by Abigail Wender

I. Last Monologue of King Kashyapa in Which He Praises His Finest Work, 5C


“My city is guarded by five hundred goddesses,
each one is a jewel dug from clay.

No one sees the goddesses without desire.
A man may be lost forever
dreaming of their pale red mouths and blue shadows.

I have built a city near to heaven.
My enemy will never understand.

They were my harem.
From villages I saved them, from the underworld
beneath the trees; mothers and fathers gave them to me freely.

The maidens praised the artists who captured them
in frescos on these high cliff walls.

Praise me: I have made them immortal.
My home is this city near to heaven.
Goddesses: protect me from my enemy!

A man may be lost forever dreaming of his enemies.
Watch over me, o goddesses,

I have built my city to rival heaven.”   

II. The Defacement, 1967


A monk looks at the ancient frescoes—

he feels a pulse
fast as the blackout
of desire

The almost naked
goddesses, platters of mango
about to fall from slender fingers

A goddess’s smoky chime of bangles,
her nipples like orchids
in wet heat

Someone calls to him, he believes, a bhikkhus, 
master from the sacred ranks of monks,
the ONE among many

From the pail, he lifts a heavy broom and sweeps—
smothers us whores with tar

Swallows, too, foul the rock face with streaks 

III.  The Goddesses’ Song  


we goddesses                                          we dance with birds
we are the words                                    written on leaves
we are gods                                             mothers of gods
we mother                                               we give birth to the gods
we are                                                     gods’ eyes

lovers come closer                                 here with us forever
we are your sisters                                 flow of water   of leaf
we are your lovers                                   rain    leaf   rice
read us                                                     arm   breast   belly
sail with the swallows                             our eyes   your eyes

below us                                                  you who made us
you who read us                                      we are fresco   we are rock
you preserve us                                       do not deceive us
we live forever                                         do not defile us   
call the swallows                                     shade our witness

call the wind                                            night protect us
the rain blows in                                      night oh protect
the sun beats                                             and rock protect us
god’s eyes                                                flute   drum   chime
our names                                                rain   rock   rice

__________________________________________________________________

Abigail Wender’s poetry and translations have appeared in The Cortland Review, Disquieting Muses Quarterly, Epiphany, Kenyon Review Online, New Orleans Review, and other journals and anthologies. Her translation of a selection of Iris Hanika’s Das Eigentliche (THE ESSENTIAL) was published in Asymptote. She is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, and lives in New York City.

by Karen George

             ~ After Mary Oliver's "Sand Dabs, Four"



Where does your breath go when you lose it? When it gets knocked out of you?

Try not to laugh at accidents.

Beneath trees, gaze up to swell your lungs, elate your heart.

Why is it you adore paisley and parsley?

Wheels of color and spirals fuel you.

Why did it take so long to fathom the sky?

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Karen George is the author of five chapbooks, and two poetry collections from Dos Madres Press, Swim Your Way Back (2014) and A Map and One Year (2018). My work has appeared or is forthcoming in Adirondack Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Naugatuck River Review, Sliver of Stone, and Still: The Journal. She reviews poetry and interviews poets at Poetry Matters, and is the co-founder and fiction editor of the online journal, Waypoints.

by Hilary Sideris

To drain our
mother’s hematoma,

they drill into her
head. Not blood,

she says, a pinkish
liquid—lymph, pus?—

pools in the space
between her brain

& skull. Our father’s
dead, a good rid-

dance. Her depth
perception’s off.

She falls & falls.  
We call it grief.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Hilary Sideris grew up in Indiana. She lives in Brooklyn and works for The City University of New York. Her poems have recently been published in Gravel, Main Street Rag, The Lake, and Salamander. Her collection Un Amore Veloce is just out from Kelsay Books. “Hole” will appear in The Silent b, forthcoming from Dos Madres Press.

by Caroline Plasket

Once, my body was the Red Sea,
and I was Moses, only Moses was

a woman and she screamed into the water,
and it split unilaterally. From her

midline she pulled with an arm, not a staff,
the head of humanity. She cradled the warm,

red life with intention—the way
a midwife feels for the cliff of fundus. And then

the waters closed. There was the salty
expanse of sea—they were on

it, not in it, and her body was bread. Was Jesus
the myth of a woman who softened under

the delicious, pink, wet pallet of life,
in the milky ocean of saliva? We have

drifted        the slow evolution to the shore. Where
the child faces me

before drinking me into herself.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Caroline Plasket's poems have been published or are forthcoming in The Atticus Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Orange Blossom ReviewCompose, IDK, and Stirring, among others. She was a fall 2016 mentee in the AWP Writer to Writer Program.

by Adina Kopinsky

A knee joint, a bent elbow,
a spangled skirt—ballerinas passé
towards the floor, shoulders gleam
with the minutiae of anatomy;
elegant as ever you sketched—

dancers in the dim light of a dressing room,
skin like cream and caramel, hollow
against spine, like horses paused
before the Kentucky Derby, prize stallions
of the Bolshoi Ballet. 

