David and Jonathan Meet in a Field Outside Ramah 

Poetry / Destiny O. Birdsong 


:: David and Jonathan Meet in a Field Outside Ramah ::

Monarchs they were, dusting the lilies 
with tunics bequeathed by a Titan they could not kill. 
One would sprout hematic wings from the chrysalis 
of a spear. The other would spindle the loss into 
wombs, spawning (separately) an architect and a rapist. 
But whatever is deeper than the love of women 
imbues them that day; its glory, as they say, 
the most beautiful of garlands. Brief. A girl’s. 
But God needs heroes, hosts, men of oil, 
so their departures are ordained, their hours 
sprinting away from them like the boy 
who scours the field for the prophetic arrow, 
his arms outstretched as a voice calls, “Hurry, hurry.” 
And so he does, but if it were up to him 
he would find nothing, just run on like that. Forever. 

From the writer


:: Account ::

I’ve been think­ing a lot about my beginnings—how I became the per­son and the poet I am. The Bible is undoubt­ed­ly the first poet­ry book I encoun­tered, and I find myself con­stant­ly return­ing to it, for the lan­guage but often to study the com­plex­i­ty of human rela­tion­ships. I’ve been think­ing a lot about end­ings too, par­tic­u­lar­ly friend­ships and how hard it can be to close the doors on them, even when it’s nec­es­sary. The truth is that, if Jonathan lives, David nev­er becomes king. This moment of part­ing is such a trau­mat­ic one for them, but the prophe­cies have been made, and there’s not much else to be done. I want­ed to write about all of that: the love and the impos­si­bil­i­ty and the long­ing that hap­pen side by side. Also, the line “the most beau­ti­ful of gar­lands. Brief. A girl’s.” is a nod to the final one in A. E. Houseman’s “To an Ath­lete Dying Young.” After the Bible, my next antholo­gies were my Eng­lish text­books, and it’s a poem I once read in one of them. I’ve loved it ever since. 


Des­tiny O. Bird­song is a Louisiana-born poet, essay­ist, and fic­tion writer whose work has either appeared or is forth­com­ing in the Paris Review Dai­ly, Poets & Writ­ers, Cat­a­pult, The Best Amer­i­can Poet­ry 2021, and else­where. Her debut poet­ry col­lec­tion, Nego­ti­a­tions, was pub­lished by Tin House Books in Octo­ber 2020, and was longlist­ed for the 2021 PEN/Voelcker Award. Her debut nov­el, Nobody’s Mag­ic, was pub­lished by Grand Cen­tral in Feb­ru­ary 2022 and won the 2022 Willie Mor­ris Award for South­ern Fic­tion. She now serves as a 2022–24 Artist-in-Res­i­dence at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ten­nessee in Knoxville. 

2 Poems

Poetry / CD Eskilson


:: Recipe for Roasted Broccoli ::

When my sibling says they don’t feel subject to our father’s mental illness 
I focus on cleaving through the broccoli stalks. Separating florets from the
trunk, dousing them in salt and olive oil. I want to question the stem
severed from its leaves but this thread tangles when I start tossing with my
hands. My sibling postulates how ordinary growing up was, how little
we’d known about what’s heritable until later. Until trying to form
relationships and being too much every time. How our narratives eschew
slipping grips and siren wails, my sibling says. I watch my broccoli in the
oven as I nod, try to toss the stripped green artery into the kitchen trash.
I miss and hit the wall. I want a gesture that can prove them right. I want to
glue the front door lock our father drove back to review each morning
before work. To sand the floorboard his obsession tried to level. Last
month, I tried cleansing sorry from my language but I didn’t last the
afternoon. I tried until it rained and knew whose fault it was. I know our
father would’ve folded long before me: would’ve blamed himself for
gravity, would’ve safety-pinned the drops back on the clouds.

:: At the Midnight Show of Sleepaway Camp ::

My queers and I clear from the aisles annoyed 
and damning the director, entering full takedown  
mode. Onscreen a trans girl romps through  
teens’ dark cabins, the panicked cry of she’s a boy!  
giving this slasher its shock-twist. Today 
the image we’re all killers remains deadly, 
has only grown more mainstream. But others  
in our group push back, defend the film.  
All huddled at a Denny’s, we listen to them  
fawn over the catharsis in a murder-fest.  
Admitting over plates of fries to dreams  
of wasting bullies, dropping angry beehives  
on assholes throwing slurs. From the ruckus  
of debate between our booths the film’s  
subversion sharpens: critiques of gendered  
violence, forced dysphoria emerge. Can’t we  
hold both readings of the movie to be true?  
Know the risk in such vindictive gore, that  
it still offers us resistance. That we might  
carry on with movie nights and diner talks,  
the uneventful lot of it, an arrow pointed 
at the next abuser’s throat. Can’t we  
promise to slay whoever creeps these woods 
and return thereafter to our quiet trees? 

From the writer


:: Account ::

hough var­ied in their forms and themes, these poems inves­ti­gate how the sto­ries we’re told about our iden­ti­ties mark our lives. My forth­com­ing poet­ry col­lec­tion Scream / Queen (Acre Books, 2025), inves­ti­gates how rep­re­sen­ta­tions of mon­stros­i­ty or “insan­i­ty” per­vade soci­etal con­cep­tions of both transness and men­tal ill­ness. Through com­pact­ed prose forms, the speak­er exam­ines fam­i­ly lin­eages of Obses­sive-Com­pul­sive Dis­or­der and its ongo­ing effects on their dai­ly life. Col­laps­ing the poet­ic line and stan­za here com­pli­cates the poem’s sense of time to under­score the con­tin­ued ram­i­fi­ca­tions of their rel­a­tives’ strug­gles. Mean­while, oth­er poems respond to pop­u­lar hor­ror films to inter­ro­gate the com­plex lega­cy of gen­der pan­ic found through­out the genre. Poems like “At the Mid­night Show of Sleep­away Camp” strive to rein­ter­pret the reac­tionary dehu­man­iza­tion prop­a­gat­ed by trans vil­lainy and reframe these hor­ror nar­ra­tives to allow for queer and trans sur­vival. Here, mon­stros­i­ty pro­vides an oppor­tu­ni­ty to reimag­ine an exis­tence for those liv­ing out­side of cis­sex­ist and patri­ar­chal confines.


CD Eskil­son is a trans poet, edi­tor, and trans­la­tor liv­ing in Arkansas. They are a recip­i­ent of the C.D. Wright/Academy of Amer­i­can Poets Prize, as well as a  Best of the Net, Best New Poets, and Push­cart Prize nom­i­nee. Their debut poet­ry col­lec­tion,  Scream / Queen, is forth­com­ing from Acre Books. They were once in a punk band.  

Meeting the Ghost of Diego Rivera at a Dive Bar in East Los Angeles 

Poetry / Jose Hernandez Diaz


:: Meeting the Ghost of Diego Rivera at a Dive Bar in East Los Angeles ::

I met the ghost of Diego Rivera at a hidden bar in East Los Angeles. He had a cigar in his right
hand along with a fancy wristwatch. He was wearing a brown professor’s coat and a pair of dress
shoes. It was early Fall. I asked him if I could buy him a beer. “I’ll take a Cerveza Bohemia,” he
said. “How long have you been in town?” I asked. “I moved to southern California in the late
90’s. My house is now worth a small fortune,” he said. When the beers arrived, we clinked
“salud” and watched a European futbol match on television. I wanted to ask him what Frida was
like, but I knew better. “What was David Alfaro Siqueiros like,” I asked. “Very serious. But
extremely talented,” he said. “What about Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock?” I asked. “They
were down-to-earth and wild,” he said. “The next one is on me. A couple more Mexican Pilsners,
Señor,” he asserted. As the sun set on the east side, we eventually said our goodbyes around
eleven. I drove home and listened to a free jazz station on the radio. I couldn’t stop thinking
about how friendly Rivera’s ghost was, though. So much for the
chisme and negative rumors.
When I got home, I painted a portrait of us having beers at the bar
on a small canvas. Something
to remember him by. Something for proof of
meeting ghosts, I pondered.

