of the people she met and what they taught her about Greenland, and about herself. 

The basis for Wiśniewska’s trip is a volunteer placement at a children’s home in Uummannaq. With a population of around 1,300 people, Uummannaq is situated on a small, rocky island just off the coast of the mainland, separated by a strip of sea that freezes over during the winter. The scene is set with a description of the two springs that residents recognise annually – the first spring, when the temperature rises to -20ºC, is when the sun returns. The second spring is when the ice melts and the sea returns. 

In a poetic and reflective manner, Wiśniewska recounts snippets of day-to-day life, exploring both the common and individual viewpoints and beliefs of the islanders, as well as broader topics, such as the importance of nature and the various socio-political challenges of life in the region, including the repercussions of Greenland’s colonisation by Denmark beginning in the 18th century. 

The poignancy of the stories reported in this book is enhanced by the introspective nature of the author, which comes through in her descriptions of others, and of herself. Several times throughout the book, Wiśniewska jumps to a point in the future, usually to describe an occasion when she meets one of her friends from Uummannaq again after she’s left. She uses this ‘time travelling’ technique to reflect on the most salient aspects and lessons she took from her time in Greenland. Near the end of her stay, as the temperature warms, she contemplates the fact that the thinner the ice gets, the more notes she has for her book, and yet the less she is able to write.

Translating this excerpt of Wiśniewska’s book was a real joy, a creative tightrope walk of grappling with the author’s sparse, succinct language while seeking out suitable formulations to faithfully represent her poetic descriptions. The Polish text is peppered with Kalaallisut words and phrases that embellish the images and scenarios she recounts, and it felt only right to retain these terms in the English translation.

Few literary reportage books are written about Greenland, and the majority of those that are focus on the ice, the wilderness, climate change and other ‘bleak’ aspects of this region. Without overlooking these topics, Wiśniewska’s account very much highlights the warmth, community-mindedness and positive outlooks of the people she meets. Her subtle descriptions of the experiences and conversations she shares with co-workers, locals and other foreigners living in the town offer the reader a way into the mindset, values and traditions of people in this part of the world and a fascinating glimpse of life in a society and climate that for many people will be both unfamiliar and unimaginable.

This translation has been made possible by funding from the Polish Book Institute’s Sample Translations Programme.


Ilona Wiśniewska is an author, reporter, and photographer. She was born in southern Poland and currently lives in northern Norway. Ice People is her third reportage book set in Northern Europe. It was nominated for the prestigious Ryszard Kapuściński Award for Literary Reportage in 2018 and awarded the Mayor of Lublin’s Crystal Card for Polish Reportage in 2019.


Kate Webster is a translator of literature from Polish to English. Her translations include For Life by Marta Kisiel (in The Big Book of Modern Fantasy, 2019) and The Map by Barbara Sadurska (forthcoming, 2022). She is based in London.




David Brunson translates Miguel Ortiz Rodríguez

The word city

The word city


an animal dust


A city is always



A city is born         shits        eats


            knows itself as fleshless bone

and tomb of all of the dead


In the word city

            there’s no real sign


The word city

            is always an extinct map

an outline of what it should be


The word city erects itself

            as a vertebral monument

            born of the same blood as the living

            a city like an immense jungle

            a house

            like a nest

            like a honeycomb

            about to be burned


La palabra ciudad

La palabra ciudad

esconde un polvo

inherente a lo animal


Una ciudad es siempre



Una ciudad nace       caga      come


           se sabe hueso pulcro

y sepulcro de todos los muertos


La palabra ciudad

           adolece de un signo real


La palabra ciudad

           es siempre un mapa extinto

un calco de lo que debía ser


La palabra ciudad se erige

           como un monumento vertebrado

           nacido de la propia sangre de lo vivo

           una ciudad como una inmensa selva

           una casa

           como un nido

           como un panal

           a punto de ser quemado


I already recognize myself

I already recognize myself

in the streets of Santiago

in the overwhelmingly contradictory nature

            of its blood,

certainly in its rebellion

           and its graffitied walls,

in the unforgivable speed

           of its busses,

in its ransacked

           or burned-down corners,

in its icy mornings

           and merkén.

