Inside the Spouse of the Ocean, the World Carrier, the Great Seal
They say we egg on lies. They say we’re too easy to hook,
reel from the waters, net, then string. They say we can’t
block or bolster, that we roll under pressure, unable to
mouth air. Muscles writhe, then bruise. We’re taunted,
bellied, bullied, boxed. They say we scavenge, head like a
crawdad, plastic-filled. They say, too boney, blue-veined,
or pale. But even the gasoline rainbows. Even the dock
holds high the tools of catch—string, net, reel. Even the
marina attempts. They say this or that, but saying is easy.
We say we’re the ancient wisdom revealed along the river.
What’s revealed along rivers, but broad-backs, twisted-
necks, limbs like kickstands. Hello world, we’ve had
enough. We’re warriors, teachers, and guides. We remake
our body into whatever’s required—half-fish, turtle, lord.
We don’t sleep, we mediate. We don’t favor, we bind. We
aren’t mean, we’re half-poisoned by what’s dumped, left to
fester. Still, we stretch to listen to stories. We all have pain,
loneliness. Under the trees’ shadows, we’re afraid of
nothing—creature, amphibian, desert willow, beasts in the
air. Our aim is to be great, to become half something else.
We carry the weight of elephants to support the world.
Under the weight of elephants who support the world, no
one can do this. It’s a lotus folded. It’s a head-to-knee
untouched. It’s a mudra to awaken the snake in the spine. It
cures, seals, shuts, and closes. It makes oceanic surf
tumble, then waterways that wash asunder. In this studio
beside the levy, when will great rivers rise again? Will we
extend our spine when it happens, open as a flower, hold
our hands to tap into what’s still sexual inside? How to
know? Now all tumble, hips open, foreheads rest. Everyone
reaches towards the beast who thrashes.
Never a Drop of Water for Water-monsters, Those Twisted & Ugly Shapes
We can’t rest or shut eyes. We can’t extend or slide. We
tried to place a forehead in the crook of their arm—hand or
cheek as if to watch a little TV. But they were all arms and
elbows, stacked against us, cold shoulders, yellow bellies,
lies. We rolled, but they twisted us back. We stared at the
ceiling, then the side-wall. We tried to breathe, to prove we
were more than half-mammal, less than half-fish. Is truth
an undertow pushed up from the bottom of terror? Travel,
zoo, or farm, the beast lives where everything we knew
Everything we knew vanished. We sing theme songs. We
love a curly, blond puppet. If elsewhere kisses turn us into
princes, we remain all joints, forever green, side-gazing.
Sometimes we sit like a rock, a gracilis, another word for
slender. Sometimes they slide us open with a towel. They
ride us in a circle. We support their weight—limbs turned
outward, tail way back. Later, when we explain, some yell,
Froggie! Warts! as if we’re catching. Inside, we carry it
like a jar, a backpack of sand, a ledge in a forest. We travel
to places not on their map.
Not on their ancient map, we’re half-sons, folk-goddesses,
companion-kings. We’re what coils along necks, conquers
weather, lies beside the swords that cause thunder. We
mean couch, eternal, infinity, without end. Some call us a
stretch of a thousand heads that lounge on what’s
primordial. Our body swallows whole. We balance limbs,
turn the blood, fix sleep. We’re see also, references, further
reading, external links. Why call us animal on the ocean
floor? Who talks? Who listens? It all makes the head ache,
the sinus fill with pressure. We are what’s thrashing on the
ocean floor. Remember we have no arms.
Laura Madeline Wiseman is the editor of two anthologies, Bared and Women Write Resistance, selected for the Nebraska 150 Sesquicentennial Book List. She is the recipient of the 2015 Honor Book Nebraska Book Award, a Wurlitzer Foundation Fellowship, and an Academy of American Poets Award. Her book Drink won the 2016 Independent Publisher Bronze Book Award for poetry. Her latest book is Through a Certain Forest (BlazeVOX [books] 2017). Her book Velocipede (Stephen F. Austin State University Press), is a 2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award Finalist for Sports.
