Category Archives: Virgo

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. :

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.

Lessons in Leaving by Cody Vesley

art by Michele Maule | Etsy Shop | Facebook | Twitter

Lessons in Leaving


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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

Peach Splitting Possibility by Louisa Muniz

art by Ranko Ajdinović | Website | Etsy Shop | Facebook

Peach Splitting Possibility

Who knew trees commune
in the cargo of their roots?

He says I make mountains out of molehills
I’m too sensitive               & I repeat myself.

The boneless tongue is a heartbreaker
it sharpens the blade         by stinging.

I no longer argue. My heart is
a peach                    splitting possibility.

You’re right I say & breathe in   fractured air.
I send him white light.

I dream of life without him   a new lover
tracing my scars. Every day I fail at something.

My intentions too small   a silkworm
unsettled      a stone dragging moss.

I’m whittled down to half human
the other half      carrying me home.

My heart is still a fistful of prickles & sun.
It flowers                                    in vinegar.

If I repeat myself      it’s because
I think I’m repeating myself               better.

Who knew my heart      uprooted tree
would throb in its nest           unheard?

Louisa Muniz

Louisa Muniz is a freelance writer and a reading/writing tutor. She lives in Sayreville, NJ. She is a recent retired reading specialist and takes pride in having been a National Board Certified teacher who traveled to China to learn about their educational system. She has a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Kean University. Her work has been published in Rose Red Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, The Snapdragon Journal & is forthcoming in Menacing Hedge. Her poetry speaks to the term ‘Latin Identity’ in many ways and is about telling her own story, reaching out to others and relating those stories to the community and the world at large.

La Vie by Johanna Ramm

art by Ranko Ajdinović | Website | Etsy Shop | Facebook

La Vie

None of the figures are actually looking
towards me. I fold the hefty paper museum guide
between my fingers absentmindedly.
Except in the painting behind,
a small face sketched in charcoal
stares at me between the eyes
where Casagemas shot at Germaine.
I recount this later upon a couch
to a doctor who is worried by my worry
of being snubbed by a painting. She says
You have a fixation
on being understood more so
than many other people do.

I try to understand
what she means, how wanting
to fit in was unique to me,
how I became one of those people who wants
to fit in. I can see her words riding her breath
like a toy train in smooth circles across the room,
straight line pushing pushing across her chair
her bookshelf her plant her window to her couch
to me atop it, plastic wheels spinning lazily
on an invisible wooden track.
But alas, I do not think she sees it,
so I wave it away, the words and the breath
dissipate like plumes of cigarette smoke.
As it dissolves so do the thoughts from before
replaced by Germaine and a wonder
if she was just trying
to enjoy a coffee with friends.
If maybe a strand of his brain
flicked onto the table where her
hand had been before she ducked,
the muscle that wore her away from herself
the tissue that filled his thoughts with a her
that never was. I wonder if she ever
got the specks of blood off her dress.
If she ever wore it again.

Johanna Ramm

Johanna Ramm is an aspiring poet majoring in Creative Writing at the University of Southern California. While she loves all types of art, what words can do is one of her favorite things of all. :

The Defeat of Sophia by Seneca Basoalto

Portal by Carrie Hilgert | Website | Etsy Shop | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

The Defeat of Sophia

We took turns exchanging earthquakes in the bathroom 

               kiss me, New Mexico – the tattoo of el diablo 

               spanning her back, knocking on strangers doors

               because every house looks the same

Silhouette Sophia, a gold dust turned flush when the sky 

parodies the value that paints her mouth

               A placental abruption / one stanza memorized 

from the bible, only spoken in Spanish and congregated like a 

love poem passing from one fingerprint to the next

It’s written all over her freckles, a constellation fish and cheap cerveza 

accented with finger-sucking Tajin she transfers to my mouth; no one 

                knew she could play the cello, or liked to break into her father’s 

house and steal his shoes – out of spite, she never finished anything 

other than an orgasm        but her vocals were versatile and hum like lush gossip 

I saw things I’ve never seen again – a crescent moon waist with doubts 

and disability, abandoned and palpitating, 102 degrees of afterglow, 
               She still smells like her grandmother’s kitchen.

