Sara Peck

2018, Blog, Poetry

dear anne with the broken fingernails

in turn it regrows—impulse to gather
every escaped branch I can hold in the pit
of my shirtde
                       whittle each to a point

there are so many more roots
than we planned for
think we never would have known
had we not teased them out
made visible the underearth
and now that we know
it’s no wonder they don’t believe you

dear anne with the broken fingernails

we watch the rain misdefine health
and no matter how we look at it you’ve had to unlearn
how everything falls sideways
                                                      words, hair, slant
of water against glass

your shrinking pulls the air out of the room
like a well and you divide it into parts

                                                      minus arm
                                                      minus thigh

but our body’s house has many rooms
and walls made out of light
only feel beautiful until they decay

I can’t prepare a place for you
                           can’t tell you to stop playing
in the wound of the barren rooms

my teeth are light-full still
my hands clawed to the chimney
to keep the birds out

Sara Peck is the author of a chapbook, Yr Lad Bob (Persistent Editions) and a collection with poet Jared Joseph, Here You Are (Horse Less Press). She runs a bookshop and teaches school in Charleston, South Carolina.

Brandon Melendez


(click to read)


if you trace my abuelos back / to the fire / they stepped out from / you will find a room / with beheaded gods / floating in jars / of vinegar / a horse / with two broken legs / guarding an adobe church / If you go back further / you will find a knife / tucked inside a blank map / a single bronze coin / levitating on the horizon

is it so hard to imagine my abuelos / deserve to come from more / than a trail of open graves / even if they don’t have the paper / to prove it / even if they can’t stand / ankle deep in the Rio Grande / without being washed away /

in a dream / I discover the severed head of a jaguar / sitting in a dry riverbed / I ask my abuelo what it means / he says / follow the blood / back to its body / trace the red dirt with your finger / you’ll find what you’re looking for / you’ll find someone else / got there first


I am my father’s son / sure / but I am not my father / ’s struggle so
why do I keep pulling / his ancestors out / of my throat / like their
names belong / to me / let’s say this bloodline is a border / I walk on /
but never across / & home is whatever soil / my father’s hands / are
buried in / let’s say I have a lineage / of ancestors who melted /
collarbone & vertebrae / into a staircase / who told me to climb &
never look back

Brandon Melendez is a Mexican-American poet from California. He is the author of Gold That Frames the Mirror (Write Bloody 2019). He is a National Poetry Slam finalist, two-time Berkeley Grand Slam Champion and Best Poem winner at the national college poetry competition (CUPSI). A recipient of the the 2018 Djanikian Scholarship from the Adroit Journal, his poems are in or forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Ninth Letter, Muzzle Magazine, the minnesota review, Sixth Finch, and elsewhere. He currently lives in Boston and is an MFA candidate at Emerson College.

Dana Alsamsam

2018, Poetry


I listen to the thump
           of lovers above me

shaking the wall
           like something terrible,

the sounds they make
           filling their ears & mine.

I watch you sleep,
           the tree rings of breath

rippling outwards or in,
           our bed an old willow

matured then cut down
           a hole at the center—

Quickly, I climb in.
           I don’t mind the tangle

of sheets around us
           or how your hands

tuck between your knees
           like a bookmark.

Our silence & fullness
           leaf as I fall

into sleep with you,
           the rhythm upstairs

becoming white noise,
           the hum of working bees

slowing & speeding up
           & growing concentric.

Is that Sappho you’re reading?

A slow erosion of thought     how do you go forward
while standing still     Or biking in circles on a small blue bike
Utter     utterly     How do you say desire without repeating
everything that’s been said     i.e.     nothing at all     It seems
you’re alluding to a categorical problem     Those little boxes
those tiny rooms that pull ponytails and sprinkle hair
into a field of crushed lipsticks     You had me at sci-fi
garbage-fire heart     cyborg melody limbs     you had me
at neuro-atypical     at bending youth and idealism     Do you see
my thousand collars     My grin at your paperback Sappho
I want you to let me speak the truth     brightness falls out of you
like a jewelry box jangling to the floor     an opal pendant
two baby teeth     the book I leant with intimate marginalia
ochre freckled clavicle dew drop     I want to live there in your
dark space     in your too-loud train voice     a stillness so new
we burst into glittering

Dana Alsamsam is the author of a chapbook, (in)habit (tenderness lit, 2018), and her poems are published or forthcoming in Gigantic Sequins, North American Review, Tinderbox Poetry, Bone Bouquet, The Massachusetts Review, Salamander, BOOTH and others. She is a Lambda Literary Fellow in the 2018 Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices. A Chicago native, Dana is currently an MFA candidate and a teacher at Emerson College.

