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Nicole Yeager

The Corner of Telegraph & Durant, Berkeley CA

“Sometimes life hits you like a metal rod to the head,”
said the man sitting on the corner of the street
wearing a brown coat and dirty Nikes
that smelled like piss, holding a Coca-Cola cup
filled with one wrinkled dollar and seventy-four cents,
and squinting up at us four girls.
He told us the story of how he used to
build the tracks that the cable cars run on
through the streets of San Francisco, Jones St.
to be exact- because young boys
are immature and need mature jobs
in order to learn hard work. The air always
smelled like the way metal or blood tastes, and
it was his second year on the job
when a metal rod blasted straight through his skull.
“Two years ago I went to jail
for beating up my brother-in-law,” he said.
“But I wasn’t dishonoring God, you see, because
a man should never lay a hand
on a woman and he was giving my sister black eyes
and fresh purple bruises every night.
I couldn’t just sit around and let that happen, so
I was pinched and did my time like a dutiful slacker.”
He said those cell bars spoke to him every single night,
but not loud enough to obscure the French man
who yelled Va te faire foutre!
to the prison guards, who seemed to hear
through the walls and see through the cameras.
“Anyways, that’s why I had no medical insurance after
I got out and then that pole went straight through,”
he said, tapping at his head with his clever fingers.
It’s not fair for immature men to be punished
for one mistake that they’ve made,
especially when they haven’t been taught any better.
And it’s not fair for young girls to feel like
the world is chasing them faster than they can run.
I know that it’s a tough world out there though,
I’ll learn that from all the nice boys I’ll let
hold my hand and kiss my cheek
I also know that sometimes good people have to do
bad things while bad people can do good things sometimes,
and that doesn’t necessarily make them good or bad.
But when this man took a hold of me,
his tanned sandpaper hands against my clean ones
and salty tears brimming on the rims of his bloodshot eyes
like the heavy water of nimbostratus clouds, I was afraid
of all the metal rods that could fall from
the clouds in the sky and go straight through.

 

 

Drives

If I had a car that could take me away I would go north
and just keep driving, through the days and nights,

stopping occasionally to admire the sunrises and appreciate
the small diners I discover. If I had a baby cousin I’d take her

with me. She would tell me all her little-kid secrets, like how she
stole 50 cents from the money drawer, and I would tell her all

my big-kid secrets, like how I kissed that boy behind the school,
never worrying if she’ll tell anyone. She would tug on the sleeves

of my sweater with her eight year old hands and ask if I wanted
some “munchies,” then lean over holding out half of some sort of

cookie and say “taste one” before I even get the chance
to answer. She would draw everything outside of the window

with her two favorite crayons, blue and yellow. If I had a cousin
she would call my name when she needs someone to seek

while she hides, or when she needs someone in her pillow tent
as the thunder shakes the house. I would be able to see her

whenever I wanted, there would be nothing stopping us from
being cousins. From growing up in the world by ourselves.

We’d have all the time in the world to spend together; just
talking, laughing, sharing; and I would not have to drive

alone one day, telling my kids why I haven’t seen my cousin
since I was eight years old and we were coloring our names.

 

Broken Wings

We are not birds.
We cannot fly.
Yet people always seem to find a way to leave,
taking off in the middle of the night
and flying straight up into the black sky-
They become a small grey shadow
among the stars and then all of a sudden they’re gone.
Maybe that’s why I’m so afraid
of people-
of our ability to hurt others, especially
the ones we were supposed to protect from the cruel world,
and our ability to leave someone we once said
was our everything-
fear makes us reckless.
So we try to fly,
even after we’ve fallen and broken our wings,
we heal ourselves the best we can and take the leap
again and again, calling it bravery
and faith, but we are not birds.
We cannot fly.
As much as we try to believe
that we don’t need anyone else to make up
for the soft crater of twigs and miscellaneous strings
they left behind in the nest, the truth is we never stop
craving the touch of others. Giving ourselves
so easily to the familiar bite of danger
and calling it love-
Trying and trying to fly,
but we are not birds.

Misdiagnosis

I guess the doctor didn’t mean to lie
when he said everything was okay,
I’m so sorry I never got to say goodbye.
Maybe the doctor didn’t mean to lie,
he really didn’t know stage four was nearby.
I thought you’d be here on graduation day.
So maybe the doctor didn’t mean to, but he lied
when he said everything would be okay.

