by Haley Petcher
I’m not your mother or your father, and you’re past the time of mockingbirds, billy goats, and looking glasses, of soothing your soul by listening to lullabies. Perhaps I cannot sing for you. I know I don’t have the money to buy what I wish I could give you. But perhaps I can write you a mountain. Let me write you a mountain with a cool breeze, with birds chirping and frogs creating a harmony. Let me write you a forest with wizened trees that reach to the clouds, with leaves in shades of green and yellow and red rustling on the ground, with a doe and her fawns grazing unafraid. Let me write you a river with clear water so you can watch as the fish swim downstream and as each pebble rolls slowly in the riverbed, becoming smooth. And when you find your quiet and it seeps into your veins like water into a flower’s roots, let me write you a path to guide you home again.
Haley Petcher earned her BA from Auburn University and her MA from the University of Louisville. She currently teaches high school English in Huntsville, AL. You can find her work in Pithead Chapel, the Eastern Iowa Review, and Inkwell Journal, among others, and you can learn more about her on Twitter (@HaleyPetcher) and at https://petcherpages.wixsite.com/portfolio.
This poem previously appeared in The Eastern Iowa Review.
by J.C. Rodriguez
J.C. is a queer pinoy-latinx poet & educator from Westbury, NY. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Secret Lovers, Meow Meow Pow Pow, & Tilde~ A Literary Journal. As a teenager, he moderated the #1 Kingdom Hearts role-play message board. He currently serves as a poetry reader for Interstellar Flight Press & sometimes releases zines under his “imprint”, Follow the Sea.
by Meghann Boltz
I don’t know about astrology, I’m just trying to stay relevant
Wrapped up in my celestial furs, the moon
Hasn’t made an appearance in days & the sun feels shy
Sometimes it’s too hard to look in the mirror
When the inquisitors ask how often
Everything feels on the brink
Of being played to an original score by Philip Glass
I tell them how at the Annunciation I plucked out tears
Like diamonds & now a stygian blue velvet sadness is softly threatening
To cover my insides like a papal vestment
They sigh reproachfully and tell me
You can cut yourself on yourself if you’re not careful
As if I don’t already know
Water is not so vague that it can’t destroy the sky
Meghann Boltz is the author of the chapbook rebel/blonde (Bottlecap Press) and the micro-chap Roleplay (Ghost City Press). Her work has appeared in Cosmonauts Avenue, glitterMOB, Peach Mag, b l u s h lit, and elsewhere. She received her M.A. in creative writing from the University of East Anglia and was shortlisted for the 2018 Metatron Prize. Her second chapbook, True Romance, is forthcoming from dancing girl press.
by Catherine Bresner
I have known love two and a half times and not known anything about anything
Each gesture positions itself against a white wall preparing for a shadow
The shapes we take are apologies for what exactly we can’t articulate Try to
articulate a cloud I dare you You just can’t A small beetle made its way into
the chrysanthemums and now it’s stuck there Everything is the color green
which is to say that exact color green Picture this a perfect angular
corner of graph paper touching another perfect angular corner of graph paper
and a sharp crease Envelopes are sexy until they are opened Once I loved
a pear tree so delicious that I refused to eat any pears in protest The fruit fell out
of the tree each August and fed the red ants in the garden god says all love starts
in a garden I think god might be wrong
by Rob Colgate
Rob Colgate is a poet from Evanston, IL. He holds a degree in psychology from Yale University and spent time studying at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He is currently pursuing his MFA in poetry with the New Writers Project at UT Austin, where he serves as the nonfiction editor for Bat City Review. His first chapbook, So Dark the Gap, was published by Tammy in March 2020. You can find him at robcolgate.com.
by Nkateko Masinga
the trouble with crying at Times Square
is that you are a body in a sea of bodies
sailing from one heartbreak to the next
the year is new & you are still just you,
except older, with less apartment space
& less breathing space and a neon red
flash flood alert on your phone screen
you blend into the scene. a neon green
woman dances at an intersection, joy
seeping out of every painted pore. you
offer her your metro card and a smile.
you are soon leaving this city anyway
at 7th Avenue and Broadway, you break
down again, affirming the threat of flood
this scene would be good, so good, if you
were auditioning for a breakout role in a
tear-jerking play about immigration law
& prozac prescriptions. but you are not.
you are merely grieving your twenties
& a failed loan application & a romance
lacking romance, the American dream
a splintered mess at your callused feet.
