Poem

There, I can see it, there.

Through and by. There is a thing, beguiled with itself.

The way a loaf of bread goes hard after a few days,

                        It’s the same way, here as there.

                        Grab a drink from the freezer.

Toss back, worry not,

                        all there is;

                                    is moderation and its contention.

Andrew Hutto is a GTA fellow at the University of Louisville pursuing a master’s degree in English. He was awarded third place in the 2020 Flo Gault Poetry Prize and second place in the second annual Poetry Derby hosted at Churchill Downs. In the summer of 2019, he served as a preliminary judge for the Louisville Literary Arts Writer’s Block Prize. Presently he serves on the Pine Row Press editorial board. His work appears in Thrush Poetry Journal, The Weekly Degree°, Cathexis Northwest Press, Math Magazine, Poet Lore, High Shelf, Twyckenham Notes, and previously in Eunoia Review.

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Shuffling

Chewing repeated phrases.
                        Naming everything evergreen
                        From spring to spring, it’s silent,

Except for the naming.
That contains the world.

                        The egg yolk runs out of the eggshell,
                        The photograph captures your back,
                        at the stove,
                                                turning it over.

Andrew Hutto is a GTA fellow at the University of Louisville pursuing a master’s degree in English. He was awarded third place in the 2020 Flo Gault Poetry Prize and second place in the second annual Poetry Derby hosted at Churchill Downs. In the summer of 2019, he served as a preliminary judge for the Louisville Literary Arts Writer’s Block Prize. Presently he serves on the Pine Row Press editorial board. His work appears in Thrush Poetry Journal, The Weekly Degree°, Cathexis Northwest Press, Math Magazine, Poet Lore, High Shelf, Twyckenham Notes, and previously in Eunoia Review.

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Yes and So

Perhaps, it goes like so.

            An heure, an elegy, smoking a few, catching on.

There’re slabs of mind out here.
Same as it is for you for me.

Andrew Hutto is a GTA fellow at the University of Louisville pursuing a master’s degree in English. He was awarded third place in the 2020 Flo Gault Poetry Prize and second place in the second annual Poetry Derby hosted at Churchill Downs. In the summer of 2019, he served as a preliminary judge for the Louisville Literary Arts Writer’s Block Prize. Presently he serves on the Pine Row Press editorial board. His work appears in Thrush Poetry Journal, The Weekly Degree°, Cathexis Northwest Press, Math Magazine, Poet Lore, High Shelf, Twyckenham Notes, and previously in Eunoia Review.

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Rather

Perhaps, a crow.
            Perhaps circling, landing, crowing.

There’s a metal rod in his knee that gets ice cold in February.

            Sits by the electric heater, mutters “hmm”.

Perhaps, a comet comes and wipes us all out.

            That’d be something.

                        Then it’s like it was, vague, translucent, and burgeoning.

Andrew Hutto is a GTA fellow at the University of Louisville pursuing a master’s degree in English. He was awarded third place in the 2020 Flo Gault Poetry Prize and second place in the second annual Poetry Derby hosted at Churchill Downs. In the summer of 2019, he served as a preliminary judge for the Louisville Literary Arts Writer’s Block Prize. Presently he serves on the Pine Row Press editorial board. His work appears in Thrush Poetry Journal, The Weekly Degree°, Cathexis Northwest Press, Math Magazine, Poet Lore, High Shelf, Twyckenham Notes, and previously in Eunoia Review.

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Mostly air

In the Book of Common Prayer funerals
When they commit the body to the earth they say:
Earth to earth
Ashes to ashes
Dust to dust.
This is not the whole story.
Look how small a fraction of a human
Remains after cremation.

Yes, my bones are of the earth
But my flesh, my flesh is air:
The condensate of clouds
Thatched upright
By the unburning of plants
All stitched up with nitrogen
That germs and now humans
Have learnt to hew from the sky,

And like air we mix:
Already the breath of this poem is in your lungs,
My oxygen, now carbon-coupled
Eats at your bones,
Which dissolve and rebuild in the calcium of your blood,
In this way, even your skeleton is liquid.

For life is fluid.
Evolution remembers you as a bubble of brine,
Sea-sludge, fringed with rock-phosphor,
Both soft cauldron and book-spine
For the fearful alchemy of your essence.

