Two poems by Adedamola Olabimpe

The Bitterness of Nineteen

fog & car alarm lullabies, take note of this unrealness.

these are the end of your teenage years & you are wasting away like all lonely teenagers do.

mirrors are terrifying portals to the black holes around your eyes,
to your hollowing neck.

you, falling angel. you, fallen angel.

something dark & silky has found home in your body but this is not the first time you have had to share your home with a foreigner.

all the moments of unexplainable shame buzz & flicker when you think.

you want to love yourself but the mistakes keep finding you & keep finding you & keep.

 

 

 

What I mean when I say I have a dissociation disorder

I mean my brain likes to kamikaze when the pain is too much for it to bear.

I mean I have never been able to be one person for too long. I mean strangers are hiding in the spaces between my teeth & they like to hijack my body.

I mean you cannot be in love with me because I don’t even exist. Like a helium balloon in a child’s sweaty fist, I am slipping away from this body.

I mean time likes to play tricks on my mind. She bends & folds, tears me away from the present and forgets me in the past.

I mean my entire existence is sometimes a fever dream & I have to help myself remember my name.

I mean my memories are sandcastles I don’t remember making stuck on the shores of an angry sea.

I mean I am superhuman. Watch me dissolve into my sheets. Watch as I exit the plane you are tethered to. Watch me become my mother, my mother’s mother. Anybody but myself.

 

 

Adedamola Olabimpe is a writer currently living in Lagos, Nigeria. They think white bread is one of man’s greatest inventions and will probably fall apart without headphones. They have works published in Rattle, Anti-Heroin Chic, Sub-Saharan Magazine and others. You can find them on Instagram @borednigeriangirl and on Twitter @lilbrowneyedfae.

Three poems by Clem Flowers

3rd floor dining

Blue haze washes over my throat whenever I put on Is This It

Remember

All the hours out in the city, starlight swimming over all the metal like the kudzu I was worried all my life would eat us all, floating over the humidity like a cartoon bear smelling a pie cooling on a windowsill while we drank tall boys we got from the gas station over by Criminal Records where they didn’t ID long as you paid in cash then stole a bit of bliss beneath the haze out in the historic graveyard full of decaying racists so many among us revered as heroes and the thought of the fury they would’ve felt of gay sex happening the six feet above their oak coffins made it even hotter before we drove home with the windows down letting the low air cooling us off like wild dogs as Julian Casablancas sang of the good old days

as Julian Casablancas sang of the good old days a blue haze washes over my throat

Remember

how gentle your rough hands could be

 

 

 

Delivery Driver off the balcony

Fog of the dead
generations sway beneath
factory lights

I see the spirits
from my mom’s car
as I wait for dad to
come pull up

the flavor of the
Double Bubble
left around the time the last sunlight
dripped down over the pine grove

I learned
long ago
not to tell
anyone
about the ghosts

no one
believed me
& just enjoyed my
“over active imagination”

I tell my therapist
about it years later
& asks
if these may have
been stress dreams
tied to
my parent’s divorce

I immediately start
to weep

so glad
this is over
the phone

 

 

 

3 windows

I went to the beige hell
all for nothing
beneath the death
of all my memories

I watched my dreams bloom &
float away from the bed of lavender
just out my window

I went to the beige hell
all for nothing
beneath the death
of all my memories

fluorescent hum
was my own
funeral march

 

 

Clem Flowers (They/ Them) is a poet & low rent aesthete. Poetry editor of Blue River Review. Pushcart nominee. Nb, bi, and queer as hell, living in a cozy apartment with their wonderful wife & sweet calico kitty. Found on Twitter @clem_flowers

Three poems by Karol Nielsen

Emergency Room Doctor

 

My college roommate and I were both divorced and single. She liked to go dancing so we could meet men. I was never as enthusiastic or optimistic. We went to a dance club on the Upper East Side and a tall, chiseled man with dreadlocks and deep brown eyes asked me to dance. D. was an emergency room physician who had dropped out of film school. He owned a duplex apartment in Gramercy Park where we ate Chinese take out and watched movies on his enormous TV. I felt like I was in a five star hotel. My friends approved of this beautiful, wealthy, accomplished man but he was a disappointment to me. He called me every other week to make plans and I had no word on Valentine’s Day. I was so agitated I doubled my usual six mile run in Central Park and finished my first unofficial half marathon. I was starving and went to a diner for an early dinner of scrambled eggs, home fries, and toast. Then a dozen red roses arrived and he called to invite me over. Not long after that, my writers group met at a restaurant in his neighborhood and I saw him walking down the street with another woman. I left a message that it wasn’t working out but he kept calling me for years until I moved across town an gave up my landline for good.

 

Marathon Runner

 

I ran loops around the Central Park reservoir while training for my first marathon and I kept passing the same man. I stopped for water at mile 16 and he stopped too and got my number. E. was training for a marathon, too. We went to brunch and he told me a long story about emigrating from Uruguay where he was a doctor, failing the medical exam after moving to the United States, working as a physical therapist, flirting with women to lift his depression, and losing his wife after she found lipstick in his collar. I went to his apartment in Queens and he had dozens of marathon race numbers on his bedroom wall. He said he had to be honest: he didn’t know if he could be faithful to me.

