stillborn by Chlesea Balzer

night heaves its weight
at the half-wild farm.

I have filled my day with words
no one would sing —

sadness like tussocks parading the ground.
today the crisis could not take me.

my body became new machinery.
finally alone with it, I turn in.

each feeling needs all of the senses.
denial has done the hard work

of admitting only the truth I could hear.
it held the heavy base of a joy I mistook as my own.

now handed over, I take up the pain:
burst balloon. rinse torn tissue away.

not all blood is a sign of injury —
the body’s doors open.

we cannot say when a thing
must be put back, buried, begun.

some babies are born on the kitchen floor
in the swift grace of choicelessness.

our ask is to lay out soft blankets
and wait with what’s in labor,

to recycle the pleasure that’s passed.
sighing back breaches of sorrow,

I lie down next to its face
and hum.

 

Chelsea Balzer is a therapist, writer, and the founder of Big Feels Lab, an organization empowering people to heal from injustice together. Her writing has been featured in a variety of publications including Elephant Journal, Plainsongs, Cigar City, and Omaha Magazine, and her debut book, A PITY PARTY IS STILL A PARTY, is forthcoming from Harper Wave. Follow her work at chelseabalzer.com or on instagram at @theconnectionartist.

Hierarchy of Hunger by Anthony Aguero

My dad burned most of our memorabilia
From childhood — just like that, poof,

A snake crawls between my thighs

And excretes the poison, I mean love,
I mean Here are my images

Bathed in sunlight — gone.
A man sucks the vitamin E from my body

And massages the place a scar should be.
Here are my lips: red and aroused.

I try to remember a litany of hungers:

The first and last drug as actual serpent.
A series of fires on a cold, cold night.
How I bite into the neck of man’s body.

My spine always in search of memory.
The sound of my hunger breaking through.

 

Anthony Aguero is a queer writer in Los Angeles, CA. His work has appeared, or will appear, in the Bangalore Review, 2River View, The Acentos Review, The Temz Review, Rhino Poetry, Cathexis Northwest Press, 14 Poems, and others.

Bath by Gretchen Rockwell

There is something about the final rising
into the sweet hanging air, whole body
perfumed and heavy, that I appreciate.
I imagine it’s how the frilled shark feels
as it trawls its way through the bathypelagic
zone with its green-lit eyes and feathery teeth.
I once called the frilled shark cute to a friend
and she told me that in fact, it was terrifying,
but she was glad I loved it because everything
needs to be loved: the frilled shark and its prey,
the scientists who gave the midnight zone its name,
the person who made my bath bomb. Even my body
as I dredge it up from the shallow depths of my bathtub,
the scent it now carries as I move through the dark.

 

Gretchen Rockwell is a queer poet currently living in Pennsylvania. Xe is the author of the microchapbooks, love songs for godzilla (Kissing Dynamite) and Thanatology (Ghost City Press), and xer work has appeared in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Poet Lore, FOLIO, FreezeRay Poetry, Moonchild Magazine, and elsewhere. Gretchen enjoys writing poetry about gender and sexuality, history, myth, science, space, and unusual connections – find xer at www.gretchenrockwell.com or on Twitter at @daft_rockwell.

one day when I become a museum by Juliana Chang

one day when I become a museum
little girls are gonna walk by
my mouth
and point with two hands.

they’ll tug on their mothers’ shirts
and ask
what’s that tongue
sitting all pretty like that for
and what’s that thing that swings
like cold honey
and is that the whole sun I see in there
and isn’t that where the water wants to go—

how come we let it be
just there
like that?

 

Juliana Chang is a Taiwanese American poet. She is the 2019 recipient of the Urmy/Hardy Poetry Prize, the 2017 recipient of the Wiley Birkhofer Poetry Prize, and a 2015 Scholastic Art & Writing Gold Medalist in Poetry. She received a BA in Linguistics and a MA in Sociology from Stanford University in 2019.