At newer funerals they read new liturgy:
How energy is indestructible
How we are all stardust.
This too is not the whole story.
Though surely all heavy elements must come from suns,
The iron in my veins is more than merely starburnt,
It is the ashest of ashes,
Ash of a Supernova, brilliant beyond all concept
Fire beyond fire that outshines whole galaxies.
And the hydrogen inside us
Is primal light congealed,
And if it did pass through stars
It did so unchanged.

Yet this is not all my story.
Your piss runs in my blood
My soot sparks inside your skull
And the intonation of your tongue colours my words
For our brains, like our flesh, are air.

Robin Lamboll researches climate change and human emissions, and writes on the intersection between the natural and the human. Robin has won Cambridge, UK and Madrid international poetry slam finals, and came second in the World Cup of Slam in 2019.

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Bioluminescence

Hawaiian bobtail squid are born as wide
eyed moustaches, blobs of speckled nothing,
ghost-babies, scared
of their own shadows. They sift
the night water for specific bacteria
to tickle into a pouch.
The bacteria live, counting themselves
            (Are we enough to act?)
            (Will the world notice us?)
When they hear the echoed
            (yes) (yes) (yes)
they luminesce
and the squid devour their own shadows.
Then every night, they feed their pouch
until it shines. To the teeth
that wait below
they become moonlight.

When the night is over and the squid
slither down to sleep in the sand
they vomit forth their brightness
until their insides dim in loneliness
and the sea is enriched with tomorrow-light.

You tell me this and I wonder
how many transparent secrets are hid
by making your viscera luminous.

Robin Lamboll researches climate change and human emissions, and writes on the intersection between the natural and the human. Robin has won Cambridge, UK and Madrid international poetry slam finals, and came second in the World Cup of Slam in 2019.

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December

   (after Merle Haggard)

if we make it
through December
I’ll rest my head
in your lap
when you let me
look up at the underside
of your pointed chin
pull your thighs and cheeks
tight to my cheek
revel in the warmth of us
that’s survived
another apocalypse
I might even
lift my lips to that
point in your neck
which juts out
just barely
like a flint
or kneecap
needing attention
I’ve never loved
a bone so much
seems a lot like me
out of place and
out of touch
lonely as fuck
lean down a little
won’t you
it’s time we both
learned how to
save us
one touch at a time
because December’s
taking root
and Spring’s not
far away

Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State and the author of four books, most recently the story collection, This is Why I Need You, out now from Ravenna Press. You can find more of his writing at https://lenkuntz.blogspot.com.

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the thin places

you’re too
thin again
like a euro
model
or ’50s
hat rack
hanging on
the hollow side
of the door
a loan
that won’t ever
get repaid
lips perked
in a question
or suggestion
i swear
i’d laugh if
i wasn’t
already mute
and too stupid
most of the time
remember the time
your brother
tried to divide us
what a ploy
what a clever boy
and god how
you cried
and cried when
he used a
blade for real
that one time
though i’m
the dark one
but it’s morning
the sun’s a
stubborn pill
no need to define
what we are / were
/ anything
come here
raggedy anne
give me your
limbs and stuffing
we made it
this far
who knows
what’s next

Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State and the author of four books, most recently the story collection, This is Why I Need You, out now from Ravenna Press. You can find more of his writing at https://lenkuntz.blogspot.com.

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Ghosts

When I wake beside my lover I do not dream of tide pools anymore,
where Amah and I searched in vain for something soft,
tilting and nudging against the dying coral.
Mother says Amah still dreams of my uncle, who was never
my uncle, only the brother of a daughter who died
in a camp where people are forgotten, in a country burned.
Amah says he is not a ghost.
Amah, who hates animals, calls his shape ngựa, or unbearable horse.
Ghosts have no shape. To have no shape
is to never have been torn from someone else’s womb.
Maybe we knew what love was once, but now
we dig cradles in the wet earth, and linger by
the house on the second street removed from ours,
where the white cat with a little pink tongue
leaves no shadow in the windows.

Angeline Truong is a master’s student at Stanford University in Community Health and Prevention Research. She is passionate about refugee health and intergenerational trauma, and seeks to understand her community and history through poetry and medicine.

