One Poem by Leon Barros

Notes on a Dream

 

skin sheens sweat / thru dark a man stares at me
& why this fear / manifests itself as fixation
I don’t mean I’m afraid I mean it hurts every time

 

///

 

last night I was a cowboy / pursued by sheriff ghosts
at the campfire / the dead bastards shot me / a fugitive feeling
not unlike being hunted / haunted / don’t look behind you

 

///

 

falling asleep to Lorde’s “Buzzcut Season” / ode to the waking dream
I confuse the lyric / I live in a hologram with you / for hallowed ground
cannot unhear this / make believe it’s hyperreal / wildsmoke off the fence

 

night elides us / slick, cold & breath-close
chorus of the lost / a mistaken intimacy
a mondegreen / a green world

 

 

for so long this hard press of knife. / slice
 my calloused fingertips / & out sprouts a phantom
touch / ghostpoppies / invocation of softness / 

 

///

 

some nights they come to me as zombies. or not zombies but
undead / not ghosts (immaterial) or reanimated (fleshrot) but as
a kind of undoing / alternate spring / in which the dead never die

 

///

 

late summer afternoon I awake with a start / sweat-choked
& burning / taste of pink bubblegum seared in the mouth
how to carry over / sweetsmell / make real all that is not

 

 

 

blue of the ante-sun / out of the damp, black
gravel / the platypus-penguins begin to hatch
one tips its vermillion bill in my palm

 

tapping in recognition / hunger / I run away.
it’s screaming & I’m not its mother
what do I care.

 

///

 

in the dream the ghost refuses to leave my body / says
she holds me back bc I will not reckon with the truth
great. how the disease is exactly the symptom

 

in “Revolutionary Letter #41,” Diane di Prima describes
 revolution as turning, as the earth / turns, among planets,
as the sun / turns round some (darker) star

 

we turn / from dark to light, turn
faces of pain & fear, the dawn
awash among them 

 

///

 

disremember all the tonguesick paradigms / paradise
a walled lotus-garden / utopia / which means nothing
of heaven / its root of sky / ceiling / boundary / limit

 

///

 

unswallow the misery that soothes
 says / escape is only a dream.
no dream will escape us

 

dream up for our loves / dead & new / new freedoms
devotions / dance / songs / aches / words / to shout
each we are wood-ash, bile & moonrust to give

 

///

 

the cicada-nymphs / crawl out of their dreams
into my mouth / perch on my tongue / turn
towards the unfamiliar firmament / sing counterpoint

 

///

 

I come to / dreamsong
to sunrise / to remake our hands
a murmuration / wavering. or waving

 

Leon Barros (he/they) is a queer Filipino editor and poet. Their work has been featured in The Daily Cal and HOLD: A Journal. You can find them on Twitter @leonbarros or Instagram @leon_barros.

One Poem by James O’Leary

Aubade with Sugarcube of SSRIs

Because the night is a quiet horse, asleep
in the field, you notice the lonely 
noises I make as I scratch my skin 
bloody as I dream: please & who’s there & the water
which, unhindered by my medicine-broken brain, flows
from closed eyes. Lover, it would be such a good night
mare: blood under my nails, scars hidden over time with hair. 
The shiver which wanders my muscles from my nervous 
mind. But if a foal is a sprinter, learning to stand, 
let the way you touch me gently be the dreamer 
learning to wake. The fields of sheets shiver 
from the wind of the open window. Later, yes, I’m yours. 
Your saddle. We ride. But for now, moon in the morning sky,
you steer these hooves to sweetgrass. You calm me free.

 

James O’Leary (they/them) is a bi, gender-fluid poet and writer from Arizona. James’s work has been nominated for both the Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize anthologies, and has appeared or is forthcoming in online and print publications including Frontier, The Indianapolis Review, and Foglifter. James holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. You can find James on Twitter @thesundaypoet; they currently live in Orange County.

One Poem by Marlanda Dekine

 Ars Poetica: A Meditation

listen to “Ars Poetica” read by the author

⸻after Henry Dumas’ Outer Space Blues

I. Wilderness

with wings i wobble down a cobble road
i left a bottle of brown rum at the crossroads

my limp is getting fuller by the moon
i wonder who plotted

this path, this map
i make my life

i am swift as the spaceships
behind my eyelids

beauty finds me dappled in ecstasy
i found by the magnolia outside

maybe these were killing fields
but today my heart is here,

and there’s no one i desire to destroy
let us live a together that jumps fences

i have had many
agendas i left them at the crossroads too

i am only one in this great wide ocean
of language wielding wonder in verse

holy
hollow

i am a stanza of beauty
nothing can counter but me
we are stanzas glory be
to god

