Two Poems by Nnadi Samuel

Drunk Rebel

Today, mum would probe my mental health,
& I’ll have no demons to show her.
and I’ll know she is forcing it, the way she believes in this thing.
the way she toughens breakfast with an eye for therapy.

I have nothing against unleavened bread & milkshakes:
mushroom whites that pours into my cheeks,
& the smooth chaos of it.

I just can’t bring myself to making u-turns,
trading grief for a luxury of serviette,
saying nothing of dark littluns shoving at my chest, 
as I break words into pills for a distinct good.

I have relatives staged to the peeled block next to my room,
ears straightening the walls in search of their black sheep.
I feel so worthless in their gaze,
a rag doll to middle fingers.

for those treats I didn’t go, 
I learnt to drive nuts into a plywood,
knock it into four corners to improve the sleep in my eyes.

I learnt the symptoms behind this,
what breaks inside of me.
the ruin, & how it makes me brief.

my brother knows to hype my prose poems in their queer state.
that alone is twice a therapy 
to predicting which is my favorite poison, 
when I myself bears a naked brand.

 

Stamina

smash my teeth with stone fruits/ milk the raw sugar 
from my battered mouth/ shred tongue lose like deciduous news/ 
the white forecast/ wintering in cold blood/ 
serpentine jaw at gum baptism/ a kill of incensed wet as throat piece/ 
swirl/ skip gravitational force/ words are hurled welkin aiming for different worlds/ 
rob the sky off it’s weathered punctuations/ recall the mastering of English 
on novena & forced hymns/ 
the spotty chaplet on my numb thumb is full stop enough to end this body/ 
arms stretched as in hyphen/ limbs like indentation 
plies the margin of beads to separation/ rig the bloody result/ 
splice my midriff to a narrow cut/ ballot a sound for neck care/ 
mouth breathe— till I bring susurration/ thump/ brand me a breeze gadget wield up/ 
thingamajig of due brilliance/ nameless in airier form/ 
fog my cheeks for utterance/ watch the fume self breed/ 
thrill my lungs to negative surges/ 
whatever morphs halfway/ bridged & stiffly informed in short circuits/ 
span my airwave to outlive the wreckful sirens and wailing of seaports/ 
my kind of hunchback/ studded with welts.

 

Nnadi Samuel holds a B.A in English & literature from the University of Benin. His works have been previously published in Suburban Review, Seventh Wave Magazine, North Dakota Quarterly, Quarterly West, Blood Orange Review, PORT Magazine, The Cordite Poetry Review, Gordon Square Review, Rough Cut Press, Trampset, Rigorous Magazine, Blue Nib journal, Stonecrop Review, The Elephant Magazine, Lunaris Review, Inverse Journal, Canyon Voices, The Collidescope, Journal Nine, Liquid Imagination, Star*Line Science Fiction & Poetry, Subterranean blue poetry, The Quills, Eunoia Review & elsewhere. Winner of the Canadian Open Drawer contest 2020. He won the Splendor of Dawn Poetry Contest April 2020, won the Bkpw Poetry Workshop Contest 2021, got shortlisted in the annual Poet’s Choice award & was the second-prize winner of the EOPP 2019 contest. A longlist of the NSPP 2020 prize, & Pushcart Nominee. He is the author of Reopening of Wounds & Subject Lessons (forthcoming). He reads for U-Right Magazine. He tweets @Samuelsamba10

Two Poems by Myles Taylor

If You Think Bodies Are Static You Have Clearly Never Had Queer Sex

We all have Google, I know: If a tree falls in a forest, it does not make a sound
because sound is made in each of our ears from vibrations. Feeling, similarly, 

requires the nerves to happen. So if half of my body dissociates
every time. If I imagine our legs otherwise. If my eyes stay open

but I feel something other than what I see. What is that?
Facts and reality are two different things. Reality is just a lot of people 

agreeing. Months of injections from now, a group of people might see me 
and the reality of me will be a whole lot different than the fact of it. 

In between & all kinds of whole and unembarrassed tonight, gin-dazed 
and asking to be both the hips and the knees, for submission to submission. 