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For now, there is only

the children, / being Croods. Savage, incoherent, / burly, loud. Wrestling egos, and language / of cosmic despairing contrasts? I wonder / if I am the necessary color / or flower, or gentle pond amidst disorder. / Are they in need of order? Are they / unknowingly in search of some peace / in their trumpet calls for war? Are they / just being children? Stifling my innate cruelty, the hands / of my ancestors, clipped. Hurt them / not. See them as they are. Break / the curse.

For now, / there is only the children sitting down with the child / in me, asking the adult to quiet / the Croods, to silence the savage / within. There is only the children, settling / into bedrooms, setting their own suns, / softly fading voices, naturally, on their own. / Toys are collected, the girl sweetly hums / with a movie. The little boy follows / the big burlies almost-men to their caves.

For now, / hearts are satiated by the smacking and laughing. Nothing / was undone, nothing done. The gentle pond / smiles.

Noeme Grace C. Tabor-Farjani has authored Letters from Libya, a chapbook of short memoirs that chronicled her family’s escape from the Second Libyan Civil War in 2014. A featured writer at the digital exhibits of New York-based The Aerogramme Center for Arts and Culture and England-based Floresta, her works have been published in Dream Journal (US), Global Poemic (India), Luna Luna (US), Fahmidan (Kuwait), 433 (US), Milly Magazine (New Zealand), Rogue Agent (US), Cicada (Hong Kong/Japan), and Harpy Hybrid Review (US), and are forthcoming from The Font – A Literary Journal for Language Teachers (Australia), Dreich Magazine (Scotland), Cobra Milk (US), and Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine (Hong Kong). Her PhD dissertation focused on flow psychological theory in creative writing pedagogy. She teaches high school humanities courses in the southern Philippines and is currently working on a chapbook of poems on spirituality and the body. You can find her on Facebook.

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Firefly Nightlights

The firefly flickers in my loosely closed fist, its light seeping between my fingers like silent Morse code. It could be sending an insect S.O.S. out into the world for all I know, calling for help to escape the cage of my hand. I unlatch my fingers one at a time, ready to seize the tiny creature if it tries to fly off. But it stays put, blinking its mysterious iridescent message. I study it for a moment, as I imagine the first entomologist studied it hundreds of years ago trying to understand the witchcraft of its light.

My mother used to look at fireflies in just this way when I was child. The spring I turned seven, she taught me how to reach for them delicately with cupped hands and coax them from the air and into my palms rather than swiping at them wildly and scaring them off. My mother was the most delicate woman I’ve ever known, like a porcelain ballerina who seemed to glide on tip-toes through the house whenever she dusted, gathered dirty laundry, cooked dinner. She also taught me how to fill a blue Mason jar with dozens of fireflies, turning it into an ethereal nightlight that flickered with an otherworldly green on my bedside table.

My mother taught me these things after my father left us the winter I turned six. Before then, my mother devoted most of her energy to him, doting on him, fussing over him, and generally answering his every beck and call. I’m not saying that my mother neglected me. I’m not saying that at all. She made sure that I was fed good meals, that my long, dark hair was always clean and braided, and that I fell asleep every night to her voice reading Grimms’ Fairy Tales in hushed tones. But spending time teaching me how to catch fireflies in just the right way was something that she had little time for when my father was still with us. The day he left seemed to close one door inside my mother and open up another door to a place where she found me waiting. From that day on, my mother devoted all of her energy to me, doted on me, fussed over me, and answered my every beck and call, though I rarely becked and called her without good reason.

I loved my mother, and I loved all the attention that she paid me. But I also felt sorry for my mother. I knew that the empty, dented place on her left ring finger was a wound that would never scar over completely. She never wore another real ring on that finger, and I watched her rub that spot absentmindedly every day for the remaining years of her life. When my mother died of ovarian cancer nineteen years to the day after my father left, I knew that whatever tumor grew inside her had been planted there by my father on that day. I held her hand as she drew in then released a final small breath, rubbing her wounded ring finger for her until she died.

I call Lillie over, pulling her away from picking a bouquet of the pink and purple columbines that grow wild in our yard. I show her the glowing jewel glittering in my hand.

“Remember how I told you that Grandma was the one who taught me to catch fireflies in just the right way?” Lillie drops the flowers at her feet and nods, transfixed by the light at the center my palm. “I was the same age you are now. And we used to fill jars up, too, like your jar. And just like you will do tonight, I used to fall asleep with a firefly nightlight next to my bed.”

