to william carlos williams: take me from my skin, make me a river rock again | K. Persinger

there is a boy in my class who looks like he could
catch a bird out of the brush with his bare hands:
a gentleness i cannot mirror, though i long to;
i picked my patron saint out of spite & i fear that
this is the way of all loving

i have forgotten how to pray: this is not to say
that there is no divinity here between us,
in this; merely that i do not know what to do
with it.
God presses His fingers against my
closed eyelids with so much tenderness
that i wish the fruit had truly killed me
it is too much.

let us pretend for the space of this moment
that my hands, my mouth, could pluck, unprotected,
the fruit of the cactus out from between its thorns
and come way unbloody,

that i could unbind & breathe deeply & the sun
would shine so brightly we would burn with it—
if you closed your eyes and kissed me, how would i
taste different from any other man?

 


Writer’s Commentary 

Drawing from the lines “through metaphor to reconcile / the people and the stones” from “A Sort of Song” by William Carlos Williams, which have always resonated with me, this poem is a meditation on the longing for tender love as a queer nonbinary person, and the struggle to accept it.

 


 

K. Persinger is a Southern Californian poet and an undergraduate student double majoring in Comparative Literature and Anthropology and double minoring in Gender & Sexuality Studies and Archaeology. Their work can be found in The Wall, Neon Anteater Renaissance, New Forum, Rising Phoenix Review, L’Éphémère Review, and Werkloos Mag, as well as on their blog ashandabstraction.tumblr.com.

Sestina for a Hunter | Emily Pollock

Contains references to animal death and bloody imagery

Smeared with your fingers, the blood
clings to the curves of your pretty mouth,
sweetness pulled from the meat of a rabbit
from the richred veins of its beating heart;
you wash your face, hands cupped, in the stream
and form a prayer to the rabbit, a song.

Wind presses through the forest song—
like, a pulse of the world, a blood.
like veins, the life of the forest is the stream
which you greedily cut open and lift to your mouth.
The flesh of the world feeds your own small heart
cut open, hunting and seeking another rabbit.

In another leaf-soaked hollow you find the rabbit
and clutch it by its foot, your knife a song
of tendon and marrow until it reaches the heart.
Your hands cup its fragile body, the blood
running to the uncertain earth which opens like a mouth.
You kneel with its animal body watching the blood, a stream.

Autumn slips through the days you count by the leaves on the stream;
you carve charms from the bones of the rabbit
and let your furwrapped feet carry you to the water’s mouth.
the stream spills from the rocks carving a song
that sounds like your veins full of blood,
rabbit-like. You press your cheek to the beating heart.

Tangled stony tree-roots cup handlike the heart
of the forest. You climb the tree, your feet hanging in the stream
of cold air wrapping around the bark. Lungs that feed your blood
gulp the aching breeze, your gaze of a rabbit
watching the leaves sing the chorus of a song.
The words you don’t quite forget cling to your mouth.

The taste of rabbit blood and stream water cling to your mouth-
The veins that feed your body like the forest feeds your heart.
Rabbits do not sing but their bones play a song,
one that flows from your lips as a stream,
your own cold bones remember those of the rabbit,
your blood its blood, the earth’s blood, the life-blood.

Your mouth tells your throat that it is a stream
of your body, your heart beats like the rabbit’s
and your blood remembers its song.

 


Writer’s Commentary

Sestina for a Hunter was written as my practicing the sestina poem form.

 


Emily Pollock is an undergraduate student of history at Boston College. She gains the majority of her writing inspiration from her studies and her long-term passion for history. As a high school student, she received multiple honors from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. She also published with and edited her school’s literary magazine. As a current full-time college student, she dedicates her writing ability to many, many historiography papers and some poems on the side just for fun. She was most recently published in The Laughing Medusa at Boston College. She is sometimes located on Twitter @crowsnestgirl and on Instagram @middlenamekendall.

Song of Francis | Emily Pollock

Here one minute, gone
The next. Brief
candle. A short-matched
life—a garden of steel,
a city of dirt,
and one final bright flame.
Left with only words. Blue ink
fingers. What were you thinking?

Willow-tree heart, soft
over the water. These
are the threads
you leave. One last muddy letter
clasped in a baby’s fist. Somewhere
you are in sunlight and bright
breeze, laughing, where only
the faerie-king lives, and

somewhere you are shining bright
and gold in the gaslight, but I do not
know where—one last
moment in the light, bright, brief, blazing,
then the curtain falls. (Gone.)

