One Poem by Emma Miao

Phantasm with Bones

We open at sunrise. The stage is set under flashing lights. 
                                                               A theatre
                                                                                                where the convict always dies. 
                                   The intercom
                                                    buzzes, spastic:
                                                                                                                surrender
& you’re lurching within the construct,
                                                                                                flesh bruised 
                                                by the white bars. 

                  Soon, the hourglass will crack.                                                                                 
                                                  Patiently, I teeth this cardboard street. 
On cue, 
                  I explode into one million tremolos. 
                                                                                                                    I burn the walls
                                                                                                  with my fingertips.
                                   I raid the Capitol. 

                                                                                                  The puppets flail on their axes,                    
their strings caught in the machinery. 
                                                                    They jerk, spitting out 
                                    rubber bullets and 
                                                                   paint bullets and 
                                                                                                  real bullets and 
splaying open their wooden mouths.
                                                                             It starts to snow. 
                                                                                                              My eyes burn, because it is ash. 
                  Applause flutters through the darkened room. 
On the stage, 
                                                                the bones are all the same colour. 

                  The crowd calls:               Give us more

Emma Miao is a 16-year-old poet from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She is a commended Foyle Young Poet of the Year 2019, and her work appears in Atlanta ReviewDiode Poetry JournalCosmonauts AvenueGlass: A Journal of Poetry, and The Emerson Review, among others. She is the winner of the F(r)iction Poetry Contest 2020, and a finalist for the Atlanta Review International Poetry Prize 2020. 

One Flash by Morgan Bennett

Chicken Dinner

In the night, our stepfather has us line up on the patio. Barefoot on the cold concrete, we  are here to see him kill a chicken. This will mature us into adults. It’s good for us to know about  death, he told our mother, and so she does not stop him.

He wrings the chicken’s neck to teach us how we will one day twist the necks of our  enemies, or our children. Then he cleaves the head from the body. He looks at us meaningfully,  although—meaning what? 

I am standing on a rock almost small enough to be inconspicuous. I’m afraid to shift, so I  continue to smother the pebble with my big toe, and it bites me back in self-defense. Now our stepfather has begun roughly plucking the bird, tearing out handfuls of feathers  at random, action uninhibited by strategy. He throws them everywhere. Blood droplets fly with  them and land on the white outdoor furniture. Two drops land by my sister’s foot. A feather  sticks in my brother’s hair. 

We will not eat the chicken. Later we will go inside, and our stepfather will light the  corpse on fire in a child-grave-sized hole he dug in the backyard. We, the children, will go to  bed. We will sleep and wake up and eat something that is not the bird, and so on, and so forth,  and on and on, etc.

 

Morgan Bennett is currently based in Austin, Texas, where they spend their time writing and studying film. Their work has appeared in, or will soon appear in, YA Review Networkgloworm press, and Black Ink Fiction. Their work has previously been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

One Prose Poem by Never Angeline North

HAIR 2

Sara’s mouth had hair growing out of the inside. It grew out of her throat and organs and sprouted into a beard or braid (when she braided it) that never let her lips touch. Her breathing was muffled and eating was impossible. She made the decision to cut it when she got very very hungry. After she did she had to continue cutting and shaving her mouth and tongue every day. Deep in her throat it still grew and eating was still so, so difficult. One of Sara’s lovers told her that she gave the best head they had ever encountered. Sara always liked that.

 

Never Angeline North is an author, artist, and bisexual jew living in Olympia, Washington. She is the author of a number of creative works that are available in book form, such as Sea Witch (published in 2020 by Inside the Castle Press), Careful Mountain (2016 by Civil Coping Mechanisms Press), Sara or the Existence of Fire (2014, Horse Less Press), and Wolf Doctors (2014, Artifice Books). Many of her various projects are collected at her website undying.club and the rest are lost to time, and that’s okay.

