during the three-year rain / Saturn birthed
a beautiful new ring that some dubbed the greatest
mishandling of galactic expectation
awed by dauntless Saturn / my lover
and i settled into our waterproof
casings to apprentice
ourselves to the solar system
how sad to be flung
into your own outer space
how dry you can become without tears
how cold to forget the new moon
my lover / a woman who stuffed her chest
with flowering weeds saved from drowning
in the yard my lover a woman
who kicked sunlight into the fireplace for
winter nights / i—heap of spare parts
that i am—i / loved her / asked her:
is your skin shedding all reptilian
because you’ve refused crying / fearful
others might see your augments
starry system my lover a woman
orbited towards me across the yard
/ rained weeds on my junkyard crown and said:
i tried on a kind of strength for so long but
if Saturn can marvelous defy / then we
© 2020 by Tamara Jerée
I know you come around here often,
so why don’t you measure the salt of my tears?
(I have etched your name on every drop.)
The slime of me craves the sweat of you.
My tentacles long to riddle your ship with holes
just like your eyes speared all my hearts
clean through their exoskeleton shield.
I want you in the depths of my sea;
I want you like the depths of my sea.
I want you fathomless.
© 2020 by Avra Margariti
with a Line Borrowed from Ojo Taiye
what will you sing if hunger abides in your blood?
ash pours back into the waters, this is the beginning
of grief. the body is part-salt, part-coal, part-grain, and
it sits at the heart of the water. there is an animal
for everything created by nature, and the hyena is the mark
of the sea. I mean to say that the sea tenders a slaughter
slab. the many sounds of the waters are warnings
encrypted upon the blue layers. let blue be made black,
and let black be the shadows shawled with eulogies. I cup
a handful of sea; my father’s ghost brews alongside
hundred others. I mean to say that water is a skull, and
there are many things to a skull.
a poem opens with hunger. last night, I ploughed my throat
into a scream. I confess this poem is about a swallow & the ash
is sealed with a fang. I let the images haunt, for what good is my life
without hieroglyphs? my tongue is put out like a sickle:
it pierces itself in silence. I mean to say that there will always be
a sea swimming into my sleep. the ungovernable awakens me.
don’t ask me if I drowned in my dream. it is too early to be
bruised by the voices of my mistaking. I mistook poetry
for communion: let grief be shared as bread. let the metaphors
be drank as wine. let us be drunk: we have enough poetry
for a lifetime.
© 2020 by Wale Ayinla
Every day I carry a shoeful of sand to my square office where,
stumbling from edge to edge, I bruise like a baby and
age like one.
If I bring my own supplies, I figure,
I can at least blunt the corners of the reception desk,
deodorize the salmon in the fridge, and
smother the robot at the other end of the line.
Every day I raise my patent-leather loafer and
toast to the sugary sand that coarsens my eardrums and
thaws my bones.
The sand grows stealthily.
A colleague took notice of my beachy floor.
“The cleaning lady is lazy,” she said, frowning.
The sand is an accomplice with words—
both proliferate with the reliability of plants.
The palm tree is rotting on the balcony.
The fruit flies, dressed in filmy black,
have come to the funeral.
My sand saving, every grain of it,
has gone into the burial.
Emergency is a feast that takes years to digest.
To be prepared, we starve ourselves
every day, keeping our minds crystal-clear.
© 2020 by Na Zhong
face me Ozymandias
open your stone eyes
this world has changed
brought low by time
everything is hungry
and the world swallows
that cling to old rocks
being ground down
flowing out into sandy seas
taking with it all of time
Pale hands beckon like open flame
foxfire on your lips
leads me deeper into your swamp
like folk tales of buried treasure
that I want to make true.
Your eyes cloud over
St. Elmo’s fire on your lips
and its thunder rumbles in my chest.
I count the seconds in between.
Are you moving towards me
or farther away?
Galaxyfire made of one hundred
million embers firefly eyes
abyss in your lips
my god—it’s full of
deep sea creatures
green glowing lures
and I’m sinking—
1. cutting a pear
2. the storm petrel does not land until it dies
3. I was a stegosaurus once
3. I floated on a gold sea under a black sky
3. I leaned on the metal heater and shivered, feeling body heat escape through my open collar, while I waited to be picked up from school
4. crows at dawn, power lines buzzing in the mist
6. I failed my frog dissection
7. the eyes of the pig, the detective said, would have popped like grapes
10. imagine Cyclops and his single eye
10.5. tearing up
10.75. at his daughter’s ballet recital
10.875. he suspects she is nothing like him
10.9375. they will always argue once she grows up
10.96875. he will ultimately disappoint her
9. Cyclops drinks to forget
8. he drinks crushed pig eyes
7. sweet things often come from ugly pain
6. he himself was an ugly child
5. a stegosaurus, with a brain in its tail (this is a myth, but so is he)
4. taking live things apart to see how they worked
3. the past is foggy for Cyclops
2. he loves his daughter, he loves his friends, he loves his country and the pear’s sweet juice
1. so why does he feel monstrous?
