Tag Archives: Issue 8

ROOTS

By Anukriti Yadav

I. Belongingness is never granted,

      or even secure in its acquisition—

      life teaches you that.

      you don’t want to be a metro coach

      at the busy Rajiv Chowk station

      exploding with abundance

      you cannot process. 

      you also don’t want to be lost

      at the token counter, 

                        or right before a map.

II. This language cannot really describe, ironically

      what it feels like to be colored—

      brown, yellow, black.

      to say namaste, annyeonghaseyo, or habari 

      (and Allah forbid if you use salaam)

      to an uncomprehending, white-washed room

      to be judged for not knowing their language

      but not expect the same in return: 

              the bloody history of English.

III. Some day you will find yourself 

      in an unfamiliar place, maybe even slightly lost

      it will make you question how 

      the life you had known until now

      could be so different, and yet. 

      but moving to a place that makes you 

      question your identity is the first step—

      towards discovering, 

      or rediscovering

                              your roots.


Anukriti Yadav (she/her) is an undergraduate STEM student from Delhi NCR. She enjoys poetry, book-hoarding, all kinds of tea, Grant Snider comics, taking pictures of commonplace objects, and speed-walking while listening to hyphenated genres of rock and acoustic music. She ardently believes in mint chocolate and mental health rights and can be reached on both Instagram and Twitter. Her work is forthcoming in Ice Lolly Review and Pop The Cultural Pill.

 

Derelict

By Matt Schultz

On the nights that he had worked past sundown
dad would park his tractor in our driveway.
The loose gravel popped under the weight of its tires
like fat dripping into an open spit; my brother and I
would knowingly spring from the dinner table
while mom pulled a plate from the oven and peeled
back the aluminum foil that clung to the mashed potatoes.

The break lights still shone against our neighbor’s garage 
like the dull bake of a wildfire glowing through smoke and ash
as our fingers tucked into the deep treads of the tractor’s wheels.
We hauled our small bodies up onto the big machine and sat––
side-by-side––in the cool metal bowl of the operator’s seat
tugging at levers that refused to heed our commands. “Be careful,”
dad would suggest on his way to the house, but we couldn’t hear
him over the rumbling auger chewing holes into the Earth. 

The moon glows mellow like a fogged headlamp


Matthew Schultz teaches creative writing at Vassar College. He is the author of two novels: On Coventry and We, The Wanted. His poems have recently appeared in Rust + Moth, Thrush, and Sledgehammer. Matt’s chapbook, Icaros, is forthcoming from ELJ Editions in May 2022. 

Stone Walls

By Matt Schultz

Here, along the field’s corrugated ridge and furrow,
the swell and swerve of moss-mortared stack-stones.
Here the Tridentine Mass of farm and pasture:
smallholdings, an economy of butter and beef.

Look how obstinate the rolling rock––
as if some proud gray-green rampart.
Again, wind-split hands uproot granite slabs:
frost and heave, the cursing of Uncle Scratch.


Matthew Schultz teaches creative writing at Vassar College. He is the author of two novels: On Coventry and We, The Wanted. His poems have recently appeared in Rust + Moth, Thrush, and Sledgehammer. Matt’s chapbook, Icaros, is forthcoming from ELJ Editions in May 2022. 

Your Mother and her Technicolor Idioms

By Connie Millard

“I caught him red-handed, that bastard,” your mother wails during her nightly call to your grandmother. 

In your room, you sprawl on a mattress on the floor and remember the night she confronts your father about his affair, her small frame wobbling from alcohol and momentary triumph as she waves the damning picture so close to his face, it slaps him across the cheek. 

She rails into the receiver that life is unfair, that a tramp with crooked teeth stole him, that she is stupid for marrying him so young.  Well, now she’s stuck with you, and who’s going to want her now.  She drones on like a half-dead bee trapped in a house, lumbering and erratic, but her stinger still sharp.

You slip on your headphones and jack up the volume.  The pulsing bass matches the thumping of you heart as you work to ignore the familiar tang of stomach acid in your throat, bitter and meaty, filling you up like the dinner you miss that night.

“No way.  You’re like apples and oranges,” she claims the time you ask to move with your brother to your father’s house.   

“We are the girls; they are the boys.  He belongs with him.  You belong with me,” her arm chops the air, severing you from them in desperate authority.

“Remember, it’s you and me against the world.  It’s our anthem,” she pleads, fixing you with a wild stare, her watery blue eyes partially hidden by her hair, once a stylish auburn crop, now shaggy and gray.  She and grips your hands in an unescapable vice as she sings the Helen Reddy hit, her slurred voice cracking,

“When all the others turned their backs and walked away,
You can count on me to stay.”

