A LONG DAY'S SONG

BY NICOLE ZODROW

 

“What a long day it has been,” the bird sighs,

while the bells start their hourly song in time.

As the bird rests on a dry branch up high,

its exhaustion is reduced by the chimes.

The bird then is moved to hum its own song,

harmonizing beside the bell’s voices,

while worries are forgotten before long.

After the song’s done, the bird made a choice.

On the next day in its branch, the bird sang.

It sang for humans busy like it was.

They walked past, books placed on backs and phones rang,

but the bird still sang, not wanting to pause.

As it lingered, one human stopped to hear.

The bird’s melody is as written here.


FLYING

BY BAILEY STEVENS

 

She died, just for fun.

           Jane would lean out the window,

                 A   s    F    a    r    o   u    t as she could.

                         She was never scared of falling,

                                                        She closed her eyes.


 

Leaning out her window,

               Reaching out farther

                            And farther

                                     and farther.

 

She imagined flying,

            with wings on her back.

                        Large, feathery, unfurling behind her -

                                       Her imagination took hold:

                                                  She backed away and ran,

                                                                           Diving through the window.


 

After she jumped her fantasy failed.

                Instead of flying,

                                  She f

                                               e

                                                      l

                                                            l

                                                                   .


MYSELF

BY BAILEY STEVENS

 

Falling inside myself,

 

like Alice and her rabbit hole,

except it’s in my head.

But maybe hers was too.

 

A laugh or smile will

 

bring me back to the surface.

I don't feel it:

the black emptiness

beneath my eyes.

 

The laugh ends.

 

The smile fades.

A blank wall

will catch my eye.

 

I sink downwards,

 

back inside myself;

into the blackness

to face all I’ve done wrong-

 

All I could have done wrong.

 

The shell is left behind.

 

I drift in nothingness

until the fear hits.

 

The anxiety

 

and my hands shake the cup.

Water spills over the sides,

The photos I take,

are always slightly blurry.

 

My hands-

 

even if I manage to hide,

they give me away

with their endless movement.

Their fidgety nature.

 

No one notices.

 

They say I daydream

or drift off into space.

 

And I do drift.

 

 

Just downwards-

 

where I can be all I am.

 

Into the bleak and black-

 

where I can see myself clearly.

 

Into my comfort-

 

into myself.


XI.

BY C.J. SHALEESH

Your smothering sighs seduce

my delicately strayed soul, until

I am no longer the shadow of an echo.


XII.

BY C.J. SHALEESH

We are the hope

destruction feeds upon.


XIII.

BY C.J. SHALEESH

If you live through pictures,

you are only living through

the artificial happiness

of past days.


XIIV.

BY C.J. SHALEESH

My heart splutters to the restless tones

of the sacred whispers in your eyes.


SKIN SKIN

BY GABRIELLE WILKOSZ

 

Skip breast examinations.

Drink coffee from mugs turned upside d

                                                                      o

                                                                           w

                                                                                 n

Photocopy my parents’ wedding photo:

                                            Over my mother’s face, I paste a picture of

                                                                                                    Art Garfunkel.

                                                            Over my father’s, I paste

                                                                                                      mine.

Pour sugar

into ankle socks so

I’m on the beach when I walk to the mailbox.

 

 

                                                 Skin grapes.

 

                                    Skin tomatoes.

                         Skin skin.

 

 

 

                                                          I have a terrible problem with picking at my cuticles.

 

 

 

                                                                     I used to ignore you when you told me to stop.

 

                                                          Come near me these days, and I bet I’d

 

                                                                                                                          skin you.


TOMATO JUICE

BY GABRIELLE WILKOSZ

 

Most days my body can’t fit

through doors or in rooms any more,

so I just

 

 

wait outside until the party’s over;

Until you’re done socializing

 

so we can go home

and I can be

I can be small again.


CITADELS

BY OLIVER DAVIS

 

Lives spent building fortresses

Soft hard a bit of both

 

 

Make us strong

 

 

Make us adaptable

Make us able to love

 

 

But flowers strain against the wall

 

 

Petals push and thorns thrust

Over time the walls crumble

Build them up stronger than before

Sometimes though

You just have to leave them crumbled

Just long enough to let the flowers flow through


SLEEPLESS SISTER

BY LOGAN STALLINGS

What it is,

I do not know

    that lurks below my tread.

You cannot see it, but I feel it,

    pulling me down into a vile bed.

 

 

Ebbing lower–

 

sinking slower–

    nearly below the crest

    of the glossy surface–

    disrupts all purpose;

    on which my hands cannot impress.

 

But in a dream it couldn’t matter.