Weeds by Ivana Gatica

I felt you in my skin long after you left.
Under the dermis,
hair follicles growing out of me —

Thick and stuck just before reaching the surface.
I tried to itch you out of me.
Scratch you raw.
Pull you out with pincers.

The skin is the largest organ in the body.
You grew all over mine like a weed, a rash of
Dandelions,
Stinging nettle,
Crabgrass,
Pigweed.

I prayed you would bloom from within me in
soft petals and leaves
that I could cultivate come Spring.

 

Ivana Gatica is a Mexican-born, Chicago-based writer and a recent graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work has earned an honorable mention on Glimmer Train and has been published in the print and online issues of Fifth Wednesday Journal.

inarticulate by Angelina Martin

what a deep dumb hell it is to be
subjected to the storm of myself
violently flung about
by malicious memory
nearly drowned by my own
convictions
to crawl my way to the border of the surface
to gasp for air and cry for relief
that I did not receive the death I begged for
and when I try to warn
the clueless shore huggers
of the treacherous depths of pain
lurking in the vast wet dark
all that comes out
of my reckless child mouth is:
            “WATCH OUT! BIG ROCK!”

 

Angelina Martin is a writer, comedian, artist, waitress, and jock based in Austin, Texas. She has previously been published in Inconnu Magazine, Sea Foam Mag, and Be About It Press, as well as in the book Anthology: The Ojai Playwrights Conference Youth Workshop 2006-2016. Her stand up and poetry both repeatedly touch on themes of sexuality, loneliness, and the lifelong process of healing from trauma. Find her on Twitter at @AngelinaJMartin.

to eat the sleeping sky, whole by Ashley Cline

“honey, you’ve got to know your name was always in bloom on
that tongue—one way or another, love makes a garden of us all.”

[your mother, after the funeral]

i.

i bet i could swallow the moon, you say & smile. such a simple
& magical thing, & how easily i believe in this yawning fever;
in such grinning hunger, gentle. how easily i believe—

ii.

that mouth, without arrogance or question. that mouth, which i’ve
watched drink from the sky & come up for air twenty feet beneath
rolling waves of sycamores & still, offering yet more of itself—

spilling & gasping & swearing & filling & asking for no more than
it can carry home, easily. that mouth, that was not built from gilded
things, but rather, found: in peach stones & nerve endings &

half-wild things; in match strikes & clementines & two-for-one bargain
bins—& still, how it shines like karats left on the halcyon vine: summer-
drunk & overripe & full of every season we’ve tried to name, but

settle on home, instead. that mouth, with its crescent laugh & pendulum
tongue: swinging & swinging & swinging—always—towards north or
nostalgia or the karaoke bar over on 9th & isn’t it funny how they’re

all the same, really? it’s just that we’ve taken such care in calling our
happiness by anything other than her name: a practice borrowed of
indigobirds.
that mouth, & how it stretches philosophy into

bubblegum pop, how it flexes & fashions new mountain ranges
from my favorite song stuck in its throat in late-June; how it
calls my name, & even the tides turn to shore.

 

An avid introvert and full-time carbon-based life-form, Ashley Cline crash landed in south Jersey twenty-eight years ago and still calls that strange land home. Most often found listening to Carly Rae Jepsen, her essays on music and feelings have been published by Sound Bites Media, while her poetry has appeared in 404 Ink, Third Point PressSidereal Magazine and, most recently, Lychee Rind Zine. She graduated from Rowan University in 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, and her best at all-you-can-eat sushi is 5 rolls in 11 minutes. Twitter: @the_Cline.

Earth Witch by Christina Thatcher

How the dust never shakes off, even
after stripping, even after climbing
back onto the horse. How mud clumps
in the hair, smears on the cheek. How
everything is dirty, how she is always
dirty from heaving shit onto the shit
pile. How when it rains, cliff tumbles
into creek at her bidding. How she anticipates
the turning of her body into mulch
which will sink into the earth,
decompose and recompose,
and how she, then, can transform
into anything: a cottonmouth,
an oak, a man, another
girl.

