POSTS

Laura Mota-Juang

unfinished abecedarium

a.
I was born with no language. Then, I was given my mother’s.
My dad’s mother tongue was withheld from me.
As a result, we became uncommunicable.
We speak at each other. We stare at each other.
Our voices are raised until one of us loses hope to be understood.
We live in the absence of one another.

b.
In this language from none of my progenitors,
I hide my own voice.
and what is that? In my first year living in Canada,
I hoped for the day I could dream in this language.
Dreams, the symbol of fluency.

c. 
The day my partner and I met, we laughed at my translations.
Such as merde du taureau. It didn’t take long before I realized
my languages were useless in my lover’s community.
They acted like my father’s family: entertained
that their secrets couldn’t be caught by the foreigner.
The language of love moved like a betrayal on my tongue.

d.
I betray my first language.
Compatriots say that I sound like a live translator in my mother tongue.
Time and distance make me a foreigner to all languages.
Is my mouth a collapsed shelter? A place of semantic debris?
My tongue, an estranged daughter.

 

Laura Mota-Juang is a Taiwanese-Brazilian shameless experimentalist based in Tiohtiá:ke/Montreal.  Her current practices include upcycling clothing, photography, analogue collage, linocut stamps, drawing, community organizing and writing. You can find her poems at carte blanche, PRISM International, High Shelf, and elsewhere. Laura is the author of Light Spill (Block Party Press 2023), a chapbook inspired by Physic’s imagination. To keep in touch, find her on Instagram @imnofiction. Photo by Jean-Michel Moreau.

 

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Paul Chuks

I Don’t Know What To Name This Poem, But I Want To Call It A Faint Synecdoche Of A Horror Story Authored By Stephen King or God.

Every time my pen kisses the pages of my book to write, I try to fetch from the hooks of the many sad songs//swirling in the mouth of a songbird. An attempt at telling you life is a beautiful homestead//tiled with forgotten dreams—the door’s handle, long suffering. I wonder if our forefathers created God when they reclined from the pain of existence & needed succor. I pocket life’s misery like a jewel & my father’s name becomes a chant for soldiers at war. This poem is about casting God & my mother in the same tragedy & making her the hero. Or it’s to let you know, dear reader, that the good things of life & humans are on the same field, knitted apart like bantu knots on a black woman’s head. Since poetry is about how much can be revealed with metaphors, what do I have to tell? I have learned that the verses of a cock’s crow—if anyone understood, is history being chanted. Or perhaps—man is a weird admixture of divine, flesh & critter. I once read a poem bereft of a title—the poet wanted to illustrate his metaphors as sheep without shepherd that landed good fate —i don’t want to do this & I don’t know what to name this poem, but i want to call it a faint synecdoche of a horror story, authored by Stephen king or God. 

 

Paul Chuks is a songwriter, poet, and storyteller. He is of Igbo descent and resides in Nigeria. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in Brittle Paper, Heavy Feather Review, Trampset, TheAfricaReport, & elsewhere. He is a reader at Palette Poetry, Mud Season Review, and The Forge. When he’s not reading or writing, he’s analyzing hip-hop verses or moving his body rhythmically to the songs raving on his roof.

 

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Abdulrazaq Salihu

Thanatos learns to love family loosely.

after Ocean Vuong

Like every good son,
I pull my father by his left arm;[night pouring into sunrise]from his tomb—his 
Legs holding unto the sand. The songs. The gaping quiet. The silence
That keeps men company in their graves.in their sleep. In the solemn silence of Hypnos.
I bring him to the dinner table —his eyes are voiding mine—slowly 
Swallowing my conscience. today, we’re complete on the dinner table.
Nyx hides in the wind & the flame that holds the candle yearns to sleep—
It’s so every year. It is why I try to not get stuck between the
Pages of an incomplete poem.
Erebus doesn’t talk, the empty vase on the yellow table beside
Our family’s portrait sits restless. The 1435 is slowly fading off the skin of the portrait.
There’s a reason Erebus has refused to speak  since  Nyx took the
Wind into her palm; shrank herself into another man’s song—
Long sang—long dead.
We eat the remains of archaic prayers in silence and table-talk Moros &
Hynos & Momus & Keres & Geras & Petulantia &
I clear the dinner table after dinner, I sit Erebus on the couch,
His skin, green—matching the upholstery that once held us together.
Matching the covering of the night we used to plant sad songs beneath.
Like every good son, this is the way I hold unto what’s important
In the song I love most, with the people I love most. 
the empty vase on the yellow table
Has grown so much; has shattered itself in  the void before the living room,
Buried the blame in Erebus’ palm & this is  how I recollect
Pieces of the memories I once snapped.

