Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Excerpt from Binding a Divine Multiplicity into One, Sherese Francis


Prompt 1: The Hermit and The Hanged Man — Floating Within the Inner World

Connected. The Atlantic Ocean. Is a way of entering.
An edge is a point of breakthrough.
Another word for edge is egg.
Think of the ways you enter this space. 
All the ways the space and its memory enters you. 
Think of the ways you can be born anew by entering at the edge:
Space Odyssey
The outer world as you've known
Broken and dry desert
You walk 
Forged into a flame 
Ridden by a thirst for
Something else
This dark and foreign
Biting at the soul
And here you come across
This orb of time beyond
No past no future
Just is 
A cycling of energy
And in it sparks light
Shapes a new geography
Within you
Venture into space
Let the blood rush through
The body to the head
Into a bird's eye view
A leg slipping 
Beyond its limits
The lightheaded feel
The dream of seeing
The whole world
Upside down
The way it truthfully
Enters your eyes
The stars in re/verse

Prompt 5: Nine of Cups — Find Contentment Within Oneself Despite Discomfort 

“You've got the cool water when the fever runs high” — Something So Right by Paul Simon


The magic of interconnection aka the circle of life aka Newton's third law of motion.
The borrowing, the inflation and the changing of currents.
When an external force causes trauma on a body. Digs into it and wounds it. This causes manifestations on its surface. 
The body will respond. 
Changes the way it moves. The way it functions to try to protect itself. 
It is forced to grow in new ways.
How has your body responded to the trauma of another's violation? Digging into you? 
How did it change the way you moved? 
How your body functioned? 
How did you try to protect yourself? 
How did it grow you in new ways?


 A long time to pretend. A long time to be somewhere you don't really want to be. To stand in a pew, closed-mouth, while the congregation sings glory hallelujah. Because you remember hearing the pastor say “don't sing it if you don't mean it.” But you clap and sway because you still like the music. Shake hands with members who believe you believe. Drop a dollar in the collection basket to pay for taking up space. Half-listen to the sermon to catch words to later turn into a poem or story. Sit when they ask for those to come to the altar to be saved. Eat the cracker and drink the wine at communion because it is just a metaphor for you and nothing more. Say Amen at the benediction knowing its root comes from the word for truth. Leave the church and question if you are going to come back just to please your mother who believes so much. Wish you could believe it too but know you found another way to be saved and must stay quiet about it for now. Still thankful to have oases for thirst. You still have the cool water to fill yourself. And still You are a cup runneth over to fill others.

Prompt 7: Five of Cups and Three of Pentacles — The Transformation of Divine En/Arky


The Construction of Home Always Involves the Haunting of the Other.
In our desire for "material progress,” is the pond.
The pounding. The pondering. An enclosure and the flow within it.
Currents or currency. All are hauntings. Reminders of what's there and not there in the (X)change.
The road and the edge are filled with haunting. 
They carry with them the invisible flow of memory. 
The reasons why we care. Why we trouble ourselves. Why we travel on journeys like this.
Ponder this: can progress be the same as a pollution? As a burial for others?
What ghostly memories are you choosing to embrace? To extend yourself towards in these homes in which we live? 
What are you choosing to remember? Flow.


Opening to the Unseen                                                                                             A Collaboration
What to do when the world                                                                                        A load to carry
You held spills                                                                               Becomes not only about the load
Past its boundaries                                                                                             But how it is carried
Is knocked over suddenly?                                                                                         One's posture?
Look at it as loss?                                                                                               One's togetherness?
As libation?                                                                                                                The foundation
When the waters flood                                                                                         The knees and feet
After guarding what you loved                                                                                The straightness
For so long,                                                                                                                         The spine
Do you change your name to dove                                                                                The winding
And change what you see as home?                                                                    The waist and hips
Do you see the light that can now shine through                                                 There are lifetimes
After the terror of letting go                                                                           Those who have been 
Has pierced through you?                                                                     Molded in the same grooves
Maybe what falls leads you to a glistening oasis nearby                                               To continue 
A chance for what you held to expand, to connect                                    A tradition of holding on
Or what you have left is enough to be thankful for                                       Across time and space
Maybe you just needed to turn around                                               To see what was always there           
An eternity of work                                                                                                Coming together