“Did Grandma read you bedtime stories?” Lillie asks, never taking her eyes off of the light.

“Yes she did. Every night. The same stories I read you.”

“Did Grandpa read you stories?”

I stiffen for an instant, hopefully without Lillie noticing. She has never asked about my father before, and I have never mentioned my father to her. As an only child, a child born from an anonymous donor, a child who never had a father of her own, a child who seemed unfazed and perfectly happy with all the ways I have devoted all of my energy to her, doted on her, fussed over her, and answered her every beck and call, she has never asked about why she has no father in her life.

“Here,” I say, as I pinch the head and thorax of the firefly between the forefinger and thumb of my left hand. “Let me show you something beautiful.” I twist the pulsing fluorescent tail off with the forefinger and thumb of my right hand, let the head and thorax fall to the ground, and then stick the glittering jewel on the ring finger of my left hand. “See? It’s a ring. A firefly ring. I can make one for you so we can be twins. Would you like that?” Lillie, mouth agape and eyes wide and bright as two small moons in the dark, nods slowly. I don’t tell her that my mother taught me that, too.

Kip Knott’s writing has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The American Journal of Poetry, Flash Fiction Magazine, MoonPark Review, Still: The Journal, and trampset. His debut full-length collection of poetry, Tragedy, Ecstasy, Doom, and so on, is available from Kelsay Books. His new full-length collection of poetry, Clean Coal Burn, is forthcoming later this year, also from Kelsay Books. More of his work may be accessed at https://www.kipknott.com.

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Cobalt

Let me tell you about cobalt, how it resembles silver but when you smelt it, the noxious fumes make you sick, how we radiate cancer with it, charge our phones, and glaze our pottery blue. Let me tell you how that goblin left the forest.

The miners burned it and then their lungs burned, too. They stripped themselves of their dusty yellow suits in Germany and left the woods with it. The cows in Australia ate grass growing on volcanic ash that didn’t have enough cobalt, so they grew sick. It’s the same old story—too much of something is bad, too little just as bad. It’s the same old story of balance—so boring.

Cobalt slept soundly in the earth with copper and nickel. It was a dreaming baby turned cantankerous and colicky because of the noise of traffic, the children hacking away at it in the Congo, the way fire burned it. We like to put everything on fire to see what happens.

You see, every house burns down eventually. You can manufacture flame-resistant blankets with batteries of cobalt but you can’t protect the wood, especially after you’ve cut down the trees. You need it for the walls. You steal nails from the fallen god and build the frames. You install windows and even their glass will return to fire.

Every element wants to go home to the sun. It’s the same old story; you just forgot to tell it to the children. They play under its golden orb, grasping the chain of old swings, flying through the air as if there were no tomorrow.

Kika Dorsey is a poet and fiction writer in Boulder, Colorado, and lives with her two children, husband, and pets. Her books include Beside Herself (Flutter Press, 2010) and three full-length collections, Rust, Coming Up for Air (Word Tech Editions, 2016, 2018), and Occupied: Vienna is a Broken Man & Daughter of Hunger (Pinyon Publishing, 2020). She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times. Currently, she is an instructor of English at Front Range Community College and works as a writing coach, editor, tutor, and ghostwriter. In her free time she swims miles in pools and runs and hikes in the open space of Colorado’s mountains and plains.

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how her legs were roots

when in lockdown
you dream of rising mercury
falling stars
of trimming blackberry bushes
that threaten to take over the garden
dream of your father
crushing all his pills
white as mourning dove feathers
powder as light
as your resolve
to better a day
how it can blow away in April winds
how you think when you awake
the sun may burn brighter
and your dead father
may turn up alive
eating blackberries and cream

when in lockdown
the mountain lions descend from mountains
the goats eat the thistle
and the robin is fat with egg
you can’t find her nest
because all you know
is your own
with its ground coffee
green blankets
bottle of whiskey
photo of a jungle
you go lost in
to then finally find the hut
your calves covered in leeches
your sweat the sea

and maybe Eve
only ate the fruit
because she was hungry
and thirsty for its water
sick of trudging
on tangled roots
with vines falling
on the jungle floor
and she falling
because there was nowhere
more to go
and she itched for release
and she knew
that to know
was to see
how the body gave up
blood and sweat
how her legs were roots

when in lockdown
you can’t visit your father’s grave
under the dogwood
where they hacked its roots
for his coffin
filled with bone and silk
and your days
bleed into each other
become eternal
because a god died
someone has given up
and asked you not to
that kind of paradox
a parent’s wish
a ghost haunting
the home you can’t leave
closing its windows
and opening its walls
asking you
to look inside

