Trying to Explain America to My In-Laws | Keri Withington

Image: Specphotops

Yes, Florida’s also in the South.
Yes, we’ve been there.
Yes, we’re planning to go there again,
maybe this summer;
no, we didn’t know anyone in that school,
but yes, we all know someone in that school.

Yes, the kids are safe…well, not really safe.
I talked to M this morning about what to do:
whether to wait in the first fire alarm,
how to listen in hallways,
where to hide if she needed to.

Then I sent her to school
with her cello
and packed lunch
as if this were normal.

As if I should be talking to her about survival,
instead of test scores and school dances.
As if any of us know what 6th grade is like
when you’re worried about making it home alive.
Yes, I say, I realize this is not normal. Yes is to say,
I know the rest of the world doesn’t understand,
and neither do we. No, I say, it won’t make anything change.
It won’t end America’s love affair with guns
because we’ve seen that we’ll let children die over and
over again and that’s what it means.

I stop and think and almost finish.
We’ll let children die before we run background checks.
We’ll let children die before we stop automatic
and armor-piercing and the hard-on for the NRA.

But I realize all those are just conditionals
to the central fact, and the fact of the matter is
America let’s its children die.

We’ve been letting them die.

I remember Columbine;
I remember Sandy Hook.
I remember all the stories in between
and all the schools since.

Yes, I say, America.


Keri Withington (she/her) is an educator, vegan, and pandemic gardener. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Wild Word and Blue Fifth Review. She has published two chapbooks: Constellations of Freckles (Dancing Girl Press) and Beckoning from the Waves (Plan B Press). Withington lives with her husband, three children, and four fur babies in the Appalachian foothills. You can find her in Zoom classes for Pellissippi State, trying to turn her yard into an orchard, or on FB (@KeriWithingtonWriter).

Where Do People Go When They Die? | Kevin Ridgeway

Image: Pawel Czerwinski

his lips were purple
and his breath was gone
after I tried to blow it back inside of him
but it blew my hair up over my crying eyes
as I listened for his heart and checked
for his pulse, a man so full of life
the night before, but a heart attack woke him
long enough to reach over to my bed
to wake me up so I could save his life.
I remained asleep as we both fell out
onto the floor in between our beds
his dead body pinning me into a rug burn
that did not heal for weeks after his life force
passed through mine and left me standing there,
gazing at him there in the middle of the floor–
done and over with and never again–until
I realized his life force found refuge in mine
when I heard him laughing inside of me.


Kevin Ridgeway is the author of Too Young to Know (Stubborn Mule Press) and nine chapbooks of poetry including Grandma Goes to Rehab (Analog Submission Press, UK). His work can recently be found in Slipstream, Chiron Review, Nerve Cowboy, Plainsongs, San Pedro River Review, The Cape Rock, Trailer Park Quarterly, Main Street Rag, Cultural Weekly and The American Journal of Poetry, among others. He lives and writes in Long Beach, CA.

Fiddle with the left hand | D.S. Maolalai

Image: Steven Johnson

a sketch of the 12
bar blues, approximate
C major, central
and key. now
I play occasionally

in passing at a party –
my close friends onto
my limited repertoire
but acquaintances somewhat
impressed. especially
since it seems
I can improvise;
just fiddle it a little
with the left hand
over pentatonic
scales. that’s how
you do it – learn
how to play
like it’s nothing. be casual –
order in spanish
and in french when you all
go on holiday. know

how to wire
a plug at the table. how to drive
cars manual. spell
certain words. play
a little piano. how
to write a poem
about doing
other things.


DS Maolalai (he/him) has been nominated eight times for Best of the Net and five times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016) and “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019)

Erasure | Caleb Ferganchick

Image: Dylan Nolte

Caleb’s poem has very specific formatting to it. Please click the link below to view their poem, “Erasure”.


Caleb Ferganchick is a rural queer, slam poet activist, and author of Poetry Heels (2018). His work has been featured and published by the South Broadway Ghost Society (2020), Slam Ur Ex ((the podcast)) (2020), and the Colorado Mesa University Literary Review. He organizes the annual Slamming Bricks poetry slam competition in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Riots and coaches high school speech and debate. An aspiring professional SUP surfer, he also dreams of establishing a queer commune with a river otter rescue and falconry. He lives in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Website | Instagram | Twitter

[schema geometrica][Día de Los Muertos][CON JEFE CRUZ]| Dennis Hinrichsen

Image: Jazz Borquez
                              —I kill indiscriminately // I breathe the same // 

& yet I can plant these copper-colored seeds saying // this is
for you // mariposa // para tu Día de los Muertos you leave 
so many behind I think I am part of that parade poking 
dying earth // neck bones’ sweet ridges offered to sun //
skull breaking through the sheen of work’s liqueur //
el jefe Cruz observing // then shouting // oye // too deep //
or too close // already the acres // in spring // a sea of milkweed //
& so I jump like the young boy I am no longer una Danza
de los Viejitos & continue working down the line // seed &
seed // a campesino finally // once this skin is flensed to laddered
bone // grin—all teeth // black sockets alive & laughing //
—O mountain hectares covered in orange // the sheer volume
of you now // the sheeted square footage // sound of the wings
un grito de vida I keep hearing in this nightmare world // hiss—
I cannot bear to say it—as if from a herbicide

w/a half-life & a means of migration


Dennis Hinrichsen’s most recent book is This Is Where I Live Now I Have Nowhere Else To Go, winner of the 2020 Grid Poetry Prize, and [q / lear], a chapbook from Green Linden Press. He has new poems appearing or forthcoming in Canary, The Night Heron Barks, Map Literary, Otoliths, and Under A Warm Green Linden. He lives in Lansing, Michigan where from May 2017 – April 2019 he was the area’s first Poet Laureate.

