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)

You Win | Cipriano Ortega


Cipriano Ortega (they/them) has been fortunate enough to have their work recognized and shown both nationally and internationally.  Cipriano strives to create works of art that probe the mind and make people question what they perceive as the normative. Whether that is shown in music, theater, visual art or some sort of culmination of all of the above; Cipriano enjoys blending all creative forms of expression. As a sociological artist, Cipriano deconstructs the worlds around them and observes it under a nihilistic perspective. As an indigenous POC, they also have no choice but to deal with colonialism head on by making it a daily practice to see the divisions we as a society create and continue to make the ‘normative.’

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

The Pandemic in Pollyville: The Supermarket | Glass Cactus Productions

Glass Cactus is a Denver-based screenwriting and filmmaking team.

Amanda E.K. is a queer writer, filmmaker and writing coach, and the former editor-in-chief of Denver, Colorado’s Suspect Press. She writes for Playlove and Out Front Magazine, teaches a weekly drop-in writing class, and she’s currently pitching her memoir about growing up in fundamentalist purity culture. Follow her on IG @amanda.ek.writer.

Jack Oberkirsch is a film/media composer from Denver, CO. His musical background is mostly comprised of playing drums and guitar in local and touring punk/hardcore bands. In the last few years however, he made a transition to composition and writing instrumental music. Of course, he still does play in a few local bands although things have slowed down in that field since COVID.

Working on The Pandemic In Pollyville has definitely been a challenge for Jack. With it being in the style of silent film, music has to cover the entirety of each episode which meant Jack had to write progressions and melodies that could carry the entire episode from start to finish. Also, the music used was very different in style from episode to episode so Jack had to tackle genres of music he had never attempted before to score some of the installments.

West Colfax | Eli Whittington

Image: Stephen Leonardi

I.

Shirtless in January

Pale potbelly poverty

Hanging over tattered belt

buckle

Leaning casually

Over a  pine-green trash can

II.

Drug-weaned cheeks

Steele gaze forward

Popping a wheelie

On the Northside sidewalk

For half a block

Balance perfect


Eli Whittington is a mediocre farmer and an okay parent. They enjoy long walks on rhe forest floor because the ocean is really far from here, and kind of scary. They are the author of ‘Treat me Like you Treat me like you Earth’ published by the late Suspect Press. They also have two tracks of spoken word on Black Marlet Translation’s Punketry album. They are really bad at playing banjo, but will always be, more punk than Brice.

Elizathebeth.com has poems on it that are nearly impossible to read on a phone.

[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.

28 | Matt Clifford

Image: Pawel Czerwiński

We had language and we had water, they wouldn’t let us have both. We knew what the water was capable of. We said yes to it and our reflections. They closed the park at midnight. We spit at the sky and talked it into the ground with masks on we spoke from our heart. Those with the least to empty talked loudly with mouths wide open. The hate was too infectious to be prevented. They hated that which did not concern them. They were unconcerned with the hatred. They said that’s what it is as if it had always been because they said it because they said it that’s what it is. I didn’t say anything when nobody asked. I just walked into the water on a mission. It held me as water does. I became to become again. I floated away for dry land. 

How little time the relatives have and how stuck they are in it. The ones who are determined to make love happen live as though it’s about to. At all times their hearts are breaking and while the city spins so fast that they are used to it each one is a quake in heaven. There are ghosts who would bleed to stop it, angels who mourn eternally for all the hurt that has already been absorbed and can’t ever be reversed. They have so much compassion and nowhere to go with it. The things they understand wouldn’t make sense in a vision. You can’t just be told it as ecstatic divine revelation. It has to be discovered by sitting in the dirt longer and writing every word down and walking the letter across town. I waited until I learned how to recognize the instruction and then followed it with a diligence fit for bricks that want to bring out the best from behind the sun. I only tried to tell you about it. When I couldn’t it was enough to kill. That was when I returned to the water. There were so many people walking out of it. I couldn’t look them in the eyes. They didn’t stop me. 


The Matt Clifford (right) did so see his shadow thus marking four more weeks of Tax Season.
(www.blackmarkettranslation.com)

Petrichor | Mārta Ziemelis

Image: Matt Artz

When you leave the desert,
your mind forgets the heat,
but your body remembers.
When you leave the desert,
the smell of wet dust
right after rain
lingers in your nose,
hopeful, electric, forever refreshing.
When you leave the desert,
the desert keeps a piece of you.


Mārta Ziemelis is a Toronto-based emerging poet and established literary translator. Her poetry has appeared in The Ice Colony and CRUSH Zine. It is also forthcoming in the Sapphic Writers zine “Out Of The Wardrobe”. Her Latvian-English translations include “Do you exist, or did my mind invent you?”, a poem by Gunta Micāne (TransLit Volume 11: An Anthology of Literary Translations, 2017), two short stories in the anthology The Book of Riga (Comma Press, 2018), and Narcoses, a poetry collection by Madara Gruntmane, co-translated with Richard O’Brien (Parthian, 2018).” Instagram.