 

Abdulrazaq Salihu, TPC I, is a Nigerian poet and member of the Hilltop Creative Arts Foundation. He won the Splendours of Dawn Poetry Contest, BPKW Poetry Contest, Poetry Archive poetry contest, Masks Literary Magazine Poetry Award, Nigerian Prize for Teen Authors (poetry), Hilltop Creative Writing Award, and others. He has his works published/forthcoming in Bracken, Poetry Quarter(ly), Rogue, B*k, Jupiter Review, black moon magazine, Angime, Grub Street Mag, and elsewhere. He tweets @Arazaqsalihu; Instagram: Abdulrazaq_salihu. He’s the author of Constellations (poetry) and hiccups (prose).

 

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Nasser Alsinan

ghazal for family ties

I sit in the corridor, cross-legged like a cinnamon tree. My mama
aims finger guns at me and I drop my sword. I’m sorry, mama,

I didn’t know this was a gunfight. As in, past tense, as in,
do dolls wear snakes for boots? Do they call their mamas 

at dusk? When the growth of cinnamon takes twenty years,
do they wait? There is a flamingo in our garden, mama,

but it doesn’t fly. When you shot me, I understood that it was tea
time and I poured you an istikana. When the kitchen burned, mama,

I slept cradled in your arms. When I call you to tell you my hairline’s
receding, what I really mean to say, mama, is that I love you, and I’m

going to get the flamingo haircut. Like an origami stick figure captured
in a polaroid—all edges, easily breakable. Mama, I will grow my wings 

when I am a very old man. I will use them like trays, carry tangerines
and saffron and your eyes, emeralds white as daisies, mama, emeralds

that melt like sugar in rivers of milk, mama. Hold my hand. Mold it into
a gun. Take the bullets out and replace them with balls of cotton, mama.

This is the only name I have, mama—baba said it’s time I grow, and if god
wills it, I will. I’m going to shoot the flamingo. Tonight, it’s going to fly.

 

Nasser Alsinan is from Qatif, Saudi Arabia. His poetry has been published in journals such as ANMLY, The Shore, and The Dawn Review. He is the recipient of the Bain-Swiggett and Polymnia poetry awards from Purdue University. More of his writings can be found on his Twitter page @nasser_alsinan.

 

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Anthony Thomas Lombardi

fever dream sonnet with Francesca Woodman

our shadows spill together like thieves fleeing a crime
through the last ditch of canyons, creeks sheer as hunters’ knives too
crooked to find their way home. dusk pooled in hoofprints swallows
the mountains as you reach up & pull down your omen, the setting sun.
i wait for you like i’m waiting for a storm to start but you can’t fly
with me hanging on your feet. coyotes smudge the dark’s edges
ravenous as a stage swarmed with standbys but what’s worse
is all this silence. you push the stars away & let the mice chew
through your bandages, your open wounds the only living proof
the gods couldn’t kill you. if there is a way out? burn all the bridges
then the mast—it will be step by step through the black.
the only light willing to linger through nightfall is a rainbow
of motor oil that’s kindled one escape too many to catch a spark.
you find your last dry match, strike it, & mourn its bloom.

 

fever dream sonnet with Francesca Woodman

the animal inside me has learned to stalk through ruin
kindling strewn like spent arrows that skimmed Apollo.
even down here on my belly i see your heels click
& know the score. a spark so close i spit embers when i kiss
the flint. living in captivity, people are known to mimic
each other’s tics. as a boy in the projects it wasn’t just the convict
in apartment 3 flashing his Beretta, terrifying even the Bible
black pre-drawn, but the snake that escaped the clasp of my teeth.
every serpent’s tongue wants a turn with your tongue, piss-warm
fighting like a fire hose. outside the children skipping rope
triple their speed. a hawk’s circle overhead is knocked off
-kilter by a horse whip clutched in its talons. if you listen beyond
the piano playing a lonelier tune you can hear someone breath
-close savor your name pleading for a mercy kill.

 

Anthony Thomas Lombardi is the author of Murmurations (YesYes Books, 2025), a Poetry Project 2021-2022 Emerge-Surface-Be Fellow, and a multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, among other accolades. He has taught or continues to teach with Borough of Manhattan Community College, Paris College of Art, Brooklyn Poets, Polyphony Lit’s apprenticeship programs, community programming throughout New York City, and currently serves as a poetry editor for Sundog Lit. His work has appeared or will soon in the Poetry Foundation, Best New Poets, Guernica, Black Warrior Review, Narrative Magazine, and elsewhere. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and their two cats.

