Dear Mama Africa

by Daria-Ann Martineau

“Dear Mama Africa” [i]

I was seven when I first heard the Click Song.
In dance class my feet first grazed World
music. Xhosa steps where I could not bend my tongue.
Qongqothwane—tonal, older than verse. Mother
language knocking. My limbs stretched far as African
drums, the voice of our first home.

Your syllables a knocking beetle, chant a homing
bird exiled, returned only in song
to evolving and ancient South Africa,
birthing hips of the world.
Your lullaby in our first mother’s

Each diphthong tongued
healing, until you could return.
You only wished to bury your mother—
lost a whole country. Song
moving you on through the world.
What it means to have a voice that carries Africa.

Miriam, healer’s daughter, the West’s whole African
vision in your elusive tongue.
Did they know you hummed of witch doctors? This world
you turned toward your home?
Medicine music at once singing
to free your people, your mother

country. Voice so vast they called you Mama
witch-doctor beetle, striking continents in song.
Though I may never lift my tongue
like yours, my steps point me home
to a beginning across a fractured world,

Most languages of the world
draw on the root, Mama,
to name the woman who is our first home.
Woman, what would I ever know of Africa
but pain if not for the dance of your tongue,
the hard road beaten in your song?
Your beetle steps knocking at the world’s past and future, at Africa,
mother who chanted it, clicking your healing tongue,
melody beating a nation’s triumph, the road home in your song.

[i] The “Click Song” is a Xhosa folk song popularized by Miriam “Mama Africa” Makeba. It is sung at weddings and tells of a knocking beetle, which is supposed to bring the couple good fortune. Children also use this beetle to point the way home.

Daria-Ann Martineau was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago. She is a Pushcart-nominated poet with an MFA in Poetry from New York University. She is an alumna of several writing conferences including Bread Loaf and the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. Her poems have appeared in Anomaly, Narrative, and The Collagist, among others. She is the founder of PRINT- Poets Reclaiming Immigrant Narratives & Texts.

My Mother Petitions The Makers Of Bejeweled Blitz

by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

My mother wants the dead to go away,
tired of how they pop up among the list of the living,
in whatever the last profile picture they selected
not knowing it was the last. Perhaps next to last
because they’d been thinking about giving up
social media, eventually, or perhaps not everything,

perhaps just the games
of colorful chains and timers,
hoping for a boost from friends.
There’d be one more picture before that, right?
One more after they’d lost the weight,
one more after they got those partials,
one more after the tan lines faded,
but certainly not the last, forever floating
on a yellow raft in someone’s backyard pool.

Jennifer Schomburg Kanke, originally from Columbus, Ohio, lives in Tallahassee, Florida, where she edits confidential government documents. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Pleiades, and Drunk Monkeys. She serves as a reader for Emrys.

This poem previously appeared in Drunk Monkeys.

henna stains

by Mahta Riazi

there is no forgiveness
in the way Fereshte
slathers henna into my scalp
I have never felt a love that pulls at my roots
so bitterly
there is an intimacy in this anger
she holds not in her face
but in her finger tips.

moments ago
I said something I should not have said
though it is trying to avoid trespass
in a home bursting with forbidden names
we walk not on eggshells
but on damp clay that smears silently across carpeted floor.

henna stains leave an earth-red scent that hovers over everything
despite the hours we spend on our hands and knees
it is no use.
Fereshte says
I used to be somebody, you know
and I tell her I know
she says don’t look at me now
and I don’t dare turn back
my neck aches in stillness
the dough she kneads
a crumbling masterpiece.

In the Woods Called Karen

by Carrie Chappell

—for Karen Dalton


When I ask for voice,

She brings me firewood.

                                    (It’s an accident to need her)

&, when I pick at grasses,

She graces my tongue

With her picking, as if she combs

The rabbit of her blues

With my white-haired commas.


                                    (& I am grim with grammar)

When I brush the bark

Of my history, her eyes

Pierce me from tree holes, black

Out impossibility,

Crow me to new questions.

This is the deep well

Of her look, the sap of her smirk.


This what fastens.

                                    (For she will stick to you)


When I see her walk a hill,

She flings off

My woman’s crooked look.

She is to rove. This is the crook

In her, the bristle.

She won’t be known.


When I go to love her, I see I’ve already

Sucked her dry, & she is shooting up.

She is shooing me away,

Shot with beyond.


                                    (In her wilderness is wilderness is wildernesses)

She dreams where few women sleep,

Runs where few patter, but

When she parts her lips, she cracks

My cabin floorboards wide open.

Carrie Chappell is a writer, translator, editor, and educator. Some of her poems have appeared in Cimarron Review, cream city review, FORTH Magazine, Harpur Palate, Leveler, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, SWWIM, and those that this. Her lyric and book essays have been published in DIAGRAM, Fanzine, The Iowa Review, The Rumpus, The Rupture, and Xavier Review. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Carrie is interested in the exploration of feminine personae and the narration of lives of women as they confront conflicting nostalgia for and injury perpetuated by Western structures of prejudice, particularly those apparent in her homeland of The U.S. American South.