Samuel J. Fox
6 am rain / fractures into a black mass
on pavement / thousands of microcosms /
miniscule magnifying lenses shattering
in every tear / there is the off-chance
a universe is unbecoming / destroyed
this world has never been / for us /
not at least now that we’ve ruined it /
we rinse our hands clean / runoff
bloody / black / with murder / coal dust
i wake this morning / brew alchemy
into a coffee mug / eat / realize
this world is collapsing around / our silence /
we ignore it / like the lightest rain /
even Pontius Pilate believed / the bruised savior /
innocent / Pilate also left the world /
to clean up the sty / it made of itself /
[how well we have since polished our shit]
6 pm news / all i can do
is stare / at comfortable lightning as though
headlines / are ambulance lights / distant / encroaching /
the rain doesn’t fall / so much
as it races / to resuscitate the world’s green heartbeat /
trying to hammer / what’s left of this world into place
tonight / i romance / a cigarette cherry smoldering /
the off-chance of a universe / mid-holocaust / in my ashtray /
for a world that can’t exist / i dream
Christ strolls by / in the dark / opening his white umbrella
Samuel J Fox is a bisexual poet and essayist living in North Carolina. He is published in places such as Maudlin House, F.A.L.D., and Five 2 One; he is forthcoming in Cold Creek Review, Ellipsis, and Grimoire Magazine. You can find him on Twitter (@samueljfox) or at www.samueljfox.com.
It came in a hurry. And when it came,
It was called landfall. We watched it
Sink in a cascade of screams. A bridge
Now a gull soaring in the white sky.
We thought it might bring devastation,
But it brought the opposite, a composite
Of seasons. So that, winter and spring
Became one in the same. Summer. Fall.
Together they unfolded a grayer time,
Gray as morality. To understand, you
had to stand on a corner in Long Beach,
4th and Pine, listening for a hurricanes’
Passing, the dipping of the Godhead,
As a lone thin, black man on a bicycle,
Whistling, made a long, widening turn
To wait out the crossing light, the storm
That no one saw, and no one saw coming.
The wound is real. Imaginings turn
and we’re off. Seeds and sidewinders. The wind,
its lack of articles. I walk into the refrigerator
and it feels like another planet. Cold and hot.
I chug a double-expresso, and I’m back. Scissors
can never be borrowed. I’m much less angry.
Even with the gas station attendant
who gave me back the wrong change
for lotto tickets. I drove back and calmly
asked for another computer pick, which she gave me.
What would happen if I won the seven million?
Would the gas station demand the money? Someone
who works for the lotto knows the answer to that question.
Cool and overcast tonight. A dog barks.
All those heads turning to look at my daughter, who’s five
as she hops and runs back to the car.
I’m not comfortable with that—but the people
make nice faces from their own cars
and I don’t mind nice faces.
Alejandro Escudé’s first book of poems, My Earthbound Eye, was published in September 2013. He holds a master’s degree in creative writing from UC Davis and teaches English. Originally from Argentina, Alejandro lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.
No one flinched
when the man screamed fire
at Penn Station,
because in New York you
do not cry wolf.
You are wolf.
Grit your wild teeth, your fur coat
and black eyes. You are wolfpacked
together in the subway,
bound by a cosmic pull
that keeps you standing upright,
even when your knees buckle.
Even when your eyes close
and nothing weighs
you down anymore.
Nothing weighs you down
on the way home from work,
as you stand suffocated by a dim
fluorescent white fallibility.
It rests on your shoulder
digging into your collarbone
like a bad briefcase
that makes you ask how and why –
are you the man reading
next to you,
the mariachi band playing,
the word ‘fire,’ howling
your own feral heartbeat
It’s hard to hear the separation,
the splintering of sound and speech.
There is a train that takes
you home, and there is
(maybe) a fire.
There is a mind and there is a body,
and a wolf, and in between
there is nothing.
Born on Long Island in 1998, Lilly Milman is now a junior Writing, Literature, and
Publishing student at Emerson College in Boston. She received a Scholastic Art and Writing Gold Key award for a high school creative writing portfolio. She is an associate editor of The Deli Magazine and a contributing writer to Cliché Magazine. This is her first publication.
Carly Joy Miller
Inside my growl my old familiar lo
hips lo worship at the altar of frisson
my lopped tongue forfeits
its debts its odes lo
water lo tether frayed
my wool splotched
meadow unfurled what
temporal joy I cling
to when lo is look
lo my gifted wrists
lo plums splayed in two
palms lo honey lo milk-sung
Ruhamah I am a daughter
spared little body
little land left with no
mark lo lo my head
tilts toward my language
where lo is no
Carly Joy Miller is the author of Ceremonial (Orison Books, 2018), selected by Carl Phillips as the winner of the 2017 Orison Poetry Prize, and the chapbook Like a Beast (Anhinga Press, 2017), winner of the 2016 Rick Campbell Chapbook Prize. Her work has appeared in The Adroit Journal, Blackbird, Boston Review, Gulf Coast, West Branch and elsewhere. She is a contributing editor for Poetry International and a founding editor of Locked Horn Press.