Rotting Eaves | Michael T. Young

Image: Del Barrett
Across the park, an old clock tower
surrendered itself to moss and vines. 
Tendrils coil along the clock hands, 
twine the gears and down the shafts. 

Finches knit knobby twigs, grass, and leaves,
nesting in vents and through the hollows 
where the eaves have rotted, remaking 
what we leave behind into the life that follows.

Michael T. Young’s third full-length collection, The Infinite Doctrine of Water, was longlisted for the Julie Suk Award. He received a Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. His chapbook, Living in the Counterpoint, received the Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award. His poetry has been featured on Verse Daily and The Writer’s Almanac. It has also appeared in numerous journals including Cimarron Review, Gargoyle Magazine, One, Rattle, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. Facebook. Twitter

Shoshanah | Sarah LaRue

Image: Max Kleinman
My grandmother is the ocean now
                                       roaring always somewhere
                                                     even when quiet here and now
             her smooth surface breaks into waves

She resists and yields at once
                             in magnitudinal power tides
                                           pulled heavy from the moon
               in consort with the sun and
                             of service to the earth

I know her without seeing her
                            hear legends of her raging depth
              feeling her live in each coastal drop

She swells around my ankles
                             to let me feel my roots
                                          when instinct crashes over me
It is her—urging moments into eternity

Sarah (she/her) is a health advocate, activist, and poet who loves sunshine, storms, and quiet nights. She is a queer Jewish reiki-practicing witch, and poetry is how she understands and misunderstands Life . Sarah has been published in Stain’d Arts and South Broadway Ghost Society publications, and her work has been featured by the Helen Riaboff Whiteley Center. Her two self-published books, I’ll just hide until it’s perfect and Tend, are available now by contacting sarahdlarue@gmail.com.

After the rain | Sarah Russell

Art: “After a Rain” by Arkhip Kuindzhi 1879
clouds still roil, dark as wraiths 
who invade my sleep.  A shaft 
of light pierces their folds, brightens 

the field where cattle graze 
as though the storm never bruised, 
as though they never bawled, eyes flashed

with lightning.  They have forgotten, lower 
their heads for grass made sweet again,
while I still feel the drench, remember
 
how thunder crippled me with dread, 
how I flattened my soul against the earth 
to escape notice by the gods.

Sarah Russell’s poetry and fiction have been published in Kentucky Review, Misfit Magazine, Rusty Truck, Third Wednesday, and many other journals and anthologies. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee. She has two poetry collections published by Kelsay Books, I lost summer somewhere and Today and Other Seasons. She blogs at SarahRussellPoetry.net.

The Uncertainty of Our Futures | Caleb Ferganchick

Image: United States Geographical Survey

sweltering hour
beads of sweat lick
my sunburnt nape
paddle and soap dish in hand
off some nameless bank
I slip into the Colorado

the Grand
the Rio del Tizon 
the Maricopa 
the cool lifeforce 
of this southwest desert 
as easily as I do 
into freshly washed sheets 

naked 
embraced
sweet surrender 

(I’m still working
on surrender) 

the Colorado, he/they and I
have rinsed ourselves 
our bedrocks 
of many a lover 
many a male admirer 
like John Wesley Powell
like the first time
I skinny-dipped kissed
the first boy 
I thought I loved

I don’t find it outlandish
to suggest the Rio del Tizon
branded flaming by colonizers 
is a he/they gay 

reject the stubborn American West
its invasive cis-het
white male explorers 
naming monoliths [ego]
bodies of water [conquests]
assaulting the feminine [recreation]

if the Maricopa
is to be called she
let it be by reflection
by her own accord
as he/they is with me
on this board
cutting through this spectrum
an exercise and practice
of self-love at once 

we try and keep things caszh
this river and I
too thin to plow
too thick to drink *
if you know what I mean 

we both know
this flight of fancy is seasonal 
an afternoon delight 
a summer fling
sure to wash out 

around this bend 
I look for coupling trout
whose rippled darts 
fleeing my invasion of their coitus 
promise the end 
of my own courtship 

I have always struggled 
with commitment 
even when I cannot tell us apart 
submerged in him/them completely 
there is peace I won’t grant myself 

as surely as my head
will break the surface 
I will eddy out 
return home to routine
to khakis and button-ups 
to commutes and spreadsheets
and plastic promotions  

he/they/I/we will be 
just another commodity 
to bottle
given back empty 
at a cost
as potential 
for tourist development 
as a force that’s agreeable 
when diverted 
and funneled, reshaped
into productive 
efficient pools of labor

into anything 
that’s not wild 
and free and roaring 
to California 
to an ocean of love 
that doesn’t know the meaning 
of binaries and borders 

the nature of our familiarity 
our temporal sojourn
privy only to that 
voyeuristic heron
our downy stilt-
legged fortune 
is not about the permanence
of our gender but

the uncertainty of our futures

* commonly attributed to Mark Twain (to “the Mormons” by Edward Abbey) but unconfirmed by this author 



Caleb Ferganchick is a rural queer, slam poet activist, and author of Poetry Heels (2018). His work has been featured and published by the South Broadway Ghost Society (2020), Slam Ur Ex ((the podcast)) (2020), and the Colorado Mesa University Literary Review. He organizes the annual Slamming Bricks poetry slam competition in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Riots and coaches high school speech and debate. An aspiring professional SUP surfer, he also dreams of establishing a queer commune with a river otter rescue and falconry. He lives in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Website | Instagram | Twitter

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.