Issues /  / Poetry

Here, the surf suggests itself to me. A yacht pouts in the distance,

the world says blue with its whole mouth, never afraid of its

own unsecreting. It is comforting to do the expected in unusual

circumstances. It is why I reach for your body when I go to bed,

why I search for pods of the flame tree on the side streets by the

church. When they dry out the seeds murmur inside like a maraca,

hisses smooth themselves through the slit of its mouth. When I

feel like my heart could do what it wants to do, even that is a new

sensation. The French don’t say I miss you, they say You are a lack

for me, where the I is not the subject. The pods are missing of me,

the ocean is a covering for the flesh when I am in it. A shibboleth is

both an ear of grain and a stream. In my dream you wrote to me in

the dust among the bric-à-brac. I waited so long to look that when I

did it was wiped clean. What did you say? Around here I like to say,

Time mushrooms! – a line I misheard from a movie that turns out to be

true – hemorrhaged pillow tumbling upon a faraway land. When I say

long dead childhood pet it sounds like long dead child, which sounds like the

silent parachutes of the silk floss resolving. I say, Tu peux me tutoyer

you can call me in the familiar, but I write, Tu peux me téter by mistake,

which means You can suck me. To be true does not mean to be right.

I don’t know if to have a lack is to own it or live in it, but the word

sounds like a wound, a thing you surrender to. Stilt roots scribble up

the air, little hands signing like they are saying blow over but I think

they say blow up. When I ask you, you say it said forever. Since we don’t

know, let’s call it anything, let’s call a plank a passage. When we furl

our tiny sails into their casing, why not call that conquering? I don’t

like the ending, I say, but I mean I don’t like that it ends. I won’t

explain, I can’t -- time is already a cascade of smoke and vapor.

How can I anyway (this drumming in me) without the I, or you.

Michelle Lewis


Michelle is the recipient of the 2018 Marystina Santiestevan First Book Prize chosen by Bob Hicok. She is the author of Animul/Flame (Conduit Books & Ephemera), and two chapbooks, Who Will Be Frenchy? (dancing girl press) and The Desire Line (Moon Pie Press). Her poetry has appeared in Bennington Review, Indiana Review, Denver Quarterly, and Copper Nickel, among others. Her essays and reviews can be found in journals such as Gettysburg Review, Rain Taxi, Electric Lit, and Anomaly. She lives in Maine.

paper texture

a body black as raven whispers
her story to the tree
greening amidst the rubble of burned forest

the tree whispers back
in the voices of the recently deceased

i have heard
my twinned night

my oil-feathered beast
there is a war happening

a negligible amount of toxins
is allowed in our food on our bodies

a negligible amount of death
is allowed in the black population


from the Latin neglectus, past participle of neglegere
to make light of, disregard, be indifferent to, not heed, not trouble oneself

about literally

not to pick up

these bodies are not to be picked up
attended to
where it hurts
allowed to hurt

inside a bird box a rough hand
covers the mouth of its lover

inside the child hides
between the teeth of her mother’s fantasies
to escape the toxins of war

and the mother opens her mouth
and parts her lips
and sound spills like blood from between her legs

i want to turn power over in my hands to feel
its rough edges

this substance grafted from fear layers and layers
worked and reworked

till it appears smooth and shiny
till it appears like something worth dying for.

Jamaica Baldwin


Jamaica (she/her) is a poet and educator originally from Santa Cruz, CA. Her first book, Bone Language, will be published by YesYes Books in 2023. Her work has appeared in Guernica, World Literature Today, The Adroit Journal, and The Missouri Review, among others. Her accolades include a 2022 Pushcart Prize, 2021 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and the 2021 RHINO Poetry editor's prize. Her writing has been supported by Hedgebrook, Furious Flower, and the Jack Straw Writers program. Jamaica is currently the associate editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska -Lincoln where she is pursuing her PhD in English with a focus on poetry and Women's and Gender Studies.

paper texture

Shooting the Moon

here, the prophetic past tense indicates the future

tonight your face glow-
ered over the memory lake
of you turning into heaven
again the place I saw
you split in half and sewn

back together faultlessly
scientists have shown how
the many ages and weather read
through substrata give no hint
of this happening in human

history or before it but when
asked the sundry great-grand
mothers told truth is like faith
is like fog is like water
is like a wild dog in that it comes

and goes all this revealed
in their four dialects and barely
understood under the static
of angels after the dream
you’re left in the empty room

with the moon again the moon
which never gave a damn
about you which doesn’t know
what the fuck is going on either
if you pray to it can’t answer

or doesn’t want to turns out
isn’t your real mom after all
doesn’t recognize you though
you’ve met tons of times
like are you kidding doesn’t even

remember the night you wound
up at the edge of the ocean
of storms begging to be let in
like anybody there knew you
like it was yours to begin with

The Word for World is Forest

-Ursula K. LeGuin

another forest. poplar & always
the memory of maple filling in
what’s indistinguishable, just beyond

sight. what is there to say? I have left
too many nights gray & pacing, swept
under the cover of trees, their imaginary

comfort. each leaf shape & its example –
a place I can return to. home, or whatever
you call the not-quite-unconscious

state that’s the first and last thing you know. be-
cause I can’t become the forest, I’ve learned
to wait. taking any given name for green

when I meet it. body-entire being my final
answer. a line of white ash & red maple.

In the Open

Weather is wet, it
doesn’t have joints. How snow just
becomes rain, what’s that
called? Trees witness everything,
but they always look away.