Nothing good ever happens to me on the 6 train / and today is no different / coming back from the doctor / I happen to catch the same train / the same car / and sit directly across / from you / girl who ghosted me on Bumble / And that is the great irony of New York / one of the most populated cities in the world / and yet somehow so small / like the suburbs I ran away from in Connecticut / faster than I run from the rats near the 6 / and speaking of running away / hello again Bumble girl / I’d like to say you didn’t see me / but you did / raised your eyes from your book / just once / and looked directly at me / for a time that lasted less than a heartbeat / I don’t exist in the hearts around me anymore / just float / somewhere between passing time and / all the skin I don’t touch / invisible / forgotten / It’s funny really / that they call it ghosting / when here I am / realist ghost of them all / feel like I could walk right through these concrete store fronts / Maybe the doctor will call me back / concerned about all this inexplicable gray matter I call / a body / this exhale I call / a heart / Maybe Casper had a sister and / plot twist / she’s me / Maybe running in to you on the train is a metaphor / because truly Bumble girl / I don’t know what could fuck my day up more / you / or the MTA / Jokes / it’s def the MTA / I’m lying / anyway / I only talked to you then because I was bored / and you were pretty / I can see it still / your carefully sculpted eyebrows / the pigment of your lipstick / But I’m flatlining / This doesn’t even deserve / to be a poem / I guess I’m still bored / I’m not a ghost / I’m just a gay girl / I’m not a ghost / I’m just a femme girl / waiting / to be seen
Marissa is a world-traveling, Beyonce-worshipping, wine-loving, gay woman living in Boston, Massachusetts. She recently took a Buzzfeed quiz to determine her style based on her favorite color and horoscope and it told her she is a “Salty Grandma” and that was probably the most accurate thing that’s ever been said about her. She is a poet, researcher, and activist on issues including mass incarceration, violence against women, and LGBTQ rights. Her writing serves to break silences, call attention to social problems, and illuminate the complexity of human emotion, typically centered on survival, resilience, and emotional vulnerability. Her work has been published in Bustle Magazine, One Billion Rising, The Voices Project, Impossible Archetype, and is forthcoming in Hysteria Magazine.
After Morgan Parker
You can’t stop crying
in public all the time.
Your roommate who faked attempted suicide,
how much you miss your dad, eternal mysteries of outer space.
Guilt that your high cheekbones came from rape.
Colonialism in the name of God. War on Drugs. You’re cigaretteless.
You are a composer now,
but you’ve always stuttered.
Here are some ways in which
you repeat yourself: your family
mourns your lifestyle, you are a lazy
talker. You have no thoughts;
you talk. Or you try to analyze your life like a text:
you are jittery and unforgiving. You are robotic.
A stutterer and a stutterer and a slurer
interrupted and on the defense.
You hate it at work when
strangers call you “Baby,”
but that is really how you miss yourself.
Katherine Carr is an undergraduate English major at Mississippi State University.
And I don’t know what to tell you
only that I cried on page 15
and at the end of the poem
I rolled over and stared at the
socket on the wall, painted shut
I stared at it for an hour
then I shut off the light.
I don’t know what I was thinking about
anything Maybe I was thinking
and how they dragged his body out
of the ocean after 3 weeks
The ceremony was a closed casket
somewhere in New York but
I didn’t go and see it.
I imagine he was naked
because the police couldn’t say
what he was wearing
Only that the dogs had smelled
human smell in the water
He talked in circles he talked
like he was remembering a poem
no punctuation all cadence
And the socket is painted shut
And I’m wondering why his body
Paige is an artist hailing from Bar Harbor, Maine. She graduated Bowdoin College in 2016, and between jobs on sailboats she paints and writes unusual portraits of the stories and lives that intersect her own.
I woke with a congealed cheese fry stuck to my face,
the room too big, so I called my mother on the phone,
my responses forming an odd jazz song:
while I tried not to burp up the gin and lukewarm tonic
I swallowed from my blue-swirled coffee cup.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, but I was ready,
drunks are always ready until we are not,
so I said, “Nothing, ma, only a little homesick.”
I am sick for something, but it is not home.
I gulped down a too-hot McDonald’s breakfast sandwich
and hash brown after grinning like a loon at the cashier,
who winked and said, “You pretty.”
After, the vinyl console in my truck covered
with frantic fingerprints, streaks evident where I’d dragged
my hands to clean them, I parked just inside the lines
and marched doggedly into work for a meeting.
I left at three in the afternoon and went to a bar,
trying to read Berryman through my third and fourth
gin & tonics of the day, always gin, my closest friend,
my favorite, clear-eyed liar, and did not meet the eyes of
the bartender except to get my ticket, and on the tip line,
I was generous, 40%, for her complicity, for her lack of pity.
