Taofeek Ayeyemi

supplication

a ma fabebe i beyin, a ma fabebe
kotan kotan, sa laja n lami
a ma fabebe i beyin o

a mother holds her boy’s body like
a blurred monochrome picture
her tears roll into his eyes as if
to say a fuel is searching for fire

they say his mother stumbled
upon a block with her mouth
that her tongue the sharpness
of fang pierces the elders’ body

& its blood flow into her son’s
future. blocks his way like a flood
we talk of the future as if it’s eternal
but it’s the hand of mousetrap

the hand of arrow, the steps of ram
the movement of things moving back
to later be flung far forward into
space, into unseen, into the future

he who closes his eyes & throw
a stone should be hit on the head
his snail’s mouth that curses
should be made to genuflect

a ma fabebe i beyin, a ma fabebe
kotan kotan, sa laja n lami
a ma fabebe i beyin o

but when man lost his brand new
beginning, it doesn’t mean he has
lost a brand new ending. the sun
up there can still dry his wet linen

let the sunlight slips into his
cold room and warm him into
life. let the fire he didn’t kindle
not eat him up. not eat him up

mother of a child is his succour
children of orunmila are salvaged
by the horse-tailed anther
i raise my tongue in supplication

we have come in prostration:
we beg with this hand fan, we beg
finish! finish! is how dog licks water
we beg you with this hand fan

we wave this handfan & blow
coolness into your hot eyes
we hold our palms before you
let his world be the white of dove

a ma fabebe i beyin, a ma fabebe
kotan kotan, sa laja n lami
a ma fabebe i beyin o


Taofeek Ayeyemi (fondly called Aswagaawy) is a Nigerian lawyer and writer. His works have appeared or forthcoming in Lucent Dreaming, Ethel-zine, The Pangolin Review, The Banyan Review, the QuillS, Modern Haiku, Akitsu Quarterly, contemporary haibun online and elsewhere. He won Honorable Mention Prize in 2020 Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest, 2019 Morioka International Haiku Contest and 2nd Prize in 2016 Christopher Okigbo Poetry Prize.

Natasha King

Paper Birds for Paper Girls

She was the girl with her sleeves full of papers
and she grew up to be the woman with sleeves full of birds.
She shook out her sleeve and it was
a grocery bill, a folded crane, a thrush at twilight.
she grew up to be my mother, my daughter, me.

My mother shook all the birds of her heart out from
under her wrists and threw them at me.
Crucified under paper beaks, I breathed her mother's last.
I moved from city to city and my sleeves were crinkly with
boarding passes, ticket stubs, post-it notes. Safe.
Innumerable lineages of paper women
creased my paper brow with their kisses. Safe.

My mother is an albatross riding a high easterly wind.
My daughter is a dream riding safe in the veins of a pine tree somewhere.
We are a crumpled cocktail napkin full of stains
and cell numbers and sorrows, an index
card with the most important words immortalized,
a whole family of ducks and swans and stooping herons,
paper and flesh, so lost and so found.


Natasha King‘s poetry has appeared in Constellate MagazineOyster River PagesOkay DonkeyGhost City Review, and others. She lives in North Carolina, where she spends her spare time writing, prowling, and thinking about the ocean. She can be found on Twitter as @pelagic_natasha.

‘Dreamsicle’ by Taylor Wyna

This late in the summer there’s a permanent river of orange syrup dripping down my tiny palm—and on Saturdays we turn the garden hose into a make-believe water park. My sister and I steal the splashes aimed for Azalea bushes and our great grandmother’s white peonies.

Dad is sitting in an old lawn chair—he’s the only person I know that can bite into a popsicle without convulsing. When we’re outside he plays mother hen—switching his gaze between us and the stop sign in front of the house. It’s the stop sign he had the city install—the stop sign that hardly anyone actually stops at. Too many times my sister has untangled herself from my parents grasp and run out into the street. Now, like clockwork, we watch our father straighten in his chair as the sound of tires and engines quake from up the hill. All three of us watch as cars roll through the invisible line—then the two of us watch as Dad jumps up. He barks at them—waving the Dreamsicle in his hand like a homemade traffic light.