 

Abstract Artist

 

He used to run up to my car as I was pulling in to the apartment I was renting in an old carriage house in upstate New York. His mother lived in the main house with his brother and his girlfriend. The brothers hung out on the porch smoking pot and drinking beer. He made a t-shirt for me with a print of his abstract art. He had a girlfriend who was a local legislator but he still pursued me. He wore me down and we kissed on his mother’s porch. He had been a soldier stationed in Germany during the Gulf War and he seemed as wounded as if he had served in combat. He showed me photos with his short military haircut but now he wore his hair in a long ponytail like the hippies in Woodstock where I hiked a mountain every day. After we hooked up, he said he was going to break up with his girlfriend but he never did. When I questioned him, he said, “She’s a legislator! You’re just a writer.”

 

Karol Nielsen is the author of the memoirs Black Elephants (Bison Books, 2011) and Walking A&P (Mascot Books, 2018) and the chapbooks This Woman I Thought I’d Be (Finishing Line Press, 2012) and Vietnam Made Me Who I Am (Finishing Line Press, 2020). Her first memoir was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing in nonfiction in 2012. Excerpts were honored as notable essays in The Best American Essays in 2010 and 2005. Her full poetry collection was longlisted for the Terry J. Cox Poetry Award in 2021 and was a finalist for the Colorado Prize for Poetry in 2007. One poem was a finalist for the Ruth Stone Poetry Prize in 2021. Her work has appeared in Epiphany, Guernica, Lumina, North Dakota Quarterly, Permafrost, RiverSedge, and elsewhere.

Four poems by Marisa Silva-Dunbar

Kintsugi

Once on the reiki table,
a healer saw through me—
could see the patterns
an obtuse young girl
carries in her veins and skin.

Her soft hands on my shoulder—
the master whispered every
time your heart is broken—
it heals, becomes stronger.

In the end, I didn’t fear
the damage you caused.
Once I left, I finally let the gold dust
and lacquer fill the cracks, chips—
spaces. I mended myself.

I am still filled with life and beauty.

 

Cavoli Riscaldati

Once was not enough. Tell me how lonely you must be—
how your life unraveled beyond recognition that this
seemed like a good idea. They are a mold you invited
into your life; they will not shape-shift into daisies
bursting with color and freshness. You know this.

You must savor the facade they’ve created for now;
swallow it down with a latte, and brioche. Wear
matching outfits so that you can believe you are one—
a soul split in two. Why else would you give them
a second chance? There is comfort in the lies you whisper
to yourself before sleep. Make this repetitive mistake count.

This is a beacon, a warning. You like the easiness—
retreat when you are asked to grow.

 

Self-deception

She’d return every Mercury Retrograde,
unaware of how closely she tied herself
to the stars—how the constellations wrapped
themselves around her. She was shackled
—just like the rest of us.

I anticipated her arrival every time
the Swift Planet spun backwards
through the heavens. I tracked
her path across the sky—
plotted her patterns with pushpins.

She pretends she ignored his siren’s call—
how she couldn’t resist one more chance

to woo him, make him swoon with desire.
She acts like she didn’t show up unannounced,
undress and spread her thighs asking for one more time.

 

 

Scarf

Sure footed in a brown corduroy bomber jacket,
slouchy boots, and teal scarf—the curled ends
of her dirty blonde hair, bounced with each stride.

And yes, this was still her mask, her fancy dress.
Chin up, and bulldozed those in her way. You’d expect
her to be the mother friend, the problem solver—
let me give you a pep talk to take on the world.

But it was a facade, and sometimes when it slipped
I saw this beautiful, young woman—messy and unsure,
but who knew she loved the scene where Amelie melts
into a puddle—a girl who will giggle and hold your hand

as we ran down the streets at night trying to catch
the bus back to our flat. Other times, when she was worried
we might steal her shine—she would give a sly smirk
just before her verbal jab pierced between the ribs.

At twenty, I couldn’t hold a light in my palms and whisper
I see you, and your fear. There is light enough for all; let us
illuminate one another and mend each other’s wounds.

 

Marisa Silva-Dunbar’s work has been published in Pink Plastic House, Sledgehammer Lit, Analogies & Allegories Literary Magazine, and Dear Reader. She has work forthcoming in ArLiJo, and The Bitchin’ Kitsch. Her second chapbook, “When Goddesses Wake,” was released in December, 2021 from Maverick Duck Press. Her first full-length collection, “Allison,” is forthcoming from Querencia Press. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @thesweetmaris.

Signs Point To Yes by Kristin Garth

Signs Point To Yes

I used to make life choices, (mostly should
I run?) with a formidable shake
of a white plastic icosahedron
afloat in dark blue alcohol. They make
ten positive responses so Mattel
wanted me to flee, only five negatives,
non-committals respectfully. Held
in desperate meek fingers, black orb that gives
such positive advice is programmed
to affirm my childlike whims, reactive
temperament. Pleased to be who I am,
where I landed — if just to plastic, passive,
at least not to men I shudder to recall.
I ran away with my Magic 8-ball.

 

Kristin Garth is a Pushcart, Rhysling nominated sonneteer and a Best of the Net finalist. Her sonnets have stalked journals like Glass, Yes, Five:2:One, Luna Luna and more. She is the author of many books of poetry including The Stakes (Really Serious Literature) and a short story collection You Don’t Want This. She is the founder of Pink Plastic House a tiny journal and co-founder of Performance Anxiety, an online poetry reading series. Follow her on Twitter: (@lolaandjolie) and her website kristingarth.com