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Grisel Y. Acosta

Pronouns: She/Her/They/Them

1 Poem

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Androgyny Time Machine: FuturePastNow

I played a mixed-race Black Latina

George Washington in the fifth grade

 

                                                       Grace Jones’ Jubilant Hula

                                                       Out-Queened the Queen’s Jubilee

 

Mami stared while I counted

my mosh pit bruises

she didn’t stop me

 

                           dresses that spun big were my favorite

                           I got one for every church banquet

                           I felt like I was in drag

 

             David Bowie loves

             Joey Arias

             and Iman

             and Iggy Pop

             and Angela Barnett

                                                       my partner is 42% gay

                                                       (according to an unscientific online quiz)

 

I am one point away from being

completely androgynous

(according to the unscientific Bem Sex Role Inventory).

 

                                         a boy in high school asked

                                         me during English class,

                                         “Why don’t you dress sexy?”

                                         I answered, “I do dress sexy,”

                                         offered no further explanation

 

a man from the high school

I used to go to, posted on my FB page,

“I remember boots,

there were definitely boots!”

I answered, “There still are.  ;)”

 

                           my father was very uncomfortable with me

                           when I spiked my hair up or stayed out all night

 

one of my former students’ told me

her mother said she would rather

she be pregnant than be a lesbian

 

                           Janelle Monae

                           wears a suit like Smokey Robinson

                           dances like James Brown

                           poses for pictures like Patti LaBelle

                           sings like an alien cyborg pixie

 

working muscles into sweat

and subsequent bubble baths

bring the same relieving joy

 

                                         I see men across the world

                                         carrying their babies

                                         holding hands with their babies

                                         laughing with their babies

 

men have always worn skirts

 

             according to Sandra Bem

             androgynous people are more flexible

             psychologically healthier than

             people who adhere to rigid gender roles

 

                                         true androgyny refers to personality

                                         traits, as opposed to physical appearance

 

at Midwestern Christian Academy

a new classmate told me I was a boy

I said, “No, I’m not a boy” 

she said, “Yes, you are.

You are wearing pants,

that means that you are a boy”

 

                                                   there are aggressive and passive people

                                                   within every gender identity group

 

                           integrity

                           wisdom

                           creativity

                           grace

                           are not

                           gender specific

Dr. Grisel Y. Acosta (she/her/they/them) is a full professor at the City University of New York-BCC. Her book, Things to Pack on the Way to Everywhere (Get Fresh Books, 2021), was a 2020 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize finalist. Select work is in Best American PoetryThe BafflerAcentos ReviewKweli Journal, and The Future of Black: Afrofuturism, Black Comics, and Superhero Poetry. She is a Geraldine Dodge Foundation Poet, a Macondo Fellow, and Creative Writing Editor at Chicana/Latina Studies Journal.
 

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Cynthia Atkins

Pronouns: She/Her

1 Poem

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Dolly In The Mirror

            

        “If you want a rainbow, you have to put up with the rain.”

         —Dolly Parton

 

Some days you feel like a wad of crumpled tissue, ready

to throw a giant spit-ball at the world.  Sometimes the words

are curled inside a song, and the pink quill pen fetches

a particular spell, the ample gospel chord

to awaken every flower in the junk yard.

Truth be rotten-honey told, I’ve worked hard

for my mistakes.  Every scar and ache,

I have mastered like a hunched over locksmith. 

I can count all the men that wanted to play

Here’s the church and here’s the steeple.

Human words can hurt or go numb.  Slack-jawed lackies

hellbent to cut me into a Southern Betty Boop—She and I

became all the wiser. A balding boss with a size complex

nursed his shiner with a T-bone steak.   

The vowels are sometimes flowers

and sometimes hearses—It’s all in the octave.

How many nights we wait in the bedlam of our own silence

for a phone call from our own heart? I am the wide mouth

 where sorrow puts down roots.   Inside are all the lonely people.

The church of my voice finding every sad combatant

sitting alone and rescinded to a leather booth.

Cynthia Atkins (she/her) is the author of Psyche’s WeathersIn The Event of Full DisclosureStill-Life With God (Saint Julian Press 2020).  Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including but not limited to Alaska Quarterly Review, BOMB, Cleaver Magazine, Diode, Florida Review, Rust + Moth, Thrush, Tinderbox, and Verse Daily. She was formerly the assistant director for the Poetry Society of America.  Atkins lives on the Maury River of Rockbridge County, Virginia, with artist Phillip Welch and their family.

