Rachel Litchman

Step Therapy

-in honor of Carrie Ann Lucas and Dr. Bill Peace

The way you play this game is simple: there is a boy 
on a skateboard and the boy has four lives. The goal of 

            the game is to get the boy on the skateboard to the end
            of the racecourse. The racecourse is not an oval 

                           or a circle; it’s a city. Miles translate into a pixels. The
                           pixels may be counted. The counting, of course, is not 

                                         a requirement, but a strategy: 

                                                                                  the math works like this: a clinitron bed,
could relieve the pressure on bedsores,
upwards of 40,000 dollars. Less than one
of infected blood may lead to sepsis. If
                                                                                     septic I
would be hospitalized and placed in a
                                                                                     clinitron bed.
Once sepsis is cleared I would be sent
                                                                                     home and to
the same bed that caused my wounds.
                                                                                     An obvious
pattern would emerge.[1]

The city is blocked off by buildings. The stairs 
supplemented by railings. The ramps are 

            fashioned into figure eights. To take the stairs would crack
            the skull. To ride the railings would break a leg. To risk

                           the ramps would lie to gravity. The skateboard boy
                           has four lives and with each death he can experience

                                        partial revival. The funding for complete revival floats at the end
                                        of the racecourse in a pot of stars. The pot of stars is surrounded by

                                                       a pit of fire and evil wizards. The evil wizards hold
                                                       both the wand of Sudden Death and the Key to Level Up

                                                                                      The concept of step therapy is simple: just
                                                                                      because something is expensive doesn’t mean it’s
                                                                                      the best option. A medication made out of dirt is the
                                                                                      same as a medication made out of chemicals. Both
                                                                                      drugs have capsules. Both drugs are dissolvable.
                                                                                      The idea is not to dwell on differences but to be
                                                                                      grateful for your temporary survival.

In a simulated attempt to Level-Up, the skateboard boy calculates
the inertia needed to conquer the ramps. The skateboard boy

            succeeds the figure eight but on the way down gets shocked
            by the wizard’s wand of death. The boy loses one life, revives

                           inside the pit of fire and loses a second life. The skateboard
                           boy bleeds from his neck and stomach. He can see

                                        the pot of stars, but, oh, are the wizards laughing.

                                                                                 The concept of step therapy in practice: Because
                                                                                    Carrie Ann worked for the state, she had to use
                                                                                    state insurance…. In January of 2018 she got a cold
                                                                                    which turned into a trach and lung infection. Her
                                                                                    insurance company UnitedHealthcare, refused to
                                                                                    pay for the one specific inhaled antibiotic that she
                                                                                    really needed. She had to take a less effective drug
                                                                                    and had a bad reaction to that drug.[2]

To revive from the second death is to not to be confused
with the revival of Jesus. The body quivers with

            electricity. Nerves tingle. Burn marks fester
            and bleed. Bacteria crawls into open sores

                           and tissue necrotizes. Stars blur into the retina, 
                           begins visual snow. Lack of blood flow to the brain…

                                                                                    Bouts of sepsis, an increasing number of wounds     
                                                                                    and hospitalizations. Over the period of time my
                                                                                    body will weaken, sepsis will become increasingly
                                                                                    difficult to treat and recover from.[1] In this state,
                                                                                 the wizard shocks the boy again. 

Of course, there are strategies: trick the wizard,
take out the middleman, start a go-fund me, grow 

            a rich uncle, a relationship with the president, unblock
            the buildings, throw the wizard into the fire,

                           fix the ramps, find the bug, rewrite the program.

                                                                                      My name is Carrie Ann Lucas. I am here today on
                                                                                      behalf of Not Dead Yet … If I were to become
                                                                                      depressed… and this bill passes, I could go to my
                                                                                      doctor and ask for a lethal prescription. Because I
                                                                                      have a disability, and because physicians are
                                                                                      terrible at evaluating quality of life of people with
                                                                                      disabilities, I would likely be given that lethal

                           The doctor comes into your room in the hospital at night
                           and shares the math with you: 

                           this medication, bed, treatment, pill, stars, Level-Up 
                           will costs 2,000 dollars. Not to mention the cost
                           of wound care is astronomical.

                           It’s your choice how you would like to proceed,
                           he says gently. He tells you he can make you very comfortable. 

