“The Farm I’ve Willed You” by John Davis, Jr.

Return when my strong ghost is gone:
When the ax-yard stump’s black center
grows moss, when the barn rafters
lose my fingerprints, after every post
forgets the warmth of my work-breath.

No need to forever ask: Is this
how he did it? You know and will grow
your own ways – a man’s touch ingrained
for your children to find and recall
the knots of your knuckles, planks of your palms.


John Davis Jr. is the author of Hard Inheritance (Five Oaks Press, 2016), Middle Class American Proverb (Negative Capability Press, 2014), and two other collections of poetry. His poems have appeared in venues such as Nashville Review, Tampa Review, One, The Common, and The American Journal of Poetry, among many others. He holds an MFA from University of Tampa.

“Baker’s Dozen” by Frank Modica

Every year on my brother’s birthday,
I reminisce alone in a city of people
who do not know his name.

I look at family albums, his twisty smile.
He is flour and water rolled into pastry dough,
one last piece of pie left on the table.


Frank C Modica is a retired public school teacher. He taught students with special needs for 34 years. Since his retirement he volunteers with a number of arts and social service organizations in his community. His work has appeared in Spindrift Literary Arts Journal, Slab, Heyday Magazine, Cacti Fur Magazine, The Tishman Review, Crab Fat Literary Magazine, and Black Heart Magazine.

Two Poems by Sarah L. Webb

The Kitchen

when I walked into the kitchen that night
the clock on the oven blinked
a boxy blue 7:13
you sat with your back to the door
shoulders rounded over the square table

there had been something cooking
with red or black pepper, and perhaps
you’d already choked on it
alone wiping your eyes and nose
if I’d known you were reading Gordian’s letters

I’d have slipped hunger back under my blouse and snuck away
but when the screen door banged you turned to me
asked me to sit at the table with you
even with all those spices in the air


Abandoned

condemned contemplation
abandoned building in open land

fragmented wind sweeps in
through unseen crannies
wafting wooden musk and grassy gust

rusted joints creek inarticulately
crow’s rustic refrain cracks against walls
waking every phantom reposed within

attention hushes through overgrown grasses
lost among the acres, closing in on tenuous sanity
strenuous system of prayers drying in the sun

sky so pristine it reflects the weathered rooftop
sagging over the space it holds


Sarah L. Webb is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Illinois Springfield. In 2013, She created Colorism Healing, an international initiative through which she hosts writing contests, publishes books, curates exhibitions, produces videos, and more. Her writing has been published online and in print in venues like OVS, Dig, Blackberry, and Roll.

“Long Haul” by Brad Rose

Arlene’s bracelets are shiny, and when she slips in close to me, they jangle like loose coins in a metal lunchbox. I told her about the hour I spent in town, just before I met her at The Gas Light. Told her, this time, it was just a small fire. There weren’t any witnesses. Sooner or later Marcus, they’re going to catch up with you, and when they do, don’t smile in your mugshot. The music got louder, and the room was hot as an August Brownsville noon. She pulled me onto the dancefloor like she always does, like she’s running away from something chasing her, something only she can see. I think that’s why she’s stayed with me so long. That and her husband’s unsolved murder. What we did on the dancefloor wasn’t dancing exactly, but the lights were low and nobody cares about a balding long-haul driver and his middle-aged girlfriend. Not on a Tuesday night. Not in Lubbock. Sure as hell, not the cops.


Brad Rose was born and raised in Los Angeles and lives in Boston. He is the author of a collection of poetry and flash fiction, Pink X-Ray (Big Table Publishing, 2015, http://pinkx-ray.com and Amazon.com.) Brad has three forthcoming books of poems, Momentary Turbulence and WordinEdgeWise, from Cervena Barva Press, and de/tonations from Nixes Mate Press. He is also the author of five chapbooks of poetry and flash fiction. Four times nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and once nominated for Best of the Net Anthology, his poetry and micro fiction have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The American Journal of Poetry, Sequestrum, Hunger Mountain, Folio, decomP, Lunch Ticket, The Baltimore Review, and other publications. His story, “Desert Motel,” appears in the anthology Best Microfiction, 2019. Brad’s website is: www.bradrosepoetry.com.

