The Answers

By Sarah Luther

 

If you hate the way he looks at you when you’re sleeping
Go night running through alleys and around street corners

If you feel cornered and can’t find your way home
Call the spider an uncle and stay a little while

If you don’t have the time and you’re feeling rushed
Turn the nearest clock to 5 o’clock and drink something

If you’re drunk on plane so your stomach won’t sink
Think of the first time you fell in love with a liar

If you hate liars from the bottom of your heart
Try breaking someone else’s in a matter of a minute

If you feel for a minute like nothing matters
Walk to the edge of life and let a newborn baby squeeze your finger

If your fingers are bleeding from a hard day’s work
Move the bandaids to your mouth and start to listen

If you listen close and you can’t hear wedding bells
Slide a ring on your finger and pledge allegiance to yourself

If you’ve already pledged your allegiance to the flag
Ask yourself if your blood is red, white, or blue

If your blood is red but you’re feeling blue
Take to the sky and check out the view

If the view overtakes you and you can’t bear to depart
Ask the locals which cloud has room for a night

If you’re on cloud nine and you’ve found your home
Thank the pilot that brought you or write a poem

 

Tips on Catching a Falling Star

By Serena Futch

 

You too must be swift and light on your feet
Dancing through the night’s air, racing with
Arms and hands stretched out before you
You must zig-zag trying to guess where
The star might choose to land, will it be
On a dewy field, or crowded forest or raging river


Once it is close to earth you must act fast
To grab it or it shall fall tumbling to the ground
Shattering, leaving behind little but your
Crestfallen face as you slowly walk home
But if you are lucky enough to catch
A falling star you must cradle it close to your body
For these beautiful out of the world things are fragile
Cradle it, cradle it close

The Orange Grove

By Alice Shambayati

 

We were young, and we loved ourselves so much that
we screamed and ran through the orange grove to disturb
the chickens, giggling the whole time through.
We did not care; we were free for hours as our mothers tended to the horses
and that sweltering July sun would beat down on us, so
we always stopped in the shade to pull a ripe, juicy orange off one of the trees.

And every time we pulled an orange from a tree, at least three more
from the same branch would fall to the ground and bruise. I think we were too naïve
to realize that this was how life would progress, with three failures for every one success,
and sometimes we found, to our chagrin, that the orange we had snatched was sour in the
middle.

The first time I ever wrote in a journal
my grandmother had just passed away, and I used to write letters to her pretending
that I was still in her orange grove, describing the trees and chickens to her
because I thought she might be missing home.
Every Sunday morning she made freshly-squeezed orange juice
and I gulped it down in one swallow. It tasted like concentrated joy
and the sting of that juicy pulp lingered on my taste buds for hours.

When we scared the chickens out of the orange grove they would bawk frantically and bolt,
and we were scolded because the hens might be carrying eggs inside of them,
protecting the little chicks that we looked forward to meeting every spring.
But it was summer and the future was blurred by our adoration for every present moment,
and so we never listened,
we only got better at hiding things we did.

It turns out that scaring the chickens away saved them from the lurking coyote that would
sneak into our orange grove some nights,
so I think, despite our childlike mischief, we were beautiful to do such a thing.
To do so while we sucked in the air of home through our nostrils,
the lingering scent of horse pastures and hay and the oranges,
I realize now, was the very best of my life.

The moments were as delicate as the eggs the hens carried, and our mothers told us they
would not last forever,
but every evening I still recited prayers in hope that they might.
I can remember the taste and feel of my sticky fingers from that pulpy citrus
and the pang it triggers in one chamber of my heart -
in that fragile space where home resides.

The Last Burger

By Sam McNeal

 

My truck smelled like bliss and hamburgers while we idled alone in the drive through
lane. The attendant passed off the burger to me, and I hurriedly unwrapped it from the damp
paper before passing it, now unobstructed, to Frank, my large brown Labrador. Frank ate the
whole thing in one bite. I should have told him to slow down. I could have torn the burger
apart and fed it to him bit by bit, but then he might have realized something was different.
Couldn’t he see that this was not our normal visit to McDonald’s and couldn’t he see that I
wasn’t smiling and couldn’t he see that the boys weren’t here next to him?

