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Waves | Francesca Leader


My in-laws’ summer house is two thousand and eighty-two steps from the Marmara Sea. The kids count as we walk, sandals slapping, zig-zagging the landmines of rotting figs and dog turds. Three summers ago, we only had Sibel and Erol. Now there’s Beril, the last one, fat-thighed anchor around my waist. We gave them names that work in both Turkish and English. Names designed to ferry them safely between their father’s culture and mine.

At the beach, we find cigarette butts. Bottle caps. Glass shards. A dirty diaper, plump with disdain, wedged between stone wall and trash can. Making the best of things, I find a clean patch wide enough to set up the chaise lounge, spread the towels and toys out, and warn the kids not to dig too deep. Little Beril stays near, content as a monk in a garden, scraping her shovel, filling her bucket with ancient rock glitter. Sibel and Erol run screeching toward the water. They hobble at the edge where pebbles collect, harder to walk on. As you go out farther, the sand takes over again. It stays shallow a while. You can wade almost to the end of the pier. Then it drops off, with a corresponding plunge in temperature, and you know the ocean’s touched you. This is where they turn back, call out to me.

When (if) Orhan shows up, he’ll make them swim. He’ll carry one on his back, pull the others by their arms, far out into the cold, scary part. He knows the resting points—boulders and sandbars breaking the deep where they can pause when they get tired, shout and wave at each other across a blue-black expanse. I can see them again, the way they were three years ago. The ideal children Orhan imagined we’d have. Before they began to defy and deceive, to push for selfhood. Before he retaliated by raising the branch of his love too high, and taught them to fight for it.

I was seven months pregnant with Beril on our last visit. Erol was two and couldn’t swim but didn’t know it. I kept pulling him back, and he kept toddling into the water, eyes wide, mouth open, and stood there, wobbling in ecstasy as the waves crashed into him. Sibel, who was four, forgot I existed, calling “Daddy, Daddy!” all day long, begging him to take her back out into the deep. The kids adored him that summer. I watched them with my hand on the calm waters of my womb, reassured that I’d made the right choice. That one more baby would make Orhan—and, thereby, all of us—happy. I imagine him back at the house now, enjoying a leisurely breakfast with his mother waiting on him as she did until he moved abroad for college, wife and children (shooed off to the beach) waiting for him. Perhaps for the moment, at least, Orhan is satisfied, reliving the ease of his youth.

The waves bear flotillas of jellyfish the color and size of lychee fruit, harmless unless you grab them, and a few that are huge and lightning-charged as the lost contact lenses of Zeus. The kids shriek whenever something in the water brushes them. They come crying they’ve been stung, but no marks. I say it must’ve been seaweed. Look back at the sweat-dampened page of the book I’ve been pretending to read as a way of being alone inside myself. It’s almost ten and getting hot.

But a discovery, at last, draws me out: dozens of hermit crabs, in shells like severed ice cream cone tips. We capture as many as we can, put them in a bucket filled with seawater, kelp, a little sand-scape. They put out claws and feelers, start to get the gist. Then they panic, scurrying around the perimeter of the bucket, getting nowhere. Each kid picks a crab and says I’m this one. We watch them battle. First Sibel’s crab is winning; then Erol’s crab. “That’s you, Mommy!” says Sibel. She means a small, harried one with a hanging leg. Wounded, but still going. We all know which one’s Daddy—the big bully, emboldened by an extra-large shell.

Long after the kids have moved on, redirecting their energies to complaint of hunger or thirst or fatigue, I find myself unable to stop watching the crabs do laps around the bucket, crashing into and running over each other. I think of the thing we all want: escape.

“Why does daddy do this?” Sibel furiously flings these words, and herself, into the sand.

“I don’t know, sweetheart.”

“He’ll be mad if we leave,” says Erol, lip trembling.

“No, he’ll understand,” I say. It’s a hope, a lie, a mix of both.

Beril alone is unperturbed, still certain of her own perfection. But I’ve seen this before. It can’t last.

