Ariel Francisco


—for my grandfather

I walk down through Manhattan
from the Bronx, tracing the path
you must have taken in the hunt

for your first job in America,
some hotel on Park Avenue
you could never afford to stay in.

No money for a cab, you must
have walked the crowded city
in awe, more people on a single

street corner waiting to cross
then there were in the whole
Dominican Republic you left behind.

No money for the subway,
though maybe you considered
becoming a conductor,

despite the fear of being underground— 
they must get paid well to wield
such huge machinery— 

but you didn’t come here to lead
people through darkness.  Or did you?
Uptown now, where your son,

my father, will enroll in City College,
the first in the family to have his degree.
Uptown, where the trains emerge

Bronx bound or bent towards Queens,
or dive right into the very ground
you walk on below Manhattan

towards Brooklyn or far off Staten Island,
where another son is still locked up
in an asylum, Uncle Kiko in the embrace

of schizophrenia.  He might be in the same
room you used to visit him in, I wouldn’t know.
I don’t visit him.  I keep walking

just as you must have kept walking,
eyes bouncing around like a pinball— 
the bars with strange names,

clothing stores, Chinese restaurants,
a post office, a donut shop with a bold
red sign that says HOT & READY

but not HIRING, and what do you know
about donuts anyway?  You must have
walked past this same bodega in Washington Heights,

contemplated stopping for smokes
but there was no money for cigarettes
yet, and besides, you’ll smoke twice as much

when your wife dies from lung cancer.  
I have cousins in Washington Heights
that I would not recognize 

if they were standing next to me on
this very same corner crossing
in the same direction but I keep walking

past coffee shops and food stands, 
a farmers market, a pawn shop with a sign
that reads WE BUY ANYTHING

but not HIRING, and you don’t have much
to sell anyway, anything of value
already gone to pay for the plane tickets,

the first months rent, food, a new
pair of shoes that lead you past
the length of Central Park.  Did the acres

of autumned trees dishearten you,
leaves breaking from stems like
drifting days?  Or had the decades

already taught that spring returns with
or without us?  Midtown within sight
now, how the skyscrapers must have

floored you.  The Empire State, 
The Chrysler.  Or perhaps you were
skeptical.  Rascacielo?

How could the snow not come down
if their spires were truly piercing the clouds?  
Did you consider going up

to the top floor of one to see
for yourself?  But there wasn’t much
time, the evening growing thin around you

as it does right now, the streetlights
coming to life, and an electric blue sign
down the block springs into view

in the window of a hotel, the words
in red handwriting: HELP WANTED.


With my last two dollars I buy a coffee
to warm my ungloved hands, snow falling
soundlessly onto my upturned face 

beneath the shadow of an enormous
Christmas tree, a skyscraper raised
overnight in midtown New York.

I try to fathom the flatbed it came to town in
from some far-northern Paul Bunyan
forest, and remember the eighteen wheelers

full of classic Fraser Firs and woolly Douglas trees
that I had to unload by hand when I worked
at a Home Depot in North Miami.

The trees were always stacked and netted
like body bags, from smallest to largest,
making it as difficult as possible to unload, 

with the menacing twelve footers
still waiting in the back after hours
of dragging and lifting, dragging and lifting.

That winter was cold enough to send
the snowbirds home, temperatures dropping
to the upper 20’s at night, and it was always cold

in those refrigerated trucks, though the sap
that oozed from the trees wasn’t quite frozen
and so it would stick to my jeans, hoodies, gloves,

and that stupid orange apron, leaving me sap-
stained from head to aching feet.  This was after
I graduated college, when I was so broke

I called out sick because I couldn’t afford to put gas
in the car that week to drive up to work and threw
up from eating ramen noodles for four days straight.  

