Category Archives: Poetry

December 18, 2023

Monologue in a Room with the Portrait of My Dead Father

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Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto


for Dad



Dad, I’ve safe in my chest those bright years of spring flowers.

I’m listening to Wayne, Burnaboy, Yeezy, Kendrick and Rozay,

and writing this piece in-between. I carry every memory of you

everywhere I go. I am a piece of you that is whole.

I see you in everything I see.

I see you in each of my prayers and dreams.

And somewhere I read that when one prays for

long, silence becomes a prayer too.

I see you in my silence.


I bear your thin legs. Two radiant poles.

One afternoon, I was in one of your striped shirts.

Mum saw me from behind and let out your name.

It took me months to realize how much I look like you.

I bear your oval face. There are no claws in this truth.


Dad, a picture of you is in my wallet.

I carry it like a passport. Of course, it is.

You’re half of my entry into this world.


Dad, people tell me so much about birth and maps.

But I just want to live, travel, love, make love and art

and live, travel, love, make love and art.


I know the taste of iron because the earth is so familiar.

But is this world and everything inside of it not meant to marvel?

If not, Dad, how else will I make peace with the things I am yet to lose?


Dad, everything il-legit here is the new legit.

I’ve been meaning to tell you this in my dreams for long now.

And some boys here first experience sex as rape, so I gathered.

And it takes them years to know this.


I want to understand what I do not understand, Dad.

I think of the skies and wonder about its burning breath.

I remember my losses and imagine home drifting through my loneliness.

I read about the nights and feel sad for things robbed from me, from us.


Mum says a lot of sunrises and sunsets about you.

I wish you had enough time to teach me certain things.

Now I have to learn a lot by myself.

But tell me, Dad, if I search well enough, will I find everything I seek?



Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto’s poems appear in The Common, Malahat Review, Massachusetts Review, Ruminate, Salamander, and elsewhere. He lives in Lincoln, Nebrasa, where he is pursuing a PhD in English.

June 5, 2023

helen of troy on the affair (vii)

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Maria Zoccola

       Musée National Gustave Moreau: Helen at the Scaean Gate, Gustave Moreau


on the night i knew was our last, we sat down to a feast
in the smoking section of the perkins beside the city walls,
which differed from the perkins in my town only in the number
of dead men who ate there. the air con was running pretty good,
stiffing up the hair on my shins and souping the windows
thick enough to hide what the sky was doing outside,
a mean mess of clouds tinting themselves yellow and gray
and yellow again, galloping above a world pre-flinched
for its next bruising. he lit a cigarette and passed it to me,
which was a new thing i was doing, another small light
flashing frenetically in the background. i was so hungry
in my body. i wanted more than the glut on the laminated menu,
identical in every offering to the one at the perkins back home,
the same meals exhumed from a walk-in’s dark freeze.
columns of smoke rose from every table. the booth heaved
with plates of grease and blood. when the hail began
at last to hurl itself downward, it struck against
the wood paneling with a hollow call i felt in my belly,
a pounding that signaled the end of what we were eating,
whatever it was we were putting in our mouths.

Maria Zoccola is author of Helen of Troy, forthcoming from Scribner in 2025. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, The Iowa Review, and ZYZZYVA.
April 12, 2021

40 East to Knoxville

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J. C. Jordan

a grieving fortune teller
who reads death in every palm
my mother says, to make me ache,
you’ll never come home again

I know that I’ve been careless in my truancy
I’ve been wayward, hoping to drift,
Odysseus’ least successful protégé,
but when I left I didn’t mean to leave forever

take back your stinging accusations—
I have not been unfaithful to my mountains
or my southern dirt; no other land
has laid its grasping hands on me

I still dream of hazy summer like a fever,
your lilting tongues, and some goddamn
peace and quiet; even the churchyard
that nestles my blood’s dusty bones

remember me anointed, slathered thick
beneath the soothing liniment of where
I’m from, homesick, faithful lover
of a land that could never keep me

J. C. Jordan is a doctoral candidate in English at Stanford. This poem, which appeared in the print edition of LitMag, is her first publication.
February 25, 2020


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Seth Brady Tucker

He picks scabs, won’t answer questions; he’s still in a cave
in a jungle, swamp water seeping up into the musky leather
of boots, like a wasp sting, the soft tissue under the scab a pudding,
skinned, oozing thin as red Kool-Aid.
?                        His mother, class valedictorian, then unwed teen,
?                        then prostitute, then dead. His father, wealthy
son, happy, happy, happy, a whole other family, the balance
of rich & poor scales bent to favor blind pedigrees. Look
for the scaly red tail, the cracked horns under the hairline,
those stupid biblical revelatory numbers.
?                        Clean as white palms forever building sandcastles,
?                        the sea-salt spunk of varsity on her skin the closest
his mother comes to payment, genesis, protozoa, the ovum a blink
of pathos & logos, sperm-stupid ethos, fate’s black eye. He was born
across the tracks, his father the great unknown, money the great
unknown, the acid pit of the stomach lining sloughing
?                        until it feels full, the manna of forgiveness & the rectangle
?                        of the empty grave, cheaply done, with spades, elliptical,
& he sees himself launching across the void, a red-speckled
creature of misfortune, to take this man down, finally, into the rank misery
of the dark hole, his hands forever squeezing his apology into the pleasantly
fleshy neck, O forgive me, the sound of his begging like please & please & please.

Seth Brady Tucker is the executive director for the Longleaf Writers Conference. His work has appeared in December, Copper Nickel, Poetry Northwest, Driftwood, and the Indiana Review, and other journals. He teaches at the Colorado School of Mines and the Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver.
December 18, 2018

Cause of Exit

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Terese Svoboda

?                        The Ark Tablet, written 1000 years
before Genesis, remembers it  2 x 2
unclean/clean pairs, with
?            noisiness or wickedness the cause of exit,


the houseboat’s interior bituminized
?                                        with the blackest tar,
Babylonian creosote    then
?            oil smeared everywhere.


