by kiki nicole

kiki nicole is a Black, Queer, and Non-binary multimedia artist and poet. They’ve received invitations to fellowships such as Pink Door Writing Retreat, The Watering Hole, and Winter Tangerine. kiki hopes to lend a voice for the void in which Black femmes not only exist in plain view but thrive. Find them at kikinicole.com.

I am funny.

by Rota

Rota is a poet and public interest lawyer living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His chapbook “Giveth and Taketh” was recently published by Wild Pressed Books. Rota’s work has been featured by Button Poetry, BBC Radio, Entropy!, FreezeRay Poetry, iO Literary Journal (forthcoming) and elsewhere. He is a proud member of the MMPR collective and the Assistant Executive Editor of Knights’ Library Magazine which you should submit to!

Half Moon Full Oblivion

by Christian Garduno

Half moon

taking up the whole sky

lowly stars crawl away to become

tomorrow’s constellation prize

A Mighty Benedictine

and Brandy Alexanders

frozen suns illuminate then dissipate


Christian Garduno edited the compilation Evolver and his own solo poetry collection Face, while a History undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley. His work can be read in over 30 literary magazines, including Spillwords.com, Corpus Christi Writers 2020, and Riza Press, where his poem, “The Return”, was a Finalist in their 2019 Multimedia Poetry & Art Contest. He lives and writes along the South Texas coast with his wonderful wife Nahemie, young son Dylan, and pet bear-cub Theodore Bexar. He usually sometimes writes at https://medium.com/@letsfly2000

Self-Portrait with Bubble Gum

by L.J. Sysko

L.J. Sysko’s work has been published in Ploughshares, The Pinch, Best New Poets, Day One, 5am, and Rattle, among others. She is the author of BATTLEDORE, a poetry chapbook, which was published by Finishing Line Press in 2017 as part of its New Women’s Voices series. She has an MFA in poetry from New England College, and her awards and honors include several Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg awards, an Academy of American Poets prize, two fellowships from Delaware’s Division of the Arts, and poetry finalist recognition from The Fourth River, The Pinch, and Soundings East.

the same week that you leave the west coast they board up the complex and every time I want to remember you I have to take the detour

by Adrian Belmes

They trimmed the palms in the parking lot, you know?
I look at them now, and I think, “What a good thing cut short,
what a fine thing to lay barren.” In the hospital down the road from that house,
I thought I would write about the strangling figs in your yard.
It’s low-hanging fruit, markedly poetic. Who is the host and who is the vine
that grows parasitic and beautiful? It’s easier to write a metaphor
than it is to have a conversation.

But I wrote about surfing, radiology, and meth,
Steely Dan, your salty bong. I still can’t believe
I bought you a Brita just so I could drink water. Yes,
that might be a biohazard, but the beach at San Onofre
is still open to the public, so who are we actually going to trust?
If we could divine the shape of grief through sonography,
would we find Jesus in the ultrasound, a bastard, smiling?

Fuck this. Come out on the water with me. It’s quiet,
a little dangerous, but nice. I might even tell you it’s God
when we feel closer to death.

Adrian Belmes is a reasonably depressed Jewish-Ukrainian poet and book artist residing currently in San Diego. He is editor in chief of Badlung Press and has been previously published in SOFT CARTEL, Philosophical Idiot, Riggwelter Press, X-R-A-Y, and elsewhere. His chapbook, “this town and everyone in it”, was published by Ghost City Press. You can find him at adrianbelmes.com or @adrian_belmes.

I Was Taught: Don’t Disrespect Aretha

by Marlin M. Jenkins

with thanks to Brennar Goree

When she wail, your body betta

     wail. She belt out Swanee

Swanee you best buckle

   like a shoe, like spit-shine,

 like your body channeling

that swung 4/4 and the crooked

  waiting snuck into each annunciated

     letter. Make your back

  a horn, your wrist

       a bass spinning like a pirouette;

 make your body a Queen

         in Waiting, too. Aretha

    didn’t dump her soul out

      like cracked eggs in a skillet,

   like jambalaya from pot to bowl

 for you to have stiff

        knees, feet that can’t

     roll like a rocking chair

       with some stank

   in the nails holding the wood

 steady, though it cracks, makes

     noise seeping

  like nose-breath, like the inhale

    between waiting for me and

praying for me, or

    how I love you and

 how I love you—if Aretha

       even ever need to stop

to take a breath. Maybe you can’t

     do right by your mamma,

   how many calls away common ground

         might feel, like all the soil

       from here to Detroit dry

            and blowing away like dust—

   maybe you can’t do right by

          every lover you kept

     waiting, can’t do right

       by everyone who’s died

  without you telling them

    what’s real, whatever real is—

but you can learn to do

    what you can to do right

 by each verse, become smooth

       rumble and crumbed butter,

   background and backbone, sacrifice

      offering to and of yourself with her

  voice become each joint.

Marlin M. Jenkins was born and raised in Detroit and currently lives in Minnesota. The author of the poetry chapbook Capable Monsters (Bull City Press, 2020) and a graduate of University of Michigan’s MFA program, his work has found homes with Indiana Review, The Rumpus, Waxwing, and Kenyon Review Online, among others. You can find him online at marlinmjenkins.com.

The oval end of it

by Natalie Sakarintr

Each summer, I shed my skin like a cicada
and eat custard apples with both hands,
holding them toward the sun.

