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The Morning Hour

by Sofia Valencia

A faraway siren reminds me of a dream
in which the bathtub filled with orange fish,
their viscous heads lurching from the open drain. 
Meanwhile, something outside caught on fire
and then the fish were in the cashew trees,
writhing in their quiet frenzy. 
How awful, I thought, to be in two places
at once and be dying in both.
No, I have never been the same since. 
Bright is the early morning. The air bears
no violent gesture and everything is 
calling my name. A ripe leaf settles on
the empty road—inconsequential 
as a hair—yet it stills me like a fired gun.

Somniluquyphobia

by Mónica Garcia

At sixteen, I was told I couldn’t hold in my voice in my sleep,
and every night when I shifted my body, words followed restless sleep.

My mother told me how her mother hid house keys, afraid of her daughter 
rising corpse-like and slipping into the night instead of just speaking, all while asleep.

One night, I recorded my throat gasping out con todo lo puedo sentir
aqui and imagined my hand thumping against my chest, drunk with sleep.

I tried to cover my lips, muffling my mouth with cotton sheets,
but as I kept getting tangled in the fibers, syllables slipped through sleep.

When I tried to fit an explanation neatly into the box of myself, I found Somniloquy, 
a jumbled latin word, when broken apart, murmuring loqui (speak) and somnus (sleep).

So what are we doing my disembodied voice asked me one night.
I couldn’t answer, instead turning towards and away from my pillow, sleepless.

Less and less could I close the shutters of my eyes, afraid what my tongue
would let loose when I couldn’t be awake to stop it. This sleep-

talking I’ve somehow inherited from my mother like an accent,
like her real voice asking Mónica, is it over? But it’s in my sleep.

Lucid Dreams of Being Clean

by Tyler Morse

may-be 
tonite’ll be the nite I rinse 
the dick that’s remained holed
up in a ziploc at the foot 
of another week may-be sada
abe Pisces moon someone at work says
feedback sandwich and I almost
throw up a leaf or My hands my 
god today god-heavy today a blown
speaker in the hours’ murky silence
casting fantasy feedback to a wishful 
bottom-feeder ie me, a perked-ear
asseater praying in the supplies closet
please, a way out of to-
day or may-be begging 
a morrow that’ll be that leach 
that sucked n left 
Like damn I thought there was at least
one thing in the world that stayed, reliable
in its taking 
but learned a leaving lesson when it blooded
inner upper thigh & dipped back 
into the lakelife of its leach-beneath unseen
Left a burn mark and a lil leak
Woke up tapt like a sap tree
She says ‘may-be 
your heart has to go unsupervised for a little while’
as together heart & I peel the sticky
pelt of denial from our daily — wavin bye 
to what binds us on those timefree
blood-drunk manic eves— 
as it wades on its own deeper
into grief sea
Woke
on a eve of a new coors lite
to ’ttach leaches all over this filmy teal-
green cock and suck two-weeks-ago’s 
party out its sleepy ridges
place those filled-to-the-scolex slug bods 
over my middle slit
Over my two day-oiled lids
Over my easy demeanor
Over a pisces moon
And put it all back
in like may-be like mem-ry like
the lake could be-my may-
be body
into which this wriggling sliver 
of need carved 
into routine takes from me to return
to me to recede

Boat With No Oar

by Nkateko Masinga

I circled your bed at midnight
chanting love me,
then made your silence my poison
& died

died
& still didn’t have you 
in the brief, bitter afterlife 
that ensued

imagine this wasn’t a dream

would you wake up
and wade to sea 
with my soul?

would you remember me?

broken boat
witch with no coven 
& no spell book

voyeur at your bedside 
glaring?

cast a shadow over your name
and let me live there

consummate our love posthumously

throw a net over my apparition – 
I’d do anything not to fall, unheld

swim back to the shore 
alone, boat with no oar

save a jilted ghost 
with waves for a dress,

dead but 
still desperate 
for your affection

the waves change course

you wake up with my name 
seated at its throne, 
your tongue
which is to say
you are home now
i will no longer beg for what is mine

To the Staring Boy on 43rd and Walnut

by Katbug

your face
is a silent confessional

hair an evolving demarcation of time,
so easily broken by the unkind curve of your brow

Who sowed your eyes with that disapproval?
Is it the same one who put that curve in your nose?

Or is that the nose

of the warmer months not wasted?
a four wheeled slip 
a skidmark of blood you could afford to lose.

the hint of freckles on your cheek, Do they darken in the sun?
the single pimple that clings to your bare chin, painful signal of youth
so heavy in your veins

Have you ever seen your father cry?
Do you volunteer to be designated driver,
preferring the responsibility of love? 
Will you fall asleep tonight beneath an undecorated wall
still unwilling to recognize the uncomfortable darkness
that has been making a broken home of your skull? 
Does your sister know just how much you miss her?

the last person to kiss your dry and downward sloping lips,
Did you beg them to swallow your heart
only to realize you couldn’t get it back?

when you look at me with mahogany altar eyes
What do you see?

Slowdance

by Shanel Edwards

Every femme i’ve ever danced with 
laces in between the gaps of my teeth. 
glazing hands with nervous loving 
down my sculpted back. 
pressing a memory stain into it
lavender and full, 
moving together 
while Etta sings At Last 
each note, the breaths we 
take between our pelvis.