 

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lae astra

Meltdown at High Tide

I pour night blooming
jasmine petals into
the craters of my body. 
Swarms of invertebrates 
peek out from tidepools,
like swirls of dust rippling 
moonlight. The tide climbs 
my legs & runs away
with my flowers. I shush
the crabs who won’t stop 
banging their claws against 
the cave walls of my chest.
I lie still until the echoes finish 
skipping out into the distance 
to where the water meets
the beginning of stars.
In the morning, you are curled 
around me while all of the crabs 
snore peacefully, claws askew, 
beside your synthesizer whose 
music blossoms & harmonizes 
with the receding waves.

 

lae astra is a queer trans artist in Tokyo who loves painting with sound, color, light, and words. Their work appears or is forthcoming in fifth wheel press, Bullshit Lit, Strange Horizons, manywor(l)ds, and elsewhere. Find them at laeastra.com/links.

 

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Iqra Khan

In The Museum of Cities I Once Was

An epitaph thaws with my breath and I spell
what I have lost, on a wildflowered wall. The stones warm
at my touch like parted kin. When the first Mughal

arrived from Farghana, he longed for its gardens
and its melons. The centuries sculpted the plains
into a likeness of his memories. The rickshaw pants

past the bright storefronts, past the rose-scented eyes
of pilgrims and vendors. A charbagh greens and glows
before me, like an ulcer in the hallowed mouth

of Nizamuddin. The last moon of December
spreads like softened butter over parapets speckled
with doves. The glyphs I etch on the wall are a fractal 

of an inheritance. One more year when you see
worse things than dying. My losses surface over me,
fascinating as scabs. My Daadu reading Al-Kahf, 

bifocals searching the ayahs for a different
time to be. Daytime gauged in calibrations
of power cuts. Gulmohar and amaltas growing

heavy with metaphor in a stranger’s poem.
After the mutiny, the mynahs mourned in these
very trees, the last free men. A season arrives

in apophasis of the last. The sacred fig still bows
with the day’s lynched. Beyond the haze-soaked bazaar, a prince
and a poet grow quieter in their marble

tombs and rooftops snuggle closer against the cold.
Sometimes, freedom carries a life sentence. On Fridays,
it carries a bullet. The butcher saves my father

his choicest goat shanks. A man asks me why my skin
isn’t light like the Turks I come from. I say my name
is foreign enough. I dress its uvular plosives

into the Hindi velars and stare at my own
putrefaction. Sometimes, homeland is a lie you live
until you belong or until you cannot. In a room

above a car wash, a woman lays out lunch for ghosts.
The streets conduct a commerce of ittar and camphor
doused in turpentine. The only living boy loses

an eye, beating metal scraps into answers
for grief. He looks for a way home and reaches
the wrong graveyard. In a dream, nastaliq leaves 

the signposts, and I never look up. I read
Kipling, perhaps Forster, in the panelled sunlight
by a balustrade. I can only say goodbye

in Urdu-Farsi. Khuda Hafez. Zafar,
the poet-emperor, murmurs as he holds
the white domes with the skin of his eyelids.

I leave. You. I leave you. I leave you with God.

 

Nightmares Where I Meet My Past and Future Selves Moments Before They Die

It’s past noon and I’m done scraping years
of grease from the cauldrons. So I turn nostalgia
like gum in my mouth until it sores. Rub
a poultice of figs and cloves on my teeth. I uncrease
the bedclothes smooth as death. My left ear strains
to find the kinder end of the pillow. The knotted
linen hisses restlessly around my calves. My dead
mother calls me from a sufi’s islet. Asks me
to bring candles and oranges on the way. I run past
the rowboats suspended in fog, heels splitting
the still grey surface for a brief gasp
of swan-wing and sunbeam—

I stand outside the glass door and peer
into the uncharacteristic quiet
of the McDonald’s drive-thru. The sky lightens
and I spot bitten bread at my feet, glittering
with broken glass. In a few hours, I will break
-fast with Cheetos. In a few hours, the garbage
trucks will roll in and make room for more
hunger. The alchemy of civilisation. Scientists
believe that the brain knows your decision
seconds before you become aware of it. I am
a wolf on sertraline, in the amethyst eye
of pre-dawn. If fate is an electronic tremor
in the deep dark wetness, saving myself
was always out of the question. I pick the bread
with my jaw, and with a sprinkle of red
over the eastern skyline, swallow it whole—