Sitting out in the empty yellow light of a mostly vacant parking lot, Frank and I were
left with the silence of a running engine and the smell of pine needles. He looked at me now
with a confident grin that showed neither fear nor apprehension. Now was the time, had Hud
and Paul been there, that we would get out of the truck, walk across the street, and throw a
tennis ball for Frank in the sliver of light that stretched over the street and onto the grass. It
was just what we did on Friday nights until I couldn’t anymore.

The bark beetles had come at an undetermined time from an undetermined place.
Undetermined by me, anyway. They had come quickly, and by the time someone told me the
town had an infestation, pine trees were already starting to fall. Two years after that, the
place looked naked. The pretty brown-red trunks and moss-green branches that once hid the
ugliness of unkempt cabin homes, boats rusting in driveways, and unlandscaped properties
were made obvious to even those who weren’t paying attention. And with our trees, so went
my work. No one was building because no one was buying because nothing looked pretty.

Recently — it feels recently because I try not to look at the change in my boys’ haircuts
or the shrinking of their clothes around their growing bodies — we stopped getting four
burgers, one for each of us and one for Frank, every Friday night because recently my wallet
ceased to have cash in it. I didn’t used to know how many gallons of gas were in my tank
(eighteen) or how many miles to the gallon I got on average (fifteen) or how much it cost per
mile to drive as calculated by the library’s subscription to Consumer Reports (one dollar and
thirty-four cents). I didn’t used to know how much our dog food cost either, until yesterday
I was told by the cashier at the pet store that I didn’t have twenty-two dollars and sixteen
cents on my card.

I got out and Frank followed, scampering over the bench seat and out into the yellow
light of the McDonald’s arches. He walked in circles around me as I stood still, looking into
the brightly-lit seating inside. There was only one person inside, a man who looked like me.
He was wearing a dark green flannel, but his fit him, and he wore a blue baseball cap and
blue jeans. From outside, he looked clean in the safe fluorescent lighting and he sat back in
the booth, facing me but not looking at me, and he looked pleased with himself. He looked in
control with his burger, fries, and soda on a red tray in front of him.

Frank had stopped circling and was sitting between me and the open door of the car.
I sidestepped him and got into the car and closed the door. Frank didn’t even get up, just
turned his head to look at me in disbelief. I looked at the man inside again. I like to think he
looked like me, but wasn’t me because he came out after I drove away, saw Frank sitting
there, and picked up where I’d left off.

the fountain of youth

By Grace Zimmerman

 

the fountain of youth finally found
in a half drunk bottle of vodka and yellow gatorade
smuggled under too tight skirts
basic bitches beating,
breathing in the dusts of deserts
uninhabitable by all but the intoxicated.
trampling grass-masked sand spraying up
underneath cheap sandals onto naked legs
dirt and drugs in my veins, hair, hands, air
make the present float infinitely
i want to die this immortal
covered in sweat, glitter, and sunlight.

This is the End And

By Erika Rasmussen

 

I was four, a world-traveler
and already stuck,
noodle-elbow caught
between a silvery-snake bus railing
and the two-story
that is, double-decker, Fate,
stuck in a stairwell,
one too many
steps behind the hand
I was meant to be holding
my toddler-brain positive that
Mom! Dad! Wait! I’m going to be an orphan forever and this is it and—

I was under ten,
I got that this is the end
feeling in my gut, the one
where you’re pretty sure.
There is sand gouging out my nose,
little sand-men with shovels
poised with crystalline form to
annihilate everything God
has worked for.
Knees befriending chin it is a
waltz with the sea,
it must be beautiful but all I see is
blackness, not a hint of foam.
I am caught beneath a wave
this brave, thin body
for once could not withstand.
This is the end and then I am breathing.