Seneca Basoalto

Seneca Basoalto is a student of Psychology and Philosophy, aiding in (and confusing) her histrionic observations of her personal relationships. With 23 years of creative writing experience – plus a background in the backstage music/movie scene – she’s congregated many strange experiences and used them to fuel her gutsy, insightful writings. You can most likely find her listening to records, shouting at people from her car, or experimenting with soup. For now she resides in the Black Hills. You can read more of Seneca’s work at

At the Intersection between Broad and Jefferson St. by Emily Tian

Art by Michelle Lanter | Website | Etsy Shop | Facebook | Instagram | Tumblr

At the Intersection between Broad and Jefferson St.

A five-and-dime store leans on the road
like an old man ironing the young.
For an instant the glare of the three o’clock sun
washes away its tarnish.
Against the steel rod apartment buildings,
find some relief in its
nakedness, the white paint
like cigarette paper trundling
into ashes. In this town
the tradition of initial-carving
still stands, so there is no shortage
of names fisted against each other
in half-eaten wood.

Buy an apple whose skin is
gathering red. The girl at the register
is daughter to poplar and cinder block,
a kedge drowning. Knuckles and nickles
scraping, tell her to keep the change.
Her hair is slicked back but
for a few dusty capillaries. She hums to
Bob Marley on the radio,
won’t you help to sing,
these songs of freedom.

The copper in her eyes oxidizing,
saying: Look, look, listen.

Emily Tian

Emily Tian was born in 2001 and is a high school sophomore in Rockville, Maryland. Her poems have been recognized by the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and the Reflections program, among others. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Cadaverine Magazine, The Claremont Review, and National Poetry Quarterly.

Directions to Jackson Square by Jennifer Boyd

Art by Michelle Lanter | Website | Etsy Shop | Facebook | Instagram | Tumblr

Directions to Jackson Square

1. South on Dauphine

Shiver the shrill warmth of the approaching subway, feral birds croaking a sestina into the iron plumes. Spend a millennium dwindling eye contact with a vacant stranger across the platform. Fan a blank canvas under cellophane steps. Suffocate your name in bourbon and seize parallel lines.

2. East of Moon Wok

Wander deliriously in the familiar anguish of streetlamps and starlets whose youth erodes sweet as vinegar. A street performer will play “Piano Man” on his guitar. Seek solace in the nimble refrain. Stumble over a crevice in the sidewalk scavenging wallet folds for a dollar because you owe him. Find the carcass of a nickel.

3. Right on Saint Ann’s

Gasoline and smog everywhere, they will taste like the Marlboro you tried when you were 13. You vowed never to smoke again as the pewter filled your lungs. Sputter like a tea kettle, drown for a moment in the arid fog. The tendrils engulf you, but the sensation cradles and you find yourself bitterly wanting.

4. South on Gold Mine Saloon

Make love to the rooftops bleeding constellations, home to breeding gypsy coyotes and tigers with bleached stripes. You’ll pass a brown girl wearing white. She loves a blue-eyed boy who promises her oysters and haloes and larks and cello strings. Laugh for her. He’ll shatter her with four rings and five unclasped promises.

5. You Are Here

Whistle thorns for a canary taxi. Loiter in the 7/11 parking lot, moan about traffic, wring your sorrows in gnarled leather. Wager a morning and let your destination become past tense.

Jennifer Boyd

Jennifer Boyd is a high school student from Boston, Massachusetts. She is a blog contributor at both the Huffington Post and Voices of Youth, UNICEF’s global online platform. Jennifer’s poetry has been published recently in New Plains Review, Glass Kite Anthology, the Critical Pass Review, and Tower Journal. Her work has additionally been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, Hollins University, Smith College, and Princeton University. When not writing, she enjoys playing the piano, singing, and learning new languages. Instagram: @jenniferrrboyd

Juvenile Benedictions by Christine Brandel

Art by Holger Barghorn | Website | Etsy Shop | Facebook

Juvenile Benedictions

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

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

Progress by Shawnta S. Barnes

Sea Onion by Jenny Brown | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


civil rights
affirmative action

is a blindfold
to mask
the dead bodies

Shawnta S. Barnes

Shawnta S. Barnes is a literacy coach in Indianapolis Public Schools, an adjunct instructor at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis School of Education and a 2016-2017 Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow. :