Categories
Poetry

Truth at the Delicatessen by Brian Yapko

Truth at the Delicatessen | Brian Yapko

An hour after I told them they tried 
to pretend everything was normal. 
We went to Canter’s, three bagels,
cream cheese, lox, apricot danish. 

Their grim faces stared into their 
coffees as if the future could be 
written in the pale swirls of cream or 
the sugar spilled from its envelope

which littered the table like grains 
of sand. Yes, the doctors were sure.
There were things they could do 
for the pain but not prolong… 

To their credit they held it together.
It was only when she came back 
from the ladies room that I saw how 
red her eyes were. The waitress 

came by. Carrie her name was. She
had worked there my whole life. 
She said it was a gorgeous day outside 
what could possibly make the three 

of us look so glum? They looked up 
at her stricken. Carrie’s nod was 
imperceptible. She put her hand on 
my shoulder — she could feel how 

bony it was.  I saw her look at me 
and know, just know. Before we got 
the check, she brought out strawberry
cheesecake – she remembered my

favorite. The staff gathered and sang 
happy birthday while my folks 
tried to not let me see their tears.
You see, it wasn’t my birthday. 

 

About the Author:

Brian Yapko is a lawyer whose poems have appeared  in  Prometheus Dreaming, Tofu Ink, K’in Literary Journal, Sparks of Calliope, Wingless Dreamer, KAIROS, Gyroscope, Cagibi, Penumbra, the Society of Classical Poets, Grand Little Things, Chained Muse, Abstract Elephant, Poetica and a number of other publications. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his husband, Jerry, and their canine child, Bianca.  

Categories
Poetry

Oath of Assimilation by Soo Yeon Chun

Oath of Assimilation | Soo Yeon Chun

I hereby declare 1
that three years ago, I was born again, 
as a mellow-skinned immigrant
with slit eyes and twisted tongue. 

At the airport, I hugged my mother—
“I believe you,” she beamed, 
her words soaking my bones
like the permanent smell of kimchi. 
I left her body cold 
as an oath & explained the difference 
between “believe” and “believe in,” believing
that I could become America’s own,
absolutely and entirely. 

In America, I first learned to renounce and abjure
my distaste for cheese, 
to embrace its nauseating slide down my throat
and its strange weight in my stomach. 
Swallowing a spoonful of mac and cheese
in a forceful gulp, I swore all allegiance and fidelity t
fixing my spice-stained, rice-ridged palate,
until I was overcome 
by the familiar nausea—this time, 
not at cheese, but at myself.
 
In America, I learned to translate 
강아지풀, 나팔꽃, and 연꽃 2
not into puppy grass, trumpet flower, and kite bloom 
but green bristlegrass, morning glory, and lotus,
which is to say, I learned to conceal isolation 
behind blossoms of language
& wear the glazed petals on my chest 
like a foreign prince 
as badges of heritage. 

In America, I learned to become a relentless potentate 
over my alien body, punishing 
every stare held a second too long,
every taboo state of mind,
or every gesture out of place. 
I exercised sovereignty over my parents’ 
shame, scoffing at mother’s failure to curl her r’s, 
wincing at father’s tearful attempts to tell 
the store employee, in broken English, 
that he had lost his wallet, 
swearing that I will never be 
unbearable—like them. 

In America, I learned to support and defend 
people who called me “refried” 
& bared their effortlessly pale skin 
like a secret. I learned to admire 
the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America
as models of order, perfect 
even in its imperfections, 
and fought against all enemies, foreign and domestic, 
including the red, rancid creature
that strained against my eyes’ glossy veneer 
at every condescending gaze
and silent judgement. 

In America, I promised that I will bear
the haunting question:
“how did you learn English?” 
My answer: the same way I learned to tear myself
away from my mother’s arms 
in a single wrench
on behalf of the United States.

In America, I swore that I will perform work
well beyond what others expected 
of a dog-boned immigrant
with a voice as soft as overcooked rice,
that I will become a figure
of national importance
in other words,
that I will either cave completely 
under America’s hand, tender yet unforgiving, 
or inhale shallow breaths of resistance,
pleasant and civilian,
pointing America to the right direction 
rather than creating fundamental change.

Now, America, I must confess 
that I take this obligation freely,
as you tighten your grip around my neck 
like an eagle’s talons curling around its prey
without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion,
until blood drums in my ears,
until stars explode in my vision,
until a blue-red flame bursts forth from my lungs—
so help me God. 