You do stay.  Because you have never been without your mother before, not once in your twelve years.  

“You yellow-bellied brat.  Get out here and talk to your grandmother,” she shrieks, shards of her wrath hitting you like shrapnel.

Your bedroom door explodes, and you throw the covers over your head, burrowing under the blanket to hide from the monster, praying that if you squeeze your eyes shut and chant, she’ll disappear. Like an exorcism. Go away.  Go away. Go away.

“You ungrateful slob. I said, get over here.”

You say you are tired. You say you have a stomach ache. You say you will talk to Grandma tomorrow.  

Please, Mommy.

But she is strong with vodka and rage and rips the blanket off like a band-aid of an unhealed wound, leaving you raw and exposed.  She grabs a fistful of your shirt and yanks you from the bed, where you hit the floor with a thud.  She drags you along to the kitchen and reach the phone to croak, Hi Grandma.

“Oh, so you think the grass is greener on the side, Missy?” she says when you explain that you called you father while she was in the bathroom.  You cannot look at her face.

You are leaving, you say.  He is coming for you

But, you are afraid.  Afraid of your father, who does not speak to you in the affair aftermath.  Who does not contact you when you move hours away to your aunt’s house to make a new life, only to be evicted six months later thanks to your mother’s drinking.  Who does not leave an address, so when you return, you wander the streets for days, an inept but dedicated stalker, until you finally spot him, and he gives you a hug and his phone number.

“I begged him to stay, begged him until I was blue in the face.”  She sobs and squeezes your arm so hard you know it will leave an angry bruise, a black and blue imprint on your skin and on your heart.

“Fine. Go.  I don’t need you.”

But she blocks the stairs and, when you slip under her, throws her short, plump body against the door.  You use your bags to pry her away, and she latches onto your sleeve and tugs, sucking you back in, to stay, to imprison. Fueled by adrenaline, you wrench the door open.  The gush of air shocks you both. And now she kicks and shoves you outside, out of her life.  Into the rain.  Into the dark.  Into the waiting headlights.  And you rejoice because you are free, and you are no shrinking violet.


Connie Millard is a full-time working mom of three who once made it to the final callbacks for the reality television show, Worst Cooks in America.  After much practice and perseverance, she now spends her time writing stories in between stirring risotto.  Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming in Potato Soup, Tales from the Moonlit Path, and Black Ink Fiction Drabble Anthology, among others.

If You Give a Girl a Pocket Knife

By Sarah Bean

The night we slept in a tent full of stars,
I learned how to use a knife.
How to hold it in my palm, just so,
how to slowly carve layers of life away,
revealing newborn green hidden from onlookers. 

The night we drank the sky’s tears,
I learned how to get in touch with roots.
How to connect to the soil and
facilitate rebirths.
Learned how to sharpen myself to a point,
to turn my canines deadly,
bite back at girl-shaped wolves, 
puncture jugulars to learn my left and right,
my soup spoon a sword.

The night we set the world on fire,
I learned how to tie knots in my tongue to keep from combusting.
How to fashion it around my prepubescent wrist,
lick my own wounds and develop a taste for salt. 
Learned that safety comes with silence, 
and that my knife couldn’t leave the grove.
Found a blade of grass for the trip home, 
kept the handle held in the back of my mind.

The night I buried myself in the forest, 
I learned how to wield a dagger made of flowers.
How to stick it in my bosom for safe keeping, 
to whittle myself down, cut off my offshoots, 
scrape off my bark.
To be just big enough to fit in wheel wells—
to be seen and not heard.

In that tent full of stars,
I learned how to use a knife.
How to ward off enemies in a fighting stance,
firmly planted and prepared,
and I earned the badge for best technique.


Sarah Bean (she/her) is a library technician and poet from Alberta, Canada. So far, her poetry has only appeared in zines that she photocopies at her local public library. She thanks you for being gentle.

The Great Red Spot

By Sage Agee

My chest leaks liquid sentiment. 
Sustaining another life sometimes
means forgetting my own.

There is darkness in pumping white 
milk from a chest on lease. 

I can’t wait to return it to the hospital room, 
nipples and all.

My doctor says I can start 
testosterone in ten months—
when I am an independent country
tethered only by treaties
an agreement to continue to grow their food.

My hormones read my texts, 
and overcharge my system 
with what makes me bleed Jupiter’s Storm.