If two people at night decide there is a dick between them
and no one else is there to see it, are they wrong? 

And can you prove it? If the only people in the room know 
what they feel, if our nerves go rogue against the night,

I am not the kind of guy who likes to ask for directions. 
Soften me. I am a muscle used too often to know how to stretch. 

if I look in their eyes and see it, is my dick a mass hallucination?
A conspiracy theory? Every ghost story involves somebody

who’ll go to their grave believing what they saw, whether or not 
there’s a rational voice they’re ignoring, or maybe listening to, 

but that can’t shake it, this tendency to doubt. I’m not doubting the ways 
my pleasure comes to me. I want to believe. Queering reality is deciding 

the options we get aren’t good enough, and doing something about it. 
I am feeling the kind of too much I am supposed to want but often get too scared

to look in the eye but today I think, I trust them, I trust them, and the world
can shatter without glass getting anywhere near my skin, your skin, our skin. 

So yeah, sex with me might haunt you. Why be born right when you 
can manipulate consciousness, shimmer like a fact in an age 

without image, age like a document pressed between two books,
the millimeter of possibility you feel in the back of your chest

when a shape passes the corner of your eye in the middle of the night.
Trying to explain why all my loved ones are trans is hard 

when you just weren’t there. There, in the room of your brain you might not have gone into yet.

 

an explanation I do not owe

I wake up with the sun glittering onto me my shower glitters so hard
you can hear it I pour coffee over giant chunks of glitter
and taste the cool of it I buy the sparkly toothpaste

so if I bleed the sink still shines foamy prom dress mudslide
and then the morning ritual of choosing between discomfort
or discomfort passing and passing and not passing

a mirror for a clean breath I am thinking about the whole
futurity thing when my favorite professor shes me
and it is almost like it does not happen

but I still wonder all class if skipping dinner
will make my jaw more angular or my body more throwable
but I survive it and do this revolutionary thing where I keep talking

talking with this voice these bundles of string lights
caught in my throat see I am told that glitter is a feminine thing

and if it is to you, that is so valid! but honestly 
I am already so clockable I feel like the closest I can get to passing 
for a thing no one has a word for is to look as DIY as my name

I cover myself in glitter because I am effectively already covered in glitter
I wear men’s everything and might as well be in a ball gown my eyes are two giant chunks of reflective confetti I speak and glitter pours out of my mouth I eat and taste shards of glass I bind and feel grating specks of plastic everywhere I walk down the street I must be covered because no one can look away but I must be so bright they can’t actually see me

If I try to be visible I get buried in the numbers of it
it’s that collection of moments that bury us in the end I’m so tired
of looking like an emergency siren there is no surgery
for a sometimes and if there was I would need centuries of sleep
to take back all the deep breaths I’ve lost my body
uses up energy buzzing in self awareness my body congratulated itself
every day it went without a cigarette before I even started smoking it’s like an inheritance

every trans person I know
knows a trans person who has died
and here I stand

in a room with no ghosts
waiting for a knock at the door

 

Myles Taylor (they/he) is a transmasculine poet, organizer, award-winning poetry slam competitor, barista, Emerson College alum, Capricorn-Aquarius cusp, and glitter enthusiast. They run Moonlighting: A Queer Open Mic and host at the Boston Poetry Slam. Their work can be found in The Shallow Ends, Academy of American Poets, Washington Square Review, Underblong, Crab Fat Magazine, Slamfind, and others. Follow them @mylesdoespoems. Photo by Clark Hartman.

