Split This Rock


Dini Karasik and I met for coffee several months ago and dreamed up this collaboration, that Origins Journal, whose mission is to explore the art of narrative through the lens of identity, might publish a special portfolio of poems by poets presenting on panels, giving workshops, or reading in themed group readings at Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2018. 

Poet-activists gather at this festival only every two years, and from all the various streams of our sometimes cantankerous United States of Poetry. And representing so many identities—it’s a gathering unlike many we find in the literary world: ages teens to 80s, so many races and ethnicities, people with disabilities, and representing many gender identities. 

When poets are called, do they not respond? And cry out, lament, mourn, celebrate, decry, praise, denounce? And respond they did! We received a glorious bounty from which these twenty-some poems are chosen. Our gratitude to all the poets who submitted and to all poets everywhere who continue to write in the face of the deceit and treachery, greed and horror in public life. We will not be silenced. 

Sam Hamill, the poet-editor-translator who founded Poets Against the War, wrote in the introduction to an anthology of anti-war poems, “A government is a government of words, and when those words are used to mislead, to instill fear or to invite silence, it is the duty of every poet to speak fearlessly and clearly.” The poems in this special issue are tributes to Sam and to all the poets who’ve gone before in courage and moral clarity.

My special gratitude to Dini and to my co-editors of this magnificent portfolio, Leeya Mehta, Jennifer Maritza McCauley, and Samantha Liming.

                                                     Sarah Browning, Executive Director of Split This Rock

The poems that we have chosen here swirl with truth; they are ugliness painted beautifully. In much of the issue, there is a brokenness—a fractured feeling—but there is also a powerful use of white space. I was reminded of Kintsugi—the Japanese practice of putting pottery back together using gold or another precious metal; a philosophy of acknowledging the history of something broken and put back together. So, please: read, feel a pull inside you, follow the poems forward.  

                                                     Samantha Liming, Editorial Intern, Origins Journal

Split This Rock cultivates, teaches, and celebrates poetry that bears witness to injustice and provokes social change. It calls poets to a greater role in public life and fosters a national network of socially engaged poets. Building the audience for poetry of provocation and witness from our home in the nation’s capital, we celebrate poetic diversity and the transformative power of the imagination.

The festival takes place in Washington, D.C. from April 19-21, 2018.

Posted on April 18, 2018 .

Ashley Jones


Ashley M. Jones is the author of Magic City Gospel (Hub City Press, 2017), winner of the silver medal in poetry from the Independent Publishers Book Awards, and dark // thing (Pleiades Press, 2019), winner of the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize for Poetry from Pleiades Press. She received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award, and she holds an MFA in poetry from Florida International University. She lives and teaches in Birmingham, Alabama. 

Hostile Environment
after Solmaz Sharif

According to slave codes, slaves were not allowed to gather without a white person present to prevent anything masters deemed dangerous: education, revolt, joy, or religious worship. Slaves often met in secret for church.

the morning is breaking on us, HOSTILE in its soft opening.
this morning so beautiful, so calm it makes these fields look fertile with fruit
instead of blood, the HOSTILE thorns just glittering teeth in the distance.
we here to praise him, HOSTILE god,
here to hear the word, its holy HOSTILITY, its promise that there is more than death in death—
here, the shaky preacher’s wail, HOSTILE against the walls of the shack,
this church, a gathering of worshippers, HOSTILE and gaping—
we stomp our feet, each beat burning, HOSTILE and loud,
we shouting now and Master’s sure to hear.
maybe he’ll let us be, HOSTILE, maybe he’ll slide a hand around his wife’s HOSTILE hip
and make this morning move
or maybe
the spirit of the lord, its HOSTILE sugartongue, will draw him to the horsewhip,
HOSTILE and gentle in its quick, quiet rage—

Uncle Remus Syrup Commemorative Lynching Postcard #25

To commemorate or to circulate news of a lynching in Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction America, photographers would take photos of the killing and send it—sometimes accompanied by a racist poem to “warn”  Black people of what would happen to them if they didn’t behave—as a postcard. By 1908, lynching postcard photos became so repulsive that the US Postmaster General banned these cards from circulation. 

In the 1920s, the slogan for Uncle Remus Brand Syrup was ‘Dis Sho’ Am Good.’

