POSTS

Ros Seamark

Burning Haibun #1: First Episode Psychosis Pentecost

after torrin a. greathouse

i confess a childish faith in the high desert. it’s there, in that smoking, highway-slashed
floodplain that i learned to speak, and to breathe. the first time the dam broke, i was too young to
know to be afraid of my own mind. a vision: on the long walk back from the riverbed to the
mirage-veiled parking lot, under walnut trees, through incomprehensible dog-day heat, along a
shade-drenched, heron-studded trail, i, in a neon green t-shirt, cast my ten-year-old shadow; i
could not be shut off. smashed vessels, opened valves meant nothing to me: my blood gushing
from my face was cooler than the air. when a soft, scorching breeze stuck my soaked & staining
clothes to sunburned skin, i was glad for the damage. drought was the staff of the prophet who
struck me like a stone, summoning streams; summer, the god in the bell that first set my world
singing. off the bus up from the river basin, up the steps to my mother’s house, a doorbell, and
another kind of breakage. i pad down the hall and into the bathroom, press bare feet to cool white
tile, watch the grout-gridded pattern blur as i let my clothes pool on the floor. the plumbing hits a
pitch like a fever as i crank the faucet open— a cold shower to wash off the sun of the day. i feel
good, i keep the lights off. my ears ring, i stare at each of my fingers individually, run my tongue
out and pant like a kit fox, let sweat-stiff drifting tendrils of my long girlish hair make a catfish
of me. i know i am a creature made of creatures; the mirror can never show me what is real. and
suddenly— something catches fire: the clatter of the pipes to my left congeals into a nocturne,
actual and holy as the water. there is no imagination here, no choice, just music, as involuntary as
the television buzzing in the background and for years it visits me and i know no fear. i am so
young, so undimmable; i always feel like god and i don’t even notice; why should this cloudburst
register as something wrong?

//

i confess, i am a bd child oe ’s thin = floodplain that k,mind. a vi
naage-
veiled pardeh incomprehensible dl, i, in a neon t-shirt,fds
cast my ten-year-old off. smashed vessels, nothing te: fjdsfdfjdsd
my blood guace was cooen a soft, scoked & staining ned skwasd
glad for tphet me like a stone, summoning streams; summer, the
rld singing. tp from the river bas, up eps to me, a dother kind off
breakage. i pad down the hall and into the batto cool white tile,df
watch the grout-gridded pattern blur as i let my clothes pool onff
the floor. the plumbing hits a pitch like a fever as i crank the faudf
cet opena cold shower to wash off the sun of the day. i feel g4o
od, i keep the lights off. my ears ring, i stare at each of my fingerd
, run my tongue out and paendrils of my i know i am a creaturejfjf
made of creatures; the mirror can never show me what is real. An
d fire: thy left congeals into nocturd holy as the watfear. i am so y

//

i am a bastard child of sert. it’s tht-shirt, cast my be shut off. smashed vessels, open
meajkj blood gushinstaining. d singing. off ts up from the rivch the grouhe floor.gggj
h like a fever as i c— a cold sho tongue out and pe. of s; jkjkjkljfdslfire: the clatter of t

 

Ros Seamark is a queer poet & translator from Central California. You can read more of their work in Sugar House Review, Poetry Online, and Fairy Piece Mag.

 

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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.

 

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leena aboutaleb

LOOK: 7odood Briefs!

KUWAIT 

Look, The Soldier Says, Bored, Gun Sleeping Mid-Air. My Father Holding Our Papers
At The Window Like A Bargain, A Begging 
LOOK, My Mother Says, Banishing Her Accent Between Documents 
You Are Here To Keep Us Safe, My Father Agrees, 
Nodding, Of Course, Don’t Want A Repeat Of 

One Uncle Keeps Getting Kidnapped. His Sister Sends Him 
U.S. Car Parts For Work. We Pay Ransoms On The Way To School, 
My Head Pressed Against Heated Glass. I Don’t Look When They Argue. 
He Is An Hour Or Two Away. Everyone But My Father Is Palestinian Here. 

WASHINGTON 

The Guard Glares, Infuriated By My Blase Answers 
Liar, He Says, Give Me A Better Answer. Bitch Spitting On His Teeth. 

Because I Wanted To Be. The Others Laugh 
Passport Boxed & Sealed—LOOK  

LIMBO 

My Father Is Still Holding Our Passports On The Window 
Convincing Soldiers No Threat, LOOK, Our Kids Only Want To Play 
In The Sea. My Father Is Egyptian, Therefore He Has A Sea. 