Never broke enough to pick up a penny
on the street though, knowing damn well
how worthless they are, not even pure copper—

even Abe is embarrassed, casting a sideways
stare to avoid eye contact.  Those were the days
when I’d come home broken and stare

at my English degree hanging on the wall
like a crucifix that never answered a prayer.
I couldn’t even afford a Christmas tree,

not even one of those shitty plastic tabletop ones,
and hated everyone who shopped at Home Depot
for theirs, having to cut the netting and twirl

tree after tree, only for them to say, 
again and again: Eh, I don’t know.  
How about that big one in the back?

and I hated them even more, hoped the tree
they picked was full of spiders, even dead ones,
which often turned up in the frozen trucks

with their eight glazed eyes multiplying
the darkness, legs like dried pine needles.
Or maybe a stiff robin would drop down

on their gifts as their children hung lights
and angels from the branches, its beak
parted in yellowed silence. I always imagined

those creatures that turned up in the trailers
as sad, strange little immigrants fleeing
their homeland, smuggling themselves

in the trees, the trucks, their homes
destroyed but deciding to stay in them, 
seeing the semi’s license plate and dreaming

of Florida, that legendary place only mentioned
in the chatter of migratory birds, though I was
the only living thing ever inside the trailer,

sweeping out the dead critters into the piles
of pine needles, miniature funeral pyres.  One night
it got so cold that I considered setting fire

to all the trees, watch them all light up brighter
than that giant one in New York.  I didn’t quit
that night— I just never came back, though I

stood out there a long time, broom in hand
fantasizing about the embers flickering
like tinsel, the smell of roasting pine needles.

And when the fire trucks finally arrive
and the police come and ask what happened
I’ll wish them all a Merry fucking Christmas

as the fire jumps to the store front
and say this blaze is my gift
to myself— the only one I could afford.




Ariel Francisco is a Dominican-Guatemalan-American poet born in the Bronx, New York, and raised in Florida. He is currently completing his MFA at Florida International University where he is also the assistant editor of Gulf Stream Literary Magazine. His poems have appeared in The Boiler Journal, Portland Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Washington Square, and elsewhere.

Posted on December 14, 2015 .

Alison Lanier

Battle Horn Blow

A hot belly god a blank rage god

a roll on your belly god a praised be god

a topless on the couch god and dance floor god

a bleached hair god a slow to sober god

a god with blood on the mountains

and almost murdered sons

and songs full of broken noses and

hallowed be they warfare

a kiss me hard god with the sacrifice

between my teeth god

and rams horns torn clear

and sounded like madmen’s trumpets

spit and marrow god desert god

a dancefloor god a molten heart god

a karaoke night god brutally present god

hallowed be thy presence god with thy breath

hot in the microphone god and what holy

holy holy anti-memories we’ll consecrate god

with our tired childhood diatribes made god new

and vicious in the chords of a god song

our parents knew

Alison Lanier is a Boston-based writer and recent graduate of Wellesley College. Her fiction, reviews, articles, poetry, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Atticus Review, Burningword, Counterpoint Magazine, and The Wellesley Review. This year she joined the editorial team at Critical Flame and co-founded Mortar Magazine

Posted on December 14, 2015 .

Donald Illich


The days I was on fire it never rained.

I turned to smoke, spread myself


across the valley.  Smothering people,

stinging their eyes, I regretted


what I had become.  Soon, I spread

out so far I had disintegrated.


I woke as a boy again, playing with matches.

I struck one after another, seeking


a spark.  Each time I could formulate

warmth, a storm charged over


the horizon.  I learned how to freeze

to death, watched my skin shine blue.


My breath left my body without

a letter home.  Waking the next day,


the sun didn't wait.  It corralled me

with flames.  It told me to become ashes.

Donald Illich has published work in The Iowa Review, Nimrod, LIT, Sixth Finch, and other journals. He's been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. He lives in Maryland, where he works as a technical writer.

Posted on December 14, 2015 .

Jennifer Givhan

Leaving Anthony


It wasn’t the sex or the santo candles his mother 

still lit in his bedroom like she’d done

all the nights he’d been gone, the habit 

unbroken though he’d come home.


For Mexican Art History, I sat behind him

at the college comunidad where he’d enrolled 

a month after getting out of prison

for a murder he didn’t commit—still


Moonlight Sonata reminds me of his bedroom 

at his sister’s or after he moved

to the house in the backyard with his parents 

because his sister didn’t approve of me


nineteen years old to his thirty-three.

It was your voice, heina, he’d tell me. The question 

was to define fetish, and I knew

it meant obsession


or the small clay figurines of women

round and full of life, their breasts and hips 

large as their heads. And your

mind. The men were depicted as soldiers.


