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Ghazalish, The Flood & Pain | Jessamyn Smyth

Ghazalish, The Flood

Here is what I want you to know about the silence, still as death and colder: it moved from you to
me, see, here in this bonecage gone titanium, this immune system propped by goblin armies:

couplets emerge from scar, relentlessly enjambed. This body is a verse form dealing with both loss
and love, but choked by anaphylaxis there is no scheme. The poet’s moniker appears at the end.

Once I took you all the way in, once I choked. They are peculiar twins, vulnerability and memory: I
am made and remade as neural network linking like things, a synesthesia.

My red is joy, a blues song in my flesh. Did you know we remain aware under anesthetic? I hear the
stapler closing me back up: while he sank bone-screws, he talked about his sailboat. Afloat,

I know what is happening to the body I am in, in all this water. Sew me into the lining of your coat
and carry me away from here: my bones your corset, I will hold tight. Cubit by cubit I become ark

filled with wild animals. Surely there is a way to silence all this howling? Once I took it in; once I
could not stop it from spilling out. How the light slid over your cheekbone as certainty.

One mouth ungenerous, one sewn shut. Trace the philtrum, fingertip-rest: trace the hours of kissing.
You used to like it, so I reminded you. Even on my own lips now my name shatters.



It’s always in bed that bombs go off: dynamite lover, death, dynamite in broken bones. Once I
traced the line of your cheekbone while you slept: through my fingertip came mortal ticking. It’s like
kudzu, pain—an invasive species, climbing and twining. Have you ever been made of doom? I
dream of dance, neural precision: how once I kicked a man’s shirt open without touching him, how
his buttons fell like coins. Some things oxy can’t touch. Neither can you, I tell the skeleton. Don’t touch
It backs off. Later, I feel bad. Run my fingertip over its cheekbone.

Jessamyn Smyth

Jessamyn Smyth's writing has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Taos Review, Red Rock Review, American Letters and Commentary, Nth Position, Life & Legends, Wingbeats: Exercises and Practices in Poetry, and many other journals and anthologies. Her books The Inugami Mochi (2016) and Gilgamesh/Wilderness (2021) are from Saddle Road Press. Kitsune (2013) was part of the New Women’s Voices Series at Finishing Line Press. Koan Garden (2006) and Skaha (2021) are available on her website: Jessamyn was the founding Editor-in-Chief of Tupelo Quarterly, and Founder/Director of the Quest Writer's Conference. She also teaches university and works in digital art and media.

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Quarantine, Early Days | Sarah Browning

Quarantine, Early Days

Dryfork, WV

So far, I am one of the fortunate ones
Away in the hills, cocooned birdsong and love–

Lichen pale and slow on the trees
..........just outside the kitchen window

Bananas we buy green
..........ripen–we believe in that much
..........future, at least

Red bud tree begins its journey
..........In the evening, the sweet siren
..........of spring peepers
..........and later our own music
..........serenades the wooden house

I tell you of the years
..........I survived alone,
..........and now this time of terror, you

So far, we are among the fortunate ones
..........Potatoes and parsley
..........Fresh eggs

Each slight cough a fear–hiking
..........through bog and beauty–
is that a tightening of breath
or simply middle age

slower than we were before we found another before I brought
your hand to my chest where we believe

the heart holds hurt and held it there against me
..........with me fear, foreboding

Our bodies taking what we can
..........of one another, while they can

Pinch and slap and take and live
..........To live

My love, I’ve given you what I could
..........So far
..........May I open further

When else, if not now
..........When the red bud blooms

Sarah Browning

Sarah Browning is the author of the collections Killing Summer and Whiskey in the Garden of Eden. Co-founder and past Executive Director of Split This Rock, she currently teaches with Writers in Progress. Browning received the Lillian E. Smith Award and fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Yaddo, Mesa Refuge, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She holds an MFA in poetry and creative nonfiction from Rutgers University-Camden and lives in Philadelphia. More:

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Waking Up in Florida & Déjà Vu | SM Stubbs

Waking Up in Florida

Water from a sprinkler
hits the window every twenty-seven
seconds. A mockingbird rises
and falls along the power lines running
through the back yard. She sings,
lifts into the air then settles
again. After that, freight trains
loaded with products bound
for South America chug toward Miami,
traffic hisses coolly on US 1
and semis floor it up and down I-95.
Late in the afternoon a catalog
of other birds and the hum
of airborne insects. I hear those
before waves collapsing on shore
or whitecaps smacking
the bow of the boat.
It’s my childhood, noises
outside the house louder than
memory, louder than my voice
crashing against the walls,
its paper-thin buzz
like a dragonfly trapped
on a screened-in porch.


