Helium

 

how is it. that i am always sick and you’re not. that my muscles 

tear easily and you storm the streets and take vacation and climb 

old churches to see the city below, held still in earth’s palm. how 

is it that i crash so often. that i sleep through the open mics and 

bonfires and even the secrets. exhaustion carries me one 

direction, bone tired, into myself, with lights out, tossing in bed 

and dreaming of massive sand dunes that i can’t summit. how is it 

that you summit so gracefully. and how do you smile like that, 

like a canyon. i bet your body feels like helium. at least 

sometimes. i bet you feel light. light enough for dance rehearsal 

and dinner prep. light enough for music to sweep you into the 

walls. i watched you hover by the bed. the morning touching your 

hips through the curtain. we laid there for a long time and 

laughed about nothing. but you were too light to hold my weight.


CORBIN LOUIS is a poet and performer from Seattle, Washington. He is a recording artist and MFA graduate at University of Washington Bothell. Corbin’s work has previously been featured in Best American Experimental Writing, Santa Ana Review, Random Sample Review, The Visible Poetry Project and others. The author seeks to open up dialogues of addiction and mental illness. Ink becomes war call and empathy. Salt water and whispers. The poet lives.

In Two Days

I would write a poem
on existential crisis because in
two days it would rain and the
thrust would wash away the henna
I’ve applied on my palms and I
would peel off the crowing gender
cry with pride but, till then, tell me
why I can’t slaughter my nausea
with my overgrown fingernails,
why I can’t moan like I am being
pierced by a butcher’s blade, why I
can’t love with sorrow like a handmaid.

Tell me why I can’t hug myself like
I would crush my own bones without
their consent (as if bones ever give
consent to be broken), or like I would
make a flower child of my brown skin,
why I surf over the Internet, and yet,
cannot tell apart a cock and a pussy,
why my throat does not know the names
the boys and girls who choked it gave it,
why I am willing to become a poet when
I know they are just imaginary and my
body would become a fragment of my
words, why I write words that always
lean on genderless lips trafficked to
prideful genitals with no possession
but servitude.

Tell me all these things and tell me of a
God that does not race to impregnate a
child with a breast or a flat chest and
tell me of a man who does not break
before a mindful, meditating question
mark and I would castrate seventy-two
other men to claim back my manliness.


SWAPNIL is a twenty-two year-old undergrad with a probably-unfunny taste in humour, but he likes to believe otherwise. When he is not having his head rammed with academics, he can be found singing, mostly apologetically, or writing poems/short stories not as apolitical as people would like them to be. He has had his work of poetry and fiction previously published in Esthesia, Parentheses, Textploit, and Inklette.

Upon the Anniversary of Our Divorce

Fifteen years ago, we were like this:

 

We held hands slowly on our way to the sunken movie theater

and I watched you through fractions of light, 

thinking there is nothing more our patch of love could teach us now.

We were inseparable, bound likes veins under the skin.

 

The undoing comes quietly: the handholding ebbs,

we bounce like endless particles without a solution.

And we go round and round, until a child

spins our fragments into a perfect rose-gold circle.

Yet, the deep wounds are waiting to speak misery.

 

Now, we seal our regret into long-knotted memories.

You sit at the kitchen table for two

and I honk the horn from the side of the road,

waiting for our son to appear.

I imagine letting go of the familiar things,

collecting the missing pieces which have been found.


DORSÍA SMITH SILVA is a Professor of English at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras. Her poetry has been published in several journals and magazines in the United States and the Caribbean, including New Reader Magazine, Portland Review, Rock & Sling, Heartwood Literary Review, Stoneboat, Misfit Magazine, Nassau Review, Shot Glass, Moko Magazine, and POUI: Cave Hill Journal of Creative Writing. She is also the editor of Latina/Chicana Mothering and the co-editor of six books.

Emily and Sappho

 

I exist far too often in public

to make you proud.

 

One of you is more fantasy

than ash and no one knows who.

 

You persist through my favorite words,

yellowed stationary and collapsing ink.

 

I do not know

if you ever existed.

 

How your feet padded across the cold stone

whether flowers bloomed in your window.

 

Your parchment feels like some ancient owl

with no nest left behind.

 

Where did your attic go and

how did it crumble?

 

I hope it went as you may have lived—

wooden beams, then a passing sigh.

 

Heard like air moving

sometimes a whistle, but mostly

not there at all.


AVA SERRA is a queer woman who strives to highlight underrepresented identities in her art. Aside from her writing projects, she recently completed her degree in Environmental Science at Northwestern University. Since her introduction to poetry in 2016, her work has been featured in Nailed, Northwestern University’s French & Italian publication Rosa La Rose, POSTSCRIPT (2018 & 2019), Sonder Midwest Review, and Lavender Review. She has also received an honorable mention and performed as a finalist in the 2018 and 2019 Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Awards in Chicago, where she dwells and frequently performs. More information about Ava and her work can be found via her website (avaserra.com) or her Facebook page (@avajserra).

