Category Archives: Poetry

Nesting by Jessica Mehta


art by Elena Blanco | Etsy Shop | Facebook | Twitter

Nesting

I have one of you sitting
in my throat like a pigeon.
Dirty birds—

we hate them because they’re like us.
When you ask,
Tell me something, the droppings
are so sticky, dusty white I can’t
choke them out. My voice
has always been stifled,
after all,

it’s far too crowded down there
for us all to sing at once. But know,
scrape by struggle, I’ll tell
you everything with my fingertips.

You’ll find my words scrawled
on paper scraps, your something’s
inked in permanence. They’re loud,
gaudy and nakedly unashamed
in a way my voice could never bear.
So let the bird be, the filthy thing

is cleaner than all of us,
and especially me. What diseases
I’ve waded through, infections I’ve borne
and disgusts I’ve clutched dear
to whoosh across the wild to you.




Jessica Mehta

Jessica (Tyner) Mehta is a Cherokee poet and novelist. She’s the author of six collections of poetry including the forthcoming Savagery , the forthcoming Constellations of My Body, Secret-Telling Bones, Orygun, What Makes an Always, and The Last Exotic Petting Zoo as well as the novel The Wrong Kind of Indian. She’s been awarded numerous poet-in-residencies posts, including positions at Hosking Houses Trust and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, Paris Lit Up in France, and the Acequia Madre House in Santa Fe, NM. Jessica is the recipient of a Barbara Deming Memorial Fund in Poetry. She is the owner of a multi-award winning writing services business, MehtaFor, and is the founder of the Get it Ohm! karma yoga movement. Visit Jessica’s author site at jessicamehta.com.

Out of the Water by Alana Saltz


art by Elena Blanco | Etsy Shop | Facebook | Twitter


Out of the Water

When you tap on my skin
I crack open

like a hard-boiled egg
splintering into shards of shell

that you use your fingers
to peel away, piece by piece.

The tiny clear membrane
sticks to your fingers.

The sharp shell edges
make your hands bleed.

Peel away the layers
until I am smooth and soft.

Forget the shell was there.
It did nothing to protect me.

Hold me in your palms.
Make me warm again.

My insides are cooked,
but somehow I’m still raw.

Wait to take a bite.
Wait a little longer.




Alana Saltz

Alana Saltz is a writer, freelance editor, and disability rights advocate residing in Tacoma, WA. She received her MFA from Antioch University and has work in The Washington Post, The LA Times, The Huffington Post, Angels Flight Literary West, voxpoetica, and more.: @alanasaltz



If This Be Blasphemy by Ian Rolón


art by Elena Blanco | Etsy Shop | Facebook | Twitter

If This Be Blasphemy

The first time we fucked, I saw God.

—and no, that is not a metaphor to explain how:

that night, I learned both Braille and Scripture

at the tabernacle of every bruise and bitemark

my lips drew like penance from between your thighs;

That night, I was not Baptized at the mouth of your river, 

nor born again, resurrected virginal and absolved of sin

like every faux-penitent atheist before a plane crash;

Madrigal, my God’s-honest truth is this: with just one word, 

you moved me. Brought faith to the faithless, you soothed me

like every great parable should; you renewed me:

slowly, at first; your gentle hands took consideration of:

each quiet space others had left ragged within me;

I came to you a shattered wreck, drowning; but you,

you reached inside and nailed fistfuls of wood and iron

around my heart like you still believed in saviors;

you are no saint, but in your soft ministrations, 

I found myself: that self still yet a shipwreck, yes; 

still lost, my hopes and dreams stretched thin like sails,

battered and worn from a lifetime spent seeking my

True North—not for myself, but in others; love,

before you? I was just wood better left for kindling,

simply a boy hammered into the shape of a man,

but after? Though I am yet still a warship, sinking; 

your name sieves from my lips like floodwater, and I 

I am a man drowning that still believes in anchors.



this is not a prayer, and I: no pious Franciscan,

no irreligious Pagan seeking benediction for:

how your nails etched the words “Holy Christ,” 

into the length of my spine; it did not take me 

years of study cloistered in your embrace to come 

to and understanding of the language of your teeth

—only practice. And patience; for in our holy parapet: 

I found God waiting both prodigal and ancient,

Her only Rule of Law to go forth and conquer

every inch of you between: the door, my desk,

the wall, the floor, the wall, my bed, the shower;

my teeth as plowshares; my tongue a blade;

my hands Conquistadors, each mad to claim

your temple as my holy ground. In your sighs, 

I knew Her Sole Commandment dealt more with:

drawing my name from your lips, eyes shut and 

heels digging, fingers clasped tight between mine;

our bodies a Testament written to reconcile two truths:

this—what felt a mutual Inquisition, but instead became

our unironic retelling of every Spanish occupation;

you: Cortez by way of Quixote, lionized by word of mouth;

and i: every brown skinned boy looking wide-eyed for God, 

only to find Virtù and redemption in all the wrong places; 

love, we do not ask one another for forgiveness

in this: our war against all common sense,

because the language we speak by candlelight

has no word for “impropriety,” only:

