- Issue #02
- Ashely Adams :: “Prescribed Burn”
Wildland Fire Use: The management of naturally ignited wildland fires to accomplish specific prestated resource management objectives in predefined geographic areas outlined in Fire Management Plans.
There is a scrub preserve south of Tampa Bay where the grass kisses at your legs with ungentle tongues, growing up golden-brown between the tooth-edged saw palms. Compared to the concrete buildings and exotic trees, the scrubland feels exposed. The naked sky’s brushed by scattered groves of pine, the trees all maintaining a polite distance from each other. Time it right and you can watch the slow drift of the sky into the magentas of sunset along with the silhouettes of whippoorwills sweeping overhead.
Despite the relative proximity to the city, almost nobody uses the trail. It’s one of the few places I have been able to find in the city that gives me any sense of isolation. No traffic, no emails, no roommates forgetting to take out the trash.
No man tailgating me, laying into the horn because my bumper stickers displeased him.
No man refusing my help on a paper because he doesn’t think I know what climate change is.
No man screaming bitch at me for the crime of not looking at him while we pass on the street.
Yes, only me and the armadillos crashing through the undergrowth, unafraid in their pursuit of all the rewards of the soil.
Ashely Adams is a queer swamp-adjacent writer and okay birder. Ask her about the weather.
- H. Pueyo :: “Paula”
It started as a tiny leaf prickling her toe inside the sock, minuscule and green, then a longer stem sprouted from it, twirling around the hallux. Paula stared at it. It’s probably a fungus, she thought, then held the stem with two manicured fingers painted light pink. She pulled the leaf like a weed. The discomfort was back the next day, tangled around her two ring toes. It’s the plants, she told herself. I’m spending too much time with the plants.
She decided to go to the flower market anyway, wallet hidden inside her purse. Paula dressed up like she would have for a lover: wavy blonde wig she used to wear during performances, red lipstick, a golden necklace under her Adam’s apple, heavy earrings, heels, and a beautiful emerald dress. See you soon, she told a line of cacti, making kissing sounds.
The leaves stung inside the shoes, breaking through a piece of skin to sprout another leaf. Paula ignored the pain and admired the sparkling flowers smiling back at her. Just like home, she thought, touching a terracotta vase. The sole of her feet blazed like she had a rash. She chose a baby’s tears to hang over her bed and another sunflower for the living room.
When she was young, Paula lived for the stage—rehearsals and dances, feathers and sequins, hours and hours of not knowing if the military would come this time or not. Those were violent times, she thought, arranging the plant above the headboard. Her bedroom had other vases; on the floor, on the shelves, on the window, on the balcony. Two potted ferns hung from a golden chain, their soft green roots looking darker under the afternoon light. Forty years later, things were different, calmer, perhaps. Not always, Paula muttered to herself, lying on the mattress. Not yet.
One heeled shoe fell on the rug, revealing a foot that was covered by patches of moss. Paula touched the varicose veins dancing in her legs, purple and blue, and covered the green fuzz with a wrinkled hand. Decades had passed, and she couldn’t move as freely as before, but at least she had her plants. Dracaenas, palm trees, violets, succulents. Two windows of cacti of varying sizes and a kitchen of pepper, rosemary, basil, peppermint, sage. Sometimes, she barely had space to walk, and many of the plants now slept with her.
Paula removed her wig, and closed her eyes. From her head, little flower buds sprouted and begun to flourish, one by one, bathed by the setting sun. Paula felt herself getting weaker, like she had danced the entire night. The baby’s tears gazed at her from above. Good night, they seemed to say. Foliage covered her thin arms, and petals fell onto the pillow, yellow and white. The sweet smell of pollen filled the air, and Paula closed her eyes. Good night, she said too, and the flowers bloomed at last.
Previously published in Apparition Lit.
H. Pueyo (@hachepueyo on Twitter) is an Argentine-Brazilian writer of speculative fiction. Her work has appeared before in F&SF, Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Fireside, and The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, among others. Her bilingual debut collection A Study in Ugliness & Outras Histórias will be out by Lethe Press at the end of 2022. Author illustration by Dante Luiz.
- Anam Raheem :: “Ethereal Yawn”
Have you ever seen an orchid wither from the living?
After months of lying dormant—molting to a literal stick in the mud—there’s a temptation to cut your losses and toss the orchid in the bin. It’s easy to forget that the stick has a root system—a subconscious—an invisible governing force that, with the right conditions, can generate and regenerate buds.
And when those buds appear, they spark joy. The remembrance that there’s life after all—that the promise and potential of the future perseveres. If we didn’t know better—if we thought the buds were the full expression of the orchid’s offering—it would be enough. More than enough, actually. Ethereal tear-drop shaped green fists with streaks of lacy pink. The buds are travelers on their way to somewhere else, and, even in their liminality, they are perfect. Tight and sturdy, protected from the harshness of the outside world. If the buds stayed as buds, they would be beautiful.
