Necks

Aimee Nezhukumatathil

 

When my six-year-old son                    was painting birds
during art class                    his principal ordered a full
lockdown because                    an armed man was
spotted
skulking nearby. When I got the news
I could feel my heart throb                    in my neck.
If you pushed                    even a single finger to my
arm,
I’d surely burst.                              I think of baby toucans
who fall out of their nests.
Sometimes
a person scoops                    them in the bucket
of her shirt                      and brings                    these fallen birds—
their necks not even fully feathered—to a vet.
When toucans are babies,                  thier beaks glow
only the palest yellow—                    the famous rainbow
has yet to bite                    and show.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil is professor of English in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program.

Her newest collection of poems is OCEANIC (Copper Canyon Press, 2018). She is also the author of the forthcoming book of illustrated nature essays, WORLD OF WONDER (2019, Milkweed), and three previous poetry collections: LUCKY FISH (2011), AT THE DRIVE-IN VOLCANO (2007), and MIRACLE FRUIT (2003)–all from Tupelo Press.  Her most recent chapbook is LACE & PYRITE, a collaboration of nature poems with the poet Ross Gay.

She is the poetry editor of Orion magazine and her poems have appeared in the Best American Poetry 2015 & 2018 series, American Poetry Review, New England Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, and Tin House. Honors include a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pushcart Prize.

Morphine

Carl Phillips

The long fever of summer looks like broken at last, there’s
a coolness that the hours, more and more, leave behind them
as they tumbleweed their way to wherever it is
finished hours go to.
Here, finished isn’t the same as lost, at all,
is this true
where you are?
When I lie down in the field, now—field that,
for months, by day the red-winged blackbirds
superintended, the one fox by dusk, missing half
its tail—I’m the dropped sword in a glittering detachment
of raised ones, which is (never mind how it feels)
maybe as it should be, though sure I’ve thought
to worry, having long been both things: the cigarette
casually let go of at the field’s center; the field on fire.

To remember at this point the carefulness
with which the survivors had arranged the fallen along
the public square’s four edges where there used to be
walls, parts medieval, the same
square across which I once ran after you, like someone
desperate, has made it seem like nothing,
but it was not nothing, the seeming
desperate, the running after you,
that I called your name.

Faintly. Calmly. Less faintly.
Sound of oars finding water, coming up for air again,
though not a skiff in sight.
They say frenzy will get you nowhere.
But they used to say that about fear, too.
Rustle of wood-doves in the catalpa. The catalpa’s
reflection in the river it shadows. In the shadowed
river. They say here’s where he first landed—god of healing,
on horseback, on his raft of ivory, bringing sleep for cure.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Carl Phillips is the author of fourteen books of poetry, most recently WILD IS THE WIND (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2018).

The True Story of La Negra, A Bio-Myth

Elizabeth Acevedo

La  Negra  is  a  beastgirl.   From  forehead  to  heel
callused. Risen on an island made of shit bricks: an
empire.  The  doctor   pulled   La   Negra   from  her
mother’s throat:  a swallowed sword:  rosary beads.
La Negra’s  father  is a  dulled  sugarcane  machete.
Crowned in her sun-dried  umbilical cord,  La Negra
claws and wails, craves only mamajuana.

This is where she will end:
enveloped   in   candlewax.   Scratched   &   caught
beneath your nails.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Elizabeth Acevedo is a New York Times best selling author. She is the winner of the 2018 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, The Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Fiction, the Boston Globe-Hornbook Award Prize for Best Children’s Fiction, and the Pura Belpré Award for a work that best affirms the Latinx cultural experience.

Her books include, BEASTGIRL & OTHER ORIGIN MYTHS (YesYes 2016), THE POET X (HarperCollins, 2018), & WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH (HarperCollins, 2019).

She holds a BA in Performing Arts from The George Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. Acevedo has been a fellow of Cave Canem, Cantomundo, and a participant in the Callaloo Writer’s Workshops. She is a National Poetry Slam Champion, and resides in Washington, DC with her love.

Of Unapologetic Black Women and Melania Trump

Destiny O. Birdsong

“And the difference was all the difference there was.” ~ Toni Morrison

 

I’m hard pressed to say
America without sounding
like a terrorist.

I’m a guest here.

I arrived
with a few syllables
lashed to my back.

One of them is bitch.

I wear it
like a white dress
made for your funeral.

Here lies. Here lies.

Build a wall.
My man will lay
the first brick.

I’m already over it.

You say I don’t
know how to be
a wife.

