Poetry Archive

Kissing Him at the Clown Mouth

She was running out of reality quick. She was kissing him at the clown mouth—the entrance to a funhouse they’d put upside-down by accident. So she had to step over his eyes, step over his jagged teeth. Had to enter under the tongue, like a pill. She was navigating a new fear. He was half-erect in candy stripes, a carnival tarp going up between his legs. You don’t know how hard it is to stay in this world with you, she thought. She was all body then, the rest of her lost in the house of mirrors. They bent her eyes. They tilted her throat back like a new bird. They sucked up her song. He was inside her now. She was all body. She was running out of reality quick. She was running. The clown mouth spoke. Let yourself have it. He knew she’d never come alive before. She was running with shards in her feet. She was navigating a new fear. Let yourself have it. She heard his reflection, his voice multiplied in the mirrors she couldn’t break. Let yourself have it. She was all body. She was all body but it was all horror. It was all horror. It was all nothing. It was all fear. Let yourself have it. It was all body. It was all horror. Everything shook. Everything flashed white and clinical.

 

 


Emilia Rose Hamra studied Creative Writing at Arizona State University. She was the recipient of the Norman Mailer College Poetry Award as well as the Glendon and Kathryn Swarthout Award for Poetry. At present she lives and teaches in Mexico City. 

Language

My mother is a tornado
tearing into floorboards
with the undulated strength
of her tongue,
she rips apart excuses
with words that echo
across our history
and the blame is neatly
designated – my stupidity,
my ignorance –
why can’t you be a proper Burmese lady?
again I trip over my ancestry
every time I’m asked to address
an elder – a monk –
a friend – so I’ve stapled
the roof of my mouth
to my tongue and let
my silence speak –
but rude, how can you
know your place in the world
when you can’t even
pronounce it?

I say rice paddy fields
in the arch of a violet sky,
pond water riddled with
water hyacinths, purple
like velvet sacks
that suffocated our princes,
red earth that took
our kings and queens
I call thibaw’s name and he responds
from a foreign grave.
they have killed all of us
stuff dirt into our mouths
and now complain
that we cannot speak.

my mother forgets that she
decided that my brother and I
would only attend English schools.
I remember restitching my tongue
to articulate words that felt
too much like gunshots
like the storming of the Shwedagon
like the rubies falling from my lips
into the laps of white men.
I say colonialism
and it sticks in my throat.
I say remember how we died
and she responds
the white men didn’t kill us.
but why then am I here
writing this poem in their language
so they might understand—
why then do I stutter
when I try to speak
my native tongue
why then do I hear laughter
in the mouths of relatives
and strangers, saying bo ma
“foreign woman”
I am a foreigner
on my own ground.

the land is a stranger
to me. I ask it if
I can come home,
it responds in a language
I recognize
but can no longer
understand.

 

 


Mandy Moe Pwint Tu is a writer and a poet from Yangon, Myanmar. She has been published in World Poetry Movements Best Poets and Poems of 2012 and with the Society of Classical Poets. She has featured at the Perth Poetry Club and has represented Myanmar in the Perth Poetry Festival’s segment, Asian Connexions. She was also published in the annual Perth Poetry Club zine, Recoil 7. At 21, she co-founded the Yangon Literary Magazine, which was featured in the BBC Radio 4 documentary Yangon Renaissance: Poets, Punks, and Painters. She is currently studying English and Women & Gender Studies at Sewanee: the University of the South.

Why I was Married by a Non-Affiliated Priest

The black print of Ephesians 6 commands
wives: Submit.
Women are notified:
dainty vertebrae
can’t build crucifixes.
Onion-skin papers concede
neither feminism nor fear.
I’ve begged God
with a cracking throat
why can’t I just be happy?
Teenagers kiss behind pews
with communion wafers
shoved under their tongue.
When found, they are scolded, raided,
like land stolen in a war.
As a girl, I was told:
the feet of my brothers
confuse which paths
are light and which are dark
so I, their sister, must cover myself.
For thirteen years
the only
holy sacrament
I could eat
was my tongue.

