Michael Chang

2021, Poetry

STUDENT-ATHLETE’S COLLEGE RECRUITMENT GUIDE

lance: buyer of track pants & athletic socks

perfect loved boy give me a future

i like ur boy traits: ur too-thick ache’s elations

we can look at some terrifying art inside my mouth

young boy enters a dancehall feet loose

he fixes cocktails blindfolded

runs down the wooden escalator clack clack clack

david archuleta lookalike stares the whole night

why do i read the right-hand-side first

is it my chinese dna

if i am responsible

it is for everything

hardy explorers on borrowed time

ur dukedom with fairy lights

the mother of all orgasms

still unsure how we were led astray

is it possible i prefer ur breath over mine

nuance is poisonous

let’s talk generalities

res ipsa loquitur: the thing speaks for itself

[comments turned off]


冷战 COLD WAR

I dream that Rumsfeld says “that’s all” to me & return to my desk, sulking

I wake up to find a female ghost on my chest, adamant abt popping a squat.  I call out for my personal Jesus

I wake up next to a cheesesteak.  They leave

Self-care is exhausting.  I need to be taken care of

Most days I put on a good face, a werewolf

Moment of weakness: slip under a friend’s tongue, liking it

Surprisingly pamplemousse, suddenly Domingo

The last time I see Mathias is in Tribeca.  He fights w/ his girlfriend over me

One day I will learn to stare w/o longing

A lot can happen in a month

Disavow me daddy

This poet has no intention

I’m living out the logical conclusion of Meet the Fockers

Your mouth reminds me of goodbye


FREAKS TO THE FRONT

i can’t remember how to write a good poem

heidegger says writing a poem is making a voyage of discovery

i don’t know what a packrat is but i’d like to be one

look at this hymn to possibility

ur paper-tiger confidence

our fluctuations

their ongoingness

regrets, we have too many

insistent as the low rumble of a maserati

were u at dewey’s coffee, admiring vanilla boys while waiting for ur vanilla drinks

sorry i was busy putting trash in my body

when i’m gone

will u be okay

or o.k.

or ok


MICHAEL CHANG is the author of several collections of poetry, including DRAKKAR NOIR (winner of the Bateau Press BOOM Chapbook Contest), CHINATOWN ROMEO (Ursus Americanus Press, 2021), as well as BOYFRIEND PERSPECTIVE (Really Serious Literature, 2021). Tapped to edit Lambda Literary’s Emerge anthology, their poems have been nominated for Best New Poets, Best of the Net, & the Pushcart Prize. In 2021, they were awarded the Poetry Project’s prestigious Brannan Prize.

William Fargason

2021, Poetry

WHEN THE COP TELL US

to call our parents we do: we had been caught
drinking Smirnoff Green Apple behind

the Hoover Met. Then the cop tells us
he would’ve taken us in, my friend and I,

if we looked more scummy. At seventeen,
I believed this to be luck, as one might

believe the rain stopping right when you walk
to your car, or a string of green lights, I believed

that where we parked my friend’s truck
in the dark of that parking lot was a safe place

to drink on a Wednesday night, our two outlines
slumped against the truck bed throwing

the empty bottles into the edge of the woods.
Now, I see there is no luck in these situations:

we were white, and so was the cop
with his shining bald white head. If we’d been

Black we wouldn’t have been given the chance
to call our parents, we wouldn’t have been given

anything at all. And so we walked free. For almost
a decade later I believed in luck, in what

I thought we got ourselves out of, not realizing
our skin had opened an escape hatch

and would again and again and again.


ELEGY FOR ANOTHER LATE-NIGHT PHONE CALL

Another drop in the bucket, how he
asked how the weather was

up here, said words.
I stopped therapy, I told him.

We never saw the same sun
the same. Schooldays we wouldn’t

talk more than a glance
when he entered the room,

eyes like a lighthouse beacon.
I was the rocks, or he was, one of us

crashing into the other. Now older,
I have to check each stove knob

three times before I can leave
my house. Father, your hands

were storms. Have I only
imagined you were ever there?

I’m trying to understand.
Father, I forgive you

or I don’t. If I say I’m coming home,
please leave the porch light on.


William Fargason is the author of Love Song to the Demon-Possessed Pigs of Gadara (University of Iowa Press, April 2020), and the winner of the Iowa Poetry Award. His poetry has appeared in The Threepenny ReviewNew England ReviewBarrow StreetPrairie SchoonerRattleThe Cincinnati ReviewNarrative, and elsewhere. He earned an MFA in poetry from the University of Maryland and a PhD in poetry from Florida State University. He lives with himself in Sparks Glencoe, Maryland, where he serves as the poetry editor at Split Lip Magazine.

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 feel 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.