Two Poems by Anthony Aguero

Moping About in Palm Springs

Spent the next three days sported on
The back of my dad’s bike: dark spokes,
Orange rim, yellow handlebars, a red and
Filleted heart more like a roasted bird,
Or the bike was exceptionally ordinary.
We were soaring through the ozone.
He was coughing up a lung or both.
To be unflappable and frantic. I smiled
And my skin was burning from the scorch
Of mistakes a daring Sun leaves behind.
I was his majesty and that’s whimsical
To briefly consider. He, my courter.
I, too infant to know how to fear a god.
My mom is clutching her chest, holds
A fear so ripe it cannot be caged in hands.
At times, I know so little about the mechanics
Of flight or, even, forgiveness. Except,
That I’m here giving my arms to the wind.
The sun brushing the very skin our backs.


Seeking the Blanket of the Sun

Or the moon.
Or the stars. Dead body
Of gasses scattered
Throughout the skies.

We’re moving
The centerfold to the living room
And dancing around –
All flesh and pure air.

The light pours in.
I stick out my tongue to taste
The milk
And severity
To this witnessing:

Fingers interwoven,
Legs trembling in sweat
— we’re tasting the
Red off plump cherries.

And how easy
I confuse taste for warmth
Or
Vastness or abundance.
We’re moving, we rise.

We continue to make ourselves
More
Like the blanket
Of some warm sun.


Anthony Aguero is a queer writer in Los Angeles, CA. His work has appeared, or will appear, in the Carve Magazine, Rhino Poetry, Cathexis Northwest Press, 14 Poems, Redivider Journal, Maudlin House, and others. 

Matthew King

On Plato’s Phaedrus 229

There’s a bend
in the creek
you pass by
every day
that someone
who doesn’t
pass by there
might say is
the scene where
it’s said that
a god swept
away a
young girl who
was dancing
to make her
immortal

And you’d think
but not say
the north wind
carries down
where you stand
in the steam
from the storm
sewer source
of the creek
the spirits
distilled from
the fish that
remain there
rotten to
their oily
essentials

He’d know what
you’re thinking
and say if
you’re clever
you’ll make it
metaphor
keep passing
look past her
ashamed she’s
still dancing
immortal
at the bend
in the creek
where it’s said
the altar
is hidden


Matthew King used to teach philosophy at York University in Toronto, and is the author of Heidegger and Happiness. He now lives in “the country north of Belleville”, where he tries to grow things, counts birds, takes pictures of flowers with bugs on them, and walks a rope bridge between the neighbouring mountaintops of philosophy and poetry. You can find him on twitter: @cincinnatus_c_

‘Florida Room’ by Wilson Koewing

When I was five, we visited my dad’s parents in Florida for Christmas. I rode down to Nokomis Beach with my grandpa. He stopped by the bait shack and purchased a Budweiser.

“That your grandson, Al?” a fisherman asked.

I was half hiding behind a dock piling. 

“That’s what they tell me.” 

My grandpa was a first-generation German immigrant. A child of the Depression. I had Nintendo and all the games. His blonde-haired blue-eyed grandson. We walked out on the jetty to watch the boats leave the marina. 

On the way home he cut a sharp left. We ended up at a bar under a bridge. It was dark and smoky inside. He ordered me a Coke and lifted me onto the bar. 

“Ginger, this is my grandson.”

“Al, I didn’t know you had a family,” Ginger said. 

He ordered a Manhattan. I sipped my Coke as they chatted. 

When we left, he said, “Don’t tell anyone I brought you here.” 

I nodded that I understood. 

“If you do, I’ll never take you anywhere like that again.” 

As we drove home, I stared out the window. The palm trees and retro houses of Nokomis gave way to the sprawl of Venice before opening to fields of sawgrass on the town’s edge. We returned to their house in a subdivision of houses that all looked the same. But all Florida. 

We entered through the garage. My dad looked at me like he knew I was hiding something. My mom glanced up from a magazine.

“You okay?” she said.

“Boy,” my dad said. “Answer your mother.”  

I didn’t answer.

My grandma, who’d been outside doing aerobics, stepped inside sweating. 

Feeling the weight of their collective gaze, I caved. 

“He took me to a dark place under the bridge,” I said. “There was a lady who liked him. She gave me a coke.”

My dad laughed.

“Honestly, Albert,” my grandma said. 