[i like my mind when it is with your]

after E. E. Cummings’s “[i like my body when it is with your]”

 

i like my mind when it is with your

mind. it is so quite a new thing.

ideas better and imagination more.

i like your neocortex. i like how it thinks,

i like its hmms. i like to follow the twists

of your thought and its tangents, and the reflective

-self-aware ness and which I will

again and again and again

consider, i like considering this and that of your brain,

i like, slowly probing the, shocking synapses

of your electric neurons, and what-is-it comes

over parting hemispheres…And amygdalae big love-crumbs,

 

and possibly i like the thrill

of with me you quite so smart


FLOYD CHEUNG is author of the chapbook Jazz at Manzanar (Finishing Line Press, 2014). His poems have appeared in qarrtsiluni, Rhino, and other journals. He teaches in the Department of English and American Studies Program at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Two Poems

SINGLE 

I locked my mouth like the doors of your eyes

Globes full of museums with hollow hallways

Which pocket holds my key?

Which page can cut the deepest?

Break the backspace

Present presents with lessons wrapped in aluminum foil

How do you do it?

Scream for my silence in silence?

Shape the subject into you?

I’ll tell you how I did it

It was not on purpose

Do you feel me running down your hand

Because of how you gripped me?

Every crevice of me leaking?

There’s too much of you

No dictionary has me

Slam the book

Slam yourself inside

I’ll make room

I didn’t notice I let go

I’ve been nurtured into slippery

Cultivated into clumsy

When I said you weren’t bothering me

I didn’t mean it

Each time

And when you insinuated I was made just for you

I wished I were a rib

Replace your question marks with God

Replace your ignorance with facts

Let go of my hand to put yours on the clutch

Reverse me back to the only corner with no webs

Erase the games of tic tac toe on my skin

With your tongue

Undress me to my skeleton

Taste me then kiss me

I use your hair to clean my fingers

Because it feels good

Because I want to feel the residue of your brain under these nails

Then flick them away like the nuisance you are

I love the new haircut

I love the temple

But that is all

We’re the pink spit from brushed teeth

Is it the paste and blood

Because I brushed too hard

Or is it the paste and Koolaid

The cherry kind we breathed as kids

But now doesn’t taste the same

But now taste like required insulin

Disgusting

Won’t you discuss me one more time

Say those words we’ve all heard before

Say it like you mean it

Say it like a song

Say it like we’re single


HOME 

Home is where the sound of sirens are lullabies. Where single moms dream when they blink. Where the candles smell like the places we’ve never been. Where the grass on the other side is as green as money. Home sparkles with resilience. Home has tears that could quench thirst. Sometimes our smiles are tired from being bent but we smile anyway. Home is where neighbors offer you mangos from their trees. Where Grandma plants her own collard greens. Where aunties and uncles smoke blunts and black & milds while playing cards. Where there are t-shirts and towels dancing in the wind, waiting to be dry. Where a surplus of men roam the streets and fatherless children sleep untucked in bed. Home is where your mom approves your sleepover with your cousin just for y’all to laugh until Auntie yells for y’all to go to bed. Home is where the pastors are loud and the choirs are louder. But who one can hear us? Who will listen? Home is where the clouds slow down prayers. Where the people are darker from flying too close to the sun. Home is a whisper of water touching the seeds who can make it out. Home is a 9 to 5. A 7 to 3. An 11 to 7. A clock in and a clock out and a clock broken. Home is a bowl of dirt and glitter. Home is a rearview mirror glistening with neighbors, aunties, uncles, cousins, play-cousins, friends, classmates, moms all waving and watching your journey on the yellow brick road.


CHOYA is an adjunct professor at Adelphi University with a B.A. in Mass Communications and M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Her work has been published in Rigorous Magazine, midnight & indigo, Her Campus, The Crow’s Nest, NNB News and elsewhere. She’s a proud Floridian who lives happily on Long Island in New York.

Americans in Paris

I’m beginning to think it’s not the French

donning funeral black, but the tourists,

temporary Hemingways. We’re the ones

sulking on park benches outside Notre Dame,

clutching notebooks, ink pens, watercolor

visions of the Seine at dusk. Paris blushes

crepe as lovers’ tongues waltz to a violin

Sinatra on Pont de Sully. We feverishly write

down the image. Finally, good material. Spectators,

we observe the city of love with no one to hold us

back at the hostel. And so we sip red wine bought

from a peddler, drunk on the idea that we must suffer

for divine inspiration. Years from now, failed novels later,

we will swear to God the gargoyles were laughing at us.


ANISSA LYNNE JOHNSON is a writer and motivational speaker from Gladstone, MI. She is currently an MA candidate at Northern Michigan University. Her work often centers on grief and healing, hope and faith, and the little moments that pave the large world we live in. Her creative work has appeared or is forthcoming in Tiny Seed Journal and Haunted Waters Press. When she isn’t traveling the world or writing, she can be found at home with her husband and eleven plant children.