Dumping the bucket of crabs back into the waves, I see it’s already too late. The big bully crab has subdued all the others, pinching off their legs and eye-stems, dooming them to drift, blind and rudderless, waiting for the pain to end.

We take a side street, in case Orhan is finally on his way. If we ran into him, he’d drag us all right back to the beach, tired or not. Sibel, the fiercest resister, is small enough yet that he could carry her—and he would, kicking and screaming. Once he got her back to the water he’d say, See, what was all the fuss about? I’d check her later, out of his sight, for bruises. What will I do, I wonder, when the first mark appears, dark as a crushed plum, on my child’s skin? Will it be enough to propel me—frightened, overburdened—into the unknown reaches?

I say, “Hold my hand, Erol,” because he needs me to. With Beril on my hip, Sibel out in front, we walk back to the house that’s not ours, each of us preparing, in different ways, for what awaits.

Francesca Leader

Francesca Leader is a self-taught writer and artist originally from Western Montana. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Wigleaf, Fictive Dream, Barren, CutBank, the Leon Literary Review, JMWW, the Mom Egg Review, Stanchion, Streetcake, Bullshit Lit, the revival issue of Shō Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. Learn more about her work at, or connect with her on Instagram at and Twitter at @mooninabucket.

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Postmemory | Michael Don


Sometimes she would put her hands on his shoulders and plead, “Are we gonna be alright?” and he would reply, “What’s the alternative?” This was in their early years of togetherness, when uncertainty reared its head so boldly that she began consulting her family psychic, the one her grandma and most beloved aunt used. He also consulted his family psychic, secretly, as no men in his family, at least not openly, had ever done so. His maternal grandfather read coffee cups, but jokingly, only to make a spectacle of himself. Scholars or psychologists might attribute their mode of being—this resigned doom—to the genocide their grandparents and great-grandparents had barely escaped in 1915. Internalized postmemory trauma, or something of that nature. But she would never use the past as an excuse for the present; she would say it was simply how they were wired, and he tended to agree, praying that it wasn’t in fact more complicated.

The psychic was right. She always was. In the second decade of their togetherness they had met all the major milestones they had set out to meet. Only time had been doing something very funny and one day they woke up and realized not only were they middle-aged, but the other side of middle-age was imminent—everything was now imminent, shrinking, filling in. Somehow their baby—who became a boy, an adolescent, a young man—was already on his second marriage. Many of their dearest friends, the ones they would host for dinner parties and even the couple with whom they once shared a THC-induced carnal night, were gradually moving away to retirement communities in warm climates or the city their eldest grandchild inhabited. Back in their mid-thirties, the beginning of middle-age in view, the night they closed on their house, they laid in bed unable to sleep, pinkies clasped, feet touching—he declared it would be the last time they would move, and she agreed, assuming they were blessed with the best of fortunes.

When his body finally powered off, he was ninety-three and she was ninety-one, having spent the majority of their togetherness acknowledging and basking in and questioning their good fortune, waiting for it to turn on its head. Too bad all along he’d been pulling out his eyebrows and she’d been chewing the skin inside her cheeks. Too bad the psychics couldn’t penetrate their cores. Too bad shit never did hit the fan. Too bad their child never rebelled, never said they were being unreasonable or that he hated them for what they passed along to him or that he wished he was never born. Too bad she never told her husband that her psychic declared there was no legitimacy to their self-fulfilling prophecy. Too bad she never trusted her psychic, never reported any of the good news to her husband. Too bad she fired and rehired the psychic dozens of times because she refused to acquiesce to any of that positivity nonsense.

Now, in their beautiful old colonial, over black coffee and popcorn with her dearest and oldest friend, she declares everything did more or less work out—even if thanks to it her son can’t hold onto a job and thanks to it her nine-year-old granddaughter can’t sleep in her own room—and she finds herself smiling at whether she stays or goes, all that being inside of her, his flakes and nails and hairs still collecting in cracks and corners and under things.