Brenna M. Casey

2018, Blog, Poetry

thickly settled: a poem  begun in august

golden rod and the sun singed cones of
the last of late summer’s honeysuckle simmer in the fields;
and my inbox, says nate, is like a game of fucking minesweeper.

my chest grows heavy and reads like a road sign for a small, slow sped
new england village: THICKLY SETTLED.
and i regret not grabbing shoes out from under the desk,
as i head for the pebbly pumice of hickory ridge road,
we muddy our own waters.

i read, then i realize:
“they were full- blown, abandoned to this.”

in lieu of admitting i was sad, i described to you a somber scene:
told you i had walked to the old church yard on west main street
and sat underneath the double headstone i like so well.
“READER,” it reads you from the new-found american folk art etch of a slate slab,
“if you knew them,”—two boys drown in the west river,
the one trying to save the other,–“you will weep with their friends.”

in these days i think constantly of getting a tattoo of that line from that novel
great house by nicole krauss who is married to what’s-his-three-names.
it would read in lanky hipster script:
“it would be wrong to say that the conditions of such a life had been a hardship.”

and the scene is mostly somber, which is to say sad, because:
as the stream of autumn air bleeds in the nighttime
between the ineffectual grate of heavy-lidded venetian blinds,
somebody should fish us out from
the river’s tow.

long distance valedictions

we say goodnight symmetrically.
as in:

goodnight, your name.
goodnight, my name.

if i use your surname,
you use mine.

if you deploy my title,
i yours.

if i am yelling,
you match my capital letters.

and when you whisper, mhmm,
swaddled in bedclothes and sleepy,

such a long way away, i script my
mumbled volley in lowercase too.

it’s paltry and precious
and all that we can give.

Brenna M. Casey is a Lecturer at Duke University where she teaches courses in Creative Writing, Literature, and Gender Studies. She received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Notre Dame and a Ph.D. in English from Duke University. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Bitch Magazine, and Post Road, among others.

Erin Slaughter

2018, Poetry

It’s strange, the things / that make you want to live

The night you didn’t kiss me I felt inexplicable
urgency to finally / make that eye doctor appointment
              There’s something here / about blindness
as metaphor / Sometimes what people love
more than being in love is feeling
              like part of a story / I want to write something
so beautiful it will make me believe / in pizza again
I want to write something with false
& monstrous wings / that has never known you / I wrote
              you a letter & quit my job
              to rewrite it / I wrote you a letter
              & then forty years later forgot
who you were / Your eyes are so blue in a way
              that doesn’t even matter / You looked
right through me like you were harvesting / ice or uncovering
a well / Well, it’s easy to be selfish
              when you’re not standing / here like so many flutterings
of atmosphere / By selfish, I mean wanting / when there are so many
              other ways to be / What great weariness
              all of this is / I could not be empty if I tried

Erin Slaughter is editor and co-founder of literary journal The Hunger, and the author of two poetry chapbooks: GIRLFIRE (dancing girl press, 2018) and Elegy for the Body (Slash Pine Press, 2017). You can find her writing in Prairie Schooner, Passages North, F(r)iction, Cosmonauts Avenue, and elsewhere. Originally from north Texas, she is pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing at Florida State University. Her first full-length poetry collection is forthcoming from New Rivers Press in 2019.

Lindsay Remee Ahl

2018, Poetry


            Rain the color of saffron,
                        a curtain of amber.

                                    Rain flooding music inside full of flood,
            we’re all returning

                        the way water returns, (on our way
                                    to the river)—

            Pigeons slap their feet in puddles,
                                    evanescent as a word spoken

                                               in the sunrise, a flood that flattens into trespass
the rest, the way your mouth—

            We’re all dancing an empty white wine dance floor—thrown
                                                over a bridge

                        tumbling under cold stream water
                                                the shingles and more off the roof.

                        we drag our fingers down

            the abyss is right there:
                        a cold moving river from the boat.



