by Oakley Ayden
i live inside a woodland hearth
untethered me daydreamed of once.
i’m now no childless woman.
out there, mum mountains, milky snow.
in here their clamor never lulls. i watch
flakes fall and feel her — the me i
could/should? have chose eight,
then five years ago. she never goes.
to ride the unbound snow
and sloppy slurp the silence
Oakley Ayden (she/her) is an autistic, bisexual writer from North Carolina. Her poems appear in Ghost City Review, Not Very Quiet, The Minison Project and elsewhere. She currently lives in California’s San Bernardino National Forest with her two daughters. Find her on Twitter (@Oakley_Ayden) or Instagram (@Oakley.Ayden).
by Em Readman
Watch him stare out to sea,
Out past the islands and the
Just in case.
He listens, for the sound of
A tin hull scraping against
The rock jetty.
He watches the tide for a fish-
ing rod with the matching initials
Etched in the handle.
Hopes for a boat turning past the cape,
For a ‘nice to meet you’
For a ‘I knew you’d be looking.’
He waits, for the absence of
No news, for something
More than this.
He scribbles down the names
Of all the sailboats, resting
In the marina,
Like it’s their fault,
Touches the rudder
I worry he’ll come back to the marina.
Climb the chain link fences, and
Go looking for you.
I slip my hand in his,
Look him dead in the eyes,
See straight through to yours.
Em Readman is a writer who lives in Meanjin (Brisbane). Her work has recently been published in Aniko Press, KOS Magazine, Good Material Magazine. They were shortlisted for the QUT Allen and Unwin Creative Writing Award in 2019, and earned a Highly Commended Award in the 2021 Kingston Arts Blitz.
by Michael Russell
who the fuck
was that swamp thing
like a cumrag
on your desktop?
mikey / don’t / ask him that / don’t be that /
mean / sit
down / root / ground / don’t
crack don’t crack / don’t /
when I tried to speak,
floated like corpses
inside my throat,
adam’s apple cored
& split, chewed,
you little fuck,
you big baby,
you emotional cannibal,
when your face boils
rum red, salts with shame.
boyfriend, when you wrote that love letter—was it before or after you dug your tongue into the socket of a camera? before or after your laptop burned white / hot with the blistered heat of genitals?
hey, it’s been a few days
since we last spoke
& i was wondering
if your fingers drifted
like ships in seawater,
lighthoused the android
humming at your bedside?
a cock on cam / is a fishhook / throbbing with bate / & a pussy / a fishnet / tossed sloppy / & cast like a spell / catch / the kitty / catch / an asshole / puckered & gaping / waiting / like a school / of red / -bellied piranhas /
dude! show me ur butt!
warmed your eyes like crab / apples, wormed their tongue into the wet slosh of your lubed asshole?
call them succubus, call them
i’ll never know
their body, how
ripped or angled,
sharp, their face
pixelated with lag
compared to mine.
let me carve you
into mannequin, let me
fetch my knife.
boyfriend said he liked his twinks
so, i bought him a sexbot & shaved
an inch off its waist, chiseled thin
its hips, abs, pecs. hmm! we need
to program an objective. boyfriend,
do you want someone to fuck? marry?
spoon? gut? good. i made sure
it’s beardless. now, what do you need
from it? a power bottom? dom top? a flip
-flop? do you want someone quiet?
someone who talks? nerdom? sports? tell me!
do you want to fuck it, marry it or kill it?
what’s wrong / with you? / do you want me / to break up with you?
just remind me why
after we said goodnight
& the lights dimmed
& the city stumbled
into sleep, you reached
for your camera & a man
to stroke, cocks
growing until they bust
fireworks / gunshots.
Michael Russell (he / they) is Mama Bear to chapbook Grindr Opera (Frog Hollow Press). He’s queer, has BPD, Bipolar Disorder and way too much anxiety. His work has appeared in Arc Poetry Magazine, Heavy Feather Review, Homology Lit, Plenitude among other places. He lives in Canada and thinks you’re fantabulous. Insta: @michael.russell.poet
by Shaswata Gangopadhyay
First: remove the husks of words then put them in a ceramic pot
Let them wet in tears for around ten minutes
then, when they maize in salt, take the shapes of granules
fire up the oven and fry them in cooking oil
After: cut the vein of your right forefinger,
spill a drop of blood and prepare with flour
Make a tasty gravy, add spices to taste
In the way the deer dance in heavy monsoon night,
musk-scented just like that, mix and blend secretly
the rhythm of their steps in every line
Now spread roasted words over the surface
with fresh coriander and green lemon
While hot like the round petals of lotus,
serve it in white paper, one after another
and readers will taste it, saying: magnificent.
Shaswata Gangopadhyay (India) is one of the Prominent faces of Contemporary Bengali Poetry ,who started writing in the mid-90s. Born and brought up in Kolkata, Shaswata has participated in different virtual poetry festivals across Europe, as well as North and Latin America. His poetry books include Inhabitant of Pluto Planet (2001), Offspring of Monster (2009) and Holes of Red Crabs (2015).
by Hugh McMillan
The river is fast after rain
but the sun is hanging out
as if it’s June.
