Ruth Baumann

2021, Poetry

SURVIVAL TECHNIQUES

Knocked off the feet I carved to replace the first feet I was knocked off.
Really. That kind of a year. That kind of a life, the subtitles to my
imaginary movie reading, over & over, Why do you forget that it’s all
surprises.
Some people preach external hope but they aren’t the ones
I can listen well to. One says, The surest way to go insane is to expect life to not hurt
& I build tiny temples in my ears. I notice how bad I am at exhaling,
& a fortune cookie tells me, If you don’t have talent, put in effort. I think
maybe the promised land is just being the kind of person I can look back on
& not wholly regret. A friend explains the parable of how people are like
an endless procession of candles. The trick is that we are not the wax,
but the fire. So I pray: let me tend my fire. So I pray: let me tend my fire.


THE REAL GOAL

On the mornings without too much sunlight, I listen for the rocking horse in my heart. I am borne from a flurry & I respect that. But: there’s a place where the soul grows still as a windless summer pond. I always think it has to do with men but it doesn’t. If I ask nicely enough, I’ll listen to myself, & begin the sweet climb from breath to slower breath.


Ruth Baumann is the author of Thornwork (2020, Black Lawrence Press) & Parse (2018, Black Lawrence Press). She is also the author of five chapbooks. She teaches in prisons. More can be found here.

leena aboutaleb

2021, Poetry

ontologies

I exist until I do not. we are full until hunger calls. I was raised anexoric
so I ignore the phone. spread olive oil on throat, a trick
to keep the hunger distracted. my aunts teach me epistemology.
we are altered. I spent years wishing for my body to go missing.
I felt cheated by fate, as if I should be spared from suffering.
if I am to endure tragedy, give me a home. I became
grateful when men desired me, opening their mouths to eat. I
wished they could erase me. I became
grateful when my brother died & part of me disappeared
into his grave. Arabs swear by dreams. we are alone
until we are not. I see my brother walking in the back of my dreams.
I have two daughters in this world with my ex-lover. I watch him
argue with his girlfriend & move our daughters back to Ramallah. he kisses
my hair. my mouth becomes my own. I make a language
and quote Iraqi poets as an excuse. the bullets my mother dodged
lay thick in my skin. I am marked by the PLO & surrounding armies.
I am born furious. in another world, I become a killer. I remind myself
it cannot be in this world. in this world, my mother forces my name
into practicality. I never wanted to be made
soft then I fell in love. I wondered, lying next to him, if I could be happy
being made into an artwife. an explosion blasts our windows
open; he curses Palestinians. in this world I should not rely on my violence.
my father tells me my violence will keep me alive in this world. I returned
to my country, sliced my breasts & begged for violence.
I fell in love and told him I wasn’t until he left. I never forget how
cruelty is so at home in my tongue. I learn to walk without
showing my blood. I want to forget the butcher knife against
my mother’s throat. I want to drown and come out baptised. I
feel the sweetest when the waxer stretches sugar onto my body,
as if I can be remade. I want to be in Ramallah til I am no longer afraid.
I want to wake up and hitch my legs over his torso. I have forgiven,
love easily. I cannot remember my fear. my memories of the violence
are hazy. I do not want to forget about death. I do not want
to misremember my brother. I know we are born selfish.
I bathe in rosewater as a spell. I put honey on lips
crack pomegranate seeds on cheekbones. I spend my days in love
with the world. my parents made their mistakes so I make mine.
my brother is dead so now I am a twin.
I will never tell him I am in love til
he kisses me, honey-suckle in mouth. I want you to know
I know what joy feels like now.


 leena aboutaleb is an egyptian palestinian writer. She can be virtually located on Twitter at @na5leh.

Fatima Malik

2021, Poetry

EXODUS

Like a bird migrating south for the winter, happiness flew
out of the picture with his departure. Joy, lambent and alive, had flared
bright from all quadrants of his being: unwavering in its intensity; steadfast in the face
of all opposition. He was a collector of the small and sacred; admiring and reverent of the truly magnificent. Not only a believer but a devotee, working to convert
us skeptics to his way of squeezing cheer out of a stone, and diligent
in his ministrations. At a long day’s night, when he laid his head down, sleep
was kind to him, finding him good, finding him worthy. He placed his worries under
his pillow for safekeeping, knowing they would be waiting the next day, loyal
sentinels bookending his days and nights. So what
could be the use of nudging those stubborn beads back
and forth through the landscapes of one’s dreams? When he closed his eyes
for the last time, that tiny thing stirred and trembled in our chests, taking
off on golden wings for good by way of throats left silent in its wake.