From the writer


:: Account ::

This prose poem was writ­ten dur­ing a gen­er­a­tive work­shop I taught. I wrote a prompt for my stu­dents say­ing, “write about meet­ing a deceased icon in an oth­er­wise mun­dane set­ting.” I decid­ed to respond to the prompt with the class. I had already writ­ten anoth­er prose poem to this same prompt a cou­ple years ago, one where I met Diego Maradona and Sal­vador Dali, so this is part of a larg­er series of pieces where I meet my idols, most of them from Latin Amer­i­can cul­ture and his­to­ry. When I meet these icons through my prose poems I like to have the meet­ings take place in casu­al, mun­dane set­tings. After I wrote the first draft in the work­shop with the stu­dents, the next day, at home, I fin­ished edit­ing it and sub­mit­ted it. 


Jose Her­nan­dez Diaz is a 2017 NEA Poet­ry Fel­low. He is the author of The Fire Eater (Texas Review Press, 2020) Bad Mex­i­can, Bad Amer­i­can (Acre Books, 2024), The Para­chutist (Sun­dress Pub­li­ca­tions, 2025) and Por­trait of the Artist as a Brown Man (Red Hen­Press, 2025). He has been pub­lished in The Yale Review, The Lon­don Mag­a­zine, and in The South­ern Review. He teach­es gen­er­a­tive work­shops for Hugo House, Light­house Writ­ers Work­shops, The Writer’s Cen­ter, and else­where. Addi­tion­al­ly, he serves as a Poet­ry Men­tor in The Adroit Jour­nal Sum­mer Men­tor­ship Program


2 Poems

Poetry / Nazifa Islam


:: I Was Afraid Too ::

a found poem: L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables 
I beat her 
when she said— 
shyly, afraid— 
that she felt like 
she didn’t belong 
to anybody 
that the outside 
of her heart  
was a sad lonely blue; 
I was her mother 
and I wanted 
her to believe 
that I was 
a cold sorrowful 

:: Every Frightened Moment ::

a found poem: L.M. Montgomery’s Emily of New Moon 

She was a nervous wild thing— a heretic with a sorrowful waste of desecrated fear in her angry red mouth. She destroyed any beautiful garden she was working in had failed to always do good and was haunted by impending calamity— how briskly it was waving at her— dreaded horribly what awaited her at the end of the long unknowable white road. She reached for the moon because it was lofty and mysterious and who couldn’t it twist lovely and sacred?

From the writer


:: Account ::

These poems are part of a series of L.M. Mont­gomery found poems I’m cur­rent­ly work­ing on. To write these poems, I select a para­graph from a Mont­gomery text—so far, Anne of Green Gables, Ril­la of Ingle­side, A Tan­gled Web, The Blue Cas­tle, Emi­ly of New Moon, Emily’s Quest, and The Select­ed Jour­nals of L.M. Mont­gomery—and only use the words from that para­graph to cre­ate a poem. I essen­tial­ly write a poem while doing a word search using L.M. Mont­gomery as source mate­r­i­al. I don’t allow myself to repeat words, add words, or edit the lan­guage for tense or any oth­er con­sid­er­a­tion. These poems are simul­ta­ne­ous­ly defined by both Montgomery’s choic­es with lan­guage as well as my own. They’re an homage to Mont­gomery that is heav­i­ly influ­enced by my per­son­al inter­est in exam­in­ing exis­ten­tial dread and the stark real­i­ties of men­tal ill­ness; where Montgomery’s nov­els are (almost) utter­ly joy­ful, these found poems are often bleak and despair­ing. There is (often) an obvi­ous con­trast between the source mate­r­i­al and the fin­ished found poems that may appear jar­ring to those famil­iar with Montgomery’s work. Know­ing that Mont­gomery her­self very like­ly lived with bipo­lar dis­or­der, I feel that I’m express­ing through these poems ideas and emo­tions she was very famil­iar with and which she does touch on explic­it­ly in nov­els like Emily’s Quest.


Naz­i­fa Islam is the author of the poet­ry col­lec­tions Search­ing for a Pulse (White­point Press) and For­lorn Light: Vir­ginia Woolf Found Poems (Shears­man Books). Her poems have appeared in Gulf Coast, The Mis­souri Review, Boston Review, Smar­tish Pace, and Beloit Poet­ry Jour­nal among oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. She earned her MFA at Ore­gon State Uni­ver­si­ty. You can find her @nafoopal

Epistle, Dearly 

Poetry / Ben Kline 


:: Epistle, Dearly ::

I never addressed you as Dear or Dearest. 
Why start with a lie, why try  
to pistol belief in the blood  
vs water myth. I took your advice  
about Asics, but remained a Nike guy,  
my skinny heels suited for stilettos, 
though I look awful in drag.  
All shoulders, too thick for cinching.  
I took your word on mutual funds  
vs saving, which worked  
until my knee surgeries 
and the younger boyfriend  
who wanted me to daddy him.  
I’m still unsure how  
I held you. At a distance, yes,  
a day’s drive, many arms 
extended for a side hug  
when I entered your home 
for a holiday visit, your squirm 
when I named men in my life,  
worse when they joined me,  
unless they gave you a gift,  
and even then, still on your heels 
until you laced up and struck 
mile after mile of gravel, 
asphalt, grass, cow paths, the air  
compressed between you and the earth 
where all your happiness 
gathered power. I’ll never forget  
the 10K we ran early 
in our runner eras, I kept your pace  
the first three miles and halfway  
through Mile 4 you said, Go, go on,  
go ahead, the first permission  
you ever gave me without condition,  
my laces double knotted  
and ready to leave you  
in the blur where you wanted to 
be yourself, smiling in the finish line 
photos hanging around your craft room. 
I never told you I ran the same race 
the next year, placing sixth 
out of two hundred and three  
in my age group, my first 
and fifth miles under six minutes,  
a feat I never repeated. Now, 
I address you as Dearly departed,  
heed your advice about chewing gum 
on cold weather runs. I try 
the new bamboo Asics in red. 
I hope the internet in the afterlife 
has the answers you didn’t find  
in the miles blurred behind us. Start  
with searching “chosen families”  
and “conversion therapy,” laugh at 
“hedonist” and “heretic” endlessly  
looping into each other. After finishing  
“failure of the Roman Catholic Church,”  
I hope you scroll my socials 
and flag every nude I posted 
when I believed beauty   
vs truth was the route to eternity.  

From the writer


:: Account ::

I pre­fer my poems to use fam­i­ly as inspi­ra­tion. Noth­ing fac­tu­al. Noth­ing grudge­wor­thy. Noth­ing to prompt a fist fight at a sec­ond cousin’s third wed­ding recep­tion. 

 Then, in late Feb­ru­ary of 2023, my mom died unex­pect­ed­ly, twen­ty-three hours of car­diac arrest that began dur­ing one of her week­end runs. Every­thing fac­tu­al threat­ened a fist fight in that first week. Every­thing I wrote in the months after tried to be a fire inside grief’s cave. 

 Epis­tle, Dear­ly is one of many (too many!) poems I wrote from the cave. Draft­ed dur­ing the dai­ly hus­tle of Nation­al Poet­ry Month 30/30 exer­cis­es cre­at­ed and shared by séa­mus fey and Dr. Tay­lor Byas, the poem is my first ever attempt at an epis­tle, a form I find almost painful­ly inti­mate. The speaker’s eva­sive­ness, even in this moment of direct address, per­me­ates the line breaks, the tid­bits of a life nev­er shared, rec­i­p­ro­cal dis­ap­point­ments that sud­den­ly feel like too much for the brisk cou­plets to sus­tain as the poem pro­pels toward con­clu­sion. Toward an even­tu­al accep­tance, though like­ly not the accep­tance the speak­er might have hoped. 


Ben Kline (he/him) lives in Cincin­nati, Ohio. Author of the chap­books Sagit­tar­ius A* and Dead Uncles, as well as the forth­com­ing col­lec­tion It Was Nev­er Sup­posed to Be, Ben is a sto­ry­teller, Madon­na pod­cast­er, and poet whose work has appeared in Poet Lore, Pit­head Chapel, Cop­per Nick­el, MAYDAY, Flori­da Review, DIAGRAM, Poet­ry, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can find him online at benklineonline.wordpress.com. 

