Originally from San Francisco, Tongo Eisen-Martin is a poet, movement worker, and educator. His latest curriculum on extrajudicial killing of Black people, We Charge Genocide Again, has been used as an educational and organizing tool throughout the country. His book titled, "Someone's Dead Already" was nominated for a California Book Award. His latest book "Heaven Is All Goodbyes" was published by the City Lights Pocket Poets series, was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and won a California Book Award and an American Book Award.
A Sketch about Genocide
A San Francisco police chief says, “Yes, you poets make points. But they are all silly,”
Police chief sowing a mouth onto a mouth
Police chief looking straight through the poet
Flesh market both sides of the levy
Change of plans both sides of the nonviolence
On no earth
Just an earth character
His subordinate says, “Awkward basketball moves look good on you, sir... Yes, we are
everywhere, sir... yes, unfortunately for now, white people only have Black History ... we will
slide the wallpaper right into their cereal bowls, sir ... Surveil the shuffle.”
I am a beggar and all of this day is too easy
I want to see all of the phases of a wall
Every age it goes through
Its environmental racism
We call this the ordeal blues
Now crawl to the piano seat and make a blanket for your cell
Paint scenes of a child dancing up to the court appearance
And leaving a man,
but not for home
Atlantic ocean charts mixed in with parole papers
Mainstream funding (the ruling class’s only pacifism)
Ruling class printing judges (fiat kangaroos)
Making judges hand over fist
Rapture cop packs and opposition whites all above a thorny stem
Caste plans picked out like vans for the murder show
anglo-saints addicting you to a power structure
you want me to raise a little slave, don’t you?
bash his little brain in
and send him to your civil rights
Just a white pain
Delicate bullets in a box next to a stack of monolith scriptures
(makes these bullets look relevant, don’t it?)
I remember you
Everywhere you lay your hat is the capital of the south
The posture you introduced to that fence
The fence you introduced to political theory
If you shred my dreams, son
I will tack you to gun smoke
The suburbs are finally offended
this will be a meditation too
Despy Boutris's writing has been published in Copper Nickel, American Poetry Review, The Gettysburg Review, Colorado Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Currently, she serves as Poetry Editor for Gulf Coast, Guest Editor for Palette Poetry and Frontier, and Editor-in-Chief of The West Review.
I went blackberry-picking, looked down
at my index finger, & watched a wound bloom
with blood. To compare this plasma
to a flowering thing: amaryllis, orchid,
chrysanthemum. To memorize creases,
freckles, the sight of the thorn finding its way
into flesh. All day, the breeze burns
my ears, eyes blurring at the sight of sunlight
filtering through oak branches, that golden
color unbearable, the haze hard to believe
as fable. My mother organizes her top-drawer
& finds a box of my teeth. My mother
tells me love never lasts, a river dissolving
into a ravine with parched rocks. Nothing
left to drink. I call my father to say I dreamt
I swam the span of the Pacific, fled
from everything I know. He reminds me
my name is mythic—body built for saltwater,
memory spanning centuries, trident still stuck
in my spine. & what do we really have
to count on but the sea, water, the light
of the sun turning on the city? Hands
made stiff from the cold, distant smoke rising,
the scent of anise in the air.
Khalisa Rae is a poet and journalist in Durham, NC, and author of Real Girls Have Real Problems chapbook. Her poetry can be seen in Crab Fat, Damaged Goods, Hellebore, Terse, Sundog Lit, PANK, Tishman Review, Occulum, the Obsidian, among others. She is the winner of the Bright Wings Poetry contest, the Furious Flower Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize, the White Stag Publishing Contest, among others. Currently, she serves as Managing Equity Editor at Carve Magazine and Writing Center Director at Shaw University. Her debut collections, Ghost in a Black Girls Throat are forthcoming from Red Hen Press in April 2021 and White Stag Publishing Summer '21
Belly-Full of Gospel
Each morning my grandma rises to find her Bible
still breathing, belting her favorite aria. A lion,
a well, a sacrifice. Crack-of-dawn, coffee-stained,
scrolls making music at 6am. Each page turn a chord
she knows better than hot water cornbread and collard
greens. Wailing Blessed Assurance, What a Friend to crackling
bacon– all a belly-full of gospel summoning spirit to be there
in the midst. Her back buckle and hand wave awakening
a holy ghost- Bash-sha- Shadrach, Meshach- tongue-speaking
spells cast out the demons haunting this old house. “While
I’m on this tedious journey”— a sovereign song soothing her
aching, calligraphed hands. Walk with Me, she asks,
inviting Him in the room. What a meditation, a ritual
to welcome Holy into a place held together by broken bread.