I never show up
for anything
for free.

I’ve always been in fashion.

I spent many
a night chained up
in the cabin.

I earned my right to stay.

Did I tell you
about my son?
He speaks languages—

a citizen of
so many plots
of ground.

We’re bleeding this country.

I feed him with
the hard-earned money
of tax-payers.

It’s champagne
every morning;
caviar at night.

Each black bead a fetus
more precious
than his skull.

Can I live?

My grievances
have always been small
and breathtaking,

like my country.

It’s just that,
all of a sudden,
now, they’re useful.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Destiny O. Birdsong is a Louisiana-born poet, essayist, and editor who lives and writes in Nashville, Tennessee. Her poems have either appeared or are forthcoming in African American ReviewThe Adroit Journal, Muzzle, Indiana ReviewBettering American Poetry Volume IIThe BreakBeat Poets Presents: Black Girl MagicSplit This Rock’s Poem of the Week, and elsewhere. Her critical work recently appeared in African American Reviewand The Cambridge Companion to Transnational American Literature. Destiny has won the Academy of American Poets Prize, Naugatuck River Review’s 2016 Poetry Contest, Meridian’s 2017 “Borders” Contest in Poetry, and the Richard G. Peterson Poetry Prize from Crab Orchard Review (2019). She has received support from Cave Canem, Callaloo, Jack Jones Literary Arts, Pink Door, The MacDowell Colony, The Ragdale Foundation, and Tin House, where she was a 2018 Summer Workshop Scholar. She earned both her MFA and PhD from Vanderbilt University, where she currently works as a research coordinator.

Weird Trans Kid

Tyler Friend

Weird Trans Kid’s bladder is the size of a squirrel—
not a squirrel’s bladder, but an actual squirrel, a chubby gray one.
Weird Trans Kid doesn’t know which restroom to use. Is tired
of all mainstream trans politics revolving around restrooms. Thinks
restrooms are improperly named. Wants to rename them anxietyrooms. Wants
to rename them imnotsurehowtheseplacesareapatriarchalconstructionbutimsuretheyare.
Doesn’t know whether to wrap the towel around his waist or his tits too. Gets turned on
by cold showers and full moons and long car rides. Probably
has a small dick. Or a really large clitoris. Or no genitals at all. Who knows?
Probably looks like a Barbie doll down there.
In any case, they probably don’t get laid very often. Fetishized plenty,
though. Weird Trans Kid has plenty of kinks herself, likes to call
her girlfriend Ma’am and Mama. Probably because Weird Trans Kid never got to be
a little girl for real. For real, though, Weird Trans Kid really is pretty weird, even
without the Trans part. I guess we should talk
about the Kid part too—Kid’s not really a kid anymore.
Kid’s twenty-five. Kid just doesn’t know
how to colloquially describe an adult in gender-neutral terms. Kid grew up
calling all their friends’ parents Mr. [First Name], Ms. [First Name]. Would it surprise you
to learn that Kid played baseball for fifteen seasons, made it
to the all-stars, danced the cha cha slide? Had two parents, two siblings, two dogs? The dogs
are the selling point here. That’s what you’re supposed to relate to.
People LOVE dogs. Unless they’re cat people. Nobody seems to love both cats and dogs,
at least not equally. I’m stuck in traffic in Kentucky, or maybe Ohio.
There’s a car in front of me with a bumper sticker
that reads PROMOTE DIVERSITY and it has little illustrations of different
dog breeds. If I were a dog, everyone would love me. Or perhaps a goat.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Tyler Friend is a non-binary poet & designer from Tennessee. Their chapbook AMPERSONATE is available from Choose the Sword Press, and they received an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Tyler is the editor of Francis House and the designer for Eulalia Books.

How to Have a Two-Night Stand

Andrea Rogers

You will remember how he moved
toward you, hazard-handed, uttering
your language—that pidgin
of the partially recovered self.
And you still won’t have learned,
although you know the story well,
won’t ever catch the flown bird
of your breath, remembering how,

still keen, still cold as a machine,
Lust polished off your beer,
relit your cigarette, said,
I can tell you’re dead inside. Said,
What’s a heart if not something
to cut out a fruit and eat whole?

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Andrea Rogers is a musician and postdoctoral fellow at Georgia Tech, where she teaches writing. She is the recipient of the 2015 Agnes Scott Writers’ Festival Poetry Prize, judged by Tracy K.Smith, and two Academy of American Poets awards. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in The Adirondack Review, District Lit, and anthologies by Black Lawrence Press, Negative Capability, and Red Paint Hill. She and her band, Night Driving in Small Towns, have been featured by Rolling Stone and NPR.