2 Poems

Poetry / Virginia Konchan 


:: Lamentation ::

Please take a moment to fill out these forms. 
Six hours later, yes, the forms have been filled. 
I’ve drunk the bitter cup, eaten bread of sorrow,  
lived to know that work is bad for your health.  
The paperwork enshrouding it, the routine bills 
and insurance premiums justifying it, like a kick 
in the teeth of a thoroughly benumbed stud horse, 
whose only value is to generate seed, as decreed. 
Expecting someone from the slacker generation  
to work 60-hour weeks and be delighted about it 
is an unwholesome delusion in need of crushing. 
Wealth as having an extra bag of boiled rice is a   
measure of economic progress I long to surpass. 
Am I more than the sum of every high and low? 
Will He who smote great nations, slew mighty   
kings, majestically vanquish my enemies, too? 
Other than a couple awkward hugs, I have not  
been touched in years. Forgive me, my body 
has not been touched in years, thanks to the  
invisible fencing I professionally installed, 
otherwise known as an energetic boundary. 
Words make or break us: bring peace, war. 
I hold my phone like it’s a chalice or vessel,  
when really it’s just a phone. What portent, 
what auspicious omen do I expect to come, 
funnelling through electromagnetic smog? 
Gadgets jockey for my precious attention,  
already subdivided like a federal territory. 
Giants fall, mountains move, waters part: 
no further proof is needed of God, I see. 
I click to insert my signature, whereof I’m 
glad: thou hast dealt bountifully with me.  

:: Anemone ::

The white anemone is a cruel gift, Father.  
A perennial, it’s born to die, and not return. 
Anemone, Greek for “daughter of the wind.” 
Something must have happened to the mother, 
stewards of the earth say, when seeing a litter 
of kittens, bunnies, squirrels, or baby birds 
fallen from the sky. We mimic her motions,  
her fastidious hovering, maternal diligence, 
hoping abandoned fledglings might survive. 
My sister wound a plastic flower at the foot 
of my mother’s hospice bed, to bring cheer. 
I adjusted the curtains: is it too much light? 
Not enough? She stared at and through me, 
unable to have or articulate her preference. 
Instead, I spoke, because she could hear.  
In heaven, nothing changes, save for the 
concealing and magnifying of presence. 
I can picture it, a bucolic pastoral scene: 
shepherdess herding cows by your side. 
Yet with a single turn of fortune’s wheel 
I found myself impersonal and asexual: 
no known next-of-kin, no cause or cure. 
I don’t steal, I don’t harm or hit anyone. 
I routinely act irrespective of how I feel.  
For what am I preparing: my own death? 
Forgive me, please, for misrecognition, 
for preferring to stand alone in a field. 
I thought to save you by saving myself, 
which I know is the saddest departing. 
The more I become myself, the more I  
betray the world.

From the writer


:: Account ::

Lamen­ta­tion” and “Anemone” are includ­ed in my forth­com­ing poet­ry col­lec­tion Requiem (Carnegie Mel­lon Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2025), a col­lec­tion anchored in per­son­al and col­lec­tive grief, remem­brance, and com­mem­o­ra­tion, jour­ney­ing through the loss of a moth­er in a series of ele­gies, fugues, and lamen­ta­tions that draw from the Church’s canon­i­cal hours of prayer as col­lect­ed in a bre­viary. “Lamen­ta­tion” con­stel­lates grief into anger towards tech­no-bureau­crat­ic ide­ol­o­gy and the depre­da­tions of cor­po­rate cul­ture, ongo­ing through a har­row­ing loss, and a cri de coeur to a salvif­ic god. “Anemone,” inspired by Louise Glück’s Wild Iris, is a med­i­ta­tion on mor­tal­i­ty and the strug­gle to con­tin­ue liv­ing while car­ing for my moth­er in hos­pice for close to two years. In those years, she had no motor func­tion and lim­it­ed cog­ni­tive func­tion, and these poems became a way for me to speak back to the grief (antic­i­pa­to­ry and real, after she passed away in Decem­ber 2023), as well as the feel­ing that I had become not only her care­giv­er but also an inter­preter of her agency and desires, no longer com­mu­ni­cat­ed in ver­bal or writ­ten lan­guage but rather the lan­guage of the heart.  


Vir­ginia Kon­chan is the author of five poet­ry col­lec­tions, includ­ing Requiem (Carnegie Mel­lon Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2025), and Bel Can­to (Carnegie Mel­lon, 2022). Coed­i­tor of Mar­bles on the Floor: How to Assem­ble a Book of Poems (Uni­ver­si­ty of Akron Press, 2023), and recip­i­ent of fel­low­ships from the Amy Clampitt Res­i­den­cy and the Nation­al Endow­ment for the Human­i­ties, her poems have appeared in The New York­er, The New Repub­lic, The Atlantic, and the Acad­e­my of Amer­i­can Poets. 

On the Impossible Sadness of Ballet Plots 

Poetry / Rita Mookerjee 


:: On the Impossible Sadness of Ballet Plots::

after Uwe Scholz’s Firebird and Marius Petipa’s Bayadère 
the dancers are hovering in a radically avian sense 
because power is all about the arms or at least 
that’s what the score tells us. this story of a bird  
on an ascending planet visited by a prince who  
thinks it’s fun to keep the bird from flying, trapping  
it from all angles with cabriole after cabriole. 
to some, this is a dance. in another dizzy, 
departed vision, a dreamer watches the spirit  
of her lover glissade soundlessly. she sheds 
her body in developpé. it is uncommon to witness 
this unshelling of mortal form. from this sustained  
violence, a standing ovation grows which shows  
the company that this appetite for morbidity must be  
sustained. with a collective hum, the audience savors the loss.  

From the writer


:: Account ::

I danced bal­let for 22 years. Upon reflect­ing about the great bal­lets of the 20th cen­tu­ry (Gise­le, Fire­bird, Swan Lake, etc.), it occured to me that almost none of them are hap­py or even neu­tral sto­ries. In fact, a num­ber of them con­tain the odd­ly spe­cif­ic motif of being cru­el to birds. I rumi­nat­ed on this for some time and decid­ed it must be some kind of hyper­dra­mat­ic move to push the stakes and cre­ate a con­text for explo­ration in move­ment which is not the eas­i­est feat in this strict mode of dance. My aim was to cre­ate a poem that mir­rors this prop­er­ty both son­i­cal­ly and the­mat­i­cal­ly. 


Rita Mook­er­jee is an Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Inter­dis­ci­pli­nary Stud­ies at Worces­ter State Uni­ver­si­ty. She is the author of False Offer­ing (Jack­Leg Press 2023). Her poems can be found in CALYX, Cop­per Nick­el, New Orleans Review, the Off­ing, and Poet Lore. She serves as an edi­tor at Split Lip Mag­a­zine, Sun­dress Pub­li­ca­tions, and Hon­ey Literary.

Triptych after Reading Billy Budd, Sailor 

Poetry / Donna Vorreyer 


:: Triptych after Reading Billy Budd, Sailor  ::

There are no women in this story.  
Should I be astonished 
that the “she” has been pushed aside  
in this ode to desire and denial, 
published so long ago? 
Melville may have been abashed 
at the mere thought of a woman  
in his man’s world of the sea, chosen 
instead established character types, 
men who rushed into actions, 
ones who shed their veneers only  
when their most cherished lies  
were believed, when they resulted  
in pain or lashes for the weak. 
If the old story could be rehashed  
the roles of men could be relinquished  
to minor players. As it is, the only  
mention of a woman in all thirty  
chapters is to say that what is “feminine” 
in man is like a pitious woman  
who falsely tries to cry her way out  
of troubles or in describing the titular hero  
as beautiful, but like “a woman with  
something amiss.” 
II. She is only a ship in this story and a ship is merely a vessel.
III. At the beach, water splashes and in the mountains, spring melt brings freshets. Rivers course through valleys, and in an old woman, the blood ebbs, flow vanished from her body’s ecosystem. She has become invisible, each slight a sheath that protects. There is nothing to hint at her finished glory except perhaps the polished wooden breasts at the bow of a ship, this figurehead a stand-in for what has been forgotten, an artful facsimile, the power of a woman to bear the brunt of waves and survive.