I was sixteen, maybe,
I was a set of wracking lungs,
not at the mercy of little sand-men but of
the crosswalk, the breathlessness
of sitting behind the steering wheel in
no man’s land, red-light laughing
you could have died!
Careless, silly little girl.
Don’t you know you’re alive?

I am twenty,
I am oceans from the noodle-elbowed Fate,
I am miles from the waves,
I am nowhere near.
I am looking upon my future
in the classroom while I
should be taking notes
and oh,
there it is.

I’m not going to make it.

What is one to do when
the uncertainty of life shakes
one more
than the ever-blooming
certainty of death?

B r o k e n B i k e s

 By Kristi Chon

 

My grandfather loved breaking broken things
Without prompting or permission
His eyes nearly shut in concentration,
Peering at the grimacing gears
Click, click, click.

I learned to ride a bike on a flat tire
A foolish determination to conquer the
peaks
Yet my body wobbled wherever Wind
Changed its mind to venture
Clunk, clunk, clunk.

A mirror beckoned my gaze one ride
A house of five
A mother’s glimmering eyes
Tracing the outline of a broken frame
Crack, crack, crack.

Click!

Capture this.
Her father used to hoist her
Giggling, above his head whenever he saw
Glimmering glass sleeping on the sidewalk
At the cost of a dropped bag of groceries

Clunk!

Later, she stands knee deep
In a pool of green shards and bad breath
Cradling a head above the ground
A stomach and mind refusing to quiet
As she ponders the meaning of being held

Crack!

The story interrupted as
The vehicle I once trusted gave way
To a groove in the gravel
My body a stone
Skidding across the surface

Click. Clunk. Crack.

My blurry vision found my beloved grandfather
Who stood over me with a perplexed complexion.

Click.

Would I too, remain broken?
Perhaps one day,
They’d see what their fixing had done

Click
Clunk
Crack.

Dependability

by Erika Rasmussen

 

My father said
you need to be dependable.

I said
yeah.

What I meant was,
I’m trying.
I don’t know
what to do with a brain
always running
out of storage.
The memory on this model
of human is slightly unscrewed,
the warranty expired.

What I meant was
an intergalactic apology to all
who’ve fallen to
my broken confidence.

The laundry always stales
where I promised
it wouldn’t be.
The keys hang, abandoned,
beckon darkness to our door—
every robber’s dream.
They swing all night, glistening.
Hushed voices in the morning
affirm she’s got to start listening.

Words of dishonor spill, grains from a
well-intentioned covenant mill.
I wonder if
every promised prayer I
didn’t say
rests as heavily on
their backs as the lump
that hunches my throat.

These lips could stand
to make an oath less each day.
A ghost less with each pledge undismayed.

I wish my middle name
could be
Dependability,
but I’ll take Grace instead.
Nine times out of ten,
I’ve still some redemption left.

This isn’t a game, but I fear
I’m knocking other’s pieces out
with the clumsy
of my head.

Mr. Beringer’s Van

by Sarah Beringer

 

My dad drives a 1999 VW camper van
He fixes it himself because they don’t make the parts anymore.
He likes to go out driving when my mom gets in one of her moods.
Sometimes he takes me with him.
We’ll drive through town and pull into Vinny’s.
He buys me double-stuffed Oreos so he can eat them
And I have some of his soda.
He only lets me have the first sip
And then he’ll pour in something else.
He also buys a pack of mint gum before we leave
And takes two sticks out,
Giving one to me.
But we save them in our pockets
For when we’re closer to home.
On the way back
We listen to Desperado by The Eagles
And he keeps restarting it
Until we can sing the lyrics all the way through.
He pretends to pass our road when we finally get there
Turning sharply at the last minute
I always sigh in relief because it makes him smile
He does this every time.
I wonder when he’ll just keep driving.

recipe

By Jimmy Flynn

 

grab a grimy glass,
and fill it with the rocks
you use
to stone me.

now add
one part Maker’s,
one part water,
Kanye’s Celebration,
smoked Spirits,
lip bites,
and a dash of bitters.

slice up some limes,
line up some salt,
and let your laugh
escape through your nose.

serve on a futon
or a rug—
your choice.

now flush the remains
down the drain,
and leave the glass outside to
collect the rain.

don’t share this with
anyone.
it’s an old family secret.