One Hybrid by Nicole Oquendo

They, There

I hold my growing hair and imagine it braided out of sight, the way my fingers would swirl, encasing the ruin like charging a spell, except I can’t braid at all, I’m not deft enough, and 

once I asked my father’s ex wife to braid it for a trip, where I felt like a dignitary getting off the plane, with red red hair, also check out these vinyl boots, the same ones I wore to climb a mountain that week with my father, and 

she did it, I was home, but in the way you only know a place through some kind of generational memory–and what is memory anyway but all of our pain pressed so tight every new soul bounces off, pretending to be fresh, then my mother teased my hair and 

I was fresh, earned slaps across the mouth, but who knows when and how many, times charge inside the deviation in my septum I only notice winding the ring there, and 

the thing that hurts sometimes isn’t the hands, but the words, and my mother’s gasp when last week I told her I hadn’t cut my hair in eight months, her pride, while I pleaded listen, it hurts, it’s a nest, the headaches are so frequent and 

the inside hurts too, not looking like myself, wanting to look like nothing, wanting to bounce past the conversation–not a man’s cut or a women’s cut but a nothing cut, neither, please help me disperse and 

I loathe the symbolism of it all, letting down my hair like some kind of lost princess when we all know I’m wrong for that other than my mother, who still calls me her beautiful daughter 

and the gastrointestinal doctor’s assistant who checks my blood pressure without a machine to back her up, she’s something else, she sees me and 

there is it again, your hair, it’s so long and beautiful, and I spin around myself and 

die right there, another death, before the inevitable, because who can see me, they, underneath

 

Nicole Oquendo is a writer and visual artist that combines these elements, along with magical practice, to craft multimodal nonfiction, poetry, and fiction, as well as translations of these forms. Their work can be found in numerous literary journals, a hybrid memoir, and six chapbooks, including their most recent works: Space Baby: Episodes I-III and The Antichrist and I

Two Poems by Sheila Dong

The Phoenix Speaks

Last night I poured gasoline over my feathers again and lit a match. I stood in front of the mirror and watched myself go. Watched myself turning into a good riddance, 

a hill of cremation staring at its beauty.

This morning I cashed my tax refund. I’m saving up for some sparklers. Or the world’s biggest shipment of asbestos.

My history professor showed us slides of Tibetan monks lighting themselves on fire to protest Chinese hegemony. She called on me, but 

each tooth was becoming a tiny flame and I couldn’t speak. Then the fire alarm went off.

The badness in the world makes every fever I’ve had come back all at once. I want to burn away the badness in the world, but I’m self-centered. I want to care more about self-immolating monks, but I’m stuck 

hoovering my own ashes out of the carpet for hours.

The nature of my privilege: getting to wake up again. Getting to walk away from a pile of my bone dust and charred hair. The landlord might write me up for the scorch marks on my walls, but afterward he forgets me.

The nature of my problem: fashioning my ruin into a spectacle. I am afraid I have fallen in love with myself. But only the self going up in smoke, my body merging with 

fire: agony-light, valentine.

I want instead to be the candles on a birthday cake. When the flames are blown out a child rises one year wiser, sugar on the tongue.

I want to stand in the wild and let a circle of travelers light their lamps off me. They’d fall away into the night, each a petal, and I, the flower’s glistering center.

I want to be kind 

enough to deserve this fact: when fire burns, it casts no shadow.

 

The Ballad of Lan Caihe

Lan Caihe (蓝采和) is one of the Eight Immortals (八仙), deities from Chinese folk mythology. Lan is a gender-ambiguous figure and various interpretations exist of them as a man, a woman, or what we would now call a nonbinary or intersex person.

 

Lan Caihe doesn’t give a damn about the gender binary.
Shod in one boot and woozy with rice wine, 
they are ejected from the tavern for screaming

about swans and the apocalypse and the askance 
looks they get in every bathroom. The bouncer 
lobs Lan into the alley and new snow breaks

their stumbling. Their gown, tattery blue and ambiguously
cut, falls open to a chest both flat and hairless.
From a window a sympathetic patron extends 

Lan’s flower basket, taken back with a word of thanks
and a mouthful of melting ice. The chrysanthemums
within are still vibrant. The bamboo, unbroken. 

Funny, they think, how most flowers, such sigils 
of femininity, are hermaphroditic. Snails too,
frozen in their spirals for the winter. But in summer,

how often Lan would wake in the fields after a rain 
and find a friend hefting its shell over the mound 
of their ankle or fused to the weave of their overcoat. 

