Category Archives: Cancer

My Exception by Brianna Howarth

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My Exception

I didn’t mean
to write you
a bloody poem.

But that’s
what I get
for pulling out
all my teeth,

trying to show you
there are things
I can live

But you
are not
one of them.

Brianna Howarth

Brianna Howarth is a senior Writing major at the Savannah College of Art and Design. She explores poetry, memoir, and flash fiction. Her work has been featured in South Jersey Magazine, the mobile app Hooked, Artemis, and Port City Review. Brianna loves alliteration, bodybuilding, the beach, and books. You can wander through her portfolio here:

Reading Kinfolk Magazine on Your Front Step at Twilight by Stefani Tran

Daydream by Sammy Slabbinck
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Reading Kinfolk Magazine on Your Front Step at Twilight

So much white space. And text that only the mosquitoes
could read. We knotted leafy stems into our hair, dribbled

wax into empty glass jars—after scooping out the sardines
—just for the occasion, but the wicks keep guttering out

and also our apple pie (no rhubarbs at the supermarket
in this country) caved in the center. So we sit spooning

it hot out of the pan—me stickily turning pages on pottery,
wasabi farmers and suspiciously well-dressed gypsies. You,

maypoling a cigarette with your fingers—your newest hobby.
I think it is too ugly for you but I don’t know

what to say. In high school, you were quiet. You skipped class, read
Camus, cried in the stalls with your feet up. God, I loved you then.

Now I pretend I’m studying the photos, even if we both know
it’s impossible in this dark. There’s a white girl with red hair

on a train, her back to the camera, face erased by sun. I don’t know
how I know she’s white. You haven’t finished your wine,

you say. This afternoon you taught me how to drink it,
there at your kitchen counter with the sweat laced

over our shoulders, your cheekbones high and golden. Pocket
and swirl and then let it slide back.
It’s supposed to taste like oak,

I think, or butter—but all I get is sour, and the sick feeling
I’m too young. You scratch your knee. This quiet is sickening.

Later you’ll take a blurry picture of me huddled in my chair
and Instagram it, captioned life the way

it was meant to be, hashtag keeping it real. Blue smoke
slips through your lips, and I look past the gate and imagine

we are seeing the door of some tangly forest,
or hills coated in mist, or a rock pool where

at low tide, we can pluck oysters
from the sea’s open mouth.

When really there is only the house across the street.
And the next, and the next, and I watch the lights come on.

Stefani Tran

Stefani Tran has a BFA in Creative Writing and does not enjoy waiting for the microwave to beep. Stefani Tran is roughly in her 20s and Vietnamese-Filipino, but listens devoutly to Irish music. Stefani Tran likes putting things on index cards, and will never say no to gift certificates for a bookstore near her.

Ode to Metastases by Parisa Thepmankorn

self portrait by Bella Harris
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Ode to Metastases

I look for plums in your hands
but there are never any. You lose them

in a sea of mahogany: body less than a god,
less than a salad of olives & tumors & velvet hands.

You wrap your body with gauze. Still
a gulf of an open wound where I can reach my hands in

& root around. A sore plum, a spine, a swamp.
I turn south to this feeling.

Too small to be swallowed by a fish.
What I desire does not matter. Rearrange

your limbs, paint them silver
as bait. I don’t dare ask you how

you’d disfigured both palms so. We run
through a dream full of wet plums, all adrift, my hands

dragging them back. All this talk of purple
makes you swallow, slow tongue searching for sweetness

on the roof of your mouth. Where
the blood runs. Where the pulse ripens.

Parisa Thepmankorn

Parisa Thepmankorn lives in a small town in New Jersey. The winner of the Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine, she has also been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Her poems have been published in Transcendence Magazine and Cicada Magazine, among others. Currently, she serves as a poetry reader for The Adroit Journal.

