break/through by Cara Waterfall

“And see how the flesh grows back / across a wound, with a great vehemence, / more strong than the simple, untested surface before.”
                        ~ Jane Hirshfield, What Binds Us

call it unlovely,
a wanton blotch,
an undone stitch

call it a raw blossom
garish as a flare

call it the reef’s
clamour seething
to the surface

a scorched line,
heat clawing its way
out of my body

call it reptilian,
webbed & thickening —
a mottled seam

call it my
skin’s frayed hymn,
my body’s scripture

what’s left,
but the gnarled root of memory,
raking its debris,
with metal teeth
over me

what dark wounds
we are made of,
how they wreck & remake

I eulogize my younger skin
& all things young, but
I will never disown this —
revision, souvenir, script,
seal? — this gilded asymmetry,
of what was.

We heal ragged
even on the inside, pain inlaid
like an everlasting nacre.

Still,
praise what was salvaged:
the self, ravaged
now rising.

 

Ottawa-born and Costa Rica-based, Cara Waterfall’s work has been featured or is forthcoming in Best Canadian Poetry, SWWIM, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and The Fiddlehead, among others. She won Room’s 2018 Short Forms contest and second place in Frontier Poetry’s 2018 Award for New Poets. In 2019, she was a finalist for Radar Poetry’s The Coniston Prize and shortlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize. Most recently, she won the Editors’ Prize for the 2020 Magpie Award for Poetry. She has a Poetry & Lyric Discourse diploma from The Writer’s Studio at SFU, and a diploma from the London School of Journalism.

sorry sorry (sorry) by Kora Schultz

sorry i can’t come to the phone right now,
my body is 1000 hedgehogs in a trenchcoat

& loud noises make them nervous.
            & soft noises make them nervous.

i pay my carcass rent with stillness.
even the life rafts make thunder of
my limbs.             the critters know this.

they keep score when my muscles can’t.
baby,                 i’ll have to call you back.

 

Kora Schultz (they/them) is a queer Wisconsin-based poet, writing student, and assistant editor with Juke Joint Magazine. By day, they work with folks experiencing homelessness. Their work has appeared in various literary magazines, poetry journals, and on their partner’s fridge. You can find them on Instagram and Twitter at @oatmilkmom.

Tendrils by Rachel Brown

I have a kidney bean blooming beneath my jeans.
As a child I feared watermelon seeds, but never kidney beans.

I can feel new growth, leaves entangling between my vertebrae
tender sprouting between by ribs,
a lattice of light green climbing up
my skeletal walls, coaxing the sunlight
out of my skin, glowing beneath my fingernails,
turning me green.

There is a delicate balance, as it
grows brighter, stronger,
larger, and I grow tired feeding
relentless nature with joy and self-made sunlight.

I never wanted to grow kidney beans between my breasts
and beneath my nerves. I do not know how
to remove roots, repot or nurture to maturity
the glowing inside me.

But now I have a kidney bean whose tendrils
caress my neck and help me find sunshine
and relief.

 

Rachel Brown holds Bachelor’s degrees in Creative Writing and English Literature, as well as a forthcoming Master’s degree in English Literature from Central Washington University, where she also teaches composition. Her creative work has appeared in Northwest Boulevard. She is currently reading, writing, teaching, and running in Eastern Washington.

The world will end tonight… by Austin Davis

the weatherman says,
when the flower heads twist down
at a quarter past 6.

Remember that summer of hot breath,
open windows, and making love
to the sound of bicycles passing by?

Kiss me soft
as the clouds peel away
from the sun like dark yellow apple skins.

Let me hold you,
run my hands through your hair,
these last few minutes.

 

Austin Davis is a poet and student activist currently studying creative writing at ASU. Austin is the author of The World Isn’t the Size of Our Neighborhood Anymore (Weasel Press, 2020) and Celestial Night Light (Ghost City Press, 2020). You can find Austin on Twitter @Austin_Davis17 and on Instagram @austinwdavis1.

Christmas Plainsong, or Several Near Apologies to My Son by David Wright

Not for the morning when my foot slipped a stair and you, infant boy, and I were in the air only long enough for me to crook your sweet skull in my elbow. We came down, together, on the hardwood. The tiny fissures in your head healed, they said. Not mine.

Not for the year in Disney when you and your mother could not breathe, though in the photos we look pleased, enough, catching sharp breaths together.

Not for the night-slide on glare ice when, somehow, we found ourselves facing forward and drove home. And not that other night when, below zero, we turned around and stayed inside all weekend with people we barely knew. Eventually, you went outside. I heard you singing in the shoulder-deep snow.

For this sweater, yes, I am sorry. Also, for the hawk I hit with my car and how you thought I’d killed an angel. I have never killed one, as I would be sore afraid.