(Said coat, woolen and down-stuffed, bundled 
their body through the warm seasons. Only when 
the cold came did they switch to cotton 

and bare limbs.) Past the outskirts of town,
Lan climbs a hill of snow, strips naked, and sleeps.
Clouds of humid steam billow up from their body.

Lan Caihe is thought to be the least significant 
of the Eight Immortals. Year after year, they surrendered 
the coins they earned from busking, knotted in string 

and trailed through dirt until they detached.
Year after year, trees dressed in drag, stripped off green 
for crisp auburns kindling fire-tint through

hazy fields. The crowd would gather, 
at a distance, then closer, around a figure rattling 
castanets. Do my eyes deceive me? the elders would think. 

I swear I saw them sing in my childhood, yet they’ve barely aged 
a day. This is the ballad of Lan Caihe, born to confound: 
how to love the world, sprightly and dying. How to grow 

warmer with every inch of fallen snow. This is
their legend: in the end they ascended to heaven 
because a swan chose them and not because they were killed.

 

Sheila Dong is the author of Moon Crumbs (Bottlecap Press, 2019). Their work has appeared in SOFTBLOW, Heavy Feather Review, Juke Joint, Stone of Madness, and Rogue Agent, among other places. Sheila holds an MFA from Oregon State University, and likes 80s music, desolate landscapes, and the pleading face emoji. They wouldn’t mind also being called Gideon. Learn more at sheiladong.carrd.co

One Prose Poem by doris davenport

the thing about scenery is (or Sandy’s hands) 
(love poem for Mary & Sandy)

one day last November, talking non-stop, Nancy told about a meal she had to
make for a big family party, she bragged everyone could eat it – frozen meat
balls, bottled mild tomato paste mixed with generic grape jelly for the sauce
and “you’re invited” she said, as i stood traumatized silent thinking gross,
nasty, inedible, feloniously criminal from the very dead very processed
frozen beef by-product, yuk, eugh, no no no and i’d found a long hair of her
mom’s in some pickled cucumbers no no. shock and denial pushed   me

to a memory of Sandy’s hands meatballs lovingly and carefully made,

patted perfect flirting with me – her turnout – saying “Sit down; talk to Mary! Relax.
Have a drink (meaning “Stay right here. Look at me. Let me love you.”) so i had to
wander near her, deep smell her sauce slow-simmered for at least 4 hours, it  smelled
rich, inviting, pretty-delicious with real tomatoes, basil, onions, mushrooms, all
handpicked by Sandy selected by her perfect femme love for Mary her juice all natural.
Cooked in a large pot on low heat, fresh salad ingredients placed
artfully in bowls & plates so each could satisfy her own taste there in the

Fruit Belt in Buffalo, NY (Fall 1969), where most of the trees had died. Their house on
Cherry Street with one tree, a small two-story sweet house
planted in concrete and more little houses outside, but inside,
magnificent and grand. permanent and filling, since then.

 

doris diosa davenport. Pronouns: person / per (72 year old Affrilachian, working-class bi-amorous lesbian-feminist. for starters).  12 books of published poetry. Literary & performance poet, writer, educator. Born & raised on Cherokee Homeland (colonized as Cornelia, GA). My life is about the powerful transformative *possibilities* of literature and truthful communications.

Two Poems by Woody Woodger

two Trans ™ Sex Workers messaging the Verizon guy ™

oh! he made a mistake, you said,
and then he corrected it.
or he’s just a really good computer,
i think. then you wonder aloud

“i just asked him why they need a credit check.
he says there will be no impact.”

like how you said my tattoo would be,
but, four days later, there we were peeling dead
skin off my underboob. i thought it was like:

1. lake steam, 2. carbonated, 3. moon
sauce, 4. puberty, 5&6. sea (scum)             weed, 7ish. Forever
21 jeans after two weeks, 8. a good two pounds

9. asymptotically attractive, but         I actually go with                                
“authentic”. you said its your ghost.           
“better be careful. Yikes! and we have to have a landline

too,” he says. a transgender plan—

it’s both, actually,
internet and Unlimited Calling across U.S.A.,
the Verizon guy ™ temps.
                                                                                                              {Life’s all negotiation}. but for a breath,

we actually see our future unclench. “that’s our landline!” you say. “babe, that’s our baby!
so if we ever lost power, and we lost our phones, you can still call
your mom and be like come pick me up.”

we, ultimately, decide                 Verizon guy ™ seems sketchy.                   
you know why. they stand on street corners, pretend                 to be construction workers.                      

