How have I made beauty a prerequisite to belonging? by Rachel Stempel

I don’t answer
questions as asked
because I’ve my own
agendas. The dawn birds
wait for me to face the mirror to sing
their aubade—a lament whose ringing
never calms the tremors I’ve brought
to the table from furious
dream logic, the same
fury reddening
my cheeks, and I call it flush
because it sounds more romantic than truth

If I can pluck three eyelashes
              Today will be good

All good things come in threes

but I’ve lost count. Sometimes
you do something bad to prevent yourself
from doing something worse.

              Today I am a white horse caked in rouge, hellbent
on seduction

 

Rachel Stempel is a genderqueer Ukrainian-Jewish poet and PhD student in English at Binghamton University. They are the author of the chapbooks, BEFORE THE DESIRE TO EAT (Finishing Line Press), Dear Abbey (Bottlecap Press, 2022), and Interiors (Foundlings Press, 2022). They currently live, laugh, and love in New York with their rabbit, Diego. You can find them at www.racheljstempel.com.

Edible Maladies by Angie Kang

my mother calls the day after the shootings, but
            between us: a fence of teeth. firewall

of bone. this shared red tongue, coated with
            papillae of yellow stars

we’ve knotted into a nest of fragile
            domesticity. here, in the frozen umbra

of new news, our tongue
            does not know how to contort

to discuss it. instead, it ribbons.
            my mother asks: what is this tune?

and then a tinny hum. vibration around
            our useless appendage. the melody dark

and angry. I never knew anything
            to hold so much blood.

as I listen to my mother’s quivering
            voice, I worry my square incisors

with my tongue. when I got my braces
            off, this metal cage, my dentist

shaved off two millimeters of enamel,
            and when I got home my mother

cried. a week of calcium silence.
            mourning what she created and

could no longer protect.
            my lips are pursed as I listen,

trying to place her unfamiliar tune and give
            the yearning a name. together my mother

and I try the impossible: grasping at something
            out of reach, an answer that might

offer relief, satisfy us if only
            for an instant.

 

Angie Kang is a Chinese-American writer and illustrator living in San Francisco, CA. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The Believer, The Rumpus, Narrative, The Offing, and others. She enjoys playing online chess, swimming in the ocean, and separating quarters by where they were minted. She can be found online at www.angiekang.net or on Instagram @anqiekanq.

On the night my uncle dies i sing a little song by Alyssandra Tobin

I dance a little dance. I let the Jersey Devil talk me down. I listen for the sound of that big voice in my head and find it loud. I pray before the altar of see you laters. I scoop poison out of our rivers. I plant trees in our cities. I think it is no small thing to die and yet it’s also the most ordinary. And what of it. I click my heels and I’m in a smaller world again. One where fewer people who loved me as a child are still here to love me as a bigger child. It’s the vanishing I can’t stand. The sudden jolt of empty stair. The switchback to nowhere. All of it’s got to mean something. What if I told you I had an uncle once named Harry Tacelli? You don’t care. And why should you. I care tho. I’m gonna care until they finally get me. You know, the ones who get everybody, in the end.

 

Alyssandra Tobin is the author of PUT EYES ON ME NOT LIKE A CURSE published by Quarterly West in 2022. Her poetry can be found in Poetry Northwest, Bennington Review, Puerto del Sol, and elsewhere.

rabbit’s foot harvest by Robin Gow

we must take control
of our own luck. in the graveyard
we look for rabbits recently returned
from their convening with the dead.
pick a set of rules & believe in it.
slaughter on fridays. on fridays
when it rains. on friday the 13ths.
i had a friend once who had a purple rabbit’s foot.
she wore it as a keychain on her backpack
& told me there was a rabbit limping
in the yard, watching her, waiting
to steal the charm back. aren’t we all
waiting to take a limb back?
soon it will be a full moon or
a new moon. soon there will be
a cross-eyed man to do the deed.
shape-shifting witch who walks
along the edge of the cornfields
with only one hand. what does it mean
to steal from another’s body to keep our own?
all i want is assurance that tonight
the world will not swallow me.
i want to eat oranges. i want to sleep heavy
& easy so i create a ceremony from which luck
will fall like a dead tree.
shot with a silver bullet. the rabbit
always running from the meanings
of her skeleton. hiding in her hollow
& counting her legs. one, two, three, four.
sometimes my eyes fill with fingers
& i am also a rabbit with four feet
for the taking. then, limping in my friend’s
front yard. once bones are taken they are
never our own again. i put my finger bones
in a box & set it on a porch.
the house was full of rabbits.
apologies almost always come
too late. it is not a friday. the moon is
thin & haggard. we buried the purple foot.
did not cry in front of each other
but later wept in our homes
thinking of the animal circling the house
craving the body she once had.
maybe luck is always something taken.

 

Robin Gow (they/he/ze) is a trans poet and YA/MG author. They are the author of several poetry collections, an essay collection, and a YA novel in verse, A Million Quiet Revolutions. Gow’s poetry has recently been published in POETRY, New Delta Review, and Washington Square Review.