Jason by D. Michael

Cedley by Bella Harris
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On a Tuesday you asked me
to see a movie with you and
this is of particular significance
because I first had my heart broken
on a Tuesday three years ago
and when I cried the sky had
the decency to do the same.
On a Friday you said baby
I love you
and I didn’t think you
meant it because you didn’t show
me with the right body parts,
but on a Sunday I believed you
for the first time because you woke
up screaming and you clung to me
for the rest of the night crying
baby don’t go, never go.
On a Monday you warned me
you were too fucked up to hold
onto anything real. You said
you loved me but you knew you
couldn’t keep me. You put me on
a pedestal and nicknamed me
Aphrodite but when I got lonely
and begged you to join me you
claimed you couldn’t drag
yourself up to meet me.
On a Thursday I understood
what you meant. On a Thursday
you fucked a blonde girl named
Rebecca and I don’t know that
it’s relevant, but I haven’t needed
a chaser with my vodka ever since.
The burn after every shot feels
like the only safe way to miss you.
On a Wednesday I realized
that I’ve killed you in every poem
I’ve written you into and you’ve
had it coming every time. I knew
what forever meant and it never
meant us but you were always so
broken that it felt like my burden.
It’s the oldest cliché in the book
but I set myself on fire trying
to light up your way home.
It’s a Saturday now and I’m
remembering that three days
before you fucked Rebecca,
you told me you thought
that you saw me in the sky.
You said you’ve always been
afraid of heights because they
make you want to jump but you
would climb Mount Everest if
it meant you could be closer
to me. For the sake of this poem,
let’s say you made it to the top
and found me there. Let’s say
you jumped anyway.

D. Michael

D. Michael is a 19-year-old student at CSU Fresno. She was born and raised in California and she is weirdly proud of her own obsession with Beyoncé. D. is very new to poetry but if you’d like to see more of her work contact her via tumblr!

To My Great-Grandmother by Mo Fowler

Pink Velvet by Bella Harris
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To My Great-Grandmother

Look, I can explain
why I still live in a city
where my walk home is rat droppings
neon mirage of Dunkin Donuts
commuter on the train
leather jacket pocket protecting
the irritated clink of bottles
from the ears of the conductor.
A city where I am only half
a dot on the map
where I could not get home in time
to see you close your eyes
on that pale plastic
hospital bed.

I can explain
why I am in love
with a girl who is not the background
or the boy
you wanted
who can’t put in me
the seeds of your legacy
whose family took up
more than half of the church
and sets a place for me Sunday nights.
A girl who traces my tattooed
memorial to your strength
when we lay in bed at night
asks me to tell her stories
of when you came
to your first
rat dropping city street
six kids sweating up to
your ashen feet in the sheets
you got a job cooking bread
then bought the bakery.
A girl I think about when I am
filling my car with gas
whose smile is as fast as yours
spent last weekend
with your recipe
so that I could come home at night
to history.

I can explain
this city is my new country
when I ran here the blood
in my legs remembered
how it felt to carry you across seas
these streets the battleground
where I prove I am strong enough
to be tied to your name
I carry on the tradition of
new beginnings
broken-back working days.
On Sundays I worship
I don’t know
I’m still figuring out where to point
my clasped hands.
I’m in this city
because you taught me to sprint
at my future.
And the girl
she’s my bakery.

Mo Fowler

I am a sophomore in college in Chicago studying Environmental Science, Studio Art, and how many weeks I can go without doing laundry. Stay Cool. :

Questions I’ll Never Ask My Mother by D. Michael

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Questions I’ll Never Ask My Mother

When your parents died could you hear it?
When the plane crashed into the very ocean
you played mermaids in with your sisters,
when the flames engulfed the only caretakers
you knew, did you feel your own flesh
disintegrate in unison with theirs?
Did you feel a snap? If so, what effect
did it have on your child sized bones?
Have they grown a little faster ever since?
Did it bother you that the same water
you had waded through just weeks before
was now filling the lungs of your mother;
suffocating the woman you called home?
I read that your parents’ remains were found
intertwined in the wreckage. Your father
in his last moments used his own body
as a shield in a fruitless attempt to save
your mother from their shared fate.
Do you find this comforting or devastating?
Aunt Gail told me that your ring with
the purple stone had to be peeled off
of your mothers limp, unfeeling fingers.
Does it ever get heavy on your hand?
Have you grown accustomed to the sting?
For how long after did you wake screaming?
For how long after did you search
for them in every unholy place?
A few years ago your parents’ death
became a plot line on a television show.
What was it like to have your pain packaged
and sold for profit? Where did you bury
your grief? What did you do when it came
back up in the spring? When you cry
on Christmas is it because you’re remembering?
When you look at me and see her face
does it hurt or do I help?
When your parents died could you hear it?
Have you ever stopped hearing it since?

D. Michael

D. Michael is a 19-year-old student at CSU Fresno. She was born and raised in California and she is weirdly proud of her own obsession with Beyoncé. D. is very new to poetry but if you’d like to see more of her work contact her via tumblr!