Dis sho am good Dis sho am good Dis sho am good [the rope, its fibers a fire] Dis sho am good Dis sho am good Dis sho am good [the crowd, stuffed full of potato salad and blueberry pie] Dis sho am good Dis sho am good Dis sho am good Dis sho am good [little Timothy stands near the black toes, smiling. And, look, he’s finally lost that front tooth!] Dis sho am good Dis sho am good Dis sho am good Dis sho am good Dis sho am good Dis sho am good [the tooth fairy is white, like Uncle Remus’ woolly beard] Dis sho am good Dis sho am good Dis sho am good Dis sho am good Dis sho am good Dis sho am good [and the sunlight’s beaming off the pink fingertips—as they sway, the light plays a twinkling show] Dis sho am good Dis sho am good Dis sho am good Dis sho am good [his neck, a rubber toy] Dis sho am good Dis sho am good Dis sho am good [his eyes, white gumballs] Dis sho am good Dis sho am [look how the tree holds him taut] Dis sho [and Betty Lou brought all that delicious fried chicken her gal made, so crunchy, so sweet we even ate the bones] Dis show [the perfect weather to hang a nigger, said Bill] Dis Dis Dis Dis [and John got on one knee and asked Laura to marry him right before the nigger squirmed his last] Dis Dis Dis Dis Dis [how many nickels will little Timothy get under his pillow tonight?] sho sho sho sho sho sho am [next time, let’s hang two—better for the photo, and maybe Frankie Sue can put it in the paper] good good good good good [and maybe] good [we can hang a whole family]




Posted on April 18, 2018 .

Sham-e-Ali Nayeem


Born in Hyderabad, India and raised in both the UK and the US, Sham-e-Ali Nayeem is a Philadelphia based poet and visual artist. A former public interest lawyer supporting economic justice for survivors of family and intimate partner violence, Sham-e-Ali’s poetry is widely published in various publications and anthologies.   She is a recipient of the Loft Literary Center’s Spoken Word Immersion Fellowship and her poetry can be found in anthologies such as, Shattering the Stereotypes: Muslim Women Speak Out (Olive Branch Press, 2005), Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak (Beacon Press, 2005) and “Shout Out: Women of Color Respond to Violence” (Seal Press, 2008).  Sham-e-Ali has performed her poetry both locally & internationally. She is currently working on her forthcoming book of poetry, "City of Pearls" (2018, Upset Press). 

In response to the Muslim Ban

how do you ban soul
spring, stars, 
a butterfly's path
dense ocean basin currents
guiding songs of whales
orbit of moon?


Posted on April 18, 2018 .

April Gibson

Photo credit: Min Enterprises Photography

Photo credit: Min Enterprises Photography

April Gibson is a poet, essayist, and educator whose work has appeared in Pluck!, Valley Voices, Tidal Basin Review, Literary Mama, and elsewhere. She has received a Loft Mentor Series Award in Poetry, a Vermont Studio Center Residency, and is a fellow of the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, The Watering Hole Poetry Retreat, and a VONA/Voices Writing Workshop alum. Her chapbook, Automation, was published by Willow Books as part of their emerging poet and writer series. Her current project is a full-length poetry collection titled The Black Woman Press Conference.

Original Sound

as far back as black in this country
is from, from the water that I only
know to fear in the guttural wet
of my throat the mouth of history
cracked lip split and bulging
the drowned crawl back through
through moan floating sand floor
floating bones rising and reaching
for joy, even if we know it ain’t all joy
we count it, every lost wave’s blue note


Posted on April 18, 2018 .

Katherine E. Young

Photo credit: Samantha H. Collins

Photo credit: Samantha H. Collins

Katherine E. Young is the author of Day of the Border Guards, 2014 Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize finalist, and two chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Iowa Review, Subtropics, and many others. She is the translator of Farewell, Aylis by Azerbaijani political prisoner Akram Aylisli (forthcoming 2018), as well as Blue Birds and Red Horses (forthcoming 2018) and Two Poems, both by Inna Kabysh. Her translations of Russian and Russophone authors have won international awards and been published widely in the U.S. and abroad. Young was named a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts translation fellow and currently serves as the inaugural Poet Laureate for Arlington, Virginia. http://katherine-young-poet.com/

Mo(u)rning Poem 

'My children...they were beautiful': Syrian father whose wife and twin babies were killed in 'Assad gas attack' weeps over his family's graves in heart-breaking footage