He’d stretch out his arms to call me

his queen, or to say this was the width of 

his cell for over a decade. He came out

with the bible and knowledge of his ancestral


claim. Corazon, he’d tell me, this land

is ours. Like my uncle the Ph.D.

You don’ t understand, do you? We had 

nothing. We had nopales in his mother’s


frying pan. I never asked him

what else happened there. Before his primo 

admitted he’d pulled the trigger. Not

even before his daughter was sick


or the ex-wife or the gang. I was his 

second chance, his college girl,

his classical music and magical

real. I got in my car and drove home.


Self-Defense or What I Wish Mama Had Taught Me

   for My Daughter


Your body can unzip 

like a boned bodice. 


Your body is a knife— 

both slicing point 


& handle.  Your body is the diamond 

blade arm 

but the bleeding is not yours.  


On the ground at your feet 

your body is becoming rocks.  


Heat-baked by centuries into basalt,

canyons of you, black-mouthed & sharp-edged. 


Lift the largest rock 

of yourself and throw 


with all the rocks in your gut.


Ghost the mother of your gut—she birthed you 

for rocks. 


In the ghost story, a woman goes to hell 

for a man who’d unravel her. 


Use the hell

of your body, 


unravel for no one but yourself. 


Jennifer Givhan's full-length poetry collection Landscape with Headless Mama won the 2015 Pleiades Editors’ Prize and is forthcoming in 2016. She's earned an NEA fellow in poetry, a PEN/Rosenthal Emerging Voices fellowship, the inaugural Latin@ Scholarship to The Frost Place, The Pinch Journal Poetry Prize, and the DASH Literary Journal Poetry Prize. She holds an MFA from Warren Wilson College, and her poems have appeared in Best New Poets 2013, AGNI, Southern Humanities Review, Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Rattle, The Collagist, and The Columbia Poetry Review. She's also an assistant editor at Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and teaches composition and poetry at Western New Mexico University and The Rooster Moans Poetry Coop

Read our Writers to Watch interview with Jennifer Givhan.

Posted on September 16, 2015 .

Emily Jalloul

In My Heaven

The air would smell like tomato plants, 

horse sweat, and new lipstick. 

I would wear nothing but a cooking apron 

to keep me moderately decent. 

My vibrator would never need new batteries, 

my weed jar would never be low, 

and I’d never again listen to another voicemail.

I wouldn’t feel hunger, 

but I’d still sprinkle sea-salt on my toast

and drink mint tea on the days 

when I wanted it to be cold. 

I’d always resemble how I looked

in that photo at the fair in January

when I was twenty-four. 

I’d sleep in elaborate tree houses

with cats of all sizes, 

no fear of waking up with swollen eyes

and a runny-nose. 

Poems would be etched onto clouds, 

so that you could see the words 

bounce off the sunlight. 

Drop-sized letters in perfect handwriting

would rain from the clouds. 

There would be no music 

except the cicadas and cardinals, 

no perfumes, except from flowers

caressed by hummingbirds and bees,  

no skyscrapers, nothing to tease 

the mountains and trees.  


But like astrology, psychic visions, prophecies,

religion, and every other metaphysical belief 

I don’t subscribe to, 

heaven is only a fantasy to indulge 

while I water my basil and sweet potatoes,

watching a plane fly over me

on its way to Mexico or possibly Prague. 

Emily Jalloul is pursuing her MFA in poetry at Florida International University. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Quest, Yellow Chair Review, Brev Spread, and The Fem, as well as others. 








Posted on July 24, 2015 .

Joseph Ross

Praise Song / Sorrow Song: DEMZ

for Delbert Gutierrez, a 21 year-old graffiti artist
killed by police in Miami Beach on August 6, 2014.
His graffiti tag was DEMZ


Praise to a warm December night, 

stars and palm trees dreaming.

Praise to the words you 

dreamed of painting.


Praise to the gravel beneath

the unmarked police car.


Praise to you running, your

quick moves through the alley.


Praise to alleys.


Praise to the police car’s tires

hissing around corners.


Praise to the dark clothing 

you wore that night.


Praise to your shock as the front bumper

tore your legs.


Praise to the surprise at being

struck by so much weight.


Praise to collapsing, your arms’

and legs’ betrayal. 


Praise to betrayal.


Praise to the metal and pavement

as they open your head.


Praise to the darkness that leaks

from your eyes.


