by Layla Lenhardt
It’s not because I reached up
and tucked your hair behind
your ear in front of Michael
on Halloween, or the sex
in my truck in the tattoo shop
parking lot or that time
you were yellowed by the sun.
It’s the not knowing what to call you
to my coworkers. It’s mistaking
your silence for business. It’s the look
in your eye the night when
Max flew in. The buzz of a coil
machine. The creak and moan
of the stairs in your rental house
on Roslyn Street. The corner
of a condom wrapper
on your floor. How sleeping
next to you feels like a funeral.
That loving you is a pain
I enter alone.
Layla Lenhardt is an Indianapolis based poet. She is Editor in Chief of 1932 Quarterly. She has been most recently published in Rust + Moth, Sad Girls Club, Poetry Quarterly, and Pennsylvania Literary Journal. She is a 2021 Best of the Net nominee and a 6th place finalist in Poetry Super Highway’s 2021 Poetry Contest www.laylalenhardt.com
by Jessy Edwards
Another thing better enjoyed together,
I washed your two, long, black ribbed ones,
my ankle-length ochre ones,
and when I shook everything onto the bed to fold,
mine had nestled inside yours
like kidney stones,
all four still sopping wet,
sodden stacking dolls
clinging to one another
in that hot and violent tumble
dryer—notorious for lost souls—
these pairs desperate not to be left behind,
mismatched, discarded. I gently
pulled my socks out of your socks,
hung them in the window, wooly
prayer flags, surrender,
where the sun
pours through like love,
day in, day out.
Jessy Edwards is a poet and journalist living in Brooklyn, New York. Originally from New Zealand, she was a 2020 Brooklyn Poets Fellow. She has been published by Antics Publications and was a 2021 Brooklyn Poets ‘Poet of the Week.’
by Kathryn Kysar
We keep each other out now.
Grief winds the strings of my neck,
my shoulders, rolling mad into
the sour valleys of fertilized fields,
hacking the next cord of rotten wood.
On my bridal day, I slept in the shelters
of pines, nimble on the floor of needles.
Sounds poured out of my mouth like
stripped and shining buckles.
My head rises, remembering your heart
of pebbled snow, your belt undone.
I leave this body at the torn river of felt
and fur. A hole has opened into the world.
A hole has opened. A hole.
Kathryn Kysar is the author of two books of poetry, Dark Lake and Pretend the World, and she edited the anthology Riding Shotgun: Women Write About Their Mothers. She has received fellowships and residencies from the Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Oberholtzer Foundation, and Write On, Door County. Her poems have been published in the Great River Review, Mizna, The Mollyhouse, Permafrost, Stone Coast Review, and other magazines and anthologies.
by Tessa Shea Whitehead
I still eat string cheese
and sit on the kitchen counter.
Toe the acorns on our driveway from the oak,
smell the rain-stained concrete and
bright green, baby grass,
regrown after the fires.
The secrets I kept as a kid –
climbing Coyote Hill at night,
playing alone by the willow and the gutter,
burying the metal charm near Fifi’s place.
They’ve become spaces in me.
Snow globe worlds, contained but always shaken,
with a dewy hue.
The slow settling of fantasies.
It was magic to me.
The uglier side of self-love is
the creeping disappointment that comes on
like a head cold –
that no one will ever do it
quite like me.
That even the story I tell
of my engagement is
better than the thing itself.
Everything born here is gold.
Everything but the hissing yellow street lamps,
the empty cul-de-sac,
the stream of cigarette smoke,
those four murders.
Tessa Shea Whitehead is an award-winning producer and writer currently serving as the Artistic Director of Chorus Productions, an immersive theater company. Her most recent show, Eschaton, was featured in The New York Times and The Verge and was nominated for the Producers Guild of America Innovation Award. She began her work in immersive theater at Remarkable Entertainment developing and writing projects for the producer of Sleep No More. She previously worked on the television series Dare Me on USA and Netflix, and her fiction has been published in Archipelago – The Allegory Ridge Fiction Anthology. Before working as a writer, she was an NFL cheerleader for the Seattle Seahawks and now draws on that experience to tell stories that subvert and explore traditionally female themes and spaces.
by Sean Hanrahan
The romantic part of me wants to believe
in reincarnation, so I don’t hurt anyone,
so I don’t make any mistakes
on my way back to you.
We can make sure we don’t hurt each other
over the decades. We can grow less eager
to yell, or underappreciate silent acts of love.
We should release our resentments,
let them dissipate like unrealized dreams,
treat each day as a childhood summer
never-ending, nirvana approximate, yet too short.
As I put away our dishes, I cradle each one—
some shapes, some patterns remind me of the ones
I fucked on my way to you. I see an ex-lover in a scorch
mark, and smile as I Brillo him off the skillet.
I stack coffee mugs precariously as is our method,
the one that works for us. We have tried
and given up on more stable, less clattery configurations.
I fold the dish towel, glad to impose a bit of lopsided order,
overjoyed to share my non-reincarnatable life with you.