CAIRO 

I Love My City, My Country, Baladi, Watani—Isn’t That The Truth? I Grin At The Camera [Qasr El-Nile], Men Shout, The Rifles Aim At My Head In Traffic, So West Bank! I Cheer. I Pull My Breasts Out In Sinai—No, Akeed, I Am 
Egyptian Just Like You

LEBANON 

Your Arab Papers. 
I Don’t Have Any. 
ISMIK— 
Sorry, I Smile In All-English, Politely Aware An Egyptian Needs $2,000 USD To Enter
A Warlord-Eaten Country. A Palestinian Is Banned. Civil War Tensions, You Know? I Don’t Have Arab Papers

THE BORDER 

Did You Take Any Pictures? Palestinians Are Not Allowed Here 
My Mother, Legally, Is Jordanian. Her ID Is In Her Hand. The Soldier 
Refuses. Your NameYour NameIs Palestinian

PALESTINE 

They Thought I Stole My Uncle’s CarMy First Cigarette, Bloody, 
A Nice Threat, He Laughs, Teeth Too-Sharp
What Is The Use In Being Palestinian? 

Be Careful, He Insists A Year Later, They’re Idiots. They’ll Kill
I Know, Albe. I Know The Way You Know. The Way We All Know. 
It’s All A Cliche. A Myth None Of Us Wanted To Be A Part Of. 

It’s Okay, I Tell Him, The World Is Ending Anyways. Let Me Live. 
You Keep Watching Me Swallow Brutality As If There’s A World In It. 
I Don’t Want To Die. I Didn’t Come From Ramallah To Die Here. 

It’s 3AM, Why Are They Still Shooting? 

LIMBO 

Do You Know Where You Are? 
No. 
You Are Three Steps from Jericho. How Did You Get So Close? 
Where Is The Crossing? 
No Photos. 
The Moon, At Least. Please.

 

elegy (i); the grave

After and with lines from Diana Khoi Nguyen 

I wake in the morning, buried falling asleep to your corpse body long gone imagine the way baba wa mama akh what have you done ya habeebi syrian wails stealing her throat yousef ya albi shu had her head split on the wall to come with you how selfless a mother’s love, so loving for you to never be alone grab a scythe, make justice. I have spent a decade nightmaring your grave wa I will spend the rest of my life dreaming of a brother eternally twenty-five tell me how dates taste there, how sweet your soil, how warm the cloth I wake up in your grave do you feel the coffee I make us, the tea, the bateekh, what about the salt on my skin? never meant to die that night I know there’s a dagger in my throat til I die for you if your brother dies is killed kills himself is alive you will see your brother the prophecy intones so you follow me into my dreams. I see you, habeebi, for months the closest since we were children with shrapnel you begin to own the shadows you become mazes wa corridors I wake up in a mess of tears is it cold underneath? is death warm? please, turn, look at me, face me I want to see our eyes one last time look at what you have done let me die with you please let me see our eyes once more please let me see your face once more I wake up in our old home you are with our dead, laughing, cigarette still fil eedak wa you ask me to laugh with you how can I ever say no we are both dead I wake up in your grave on my luckiest days you died and became celestial time is your hands, our fates threads you witness I want to die you told baba the morning of fortune teller inta did jinn whisper, did you laugh in relief? if your death was not gentle, I will kill the Angels with my hands I swear by my heart, on my eyes did you smile when I put soil on your grave I fought my way past men for you I refused to leave you I held you blue for hours I kissed your eyelashes please turn to look at me I am begging for one more second I want to see our eyes one more time please look at me tell me how I am to live wa die how am I made to wake up in death tell me how can I love without craving face open to show them what you left behind a desperate sister tell me what you have done I want to see you with our eyes yousef look you were alive once and I am dead now yousef I am glad you are dead yousef I will laugh with you forever I will stay in this grave with you til time ends please don’t be lonely anymore yousef I am glad you are dead I am dead I am glad you are dead I stay alive I am dead I am glad you are dead I keep myself alive in stolen time I eat the flowers how mama trained us fedayeen I find the sea to you yousef 

ya yousef, I am happy you are

 

leena aboutaleb is an Egyptian and Palestinian writer, primarily searching for fruiting trees to sleep under. She can be virtually located @na5leh on Twitter.

