2020 Poetry

Kim Sousa


You were the size of one of the snails I used to race
in Tio Pedro’s backyard. Raised like livestock in miniature
in a small wooden hutch. Here, I made a hutch for you,
split it from myself:

a uterine sac.

The doctors insist, but I cannot be blameless in this.
I have pulled snails from their shells and run them through herbed butter.
I’ve sopped them up with crusty bread. Alone in France,
trying to shape my loneliness into something fashionable—an aperitif.

Home in Brazil, I have broken
so many chicken necks, plucked so many feathers, seen the cuy

split open, stuck through
and flattened onto spits at the feira. I might reach for a papaya, instead,

but the gaze has its own appetites.

They would not call yours a death, Little Snail.
Instead, a loss. I could not keep you.

Now, a pain pill lulls me to sleep.
The curtain between us flutters

somewhere out of reach.

Go / Stay.

If life does not begin at conception, death does.

I made a death.

I am the screaming steam loosening flesh from spiral shell.
I follow, cloaked in my grief.

I am the scythe.

Unwitting blade.

Kim Sousa is a Brazilian-American poet and open border radical. Her work can be found in Poet Lore, Rogue Agent, Apogee, Blunderbuss and elsewhere. She has poems forthcoming in Pidgeonholes, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review and Duende, among others. In 2019, she organized Pittsburgh’s all-Latinx chapter of Christopher Soto, et al.’s “Writers for Migrant Justice” nation-wide protest collective benefiting Immigrant Families Together and co-edited the benefit anthology of immigrant and first-generation poetry, No Tender Fences, which donated 100% of its proceeds to RAICES Texas. She is currently at work on her first full-length manuscript and at home again in Austin, Texas with her two senior pugs and her familiar, a black cat.

2020 Poetry

Mackenzie Kozak

prayer without crescent-shape

lord, now i am one to quarrel. 
once pristine, a trope to keep 
replaying, figment furrowed 
in the curtain. how i was full
of quivering and you stunned 
me stone. then i began to keep
away from surfaces. but now 
if i hear dismal, doomed, 
and leak my orchid, which 
finesses me. if i relish in 
that injury. then i am one 
to watch the sky for voltage, 
which was promised me. 
or an answer like a surgery 
removed from breath. i heard
withhold. i drew a charcoal 
rim, another. clasped the eyelets 
up my length. you want to give 
and take away when i am 
heavy with beckoning. taken 
in a trance, having given up. 
i wait for something stern 
to medicate me. or a hell 
set into motion, swallowing me. 
it never comes. there are other
arrivals, dewy. you did insist. 

when my love is not a subcontinent 

often you inhabit only a small strip of land 
upon which you pitch and decay 

how, meandering further into the beyond, 
a rattling ensues 

you could say that what is primal in us 
perpetually sheds itself, making room

or glows so sharply in the night 
the whole island trembles 

tell me about the need for nuisance, 
and, when it comes, the stench

or tell me you have found a new surface 
to stain with breathing

or tell me you have found yourself forlorn,
marooned at the thought 

of exile, and press me open, a landing, 
your sounds sharp with sand 

Mackenzie Kozak is a poet living in Asheville, NC. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Poetry Journal, Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, DIAGRAM, jubilat, Poetry Northwest, Sixth Finch, and elsewhere. Mackenzie serves as an associate editor at Orison Books and Asheville Poetry Review. Her manuscript, in place of a mouth & far-flung, was a finalist of the National Poetry Series.

2020 Poetry

Kelly Grace Thomas


I empty the day
like a bottle. Toss, try
and truce this body
mine. Ours. Body,
you, a river, I name
and rename. Last year wobbles
on her soggy bones. Tonight, I spill

for you. Confess my father
was a heavy pour. He raised me
in song. Our family, a vine
still weeping towards sea.
We couldn’t drink
the body out
of us. And isn’t water
another way to say
body? I practice tender
in the mirror. Quiet
my hips, curved
like a quotation mark.
Bless, bless, bless
these elbows
and anxiety. All these bones
and brackets.

