Fall 2022

College Dollhouse, 1996

this house swells. abundant with the
sweetness of kids. on damp days

we miss our mothers & lack fruit.
i love you with indica,

with gluttony, suspending us
on the sunday couch.

still, that tropic
of rot: we bitter our lips

& sicken of each other.
sedated by loneliness

we’re all fucking sad in our own rooms.

make love
to mediocre people. emerge

to rewind the battered
love stories of our parents in the kitchen light.

delight in the everyday grief
that we are so close. know

that we will lift the wax off
the pretty hours of school,

the pretty drugs,
pretty cheap rent,

the washing machine
being loaded right outside my bedroom door.

Haro Lee lives in South Korea with her grandmother. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Michigan Quarterly Review, Zone 3 Press, The Offing, and elsewhere. She was the recipient of Epiphany Magazine’s Breakout 8 Writers Prize. You can find her @pilnyeosdaughter.

Little Moon

You were not my sun
You were my little moon
You were my tiny bear
You dug through
the garbage of my heart
ate what could be eaten
left me to sort
through the rest

Little moon
you once warned me
against a man
who said I was reliable
as though it were bad

Little moon
from your vantage point
I am blaze orange
an open field

Little moon
even in death
I look north
and see you always

Darci Schummer is the author of the story collection Six Months in the
(Unsolicited Press), co-author of the poetry/prose collaboration
Hinge (broadcraft press), and author of the forthcoming novel The Ballad
of Two Sisters
(Unsolicited Press). Her writing has appeared in places
such as Ninth Letter, Folio, Jet Fuel Review, Pithead Chapel, Sundog
, and several other journals and anthologies. Connect with her at

The Lost Pleiad

Running wild in the streets,
darting behind concrete pylons,
smoking and kissing between drags,
we embarrassed familiar spirits
with our fortune. Their tongues
lapped at our folly, but we didn’t care.
We, two lusty deities, carried on
like that the whole summer,
drawing ourselves from dark rooms,
charming ourselves until
we were swollen and fragrant.

No one cared that we sat beside the lake,
casting bread to ducks, their appetites
as ravenous as our own. No one cared
that I belonged to you and you to me,
content in each other’s possession. The
smell of grass, the sound of the water,
the permissive breeze all crested into tenderness
as I pulled your locs back from your nape
and caressed the constellation there.
Would I be a star? I would trill and dance to see
your face anew when we first began.

Another holy life, another covenant,
we shed our skins. No illness or melancholy
can distract us from what our mouths already know,
something marvelous tucked behind
our tongues. We slip into our gentleness,
and our hearts syncopate as we press
past the longing in our blood. No
longer coy, there is no need for illusion:
just two lusty deities duetting songs
of love as bottomless as death.

Robert Randolph, Jr., is a writer, scholar, and country boy from Pinetops, North Carolina. His research and teaching interests include Black literature and cultural production, socio-cultural foundations of education, and Black feminist and queer rhetorics. He is a Watering Hole Poetry Fellow.  Some of his notable publications include, “Delectable Negroes: On precarity, death, and the Black queer male body,” and “The Queer Poetics of Social Justice: Literacy, Affect(ion), and the Critical Pedagogical Imperative.” You can contact him at rrandolph7@gmail.com.

Punctuation like Borders

Recently, I’ve seen writers taking up
the semicolon as a kind of totem.
The comma’s less popular older brother
who’s really into objectivist literature,
WWII specials, and Dungeons & Dragons.
Relic from a past generation, this
plucky punctuation is determined
to stage a comeback.
“Make semicolons great again!”

Its purpose is to signify a silence
more significant than the pause
of a comma, partitioning clauses
as though it were
a wall
a geographical border.

“You stay on your side
I’ll stay on my side.”

Only problem is the two halves modify one another.
Related ideas that are interdependent, neither
can exist without the other. Like trying
to divide a continent,
it is impossible.

In the example:
“Maria and her children
came to America
they were separated
by the US border patrol

The first clause begins the story,
the second ends it.
The first if heard alone
conveys hope,
sounds like the realization of a dream,
makes it seem as if Maria
and her children succeeded;
as if they weren’t separated,
as if Maria’s children weren’t kept
in cages,
as if they weren’t
and sexually assaulted.

The second, if left by itself,
does not capture the hell of separation or
illustrate the horrors of incarceration.
It does not name the victims,
merely casts them as indefinite pronouns –
“they” or “other” –
splitting identities like ICE splits families,

Semicolons have no sympathy
for the things which they divide,
forgetting that sentences
are supposed to stay together,
forgetting there was a time
when all words were one
before punctuation got in between,
before arbitrary lines divided in our minds
the pronouns
“us” and “them”
which only exist without antecedents.

Semicolons have forgotten
they’re meant to represent a continuation,
a spot where the writer
could have ended the sentence but didn’t,
instead bringing together disparate ideas
to create something that is more beautiful,
more complete, more whole,
than either one alone.
Personally, I see no purpose for these
anachronistic constructs of language.
I say we abolish semicolons,
replace them with the word “and.”

Build conjunctions, not punctuations!
Dump semicolons!
End linguistic separation!
and then, who knows,
maybe the whole sentence
can be rewritten.

