Tasneem Maher is an Arab writer and poet who encourages theatrics and melodrama of any kind. A Best of the Net nominee, her work has been featured in Vagabond City Lit, Kissing Dynamite, and Jaffat El Aqlam, amongst others. She is also Fiction and Personal Essays Editor at Sumou Mag. She tweets @mythosgal.
I rub a dove’s smooth head and watch it fly out,
imagining that it is simply taking the long way to get to you.
We had our send-off on opposite sides of the desert. Now,
there are at least two bodies of water between us. I toss my voice
like a stone across the sea’s shuddering skin and it sinks halfway in.
My qiyam is a four-hour phone call while you cried through it.
I tell you I know what being alone feels like, that one time,
I opened all the windows in the middle of a storm just to smell it
and spent all morning mopping up pools of rainwater.
If storms make us feel less alone, it is only because they crawl
across skies carving out distance like the aloneness carved into us,
cured by the ache of distance alone. We would live by rivers
we know nothing about and had only seen glow apatite blue
in idyllic postcards we picked out in bookstores. We’d chosen this, after all.
On your first day, you show me your new river, pixelated and dim
through your camera. The windmills you’d passed on your way
into the city, farther out, are much prettier. You think happiness
looks a lot like the windmills catching the sunset, breaking the light
to shards, a thousand glittering suns. I want to see that happiness
without a screen. I want that happiness to be closer to you. For now,
you buy the cheapest bottle of wine for the novelty, disparage
all the food, and tell me very quietly that you miss Amman.
I miss it too, on humid days most of all, though maybe it’s the mountains
we miss, how much nearer to the sky we were. When you complain
about digging up coats in mid-September, I say you’ve been spoilt
by a sunburn summer but to you, it’s divine retribution for ignoring the duaa
before the plane took off or that it took off at all. It rains on your
first night and when we have nothing to say, we listen to the water.
Aerik Francis is a Queer Black & Latinx poet & teaching artist based in Denver, Colorado, USA. Aerik is a recipient of poetry fellowships from CantoMundo and The Watering Hole. They are event coordinator for Slam Nuba and a poetry reader for Underblong poetry journal. You can find links to their published work through their social media on IG/TW @phaentompoet
“[B]op referred to the way a man in particular walked down the street. It was his signature to the world!”
–Afaa Michael Weaver
Bouncing with a bounce that announced
us three, a trio of Black cuties, faded
and insisting to get more twisted,
we enlisted the assistance of a Lyft ride
to safely get us to music and club lights.
Stopped in a stopping zone, we are stopped by a cop:
What do you think you are doing bebopping across the street?
Dizzy and shocked by the hunting of this hawk,
we paused – the driver paused – lost,
only to notice the cop was talking to us.
Driver-side window down, he scowled
at us in the back, passengers waiting
for an answer to a foreclosed question.
We clearly must have been improvising
or riffing or scatting & step-skipping–
Why did he think we were bebopping across the street?
Clogging up the stopping zone in gridlock
the cop could not find a law
-ful reason to fee or lock us so
he clocked us & blocked us until he walked off.
Not even jaywalking, just walking while Black
with the singing swagger of our swinging staggers–
What else could we think but be, bopping across the street?
Emily Blair is a queer Appalachian poet and writer currently living in North Carolina.
The best ham in Louisville’s in a deli in the back of a liquor store, no signs, salty-sweet and heavenly cold on a biscuit, made for picnics in the March sunlight, made for walking, and even these moments must be remembered.
When I come around all I want is salt. I beg God smite me like Lot’s wife. I step over sharp and broken
things, find the remote, sit, smoke, drink a pot of coffee, lick salt off my palm, choke down the forty cent
can of chili, force living, more salt, dream of ham biscuits in the sun, of picnics, of the life I never tried,
dream of dying, smoke all the cigarettes, go out in the rain, say hello to the cats, drink Gatorade, drink tea,
drink chlorinated tap water, pray for death, wake up, go to work, live, ask everybody the name of the deli,
nobody knows, is it a deli or do they just sell ham, what’s the fucking difference make, go to the park, eat
a sandwich alone, go home alone, stand just outside the circle of conversation in the dark, smoke all the
cigarettes, clean up broken glass, swear off dark liquor, repent, bargain, repent, beg for death, give in,
walk to the corner store, buy a bottle, drink it, feel better, lie on my stomach reading the Bible, Lot’s wife
doesn’t even have a name, get religion, lose it, go to the bar, lose it again, go to get that ham and the
cashier looks at me like I’ve lost my mind, why do I think they sell ham here, exactly?