Sherese Francis is a Queens, NY-based, Afro-Caribbean-American (Barbados and Dominica) poet, editor, interdisciplinary artist, workshop facilitator, and literary curator of the mobile library project, J. Expressions. She has published work in various publications including Furious Flower, Obsidian Lit, Rootwork Journal, Spoken Black Girl, The Operating System, Cosmonauts Avenue, No Dear, Apex Magazine, Bone Bouquet, African Voices, Newtown Literary, and Free Verse. Additionally, she has published three chapbooks, Lucy’s Bone Scrolls (Three Legged Elephant), Variations on Sett/ling Seed/ling (Harlequin Creature), and Recycling a Why That Rules Over My Sacred Sight (DoubleCross Press).

Selected Works, upfromsumdirt


So, To Speak

oceans of thought 
slosh as i am walking

so, to speak 
is to swallow rapids 
and not even noah 
wants these waters

i can not save you if you drown
i will only watch embedded safely 
on shore like an asperous stone-faced 
god chin-deep in the sands—a toothless 
guardian of old with striated songs

a jellyfish village 
in my head and 
i awaken violently

like a captive in various stages 
of escape staked as phantasmagoric 
bait near the volcanic rim—i dare 
not lay my head or close my eyes

this fear
of dreams 
with nascent 
to the newly 

The Ode of Carbon-Copy Anubis

the werewolf with 
the rose tattoo hides
up the holler 
in her mouth—incisors 
down to the bone—my hand,
holding a silver sliver
by its onyx hilt…

she is covered in honey 
(canines guiding calluses)
writing poems of song & roses
jabbing knife’s point 
into Olodumare’s 
inkblack underbelly:

a mobius strip 
of wristblood & 
underbelly blood

all the while, i sit at her side
shooing away bees & howling 
at the moon, my body 
a distant broken planet.

statue of black poet replaces statue of white hero from a not-so-distant race war but neither monument ever held the pigeons at bay and never did the pigeons give a fuck: merry-go-round as political theater


i am cast in marble in this poem
twenty feet fall standing napoleon-style 
atop a triumph, a thruxton to be correct, 
i am a cowboy in the boat of ra” tatted 
on my back—unseen, for i wear a billowing 
dress shirt and i do not have on a backwards 
ball cap in this statue. 
in this statue i am black in white marble 
marbled lightly with blue—like good cheese 
tho i am not as salty; head tossed back 
in laughter with neither head nor laugh 
attached to a body for the neck is missing 
—surreal as it is serene; meanwhile, 
in open secret the shoulder-sitting pigeons, 
always in a state of shitting, remain vigilant, 
insider trading as they go about 
in cooing communication on where to find
the best location for popcorn & breadcrumbs 
with the least amount of competition

you see, this black poem is not about race.

this is about american heritage (except 
for the british motorcycle mentioned above, 
culturally balanced at the statue’s base 
by 3 distinct emojis that change daily, but still): 

a riveting contemporary likeness


why no neck?” questions the whitest 
of critics for whom unblemished marble 
was made artismal, as sacrosanc as a birthright; 
if this, as you say, is about culture then why no place 
below the headless head to hold a proper lynch? 
your black poems are all a lie. please, leave us.


you see, this cord of rope, from the very start,
is a white poem about resistance & representation.


the unbeknownst rhythms 
from reanimated tongues
are often hashtagged 
as “the droning on of the heavyhanded” 
within some outdated owner’s manual

the library of stitches in our chest 
deemed an inconsequence 
because our wounds—to some—were 
not so recent and were simply canonized 
as the droning on of mules—or in cozier 
post-production: the goddamn melodies 
of niggardly maladroits decomposing

but that secret is told slant

for when the make of any popular model 
is discountinued, it’s utterly useless (as is well-known)
to update an outdated owner’s manual.

it’s best, by then,
to burn the gravures
and begin anew.