The Black Jewel

The black jewel is near.
Is it death or a small seed
growing inside us?
How quickly something becomes
a memory, the
thing itself is so brief that
life is mostly memory.

Under the Day

Every day I laugh,
do you hear my mouth lifting?
I fold and unfold
my heart a hundred times each
day so that it doesn’t freeze.

In what turned out to be her last months
my sister dreams of butterflies
lapis and lapidary blue morphos
bright citrine monarchs
our collected dead: mother, grandmother,
aunt hover over her.
She tells me of a dream of butterflies
She is forty-five years old
when the stroke hits due to other complications.
When I see her in the hospital
the first time she says “I’m sca
red,” the word itself broken
a fractured wing / two syllables too long
a crease in the veins of a monarch
milkweed / wanderer /a black veined brown
common tiger—

If my sister is a butterfly
I am a moth, nocturnal, concealed,
alto to her soprano

Luna to her bright Monarch.
Yet neither lives long.
They float briefly as their winged selves.

Most live in the struggle
to become
caterpillar chrysalis.

In blues and greens
the Luna lives at most one week.
When it leaves its chrysalis

it transforms mouthless
with wings
no need to eat

it mates and settles
onto one spot to die.

In the hospital a lifetime
feels shortened and heightened.
Layers upon layers.
I sit in the chair beside her bed
and sleep there all night.
At times I rest my head
in the sliver of space next to her legs,
her arms bound in endless cords and monitors.
At two in the morning I wake and see her face
looks paler than before. I ask the night nurse if her
vitals look right and the nurse tells me she’s fine.
By morning we learn she needs more blood
her platelets dangerously low.
How did I know without knowing?

As I lay next to her, I imagine us as children in our parent’s bed
told to nap. For once, she is asleep before me
and I lean in close to her pigtailed hair and whisper
Colie, Nicole are you asleep? Colie, wake up. Don’t leave me.

The Luna stayed
two days
on the same window.

Wings tattered
then one morning—

When they die
their whole bodies
remain until
they disintegrate.

They appear still
until wind creates
a deceptive movement.

The dust on their wings
still active
the tiny scales

create a shine on any hands that touch them.

Alison Cimino


Alison Cimino teaches composition and creative writing at City University of New York, Queensborough Community College in Queens, NY. For many years, she facilitated poetry workshops for educators through Lesley University’s Education Program, Division of Creative Arts in Learning. Prior to the pandemic, she volunteered for The College Justice Program, teaching poetry at Edgecombe Correctional Facility. Her poems have appeared in Thirty Days: The Best of the 30/30 Project (Tupelo Press), Wing Beats (Dos Gatos Press), Ibbetson Street, Entropy, and other journals. She received a PSC-CUNY grant in 2017 and 2019 to write “Luna” and other poems.

paper texture

Their Job

to dig

a hole

the ground is to
tell you

to fill

it is
to take

the stones

the hole is
to bathe them

until they resemble

of bread
or several small


is to

open by

to show
you the

meat is

to put

in your

is to
put your

hand in
the ground

is to

each stone from
your hand then

you you

fill it

The Vultures

here along
this highway

have a habit
I have

of late

of leaving
bits of what


sitting atop
the streetlights



of stuff
up above us

now I

cannot un-

which now
I am

looking for

it is

my curiosity
and gruesome
in ways

I find

with your

you who

always took
a thing


as you
would have

said not
too fur

too far

the endless

to which


you are
wishing here

in my head
in the car

you could
by hand

climb up
there and with
them sort

what good
is left in

the rot
they’ve placed

on high
and here


only gets
more dis-


all the air

in the car
I am alone

even with

an opened


oh wind

on my face

a trembling

that cannot

lift as it
my face

and from
it pick

clean all
the meager

ways through

which for
this day

at least

to proceed

Charlie Clark


Charlie Clark studied poetry at the University of Maryland. His work has appeared in The New England Review, Pleiades, Ploughshares, Smartish Pace, Threepenny Review, West Branch, and other journals. A 2019 NEA fellow and recipient of scholarships to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, he is the author of The Newest Employee of the Museum of Ruin (Four Way Books, 2020). He lives in Austin, TX.

paper texture


Not unlike those showy flowers
who sluff their everything
when I learned there was a word
for all-encompassing desire that wasn’t

the big G-O-D I too became obliterative
as offering. One equals one
mathematically. Thisis the ecstasy.
Conditioned by centuries of light

& zephyrs, the Divi Divi tree’s
branches fringe sideways
like hair frozen in wind. I knew
enough to advert my gaze

at the penultimate moment
as to not get caught eyeing others
comparing my body to theirs
gleaming their sweet geometries.

Meanwhile. Receptors attuning
to spikes in frequencies
anchored in their dirt-beds
certain vegetations crane

towards slinking warmth.
Others shy. Shade hungry. Cool
fecund. It seems unlikely
to have a breakthrough

without something getting
broken but what doesn’t obey
nature won’t not forever.
If you’re sitting in a lit room & hover

your palm close to the wall
as if to push through then withdraw
then reach close again
& again relinquish touch

your hand’s silhouette will vacillate
between sharp & diffused; honed
& softened; the aura diffracting
light bathing your fingers.