Adrienne Novy is a Jewish and disabled artist, Bettering American Poetry and Pushcart Prize nominee, and graduate from Hamline University’s Creative Writing program. She is the author of Crowd Surfing With God (Half Mystic Press, 2018) and the mini-chapbooks, We Have Each Other’s Flowers (Zines + Things, 2020) and Pull (Ginger Bug Press, 2020). Her most recent work can be found in Vagabond City Lit and “You Flower/ You Feast: An Anthology of Prose, Poems, & Plays inspired by Harry Styles”. She lives in the Upper Midwest and has a cat named Laurie.
portrait of the artist as lights up by harry styles, sequins soaked in the pacific ocean, 2019
since i sleep in the dark alone, i fold
into the hum & glow of me. a finger
is drawn down my torso & becomes
a prickly scrambling. the boys
who wouldn’t look twice at me
in high school like my instagram photos
now. none of them know i smell like lemons
when i really try, or feel more like me
submerged in bubbling water, like a torpid knife
embracing the harvest, my body is inconsistent
in its want & gratitude--i’m sorry by the way, the sour of being
encased in skin—is much messier than anticipated, i do not desire myself
unless someone else is hungry. i would make the mirror prism
its growl if i could.
falling by harry styles is actually about mental health recovery
& I will die on this hill, whether it is made of gold
or not. my hands, a scaffold, a benevolent temple,
dedicated to some new & warm g-d, i pray
for a freezer full of ice packs & a kitchen sink free of dishes,
thankful to be drenched in amber that is only the sun
in the morning &, even so, what am I now
if I’m someone I don’t want around, undeserving
of joys such as iridescent nail polish & the breeze from tulle blouses?
I call my therapist, sobbing.
Someone somewhere is playing piano at the bottom of the ocean.
Daniel Garcia's essays appear or are forthcoming in SLICE, Denver Quarterly, The Offing, Ninth Letter, Guernica, Hayden’s Ferry Review and elsewhere. Poems appear or are forthcoming in The Puritan, Harbor Review, The Arkansas International, Ploughshares, Zone 3 and others. A recipient of a Short Prose Prize from Bat City Review and a Poetry Prize from So to Speak, Daniel has received awards and scholarships from Tin House, the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, the New York State Summer Writers Institute, and currently serves as a reader and editorial assistant for Split Lip Magazine. Daniel’s essays also appear as Notables in The Best American Essays.
essay on girlhood
n. | definition:
the balmy bouquet of a mouth always burgeoning into
summer / a kind of blue often confused for a shape
like sinking but more / the ocean in all her tumbling
/ arms vast enough to ribbon an entire planet &
still find room for me whenever i ask if she has any
to spare / the way she says always babe / the mouth that
becomes a dressing room & / me as the bouquet
blooming from it / hands curled around booty shorts
/ a scrapcloth the color of wine / that which i didn’t
think could hold / the soft of my thighs like i would
my mother’s when i stepped into them / the light that
finds my teeth before my tears / the word pretty
perched above my lips while the cashier rings
everything up like / a handful of sand pressed into / a
pearl i’ve waited all this time to see / a sunset just
outside the glass doors & not enough world to fit it all
In the dressing room before the ceremony, my mother’s
thumb works across my cheek. Like a secret tucked behind
my ear, there’s a rose plaited into my hair. Pink, thornless.
She’s the only one I’d want walking me through the trellis,
the first set of hands to meet me in the world, last before
I find his. I’m becoming a wife I need to be. I came here
shoeless & singing & today I’m doing it all over again.
If I look past the window, the ocean is chittering & halo-
draped in sunset. Before each other, we’re both so young.
Her assessment is simple: You look so beautiful. I’m not sure
who says it, my mother or the waves, but she’s looking at me
like a woman. She’s about to give me away. We’re crying.