Body, I walked to Arkansas
to say I’m sorry
for the distance and the diet
pills. I’m sorry for the silence.
Maybe I just needed to write you
from somewhere new. To thank you,
my quiet parenthesis.
To promise: keep me
and I’ll keep you.
My steady
grammar. Listen,
this rain needs a bed.


Outside my window a crow
circles what it can get.
I’m three nights from love.
Always between here
and home. Six service
stations past self help
stereo hum. Omid
means hope. I’ve never told
a prayer that. Out my car window,

the wheat fields kneel
for water. We learn
landscape. Trapped
inside. Today I read
the most important thing
a father can do
for his children
is love
their mother.
This is not that.
Not the prayer
where I help myself. Not
the prayer where someone
says sunrise and I talk
story. Not the prayer where I know
what to do with silence
besides pass it
on the left. Maybe

one day. For now
I measure the distance
between the men I’ve loved
like a country
still thirsty
for rain.

Kelly Grace Thomas is the author of Boat Burned, released by YesYes Books. Kelly’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in: Best New Poets 2019, the Los Angeles Review, Tinderbox, Nashville Review, Sixth Finch, Muzzle, DIAGRAM and more. Kelly has received fellowships from Tin House, Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing, Kenyon Review Young Writers’ and more. Kelly is the Education and Pedagogy Advisor for Get Lit-Words Ignite, a youth poetry nonprofit. She is the co-author of Words Ignite: Explore, Write and Perform, Classic and Spoken Word Poetry (Literary Riot). Kelly is also a screenwriter and novelist. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband, Omid.

2020 Poetry

Matt Mitchell

when warren zevon appeared on the letterman show in 2002, he knew he was going to die soon

babe, protect me while i press my lips 
against the handle of an unlocked door,

afraid of what dust cradling my 
expired electricity lies on the other side.

as warren walked into the belly 
of shrapnel the autumn equinox left him,

he knew even the darkness could yank
the last breath from his lungs.

i have taken every moment i let you 
breathe into my open mouth for granted. 

there are so many ways to repair the ribcage 
of our home all the love spilled out from. 

warren painted his whole body into a 
suit the color of soon stretching itself 

around the teeth of an entire year & 
imagined his god as a sandwich

he’d never learned to savor. no one wants
to pray to a slice of air crammed in-between

two bruised walls. i feel heaven’s weight 
in the touch of every postal worker’s 

hand that delivers one of your postcards 
to my mailbox in the vanishing morning 

of summers. in a few months, i will have lived
in three different decades, & too frequently

i’ve awoken to the knuckles of my back
burning & breaking against a grave

of a mattress & feared my fourth decade
would crawl into a dead body’s mouth.

i have lived in-between the teeth 
of a year & imagined soon as god,

soon as the drive along the ohio turnpike 
i make just to fall asleep in your arms.

the ides of march

i have never written about shooting 
a gun before,

because the closest i have been to
an exploding barrel was when my father

taught my mother how to shoot
in our backyard a decade ago.

my uncle drank a fifth of angel dust
on his parents’ patio in 1985

& shot himself in the head
with a twelve-gauge rifle.

my father still hears gunshots at night
when he is asleep. 

he has never read any of my poems.

my other uncle goes to west virginia
every november to hunt 

& bring back dead things for his wall.

every march 15th, my father takes
his brother’s portrait off the mantle
& stands in the same spot where 
he died. he slides his feet over 

the recarpeted floor, says this could 
be a poem,
& knows he would never read it.

Matt Mitchell is a gluten-free, heartbroken, intersex writer from Columbus, Ohio. He is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection, The Neon Hollywood Cowboy (Big Lucks, 2021). Find him on Twitter @matt_mitchell48

2020 Poetry

Lindsay Illich


Something Christmas. Moss.
Out of nowhere, an orange.
A fan blade. I’m stealing
this next one: the cathedral
of a half lemon. Halved.
The small glass heart you carry
with your pocket change.
Revenants. Attention. An
uncalculated gesture towards
something. A staircase going
somewhere. The snow before
the snow, before you know
if it’s really snowing. The
crescent-shaped tears in a peach
from your thumbnail. Drawer
pulls. White towels. Rowdiness.
A good belly. And, oh hell,
I’m gonna say it–the moon.
But also your bright face.
In the light of it.