About Nicole Yeager

 

 

 

Mel Xiao

Like Blood In His Veins

He’s chugging Bud LightTM like
it’s nothing
and I feel it go down my own throat-sharp
needle pop pop
sour as the bile I’ll have to clean up later
–and he slams down his can hard enough
to turn the bottom into a
crater.
“Bottle King shit,”
and he’s slurring already
but he’s not ready to admit that
alcohol
isn’t actually like blood in his veins.
“Betcha those sunsabitches can’t–”
hiccup.
He’s always talking about
Those Sunsabitches
and really I’m starting to think
he’s talking about Anderson Cooper
on TV
because there’s no one else here,
there’s never been anyone else here
(no one at all),
it’s just him and me
just like it’s always been.
Same old everything.
Same broken picture frames,
same Frosty nightlight,
same CNN playing the
same shootings the
same politics the
same black men going to jail
right outside our window.
And I could hand him a
glass of water
but he’d just slam it down
and tell me I’m
“too young for this shit”
so I just
sit and
watch and
sigh.

And I imagine this
is what it’s like to die
a sinner-watch
the kettle come to a boil on the stove
and my father throw a can at it
to make it stop.

 

Something To Talk About

(i’m going to tell you a story today a story that reads like a nursery rhyme that’s how common it
is and i’m going to tell you all the parts all the facets of it that show a different picture like the
faces on a diamond slowly turning on a pedestal in an empty jewelry shop and here it goes)
Part one:
It’s 10:57,
a cloudy night in Los Angeles.
There’s a young black boy walking down the street,
he’s got his headphones on
with his hands in his pockets
and his hood up.
It was a hot day
and even though it’s night
the passing headlights still make you think
you can see the heat waves
coming off the pavement,
so of course
the boy’s got on basketball shorts,
isn’t that how the boys are?
He goes into a corner store
and comes out with a pack of cup noodles,
and I guess the sound of rustling plastic
sounds a lot like danger
because the next moment
the boy’s got three bullets in him,
one after another like
BLAM
BLAM
BLAM
and in that last frightened heartbeat spilling lifeblood out onto the pavement before a gathering
crowd of spectators we see a college student escaping a hectic, hateful world to…well, who
knows, but I sure do hope it’s quiet.
(yes yes it’s sad but it’s only the first part hang in there we’ve got a little more to go)
Part two:
A college girl is at a party
and she’s dressed down in a ponytail and her favorites,
the old jeans she’s had since she was fourteen
and her white Converse with Sharpie all over.
Someone offers her a red cup,
tells her it’s beer,
knows she won’t say no
because wouldn’t that be rude?
All she wanted to do was dance, really.
She dances
and she feels herself getting fainter
and she feels the hands tighten on her forearm
and the world falls over.
Fifteen minutes-or
maybe it’s fifteen days-later
she’s alone in a dark bedroom
with her heartbeat banging on her eardrums
and her favorite jeans lying on the floor by her feet.
She’ll tell her friends,
she’ll tell the police,
and she’ll find the boy who lured her there
but he’ll remind everyone that he’s an athlete
and he’ll get off with a slap on the wrist while the girl isn’t allowed to dig herself out of her own
grave because his varsity letters are worth more than her virginity and her ripped jeans.
(we all know where this is going but there’s nothing we can do about it now is there)
Part three:
Twelve students killed in a school shooting.
Part four:
Subcontract factory explodes in India and none of the child workers make it out alive.
Part five:
28 year old woman murdered by abusive boyfriend, body discovered in the bedroom.
Part six.
Part seven.

Part eight part nine part ten part eleven twelve thirteen fourteen fifteen sixteen seventeen
eighteen nineteen twenty twenty-one twenty-two twenty-three TWENTY-FOUR TWENTY-FIVE
TWENTY-SIX TWENTY-SEVEN TWENTY-EIGHT

(breathe.)
I’ve told you a story today.
It’s a story that reads like a nursery rhyme, that’s how common it is.
I’ve told you all the parts, all the facets of it that show a different picture
like the faces on a diamond slowly turning on a pedestal in an empty jewelry shop.
These are the words in bold at the bottom of our TV screens
and the news articles we shake our heads at before clicking away.
Some men and women and children didn’t have that option.
They did not get to choose between stories,
life or death,
love or horror,
and only when we see them in thumbnail pictures
or dissect them in psychology class
or use them as just something to talk about
can we see what went wrong.
And the only thing we can say is,
“Again?”

