Jessica Q. Stark: “Hungry Poem” and “Impact Sport”


My mother prides herself on being a Good American 
expresses anger when I dismiss myself for five years 

first to South Korea, then to Spain; Korea is full of assholes
she says—references a long layover and a fistful of

cashiers that hated her face like I hate my face; you’ll see—
I didn’t see, but I did come back and I did come back to her strong

arm tracing around the kitchen island, a 
secret in her pocket most of the time we aren’t sick with

what wouldn’t have been 
there is a decrease in white 

frontal brain matter in most diagnosed kleptomaniacs, meaning what—
meaning impulse control, meaning behavioral medicine for undone things

white lilies popping up in every yard, blooming refuse to refuse
and how else should I categorize my particular brand of cruelty?

Most of my time is spent thinking up different scenarios that 
aren’t sensual, don’t feel sensual, and in every other episode

I’m only here because of that stupid war—insert unknown relatives’ faces
across the airplane’s aisle, my head resting on someone else’s backrest

pointing towards the Atlantic, pointed in any direction other than home

By age 15 I was a hungry, red wolf.
I worked at JoAnn Fabrics one
summer—scowling women forming

lines at the back of my hangover and a 
terrible crush that kept blooming over
floral-patterned fabric beneath my palms.

I scanned coupons and resisted knowing 
the definition of a window valance. So 
many sighs from women in search

of a texture, a measurement, some small
tool that I could never afford. After I 
learned the cameras were decoys,

it was over: stickers, hot-glue guns,
a bounty of expensive scissors I never used.
Most nights I brought sneakers and ran 

the four miles back to my childhood home, 
happy to be moving in the dark from white light.
It was worse than McDonald’s, which in truth

was fun: working the butt of 
every parent’s joke in the ‘90s, living the
worst-case-scenario at 16. Kind of 

punk rock the way MJ and I figured out
how to deliver unrecorded beverages
in the drive-thru and pocket the

complicated math. Though it was here 
where I found the limitations of my face,
where the fry guy would hold me 

by the shoulders in the walk-in freezer
and plant a greasy mouth on mine. And
what else could you do but laugh about it

later with MJ in the same freezer
sitting next to the chilled cookie dough 
with a fistful of nuggets, each of you

taking too long of a break, taking
mouthfuls of soft serve and the feeling
that we could never, ever truly die.

Fast-forward to college and I’m at the
campus bookstore, I’m at the library, 
I’m cleaning professors’ offices and 

watching their sick cats. But worst of all
I’m telemarketing, which was an unknown
quantity of death, a bait-and-switch

operation for selling car listings
with a scripted, ghost’s voice
though the phone. Later,

I’d be back alive and against
the clock trying to find a thrifted
shift that would everlast dancing

in New York City all night. The 
origins of the phrase “go-go dancing”
derives from the French a gogo 

meaning abundance, meaning galore,
which links to the word la gogue, or a 
French word for joy. I don’t know if 

I ever found happiness, shaking my
ass over glass cups and faces going
gloss. But most nights in that

mechanical suture I felt like air, 
maybe freer than a walk-in freezer,
my time and movement in abundance,

like no one could ever clock me in,

like no one ever could touch me again—
not my face, not my hand, not my teeth,

my, what big—
my, what sharp—

like I’d never eat that red hunger again.

Jessica Q. Stark is the author of Buffalo Girl (BOA Editions, 2023), Savage Pageant (Birds, LLC, 2020) and four poetry chapbooks, including INNANET (The Offending Adam, 2021). She is a Poetry Editor at AGNI and is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of North Florida. She co-organizes the Dreamboat Reading Series in Jacksonville, Florida.

You Said We Sat By Water

So remind me: 
how did the companionable silence 
flow between us? Describe,
if you can, the way the current 
burnished the sharp rocks, settled 
the roiling sediment 
onto the stream bed. That gentleness 
escapes me.
So many things written down
never happened, so many tides never turned 
to wash away words 
scratched in sand
and memory.

Jeannie Prinsen lives with her husband, daughter, and son in Kingston, Ontario, where she teaches an online course in essay writing at Queen’s University. Her writing has appeared in Reckon Review, Relief, Juniper Poetry, and elsewhere. 

“7am. Summer.” by Shakti Swarup Sahu

7am. Summer.

Wooden windows hold
negotiations with the
creeping swarm of sunshine:

We'll show you where
all the gaps and splits are.

We'll tell you all about
the carelessly drawn curtains.

But promise us this -

once you're done carving
flaming beams of 
dust inside

you'll rush to the orchard
and talk to the mangoes.

Still raw.
Still green.

Shakti Swarup Sahu is a Co-Founder of Floating Canvas Company, an art platform based in India that is working towards making art more accessible. He currently divides his time between Mumbai and Bhubaneswar, his home town. You can find him on Twitter @thatshakti.

Acceleration/Absorption by Sophie Rae-Jordan

Eye level with the world, 
we drink gold with the hills 
in the morning too. 