Two Poems by Kayla Sargeson

Hungry

The Savannah air feels wet and Rita
sticks her hand out the window, wiggles
her fingers, and slides them down my arm.
Feel it?
In Pittsburgh, there’s someone who says
no one loves you like I do
and it’s something I carry with me
like a lucky rabbit’s foot.
Driving down Abercorn
there’s a lazy light I’m dazzled by.
I’m hungry for heat,
sweat dripping from forehead to breast,
hungry to touch the tips of trees I like so much,
the ones that bend over like they’re looking for something
and don’t seem to care if the ever find it.


Tybee

You can’t say ‘townie,’ Sonya says,
pours us another tequila shot
in the kitchenette of our rented house.
Maybe we can go to the beach after the bar.
Tybee is a Native American word for salt,
and, according to Sonya,
is one of the last places in Georgia to end segregation.
The main drag is all brilliant lights
and tourist trap bars w/names like Benny’s,
Bubba Gumbo’s, Spanky’s
.
We go into Benny’s,
order glasses of Tybee Island Juice,
that taste like Cherry Kool-Aid and vodka,
the humidity is curling my hair.
A group of girls sing Smash Mouth.
Sonya says yes to the Bundy-looking guy
who whisks in,
buys our drinks for the rest of the night.
Be nice to him. He’s from Ohio, she whispers.
I’m too drunk to think, so I
pose w/her in pictures for this couple
who can’t decide whether or not to buy a goat,
tell us to stop talking to faux-Bundy:
He’ll lure you into his van,
cut off your toes
.
We leave with a man named Moses,
old neighbor of Sonya’s, who
drives us back to the beach house,
pulls out his cock when Sonya
goes out to smoke.
You want this in your pussy?
I’m still wasted, don’t care, say yes,
break a nail flamenco dancing at 4 am
to no music
while Sonya sleeps on the wicker couch outside.


Kayla Sargeson is the author of the full-length collection First Red (Main Street Rag, 2016) and the chapbooks BLAZE (Main Street Rag, 2015) and Mini Love Gun (Main Street Rag, 2013). With Lisa Alexander, she co-curates the Laser Cat reading series. Sargeson lives in Pittsburgh where she teaches at the University of Pittsburgh, Carlow University and the Community College of Allegheny County.

“Whitman on the Mississippi, May 1848” by Jesse Breite

Riding the deck of the Pride,
I stare azalea-eyed into muddy streams,
glacial-fingered burrows, wet-puzzled earthloins.
Lifeblood—continental, hard-earned—
carries me away from the Crescent City—
the suicide thick on the carpet of the St. Charles hotel,
the sweet, staged moves of Julia Dean,
the myriad men orgiastic before the legs
of Collyer’s models—their frame and form
stretching and strained, faces breathing good air,
full of pride and rough skin and soft skin,
the dank scent of bananas, coffee.

I reckon I’ve had lovers bountiful—
the balcony flowering, the high-placed lady
advancing. She spots me naked in the river
of streetfolk. Her hand grazes over her bare
hips. I have also known—the young artist,
the heavy butcher, the press clerk and paper,
brick and mason, carpenter at shop, enslaved
man at auction, blacksmith breathing smoke
on the jamb, the mistress octoroon, her thighs
speckled with baby hair—the Creole baby
crawling, riches trembling in muscle tissue
I have imagined and touched and held.

