A Reverie in Joyce Kilmer Forest by Madeline Waechter

The sign told me this was a virgin forest.
Never touched by the saws and logging trucks.
If I sob my translucent tears all alone,
will anyone ever know I am depressed?
My feet shuffle through detritus.
A whisper of rustling leaves kisses my ears.
Only I hear the crack and groan of death.
7:18 in the morning,
dressed my old emerald sweater
and faded blue jeans,
the mourning doves and blue jays
serenade me with an aubade.
They sing for me, who left you in bed.
For me, whose love is deciduous.
I shed my feelings annually,
like the crimson leaves that cascade from trees.
The amethyst you put on my ring finger
must be the soul of the hyacinths that line this trail.
Saccharine scents floating through the zephyr of arboreal terrain.
I always thought I was the leaves of the tree,
and you were the steady trunk.
You always knew I would disappear in the winter.
The chill of December,
never my burden to bear.
In the sylvan woods,
Spring has sprouted.
My soul is reborn —
and you,
you are right where I left you.
The sign told me this was a virgin forest.
Never touched by the saws and logging trucks.
Mother Nature is its only architect.

Baptism Under the Maple Tree by Madeline Waechter

Vermillion hues tornado.
I let them kiss me on the descent.
Alive again,
I’m alive again.
Under the harvest moon,
absolve me of my terrors—
for mother, I have sinned.
Embrace me with gnarled limbs.
I worship in your waters,
fingers graze the pale bark of your skin,
two beings never more akin.
I lift my chalice to you, old friend.
my baptism under the maple tree
the rushing river’s end.

Emma by Riley Barnes

Oldest, truest friend
Bound by blood of an unknown pedigree
We share many things, past titles
Like memories of when our beds laid parallel, between the same walls
                               Now, they are separated by mountain ranges,
                               and ambition
Distance has made part of her a stranger--
She sings in a language I do not speak,
Talks of names and lands I do not know
Though, the mother-tongue has not been abandoned,
Its syntax, unchanged
We exchange it in low tones, only interrupted by toothbrushes and foaming spit                        
Mom tells stories of when we were girls
And when she was but a curly-headed pantomime
Ruddy knees and wobbly calves, dancing the same strange dances of coming of age
Now, her orbit is her own
In all its glorious waxing
                    and waning
She hangs her own stars these days, with a vision I have not inherited
                Perhaps not even a gift of the loin, but of her own making
She rearranges Orion, hums as she works
Casting a once concrete form as her own
When her steady chore is done, she takes a step back,
Wipes her hands,
Next, her brow
And hurriedly moves on to Andromeda

For a Friend by Lauren Mercer

Orange surroundings
Awaken in your sheets,
Folded in between blankets of mist
fawns frolic in a meadow full of flowers you must have planted in a previous life
Tracing outlines of a timepiece in the sky
Moving days like flowers growing on a vine
Creeping up that brown house
They make their way inside to hold you close and keep you safe
Hoping your life is as kind as they imagine a god to be
Today is a special day
Granted a lavender evening
Out the window moonlight refracts off the midnight water’s surface
Floating in your direction engulfing you in warmth,
where a woman is pointing at you in harmony with the violet rays of light.
She’s smiling because your happy
And she’s there in your happiness
I think of all the time I have to spend with you
Rolling hills we sit atop watching evening stars
And in the night the stars scatter
fall upon your bed
Covered in gold dust you sleep softly in pleasant dreams that could last a lifetime
I hope you feel gentleness surround you
And fade into a deep sleep until tomorrow

For Better or Worse, This is the Last Time We Ever Speak by SK Osborn
I am a boring person now.
I stopped kissing strangers & drinking Popov.
I stopped making a certain kind of mistake & filled its space
with so many others. I smoke more now than I used to back then.
Back when you thought I had a problem but really I was a virginal saint.
Back when I thought I was unhappy in the world but it was really
just the home I had tried to make for myself here.
I am afraid of my father, ghosts, and a few other things.
This much has remained the same.
I still carry the same suitcases from my childhood home.
I still carry the same shapes of my old shame.
The pink box of my old baby teeth & other things I’ve outgrown—
The space between your fingers. The dress that makes me
beautiful. The dress that makes me sick. The wound my mother left
even though she wanted to be gentle.
There is forgiveness & then there is coming home
& then there is me on the interstate with my sour breath & dirty nails.
The split lip of my own old home is a bruise I keep pressing
because I have nothing better to do with my hands.
I wouldn’t come back & you wouldn’t take me.
In a perfect world, the story ends here.
Look at me now, if you must. Take a final, starving picture
to store in your stomach like the pit of a spoiled fruit.
Laugh to yourself. Snarl. Spit.
Lament my morbid & thrilling undoing.
Carry my ghost or bury it. I would never know the difference.