Abolition Is A Form Of Lycanthropy

i stumble into a poem i want to write where a child 
is eating a wolf / i’m concerned for the child, if only 
for a second, so i say “say child, just how did you 
come to, uhh, be eating this wolf?” of course, 
the wolf of is dead with its wide, weary eyes

say child, this wolf didn’t just, uhh, roll up & deliver 
itself fully plated, so what work of delivery app is this?

the child (blood on his or her hands, blood dripping from
his or her lips, bites through a bloodied, pelted paunch)
grunts and crouches closer, guarding her or his conquest
the child, snarled in sanguined symmetry, growls at me

hands up i back away

in the periphery of this poem, the wolf-devouring 
eyes of forest urchin sparkle in the surrounding dark, 
dozens upon dozens—tiny gems of slight inquiry reflect 
my impending genocide… then a child in the distance 
child-howls like a half-eaten wolf… branches crack 
in the not-so-distant dark…unless it’s my dry brittle bones 
snapping like branches, every unpruned bough of this 
poem a newly minted metaphor for bone marrow
—my application for a national prize complete

feet up, the dead wolf’s paws begin to cycle
drawing circles in the air at a quickening pace, 
a dead end dreaming of escape… longing for 
the run; the hunt; to feed itself the hand it bites…

blood-streaked child, i do not have the time for this;
goddammit, i don’t even recall coming to these woods!

with blood in his or his teeth, she, the snarl-bodied child 
is smiling; leader of the fucking pack but who’s behind it:
capitalistic abolitonists? representational patriarchy? elevator 
pitch for under-funded sci-fi? neoliberal art journals financed 
by conservatives? this modern avant-gardism just isn’t for me: 
merwin and dickinson are the child; i, the half-eaten wolf.

i awoke this morning hungry for figs
and a simple draught of honey for my tea.

the shoes of the fisherman’s wife might be some jive ass slippers but her nightgown is a fishnet

my fingers drop anchor drop into the sea of you
each knuckle joint below your turbulent crest / each knuckle
a kraken, an at-earth’s-end dragon, rattling the bones of atlantis
sunken in songs soft and seismic

each finger an anchor and i am moored to how your flotsum foams
four of your twice-four tentacles thrashing  the octopus that 
at last  discovers
in undulation  flight  
each wave full of salt and thunder and your own two lungs 
thrown as wide as single sail to the wind  mending the nets.

upfromsumdirt is the author of four chapbooks and the full-length collection, Deifying A Total Darkness (Harry Tankoos Books, 2020) available through upfromsumdirt. He is a 2010 winner of Kentucky’s Al Smith Award for Art (as Ronald Davis), whose visual work has graced the covers of The African American Review, Tidal Basin Review, Mythium Literary Journal, and various book covers for a variety of published authors. You can view his portfolio at, and if so moved you can find him across the spectrum of social media sites.

Selected Works, Tom Snarsky

Heart Vegetation Coming In Thick 

I’m studying bug populations in fields 
where airplanes have crash-landed, to see 
how long they remember the heat——days, 
weeks, generations?——if it leads 
to any long-term complications 
or (maybe) any adaptations we wouldn’t 
usually call “accidental” 
in quite this sense, a gray wing 
to match the ash (hide in it, 
obviously, not light it again) or an 
uncanny ability to metabolize the new 
humus all that death 
now reaches downward towards, 
as though a confused dreamer’s hand. 



