the ontological point where the harbor curves into girlhood

by Caelan Ernest

meet me at the midnight dip 		  for a sequin plunge     for the tide
caught in a rip 	 	           we’ll dunk down 	 	        to the bottom
             of the seafloor		 	 in time to catch sight
of the the blue lobster 	 	         as she 	 	 	                bounces
             off the oyster’s pit
	 	 	 	 	                 revealing its belly


              is just a gum 	 	 a kind of jelly 		 clutching its pearl
like a headstone        facing 		 west 	 	 	 & there 


              will be dancing 	 	 there will be 	 	 a masquerade
the urchins have invited us 	 	 to wear 	 	 	            their bodies
	 	        on our faces like decorations, 	         old periwinkle
              shells on our nipples 	 like pasties—     even the hermit crabs
will break           out of dormancy 	 	 just to show their feet 

		
for one night 	 	 	           meanwhile 	 	   somewhere above us


             all the voices of the harbor fuse 	 	   into one              voice
their many lucid vibrations rattle the water 	 	 	 our celebration  
             put to a rest 	 	
	 	 	 	                   my body dripping 	 	 in a former wet


	 	 	 	 	 	                            picture it
			

an orange hat 		 flying off the bow 	 	 of the boat 	 	
             all those years ago 	 	 	             bobbing
	 	 	                 at the surface 	     as if	 	      for air
						
	 	 	 	 	                          the child’s fingers curl
                                                                  reaching back


	 	 oh pond,             i know the fun 	      can’t last          forever
	 	 so swallow me 	         spit me out 	 	    on the north side
	 	 where the sandbar breaks 	 	 	 	                 into breach
	 	 toss me with your tongue          to the island 	 	 of no man 


we both know	 	 the harbor’s 	 	 wailing voice
will never consider this              a proper burial 	 	 without ritual 		
first 	 	
 
							
	 	 	 	 	 	                         don’t mourn me


before morning has enough time           to shake the stars off the roof
              of this place 	 	      yes, pond— 	 	    above me
the clammers will continue to ride out at dawn 	 	 	
in search of harvest 	 	      for their wives		 	     & children
	 	 	 	 	 	 	 	 
                                                                                                     picture it

	 	          the mermaid spurred by the occasion
	 	          to come out of retirement & sing
	 	          her famed song	 
	
this blighted morn
	 	
oh, pond,	 	 it’s you
it’s you who has been
all along



____

Caelan Ernest is a nonbinary poet, performer, and thingamajig living in Brooklyn, NY. Their work has been published or is forthcoming in WUSSY MagazineHayden’s Ferry ReviewBAEST JournalWe Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics (Nightboat Books, 2020), The Poetry Project’s House Party, The Felt, and more. They hold an MFA in Writing from Pratt Institute. They are Director of Publicity at Nightboat Books. Hit them up on social media: @transputation.

Published
Categorized as Poetry

What’s Holding You Back

by Andrew Cox

Fear. And the way Spring insists green is the royal color
The way the word vaccine puts a saddle on a horse 
To ride through the countryside shouting the virus is coming
And how one by land and two by sea are a math of arrival
How arrival enters through the mouth and is swallowed
To dissolve as if it were the pill that supplies answers
To questions we did not ask but used to hallucinate 
Family history and its ride on a boat that went down at sea
The way the word symptom made us lose our voices
The way the word mask taught us to focus on eyes
The way the word normal taught us the lesson of regret
Fear. And the way Spring insists it’s flexing its muscles again



____

Andrew Cox is the author of The Equation That Explains Everything, (BlazeVOX [Books] 2010), the chapbooks This False Compare (2River View, 2020) and Fortune Cookies (2River View, 2009) and the hypertext chapbook, Company X (Word Virtual, 2000). He edits UCity Review.  

Published
Categorized as Poetry

standing in a stupa on a rainy afternoon

by Anuja Ghimire

three statues of gold skin 
sit in lotus position
buddha in the center 
water flows on the metal
a touch without the wetness
we watch monkeys in trees
creeper babies on mamas
my child is a vine on me, too
inside, a monk arranges
ghee-filled earthen lights for the evening
on the door carved generations ago
leans another woman with a child
his dusk colored face 
eyes closing in like the clouds
the stupa is on a break in the rain
and gods are on leave 
but the mother’s om rings the bells
and strikes the incense in the sky



____

Nepal-born Anuja Ghimire writes poetry, flash fiction, and creative nonfiction. She is the author of Kathmandu (Unsolicited Press, 2020) and two poetry books in Nepali. A Best of the Net and Pushcart nominee, she works as a senior publisher in an online learning company. She reads poetry for Up the Staircase Quarterly and enjoys teaching poetry to children in summer camps. Her work found home in print and online journals and anthologies in Nepal, U.S., Canada, Australia, the U.K., Scotland, India, and Bangladesh. She lives near Dallas, Texas with her husband and two children.