 


Writer’s Commentary

Song of Francis is inspired by the life and legacy of the young and little-known First World War poet, Francis Fowler Hogan. Frank, a native of the factory town of Pittsburgh, PA, USA, was only 21 when he was killed in the Argonne Forest in France on October 17, 1918. At the time, he was in his first year as a drama student at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University.) He was also a promising poet, published in the chapbook Carnegie Tech War Verse as well as the magazine The New Republic. My poem is inspired by his poems and by a memorial poem written for him by his friend and fellow soldier Hervey Allen.

 


Emily Pollock is an undergraduate student of history at Boston College. She gains the majority of her writing inspiration from her studies and her long-term passion for history. As a high school student, she received multiple honors from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. She also published with and edited her school’s literary magazine. As a current full-time college student, she dedicates her writing ability to many, many historiography papers and some poems on the side just for fun. She was most recently published in The Laughing Medusa at Boston College. She is sometimes located on Twitter @crowsnestgirl and on Instagram @middlenamekendall.

Genesis | Emily Bell

And what am I going to make of myself?
Lay on hands and mould the mouldering earth
Not from a rib but from a tooth
Precious, hard, for biting

 


Dr Emily Bell is a writer and historian, based in Loughborough, UK. She is currently writing a new biography of Charles Dickens for Reaktion Books, and she’s been published in Ink Pantry and elsewhere. She tweets at @EmilyJLB.

Father on the Alligator | James Miller

I am looking at photos of your time in California.
The war has ended. You’re the youngest in the family portrait—
fourteen, fifteen? Bellyful with midcentury cornbread,
oversalted collards on the gut. And another:

on a dare your brother has sent you into the alligator’s
sandy circle. Here you are, saddling its ribbed back,
your feet planted in the dust just behind his flailing foreclaws.
You won’t smile for the camera, nor the crowd of kids

standing round the cast-iron railing. I am going to say
it is August 1946, but who knows? Let’s assume your mother
whipped you off that rough beast and whupped you
on the boardwalk. But who took the picture?

There is humor in your knees, and your knees know it.
When you hopped across the gator’s fence, they twinged
and chucked under-breath. All afternoon they have tried
to get you laughing: What are we doing here

in Steinbeck country, on this tepid coast? Is it not time
to learn a trade? Raise a brood in Arkansas, round Eureka
Springs, frozen Lake Lucerne? But you’re heavy, too heavy
to lift. Sack-skin filled up with damp, quartz-glint sand.

 


James Miller is a native of Houston, Texas.  His poems have appeared in Cold Mountain ReviewThe Maine ReviewLullwater ReviewLunch Ticket, Gravel, Main Street RagVerdadJukedThe Shore, Menacing HedgeCalifragileMeat for Tea,  PlainsongsThe Atlanta ReviewSheila-Na-GigRogue Agent, and elsewhere.

Orange Rocks | Joey Nicoletti

I’m not a superhero, but can I be
in charge, the master of my own narrative?

When I was a child, there was a day
when my mother was an enormous bruise, swelling

on a thigh of mid-July sky. She
told me she was leaving my father. We were

in a bookstore. “I won’t suffer fools
in any form,” she said to me. Swear to god

that you won’t, too, Joefish.” I agreed.
My mother nodded her head, then handed me

a comic: Marvel Two in One. The
Thing: Ben Grimm and Doc Savage punched through a wall

on the smooth cover. I remember
wanting to feel as powerful, as resolved

as they were, as my mother was
that afternoon. Alas. I could not control

the dynamics around me. I still
can’t. But looking back, I can track my first sense

of concern; of worrying about
someone else’s well-being to this book, and

I hear the orange rocks of my mother’s
voice when I read Ben’s dialogue, the mid-day

sun’s yellow stammer, spitting
into parking lot potholes.

 


Joey Nicoletti is the author of four poetry books, most recently Boombox Serenade (BlazeVOX, 2019). His Pushcart Prize-nominated work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Drawn to Marvel: Poems from the Comic Books, and Poet Sounds: An Anthology Inspired by The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. He’s on Twitter @JoeyNicoletti and Instagram @joeynicoletti.