 

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Brian Francis

There Weren’t Many Asking How

the boy with fast hands grows into a man
with crooked fingers  I crumble  petals
adorn amber feet   almost out of grasp
superstition       our precious metal 
prove us    the path   ascension unsettles
lesser men     our language     these crude tools
there weren’t enough lessons on        the levels
we climb     to remain completely unmoved
the spirit catches     midflight and confused
flailing    the speech in (or with) a chewed tongue
bawling through the expanse    does it amuse
you    an exchange on the wrong rung     who with
what poor service     cautious of self    I ask
to what current       could I be conduit

 

Bacchanal

After Rio Cortez

I sink     my teeth into whatever
bucks in the distance     flocks 
circling   dirtied dusk blankets
the field growing too wild 

for a scarecrow looking 
like they can be picked 
& carried    right off 
this too small island      a knot 

not yet loose     livestock made
reversible   under night’s watch   I count
grains in the heap     wait 
consider naming each     let them fall 

between fingers then upturn     my hand
call what is left 
our constellation     black canvas palm
against stretched flesh   Jasmine wants 

to dance but a Jumbie ain’t got no feet
to race to river’s edge    a vanishing act
a too broad smile    slips & cracks
in corners

 

Brian Francis is a Cave Canem fellow from New York City. He has a BA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Pittsburgh and an MFA in Poetry from NYU. He lives and teaches English Language Arts to middle school students in his native Harlem, USA.

 

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Olúwatamílọ́re Ọ̀shọ́

Abọ́sẹ̀dé

Abọ́sẹ̀dé is a journey back to self.

There are names we forget to hold in warm embrace.
In my grandfather’s mouth, Abọ́sẹ̀dé was 
a sweet song told in the language of my forefathers.

Language that crafts
stories into names:
Abọ́sẹ̀dé; she who is born on the eve of a new week.
Language that speaks of origin and distant lands, origin that I struggle

to identify with. I search for these origins in stories and legends
told in the deep tongue of my ancestors.

I want my tongue to dance with theirs to the juju beats of our land.
We sweeten the union/ every utterance a moan of allegiance.

I beg my tongue to carry the pride in the accented pronunciation of Abọ́sẹ̀dé,
to flow into rhythm with the high tilt of the letter ọ́ and the low hum of the letter é.

But my tongue’s first love spits out these tones in jealousy. This foreign bride brings
her accent of colonization and twists ọ́ into o and é into e.

In his life, Grandfather called me Abọ́sẹ̀dé. His old wizened voice whispered
this name in prayers,

prayers to guide me back home.

 

Olúwatamílọ́re Ọ̀shọ́ (Frontier XVII) is an emerging poet from Lagos, Nigeria. Her writings negotiate sensuality, familial dynamics, and identity. She tweets @Tamiilore_O.

 

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Roy Wang

Magicicada: A Triptych

I

there was no need for lessons
                         
                          morsels ingested by ear

            digested with love

                           are apples that fuel buzzing 

             around the mid-May maple

                                         or mom in a house dress

             printed with rose and lime butterflies

                            standing           still like the streetlight that yawns

                                                                         sodium sun to put us to bed

I can’t remember the words I knew then

                                         cannot make this real

                           anymore than tell you if it was really butterflies

                                          on her dress or cicadas breaking the air

              did I cry to my brother joyously, 我也是蚱蝉!

                                           almost certainly not but I want to have so 

I might have had more to lose

                                          than pollen off dirty knees look at these wings

                           I know cicadas are not the same as butterflies

                                                                    but I too will turn like 天蚕

when I go to Kindergarten next year

II

read only yinglish

III

17 years of maple bred only silence

                                      but a cycle on this American soil, roots of silver birch

            gunpowder stolen in the blood 

                          words locked in bones              give birth to language

                                                                                                feed on necrotic xylem

unfold these wings and ride this railroad

                            this metaphor is mixed so mixed up

              mixed up Mother Goose is so                           mixed                  remixed

                                          the terms to explain how to hate us less

                           are also not mine          but                      I think I think                 on them

as you pretend to think on The Lord

                            and they fill       they will fill        still they fill    elastic collisions alias a standstill
it’s not an Asian fetish it’s just racism     China = bad as an axiom leads only to tautologies
              fill they fly half thoughts         flutter in your cheek attack with gross butterfly kisses
    this is not murmur anymore murmuration              lock jawed no longer but to choose
             pick words out of this swarm it’s not buzzing it’s sirening not your words they turn to
interrogate why you are so late you did nothing great there was no bargain but for comfort
     no heat you mammal you wouldn’t rather die fucking than be left a nymph in the ground up
turn the sound up the nuanceand the timbredon’t matter thinkonit in stillness butthis brood this
chewing flyinyourmouthwhenyouwon’t shut youryellowfacexiaolongbaohole flingeachscrap
your therapist wouldbesopround right now in the madness inthemenance to be ashell
nottheshell yet mademad madden madmadmadmadmadmadmad adam
madmademadmadmad
madmadmadmadmadmadmadmadmadmadmadmadmadmadmadmadmadmadmadmadmdma

…and drop 

 

Roy is a queer, polyamorous, Chinese-Canadian poet living in Brooklyn where he works as a data consultant. He has had work appear in Prairie Fire, and The Windsor Review. He also has reviewed poetry for ARC and The Globe & Mail.