I grew up surrounded 
By trees so I always thought lightning 
Was hard to see, finding 
The exact bolt, anyway, in a full flash 
Of sky above the canopies. Now 
Where I live storms 
Can be contained over the mountain 
’s shoulder, angry clouds 
Hotwiring the earth, which is a whole 
Different way of understanding 
Thunder——broad, but not 
Total, something you can cover 
With a fist or your favorite song 
But who has just one of those anymore 


I do 
It’s called “October” & it’s by 
Jackson C. Frank 
Here’s a link 
I don’t think many people listen 
To that particular upload 
The algorithm’s buried it 
Under other ones 
& covers 
So when I see the view count go up 
I’ll wonder if maybe it’s you 
Dear reader 


We’re ok 
In the global mist of moonbeams 
We’re ok 
With the little blood of flowers 
We’re ok 
On the mountain on the mountain 
We’re ok 
Picking up the turtle 
We’re ok 
Shepherding him over 
We’re ok 
With how he peed on us a little 
We’re ok 
& he is ambling toward the river 


The longest I have ever been silent 
Is nothing 
Compared to the longest I will ever be silent 
Don’t worry I’ve set my spirit 
To auto-loop poems by Georg Trakl  
In my inner voice forever 
When I die, so it won’t be silent 
In the coffin or the urn——
There will be deer 
A sister 
Reds & greens & blues 
& there won’t be 
That rotten underline 
Below Trakl’s name 


The longest I have ever been silent 
Was a full performance 
Of H.I.F. Biber’s Mystery Sonatas 
(Aka the Copper-Engraving Sonatas) 
By Christina Day Martinson 
In Boston 
In 2017 
My relationship was falling apart 
Twin Peaks was about to come out 
*Come back 
I was about to ghost 
A whole organization of Maoists 
& I lost all feeling 
In my legs 


“The Minimal” by Theodore Roethke 
Has 3.2 stars 
Can’t believe I dignified that 
With two links 
Two lines 
In this poem 
Maybe so I can use this 
As a kind of 
Penitent practice 
Beat myself over the head 
Until I see 
.2 stars 


purple balloons 


It’s brutal quiet on the pond 
Foggy water 
Fallen tree 
The catfish making public 
Their aversion to corn 
Mr. Toad hopping the byways 
Baby deer becoming 
Adolescent deer becoming 
Adult deer becoming 
Failed plums on the roadside 
I love the mail 
Not getting it 
Like a joke 
About motherhood 


Dragging the pond like in a cartoon 
Stick a stage-hook cane in the mud 
& pull 
Free Merlin 
Disturb Roethke’s 
“stone-deaf fishes” 
The sign fish 
Cutting through the water 
Like a bad idea 
I ask my mother-in-law 
What she thinks of the phrase 
Both signs 
Near the mouth 


the warm sutures 


Lately I haven’t been remembering 
My dreams, like at all, so 
I’ll invent one: 
Setting is your mom’s house 
On Washington St. 
You just got a giant spider & a snake 
& put them in the same glass 
& when I ask you 
If that’s advisable or ok you laugh 
Spit cherry pits at me 
& I pick them all up 
I’m losing the breath control 
I’m losing 


A hind interrupts the parade 
Of male animals 
& incomplete stars 
The easiest place to find 
Information about deer 
Terminology is on 
Hunting websites 
My body is one 
Of the purple balloons 
From Jack Spicer 
’s Book of Magazine Verse 
“all cast off together into a raining sky” 
Readily punctured 


mitered corners 


We’re ok 
Hiding fathers in the rainbow 
We’re ok 
Gathering costmary 
We’re ok 
With the whale-shaped laundry basket 
We’re ok 
Putting almost nothing in it
We’re ok 
Telling stories to the swingset 
We’re ok 
Wrist broken by the slide 
We’re ok 
& the cast comes off on Sunday 