From the writer


:: Account ::

After re-read­ing Bil­ly Budd, Sailor by Her­man Melville, a favorite re-read of mine, I was struck this par­tic­u­lar time by the com­plete non-exis­tence of women in a sto­ry filled with themes that tra­di­tion­al­ly have involved women—desire, jeal­ousy, moral­i­ty, truth ver­sus jus­tice, puri­ty and inno­cence, to name a few. This kicked off a project that is now a man­u­script of prose poems, era­sures, black­outs, and lim­it­ed lan­guage land­scapes that uses Melville’s ele­vat­ed dic­tion as a start­ing point to high­light the sto­ries and con­cerns of women in mod­ern soci­ety. This trip­tych poem served as an entry point into the project, using all of the instances of the let­ters s‑h-e in the novel­la to pon­der era­sure and com­ment on the tra­di­tion­al roles women are expect­ed to play. 


Don­na Vor­rey­er is the author of To Every­thing There Is (2020), Every Love Sto­ry is an Apoc­a­lypse Sto­ry (2016) and A House of Many Win­dows (2013), all from Sun­dress Pub­li­ca­tions. Donna’s art and pho­tog­ra­phy are fea­tured or forth­com­ing in North Amer­i­can Review, Waxwing, Pit­head Chapel, Thim­ble Lit­er­ary Mag­a­zine, Penn Review, The Boil­er and oth­er jour­nals. She lives in the Chica­go sub­urbs where she hosts the month­ly online read­ing series A Hun­dred Pitch­ers of Hon­ey. 

2 Poems

Poetry / Ross White


:: Multifunction ::

Let us celebrate designs which yielded
sofabeds, printer/scanners, reversible jackets,
sporks, all the ideas hatched to serve 
two masters with a single motion, every item rolling
off an assembly line to replace two others.
The modern condition won’t allow
us to merely do one thing well.
A great third grade teacher will soon be plucked
from the classroom and tasked to be principal,
because inspiring students to trace a hand 
and discover in its outline a turkey
obviously means you’re a candidate
for budgeting and facilities management.
Doctors end up running the hospital,
inmates the asylum. And some do it beautifully,
find the soft skills were there all along
like tines hidden in the smooth bowl of spoon.
Others manage just well enough
not to cock it up. But what of the sad sacks
who can’t adjust to spreadsheets,
who sit in Monday staff meetings numb,
who dream only of dioramas or laparotomies
or the quiet padding of a cell?
Kiss released “I Was Made for Lovin’ You”
in May of ’79, four earnest guys in face paint
proclaiming a single function was plenty.
I know Paul Stanley sang the lead
but imagine those words rolling off a tongue
as long as Gene Simmons’s. You could stretch
the phrase until it became tension wire.
You could send a funambulist across
carrying his pole. While he’s up there,
he’s only got to focus on one thing. 
That’s the whole point of the tightrope act.
But Kiss fans hated that song.
They hated the whole album—ironically,
because Kiss was folding disco in
to their hard rock sound. There’s the rub:
you won’t survive unless you grow,
but no one wants to have to watch.
Of course there will be fumbles, failures.
What foal ever stood without stumbling?
Which painters covered their early canvases
in perfect brushstrokes? You’re just supposed
to botch it and biff it and bollocks it
and blow it and bungle it and butcher it
in private. Get a room. Rent a studio.
Ascend the stairs to a remote corner
of a clock tower. Build a hideaway,
a hush-hush lab, a shed not far from the edge
of the woods. Head to the basement.
Perfect it in secret. No one wants to see
how the sausage is made. Pretend you left
the factory as handy as the new sofa sleeper
or North Face puffer jacket. Knife,
scissors, corkscrew, ruler, bottle opener
all in a handy red sheath. What grace. 
Not me. I’m backstage staring into the vanity
before the big show but none of the facepaint 
glows me up. I’m the colt who wishes
he was back in the womb, the paint brush 
that would rather just soak in water.
I’ve spent mornings behind the principal’s desk
at a failing school, dreaming of picture books 
and cotton ball snowmen on paper plates.
I’ve spent afternoons blundering in boardrooms,
wishing I could sew a single stitch.
I’m in therapy, being asked to love myself.
It’s a lot to ask. I was made for lovin’ you.

:: Daybreak: This Could Be My Year ::

I lay my tongue over the morning. 
Through every vein, glistening berries
ripen—platelets singing hallelujah,
ready to close the wound if new day
cuts too close. Dew leaves the blades
of grass as if in rapture. I steel myself
to return to stardust but perhaps
the creek won’t rise today, as it hasn’t
so many days before. Maybe deer
darting from the yard will stall
and stare me in the living eye again.

From the writer


:: Account ::

I  think all the time about this lyric from “Jack & Diane,” the song that was omnipresent in 1982: “Oh yeah, life goes on / long after the thrill of liv­ing is gone.” I have, for years, assumed that the tone was mourn­ful, that “Jack & Diane” was a depic­tion of the kinds of kids for whom high school would be the apex of their lives. Recent­ly, I learned that Mel­len­camp said, “It has the spir­it of peo­ple who think that the sun ris­es and sets with them, and the world is here for them, which it actu­al­ly is.” That last part is so crit­i­cal. The world is actu­al­ly here for them. It’s here for all of us, while it’s thrilling and long after. I’d been think­ing of poems as either cel­e­bra­tions or laments. They’re so often both. 


Ross White is the direc­tor of Bull City Press, an inde­pen­dent pub­lish­er of poet­ry, fic­tion, and non­fic­tion. He is the author of Charm Offen­sive, win­ner of the Sex­ton Prize for Poet­ry, and three chap­books: How We Came Upon the Colony, The Polite Soci­ety, and Val­ley of Want. His poems have appeared in Amer­i­can Poet­ry Review, New Eng­land Review, Ploughshares, Poet­ry Dai­ly, Tin House, and The South­ern Review, among oth­ers. He is Direc­tor of Cre­ative Writ­ing at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na at Chapel Hill and co-hosts The Chap­book, a pod­cast devot­ed to tiny, delight­ful collections. 

2 Poems

Poetry / Lisa Fay Coutley


:: Letter to Future Me While Rewatching Game of Thrones ::

All the small centers of the center
leak now. People dress themselves
in endings. Tell me you haven’t
washed the snow from my hair.
I’m still cross-legged in the angry
age of our little epoch, blaming
the girl who turned herself clock
to get us this far. I hope you will
still be foolish enough to forgive
who we love, & that I am finally
among them. Today is when I
gave us a name you’ll braid white
down either side of our future
face. I cannot stop craning to see.
I spend so much time with you now
I hardly touch me anymore. Pleasure
is the smell that refuses to cast its
inevitable goodnight. Big spoon me
in the street. Your palomino knows
someday I’ll pull in that gravel drive.
Already I’ve named the pines for sap
tacking animal hair from my hands
to yours. Every center, like I’ve said,
ignores its eye. Did you stop fighting
artifice? Have you let yourself best
friend your assigned AI? How lonely
are you there, scoffing at the nature
of my reductive inquiries. Of course
the woman who succeeds me shall
be smarter than I. So yeah. Anyway,
the one thing I know won’t change
is everyone—you included—wants
a woman who saunters out of a fire.

:: Letter to Future Me Regarding Our 11s ::

Your face will slacken someday. Even
if it’s that day. That day that comes

more in the mirror now
than in bed or under running 

water scalding as mother
said. Should’ve slept with your bra

on if you wanted a man. These days
sagging alone, I watch the whole

Game of Thrones just waiting
for that tragic moment Wylis

holds the door. I am, after all,
yours. Your braless daughter,

Sad Mom. Doesn’t that just burn
your jaws? I know. Shh. Future me—

are you listening to the temperature
of my voice? My barometric

pressure? Do you know how
many heavy rains I’ve needed you.

