I’d Rather Be

The small blue Nissan ahead of 
Me at the stoplight has a plastic 
License plate holder that says I’D 
RATHER BE AT A RICK SPRINGFIELD 

CONCERT, and, buddy, wouldn’t we 
All rather be catching a tan
In the summertime lawn seats at 
Some amphitheater off the 

Highway, wearing sunglasses to 
Protect our eyes from the sun and 
The gleam of Rick’s professional
Teeth, watching his wavy dyed brown

Septuagenarian goatee
Frame his mouth as it sings “Jessie’s 
Girl” with his mind on autopilot, 
Wondering what he’ll have for dinner 

Later as he croons Where can I 
Find a woman like that? for the 
100,000th time as we 
Dream of this life we’re in for the 

100,000th time instead 
Of cubicles and gray, the beige 
Hallways we walk for decades before 
Demise? We dream, relaxed in the 

Warm air we ignore for another 
Decade as some gulls try to steal 
Fries from a couple who are busy 
Groping their fiftysomething bodies, 

Their bodies here still, soft & alive,
Sagging in the lawn but fifteen 
Again and lost in their friend’s basement 
Again making out on the bean bag 

In the corner, frantic in hazy 
Afterschool limbo before 
The friend’s parents get home from work.
They knock over what’s left of a 

Margarita in a can. It 
Trickles green through the grass as Rick’s 
Band cuts straight to the opening 
Riff for “Love Somebody.” The drummer 

Pounds the toms, the thuds summoning 
1984 as the guitar 
Chimes and harmonies swoop in and 
Swallow the heating air. You better 

Love somebody / it’s late, the frogs
Evaporating in the wetlands 
By the offramp. 

Mitchell Nobis is a writer and K-12 teacher in Metro Detroit. His poetry has appeared in Hobart, Nurture Literary, The Night Heron Barks, and other great lit mags. He facilitates Teachers as Poets for the National Writing Project and hosts the Wednesday Night Sessions reading series. Find him at @MitchNobis or mitchnobis.com.

mostly owls, flat woods

here we are again, sweeping the porch,
nailing salvation to the door, shucking day
from azure shell, cypress heavy with ibis,
my eyes are ash, my hands are gone, lost
in the black river water, slipping downstream
confluence of moon and oyster, not that night
is ever empty, sleep being the work of the devil,
canned goods and truth stacked in the pantry,
spectral fish circle baseboards, bone crunching
fin to barbel we consume, juicing down the day,
a table laid in urgency beneath a cloth splattered
sky, emptiness of horizon where color of sea
scours orbit, heavy shade of pine, no certainty
but crow has found something out of place, calls
piercing leafage of drowse, board, blade, garlic, 
flat leaf, lemon, skillet holding court on the front 
burner, onions and peppers caramelize, a different menu 
than what cooked us up, a different sustenance than what
scrub offered, joyous and solemn songs of coyote, 
pines shivering as wind shoulders through, 
this is the mother tongue, thicket in motion,
an arrival of tide, the form received.

Peach Delphine is a queer poet from Tampa, Florida. Former cook and sometimes gardener infatuated with what remains of the undeveloped Gulf coast.

Self Portrait as Virgin Moon; Or, Boymode Rebirth at the End of Lent

As burgeoning muscles flicker like lowgas streetlamps in the dawn, it’s blooming, boy
Girls who dance like slick newborn fawns. So lead me. There’s a moth on your shirt 
In the closet, a mark on your face: an instruction, my luminous tongue sings 
Sweet as sin or music, whichever calls your body to move
Past me, into the quiet rooms of shame I thought I’d given up. 
Your abs twin my lips. Believe it: I’ve never had a lover move inside me. 
If this was our last night uncovered, could you call me by my name? Imagine 
We’re married: eyes coy behind my bridal veil, your family checking our sheets 
For blood. But this isn’t a constellation, no myth of harvest gods 
We’re singing. You lead me well; I lower my head with a smirk & a bow
Ties my hands together. Hiding, a memory without a name--our careless dress & 
dance. Kiss me soft & quiet, an arrow launched from our quivering mortality. Hands 
Lead us back to the beginning: two boys in a dark room, begging to be made. Holy
Never ends safe, you say. We give each other up. Under naked stars, we pray. 

James O’Leary (they/them) is a bi, gender-fluid poet and writer from Arizona. James’s work has been nominated for both the Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize anthologies, and has appeared or is forthcoming in online and print publications including Frontier, The Indianapolis Review, the minnesota review, and Foglifter. James holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. You can find James on Twitter @thesundaypoet; they currently live in Orange County.

dayroom corsage

we shared a window, plastic seats, drone
of meds, you said, "this moon knows only three phases, 
before the cut, the cut itself, bleeding." we were sisters
of the same laceration, same bow upon the wrist, 
reckless with the extravagance of pileated woodpeckers 
gouging out grubs from sand oaks, artifacts masticated 
in dim rooms, crunching bones brittle as sunlight, 
afternoons of angular incineration, you said "sweets 
are the first to go" so we ate guava turnovers under
the blur of a ceiling fan long out of balance, I was a shroud 
of ferns, smoke woven into mourning cloak, you lit lamps
with a long sliver of fatwood, hurricane running up
the Gulf, a window opened and the shed grew heavy 
with sadness of possums, it is as much from Wednesday 
to Monday, the old avocado giving way, cumulus proofing 
into ponderous meringue, watching shelf cloud flowering
lightning from causeway, burning a fat one in your van,
I was a testimony of grackles, a convocation of ibis, 
you were the pretty sister laughing at the storm, waves
losing their step, you said "we are without redemption," all
my words were small birds clustered behind some dunes, 
you said "your eyes, empty as sea" so my horizons
have always tumbled, shell after shell, wave eaten, 
consumed by absence, another flowering, uncataloged, 
another vine, opening only to moth.