Headline, Daily Mail, April 6, 2017

This is the poem meant for this mo(u)rning,
now the winds have died down,
the dogwood’s unclenched its frightened fists,
and the morning’s calling
with new, warm breath.
All around birds are stirring,
while a fox trots up the hill at dawn.
This poem wants to greet the morning:
to tremble with the lilacs,
plunge its face in a basin
and come up laughing,
shake sparkling drops
from its long, dark hair.
This poem understands
both the making and singing,
knows just how sound shimmers
in the grotto of throat.
You should follow this poem –
for I’m letting it go, now,
tossing it up on this fine spring morning,
watching to see if its wings will unfurl.
The poem’s flying, now,
above tufts of fox fur
that cling to chain link,
and I’m turning from the poem, now,
tracing my finger along that chain link:
fence swelling and thickening
like a young spring bud,
swelling and thickening and
turning to stone, firming
to trowel, turning to wall –
wall so high, so wide,
so immense, so entrenched
that I myself would need wings
to spy the children who press
grainy, deflated faces
against its Outside.

Posted on April 18, 2018 .

Yesenia Montilla

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Yesenia Montilla is an Afro-Latina poet & translator. Her poetry has appeared in The Wide Shore, Prairie Schooner, and others. She received her MFA from Drew University in poetry & poetry in translation and is a CantoMundo Fellow. The Pink Box is published by Willow Books and was long-listed for the Pen Open Book Award 2016.

Muse Found In South Carolina

Unarmed black man shot         again
            & it took me a moment to swallow
                        :: officer charged with              murder ::

Because gravity is still working just fine & it ain’t the end of the world
            birds are still chirping as if nothing done gone wrong for a white man
                        & I wanna holler hallelujah!

Celebrating in my bed with champagne &
                        slow whistles escaping through my teeth

maybe I shouldn’t be all fucking uppity about it
maybe I shouldn’t celebrate                                         reprimand       
            a black man is still dead                                                                       again


Lately, I am a slow burning bourbon in the throat, horrified at my own bitterness,
so I am going to build a shrine with my soot-filled heart to the hero in this story       

Feidin, sauntering about being canopied from the sun by trees without eyes —
I won’t forget your name I will always remember         you     
recording a black man  running                                    away               
& getting                                
in the back                              
thank you for staying & capturing humanity                at its worse      

& to the grass
thank you for how you cradled                                    Walter’s body
                        & soaked up    his final heaving breaths —


Posted on April 18, 2018 .

Rachelle Cruz


Rachelle Cruz is from Hayward, California. She is the author of God's Will for Monsters, which won the 2016 Hillary Gravendyk Regional Poetry Prize (Inlandia, 2017), Self-Portrait as Rumor and Blood and co-editor with Melissa Sipin of Kuwento: Lost Things, an anthology of Philippine Myths (Carayan Press, 2015). Her work has appeared in As/Us, New California Writing 2013, LARB, Yellow Medicine Review, among others. She hosts The Blood-Jet Writing Hour. She is a  recipient of the Manuel G. Flores Scholarship from PAWA. An Emerging Voices Fellow, a Kundiman Fellow and a VONA writer, she lives, writes and teaches in Southern California. 

Numen is the Word of the Day
after the Idiots, Afke Golsteijn and Floris Bakker

The taxidermy was elegant and made of glass baubles.  The Latin, “nod of the head,” the head sliced into slabs of diamond rock gold trick of ceramic and flesh.  When the mountain lion interrupted the hiker’s path, it didn’t forsee its head on the mantel, its guts dangling from her hands.  The collarbone’s center is the doorbell of luck I am constantly pushing.  The parrot’s beak a sharp peak into each ear.  At the dentist’s office, I decide to read The Way of Happiness hoping the book will whisper like an unexpected mirror.  The dentist tells me the tooth has been dead for months but still contains the ability to feel.  A jangle of heads knocked down on Black Friday.  Pulled clean off like a mannequin’s.


Posted on April 18, 2018 .

