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
and Iggy Pop
and Angela Barnett
my partner is 42% gay
(according to an unscientific online quiz)
I am one point away from being
(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
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
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 Poetry, The Baffler, Acentos Review, Kweli 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.
Dolly In The Mirror
“If you want a rainbow, you have to put up with the rain.”
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 Weathers, In The Event of Full Disclosure, Still-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.
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 Stone, Out, 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.
Obituary for All that Scares Me
Rest in peace, monster under the bed
and the drinks we shared last night.
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,
Climb in the casket beside me,
kiss me like my lips aren’t cold.
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.
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.
subservient, the way
He likes us to be,
eye level with
His brawny chode.
We let Him break
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
left on the stair.
Yet, we shroud our lust
in a catechism
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
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.
*"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.
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.
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.
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 Review, Indiana Review, Cincinnati Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Shenandoah, 32 Poems, Sixth Finch, Southern Indiana Review, Cherry Tree, and elsewhere. Carolyn lives in Massachusetts with her family, where she is the editor of The Worcester Review.
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 Poetry, Southern Humanities Review, Calyx, Crab Orchard Review, and Spoon River Poetry Review. She is a retired University of Chicago Press senior manuscript editor.
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
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
I slipped off my
kept falling every
The scars on my
but I determined
to hurt myself
until I could ride
como veía que resistía—
I have a recurring vision
that my father runs towards
as I arrive at the top
of a skate ramp.
I look down
beyond my board,
He’s far ahead of me,
waving his hands
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
dame un beso,
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,
“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
I don’t care one pepper
in front of family, or every-
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
a devil’s tongue,
in public, and not
give a fuck
about the furrowed-
So what if
back at the restaurant
I look too american,
invert me like a pimenta
teach me how to bite
whole, by the stem,
enough to heat and mute
my ears to the rest of
(I’d love to add
to my life any-
then show me
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
is an uncanny
tidiness about you:
-deep eyes, spiked
grizzle hair that pulls
in one direction.
I want to pull it,
but you grab my hands
I can get to
whining, you put
over my hand.
I want to do—
like a girl again—
You hold my head down,
a doctor sticking a tongue
compressor down the throat.
You slap my face
with the ruler:
I make myself bare
for you, without hair,
The creased smile
that always touches
your lip is formidable.
I linger too long
on your musculature,
of all the ways you could
I love it
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.
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.
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 Review, Poem-a-Day, Blackbird, Waxwing and The Los Angeles Review.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
The More Love, The Better
Kyle and I sit in a Sunnyside park
talking about our husbands—
their beautiful smiles,
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.
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.
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
you were pushing your way
i finger the ache throughout the day
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.