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Brent Calderwood

Pronouns: He/Him

1 Poem

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Evening Commute

 

All over town people are meeting cute

The tangled leashes     the spilled coffee    

They are stranded on islands waiting 

for the light     they are reaching for the same 

waxy apple and queuing at the movies

Tippi and Rod in the bird shop

Harold and Maude among the tombstones

Or you and me at the same concert
Dolly singing “Those Were the Days”

back when I lived in your city

They are returning from work     they are sharing 

a handrail     their thumbs almost touch 

they are tall like you     the doors slide open

and they are collected by their people 

The kiss     the quick linking of fingers 

the stack of mail     the bunch of violets

they are going home to their lives

Brent Calderwood (he/him) is the author of The God of Longing (Sibling Rivalry Press), an American Library Association LGBT poetry selection for 2014. His essays on film, music, and culture have appeared in Rolling StoneOut, the Chicago Sun-Times, and elsewhere. His poems have appeared in journals and anthologies including The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide and Why to These Rocks: 50 Years of Poems from the Community of Writers.

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Jill Crammond

Pronouns: She/Her

2 Poems

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Obituary for All that Scares Me

 

Rest in peace, monster under the bed

and the drinks we shared last night.

 

Condolences

for all the love songs I have butchered

for my funeral and my second marriage

for the traumas that have and have not happened,

the fistful of arguments I avoided by leaping

into as many swamps.

 

Not one lover asked

what I want said at my funeral,

but I’ll eulogize anyway.

 

I want you to read the obituary

to all that scared me.

 

You know who you are,

all you princes and dirty knights

whose hearts I have broken.

 

If I haven’t broken your ribs

in a clumsy straddle,

halleluiah.

Climb in the casket beside me,

kiss me like my lips aren’t cold.

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Jill Crammond’s (she/her) poems have appeared in Tinderbox Poetry, Pidgeonholes, Unbroken Journal, Mother Mary Come to Me Anthology, Fiolet & Wing: An Anthology of Domestic Fabulist Poetry, and others. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her chapbook, Handbook for Unwell Mothers, was a finalist for the 2021 Two Sylvias Press Chapbook Prize, judged by Victoria Chang. She lives and teaches art and preschool at a forest school in upstate NY.

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Sean Hanrahan

Pronouns: He/Him

1 Poem

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Stephen’s Wish

I want to fuck Buck Mulligan
the loutish type
sacrilegious and jocular
the man us Uranians
would do anything for—
give Him the keys
to our platonic castles,
lend Him money,
lick His stubble
shine His boots,
lick those, too.
Bent over,
subservient, the way
He likes us to be,
eye level with
His brawny chode.
We let Him break
our hearts,
dissect the myths
of our being,
cleave us in two
with His masculine unconcern.
He takes our father’s place.
Taunts us over our grief
for our dead-to-us mothers.
We absolve Him,
this new Sadistic Christ,
whip in hand
our bare backs
throb with imagined welts.
We love Him
until our nellies pop off,
our size 8
Cinderella loafers
left on the stair.
Yet, we shroud our lust
in a catechism
of rationalizations
while living in
an actual phallus
circumference girthed to measure.

We ejaculate into
His shaving cream
in that cracked, striated bowl
where the razor cross gleams,
each blade containing
a clumped relic
of reddish-brown hair.
Oscillating between hate
and veneration,
we choose the sacramental in-between.   

Sean Hanrahan (he/him) is a gay Philadelphia poet originally hailing from Dale City, Virginia. He is the author of Hardened Eyes on the Scan, Safer Behind Popcorn, and Gay Cake. He has taught classes on chapbook creation and ekphrastic poetry and has hosted various poetry events, including a quarterly series for Moonstone.

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Ben Kline

Pronouns: He/Him

1 Poem

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*"Sort & Filter" was previously published in (b)OINK.

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 POETRY, Rejection Letters, Southeast Review, THRUSH, CutBank, fourteen poems, Hobart and many other publications.

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Courtney LeBlanc

Pronouns: She/Her

2 Poems

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If There is a God

 

She’s pissed. Hair-pulling, spit-flying,

curse-screaming pissed. She looks

down on her creation and wonders

where she went wrong. She gave us

everything – art and science, rainforests

and medicine, grasslands and goats,

narwhals and math and poetry.

And we continue to fuck it up.

She thinks about the rapture, something

she never considered or promised,

thinks, maybe I should… But then

COVID appears and she decides to wait.

