Yesterday’s Return | Melody Wang

Image: Kenrick Mills
Languid clouds drift by in a fever dream's haze, unmoved 
by imminent trouble brewing overhead, anxiety
casting shadows on our pale, upturned faces
 
Below, cardamom pods             three lone messengers
release fragrant whispers of a bygone era
when innocence abounded, unquestioned. I awoke
 
from a foggy dream crudely imitating memory,
unwelcome specters from my past infiltrating
fortresses erected to withstand any disturbance
 
This damp unease seems to permeate my being 
at odd intervals, too often coinciding with this 
foreboding I have inadequately prepared for

Melody Wang (she/her) currently resides in sunny Southern California with her dear husband. In her free time, she dabbles in piano composition and enjoys hiking, baking, and playing with her dogs.

Editorial Notes | Emma Ginader

Image: Joanna Kosinska
It doesn’t take too much 
to forget: 

Leave the Bramble Cay Melomys 
out of the next dictionary. 

Those rats are already dead,
homes wiped out by rising tides. 
Not many know their name,

same as the Kittlitz’s Murrelet. 
No kid dreams of seeing 
the Murrelet’s mottled body blending 
into the sea spotted with sunlight. 

It’s safe to delete
them too. 

If the name’s not
in textbooks, postcards, or magazines, 
no one will know to search. 

Move the erasures 
more and more inland,
low tide dragging away
wolf spiders and honeycreepers, 
Sierra Nevada Blues and golden toads. 

Readers won’t learn
how far the damage’s gone—
just keep erasing. 

Afterall, people forgot
they once could be singular.
Victorians hid that 
under grammatical change 

so keep erasing
until nothing remains but
a white sea. 


Emma Ginader is a bisexual poet and editor from northeastern Pennsylvania. She recently graduated from Columbia University with an MFA in writing. Her poetry has appeared in The Moth Magazine, Vox Viola, december, The Rational Creature, and FU Review [Berlin]. She has work forthcoming in Mantis, Lavender Review, great weather for MEDIA, and They Call Us. Ginader previously worked as the online poetry editor for the Columbia Journal and as the social media editor & business reporter for The Daily Item newspaper in central Pennsylvania. Find her Twitter account, @EmmaGinader.

Two Poems | Cheryl Aguirre

Image: Will Turner
Vision

If a giant squid
Were to breach the waves
To observe the night sky,
Her eyes unaided
Could see past Neptune
To the dwarf, Pluto.
Not a corpse,
She is neither
Crushed, maimed, or compressed.
Her delicate skin
A shimmering silver, intact,
Flashes when she undulates. 
Her eyes, dinner plate big,
Her three hearts, beating
Slowly, restfully.
A winking silver coin, 
She drifts below,
Sauntering to the deep,
To the black water,
No different than space.


Mountain

I write you shorter.
I write you smaller
I write you fetal
I write you shivering
I write you intimidated
I write you alone
I write you into the background
I write you silent
I write you stunned
I write you fat
I write you tall
I write you muscular
I write you thin
I write you quiet
I write you stoic
I write you extroverted
I write you self-conscious
I write you at peace.

Cheryl Aguirre is a queer biracial poet based in Austin, Texas. You can find their previously published work in Ghost City Press, decomp journal, and The Whorticulturalist. You can follow them at @drowsy_orchid on Instagram and @Wheat_Mistress on Twitter. 

Not Human Hearted | Brian Rihlmann

Image: Glen Rushton
often, in the wilderness 
I recall the words—
not human hearted

a hungry mountain cat
stalks a lost child
vultures await the scraps

the horror of these
less-than-human hearts—
yet what of those?

unearthed shattered skulls and
the pages of history tell their story
even the good book drips

and before that, nothing—
a silence into which, like mothers,
we scream an Eden to life

Brian Rihlmann lives and writes in Reno, Nevada. His work has appeared in many magazines, including The Rye Whiskey Review, Fearless, Heroin Love Songs, Chiron Review and The Main Street Rag. His latest poetry collection, “Night At My Throat,” (2020) was published by Pony One Dog Press.