  1. The italics are excerpts from the Oath of Allegiance that one must take to become a naturalized citizen
  2. Korean terms for different plants, which literally translate into puppy grass, trumpet flower, and kite bloom 

 

About the Author:

Soo Yeon Chun is currently a senior at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts. Besides writing into the midnight hours, she enjoys listening to music and practicing drums. An alumna of the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop, she is a lover of all things strange and in-between. Previously, her works have been recognized by Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, Jack London Writing Contest, and Live Poets Society of NJ 23rd Annual National H.S Poetry Contest. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Passengers Journal, Inlandia: A Literary Journal, and Rigorous, and others.

Categories
Poetry

Summer Elegy II by Todd Robinson

Summer Elegy II | Todd Robinson

Nebraska’s bare branches
paw at skies full of pointless

blue, mercurial daymoon.
Powerless like me

or my disabled wife
wobbling our broken

palace in cashmere 
and bracken. She wants

to be a florist deep
in daylilies, scatter pages

with green ink, memorize
iterations of birdsong, 

but instead buries her sores
in blankets, paddles Lethe

toward the waterfall we all
fear, rejecting the premise

of a soul but still hoping, 
the way moths burn 

in a lamp’s ziggurat of light.

 

About the Author:

Todd Robinson’s poems and prose have found the (web)pages of Cortland Review, Prairie Schooner, A Dozen Nothing, North American Review, The Pinch, Sugar House Review, and Hummingbird. He has published two books of poetry, Note at Heart-Rock (Main Street Rag) and Mass for Shut-Ins (Backwaters). He received his Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is an Assistant Professor in the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. 

Categories
Poetry

Another April by Katherine Kubarski

Another April | Katherine Kubarski

Today I end the long cocoon-ment, drop the burlap 
itch and scratch for a pink puffer jacket.
Remember how pretty feels. 

Novel to be with a man I hardly know, to walk on April snow 
just inches above the hard ground, talk nothing deeper 
than winter’s last covering. 

Landscapes in scattered, snow dusted stones. Elk antler scrapes on
aspen bark. Grouse tracks arrowing into the woods. A tumbled rock
neatly snailed in a jelly roll of snow.  

Like a wild animal, I feel his approach, tense as he hugs me from the side. Still 
my body draws toward warmth, forgotten yet familiar
beneath layers of feathers, fleece and flannel. 

Unwrapping my strange shyness, I bare my face, to be touched again 
by breeze, by breath. With curious eyes, he surveys my pale, weary terrain
but says next to nothing, only “It’s all right.” 

 

About the Author:

Katherine Kubarski has been working her magic as a grant proposal writer for over three decades.  A Relax & Write retreat on the sacred island of Molokai coaxed her into creative writing, something she had long wanted to do.  Her work has appeared in Mountain Gazette, Santa Fe Literary Review, Santa Fe Reporter (awarded first prize in the 2019 Poetry Contest), and Snow Poems Project.  In search of post-pandemic inspiration, she is headed with her laptop to a cabin in the forest of Chilean Patagonia where the world’s tiniest deer and other surprises await her.

Categories
Poetry

American Diorama by Naomi Ling

American Diorama | Naomi Ling

              after Ocean Vuong

              “I am an American; free born and free bred, where I
              acknowledge no man as my superior, except for his own
              worth, or as my inferior, except for his own demerit.” 
              Theodore Roosevelt

Let this be a story of light. Tonight the TV 
              speaks little tragedies into 
existence, throws 
                            home across faceless soil. 
I want 
              nothing more than 
a home / body / girl 
                            to call my own. We can 
be our own flag 
              and anthem: Flesh is not a prayer, 
but let me sing it into creation. 
              Myth or memory, 
                            you decide. 
              
If myth, say anthem of immigrants. I hear 
American Dream and believe 
              bullets-becoming-a-war-cry, 
              bullets-biting-breasts, 
              mountains-leaning-into 
              -a-mother, into anything, everything beautiful. 
The news holds my head 
              against a bright 
                            blue square—propaganda. 
              Good citizen. 
The sky blanches open 
                            over us. So proud & 
              worshipping. 
              