When doctors and scientists create

the vaccine she exclaims, Praise me!

They are not a lost cause! But then she sees

the antivaxxers, the ones who won’t

wear masks, she hears the protests

about body autonomy and rolls

her eyes because women – the beings

she created after her own image –

have so little autonomy in the world

she made in six days. She contemplates

wiping everything away and starting

again – another flood perhaps?

Instead she changes into her pajamas,

the buttery soft material gliding across

her perfect skin. She crawls into bed

and turns out the light. Prays

to herself that tomorrow will be better.

Small

            But even if the world is half bad, it remains / half good.

            ~ from To the Tender by Kristen Tracy

 

At 2am my dog paws the side of the bed, telling

me she needs to go out. Blurry-eyed we walk

the quiet streets so she can find the perfect spot –

the world is her toilet, but she has her preferences.

We’re having a warm spell and though I know

I should hate climate change I love a 68* day

in December. Scientists say the summer ice

in the Arctic Ocean will disappear by 2035

and this will be detrimental to the animals

that depend on it but in this hour I am only

grateful to not be trudging through the darkness

and cold. When my dog stops suddenly and stares

behind us, a low growl rumbling past her teeth,

my overreactive imagination thinks, Serial

killer! That creepy clown! The blood-soaked twins

at the end of the hallway! Instead, I see a fox

standing in the street, a rabbit clutched

in its jaws. I tug my dog and we keep

moving as the fox watches us, its flame-

colored fur bright under the streetlights.

I forget sometimes how small foxes are.

I forget sometimes how small we all are.

Courtney LeBlanc (she/her) is the author of the full length collections Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart (Riot in Your Throat) and Beautiful & Full of Monsters (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press). She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Riot in Your Throat, an independent poetry press. She loves nail polish, tattoos, and a soy latte each morning.

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Carolyn Oliver

Pronouns: She/Her

1 Poem

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The Builder

 

In another life I am a small boy crouched

in a playground patch of marigolds, eating

their red-hearted petals while a distant siren wilts

and my much-older brother lifts his script again. 

 

I like the translucent yellow flags sticking out

from the white pages, I like how they make

a funny ladder, I’d like to turn their crooked

straight, make them reach up to his face half

 

hidden, then hook the words that keep swaying

overhead, settling someplace I can’t see,

as if swung by silent mighty cranes concealed

behind my brother’s shape. I can’t help the days

 

a recollected phrase will light on me like blown

debris—when I am much older, when he is dead

and I am a builder, a sensible man sought after

for my orderly sites, my thoughtful touches:

 

towel warmers in the master suite, an atrium

fountain, walls of river pebble and frosted sand.

Roofs shapely sharp and square, skylight studded.

Weatherproof, I speak in shiplap. I walk alone

 

at night through my placid neighborhood, rehearsing

one of those lines rough as an unplaned board,

wreck of a half-heard conversation. I tell myself

it’s accident carried me here, a pattern beyond

 

me, though I know better. I think of the marigolds,

how it was like eating a busted taillight’s red,

how nothing has ever tasted so good, except

your gratitude when I do the Sunday dishes.

Carolyn Oliver (she/her) is the author of Inside the Storm I Want to Touch the Tremble (University of Utah Press, forthcoming 2022) selected by Matthew Olzmann for the Agha Shahid Ali Prize, as well as two chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in The Massachusetts ReviewIndiana ReviewCincinnati ReviewBeloit Poetry JournalShenandoah32 PoemsSixth FinchSouthern Indiana ReviewCherry Tree, and elsewhere. Carolyn lives in Massachusetts with her family, where she is the editor of The Worcester Review.

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Yvonne Zipter

Pronouns: She/Her

2 Poems

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A Brief History of the War on Women

 

A door, the screen baggy with age, and a girl,

legs skinny as the tape-wrapped stem

of a baseball bat. Faded shorts, sleeveless

shirt, her pipe-cleaner arms bend across

her prairie-flat chest. A ringer-washer,

with its barrel of a belly, stands sentry

just behind her. Through the paint-

clogged grid of the door, bedsheets,

pillowcases, kitchen towels—a dozen

squared moons reflecting summer sun,

flapping like signals of surrender she ignores.

She is banishing some child like a supplicant

spurned, inhabiting her tiny body like a queen.

She is six and knows exactly who she is,

dares to be daring in a new decade still clinging

to the old. Only later will she learn to fear

her own body, to crawl inside a book

like a bomb shelter to save herself

from the burning of her happy childhood.