Cool Girl by Lora Mathis

Art by Pierre Schmidt aka Dromsjel
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Cool Girl

falls easily into the role of student
Pulls information out of teacher’s mouth and moans,
more more give me more

Cool Girl, not like the other girls
Cool Girl, The Original
Cool Girl, The Real Thing
Cool Girl doesn’t need to hold your hand in public
Cool Girl, there when you need her
Five a.m. knocking on Cool Girl’s window
and she’s ready,
already jumping into your passenger seat,
already unhooking her bra

Cool Girl doesn’t mind
that you only call her when you want something
Doesn’t mind that you get bored of her
for weeks at a time
Ignores the fifteen other Cool Girls
you’re texting while you’re with her

Cool Girl doesn’t need to be told
not to think too much about things
Cool Girl, speaks when spoken to
Cool Girl, drinks your favorite drink
roots for your favorite team
listens to your favorite band

Cool Girl is never begging,
never needy, always willing,
always shaping yourself into who
you ask her to be

Cool Girl,
the plastic blow­up doll
with the mouth a hole you shove your name into
Cool Girl doesn’t let on that she doesn’t exist
Cool Girl makes herself into
more than apparition, than idea
than shapeable fantasy

because she’s
cool, cool, so Cool

to control.

Lora Mathis

Lora Mathis lives in San Diego. There, she writes, takes photos, and plays in the punk band, Littlewhirl. She is one-half of the small publishing press, ink/paper press, and a founding member of Wildflower Collective. She likes her hair two days unwashed and her avocados with Cholula, please. :

2 Poems by Matthew Richards

Discovery by Jon & David Swartz
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Memorial Day

I didn’t know him well enough,
but I trusted humanity that day,
so I conjured bravery
and asked him to turn
the car around and drive
to his house on the outskirts.

The doorway summoned me.
My feet shuffled past the
throbbing bookcases
to his bedroom,
where I disrobed
to the sky’s hissing pops
of what my mother might think.

Chest hair glistening from the
shower, he slid into bed beside
me. Asked if I was nervous.
I pressed his face into my face,
letting the Necco wafer taste
of his saliva drip through my
lips like First Communion.

And when I saw that he still
wanted me after, I took
his hand to my mouth,
sucking the moisture
off each finger, once for every time
anyone has ever made me feel
ashamed about my body. Then,

I tongued his wedding ring
until I forgot everything
I ever knew about ownership:
that my heart is a broken stopwatch
I left in a straight man’s pocket
years ago, that my surname
is a city I abandoned, that virginity
bubbles from my skin like a fever.

Praise this act of not needing forgiveness.
Praise our collarbones. Praise our necks.
Praise this warm cock in my hand,
this nipple ring in my mouth, these toes
curling into his legs at every gasp.

Praise that his skin is a temple to a goddess
I haven’t learned to pray to. Praise his glorious
baldness, the acne on my shoulders,
the gap in my smile, the patch of fur
covering his lower back. Praise this body,
which is not an apology. Praise the fireworks
outside. Praise the tombstones we built
for all the labels others have given us.

Praise that he did not tear through me
like a winter wind through bare branches.
Praise that sex never comes as advertised.
Praise the night when we cast out the
baggage of our identities and exposed ourselves,

a mess of windowless bodies
discovering each other in the summer dark.

La Douleur Exquise

Wrench my heart, Unrequited Love,
the one that leaks inside my chest

like a faucet: a frantic water pump
in a race against the bluegrass band

that plays whenever the kitchen sink
sighs itself to sleep. Fix me

in carbonite, so my ache may marinate
like the bucket in which the butter churns.

The year I learned love
was the year I became captive

on the cutthroat rowboat of my desire,
but the rapids are not something to get over.

A soul mate is not a glass slipper
after midnight: no, it is the person

who knows best how to wear you
like sandpaper. It is the vase at the pit

of your throat, a bouquet of second choices
blooming at each new opportunity.

I want to thank you for this compass
I heal around, this pain exquisite,

these stubbed toes to keep me from clotting.
Blessed is the doorjamb that keeps the heart open.

(Audio recorded by William James. Bio photo taken by Rebecca Lynn Parent.)

Matthew Richards

Matthew Richards lives in Manchester, NH. He competed at the 2011 National Poetry Slam as a member of the Slam Free or Die team. He was an organizer in Occupy NH. You may find videos of his performances on his youtube channel. :

Fall in the White Mountains by Matthew Richards

A Sampling by Caryn Drexl
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Fall in the White Mountains

Fall, you do not owe me anything,
but every time you leave,
my body is full. How
can I celebrate a season
which has given me such abundance?