 

Letters To My Mom

Dear Ma,

I’ve went out of my mind at least once.

When they brought me down the hallway to the emergency room,

I thought for a moment that you were there.

I thought I could hear you.

I thought maybe you had followed me in

and you were chasing after me,

listening for gurney wheels instead of footsteps to follow.

Dear Ma,

I woke up this morning after dreaming about your baked salmon,

about how soft it was and how you always made sure it was soft enough

to cut with the side of a fork.

I think I was eating in my sleep.

But I woke up with the taste of formaldehyde on my tongue,

the succulent leftovers of pills taken dry.

Dear Ma,

After I got my learner’s permit,

you were scared to put me behind the wheel.

In fact, I was fully aware of the way you grabbed onto your seatbelt.

You sat in the car anyways.

I joked that I wouldn’t drive us over the side of the road on purpose,

and you didn’t look too convinced.

Maybe that should have made more sense to me.

It wouldn’t be the first time you almost died by car.

Dear Ma,

One night back when I still played piano,

I practiced for six hours straight,

well past midnight and well past

what I could handle.

At two in the morning,

I hit the keys so hard you heard something snap from upstairs

shut the lid

and just cried.

You came down,

peeled a clementine for me,
and sat on the other end of the piano bench.
The rest of the house was so quiet.
Dear Ma,
You didn’t get it when I started writing poetry.
You grew up looking for rice to put on the table, not words.
Does what I write mean anything to you?
Did my late night forages in the kitchen ever bother you?
Didn’t you ever think your daughter would be more like you?

Dear Ma,
I wonder if you’re proud of me.

 

city of lights

1.
i’ve been staring at the same dead bulb on my ceiling
for the past three hours.
the power was cut,
and the wiring is spitting sparks in the rain
on the pavement outside,
hissing underneath the growing sound of sirens.
i can’t see anything beyond my feet.
i like it better this way.
2.
the city is a russian nesting doll,
a body in
a body in
a body.
a universe folded upon itself.
3.
looking down the barrel of a gun
is the most powerful place to be.
feel the cold metal under your hands,
focus on the target,
and tighten your grip just after you exhale.
and behold:
a human body,
opened up for observation.
4.
inside all of us is
steel beam
and telephone wire
jointed by cable
and roads growing out like
hands.
hold hands,
hold concrete,
hold cities.
5.
the ambulance showed up at my neighbor’s house today
didn’t bring their sirens with them,
as silent as an angel ought to be,
autumn needle rain falling in the headlights.
my parents went out with raincoats and brave faces,
pushed the trolley in with the emts
and told me not to follow.
i did.
from under the trees that looked like veins
dripping water on my head,
i watched as
the white sheet flattened out
the volunteer crossed herself
and the wife covered her face
and the world was dampened,
by rain
and
by last rites.

About Mel Xiao

Emma Weiss

No One’s Favorite

Cherry blossoms
only bloom
in Washington.

We grew them
once,
I wore them
once,
you pressed them
once.

Now,
argyle grows on trees,
and
you sew it
into your socks.

Pork chops
for dinner,
no one’s favorite,
just to be fair.

An unhappy equilibrium:
let’s lie on the linoleum floor
and
zipper ourselves up.

Let’s serve
charcoal
for Christmas dinner.

Let’s sip on sawdust
until our throats
crack in half
and we
collapse,
crazed.

 

After the Handshake

I have a dream about my
dead grandfather.
He takes out his disjointed fingers
and puts them in mine
and they form
two moist towelettes
dirtied from his frown.

Clouds too low,
air too slick,
grip too tight.
He watches our
hushed conversation
between two
naked,
shivering
ring fingers.
Bidding goodbye,
I head home and
sleep with dragons
and their smelly ashes
of forgotten lessons
and proper demonstrations.

All I do is think,
and
everyone else does it right.

Lips has first rights.