Sahar Muradi

Photo credit: Krista Fogle

Photo credit: Krista Fogle

Sahar Muradi is author of the chapbook [ G A T E S ] from Black Lawrence Press / is co-editor of One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature / is co-founder of the Afghan American Artists and Writers Association / has been the recipient of the Stacy Doris Memorial Poetry Award, a Kundiman Poetry Fellowship, and an Asian American Writers’ Workshop Open City Fellowship / has an MFA in poetry from Brooklyn College, an MPA in international development from NYU, and a BA in creative writing from Hampshire College / directs the poetry programs at City Lore / and dearly believes in the bottom of the rice pot. saharmuradi.com

After the New York Times article “Dispatch from Mosul: With a Pregnant Iraqi, Collapsed in the Desert as Bullets Fly” by Rukmini Callimachi, March 1, 2017.

come baby
(for Khadija Abbas)

we come carrying crying
the train of colors from the sky
come breathing clutching
what few what fierce
come climbing in plastic
shoes a desert a white flag
come baby a bag of fluid
come baby come baby come
brother even the dog
wants a cigarette even
the smoke wants to be free


Posted on April 18, 2018 .

Majda Gama


Majda Gama is a Beirut-born, Saudi-American poet based in the Washington, DC area where she has roots as a DJ and activist. She has read her poetry at the San Francisco Lit Crawl and the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature. Her poems have appeared in, or are forthcoming from Beloit Poetry Journal, Duende, Jahanamiya (the first Saudi feminist literary journal) Slice, The Normal School, The South Dakota Review, Wildness and the anthology of 90’s pop culture, Come As You Are. Majda reads and edits poetry submissions for Tinderbox.

It’s Not Me at the Border

Who said goodbye
in seven banned languages
to trees & seasons, temporal winds,
the air of home swallowed by breath
before it’s gone; shuffled into the hull
of a plane/boat/truck/train
in the blackest point of life
before the long leg of flight
towards a foreign border. It’s not me
awake for eighteen hours with cold
black tea & worry beads, or with sweat-
damp hands unwrapping a scarf from hair
in a gesture known throughout life. It’s not
me with hidden damask cloth, spice, honey,
roses: the body of a culture walking
up to America to stand at her
armed border with years of vetting
erased. It’s not me, it’s not
me walking,
        not me with a blue document at the border.
It’s not me    walking through America’s
        border. I am not.
             America. I am
America.         I am at your border.




Posted on April 18, 2018 .

Enzo Silon Surin


Enzo Silon Surin, Haitian-born poet, educator, publisher and social advocate, is the author of the chapbooks, A Letter of Resignation: An American Libretto (2017) and Higher Ground (2006). He is the recipient of a 2017 Brother Thomas Fellowship from The Boston Foundation and is a PEN New England Celebrated New Voice in Poetry. Surin’s work gives voice to experiences that take place in what he calls “broken spaces” caused by political and social violence, believing that poetry is one of the many paths to healing and recovery. His poems have appeared in Transition Magazine/Jalada, Interviewing the Caribbean, jubilat, Soundings East, The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, sx salon and Tidal Basin Review, among others. Surin holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University and is an Associate Professor of English at Bunker Hill Community College and founding editor and publisher at Central Square Press.

after Lucille Clifton 

accused of flunking a test
as if I took it,
as if I studied day
and night and bombed it. I did not:
results were waiting for me
when I came
bustling out of my mother’s womb,
her pride and joy,
whose pigment, she feared,
there on her breast,
would Habitually
test hope’s resilience. I am
regaining memory every day,
cataloging names, dates
and places I was never supposed to
travel to on my own, without risking rope,
branch and a gullet full of bullets.


Posted on April 18, 2018 .

Mariahadessa Ekere

Photo credit: Dominique Sindayiganza

Photo credit: Dominique Sindayiganza

Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie is the author of Strut (Agape Editions), Dear Continuum: Letters to a Poet Crafting Liberation (Grand Concourse Press) and Karma’s Footsteps (Flipped Eye). Her work has been widely published in journals and anthologies including Listen up!, BOMB, Black Renaissance Noire, WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly, The Golden Shovel, The Breakbeat Poets, and The Breakbeat Poets Volume 2: Black Girl Magic. She has performed poetry and taught in the United States, Namibia, The Netherlands, Belgium, and England. Her work is the subject of the film “I Leave My Colors Everywhere.” Ekere is the mother of three galaxies who look like daughters. www.ekeretallie.com

