Oh! How we languished! How we laid, and sat, and crouched In shady buildings As the sun burned above How we scrolled, eyes rolled Glazed How we tucked fingers into familiar patterns Familiar shapes greeted us How we giggled inanely at short silly videos How we condemned Strangers from afar How we fretted! How we exhausted ourselves Doing nothing And never slept.
O, How we languished! In the shade we laid And sat and crouched On porch steps and stoops As the sun burned Freckles into polaroids of summer memories How we rolled cigarettes And plucked strings Into familiar patterns How we condemned politicians from afar And fretted About garden pests and Polluted rivers. How we exhausted ourselves Doing nothing.
And O! How we languished! Grins splitting like ripe fruit as we Sat and crouched On leaf-littered ground and Moss-covered tree-limbs We laid in the shade of fruit-bearing trees As the sun simmered above How our eyes glazed in the dappled shade of the canopy How we tucked fingers into familiar fur Nibbled our neighbors lice Giggled inanely At our children’s antics How we napped! How we fought Strangers from afar and How we fretted When the storms And the big cats came How we exhausted ourselves Doing nothing And slept Like the dead.
Eli Whittington published a book entitled “Treat Me Like You Treat the Earth” in 2019 through Suspect Press. Eli is a queer, bi-polar Colorado-raised and Denver-abiding poet. They are a parent, a singer/songwriter, gardener, carpenter, tiler, biker, and hiker. Despite these character flaws, they do not enjoy IPAs. Their love of folk-punk remains unexplained, as they are not an addict, are well over 20, and have functioning eardrums.
I am pretending to be a god in the bathroom mirror. Dim blue Christmas lights blend with a single pale yellow bulb, the same dangling light from the stories. Atop my head is a puddle of green. I used to have better words. You’d give me your hearts and I’d say, fire lamb, my love. But that was before, and I’m not supposed to adore you.
I want dessert for dinner. I sit on my hands to keep my reach from your wrist. Watch out the corner of my eye as you slice into a filet whose center is bright and fiery as an ember, you can change your heart’s shape and I’m lost in daydreams of summers gathering seasoning, mint leaves with aphids, I had a thing for toffee, held my breath as we walked side-by-side through the radish patches.
In the dictionary of flowers, I doodle your initials. You haunt the way I hold my pen; you tell me to stop but I can’t help myself, I’m not as into the weather as I could be, would you save me, or should we toss liking into fire?
Moon tattoo on your thumb, the day in which I pay the price, how you care more for jaws and violet roses, you give up on my alphabet, there is apple blossom and ash, trumpet flower fit for a mouth, bells then shells, I’m doing that thing you hate where I offer catchfly snare as answer.
I could try a little more truth if you wanted me to. Corn straw cress, the crown imperial, and your father’s fir. Then it’s days, flowering reed, iris and sprig, the juniper in jars, Larkspur then lavender are you still going to love me when I’m moss?
Know your breathing. I’d sacrifice birds, too. It’s time to ask the father how to build the altar. Oranges, split lip from a fall off the pew, broke a cherub statue’s arm, I’m forgetting how to explain myself, just saying I have a crush because of robes and the bucket of ashes, do you think the priest knows our lungs do you think he sings when he drives the thin edge of dusk.
Sam Moe is the first-place winner of Invisible City’s Blurred Genres contest in 2022, and the 2021 recipient of an Author Fellowship from Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. Her first chapbook, “Heart Weeds,” is out from Alien Buddha Press and her second chapbook, “Grief Birds,” is forthcoming from Bullshit Lit in April 2023. You can find them on Twitter and Instagram as @SamAnneMoe.
With great effort, I crank open my leaden eyelids. I open my mouth at great expense to my jaw muscles. I yawn, threaten my upper arms with muscle tear as I suck in my ration of air. I lift myself, first, at the waist, then I swing my legs around, cranky and creaking, like a rusted weathervane. I haul myself up to the vertical state, as wobbly as some Olympic games wrestler going for the record. My knees tremble but they hold. Blood picks up speed. Oxygen fights it way to my brain. The hardest part of the day is over.
I watch their lives. I ask the dreamer to help. But it remains the wrong city. Pursued by cold border. In the day of Amara. In the night of Ayuda. The voice of the criminal. Heavy run of the escape. The next night a whistling weak and thin below the holes in the white shutter.