But the buds don’t stay that way. They dare to proceed past the mysterious threshold of what lies beyond beauty. When the time is right—when the root system is properly triggered, or perhaps, empowered—the bud cracks and within 24 hours the delicate layers peel back in an ethereal yawn. Each bud on its own timeline, paying no mind to who’s first or last. When it’s time for an orchid to bloom, it blooms without hesitation, as if it’s overcome by a sudden and unexpected joy, as if it’s experiencing the beginning of love. There is a fearlessness that exudes from orchids when it’s time to bloom. It’s as if orchids know that joy is not made to be a crumb. It’s that knowing—buried somewhere deep in the subterranean root system—that fuels the risk to bloom.
And when it’s time to bloom, the buds transform to an otherworldly blossom, filling this world with a presence that lies beyond beauty. An orchid’s captivating oddities would tempt any outsider to pluck, pull apart, demystify this creature. Just by fully expressing itself, the orchid opens itself to peril, to nazar, to the gaze of so many. Just by being itself. Such dangerous unwanted intrusions. The orchid has every reason to stay a bud—to exist in this world like a tightly bound, impenetrable fist—to be beautiful and safe.
But the orchid proceeds to a realm that lies beyond beautiful and safe. It unfurls its insides so that they become its outsides. Who could have guessed the shape and parts of an orchid are what they are? Probably not even the orchid. An unimaginable, divinely constructed architecture that could only be known through the unfurling. By exposing what was once inside to the nourishing sun, the orchid—like the joyful stretch of a newborn being freed from its swaddle—takes up more space in this world.
On the one hand, the former bud foregoes safety by inviting predators to feed off its generosity. On the other hand, the present blossom invites divine collaborations with the likes of bees, butterflies, hummingbirds. To be a bud is to be beautiful and safe. To be a blossom is to sing in the call and response of life’s interconnectedness.
Life is in the unfolding—the intuitive path to blossomhood. Life is also in the retreating—the release to death. Orchids know when it’s time to bloom and when it’s time to wither, and honors each part of this dance without judgment. Just like how a wave’s ebb is no better or worse than its flow, the time of life and the time of death are symbiotic peers. Vulnerability is the mysterious, risky force that transforms bud to blossom—the force that fuels the cycle of life to death back to life again.
Have you ever seen an orchid rise from the dead?
Anam is a writer and social justice activist. She lived in Palestine for five years, leading a coding school in Gaza and the West Bank. Anam has been shortlisted for the 2021 Wasafiri Emerging Writers Prize for her first work of fiction, and is currently working on her first book, a collection of personal essays reflecting on her time in Palestine. She is the youngest daughter of Pakistani immigrants. Subscribe to her newsletter: anamraheem.substack.com.
- Robin Arble :: “Second Spring”
Laying in bed last night, I looked down and saw my body was a field of wildflowers. I ran my hands through the deep grass, careful not to touch the fat bumblebees feasting on each sunflower’s spiral of seeds. Stems of Queen Anne’s Lace opened their discs to the sun, dotting the little hills of my breasts, and I closed my eyes and listened to the rise and fall, rise and fall of their one breath. The pale mountains of my thighs were covered in snow. I threw the hem of the field over my knees, blanketing my body in summer’s dress, and every bud that held itself tight through the spring—lilacs, lilies, anemones, trilliums—finally burst into bloom, as new and old as anything in this world.
Robin Arble (they/she) is a poet from the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts. Their poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Door Is A Jar, Anti-Heroin Chic, Pøst-, Brazos River Review, and Overheard Magazine, among others. She studies literature and creative writing at Hampshire College.
- Mair Allen :: “In Spike, In Bloom”
The edges of the orchids’ frilled petals ripple.
Thrilled. It lives a little. Until.
Did you ever kill an orchid? Of course I did.
Did you love it? Obviously. Oh—The killing?
Or the thing itself?
Would it be wrong to say yes to everything?
I filled the window with plants and my love
said it was too much, but it was me
who let them dry up. I didn’t know
how to care for so many at once, they all
under saturated and me, over committed.
Have your plants ever gotten gnats?
No, I love them with benign neglect.
And the yellow flowers tremble at that.
Not you though. Feel how
absorbent the moss,
how rich the thick chipped bark. This all
will hold your vellum roots. I will
love you different. Here, a bottle of mist.
Here, a silver bowl of spring fed water
for soaking on Sundays.
I have never loved anything
like I love your tender petals. I will learn
to care on time, in time, for you.
Mair Allen is a writer living in Minneapolis, MN. A current MFA candidate at Antioch University, their work can be found in Hooligan Mag’s Spilled Ink feature, Griffel, Kithe, Oroboro, and Aurora. They were the 2020 Mikrokosmos Poetry Prize winner, and placed second in the 2021 Penrose Poetry Prize. Their prized plant is a vanilla orchid that just sent out a second vine. When not writing they can be found.