Holding Tightly Enough to Keep But Not to Break by SK Osborn

The difference is in the fingertips. It’s nothing
to do with intention.
The bird bones we found in the backyard—
I did not mean to crush them. Gingerly, you said,
& gingerly is what I meant.
I could have dropped them.
I was terrified of loss. Of losing.
Of asphalt’s unforgiving nature.
Instead, I found grief down a different road,
hands clenched in safekeeping. I would not let go
& then, snap!
Body betrays desire. I wanted to be gentle & wasn’t.
Does this make me a bad god? A good one?
In any case, bone shattered in the palm of my hand.
My blood blushing at the surface. The vague sense of your
Gingerly, gingerly.
You split the soft earth, I lay the bones inside.
God or no god, intention or no intention,
the story is the same:
Hands. Fervor. A grief so large
we could not hold it.

I Love You… by Lilah Philips

You were the only one to touch me the way you did.
The trailing of the fingers,
the gentle caresses.
And with every touch my blood learned how to sing your name
Til the melody spilled over my lips
I love you
I mouthed to you in the pool
I love you I whispered in our shower
I love you I screamed against the hand pressed against my mouth
I love you I said
So softly
Hoping you were asleep
Hoping you were awake
On that last day
I didn’t tell you I loved you
It wouldn’t have changed anything

Industrial Resonance by Ember Jones

I sit in the back stairwell
and breathe in the little spaces
each letter.
A quiet, submissive moment spent
hunkered in the dim. Outside, I listen to
a chorus of cicada, a familiar hum
burrowed just underneath
all that awkward stillness. Inside, strange
yellow fluorescent lights are
to mollify the rhythm
of the cicada.
Somewhere in the distance, an elevator
beeps and whirs softly, dutifully making
a slow lurching
stop at each
floor, grudgingly filling her belly with
the knobby elbows and knees and
gangly fingers of
hungry dreamers and vomiting
them back out again at the
bottom floor. I feel her tendons
aching as she rises again
through the dull, hollow shaft, humming
quietly to herself in the gloom
to mollify
the dark.
Time doesn’t pass like it usually
does, buried here, just underneath
the strange yellow corner
of the stairwell. I let myself grow a
little older. I am thousands of bodies
lonelier in a swarm of cicadas, each humming
its own rhythm,
I listen. I am
lurching slowly through
every emotion groaning deep
and low in my stomach, every little
breath drawn achingly
between the spaces of each
tiny letter.
I find myself humming
to the sound of the
cicadas and the elevator, careful
not to draw attention to
the body in the corner of the strange
yellow stairwell, hunkered
in the dim.

June 27 by Haven Meacham

What rare hour can you spare?
Only our star's dearth brings you to the garden.
You seem so clear, yet I wonder under what shade you will choose to sit.
Guided in an orchard of pain,
you circle back to find the center.
The basket laid bare, Pomona's jewelry dangles in your grasp.
Warmth swells low,
A fire moon in two cupped hands.
I'll kneel at your alter
My lust, like some third objective body,
will cover you.
Cinnamon and musk,
I bow my head and drink.
I press my offerings on you;
and gentle as a wing, you push back.
Spreading and blooming like some foreign vine,
There are no traps here;
Only me, insensate in my giving.
Orange juice and nectarines,
Hot baths and the sweat between my breasts.
Soothing the dissatisfaction of summer,
melon dew, and sugar-slick,
Venus will idealize Neptune.
I'll sip at the spilled wine;
and take whatever I can get.
Your rings round my fingers,
the fruit of dreams.
Love with a sacrifice of decency.
There is a deep well of new prayers,
but no golden dawn will crest to brush our skin

