01: Belonging

Page 1

й вiзьми в мене сили. Я тебе обiймати звикаю без тiла, Бо вже тiло моє до лелек вiдлетiло Бо його перетворено в мiцнiї крила Щоби тебе вiд болю, вiд смертi укрила, Щоби куля минула, Зла орда не скорила. Чи не варто ж було обернутися птахом,

THROUGH LINES Зодчі власного життя, Що будуєте ви, Різьбляри стін і башт, Що у задумах ваших ? Міцна кладка прожитих років Чи провали невставлених вікон, Що за дні розцвіли на горбатих дахах ? З кожним кроком все вище. Затонулі палаци країни дитинства, Строкаті руїни надій, як тінь Вавілонської Допоки затримав дихання, І вітер не вдарив у шибку… Я тебе обiймаю - мовчу – обiймаю До нестями так нiжно, Як мене вже немає, До
Мiй
мiй сине, Збережи мою
Та
Щоб вести через сполохи розпачу й жаху До вiдвертого шляху, до
години, Коли
Най обхопить малятко тебе безтурботно Як
O1:
MAGAZINE
безмежної волi, шаленої синi,
коханий, мiй брате, мiй тато,
душу,
свiтлой
пам`ять розквiтне в усмiшцi дитини.
тебе обiймає твоя Україна.
Belonging
Fall/Winter 2022

THROUGH LINES MAGAZINE

Issue01:Belonging
Cover images by Rimma Kranet and from Stella Hayes. Inside cover image from Adobe Stock. Photos not credited to contributors from Adobe Stock

Poetry

LOVE ME by Pavel Rytsar 08

SHE DEVIL by Svetlana Alekseeva-Adronik 10

HE SAYS by Svetlana Alekseeva-Adronik 16

EMOTIONS NOW GONE by Gari Light 18

EMBRACE by Liya Chernyakova 20 [Those draftsmen of lives of their own] by Serhiy Lazo 22 [Let’s change everything] by Serhiy Lazo 25 [An old man feeds cats in Kyiv] by Alexei Nikitin 27

A bomb’s monologue by Dmitry Blizniuk 29 at night children in basements dream by Dmitry Blizniuk 31 [waterline of insanity] by Dmitry Blizniuk 31

NOWHERE WITH HIM by Stella Hayes 33

Father by Stella Hayes 35

Chicago, Summer 1979 by Stella Hayes 36 Through by Desire’ Jackson-Crosby 39 And at very last by Desire’ Jackson-Crosby 40

Yellow Drum by Lynne Thompson 46

One night I went fishing & by Lynne Thompson 47 Epilogue with Livestock by Robert Wood Lynn 48

A Bicycle for Two Partners Recognized as Married Under the Law by Sophie Ewh 49

Frank O’Hara Walking Poem Except it’s Not the Assignment by Sophie Ewh 50

SONNET WITHOUT REGRET by Amanda Dettmann 51

CLOSING TIME by Amanda Dettmann 52

Implications of the Sky by David St. John 53 Settle Down by Cullen Bailey Burns 54 Relocation by Cullen Bailey Burns 55 Making Sense of Touching Things by Stu Watson 68 Mountain #12522 by Daniel Borzutzky 69 A poem for this moment by Gail Wronsky 73

G(LOSS)OLALIA by Madeleine Mori 74

GREENWOOD by Matthew Rohrer 76

PRISONERS by Matthew Rohrer 77

MY COUNTRYMEN by Matthew Rohrer 78

A Blessing, Again or My Grandfather Chooses Against Getting a Pacemaker by Carlie Hoffman 79 Elegy for Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger by Carlie Hoffman 80

I’ve Been Living for a Long Time on the Bottom of Rivers by Carlie Hoffman 66 After Kaddish by Nathalie Handal 80

Table of Contents
Editor-in-Chief/Founder: Desire’ Jackson-Crosby Co-Editors: Stella Hayes Alisa Geneva Translators: Gari Light Alisa Geneva Stella Hayes

Her Name by Elena Byrne 82

Moth Dust & Moon Pock by Elena Byrne 90

Time Frame by Jorie Graham 91

Ekphrastic Love Poem by Lily Kaylor Honoré 92

My Luck by Toi Derricotte 98

[Heat up your water in the kettle] by Lev Oborin 107

Essays

PONDERING UNKINDNESS by Gari Light 14

Essay on Belonging by Stella Hayes 38

On Not Belonging by Diane Seuss 41 Belonging by Alisa Geneva 104

Art

Platforms by Alla Broeksmit 13

Unity within Difference by Stu Watson 72

Homeostatic Accords by Stu Watson 100

Peace Offering by Keeley Waite 101

Refugees from Death by Olga Dmitrieva 106

Victims by Olga Dmitrieva 110

Shots in a Birch Grove by Karin Kantso 111

Red Sundress and Widows’ Dress by Karin Kantso 112

Photography

The Newlyweds, Red Square 2009 by Rimma Kranet 06

The Wedding Party, Red Square 2009 by Rimma Kranet 07

Stella and Father from Stella Hayes 34

Untitled by Margarita Smagina 108

Parents’ House by Anastasia Bochkareva 109

Untitled by Margarita Smagina 116

Parents’ House by Anastasia Bochkareva 117

Short Stories

Maimonides and Saladin in 1171 by Austin Ratner 56 Ambivalence by A. Molotkov 113

Artists’ Biographies 118 Table of Contents (cont’d)

UKRAINE

FROM
Rimma Kranet Pavel Rytsar Svetlana Alexeeva-Adronik Alla Broeksmit Gari Light Liya Chernyakova Serhiy Lazo Alexei Nikitin
Dmitry Blizniuk Stella Hayes
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TheNewlyweds,RedSquare2009 by Rimma Kranet
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TheWeddingParty,RedSquare2009 by Rimma Kranet

LOVE ME

love me from brain stem to bone marrow in icy March alone in hot dreams when April comes to minister my moans & mourning bearing flowers from returning swans like a little girl’s lost ball wear me on your heart for a visit keep me dressed May arriving reckless releasing light & laughter through the courtyards with hope –the axe idling on a neck

8

люби меня до мозга до костей от полюса до мартовских проталин от мыслей неозвученных потей придёт апрель целитель и халдей неся букет возвратных лебедей как мячик танин

носи меня у сердца не снимай блюдя дресс-коды бала и фуршета и будет безоглядный

дерзкий май двоим за это в нём солнце-вскачь в нём смех во все дворы в нём просто быть надеемся и смеем вплоть до поры где сохнут топоры по нашим шеям

Pavel Rytsar is a Ukrainian poet. He was born in Kyiv in 1968, and started writing poetry in 2006. His work has been published in NovayaRealnost, Vitrazhi, Daktil, Interrealnost anthology, among other publications. On February 25, 2022, the day after the invasion of Ukraine, he re-enlisted as a volunteer in the Ukrainian Armed Forces, leaving for the frontlines to defend his homeland against the Russian invaders.

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SHE DEVIL

On those days, when all was contrived, she would make her appearance –the prevailing aromas were those of vanilla or TNT grievance. She would fly in as a feral wind, taking shelter for an unknown reason, as he fondly called her mylittledevil. She was not fastidious on the types of men she allowed to pay her a visit –her dreams included a range from Grant Gustin to Charlie Sheen. She would tease, and laugh at sitcom humor, awful and often improper, experimenting with hair color, settling on her original copper. She would turn on ZAZ in her impeccable French and would join the chorus, and with the waning chords, would dance in the nude, shedding her clothes. She would burn hotter than sambuca or whiskey… He would watch her, and suffer –the thought of getting old – is just so beastly…

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Translator’s note: ZAZ, stage name for Isabelle Geffroy, is a French pop singer with a Gypsy jazz-influenced style and vocals, often compared to those of Edith Piaf

В те дни, когда она умудрялась и приходила -

в доме пахло не то ванилью, не то тротилом.

Влетала, как ветер шальной, замыкалась ловко, он называл ее нежно: “моя чертовка”.

Ей чужд был какой-то особенный тип мужчиныей снились от Гранта Гастина до Чарли Шина. Она шутила, смеялась, под бред комедий, из разного цвета волос возвращалась к меди.

Она включала ZAZ,* щелкая пальцами, подпевая, и на последних аккордах танцевала уже нагая. Она обжигала похлеще, чем виски и чем самбука...

А он смотрел на нее понимая, что старость такая сука...

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HE SAYS

The night, hot and drunk, appropriate rhythms abound, it’s hard not to talk he leans over me and says: whydon’tyoustaytonightand, fortherestoftheautumn, the fireplace ashes warm, Joe Dassin softly gets to the bottom, there’s bourbon akin to the colors of leaves, visible in the window…

Whydon’tyoustopbeingabird, thatfliesawayforthewinter, whydon’tyouchangeplaceswiththewomen, whoarenothingbutdollstome…

The red sunset turns around and falls on the domes, burning out. Resembling a widow’s shawl over the ancient town…

It’s not love between us, in limbo for an abundance of years. Sadly familiar, not unlike the static heard in the old speakers, the worn out chair in the corner suddenly seems deeply rooted. We belong to no one, but ourselves, the force between us could hardly be substituted. No other grace is to be sought or required. I give him a kiss on the eyelashes, flying away for now. All is quiet.

Svetlana Alekseeva-Adronik was born on June 21, 1984 in Snezhnoe city (Doneck region), Ukraine. Since 2001, she’s lived in Chernovci region, Ukraine. Svetlana has written poetry since 2015, and has since become a laureate and prize winner of numerous poetry competitions and fests. She is the author of poetry compilation Ostrovennoe, 2021 (this is a word play between Russian Candid and Pricked veins). Her poems have been published in literary magazines Vremena, Literature online, Verb, SouthernLights, Pathways, West Coast, TimeJoint, RigaAlmanac, Yourchapter, Intereality, (2016-2021), Litbook, and more.

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13
Platforms by Alla Broeksmit

PONDERING UNKINDNESS

I recognized my own unkindness which before seemed out of place, and yet it suddenly occurred with a vengeance in the port city of Mariupol, where I had never been…

I was once at Tsvetaeva’s occasional abode on the Oka river, back in the 90’s, and it appeared to my American perception, that I may have misunderstood, missed something, and that my seeming blood brothers walked the streets of Tarusa …that feeling swiftly dissipated, in my intellectual Moscow friends’ circles I heard time and again about the mediocrityofUkraine, and when I begged to differ, I was told in no uncertain terms that not being from here, I have no say. All I remember was that I slammed the door that night and walked to Bulgakov’s favorite spot in Moscow – Patriarchy Ponds. It appeared desolate and indifferent, except for two lads, somewhat younger than me, who spoke in a distinct non-Moscow Russian: Heydude,let’skickthatforeigner’s ass for real – I heard one of them say…and that’s when my unkindness got out in the open, from within – responding to an attack, I had thrown of few good punches on both of them, and admittedly got my good share as well, having been beaten up pretty badly. The Moscow police responded quickly, and I got a lecture in the holding cell: YououghttobeashamedofyourselfMister,being anAmerican,andalawyer,aren’tyou?Here,wipeyourface,atleastpretend to be decent…my firm sent a driver to pick me up from the police station, and as we were leaving, I heard the police lieutenant say in a measured monotone: Yougonow,butthetimewillcome,believeme,whenwewillmakedustoutofall ofyou,allofthatWesternwell-fedmishpuha*…

*Yiddish for “family”.

14

Some years had passed and my unkindness, this time, was labeled Russophobic by some couple in the middle of dessert in a literary gathering in a Chicago suburb.

I was reading from my selection of poems that were published in a European literary magazine, and that couple chose to voice their offence at one of the poems as pro-Ukrainian.

At that instance I kept my unkindness in check – I allowed myself no unkind reaction, In my mother tongue, my flawless Russian, I didn’t tell them to fuck off. That odd couple by then, had gotten to all, and I did not want to appear out of line.

As painful as it may be to admit, in time of war, unkindness largely prevails and while humanity is my natural modus operandi, and has always been, I understand the essence of what had gone wrong and why kindness is on hold

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EMOTIONS NOW GONE

Emotions all gone by now, as winter blues trouble.

Global calamity caused by absolute evil – winter stopped being winter. My wound triggered by a February short circuit. This earth, would be healing for an eternity, if at all –An apartment building annihilated in a global live feed, a direct fire aiming at the higher floors –burning kitchens, books on shelves, children’s shoes, medicine on tables – an old man’s cry: “No forgiveness, ever!” Murdered March falls to the ground. It had a chance to let April know –reaching the same conclusions, prophecies not heard.

Humans are imperfect and unneeded – cruel yet brave and even loved, when uttering wewilldefendourcity...

When us and them – as before predetermined in this century too – by bloodshed. Where human beings don’t abandon dogs and cats, among the sirens, overturning twilight... Emotions retreat, and vanish.

There will be time for measuring and damning, And yet, despite it all, what remains is a wisp of conscience a corrosive smoke...

Eternal names – Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol, and a remaining prophecy: GlorytoUkraine!

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Эмоции которых больше нет, зима прошедшая была из полубед. Убожество – вселенская беда в конце зимы воткнула провода… Коротким замыканьем февраля теперь надолго ранена земляв значении планетарном и другом, когда в прямом эфире гибнет дом, прямой наводкой, по высоким этажампо кухням, и по книжным стеллажам, по детским тапочкам, лекарствам и лучу, по старческому крику: “...не прощу!”... Убитый март скатился под откос, но до апреля истину донеспо-прежнему не узнан имярек, не совершенен, груб, не нужен человек, но вместе с тем самоотвержен, и любим, когда звучит - “мы Город не сдадим”... Когда само понятие свои, и в двадцать первом возникает на крови. Когда спасают кошек и собак, среди сирен, превозмогая мрак... Эмоции ушли на задний план, всему свое - проклятьям, временам.. В остатке совесть, осознание, едкий дым Чернигов, Харьков, Мариуполь... Победим

Gari Light a Chicago-based poet, born in Kyiv, Ukraine in 1967. Lives in the United States since 1980. Graduated from Northwestern University with Departmental Honors B.A. in Slavic Literatures Studies. Became a lawyer some short time after, and worked in the area of international jurisprudence, both in the U.S, and abroad. Since 1993, Gari’s poetry is published regularly in the literary journals and poetry anthologies of the United States, Canada, Israel, Europe and Ukraine. He is a member of the American PEN Center and the Writer’s Union of Ukraine. Light’s several books of poetry were published in Russian, starting in 1992. The most recent collection in English, entitled “Confluences” (Bagriy, 2020) has been published in January of 2020. Gari regularly takes part in poetry readings and other literary events on both sides of the Atlantic.

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E MBRACE

I embrace you – I do – staying silent

Deliriously tenderly that I am barely breathing

In such despair like I am dying Against boundless liberty azure and crazy My beloved, my brother, my father, my son

Take all my power Shielding my soul

I get used to the embrace without a body

For it is gone, belonging to the storks already Transformed into mighty wings by a magical torrent

That would spare you from suffering Guard you from mort So a bullet misses you As you stand against a vanquishing heinous horde

So well worth it having turned into fowl Guiding you through despair and horror to follow That path wide open in the brightest of hours

When memory buds in a smile of a child Let a baby cuddle you carefree and light As Ukraine cradles you – eternally ours.

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Я тебе обiймаю - мовчу – обiймаю

До нестями так нiжно, Як мене вже немає, До безмежної волi, шаленої синi, Мiй коханий, мiй брате, мiй тато, мiй сине, Збережи мою душу, Та й вiзьми в мене сили.

Я тебе обiймати звикаю без тiла, Бо вже тiло моє до лелек вiдлетiло Бо його перетворено в мiцнiї крила

Щоби тебе вiд болю, вiд смертi укрила, Щоби куля минула, Зла орда не скорила. Чи не варто ж було обернутися птахом, Щоб вести через сполохи розпачу й жаху

До вiдвертого шляху, до свiтлой години, Коли пам`ять розквiтне в усмiшцi дитини. Най обхопить малятко тебе безтурботно

Як тебе обiймає твоя Україна.

Liya Chernyakova, a Ukrainian-American poet and songwriter, was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Several of her Russian-language poetry collections have been published in the U.S. and Ukraine. She is a winner of poetry festivals The Road to Temple, Parnas Games, God Saves Everything Especially Words, and World Cup in Russian Poetry, among others. She took part in the Parnas Games festival as an independent juror and was a featured poet in The Horseshoe of Pegasus festival in Vinnica, Ukraine. She has translated Russian-language war poems of Ukrainian poets into English. Her English poems have been featured in several almanacs. Liya holds master’s degrees in physics, math, and computer science.  Starting in February 2022, Liya writes poetry in Ukrainian as well, and several poems were featured in the Ukrainian almanac Artilen.

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[Those draftsmen of lives of their own]

Those draftsmen of lives of their own, What are you creating, exactly, Those carvings of walls and towers, Is that what’s in your conceptions? That lasting masonry of years already accounted for Or those gaping hollows of omitted windows, What were those days blooming on the humped roofs?

As each of the steps you have taken, positions you higher. Life finds itself in the palm of your hand: Those palaces, deeming from childhood country, succumbed to the sea, The variegated ruins of hopes, becoming the shadow of Tower of Babel...

The curling smoke

Over a small ashtray Leaves no place for doubt Of a new creation coming into being. While the breath is being held, And the wind had not yet blown out the glass from the window...

20
Translated from the Ukrainian

Зодчі власного життя, Що будуєте ви, Різьбляри стін і башт, Що у задумах ваших ? Міцна кладка прожитих років Чи провали невставлених вікон, Що за дні розцвіли на горбатих дахах ? З кожним кроком все вище. Життя на долоні : Затонулі палаци країни дитинства, Строкаті руїни надій, як тінь Вавілонської вежі… Креслення диму Над попільничкою Не залишають сумніву У дивній новобудові. Допоки затримав дихання, І вітер не вдарив у шибку…

21

[Let’s change everything]

Let’s change everything. Come on. Let’s do it. It won’t be you coming over And I won’t be the one opening the door. Let’s change everything. Allow someone else to flatter And try that smile on And do the eye glancing thing, as if it was a mirror. Let’s do it differently. Let’s part at the crossroads I’ll glance back and catch a glimpse Of you, vanishing in the crowd. I’ll wave my hand to you. Is it calling to you? Or bidding farewell? We somehow existed without each other... So, you do make sense, It’s time, indeed, to alter all of it.

22
Translated from the Ukrainian by Gari

The world will become round like a billiard ball.

The world is a mere globe. Pretty handy, actually -

It may not fly, though.

Yet, do tell me why the sun rises

The rain continues to cry and sadness peeks through windows, Why does the day dissolve into twilight?

And whose will is it for the stars to settle in the sky...

Let’s change everything

All in all, finally, let’s just put a full on stop to it.

As happiness, is a mere passer-by really,

It just glides through, silently passing us by

It is slanting a bit

To avoid that touch...

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Давай все змінимо.

Давай. Змінимо.

Не ти приходитимеш до мене, І не я відчинятиму двері.

Давай все змінимо.

Нехай хтось інший дарує компліменти, Примірює посмішку

І заглядає у вічі, наче у люстерко.

Ну ж бо, переінакшимо. Розстанемося на перехресті, Озирнуся й побачу, Як ти зникаєш у юрбі. Змахну рукою. Кличу? Прощаюсь?

Світ заокруглиться, наче більярдна куля. Світ – глобус. Це дуже зручно –Він не вміє літати. Але скажи, навіщо сходить сонце, Плаче дощ і сум заглядає у вікна, Чому день розчинюється в сутінках, І кому це потрібно, щоб зірки поселялися в небі… Давай все змінимо, Врешті-решт поставимо крапку. А щастя, воно – перехожий, Мовчки минає нас, Трохи ухиляється, Аби не торкнутись…

Serhiy Lazo was born in 1953 in Zhytomyr (Ukraine). Serhiy received his formal education in the academic filed of philology. In Ukraine, he is often referred  to as a “man-orchestra” as he is known as a writer, musician, singer, composer, journalist, producer, moderator of cultural programs. He is a frequent concert performer, who is virtually inseparable from his guitar. Serhiy is also a huge fan of art, ballet and hot air ballooning. He loves jazz.  Serhy Lazo is the author of 19 books and six musical CDs. His works have been translated into English, German, Italian, Polish, Georgian, and have been included in anthologies in the U.S., Switzerland, and Australia. He is a member of the Union of Writers and the Union of Journalists of Ukraine, winner of several international awards.

24

[An old man feeds street cats in Kyiv]

An old man feeds street cats in Kyiv: two orange tabbies, a gray and a black & white, there’s one more tabby – a lame one, the lame one doesn’t come often; Once he has eaten, he snuggles up to the old man, arching his back to fit his wrinkled hand.

There they sit on the concrete slab, the slab is cold, barely touched by the March sun, They listen to the air raid sirens way in the distance. The old man pets the lame cat with one hand While his other hand rests on the soil of the land. He leans on the land He holds it. The cat’s soft purr and this land of his – this is all he can feel. He can hear how – right at this moment – his land is being flogged with metal, burned with fire from the sky and sea, they are bombing it to pieces, smashing it with missiles, they’re tearing the skin off the land with the tracks of tanks.

The old man watches as towns in his land are reduced to black dust and being dispersed in the wind; As children die from their wounds and suffocate in ruined shelters The old man holds the land, and the land clings to him like that limping tabby cat. The old man weeps helplessly and embraces the trembling land

Could he have born all this, wouldn’t he have choked with despair, if not for the warmth of a lame cat sleeping quietly under his arm –if not for those two orange tabbies, a gray one, and a black & white..

25
Translated from the Ukrainian by

Старий годує котів: рудого, рудого, сірого, чорного з білим, і ще одного рудого, кульгавого. Кульгавий приходить зрідка; поївши, тулиться до старого, підставляє спину під старечу долоню.

Вони сидять на бетонній плиті, холодній, ледь нагрітій березневим сонцем, слухають, як вдалині працює ППО. Однією рукою старий гладить кульгавого, іншою впирається в землю. Тримається за неї. Тримає її. Він відчуває німе муркотіння кота та свою землю. Він чує як цієї миті її січуть металом, палять вогнем з неба та з моря, рвуть бомбами, вражають ракетами, здирають шкіру траками танків. Як стають чорним порохом та розвіюються по вітру міста. Як від ран та задухи гинуть в зруйнованих сховищах діти. Старий тримає землю, і земля тулиться до нього, мов кульгавий рудий. Земля тремтить, — обіймаючи її, безпорадно плаче старий. Як би він це витримав, не захлинувшись відчаєм, без тепла кульгавого кота, що тихо спить під його рукою — без рудого, рудого, сірого та чорного з білим?..

Alexei Nikitin was born in Kyiv in 1967. After completing his degree in physics at the University of Kyiv and his army service, he established his own company in 1992 and worked on different projects for the Ukrainian oil, chemical, and atomic industries. In 2002, Niktin closed his business operations and worked for several years as an IT journalist. Afterwards he dedicated himself completely to his literary activities and has since published several novels: Istemi (2011), Madzhong (2012), VictoryPark (2013) Sanitar s Institutskoi (2016), and, most recently, Otlitsaognia (2021). He has received several literary awards and is one of the most prominent Russian-language writers in Ukraine today. Alexei Nikitin lives in Kyiv.

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a bomb’s monologue

to kill or to kill. no questions asked. the blast knocked out glass windows at a school spat out books from its library from both sides — earmarked a sleeping school of birds scattering 400 meters in circumference hitting in the stomach an old woman soaked in blood lying on the sidewalk she will survive

27

убить или убить. без всякого вопроса. взрывной волной выбило стекла в школе с обеих сторон вынесло книги из библиотеки –точно стаю спящих птиц расшвыряло на четыреста метров вокруг раненая старушка в живот божий одуванчик пропитанный кровью лежит на асфальте ее спасут

28

[at night children in basements dream]

at night children in basements dream of fluffy peaceful times like the picture-book hummingbird dreams of sugar water as gun fire rushes the city launched from the darkest seas

29

ночью детям в подвалах снится мирное пушистое время так нарисованной колибри снится сахарная вода а на город несутся калибры запущенные из черного чернейшего моря

30

[waterline of insanity]

waterline of insanity. life before the war & after: a beautiful woman with long black hair down to her toes the right side of her hair scissored off, a chunk of her scalp torn off, half of the skull sawed off, & on the soft pink half of her nude brain someone puts out shells like cigarette butts. & astonishingly the woman sings soprano, a sanguine song about freedom, love & strength & the blue sky. & the wheat field set on fire.

31

ватерлиния безумия. жизнь до войны и после начала войны : красивая женщина с длинными черными волосами до пят и правая половина ее волос сострижена, часть скальпа содрана, и половина черепа выпилена, и на нежно розовой половинке обнаженного мозга

кто-то тушит снаряды как окурки. а женщина что удивительно поет сопрано, прекрасную печальную песню про свободу, про любовь и силу и синее небо. и пшеничное поле в черных ожогах.

Dmitry Blizniuk is a poet from Ukraine. His most recent poems have appeared in Rattle, TheNation, TheLondonMagazine, TheLosAngeles

Review of Books, Pleiades, AnotherChicagoMagazine, Eurolitkrant, Poet Lore, NDQ, The Pinch, New Mexico Review, The Ilanot Review, National Translation Month, EastWestLiteraryForum, and many others.. A Pushcart Prize nominee, he is also the author of The Red Fоrest (Fowlpox Press, 2018). His poems have been awarded RHINO 2022 Translation Prize. He lives in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

32

NOWHERE WITH HIM

I go from room to room taming dust, gathering a corner looking you up

The rooms gather me into their walls smoothing out hard-to-the-touch nostalgia the rooms I see are in a no place

I remember overhearing a philosophy professor on the subway instruct his son on utopia, he said it was from the Greek, a word that is no place because it is nowhere

I am refound in light —

The walls’ plaster hardening like an artery

I put myself inside a family I keep telling you that in a dream no one can hurt me.

33
34
Stella and her father courtsey of Stella Hayes

The photograph held for too long in an acid-free frame fell from the dresser, breaking the glass as if it were hit by a bolt of lightening. We’re in Kyiv, surrendered to gravity.

You held my hand intensely on that ungrotesque day in May, like only a father can. You were a member of a failed ideology. And brought me along to the parade, to counterweigh your burden. You were showing me off in my May Day best. Starched bows in my hair & knee-high socks. The sun pausing & starting over. Years later uncovering the family

car from snow. You were returned to us. February grimaced. Out poured white crystals. Stiff like frozen dirt. The car was parked on a tree-lined street called Greenleaf. The leaves were

absent. Old snow overwhelmed the street. The air preyed on our lips with a ferocity of a hawk. The air struck the lung in a gesture of fire. The ubiquitous wheat fields were just beginning to rise toward the sun. Spring encroached on winter. Your body unraveled on the concrete like hair out of a stiff ribbon. The cold obstructed my breathing. On this grotesque winter day. You surrendered being my father. And I the claim of belonging to you. Nothing between our palms but wisps of air — I held your hand in mine intensely, like only a daughter can

35

We spent a year in Chicago, our final destination, without father. I’m sure we ate a lot of McDonalds for good & bad reasons. I was learning English — on the fly. Sanford & Sons in cultural discordance & dissonance filled my afternoons. The troika of Three’sCompany taught me that desire can be made. In exile, father was obscured by his disease.

He sold furniture for rubles with almost no value. Mother gave her collection away of the Russian canon to a good friend. Literature was eschewed, sent away like dissidents to the Gulag.

I spent much of my time that summer away from mother at the local JCC, swimming.

I rode my bike to the lake in the afternoons. My mother couldn’t manage dollars, half-broken. My father, a refusenik on trial, was in debate with death. He was acquitted of a crime he didn’t commit. He made it out of a closed country half-alive, let go to die with us— a year & a half later.

My mother was never barren.

Chicago, Summer 1979
36
FROM
Stella Hayes Stella Hayes Desire’Jackson-Crosby Diane Seuss Lynne Thompson Robert Wood Lynn Sophie Ewh Amanda Dettmann David St. John Cullen Bailey Burns Austin Ratner Stu Watson Daniel Borzutzsky Gail Wronsky Madeleine Mori Matthew Rohrer Carlie Hoffman Nathalie Handal Elena Karina Bryne Jorie Graham Lily Kaylor Honoré Keeley Waite Toi Derricotte
THE WEST

Essay on Belonging

Last summer for 22 days I belonged to my mother: her post-op delirium, paranoia, disorientation, & a Tzvetayeva kind of “too muchness.” When my aunt Yana called to say that after falling, my mother needed hip surgery, I got on the next plane to LA. From her I inherited the attributes that stood in vivid relief when I saw her in a hospital gown, embedded in a bed; she was in the middle of telling one of the nurses her story, how she had to leave everyone she loved behind — her parents (my grandparents), including my Refusenik father — to make the heroic journey out of Ukraine alone with me & my sister. I was relieved to hear this old story, with its worn inciting incident & plotline, a story that always ends with my father dead. It said to me that for the time being, she was alive! But in the back of my mind I was waiting for something to go wrong. At her age, statistically speaking, the odds of her surviving were low. So I waited as in turns she got worse & better, released to a belonging of an inanimate kind: hospital bed, in a hospital room.

Who belongs anywhere or to whom? Women and their children used to be property of the father and in marriage passed on to the husband. I belonged to my father, my picture attached to my father’s — imposed in the right corner, bracketing human space & time, and when we left without my father, I belonged to my mother, inside her —, Soviet passport, I was theirs, in property. A materiality. A being on a Soviet document. It said Jewish, a nationality. Legally. It made me Jewish by association. A religious designation didn’t belong on a passport. But we were property, we belonged to a state.

I have a quarrel with belonging. I don’t travel light. My belongings are too important, with a weight of a mother not wanting to let go of a child. I keep asking my mother if I belong to her. It’sagiven,Stellachka, her endearment pinging on a text.

I hope belonging is universal, not just the pain point of refugees, immigrants, internal immigrants, and the Other.

My mother got better. I went home to my family. For 22 days I belonged to her again just like I used to.

Stella Hayes is a Ukrainian-American and the author of the poetry collection One Strange Country (What Books Press, 2020). She grew up in Brovary, a suburb outside of Kyiv, Ukraine, and in Los Angeles. She earned a creative writing degree at the University of Southern California and is a graduate student at NYU studying for an M.F.A in poetry. Her work has appeared in Poet Lore, Poetry Project’s TheRecluse, Stanford’s Mantis, TheLake, Prelude, and Spillway, among others. She translates and edits poetry and fiction. She’s co-editor of Ukraine/Russia inaugural issue on belonging for ThroughLinesMagazine. She served as assistant fiction editor at WashingtonSquareReview (2021-2022.) She’s online features editor of Dispatches from Ukraine, and poetry editor, at Washington SquareReview.

38

Sometimes it feels like I’m whining at the world

I’m a mother, weighty eyed and sleep deprived, sighing

Whydon’tyoujustbehave?

The mornings bring about a new emotion. A brick dropped from the top of a tall building and onto the working surface of my brain, dirty with the mess of emotion from the day before

In the middle of the night with my broom in hand like clockwork the world is crying

The world does not have words, only the destruction that bleeds from its aches and pains

“Where does it hurt?” I say, softly and simply into the thick, swirling darkness of its bedroom

There is no where I can touch where the world won’t wince

I’ve tried to put the world to sleep – even just a little nap to rest its eyes – hugging it to one hip cradling it, singing it many songs

I’ve decided I cannot fix it

I am swayed like the ocean underneath a gorging moon

I can reach out over the engulf of waves and hook my hand onto another – maybe in an act of surrender or a moment of praise – and maybe we can anchor one another.

By then, I’d have learned that the world speaks to me in a sign language

My body will swim with frantic, pulsating legs until I’m woven into this motion to this constant call that rides toward the horizon and returns in waves from some faraway life, electric with hope

39

And at very last

Again and again, I am in the blue with water worn arms and a body working on birthing something new

When I lie down on the shore, it will be time to look up at a piece of sky, the used up faces hapless on the sand

Now it is time for life it will cry in my arms and smile

Desire’ Jackson-Crosby is the editor-in-chief and founder of Through Lines Magazne. She’s based in Central Massachusetts where she’s currently reveling (in slight concern) in all the strangely warm hues of a New England fall.

40

On Not Beloniging

When I was at an artist’s colony on the east coast, I had a bad case of the not-belongings. Now, let me back up and say as a young thing I defied belonging. Even a whiff of conventionality re-curled my ironed hair. Once I got through the I-must-have-a-white-haired-doll phase of childhood, I began to ruinate the whole idea of holidays. Post-nuclear family (and I do mean nuclear) my loathing gave birth to identical triplets. An ugly, self-echoing trinity it was, howling for the apocalypse. During the fall and winter months, when Hallowthanksmas really digs in its cat claws, I now go full-groundhog and tunnel underground, my heartrate registering as nonexistent on the big cardiac probe. I hate it—and have hated it since the day I received the dubious gift of consciousness—when people do stuff because that’s how it’s done . It reminds me of when my ex-mother-in-law would rake my body up and down with her eyes, leaving hen scat in the wake of her gaze. “Di will be doing the dishes,” she’d cluck, handing me a moldering sponge. Who am I, Cinder-fucking-ella, I wanted to holler, but I was a bride, and brides have to turn in their voices before entering the lace confines of the bower.

By the time I reached the artist’s colony, all of that was behind me. Post-marriage, I had gone through the decontamination ritual of hooking up with a baseball player and a neighborhood cop. I had turned to wearing underwear as overwear. I painted my walls the colors of a whole bag of Dum Dum suckers. You like blue raspberry? Welcome to my sewing room, though I’ve never sewed a stitch or sutured an incision in my life. In order to keep us on track, let me just cut to the chase and say I was in the third circle of my necessary debauchery, the first being the removal of the eyes from the white-haired-doll, the second being Dum Dum interior design, and the third being something I’ll call, for want of a better word, poetry. Now as you know, (I’ve flipped into Lecture Mode here), poetry has a long pubic history. And no, that’s not a typo. Like sausage, or gamenight, it means many things to many people. Some consider it an act of languaging. Others, just an act, be it vaudeville, trapeze, or ventriloquist-and-dummy. For me, it’s been a way of sewing, and I’ve already established I cannot sew. It’s been a way of being a blood donor when I’ve been endlessly rejected by the screeners at the blood bank.

“Perhapshomeisnotaplacebutsimplyanirrevocablecondition ” James Baldwin
41

Speaking of blood: When I walked onto the sacred territory of the artist’s colony, I smelled something like pots and pans, or the mercury once used to fill drilled teeth. It was only on the second night, a night I’ll call The Night I Realized I Was Smelling Not Pans Nor Mercury but Blood, that I realized the land, the earth, was ichor-ish. Sanguine-ified. As my mother is known to say, it was stockpiled in bloody hen turds. It was not a present-tense blood—America has some pretty good machines for cleaning up contemporary massacres—but old school. Constitutional. The blood that no bleach can decolorize, no mere menstrual rag can absorb. There was no wifi in the cottage, no TV, and therefore no old cowboy shows to distract me from the bloody truth of American history. The blood was a haunting, and it was not fond of me.

The next day, a day I now think of as The Day the Food Was Delicious but I Felt Weird in My Clothes, I entered the dining hall with trepidation. These were sophisticates, a different sort of sophisticate from those I met on the other coast, though I felt equally weird over there. For some reason, I made a snarky comment about people being obsessed with gluten, and an older resident, who clearly had his ducks in a row, came right out and told me I shouldn’t judge the gluten-sensitive. I also announced I’d seen a bright orange fox leaping through the meadow as I walked to breakfast.

“Oh yes,” another artist said. “That one is full of ticks.” They could not have known I have a tick phobia—a phobia of all parasites of the blood-sucking variety. I stood and walked to the coffee vats to pretend to add cream to my mud. I take my coffee black. I just needed a break from feeling like a jiggly-boobed interloper. My boobs, long ago released from the tyranny of the brassiere, jiggled like clown-headed frauds. Have you ever felt so odd in your body that you trip over your own shoelaces, and your shoes don’t even have laces?

Walking at midnight to the never-closed library on the meadow edge, carrying an insignificant flashlight, trifling against the blood under my slip-ons and the trees curtained in plasma-fog, I met the ghost of James Baldwin wandering toward me on the path. I was aware that he’d been a resident here, decades earlier. He lived in France for a good portion of his adult life, and he died there, too, in Saint Paul de Vence. He called it a “refuge far from the American madness.” A necessary exile. In life, he was not a tall man. Only two inches taller than I am, and I’m a shortish, stubby, peasant-class piece of shit with skin the hue of kindergarten paste.

42

Ghost-wise, his elegance added inches to his frame. When his elegance intersected with my vulgarity, just outside the chicken coop where the hens laid mint green and sky blue eggs, his eyes—I hate to even use the mother-in-law verb again but I must—raked over my frame. The effect was a sort of raking me over the coals. “If you’re so afraid of ticks,” he said in that voice, “you might consider not terrorizing the wild turkeys.” He must have seen me earlier in the day, shooing away the turkeys who were drawn to my cottage, the smallest one at the colony. They clumped outside my window like dirty laundry. For some reason, they bugged me, like mourning doves bug me. Once Baldwin passed me by, his cigarette smoke spiraling handsomely, I picked up my pace and used my secret key in the library door, immediately hitting the computer to google “do turkeys eat ticks.” Indeed, they do. Up to two-hundred a day.

That night, I lay stiffly on the twin bed and read the library’s copy of Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, his early tale of expatriatism, identity, and desire. I used one of those apps on my android to play the sound of birds and rain and ocean waves. That’s how afraid I was of the silence, and the blood that lined it, and the artist-ghosts who navigated it, like Neruda’s admiral in “Nothing but Death.” The Baldwin novel was a small paperback version, like something you’d buy from the book section of an old drugstore. I had to squint to read the type. But the sentences were fluid with lostness. With heat and grief and shame, roiling like curdled cream in coffee that was supposed to be black. I dug my claws into it, carrying it with me to meals, where I’d begun to dine alone, and bringing it to bed with me, like a lover who hadn’t made up their mind about me. I planted my tent stakes in Giovanni’s Room that whole month, when I arranged and rearranged my book manuscript on the floor of the cottage, and sharpened the axe blade of my loneliness. I needed to be lonely, it turns out, more than belonging, more than home, more than love. There was no plot of land, no village, town, city, country, in which I belonged. I didn’t even know how to belong to a group of brilliant, soulful artists sitting at a long wooden table eating scrambled eggs and toast. To belong, I’d decided young, is a pretense, like Xmas, like wedding bells.

43

I’d like to end there. It feels tidy, and who doesn’t like tidy? But that would mean I must expunge the whiskey-fueled night toward the end of the residency when three geniuses improvised “Lush Life” to my reading of the poem, “I can’t listen to music, especially ‘Lush Life,’” from my collection Four-LeggedGirl . It would be to excise the fact that maybe I did not belong, but I was embraced, and I likewise did some embracing. I still felt jiggly and frowzy, like a bad case of overkill, but I stood up, I was there. After our impromptu performance, there was celebration. I actually let myself go a bit, shot the shit with strangers, tipped the community bottle to my lips, until a woman who’d seemed to be a bit exiled herself, who’d begun sitting with me at meals, came up to me, eyes swimming with crude oil and rage, and hissed in my face, “You like that dick, don’t you?” an accusation or a curse or a come-on, I couldn’t tell. I didn’t know what dick she was referring to. All I said was, “Not particularly,” brought a napkin up to my face and wiped off my lipstick, and quickly slid out of the room.

That night didn’t instigate art, but it celebrated it, and I have never known what to do with celebration. I may take after my grandfather the barber, who really only felt right with himself while cutting hair. Remember those noisemakers that you blow into and a curly thing unfurls into the onlooker’s face? I googled them. They’re called party horns. On Reddit, a user said that in Spanish they’re called matasuegras, mother-in-law killers, which seems—apt. I have never been able to blow, without ambivalence, into a mother-in-law killer. In high school, I tried, one balmy night, to participate in the decorating of our class float for homecoming. I think the float-makers, who I did not know, invited me because they associated me with art. I ended up sitting in the corner folding Kleenex into poorly constructed carnations to stick into the chicken wire of the float. It would be pulled by some kid’s truck, which needed a new battery. I didn’t rise out of that chair until I slipped out of the barn and walked home. To join in would kill something in me, the very thing that allowed me to assess the madness from a distance, even if that madness resided in myself.

44

Much earlier in my life, my mother picked me up from second grade, to tell me my father had died. Our small house that day seemed filled with men. Male friends and relatives wearing suits and drinking coffee. I think I sat for a few moments in one of their laps, but I didn’t want to be held, nor to be in the presence of adults. Soon, I left the house to walk the five blocks to my Brownie meeting, which I didn’t want to miss because we were going to learn how to make a tote out of an empty bleach bottle, and I’d already imagined using it to store my marbles. It was one of those spring days the storybooks call “brisk.” I felt the breeze and temperature acutely, like I was missing a few layers of skin. When I arrived at the troop leader’s house, late for the meeting, I paused on the stoop, pressing my face to the screen door so I could experience the group without me in it. There were my friends, sitting on the floor in patchy rows. As I listened, I realized they were praying for me. “Diane!” the leader cried when she saw me outside the door. She seemed embarrassed, like she’d been caught with her hand in Jesus’s cookie jar. She led me into the small, hot room, wrapping me in an embrace that hurt, given my lack of epidermis. As soon as I could, I sat down in the corner and got to work, cutting away the top of my bleach bottle and punching holes around its rim. When I finished it, and walked the long way to a home that now seemed alien to me, I felt a perverse joy. I was fatherless. Homeless. I didn’t know the word then, but I knew the feeling: My condition was irrevocable . But I’d made a thing, and I could swing it through the air by its drawstring like a maniac.

Diane Seuss is the author of five books of poetry. Her most recent collection is frank:sonnets(Graywolf Press 2021), winner of the PEN/Voelcker Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, and the Pulitzer Prize. Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl, (Graywolf Press 2018) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Poetry. Four-LeggedGirl (Graywolf Press 2015) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Her sixth collection, ModernPoetry, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in 2024. Seuss is a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow. She received the John Updike Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2021. Seuss was raised by a single mother in rural Michigan, which she continues to call home.

45

One night I went fishing &

I pretended—even though I had been cautioned in advance—

to be a woman who fishes. I pretended I was one of the crew

putting the slippery ugh onto my hook,; fine with no dinner

& two bottles of Bitch Creek beer; fine for hours in the chill of the night

& I was as night turned into a high kind of theater: Malibu’s shore

losing its definition & all of its lights, light of many moons & Mercury

rising, simulating baubles and beads like the bijoux at Van Cleef & Arpels.

Just then, my tourted rod bent as suddenly as suddenly is & then a clownfish took me for pity, draped its sucker around my pose & fakery

& begged me to just get it over with as it swallowed this knowledge: I wish

Icouldswimalongsideher,deepintothesea.

46

I am not present in the family photograph where they are smiling with dog and flowers, yellow.

I am not present at the dinner table where everyone eats strawberries from a luminous bowl, yellow.

I am not present with the siblings playing their instruments: piano and bass guitar, the tune Mellow Yellow .

I wasn’t even present the day I was born, when I was pulled from the breech; the doctor’s hands gnarled & yellow.

Everything that has happened since has been smoke & alone, poison in baskets, darkness unredeemed by each day’s yellow

but I am always present at the lingering of so many dying: our lakes, species; our country and its promise, gone yellow.

Lynne Thompson is the 2021-2022 Poet Laureate for the City of Los Angeles. The daughter of Caribbean immigrants, her poetry collections include BegNoPardon (2007), winner of the Perugia Press Prize and the Great Lakes Colleges Association’s New Writers Award; StartWithASmallGuitar (2013), from What Books Press; and Fretwork (2019), winner of the Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize. Thompson’s honors include the Tucson Festival of Books Literary Award (poetry) and the Stephen Dunn Prize for Poetry as well as fellowships from the City of Los Angeles, Vermont Studio Center, and the Summer Literary Series in Kenya. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Poetry, Poem-A-Day (Academy of American Poets), NewEnglandReview, ColoradoReview, Pleiades, Ecotone, and BestAmericanPoetry, to name a few.

Yellow
47

Epilogue with Livestock

Stories are better cropped down to essence. When I tell yours I know to leave out the discomfiting love draining from you. Every time the fitted sheet popped off the mattress during sex and I went to sleep without fixing it. In that little house we bought with only cows and mountains for neighbors, you ran to them every afternoon, your limbs sharp and wild to match the sun. I wanted this the way I wanted all of your extravagances. Once, watching your approach, the farmer called out from his tractor to grant you the permission you hadn’t asked for. I’mfromNewJersey, you told him, needing it to mean something.

I know, he said. You thought he’d read your accent but it was your license plate, yellow as the August grass. All I want is to be a cow, you told me after. How you admired their way of belonging to earth while holding nothing in their heads or hands. I was careful not to mention how they earned their keep of dying. Like all lovers, you’d find your own way of evaporating. That winter, I sent a picture of the snow collecting on my shoulders, the cows’ too. All of us making do in the cold. This is the part of the story you’re careful to skip. Our peacelessness, awake in the stinging air.

Robert Wood Lynn’s debut collection MothmanApologiawas selected by Rae Armantrout as the winner of the 2021 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize. His poems have been featured in ColumbiaJournal, PoetryDaily, The Yale Review, TheSouthernReview, and other publications. He lives in Rockbridge County, Virginia.
48

A Bicycle Built for Two Partners Recognized as Married Under the Law

Raise your hand if you will still catcall me when I have nine nipples— if you aren’t raising your hand, then you’re not trying hard enough to break up my relationship and I will be reporting it to the suicide hotline with the highest bid. If your hesitation is from the connotation of catcalls, don’t be—I have a rare condition called my father got to a higher base with my sister than he did with me, so now my supply is higher than my demand.

Pay no attention to the socks and birkenstocks, the smell of over-yeasted bread riding the wind from my feet to your nostrils, the happy trail I’ve clearly cultivated to speckle my otherwise dribbling midriff.

And please! Do not let George deter you either! He may or may not be watching, he may or may not be crying, he may or may not be holding your prized hockey stick signed by Adam Levine above his head shouting “one of us isn’t leaving here with an intact hockey stick and I’m all out of hockey sticks,” but I assure you, it’s worked it out: I learned that his worst fear is an odd number of breasts.

49

Frank O’ Hara Walking Poem Except it’s Not the Assignment

I was told to start the poem in motion, and I will, theoretically, vicariously (through my lived experience), but I know the poem will be negative, because aside from analyzing whether women are wearing underwear and comparing thigh jiggles, I have no interest in, nor anything in common with any of you. I don’t want to explain my half-baked communist manifestos or aggressive vegan policies again, it is embarrassing, and you will ask questions, and I will answer, and neither of us will be satisfied and both of us will think we are better than the other and I will know that you just lost the opportunity of a lifetime, to get in good with a cancer who just came into a lot of money and has not yet applied Newton’s third law to her bank account, and who would do anything for you because she feels unviable sexually, and you will know that I am unviable sexually, when I could just stay home, where George and Franklin are, where I can have a falling out with you over text or an Instagram fight, then return to headbanging to Free Bird, picturing George and I on the highway with Franklin in the back fucking ascending to the guitar solo, buh buh buh buh bwah bwah, buh buh buh buh bwah bwah, bu bu buh bah buh bah buh bah, then fantasizing about writing and directing my incest film, and choosing to look out the window instead.

Sophie Ewh is a writer, filmmaker, and podcaster practicing radical openness in her art. When they discovered WhoseLineisit Anyway?, she learned how to laugh. After developing an obsession with B-horror movies and mental breakdowns, she tried to make others laugh but mostly just made them nauseous. They’re currently Co-Host of UptownFilms and ProducerofWeKilledtheMoon, a poetry podcast.

50

SONNET WITHOUT REGRET

I want to be Juliet Capulet again – tragic thirteen. Bronze bruised like the statue in Verona I boob-cupped with my greasy pizza palm in front of my ex-boyfriend. I was twenty, still the girl changing in the swim locker room smelling of puberty pee & orphan chlorine & lifeguards flexing first sex. I should have known then I liked girls, staring at the way their bodies hooked sweat. Like giggling fishing poles, their breaststroke shoulders breaking rain. The single largest group that sends letters to Juliet in Verona are American teenagers. Confusion. Chewing gum remains.

Every night, Club di Giulietta takes down the love, swings it in a basket before writing back. Instead of saying pleaselookaway to the other girls & my rolly polly stomach, I’d say watch me undress an imperfect lucky breast. Hear the popped blood vessel under my left eye. Answer the boy who hit a baseball there like lust. Yes picking the poison. Being the daughter of a patriarch drying my hands on the stone wall’s skirt. Alone at home, cutting bowties. A pigeon snapping her neck like virginity. She sounds like snow lifting up the entire city’s skin.

51

CLOSING TIME

Alone at the Brooklyn Museum I watch an Andy Warhol nude film about religion. I stay too long tracing my finger in the air of the skinny girl, like the ghost of a wet dog jumping offscreen. The guard startles me. Closingtime,Miss . But I want to try on Andy’s hotel bathrobe. The gift shop’s repeating bananas & soup cans fall asleep behind bars before I can feed them, or kiss them, or weigh them down like birds giving birth in a snowy maple. Everyone is angry. Even the security lady who is done for the day as if she’s about to have sex with her wife at home but Pompeii hits New York mid-doggy style. Limping down the museum stairs, my neighbor saves me all over again as a child, my boots stuck in winter’s throat. Every poem this ditch. My frigid help his halo, lifting my toes to safety. How at first I felt ashamed for letting nature make me beg. But now I know I had to leave my feet to write again, like taking off a skirt to hear a woman’s whale song. When I run my hands through the last statue’s hair, I smell my mother’s shampoo by the EXIT sign. Her breasts in the bathtub, washcloth repeating art, under & over each hairy armpit so plain it pleases her.

Amanda Dettmann is a queer poet, teacher, and performer whose work can be found in her published poetry book UntranslatableHoneyed Bruises. She earned her MFA from New York University and has received support from the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and she was one of two finalists for the Action, Spectacle contest judged by Mary Jo Bang. Dettmann’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Emerson Review, The Amistad, South Florida Poetry Journal, The Adroit Journal, The Oakland Review, and The National Poetry Quarterly, among others.

52

The Implications of the Sky

I’ve lived so long now without my worn felt ephemeris

I’ve given away the well-bent deck of Dali tarot cards & Those yarrow sticks beside the I Ching are budded with dust

Every day a deeper abandonment as the cruelty unfolds My only foretelling will be the loss of our garden’s perennials

No longer what once we might have said were the promises Of each coming day unfolding in the implications of the sky

All gone now no matter any soft nakedness of the sun or brief Faith branching across the horizon no we’re always left alone

With a few fresh questions tested by blood or circumstance Or the outrage embittering the old hollowness of

Deep childhood nights left unstarred yet constellated again By the pitted hunger of family & those smug judgments

Regarding the final fictive & exhausted lost glories of our kind

David St. John is the author of twelve collections of poetry, most recently, TheLastTroubadour:New&SelectedPoems. He is chair of English at The University of Southern California and a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets.
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Settle Down

Where’s the train?

The possible future filled with adrenaline and rye?

Where were you when the boys climbed onto the empty rail cars and headed out?

Where were the silver buckles on your knee?

I’m limned and pressed in my chiffon,

trying to fence in contentment, fill up the pocketbook in which I keep those glass eyes.

The rails took the others and you stayed. Here is the train. Here is the body. Here is the house that we built.

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I have animated the morning with blossoms ringing the magnolia this cold spring.

Rain brought them down, rain pools across the sidewalk, along the curbs, running fast toward the gutters.

In California I’d watch the winter rains rush toward the bay, a metaphor it seemed—something about too much and not enough, but I was never sure where to take the thought.

Today in Chicago I taste the residual smoke of the past, what the sun meant so relentlessly, where so much caught fire.

I’ve left many lives to start afresh, hope and disappointment flooding each leave-taking.

Today I’ll take the cold; I’ll take the green emerging from brown branches. And, brief as the next idea, these white petals.

Cullen Bailey Burns is the author of two books of poems, Slip(New Issues) and PaperBoat (New Rivers), both of which were finalists for Minnesota Book Awards in Poetry. Her poems have appeared widely over the years, most recently in TheColorado Review and NewAmericanWriting. She has recently returned to the Midwest after seven years and part of a pandemic in the Bay Area, and is trying to get comfortable with the realization that she has no idea what will happen next.

Relocation
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Maimonides and Saladin in 1171

For days afterward, smoke drifted over Qasr al-Rum’s ancient stones and pillars, but in most other respects, for most other people, life in Cairo went on much the same. The muezzins still cried out their unbreakable faith in God. Babies still got fevers and wailed in the courtyards of the city’s shadowy dars .

Life was not the same, however, for everyone. Not for the Fatimid soldiers, whose homes the conqueror Saladin had burned, nor was it the same for Musa ibn Maimon, who was no longer allowed to ride a horse because he was a Jew. He walked in the street with his saddlebag over his shoulder when he went to see Al-Qadi Al-Fadil’s baby and try to make it well. The sick infant’s howls echoed terribly in the dar’s cool courtyard, walled in with balconies several stories high, where the smell of fresh bread rose to meet the baby’s wailing.

Musa’s friend Fadil, a counselor to the Caliphs who was seldom at a loss for words, had been reduced to silence by his baby’s illness, or possibly by the harangues of his mother-in-law. Fadil led Musa grimly to the source of the wails: some blue curtains at the back of the dark apartment. Behind the curtains, in a small sitting room, Fadil’s fourth wife sat with her wrap unpinned, trying to give her breast to the screaming baby girl. The infant would latch on for a moment and then give up and cry.

“She will not drink,” Fadil said. “A baby downstairs died yesterday.”

“You trust a stranger more than the baby’s grandmother!” the mother-in-law barked from outside the curtains. “If that baby dies, I will take you to court!”

“Last month,” Fadil said, “she threatened to sue me because she saw a rat.”

Musa ibn Maimon normally had much more to say to his patients, but the troubling times had levied a new reticence from him as well. He applied some willow oil to the tip of his pinky finger and put it in the infant’s mouth. The baby sucked and then screamed, sucked and then screamed. Musa repeated the procedure several times before the baby finally calmed and took her mother’s breast.

“You see?” Fadil said to his mother-in-law as he escorted Musa back out. “He is the best doctor in all the land.”

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The mother-in-law watched them with suspicion.

“Thank you,” Fadil said to Musa.

“All the Jews thank you,” Musa said. “But we are afraid.”

“I will bring you news soon,” Fadil said. “To be safe, I will come under cover of darkness.”

“Darkness,” Musa said.

The word described his soul. Under the new Sultan, Saladin, the expulsions and executions and forced conversions of Jews would inevitably come to Cairo as they had come to his hometown of Cordoba in Spain when he was young.

He had spent his entire life running, and now there was nowhere left to run.

1

The wind continued from the north for the next three days, and the smoke continued to poison the darkness of Musa ibn Maimon’s little house in Fustat. The smoke smelled of an unnatural fire, a fire burning things that aren’t meant to burn, a smell of burning paint and horses and elephant bones, a smell of doom. Between the poison in the air and the anxious waiting for Fadil, Musa couldn’t sleep.

When the rapping at the door finally came in the owldark black of night, Musa ibn Maimon was lying there awake beside his sleeping wife. He combed his knotted beard beside the open window, where a few distant lamps winked like stars out among the dark palm trees of Cairo. He fumbled with the cloth of his damp turban and hastily wrapped it around his head. Dogs bayed and barked in the sleeping streets. Always in Cairo at night, the noise of dogs and cats. Musa could not remember the sounds of home in Cordoba.

He opened the door for his friend Fadil, who stood there looking up at him from under a giant blue turban, holding up an oil lamp in a cloud of moths.

“Musa!” Fadil exclaimed in a voice better suited to the bazaar than to secret visits in the middle of the night. “You are a light to all Egypt! May God protect you!”

“And you. How is the baby?”

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“Drinking more and crying less,” Fadil said. “You are a blessing to us.”

“On the contrary.” Musa looked past Fadil to see if any soldiers had come along to kill him or Fadil or both of them, but he couldn’t see anything at all beyond Fadil’s lamp, just an abyss of darkness.

“It is arranged,” Fadil said. “You will have an audience with Saladin tomorrow.”

Fadil was “all head and heart,” as another counselor in the Fatimid court had once described him. From Cairo to Damascus, men knew and feared his mind, but the size of his heart could only be known up close. Up close, one saw that he cared for every person, every object, every action with the passion of a man who believed this world mattered as much as the next. He cared so much for the Arabic language, he would sing as he wrote. As counselor to the caliphs, he cared so much for the people that he built them schools, libraries, mosques, public gardens, and orphanages. He cared so much for his beloved Egypt, he would convert to any kind of Islam and back again in order to stay there. His love for Egypt was almost like erotic love for a woman. The ancient Pyramids, he said, reminded him of a woman’s breasts. Through a land without rain, he said, the Nile flowed blue as a swamp-hen feather in the black hair of a pharaoh’s daughter.

“I must find you a bigger house,” Fadil said, holding up the lantern. Everywhere there were stacks of paper on which Musa ibn Maimon had scrawled in Arabic and in Hebrew. There were books and quires and scrolls. “This is no living quarters for a leader of the Jews! For the doctor who has healed and comforted my wives and children! This is a hiding place for a rat!”

From the window by the table, Musa could now see the soldiers Fadil had brought with him—perhaps a half-dozen Mamluks, some sitting on their polished helmets, some standing and leaning on their spears in the light of an oil lamp hung up in an acacia tree. They were playing dice and hissing at each other, stifling cries of joy and disgust.

“Your men are playing dice,” Musa said.

“I will put them to bed without supper.”

“And Saladin expects what from this meeting of yours?” Musa ibn Maimon said. “I should burn my tefillin? Burn all my Hebrew books?”

“He was wounded by an assassin. A cut on the head. Examine the wound and treat it, then swear your allegiance to Allah. Then it is done. All will be well.”

“And if I don’t?” Musa said. “He will kill me? Because I am a Jew?”

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“It’s not the worst reason,” Fadil said. “How do you think a Sunni like me was able to survive for so long in the Fatimid Palace? Loyalty is an arrow that must be aimed, not shot into the air.”

“I am not an archer,” Musa said.

“You shoot with your quill, not your quiver, brother. That’s why we understand each other so well,” Fadil said. “Praise be to Allah, Cherisher and Sustainer of Worlds, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Blessed is Adonai, King of the Universe, Who hast delivered us unto this occasion. Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Let God show you the straight way, the way of truth, not the way of wrath. Trust in Him.” Seeing that this did not persuade Musa ibn Maimon, he added, “You are a doctor. You know. Sometimes the medicine tastes bitter.” 2

After Saladin burned the village south of the Fatimid Palace, Musa ibn Maimon had promised God a fast day if only He would keep Merab and his unborn baby safe. He had also promised God a fast day during his voyage on the sea from Morocco to Egypt. His ship had survived the storm, but God had taken his brother’s ship and all their shared fortune in gold down to the bottom of the sea.

“I worship God, certainly,” Musa said. “I just don’t trust him.”

“But you trust Fadil,” Merab said. “You told me so.”

“Now you’re turning against me?” Musa yelled. His temper sometimes spilled out of him quick like blood, especially in darkness, when no one could see his face.

“If only your people knew how difficult you really are,” Merab said.

“I’m not choosing my people over you,” Musa said.

She rolled over and stopped talking to him.

He wanted more than anything to sleep. To sleep and to sleep and to sleep. But sleep had deserted him like spilled water hurrying down into the sands of the Sahara.

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Merab looked so young and lovely in the morning light, which sparkled with vivid danger, that Musa ibn Maimon felt ashamed and he did what he often did when passion struck. He talked about books and great scholars: the Roman physician Galen, who spoke of passion so strong it could blind a man, and Rabbi Yitzhak who in the Mishnah castigated the daughters of Zion for wearing eye shadow and for putting myrrh and balsam in their shoes to kick at the young men and excite their desires.

“Do you know, in the same passage,” Musa said as he pulled on a black izâr, “the rabbis warn against sinat chinnam. It means ‘hatred without reason.’ That is exactly what is wrong with our new Sultan.”

“When you would rather not think of what’s in front of you,” Merab said, “that is when you give me sermons. Teach women to read and you won’t have to lecture them on what the rabbis have written.”

“But you do know how to read,” Musa said. “It’s one of the things I love about you.”

She handed him his saddlebag, which she herself had packed with his medicines. She knew them at this point better than he did.

“You will be hot,” Merab said, tugging at the black linen cloak.

“I have no choice. Black is the color of the new Caliphate.”

“This baby needs a father as much as any baby whose father is not the Nagid. And you are the only father I want for my baby. I don’t want—” Her fingers shook as she gently touched the corners of her eyes, lifting each tear like a ladybug on the back of her forefinger, and flinging it away.

4

The heat was rising fast in the way it did in the streets of Cairo, rising so fast, so early, that it made you afraid of the heat to come at noon. The morning air smelled of fire, but also of manure and life. Life did not stop, even when the muezzins demanded it. As he rode his donkey slowly through the street, the muezzins called out from their high doorways, Ashhadu an la ilaha illa Allah: “I bear witness that there is no god except the One God.”

The Great Palace of Al-Mu’izz was only a two hours’ ride from his house in Fustat, but its gates were not the end of his journey. The Palace was so large that it had outer gates and inner gates and visitors rode steeds inside the Palace itself and up its ramps. His friend Fadil lived inside the Palace walls in a grand house of three stories by the Bab al-Rih, “The Gate of the Wind.” With him lived the hundred thousand books of the great Fatimid library, but none of his wives and children, whom he kept in apartments and houses all over Cairo.

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“Restraint can only be achieved amidst opulence,” Fadil liked to say. “Restraint amidst poverty is no achievement at all!”

Fadil waited for him by the Gate of the Wind on a white Arabian horse with a high tail. He was writing with a quill and paper pressed up against his horse’s neck.

“Why don’t you ride a horse instead of that ugly donkey?” Fadil said.

“You know why!” Because of Saladin, Musa ibn Maimon had had to sell his mare for half what she was worth. “Don’t listen to him,” Musa whispered to his donkey. “You’re beautiful.”

The animals paced slowly up the ramps, nodding their heads, as the ramps crisscrossed between arcades and turrets and over the reflecting pools, already quite bright with sun and buzzing with dragonflies. The Palace was hundreds of years old, and had undergone so many additions and renovations that there seemed to be palaces within the Palace, esoteric old border walls within new ones, castles grown up in front of old gates, new gates cut into old castles, parapets zigzagging to dead-ends, portals that led to other portals that led to blind corners. They passed a gleaming white wall with heaps of rubble at its base and a wild fig tree growing through a dusty, ancient doorway. It was as though even the Fatimid caliphs had forgotten where the Palace stopped and the outside world began. They had now paid a heavy price for their myopia.

Fadil wrote as he rode, pressing sheets of linen paper against the white mane of his horse, and dipping his quill in a gold-rimmed ebony inkpot that he had stuffed in the breast pocket of his caftan.

“I just thought of a design for the mihrab for the new madrasa,” Fadil explained and waved at the sky with his pen. “Arches upon arches, smaller and smaller as they ascend, so to recede in appearance infinitely like angels on their way up to God.”

“You forget so easily the bloodshed down here,” Musa ibn Maimon said.

“That boy, Al-‘Adid! His reign is over and he doesn’t know it. After Saladin kills him, someone will have to explain to him he’s dead.”

“One must die sometime, some way,” Musa said. “I suppose it would be noble to die at Saladin’s hand. Not for Al-‘Adid, maybe. Not for my people. But for me.”

“Why die to become a martyr?” Fadil said. “You manage to be one every time you open your mouth.”

The horse and donkey plodded onward, nodding their heads in the white Cairo sun.

“And,” Musa ibn Maimon continued, “what is my life when separated from my commentaries on Torah? Then I am already dead. Yes?”

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“There is only one kind of dead.”

“My mother and my brother already died because they were Jews. Am I more important than they were that I should spare myself?”

“Yes,” Fadil said.

“On the other hand, it would be selfish to die for a book. Merab doesn’t deserve to be a widow.”

“No, she doesn’t,” Fadil said.

“Am I going to die today?” Musa ibn Maimon looked all around him as though the road, the tree, the horse, would be the last he would ever see. “Am I really going to die, today?”

“Maybe,” Fadil said. “Maybe not.”

When they reached the resplendent, octagonal high garden full of jasmine and roses, Musa thought he was no longer on earth but someplace nearer to Heaven. It was quieter up here, with only the sounds of the water wheels turning in the aqueduct. The water wheels kept turning and the roses kept flowering regardless of who ruled them.

“The world is bigger and more ancient than you and I,” Musa observed. “I will convert.”

“It is decided, then,” Fadil said. “You will live.”

Musa ibn Maimon and Fadil left their steeds with a Mamluk as old as the sun. They passed through a keel arch glowing with white light, and finally stood blinking in an open courtyard hung with bright white silk banners, between which burned a pure, desert-blue sky. In the striped shadows of the banners stood the Fatimids’ seven golden trees with jeweled birds on their branches, symbolizing the seven pillars of the Fatimids’ Isma’il Islam. Saladin’s knights, young men armed with rapiers, wearing black izârs tied about their waists and embroidered white caftans and turbans, sat at a large table laid with maps and missives. Saladin himself, dressed all in unembroidered white with no izâr at all, paced barefoot between the golden trees, itching his dark beard.

“Saladin, Muhyi Dawlat Amir al-Mu’minin, Reviver of the Empire and Commander of the Faithful,” Fadil announced. “I present to you Musa ibn Maimon of Cordoba. Tell Musa ibn Maimon your problem and he will give the wisest answers you have ever heard. He is the wisest physician in all the Maghreb. Wiser even than Ibn Jumay and Al-Muwaffaq.”

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Musa ibn Maimon had spent the last days trying to master his emotions through the exercise of his reason. Now that he stood faceto-face with the young Sultan who was not yet 35 years old and had already slaughtered so many, the emotions swelled up with unexpected strength. Saladin had not laid his head in Cairo even one night before setting fire to Qasr al-Mansuriyya, where the Fatimids’ slave army lived. The Ethiopian captives who defended Cairo were so underfed, it was said, they were forced to eat dogs in the street. They posed little threat to Saladin’s Ayyubid soldiers, but the Ayyubids hadn’t bothered to fight. Instead, they had come in stealth, when the elephants were bathing in the lake under midnight’s yellow moon, and put torches to the thatched roofs of the huts. Hundreds of black men, women, and children burned to death and would never again exit their former homes, where they smoldered on as piles of ash. The same night, Saladin beheaded the vizier of Egypt. He killed without a thought.

“This is how I conquered Egypt!” Saladin said, and waved at Fadil. “Not by sword and shield but by the tongue and the pen of Al-Qadi Al-Fadil!”

A mental picture leapt into Musa’s mind of Saladin holding a wailing baby girl—Musa’sbaby, who would soon be born. Saladin held his baby girl by the leg, upside-down like a chicken, and with the same placid smile that now concealed his murderous intent, slit the baby’s throat.

Musa ibn Maimon pulled from his saddlebag a euphrosynum plant with purple star-shaped flowers.

“The oil of the plant’s tubercles soothes the skin,” Musa said.

“As the star of knowledge soothes the soul.” The Sultan dropped down onto Caliph Al-‘Adid’s empty throne and unwound his turban. His long dark hair fell down around his shoulders. The hair in back was matted with blood.

“What happened?” Musa ibn Maimon asked.

“Assassins keep trying to kill me,” Saladin said.

“Me too,” Musa said as he inspected the wound. His throat was dry and he found himself afflicted suddenly by thirst. “But Fadil says if I convert to Islam, you won’t kill me. Is that true? What about my people?” Musa ibn Maimon turned to a knight standing nearby. “I will need some boiled water.”

“I do not serve you, infidel!” cried the young man, with his hand on the worn, leather-bound hilt of his sword, a short, light sword in a scabbard on his belt, a sword meant for butchering, not for show. The young knight’s beard was just beginning and his face suggested he would kill or die for Saladin in an instant.

“Shaddad is a judge,” Saladin said. “He does not fetch water.”

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“Whoever serves, then, please,” Musa ibn Maimon said in a croak.

“I’ve seen many men die from such cuts days or even weeks later,” Saladin said. “I’m not afraid to die if God wills it.”

“Until the wound closes and for another week at least, this is what you must do,” Musa ibn Maimon said, and his accustomed voice of confidence and knowledge returned. “Boil water, then let it cool. It should be warm enough to steam but not to burn. Use a copper ladle to rinse out the cut. Copper is clean. Dry your head in the sun. Wear a freshly laundered cloth in your turban.”

The Sultan jumped up from the golden Fatimid throne and embraced Musa. “Fadil, you were right! His voice and his touch alone are soothing to the mind!” Saladin signaled the fat eunuch by the keel arch. “Fetch hot water in a copper vessel! Everything the doctor requires!”

“If I convert to Islam,” Musa ibn Maimon said, “I can’t guarantee my people will follow. In fact, I will probably lose a lot of friends.”

“Better to lose friends than your life,” Saladin said.

Fadil met Musa’s gaze. “All will be well, Musa.”

“Tell me,” Musa said, “does your head hurt very much?”

“It hurts,” Saladin said.

“I know the imams say it is haraam,” Musa said, “but as I interpret the 219th verse of Al-Baqarah, I think wine is acceptable to ease discomfort. Will you drink some wine with euphrosynum in it to ease the pain and make it easier to care for your wound?”

Now Saladin looked displeased. “It seems unwise to presume to know Qur’an better than the imams.”

“You think Saladin, Muhyi Dawlat Amir al-Mu’minin, Reviver of the Empire and Commander of the Faithful, cares about pain?” the hot-headed knight shouted. He pulled out his sword and slapped it against the bottom of his boot with a clang. “Only Crusaders and Jews care about pain. We will take back Jerusalem because we don’t care about pain.”

“Faith will only survive, Sultan, if it accommodates itself to science,” Musa ibn Maimon said. His voice was again very hoarse. He almost choked on the words. “You will not drink?”

“Say no more, Musa,” Fadil said. “Physician heal thyself. So sayeth the prophet Isa ibn Maryam!”

“Minds cannot be changed once a man is grown,” Saladin said. “That is why it’s so important to educate children in the ways of God.”

“And you teach them to kill?” Musa said.

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“Ah,” Saladin said, his eyes shining. “I wish nothing but to sit in a Damascus olive orchard with a pitcher of cold water and read Qur’an. I am wedded to Syria. Egypt is the whore that keeps me from my bride.”

“Take it back!” Fadil cried.

“One more piece of advice, offered in humility,” Musa said in a voice like gravel. “For the safety of your scalp. Stop killing people.”

“Insults don’t suit you,” Saladin said. “You choke on them. Perhaps it’s you who should drink?”

“Remember Merab, Musa!” Fadil said, covering his eyes. “Remember the baby!”

“I think of nothing else!” Musa blurted out violently. “And my mother, dead at the hands of the Almohads, and my brother who fled them and now lies sleeping on the bottom of the sea! Nuach b’shalom!”

Shaddad again slapped the bottom of his boot with the flat of his sword. A Nile breeze flapped at the banners above. Fadil dropped his hands from his face. He waited on Saladin’s words like a man who has been to many funerals, like a gravedigger.

The words were: “Always listen to Fadil. It’s a great shame to lose such a fine doctor.”

Shaddad held up his sword so that it blazed in the sun and tested its cutting edge against his thumb. He plucked a stone up from the map table, and began scraping it along the sword.

Another knight seized Musa ibn Maimon, ripping the black izâr he’d worn to honor Saladin, and shoved Musa to his knees on the hot sandstone.

“He meant no offense!” Fadil said.

“Since you speak for him,” Saladin said, “tell me if he prefers to die a Jew or a Muslim.”

Musa looked up with the torn izâr hanging off his bare shoulders. He said, “God will know who I am no matter what any sultan calls me.”

The young knight tested the cutting edge on his thumb again, then dropped the sharpening stone on the map table with a thud. He stood over Musa ibn Maimon with his sword raised up and he screamed twice, screams both terrified and terrifying as he summoned the courage to cut off another man’s head. He screamed a third time and raised the blade still higher, when Saladin stopped him.

“Wait, Shaddad!” Saladin said. With eyes full of tears, he flung himself down beside Musa ibn Maimon and helped him back onto his feet. He embraced the Jewish sage like they were brothers.

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“Had they the upper hand,” Shaddad said, “you think his people would pity us as you pity him now?”

“A man of honor does not betray his people when the wind blows,” Saladin said. “Sheath your sword before the Nagid of the Jews!”

The eunuch came back with a copper tea kettle in a wicker basket. With unsteady hands, Musa ibn Maimon poured the hot water onto a clean cloth and began to clean Saladin’s wound. When he touched the part of the wound that was deepest, Saladin flinched, and Musa removed his hands from the Sultan’s head. Saladin looked up with joy in his eyes. He motioned for Musa to continue, as if the pain itself were the medicine.

Musa and Fadil rode slowly along the slanted, crumbling rampart of the old palace. It was now a path for horses and donkeys. They had left all the greenery behind. The traffic of horses and carts slowly climbing and descending this old royal road had stirred an obscuring dust into the air and softened the edges of the hot shadows.

“It’s a beautiful world,” Musa ibn Maimon said.

Fadil spat into the dust like a camel. They had been at tea speaking falsehoods with the Sultan and his knights for hours. Now Fadil had no strength for anything but the truth.

“Who wants to be a Jew when all the world is against you?” Fadil said. “You call Saladin a zealot, but you know who’s a zealot? A Jew in Cairo.”

“I was going to convert!” Musa ibn Maimon said. “And he was going to kill me anyway!”

“You are stubborn as your donkey!” Fadil cried.

“Why are you yelling at me?” Musa yelled. “It was I who was almost killed!”

Fadil jerked on the reins of his horse so hard that it reared up and spilled him right off its back and into the dust. He scrambled to his feet with his blue turban askew, seized Musa by his torn cloak, and shook him, nearly spilling the Jewish doctor off his mount.

“You insulted him!” Fadil shouted. “After all I have done for you!”

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Fadil climbed back on his white horse, which showed its displeasure by shuddering its flanks, as though Fadil were a fly to be shaken off. The horse spun around in a circle and concluded its performance by defecating in the face of Musa ibn Maimon’s donkey.

They rode in silence the rest of the way down to Bab al-Rih, the Gate of the Wind, where Fadil lived, apart from his wives and children, among his thousands of books. At the gate, they watered their steeds and splashed their own faces with cold water, then mounted up again with dripping beards. After the long, hard, hot day, they wanted to see and hear nothing more of the Great Palace of Al-Mu’izz. Fadil would accompany Musa back to Fustat and they would go to the baths.

“I’m lucky to know you,” Musa said.

“If you died,” Fadil said, “who could understand me?”

When they had passed the ruins of Qasr al-Mansuriyya south of the Palace, they came to the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, where a new minaret was rising. The Fatimids built their Shia mosques without minarets. Saladin, a Sunni, demanded minarets. So new minarets were going up. Someday, they would come back down.

As the sun fell over the ancient city and the dogs began to bark at the shadows, the two friends on their asymmetrical steeds passed on in the shadow of the mosque wall.

Austin Ratner is author of two novels, IntheLandoftheLiving (Little Brown) and TheJumpArtist (Penguin). TheJumpArtist , called “brilliant” by The Guardian, received the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. His short fiction has been honored with The Missouri Review Editor’s Prize in Fiction and his essay “Sidewalk Phantom” was selected by TheNewYorkTimesMagazine as one of their 16 all-time best Lives columns. He is a non-practicing M.D. who frequently writes about psychoanalysis and is a father to two boys. Visit austinratner.com to learn more.

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Making Sense of Touching Things

then the echo where waves break down this other side

if we could understand thought breaks like this memory erodes decays the weave begins to fray still seeming tight despite unity’s so granular unravelling so much reconsolidated tattered rope what we recall

of the empirical this shredded and distended twine pulled thread by thread apart and piled into the center of our earth

Stu Watson is a writer and artist living in Brooklyn. A founder and editor of the journal Prelude, his writing has appeared in Denver Quarterly, PANK, SAND, The Hythe, and elsewhere. His first poetry collection, Communicatingroups, was published in 2020 by C&R Press.

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the tongue is a mother/the tongue is a father/the tongue is a child/and in the mountain/there are hundreds of tongues/looking for languages/looking for the right legalized mouth to hop into/and the police are here/

they flash flesh at the base of the mountain/they sing/if anyone leaves the mountain they will not be absorbed into the city/ the city will spit them out/the city will slop them out with its imperial

tongue/its backward bourgeois barbarian tongue/the authoritative bodies command the sanitizing bodies to rub gel all over the infected bodies/but the infected bodies keep getting more

infections/ and the infections spread all over the mountain/ and the trees are sickening/and the animals who live in the trees are sickening/and from the beach we see the states blooming on the horizon

and the horizon is like glass/the base of the mountain is glass/ the river that carves its way down the mountain is glass/ and we try to survive on the kind of love reserved for those who have enough

food/we understand that hungry love is different than full-bellied love/and the dead do not sit still as the starving states keep blossoming in the mountain/Illinois is in the mountain/and Indiana is in the mountain/and the factories on the border are burning/ and the workers are burning/and a voice says/this is what literature will look like/after the earth has burned up

this is what infection will look like/after all the earth has been infected/ and the states keep cropping up in the mountain/there in the mountain beyond the mountain/ are the Nebraskans/they are doing things with photosynthesis we cannot understand/they are making the rivers dance their nuclear dance/the rivers howl and the Nebraskan families keep sprouting up next to the rivers/they sit on sofas and have their pictures taken by

#12522
Mountain
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authoritative bodies who need the world to see how well the mountain dwellers from Iowa are taken care of/the families pose on sofas by the river with dogs who rest their fluffy

heads on the children’s laps/the answer is love says an authoritative body to the journalists who want to know what kind of policies they might put in place to protect the state from its documents or the documents from the state

or the river from the water or the mountain from the valley or the beater from the body it beats/and the authoritative body fields these questions with such grace/

he has an answer for everything love he says will solve everything/we will love the rivers and we will love the valleys/and we will love the bodies that live in the mountain

just as we will love the mountain that dies in the mountain/ and a risk exposure specialist says here take this donation/ take these millions of daffodil seeds and plant them in your colonial mountain/take these millions of mangos and give them to the bourgeois barbarian who tells us our tongues are not our tongues/who tells us our words are not our words/who tells us our mountain is not our mountain/

there are Floridians dying from so much life in the mountain/ there are dead Michiganders dying from so much life in the mountain/ and the authoritative body says/mountain/this is not the right word

mountain/this is not a mountain/it is a cluster of children heaped one atop the other/dying from so much life heaped one atop the other/get your words right/says the authoritative body to the fugitive press corps/because we need everyone to understand that the real is only real because we say it is real/and the teachers climb the mountain

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searching for a new carcass economy to lose themselves in/ an authoritative body says to the teachers take this river and teach it how to flow in reverse/take this child

and teach it how to grow in reverse/take this mountain and show it how to melt in reverse /this is Mountain #12522 and everyone knows what to do with their love/they seal it and preserve it in all the right

chemicals/they wait for their beloveds to dig themselves out of the street but their mouths keep getting stuck in the mercury/their tongues keep getting stuck in the arsenic/their love keeps getting stuck in the formaldehyde

and the dead do not sit still as the mountain moves forward and backwards into the blankness of a human carcass data dump/we want to say farewell to the dead/to love them as they were never loved in this life/ but the

authoritative bodies won’t let us near them/they pay us and they beat us/ and they tell us/you must leave the dead alone/you must leave the dead alone/they must leave this world on their own

Daniel Borzutzky is a poet and translator in Chicago. His most recent book is Written After a Massacre in the Year 2018. His 2016 collection, The PerformanceofBecomingHumanreceived the National Book Award. LakeMichigan(2018) was a finalist for the Griffin International Poetry Prize. His translation of Galo Ghigliotto’s Valdivia received the 2017 National Translation Award, and he has also translated collections by Raúl Zurita, and Jaime Luis Huenún. His translation of Paula Ilabaca Nuñez’s TheLoosePearl is forthcoming, as is a translation of Cecilia Vicuña’s DeerBook.

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Unity within Difference by Stu Watson

A poem for this moment

Normally, I’m as sensible as celery, but today red coyote ghosts slink through my veins.

You must have moments like this— and feel, even, a certain gratitude for what is extraordinary? At the same time I worry that these days we’re like people sitting happily at a theater while our homes have become scenes of mourning and no one has called us yet with the terrible news.

I also worry about flaming sequoias, the unsettling similarity between ‘despair’ and ‘disrepair,’ and that one green particle of infinity that’s gone missing . . .

Gail Wronsky is the author, coauthor, or translator of 15 books of poetry and prose. TheStrangerYouAre,a book of poems by Gail and artwork by the renowned artist Gronk, is just out from Tia Chucha Press. UndertheCapsizedBoatWeFly:New&SelectedPoemswas published in 2021 by White Pine Press. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Boston Review, AntiochReview, DenverQuarterly, Guesthouse, VOLT and other journals.

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Girl in a box, Girl in a cage, Girl in a wreck,

I’ve done this awhile now, believing my voice could still serve a good little-something.

G(LOSS)OLALIA

O loss, this is the after-happened (!!!)

I speak to you more than my remaining beloveds.

What do I have to offer the world?

I’m still trying to forge peanut brittle with rubber cement. I have more knowledge of alcohol’s intimate proteins than its poisons. Like god’s branding iron, a neon letter (!!!) signals through the ice palaces of Hoboken.

I see this through my glass self rainstruck (!!!)

before the granite self, the one I formed for protection as a child, comes sliding back on its seamless track, locking me again into dumb and voiceless hunger.

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I learn my grandmother’s blood sealed into her selves in Ogden, Utah, not Japan as I thought.

Suddenly I’m the color of why, my generation no longer the second, no longer fat on rawmilk(!!!) bareassed in goosedown (!!!)

In the neighborhood named for a color and a tool, another letter (!!!) rusted to a factory billboard.

Is what’s happening to me any different than when he pitched here then forth in mania, yolk ribboning down our neighbors’ front door?

His selves formed like shells that too late he found could not be glued back together. Look me (!!!) there’s still snow outside.

Outside is where I’ll go, the snow so cold my track might shatter.

Marvelous— the relief in that clatter.

Madeleine Mori is a Japanese American writer and editor, born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She earned a BS in Wine and Viticulture from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and an MFA from NYU, where she served as a Poetry Editor of WashingtonSquareReview. Her work has appeared in jubilat, DIAGRAM, the AmericanPoetryReview,TheYaleReview, TheCommon, TheMargins, and elsewhere, and has received support from the Community of Writers, NYU’s Provost, and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, where she was a 2021 Margins Fellow and guest-edited a special folio on Wine. She lives in Brooklyn and is the Assistant Director of the MFA in Writing at Sarah Lawrence College.

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The beech tree asks me to place my hand on its smooth hide, I hear it. I make a path like a deer through the uncut hair of the graves. All the headstones say God Is Love but everybody here is dead.

GREENWOOD
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PRISONERS

A distant beat comes from the melting snow.

A delivery truck slowly backing up. I have mostly been inside for two years! Trapped on a small blue and green planet, spinning through space, a prisoner.

But there is no jailor.

Just a cloud that appears overhead in the shape of a sword, severing afternoon from evening.

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MY COUNTRYMEN

What do my countrymen make of this dogwood blooming some of them are totally against it I find a path down to the lake where gorse blazes bright and some furtive dudes are just standing around where spring wakes beauty from its dingy sleep blackbirds pluck bright garbage they are the ambassadors of the unconditional love.

Matthew Rohrer is the author of 10 books of poems, most recently THE SKY CONTAINS THE PLANS, published by Wave Books. He was a co-founder of Fence Magazine and Fence Books and his poems have been widely anthologized. He lives in Brooklyn and teaches at NYU.

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Blessing, Again or My Grandfather Chooses Against Getting a Pacemaker

The wild leaves have loosened along the town’s avenue where my grandfather leans, soft-shouldered, against the cracking brick wall of his sporting goods shop, sunken eyes squinting in the white orb of October light, a calloused hand reaching for something living outside of the frame. The farm where his boyhood was buried is now a blue thread of smoke, a caged-off landscape of quavering bone. Autumn will never be infinite, but rather, an omen—the weight of goldcrests sucking the legs of pale spiders before they swallow, breathing in the stomach muscles, silk glands. All season he lies to my mother about his arteries clogging, frail valves regurgitating. The blood in his heart is leaking as though blood is water sliding slowly down the spine from wet hair after plunging in a cold and gleaming stream when he was just a boy.

A
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Elegy for Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger

While you were singing, fall arrived. Yellow leaf clipped from your ear. While you were singing, a forest of beech trees drenched in soldiers, someone rearranging the peaches, the deer. Here’s an hour, there’s a day. A star for your grieving, while you are singing. A rainbow lives in the throat of the Gods, landlords of Earth, your leaf-eyed season cast over a tenantless world—girl at the threshold catching the light with her hands.

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on the Bottom of Rivers

Long Time

I’ve Been Living for a

They kill the sitting red fox at the shooting range it is nothing— a red plastic sticker though still when I position my rifle I puke all over my purple child’s-coat red earmuffs the sound something buried something learning to hear underwater the sound is teeth shaking collar bone bruising in the night I memorize the spot like a headache that night I’m still a girl barefoot on grass the neighbors waving a cane in my father’s face Kikes they yell the night shrieks frozen he runs hungrily to offer his coat.

Carlie Hoffman is the author of WhenThereWasLight (Four Way Books, 2023) and ThisAlaska (Four Way Books, 2021), winner of the NCPA Gold Award in poetry and a finalist for the Foreword Indies Book of the Year Award. A poet and translator, her honors include a 92Y Discovery Poetry Prize and a Poet’s&Writers Amy Award and her work has been published in LosAngelesReview ofBooks,KenyonReview, Boston Review, NewEnglandReview, JewishCurrents, and other publications. Carlie is the founder and editor-in-chief of SmallOrangeJournal

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I

It’s stranger to think of you, Allen, now that Mahmoud is gone, your glary eyes, your voice like an old record, 1947.

It’s 2008, on a sunny winter afternoon, Manhattan. I didn’t sleep last night, thinking of what you might have been reading if you were with me, awake, at 3:39 a.m.

I was listening to Leonard Cohen, he seems to be everywhere I go these days, and listening for short intervals to Fairuz and packing for San Francisco, speaking to the phantoms weeping, as you wept when you read “Adonais.”

I weep reading Liam Rector and Jason Shinder—“God Bless,” Jason would say, whenever I told him something he liked, or it was just part of his mantra?

I weep thinking of Darwish. Have you seen him yet, Allen? Should we be looking for death, or is it Jerusalem?

Meanwhile, did I tell you, I can’t find my national anthem. Every time I start singing, the tune disappears. I see a flashback of a thin sheet of light, the American flag I will soon carry. La Marseillaise forever on my tongue.

Where is the garden that will blossom in the cold, the cities I will dream of finding again, the fantasy of finding India and China while being in Bethlehem, and the trees outside still bare so bare, or is that what forgetting looks like?

Who knows where to find solitude—on a broken bed, in the balcony that refuses the wind’s visit, in the crimpling shadow of poets who never heard a rooster early in the morning, as I have in the Caribbean, waiting for the message behind the hills.

Perhaps death will stop at nothing until it’s trapped in what it worships, it’s like scratching a dream when it’s not looking, it’s like stealing some gray from the sky, or like the swelling of silence in our throats, trying to climb out of black smoke.

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After

Skeletons in our minds, it’s a private grief, a private grief, you hear.

Now all I have is the time I dreamt I kissed a boy as the Arabic music was playing, the time an Afghan immigrant reminded me of myself when I first took the 7 train to Queens, not knowing yet that nostalgia steals from longing— from the thoughts that keep coming to us; not because we can’t forget but because we don’t want to— as for me, all I want is a gesture from Mahmoud, a touch from a world that listens to what movements say.

I practice listening to everything around me—the bird, its cry, the sun, its cry, the echo, the stillness, its music. I keep all that they mean to me and break into what we are unable to be.

Death’s stubborn—it never rests. Maybe that’s how it stops suffering. Where have you gone, Allen?

To New York or Kolkata—is there joy in those places or fear—what do people there think about as they drink root beer or lassi, as they watch bodies pile up in newspapers—

it’s all about money, no one’s looking for soul or secret—the things you think you don’t have— women looking for love, men looking for love except they can’t find the place for it. Did you love, Allen? What is the last thing you remember?

The last man in your bed, who was he to you? What can’t darkness prepare you for? What did God forbid, then said yes to? Do you know where to find the cloud trapped in a bark? A red ribbon, and a sigh that asks, “Can you believe?” You don’t have to answer now.

The wind blows something that can’t exist—so it’s victorious. And then we start cherishing what can change and changes— the mercy on the tree, the broken arrow, the leaves, the colors that cut air into what it desires most—lost snow—

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an electrical wire that lights nameless neighborhoods that sing under bridges, and then people stop wearing shoes to feel the earth. Wait— are we grieving? Is that what we are doing, Allen? I can’t do this—I need forever now—tell me eternity exists or that I should call my lover, his kiss is that other dream, sleeping on his lips that other endlessness— no more moon, mind bent, heart strolled dream hanged, face under madness. You understand—

in the world we all struggle with Jesus, with what we name Holy Father. Ya Salaam. Shalom.

Blessing is what we adore each day. As for Heaven, it’s still undefined—come on, give me a clue.

Is it the end or do we keep redeeming—the shadows are near but far enough. I get it—you’re the perfect phantom.

II

Tell me, tell me Allen—about the song you sang—of the place that crosses flesh, of the hush that breaks light, of Saladin Street where we see those crippling in the dark or the dark crippling, those who went blind last night, who lost a sky, who dug deep to find a cemetery that once belonged to them.

Curse the mind. The craziness of being on a Greyhound bus, then a broken down bus on its way to Hebron.

I can’t hear the footsteps of mourners anymore, the presence of love and hate in the heart of prayer.

What is history when what disturbs us most finds a different pleasure each day? Allen, I’ve been having these nightmares—that I can’t get to New Jersey, that my room is no longer organized, and that the wallpaper my mother put up on the wall has turned green, or is it red? What should we have for breakfast?

Wait—before you answer, I have to reach the Mount of Olives, my cousin’s son, my neighbor’s flock, the hills the stone walls?

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What are you really looking for? I don’t know if we believe in what we are saying anymore, if our discourse on peace is not beaten down.

It’s come back—my dream of New Jersey. It’s a strange place to be lonely in. I would rather be by the limestone, the agonized horse, the gray light.

But I’m thankful that two hour bus ride to Bayonne every week takes me to my uncle’s lost land in Mar Elais, the afternoon my father cried for his murdered friend in Africa, and my mother’s line, on ne sait pas, we don’t know. Still don’t know about return.

By the time I arrive at Journal Square, pass Kennedy Boulevard, listen to people speak Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, see the lonely tree by the telephone company, listen to other people’s music (since they play it too loud), smell other people’s takeaway and see the old Egyptian immigrant still waiting for someone to speak to him, I understand that moving is like a hallucination—real, not real, dizzying, addicting, melancholic.

I wonder if the old man speaks English now. Wonder what he hides. I was twelve when I hid the old map with shame written on it.

Allen, absence stays permanent. No, absence shifts into small gods—pleasures and sins. It matters less with time, it matter more with time.

Cutthevoiceintopiecesbutitstayswhole, my Siti would say. I wish she told me what it means to refuse glory. To lace my shoes. Noeyesshouldbeonus . Placethepicturesideways, my Siti would say. A Surah from the Koran. A verse from the Bible always close.

Is there another word for dreaming? Do ghosts set light on fire? Look—an eyelash on your shirt, a small sound, a broken scar. It’s always too crowded at night. Allen, answer.

I’ll tell you how to replace a question with a haze—just think of the present when it insists on the past, break a glass, then two, and you find that you have no choice except to walk out and stay.

Remember the twenty letters I left on your bedside, Allen. Dark ground. Empty room. They all have the same refrain. I know you understand, even if no one else does.

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Whom have we betrayed? Which wisdom, which age? There was a city on the train. Did you see its colors? Mystic blue. Then yellow.

This wasn’t supposed to happen this way. Mahmoud wasn’t supposed to leave. Bring me the water jug, two weavers, a marble about to crack, a glass with a smell that will intrigue me. I understand—

The dead cheat death. And I am restless.

The bending shoulder. The titling neck, the drunken eyes. The lips releasing fever like a long stretch of black clothes. You see a place and wonder if you’ve been there.

So Allen, show me what’s slow like my Jiddo showed me what’s gone—a shield broken, a heart broken, a branch broken, the trees that lost a life before him?

I replace heat with more heat. Replace ache with winter, winter with a familiar voice, voice with a wound I confuse with a patch of bitter plants.

I saw Mahmoud weep—the day he realized his moving was spelled backward, the shore further than the day before, and he still loved summer.

I still love when my lover pulls Neruda from the shelf and reads me a poem over the phone. It makes me think when his mother suddenly hugged him but he didn’t know why—that’s same suddenness. It haunts. Finally midnight is available.

Meditations. Highways. Roads. Routes. Noticias. Hesitations. Mocking one’s own hesitation. I line them up—conspiracies, frescos, speeding tickets, recycled newspapers, hairpins, landmarks, lives bargained—and now I have to find them.

Last night I heard “Ya Jaffa” and dreamt of the sea, but when I awoke all the water was gone.

And I can’t get the Brooklyn Bridge out of my mind. What do you think that means?

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Let me go back. Long nights as a child. Nightmares. The place moves its dark. Keeps darkening. Then the dark changes. Another alphabet.

Like electrical shock, it’s October 21, 2008 and I’m in Gettysburg—only six days until the test—to be or not to be American.

I see the 1860s—the American civil war, the dead and the dying, shrieks and cries in wagons—the 13 th amendment, freedom—how it’s defined, 1877 and Hayes, black civil rights, Jim Crow, “separate but equal” —reconciliation, but whites only—under Wilson blacks clean latrines, pass blankets. We don’t seem to understand that after war is where you see war. The gospels, Hosanna auplushautdescieux (that’s the language I remember it in).

Souls linger to hand out truths. Mason Dixon line. Pennsylvania and Maryland. Abe Lincoln. Dixie— General Lee, General Meade. Passing the line. Harrisburg. Shell, bullet, ball—Uncle Tom’s Cabin (read). .31 caliber pepperbox revolver. Pistol. Rifle. Handmade wood fife. Brass bugle. Drummer’s baton. E-Flat Tenor saxhorn. B-flat Baritone saxhorn (all preserved and behind glass cabinets).

Suddenly, I hear Sandoval playing in a white man’s saloon, the quiet apples on Route 34. Route 94. What I see here—the color of fall. The great American landscape—walnut trees, apple orchards, pear orchards, Adam’s county, Mexican workers in the apple belt.

And I’m out of breath, Allen—are you? Let’s call Darwish. Mahmoud. Mahmoud. He’s not listening. Later then.

I pass my citizenship test in Long Island. The year ends. 2009 begins in Gaza. Where has the sea gone? Is there a sea where the simplest things become strange, the strangest things a simple answer to grief—an empty street, a baton, a faint desire moving, as if it was decided by someone else what should be sealed or shared—a dark, transgressed.

Allen, as I watch Gaza, January 20 approaches. Obama’s inauguration. The day I become an American. Imagine that.

I start watching nightfall along a field of long branches, bare and reaching for all that they can. Do you think of what it’s like a thousand miles from Memphis?

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Not a lighted road. No one walks here in this obscurity. The road is but a hollow hold to where we pretend to exist—a cornfield or a burning field, it’s no different than a mind gone with another.

This is the time of surrender, I think. Is that what the dead do, surprise us and when we’re finally alone become all that we need to be—a cook, farmer, messenger, tailor, lover—a crowded sentence. I needed elsewhere.

I saw Faith today, 17 hands, and I looked at the mountains surrounding the ranch. Oh yes, I forgot to tell you, I’m in California now. Ojai. But just returned from the West Bank and Texas—

Did you know that Texas is where Darwish died? Such irony. His irony is like the color of noon—no identifiable tones.

Allen, where’s Mahmoud now? Have you seen him yet?

Damn it, I missed his call. I missed his damn call and now he’s left—truth is, we decided, no goodbyes.

Allen, when you died, I was with Darwish in Ramallah. We both said nothing. What could we say, the sun tangled in our shadows.

Spiders and solitude, around us—who can measure the distance of fire half a mile into our scar?

He stopped smoking, waited for something other than summer, it’s all about compromise. I know—that’s why we beat hope out of the tabla

It’s all about god, always about god, no one sees the fountain. You weren’t well. I know. You spoke to me because you liked Mahmoud. I know. I wanted to postpone. I was nervous. Your assistant said, “Don’t”—You died a month and some later. I kept your keys. The poem you wrote the night before we spoke, your words to me: “Igotupinthe middleofthenightandwroteapoem.Itwasathoughtthathadoccurred tomeoverandoveragainandIhadneverwrittenitdownbecauseIwas

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ashamedofit.Itisafantasyofmyownfuneral.Themainthingis,beside myfamily,everybodyIhaveevermadelovetoarestillalive,hundredsof youngkidsorolderguys,boldbynowandmarriedwithchildren.Iwas alwaysashamedofthisfantasy—fameanddeatharesomething—afraidto revealthatsortofvanity.SolasttimeIrealized,yes,itwasvanitybutso what—youtakeyourneurosisandmakeyourpetoutofit.Thewholepoint istorevealyourmind,notbeashamedofyourmind.Iwroteitdownand itisprobablythetitleofthenextbookIwillputout,DeathandFame.”

That’s what we leave behind, the way we went. Kiss Mahmoud. Love, Nathalie

IstartedthispoemonAugust2008—themonthMahmoudDarwishdied—andfinishedadrafton February2012inQueens,N.Y.,thesamemonthIinterviewedGinsberg15yearsearlier.(Interview withAllenGinsbergwaspublishedinArabicinAlKarmel,editedbythelateMahmoudDarwish).

Ginsbergdiedamonthorsoaftertheinterviewin1997.August2018marks10yearssinceDarwish’s death.

This poem has been previously published in GuernicaMagazine

Nathalie Handal was raised in Latin America, France, and the Middle East and educated in Asia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. She is the author of seven poetry collections including LifeinaCountryAlbum, finalist for the Palestine Book Award, and the flash collection The Republics, winner of the Virginia Faulkner Award for Excellence in Writing and the Arab American Book Award. Handal is the recipient of awards from the PEN Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, Centro Andaluz de las Letras, and Fondazione di Venezia, among others. She is a professor at New York University-AD, and writes the literary travel column “The City and the Writer” for WordsWithourBorders magazine.

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The galloping horse carried off the surname. -Italo Calvino

One day, you’ll find home means nothing until you see yourself leave. Disappointment, like bow-tied moths gathered over mother’s face in a funeral gray. Our family learned to carry tiny moonlit icebergs in their lungs to sing past the northern darkness there. Then, silence opened like a mass grave. So, I shoveled & shoveled the hemmed horizon, dug past its vole blue: Winter yielded there like one house spider swallowed in butter, that feeling of being in exile from the truth. Our house still fills with egret-colored feathers every year. Carrying mother’s last drawing on its back, it’s hard to say how a sea turtle swam away to the ceiling…

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Moth Dust & Moon Pock

Everyone’s afraid of something. Some fears stay with you like family members: You don’t get to choose who belongs and who doesn’t. Yet, you may choose which present to open first. Chocolate or vanilla. Take out the leaky trash or feed your hungry dog who, like fear, waits at the door. As a child, moths terrified me because I knew they flew at night when I was asleep, bumping into closet coats and sweaters, blind, leaving their powdery wing dust behind. I was certain I heard them, down the hall near my bedroom: a sound like death’s powder puff hitting the next moon-like face. Morning called me to open the door–– there they were, nowhere to be found. That’s how I knew moths lived forever, in the downstairs closet of childhood, breathing against the mourning smell of mothballs and loss. Something like the fear of losing your family, your middle name, or memory. Take your pick. But you can’t because childhood’s not a choice.

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Elena Karina Bryne is a Pushcart Prize and Best American Poetry recipient, as well as the author of five poetry collections including If This Makes You Nervous (Omnidawn Publishing, 2021). Former 12-year Regional Director of the Poetry Society of America, she works as a private editor, freelance professor for the Poetry School and elsewhere, the Programming Consultant & Poetry Stage Manager for The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, and Literary Programs Director for The Ruskin Art Club. Her numerous publications include Poetry, The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, Poetry International, Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day, Plume, Kyoto Journal, LARB, Reel Verse: Poems About the Movies, BOMB. Elena’s currently writing screenplays while completing her collection of hybrid essays entitled Voyeur Hour.

The American experiment will end in 2030 she said looking into the cards, the charts, the stars, the mathematics of it, looking into our palms, into all of our palms, into the leaves at the bottom of the empty cup – searching its emptiness, its piles of dead bodies or is it grass at the edge of the field where the abandoned radio is crackling at the winter-stilled waters, the winter-killed will of God – in the new world now the old world –staring quietly without emotion into the rotten meat in the abandoned shops, moving aside with one easy gesture the broken furniture, the fourth wall smashed & all the private lives of the highrise apartments exposed to the city then wind. Ash everywhere. The sounds of crying. Loud then soft. It will not seem like it’s dying right away, she said. What is the ‘it’ you refer to I ask. Is it a place. Is it an idea. A place is an idea, an idea is for a while a place. Look she says, there are two fates. One is the idea one is the place. AndeverywhereIseewater. As in blessing? As in baptism? As in renewal? No, as in the meadows disappear under the sea.

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Time

Then I heard a sound in the far distance where her gaze rested. Are those drums? Are we in the distant past or the distant future I ask. The witches float in the air above us. There are three. Of course there are three. They have returned. No, your ability to see them has returned. Your willingness. She asked for cold wine and a railway schedule. It was time she said, to move on, her gaze looking out at the avenues and smaller streets, at the silk dresses on the mannequins in storefronts, all of them, across the planet, the verandas poking out under the hemlocks, violin strings crossing from one century to another, although now I could hear they were sirens all along, invisible and desperate the warnings in their rise & fall –are you not listening are you not listening –yes those are sirens in the streets but here, up close, in the recording of the orchestra, the violin solo has begun, it is screaming from one ruined soul to another to beware, to pull the bloody bodies from the invisible

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where we are putting them daily –no, every minute, no, faster – we are obliterating the one chance we had to be good. There it is. The word. It brings us up short. I notice she is gone. The Americanproject she had said, putting the words out into the kitchen air with some measure of kindness. It was not the only one, she sd, but it was the last one. After it, time ran out. We both looked out the window still shocked by the beauty of the moonlight in this Spring. Are we running out of Springs I had wanted to ask. Is the oxygen. Will there be no more open channels. Can one not live beneath. A little life in the morning. Crazed police cars in the distance but here this sunflower which seeded itself, seeded its mathematics & religion in our tiny backyard, will do. The creaking doorhandle we love, the spider we help come back after each wind by letting the hanging vine which needs to be trimmed

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just stay – juststay I whisper to myself –stay under, don’t startle time, the century will go by – you can mind your own business. You can finger the rolled up leaf, feel its veins, you can watch the engines go by over all the bridges above you. You can remain unassimilated. The Americanproject she said, will end in 2030. Said find land away from here. Find trustworthy water. Have it in place by then. I paid her. I saw the bills go into the pocket in her purse. Her shoes were so worn. Her terror was nowhere. I looked at my garden.

It was dry here and there. The shoots were starting up. Like a dream they were poking through the rusty fence.

I am spending my life, I thought. I am unprepared. It is running thru my fingers. The wind is still wild. My bones hurt sometimes causing pain. It is not terror.

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I feel for the cash in my pocket. I do not have time to prepare. I am comfortable. Time passes and I am still here. I am getting by. I replace one calendar with another. I put seed out for birds and sometimes one comes. Once I saw two. The spider is still here. I remember how geese used to fly over. It meant something. I remember when there were planes & I could see them catch the light up there. What a paradise. Some people had enough. They were not happy but they were able to come and go at will.

They could leave their houses. At any time. Anytime. And go where they wished. Sometimes we shared ideas. It filled the time. We agreed or we did not. They were not afraid. I was not afraid. Summer would come soon. It would get warmer. It might rain too hard. When it flooded we worked to fix it.

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We did as we saw fit. Hi neighbour we would say across the fence to the one tending their portion of the disaster.

It will be ok again soon, one of us would say. We were allowed to speak then. It was permitted. One of us might dream. One of us might despair. But we cleaned up the debris together & the next day sun came & we were able to sit in it as long as our hearts desired.

Jorie Graham, the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for TheDreamoftheUnified Field:SelectedPoems1974-94. Her other collections include TheEndofBeauty, P L A C E and Runaway.
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This poem has been previously published in the LondonReviewoFBooks

Ekphrastic Love Poem

Sunday paper, March 6th, 2022, afternoon in New York, morning in California.

I text my two sisters: Do not look at the New York Times online today.

Athena writes back, She shielded the computer screen with her body from the boys. Thankyouforthinkingofus.

That other mother, shielding with her body.

I click on ‘Today’s Paper,’ to check which photograph will be printed above the fold. In the ‘National Edition’ I didn’t see it so I didn’t need to call my mother.

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On the phone the next day, my day of birth, my mother says, Thereisaphotograph. It is so horrible Iwillnotspeakofit.

We each protect the other. That the photo can’t be unseen is a cliché. Cliché, a click, French for a negative, exposure.

My mother says, It is very effective propaganda: Thatlookslikemydaughter andmygrandchildren.

A cliché is something overexposed. The woman and her children and the man helping them, they are exposed, they are over.

I mis-remember the girl’s coat as pink.

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Lily Kaylor Honoré is a queer Californian poet and writer. She is an MFA candidate at New York University, a former William Dickey Fellow at San Francisco State University, a PEN/Dau nominee, and the Fiction Editor of the WashingtonSquareReview. Her work can be read in Foglifter and elsewhere. Lily lives in San Francisco and Brooklyn with her cat, Angelica.
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Homeostatic Accords by Stu Watson
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Peace Offering by Keeley Waite

My Luck

Now that I am old,

I just want to

Have a small conversation with a stranger

Each day, or to notice that good things are Still happening! Like how the man exiting Giant Eagle called out, “Someone left her purse

In that carriage,” pointing to what looked Like (from my distance) an expensive Coach bag. The grocery boy hearing, quickly ran to Grab it, then hurried to take it to the manager

Of the store, who will open it & find, On a keychain, not only the keys

To the woman’s house, but a Giant Eagle Advantage Card, whose number she will

Look up &, finding the woman’s phone number, Will call her so that that woman will be Grateful & find her credit cards & cash

As she left them, intact, & think, just for that moment, How lucky she is.

Toi Derricotte is the recipient of the 2021 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, for outstanding artistic achievement in the art of poetry over a poet’s career, and the 2020 Frost Medal from Poetry Society of America for distinguished lifetime service to American poetry. Her sixth collection of poetry, “I”: NewandSelectedPoems , was published in 2019 and shortlisted for the 2019 National Book Award. Other books of poetry include TheUndertaker’sDaughter, Tender, Captivity, Natural Birth, and TheEmpressoftheDeathHouse . Her literary memoir, The Black Notebooks , won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Non-Fiction and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. With Cornelius Eady, Derricotte co-founded the Cave Canem Foundation in 1996. She is Professor Emerita from University of Pittsburgh and a former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

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FROM RUSSIA

Alisa Ganeva Olga Dmitriva Lev Oborin Margarita Smagina Anastasia Bochkareva Karin Kanstso A. Mototkov

Never before in my life I never truly belonged to my country. My citizenship was just an incident. I was born into a big empire that collapsed into a smaller one when I was six.

I never saw a ground for any patriotism, or national pride, maybe because I wasn’t a part of the ethnic majority, or maybe because I poignantly perceived what lies and cruelties my prescribed “Motherland” was made up of.

I grew on a shifting soil, on a junction of cultures, backgrounds and contradicting mentalities not entirely knowing who I really was and what was my identity. I envied those who knew. My sense of belonging kept changing as fast as one’s social masks.

When I represented a certain group - my native region, my ethnicity, my generation, or the country that only saddened me more and more - it was never a choice, it was just a combination of circumstances, a formality I went along with.

I really didn’t care - the only thing I consciously belonged to were my endeavors to create worlds out of words.

Everything changed in February of 2022 when my country unleashed the invasive war in Ukraine bombing towns, torturing and killing occupied citizens, threatening the whole world with nuclear rockets.

At that horrible and disgraceful moment I had to acknowledge my citizenship.

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I had to grip a responsibility for every murder that is happening right now on behalf of all Russians, no matter who they are and what they stand for.

I have to share the collective burden of shame and damnation.

I know how many of my anti-war co-citizens - a small bunch of those who dare to speak against the mainstream - shrink from the shear idea of belonging to Evil.

This belonging is unwanted and bitter.

It’s a stigma, a blur, a sentence.

But I know that I deserve it.

All Russians deserve it. It’s called facing the circumstances of one’s silence, conformism, cowardice or just being a part of a severely vicious entity.

Even a resisting and unwilling part.

Even a persecuted part.

This is what I now belong to.

And unless dozens of millions of Russians realize their implication into this bloody mess the Evil may repeat itself in future. Even if it is defeated today.

Alisa Ganieva is an award-winning author of fiction and essays from Russia, now based in Khazakhstan. Her novels – TheMountainAndTheWall («Праздничная гора»), BrideandGroom («Жених и невеста») and OffendedSensibilities («Оскорбленные чувства») have been translated into several languages across the world. Two of them came out in USA in 2015 and 2018, the later one is due in November 2022 (Deep Vellum Publishing). She was a runner for the Best Translated Book Award (USA, 2019), a juror of the Neustadt International Prize for literature (2017) and a participant of a number of residencies and collaborations. Alisa is a member of the Moscow PEN-center. After the Russian invasion into Ukraine and the consequent adoption of new repressive laws she left the country to be able to speak out against the war.

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Refugees from Death by Olgia Dmitrieva

[Heat up your water in the kettle]

Heat up your water in the kettle, you scrap of a person.

Before four dead chicks — A round number, an achievement.

It cried out for something but you were too pigheaded, you scrap of a person.

Heroically cast, out of iron, lead of enlightenment, death to you, you, scrap of a person.

It’s at a boiling point, you scrap of a person. Pour it into your colonial throat, cut off in your filthy water.

Translator’s Note: Ачивка used, achievement transliterated, Russianized. Colonial a reference to a colonial used to be sold in special shops carrying imperialistic goods from colonies.

Lev Oborin (b. 1987) is a poet, translator, and literary critic. His works have been published in numerous outlets, including Poetry, Poem, International Poetry Review, Vozdukh, and TextOnly. He is the author of five collections of poetry and a recipient of several prizes, including Parabola and Andrey Bely Prize. He works as an editor for Polka, a website dedicated to Russian literature.

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Untitled by Margarita Smagina
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Parents’ House by Anastasia Bochkareva
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Victims by Olgia Dmitrieva
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Shots in a Birch Grove by Karin Kantso
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Red Sundress and Widow’s Dress by Karin Kantso

Ambivalence

Summer reigned on this side of the borderline. Wild Rabbit frolicked in the grass, chased his own shadow, and leaped into spontaneous somersaults. He was a serious rabbit with many essential responsibilities, but he didn’t mind relaxed pastimes.

Winter owned the other side. The rabbit had found out quite accidentally. Once, he fell asleep in the grass and dreamed of being chased. Halfawake, he took off running. He ran for a long time. When he slowed down, he noticed something strange: his feet were cold. They were submerged in a thick carpet of cold white wool.

This had been a long time ago. No mysteries remained. The white substance was called snow, and it was not as burning cold as it had seemed at first. After running around and playing, the rabbit enjoyed a break in the snow, a chance to catch his breath, to cool off.

“Why all this frozenness, this white, unpleasant stuff?” the grass said. “Must you go over and suffer? Just take off your fur coat.”

But the rabbit couldn’t take it off because the zipper was stuck.

“It’s just for a few minutes,” he told the grass. “Don’t worry about me. After all, it’s not my fault it’s so hot here.”

“Good to see you,” the snow said.

The rabbit stretched on the snow, wagging his tail. The chill touch wiped away the sweat, the fatigue of the sunny side. The clarity returned – the maturity, the foresight. The rabbit didn’t move, embracing the experience. The snow was silent. Shadows prevailed here, grays over whites.

After a while, discomfort replaced relief. The sun’s warmth lulled him back. Nothing was ever perfect.

“I have to go.”

Summer awaited. The rabbit crossed the border, diving into the hot balm beyond it. He said hello to the grass. Took a stroll on the green slope. Butterflies circled him in a joyful dance. The rabbit watched them for some time. He too felt like dancing. He rolled down the hill, swinging his arms and legs in a rhythm that seemed to resound in the air, obedient to his mood. Or was it another of the grass’s little surprises? The rabbit used his tail as a fan. After dancing, he was hot again. “It’s always hot here,” he thought. “Always the same. I wish winter came here too, at least several times a day.”

“Tired?” the grass asked, nodding under the breeze.

“Yes,” the rabbit said. “I think I’ll stop over on the other side.”

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“Come back soon. I’ll miss you.”

“I’ll be only a few minutes.”

He was a good rabbit, and he felt uncomfortable when he made someone sad. But he wasn’t good at pretending. When cold or hot, he said so.

He let his face cross the borderline, enjoying a breath of the fresh air. Slowly, he dragged his body through the boundary between the two sides, finally letting the chill embrace the entire surface of his skin, even the tip of his tail.

“I’ve missed you,” the snow said.

And just like that, the rabbit realized today was the day to make a decision. He had already chosen which, he simply had to make it.

“I can’t come so often anymore,” he said. “You understand, don’t you?”

There was a pause.

“Yes,” the snow said. “No.”

“We may see each other again, but I don’t know when.”

“It’s a pity,” the snow said. “You won’t be able to ski anymore.” I’m not into skiing anyway, the rabbit thought. “If you come back sometime, I’ll fix a skating rink for you. Would you like that?”

“I don’t know when I can come back.”

His hands punctured the snow’s obedient skin, extracted a lump of its crumbly flesh, molded a ball, threw it up in the air – high, so high. Falling, it exploded against the net of pine branches, landing in snowflakes on needle tips. With tenderness, the rabbit’s hand petted the snow until his fingers were cold.

“Goodbye,” he said.

“Already?”

“We’ve had a nice time,” the rabbit said. “I’ll remember it.”

He approached the borderline, stuck his head out.

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“I’ve missed you,” the grass said.

“Good bye,” the snow cried.

Warmth filled the rabbit’s nostrils. Now that summer’s bright watercolors had come back before his eyes, he no longer felt sad to part with the black-and-white winter world. He was a grown-up rabbit who knew how things worked. He knew the snow, too, would soon get over the whole thing. The snow might not even care at all.

The rabbit looked back. The snow remained as white as before. The rabbit made a tiny step, another – and finally all of his body was on the summer side and only the tail remained in winter. The rabbit slowly brushed it along the snow surface, registering the moment. Then, all of him was with summer.

The sun smiled, as usual. The rabbit sat next to the borderline, enjoying the warmth, touched by a light breeze, the snow’s gift. We’llbeokay, he thought. He wagged his tail, anticipating a long summer. The snow on the tip of his tail began to melt. It gathered in glittering beads reflecting the sun like fireworks of mirrors in the grass.

A. Molotkov A. Molotkov’s poetry collections are “The Catalog of Broken Things,” “Application of Shadows,” “Synonyms for Silence” and “Future Symptoms”. His memoir “ABrokenRussiaInsideMe” about growing up in the USSR and making a new life in America is forthcoming from Propertius; he co-edits The Inflectionist Review. His collection of ten short stories, “Interventions in Blood,” is part of Hawaii Review Issue 91. Please visit him at AMolotkov.com

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Untitled by Margarita Smagina
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Parents’ House by Anastasia Bochkareva

THE WEST

Keeley Waite is a Korean-American artist from Oahu, Hawai’i. He has not grown out of his dragon phase, nor does he plan to. He hopes to create artwork that would have struck awe into his childhood self, as the art he encountered in his youth did for him. He is a recent graduate of California State University, Fullerton with a BFA in Illustration. His work has appeared in the CSUF President’s Art at Work Exhibition.

RUSSIA

Alla Broeksmit was born in the Ukraine. Her childhood memories growing up in Kiev have always played a strong role in her art. After emigrating from the Soviet Union, she began to approach art more deliberately, first practicing life drawing and then enrolling in formal art training at the Parsons School of Design in New York City. After moving to London in 1997 she co-founded the Lots Road Group. Alla received her Master of Fine Arts degree from the New York Studio School in 2017 and is currently studying at the Slade School of Fine Art. Her painting “Midway” is included in “The Screen Show,” an exhibition opening next year at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine, U.S.A.

Rimma Kranet is a Ukrainian American visual artist and writer with a Bachelor’s Degree in English from University of California Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in AcrossTheMargin, BrilliantFlashFiction, Construction Lit, EcoTheoCollective, TheCommonBreath, DoorIsAJarMagazine, and others. Featured in TheShortVigorousRoots:AContemporaryFlashFictionCollectionof MigrantVoices and the IHRAF Ukrainian Voices Anthology. She resides between Florence, Italy and Los Angeles, California.

Anastasia Bochkareva’s childhood was spent in a small village. Her family had a small farm where they grew vegetables for themselves. She was used to hard work on the land. She loves the place where she grew up very much. After graduation, she moved to the city. She now works in design and has a passion for taking pictures with a film camera. Photos taken with a film camera come alive. I like to feel photography physically -- to hold the developed images in her hands, to look at the developed images.

Margarita Smagina is a photographer. She works with publications and brands, and she does specials projects. Margarita has extensive experience in filming lookbooks, catalogues, campaigns. She is also constantly studying and learning photography, and doing author’s projects.

Karin Kantso is a Russian-Estonian artist, film director, photographer, culturologist. A participant of several collective exhibitions (Voronezh, Yekaterinburg, St. Petersburg). As a director she is engaged in experimental cinema together with her husband Maxim Meshcheryakov, their films took part in different international festivals such as Cannes Film Festival\Short Film Corner, 20MINMAX Ingolstadt Film Festival, Art Doc fest \ Riga. In May 2022 she left Russia.

Olgia Dmitrieva was born in Sumy (Ukraine), lived in Habana, Cuba, and now lives in Kaliningrad/Koenigsberg. She studied at the Academy of San Alejandro in Havana (Cuba) and Rachmaninov College, (Kaliningrad) Member of the Russian Artists Union.

VISUAL ARTISTS’ BIOGRAPHIES
UKRAINE
118

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Articles inside

Ambivalence by A. Molotkov

4min
pages 113-115

Heat up your water in the kettle] by Lev Oborin

1min
page 107

Belonging by Alisa Geneva

2min
pages 104-105

Peace Offering by Keeley Waite

1min
pages 101-103

My Luck by Toi Derricotte

1min
pages 98-99

Ekphrastic Love Poem by Lily Kaylor Honoré

5min
pages 92-97

G(LOSS)OLALIA by Madeleine Mori

1min
pages 74-75

A Blessing, Again or My Grandfather Chooses Against Getting a Pacemaker by Carlie Hoffman

1min
page 79

Her Name by Elena Byrne

12min
pages 82-89

Time Frame by Jorie Graham

1min
page 91

A poem for this moment by Gail Wronsky

1min
page 73

Mountain #12522 by Daniel Borzutzky

4min
pages 69-71

I’ve Been Living for a Long Time on the Bottom of Rivers by Carlie Hoffman

3min
pages 66-67

Maimonides and Saladin in 1171 by Austin Ratner

20min
pages 56-65

SONNET WITHOUT REGRET by Amanda Dettmann

1min
page 51

Implications of the Sky by David St. John

1min
page 53

CLOSING TIME by Amanda Dettmann

1min
page 52

Settle Down by Cullen Bailey Burns

1min
page 54

A Bicycle for Two Partners Recognized as Married Under the Law by Sophie Ewh

1min
page 49

Frank O’Hara Walking Poem Except it’s Not the Assignment by Sophie Ewh

1min
page 50

Relocation by Cullen Bailey Burns

1min
page 55

Epilogue with Livestock by Robert Wood Lynn

1min
page 48

One night I went fishing & by Lynne Thompson

1min
page 47

Chicago, Summer 1979 by Stella Hayes

1min
pages 36-37

Through by Desire’ Jackson-Crosby

1min
page 39

Essay on Belonging by Stella Hayes

2min
page 38

On Not Belonging by Diane Seuss

11min
pages 41-45

Father by Stella Hayes

1min
page 35

NOWHERE WITH HIM by Stella Hayes

1min
page 33

A bomb’s monologue by Dmitry Blizniuk

1min
pages 29-30

An old man feeds cats in Kyiv] by Alexei Nikitin

1min
pages 27-28

EMOTIONS NOW GONE by Gari Light

1min
pages 18-19

Those draftsmen of lives of their own] by Serhiy Lazo

2min
pages 22-24

SHE DEVIL by Svetlana Alekseeva-Adronik

2min
pages 10-12

EMBRACE by Liya Chernyakova

1min
pages 20-21

Let’s change everything] by Serhiy Lazo

2min
pages 25-26

HE SAYS by Svetlana Alekseeva-Adronik

2min
pages 16-17

PONDERING UNKINDNESS by Gari Light

2min
pages 14-15

LOVE ME by Pavel Palad

1min
pages 8-9
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