Something must aggravate our 
urge to sneeze
and the memories of a season 
the same colour, 
or one that we hope is about to be —

Being on the edge of something so embodying, 
whether waiting or longing, 
is a swell rolling perpetually.

We gather speed. It seems like nothing
will gather us. 

Other mornings 
I don’t wake 
with an ocean inside of me at all —

Sophie Rae-Jordan lives in Pōneke, Aotearoa. She has been interested in writing since she was a young girl and likes the way that it can make her feel both big and small at the same time. Her poetry has been exhibited at Thistle Hall and published by Salty Magazine, Poetry New Zealand, and Mayhem Literary Journal. You can find her on instagram @thatislandwillnotbeperfect.

“genesis” by Henry St Leger

there's a nightclub where the church used to be.
that's what happens when attendance is down
and electro swing is up – a natural

evolution, whatever the book of genesis or 
the local parish community group might say. 
it's not much different – thursdays

to saturdays are the sacrament,
a communion of 2-for-1 Jaeger bombs and boutique shots 
with names like brain haemorrhage and 

total forgiveness. tuneless chanting, organs
pulsing, people looking for somewhere to leave
their sins for a little while.

the stained glass is still there –
history is like blood, wine, your tongue
against mine. it's hard to wash out.

Henry St Leger is a poet and technology reporter based in London. Their work has been featured in Ambit, Agenda, bind, and the Live Canon International Poetry Prize Anthology. They also contributed a series of couplets to the murder mystery video game, Overboard!, which released in 2021.

“Former English Major Rediscovers His College Essays” by Bill Hollands

The pleats of the accordion file have softened
like the folds of my neck. Rusted staples sink
into yellowed paper beds. Such Tragedy
of Recognition in Aristotle, Sophocles, Beckett
and me. A plethora of plethora’s. Ubiquitous
ubiquitous. The Compression of Time
in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – unafraid
to state the obvious, I see. And George
Tesman: A Character Study. Who is
George Tesman? And who is this
self I keep reading about? The self
does this, the self does that. We can even
Travel with the Self in Three Nineteenth-Century
British Novels. I wonder if the self who wrote
these words is different from, say,
myself? Am I the same boy under his little
desk lamp dissecting The Imagination
of Wordsworth, Keats, and Shelley as if nothing
in the world, not love, not war, were more
crucial? The same boy whose own Images
of Utopia were, let’s face it, not to be found
in Johnson and Coleridge but in the professor’s
handwritten praise with that A underneath?
I wanted it then, I want it now, I guess
I learned nothing about Jouer et Jouissance
in Roland Barthes’s Le Plaisir du Texte.

Bill Hollands’ work has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as RattleDIAGRAM, North American Review, and Boulevard. He was recently named a finalist for New Ohio Review’s NORward Prize and Smartish Pace’s Erskine J. Poetry Prize. He lives in Seattle with his husband and their son.

“Revelations” and “In the Dreams I Do Not Have” by Gretchen Rockwell


if I were to tell you the truth / I’d say I’ve been thinking about / sharks: how they keep moving / or they die / is that a lie? I told you / I wasn’t thinking about much / that I was fine / the storms rolled in over my head / clouds a thick thumbprint over the Tay / the rain hid many things / I am very lonely here / thank god for my new friend I keep saying / because otherwise I would truly be alone / like a shark / in the midnight waters called home / shark embryos sometimes cannibalize each other / sharks spend their lives solo / I understand that / I close my eyes and squeeze / so hard I see red / and remember / sharks don’t sleep like we do / instead / they have periods of motion / and periods of rest and so / maybe / this is just a restful time / 		I was never any good at resting / 

In the Dreams I Do Not Have

I see myself surrounded by storm. 

The conditions are always right for lighting, 
power sparking between cloud and sky. 

In the dreams I do not have, I see dark waters 
and a choppy wave crashing over the bow, 

spume frothing in its wake. I am always very 
small against the sea. I am always very small 

against the grief. The sky breaks through 
often in these dreams. Salt on my tongue, 

gulls screaming in my ears. Water crashing over 
the bridges, spraying my feet. Still, I stay afloat. 

Gretchen Rockwell is a queer poet who can frequently be found writing about gender, science, space, and unusual connections. Xe is the author of the chapbooks body in motion (perhappened press) and Lexicon of Future Selves (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press) and two microchapbooks; xer work has appeared in AGNI, Cotton Xenomorph, Whale Road Review, Palette Poetry, and elsewhere. Find xer at or on Twitter at @daft_rockwell. 

