For Max Schleicher
A man rides his bicycle to a coffee shop. On his way he sees the waves on the lake and he sings along. He stops at his father’s grave and plants a cherry tree. It bears nothing but seeds and over time even the squirrels try to ignore the darkened pits falling from its branches. The man gets to the coffee shop and orders a black coffee. While he drinks and looks out the window he sees his reflection. He adjusts his tie, straightens his shoulders. On the way home he says hello to a stray dog. It barks and jogs down a side street, curled bear grass dropping from its jowls as it runs.
Andrew McSorley is the author of What Spirits Return (Kelsay Books). A graduate of the MFA program in creative writing at Southern Illinois University, his poetry has previously appeared in journals such as The Minnesota Review, Poet Lore, UCity Review, HAD, and many others. He lives in Appleton, Wisconsin, where he works as a librarian at Lawrence University.
Don’t I, after all, deserve a world of love?
Haunted and far from the home I knew, I entered
the darkness of the baths. Warmth seeped
in: the clink of the ticket machine, the hum
of murmurs and sighs. Far from anything I knew
I asked a man for directions. He smiled
white as a silver dollar, his answer clinking
against me: a prize I had won without knowing.
Here in the maze men prowled, directed by
their desires. One stood by the door
- his body turned like a prize against the light -
watching as the others filed in. He displayed his desire
with the directness of a monster. Every door
led into dimly lit corridors, wide baths
filled with watchful attendees. Many men
would approach me, speaking in clipped syllables
I pretended to misunderstand. The dim corridors
swelled as they filed in. It was after dinner,
time for the second feast. They approached
each other, ready to warm their bodies
and in the shadows they feasted, a dinner
of darkness transformed, conquered skin.
I had imagined myself ready for sweetness
but nothing could prepare me for this
transformation of touch. All my life
I believed in my own exile. I was not
prepared for the men who approached me
who said silently with their touch that I was here,
that I was desired. Like many exiled people
who were welcomed open-armed, I believed in love
but my heart could not reconcile it.
A thousand times desire asked me to be let in.
A welcome that scorched at me, illuminating
the heartwood of my denial and fear.
I wanted to be strong like a monster, racing a thousand times
against the fire. But from absence comes ribs of zenith
a wasteland for the heart. I deserved love
but fear blinded me: it made me a maze of myself.
Like a minotaur, I wandered with the night at its zenith
searching for love’s burning mantle --
note: The final image of this poem, "love's burning mantle," is received from Seán Hewitt's poem "In the Bode-Museum."
Kendrick Loo is a poet and reviewer. His work has been published in fourteen poems, Singapore Unbound, and Sundog Lit, among others. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @stagpoetics.
In those first days of songless absence, centuries
ago, scientists swore swallows dove
into lakes and rivers, spent winters submerged—
breath held, silt-swaddled; so much so
that they solicit fishermen to draw the swallows up
in nets so they might have proof, revive them.
Other hearsay goes, the people of the towns assumed
the swallows shed their feathers, shrank
into tree hollows, survived on sun-gained stores,
could go unseen so long as they became
unrecognizable. It was a comfort
that swallows might persist as kinds of ghosts.
Another theory at the time proposed a sleep-
flown space migration, the swallows simply
steering up and stirring only when they felt
the lunar cold. Winter was a question
charged with loss; a sky of eaves, unnested.
The swallowless imagined
an enormous possible—in those days,
the swallow a shorthand for the soul.
Violeta Garcia-Mendoza is a Spanish-American poet, writer, and photographer. She is a member of Carlow University’s Madwomen in the Attic Writing Workshops and a reader for Split Rock Review/Press. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Peatsmoke, The Dewdrop, and Saint Katherine Review. Violeta lives with her family in Western Pennsylvania. You can find her online at https://www.violetagarciamendoza.com and on IG @violeta.garcia.mendoza and Twitter @VioletaGMpoet.