But, no, I am not sorry for the year we made a tree of green construction paper and taped it to the sliding glass doors. My landlord was sorry, but forgive him. He was a small green grinch even a god could love.

And never for last year when our friend prowled us through the hushed streets of this little half-brick town and the college women threw you down a hill on a garbage bag sled and you broke no arms for a change and then did it again and I lied and said you had asked for a grown woman for Christmas. I was wrong. Also, I love you.

What I am, son, is oddly sorry for the hymns, Veni, Veni, and Stille Nacht and The Bleak Midwinter. How many I have made you listen to each year, even in your sleep, and how I make you sing along until candle wax burns your knuckles. It is not the singed skin I regret.

I am instead sorry for the branch, the rose blooming, the rod of Jesse, how deep they root and gnarl themselves through a boy’s chest, rise up in his throat even when he is a middle-aged man. Go ahead. Try and forget them when they also live in your mouth. Ask your sister, too, about this plain song she cannot lose.

And the story, the one about an infant god in the dark and the straw, how he keeps returning like a star. This will come to you when you righteously ball your fist and feel in your palm a thorn.

Listen, or don’t. Sing along or stay quiet. But once you have been in a room of voices like this, the lush hush right before the Pacem, the last Noel, the final Alleluia which has to be sung, you will find those little cracks at the base of your brain still contain a song much truer than you, or I, or anyone we know can sing alone.

 

David Wright’s poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in 32 Poems, Image, Poetry East, and Another Chicago Magazine, among others. His most recent poetry collection is Local Talent (Purple Flag/Virtual Artists Collective, 2019). He can be found on Twitter @sweatervestboy.

meditations on a night swim by Stephanie Neuerburg

Hunter and Hannah watch me from the shore
except they do not watch me,
they watch each other
and I watch them watching each other

my feet don’t reach the bottom here

I swim out to the end of the pier and then
back to the shore,
where Hunter and Hannah still watch each other,
then back out, past the pier
and wait

I don’t dunk my head in, either,
not this time
just let the green-blue Chihuly waves
caress my neck and press against me
green-blue from above
green-blue from the sides
green-blue from below and between my legs

being touched often feels like
waiting for something to be taken away from me

here in the water where its only request
is to float or go under —
whichever
I prefer
— the touch of the cool wet gargantuan glass
feels like a responsibility
gifted to me by God

I dream of water passing through
my lips, my eyes, my ears
all my orifices
and my orisons
filling my throat and my stomach
until it presses through the tips of me and back out
into the lake where it belongs

ripping right through me,
a swimmer
drowning in the cool wet arms
of a body that knows how to hold me

 

Stephanie Neuerburg is an actor, playwright, and poet based in Chicago, IL. Her work has been featured at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Oregon Fringe Festival, Ashland New Plays Festival, and Seattle Public Theater, among others in the Puget Sound, Bay, and Chicagoland areas. Her original play Science Night was a national finalist for the John Cauble Outstanding Short Play Award in 2015. Stephanie holds a major in performance and a minor in creative writing with an emphasis in poetry from Southern Oregon University, and has worked with award-winning playwright Anne Washburn, Tony Award-winning director Bill Rauch, and poet K. Silem Mohammad. For more information visit www.stephanieneuerburg.com.

Portrait of a Womb as Painted by Flies by Ashley Dailey

My doctor tells me I am as full
& empty as a window.

Actually, what she says is polyps.
I imagine mushrooms growing

along my insides,
delicate umbrellas glowing in the dark.

I am forest floor: network of one thing
but not another.

On NPR, I hear a story about maggots
used to clean wounds.

They eat dead or dying skin,
prevent the spread of disease.

A woman nearly loses
her feet to July’s sunbaked asphalt.

She says, I have a high tolerance for heat.
She describes the tickle

of maggots rolling beneath skin,
she host to hundreds of babies.

The heartbreak when they are excavated—
smashed garlic on a scalpel.

Home smells sweet & rotten.
I peel soft bananas off the counter, replace them.

(my self is the only thing inside myself)

Each afternoon sunlight finds my kitchen table between
the hours of not long & enough.

How do flies get in?—there is a maggot-sized gap
dividing wound & womb.

Flies pepper the window,
my fingers—sticky with what they want.

 

Poet Ashley Dailey is an MFA candidate in the creative writing program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she is a poetry editor for Grist Journal and host of the virtual reading series Chiasmus. She is the winner of an Academy of American Poets Prize and has most recently been published by Peatsmoke Journal and Oddville Press

aubade/alba by Isaura Ren

before the dusk shrugs off its
            velvet, let me wrap us up.
you understand some moments must
            be private, clutched so tight the
tendons tremble. others may lay bare
            their naked faces to the sun—
not us, not quite yet. not with you
            in me in you, hand on hand
on pillow. never mind the threat of
            day that’s spilled along the sill.
never mind the neighbors, the glare
            of their headlights. where
curtains fail, our blankets never will,
            this silk cocoon our kingdom.
knight me. make me a body worthy
            of flight. i’ll draw my wings
against the coup of dawn, a shield
              for you and me. like this,
we’ll flit from room to room, moths
              on the wrong side of the glass,
fleeing its eastern rise and languid
              western fall. let’s soar past
hallways and laundry, avoid the
            cold of open doors, let in no
ghosts but each other. you could stay
            forever if we time this right.

