Childhood Friends                                                                  by James Diaz

We are the measure and the measured
Time, I'm saying
We waste and want more
In that aching that is ours to plow through
No one says whole
No one says time
Heals and if they do,
If they do:
Necessary lies
 
My father built houses all his life
For others to call a home
While we froze in winter
Wandered fields behind the section 8
Complex
Taught each other the long game of body burning
Brighter than future's not ours
 
Boys who died from too much
Or not enough
Girls who birthed their fathers
And braided ladders in their mind
To the moon
 
These ungodly creatures
From whom time took
Everything in sight
 
But in the barn one night Clara pointed
To the sky and said "just like that,
It's how I want to be,"
Never mind that everyone broke us
Never mind the light that fell
Across us scattered birds
Like everything else
Just out of reach
 
Because I remember holy was
Holy were
Don't ever think we came here wasted
Time,
We came here hungry
We ate the night
We were beautiful
We wanted more
We were at the altar
But never on our knees
 
Circling the barn
We talked our futures bigger than possible
We talked our lives with our mouths on fire
We kept each other warm
Kept each other circling
Higher and higher
The freeway humming
Hope:
We ate the damn thing whole.

James Diaz (They/Them) is the author of This Someone I Call Stranger (Indolent Books, 2018), All Things Beautiful Are Bent (Alien Buddha, 2021), and the forthcoming Motel Prayers (Alien Buddha, 2022). Founding editor of Anti-Heroin Chic, their work has appeared or is forthcoming in Thrush Poetry Journal, Corporeal, The Madrigal, Wrongdoing Magazine, The Lumiere Review, Resurrection mag, and Apricity. They reside in upstate New York. 

Guest Editor Latorial Faison has authored 15 books, including Mother to Son and the trilogy collection, 28 Days of Poetry Celebrating Black History. A graduate of UVA and VA TECH, she recently, completed doctoral studies at Virginia State University and published The Missed Education of the Negro: An Examination of the Black Segregated Education Experience in Southampton County. This Furious Flower Poetry Center fellow, Pushcart nominee, and Tom Howard Poetry Prize winner has been published in Artemis Journal, West Trestle Review, Obsidian: Literature and Art in the African Diaspora, PRAIRIE SCHOONER, and elsewhere. Forthcoming work, Mama Was a Negro Spiritual, was a semi-finalist for The CAVE CANEM POETRY PRIZE. Faison is married, has three sons, and teaches at Virginia State University.

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City of Hope                                                                              by Nicole Tallman

This city seeps hope—
a stitched wound that heals after each rainy season.
In the neon pink sky and the electric blue of the ocean,
each day gives rise, ebb and flow
to the hustle for more and more.
But what is more?

If it’s traffic, noise, pollution
it’s less.
We want less.
And in the moments we grow tired of chasing excess
we summon the mourning doves that call
at night, in the starry heat, beckoning the slowdown.

In these moments, we too take our time,
tend to those who struggle,
those with lives grown too heavy.
We carry someone else’s bag of groceries.
We hold the door open.
We gift fruit from our backyards.

Nicole Tallman is the Poetry Ambassador for Miami-Dade County, an Associate Editor for South Florida Poetry Journal, and Interviews Editor for The Blue Mountain Review. She is the author of Something Kindred (The Southern Collective Experience Press), co-editor with Maureen Seaton of We Who Rise from Saltwater, Let’s Sing!, and her debut full-length collection is forthcoming in the summer. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @natallman and at nicoletallman.com.

Guest Editor, Joan Kwon Glass (she/her) is the biracial, Korean American author of NIGHT SWIM, winner of the 2021 Diode Editions Book Contest, & is author of three chapbooks. Joan is the Editor in Chief of Harbor Review, a Brooklyn Poets mentor, poet laureate of Milford, CT, a Connecticut Office of the Arts Artists Respond grantee & poetry co-editor of West Trestle Review. A proud Smith College graduate, she has been a public school educator for 20 years. Her poems have appeared in Diode, Rattle, South Florida Poetry Journal, & many others. She grew up in Michigan & South Korea & lives in Connecticut with her family.

In and Out of Recovery                                                           by James Diaz

It all just hurts too damn much
he says
the man I carry
up the street
to a meeting
and we are two things
joined at the hip
in our dimly lit desire not to use death
as an excuse for more death

everything I know about addiction I learned in the cradle
heard the absence of my father like mice in the walls
it was dark laid upon dark
I saw
I knew
what was
and wasn’t
possible for us

but that kind of knowing is a lie
because just when we think we can’t
we do

there is a sound our pain makes in the dark
it’s a mother’s madness, it’s death and dank
it’s a family malady, this craving for the cold spot of the room

rise up in it now
this place you’re trying too hard to make a home out of

say the words, the stupid prayers,
say it with me (I hate it too) you know
but you gotta say it through the hating: I’m so goddamn powerless
and grateful to be here
thanks for letting me share this pain with you

it will never not hurt, brother
you will never not want to burn yourself right down to the bone

but you’re not alone
there’s that
let it be something

let it carry you.

James Diaz (They/Them) is the author of This Someone I Call Stranger, (Indolent Books, 2018) and All Things Beautiful Are Bent (Alien Buddha, 2021) as well as the founding editor of Anti-Heroin Chic. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in Thrush Poetry Journal, Corporeal, The Madrigal, Wrongdoing Magazine, The Lumiere Review, and Resurrection Mag. They live in upstate New York.

Guest Editor, Joan Kwon Glass (she/her) is the biracial, Korean American author of NIGHT SWIM, winner of the 2021 Diode Editions Book Contest, & is author of three chapbooks. Joan is the Editor in Chief of Harbor Review, a Brooklyn Poets mentor, poet laureate of Milford, CT, a Connecticut Office of the Arts Artists Respond grantee & poetry co-editor of West Trestle Review. A proud Smith College graduate, she has been a public school educator for 20 years. Her poems have appeared in Diode, Rattle, South Florida Poetry Journal, & many others. She grew up in Michigan & South Korea & lives in Connecticut with her family.

Mourning                                                                         by Shuly Xóchitl Cawood

While standing at the kitchen sink, I peel an orange, its thick 
skin slick on one side, soft on the other. Pieces tear off in my hands, 
 
hands I pull weeds with, use to clap for other people, press numbers, tap 
on black keyboard, smooth the back of my husband when he’s hurting, 
 
when life wears thin. The orange breaks off in tiny sections that burst with joy. 
Through the window above the sink, out in the yard with its white shed 
 
and split-rail fence is a darkness I know. Soon, I will leave this house
and walk the street I’ve lived on now for more than a decade. The whole world 
 
goes with me if I rise early enough, the light still easy and loose. The birds 
will call good morning the only way they know how—through song, and I long
 
to sing, too, but I am still finding my voice. The birds will busy themselves 
with their own findings—worm and seed, grain and grub—and all of us
 
will be eating the sky with our eyes, feeding on the clouds. Trees will swish their leaves
in their waking, too. And I will walk until I am back home again, and my hands
 
will twist the brass knob, and I will call out my husband’s name, and it won’t be song
but he will hear it, and he will rise like the light of any new and better day.

Shuly Xóchitl Cawood is the author of The Going and Goodbye: A Memoir, and the story collection, A Small Thing to Want. Her poetry collection, Trouble Can Be So Beautiful at the Beginning, won the Adrienne Bond Award for Poetry. Learn more: www.shulycawood.com.

Guest Editor Lori Martin is associate professor of English at Pittsburg State University. She’s had both poetry and fiction published in magazines like Prick of the Spindle, The MacGuffin, (parenthetical), Room Magazine, Grass Limb, The Knicknackery, The Maine Review and upcoming in The Tampa Review.  Martin is poetry editor for The Midwest Quarterly.