No wonder you loved them all, Edgar—
muscles, feathered skirts and plumed
tails, the heave of chests, mist
and paw, the rise and fall of music,
gunshot, the hee-yaw! of a jockey—

you would have loved Messi too,
instep kick like a dancer on the soccer field,
rising a relevé to the rhythm of his fans;
hearts stopped, tableau, the body
of work you left behind, ballerina and horse,

brush and charcoal, form and flesh,
Raymondo, Ronaldo, the sweat and swell
of delusions, dreams, a revelation
of what our bodies, our hands
might have been—

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Adina Kopinsky is an emerging poet balancing poetry, motherhood, and reflective living. Now living in Israel, she is originally from Los Angeles and has a degree in English Literature from California State University, Northridge. She has work published or forthcoming in Carbon Culture Review, Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment, and Peacock Journal, among other publications.

by Emily Pérez

When there are two
daughters, one is soft
one is swift
            one can stretch
her face to contain
honey or humor
saline, a bone graft
disdain.
One cannot bend
but knows her place
the curtains
the floorboard’s tongue-
in-groove, the hearthstone.

When there are two
            daughters there are two
moons, both sickle-celled
            and fawn-eyed.
One that sings
one that scolds.
Both hold their breath
            under bridges.

Sometimes there are two
rivers cutting landscape
flooding farms
            sometimes fire strides forth
on two fronts
            sometimes two stars
orbit each other, but these
            reflect each other’s light
and these are not
            two daughters.


_____________________________________________________________________________________

Emily Pérez is the author of the full-length collection, House of Sugar, House of Stone, and the chapbooks Made and Unmade and Backyard Migration Route. A CantoMundo fellow, her recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Copper Nickel, Fairy Tale Review, and Poetry. She teaches English and Gender Studies in Denver, where she lives with her husband and sons.

by Sara Backer

For several months, this snow
has held us under siege, indentured servants
of the shovel, supplicants at power line altars.

We drive through gray crystallized mazes,
forced into potholes, blind at every corner.
Our eyes burn from ceaseless white:

walls, windows, ground, and sky. I threaten
to paint each room lime green and you almost agree.
We hunker under the blanket we call Old Sparky,

and our old cat chisels herself between us.
After midnight, a full moon makes the clouded sky
bright as day—and pink?

I wake you. You confirm the sky is pink.
We never figure out the mystery.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Sara Backer has two poetry chapbooks: Bicycle Lotus (Left Fork 2015), which won the Turtle Island Poetry Award, and Scavenger Hunt (dancing girl press 2018). Her writing has been honored with residency fellowships from the Norton Island and Djerassi programs and with eight Pushcart nominations. For links to her online publications, visit sarabacker.com.

by Susanna Lang

Once it’s been broken, the body
holds the memory of falling
as you would hold a fragile goblet
that belonged to your great grandmother,
whose name you also carry.

The body holds with two hands
the memory of falling, as you
would hold an entire tray of goblets.
That delay before you reach the ground,
the sound of something shattering

that blanks all other sounds—birds
silenced, no broom to sweep up
the shards, no arm to sweep with.

Cobbled together, the body walks
with eyes fixed on where the next
step falls and the step after that, sings
a few words over and over, once again
upright and moving across the earth.

Always the body holds its memory,
water brimming a goblet etched in gold.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Susanna Lang’s third collection of poems, Travel Notes from the River Styx, was released in 2017 from Terrapin Books. Her last collection was Tracing the Lines (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2013). A two-time Hambidge fellow, her poems have appeared in such publications as Prairie Schooner, december, American Life in Poetry, and Verse Daily. Her translations of poetry by Yves Bonnefoy include Words in Stone and The Origin of Language. She lives and teaches in Chicago.