Some Memories from My Time at Uni | Thomas Morgan

I remember sitting in a
classroom
all by myself watching
Catfish
on the big screen.

I remember going to the library café
after my seminars
and shooting the shit with my
friend Ross.

I remember getting a
chicken parm from The
Deli
and taking it over to
Jubilee.

I remember having brunch with
the guys and the girls and then
walking along
the beach, throwing stones into
the sea.

All of this, I remember fondly.

But I’ll never be able to get it back.

There is nothing crueller than the
passage
of time.

 


Thomas Morgan is a writer from Worthing in West Sussex. His short story Promises was published in the 2019 Leicester Writes Short Story Prize Anthology, and his story Encounter was published online on Visual Verse.

in a flung festoon | Rekha Valliappan

looking for the ornament-studded bride under
gilt edged vermilion-red, her skin heavy-hued
in age old crimson maroon -stained coy-blush;
polished aunties frilled in pomegranate-red, be-
decked in finest silks, – rush, brush, in heavy
stampede to chase the jasmine-curtained groom,
-mounted, he on princely white charger, pale as
the sweet-scented flowers half shy-shrouded –
drum-beat drowsed -charge to the wedding party;
bangles gold-gleaming, tinkle-, panting, clicking,
singing, screaming, profusely streaming, fine-
natured jeweled crowds, encircle the auspicious
roundabout – to gaze one small glimpse of the
glare-encrusted queen.

i spin with the rest, rich rites resurged, red satin
dancing, wild to the beat, fired with the festooned
glow of age-old flow enjoined in seasoned splendor;
for how can one diverge from the old channeled
road, take the unknown one not taken, blade
ancient rituals embowered in runnels of time?

 


Writer’s Commentary

Puja (prayer), rituals, feeding fire with oblations like ghee, grains has been an important
part of my life. ‘in a flung festoon’ was written after contemplating these aspects through
dozens of marriages of family and friends. Looking at the evolutionary interplay between Meera Nanda’s bestseller The God Market (2011) where she tackles the growing
resurgence of re-ritualization so to speak among urban, educated and largely middle
classes in India and Axel Michaels’s Homo Ritualis (2016) which explains the fascinating
rites of passage traced to its original Sanskrit Vedic roots I was inspired by a where to
now moment in the mysticism and ancient practices.

 


Rekha Valliappan is a multi-genre writer of prose and poetry. She earned her MA and BA in English Literature from Madras University and her LLB (Hons) from the University of London. She has won awards and been nominated for her work and is featured in literary journals and anthologies including The Sandy River Review Online, Aaduna Literary Review, Ann Arbor Review, Dime Show Review, The Cabinet of Heed, Mason Street Review, Artifact Nouveau, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Foliate Oak Literary Review, X-R-A-Y Lit Mag, and elsewhere. Find her on Twitter @silicasun.

Kate Mulvaney Leaves Her Handprint in the Mud | Jack B. Bedell

Whenever she crosses the swamp,
she stops every quarter mile
to press her palm into the mud

at the base of palmettos. She knows
the swamp’s dead will rise up
toward the warmth she leaves,

the fan of her fingers glowing
in their dark heaven. Whatever there is
to learn from these depths

she draws toward the surface,
prays for it to follow her home
and spill itself out of the nets

she casts in her dreams, all open-eyed
and mouthing the sharp air.

 


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 ReviewBirmingham Poetry ReviewPidgeonholesThe ShoreCotton XenomorphOkay DonkeyEcoTheoThe HopperTerrainsaltfront, and other journals. His latest collection is No Brother, This Storm (Mercer University Press, 2018). He served as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.

Kate Mulvaney, Shrivening | Jack B. Bedell

Sometimes women from town tie up
to her dock with fish still fresh
from the water. Before they can tell her

what they need, she slices the fish
from jaw to tail, pulls its organs out
through the gash, and squeezes

its heart. There’s usually enough blood
to draw crosses on all the women’s
brows, enough twitch left

in the fish to last through her prayers.
Garfish are best for this, their blood
old and patient from waiting

in the deepest waters, its stain
thick enough to stay the night.

 


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 ReviewBirmingham Poetry ReviewPidgeonholesThe ShoreCotton XenomorphOkay DonkeyEcoTheoThe HopperTerrainsaltfront, and other journals. His latest collection is No Brother, This Storm (Mercer University Press, 2018). He served as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.