A sacred invitation to dine with her and the browning
hash. Nothing but the Blood and sunrise slicing sound--
stirring a tent revival lasting ‘til nightfall across
her wobbling kitchen table.
Ode to Uncommon Things
If this world has taught me anything,
it has taught me we are obsessed
with naming, with calling a Ren a
Ren, with deciding the weeping willow
was heavy with grief, with echoing
the words Nightjar and picturing
nocturnal hawk. Maybe it's the god-like
power of it all, the villain of conjuring
titles, calling a thing broken and watching
it fall, then calling it chosen–phoenix,
and watching it rise. Who are we
to be cataloged and filed?
All of us just common things
waiting to be named uncommon,
waiting to go from bird to Nightingale,
from pigeon to white-wing, crest-backed
Long-tailed widow. The sonnet we hoped
would be written for our raised backs
and color stripes— unwritten.
Instead, we watched while handkerchief
and pitch pipe got 83. Mementos
to things less miracle than we. Time
spent crafting sestinas to penny loafer,
and pocket watch.
But we are not listed--
we, the uncommon, silvery tokens.
JinJin Xu is a filmmaker and writer from Shanghai. She has received honors from The Poetry Society of America, Southern Humanities Review, and the Thomas J. Watson Foundation. She is currently an MFA candidate and Lillian Vernon Fellow at NYU, and her chapbook There Is Still Singing in the Afterlife was selected by Aria Aber for the Own Voices Chapbook Prize and is forthcoming November 20.
Days of Hourless Mothers
my mother’s insomnia wets my nose,
You are leaving me
My mother’s insomnia wets my nose,
exhales her abandon
into the muffled orifice,
Exhales her abandon
into night, guilt unclenches
the muffled orifice,
old tissue, balled-up grief
Of night, guilt unclenches,
balled-up tissue, old grief.
I am leaving.
Each hour an organ, a zodiac beast,
twelve hours separate my mother and me,
our days halved, up hanging down,
shadows splitting this American sun.
Hour of the tiger: my mother
calls on the tip of night,
her sun spitting my American shadow,
sorry, sorry for disturbing your sleep.
Midnight tips me into
my mother’s lonesome noon,
always, I apologize in my sleep.
Only one is allowed pity,
Pity my mother’s lone moon.
Double the organ, double the beast,
only one child is allowed to
flip the zodiac onto its knees.
Hour of the lung and its cyclings of qi,
vital, untranslatable beasts
wailing songs of abandon
into night, I wake to
Your call, vital, untranslatable,
my abandon strains your voice,
Why are you awake?
Organs need sleep to heal.
I abandon you to the bright of day.
Listen, your daughter is sleeping，
her organs unclenching
your night’s far shore.
Soon, your tomorrow will ring
her into yesterday’s outstretched lungs,
and when she wakes, forgetting
to call, let her -
Ashley M. Jones holds an MFA in Poetry from Florida International University, and she is the author of Magic City Gospel (Hub City Press 2017), dark / / thing (Pleiades Press 2019), and REPARATIONS NOW! (Hub City Press 2021). Her poetry has earned several awards, including the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award, the Silver Medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards, the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize for Poetry, a Literature Fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize, and the Lucille Clifton Legacy Award. She was a finalist for the Ruth Lily Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship in 2020. Her poems and essays appear in or are forthcoming at CNN, The Oxford American, Origins Journal, The Quarry by Split This Rock, Obsidian, and many others. She teaches at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, she co-directs PEN Birmingham, and she is the founding director of the Magic City Poetry Festival.
FLOUR, MILK & SALT
after Celestia Morgan
a universe is born between her brown hands—flour, a cloud of Southern
possibility when she makes it hover and sigh. how this could become our
sustenance is magic, is Jesus making bread to outlast bread. what God but
a mother’s hands? what a prayer in the biscuit dough clinging to itself,
readied for the fire?
thank you mama thank you mama thank you mama thank you mama
thank you mama thank you mama thank you mama thank you mama
thank you mama thank you mama thank you mama thank you mama
thank you mama thank you mama thank you mama thank you mama
you gave your life so that I might live--
they say it will kill us, silent as it is. salt as it is. how it makes our blood so
deadly in our veins. how it, tableside, can be a weapon, even if it makes
the meal sing. a death song for me and my people. precursor to diabetes,
that great southern meal.
