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Alexis Rhone Fancher

Pronouns: She/Her

1 Poem

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Sin-der Ella. “Lost shoe seeks mate”

 

Past midnight, I lost the stiletto’s mate.

It’s somewhere in-between her bed and mine.

It began as innocent, our first date.

 

Until she bared her breasts to me like bait.

A goddess! Yes! I took it as a sign.

Past midnight, I lost the stiletto’s mate.

 

She threw me on the bed, then made me wait.

She did a slow striptease, and looked so fine.

It began as innocent, our first date.

 

I should not have said it’s getting late.

That cars revert to pumpkins in no time.

Past midnight, I lost my stiletto’s mate.

 

She shouted, babe, we both know that it’s fate!

She ground her lovely body into mine.

It began as innocent, our first date.

 

She ran after me, but I escaped.

It’s somewhere in-between her bed and mine.

Past midnight, I lost the stiletto’s mate.

It began as innocent, our first date.

Alexis Rhone Fancher (she/her) has authored six collections, including The Dead Kid Poems (KYSO Flash Press) and Junkie Wife (Moon Tide Press). EROTIC: New & Collected, from New York Quarterly, dropped in March, 2021. She’s published in Best American PoetryPlume, Diode, The American Journal of Poetry and elsewhere. Her photos are published world-wide. Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Daily

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Alison Pelegrin

Pronouns: She/Her

1 Poem

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Fat Ass Villanelle

 

What’s it like to shrink your body so it fits

into one leg of the stretchy hippo pants?

I wouldn’t know. I start diets and quit,

 

my transformation pics are equal or opposite.

Can’t blame pregnancy--my first born’s a man.

What’s a halter top? What are legs that fit--

 

no chub rub or squeeze--into shorts that zip?

The price? Water only until you faint.

How did this happen? I start diets and quit.

 

I begin each day a starving hypocrite

swearing to lasso cravings to my command.

I give up at lunch, still hoping to fit

 

in last year’s fat clothes hidden in the closet.

I’m big-boned, and carbs took the upper hand,

then wine and cheese. She started diets and quit

 

again and again. The end. That’s my obit.

Cottage cheese galore beneath my sweatpants.

God of lard, if you make the skinny jeans fit

up front, I promise I’ll never quit my diet.

Alison Pelegrin's (she/her) most recent poetry collections are Our Lady of Bewilderment (2022) and Waterlines (2016), both with LSU Press. She is Writer-in-Residence at Southeastern Louisiana University and the recipient of fellowships from the NEA, the Louisiana Division of the Arts, and the Louisiana Board of Regents. 

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Allison Joseph

Pronouns: She/Her

1 Poem

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Live To Tell

 

You keep your secrets, keep them well,

locked down like any safe deposit box.

A widow knows, but never tells.

 

The art of losing feels like hell--

no matter if you've changed the locks.

You keep your secrets, keep them well,

 

discoveries that swell and swell

as time, unmoored, denies all clocks.

A widow knows, but never tells:

 

of solace in a fainting spell,

about how loudly her heart knocks.

You keep your secrets, keep them well

 

and no one drug will ever quell

the sadness you gulp down, throat blocked.

A widow knows. But seldom tells.

 

You think of him. How hard he fell!

You wish he could just rise and walk.

I keep his secrets. I keep them well.

This widow knows. Won't live to tell.

Allison Joseph (she/her) lives, writes, and teaches in Carbondale, Illinois, where she is on the faculty at SIU Carbondale. Her most recent books of poems are Lexicon (Red Hen Press), Confessions of a Barefaced Woman (Red Hen Press), and Professional Happiness (Backbone Press). The villanelle in this issue comes from a new collection of poems on grief and loss, tentatively titled Afterwife. She is the widow of the late poet and editor Jon Tribble.

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Ben Kline

Pronouns: He/Him

1 Poem

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The Same Love

 

All the love I lost last week

fits in my pocket, the sheet folded 

isosceles four times, a tesseract

 

perhaps, its college lines crowded

with first names, positions, laments

about the love I lost. Last week

 

marginalia doodles and kadoobies 

reached for meaning from vertices

eight cubes inside the tesseract

 

where I will never find it, meaning

the men attached were never mine,

that all the love I lost last week

 

contracts like a lake in August, 

exposing femurs, limestone, nets, 

swimsuits empty as the tesseract

 

splits open, its angles convexing

to reveal the love I lose next week

is the love I lost last. The same love

folding week into week, a tesseract.

Ben Kline (he/him) lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. Author of the chapbooks SAGITTARIUS A* and DEAD UNCLES, Ben was the 2021 recipient of Patricia Goedicke Prize in Poetry. His work is forthcoming or can be found in Southeast Review, THRUSH, CutBank, Olney Magazine, fourteen poems, The Indianapolis Review, Hobart and many other publications

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Brendan Walsh

Pronouns: He/His

1 Poem

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scenes from the climate apocalypse

 

the pelican’s gray bones sink in the sand,

its beak a silenced shard, its wings are dust,

our tortured sea riles, rises, and expands.

 

months ago, the milky tourists lay and tanned,

their umbrellas carried away by nascent gusts.

before this pelican’s gray bones sunk in the sand,

 

winds picked up, the ocean belched commands.

the rains repeat, our dead cars cake with rust,

the tortured sea riles, rises, and expands.

 

we build fires and break coconuts with our hands,

foraging isn’t a choice, it’s a must:

no meat on a pelican’s bones sunk in the sand.

 

the storms lined up then hit the coast in bands,

the governor blamed antifa, then cussed.

our tortured sea riles, rises, and expands.

 

we take things day-by-day, abandon plans,

we’re sunk costs (haha), a line item to adjust,

this fragile coast, they say, too weak to withstand.

still, our tortured sea riles, rises, and expands.