About Emma Weiss

Jasmine Sharma

I am Looking for a Soul

In my stirring state
I am restless for some calm
Will it come later or before I am gone

I’m looking for a soul
And an ear and an eye
To listen to the thoughts I have kept from my mind

I am looking for a soul
With an arm and a chest
To hold me close and tell me this will pass

I am looking for a soul
With a leg and a foot
To run with me in the city of New York

I am looking for a soul
With no sense of time
To stay forever young with me
To commit this crime

About Jasmine Sharma

Sarah Ryu

The Facade

She, who hasn’t seen her sister for years,
finally has a paid visit
to the most isolated country
in the world.
Soldiers in
stiff green suits
observe with hawk eyes
as they tearfully embrace.
She wraps her arms
around her sister’s frame
and feels the bones through
the pale skin.
Her presence alone
can swallow her sister whole.
“Welcome to our home.”
In a tidy apartment
the furniture
is almost new
and the floors are clean.
The great leader watches over all
with a painted smile.
The family bows respectfully before
the portrait, thanking him for such a blessing.
Her sister stands
in the corner
shoulders slowly shrinking
into its sharp edges.
Eyes unmoving from the floor.
She is quiet.
Overwhelming plates of warm food.
Gaunt bodies are seated at the table.
They are careful.
Gushing over how flavorful the dishes are,
despite their growling tummies.

 

A Different Value of Love

“How much do you love me?”
I ask.
With a toothy grin,
drool dripping down his chin,
he stretches his arms:
“THISSSS much.”
And I laugh at his way of measurement
because this world runs on numbers.
The span of his arms
is only
2 feet long.
No numeric value.
No worth in the world.
Truly he must realize
his gesture
means nothing.
But through the determination of his eyes
and his bright, beautiful smile
I know
that it has more value than
anything math can measure,
than the world can comprehend.
Because this naive boy
who is 5,
can only count up to 10,
3 and ½ feet tall,
and is still in kindergarden,
has yet to grasp
the concept of numbers past 10,
the concept of infinity,
knowing nothing of the real world.
Yet he does know
what love means.
What it means to be loved.
And he understands that
love has no “value,”
love has no limits,
love has no boundaries.

So when he stretches his arms past what he is capable of
and struggles to keep his balance.
I look to him
stretch my arms as far as I can
and say,

“I love you ‘THISSSS much’ too.”

 

Barbie’s World

I live in a world
where
beauty defines
a woman.
Where I am squeezed into
a mold
pre made by society
that pinches and tweaks at my imperfections,
shoves me into these expectations
that I, as a woman,
must comply to,
crushing my bones,
bruising my skin,
cutting away at my flesh,
as tears stream down my plastic skin
from my lifeless eyes
and into my forced smile.
I stare outside the toyshop window
and wait for someone to
pick me,
love me,
play with me.
Please
love
me.
Not.
Why can’t I
be the one in control of how I look.
Why must I be self conscious
of this body that was given as a gift?
Why can I not
be loved for my faults and flaws
and not have them tell me
that Ken
will only love me
when I fit into
their confined
idea of
beautiful.

I will not be your clay
for you to just mold
into whatever you please
I will not let your judgement
seep through my thick skin.
My body is beautiful.
My body is mine.

I will not be your “Barbie Girl”
Today.

 

Passion

Don’t be afraid to touch the fire.
When you find it grab it tightly in your fists.
Let burns and scars form and create callouses on your fingertips.
Do not let it run away.
Not again.
Waft the fumes of future victories through your nose.
Breathe it in and let it fill your lungs.
Let it swirl around in the cage of your chest.
And brush against the bones of your ribs.
Test the waters.
Then
devour it.
Take it by the tips of it’s sharp edges, and feel the oranges and reds gliding on your eyes as you
gently lower it into your mouth.
Swallow it so it can’t run away.
Let it glide down your throat like rich honey and lace your voice with a heated confidence.
So when you talk about your dreams and desires
you are strong.
Let it run through your veins.
So that it flows infinitely through your body.
You can hear faint sounds of a wild river
when you are completely still.
Let the fire be the fuel to keep you running.
To keep you alive.
A will.
Befriend it.
Embrace it.
Master it.
Conquer it.
Be the kiln
Be the cauldron
Be the fire.

About Sarah Ryu

Anika Prakash

La Jument

This poem is based on Jean Guichard’s photograph of the same name. The italicized line is a quote from Theodore Malgorn, the man shown in the picture.

Everyone I know is a ghost of themself.

He is no different. He stands alone,
grey against brown against Iroise.

Everything I know is blue.