On the longest day of the year
we wait for nightfall, slouching on
your grandmother’s porch, pack
of cigarettes balanced on the arm
of your plastic lawn chair.
We smoke and watch the cars
streak by on the highway,
the supersonic whine of
engines drowning out the rattle
of insects hiding in the tall
grasses. You push your long
black hair, sticky with sweat, off
the back of your neck, and I
pretend not to notice the leonine
grace of your movements, your
long guitarist’s fingers cinching
it like a belt, cigarette dangling,
eyes closed against the heat
and the oily cloud of progress’s
When night comes we’ll move
under cover of darkness to the
field behind your grandmother’s
house. We’ll look for the star
burning like a chancel lamp.
On the shortest night of the year,
we’ll say our prayers in smoke-
shrouded voices the way your
grandmother taught us, even
though we were not the girls
tradition required, but boys, now
For now we sit in the heat,
just out of the sunlight,
watching the blur of heavy
machinery on the road.
I steal the cigarette out of
your hand, pretend that it’s a
I am the place where
hooves join dirt
where fur and flesh
meet and cut apart
I was with Sacagawea
when she died
young and fevered
on the old Missouri bend,
of Louis & Clark’s
of undone secrets
and untread roaming.
In 1810 I rode west along the rails
pounding stakes and carving tunnels
like John Henry,
laying the future down as I went
ley lines etched upon the earth
a treasure map to success, excess, and ruin.
Between Fort Laramie and Soda Springs
I spent six years inside a young man’s skull
refuged in the tatter-shade of wagon canvas,
his body picked clean by carrion crew
bleached white death in the glamor of the sun.
Black Hill bounties and typhoid fever
and all along The Trail of Tears we left
teeth and feet and bones a-plenty
fire to fuel the extinction hunger;
yet I survived the genocide
and settled east and easy
playing joker guns
in old west shows,
folding cards with bullets
strewn drunk and loose.
In those years,
half a hundred
claimed to be me
or Buffalo Bill
or Wild Bill Hickok
or Calamity Jane
And again we lived
upon the silver screen
in faded jeans and
Head them off at the pass!
Indians coming ’round the bend!
We got wagons to burn
and Dance, boy! Dance!
and in Larry and James and Cormac and Louis
in Leone and Ford and Peckinpah
and in the roaming endless desert sunsets
that you can find here still
in the far and lonesome West.
And if you listen close,
you can still hear my very voice
when the sun crashes down upon the plain
in a red-orange riot that sends the day away singing
and draws the night over the earth
in a shroud of star studded death,
hear my whisper and heed my words:
I am the West
and I am the East
I am blood slicked gold
and the haze of the sun
I am death and misadventure
and I have secrets still
in velvet grasp of eternal night
a building wrapped in strips of glass, light
slicing bravely through starless dark
so utterly alone, fragile before shadows.
but inside, inside! red carpets, golden lamps
warming the grain of rich wood; the air drunken wild
with the breath of infinity patiently blowing
in crisp recycled breeze—bold-printed notices
announcing a seminar, always tomorrow at noon,
plush chairs turned forward in soft expectation
goodie bags lined up by the podium waiting for you
who came here yesterday but yesterday
means nothing; it must have been hours since
you slipped through those doors and yet the sky
still holds no kiss of dawn and every exit
tunnels back on itself till you forget
what you were looking for
you should not be this calm, not least when
the guest list holds only deadnames of the people
you and everyone you know could have been
and the chocolate in the goodie bags
are matryoshka-wrapped in infinite
plastic cupping your pools
of frustrated longing
in the halls of desk-cramped offices outside
every worker is your first celebrity crush
in dizzying iterations of achingly handsome
men and women whispering in covert urgency
tension vibrating through the impossible crowd
of twinned bodies; supervisors
lean by the door, hands sketching
divergent courses of lives
eyebrows raised in judgement
at all versions of you;
the young man in shirtsleeves mopping marble floors
beneath the crystalline light of atrium glass
does not look at you. you dare not call to him,
lest he turn around and you recognise yourself
and break the flimsy illusion of normalcy
you chant in a desperate mantra of denial
searching for the lifts, a sign, a door
a map saying ‘You Are Here’
the banner outside the seminar room
you fall into a chair
weeping into softness
shedding memories on the carpet.