A dance
A dance 

How to Construct a Circle Given Three Points  

The cat is trying to sleep 
off his neck wound from the fox 

It’s deep 
caterpillared with blood 

But he is alive
& snoring 

Sawing wood 
in the barn 

He lacks 
a concept of luck 

But even if he had one 
the pain when he wakes up 

He’ll groom himself 
& not need it

Tom Snarsky is a math teacher who writes poems. His book Light-Up Swan is available from Ornithopter Press

White Mountain Deep or Stars Threw Down, AE Reiff


It might be the sky but it might be the wind, 
leaving the tent at night in the cold and then not for long. 
You don't get up to hear the coyotes
howling in the range of cross riffs 
and minor notes of the stars.
Interminable I wade through night chest deep.
Turn, restless, turn again. Left side, right side,
back, hope to get escape with dreams, 
wake minutes later, there is no watch, 
but if you can get beneath, like the covers, 
of sleeping bag, the red Hudson's Bay,
the shirts over feet frozen at the bottom of the tent,
then the wind can dance its pile drives
and strokes of mountains leeward can be the dream.

The wind shakes the tent, shakes the aspen up high, descends. 
I wait to be lifted off the ground,
figure to figure out something in the event, 
but then it blows off, new meaning to zephyr 
Blow wind, crack the wind of Pentecost
shake the house. It shakes the mountain now. 
The elk feel it, don't cry, or can't be heard. 
The wind extinguishes everything but itself. 
I know the power of fire and flood, but air is not benign,
blows the elk, coyotes and bear to shelter, 
It doesn't blow the stars.

Under the tree I play them back on the closed eye screen
bright now, Orion rises late in fall. 
I count on it to bring the dawn, 
figure it is maybe three AM,
which gives hope with an air mattress 
and a foot warming wife who accepts them into her thighs.

What does the foot that gets to Nirvana say to the one behind?
"Just one more step."
What does the foot in Nirvana say to the one behind?
"There's no pain hereafter."
What does the cold foot say to the hot?
"Remember me." 
 What does the hand say to the foot 
when the cold foot hotfoots it into warmth?
This goes on through the middle of the night.
Red Antares stares at the mountain. 
The meadow to be alive in gold is dark.
All is light. All is bright.
The shadows of dawn, the chow's ears,
the smoke of the fire, coyote song,
elk breaking notes over their knees 
for the fire of dry aspen. 
Even the lonely men in their pickups, 
who patrol the back forest 
where we have gone to escape 
the pipe lines blasting, sleep. 
They can't see an elk in the wood that our boys track,
manage not to get gored by the climacteric of want.
The want. The eye patch. The meaning of cold. 
The trunklessness fallen from fires a decade ago.

AE Reiff is a singer and storyteller who lives in the upper Sonoran Desert. His ceramic murals depict these currents of the wild. He is a native of Philadelphia with two recent collections, The True Light That Lights (Parousia Christian Poetry Chapbook, 2020), and Recon (Trainwreck Press, 2021).

Six Pieces, Verónica Cabanillas


Barco-atardecer ancla sobre la playa

El boxedor

El sol negro explota sobre el oceàno pacìfico

La mujer surrealista

La vision del sol

Ser vagina

Verónica Cabanillas Samaniego (Lima, Perú 1981)

Surrealista desde el vientre hasta consumarse. Poeta del ser. Pintora y dibujante; vertedora de universos paralelos. Soñadora ferviente de todos los mundos imposibles para hacerlos posibles aquí y hoy. Sombra negra que atravesó el delirio para poder ver los subterráneos mundos del cosmos interior y exterior, y sacar de allí, la formula de una salvación en curso. Luz violenta y brillante que subvierta nuestra terrible condición humana.

Ha expuesto en Europa y Latinoamérica con el surrealismo internacional, y han sido publicados poemas, dibujos y pinturas en publicaciones de diferentes partes del mundo como, Francia, Colombia, España, Canadá, Egipto, Inglaterra, Brasil, Chile, Bolivia, Usa, Costa Rica.