”Yes,” “More,” “Right there,” and “Oh God, please—fuck me.”


you are the Walls of Jericho, fortified, 

and I: Jerusalem by way of Scheherazade;

my words exist only to prolong the inevitable,

for I know that every church crumbles, and 

not even Lucifer could adulate perfection

without the want of something more; us

we want love with a knife in its hand,

we want love on a mountaintop, all truth,

its edge poised to smite our non-believers;

but I see you, and think hymnals; think Maria. 

Think Eve. Think Savior. Think of shoulders, and 

holding the weight of someone else like a cross

never meant to be borne in anguish; we fucked, love

and every Sunday thereafter, I have known Heaven as:

waking up to the smell of coffee, and her:

barefoot and hair still a mess, her outline dripping water 

as though it knows there is nowhere else it would rather be.




Ian Rolón

Ian Rolón is a multitude of things to a multitude of different people. Professionally, he is currently a first year PhD Candidate at PSU attempting to finish a doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction before his perpetual battle with insomnia kills him. Though a native to Puerto Rico: he now lives in State College, PA, and is slowly trying to adapt to the cold before it kills him, too. : afriendtosell.tumblr.com



My Momma Knows All The Monsters’ Hidden Teeth by Karla Cordero


art by Elena Blanco | Etsy Shop | Facebook | Twitter


My Momma Knows All The Monsters’ Hidden Teeth

my momma foresees mocos & gripa. she’d say: i dare you. bare your feet on the tile floor & watch a glacier swallow your ankles into sickness. go ahead. sleep wet-haired & watch water take nest onto the pillow then ocean your throat into sickness. my momma knows all the monsters’ hidden teeth. she’d say: go on. befriend the fire. & the vela’s wick will bite all the little fingers & make a burning church of your body. when the moon demands closed eyes. do so. el cucuy still thirsts. y ya sabes de la llorona. her trickery a result of sadness. be a good girl. too many lonely mothers whose children found wind a loved embrace.
                                                                           then found mtv. & drogas. & sexo.

those poor mothers. who will they feed now. all that pan & leche gone to waste.
                                                                           what a waste of pan & leche.

mija remember your mother & the vaporu. how they clung to your feet to save
                                                               you from ailment. remember you are

a floresita. rooted & hungry. hungry for sun. & sun too will be hungry.



Karla Cordero

Karla Cordero is a descendant of the Chichimecha tribe from northern Mexico, a Chicana poet, educator, and activist, raised along the borderlands of Calexico, CA. She is a Pushcart nominee and the recipient of the Loft Literary Center Spoken Word Immersion fellowship (Minneapolis, MN). Cordero’s chapbook, Grasshoppers Before Gods (2016) was published by Dancing Girl Press. Her work has appeared and forthcoming in Tinderbox, Word Riot, Poetry International, The Acentos Review, Toe Good Poetry, among other publications.



in the wake of a mass shooting: a cento poem by Hannah Norris


art by Michele Maule | Etsy Shop | Facebook | Twitter

in the wake of a mass shooting: a cento poem

guns don’t kill people
people kill people

he was a nice guy

banning things never
solves the problem

stop politicizing the issue

he was crazy

if the good guys
had guns they would
have survived

guns don’t kill people
people kill people

he was unstable

we don’t know what his
motivations were

he came from a good home

people with mental illnesses
are violent

they’re trying to take away
our rights

there was no way
to predict this

guns don’t kill people
people kill people




Hannah Norris

Hannah Norris is a 24 year old PNW native who holds a BA in music production. She spends her time performing in the comedy group she co-founded, Cracks Fics Live, writing, and rewatching The Office. She was recently featured in the newest volume from water soup press. : twitter.com/hlnorri



Immortalized in Contrapposto by Nikki Velletri


art by Michele Maule | Etsy Shop | Facebook | Twitter

Immortalized in Contrapposto

There are very few parts of the summer
that concern us and I wish the wasting
away wasn’t one of them. The way I heaved
in shallow breaths outside the Louvre, smell
of sweaty tourists clinging to my nostrils,
staples tickling my stomach with each
inhale. They say you’d need a hundred
days to see it all. If I had that kind of time,
I’d be a little less Winged Victory—ancient,
faceless—and a little farther away
from France.