I remember when I was more than half
water and only a tenth doubt. How I could walk
between worlds. The earth has faith like a bead
on my grandmother’s rosary. Her hymn is gravity.
Because the earth is liquid at its core, she holds on
to all that she is given. Peach pits and bullets. Lead
lacing her veins. The jacaranda, a rustle of purple
ghosts. The godwits flying south and returning
when the snow peaks coax the sun
closer somehow. I crush cardamom pods
in my tea and wake up a believer on some days.
Because I am liquid at my core, God
homonyms in my gut. I His script, I His
scriptorium. He looks up through the oculus
of my throat for meaning. I am liquid, so I love Him
especially when it hurts. Think of water under
pressure. Or boiled peas tendering. Or how
the earth must embrace the first of the asteroids
that will last us. On some days, I strip
my insides with salt until light
finds the breath of God
and burns it out of me—
                                                —
                                                       —

A cumulus crackles, its aureole glowing, and Mikaeel releases the heavens
over Mecca. We weep, the Kaaba and I, until grief returns
all the mothers in the world. Milk and honey flow
from Abraham’s infant thumbs. An asteroid explodes in blades
of grass. I pluck. I shovel. I periscope. I unearth
myself.

 

Iqra Khan is a Pushcart-nominated poet, activist, and lawyer. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, swamp pink, Southeast Review, Adroit Journal, ANMLY, Frontier Poetry, Pidgeonholes, Apogee, Four Way Review, HAD, Palette Poetry, and Baltimore Review, among others. Her work is centred around the experiences of the brown Muslim body, collective nostalgia, and the aspirations of her endangered community.

 

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Osieka Osinimu Alao

Deconstructing the Mementoes of Oceans Flowing Inwards

black boy, black death, burnt earth:
cyclone of ashes, an opening prayer
for rebirth, a congregation of pariahs;
the universe, a theatre of misfits, or maybe
that’s what the interplay makes us believe.
a black boy’s bone is the length of an ocean
roaring with tides of chains; whenever he
walks, every stride is a hymnal of clangs
and his ancestry is an archive of clinks,
the breadth of his sinking pericardium.
he excavates his bones for a vestige of home,
to unearth the lineage that pervades his dreams
in series of folksongs re-echoing into alienation 
and the deeper he goes, the greater the dissonance
of the birdsongs that deserted his forebears like 
tongues of shadows at the shores of the unknown.
he withers into the darkness gnawing his viscera, 
and everything he ever knows is a grayscale
of unbelonging. every morning, he sings bits and 
bits of the songs that refuse to stay like hallelujahs 
heralding a genealogy of brutality and bullets. 

 

Poetry Should be About a Thing

How many bullets must a body absorb
for it to be a celestial coliseum, erected
for the admiration of angels? How many
for a genealogy to be wiped clean like a slate
at the bottom of the sea: what happens when
metal is dropped into water? The trajectory
of my bloodline, coursing beneath rudders tonguing
surfaces of ruffled waters weary of archiving death.
Ships, shrines of strangled dreams, and birdsongs
adulterated by influxes. In the beginning, God
created the heavens and the earth, but my ancestry
was recreated with the finesse of a flying bullet.
Poetry should be about a thing: herein, a bullet;
herein, a base for dissection; herein, the dissolution
of the song because its projectile is perforated.
How many bullets must my body absorb
before I see God and kick him in the nuts
and ask him why he made my bones magnets
for corrosive metals? Or maybe ask him
to take me to the beginning, to show me 
the Venn diagram of my scars where
sea overlaps ship, ship overlaps bodies,
bodies overlap bullets and Eden is just
a fancy name for the apocalyptic greens.

 

Osieka Osinimu Alao is a Nigerian writer, poet, editor, and academic. He holds an MA in Creative Writing from Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. He was shortlisted for the ANA-OSUN-OAU Prize for Poetry 2015, longlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2019, longlisted for PIN’s PWPC 2022, shortlisted for the Albert Jungers Poetry Prize 2022, First Prize Winner BPPC Soro Soke Edition 2022, and a winner in the Creators of Justice Literary Award 2022. His works are featured in ANMLY, Ta Adesa, African Writer Magazine, Rigorous, International Human Rights Art Festival, Lumiere Review, Poetry Column NND, Synchronized Chaos, and elsewhere. He is @OOAlao_ on Twitter & Instagram.