Fatima Malik (she/her) is a Pakistani-American poet with work published or forthcoming in Chestnut Review, diode poetry journal, The Georgia Review, Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s The Margins, Waxwing, and others. She is working on her first full-length collection of poems, an excavation of grief after her father’s sudden death. She has a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from Dartmouth College and a joint MA in Journalism and Near Eastern Studies from New York University. While she currently lives in New York City, her heart is forever in Lahore. Find her on Twitter @FaZeMalik.

Jenna Le

2021, Poetry

Đi Với Ma, Mặc Áo Giấy

My dad says, “If you walk with ghosts,
be sure to wear a paper gown.”
This proverb, which old folks pass down
to children in Vietnam, is close
in meaning to the adage “When
in Rome, do as the Romans do”:
I gather ghosts are known to glue
together broadsheets, fountain-pen-
smudged notebook pages, dollar bills,
and napkins browned by coffee spills
to make their everyday attire.
I wonder: do they like how paper
rumples, crinkles? Or the vapor
newsprint reeks when set on fire?


PHOTOJOURNALISM

Jun Fujita,
of the Chicago Daily News,
photographed these massacred men
in their dark suits:

one
with pale necktie askew,
uplifted waistcoat
baring a white midriff;

one
with hips and knees flexed like a frog’s,
pale bowler hat placed over his heart
as if to prevent his spidery life-force from escaping;

one
lying on his stomach;

one
in fetal position,
head resting on a chair;

several more
in a tangled heap
at the edge of the frame.

Dark bloodstains
trail away from the murdered men’s heads
like fantastical antlers.

Four wooden chairs cluster nearby, one toppled.
They look quaint, innocent,
not unlike the chairs
in Van Gogh’s bedroom at Arles.

Would you believe
Fujita, when off-duty,
wrote and published
stylized poems about
dried leaves and snow?


Jenna Le is the author of Six Rivers (NYQ Books, 2011) and A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora (Indolent Books, 2017), an Elgin Awards Second Place winner, voted on by the international membership of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. She was selected by Marilyn Nelson as winner of Poetry By The Sea’s inaugural sonnet competition. Her poems appear in AGNI, Denver Quarterly, Los Angeles Review, Massachusetts Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Pleiades, Poet Lore, Verse Daily, and West Branch. She has a B.A. in math and an M.D. and lives and works as a physician in New York City

Ayesha Asad

2021, Poetry

MOON SPLITTING

I.

At night, I watch the moon.
Crescent, a thin sliver of light,
and the sky, festooned by its glaze.

At night, I pray
with a scarf of pale pink,
speckled with gemstones. Little moons.
It stills like a stream, an unbroken line.

II.

When the moon split, do you think anyone
looked up in horror, shielded
their eyes? Two halves, like dragon fruit
sliced. Black sky speckled with seeds
of white. History unfolded, torn apart
in a single night.
How do I love what I fear? My people,
filtering in through the window,
streams of light seeping into my bedsheets.

III.

On Eid,
everyone prays together. The women
in coral lipstick, the men
in yellow and turquoise turbans. Seas of
bangled color. Parties brimming
with baklava, kulfi, Gulab jamun.
Dates in sachets, doused
with chocolate and sprinkled
with almonds.

Love, trembling in the air.

IV.

I’ve lived here for centuries. Sediment piles up,
glitters against the grays and blues and greens,
then turns foul, regurgitating spume.

Sunlight swallows, nips at golden domes
and green minarets. The color isn’t important –
until it’s washed away.

Fragments of wind hearken,
ready to erode. But there’s nothing left,

and the cities grow gray.

V.

The sediment washes away.

The moon sews herself back up and weeps, looks at
the destruction below. Her face craters – lacuna of
void, of chasmic sorrow. Basaltic plain
of coal.

White marble outstrips the colored paint. Unsalted statue,
plain glaze over nothing.

The moon leans closer,
and a chime throbs the hollowed statue.
Indistinct music. A holy recitation underwater.
Labbaik allahumma labbaik.

O people, have you heard?

Have you heard the songs
that filter the air, the seawater
that churns into lungs?

Have you heard the cries
of those trampled under the weight
of human song?

VI.

We bury our dead in white. White,
like a stretched canvas, or a spilled pearl.
White, like the moon. White,
like how we judge our hearts.

When I die, who will bury me? Whose hands
will I belong to?

VII.

Here, the moon again. It glitters and stills; it whispers and ravages. Our cheeks press against its canvas, wishing to be pulled in. The river washes in, washes out. What remains of us
is wrapped in sand, coruscating from the sidelines, waiting to be sheltered, breathed in, bequeathed, bloomed.


Ayesha Asad is from Dallas, Texas. Her work has been included in the 2020 Best of the Net Anthology, and her writing appears or is forthcoming in PANK, diode poetry journal, DIAGRAM, Sundog Lit, Cosmonauts Avenue, Kissing Dynamite, DREGINALD, and elsewhere. She has been recognized by Best of the Net, Creative Writing Ink Journal, and the Robert Bone Memorial Creative Writing Prize. Currently, she studies Literature and Biology at the University of Texas at Dallas. In her free time, she likes to dream.