 

Soon I’ll hear the pitter patter

    of my sleepless sister’s feet.

Please let her shake me

    from this waking dream.

 

O, God– This dream–

 

That I can’t wake from!

Sleepless sister keep me safe from

this bed on which I’ll lay my head,

and find the sweetest rest.

 

But, that rest in fact is not so sweet.

 

Those dreams turn bitter in my sleep,

and it’s only when I am submerged,

do I really fully have the urge

    to pull myself up with a serge

    from this deep and dark descent.

 

Sleepless Sister,

 

I’m sure you know

that

in the end,

I didn’t want to go.

The undertow pulled me below,

and it’s only now I am submerged.

    I really, fully have the urge

    to leave this place that’s on the verge

    of never letting go.


ABANDONED

BY LORNA PROBASCO

Forgotten and crumbling.

Magnificent no more.

Columns like ribs creak with pain.

One window to see into the soul.

Abandoned.

 

A building,

A person,

Alone.


JEM/ GEM/ JAIM

BY KATHIE ROJAS

Exuding tension from your eyes,

You seeped into my skin like a pulsating perfume.

Evoking memories of a saccharine age,

You flourished like an infection.

 

A repeated motion, 

Intensified but never honest.

A violent and ceaseless habit it was to have you.

 

Sweet disastrous thing you were,

So cautious in saving me from myself.


WOODCUTTER

BY LUISIANA HURTADO

Her gaze was on the ground,

her hand hovered over the meaningless question.

“Should I dare?”

She weaved her way in-between the trees and screamed at any birds that chirped at her;

they hid behind the leaves and shook.

A windless day with rustling leaves .

She took the back roads to her secret place and submerged

within the hedges;

they opened themselves up for her like the thieves’ den opened up for Ali Baba.

Stepping over her veiled pearl, she reveled in solitude and

Lost to the world, she created her own and no one was allowed in.

O P E N  S E S A ME


VACANT MANSION

BY NICOLE ZODROW

PHOTO BY RUBY GARCIA

Cracked windows from old times witness the rain,

They see it watering the growing vines.

Meanwhile, the closed gate becomes rustier.

 

Once a place where the grand luxury shined,

Once a place with the brightest chandeliers,

Now by cobwebs, dust, and blood is it stained.

 

The tales of horror that visitors hear

Is this vacant mansion’s eternal pain,

How it longs for the nights that were divine.

 

The grand feasts held on its owner’s terrain,

Guests dressed in silk that twirls at the dance lines,

Waiting and anxious for another year.

 

Now, not by candles, but the moon outlines

The vacant mansion paired with signs too clear

Of deadly prices paid for riches gained.

 

What did happen to this day is unclear,

Some speak of murders born greedy and vain,

Some speak of duels drawn from Death’s design.

 

Whichever story caused guests to refrain,

Whichever made their interest decline,

Look at how this old mansion now appears.

 

Only vines grow up and their lives entwine,

Anything human now has disappeared,

Only tiny spiders’ homes are maintained.

 

Some heard that there’s another cause of fear,

Some say that ghosts from long ago remain,

Some felt cold presences that raise hairlines.

 

Cracked windows from old times witnessed the rain,

They saw it watering the growing vines.

Later, the closed gate became rustier.


VII.

BY C.J. SHALEESH 

PHOTO BY RUBY GARCIA

The purest gulp of life is shed through known tragedy,

But no more will the tears of today haunt my yesterday’s.

VIII.

BY C.J. SHALEESH 

PHOTO BY RUBY GARCIA

True secrets are heard

When you listen

To the

Hidden sounds

Of life.

IX.

BY C.J. SHALEESH 

PHOTO BY RUBY GARCIA

I want the warmth.

To feel your heart,

Because nothing else matters;

For I am the disappeared.

X.

BY C.J. SHALEESH 

PHOTO BY RUBY GARCIA

You are like an undrawn constellation,

A glorious enigma,

Utterly captivating,

Yet completely unreachable.


THE SUCCULENT TREE

BY OLIVER DAVIS

On a windbrisked height

 

Grows a tree unblemished and pink

 

In it’s branches lay promise but also perdition

 

To enter it’s arms is risk

 

To risk is to live

 

 

Thorns adorn its rooted feet

 

To step forward is to bleed

 

To bleed is to live

 

 

Those with a mind set on approach

 

Must leave something behind

 

To brave is to sacrifice

 

To sacrifice is to live

 

 

What do we risk

What blood do we bleed

What do we sacrifice

 

Whose life do we do these for?

