I learned to raise my pain like god
raises lightning, disappearing as soon as it opens the sky
I let it haunt me, as I let most things. Every time I leave
a city I tell myself to become new again:
Joy is my mother holding her American dollar
America falling around her like a voice that has never once prayed
I have decided I no longer care where it is
I came from. I let myself fear death only
to remember my body. I think language is a gun with no bullets in sight, just the blow,
the mouth belonging to nothing but ends. And I know
where this road turns, I will follow it like a fire
on a hill of pale
I am always watching the door for my body, the room defeated
dust wind against the gentle wind, you fly towards me, pull me to the ground and we kiss--
Are we not an extension
of the shoulders on this earth we’ve crashed into?
Who are we if we can’t at least give each other this. At least
the distance between a sentence and the eyes avoiding it— Everything is dark
except for the wound, you can see how lovely
it glows; right there, I am free except for the moment where I chose to forget
you. Like an arrow, you are both a killer and a bird,
I tell myself this before it's over.
Rome Smaoui is a Tunisian poet and writer based in the U.K. Her work has appeared in Narrative Magazine, Litbreak Magazine, Sonder Midwest, The Roadrunner Review, and other places. She recieved Gold & Silver Keys for her writing by the Scholastics Art & Writing Awards, and she was recognized by Palette Poetry's 2022 Emerging Poet Prize. In 2021, she was featured in Narrative Magazine’s 30 Under 30 List. She is currently an editor for Nighthawk Literature, and is completing her undergraduate studies in English & Creative Writing at The University of Manchester. When Rome isn't writing, she can be found near the sea reading poems to a society of mermaids.
At nine weeks, slant shadows pull across
the stained floor of the outpatient clinic.
Dirty blinds shield the cracked window
putting out the lit cigarette of horizon.
I imagine how a soul enters the body.
How we sweated off winter, on carpet
or couch. How our tossed sheets became
my Tuesday afternoon appointment. I--
imagine the drawbridge to my future.
I imagine us, living in your parent’s
Michigan basement. I imagine having
enough wire—to hang myself.
Outside, pro-life chants thunder
like a psalm of drills—I also pray:
an empty meditation upon the nothing.
My modicum of truth. I sign the fine print,
pay the requisite blood. A volunteer nurse
walks me out. I puke in the parking lot.
Tell work I can’t come in. Sunset slowdrags
against dusk’s lining. Heavy rain recoils off
my Honda’s dusty windshield. I drive
the familiar stretch edged with the small shrines
that memorialize car accidents. My little
fugue—You’re no one, I’ll pine after
Karla Lamb is a Chicana poet, with work appearing or forthcoming in A Women’s Thing Magazine, The Shallow Ends, Yes Poetry, Word Riot, Coal Hill Review, Fine Print Press, Dream Boy Book Club, & elsewhere. Her work has been nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology 2019, & translated in Revista La Peste. She co-hosts Charla Cultural, a bilingual podcast centering underrepresented literary artists. Lamb lives in L.A. with her cat Fulano. More at karlalamb.com & @vinylowl.
to consume / or to be consumed / spoken in whispers around
the house / or written on street signs / above the lights
across / I am among the verdant grasses / melding with
the greenery / eaten alive / eating / among the fireflies
mindlessly interceding death / I have written over the doors
prepared the rooms / filled the lanterns / detuned the
strings / buried the roads / to see / or to have been seen
holding a knife to someone’s throat / it’s in the mirror
in the hallway / it’s marked with a gravestone out back
I would die for you I said / over the entryway / driven across
the doorstep / I am above the setting sun / to be alone / or
just to be / there is victory / spoken in
whispers / around the house / crawling perpendicular
to death / I have prayed for rain / I have closed my
eyes / on my knees I awoke / to consume / or to be
consumed / I have lifted you to my lips / I have
written over the doors / I have seen you in
the streets / I can feel you now / yes, even now
I can feel you / I can feel you now / yes, I can feel you
Davis Martin is a composer and writer currently working as a Teaching Fellow at the Hartt School where he is pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts in Music Composition. In addition to composing, he maintains an active performing career as a vocalist, specializing in opera and new music. His work in both musical and literary idioms draws from horror, his queer experience, and his Southern roots. In Davis’ free time, he enjoys photography and tending to his growing collection of plants. He can be found online @davisforpres and at davismartinmusic.com.