My therapist asks “are your issues with vulnerability with everyone…or just with him?”

by Ajanae Dawkins

I don’t understand the question…Is this about opening my mouth or about the visibility of my blood? Is this about me or my mama? The litany of women? I guess you would have to ask my girls, who scrub the stone streets before they drag me about how quiet I get when I remember, when the sadness hits. Everyone who knows me has said I don’t know how to be sad, but I just think sadness and my body are incompatible. I can feast on rage without my body dissolving in shakes. I can drown in lust…Does that not answer the question? I think vulnerability is when you let someone else dress your wounds, but I like the way I clean myself. I’m tender headed you know so there’s a way I like to move through the matting. There’s a way I like to drain myself. Sometimes when I want to be honest about the searing edges of any wound I gag instead. I sleep. I tell a crude joke about his dick. About our lack of sex and lots of humping and tongue and tongue. Then I get really funny and I cry laughing about death and about how he must think I’m crazy. It’s funny really. I swear. You’d have to be there…Well no, he doesn’t laugh. He usually just looks concerned but he does hold me tighter. I do text my girls though just to say hi, and I’m drowning, and I’ll see them on the other side.

All Objects

by Brittanie Sterner

Here are feet on the floor of a plane over Omaha:
Here are swatches of ground turning into ground
Here is voice mail from an unknown number
Here is every computer-generated test
Here is waiting with glass
Here is middle-night
Here are foreheads touching here are hands in space
Here is rope
Here is the braid that makes the rope
Here is a death one day
Here is another death
Here is another death
Here is perched investment
Here are plot equations from above
Here are characters for land and love
Here is unstoppable weather
Here is a bowl of ocean
Here is food digesting
Here is top of the bottom
Here is morning, again
Here is wake with a ship on the tongue
Here is a mouth of fog
Here are rotaries of birds
Here beads traffic in rosaries
Here graves imitate trees in rows
Here is orchard
Here is fruit clung and hatched
Here is a basket
Here are hands applied over Omaha, braiding highways
Here lawns cropped in rectangles
Here tillers in bunches transit
Here an accident that didn’t make news
Here clipped migration
Here is lamp on a timer
Here letters spell electricity
Here is the room after leaving
Here is the light going off.

Brittanie Sterner is the author of the chapbook We were calling you all
night from the roof
, and most recently performed her work as part of the
Philadelphia Jazz Project’s Whitman mix tapes. She directs the One Book,
One Philadelphia
project at the Free Library and has a BFA from Emerson
College and an MS from Westphal College at Drexel University.

This poem previously appeared in Philadelphia Stories.


Carissa Pignatelli

Carabella Sands

W.M. Butler

Kimberly Tan

Thais Benoit

Alicia Fyne

Paul Maziar

David Castillo

Frank Sung

Jack Essenberg

Patrick Hannon

Ashley Inguanta

House Phillips

Samantha Eubanks

Nikki Wallschlaeger

Kelly Schirmann

Dena Rash Guzman

Peter Koonz


R. Scott Fallon

Daniel Nestor

Eric Nelson

Madeleine Weiss

Heather Hein

Chuck Young

Steven Alvarez

Hannah Bowlus

Birdie Rose

Chad Redden

Alexandra Naughton

Lucy Tiven

Fabio Sassi

Upma Kapoor

Tracy Dimond

Jen Biener

Paul Hanson Clark

Helen Alston

Sanchari Sur

Dustin Luke Nelson

Rose McAleese

Monica Wendel

Robbie Kramer


Ross Robbins

Deborah Ramos

Elizabeth Smith

Candace Holmes

Kristin Glaser

Dave Moore

Becki Kozel

Alex Lenkeit

David Scott Pointer

Blank White

Monika Consunji

You Waste More Time Watching Maury Than My Brother Wastes Money on Oxycodone and Cigarettes

by Ryan Scott Fallon

you are every last payday loan scheme that airs on WGN
right around when the peak number of daytime viewers mostly consist of permanently disabled invalids:
but shit, even my brother
   has an intrinsic Devry University commercial resounding in his collapsed veins:
and it’s resounding:
   Stand Up, And Consume Something!

cut through to the broadcasts castigating every dreadlocked teenager living on the South Side or that house fire that engulfed a family in Naperville

and all you want is Maury Povich

strung out on Maury Povich’s perennial smirk and your own fleeting sense of security

no, they don’t fund clinics for your type


by Valentina Salski

You, who pays no mind to my womanhood. You, for whom it is for. Who am I, after all, to believe – even dream – that the sun is for my benefit, that the wine tastes this way only in my torn lips – who am I to wish to sleep in a ranunculus field – when all I do is steal light and liquors not meant for me to enjoy. Bury the key to my soul, it was never meant to be unveiled. Sailing away, dreams cut my breath and I wake up with cryptic numbers – freshly bathed in my blood – and, that familiar pressure in my chest, the thought of you as if this were a hundred years from now in a world that lost all memories of the fact that I existed.


by Caroline Kessler

A woman / loose-hipped in a floor-length
      dress sewn entirely from gold-
en poppies / sings an answer-less song / what good
      is a heart with no one
to love. Her guitar gets lost

in her hands. You’re too small
      to see properly / your lover
offers to hoist you up, hold you
      on his shoulders like your father did
when you were tiny and even when you weren’t /
      but you like being this close to the ground, anchored

in the sand-silt of the Sutro Caves. There is
      a projector aimed at the furrowed cave walls,
a whirligig of all the colors / the ceiling starts to mirror
      the people below, but you know that’s not right.

Your friend Simon says we will all turn into mushrooms in boxes,
      and be buried in boxes made of mushrooms / and then
we will all finally be the same.

Behind you, your lover bobs to the music / to a beat
      that doesn’t match up with the one you’re hearing.
You wonder which one of you is out of tune.

You wonder how to escape his hold on your hips.
      You want to throw yourself into the tiny crowd, bouncing
near the stage like confetti. You want to stay
      exactly where you are / how you are.
You want your chest to be filled with air and light, the easier
      for you to dance. You want to leave, now. You wonder
how to do that. You want someone
      to lay directly on top of you, pressing down. You wonder
how you can feel unbreakable.