Stephanie Renae Johnson is the first place winner of the 2017 Lumina Magazine Poetry Contest and the Editor-in-Chief of The Passed Note. Her work has been published by New Ohio Review, Beecher’s Magazine, Jabberwock Review, and QU, among others. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina with her husband and their seven bookshelves. You can learn more at www.srenae.com

What the Body Knows

How to flee / or at least how to want to / how to thrum with silent shame / secret iconoclast hacking a red grimace / through Thanksgiving dinner / with people who love you / what do they know / gorgeous table wrought in your grandfather’s workshop / musty and alluring / the thought of your toes in the sawdust / marking his sacred space / always enough to keep you out / foreign as the delicate theme of periwinkle blue / running laps around your head / domestic reverence imbued with inscrutable meaning / too much movement inside / ideas popcorning skyward / dragging you down / like Rhode Island the size of everyone everywhere / penguined together against scathing wind / dense aberration fighting in vain / against smooth passage through space / just how you feel / in silence / the bitterest conflicts / weathered with lungs and fingers / silence is cleaner / even than this elegant dining room / that also slips through the night / with brutal speed

 


Elias Peirce is writer living in Portland, Maine, where they work at Trader Joe’s. This is their first publication.

Mètis Breakfast

Pipe tobacco rolled in bank receipts
Smoked smooth from dirt to peat
With each sip of french pressed
And honeyed coffee. My body
Is a bog. I wanted to quit
This winter. Two restless dogs
Banjo and Fiddle jig their feet
Even in sleep. Rising Cloud sleeps shallow,
Stirs hallow and aching for thunders.
The snow is trapezoid trapeze artists
Dangled in funnels, swirling frost devils.
They tangle my drift driveway,
The space between
Our elk hide drum Waabishkaa Bizhiki Aanikwit
And Sunday Mass at St. Kateri’s Catholic Church.
Hyacinths are buried under a mantle of ice
And Fiddle nurses Banjo’s busted duclaw
With his tongue, saliva pitch like a winter tuning fork.
If my body is a bog
I want bears to sleep in my arm pits
And flowers to bloom from my chest.
I swell with stifled earth.

 

 


Tyler Dettloff is an Anishinaabe Métis, Italian, and Irish writer, professor, musician, and water protector raised on the edge of the Delirium Wilderness. He currently lives in Gnoozhekaaning (Bay Mills, Michigan). Tyler teaches College Composition at LSSU and is the NF Editor for Border Crossing Lit. Mag. He has earned a B.S. in English and a dual track M.A. in Literature and Pedagogy from NMU. His work has been featured in Voice on the Water, Crab Fat Magazine, Heartwood Literature Magazine, and Swimming with Elephants publications. Mostly, he enjoys walking along rivers with his wife Daraka and through swamps his dogs Banjo and Fiddle.

Forgiveness Season

When the green Sierra figs
have fully digested the tiny wasps
that burrow in their backs
through a pinched hole
losing their wings on the way
so all that’s left is to desiccate
among the pink jammy acids.

A season for telling our preteens
that forgiveness is a commandment,
for imagining a god that gives
permission to wage war
but orders us let go of petty grudges
over who lost the glitter gel polish
or left the snowball dance too early.

A season for leading by example
alone in the small chapel with lights off
too dark to read but I know it by heart
Blessed are you our god who didn’t
make me a woman

and finding it easy to forgive
because it’s true–
god didn’t make me a woman
You did. Yes, You, You Reader

who now will picture that tiny wasp
in the exact moment its first wing separates
at the iridescent shoulder, so easy
it could have been perforated
still it pushes onward
as the second wing sticks and rips
and then the acid whispers
open to its buzzing, swollen abdomen.

You are blessed, You who hears
petty grudge and thinks Girlhood
you who feels the wasp’s final shudder
and thinks Inheritance. Bless you.

 

 


Joshua Sassoon Orol is a trans Jewish poet from Raleigh, NC, writing with the texts, tunes, and stories passed down from their mixed heritage family. Joshua completed an MFA at NC State University, and received an Academy of American Poets prize while at UNC Chapel Hill. Their work has most recently been published in the Jewish Literary Journal, Nimrod, Driftwood Press, and the 2018 Mizmor Anthology.