Poem in Dismemberment by Marina Greenfeld

Late morning again, and I haven’t bloodied
the grass, haven’t said I miss you. I search

for clover, though I’ve yet to see any
in this new yard. Hunting not out of hope
of preservation, to seal my own mutated luck

between pages, but for the release of a spring
after struggle. Ever have I popped the heads

gone to seed, slung them into fertile afterlives
with a noose of their own necks. My mother calls
and thinks she wakes me, but I was waiting

for the clover. I cannot hear her over windchimes
and her whining dog, survivor of eight hours

in the cab of a truck with a dead man. She came out
like the rest of us, clean but missing pieces. Cries
at a shut door, barks when we hug. She bites me,

but her teeth hit only my ringed finger. Off my hand,
the silver pinched into a crooked heart. She knows

I didn’t want to keep her, that I sold the truck.
Let me show you how to shoot the clover. Let me
tell you while we plan our next move, a city

with no clover, a city you’ll change your mind about
after I’ve already arrived. Clover won’t scatter

when you ask; it waits, then launches whole—
catapult, weapon, nothing to be wished upon.

 

Marina Greenfeld is a poet and editor from southwest Florida and North Carolina. Her work has been published by 86 Logic, Brooklyn Poets, Plainsongs, Product Magazine, and The South Carolina Review. She is a poetry student in the MFA program at the University of Mississippi.

Medicinal by Jingyu Li

“Maybe I did treat everything in the world as though it was a medicine.”
Henderson the Rain King, Saul Bellow

What entered me
        as prayer:     soft globes
                    of chokecherry bunched
            in the buds of late aster     the dark-
                    eyed junco     a mess of
                                          eggshell & nest
The skin is the largest
                organ in the body
    meaning     what is outside
                                is inside too     meaning
              there are always two ways
                          to poison a person     from
Skin to shivering
                bone     love
                          is the color of cough
                syrup soaked in straw
                                          & sun:
Between the shadows
          I fold gold into a body
                                hungry for prescription.

 

Jingyu Li immigrated to the United States from Beijing at age three, and grew up in Wyoming with her younger brother. She went to university in Boston and is interested in myth in her poetry. Her work has appeared in Humble Pie Mag, and her self-published zine, Lunar New Year, explores Chinese language and diaspora and can be found at Bluestockings Cooperative, Dog Eared Books, and Silver Sprocket.

Honey, Toasty, Marshmallow by Sara Potocsny

My mother bought my son three fish then fled the state.
Black Mollies. Nothing special. I was angry about them,
until I scooped the first from the bubbling tank, limp. I turned
the net and shut my eyes until he plopped into the porcelain bowl,
afraid I might never get good at this. The others went too,
all within a day. The store confirmed our lethal water,
then asked if I’d brought them in for a refund. Still,
they were loved enough to be named: Honey, Toasty, Marshmallow,
in that order according to Sol, who cried once for each
and then a whole lot more when I said “No” to a cat, instead.
I don’t know what lesson he’s learning other than things die,
and I was hoping he’d get a little more from a first pet than that.
We weren’t ready then and probably aren’t now, either. For tonight,
the tank is just a fountain in the dark, water rushing water into place.

 

Sara Potocsny is a writer in Syracuse, NY, where she lives with her son, Sol. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Syracuse University and a chapbook called The Circle Room, published by Lover Books. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in HAD, Hobart, Juked, Los Angeles Review, The Racket, Radar, Rejection Letters, and others. You can find her on twitter at @sarapotocsny and IG at @spotocsny.

Nephthys Again by Marcella Haddad

I’m measuring time now by your shadow.
Measuring it badly. There’s a requirement in the old
country, that you have love ready when you land.
That you should use bright colors for your
husband’s scarves so you can spot him on his ship
approaching. That you should use bright colors on
his cartouche so the afterlife can see him coming.
And why the fuck does any of that matter when
you’re gone. That you’ve done this. And do any
oddities matter. Can you still see small enough or
are you as large as a soul. Are you carving through
the fog. Are you returning. Did you land safely.
You don’t respond. Did you land safely. Can
anyone tell me. We are all watching the horizon and
turn away one by one. And look over our shoulders.
And trace the entire earth. And repeat. And rest.
And remember. And eat. And eat. And land safely.
And the colors come home.

 

Marcella Haddad is an MFA candidate at UMass Amherst, the Managing Editor of Moonflake Press, and a Tin House YA 2022 Scholar. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Variant Literature, Everyday Fiction, Apparition Lit, and others. You can find her in a tree, or at marcellaphaddad.com

Something with a girl* by Pauli Dutton

                        and a mother.
                                                            Maybe they went shopping
                                      and the mother never came back.
Maybe she returned
                          for a while,
                                    but every time she reappeared,
            she burnt something.
                        Maybe a couch.                                     Maybe a bed.

Maybe it was the girl.
                                        Maybe the girl
                                                                      didn’t want to know.
            Maybe she needed
                                        to obliterate
                        the mother.
                                                      Maybe the girl
                    mutilated herself with

a       freezer of orange sherbet                         crashing windshields
                          and/or edging toward Karoshi.

Maybe she rummaged           rampaged
                                                                        and/or hemorrhaged
                                                                                                          for the mother.
Maybe the mother             didn’t care what the girl did.
                                        Maybe she howled
                            every night                                       until she immolated.

              Maybe the mother                           kissed the girl
                                                    in her dreams.

 

* First line of “Self-Portrait as Nostalgia” by Diannely Antigua

 

Pauli Dutton has been published in Verse Virtual, The Pangolin Review, Better Than Starbucks, Altadena Poetry Review, Skylark, and elsewhere. She was a librarian for 40 years, where she founded, coordinated, and led a public reading series from 2003 – 2014. She has served on the Selection Committees for The Altadena Literary Review in 2020 and The Altadena Poetry Review from 2015 – 2019. She has also co-edited the 2017 and 2018 editions. Pauli holds an MLIS from the University of Southern California.