Sam Herschel Wein (he/they) is a Chicago-based poet who specializes in perpetual frolicking. Their second chapbook, GESUNDHEIT!, a collaboration with Chen Chen, was part of the 2019-2020 Glass Poetry Press Series. He co-founded and edits Underblong. Recent work can be found in Moon City Review, Sundog Lit, and Bat City Review, among others. Perchance, read more at samherschelwein.com.
How to Cook Your Family
Six mixing bowls. Fourteen blenders. Who needs this
many kitchen aids? An avalanche of appliances from
the taut, turquoise shelves. Every rubber spatula you’ve
ever dreamed of in the pull-out cabinet next to the
stove, packed so tight it’s stuck shut, inaccessible
Mother makes Challah most weeks, though she often
makes extras, for the weeks she wants just to pull
one from the freezer. A special Hungarian mixing
stick, an overnight dough, hidden recipes she changes
just barely over time, they’re impossible to copy
Clean out grandma’s house. She’s in a senior’s apartment
complex now. Not a nursing home, my mother says aloud
for herself. Though Grandma wouldn’t know. Her
Alzheimer’s, ten years old. I’ve inherited many of
the extra kitchen bowls, tools, essentials she kept buying.
Don’t forget to mix
Yeast for the bread to rise. Raisins on holidays. Gefilte
fish from scratch, Brisket recipe from Great Aunt
Esther. My grandmother was the best cook in town,
in the Jewish community. My mother was the best
cook in town, in the Jewish community. Where I grew up.
Sprinkle, ever so gently
sesame seeds. Sprinkle dirt on the grave. Sprinkles
in your eyes, reading a speech goodbye. All good
cooking comes in pinches, my mother once said.
And she lives that way, too. Pinching out her sadness,
the sprinkles hardly visible. Not even coarse.
Leave out to cool
I was like that. I was a balloon of smiles. They’d
shoot out of me with so much force. Pinching back
my hair, back my hurt. I’m learning to unfurl.
I have a book of recipes, but I don’t need them.
This tart, I baked anew. My own strawberries.
Marianne Chan grew up in Stuttgart, Germany, and Lansing, Michigan. She is the author of All Heathens from Sarabande Books (2020). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in New England Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Cincinnati Review, West Branch, and elsewhere. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Creative Writing at the University of Cincinnati.
Say what you mean already, the man snarls
with a string of floss hanging from his teeth.
You imagine that if you pull at the string, his whole
mouth would click on, incandescent. You stand
in a friend’s bathroom. The night drinks a glass
of Diet Pepsi. You feel refreshed inside of it.
And yet, the man is here yelling: Say it. Spit it out.
The story. What’s the story? But sometimes
there is nothing. No story, no character,
not any reason to be at the party, other than
the fact that you like games of Twister, aperol
spritzes, the rolled-up prosciutto on a sugar
maple board. Sometimes there’s only the smell
of bleach, a clean bathroom that never looks
clean, only the slush of memory tumbling
into the gutter, dark and barely solid. Sometimes
there is only the silhouette of an owl outside,
the sheet music of its hoot, the German houses
on the street that remind you of a version
of Germany you once floated within, but now,
can no longer imagine. You want to say the story,
it’s here somewhere. But at the party, you’re under-
water with no goggles, your reading glasses
floating to the surface. What is there more
to say? It’s all bubbles and tile down here,
but no speech, and you’re ready to come up.
VALLEY OF FIRE, NEVADA
for J., A., & C.
October and the world alternates in vermillion, cantaloupe,
gray and tan. Limestone swirls: cream stirred into orange coffee. We
find ourselves in the petroglyphs. A thousand years ago, people
carved their own image—four figures holding hands—into rock
covered in a patina of iron and manganese. But we are not the
descendants of these original people. These minerals did not leach
from our bodies and evaporate over hundreds of years. We are sullen
transplants in search of red Aztec sandstone, knobby desert knees,
What does sedimentary mean, really? I think of the four of
us—an accumulation, broken segments cemented to broken
segments. Before you, I was a single person carrying a bike up the
stairs, listening to the radio in a tiled kitchen, but now, we are glued
here in this lumpy land, this amphitheater. We lay our heads on each
other’s rock shoulders. This was all sea at one point. All strung
together by water.
