2019 Poetry

Janelle Tan


at her funeral, i do not cry. i feed myself curry and a stream
of beers. i entertain. i do not feel heaviness, or not knowing

how to go on, or what to do with my hands. i do not feel
as though my chest has been seared. i am very much still whole.

is there a right way to grieve?

a hundred days later, i lie
on the floor of my parents’ house. the long limbs

of the ceiling fan helicopter above me. my mother
shows me pictures of boat quay from her childhood –

bumboats crawling over each other, mouth to tail.
a boat quay i don’t remember, flattened, sparse, vast

wasteland of trash like buoys. no skyline
yet, just river and blank horizon.

this is my grandmother’s one room –
five mattresses swallowing

each other’s tails, married
to the delivery boy.

like most spirits, she comes home
on the seventh day. we lay

out porridge and pork floss by her spot
at the dining table, where she would glare

down at her red snapper, scolding it
while she picked the spindly bones.

right after the body acquired a waxy sheen i slipped
the bangle from her wrist,

the jade still warm and breathing.
wearing the safety amulet of a woman

so thoroughly protected is a prayer
that it never breaks. the jade’s breath

was a wet ring on embalmed skin,
now her watery voice around my wrist.

on the eighth day, morning sun streaks
through the open window. a black winged

insect unlike the others flitting around
our kitchen perches on the edge

of her plate, looks around as if returning.
the ceiling fan languors its spindly limbs, greets

the insect by ruffling its wings. it leaps
onto its porridge. satisfied with its meal,

it flies out of the kitchen to meet its
identical black partner, waiting

with its arms low to receive her. together,
as if holding hands, they fly into the smog.

i think them a reenactment
of the butterfly lovers, but just bugs.

in one dream, my jade bangle
is a green horseshoe

halved and dangling limp
from my wrist.

as the coffin chugs its way
to the incinerator

my mother whispers – go look for father,
he’ll take care of you.

jade bangle was husband
longer than the delivery boy—

it kept her company from her wrist.
i saved that steadfast god and its clacking

against the dinner table
from incineration.

Janelle Tan was born in Singapore and lives in Brooklyn. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Anomaly, Entropy, Up the Staircase Quarterly, The Boiler, Winter Tangerine, and others. She is the recipient of a 2018 Academy of American Poets Prize, and is currently an MFA candidate at New York University. She serves as an Assistant Web Editor for Washington Square Review and reads for Perugia Press. The only heaven she believes in is a basket of soup dumplings.

2019 Poetry

Karah Kemmerly

once I had a body, but I buried it

tonight I resurrect myself : I have
been reduced to shade : papery :
rustling : a shadow, closemouthed :
but two hands still : reaching : once I
had a body but I let the earth swallow
it : now I cup the space where my
jaw used to be : try to mouth the
word strength : float out into the
garden and start digging : I am
prepared to make a trade : toss
safeguards into the holes I’ve made :
the shed skin from a garter snake :
spotted & translucent like my face :
then cloves : my aim is to remember : I
press an emerald into the dirt : savor
the shape of my name against the
space where my teeth would be :
imagine my voice in a velvet-lined
box : I am hungry : for so long I
have swallowed only breath & tried
to sustain myself : I offer up a
handful of sage : ask for the lining of
my stomach to be red & whole
again : my aim is to gather bones :
two knuckles for my pillowcase & an
ulna for under the stairs : things
formed inside my pastbody to fortify
& cradle a new one : I promise not to
use my bones to conjure something
deadly : tonight I will not cast myself

Karah Kemmerly lives in Corvallis, where she recently graduated from Oregon State University with an MFA in poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Spectrum Literary Journal, The Tulane Review, Santa Ana River Review, and the Plath Poetry Project.

2019 Poetry

Kevin West


You’ll only love me when I become a man you accept,
a centerpiece to place on the tablecloth. That ignores feeling
ecstasy when I’m on my knees in a bathroom stall. I’m adept

at changing habits. I can play the good partner—refashion latex
and leather outfits into an apron. I can wash a dish. But my need
for other men is like an irregular heartbeat; a constant defect.

You’ll only love me when I become a man you accept—
a phone without hookup apps, a dick-free home screen.
Who remembers affection buried behind skeletal muscle—

a tumor you pried free. And for this, I’ll let my impulses be corrected,
each silicone toy repurposed—hangers for scarves and keys.
Replace spontaneity with sex where we maintain eye contact.

You’ll only love me when I become a man. You accept
what can be contained—my body in a net of perfect teeth,
button downs, watches, wingtips. But if I give all of myself, I suspect

you’ll only love me. When I become a man you accept,
we will buy a sturdy house on a tree-lined street.
A picket fence whiter than bone. Posts sharp enough to protect
the life you’ve made, on which I’ll lay my neck.