He stays there until their tail lights disappear and the last bite of his treat is gone. My tongue takes another lap of orange sweetness as Dad turns to see our soaked bodies paused beneath the hose. Even the chill of water can’t keep the popsicle sticks from drooling uncontrollably down our fingers. “Don’t tell your mother we had these,” Dad says, tossing the sticks in the bin. I nod, turning back towards the garage door. Standing there I can hear the quiet sizzle of the kitchen coming to life. She’ll uncover our secret as soon as the three of us greet her with cool sticky kisses that taste like midsummer dreams.


Taylor Wyna is a writer from Birmingham, Alabama whose work has been featured in Aura Literary Arts Review, Reckon Women, and The Daily Drunk. She is the Founder and EIC of Camellias, a Southern Regional magazine dedicated to the modern Southern woman. Say ‘hi’ on Twitter @TayyWyna

Carl Watts

Toledo War

Michigan and Ohio
deployed militias
on opposite sides
of their deployed militias

rifles jamming together
along the Maumee River
bandshell near Toledo
along the Maumee River;

besides mutual taunting,
both sides mutually taunting,
there was little interaction between forces:

squeak of sneaker,
rustling bush, seeming
silence, lack of leader,
squeak of sneaker.

The one military confrontation of the "war"
ended with a report: shots fired into air,
fur, shirts, flares—reports declared—

every three incurring no casualties.


Carl Watts holds a PhD in English from Queen’s University. He teaches at Huazhong
University of Science and Technology, in Wuhan, but due to COVID-19 currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario. He has published two poetry chapbooks, Reissue (Frog Hollow, 2016) and Originals (Anstruther, 2020), as well as a short monograph, Oblique Identity: Form and Whiteness in Recent Canadian Poetry (Frog Hollow, 2019).

David Martin

Karst

We skirt the bone pit, descend into cave.

I hook carabiners to bolted rope
and brace for night.

Rats catnap in their radiant
fungus nest.

Headlamps sabre the black:
furious motes, smuggled light.

~

Reverse crab-walk through
muck-lacquered tunnels
gouged by interglacial soda.

Moonmilk curdles
on basement walls:
smear it to lull
your bright wounds.

I flex the line’s angle against anchor,
body-bulk equilateral then scalene.

Bacon columns recite a telegram
of unseen terrain.

My wife scrabbles at front,
guide and others trailing.

~

Another group slips by, our beams
sparring on scallops;
their faces avens on a wet, scree trail.

Snake the floor to thrutch a squeeze.
Bow head, humiliate shoulder.

At shaft-ditch, I coil onto back,
heel driving while sediments flake my face.

A wolf roamed two kilometres
within these alleys,
laying low to disown breath.

Wedge into the envelope room,

distrustful how body tenders
itself to rock.

~

Rest on bed’s thread
and kill the light.

Flowstone accretes by drip, flam, pause.

Utter dark.
Half a click beneath the mouth,
no photon risks it.
Soiled sight.

Flutter sandpaper gloves before eyes
and mind panders to me,
concocts a should-be show.

After two hours, fallow thought
would fire up visions of rescuers,
glow-worm headlamps.

My brothers grin from a foothold,
unwinding dental floss to piper me from Minotaurs.
Grandparents semaphore futures,
lullaby to unlock diurnal fetters,
and trick up a subterranean torrent to replay cave birth.

Mountains mask change
in deference to brittle symbols.

Buoyed past are my kids giggling in reverb loops,
confettied clouds of books I meant to read,
trombone doodle-tonguing as it suffocates,
1983 Chevrolet Caprice with seats summer-seared,
vomit strings from the same family ride,
Marsha’s thumb marrying mine through the Ogham stone,
the six feet of unconsolidated overburden
clay silt till gravel soil that will appraise my hull.

Cerberus keeps his scrimmage-sense keen.

~

The guide awakens his light

and we renew our climb.

Cave pearls hoard lustre
in refracted closets.

Last ascent, handhold nicks
in the carbonate’s slick flanks.

Shoals and skeletons red-rover
from lithic prisons
as my cheek hews close,
and ropes cock tendon-slants.

Soda-straw stalactites spitballing.

Return to the entry
and rouse
day’s wheel-light.