 

 

The tree knows

 

To know is to live


LIGHTNING BUGS AND MASON JARS

BY LILLI HIME

Happiness as a stroke of lightning

hot white lash of clarity across your heart

as brief as it came

lightning too wild to be bottled so

    she caught the next best thing

 

she caught lightning bugs

    little beads of luminescence

    strung across the evening sky like Christmas lights

she caught mason jars full of lightning bugs

    a glass prison for their radiance

 

And one evening she wanted to taste the light of the lightning.

One day she swallowed whole mason jars of lightning

hoped that maybe the lightning would travel

into her, inside her

electrify, illuminate the darkest parts of who she wasn’t.

 

For some reason they always dimmed, always died

her lightning bugs.

always she was left with only tummy aches and shattered glass

 

And one evening after one too many tummy aches

she feared nothing could light up her insides

 

she feared the broken glass and burned out lightning was

inevitable

 

And one evening years after she’d ceased swallowing mason jars of lightning

She learned.

learned to spark her own lightning

learned she couldn’t wait for the storms or even the evenings

learned she could never swallow enough happiness to provide

for the light she could make on her own

 

She learned to stop chasing lightning

    and just

        create it

 


WATER RINGS

BY SARAH DUNAVANT

my parents moved all my shit

out of my old bedroom

two days after i left for college,

so my brother could move in

(it’s the biggest bedroom

and it's an en-suite).

my mom works out of the spare room

next to my old bed - the one

that saw me through puberty -

which is now covered in quilts

sewn by great-grandmothers i never met.

 

i'm a guest now on holidays

and the old brick house isn't warm

the way it once was.

it never smells like

cookies in the oven or

bacon on the stove. now it smells

like lemon Lysol.

and i think it always did,

but now i'm scared to leave

water rings on the tables.

 

since i moved to this city, with its

drunken tourists stumbling on concrete

sidewalks against cotton candy sunsets,

i’ve been forgetting more often

how it feels to be real.

i am not concrete, sure or solid footing,

but soft clay, wet and waiting

and yearning to be shaped.

 

but you, you in this city,

you who calls my chest home,

you who warms my tired hands

when i come back to you

after long easter weekends spent

not leaving water rings.

you are a solid place to stand

and i pray to something in the sky

that you hold me gently

and mold me into something

sure, and sweet smelling,

and you never ever clean with

lemon Lysol.


DONT MAKE ME OPEN UP TO YOU

BY MADDIE SMITH

Let us talk about the sky,

   Let us talk about the moon,

Let us talk about the prospect

   Of our own impending doom.

 

Let’s philosophize about the world

   Or what it means to be human;

Or maybe about the presidency

   Of Harry S Truman.

 

No question is too big,

   Nor any subject too dull.

I’d love to sit down with you

   And, friend, we can discuss them all.

 

There is only one topic

   Which I ask we omit:

Don’t make me open up to you

   ‘Cause I just won’t do it.

 

We can talk about the weather

   And Paris in the spring.

We can even try to come to grips

   With this whole existence-thing.

 

We’ll romanticize the future

   And reminisce about the past

We’ll talk of summers gone away,

   And the years flying by so fast.

 

Throughout our lengthy discourse

   There’s but one thing that I ask,

If we start talking about our feelings,

   I’m going to have to pass. 


DEAR GOD

BY LILLI HIME

Dear God,

Just let me bury my head in the sand.

I want to drown in a sea of filth trodden dirt and mediocrity

Let this dry soil around me excuse my seed from sprouting

If I plant it deep enough, I can take root in ignorance

Won’t hear the nag of potential any longer

Won’t know the pain of want, of passion, and of failure

 

I might go dormant if I’m lucky

As others keep trying to claw their way to the surface

With sprouts of sturdier stuff than I

As they agonize and toil for an upper world they’ve never known

But dare to hope for again and again.


What cruelty they impose on themselves

To knowingly oppress themselves with that injustice of hope

 

And yet

 

Nothing looks more romantic, more desirable

Than to grapple with the dirt with which we have been planted

To self nurture the seed of humanity within each of us

So we can realize a destiny, a sky so endless, so blue

A world so vast and bountiful, so ours

There’s something inside us, our seed of humanity, of potential

That refuses to be forgotten, refuses to be ignored

 

Dear God,

Let me blossom


IV.

BY CJ SHALEESH

Thank you

for embracing

the marks

and scars

that mar

the cold barrier

around my heart.

V.

BY CJ SHALEESH

Your touch is strange.

It did not terrify me

in the way the rest of the world did.

Instead I was scared

by the level of comfort

I got from it.

VI.

BY CJ SHALEESH

You rescued me when I was fine

and left me to die when I most needed help.


IF MY LOVE

BY MADDIE SMITH

If my love were a plant, it’d surely be dead,

I know not the proper nourishment.