 

Isaura Ren (she/they) is a poet, writer, and the Editor-in-Chief of perhappened mag. Her poems have appeared in After the PauseKissing DynamiteSea Foam Mag, and more. She would do anything for love, but she won’t do that. Find her on Twitter @isaurarenwrites.

Fehler by Lauren Parker

I know from all of the work around poems that they are supposed to mean something. Even if that something is yelled with coffee breath at someone else as you bang your fist upon the table of a writing workshop that you saved up to go to and you’re going to make the most of dammit. So let me start by saying this poem is about rain falling.

The rain fell as I counted six large rocks I kicked with my right toe before I tried a rock too big for my toes and too sharp for my feelings and despite being angry already and being angrier still, I felt all the fire go out of me.
I change my mind, this poem is about sadness. Sadness is just anger you had already that wastes your time and the toes of your shoes.

The anger I had already burned me awake in the mornings, and I paced the floor of our shitty apartment with the dog piss seeped deep into the carpet padding so we couldn’t get it out, even though it wasn’t our dogs and it wasn’t our piss and it wasn’t our carpet. The stains were ours. The smells were ours. We paid for them.
Let me start again, this poem is actually about carpet maintenance.

The carpet is where every speck of skin I shed and you shed and we shed all landed to keep the ones from before company. The carpet was angry with skin cells, in that they were there before and would be there after us and would continue to collect until someone ripped up the carpet or burned the place down.
This poem is about loss, we lost each other and gained a carpet.

When we lost each other my life was brittle and vitamin deficient. The fire in my chest burned so hot I was molten while molting, a volcano shedding crust, journal entries were just lists of things you missed, bullet points of how I’d changed and you didn’t see them.
This poem is just a list.

The list is now my past. It’s a to-do of what I have done or has been done to me, grains of sand eroded and deposited and I’m now new current, new coral, new fish.
This poem is actually about the ocean, which I now live near.

I live near this ocean and I have only been once, waded up to my waist to forget some new old love, and feel the shifting of ground under me until I am just kicking against tide. I do not care that it is cold, I do not care that my toes are numb and have kicked six large rocks. My scratched skin angry and throbbing and the water soothes it.
This poem is about how cold kisses can be the best ones.

 

Lauren Parker is a writer based in Oakland. She’s a graduate of Hiram College’s Creative Writing program and has written for The Toast, The Tusk, Ravishly, The Bold Italic, Daily Xtra, Pulp Magazine, and Autostraddle. She’s the winner of the Summer of Love essay contest in The Daily Californian and the Vachel Lindsay poetry prize, and is the author of the zine My Side of Our Story. She produces a monthly reading series in the Bay Area called Cliterary Salon, and embarrasses her family on Twitter @laurenink.

Dear Kevin by Parker Logan

Your cologne smells like what my grandfather wore
to church on Saturday afternoons, sliding on, over his black dress socks,
his older-than-dirt penny loafers with a small
brown shoe horn, cornering in his foot with the gentleness
of an alligator easing it’s way from the cold waters of a river
to the warm muddy banks of a runoff pond.
He would leave us to go to church, then, which I was happy about
because it meant more time to myself
and the television and less time with him watching me do that.
I could be who ever I wanted, watching shows with superheroes
and scientists who bred their babies in a bottle.
He would be back in an hour and a half and complain
about traffic on I-4 before seeing me and my brothers in the living room
watching cartoons where the devil had claws
and was man in a woman’s gown, and he’d whistle and say
hey guys, let’s cut it out, meaning the TV, and he’d walk
to the remote and turn it off, throwing that too-strong-
to-take-deep-breaths cologne at us, the one that smells just like
your cologne does, Kevin, as you douse yourself at the foot
of our bunk beds and decorate the whole house
in an aroma of shut-that-gay-crap-off smell, that too-polite-
to-be-anything-more-than-stern waft. Under pretense of being the good guy,
the neighbor who takes care of his lawn, you’ve got claws
the sizes of wine bottle openers, wit like a brick
and a smell so keen it makes me want to throw up:
I don’t like you Kevin Avila. I don’t like you one bit.

 

Parker Logan is a student at Florida State University and is the president of FSU’s Poetry Club. His work has been featured in The Daily Drunk, and is forthcoming in The Allegheny Review and Pretty Owl Poetry.