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poem of the week

John Hoppenthaler

Some Men 


Men who’ve kissed with passion the full lips

of women they didn’t love, men


who’ve grown too reticent for the confessional,

who’ve cleaned public restrooms,


wiped menstrual blood from their walls, who’ve written—

then scrubbed off—vile graffiti from the rusting doors


of shithouse stalls. Men who’ve grown

enormous with disregard, rolls of it bellying over


their wide belts. Men who’ve been barbers

of the dead and were happy for the work,


men who’ve become what they’ve microwaved,

who overvalue the quality of their erections


and fawn over them like the town’s new Wal-Mart.

Men who look awful in suits, who’ve been there


and back yet grew impatient, men who go to wakes

to keep up appearances, who’ve made a deal


with God but can’t remember the terms, men who are old

pros when it comes to hospitals and cracking


jokes at the nurses’ expense, men who’ll be at

your funeral, who’ll kiss your widow with passion


and keep everyone’s lips flapping. Men who’ll move

in and disinfect your bathroom, who’ll trim nose hair


at your sink, conjure mythic hard-ons they’ll purchase

at Wal-Mart. Men who’ll kiss your wife


damned hard on the mouth, take off her dress,

and have your Sunday suit altered and pressed.



From Domestic Garden, Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2015


John Hoppenthaler’s books of poetry are Lives of Water (2003), Anticipate the Coming Reservoir (2008), and Domestic Garden (2015), all with Carnegie Mellon University Press. With Kazim Ali, he has co-edited a volume of essays and interviews on the poetry of Jean Valentine, This-World Company—Jean Valentine (U Michigan P, 2012).  For the cultural journal Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, he edits “A Poetry Congeries.  He is currently an Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Literature at East Carolina University.



The Bride

I met her on her wedding day
Walked up to her, and smiled,
No one ever talks to the bride
I thought it might be interesting to try something new,
Break tradition
Henna patterns wrapped around her wrists climbed up her arms
Spreading blossoms on tender flesh
Her lips were a wilted crimson
Tilted ever so slightly to the side,
A perfect almost smile
The first thing her mother taught her was to wipe the tears before the blood dries,
Shredded knees heal, but shame never fades away,
Don’t climb trees or ride bikes,
That’s how little girls lose their virginity
She sat on a porcelain throne beads and bows holding plastic flowers to the arm rests
“are you alright?” I asked
“I shouldn’t cry” she said, fingers catching tired tears
“it’s fine to cry, you’ll be happy later”
“I shouldn’t cry”
“how long have you known him”
“I don’t”
She was 17 years old, just graduated high school
Her parents sent her to college because and educated girl can earn a bigger dowry
But this mister didn’t mind a country girl
He grew up with her father
Didn’t need an intellectual, just someone who could feed the kids while he raised them
She was a mail-order bride and her father licked the stamp
I cried
How many weddings have I been to?
She just got off the plane twelve hours ago,
Barely left the airport and they already started dressing her
No time to take measurements so they pinned satin to her skin,
Tucked her in to the time tested wire frame
Our ancestors welded
If you put a girl in a steel corset you’ll never have to hear her scream
And she was gorgeous
You could put anyone in her dress and it wouldn’t make a difference
We were guests of the groom and this was his wedding
No one knew her name
She only spoke Arabic
No one knew her name
She danced until the tears came
The middle aged used-to-be brides
Explained it away
“she remembered her mother” they said
“brides always cry when they remember their mothers”
She’d have her fifth child by thirty
My parents protected me, from all the broken men
And their flesh-eating fingers
Said one day I’d find someone who could cook as well as my dad
And who was almost as smart as my mom,
Who’d hold me so close that I could breathe in his memories
when my parents about the bride and all we could do was hold her hand
It killed me.
Tonight he’ll crush the henna blossoms on her wrists
With the same hands the man next door threw at his wife last Thursday
The same fists that taught a daughter to keep her mouth shut
He’ll flatten the ridges of her spine
And she’ll hold her tongue
Bite the screams as they come
Wipe the tears before the blood dries
No one ever talks to the bride