All waves behave
in this manner; this is basic
physics & not poetry.
The heart’s thin & superficial

dark liquid flows through it:
this much’s known about
the Impulse System. Once teasingly
my father composed the lines:

The sky is up
The grass is green
Lots of air
In between

but I find myself too often|
contemplating that in between.
I meansome days I don’t know
what % of my heart is dark

& what percentage’s superficial.
Which rain droplet worm-holes
rock into cave. Whose gelatinous
voice fills my mouth when mine’s

pressed to seed-breath, petal-flare,
bones of air. Not literally of air
but as a kite or buzzard or shearwater
skeletal so thin & hollow what’s

the difference? 1equals 1 but 1 also =
0.999999999… maddeningly into ∞.
Meaning. It is also what it nears
what almost it is. Dearest darling beloved.

Instead of obtuse gloss the sunset
from Mars is: horizon blistering
midnight sun diving bell;
longshoreman divination of

icosahedron, pyramid, hive; divulgence
of light—accommodating at last
barbaric at first—blue. Fucking blue! 
Imagine the clouds’ swirled color then.

How bright the edge would
seem. Love—. The heady scent
of a mown lawn? Rush of
oxygenated hydrocarbons.

Green leaf volatiles in essence
olfactory screaming. O self.
It’s always the eve of another day
until it isn’t

Reading the Mind of Gad

To be translucent

as a wave breaking
in a storm riddled sea.
A softened sound,
as of unpeeling gloves
with your teeth.
It was the first
of spring & no clock
could be trusted.
I was quietly planning
how to save the
whales & the rain
forests & the polar
bears riding ice caps
& all the children
but even I, Gäd Al-
mighty, can’t keep
up with the laundry
& these two hairs
growing sideways
from my chin elude
my fingers of light.
I never meant
for the universe to
keep expanding.
I, too, am searching
for something
that doesn’t exist.
Somewhere in hell
there’s a shovel
someone abandoned.

There wasn’t much magic
on the block. No flower
beds or topiaries.

Not even a playground
where a child grown fat
on beans & rice might gain
an ounce of muscle.

All that seemed like magic
were the touch me nots
which grew wild & unchecked

& I—a greedy child, hungry
for any kind of power—
I liked to touch their leaves
for no other reason but to see them
close, fist-like & tight.

I thought their recoil meant
I possessed a power to rival life.

If I’d stayed around long enough
how disappointed I would’ve been
when, moment later,
the tight fists
of the touch me nots—
also known as shameplants—
opened up,
green & unabashed.

Steven Cordova


Steven Cordova’s full-length collection of poetry, Long Distance, was published by Bilingual Review Press in 2010. His poems are forthcoming in Pleiades, New Orleans Review, and have appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Callaloo, The Journal, Notre Dame Review, and the Los Angeles Review. From San Antonio, TX, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.

paper texture

Is It Important

I often dream of falling from
a great height. Quick research:
this is about a loss of control

and so maybe I should be waking
just before impact. Breath
seized in the chest. The certainty

of gravity right here
is oppressive. I can hear
just now sullen thunder

like the weight of furniture dropped
down flights of stairs.
Misbegotten damage

and everywhere is disease.
Late, in the dark: I’m watching a video
of wound debridement

and I remember that I was taught
to fear so much:
across the hospital hallway

was a young man
who had shot himself in the chest
in the heart, his broken heart,

in his gothic telling,
and he had been disabled so long
I barely believed he was real,

that he'd existed
and neglect had rotted his white flanks.
Six weeks he had to lay

on his belly while
the skin graft took or didn't.
I don't know.

I was a boy. I believed that life
if it could be described
as a path

might bend back to the one I had been on.
That I'd wake up
and pain would be again a vicious abstraction.

Is it important
for you to know
my name or what was lunch

or the shade of the rain?
O hateful dreams:
what do you mean? I don't know how this goes.


I would beside the green lake
read books of poems,
listen to the campus radio—
I think all I knew then
was sadness. Heartbreak
as understood by a benighted kid.

I think of wars: which are
monochromatic stills of jellied flame
and spastic footage
and I like to think
I know what loss means. What ruin is.

I like to think of rain
and how it speaks
a sudden language
to the ground. I hear pop songs
drift through the woods.
Vague warnings. Premonitions
of future humiliation.

That fear is so real. I want to speak
of what is final.
A man recounts the weight of biomass
that’s been lost since I was born
and I don’t understand
anything. There are birds
that fly while asleep.

While we dream
of other, better worlds
that are not
burning down.

I confess: I loved to lend flame
to rotten cloth,
am thrilled
as fire climbs it like a glowing vine.

Oh, there is so much
I regret. Would change.
Revise this story: end it with a wedding,
I think. A bunch of us
gathered in shade
and quiet and and still and somehow glad.

Autumn and Arms and Paralysis

Of my arms, what do you know and
what do you guess about them
and your own and how much they
thrum with pain? Let me tell you
of that summer when I was
still a specimen, a killer, an arsonist,
a tow-headed kid named Luke,
a Californian by birth, asleep in a van
at the edge of the ocean
which was green, then,
alive when now it's mostly dying off.

This means, these words
mean that I am scared
of dark suburbia and the day
when the noise lifting like mist
from the football game
goes away, everything turns into silence,
and the groomed trees
erupt in flames. Last year
an eclipse turned noon into dusk
and during it all,
when the air cooled
and the birds stopped singing
because nothing made sense for a minute,
I watched the president
do exactly what one must not do:

stare directly into it
and nothing happened to him
except in my imagination. In this mind.

There was blood, of course,
and screaming and people in cheap suits
flashing into statuaries of salt.
Ritualistic violence. Pandemic catharsis.
Blue waves. Always:

the water and the sun and fish
singing to one another
that here is food
and here it’s safe
to mate, to sleep, to be still a while.
Here, not there, kids
are singing fight songs
and drinking until they vomit on the street.