Now March Melts | Cassie Hottenstein

A close-up of sage green grass and amber leaves glistening with frost.
Image: Herr Bohn

emerge from winter cocoon
into daffodil spring,
the cracking of bones & ice
and the slush slipping from pine—
the yawns & shhs emerge—
duckling dawn
earth cleans her scars this way:
lifting & washing under the folds,
fresh cotton flapping like a surrender
to the restarted zodiac,
to the irrational golden fleece of Aries
unshaven despite the warmth—
how the tides deliver a new salt to upper lips,
an emerging, a dusting out
of all coughs cooped by winter;
the pages aren’t clean, the pages aren’t even pages,
they’re still trees,
still grand along the yet-unbroken sky !
the pinnacle of her year
exists in cool mountain runoff
the blue dunk & minnows
along curious toes after a long creek-side stroll,
the relief of the stretch
and the new dogwood petals that ferry their way
to a better tomorrow,
to a brighter ocean shore.


Cassie Hottenstein is currently between Denver and Jacksonville, mountain and ocean. Her poetry and stories have been featured in magazines such as Boulder Weekly, the Talon Review, Every Pigeon, and the Tampa Review Online. When she’s not writing poetry, she’s probably playing Animal Crossing or doing someone’s taxes in exchange for money and tasty peanuts.

Dreaming in the Kingdom of the Ants | Jason Ryberg

Image: Peter F. Folk
It would seem to me

             that in the vast
                            underground kingdom

              of the anthill, along
                                          with burrowing and
                       tunneling, heaving and
hoisting, fending off
                            outside invasions down
                      to the very last ant and

conquering rival kingdoms
                                    with no mercy (and all
         the various other assigned

   	     tasks and roles from the
       home office / H.Q. of
                                   the collective hive-mind),

   surely dreaming must,
                                     also, be an 

                      essential

                              civic duty.

Jason Ryberg is the author of thirteen books of poetry, six screenplays, a few short stories, a box full of folders, notebooks and scraps of paper that could one day be (loosely) construed as a novel, and, a couple of angry letters to various magazine and newspaper editors. He is currently an artist-in-residence at both The Prospero Institute of Disquieted P/o/e/t/i/c/s and the Osage Arts Community, and is an editor and designer at Spartan Books. His latest collection of poems is The Ghosts of Our Words Will Be Heroes in Hell (co-authored with Damian Rucci, John Dorsey, and Victor Clevenger, OAC Books, 2020). He lives part-time in Salina, KS with a rooster named Little Red  and a billygoat named Giuseppe and part-time somewhere in the Ozarks, near the Gasconade River, where there are also many strange and wonderful woodland critters. 

They Tap Me on the Shoulder and Say They are Going to Ensure My Poverty Will Erase My Last Name and My Homeland Forever (But the Smiths and the Jones Will Live On) | Ron Riekki

Image: Moren Hsu

When I was in the military, we marched over the purple coneflower and milkweed and powderpuff and canna lily until they were dead from the war of our feet and later when they haze-crucified me I aspirated on my own vomit and saw death marching through the undergrass and he was a he and he was not as seismic as I’d come to expect and

when I was on the football team, they installed debt in my chest and they drove their trucks on the swamp conifers and carved encyclopedias into the pines and our homecoming king took a knife to his abdomen to spell the words MINING TOWN.

When I worked in the prison, they concreted everything so that the yard wasn’t, and the smell was of feces and lives frozen as poison and

when I worked in security, they put me in an isolated guard shack where there was no heat and no one else around for miles and I’d listen to the wolves and would wonder if they were coming from inside me.

When I worked on the ambulance, my partner would make fun of the patients as soon as the patients weren’t our patients and he would reenact their pain by holding his body in the distorted positions in which we found them and I’d go home and warn my parents that if they are ever on an ambulance to record everything because God can see everywhere but not inside the walls of piss and pus, and

when I was in middle school, they’d put us in lockers and light little pieces of paper, throwing them through the hole, telling us that we were going to experience what it’s like to be the sun and afterwards I’d go outside and stare up at it in the hope that I’d go blind forever and it didn’t happen because I could never take the pain and instead would go home and swim in the neighbor’s empty pool, me and a buddy, just moving our arms and walking in that big useless pit.