*"scenes from the climate apocalypse" was first published in the Spring 2021 issue of Barzakh.

Brendan Walsh (he/his) has lived and taught in South Korea, Laos, and South Florida. His work appears in Rattle, Glass Poetry, Indianapolis Review, American Literary Review, and other journals. He is the winner of America Magazine's 2020 Foley Poetry Prize, and the author of five books, including Go (Aldrich Press), Buddha vs. Bonobo (Sutra Press), and fort lauderdale (Grey Book Press).

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Denise Duhamel

Pronouns: She/Her

3 Poems

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THREE VILLANELLES ON MY SIXTIETH BIRTHDAY

 

 

Swan Song

 

How lucky am I to have lived this long,     

to have made it all the way to sixty.           

This villanelle isn’t quite my swan song    

 

though I can only do so much to prolong  

my ability to tap my Mac keys.                    

How lucky am I to have lived this long—       

 

eating Pink Lady apples, playing ping pong

and Scrabble, reading Nikki Giovani.

This villanelle isn’t quite my swan song.

 

I’ve read Sylvia Plath, Ocean Vuong,  

Frank O’Hara, and Agatha Christie.

How lucky am I to have lived this long—

 

When I was eight I watched Neil Armstrong

walk on the moon.  I thought he looked tipsy!

This villanelle isn’t quite my swan song,     

 

or is it? I’ve been right and I’ve been wrong

before. Future predictions transfixed me.

How lucky am I to have lived this long—

I hope this villanelle isn’t my swan song.

 

 

***

 

 

About Birthdays

 

If I am sixty then Boy George is too.

He’s casting for an upcoming biopic—

No trailer yet, no big hullabaloo.

 

About birthdays, he says, As long as you

stay present, life stays kaleidoscopic.

If I am sixty then Boy George is too.

 

I have no movie, only poems to debut.

Friends ask if I’ll fly to the tropics,

leave a trail, make a big hullabaloo.

 

But I stay home to shimmy and boogaloo,

rage at those Proud Boys, their violent upticks.

If I am sixty then Boy George is too.

 

Like me, George feels freedom bidding adieu

to youth. Huge problems seem microscopic

in hindsight, no big hullabaloo.

 

Once I wanted fame. Now I want to pass through

days of good karma, avoid the chaotic.

If I am sixty then Boy George is too.

No Sweet Sixty party, no hullabaloo.

 

 

***

 

 

Sweet Sixty

 

Sweet Sixty and of course I’ve been kissed

by humans and pets, the breeze and the sun.

Keep It Simple, Stupid when you reminisce, 

 

I tell myself. Not everything was bliss,

nor was everything a grief-megaton.

Sweet sixty and of course I’ve been kissed

 

then left. Kissed by disaster. Kissed then dismissed.

The illness, the divorce, the hit-and-run.

Keep It Simple, Stupid when you reminisce—

 

never, when looking back, look in the abyss.

(Shrinks say guilt is a useless emotion.)

Sweet sixty and of course I’ve been kissed

 

by toddlers with sticky lips. A bee’s hiss—

then I was in the ER where my life had begun.

Keep It Simple, Stupid when you reminisce

 

about childhood, first loves, that awful Christ-

mas. Tragedy didn’t outweigh the fun.

Sweet sixty and of course I’ve been kissed.

I can be stupid when I reminisce.

Denise Duhamel’s most recent book of poetry is Second Story (Pittsburgh, 2021). Her other titles include Scald; BlowoutKa-Ching!Two and TwoQueen for a Day: Selected and New Poems; The Star-Spangled Banner; and Kinky.She and Maureen Seaton have co-authored, most recently, CAPRICE (Collaborations: Collected, Uncollected, and New). She and Julie Marie Wade co-authored The Unrhymables: Collaborations in Prose. She is a Distinguished University Professor in the MFA program at Florida International University in Miami.

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Donna Vorreyer

Pronouns: She/Her

1 Poem

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The Sky is a Promise

 

An airplane arcs a white contrail across the blue,

a linea alba darkening on the belly of the sky,

sign of a world about to be born. That’s not true–

 

it’s just a machine, venting its exhaust, the dew

of its hot air hitting the atmosphere. I cannot fly

like an airplane’s arching white tail, but blue

 

is the color that paints my isolation, the view

from every window, the calmest color, a sigh,

a sign from the world. Born of something true,

 

I make up stories, search the clouds for clues

for how to travel through this trial, my mind

on its own plane –white boats, cotton sails, blue

 

water. Now a needle pierces my arm, leaves a bruise,

some soreness, the ache a reemergence of the divine,

a sign. A world about to be reborn. That’s not true–

 

it has all been here, just knocked askew,

spinning wild on its axis. I believe we will be fine,

airplanes arcing white contrails across the blue,

signs of the burdens we have borne, of what is true.

Donna Vorreyer (she/her) is the author of To Everything There Is (2020), Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story (2016) and A House of Many Windows (2013), all from Sundress Publications. Her work has appeared in Baltimore Review, Tinderbox Poetry, Poet Lore, Sugar House Review, Waxwing, and other journals, and she serves as an associate editor for Rhino Poetry. Recently retired from 36 years in public education, she looks forward to new adventures.

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Douglas K Currier

Pronouns: He/His

1 Poem

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Turn the page

              

We come to think of this as age,

this measured movement into night. 

Go check the mirror, turn the page.

 

We check out faces at this stage

for signs of wearing, signs of blight,

we come to think of this as age.

 

We move our muscles, try to gauge

the looseness there of what was tight.

Go check the mirror, turn the page.

 

The worst of us try to assuage

the damage and avoid harsh light.

We come to think of this as age.

 

The best of us try to engage

the mind to hold the memories right.