Once, in Alabama, I found
in a parking lot
a pair of black underwear—
I know I’ve written of them before.
Abandoned in the heat.
No story to lend them the weight of metaphor.

I am telling you: one night
I'll go to sleep and not dream
again of ghosts and summer and the sky.
My teeth falling out
in a bus station in a city
which is all snow
and everyone is departing on time for heartbreak.
Wake up, I say. I say.


In a sea foam smock she stands in front of the deli
deciding on kielbasa now a horseshoe in her hand.
No mask no latex gloves for protection.
Yet I’m wearing a mask as I push a disinfected cart
through the store artificially gleaming spinach
twist-tied haddock fillets folded in paper.
Perhaps it is that nurse’s day off?
No patients contorting in beds attached
to machines for breath.
She is free now like the sea.
Like the horses she’s read about in Galilee nails in hooves.
Like the Syrah she’ll down with seared meat buttered noodles.
Like the calls of seagulls emptying air.
Like the newly emptied so many emptied so
many emptying.

The Verge

This is the water where we give up.
That place which is an un-place a never
within an always.
I can see the railroad track.
Know it leads to something
fixed: nasturtiums steel painted plaster.
A known life
but I chose an ending.
Myself within myself
a blue a blues I will never sing.

I’m fifty-six and just starting
to see them. Before
when I put one in a poem
it was only for a bit of local color –
a palm tree here, a mangrove there –
the trees of my childhood
mostly. Or maybe I needed
a metaphor – roots and all that.

There’s one I like in Volunteer Park,
a slippery elm. I looked up
what it was on my app.
It doesn’t belong here, of course,
what does? Olmsted probably
told someone to plant it here
a long time ago. At some point
we must leave our origin story behind.

I cannot tell you my need
to see it every day. Some days
I notice the great branches, others
the tender leaves. You will say
I’m still just seeing myself,
that the tree’s existence proves to me
my own. No doubt
you are right, but still.

Bill Hollands


Bill Hollands is a teacher and poet in Seattle, where he lives with his husband and their son. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Rattle, DIAGRAM, The American Journal of Poetry, Hawai`i Pacific Review, The Account, Wildness, One, and elsewhere. He was recently named a finalist for North American Review’s James Hearst Poetry Prize.

paper texture

Lumber every morning from breakfast to bewilderment
Follow every trail of Honey Nut Cheerios across the kitchen floor
Seek a strategy that will bond numbers and add up to ten
Sing a song of ninjas
Meanwhile all the essential people are pushing their bones
out the door, straining under tend and cure
Meanwhile trick your child into believing you could teach him anything
Might as well tell him you’re the prince of all foxes
the queen of sag and slack, of refusal, lingering ice
When that little boy says “My favorite is usually red, but now it’s lightning,”
align uneven teeth as best you can, offer a variety of snacks from jangled palms
Consider etymology, chide yourself for not becoming a linguist
Instead you became a desert and carry small men
Count on your fingers forever, press one print to another
Skin gives like nothing else

Kristen Holt-Browning


Kristen Holt-Browning is a freelance copy editor and proofreader. Her poetry chapbook, The Only Animal Awake in the House, is available from Moonstone Press. She lives in Beacon, New York.

paper texture

Everything is always blue down there,
I imagine, somehow blue and hot.
I guess you have wild cats and bears, same as us,
and lakes—Jesus clouds, flash-floods, fires.

Some lady I’ll never know pulled me
out of you down there in the hot blue air
and now I think I must be southern, somehow.

Would it count if I hitched
a tractor trailer from Rochester
to the Ozarks because I was mad at Daddy?

Would you believe me if I did like you,
married a construction worker
down at the American Legion
under an arch of blue plastic flowers,
celebrated with tubs of High Life,
Mandi’s leftover birthday cake?

What would we say, you and I,
if we understood each other,
how we got this way?

Whitney Hudak


Whitney Hudak is a CNM and poet living in Newport, RI. Her work has appeared in Burningword Literary Journal and Cactus Heart who very kindly nominated her for a Pushcart Prize. She has work forthcoming in Pine Hills Review and Streetlight Magazine. She holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars, a DNP from Columbia University, and is thrilled to be here in Hunger Mountain Review.

paper texture

Last night I lost a poem stepping off the curb.
These days
The striking-and-grotesque is too commonplace to strum the brain for longer than a note.

All I know is that I thought there was something nice
About walking up the subway stairs to find the evening coming, still.

I read a Spanish Flu/Covid article (there are many)
In which a man of the 20th century was quoted complaining of the masks resembling raviolis.

Out of all, what a thing to pick a bone with.

But there we were with our ravioli mouths,
Smiling with our eyes like victims held hostage at a dinner party.
Save me, we say to each other,
I am not safe here.
I am not safe at home.
I am not safe
Still a poem waved, catching my attention with a tired muse of thought
Like, Isn’t this nice?

I can’t drag the poem back.
I do remember someone carrying in a sheet cake like a pallbearer.
But haven’t we all?

Sammi LaBue


A Brooklyn based writer and educator, Sammi LaBue is the author of the creative writer's guided journal, Words in Progress (DK 2020) and basically obsessed with the feeling of having an idea and writing it down. Some of her work can be found in Literary Hub, Glamour, So to Speak Journal, Hobart, and [PANK] Magazine, among others. She received her MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and when not working on her own projects she's writing with others through her small business, Fledgling Writing Workshops, which was named one of the best workshops in NYC by TimeOut NY.

paper texture

Pleasure is as Pleasure Does

The tree lists against the siding. The dirt
air. Tired of being alone. I lose at poker
on purpose. My father says grief is a plane
crash reconstructed, sincerity a broken

parabola that drifts off into nothingness,
faith a wedding ring flung from a bridge
into the Fox River. For every proverb there is
another to contradict it—a teacher told me

that proverbs are ads that have nothing to sell,
and the world is not as round as a billiard
ball. The two sides of your face are neither
alike nor symmetrical. As a child, I was

quiet. Convert me, I said to no one in particular.
Convert me in all directions: Scatter me, please me.

