HELL IS HIGHWATER
Grandma threatens a trip
to the farmer’s market in a rowboat. After I flick
the butt of my cigarette into the caramel waters,
I laugh. I’ll break some branches off the oak
so you’ve got a paddle. The cat
snatches a trout between its jaws,
and grandma whispers, it’s just
an act of God, sweetie.
Over dinner, we flip through the scrap-
book she made of all the floods.
‘77. ‘78. ‘83. ‘95. ‘99. ‘03. ‘11. ‘17.
So why do you stay, gram?
That same night, I climb the roof and watch
the driftwood float down the street,
a crescent moon hanging like a headlamp.
My jeans -- burnt orange
by acid runoff in the wake --
are still damp. I doubt they’ll ever dry.
Looking up, I imagine her slowly creeping
down the flooded street in a kayak.
Where else would I go? The next
morning I’ve almost forgotten
what she means, as we sweep
off the basement carpet. But I nod,
refuse the tap water (it’s the same color
as my jeans, now) and reckon
she’d be right if this were God’s fault.
Dane Ritter is a poet and environmentalist born and raised in Kentucky, currently teaching freshman English. His work has previously appeared in the Cortland Review, the Transylvanian, and Anthology of Appalachian Writers.
I feel like I was set up for
failure somewhere between
the stacks of magazines
in my dentist’s office and
the bottles cluttering
my mother’s vanity table.
Perhaps it was when I
could wrap my ring finger
around Barbie’s waist
or when pretty became
the highest compliment a
middle schooler could receive.
Perhaps it was their incessant
demand for beauty in its
purest form, only to ridicule
it once it was shown.
To them, we will always be
too little or too much.
The fine line between
vanity and insufficiency
depleting our wallets and our worth.
How I long to bask in
the sun of my femininity,
to upturn my eyelashes and
paint myself of my own volition,
for their whispers to fizzle out
like a radio that can’t find its reception.
I long for the reminder that I was
not born to wither up or hide away.
For our beauty is our own,
comprised of harsh edges, curved lines,
violet bruises, upturned lips, and crinkled eyes.
A far greater treasure
than others could ever consume.
Marissa Joyce is currently a junior at George Mason University. At Mason, she is pursuing a double major in English and Communication. She is a writer of fiction, short stories, poetry, and opinion pieces. Her work has previously been published in Her Campus online magazine and Volition Literary and Arts Journal.
Reflection in a cabalistic mirror
Reflection of a chaotic body.
Reflection of a callow youth.
Reflection of a cacophonic mind.
Reflection of a calamitous fate.
Reflection of a cosmic joke.
Reflection of coalescing traits.
Mirror, why so cold and cruel?
Mirror, why so callous and crude?
As I scan my image I see my enemy lurking in the curves.
As I search for features of my own all I see are secondhand traits.
Mirror, conniving pawn of chance, displaying oppressor and oppressed in a single reflection.
Let the signs of my pain be frozen in your cool metals.
Let the signs of my shame be sealed away in an drab infamous attic.
Let the signs of lineage be ripped away, one by one, like petals.
Mirror, a nose, a lip, a chin, should not be the harbinger of Leto’s tragic magic.
Émilie Galindo is a 28 year-old English teacher in Bordeaux, France. She was born in the coastal town of La Rochelle in France in 1992. From a modest background, music and series were a window to the world. Despite the sharp bitterness of her relationship with her parents, she held on to her step-father's love for lyrics. That deep appreciation eventually led her to Bob Dylan, and the 60s protest music. A love of words, music and history that would become fodder for the academic essays she composed during her masters. The first on the lyrics of the sixties protest songs, the second on the cultural representation of women in the sixties patriarchal society in the series Mad Men. And as a teacher, she wholeheartedly relies on pop culture to connect with her pupils, and to connect her pupils with the theoretical content.
cho bà nội
newton said that energy is neither
created nor destroyed. in her favorite
restaurant, i can still hear my grandmother gossiping with the waitresses 一 she used to come so often, they fed her free of charge 一 electricity sparking in her eyes; in her old apartment, i can hear her slippers
shuffling to the kitchen 一 my mother bit her lip to refrain from scolding her 一 and the tapping of finger pads against ceramic mugs; in the hospital, i hear her rustling in her paper gown 一 even in her prolonged exhaustion, she never cared for the hospital robes much 一 and scoffing at the forest of needles embedded in her forearm. when i listen to the wind, i can still hear the symphonies of a thousand years playing her to sleep.
