“Bursts of gold on lavender melting into saffron. It’s the time of day when the sky looks like it has been spray-painted by a graffiti artist.” – Mia Kirshner
Diana Manole is an award-winning Romanian-Canadian academic, writer, and literary translator. She published nine books (poems and drama) and thirteen scholarly articles/book chapters. She also translated or co-translated seven poetry collections, and, independently, two Roma plays from Romania, published in the English-language anthologies Roma Heroes (Hungary, 2019 & 2021). Diana co-won 2nd prize in the 2017/18 John Dryden Translation Competition.
Emil-Iulian Sude is one of the first award-winning poets of Roma ethnicity in Romania and a third-year student at the University of Bucharest, majoring in Romani and minoring in Romanian languages and literatures. He published three collections of poems and earned 18 awards, including the 2018 Diploma of Excellence for his contribution to the development and promotion of Roma culture and identity.
se află undeva în cele nespuse
şi tot scurmau cu ghearele cu dinţii
cu zâmbete şăgalnice câteodată
să se arate autorul poveştilor.
a cui şoptire nemăsurabilă şoptire
ce direcţie luau cele şoptite
ce acumulare de forţe se înnoda
de o parte şi de alta a liniei de demarcaţie
dintre cele gândite şi cele venite
sau măcar deschiderea porilor
spre ce punct cardinal
căldură sau frig emană din
ce energii îi favorizau plutirea
se închegau pentru surprinderea şoptirii
autorul le-a spus că este paznic de noapte
şi are tot timpul.
They knew that
he was somewhere in the unspoken
and they kept foraging with their claws
with their teeth
sometimes with mischievous smiles
to make the fairy tales’ author show himself.
whose whispers whose immeasurable whispers
what direction did the whispers take
what accumulation of forces got knotted
on either side of the demarcation line
between what’s thought and what comes
or at least toward what cardinal point
does the opening of the pores
emanate heat or cold off
the flexible void
what energies supported his floating
and congealed to catch the whispering
the author told them he was a night security guard
and had all the time in the world.
A încercat pietrei să se roage pietrei prin cioplirea pietrei
soarelui prin cioplirea soarelui. privea sub piatră şi nu
găsea. privea la soare şi în alte naturi să găsească ce-i
lipsea. în toate era graniţă. dureros mai era să simtă şi să
nu ştie. cu ce simţire să poată pipăi. zicea să nu fie vreo
confuzie. auzise de la învăţaţi numai unul este dintre cei
mulţi nu sunt.
s-a oprit. în loc s-a oprit. şi oprirea s-a oprit.
To the stone he tried to pray to the stone by carving the stone
to the sun by carving the sun. he looked under the stone and didn’t
find. he looked at the sun and at other parts of nature to find what he
was missing. in everything there was a border. it was so painful to
feel but not know. with what sense could he grope.
he wondered if there was some confusion. he had heard
from scholars that there is only one among
the many are not.
he stopped. he stopped still. and the stopping stopped too.
S-au apucat două femei să facă un poem
ca şi cum ar face dragoste. şi aşa lucrau ele
la dragoste. cu multă delicateţe lucrau la
dragoste din zori şi până în seară. să facă
dragoste. la altceva nu se pricepeau. fiecare
după măsura ei. una că vrea o dragoste mai
spre cer de ziuă. alta că vrea o dragoste
de noapte mai de întuneric. şi fiecare se
folosea pe rând de poemul acela ca şi cum
ar face dragoste ca şi cum l-ar iubi.
mult se mai minunau de frumuseţea şi de vastitatea lui.
că se dusese vestea. toată lumea cea
scriitoricească trecea pe la poem şi se minuna.
ce poem dom’le şi ce minunat. toţi voiau
să-l atingă şi să-l asculte de inimă. era viu
poemul acela aşa ca o dragoste. şi le părea
rău şi erau invidioşi că nu l-au făcut ei.
Two women started working on a poem
as if making love and that’s how they worked
on love. they worked very gently on
love from dawn to dusk. to make love. they weren’t
good at anything else. each one according to her
own standards. one that she wanted a kind of love
more like the daytime sky. the other that she wanted
night love more like darkness. and each of them
took her turn using that poem as if she made love
as if she loved it.
many marveled at its beauty and vastness.
for the news had gone all around. the entire beau monde
of the writers passed by the poem and marveled.
what a poem, sirrah, and what a wonder. all
wanted to touch it and listen to find its heart. alive was that
poem like one’s love. and they were sorry and
were jealous that they didn’t write it.