On First Love, Redux

The error in the mirror. Let’s stay there,
she said, stay and sail around the room, walk
on our hands in the sometimes mist, the light
cracked, untraceable like waves at the bottom

of a too-high cliff. There, she said, where
the window winnows—I can see through it
and you, and the distance between the two
is stutter, is love, is sinew you can measure—

at dawn to a blue we’ve never seen before.
Robin’s egg. Skink tongue. Before the sea was
blue it was wine-dark. Before you was why,
was they’re all asleep. The palm of my hand

is a house. We can live there, the sky above and below
us, because floating isn’t the same as falling.

Girls wanted for fine brushwork. The work is clean and healthful, surroundings pleasant.
––The Radium Dial Company, September 1922

A girl and a girl and a girl and a girl
a girl and her jar of radium paint
a girl and a girl and a girl
twisting her pearls
a girl and the watch dials her habit of glowing
a girl and her gamma rays
a girl twirling the brush between her teeth for the sharpest point
writing perfect elfin numbers on military dials
a girl and her honeycomb jaw
a girl and her saints and her younger sister giddy to work together in
a clean and healthful place
St. Apollonia St. Antipas Pio Romedio Lidwina
etiquette of clutch-your-rosary-and-work-like-a-turbine
a girl and her dentist who tugs one tooth but extracts the entire jawbone
a girl and her atomic weight
Irene and Helen Edna and Hazel
Ella and Mollie a girl
and her jolly friends painting buttons and buckles painting brows
lashes nails smiling with painted teeth.

Claudia Monpere


Claudia Monpere's poems appear in such journals as New Ohio Review, Plume, The Massachusetts Review, The Indianapolis Review, and The Cincinnati Review. Her fiction and creative nonfiction appear in River Teeth, The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Smokelong Quarterly, Creative Nonfiction and elsewhere. She's a recipient of a Hedgebrook residency, lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, and teaches creative writing and first year writing at Santa Clara University.

paper texture

Amherst Ballad 1

Let us Play - Yesterday -
I a Girl - sent East -
Pacific to Atlantic -
Chicago - Betweenst.

Change Stations there - East Side to West -
Betwixt -
Beauty Salon - Big Sister -
Must Have her Hair - Washed.

New England School - Old Mansions -
Everyone a Woman -
Some Sweet - some Noble -
Christian - Jew - Muslim -

Sally - Strome - Faiza -
And Daphne - whose note from Anon -
Waited in my Locker - Who are You?
Are you Nobody too?

One Senior had slept with her Half-Brother -
And the Girl - Dearest to me -
Had been Attempted - by her Father -
Who Was my Father -

Olive Day Bramhall - Winifred Post -
And the Seniors - Weintraub, Cynthia -
And the one i Loved the Most -
Paiewonsky, Avna.

And the Lovers - Miss Math and Miss Latin -
And Ancient - Augusta Gottfried -
Whose Approval I Craved -- but she saw
Into me - beneath the imposter.

And John Stuart Mill - those Sentences
In upward Thrust each Himilay -
And the Isaac Watts Music Box -
Tart Genius - Emily.

Berries of her Quatrogon
Running down - our Chin -
Presence of - another World -
This world - within.

Cream and Honey of her Rhyme -
Tomboy Accurate
With Sling and Stone -
Palpable Hit -

God one Target - Man another -
And New England Trochee Grove -
Alive with Radical Wit - and Eros -
Salt Tongue - and Groove

She was our Girl - our Woman -
Man enough - for me - her Will
Adamant - we held her in Earthy
Celestial Respect, where I Hold Her Still

And she moves - when Held - like an Antibody -
Holding a Virus
From the Body Politic - To Dance It
Into Bliss - of Perish.

Looking for Galway on the Vermont Mountainside

The overcast was complete, except for
a small rip, to the east, where steam was
breathing through, glacier blue.
The world was soaked, I climbed uphill
in undersea shoes, waded through sop
clover, blossoms spittled with rain like
egg-cases of fishing spiders who
carry their unborn in bubbles in their mouth.
There were patches where hay showed through the wild grasses,
there were
smooth declevities, where a deer or
bear might have lain down. But I could not
find the grave. Where are you, I cried out,
under my breath, where are you. I was not
a mother who has lost her child in a crowd,
I was never, to him, a mother, always
like an aunt, though younger, warm but stern,
but not a sister, not family --
a stranger, a fellow stranger. For a moment
I thought I would not find him, that he'd gone
back by means of the periodic
table to his component elements,
and then, as I rose, dew-booted, the top of the
hill began
to rise slowly
above the top of the hill -- the slate
table, and beyond it, on the brow of the mountain,
the dolmen of granite, like a column of ancient
rough flesh, and will, and at
his foot a flat rock, like an open
book. Joe Pye weed, rich dirt,
bladder campion -- "You're a garden!"
I said to my best friend, and took up
a little roundish golden rock --
"Can I borrow this?" --
from the turned soil, and put it on
his footstone. The ions in the air were bouncing
like fine sprinkle, and the bud scales and
spiracles of the young tree
planted near him were gold against the ruddy,
smooth, amber, elm bark,
I gripped and kissed the tree, I gripped and
kissed the tough, bright-specked maul of the
metamorphic stone, and descended
the latch-mat stairs and bared my feet
down to the chilled skin, and found in the
laundry basket a couple of big
socks without mates, and I accepted them
as gifts -- one a grey with a band of
acid green on its toe, its nose,
one a wool heather of moss
and brown and honey, with touches of scarlet
and black. In his socks, I am jubilant,
I think of who I will bequeath them to
when I am under your bootsoles with him --
whoever you are, holding me now in hand.