When Spring teases its rosebuds
back from the table,
and my potential
breaks its teeth tripping down the staircase
of someone else’s ambition,
and I can point on a calendar
where my grief became ripe,
you feed me bowls
of squash and cauliflower soup
fresh from the Harvest.

And I must say to you, Fall:
when September
becomes a mossy heartbeat
stumbling through the orchards
on the legs of a bumblebee,
I will hurtle toward you with the courage
of a jackrabbit who knows
too well the shadows
of the mouth that’s chasing him.
I will defenestrate myself
from the highest room
of Summer’s tallest tower, bursting
into your arms like a cascade
of helicopter seeds caught in a gust.

I want to learn your secrets—
the way I squish my toes
through your melted Crayola grass.
You are most beautiful
when your clouds are pink
and your sunsets, explosive.

Holy October, ravish this wreck of a man.
I have never known a month
so close to my nostrils.
I am the tiniest grasshopper
eating white dandelions from your lap,
spreading hope inside myself
with the wind of a million wishes.

At night I hold you close,
and watch the bumbling brooks meander
down your cheekbone. I grab
fistfuls of twigs from your scalp,
and want nothing but to go bald with you.
Remember how I loved you gullible,
when I tried to kiss you
with bundles of tent poles in my mouth.
Your spirit rocked me like the world wails;
it was you who taught Muddy to sing the blues.

You shook the truth out of me
the way acorns pelt tin roofs
during the Nor’easter.
I am still trembling.
I swear the veil was so thin
between this world and the next
that I felt my body break out in epiphanies.
I swear I found God in your arms.

But if I was wrong,
may the steel zipper of Winter
rip the corneas clean
off my eyes every morning.
May I be cursed to wander the Earth
aimlessly, carving your name into every rock
for the crime of loving you.

Because Fall, I know I am not breathing
until the air is crisper than the foliage.
I know life is never richer
than life which has reached its end.

Please, undress yourself for me
like the Giving Tree.
I want to feel the womb
where the squirrel
and the bear
Let me be the last name
on your tongue when the Merrimack
frosts into permanence.

(Audio recorded by William James. Bio photo taken by Rebecca Lynn Parent.)

Matthew Richards

Matthew Richards lives in Manchester, NH. He competed at the 2011 National Poetry Slam as a member of the Slam Free or Die team. He was an organizer in Occupy NH. You may find videos of his performances on his youtube channel. :

3 Poems by Brianna Albers


You’re going to fall in love this week.
There’s a good chance he’ll hurt you,
but then again,
there’s a good chance you’ll hurt him,
so pain is neither here nor there.
Point is,
the universe is doing a new thing,
and you’ve got front-­row seats
to the grand cosmic opening.
Pull up a lawn chair,
bring your own beverage.
someone’s about to get whipped.
Cue laugh track, cue fireworks—
either love is your religion,
or you’re afraid of getting burnt.
We’d suggest sunscreen,
but we can’t really predict the future.
We’re just doing this
for fun.


No cosmic horror.
No We have to stop loving like we’re hungry.
Only wolves, here.
Only howling
at the corner of Saint and Sinner,
at the corner of Melancholy
and Hope.

Here, all plants watered.
Here, all fish fed.
Here, admission granted
to those with softness on their sleeves.
Here, no height discrepancies,
only men like gods,
only men like gods reaching.
only men like gods undulating.
Here, there is only potential.
Here, there is only light.

after Shinji Moon

I. Backyard boy comes to me in the middle of the night,
his teeth like spotlights, stop signs, moonshine.
I pause at his entrance, wait for the universe
to bow at our feet. It is all an exercise in
refusal. I am escorted off the premises,
and not because the security guard’s been
at the wine again, but because the doors
are locked from the inside and, once upon a time,
backyard boy swallowed
the master key.

Our orbits shift south, a rearrangement of a
deranged arrangement. I’m thinking there is truth
in this, in how I opened my eyes
and out came water; how I opened
my mouth and out came
a flood.

II. My heart’s a holy war, or so
the universe tells me. I am trying to turn
backyard boy into a percussion of prayer—

and amen, amen,

At night,
I press my palms to holy ground.
After some persuasion, the universe
spreads her legs for us, peels back the night.
The universe watches us explode
in mouthfuls of light.

Brianna Albers

I’m a poet, writer, and storyteller, located in the Minneapolis suburbs. I am currently compiling a collection of my poetry, and my début chapbook is forthcoming in 2014. When not writing, I pretend I’m good at video games and try to sing along to Julie Andrews. I believe in magic, red lipstick, and you. :