 

Christina Thatcher is a Creative Writing Lecturer at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Her poetry and short stories have featured in over 50 publications including The London Magazine, Planet Magazine, And Other Poems, Acumen, The Interpreter’s House, and more. She has published two poetry collections with Parthian Books: More than you were (2017) and How to Carry Fire (2020). To learn more about Christina’s work please visit her website: christinathatcher.com or follow her on Twitter @writetoempower.

my mouth is full of words i don’t know by Monica Kim

like godingeo. full fish without the head, bones
still poking through flesh. americans like their fish
cleaned, served in bite-sized pieces you can pop
easily in your mouth, melting on your tongue and
swallowing with ease. we like the challenge
of the game: tongue working around a bone
the size of a hangnail, spitting it out onto
the plate, lifting a skeleton of bones with our hands
from the entire fish, making our own nonuniform
pieces with our chopsticks. what is godingeo
in english? i’ve never had to say it out loud
before.

before, i knew what this banchan was
in korean. now when my friend asks what
i ate for dinner the name sits on the tip of my tongue
but melts away before i can even recall
the letter in hangul. i don’t know the name
in english. americans don’t eat this type
of side dish, thin chewy strips of some squid
covered in a spicy sticky red sauce that coats
your tongue with tiny pinpricks. i can describe
it in english but i don’t know what
it is in either language.

when i eat i never ask what i’m eating. some dishes
i know, some i don’t. my mind can recall
the color and the texture and the smell and
everything else except the name. recognition
of food in my mouth but my tongue
unable to speak its name.

 

Monica Kim is a recent graduate from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English. She is published in Stirring, and has an upcoming chapbook titled “An abridged medical family history & multiverse of selves” as well as a poem from the chapbook in the Michigan Quarterly Review.

Keep Turning Over by E. Kristin Anderson

After HAIM

Here is my panic attack: I haven’t been out in days
and it’s painfully normal. So when I take my first breath

of the day I’m already trying not to feel. After all these
days inside, I have become proficient in the loneliness of

catching the sunbeam that sneaks past my blinds
and putting it back outside. I know it seems like I’m always

sleeping now, but late at night with my knees aching
I’m wide awake considering how my body will push past

the threshold of survivability. I make little promises to keep
from kissing the sickle and tonight is another night alone

in this apartment, screaming every word of “Landslide”
into the popcorn ceiling. I think I fell like a meteorite

into this timeline and I should have expected you to scatter
but I’m listening for strange angels on the roof. Dawn

approaches like a purple bruise and I’m pushing my face
into the pillow desperate for oblivion. I dream again

and again of old friends and I don’t have the energy
to harbor this anger, can’t ping enough cell towers to

triangulate all the words I’d need to say. But the dreams
are the same and I wake up wrecked. The panic of

continued existing is a swansong I carry in my pocket,
and when I shine it’s because the rain cooled me while

I stood outside watching the iron gate open and close
in a thunderstorm. Some things can’t change. I wait for

your reply with my heart cracked open at two a.m. and
in my loneliness I sip at the air I’ve kept for myself,

collect a week’s worth of mail, wash my face slowly,
press my hands against the wall as if I might find a door.

 

E. Kristin Anderson is a poet and glitter enthusiast living mostly at a Starbucks somewhere in Austin, Texas. She is the editor of Come as You Are, an anthology of writing on 90s pop culture (Anomalous Press), and her work has appeared in many magazines. She is the author of nine chapbooks of poetry including Pray, Pray, Pray: Poems I wrote to Prince in the middle of the night (Porkbelly Press), Fire in the Sky (Grey Book Press), 17 seventeen XVII (Grey Book Press), We’re Doing Witchcraft (Porkbelly Press) and Behind, All You’ve Got (Semiperfect Press). Kristin is a poetry reader at Cotton Xenomorph and an editorial assistant at Porkbelly Press. Find her on Twitter at @ek_anderson.