      I’d forget it has needs

      Like watering seeds

And requires a certain encouragement

 

If my love were a dog, it’d surely be gone

In search for a better owner.

      I’d not want to play

      And send it away

As if I had simply outgrown her.

 

If my love were a cat, it’d be taking a nap

And sleep the whole day through.

      I would feed it its food

      Were I in the mood

And then I’d encourage it to shoo.

 

If my love were a bird, it’d not leave its nest

Afraid of the prospect of flying.

      If it were to fall

      Then that would be all

So it remains safe in its nest without trying.

 

So please understand my reluctance to love

For I find it most disconcerting

      That if I should start

      I may break your heart

And we both will end up hurting. 


TIPTOE AWAY

BY JESS ARRAZOLO

I want to hear it

From you, from your mouth

Hear the breath push through your throat

And I want you to mean it

Like when you told me you wanted this

 

The sky is blue, pot is green

And you are away from me

I want you to say it, that this is over

That you, my friend, have slipped away

When my back was turned

 

You didn’t even stick the knife

You left it for me

And I want you to say it, that you want it over

 

I want you to say it, Coward

Because I want you to break your own heart

Instead of mine


SAVE YOUR TEARS

BY MADDIE SMITH

I’m jealous of the young girl who weeps

   for a love too recently lost;

She gave someone her heart to keep

   and now is paying the cost.

 

Note well my dear the benefits

   of being able to do such things:

What lessons did you get out of it?

   What pleasures did it bring?

 

Weep for the girl who cannot give

   her heart away so freely.

Ever alone she’s destined to live,

   who approaches love so meekly.

 

Unable to show her affections

   or attraction of any kind,

Dissuaded by the objections of

   a highly logical mind.

 

She spends her whole life waiting for

   a man who might understand

The struggles of her internal war

   and will be there to lend her a hand.


MISSING PIECES

BY OLIVER DAVIS

Language is such a beautiful thing

Each word, a cog, a piece of a machine

That translates the unknowable into understanding

And helps turn understanding into love

Which is why it hurts and wounds

When the right words can’t be found

For the right situation, the right time, the right emotion

The inability to say the simplest thing drives us up the wall

But more than that, it feels marooning

By the inability to be understood

To be loved


CLOSETED OPTIMIST

BY LILLI HIME

Hello

My name is Closeted Optimist

But shhh it’s a secret.

 

I secretly believe in beauty

That humanity is ultimately good

That demons were created to be overcome

And fears too for that matter.

 

I think heartaches are just the absence of love

Not the deterioration of it.

And that darkness exists so we can learn to find the light

And love, real love can weather the worst storms.

 

I believe in the power of people

Of kindness

A web of that connects us all

And everyday miracles that exist

In a smile, a glance, a touch

 

And that out of 7 billion people

You’ll find the one

Whose soul just knows

When to hug, to talk, to laugh.

 

I believe the glass is half full

 

This all stays between us, right?

I don’t want the world to know

Because, well

You don’t throw a torch into the sea, do you?

Or a flower into a fire?

 

The world has this bad habit

Of crushing those

Brave

Stupid enough to step out

 

Yes, it may be dark in here

But that persistent spunky little spark

That flame of optimism

Keeps me warm

 


BY JESS ARRAZOLO

She laughs as she toes the edge, it makes me nervous

“Be careful”, I say

and she turns to me with a smile

the kind she gives when she’s tired, when she’s lying

it doesn’t touch her eyes

“Aren’t I always?”

and I don’t answer just yet

we are on the fence between jokes and life

and I don’t know which way to fall

“Don’t lose your balance”, I say instead

and hope that will be enough 


TO HE WHO HATES WRITING

BY LILLI HIME

Don’t you dare tell me you can’t write

Don’t disregard yourself as a lack of capability

Or excuse yourself with the fallacious notion that writing is for only the chosen few

Don’t you dare insult my craft

 

Not until you can look me in the eye

Look me in the eye and tell me

 

“You are not original

You are not vastly and incomparably unique

in ways your creator could never have imagined

never have planned”

 

Tell me you’ve never felt anything

Never felt the warmth of home in a friend’s embrace

Or the scorch of pain from the bitch of rejection

A thrilling rush of vitality blustering in life’s tradewinds

The infinite humanity of passions

 

Tell me you don’t have a story

An intricate complex tapestry

Woven of family and friends

Bound by struggles and passion

Tell me you haven’t lived life yet

 

And if that is so, tell me that you’ve never imagined

Imagined life, what it is and why it is so

What brilliant radiant and ghastly fragments might piece your puzzle of life together

 

Tell me your body’s landscape is the same as the masses

Modeling the same hills and canyons, the same scars and birth marks

Sporting the same weaknesses as strengths

 

Tell me that your mind holds the same unintelligible thoughts as every other bland mind

That out of seven billion people, your mind is exactly like the last and the next

 

Look me in the eyes and tell me

You can’t write

 


FOREST THOUGHTS

BY BETSY MCKINNEY

I gazed at his forehead.