Tonight, down again in sleep:
glacial outwash
mines through head.
Lap the moon’s milk.
Salute luminescent rats.
Haggle with femur, ribs.

Let body assume
its container: air, water, rock.


David Martin works as a literacy instructor in Calgary. His first collection, Tar Swan (NeWest Press, 2018) was a finalist for the Raymond Souster Award and the City of Calgary W. O. Mitchell Book Prize. David’s work was awarded the CBC Poetry Prize in 2014.

Anannya Uberoi

White

Grief begins with a feathered tail and
Newton’s wheel spinning over unmisted West
Highlands where wild herons fly with
muslin-plumes to ceiling-bright skies – the
river that carried you to them flows in me
today, disquieted. I am a branched dogwood
of tasseled boughs once uplifted to form
you, snow-nymph bright against the mulberry
mountains of fresh-birthed Spring. You are
shadeless dew that slid upon the silk-leaves
too soon, your bleached skin dusted to the
earth as rhinestone ash pillowed by
weathered Ryeland-bristles nudging and
nudging the nebulous moulds of wren-like
feet shawled in a Berkshire blanket of
gossamer memory.

Grief begins when a distant part of you
comes from language condensed in silence,
when sparrows bind loose ribbons to the
wrists of your pink palms and place a
snow-diadem upon your gentle head.


The Vineyard

The bundled world is Rosacae, infected with
roses of thorns and apples of pride that
throw their seeds upon the fertile soil
without care for worlds that look upward
into pink skylines beyond their reach.

Who then thinks of the serpent?

The tendrilled thread-like appendages like
ringlets in a woman’s hair twined to the
breathing, green slender stem that supports
the snake.

Woody-stemmed, the vine impregnates the
seedless winery to birth the smelly
sauvignon blanc, the pinot noir, the
Cabernet Franc shelved in bodegas that syrup
a world of lone, squandered men.

Deep into the darkness, pearled in bunches
of rouge, black, green, the vine wraps
within its snake-arms a world of plenty.

The vineyard takes kisses from the
rose-garden and makes them unchaste, it
steals the fruit of the rose bush and makes
it sweeter with carnality.

We are not red as the roses, we are red as
the vine that came before them.


Anannya Uberoi is a full-time software engineer and part-time tea connoisseur based in Madrid. She has been previously recognized as the winner of Ayaskala Literary Magazine’s National Poetry Writing Month challenge. Her poems and short stories have appeared in Jaggery, LandLocked, Deep Wild, Tipton Poetry, Lapis Lazuli, and eFiction India. Her writing has also featured on The Delhi Walla and The Dewdrop, among other literary blogs.

Lilia Marie Ellis

The Grackle

The chill from last evening’s
cold front seeps under the window
and down onto me, as heavy as one
thousand pieces of broken glass on
my chest.

A halfway-mutant sort of light floods inside,
that not-quite-dark which makes up the
winter months when a single cloud takes the sky.
It feels like all the other mornings.
Winters always feel the same.

A grackle outside, maybe ten, fifteen
feet from my eyes paces back and forth,
plunging his beak down into the mud.
It looks like he’s trying to pluck out something buried.

Maybe he’s looking for treasure. Maybe
he’s digging up a memory he’d left, soft
in the loamy dirt to age, before changing his mind.

He doesn’t see me.

I press my face against the window
like I did as a child, cool skin on frigid glass.
My blood is growing stale each minute, I know.
Flowing right from the outdoors,
my skin going grey.

I try to get his attention.
“Grackle,” I say, doubting he can hear.
“Grackle, what is it you’re looking for
out there in the cold?”

The grackle sways his head a little,
back and forth. Perhaps he does
not understand. Perhaps he would
rather not talk about it. Perhaps
he is stuck in his own head, running
through the motions: should I trust her?

For a few minutes we sit there,
each staring at the other’s glassen
image, like ghosts you’d mistake for the living.

He turns away from me. He opens his mouth,
then closes it, then opens it again.
For a few minutes more he holds it like that,
swaying his head, unsure what to say, hardly able
to force the weight out from his throat. At last
he screeches, loudly, slowly, unburdened:

“The writhing you feel means you are alive.”
and slumps down into the fog.