Kika Dorsey is a poet and fiction writer in Boulder, Colorado, and lives with her two children, husband, and pets. Her books include Beside Herself (Flutter Press, 2010) and three full-length collections, Rust, Coming Up for Air (Word Tech Editions, 2016, 2018), and Occupied: Vienna is a Broken Man & Daughter of Hunger (Pinyon Publishing, 2020). She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times. Currently, she is an instructor of English at Front Range Community College and works as a writing coach, editor, tutor, and ghostwriter. In her free time she swims miles in pools and runs and hikes in the open space of Colorado’s mountains and plains.

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Ode to the Other Three People Looking at This Item Right Now

After these strange months
of walking alone around my own house,
I have found you, the other three people
who are eyeing the teal, round faux fur accent pillow
with the velvet button plugged in the middle.
Last of its line, the only color left,
it satisfies a certain nostalgia.
We may be the kind of people who find
the oldest store in any town.
Here, we are thinking this hoary plot
of faux green fur, like wild acres in the frontier,
could be the new start that we need.
We could all be filling the hole of grief,
this pillow a respite in the reach of the couch,
the other person who sat there gone.
Or perhaps we believe we can balance
our sense of being out of place
on the accent pillow that will match the sofa
with the curtain on the other side of the room.
Our item is still in stock, ready for pick-up.
It seems we might rendezvous
at my closest store, in Leominster,
home of Johnny Appleseed,
but I remember now you
could be anywhere in the world
and I will never meet you.
Still, we will lean back on the same thing,
as if in prayer or deep considering
before the dog pulls us out the door,
along the icy sidewalk,
and stops by the oak tree
while we let our eyes settle
on the window of another house,
a light by a chair, a TV on,
a photo we can’t see hung on the wall.

Elizabeth Crowell was born and raised in New Jersey. She has a BA in English from Smith College and an MFA in poetry from Columbia University. She has taught high school and college English. She lives outside Boston with her wife and two children.

Her work has been included in Bellevue Literary Review, where it has twice won the non-fiction prize, The Tishman Review, Raven’s Edge, and most recently, Levee.

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Ode to the Bottom of My Son’s Backpack on the Occasion of His Twelfth Birthday

Each day is a gathering of things,
plastic rings, acorns, sticks,
the pointed, red maple leaves of other seasons,
erasers with their erased corners, pencils,
broken-tipped, a glossary of earth –
dirt, rock, his own continental drift.
And somewhere in the belly of the canvas
is homework done but not turned in,
scribbled in pencil, now folded like
ancient fans for ladies of the court.
He has begun to suffer from
this human, unfair question:
“If you did it, where is it?”

And deeper still a mad, rushed,
thick-marked sketch of a movie theater
from 1929, the lettering of some
film he someday hopes to make,
so imagined only the title is set.
And if we could see it, flutter-click,
we would see a streaming light
in technicolor with a a bubbly, scratched
soundtrack of bliss.
May all years be like this.

Elizabeth Crowell was born and raised in New Jersey. She has a BA in English from Smith College and an MFA in poetry from Columbia University. She has taught high school and college English. She lives outside Boston with her wife and two children.

Her work has been included in Bellevue Literary Review, where it has twice won the non-fiction prize, The Tishman Review, Raven’s Edge, and most recently, Levee.