My Love for Him Ends the Occupation

My love for him:

inevitable as death
insistent mosquito
redwood roots

a memory in the blood  his glance & honeyed dew
saunters down my thighs  yes  there is a graceless orange howl
that escapes my throat  pulls night curtains
across the sky  behind it the stage is bare   
unset  unsettled   
yes  Black people know how to do more than die   
our kisses steeped long & patient
we conjured each other up  unsettling that we  love like this
move invaders out with raw silk feeling  agogo tongues
uncolonize ourselves with genuine north star touch  
I get my land back
now & then when we move in synch    
40 acres of velvet soil  beds of collard greens   
rows of ecstatic tomatoes  dignified yellow corn  
                        (I’m not the mule)
out of my house  hopeless feeling like the weather in Leeds  
out of my house
The occupation is over

our loving moves back in

Final Quartet
(for Yasmeen)

Wearing the name
of fragrant flowers
you gave your voice to the sea.

Depression. Three sharp
syllables grinding
women’s bones.

In frozen water
you unpacked your trembling
where were we?

Are you in the seagull’s
cry?  Is that your voice
rolling down my cheeks?




Posted on April 18, 2018 .

Saida Agostini

sa headshot.jpg

Saida Agostini is a queer afro-guyanese poet and activist. She is the Chief Operating Officer for FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, a survivor led artist collective dedicated to resisting rape culture. A published poet and writer, Saida's work is featured or forthcoming in the Black Ladies Brunch Collective's anthology, Not Without Our Laughter, the Baltimore Sun, pluck!, The Little Patuxent Review, and other publications. Saida has received fellowships in support of her poetry and resistance work from Cave Canem, the Leeway Foundation, and other institutions. She was recently awarded a Ruby grant to support the development of her first full-length collection of poems, uprisings in a state of joy. 

Bresha Meadows Speaks on Divinity*

god is a black girl
who once had to kill her own father.
say the social workers, listened with kind
white eyes as she wept, her bare skin
a constellation of ripening bruises. say
god shuddered on walks home. ran away
fifteen times before she was 13, sat in
tight airless rooms hustled up in sleep clothes
and stank breath, repeated
her rosary he beats us he beats
us he beats us he beats he beats he beats

how the counselors shook their heads, asked
questions like does he hit you with an open
or closed hand
, buttoned their good
woolen coats in the blind ohio winter
took her back home. when god comes to school
wailing breaking chairs screaming he will kill me, a chorus of
white women hover round her
confused lovely angels, pronouncing
her name a supplication.
god cut herself to
remember how history changes
he will kill me to are you sure. how
she dreamt at night of
trees, running, her mother’s
head cleft into galaxies of blood
her father’s hands thick dark laughing
rocks carving their flesh again and again
her mother begging her not to tell, says
he will kill me and god can’t stop
imagining the sweet jump of a trigger.
god cried over her father
sleeping, gun in hand, how
the bullets exited the chamber, how
he died saying her name, god
bloody and keening on the floor, her mother
screaming a break knitted
into the end of a heartbeat. god’s arms
around her father. god is a black
girl in love with living, a sacrament on how to
disbelieve, forget and rise.

*Bresha Meadows is a 14 year-old Black girl convicted of killing her abusive father in self-defense

Posted on April 18, 2018 .

Alan Pelaez Lopez


Alan Pelaez Lopez is an Afro-Indigenous artist and visionary from Oaxaca, México. Alumni of VONA/Voices and CultureStrike’s UndocuWriting, Alan’s poetry and nonfiction essays have been influenced by growing up Black, poor, queer, and undocumented. Their work appears in Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Vinyl Poetry, Everyday Feminism, Splinter News, The Feminist Wire and more. They have also been named one of “10 Poets for the Revolution” in The Best American Poetry Blog, and one of “10 Up And Coming Latinx Poets You Need To Know” by Remezcla.

An Encounter With My Heart

elders have always told me to be specific—
to identify & point to the place of ache.

            my right index finger always pointed
            to my head, eyes, & upper back.

corazón, i didn’t realize that when you ached,
our pain migrated to different cells of our body.

            i wear a ring on my index finger
            bought from another ndn in Oakland
            thinking it would help with precision.

how naïve to believe that i understood you
without ever conversing with you, corazón.

            this medicine disguised as a ring
            has fallen off so many times that
            i finally found my ignorance.

corazón, thank you for being so gentle;
your tenderness in the form of headache
eye-ache & backache will no longer go unnoticed.           

            this ring does not feel loose—
            i know that it fits quite well.

querido corazón, I am ready to feel you.
           no need to travel to my digits
           & make this medicine
           mistaken as object, fall.

today, i point to you, corazón,
& proudly testify:

           it hurts here //  it hurts
here // it hurts //  here.