Lilia Marie Ellis is a trans woman poet from Houston. Her work has previously appeared in publications including The Nashville Review and Kanstellation. Follow her on Twitter @LiliaMarieEllis!

Ebele Mọgọ

Earthworm

My son is an earthworm
pink and slippery

with no exoskeleton to retreat to
he crawls everywhere naked

prone to being cut into two
at the touch of any careless slipper

and this is a world where
weakness invites ideas

like: how would it feel
to make an earthworm wriggle in pain?

like: what an experiment it must be
to cut it in two equal parts

like: let us initiate it into a tortured freakish dance
with just a pinch of table salt

like: isn’t it fun to watch it die slowly
from salt, from the stuff of tears?

I fear, that weakness turns humans to sharks
and that my son smells like fresh blood

and you know that when conditions are primed
not even saints can resist the kill

I fear the glances they steal at him semi-secretly
full of suspicions too abominable to voice

I wish to tell him to hide away from light,
away from two faced eyes
to burrow deeper, to stay with detritus

But oh! the poor thing
has insisted on crawling out of his hole

has insisted, that he too deserves the cool rain
and what mother is a mother who will stop him?


Ebele Mọgọ is a story teller, a scientist, and an innovator.  Her writing has been published in the following places: Newfound, Third Point Press, Munyori Literary Magazine, Stockholm review of literature, Susan the Journal, The Offing, Saraba magazine, Tap Lit, Narrative Northeast, Brittle Paper, the Rising Phoenix, Interartive, among other places. She is on Twitter as @ebyral

Jack B. Bedell

No Stream, Just Leaves

The days do. They do. They move
along, come and go. Time is
no river, though. It branches

in every direction, at once.
I made a poor man’s crab boil
last night to bring over

to a friend’s house. Its smell
was so strong my daughter
ran in to ask if I remembered

the time PawPaw chased us all
out of the house with his boil.
He put so much pepper

in the pot, we had to crawl
out of the house coughing
like we’d been tear gassed.

He just stood there in the driveway
smiling loud as could be, 
watching us roll around

on the concrete, moaning
and fussing, begging to catch
our breath enough to move on.

But that day’s not upstream.
I have not passed it by.
I just need to squeeze

a couple of lemon halves
into my pot, give it a stir,
and stare off at the horizon line

to be right back in it. Or any
day, even the ones that 
brought phone calls so bad

there wasn’t nothing to do
but drop the receiver on the floor
and put hands on knees.

They all jump back on you
so fast, given half a chance,
it’s really no wonder

Lazarus spent most of his time
staring off into nothing
after he’d gotten his breath back.


Jack B. Bedell is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. Jack’s work has appeared in Southern Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Pidgeonholes, The Shore, Cotton Xenomorph, Okay Donkey, EcoTheo, The Hopper, Terrain, saltfront, and other journals. His latest collection is No Brother, This Storm (Mercer University Press, 2018). He served as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019. 

Maria S. Picone

Ode to the Lost Ones

Fortuneteller, riverwalker, omniscient in your own
stream. From your view, your life is not flow
but object; to hold must mean to forget.
Stygian, become in your own power anointed,
invincible as the age rages by. At times, 
you migrate to your old body, a swallow 
disembarked from a shooting star. Wondering 
why that such a fury is, such that you can’t foretell.

Carry

Scintillating, titillating, abrading, mutating: past’s
a train loaded with the carry-on baggage of the last
fifty yous: your dented orange suitcase, worn-out LL Bean
backpacks, the rolling laptop briefcase you used, 
pink lunchboxes with the matching cartoon
thermos. The past is a uni-directional impulse. 
It should hurt; it should ignite recreating scars
on your childhood skin.

Others’ pasts don’t hurt you. A shadow
grows and slips out of your breast
pocket.


Maria S. Picone has an MFA from Goddard College. She’s interested in hybrid and experimental forms as well as free verse. Her hobbies are learning languages, looking at cats on the internet, and painting. Her poetry appears in Mineral Lit Mag, Ariel Chart, and Eleventh Transmission: 45 Poems of Protest. Her Twitter is @mspicone, and her website is mariaspicone.com.