- Jody Chan :: “naturalization” and “species loneliness”
—after Zaina Alsous
there was haddock baked in a metal tray
& a buffet of tiny square desserts, there was a view
of peaks, there were canyons & icefields & paths
descending steeply into graveyards, there were plastic
bags pledged to the wind & a black bear staring down
an orange flare, behind the verb & verb bars, the organic
olive oil boutiques, there were two humans
making their way slowly across the southward
rock face, sometimes kissing, there were park passes
to pay for & British flags splayed open on
the breeze, across from which the verdant slopes
boasted several golf courses, monocultured
for their insipid greens, there was the quiet drift
of continents, there were endangered minnows, algae
garlands in the sulphur ponds & tropical fish
released by aquarium enthusiasts, a faint lilt
of mist yielding to an orchestra of weathers, throughout
the designated conservation areas, the occupied
hands of labourers, numerous as mosses
& prone to erosion, there was moss, there were firs
& emboldened marmots, beyond the trail markers,
the gravel lots, at dinner an oil executive remarking
on his surroundings, sucking the meat off
a slab of bones & four floors below, a fawn
mere hours old, staggering into the woods
to vibrate borderlessly. to decay systematically. to stay against. to belong in a way not
predicated by state. to pine and ash. to be an old stone. to tree
boldly, to recall the greenest leaves of one’s past without rancour. to stutter
ozone, to bleach one’s mouth
or sound an ecology of bone, of hammer and hatchet in the hawk’s red beak.
banner pronouncing a grammar of no and we will protect it
and we will protect it. is it a you. is we a fact. is fact static
or a charge to move. to shore upon the toes of time. to defect
via river routes. via saltwater. sutured by evening rain.
a reign of roots. a noon of fireflies, of fire
fomenting the forest anew.
Jody Chan is a writer, drummer, organizer, and therapist based in Toronto/Tkaronto. They are the author of haunt (Damaged Goods Press), all our futures (PANK), and sick (Black Lawrence Press), winner of the 2018 St. Lawrence Book Award, and 2021 Trillium Award for Poetry. They are also a performing member with RAW Taiko Drummers. They can be found online at https://www.jodychan.com/.
- Addie Tsai :: “SWOONING FOR SUCCULENTS”The first time I fell in love with a succulent was the first time I fell in love with a woman. She had a mess of bright orange curls the same shade as my favorite summertime drink. By the time she introduced me to succulents we were no longer in love, but in complicated friendship. I’d like to think that I was her most prized subject, even though I’m well aware that this was what led to our dissolution. Either she or another woman she loved to capture, a well-known belly dancer, in the round black lens, her magnified eye, gained temporary access to a house that belonged to the rich. I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what they did to acquire such treasures, but I remembered that the house they owned had a magnificent pool surrounded by succulent gardens framed with wood. The red-headed girl took photos of the belly dancer and me, separate, and also together, nude except for the sweat that dripped down our pale skin, the sun determined to redden it by the day’s end. I couldn’t tell you what it was that drew me to the succulents’ bulbous leaves that looked animated, or at the very least, edible, soft yet durable. When I proposed to a man a few years later, I spent hours scouring the internet for succulent bouquets—I was thrilled there was such a thing!—but ultimately ended up going with a small bouquet hand-picked at a farm a drive’s distance from where we wed, and more affordable. My mother had always had what she called a “purple thumb,” killing every growing thing in her path. She was prone to believe that every tragedy that befell her was genetic, and so even as my father’s green thumb transformed our backyard into a tropical paradise, I never did buy plants, except for a grocery store orchid or two. But then, when my marriage wilted slowly, and all at once, and COVID kept lives out when I most needed them to be in, I drove myself to my favorite nursery and bought the succulent that asked for me to come closer. A friend offered me a cactus plant, and a couple of other succulents, but it was this one that decided to thrive, alongside me, slowly, steadily, like all of us.
Addie Tsai (any/all) is a queer nonbinary artist and writer of color. They collaborated with Dominic Walsh Dance Theater on Victor Frankenstein and Camille Claudel, among others. Addie has an MFA in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College and a PhD in Dance from Texas Woman’s University. She is the author of the queer Asian young adult novel Dear Twin. Unwieldy Creatures, their adult queer biracial retelling of Frankenstein, is from Jaded Ibis Press. They are the Fiction Co-Editor and Editor of Features & Reviews at ANMLY, Staff Writer at Spectrum South, and Founding Editor & Editor in Chief at just femme & dandy.
- BEE LB :: “ode to each life within sightline”
kalanchoe pumila – o flower dust,
your soft grey body stretching and
stretching and curling and weaving.
o, you poor sundrenched thing.
you would push your way through
the window if it were possible, and i’d let you.
i’d watch your trailing arms curve through the grass,
put down roots in endless soil, grow as far as you can
reach. but come winter, you’d wither, if you made it past
fall. so i will let your body lean this way and that,
perpetually stuck in your sway, body growing taller,
an unmoving dance to music that settles your dust.
heartleaf philodendron – o heartleaf,
forgive me for thinking you pothos
at first. surely you know your own name.
the second my mistake was pointed out,
you shot up, nearly a dozen coiled leaves encased in—
what is it you encase your new growth in? all i see is film,
in time turned gold and dropped as a husk.
o philodendron, forgive me naming you frank.
forgive me calling you leggy. forgive me constantly
trying to teach you to vine. i am not unconvinced
you’ll never learn. at the least, you’ll get more sun
pinned to the length of the window than trailing the table’s top.
tradescantia zebrina – o zebrina, forgive me as well,
another mistaken identity. to be fair, in the harsh light
your purple wasn’t so vibrant as to stand apart.
your leaves covered in peachfuzz, i thought gave you away.
o inch plant, forgive me trying to give you away. i wanted
a teddy bear vine, and each of your pointed tips led towards
the wrong conclusion. i did not want the association
of your most common name, did not want to call you dude,
did not want you to die in my mother’s hands.
you may still die in mine, we’ll see. your longest vines
fell, now arranged a faux-bouquet in water,
the smallest of roots growing each day.
dracaena trifasciata – o snake plant, you know
i’m trying my best. we both know you’re only here
because you cost next to nothing, but i promise,
i’m doing my best to revive you. i’ll admit,
i’ve already failed once. let one stalk turn to mush
in my rush to water, then let it crisp in my days away.
o mother-in-law’s tongue, i’ll cut it off once i’m sure
you’ll survive. til then, i’ll let it be the closest to the sun,
keep the rest of your foliage from scorching. i’ll admit,
i’d like to hurry you along. like to cut your chopped stalk
at the base, see if i can get more of you to take. your endearing
v-cuts so you root right way up. how long will you take to settle in?
i’ll assume we’re both counting the hours of sun.
kalanchoe fedtschenkoi – o lavender scallops, do you know
how long i avoided you? your name brought to mind sliced starch
or the chewiest tasteless orbs. neither held much draw
in the form of a plant. but you are a smoother version
of my flower dust, and when the small body began putting out roots
in water, i wanted a pair to pot it with, and there you were
if not a twin, a close cousin, the red lining each of your edges
not far from the purple of their base. i can admit, the propagated pair
didn’t take, but you alone have pushed out aerial roots,
one already curling down your pot, the others standing straight,
pink-tipped, the newest; a pair of twins. o kalanchoe, o stonecrop,
none of your names fit you, but i’m glad to call you mine.
ceropegia woodii variegata – o string of hearts, my first love,
the introduction to my latest obsession. you came to me
in a pot the size of my thumb, found after four phone calls
and something like forty minutes pouring over the smallest
selection to pick the perfect plant. you with your pink flare,
your green splash, your vines curling like string.
the moss in your soil didn’t last, but the clovers have kept growing
for nearly a year now. from green to purple to pink to yellow
and then a new patch coming back again. o rosary vine, i promise,
in time, i’ll let you trail. but for now i’ll keep you piled on the windowsill,
untangle your tendrils every few days, let the light seep into
your waiting body. o sweetheart vine, how you’ve grown for me.
how wide your hearts have gotten.
how much growth you’ve yet to give.
BEE LB is an array of letters, bound to impulse; a writer creating delicate connections. they have called any number of places home; currently, a single yellow wall in Michigan. they have been published in Revolute Lit, After the Pause, and Roanoke Review, among others. they are the 2022 winner of the Bea Gonzalez Prize for Poetry. their portfolio can be found at twinbrights.carrd.co.
- Nolan Lee :: “Irises”
His first visit to the art gallery deserves no remembrance except that he glanced at the photograph of the irises (Irises) on his way out, and that this was his first encounter with them.
Compelled by something unknown, he visited the gallery again. This visit, he stood before the irises for about thirty seconds, noting the symmetry of the titular flowers, the straightness of their stems, and the blocky patches of shine on the vase. That is the extent of what he noticed, but his noticing was admirable for a person. Again, the flowers were the last piece he observed.
This visit lasted for two minutes. That morning’s fresh sun had opened his mind to clarity, and he knew he’d not given the irises their fair due. He learned them to be the work of Robert Mapplethorpe, so he fastidiously studied the photograph for perversion. The irises were phallic and the vase yonic, or the irises yonic and the vase phallic. He attempted to see both the irises and the vase as phallic, wanting to entertain Mapplethorpe’s androphilia, but could not, at that point. He dreamed of the irises in their gilded black and white, that night.
He only read the description of the irises once, because their description angered him. He would have vocalized his disturbance, but found he could not indulge sound. He instead narrowed his sight to the irises alone while banishing his other senses. The curator or someone had connected the temporary beauty of flowers to the temporary beauty of people, specifically those poor victims of the AIDS epidemic. He disliked on principle that humans would think of themselves as relevant to irises, the idea that their preoccupation with meaning had anything to do with the irises, which had nothing to do with any person. He reached his hand out towards the flowers, wanting to feel their skin under his fingers, but was gently led out by a guard, which he disliked on principle.
This visit he came to view only the irises, swatting away birds and insects on his journey to the gallery. He picked a feather from his hair. (His trip had been treacherous.) He planted himself before the irises, swaying gently in the gallery’s ambient air currents. He noticed that the petals ascended an angular matterhorn of light formed by the sun penetrating some out of frame windows, that the shadow of the irises in the bottom left corner was like the shadow of a bushy and vital tree, and that the photograph would make a lovely still life, yes, by some Impressionist master, but had already achieved perfection in simply being the irises themselves. He was in front of the irises for many hours.
This visit he picked petals out of his hair as well, circled by a confusion of bees, arriving at the gallery at the moment of its opening. The inside of his mouth tasted sweet. A woman who looked like Diane Arbus had photographed him on the walk. He did have some idea of what was happening.
He neglected noticing the unevenness of light on the vase, or the shadow cast on the right side of the wall behind the irises, or photography, because those things had become frightening. He had had a job, yes, but by then he didn’t much care about how to reach it, and so he spent the whole of his day with the irises. He realized he was in the gallery, and not looking out at the gallery, after some time, and left once he was required to.
The irises did not stay and they did not leave.
He would have left bed to visit the irises again, but he did not have to. He was not in bed. A rush of nonspecific bloom was seeping out of his mattress and searching for chinks in the loam of its foam chunks, from which old hairs were being expelled.
Nolan Lee is a poet and short story writer from New Jersey who wishes he wasn’t from New Jersey. He has previously been published in Elán magazine, Vext magazine, and indicia literary journal.
- Alex DiFrancesco :: “The Voice of Living Things”
One of my books on witchcraft tells me that everything living has a voice and can tell us what it needs, we just have to learn how it speaks.
For years, I have killed every plant I touched.
My first plant that survives is a gift from my friend Christina, who is also the person who initiated me into witchcraft. The initiation ceremony was in my backyard, and involved rose petals and spoiled wine. An unsuspecting 7-11 delivery man, laden down with cheap but drinkable wine, walked into my backyard in the middle of it, while three of us were screaming in laughter, singing “Put it in My Mouth.” I still have the piece of paper that Christina wrote the date on in the inside pocket of my leather motorcycle jacket. There are rose petals wrapped inside it.
The plant Christina gave me was a small succulent in a tiny pot that read “YOU ARE LOVED ALL THE TIME.” It was two inches tall when they gave it to me. Now it stands at six inches. It has outgrown the pot that reminds me I am loved all the time. It reminds me itself, in its quiet voice.
The second plant I did not kill was given to me by my former friend, Dani, who was also at the initiation ceremony. I don’t know what kind of plant it is, just that she named it Martha, which happens to be the name of one of my favorite Tom Waits songs. Our friendship is over, but the plant still thrives, spilling out of its pot, hanging down the window sill it sits on. It reminds me, in its quiet voice, that we keep love even when it ends.
On the solstice, I went to the Family Dollar and got an ornamental pot, potting soil, and basil seeds. You don’t need expensive things to make magic. I sat in my backyard, drinking lemon water, basking in the sun, and wrote all the good things I wished for in my life on pieces of paper. I buried them at the bottom of the pot and planted my seeds over it. Now, they grow in my kitchen window. They speak quietly to me about this growth. They speak quietly to me about nurturing: theirs, and my own.
Alex DiFrancesco is the author of PSYCHOPOMPS, ALL CITY, and TRANSMUTATION. They are a 2022 recipient of the Ohio Arts Council’s Individual Excellence Award, and the first transgender award finalist in over 80 years of the Ohioana Book Awards. Photo by Christina Ramirez.
- Issue #01
- Nomi Stone :: “Little Starts”
My wife secretly took
a bunch of cuttings this fall
while I stood watch: two leaves
of a succulent from IKEA, a tiny nub
from the Milkcrate Café on Girard,
and that other dangler
at the boring party in the room with the coats.
It sent out two beet-red roots! When it did, my
wife yelled out to me just before breakfast: Wife!
The terrible part is holding your nerve,
and leaving it on the sill alone
until it has lost all its inner water. Only
then it sends out roots
like a wandering mouth.
How careful plants are with each other:
when the deer feed
on the branches of the beech trees,
the leaves of their neighbors
become bitter. Little start,
breath-start, it is so hard
to do everything over from nothing.
My wife came by herself
to this country for me. She didn’t even have
her winter boots. She feeds
the tiny starts blood
from her own Mooncup, root-
From our bed, I hear the squelch
before she carries it, carefully,
to the sill in the sun.
Originally published in Ecotone Magazine.
Poet and anthropologist Nomi Stone is the author of three books, most recently the poetry collection Kill Class (Tupelo, 2019), finalist for the Julie Suk Award, and the ethnography Pinelandia: An Anthropology and Field Poetics of War and Empire, finalist for the Atelier award (University of California Press, 2022). Her poems recently appear in The Atlantic, POETRY Magazine, American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry, The Nation, The New Republic, and elsewhere. She is an Assistant Professor of poetry at UT Dallas and co-founder, along with her wife, Rose Skelton of Field Studio: A Place for Writers Online and On the Isle of Mull.
- Conyer Clayton :: “today I put my hands into dirt, and it was warm” & “I always hope it’s a turkey”
today I put my hands into dirt, and it was warm
what a good day
I always hope it’s a turkey
When I hear footsteps on dry leaves
in the woods by my house, I always hope
it’s a turkey. Did you know
wild turkeys can fly up to 200 meters?
Their bodies being built for bursts of speed.
We saw one perched high in a birch tree,
the garbage tree, my arborist called it, though
what does it say that that’s the tree I think I’d be —
going too hard and falling over early. I wanted to argue
with him, but their trunks do litter the forest floor.
But birch is
paid a fair wage.
The mushrooms made an Instagram page about
their repurposed birch homes.
A turkey once lived here, the caption reads, but now
instead of someone stacking logs to burn, my spores
and I have repopulated it.
The mushrooms wear flannel, and raise their kids
free-range. They travel on the weekends to the roots
of other trees. Did you know there is a market
for everything? A bottle of the way trees
shimmer movement in light wind.
A turkey in a tree grounds me.
A turkey on the ground lifts. I’d rather a startling gobble
than a man with an Instagram account burning
through his worn jean pockets, starting fires
in my yard, sending smoke across the country, making
the sun seem a far off thing. Did you know that man took
a photo of the dim, red sun and sold it for millions?
Even though he started the fire? The caption reads
we have to do more, and by more, he means
start more fires, burn more garbage, breed more
turkeys that we designed not to fly.
Conyer Clayton is a writer, musician, and editor living on unceded Algonquin Anishinaabe land. She is the author of We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite (Guernica Editions, 2020, Winner of the Ottawa Book Award), But the sun, and the ships, and the fish, and the waves (A Feed Dog Book by Anvil Press, 2022), and many chapbooks. Her poetry, essays, and criticism appear in Room Magazine, filling station, Canthius, Arc Poetry Magazine, CV2, The Capilano Review and others. conyerclayton.com.
- Ally Ang :: “Invocation”
Let the moon wobble.
Let the basil plant flower.
Let the poets discombobulate.
Let the verbs noun.
Let the nouns verb.
Let the grief howl.
Let the emails unread.
Let the land speak.
Let the oceans revenge.
Let the people free.
Let the people free.
Originally published at The Lickety Split.
Ally Ang is a gaysian poet based in the occupied Duwamish and Coast Salish lands known as Seattle. Ally is a Jack Straw Writers Program fellow and an editor for Game Over Books and Floating Bridge Press. Their work has been published in Muzzle Magazine, Foglifter, The Journal, and elsewhere. Find them at allysonang.com or on Twitter @TheOceanIsGay.
- Nikki Wallschlaeger :: “Mother of Thousands”
“Bryophyllum daigremontianum, commonly called devil’s backbone, mother-of-millions, mother-of-thousands, alligator plant, or Mexican hat plant is a succulent plant native to Madagascar.”
Underneath the fields is where our stories are buried. The monocrops were decisions made about our past, so I ask you to take the batteries out of the clanging wall clock before I go to sleep to prevent the supremacist art of domestication from permeating my dreams.
Inside of my raised fist is a struggling livelihood: there is sugar cane, corn, and certainly cotton. I’ve come here to climb the spiral rope back to the knowledge of the land, holding a scythe branded with the name i gave myself & my hands ache so much from having to dig you out,
I stop at every county cemetery no matter who is resting there. I am a gatherer of thousands,
how you said we don’t have to buy seeds driving past a town named Coon Valley as I inwardly flinch about a strange joke E. used to make about not seeing a relative “in a coon’s age,”
and the day i realized what she meant by that when she said it, how my fist in the will of my
stomach began to wilt, all their freshly mowed lawns burning with the crosses of their wickedness. a mother ushering her children to safety a story carried on by the next generation of plantlets,
since water has been proven to secure history, when public wailing feels like you’re a conduit for someone else. Caring for an unmarked grave on her lunch hour, autocratic fields you can see from an airline window seat. We touch our callused feet together. Underneath this land is a
succulent downpour we are building from the lives calling to be excavated. The fists of black & brown women throughout the ages in a controlled heirloom heat. Seeds taking flight from the ancient fields of our wildflower palms for we are the mothers of thousands
Originally published in The Feminist Wire.
Nikki Wallschlaeger’s work has been featured in The Nation, Brick, American Poetry Review, Witness, Kenyon Review, POETRY, and others. She is the author of the full-length collections Houses (Horseless Press 2015) and Crawlspace (Bloof 2017) as well as the graphic book I Hate Telling You How I Really Feel (2019) from Bloof Books. She is also the author of an artist book called Operation USA through the Baltimore based book arts group Container, a project acquired by Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee. Her third collection, Waterbaby, is out from Copper Canyon Press. She was a Visiting Associate Professor of Poetry at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop from Spring 2021/ to Spring 2022.
- M.P. Rosalia :: “sapling, taken from the northern pacific coast, kept in a jar.”
you grew so valiantly, reaching for California sun and the
branches that had made you, seeking to belong in a
copse of your brethren, but you will never belong, choked
by the mother—that is nature after all.
by hands that have never known how to find comfort
in soil but who wanted you to live. you didn’t live.
you were so young, just a little sprout, and I didn’t
know how to love you. that sun you strove for choked
as much as mottled roots below the surface and,
parched, you wilted in the drought of a place where you
never had room to grow.
M.P. Rosalia is a writer and artist of many forms, enjoys exploring ideas about gods, identity, and time, and when not writing, likes to pet cats and climb trees.
- Jose Luis Pablo :: “Gardening Alone” & “Cutting the Tree”
We were born as thorns
when we lived together
in marshes concealed
in darkened bark
where you left
a seed in a plot of clay,
shallow as the bed you dug.
I lay my roots down in loam
you’ve long sifted through
with the edge of your spade.
I hear the crunch beneath your boots,
of stones we arranged,
slipping by each water’s reach,
slipping like the rosary beads
you held up uttering all my first names
When space encroached on our landfills,
I thought you would lift the latch on the gate
but I watched the evening clouds
take the tails of your shirt;
you had drowned in that chalice-colored sea
as you wanted.
Look for me sometimes, no plant of guilt
has ever dared sprout in your place.
the pages lining the book you read every night
are children of the home
you surrendered the keys to me.
Previously published in Likhaan: The Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature.
Cutting the Tree
After the storm, my father and I investigate the scraping that had haunted the house while the typhoon lashed Manila for days. The culprit was the rambutan tree that had dared extend its trunk past its prison plot. Shouting an apology to the duwendes out in the blank air, we shake it first and the leaves fall as the rain’s afterthought. The thick body bends toward us for a few inches, then recoils to sound a gong against the galvanized sheets. My father asks me to fetch the saw and rope.
My father is pleased because my hands are no longer idle, after making the week my sabbath. I am a version of a carpenter; I transform the wood. Soon this house will be like the fruit-bearing tree, and the work will reside in the minds of their creators.
The Bible says the body is a temple, there is shelter for the spirit. / The body, it worships in labor./ The house, the body of a home. / O temple, our tenuous tenement, make yourself known. Canyou stand as the Earth spins to a new age?
We build around what we want to remember. I am dodging the hail of fruit resembling sea creatures.
Essence of the tree flying as sawdust,
Sudden and gift-like
Our own version of first snow
Previously published in smoke & mold.
Jose Luis “Nico” Pablo is a communications manager for a non-profit. Their work has been published in Likhaan: The Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature, Cordite Poetry Review (Australia), My Gay Eye (Germany), Busilak: New LGBTQ+ poetry from the Philippines (University of the Philippines Press), The Pinch (USA), and elsewhere, as detailed in joseluisbpablo.wordpress.com. Nico was awarded by the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature in 2018 and won first place for poetry in the 2021 Normal Awards for Gender-Inclusive Literature. They are based in Rizal, Philippines.
- Ellie Howard :: “Seedbombing a Golf Course”
A pine walking-bridge traces the country club fairways
like a nervous finger on a hem. Above the wetland,
I watch the men pared to a pendulum,
their golf carts fixed around buzzcut lawns.
Laborers trim the greens on even-numbered days,
brush and sterilize the bunkers weekly.
White polos and ironed khakis patter
about the manicured grass.
I glide across the sidelong path each day,
considering the best-suited plants
to seed along the fairway—succulents for the sand,
shallow-rooted crops for the putting greens.
Beside the course, briars deluge the sinking marsh
like blackberry bushes snaring my childhood home.
The irrigation systems are robust.
A few of the lakes are shallow enough
for a paddy field, the deeper waters
could be stocked with fish. The men spurn
the hazards that creep into their argyle socks.
I worry that I will always be this:
A container for play outlined by men,
unnatured, defertile trap,
set of holes, no trespassing nailed to an oak.
A view from the balconies edging the boardwalk.
Ellie Howard is a trans-nonbinary poet from Georgia. They were previously published in the Eclectic, Lammergeier, and beestung, and are a 2022 Rhysling Award finalist. In their spare time, Ellie is learning to mimic the different bird calls heard around their apartment complex.
- Keagan Wheat :: “Our Breakup Plant”
You picked a name
without a square of sunlight
for a fucking succulent.
Your mezzanine superiority
left my gift for dead.
Maybe gleaming eyes &
upturned voice aren’t
as honest as I believe.
Maybe these eyes mark
something as real as
saucer eyes plate
for bake off, not
the substance behind
Keagan Wheat, a born and raised Houston poet, writes about FTM identity and congenital heart disease. His work appears in The Acentos Review, Kissing Dynamite, and more. They are the author of microchapbook, Come to the Table (Black Stone/ White Stone 2022); Ghost City Press will be publishing Working Transition in their 2022 Summer Series. Check out his interviews with Brooklyn Poets and Poets and Muses. Find them @kwheat09.
- Chen Chen :: “Set the Garden on Fire”
for Jeanette Li
My friend’s new neighbors in the suburbs
are planting a neat row of roses
between her house & theirs.
Her neighbors smile, say the roses are part
of a community garden project, that’s all.
