Two Poems by Jermaine Thompson

When my therapist asked what I love most about my mother, I said
My momma can sang.
My momma sangs
Like spring cinematic sequence in full bloom.
You know—like time-lapsed lilies pushing through seed & soil.
Like a satyr put down his reed pipe to hoof organ pedals.
My momma sangs like she God’s trombone.
Like she his alarm clock.
Like she cupped her hands to the hole in his side
& coated her throat with surely He died on Calvary.
When my momma sangs,
Ain’t no waiting for the good part.
It’s all peach cobbler corners.
It’s all fried green tomatoes on white bread.
The way my momma sangs snatches collars and wigs.
It will take you there & bring you back
like arc, like covenant,
like bring the fatted calf.
Like fire like ancestors shut up in
my bones. My momma sangs
There’s a lily in the valley
& Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ‘round.
with chord change & octave riff.
Like gettin’ to the Promised Land
ain’t nuthin’ but a run away.
Like crossing chilly Jordan
ain’t nuthin’ but a run away.
Like crying Holy Ghost power
could be the report
of the pistols some Moses had hid
beneath her skirt tails.
Momma sangs with her eyes closed
like river run on.
She sangs with her head back
like river run on.
She sangs with her fists clinched
like father I stretch
like storm clouds
like death
ain’t nuthin’ but a run
in her Sunday stockings 
& it’s too damn hot
in this house for stockings anyway.
A Broken Shovel for that which Will Break Again
                                                                           We are things of dry hours and the involuntary plan
                                                                                                                               --Gwendolyn Brooks
                                      It’s a hell of a time
                                                             to find ourselves.
                                                                                                                          And aren’t we proud we
        	        	      made it here together.
                                                                Big Bang to upright. Viral to virulent. And some of us are
        	        	      still married
                 	              to trickle-down democracy.
                                                                                 This world of wedges & rails. Ode to the things
                  	            we’ve stretched like last dimes.
                                                                 Ode to the bacteria in the culture. Ode to the legends of
                                                       the self, rehearsed & centered.
                                                                   A hell of a way to find ourselves.        Un-masked & dry.
                                      Which is to want to believe
                                  	             that living before was lush with frolic
                                                                                                                   & freedom for all, not hours
        	 in downpours of dollar menu wrappers  & near-collisions on off-ramps
                                                                                                                              owed to purpose and
	                            	   here we are.
	    	        	     A hell of a place.
	    	        	        	            With room to muse cures for oppressions.      Maybe the
                 Maybe the light, broken & injected right into the body. Here
                                                                                                                healing is often involuntary.
                           Like taxes. Like curl-patterns. Like breaking again
                                                                                                      tomorrow is the only certain plan.

Born in Louisville, Mississippi, Jermaine Thompson learned language from big-armed women who greased their skillets with gossip and from full-bellied men who cursed and prayed with the same fervor. He’s been writing poetry since he was thirteen years old—inspired by having to memorize Langston Hughes’ “Harlem” for a Black History Program at his Presbyterian church home. Jermaine loves language for what it creates, what it destroys, for what binds in Heaven, & what it looses on Earth. Jermaine is an educator who has publications in The Pinch, Memorious, Whale Road Review, Southern Indiana Review, and New Letters.

Guest Editor Hyejung Kook’s poems have appeared in POETRY Magazine, Denver Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Pleiades, and elsewhere. Other works include an essay in Critical Flame and a chamber opera libretto. Born in Seoul, Korea, she now lives in Kansas with her husband and their two children. Learn more at her website.


Since Every Gun Is A Credible Threat                             by Samantha Landau

“No, I was not in that number, though I still have the fire and the smoke
within me, pillars of fire and pillars of smoke that guide me”
--Yehuda Amichai
Congregation, the presence of our bodies
Draws the gun closer
Even so we continue chanting
A phrase passed in the old tongue
From generation to generation—

מיר װעלן זײ איבערלעבן    “We will outlive them”

When our ancestors were rounded up
Forced to silence, expected to cower
Gunfire the sole interruption 
To an old klezmer tune
Loudly, they sang  

מיר װעלן זײ איבערלעבן איבערלעבן
מיר װעלן זײ איבערלעבן איבערלעבן

מיר װעלן זײ איבערלעבן


מיר, “me, we, us,”
Together we are unafraid & defiant

זײ, “them,”
The hateful, with murderous intent

איבערלעבן “to outlive”
“to survive,” “to live longer than”
Outlive, for the memory of those who perished
Survive, my body proof my ancestors are still here
Live longer than, for I was there singing with them
At that time and in that place
My voice among theirs.
.מיר װעלן זײ איבערלעבן, היינט און אלעמאל  
We will outlive them, today and always.

Guided by fire, by smoke, 
May our singing efface
The thunder of bullets.

Samantha Landau is a Jewish-American academic, classical vocalist, translator, and writer who resides in Tokyo, Japan, where she has lived for nearly two decades. She works as a professor at The University of Tokyo and holds an MA and PhD in comparative culture from International Christian University. She completed her BA at Cornell University. She is a co-founder of the Gothic in Asia Association. Recently, she co-edited an issue of Women’s Studies on Emily Dickinson and Music, and co-organized conferences on Asian Folklore and the Gothic. Her creative writing centers on issues of identity and the supernatural. This is her first poetry publication.

Guest Editor Hyejung Kook’s poems have appeared in POETRY MagazineDenver QuarterlyPrairie Schooner, Glass: A Journal of PoetryPleiades, and elsewhere. Other works include an essay in Critical Flame and a chamber opera libretto. Born in Seoul, Korea, she now lives in Kansas with her husband and their two children. Learn more at her website.