Jennifer Funk

2021, Poetry

FANTASY OF LOSING MY SUBURBAN COOL

Don’t look at me like you’ve just come in from the fields
and aren’t I thankful you’ve arrived. Like all the men
who open their wallets easily, you don’t know
what anything costs. I see a man sometimes
and I want to ruin his life just because
I have nothing better to do. Look at the crest
of my lips. I have sunk more than one ship
with this mouth. Perhaps you don’t merit
my attention, but you need it: a good shake
of the old snow globe. Mmhmm, how
to begin? I would rip the doors of your kitchen cabinets
clean off their hinges, smash every glass jar
of cereal and rice and unground coffee
onto your immaculate tile, tear the curtains
from the windows, and break over my knee
every picture in a frame. I would wrest open
every window and ribbon every screen
with your best butcher knife so when I make
for the sports gear—the skis and poles and rackets
and lacrosse sticks—I’d have a ready portal
for them all. I’d stake each one into the emerald
glory of your lawn and with a box of matches
I’d swiped from your very own mantel, I’m no mere
country mouse, I’ll light the tip of every one on fire.
Not for love and just for sport, I’d sit across the street
and toast my work as the sun slips down, and I bet the sky
tonight will be a riot of color in my honor.


Jennifer Funk is native Californian trying to prove her mettle in New England. A graduate of Warren Wilson’s MFA Program for Writers, she has been a scholarship recipient of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and The Frost Place. Recently awarded The Friends of Writers’ Levis Post-Graduate Stipend, she is at work on her first collection. Her poems can be found or are forthcoming at The Kenyon Review, The Cimarron Review, Four Way Review, Painted Pride Quarterly, The Boiler, and elsewhere.

travis tate

2021, Poetry

THE ACTION OF BIRDS

There is a weak sense of escape in all this. Potential
resting its hand on my thigh, where likely, I’m giggling

like a small child, my hair tightly curled, skin soft.

There is a mission, I’m talking really elemental, that
brings you here. I can’t help it. & if I could, I wouldn’t

stop the action of the birds, ripe with wings, their ancient

calls mimicking the bells the gods rang, signaling to the
each other of their first triumphs. I’m deep within

the chasm, licking my own arm— the dark only
lingers, never stays anymore. I wait for departure.

That’s all we can do, you in front of a mirror looking
back & into a future— forward to ameliorate the

perfume of your life, of my life, of the birds, hanging
silently & black, watching where we’ll end up.


travis tate is a queer, black playwright, poet and performer from Austin, Texas. Their poetry has appeared in Borderlands:Texas Poetry Review, Underblong, Mr. Ma’am, apt, and Cosmonaut Avenue among other journals. Their debut poetry collection, MAIDEN, was published on V.A. Press in June 2020. They earned an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers. You can find more about them here.

Nathan Spoon

2021, Poetry

CURRENTLY NOBODY

is looking even though this morning the
weather is unfolding a tender underbelly.

Meanwhile I love how joyfully
you snarl while poised like a unicorn

in the field of today. It makes me feel like
I can survive. But this is putting

things too directly. Meanwhile I love
the configurations space makes as the earth is

wheeling. Unsurprisingly I love formations
of undetermined substances. They feel

like a favorite old pair of socks that you
in your reasonableness would want

me to get rid of. How can I though?
Meanwhile I love how we make fists

against the cold to hold in warmth with our
faces searching for the sun beneath an

opaque sky. Remember you say as rain that
fell in the night illuminates cold dry grass

and the owl and the fox have gone to sleep
and there is no other world apart from this one.


CABINET OF WONDERS

In a dream I fell asleep and dreamed I was
in another dimension. One with flowers
the color of snow on a golden moon. With
a glance I turned successive waves into

entire mountains. I was shepherd to words
that fell like clumped stars fading and unable
to cohere. I entered and then emerged like
music from points within the atmosphere

just at the point of waking. Anything short
of dream is also short of life. If there are
open structures whispering through boughs
of evergreen I will be fueled by migrations

of coyotes. I will be hoarding snail shells
and moss while waiting for various seasons
to thread into each other. I will be fortified
by the frequency of the cry of the nightjar.


Nathan Spoon is an autistic poet with learning disabilities and the author of Doomsday Bunker and the chapbook Fail Better! Feel Great!! His poems and essays appear or are forthcoming in American Poetry ReviewCrazyhorseGulf CoastPoetryPoetry Daily, and the anthologies How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope and Sonnets from the American: An Anthology of Poems and Essays. He is editor of Queerly and an ally for timemedicine.org.