One Poem by Jason B. Crawford

This Has Never Been My America
(a Burning Haibun)



This has never been my america, but me stating this again does nothing to add to this conversation for my blood, its worth. I could talk about every video clip of bodies rolling on pavement, skin smeared sidewalks, the hopscotch of our bones. But what would it do, other than incite a riot in my stomach? I cannot claim to be a freedom fighter, a revolutionary; but I cling to their cause. I do believe in abolition yet have never been a fan of sticking my own hands in their mud. Does this make me a bad Black, the type soft white palms do not have to warn their children about? All of my (white) partners’ parents loved me, even some far after our parting. Which really just means none of them feared my skin, the Jupiter in my throat; a gas only poisoning me. They say every time, it’s so sad what happened to that boy, just do you all have to keep looting? And all I could offer was a concerning grin, ministerial toothed and tame, awaiting a meal. And I don’t really know what I am really waiting for other than what I never could recall being mine to begin with. A free, borderless land? No guns? Housing and Healthcare for all? A space for all my niggas to be niggas? I’m sure on top of a mountain somewhere there are collections of us made god and may I be so bold to say, that there their black is allowed to crack in peace⸺in pieces into the hands of their own loved ones who gust into a darkening red sky and they all rest as stars; by this I mean they all get to rest: the living, the dead, their names never swirled on a baton of tongues, I might just be optimistic about what it could look like if we didn’t know anything but the dark, didn’t know why we reach for the light.

This has never been my america, but me stating this again does nothing to add to this conversation for my blood, its worth. I could talk about every video clip of bodies rolling on pavement, skin smeared sidewalks, the hopscotch of our bones. But what would it do, other than incite a riot in my stomach?Icannot claim to be a freedom fighter, a revolutionary; but I cling to their cause. I do believe in abolition yet have never been a fan of sticking my own hands in their mud. Does this make me a bad Black, the type soft white palms do not have to warn their children about? All of my (white) partners’ parents loved me, even some far after our parting. Which really just means none of them feared my skin, the Jupiter in my throat; a gas only poisoning me. They say every time, it’s so sad what happened to that boy, just do you all have to keep looting? And all I could offer was a concerning grin, ministerial toothed and tame, awaiting a meal. And I don’t really know what I am really waiting for other than what I never could recall being mine to begin with. A free, borderless land? No guns? Housing and Healthcare for all? A space for all my niggas to be niggas? I’m sure on top of a mountain somewhere there are collections of us made god and may I be so bold to say, that there their black is allowed to crack in peace⸺in pieces into the hands of their own loved ones who gust into a darkening red sky and they all rest as stars; by this I mean they all get to rest: the living, the dead, their names never swirled on a baton of tongues, I might just be optimistic about what it could look like if we didn’t know anything but the dark, didn’t know how to reach for the light.

This has never been my america, but me stating this again does nothing to add to this conversation about my blood, its worth. I could talk about every video clip of bodies rolling on pavement, skin smeared sidewalks, the hopscotch of our bones. But what would it do, other than incite a riot in my stomach?Icannot claim to be a freedom fighter, a revolutionary; but I cling to their cause. I do believe in abolition yet have never been a fan of sticking my own hands in their mud. Does this make me a bad Black, the type soft white palms do not have to warned their children about? All of my (white) partners’ parents loved me, even some far after our parting. Which really just means none of them feared my skin, the Jupiter in my throat; a gas only poisoning me. They say every time, it’s so sad what happened to that boy, just do you all have to keep looting? And all I could offer was a concerning grin, ministerial toothed and tame, awaiting a meal. And I don’t really know what I am really waiting for other than what I never could recall being mine to begin with. A free, borderless land? No guns? Housing and Healthcare for all? A space for all my niggas to be niggas? I’m sure on top of a mountain somewhere there is a collection of us made god and may I be so bold to say, there their black is allowed to crack in peace⸺in pieces into the hands of their own loved ones who gust into a darkening red sky and they all rest as stars; by this I mean they all get to rest: the living, the dead, their names never swirled on a baton of tongues, I might just be optimistic about what it could look like if we didn’t know anything but the dark, didn’t know why we reach for the light.

 

Jason B. Crawford (They/He)was born in Washington DC, raised in Lansing, MI. Their debut chapbook collection Summertime Fine is out through Variant Lit. Their second chapbook Twerkable Moments is due from Paper Nautilus Press in 2021. Their debut Full Length Year of the Unicorn Kidz will be out in 2022 from Sundress Publications.