 

leave the white roses be

By Grace Zimmerman

 

paint the white roses red,
heat the concrete steps with strong thighs,
strip the trees of their bark and look inside
make the boys sit and the girls stand
take the wasted green from the fallen leaves and
spread it evenly on the dead grass
lead the elephant up my toes over my hips to my chest
sit him on the butterflies lifting up and down.
suck my air away.
go.
tell the girl you love you’re gone
leave his softest sweater folded on the lawn,
light the pine scented candles in july
cover the closet with christmas lights to
forget his clothes were ever there.
stop calling him.
cry.
toss the sunflowers rotting in their vase,
wreck the old road trip car
sell the parts to buy a bike
lose the bike to sticky fingers and an old cable lock.
walk to work.
quit.
scream that life has tainted it all and
let the rest spoil out of spite
cover your ears till your brother shuts up shuts up shuts the fuck up,
fight with the mother about fighting for fighting’s sake
scrape the last of your savings together to buy a dog,
give the dog away after a week
buy a fish.
flush.
touch your lips to the bodies of strangers
break every rule your father ever set
dye your hair to match your mother’s potting soil
knock down a wall in your bedroom with fists
get kicked out.
break.
join a gym and take up swimming.
run until 10k feels like a stroll through central park.
move back in with your college roommate
backpack through bali to feel sunshine
buy new clothes for a job you already hate
let your hair fade back to red
meet a nice boy and teach him fear.

leave the white roses be.

 

"The Parton's Poem" by Annabella Lynch

I ask the man behind the bar
With the gun
And the scar

“How does one drink a Molotov cocktail?” 

He scrubs a whiskey glass
“Why do you ask?” 

Because I hear the people in the street
And the thumping of their feet

Because these floorboards creak with rage
Over the graves of boys who died underage

We agree to disagreement

This land’s demolition
Is an ideological collision

But I see their cries to end classism
As a rioter’s fascism

The jukebox plays the national anthem

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"Don't Fly" by Kamran Muthleb

A quail sat lazily in a meadow, her legs obscured by her feathery body. She was surrounded by tall grass, and the breeze tickled her crest as the clouds drifted by. She was about to fall asleep when she heard a loud rustle.

"Hello? Is someone there?" the quail asked.

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"Gut" by Silvia Signore

I’m in the backseat of my mom’s Honda Odyssey and she’s driving me to the airport, my grandpa who is visiting from Italy sprawled across every inch of the passenger seat, sleeping with his head so far back I can see his nose hairs dance with every heavy breath accentuated by his snoring, and in that moment, as I’m inspecting my nonno’s nostrils I have this weird premonition, like something was going to happen to him...

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"Ghazal" by Forrest Nguyen

Ghazals, you know them; this one ends “otherwise.”
But how to surprise you, except every line were otherwise?
 
rain in june and i'm without an umbrella. 
somewhere someone drier is wishing he were otherwise.
 
school. i do not love it: a talent show for sycophants.
i did the math, i did the reading, but writing i did otherwise.

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"Sticky Feet" by Anonymous

          The sticky sweet juice drips down my chin and onto my jersey as I devour the bag of orange slices roughly cut by my dad. It was supposed to be a snack for the team, but no one else loves the fruit as much as me. Or maybe I just don’t give them a chance to. I take a sip of my still frozen water, shaking the bottle a little to break up the ice. My bangs are stuck to my forehead now, no longer falling in front of my eyes as I run. The whistle blows and we’re back in; I pull up my shin guards that have drooped from the first half after I throw the rind behind me.