Praise to your eyes.


Sorrow to the night your mother grieved

beside your hospital bed.


Sorrow to not knowing

she was there.


Sorrow to her fingers laced

through yours.


Sorrow to the police official who told her

you shouldn’t have run.


Sorrow for the dinner he offered

to buy her.


Sorrow for her fury.


Sorrow for all the December nights

you survived.


Sorrow that this one

was different.


March 24, 1980

for Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador


The cup you raised

was round, not unlike


a bullet. It widened 

like a wound does. It held


the swirling of the people

but it could not contain 


it. The cup held a wine not

served at fine meals. This


wine knew garbage dumps,

El Mozote, Santiago de Maria, 


places no bishop would ever see.

You took the poor into


your arms, encircling them

with a cathedral’s protection,


radio sermons to help them

bury the ones who died


before you would.

One day ago, you ordered


soldiers to see their country,

to disobey any who ordered


them to close their eyes and

kill their own. “Stop” you


demanded, the swelling circle of

of a bleeding land.


And so today in a hospital

chapel, a few nuns, tired


nurses who’d read

the treasonous gospel.


The story of a cathedral

unfinished as its people.


The story of a bishop 

firm as his altar.


The story of a cup

dangerous as its last


supper, a banquet 

of bullets for the Savior’s

country to taste.

Joseph Ross is the author of two books of poetry: Gospel of Dust (2013) and Meeting Bone Man (2012). His poems appear in many places including, The Los Angeles Times, Poet Lore, Tidal Basin Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly and Drumvoices Revue. He has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations and won the 2012 Pratt Library/Little Patuxent Review Poetry Prize. He recently served as the 23rd Poet-in-Residence for the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society in Howard County, Maryland. He teaches English and Creative Writing at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C. and writes regularly at


Posted on July 24, 2015 .

Anuradha Bhowmik


banana slices cut

with a plastic knife

spread on a paper plate

beside a spoon of Nutella

and two Milanos 

she chews hears the saliva 

smack in her mouth 

gags polish-chipped nails 

peel clammy palm clasps 

three extended-release 

amphetamine capsules

white-flaked lips part

crinkly curls crumble

rice paper cratered skin 

and hollow nicotine eyes 

swallowed whole 

with Muscle Milk Light

for faster absorption

12 to 14 hour half-life

smooth uptake 

without the withdrawal

two hours till she forgets 

her appetite taps the scale 

and sets to zero 

steps on 125 and 5’5” 

fingernails dig 

into the protruding 

curve of collarbone

tremble like EKG lines

pulse spiking teeth 

grinding from the uppers

Anuradha Bhowmik is a Bangladeshi-American poet and writer from South Jersey. She is an MFA candidate in poetry at Virginia Tech. She graduated with a B.A. in Women’s & Gender Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2015. Anuradha has been awarded a Grin City Collective Emerging Artist Residency, as well as scholarships to the New York State Summer Writers Institute and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Boiler, Lunch Ticket, After the Pause, Star 82 Review, Lumen, Pithead Chapel, and elsewhere.



Posted on July 24, 2015 .

Alan King

poem starting with a line from Anne Winters

In close ups,  you can see it 

on their faces — triumph blossoming

in their bubble-O eyes and the "oh shit"  

stuck on confused mouths.


Drink Water laid out

across the gym tile. It started in

the locker room. Something about

Jay's mom having no neck and

how she waddles when she walks.


In high school, Drink’s 6-foot-1

and 230 lbs. made him the misfortune

of smaller brothas — tossing their backpacks

down stairwells,  smacking their heads,

tripping them in the halls.


He once bumped you with his shoulder,

then said, "Watch it, nigga!"


Watching him strut through the lockers and

benches,  punching combinations,

daring Jay to respond, you remember

the local boxer in Hands On Barbers —


sporting his gold chain and Cartier watch,  

reliving fight highlights, talking shit:


"Don't nobody wanna see these hands.

They night-night a muhfucka real quick."


That’s before a fat man folded him

at the shop entrance.


And you knew then

that heroes always cross that line

to knock the world back on balance, 

the way skinny Jay did, spilling Drink 

with a baptism of punches.