if i’m strange when i get there
i’ll have my wings
outer space blues
clearing my mind
outer space hues might blow

all our minds

what if freedom crawls from deep within

oh, cry and cry, ocean
sky let down the rain

i will savor in the mess of mud
draw all my fears near

shake the dust
after i’m ashes
i’ll be an ancestor running free

the sky i choose to see
only growing wider

gather fire coal,
pit me in that hole
i can take the heat

alchemize my soul
it is myself I desire to meet

II. Returning

there are words
                 crawling around to be picked up
words i choose
                 i give myself permission i will not
apologize for the blue
butterfly dancing
in my hydrangeas        memories
there are many things seen
i dream space of no time i
before—of dark sounds beat
evil eye down my back

here is happy
as a crow perched
upon my crown for lunch
at winyah bay i do not require you

and i love big as all that water
big as all that water
holding stories

i ripple out love i
breathe like the live oak i
stand rooted i
speak to you plain

there is much
i have to say
i love myself now
i love myself

this here being which means
i can feel you

III. Out There

tone-deaf tercets
are still gonging bells
syllables of narcissism

run capitalism
run politicians
run U.S.A.’s god

tourmalinated quartz
double terminated points
is me standing here

as a recordkeeper
telling you these are loops
we are living in

there is no time
i’m hands up don’t shoot
sixteen years old & the cop

has e¹ finger on the trigger
in anywhere is everywhere
took 20 years for that fear

to leave my wonderful body
look here is my heart
pumping full of the brightest blue

i am bloody as when I arrived
i soak my pen in its dye
i shift rhythms
invoke reparations
i don’t ask permission
i stand in my power

fear       fear       fear        fear       look       look there
is your heart

IV. Reclamation

when i needed you to see me
i did not write anything
i meant to say
what i mean to say is the writing
is best when I don’t know
where i’m going

where I’m going might be
Black as my granddaddy’s face
topsoil beneath crimson clover
i was shiny and i was for sale
now all i want is growing
a garden lush inside of me

we all grow
when one does
we all know suffering
because
we are alive

when i realized i was
alive
decay and fear left my front porch
haint blue
began to speak alongside mugwort
gone to seed                     i listened to
cinnamon sticks boiling
on my stove

i put my head over steam of
basil
said hello being we are alive kiss the day

when i entered my third decade of bag lady
i was alone inside, remembering little me

little me who loved stars
feared the night
counting evergreens as i passed by
i think about how much love it took
to survive

V. Risk

a part of me believed
when i forgot to charm you
you wouldn’t stay

it’s been proven            i    the fool
over and over
melting into different parts
of the same face
same empty eyes

trying to get my lesson how grandma said

now i know running
for my life cannot be running from myself

rain flooding my home
all around is water
for me to wade

                                           watching trouble
                                                                           decay
                                                                                       trail off

                                                                                                    into a rusted storm drain

i pray
thank you every time i remember

____________________
1. In Gullah-Geechee culture, e/em are gender-neutral pronouns.

 

Marlanda Dekine’s forthcoming collection, Thresh & Hold (Hub City Press, 2022), won the New Southern Voices Poetry Prize, selected by Gabrielle Calvocoressi. Their poem, “Ars Poetica,” is the text for a muso-poetic community performance with the award-winning composer/performer collective, counter)induction. Dekine is a Tin House Scholar, a Palm Beach Poetry Festival Langston Hughes Fellow, and a Fellow at The Watering Hole. Their work is obsessed with ancestry, memory, and the process of staying within one’s own body, leaving spells and incantations for others to follow for themselves. They live in South Carolina with their wise dog, Malachi

One Poem by R/B Mertz

I am watching her on the internet like an ex.

The famous white male poet at the poetry reading who during the first BLM Movement said there was nothing left to say said I should write more love poems, he said, That’s what Eileen is so good at, That’s what Adrienne was so good at

All the white men’s books stuck on the shelves of closed stores, coughing
Listen to the 
behind the paywalls of song,                                                                                                      sounds of the 
their voices dim                                                                                                                                                pages 
& dimmer—I’m listening to my                                                                                                                   pulp
                                                                                                                                                                 Of the
                                                                                                                                                                 Devoured

country                  cringe. Cringe
& scroll 

& forget where she got that [cotton garment] forget

If she ever really knew you
If you ever really knew her

 

R/B Mertz (thee/thou) is a trans/non-binary butch poet and artist. They wrote the memoir Burning Butch (Unnamed Press, 2022), the essay, “How Whiteness Kills God & Sprinkles Crack on the Body,” the foreword for John J. McNeill’s Freedom, Glorious Freedom: The Spiritual Journey for Gays, Lesbians, and Everyone Else, and many poems, including “(We all end up in) the CAN,” published by American Poetry Journal. Mertz taught writing in Pittsburgh for eleven years and was honored to be a finalist for City of Asylum’s 2020-21 Emerging Poet Laureate of Pittsburgh. On January 1, 2021, Mertz left the US for love, and they now reside in Toronto, Ontario, traditionally the territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat peoples.

