Issues /  / Poetry

Claudia D. Hernández


Claudia D. Hernández was born and raised in Guatemala. She’s a photographer, poet, editor, translator, and a bilingual educator residing in Los Angeles. Hernández is the author of KNITTING THE FOG, a finalist for the 2020 Firecracker Award in Creative Nonfiction. She is also an award-winning editor for her anthology photography book titled WOMEN, MUJERES, IXOQ: REVOLUTIONARY VISIONS, which received the International Latino Book Award in 2019. She is the founder of the ongoing project: Today’s Revolutionary Women of Color. Claudia holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles and is the recipient of the 2018 Louise Meriwether First Book Prize.

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Pupusas de Revueltas

After Li-Young Lee

At El Comal I echo the sounds
of Grandma’s order,
but my tongue stumbles
on re-whel-tas,
re-bel-tas, re-vuel-tas.

The best ones are made by hand,
the edges taking the palm’s shape,
before pressing onto a hot comal
so the masa crisps up sweet. To eat,
I mirror Grandma’s steady hands—
top each pupusa with cabbage slaw
and fresh salsa roja,
then layer the perfect bite:
crispy, salty, fatty, sweet.
Side-by-side we eat, silent
but for the crunch, swallow, and
“Dios te bendiga, mi niña.”
Always order two.

At school they called me whitewashed
because I couldn’t roll my r’s.
I didn’t speak but
I felt the word’s heat.
Pupusas are Salvadoran, not Mexican
but the ingredients are the same:
meat, cheese, masa,
shaped by worn palms.

In Mom’s kitchen
Grandma’s bare hands
turn taquitos over oil’s
pops and sputters.
I never see her flinch.
“Quieres algo más, mi nińa?”
I know this:
Do I want more frijoles,
more arroz, more taquitos
fried so crispy
they shatter between my young teeth?
I can’t speak but I can eat
everything on my plate to say
gracias, mi abuela,
te amo.

Now Grandma watches the news
with her Bible on a TV tray.
Most of her pots and pans live
in my kitchen cupboards.
Her favorite skillet, on my stove.
Her hands, too tired
to heat tortillas over the flame
so I char my own,
fingers never flinching in the fire.

How many times did I turn
past her house without stopping?
What do you eat
when you have nothing to say?

The new restaurant on Main
says their food is autentico.
Here, I can speak. Let me judge
the broken tortillas, watery beans, pale rice
even more whitewashed than me.
But the pupusas—
In silence I sit.
Palms indent their fresh edges.
The crispy, salty, fatty, sweet bite,
the crunch, the swallow,
shoulders touching and hands
reaching for more.
The menu tells me, in English,
what revuelta means
(ground pork, beans, cheese).
Re-vuel-ta, still scrambled on my tongue.
The server reads back my order
and I say sí. To go.

On my way,
I practice:
Te traje la cena.
Pupusas de revueltas.
What I mean is:
Gracias, Grandma.
Te amo. Lo siento.

A Guided Tour of a Sunk Cost Home

Every other weekend we lived
in this big brown behemoth
in the center of our urban sprawl.
That window up and to the left was mine.
Dad asked how I wanted to paint my walls.
I said, my favorite colors.
He said, which are?

He drove all over LA to pick up his kids.
I was first on his route,
the eldest of five children
from four different mothers
in four different cities.
The sights looked the same
from San Dimas to South Gate
until we reached the exit.
Then the sprawl became a destination
and all the miles in between white noise.
I picked forest green and sea-blue,
alternating stripes of trees and ocean
in that big brown behemoth.

The house was an investment,
something to flip when the market was right,
when the city filled with families seeking space to breathe.
Most of the stores are shuttered now
but Donut Star is still there.
Order a plain bagel with cream cheese.
They only toast the insides so the outside stays soft,
then smash like a whole block of Philadelphia in there.
Every bite is pillowy crunchy then creamy.
I’d split half with Dad on the drive,
spend most of the morning chewing.

He’d fill the car with Depeche Mode or real estate.
He said, I want every one of my kids to invest.
But that never compounded my interest
so I’d spend the miles identifying his other kids’
the sediment on the car floor:
McNuggets. GoGurt wrappers.
A lone Scooby Doo fruit snack.
He always wanted a big family,
but did he want one identified by the pieces
they left behind?

“Depeche Mode” means hurried fashion.

The only things I miss, really, are the trees.
When I left, the rearview was full of blurry greens—
streets lined with trees planted decades ago,
left to grow thick roots under the cement
and gain purchase deep into the earth.
I don’t know what kind of trees they are.
They don’t look like California.

The people who bought the big brown house painted it blue.
It’s for sale again, beautiful on the outside,
but with empty rooms.
I know because I peeked through the windows.

Listen, you don’t realize how many freeways surround you
until you’ve stared out a dusty Corolla window for half a day.

Sometimes I look in the mirror and I still see his face.

Rebecca Paredes


Rebecca Paredes is a writer from Lake Elsinore, California, where the IHOP is located next to the graveyard. She splits her time between the mountains and inland desert, and she writes about the strangeness and sprawl of Southern California. Her work has appeared in Barren Magazine, The Cauldron, Mosaic, and other publications. She holds a BA in Creative Writing from the University of California, Riverside, and is pursuing her MA in Creative Writing from Texas Tech University.