The Island of Smiles

The world once beyond the end 

 of my now inside us. Everything

we’ve lived is now part of us

—Jack Myers, "Doggies' Day Out"


Candlelight fingering   our misty limbs  

and you   nibbling a happy earlobe

makes our living room   a glad

sanctuary of plush red cushions.


The raspberry-   scented hookah

haze   makes the air seem edible.


Your spicy tongue   rolls the hours

back to us   strolling through

Adam's Morgan   and your sly smile

when you said   The birthday girl

gets what she wants.


That was after fried plantains

and beef pepper stew   egusi with fish

and white rice.   It was after us

head-bobbing to bass guitars  

throbbing reggae inside Bukom.


To think that finding you, and our life

as newlyweds, was once a world

that seemed beyond me — an island

of floating cabins   singing toucans

and water   so green

it emeralds in daylight.


I was a sad astronomer,

watching the sky and cursing

the improbable distance   'til a friend’s

invitation to hangout   got us together

that night  shuffled in the years

stacked behind us.


If every moment we live

is now part of us,    tonight,

we’re a rainy evening   and a cramped

African restaurant.


We're the storm-glazed streets

outside Bazaar Atlas — you haggling

a Moroccan merchant's price

on hand-sewn leather sandals

and sweet shisha tobacco.


We're the ride home   before

the sandalwood's burnt offering,

before the tiger's eye shimmer

on your thighs from a small flame's

broken light.

Alan King is an author, poet, and journalist. He writes about art and other issues on his blog at He’s a Cave Canem graduate fellow and an alumnus of the VONA Workshops sponsored by Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation. He holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the Stonecoast Low-Residency Program at the University of Southern Maine. He's a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and was also nominated twice for a Best of the Net selection. Drift (Aquarius Press, 2012) is his first book.

Posted on June 29, 2015 .

Jared A. Carnie


I know I'm lucky

for each new one.

I do.


But when they come

marching into your skull

to the drum

of the screaming next door


And your eyelids 

sit defiant

clutching your eyeballs


And your brain

blows smoke rings

where words or ideas should be


Sometimes the new morning

looks an awful lot

like it's come dressed

as an old morning

and you can't help but feel

it's waiting for you

waiting to do something to you

and you don't know why

and you don't know what it is

but it's hard to feel good about it

Jared A. Carnie recently left the Outer Hebrides. He hopes to have his debut poetry book out by the end of the year. He can be found at Although it would mean more to him if you visited

Posted on June 23, 2015 .

Juan Morales

To The Kissing Lovers In The Vancouver Riots, 2011

I wasn’t invested when the Bruins shut out the Canucks 4-0
in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup, but gas-can anarchists and fans angered over
another year of Canada’s Cup drought cared enough to fuck up downtown Vancouver,
to riot for the home team choking in the clutch, or just for the sake
of breaking shit. One lingering image, the viral one, with
riot police sweeping away into the smoky orange street
and the out-of-focus riot cop behind a riot shield,
accents the twenty-something couple
lip-locked and him laying on top of her in the middle of the street,
seeming oblivious to the scene. I read about the harrowing story
of the two prodded and pushed to ground by police who dispersed rioters,
and arrested bystanders to calm the city’s padding heart.
The boyfriend, still wearing a backpack, kissed her into comfort
against pavement, to free her from the tension of
a pissed-off city divided between rioters and cops.

Even if we declare it bullshit and stage craft, we still admit
maybe a long, improvised kiss could inspire us to lay ourselves
in front of a police line that rolls right over us
to bash away the outraged hockey fans, bored kids, and anarchists,
who do not smash the cameras that preserve us as
lovers, a moment we all want saved.

Juan Morales is the author of a new collection of poetry, The Siren World (Lithic Press) and Friday and the Year That Followed (Bedbug Press). His poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Huizache, Crab Orchard Review, North Dakota Review, Copper Nickel, Luna Luna, and others. He is a CantoMundo Fellow, the Editor of Pilgrimage Magazine, and an Associate Professor of English at Colorado State University-Pueblo, where he directs the Creative Writing Program and curates the SoCo Reading Series.

Posted on June 23, 2015 .

Ariel Francisco

Meditation On Happiness

I want to go through life 

with the joy of a bus driver 

riding through town in twilight, 

catching all the green lights, 

smiling softly as he hums along 

to the radio and drives right by 

all the bus stops, his display 

glowing a single gleeful 

orange word: GARAGE.


