to be human is not an act of desecration | Laura Leigh Cissell

Image: Mohit Tomar
to be human is not an act of desecration
to live humanly is not anathema to nature. 
I do not apologize for my humanness.


I do not apologize for the flower I picked
and carried in my hand to the mountaintop.
I spoke to the flower like an old friend 
then loosed her on the wind 
watching petals and stamen soar 
across the river rich valley below.
I do not apologize for this.


I do not apologize for the shade I stand in
cast by brick and mortar and bitumen.

I do not apologize for the steel faucet I turn
loosing earth-cooled water from buried pipes,

filling my mouth with metallic-tinged life
crystal and blooming, pouring down my chin, 

splashing crisp against my bare feet.
I do not apologize for this seasonal waterfall.


I do not apologize for trails followed through grass and wood,
for the dent in the forest floor where I sat 
and shared lunch with a kingfisher: 
----------He, a silver-green fish, snared fresh
----------I, clementine, grown far from this alpine stream.


To be human is not an act of desecration.

I am nature as trees
nature as salmon spawned in rivers far from the sea
nature as lichen on scree
nature as lion, as leopard 
----------as beaver, as bison 
nature as wildfire, as hurricane
as water lifted as mist, as water dropped in flakes
as daisies carpeting desert sands.

I am nature as the curious cat–
slow stalking intrigue
delight of game, of pounce
of crunch, of blood
glutted and full of mouse.

I am humanness.
I am holiness. 
I am a masterpiece.

Laura Leigh Cissell (she/they) is an autistic, queer Texan expat residing in the Colorado foothills. They are the head of data analytics for a tech startup, an MFA candidate at Regis University, a spouse, parent, and occasionally a poet. Laura’s greatest sadness is that all the sea turtles of the world will never know how much she loves them.

Gone, Already | Leah Mueller

Image: Lars Dunker

Gone, Already

Vegetable matter,
dried skin on kitchen floor.

Scorpion season: thorax-shaped
tomato stems fool me into terror.

Dog presses against
barbed wire links,
with nowhere to go
but the same ten feet of earth.

One hundred degrees
for the rest of the month.

Ashes on shelf,
spirit in atmosphere,
long past the point

of concern. You have
flown north again,
towards cooler weather.

Sometimes your eyes
stare like the dog’s,
but I know it’s just me
trying not to forget.

Leah Mueller lives in Bisbee, Arizona. She is the author of ten prose and poetry books. Her new book, “The Destruction of Angels” (Anxiety Press) was published in October 2022. Leah’s work appears in Rattle, NonBinary Review, Citron Review, The Spectacle, Miracle Monocle, New Flash Fiction Review, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, etc. She is a 2023 nominee for both Pushcart and Best of the Net. Her flash piece, “Land of Eternal Thirst” appears in the 2022 edition of Best Small Fictions. Website:

Acid Rain Epithalamium | Becca Downs

Image: Thomas Charters

Acid Rain Epithalamium

this isn’t the rain we asked for
it runs like lava down leeward
rocks, seizes the cities, it
looks like smoke sizzles
on pavement like hot grease
but might it still wed weeds
to soil might corn still marry
earth & sky in late july could
it still caress valleys soak
hollers dress mountains
in a technicolor coat of wild-
flowers temper flames
that torch the mountainsides
could the children still grow
healthy & tall soft-skinned
& singing to open acrid sky
this isn’t the rain we asked for
but it is the rain we’ve made
love to dropped to one
knee bound ourselves for life
this could be a celebration
windborn praise songs
crawling toward mountaintops
bodies dancing by moonlight
bring your pots to the bonfire
let us boil what drips off eaves-
troughs into our gaping mouths

Becca Downs is a poet, freelance writer, and MFA candidate with the Mile-High MFA program at Regis University in Denver, Colorado. Her work will be published in the upcoming anthology Take The Fruit, Flood The Desert, and has previously been published in Sorry for the Inconvenience: an Anthology of Queer and Trans Voices, Flying Island Magazine, Glass Mountain, Ecletica, Jupiter Review, Heartland Society of Women Writers, genesis, and more. She enjoys hiking, exploring new places, and finding the best donuts wherever she travels.

Natchez Steamboat Found in 2007, Honey Island | Heather Dobbins

Image: Justin Wilkens

The remains were raised by the Mississippi—an old song in shards.
Was it burned by accident? Or captured when New Orleans was,

run up to Yazoo River to escape Union hands, ashore in a bend?
Lincoln so wanted to roll unvexed to the sea.

Muted pitches in an old steamboat, its firebox is a gaping mouth
for coal. The river has the last say.

Each Natchez meant more bales, more boilers. There was no music
like the Natchez’s whistle. Heard was the length of the open

valve, vibration in steam—not air but rising steam rarefying in the bell.
But music doesn’t give out any answers.

The steam’s been gone. No one’s bragging on the Race of the Giants
or Captain Leathers anymore. The floating palace, wood rot come up

for air. The river is the last say.

Heather Dobbins is a native of Memphis, Tennessee. She is the author of two poetry collections, In the Low Houses (2014) and River Mouth (2017), both from Kelsay Press. She graduated from the College Scholars program at the University of Tennessee and earned her M.F.A. from Bennington College. Her poems and poetry reviews have been published in Beloit Poetry Journal, Fjords, The Rumpus, TriQuarterly Review, and Women’s Studies Quarterly, among others. For twenty years, she has worked as an educator (Kindergarten through college) in Oakland, California; Memphis, Tennessee; and currently, Fort Smith, Arkansas. Please see for more.