Ekphrasis for “Gathering of Women” by Tamara Adams

            I dream of celebrations
an outdoor wedding in the spring,
And     running barefoot in my wedding dress,
Sunflowers And Daisies hanging from mason jars on Sycamores,
(the only time life has been beautiful when suspended by a branch)
And     my mother is nineteen again,
all penciled eyebrow And brown lip-liner,
all cigarette smoke And navy blue flannel,
And     my great-grandmothers are here again,
all young And sap-smile,
all proud enamel,        all busied over me
with their hands in my hair,
pulling the strands And saying:
            This is the Cherokee,              And This is the Blackfoot,                   This is the Aztec,                     And This, the Georgia Peach,
until my head was a map of braids,                crown of freedom,                  to be feminine And
unafraid in my grandmomma’s arms,            big, black women,               And no one spoke
hushed here,                      all black woman cacophony,
And     my great aunt smiled And pulled amber from the gap in her teeth,
an heirloom,
And     there were hands on my belly until a heartbeat was pulled beneath the fingertips,
And     someone said,             Your baby is dancing
And     so was I,
            were we,
And     everything that spilled from my mouth was laughter And song.
Endures,          Forgives,         Rebirths.
My ancestors prayed for me by name. So I am fluent in love.
to love as resistance or to love as defense or to love without loving against anything at all or to
love because it is hopeful and hope is the closest thing I have for religion or to love for everyone
who is gone and for everyone who will ever be or to love because I deserve.

Cheyenne Avila is a Black and Mexican poet and spoken word artist from Southern California. She has three cats and a perpetually messy room. She is a chillona who hopes to use poetry to help marginalized people heal and tell their stories.

Photo credit: J. Carter

Photo credit: J. Carter

Wicked Cakes and Chai

“Foreign cakes and wicked cakes”

you call them, and you call them sweet sirens
that glory in quantities of cream and
chocolate and tooth-deep frosting.
I, too, took
my Darjeeling in ice-blue China once,
dear Helen, with hot paratha and sweet cream,
did some wicked reading under the jujuberry:
Kipling’s words like pistol shots ringing through
my verandah—menagerie, I recall, 
the word he used for my city, and for
its glory of faces: weasels, dogs and swine.

I see a sepoy sipping tea

with Rudyard Kipling, and wonder as I
view them, Enfield rifle in hand, what year
I am in, and what kind of tea their bubbling
Samovar has, and being certain Kipling
was born years after the “mutiny,” the
sepoy is likely my male alter-ego.
Tea with a native! Shoo, figment, shoo! We
float away like dandelions to the
sound of the military band. I wake up
bleeding from the wound of a fountain pen.

“four dirty little cakes of the coarsest flour,
about the size and thickness of a biscuit…”

the English magistrate writes with India ink,
examining (with a sudden knot in his
stomach) the chapattis on his Chittagong
Mahogany desk—what secret message
was kneaded in the native dough? How were
the watchmen passing the bread, turban
to turban, reaching across the country
faster than British post? And the meaning
of a lotus wrapped in bread: Deflowered
India writing history in salt and flour?

Tea Fetish

Fetish (from the Portuguese feitiço)
is “a human-made object that has power
over others.” Fold the faces of the dead
in newsprint: It’s half past three, everything
stops for tea
. A homesick princess had a
sinking feeling once—it stopped all the
clocks from Bath to Bengal. Look how a woman
belongs to power, her fetish hangs everywhere:
wedding patios, barbed asylums, office
deals, marbled parlors, memory-dribbling deathbeds.

Brown Memsahib Masquerade

In a sari spun by silkworms spilling
their guts against a gold-edged gossamer
lullaby—her forgetting begins: brown
memsahib on sofa, maid on floor, chai
and sweetmeats on the trolley, remember
your bungalow going up in smoke? The cuts—
soldiers grinding names between teeth? “In the
brown sandwiches are: thinly sliced cucumber,
cream cheese beaten with a few chopped chives, smoked
salmon…” Serrated pages. Book, a hungry saw, a scream.