Go check the mirror, turn the page.

 

But this is only time’s outrage,

cover-to-cover, a book so slight,

we come to think of this as age,

so check the mirror, turn the page.

Douglas K Currier (he/his) has published work in a number of anthologies:  Onion River: Six Vermont Poets, Getting Old, and Welcome to the Neighborhood and journals:  The Café Review, Main Street Rag, The Comstock Review and many others, both in the United States and in South America.  He lives with his wife in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

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George Franklin

Pronouns: He/His

1 Poem

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When Water Was Enough

 

I used to wake up early with the light,

Swing feet to floor, ignore my tightening spine,

Throw water on my face to slough off night.

 

I’d check the mirror surprised back then by white

Hair and wrinkles unmistakably mine.

I used to wake up early with the light.

 

Uncomfortable asleep, I’d roll left, right,

Barely aware of shadows and design,

But water on my face would slough off night.

 

Lying in bed, now conscious, just not quite

Awake, tongue swollen, still tasting last night’s wine—

I used to wake up early with the light.

 

The alarm, ringing loud, persists despite

Blunt hand and brain’s best effort to decline,

Like water on my face to slough off night.

 

Face it, I’m old.  Sleep rheums and blurs my sight.

The stiffness in my back’s just one more sign.

I used to wake up early with the light

When water was enough to slough off night.

George Franklin (he/his) is the author of four books of poetry, Noise of the World (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions), Traveling for No Good Reason (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions), Among the Ruins / Entre las ruinas (Katakana Editores), and Travels of the Angel of Sorrow (Blue Cedar Press).  Magazine publications include: Into the Void, Pedestal Magazine, The Threepenny Review, Salamander, and Cagibi. He is the co-translator, along with the author, of Ximena Gómez's Último día/Last Day (Katakana Editores).

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James Davis

Pronouns: He/His

2 Poems

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An Accident

The day he slammed the tailgate on my finger,

we’d just unloaded the last of the firewood.

It was an accident. I wasn’t in danger.

 

He said he was sorry, twice. “A real humdinger,”

my father called his handiwork, my hand

the day he slammed the tailgate on my finger.

 

I was thirteen, a back-tier church-choir singer.

I’d prayed for a straightening all that I could.

It was an accident. I wasn’t in danger

 

as long as I sang my part. I felt no anger

beyond the usual, mortifying need

the day he slammed the tailgate on my finger.

 

He shuffled cards. I split the deck. A king or

queen, a flush or straight, I understood

it was an accident. I wasn’t in danger.

 

The nail turned plum, then black, a harbinger

of night, a little sunset in my blood

the day he slammed the tailgate on my finger.

It was no accident. I was a danger.

 

 

Senior Quotes

 

“Stay in drugs. Say no to school.”

“Why fall in love when you can fall asleep?”

“Veni vidi vici.” – Ja Rule

 

“Money can’t buy happiness. It can buy Taco Bell.”

“Some days are just a total waste of makeup.”

“I went to school high. You went to high school.”

 

“I like my women like my coffee: not at all.”

“No, you cannot try on my hijab.”

“Veni vidi vici.” – Tool

 

“I may be a ginger, but I do have a soul.”

“You’ve got to be bottomless to get to the top.”

“Yo, make up a quote for me. I’m not at school.”

 

“I was Beyoncé in a school full of Michelles.”

“Yes, the carpet matches the drapes.”

“Veni vidi vici.” – Jewel

 

“Our parents all had sex the same year. That’s cool.”

“A walk of shame begins with a single step.”

“Veni vidi vici.” – Deadpool

“Bruh, we graduated just to go back to school.”

James Davis (he/his) is the author of Club Q (Waywiser, 2020), which Edward Hirsch selected for the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Literary Review, Bennington Review, Best New Poets, Copper Nickel, The Gay & Lesbian Review, and elsewhere. He is an Associate Poetry Editor for Narrative Magazine and a Voertman-Ardoin Fellow at the University of North Texas. Originally from Colorado Springs, he now lives in Denton, Texas, where he is pursuing a PhD.

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Jen Currin

Pronouns: She/They

1 Poem

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The Chill

 

On the verge of so many symptoms.

Her father a neurotic academic.

The chill of countless opinions.

 

She thinks she'll make another gold album

after she dumps the ginny alcoholic

on the verge of so many symptoms.

 

Hungry for Venice, Tokyo--but she has no income,

camps in her father's attic,

chilly, writing songs of countless opinions.

 

She harmonizes into her phone; computer's broken.

Replayed, her voice sounds anemic,

on the verge of so many symptoms.

 

She lights a candle, knowing it's superstition.

There are too many rituals for her to mimic,

in the thrall of countless opinions.

 

A hundred new photos wink for her consideration.

The sight sends her into a panic.

On the verge of so many symptoms,

in the chill of countless opinions.

Jen Currin (she/they) is the author of five books, including Hider/Seeker: Stories, a 2018 Globe and Mail Best Book, and The Inquisition Yours, winner of the 2011 Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry and a finalist for a LAMBDA. Jen lives on the unceded territories of the Qayqayt, Musqueam, and Kwantlen Nations (New Westminster, BC, Canada, a suburb of Vancouver), and teaches writing at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

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Jen Karetnick

Pronouns: She/Her

1 Poem

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Evaporating Villanelle for Algae Bloom

 

We all have secrets we would like to keep

to ourselves. Sure, the sea is no different.

The whole grave mass of it could cover up

 

oil spills, plastics. But they spike into shape,

those hourglass whorls to see in the distance.

We all have secrets we would like to keep

 

but still resuscitate. Regret’s lewd,

a sour bite that shows up for tea;

the whole grave mass of it could

 

foul the interstitial brood

with its vast swirl, its Milky Way.