?            Noah gave his hundred laborers a farewell party
though he knew they’d all drown,
the moon disappearing after
?                         the first course.         What reason
did he give for the work?


The giants Gibborim and Nephilim
?            roamed the earth but not the Ark –
they’d sink it.
?                                                      Compartments


for the Sirens    and birds on top.
?                         In this version Noah’s sons
and refused to board.


?                                      Ante-
diluvian, basically the Ice Age,
the world covered
?                        with vapor canopy
?         and sea monsters,
thunder and lightning


wicking the landscape       the bitter sea.
?                          Those Babylonians loaded the boat
with gold and silver, and whatever
?                         rounded up with minimal effort,


?           then pushed on    to a mountain jagged
as the point of a dagger: Nisir in Kurdistan,
not the Turk’s Ararat.
Gertrude Bell     1911    reported the boat had


?                           run aground
in a bed of scarlet tulips,
?             the planks reused for housing
and souvenir stands,
?             the way
?                         vertiginous spacemen
will mount pop-ups on Mars.

Terese Svoboda’s most recent book of poetry is Professor Harriman’s Steam AirShip. Great American Desert, her second book of stories, will be published in 2019.
April 10, 2017


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Nina Charap

I hollowed out my skull and let you swim about
Let you piss and laugh and dance
Let you fill me up with every disgusting thing inside you
Inside me
Inside you
To think that I loved and loved and loved you
I cradled my skull in my hands
Hunched over it like a mother
Humming lullabies
To the cracked and worn remains
Pieced back together
The finished vessel
Unfit to be filled
Like swiss cheese
Like the syphilitic skeletons you took me to
You held my hand and you said look
Look what that disease can do
Better you had said look
Someday the wind will whistle through you
A cacophony of you after me
You would have been right
But take me outside now
And the sun shines through
You ate away the parts I didn’t need
And now I’m filled with light

Nina Charap is a writer living in Brooklyn, NY. This is her first publication.
April 10, 2017

The American Ruse

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Gerry LaFemina

My first guitar was a Japanese Les Paul wannabe
with a warped neck I’m certain was manufactured
in Staten Island, in Paul Majewski’s basement,

circa 1982. We knew the best ones were built in the States,
Gibsons & Fenders we couldn’t afford.
The best amps were British Hiwatts or Marshalls,

hand wired, tubes glowing like party lights, those parties
we never attended. We were poor children of poor parents.
Our heroes made do, made music from distortion—

Wayne Kramer, James Williamson, Ron Asheton,
names so ordinary they might have been written
under a class photograph. In school the sisters

assured us we could do anything, just not rock n roll
or art; not anything sexy, anything glamorous or fun.
What we were ravenous for we never received:

that guitar refused to stay in tune & turned
my left hand into a claw. Don’t ask
what happened to Majewski—maybe jail,

a jealous husband. More likely he just drove off
into an adulthood of average jobs,
an above average mortgage: that slow drizzle that never

becomes a full blown torrent. He lived with his mother, &
we’d escape, nights, into punk dives or else
into cassette tapes delivered by boombox, the first song

always the same, Robin Tyner insisting
we kick out the jams, motherfuckers. We wanted
to kick out the doors & windows, too. Kick out the night.

There was that small brick ranch in Royal Oak
with its flower gardens & sadnesses
of in-laws with their secret hurts. My wife & I

would visit on summer holidays until the barbecue grill
became just another smoldering. So many hot coals
in the suburbs, in that marriage, in the country,

and so I’d just take off some afternoons,
stop at the stores on Woodward Avenue where out-of-luck
axe-men pawned old Gibsons & Vox amps, where

I could play for a while, first a Mosrite
followed by a Rik then a Gretsch or whatever else
hung on the walls. Nickel strings digging again

into my fingertips. I moved from shop to shop:
Music Castle, Motor City Instrument Exchange,
Woodward Guitars, take a pick from a glass jar,

plug in. I wanted what the guitars had to say,
the inflection of sustain & overdrive, a feedback
barrage Fred Smith & Wayne Kramer understood,

a revolution in fuzz tones. It was the third of July.
Already those streets of pastoral names reeked
of sulfur & lilac, maybe a lead lick of honeysuckle.

We could be anything, we once believed, but even
then, all I recognized were the frowns of my wife,
the gospel of bills & bank statements to which we tithed,

so I knew I couldn’t afford that American Flag
Fender Coronet with the single humbucker
just like Kramer used to play

on Back in the USA (it could have been his, he was
made in Detroit, after all). From the tuning pegs,
the price tag dangled like a dog tag. I knew

in a way I hadn’t known I’d been taught, I was
finally getting hip to the American Ruse.
I couldn’t afford the revolution. But still, it came.

Gerry LaFemina is the author of numerous books of poetry including, most recently, Little Heretic. He is an Associate Professor at Frostburg State University and serves as a Poetry Mentor in the Carlow University MFA program.
April 10, 2017

Ask Me About Love

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Ojo Taiye

i look into your eyes each morning
and find


through all the syllables
of love

brimming with words i can say

and cannot spell

half-illiterate in my mother

tongue                  half-silent
in         my         purchased         f———luency

at the age of five
i watched my mother fold her breath

into birds         until they found


in a stranger’s

and yes

what of all the green blessings

in my mouth—the shadows

that keep me company

when my lover’s face is a city
drowning in epitaphs

i open myself to a new kind of love—
a beautiful prison where no one is running
where no one is burning where no one is hiding

Ojo Taiye is a young Nigerian who uses poetry as a handy tool to hide his frustration with society.