Spectrum Ballad

When I looked up the spectrum -- and red was the first
color, I thought of Ruth Stone's
hair, and her favorite high school sweater,
because the boys liked red sweaters --

the color which speaks of the crevices
inside the butte of the nipple
which closes when it

singing its high note. And I thought of the tearful
eye of the penis, and the brilliance of the cunt’s
scarlet vestibule,
and the throat, and nose, and the ear, and I thought

to think of the inside of the anus,
hold the rose window of its eros
in my mind a moment --
though they said that red came first because when

white Light passes through a prism, red
has the longest wavelength -- then orange, yellow,
green, blue, and violet the shortest.
Why didn’t they put the shortest

first, or was red slowest, or oldest,
when color came in --
was the big bang
in black and white? I don’t think so,

I think amber and magenta were there from the
beginning, among the earliest
of our ancestors, as they will outlive us
on the black earth.


I swear we didn’t touch
last night but still I wake up

reeking of you. The light falling
over the bed so gentle I can only hate it

for a moment. I know you
won’t be there when I open my eyes. Still

I open my eyes. What’s the use
in saying anything else?

Everyone I love has got bloody
palms, bloody teeth—

I do too. Fingers
pressing wounds

that hurt me but not
me worst of all.


Worst of all the way thistle clawed
its way to beauty. The way desire broke

my open mouth. That time we cut
the thistle from the highway roadside

my hands and thighs a mess
of shallow marks

we cleaned with spit, my fingers
in your mouth. It didn’t hurt

or hurt so sweetly I could nurse it.
Worse the way the heat came

on me after, my blood
an outrage just under my skin, my chest

full of water. I didn’t even think
to wash my hands.


Say my hands were caught in the steel
teeth of desire. Say

I was walking on all fours. I was
circling a trail of my own

footprints, my own blood. Say
I didn’t know

I was bleeding. When I found you
I was hungry enough

to spit in the dirt and call it
tender. I was hungry enough to taste

my own tongue. When I found you
I didn’t know delirium

from fever. I didn’t have a name
for what I was.

There Are So Many Flies in the Kitchen

My eyes are hot with them,

their noise, filthy white

noise, trembling,

irresistible weight.

They trap me


of the opossum I saw vibrating

with flies just outside the house, down

the driveway. I approached

eagerly, wanting to touch

the shiny black, incessant—

I still

want it.

I cover my ears with my hands,

my head with a blanket,

leave all the lights on and wait

for quiet to come. It doesn’t.

Your fingertips move

like flies on my face.

I’m stuck, I tell you, behind

the blinds. I can see the light

just outside, the blinds’ broken

invitation to slip through.

When I slip through, suddenly

it's so hard to say what is good,

what is real, what is not.

Why All the Doors on the Second Floor of the House Are Closed

—a thought that must preoccupy the mind of my cat,
whom we keep out of the office on account of the plastic,
which she eats, and who we are currently excluding
from the bedroom while we refinish the floor, even if the label
on the paint stripper says non-toxic. Then, there's the boys' room,
and well, the teen has hunkered down into those years
of our undoing—sleeps and sleeps. Finally, the bathroom
where we bar from her the secrets of the shower—its mystery
and danger—shield her from the unpleasantness of tonics and pills,
nail files.

What if the forbidden we chase over lifetimes
is nothing of value? That if we could see into we'd berate ourselves
our pining for? Jobs we didn't get, rejections that saved us
years of drudgery, churlish bosses. Lovers we cannot have,
who are in fact crude, simpering, or—worse—lazy in bed.

A small paw, black pads shining on black fur, test the bits
around a threshold, or appear in the crack above carpet.
Her pleading subtle, quiet—nose sniffing in as someone exits,
shuts out again what might be inside.

H: The Otavalo Market Closes for the Day

Northwest Semitic laborers on the Sinai Peninsula were influenced by the writing system of their host region when they created the alphabetic ancestor to English. In hieroglyphs, the sound shared with today's letter H was drawn as twisted string, or a bundle.

Let us speak of the man with a bundle
on his back that folds him
nearly in half, carrying his wares

wrapped in bright orange cloth
as he walks away from the market plaza
past the shadow of the great mountains

in a northern Ecuadorian valley.
Let us look closer at his fedora,
the felt soft and new, the black braid

snaking from beneath it, almost
to his waist; let us trace
with our eyes the lines

on his sunned face –
deep like the volcanic gorges
he's never left.

In modern Spanish, the H
goes unpronounced, a silent
burden at the start of words like

hombre – man, hogar – home,
hilo – thread, historia – history.
As he walks, the peddler

relaxes his mind's speech
into his native Quichua,
that includes only

a fine sprinkling of words
beginning with this lassoed letter:
huarmi – wife, huahua - baby.

It is not far, the place
where he can take refuge
from what is weighing on him.