Kevin West is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of North Texas. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Ploughshares, Pleiades, The Journal, Puerto del Sol, The Meadow, and elsewhere.

2019 Poetry

Jeremy Radin


Say you forgot your name. Say you hung
from the smog. Say your teeth escaped again.
Say you smeared yourself in fat. Say you
broke your jaw on the sun. Say you sang
with the sugar hyenas. Say you were unlaced
by a language. Say you prayed to a shivering
glacier. Say you ate even the grief of the
honey. Say you took the razor moon in your
lung. Say you went rigid inside the night’s
throat. Say you cleaved your breath with a
hammer. Say you rose like a flood in your
drunken heart. Say you remain upside-down
in your mother. Say you you let the lover
stitch you to the storm. Say they lit the pages
of your blood on fire. Say the lover’s name &
say their name. Say the name that you cannot
say. Say you are the image of your bitterness,
& I will be here again my love, waltzing you
through your wreckages, gathering up your
fallen petals, beginning the inevitable work.

Jeremy Radin is a poet, actor, and teacher. His poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) Gulf Coast, The Cortland Review, The Journal, Vinyl, Passages North, Cosmonauts Avenue, and elsewhere. He is the author of two collections of poetry, Slow Dance with Sasquatch (Write Bloody Publishing, 2012) and Dear Sal (not a cult press, 2017). He lives in Los Angeles with his six plants and refrigerator. Follow him @germyradin



Ocotillo | Fouquieria splendens No.1 by Paxton Maroney


The Series “Native” is a progression from the series titled “West of 3:00 AM”. It is a minimalist point of view through the lucid squares in the landscapes of West Texas created in “West of 3:00 AM”. A journey taken into the wilderness… standing directly in front of the lucid structure built into the planes of the landscape… peering through it. A new perspective on still life imagery through the artists eyes.

Paxton Maroney is a Dallas based conceptual artist. Her surreal photography invites the outside world to step inside snapshots of her dreams. For several years, she has woken up from vivid dreams, often in the middle of the night, and drawn the images composed on the backs of her eyelids. At times, she even engages in lucid dreaming throughout the day as she’s “trained her brain” to create new chimera for her portraiture. Then, when she has scouted out the perfect location, she begins painstakingly reconstructing the scenes of her subliminal imagination. Find more of her work here. @paxtonmaroney

2019 Poetry

Aza Pace


Wanted to linger in the flat winter
alone at the property line,

where barbed wire twists irrelevant
through the pines. Wanted to merge

into the speckled landscape
like the fine lacework of roots

turning by touch through dim earth,
to feel that energy wick up my legs.

Wanted oneness in the nameless sorority
of trees and creeping lichen. Almost—

But then, you break in with your body,
and my body

turns woman again. My skin distinct
from grey bark and rudely aware

of all the secret pink places
you’ve kissed me.

How I hate you for a heartbeat,
before I look up to see your face

stinging sweet with cold
and recognition. Your pupils open wide

to drink in the sight of me,
and here is this other beauty I wanted.


Clean as a bell, its evening note
coaxes us out of our bright kitchen
to the edge of the woods.

We balance on the old crossties
that mark the split between garden
and forest, and tip our chins back,

the better for listening.
We don’t even try to see
the speckled wing of it—

the song might as well issue from the pines—
but the bird is near enough we can tell
it’s not a whippoorwill, but a cousin,

Chuck Will’s Widow.
Praise to anything named for the song it sings.
Praise to the summer dark,

pupils dilating to drink it all in,
my black eyes growing blacker.
This close, the woods remind us

we should be a little scared.
Sundown bristles against the skin.
Still, it’s unclear—should we stay still

and hushed on the rim of it, or dash wildly out
into the forest for the night?

Praise to the nightjar crying out
Here I am, here I am,
still so hidden in the understory

as to be a voice disembodied,
secret as a pair of women
threading through the trees at night.

Aza Pace’s poems appear or are forthcoming in The Southern Review, Copper Nickel, Mudlark,The Florida Review Online, South Dakota Review, and elsewhere. She is the winner of an Inprint Donald Barthelme Prize in Poetry, and her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Houston and is a PhD student in English and Creative Writing at the University of North Texas.

2019 Poetry

Shannon Sankey


In those days, we could not afford a
couch. We sat on wooden chairs til our
asses were sore, then we moved to the
floor and made extraordinary shapes.
When we found two recliners on the
street, we rocked and spun ecstatic. We
kissed our knees, knees waxy as apples,
four apples just for us. When the futon
from a catalogue came in the mail, we
threw ourselves down. We ate fifty-cent
cupcakes off the cushions, our curls
bathed in static. We lay our black
footprints up the walls. We climbed
straight out of our clothes. We ran
rapturous from the ache, ache, ache of
no soft place.


My father and I
climbed this hill
to watch the buffalo.