From “Negus in Paris”

L. Lamar Wilson

I smile at a cop for the first time in years—her skin
Of caramel & whey, kissed the way French kiss to say
Bonjour, not Je te veux, by a pale woman who, like her,
Dons wolves’ flesh, the darkest blue, which should quicken
My gait, exacerbate the arrhythmia that’s my birthright.
I want you, my eyes intone. Embrasse moi. I’m so furtive
In this city that keeps me alert when I’d otherwise sleep,
Whose dawn & dusk hover like an osprey perched,
Just above the surface, before talons & neck break
The Seine’s cyan mirror, perch in its beak. How prey
Surrender here. Such quiet everywhere I step. Such
Hunger in every mouth. In the baths, I kiss a Gabonese
Beau who says his grandma’s a mermaid queen. Here,
Anatole’s birthright manifests unfettered. Here, where

Men feast on flesh inside a maze so intricate & full of
Delights, it’s safe to get lost in the heat. Anatole dives
Into a pool’s deep end. Finds my oaken roots, his
Surest way out. Writhes from trunk to limb to stem
To crown, as if without his tongue wrapt in mine,
He’ll drown. Nestlé ici dans ma canopée, I lull. Tu vas
Me manquer. Je vais t’appeler demain, he waves, leaping
Into the warren’s pulse. So much meat left to devour.
I know he won’t call, & he does not surprise. When
The sun alights the darkest corridor’s corners, I climb
The winding stairs of another underground railroad
To another ancient wonder. Peer into the Seine’s green
Eyes. See my distorted lips part & turn suddenly
Upward, wisp of wind at their back. Mouth Wake up!

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

L. Lamar Wilson is the author of SACRILEGION (Carolina Wren Press, 2013) and PRIME (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2014), with Phillip B.Williams, Rickey Laurentiis, Saeed Jones, and Darrel Alejandro Holnes, edited by Jericho Brown. Wilson, an Affrilachian Poet and Cave Canem and Callaloo graduate fellow, earned an MFA from Virginia Tech and is completing a doctorate in African American and multi-ethnic American poetics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He teaches on the creative writing faculty at The University of Alabama.

Golden Shovel for Trayvon Martin (February 5, 1995 – February 26, 2012)

Angie Vorhies

 

after Carol Ann Duffy’s “Prayer”

 

Dear Audubon Society:

I would like to participate in The Great Backyard Bird Count,
your annual citizen-science project that tracks the migra-
tion and population of native species. I have a few questions:
Why only in February? Do dead birds count? What about
caged birds? Should I look beyond my own backyard?

Sincerely,

A Watcher

 

*

 

How do we identify the birds we see? Some

confuse fledglings, juveniles, adults. Some days.

Most nights. Rain swallows the notes, although

the call always ends with a cry. Flap, flap, glide. How do we

number our sorrows? If we count sparrows, crows, we cannot

forget black-hooded martins. Pray

for the Baltimore oriole, say a

finch will carry the weight of our prayer

on its wings. Say a mockingbird matters, utters

its echo to the leaves, gifts its throat to heaven itself.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Angie Vorhies is a poet, documentarian, and co-founder of San Diego Roots, a non-profit dedicated to educating, empowering, and cultivating sustainable local food communities. Her work has appeared in Poetry International, Orion Magazine, About Place Journal, and The Conversations Across Borders Project. She is currently a student at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

Of Names to Disguise the Dead

Miriam Bird Greenberg

For almost forty years I have been alive,
and the magnitude of my unknown grows
before me, its shape the shadow

of an occult creature occluded, eclipsed,
unmade by its elder. Certainty shows

itself little by little. It is something
I cannot recognize until it has dressed
in a faraway forest and passed close by

in its now-familiar costume. Even then,
twice as often it is another thing, horse

in a human’s fine charmeuse gown or golem
sewn of glassine envelopes still printed
with the names of herbs

they once contained. Of the strangers
who made poultices of powdered root

and masticated leaves, what can they know
of certainty, shambling shape stitched
with its own bone-thorn needle? Of available

materials it makes itself
into new animals, intruders to dreams

which speak as a symphony, wolfishly,
or like a dog

does after its years are nearly gone, rib-
cage showing its cradle’s shape. Still it claims
the dreamer’s voice for its own.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Miriam Bird Greenberg is the author of IN THE VOLCANO’S MOUTH, which won the 2015 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize, and ALL NIGHT IN THE NEW COUNTRY. Recipient of fellowships from the NEA and the Poetry Foundation, she’s written about the nomads, hitchhikers, and hobos living on America’s margins, and is currently at work on a fieldwork-derived manuscript about economic migrants and asylum seekers of Hong Kong’s Chungking Mansions. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow, she’s the 2017 writer-in-residence at the National University of Singapore’s University Scholars Programme.