Michael Don

Michael Don is the author of the story collection Partners and Strangers (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2019) and Coeditor of Kikwetu: A Journal of East African Literature. His work has appeared in journals such as Washington Square Review, The Southampton Review, World Literature Today, and the Brooklyn Review.

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in the end we all become houses | Violeta Garza

in the end we all become houses

after Margaret Atwood

in the end
               we all become

a kitchen
          with a too-short
                                 a blanket like dimpled thighs,
                                                  a shoe rack
                                                               in the corner
                                                                           for those ankles
                                                                                     that leave and return.

                                                  it seems that my body has transmogrified into
                                                  a quarter of space in a four-plex,
                                                  compartmentalized and cozy–
                                                  crooked wooden floors and
                                                  cupboards that have been sealed shut
                                                  for– oh,
                                                                                           what reason?

                                                                                                         a window ledge
                                                                                            embraces the curry
                                                                               and rosemary plants outside.
                                                                   they wait for my fingertips to
                                                     to climb and clutch
                                       and speculate about
                       the next forage into fertile soil–
               a birdflight
in reverse.

Violeta Garza

Violeta Garza (she/they/ella) is a non-binary Latinx poet and weaver from the Historic West Side of San Antonio, Texas. Named a semi-finalist for the 2023 Nine Syllables Press Chapbook Contest out of Smith College, she has been published in Acentos Review, Boundless, and Yellow Arrow Journal, among others. She is also a member of the Macondo Writing Workshop. Their safe space is listening to cheesy Mexican love ballads from the 1980s. You can peruse their work at

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Smart & Rhapsodomancy | Lesley Wheeler


At twenty-five, adrift in the mirror,
I cried, It will never get better than this!
Sobbed as if a time-lapse film
unblossomed in the rented sheen

of the medicine cabinet. The girlishness
I was told to tend ready to crisp and drop.
That’s what pretty does. It dies.

So I shrugged off pretty, despite
my mother’s warnings, and chose
a cheap wedding dress that quit
at the knee and loosely shrouded

the most suitable I’d ever be. Refused
to process in regalia for my PhD.
Smart shatters the vase.

Smart skips the strappy heels.
Smart enough to learn I would never
matter to my father except
as I reflected him, I gathered

bouquets of promotions and pages,
each stained by pistils under pressure
for years. Now I’m a litter of leaves

molding in a specimen jar.
Through the bottle protecting me,
I see how often it’s the pretty one
gilded by honors. The irony.

It’s not that I picked the wrong
way to please, but my eyes
smart at the fumes sometimes.

Lesley Wheeler

Lesley Wheeler, Poetry Editor of Shenandoah, is the author of the forthcoming Mycocosmic, runner-up for the Dorset Prize, and five other poetry collections. Her other books include the hybrid memoir Poetry’s Possible Worlds and the novel Unbecoming; her poems and essays have appeared in Poetry, Poets & Writers, Guernica, and Massachusetts Review.


Major Arcana

O. Every time you speak, you’re dancing at the edge of a cliff.
I. Just seize the mic, ignoring the pong of scorched plastic. You will burn your candle at both ends and never die.
II. Be pomegranate. Come on, try.
III. Mantra: you are not everyone’s mother. This is an epoch of abundance. Scarf it down.
IV. There’s a dick in your life. Could it be an inner dick? If you live by the clock, break it.
V. So many futures to reveal, so many truths to tell yourself. In the meantime, whatever your temple, bring it flowers. You crave the groove of holy music.
VI. Volcanoes are fertile and aflame. Choose what you love—or love not to choose.
VII. The stars may bloom in daylight and sphinxes adore you, but you’d better keep your hieroglyphic armor on.
VIII. Maintain a firm grip on that red snout. Some fail to observe your magnetism, given the head-rush of roses.
IX. Dusk is swooning. Today will be resinous: rosemary, lavender.
X. See what happens when you ask a poem for advice? Every word is a chimera. All you can do is ride it.
XI. Expect an acid verdict from a sharp-tongued woman. Swallowing it may sting your throat.
XII. Upside, flipside: what crucifies you is also alive.
XIII. Don’t freak out. Desire always dies.
XIV. Pour yourself a glass of something expensive. Now share it.
XV. You didn’t need wine in the first place, you thirsty thing.
XVI. It seems like lightning forks down from the sky, but it leaps from the ground to knock you out. Life will zap your hat off with a thrumming sound.
XVII. There’s always a risk, yet if you pour out your nakedness, you just might shine.
XVIII. Appreciate that you are pulled into tides by a satellite.
XIX. Backed against a wall, you thrive.
XX. Roll your liquid eyes at prophecies, but the angel still arrives.
XXI. Float up and enjoy some perspective. You know how fireflies alight as they rise? That's beautiful you, luminescing.