But they whisper, too—whisper plans for trees,
a wall of them. They plant rumors
that her house is hiding illegals, when it’s aunts
& uncles, visiting. They grow tall accusations
fed by talk radio, that her house was bought
with drug money, not seventeen years of woks
sizzling, people serving, delivering, filing,
people scrubbing, refilling, running—her family
running the best restaurant in town.
Like with your family, my friend says, once we
moved in, they stopped calling us
Friend, let’s really move in, let’s
plunge our hands into the soil.
Plant cilantro & strong tomatoes,
watermelon & honey-hearted cantaloupe,
good things, sweeter than any rose.
Let’s build the community garden
that never was. Let’s call the neighbors
out, call for an orchard, not a wall.
Trees with arms free, flaming
into apple, peach, pear—every imaginable,
Come friend, neighbor,
you, come set the garden on fire
with all our hard-earned years, tender labor
of being here, ceaseless & volcanic
making of being here, together.
Originally published in Split this Rock and subsequently, Set the Garden on Fire (Porkbelly Press, 2015).
Chen Chen’s second book, Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency, is forthcoming from BOA Editions in September 2022. His debut, When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities (BOA Editions, 2017), was longlisted for the National Book Award and won the Thom Gunn Award, among other honors. His work appears in many publications, including Poem-a-Day and three editions of The Best American Poetry. He has received two Pushcart Prizes and fellowships from Kundiman, the National Endowment for the Arts, and United States Artists. He was the 2018-2022 Jacob Ziskind Poet-in-Residence at Brandeis University and currently teaches for the low-residency MFA programs at New England College and Stonecoast. Photo credit: Paula Champagne.
- Rose Skelton :: “Little Starts”
When my wife and I marry in autumn, the seasons are all wrong. On our Philadelphia rooftop, spinach sprouts in the heat of late September and in early October, basil flourishes in pots. Summer flowers—petunias, fuchsias, geraniums—gush from other people’s window ledges. Tomatoes, fat and misshapen, line the counter of the vegetable shop across the street.
On the island in Scotland, where I am from, at this time of year I sleep under one, two, thick quilts, and rain slants sideways across the windows. The shops are void of all summer fruit. There, it is the season I gather mushrooms from the woods, when the cool wet weather pulses black trumpets from the loam. Horn of plenty, birch bolete, chicken of the woods, cep.
But in Philadelphia, the days are a humid stench that won’t let up. The woods, though I scour them, give up nothing to me.
The night before our City Hall wedding, we sleep with the windows thrown open. At 5 a.m., the bin lorry wakes us as it thunders past our bedroom. My wife, to-be, throws a leg into my sprawled crook, insists her body into the shape of mine so that her beating heart, tiny, hot, thrums against my scapula. I know I should use the American terms for things—trash, truck, fall—but it isn’t a reflex yet. Only my wife understands me in this new strange country where I didn’t mean to end up.
I hadn’t dreamed of getting married either—I had watched my parents suffer their own twenty-four years before divorcing—and by the morning of our wedding I am forty. N., a poet, and I met in a writing program at grad school two years before, and were within days talking of a life together. She captivated me, the way she seemed to be one thing, but also another. She was brought to tears by blossoming trees, and by Marx. She complained of feeling cold, but her body burned with a heat that felt electric to touch. She had spent two years researching in a military special-forces training site, but she only wore cowboy boots, didn’t own a rain jacket. She had published two books of poetry, but her poem tattoo had a punctuation error, something she showed me the first time we met, both of us laughing as she pulled up her T-shirt to show me her slender naked back. She didn’t give a damn for convention, actively sought out the other. I had spent my life being bored by people, but of N., I never tired.
In time, I noticed that a change had come over me, a softness that grew as she burrowed into my life. People said I was nicer when I was with N. I started to like dogs, and children. I began to believe in myself, I wrote more. I learned to fight away the harsh words I had always tormented myself with.
At City Hall, my details are in the groom column, though we are to each other wives. A judge has us repeat the vows, to have, to hold, till death, the end.
In Scotland, my succulents sit on the windowsill of the flat I bought five years before. They overlook the bay, the boats, the seals slathered across the rocks. These plants that I grew from cuttings taken from friends around the island, brought to maturity from the smallest of snips: a leaf, a tiny bloom pinched from its host. The plants that now tumble in giant fat thumbs down the side of terracotta pots and beyond, below the windowsills: bear’s paw, pork and beans, princess pine…Continue reading “Little Starts”
Originally published in Ecotone Magazine.
Rose Skelton is an award-winning writer, reporter, and editor from Scotland. She is currently working on her first book, Homescar, a collection of short stories set on an island in the Inner Hebrides, which won the Larry Levis Fellowship for Fiction in 2017 and an Elizabeth George Foundation grant. Her fiction has been published in Four Way Review and Waxwing, and her recent non-fiction essay, “Little Starts” (Ecotone 2021) was a Pushcart Special Mention. She is the co-founder of Field Studio, a place for writers Online and on the Isle of Mull. Previously a reporter in west Africa, and a member of an ocean search and rescue crew on the Isle of Mull, she now lives and gardens in Texas.