Variety Pack: Issue II

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EDITOR’S NOTE Even as the world seems to be on the brink, now more than ever, folks are still finding ways to create, and the flurry of artists and writers we have for our second issue is living, breathing proof of that. This will also be our first issue with the new category: Visual Art/Mixed Media / Hybrid. It’s important for us all as a literary publication that we take this moment to show solidarity with Short Fiction from Tara Campbell, and Dan Hamilton; Non-Fiction from Laura Eppinger, and Jesse Sensibar; Flash Fiction from Anne Coopserstone, Mary DeCarlo, and Ada Pelonia; Poetry from Joel David Lesses, Jackson Wright, Paige Melin, Ceinwen E. Haydon, Swetha S., Carlos Daniel Flores, Myles Yates, Amit Shankar Saha, Courtney Janicki, Alan Chazaro, and William Bortz; Reviews from Venus Davis; Visual Art/Mixed Media Works from Katy Haas, Liz Walker, Sam Lonczak, and Jennifer Dines. For all of our readers, we know that our launch comes at a time where we all need to pick a lane on this road to change, a time where silence is no longer an option, a time that has existed longer than the past couple of months, but since the dawn of our nation. For all our readers, we strongly encourage all of you to check out our latest donations page, Variety4Justice: featuring a comprehensive list of Black organizations, bail funds, memorial funds, and many other sites for donating whatever funds you can and show solidarity with black communities across the country, as we continue to join in on this wave of systematic change.



Short Fiction

Flash Fiction

Tara Campbell

Ada Pelonia

Dan Hamilton

Mary DeCarlo Anne Cooperstone



Jesse Sensibar

Joel David Lesses

Alan Chazaro

Laura Eppinger

Paige Melin

Ceinwen E. Haydon

Swetha S.

Carlos Daniel Flores

Courtney Janicki

Jackson Wright

Myles Yates

Amit Shankar Saha

William Bortz


Visual Art/Mixed Media

Venus Davis

Liz Walker Sam Lonczak Jennifer Dines Katy Haas




Thank you, gentlemen, for indulging in my request for this little side huddle on such short notice. I have some thoughts that I can share only at the highest levels of our movement, about issues that we’ll need to agree on to better shepherd our followers through this election season. This year at CPAC a great deal is being said about freedom vs. socialism. Fellow conservatives, I am as concerned as you are about the Red Scourge—meaning socialism, not Russia—but I am also wary of our becoming too dependent on this word as our rallying cry against the presumptive Democratic nominee. Yes, raising the specter of socialism is an effective strategy with our base, who are justifiably angry at having their hard-earned wages stolen to fund paved roads, public safety, education, disease prevention, fire departments, clean water, the military, disaster relief, international trade negotiation, and the list goes on. These are things that good, honest, citizens should be providing for themselves, and they know it, and they’re mad as hell about not being allowed to shoulder the responsibility for these services themselves. The current system is also not fair to those of us who have to make additional expenditures for our own private security systems to protect our wealth. I understand. But I would ask you, leaders of the conservative movement, to consider a few things that might be beneficial about certain—I hesitate to say “communal” here—about keeping certain activities organized on a larger scale. If I were to give it a name—which I most certainly do not advise,


because you know how the media is about sound bites—but if I were to give it a name, I would call it “Conservative Socialism.” In other words, just enough to maintain our way of life. We have three matters to discuss, gentlemen:

1) Health Care: I understand, gentlemen, Medicaid’s a mess, Medicare’s a mess. Neither of these things are healing the sick, elderly, and disabled enough to get them back into the workforce—and yet they continue to stay alive and drain our resources. Not that we can say that part out loud. As Rep. Scalise rightly says, his survival after being shot at that baseball game is entirely due to his access to the best medical system in the world. His taxpayer-funded insurance enabled him to survive, even in the face of our beautiful second amendment. If we are to keep our country intact, we must ensure that both guns and health care remain available to the most productive members of society. Thus, it is our duty to rail against the public health care system while failing to propose viable alternatives to manage the rising costs of medical care. If we stick with our strategy, we will eventually prevail, reaching a point where there are fewer surviving patients who need our support. The exception is, of course, the VA—those who can get into the facilities are generally satisfied with their care. Let’s continue to support the VA by ensuring that only the most vigorous, tenacious, and bureaucratically adept veterans can access it. Maintaining current costs is the key.


Although these men and women are no longer actively serving us, we must continue to honor our former warriors by supporting the most insistent and least vulnerable among them. And I would be remiss in not mentioning the Corona virus, and praise the selection of our honorable Vice President as head (NOT czar, mind you, as that would be socialist) of our protection efforts. There are concerns that the vaccine, when it arrives, will not be affordable for all patients. Gentlemen, I propose that we announce a policy initiative during CPAC: a push for all male heads of Christian nuclear families to be provided with enough vaccine for their households, regardless of income. I am confident that we will enjoy the full support of our new Corona Cz—pardon me—response leader.

2) Education: Now, let me start by assuring you: I understand that we don’t want everyone’s children to have to go to the same schools. Of course, we must continue to advocate for diversion of public funding into our own parallel educational systems. Our resources—whether inherited, or earned through our own capitalist activity enabled by publicly-funded infrastructure and resources—should be spent on our own children, and if private school vouchers are the means, then yes, they are necessary. There’s the pleasant side-effect that they can help a few other low-income students as well, and we should be proud of that. And let’s not forget the critical need to keep public funding flowing via voucher to parochial schools in this Christian nation of ours. I well understand the appeal of closing the tap on “dead end” public schooling as Ms. DeVos has so eloquently put it. But consider for a moment—where will our future service class come from? Yes, from those very public schools. Do we want to have to explain to a waiter that when our


president orders a “hamberder” he wants what is colloquially termed a “hamburger”? Do we want to be continually embarrassed by our mistresses’ inability to converse on a more than rudimentary level when we bring them to our country clubs? Of course not. A certain amount of knowledge and critical thinking skills must be imparted to our nation’s children, regardless of income level. We must be cognizant of our role in society. We’ve secured our cadre of university-trained graduates mired in debt to perform higher-level functions. Our role is to continue providing them with the proper motivation—keeping a firm hold on those goal posts of work ethic, as it were. Managing and growing our billions is what sustains B-school graduates for the decades it will take to pay off their loans. The law firms managing our mergers and civil suits—they are what keep young lawyers’ hopes alive in the face of crushing school debt. And doctors; even after they finish dealing with this Corona virus, there will always more for them to do. Prescribing Viagra and replacing our joints to get us and our caddies back out on the links—that’s what shines the light at the end of the tunnel of medical school bills. Despite this stability in upper echelons of service, we still need to be mindful of those lower down the workforce ladder. How will our drivers know which polish to use on our cars if they can’t read the cans? How will our cooks know how many oysters to purchase for a dinner party if they can’t handle rudimentary math? The masses need a baseline level of education, and for that, some level of educational infrastructure (building repairs, heat and air conditioning, mold remediation, edible food, personnel) will be required. If educators cannot afford to feed themselves or pay for their rooms in group houses, how can we possibly expect them to keep stocking school supplies? If paying a bit more so little Johnny’s teacher can buy him a pencil means I’m a Conservative Socialist, well, then I’m brave enough to be one. How about you?


3) Guns: Despite signs for concern in Virginia, things are not as grim as it might seem for the second amendment. Don Jr. has been granted a permit to go up to Alaska to valiantly kill bears. Party leaders remain dead set against any of what liberals term “common sense gun laws,” regardless of how much support they have among the general public. Even though a majority of gun owners support universal background checks, and even though the NRA is awash in financial and leadership tumult, and even though we average more than one mass shooting per day in this country, we Conservative Socialists must stand firm in our belief that all Americans require access—at any time and for any reason—to all types of firearm and ammunition (because even though the word “ammunition” is not spelled out in the amendment, even the strictest




constructionist would have to agree that ammunition is an essential part of the killing process). “Shall not be infringed” has to mean something, right? It’s up to the coroner and the legal system to sort out the rest. That’s what separation of powers is all about. What’s that? Ah, my good friend reminds me that I haven’t yet made the connection between guns and socialism. Gentlemen, we must present a more nuanced approach to that word, defusing any attempts by wild-eyed liberals to paint us as—well, as equally wild-eyed and afraid of a mere political model. Let’s show them that we’re not afraid of this word, socialism; that we’re not afraid of anything. And you know why we’re not afraid? Because we’re bristling with a dazzling array of firepower on our person at all times. That’s our birthright and our salvation, gentlemen.


And so I propose a nod to courage in the face of socialism; our greatest policy announcement yet; our master stroke; a gift to every man, woman, and child in this great land of ours: universal, taxpayer-funded, lifetime memberships to the NRA. If that’s not American, I don’t know what is.


DOOM AND EARL TALK ABOUT GRIEF by Myles Yates Erasure of the song “Between Villains” by Captain Murphy feat. Earl Sweatshirt and Viktor Vaughn [Verse 1: Viktor Vaughn] bring

the child in

Singing out the silence He get some looks,

and a Pulitzer

just bluffin', clear your nose Here you go, It’s nothin', get it


Bet it on

the red eye

Too many make mistake

, not enough live

Too many fake Dropped these


Everybody got one, your mom's is Utmost The Most, clutch, for the baby, toast to

lady , one

[Verse 2: Earl Sweatshirt] I'm in the cut looking us

to pick apart that really isn't ours

Storming out the door, don't press


Trying to kill that noise, performing that void slightly Since landing



I'm owing


that I've been handed

For free your cameras to me don't command me to speak walking slow stamina weak you could catch Trying to get

after a bad accident right


your street now

Rapping Getting business handled, It's a bunch


on him it's sand on a beach


SEA-BEACH: A PANTOUM by Amit Shankar Saha today I close my eyes to see something I've never seen I see a secret sea-beach very far away someone there to see something I've never seen I had to dive within very far away someone there is now nowhere but here I had to dive within to discover the world that exists is now nowhere but here in the secret of the dew drops to discover the world that exists today I close my eyes in the secret of the dew drops I see a secret sea-beach


EVERGREEN: A GHAZAL by Amit Shankar Saha This love I mold evergreen, this time will hold evergreen. In the background of my mind you exist old evergreen. Leaves of memory turn brown except one, gold evergreen. In my veins the blood is red, in my heart sold evergreen. Sometimes you are in my sleep, nightmares are bold evergreen. The cells of life daily die, mourning is cold evergreen. What will I leave when I go but these words told evergreen.


UNFORCASTED: A HAIKU SERIES by Amit Shankar Saha a Norwester comes to take my heart with the winds all dust in the air it blows with the storm precipitates with the rain all mud on the ground streams of mud eddy in the ventricles of brain clot in mid-day heat cruelty of flux in the humid April month rashes on my skin talcum days talcum nights of sweat and prickly heat a sweltering mind sultry memories of summer splash coffee beans promenades in ruin a ruined leaf floats through a yellow band of spectrum a call back of fall an epidemic of sepia-toned autumn a quarantined spring footmarks of platelets fingerprints of corpuscles a murdered monsoon a killing coldness of thawing nostalgia a withering bloom


A SLOW-STIRRING SURFACE by Amit Shankar Saha Boredom and I sit together looking at the pictures you post from the hills of Uttarakhand as freezing frames of stillness. Boredom and I sit together trying to feel in a cafe the warmth of your woolens in the cold of your cottage. Boredom and I sit together trekking a spoon to the rim to see the fall of sugar into the lake in the cup. Boredom and I sit together blowing a breeze from the breath before the setting of the lips into the slow-stirring surface.


FLOATERS by Anne Cooperstone “So my dad is rich,” Walt said. “So what? I still think we should eat them.” “What? Eat what?” Polly said. She tried to get a good look at him but the sun made her squint. They were in a twoperson raft, floating down the Boise River in late July. “Eat the rich,” Walt said. He took a swig of his Apple Orchard. He’d put zinc on his nose and the rim of the cider bottle was stained white. After a moment of silence, Walt said, “What, you’ve never heard of that?” “No, I have,” Polly said, lying back onto the raft, watching her hip bones jut out in that way she’d always liked. Other rafts floated by. One carried a family with screeching kids and ziplock baggies of sandwiches, another a solo rafter with a scuba mask and a farmer’s tan. Polly should have lost Walt’s number after their first date. It’d been a total bust. They’d gone for dumplings at a roof top restaurant, but they left before the cart came around; swarms of flies were hovering at eye level, swelling around the hot string lights that lined the patio, landing on their cheeks and tongues until their appetites were gone. There was a version of the night that could have been romantic. Last minute tickets to the drive-in, or scoops from the Ben and Jerry’s

by the mall. Instead, they’d just gone home. Their raft bumped up against a rock and they jostled hard. Polly heard Walt’s bottle crack against his teeth. “Ow.” He bared his teeth at Polly. His front right tooth was missing a tiny corner. “Is it bleeding?”


“I don’t think so.” “That really hurt,” he said, touching his lip gingerly. “Anyway. What was I saying?” “Your dad,” Polly said. Maybe she’d call that guy tonight, she thought, the one who’d let her ride his motorcycle without a helmet. The wind had made her chest feel full. As Walt chattered on, she let her fingers drift against the babbling rapids, some big, some small.


HURACÁN by Carlos Daniel Flores When did I give away my light? Life is tiring, I’ll give you that, but I’ve been around this block before, I can tell because there’s a crack on the curb here where a plate must’ve broken or maybe a mug, a crack in the concrete with a bright blue fleck stuck inside, it’s always there, and every time I see it the color’s just a little more faded and every time I see it it sends a chill down my spine. I always go back to this memory of my first hurricane, turned tropical storm, there was a gap under the plywood board and while the old dead ghosts raided Puerto Rico with their furious, slithering howls, I found myself transfixed by this glove outside on the terraza, a yellow dishwashing glove with one fingertip pinned between two pavers and the rest flailing in the wind, and I wonder if that’s what life is, we’re flung into it and whatever random thing traps us is what we hold onto for the rest of our lives, we hold on no matter how hard the wind blows, our eyes glued shut as we listen to the trees being ripped to shreds and those ghosts screaming with rage and disapproval under and over us, and we forget that before all this we had a purpose, before all this we saw the world with our own eyes, wide open.


POEM, JULY 2018 by Carlos Daniel Flores my friend, where have you gone? The last time I saw you I’d kissed your cheek and you’d kissed my neck. At the coffee shop our forearms touched and we studied each other’s fingers and palms over the patio table and the hours slipped through cracks in the pebbled concrete. I have never known happiness as anything other than short-lived and ours thus far has not been an exception, but like a fool I search for it anyhow, and now— now I’ve seen the colors that have been building in my lungs, pressurized by years under this unforgiving boulder that I have known as my only life, colors building and waiting to shoot out as they did, through my fingertips, to yours, calloused and lightning hot in the dark of the theater, it’s a wonder we didn’t ruin the performance. My friend, do you know, when I was eight and we moved to the states and I hardly knew the language and didn’t know a soul, I made friends with a boy named Ryan, and I swear I don’t know what came over me, I took his hand and ran around the house with him, it was a welcome party for us and I wanted to show him the world as I saw it and I stopped— horrified— at what I’d done, was absolutely mortified and I never held another boy’s hand again—







It’s 7:47PM and I wake up from a soggy nap. Late August and my clothes stick to my skin. I always look a decade older after a nap. I bend over backwards to turn off my air conditioner.

My day had been uneventful. Work was slow so they sent me home early. I killed two hours sitting in the cafeteria, writing the same sentence over and over again on a napkin. Then I went to see my therapist. I don’t know why I’m alone.

I asked my therapist if she knew that old indie rock, alternative rock, pop rock, lo-fi song. “Which one?” she asked. I couldn’t look her in the eyes because all my confessions were embarrassing. Through the window behind her, a man in a hard hat floated into view. I didn’t want to look at him either and instead locked eyes with a puppet of Sigmund Freud. “I want a boyfriend,” I said. “Oh, yeah,” she said. “I know that song.”

I entered the lobby of my apartment building. Cumin hit my nostrils. A dog barked behind door number 3. I looked at all the mail waiting for residents who were not me. Paul Fitzgerald had a package from Sweden. I don’t know why I’m alone.

My Best of Joan Baez album always skipped on “Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer.” Quite prophetically it turns out. “You’re too good for my son,” your mom told me with her eyes. I was curling my hair a lot last June.

My phone beeps a flash flood warning but I’ve already stripped the bed. It’s time to cross the fourlane highway to the Laundromat. My phone beeps again. TripAdvisor still thinks I have a reason to fly to Albuquerque. I don’t know why I’m alone.

I pull on my sneakers and look out my window into someone else’s window in the building across from mine. I watch the muscles move in my neighbor’s back as she gathers her hair into a high ponytail. The only thing on her wall is an American flag. In the apartment above her, a man gets a blowjob while watching television. He doesn’t seem to be enjoying either very much at all. I haven’t been touched in ten months.

I descend five flights of stairs with my soiled bed sheets slung over my shoulder. The dog behind door number 3 barks and barks but I don’t pick up on any smells. I open my broken umbrella and walk into the night. Standing before a red light under all of the water in the world I once again


wonder at the deeper meanings behind your demon baby tattoo. A baby’s smile shouldn’t be that wry, even if it is a demon. I don’t know why I’m alone.

My sneakers squish across the hard tile of the Laundromat. I slide 13 quarters into the machine. Let the clothes pre-soak and then add soap, watch as they swirl and flop and crash against each other. I want to bash my head against the glass. I sit on a step stool one foot off the floor and pull my knees into my chest as my clothes go into battle.

Twenty-four minutes later I pull them weary and born-again into a pushcart. I pass a tall man in a white t-shirt. He’s trying to get my attention. I’m trying not to notice. He extends an open palm. I look to his hand. He is offering me a small candy wrapped in paper resembling a strawberry. “Oh, no thank you,” I say and push my cart forward down the aisle.



A-Side This midday reposado has me torn up and twisted and listening to mariachis in Tlaquepaque is the death I’m asking for. Siempre hay picante aqui, tio declares after I ask him. I guess it took me awhile to stop asking and start taking. At first it jarred against my bones. I am no chupacabra but I’ve learned every man is capable of eating, even without appetite. I’m obsessed with swallowing the lies that scrape the floors of our imaginations. Example: I visited the birthplace of Mexican Independence in Dolores Hidalgo; I ate a plate of overpriced arrachera in the plaza; a man in a wheelchair asked for money; I visited a jail cell where they say this country popped off; I don’t mean to imply that we are still barred from each other; but sometimes these mountains make it difficult to look back.

B Side I’m sitting in a courtyard with Acapulco

chairs--flamingo pink, lime green--avoiding April



I haven’t filed for myself in Mexico

Back in the States, I know they’ll ask for more

than my mother’s peace.

What’s the cost


of leaving a country to return to your abuelo’s


I’ve walked through a minefield

while somersaulting in steel-toed boots

and balancing a crown that isn’t worth much

but weighs more than my household.

Income isn’t always incoming for everyone here.

Circles don’t become trapezoids overnight.

They require different

angles to be muscled from the promise of each morning’s


But who cares about a damn shape

My barber at Doberman’s

when nothing shapes up.

tells me about his mother as he fades

me out;

she’s a professional at cleaning up after the dreams

of European visitors at the hotel in Colonia Reforma.

Being kidnapped and beheaded for the syllables inside my wallet.

This is sensationalist, I know.

But what’s a peso to a dollar if they take away

My irrational fear?


your hands?

C Side I dig through remixed crates of myself, wax pressed into the grooves of forever, then spin that shit like the B-Side Brujas on E. 14th. All night like my abuela when she would smoke and hit up local clubs on San Pablo to find a Mexican date with nice eyes. They come here for work, but we work them for us. It’s hard not to romanticize the struggle of time--the disco lights, the cheap liquor, the mustaches and Camaros parked in front of our house. Our roof is shingled but falling apart. There are parts of this neighborhood that aren’t up to code. We have a shed in the back where Bernardo used to sleep and dreamt of sunflowers scented in lawnmower’s gasoline. There are more than two sides to this story, just like there are more than two stories inside of us all.



simply to feel the airy bass and bounce of my 5th grade self, when we’d gather around Aldo’s boombox like acolytes ready to worship inside a temple in the slums of Shaolin. For the diss tracks and the interludes looping uninterrupted in our empty apartment while Pa was off at work. It works, listening to the hype I grew up on as Californian pochito. When we studied the Wu’s interdimensional arts, learned how to teleport across coasts, in the shadows of 36 chambers within myself. Back then, all my neighbors were Vietnamese, and the smell of fish and oil and somewhere faraway brought me back home. Yes, this is home. And wherever I go I drag this unsheltered memory with me, as shelter. True, I’ve stepped out to hold the sunlight in my mouth while reciting lyrics in a foreign tongue and I’ve tripped on new shit, not always old shit, but always good shit. Believe when I say I’m ready to conjure the elixirs of New York rap mixed with single-parent love mixed with a cassette tape stuck on rewind.


RIVALRY by Laura Eppinger

We grew up along the same river, though my home was one town upstream. I sprang up next to a handkerchief factory, though I’m sure we were poisoned by the same Dupont chemicals throughout childhood. Still, our worst curse was dreams. We attended the same moldering parochial high, which did not encourage girls with ambition. A muscle car school, a diner and deli clientele. Nevertheless, we both wanted to write. In 9th grade she dipped in where I bobbed supreme; school paper, the school’s literary magazine. By then I was a senior, three years up the stream. Then there was the local newspaper experiment: Wednesday feature section staffed by teens. I’d held a column for two years when her name ran bolded in ink. If I am righteous, these were her sins: One, she was thin. She took up space in the background of school plays, while I built stages. I had to leave the dressing room when she and three chorus girls filled (barely) the borrowed floor-length mirror. Legs in black tights stretching, torsos lean under unitards. They were sharp elbows and firm skin, weighed down by caked mascara. They sang this new refrain:

“Your legs are long, not mine, I’m fat.” “No, I hate my hips, you have nice tight arms.”

I was wading into accepting my body, not quite comfortable yet. My own cheeks boiling with shame and self-recognition, I ached so I quipped,


“What a bunch of dumb bitches.”

Why couldn’t I see them as kindred? We drank from the same tainted creek. She looked like a dark-haired porcelain doll with limbs too fragile to walk on. Delicate wrists, straight teeth.

Two, her words were dull. She didn’t know how to smith. Her pieces repeated the same adage to describe vague feelings: a fear of change, of the current of time. I decided she was a mealy-mouthed wimp. Not original! Not interesting! I see now: she was just a kid. Whereas I worshipped words, read like a hungry waterspout, honored lines, and rhythm. I knew I knew how to command a stream. Third fault, she plagiarized her peers. Lines from local paper placed under her byline in the school magazine. Why did no adult notice? Couldn’t a gentler guide steer her away from this? (Of course not. In our world, words were not what gained girls attention. Nuns stretched rulers against skirts, inspecting length. This was how we began math class—distracted, reminded that our plump pink thighs were forbidden.) Once I was set to graduate, she made a twerp’s mistake. She copied me. So I mocked her in a zine. Twisted plastic into each spine, twisted pride in learning binding. Among other things, I called her Hitler (for I am from a toxic ecosystem). At the time I said: An eye for an eye. But I was three years older. I should have picked on someone my own size, or at least someone just as bitter. Another raging adversary, seeping their own sludge out through fishnets and vintage denim. (I sure did.) Then the joke was on me: My diploma withheld for this “prank.” She could stop me graduating; her parents threatened to sue. I let it drift, that parchment paper, out with the tide.


Defeated and angry, I chopped off my hair in mourning. Dyed it black, wore black alone. That summer I never saw the sea. I hated my body and everyone in a bikini. I hated this poser, this doe-eyed dummy. I let the anger fill me. School was out so I wrote more small-town paper features, like a summer classic rock playlist. I was a moody new-wave throwback; I listed the Police. The Cure. Souixie! I stamped these names to press. Our Teen Section editor liked it so much he opened it up to other high school columnists: What will you listen to in Summer 2004? Kid lists dripped in: Usher and Jadakiss. One girl copped to liking County, one Kenny Chesney in a straw hat. Only her list was 80s rock as well. She dropped more men on her docket, but the teased-hair, not-so-sensitive type. River-Trash rock diluted and downstream.

“Is there any part of your personality she isn’t copying,” Mom asked, and I laughed.

I spent 17 in a sugar rush, up all night too pissed to sleep. I hadn’t said a kind word to my mother that year. I couldn’t believe she’d noticed, or sided with me. It let some space below my belly breathe. Now from the riverbank, I see; I wasn’t so original. My parents were in college in the 80s and loaned me CDs. I lifted everything I could from VH1 retro programming, from record stores, and most significantly from a group of older boys. For years they shaped tastes while they drove me home. Their influence was freely given. There was that difference, I suppose. But no one can own the Rock’N’Roll tributary. Music flows between us freely.


There are more parallels than divergent lines. We both have fathers elected to local government—same board, in different towns along the river. Uncanny. I count two: the same boys who liked her liked me. Ten years later I let her high school ex take me on exactly four dates. I softened at his fresh-faced freckles and crinkled eye skin. Turns out I didn’t like kissing him, either. But now we’re bonded by spit, we three. It’s been sixteen years and counting, so I can see: We grew up girls on the Raritan estuary, right where our river meets the Atlantic. The salt can’t help but infiltrate fresh water, like that whorl of words we imbibed as teens. Hard to say who influenced who. (I once shaved my head because of you.) It never mattered who “copied.” The hooks and beats of music are as salt—once mixed, you cannot pluck the grains back out. Senseless as trying to grasp a brackish current. The water spatters both you and me.


LETTER TO A YOUNGER ME, MY PTSD, AND THE FISH HOOK by William Bortz I write letters to my old self using my bones like chalk—like sunbeams, biting through new leaves, its wet voice dripping on the sidewalk I write them mostly at dusk just in case they’re entirely unbelievable when it was time for me to have courage, my spine became a sword—my pride is cozy in the belly of night I write them because I am scared, mostly not of what is to come, but what has and how it appeared—knitted horsehair rope on a stale afternoon, cloudless sky, dry heat, and temperate light frolicking through the blinds—I have become my own villain. hemlock memory, thunder tongue, bait on a rusted hook. I write them because I believe not all things are meant to be made into something new and valiant, but undone like a creek after a rainless season; undone like the untangling of the rope, the settling of skin; undone like the wires of my brain, unraveled and splayed out like a love letter written in flower petals beneath a window—nothing can be forgotten, only buried and visited sparingly, bouquet in hand on the hem of a violent twilight that will bury it all beneath its darkening wings. I write them to remember the time before


PROM DATE by Ada Pelonia I arrived inside the room earlier than I’d usually do, my heart beating fast and the paper clenched in my hand wet. I hoped that the words “Will you go to prom with me” were still readable if I showed it to her. Ava usually comes in around this time. I was tapping the heel of my shoe on the floor when the door opened, revealing Ava grinning from ear to ear. “Eric asked me to prom!” she exclaimed, hugging me. I slid my hand in my pocket and started crumpling the paper. “How ‘bout you, Katie? Anyone asked you yet?”





Red Rover, Red Lover published by Roaring Junior Press in March 2020 is the debut poetry chapbook by Preston Smith. The book follows the trajectory of the Apollo Space Missions and the speaker’s relationship with the god, Apollo. This chapbook has themes of the speaker’s relationship with love, sex, and the divine. Within these twenty four poems, we are given the entire narrative arc of the speaker’s relationship with Apollo which is unique for such a short collection. My favorite poem would have to be “Apollo The First” because of the sensuality and edge especially in the second stanza where Smith writes, “ You grab the silver cross around my neck and bite. I ride your chariot, scream the name of the oracle because I do not know yours, lose my words in your light.”

Smith does not shy away from the raw feelings that the speaker has for Apollo and the intensity only makes the poems fuller of love and an indescribable mystical energy. If you love mythology, romance, space, and devotion; order your copy of “Red Rover, Red Lover”, here.



THE EROTIC BHAKTI POETESS O, Goddess of knowledge, you who sit upon the proud lotus lifted from the phenomenal murk by the chants to transcendence, drawn in white curves and gold foil, shut behind sandal-smeared Sanskrit, frozen outside the sancta sanctorum, floating three-feet above ground so I’ll lift my head to even look at you, follow me into the Tanglish punchlines that cost me many converse-in-English fines, the children of vallinams 1 and vowels, the why this kolaveri di 2 looping on Spotify, and we’ll scribble our way out of this orange Delhi fog through English words I can’t pronounce properly; we’ll write as Hindi, Tamil and English do on each other, as the graphology of my fingers demands, transcribe withering moans with the pleasing strokes of ink on paper, rewrite the tangled drafts of our entwined sarees, and, at last, code-switch between the holy and unholy

__________________________________________________ • •

Tamil consonants with hard sounds A popular Tanglish song


THE SVAIRINI Come, hold my hand, and we’ll dash through alleys like a Bollywood couple—duck under the red clotheslines of our mothers’ legacies, spill salt, chilli and garam masala in dust clouds from between our legs, smash kitchen windows against our glass bangles, strip the single-use salwars we were born into, ride a Maruti car up a marigold cart, tiptoe bleeding through the temples to the railway station and dangle out a running train as the world explodes.

_______________________________________________________________________ • Sanskrit word for a woman who acts according to her own will and is considered unchaste.


THE QUEEN There is only five AM, that undecided in-between night and day, drooping eyelids opening from orange nightmares, the flashing flames of purgatory, but she rolls into my arms and we’re somehow real again; I concede to the sleep dripping onto my heavy eyelids, drifting through the dark blue, dream-speckled space, waking to the yajna again, to the flames that proved Sita’s love for Ram, the Agni, who binds holy promises, watching over a prince’s wedding to me, and I dive into fire, dark fire, plopping head-first, sinking, then swimming, plunging deeper into the sky blue of early summer, till I surface next to her, smiling to her eyes flickering open.


THE WARRIOR WOMAN When I was ten, Amma made-up a war, bathed me in turmeric, braided my hair with coconut oil, decorated my chest with step-chains, smeared sandal on my cheeks, slipped glass bangles up my wrists and waited for four other hands to sprout. For my eighteenth birthday, so close to enlistment, she ordered Kanchipuram sarees and six silver axes from, stitched silk blouses, tore jagged slits on sleeves for the four non-existent hands till the weaves unraveled, threads tightened and delved as lean lines across my breasts, leaving me longing-bound and bare-chested. I’m twenty now, the battlefields are billboards of gnashing goddesses, the war is with a mirror, the blood wounds, self-inflicted gashes gasping across my torso from six axes slicing at invisible strands, slivering only flesh fibers, scoring scars like tally marks, counting and recounting the unchanging number of hands.


IN DEFENSE OF THE DEMOGORGON by Paige Melin I mean, yes − we all miss Barb with her retro-prude style & social outcast vibe − & I get it, we were all scared for Will Byers but mostly because we just wanted Winona Ryder to stop wigging out & I mean, yes, that dribble of blood down Eleven’s upper lip truly communicates the inner turmoil & strength of a misunderstood science experiment battling an interdimensional Other − but I mean, the demogorgon’s just trying to eat & haven’t you ever been hungry? I mean really hungry, I mean hasn’t your stomach ever gnawed in yearning for simple pleasures, the thought of a bite of food made your heart rate quicken & your mouth water? Hasn’t your hunger ever felt like desire? its uncontrollable need pulling you through time zones and borderlands in hunt of your next meal, next resting place, next moment of calm before it all begins again?


Haven’t you ever been really hungry, I mean for empathy in space where your life has been turned upside down & the boundaries between home & foreign land have suddenly become permeable − & now you’re set loose on a world which doesn’t have a checkbox to fit you into or an easy title to classify your kind of hunger so you become predator, become monster, become evil − hasn’t your hunger ever looked like sin, the way you devour others’ dreams and hopes by the simple fact of existing, of participating, of taking up space?


THIS WORKS by Jesse Sensibar Our mail comes to things called Rural Route PO Boxes located where the pavement ends no matter how many miles away that is. We work early and late and haul water and propane home from town after dark in barrels and tanks tied down in the beds of battered pickup trucks. Everything we do requires that we do two other things. Before you take a shit in your toilet first you must fill a plastic bucket with water you hauled from town. After your shit you pour the water in the toilet, so it flushes, carrying the shit to the 55 gallon drum full of bullet holes you buried underground in a hole you dug yourself like a grave. No, this is not a county approved septic system. This is nothing. This works. There are no waterlines or gas pipes, no power poles or telephone lines for the vultures or the hawks to perch on. The only net is with your fishing gear. For heat or to eat you must first cut wood or haul propane. We store our dry goods in metal boxes with lids to keep them from the mice and squirrels. Burn our trash behind our houses on Sunday afternoons. For light at night we hold wooden stick matches to delicate propane lantern mantels that suddenly glow orange and then flair white with light. For electricity we start noisy generators that run on fuel we haul in. Some nights you don’t make it home because the days are long and so is the drive and a friendly couch in town is just too tempting. Our neighbors text on flip phones and arm up to check on each other’s places at night if they don’t see lights because nobody has much but some folks steal anything around here to get at the oxys and the meth. Our kids are the ones who look forward to starting high school so they can take five hot showers a week in the locker rooms instead of one a week at the at the Pilot truck stop.


You worry about what the pre-buy price of propane will be this August. Maybe now things will get as fucked up for everyone else as they always are for us. Maybe then we could get some Internet.


OH BABY! by Liz Walker


GOSPEL OAK by Joel David Lesses I. knotted oak black gnarled barren death whistling through autumns left behind one river through one mountain tells time counts suffering these watch gears river and mountain beat from one moon heart beaten moon heart my beaten moon my beaten heart II. can’t find my own kitchen to cook in can’t crack the egg or fry and feed it to the hungry ghosts III. sings a robin spring can’t find the river branch she sits on just crows overhead track the footprints i left backing away from my river-child IV. sitting on the moon now i see the river clear as the slow


horizon curve into music song and dance V. troubles lost no river to find no good no evil VI. back down the moon mountain i tear bread from the heart feed each dove i greet VII. old oak spring eternal blossoms green candy and sweets whistles the autumn song VIII. mountain trail climb slowly sun and moon are one


KINSHIP RIVER DURING A DROUGHT Your perfect left hand and my malformed right by Jackson Wright i feel nothing for you. even though we’re mistaken for one another and wear the same skin revitalizer we buy from the little grocery store behind the Wal-Mart. i had to get directions from our hairdresser. a dragon dropped you off when you decided to become stylish. i owe you nothing. even though you sit first chair and i sit second and we harmonize together on stage and you give the mayor manicures with diamond-encrusted utensils so he can sit on a float in a parade and say welcome to the boiling pot. i hid my birth certificate because i never saw myself on TV or on magazines. me and my family tried sitting down cross-legged for dinner but decided not to make it an everyday thing.


VIEWING “AUTUMN COLORS OF SAMSEONAM ROCKS IN OUTER GEUMGANG” by Jackson Wright A gaze displaced by decades. Remembered in brushstroke, a family prays in the name of preservation. Bits of honey slip through the shrubbery and infests autumn with forsythia-soaked sunlight. Out back, I see them tend to their garden and imagine what their children do after school. And if I would know their games and rhymes and names. Share with me the dirt from your hands. Diamond cut me for consumption’s sake. I belong in a museum as a rarity or disorder.



It wasn’t long after moving into the apartment on Clarendon that I met Len. My new apartment was in one of those classic Chicago buildings near the lakefront that was home to a patchwork of residents. The neighborhood was changing, but some of the old-world charm remained in the architecture and the few residents who stuck around as trends passed them by. I was still getting my bearings in the neighborhood. One morning shortly after moving in, I hesitated in the building’s lobby as early April rain fell outside.

“Not too keen on getting on with your day, huh?” said a lean, grumbly older man with thick glasses.

“Oh, it’s not that,” I replied. “I’m on my way to work. I’m trying to decide which bus stop to go to.”

My options were to walk to the stop a half block north, even though it was in the wrong direction, or head to the one a block and a half south, which was a longer walk, but I would be moving in the right direction.

“If you’re heading downtown, always catch the bus at the stop just up there at the end of the block,” he said. “You’ll be walking in the wrong direction, but you’re more likely to get a seat. Plus, less time out in the rain on a morning like this.”


“Well, that’s good enough reasoning for my mind. I think I’ll try that,” I said.

“Good call. By the way, I’m Len. I’ve been living in this building for nearly 40 years, so I’ve figured out a few tricks along the way.”

“Good to meet you, Len. I’m Alex. I just moved in over the weekend.”

“Well, Alex. Welcome to the building. She’s seen better days, but I think there’s still a lot of life in her yet.” “I sure hope so. I’ll see you around.” “That you will,” Len said. “And go Cubs!”

I smiled and ducked out into the rain, opening my umbrella and the front door in one swift motion. I wasn’t sure what Len was doing in the lobby that early. He was certainly of retirement age. His days of deciding between bus stops on his way downtown were likely behind him. Nonetheless, I was happy to have met a neighbor. Meeting someone in my new neighborhood, I felt like I belonged. Like I wasn’t just a visitor, but was slowly becoming part of the fabric of, if not the community, then at least my apartment building. I walked to the bus stop with a cheerful feeling.

That evening, I stopped at the grocery store near the apartment. Grocery stores are a great way to get a feel for a neighborhood. Bars and restaurants, parks, and local shops have their place in understanding what an area has to offer and the type of people roaming around, but they


each invariably attract only a select clientele. Grocery stores, on the other hand, are a place for everyone.

After picking up some things to make dinner and pack lunches for the next few days, I lugged my groceries down the street, into the apartment building, and up the three flights of stairs to my floor. There’s an elevator in the building, but I always convince myself that it’s worth the extra effort to use the stairs. My apartment is at the end of the dimly lit hall, which is adorned with landscape paintings in gold frames that have seen better days. As I walked from the stairwell toward my door, someone in one apartment seemed to be frying onions, another had just popped some popcorn, and through the door of another, I could hear the pleasant lilt of a baseball game. I knew it had to be the Cubs, because I was about to turn on the radio and listen to them myself.

I put away the groceries and settled in for the evening. I enjoy cooking dinner with the radio on, especially when it’s baseball season. I long ago got rid of cable, which meant that I couldn’t watch most games. But this didn’t bother me since I truly enjoy the experience of listening to baseball on the radio. Its pacing is perfect to come in and out of at will, and my ears automatically perk up when I hear excitement in the voice of the announcer.

The next morning, I was running late for work and rushed downstairs. Sure enough, Len was there in the lobby again, sitting in a chair near the window. I remembered his comment about the Cubs from the previous morning, so I called out, “How about that game last night?”


“Hey, Alex! Yeah, that was a great one. We’re off to a promising start. Although I’ve been fooled by that logic in that past,” Len said with a smirk only a fellow Cub fan would appreciate.

“That may be,” I said. “But I don’t mind getting my hopes up, even if it is early in the season.”

“Speaking like a young fan. You’ll learn your lesson in time,” Len said.

“I think I’m okay with that,” I said as I turned toward the door. “Have a good day, let’s hope for another win tonight.”

“You know I’ll be watching,” he said.

I spent my days working downtown in the archives of the Field Museum, where I have a peaceful existence and can quietly go about my work. Since moving to Chicago ten years ago after finishing grad school on the East Coast, I’ve lived in many different neighborhoods around the city. I enjoyed each neighborhood for different reasons, but my new neighborhood was quickly becoming one of my favorites since it allowed me to take the express bus down Lake Shore Drive. I could sit back and read my book, the city passing by on one side and the blue lake on the other.

The next weekend, after I had stepped out to pick up some coffee and eggs, I was


walking down the hall back to my apartment when a door opened, and Len appeared.

“Alex! I haven’t seen you in a while. Are you on this floor, too?” Len asked.

“Sure am. I’m just down there on the right. How have you been?”

“Well, I’ve had better days. I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday and found out I’m losing my sight. It was already well below 20/20, but apparently it’s going to get even worse pretty quickly.”

“I’m really sorry to hear that,” I said, not sure what else to say. “How are you feeling about all of this?”

“Well, it’s not the end of the world. I’m in good health otherwise. It’s just these damn eyes that have always given me trouble. But to tell you the truth, this has got me more down than I thought it would. I don’t know how to make sense of what life will be like without something I’ve been used to for so long. And I’m sure going to miss being able to see that Cubbie blue on television.”

“That’s rough,” I responded, not sure whether to offer reassurances or just listen and commiserate with him. “Please let me know if you need anything. You know which room I’m in now.”


“Thank you, Alex. I appreciate that.”

Over the next few months, as the muggy summer wore on, I’d stop and talk with Len whenever I ran into him. We’d talk about the Cubs, he’d share some of his tips on which diners in the neighborhood serve the best greasy hamburgers, and other such neighborly topics. But I still wasn’t sure what I could do to help him. His eyesight was deteriorating more quickly now. He told me he’d gone from needing his thick glasses, to just being able to make out certain shapes and colors. Because he had lived in the building for so long, he was still able to get around with a level of ease. He could walk to the elevator knowing the exact number of steps it would take before he had to reach out and feel for the button, and on the way down he would listen for when the elevator reached the ground floor, where he would find his chair and enjoy the sounds of the street.

One night in mid-August, I was walking back from the laundry room when I decided to stop and say hello. I knocked on Len’s door. He was surprisingly quick to answer.

“Hi, Len. How are you?”

“Hi there, Alex. I’m fine, just getting ready for the game to come on. I know they’re in first by only a few games, but gosh darn it they’ve got me hopeful once again. I should really know better by now. How would you like to come in and watch with me?”

“That sounds great. Just let me drop this laundry off at my apartment and I’ll be right



When I got back to Len’s apartment, he was already settled into his recliner and offered me a seat on the couch.

“Why don’t you go ahead and grab yourself a beer from the fridge,” Len said. “And get me one while you’re at it.”

“Of course,” I said. “Nothing better than a beer and a baseball game. I see you even have a bowl of peanuts ready to go.”

“That’s a habit of mine,” Len said. “Baseball goes with beer. Beer goes with peanuts. Life is great that way.”

“No argument here.” I nodded in agreement.

As we sat and watched the game, Len would ask me questions about what was happening. It hadn’t occurred to me that there are certain things you can’t pick up on by listening to a baseball game via a televised broadcast. Baseball television announcers have a habit of only describing the pitches that are more consequential to a game. They don’t tell you whether every pitch was a breaking ball in the dirt, a high fastball, or a change-up. Most of this information is assumed to be obvious since it’s clearly shown on the screen. But Len was now missing these details. For an


avid Cub fan who followed the team religiously over the years, I knew he had to be frustrated with this lesser experience of taking in a baseball game.

The next day, while I was going about my usual routine of cooking dinner and listening to the game on my radio, I began paying closer attention. I hadn’t realized it before, but radio announcers have to provide the listener with an incredible amount of detail since they’re not able to see what’s happening. I always liked listening to the game on the radio because I could roam around the apartment and still keep an ear out for what was happening. It was occurring to me now that this was possible only because of how the radio broadcasters presented the game. My first thought after this realization was of Len; I finally knew how I could do something for him as his sight declined further into blindness.

The next night, the Cubs were playing a series finale against the Brewers, and they were still in a tight division race. I knocked on Len’s door a few minutes before the game was about to start.

“Evening Alex,” Len said. “Up for another game tonight?”

“I sure am. But first, I’ve got a present for you.”

“A present? What are you doing getting me presents? I’ve already got everything I need.”

“It’s nothing much,” I reassured him. “It’s a radio.”


“I haven’t listened to the radio in decades,” Len said. “Why would I revert to that now?”

“Just trust me.”

I opened the box and pulled out the small silver radio that had an analog dial on it and a retractable antenna. I plugged it into the outlet in his kitchen and tuned the dial to the game. We sat together and listened to the end of the national anthem and the overview of who was in which lineup that night. Soon the game began and, just as I knew they would, the announcers started in with their descriptive detail of the sights and sounds of the ballpark. I could see it dawning on Len why I brought him a radio.

“Damnit, Alex! How did I not think of this myself!” Len cried out with excitement.

“I thought you might like that,” I said. “Now you can know everything that’s happening in the game. But don’t worry, I’ll still come by and have a beer with you when the games are on. After all, this might be the year.”

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Alex,” Len said. “But I can’t thank you enough. This is a wonderful gift.”

Over the remainder of the season, Len and I fell into a nice routine of listening to the games together, cheering on our beloved Cubs. He developed a curious habit of keeping the


game on the television in the other room so he could step out and listen to the voices of the announcers he had come to know so well over the years. But he would quickly shuffle back into the kitchen where we’d listen to the game on the radio.


PSYCHOCANDY by Jennifer Dines

Our Boys found candy. [classic class picnic behind the museum of fine arts] a group of Them was exploring the muddy river. They called to More Boys and More Boys came. Kim [a girl in 7th grade] walked over to see The Boys and More Boys and What They Were Looking At, and then Kim came to We Teachers, who were picnicking on a blanket. Miss- thisisfreakingmeout. I went with Kim. I saw the starburst - why were the boys eating the starburst they found on the ground? typical. ugh. BUT— Surrounding the candy -------band aids, a bra, body lotion, a toothbrush, headphones, a folder full of papers, a backpack.


and in the river was a cell phone and a wallet. WHY? We Teachers opened the folder. the folder contained: a diagnosis letter - "this Patient has a diagnosis of hiv" Patient Information from the massachusetts department of transitional assistance medical visit summary w/ problem list: excessive hypertension, sciatic nerve pain, indirect inguinal hernia, chronic bilateral low back pain, inflammatory and toxic neuropathy, viral upper respiratory tract infection, unspecific alcohol dependence (in remission), cigarette nicotine dependence, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, methamphetamine use disorder, cannabis dependence massachusetts registry of motor vehicles temporary mass id card The Man had a Name, a History, and (presumably His) a bunch of stuff on the shore of the muddy river and then a cell phone and wallet in the water of the muddy river behind the museum of fine arts all this in back of the white columns, the sculpture of a baby’s head, and the red sox stadium two blocks away We Teachers (actually I) called the police. two officers came. We shooed the Students away, but a few of Them still stood close enough to hear Us. We Teachers showed the police EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING WE HAD FOUND. cop #1: it's probably just a junkie - happens all the time cop #2: this is typical around here Me: we took pictures of EVERYTHING* ANOTHER TEACHER: are you going to write a report? cop #2: we can ME: can WE get a copy of it?


One Of Our Boys: can I ask you something? cop #1: sure That Boy [that impulsive boy}: i thought all cops were racist cop #1: i've never heard of a racist cop in my life [really? so you may not have heard either about TRAYVON or FREDDY GRAY or THE EIGHTH GRADE YOUNG MAN THAT WAS INCORRECTLY PROFILED OUTSIDE OUR SCHOOL LAST WEEK THAT CAUSED SIX OFFICERS TO SHOW UP AND STRUT THEIR BADGES AND GUNS WHILE WE WALKED FIFTY CHILDREN TO LUNCH] cop #2: why are you telling Your Students that we're racist? We are We Teachers. We care about This Man Whose Things Were All Over the Place. A man named M****** T. Y***. We do not tell Our Students - They discover it Themselves through a Research-Based Approach to Urban Studies. *i still have all the pictures, in case someone is interested, but maybe no one cares about a man named M****** T. Y****.


GRANDMOTHER TO GRANDAUGHTER by Ceinwen E. Haydon It’s a shame she can’t see you now. Her child. She longed to see you grown and fretted you’d lose your way, distracted by wild yearnings: thrown, as she’d been in her youth. When you learnt to read, she worried you’d learn truths about our unforgiving world. Her weary heart contracted in defeat. Love, she couldn’t let you hear her moans. It’s a shame she can’t see you now.


YOUR REFLECTION by Ceinwen E. Haydon Life stories, written on your face, masks layered neatly under thinning skin. You inspect for lines of disfigurement, retreat in surprise when your mind’s inclined to more kindness than driven youth allowed. Back then, plagues of insecurities infected simple truths, wasted moments, whilst living thrived unrecognized– in crazed oceans of self-consciousness, knots of anxiety and over-wrought thoughts. Your tentative eyes smile, meet your old gaze, head on. At last you make your peace: one to one.


HAIKU SEXTET by Courtney Janicki 1. Fibonacci twirl Be the witness of chaos A flower unfolds 2. Clementine, my love The taste of you so sweet Ah, vitamin C! 3. Your eyes like the sky Cosmos gives me vertigo Celestial one 4. Sun drips through the leaves Under trees a fleeting tryst Entwined, then apart 5. Granite rolling clouds Bronchial limbs dance skyward The wind is music 6. Free creamy smooth bliss Wondrous dancing samurai Waist geometry


CONTRIBUTORS TARA CAMPBELL Tara Campbell ( is a writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, and fiction editor at Barrelhouse. Prior publication credits include McSweeney's Internet Tendency, SmokeLong Quarterly, Masters Review, Monkeybicycle, Jellyfish Review, Booth, and Strange Horizons. She's the author of a novel, TreeVolution, a hybrid fiction/poetry collection, Circe's Bicycle, and a short story collection, Midnight at the Organporium. She received her MFA from American University in 2019. MYLES YATES Myles Yates is an African American poet residing in Orlando, Florida. He is focused on making poetry that is rooted in music, memory, and the melody in between. Can find his work in Freezeray Poetry. AMIT SHANKAR SAHA Amit Shankar Saha is a widely-published award-winning poet and short story writer. He has won the Poiesis Award for Excellence in Literature, the Wordweavers Prize, and the Nissim International Runner-up Prize for Poetry. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Griffin Poetry Prize. He is the co-founder of Rhythm Divine Poets, the Assistant Secretary of Intercultural Poetry and Performance Library and the Fiction Editor of Ethos Literary Journal. His poems have been included in Best Indian Poetry Anthology 2018 and he has read his poems at Sahitya Akademi, Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival and at other literary events. His two collections of poems are titled Balconies of Time and Fugitive Words. He has co-edited a volume of short stories titled Dynami Zois. He has a PhD in English from Calcutta University and teaches in the English Department of Seacom Skills University. ANNE COOPERSTONE Anne Cooperstone is a current MFA candidate in creative writing at Stonybrook Southampton. She is based in New York. CARLOS DANIEL FLORES Carlos Flores (he/him/his) is a writer, filmmaker, painter and composer. He is the founder of Watcheye Studios, an independent film and art production house. Raised half in Puerto Rico and half in the states, and bisexual, his work often explores queer themes and cultural diaspora. He lives in Denver with his wife Connie and their watch-eyed dog, Nutmeg.

SAM LONCZAK Sam Lonczak is a Buffalo-Based graphic designer and artist.


MARY DECARLO Mary is a writer living in Astoria, NY. She mainly writes plays, but also writes flash fiction and poetry. She recently had a poem in Detritus. Her plays have been seen in Philadelphia, London, Germany, and New York City. Mary also has an MA in Text and Performance from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and Birkbeck University of London. ALAN CHAZARO Alan Chazaro is the author of This Is Not a Frank Ocean Cover Album (Black Lawrence Press, 2019) and the forthcoming PiĂąata Theory (Black Lawrence Press, 2020). Based in Mexico, he writes a monthly column, Pocho Boy Meets World, that explores literary voices throughout Latin America. His work has recently been published in Palette, Bold Italic, Alien Magazine, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Find him on Twitter @alan_chazaro. LAURA EPPINGER Laura Eppinger is a Pushcart-nominated writer of fiction, poetry and essay. Her work has appeared at The Rumpus, The Toast, and elsewhere. She's the managing editor at Newfound Journal. ADA PELONIA Ada Pelonia is a writer from the Philippines. WILLAM BORTZ William Bortz (he/him) is a husband, poet, and editor living in Des Moines, IA. His work appears or is forthcoming in Okay Donkey, Oxidant Engine, Empty Mirror, Turnpike Magazine, Back Patio Press, and others. His book THE GRIEF WE'RE GIVEN will be published February of 2021. KATY HAAS Katy Haas is a poet bumbling around mid-Michigan. Recent poems appear in Club Plum, ang(st) zine, trashheap, Taco Bell Quarterly, petrichor, and others. Find her on Twitter: @katyydidnt. VENUS DAVIS Venus Davis is a 21-year-old queer writer from Cleveland, Ohio. They are the editor in chief of Periwinkle Literary Magazine. They are a former poetry reader for Random Sample Review and Gordon Square Review. Their work has been featured in Marias at Sampaguitas, Royal Rose Magazine, Ayaskala, Dream Noir, Crepe and Penn, and many other publications. They are the author of Sensitive Divination, an astrology microchapbook as well as the microchapbooks, Blue and @ngel number(s). You can find them on social media @venusbeanus.


LIZ WALKER Liz Walker lives in the Witch District of Minneapolis, where she creates art, poetry, and zines alongside her two dogs Lennie Briscoe and Rey Curtis. You can see more of her work at

SWETHA S. Swetha Ssvia is a native of Coimbatore, a small city in India, currently studying English with creative writing in Malaysia. Besides writing prose and poetry, Swetha’s also an editor at Honey & Lime literary magazine. Swetha’s works have previously been published in Out Of Print magazine and DUST poetry magazine. Swetha generally writes from a queer, Indian perspective. PAIGE MELIN Paige Melin is a poet and editor from Buffalo, NY. She is the author of the poetry collections Puddles of an Open (BlazeVOX, 2016) and MTL/BFL//ÉTÉ/QUINZE (Buffalo Ochre Papers, 2016), as well as publications in Rain Taxi Review of Books, Step Out Buffalo, Sonic Boom, Peach Mag, and Ghost City Review, among others. Paige currently lives in Dakar, Senegal, teaching English as a Fulbright grantee. COURTNEY JANICKI Courtney Janicki is from Buffalo, NY. This will be her first publication. CEINWEN E. HAYDON Ceinwen lives near Newcastle upon Tyne, UK and writes short stories and poetry. She is widely published in online magazines and in print anthologies. Her first chapbook was published in July 2019: 'Cerddi Bach' [Little Poems], Hedgehog Press. Her first pamphlet is due to be published in 2020. She is a Pushcart Prize and Forward Prize nominee (2019) and has an MA in Creative Writing from Newcastle University, UK (2017). She believes everyone's voices count.

JACKSON WRIGHT Jackson Wright is currently an M.A. graduate student at the University of Texas-Austin in Media Studies. He graduated from Kansas State University in 2018 with a degree in Creative Writing, studying short fiction and poetry with multiple professors, including Dr. Traci Brimhall. Franny Choi, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, and Su Hwang are the current poets he follows religiously. JOEL DAVID LESSES


Joel David Lesses is a poet whose passions include the intersection of poetry, spirituality, science, and phenomenology shared and disparate in the human experience, and transformative power of self-inquiry and introspection through contemplative and meditative practices. Joel has studied and lived in Nepal, Jerusalem, Haifa, Kent, Ohio, and currently resides in Rochester, NY. Joel was nominated by Artvoice in 2013 and 2014 Buffalo's Best Poet and won the honor in 2014, his manuscript 'Odyssey of Autumn's Breath' is a work in progress waiting to ripen, he has been published in various publications like Zen Bow, founded Ground and Sky Poetry Series, and has facilitated numerous poetry workshops.

JENNIFER DINES Jennifer Dines is a mother of three daughters and English as a New Language Teacher in the Boston Public Schools. She is a National Board Certified Teacher and state-certified reading specialist. Jennifer enjoys eavesdropping, cooking, watching old British comedies, and listening to the Out of the Shadows podcast. DAN HAMILTON is a writer and public information officer based in Chicago.