Gray-muzzled dawn, her airplanes
& alarms, the daughter gone,

the grayscale slipshape of her bones,
the between the blinds beginning

to glow. Seconds then minutes & hours
then days, until a whole body of not

her grew like the seam that inched
from pubis to belly. Blessed is the morning,

its gray matter, its cinnamon and once
in New Mexico at the hot springs

we pulled off all our clothes
in broad daylight, bright poms of marigolds

floating in the water, cedar waxwings
high in the branches, a milk sun

burning across a thick pan of clouds.
I knew nothing of her then

& for days I’ve wished for that
same innocence. The blank snow,

the bad reception I gave her, the day
here already. I ache for summer.

Lindsay Illich is the author of Heteroglossia (Anchor and Plume, 2016), Rile & Heave (Texas Review Press, 2017), and Fingerspell (forthcoming, Black Lawrence Press, 2020). She teaches at Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts.

2020 Poetry

Stephanie Athena Valente


strung around my throat like
a love song, not just stones, they’re
power gems, blue orbs pulsating
from my ribs, my feet hitting hot
summer sand for the first time,
my body is meant to be here, no
i’ve never been in this land before,
only dreamed it up like kids in movies
even though i lied through my teeth,
even though my ancestors called
each night in potions + apparitions,
every grain of sand, sea foam bead,
polished rosary chain, lemon-perfume,
lost summer wine is me, i am here:
in this space, fleeting but forever,
being Sicilian is a poem.


this saturday, i’m on my back staring

feeling all of the nebulas, green flecks in your eyes
i could say that i want to wrap you up in small stars
to wrap you up in something that is dead
by the time is comes here, it’s nothing

i’m with you so i don’t have to think anymore
no, love, there is no point because,
we are inherited ghosts living on borrowed time

i am currents, galaxies, i believe
like it means something b/c i want it to

the feeling is being awake while i’m sleeping
i can’t move, so i’ll suck you off instead
all pearly skin, iridescent sex, magic on, in us

if you could make me come, the planets just collide
everything circles, my lips are still on your chest.

Stephanie Athena Valente lives in Brooklyn, NY. Her published works include Hotel Ghost, waiting for the end of the world, and Little Fang (Bottlecap Press, 2015-2019). She has work included in Reality Hands, TL;DR, and Cosmonauts Avenue. She is the associate editor at Yes, Poetry. Sometimes, she feels human.

2020 Poetry

Jessica Murray



A baby goat falling off, whoops!, the side of a mountain.
Another animal that looks like it’s sleeping
on the underside of a speed-bump
as the moon draws its curtains.
A quorum of strangers pooling money, can-do,
and Labrador-retriever-level enthusiasm
because love, or something like it, bade them.


A girl who wandered into the wrong library
with the wrong person,
a girl who will never now not have enough fear.
An image of a child so bereft
that to look, not to look, is another violation.
The word found scrawled in grateful,
disbelieving red across a taped-up sign.


A nagging suspicion that the donation has disappeared
into the bureaucratic mechanisms,
was too inconsequential, no matter, to provide
one half-cracked egg of relief.
A hope that the Flock of Chicks, the share
of a Milk Menagerie is a reprieve for someone,
somewhere—someone who, with luck,
won’t grow to despise the premise of you.


An act so flensed with self-loathing and despair
that you will feel
a physical sadness whenever it presses
into your thoughts. An act of bravery
that shatters you in your kitchen, where sometimes
you attempt to bake something.
A video of a rescued dog—blind and wizened—
whose final moments are composed
on camera
to culminate in the honest ask.


A malingering scent, maybe formaldehyde,
that ruins the effect
of the hastily painted little cakes and ales.
Diagrams that at first glance seem to show
the complete assembly, but whose perspective
is all wrong. A kitchen sash that someone has opened,
through which a little sunlight is bending, gimlet-eyed
crows moving on a pert diagonal. A thought,
impossible to prove,
that at least one piece is missing.

