Editor’s Note


Wel­come to The Account magazine’s first annu­al Nation­al Poet­ry Month issue! 

First I want to thank my co-pilots on this adven­ture, Edi­tor-in-Chief Sean Cho A. and Assis­tant Poet­ry Edi­tor L.A. Johnson.

The gen­e­sis of this Nation­al Poet­ry Month issue is the real­i­ty that we receive way more excel­lent work than we can accept. Yes, online space is the­o­ret­i­cal­ly infi­nite, but there is a lim­it to the amount of admin­is­tra­tive and pro­duc­tion labor we can take on for each issue. (After all, some­one has to herd cats and do bat­tle with Word­Press.) There are always great poems we have to let go of, so to make a long sto­ry short: the NaPo­Mo issue is my bla­tant scheme to pub­lish more poet­ry. Sean and Liz enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly embraced hav­ing a project sprung on them dur­ing our off sea­son, for which I am eter­nal­ly grateful.

Curat­ing this issue has been a reminder that poet­ry is the art we make when faced with the impos­si­ble. If any­thing you read here strikes you, I hope you will reach out to the poet and give them a Hell Yeah. Even bet­ter if you feel like giv­ing them a Hell Yeah on your socials, because shar­ing is car­ing. The Account is always meant to be a place of con­nec­tion, a place to dwell and dis­cov­er. The com­mu­ni­ty we build togeth­er is everything.

Our pre­vi­ous issue marked The Account’s 10 year anniver­sary. Thanks so much for con­tin­u­ing to read, share with, and sup­port us. I am very excit­ed that the first issue of our next decade is this one.


Christi­na Stoddard

Poet­ry Editor

The Account: A Jour­nal of Poet­ry, Prose, and Thought

The Work

Art / lae astra


:: Starfire Songs ::


Starfire Songs; 2024; dig­i­tal paint­ing in Pro­cre­ate; 2048 x 2048 px


From the writer


:: Account ::

When I paint, I hope to cre­ate visu­al poet­ry. When I write, I lean toward brush­strokes of mem­o­ry and emo­tion, some vivid and col­or­ful, some pale wisps of yes­ter­days like the ghosts of falling petals. And when mak­ing music, I strive to explore land­scapes of being through sound and words. All of this is inter­twined. Reach­ing for fleet­ing and shim­mer­ing moments. Mak­ing them into forms that I can share.

My wan­der into dig­i­tal paint­ing occurred at the same time as my deci­sion to step inside an art sup­ply store and buy brush­es, water­col­or and acrylic paint, can­vas, paper. There is a sense of vul­ner­a­ble yet joy­ful lib­er­a­tion that comes with set­ting brush to open page. A sense of mov­ing for­ward, of fol­low­ing the sto­ry unfold­ing line by brush­stroke by dot, of warm­ing up and get­ting clos­er to the wait­ing sto­ry with each try.

In these tur­bu­lent times when so many are grasp­ing for mean­ing and fight­ing to end oppres­sion, art, in its many forms, is a shin­ing thread that con­nects us all and car­ries us for­ward. I am grate­ful for the moments when I can sit with some frag­ments and col­ors, turn­ing them this way and that in my hands, until a poem emerges. I am grate­ful to be able to show a new paint­ing to some­one I love and hear what it makes them feel. Rather than push­ing an expla­na­tion from my side, I’m far more inter­est­ed in the indi­vid­ual sto­ries that the view­er or read­er bring while they expe­ri­ence a piece. Tell me what you see, what kind of future you want to build. Let us sit by the fire. There’s enough to warm us all.


lae astra (they/them) is an agen­der trans artist and writer who calls Tokyo home. Their writ­ing has appeared in Astro­labe, Gone Lawn, Over­heard, Star*Line, Strange Hori­zons, and else­where. They are a Push­cart, Best Microfic­tion, and Rhys­ling Award nom­i­nee. Find them at laeastra.com/links.

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.