“Disclosure” and “Corrective” by Liz Ahl

the print you skim
or just scroll past
before you sign is so fine
you might think it's just
the skin of my face, or
the slick surface of my eye,
the shifting lie of its hue—
a shady hazel shifting
as the light shifts,
revealing, concealing,
some sentient color
that supposes it knows
what you'd best
like to see.
For a holed-up year I wore my glasses  
on a chain because I didn’t need to see 
across distances, or rather the distances  
became so vast, clear vision was beside the point. 
Nothing new to see here in this blur of house 
I wore like an exoskeleton while screening 
an approximate, beamed-in world.  
In the brief post-vax pre-Delta window 
I visited the optometrist—his face so close to mine— 
weird, sudden proximity-passing-for-intimacy, 
no acclimatizing phase, no exposure therapy— 
only his naked stare, and how I had to  
stare back as he plodded me through my choices, 
this-or-this-ing me towards “corrected” vision. 
I got the new glasses I supposed I’d need 
to move back into the world, called “progressives,”  
a lens that promised to fuse multiple visions
into an invisible menu of options, lineless, fluid,
rising from close to middle to the far distance. 
Finally wearing them, I practiced aiming 
my nose, turning my whole head to fully face
what I wanted to see, but even then,
I also had to tilt my head up, down, 
slide my eyeballs—newly, vividly aware 
of those wet orbs revolving in their sockets— 
aware, too, of my neck and head—
of swivel and tilt—and as I put my body
through these motions, I thought I finally understood
what my dad had been doing, his odd head movements  
as he sat in his recliner, still alive, hardcover novel  
open on his lap. I imagined he was, as I was now,  
trying to find the correct angle, moving
the newly strange parts of his own body,
making trial and error adjustments so that he might
lift the words from the page into focus. 
But this vision, too, may well be off, a distance
still far, too far, no matter where I point my nose,
all I’ll never see. 

Liz Ahl (she/her) lives in New Hampshire. She is the author of several chapbooks and one full-length poetry collection, Beating the Bounds (Hobblebush Books, 2017). Her poems have appeared recently in One Art, Lavender Review, and Limp Wrist, and are forthcoming at West Trestle Review and Quartet

We Spat the Moon Out with Our Foamy Toothpaste

Summers, when the city was low on power, we had blackouts almost every night. Oil was replenished in kerosene lanterns, wicks were cleaned and trimmed in expectation during the afternoon. It was so humid, the night seemed to swell and double in size, a whale filled with strange song. We begged for the same ghost stories, trembled with fearful pleasure at the same moments each time. I was afraid of being touched by the moths. They frittered about the flames until they dropped unpredictably with singed wings. Without power, the taps dried out to a trickle. A relay was created by the adults at the municipal tap outdoors, rapidly filling buckets for the bathroom and steel pots for the kitchen then passed backwards. Lots of shouted instructions, mostly ignored. The kids made a line with their toothbrushes. We brushed our teeth in the grass and rinsed our mouths with the startling cold burst from the tap. It felt like moonlight had gushed into our mouths. Like all magical things, it wasn’t safe to swallow, we knew.

Yamini Pathak is the author of the chapbooks, Atlas of Lost Places (Milk and Cake Press) and Breath Fire Water Song (Ghost City Press Summer Series 2021). Her poetry and non-fiction have appeared in Vida Review, Waxwing, Kenyon Review blog, Voicemail Poems, and other places. She serves as poetry editor for Inch micro-chapbooks (Bull City Press) and is an MFA candidate at Antioch University, Los Angeles. Yamini is an alumnus of VONA/Voices (Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation), and Community of Writers.

The Long Grass

the second law of thermodynamics says that entropy always increases with time

that first step in, the long, green grass squeezed beneath my shoe, a rock path, a house, fresh eggs, a drumbeat, the cinnamon smell of burning candles. Just moments before, my mind had numbed itself to only make sense of the grass clutching at my bare legs. Now I have steel thoughts. All around me the bitter emotion of nature, spurned as she was, the low hum of a thousand insects, the cracking of the harvest left behind, the crowds of dying plants, crushed by summer’s retreat, my feet. And then the panic rises that there would be no end, just interminable walking, mining autumn’s satisfaction against my drudgery, observing the way my spirit crumbles, trapped running. I carry a little box of pins inside my skirt pocket, nestled against my leg, and, every time I take a step too large, it jostles and jumps. I am wrapped in the familiar smell of sweet insomnia, wanting to smoke and wipe the sweat from between my breasts with something more than just my first and second fingers. It tastes of a heat that leaves my body too quickly. I dream of showers. I unrecognise myself. I recognise myself too well. Above me, a bird squawks and I watch it circle, feathers so black it is more than shadow, swooping arcs into the sky, movement in time to my elevated heartbeat and it seems to know in me that I have always been afraid of the way a bird can so easily fly away

SK Grout (she/they) is a writer, editor and poet. She grew up in Aotearoa New Zealand, lived in Germany and now splits her time between London and Auckland Tāmaki Makaurau. Her debut pamphlet What love would smell like is published with V. Press (2021). She holds a post-graduate degree in creative writing from City, University of London, and is a Feedback Editor for Tinderbox Poetry. Her poetry and reviews are widely published in the US, UK, Europe and the Pacific, including Ambit, Cordite Poetry Review, dialogist, Glass, Poetry Wales and Finished Creatures. Website: