El Mar y El Sol
Praise the time quarantine has lent me,
that during which I met my mother again.
Praise the diabetes that humbles us
into thanking God when nerves don’t ache —
In the name of the Mother,
and the Holy,
Praise the knees I still sit between,
the fingers pressing oil into my
box braid seams,
praise my mother.
I once did not know
how to hold baby necks,
or that it’s smoked neck bones
that season the greens,
I didn’t know
how to measure
my water in cans
once holding pinto-beans,
I did not know
you were also woman until
motherhood was living in me;
But I know now mama, I know.
Praise those crosses traced
out before my child,
and the hands
shaping soil n’
praise the wisdom
lashing at my heels;
Beyond the raised softwood are brown bark pews,
elevating knotted arms to praise the
daytime moon. Flawed hymns rise from the scarlet
chested choir, like rebirth on a Sunday
afternoon. I wonder if the church can
see when they fly that close to man’s essence,
how the congregations Mending Walls* end
and those lawns hemmed by our demarcation
begin. Parishioners are the wise ones
who know that muddy art of division.
April is arriving, but until then
I will sit with my dirt throat wide and dry,
begging life to cleanse us of the chaos.
Neighbor, the rain is near. Will you join me?
* Robert Frost 1914 “Mending Wall”
Cleveland native Andrea Rodriguez is an Afro-Latina writer based in Chicagoland. She recently graduated with her BA in English from Lewis University. Rodriguez’s work has been featured in Jet Fuel Review, Ghost Heart Literary Journal, The Rise Up Review and Windows Magazine where she won first place for her piece “A Black Boys Guide” (Spring 2020).
with time to spare
the world is
the world is
you can con-
it is be-
lieve my fish
of a mind
there is good
dive with me
emily as yellow amber
I’ve never needed
or treasure of Emily,
but I still like
to lower my head
slightly beneath her,
so that I can rise
just enough to be
consumed by want.
Darren C. Demaree is the author of fifteen poetry collections, most recently “Burning It Down”, (December 2020, 8th House Publishing). He is the recipient of a 2018 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, the Louise Bogan Award from Trio House Press, and the Nancy Dew Taylor Award from Emrys Journal. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Best of the Net Anthology and the Managing Editor of Ovenbird Poetry. He is currently living in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children.
fall lasts an average of six days, but winter tends to linger in ohio. in march we’ll get a thaw then be slickered again in sleet through april and part of may. buds burned by the april ice may be reborn in june and the bug eggs laid in the fall will still bloom to no mothers, no fathers, just sequenced hints in a blood bequest—a desperate inheritance.
in ohio, i’ve felt the weather change—three seasons in an afternoon. i’ve seen blue-sky rain, heard thundersnow, my skin’s glinted in the yellow haze of a tornado’s electric gloom moving through a town in thirty minutes, sunshine on either side of it, but the before/after, unholy.
the way hot hail seethes off summer blacktop, with buildings and bodies all around, looks just the same as that thaw when snow melts in a spring rain and fog clings over dark carbon.
Vic Nogay is a proud Ohioan, writing to explore her traumas and misremembrances. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Lost Balloon, Emerge Literary Journal, perhappened, Versification, Ellipsis Zine, and others. She tweets @vicnogay. Read more: linktr.ee/vicnogay.
The maple tree outside my window is growing
closer to me, my heart is taken into custody.
I find myself under a sky blanket with brick
buildings and rain clouds, eating air,
dialing home, the busy tone familiar to me.
They say if we want to learn how to love, we must
grow a plant, not step-mother a grown one.
Here we celebrate birthdays of the dead
while dying half a spoonful every day.
Our heads weigh 11 pounds and when we hold them
in our hands, our legs start giving up. Unbearable weight;
we’re late— this morning, that afternoon,
these days, these nights.
How much time does it take to go home—
to smoke by a window that mirrors the Bombay moon
or to run with hungry dogs wagging their tongues
and tails on Juhu Beach, or to river raft in Kolad,
to hum a Kishore Kumar song only we think we know.
How long does it take to flip-flop in puddles,
eat bhajiyas in baarish or read Gulzar
as the cooker whistles, the sun lying bare chested
on the kitchen platform, yellowing curtains in the hall.
