The Emmy Goes to the Seagull, Flying off with the Hot Wing… in Front of the Chicken Spot? by Khadjiah Johnson

And I was like,
but ain’t that shit cannibalism?
Ain’t that your cousin in some retrospect?

I should be more empathetic to hot wing homie,
flying off with fam drenched in Frank’s Red Hot cloaked all over its claws.
I might be witnessing a long-distance funeral;
I recognize that we need physical evidence in order to personalize our grief.

I walk into Whole Foods and think
damn,
somebody’s house
was ripped out of the ground
to make room for this poultry section.
Government done stole somebody’s livelihood,
then gave them a job,
as a cashier,
in the store
of the home
they ripped from them from.

Maybe that seagull was onto its way to a memorial.
Maybe he knows, and doesn’t plan to eat cousin Hector in Red Hot.
Maybe Hot Wing Homie has a shrine on the corner of a Wing Stop
where he’s actively protesting Lemon Peppers and we can’t hear him
because the crunch from crispy skins drowns him out.

I am standing in front of a Telco in the neighborhood that raised me
but can no longer afford.
A Chinese Buffet, into a Starbucks.
The wedding boutique, is a Taco Bell.
I hear a Jamaican woman in the distance proclaim to a customer
“We ran out of oxtail,”
and I pray for more of those grievances.

As I turn the corner,
I peep Hot Wing Homie hiding behind a 2010 Range Rover,
piercing his claws into his cousin.
Tearin’ that wing up,
Franks Red Hot smeared across the beak and I say,

Damn, sometimes it be cannibalism.

 

Khadjiah Johnson is an Afro-Caribbean American poet, producer and comedian from Brooklyn, NY. You can see more of her work in The American Bystander, Sakura Review, Widget LOL, and more. She’s a Periplus Fellowship finalist, her poetic comedy “Shady Shepherd Psalm” was nominated for the 2019 Best of Net Anthology by Emrys Journal, and she currently serves as a Contributing Writer for Black Nerd Problems and Crunchyroll. You can also catch a couple of Khadjiah’s produced pieces on HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

A Little Bliss by Joanna Acevedo

I’m drinking the coffee but I’ve forgotten to take
the laundry out of the dryer. I’ve made dinner but
I’ve thrown the burnt ends of the meat into the sink.
I’m no good at this, this domestic life, where you
come home from work at the end of the day and
want a martini, a pint of whiskey,           a little bliss.
                Tell me how to be alright,
because I can’t find my way to the door. The ambulance
is coming and I’ve thrown all the instructions for the
bookcase into the garbage disposal.

 

Joanna Acevedo (she/they) is the Pushcart nominated author of the poetry collection, The Pathophysiology of Longing, (Black Centipede Press, 2020) and the short story collection, Unsaid Things, (Flexible Press, 2021). Her work has appeared online and in print, including in The Bookends Review and The Write Launch. She received her MFA in Fiction from New York University in 2021 and is supported by Creatives Rebuild New York: Guaranteed Income For Artists. She’s also a Guest Editor at The Masters Review, an Associate Poetry Editor at West Trade Review, and Reviews Editor at The Great Lakes Review.

Space Cowgirl by Madeline Augusta Turner

i am not an extraterrestrial. i am
leather-sewn and blistering

detritus at the cusp of an Appalachian summer, that kind
of amber decay hemmed with fungus and arrogance. here

i am safe, knowing that
the fruit the apricot tree could not hold is still light incarnate

lying sun-warm on the ground, rotting
to become new. the astral is a body too, and two

nights ago when i slept
next to my mother in her lover’s bed she told me

she didn’t know it would be like this, told me
that when the line is drawn

in my mind, the line of decomposing honeysuckle
cast aside and fractured, dissociated

nuggets of coal held together
sharp with multi-flora rose, to touch

the last place my feet hit the ground. it’s okay
to disappear from your body, i think–

we leave this world briefly, melting
to protect ourselves. what lies beneath

the sun and the dirt are no farther
than my hands, and enough

 

Madeline Augusta Turner prefers to be covered in glitter. Currently living in Northampton, MA, her heart is always somewhere at the intersection of industrial decay and endless cornfields. Madeline has received a Brooklyn Poets Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, and the Smith College Elizabeth Babcock Prize for Poetry. In 2022, she was also a Kenyon Writer’s Workshop participant. Say hello anytime at madelineaugustaturner.com.

HEALING SONATA by Pamilerin Jacob

In my dreams, I am so pure
I don’t need a bath,

or a secret pill to keep
my liver from exploding

like a piñata. There is an artery,
I believe, for safe passage of faith

through the body’s dark. Fickle,
I am almost alive as the next

person. Brimming with desire, a real
boy, except for the bones lighter

than plastic. An Ostrich’s eye is bigger
than its brain, God’s eye is bigger

than my desolation. The expansion
of the universe is the expansion of us.