The shadows, the barriers, all devolving
from night. There is the brick and
then there is him. There is water all around.

You cannot play with the sea.

There is fear. There is a God he wishes he could see.
His body is not a bullet. The railings are oxidized
until teal. I don’t know if I can see past this,
the waves, the roar, all rising from night.

Everyone I know is a ghost of themself.

He is no different. He steps back and closes his eyes.
Still stranded, still silent, whispers of uncertainty.

 

Budapest

In snow, I am safe / elsewhere, bodies overgrown lay oil-slicked, half-eaten, near-death / I knew half a wonder / before it turned to ash / in the palm of my hand. I imagine the sky / rimmed black. I have to be honest / I’ve shredded myself / into everyone I know. No part of me / whole. No part of me / silenced. Maybe there are enough wolves / for a choir of cries. I listen / to the church bells / every time they ring. There is no cathedral / that is mine alone. Help me, help me / the children lay on the ground / vision cobbled. I knew a little girl / now an urn of forgiveness. We buried her / in December. When the snow melted / there were only teeth. This must be / how we will remember. Let’s not think / about the wolves / how they must have torn her flaxen hair / from the root. Everything still crisp and clean / every drop of blood devoured. I sit in the pew, eyes lowered / I am not here, I am not her. There must be another way / I can sacrifice myself.

 

The Us Within Us

My memory was triangulated around a place

where exit signs became exit wounds. This was

 

before winter came. Before my eyes glazed

over and hands frosted away from light.

 

Before I die, I will tell this story a thousand

times. My brother was like smoke. My

 

brother is not real. He is my hands joined

together in prayer. I jolt awake in the dead

 

of night and remind myself of this again and

again. I saw two bodies buried before February

 

came. I saw him turn to earth as I turned over

in my bed, staring at the empty stucco ceiling.

 

The bed sheets are crisp and white. The sky is whole

and empty. I see a single bird flutter across the quiet.

 

I am all alone, but this is home.

About Anika Prakash

Ezra Lebovitz

Indigo

When my brother was born,

he didn’t breathe
easy for the first hour and Mom says

she would’ve been scared if she wasn’t too busy
looking up at the sky, because she says

that when my brother was born,
the world started dancing

and the sun lit itself into a softer kind of flame and
the birds flooded into the hospital parking lot to sing their indigo songs and

the mulberry tree outside the window ripened suddenly, offering up its fruit,
and the people in the streets and in the waiting room and in the ICU

smiled brighter even though they weren’t sure why.

She says that when they rushed him out to clean him up and fix his lungs,
Dad tried to go with them but they wouldn’t let him

and so instead he leaned out the hospital window and plucked mulberries
and indigo songs and he and Mom ate them up until they weren’t scared anymore.

She says the sun was so excited
that it reached out a dancing ray

to my brother’s tiny shoulders
until he was warm enough to leave the hospital and babble all the way home.

When we were younger, we lived by a house with a mulberry tree and Mom says
that in the summer, when the mulberries ripen to their deep dark purples and drip juice on the stairs,

you can still sometimes hear their indigo songs
and the ground shaking with laughter

and the earth rejoicing over and over,
celebrating my brother’s sickly baby body
pounding down breath in a hospital room.

 

endymion

 

i boxed with the moon last night

and lost.

 

in my defense, heartache.

in my defense, the junebugs—

their whirring.

 

she punched me out,

light refracting into bruises. she said she

was sorry when she wasn’t. her knuckles were craters

and they smiled back at me.

 

in my defense, the way that wanting scalds. in my defense,

icarus only died when the sea smothered him. in my defense,

it was never about flying— the sky cleaved from apology.

 

they don’t tell you that the blood in your mouth is a sunset, biding its time. that when it dries on your skin, it will taste like swall

ultraviolet.

 

in my defense, i loved her.

in my defense, i wanted more.

in my defense, when i breathed

in last summer, i caught

junebugs in my mouth and grew

wings from the inside out—

i just wanted to test them.

 

i never wanted to hurt her,

only to see

how far i could go.

