cw: allusions to sexual harassment, assault
start: chin placed to ridge of shoulder, calm confessional
breathed into sensitive ear as eyes (mine) dazed at the
river (inky) blotting blush and sweat onto my cheek an
apple away. no questions or olive branches, just the slip
of a knot near the jugular.
another: manhattan-worn sandals cracking concrete towards
dessert (sweet), teeth licked clean from eggy rice and one-way
streets (unreversed). a palm at my spine towards an avenue
i knew to follow and i don't even know you, why are you — ?
— flesh withdrawn, toes keep tapping to the ice cream beat.
before: a leaning back (forward) with hand pressed to feather,
guitar on mattress, exhaled wants into buds that tremble
(sunset) on the tips of ember. gaze open, gaze close, a haunt
of shoulds craved (carved) into plaster.
again: spoons brushing sesame and ice, liquid and tame. courtesy
slid one way (his) over the counter, error 444 (no response).
fingers press waist towards takeout and i don't even know you either,
what are you — ? — hunger burnt, drumline down (too) hushed
streets, cross fingers (legs) and hope it's not empty.
one more: brush (force) palm on pillowing chest and braid glory
with white, trace the crack (close), beg my quake as quiver
shadow lays, hand grips onto something (anything) — neck
of moon, sheet of bed, source of seed and sky.
and, an epilogue: hand splayed in fives, trace earring (butterfly)
in fingernail and tongue. sweat and wind, word and fodder, wink
on and up, knife slices the wrapper to share (even) — banana
split, attention spliced, arm tender at the swing, lips cracked
at the nerve, velvet peeled from phantom hand to call it
Vanessa Hu (she/her) is an avid latte-sipper, occasional ballroom dancer, and serendipitous writer. She studies Computer Science and English at Harvard University, and has been published in Corporealand VarietyPack. You can find her ruminations @vanessahwrites on Twitter and Instagram.
In the presence of you, my mind blurs fear with estrangement. The documentary said polarized light is the way
fiddler crabs distinguish the space between familiar objects, distant forms.
The center is not the spirit. Or the burrow.
It is the grainy pieces that surround us. I am in pain for you, but I do not know you. The earth is dying, but insists on wind,
trembling upside down, a walnut tree's leaf.
Pattern is holy—if not, then body. What I miss most is the ability to hold
what is right in front of me. The swallow shits on the branch below, precious touch without even touching!
Our containers are separate so we fight for a piece of toast
buttered how we want it. One day soon, a hymn in the grass will startle.
Remember the hummingbird? Remember one bright species hovering close to your red shirt
while the sun attacked the cells of your skin?
Nicole Stockburger is the author of Nowhere Beulah (Unicorn Press, 2019). Her poems and visual pieces have appeared, or will appear soon, in Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Two Peach, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. She received an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a BA in Studio Art and English from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studied darkroom photography. Her work has been supported by the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts & Sciences. Nicole lives just up the hill from her iconically hyphenated hometown, Winston-Salem.
For the one who stopped what they were doing to make this
so we would have something at least
boiled water and stirred until the powder dissolved
so we would have something at least
added pale shriveled grape, cube of pear, sliver of peach
so we would have something at least
slipped halves of bright red cherries all from a can of store brand fruit cocktail
so we would have something at least
my (firm, cold)
I hope I accepted my tiny glass bowl took my spoon
said please said thank you
I hope I said something
Susan Barry-Schulz grew up just outside of Buffalo, New York. She is a licensed physical
therapist living with chronic illness and an advocate for mental health and reducing stigma in
IBD. Her work has appeared in New Verse News, SWWIM, Barrelhouse online, Nightingale &
Sparrow, Shooter Literary Magazine, Kissing Dynamite, The Wild Word, Bending Genres, Feral,
Quartet, Wordgathering, Gyroscope Review, Harpy Hybrid Review, West Trestle Review and
When visiting your mother and her wife
at their house, the last on a Maine road bound
to the edge of a cliff, a sandy expanse stretching
below wide-open gleaming glass windows,
we slept in the basement bedroom, under the pink
scalloped sheets and walls of framed female nudes,
your hand pressed over my mouth, my eyes moving
between the illustrated breasts and yours.
In the morning, as the ocean air licked the living
room furniture and dark, salt-stained curtains
floated freely over the kitchen table, my bare feet
smooth on the whitewashed and worn brick floor,
I snuck into their bedroom, a skylight illuminating
the quilted queen bed, high-posted and bloated
with sham pillows, where the open-faced white
flower of an O’Keeffe painting returned my gaze.
Carling McManus (she/they) is a queer poet living in Appalachia. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Best New Poets, Pleiades, Meridian, and the Beloit Poetry Journal. She has received fellowships, scholarships, and awards from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Rona Jaffe Foundation, Virginia Center for Creative Arts, the National Poetry Society, Pigeon Pages, Frontier Poetry, and Carve Magazine. A survivor of conversion therapy, she is an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ civil rights. Carling lives on a mountainside with her wife and two border collies in Mink Shoals, West Virginia. Find more of her work at carlingmcmanus.com.
Early morning chill,
the rich, mahogany scent
spilling from Mr. Coffee,
a full pot on
always. She sits
in the garage, slippers
and a striped silk robe
from an old friend who
found it in Tokyo
in the Eighties
while training Buster
Douglas for a match. She
doesn’t say much in these
early hours. It’s her time,
coffee and cigarettes.
She wears a shower
cap to keep the smoke
from soaking into her
thick, red hair.
She returns, ready
for us like a trainer
preparing for a match.
I too pour coffee
sit outside quiet
in her robe.