Posted on April 18, 2018 .

Dr. Abbas Kadhim and David Allen Sullivan

Dr.-Abbas-Kadhim-200x224 copy.jpg

Dr. Abbas Kadhim is an Iraqi-American academic specializes in Iraq, Iran, Persian Gulf, and Islam. He is a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute, SAIS- Johns Hopkins University and the President of the Institute of Shia Studies in Washington, D.C. He is the author of Reclaiming Iraq: the 1920 Revolution and the Founding of the Modern State, Univ. of Texas Press, 2012; and “The Hawza under Siege: A Study in the Ba’th Party Archives“, Boston Univ., 2013.


David Allen Sullivan’s books include: Strong-Armed Angels, Every Seed of the Pomegranate, a book of co-translation with Abbas Kadhim from the Arabic of Iraqi Adnan Al-Sayegh, Bombs Have Not Breakfasted Yet, and Black Ice. Most recently, he won the Mary Ballard Chapbook poetry prize for Take Wing. He teaches at Cabrillo College, where he edits the Porter Gulch Review with his students, and lives in Santa Cruz with his family. 




At Square 55, Baghdad
Abdulzahra Zaki, translated by Dr. Abbas Kadhim and David Allen Sullivan

At this particular hour,
dawn not yet up,
night’s cut short.
Under dimmed streetlights
the rhythm of their steps slows,
caught between bread and death.
Hand-cradled matches flicker,
and behind cigarette smoke screens
tired faces appear:
silent, looking for mercy,
day laborers, looking for work.
Their green hopes inch forward
towards a day that won’t arrive,
out of this pre-dawn that won’t dawn,
assassinated by a percussive blast
of smoke and ash and thunder
that shakes the Square, tears apart the street,
and darkens the night.


Abbod Al-Jabiri, translated by Dr. Abbas Kadhim and David Allen Sullivan

I wash the pale blood
off the sidewalk each night
to keep it spotless,
then join my murdered friends on the balcony
and say:
Death is ugly
when you don’t get to choose
which type of flower
to buttonhole to your murderer’s coat.


Posted on April 18, 2018 .

Ysabel Y. Gonzalez


Newark, NJ native Ysabel Y. Gonzalez, is also known for her performance poetry under the alias Ancestral Poetisa. She received her BA from Rutgers University and an MFA in Poetry from Drew University. Ysabel has received invitations to attend VONA, Tin House, Ashbery Home School and BOAAT Press workshops. She’s a CantoMundo Fellow, and has been published in HEArt Journal; Paterson Literary Review; Tinderbox Journal; Anomaly; Vinyl; It was Written: Poetry Inspired by Hip-Hop; Wide Shore, Waxwing Literary Journal, and others.  You can read more about her work, at www.ysabelgonzalez.com.

Black Unicorn
after Audre Lorde’s “The Black Unicorn”

I kneel in rich earth, call her name and sometimes she comes. That is the nature of being godly free, darkly divine. From clickity-clack hooves through pointed steeple, she’s sublime, watches herself in a cold pool of water, kicking out feral front legs as if Black is searching to take down wool and silk.  

There are costs to being Black. My own Brown unshackled rearing grows fearful of how exotic I, too, look under tonight’s moon.

Brown. Black.

We both rev through this world watching for rope, every untamed hurl fanning flame, mane glossy—eyes demanding we’re not painted over white.



Posted on April 18, 2018 .

Ching-In Chen


Ching-In Chen is the author of The Heart's Traffic and recombinant and co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities and Here is a Pen: An Anthology of West Coast Kundiman Poets. A Kundiman, Lambda, Watering Hole and Callaloo Fellow, they are part of the Macondo and Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation writing communities. Their work has appeared in The Best American Experimental Writing, The &NOW Awards 3: The Best Innovative Writing, and Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics. A poetry editor of the Texas Review, they currently teach creative writing at Sam Houston State University and serve on the Executive Board of Thinking Its Presence: Race, Advocacy, Solidarity in the Arts. www.chinginchen.com.