Déjà Vu

Light flickers like it does in dreams, quick hits
of darkness, long enough to feel anxious.
The bartender refills my glass before

I ask. She cuts lemons into wedges
then cuts lemons into wedges. No one
notices we’ve heard this song already. . .

haven’t we? Maybe more than once. I know
the lushes seated nearby. Not their names
or personal histories, but I’ve seen

their faces fill with grace and mercy. Each
struggles daily with their own untamed faith.
I need help. I can’t recall why this song

repeats or why I’m dizzy now, weeping
over a tune I can’t seem to forget.

SM Stubbs

A former bar owner, SM Stubbs has been nominated for the Pushcart and Best New Poets; recipient of a scholarship to and staff member at Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference; and winner of the 2019 Rose Warner Poetry Prize from The Freshwater Review. His work has appeared in numerous magazines, including Poetry Northwest, Puerto del Sol, Carolina Quarterly, New Ohio Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Crab Creek Review, December, and The Rumpus.

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Upon Hearing the Magic 8 Ball Thing Has Twenty Sides Inside | James D’Agostino

Upon Hearing the Magic 8 Ball Thing Has Twenty Sides Inside

Under an electron microscope
everything’s a life
raft factory dual-use
school house Bauhaus birdbath
cathedral. In the mirror though
it’s mano a mano and that’s
just the fists of the eyes
shadows so obviously blunt

force dreamlife. Here
in the blue waves forgotten
for years then fucked with
in interrogatory bursts I talk
a lot about the second law
of thermodynamics but was
really just going to die all
along. This whole half year

I’m a fifty-year-old and
a three-year-old and we haven’t
really worked out our power
sharing arrangement yet. O
god it’s so stupey. I am
just trying to figure out why
the broccoli’s so bad lately.
My brain curdled I mean

look at it. I’m having
trouble getting out of bread
in the morning. That’ll
cast some shadows down
the page then after that it’s
flashlight tag and you don’t
want to bring AA's to that

James D'Agostino

James D'Agostino is the author of Nude With Anything (New Issues Press), The Goldfinch Caution Tapes, winner of the 2022 Anthony Hecht Prize (Waywiser Press), and three chapbooks which won prizes from Diagram/New Michigan, CutBank Books, and Wells College Press. His chapbook, Gorilla by Jellyfish Light, is forthcoming from Seven Kitchens Press. His poems have appeared in Ninth Letter, Forklift Ohio, Conduit, Mississippi Review, Bear Review, TriQuarterly, Laurel Review, and elsewhere. He teaches at Truman State University and lives in Missouri and Iowa City, IA, with his partner, the poet and book artist Karen Carcia.

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my favorite thing about Black people is the way we take up space | Kailah Peters

my favorite thing about Black people is the way we take up space

laughing loudly in the aisles
of a beauty supply store
or yelling to a friend down the block

our joy our rage our love
always full volume

always seeping from our mouth like
it’s too much to swallow

growing up in white spaces
made me want to be small

I was taught to say excuse me
like I’m asking permission
but Black sisters blare ‘coming through’
just to let you know

I spent so long
being embarrassed
by the brazen beauty
of our stubborn existence

by the burden
of hating my texture

Lord, I am begging you:
color me darker
fill my hips wider
fluff my hair bigger

Kailah Peters

Kailah Peters (K.P.) describes her writing as confessions her soul makes to her mind. As a co-founder of They Call Us literary magazine, she focuses her efforts on uplifting the voices of minorities and challenging systems of oppression. Her work questions identity, human connection, and social order. You can find her writing in Rigorus Magazine, Poet Lore, or on www.KPPeters.Weebly.Com.

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Danger | Pamela Murray Winters


Uncle Mark told me if it didn’t wear a hat,
my hair would snap off. I liked courting

some dangers, skidding down the hill to school
right after soaking my long, thick hair

in the clawfoot tub. My uncle tried to break me,
pulled it a few times. Never cold enough to break.