              Back in the day we 
wanted to make clouds. Packed powder 
like a promise and 
              cocked it towards the
sky. It fell like rain. Killed like
              history. The air hewed 
into a thousand choked breaths— 
who would believe us? 
                            They say America was born 
              from a womb. 
There are far too many 
              casualties 
                            for rebirth. 
              
Let us dream our history into 
              hope. My mother tells me of men 
measuring the land with their 
teeth, mistaking the earth for 
bread. Hunger will make every man
              into resilience. Or at least, 
              into everything 
                            we weren’t meant to be. 
              
I say speak and mean anything our tongues
touch. Language: another form of life. To
                            which we love and are 
loved. What I say is 你好 / 안녕하세요 /
                            ہیلو .What I say is 
we are more than our hands. Birds: our wings
                            plucked or unfolded; 
              our wrists 
                            some small act of creation. 
              
America unfurls from patriot to pixels—
you were not born 
              from a womb, 
a dynasty, 
                            a lineage. 
Every man and woman leveled 
like dust. Yet we are not 
              finished. This can be a chapter 
an elegy 
              or sacrifice. We of belonging. 
We of cities that mute themselves
              too late. 
                            What I’m saying is 
not every story 
                            has a storyteller. We live 
              only for our bodies 
not imaginations. 
              
On the news, the ground 
                            proclaims itself a patriot. 
I’m ready 
              to call it home / anything. 
              /

 

About the Author:

Naomi Ling is a student writer on the East Coast, USA. Her poetry most often grapples with growing pains and identity. In her free time, she enjoys eating as many dumplings as she can. 

Categories
Poetry

From the Stem by Daniel J Flosi

From the Stem | Daniel J Flosi


Charles Darwin hypothesized that language emerged from a song-like proto language. 

look! down the misty hillside 
our ancestors 
work the soil 
while soughing trees 
prattle on about their mysteries 
seed laden grasses 
rustle in the breeze 
twin streams of birdsong ripple 
rows of wheat 
teasing apart the meaning 
from the music 
all the while our thoughts pull 
pull the precious memory 
from the stem

 

About the Author:

Daniel J Flosi is an apparition living in a half-acre coffin in the township of Rock Island, IL within the V between the Mississippi and Rock Rivers. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prometheus Dreaming, eris & eros, and Wild Roof Journal. Drop a line at https://entertainedamerican.com/

Categories
Poetry

April is the Cruelest Month by Pamela Sumners

The 2021 Prize Winner in Poetry selected by Douglas Manuel

April is the Cruelest Month | Pamela Sumners

I was watching the trial of a white cop
who put his knee on a Black man’s neck
for almost 10 minutes but my viewing
displeasure was interrupted by breaking
news of a white cop who shot a Black man
and then later on the 10 o’clock news I saw
two white cops taunt a Black guy dressed
in Army fatigues and pepper-spray him
and then a quick cutaway to more breaking
news of another school shooting some
where else in my America today but it’s
all OK because the first Black guy I was
watching on noon TV was an addict pass
ing a fake bill and the second Black guy
was breaking Minnesota law because
they don’t like little pine-tree deodorizers
dangling from rear-view mirrors that
jangle white cops’ nerves because they
impede everybody’s ability to see what’s
behind them and the ability to see back
wards in Minnesota is required so that
is why in the Land of 10,000 Lakes you
should leave your pine trees at home
because if you don’t the poor officer
might get confused by that second Black
guy getting mouthy with his breath about
air fresheners dangling in cars and this might
lead to another tragic accident and you know
it’s sad how in that last school schooling
on the 10 o’clock news it was a magnet
high school where you just do not expect
that sort of thing like you might at a regular
school or a massage parlor in a strip mall
or at the mall so big they call it The Galleria
or at the multiplex movie house inside
the big Galleria or maybe at a market, concert
or someplace that’s already dangerous
anyway like a gay bar within shooting
distance of Disney World for Chrissakes
and the NRA and your representative in
Washington ask for thoughts and prayers
for the victims of these tragic accidents
that could all have been avoided if Black
people all just complied with the law
and reasonable requests from the cops
and if those dead kids and maybe all
of us just had guns to defend ourselves
except the Black people, who should
just follow orders and not resist—isn’t
that about right, if that’s a question?

 

About the Author:

Pamela Sumners is the author of Ragpicking Ezekiel’s Bones (UnCollected Press 2020) and a Rane Arroyo chapbook selection (Seven Kitchens Press, 2021). A listing of publications and literary awards is available @www.pamelalsumners.com. A native Alabamian and former constitutional and civil rights lawyer, she now lives in St. Louis with her wife, son, and three rescue pit bulls.