I grow fat-minded, plosive with the thought
of sojourn, however brief and blues-dim,
on the blunt-lazy river. I too am teeming
and tameless. My mouthdrool sates every space
I perceive. I grow kosmic with assumption.
I am not bound by the shame of your etiquettes
but keep in the steam of each feeling, the felt
of my barest necessity, my hidden vicissitudes
where barrel-chested I exist without ceasing—
mutant and original, both derivative and driven.

How the river rises like topographic smoke,
writhes like a fat snake, roils through
my body, the earth, and the spine-juice spills over
tonguing each nerve with the fury
of light-splashed waves dimpling water,
manifold cheeks of the light-skinned river!

I know how the old Choctaw woman stood
pouring out language to Spaniards
over the floodwater at Aminyola.
In broken English, the translator said
the river surges twenty leagues across
every dozen years. But they had to take it.
They couldn’t imagine a greater belonging.
I will be more generous, thick-eyed seeing
South, West, the interlocking land-hips
rising up to Allegheny, Great Lake, Hudson River.

I dip all things perceived in a sacrament of pronouncements—
flood of my body, mouth-soul attiring all flesh
sacred, all supple-and-demand sacred,
every cottonknobbed and cottonwrapped man, woman, child.

I speak the drapes of your shame into birdsong.
I speak this River into Jacob’s Ladder.
I speak the body laborious and grateful.
I speak boats and bridges out of my head.
I speak the rail into its gnaw and pound.
I speak the highway as the valved-soul hums,
commercial and recapitulating, the voices
flushing out of inundated bodies, drained
basins into free soil. All prophecy democratic
and republican miracle pass through me.

I will make you to love the horizon, making
the horizon my lover.
I will pluck bulbs from the swamp, reclaim them,
glowing in the pits of my eyes—
how I will imagine beautiful and free, hands and feet.


Jesse Breite’s recent poetry has appeared in Spillway, Crab Orchard Review, Terrain, and Prairie Schooner. His first chapbook is The Knife Collector, and he is an associate editor for The Good Works Review. He is also librettist for three of Atlanta composer Michael Kurth’s scores. Jesse teaches high school English in Atlanta where he lives with his wife and son.

Two Poems by Ashley M. Jones

Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane No. 106

for Clif, using words from the comic book

on this daily planet, my life is good luck, all supermen at my service—I should get the pulitzer prize on the backs of metropolis’ black community / wait / tenements perplex me—how can I break through this plague, their suspicious speech, these slick-mouthed babies and their knock-slam slang // homeless ghosts on this daily planet, what is the reason for their weary report / look how the sun shines sweet and pretty on their rat-infested slums // it’s okay, I’m right / I’m whitey, never forget // Little Africa is dejected, a neighborhood of frustration / I’ll step into this machine and transform, a startling switch / Black for a day only / the hum zoom of the world staring / the smoke of white fragility / its gloomy firetrap // Black is beautiful / have you met it before, reporter / the eternal struggle of life against death by darkness / a life of please, look me straight in the eye / the constant confrontation of being Black and alive in a white man’s world / a universal outsider // so alien, even Superman couldn’t risk loving you//


Redlining

Oh, what? You thought I didn’t belong here?
You thought your street was me-proof? Thought here
was a place only lilies could grow? Can you hear
my skin before you see it? Can you hear
the rap I’m blasting down your perfect street? Here,
take it—every beat will fight for me. If you can hear
it, that means I’m winning, that means you can’t hurt me here.
Means I’m belonging if it’s the last thing I do. Did you hear
the one about the black girl who just wanted to mind her
own business in a country, state, city, suburb where
their only business is making sure I’m not here?
Where my face my body my God my hair
even my right to write this sonnet right here
is policed, is stared down, is burned fast as ether.


Ashley M. Jones is a poet and educator from Birmingham, Alabama. She is the author of Magic City Gospel and dark // thing. Among her awards are the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award, a Literature Fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, and the Lucille Clifton Legacy Award. She teaches at the Alabama School of Fine Arts and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and she is the founding director of the Magic City Poetry Festival in Birmingham, Alabama.