Two Poems by Iris McCloughan

After Snowdrops

Do you know what I was, how I lived?
Louise Glück

                                                        I did                                         not
                                                        know                                       what
                                                                                           I was
                                                        I refused                            
                                                        to see
                                                                                           how I lived
                                                        I wanted
                                                        to                                             not
                                                        know what                          despair
                                                        was                                                          but now
                                                        I see                                                         it has been
                                                                         all
                                                                         over                                        my skin
                                                                                                                          light
                                                                         rot
                                                                         spots
                                                                         portend
                                                         time                                                                      bruise
                                                                                                                                         I expected
                                                                                                                          to survive
                                                         at least                                  until winter
                                                                                                          meaning
                                                                                           snow                                                       
                                                         drops
                                                                                           signals                natural end
                                                                                                                          my
                                                                         life                                          suppressed
                                                                                                                          now
                                                                         I do
                                                                                                                                           not
                                                                         expect to
                                                                                                                                           survive I must
                                                                         wake
                                                                         to this fact                                             dry
                                                                                                                                            earth

                                                                                        forgetting
                                                                                        my body
                                                                                        as                                                a boy
                                                                                                                                            I was
                                                                                        afraid                                        yes
                                                                                                                                            I was
                                                                                        among the                              unfamiliar
                                                                                        stalks
                                                                                        and grasses                            strange
                                                                                                                              meadow
                                                                                                                              I could
                                                                                                          not                           see I was
                                                                                                           a part
                                                                                                                                             of
                                                                                                                                             the expanse
                                                                                                           I said
                                                                                                           I refuse
                                                                                                           was                                          mute
                                                                                                                                                             my own
                                                                                                           hand covering
                                                                                                                                          melody
                                                                                         heard it                                 in
                                                                                                                                          the distance
                                                                                         my head
                                                                                                                         echoing
                                                                                         concrete
                                                                                         chutes                  now
                                                                                                                         as not
                                                                                                                         a boy                    I am
                                                                                                                         among                 you
                                                                                                         a                                             battered
                                                                                                         garden
                                                                                                                                         refusing
                                                                                                                                         to release
                                                                                         but forced
                                                                                         into stasis                                          the
                                                                                                                           harsh                  light
                                                                                                                                                         changes
                                                                                                                                                         it
                                                                                         like                                        it changes me
                                                                                                                                         makes
                                                                                                          my hair
                                                                                                          grow                    wild
                                                                                                          stubborn
                                                                                                          as it finds                            new
                                                                                                          beauty
                                                                                                                           yes                         risk
                                                                                                                           yes                         joy
                                                                                                                           even                      in
                                                                                                                                         this
                                                                                                           evening
                                                                                                                                         wind
                                                                                                           raw
                                                                                                                                         final
                                                                                                           finally
                                                                                                                                         new

 

After Matins

Unreachable
Louise Glück

                                                      we keep                                                           ourselves
                                                                                                                                  unreachable
                                                                                                                   exiled from
                                                                      the heaven
                                                                      on offer
                                                                      in its                                                  place
                                                                      replica                                              of expansiveness
                                                                                     less full
                                                                                                                     of beauty
                                                       without
                                     alternative
                                                                                     flesh
                                                                                     authors
                                                                                     its own
                                                                                                                     worship

                                                        nature
                                                                       returns
                                                                                                                     what it
                                                                                                                     takes
                                                                                     only                       after
                                                                                                                     having
                                                                                     transformed
                                                                                                                     it

Artist’s Statement

These poems are taken from my manuscript After the Wild Iris, a full-length response to Louise Glück’s The Wild Iris. I love Glück’s book, but as I’ve returned to it over the years, it’s begun to feel increasingly unconnected to the world I know. For one, it’s unreservedly straight and cis. For another, it operates under the assumption that the natural world will infinitely renew itself in the yearly cycle of seasons, a prospect that feels increasingly foreign as our environment spins towards catastrophe. I began to write, searching for a form that could hold my experience of multiplicity and reflect the often fragmented experience of living in the shadow of looming climate disaster. I wanted a form that could be read in multiple ways, that could hold a variety of meanings and realities within a single poem. 