Brendan Joyce is an unemployed worker from Cleveland, Ohio, the co-organizer of Grieveland and the author of the collections Love & Solidarity and Character Limit.
this city would be smaller
if cars were illegal
though we’d have to
drag that desk across town
then walk back to grab the mattress
& then again twice for the couch (it’s two pieces)
a new color made from what was once grey
sponging up the light late May rain
I found so much from a few different
decades packing (how can moving be so
many things? as nostalgic
as it is hard as it is reinvigorating)
that blue corduroy snapback from when
the nun took us to sit courtside (before Lebron)
when Eric Snow was about the best
we could get (Zydrunas spit all over your lap)
the Whitney ticket from a first date and
the hospital bracelet from the last
the New York magazine
you gave me a few months after I got sober
with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s dead face on the front
while cataloging these morbid kindnesses
I realized this is my seventeenth time moving
last summer (here he goes again) I sat on that porch with you
and watched them build that house.
The day I moved out they had almost finished.
Sanna Wani lives between Mississauga and Srinagar. She loves daisies.
Raphael prefers to go by Ralph, as he feels it suits him better and he’s heard every Ninja Turtle joke ever uttered. He is a native of Detroit, Michigan currently residing in Kentucky with his Boo-thang and their four-year-old boy. He is a chef by day and an essayist, poet, screenwriter in his dreams. He, like Issa Rae, is rooting for everybody Black. His work has been featured (or is forthcoming) on his mama’s fridge, his close friends’ inboxes, Hobart, 3 Elements Review, HASH Journal, Frontier Poetry, and All Guts No Glory. Follow him on twitter: @RALPHEEBOI
I wish Jordan Peele could have released Get Out 400 years ago
to serve as a warning to all the
humans who would become
niggers, to let them know they have
reason to fear the arriving ships, to
let them know our bodies are honey-
laced diamonds ripe for pillaging,
to prove the drinking gourd
won’t lead us home,
to show them our blood still
waters the cottonseeds,
to help them choose Olokun’s
mouth over this land of loss, as their
savior won’t know us, their fields will
choke us, our tongues will be blanched
in bleach, their law will disembowel
us, their dreams will wring us broken,
our cities will wail as tinder, and
we’ll never be done drowning
in their western civilization
Grandpa’s Detroit #1
A shack deep in a thick wood of elm becomes a sanctuary
when duh moon high. Mistuh Bandleaduh counts off
somethin’ swingin’ in A-minuh & duh prettiest gals
you ever seen, conk-laid cats in arm, high-step
onto duh dance floor in ten-dollah suits and handmade
gowns danglin’ ovuh sticky tiles. Duh brass gallops
along wit ‘em, one trumpeter is sweatin’ but leanin’
on his horn, makin’ it bark somethin’ wild.
He make it swang round duh room like a loose firehose.
He give duh music all duh winds in his body.
Doctuh Bass-man pluck his walk in 3/4 while Piano Jim
teach duh keys how to keep duh people feets on fire. Duh sweet
name of Jesus ain’t too much called out in’nis church, but duh’kasional
Lawd a’mercy!! sho’nuff will get heaved up to duh smoky rafters
when duh horns’ wangin’ & Mistuh Bandleaduh’s
raspy holla’ touch on someone just right, make em’ sing
back. Dis a holy experience, got all duh same moans & spite
as dem hymns duh fields taught our folk, but we swapped
the blood in ‘em wit beans & hot watuh co’nbread,
added some jazz & built us up a house to hide it all in.
You wudda loved it, boy.
Daniel B. Summerhill is an Assistant Professor of Poetry and Social Action at California State University Monterey Bay. He lives in Marina with his wife, Quianna and daughter, Genesis.
His work has appeared in or is forthcoming in Obsidian, Rust + Moth, Califragile, Button, Cogs, The Hellebore, The Lilly Review and others. He holds an MFA from Solstice of Pine Manor College.
when we thought the world was ending, flowers began blooming
if not a revolution, a broken window--
an angiosperm in my hand, a bouquet of flowers
in front of me, the shards glisten half yellow-
half opaque & arresting like
freeze tag, i am preserved & anxious
all at once the body always knows
how to signal pain, vivid colors
don’t call me hero, i am no hero, i am
a white blood cell standing in front of this store,
smoking & amber, watching the spring bloom
in defense of survival
i don’t know but it’s better
than not having
nothing to fight for
again, my homies die &
they label those of us on deck
“survivors,” in the longest stretch of the word
as in, we entered this world dying
& count our blessings each time god takes
our friends instead
pardon my audacity,
not even small prey
desire to survive
Ava Gripp is a writer from Cleveland, Ohio. She focuses on poetry and travel writing.