Ximena Gómez’s poems have appeared in numerous literary magazines, including Álastor, Círculo de Poesía, Nueva York Poetry Review, El Golem, Nagari, Hypermedia, World Literature Today, Matter, Cagibi, Interim, Nashville Review, Sheila-Na-Gig, The Laurel Review, andThe Wild Word, and she was a finalist for Best of the Net in 2018. She is the author of the poetry collections, Habitación con moscas (Madrid: Ediciones Torremozas, 2016), Cuando llegue la sequía (Ediciones Torremozas, 2021), the dual language poetry collection Último día / Last Day (Katakana Editores, 2019) and a new dual-language collection in collaboration with George Franklin, Conversaciones sobre agua/Conversations About Water (Katakana Editores, 2023). She translated into Spanish Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming(Penguin Random House Group, 2021), the bilingual poetry collection Among the Ruins / Entre las ruinas by George Franklin (Katakana Editores, 2018), and was a contributing translator to 32 Poems/32 Poemas of Hyam Plutzik (Suburbano Ediciones, 2021).
George Franklin’s most recent poetry collections are Remote Cities (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions, 2023), and a dual-language collaboration with Colombian poet Ximena Gómez, Conversaciones sobre agua/Conversations About Water (Katakana Editores, 2023). Individual publications include: Solstice, Rattle, Matter, Panoply, Cagibi, New York Quarterly, Sequestrum, Tar River Poetry, The Threepenny Review, and The Ekphrastic Review. He practices law in Miami and teaches poetry workshops in Florida prisons. Website: https://gsfranklin.com/
*poems translated by George Franklin and the author
Don’t Wait for Him, He Won’t Come Back
While the storm lashed at the house
and she waited for her man with a wound on his temple,
she watched his jeep coming, getting caught in the mud.
On the table, there was hot chocolate in a bowl
and a glass vase with plastic carnations.
The shelf was clean and stocked
with panela, beans, flour for corn cakes…
and on top of the cabinet, she’d placed
the picture of her husband with a candle.
Maybe it was an illusion what she saw in the distance.
But she thought she heard the tires skidding,
the sound of the saw cutting up trees
that the storm had toppled during the night,
and next to two rubberwoods the rain had stripped,
the car stranded on the road.
Inside, it was all prepared: the ceramic bowl
with chocolate cooled from the useless waiting,
the cheap vase with polyester flowers,
the bed with smooth, freshly laundered sheets,
the well-cleaned windows, and the heater,
and the woman who weeps, pressed against the window,
who knows it’s a lie what she sees in the distance,
who knows and repeats to herself:
Don’t wait for him, he won’t come back.
No lo esperes, no vuelve
Mientras la tempestad azotaba la casa
y esperaba a su hombre con la herida en la sien,
vio acercarse su jeep y atascarse en el barro.
Sobre la mesa había chocolate en tazón
y un florero de vidrio con claveles de plástico.
La estantería estaba limpia y abastecida
con panela, frijoles, harina para arepas…
y en el escaparate ella había plantado
la foto del marido con una veladora.
Quizá era una ilusión lo que veía a lo lejos.
Pero creía oír las llantas patinando,
el ruido de la sierra al cercenar los árboles
que la tormenta había tumbado por la noche
y al lado de dos cauchos pelados por las lluvias
veía el automóvil varado en el camino.
Todo aguardaba adentro: el tazón de cerámica
con chocolate enfriado por la inútil espera,
el florero barato con flores de poliéster
la cama con tendidos tersos, recién lavados
las ventanas bien limpias, y la calefacción
y la mujer llorosa pegada a la ventana,
que sabe que es mentira lo que ve desde lejos,
que sabe y se repite:
No lo esperes, no vuelve.
She Was Always Hungry
In the evenings she’d stroll
Down the hallway next to the garden,
Clinging to a walker.
She walked to beat death,
Which at night creeped into her room
When she’d try to sleep.
In her last days,
She stopped walking on the grass.
There were no paths without roots,
Without stones, without holes,
And her legs supported her badly.
She’d fall getting up from bed,
And in the bathroom.
Someone had to watch her
In the shower.
She was a dry plant,
That didn’t absorb nutrients,
And suffered from hunger.