Originating from the war-town region of Darfur, Emi Mahmoud is currently a senior at Yale University. A Leonore Annenberg Scholar and Global Health Fellow, Emi studies Anthropology and Molecular Biology at Yale in the hopes of one day alleviating structural disparities on maternal and child health in disadvantaged communities the world over. Outside of academics, Emi is involved in the Yale Refugee Project, contributes to an international research initiative, and teaches spoken word poetry on campus and in various communities in order to equip youth with the power of voice. Having just returned from the National Poetry Slam, Emi will be competing at this year’s Individual World Poetry Slam in October. Dedicated to the growth and spirit of poetry, Emi has begun collaborating with various artists from Connecticut to her home in Philadelphia. Her aim is to use poetry and other mediums in order to explore the full extent of human expression.


Rachelle Linda Escamilla


Father took a hand saw to the rain
gutter, but doubted my garbage bin would

How do I explain that there is no     water?


The bin filled in five minutes and we bought three more
no fancy DIY spout nozzles, just hacked gutters, trash bins
and screen for the worms/leaves/debris


I’ve watched the fog, but it’s more than fog –

I’ve watched the ocean’s selfie, haha, an imprint of itself: imagine the Pacific
CRASHING against rock, the spray, the sonic boom of it all, now imagine that spray
collecting – grabbing on to each other and pulling the marine layer from just above our
heads and running, like bodies screaming for justice on the highway, for the mountains.

I’ve watched the fog crash over the Gabilan range, flooding the crevices of the chaparral,
giving the wiry blue oak a breather from the bleaching sun It looks like a tsunami he
said after he gasped at the sight from the west.


So the fog is water and it waters the grape vines
taste that smokey, cigar, leather jacket she said as she poured the Pinotyeah, that’s from last year’s fire.


it’s enough to make you sick with lust.



Rachelle Linda Escamilla is from San Benito County, California which is one mountain range in from the Monterey Bay. Her first book of poems, Imaginary Animal won the 2014 Willow Books Literature Prize in Poetry and has been nominated for a PEN Open Book Award. She is the co-founder of Mainland China’s first creative writing program, the founder of the Poets and Writers Coalition at San Jose State University, and the curator for the Epazote Reading Series. Contact Rachelle through her website: www.poetita.com.

Devi Lockwood photo

Rest Stop

We are all the year’s worries
tossed into the dark dustbin of the sea.

Swirling plastic returned, reared on its haunches.

Let’s live slow and die when we do.

Below the mess, kids are walking home from school.

Gash the screen door to let the bugs in––
let them pinch my skin.

I’ll coo investment tips in your ears.

Anchor me to the all of our lives
nestled in the hollow of this lake.

Unbuckle my seatbelt. Unfasten my tongue.

Devi K. Lockwood is a poet / touring cyclist / storyteller currently traveling the world by bicycle and by boat to collect 1001 stories from people she meets about water and/or climate change. You can keep up to date with her travels at www.onebikeoneyear.wordpress.com.


For Emmett


And if you are a boy, you might imagine the hairline that crawls backward without resistance.


The barber was a good barber. Give him a blade

and his grandfather emerges from the palm, like

a slave that was a good slave, raking the weeds

back until all you see is a shaven field of grass,

ready for eyes to bear witness to this marvelous

thing. The barber might’ve talked to Emmett

about his grandfather, the hands that grooms the

America black folk always attempt to believe in.

I’m sure Emmett would’ve cracked a joke, light-

ened the mood for the body to settle in and humor

toughens the skin, I am told. I know he could not

have bled even if the razor wished to carve more

than the patches of wool, resting on the head like a

dark field of grass after dusk.


And if you are a girl, the eyelash might attract your gaze; the beauty in its submissive tilt.


He was a beautiful boy, a lark in the jungle, calling

for a brother or two to share a flight with but wings

don’t work in these southern woods. Flight, like a

myth, are debated for the body. The sky don’t hold

what is too heavy for it and he ate much. Thick and

sturdy as a stump in the plains. The earth here be

coated in wood chippings. The Axe’s swing at what

grows and he stay tall and some forest-like beauty

brews within him like he’d live forever in his vanity.