Categories
Poetry

Waiting to Pee, I Invent My Future By Emma Bernstein

Waiting to Pee, I Invent My Future | Emma Bernstein


At a gas station between Ashland and Redding, 
I sit godlike on the curb in salvo jeans and gather 
chips of orange paint under a sliver of firs and blank 
sky, my mouth an empty cup trembling for a life 
I could have if I asked for it. The highway rumbling
like an easy metaphor, and me, twenty and full 
of cheap chocolate, thinking I can bear anything
as long as it is temporary, so maybe I will drive trucks 
until I am tired of driving trucks or bluff 
my way into some job involving horses. I learned to run
from my mother. I can love anything as long
as it is temporary, even this gas station which peels
and crumbles in my hands, and if a cold wind ever
comes screeching across my exposed nerves 
like doubt, I can always zip my coat up 
to my throat, bury my hands in my pockets,
and walk south until the feeling melts
like cheap chocolate in the newborn sun. 

About the Author:

Emma Bernstein is a poet who lives in upstate New York and can be found most days wandering through the snow with her headphones on. She has been published in Marginalia Review, Spires Intercollegiate Literary Magazine, Kitsch Magazine, and Black Heart Magazine, and won the Dorothy Sugarman Poetry Prize and Robert Chasen Memorial Prize for poetry in 2020.

Categories
Poetry

Twi Phone-ology By Andrew Geoffrey Kwabena Moss

Twi Phone-ology | By Andrew Geoffrey Kwabena Moss

Twi Phone-ology

Mum on the phone speaking pure Twi
I hear the ring of tongue twisting conjuring
I listen in, keenly, to my Kwahu ancestry

Greetings of ‘wo ho te sen?’ from the kingdom of Ashanti
On her lips beam golden regal recognition
Mum on the phone speaking pure Twi

Enunciating ancient graciousness: mepaakyew and medaase*
Akan affricates blend and resound with nasal ring
I listen in, keenly, to my Kwahu ancestry

Lips pursed, teeth and tongue twist in magical phonology
Nasalised vowels, blown like trumpets in rhythm
Mum on the phone speaking pure Twi

The rises and falls of songbirds singing Fanti
Fantastic trills and taps, unknown digraphs flying
I listen in, keenly, to my Kwahu ancestry

Thoughts and expressions of a homeland free
Abruptly 
the 
line 
goes 
dead_________________________________
a glottal stop to linguistic wanderin
Mum on the phone spoke pure Twi
I listened in, keenly, to my Kwahu ancestry.

About the Author:

Andrew Geoffrey Kwabena Moss is a writer and teacher who has lived in the UK, Japan and currently Australia. Of Anglo-Ghanaian heritage, his work seeks to explore and challenge liminal landscapes, complex identities and the social constructs of race. Andrew is a member of the ACT Writers’ Centre. His work has previously appeared in Afropean, People in Harmony, Fly on the Wall Press, Fair Acre Press, Golden Walkman Magazine, Beliveau Books, GMGA Publishing and Poor Yorick Literary Journal.

Categories
Poetry

The Maria Magdalena By Angela Gabrielle Fabunan

The Maria Magdalena | By Angela Gabrielle Fabunan

The Maria Magdalena

for Rayji de Guia

The procession of backs turned is a sea of red
anonymous in the enormous crowd.

Turn to face me, tell me is this all the change 
we will ever see, these coins, scattered at Your feet,

for Your penitencia, in this march, on our way to 
Your crucifixion. I drop the coin, know

Nothing now, not even the things I write about
that I have seen. The likes of Peter will never honor

What I’ve written. In this world, what is texto
but the persuading chronicle of the Papa, while

We progress down the streets, the signs we carry
las palmas scattering in careless winds.

It’s impractical to transcribe, what I scream—
words I copy from You. But I still do it: 

There is no absolution in this world but the next,
We must love one another or suffer.

Underneath it all, I array myself in red, 
as memento, as imagen, as woman.

About the Author:

Angela Gabrielle Fabunan is the author of The Sea That Beckoned (Platypus Press, 2019) and Young Enough to Play (UP Press, forthcoming 2021). Herwebsite is angelagabriellefabunan.com. She lives in Olongapo City, for now.