One Comic by Coyote Shook

Louisiana

 

Coyote Shook is a cartoonist, Appalachian apostate, and PhD candidate in American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. They can also be found traipsing through New Mexico and Louisiana not infrequently. 

Their comics and visual essays have appeared in or are forthcoming in a range of American and Canadian literary magazines, including (but not limited to) Shenandoah Magazine, Tupelo Quarterly Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Maine Review, The Puritan, The South Dakota Review, and Santa Fe Writers Project Quarterly. 

Their debut graphic novel, Coyote the Beautiful, was the 2020 winner of the Jeanne Leiby Chapbook Contest with The Florida Review, the first comic to win. Feel free to follow them on Instagram (@coyoteshook) or to check out their website: coyoteshookcomics.com

One Poem by Soon Jones

Church Gossip

Twist me, why don’t you,
a wet towel between your hands
wrung out onto a peeling linoleum floor.

Whisper that I need prayer
for a fast marriage to a god-fearing husband
and babies crawling on my back.

Make me put on a skirt, grow my hair out,
dedicate my life to daily sermons
like some goddamned saint, give
servers gospel tracts instead of tips,
burn all my good vinyl. 

Choke me until I recant
and reclaim your bitter god.
Baptize me in saltwater.

Shake me until the tattoos
fall off my chest.

See what good it does you.

 

Soon Jones is a Korean American lesbian poet, fiction writer, and failed missionary from the rural countryside of the American South. Their work has been published or is forthcoming in Westerly, Typehouse Literary Magazine, Moon City Review, and Emerge: Lambda Literary Fellows Anthology. They can be found at soonjones.com.

Two Poems by Joan Angel Estrada

MASCULINITIES

Summer wants me fully grown and tender
tendergrown and short haired. I cut myself loose
fall right into the warm and broken mouths
of my 3 ex-girlfriends, last of which was
Me. Well, Julian of Norwich got sick
and found the world in a hazelnut,
found love thumping its hind legs
through the shell. Well, I got better
and found my masculinity in a tiny
rubber horse, found what drowns me
in 3 specks of light. Well, winter
wants me half-shorn and beautiful.
I was always one for running away;
spring is what happens to the princes
that want to swallow rainfall.
Well, whatever: don’t you think
I look even prettier than before?
Kid, this is what
Butch looks like: sticking your
tongue through autumn and
seeing stars in the veins of
November.

 

T4T

It’s Thursday and I’m bent
over the bathroom sink,
trying to fix a bad cut.
they always see my bad haircuts
for what they are: a paper-mache ceiling
I don’t let anybody break through but their
drunk self on the roof, old Docs dangling
through a hole that bleeds with spring’s light.
they’re cross legged on the floor,
sporting a bright and brave face, letting
their tendergrown hair fall into a bucket.
I never fall too far from them, really,
because I’m always trying to get back
to the transness that birthed me
so freakishly beautiful is lipstick on
lipstick is a smattering of sun-dried
tomatoes on dusk – our kinds of lips
hardly move for anything other than
big love and the mottled want
that manages to scrape through
when we fall through the city’s pipes
and song. I want to be handsome,
real handsome and I want to get all
pretty and handsome for the love of my life
who understands this performance
is no small thing and quietly smiles
when they rub their fingers over my neck –
feel the sound of my hydrangea voice
rushing through like blood and water
and sweetness. when they look at me
there are one too many genders in my heart,
all unbearable spring light: touch me. touch me.
touch me before the paints are one color.
touch me afterwards, too. touch me
when there’s nothing to touch. touch me
when desire finally pushes its way
through my soft scalp and is no longer
the jagged bone I know it to be.
touch me when the ground
gives way for the last time.
“You’re pretty handsome with that
deep voice of yours, aren’t you?
Almost makes up for the bad cut,” they say.
Touch me, I say.

 

Joan Angel Estrada is a trans writer currently residing in Southern California. His work has been published in the Santa Ana River Review and in Sunday Mornings at the River. You can find him thinking about Joan of Arc or on Instagram @rockingoceans.