 

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Tim Tim Cheng

Icarus, a girl, talks to interviewers

after The New York Times‘ feature on the second Chinese female astronaut

You asked if I was afraid of the sun 
melting my eye makeup. 
I had waxed enough to know beauty burned 
and some places were better left 
untouched—questions, like ingrown hairs, 
trapped under the skin in the wrong direction. 
My father named me after my brother 
but never made me wings, not wanting 
to admit to his own misjudgment: 
I did listen, and I flew better—oh the solitude 
I had, not being father’s favourite son, 
too loud, had Chang’e not been writing back. 

The sun was too bright for my taste. 
I packed my makeup (but not sanitary products) 
and waited for the moon to wax, 
its murmur tickling my nape. Of Chang’e’s 
many stories, I knew she drank 
her husband’s elixir to fly to the moon 
just to escape the celebration sex 
after he shot down those nine damned suns. 
You thought she was running away 
from domesticity. Did you ask her husband 
to water their osmanthus tree, 
or if eyeliners helped him aim better? 

No. So why did you act shocked 
as I ascended? Accuse Chang’e and I 
for deviance. We no longer need 
the safety of your approval. Now: 
my skirt, opening upwards; 
my breasts, anti-gravitational; 
the stars; the glitter on my eyes, 
free from your orbitary gaze. On a lucky day, 
when the moon is red from the beads 
floating around me, some of which 
spatter in your face, you’ll know 
I’ve shed your ill-fitting space suit.

 

The Tattooist (from CUTS: A Tattoo Lyric)

I let my friends’ children ink my back,
a noisy, wild mess, somewhere between a
playground and a bar’s toilet. 

A boy slashed a drooping penis here, you
see, slightly below my shoulder blade. 

He used to doodle erections everywhere:
his family’s house, his school’s wall, his
own assignments, my sketchbook even
though we’d just met. 

So I told him, vandalize me 
with an actual tattoo gun

His eyes were wide, hands shaky 
as he stabbed the machine 
into my back, forging confidence. 

It was his first flaccid penis, 
and the last public penis he drew.

 

Tim Tim Cheng is a poet and a teacher from Hong Kong, currently reading the MSc in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh, sponsored by William Hunter Sharpe Memorial Scholarship. Her poems are published or forthcoming in Berfrois, diode, The Margins, Cicada Magazine, Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre Weekly Poem, Cordite Poetry Review, and Ricepaper, among others. She is working on chapbooks which explore Hong Kong’s landscapes, as well as desire and rituals through the lens of tattooing. She translates and writes lyrics at leisure. timtimcheng.com.

 

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Nicole Callihan

Warming meat for my husband, Anne,

and you with your birds, your grace,
and disgrace, your streets of Mercy,
your talking to God, your la de da;
how, when I was sixteen, I snuck 
from the library with you, smoked
under so many trees, my mother
and stepfather concerned I’d sink
into the earth, throw myself 
in front of a train, and haven’t I, 
this cold meat, cooked three days ago, 
tupperwared, how I’ve sliced 
and peppered it, combed your letters,
imagined you were the one who stopped
for the ponies, Anne—were you?—
and I’ve been meaning to forgive you,
like how surely I’ll want others
to forgive me. What is unforgivable?
What does it matter once we’re dead?
This meat from the cow bought
with cash from the butcher the night
it rained, the night before the night
I drank too much but drank plenty
anyway. To rinse the blood, cut off
the fat, heat the pan, hear the sizzle,
Anne, and then not eat it in one sitting.
I’d like to be in your Ford drinking
martinis with you. The coroner said,
it was either suicide or natural causes.
What’s natural? This stone plate
to rest the meat to microwave
for my husband, Anne. Jean said,
living was the brave thing, but didn’t
she live in dreams? This endeavor.
The steam. The waiting for the beeping.
I’m hungry, too, and haunted.
Will slice it into bite-sized chunks,
call for him, give what’s left to the dog.

 

Nicole Callihan writes poems and stories. Her books include SuperLoop and the poetry chapbooks: A Study in Spring (with Zoë Ryder White, 2015); The Deeply Flawed Human (2016); Downtown (2017); Aging (2018); and ELSEWHERE (with Zoë Ryder White, 2020). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Tin House, Kenyon Review, Conduit, The American Poetry Review, and as a Poem-a-Day selection from the Academy of American Poets. Her novella, The Couples, was published by Mason Jar Press in summer 2019. Find her at nicolecallihan.com.