We all have secrets we would

 

label scarlet tide or sea snot—

endless whirl of dishonor—

the whole grave mass of it

 

we fail to save

with mere skimmers,

this whole grave

we all have.

Jen Karetnick's (she/her) fourth full-length book is The Burning Where Breath Used to Be (David Robert Books, September 2020), an Eric Hoffer Poetry Category Finalist, an IPPY EVVY winner, and a Kops-Fetherling Honorable Mention. Co-founder and managing editor of SWWIM Every Day, she has work appearing recently or forthcoming in Barrow Street, The Comstock Review, december, Matter, Michigan Quarterly Review, Terrain.org, and elsewhere.

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Jennifer Wheelock

Pronouns: She/Her

1 Poem

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Something Simple as a Sock Can Break You

 

You are carrying a heavy load

of laundry up the stairs, drop a sock,

bend to pick it up, another goes,

 

and then some boxers. Again, you’re bowed.

You feel this day was made to mock

you, carrying a heavy load.

 

All scooped up, and now it’s time to fold,

match. Where is your son? Why is he not back?

Bend to rub the dog, another goes.

 

Then you hear the frig groan. It’s so old.

The vet calls – you bounced another check.

You are carrying a heavy load.

 

Something simple as a sock, and you implode.

A tremor shakes the house. L.A. No shock.

Bend to grab a sock, another goes.

 

Ringing. Can’t find your phone. Your patience erodes.

The clothes cling with static. Don’t take stock.

You are carrying a heavy load.

Bend to pick it up, or let it go.

Jennifer Wheelock (she/her) is a poet and painter living in Los Angeles. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in many journals and anthologies, including Chattahoochee Review, Muse/A Journal, Cortland Review, Los Angeles Review, Post Road, Valparaiso Review, Lake Effect, Flycatcher, Diagram, River Styx, Atlanta Review, and The Inflectionist Review. She works at the University of Southern California.

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Jessica Mililli-Hand

Pronouns: She/Her

3 Poems

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Fool Me Twice: A Manifesto by the ADA’s Able-Bodied Self-Appointed Guards

 

Of course we should be kind – if it’s real – but

a squeak of wheels does not always sound true!

I watched him stand and walk! He’s faking it.

 

“My pain!” she cried from Helen’s lips – that slut –

too pretty—agony cannot be truth.

Of course we should be kind if it’s real, but

 

the other day a well-dressed man saw fit

to ease his Jag into the only blue.

I smelled the Franklins, and I knew: he’s faking it.

 

And bratty kids you can tell just need to get hit,

not given IEP’s for poor me boo-boo’s.

Of course, we should be kind – I’m just saying – but

 

I heard his rumbling laugh, and then – no shit –

he said he was depressed. Yeah, right. Boo-hoo.

I’m sick, too. Sick of all this faking it.

 

Can’t lift! Can’t sit! Can’t work! Can’t eat nuts!

It’s too convenient, I say. Who pays? You.

Of course we should be kind – if it’s real – but

what if what if what if they’re faking it?

The Spokesperson for the Perpetually Broken Elevator Beside the Stairway to Heaven Responds to Pesky Activists

 

It’s inconvenient (you’ll say “Who pays? All do…”):

the elevator’s out until next year.

A squeak of wheels may not always roll through,

 

so don’t expect the world to spin ‘round you.

Stop screaming “Access is a Right!” – Dumb cheer.

It’s inconvenient, we know. Who pays you

 

to harass hard-working hard-hat folk, who

just need some time – the finish line is near!

The squeaky wheel will not get greased or through

 

to anyone who gives a damn if you

refuse to be polite. Listen, Sweet Dears,

you’re inconvenient, I say. Who pays? We do

 

when you chain your chairs and chant – and look at you,

not even in a chair! Lazy! Climb the stairs!

Don’t squeak your feels; just wait until we’re through.

 

It won’t take long – this time we promise you,

so wheel to the side and keep the walkway clear.

Don’t inconvenience those who say they’ll pay you

to squeak your wheels out of the way. Let them through.

Elevator Complaint Refrain: A Tour of America

 

Please wheel to the side and keep the walkway clear.

In Washington, the freedom blossoms fall;

the elevator’s out until next year.

 

New York, New York, where Liberty looms near

but not for those stuck in stations far from all.

Please wheel to the side and keep the walkway clear.

 

When Kansas twisters roar the sound of fear,

we run down stairs in ground beneath the hall –

the elevator’s out until next year.

 

We thought Berkeley would be the place where we’re

welcomed, but like elevators, progress stalls.

Please wheel to the side and keep the walkway clear.

 

In Coastal Georgia, tourists cradle beers

up Savannah’s steep stairways until they fall.

The elevator’s out until next year.

 

From sea to sea, we hold this value dear:

freedom to climb the rungs for (almost) all.

Please wheel to the side and keep the walkway clear.

The elevator’s out until next year.

Jessica Melilli-Hand’s (she/her) work appears in the Carolina Quarterly, CALYX, Redactions: Poetry & Poetics, Hunger Mountain, Painted Bride Quarterly, Barrow Street, and the minnesota review, among others. She won first place in the Agnes Scott Poetry Competition three times: when judged by Terrance Hayes, when judged by Arda Collins, and when judged by Martín Espada. She is an assistant professor of English at the College of Coastal Georgia.

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Julie E. Bloemeke

Pronouns: She/Her

1 Poem

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Stay at Home

 

I am in the days I dreamed I would live,

baby at my breast, child by my side,

and yet, I wonder, how much can I give?

 

Because to feel the arc, to be alive,

I must have the poem of every word wide.

I am in the days I dreamed I would live.

 

My yearn refrain, time to write, time to live,

no tears or swaying, the mother aside.