The belly of the dog, Alexandros Zochios


            Everyday, when I come home from work, I notice one of my personal objects has gone missing. The last one was a framed photo of myself in front of the Eiffel tower. Before that, my suit, which I left hanging on the chair for work; only some linen strips were scattered on the wooden floor. That’s why I suspected it was my dog. That and the guilt in her puppy-eyes. One other time I discovered a feather here and there from the pillow that I place over my favorite spot on the sofa – like leftovers of prey hunted in the countryside. I even asked for advice from a trainer and all he told me was that she suffers from separation anxiety. I think she is just hungry all the time.

            While I am away from home I wonder what she has swallowed this time. She has already made my collection of Shakespeare’s sonnets disappear. I imagine her bloated stomach struggling to digest each verse, each page, while they twirl endlessly in her tummy. I know she is not normal. I knew ever since I found her: tiny and weak in a hole in the ground. But I wouldn’t give her away, I love her too much.

            Now, at long last, she has found a way to open my bedroom door. That’s how she made the photo of my trip on my bedside table vanish. She seems to choose everything that is valuable to me. Maybe that’s her purpose: to devour the world around me. The house is now empty, stripped naked from everything that suggests I've ever lived here, apart from the sofa where my dog with her starving eyes, is now lying upon. Next to her I sit, waiting. My memories are somewhere inside her belly, as if she has built my home inside of her. Though, her starving eyes are letting me know that it is not yet complete. Her teeth are sharp enough so as to not leave any traces. It’s time for me to lie down, under her open mouth.

Alexandros Zochios works at I.T. in Athens, Greece. He has been published in a Greek speculative fiction anthology, as well as, in a Greek sci-fi magazine and he wants to reach English-speaking readers. His last two flash stories have been published in English. One of them in "all the sins" and the other in the "Conversations" anthology published by Kingston University Press (2018).

Two Poems, Marika Preziuso

Accents: A Manifesto

I booked a blow job at two - I declare
to the large man at a London Supercut. 
A blow ….what?  shouts he over blasting dryers 
Sounding hopeful.

21, holding a tiny dictionary in my left hand.
Freshly off my boat.

How are you doing honey? asks the lady 
At the college town check-out, somewhere south.
and all I do is unravel my immigrant drama,
 a line of impatient patrons growing out my back. 
Hoping - but suspecting - that she did not mean 
how I was really doing.

32, on a student visa without credit cards. 
Freshly off my boat.

An accent is an accent is an accent.
An accent is welcome/exotic/ shame-filled/ opting silence. 
An accent is charming. Curiosity Invited. Beguiling.
An accent is cilantro/garnish/ decorative/ lovely.

An accent is an exit door, a deceptive map, an escape plan.
An accent straddles two worlds.
At least.

An accent is the estrangement of family.
Mis-translating ahead. All the time. 
Faking spontaneity, when family is obvious scheming & fault lines.

An accent is code-switching, confused dreaming, 
Emboldened Scusa & Ti voglio bene & Per sempre.
Of a secret love language until your lover 
Types these in Google Translate.

An accent is a stubborn escoria of places never quite home:
When Cuba no longer welcomed my interviews to political exiles,
When London rents went off the roof,
When I stopped being Elena Ferrante 
for Americans who never spent more than three days in Naples ( you say is safe there?),
When Rome became too dump and provincial,

I handed a pile of fears at customs.

I kept an accent, 
The only betrayal I still trust.

Smagliature di significato: A Palimpsest Poem

Una silhouette di donna of a certain age,
una figura incerta,
from behind, leaning over her son
in a sunny avenue.
Una calza smagliata. 
Solo una.
And I think: how familiar,
How dishonest, perturbante,
a map can be
when worn down to the bone. 
How precious, how delicate 
is mother’s fabric on my skin
that opens up, loosens up
Her words
are smagliature di significato:
They either cluster or intermit,
her silk tearing up, 
trailing stubbornly behind my story
always ahead of it.
I lean towards her mouth to listen 
and I am in awe 
with the many layers of meaning
She is not aware of.
Beneath her common sense 
and uncommon sadness
my mother’s heart smaglia.