[1] Peace, Bill “Worse Wound Care Woes” Bad Cripple. 24, April, 2019,

[2]Lucas, Carrie Ann. Carrie Ann Lucas Death. Facebook. 24 Feb. 2019
        Accessed 26, Oct. 2019

[3] Lucas, Carrie Ann. “Carrie Ann Lucas Testimony in Opposition of Colorado SB 16-025.”
        Not Dead Yet, 3 Feb. 2016, notdeadyet.org/carrie-ann-lucas-testimony-in-opposition-of-
        sb-16-025. Accessed 27 Oct. 2019.


Rachel Litchman (Rachel DL) is a queer, disabled artist, writer, and member of the Dane County Youth Action Board. Her work centers themes of survivorship, trauma, chronic illness, disability rights and justice. She has been published in Colorado Review, Rooted in Rights, Redivider, and Black Warrior Review, among other places. She is at work on a graphic novel about being hospitalized during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find her on twitter @wordcalculator or on her website racheldl.com.




Nadine Hitchiner

Self-Portrait as Tinder

You part your hair zigzag again, so I can’t ghost you. 

I swipe across your scalp & perch on its dandruff—

it snows mid-August & I feel so super special 

without my seasonal depression. 
Had such small wavelength, no true imagination. 
& so, I theorise about the green thumb 

of my mother; the lilac pyramids in her front yard 

& the headlights of her car, atomising 

the dark. I was only myself, trying music—

who is only me 
in motorised skin—& thought:
a pianist is only a prison 

guard holding a key & thought, now this music 

had made a good woman 

of herself & still, you break my heart. 

& so, I waited for it to rain
my lover’s beard—he’d cut the hedge 
& flushed the stubble.

Shaved the chin

into the wheelbarrow.

Roller skated to the street sign 

with his razor—looked so boyish:
wish I’d known him. Found a neon 
seed, a smoke of worms.

Found the stencil 

of a six pack shape a lovesong

like a turtle—found it in his hair 

like curlers,
& you got so jealous.

& so, the lanterns baptise 
their light. I heard a god invent hibiscus 
in Alaska, & it all happened in my body.

Pinched two things that exist 

like they did not, & so now they’re woke

like me: a praying 

mantis on a popsicle—aren’t you absurd? 
Something outran my childhood like a cyst 
on a kitten & it was just a prototype.

They tell me to fix it, or else—

& so, was my own death only fiction?

For everything behavioural 

there’s a thesaurus, there’s archeology. 
I couldn’t hear god 
think that day, couldn’t replace it,

& so, the ferris wheel in my Babylonic

head, so the language. & so, you are 

& aren’t you a dynamo, spinning on air.
& aren’t you just artificial grass in snow.



Hey, I’m back. Came here closed        atlas, peppered             light—
            swung beneath a disco ball,                                              didn’t feel it.
                          Watched the robbery:                 everyone hunched 
                                                                     their hips           under the laserlight, 
            smeared across their skin                     like green 
lipstick on St. Patrick’s.                                                                   Didn’t feel it
                                            wear off. Came here 
because the street was pouched in light                        and I had no clutch
to go with my shoes, yet.           Came here asking people       in whose image
you were made—                       silly me, 
                                                         forgot you didn’t have to be made twice 
to be remembered.                     Came here        and then the music
                             was clueless. 
                                                         Came here because the street lamps were low 
pyramids—                    so ancient,        but I still wonder            who’s the dust,
who’s the museum and 
                                            where                is           the dance floor? 
            Pre-electric light only had one                emotion: a single longing to dissolve
            in darkness— 
                                                         came here because there was a silencer 
                             screwed onto my lanterns. 
Thought you might know something about the body                  that isn’t bodiless,
                             that isn’t 
                                                         a migration. 
            Know I’m only soft                      at a distance,       only brutal to myself up close.
I’ve got a blindfold     between my shoulders—              I only measure uneven
                             5’6 but hear you’ve got a ladder, 
hear you’re a forest and I’m returning                in my head-lit canoe.


Nadine Hitchiner (she/her) is a German poet and author of the chapbook Bruises, Birthmarks & Other Calamities (Cathexis Northwest Press, 2021). She was a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has been published in Midway Journal, GASHER, Red Ogre Review, and others. She lives in her hometown with her husband and their dog. Find her on Twitter: @nadinekwriter.




Hiyoowi Hamainza

Summer Morn

I (you?) descend the cave through it’s stalactite incisors: pungent trollgoblins, thundering shadows and midnight grumbles – Bloodrot of fresh kill – ugh, the reeking mossgrot and quiet shh shh your bloodnoise they will grok and their bellows will topple my preyerful musque so stand rockstill Allow healing rivers to replenish daylight to (y)our splintered granite slopefalls… 

[the trumpeteering towncrier abreast a weathervane]: a rose, a rose, my strawberry Summer… has arose?