Jessica Murray works as an educational media producer and writes in Austin, Texas. Her poems have recently appeared in Birmingham Poetry Review, Booth, Cherry Tree, Cream City Review, Free State Review, and the Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review.

2020 Poetry

John Manuel Arias


Mysterious Woman / Dinora Jueves

Ironically, it’s Thursday
In the syrup of her dream / she braces
For the director’s cut of a child-
Hood fantasy, played out in a field:
Nails long, blunt; she transforms
Into a beast, scratches every arm
Of other children skirting by in a wagon
Who don’t play along, but instead accelerate
Away from her breaking point,
Her mind immaculate as the bubble
From a drowned mouse’s ear

La peluca del pequeño búho

It’s an animalistic thing
They’re asking for / a cross between
Her breasts on a chain / link fence
Dividing the projects from her adolescent
Home / and its alleyway of colonial bricks
Where crack needles poke out
From the mortar like dandelions
A weed wacker makes a guest appearance,
Then a steel shovel propped up
Against a steel toolshed / snow wrapping the handle
In the warm memory of her mother’s hands


She channels the sea witch, yanks
A vestal’s voice with a breadth of lies;
Then the wife of José Arcadio, watching
One-hundred years in solitude with ants
Dancing circles around the office
Of the asshole dentist in the script—
That part has already been cast
You broke your leg for no reason

Extra #17 in the HierbaLite seminar

¿What’s my motivation?
Spearmint, fire
Flies, socket
Wrenches, dream
Houses on a beach,
Gila monsters, rose-
Mary, the mother of God,
Platinum and cyanide crushed
With a pestle and mortar,
Avocado seeds in the teeth
Of a languid creek, barren
Asphalt and cadmium cartilage,
A black bean
-er in the ovular cries of white
Boys on a black top
On a day of a blue-hot sun, the white-hot
Son of a man who will slaughter her
Demons for a nominal fee
Whatever you think will get you the part.

Tico’s daughter (uncredited)

She’s to scratch out a cornea
Or two / Consume Adderall
For a delicate, balanced breakfast
Of champions / She’s to poke out
An eardrum / Mutate her lovely face
Into a horse’s skull, like a ghost
Story, repeated in a night-hostel,
Masks on the walls as inspiration /
Every time you open your mouth /
All I hear is / Every time
You open your mouth / All I hear
Is / Every time you open
Your mouth


The tender stumbles over his excitement
Seeing her flared flamenco gown, the boy’s eyes so cornflower
You’d think he was a whitey from the middle West

The tender tips his rainbow sombrero from Amazon
& yells through smile & handlebar:
I love to shoot cans!

[Puerto Ri-cans]
[Costa Ri-cans]

Now that that’s out of the way,
What’ll you both have?


Marco has a sex on the beach
& Villaintina opts for a mezcal
Margarita from a can [wink, wink]

Tucked in her purse; she flakes gold
Some chipotle chile
& organic lime juice

They tip the tender with leftover teeth
Snatch cans from the recycling bin
Rip off each & every tab

& string them together into a necklace
Like the ears of prisoners of war


On the dark stools in the far back
They finally get down to it—
The showdown of the century:

Vaporwave vs. Vaporú
Gorilla vs. Guerilla

Quintanilla vs. Gomez

They argue x & @ &
Where those Spaniards lie
In the scheme of things

Do the colonizers in the colonies
Get a seat at the table?
At the *mesa, Marco corrects

The gringos are listening
They want Spanglish


Your eyes must be green like cilantro
Skin the tint of caldo de pollo in a bowl
Brown, spicy, adobo-fied

Call upon your abuela, and her abuela’s abuela
& the infinity of abuelitas in their graves
Make sure the colita de rana is sana, sana

& don’t forget to mention you’re a bruja
Or that you come from patria or matria
Depending on the patriarcado

Valentina, Marco giggles, pointing
At the bottle of hot sauce, the seal still stuck
solemnly to the mouth


Sabado Gigante plays on the flat screen;
The chacal blows his soul into that trumpet

¡y fuera
y fuera
y fuera! —


Walter Mercado brings his Liberace robes
& Colonel Aureliano Buendía, his firing squad
& Cantinflas, the negative space between his mustache fur