His stare was burning me alive. He and my dad went out on the Florida room with beers. My grandma squeezed fresh orange juice. My mom returned to her magazine. 

I crept out to the Florida room. When my grandpa noticed me, he shook his head in devastated disappointment.  

***

We visited every Christmas after that. As the years passed, I sat with him in his Florida room. On Sundays we watched Dan Marino. Believing the Dolphins could win. Me on the patio couch, him in his chair with a beer and The Wall Street Journal. My dad at the table in the corner, cracking wise. The Dolphins perpetually losing. Marino carving up defenses in vain.

On weekday afternoons, we watched the stock market ticker tape. I’d watch for the symbols of the companies he held to roll by and tell him the price. 

Florida in December was humidity and short days. Afternoon storms. Gators that might wander calmly through the yard or right up to the screen door. 

My grandpa saying, “Hey, you, look at there,” as my eyes globed. 

The orchard in his backyard where I ran in circles to release youthful energy. Even in winter, the grapefruits and oranges glistened on the branches. I gazed up at them with one eye shut so their circumference eclipsed the sun as it burnt still over the treetops. 

“Get in here,” he’d yell. “Marino’s got the ball again.” 

And for years that’s how it went. Until I got older and he got older and bone cancer, assisted living and dementia. Until the Christmas we didn’t visit, and my dad went down to handle the estate and help my grandma move out of their house and into a retirement community. 

I didn’t see him when things got bad. My parents sheltered me from that. 

I figure we owe it to our parents to stand by as they fade from this existence, but not our grandparents. There’s a buffer that goes both ways. Maybe that was why me telling the truth about the bar allowed him to connect with me in ways he couldn’t connect with his own children. 

If nothing else, he taught me a timeless lesson. And maybe that’s all he ever wanted. I regret never saying how much it meant to me, but I take solace in believing he knew. 

For as long as we visited, anytime he and I were left alone on the Florida room he reminded me about the bar. He let me know he hadn’t forgotten. We could watch football together. Go pin fishing under the drawbridge down in Nokomis or on his Wednesday drive to every grocery store in Venice to check the marked down meats. Walks on the jetty and the snacks at the bait shop. The countless hours of silence we enjoyed together. But never once did he take me to another bar or offer me his confidence again. On that he never broke his word. 


Wilson Koewing is a writer from South Carolina. His work has recently appeared in Bending Genres, Schuylkill Valley Journal, The Loch Raven Review and New World Writing.

Oisin Harris

The Goat’s Head

I dreamt of the goat’s head
Floating in the bucket.

A bucket tucked between bales of hay.
Full of redolent water buoyantly lulling its sacrifice.

A strange jetsam
Imprinted in my dreams.

The goat’s eyes are more open
Then when I weaned it from milk as a kid.

I remember my grandmother
Locking us in the house
So we’d be spared its execution.

Sneaking out I can still see the bristles
On its skin tufted together, forming
A quilted patchwork of greys and whites,
Reminiscent of smashed up slate in mushy snow.

I can see my grandmother’s apron a palette
Of plucked chicken feathers and dried giblets.
The syncopated rhythms of life and death
Offsetting each other on an oak dining table.

I remember the rabbits in their hutches
Pacing a little back and forth,
Perhaps sensing something had been taken.
In their coop and aviary, hens and pigeons
Became quiet too.

I recall that outside in the valley,
Mushrooms grew and coalesced.
We will pick them soon.

I dreamt of the goat’s head again.
Its pupils by now must have fertilised
So many budding leaves.

Sometimes I dream I am one of those leaves
To listen to the earth’s heartbeat,
Like a stethoscope
Probing for frequencies beyond my reach.


Based in Canterbury, (UK) Oisin writes poems after having earned an English degree from Sussex University and an MA in Publishing from Kingston University. He is a librarian at the University of Kent and a co-editor and contributor for The Publishing Post’s Books In Translation Team. He has performed his poems at open mics throughout Kent. His work on Women In Translation has been published in the 2020 research ebook of the Institute for Translation  and Interpreting, entitled Translating Women: Activism in Action, edited by Olga Castro and Helen Vassallo.

‘You Cannot Keep Things In Your Pockets’ by Paige Olivia Roberts

At daycare, caterpillars cover the chain link fence surrounding the playground. I spend recess petting their soft bodies. Cover my hands like henna tattoos. Their little feet stick on my skin like miniature tentacles. 