For The Woman Selling Roses On Miami Gardens Drive


I always see her on my drive home

at the light for the onramp to I-95,

one hand raised in the air, the petals


of her fingers spread out to show the price,

while the other hand holds

a bucket of roses to her chest, as if they bloomed


from her own body. And they are always

five dollars. On Monday, on Friday,

on the weekend, on Mother's Day, five dollars.


Always one hand fanned in the air,

always the roses clutched close to her heart,

holding them the way a red light holds traffic,


as though she doesn’t want to part with them

but knows that she must, knows that she carries 

happiness or forgiveness for someone 


she will never meet. Even on Valentine's Day,

when she could have charged more 

to those fools who waited until the last minute.


Still only five dollars. Still one hand

open in the air, as if in order for her to raise the price,

she would have to put the roses down.

Photo credit: Gesi Schilling

Photo credit: Gesi Schilling

Ariel Francisco is Miami poet currently completing his MFA at Florida International University.  He is also a former Poet in Decadence at Gramps Bar in Wynwood.  His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Jai-Alai Magazine, Portland Review, Print-Oriented Bastards, Sliver of Stone, Tupelo Quarterly, Washington Square Review, and elsewhere.

Posted on June 23, 2015 .

Stephanie Schultz

Loving A Lake Is Easy

        After Tom Hennen

Loving a lake is easy
but try to hate the water,
the glisten of sun on top,
how refreshing the skin feels
on cloudless warm days,
the way ripples form
out of nowhere
just like the breeze
that pushes them along.
Think of the Greats,
how much they resemble
the ocean, any ocean
with no shore in sight.
Cling to that endlessness—
it holds our memories,
our summers, our relief
from weariness.
Remember to love it
when the cold
freezes us in time.

Stephanie Schultz is a graphic designer and writer. Her poems have recently appeared in Midway Journal and the Vermillion Literary Project and are forthcoming in South Dakota Magazine and Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America. She received her MFA in creative writing from Hamline University and lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she is perpetually training for her next marathon.

Posted on June 23, 2015 .

Barbara Jane Reyes


To Pray To The Goddess Of Lost Things


Help me to find my innocence. I may have dropped it 

On the bus last week, when I also lost my cellphone, 


And a notebook full of poems. I keep dropping things. 

I forget where I’ve left things. People keep taking my shit 


Without asking. Maybe I’ve forgotten what I’ve lent out. 

I can’t hold it together. I’m trying. I’m trying, so help me 


To find my pride. Some punk ass bitch stole it from me, 

I’m sure, when I was at the mall. I just turned around 


For a second. I was looking for my mother. I was 

Updating my Facebook. I was blindsided by something 


That must have been important, I was shoulder bumped 

By strangers, I was robbed. I searched all my pockets, 


My skinny jeans in piles of laundry, my shopping bags, 

My crumpled receipts, and it just wasn’t anywhere.


Where is my dignity, where is my credit card, where are 

My self-esteem, my perfect size-two body, my medication, 


Where did I leave those? Where is my lipstick, my car keys, 

Where is my one true love, my very own happily ever after. 


Where is my voice. Every time I speak, some man, any man 

Always interrupts, and every time I speak louder, he shouts. 


He claims he knows far better than I, what I need, what’s good 

For me. Where is my fire to burn the filth from his tongue. 


He wants me to fit in his pants pocket. Where are my knives. 

Where is my backbone. Where is my wishbone. Help me 


Find my voice, because some white woman keeps yapping 

At me, as if I should drop everything. As if I must listen.


She says she speaks on my behalf. Do not believe her. 

She says she’s my friend and my sister. She’s a dirty liar. 

Where are my manners? I seem to have lost those too. 

My mother taught me to say please. Please help me find her. 


Where is my compass; this GPS keeps leading me away 

From all that is clear and cool. Help me to locate my center.


Where are my manners? My mother taught me also, 

To remember to breathe. And always, always give thanks. 