This is a heaven without cis men.

Femme sternum a stone house 
drowning out the gunshots with heartbeats pulsing louder together. 
femme cups my shoulder blades with both palms. 
plants head full of spirals on my shoulder
we sway, become river waking from needed rest 
queue Ella Fitzgerald’s Cheek to Cheek 
que Meshell Ndgeocello’s Beautiful
this dance
make gravity waltz around my lips. 
Imagination stretched and held up, glimmering. 
this joy real. 
this joy undo the trauma unraveling us. 
this joy births a world without unready caskets
this joy is a cataclysm gutted raw, 
an open door, finally. 
this joy lives without asking 
que Floetry, Thundercaat on bass guitar.
que freedom in real time. 
que rebellion, with a frame, 
drenched in queer sweat. 
que diana ross’s Im coming out 
cunty vogue hands and duck walks. 
a dance floor be romance, resistance and refuge
because here i know that I love 
and that i am loved 
and that i am black, queer, femme and alive
and everyone around me the baddest bitch

and this is a heaven without cis men.

and church is where 2 or more to gather
to praise
so i make an alter at the feet 
of every femme i’ve ever melted into 
for our resilience an 
asterism of queerness 
irreverent heartbeats, 
meteor showers, 
offering.

Icarus

by Taylor Alyson Lewis

dear icarus: this likeness scares me. where do you begin inside of me? what part of me carries your weary eyes and dripping wax wings? where do i place your desire? in between the shoulderblades? or inside the indent of the clavicle? you and i. desperate to prove our strength. we are climbing the blue-blind sky. suddenly the sun moves. and i think, what if we are consumed by the supernova of your hubris? our lives lay out in both directions. in times of uncertainty i remember your laughter. raising two black girls became something like a magic trick, for you. the rabbit was always in your hat, except her fur was black as coal. we never wondered how or why you kept your tricks up. i remember when you came home. it was christmas eve; you shattered a champagne glass on the seat of the piano. the night snapped black and white. red wine fell from your lips in heavy drops. we were all grown women, then, circling you with eyes that sliced the windows out of wood. fly away, we said. when will your caked-white wings melt into the ocean? we asked. you are nestled in your endless searching. you are somehow carried through the wind. i hope that the sun is there, waiting for you, ready and willing to peel the wax from the small of your back. and what will you see once you finally get to the top of the world?

My Mother Is a Metaphor for Leaving

by Trust Tonji

a boy is playing his guitar
his mum is singing to its rhythms
pretending she isn’t dying soon

the cloud is eating up the sun
swallowing the day off our lives
& we call it sunset

believe me 
love is perishable
I know this because my mother
is dead

so here is a body with no flesh
a mouth with no songs
another forest with no trees

grandma said
sometimes the smokes keep flying
long after the fire’s dead

my baby says she wants to love me
like mother did 
I say no

don’t bother to mother me
I do not want to watch another 
mother vanish, becoming tear gas
in the eyes of grief

I do not want to knock and remember
no one is there, anymore
I do not want to make a museum
out of your name

this pain is fat enough to not
need any more calories

if, only, you’d be my tears
if you’d be my tears
I’ll be too afraid to let you 
flow out freely like this
like this . . .

Convalescence

by Gavin Yuan Gao

All day, I’ve been trying to discern the nature 
of my relationship with silence

Whether it’s romance, rescue 
or abduction

Lovers, a plausible plot

Savior & saved, sure

But who’d want me as their hostage?

Certainly not death, who 
appeared before me years ago that night
as the bouncer at Gigi’s: cross-armed, big 
& glossy with sweat 
in his black leather, guarding the hell’s 
gate to the kind of thrill 
that I, at nineteen, was dying
to be part of

Death darted just one glance at my bird-boned body
& laughed as if his voice was made of leather

the way my beautiful ex laughed 
the evening he grew his wings back 
& flew off into the snowy dusk

Now the snow is touching 
all the trees in Michigan again
just like that evening

Across the suburbs of America, lights come on
like eyes opening for the first time

Think of his laughter—the silver of its wind chime

Then think of the glistening hole between my lungs, 
which I’ve learned—over the years—to trick myself 
into believing is hunger, opening the pantry when I know 
there’s nothing inside
but the exhaustion of meal moths

Outside, the sun is setting like an impossible wound

I fly into it with my eyes open
knowing there’s nothing this radiant
that won’t heal

Planet

by Erika Walsh

There was the year I kept forgetting how old I was
And what to do with my mouth

I climb into the fridge a blue hole
The girl I kiss holds my hair in her fingers

She walks behind me I don’t watch her face
She holds my ribs in her sharp hands like music

His fist held my wrist like creation
I wanted to puke but did not

Some girls get so sweet when they’re drunk
I yell into the phone like my father

I looked like him when i was first born
Black hair slick with the gel of placenta

I used to think there was lots of grey area
I used to make a list of pros and cons

The bruises on my body look mean 
I take a picture of my tits in the mirror

I told this one ex about what had happened
He talked about girls who used to reject him

He said it’s like we have opposite problems
It’s not like that I still let him cry

This is about to be the hottest picture ever
Can sex please be a really good joke

We can laugh at our sorrow like candy
We can roll it tight into a bill we can breathe