by Sara Freligh

She was blonde and freckled—that, I remember, and how
spraddled she sat, pregnant belly ballooning
over spread legs. This from a time in my life
when I’d pocket my lunch tips and stop by a bar
where old guys argued about the batting averages
of ballplayers I’d never heard of. Pigs’ feet floated
in a clear jar and peanuts were free, TV tuned
to a talk show where the freckled blonde
said she cried whenever someone asked boy
or girl?, and if it was her first. Her baby
was dead, nothing but a dark stone in the gut
of the x-ray machine but still another month
of lugging around that coffin before she gave
birth and buried the kid. I remember the man
next to me whispered Jesus, less an expletive
than a prayer for what he’d never have
to endure, and I think of him and her
when I think about hope as a seed
of something that maybe might not be.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Sarah Freligh is the author of Sad Math, winner of the 2014 Moon City Press Poetry Prize and the 2015 Whirling Prize from the University of Indianapolis.Recent work has appeared in the Cincinnati Review, SmokeLong Quarterlydiode, and in the anthology New Microfiction (WW Norton, 20180. Among her awards are a 2009 poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a grant from the Constance Saltonstall Foundation in 2006.

by Devon Balwit

            (Mary Oliver, 1935-2019)

 

The snide will ever be snide, complaining
that a marmot isn’t a red-tail, disappointed
that the chamber quartet doesn’t beatbox,
wanting white bread to spice itself into dal,
condemning the popular, their own envy
visible like a slip sagging beneath a hem.
She never seems to be in her poems,
a critic complains, but outside them,
putting them together from the available
literary elements.
Where else would a poet work,
and what else with, drawing the outside in,
a diligent gleaner? Another, deriding her
homiletic upward yearning jokes
that no animals appear to have been harmed
in the making of her poems. No. Only that critic’s
sensibilities. The rest of us hang on the cries
of her wild geese, harsh and exciting,
announcing our place in the family of things
.
We sit in pews, on yoga mats, on buses,
at kitchen tables, hoping for words
to lighten our burden. We want the ordinary
to be consecrated, for most of us only ever
abide there—no more special than our good dog
sniffing the common yards of our common streets.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Devon Balwit's most recent collection is A Brief Way to Identify a Body (Ursus Americanus Press). Her individual poems can be found at SWWIM Every Day, The Cincinnati Review, Tampa Review, Fifth Wednesday (on-line), Apt, Grist, and Oxidant Engine, among others. For more on her book and movie reviews, chapbooks, collections and individual works, see her website at https://pelapdx.wixsite.com/devonbalwitpoet.

by Jen Rouse

The beveled mirrors hold
you open to the sky. Reglazed
and lit to dazzle. Sometimes
I am waltzing with you
there. Your wig elaborate
and winged with birds.
The woman in the painting
next door runs through
the pasture wild, unbridled. How
I always want you this way.
Gleaming teeth, eyes that spark
and gallop. We are in worlds split,
untimed, and tragic. So stop
tapping at the glass because I
cannot take you. I raise my hand
to touch your hand to still you there.
(Oh the tapping.) We look beside
ourselves, and I become your
mouth moving so quickly, and you
become my finger against these lips.
The carousel keeps us fixed in place.
I want to tell you this thing about
the way you dance inside me. 
Endless. The circles. No sound.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Jen Rouse is the Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Cornell College. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Gulf Stream, Parentheses, Cleaver, Up the Staircase, Mississippi Review, and elsewhere. Rouse is a two-time finalist for the Charlotte Mew Prize. Headmistress Press has published her books Acid and Tender, CAKE, and Riding with Anne Sexton. Find her at jen-rouse.com and on Twitter @jrouse.

by Paula Harris

I cannot possibly actually meet someone as lovely as you comma can I query

I am mad to think you really look at me like you are so happy stop

So happy stop

So you must not exist query

So you must not exist stop

Maybe I really am as happy as I think comma but maybe I never left the house stop

Maybe I am lying in bed comma dreaming stop

I am a daydreamer stop

Sorry that I call you my lover comma I know it might make you uncomfortable stop

But you are not my boyfriend and I do not want to call you that guy who I am fucking stop

And comma imaginary or not comma you have loved my body right on down stop

Maybe the reason your beard never tickles me is that it does not exist because you do not exist stop

Maybe comma when you do talk comma you always say the right things because I am saying them stop

Maybe the reason the sex is exactly how I have always wanted sex to be is because it is all in my imagination stop

My imagination definitely knows how I like to be touched comma but imaginary you finds some new things with me stop