A kingdom fled the crown. To worship a deity in the drawer. And if I can look just like them I can walk into the solar shield. Where the image is an icon beholden to melancholic light rounding the commercial portal. To stand as I have always stood among the domestic windows admiring the quiet placement of shadow thrown memorabilia touching the handles of the cars.
don’t open your eyes yet the want is ravaged and set alight I will call your pain to me name your beasts to do my bidding
call me back
to worship with wanton knees and eyes nail my collarbones to the bedroom door and drink from my bruised lips a dream like this demands a hungered sacrifice
call me back
to your kingdom on this starless night the rain so reckless in the shadows let me dream of your trembling spine and pry open your butterfly ribs
call me back
to plant moonflowers in your blood they only bloom carefree in the dark let me honour you with what remains beyond skin and crushed days
call me back
to your bed, your voice drowns out the world. Was it even real? I just want to feel you – here and here. all I touch is glass
awakening still / again
christmas morning constellations traced on your skin / undressed / spilled / beneath the quiver ing lashes and breathless light /enfolded below the midwinter dawn / so stolen between
the call of the day and the coffee /(do you want to go and see the worst of me?) /heaped clothes on the creaking floor / a tangible whisper in the curtains / the red farewell /stars sighing in your image/
and the resurrection of today/ sheltered twilight /can’t hide the embers mined in / the dead of night /still on my lips / I am still starving /my heart half eaten / still obsessed/with what remains
of the distant bedrock / the thunderwounds of yesterday / (do I not burn when I bleed?) I hold your hand/ through these hurting dreams to support their weight/ still /again/
we summoned and witnessed / an unspeakable trinity come / here / tonight /
Despair Desire & the small Death
(prayer is whatever you say on your knees) and if you can’t forgive what lurks below the skin / remember / I am fire-tongued and anointed by your touch /deciphering the holy infliction
of having been wild and perfect for a moment / (thirst to thirst) / surrender now / (your fingers in my hair / my mouth / covered in my blood) / hold me / in this space
we are rebuilding the universe / my words are the bare bones / painted with the colours
you have shown me
/ l o v e /
this is how we retaliate / desecrate the decaying temple /with solemn lunar devotions feral laments / spellbound in the marked sheets / the unmade bed
(I think we’d survive in the wild)
all hallowed to be read in case of emergency
we crossed this ocean /I lost the ground / the moon drew me/in /my crimson tides /beckoning your hands in red /on the mirroring surface / the light of early dawn come falling apart
celestial bodies of water / on the fine shoreline before sleep betroth my hands / to your breath/your elfin throat vowing /gasping / on half of the dead stars to be strange / to be beautiful / to be wild / to be/ open water
crashing on broken shells / blessed October sand a litany / a siren song / an unchanging state of affairs I am not going to hurt you /cannot resist the call of continued disturbance and fractures on the wind
a tear bled / into black ink stains/blossoms / into a word echoes into a constant dream yet untold /let’s send a postcard from where we fell
some things are better on paper /some things are better signed and sealed / in blood
When we share our stories, we realize that we are not alone with it. We begin to see the system that behind violence, injustice and exploitation. Telling our story is the connecting moment to take action and to initiate change.” Kate MacAlister (she/her) is an author, feminist activist and founder of the multilingual community arts and literature project Stimmen der Rebellion/Dengê Berxwedane/Voices of Rebellion. Her works have been published in journals and anthologies all over the world. Kate’s debut chapbook “songs of the blood” is filled with poetry that speaks of human connection and the dreams of revolution. Coffee, her cat Bella and, naturally, her activist friends are particularly important for her creative process. Find Kate on Instagram at @kissed.by_fire.
You double tap hold your Airpods. Noise canceling activated. You have your sunglasses on.
You are indoors, in a book shop, somewhere in St. Paul, Minnesota. You are waiting for your turn to read. All these people are here to watch you read. Not just you, though. It’s never just you.
Your mentor is on stage reading an essay. He is animated. He can spit like a muhfucka.
You realize what essay he’s reading, and how traumatic it is for you to listen to. It reminds you of the Summer of Floyd, when everything burned around you. When you were afraid of racists from Wisconsin, who drove through these streets, laying cans of gas in alleyways. Shooting up Black homes. Coming back later that night to set them on fire.