And when he talks of his day,
he will not tell about
the history that threaded

around his tongue, how
home was once called
by a different name and

every time he opened his mouth
the sounds replayed the story of who won.
That picture is bigger than this –

a man going home to his family,
to a hot supper, to sit in the last
of this pink, flaming light.

Tomorrow, we will watch as the man
sets down the huahua swaddled
in his arms, returns to the market,

where rising on either side, the peaks
of Imbabura and Cotacachi stand sentinel—
he like a cross bar between them.

Language Note

The poem "H: The Otavalo Market Closes for the Day" relies on the sound that coincides most often with the English H. However, it should be noted that "H" in Quichua is also a corruption of that language in trying to fit it into Roman letters, which would call into question the transcription of "huahua," as I originally found it. More recently, the sound is transliterated as "gu" (guagua) or as "w" (wawa). The word Quichua itself is sometimes written as "Kichwa," as its alphabet contains no Q.

I longed for closed
doors, shuttered windows.
In artificial light I thrived,
my room hermetically sealed
from mother, father
their extremes of weather.

I lost myself in paper
scraps, folds and
half-folds, squares creased
along imaginary dotted lines
until a menagerie
took convincing form
my angelfish, my swan, my dragonfly

In a shoebox they live
underneath my bed in dust
my childhood with its lies
like Noah awaiting
the receding of the waters.

Sarath Reddy


Sarath Reddy enjoys writing poetry which explores the world beneath the superficial layers of experience, searching for deeper meaning in his experiences as a father, physician, and Indian-American. Sarath's poetry has been published in Journal of the American Medical Association and Off the Coast. He lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with his wife and three children.

paper texture


Two weeks after the ordeal with the goldfish—choosing the exact pair the kids wanted and netting them among their school at the shopping center’s Petco, and bagging and buying them and bringing them home, and letting the water sit, then naming them and pouring them into this world we’d made, then burying one (Fiona) in the yard, with full ceremony, and replacing her (Fiona II), and choosing the glittery blue rocks to amuse them so that their lives wouldn’t only be about circling the tiny bowl on our dining room table but circling the tiny bowl looking at something beautiful—that’s when the kids give them up. Playing God or mother (giver of food and light, maker of beauty) has dulled.


And so the fish, like orange flames, drift unnoticed within the contours of their sphere. When I think of it, I pinch flakes into their bowl. While over the crest of hills, smoke wafts toward us, and opening the door of our own glassed enclosure (everything’s a fishbowl now) brings the smell of campfire, which is the burning of houses, hotels, and suburban trees fifty miles north. It’s an old story, a fable we’re learning to tell: another fall, another named fire. Monitor the air quality sites. Switch on the purifiers, fill the bottles with water. Leave the inhaler by the bed. Pray to the gods of wind. Our bags are packed, though we know this isn’t our fire. But the fire that comes for us may first send its white ash to cover our lawn like a veil, or may wake us with its hot rasp already at our necks.


The goldfish may actually have a memory, contrary to previous belief, but the science suggests it’s cinematic, and at most two seconds in length, like a slideshow:

glint of dyed ultramarine pebbles // light.
bending through the convex glass //
flash of tail // jostle of waves

as a blurred figure bumps the table, skipping past. I wonder now about how much they see with those dinner plate eyes open to the light from all sides. And how the fire will take them—the roar that will fill the rooms we humans have surrendered and burst this little globe in an explosion of light. How relentless the holiness, the cataclysms.

Girl Friend Poem

We both stare at the sun—
no, below it, into coffee mugs.

For you the fires were the guide:
a ridge makes a red line

through the night, you told me.
You’d watch it from your sleeping bag

with the boys on the hill
ready to deploy. You’re mine

because our children are elsewhere,
whole cities away. You’re mine

because once we lived
almost in each other’s skin

tramping down 18th Street in pajamas.
We recorded nothing not the sound

of the grocery truck unloading
not the heat until we couldn’t take any

more into our skin.

(Turn over then,
let me lotion your back.)

For you the fires were the guide.
For me, language:

I tried to grasp,
to make a pattern.

There’s too much heat already—

even before breakfast I have to wear
sunglasses in the dining room.

We weren’t counting miles when we ran together
down that long windy highway

behind the sand dunes— remind me
I don’t need it back.

Remind me these green trees, oaks still leafing,
don’t yet smell like their burning.

for giulia

The worry grew like a green stem
from my left ear.
Static radio signals waved in
from across an ocean.
Tiny tin voices sent
murky messages;
maybe it was a song,
incantation or spell. I couldn't tell.
I worried the tiny people needed me.
I was their giant, their Gulliver, their mover
and shaker. Yes, I was tied to stakes
on a high green hill.
I could no longer float from village to village
or keep pace with the story line.
The stem kept growing – thicker and greener.
I admit, I kind of loved the stakes.
The soft ribbons
of restraint, the cool grass at my back.
The tiny people waving
at me from their station in the tower.

Tina Schumann


Tina Schumann is a Pushcart nominated poet and the author of three poetry collections, Praising the Paradox (Red Hen Press, 2019) which was a finalist in the National Poetry Series, Four Way Books Intro Prize, and the Julie Suk Award, Requiem. A Patrimony of Fugues (Diode Editions, 2017) which won the Diode Editions Chapbook Competition and As If (Parlor City Press, 2010) which was awarded the Stephen Dunn Poetry Prize. She is editor of the IPPY-award winning anthology Two Countries. U.S. Daughters and Sons of Immigrant Parents (Red Hen, 2017.) Schumann’s work received the 2009 American Poet Prize from The American Poetry Journal, finalist status in the annual poetry contest, as well as honorable mentions in The Allen Ginsberg Award, The Atlantic Monthly, and Crab Creek Review. SShe is the poetry editor for Wandering Aengus Press. Her poems have appeared widely since 1999, including The American Journal of Poetry, Ascent, Cimarron Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Midwest Quarterly, Nimrod, Paterson Literary Review, Parabola, Palabra, Poetry Daily, Poemeleon, Rattle, Verse Daily, and read on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac.