Fuck comma I love the way you kiss stop

Do not stop kissing me stop

Do not stop stop

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Paula Harris lives in New Zealand, where she writes poems and sleeps in a lot, because that's what depression makes you do. She won the 2018 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize and the 2017 Lilian Ida Smith Award, and her chapbook, i make men like you die sweetly, will be published in September 2019 by dancing girl press. Her poetry has been published in various journals, including Berfrois, Queen Mob's Teahouse, Poetry NZ Yearbook, Snorkel, The Spinoff and Landfall. She is extremely fond of dark chocolate, shoes and hoarding fabric. She tweets randomly at @paulaoffkilter.

by Donna Spruijt-Metz



Under my skin, now, 
disorder, unruliness, a gift
a country
of hummingbirds. So many
with tremolo 

wings, the hummingbirds— 
part of one thousand 
species of birds here—they sip sweet
sap, beaks bright,
the lush forest shows, greens

Rembrandt never had
and yellows 

oh!

The agouti swifts across 

my path—right across 
my feet while my skin’s 
undoing is now 

the rainforest, the slow denuding.
For now, the birds
            deceive us— 

continue to migrate
back and forth—old patterns
break slow.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Donna Spruijt-Metz is a poet, translator, and Professor of Psychology and Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Her first career was as a professional flutist. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in venues such as the American Journal of Poetry, Naugatuck River Review, Juked, Poets Reading the News, and Poetry Northwest. Her chapbook, Slippery Surfaces, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2019.

by Ada Limón

I’m looking for the right words, but all I can think of is: 
parachute or ice water. 

There’s nothing, but this sailboat inside me, slowly trying to catch 
a wind, maybe there’s an old man on it, maybe a small child, 

all I know is they’d like to go somewhere. They’d like to see the sail 

straighten go tense and take them some place. But instead they wait,
a little tender wave comes and leaves them 
           right where they were all along. 

How did this happen? No wind I can conjure anymore. 

My father told me the story of a woman larger than a mountain,
who crushed redwoods with her feet, who could swim a whole lake

in two strokes—she ate human flesh and terrorized the people. 
I loved that story. She was bigger than any monster, or Bigfoot, 
           or Loch Ness creature—

a woman who was like weather, as enormous as a storm. 

He’d tell me how she walked through the woods, each tree 
coming down, branch to sawdust, leaf to skeleton, each mountain 
            pulverized to dust. 

Then, they set a trap. A hole so deep she could not climb out of it.  

         (I have known that trap.) 

Then, people set her on fire with torches. So she could not eat them
anymore, could not steal their children or ruin their trees. 

I liked this part too. The fire. I imagined how it burned her mouth, 
her skin, and how she tried to stand but couldn’t, how it almost felt

good to her—as if something was finally meeting her desire with desire. 

The part I didn’t like was the end, how each ash that flew up in the night 
           became a mosquito, how she is still all around us 
in the dark, multiplied. 

I’ve worried my whole life that my father told me this because 
she is my anger: first comes this hunger, then abyss, then fire, 

and then a nearly invisible fly made of ash goes on and on eating mouthful  

           after mouthful of those I love.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Ada Limón is the author of five books of poetry, including The Carrying, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry and was named one of the top five poetry books of the year by the Washington Post. Her fourth book Bright Dead Things was named a finalist for the National Book Award, a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She serves on the faculty of Queens University of Charlotte Low Residency M.F.A program, and the online and summer programs for the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. She also works as a freelance writer in Lexington, Kentucky.

by Kimberly Reyes

More than AIDS, Arthur Ashe said
his true burden was being Black.
C.C. DeVille said being a junkie
was sexier than being fat.

Everything I know I learned from TV.
So my narration is jerky,
preemptive, unreliable. 

I know Madonna said power
is being told you're not loved
undesirable
and not being destroyed

between commercial breaks.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Kimberly Reyes’s poetry appears widely online and in journals, including poets.org, The Feminist Wire, The Acentos Review, RHINO, Columbia Journal, Yemassee, New American Writing, Juked, Cosmonauts Avenue and Eleven Eleven. Her chapbook, Warning Coloration, was recently released by dancing girl press. Her full-length manuscript, Running to Stand Still, is forthcoming from Omnidawn.

by Kerrin McCadden

            What have I lost at sea

                        is a question you insist has an answer,

                                    the gap between flotsam

 

            and jetsam begging the question

                        about discarding versus truly losing,

                                    and while you explain that flotsam floats

 

            up from inside and jetsam is

                        introduced into the water,

                                    I think instead about generosity,

 

            about walking into the bathroom

                        at work and the paper towel dispenser

                                    has already begun its offering,

 

            triggered in the dark

                        to roll out its dry tongue

                                    before I open the door and switch

 

            on the light, how one place

                        where the dark is holy and offerings

                                    are made is not the sea, where generosity

 

            is not a thing but beauty is:

                        the octopus walking on two legs

                                    is beautiful, jet-packing away

 

            or shrinking into a shadow it makes

                        of itself, countless waving arms

                                    of anemones, the seahorse

 

            that never seems to tip, 

                        the tiny fans in all the gills,

                                    the moray eels in caves, even the shark.