It was like the night I was six, stunned, I braced myself
against the bed frame of my grandmother’s guest bed—
at the base of the bed a presence, something watching me.
I was immobilized for hours, knowing it would take me
to Hades if I moved. So I didn’t move, didn’t breathe.
Like that night we were in the bar, Coleman Hawkings’
“Don’t Take Your Love From Me” playing, the amber
and green and yellow and clear liquor bottles before us,
your voice sounding as though you were just resurrected
from ancient Egypt’s Field of Malachite, pure paradise and
you must have been, handing me the green stone, still cool
instead of warm from your hand. “To understand the language
of animals,” you said. But I wasn’t humble. “I already understand
the language of animals,” I replied. My mistake, my glance
up to the corner of the ceiling to take a moment, and by
the time I glanced back, you were gone, and in your place—
a vacuum, a hole, a waiting, a breathy anticipation, as evil
and strange as the presence from the base of the bed so many
years before. But I held your gift, heavy, still cool in my palm,
an invitation to leave this place, a thread to another world.
And why does anyone take their love away? And how could
you be waiting for me when you no longer exist?

Lindsay Remee Ahl has work published in The Georgia Review, Hotel Amerika, Barrow Street, BOMB Magazine, The Offing, and many others. She was a Fletcher Fellow at Bread Loaf for her novel, Desire, (Coffee House Press). She holds an MFA from Warren Wilson in Poetry.

Jennifer Jackson Berry

2018, Poetry


I remember walking high school halls
when I was a freshman
& upper-class boys would push
each other into me.
More than twenty years & I’m still trying
to figure out the theory of the push.
Embarrass him? Embarrass me?

It happened when I was alone.

Those boys didn’t think about me.
About how I had to steel myself
for an impact, about how I could have been
knocked over.

It happened when I was with someone.
I had to pretend to be ok.

I’d usually take a shoulder to my own, tall for my age.

Was the pusher hoping I would like it?
Then want his friend in every way I could want someone?

Then he’d be embarrassed by the love of a fat girl.

Another co-worker responds: Hit the cat anyway.

HOLY TITS, 08/12/1997

                                Lilith Fair, Star Lake Amphitheater, Burgettstown, PA

Blessed & divine accumulations of fat
bouncing in the rain-soaked run

from lawn to parking lot.
We weren’t waiting for lightning

to shut down the outdoor concert
even if Jewel hadn’t played

the main stage yet. I was 19,
my sister only 16. Jewel was the reason

those men were there. It wouldn’t have been
for the Indigo Girls or Lisa Loeb.

Holy tits! they yelled.
I wish I had found a safe place for us

in the gap of two front teeth,
in between two guitars slung low,

in the curve of thick black spectacles.
I was angry at the feminist organizers too,

shooting off an email when I got home—
where are the f-ing plus-size t-shirts?

I don’t know how to respond to catcalls—
maybe because they didn’t

& still don’t happen that often to me.
In 2010 Sarah McLaughlin staged a revival

& Lisa Loeb Eyewear Collection launched.
Each frame was named for one of her song titles.

Several dates were cancelled,
performers backed out.

How do you make five lbs. of fat holy?
Add a nipple.


I dreamed a fire. Flames from an open
oven stuck to my shirt. Foot stamping,
foot stamping as family swarmed around me.
I dreamed a fire that somehow leapt
from a burnt shirt on the floor into the wall
& bubbled paint. I pointed at the bubble
& said call 911. My husband aimed a glass
of water at the bubble & said that’ll do it.
I dreamed an orange fire-finger pointing
at me. Another glass of water. No one believed
we needed a fire department. These people believe
me in real life. They didn’t believe me
until the wall turned into a nightmare.
Then my mother thought it was so important
that we gather pictures, documents, policies
before we escaped. In fact, no one was going
outside until I found the title to a truck
I don’t own anymore. I ran topless to the fire box,
didn’t grab & run with it under my arm, no,
flipped through folders looking for specific papers.
I dreamed a fire in a house where I still live.
I didn’t wake up until finally we were outside.
I saw a phone at someone’s ear, but heard no sirens yet.
I woke up. I woke up with a hot danger
in my belly. I went to the bathroom.
Same sequence a couple hours later
(heat then shit) when I saw messages scroll
across my screen from a man whose toxic
friendship I just tried to end.
Question: Why am I dreaming fire?
a) There is no explanation for what we dream.
b) There has been a flickering light I was made to believe
was only visible to me. c) Both & neither of the above.
I dreamed a fire. I woke up before I knew
the full scope of the damage.