And maybe everything would look a little less
like dissolution: the glass and its spiderwebbed
skin cells, the pyramid’s ghostly
hands—divine spires reaching upward
to starve off divine ends. People don’t go
to Paris unless they’re in love
or dying, so we were asking for it
to end this way—begging really,

folded dresses leaving impressions
on our thighs but mine cut straight
through to bone. If there was ever a version
of this life where I live long enough
to become a doctor, I’d be the quack kind
who whispers in comatose ears,
tries to sew fight into the cloth
of a body. Acquiring anything requires
a certain degree of desire. Surviving anything
requires a whole damn ocean of it and hands
that don’t burn when set aflame. I walked
the same hallway four times before

my mother found me, clutching someone
else’s topcoat and dreaming of my bed back
home. This is not the way the world should end
but there are only so many options
to choose from. The worst—my mother’s
hands inside a body cavity, my shiny face and
gaping mouth, opening again and again like
a gutted fish to spill empty recitations:
are you consumed with the way I almost
made it?

No, later that night on the Seine—the sugar-coated
fingers and the pulsing river, the dying bird on
the surface still flapping its wings.
It wasn’t over but it would be, a truth worse
than the bleeding out. The end had always existed,
waiting between the paintings for me to slip
into it. Mona Lisa and I share a wicked smile
before I leave even though we’re
not the same—she figured out
how to live forever.



Nikki Velletri

Nikki Velletri is a high school student from Massachusetts. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. She spends her free time mastering vegan recipes and reading any book in her vicinity.



716.4 mi. or Sometimes I Get Dizzy Because a Stranger in the Supermarket Smells like Colgate Toothpaste and Black Coffee by Kristian Porter


art by Michele Maule | Etsy Shop | Facebook | Twitter


716.4 mi. or Sometimes I Get Dizzy Because a Stranger in the Supermarket Smells like Colgate Toothpaste and Black Coffee

We are a taffy pull,
a tango with tired feet,
a never fully unpacked suitcase.

Two years ago, we met in the middle,
two sets of shaky, familiar hands,
and I’ve been running to you ever since.

Through a bus window somewhere in Wisconsin,
I watch billboards for cheese and clean gas station bathrooms
blur together, a space inside me hollowing,
scattered pieces leaving a trail down I-90.

Every mile marker a field of dandelions,
I close my eyes and blow.

Crying in an airport isn’t like crying for real.
I remove my shoes to the muffled sound of a security guard,
a mosaic of myself on the metal detector screen,
but no one stops me. 

Our love, a cold cup of coffee
we’ve let go to waste on a bedside table.

I want to bury myself in your bed
and melt into its seams. 
I’m so tired of ripping myself out by the roots.

I check the weather where you are,
desperate to connect our dots.
My sun is shining, but there are storm clouds over Minneapolis.

How jealous I am of the rain and its nearness to you.

My toothbrush sits
on your bathroom counter,
dry.

My hands claw through the dark and
find nothing but discarded
calendar pages,
red X’s bleeding all over the sheets.



Kristian Porterr

Kristian Porter is a soon-to-be graduate of Northern Kentucky University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. Most of what she’s written on the internet has been in the Journalism vein, but her heart will always lie with Creative Writing. When she’s not curled up with her notebook, she’s either making coffee or snuggling with her two cats, Percy and Oli, watching competitive cooking shows. Because, if there’s anything Kristian loves as much as writing, it’s Alton Brown dishing out sabotages on Cutthroat Kitchen. : kristianporterpoetry.tumblr.com



Fum(I)gation in Four Parts by Brad Baumgartner


art by Michele Maule | Etsy Shop | Facebook | Twitter


Fum(I)gation in Four Parts

i. an intention
the self-knowledge required
waxes and wanes
between an old wise man’s laments
and a young buck
rubbing its antlers
against a tree

ii. break-fasting

bees are the servants of time
their honey—taste’s rhyme.
so glorious, I want to kiss
the face of God tonight.

immanent—
the looms of soaking honey,
the sanguine honor
of consumption.

if there are two breaths capable

to sustain this life
in the esoteric hive of might,
those breaths are the true
breaths of life.

iii. cow-er[r]ing

their attachment to the herd mind
is the clown-cum-Ahriman,
a degenerate and soulless play—but,
in the hive mind
of God’s behest,
you’ll find a divine storehouse,
wake to a sovereign day.

iv. facticity

I now hover, but linger no longer.
doubled, a person-a,
the conduit and the metaphor,
the inverted lapel of a disembodied body(suit)—
the de-personalization of a pineal thought
vis-à-vis the en(I)gma of Love,
the non-experience of an
hermetic allusion to myself.