And yet, even then, how much can I give?

 

Why is it always we must wait to live,

the pull of hunger tide rising inside?

I am in the days I dreamed I would live.

 

I wish through hours, I do this to live,

not wanting to break, not wanting to hide.

And yet, I wonder, how much can I give?

 

Today, both board the bus, wired, alive,

and I return to only me inside.

I am in the days I dreamed I would live,

and yet, I wonder, how much I can give.

Julie E. Bloemeke (she/her) is the 2021 Georgia Author of the Year Finalist for Poetry.  Her debut full-length collection Slide to Unlock (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2020) was also chosen as a 2021 Book All Georgians Should Read. An associate editor for South Carolina Review, she was a finalist for the 2020 Fischer Prize. Her poems, essays, and interviews have appeared in numerous publications including Writer’s ChroniclePrairie Schooner, Cortland ReviewGulf Coast, EcoTheo Review, and others. 

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Karen Paul Holmes

Pronouns: She/Her

1 Poem

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Music Camp, 1968

 

I don’t know exactly where his hand was—

hanging over my shoulder, but how far down?

Did I tell you he never kissed me?

 

We sat on a bench behind the lakeside stage,

the All-State band rehearsing Sousa.

I don’t know exactly where his hand was—

 

Did his arm cross the back of my camp shirt,

damp palm stretching past damp pit… to breast?

Is it odd to you that we never kissed? 

 

My face sunburn-hot with shame or thrill

I stared ahead, could not move. How long did we sit?

I must’ve known exactly where his hand was.  

 

I don’t know why we weren’t missed

from wherever eighth graders were meant to be.

Can you tell me why he never kissed me?

 

All I knew was the heat, the wet. Garbled

music in buzzing ears. He was a trumpet player.

I know exactly his eyes, his mouth. But his hand?

Did I ever tell you he said he’d write me?

Karen Paul Holmes (she/her) has two poetry collections, No Such Thing as Distance (Terrapin, 2018) and Untying the Knot (Aldrich, 2014). Her poems have been featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer's Almanac and Tracy K. Smith’s The Slowdown. Publications include Diode, Valparaiso Review, Verse Daily, Prairie Schooner, and many more.

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Kate Falvey

Pronouns: She/Her

2 Poems

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Lakeside Villanelle

Each month the moon breaks over Windermere.

The stars, unaltered, tremble, streak and, and spill.

Our brash ghosts flung from memory’s mists appear.

 

Fir-flakes and pebbles, forest-stalks adhere.

Our backs, incautious, press against that hill.

Each month the moon breaks over Windermere.

 

 Our bodies young, our promises sincere.

 Lapped by darkness, we lightly take our fill.

 Our brash ghosts flung from memory’s mists appear.

                                                                           

An ocean and the years can’t interfere.

Our small sounds break the lakeside silence still.

Each month the moon breaks over Windermere.

 

Not fabulous enough for balladeer,

Our legend charms our ages, leaves us chill.

Our brash ghosts flung from memory’s mists appear.

 

We join again, each from a separate sphere,

Recast our moonlit images at will.

Each month the moon breaks over Windermere

Our brash ghosts flung from memory’s mists appear.

Mad Crone Villanelle

 

No one wanted me but I can’t seem to care.

This life is hard enough without regrets.

I don’t need pity, sorry eyes, or prayer.

 

I loved once or twice but each banal affair

ended raggedly with savage tears and threats.

No one wanted me but I can’t seem to care.

 

I pot my herbs and potter ‘round my lair,

accumulating tales, discharging debts.

I don’t need pity, sorry eyes, or prayer.

 

The children often dance away and stare.

I know the rumors say I’ve lost my wits.

No one wanted me but I can’t seem to care.

 

They want acquittals, fixes, spells, a share

of what they think a canny ancient gets.

I don’t need pity, sorry eyes, or prayer.

 

I stride with unbowed back and feral hair,

give myself to none, write brash, unread vignettes.

No one wanted me but I can’t seem to care.

I don’t need pity, sorry eyes, or prayer.

Kate Falvey's (she/her) work has been published in an eclectic array of journals and anthologies; in a full-length collection, The Language of Little Girls (David Robert Books); and in two chapbooks, What the Sea Washes Up (Dancing Girl Press) and Morning Constitutional in Sunhat and Bolero (Green Fuse Poetic Arts). Kate edits the 2 Bridges Review, published through City Tech/CUNY, where she teaches, and is an associate editor for the Bellevue Literary Review.

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Kelly McQuain

Pronouns: He/His

1 Poem

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Vampirella

 

It wasn’t her boobs that appealed to this gay fellow

or the fact that she wore a red bikini thong.

She was a superhero with fangs, my gal Vampirella

 

—no tangled-up Rapunzel, no ashen Cinderella.

An ass-kicker in knee boots ready to get it on

with any handsome, hot-blooded earthly fellow.

 

I fell under her spell too, I have to tell you,

though her curves didn’t appeal to my ten-year-old dong. 

Still I was bewitched and bedeviled by Vampirella

 

and her pulp-mag adventures, their pages long yellowed

along with old comics left in boxes too long.

In back of the Book Mart, past the fat owner fella,

 

is where I found her, a slick cover by Frazetta

peeking out past Creepy and Eerie, one shelf-rung

below forbidden Playboy: my wild bitch, Vampirella!

 

She fought werewolves, demons, witches, night terrors;

she seduced handsome men with her succubus song.

Though I followed her stories, I never could tell

 

a soul that I wanted what every straight fellow shouldn’t:

to be a hot vampire chick and super-strong—

my high-heeled, raven-haired, bikini-clad Vampirella.

 

At ten, I was a good kid, no holy terror,

though I suspect my parents feared I was turning out wrong.

