Amanda Oaks is the founding editor of Words Dance Publishing, an independent press + biweekly online poetry journal. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in THRUSH Poetry Journal, decomP, & Stirring. She is the author of four poetry collections: Hurricane Mouth (NightBallet Press, 2014), her co-authored split book, I Eat Crow (Words Dance, 2014) & her series of free music-inspired eChapbooks which can be found here: amandaoaks.com. Her forthcoming chapbook, The River is Everywhere, will be published by Red Flag Poetry in summer 2017.
it’s all about a namesake / navel or nasturtium / needle or necessity / narcissus or napalm / just trying to slash up the words like thistle heads / a bloody poem / such jubilance of your mirth bursting out of the masquerade / a flunkey like me needs to withhold the eyes of a warbler / i fear i’ll lose you to the biological worms if i ever sing you / i rather like your hairline / a mended hem around your tabula rasa curling up in the final bluing / over five hundred miles i can think along the same lines as Becket / Godot / no / Godot maybe next where / in the glass it’s just a strewn dust of flesh languishing in a landscape that smells of a roasted map of Syria / o flowering must i say narration or narrow now / the bee will hum around your skull as long as i try to obliterate the ghosts the candid oblivion had laid down in my old youth / today all their candid groans are still buried in the foxholes here & there inside me / you have to squeeze them hard enough to hear never again pogrom never again a bowing skeleton without a country / is a line full of dropsical rosettes shining across a crystalline barbed wire more disgrace as a poem / a poem never asks you for rosy eyes when it begins to stir like a precocial bird / not a single word has existed for your half-moon eyes / just lay down your eye sockets discrowned / there will be beetroots & hummingbirds making up just another poem
Debasis Mukhopadhyay lives & writes in Montreal, Canada. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Curly Mind, Posit, Yellow Chair Review, I am not a silent poet, New Verse News, Communicators League, Thirteen Myna Birds, Of/With, Scarlet Leaf Review, Strange Poetry, Whale Road Review, and elsewhere. His work has been nominated for the Best of the Net. A chapbook of his work entitled “kyrie eleison or all robins taken out of context” is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in September 2017. Follow him at debasismukhopadhyay.wordpress.com or @dbasis_m on Twitter.
in my dreams, there’s a snake
trying to slip through my chopsticks.
I still prefer forks most days, and spoons for rice
even though I used to eat brown rice with forks
in the school cafeteria in new york. back when our car was a bright
green volkswagen bug
and it’s funny, i never noticed how different i looked
black plaits, sometimes monolids drooping over almond-shaped eyes
until i began to fit in
in fifth grade science, we looked at our hair
under a microscope. mine was the only
mongoloid. a rare specimen.
‘home’ is a damning word. if only i could get away with writing
Narnia on innocuous school assignments that carve at my core
i try to tie my identity to this window and this bed,
forget the long agos. i tried assimilation once, but–
i mean, everything has a learning curve.
i wish i could write beautiful poetry about feeling unwelcome wherever I go.
i stopped fantasizing about leaving after a while–
time has this uneasy way of making you learn to love anything
or at least accept it. most days, you can hear the collective ache
in the heavy way the air hangs around the trees,
but now, at least
i can pick out the nuances between spring onions and garlic scapes and chives.
and if there are snakes in the garden, i have learned to let them go.
Dana Chiueh is a New York-bred writer and creator who lives in Hsinchu, Taiwan. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards, as well as several online literary magazines. Her favorite song of the moment is “Paragraphs” by Blackbear, and she can be found at her Twitter at twitter.com/goodnightxmoonx
Baby, some days I make lists of all the things I wanted to say to you but couldn’t. Things that never left the safe haven of my mouth, things I choked back down, things that silenced me. I throw them out like crumpled grocery lists. Words like love and agony, words I used to say without skipping a beat; now they struggle to leave my lips, instead, they come out as your name.
Things like, “I just wanted to tell you that I miss you,” and, “Please don’t leave me,” and “You’ll never understand what goes through my head when someone says your name, like it doesn’t belong in their mouth the way it does in mine.” Some days the lists go on for pages, each page bleeds like an open wound.
Baby, some days I wish you could understand the way my heart aches when you say my name and I wonder if it hurts to leave your mouth; I know you have to tear it from your lips. I know I’ve tried to make a home there, despite there being no vacancy in the hollows of your cheeks. Despite the fact that she evicts me every single time.
I am four years old. My parents have yet to divorce.
I am holding a box with a necklace inside. It is a gift
from Spain. I am confused and then sad. I do not know
where Spain is. I do not know what Spain is. Children
should not be given gifts they cannot understand, I think.
In the backseat on the drive home, I will it to tell me
where it comes from. I want to know where it’s been.
I want to know, even as I’m being carried into the house.
Squirrels run through the attic above my head.
I am in my bed, working hard to convince myself
they are angels. A transistor radio plays: a doctor,
I assume, is solving callers’ problems. I need him
to solve mine. I want him to say something only
I will understand so I can turn on my side,
rest my prayered hands on my pillow and sleep.