 

Interstate
We’re roaring down the South 93 in November,
late morning sun, unfolding foliage,
small silver cars threaded into the thick of the traffic on the other side of the grate,
the brand of headphones you recommended tracing their way over your ears.
I’m quiet, barricaded beside you with my mouth sewn shut.
I’m still.
The trees, standing righteous, at attention, bare military dress, are flickering and fading out, casting thin strips of light and then dark and then light again
on the denim of my jeans,
the fabric of my scarf.
I want to tell you everything,
a desperate attempt to evacuate the dark things inside my chest,
they’re black and visceral and they’ve lived there for years,
I want to cough out the blood pooling in the back of my throat
until it’s your hand squeezing my shoulder,
those little bits of lonely
evaporating into dust in the light.
But there are no secrets here.
There is only the stretch of highway against painted-over canvas,
and there’s no words for what I want to say,
only organs,
only the faintest gasp of morning medication on my tongue,
and I want to say something
before the city tears itself into us,
but there’s nothing left to say.
We’re flying down the road now.
The exit is pushing itself up against my lips,
it’s hurling gravel and silt on the tips of my shoes,
and in my mouth, underneath sea salt and road signs,
my teeth are clenched.
Wake up, I say, pressing the soft animal of my palm onto your jacket,
misted with rain.
I tell you: I’ll miss you.
You nod,
and I go back to window watching.
It’s not enough, because I can still see decades lingering
in the space between median strips,
in the space between my palm and yours,
but there’s this:
the weight in my throat feels lighter.

 

Devolution

When it happens,

this is how it happens:

moss spilling out of his mouth when he breathes. Shadow backing into skin.

Trading tongue for seawater.

 

It’s not his fault— he saw the way ultraviolet and earth danced

around each other like mid-morning lovers. The shadow between them. All he wanted was to introduce soil to sunlight and sing about the opposite of intervention. All he found was a way

 

to stop drowning. To become the sea instead.

 

The boy opens his mouth to apologize

but finds clover sprouting from his lips. He wants to be a greater good

so he lets it grow.

 

Here is how it happens: boy gets tired of bleeding

and becomes the ground instead.

 

He can’t help it, and so here is how he gives boyhood over to earth

and makes of himself an elegy,

the kind of thing that blooms

instead of breathing.

How the boy with the garden between his lips

becomes the garden with the eyes of a boy.

 

Here is how the body decides

it is not a thing worth keeping

and pins blades of grass

in the place of veins,

replaces reflections with tinfoil.

 

Here is the boy, burying himself

before he is born.

 

Watch for the ground:

find him beneath it, turning the body back to springtime.

About Ezra Lebovitz

Su Min Kim

To speak for fish

Silver-scaled salmon bare their white stomachs
at the open fish markets of Noryangjin. Their fins cock slightly
in a half-hearted farewell, their eyes clouded over
like spoilt milk. I clutch my sister’s hand.
Don’t be afraid, they’re dead! she says, but one fish quivers
on its side. We parade in yellow raincoats and
polkadotted boots down the exhibition of the dead.
Grandfather greets us, puffing up gentle clouds
with his cigar. He coughs a toothy grin. A mouth full of leaden teeth.
My little princess, you’ve gotten so big! He pats my head
with hands smelling of urine. He takes my wrist,
colored the underbelly of bass, and slaps my hand
to the side of a salmon adorned in ice. It flinches —
I flinch. Its tailfin thrashes wildly. My small hands curl
into pale rocks. Cold skin. Warm scales.
This guy’s still strugglin’ a bit, eh? chuckles Grandfather, pouring
more ice. I wonder if fish can feel their bones freezing
over, a lacquered coat of sea glass bruising lilac and blue, if
ice cubes in their mouths gag all the words they have left. Watching
fish, I am left red, an ice cube in my mouth,
melting away like lemon drops, Grandfather’s finger against
my lips. I want to spit, despite my lips, juices trickle
down my chin, a floral scent, and the fish watches me,
choked with ice, daring me to spit, spit in front of it,
drowned in ice. And I can’t. So I swallow, throat
ravaged by silver scales, words gurgling in my mouth,
holding the words of fish in the pits
of my white stomach.

About Su Min Kim

Jenna Israel

Let Me Count The Ways

There are seven billion, 423 million, 272 thousand of us on this planet

1.2 billion cars

358 manned missions to the stars

13 robots on Mars

.

This, we say, this is progress

It must be

The numbers prove it

The numbers don’t lie

.