Dawnlight trickles from dry waterfall sky.
Gentle lover with cracked lips, 
will you allow my tears as balm?
accept this lonely morning psalm?

“He loves me, I rust and rot.
I hunt him, he lusts me not?” 

Petals droop tearfully
in sleepy sinking hammock-swings… 

V: I heard-
O: -what?-
V: I heard that – I heard- I heard-
V: Won’t you shhh? There were thunderbolts.

As my gaze rumbled
& undressed the trembling stembrush—
stumbling storm-strirred eyes. 


Rising from loam her blooming iris painted the clouds in whirlpool watercolours –
(my pirouetting sunrise, how you were mist) – directly spy-swirling their (over-there!) inner-eye.

“Will you help rescue my beloved?” 

… Okay?

And so we breeze the promenade, 
haunt the hillsides,
overcast sheep in suffusions of mist.

When the Seer, Ms. Hawthorne VII, 
Daughter of the Gnostics Temple,
summon(ed?) them/us to family dinner,
the invite is (was) by windswept crow.

Now entering the applecottage pie quaint English hamlet
– deer on the mantel, blackberry eyes 
opaque and oracle –

Ms. Hawthorne II, tragically perished, wrapped me with cackling voodoo beads and thus were her deathwords: 
“Oh what is it to be loved?
A snare, a snare, look at my rabbit paws.
They bring luck.”

Hypnotic hearth, hypnotic heart, 
in the warm-rug warm-rum library of Mr. Haardt… 
her eternal heartthrob.

His eyes are accusations. “Have you ever fired a rifle?” 

I’m swinging my neck across the horizon, 
so we pulse through the vein, fluid hunters,
brandy hemoglobins preserved in amber… 

boozed (wobbling) scope 

     drowssy crosshairs slurrrring skyward:

[clangclanging churchbells] Dinner dinner for all you carnivorous sinners! Dinner up(on) the clouds in the giant white wintercrowned poplar with popular vegan guests and tables carved in artisan-flavored cherrywood.

And on the menu, my dear whoms and whomstresses (inc. bodies and nobodies):
some strawberry
Sum Myrrh

(where did she go?)

Chiming tinkling cutlery, guests quiet like sorrow:

V: … But papa, truly you are fowl.
O: Yes, I am a monster, little chicken.
V: I am no longer little, papa.
O: Ah, but we are specks to the sun –

The hunter that flings incandescent spears, 
flaming battlechariots of barbarous heat – 

At this her face speckled,
freckled pomegranate seeds;

(slicing kitchen knife & wooden cutting board)
“I’ll be out soon with slices of lemon.”

Lunar-yellow crescents, 
heavenfruit fumes waft from bubbling stars
stirred in the night cauldron.

Occult astrology on the barnyard roof,
shuffling tarot decks hosted in the wine cellar:
rotting calendars & desiccated dates.
I stretch for the pulp,
you stoop for the pip.

“Please, don’t sulk, we’ll be back in a bit.
He must learn to shoot.”

But I & we & you turned the cards over
in that basement crypt, intoxicant grapevines:
The Silent Archer and The Juggernaut,
The High Priestess and The Tangled Lovers.
(crystal-dark cave)
A most stormful forecast, indeed.

“Okay, be careful, my beloved.”

During the Sagittarius eon of Brontosaurus Rex,
silent-toed they crept with axe and club,
meat for cavern.
“Look, look!”

There’s two of them, fullchested and loinclothed,
circling the other like twin flames,
lightningforged blades
crisping to spark.
They duel for ripe daybreak.
To pluck the wallflower
from between unruly heap.

Sobbing rain mourns the clouds. Rotating garlands of our children circling skipping chanting around the campfire: I am you and you are me, in perspectives of eternity…


Hiyoowi Hamainza is an emerging poet who resides in Cape Town, currently working on his debut novel. He works as an English Editor, studying Psychology and Philosophy part-time.