Maybe that’s why they let their queer little fellow

 

spend his allowance on soft-core mags that might quell

a desire already starting to steer him along.

Blame me. Don’t you dare blame double-D Vampirella.

*"Vampirella" was originally published in the anthology Drawn to Marvel: Poems from the Comic Books (Minor Arcana Press).

Kelly McQuain's (he/his) poetry has appeared in American Poetry Review, Best New Poets 2020, The Pinch, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Rogue Agent, Spunk, and Cleaver, as well as such anthologies as The Queer South and Rabbit Ears: TV Poems. He is the author of Velvet Rodeo, which won the Bloom chapbook poetry prize. His poem, “Ruby on Fire” won the inaugural Glitter Bomb Award from Limp Wrist.  

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Kerry Trautman

Pronouns: She/Her

1 Poem

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Glitter in the Air  II

 

There have never been flowers in my hair.

I’ve never watched sunlight stream

through a fistful of glitter in the air.

 

It’s not as if I don’t care

to wallow, to while away time and dream,

but there have never been flowers in my hair.

 

I let sensibleness shadow. I beware

the foolishness clearly seen

in a fistful of glitter in the air.

 

There must be music somewhere

or love or poetry to mellow me like cream.

There have never been flowers in my hair

 

but I know it’s possible to weave them there—

petals like stained-glass in sunlight’s gleam—

like a fistful of glitter in the air.

 

Someday I will dare

to not be who I seem.

There have never been flowers in my hair.

No fistful of glitter in the air.

Kerry Trautman (she/her) is a poetry editor for Red Fez, and her work has appeared in various anthologies and journals such as Midwestern GothicRat's Ass ReviewAlimentum, Slippery Elm, Paper & Ink, and Free State Review. Her poetry books are Things That Come in Boxes (King Craft Press 2012,) To Have Hoped (Finishing Line Press 2015,) Artifacts (NightBallet Press 2017,) and To be Nonchalantly Alive (Kelsay Books 2020.)

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KJ Cerankowski

Pronouns: He/His

1 Poem

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Villanelle for the Geology Next Time

                        After Kathryn Yusoff, after James Baldwin

Because the world is always already turning

to face the storm writing its weather,

I have begun this poem and torn it up too many times

 

Because I keep seeing the face of my father in mine

torment of knowing whence I came and where I’m headed

in the midst of this world’s burning—

 

How to quilt and fasten lyric from semblance of jawline into spine

apologue of ore and jewel, ossified endurance of elements sutured together

huddled against a fictitious linearity of cascade and brim of time

 

Mistake of first/then, before/after, of nucleic acid for bloodline

forgotten enfolding of amoeba and algae, of laurel and heather

of grey wolf and whale—chorus of creatures pacing the planet’s turning

 

Bodying vine into vertebrae sentimental sediment we intertwine

metamorphic stone of lime, quartzite eye, of flock, of a feather

committed to act, to be in danger, to endanger far too long in time

 

If we cannot love each other when we are soft, down of pine

crest of palisade, break of tide, none of us will survive whether

or not the world is always already burning, still turning

away from or into what we have invented and torn up too many times

KJ Cerankowski (he/his) is a queer writer based in Cleveland, OH. His poetry and prose have appeared in Paper Darts; DASH; Short, Fast, & Deadly; The Account: A Journal of Poetry, Prose, and Thought, and Home is Where You Queer Your Heart (Foglifter). His collection of hybrid essays, Suture, is forthcoming with punctum books.

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Liz Ahl

Pronouns: She/Her

1 Poem

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Watching the Blood Moon

 

Tonight the moon burns white, the moon burns red,

and then, unshadowed, shifts and sifts the light

and floats a grand finale overhead.

 

Though we were tired, and might have gone to bed

and dreamt the dreams we’d meant to dream tonight,

we watch the white moon’s slow burn down to red

 

the way a coal might seethe before it’s dead.

But this moon oozes back to life and light

and floats its grand finale overhead.

 

Driving, we pursued the moon. It led

us to this lakeside where the breeze is slight

but seems to push the moon from white to red,

 

and back again. The stars blink, sewn by threads

of constellations to the sky. Moonlight

washes them out, returning overhead.

 

It’s dust. It’s blood. It’s harvest. Then, to bed

where lesser dreams will be eclipsed tonight

by a shadowed moon that dims from white to red,

and floats a grand finale overhead.

Liz Ahl (she/her) is the author of Beating the Bounds (Hobblebush Books, 2017), as well as several poetry chapbooks from Slapering Hol Press, Seven Kitchens Press, and Pecan Grove Press. Individual poems have appeared in Lavender Review, Mezzo Cammin, Nimrod, Atticus Review, Sinister Wisdom, Prairie Schooner, Crab Orchard Review, and in other literary journals and anthologies. She lives in Holderness, New Hampshire.

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M.M. De Voe

Pronouns: She/Her

1 Poem

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After the Audition

 

I paced. Behind the plate glass door, I heard

the telephone’s abrasive voice dissect

a hollow silence.  “Say the fucking word,”

 

I hissed. The leaden pencils’ scratch conferred

no details of the one they would select.

I paced. Behind the plate glass door, I heard

 

a hesitating mutter and absurd

exaggerated laughter intersect

in hollow silence. “Say the fucking word,”

 

I pleaded, but the sentry walls deterred

all knowledge which was more than indirect.

I paced. Behind the plate glass door, I heard

 

a fist crash on a desk. My ears inferred

disorder, and I felt a voice project

through hollow silence, “Say the fucking word!”

 

With sudden clarity, a phrase (no longer blurred)

complied: there is just one we must reject…

I paced. Behind the plate glass door, I heard

a hollow silence speak the final word.