It would take decades to open the heavy

hatchway separating her from herself,

the light blinding, the air no longer

acrid with the odor of shame.

 

The Romance of It

 

There was a time when I was in love

with the tragic. My God, Sylvia and Anne,

how you fed that flame of the sad girl poet

too fragile for this planet. I studied your poems

 

like guidebooks to the world of the living

for the would-be dying. The gas oven

in my studio apartment wooed me,

while the Murphy bed, that latched purse

 

of penury, leaked other peoples’ misery.

There was a time when your illness fed me,

filled me with the romance of dying.

I baptized myself in your beautiful images

 

of torment. But somehow there came a curious

shift. I began to notice less the anguish

and more the beauty, learned to turn away

from death and toward artistry. Sylvia without

 

the suffering, Anne without the anxiety. Your dying

emboldened me to thrive. I’ve been rowing home

to myself ever since, your gorgeous words dormant

now on my shelf, your legend a little juju in my soul.

Yvonne Zipter (she/her) is the author of the full-length poetry collections Kissing the Long Face of the Greyhound and The Patience of Metal, the chapbook Like Some Bookie God, the nonfiction books Diamonds Are a Dyke’s Best Friend and Ransacking the Closet, and the Russian historical novel Infraction. Her work has appeared in numerous periodicals, including PoetrySouthern Humanities ReviewCalyxCrab Orchard Review, and Spoon River Poetry Review. She is a retired University of Chicago Press senior manuscript editor.

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 Clayre Benzadón

Pronouns: She/Her

3 Poems

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Balanceando

 

Pointillist rain scatters, drenches

me in rain mid-

flight. I’m five years old

 

as my father lullabies to me

in the backyard playground:

 

un elefante balanceando

sobre la tela

 

I’m swinging on a young net,

learning to balance, my father

 

next to me, como primeros pasos,

como si estuviera andando—

 

already I was

       risky

with wanting—

 

I imagined striding

atop the swing set

 

as seamlessly as a tight-

rope walker, or like Babar

 

and the adventures

my dad would read to me,

 

when the elephant floated

on air balloon.

 

At six, I trusted my father

to let go of me

without training

 

wheels.

I slipped off my

bike,

 

kept falling every

time after.

 

The scars on my

knees stung,

 

but I determined

to hurt myself

 

until I could ride

without handle

bars—

 

como veía que resistía

 

I have a recurring vision

that my father runs towards

me

 

as I arrive at the top

of a skate ramp.

 

I look down

beyond my board,

 

quivering, practically

backwards.

 

He’s far ahead of me,

waving his hands

towards me.

 

I land, catch speed,

catch up to him—

when we intersect—

 

hay deslizamiento; I slip—

footpace inch of distance—

 

lapse inside realm of home.

My father and I are standing

right near the living

 

room door. When we

say goodbye—

 

dame un beso,

he motions—

 

I barely get

enough air to

reach his cheek.

No Me Importa un Pimiento

 

When my aunt and uncle

come to visit, my Tío goes,

“Esperamos fiesta,”

 

“we’re waiting for you to get

married”— I play with my necklace

pendant with an engraving

 

of “The Lovers” tarot card,

(the one you gave me, babe,

with two women on it)

 

and stare at the EXIT sign—

 

I want to be as bold

as you, to stand up

 

   and command

I don’t care one pepper

 

in front of family, or every-

one else,

  

  I’d love to believe it,

 

to openly hold the weight

your spice carries, pop you

 

in my mouth like dragon’s

breath, scald myself while

 

devouring you,

a devil’s tongue,

 

in public, and not

give a fuck

 

about the furrowed-

brow, squinty-eyed,

spiced reaction.

 

            So what if

back at the restaurant

 

I look too american,

off-the-derech—

 

babe, miénteme,

invert me like a pimenta

obscura (threatened

species),

 

teach me how to bite

a habanero

whole, by the stem,

 

enough to heat and mute

my ears to the rest of

the conversation

 

(I’d love to add

some zest

to my life any-

way),

 

then show me

como ser

fresca, seasoned,

fearless.

 

Right now, I wish

I could rage

right through the exit,

 

but the only

way I know how

 

to display sauciness

is by drenching
myself in it.

The Fucked up Part about Fucking You

 

It’s only when

I’m on top

 

that I get to control

my view,

motion: there

 

is an uncanny

tidiness about you:

 

glossed back

forehead, raven

-deep eyes, spiked

 

grizzle hair that pulls

in one direction.