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Konstantinos Patrinos


Konstantinos Patrinos is a writer based in Berlin, Germany.
His work has appeared or is forthcoming in RHINO Poetry,
Rust + Moth, Tonyon, Clackamas Literary Review, Pinyon
and others. When he's not writing poetry, he enjoys getting
punched in the face during kickboxing classes.
He's a high school teacher of political science and philosophy.

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Kate Pyontek


Kate Pyontek is a poet and writer originally from New Jersey. Their poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, Ecotone, Southeast Review, New Ohio Review, Four Way Review, the lickety~split, and elsewhere. Find out more at or find Kate on instagram @katepyontek.

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Every Poem is a Love Poem

That small hand reaching for sky. Light
held in the arms of the trees like lesser gods.
The winter like an avalanche of stones. The
winter like a muffled song. The snow aches
to pierce the sky with its sharp tongue. It knows
the loneliness of a million moons. I have woken
in the dark and spoken my child’s name to the dark.
I have woken in the light and spoken the many names
of love and found them wanting. There is no word
for the longing inside my mother-hands, how they itch
to caress, how they retract to my sides to set my child free
to run across the snow to her own life. This morning
the sun blinded us with its light. That is what I mean.


the mockingbird at dawn says
fear no more, fear no more, the sun
will crown the Ficus, the sun will come
and deliver you from darkness, it will
weave its way through the Queen Palms
in strands of gold, it will braid the Oleander
with golden wire, you will stand at the window
and the sun will become your body, you will
look out the window into layers of green and
yellow leaves, large and waxy, long and thorny,
your daughter will be nested against your
body, your daughter will whisper your name
again and again into the birdsong, mama,
, mama, no mama, don’t answer,
I just love to say your name

Only a Mother

only the eye sees blue, only
the thin glint of iris like a
needle charged with finding
light, only the clouds like
gauze covering the wound
of the world at 30,000 feet and
climbing, only the silver body
of the plane as it dips in and out
of the blue it finds like a mother’s
hands ready, only its voice
the rumble of metal in wind,
only its mouth the glint of silver
teeth, only its songs, only its scent,
only its face the one who remembers,
the only one who has ever loved you

Meghan Sterling


Meghan Sterling (she, her, hers) lives in Maine. Her work has been nominated for a number of Pushcarts, is forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review, Rhino Poetry, Nelle, Meridian, Solstice and many others. These Few Seeds (Terrapin Books, 2021) was a Eric Hoffer Grand Prize Finalist. Self-Portrait with Ghosts of the Diaspora (Harbor Editions), Comfort the Mourners (Everybody Press) and View from a Borrowed Field (Lily Poetry Review’s Paul Nemser Book Prize) are all coming out in 2023. Read her work at

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Ode to the Women Accused of Exaggerating

If, after close of business,
inch closer to the red button
in the elevator, in case,
hush the music
like my breath,
to gauge the speed
of trailing footsteps, in case,
I don’t need to trust
my quickened shadow,
just glitter my fingers
and sharpen my knuckles
with keys, a filer, the soft glint
of an edged article
repurposed for three blocks,
instinct is forged by an alarm
that doesn’t sound, precaution
is the price of existence,
so forget basking in the massive
scent of night-blooming jasmine,
forget the patch of violet
that velvets the sky, the stars
rather you not wander,
switch the water bottle
to my dominant hand
ready to swing, in case,
in the backseat, even
after reading the plate,
arm, in case, with a prayer,
look to the side, maybe lanes away,
for a pair of eyes
to lock with yours,
that can read your lips, in case
you need to mouth help

Some Time After Empathy Had Drained

As quickly as I stepped out, I stopped,
still beneath my building’s cadmium
green awning where the ground was dry
and not as spotted with morning
or fossilized chewing gum, a woman, a mother,
panting and crosswise on the sidewalk, shuffled
in flapping plastic slippers, her pace
unable to keep with the panic of breathless shouts
to the boy at the corner, her knitted sweater
brown and unbuttoned dimmed
with the blunt strike of rain, her calls,
incoherent and punctured with cries to the child
old enough and standing solemnly,
explained nothing of the hysteria, until
another woman, another mother trotting behind
with her child’s hand in hers—whose raincoat hood
bounced over his eyes—turned to me laughing and said,
it’s nothing, we are trying to catch the school bus,
skipping, giggling at her own tardiness, don’t worry,
and I waited until others like them
completed this rushed procession before
I proceeded to my train, charmed and soothed
by this lady who mistook
my confusion for concern

Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad


Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad’s poetry has appeared in The Best American Poetry, Waxwing, and Asian American Writers’ Workshop, among others. She won the 2019 LUMINA La Lengua contest and the 2016 Pinch Literary Prize, and is a Best of the Net, Pushcart Prize, and Best New Poets nominee. She lives in New York where she practices law.

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Dorinda Wegener


Dorinda Wegener is a Perianesthesia Certified Registered Nurse in Richmond, VA. She has recent work in Hayden’s Ferry Review, as well as poems published in many journals, including The Antioch Review, THRUSH, Mid-American Review, Indiana Review, Hotel Amerika, and Berkeley Poetry Review. Her first full length book, Four Fields, is forthcoming from Trio House Press in 2024. She’s very grateful to be able to share her poems with you here in Hunger Mountain.

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