Y’all ain’t got no account with US!” {today, real life’s nothing but

dialogue}. in the “Acceptable Lower Speeds Disclaimer”
section of their website they didn’t even finish a sentence. how embarrassing—
to make mistakes online. because now he’s asking did i lose you?

{our mistake was living}           “why all these mens so corny?” you say.
my tattoo was cellophane pudding skin and then “voila!”
It was irritated, and pimple; bamboozle and violence.

“is he gonna come into my screen now that i told him i’m here?”
you worry. tap{p}ed camera. “Apple does that shit.”
i agree, even though i wasn’t aware.

Wonderful. (he interrupts) Please click our synergistic “Place Order”
button and update me once you get order # ? Ok, babe?

“what bout my deals? :)”

Does not compute   ; )

cute.                 i ask, “well? did we get one? did we get a Verizon, daddy?
{life’s interruptions, seriously}
You leave a final question
cooling on your text box—
“babe, who gonna tell Comcast” 

 

Poem for Liv, # 58/37909659(:?8;7& tiiycr357;67)7

How many of these am i gonna do pretending / it helps any. / The thing that alway gets me—you
say i love you so much, people start refusing. / So let me show You: // the following is collected
from things i texted regarding, / in one way or another, You. / So, in regards to you: if your
androgyny / could just please pour out of my throat and on to my nice white converse / that be
nice. i’d be like Thank You, no lie. // and in regards to Our Jungkook: fuck me full of butterflies,
you full- / sized cherub. in regards to (definitely only) Our Dominos / fetish: ITS NOT YOUR
FAULT (*falls in Your arms // fully sobbing rose petals as Your eyes / roll clean out Your head
and over the bucktoothed dusk) / with regards: i wish i could bring You soup so You’d throw / a
fit and toss it in my face while Adriana / sneaks up behind, gives You a peck on the cheek // the
peck You otherwise wouldn’t accept but still need / and then while You Leo under Your sheets /
Adriana and i SHALL FLEE / And then She’d take me straight / to the hospital. regarding poetry:
// Lol i’ve done it all dude and yet still i bob / on the surface like a drowned, unmarked bird. /
Regarding temporal injustice: i wish You were here too! / We’d watch Jungkook do anything
until We die. // What You need regardless: i’ll draw an UWU instagram band-aid / on Your nose.
You won’t know what hit You, Bitch. // regardless: i LOVE YOU AND HERE’S THE POEM / i
(been) PROMISING!!!! / Regardless of this conversation: Erk just sent me a tattoo of a cute-
cocked UWU-fox-kin in stockings. Regarding offense, i think: / no one Venmoed me for my
likeness for this. // Regarding Our/my bong: which has just become a metonym for “cool”
smoke, and all that that means, / and which makes me puzzle my lady beard over what the breeze
in Hades’ must be like, / which is just another way to think asthmatic phoenix whose hunger
sounds exactly like ambulances / which is one of the many angles i hope never saves you: Liv, /
let us thrive / in our poem’s: the canary yellow of blue.

 

Woody Woodger is a trans/non-binary, pan, disabled, anarcho-commie, currently living in Washington, DC. Her poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, from DIAGRAM, Northern New England Review, Drunk Monkeys, RFD, Exposition Review, peculiar, and has been nominated for Best of the Net. Her first chapbook, postcards from glasshouse drive (Finishing Line Press) has been nominated for the 2018 Massachusetts Book Awards. You can find her bi-week column Pre-Op Thot on COUNTERCLOCK Magazine where she serves as Blog Editor and Poetry Reader. If THAT wasn’t enough (it was) you can find her on Instagram and Twitter @lovlyno1.