 

I want to pull it,

but you grab my hands

down before

 

I can get to

whining, you put

 

my mouth

over my hand. 

 

Don’t

cry

 

but now

that’s all

I want to do—

 

like a girl again—

begging.

 

You hold my head down,

a doctor sticking a tongue

compressor down the throat.

 

You slap my face

with the ruler:

 

Good

girl,

demand

 

I make myself bare

for you, without hair,

without protection.

 

The creased smile

that always touches

your lip is formidable.

 

I linger too long

on your musculature,

of all the ways you could

crush me.

 

I love it

when you

hurt me.

Clayre Benzadón (she/her) received her MFA at University of Miami. She is a Split Lip Magazine poetry reader and Broadsided Press’s Instagram editor. Her chapbook, Liminal Zenith was published by SurVision Books (2019). She was awarded the Alfred Boas Poetry Prize for "Linguistic Rewilding", and her full length collection, "Moon as Salted Lemon" was a finalist for the 2021 Robert Dana-Anhinga Poetry Prize. She has been published in places including 14poems, SWWIM, Fairy Tale Review, ANMLY, and forthcoming in Grist Journal.

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Lauren Camp

Pronouns: She/Her

3 Poems

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Tread and Root

 

I’ve been meaning to tell you how beautiful the sound

of your names: euphoria and breezes, gasps and sweet. They open

like carnivals, picnics, pastures. Open,

sometimes to the last. This week showed up with its emptying

hands and what hands will carry: a revolution,

upper floors, old streets. Showed up with countless

others, noon, night, any nervous

hour, the haptic anger at corners. I watch shade

press to the crux of buildings, tangle

in cities. See it split off. How strong

that roar and gaze, broken glass. Another

pledge for another who who

never got mercy. Days heap along and I

understand more of your consonants, those maximums,

the paths your soles wore

to imprint the concrete. Dear you,

with those names that should have been universe, longer

than doubt, should have been many shapes

of an exhale. If this week is points, surfaces, debris, it was set

in motion by our standing alone.

In my mind, I bathe the bodies. 

This week is what happens at once: the hammer

and mingle. The barricades, windows, then windows

that board the weakened areas. Summer is falling and falling

in names. Near my home, I find

places to linger. Beside the vines, I stand

on a flat rock with a view that shows only a trace

of a roofline. I live in the desert, my own

imagination. It is an hour to the collarbone of dusk.

It is quiet here save the plunge

of the freeway and tender interactions

of birds. The sky moves without evidence. Here, I say them,

the names, what happened. Your names

are an entire route. Not noise but light. Not light

but laws. Not laws but waking. From then on,

just like that, horizon spokes clutch the sky

in coordinated angles.

 

 

 

 

Worth

 

I fish through protruding questions

as the inbox gawps

with tiers and queues of answer now

or swerve toward never.

Fish for which to sort and dredge, I count

deletes in this no longer atmosphere

because I crave the cleanse

of noise. Remove another faster. The room is hot—

or colder. Outside anything could be falling,

flying, intricately shining. I sluice

the manic wrack of unrelenting

light and fingerswipe and supple click, and every

moment shrinks its parallels.

Waist deep the desk is constant. It claims

me as I wing out

caveats and float diminished

answers. My brain makes small voice

with parens, colons, commas. All those nearly

lapsed demands. Once more I lower back

to Arial. Once more straight in

to offer winking

dinky buttons of exhaustion as reaction

to this unflinching burden.

What now? Write another, shorter,

wielding misbegotten registers. Brief clichés

and mindless adverbs. Maybe I could end

the struggle with ellipses! (I owe

so many answers.) Now small nubs

of spam. Spam-seeds and waiting-seeds and

people I don’t know. I look out, laced with absolute

missing for stout distance.

 

 

Don’t Be Sad

 

      I’ve traveled five states east to read my truth

beneath four neon tubes. In a dusty room, a sign brightens up

with “DON’T BE SAD.” Dazzled logic gallops on the wall.

                  At home he scatters syntax

 

to vantage points. Wraps his characters

in safety, sits cross-legged

            on our couch and laps his yellow pad. Majestic

 

      exact marks. Under atomic pinks and blues, I stand

afront a meager group, weary

from the weeping weather. Bound in wine, enduring,

 

            my voice is anxious tincture. Double-revving

                  trucks outstrip my breath. The window wheezes.