I stare at my Great Red Spot
knowing what this could mean 
if I don’t choose a new birth control method soon.

My bathroom’s trash can 
is filled with hidden messages, 
I spend the night scrubbing blood 
from thick material that covers me up 
breathable enough.

The search bar pulses: 
“Why is my baby’s poop green?”
“What are the easiest seeds to grow in Oregon?”
“Whose land do I occupy?”

“Whose body was I born into and are they missing it?” 
When will my chest 
stop fucking
leaking?


Sage Agee (they/them) is a queer, nonbinary poet and parent living in rural Oregon. They are currently inspired by the works of Billy-Ray Belcourt and the unbelievable evolution of their brand new baby, Otto.

Messages

By Cat Dixon

We text back and forth—volleying 
hello, how are you?, are you okay?, hang in there,
and we promise to get together someday
in the distant future when we will sit side
by side at a table in a Cold Stone Creamery
and pass our poems back and forth—
a tennis match—our pens such sturdy rackets,
the subject a ball, filled with feathers stitched
with thread, we could never serve over
the net. In such an open stance,
feet parallel to the door, torso coiled 
like a snake ready to strike, I always lose
my balance. I’m wobbly and small
like that table waiting for us. Your
calf steadies the table leg to keep
it from teetering. One foot, closer to the exit,
the other ahead, the neutral stance
allows you to shift your weight,
maintain your composure. Do you
remember that Coke bottle I purchased
just because it had my ex’s name on it?
Remember that giant milkshake
with that giant straw? Remember how you
made me laugh until I cried? No, you don’t 
because it hasn’t happened, and we 
are trapped, separate, and the score 
remains love-love.


Cat Dixon (she/her) is the author of Eva and Too Heavy to Carry (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2016, 2014) and the chapbook, Table for Two (Poet’s Haven, 2019). Recent poems have appeared in LandLocked, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Abyss & Apex. She is a poetry editor at The Good Life Review.

Meteorology

By Cat Dixon

Had I known the forecast, 
or seen the clouds on the horizon, 
I wouldn’t have made contact. 
I can’t interpret radar. In school, 
instead of science class, I weaved 
worlds in a notebook where fear 
reigned with its complicated 
cues and insidious hunger 
devouring all the paper.

He had spent time in the lab 
with the Bunsen burner and beaker;
hours in the classroom studying air flow. 
So when the moment came to experiment
and hypothesize, he had it pegged. 
I had to learn the lesson there
—shoulder to shoulder. Had I known 
the chemical clouds spewing 
from the table meant indifference, 
I wouldn’t have stayed. Now 
my taste buds are burnt off
 and at the sound of the word
“love” like him, I run. 


Cat Dixon (she/her) is the author of Eva and Too Heavy to Carry (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2016, 2014) and the chapbook, Table for Two (Poet’s Haven, 2019). Recent poems have appeared in LandLocked, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Abyss & Apex. She is a poetry editor at The Good Life Review.

Sunk

By Cat Dixon

It was deemed necessary 
to evacuate the submarine—
oxygen levels low and water
flowed through the vents.

Legends of ghost ships with ghost mates
circulated—men who hunkered in the head, 
munching tangerines as they flipped through
ream after ream of blank saturated
pages as if reading magazines. 

Our motley crew caught without a ship,
from a distance, looked like
little dots keen for water—fish
fighting the net, the hook, the land. 

What we sought in the waves had
rusted and sunk. What we found 
inside of each was rot. I wished 
for a massive yacht—sails that touch 
the sky—eighty meters long with 
an inflated lifeboat like a tumor at its side.


Cat Dixon (she/her) is the author of Eva and Too Heavy to Carry (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2016, 2014) and the chapbook, Table for Two (Poet’s Haven, 2019). Recent poems have appeared in LandLocked, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Abyss & Apex. She is a poetry editor at The Good Life Review.

Home Resurrection

By Allison DeDecker

I am a house with bees in the walls.
Beneath these sun-bleached boards, 
inside the jagged, gaping holes 
hums life.

Sweetness drips,
spills out of splintering wood.
The once silent halls 
buzz with a chorus of thousands.

I was naked bones unburied
abandoned to decay.
I’ve become a house of royalty.
A waxen kingdom gilt in honey.


Allison DeDecker is currently based in Yuma, AZ. She draws inspiration from day to day life, current events, and the natural world. Her work has been published in the Colorado Crossing Literary Journal and is forthcoming in Pile Press. She can be found on Instagram.