Shadab Zeest Hashmi, a Pakistani-American poet and essayist, is the winner of the San Diego Book Award and the Nazim Hikmet Prize, and has been nominated for the Pushcart multiple times. Her books include Kohl and ChalkBaker of Tarifa and Ghazal Cosmopolitan: The Culture and Craft of the Ghazal


To see something in a new light

Call it by its proper name
Know its substance and particulars
Plants matter
Names matter
Spell my name right
Joan, not Jean, June, Joanne
And not Joan d’Arc
Say my name right
Know my name
In all matters
Note the curvature of the peach
Slightly asymmetric cheeks
Perfectly named
Freestone: Red Top, Elegant Lady
Clingstone: Santa Rosa, Red Beauty
Perfectly named, as a matter of fact
As the Walking Stick, Praying Mantis
Or Morning Glory, Zinnia, Cosmos
Hold a bouquet of them
Spread them across a table
Press them between pages
Of a book that matters
Examine their essentials
Imagine the savor of their nectars
Like the hummingbird 
Who might have tasted
The juice of the nasturtium
Instead she saw her self reflected
In the window pane and now lies
Sideways eyes closed
Thin tongue extended 
Reaching from a beak itself
Elongated threadlike extrusion

Name it: filament 
And she: Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Born in a nest of spider silk and plant down

Faultless, I defy nature
By touching the crumbled hummingbird,
Let its lifeless weight sway
For a mere moment to hang
In air unlike ever in its life—
A singular dart in lightness
Or a mid-air hang on fierce wings—
To bring it into my palm to lay its slight weight to rest:
The least to offer it.
I desecrate its plumage by my probe and tug
My bony fingers spread its transparent wing parts
To form a half-moon span:
A declarative of beauty, I relish its examination.
Twisting and turning its limp whole,
With paired thumbs to index
I pinch the wings wide open.
Such a complexity of feathers run, tilt, then fan—
Folding like origami, wing parts perfectly slide against
And into each other to align like a mechanism
Of fine watch innards,
A filigree engineered to propel and hover.
An articulation of framed light,
Formed for speed and endurance.
A kaleidoscope of feather
I can barely take my eyes away from.
Its black eyes stare back, glistening.

She said his eyes were the last she wanted to look into.
When he held her death with his eyes,
Is this what it felt like? To hold the passing
Of a warm featherweight of pristine,
A spectacle of repose:
An afternoon’s unexpected aftermath.

Joan Hofmann serves on Executive Boards of Riverwood Poetry and Connecticut Poetry Society and is Poet Laureate of Canton, Connecticut. Her poems are/will be published in various journals/anthologies, including Rumble Fish QuarterlyJuniperBird’s ThumbSpaces, and Freshwater, and in two chapbooks: Coming Back (2014) and Alive (2017).


On This Particular Morning

Two birds were arguing with each other
as I walked, half asleep
to nowhere
lovers in a drunken quarrel
dancing on the bar top for all to see
I say this because it was loud and
rumbling above the other sounds
above the noise of my own footsteps
above the rattle of the coming train
and the booming airplane engines
in the sky
they were in two separate trees
on two separate streets
the air was cold
the kind of cold that settles into the bones
and makes its home for days at a time
with no intention of leaving
the sun was coming up
as it had been doing so earlier and earlier
and I could tell just by staring into it
how it reflected from every branch
in the spider web of trees
how everything was lit just so
spring would soon be here
the sunrise had that look to it today
sometimes in the Fall as well
but this sunrise doesn’t come with a
the awareness that every living thing
will start to wilt and crumble
but instead be born again
so they argued
in the naked branches
of the separate trees
unaware and indifferent
to the idea that I was listening to everything
I pulled my coat tightly around my neck
adjusted my hat for the hundredth time
felt for my house keys
stepped over a tree root
squinted from the sun
and walked on
letting them continue their disagreement
I let the wind blow through the branches
I left the squirrels to forage
stepped aside allowing the waking life
to reach up to the rising sun
watched the feral cats prowl
watched it all fade behind me
until everything was silent once again
except for the sound of my footsteps
thumping in tune with
my own beating heart

Ken Tomaro is an artist and writer living in Cleveland, Ohio. His work has been published in several literary journals. He has also published three collections of poetry, available on Amazon. His work centers around everyday life with a heavy dose of depression.


Cars My Father Has Bought, Working Back to the Dawn of Time

A PT Cruiser, sloped forward like
a forehead, with no power steering.
Sunroof leaks. A Dodge minivan
his German shepherds can climb into.
We drive it into town the afternoon
before Easter, silent. Behind us
both dogs smack their lips in the heat.
He fiddles with the checkbook half
risen from his shirt pocket, and then
the radio. He says he won’t take long.

A Dodge pickup off a lot in Texas.
Another Dodge, its bumper cracked
into a stuttering apology
in a traffic accident, was the last
car his mother rode in. A wine-red
pickup before that recalled three times
in the year he owned it. Mirrors,
seat belts, brakes. Traded for the van.

Sometime before that a Cadillac
more brand name than car. Threw oil.
A string of Lincolns in the Nineties.
He drove a hundred miles to work each day.
Crown Victoria, a Caprice
my grandmother once drove off a hill,
through a pasture, and home again.
I once coaxed a girl into its backseat.

An Oldsmobile with worthless seats,
given to my mother. A Chevy
dually that never stopped pushing
air through its vents. He covered the dash
in masking tape, ruined the finish.

And before that a yellow F-150
I know only from photographs:
parked in a field behind him, a newborn
calf at his feet. My mother
in bridal white, on his arm, smiling.
A tailgate picnic, the three of us
bundled for winter in a driveway
long since behind us. He drove me
into life, delivered me quietly
to childhood. He looks from the window.
Out there somewhere the asphalt ends.
We don’t acknowledge it.

Marvin Shackelford is author of the collections Endless Building (poems) and Tall Tales from the Ladies' Auxiliary (stories, forthcoming). His work recently has appeared in Kenyon Review, Wigleaf, Split Lip, Juked and elsewhere. He resides in Southern Middle Tennessee, earning a living in agriculture.  


To the Foxes

"I just came to warn you,"
the neighbor said, "foxes have moved in
since your father’s been gone. We've seen

two prancing down the street. Kittens
and small dogs have disappeared. At night
they return to your father’s backyard. Look,

look, there in that hole." She spins
me around, points to the bushes. "I'm afraid,"
she says, her voice low. "My poodle

is afraid. He doesn’t want to go outside.
Make sure you leave no windows open. Foxes
will invade your home." I check

the cedar hedge, search the vinca, part
the tangled Virginia creeper curtain. Nothing
moves. No glittering eyes, no sharp teeth.

Fifty years ago the prairie was my backyard.
Lured by the meadow lark and the wild blue sky,
I played pioneer, safe in the smell of sage.

Cottonwoods long gone, strip
malls and suburbia silenced
the prairie. I too am afraid.

To the foxes, I say, "Go ahead,
eat a few poodles. That's the
least we can offer you."

Erika D. Walker’s writing has been published in Literary Mama, Pulse: Voices from the Heart of Medicine, and American Baby Magazine. She co-authored Denver Mountain Parks: 100 Years of the Magnificent Dream which won a 2014 Colorado Book Award. She lives in Denver, Colorado.


Midwestern Shed, Box of Miscellany

Something tells me the meaning
to a life is here. Not my own but close
enough to brush up with resolution.
Somewhere in this flexed lung, dust-choked,
an artifact hidden in the museum of another’s
epidemic. So I scrimmage old spider webs,
collide with grandfathered timber bowing like
a monk. The search continues, predicament dizzies,
dust motes start drawing lines in the dirt floor.
I expected as much when I arrived, and so use my
pocketed drawbridges to suture the gap. As soon
as I’m across I mistake phlegm-dried cashews for
teeth plucked from a scrapbook. I move slow now,
in the red zone where danger is in relocating someone’s
leftovers: the catalogue of rusty wrenches still hanging from
their nails, an obelisk bolt threatening a bare foot,
a shriveled moth in the center of a boot print.
         Something tells me to close my eyes, call this tiger
pace home, call this swollen hive in my belly ache.
But this expedition began with a dishonest map, and
I swore the day I was born I’d see it complete. Not even
the slants of vesper light faking my own stripes keep me from
prowling down to the last plank, thinned with termites,
where clues are the shape of shed snakeskin. Wanting only
to know what I mean when I say the name “Chief,” the title “Origin”
written now on the ceiling in that last predator ribbon of dusk,
“Anonymous History."

Ethan Phibbs is a poet born in central Illinois. His verse has appeared in Off the Coast, Heartwood Literary Magazine, Unbroken Journal, Eunoia Review, and elsewhere. 


Upper Gronant Near Where They Came From

When we went up the hill I imagined Taed
riding his three-speed along the coast. I saw mother
as a child, working her way up into the world.
I heard gran in the kitchen, her voice
an indicator of past time. I never saw her eyes
but still smelt the cigarette smoke from the front room.

Our job up here was to strip away the growth of bramble,
nettle, cleavers, dock leaves, cow parsley, hogweed.
The hill was crawling to the ground below and we aimed
to stop it. With every scythe swipe, lopper snap, scissor kiss
with hedge trimmers, the sky grew above, and the sea,
the sea, the sea. I wanted to fall back into their beginnings.

See how they came to giving me life. What had triggered them
to leave the waves and find brick stillness. The stories
I grew up with settled like rhizomes in the land I walked.
Popping up memories as I moved further away.

Gareth lives in Wales. He has his first collection by FutureCycle Press, called The Miner. He hopes one day to achieve something special with the pen. 


Traffic Is Traffic, Everywhere

Beyond green hills, sheep placidly graze 
before going to slaughter. 

"Be kind," the Bath Abbey minister says.
"Megaphones are for presidents and politicians."

In the Frenchwoman's car, in the backseat, I touch 
your leg. Do you notice? Or do you ignore?

Bruised, I turn away. 

"Chevrons means goats," the Frenchwoman's 
husband explains. I remember the long ago 

pleasure of running up and down stairs 
as nimble as a goat—before I grew old. 

In our country, the man who calls himself President
has his stubby short fat finger hovering over the red button. 

Out the car window once more, 
fluffy white sheep zoom into view. 

Robin Michel is a writer, poet and non-profit consultant. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in The New Guard, Pittsburgh Quarterly, Rappahannock Review, Star 82 Review and elsewhere. She lives with her husband in San Francisco, where they enjoy eating wild raspberries and welcoming the fog when it eventually arrives. 


The dolphin

we were down
in kerry. it was
a pretty good
weekend. I'd been
tricked into driving. there were just
the two of us insured
and one of us was german
so he was a tourist
and needed
to see the country
in a way that I didn't.
we pulled in
to a beach
not known much
except by the locals
and opening the door
we got this strong smell
of rotten fish. a dolphin had died,
I guess on the beach, and someone
had pulled it up
to decompose
next to the carpark. you could walk over
and see
clear as pencil
a hole in its side and the teeth
where its lips had been pulled away. but who knows
if that was what happened
or just some seagull
spotting a shot at organs.
we stood around for a while
and aodhain said he'd come back when it was rotted
a little better
to take its jaw. not now though.
no-one felt
like digging through something's skin
to get at its bones.
we just went down to the beach.
I was the only one
who wasn't a geologist
and I remember
standing on my own
in the middle of the beach
and hearing the roar
of the sea
as it bore into the cliff rock.

DS Maolalai is a writer and poet from Ireland. His first collection, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden, was published in 2016 with Encircle Publications, with his second forthcoming from Turas Press in 2019. He has been nominated for Best of the Web and twice for the Pushcart Prize.


Climate Cubism

The sky splits into a thousand
riffs on inferno

as if Picasso’s ghost
decided to paint the face

of the world. In Florida
alligators swim past sunken

houses but here in California
the water has boiled off—

Earth an abandoned kettle
that sings volcano songs.

At the corner of the canvas
a man pulls off a highway,

coaxes a rabbit to safety.
In this landscape of edges

to save one soft thing
makes no difference

but sometimes it’s necessary.

Lori Lamothe is the author of three poetry collections, most recently Kirlian Effect (FutureCycle Press). Her poems have appeared in Blackbird, Cider Press Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, Verse Daily and elsewhere


hurricane florence

you: mother
a fury, splitting marrow
premeditation written in the
stripped naked
in the wild night
if you’re not breaking ribs
then you’re churning the waters
a paper cut in
the rising pressure
begging benediction
confirmation that
there’s something here worth
dying for—tell me, what have we done
to deserve this?
temporal mother
exhaling rain like disappointment
if the sky had a
phantom limb i swear it would
be me but instead
this southern migration
without return
if you’re not breaking ribs
then never mind the dishes
the e minor depression carving
initials in the dock posts where
i’ve never felt so much like
soft mother of
cultivation, promises sewn into the
wounds she tears
raw hope; a grey dawn
addressed to you
water bugs pepper the surface
of this muddy swell,
catfish inquiring after the body,
not yet tucked in
to the dark mud beds
if you’re not breaking ribs,
how long ‘til you
come for us?
hungry mother
overturning tables & slamming doors
atlantic drunk & prone
to violence
this your birthright: denied,
left to someone else with
your name, watching
the water climb your stairs on channel nine
baby are you sorry yet
or need she stay longer?
the speedometer pushes red &
still we roar back, oh
if you’re not breaking ribs
then you’re not doing it right

d. drobnick is an amateur poet whose poetry has been previously published in Bone & Ink Press. she hails from a city she plans on leaving, somewhere hot & grief-saturated. her work can be found at www.whenstarsgodim.tumblr.com.

The World as a Narrative of the World

The story begins by the river
just north of the city. It is the city
where the author was born, and the river
is the river of his youth.

From the river there comes a plot
about the violence that man will commit
against man. There comes a theme
of latent misogyny, of colonialism,

of a hatred inherent
in the concept of human consciousness.

From the river there comes
no resolution. It goes on and on
and on. In the absence of finality
the author bids you find solace.

Eric Delp is a poet from Harrisburg, PA, and an MFA candidate at the University of Mississippi. 


Sea Grapes

The landscape does not belong to us
but to the black carpenter bees
plotting the demise of the wooden windchimes,

to the Lazarus jewel boxes
of Vanderbilt Beach, sifted from tidepools
with murex the Romans prized

for its purple dye, and the delicate cup-
and-saucer, and shells called Virgin,
Interrupted, and Lucid.

The Gulf shakes as though someone
were playing Ives under it,
pressing all the pedals at once.

On the day of Nana’s funeral,
Sanibel Island, where we once swam,
is wild again with moon vine

and Woman’s Tongue, bearing
its chalky, lemon-like fruit,
and the sturdy Geiger tree,

and the sea grapes faceted
like amethysts, beneath the
paddle-shaped leaves.

Taylor Altman lives and works as an attorney in San Francisco. She holds degrees from Stanford University, Boston University, and Berkeley Law School. Her work, twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, has appeared in Blackbird, Salamander, and other journals. Her first collection of poems, Swimming Back, was published in 2008.

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