Your Grandfather Had Secrets
Without you in the mountains another Midwest
mostly East, body of water
“Keep it cheap for me, Chief. Will ya?”
Any bartender smiles mirroring your tight
Irish grin another region missing you again
I lost you in the winter considering the canyons considering your slapstick
I'm riding with you to be alone
A Sportster or ‘Dina riding with the Angels they look
like you with their leather on
The tailpipe said, “Fuck You” and your windpipe sang Moody Blue
I went down to the river to feel for a moment I dipped
and slashed and drowned to hear you sing your songs once more
and you said, don’t go to hell for me, too
Plastic septum accessory oxygen earrings catching
Closing eyes dreaming of a sixth gear you say
Revving, laughing, yelling booooooooom
With you in the hospital driving away
Only you lived for one more week
You had addictions and we all do I count the trees passing in obsession
One, two, blinking to see in the California pines
But there is no rest there is no miracle
Fish in the water that I cast my net to maybe catch you but
The Bells have Tolled or told me that you are gone
So go on ahead before me
Singing another memory Telling another story Please One more story
Terri Linn David-
For the Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits
Darius Simpson- 2 Poems
Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach-
When my son says...
Kaleigh O'Keefe- Autobiography of Joan of Arc
Timi Sanni- In This World of Mysteries...
Anna Attie- We Lose Her Over Facetime
Ruth Baumann- 2 Poems
Rob Colgate- Remember These Tulips
Tasneem Maher- Pilgrimage
Aerik Francis- Bebop
Emily Blair- The best ham...
Adrienne Novy- 2 Poems
Daniel Garcia- 2 Poems
Brendan Joyce- moving day
Sanna Wani- 2 Poems
Raphael Jenkins- 2 Poems
Ava Gripp- Your Grandfather Had Secrets
stevie redwood- abolish the dead
benedict nguyen- 2 Poems
Gabrielle Grace Hogan-
Girls Night at the Saturnine Aquarium
Devin Kelly- 2 Poems
Danielle P. Williams-
Alan Chazaro- In a Vernacular of Speculation
Deema K. Shehabi-
A Summer's Tale with Fire Birds
Kayleb Rae Candrilli-
Julianne Neely- 2 Poems
Jake Bailey- 2 Poems
Fargo Tbakhi- 2 Poems
Justin Phillip Reed-
Naomi Shihab Nye-
Keith Leonard- Jukebox
CAConrad- 3 Poems
Roya Marsh- for (insert name)
Stephanie Kaylor- LONG DISTANCE
Tongo Eisen Martin-
A Sketch about Genocide
Despy Boutris- BLOODTEETH
JinJin Xu- Days of Hourless Mothers
Ashley M. Jones- Flour, Milk & Salt
Sam Herschel Wein- How To Cook Your Family
Marianne Chan- 2 poems
Jason Crawford- PReP
Geramee Hensley- Redundancy Limit
Dustin Pearson- My Brother Outside the House in Hell
DT McCrea- On occasion of my own death
Noor Hindi- Unkept
Linda Dove- Mid-Life with Teeth
Stephen Furlong- I Don't Know About You, but Mostly I Just Want to be Held
Dorothy Chan- Because You Fall Too Fast Too Hard
Kevin Latimer- MIRAGE
Taylor Byas- Rooftop Monologue
Matt Mitchell- FINE LINE TRIPTYCH
Todd Dillard- Will
Heidi Seaborn- Under The Bed
Heather Myers- A Rainbow, Just For A Minute
Donna Vorreyer- In The Encyclopedia of Human Gestures
Conor Bracken- THE WORST THING YOU CAN DO TO A MAN
Ben Purkert- 2 Poems
Emma Bolden- What Women's Work Is
Chelsea Dingman- Lockdown Drill
Raych Jackson- Pantoum for Derrion Albert from the Plank
Elliot Ping- in the eighth grade
ii. dance moves
D.A. Powell- Sneak