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Uncut Cords

He is long-legged and freckled, like me, but taller, taller even
than his father, tall enough for his chin to settle on my scalp.
The fists that were tight and waving in his cradle are large,
attached to a man’s arms and a man’s shoulders and a man’s

body. He used to fit inside of me. My belly was flat and then
round and rolling as he moved, flipped, kicked, swam, and fought
his way out of my womb, screamed at the air that dared to seep
into his lungs. He held his daddy’s finger and was quiet

while I lay in a puddle of leftover pain and slept. Last week, he drove
me home. I was exhausted, mourning my older brother’s death, and my son
took my keys, turned my car onto the road, hit the brakes but not too hard,
and safely delivered me to the house that holds our family. He used to cry

when I would drive him anywhere. I washed his skin with a soft baby
cloth, kissed forehead and nose. I wrapped him tight like a burrito
in his blanket, rocked and sang off-key and dreamed of the man he would
grow up to be. He unfolds himself from the driver’s seat, walks away.

He cannot even see the cord
that connects him back to me.

Heather Truett is an MFA candidate at the University of Memphis and an #actuallyautistic author. Her debut novel, Kiss and Repeat, is forthcoming from Macmillan in 2021. She has published poetry and short fiction with Tipton Poetry Journal, Panoply, Drunk Monkeys, Young Adult Review Network, and others. Heather is represented by Hilary Harwell at KT Literary and serves as a poetry editor for The Pinch. Find out more at http://heathertruett.com or visit her on Twitter (@mmerubies).

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Dahlia | Cut them early

It’s too soon in the day to be loud.
There is only an echo of birds talking over garden fences;
morning buds, stretching to a wide open yawn.

The heat of the day hasn’t stressed the flowers.
The sun, also, only just waking
in time to kiss goodbye to the moon.

And I pick them. Select ones only just blooming –
not tight in growth, nor full-bodied.
I soak their feet in warm water,

pedicure their toes to a slant and feed them
as often as their wilting leaves ask.
I will care for each, and consider it practice.

Charley Barnes is an author and academic from the West Midlands, UK. At present, she is a Lecturer in Creative and Professional Writing at the University of Wolverhampton. Charley borrows from folklore, plantlore and nature to inform her poetry. However, as Charlotte Barnes, she writes crime and psychological thrillers. Charley is the Editor of Dear Reader and the Managing Director of Sabotage Reviews.

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Ranunculus sceleratus | Cursed to quiet

Imagine, assuming this space was one in which to flex
his throat muscles; call to hummingbirds
and half-asleep flower buds
to disturb their natural order.

The boy – Ranunculus, they called him – looked gold,
green-tinted. He thought himself welcome
in his silks with soft singing.

But the forest is a near silent space. We, who live
within the tree stumps only need the hurry of rivers,
the growth of uneven turf
and the groan of petals stretching.

So we cursed him clad in nature’s clothing;
re-imagined his song, now a harmony with others –
gave him a gift of quiet.

*Legend tells of a Libyan boy, named Ranunculus, who had a beautiful voice. He was always seen in green and gold silks. However, when he entered the forest one day, singing, the wood nymphs – desperate for their peace and quiet – turned him into a green and gold flower.

Charley Barnes is an author and academic from the West Midlands, UK. At present, she is a Lecturer in Creative and Professional Writing at the University of Wolverhampton. Charley borrows from folklore, plantlore and nature to inform her poetry. However, as Charlotte Barnes, she writes crime and psychological thrillers. Charley is the Editor of Dear Reader and the Managing Director of Sabotage Reviews.

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Centaurium | Pedanius Dioscorides*

He prescribed it as an emmenagogue –
to bring on the bleeding

in a time when physician and botanist
was a single profession, and words

could always be trusted
provided they came from the mouths of men.

But I look for ways to ease the flow,
so this body can rest from the shedding.

Ways to recalibrate imbalance,
or clear out messes from the floor.

And I wonder at Pedanius’ uses.
If he wanted to rush discomfort –

if the bleeds were too much for him to bare.

*Pedanius Dioscordies was a Greek physician and botanist who reportedly prescribed Centaurium as a emmenagogue – a substance that stimulates menstruation.

Charley Barnes is an author and academic from the West Midlands, UK. At present, she is a Lecturer in Creative and Professional Writing at the University of Wolverhampton. Charley borrows from folklore, plantlore and nature to inform her poetry. However, as Charlotte Barnes, she writes crime and psychological thrillers. Charley is the Editor of Dear Reader and the Managing Director of Sabotage Reviews.

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Fortunella japonica | Golden peel*

Palm up, I pass the zest to you,
fingertip sprinkle it on your outstretched tongue,
like a November frost touching grass.