You ask yourself how on God’s green earth you ended up in a place as racist as America.
You realize you never had a choice. Much like being a writer, you never had a choice.
Your family left Africa for this shit.
On your first night in America, it was a drive-by on your block in Atlanta.
You’ve always told that story and repeated that catchphrase: we left Africa for this shit?
You’re in the thick of it now. That essay is starting to crescendo. You can see the impact it’s having on your mentor. He is getting more animated in his delivery.
Damn, that nigga can spit.
Also: he is feeling it. You are feeling it, too. Pacing the corners of the room, nervous. You turn on Kodak Black. Kodak raps about murder, but it calms you down. Kodak raps about the things which he was born into, which he had no choice but to survive. Kodak raps about the struggle cuz it made him a man. You know about the struggle, but this audience of white faces won’t understand.
Your mentor is done reading now. It’s almost your turn to go on stage. You instinctively start walking towards him. You meet him just outside the audience’s expectant eyes. White people are always expecting something from us, aren’t they?
You embrace your mentor, now. He is shaking. You see the tears in his eyes. Not quite tears, but more like… a swelling, of moisture, just shy, of teardrops.
You hug him now. You stand there hugging. It is a shared struggle, these Black male bodies, in this country built on the understanding that all your bodies are worth is the price of strange fruit.
Poplar trees, nigga. Emasculation. Manhood stuffed inside of mouth. Tarred and feathered.
This the country where niggas like you come up missing. Whether you rap about murder like Kodak, or you stand in front of white audiences like a poet professor. You could come up missing, young nigga. No matter how old you are, you will always be a boy to them.
And you know this. Not even deep down, you know this consciously.
That’s why you don’t care about their praise, about their critique, about their putdowns.
You don’t care about their fear of your manhood. About their fetishes surrounding it.
You don’t care about their cuckold fascination.
White wives, Black dick. You don’t care about it.
You only care about your words, about your honor, dignity, life.
You go on stage to spit these bars, but you don’t even care about them half the time.
You only care about this moment, this shared embrace. Two Black men, acknowledging each other’s existence. Holding each other in ways that the world is incapable of.
You only care about the now.
And now… you go on stage.
Dim the lights.
Turn off that Kodak.
Fade to Black Man.
Said Shaiye is an Autistic Somali Writer & Photographer. His debut book, Are You Borg Now? was a 2022 Minnesota Book Award Finalist in Creative Nonfiction & Memoir. He has contributed essays to the anthologies Muslim American Writers at Home, The Texas Review’s All-Poetry Issue, and We Are Meant to Rise: Voices for Justice from Minneapolis to the World. He has published poetry & prose in Obsidian, Brittle Paper, Pithead Chapel, 580 Split, Entropy, Diagram, Rigorous, Night Heron Barks, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA from the University of Minnesota, where he was a Graduate Instructor of Creative Writing, as well as a Judd International Research Fellow. He teaches writing to Autistic kids through Unrestricted Interest, as well as in the English Departments of several colleges in the Twin Cities.
tell me you know something of the love lost on grapes of skin peeled away very carefully and while eating the grapes skinned and exposed for what they really are think of those of us who crave them who want only to eat them again and again and again who want only to hold them to save them for another day to do the very human thing and change them into raisins or wine
reasons for raisins (7)
call it age if you like or experience or maturity just as wine matures with age or call it a step in the cycle through which all living things must pass in order to survive as humans we believe in the pleasures of life this is why we eat grapes or drink wine or plant such seeds and as humans we ultimately mature so as to provide for ourselves and the ones we love this is why we must grow old so it is also with grapes
reasons for raisins (13)
here are the ones that got away the ones so cocksure and cool the ones who ran so electric as they slipped under the stove the refrigerator and the sink how sad they all seem now cloistered in the corner dust
Separated, yet inseparable. Invented, yet genuine as pain. Perhaps all women do this—split
Ourselves, brutally cutting the pulsing wood of our psyches, dividing into two branches of self.
One—the withered limb, desiccated by the outer blow. The other—still bright with possibility, the ‘might have been.’
The before, the after. The killing stroke that always comes. Ironic that ‘growing up’ halts growth, strips all our weakness bare.
Perhaps inevitable—that we are no longer alive with possibility. But once shattered, we are still fed by childhood.