      I tear off another magnitude of sorrow.

 

Out of this,

      some reason. Out of this, connection. Warm

            in his nook, my love names a boy

 

            who laughs. A happy start, and pages on.

      All pleading the best seat. He shapes the charming

      mother and mother’s lover, holding stance

 

in his left hand, nimble

            on till dark. Narrative goes tranquil and the plot:

                  nothing happens. Slowly. Perpetual

 

            recurring disposition. After so much

travel and intersecting tempers, I exist in utter emerald, constant

neon, wear that pounding sign all night. Whatever sense

 

      will come, whatever time or tongue, I give it room

      to anger, room to skid. Or glow or hurt. If there’s only luck,

no sundering, we take away the future.

Lauren Camp (she/her) is the author of five books, most recently Took House (Tupelo Press), which received the American Fiction Award in Poetry. Other honors include the Dorset Prize and finalist citations for the Arab American Book Award, Housatonic Book Award and New Mexico-Arizona Book Award. Her work has appeared in Kenyon ReviewPoem-a-Day, BlackbirdWaxwing and The Los Angeles Review

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Claudia Cortese

Pronouns: She/Her

1 Poem

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Oh my little homunculus, my human organ, my orgasm

at chocolate ganache, at Irish cheddar, at the warm belly

of bread skinned in thick crust. No woman likes sex

better than food. Every woman wants

to suck and lick

 

is the lie that keeps on giving this holiday season. Hallmark

promised me pink sunglasses and emerald fronds

but all I got was this shitty t-shirt that blinks in lacquered font

trauma trauma trauma. When I visit my mother

in Ohio, we binge horror. She likes nothing more than a woman

hunted. We shriek and cling to each other in murder’s

blue glow. This is therapy. This is healing. This
time we live. Those who think the event happens once

know nothing. There are countless endings. There are

only beginnings—a row of girls in icebox coffins

the world plucks from their boxes and swallows,

slicking its throat in mucusy cream. My rapists

aren’t the ones who hurt me most, but you wouldn’t believe

me if I told you who did, so I’ll say rohypnol, say Pall Malls,

say barn door open to the yard below where a chained bitch

bites the air to her left and whimpers so desperately,

oxygen fattens with her hunger—

Claudia Cortese’s (her/she) book Wasp Queen (Black Lawrence Press) won Southern Illinois University’s Devil’s Kitchen Award for Emerging Poetry. Her work has appeared in The Adroit Journal, Bitch Magazine, Black Warrior Review, Blackbird, and Gulf Coast, among others. Cortese received a 2018 OUTstanding Faculty Ally of the Year certificate from the LGBTQ+ Center at Montclair State and is the Book Reviews Editor for Muzzle Magazine. The daughter of immigrants, she grew up in Ohio’s Rust Belt and lives in New Jersey.

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Darren Demaree

Pronouns: He/Him

2 Poems

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[HER BODY]*

i told my daughter her body is no narrative her body is an ocean and a moon and there is no freckle

no nail no strand of hair that she is not in charge of and that means that if we do this right she will

continue the proper revolution that leads to her lifting up the whole of our government in her hands

and shaking them the way they so badly want to shake her and if she doesn’t stop until their tongues

are flags in the wind then that is her decision because i’m not raising an american or an ohioan i’m

raising a girl that will become a woman and she will know her body is whatever the fuck she decides

it is and any sail that any person tries to stick in her back to change her path will be burned in a pile i

give her when she no longer needs me to write such things

[YOU’RE A WITCH]**

i told my son you’re a witch if you want to be but do your best to be a good witch and if you find the right dark magic please don’t tell me about it show me

*"[HER BODY] was previously published in Honey & Lime and included in the full-length collection a child walks in the dark.

**"[YOU'RE A WITCH]" is included in the full-length collection a child walks in the dark.

Darren C. Demaree (he/him) is the author of sixteen poetry collections, most recently a child walks in the dark, (December 2021, Harbor Editions).  He is the recipient of a 2018 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, the Louise Bogan Award from Trio House Press, and the Nancy Dew Taylor Award from Emrys Journal

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Benjamin Rhodes

Pronouns: He/Him

1 Poem

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January 6th

 

The attempted coup was on the same day

as my top surgery pre-op appointment.

 

Sick on the ride into Cleveland, dumb enough

to say I don't think that they're fascists. Spent

the evening staring at three screens of police

goading the crowd back with their body

 

shields. Remember: The tear gas.