Allie Hoback

2021, Poetry

LA JARA: A DESERT PASTORAL

I herd sheep with Mercury’s mother
in the morning & shovel shit
in the evening. I want to tell her

about the time I snuck out
at seventeen, drove up Roanoke
Mountain to walk the only trail

I knew. I took baby steps, stared
at my feet until I couldn’t stand
to make myself move anymore.

She tells me how she bottle fed
three lambs through winter, how one lost
its back legs to frostbite & Mercury

put it down—slit its throat or snapped
its neck or drove half an hour
on a desert road & found a rock to bash

its skull—I don’t know how he did it.
I want to tell her Mercury is the kind
of man I think about when the A/C

is broken. I sweat & dream of dusty
highways & busted taillights,
the kind of man who brands

an Appaloosa on its side before riding it.
Someone I’d let rough me up inside,
sweat dripping from my back as I watch

the smoke roll from the burn & bow
my head like an animal sways,
grits its teeth & takes it.


Allie Hoback is an MFA candidate in poetry at Syracuse University. She earned a BA in English from Virginia Commonwealth University, where she was a literary intern and copy editor for Blackbird. She has held various editorial positions for Salt Hill Journal. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in HobartHAD (Hobart After Dark), and New Ohio Review.

Brett Hanley

2021, Poetry

FOR THE LOVE I WILL TRY TO KEEP

I’m not angry but want its nectar, its release –
I’m a goat, sedated, as my friend heaves out
the punching bag from her room and offers me
a shot of bourbon, and I think of myself pouring
out that one bottle in the motel bathroom after
with, you, my love, I’d had enough. Spirits wade
in the toilet of every long-distance relationship.
The shot stings me like a summer swallow
of chlorine. I don’t drown out the sound of rain
outside between punches, each of my fist’s bleats
weaker than the sway of carpet around my hooves.
I am not prey to the night as it gorges on its cold.
I am a dot invisibly connected to another along
an interstate peppered with abandoned cars.

I am in another room without you, and every time
I am this, I am still alone. Over the years I trained
myself in the calisthenics of loneliness, first a child
underneath the coffee table running my fingers
across wood, where I felt what it means to be
solitary chip off into something worse. I gave myself
splinters, but death didn’t visit until I was nineteen,
when I took two men back to my dorm, and one
of them began to cry. I have a wife, he told us, but I
want us here, both of you
. And each of us then became
divisible by three and more like silt, which is itself
still lively, perhaps more open to life because
by nature it goes with the flow, something I either
do too much or too little, as you know well.

I believe death is the loss of thought of the beloveds
and maybe the nearly beloveds. A man kept a picture
of my grandma in a drawer until he died. His wife
called after his funeral to tell her. I understand him
better than I do myself, which is to say I like story
more than flesh, but what rules me is that my body
can’t unlearn panic or love, its Mount Saint Helens
and Vesuvius, active when they want to be. The first
sign of a volcano eruption is a small earthquake beneath
it, and the night I met you there was an explosion
at the chemical plant outside of town that shook
the drinks on our table. I threw out the loose pictures
I kept in a box for seven moves because they stuck
together. This was right before you slept over.

My sister told me the void I can’t fill is God-shaped,
and in some ways I agree with her, but there’s not much
I can do about it, my goat horns scratching the crust
of the earth as if heaven is somewhere at its core.
The devil has horns, but I promise, oh don’t leave now,
they are not anything like mine. Five years ago, a psychic
told me my pattern: everyone I loved would decide,
in the end, they wanted someone else. That night,
I drove to a parking lot and let grief scream its way out
of me in my car. The grackles on the telephone wire flew
upward and out toward smog when they felt my noise.
There’s no place truly soundproof in this world, and I
don’t want there to be. I want you to be able to hear me,
and I want to hear you, even the you under your breath.

We meet on the coast in Mississippi again, a state
I never wanted to know, and a casino fixture tells us
she thinks we are beautiful and must be so happy
to be two girls in love out in the open, even though we
are enclosed in a room full of fake coins and real smoke.
We will leave each other soon, the only tangible proof we
exist outside of this sad adult playground in the tread
of my car’s tires. Right now, we stand before pink neon,
and it occurs to me that this slot machine will probably
go on living beyond us, beyond me. Play to win, it shrills.
I was given a penny slot life, but you are here with me,
in that king-size sweater, and I feel all of your warmth
pooling into your hand, think of the sheet of silk
that is your back, as we walk toward another glow.


Brett Hanley is a Poetry Editor for Southeast Review and a PhD candidate at Florida State. Their work is forthcoming or has recently been published in Redivider, Gulf Coast, Ninth Letter, Puerto del Sol, Poetry Northwest, and elsewhere. She has received support from The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and American Poetry Journal recently published their debut chapbook, Defeat the Rest.