Published
Categorized as Poetry

Monsoon

by Anuja Ghimire

in the year that I believe in anything
a boy whispers in school
lightning strikes parents if children lie
I climb into your bed in our flat
my cold back on the wall stained with rain
water releases smell of cement
you don’t fold me like the tucked in rupees
in the elastic edge of your petticoat
your breath moves in small clouds
night is long and lonely without dreams
death fills the room like mold
I latch on the crevice of your stomach
when the edge of your sari falls with the sky



____

Nepal-born Anuja Ghimire writes poetry, flash fiction, and creative nonfiction. She is the author of Kathmandu (Unsolicited Press, 2020) and two poetry books in Nepali. A Best of the Net and Pushcart nominee, she works as a senior publisher in an online learning company. She reads poetry for Up the Staircase Quarterly and enjoys teaching poetry to children in summer camps. Her work found home in print and online journals and anthologies in Nepal, U.S., Canada, Australia, the U.K., Scotland, India, and Bangladesh. She lives near Dallas, Texas with her husband and two children.

Published
Categorized as Poetry

Soaked

by Emily Benson

Rainwater piles up at the foundation
Melting the mud and clay 
Into treacherous sinkholes
The branches of the Live Oak are slick and green,
Dripping, ball moss sprouts ferocious tendrils
While the vibrant rooster of mysterious origins
Which appeared two days ago
Hides from this late-winter deluge
And the raccoons on the roof are quiet in the chill nights
Down by the wild rushing creek
The prickly pears gulp what they can
But the little lime lizards are nowhere to be seen
Not enough heat in their rocks without sun
And while the swans with their great white wings
Glide the lake unconcerned,
The pigeons and I are miserable


____

Emily Benson (she/her) writes poems of humanity, longing, and nature. She lives in Western New York with her husband and two sons. Ms. Benson has previously been published by The Esthetic Apostle, Unstamatic, Airlie Press, Five Minutes, High Shelf Press, Sad Girls Club Literary Blog, and in Hey, I’m Alive Magazine. Her work can be found at www.emilybensonpoet.com.

Published
Categorized as Poetry

That Way, A Day Begins

by Leslie Grollman

                                                                      Frayed laces on my running shoes
                                                                A snagged sock
                                                     Too-long fingernails clicking keys
 
A sunrise tries
                                              A rain puddles the walkway

            Tighten the hoodie, the wind

Too early for traffic      never too late for loss

                                                                   As if another chance

A day begins that way

Gulls soaring in formation
A cloud here and there
                          dispersing as if to disengage
            As if I could kin a cloud

                               Overripe bananas on the windowsill, again

                                                Midnight Mac-’n-cheese-childlike-wonder

                   Still and all, breath

Breath of a hard return
                               A barely-there look     

                   Breathe

     Brie on sourdough
     Espresso, black and sweet

               The heat

                                  As if to clip coupons like they were an answer
                                  As if      a soluble vitamin brought the real sun
                                  As if              cobbles weren’t begging me stay
                                  As if                          mom-and-apple-pie sated                                     
                                  As if                                            the night fatigued
                                  As if                                                  it all won’t end




____

Leslie Grollman’s work appears in Yolk, Spoken Word Scratch Night, Writing Utopia 2020 Anthology, The Selkie, Together: An Anthology, Thimble, Nailed, Pathos, From Arthur’s Seat, other publications, and is forthcoming. Leslie was chosen to be a reader for one of Octopus Books’ open reading periods. She holds an MSc Creative Writing, Poetry, with Distinction, from the University of Edinburgh.

Published
Categorized as Poetry

A Hand Out

 by Leslie Grollman
  

To want the shape of your body in my hand


To rock as in chanting as in forgetting my name


A novice unsure of how unsure of timing


How to blue the bronze of can’t 
          into a summer’s moon, into a naked swim 
 

A sculptor carves too deep into the marble then a debt is owed 


How do I swim spiraling currents deep yet debt-free  


What if I retract one hand to your two extended


What if only half is honey is tongue is morning moss 


Sometimes I may mistake my Self for hightide


What if you are mantis and I want malachite


Sometimes I feel like mountain water: crisp and fresh, babbling 
        in small streams, bubbling between stones and grasses bulging


I leave a suitcase full in case an avalanche comes  


What if silk fails   



What if we repeat ourselves: what if we run out
         of stories: we are not Scheherazade


Sometimes I may mistake you for a sand-filled empty,
        abandon you on a red plaid blanket  


Then what if my forgiveness hasn’t forgiven me

 
When I place my hand on your plumed flesh, close my eyes, I see our end

                        
                        What is the half-life of a taste  


Then water rushes down a mountain, there is no time to hide


To weep is to wander in place


                        I brush my hair pretending it cascades


Leslie Grollman’s work appears in Yolk, Spoken Word Scratch Night, Writing Utopia 2020 Anthology, The Selkie, Together: An Anthology, Thimble, Nailed, Pathos, From Arthur’s Seat, other publications, and is forthcoming. Leslie was chosen to be a reader for one of Octopus Books’ open reading periods. She holds an MSc Creative Writing, Poetry, with Distinction, from the University of Edinburgh.