His shiny temples,

Right where his mind must have been.

 

I rummaged for his thoughts.

 

Why did he think them, and was there room for mine?

 

My thoughts:

They are hazy and delicate.

They are of soft, unpressing light

 a steamy, humming wood.

 

And we are in its middle:

 

We are the low, weighted moan of wildlife

And we are its present hush.

 

Light

Is flowering.

 

And we can see it.

 

I look to his aligned nose,

And two blue, dewy eyes:

 

And I wanted one idea to become one design. 


YOU ARE

BY LILLI HIME

Should someone ever tell you

With all the love, all the good intentions in their heart,

That you are the world to them

Just kindly, tenderly, delicately take their face in your hands and tell them
I am not

 

You should not be the world to anyone.

 

The earth is humble, grounded, and ever necessary,

As necessary as the air we breathe or the water we drink.

See, they don’t choose you because they want you,

They choose you because they need you.

And as all necessities, you will quickly be taken for granted.

I mean, when’s the last time you thanked oxygen for keeping you afloat?

When’s the last time you thanked the ground below your feet for supporting you?

Necessities cease to matter because they are so

And if you are the world to someone, you will too.

 

So you wait.

Wait patiently for that person, the one in 7 billion, your person

Who will come along and tell you that

“You are the moon and the stars and galaxies beyond.”

Those glittery shimmery objects off in the distance

Radiant, alluring, and always asserting their right to be so

The cosmos embody mystery and endless possibility

And, they’re a complete luxury.

 

The earth may be necessary

But the moon and the stars and the galaxies beyond,

They’re a privilege. You’re a privilege.

An indulgent, ostentatious privilege.

The cosmos is what we dream of,

What we create in the rapture of imagination

They are the romanticized art of expression,

Of beauty in a world of undulating realism

Amidst the earthly businesses of life, we look upward, onward

To the melodies of constellations and the poetic swirls of galaxies,

To lift our spirits out of their worldly caskets.

 

So wait for the one who calls you

The moon

The stars

The galaxies beyond,

Because that person doesn’t need you to survive

They want you.

More than air or water or the ground below,

They’ve chosen to need you because,

While you may not know the language of necessity.

You speak the language of their heart and soul.

You speak the language of the cosmos.


EVERYTHING STAYS

BY OLIVER DAVIS

In the middle of an ocean that is not too cold or too warm

Is a lighthouse where a kindly old man lives.

His name is Remembrance,

His job to turn and pivot the light’s gaze

All across the ocean’s fluctuating skin.

There are many things that reside underneath:

Frightening things,

     the snarl of a beast

     the barrel of a gun

     the blood of a friend

Content things,

     the warmth of a bed meant for two and ice cream in the summer

Melancholic things,

     an abandoned family house, a stroll through an old school

And many more countless things

But all of them beautiful.

 

From the tower, all are visible,

Some clearer than others

The brilliance of the light house is what allows things to be seen again

In their full splendor, as if just experienced

It’s Remembrance’s job to turn his light on things that catch his eye.

Even the smallest glint here or there is enough to the light’s attention

And as he toils in his tower, Remembrance smiles,

He smiles because he knows something that nobody else does.

He knows that while the tides of the ocean change and distorts the image of everything

Sometimes even changing things until they become new things altogether.

 

The light of his tower will turn it back to the way it used to look

Everything changes, but everything also stays

Just the way you found it.


THE HUM

BY BETSY MCKINNEY

Who is God of the Hum?

 

She must have stood,

Unfrayed, drinking in her existence—

Within the cavity of mountain air

Some call

Oregon.

 

I stand here now.

We are equals,

Soul-whisperers

 

Our arm extended

Fingertips brimming with energy—

I look over them, triumphant:

 

Millions of upward streaks

Of Douglas firs, Redwoods

Splinter from my hand

 

 

I Am Intuitive

 

I Am Powerful and Good

 

 

I Am

Heeding,

Harnessing,

Queen of the Hum:

 

My hunter-green haven

Feathery and ancient

 

Its chills that chime

Inexplicable

 

I revere the Oregon mountain—

Giggling with forest breath,

Punctuating history

With pine-tree-reflection,

Then acceptance.

 

I Am tall, unconquered, beholden—

I Am God of the Hum. 


