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.

James Kelly Quigley

2021, Poetry

SEVERAL QUESTIONS

I’m already tired
of writing another poem
for you, but I have
several questions
and you only listen
when I get very, very quiet.

Can you tell me again
what broke the cherry branch?

Why were we sleeping close
but not next to each other? 

How often do you think
about that blistering
ashpit of the fallen
towers under a pale
exsanguinated dusk?

That lidless
miserable cyclops
hovering over
the island?

Flutters of paper
like a flock
in its synchronized
turn toward the sea,
kiting the alkaline?

I remember you saying
search and rescue
was a misnomer—

you used the word
misnomer—

and for years asleep you saw
a spark traipsing along
a curlicued fuse
laid playfully through
every room of the house.

But that’s just an observation.
Let me ask something else.

What if you’re every part of the proverb?
The glass and the house and the stone and the throw?

At what point does long ago
become so very long ago?

You taught me to look up
at the austere rock
and light and none and black
of what’s out there.

So,
what’s out there?


James Kelly Quigley’s poetry has received Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets nominations. Recent work has been published or is forthcoming in New York Quarterly, Sixth Finch, Harpur Palate, Narrative, Nashville Review, SLICE, The American Journal of Poetry, THRUSH, and other places. He received both a BA and an MFA from New York University, where he taught undergraduate creative writing and was an editor of Washington Square Review. James was born and raised in New York, where he lives and works as a freelance writer.

Flower Conroy

2021, Poetry

IN THE GRAVE WITH YOU

There’s a family-picnic
photo in which my great-great grandmother
sits with her daughter
& grand-daughter; beyond
them in the background,
my mother bends
to lift me up. Five generations
unintentionally snapped:
why hadn’t someone
thought to gather & pose us?

That which comes out at night,
slinks back under the carriage
of sun, dragging
its shadow
through shadows. A moth dress
unraveling in a
spider mansion.
Too often I forget my mother
lost her mother
before I mastered
walking. How that must haunt her,
a first daughter with an only daughter.

For 9000 years,
as this earth
mutated into glass & steel, pixel
& wire, Bäckaskog’s
gracile skeleton
crouched in a pit.
Since the only grave-goods found
were a spearhead & flint,
the discoverers christened the bones:
Fisherman, forager.
But the body spoke
for itself: paleo-atomic pelvis
corrected hunter into huntress, womb.

She was 45. Her funeral occurred
during the springtime. Birch
& hazel blooming. Metaphoric
birthing. Wake
of forest, a remembering. Nervous
& circulatory systems
tripping; then a floating
sensation. But the soft entry
of a leaf lighting on water
compelling surface into ripple
is still a violence upon the water.

In the mud, animal
prints linking
the infinitesimal.

I want to go back ask
my mother’s
mother’s
mother
what she remembers of her
mother,
was she thin & grey-eyed,
did she sing, what was her
favorite flower—trumpet
lily, morning
glory, daffodil—simple inquisition
until I plunder
through the begettings to walk
among the towering oaks
& elms
& ashes
& arrive
at the riverbank where Bäckaskog
stands enduring
grief, the water rising,
& deliver her, stone in the conifer dark,
from our long season
of secrecy.


LGBTQ+ writer and former Key West Poet Laureate, Flower Conroy’s first full-length manuscript, Snake Breaking Medusa Disorder was chosen as the winner of the Stevens Manuscript Competition; her second collection, A Sentimental Hairpin is LGLGBTQ+ writer, NEA and MacDowell Fellow, and former Key West Poet Laureate, Flower Conroy’s first full-length manuscript, Snake Breaking Medusa Disorder was chosen as the winner of the Stevens Manuscript Competition; her second collection, A Sentimental Hairpin is forthcoming from Tolsun Books.  Her poetry will or has appeared in American Poetry Review, New England Review, Prairie Schooner, Michigan Quarterly Review, and others.

Jessica Q. Stark

2021, Poetry

NEW WORLD GHOST STORY

Here lies the house
that she traded for blood,

that the siblings still
fight over—the domicile that

repels division.

Of course, it would be
filled with white

ghosts inside and white
ghosts outside, calling

about the white fence around the
way of telling you this is about

the time ông ngoại laughed
in the face of a ghost

that pressed nightly on his
chest, he was so full up

of it :: terror repeated long

enough becomes pure

comedy and what else can you
do but laugh and laugh

about the time the nuns on
bicycles shouted slurs

against the new neighbors,
taking. Or the time that

I wandered into the backyard
and finally knew a dead thing.

Or how ông ngoại, out of
nostalgia and spite,

snapped the neck
of the chicken he kept

right there on the front lawn
for our supper without

pause, luck unraveling
in his raspy hands.

On the sidewalk, a pair of

mistaken ghosts
mounted their bloodied bicycles,

mouthed oh
oh
oh

and fled


THE ONE IN WHICH THE WOLF WINS

We cut you out of it

the whole belly

giving way to red

determination

on the bed, an apology

and a DNR note left for

tidy ends that

Red refused

to believe the cost

of cunning

An inheritance

of the deep woods

or that the price

of staying whole

means hunting the little

girl with the bread, the

one who wandered into

the world as a wonder.

Sharp little red who

loved a simple, beautiful

flower more than herself,

who trusted everything,

except her own nose and

eyes. To find her deeply

set into one’s own basket:

your children, your first-

born child. The cost

to cut her out and

carry a rotting head

home to recall one’s

place among the hunger,

among the dogtooth violets.


LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
after the Brothers Grimm


Half a league from the village
Little Red entered the wolf

what a wicked creature
to have something good

pretty flowers growing everywhere
and deeper into the house

the wolf lifted the latch
without saying a word

she could carry no more
the stones were so heavy

what big ears
what large hands
the wolf’s skin

revived Little Red
to run into the wood
to guard her way

the house was a great stone

the child began to slip


Jessica Q. Stark is a poet and educator living in Jacksonville, Florida. Her first full-length poetry collection, Savage Pageant, was published by Birds, LLC in March 2020 and was named one of the “Best Poetry Books of 2020” in the Boston Globe and in Hyperallergic. She is the author of three poetry chapbooks, including INNANET (forthcoming 2021, The Offending Adam). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in PleiadesHobart PulpTupelo QuarterlyGlass Poetry Journal, among others. She serves as a Poetry Editor for AGNI and the Comics Editor for Honey Literary. She teaches writing at the University of North Florida.