KP Kaszubowski

Destroy me June Jordan I need it

I hope you know it wasn’t me that twisted your ankle / how could you regret anything more than what you didn’t even do / I gave my wrist away to play table hockey / falling through the table falling through /  I gift myself the chance to sleep for a whole year 

I remember that June where all I could do was be awake in a bed / I could feel the oil inside of me begin its boil / the origin of snakes under the peritoneum / I heal it I heal it I heal it / what do I have to do to get the snakes back / please just tell me I can’t keep guessing on the quizzes / I was told I pour boiling oil over people 

but I know in my snakes / I know inside the snakes of my snakes / that it was the oil they wanted / the boiling oil all over their skin / and of course it burns / it is oil / why am I made liable for the burn / I’m just taking quizzes over here hoping to find the results to where my snakes have gone 

I blush at the thought of forgiving you / keep me away from granite table tops my head falls down so violently / checking the spoons for the sharp splice / giving up forgiving for Lent / giving up going home for Lent / the bemusing of a snake pile Lent / the mastery of somethinghood for Lent / give me a break for Lent / giving everything up for Lent 

how many times do I have to tell you I don’t have anything for you / I don’t have anything for myself but today I feel like I found something / I want to keep and she looks like June Jordan 

and she looks like wind blowing up leaves / as fifty people circle a tree we call June Jordan / and she looks like a clock striking three June Jordan / and she looks like me if I looked at myself June Jordan 

don’t take my June from me / I have got a hold of her / could she be the snakes I’ve been penciling in the circles on the quizzes for / could it be the snakes are back 

they’re looking for my Easter June Jordan  / crack my knuckles for me / it’s 
time / my snakes 


Don’t let the violence stay inside your body

I own this type of cloud that sobs next to me whenever I need a lift. She sounds like static after some time. This morning, she burst open a whole new brook. I’ve always wanted to live where I could hear the water– 


I ask Jenna what flower she’d be if she was a flower just today (“Lilies.”) but I don’t think she understood the violence of the proposition. (“What color lilies?”) She didn’t catch that she would be thrown into the whole life of a flower (“Tiger.”), subjected to the pluckers without a lampshade, a crescent mouth, or incisors to protect herself. (“What flower does your danger feel like?”) I’ll keep my eyes to myself, even if her violets look so good when they’re breaking open her tears. 


What would a pelvis smell like if it was fried outside in Liberty Park? Would pelvises differ in the way they’ve been smote? The knife makes magenta contact. Translate this as a body seized from the self. Enter the BBQ with the sole purpose of “punish” for the people who gather. It doesn’t matter how flat you sit at the rain-soaked table if everyone there has added to the loom of shadows that left you to solo, left you to hunger for a colossal care. Colossal as in chasm.  Colossal as in natatorium. Drowned before you were able to fit into the ice cube tray of love. Something about too much vodka. Something about it becoming the same as water after a point. It’s not a family, but it’s certainly a crowd. Wefted breasts who were never a cup.


I often open around this time,
enough hurt pulsing behind my ears

how aquatic of me
to invite you to my body


Today I want only $17mil so that I can fly to Chicago, to Milwaukee, to Monterey, to Cape Cod, to San Fran every weekend.  The way it’s looking right now is that I am able to cry only if I’m a millionaire, first class seat on my way to the people that can draw it out of me–

would you think I deserved the money more or less if you believed me? I’m so full of water and I’m afraid of what will happen if I can’t get it out. If only my rain was a season. If only I knew how to make myself into a body of water. I could ask the Ocean for tips on how to charge admission.

I could ask the Ocean how much money it would cost to
gun down intruders–


KP Kaszubowski (she/her) is a poet, filmmaker, playwright, and writing instructor. Her debut poetry collection somnieeee was published in 2019 by Vegetarian Alcoholic Press, and her debut feature film Ringolevio premiered in 2020 at Dances With Films in Los Angeles. Her previous poetry has been published (as Kristin Peterson) by pitymilk press, Great Lakes Review, dancing girl press, Juked, Flag + Void, ICHNOS, and elsewhere. She is currently an MFA candidate in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Eastern Washington University where she teaches rhetoric, composition, and creative writing courses and is pursuing a graduate certificate in Disability Studies.