The welts from rubber bullets.

Strip down your top half,

wear this gown, and wait.

 

The doctor traced his pinky around my nipple,

where he would make the incisions

took my breast tissue in his hands,

shook what he would carve away.

Benjamin Anthony Rhodes (he/him) is a queer and trans poet living in Northeast Ohio, where he is a candidate with the NEOMFA. Born and bred on the bayou, Benjamin originally hails from Louisiana. His work can be found in Sidereal Magazine, Freezeray Poetry, and elsewhere.

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Rosa Sophia

Pronouns: She/Her

1 Poem

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Night School Sonnet

I threw my textbook in the trash. After class I never wanted to go home, I drove to Juno Beach

and parked on the street, tugged the window crank to let the ocean in. At ten p.m. couples walked

to the sand to look for loggerheads. I never saw the turtles. I thought about my evening making

jumper cables. Soldering terminals. Asking my instructor, does this look right to you? Standing

in the muted light of the open garage on break, listening to my buddies talk about the girls they’d

like to fuck. We gathered ’round my best friend’s Kawasaki, I leaned against a 90s Honda Civic,

crossed my steel-toed boots at the ankles and said, sweet ride. You know I belong in that garage,

don’t you?

You know I belong in that garage, under a car, my body tucked against an oil-caked engine. I

have to tell you about this in third person because I wasn’t in my body, I was above it watching

like it was somebody else’s: The young woman walks down the hall toward her mother who’s

drunk on whiskey. What’s her mother saying? Some mix of accusations: what’s wrong with you,

you’re such a bitch. Her mother shoves her against the wall, and all she can remember years later

is her hand wrapped around her wrist. It was just so delicate. That’s the story. Back in the garage

my best friend calls me by my nickname, Yo, Torque! I lift a wrench like a scepter and say I’m

tough as head-bolts, but nobody ever believes it.

Nobody ever believes it, maybe it’s because I try too hard to make them see it. I thought about

our electrical exams scheduled for the end of the semester and wondered if I’d put the lead on the

right end of the alternator. Would I forget which setting to use, volts or ohmmeters? Today it’s

the same: I’m living with an engine I can never fix. There’s nothing in the manual to stop her

drinking, not a single answer in my own marginalia, no replacement part to clear her eyes or heal

her heart. Years later I’m with my best friend in my own garage working on a truck engine when

a bolt snaps in the cylinder head and I shout, Mother fucker! I threw my textbook in the trash.

Rosa Sophia (her/she) is a candidate for an MFA in Creative Writing at Florida International University where she is studying poetry and creative nonfiction. Her automotive poem, “Take This Transmission for Instance,” won Runner-Up in the FIU Student Literary Awards, and was subsequently published in Philadelphia Stories magazine. She is also the author of Village of North Palm Beach: A History (The History Press, 2020). She holds a degree in automotive technology and is the managing editor of Mobile Electronics magazine.

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Isaiah Vianese

Pronouns: He/Him

1 Poem

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The More Love, The Better

 

Kyle and I sit in a Sunnyside park

talking about our husbands—

their beautiful smiles,

our weddings,

and respective trips to Paris.

 

He puts his arm around my shoulder

and I lean into him while we chat.

It’s early summer

and everything's coming up gorgeous,

like our friendship.

 

I’ve spent my life trying

to tell a story about love.

I wish I could say

there’s one answer for everyone,

but I know better.

 

Kyle and I kiss in a cemetery

where an angel’s wings

frame the Manhattan skyline.

We linger there before walking

back to his neighborhood.

 

When my husband calls,

we talk about my afternoon.

He knows about this special friend,

has someone similar of his own.

“The more love, the better,” he says.

Isaiah Vianese (he/him) is author of the poetry collection, Men and Music (Coyote Creek Books 2016). His poems and book reviews have appeared in Assaracus, Blue Collar Review, The Fourth River, Lambda Literary, Moon City Review, Rattle, and Rise Up Review. He is also author of the chapbook, Stopping on the Old Highway (Recycled Karma Press 2009). He lives in New York City.

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Brendan Walsh

Pronouns: He/Him

1 Poem

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nine2five

Barely getting by, it's all taking and no giving

They just use your mind and you never get the credit

It's enough to drive you crazy if you let it

 

dolly parton wrote “9 to 5” on the set of the film

9 to 5; she used her long acrylic fingernails

to tap out a beat and the song became canon

 

            for weddings and working class happy hours,

            for drunk uncles and overserved aunts

            to unloosen their ties and shout into the ceiling.