Lían by Riley Barnes

Shotgun rider—
The car heavies from applauding the sunrise
And stories from home
She talks of perpetual eighty-degrees, her father’s boat, and the tidepool she frequents
Isoprene and fog cannot dull her scent of sea breeze,
Or the fruit she grows in her backyard
Instead, she turns it into a different kind of blue,
One that binds mountain to the sea
Though the tidepool she speaks of is shallow,
And its depth wavers,
Her passion is waist-deep;
I see it when we talk about God
At the screaming infancy of morning
Other times, she is silent
Like praying in the passenger seat
As the car’s boxy frame slides and spins and drifts across iced backroads
              (I am glad she was the one pleading quietly,
              I do not know if my heathen calls would be answered as fast)
Or when she falls asleep under the weight of fractions and informative writing
Just like when she was a baby, she tells me,
When her mother would drive her around the island
To soothe her little mind
Miles and miles from tidepools, I wonder
How does one manage to make a space feel so much like home,
While being so far from it?

Memoria by Madison Stone

please tell me I am good
gather up my soft and
       scattered pieces and
              rebuild me in your image
please tell me I am easy to love
please tell me I take up space like a coat rack
please tell me how this house will unravel when I am gone
       how the floorboards will pry themselves loose and
       the paint will bubble and
                peel off in flower-petal flecks
                of ash
the sun is down and I am here dressed
        in white linen and
        puffy sleeves, please
don’t throw a sheet over my head and call me a ghost
        please know that I am still alive
        please tell me that I am still alive
my body is not a temple my body is
a haunted house, please
        haunt me, please
        linger in my periphery, please
        walk these halls of mine barefoot and bathed
                in moonlight, please
don’t leave me vacant holding this silence in the hollow of my chest, please-
please think of me when I’m not there
please leave a spot for me at the breakfast table
please do not consider me gone
please tell me I am here again and
       again and

Moon-rhythm by Cayleigh Brown

Lust looks good on me, I think.
Like the low-cut tops showing off
the plenty of your teeth, calling card
of want & have. The way you beam each time before
you kiss me hard, moon-rhythm, I’m understanding now
the draw of the garrick & stays.
Own more pink these days than my closets ever expected
to fit, another record, hung neatly beside
the fresh-ironed feeling of us joined at the hips.
It’s never been in style, this guiltlessness
I find myself wandering through lately,
but would you look at that, it’s in my size.
Might as well smooth my hands contentedly down
the fresh tectonics of my own body before
we give them something to talk about: you
in that button-down you know turns my head,
me in a dress I've never worn & won’t for long.

Simon by Amelia Rhodes

White paint chips on the garage door,
you sit right in front of it,
criss cross applesauce,
caramel candy in your mouth.
You never match your own fantasies,
your own perception of who you could
it has a way of wearing you
There are traces of what it means to be lovely
in your stride,
and each step has trouble hiding you.
The air holds pieces of you in its elusive
your hair, your scent, your breath.
I want to leave you on our collapsing
with the decade-old yellow Capri Sun straws embedded in
the cracks,
the wasps that nest in the moldy striped umbrellas
Dad bought when we moved in,
March ’83.
I could just
drive away in the rusted Ford,
leave the ancient tabby cats to starve,
leave the tap water on,
forget you tensing your hands
on the blue chair every grandkid unwraps their
birthday presents on.
Remind me of why I am here again,
can you?
I hear the drip in the sink in your never ending
of a kitchen,
I am the only one you don’t fold at the
sight of.
Who hurt you?,
presses into me, biting and
can you not see that I too have been
There are endless cleaning days,
endless cycles that pull at me,
tear you apart.
You are
the loudest silence.
You are what it means to really
There is a house down the street we pass
on walks after dinner,
you got your first kiss there when you were
tell the story like no one has ever heard it,
walking on air that night,
you loved it.
I can wrap you up in more balmy days when
I was in college and you were just a kid
wandering North Raleigh roads,
I can leave you to your firsts,
pray your lasts are not so soon.
I sometimes try to sleep,
you are constant and still,
the blue glow of the television
igniting you,
you have your thumb in your mouth,
like a child.
We both wake up to the drip of the
kitchen sink,
I guess I can stay a little