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Toads & 4.22pm, December 5th | D A Angelo


The plane tree leaves are reincarnated toads.
Look how they croak under a ballast
of snow, how they cannot tolerate
a weight of rain heavier than grief
or love or lust or any human thing.
Look how they curl into boats
at the sight of birds, as if the beaks
pecking away at their hulls
might reveal some secret innocent
and slippery as a tadpole.

4.22pm, December 5th

The night is unboxing itself.
Out comes a grey cloud
doubling up as a murmuration of starlings.
Out comes the last of the blue,
muddy as brushwater, above the cathedral’s polished scalp.

The commuters at the bus stop
tremble like fearful dogs
at the uncertainty of the hours.

Buses bark away the cold,
struggle to shake off the animals
attached their mammoth bodies.

We are all caught between ages,
I imagine, feeling my legs
stiffen like a prehistoric beast
caught in a tar pit.

D A Angelo

Shortlisted for the 2023 Manchester Poetry Prize, D A Angelo is a UK-based poet with work in Eclectica Magazine, Free the Verse, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Sage Cigarettes, Flights of the Dragonfly and Petrichor Mag. New work is forthcoming in SurVision and SUNHOUSE Literary.
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Quick! | Chloe Yelena Miller


I’m asking her to live
without me, & she knows it.

- from Time, by Zeina Hashem Beck

I thought I might not bleed
this month.

I cried in the shower, thinking of the babies
I didn’t want to birth.

My breasts felt like I could succeed
at nursing, they were so swollen,
pained by the falling water.

But they were empty.
And then I bled.

And you, ankles showing,
on the precipice
                          of walking away.

I nursed you in a hospital room
high over a circle of city streets.

And then you learned to feed yourself.
Now we don’t even notice
when you lift your fork to your mouth.

I watercolor us, mother, child,
centered. So is the open window,
that distant horizon.

                How do I face my passing
as you emerge
like your first words, then sentences?

Your whole language
                always our vanishing point.

Chloe Yelena Miller

Chloe Yelena Miller’s poetry collection, Viable, was published by Lily Poetry Review Books (2021) and her poetry chapbook, Unrest, was published by Finishing Line Press (2013). Miller is a recipient of three DC Arts and Humanities Fellowship (Individuals) grants. She teaches writing at American University, and Politics & Prose Bookstore, as well as privately. Miller is the co-founder of Brown Bag Lit; she teaches and organizes events for them. Contact her and read some of her work at

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Los Alamos & Heaven Expires at Midnight | Esenia Banuelos