Photo credit: Peter Dressel

Photo credit: Peter Dressel

Barbara Jane Reyes is the author of Diwata (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2010), winner of the Global Filipino Literary Award for Poetry. She was born in Manila, Philippines, raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is the author of two previous collections of poetry, Gravities of Center (Arkipelago Books, 2003) and Poeta en San Francisco (Tinfish Press, 2005), which received the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets. Her fourth book, To Love as Aswang, is forthcoming from PAWA, Inc. She is also the author of the chapbooks Easter Sunday, Cherry, and For the City that Nearly Broke Me. She teaches in the Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program at University of San Francisco.

Posted on June 12, 2015 .

Jonathan Duckworth


Before The Storm

In the woods, black ants run down

an upturned log, a wooden escarpment

raised a yard above the forest floor. 

The ants plummet to loam and leaf litter

by the hundreds and hundreds each second, 

their bodies sounding like what’s to come; 

presentimental echo of the song of rain; 

ritual theater; propitiation to the same gods

that will flood their tunnels and smother

their queen, drown their eggs, and erase 

the stencil borders of their kingdom.



Five Modern Analects


One termite to another says:

“Sometimes I think all we’re building 

are our own tombs.” 

And the other says: “No, tombs are for queens; 

we’ll die in the sun, on the hard concrete,

searching for a crack to lay our eggs in.” 



I hear in Russia Joseph Stalin’s back in fashion,

and in Asia Genghis Khan never quite went out,

and if getting things done makes a good leader,

Andrew “Action” Jackson may be our finest man. 



Maybe we really do need guns 

to protect ourselves

from the armed ones convinced

that they’re the ones in danger. 



If we build the next truck just a little bigger,

so that it takes up 1.75 lanes instead of just 1.5, 

we can all ride through the heart of the ashcloud

after the waking Yellowstone supervolcano 

stretches its limbs and lays hands 

on the fertile breast of America. 



Consider the snowglobe in your hand: 

the little man standing by his little cottage

also believes he’s outside the glass. 


Jonathan Louis Duckworth is an MFA student at Florida International University in Miami, where he serves as a reader and copy-editor for the Gulf Stream Magazine. His fiction and poetry appears in or is forthcoming in Sliver of Stone Magazine, Mount Island Magazine, Clapboard House, and Gravel: A Literary Journal among others.

Posted on June 11, 2015 .

Katy Richey


My mother’s heavy shuffle follows me 

around the house.  She talks, but I hardly 

ever listen anymore—what time the school bus 

came for the neighborhood children, how many 

crickets are poisoned in the garage.


The doctors say MS does not annul the brain, only 

tenuously wears the body down—slow, efficient.

But, what else apart from a brain that cannot breathe 

would make her think I’d want to know 

about Pat Sajak’s haircut or the woman in the store

buying 13 honeydews? 


She’s telling a story right now—probably to my father 

in the kitchen seated on the wicker chair.  A story about when 

I fell under ice in the pond.  But, this story didn’t happen to me.

She is trying to tell a story about me.  But it didn’t happen.  

She stays inside me because I cannot bear to be without her sounds. 

She is telling a story.  She’s glorious even when broken. 

Katy Richey’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rattle, Fjords Review, Origins, Little Patuxent Review, Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology and other journals. She is the recipient of a 2015 Fine Arts Work Center Walker Scholarship and a 2014 Maryland State Arts Council individual artist award for poetry. She is a Cave Canem and Callaloo fellow and a Breadloaf Writers’ Conference contributor. She co-edited the February 2011 issue of Beltway Poetry Quarterly: A Tribute to Langston Hughes and is the current host of the Sunday Kind of Love reading series open mic at Busboys and Poets in Washington D.C., sponsored by Split This Rock Poetry Festival.

Posted on June 11, 2015 .

Raymond Luczak


How To Teach A Deaf Child To Speak

Place your hand on her throat.

Instruct her to repeat your sound.

Tell her how good her speech is.

Her parents want her to believe

she’ll grow up just like anyone else.

They don’t tell her about the looks

strangers give behind her back

when they hear her grating voice.

Give her the gift of self-doubt.

It’s a gift that keeps giving.

Raymond Luczak is the author and editor of 17 books. His poetry collections include How to Kill Poetry (Sibling Rivalry Press), Road Work Ahead (Sibling Rivalry Press), Mute (A Midsummer Night’s Press), This Way to the Acorns (The Tactile Mind Press; reprint, Handtype Press), and St. Michael’s Fall (Deaf Life Press). His novel Men with Their Hands (Queer Mojo) won first place in the Project: QueerLit Contest 2006. His poetry has been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He can be found online at

Posted on June 11, 2015 .