30: Brown spider monkeys of the subspecies A. hybridus brunneus

Not 30 million, not 30 thousand, thirty

The species overall has declined precipitously

80% over the past 45 years, conservatively

And these monkeys

They look like old men to me

This monkey

White fur on his head like a bald spot

White fur on his cheeks like my grandfather’s beard

Staring at the camera with my grandfather’s blue eyes

Wrapping himself in limbs that look too big for him

They look like old men

But they are acrobats

They use their tails and their hands on their hands and their hands on their feet

To swing through the trees

Like trapeze artists

With less ease these days

As trees fall down around them

Scientists call it fragmentation

The creation of pieces

Like the jungle is a puzzle we’ve decided to put back in the box

Like the jungle is another specimen we need to dissect

Like the jungle is an egg we’re cracking against the bowl

In our recipe for industry

It cracks like eggs

Cracks like bones

Cracks like bad jokes

Cracks like sad smiles

Cracks like my grandfather’s face when he tells me he’s starting to feel his age

These monkeys are acrobats

But they look like old men

3: Northern White Rhinoceroses left on the entire Earth

3. But really, really it’s more like 1.5

Because those 3, they live half-lives

They live in captivity

We have to shelter them away from where they can be free

For fear of poaching

For fear of big men with big guns

Who leave rhino corpses hornless in the sun

There are none, not a single one

Left in nature

In terms of the wild, they are officially extinct

Because rhino horn works wonders for the human

Living room

And yet, we do not give them living room

2: Bois Dentelle trees left in the wild

2. On one hill, on one island off the coast of Africa

2, one for each of my eyes

My eyes which trace up trunks full of grace

To see branches dripping with white lace

As if… as if they’re about to get married

As if they’re about to walk down the aisle

Reach across the land,

Intertwine their boughs,

Hold each other’s hands

And say their wedding vows

“Till death do us part.”

I know you might ask

“Why should I care about trees in wedding dresses

Or monkeys or rhinoceroses?

I mean, it’s survival of the fittest.”

Let me answer your question with a question.

Why do I care that I will never see a dodo bird walk across the Earth,

Unable to fly on its tiny little wings?

Why do I care that I will never hear a Bachman’s warbler sing?

Why do I care that my children might not know trees to exchange wedding rings?

Why do we make movies about dinosaurs and wooly mammoths and pterodactyls

Unless we know, somewhere deep inside ourselves, we are missing something?

I’m not saying we killed the dinosaurs

I’m saying that when a child digs up fossils

That look in his eye, that awe,

Is half wonder, half nostalgia

That we only know what we have when it’s gone

That we will soon miss what we have lost

And that more than us, our children will feel the cost

The numbers prove it
The numbers don’t lie

About Jenna Israel

Evelyn Ho

All I Want for Christmas

Icicles are nothing more than diamond rings
that’ve forgotten they used to fit in velvet boxes
and so, stretch out
to gleam at hell instead. Lined from the roof,
spitting sunlight, they tinkle when they fall,
the smell of snow coming up to cloud your vision
and nip at your lashes.
The vapor whispers chloroform. The crystal shards
envelope you softly and numbness sings to you
a lullaby of melting ice and falling water.

In Dreamland, Nikita lives in Normandy, where
you mustn’t go. In Dreamland all you have to eat
are bitter melons. After a week, they are sweet.
Like candy taken from a child who stole it
from a street vendor whose many tall amber bottles
are “not for sale” and whose three-year-old
often goes to bed
on the couch
with no one to tuck in the sides of his quilt.

Glass
half empty.

Next Tuesday’s melons
won’t grow in Dreamland no more—l’appel du vide
est trop fort pour la résistance.
Their frilly, clandestine ribbons bow
and curtsy from meticulous braids before
and after every jump. The same way
we learned to escape from slaughterhouses on the backs
of phoenixes, red and gold and river quiet,
as children.

Ev didn’t want to come with us.

Now jackasses with knives make us plead the fifth
and bleed us dry and past yellow streetlamps
all I know is that I’m on the run—I’ve run
so far, I’ve never been gone.

I’ve never been
so far gone.

The faces of their sacrifice stain so many icicles
red and their hands lay them out in boxes
like candy for the devil.

Vive la Révolution.