Of Inheritance

Miriam Bird Greenberg

 

Its beneficiaries ordinary
in their disgrace, made to break
at lathe or lumber
mill, they like to say. Fruit
bruised before the fall, broken open
beneath the tree, they are liquor
for wasps and ruined
gods, rust-riven and rat-
gnawed. They croon
funereal rights, conceal
what they carry. Of them,
the garment rent by a master’s
machine, the treatise
only a woman, they say,
can name — of softness
no one has invented better confessors
for. Theirs the brass
knuckle, the why won’t you learn,
bitch? Call them salt
not of the earth; they are of cul-
de-sacs named for nothing
still living, of flood-
plain and desert molded
to will, they came of age
where petals shone in moonlight
on the lawn. They will come
wrapped in the flag
of their dead
things, its rot exhumed
from rich loam. They are thorns
in the hoof and thieves
enchanted by childish things, they salt
their children’s field.
The house they have helped build,
they resent. It is larger than them.
They will set it aflame.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Miriam Bird Greenberg is the author of IN THE VOLCANO’S MOUTH, which won the 2015 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize, and ALL NIGHT IN THE NEW COUNTRY. Recipient of fellowships from the NEA and the Poetry Foundation, she’s written about the nomads, hitchhikers, and hobos living on America’s margins, and is currently at work on a fieldwork-derived manuscript about economic migrants and asylum seekers of Hong Kong’s Chungking Mansions. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow, she’s the 2017 writer-in-residence at the National University of Singapore’s University Scholars Programme.

Fire-Eating Woman

Ama Codjoe

I know tongues of fire as tall as men,
autumn sap, red panties,
a stack of sparklers lit, riotous laughter,
a field of poppies, circus acts.
I know mistakes: how fire tastes.

I keep a scarlet dress for when day skirts
the hill with its hem and ladybugs
cover the bedroom ceiling.

Tomatoes split like my bottom lip
and a crab apple tree flowers.

It’s only what hasn’t burned: a struck
match too short to consume more
than itself, a strong wind quieted
like a tantrum, the ends
of my untamed hair.

I arrive doused in night. A paper
crown atop my head. I gesture
to a fuchsia star, to a volcano
whose lava swarms like locusts,
to a castle with candles in every window.

I am pretending to be tended to—
I know breath and am not snuffed out.

Someone bring me a glass of water,
somebody please hold my cloak. In the end
there’s a flame so near I’m afraid to open

my eyes. I’m afraid to close them.
There are ashes licking my tongue
and a scar on my right thigh where I burned
myself as a girl. Feet forward, I tilt back
my head, bowing to what’s behind.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Ama Codjoe was raised in Youngstown, Ohio with roots in Memphis and Accra. She has been awarded support from Saltonstall Foundation, Cave Canem Foundation, Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, and MacDowell Colony. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Narrative, Four Way Review, Georgia Review, Adroit Journal, and elsewhere. She is a two-time Pushcart nominee and 2017 Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award recipient.

I Thought There Would Be More Wolves

Sara Ryan

here. at the dumb stroke of midnight. in the glass dome of roses.

the woods at the end of the lake. I was taught where to wait

patiently. to fold my hands on my lap like two sorry doves. to tie

my shoes in knots too tight to unravel. it’s incredible how the oceans

meet and trade salinity. how carbonation stings our throats, but we keep

drinking. I was never a wolf, but a girl with a red-brick house. a girl with

a bicycle made of puzzle pieces. I wasn’t a deer. I wasn’t a lamb. all my wars

with the concrete were over. I’m driving alone to everywhere I am going.

I can’t strip my skin away. my fur. my wolf teeth. yellow and dull.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Sara Ryan is a third-year poetry MFA candidate at Northern Michigan University and an associate poetry editor for Passages North. Her work has been published in or is forthcoming from Tinderbox, Slice Magazine, New South, Third Coast, Fairy Tale Review, The Blueshift Journal, Yemassee, Third Point Press, Prairie Schooner, and others. She lives in the icy Upper Peninsula with her two cats.