Put your heart in a sock
it has fallen to your feet
scoop an avocado seed out
think about the sorrow growing your belly
look at your skin it is bee wax
after a bath you’re greasy with grief
chop coriander that has birthed flowers
believe flowers are past tense of fruits you’re so hungry
practice feet positions in front of the mirror
attempt a pirouette you fall clumsy
look at your cup of milk and then the windowed sky
know they’re both turmeric yellow is a diseased color
imagine your heart as an oasis
in your deserted body
Aekta Khubchandani is an Indian poet and writer. She is matriculating her dual MFA in Poetry & Nonfiction at The New School, New York. Her fiction “Love in Bengali Dialect”, the winner of Pigeon Pages Fiction Contest is nominated for Best American Short Fiction Anthology. Her poems were awarded the winner of honorable mention by Paul Violi Prize. Her work has been long-listed for Toto Awards by TFA twice in 2017 & 2018. Her work is featured in Passages North, Epiphany, Jaggery Lit, Kitaab Singapore among others. She has performed spoken word poetry in India, Bhutan and New York. You can find her here on Instagram, Twitter, Email, and Facebook. She lives with her plants by the waterfront.
in early spring
The river has overrun its banks, as happens
most Aprils. Undoing the laces of her shoe,
he slides his palm slowly from her ankle
up her calf to behind her knee, her skin
warm against his hand. He thinks of a family
of white-tailed deer crossing the wetlands near
the mouth of the river. Now his hand along
her inner thigh. Their heads lowered, they stand
in a few inches of icy water
and nibble at the young green shoots. Only
occasionally do they raise their gaze
toward the trees to scan for threatening
forms. Then, detecting none, she touches him.
Everything they need is there before them.
Ralph Culver’s new poetry collection A Passable Man will be published in 2021 by MadHat Press. His work has appeared in many publications, including most recently in Plume, On the Seawall, The New Verse News, and The West Review. He lives in South Burlington, Vermont.
you come back to me
in a dream, alive, but not healed.
You want to take me with you,
but won’t say where. Willing
to go, we complete a ritual
to snatch us back, coupled,
but at the last second
you disappear. I blast over
the cliff, calling you to me.
We embrace as I plummet.
Boulders, tree limbs pierce me.
I come to rest, bloodied,
grief now visible.
Karen George is author of five chapbooks, and two poetry collections from Dos Madres Press: Swim Your Way Back (2014) and A Map and One Year (2018). Her work appears in Adirondack Review, Louisville Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Still: The Journal, SWWIM, and Naugatuck River Review. She reviews poetry at: http://readwritepoetry.blogspot.com/. Visit her website at: https://karenlgeorge.blogspot.com/.
After an artwork by Pancho C. Villanueva
Let’s say I’m the child in the cover
Design of a dusty poetry book that sits
Somewhere on your shelf, examining
The road after the rain through
A pair of paperback eyes, wet wind
Stroking my hair, as if to say, “You
Long for your mother’s lips
And hands.” Watch as my shadow swims
In a puddle, an invitation to press your palm
Against the phantoms of my past.
I touch the only rock that can be seen
In this scene, the former tenant in my father’s
Left chest. I taste its careful cuts calling
For caress. Elsewhere, my father, still
Asleep, places his paint-stained hands
On his breast, dreaming about his daughter
Daphne discovering his heart.
Jessie Raymundo teaches composition and literature at PAREF Southridge School. He is currently a graduate student at De La Salle University-Manila. His poetry has appeared in a few publications in print and online. He lives in a small city in the Philippines with his two cats.
The Big Sad
homage to Terrance Hayes
Young homebound understands that her only companion
is the Big Sad. A friend she’s known and not known for years.
He enjoys his midnight feast of homesickness for the self
that doesn’t exist. He appreciates walks in the light rain
with the dying dog. He permeates like tropical air fresheners
and garlic. Nothing less. He craves her monolingual
disgust and childhood nostalgia. A whiff of supermarket
air. A roll down the freshly-mowed hill at the park.
He knows her long-gone father and baptizes her limp body
with his hazel eyes. He’s Korean, American, everything
in between. He reads for fun, but only One Hundred Years
of Solitude. He sits with her as she cries. He forces her mouth
shut when she laughs. Shoutouts to vivisected stuffed koalas,
avoidance anxiety, red rose regret. The Big Sad eats them all.
Ashley Kim is a Korean-American writer located in California. She is a student at the University of California, Los Angeles, majoring in Cognitive Science and minoring in Asian American Studies. Her poetry and short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Hyphen Magazine, Autofocus, The Mandarin, Westwind Literary Magazine, and Short Vine Journal, among others. Find her on Twitter @ashlogophile. Soli deo gloria!