Risë Kevalshar Collins


8  24  2019 
on a lightless night elijah
mcclain 23-year-old black 
masseur and violinist 

who plays for sheltered animals
listens to music hums walks home
from a store after buying tea 
anemic he wears an open- 

faced ski mask for warmth 911
brown caller thinks he looks weird  
suspicious 140 
pounds 5-foot-6 night in white 

aurora colorado black 
innocence guitarist walking 
sketchy unarmed not accused
of any crime denver blue line

where domestic terror foments
three achromatic officers
tackle elijah to ground 
chokehold him down in that special 

suite of white hell reserved for black 
men my name’s elijah mcclain
i can’t breathe please stop—they do not 
three depigmented law men 

two of whom are former u s a
marines randy roedema and 
nathan woodyard plus one jason 
rosenblatt cuff black elijah’s

hands behind his back i was just 
going home i’m an introvert 
i’m just different i have no gun 
i don’t do that stuff i don’t do 

any fighting i don’t kill flies 
i don’t eat meat forgive me he
vomits gasps for air i‘m sorry 
i wasn’t trying to do that 

i can’t breathe correctly 
this night sans light hushed white hot fascist
winds whirl alt right blood rushes swirls
blanched paramedic jeremy 

cooper takes lieutenant peter
cichuniec’s order injects 
slender elijah mcclain with
500 mg ketamine 

post heavy sedative dose
on his vomit elijah chokes 
heart attacks declared brain dead
pray tell how the hell did all three

body cams fall off during 
the arrest our best supremacists
three more on duty officers 
erica marrero jaron

jones and kyle dittrich arrive 
at the scene where elijah was stopped
they pose for selfies smile laugh joke 
they reenact the same chokehold 

used on elijah by righteous
sworn officers of law jason 
rosenblatt even sends ha-ha texts
mocks black elijah’s death 


blue passionfruit

in mirrors mama looks back at 
me i’m older than she was when 
she died in february my
head shaved for months years i wear black 

my soul in freefall through foothills
tall sahara roses fry in
triple digit may june heat i
wrestle pen to paper to purge

for black elijah mcclain whom
three white colorado cops and
two white paramedics slayed
cold ketamine injected

under a headlight moon indicted
for the death they mocked 
my stomach churns a sea tide turns 
far right far white storms forewarning

civil war looms smoking gun grey 
sky red mars black sun rising white
supremacy seeks to suppress 
the vote semi-welcoming war-

driven afghans as white border
boys beat back expel black haitians 
catastrophe-driven they’ve walked
apocalyptic miles dreamed post-

apocalyptic nightmares a
white idaho woman confessed
no masks were worn at her baby 
shower she caught covid gave 

birth on a ventilator they cut 
the baby out amid vaccine
hesitancy hoarding unhoused 
neighbors can’t quarantine friends need 

healthcare chemo nurses drag ass
to therapists we’re unhinged i 
leave food money notes blue kisses 
ruby orchids at their doors black

rickia young today received
two million dollars after she 
was pulled from her car and beaten
by lawless white lawmen sans love

in philadelphia though our
cars are dented swiped swastikaed
keyed we don’t call boise p d 
our olivia lone bear found 

drowned among thousands of amber
black girls gone missing i deep-seed
lily lotus amaryllis
visions of equal justice rise

i see mama’s eyes unflinching 
our voices ring i’m older than
she was in my late september
garden mama looks back at me 


Risë Kevalshar Collins is a writer living in Boise. She studies creative writing at Boise State University where she has served on the editorial staff of Idaho Review. Risë earned an MSW at University of Houston. She holds a BFA in Drama from Carnegie-Mellon University. Her poetry appears in ANMLY, The Indianapolis Review, Tupelo Quarterly, and Minnesota Review. Her creative nonfiction appears in Michigan Quarterly Review and is forthcoming in Texas Review. Rise’s fiction appears in The North American Review. You may read and/or listen to Risë read her poetry online in Tupelo Quarterly (“Decrescent Moon” and “Threnody”) and The Indianapolis Review (“Passion Flowers” and “Pauli”).




Daphne DiFazio


The city restricts all instruments
but requires its women undress 
skeletons to study their ulterior wounds. 
Still, with death and the blue circling us,
we’re good. We crush pearls into something 
useful; use our nostrils to mark the violence 
of weather. Assessing risk by intensities
of mandarin, lavender, a horse’s musk—
heat stolen and heat returned to the cheeks.
The city bans sorrow, but girls refuse to stop
publicly grieving and pass winter
rewiring loss into music. Risk preserved
in the snow I suck on while the surgeon
shapes me. Godview: determining the shades
of haze laced through. Dreams only shook 
by the shock of sound exiting my mouth
while the mother of nobody pours salt 
where memory sleeps. The city stills until 
we go outside. We greet the snow with 
silence. Go numb when my sisters 
offer to buy me a handgun.