in the act of perception we are rendered
there is only the cane,
there is only the cripple
cripping our clothes,
cripping our queerness,
cripping our speech
are there enough ways that you know we are disabled?
weighing the sound of skin on dry skin
the thump of the cane
against tiled floor
iridescent scales running down the shaft
we used to dream
we were descended from mermaids
a descent into madness quickened by dreaming
each bead of sweat
soaking our clothes into waking
in the wake of illness,
we suffer banality
each mark of fatigue like chipped nail polish
nailing the shaft in place
as we lean on the cane
but in the act of perception
we are rendered invisible
Kwame Sound Daniels is a mad black trans artist based out of Maryland. Xe are a VCFA MFA candidate and an Anaphora Arts Residency Fellow. Xir debut poetry collection (Light Spun) came out with Perennial Press August 2022. Xe often write about xir disabilities and xir spiritual identity seated in blackness and ancestral worship. You can find xem on Instagram, @the.okra.winfrey or on xir website www.kwamesounddaniels.com, where xir publications are listed. Kwame learns plant medicine, pickles vegetables, and paints in xir spare time.
gender affirming care
Rusting, which happens when a thing is still
or moving, and too long exposed,
happened, of course, to us,
so that we became thinner
and brittle, and rang like bells when struck.
the surgery happened. And we suspect it helped us
stay alive. I invited everyone to the celebration
of my razed chest, and later, on the beach,
I kept my shirt on. There was less of me,
and more, but I was taken with the small, shy spiders
under beach rocks who ran for cover even from
the harmless sky.
And when, in a dream, the dead dog turned her patient belly,
she was mindless of her scar, and in patting her there
I touched, with a ringing as though from the waking world,
her softest part, where, though hollower
she was still whole.
Gabriel Waite is a queer/trans spoken word performer and an emerging writer of poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction. Their work has appeared in Poetry Pause at the League of Canadian Poets, and their short story Jet Lag won the Lakefield Literary Festival Senior Fiction award. They live on the unceded territories of the Songhees, Esquimalt, and WSÁNEĆ people in Victoria, B.C.
Death between the eyes.
How we could have known
who left with red in their hair.
To give me a terrain—unutterable
when I learn him by taste.
A god sits in the kitchen watching us
keep score on the scorching of ourselves.
We eat with all the hunger.
Curvilinear passages & shuddered core-strings.
Entering the sheets like a body in drought.
I may open myself in the chilled morning.
Become unfiltered into first desire, then nowhere.
Ana Carrizo is a 31-year-old writer living in Texas. Her works are a way of healing and a personal reflection on the process of continual growth. She loves carrying orange peels in her pockets and buying used poetry books. You can read more of her poetry on tumblr @elvedon.
clench clench clench clench clench clench clench the doctor says I have to stop holding my vagina like a fist. I tell him I am a young woman. I don’t have a fists. just accessories. I am just pursing: purse, verb, very, ladylike. e.g: my vagina is pursing like a grandmother’s lips. stehstehstehstehstehstehsteh - that's the sound of a tongue sticking-unsticking from the roof of a happy mouth. that's satisfaction after a cup of sweettea that was not a want, but a need. of course, I am not satisfied. my soft animal and I have not had a good drink in months. we are parched. I just moved to this cut-stone city. I am hardly ever recognized. I am hardly ever a guest. no one has had the opportunity to offer us: a hand, a seat, a photo album, or a glass of something with or without ice. the doctor says clenching usually follows at trauma’s heels. did I know/ I was both / the two god-hands and the babydoll being / squeezed to its seams? no
nothing ripped. but the jaw does unlock itself and pendulum from time to time. I ask the orthodontist why my mouth keeps unraveling and hitting the floor like a cat-cartoon in love. well, because I am, yes, clenching. ing ing ing ing ing he puts one finger in my mouth, squeaking and blue, tells me to bite. my jaw is quite strong and this is not a compliment. the pink doctor throws in a finger too. he notes that me and Mine are not very hospitable. no “come in”, no “can I take your coat”, he asks who raised me? I beg him not to tell my grandmother! He asks for my history. I hand him his history. claim whoever bled on the other side of his pink hands. okay. well. Mine is too tight and have I heard of vaginal physical therapy? it's a little uncomfortable lots of single, plastic fingers, and deep breaths, we can call it: a last resort
I put on my underwear. I rinse out my mouth. I pay my deductible. I leave the building and stay in the lot. in my car, I imagine myself as an open palm. see each finger of my body undo and soften until I am as exposed as a peonie at the top of May. I imagine my therapist or the youtube yoga instructor in the passenger. next to me. taking my bloomed palms and placing one on my heart, one on my stomach, reminding me how to breathe so that my belly stretches into a bowl. I do this until I am calm enough to be bored with the way boys have wound and hardened me. I Type. Tweet. “doctor said my pussy too tight! And my jaw?? very powerful!”
