The boys

The boys jog around Ugie
at twilight, in the early summer.
Their chests burn,
reminiscing over winter days
spent in bed.
They sweat till they take off their damp T-shirts
and tuck them inside their shorts
or sling them over their shoulders.
They glide through the dark like ripples
and glisten like five-cent coins
from Spar
under the streetlights.
Their legs pumping and heavy,
their heads dizzy and light,
as they compete in raspy short breaths
to keep up with each other.
The mind pushes and the body is pushed
around and around this small town
as if restless and sick.

Zukisani Nongogo was born in the Eastern Cape in Mount Ayliff. He is an aspiring writer currently completing his final year as a Theatre and Performance student at the University of Cape Town.

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Electric Hymn

The electric bells in the tower ring
across the pond to the hollow tune of
“O Come Thou Fount” as they do
every Sunday morning at ten o’clock.

The trees yawn into the autumn sky.
Four geese let themselves fall gently
into the waiting November water
rippling out and away from them.

The false bells finish their dingy tune.
The echo hangs for a moment before
dissolving into gray. Nothing now but
an ecstatic flutter of wet feathers.

Everyone is asleep or at church. Or
both. But God isn’t taking attendance.
Here at the edge of the autumn pond
the geese don’t need my gaze to fly.

Michael Julian’s work has appeared in Queen Mob’s Tea House, HARK, Empty Mirror, The Altar Collective, and the EEEL. He is editor at large for Cyberhex and an MFA candidate at Pacific University. He lives in Northern California.

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Orchard Elegy

We never had a forest, only
the orchard across the street where
we crackled the shaken walnuts
beneath bare frantic feet,
yelling words our parents told us
never to say. We said them anyway
because saying them made us feel
grown up. When we did grow,
the trees became our sentinels,
guarding us as we huddled with
pilfered cigarettes and bourbon.
Despite the “No Trespassing” signs
posted on every other tree,
I go there still, walk through
the grasping branches, humming
the cadence of chronic solitude
and think of leaving to find you.
But there is enough to keep me here
beneath the hushed ovation of leaves.

Michael Julian’s work has appeared in Queen Mob’s Tea House, HARK, Empty Mirror, The Altar Collective, and the EEEL. He is editor at large for Cyberhex and an MFA candidate at Pacific University. He lives in Northern California.

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A Dead Daughter’s Poem

It’s been a long time since we played peek-a-boo,
my hair was soft with spring resting on your fingers
like innocent buds ignorant of wind and curious for dew.

I learned it so fast and hid behind my palms,
making you laugh with a spoon in your hand
and you’d search for my mouth behind my fingers,
worried that perhaps I was lost like blue into dusk.

You always found me, as I trembled at the edge
of my own eclipse and waited for your arms
to turn me into a May breeze hunting for
southern magnolias and spray them with laughter.

We were so good at pretending until one day
after I collected thousands of fallen petals
white with timid afternoons I spilled them
on your head and crowned you with surprises.

Then you decided to stay still like air inside a bubble
and I held my breath to keep you from breaking.

Aida Bode is a writer, poet and translator from Korca, Albania. She’s the author of David and Bathsheba, a novel based on the Biblical story of King David and Bathsheba, the poetic collections True Cheese and Rated, as well as a quotes collection A Commuter’s Eye View. Her prose and poetry have been published and are forthcoming in The River Muse, Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure, Vayavya, Oddball Magazine, Boston Poetry Magazine, Yellow Chair Review and more, as well as in multiple Albanian media sources outside and inside the country. She is pursuing her MFA in creative fiction at SNHU.

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In The Beginning

I like to imagine at night,
when the sky is speckled
with stars and each looks
like a different freckle on
your sleeping face,
that I was made from
your rib.

I am attached to your backbone,
giving you strength and support
whether you know it or not…

I am attached to your sternum,
curving around your organs,
like ebony and ivory keys
in a consecrated chapel,
resonating with every twist and turn
of your torso.

I am the protector of your heart,
pumping life just beneath
your chest.

I am the protector of your lungs,
aware of your constant breath,
unfailing as it travels from day
to night to day.

As you arch your back
to make love to me,
I can’t help but notice
how thin you look,
how your ribs protrude
from your skin
like a lost dog.

I want to be the meat
on your bones,
the delicious bits
you savor like memories.

I lean my head against
your ribs and count them,
as I count my blessings
to fall asleep.

Jocelyn Mosman is a junior at Mount Holyoke College, majoring in English and Politics. She is studying at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK, in the fall. She is also a member of the Northampton Poetry Slam Team competing at the National Poetry Slam this August in Oakland, CA. She has published two volumes of poetry and is currently working on a third.

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E

When I was a little boy,
Before I became a teacher,
I pronounced “vegetable” different.
I pronounced it: veh-jeh-TAY-bowl.
I didn’t realize my second grade classmates
Were giggling at me, but Mrs. Smith did.
She asked me about my pronunciation.
I told her it was the second E.
The second E, she asked, confused.
Well, the first and third Es are heard, I said,
So that second E should be heard too.
Mrs. Smith then asked me if I had siblings.
I have two sisters, I told her.
Older or younger? She asked.
One, older. One, younger.
She put her arm around me and said,
Don’t worry, you’ll be heard one day.
I didn’t know what she meant then,
I just knew I wanted to be a teacher.

Robert A. Kaufman graduated from Brown and served as a Fulbright Scholar in Oslo. His writing has been featured in Blaire Magazine, Extract(s), FD, and Fjords Review. Robert is currently a MALS student at Dartmouth studying poetry.

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A

The little boy dashed through the obsidian blanket of night cursing his first name,
                        Aaron.
                                                It was so awkward, so anachronistic, so Jewish.
            Aron would be okay, he thought, but that second A is so un-perfect.
The goyim didn’t know Aaron was pronounced Ah-Ha-Rhone by ancient Hebrews,
                                    So it wasn’t their fault they looked at that second A as a mistake.
            Aaron wondered why he was named after the Torah’s greatest hero’s brother?
                                                            Aaron’s words enfranchised enslaved Israelites,
                                                                                    But not Aaron.
                        What was that first Aaron lacking, the boy wondered?
                                                                                                What am I lacking?
            How come my parents look at me like my friends look at that second A,
                                                                        Like a mistake.
                                    How come nothing I can do can change their minds,
                        No matter how many As I get in school?
How come other little boys’ names get tucked in,
                                                But mine gets me nightrunning,
            Alone,
                                                                                    Dashed.

Robert A. Kaufman graduated from Brown and served as a Fulbright Scholar in Oslo. His writing has been featured in Blaire Magazine, Extract(s), FD, and Fjords Review. Robert is currently a MALS student at Dartmouth studying poetry.

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