I love the caterpillars; I want to take them home and put them in jars on my windowsill so I can pet and feed them until they cocoon and become butterflies. One by one, I put them in the pockets of my overalls for safekeeping. Sometimes I reach in a pudgy hand and slide a finger across the back of a velvety squirm.

When Mom buckles me into my car seat in the back of her silver Mazda, I pull out my caterpillars to show them to her, but they are all dead or dying, slowly writhing in my sweaty palm.

“Why did you do that?” Mom asks, upset. But I protest the entire car ride home, holding them in cupped hands on my lap, telling her how much I love them, how soft and perfect they are, and how I will take care of them. 

“Not everything is meant to be kept like that,” she says as we pull into the driveway. She unbuckles me from my seat and the herbal smell of her lotion lingers next to me as we walk up the concrete steps to our apartment. The last caterpillar is dying in the curl of my pinky. 

“I don’t know what to do,” I say, sad I am not good enough to keep them alive. 

Mom puts out her hand, and I silently dump the caterpillar carcasses into her palm. I follow her back outside to the edge of the woods, where she crouches and sprinkles them onto a tuft of leaves. 

“We can’t just leave them here,” I whine, hoping Mom can cast some spell and bring them back to life. 

“They deserve to be free and where they belong. You cannot keep things in your pockets and expect them to survive on your love alone.”

She walks me back inside and readies herself for her bartending shift. I watch from the couch as she brushes her hair and dabs her face with a hot washcloth. Sit and wait for my babysitter or dad to arrive. Whoever shows up first. 


Paige Olivia Roberts has a degree in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Henniker Review, Sidereal Magazine, and Rejection Letters. She has been nominated for a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Find her on Twitter @paige_por.

Three Poems by Luis Jefté Lacourt

The Long-lasting

I’ve learned nothing
from the sand at the bottom of the sea
where the saddest strokes
and all the waves’ silence
are written and erased;
Eternity’s impulse,
the Long-lasting,
where everything emerged,
and we surged scourged
ready to fall in love,
wishing to be
raptured by the fluids.


Posillo

Half a cup of coffee
was a 75 cent break
between classes;
two colors,
a new tasting system
scaled by the number of milk drops.
Multiple desperations later
it became a picture of our left hands
chained with two glimmering pacts.
Before it was over
we got rid of the rings,
the pictures, and the names.

Today,
un posillo isn’t enough.
Why do I stay awake?


Muse is an unpressed button

Every creature carries
a machine asleep, inside.
A dream of artifacts switched off,
a keyboard that screams in mute,
and gives us, lucidly put in words,
the paranoia of the awakened.


Luis Jefté Lacourt is a Puerto Rican writer and veteran based in New Jersey, USA. Receiver
of the 2015 National Prize for Original Short Stories Book, given by the Puerto Rican Culture
Institute in 2016 for the manuscript “El Origen de los Murciélagos y Otros Cuentos”.  He also
received an Honorific Mention from the Literary Awards 2015 of PEN Club Puerto Rico
International, given in recognition to the excellence of the graphic novel “(A)diós”.

Two Poems by Craig Kittner

Methods of Cultivation

my father
whenever he moved to a new home,
which he did ten times in the years
we were both alive,
would plant the things he liked
and transform the landscape
as he saw fit

myself
I have moved twenty times
in those same years
never planting anything
in the ground – preferring
pots and planters – seeking
the satisfaction of annuals
not the legacy of perennials

my father
died ten weeks ago.
today, I went to the back of my property
where things grow as they see fit,
I dug up a cedar sapling
and moved it to a place
where I wanted a tree


I’ll Have Another

it’s not the small poisons
that I dose myself with
that’s the problem

(all my kind imbibe
you should see my cousins
and you know how my heroes behaved)

it’s the expectation that
when I kill the things
gnawing at my spirit
I’ll continue unharmed.

my father got out
of that small town
and I went through school
marked as “gifted”

I should want more
than to sit on a bench
and watch reflections chase clouds
around the lake . . .so I’m told


Craig Kittner was born in Canton, Ohio in 1968 and took up residence in Wilmington, North Carolina in 2012. Between those two events, he lived in 14 different towns in 8 states and the District of Columbia. He has worked as a gallery director, magazine writer, restaurant owner, and blackjack dealer. Recent publications include Human/Kind Journal, Shot Glass Journal, The Heron’s Nest, and Bones. He currently serves as contest director for the North Carolina Poetry Society. Craig is fond of birds, cats, and rain. . . but rarely writes of cats.