Spell for Safety
      written for trans and genderqueer Lavender Graduation students, December 2017

Maybe it was you learning to walk home
cross-wise, your own safety valve.
You, who trained a tongue
chosen name, listening for reflection to speak
back. You, I’m calling you,
grew yourself at argument’s end,
slept borrowed and burned. Who
filled in space of the wisecrack, who
emptied the sidewalk, who
cleared the toxic table.
You breathed down your own street, rose tall, stitched. Built your own table, lit candles for the living who couldn’t make it back. The invitations, the city, the hauntings and the hatchets, the you, the you, the you walking home safe, opening the door, setting the table for company.

Posted on April 18, 2018 .

Amelia L. Williams


Amelia L. Williams lives in intentional community in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia, in the Middle James-Buffalo watershed. She is a medical writer, poet, hiker, and ecoactivist. Her book Walking Wildwood Trail: Poems and Photographs, features a 3-mile trail of eco-poetry art installations that celebrate the landscapes threatened by the proposed fracked-gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline. She earned her doctorate in English Literature at the University of Virginia. Her work has appeared in Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, 3Elements, Shot Glass Journal,  AJN: American Journal of NursingJournal of Wild Culture, and elsewhere. She is a fellow of the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts & Sciences. Her website is http://www.wildink.net.

Into the Tangle

ii) Blast Radius

The company calls it the blast radius;
technical literature refers to the incineration zone.
Annihilate, blacken, burn, combust, cremate,
decimate, demolish, denude,
depopulate, despoil,
detonate, devour, engulf, entomb,
exterminate, extinguish,
immolate, obliterate, perish,
ravage, raze, scorch, vaporize.

iii) Spur










network of pale running ridges on maple bark
white, bony, striving sycamore
may plants, animals, fungi, and all whose names I harvest,
sense my respect and gather me up into the tangle
you could think of naming as an effort to control, but I see it as
acknowledgement of kinship
homely or ordinary; I feel at home when I can walk in the woods and
meadows and call out the beings I see, greet Great Spangled Fritillary,
Beardtongue, Venus’ Looking-glass
wild blackberry and elderberry profusion, a semi-permeable membrane, a
thorny flow; can I peek through the hedgerows and wild edges to see and
acknowledge what frightens me about our climate, what we have done, let
it trickle in, as fox and turkey and bear thread their paths
under the nettle bank a seep spring oozes; bare calves will sting; the
hawthorn on Fern Gully Lane is another reminder: pain is part of it
like the indigo bunting threading in and out, birdsongs braiding us,
towhee calling, redstart, warbler on the move
bees tousle the blossoms; butterflies dart and tease, and the trundling
beetle leaves a track in the dust; let it all sift down, gather here in season:
Spring Azure, Cabbage White, flitting up along the ridges
narrow, bony spurs run down from the spine that is Jack Mountain, ribs
picked clean in the winter air; there is no insignificant loss, no taking that
does not violate the limbs of ironwood

Posted on April 17, 2018 .

Rose M. Smith

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Rose M. Smith's work has appeared in The Examined Life, pluck!, Naugatuck River Review, Snapdragon, Minola Review, A Narrow Fellow, Dying Dahlia Review, Mom Egg Review, Main Street Rag, The Pedestal Magazine, Pavement Saw, Boston Literary Magazineand other journals and anthologies. She is author of four chapbooks, most recently Holes in My Teeth (Kattywompus Press, 2016). Rose was a finalist for the Naugatuck River Review Narrative Poetry Prize in 2015. Rose is a Senior Editor with Pudding Magazine, facilitates Salon monthly poetry workshop in central Ohio, and serves as a contest judge and student coach for Ohio Arts Council's Poetry Out Loud program. Rose is an IT requirements analyst by day and a graduate Cave Canem fellow.

Like Cattle

he push me he pull me he press he lift he spin me he feed
me I sleep       he push me he pull me he press he hold me
he spin me he spank me he feed me I sleep       he push me
he pull me he press me he laugh he leash me he twist he
leash me he twist he leash me he feed me I sleep.       when
I wake, there is bruise       he chain me he leash me he
twist he push me he pull me he spank no he whip me he
turn me twist he slap he leash me he hold     he hold     he
hold       he free me he feed me I sleep       when I wake
there are scars       he push me he press me he spin me he
lift he leash me       he leash me       he twist       he    turn
air    black        he feed me        if I wake



Posted on April 17, 2018 .