By evening, exhausted, I slept it off in a parking lot,
a hobo drumming on the hood of my truck when he passed,
for the hell of it, because a cop was nearby,
who can say? My head heavy but sober,
aggressively sober, so I pulled out onto the road
that becomes a yawning state route after two miles,
the only good thing I’ve found since I left the city,
and drove and drove until my gas tank pinged a warning,
looped around, and let the road guide me home,
Emmylou singing on the radio, cooling my burning eyes,
a song from when she was still chestnut-haired,
young enough to beg for a last dance.
After a Party, I Get Lonely and Call My Mother, Who Listens to Me Eat Cheetos and Cry
Scarlett’s brought edibles, little flat discs of
sticky Rice Krispies with flecks of weed like
trapped fruit flies.
An hour later, I’m baked and restless,
so I leave and walk home.
I dial her before I really think about it.
“Hello?” she asks, and I know
what’s coming before she says it:
“You remembered you had a mama?”
I listen to her talk,
imagine her padding around the house,
switching off lights and coaxing our arthritic dog
to take another trip outside.
“I really miss you,” I say.
“I miss you, too, I sat in your room and
cried for an hour last week,”
she says, as brisk as ever about her grief.
“Are you drunk?” she adds.
“A little. And I’m high.”
I sit at the kitchen table
as she tells me what she’s bought me for Christmas,
because she can’t help herself.
I put her on speaker,
rest my head on my arms.
Pretend she’s in the room.
Ernestine Montoya is a writer from Texas living in Milledgeville, Georgia. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Sediments Literary-Arts Journal and Into the Void Magazine.
Maybe this is wrong, but I want you on fire.
Bang. Boom. Debris. I want to throw you
like a bomb and turn around, my back
walking away. If life could just give me
one satisfaction then you’ll collapse all
the gawking stars, the stalking moon, these
predictable nights of domestic abuse. You
will break the dark like windows. If that’s not
enough, if annihilation is too blunt, you’ll be
the math of extinction, the inviolable logic,
the sanity, of polynomials. It’s not that I don’t
love my baby, you understand. I quit smoking
as soon as I found out and I’ll leave my husband
if he so much as looks at you. I’ll use you to get away.
Kelly Dolejsi is a climbing instructor with an MFA from Emerson College. Her work has been published most recently in Timberline Review, North American Review, Fifth Wednesday, Denver Quarterly, West Texas Literary Review, Allegro, Fiolet and Wing, Vine Leaves Literary Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and 1001. She also has poems forthcoming in The Hungry Chimera.
just a pose. A Love Supreme thrum-thrumming
from my speakers, mineral water by
my mouse. Sure, snap a shot. We’ll chat. Or text.
It’s hefty sex. Or safety hex. I’m more
hex-nut than sex-nut. Well, at least these days.
The nights are fueling stations. Love, we lie
like tankers in the locks. Or Catholics on
the rack. That burning’s what we have at stake.
The greens? Wicks yellowing. My dirty blond?
Spent tungsten. Small rebellion squelched.
With roguery along the fringes, in
the margins where I walk the stream, my feet
all wet, ears pricked for any aching sound.
Thomas Zimmerman teaches English, directs the Writing Center, and edits The Big Windows Review at Washtenaw Community College, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His poems have appeared recently in Blood & Bourbon, Brickplight, and Visceral Uterus. Tom’s website: https://thomaszimmerman.wordpress.com/
Sneha Subramanian Kanta
my child will ask me
existential questions while I park the car
un-ready with answers.
I will take your name then,
say Hallelujah. Allah-Hu-Akbar.
Try invoking the divine in
and say I only know
the sea is dyed pink in autumn
when the sun sets.
No, I will not distract my child
or narrate passed-down scripts.
I will say that tongues speak
what they know.
The blue is bluer than pastel
cyan during summer, I will say,
while looking at places to stop
and see the day’s sunset.
We will perch by the side of forsythias,
the glow of sun on our faces.
I’ll say forsythias grow big
in East Asia and Southeastern Europe.
See, how the globe is composed,
how flowering plants grow everywhere?
God, I will say, has come here among these
to kiss your questions.
An awardee of the prestigious GREAT scholarship, Sneha Subramanian Kanta has a second postgraduate degree in literature from England. She is the founding editor of Parentheses Journal, a literary initiative that straddles hybrid identities across coasts and climes. Her work appears in Califragile, Former Cactus, The Quiet Letter and elsewhere.
hooked lines to my waist & bounced me from clouds to mud
to me through a blade of grass pinched between his thumbs &
me to go to the river & soak my tired feet until they no longer stung.
feed the ducks sleep on a bed of ferns break bread
& be fed in return
leaves from an Oak & put them over my eyes
with the hum of a thousand bees
nearer to you
nearer to me
Zackary Lavoie graduated from University of Maine at Farmington and currently sits at the Director’s Chair Fellow at Alice James Books. His poems have appeared in the Melbourne based podcast ‘memoria.’