Los Alamos

Manolo could be ascertained the purveyor of uncorrupted pastures strobing Tequila, but he is firstly who strained me. By the time I had grown into my nose, he had forgotten how to keep his posture ahead of police officers. This little carriage is here to return the mutts to the reservation. El reten is the evil eye; homegoing comes from walking while vaguely un-white. A string of sweat snakes past his ears and destroys the ships. While he folds that white flag, I will release the rights of his body and the tartish humish in biography (is it “auto” if I am no more a wight than he?). Papa was harvested in a fantasy where blue agave outnumbers the spirits; ichor strained from the baked-bulb begetter and poured into the rigid crystal. Every plant is sprung from the laundry-line, a marriage threading manhood by teenage mothers. From thorn hatches the spur, and on horse-back comes carvings of the performative surname into that resisting horse. Virility is an ear crushed by the hoof. Nonetheless, onward – plunder the ashen remains to find little claims for humanity. Strawberries spurred the generation that fossicked through glass and forged the materials necessary for seed-spilling anchors into those girls of the grass. Among the bushes, the moor is wrung from the same juice produced under poverties. This fucking is animalistic yet ritualistic: born with my ribcage accessible for pigs; pity me, not the man who armed me from colony shards. Hernan patricide. I peer from the backseat and find that my willed terrenos are some teeth and an identification card from the Mexican Consulate.

Heaven Expires at Midnight

Where I want to go is not atop any pastel cloud, debauched palace hammocked between the stars, nor behind a telescope watching them reassemble me from my old furniture. You know how the old woman clicked out before the last of November, before the hospice could tickle her door with antlers? Where she went is unlikely to be between robe-folds, or even within the flickering owl-clucks that announced her. I should go where the gray hour struck; find myself a purgatory pine bleeding into the polluted skies, the aging lights acting as a spine for the Nativity. Beyond a submerged Mary, the old woman ornaments her daughters’ boisterous laughter, and there I will be: a girl’s eyes, fixating on little paper destinies packaged by those who knew that here, this illusion doesn’t expire at midnight. I know heaven isn’t in the clouds: it was on the ground, where it would still snow for longer than a week in Chicago.

Esenia Banuelos

Esenia Banuelos is an emergent Mexican-American word-wreath from Chicago, Illinois. She is presently an undergraduate double-major in Educational Studies and Linguistics and Language, somewhere in Philadelphia. Her work is rooted in the semantic and syntactic revolution of Chicano identity.

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Molly Brodak, #8 The Florida Horses Mini Center 5’6 | henry 7. reneau, jr.

Molly Brodak, #8
The Florida Horses
Mini Center

There’s nothing after death, and I will see you there.

What first catches the eye is how beautifully resplendent
she appears in her bio pic. The future, from all points of the

compass, glimmering, an ephemeral, euphoric bliss, like
gospel in congress with a bluesman’s electrified cottonfield holla’.

So embossed upon this radiant wilderness. A child’s
footprint in the mud, exuviating into more mud. The warps

and wefts in which we are all entwined—hardwired. Living
as an escape from the past

woven into every moment, as we are braided into
each present now we inhabit. Death is pretty clean, a clicking

shut; it is life rot belongs to; it is survivors who see and smell
the decay—this is living.

The smell of rotten roses, like the grief that every condolence
speaks around, and clean, cracked shards of eggshell, like

time expired, but ever present. The dead come back not for you,
but for themselves, to hear their own stories for the first time.

And the sky opened cerulean all the way. In the morning,
before anything bad had happened, before the news came . . .

My partner Molly Brodak passed away yesterday. I don’t
know how else to tell it.


Note: The title and italicized sentences are from the elegiac essay, “Remembering Molly Brodak,” by Gina Myers and from the poem, “Post,” by Molly Brodak.

henry 7. reneau, jr.

henry 7. reneau, jr. writes words of conflagration to awaken the world ablaze, an inferno of free verse illuminated by his affinity for disobedience & a barbwire conviction that prequels the spontaneous combustion that blazes from his heart, phoenix-fluxed red & gold, like a discharged bullet that commits a felony every day, exploding through change is gonna come to implement the fire next time. He is the author of the poetry collection, freedomland blues (Transcendent Zero Press) and the e-chapbook, physiography of the fittest (Kind of a Hurricane Press.) His work is published in Superstition Review, TriQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, Zone 3; Poets Reading the News and Rigorous. His work has also been nominated multiple times for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

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Why Do We Have Money? & Why Do People Die? | Sara R. Burnett

Why Do We Have Money?