Peach Delphine is a queer poet from Tampa, Florida. Former cook and sometimes gardener infatuated with what remains of the undeveloped Gulf coast.

I Don’t Give the Way the World Gives

First, notice. Still the body, still the mind.
Open my eyes. And what is there? Sunlight.
Give thanks immediately. It’s so kind:
You're dying, and it isn’t always night.

The hospice nurse is here, but in the dark
He is another obstacle I curse.
Death has come to my house to leave its mark:
Sponges and trays; pills and checks to disburse.
I need your help. Like always. No. Like now.
But you are lost in furrowed sheets and skin.
So I will smooth myself out here somehow
And find a way to bring the sunlight in.

I’m mad at you. That’s why I meditate.
O Lord, use me, though I can’t concentrate.

J-T Kelly is an innkeeper in Indianapolis, Indiana. He lives in a brick house with his wife and five children, his two parents, and a dog.

Plunder

Pomegranate — ripe,
Unbroken —

I, too, hide my heart —
Fruitlessly.

J-T Kelly is an innkeeper in Indianapolis, Indiana. He lives in a brick house with his wife and five children, his two parents, and a dog.

Lament

Strewn in Sabbath light.
Sullied by desire.

God, cull me holy.
Myrrh me, shin and tabernacle.

I have begun wanting
the silver spile of moon-rivers.

Broach the night’s breath unto me;
I want the Nile of everything.

            A basket of Moses.
Wrapped and unwrapped into prophet.

           Sea that sears me till Sinai
and back,       lapping at my limbed shore.


                        God,
                                     I am so stupidly human.

         Heart that stuns itself
         at the enormity of all that isn’t.

Worn by my own will to flock
toward each morning-door that creaks.
Each boulder, thinking it is you.

Seamed back in
                                       a sac
                          a shriek
                                                until skin again.

God, molt and melt me to manna.
Render me crescent,
let me snow in.

Letitia Jiju is from Kerala, India. Her poems have appeared in Indian Ruminations, Emirates Literature Festival and are forthcoming in an anthology by the Poetryhood. She was the second runner-up at the 2018 Taleem Awards. You can find her on Twitter/Instagram at @eaturlettuce.

Portrait in a Bathtub

From a 2021 photograph by Joanna C. Valente

Do you lie soothing 
in suds, creating feet waves 
warm while covering you 
in bubbles, pen over your
earlobe or keeping your
hair up in a bun, while 
the faucet drips, strings
of classical woodwinds
serenade you symphonically 
as poem lines permeate 
along with steaming unfinished
rhymes splash your body 
poetry soaking in sound bath
your mind seeks to quiet horn 
honking traffic stalled cabbies,
annoying construction worker 
cat calls, neighbors bickering 
in untranslatable profanities, 
the orchestra volumes to  
soothe you, finding the perfect
floating relaxation spot, warming
as inspiration poems gathers 
steam in the bathtub, do you
reach for a pen? Transcribing 
saltwater lines as soap drips on
the page of your journaled 
notebook, or do you soak 
eyes closed continue becoming
one with water, the inner 
music hither as NY winter
window cracked, shivers 
afloat lukewarm bathtub 
chills you in imperfect concentration.

Adrian Ernesto is the author of Flashes & Verses… Becoming Attractions from Unsolicited Press, Between the Spine from Picture Show Press and La Belle Ajar & We Are the Ones Possessed from CLASH Books and Speaking con su Sombra with Alegría Publishing. Adrian is a LatinX Poet who lives with his wife in Los Angeles with their adorably spoiled cat Woody Gold.

do not delete, I am not finished

it's a raw deal
the hunting heron's
frightening eye

it's a square call
from a round mouth,
the frog's fear

we imagine
such an end
or if we don't
who can blame us,
having escaped for so long?

I think about how large we are
and how small.

it's a raw deal
however you cut it
predator or cauldron

sample or multipack
deadly affection,
unkind love

no science heals
this living




Kyla Houbolt (she, her), born and raised in North Carolina, currently occupies Catawba territory in Gastonia, NC. Her first two chapbooks, Dawn’s Fool and Tuned were published in 2020. More about them on her website, https://www.kylahoubolt.com/. Her individually published pieces online can be found on her Linktree: https://linktr.ee/luaz_poet. She is on Twitter @luaz_poet.

The Day You Didn’t Drown Me

you left your fingerprints  
scorched into the skin  
on my throat  
and in my hair,  

a soft laugh  
at the sharp intake of my breath  

I left my palm print  
on your stomach  
and the indent of my nipple  
against your back  
as your mouth filled with smoke  
and your mind with mercy  

Do you remember?  
that was the day  
you didn’t drown me  

Christina Barlow is a book collector who lives in her library in a sea-side village somewhere in Africa.