Published
Categorized as Poetry

When you asked me if I had eaten the skin, I had

by Sara Judy

I will call you plum and overripe peach, 
I will call you a stone fruit, heart pit, bitter pith
sour flesh, burst apart fruit, sun warm fruit
I will call you cherry-that-scrapes-its-thin-skin-open,
apricot-so-sweet-it-offers-sweetness-to-the-air,
ready to pick now, just right now, three for a dollar the
market is about to close now, no time to feel with your fingers
every one in the box with the right pressure to know—oh 
the plums, the plums, the plums that bruise against each other
the plums that will not make it to the fridge the plums 
the plums that press back under my hand, an offering offering:

I will call you every summer ripe thing I will 
I will call you every juice running down
I will refuse to lick it clean

Sara Judy is a poet and PhD candidate in English the University of Notre Dame, where she studies contemporary U.S. poetry and poetics, and religion. Her writing has appeared in Adroit, EcoTheo Review, Psaltery & Lyre, and elsewhere. You can find her on Twitter @sarajudym.

Published
Categorized as Poetry

I SIT CROSS-LEGGED AT THE CACHOEIRA AND WILL A CHILD INTO BEING

Pirenópolis, Goiás

by Kim Sousa

I hold him in my lap. 
We play I spy, making shapes
of the rocks rising out of the water:
eu vejo um grande crocodilo, 
eu vejo um grande nariz—
o que ele ‘tá cheirando? 
Seus pés? Mas que chulé! 
I kiss his toes. 
His curls tickle my face 
when he throws his head back. 
He smells like coconut oil 
and wet earth. 
I made him from clay.
I can only look forward,
to wherever the water rushes. 
To the single palm rising up
as the tallest tree
against a cloudless sky. 
I can’t turn back, to where he isn’t. 
The monkeys above me 
chitter a warning, 
and a procession of neighbors
breaks through the mist.
Just like that, the child falls 
from my lap and down
into the rushing water. 
Down to where a man drowned, 
pulled by the current. Held
under by something strong
and invisible as teaching 
a phantom child his curls 
make a crown. His wet footprints 
still stamped on the rocks
as past-future improbabilities.
To know the current is there, 
to choose not to jump. 


Kim Sousa (she/they) is a queer Brazilian American poet, editor and open border radical. She was born in Goiânia, Goiás and immigrated to Austin, Texas with her family at age five. Her poems can be found in Poet Lore, EcoTheo Review, The Boiler, The Missouri Review, [PANK] Magazine’s Latinx Lit Celebration, Harvard’s PALABRITAS, and elsewhere. Her debut poetry collection, ALWAYS A RELIC NEVER A RELIQUARY, is the winner of Black Lawrence Press’ 2020 St. Lawrence First Book Prize and is forthcoming July 2022. Along with Até Mais: Until More, an Anthology of Latinx Futurisms (forthcoming, Deep Vellum Books), she is the co-editor of the limited-run anthology of immigrant and first-generation poetry, No Tender Fences, which donated 100% of its proceeds to the immigrant advocacy network, RAICES Texas. You can find Kim at http://www.kimsousawrites.com and on Twitter @kimsoandso and @LatinxFuturisms.

Published
Categorized as Poetry

INSTRUCTIONS FOR SPEAKING TO THE DEAD

by Kim Sousa

Today the planets say Don’t do: 
inadequacy, assuming the worst, 
erosion. And I have already slipped
into some antithetical ether. See, 
at the blackboard of this country, 
I’m clapping erasers and choking.
Erasing my own name. 
However it’s pronounced here, I’ll stop
pushing back. All my friends
are brilliant and American. 
My country was mined 
for its emeralds and my kin. 
I’m still coughing up dust and bone. 
Before the first star, 
the river dolphin is still a man 
and my tio still kisses every tomb. 
All the uncles before him underground, 
passing palm wine and sweet bread
between their blue-lit palms. 
How was it my forehead never 
was kissed by an ancestor—not holy
water, either. Before my mud 
was fully baked—a border. 
They say when we cross
over, we wake in The River. 
My pockets full of simple stones, 
unskipped. My memory unrecovered, 
redacted and stamped by Some Government Seal. 
What if my crossings are already spent?
Already, the dead in the leaves turn away, 
their sibilant voices now only wind. 
And the witch moth that lands beside me
won’t answer: quem é? 

Kim Sousa (she/they) is a queer Brazilian American poet, editor and open border radical. She was born in Goiânia, Goiás and immigrated to Austin, Texas with her family at age five. Her poems can be found in Poet Lore, EcoTheo Review, The Boiler, The Missouri Review, [PANK] Magazine’s Latinx Lit Celebration, Harvard’s PALABRITAS, and elsewhere. Her debut poetry collection, ALWAYS A RELIC NEVER A RELIQUARY, is the winner of Black Lawrence Press’ 2020 St. Lawrence First Book Prize and is forthcoming July 2022. Along with Até Mais: Until More, an Anthology of Latinx Futurisms (forthcoming, Deep Vellum Books), she is the co-editor of the limited-run anthology of immigrant and first-generation poetry, No Tender Fences, which donated 100% of its proceeds to the immigrant advocacy network, RAICES Texas. You can find Kim at http://www.kimsousawrites.com and on Twitter @kimsoandso and @LatinxFuturisms.

Published
Categorized as Poetry