Because we built banks
      and banks are houses

we stuff with money,
     then wonder where it went.

When I wash the applesauce jar,
     to put your money inside,

I mean for you to see it—terrarium
     of growth and potential, experiment

in value added, for how else
     to understand the glass walls

of money? A lesson never really learned—
     (I almost wrote earned). You put

money in a jar, in a bank,
     and is it yours? Where does it go?

You take it out and place it into the open
     palm of the ice cream truck driver

for a strawberry shortcake bar,
     because it’s your dad’s favorite,

and so, yours now too—money is like that,
     for a time. It costs $4 from the truck,

$1.25 from the store, and 50 cents
     from the freezer of my childhood.

What a steal! What a bargain!
     And I didn’t (couldn’t) even

know it then. I’ll trade you lick
     for lick and still not get any

closer to eating the whole,
     and when I give it to you,

(because nothing I consume is mine
     alone) it runs sticky-sweet

down your chin, your arms,
      your shirt worn exactly once,

ruined. My mother used to say
     “wash your hands” after touching

money, but to be real, you might only
     know it in plastic. (You should still

wash your hands). Already, the glass jar,
     an exhibit in a museum of money

next to the ceramic pigs, pillowcases,
     mattresses, briefcases of money.

My mother used to say “money doesn’t buy
     you happiness, but the lack of it

can make you very unhappy.” For a time,
     I couldn’t understand how

something full of germs and grime
     could also be something you’d want

so much you’d bet your life upon it,
     or if not that life,

then the life you bought with it,
     or the life you’d show others

you think you have with it,
     or the life someone else

wanted you to have with it. Somewhere
     in all that between desires

and survival, memory and projection
     is the jar. Don’t forget about the jar.

Your job is to believe not that it exists,
    but how much it’s worth.

Sara R. Burnett

Sara R. Burnett is the author of Seed Celestial (2022), winner of the Autumn House Press Poetry Prize. She has published in Barrow Street, Copper Nickel, PANK, RHINO and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the University of Maryland, and a MA in English Literature from the University of Vermont. Previously, Sara worked as a public high school English teacher. She also writes picture books. She lives in Maryland with her family. Her website is:

Why Do People Die?

Because eight billion people multiplied forever is too much.
Because you and me and the daffodils we planted last fall mostly came back.
Because be reasonable.

                                      Mayflies only live for a day.
And monarchs know where to migrate without ever having been there before.

Because when you ask, what I hear you really asking is Could you? Could I?
Because the sound of your footsteps on the stairs are those I’d know anywhere.
Because the moon of my mother
                                     is also the moon of you, my daughter.
And the sun will burn into a giant red ball, but not in our lifetimes.

Because even when the tomatoes are ripe, the kale has bolted.
Because I couldn’t stand the thought of that spider’s sac of eggs hatching on our porch.
Because I found the golden strands
                                    of your hair on my hairbrush this morning.
And the doctor, looking at us both, said genetics doesn’t favor that combination.

Because do you remember
                        pulling the bedsheets over your head pretending to be invisible?
And me pretending not to hear you giggling underneath?

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Social Media | Matt Gulley

Social Media

The vein is moving up,
Oh baby, this neighborhood is planters and weeds
A rupture in my feed
I’m carrying the books, I’m writing the articles

Give me a jingle when it pops
I suppose I’m of age to make arrangements
To sit solemnly and take hands
Planters, weeds, guns, invisible money: America

The bass guitarist
La la la la la la, stoic, chanting,
Strutting while standing still
Are they dead yet? Has the transfer begun?

Matt Gulley

Matt Gulley is a poet, playwright and fiction writer. He attended Wayne State University in Detroit and currently resides in Brooklyn with his partner Jenna. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Moon City Review, The Madrigal, The Minnesota Review and Consequence Forum. Find him @selfawareroomba on Twitter or on Bluesky.

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