Sean Hanrahan is a Philadelphian poet originally hailing from Dale City, Virginia. He is the author of the full-length collection Safer Behind Popcorn (2019 Cajun Mutt) and the chapbooks Hardened Eyes on the Scan(2018 Moonstone) and Gay Cake (2020 Toho). His work has also been included in several anthologies, including Moonstone Featured Poets, Queer Around the World, and Stonewall’s Legacy, and several journals, including Impossible Archetype, Poetica Review, and Voicemail Poems. He has taught classes titled A Chapbook in 49 Days and Ekphrastic Poetry and hosted poetry events throughout Philadelphia.
by Amrita Chakraborty
God should ___, if he wants me. God should be a nervous slip of a kid. God should pick up the altar and make flower petals float. God should draw a shaky self-portrait. God shouldnotbe indivisible. That was one word that always curled on my tongue, when i stood with my hand pressed to my chest, my fickle fast skeletal chest, and chanted the words with the other children, and the teacher whose good-natured smile would so swiftly turn solemn, devout. under god, indivisible. under god’s invisible. under this god, in the visible. in the visible world, god is an electric pulse. God should be small and many. God should mill thanklessly about, in search of me. God should wait on line, eavesdropping on the women ahead of them. give me an inch, girl. cut me some slack. take this worn billfold heart into the other room. take it and fold it over again. let it be some bug’s miniature shelter. God never knows what to make of these places. God shifts her feet, which ache because they should after a whole half-hour, and watches balls of light unfurl on the eggshell-orange tile. God’s waiting on a renewal of some sort, and there are way too many forms.
God was never an enemy, because i knew God better than our families. but God’s still learning how to make friends. God’s still leaning against my wall, wondering if they’re on the outside or in. God’s still ____, trying to figure out how to ______. God should ___, but not for me. God’s knuckles should tremble. God should look up, ask if they got the right door. God should try and learn something from the silence. God should have to guess.
Amrita Chakraborty is a Bangladeshi American writer and graduate student in comparative literature at Cornell University. Her work has been published by Kajal Magazine, BOAAT, Cosmonauts Avenue, and more. She is a blog correspondent with Half Mystic Journal and her microchapbook ‘Cold Alchemy’ was published by Ghost City Press in 2020. You can read more of her writing at: amritachakraborty.com.
by Kay E. Bancroft
This sterling dagger is somehow magnetic; serving no purpose yet
perpetually pulling toward her center of gravity. Slivered
silver begging to nudge flesh but she refuses, hilt in hands of boys
seeking answers in brunette women they meet, her mother
the first—they enter them. Before each return, she gathers a new arsenal —
mechanisms of torture: stoicism of nightgown, surprise of breasts,
razor of ‘90s bangs, recoil of doe eyes, bite of a freckle,
venom of fist. Each return, she steps
up to the rubber face of her opponent and drinks him in — inhale
pheromones of inevitable demise, bloodsmear on her hand,
lips in her mouth, puckered backward, sweat roving brow, drizzle through
chasms of black polyester shreds, she sees them now.
When the deputy asks if she has a gun, before the question escapes his breath
he knows the answer —
Kay E. Bancroft (they/them) is a queer non-binary poet, performer, editor, and educator from Cincinnati, OH. They hold a BA from the University of Cincinnati and are currently an MFA Candidate at Randolph College. You can find their writing in Hooligan Magazine’s “Spilled Ink,” Cotton Xenomorph, Longleaf Review, The Rumpus, Beyond Queer Words, and more. Explore their work and learn more at kayebancroftpoet.com
by Nicole Steinberg
I like to think an oversized floral print
will make me a better person but it would
only confuse and destroy the others. Lady
bear, no one really gets to get the moon.
Like all of us, the tides are faking it,
drowning piles of embossed party invitations
in dismal dishwater. Seeking the ecstatic
pinprick that leads to the most meaningful
bloodletting of our lives. My jaw-drop pores
exude an envious bouquet. I spy the monster
snuffling beneath your chair and I want it
under mine. My stiletto is stuck in this
blood spatter pattern so they wind the crime
scene tape around me like one boss anklet.
Nicole Steinberg is the author of Glass Actress (Furniture Press Books, 2017) and Getting Lucky (Spooky Girlfriend Press, 2013), as well as various chapbooks, most recently Fat Dreams (Barrelhouse, 2018). She is also the editor of a literary anthology, Forgotten Borough: Writers Come to Terms with Queens (SUNY Press, 2011), and her work has been featured or reviewed in the New York Times, Newsweek, Flavorwire, Bitch, and Hyperallergic. She is the 2021–2022 Poet Laureate of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and she can be found online at nicolesteinberg.net or @nicolebrett.
This poem previously appeared in Ilk.
by Jonathan Chan
after Gabrielle Calvocoressi
get our hands featured on instagram. point
out public poems by the skyline. see the sun
break through the lattices on the bridge. miss
you. want to wait for the coffee to cool with
you. fold up the grounds and filter paper. walk
the bags to the compost bin with you. see the
water clear of flotsam pass with you. savour
every complex mouthful with you. see the
autumn colours fall on brownstone with you.
see the webs and skeletons stretch across your
neighbourhood with you. follow the streets
to those citibike racks and cycle around the
park with you. miss you. want to watch the
blue of day break onto a scene from Pohang
with you. wonder why the characters draw
you in the way that they do. feel the couch
get warmer with you. feel the weekend
stretch into itself with you. i’ll be back
again soon with you.
Jonathan Chan is a writer, editor, and graduate student at Yale University. Born in New York to a Malaysian father and South Korean mother, he was raised in Singapore and educated in Cambridge, England. He is interested in questions of faith, identity, and creative expression. He has recently been moved by the writing of Maria Hummel, Li-Young Lee, and Lucille Clifton. More of his writing can be found at jonbcy.wordpress.com.