 

two years i sat nine2five in an office.

i had a desk and two monitors. people

called me on my office phone. i had

 

a four-digit extension. winter mornings

i wore a peacoat over a blue button down.

i entered equations in spreadsheets,

 

brought piles of checks and cash to the bursar.

at nine, i stared into an inbox void

so cavernous and sinister i swore

 

it perched deep in my unconscious,

the dark place no one knows about.

at noon, i’d refuse to eat, but coffee

 

counts as food if you disregard calories

and chewing, which are both symptoms

of laziness. at two, i’d sit with my friend

 

and search the salaries of our higher-ups.

public information. every time, shocking.

where did they put all that money?

 

too much for a wallet, really. maybe

a wheelbarrow? maybe they converted it to gold coins,

filled their basements like Scrooge McDuck.

 

            i released back into the night, the sanddirtsnow

            parking lot, too sullen and screendead to holler

            towards the sky which just then opened up to hear me.

Brendan Walsh (he/him) 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 collections, including Buddha vs. Bonobo'(Sutra Press), and fort lauderdale (Grey Book Press). His chapbook concussion fragment, winner of the 2021 Elsewhere Chapbook Prize, is forthcoming from Elsewhere Press.

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Tamara Zbrizher

Pronouns: She/Her

2 Poems

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Shampoo Bottle Prophecies  

 

In the physical world

there are no secret drains

into which dipping this dripping finger

unites it with yours on the other side of the coast,

where nature still orgasms magic you can’t buy in a store.

Where your hands are hard at work

in a singing field, growing something

the big bad wolf might try to eat over time

 

All over tile is wet hair that’s uncaged itself from my scalp

with each comb through of this shampooed hand

it too wants to escape

even into the deep dark drain

hoping to leave a trail of split ends or a braid

strong enough for some hero to mount to salvation.

 

Salutations, dear onlookers, watch how quickly

this maden coils herself around anything heroic-

hashtags, memoirs, a man with a doctrine

who plants carrots and beets so that he can eat

who would risk his head to pick a proper head of cabbage

if i crave the very one from the witch’s garden.

 

God damn, feed me all the horoscopes and I’ll slip

on Freud’s insights like banana peels, examine

coffee grinds for a tea leaf style prophecy

It’s there but in a language sold long ago

replaced by final sale salvation-

A ring, a house, a stroller.

 

Sell me an unquantifiable fantasy

in which the fingers finessing my strands

transfigure into yours

cuz in the physical world  Finesse

 is a shampoo brand

and thinking about it now it doesn’t feel at all physical

when our fingers meet, but kismet in the way that even

shampoo labels can be oracular -

 Tousle Me Softly -Yes. Always.  Long Term Relationship- Truly?

Wave GoodBye   When? Tomorrow?

 

Today,  let’s forget future

Let’s forget commerce

Lets barter or better yet, gift me fingers

that brush strands off my forehead-

the better to see me with.

Don’t be the big bad anything

or the hero with the hatchet.

Just a friend who lets me sleep at night.

 

 

 

 

 

The Clavicle, the Wolf, the Hunger

 

My clavicle throbs      

a bruise is blooming where your arm pushed heavy

into me

you were pushing your way

tenderly

i finger the ache throughout the day

loving

reminder of this way we loose ourselves

like the wolf in the stories, in the night

looses itself on a chicken’s throat

without remorse cuz there is no shame in hunger.

 

i spread my fingers across the peaks of your collar bone

grasp your throat  which never sees what’s coming

from under a woodsmen’s beard

i can not see how you choose to return to this life

to me, breath by breath,

so I listen with my hands to the survival song

your skin sings under my grip.

 

When you asleep,

I dream of cutting the beard off, clean.

Don’t think me Delilah

Think of my grandmother’s bony fingers

brushing the bangs off my forehead

the better to see me with

not like the big bad wolf

but yes, animal

who returns to what nourishes it

and wants to swallow it whole

lick clean each bone

so as not dare waste a single morsel.

Tamara Zbrizher (she/her) is a Ukrainian American poet. She received her MFA at Drew University.

Her work has been published in various journals and anthologies and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of The Net. She is the recipient of the 2021 NJ Poets Prize.  Her first full-length collection Tell Me Something Good was released from Get Fresh Books in April, 2019. She lives in New Jersey with her son and enjoys naming the birds outside her window.

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