SOUL NEXT DOOR

BY LILLI HIME

My body is a house, my soul the inhabitant

And my soul, she can be a bit of a brat.

She hasn’t the ability to care for the whole house yet.

She’s still a child, still learning

Who she is, what love is, how to be.

 

See, when my soul sees you,

She thinks love is scooting over on the couch

Inviting your soul to sit beside mine

She thinks love is when your soul

Reaches the top shelf that she is too short to reach

When your soul moves furniture around the house

She is too weak to move.

When your soul completes all those household tasks she struggles with daily

Fills the empty spaces she is too small to fit.

 

Because it’s a big house with many chores

And she’s a small soul with much to learn.

 

Like the sound of the door shutting gently

As your soul leaves, retreats

I can’t do this anymore

She didn’t realize by filling my house

You’d left yours.

She didn’t realize there were other houses on the block

Other little girls and little boys trying to manage

And a neglected house that your soul would have to return to.

 

When your soul left, the chores piled up

The ones she was too small, too weak, not enough for.

 

The next visitor was not a soul but an idea

A desperate idea that maybe she could hire someone for these tasks

Work, run, work, sleep, school, work

And it worked. Until it didn’t.

These visitors had a strict schedule to stick to and left once over

Nine to five, eleven to eight, two hours a day.

And still the hardest was when they left

Because the emptiness of the house resonated

Louder than any soul could speak.

 

And it wasn’t until far later that she finally grew up

Grew in the absence of others

Grew to fill all the duties she’d once asked of others

Grew to make a home out of this house of hers.


I

BY CJ SHALEESH

I was frightened,

by both the flawed and flawless,

but more than anything envied you,

your ability to live effortlessly.

II.

BY CJ SHALEESH

The sound of silence,

a powerful force,

one to be feared,

holding every unspoken word.

III.

BY CJ SHALEESH

Where you loved

like the rain,

I loved

with nothing less than a storm.


WAVERING/ UNWAVERING

BY BETSY MCKINNEY

Wavering

what
are You
and who am i
and what will i become
and who am i willing to be?
a guise
of cool perception
as i straddle
the cusp
of benign brevity
and divine apprehension



Unwavering

steeped
in magnetism
defective resolve
wings
and brightens
a buoyant anchor:
My Baptism 


ICARUS

BY JASMINE KIM

I think Icarus died with the sun still clenched in his palms

but at the same time I think he tasted his home for a brief moment

 and maybe in the clouds glanced at the open arms of his mother.

 

I think Icarus splashed into that blood dark ocean

and I think someone somewhere must have mistaken that brightness

for a shooting star and wished upon him.


UNTITLED

BY SARAH DUNAVANT

i know you wake up with cold hands

and you need a warm body but

your frozen soul still hesitates

because you loved and lost and you clutch

the memory of that pain to your chest

like a brown bouquet of dead flowers

that you planted and watered and had to watch wither.

your lost angel never set fires,

but her eyes were dark and you noticed that

only after she left you.

 

you still look at the pictures,

you listen to her favorite songs,

you remember how she smelled -

in this way, you’re stronger than me.

my angel flew away too.

my love was too holy, my hands clenched too tight.

she pried her heart from my fingers.

she broke my knuckles. now you hold my hands

but i know you bruise easy, too.

 

we all have scars

from the burning buildings we've escaped

and i know you still trace yours.

you know the shape that every

heartbreak left on your forearms

and you bleed when you hear her name.

you’ve been left on so many curbs

but you still go into buildings,

and stay 'til smoke chokes you,

craving so badly the closeness

that comes before the goodbye.

in this way, you’re stronger than me.

 

i know you wake up with cold hands,

but you still smell like smoke.


THE COW

BY BETSY MCKINNEY

A few drips of sleepy stars

measure across blackness.

A tiny, coffee cow,

with moony eyes and a hypnotic sweep of tail,

rests underneath.

The cow is slow.

It plods along delicate twists of grass.

The little brown cow is dreamless,

even with a hiccup of flickering light overhead.

Both are unnerved and forgetful.

The cow does not notice

its blinking golden globes

align with the pulse of stars.

The cow is slow.

It does not think.

It regards the twists of grass, slightly wet;

The languid stars, the blackness,

all a peaceful normality

a glitter of the dull present.


GARDEN GIRL

BY LILLI HIME

BY JASMINE KIM

She’s got trees growing in that spine of hers

Has soil in the lines of her palms.

Walks soft like moss,

Carries herself like a fairy.

 

But you, you’re warm water.

Sea waves, blue ocean body.

You cannot crawl into her cracks

And make her into a garden,

Not when she is already a forest all on her own.