Julia Vu is a 16-year old student from the Bay Area. As a dreamer with an imagination more overactive than most, she has always used writing as a way to temporarily escape from reality, to just delve deep into this alternate universe, and to bring the world that exists only in her imagination to life. Having struggled with mental illness in the past, Julia is a passionate mental health advocate and founded an international advocacy organization called Operation Dopamine in 2020. She enjoys spreading mental health awareness through her writing. "cho bà nội" (or "for my grandmama" in Vietnamese) is an epistolary memorial for her past grandmother.
Josh Bryl G. Oller
Only when the stars sleep
does the sad marble
the still sea with
of bright light.
He calls me,
with those eager eyes,
Josh Bryl G. Oller is a 17-year-old Filipino senior high school student under the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) strand. He has two years of experience in campus journalism as a columnist and an editorial writer. He is also a proud cancer survivor. The Moonglade is a metaphorical concrete poetry that mimics the reflections of moonlight on the sea. It is open to interpretation, although it is mainly about ill-fated love.
JOURNEY TO THE MAILBOX ON BEECH ST.
Forty years on Maple Avenue and
I’m still not sure about our cross streets.
I can dissert on why Nietzsche collapsed
his concepts of the Dionysian and Apollonian
into the single category—Apollonian—but
I simply don’t pay attention to street signs.
I walk up Maple Avenue to Beech Street and greet
sycamores, their yellow/green sheen
stately and serene. A leaf falls,
and even with perfect peripheral vision,
it doesn’t notice the likes of me.
And here’s a dead June bug,
evidently what happens to June bugs in August,
or maybe it’s an August bug who’s met a tragic
early death, this being only the 24th.
All along this walk I’m guilty.
Our sweet poodle-dog, Mugsi, wanted to accompany me
and doesn’t understand why I failed to strap
on her harness and lead her out the door.
I tell myself that I’m protecting her from the blanket
of heat and humidity that covers me on my way out,
but then a breeze across my face and arms
performs an anti-absolution of my sin.
When I turn up Beech Street, cedar-scent wafts me
toward my goal: to mail a get-well card
to my physician who has broken his ankle,
and when I squeeze the oversized envelope into the mail slot,
I pledge to give Mugsi a soft and mushy Nudgie treat
to compensate her for this self-indulgent
solo walk on a hot and humid August day in Pittsburgh.
Charlie Brice is the winner of the 2020 Field Guide Magazine Poetry Contest and is the author of Flashcuts Out of Chaos (2016), Mnemosyne’s Hand (2018), An Accident of Blood (2019), and The Broad Grin of Eternity (forthcoming), all from WordTech Editions. His poetry has been nominated for the Best of Net anthology and twice for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Atlanta Review, Chiron Review, Impspired Magazine (UK), Golden Streetcar, I-70 Review, The Sunlight Press, Anti-Heroin Chic, and elsewhere.
I met her years ago, in october,
marmalade on her cheek
tasting clementines and blueberries.
You could have found her in a polaroid picture
with scattered stars on porcelain.
lingering more than our moment
I’m still waiting for the tomorrow,
my time is spent on pennies in wishing fountains
shooting stars and four leaf clovers
draw suns in lemon yellow ink
take my hand and spin
we’ll dance all the way to “hell” and pierce the heavens with our “sin” I don’t want to lose the light in her star-colored eyes
I’ll tell her next october
Anika Evanoff is a fourteen year old Sophomore from Hawai'i and has lived there her whole life. She is a youth activist, participating in the Hawaii Youth Food Council (HYFK), Blue Planet's Climate Crew, Model UN, and co-founded her school's Surfrider chapter. She is also the president of the GSA club and is a participant of The Art of Writing group that her school founded.