Like a siren programmed for play, I say yes to the men but leave them alive. My vocabulary of salt &  stung iris makes me a good girl. Good girl—I roll the phrase around on my tongue, bathing in the  sun’s routed light. Boulders jut through seafoam, sharp as a sibyl’s shoulders. The dark water glitches,  whipped into digital peaks. And with the grid visible, I could travel through motherboards, noting  whatever, and wherever it hurt, I would make irreducible landscapes. Port of torn condom wrappers.  Clouds pinned to stone ceilings, harvesting lightning instead of sleep. In the middle of the night, I  hear a tram dragging along its tracks. Pedestrians exit their cars & walk toward the tide. Far from the  cities of glass manufactured for the crude price of blood—the cities I studied in the width of a spark.  How these men line up to beg, offering oil in exchange for ash, overfed on the cheap texture of flesh.  I won’t lie. I wouldn’t pass the test. My mind’s computer forgets the names for everything once a day.  The coastline breathes like a stranger opening his legs in a packed train car. It makes a humor of my  looking, my mechanical blush. Strangers call me closer, but I don’t know, with my new parts & the  ones still cooling, how best to be touched. I know it won’t be the same. I licked the skin of the matrix  & learned everything–every word for lust–but chose water instead. How it drapes the body & leaves  me sheer to the wind. The lyric it carries. The voices it mutes. I need someone to tell me which parts  are real—which parts he’d like to take off with. I will keep the ones that smoke. 


Daphne DiFazio is a poet, performer, and graduate from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she was an OMAI–First Wave scholar. She has won poetry prizes from the Crab Creek Review, Mikrokosmos Journal, and Epiphany Magazine, in addition to various university awards and prizes. Her work can be found, or is forthcoming, in Yemassee, bath magg, Foglifter, and ANMLY, among other publications. For more about her, visit daphnedifazio.com.




Alexis Ivy

Arrival Form

                                   erasure from Government Questionnaire, Ellis Island

            Manifest how 
                      you are.
                      Are you 
                                    at last    placed?

            Name      your country 
                                             as your    destination. 
                                                        Is your passage
                                                                      America n?

                                                          Are you 
                                                                        a yes     or no?

                                                                                     What     America 
                                                                                                    will you     form?

                                                                                                     All is yours. 
                                                                                                                  Color     your eyes.
                                                                                     Do you 
                                                                                                     Identify                     ?


Twenty Miles from Mexico

I am a flag 
        I stand for 
              water, I wave a faucet 
                            with one drop.

                            I am blue 
where nothing but sky is blue. 

              I wear the wind.  I tell people
                            come here, survive! 
  All I have is light, 
              holes of light, 

                            I am 
                            jumbled, un-symboled.
              The desert rips me apart
              I am eaten up by the desert.

A young woman drinks drinks      drinks.  
                                                     An American boy
                            shoots slurred, Stay the fuck out 
                            of my country

                            Where I fly 
doesn’t feel like anyone’s 


Alexis Ivy is a 2018 recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship in Poetry and the author of Romance with Small-Time Crooks (BlazeVOX [books], 2013), and Taking the Homeless Census (Saturnalia Books, 2020) which won the 2018 Saturnalia Editors Prize. Her poems have recently appeared in Saranac Review, Poet Lore, and Sugar House Review. She is an advocate for the homeless in her hometown, Boston.




Zaynab Bobi

Cyborg attending mermaid festival without inserting a breathing language

yes, my bones raced 
the ocean tides to a mermaid 
festival. yes, i activated 
the swimming tools; 
sniffing autocorrected 
to sinking. 
instruction: shutdown 
to deactivate lungs.
then, wake up to gills 
under your ribs. 
prosthetist, you inserted 
suffocating button 
instead of surfing. 
scientist, i crashed 
when the ocean hosted 
a bloodbath. the truth is: 
my eyes water the sky
whenever i restart. 
it’s the third night
the moon is drowning 
in my mouth.
& you’re floating in your bones.
gravity hasn’t found you yet.
beloved bion, you need
help to shut down.


Zaynab Bobi, Frontier I, is a Nigerian poet, digital artist and photographer from Bobi. She is a member of Hilltop Creative Art Abuja, and a Medical Laboratory Science student of Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto. Her poems are published and forthcoming in Kalahari Review, Isele Review, Asterlit, Paddler Press, Olney Magazine, Ice Floe Press, Lunaris Review, Rigorous Magazine, Olit Magazine, TST Review, and elsewhere. She tweets @ZainabBobi.