Dylan Gilbert is a poet from Ann Arbor, MI. She received her bachelor’s degree from University of Michigan and currently resides in Harlem where she is working towards her MFA at Columbia University. Her work has received multiple Hopwood Awards and appeared in several college literary journals as well as UCL’s Panacea Review.
a bearded iris
grips petaled quilts
tucks its entire being into a fist
and waits for the warmth
to open pollen-crusted eyes.
mold grows fuzzily
leaves a film that erodes
wishes to come
no matter how many times
i’m so tired of curled days
that go by
before it’s time to unfurl again
but i don't know how to stop
this heart from
my body forgets to flinch
when it senses a exhale of warmth
a faint knock asking to
be let in again
you are just checking if i’m still
you’re here and a touch
would send me spilling into
frostbitten april mornings
without a speck of
memory to remind me
this will hurt.
A.J. Birch is a prose-writer turned poet by quarantine. She loves anything subtle, small, and haunting. She lives in North Carolina and is a 2021 graduate of Catawba College. You can find her at @ajbirch444 on Twitter or ajbirk444 on Instagram.
FROM OUR ECHO OF SUDDEN MERCY “FOUNDATIONS ARE BEING SHAKEN” —“IMPERYALISTA | THE TOWER” JANA LYNNE UMIPIG, KAPWA TAROT
Beneath the earth the earth
is always rumbling.
And here, a little helplessness to hold like a newborn child--
it’s not only the child who’s helpless it’s the holding.
If you ever get to watch the eggs fall as you rush them
out the fridge, crack on the lip left by its open door, spill
there and onto the linoleum as they tumble; if you towel
those eggs up, sob-sobbing the whole time, “I can’t do this, I
can’t,” hand and knees to floor, “I can’t,” pour the surviving
yolks, from the somehow upright carton into the already-
warmed-up frying pan, no need to panic:
there will be other chances not to quite pull through.
Please, don’t appropriate
this error into the good small
moments of your day--we need more
betrayal if we want to keep forgiving—not if you believe
that language is a spell.
Blessed are those
who ghosts and demons
flock towards. And every time, ingat,
my loves. My loves: Ingat.
Is it possible that countries do not have a body the same way
my knees my hips my spine my lips don’t have a country?
It’s true: some days will sorrow more than other days,
and the lightest drizzle mocks us by refusing to downpour.
That must be part of it, yes? The gravity we need?
Strong enough to pull down rain, weak enough to let it rise,
kind, no maybe soft, or dare I say it generous
enough we aren’t pummeled always by the falling.
Hari Alluri (he/him/siva) is a migrant poet of Philippine & South Indian descent living and writing on unceded Musquea,, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh. Oayqayt. Kwikwetlem lands. Siya is the author of The Flayed City (Kaya Press) and the chapbooks The Promise of Rust (Mouthfeel Press) and Our Echo of Sudden Mercy (forthcoming from Next Page Press). A co-editor of We Are Not Alone (Community Building Art Works) and co-founding editor at Locked Horn Press, his work appears in anthologies, journals, and online venues, most recently – via Split This Rock – in Best of the Net 2022. Find Him @harialluri and at https://linktr.ee/harialluri.