DJ Leary (he/him) is a traveling poet and writer of short fiction. Occasionally, you can find him posted up on a street corner composing impromptu poems for strangers. He owns three typewriters and one cat named Jack. Look him up on social media @wordsbydj

This poem previously appeared in The Deadbeat Poets Zine.

No Longer Boys

After the funeral of our former classmate, we
gathered at the playground of our old school,
where we once frolicked about as boys.
Struck by how small it now appeared,
we, though grown, surely looked the same.
O, what happened to those young men,
who propelled themselves down the slide
face-first, hung upside-down from the
monkey bars, backflipped off the swings?

Though too large for the wooden fort, tall for
the monkey bars, wide for the swings and
slide, we’re the size of children inside. No
longer the young men who raced up the
playset to be first, claim the title king
of kindergarten, we know this only now:
though told to give up chutes and rungs for
rulers and textbooks, all to help us grow,
we were never bigger than as those boys.

Originally from San Antonio, Texas, Jonathan Fletcher (he/him/his), a BIPOC writer, currently resides in New York City, where he is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing in Poetry at Columbia University’s School of the Arts.  He has been published in Arts Alive San AntonioThe BeZineClips and PagesDoor is a JarDoubleSpeakFlora FictionFlowerSong Pressfws: a journal of literature & artHalf Hour to KillLone StarsNew FeathersOneBlackBoyLikeThat ReviewriverSedgeSynkroniciti, The Thing Itself, TEJASCOVIDO, Unlikely Stories Mark V, Voices de la Luna, and Waco WordFest. His work has also been featured at the Briscoe Western Art Museum.

This poem previously appeared in Arts Alive San Antonio.

I’m No Good at Small Talk

My whole life, a series of love
spells I refuse to reverse,

bound forever to each and every
lover, infinite marriages spun

like DNA helices,
like cotton candy.

If I ever loved you
I still love you

and my god, can I love
like a boulder,

like a blade, the cascade
under a bridge people leap from.

Tell me — what is the worst thing
you have ever done?

I will hold it for you
for lifetimes, I will carry it in my jaws.

Nadyja von Ebers is a former high school teacher from Chicago who currently writes and makes independent films in Los Angeles.

Roadside Crucifixes

Roadside crucifixes,
Bleaching incandescent,
Glowing, all September long.
True, the dead rise early,
But they have nowhere else
To roam around these days.
Hell is too gentrified,
Heaven is a share time
Advertised in doujin
Ezekiel never wrote.
Seven steps, eight maybe,
Is all they can afford
To lease around their grave.
Amber marigold vendors,
Hyped-up, cheapened folklore.
Their petals shine no path
To Disneyfied Mictlan,
Sugar skull NFTs,
PTO rendered null
Due to staff shortages.
Purchase a smile instead,
Trade your phone for their jokes.
Mercury is handy
When booze no longer hits.
Roadside crucifixes,
Bleaching incandescent,
Glowing, all September long.

Self as Context

Today I had the thought that I had
Keys and a car, and a tiny bit of money
Since we haven’t split the mortgage yet
And I’m behind on paying my bills

Which means I could just go
A birthday party balloon no longer tethered
To the fence flying toward a reachless
Sky, devoid of a purposeful weight
A constant childhood fantasy of elsewhere

The self as context but always in context
So where I once served as a signal to the special
To a moment, to a milestone, to some cake
Now I could invite an apathetic sky to claim me
The sea to make me a horror to marine life

That is to say when the movement of the day ceases
And you couch lay on your side, roll your ankle to signal
Your foot hurts, to please rub it
My hands mean something different than the baseline nothing
Which doesn’t make my hands less, they just have a neutral attribution

And sure there could be a universe where I’m deflated and held lovingly
In arms that find the sad novelty of my lostness
Its own art, or a tire on a nascar, a condom on
a health class banana, but there is no material
to I would rather

There is only the reality of the choice of now
Bound by a web of my making to be a part of it
And I guess I am happy for the only here that is

Jack Sadicario calls both New York and Philadelphia “home” in abstract but
is currently living in Richmond, VA. With Alina Pleskova, Jack co-edits
bedfellows, a Philadelphia based literary magazine focused on intimacy &
relationships bedfellowsmagazine.com. The eleventh issue is currently
available online. A chapbook length portfolio of their poems entitled Herd
| Buffalo
was published in the last printed Verse Magazine Edition.
Jack’s work can be found in Prolit, trinity review, grief diaries among
other places.

In Which You Are the World’s Oyster

my calling was to be shucked, shell
discarded like a skinny dipper, porous shield
pried apart for meat, never pearls—

never was there freshwater pure enough
for grit to taste like sugar, for precious stones
to fall like teeth in the same kind of nightmare

where i’ve practiced drowning for the last year.

nat raum (b. 1996) is a disabled artist, writer, and genderless disaster from Baltimore, MD. They’re a current MFA candidate and also the editor-in-chief of fifth wheel press. Past publishers of their work include Delicate FriendperhappenedCorporeal Lit, and trampset. Find them online: natraum.com/links.