Firstroots

by Sherre Vernon

My hands in the dirt, fingers growing, spreading
tangling among the worms, pillbugs—I plant cicadas
this way, the redwood humming, and birds: not pennies, exactly
or blood, this rainwork. Cool to the ground, running below
the watergreen. Cement turns. What is rain, but dust settling—
the trees in choralhowl, the footpath in soloache: oh, I know
the heat of treewhistles, here at the end of Joy
Street where we brought you, my daughter, at just six weeks: oh, my bones
have been here for generations, in the desert valley, in the mountain shadow—
my freckles, the mottled truth of it: I am filament among the dry dirt,
among the star-sky: oh I am leathered, jerked
for the long trip. This is the point: when the body’s wet is gone, what’s left
is what sustains you. This must be what Christ meant
when he said, here eat of my body. Here, eat of my body: the summergrown girl
of nohome: oh desert, life-giver, mother, lush and fruitful—
My hands, firstroots. My spine a path of stones for the wilder-rabbit, my womb,
my womb, my womb. oh Sher: she remembers other deserts. Here
is your beginning: mudslide rain, windrent storm, she comes, full-hipped,
oh, this vinehouse growing—I’m calling all my granddaughters here, and each
is answering: thistlethistle, pawspark, pebbledew & starbloom. And
—finally, my feet, too, are still.


Sherre Vernon is a seeker of a mystical grammar and a recipient of the Parent-Writer Fellowship at The Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. She has two award-winning chapbooks: Green Ink Wings (fiction) and The Name is Perilous (poetry). Readers describe Sherre’s work as heartbreaking, richly layered, lyrical and intelligent. To read more of her work visit www.sherrevernon.com/publications and tag her into conversation @sherrevernon.


This poem was previously published in Feral.

Gambit

by Jason B. Crawford


Jason B. Crawford (They/He) is a black, nonbinary, bi-poly-queer writer born in Washington DC, raised in Lansing, MI. In addition to being published in online literary magazines, such as SplitLip Magazine, Voicemail Poems, Glass Poetry, and Kissing Dynamite, they are the Chief Editor for The Knight’s Library. Their debut chapbook collection Summertime Fine is out through Variant Lit.


This poem was previously published in Pointed Circle.

On ‘Bounded On The West By The Land Under Water’ By Kay Sage

by Nadia Arioli

Life can be a wound. Lake Natron in Tanzania
is red with algae scabbing the surface
in blooms. When bats, flamingos,
and eagles bump into water,
they go to stone. My whole life,

I have painted water incorrect—blue
and empty. I go back now with blood.
No, not blood but little plants that don’t
need our sympathetic gaze. How inevitable
the crash of towers, how inevitable

a little life we can’t capture
that stops mid-flight. My paint
is just brushstroke by an arm
still moving offstage. What you see
is a horizon in time, bounded

on the west by land under water.
In movies, if you see the actors
making plans, you know something
will go awry, but if it’s left a mystery,
you know it will work. I am moving,

although I may look dead to you.
I am moving, although you won’t
see a blink. I am moving, deep in
the red place, under water. Stillness,
what are you? A wound can be a life.


Nadia Arioli (nee Wolnisty) is the founder and editor in chief of Thimble Literary Magazine. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in Spry, SWWIM, Apogee, Penn Review, McNeese Review, Kissing Dynamite, Bateau, Heavy Feather Review, Whale Road Review, SOFTBLOW, and others. They have chapbooks from Cringe-Worthy Poetry Collective, Dancing Girl Press, and a full-length from Spartan.

Winged Victory of Samothrace

by Willie Kinard III


Willie Lee Kinard III is a poet, art director & sound artist forged in Newberry, South Carolina. An MFA candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Pittsburgh, his work appears or forthcoming in Poetry, Hayden’s Ferry Review, WILDNESS, Foundry, The Shade Journal, & elsewhere. Find him at www.williekinardiii.com.


Note: “Winged Victory of Samothrace” is published in Issue 13 of Foundry Journal in October 2019, occasioned by American singer-songwriter Mariah Carey’s “Fly Like A Bird,” from her tenth studio album, The Emancipation of Mimi (2005).

How Do You Write in Public

by Colleen Rothman

It’s too loud here; I can’t hear the words in my head over the 90s R&B. Are you that somebody? Every song plays at a different volume; the barista who side-gigs as a sub at my son’s school keeps adjusting it between lattes. My heart starts beating triple time. I recognize folks from other weekday afternoons, when I’ve grown tired of being alone in my home, bored with myself and the stories my mind has invented. Strumming my pain with his fingers. Behind a fiddle-leaf fig, two men meet; over bowed screens not fully closed, they dissect their respective wheelhouses. You’re crushing it, one says. Instantly, I feel the weight of the other pinning me to a mattress, air leaving my lungs as the first guy eggs him on. Only those who have power can be so careless with language. Ah, there it is—the voice I thought I’d lost. It rises from the background sounds now swirling together, no single strain perceptible above the rest, unlike other days spent eavesdropping here on halves of conference calls, a gaggle of rolling suitcases, an informational interview between a burlesque dancer and an aspiring one employed at a suburban Hooters. I can focus on this over-cinnamoned chai burning the back of my throat, the dull pencil slipping through my fingers—rookie mistake, I forgot a pen—this notebook, four unfilled pages remaining. I started it new in June, before we stopped not talking again. Oh, I had plenty to say, unrelated to you, in those long months. Several sentences, for example, describing a pâté tartine. Thumbnail book reviews. A skeleton draft of a listicle.


Colleen Rothman’s poems have appeared, or will soon, in Yes Poetry, Juke Joint, All Female Menu, and ANTIGRAVITY Magazine. She lives in New Orleans. Learn more at colleenrothman.com .

The Homie Does the Robot to Fiona Apple’s ‘Fetch the Bolt Cutters’

by Levi Cain

me + the homie + the homie’s homie
spitting outside, talking shit, pass licked
joint from pocket to waiting hand—you know,
real boys’ shit, real shining and slick-mouthed
and gleaming with sweat, stretching out
jabs until they taffy up in the heat,
you know, what i meant
to inherit myself before girlhood
stole in like a jacob in the night. give me
the aftermath of boyishness gone
soft and sogging in the summer,
nicotine hiding on our cupids’ bows,
the smell of beer and coconut water a footnote.
we cast off too-big sweatshirts,
laugh so loud that the mother across
the street jumps, scrawl our names onto
anything but notebooks. everything is
so glimmering and new. sometimes i slap
my palm against a man’s and feel
my heart shrink three sizes, the skin on
of my neck prickling the way
it does when i sashay home after
midnight or when i am caught
unawares with a trembling lip.
here, a concept of a future
i could not begin to dream
of as a child: gender is fucking over,
it’s so yesterday, it’s old news. we flick
ash and tuck tags into the back
of our shirts, split fruit three ways
and warn each other of seeds. we do
the robot to fiona apple. we look to
our we-ness and deem it crisp,
keep it clean, call it by its own name.


Levi Cain is a gay Black writer from Boston, MA. Their work has been shortlisted for Brain Mill Press’ 2019 National Poetry Month contest, as well as nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Their first chapbook, dogteeth, is available from Ursus Americanus Press. You can follow them on Twitter and Instagram @honestlyliketbh.

To You, When Displaced

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.

a month into quarantine (mano po dalawa)

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.

Pisces Season

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.