M. M. DeVoe (she/her) is a female person but a nonbinary writer. Instead, she writes across genres, frequently blending them, and champions the cause of every form of writing.  Most recent accomplishments are a 2020 Pushcart nomination, two inclusions in 2020 anthologies and in 2021, her first full-length publication, a guide for parents who are hoping to stay on creative track in their writing: BOOK & BABY (Brooklyn Writers Press), which won first prize at the 2021 Indie Awards. 

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Marc Frazier

Pronouns: He/His

1 Poem

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While Birds Sing: A Villanelle

 

You arrive full of need every day.

Sometimes I wish a season will end.

I want to say I’ll never go away.

 

We both try to keep fear at bay.

Our words break but never seem to bend.

You arrive full of need every day.

 

When dawn comes I’ll know what to say.

Imagine a letter I don’t intend to send.

I want to say I’ll never go away.

 

While lilacs last I ask you to stay.

Shorter days tame my impulse to tend.

You arrive full of need every day.

 

At times the moon’s waxing prompts me to pray.

Strong  joints can untie like a fisherman’s bend.

I want to say I’ll never go away.

 

We can’t predict how much our grief will weigh.

Or why our choices cause a wall to ascend.

You arrive full of need every day.

I want to say I’ll never go away.

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Neil de la Flor &

 Maureen Seaton

Neil's Pronouns: He/His

Maureen's Pronouns: She/Her

1 Poem

A Box of Boys

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Marc Frazier (he/his) is a Chicago-area LGBTQ writer who has published in journals including The Gay and Lesbian ReviewSlant, Permafrost, Plainsongs, Poet LoreAscentGargoyleInto the VoidRHINOThe Tampa Review, et al. A recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Award for poetry, he has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His three books, including his latest, Willingly, are available at online booksellers.

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Matthew Hittinger

Pronouns: He/His

1 Poem

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Manhattins

Don't rush, hour,

parade in cologne

the yet-to-sour

cloud of perfume and powder

the soap halo
of fresh-from-the-shower, hour

of the possible, of trouser

crease and run-free hose

blouse and ironed shirt, sour

breath scoured,
the fully charged phone,

unread text, hour

of no regrets, power
in the bone and stone
of last night's whiskey sour

the hour we devour our

lone poses and supposes.

Don't rush, hour;
too soon will it all sour.

Matthew Hittinger (he/his) is the author of The Masque of Marilyn (GOSS183, 2017), The Erotic Postulate (2014) and Skin Shift (2012) both from Sibling Rivalry Press, and three chapbooks. His work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, has been adapted into art songs, and in 2012 Poets & Writers Magazine named him a Debut Poet on their 8th annual list. Matthew lives and works in New York City.

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Maureen Seaton

Pronouns: She/Her

1 Poem

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Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead

           —Warren Zevon, 1991

Cause I got some weird ideas in my head

regarding things I’d like to do in Denver

(or Miami or Manhattan) when I’m dead,

or, for that matter, when I’m almost ready

to be dead—so I’d best be fast and clever.

Cause I got some weird ideas in my head

about things I bet you thought I never said

or ever dreamed I said out loud whenever
I found myself dead in Denver or half-dead

in Dallas or Santa Fe where I once fled
a ranch of ghosts, all unearthly-gendered

’cause I got some weird idea in my head

that maybe I could meet you in bed instead

of waiting to rendezvous in Denver
(or Manhattan or Miami) when I’m dead.

That’s my end of life proposal, old friend.

What have we got to lose except forever?

’Cause I got some weird ideas in my head.

Can’t wait to go to Denver when I’m dead.

*Listen to Warren Zevon's "Things to do in Denver When You're Dead."

Maureen Seaton (she/her) has authored numerous poetry collections, both solo and collaborative, most recently, Undersea (JackLeg, 2021) and Zero-Zero (Anhinga, 2021, with Kristine Snodgrass). Her honors include the Florida Book Award, Lambda Literary Award, Audre Lorde Award, NEA, and Pushcart. Her memoir, Sex Talks to Girls (University of Wisconsin, 2008, 2018), also garnered a “Lammy”. She was voted Best Poet 2020 by the Miami New Times and is Professor Emerita of Creative Writing at the University of Miami.

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Raina K. Puels

Pronouns: She/Her

1 Poem

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Alien Queen

 

So you want me to be your Alien Queen forever?

Worship my green cunts—remember—I’m the one in power.

Prove our orbits should always sync together

 

by coming aboard me for a deep space adventure.

If you probe my dark matter at all unearthly hours

& eclipse my expectations, I’ll queen your dungeon forever.

 

See that purple pregnant dragon guarding treasure?

Genuflect. Tickle her scowl. I promise she won’t devour.

Very good, my subject! May we always wear these jewels together.

 

I’ll tether your wrists in ethically sourced unicorn leather

& ride your face while we cruise through meteor showers.

Could you handle my gravity if I was your queen forever?

 

Dick me hard, dick me deep, dick me tender—
my moans sonic boom-boom-booming even louder.
Hubble named us Triple Lindy for how we writhe together.  

 

Because you proved my pleasure is your pleasure,

I invite you—My Consort—to move into my tower.

I’m your Alien Queen always & forever;

one day, I’ll allow you to cum while we’re together.

Raina K. Puels (she/they) is a queer/poly Boston-based writer, educator, and kinkster. She holds an MFA from Emerson College and reads poems for Split Lip Mag. You can find their writing in The RumpusHobart After DarkPANK, and many other places listed on their website

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Rebekah Wolman

Pronouns: She/Her

2 Poems

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Taking You Out To The Ballgame

 

You’re sure you have no interest in baseball

but I’m telling you to give it just a chance.

I have the tickets anyway—this one’s my call.