I didn’t fit. I closed my face. Coldblooded,
the family said. I dreamed of a school far north,

the letters of Minnesota in a clean white heap.
Mary tossing her hat. Rhoda wrapped,

her sidekick hair covered against men, I guess.
I’d have her room at the top of the house,

the safe swirls of color. Outside, the white.
When the scholarship came, I stayed home.

Pamela Murray Winters

Pamela Murray Winters lives and works in Bowie, Maryland. She received a 2022 Independent Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts Council. Her first book was The Unbeckonable Bird from FutureCycle Press. She’s at work on her second book.

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Marriage Repast | Amber Moss

Marriage Repast

The evening my mother’s second marriage died, she held her daughters' hands in the ocean and exhaled the habits of a wife – infidelity has no taste buds


..........the night before, my mother stuffed faith and submissiveness into turkey and beat them twice, groomed my stepfather's cheeks after dinner stopped being dinner and became repast.


The only thing I miss about Florida is the ocean at dawn when the water blends in with the sky, and I can feel the minnows tickling my calves and my mother’s grip tightening as we sway together for the last time.

Amber Moss

Amber Moss is a writer and editor from Atlanta. She holds a bachelor's degree in English from the University of South Florida. Her latest chapbook, Some Kind Of Black, was released in February 2022 from Nymeria Publishing. Her poetry has been published in Bewildering Stories, Little Rose Magazine, Liminality Magazine, Poetry Super Highway, and others.

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Winter Comes | CL Bledsoe

Winter Comes

And we’re proud of ourselves
for eating soup in season. Lentils and split pea,
like our grandmothers, who always kept
their clothes from splitting in time.

When bad things happen, it’s important
to remind ourselves that we’re real, even
when we don’t want to be. The same is true
of love and pumpkin pie, which no one likes

enough to eat more than once a year. Every day,
I could be happy waking to the soft susurrus
of your breath. The flash of your eyes. Only
a dying flame is brighter. I could make you

barley vegetable soup to remind you
it’s not just that we’re dying; it’s
those winter mornings. The fire warming our feet.
The crows calling somewhere outside.

CL Bledsoe

Raised on a rice and catfish farm in eastern Arkansas, CL Bledsoe is the author of more than thirty books, including the poetry collections Riceland, The Bottle Episode, and his newest, Having a Baby to Save a Marriage, as well as his latest novels Goodbye, Mr. Lonely and The Saviors. Bledsoe lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.

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My Mother Loves & Desire | Liz Ahl

My Mother Loves

My mother loves an underdog, she loves
an old-fashioned donut, a cigarette,
a Diet Sprite, a cigarette, a Diet Sprite.
My mother loves the homeliest hometown
weekly newspaper; she'll read the whole thing
and I think she also loves the raving kooks
she knows by name on the editorial pages.
My mother loves to tell you how it is.
"The interesting thing is," and fill in
a proclamation, brassy certainty.
My mother feigns a love of questions.
My mother loves sudoku, a properly
loaded dishwasher, loves rearranging
the plates you put in all wrong. I love that
too, I think, but not as much as she.
My mother loves women's basketball
and cigarettes, and gin and lime and tonic
"in a tall glass," she shows you how tall
with her hands. She loves the Constitution.
A true believer, she’ll press
a pocket version of it into your hand.
She loves to filibuster, and though
the cigarettes are shredding her voice
and breath, my mother loves best
the last word and will have it.



Sometimes I’m sure it’s common
as air: everywhere, infusing all we do.

The intentional reach for a particular
unbound tendril of hair, for the shiny, the soft,

the way our senses long for all the world,
the tastes, the touches, all our lives long.

Or the automatic reach, reach, reach
of breathing, each breath seizing

what it wants. Other times,
I’m convinced desire is much more rare:

the wide, white expanse of porcelain
surrounding the tiny, exquisite morsel it offers,

or the massive tumbler wrapped around
the merest whisper of whiskey, a sip

slender enough to make you want more
of what's scarce, what's forbidden.

Too laden a plate, too full a cup—
no room left for the fullness

of your hunger itself, no space
for the surfeit of your wanting.

Liz Ahl

Liz Ahl is the author of A Case for Solace (Lily Poetry Review Books, 2022) and Beating the Bounds (Hobblebush Books, 2017), as well as several chapbooks, including A Thirst That's Partly Mine, winner of the 2008 Slapering Hol Press chapbook prize. Individual poems have appeared recently in Revolute, New Verse News, and TAB: The Journal of Poetry and Poetics. She lives in Holderness, New Hampshire.

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