She holds shadows between her hipbones,

And folds herself razor notes that she tucks

Into the cavities of her green soul,

Ripped aching holes

That hands like yours don’t know how to sew.

 

You kiss her anyway.

You kiss her hungry,

You kiss her thirsty survivor

With nothing but salt water

And she tastes of morning dew and honeysuckle.

 

She is star child, forest queen, good future,

You are too old to know better

But too young to do good.

You are the scrape of a knee

You are broken teeth.

 

You want to tell her

“there is a love song for the weeds growing inside of me

And I named it after you.”

 

But you are nothing

And she is lovely,

And in the morning someone else will be her ocean

 In the way that you will never, ever be.  


NEW FRIENDS

BY GABRIELLE WILKOSZ

The best times? That’s easy.

 

Looking into each other’s faces

palms open

hearts unlaced,

our pelvises slant

forward like the proud ancient stance

of brave women before us

 

And we say, “Cheers to us! We are the lucky ones!”

We’ve found our tribe

You are my sister, we are our nation

All seven souls eclipsing

like friendly moons from a fictional distant space

 

My fingertips are bruise-yellow, sour but splendid

Her’s are peach

I like them, I tell her

I mean it

 

We are each other’s

urgent

long-lost relatives

 

But sometimes our new language splinters,

The paper world we built sleeps heavy

with dampness

We are a unified people

But weren’t we once from different lands?

Nomads maybe?

 

I remember what it is to be alone.

I wonder if they do too.


CURRENTLY

BY BETSY MCKINNEY

I was going to tell you Reliving’s recipe once I figured it out.

And I thought I was doing a pretty good job:

I was actively engaging my mind, calm expectations of a slow rebirth.  

But guess what?

I got sad again. 

 

It turns out recovery demands an awareness I was not willing to accept:

it slides. It has dents. 

I’m learning that stagnancy permeates resolve;

Sometimes, sadness still nestles between my thoughts and actions. 

And anticipation can be

 the slowest

drip.

 

The past seemed perfect and I want it back. Tomorrow is unsaid and it scares me. 

I’m learning my rebirth is not infallible.

It braids and climbs, not always convincing.  

I am living

   not reliving,

     and that’s okay. 

Soon, I am going back to visit the black construction paper trees at the lake. 

They celebrate a methodical transition

into dark pillars

across a sky freckled with stars.

Frozen minutes begin to melt,

the haze stops its swirl.

It’s nighttime. 


DEATH

BY CJ SHALEESH

In the last fleeting hours of life

knowledge comes to bring us strife.

No one that surrounds can know,

which forces us to be alone.

 

With the thoughts of my grave in mind,

I’m transported to a land of the dead.

Memories from past spirits are what I find

and the only one being heard is the one who first said,

“In death a new life arises

but may turn out to be something one despises.”

 

In the night the weather doesn’t reflect how I feel,

when the realization that my idea of God was not real.

The thought of heaven is supposed to give hope,

but when removed from earth makes me want to mope.

 

Darkness consumes,

leaving nothing but gloom.

It becomes like a tremor,

one that goes on forever.


ELEMENTARY BLUES

BY OLIVER DAVIS

Hey funny girl,

Do you remember? All those funny little things you liked to say?

Those jokes you liked to crack

They really brightened my day

Those memories shine, those memories shine

Then the light dies, eaten by a crow

 Years ago.

 

Hey funny girl,

Do you remember the way you bruised my heart?

Imprinted a scar that wouldn’t heal?

The way you so righteously tore me apart?

Without even bothering to understand

I was overcome with hate, like a fish against the flow

Years ago.

 

Hey funny girl

Do you remember the way you looked?

Acting like you slew some kind of evil demon

And then the whole class got hooked

You were a paladin in their eyes and me a devil

I wonder, did you enjoy the show

Years ago?

 

Hey funny girl,

Do you remember?

I sure do

As strange as it may seem

I feel I must thank you

The scar you left has helped me become what I am today

And still I continue to grow

I wish you could see what I’ve become since

Years ago.


ON LOVING SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO DIE

BY SARAH DUNAVANT

 i think i wanted you to be a forest.

i wanted to get lost in you,

i wanted to be amazed by you,

but you wouldn't let me.

 

you told the rain to stop falling

and made me watch as you were

ravished

by wildfires.

the flames danced on your skin

in ways my lips never could.

 

i don't know what reaction you wanted,

maybe you didn't, either.

i was born with smoke in my lungs, too,

but i could never burn like this.

 

i think you knew i'd try to kiss the flames away,

but you could see my lips were chapped and bleeding

and there was just too much fire.