 

You’re outraged and disgusted by the gall

of MLB to charge so much to watch a dance

of overpaid, outgrown boys on a field with a ball.

 

I promise, though, when you see a home run clear the wall

you’ll become a fan, swept up in the game’s romance.

You’ll lean forward in your seat to catch the umpire’s call;

 

you’ll recognize the difference, however small,

between a forkball and a splitter; you’ll take a stance

when the umpire calls a blatant strike a ball.

 

And then there’s looking at the players, whether tall

or short, whether wearing the knickers or the pants.

If nothing else, on points of fashion you can make a call.

 

A few more games and you’ll be subject to the pall

a loss casts over the field. You’ll succumb to the trance

of watching the arc and the curve of the ball.

You’ll know why when a game is on I don’t take your call.

 

 

 

Hubris And Humbling

 

What’s all this about writing a perfect poem

like landing a fish with a well-aimed spear

when every line I launch out on its own

 

drifts moping, limp, bedraggled, home?

They ring their tinny bells against my ear,

taunting my pursuit of the perfect poem.

 

The next words I set free to roam

seem sure to bring me somewhere near

but all these lines I launch out on their own

 

lose their substance, dissolve into foam,

and I rein them desperately back in fear

that I’m losing sight of my perfect poem.

 

I could fill a foot-thick tome

with words I’ve scrawled and then watched veer

off course, charting paths of their own

 

toward islands where they land, alone.

Maybe it’s enough ­— what I have right here —

not trying to write some perfect, imagined poem

out of lines perfectly happy on their own.

Rebekah Wolman (she/her) is a recently retired educator living in San Francisco and returning to poetry after a long detour. Her poems have appeared in decades past in the Berkeley Poetry Review and Essential Love, an anthology of poems about parents and children, and more recently in The New Verse News.

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Roberto Christiano

Pronouns: He/His

1 Poem

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Telenovelas are Hell

    after the YouTube videos

 

This much I know—telenovelas are hell.

The storylines repeat until you’re sick

just like the crazy lines of a villanelle.

 

How often can Maria fall under a spell?

First her pimp then that sorry gringo Rick.

This much I know—telenovelas are hell.

 

Her house burns down, she’s thrown in a well.

Her bad ass father pulls her out with a stick

and chants the crazy lines of a villanelle,

 

which of course turns her into a gazelle.

(He’s a warlock and he’s pretty damn slick.)

This much I know—telenovelas are hell.

 

Her godmother Lucia rings a mystic bell,

incants a rhyme of scary loco magic—

only this will nix the lines of a villanelle.

 

Human once more, Maria’s perfectly swell

till her father returns and bites her like a tick.

This much I know—telenovelas are hell

just like the crazy curse of a villanelle.

Roberto Christiano (he/his) won the 2010 Fiction Award from The Northern Virginia Review for his story, “The Care of Roses.” His poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner (Pushcart Nominated), Poetry Quarterly, The Washington Post, New Verse News, Beltway Quarterly, Hiram Poetry Review, and The Sow’s Ear. He has won two consecutive prizes from Writer.org for seasonal poetry. He is anthologized in The Gavea-Brown Book of Portuguese-American Poetry. His book, Port of Leaving, published by Finishing Line Press, is forthcoming next year.

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Rupert Fike

Pronouns: He/His

1 Poem

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Readers' Advice to Writers   

          - after Robert Graves

 

We can always imagine a better story

than the truthful account of what you've seen,

a stretcher or two might well bring you glory.

 

Like with Ahab's quest, his Memento Mori -

whole chapters given to whale-blubber scenes -

we wanted to scream, "Get back to the story!"

 

Our love of books has made us your quarry,

yet we do grow bored same as screen-obsessed teens -

try a stretcher or two, they might bring you glory.

 

Plus some blood never hurts, like Richard Corey's

bullet in his head - so shocking, obscene,  

we couldn't have imagined a better story.

 

Homer's shameless whoppers left little worry

that those rhymes would remain a joy to sing -

epics with stretchers truly bring lasting glory.

 

If you stick to the truth you'll end up sorry.

Listen up. Don't pout. You know what we mean.

We can always imagine a better story.

A stretcher or two might well bring you glory.

Rupert Fike's (he/his) second collection of poems, Hello the House, was named one of the "Books All Georgians Should Read, 2018" by The Georgia Center for the Book. It also won the Haas Poetry Prize from Snake Nation Press. His poems and stories have appeared in The Southern Poetry Review, Scalawag Magazine, The Georgetown Review,  A&U America's AIDS Magazine, The Flannery O'Connor Review, The Buddhist Poetry Review, Natural Bridge, and others. He has a poem inscribed in a downtown Atlanta plaza.

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Shelly Rodrigue

Pronouns: She/Her

1 Poem

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That Should Have Been a Boy

 

That should have been a boy, my grandpa said,

his eldest son a failure in his eyes

when I was born a girl. He shook his head

 

to clear the hopes I’d dashed when I was bred.

With me, the family name would not survive.

That should have been a boy, my grandpa said,

 

his embarrassment staining my cheeks red.

This chorus was repeated from the time

when I was born. A girl, he shook his head,

 

and laughed at rifles I refilled with lead

and begged him once to let me have a try.

That should have been a boy, my grandpa said,

 

but never took me hunting, though I pled.

He said someday I’d make a decent wife.

When I was born a girl, he shook. His head

 

decided then it was my job to wed,

imagining a groom, but not my bride.

That should have been a boy, my grandpa said.

When I was born a girl, he shook his head.

Shelly Rodrigue (she/her) is a lesbian poet who was born and raised in Louisiana. She currently resides in Texas with her partner of 12 years. Rodrigue has an M.F.A. from the University of New Orleans. She teaches English at the University of Holy Cross in addition to teaching ESL to children online.

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