It’s sweet, this peel, either tangerine or golden.
But when you bite the innards – “Here,” I say,
“taste for me.” – your eyes tip back, clench
closed; your mouth contorts with wincing.

I will wipe the juice away, then, and remind you
how some things wear their bitterness
beneath the skin.

*Fortunella japonica is also known as golden orange or tangerine. The skin of the fruit is sweet, but the innards are often surprisingly tart or bitter.

Charley Barnes is an author and academic from the West Midlands, UK. At present, she is a Lecturer in Creative and Professional Writing at the University of Wolverhampton. Charley borrows from folklore, plantlore and nature to inform her poetry. However, as Charlotte Barnes, she writes crime and psychological thrillers. Charley is the Editor of Dear Reader and the Managing Director of Sabotage Reviews.

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Things We Saw When We Dreamed of You

I.

A stork. Three times in three days
above a narrow street by the freeway

bobbing on a willow branch, regal
and white, unreachably high.

We caught its gaze on evening walks
from separate offices to the bus stop.

II.

Kids. On television, computers, on every black
screen. They encircled our home, scrambled

over fences through neighbors’ gardens, growing
louder by the hour, as if they’d materialized

from sunlight, as if your mother and I had never
been young. We no longer knew how to treat

our nieces or the toddlers that clung to our friends’
chests. Sometimes they shined as warm beacons

across a table. Other days their wide eyes pulled us
into night where your absence pressed our backs

against the mattress, wrung sweat from our necks
damping our stiff sheets. We quietly believed

our friends had taken the last children as more
arrived through their open doors. We turned

our attention to closing our windows
lowering our blinds. We told ourselves

we were shaping the space
necessary to prepare for you.

III.

A bee, hovering above the pollen-stained driveway
nudging fallen flowers beneath the jacaranda tree.

Josef Lemoine is a Filipino-American writer living in Southern California with his wife, son, and daughter. His work was published in Word Riot, RipRap, The Legendary, and Boston Literary Magazine. For now, his writing can still be found in DOGZPLOT, Bending Genres, and Medium. A poem of his will be included in Sh!t Men Say to Me: A Poetry Anthology in Response to Toxic Masculinity from Moon Tide Press. In February 2021, Josef was featured as Moon Tide Press’s poet of the month.

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Through Burnout, the Planet Still Spins

i.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it
anymore. My friends say I’ve grown
too saturnine, but—the world’s on fire.
We should be fired, or ousted: we have been
the worst kind of landlord to this home.
In the time it takes for Saturn to orbit
the Sun one time, the Earth may become
unrecognizable. Why send out poetry?
Why write at all? How pitiful to want to leave
some mark, any mark; how narcissistic
to believe my voice is worthy
of being lifted. Incredible that we sing
anything other than requiems.

ii.
Holst called Saturn the bringer of old age,
but the planet was named for the god of plenty,
of festivals and farming, whose rule was free
of labor, a golden age. How strange we’ve erased this. Joy
can be an act of resistance, it’s true. It seems selfish to wallow
in it like a child in a ball pit, to throw ourselves in
like a landed salmon thrashing till it snaps
the line that hooked it, slipping back into the river.
But what else is there?

            (iii.
            —We know what else. We know
            how to say “this is fine,” and mean it
            while the room is burning around us.
            We understand how to keep going.)

iv.
I think a lot about how Cassini sent us pictures for years
before we immolated it in Saturn’s atmosphere.
Cassini couldn’t think or feel, but in a poem
I can say sie could. Sie shutter-clicked as fast as
possible, smiled at moonrise, knew sier time was up

v.
and sent the photos anyway. Sie didn’t regret
the long cold dark of the journey, or the flame
at its end. Sie knew any microbes would sear
against sier body, which meant Saturn’s moons
would remain uncolonized—unlike Earth’s
moon, now home to tardigrades capable of
surviving extreme temperatures: invaded
accidentally, a cause for concern—

            vi.
            The point is, sie sent the pictures.
            The point is, sie gave us something
            even as sie fell.

Gretchen Rockwell is a queer poet currently living in Scotland. Xe is the author of two micro chapbooks and a forthcoming chapbook from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press; xer work has most recently appeared in perhappened mag, Whale Road Review, Poet Lore, FreezeRay Poetry, and elsewhere. Gretchen enjoys writing poetry about gender, history, myth, science, space, and unusual connections – find xer at https://www.gretchenrockwell.com or on Twitter at @daft_rockwell.