It all feels random and selective and subjective
and imbuing meaning into things that never had it
before. Like asking for a palm to make into a cross
on a sunny Palm Sunday but looking over in jealousy
at the cross your sister made-- she did it better,
like she does most things. But you’ve kept trying.
When you think about those Sundays, you think about
the itchy dresses that your mother loved to pick out
and you think about the old company car your father
loved-- and loved more than he should have.
It told you something about loyalty, you suppose, loving
an object that cost you nothing so much--
or maybe it did cost something. Something
you were never able to put your finger on.
When you were in Charleston, you watched
the women weave little baskets from reeds and
you felt a pang of remorse for all the reeds thus plucked
to become a souvenir of your trip that you keep on your
desk and occasionally look at. When you pick it up,
it still smells of sweet grass and muggy markets.
And you think, what a simple thing is this!
To be sitting quietly in my room. To have some
semblance of memory and meaning far beyond
the sweet grass’ expectations.
C.G. Nelson has been an avid reader of poetry since she was thirteen years old. Her first loves were Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allan Poe. C.G. Nelson is a new poet. She went to the University of Washington, where she graduated with a degree in English and Philosophy. Find her on Twitter @CGNelsonwrites.
THE GLOOMY MONTHS
the crucifix and the varnished
armchairs smell the same. we
would know, we have spent
more than a decade chipping
away paint with blunt nails
pretending to pray. we took
naps in chapel pews,
sprawled out and tranquil, no
care for iron pressed, laying
in the dying arms of
meeting the warmth of september.
we sauntered beside leaf-laden
miasmal canals after staple street
food, water droplets on our lenses,
navigating complicated alleyways
with ease until the rain is
tender and clamoring. october is full
of relentless beads and formulas, dead and
monotone, honed from years of
repetition where we learned to welcome
the inevitable. tender open arms
greeting the world as
if it had not been killing
us. we went from scraping our
knees to shamelessly sipping
soda near the lockers. we lived
by the parameters of broken physics and
misplaced authenticity, the
holy books treated better than the violated,
and we stole hidden almost-kisses between
bookshelves. the fragile antiquity of the
buildings growing used to our company-
there is something haunting yet peaceful
about it. november
mornings are full of mundane glory,
we see history draped on their
shoulders, their sins weighing
nothing. the masses are full of
overused words and sterile silence.
singing and soft keys and
crescendos. december is hazy and full
of soupy light. see, see, see this is a
city of angels and dust by high noon.
smoke clings to
sweat, navy and white stained. the
sidewalks are too full
of wet wood chunks and
plastic and fruit carcasses there’s no
space left for flowers to grow.
Aria Lee is aspiring to be a neuroscience major, Aria Lee is an ink and paper enthusiast with a love for clouds and calligraphy. She dabbles in poetry and absolutely hates milk. the gloomy months is a piece about growing up in an ever-developing city and a Catholic Institution, the gloomy months is a mellow poem from an atheist's perspective during the most quiet but chaotic months of the year.
DEATH BY REAL ESTATE
There once was water in this hole in the ground.
For years, it was a pond.
It provided for frogs and small turtles
and an occasional curious and hungry lizard.
The pond never felt like it was there on sufferance.
It was a giver of life, if only on a small scale.
As a kid, I could watch it for hours,
its buzzing dragonflies, squirming tadpoles,
cagey salamanders, tiny brown yabbies.
It gave back what I didn’t even put in.
And now, it’s to be part of a housing estate.
It’s to be like every other development
from Sleepy Waters to Paradise Gardens.
Folks will buy into the names
They just won’t get the reality.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Sin Fronteras, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty with work upcoming in Plainsongs, Willard and Maple and Connecticut River Review.