Each poem can be read top to bottom and left to right, but is also broken up into separate pathways, allowing fragments to cohere into new ideas, images, and narratives. The reader must navigate through these, triangulating various threads of meaning. To me, this is where the poem lives, not in any single strand of text, but in the action of holding various fragments together into a momentary and unstable whole. 

Iris McCloughan is a nonbinary trans* writer and artist in New York. They were the winner of the 2018 Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize from American Poetry Review, and are the author of three chapbooks, including Triptych (2021, Greying Ghost) and Bones To Peaches, selected for the 2021 Robin Becker Series by Seven Kitchens Press. Their writing has appeared or is forthcoming in juked, jubilat, American Poetry Review, and ANMLY, among others.

Two Poems by Dani Putney

Heritage

Dad was born in 1939.
I was born in 1996.
4 of my 7 siblings were born
before you, Ma. Did you visit
Pampanga as a kid?
That’s where your step-
children were raised.

3 wives, 57 years, & 7,000
miles away from your Talisay
home only makes sense
if I say colonialism, Ma.
Time & distance must be
products of your zeitgeist,
a suspension in post

why did you & Dad
make me in America?
Ma, I can call you nanay
in 3 languages except my own.
I have no birthright.
My unborn body lost its roots
in 1957 after Dad graduated

from his segregated
high school—Falls Church,
Virginia—& the Air Force
assigned him to Clark AB.
Ma, his Oriental desire
was set, & I lost, years before
1991, when you were 24

& he took you to California.
I want to know him, & you,
but I only have numbers.
Tell me, Ma, how you survive
separated from your culture.
You say I’m lucky to live here,
but I think you’re wrong:

Luck is not being born at all.

American Pastoral

On a patch of infected soil,
the last alfalfa plant burns,
tells a story of lives never lived.
Humans haven’t touched this dirt.

Alfalfa burns under a dead sky,
nobody to witness the blaze.
Humans haven’t touched anything
in ages. Blister beetles die by firelight.

Nobody gazes upon blazed
dirt—once green, tales say.
Blister beetles continue to die,
fiery wind propels their memories:

Tales of green fields, they were called
farms. Alfalfa was grown to feed
horses, their bodies propelled by wind.
Like humans, the horses died,

along with the farms, now the alfalfa.
People’s greatest talent was poisoning
themselves, all the horses. What’s left
is fire, a patch of infected soil.

 

Dani Putney is a queer, non-binary, mixed-race Filipinx, & neurodivergent poet originally from Sacramento, California. Their debut full-length poetry collection is Salamat sa Intersectionality (Okay Donkey Press, May 2021). You can find Dani’s poetry in CamasThe Fourth RiverLandLocked, & Tule Review, among other publications. Presently a PhD student at Oklahoma State University, they permanently reside in the middle of the Nevada desert.

One Poem by KB

Shot #7

When I think of women, I think of K’s long Black hair. Though store-
bought, it was laid as if it wasn’t. How her body flowed on dancefloors
like shame wasn’t a factor, as if every factor in the world didn’t exist. 

& then I think of existence. Do I deserve it after the things that I did 
to K? The deception, the dumping, the trauma I’ve given to her? 
How trauma makes a broken record of us. How the boys did 

what they did when I wasn’t old enough to know they do whatever
they want to. How is this my first time bringing pen to paper about it? 
How “rape” feels too explicit of a claim even 20 years later. I don’t speak 

to K anymore, but I do flinch when my lover trusts in me too much. 
I fear that the breaking will hit her & turn into a wound like the ones 
I go to therapy for. When I think of therapy, I think of all the sessions 

I’ve spent on K. When women in my life spend their labor on me— 
my lover, my therapist, and K— I think of history. My growing 
mustache doesn’t mean I must repeat it.

 

KB is a Black queer genderless miracle. They are the author of the chapbook HOW TO IDENTIFY YOURSELF WITH A WOUND (Kallisto Gaia Press, 2022), winner of the 2021 Saguaro Poetry Prize. Follow them online at @earthtokb.