Strength still trickles in. Our other half still pumps blood into the damaged core, those uprooted roots. Believes that miracles still exist.
Perhaps all women do this—we replant in our own fallow bodies, over and over, gestating our own rebirth. Perhaps we separate
So there is still someone to offer succor, still someone to love that withered limb, still someone to hold onto to hope.
Perhaps all women do this—we survive.
Amy Wray Irish was raised on regular visits to The Chicago Art Museum, where she developed her passion for writing about art and history. Her 2020 chapbook, Breathing Fire, received the Fledge Award from Middle Creek Publishing. Her forthcoming chapbook, Down to the Bone: Poetry for a Post-Roe World, was the winner of Poetry Mesa’s 2022 chapbook contest. To read more of her work, go to amywrayirish.com.
I took three ginkgo leaves from two trees transplanted in the heart of our metropolis. How odd the ancient arbors seem hidden in the aspens and junipers, which outgrow the non-native bushel in the quantity of limbs, leaves, and outstretched height. But I wouldn’t dare pluck the conical cliche of yellows, nor could I keep the needles of evergreen foliage. Instead, I wanted these green, bifurcating, fan shapes to be a small reminder of a beautiful morning on a city park walk with caffeine and donuts, hand in hand intimacy, late in September as all the other leaves began their cycle of death. Once home, pettily distant from the innocent memory, I grabbed my notebook and store-brand scotch tape and began to catalog all the symbolism of the day. I considered how long the leaves could remain pressed in the unlined, coil-bound book but not if the tape would hold steady and the cylinder seam began to dry and die. But somehow, those three leaves remain in their place, bookmarking our morning and the difference between native and ancient trees.
Lyndsie Conklin (she/her) is a Montanan transplanted to Colorado, living with her husband and cat, Beans. She enjoys getting outside, being a cat mom, breakfast foods, Diet Coke, oversharing Type 1 Diabetic memes, and writing poetry and erotica. Lyndsie attempts to find romance, beauty, and darkness hidden within the little things while highlighting these little, gross beauties within complex, current topics, such as mental health and LGBTQ+ and women’s issues. Lyndsie holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Western Colorado University and a Masters of Education in Higher Education Administration from Post University. Some of her work has been featured in Soupcan Magazine, The Sleeve Magazine, Pile Press, and Dreamer by Night Magazine.
Some purple pile of angels,
stone, by base of worn stairs, watch
eagles adorned with your teacups,
and Shakespeare is mistaken
for Jesus going sideways down
the metro escalator.
I’m warmer for your shaking.
My pills hurt swallowing
—the king assumes his photographer
wields rifles and vermin
red spinning tops—horses too tall
for stars to hold
any meaning beyond
lost beanies and orange wine.
(Somewhere it’s Thanksgiving, so I’ve left
Maybe an old woman veins out
to each of her teeth chatting
on the morning train
offering to bag me,
and I take the first my fingers find.
Another lady, bald,
offers me four licorice cough drops.
Though one falls from my hand.
Mouth beating black three
—I cross over
the ocean seat. My scarf doubling
for wrist splints—the fog
spreading out over the window,
old blood on a warm bandage.
I take back-to-back photos of you
scalpelled behind yesterday’s closed eyes.
Hamlet’s cream puff pulls espresso
with broken glass pain and
our future light, the
my napkins parade away towards
You stable that Christmas
rat in your arms—
for one you stand sleeping,
the other your stare
bungees under shadow
of labyrinthine brows,
in the casemates
by Holger Danske, the bats, God,
and that penis
gunned down in stone.
You took a bite of my cheese
sandwich at the station—right before
I tossed the timeline ruler.
For a moment I could’ve swore
I’d taken you for a swan
or beached Ophelia,
but I recalled then
this country’s hole is a castle—
—please remember we are in a church.
I vain thanks for a moment
to remind myself
of where the metal ball should be—
then board a top car backwards,
returning home to you…
Liam Max Kelley is a Chilean-American playwright, poet, and teacher. He is a board member and open mic host at Stain’d Arts, an arts non-profit based in Denver, Colorado, and the co-founder of RuddyDuck Theatre Company, a local absurdist theatre group. He writes poetry to avoid making an argument, to highlight life’s horrid ambiguities, and to turn the heads of those he holds dear.