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"Wanders" by Tad Malone

tom, my friend
asked the night
if it felt calmer
without the light
or if it kept
the pavements
wet on purpose.
It said:
blame the lingering
of florescent spots,
projections of a
world thats not,
and left his head
as if his sight
dreamt up the darkness.
Suppose the thing,
that he dread
was the compromise
between two beds
designed for rolling over,
what ghastly butter-
powder spread
to carve his face
a little bolder.
so is the driven bus
that weeps, with great
urgency at tom’s ricochet
like a kingfisher skimming
streets and shoulders
but he was at once
nail-thin and squeezed
not nearly dead
or older; and if
you were near, you
could catch
in glimpses that
staggered speech,
violet lines and the smolder
down his neck, but
not his throat as it
approached his shoulder.
resign to disbelief
and praise and fear--
as Tom, so quickly
knew no heaven here

"Lullabies" by Shelley Valdez

I.          the beginning of our radio silence was like swallowing a shooting star
                      i didn’t know how to digest the sparks.
                 my heart went up in flames.
                      but instead of turning to ash,
                      it burned straight through my chest
                                beating and breathing and bleeding and making a mess
 
     II.         when people ask what you were to me,
                      i never really know what to say
                 (you were poetry) (you were waking) (you were wishbones)
                      (and now)
                           (you are unfinished business)
 
     III.        i’m sorry i was such a shitty dance partner
                 and i’m sorry i never kissed you
                 and i’m sorry that my arms could never
                      be the space to hold your dark
 
     IV.        i still go back to the night of Almost Lovers
                  (you were the only girl in a tuxedo)
                        (you were the belle of every ball)
                  you never believed in fairytales the way i did
                       our spells began at midnight,
                                  and expired at the dawn
                        when you slipped the silver from my shoulders
                        and took the butterflies from my hair
                             i forgot what it was
                                  to have lungs

     V.          i remember Sidonie’s yellow kitchen
                  and vanilla ice cream with honey
                             i remember your soft footsteps
                  and how you couldn’t meet my eyes
                                  i said,       “what are you thinking about?”
                                  you said, “kissing you
                        in the end, all we did was hold each other
                                            but it has always been enough

     VI.         as we slept on the floor  
                        and as you sang me to sleep
                   i thought we’d never see another lonely holiday
                        after greeting Halloween without you,
                        i decided that the      living
                             were much more haunting
                                  than the              dead

     VII.        i learned    the hard way
                   that      hesitation      tastes like      expectation
                   and burns twice as bad
                        i should have known that being   
                        “friends with
                                  sexual tension”          
                                  can only last so long
                    by July, you’d find a home in someone’s shoulder
                                        but it wouldn’t have been       mine
                

     VIII.       the worst is that i can’t hate her(not when she   keepsyou  safe)
                   and what could i have offered, but a blooming,
                   bruising heart      what could i have offered but
                   a sometimes wounded wing
                             you deserve so much more than my
                             whirlwind-shaking-skin       but even then,
                        it is a privilege to be your Almost.
                                  it is a privilege to be your Anything.

     IX.         i started listening to alt-j songs again the other day.
                        for the first time in a long time, hearing them sing
                             “and she needs you
                             this is from matilda
                                  didn’t make me want to cry
                   i know now that the aching
                        isn’t as loud as it was before
                             (it is quiet chaos without you)

     X.          your name is an echo,
                        a meditation,
                        a lullaby.
                        from the back of my throat to the purse of my lips,
                        you are becoming the sound of the cosmos.
                        you are beginning to hold things together
                        in the way that you’ve torn me apart

"Turmstrasse (Tower Street)" by Riley McShane

The night was bitter cold
and biting
chain link fence
stood menacing
styrofoam food cartons
stacked tall haphazard
Stoic shapes huddled
twisting ‘round each other
old gripping young
like ropes
holding fast
 
weary white clouds  
rising from the bodies
spilling out into the street
 
I saw it only for a moment
 
daughter stretching
tiny gloved hands
to father from the other side
of the fence
I saw it only for a moment
 
I was walking home
 
I saw knotted hands pawing
at cigarette packs
I saw cots lying
still flat and desperate
In the callous tent flickers
 
I saw father
holding out for daughter
Syria’s children
Berlin going black around us
 
I saw it only for a moment