And if you are a man, you may notice only the blood that lacquers the wounded skin.


We fight like lions, teeth misplaced in the knuckle.

Famished for the meat that crowns the plates. I heard

that Emmett’s snarl slips between the trees. The finger’s

claw clings to skin and he’s Bear-like. Plump and

swollen, gliding through the space with a bag of fish

in his mouth like a king on this side of America. Here,

the bullet flails and fails to miss what it wishes to split.

Boys eat well. Mothers feed wise. Ripe and ready, the

boy makes a good feast for what can swallow him.


And if you are a woman, you’d recall the nail collecting earth, like a shovel would for its grave.

And if you are a grave, you’d know how much you hunger for what does not know how it ends.


Nkosi Nkululeko, poet and musician, hailing from Harlem, NY, has performed his written works in venues such as Apollo Theater, Nuyorican Poets Café, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Oxford University and others. He has performed for National Writers Union, Lincoln Center and Urban Word NYC. He was on the 2014 Urban Word NYC Slam Team for BNV(Brave New Voices) and the 2015 Urbana-NYC Slam Team for NPS(National Poetry Slam). Nkosi is a 2015 nominee for the American Voices Award, a Callaloo Fellow and has been published in Junior Scholars’ Schomburg Review and forthcoming in No Token, The New Sound and is anthologized in great weather for MEDIA’s, “Before Passing,” their 2015 Anthology.

Amorak Huey


Your breasts at the surface of the roiling water. The smell of chlorine
and desire. We divide and assign the space between us.

Your specialty is keeping score, mine is pretending not to.
We are not supposed to stay in water this hot

more than 15 minutes. Plenty of time to pretend
we could not drown here or anywhere

in the middle of our own lives. Three walls away
our children dream of life without us,

your parents sleep with their television on. One of us
slides closer. One of us places a finger in the other’s mouth,

one of us stands, dripping, to reach for a towel.
The tub’s motor falls quiet. The air suddenly cold

against overheated skin. Absence swells to fill absence,
water closes in over the holes our bodies once filled.

Amorak Huey is author of the chapbook The Insomniac Circus (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2014) and the forthcoming poetry collection Ha Ha Ha Thump (Sundress Publications, 2015). A former newspaper editor and reporter, he teaches writing at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. His poems appear in The Best American Poetry 2012, Gargoyle, The Southern Review, Baltimore Review, Stirring, and many other print and online journals. Follow him on Twitter: @amorak.

Jen Stein

The Size of Things, Decreasing Scale

1) An invitation
2) The gap between the door open and latched
3) Your open hand resting on my hip
4) Kittens past weaning
5) This human heart quickening
6) A young fist full of garden dirt
7) The curve of your lips
8) The tip of my finger brushing your ear
9) Flat headed worms aerating the soil
10) An avian heart beating
11) Your pupils grown wide soaking light
12) A bean seed to be planted
13) My pupils when fixated
14) The distance between your thumb and my neck
15) Bristles on my paint brush, dried slate clinging
16) Strawberry seeds set to germinate
17) How close my lips hover above yours
18) Capillaries dilating
19) Rushing red blood cells
20) A droplet of sweat drawn from the pores
21) The width of a strand of spider silk
22) The wavelength of an x-ray
23) The distance between nuclei in a white dwarf star
24) Any hope that the children will sleep for just fifteen more minutes

Jen Stein is a writer, advocate, mother and finder of lost things. She lives in Fairfax, Virginia where she works in family homeless services. Her work has recently appeared in Rogue Agent Journal, Menacing Hedge, Luna Luna Magazine, Nonbinary Review and Stirring. Upcoming work will be featured in Cider Press Review. Jen is currently serving as assistant editor for Rogue Agent Journal and for ELJ Publications. You can find her on the web at jensteinpoetry.wordpress.com.

Sara Biggs Chaney

Letter from the Back Porch

Quiet things are passageways
to other quiet things.

One cracks, another grows.
Grass gives up to dust.

Somewhere, clocks advance
while other clocks reverse,

the hissing continuous,
a slow release.

I would never ask you
to come back

as I don’t contain ideas
like come back

or I,
or you.

In the space below, snouting
visitors, they come, they go.

Something scrapes and once–
the hollow beat of dancing.

Sara Biggs Chaney received her Ph.D. in English in 2008 and currently teaches first-year and upper-level writing in Dartmouth’s Institute for Writing and Rhetoric. Her most recent chapbook, Ann Coulter’s Letter to the Young Poets, was released from dancing girl press in November, 2014. Sara’s poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in RHINO, Sugar House Review, Columbia Poetry Review, [PANK], Juked, Thrush Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. You can catch up with Sara at sarabiggschaney.com.

Alisa Golden

Better Than Television

Her ankles swole up
and she leaned on a
sprinkler key like a cane.
My husband and me
had separate beds, she said,
but the rug was
wore out between ‘em.

Will’s White Hen

He carried her under
his arm but when he
found her with her feet
up in the air he couldn’t
eat her. Of 150 lifetime
eggs she’d laid 108.

Alisa Golden writes, makes art, and teaches bookmaking with a side of letterpress printing at California College of the Arts in Oakland. She founded and edits
Star 82 Review, and her work has been published in several magazines including 100 Word Story, NANO Fiction, Nanoism, and DIAGRAM, among others. She is the author of Making Handmade Books and lives in the one-square-mile city of Albany, California. www.neverbook.com



Food Addiction

When you look at me what do you look at?
At the outer shell?
The fat, the rolls, the flesh?
The over-abundance of what I am?
Do you see gluttony? Do you see sloth?
Do you look beyond? Can you see what is inside?
The heart, the mind, the soul? The over-abundance of who I am?
Do you ever question the looks you make? Do you ever question your eyes?
Ask them why they can only see the outside?
Do you ever question your brain? Ask it why it feels the need to ridicule?
Do you ever question your mouth? Ask it why it frowns?
Look inside my depression.
Do you see my hurt?
Can you feel my pain?
Can you heal my self-esteem?
Can you look beyond the outer?
Too many questions? Can I let go?
Only when you stop saying…
You would look so much better if…
That statement only starts the process all over again.
Addicted to food you question. How can that be?
I don’t know it just is.
Addicted to alcohol? You can live without.
Addicted to drugs? You can live without.
Addicted to food?
Have you ever tried to not eat?
Have you ever fasted?
The need over-powers the brain.
Don’t you have any will power?
I don’t drink, I don’t drug.
Food keeps everyone alive. Or so they say.
Food is killing me.

June Desmond lives and works in the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire. She is inspired by her children and her fantastical surroundings. Ms. Desmond is a member of the prestigious Berlin Writers’ Group.

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No Longer

I am rails no longer.
I have hips now,
and breasts that stick out past my ribs,
though the alchemy of metabolism
makes them protrude, too.

I am no longer whittled,
though my fingers still get cold,
but there is something to me now, some substance.
I have content—more than just skin and bones.
Meat on my bones, I signify something,
am able to create.

That this body could now produce a child scares me,
but it’s less frightening than passing out,
than the jut of hips and wristbone and no ass.

And, now, when he holds me,
I know it’s not just to cling to my body,
but to grasp onto what’s inside.

And the starved girl, the one within me,
weeps, for she is filled.

An alumna of Barnard College, Marissa Mazek is currently a Creative Writing MFA candidate at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. Her work has appeared in The Emma Press Anthology of Homesickness and Exile, Watershed Review, and The Rampallian, among others, and has received an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train’s December 2013 Fiction Open.

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I’ve got the loveliest bones. Ivory sticks
______clink -clinking, bones
go with any outfit small enough not to cinch skeleton elbows,
knees creak when I walk, rivals run scared when they see bones coming—
______I’ve got the loveliest bones.
Toothpick-ing my place at the tented freak-show,
eyes comb over these blue-ribbon bones.
Cheeky endorsements by
____________Mary Kay
__________________Cover Girl
clink-clinging to Mark Ecko’s mirror mirror on the wall,
who’s got the loveliest bones of all? He’ll say,
______My dear you have the whitest bones,
____________the thinnest hair,
____________skin cold as stone,
____________eroding teeth,
____________a weak heartbeat,
____________chronic fatigue, but…
______you sure do have the loveliest bones….

Playhouse glass twists a sinister smile, s t r e t c h i n g my thigh gap for runway miles.
Skeletons waltz in my closet clink-clatter all night
______the mattress grinds my scorpion spine;
weak and lethargic these bones are so tired,
______calcium craters clank-clanking between a rock and my skull space
______the only place I feel at home is at Victoria’s Convention,
______viewers ooohhh and aahhhh
____________at my symmetry of structure,
__________________whisper to each other…
________________________she’s got the loveliest bones.

Sarah McMahon
a senior at Bradley University majoring in English Creative Writing. Her poetry has appeared in the campus literary journal for 8 consecutive semesters, and has garnered attention at open mics in and around Peoria. One primary topic she explores via poetry is eating disorders – forms of which she struggles with personally. In addition to writing, she also runs Cross Country and Track for Bradley and enjoys life talks on long runs every Sunday morning.

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Forward Reflection

I once thought,
someday I’ll outrun this skin.
That someday body love will win.

Dreamed of acceptance,
met with rejection at almost every turn I made.
My tears kept me company through the haze.

I carved through me,
pushed my flesh to the edge.
I found freedom in water,
and eventually this skin.

My curves have grown and sagged some,
but I won’t let shame keep me undone.
For it’s not the tomorrows that should win,
or the somedays.

It’s this ever cycling present moment,
of mindful reflection.
Of a body positive mind,
pushing me in a better direction.

So I put my mirror back on the wall.
I stopped wishing through it,
and learned not to just dream it,
but do it.
To radically accept the person I am now.

In the end, it’s always progression not perfection,
that keeps me moving in a forward direction.

Jennafur Lee Parks is a thirty-something feminist zinester who graduated with a BA in Sociology and an Individually designed degree in Women’s Studies. Nowadays, she would have asked it to be labeled Gender Studies. Like her zines, Jen’s life has taken momentous journeys and unraveled far more than she ever thought possible when she was a teenager. Jen works in the community as a direct support professional to students with various developmental delays and special needs. She also works with the high-risk population. Jen truly loves her job and plans to get a graduate degree in the near future. Jen currently resides on the seacoast in New Hampshire with her family.

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Lee Ann Roripaugh


tsunami as misguided kwannon

her hypervigilance such that

everything becomes a piercing

a harrowing she can’t turn off


her superpower a wound

a lightning rod / and sponge / speaking

the language of wounds to wounds


like echolocation that dopplers

the contours of another’s sorrow

against her own ricocheted song


or touch subtle as the naked push broom

of a star-nosed mole’s tentacles

nuzzling the bruised flesh of worms


or a nose for muscling out fresh blood

old ghosts / the sweet fat of lost dreams

like a winter-lean bear come spring

or feathery antennae’s raw quiver

pinched to ash by the hot sparks

of disconsolate pheromones


her nervous system a glitter

of neurotransmitters on fire


an electric-chaired switchboard

short circuited / fuse blown


she’s the exposed nerve:


exuviated snake / hulled bean

husked cicada / chaffed seed

peeled grape / shucked clam

she’s the conduit / aperture / cracked

mirror to all that’s scintillant and broken


until her compassion mushroom clouds

and swells like a fever / a red infection

a rising tide of salt tears

for the world’s fractured core


how could she possibly stop herself

from sweeping it all into her broken cradle

to soothe and rock and weep over ?


(her fingers itchy to pilfer and spare

what’s plush and tender

like the rabbit stolen by the moon)


how could she possibly stop herself

from the mercy of washing it all clean

in her terrible estuary of lamentations ?

First appeared in Sugar House Review.