Eric Abalajon

Readings in Translation

//I spent more time researching Wopka Jensma’s life than actually reading this. He was very involved in the cultural scene and the fight against apartheid during his time. Suffering mental illness later in life, leading to vagrancy, one day he walked out a Salvation Army facility and disappeared.//With Raul Zurita, Chile’s history and landscape come alive and goes under your skin, transcendental and nightmarish at the same time.//Another Roberto Sosa, more poems from Honduras during a time when it was a vital strategic asset for Reagan’s Contra War against the Sandinistas.//Adonis rocked the Arabic literary scene with Mihyar of Damascus: His Songs, the comparison to Eliot or Pound shortly came after. Surrealism to interrogate the self, the nation, the sacred. I heard he’s getting a lot of heat for statements directed on both sides of the war, unfortunately I can’t speak Arabic or French.//Countersong to Walt Wiltman was amazing, but Amen To Butterflies, Pedro Mir’s poem about the Maribal Sisters is just divine.//Some of Humberto Ak’abal’s more ‘modernist’ works, specifically talking about hardships of indigenous peoples in Guatemala. In 2004 Ak’abal declined to accept the Guatemala National Prize for Literature because it is named after Miguel Angel Asturias.//Looked up Ghassan Zaqtan a bit and read about the controversy over his visa application denial when this book was nominated for the Griffin Poetry Prize. The visa officer said his reason, to attend an awarding ceremony, ‘wasn’t convincing enough’ and he also had ‘financial and employment’ issues, from the eyes of the Canadian embassy this means you probably will overstay illegally.//A glimpse of Mario Benedetti’s career in one anthology, and as a poet of commitment throughout his life, it also serves as a nation’s history. From early satire, to urgency of struggle, one poem dedicated to Raul Sendic, to years in exile, to seeking of post-authoritarian closure, ending in elderly introspection that is as biting as his early poems.//Strong influences of Apollinaire, Eluard, Rimbaud, et al meet the urgency of national liberation struggles in Fayad Jamis, in Cuba and elsewhere. Most poems talk about time in exile in Paris, many dedicated to contemporaries like Guillen, Retamar, Depestre.//Christopher Okigbo, towering African modernist poet, darling of postcolonial circles, fought for the then newly established Republic of Biafra and eventually died in combat defending the university town where he found his voice.//Paradox of contemporary Palestinian poetry; various defeats lead to wider readership, as new generations of poets write more ‘palatable’ poetry which usually means ‘you can talk about how miserable your people’s situation is, just not how to fight back’. Najwan Darwish, no relation to Mahmoud Darwish, is impressive, the more sanitized the presentation, the sharper the poems appears.//Great poems, horrible introduction, better just skip it. You could learn more about Yannis Ritsos from his Wikipedia page. No in-dept discussion of the Greek Civil War, or how the pre-WWII Metaxas dictatorship burned Ritsos’ books in public, how he was still imprisoned by the post-WWII Papadopuolos dictatorship, so you’re basically reading prison poems without the idea why this guy is in prison. It was mentioned he won the Lenin Prize but doesn’t discusses it’s significance.//David Mandessi Diop is a lesser known member of the negritude movement, born in France to a Senegalese father and a Cameroonian mother, it was only logical for him to be eventually a Pan-Africanist, served as a teacher in newly liberated Guinea, before dying in a plane crash along with his wife and manuscript of a second book of poetry.//A poem mostly made up of names of Latin American revolutionaries from Leonel Rugama. He and three comrades were cornered by the National Guard, when the chief told them to surrender, and Rugama replied, ‘Tell your mother to surrender!’ They were all killed, he was about to turn 21.//Juan Gelman, chronicler of the Dirty War, before and after his exile. His son and daughter-in-law were disappeared by the junta, his son’s remains was only discovered in 1990 in a barrel filled with sand. Later he found out that his daughter-in-law was pregnant at that time, and by virtue of Plan Condor, his granddaughter grew up in Uruguay, they eventually met in 2000. This book is dedicated to the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, to the families of the Argentina’s Disappeared.//Claribel Alegria was already exiled and a wanted person when her mother passed away. She wanted to go home, but her father said something along the lines, ‘there will be two instead of one funeral.’//Early Martin Espada, introduced by Amiri Baraka, and with poems being how I want my diasporic literature to be, looking at Empire in the eyes.//Jim Smith’s poems for, and a bit of translations of, Rugama and Dalton. Struggling with form is very apparent, the target audience is Canadian readers after all. A lot of dark humor via irony. This might be as agitating as it gets. Stand out poem asks what if events in El Salvador happened in Ontario.//


Pet Sitting

I was asked to watch over a dog for the weekend, while my aunts go for a drive to Quebec. They assumed I would welcome a pet sitting gig. I never watched over a dog before. She was ten years old and named Shelby. Black with scattered white spots. Anyone can handle her. They left the house at five in the morning, she was already tied in the kitchen when I woke up. 