Visit Site
paper texture

Spite and Malice—that’s the card game my parents and their friends used to play. Or Screw Your Neighbor, one of them, Winnie Brown, called it, which excited me because it sounded dirty. I was ten. Old enough to know what screw meant. Old enough to imagine Mrs. Barker down the street with her clothes off. “Shit or get off the pot,” Mom would say when someone couldn’t decide which card to play. But that I wasn’t supposed to hear. Bob and Carol, Mel and Dowe, Dean and Winnie, Mom and Dad. They dealt the cards or sat at the table drinking and laughing, while I lay on the carpet and played with cars and army men, the only child in a room full of adults. “The blind leading the blind,” Dad sometimes said and I could picture it, but wasn’t sure why anyone would do that. Or “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face,” which I didn’t like without knowing what it meant, except that I’d done something wrong—when Mom said it to me—and I was pouting about it. These other couples were either childless or their children had grown up already. There was only me. It’s the fate of an only child, William Trevor wrote, to inherit what can’t be refused. “Look at all that money,” Dad still sometimes says, carefully spooning up the little bubbles from the top of his coffee, because that’s what his dad used to say. I was past forty—a father myself—before I understood why he’d want to say that to me. What I’m trying to tell you is like a suitcase loaded with old books. They’re heavy, they hurt my hands, and there’s not one I could part with.

Matthew Thorburn


Matthew Thorburn’s latest book is The Grace of Distance, a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize. His book Dear Almost won the Lascaux Prize. He lives in New Jersey.

paper texture

helen of troy’s new whirlpool washing machine

well she cost about a pig and a half but the old girl was sending up the most
pulverizing full-body shakes whenever i loaded her down with more than
just a nightie and the kid’s school duds—whole blesséd homestead brought
to a standstill lord i never knew such a house for turning out dirty laundry—
and i said to the big cheese i said to him not one more evening arm-deep in
drum scum not another night blind-fishing for long johns
and boy was i ever
building up to a real snitty fit-pitching or worse a one-wife washerwoman
picket line and then who would suds my drawers no doubt his heart cried out
in tones of both humility and contrition since sears & roebuck blazed down
the street double quick to black-bag broke betsy and wizard up a machine
straight from the cave of wonders i mean factory fresh six cycles two speeds
spin like a star trek thingamajig is it good enough for you helen what a thing
to ask as if i don’t crank the dial ten times a day just to watch the foam and
when she really gets up and running doesn’t she just suck out the stains—

helen of troy watches jurassic park in theaters

a month ago it was horses horses horses but the moon
turned and the kid was red-eye rabid on shovels and dirt
egyptology archaeology paleontology blitzed all to hell
on dead crap somebody stuck in a hole and forgot about
and then what should hit the local cineplex but dinosaurs
cavorting in dazzles of cgi glory i mean it was inescapable
t-rexes plastered on every bus bench from here to hosanna
and the kid threatening a hunger strike if i didn’t bring her
opening night and then somehow the big cheese entered
the spirit of the thing but only i think because he got wind
of the carnage lurking within although naturally he didn’t
give me the slightest whisper of warning until we were
an hour in and the tyrannosaur was snapping up its first
victim like the last ham cube at your cousin’s baby shower
i mean blood everywhere and you know what i couldn’t
look away it was a total saturday-night gore-fest and i
was hooked okay i was invested i was cheering that damn
lizard on while it chased down all those folks with their
miserable problems and unhappinesses and inane little
cruelties shared over the dinner table like it’s amazing how
you spent thirty dollars on blue jeans instead of getting
the vacuum fixed it stomped them flat like good night like
sweet dreams and sayonara and it was a full eight minutes
before i noticed the kid was over there in total convulsions
of terror and dread all googly-eyed and weeping and i did
care i’m not a monster any other second i’d be right there
scooping her up and dashing for the lobby and hugging and
kissing and squeezing and so forth et cetera but right then
i wasn’t me at all i wasn’t mama i wasn’t woman i wasn’t
helen i was yellow teeth at night i was rip and tear and
mouth of blood i was something so large i shook the earth
unpennable unappeasable intractable i was this thing
no one would ever dare call beautiful and eventually it was
the big cheese who grabbed her up and shoved past me
down the aisle carrying our child to safety while onscreen
i roared and snapped and everyone around me bowed.

Victorio Reyes Asili


Victorio Reyes Asili is a scholar, activist, and artist living in Albany, NY. Victorio holds an MFA in creative writing from The Vermont College of Fine Arts. Reyes Asili also holds a PhD in English from the University at Albany where he completed his dissertation entitled Mic Check: Finding Hip Hop's Place in the Literary Milieu. His poems have been published in The Acentos Review, The Mandala Journal, Pilgrimage Magazine, Mobius, Word Riot, and Obsidian. His work has been anthologized in Chorus--A Literary Mixtape, It Was Written: Poetry Inspired by Hip Hop, Black Lives Have Always Mattered, Boricua en la Luna: An Anthology of Puerto Rican Voices and Erase the Patriarchy.

paper texture
paper texture