When I was in PTSD counseling, my counselor fell asleep so I decided to go to sleep too except I could see the helicopters on fire when I closed my eyes and so I just sat there, staring at him, watching him age so slowly, seeing the grandfather and the great-grandfather and the grand-corpse just begging to come out and

when I was in high school, we cheered the violence and admired the violence and encircled the violence and awarded the violence and moved back for the violence and watched the violence and the violence did its thing.

When I was dead, I realized that the earth was everything, that all there is is the earth, that the people on it are just dots, dips, dark, that we are spiders, that our arms are air, replaced so quickly.

But the earth.

But the earth.


Ron Riekki’s books include My Ancestors are Reindeer Herders and I Am Melting in Extinction (Apprentice House Press), Posttraumatic (Hoot ‘n’ Waddle), and U.P. (Ghost Road Press).  Riekki co-edited Undocumented (Michigan State University Press) and The Many Lives of The Evil Dead (McFarland), and edited The Many Lives of It (McFarland), And Here (MSU Press), Here (MSU Press, Independent Publisher Book Award), and The Way North (Wayne State University Press, Michigan Notable Book).  Right now, he’s listening to Nick Drake’s “Northern Sky.”

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 heatherdobbins.net for more. 

The Beach Ritual | Mo Lynn Stoycoff

Image: Ryan Loughlin

The banks look like a Goodwill store
washed up, clothes everywhere

Our bodies run down to the surf
shells bubble out of the sand

Salt teeth bite at our ankles
then our labia, breasts and eyes

We are fifty-six laughing
little islands of loamy flesh

We wash up onto the sand
pink and glinting in the sun

We find our clothes, soft as homespun,
warm as August dunes of sand

Four fire-lords build a circular blaze
that sways and rises to meet us

We too rise and sway, huddled
like fur weanlings at the breast

our chests rising and falling in sync
our smiles lit up and flickering.

We raise a sunny, rubicund cone
high, high into and through the fog

We shout, laugh and cry
firelit eyes each a salty ocean

We release it with smoke into the chill air
and dissolve into dance and drums

and silent pairs, trudging up the banks
trailing bits of circle as we go.


Mo Lynn Stoycoff is a writer and visual artist whose poems have appeared in Poetry Now, Rise Up Review, The American Journal of Poetry, California Quarterly, Speckled Trout Review and many other journals and anthologies. Mo works in the performing arts and lives in Central California.

Prometheus Felled | Heather Bourbeau

Image: David Matos

Bristlecone twist upon twist, layer upon layer, like fingers
of the crone or braids of her mother, reaching for the sky.
Cold air, hot sun. High desert survivor

dared erosions and fires, needed only a few small strips
of bark to stay alive, outlive them all.
But 5000 years were undone in one afternoon.

We want to know, to name.
We are Machiavellian in this pursuit.
Prometheus stole fire from the gods, carried it

in giant fennel stalk, gifted it to humans.
For this, he was bound to a rock, his liver to be eagle-eaten
every day, regrow at night and be eaten again.

To understand the brain’s hemispheres, we cut the corpus collosum.
To learn the spread of virus, we cull the herd, open skulls.
To know the oldest, we bored the bark,

failed, then cut and sectioned, hauled and processed.
Counted rings, counted time. Only then did we understand
the ignorance and arrogance.

Still, we kept one slab at Ely casino, then convention center.
Respect reserved for the lab or the field, now national park
in part because scientist-cum-lumberjack pushed

to protect remaining pine, hobble the folly
of men, like him, believing they need to know,
no matter the damnation, no matter the pain.


Heather Bourbeau’s fiction and poetry have been published in 100 Word Story, Alaska Quarterly Review, Cleaver, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Short Édition, The Cardiff Review, and The Stockholm Review of Literature. Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, she is the winner of La Piccioletta Barca’s inaugural competition and Chapman University Flash Fiction winner. She has worked with various UN agencies, including the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia and UNICEF Somalia.

This piece is a part of South Broadway Press’ March issue, Language of the Earth.