Make me a giant.
Make me to kiss clean
my sweet calf.

He called back to me,
the white rain running
from his young wrists.

Let me be the gull
who circled above us.
Give me her gull errands.

In the pool of his hands,
he lifted twin tadpoles
from a green fissure.

Give me the death
of sudden legs, death
of two thousand sisters.

Here, I was once
the lucky creature
he lifted in the air.

Show me this on the last day,
how he laughed with his teeth
at my untied shoes.

Shannon Sankey’s poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming at Academy of American Poets, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Barrelhouse, Sugar House Review, Storyscape, SWWIM, Visible Poetry Project, Rogue Agent, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a 2017 Academy of American Poets Prize. She holds an MFA from Chatham University, where she was the Whitford Fellow. She is the founder of Stranded Oak Press.

2019 Poetry

Julia C. Alter


O make me a vessel, make me
more boat on ocean than hollow
container. Contain the thunder-
gray ocean. Make me more ocean
than shipwreck. Wreck me less.

Oblong green, stop my blood-
stream from emptying
the glitter out of my brain,
like so many mornings after
the rave is over. The rage is over—
sticky dizziness, an eye’s
bewitched twitching.

O make the ache
stop snaking through
my bleak thoughts and I
swear I will bow down
to every earthworm, and finally
learn the names of the flowers.


Even/after/all this time/ the sun never says to the earth/you owe me/look/what happens/with a love like that/it lights the whole sky

When I burn a photo of myself
in too-pale makeup, red nailed
graceful fingers laced
around the long neck of a bong

When the baby comes, I am purple
butterfly wings, pinned

When I burn a letter to my maiden
self and give the girl that would slink
into cars with strange men to the fire

When the linea negra recedes
and my belly is bone
white again

When I dance and don’t think
about the baby for two hours it feels
like fireworks. Not blowing
something into oblivion,
but making a darkness
sharpen and pulse

When I learn that fireworks were invented
in medieval times to ward off evil spirits

When thoughts about the baby are evil spirits

When thoughts about the baby light the whole sky—
a love like that

When I give him the first blowjob since the baby
that isn’t for him, but for me—a love like that

When I feel my mother’s colon
cancer already a phantom bee
that won’t quit buzzing in my gut

When I learn to step away from the mirror
to see myself more clearly, my own breath
no longer smudging up the glass

When I can’t get my mother to quit
buying shit for the baby. I see her mind
tricks her into thinking she has nothing
else to offer, and she buys it

When my mother becomes a mirror
I can’t step away from

When she told me you don’t have the body
for short skirts
at twelve years old, and I didn’t
put one on again until this morning

When my therapist asks, does your mother love you
unconditionally? and I say of course, but…

When my mother becomes clear glass
I look through

When my mother becomes clear glass
I shatter

Julia C. Alter lives and writes in Burlington, Vermont. Recent poems have found homes in Rogue Agent, CALYX, and SWWIM Every Day.

2019 NonFiction

Rowan Lucas


There is a stone that lies just below the hollow of my throat. Suspended above my heart by bile and blood. A bezoar I crafted out of what was given to me. Whole, I pushed it down a reddened gullet. Down to weigh down my stomach. Down into the places my body sinks. Down to anchor me to earth.

When I was twelve, my great-aunt Miranda gave me a pink coral cameo. It was her mother’s, she said. Written in yellow ivory was the face of a strange woman crowned in flowers—her edges surrounded by twisted gold filigree that no longer shone. She looked away from us, smiling down at what we couldn’t see. Great-aunt Miranda told me she wanted me to have her and pressed her into my cupped palm.

Thank you, I said.

My grandmother’s belly swelled and stretched with her daughter before she became an adult. As penance for their sin, my grandfather married her. Her daughter was wrenched from between her legs and given a name honey sweet to match her hair. Her daughter inherited everything.

My grandmother says that my grandfather is a lot of things and so they broke.

Long before I was born people would dose themselves with small slivers of poison to build immunity. Increasing their doses bit by bit, until it was that which would have been fatal otherwise. They made their bodies learn. Learn to take the small bits and attack. To break. To nullify what could stop your heart; to make it harmless.

Once, tradition held that a bezoar dropped into a cup full of poison would make the poison as safe to drink as water. The word “bezoar” comes from either the Arabic “badzehr” or the Persian “panzehr.” Both these words mean “counterpoison.” In the 11th century the knowledge was brought to Europe. It was used when there was nothing else.

My mother liked to tell me with wine stained lips and cigarette teeth that I was my father’s child. She spat it like a curse. It flowed freely through clenched teeth and fingers until I drowned.

My mother says that my father is a lot of things and so they broke.

Bezoars were so prized and cherished that some were decorated with gold or silver or gemstones and turned into jewelry and charms. Formed into special things. Trinkets meant to protect. And if the time came, desperate hands would crush bezoars to powder and add them to wine. Then gulp them down and plead for salvation.