Brad Baumgartner

Brad Baumgartner is a writer, theorist, and Assistant Teaching Professor of English at Penn State. His creative work has recently appeared in Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Vestiges, Minor Literature[s], Black and Grey Magazine, and others. He is working on a scholarly monograph entitled ‘Weird Mysticism’, as well as several creative projects, including a hybrid work entitled ‘Stylinaut’, a Zen novella called ‘You Might Be Mistaken’, and a book of poetry, ‘Ailis of Fintona’.



bougie as fuck by Timmy Chong


art by Michele Maule | Etsy Shop | Facebook | Twitter



bougie as fuck

I.

by august we hadn’t set
an alarm since spring and
nothing could be warmer
than us in all our privilege.

the somedays to live for, you
and I wearing down thin soles.
the somedays to die for, taking
in stride each excuse to sin more

clearing every dark
rooftop and sinkhole.

II.

in our wandering we found that
the primrosed promised land
wasn’t fiction, by friction
of sin on skin on skin on

earth as it must
be in heaven.

and you had still stayed though i
smoked cigs so i threaded needle
through these bars, stitched
up your scars until harmless.

III.

you, broken in, soft-spoken
and i, smitten so brazen, us
brave as fuck and glowing
like the six o’ clock sun

laughing until numb as
the cold kitchen floor.
breathing in traces
of kimchi and rum

left our shoes and our
shame at the door.




Timmy Chong

Timmy Chong is an east coast millennial with an addictive personality. He’s a senior and the only frat boy studying journalism and poetry at the University of Maryland. His work has been published by Drunk in a Midnight Choir, Rising Phoenix Press, Atticus Review, New Pop Lit, and Stylus, and he’s looking to publish his first chapbook Suburban Filth in 2018. You can find his writing at theadventuresoftim-tim.tumblr.com



Lessons in Leaving by Cody Vesley


art by Michele Maule | Etsy Shop | Facebook | Twitter


Lessons in Leaving

ONE

Your Grandmother was a magician.
She could breathe underwater,
she could fly,
and she could even change colors.

She taught you all of her tricks,
but the magic was never lost.

The last thing she taught you;
death is the greatest vanishing act.

Death creates a vacuum
where everything you love disappears.
Her absence was a top hat you hid emotions in,
because they made the tricks too painful to perform.

TWO

You were raised by ghosts.
Your parents perished to depression, drugs, alcohol, and abuse.
Their demons left nothing behind, but sunken skeletons
hollow like empty bottles.

You watched your mother drink herself into the ocean.
The more the world took,
the more room there was for liquid forgetting.
She became a sinking ship.

For the longest time,
you thought you belonged at the bottom of the sea.
The absence of love held you there like an anchor.
You swallowed numbness
trying to drown all the anger, pain, and self-loathing,
watching yourself drift away like air bubbles.

THREE

You fell in love with fireworks.
The way the sparks flew into the air
and lit up the night sky
made you feel like beautiful things
could appear out of the darkness.

The explosions made being destroyed look so colorful
and the smell of burning cardboard
reminded you of home.

You didn’t realize how fleeting the lights were,
or how playing with them could get you burned,
or how explosions would leave people in pieces,
or how cardboard boxes aren’t good places to live
and can catch fire so easily,

or how after all the fireworks are gone,
the silence of the night sounds like mourning bells
ringing in your ears as dark spots dance in your vision.

The quiet always sounds loudest once the party is over.

FOUR

Hearts are like open doors.
People you love will come and go
like the swinging of a pendulum,
or a carrot at the end of a stick,
always running after something you can’t have.
People will walk into your house to make a sandwich,
but when there’s no more food,
it’s time to go back to their own home.
Always lock the door behind them.

FIVE

Leaving is never hasty.
It is meticulous like the folding and unfolding of a paper crane.
You do it so many times that the creases become bones,
and when you try and straighten yourself out,
you always curl back into that bird that is so good at flying away.

People will try and put paperweights on you,
because you’ve become a flight risk,
but you are also steel, and fire, and storm clouds that cannot be pinned down.
No hurricane has ever had your name,
because no one will ever want to remember you.

SIX

Run.

Run faster than your doubts.
Run faster than your heartbeat.
Run faster than you can breathe.
Run faster than your memories.
Run until you forget why you’re running,
and then remember you had a reason.

Do not let regret weigh you down.
Do not slow down so they can say sorry.
Do not look back unless you’re looking at the sunrise.

There will always be a new day,
and endings birth beginnings.

SEVEN

You either leave first,
or you get left behind.

If you love something do not set it free,
because it will walk away eventually.

Appreciate what you have,
but never love something more than yourself.
It’s okay to walk away.

EIGHT

Burn all the bridges on your way out of town,
because the lesson in leaving is knowing you should never return.




Cody Vesley

Cody Vesley is a queer written and spoken word poet from Texas. His work centers around same-sex relationships, trauma, and mental health. He has written one collection of poetry, Usually About a Boy, and is working on his second. He recently graduated from the University of Texas at Austin and works in HR. Some of his favorite things include dogs, Tex-Mex, ranch, coffee, beaches, indie/alternative music, pokemon, and young adult fiction. More of his work can be found at usuallyaboutaboy.tumblr.com