Aubade with Ball Gag

R. Cassandra Bruner

“Masturbation” is the ideal form of sex activity of this trans-gendered subject.” —Slavoj Žižek

 

Love          in this omnivorous air
this weave of straps & copper          we must look like
a long woman who          can’t stop
touching herself

A tangled braid
of bone          A prairie of orchids
speckled in amber          in pudendum
in hooks          Lean

closer           & hear the cries crackling
along my jaw like hooves          The spit
circling my throat          like a supplicant

Before re-entering the world that makes
a husband of me          you clench
the absence of my breasts

At the unclasping          our twinned watermark
our afterimage          fading

 

From Hunger Mountain Issue 22: Everyday Chimeras, which you can purchase here.

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

R. Cassandra Bruner was born and raised in Indiana. Currently, she is an MFA poetry candidate at Eastern Washington University, where she works as the managing editor of Willow Springs Books and the web editor for the literary magazine, Willow Springs. Winner of the 2017 Montana Book Festival Emerging Writers’ Contest, her work has previously appeared in, or is forthcoming from, Pleiades and Vinyl.

capture

Beth Bachmann

I laid down at your door a white bowl of milkweed houndstongue lupins
cape tulips & juniper a garland big enough to kill a thirsty horse I like
my peace like flower or fire wild you can bring a horse to water you can
force it to swim but you can’t trust what comes after a broken animal
breathes too fast your eyes are wide there’s not enough blood in the
brain all my love’s in vain

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Beth Bachmann is a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow in Poetry and the author of two books from the Pitt Poetry Series: TEMPER (Winner of the AWP Donald Hall Prize and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award) and DO NOT RISE (Winner of the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award). Each fall, she serves as Writer-in-Residence in the MFA program at Vanderbilt University.

god

Beth Bachmann

don’t call me goddess peace is armed like any man if
the ocean is burning oil close your eyes when you
come up to breathe lungs float the heart does not
the ship is under quarantine often in life there are
two choices die or come clean the people do not
want an ocean they want a wall your arms are
strong from all that swimming a wall could keep
the heat in stone by stone if you knew how to cut &
shape & face each stone

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Beth Bachmann is a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow in Poetry and the author of two books from the Pitt Poetry Series: TEMPER (Winner of the AWP Donald Hall Prize and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award) and DO NOT RISE (Winner of the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award). Each fall, she serves as Writer-in-Residence in the MFA program at Vanderbilt University.

Clover

Stephanie Rogers

Heather—his youngest daughter, my sister, his baby, the one
who always gave in
when he needed money for rent
or drugs—left me with her three girls outside McDonald’s,
while she drove Dad
for a carton of cigs and a Playboy. The girls forced me
to play freeze tag. I picked
at my fingernails, ripping off a half-moon
on each hand. I remember the sky
sprayed the grass with sunlight
while Sophia and Chloe squashed the picnic
ants with their tiny fists. I helped
Penny look for clover, and when we found a four-leafed one,
somehow, no one cared. If I could go back, I’d press it
into my palm and say, Get ready. Soon
they’re going to find him dead in his apartment
across the street. The water will be running in the sink.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Stephanie Rogers grew up in Middletown, Ohio and now lives in New York City. She was educated at The Ohio State University, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Ploughshares, Cincinnati Review, Southern Review, Pleiades, Ninth Letter, Copper Nickel, and New Ohio Review, as well as the Best New Poets anthology. Saturnalia Books published her first collection of poems, PLUCKING THE STINGER, in 2016.

Swan Soup

Sarah Elizabeth Schantz

My spine is strung together by a string
of shattered stars. Neck wrung, I’m a dead swan
floating in a moat—an amusement park ride,

the fairgrounds abandoned. A stork stands in her nest
atop the Ferris wheel, the emerald cascade of kudzu like
a shawl for the steel skeleton, I stood at the stove

in my kitchen wearing thick wool slippers
because it was winter again—gray and white yarn,
chevrons—I stirred the soup before I spit into the pot

just to watch the feathers rise up to the surface.

When I was a girl my mother read me the same fairytale again
and again about another girl, only she had six brothers while I had none;
when a witch turned all the brothers into birds I didn’t need to worry.

But when the witch turned the brothers back from swan—
or maybe it was goose—something went wrong, and the youngest—
or maybe it was the oldest, came to have both an arm and a wing.

“We’re all a little bit broken,” my mother said.

Lonely is one letter away from lovely,
and I was always an only child who liked to read
books in her closet because I knew how to be alone.

The shelves were a ladder the way vertebrae climb our bodies,
and I could crawl through the ceiling into the attic where I built a shrine: rose quartz,
bird’s nest, porcelain unicorn. To make a crescendo, you need both the climax and the crash.

Later I’d splash around in my own blood—
I’d fallen for the leather jacket, the blue mohawk, and the lyrics:
I’ll be back in the summertime with a handful of flowers and a bottle of cheap wine.

But something went wrong with the magic

and his wings turned into fists. One night, I crawled
into the backyard on all fours like a dog.
Under the spotlight moon, I dug the hole with my hands,

I cut the cord with my teeth,
and I buried the blue baby in the black dirt
beneath the white snow.

When she came back she never cried, which helped.
Instead, she pulled her wagon around the yard—circles inside circles,
the red Radio Flyer carried all my thrift store swans:

the porcelain ones designed to hold a storm of cotton ball clouds, and

the brass planters where old ladies once tended to African violets,
the patina green the way I’m now more rust than bone. Every day, I curve
more and more forward, my body becoming a question mark.

Mama, we are more than just a little bit broken. In another kitchen, I mixed
you with mica from the mountains and baked you in the oven until you sparkled,
but the soup was ready so I had to call my daughter in again. When I said,

“Close the door,” I didn’t think enough about how each time
she was closing out another day—sand through glass,
glass through sand, she’d sit at the table, holding her spoon

while I cracked an egg into the broth, the yolk a sun from the other side.

—For Nicolas Wesely
Italicized words come from Crimpshine’s “Summertime”

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Sarah Elizabeth Schantz lives on the outskirts of Boulder, Colorado in an old farmhouse where she is surrounded by open sky and century-old cottonwoods. Her first novel, FIG, debuted from Simon & Schuster in 2015. While she is currently working on her second novel, ROADSIDE ALTARS, at the encouragement of a beloved student, she is trying to write more poetry these days, including “SWAN SOUP.” Schantz teaches the craft at Front Range Community College and via her own private workshop series, (W)rites of Passage. She is also editor-in-chief at the new literary app, Zathom.com.

Conditioning (Run Study)

José Angel Araguz

I must run: walking won’t get me there.
Miles must take the place of arms; distance,
embrace. I must run, until I become air.

*

Conditioning is a whisper on the eyelash
of an eye that doesn’t blink,
afraid of missing seconds pass.

*

Conditioning is the day spent hinting:
a bee working his wings to slivers,
a life never done with communicating.

*

I had to run with my Mexico and Ginsberg
tucked under my whiskers, run, and sow asterisks
and metaphors where buttons had fallen off of shirts.

*

I must run, because all I thirst for
are syllables, and when someone says to me
no vales mierda or Latino? What’s that? I gulp, keep score.

*

I must run because footprints don’t last long in the sand,
and the desert is larger than people can hurt.
There are days when the sun is a moon I can’t understand.

*

Conditioning is words spoken, unaware
they, like cars, live broken, in need
of constant repair.

*

Conditioning is being told to drink only white milk
so that your skin might change; this from someone
whose skin matches yours, down to the guilt.

*

I must run, or else I’ll always be taking off
my hat in nice neighborhoods, smoothing down my hair,
always trying to look acceptable, but feeling off.

 

From Hunger Mountain Issue 22: Everyday Chimeras, which you can purchase here.

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

José Angel Araguz is a CantoMundo fellow and the author of seven chapbooks as well as the collections EVERYTHING WE THINK WE HEAR (Floricanto Press) and SMALL FIRES (Future Cycle Press). His poems, prose, and reviews have appeared in Crab Creek Review, Prairie Schooner, The Windward Review, and The Bind. He runs the poetry blog The Friday Influence and teaches English and creative writing at Linfield College.

The Antlered Doe

R. Cassandra Bruner

A man doused in roebuck piss says
I saw it as I skinned its thighs
& laughs.

Your death always a joke, the shock
of womb, a punchline.

Darting through the underbrush,
even your hooves resounded like cackling children.
This velvet crown was not always a betrayal—

In rutting season, the tongues
of stags & doe alike climbed
your hind leg, crying
I opened for my beloved but she was gone.

But now is the hour of moths.
Now the body remade as
a sack of buckshot.

A child wraps you in a bundle of sweat-stale
flannel, lifts you onto the truckbed
like a distant sister.

Nestled against your snout, he mouths
a wish for recognition, for his budding breasts
to hide themselves away like fawns.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

R. Cassandra Bruner was born and raised in Indiana. Currently, she is an MFA poetry candidate at Eastern Washington University, where she works as the managing editor of Willow Springs Books and the web editor for the literary magazine, Willow Springs. Winner of the 2017 Montana Book Festival Emerging Writers’ Contest, her work has previously appeared in, or is forthcoming from, Pleiades and Vinyl.

The Eight Graveyards

Anna Dunn

In this garden a draft of summer plays across the prayer flags.

A handful of slugs marched into the Worcestershire sauce and drowned themselves last night.

The red dog is tired and smells like dirt and air.

In this graveyard you ask her again to tell you how the moon moves.

In another you are taking the door knob apart.

In this graveyard there is no fruit that ruins all other fruit.

And in one garden you will come to find your name etched across a tomb.

In one graveyard your blood fixes all other blood.In another graveyard it’s not about you.

In this one you never hesitate because time is the garden of loss.

In another you listen to two sisters talking. The younger one says, If I come back to this earth, I’m coming back as an animal. The older one says, I’m not coming back here, I’m not even from here. When the stop light changes from red to green the younger one says, I have the soul of a cat.

In a garden south of here women and men dance at the top of a mountain to release suffering, fireworks echo off of cliff and cave. In another garden the stampede of their feet crumbles the buildings they will build and no one will be able to stop the water from taking what it will.

In this garden you’ve never been confused by beauty, it has only ever reached deep inside of you, scoping out a watershed of dreams.

In one graveyard you wake up at 5 a.m. to the same ache every day. In another you’ve learned the only chaos you can limit is your own.

In one graveyard your life is coming back together. You find the boy you lost. He’s dewy as a lily in the rain. The other ghosts are with him. The police detective. The man with musical hands and a head full of sorrow. The dog with the pink heart across her nose. The woman with the dentures and the one who wore a wig—they still speak to you some nights. And the forever girl on the couch with the red hair and the crumpled pack of Pall Malls.

In another the dog that changed your life zooms around you until she is tired and stuffs her nose into your armpit, then you both go out and lie down in a baseball field and stare up at the dragonflies and the stars. And even though you know she is dead, you both remember that time the old lady tried to steal her, and you remember how she healed you.

In one graveyard no language is ever lost and no love is ever lost, only the two-way ladder of its limitations.

In one graveyard you are outside the helix of worry, a force field made of broken wings.

In another you know you shouldn’t, but you wish you never were.

In this garden there is as much cruelty in the earth as there is in the heart.

In this graveyard you worry about her lonely bones.

In this garden the owls are technicolor. Their song is picked up by the soft wind.

In this garden you never become attached to the poison.

In this graveyard you could watch the red dog breathe for days.

In this one the club is never carved, the fire never lit, the sharp stone never fastened to the edge of anything, and nothing ever hurtles through the air. In this graveyard no one ever died at the hands of a stranger holding a machine.

In this garden no one was ever forced onto any boat.

In this garden your brother listens when you tell him to be easy on himself. He sits under the tree, petals sprouting from his hands.

In this graveyard you take the glass of gin from the driver’s side cup holder and pour it into the ice capped snow before reaching for the phone.

In this graveyard your mother never spends her life trying to save a stranger and your father never walks the earth like a wounded bird.

In this graveyard you wonder at the symmetry of damage.

In this garden you trap and release the spiders, their spindle legs the saddest sticks you have ever seen.

In this garden the rose bush becomes a web and the red dog noses at the purple flowers.

In this garden the smell of garlic wakes you and the air is the same temperature as the ground.

In this garden the peacock is not the only magical animal, but there is the nimbus, and caldera, stalagmite, and the boy who cannot hide his dust.

In this garden the half moon is washed up on a cloud, a lover broken on a crescent shore.

In this garden parts of you go missing—your pinky that grows crooked after being broken, but more specifically the part of you afraid to show affection, and more generally the part that of you that laughs when you feel pain.

In this graveyard you remember the only way through is to locate joy inside the cave.

In this graveyard the sun loses contact with the earth.

And in this garden you discover darkness is just nothing, without the certainty of light.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Anna Dunn is a food and crime fiction writer. She harbors a deep love for Bruce Springsteen, rescue dogs, and Murder She Wrote. Early on, her mother threw the television out when Anna let it slip that she aspired to be Magnum P.I. when she grew up. She served for a decade as editor of Diner Journal, an independent food and literature magazine, and co-authored DINNER AT THE LONG TABLE and SALTIE: A COOKBOOK. For at least twenty minutes every day, she is hard at work on her first crime fiction novel and/or concentrating on her breathing.

Codetta (or Collision)

Eve Alexandra

You were not as I had imagined the ones that came before—the poems in which I conjured you, dreaming darling girl, stunned sister. You flew at me like a kiss, a hard slap upon the hood of my car. Behind the wheel, I could see the soft curl of white on your belly, the slit of your sex, the coal of hooves, so close, for a second, as if you were nursing at my breast. Then you were off, leaping defiantly. I’m now the one on the highway shaking, the cars speeding by. My skirt flying up in the wind and you, wild thing, are not my metaphor. But this doesn’t stop me from following you into the switchgrass and sweet clover, the thousand little tongues of lupine tasting. Who needs taxonomy? We are all invasive and beautiful. We are too may. Look for the tender birches, for blackberries. The cornstalks crushed, soft as linen. They are gathering. The does and their fawns. I see now you are younger than my own daughter. And you are bleeding. If I take off my shoes and shed my dress, may I lay down beside you? What do I have to offer, but my skin and hair to poultice you? I mean to do penance. It’s your world now, but I have loved you it’s true and apprenticed from afar. I understand the wound, how it calls to you. It asks to breathe, and it is a kind of song that can’t help singing. You’ve read the poems. You’ve known all along. I too have bolted when I shouldn’t have, thrown myself in front of a car.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.


Eve Alexandra’s book, THE DROWNED GIRL, was selected for the Wick Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, The HarvardReview, Green Mountains Review, Narrative, and Barrow Street. She teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Vermont, where she directs the Integrated Fine Arts Program.

Remembrance: Dream, Palace of Drought

Angie Macri

What you see on the corn is what you’ll get,
and the cattle come to the fence

in hopes of hay. During seven years of corn,
like the sand of the sea, like amber

floating, we wore the king’s ring on our fingers.
We swore the sun and moon and stars

bowed down to us. When a king dreams
(and we all thought we were king),

the cows rise from the river, and ears
have their own hunger, but in such amber,

even prophets were silent. Coal
and oil couldn’t last forever. When I could

breathe, I slept and dreamed, then woke to imitate
the sheaves in all their bending.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Angie Macri is the author of UNDERWATER PANTHER (Southeast Missouri State University), winner of the Cowles Poetry Book Prize, and FEAR NOTHING OF THE FUTURE OR THE PAST (Finishing Line). Her recent work appears in Poetry, Superstition Review, and Tar River Poetry. An Arkansas Arts Council fellow, she lives in Hot Springs.

The Wizard

Elizabeth Barnett

Dad, you are not
all right.

This business
of being

a cake,
the cake

left in the rain.
These claims

and drawings—
family trees

with great men
and without mom.

These phantom limbs.
You’re sewing

the velvet curtain
shut.

Come out.
Say you are just a man.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Elizabeth Barnett lives in Kansas City. Her recent work has appeared in Gulf Coast, Ninth Letter, and Poetry Northwest.

I Am a White Horse

Zachary Schomburg

I am a white horse wandering
an empty planet. Everything on
this planet is beautiful, untouched
and clean. And I am so beautiful
too, and strong. Sometimes,
I spend a whole week being
a white horse. But in real life,
everything is going to hell.
I haven’t taken the trash out
for weeks. The stench is getting
harder to ignore. My neighbor,
Betty, was so concerned that
she came over the other day.
She found me in the kitchen
with my shirt off. I whinnied
at her. “Bonnie,” she said,
“you’re not a horse.” “Right,”
I said, “I’m not just any horse.
I am the only horse.” “No,
you’re no horse at all,” she said.
“Just look at you.” I looked down
at my body, but all I could see
was the white white horse of
my body. “Your life is falling apart,”
she said, holding her nose.
“And your house is disgusting.”
I finally conceded. It had quickly
become too much to bear. Then
Betty took a big breath and said,
“Bonnie, you’re disgusting too.”
I asked her to leave. I only
wanted to be a white horse,
alone, wandering in the beautiful
world. “It’s true,” she said
from outside the house
through the open kitchen window,
the open field behind her, her head
tilted to the side to show off
her empathy. “Even your nipples,”
she cried. “They’re like little socks
of hamburger.”

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Zachary Schomburg is the author of a novel, MAMMOTHER (Featherproof Books, 2017), and four books of poems published by Black Ocean. He is also an illustrator, a teacher, and a co-editor of a small press called Octopus Books. He lives in Portland, OR.