I hope no one looks me in the eye
ever again, I remember saying when

I caught wind of my prognosis.
You should know I tried counting down,

scattered my heartbeats like seeds
upon things that watered woe.

Whereas, God was busy, leagues above
tilting sunlight into my bone marrow.

 

Pamilerin Jacob is a poet & editor whose poems have appeared in Barren Magazine, Agbowó, Lit Quarterly, IceFloe Press, Palette, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. He is the curator of the PoetryColumn-NND, a poetry column in Nigerian NewsDirect, a national newspaper.

Still Yellow by Katie Oliver

I am thinking about the flower
my son picked, insistent
that we put it in a glass of water
or it won’t survive, he said.
I didn’t know what to tell him.
Rootless, it floated
in a bottle. I knew the colours
would never glow so bright again.
That night, as the sun went in
the petals closed, and when it rose
again they opened. They were
still yellow: defiant
as a dying star.
There have been so many times
I too have strayed, adrift
on open water, with life seeping
from the very stem of me
but still I turned towards the sun
and here I am. And I am grateful
for the thing that keeps us
going through the motions,
trying: reaching
for the light.

 

Katie Oliver is a writer based on the west coast of Ireland, whose work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions, and Best Microfiction. Her debut short story collection, I WANTED TO BE CLOSE TO YOU, will be published in December 2022 with Fly on the Wall Press, and she is a first reader for Tiny Molecules. She can be found on Twitter @katie_rose_o.

Haibun for a Day in the Life of a Hikikomori by Jemma Leigh Roe

Exit signs hang above every door, but I do not obey them. The lavender walls of my bedroom, baby-soft, lull me into sanctuary. In the hallway, my mother leaves cold fruit and a letter. It tells me her childhood friend’s husband has become a billionaire. We cannot pay the electric bill. Under a lightless roof, I split ripe grapes and expose the flesh with impatient teeth. The seeds lie fallow in a sealed throat.

I fold myself in the sheets and speak with the deer skull my father once brought home. It whispers in his voice about a bullet’s kiss and the caress of a knife’s edge, glints of solace in a long dark. Hearing the hum of a lonely moon, I open my window and throw the head out into umber woods. Everything falls on it. Endless needles, endless snow. The fossil breaks more easily than I under the pressure of winter.

I, too, fall apart,
year after year, until spring
will awaken joy.

 

Jemma Leigh Roe has poems and artwork published or forthcoming in Iron Horse Literary Review, Permafrost, The Ilanot Review, The Fourth River, and others. She received her Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures from Princeton University.

Comet as Paperboy by Samantha Blysse Haviland

He packs a lunch of phosphorus and amino acids
and enough water to cool a dwarf star. Overworked

and underpaid, he crash lands on an insignificant rock.
The heat from the nearest star thaws out his frozen meal

which he garnishes with iron from the planet’s core.
The home office calls him and asks why he has taken

his lunch break so early. Comet as paperboy tells
the home office to fuck off. The next day more comets join him,

each one carrying a tv dinner that he helps bring to life;
the shelves fill with meatloaf and lasagna. Home office calls again.

What’s this? You’ve formed a union now? Well, what
are your demands? Comet as paperboy hangs up. The comets burn

their phones in the lava pits, sulfur smoke sits in the air.
The stars shine brighter with jealousy, with bitterness—

their readers can get their news the old-fashioned way from now on,
the comets decide. They can wait for the light to reach them.

 

Samantha Blysse Haviland is from Mamaroneck, New York. Their work has been recognized nationally by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and has previously appeared in Ninth Letter, Blue Marble Review, and Lumiere. They enjoy writing in all genres and are especially fond of experimental work.

No Residue by Samantha Samakande

I have always known
that before I shed
my mother’s body,

                I was planned,
                planted,
                waited for.

I flirt
with this knowing,
let it irrigate me

                from the inside out, let it
                drift in my hallways
                unpinnable but crisp,

sampling
what it means to be
shamelessly permanent.

                Still, when I slip
                out of bed I want it,
                that pop,

that blink,
that quiet dissolve,
that immediate

                oblivion bubbles do.
                I want it neat,
                I want no residue,

but I will loiter in the sacks
of my father’s lungs,
kink up my mother’s gut,

                gouge a pit ravenous
                as a tapeworm, crust over
                my husband’s lips, another stale

husk of skin between him
and the lovers who will sip
him after I am finished—

                brand them all,
                stubborn as girlhood
                scrapes on knees.

When I leave
it will not be clean.

 

Samantha Samakande is a Zimbabwean poet currently based out of Bloomfield, NJ where she resides with her husband. She is a graduate of Allegheny College and is an Editor for F(r)iction. Her work has appeared in The South Florida Poetry Journal, Sugar House Review, Pif Magazine, The Indianapolis Review, and Gordon Square Review, among others. In 2020, she was the second-place winner of Frontier Poetry’s Award for New Poets.

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.