From the writer


:: Account ::

Over the years I’ve writ­ten let­ters I’ll nev­er send, let­ters to my dead, let­ters to lovers, let­ters from an earth­bound poet to an astro­naut in space (and back), who were both, of course, parts of the speaker’s self need­ing dis­tance to be seen/to see clear­ly, to try make sense of what it means to be alive. Always they’ve been let­ters of miss­ing. Recent­ly, the per­son I’ve been missing—who I was afraid I might nev­er see—was me, specif­i­cal­ly Future Me. If I wasn’t wor­ried she wouldn’t arrive, I was wait­ing impa­tient­ly for her, as if mov­ing through trau­ma and grief and an espe­cial­ly dif­fi­cult year could have an end goal dressed in a bet­ter ver­sion of me wait­ing at the oth­er side of the seem­ing­ly nev­er-end­ing tun­nel. The heavy­hand­ed and all-too-famil­iar metaphor aside, I’ve been writ­ing to her as a way to make a list, maybe, of what I might like to see in my future (or not), and then she wrote back. This work, I guess, is a flare sent into dark­ness, and I’m mak­ing room for it because even if I can’t see clear­ly just yet, still, I have to tend the desire to keep look­ing. This is how I know to look.


Lisa Fay Cout­ley is the author of HOST (Wis­con­sin Poet­ry Series, forth­com­ing 2024), teth­er (Black­Lawrence Press, 2020), Erra­ta (South­ern Illi­nois Uni­ver­si­ty, 2015), win­ner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poet­ry Open Com­pe­ti­tion, In the Car­ni­val of Breath­ing (BLP, 2011), win­ner of the Black Riv­er Chap­book Com­pe­ti­tion, and Small Girl: Micromem­oirs (Har­bor Edi­tions, 2024). She is also the edi­tor of the grief anthol­o­gy, In the Tem­pered Dark: Con­tem­po­rary Poets Tran­scend­ing Ele­gy (BLP, 2024). She is an NEA Fel­low, Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Poet­ry & CNF in the Writer’s Work­shop at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Nebras­ka Oma­ha, and Chap­book Series Edi­tor at Black Lawrence Press.


2 Poems

Poetry / Denise Duhamel



I’m dead by now—car crash or bad fall. Or I’m still here, but feeling dead inside, yelling at 
Target cashiers or maybe staying home, my Tower Vodka delivered by Total Wine. I have more 
cringy stories or stories swirling about me. I might have slept with a student by now or a dean 
who’s a drunk like me. I might have been fired, actually, claiming my dismissal was all someone 
else’s fault. I never developed the good habit of flossing daily or trying to get eight hours of 
sleep in a row. I might have drowned in a pool or the ocean or a bathtub. I might have pissed 
myself in public. I have surely forgotten the rent check, credit card payment, lost my voter ID. I 
might have stopped writing poems entirely, with excuses about why they are stupid. I might have 
stopped reading them too. Or there I was, until I wasn’t—a high-functioning, lampshade-wearing
jokester who tripped on a step and hit her head, who tore through that stop sign on her way 


During quarantine
a lizard so green
she looked like a toy
latched onto the screen
door of my balcony—
she must have climbed a tree.
The sound of her scared me.
My blinds closed, I thought she
was someone trying to break in.
I peeked through the slats
ready to scream,
ready to dial 911.
The foot-long lizard
had climbed as far as my knee
and I shook her off, gently,
afraid she would rip the mesh.
I kept talking to her
the whole time. I was so lonely
that Florida winter, I almost
invited her inside.
She had matching lime green
eyes. When I googled her later
I learned she was a Cuban Knight.
Clearly she was able 
to fend for herself. Still I mashed
a banana and served it to her, 
al fresco, on my best earthenware. 

From the writer


:: Account ::

These poems are from a series in which all the titles con­tain the word “in which.” I began this series as a way to imag­ine oth­er out­comes to my life or what might have been—a prose poem, for exam­ple, in which I nev­er became sober and am pos­si­bly dead. But the “in which” was also expan­sive enough to bring me to glimpses elsewhere—private moments of shame or lone­li­ness, imag­i­na­tive leaps into the inner work­ings of my body. For me, it’s been a mag­i­cal lit­er­ary device, the “which” like a “witch” cast­ing her spell. The work in this series has gone in sur­pris­ing direc­tions, the titles teth­er­ing me down. I find it increas­ing­ly lib­er­at­ing to state my premise in the title, to let the title do a lot of the work to ground a reader.


Denise Duhamel’s most recent books of poet­ry are Sec­ond Sto­ry (Pitts­burgh, 2021) and Scald (2017). Blowout (2013) was a final­ist for the Nation­al Book Crit­ics Cir­cle Award. She is a dis­tin­guished uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor in the MFA pro­gram at Flori­da Inter­na­tion­al Uni­ver­si­ty in Miami.

2 Poems

Poetry / Joanne Godley


:: The Hardest Read ::

Inspired by The Delectable Negro: Human Consumption and 
Homoeroticism Within US Slave Culture, by Vincent Woodward,
and after Catherine Pierce

In protest, I say the word delectable.
Woodward’s text-title has, for me,  
rancid-washed this word’s flavor. 
In protest, I repeat the word, delectable.
Craggy letter-bits stick in my craw.
Once a pleasing and delitable word,
for me, is delectable, no more.
I spit it out.  

In protest, I say the word, Negro,
and find me shadowed in a corner,
flirting with views past and upon me.
Years ago, at Thanksgiving, my brother asked, 
Why don’t they sell Negro turkeys?  
 No one in our family ate the white meat.

In protest, I say the word, voyeur.
I stare out the window onto the street
lush with jacarandas. My new country.
The purple canopied calles of my neighborhood,
are named for poets and statesmen.
Maimonides. Arquemides. Lamartine.
In protest, I say, I have done the thing.
This fucking thing. I crawled out
of the beast’s belly and slithered away. 
Breathing. Human. Black.
Gut juices painting my path.

My dreams creep back, 
enter my bedroom with caution, lest I relapse.
In protest, I reclaim the word ease.
I say the words copiousness and abundance,
in near disbelief. 
I nap, voraciously.
I am overdue for a leaching.
In protest, I say the word sinuousness.
I say the word luminescence.
I remember night-quiet, wintered Philadelphia,
ice-sliding Osage Avenue with R.,
translucent spears clinging to skeletal trees 
and telephone lines.

My grandfather steepled churches 
using wood gathered from the Great Dismal Swamp.
Watch me maroon, fellow maroons. Watch me prosody.
Watch me cacophony while incognito,
persnickety into clandestine.

I am the right brand of paranoid.
And with perfect tastebuds, no delectable for me.
Watch me polish the ‘I’ in thrive.

:: Gone ::

an Expatriate’s CV1
                                                                 1I was born
I was born  I burst                                bookish     into poetry & charismatic color
nearly blacklisted			      but hallelujahed by countrymen not my own
swam under sprouting clouds		           I was born
testing    testing			              in a place Neruda dubbed ‘Dawn’s Rosy Cheek’
I spoke Yiddish soon after		      I was born
schvartze means Black  		      I was born
I hankered for chitlin’s & oxtails   enjoyed forbidden fruits
I wailed the blues			      with an ear for opera  but no peonies or peace lilies for me
I grooved with Pete Seeger	      I worshipped Paul Robeson &
we marched we protested		      we believed                                       we patienced
I lusted for excellence		      I sought success (American style)
I was born justice-oriented	      for all
like King  I was born dreamer	      Like Langston I deferred dreams   too
After reading We Charge Genocide
at age 9				                      I plotted expatriation at the age of 10
realized I was born in a place ripe
with false promises & hoods	     my country tis of thee   sweet land   				
I embraced your values 		     I drank your tea
then dropped your mic		     this caged bird flew because
this country that birthed me	       the Amerikkka I know
does not love me back   		     does not want me Black

From the writer


:: Account ::

In 1951, the Civ­il Rights Con­gress pre­sent­ed a book-length peti­tion to the Unit­ed Nations enti­tled, We Charge Geno­cide, The Crime of Gov­ern­ment Against the Negro Peo­ple. This book doc­u­ment­ed (with graph­ic pho­tographs) hun­dreds of lynch­ing cas­es of Black Amer­i­cans known to have occurred in the eighty-five years since the end of slav­ery (the num­ber is esti­mat­ed at 10,000 indi­vid­u­als.) I hap­pened upon this book at the age of nine. I was a vora­cious read­er and had been giv­en carte blanche to read any book in my par­ents’ library. I was aghast and won­dered what could pos­si­bly pro­voke a per­son, or groups of peo­ple, to levy such cru­el­ty on oth­er human beings. I promised myself, that, giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty, I would leave the Unit­ed States to live in anoth­er soci­ety. As I grew old­er, I devel­oped a sense of dual self-per­cep­tion, of which WEB DuBois spoke, “It is a pecu­liar sen­sa­tion, this dou­ble con­scious­ness, this sense of always look­ing at one­self through the eyes of oth­ers, of mea­sur­ing one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused con­tempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness, – an Amer­i­can, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unrec­on­ciled striv­ings; two war­ring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asun­der” (Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, p. 2). This dual self-per­cep­tion was anoth­er rea­son for my leav­ing the U.S.

