A Mother’s Silence

What mother does not say
she folds over and over
to hand to a little girl
who keeps them.
In a drawer, clothes
carefully pressed. Letters
from grandmother. Rose
petals inside a prayer
book never opened.

What mother refuses
to say. Careful when folding
a little girl’s clothes. Keep them
in the drawer. Let no one
touch them. Letters still there
except grandmother. With a prayer,
mother remembers the book
where petals rest.

What a little girl never says
rests somewhere in her chest
heaving behind clothes which were
once folded. In the drawer,
grandmother’s letters
keep prayers no one touches
except mother folding
a little girl’s hand into a rose.

JULIENNE MAUI CASTELO MANGAWANG is taking up her MA in Creative Writing at the University of the Philippines – Diliman. She has poems published in 聲韻詩刊 Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine (Hong Kong), ALPAS Online Journal (PH), and is forthcoming in The Rumpus. At the moment, she has interests in exploring Filipino households and how it affects or develops the individual.

A Pollen Revival

The pup pulled—

if he could breast-stroke the sidewalk,

that is how he gulped the street, island-

hopping an olfactory stream, rifling

a line-up of sticks. A plaster Madonna

widow-walked a neighbor’s sill, blue-veiled

and gator-eyed. Back when we still took

the subway, there was a morning when

a little girl hollered knock-knock jokes,

and the whole train car joined in, yelling

who’s there, and she would shout the punchline,

all her tails wagging. If you want to reap

a harvest, till the soil, plant the seeds;

but that day the sweet fruit was already

stuck to us. The pup pulled me home,

where the Super was outside, and we

gee-whizzed together about the times.

The pup’s nails needed trimming—

we walk, I said, but the claws grow faster

than the grind. Overnight, the magnolias

popped their mouse-eared pods, stalks of

show-off forsythia were busting bachatas

above our heads. I always hope, the Super

said, when you can’t see the shoots, the

bulbs grow.  When we get to discard these

husks and throw them skyward, we are primed

for a call and response, a pollen revival, a

chance to yell who’s there and hear.

JESSIE RATCLIFFE is a writer and poet, who holds a degree in creative writing. She is analytical by day, but her mind roams at night. 

Language as the Virtue of the Self

SAM WILCOX is a multi-media poet from Virginia. They are a recent graduate of Columbia University where they studied English and anthropology, and served as a member of The Columbia Review. Sam is also a former DJ and spends their free time podcasting, discussing planetary motion, and designing shadow-box dioramas.

Fire Sign

When you ask me what I am afraid of
I hold out my hands.

You see, I am a body of cut lines
and gravel burn,

twice-read birthday cards, deleted emails,
gutter crawl.

I am unfiltered blood,
a collection of half-healed wounds,

a slick bathroom floor,
the predictable slipping hazard.

This body is taking up space;
it is guilt,

an empty womb that prompts your mouth,
a refusal that breeds the backhand,

a metal baseball bat hidden beneath the bed.
She is primed to crack bone,

is designed to dismember joints,
forged to wound.

This body is a dragging limb,
a nervous stagger,

dramatic slipped footing,
a body of impulse.

I am the burn of tobacco against a jacket lapel,
the smell of lampblack

and crows’ nests,
the poem I never wrote you,

a heart line fading
from the skin.

JESSICA SABO is a poet and former ballerina whose work focuses on the intersection of eating disorders and trauma. Her poems have appeared in Anti-Heroin Chic, Rogue Agent Journal, and Coffin Bell Journal, among others. Jessica’s work has been anthologized with ChannelMarker Literary Journal and Adelaide Literary Magazine, and is forthcoming with Damaged Goods Press. In 2020, Jessica was named a finalist for the Adelaide Literary Award in Poetry and was a semi-finalist for a Brooklyn Poets Fellowship. She currently lives in Orlando with her wife and two senior rescue dogs.

The Massive Delayed Violence of Learning Just How Silent Your History Is

—after ‘Canto XIV’ by Robert Rauschenberg

You can try to brush the fire away,

but it’s no use when your hands

are blood and the blood

is gasoline. You grew up

confident; it was only when

your eyes sprouted that you started

to stumble. You grew up unaware

of the desolate field,

littered with black forms like tissue paper,

although it’s surrounded you

all your life. Your blindness

was an accessory, kissed

by street parades and cinema love.

Once you glimpsed the field, you could not return

to those safer places without seeing

yellow stalks bursting up through

dancers’ sneakers, staining those tongues

with pinpricks of red. Or desire

like the burning

bush the grass is watered with,

or musculature waiting, like wheat,

to be blighted.

You grew up unaware

that you live in an inverted forest of headstones,

and once you learned, they became

permanently saturated. You grew up

thinking the worst river

you could cross was the one you

cross alone, but it is so much

worse to wade through

the body of boiling blood

with others by your side,

loving and wasting and melting into the current.

You will never stop seeing your companions

evaporating from bar corners

and wingback chairs,

you will never forget the field

and its growth

and the way it contaminates

every small thing.

You wonder how you could ignore

a space so substantial,

but you know that you grew up blind

because nobody could explain

the vastness of the field

or the way your heart would break

finding empty footprints

in the soil.

RYAN E MOORE is a poet and writer, as well as a student at the Davidson Academy in Reno, Nevada. When not writing, they enjoy trying new foods and spending time with their dog, Libby. Their work has previously appeared in the Body Without Organs journal.

Love Letter

I outline my mother’s flower garden

with fieldstones, though heat 

shimmers around me and cicadas rattle

in nearby trees, scolding I am too late

for this year’s blooms.  Undaunted,

I push another wheelbarrow load,

the weight welcome, rooting me

deeper into the sandy soil she nurtured.

Her departure before spring softened

the earth left promises and chores

suspended in air electric with her absence.  

My hands inside her gloves, their 

fingertips frayed from years of toil,

find stones shot through with mica and quartz.  

Sheeted in silver and white veined,

they catch sunlight only to break it, 

a thousand love letters cast to the sky.

PEGGY HAMMOND‘s poetry is featured or forthcoming in The LyricistOberon PoetryHigh Shelf PressSan Antonio ReviewWest Trade ReviewRogue Agent, and Ginosko Literary Journal. Her full-length stage play A Little Bit of Destiny was produced by OdysseyStage Theatre in Durham, North Carolina.

Our Meekness Reeks of Old Cabbage and Tubers

we are the turnip-head ghosts that haunt the cellar,

the onion-skinned ghosts that cry when we undress,

the damp makes us cold, miserable creatures

we hate crying when we undress

we have stomachs of pumpkins hollowed,

all the orange pulp strewn about like

silly string, and it’s silly when we get

all tangled up in it

we spend our days making mud pies

and carving love letters into molded

potatoes, playing cat’s cradle with

our pulped guts

it’d be nice to leave the cellar,

but our meekness reeks of old cabbage and tubers,

of something better thrown out

OLWEN DAISY is a poet from the Midwestern United States. She finds most of her inspiration in nature and myths. Using whimsical imagery and unique formatting, she strives to create poetry that reads like a dream remembered.