Two Poems by Amy Beth Sisson

The Abrasive

Sweat sheened my forehead
Under the mass of Jewish frizz
That gave me my nickname: Brillo

I wanted it off

I side-eyed the breasts on girlie
Mags littering waiting tables
Me, in my Members Only cordovan
Leather armor—stiff and shiny

As he buzzed my head,
The barber said,
I’ll cut girls’ hair.
Not the oriental.
It’s like needles.
Gives me splinters.

Half shorn silent—half blind—pinned
A barbed hook resisted removal

He read my disapproving grimace
Attacked with his clippers
I put on my glasses

Saw my scalp glinting in patches
From under the fuzz
And cried

When I got home—I tore off
My t-shirt and slapped at black shards
On my scoured neck

My girlfriend shoved me
Into the shower, lustful
Your head is incandescent.

The prickle of her hands
Hot on my scalp
Stroking the sparse bristle


At my ex’s

My son grabbed a ballpoint from the glass coffee table -click
Thumbed small lever: open shut, open shut, with each one -click

In the upholstered armchair sat the small-town policeman
Dark uniform, with holstered gun -click

His eyes glared at my child. Fifteen, 6’3”. Stubbled
I still saw him in soft cotton PJs. Robotman -click

That night in a Hendrix tee, sagged jeans
Shrugging, slouching -click

Until the officer shouted, “quit that”
But this story is wrong. The cop picked up the pen -click

No one could ask him to stop
With each click my son flinched in his wooden seat -click

Until the cop shouted, “quit that”
An order. My son sat up straight -click

This is still wrong. My son doesn’t recall me there
His memory: the cruiser’s hot hood

Where the cop pressed his face down
Before he was cuffed -click


Amy Beth Sisson (she/her) Poetry has appeared in Cleaver Magazine, The Night Heron Barks, Ran Off With the Star Bassoon, The River Heron Review, Philadelphia Stories and is upcoming in The Shoutflower. Sundress Publications selected her manuscript I Instruct My Toad How to Write Poetry as a semifinalist for its 2022 Chapbook Contest. She got her MFA in poetry in 2023 at Rutgers Camden, is a project manager for the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice, and an Editorial Assistant for FENCE Magazine.

Three Poems by Caroliena Cabada

Small House

Our parents never kicked us
out of the nest, but now
that we’ve left, they can’t
leave it behind like
robins do every season—
stuck in the forks of an oak
or maple until the fallen
leaves reveal the hollow home.


Today, my anger was a falling knife

Today, a sanguine sunset filled
my vision—I blinded myself in
anger, self-inflicted. Why I am mad
was a small thing, a pebble gumming up
a gear. Today, I was an angel,
falling. Today, my anger was a falling
knife, gyrating on its long axis.
I keep my knives dull—yes, you
caught me—even though it’s dangerous.
By the time I get around to sharpening,
the urgency is gone. And this way the
blade I catch doesn’t cut.


Self-Portrait With Aphantasia

I write this poem with no inner eye—only
the words on this thin page appear
before me. There is ink that has still
not dried, transfers green on my arm
like grass stains. I can say whatever
I want, and you’d believe me: that I am
sitting on a freshly-mowed lawn near
the library, that I am letting an ant crawl
all over me, tracing the path that
a melted popsicle left. I can say
that I bleached my black hair bright blonde
and can still smell the chemical, even under
the scent of the green dye that makes me
look mermaid-like. I write this poem
imagining my ideal without images.
You can see her: right-handed, filling
up the blank page. Isn’t she beautiful,
the way she takes up space?


Caroliena Cabada teaches first-year composition and creative writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she is earning her PhD in English. Her debut poetry collection, True Stories, is forthcoming from Unsolicited Press in 2024.

Two Poems by Shannon Frost Greenstein

I’m Not a F*cking Superhero Just for Raising My Autistic Son

I just don’t know how you do it, she says, marveling,
her eyes wide like prey to express
just how awe-struck she truly feels.
You’re a Superhero.

My son, stimming, cavorting happily around the room;
neurodiverse, a bright ray of sun, simply delightful,
and brilliant like a savant;
she sees his meltdowns
his struggle to use the bathroom
declares me to be the Ubermensch
and I resist the urge to roll my eyes.

There is consolation in her voice;
like she is sending up a holy prayer
of thanks
her own children do not have special needs.

It is really condescension, though,
because I am someone to be pitied; because I am someone
with something broken.

But hold up for a second there, Miss Becky Home-ecky.

My son is perfect precisely as he is; he is a joy to nurture and get to know.
There’s no need for heroism,
because loving him
requires nothing superhuman at all.

After all, it doesn’t take an Avenger
to be an Autism mom;
it just takes
a mom.

So save your pity
when you meet my child on the Autism spectrum
because we are both doing just fine.

And I am not a f*cking Superhero
just for raising my autistic son.
I raise my autistic son
because I am his f*cking mother,
and that is just
what mothers do.


I Blame George Balanchine

I blame George Balanchine
for decades upon decades
of the most vicious kinds of eating disorders;
for veneration of the waif
at the expense of growing old;
for the toxicity and abuse
that defines professional ballet
and the pervasive legacy of exclusion
that still persists to this day.

I blame Saint Augustine
for the devaluation of women
and the marriage of church and state;
for back-alley abortions
and unresearched stem cells;
for the stigma of sex
just for the sake of sex
and the pervasive legacy of judgement
that still persists to this day.

I blame Nancy Reagan
for propagating systemic racism
as the face of the War on Drugs;
for equating addiction
with weakness of character;
for commanding us all to Just Say No
as crack ravaged the Black community
and the pervasive legacy of an epidemic
that still persists to this day.

I blame Donald Trump
for his epidemiological illiteracy
and killing one million Americans;
for misogyny and bigotry and prejudice and hate
because he is just the worst kind of person;
for humiliating our nation
on a geopolitical scale
and the pervasive legacy of intolerance
that still persists to this day.

I blame them all for the damage they’ve caused
and for reinforcing the otherhood of people like me
and if you agree with anything they have to say
then, you prick, I fucking blame you, too.


Shannon Frost Greenstein (she/her) resides in Philadelphia with her children and soulmate. She is the author of “These Are a Few of My Least Favorite Things”, a full-length book of poetry available from Really Serious Literature, and “Pray for Us Sinners,” a short story collection with Alien Buddha Press. Shannon is a former Ph.D. candidate in Continental Philosophy and a multi-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Pithead Chapel, Litro Mag, Bending Genres, Parentheses Journal, and elsewhere. Follow Shannon at or on Twitter at @ShannonFrostGre.

Three Poems by Andrea Potos

           For Rosemary

I’m lost on the narrow trails sloping
and curving among the exuberant green of late May.

I suppose my friend is everywhere here,
and that is the point: growing into the earth

now, indistinguishable from fern or maple,
oak or ash. Birdsong crisscrosses

everywhere as I make my way deeper
into the woods. It is supposed to be enough;

I might be too set or greedy, I want more–
one marker with dates chiseled

or raised in burnished bronze.
I want a stone that endures for her name.


           for Rosemary, in memory

Today I tried making a list
of all the places you and I gathered
together: Lombardinos for Italian,
LaBrioche for bi-weekly poetry tea,
the Bubble Up Bar for nightcaps,
the bookshops where you’d sit front row
whenever I gave a reading.

And I will never not see you,
settling onto your living room sidechair
while waiting for your signature Bolognese sauce
to find its final perfection for our dinners.
           There you are again–drawing your fingers upwards
through your light hair as you make another
passionate point; your smile widening, ablaze–
you are looking at me as you speak, how easy it was
to love myself in that glow.



Anniversary of my mother’s leaving,
exuberance of early summer

and triumph of the peonies, their pink
and white faces spread like joy.

Every year it is the same, I count the days
until her last has arrived.

Every year an early hour
calls the birds to singing.

Every June I remember
how waking belongs to song.


Andrea Potos is the author of several full-length collections of poems, most recently Her Joy Becomes (Fernwood Press), Marrow of Summer (Kelsay Books), and Mothershell (Kelsay Books). Her poems appear widely online and in print, most recently in Potomac Review, Braided Way, Poem, and Lothlorien Poetry Journal.

OLD GRIEF by Sean Kelbley


Someday you’ll glance at bare-branched trees
and not think veins, and in those trees

the squirrels’ ragged nests will not be clots.
Above, the wispy cirrus clouds will look

like clouds and not at all like strands of lost
and drifting hair. It will be the same, in time,

with taste and touch and smell: senses
apprehending too-done steak, pilled Army blanket,

rained-out fire as only and exactly
what they are. Then dawn will dawn

as dawn instead of shiv, instead of even
dull and rusted butterknife, and you’ll forget

to wear an albatross to breakfast.
Which day? I’m sorry,

but it has to be a missed surprise,
unrealized until next morning

or a month of mornings after that—
whichever day some hungry disremembered

correspondence comes to table,
looking for a place you didn’t set.


Sean Kelbley lives on a farm in Appalachian Ohio and works as a primary school counselor. In addition to ONE ART, his poetry has appeared in Rattle, Sheila-Na-Gig Online, Still: The Journal, Sugar House Review, and other wonderful journals and anthologies.