The con­cept of flight fig­ures promi­nent­ly in my poet­ry, par­tic­u­lar­ly, once my path to expa­tri­a­tion became clear­er. I have grown inter­est­ed in the con­cept of maroon­age and have researched exten­sive­ly the his­to­ry of maroons (enslaved peo­ple who fled their bondage and sought refuge in swamps or hills) in the U.S. and the Caribbean. I have also done research on the African Amer­i­can folk­lore about the ‘fly­ing Africans’, Blacks who escaped enslave­ment through flight.


Joanne God­ley lives in Mex­i­co City, hav­ing emi­grat­ed from the U.S. a year ago. She is a physi­cian, writer, poet, and a first year MFA can­di­date in Poet­ry. She is a Meter Keep­er in the Poet­ry Witch Com­mu­ni­ty and an Anapho­ra Arts fel­low in both poet­ry and fic­tion. Her poet­ry has been pub­lished in the Belle­vue Lit­er­ary Review, Man­tis, Light, FIYAH, Pratik, among oth­ers. She was twice nom­i­nat­ed for a Push­cart prize. Her prose has been pub­lished in the Mass­a­chu­setts Review, the Keny­on Review online, Juked, Mem­oir, among oth­ers. Her poet­ry chap­book, Pick­ing Scabs from the Body His­to­ry,fea­tures poems of wit­ness and resis­tance. Her web­site is: joannegodley.com

2 Poems

Poetry / Andrew Hemmert


:: The Liquor Store Delivery Driver Considers Ornithology ::

A swift flies like a bat made of straight razors. In summer 
I watch them sweep and curve through the mazes of moving cars, 
chasing the proliferating insects—mosquitos and caddis, 
black flies whose guts rorschach my windshield in yellows and greens 
and always the swifts behind them, like hunger given weight
and weightlessness, like hunger given speed. The way they fly, 
it seems they do not remember the ground is there. 
And nothing makes me feel grounded like watching them. 
Watching them, I might as well be a cattail by a retention pond 
or a shopping cart sunk in that retention pond, or a pond 
full only of oily overflow and no red fish darting
through reeds. When a swift doubles back its belly feathers shine 
like surgery. I am driving my car full of liquor 
into the city, under the swifts’ oblivion joy. 

:: The Liquor Store Delivery Driver Considers Quitting ::

Leaving feels like something for which there should be some ritual. 
On my last day at the store, a brand-new driver was t-boned 
in an intersection. I went to get him. Parsed his story 
from those of the witnesses, peeled the company decal 
off the totaled delivery car. The other driver 
though stumbling refused an ambulance. My driver spent 
the ride back to the store with his head in his hands. The ruined 
car we left in a restaurant parking lot for the morning.
What ritual for this? In the end I spent too much money 
on a bottle of rum and drove home under open skies. 
I left my uniform—a black t-shirt, a matching hoodie, 
a fake-gold magnetic nametag—lying on the counter, 
what else is there to say about it. A job is not a life. 
I went out into the night wearing only my own clothes.

From the writer


:: Account ::

When I moved to Thorn­ton, Col­orado, my first job was deliv­er­ing liquor for a local liquor store. These deliv­er­ies were pri­mar­i­ly res­i­den­tial, not retail. I’d been a patron at the store for a few months pri­or to receiv­ing their email adver­tise­ment seek­ing deliv­ery dri­vers. Hav­ing been out of work for near­ly two years at that point due to the pan­dem­ic, I was eager to con­tribute to the household’s finances in what­ev­er way pos­si­ble. And hav­ing at the time recent­ly com­plet­ed my first Covid vac­cine reg­i­ment, I felt rel­a­tive­ly com­fort­able return­ing to a retail envi­ron­ment. Now, a year since hav­ing left that posi­tion, it’s still hard to cap­ture the reg­u­lar absur­di­ty of being part of a liquor store deliv­ery depart­ment. I’d antic­i­pat­ed that the job would pro­vide me with count­less sto­ries I could use as fod­der for poet­ry or fic­tion. And I’m still try­ing to fig­ure out how to chis­el most of those sto­ries out. Unsur­pris­ing­ly, dri­ving fac­tors heav­i­ly into the expe­ri­ence of these poems. And dri­ving has been a major theme in my pri­or books. But this was my first oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­cuss dri­ving in the con­text of per­son­al labor.


Andrew Hem­mert is the author of Bless­ing the Exoskele­ton (Pitt Poet­ry Series) and Saw­grass Sky (Texas Review Press). His poems have appeared or are forth­com­ing in var­i­ous mag­a­zines includ­ing The Cincin­nati Review, Cop­per Nick­el, The Keny­on Review, Prairie Schooner, and The South­ern Review. He won the 2018 Riv­er Styx Inter­na­tion­al Poet­ry Con­test. He earned his MFA from South­ern Illi­nois Uni­ver­si­ty Car­bon­dale, and cur­rent­ly lives in Thorn­ton, Colorado.

Kill the Birds

Poetry / Carolina Hotchandani


:: Kill the Birds ::

I live my life as the heroine 
of a novel I am authoring.

Hers is the story of a woman who moves 
from Chicago to Vermillion, South Dakota, 
to follow her husband’s job.
It comes with better benefits than hers.

The story she tells could be my own,
or it could be the story of insurance
and the things insurance makes us do
when we feel the soft spot 
on the baby’s skull and imagine the world 
impressing itself upon that head.

I could console myself:
the new insurance is spectacular.
It slays fears like a great, muscular hero,
thundering into the scene astride a horse,
making me blush like a virgin in an 18th-century novel—
a foil for the heroine I’d been molding.

At the university where I begin to work,
my students ask for leave to go pheasant hunting.
Their hunting excursions are sacred, they say—
religious rites, or practically so.

Miss class. 
Kill the birds.

Confer upon a lost life 
a meaning. A pheasant 
knocked out of flight,
hurtling over the snow, 
will be your glory.

What’s vermillion, I wonder,
about this white, white town.

Outside my window, the striped cornfields
write new lines onto my brain.

How dare they, I think.
I’m the writer, after all.

One day, walking along the gravel driveway,
I spot a dead fox—
a splotch 
on the snowed-over corn stubble.


From the writer


:: Account ::

I am intrigued by how we relate to the fic­tions that we con­sume and write—how we project our­selves onto char­ac­ters and, if we are writ­ers, how we can become moved by our own cre­ations, as if they were not enti­ties we’d brought into being our­selves. Mary Shelley’s Franken­stein had a pro­found influ­ence on me in my youth, and as I grew into adult­hood, I revis­it­ed it, read­ing it as a por­tray­al of how the artist’s cre­ation can be a mon­strous mir­ror, a beloved, a ther­a­pist, a sin­is­ter twin. Writ­ers often speak of writ­ing as ther­a­peu­tic, but I’m espe­cial­ly tak­en with the ways that writ­ing can haunt and cast strange shad­ows on “real” life.


Car­oli­na Hotchan­dani won the 2023 Peru­gia Press Prize for her debut poet­ry col­lec­tion, The Book Eaters, released this past Sep­tem­ber. Her work has appeared in AGNI, Alas­ka Quar­ter­ly Review, Black­bird, Beloit Poet­ry Jour­nal, Cincin­nati Review, Poet­ry North­west, Prairie Schooner, West Branch, and oth­er jour­nals. She is a Goodrich Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish in Oma­ha, Nebraska.