 

i really don't think you meant to burn me.

it was my decision,

i got too close.

but i think i'd rather burn with you than

leave, and that's my decision, too.


"BLACK PAINTING": A RESPONSE

PHOTO BY SARAH LONGE

PHOTO BY SARAH LONGE

BY GABRIELLE WILKOSZ

I’m here if you wanna come see me.

On Martin Luther King Jr Blvd

All you’ve gotta do is turn

into the big white doors next to the bronze star and go

spiraling up the pebble blue stairway to heaven.


My name is Fred Hampton. I am 21 years old, born in Summit, Illinois.

But I don’t get to walk those streets much anymore.

The way Kerry made me, I’m forever in this bed right here,

Wearing the cold December night like some bath sheet

my arms aren’t long enough to reach over and pull off.


My fiancée lies here close.

the small grey lump in the bed facing the left wall.

My baby Deborah’s raven shoulders and mine are alike, weighed

down by strokes of black grey and the fight I’ve taken up.


But she and I are forever on our

tiptoes, elegant and posed.

Dancing on the edge of time.


Ghosts of Chicago Police and FBI are two soft minutes from busting into this room.

The placard says so.

Two soft minutes that don’t happen.

And the way I hang on this wall next to my baby,

I’ll be two soft minutes from hearing their steps.


The white men in uniform with thick belts and thick boot soles are frozen in time, still running figures. They wanna come for us because like a lot of people they just don’t understand what it is to be haunted by the rights you should have, but don’t.


There’s a difference between how Kerry made me, Deborah and these three walls

and what it was really like.

This time, even though the room is darker, people can finally see. You’ve seen the sandy desert stretch of glass to my right, a two way mirror where all sorts of people and their baggage gather.


They wait for the light to hit their eyes.

They wait for the dark to adjust.

Tiny molecules, dust particulates adrift.

The human lens stumbles into focus.

They see us.

See my baby Deborah.

They see me.

And when they walk away, they’re not the same for it.


In Kerry’s painted world, December ‘69, Deborah and our kid inside her are well.

Under the covers, they’re safe. She and her fiberglass bones go right on sleeping next to me.

And in the morning, Potential sits like a fat bird on the windowsill.

Still, I’ll go right to work with my brothers and my sisters

Shedding our scales every day and licking wounds and picking up the broken ones among us.


Some people have called me revolutionary.

How do you like that?

Revolutionary.

I want you to go and look through the right side and you see my bleeding heart and my broken bed,

you go and understand the brightest thing in that god damn room is the flag.

In a world that only sees white, you go and look.


You remember what you learned in the blackness.


Fred Hampton served as chairman of the Illinois chapter of the national Black Panther Party when he and his pregnant fiancé were wrongfully murdered by The Chicago Police and FBI in December 1969. Artist Kerry James Marshall depicts this important historical event from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s in “Black Painting” currently on display at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas.


MUSE

BY CJ SHALEESH

You awaken me from my slumber to play

And mold me like a mound of clay.

The sight of a sullen sky,

Cleared by a simple gleam in your eyes

With you I see no more gore,

Just glorious passion which soars.

You hold on me feels light

But in reality is pulled in quite tight.

Like shackled on my hands, you were not a choice.

But forever will be a part of my voice.


HAIKUS: A SERIES

BY DIEGO ALCOCER

A burning question

prompted one final journey

within flesh and bone.

 

Howling and Snarling

a voracious appetite

caged in six chambers.

 

Love was to be found

within his drunken stupor;

taunting those who care.

 

Fretful by nature,

those relentless ambitions

violently collide.

 

Inside the attic:

a nostalgic sensation,

broken toys and dreams.


MY ETERNAL NO MORE

BY CJ SHALEESH

In life we are lost souls;

Always searching for answers just beyond our grasps.

With you those answers, no longer surreal

And so exposed, they burn with a luminous glow.

 

Like a blank page, no lies can be told,

Not until the dreams unfolds.

This is like the story of you and me,

A fantasy in which only I can see.

 

You are my partner, companion, and friend

And don’t notice how I see your beauty within.

A jumble of hair always in disarray,

Just like your mouth, with what you say.

A mindset which no one comprehends,

But intrigues me the most, none the less.

 

Inspiring is your heart,

An addiction, always luring me in for more.

Eyes of curiosity you possess;

Untainted by even my most judgmental statement.

Quiet with tone yet severe opinion,

My favorite combination in your hands.

 

Inside you converted my monochromatic views of life,

Into one that goes beyond the color spectrum,

But in the end you won’t ever feel the same way;

So whoever you long for, I hope she at least treats you okay.

 

And it partly oppresses me to say,

You will be my never lover

But always my friend.