Baby Face

The woman evaluating my honesty at the liquor store
looks at my face as it was five years ago
and then at the face I am wearing now
and then at the small plastic rectangle in her hands
and she examines the date written upon it
and she says “You don’t look like an ’80s baby.”

I have walked to the counter with a handle
of Canadian Club and a fifth of Four Roses
because I know myself well enough to know
that early tonight I will want to taste everything
and later tonight I will still want to fill myself
with something I could confuse for fire.

All of this must be showing, because the woman says
“It’s a compliment, honey” as she hands back
the thing with my old name and my old face
and we laugh together, gently, as I slide
my face back into my wallet, and open my pack
to slide the tasteful thing and the tasteless thing

away from anyone who could see.

 

 


Michael Alden lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where they teach middle school and high school language arts and occasionally try to scribble out things that could be construed as poetry. Their writing has been published in Drunken Boat, Magma, and elsewhere. They won the first annual Rain City Hoodie Slam, and have represented Seattle and Pittsburgh at national poetry competitions.

A Seat at the Trickster’s Table

I arrived hungry to the feast
invitation clutched in hand,
but something seems off—
there are only tricksters around this table.
I can’t look too closely at the center offering
in case I recognize the face.
It’s a well-kept secret but even the most
respectable animals will eat one another
if the season is right.
They just hide their blood-soaked
lips behind fine linen napkins.
I spent so long learning to use the
cutlery from the outside in,
butter knife on its own plate.
But the buzzard at the head of the table
has no need for such utensils,
and the rabbit to his right
eats everything with a dessert fork.
I could leave but I spent years
sewing this dress,
this isn’t the fashion back home,
and I still owe so much for the fabric.
Besides, I’m hungry.
I traveled too far to turn
back on an empty stomach,
and they don’t give these invitations
to everyone—just ask the guy
they’re serving onto plates.
I guess there’s nothing left to do but
claim the seat between Fox
and Crow, and grow my nails long
to pick apart the bones.
Even the gentlest of beasts
will eat flesh
if the season is right.

 

 


Jenny L. Davis (Chickasaw) is a Two-Spirit/queer Indigenous writer and professor of American Indian Studies and Anthropology. Her creative work has been featured in literary journals including Transmotion; Anomaly; and Broadsided, as well as in anthologies such as As/Us; Raven Chronicles; and Resist Much/Obey Little: Inaugural Poems to the Resistance.

I Can Hear You

Poem for the dead

I can hear the stream, the generator
shutting off, and the white dogs barking.

I can hear my footsteps on the dirt road shaded
from moonlight by the tended forest. I can hear fog

sliding over the hilltops and pooling, lit
from below like a glowing river, out of which

I can hear Orion rising. I can hear the chains
on the gate returning to their embrace

of the pole. I can hear Gus the dying cat mewling
in confusion when I approach. I can hear you,

arcane and violet as my own breath. It’s not
that I’ve forgotten. It’s that I never knew

who you were.

 


Renée Lepreau is a midwife and lactation consultant with her own practice (www.junemoonbirth.com) in Berkeley, CA. She is also pursuing a certificate in Creative Writing/Poetry from Berkeley City College.

Making Light

Warm in the air, wet
in the dirt: first rain.

From my bones lifts
the hurt of winter. Rain

hums in the gutters, keeps time
on the roof. Inside,

I hum a simple tune:
a garden, long days, dark dirt.

I hum and the room expands —
no walls, no wind.

I shape a lamp from hammered
copper and place it in the space.

I leave it with the switch clicked on
and wait—sunlight pours

onto the floor. All through the room
it spreads—the light.

 


Lizzy Fox is a poet and educator with an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she now works as Associate Director for the MFA in Writing & Publishing. Lizzy is a recipient of the Laura J. Spooner Prize and the Corrine Eastman Davis Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of Vermont. Her poems have appeared in a variety of anthologies and art displays, including the forthcoming Transcendent Poetry Anthology from Cosmographia Books. In addition to her own writing, she brings poetry and recitation workshops to schools and nonprofits across the northeast and teaches online writing courses focused on writing as a spiritual practice.

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