 

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Levi Cain

Rapid Cycle

I am electric!
I am a beehive of movement! 
I am a fire moving a hundred miles an hour, 
my painful mouth lapping up all the dead trees
left behind! I am unfinished in my possible horrors! 
I am a darkening alley, a miserable shot of panic 
& I am awake under the bed.
I want to cause a childhood fear so badly my teeth ache! 
I want to thumb at a nostril & snort up the moon! 
In the meantime, I will pulverize the sun & forget to spread the ashes. 
Look, look: my eyes are the color of peppermints 
& my tongue is as quick as a knife to the guts. 
I am relentlessly alive. 
I am a should not & I am a cannot. 
I am not a fox in the henhouse; 
I am a freshly-cleaned scope,
a willful, steady hand—my body is all trigger.

I am electric!
I am a beehive of movement!
I am a fire moving a hundred miles an hour,
my painful mouth lapping up all the dead
trees left behind! I am unfinished in my possible horrors!
I am a darkening alley & a miserable shot of panic
& I am awake under the bed.
I want to cause a childhood fear so badly my teeth ache!
I want to thumb at a nostril & snort up the moon!
In the meantime, I will pulverize the sun & forget to spread the ashes.
Look, look: my eyes are the color of peppermints
& my tongue is as quick as a knife to the guts.
I am relentlessly alive.
I am a should not & I am a cannot.
I am not a fox in the henhouse;
I am a freshly-cleaned scope,
a wilful steady hand—my body is all trigger.

 

Broke Boi Love Song

So: if a broke boi stands in front of you dripped out in sunlight
& he has a row of good teeth + a worse job 
& if you have a heart like an overripe plum 
waiting to bruise itself against his pride 
& if he stuffs hot fries into a greased-up bag for you 
even though he’s reached the crescendo of a closing shift 
& if the love keeps them warm on the long walk home 
& if he calls the drooping mattress a futon, 
presses his own back into the spiraling springs instead of yours 
& if you are just now learning what love is: 
pinpricks of blood between shoulder blades 
& fry oil clinging to your fingertips 
& if you have watched his mouth tighten into
an electrical wire at the end of the month 
& if the lights were turned off 
because you went to the movies last night 
& if the lights were turned off 
because he could not hold a fight against a resume 
& if the two of you laid in the humming dark, 
counting out each other’s breaths 
& naming them after your children:
                                                                      …would y’all call that a date?

 

Levi Cain is a non-binary Queeribbean writer from New England. Their work has appeared in SAND Journal, The Slowdown, Room Magazine, Voicemail Poems, and elsewhere. You can keep up with their work on levicain.wordpress.com, or on Twitter @honestlyliketbh.

 

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Dorothy Chan

Triple Sonnet Because My Love Language is Power

               “Divorce is hot,” I say at dinner,
because white men keep projecting
               their fantasies onto me, as if they’ve
never seen an Asian femme with red
               lips & thick thighs & black hair & a mouth
that never stops. If “Things You Can Do
               With Your Mouth” were a Family Feud
category, I wonder how many players
               would say “kissing” instead of “eating,”
or are the two pleasures really the same.
               Noodles spiral in our mouths as we eat
our tomato carbonara, proving how “O”
               is the sexiest letter of the alphabet,
other than “X” that marks the spot,

                                           XOXO,

as in can you find the G in me, or do we
               need help from a friend in delivering
the treasures & pleasures, maybe the Fire
               Man toy, and I love my heroes, but why
is female fantasy so two-dimensional in
               media, or what about the Tennis Pro or
the Millionaire, not Billionaire, because
               he has half a heart, or maybe the Poet. 
A photographer says “power” and I’m
               turned on. He brushes the hair out of
my face, and it’s textbook, like the Lady
               and the Tramp move of sharing spaghetti
until you smooch, which terrifies me,
               because that whole movie is about dogs

               falling in love over pasta when everyone
knows canines can’t eat tomatoes or onions,
               and I’m fearing for Lady’s and Tramp’s lives,
even though I know the ending. “Power.” 
               Position change. I always say poetic lines
are like camera angles, or is it the other way
               around. We share a soft serve with sprinkles,
the fourth-grade way of kissing. Power. 
               Poetic. We share our desires through food:
I lick our ice cream harder, the serpentine
               S of tongue—he loves that I’m a Snake
Daughter. Is he a beautiful coincidence. 
               I feel the S of his tongue. When I see “GF”
on the menu, I think “girlfriend,” not gluten free.

 

Dorothy Chan is the author of five poetry collections, including the forthcoming, Return of the Chinese Femme (Deep Vellum, April 2024). They are an Associate Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Co-Founder, Editor in Chief, and Food and Beverage Editor of Honey Literary Inc, a 501(c)(3) BIPOC literary arts organization. Visit their website at dorothypoetry.com.

 

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