3 Poems

Poetry / Katherine Indermaur

:: In the First Days of Pilgrimage ::

O make of me your holiest echo
Shape me by my wandering       may all
I’ve kept close on this earth be shorn from me
Like dust from mountains’ uplifted arms
May I crawl ever closer to your name  

:: At the Shrine of St. Thecla ::

For days I too sat by the blue window   asking
Nothing    Lord    only waiting to be struck
a tongueless bell    but you arrive gentle
As newborn lambs’ shepherd     you  
Kneel gentle as the lioness with her cubs 
Amid the closing in of bloodthirsty men 
Gentle as the tune the nightwatch soldier hums
As the plum tongue his armor entombs

:: Absolution That Begins and Begins and Begins ::

There is nothing beautiful left in me
When I reach the mountaintop
No desire       no forgiveness
Every stone    face    star
Up here bare as distance 
I pitch me out of reach

From the writer


:: Account ::

These poems come from a man­u­script that takes up the true sto­ry of Ege­ria, a female Chris­t­ian pil­grim who trav­eled from her home in west­ern Europe to the bib­li­cal Holy Land in the 380s AD. Some of her orig­i­nal trav­el writ­ing has sur­vived to today. One of the ear­li­est female moun­taineers, Ege­ria is the first known woman to sum­mit Mount Sinai and Mount Nebo. She was not, so far as his­to­ri­ans under­stand, a wealthy woman, but the rights women held in the Roman Empire at that time enabled her to trav­el rel­a­tive­ly freely, and occa­sion­al­ly with a mil­i­tary escort to ensure safe­ty. (The very same Roman Empire that exe­cut­ed Jesus adopt­ed Chris­tian­i­ty as its offi­cial reli­gion less than three cen­turies lat­er. Ege­ria would have been born about twen­ty years after this change.) These spare poems explore Egeria’s pil­grim­age. They are both filled with and emp­tied by the desert land­scape in which Ege­ria finds her­self, and which would have been incred­i­bly for­eign to her.


Kather­ine Inder­maur is the author of I|I (Seneca Review Books), win­ner of the 2022 Deb­o­rah Tall Lyric Essay Book Prize, and two chap­books. She serves as an edi­tor for Sug­ar House Review and is the win­ner of the Black War­rior Review 2019 Poet­ry Con­test and the 2018 Acad­e­my of Amer­i­can Poets Prize. Her writ­ing has appeared in Eco­tone, Elec­tric Lit­er­a­ture, Fron­tier Poet­ry, the Jour­nal, New Delta Review, Ninth Let­ter, the Nor­mal School, and else­where. She holds an MFA from Col­orado State Uni­ver­si­ty and lives in Fort Collins, Colorado.


Poetry / Adriana X. Jacobs


:: Deformation ::

A mother falls through a bed of chalk flowers, pulling her child behind her. A store 
crumbles, spilling votives into the street. The rats pour out of a manhole cover, 
shedding future plagues. And after they clear, a mailbox tips over. The polaroid of 
the family cat falls into the void (they will find him in a thousand years). The glossy 
beetles slide off their pins and take flight. Someone painted “everything will be ok” 
on the bridge. This is how it will be when it is over. The morning news and missing 
faces stitched together. While the wires hold together. Branches covered with the 
luggage of layovers. The restaurant laid out for missed reservations. And under the 
sink, poached chicken in duck fat waiting to be served. There will be no theory for 
the shells in the child’s pocket. For the threads of neon green and yellow, stems of 
flowers stripped from the pavement, migrating into the lower strata, and staying 
there, like a tear on a chin. One of the els collides with the legs of a cockroach to 
form an ancient language. The legs of the k will keep on going, like one of those half 
bodies still walking ahead. 

From the writer


:: Account ::

Defor­ma­tion” comes from a poet­ry book man­u­script I have been work­ing on that is inspired by video games like The Last of Us, Plague Tale: Requiem, and Death Strand­ing. Both the book and this poem imag­ine a left­over world care­ful­ly explored and picked over by those who remain. A few months into the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic, I read an arti­cle about the clo­sure of restau­rants in New York City and the future of the food indus­try. The line that stood out for me con­cerned the preser­va­tion of par-cooked chick­en in duck fat. The chef wasn’t sure that this would work, so I took this as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to try a dif­fer­ent method and poach the chick­en instead. I imag­ined some­one stum­bling into the restau­rant kitchen decades from now. Maybe they would be hid­ing or return­ing to a place full of good mem­o­ries of anoth­er time. They would find air-tight bags of chick­en encased in duck fat and maybe have the best meal of their life. Or the rats would get to it first. This image became the ker­nel of “Defor­ma­tion,” which approach­es cri­sis as a seis­mic event, rear­rang­ing mem­o­ries, rou­tines, lan­guage. But in most of my poems, this process is nev­er com­plet­ed; rather, I am inter­est­ed in the space and time between break­down and repair, the state of being in cri­sis, at the edge of greed and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty, gen­eros­i­ty and violence.


Adri­ana X. Jacobs is a poet, schol­ar, and trans­la­tor based in Oxford, Eng­land and Brook­lyn, NY. Her poems have appeared recent­ly in Black­box Man­i­fold, Asoophit, Place de la Sor­bonne, Poet­ry Dis­patch, and Tupe­lo Quar­ter­ly. Her trans­la­tions from Hebrew include Vaan Nguyen’s The Truf­fle Eye (Zephyr Press), win­ner of the 2022 Harold Mor­ton Lan­don Trans­la­tion Award, and Mer­av Givoni Hrushovski’s End— (Car­rion Bloom Books, 2023). She is the author of the poet­ry zine After­life is Sweet (rinky dink press) and the chap­book The Turn­ing (forth­com­ing, Danc­ing Girl Press). She teach­es Hebrew and com­par­a­tive lit­er­a­ture at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford.

Good Men

Poetry / Sarah Kersey


:: Good Men ::

for JWH

I keep changing. This is
The wind applauds my red motorcycle
as it breaks 50 mph before
it sputters out on the side of the road,
gravel gray like gospel. Shattered.
Do you need help?
Tenderness reduces to copper,
calculates what I owe. I’ve climbed
into beds, onto faces, on top of waists,
now into this white pickup truck.
Bikers help each other.
When I told the elders I no longer
wished to be known as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses,
you, a good man, the only man I love,
cried into the Zoom screen; as if
the weather had changed 
to cool morning mist.
You knew everything I’d lost and wet all of it
so I wouldn’t crack.
Listen to me, you said.
I was going to be alone.
Kicking off gravel caught in my boots,
I got into the truck.
Next time, the man said,
take off your helmet.
It will signal to other bikers that
you need help.

From the writer


:: Account ::

Every year since Sep­tem­ber 2014, I always attempt to write a poem about one of the great­est loss­es I’ve had in my life. I was attempt­ing that poem last year when it became too dif­fi­cult to con­tin­ue the draft. At around that time, I took a poet­ry work­shop called Poet­ry and Inti­ma­cy, which was led by Taneum Bam­brick. One of their prompts was to write about an inti­mate moment between strangers. “Good Men” is the result. It’s based on my actu­al expe­ri­ence of run­ning out of gas while rid­ing my motor­cy­cle in New Jer­sey, and a man who stopped on the side of the road to help. I was also stuck on a sep­a­rate draft of a poem about my dis­as­so­ci­a­tion from the Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es in Decem­ber 2021. All these loss­es merged in my brain, on and off the page. Yet, this poem embod­ies a hope I’d nev­er pre­vi­ous­ly imag­ined for myself, even as I wres­tle between my old and new self, my old and new beliefs.


Sarah Kersey is a poet and x‑ray tech­nol­o­gist who lives right out­side Boston, MA. She has received sup­port from Tin House Work­shop. Their debut chap­book Anacru­sis is forth­com­ing with New­found in 2024. She tweets @sk__poet.