I believe in Santiago

like I believe in myself,

            beast born

of indignity. I believe

in its thrushes, in

the tiuque’s caw

            resounding of summer,

in the canyon’s dawn

           with the river to wake us.  


Ya me reconozco

Ya me reconozco

en las calles de Santiago

en lo abrumadoramente contradictorio

           de su sangre,

por supuesto en la insurgencia,

           en sus paredes rayadas,

en la velocidad imperdonable

           de las micros

en sus esquinas ruinosas

            o incendiadas,

en las madrugadas heladas

            y el merkén.

Creo en Santiago

como en mí mismo,

            bestia nacida

de la afrenta. Creo

en sus zorzales, en

los graznidos del tiuque

             resonantes de verano,

en la amanecida en el cajón

             con el río para despertarnos.


Venezuela is currently facing the world’s second largest migratory crisis—over six million people have left the country over the past decade, pushed out by hyperinflation, violence, corruption, and democratic backsliding since Hugo Chavez first came to power. Many of those people have made their new home in Chile, with Miguel Ortiz Rodríguez among them. Of course, adapting to a new life in a new country can be difficult. Challenges arise from lack of documentation, xenophobia, trouble finding work, and differences related to language and culture. In Chile, these issues have been further compounded by the 2019 estallido social, when Chileans, protesting the economic and social legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship, took to the streets to demand a more dignified existence. However, these protests, alongside the pandemic, have led to economic instability. For many Venezuelans in Chile, the estallido social was reminiscent of political violence in Venezuela, characterized by a brutal police response and an uncertain economic future.   

These poems by Miguel Ortiz Rodríguez explore life in both Caracas and Santiago, putting the ideas of these cities—and the people that occupy them—into conversation. As an immigrant adapting to life in a new country, the poet is able to drift between an insider’s and an outsider’s perspective to explore the limits of the language that we use in our political and social discourses. He writes “The word city / is always an extinct map / an outline of what it should be.” The Platonic ideal of the language we use to describe the world rarely rises to the task of accurately depicting material reality. By referring to this gap in meaning, Ortiz’s work draws attention to the instability of both of the poet’s homes, of the promises made, but never realized by the leaders of both countries. In Venezuela, the promise of economic equality and Latin American independence fell to corruption and state-sponsored violence; in Chile, the post-dictatorship promise of democracy and opportunity has been undermined by an overly-privatized society that treats citizens as resources rather than people, thus widening the gap between the rich and poor.     

When systems—whether political or linguistic—fail, people rise up to fill the void. This can be seen in the popular protest movements of both Chile and Venezuela. Ortiz writes that “I already recognize myself / in the streets of Santiago / … / certainly in [the city’s] rebellion.” As migrants carve out lives between these spaces, Miguel recognizes that these spaces are, in fact, alive, that “The word city erects itself / as a vertebral monument,” that “is born     shits” and “eats.” The city, wherever it may be, is a living, pluralistic space that must include everyone, including those fighting for better lives. In Ortiz’s writing, at least, this hope has come to fruition: “I believe in Santiago / like I believe in myself / … . I believe /in its thrushes, in /the tiuque’s caw / resounding of summer, / in the canyon’s dawn / with the river to wake us.”


Miguel Ortiz Rodríguez (Caracas, 1993) holds a degree in Literature from the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello and has lived in Santiago, Chile since 2017. He is the author of the chapbook Lengua de ángel/Angeltongue (above/ground press, 2017, Canada). His poetry has appeared in various anthologies, such as Una cicatriz donde se escriben despedidas (Libros del Amanecer, 2021, Chile) and Amanecimos bajo la palabra (Team Poetero, 2017, Venezuela). His poems have also been published in literary magazines such as Furman 217 and Revista Grifo, among others. In 2017, he was named a finalist in Duende’s literary translation contest.

David M. Brunson has an MFA in Poetry and Literary Translation from the University of Arkansas. His poems and translations have appeared in or are forthcoming from Mānoa: A Pacific Journal of International Writing, Booth, Waxwing, DIAGRAM, On the Seawall, Split Rock Review, The Bitter Oleander, Nashville Review, Asymptote, Copper Nickel, Washington Square Review, and elsewhere. He is the editor and translator of A Scar Where Goodbyes Are Written: The Poetry of Venezuelan Migrants in Chile, forthcoming from LSU Press.