 

Witching Hour Under My Dreamskin

Maybe the doors unlock after midnight
to let some awful dancer waltz in unannounced,
dressed in red and marked by the ugly

scars that cling to her jaw. Unread poems
hideously carved into bone and sinew shape the face

that graying closets, desperately hugging the walls,
barely manage to avoid. Their bulky weights,
of a misshapen beings donned in the ragged sweaters moths

make a meal of—as quick as biting into an apple
that shines after rubbing against rags—

are worn by the shoe-shine soldier with the apple core
tight in his teeth, munching away the musical saws
that serenade bullet wounds under his ribs.

The pain is easy to ignore now. An eternal musicale
gives us enough time to bite the dust and move on

to silver rushing out of my bloodstream, jolting the color
in my spine and lightly dusting flour on my hands. The faeries
weep at their broken amity and spilled secrets.

About Evelyn Ho

Elizabeth Hanna

My Arabic

My arabic is a child that sits in the front of the classroom but never raises their hand
My Arabic is a baby bird at the edge of it’s nest holding back a jump.
My Arabic is a gray storm cloud that passes over the town and only ever rains over the ocean.
My Arabic only reveals itself at events, convinced that it is a party trick.
My Arabic wants to defend me.
My Arabic is an angry pit in stomach.
My Arabic has a big heart and small hands.
My Arabic is a sunflower that turns too late, a piece of jewelry that rusts too soon, a pencil that breaks too early, a piece of cloth that rips too easily.
My Arabic wants to stand to say at least I hold two languages inside, but within only itself it cannot find the words.
My Arabic has been sitting down for too long and when it stands, it finds that its legs are asleep.
My Arabic holds the titles broken language, and bilingual in both hands, up to the light.
My Arabic plays with it’s food at the dinner table.
My Arabic reads a book at recess.
My Arabic stays in on Friday nights.
My Arabic sits alone at lunch.
I want to tell my Arabic that it is okay to falter, that it is okay to limp if that makes it easier to walk, that my Arabic can go as slow as it wants to, as long as it gets there, but I can’t.
Because just for once, I want my Arabic to stand on its own.

About Elizabeth Hanna

Alexandra Franchino

Atlas

They say I mope too much,
and maybe I do.
But I can’t help that there is music playing in my head,
nerve endings being plucked,
vibrations that shake my insides.
And it is all just so much more interesting,
than keeping up with this raging world of frauds
flaunting their fake smiles,
strung together by gleaming ivories
and ear-splitting howls,
silent brawling for the best disguise.
Is it really so horrible to enjoy your own company
over someone else’s?
Without the explosive voices of the insiders,
there is time for the music to flow through my veins,
and to reach the atlas in my skull–
It guides me neither here nor there,
but knows the potential that my feet hold
to carry me.
But these are just dreams,
and we let the hope drown in the chatter
of those who pretend they cannot see me,
that I am just a whisper amid the screams.
Soon they’ll grow to understand that it is all just noise,
and there is a girl beneath the chaos,
with worried eyes and a sparkling mind,
and they will love her.

 

To Adulthood

I’m learning so many ways to wear seventeen,

with this mask stretched over my face

and curved on the edges,

just like the way my tongue wraps sounds into a name,

and the way my curled fingers

grab the gumdrop-smeared binding

to close this book before I’ve reached the final page.

I’m entering the assembly line,

waiting for the cap to top my head,

the robe to glide against my calves,

my heels to click up the makeshift stage,

my shaking hands to reach out for a crisp, slice of paper,

ending the life of the little girl

that jumped off a rock in the woods by her house,

and bled into the pillowy grass.

Sometimes she slips across the windows of my eyes,

too bruised and beaten

to glare back at the impersonator in the mirror.

She is hidden well surely,

but I can still see her in the way I chase the moon.

It is my own hands that now grip the wheel,

the tires soft coasting on midnight pavement,

driving to nowhere.

When this mask comes off I wear the beautiful night

as my tourniquet, and use its two slender fingers

to guide my eyes to rest,

with the creamy stars hung low in the sky

as my witness, and hers.

The thumping of my heart  

against the pillow, is the background of every sleep,

whether I am listening or not.

The roaring tantrums escape,

with no clear beginning or end,

and I look inside to quiet her

but instead get lost in the labyrinthine tunnels

that are my aching mind.

I’ve reached this crossroad they speak of,

with this constant raging in my chest,

ripping my eardrums to shreds,

letting adulthood swallow me whole.

About Alexandra Franchino