In December I wake up dreaming of the flood.
I have wrung it out again, one year in every ten.
The crack in the spine and
the dog ear of my quarter life.
And somewhere nearby is a place where
I used to live. It tastes like cold water
and there are organs playing
—a harmonica stuffed in my sister’s pocket, whistling.

In another life I say:
I was born in Phuket before the tsunami.
I give myself a new name it is Margot
it is Pygmalion and the sculpture.
It is the choked river, pockets full of coins
orange peels and egg shells.

Now I wake up dreaming of the fires
my burnt hands, my hanging broken arm. We light things
on fire and call it burning off /we call it preparing. Now—
more than ever it feels like I am suffocating. All these plants dying around me
and swimming in the ocean with my eyes open again.
What it means to be a girl and what I’m made up of.
The things I want to burn.

Natalie Sakarintr is a writer and aspiring editor from Melbourne. She is currently studying the Masters of Writing and Publishing at RMIT. Having grown up in rural Victoria, she is interested in displacement and identity. She has been previously published by Going Down Swinging, The Bowen Street Press and Potluck Magazine.

The Barnacle Tide of Steller’s Sea Cows

by Orchid Tierney

Sea: possibly cognate with gisig (Old High German), suggesting ponds, suggesting marshes, and sigan, suggesting to sink, suggesting to flow down, suggesting Hurricane Dorian sea-swept three sea cows into the sea-water. Sea cows did not sea-sink, were sea-framing and sea-loving, were sea-gentle. They understood their sea-bodies in relation to sea-salt and seawater. Became sea-marsh. Sea-shouldering, their taut sea-tails were sea-svelte. Sea-ensuing sea-shot with sea-brown and sea-white, their coarse sea-smiling sea-hides were sea-fed. Sea-lulled sea-bodies floated upon the sea-thick sea-air of the sea-hurricane. They were sea-light in the sea-swift seawater, were sea-artists, sea-kind sea-buds, unlike sea-corpses and sea-horses for they were sea-filled with sea-filth of sea-distemper, shared sea-fever with the sea-mad seagulls. Sea-soft sea-eyes sea-encrusted with sea-dregs and sea-dust. Sea-dirt sea-hardened in the sea-skins of sea-mouths. They sailed under sea-fire. Sailed like velella, sea-rode the sea-mountains, their sea-legs named the sea-that-fold with sea-cold sea-feces. They sea-sensed themselves sea-rosy like seasoned sea-shrubs and sea-urchins. Sea-licked the sea-surface with their sea-tongues until they beached upon Cedar Island like sea-shillings, overwhelmed with sea-awe of sea-land. They relearned the memory of motion.

The sea-sweet sea-cows were sea-slick with sea-sleeves and sea-snapples. Once, a sea-strawberry, sea-sparrow and sea-sucker, only the slat of land swotted the sea-cows with sea-sickness. The seaboard un-sea-ed the sea-cows on sandy landcape. Dripping with sea-lentils on their land-hinds, the land-cows land-grazed over land-waves like land-beetles and land-bugs. Land-boarded by land-dunes, they were land-born. Land-cast by the land’s sun salt. Land-cows land-made land-claims to the land-club of other land-dwellers and land-tussock, but the sea-memory hollowed out land-fever. The land-wash land-lapped over their land-water land-hooves. These land-cows were landfyrd, without land-hunger even as they seaduced their tender land-legs. On the small land-mead, they land-lacked land-sickness and land-speech. Sealess with sea-speech. They savoured their new species.

Orchid Tierney is an Aotearoa-New Zealand poet and scholar, currently living in Gambier, Ohio where she teaches at Kenyon College. She is the author of a year of misreading the wildcats (Operating System, 2019) and Earsay (TrollThread 2016), and chapbooks ocean plastic (BlazeVOX 2019), blue doors (Belladonna* Press), Gallipoli Diaries (GaussPDF 2017), the world in small parts (Dancing Girl Press, 2012), and Brachiaction (Gumtree, 2012). Other poems, reviews, and scholarship have appeared in Jacket2, Journal of Modern Literature, and Western Humanities Review, among others. She is a consulting editor for the Kenyon Review.

This poem previously appeared in Empty Mirror.

Terra Rima (After Jack Collom)

by Brendan Allen

love is born of thing-ness &
         I choose to love the bedded dirt,

the edible earth beneath the stove-
         range. I love the sprouted-new tufts

of mold as they muddy the grout. I love
         the ant-ball’s tributaries, flirting

the lost taffy. the more I choose more love,
         the more things sing their thing-ing song.

here, listen: each damp ring on the tabletop
         begs you to join me, to raise your feet & assert

this place I’ve saved for you.
         on the couch, run your fingers along

our blanket’s underbelly & brush me. now, let’s
         call up some friends. it’s a sectional, after all

it’s tectonic. but it’s also just cushion. all these borders:
         just cushion. it’s our house & the throngs

at the door don’t have to listen to us if they
         want a piece of it. I choose to love these walls

because I’ve saved this space for you. now you
can stretch out on the carpet, count our love, sing something new.

Brendan Allen lives in Philadelphia, where he pursues a poetry MFA and teaches undergraduate writing at Temple University. He’s currently working on a text-based, choose-your-own-adventure, poem-generating video game. You can play a demo at https://bibliomancer.itch.io/centoquest.