So Long by Kristian Brown

It’s been so long that I’ve been here.
The leaves are changing again–
falling and floating down into
shallow moving streams and still puddles, stagnant
between moss covered rocks
like bits of of orange and yellow confetti or
sprinkles on a birthday cake
or fish food flakes that miss the mouths and sink to settle
onto the bottom.
It should be so beautiful–
when bright falling flashes of decay
slalom from treetops on a downward course through crisp mountain air.
It is beautiful. I know that.
It’s just been so long
since I’ve seen it.
Three years, now
since that fall,
When the light was lost in me
and the whole wide world
went dark.
And the leaves changed
and they fell
as I fell,
as I
opened my mouth to suck in the air but swallowed
the water,
breathed deeply down
this cold, dark mountain water, where then
a single, yellow leaf
bright and dying
flowed in and down and settled
into the stagnant, mossy nook between two rocks
where my heart used to be.
Since then,
nothing has moved me or moved
in me.
It was as beautiful then as it is now, I’m sure.
But still, I cannot see it.

Terminus by Madison Stone

there is nothing profound in the quiet that follows.
        no bird-song or ivy overtaking
        that shell of a city, and
no foxes dozing
       in the rib cage of a house
and when Prometheus is gone to ash
      in the soft and tender throat
      of some divine carrion
             leaking crimson tar on the side of the road
      the eagle with the bent neck
      will not rouse
no soft rains will fall, and
the soot will not descend like flecks
        of snow, tumbling
        to rest on the tip of your tongue
trees will not burst from cracks
in those vestigial streets like
        forgotten limbs,
        reaching towards the overpass
this place is not a place of honor
         there is no art in this suffering

Three Versions of the Self: A Pantoum by Ember Jones

One by one, step by step.
I think that you could conquer the world like this,
those dark, lustrous vines crawling towards the light,
though you are smaller than you will ever be.
I think that you could conquer the world like this,
just you and your notebook and the things you claim as your own.
My dear, though you are smaller than you have ever been,
you stare down the black shadow of the future, unmoving,
just you and your notebook and the thoughts you claim as your own.
Do you feel the weight that the world presses on you
as you stare down that black, unmoving shadow?
I wonder where you found that courage, little girl.
You feel the weight of the world on your shoulders
and still you stand. Are you yet unsteady?
I wonder where you found that tenacity, little girl.
I did not make it for you—
so how do you still stand so unsteadily?
I slept and woke, and in the morning you were changed.
I know that I did not give it to you, though I wish I had,
this strange new fire, burning foolishly inside your chest.
I slept and woke and you were changed.
My dear, I grow slowly, gradually towards the light,
so unlike this strange, foolish new fire burning within you,
so unlike the little girl you used to be, idle and muted.
I reach for the light slowly and gradually, and
you are someone I won’t be for years—
so unlike who I am now, muted and idle.
I want to love you. I admire how you take up space.
But you are someone I won’t be for years yet,
though quiet and smaller than I will ever be.
I’m coming to love you, and to admire the space you will take up
because I know that you could conquer the world like this,

even though I am smaller than I have ever been.
We’ll just take things one by one, step by step.
You could conquer the world like this.
Dark, lustrous vines crawling towards the light.

When I Bought My First Pair of Roller Skates by Victoria Sykes

they gripped the blood
out of my feet and
swung me through the
dorm halls like a drunk wind.
I cruised indoors
the restaurant workers
on campus
Get the hell out of here!
until they kicked me out.
When I brought the skates
to my parents:
I think I might join derby,
they looked at them and me and:
If this is your way of telling us
you’re a lesbian,
you can leave.
So I left.
I’ve grown fond
of the taste of metallic
bloody salt in my mouth,
purple knees
inked arms
and lesbians.


Amelia Rhodes (Associate Editor)

Talina Perez

Emma Sikes

Jacob Taback

Tyler McDonald

Madeline Waechter

Ember Jones

Rachel Cooke

Kimberly Acosta-Flores

Alexis Marsh-Fennell