Jennifer Jackson Berry is the author of The Feeder (YesYes Books, 2016). Her chapbook Bloodfish will be published by Seven Kitchens Press in 2019. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in BOAAT, Grist, Poet Lore, Connotation Press, and Glass: A Journal of Poetry, among others. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her website is

Nora Hickey

2018, Poetry


The sun is AstroGlide all

over your limbs

a syrup so terrible

sweet the world glistens

like an eye

just tongued and moles

that source from some secret

are trying to tell you

something old. Pleasure equals

rot. Fruit at the height of ripe

will soon turn sour. It’s how

we will die—

a bush of greed. Wanting

to be orange and aromatic

forever. How does one see a poppy’s

static burn and fantasize a minor

death? You imagine being

in the womb

is like saying the letter

over and over. A hum. A sort of self

suffocation. An opiate? You think

it appropriate to twin a birth

with a death: the

end, the white bright

exhaustion of cells. And all

of it orgasmic. All of life just

wanting a little lube, to lay with—


The grass is tight and shiny like a scar
after scab—what the skin remembers
is actually not a whole lot. The Earth,
who can say—mine or yours, a

god is still an alien thing. An owl
flying from dusk registers
higher on the spiritual Richter
scale. If my relationship to

cells is like a stained glass
saint at night, let me moisturize
myself to oblivion. Fall into sleep
slow, an egg dipped

in glass. The run down heater
sounds more like a blizzard
than the thing itself. Funny how
robots are in every corner

of the Earth. I wish they were
more jubilant and wet. I wish
a flood of robots from a dark
factory—metal hand

on clefted chin, an angular
cupping of flesh. How did this start
with grass? The oldest
automation, faithful and green.

Originally from Milwaukee, WI, Nora Hickey now lives in Albuquerque, NM where she teaches at the University of New Mexico. Her poetry and nonfiction has appeared in Guernica, Narrative, the Massachusetts Review, DIAGRAM, and other journals. You can hear her discuss the weird and wild history of Albuquerque on the podcast City on the Edge.

Maya Phillips

2018, Poetry


My father will begin again. He has bought
a juicer and a book on integrative health.

Here, with the doctor as witness,
my father swears to his body,
on his body, the all of his life.
This is his new start.

The doctor remains silent—
after all, what can one say to the dead?

      A shot of insulin                     ?
     Two pills before bed                ?

     I’m sorry
as though he forgot
to write the prescription, as though
the insurance was declined:
     I’m sorry—

He presses the stethoscope to the stale echo of him.

What can one say?

Maya Phillips was born and raised in New York. Maya received her BFA in writing, literature, and publishing with a concentration in poetry from Emerson College and her MFA in poetry from Warren Wilson’s MFA Program for Writers. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in BOAAT, Ghost Proposal, FreezeRay, and Anomaly (formerly Drunken Boat), and her arts & entertainment journalism has appeared in The New York Times, Vulture, American Theatre, and more. She currently works as the associate content editor & producer at the Academy of American Poets and as a freelance writer. She lives in Brooklyn.

Todd Dillard

2018, Poetry


When did you first learn your mother was an addict?

              It was like hearing a bell ring
              every silence replaced with glass / shattering

              the sound spreading like news or fire
              through my childhood / my then / my now / my old age

              so when my mother held me as a baby
              her arms hummed with an addict’s shiver

              when she touched my hair to tuck me in
              she exhaled moths / when she laughed
              she laughed as if

              already drowned / I am getting lost

              I knew / and then it was like I always knew
              I cannot source the knowing

What about your friends?

              a friend knows when they should
              not know / when to step over

              a nightgowned body
              stiff as a specimen in the foyer

              how to help
              when you’re feeling mischievous
              draw those chalk lines around her

              how to say when do you think she will wake up
              or die in a way that says I love you

              and am willing
              to approach your edges

Describe a typical day.

              I would ghost home from school
              and find her flesh-
              puddled / boneless on the toilet

              when I cupped my ear
              to catch her breaths / she fell

              she hit the ground / she burst
              into a thousand down feathers

              so many I couldn’t breathe
              I couldn’t breathe / without breathing her

              dinner that night would be fault
              all of it mine / I ate every bite

Why do you drink so much?

              If love exists
              at the bottom of a well

              it exists
              in the bottom of a throat / I mean

              if love exists in drowning
              it is born in gasps / I mean / have I told you

              my favorite bedtime story / it’s the one
              where headlights cut into a scream

              it ends when a window shatters / invents
              new constellations / on the gravel / sky

Is there anything else you would like to say?

              what I said in the beginning
              about the bell

              what I mean is
              we all have glass tongues

              and learning to speak / hard truths
              invents a shattered language

              what do you think it is I am
              holding / up to the light

Todd Dillard’s work has appeared in numerous publications, including Best New Poets, Electric Literature, Nimrod, Split Lip Magazine, and Barrelhouse. He was a finalist for the Best Small Fictions 2018 anthology, and has recently been nominated for Best of the Net. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and daughter.