 

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Prince Bush

Superstition

A man says, I am handing you the knife.
I reply, I am receiving the knife.
My grandparents and mother drive
to the ER for fear. They don’t make it 
back. On I-24, a 21-vehicle-crash comes—
with no injuries. Then two people 
wreck and the interstate too
croaks. With whom I grieve very much
alive, I play chess with a computer, a stale,
check, or fool’s mate, a bird’s opening. 
A pawn, one knight threatens me, loss
or draw, and I don’t develop my pieces.
I’m made defensive. The bishops attack me. 
Sometimes, the knife’s placed on a table,
and I wait four minutes before I grab it.

 

Urge

You don’t understand: 
I was praying to die,
mud in the shower,
the shh happening 
like an earthworm, 
potash in the manure, 
its pesticide
in the urine, tears.
I would rev a saw 
to my bedrock, 
the nitrogen running.
I would pray, dry out,
and see a cube in the mirror 
of dirt with a towel around it,
mold on the head, the pit.
Exodus could’ve had me.

 

Prince Bush is a poet with poems in Black Warrior Review, PANK, Poet Lore, and more.

 

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Lisa Creech Bledsoe

The Flying Bird Brings the Message

1. She was too young to handle snakes.

I want Idris Elba to handle snakes for me.
Wilma Mankiller. Annie Oakley, maybe.

I only think absurdities
in the absence of better options.

She wasn’t taking it seriously
enough, not nearly enough.

2. Stay in the process. Be very careful.

Can I call her dreamy? It was a dream.
And the snake. Slim, the length of a woman’s hand—
a copper and apple-green lariat.

Can I call her enchanted?
No more than I’ve been with
moss, crow & bone. But she
was only innocent (?) and let it

3. Stay very small, very frugal, very sincere—

slip, a glissade of venom
and distortion. It swam toward me,
soared on ancient wings. I breathed in
epochs of air. It spiraled. Arced,
each instant a ceremony—

4. The shock of enlightenment

Two needles, little scimitars
pierced my shirt. It hung along
my solar plexus, grim charm.

5. This is not the time to try something important

I pleaded, making a cave of my chest,
bowing in terror, capture take 
remove remove this thorn
I beg you child, ancestress—

6. Do not think about the future

Grinning. She reached
for my silvery death, pulled it free.

 

Waterfall from Linen Paper

“Take the papers…Try to make something out of them that is more than you have now.”
Josef Albers, abstract painter, theorist, paper folder

The textbook says “proteins are the workhorses
of the cells” and guess what? They do origami.
Alpha helices become beta sheets, aka paper fans.
From there: barrels, propellers, jelly rolls.
Mine are filling garbage bags and dumpsters—
my foot drags, I arrive in a slant.
The artful contortionists in my brain have
left the building. Or would, given the chance.
They pleat and crease and nothing matches up.

Mountain, valley I can do. Crimps, petals, gate,
stair, squash, cushion, rabbit ear closed sink
reverse swivel I might be getting lost.
Huzita-Hatori axioms & mathematics
are screwing me over, my head is crammed with
paper trash and it’s hard to get anything done.

Show your work, I say to my proteins, then 
forget how to take the next step forward.
My hands shake. I don’t let go 
when someone offers to take my plate.
I used to be codified, now I’m just
confusing. Menger sponges made of playing cards,
scattered on the floor. Where’s the chiyogami
when you need it? Show your work faster, damn it.

Here’s what I want my operations to look like:
the crisp rush of water, wet-folded and
arcing like a woman in love. A polar sine wave,
ice flow in motion, singularly beautiful.

It was taught at Bauhaus, later 
at Black Mountain. It can be learned but
I need Mi-Teintes watercolor paper
pulp-dyed, cotton, fine grain on one side,
honeycombed on the other. Maybe.

Here are three boxes by a patient recovering
from brain surgery, folded from pages of
their medical chart. Precision is key and
there may be a thousand ways to say that including
elegant and efficient. I shake and zigzag down
hallways this side, that side, this side, fuck.
Laughter, when I don’t bust my ass on this ice.

 

Lisa Creech Bledsoe is a hiker, beekeeper, and writer living in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina. She is the author of two books of poetry, Appalachian Ground (2019), and Wolf Laundry (2020). She has new poems out or forthcoming in Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Chiron Review, Otoliths, and Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, among others. You can find her at her website, appalachianground.com

 

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