beer this verb to be with an aftertaste
bitterness my father said
you gotta learn how to love
same as coffee no one likes
at first he thus expounded
I nodded never telling that Nonô
who was Lebanese in all ways that mattered
had been making us café
for years I can still smell
Grammy’s chocolate-coffee cake
by which I mean not the shape
of said cake but its contents soaked into
Brazilian coffee & cocoa equal parts
I still hate beer it makes me
think too much of everything
I don’t miss about Brazil
the aftertaste every time
I answer where’s your accent from & bubbles
from some foam from some ocean I still miss
rush up crushing leave me flat
an unwanted afteraccent
whereas coffee accelerating
& waning thru my veins
has made me feel the tides within the tides
Carlos A. Pittella is a Latinx poet, an accumulator of accents, a pile of expired passports. Having lived in Brazil, Portugal, & the US, he now studies creative writing at Concordia University, Canada. His poems have appeared in Tint, Feral, & the VS Podcast. Tweet hi @metaferal
1. they did not tell us the story of when adam was eve and eve was adam and neither were neither; nor did they tell us the story of when god tore eve apart, bone from bone skin from skin, made her watch as she was disassembled to make her opposite, and then the space where she had been was handed back her rib, as if to say it was somehow unsatisfactory; nor the story where god started all over and this time made eve suck adam dry and eat up the leftovers, as if to say, this is all you’ll be ever good for; nor the story where god had adam and eve scrawl the words man and woman into their bodies a million times as if to convince themselves that it meant anything at all; nor did you hear the one where they’re still etching it into their skin, licking up the blood as it pools, adam draining eve dry as a bone this time around as if to say — I’m sorry — as they slowly, painfully, joyfully, merge into one, bathe in sweetwater, and live out their days in a garden like none other
2. but we search for pleasure and redemption hand in hand
the apple the pomegranate why are we all so obsessed
with the past, the big nostalgia, the mistake that eclipsed all
others. no one else was there when persephone bit into blood
orange, swallowed seed, no one knows whether or not they caught in her teeth,
whether she spit them out before we were condemned
to the cold of winter. no one knows for certain whether the gates of hell
are surrounded by a grove of lush trees, danced into soil by her bare feet
pushing life into earth as she faced death. juice on fingertips on tongue on toes
Gaby Benitez (she/her/ella), is a queer, Xicanx writer in her quarter-life-crisis living in her evergentrifying hometown of Austin, TX. She writes to make sense of her experience living in this tumultuous world, to make sense of the ways we relate to others, the earth, the cycles of life and death. Much of her writing is through the lens of the body as a borderlands, meeting place, and interdimensional highway for these pathways of connection. She is obsessed with watersheds, and water, and the flicker of sunlight on its surface, and with the way the elements tie us all together across space and time and universe. Would have coffee and sweet plantains for every meal if given the option. Gaby’s poems can be found in Wussy Mag, Peach Fuzz, Dinnerbell Mag, Stoneofmadness Press, and other scattered places. Follow her on instagram @gabriellebenitez or twitter @gaygardengoth
In this season, the river is revealed to us
through bared branches; through our back windowpanes;
its fog-steam rising in cold morning.
A brick smokestack’s refracted reflection floats at its surface.
Once spewing toxins from a laundry cleaning facility,
the tall stack now stands dormant, still-reaching to clouds,
a vanishing point in our view to the west. How wide is the riparian band?
Does it have an end?
Looking out just now, I catch sight of two small flickers;
small black and white woodpeckers, one redheaded.
Then, the swoop-flight of wind-surfing black-capped chickadees
riding a current from tree to feeder-seeds, sending a thrill that rivers
over me and spreads, in ripples, to eternity.
Marjorie Moorhead’s poems are found in journals such as Verse-Virtual, Tiny Seed Literary, Amethyst Review, Sheila-Na-Gig, Writing In a Woman’s Voice, Bloodroot Literary, and others, as well as many anthologies, and the two chapbooks Survival: Trees, Tides, Song (FLP 2019), and Survival Part 2: Trees, Birds, Ocean, Bees (Duck Lake Books 2020). A full collection is forthcoming in Spring 2022. Marjorie writes to discover and honor ways of survival with our planet and with others and to be in community with other explorers exercising their unique voice and stories.
You write to prove you can still do it,
that somehow you are still alive. But the
lines never seem to click, words dying on
the tip of your tongue. Every summer is the
same now: a desperate need to return to what
is lost. It’s simple, really. You are a ghost in
a world full of ghosts. Your brain a bowl of
rotten fruit, a dried up lake. You rise early
before the sun, run until your heart forms
a thoughtless echo. You are trying to get
this right. This, being the rest of your life.
You kiss the ice, cut the loose end, rework
the fire in your blood. Still, there is nothing.
No sharp slap of resurfacing. The seismic gap
in your heart growing larger by the second.