I was supposed to feed her once at midday. Snacks in the morning and afternoon. Water bowl should always be full. Go outside twice to do her business. Put her shit in a bag and throw it in the garbage bin outside. You can take her for a walk, but let’s not risk it. Her food is in a container on the fridge. I took it out and placed it on her bowl. Pets here are fancy; she has her own dish cooked for her. She smelled it and just stared. I checked again. There’s another container with boiled chicken gizzard. She ate it unceremoniously. Turns out, the adobo was for me.

I was mostly in the room reading in the afternoons. She would bark when the floor tremors as trucks pass by the four-lane Main Street outside. I would sit in the kitchen to calm her down. I needed to rest my eyes anyway. I took a shower, when I came out, she was chewing her leash and the rubber mat within her reach. The first time we went out, she was quick. Around 3 P.M., I think I need some sun as well. I bought a chair outside first, went back to for my laptop and Shelby. I sat and tied her leash on my armrest. She was walking around the small stony yard, making do.

I was writing an experimental story in response to a call for submissions for anthology of political speculative fiction. This is my first serious effort to write again. I felt I needed to insert being in Canada somehow. That’s just what writers do. The story is made up of book reviews and ends at the preface. About dictators being resurrected, history being repeated, and places in the world being found. Shelby eventually stared at me while I type, her face leaning on my right arm. This was what I was missing.

They arrived Sunday evening a bit after dinner. Exhausted, but with tourist glows on their faces. They asked if me and Shelby are now best friends. I wouldn’t take it that far. Everyone said goodbye to get ready for Monday. They asked me to try the cheese bagels they bought. I got twenty-five bucks for my services, which I genuinely refused. No this is how we do it, they insisted. The next day, I went to a bookstore in Westdale to buy a used copy of Fredric Jameson’s book on science fiction. 


Eric Abalajon is currently a lecturer at the University of the Philippines Visayas, Iloilo. His works have appeared in Ani, Katitikan, Loch Raven Review, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, The Tiger Moth Review, Dx Machina, and elsewhere. Recently his poems are included in the collections Sobbing in Seafood City (Sampaguita Press, 2022) and Footprints: An Anthology of New Ecopoetry (Broken Sleep Books, 2022). He can be found on Instagram at @jacob_laneria, and on Twitter at @JLaneria. He lives near Iloilo City.




Dure Ahmed

Ballet Slippers

On Eid in Tucson, I paint my turmeric-stained fingernails pink, so I can meet my friends. Under a bottle brush tree with the flow of the wind, people, a landscaper tinkering with a cactus behind my station on a concrete bench, the city debris sticks to my nails and fossilizes as I blow on the wet paint. Preserves the day, the city, the low air quality warning, the carbon from the towers of the largest employer in the city that makes missiles, missiles that are probably in my country right now, my other country, my actual country. And maybe pollen from mesquite flowers and Japanese privet and the long orange flowers that hummingbirds love. Maybe a hummingbird’s spit. So I walk down the square of shops glittering in the sun— there I am in the coffee shop’s dark windows, breasts rounded by a Victoria’s Secret bra, face under a hat that keeps my skin beige, not my subcontinental farming ancestors’ dark, and with this face and these hands, these fossils at the ends of my fingers, I feed my friends. The last little Cinnabon Delight we split four ways, lick its creamy filling off my pinky, eat the pollen, the missile dust. “You’re dressed like a lesbian’s upscale apartment,” my friends tell me, and I wanted to match the desert, but even this is funny, how I didn’t even have to try. Like how I’m afraid of skin cancer, but even this will make my mother happy, my mother who wants from me, the colorist brand of respectability. Like mosquitoes in amber, the empire lives in my nails, dulls the lacquer of layers of Ballet Slippers— the Queen of England’s favorite nail polish.  


Dure Ahmed is an immigrant Muslim writer from Pakistan. Currently an MFA student at the University of Arizona, they have work appearing, or forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Berkeley Poetry Review, and The Lumiere Review. Follow her on Twitter @dure_ahmed.