 

            I think finding anything in the sea

                        would be impossible. I am not at sea.

                                    I have lost everything here.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Kerrin McCadden’s Landscape with Plywood Silhouettes won the Vermont Book Award and the New Issues Poetry Prize. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, a Vermont Studio Center Fellowship, and the Sustainable Arts Foundation Writing Award. Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series, and in American Poetry Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, and Rattle. She lives in South Burlingon, Vermont.

by Elisabeth Adwin Edwards

Call me Stellar Demise, my hemoglobin pulses with the last exhalations

of stars. I have cast myself

into a cup, a scaffold, a fence, a pipe, a cup. That which is foundational,

marks the edge of a loving space, or fills

to overflowing, that which can be used as weapon, but more often

the thing that spills

over. Well-seasoned skillet, molasses, rust. Some days I’m so hard, heavy. Others,

so magnetic I can't move. I have carried water

no one would want to drink, water not fit for a child to bathe in. Cells of the fetus

I aborted at age twenty-one

bored through the blood-brain barrier and his tiny double-helixes corkscrewed

my mind. He still courses

through me. I imagine his eyes the color of black ore, like his father's. Sometimes

I dream him into a strong body, a body

outside of myself, a body I can touch, and I become a spigot, all I do is weep.

Another star died and found its way here.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

After a successful 20-year career as a regional theater actor, Elisabeth Adwin Edwards has shifted her focus to poetry; her work has appeared in Rogue Agent, ASKEW, Serving House, Melancholy Hyperbole, Menacing Hedge, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and other publications. Her chapbook, The Way I Learn To Take It Like A Girl, won the 2018 These Fragile Lilacs Chapbook Contest (judged by William Fargason). She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.

by Callista Buchen

here, in the sunshine, a lemon

picked from a neighbor’s tree

like the moon later on, in the right

season for color, a giant caution

light, cars slowing, waiting, heads

turning left—right—left, and still

someone grows daylilies, daffodils,  

and marigolds in the landscaped beds

by the nursing home windows,

jaundice, fear, and a canary

named Stan who sings and sings,

having learned the melodies

from a recording when he was younger, 

while someone creams butter and sugar,

adds yolks until the mixture becomes

something else and disappears,

like the old song, like the petals

that drop and the stems that carry on,

holding space. Bow ties, novelty

socks, the right shade of campfire,

the moment where flame leaps

and vanishes, the murmurs of goodnight,

goodnight, holding a cold hand

in a cold hospital room, stained

glass windows and old paper,

that handwriting, the words still good.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Callista Buchen is the author of Look Look Look (forthcoming, Black Lawrence Press) and the chapbooks The Bloody Planet (Black Lawrence Press, October 2015) and Double-Mouthed (winter 2016, dancing girl press). Her work appears in Harpur Palate, Puerto del Sol, Fourteen Hills, and many other journals, and she is the winner of the Langston Hughes Award and DIAGRAM's essay contest.

by Jennifer Martelli

lay spread eagle on the sidewalk

bleeding out state after state: airless blue deep red.

 

(The men will come with chalk to trace her shape: white edges like hooks,

some like small penises, or a single mitten, and some crawl through the desert

and under a river.)

 

Three times the country screamed:

the first scream, an old car’s shrill brakes;

the second, a lovers’ spat, but the country knew the man who slapped her around, perhaps

          she asked for it;

third, could’ve been a dog in heat or in want.

 

And the lit windows were spaces between jack o’lantern teeth, backlit by a fat candle

nestled inside the scraped-out shell.

 

Honest to god, it could’ve been stopped. Rain-

 

storm after rainstorm barely washed the blood off this crime scene:

off the hot top, off the granite, off the pitch.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Jennifer Martelli is the author of MyTarantella (Bordighera Press), as well as the chapbook, After Bird (Grey Book Press, winner of the open reading, 2016). Her work has appeared or will appear in Verse DailyThe Sonora Review, and Iron Horse Review (winner, Photo Finish contest). Jennifer Martelli is the recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant in Poetry. She is co-poetry editor for The Mom Egg Review.