Ode to the Imperfect Moon

 
O moon,
my east begins with you.
in your easy light
I stand beside the long
shadows of my life.
 
I want to swallow
the world but know
it won’t go down
so I turn these stones
and rotted logs
in search of crickets.
 
surely I can swallow
crickets, swallow them whole.
I say these words out loud:
tibia / femur / tarsus / claw.
and when I walk
my feet will sing.

Liane St. Laurent is an old dog learning new tricks. She has washed dishes, driven horse-drawn carriages, picked apples, taught English and is currently an IT professional. Recent work appears online and in print in The Banyan Review, The Penmen Review, Sidereal MagazineThe Poets’ Touchstone,  Emerge Literary Journal, among others. Liane lives in New Hampshire with her husband, their two dogs, and an array of woodland creatures. Catch her online at lianestlaurent.com or connect on Twitter @lianestlaurent

Ink,

the bold interpreter—300 million years
         of cephalopods
                  spewing ink
         for concealment—for poison or healing
for refuge. Plumes across the depths—
 
which is to say; Dearest F,
         I made so many notes today
                 in my mind—as if at backyard target practice;
         —aiming sloppy at the heart of it in passing
hoping that something might stick, or transfer
 
        but no—not without ink—
 
                  the go-between.
 
                              Tell me, my love
 
                   about your ink.
 
         Tell me about mine.
 
Heart to blued fingers
​        to grooved paper—or wood—or canvas
​​                  could be skin—the pygmy
​        octopus glowing in the depths
disgorging a pseudomorph of ink
        —a fantastic doppelgänger—conjured
                   from ejections—used to mislead
        the predator.
 

Donna Spruijt-Metz is psychology professor, poet, and recent MacDowell Fellow. Her poetry appears in Copper Nickel, RHINO, Poetry Northwest, the Tahoma Literary Review, the Inflectionist Review, and elsewhere. Her chapbooks are ‘Slippery Surfaces’ and ‘And Haunt the World’ (with Flower Conroy). Her full length ‘General Release from the Beginning of the World’ is forthcoming (2023, Free Verse Editions). Her website is https://www.donnasmetz.com/

Touch

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
a gift.

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.

SUMMER IS WHEN THE CREATURES USED TO COME

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.

Ghazal, interrupted

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

sweet taste     

		     suspended
	

	 in time 
 	
					       orange Jell-O

     				
            	 my      (firm, cold) 


					mind


I hope I accepted my tiny glass bowl took my spoon 
said please     said thank you

I hope I said something        
at least

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
elsewhere.

Light Iris

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 

Mom

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.
Quiet.
 
She returns, ready
for us like a trainer
preparing for a match.
 
I too pour coffee
sit outside quiet
imagine myself
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.

bar, 2am

           (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. 

Heaven

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.

Rovers

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