Michael Battisto has work that can be found or forthcoming in The Normal School, HAD, Poet Lore, The Shore, MoonPark Review, and elsewhere. He has lived in many places, but now he lives in Oakland. You can find him on Twitter @mbattisto3 or @michaelbattisto.com.
My friends and I exchanged dead fathers
until our smiles were the same. We drove
through old songs to other states to find
what the midnight there meant. Expecting
our bodies to be bankrupt by thirty
we pawned our arteries and stomachs
for chemical epiphanies. We might fast
for a week to buy tickets to stripped
auditoriums, where the music slowed us
into the present tense. We sold seats
to canceled concerts and smoked our guilt
with the profit. We borrowed each others
clothes and partners and beds and confessed
our shame through relapses, then slept
on the nude floors of stranger’s houses.
We listed our dissonances on the walls
of our ashtray apartments. We snorted
cocaine off stolen exit signs and made sure
no one went. Eric and Chris play-fought
with knives and threatened to let the other
win. We were children humming our
innocence and hammering on ourselves
with fists. We bought cigarettes instead
of food whenever we could and predicted
when each other’s bodies would end.
In our conversations we declared silence
obscene, and left blank pages in our hidden
diaries for our friends to write helpless
commentaries and promises we
almost believed we would keep.
Ben Togut is a queer poet and singer-songwriter from New York City. His recent work is published or forthcoming in Mumber Mag, The Offing, Hobart, and elsewhere.
I scrub flies from the shower,
dark shapes from cheap tile.
I can’t enjoy autumn—any moment you’ll text.
I make playlists to fill the quiet.
I listen to Joni but I only think
of summer, your easy smile.
Do you remember that day
in Iowa City, the light in the trees?
Today I learned you ended your life.
Today I went back to the old house,
stood at the same intersection
where I stood on so many mornings.
At the edge of your life, did you search
the night for meaning, for one last star?
I lie awake. I wonder how we fare
in this project of living.
Saba Keramati is a Chinese-Iranian writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Michigan Quarterly Review, AGNI, Passages North, The Margins, and elsewhere. She is the current Poetry Editor at Sundog Lit.
I learn and I mourn
for not learning earlier.
The mint grew but was not eaten.
A harvest turned to waste.
The old brick of this house keeps
the wandering night air cold and inside.
I cannot fathom my mother
before she was my mother.
What forgiveness is necessary,
for someone doing their best?
There is no relief, only the swell
of an inward tide back toward the self.
I learn and I mourn.
There is no anger,
only truth. Only consequence.
Only: I, gazing at the past
of my own body, the shell
of myself melting, meaning I will drip
to a future where I am a mother;
am my mother, and all is what she helped create.
There is also what we broke.
There is also what we mended.
One day, too, my daughter will break
upon the shore, and still
she will float back.
I see it endlessly.
Originally from Texas, Shannon spent twelve years in Turkey and is currently located in Québec City, where she is pursuing a doctorate in clinical psychology. Her debut poetry collection, Such Excess of Light (2021), was released last year with Kelsay Books. Recent work has appeared in CERASUS, Viewless Wings Press, Agapanthus Collective, The Anti-Languorous Project, Plainsongs, and Wild Roof Journal. You can connect with her at shannonlise.com.
THE WAVE IN MY HEART IS A GREAT GREEN WAVE
You and I know all about
how the rain comes late
like an afterthought, like a
kiss you could have given.
Time is a story full of green
windows closing, mostly forever.
Every morning somebody
else who could have been
saved, saying, what light it
was, that almost found me.
Study the dried-up places
on the dark road to God’s
house, find out how much
longer you should have
waited, where you should
have stood beneath the
window, what it would have
taken – such small wings.
If the person had woken up
one more time, maybe it
would have been the day
they noticed their name –
the watergreen shine of it,
field of lilies falling to light.
Lauren Saxon is a Queer, Black poet and engineer living in Portland, ME. She loves her cats, her Subaru, and spending way too much time on twitter (@Lsax_235). Lauren is Editor of Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and her work is featured in Flypaper Magazine, Empty Mirror, Homology Lit, Nimrod International Journal and more. Her first chapbook, "You're My Favorite" is forthcoming with Thirty West Publishing. Selected publications can be found on her website, www.laurenMsaxon.com
WHEN I TELL THE FLOWERS HELLO, SHE KNOWS
— After Paige Lewis
that i am talking to directly to Her
i’ve grown weary of saying the phrase you left us
though it was your choice, of course, to leave
alternatively— i acknowledge that your decision
was actually a simple change in residence
that these days, instead of merely one body,
you call every shade of purple home
sometimes in sunsets, but more frequently in the flowers
that i find, conveniently scattered amidst my path
i am walking to work and there you are blooming
oh hey, my love i say to you, in particular
sometimes i pretend to be annoyed
to be frustrated to see so much of you
yes? i ask, what do you want this time?
always with a smile in my voice
even when you were alive i remember
how much you loved attention
and while this has become our routine i am
often shocked to see you in places where nothing should grow
to see you on days when there is no sun
when i want, so badly, to join you
there you are—
saying Hi in a voice that is
somehow, softer than the bellflower petal itself
it stops me in my tracks
and with a deep inhale i realize this
is the closest I can get to you
next i hold your home directly in front of my face
so close that it sometimes brushes against my nose now &
then in a different realm,
you are standing just inches from me and
this is my favorite part--
when the flower flutters gently in the wind
i rush to inhale what must be your breath
saying hello, once more
Lisa Summe is the author of Say It Hurts (YesYes Books, 2021). She earned a BA and MA in literature at the University of Cincinnati, and an MFA in poetry from Virginia Tech. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Bat City Review, Cincinnati Review, Muzzle, Salt Hill, Verse Daily, West Branch, and elsewhere. You can find her running, playing baseball, or eating vegan pastries in Pittsburgh, PA, on Twitter and Instagram @lisasumme, and at lisasumme.com.
When you said it’s like a door
that’s always locked, I said we’ll climb through
every window. When I built a ladder,
when each rung crumbled as I climbed,
when I fell to the ground, when I built
more ladders, when I fell to the ground
again, you met me there, again & again,
every time, in the dying grass, in the rain,
in the rubble, all winter, & it was there,
where we couldn’t stop looking at each other,
& so we didn’t, so we stopped climbing, built a house
we cut the keys to instead of breaking into one
someone else had built, the bricks of it everything
I tried to cling to every time I fell: the perfect
pillow of your cheek on my thigh,
the shirt you leave in my bed
when I won’t see you for a week,
your towel I leave hanging in the bathroom
like you’ll still be here tomorrow.
Caroline Stevens is a queer poet from Minneapolis. She is currently a second-year MFA student in poetry at Vanderbilt University, and serves as the editor in chief of the Nashville Review.
Field of Vision
Tell me the story again, the one where
she and I both wanted what we now have:
sunny room where the only audible noise
is what comes out of us, our animal song.
The way she tends to herself, carefully,
after a shower, steam lifting off skin
as she pulls a comb through long wet hair
like a child guarding a snail shell. How
the only line between presence and memory
is the shape delusion’s shadow casts
on the wall. This morning, for example,
I could have sworn I saw her silhouette
behind the curtains at the kitchen table
with coffee, waiting for me to wake
so she could leave the first mark on my day,
as easy as the crescent moons left from my nails
in the ripening tomatoes. Longing’s colors
stack neatly, horizontally, like an Agnes Martin
painting—blues so pale they seem white,
the pencil lines invisible until another step
closes the space between face and canvas.
Let’s go back to Madison, or Duluth,
somewhere the horizon meets the still lake
in the same shade of blue, where the only way
to remember that the two never
actually meet is to believe it.
travis tate is a queer, black playwright, poet and performer from Austin, Texas. Their poetry has appeared in Borderlands:Texas Poetry Review, Underblong, Mr. Ma’am, apt, and Cosmonaut Avenue among other journals. Their debut poetry collection, MAIDEN, was published on Vegetarian Alcoholic Press in June 2020. The world premiere of Queen of The Night was produced at Dorset Theatre Festival this August and will have another production at Victory Gardens Theatre in Feb 2022. They earned an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers. You can find more about them at travisltate.com.
after Andre Leon Talley
quiet sleep is sought after
but not necessarily needed--
neither, is needed, the birth
of small flowers in a meadow
or god’s request for rain, sky
throwing its mirth in our faces
like when your good friend
has good news
& good news is good news
& this is how we profess
for one another
there are citadels of joy:
a list of simple things
that ache with undemanding sentimentality,
for a reminder that the weeded garden
often is still beautiful.
& we call for more beauty,
not to satisfy some need for consumption
but to watch your eyes grow
when you realize the wealth of worldly pleasure
is, duh, in the eye of beholder,
held for many moments
until it blends into the next.
Look, the leaves sweeping the cement,
riddle with weak trash.
Alissa M. Barr is a critical care nurse and writer originally from South Central Appalachia. She is currently living and working in Aurora, Colorado. Her work has appeared in Crab Creek Review, Salt Hill Journal, and elsewhere.
Once, in anatomy class, we were asked to select one skull
from a shelf of skulls. Each one was a gleaming bleach white,
except the one I chose—discolored with cracked eyeteeth.
Nothing real shines. I held the weight of it in my hands
lighter than I expected it to be. I loved the smell of gasoline.
My grandmother’s kitchen burned by the grease overflowing
from a deep-fryer. Brush alight in the barren fields. The smell
of smoke clung to my hair hours afterward. Once, a boy
with dirt-caked fingernails held a Bic lighter to the base
of my neck. Threatened to burn me there. Is virtue a privilege?
I slapped him. Once, I was obsessed with cleanliness.
I wanted to scrape the world off my skin in thick slices down
to the bone. Now I relish filth. I want to be good less than
I want to be alive. I no longer believe in self-sacrifice.
I don’t envy the lamb. I envy the one sharpening the knife.
Ed is a teacher and the author of 'Sautéing Spinach With My Aunt' (Desert Willow Press, 2018). He was selected as a featured poet for Cathexis Northwest Press, and other words can be found in or forthcoming from Water/Stone Review, Hippocampus Magazine, One Teen Story, Perhappened, Parentheses Journal, Drunk Monkeys & more. Readers can follow him on Twitter (@EdDoerrWrites) and visit his website (eddoerr.com).
Man Shocked To Discover Brain Washed Up On the Beach 1
Does anyone expect to reach the end whole?
Each step, a sloughing: a life measured
in the weight of loss accumulating.
The sun dims. A snow-blanketed bough snaps.
The cold presses air from lungs.
If we’re lucky, we offer our hearts willingly,
chamber by chamber, in effigy.
Without dust, how would we know
that a house once teemed with life?
You see, for thirty-six years, my guts
have trailed behind me, a slack rope:
even when I’m lost, I’m moored.
Far off, waves shatter against the shore--
in moonlight, like these, we iridesce,
so should you discover my brain
washed up on a beach, know this:
at the end of it, it’s a joy to be found.
1 Title taken from the headline of a CNN article published on 9/20/20.
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