"basilisk woman" by Xandria Phillips

I used to stay at home afraid of what my body

did beneath its surfaces, of my neighbors penetrating 

me with pitchforks, of the flowers that bloomed 

in my underarms wilting, of people noticing the rotting 

smell from my blood that I used to celebrate with every 

cracked yellow moon. I traded my soft skin 

for smooth skin. I traded warm eyes for pupils 

like bullets in his mouth, and his throat, and his stomach 

burst into cement. June found me walking 

down the street and I had never seen so many eyes. 

I was crushed under the weight of them. an eye weighs 

only an ounce but the multitude was enough to pull 

my stomach like teasing a plug from the bathtub, 

enough to bring me down. I was low to this place 

where I would make any friend I could who would close 

his eyes for moments, but when his eyes closed, his hands 

moved and there is a terrible weight in that too. my legs 

opened and at least a million butterflies burst 

from inside me. I had been with insect not nudge 

of child, and they swarmed his hands, his eyes, the rest 

of him away. I haven't seen them since. I haven't seen 

myself since. my blood runs cold. I leave my house as 

often as I like. I topple the figures of men after I blink 

them to stone. the sidewalks are covered in rubble 

and I don't even bother with clothes or sobriety 

these days, dragging my body down these summer 

streets looking for my children in the sky.



XANDRIA PHILLIPS grew up in rural Ohio and received her B.A. from Oberlin College in 2014. There she studied Creative Writing and Africana Studies. Her poetry explores Blackness in international and American contexts, queerness, displacement, and Atlantic myth. Much of her writing is about processing both personal and historical tragedies that people of the African Diaspora experience. She is currently a student of poetry and a teacher of composition in Virginia Tech's MFA program. 

Read more of Xandria Phillips' poetry in Issue 2, Vol. 1, Spring 2015.

Posted on June 1, 2015 .

"Crabwise (Cangrejo)" by Sara D. Rivera

Now at this crossing 

I cling to the clam-chill 

of your skin. Somos

cangrejos cruzando 

al mar. 

I wake on the morning 

I look for any roadblock to stop 

my leaving. You haven't woken 

when I imagine our pincers 

locked, one crab disengaging 

from a clicking line and 

disappearing into foam. 

Andamos de lado pinza 

a pinza y aquí en la cama 

aprendemos sudar. Your forehead 

gleams like a shell. See now the shoreline 

extending from the edge, 

the ancestral bed that sinks us 

and pulls us apart?

Ahora beso una cara o un 

caparazón, el corazón 

ahora duro, la concha de una voz. 

Your eyes are engaging, two cloud-filled openings.

SARA D. RIVERA is an interdisciplinary artist and writer from Albuquerque, New Mexico, now based in Boston. She holds a BFA in Art Studio and a BA in English from the University of New Mexico, an MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) from Boston University, and was awarded a 2013 Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship in Poetry for travel in Ireland. Her artistic and literary practice includes visual art, music, performance, genre fiction, poetry, and Spanish/English translation. Her work has been published in the Loft Anthology's "Lay Bare the Canvas: New England Poets on Art" and "The Dialogist." 

Read more of Sara D. Rivera's poetry in Issue 2, Vol. 1, Spring 2015.

Posted on June 1, 2015 .

"Frontera/Border" by Francisco X. Alarcón




sin cicatrizar 



en el corazón


de Lamentos

para familias







para miles

tumba sin


oh desierto


al cielo

oh partición

del alma de

la humanidad








the heart


of Laments

for families








tomb for


o desert


the sky

o partition

of the soul

of humanity

FRANCISCO X. ALARCÓN is an award-winning Chicano poet and educator. He’s the author of seven books of poetry for grown-ups and six bilingual poetry books for children. His most recent books are Canto hondo/Deep Song (University of Arizona Press 2015) and Borderless Butterflies/Mariposas sin fronteras (Poetic Matrix Press 2014). He is the founder of the Facebook page “Poets Responding to SB 1070.” He teaches at the University of California, Davis. 

Read more of Francisco X. Alarcón's poems in Issue 2, Vol. 1 Spring 2015.

Posted on June 1, 2015 .