A Poem by Ace Boggess

Emptiness Is Not Enlightenment

More often of late I’m floating over concrete,
body light, head a dead void.

Reaching for doorknob, wall, or chair,
I tether myself to a site

to prevent crash-landing, catastrophe.
Not spiritual lift, an awakening;

not dope-numb bliss, beloved of my youth—
it’s the blood-pressure high,

the stood-too-quick-&-stopped-breathing blues.
Funny/sad how near-disasters

feel like the touch of the Divine.
After pain I’ve put my organs through,

it’s a wonder they still love me.
Bones, too—they should’ve broken long ago.

Man is the animal that calls falling flying,
doesn’t recognize the dying

until a next bedazzled phantom
dance—please, a holy fervor just this once.


Ace Boggess is author of five books of poetry—MisadventureI Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It SoUltra Deep Field, The Prisoners, and The Beautiful Girl Whose Wish Was Not Fulfilled—and the novels States of Mercy and A Song Without a Melody. His writing has appeared in Harvard Review, Notre Dame Review, Mid-American Review, River Styx, and many other journals. He received a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and spent five years in a West Virginia prison. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia. 

Two Poems by Seán Griffin

A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow
for Makoto Hagino

take index and middle fingertips, bring each
to either end of your lips,
and lift. That weight is why it’s
exhausting to flex our faces, fake it till

we grin and wear our smiles like heavy
coats in summer. A swimmer sunk, tired
from wind-milling their arms and envious
of the coral for its stillness. Don’t tap

on the glass of this aquarium with finger
tip to stir up the inhabitants. To see the lone
clouded salamander, whose round cheeks
just happen to make it look like it’s smiling.


Bloom into You
for Nakatani Nio

Sepal wrapped petals twisted closed like drill tip, pointed
groundward not yet to show
which of the many bi-colors my love will be. I’ve been holding
my blossom closed even though
sun’s warmth and sluice rush of rain flow are telling me
to change. Previously, I know,
each bloom has died from fatiguing autumnal fade to late
frost midnight bites in mid-May, yet grows
again and again and each tiring again. It’s so that I can only
guess how long before the slow
wilt. Yet bud lips will part past the seams of my fingers,
my nature stronger than my hands. The glow
of my little fire, my flower, can be shielded but it’ll go
out all the same.


Seán Griffin received an MFA in Creative Writing from Manhattanville College. Seán’s writing has appeared in The Southampton Review, Selcouth Station Press, Impossible Archetype, Dust Poetry Magazine, Non.Plus Lit, Sonic Boom, and elsewhere, with poetry in The Mud Season Review, Mineral Lit Magazine, and The Hellebore forthcoming. Seán teaches writing at Concordia College of New York, is an editor for Inkwell Literary Journal, and lives in New York with three dogs. Twitter and Instagram @seangrifter

A Poem by Jeremy T. Karn

Acknowledgements

after Danez Smith

for Saphira

because a god cannot separate our bond that is stronger than him,

i will numb myself with your memories
until he gets jealous of us.

i want to rinse myself more with the beauties in you,
because a goddess sounds better when it speaks through you.

maybe i will try to grow another you on my skin,
then i will consider us more human.

sometimes you’re the echo,
one that grows in the wet wall of my body when i am lonely.

i want to pour my skin on the kitchen table until it reaches the other end.
you’re the softness that lives in the songs on my tongue.

because you’ve always heard my first cries after every crazy heartbreaks,
because you’ve pieces of my skins inside your fingernails,
because you’ve given me a love greater than a god,

i will filter our pictures into black & white.

my mother said all best friends’ pictures that are filtered in black & white never die.


Jeremy T. Karn writes from somewhere in Liberia. His work had appeared and forthcoming in 20.35: Contemporary African Poets Volume III anthology, The Whale Road, Ice Floe Press, ARTmosterrific, The Rising Phoenix, Kalahari Review, The African Writers, Praxis Online Magazine, Shallow Tales Review, The Kissing Dynamite, Madness Muse Press and elsewhere. His chapbook (Miryam Magdalit) has been selected by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani (The African Poetry Book Fund), in collaboration with Akashic Books, for the 2021 New-Generation African Poets chapbook box set.