The Best Thing About Poetry Isn’t Poetry

Poetry / David Kirby


:: The Best Thing About Poetry Isn’t Poetry::

When I take my morning walk, I used to wave at every car that came my way, but only half of 
the drivers waved back, so I stopped waving, but the half that did wave became
accustomed to my friendly greeting, and now they wave at me before I can wave at them,
so I don’t know what to do. I do know I wouldn’t be having these problems if Frank O’Hara were my friend. Ashbery said O’Hara “gave you the feeling of belonging to an exclusive club with him, as if you
had hooked into some big, secret continuum of life. Frank had a personal kind of idea
about things, which made you feel you could think independently, too.” And according to Ginsberg, O’Hara’s “feelings for me seemed to vibrate with my feelings for
myself. I think he saw my ideal self-image; he articulated it and made it sound right.” Remember your first set of friends? When you were a kid, you’d go to their houses for dinner and learned not only about different
foods but also different ways of doing things. You learned that capers weren’t fish eyes but flower buds, that garlic was an actual vegetable
and not a hard dry powder. Sometimes you saw grown-ups drink wine for dinner instead of milk or Pepsi, and when they
gave you a sip, you didn’t like it, but you knew you would. Then there was the time you saw Ryan Mattingly’s dad pat Mrs. Mattingly’s butt in the kitchen
and waited for her to scowl at him the way your mom would, but she smiled instead. Some of my best friends ever are the ones I argued with most, such as Ed, Dennis, and Ken, my
grad-school roommates. Grad school had two effects on us: it made us think we were smarter than we were, and it
furnished us with quotes to use like rapiers as we feinted and lunged in our nightly duels,
a favorite being Blake’s “Mock on, Mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau / Mock on, ’tis all in
vain. / You throw the sand against the wind, / And the wind blows it back again.” Somebody, Ed or Dennis, say, would say, “Would somebody explain to me what structuralism is
so I’ll know whether or not I’m a structuralist?” and someone else, maybe Ken or me,
would say, “You’re wasting your time. Just say what you like and why you like it,” and
whoever said the first thing would say “Mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau!” and the
talk would go on forever because we weren’t contradicting each other, Blake was. A good quote attributes the animus to someone else, not you. Or it’s like a potholder you use to
pick up the argument when the argument’s too hot to handle. Mainly, though we spent our afternoon sitting on the floor of the library swapping books of
poems and reading aloud to each other in stagey whispers, our backs against the stacks
like harvesters in a painting by Millet taking a break from the soul-numbing grind of
work. Those guys are all married now. Or re-married. And far away. I never see them any more. I see them every day. Isn’t that how friendship works? Thank you, poetry! Thank you for my friends and the friends to come. When you’re young and you tell people you’re going to study art and poetry, they look at you as
though you’re crazy. When you’re older and you tell people you studied art and poetry,
they say, “I wish I’d done that.”

From the writer


:: Account ::

Ever get the feel­ing that your favorite poets are writ­ing the same good poems over and over again? I start­ed think­ing that way about my own work a few years ago, so I tried some new tricks: short­er poems, longer poems, dif­fer­ent for­mats, edgi­er syn­tax. Painters and song­writ­ers rein­vent them­selves all the time, so why not poets? At the same time I decid­ed to stop think­ing in terms of good, bet­ter, best. The thing is to be dif­fer­ent. If that leads to work you or your read­ers like, fine, but if it doesn’t, with­out a doubt these changes will lead you to some­thing new and then to some­thing even new­er, a way of writ­ing you haven’t come close to imag­in­ing. Remem­ber, poet­ry is the long con, and rein­ven­tion means you’ll stay in the game that much longer. I call some of these new poem types “Gins­bergs.” That doesn’t mean that they read like Gins­berg poems, just that that old bear’s spir­it freed me to take chances.


David Kir­by teach­es at Flori­da State Uni­ver­si­ty. He is the author of Lit­tle Richard: The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll, which the Times Lit­er­ary Sup­ple­ment described as “a hymn of praise to the eman­ci­pa­to­ry pow­er of non­sense” and which was named one of Booklist’s Top 10 Black His­to­ry Non-Fic­tion Books of 2010. Enter­tain­ment Week­ly has called Kirby’s poet­ry one of “5 Rea­sons to Live.” In 2016, Kir­by received a Life­time Achieve­ment Award from Flori­da Human­i­ties, which called him “a lit­er­ary trea­sure of our state.”





2 Poems

Poetry / Louie Leyson


:: pinay cyborg manifesto ::

I’ve been sick with woman’s want
to become beyond body—closer to chrome

glint & pearl oil than blood, than organ. this is how
I understand perfection after years watching

lola tuck herself beneath shadow, bending
like soft metal in her mistaking of bronze

for burning. my lipsticked titas under willow trees,
a collective absence of bone. each brown, full

limb a bruise refusing to heal, each charcoal
shade a fruitless makeshift cast. august a lesson

in how the injured pinay body has parts too rooted
to the human. when nanay said I wish she was born

whiter she meant wishing I entered this world intact,
born a heap of gleaming silver. & how could I

blame her? after so many motions to smooth the lines
rippling the round lake of her face, drawn from the wisps

of a father’s smoke. we both know the cyborg
is an unholy thing, spared edenic origins & therefore

cannot die. there is nothing she dreams of more
than to reach that point of endless healing, to spend

hours submerged in freezing water but still swim up,
intact. to drive through agate swaths of fire but still

speed out, old toyota charred to nothing, skin painted
ash like dove belly. perhaps there’s already

a cyborg quality to the pinay’s long survival, which
to this point has been bulletproof. I don’t know

titanium sturdy enough to withstand the plain hurt
of centuries, coalescing to meet my nanay like wounds

from ancient lives. pained, we keep peeling tamarind
for sinigang. keep gathering okra, patis, chilli pepper,

taro. isn’t that bionic? isn’t that miraculous?

:: a conversation between two choirs ::

ave, ave, ave maria. i am trying to find the root
of silence, like a voice that carries another voice
inside. mary thy praises we sing to the backs of a hundred
upturned heads. like tulips asleep inside the pillow
of your fist. in heaven the blessed crouch to dirty
dance atop a fruitless garden. a stone that falls in winter
& the intact walls of its crater. erupting from our chests
a bird named alleluia! alleluia! how stones make perfect bowls
out of snow. oh lord you arrive & sorrow goes like sparrow heads
buried in holy bark. is there anything more sharp than below
zero quiet. sun on the blood on the wood of the cross, bright
on bright on bright. is anything born from an absence
of mouths. on the pew i shake like a root in the rain.
from the soundlessness of a dead bug. twelfth Sunday
of ordinary time. mistaking a womb for the cave
of my throat. or was it during lenten season.
entombing the wound of my tongue
when you come. holy spirit i too burn like the wick
of a violent candle. a violet candle lit up & noiseless
in its yearning. yes, yes that’s what i always
meant. amen.

From the writer


:: Account ::

I was tired of want­i­ng word­less­ly. I need­ed some con­text, a tex­ture upon which to con­tem­plate desire, and so I wrote these poems. Desire, then, dic­tates the tone of these poems. Much of it restrained, as queer desire often is. There is so much on earth to long for. I need­ed to put that long­ing down, build it a bed in which to sleep through the night.

In her sem­i­nal essay “A Cyborg Man­i­festo,” Don­na Har­away writes, “Cyborg imagery can sug­gest a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our bod­ies and our tools to our­selves.” Since first encoun­ter­ing this, I’ve obses­sive­ly fig­ured the cyborg in my own work as a utopi­an shapeshifter, or as a nar­ra­tive machine with which to pro­pel our­selves from the dam­ag­ing mytholo­gies that have been instilled in us since child­hood. In “pinay cyborg man­i­festo” specif­i­cal­ly, I allude to mytholo­gies around what con­sti­tutes an ide­al Fil­ip­ina that have been informed by cen­turies of occu­pa­tion, patri­archy, and vio­lence. “This is a dream not of a com­mon lan­guage,” Har­away also writes, “but of a pow­er­ful infi­del het­eroglos­sia.” It is through the cyborg’s poten­tial towards this “pow­er­ful infi­del het­eroglos­sia” that I find new and lib­er­at­ed modes of pos­si­bil­i­ty, of exist­ing at last as myself in the world.


Louie Leyson is a UBC grad­u­ate and writer who lives on the unced­ed ances­tral ter­ri­to­ry of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Wau­tuth Nations. Their work has been nomi­nat­ed for the Push­cart Prize and Nation­al Mag­a­zine Awards. You can find their works in Cat­a­pult, The Mala­hat Review, Palette Poet­ry, The Rup­ture, Nat. Brut, Pleni­tude, and else­where. Their twit­ter is @aswang­po­em, their insta­gram is @cyborg­saints.