They flood the bar with Salsa & salsa verde,
& chips, & pico de gallo, which gringos call salsa
(No one knows why)

It’s Puro Teatro croons La Lupe
It’s Conga smiles Gloria María Milagrosa Fajardo García [Estefan] &
Celia Cruz belts, Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara Quimbara


The night of dancing leaves
A bottle of tequila inside Villaintina
Glass & all; worm, & its stringy guts inside hers

Marco morphs ape, explodes body into fine, pitch hair
Sticky as if to be lit by embers
Picante, he whispers, winks, hurls, bares fang & lip

¿How does one say flotsam in Spanish? Asks Villaintina
Eyeing their world, & culture, & people on the bar floor

When in doubt, chew cud
When in doubt, add an accent
When in doubt, croak Spanglish
When in doubt
When in doubt
When in doubt

John Manuel Arias is a gay, Costa Rican and Uruguayan writer back in Washington, DC after many years. He is a Canto Mundo fellow & alumnus of the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop. His fiction has found homes in Joyland Magazine, The Kenyon Review, Barren Magazine and F(r)iction. His poetry has appeared in several literary magazines, including PANK, Platypus Press, Sixth Finch, the Journal, and Assaracus: A Journal of Gay Poetry, with poems forthcoming in The Offing and The Minnesota Review. He has been nominated for both the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net three times. Before DC, he lived in Costa Rica with his grandmother and four ghosts.

2020 Poetry

Satya Dash



Rum orange of the yolk sun balks briefly
the good festival of light doubling up
as the festival of resounding smoke.
Our ability to moderate dies.
A rocket screeches into a tree twinkling
emerald pop behind the phone tower―
ferris wheel of gunpowder, nitrate snow,
the crisp air wailing cruel friction A child
tugs at his father’s pocket―Show me
more light in the sky.
The dog, flat like bread
in a corner, jaw drooling sideways
like a wrestler tapped out, match long conceded
to war sounds and sudden climaxes. I too
save my howls for a night of better ache.


The next dawn arrives without approval,
almost without notice. A middle aged
jogger at Khan Market feels his lungs yowl
for the first time like his heart. The city
caked under a thick frosting that would have
sunscreen makers lose sleep. Particulate
matter descending like confetti. Spit
turns wintery, masks―impediments for
facial recognition phone locks. A friend
considers leaving the city. The dog
has a faint idea of leaving, his pink
tongue lolling out like a mush curtain
in the day’s largesse, grateful for
his underwhelming life expectancy.

Satya Dash’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in Waxwing, Wildness, Redivider, Passages North, The Journal, The Florida Review, Hobart, The Cortland Review and Poetry@Sangam among others. Apart from having a degree in electronics from BITS Pilani-Goa, he has been a cricket commentator too. He is a two-time Orison Anthology and Best New Poets nominee. He spent his early years in Odisha and now lives in Bangalore, India. He tweets at: @satya043 

2020 Poetry

Luiza Flynn-Goodlett


Back in Tennessee, starlings, BB-gunned
as pests, rose off fencerows in articulate

curls. Here, gulls quarrel over shreds of
bread. I too once favored the humming,

migratory, endangered. That was before
the rain of mussels, seagulls swooping

to peck at split shells. Before a starling
careened into glass, feathers, up close,

the whole rainbow. Just before we built
this nest from the mud in our mouths.


Skies over Catanduva, the tiny town where you
were born, darken as the Amazon burns. When

you last saw whitewashed walls, roofs laced in
razor-wire, you grew your hair out for months

beforehand, crammed on a bus from São Paulo.
Grandma still called your brother’s name. Now,

as days lengthen toward fire season, curtains she
embroidered open and close, struggle for words.

Luiza Flynn-Goodlett is the author of the forthcoming collection Look Alive, winner of the 2019 Cowles Poetry Book Prize from Southeast Missouri State University Press, along with six chapbooks, most recently Tender Age, winner of the 2019 Headmistress Press Charlotte Mew chapbook contest, and Shadow Box, winner of the 2019 Madhouse Press Editor’s Prize. Her poetry can be found in Third Coast, Pleiades, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere.