My city is scarred like the thigh of a teen with
a razor blade and each street serves to separate those
whose hands are cupped from those who glory in
treasure, those who promenade in Dior from
those whose last meal was a squirt of Naloxone.
We are as inattentive to the basement of this city as the
boy walking the tracks with his Beats cranked up
until the hook and the train arrive at the same time.
My city squanders a fortune on stadia for those who
worship uniforms at the same time it sends a dozer
to the camps along the tracks where psychosis shouts
like a drill sergeant and those who live in those tents
jump to attention and you could search all day and never
find a heart there that beats as loud as a Mercedes Benz.
The winter comes and those who do not flee south burrow
deep in their cardboard and dream of fires and sour families.
Pain tunes them up every morning, sending them back out
to the street to face the good citizens who stare with boredom
from office buildings and patrol cars, who see the wrappings
and judge the whole package a wound that eats stitches,
shake their heads and return to their portfolios and
plans for another celebration of themselves.
Tom Barlow is an Ohio writer of poetry, short stories and novels. His work has appeared in journals including Trampoline, Ekphrastic Review, Voicemail Poetry, Hobart, Tenemos, Redivider, The North Dakota Quarterly, The New York Quarterly, The Modern Poetry Quarterly, and many more. See more at tombarlowauthor.com.
I Mourn for the Gene Pool and Its Unavoidable Clutch On the Human Soul
I mourn for the gene pool and its clutch that no one can escape.
A young girl, banging her head against the shag floor
Which reeks of english muffin crumbs and roller skates from decades ago Yearns for someone to love her without sharing their insufferable burdens. The archaic surroundings mean nothing to her, she
Resents it and begs to break free, each pound of her head a blaze of fire from her heart But the old crab won’t let her. She peers at the girl through bloodshot eyes Like a hawk awaiting prey. Her stained nightgown and thin, unwashed white hair Emanates power, fierceness that will always prevail over childlike desperation. Her past drags across the carpet like rusty chains, and with every heaving breath The rust flies through the air and wearily clings to the little girl
Hoping to keep her fateful legacy continuing forever.
I mourn for the gene pool and its relentless weight on the mind.
An exhausted daughter-in-law, lying underneath a blanket
Adorned with pancake batter and tear-stained tissues
Wishes to find answers within a question-stricken world.
Her voice grows raspy and strained after endless nights of
Screaming to God asking why men who left their wives leaving nothing But shirts to iron and late birthday cards with no money in them Were forced into her bloodstream like a drug.
She has no choice but to serve as the provider these men never were, Now grizzled and dangerous underneath a mask of quiet.
She anxiously turns on the stove to cook for them, unaware of
The plantain-stained oil splattering onto her skin and leaving deep marks of red.
I mourn for the gene pool and its detrimental impact on the young. A loving father, once sprightly with life but rapidly languishing, is Shaking with emotion in his final moments of agony.
His son found him this way—he does not yet understand the pain of Organs being ripped out and flesh being stitched together as if nothing ever happened But what is easily translated is the neverending stillness after the long battle. A little boy has become fatherless, unable to stand after
The one who taught him how to walk has lost the grip of his hand. He grows up within fleeting moments, and soon finds himself
Working late into the night, plotting a way out, saving every earning and Stray penny from the mall fountain to afford an engagement ring. Then, his past can be erased from his memory.
I mourn for the gene pool and the innocent hearts trapped inside it. A precious soul, still in his mother’s womb,
Remains frighteningly beautiful during his last moments of purity. He doesn’t yet understand where his parents came from
And the forsaken, disadvantaged future he is subjected to.
His father and his father’s father were born this way, too,
Wandering the earth alone before even entering it for the first time. They lacked the support and love to carry the baggage of their ancestors And are left to take everything on themselves and leave the rest
For the generations to come. Tell me: why can’t we move on from our past?
There is more to our lives than the obligations we are forced into, isn’t there? I mourn for the gene pool, but I mourn for us, too.
Rebecca Aponte is a sophomore from Knoxville, Tennessee. In the summers of 2019 and 2022, she attended a creative writing program at Interlochen Center for the Arts, where she studied a variety of poetry and prose styles, constructively critiqued the work of her colleagues, and showcased her own work. She is the head editor and 2023 Spring Writing Contest Winner of her school's Pierian literary publication, is the founder of a chapter of the organization, Poetry Out Loud, and has submitted to both the Scholastic and Adroit Journals. In her free time, Rebecca is an orchestral and chamber violinist and is on her school's swim and mock trial teams.
911 Call & A Poet
Needs help, drugs
can't find him
black and alone
Naked in the street
sirens, three, no five
down on the ground
cuffed stil naked
spit bag on head
three on back
still, still naked
loaded into ambulance
five months silence
we all failed
home with families.
is a child who
on seeing a blank page
must fill it with dreams
hears the song of the nightingale
in the din of passing traffic
comforts the lonely mother recalling
the pain of a thousand births
sees in each passing cloud
the ashes of a generation
feels the heat of the sun
amidst the winter’s blizzard
carries the bones of young men
from the fields on which they fell
cries with the child
hobbling on war shattered legs
curses the generals whose souls
have been cast off on the field of battle
cannot forget, trading
nightmares for dreams.
Louis Faber’s work has previously appeared in Constellations, Parcham Journal (India), Alchemy Spoon (U.K.), Arena Magazine (Australia), Dreich (Scotland), Atlanta Review, The Poet (U.K.), Glimpse, Defenestration, New Feathers Anthology, Tomorrow and Tomorrow, North of Oxford, Rattle, Pearl, Midstream, European Judaism, The South Carolina Review and Worcester Review, among many others, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He lives with his wife and cat (who claims to be his editor) in Port Saint Lucie, Florida.
walk like legs do not shake on divided city sidewalk
left bright white lighting on closed shop
Right green park turned military car park
Forward unavoidable red sea (and i am not moses)
Back white face flaccid pink tongue jeering at you
Everything is white and red now
no blue, this is america and america has never been whole
But you must move, body
Pass the signs that make you want to sign for help
But behind you
White man who will put you in chains before your mothers
arms White women who will crush you underfoot before offered hand
Red sign calling for death extermination eradication or future greatness of country
Red is this future?
And behind you the whitehouse, the capital, the washington monument
Behind you, white limestone
And if i squint hard enough i can see it, see
Red of slaves slaving over symbol of freedom
(because american freedom is white power painted red in the hopes we are color blind and will think the red is brown and celebrate that our future mass grave has our skin tone as if it wasn't built out of brown bodies to begin with)
Is the future visiting me on this sidewalk, is it red?
Red of blood down storm drain
Red of blood on white palm that could belong to anyone, but
The blood is surely ours and
It will stain white traffic line red and no cars will pass
Not because there is blood, a body, in the street
But because this is america and you do not go on red
And you will see white and red for all of time
White your mother will dress her only daughters body in after “15 year old murdered in violent insurrection, body left in the street now stained
Red” is everything I see now
White house gate protected by
Red rubber bullets shot at
White skin that will protest but will not bleed
Red for us when we say
White power is death, it is death
And I will die here in this street surrounded by red and white
Wondering if i would have survived if I had seen blue Or would it mean
White cop coe to shoot me even though hands up covered Red in my own blood, can I staunch a bullet hole? Or do I die a second time on this street?
On my knees, at America’s mercy
Yelling, fuck your red white and blue
Sydney Mann is a senior at Sidwell Friends in Washington, DC. Her first poem was named “I am not a Princess” and was an exploration of femininity in classic tales. She won runner-up in the Folger National Shakespeare Sonnet Competition, with a sonnet focused on the passing of her grandmother. Since then, much of her work, both poetry, and prose, has focused on the maternal relationships in her life, grieving, womanhood, race, and mental health.
The Last Women on Earth
The fifth last woman on earth
Will envy her brethren
Who find sisterhood
In the dirt that envelops them
The fourth last woman on earth
Will write her will in blood
On a diner napkin
My ashes should be scattered
At the edges of the world
With no gravestone to mark them
The third last woman on earth
Will remember her mother
“When they come,
Set yourself on fire”
The second last woman on earth
Will take a knife to her breasts
All the bloody cotton-
Candy-flavored lip glosses
And heart-shaped necklaces
The last woman on earth
Will flee to the forest
Where tender wolves
Will feast on her blue flesh
To save her
From the beasts
Who ask to be buried atop her
The last women on earth
(Done running from the smell of piss and old beer)
Will die ugly and gladly
Lily Scheckner is a tenth grader at Montgomery Blair High School. She is attending Interlochen Center for the Arts this upcoming summer and is a literary editor of a magazine at her school. Outside of school, she is a writer, reader, and activist.
A Hymn Within the Horror
Amidst the metropolis of Kyiv,
under the eclipse of totalitarianism and persecution,
beneath the caliginous stratosphere,
amongst the mere contours of former autonomies,
a sweet, euphonious gospel breathes in a whisper.
A hymn, permeating within the erosion–
a song of salvation:
the choreography of rainfall following the drought.
Sporadic pulsations after an isolated exhale.
Western vain and ignorance;
a blind eye turned to international grief.
The insistent nature of history:
Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen.
Withal, if you let the disharmony lull,
if you nurture the divinest mutiny,
refusing the monopoly of bystanderism,
a hymn–an unrelenting melody of hope–is heard thrumming through even
the most devastated backstreets.
Amidst the immorality,
amidst the grief,
a hymn stirs.
Audrey Crocco is an 11th grader at Madison Public High School. Crocco has been published in Highlights Magazine, Sustainable Lehigh Valley, Ruckus, and has won the 2022 regional Scholastic Gold Key Award for excellence in poetry. She is passionate about volunteer services, including her self-ran non-profit, and she has attended over twelve activist demonstrations regarding Women’s Rights, climate change, fighting against racial injustice, LGBTQIA+ rights, and advocating for civil rights.