Break open a bottle
of shine while the nymphs
and selkies washed here
waft in pools, stones
glittering in their teeth.
Cast our backpacks
with their breaded fish
and beetroot aside
and dance on the brink:
the peewits will be
amazed at our insouciance.
Spread me your jewels
infuse these grass tips,
warm up this pen,
the summer we write
will be full of poems:
this is what we live for,
this palm of moment,
reaching out to squeeze
like a fruit, holy lemon you.
Hugh McMillan is a Scottish poet. In 2017 he was writer in residence at the Harvard Summer School. He currently curates #plagueopoems, poems filmed from lockdown. https://pestilencepoems.blogspot.com/ In 2020 he was chosen by the Scottish Poetry Library as one of 4 ‘Poetry Champions’ for Scotland. His website is at https://www.hughmcmillanwriter.co.uk/
by Martha Landman
after Tea in the Bedsitter by Harold Gilman, 1916
Too much blue, too much scent trapped
in this room. Give me ocean, give me sky.
Give me Somerset, let me board in Kent.
A blue bus will do or the wings of a butterfly.
Today on the train even the ocean was ink.
But here, in this room, in this melancholy,
we women fade in blue as if a painter
got stuck in cyan. We’re not meant to cry,
we’re not meant to defy. We’ve no way to elope.
Give me a blue horse, save me from eternity.
Take me to Spain, rush along Canal Bridge,
I’ll sleep on the roadside, seek white days,
a blazing sun, crimson and rose, the coolness
of marble floor. Give me what you want,
give me anything but blue.
Martha Landman writes in Adelaide, South Australia where she is a member of the Friendly Street Poets. Her work has appeared online and in anthologies in the US, UK, Australia and South Africa. Her chapbook, Between Us, was published by Ginninderra Press, Adelaide, in 2019.
by Ashley Sapp
You point out the northern parula’s trill
to me as we cut through the water,
birthed in the sunlight: the rising song
with the final sharp note. The yellow warbler
not yet tentative of us. This is the harmony
I will remember when I am gone –
certain, I am, as I watch colors flick through,
a discovery of movement. Speak to me of birds,
and I will commit their voices to memory
because you loved them. We brush hands
as we pass, pathways carved in our fluid wake –
fringed, temporary. Our reflections stir
beneath, broken. Do not grieve. My body is caught
alive, but there are hawk feathers in the water.
Your children will sprout wings from their spines,
a tribute to invincible youth. What we find here
will become home in the oaks. You point to me and
the trill is quiet. The final note, a question.
Ashley Sapp (she/her) resides in Columbia, South Carolina, with her dog, Barkley. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of South Carolina in 2010, and her work has previously appeared in Indie Chick, Variant Lit, Emerge Literary Journal, Common Ground Review, and elsewhere. Ashley has written two poetry collections: Wild Becomes You and Silence Is A Ballad. She can be found on Twitter @ashthesapp and Instagram @ashsappley.
by Jos Glencross
For my brother
Brothers plant trees and names
found as ancient seeds sprout
pimpled bark and stretch-marked thighs.
Make needles burst red berries, of
full bellies and empty wombs.
Growing pains of trees and T
and trees of pains growing.
Wombs empty and bellies full
of berries - red - burst. Needles make
thighs marked, stretch and bark,
pimpled. Sprout seeds:
ancient as found names.
And trees plant brothers.
Jos Glencross is a queer writer, raised on the suburban streets of Meanjin (Brisbane). They love to play with words and believe in embracing mediocrity and flourishing despite it. Jos aspires to adopt several dozen cats throughout her lifetime. You can find them on Instagram @jd.glenx
by Les Wicks
Never raised your voice
there by the river, whispered
It wasn’t politics, couldn’t be love.
When there’s a head like yours
anything outside it is drear & sloth.
Your chords were unpicked by forensic psychiatrists
& the company stopped paying royalties.
I said that happens…
when no one understands, no one buys.
He said I’d have made
a good agent or warder if I only exercised
my innate fuckugliness better.
You were a beautiful man.
Les Wicks has been published across 32 countries in 15 languages. His 14th book of poetry is Belief (Flying Islands, 2019). He can be found at leswicks.tripod.com/lw.htm.
by Clare Roche
She arrives pink and screaming into
a town that sits snug where the earth
meets its end where
alpine ridges sparkle white in summer and
flightless birds screech their outrage at
probable extinction while albatrosses stretch
like long white clouds across iron skies.
I take her wrapped still pink still screaming out into
the southern gales that whip the sea
to egg white foam where
glossy seals surf beside black rubbered teens and
tree sized kelp clings to the shells of hulls
that wash unbidden to shore
while I watch the snow fall like grains of sand
upon the beach and I walk and walk
breathing in her smell, alone with fear and joy.
Clare Roche lives in Inner West Sydney on Wangal and Gadigal land. Her poetry has been published in Dwell Time (UK), Leopardskins and Lime (Berlin), Uppagus (US) and HOOT (US forthcoming). Her creative non-fiction was short-listed for the Nillumbik Prize for Contemporary Writing (2020).