What was it that you wanted exactly? A flint
to draw the spark with? An answer for every
question? Instead, you dream in absence, stare
at the letters of the months. You can’t see anything
when you aren’t really looking.
Jade Mitchell (she/her) is a poet & performer based in Glasgow, Scotland. She earned her BA in Creative Writing, Journalism & English at the University of Strathclyde, where she was awarded the Beatrice Colin Award for her experimental poetry dissertation. She is an Assistant Editor for Up the Staircase Quarterly. Her work has been published in numerous literary magazines, including Untitled: Writing, L’Éphémère Review, Inside The Bell Jar & Beech Street Review.
in an annual yuzu hot bath, a zoo's solstice onsen
for these too-short days, too-soon orion looming
overhead. let me stand in steaming mineral soup
orbited by floating citrus and snow and awash in love
from those who believe i am enough as i arrived: wet-
eyed, wanting, heat-seeking, sleepy. give me that good
hot vapor and a pair of hands to feed me fruit, comb
my hair, tell me i'm so sweet the oranges came to bathe
with me. let me float out these dark weeks asoak in a tiny
manmade inland sea salty with rock and bone and shell
— my satsuma-oil sweat and strain dissolving back
into the universe. give me nothing less. let me change
what i will no longer accept. wash me away
and away and away, amen.
Adrienne Crezo (she/her/hers) is an editor, Pushcart-nominated writer, Tin House scholar (2022) and native Oklahoman of Comanche descent. She serves as an editor at Daily Kos, as a poetry reader for Okay Donkey and Kissing Dynamite Poetry, and as associate poetry editor for Pidgeonholes. You can follow her on Twitter @adriennecrezo.
(after “Housekeeping” by Marilynne Robinson)
O, make of my teeth. a sieve.
drink. from this. font of mercy.
make of my body. a community.
lips nets. filter all impurity.
every virus. every bruised silted
eye. sifted. through. every hurt.
sold. let tears collected. saltcrust.
make from them. crystalized. calyx.
tinkering grass. swaying. invisible breeze.
realized. glazed stalks. bowing. to receive.
caresses. gentle kiss. on the forehead.
gentle hand. on the back. gentled.
fingertips. sepal split. let me reach. up.
with both fists. & grasp the wind. that
joy withheld. cast into the sky. for me
to find. now. to harvest. to harness.
to imbibe. how then. to live. now.
with such hunger. on the wind. with danger.
fanning out. in every direction. if i could.
lay a table. for four hundred thousand.
for all of the empty chairs. lost. and we are.
still losing. pushed away. from the table.
here. i set a place. for every heart. take up all. silver.
every syringe. gather up. the mercury. every
fevered thermometer. cobble together. each scalpel.
open chested. melted into. oneflowingsubstance.
pressed. then cooled. into utensils. for our feast.
this is one way. we remind our.selves we are. alive.
we survive. by silver linings. we dine on. &
even while falling. peeled away. from seats.
full. too early. it is salt-glinted things.
that shine us. into understanding.
we were always. whole.
this is how. i will sing. for you our supper.
Adrian Dallas Frandle (he/they) is a poet & queer cook. A poetry reader for Variant Lit & Okay Donkey Lit Mag/Press, they have poems Daily Drunk Mag’s “Marvelous Verses” print anthology, Celestite Poetry Journal & Feed Lit Mag. Work forthcoming in HAD, Olney Mag, Sledgehammer Lit Mag & more. Tweets: @adrianf
& sea water became everything we pulled it from ground
we materialized it from air we got salt caked in our
eyebrows & harsh winds ripped at our hair & our steel oh our steel shone so correct these swords
drawing blood on summer days til the grass choked with the stuff that goo get into it We slipped & fell on it for it we
forgot who we were within it our hands stained red
then washed pink & brown by the ocean we lived nowhere near but that stole up to clean us anyway thank you ocean thank you sea thank you disney megacorporation for the grift of piracy
& all its lessons the salt & the blood mainly lay me down beneath it all salt & wave & boisterous sun let the sleep
that takes me be a kind one let the water lap my face
like a good dog come running
Alyssandra Tobin is the author of PUT EYES ON ME NOT LIKE A CURSE, forthcoming from Quarterly West in 2022. Her poetry appears in Poetry Northwest, New Ohio Review, Puerto del Sol, Grist, and elsewhere.