Andrea Taylor is a Columbus, Ohio-based writer whose work is published or forthcoming in Roi Faineant Press, Rejection Letters, Allegory Ridge, Moist Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. She can be found on the web andreataylorbooks.com and Twitter @minadre.
(mirror of Sappho, Fragment 31)
It’s not so difficult to talk to women. You need only sing under their window, bathe in the pond beside their front door. You there showing off your feathers.
It’s not so difficult to talk to women. You talk loudly and you carry a soft stick. You are an exterminator of something.
You drive a sedan with Security stenciled on the side. At the end of the night no one’s at home. You do not want to end your life most days. This is not difficult for you.
There is a woman behind the bar. The way she cleans the lip on the glass. The way she salts the rim. Her worn-out copy of what book—
There are good films by men. Good films by bad men. Separating the artist from the art
My roving eye—
Her glance, my direction. She shines
The surface. What can I say. What can I say.
Mack Gregg’s poems have appeared or will soon appear in ITERANT, Witch Craft Magazine, b l u s h, Hot Pink Magazine, Anti-Heroin Chic, and elsewhere. They are currently pursuing their MFA in poetry at the University of Virginia.
Sunday morning. In another world
it’s so ordinary: egg yolks and the mountain
in the window. December roses, steam
from the shower, serious coffee warming up
on the stove. Birds calling, San Francisco.
The smell of the ocean in our clothes.
Your smell, soaked into the collar
of yesterday’s sweater, what I pulled
on in the dawn and cold. Before
busying myself with the raspberries
and sugar. The half-conscious dog. Our own apples to slice into pieces. My hand a white
flag at the back of your neck, the hours
like a whole movie, and weren't we only
at the beginning. Slow lifetimes before us. Immortality. A new moon. Never mind
your lips are turning blue. Never mind
the stars behind the mountain, obscured
by daylight and from this world, relentless.
They have to betray us. It is too hard
to pretend the future could have been
anything other than what I ended
up with: your shadow, your star
cloistered in the sculpted wall, at the limit.
Where nothing ever happens. You would
never get to grow old.
Sasha Leshner is a poet and editor from Brooklyn New York. Her works is drawn from the intersections of art, memory, and the possibilities of their articulations. She has an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University and a BA from NYU. Her work has been published and is forthcoming from ExPat Press, (M)othertongues Magazine, Pour Vida Zine, west 10th magazine, 89+ and the luma foundation, and others. Her poems are dedicated to the beloveds who beat her to the next world.
When we set out we knew nothing of loss other than losing the unfavourable circumstance: here was a circle, home and we went past the circumference in search of a place that could finally hold us. How it advanced as we approached, facing away. We saw loss before we saw any gain, we understood the distance of the stars well before we could understand their use. The world was second, the loss came first. It retreated before the sweep of our cartography into the softness of shadow and the vacuum of silence, like the Lilith side of the moon.
V. B. Borjen (he/they) is a Yugoslav-born writer and visual artist based in the Czech Republic. His first poetry collection in Bosnian (Priručnik za levitiranje, en. Levitation Handbook) won the 2012 Mak Dizdar Award. His work in English and visual art have been featured in EcoTheo Review, Folio, Rattle, The Maine Review, AZURE, IceFloe Press, Parentheses and elsewhere. He serves as Guest Editor of Palette and Frontierpoetry magazines. Tweets @Borjen
would be impermissibly awkward. Would be, according
to Nikki Giovanni in On Being with Krista Tippett,
probably nonexistent. You’d think, we know how to
operate a spaceship up there, why not our bodies.
No it’s not only gravity that keeps us from tearing
apart. It’s our infidelity to the earth too, the nothingness
that brings, even when we’re buried inside of it. How
is it that something can be both ever-expanding and vacant.
A doctor tells you, Relax. You’ll have fun in the dark.
You remember that a woman you loved vacationed
to the moon one night and left the man who slept there
yearning for another crater. You see him famished,
black hole undercover. Pirouetting to nihility. You say
maybe you will. So long as you can land on a star one
million light years from now. So long as you can watch
humanity’s extinction and pretend like it’s happening
in real time, like your love could’ve possibly made it that far.
Lily Levin (she/they) is a junior and undergraduate English major. Lily began writing poetry in high school and has five upcoming poems in Eunoia Review. Moreover, her journalism and opinion pieces have been featured in The Duke Chronicle, Buzzfeed, Queen City Nerve, and NC Policy Watch. They are so humbled to have their poem included in Moist Poetry Journal.
Life was a road to the vanishing point,
something surged on the horizon—
a swarm. A rising hum of unknowns.
On our way, shoulders brushed shoulders
on trains and buses, elbows cleaved throngs.
We forced to the front of the crush
when there was no room. Voices
hived in ambience, we blended in
aerosols, haloed in exhalation.
Interior atmospheres merged,
but we lived and lived.
We cross-pollinated each other’s lungs,
kissed our mothers, fathers and friends.
Strangers’ mouths bared nuance,
marionette lines creased, nostrils flared air.
Incoming fear was a thing to overcome,
not yet terror— not yet
a hunker-down, hope death will drift by.
Evolution hadn’t threatened to swing
its oldest mace. The Morning Star
sparked at the terminus,
called to the floating ghosts. We weren’t
playing tag with the devil, then—
it wasn’t everyone, everyone wasn’t it.
River Elizabeth Hall (she/her) is a poet and naturalist. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bear Review, Pontoon Poetry, Main Street Rag, Nimrod and Tinderbox among others. Her chapbook, “Call a Body Home” was a semi-finalist in the 2021 Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award. More about her writing and other offerings can be found at RiverElizabethHall.com