Lee Ann Roripaugh is the author of four volumes of poetry, the most recent of which, Dandarians, was released by Milkweed Editions in September 2014. Her second volume, Year of the Snake (Southern Illinois University Press), was named winner of the Association of Asian American Studies Book Award in Poetry/Prose for 2004, and her first book, Beyond Heart Mountain (Penguin Books), was a 1998 winner of the National Poetry Series. The recipient of a 2003 Archibald Bush Foundation Individual Artist Fellowship, she was also named the 2004 winner of the Prairie Schooner Strousse Award, the 2001 winner of the Frederick Manfred Award for Best Creative Writing awarded by the Western Literature Association, and the 1995 winner of the Randall Jarrell International Poetry Prize.


Her short stories have been shortlisted as stories of note in the Pushcart Prize anthologies, and two of her essays have been shortlisted as essays of note for the Best American Essays anthology. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. Roripaugh is currently a Professor of English at the University of South Dakota, where she serves as Director of Creative Writing and Editor-in-Chief of South Dakota Review. She is also a faculty mentor for the University of Nebraska low-residency M.F.A. in Writing, and served as a 2012 Kundiman faculty mentor alongside Li-Young Lee and Srikanth Reddy.


People I’d Like to Meet

Ken Singleton & Emerson Boozer. Wait, I already met Ken Singleton &
Emerson Boozer signing autographs at some kind of auto show when I was a kid.

Haixia Zheng, Otis Birdsong, World B. Free.
Nancy Kerrigan & Tonya Harding. Surya Bonaly.

The Flash. Lucille Ball. Rosemarie Waldrop.
A helicopter. A litter of kittens. A pair of mittens.

A bolt of lightning. Ellen Page, Kesha. Martellus Bennett.
Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, & the Blue Marvel.

A raindrop. A footprint. 2,000 years.
An image of an image of Billie Holiday.

Yayoi Kusama, Robert Smithson, Jenny Holzer.
(I already met Henry Rollins & Mike Watt & Vincent Price in bookstores.)

Jane Freilicher. James Schuyler.
A dozen roses or slices of bread.

The He & She from the That’s What They Said jokes.
The They & Them from They’re Making Me Do Things statements.

Kathleen Hanna. Ian Curtis. Yolandi Visser. MIA.
Lana Turner, named after the journal. After Frank O’Hara. John Cage.

Vanilla, almond, cardamom, & coconut.
A poor excuse. A field of wheat.

Edward Field. Some kind of statement. A lemon tree.
Kafka. An undocumented week.



Bruce Covey’s sixth book of poetry, Change Machine, was published by Noemi Press in 2014. He lives in Atlanta, GA, where he publishes and edits Coconut magazine and Coconut Books and curates the What’s New in Poetry video reading series for the literary web community Real Pants. He also serves as Small Press Editor for Boog City and has taught at Yale, Emory, and the Atlanta College of Art.

Rachel Eliza Griffiths

The Human Zoo

Soon I appear through the fog, my face presses against the cage. There is a scrim of dark edging the metal. You are there, pushing life toward my mouth with your fingers. Now I reach without biting. In the dark my own hands grasp how small & tame I am. You say, stay wild with your eyes & ideas. But imagine if my hand could not find your hand. Through the skin of what has survived. If I come up for air but then slip again beneath the current, remember how I glittered, with water pouring from every pore. You would walk down into our earth & watch me race behind the captive green glass. I leave you the gills of my faith, the jaw of my empathy. The flowers will remember my rain & my murmurs. How absurd I am. Even the thunderheads will remember a woman who shook with fire. You sink my net to the floor & work fast. It is how we must perform kindness. My flesh opens like a black claw. Why are you still not afraid of me? I want to see how close the sun will near the water. How the end will hold a woman’s wings above the flames.


Rachel Eliza Griffiths is a poet and visual artist. She is the recipient of fellowships including the Cave Canem Foundation, Millay Colony, Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and the Vermont Studio Center. Her visual and literary work has appeared widely. Griffiths is the creator and director of P.O.P (Poets on Poetry), a video series of contemporary poets featured by the Academy of American Poets. Griffiths’ fourth collection of poetry, Lighting the Shadow, will be published by Four Way Books in 2015. Griffiths teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Lighting the Shadow is now available: http://www.amazon.com/Lighting-Shadow-Rachel-ElizaGriffiths/dp/1935536575/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424987994&sr=8-1&keywords=lighting+the+shadow