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Self-Portrait as Praying Mantis in 3D Glasses

Despite outperforming all the undergraduates
with my sense of vision, I am unaware
of my great accomplishments. I strut

jerkily through life, focused
on snatching what I can from the air,
on surviving. My largest concern is how to

sustain myself, not how I look doing it.
Just observe what I can do, and learn.
Often, I look a little ridiculous—until

I act, then I’m all energy and detailed strokes.
I’ll bite off anyone’s head if you let me.
The only thing that matters to me is motion.

Gretchen Rockwell is a queer poet currently living in Scotland. Xe is the author of two micro chapbooks and a forthcoming chapbook from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press; xer work has most recently appeared in perhappened mag, Whale Road Review, Poet Lore, FreezeRay Poetry, and elsewhere. Gretchen enjoys writing poetry about gender, history, myth, science, space, and unusual connections – find xer at https://www.gretchenrockwell.com or on Twitter at @daft_rockwell.

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Another Bird Poem II

I thought I was done writing about birds
but I forgot the terror birds. Forget the T. rex,
terror birds were worse: flourishing in the vacuum
of the disappeared dinosaurs, their dominion spanned
South America before they migrated north to master
two continents. There’s disagreement over how they fed—
kicking out with those terrible lizard feet, biting horses in half,
maybe using their head to bludgeon their food to death—forget
the method. It’s enough to envision the towering toucan,
three meters tall, big beak, flightless wings, looming over
some prone prey-body, descending. Their sole descendants,
the seriemas, share sharp talons and a territorial temper
with their forerunners, though they are much diminished. Surely
that scion fought its decline into shrunken bones and short
flights, yelping loud alarms to what was left of their kin.
Scientists surmise what finally wiped the terror birds out
was a change in climate, compounded by an inability to adapt.
Existence requires a gradual acclimation of the body
to the climate it now endures, and failure to evolve
has always meant extinction as long as nothing else
destroys you first. There’s no way to become what we
once were, but to be the shadow of our former selves
can be enough—as long as we survive in some small way.

Gretchen Rockwell is a queer poet currently living in Scotland. Xe is the author of two micro chapbooks and a forthcoming chapbook from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press; xer work has most recently appeared in perhappened mag, Whale Road Review, Poet Lore, FreezeRay Poetry, and elsewhere. Gretchen enjoys writing poetry about gender, history, myth, science, space, and unusual connections – find xer at https://www.gretchenrockwell.com or on Twitter at @daft_rockwell.

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Another Bird Poem

There are too many poems about birds,
a poetry article advised. Write about something
fresh.
Fair enough. Poetry that doesn’t use birds
as a metaphor for escape or freedom is scarce
as hen’s teeth. The thing about birds is
they used to be dinosaurs. We make such a clamor
over our history, a pack of cackling grackles over
genetics and heritage. Do birds, somewhere deep
in the strands of their phalanges, remember their glory days?
Not only the scope of their spread, their dominion
over a vastly different globe, but of their bodies: pulsing
with blood, fast, agile, feathered, the flight of their prey
before them? Sometimes the gleam of malevolence
in goose eyes makes me wonder. But if they do,
what then? The world only moves forward, and their mastery
has shrunk till it rests in their hollow bones only, in the gaps
where beaks replace teeth in most birds. They are diminished—
or diminutive, though in the hulk of vultures or the fury
of cassowaries a shadow of their former selves still lurks.
Birds now, though, do more than their ancestors
in one aspect. They are no longer bound to brief glides:
they soar and swoop and sustain flight for miles
upon ceaseless miles. The thing about poetry is
it’s always trying to remind the birds of this.

Gretchen Rockwell is a queer poet currently living in Scotland. Xe is the author of two micro chapbooks and a forthcoming chapbook from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press; xer work has most recently appeared in perhappened mag, Whale Road Review, Poet Lore, FreezeRay Poetry, and elsewhere. Gretchen enjoys writing poetry about gender, history, myth, science, space, and unusual connections – find xer at https://www.gretchenrockwell.com or on Twitter at @daft_rockwell.

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