& this brightly lit city? it neither sleeps
nor sees you weep amid its neon lights
Nkateko Masinga is an award-winning South African poet and 2019 Fellow of the Ebedi International Writers Residency. She is currently the director of the Internship Program at Africa In Dialogue, an online interview magazine that archives creative and critical insights with Africa’s leading storytellers, as well as the founder and managing director of NSUKU Publishing Consultancy. She is the author of a digital chapbook titled “the heart is a caged animal”, published by Praxis Magazine. Her latest chapbook, “psalm for chrysanthemums”, has been selected by the African Poetry Book Fund and Akashic Books to be published in the 2020 New Generation African Poets chapbook box set.
This poem previously appeared in Brittle Paper.
by Malik Thompson
We’re in this city park,
night-drenched, my dewed scalp
pulsating beneath your finger pads.
It’s so dark, I fail to see the distance,
vision obscured with shadows &
branches in an undulatory mid-August
dance. I believe I can bloom
in this fortressed quiet, though
I can hear your heart
slamming itself against your chest.
‘…a one time thing…only
for your birthday…’ you murmur
above a heaving ribcage.
Praise be to the body’s honesty,
however quickly it may ash.
Praise be to the largest
star and our orbit around it. Praises
to the way one boy can touch another,
salvation almost grasped
in his hungering palms.
Malik Thompson is a Black queer man proud to be from DC. He is a poet, photographer, and loves studying queer artistic genealogies. His work has been published in Split This Rock’s Poem of the Week series and is awaiting to hear from other publications. You can find his thoughts on literature at his Instagram account @negroliterati.
by Cory Hutchinson-Reuss
What draws you out is what you’re here for
Your honeyed anguish and secrets
Your May Queen and Crone
You’ve come for the thicket
Found a home in its hollows
Had its briars in your hair
You’ve seen the bird’s glaring blood
high-pitched and strung
Its dismantled feathered mass
at another bird’s feet
like a nest made of aftermath
You’ve come to sing your voices
into the bramble
Throw them through the bars
You’ve come back to bend
the sky low, to call
that creature your self
Originally from Arkansas, Cory Hutchinson-Reuss received her PhD in English from the University of Iowa, and now lives and writes in Iowa City. Her work has recently appeared in The Offing, Superstition Review, wildness, Glass, Pangyrus, and The Missouri Review’s Poem of the Week feature. She has been a Best New Poets nominee and the recipient of the Lynda Hull Memorial Prize for Poetry from Crazyhorse. She volunteers in the Writers Workshop at Oakdale Prison and serves as a poetry reader for The Adroit Journal. Seed-Purse, a chapbook of poems and visual art made in collaboration with book and paper artist Giselle Simón, is forthcoming from PromptPress.
by Haddiyyah Ali
every girl I know has a collection of dead things.
boys are loud,
makes them faint. makes them run
they think everything that hurts deserves a scene.
but us girls, we know better.
we be catacomb
we be scream into pillow,
choke on the fibers,
teeth-and tears-and snarl,
under every floorboard.
us girls, we be magician.
disappear a body, into a body, into a
dress and make it smile a pretty pretty smile
over the stench of rotting flesh. clench everything so tight everything rattles
but us girls, we never make a sound.
us girls, we be mourning.
we speak the same grief.
we speak the same grief.
and it’s all pursed lips and darting eyes,
girl code they call it.
the way i look at you, and you look at me, and we know.
the way we hold each other between sunrise and wet soil.
the way we closed our eyes last summer became undone and whole and felt nothing at all.
just like the things we bury.
Haddiyyah Ali is an abolitionist, freelance opinion writer, and emerging poet. Her creative nonfiction has been featured in the Long River Review and the Black Muslim Reads anthology.