Jason B. Crawford (They/He) is a Black, nonbinary, bi-poly-queer writer born in Washington DC, raised in Lansing, MI. In addition to being published in online literary magazines, such as High Shelf Press, Wellington Street Review, Poached Hare, The Amistad, Royal Rose, and Kissing Dynamite, they are the Chief Editor for The Knight’s Library. Jason is a cofounder of the Poetry Collective MMPR, a group of poets who came together for laughs, bad memes, and nerd culture. They are also the recurring host of the poetry section for Ann Arbor Pride. Crawford has their Bachelors of Science in Creative Writing from Eastern Michigan University. Their debut chapbook collection Summertime Fine is out through Variant Lit.
He asks me if I am on PReP
or why I am so careless with my own body
He has seen boys like me before
eager to ruin what little we have
I am drunk off my ass
and this man now looks like an open field
or I look like open season
to these other older men
This is, after all,
The Chicago Jackhammer
where the men feast
on the young like me
But I am drunk and willing
to be a plate for any mouth here
Surely, it is the sadness that brought me
to the table with an apple in my teeth
Jee Leong Koh is the author of Steep Tea (Carcanet), named a Best Book of the Year by UK's Financial Times and a Finalist by Lambda Literary in the US. He has published four other books of poems, including his most recent collection Connor & Seal (Sibling Rivalry). Originally from Singapore, Koh lives in New York City, where he heads the literary non-profit Singapore Unbound. https://singaporeunbound.org/
Palinodes in the Voice of My Dead Father
"A palinode or palinody is an ode in which the writer retracts a view or sentiment expressed in an earlier poem. The first recorded use of a palinode is in a poem by Stesichorus in the 7th century BC, in which he retracts his earlier statement that the Trojan War was all the fault of Helen." (Wikipedia)
Tell your mom
love her less
than your sister.
speak to my wife
a whole life
it was fair
since she has
has her dad’s
I nodded to
of pork porridge
If I had
to do it again,
I would have done it
but there’s no
when one is dead
is always hungry.
Our last dinner
at the burger joint
with the bikers
eating not with
disciples on the road,
I did not have any,
reassembled from the winds,
you and your worldly
your sister, her husband,
and her two hearts,
sagging and smiling,
until the waiter,
leather-clad, dark glasses,
who had been staying
out of sight
asking us just once
how we had
saw we were done and
brought us the bill.
Geramee Hensley is a writer from Ohio. They are Poetry Editor at Tinderbox Poetry Journal. Their work has been featured in Button Poetry, Indiana Review, Hobart, New Poetry from the Midwest 2019, The Margins, The Recluse, The Shallow Ends, and elsewhere. You can find them @geramee_.
The office job boils down to a series of tasks that could ultimately be completed by anyone.
Please apply Zeno’s paradox of the arrow to social mobility and the desire to scale
the corporate paywall. I do mean paywall. It is no secret that how much money you have
is directly proportional to the number of dolphin tears for which you are responsible.
What an ocean before you! An unending playground of mammalian sadness. In the words
of the inimitable Rachel Ray: yum-o. In the words of my father, drink up, bucko.
There is simply too much heartache to go around, and you have only three stomachs
if you count your lungs. Repeat after me: everything about your life has happened before,
bears repeating and is a series of tasks that could ultimately be completed by anyone.
Repeat after me: the violence you commit is uniquely destructive in the sense that
it occupies a specific slice of space-time. There’s a series of people erased
at the end of the first sentence. There is a set of innate conditions, let's call them
privileges, readily available, and more importantly unavailable to a series of people erased
at the end of the first sentence. Repeat after me: the love you make is uniquely creative,
generative of a soft tissue in the core of an abdomen. That tissue is a series
of repeatable cells emergent of a redundant organ performing a repetitive task.
From the single-cell task to a multicellular repetition yields an increasing complexity
of redundancies asymptotic to what? Repeat after me: you are an unrepeatable
anomaly in a series of unrepeatable anomalies performing a series of uniquely creative,
differently-privileged tasks that could ultimately be completed by any series of replicative
r e d u n d a n c i e s a p p r o a c h i n g a d e l i n e a t i n g l i m i t. Y u m - o.
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