Two Poems by James Diaz

The Hard Talking We Do

For Dennis

What’s on your mind, friend
What has you twisted
I’d sure like to know it’s name
Walk a while with you
Towards the thing causing you so much pain

I have none of the answers
But I am certain to know the song you’re singing
Alone in the dark
And knowing is the ark

I’ve been around that part of town
I know the dangers
The regulars
The sound of a train where trains don’t run anymore

I see it’s gone dark in your house
You’re pacing the hours
Considering your options
The tools you’ll use for the job of extraction

Who can know if that dark will ever lift
Who has the right to keep you here
But, you know, I sure hope you stay
If only for another day, one at a time

I am still amazed by all the subtle cruelties
How they do you
Has nothing to do with you
You know

I know you know
But there it is again
If you need it

I’ll be around
Pacing my own dark
Waiting on the new day

I sure hope you stay.


In the good light

There is a quiet work
Unseen things bend themselves to
Say, around twilight
A talon dug into ground, a feather lost
To takeoff, wild sees wilder
Turns tail in darkest wind
Boy, have I been there before

And mercy is the rain
Is the window I leave open
Running my hand across kitchen dim light
Counting blessings; begrudgingly
The rust on the tea kettle
I can’t bear to throw away
The rust on me
On everything

God, though I know you’re not
I wish you were
And it is easier this way
(Oh, what a lie)
I take what I need
And I forgive
What’s been taken
From me

Over hill and high water
Through rougher crossing may you almost
Every time

Right there, like that
In the good light
Feathers lost
Take it off
All that shame
Stay awhile in this here
Right now

Be true in it
Just be in it

We are almost home.


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 Motel Prayers (Alien Buddha, 2022) as well as the founding editor of Anti-Heroin Chic. Their most recent work can be found in Rust + Moth, Sugar House Review, Chaotic Merge Magazine and Thrush Poetry Journal.

Lovers’ Geometry by Claudia Mills

Lovers’ Geometry

How the shape of me
fits into the shape of
you, the long lean
line of your body
as I curve against it,
your leg right-angled
over mine, the oval
of my head tucked
beneath the square
of your shoulder,
forming a composite
figure of which
even Euclid had
nothing to say.


Claudia Mills is the author of over 60 books for young readers, including most recently the middle-grade verse novel The Lost Language (Holiday House 2021), named a Notable Verse Novel of the Year by the National Council of Teachers of English. She is also a faculty member in the graduate programs in children’s literature at Hollins University. Claudia lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Four Poems by Amy Smith

After You

I’m not any sadder, certainly not
sadder than that day in August, returning
bra to breasts in the dressing stall
at the mammogram place when Adele came on.
I’d only known you for two weeks then, but I wept
so hard I thought my chest would cave in.
And I remember how good it felt to be held at all–even
in that space, saddest of rooms. Looking back now
I think even cancer didn’t want me that summer,
and how lucky I am–
there’s still time for anything.


The Fourth of July

and nobody told the end of the world.
Or maybe the end of the world didn’t tell
the Fourth of July. Either way,
some things don’t need saying. And there are still
small kindnesses remaining: a sprinkler
slicing through the thickness of summer, the cardinal
unapologetic in her living, Mom
in the garden caring for things that return to her
year after year.


Ode to the MRI Machine




The night we waited for your sister,
warm after baths in the dim bedroom light,

you dragged a bug-eyed kitty cat up
my left arm, the one that’s usually numb

but not completely without feeling.
That August, the Reiki master felt it

and said, You’ve got blocked energy
there. And I cried, though I didn’t know why.

I guess even the stuffed animals sensed
I needed healing.

What a cute little guy! I said, watching
that bug-eyed kitty cat.

I had another one but it got lost in the butterfly room
forever and ever and ever, you said

(without the r’s,
or a trace of sorrow or self-pity).

You were three.
Even now, it astonishes me

how we love
the things we lose.


Amy Smith’s poems have appeared in Waxwing, Poetry Northwest, and elsewhere. She works in a high school library in central New York.

The dreamery by Annie Stenzel

The dreamery

Such an odd thing to see on Sleep-o-Vision. Wall-to-wall
nuance, bursting at the seams with classic symbols.
Wasn’t there a great horned owl? Definitely a door giving way
into a glade, a path edged with primroses, various colors.

And then, to have the dream twice the same night, barely
altered after a brief awakening. Same owl? Maybe
a different door. But dreams are flimsy—too
delicate to survive the microscope. The light of day

dispels them the way fog on the Bay shifts
from thin to gone once the sun walks in.
Fruitless to wonder why this? why that? where
dreams are concerned. Science has tried for years

to hammer theories into submission. But that reminds me
of what happens when you try to nail water onto water.


Annie Stenzel (she/her) was born in Illinois, but did not stay put. Her full-length collection is The First Home Air After Absence (Big Table Publishing, 2017). Her poems appear or are forthcoming in print and online journals in the U.S. and the U.K., including Atlas and Alice, Chestnut Review, Galway Review, On the Seawall, Rust + Moth, SoFloPoJo, SWWIM, and UCity Review. A poetry editor for the online journals Right Hand Pointing and West Trestle Review, she lives on unceded Ohlone land within walking distance of the San Francisco Bay.