Marika Preziuso is Professor of World Literature at the Massachusetts College of Arts and Design, in Boston (MA), where she teaches 20th century and contemporary postcolonial literature by migrant and diasporic writers, speculative fiction of the uncanny and Afrofuturist literature.  Marika is a trilingual writer, a RYT yoga instructor, and a meditation guide. She infuses the embodied, reflective qualities of these practices in her poetry, which investigates various states of liminality and mis-translation and the ways these complicate any poetic intersection of self, craft, and culture. Marika’s recent poetry experiments with strategies of linguistic resistance and cultural opacity to challenge nation-bound imaginaries of Americanness, Britishness, Italianness (among other "-nesses"), and their attendant exoticization of "foreign others". For more about Marika’s work and writing, visit

Three Poems, Philip Chijioke Abonyi

Origin of water 

everything cloudy
has water inside it
when you dissect 
tears what exactly 
do you find 
if not a dark images? 
rivers are women
weeping over their dead juveniles
streams are girls who misplaced
their innocence in the territory of dogs 
seas are the survivors of war 
mourning the dead 
lakes are men grieving 
silently over their lives.
water is not colorless/
tasteless or odorless
it is dark in the eyes of a child whose mother is drowning
bitter in the mouth of a shadow lost in love & torment 
sweet on any skin caressed by sunlight. every human is a solidified water
that liquidizes under the heat of hurt. 


my mother says she feels
a heavily loaded trailer running
in the symmetric street in her back,
sometimes it drives down to her waist 
and parks there, 
each time her eyes gallop far into her skull 
and her torso takes the look of a broomstick. 
ten years ago I remember
a medic jerks out her blood and says it's not dirty. go home she will be fine. she walked home only to sit on the jaws of pain that teeth her into hopeless shadow. 
we recoup a cold water 
to suppress the fire on her waist 
as every night she becomes screams 
and sighs 
wishing for everything dark to swallow her
we make fire some days when she becomes snow wishing for sunlight
we sit near her eyebrows
cheering her eyes up
so there won't be rainfall. sometimes it seems her tread of life is about kissing 
the lips of scissors/
fear becomes soldiers marching into our body/ we burn ourselves in prayer 
psalm after psalm
until this trailer drives away to visit again 
the coming year. it's again the time 
my mother says she is hearing 
a horn somewhere in her body 
everything she holds is falling apart
I recoil into my bones 
praying that it won't be the trailer. someone tell me please,
how can my mother block this road?
if the pain is a living thing, when'll it die?
This annual visitor wants to go home 
with my mother. Never.

living behind walls

mother says there is no way
to Jerusalem for the shadows
that cannot reflect,
darkness means—to hit your 
head on the floor/run your hands
around your beads,
or to give kola nut to the sun, seek
life from the torso of yesterdays.
I grew up in my mother's reflection,
my room is built in the pages 
of bibles. the only road I know is from genesis to revelation,
mother always tell me
this is where I will find my allies. 
say psalm is a friend to be trusted in times of thunder, 
John is the only key that unlocks the 
body of God.
I grew up carrying walls to places,
Chioma who lives next door has tried to climb the wall
but my mother said there is a devil in her mini skirt.
Okon was devasted waiting for a day 
I will fly across for us to join the city butterflies. 
Aisha tested grief in my mother's words 
when she tried to share her tongue with me.
I grew up knowing how to run away
from voices,
how to hide from the conversation
of streets,
or crawl into a shell of silence when there are noises 
of mosque or mausoleum.
I grew up knowing 
how to walk into my mother's body 
and lock the door behind shadows with opaque,
I never cross the wall to know the world.