I swallowed my mother’s venom for her as she went to different men that did not love her. I spat it back as it burned my gums. I spat at the violence they hid beneath the whites of their eyes. The secret they kept carefully clutched away from their children. But I was my father’s child.

When I was eight, my father hit a deer with his truck. I watched him as he walked to where it crumpled. I watched as it gasped through a broken neck. I watched as its body jerked, its legs swimming against the red ground. A struggle for something solid. I looked away when my father grabbed his gun.

Poor thing, I heard him say.

Bezoars were taken from either the intestines or stomachs of goats, oxen, and deer. They are made of what the animal could not digest—rocks or too hard plant matter. Over time, calcium and other minerals collect around the object, making it grow while muscles smooth it out. If it grew too large, the animal would die.

All my great-grandmother’s children live on the same road, with the cemetery at the corner, across from the church. The family’s roots have been there so long that both road and church carry its name. My mother was the only one who left, heavy with the weight of her womb.

My mother told us as children that if not for us, she would still be with the family. She said this with her poisoned breath and we tried to swallow it around what air she didn’t take from us. I swallowed what my brothers could not. I breathed it all in and felt it take shape.

My mother had a box full of her grandmother’s jewelry. None of the rings fit her fingers, but she would open the box sometimes and look at them. She sometimes let me look too, but never touch. They were too precious for me.

Bezoars can also grow in the stomachs and intestines of humans. They too are made of what humans cannot digest. And like animals, if a human’s bezoar grows too large, they will die.

The family whispers to itself while pretending not to see past their road and their church. They whispered as my mother continued to poison herself. They whispered as her poison seeped into her children. They whispered as I swallowed it bit by bit, to spare my brothers. Trying to make my body learn. I was my father’s child.

My father is a lot of things. He married another woman and had new daughters with her. I imagine they live a happy life. A life I do not know.

Your mother is a lot of things, he said before he left.

My mother once gave me a small heart-shaped box of tarnished silver. The heart’s top layer had worn away—beaten and chipped by time and the jostling of being unused. But inside lay bright pink velvet. It was new there. It was raw. She pressed it to me when I was six and said, Be careful.

My brothers’ father bit syrup lies to my mother. Sweet to match her hair. Sweet to soothe the sting of him finding another woman. The family reminded my mother that she left them.  

I swallowed what remained of the bottles on the floor. The secret my mother gave me. I felt her hands close around my throat as I stared at where she swam—her glass spilling red onto her hand while she slept.

My brothers’ father is a lot of things. I watched them as they broke.

In the 16th century, a French physician poisoned a prisoner and gave him a bezoar as an antidote. It did not work, and the prisoner choked as his heart stopped. The bezoar crumbled away out of favor and into nothing.

My brothers’ father took my mother’s box of jewelry and never gave it back. I see it lying in a ditch collecting leaves and dust. I see it next to the tarnished heart my mother gave me—a tarnished heart that hides a cameo framed in raw velvet. Never touched.

There is a stone I keep just below the hollow of my throat. At times, I feel the waters of my body push it up. I feel it as it scrapes against the backs of my teeth until I bleed. The acid of what I cannot swallow comes back up and mixes with my blood. The bezoar absorbs it all. I curl my palms around it and press it back in. Back in to weigh me down to earth. The flood of what I was made to carry seeping through my fingers.

Rowan Lucas lives on the top of a hill in Richmond, Virginia. She likes to collect tea and plants, and when she’s not writing she hikes around the James River. She holds a M.A. from Virginia Commonwealth University in English Literature and Composition. Her fiction and creative nonfiction work have been published in Amendment and Ghost Parachute.

2019 Poetry

Jennifer Funk


You unshuckable masterpiece of conviction and collapse, I shiver
in the light of your particular eclipse. You have a way
of pickling my tongue and rubbing out all my best
learned lessons: now, is when I walk away, now, is when
I knit my lips together and keep myself clothed, oh,
but the plummy succor of your mouth
and the fractured shadow of your breath
raking hesitation from my limbs: here is how
I ruin in a field and flatten the cornstalks. Madman, you call
the full force of my attention into your palms that follow
the swoon of my jaw. I am a foolish animal. I should burn
for this. I do: for mischief and skin and the sight
of the night’s bruised submission to morning. How much
of what I lie down with do I take with me when I rise?

Jennifer Funk is a native Californian, but believes she has enough salt to be a proper New Englander (one day).  A graduate of Bennington College and the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers, she is currently enrolled in the counseling psychology program at Lesley University (she loves self-transformation…and debt). She has received scholarships from The Frost Place and The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and has been a Pushcart Prize nominee.  You can find her work at SWWIM, Four Way Review and elsewhere on the interwebs.