I pour water in my ear, hoping that will drown
out everything I do not need to hear. A doll
sits across the room, watching, saying nothing.
The nurse doesn’t say anything to me anymore.
She is either tired of my face or sees my arrival
as a reminder that she has three more hours of work.
I lie on the cot and stare up at the ceiling, counting
the dots as if I expect the number of them to change.
At no point do I get up and go through the filing cabinets,
mess about with the medical supplies or throw up.
I slip my hand under my shirt and lightly move
my fingertips over my stomach. I want the nurse
to come in and catch me and offer to touch me like that.
When chills run up my arms, I stop. Sometimes I fall
to sleep. Then I stand, tuck in my shirt, and go back to class.
There is absolutely no benefit to knowing how to spell
words that no one will ever say, that I will never say.
I know that, but still I slip a dictionary under my pillow
so the words will slide between feathers, through my ears,
into my brain. I will learn to spell every word in that book.
I will know them all, know the meanings, know everything.
Christine Brandel is a writer and photographer. Her book, A Wife is a Hope Chest, will appear in 2017 as the first full-length collection in the Mineral Point Poery Series from Brain Mill Press. She also writes a column on comedy for PopMatters and rights the world’s wrongs via her character Agatha Whitt-Wellington (Miss) at Everyone Needs An Algonquin. More of her work can be found at clbwrites.com.
Ameena Chaudhry is a 21-year-old Pakistani-American writer studying English, Gender/Women’s/Sexuality Studies, and Anthropology at the University of Iowa. She is the adoptive mother of her roommate’s two cats. Ameena enjoys breakfast foods, tattoos (sorry Mom), and any TV show that involves Lauren Graham. Her work has been featured in Ink Lit Magazine and the Oakland Arts Review. She is currently working on her first novel.
Gregory Luce, author of Signs of Small Grace (Pudding House Publications), Drinking Weather (Finishing Line Press), Memory and Desire (Sweatshoppe Publications), and Tile (Finishing Line Press), has published widely in print and online. He is the 2014 Larry Neal Award winner for adult poetry, given by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. He recently retired from National Geographic and lives in Arlington, VA.
Ask me about the summer
I fell in love with someone
more blackberry bramble than girl.
Aching to be touched
but never talking about the thorns.
And me, all heavy handed
and too proud to acknowledge
the things I’d cut myself on.
I dreamt about juice
running down my chin
There is no patience in this body.
There is only enormous wanting.
No one speaks of the stunning weight of it—
how desire pulls us through the world
as though our limbs are attached
to the strings of a clumsy marionette.
I am dizzy with this great burden.
How does one live without love?
At the end of each day, you are there
and this simple act saves me.
I walk through a market to pick peaches
and blush at the thought of your mouth.
All lovers tuck small secrets behind their tongues
and go on clicking through the world
as if they don’t know where the light comes from,
as if they didn’t create it themselves out of thin air.
I leave the market and walk quickly through the streets.
I open our front door and drop the peaches to the floor.
A week from now, we’ll find one rotting under the couch
but for now, there is only enormous wanting.
There is no patience in these bodies.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we
will grow gray by each other’s sides;
how the winter will be hard on our old bones,
and our sight will blur a bit more
whenever I try to read my latest poem to you.
It doesn’t make me sad anymore:
to imagine us at the end of our road,
our younger years so far
from where we stand now.
I don’t fear losing each other,
at least, not as much as I used to.
You are, and always have been,
such a strong pull of gravity in my life.
Even before we met, every day
I’d watch my body tug closer to you;
the ends of my shirt lifting at the seams
as if some whisper of a ghost was saying,
“Just a little further today.”
So why, at the end of it all,
would the magic end there?
I don’t believe life built the final boundary
to face on our own, when not even the stars know
what it’s like
to have an entire sky
You as the sun, you as hot-hearted hinge for far too many boxes & not enough doors, not enough ceaseless opening, you as harness, as endless channel of life, as listen— if I could finally step out from behind all these clouds of metaphor I might ask if I could have the key to your unlocking. I might ask if I could see you tomorrow in all your brand-newness, in all your rising to the center of my sky to woo the weeds that keep us grateful for what is. Here’s the dirty truth though, poet can hide on cloud nine because she likes the air there just as much as she likes to lie low bathing in a tub of her own secrets, she likes to smokescreen, to domino, to dig up what flasks in the dark & pass it around the table like a plea or a prayer or a farewell wish, what she really wants to say is this— come bottle up with me, come garden out the gloom so we can hold it up high & laugh about how fuckin’ wretched is it to just be some days, come dusk with me, come night & dream & love & bliss, come Hollywood ending with me, come credits with too many true loves to name, look— I know you’ll always be danger, I know you’ll always be this unreachable star bound by the blue of midnight & daylight & the luster of all those other stars but you, you as constant, you as fail-safe & feverish & true, you are the warmest part of my day, even still.