Philip Chijioke Abonyi was born at Nsukka in the igbo country of the east state of Nigeria. He was educated at Government College(Css) Ada Obollo Etiti and Anambra state polytechnic. He has lived an active literary life uplifting modern African Literature. His poetry is noted for its artistry, descriptive power and the way in which he draws on his locality for imagery and ideas. He was shortlisted for Eriata Oribhabor Poetry Prize, 2018. His work has appeared in African writer's magazines, AceWorld, Eve magazine, qwenu, Allpoetry, Tushstories, spriNG, Praxis magazine, Eboquill, Nantygreens, and elsewhere.  

Selected Works, Kenneth Wagner

Today’s Version of Us  
we are bears on the verge of suicide
doors with no sense of direction

we are white doves misused in a deep angry war
by worn windows and rust-colored chains
and the back fence is trying to say it’s not leaving
as old berries thorn under our tree 

we are apples that sit in cheap seats with drunks
we hear harps play on steps to a bridge

the earth has gone and surrounded us again
and oceans have lifted their skirts 
and you tell me we are more circles than squares 
with some untied knots east of here
and I tell you today is our own copper time
because tomorrow we live in midair

light pours in these curious days - warping
floorboards and worrying leather chairs
ceiling fans ticker below web-draped 
rafters   doors list in frames   window panes leak 
and the house expands and contracts with the day 

how like me this building slowly fades
path worn and lived in with chipped baseboards 
and buckling walls that mimic
our mutual descent

just as the wobbly banister 
and crooked stairs report the weight of age
the orchestral creak of the front door hinge
tunes to the settling of the house 
and synchronizes 
our calamity   perfectly

I Only Remember the Moment
Do you remember that thought that slanted 
like sunshine through the glass 
then reflected into a greater idea and grew
out past my imagined self 

little snaps of light crackling in front of me
as the idea dripped on the back of my tongue
and I spoke the thought turned idea in one breath 

I was glazed over with the knowledge
sitting in that chair   I couldn’t believe
I had captured a meaning so huge   

the weight of thought bent around 
and absorbed into me   wiping away
the remnants of uncertainty

it was formed so perfectly clear even 
the dog nodded in agreement

that deep question only gods answer

The Geometry Teacher
a truncated cone 
with soft blue eyes
and rumpled clothes

he taught dimensional
zero in a monotone voice
that made heads loll

he saw only shapes 
not colors   and knew
no one else could see

the triangular birds
the warm air

in a quiz   he’d whiffle
down the aisle   his worn
corduroy slacks whispering

him to the back of the class
where he’d stare out 
the rectangular windows

and dream
of rhombus flowers
hiding quadrilateral cats

I’d find a room in the bark of an old pine tree
and in the morning raft the ridges
to the forest floor   then burrow under
needles and leaves to the spa of a nurse log

I could hang suspended over Saguaros
in the retinal nerve of a vulture’s eye
rising and falling on thermal air
to see how dead bodies look like a banquet 

wouldn’t it be nice to be the wall the fly lands on

and how peaceful to spend a week
as a broken window in an abandoned house
the tension of holding off weather relaxed
the constant fear of rock-toting boys dismissed

I could lounge on the half-drawn page of an animator’s desk after dark

or pitch a tent inside a circle left 
on the chalkboard in a second-grade class
while the summer sun heats the scent 
of white paste and watercolor paint

but I’ve settled for this long drive with the dog
over a pass to a two lane straight away 
where warm air buffets my ears 
and the dog   head out the back-seat window
pants to the beat of inconsistent fence posts 

Kenneth Wagner lives in the Pacific Northwest; he has had the fortune being David Wagoner’s student and teaching assistant at Hugo House in Seattle for eleven years.  Kenneth has also taught poetry, art, and theatre in primary schools (pre-pandemic) and found that third graders are the most daring artistically and physically - of the K-12 lot that call themselves kids.