She ate to ward off death:
Eggs for breakfast, bread or arepas,
Fruit, soup, and rice….
She no longer worried about weevils
Growing in bags of flour.
Sometimes in the evening,
She’d take her walker to a small table
For a bowl of ice cream
With a slice of vanilla cake.
Or groping at night,
She’d reach into the refrigerator
In her room,
Leaning against it,
And sticking her fingers
Into the glass jar
With peanut butter.
The night she died,
They’d brought her rice,
Chicken and corn, but she still said
She was about
To die from hunger.
Ella siempre tenía apetito
Por las tardes ella paseaba
Por el pasillo vecino al jardín,
Agarrada de un caminador.
Caminaba para vencer la muerte,
Que de noche se metía en su cuarto
Cuando trataba de dormir.
En sus últimos días,
Dejó de caminar por la hierba.
No había senderos sin raíces,
Sin piedras, ni sin huecos
Y las piernas la sostenían mal.
Se caía al bajarse de la cama,
En el baño.
Alguien la vigilaba
Durante la ducha.
Era una plantica seca,
Que no absorbía nutrientes.
Y sufría de hambre.
Comía para ahuyentar la muerte:
Huevos al desayuno, pan o arepas,
Frutas, sopas y arroz…
Ya no le reocupaban los gorgojos,
Que crecían en las bolsas de la harina.
A veces al atardecer,
Iba a la mesita con el caminador
Por un tazón de helado,
Con un trozo de torta de vainilla.
O a tientas por la noche,
Apoyaba en él,
Llegaba a la nevera de su cuarto
Y metía los dedos
En el frasco de vidrio
Con mantequilla de maní.
La noche en que murió
Le trajeron arroz,
Pollo y maíz y aun así dijo
Que estaba a punto
De morirse de hambre.
The novice sicario, still beardless,
searches for her in the deserted village.
Suddenly, he sees her in an embroidered dress,
sitting on the steps of the church,
and pressing his pistol against her back,
he takes her to an old ranch house.
He gives her chicken broth,
makes her a bed in a padlocked cellar.
Early in the morning, he wakes her up,
grabs her by the hand and takes her
to walk along the riverbank.
He points out a caiman,
motionless, like a mummy,
palm trees dying of old age,
and a mahogany tree cut down at the root.
When they reach a thicket,
he puts a bullet in the base of her skull.
He drags away her limp body,
but before throwing her into the water,
he smooths the wrinkles out of her dress
and combs her hair with his fingers.
He watches her drift off in the current.
Aprendiz de asesino
El sicario novicio, aún imberbe,
la busca por el pueblo desierto.
De pronto la ve de vestido bordado,
sentada en las escaleras de la iglesia
y apretándole la pistola en la espalda,
se la lleva a un caserón viejo.
Le sirve consomé de pollo,
Le prepara una cama
en un sótano con candado.
Temprano la levanta,
la coge de la mano y se la lleva
a recorrer la ribera del río.
Le muestra un caimán,
inmóvil, como una momia,
palmas que se mueren de viejas
y un árbol de caoba cortado de raíz.
Cuando llegan hasta un matorral
la asesina con un tiro en la nuca.
Arrastra su cuerpo inerte,
pero antes de echarla al agua
le alisa las arrugas del vestido,
le peina el cabello con los dedos
y la mira irse en la corriente.
Marzia Rahman is a Bangladeshi writer and translator. Her flashes have appeared in 101 Words, Postcard Shorts, Five of the Fifth, The Voices Project, Fewerthan500.com, WordCity Literary Journal, Red Fern Review, Dribble Drabble Review, Paragraph Planet, Six Sentences, Spillwords Press, Academy of the Heart and Mind, Potato Soup Journal, Borderless Journal, The Antonym, Flash Fiction Festival Four and Writing Places Anthology UK. Her novella-in-flash If Dreams had wings and Houses were built on clouds was longlisted in the Bath Novella in Flash Award Competition in 2022. Her translations have appeared in a number of anthologies. She is currently working on a novella.
Mojaffor Hossain is a fiction writer and literary critic of contemporary Bangla Literature. He has published seven anthologies of short stories from Dhaka and Kolkata. His debut novel, Timiryatra, received the prestigious Kali O Kalam Literary Award (2019). For his short fiction, he has received the Anyadin Humayun Ahmed Award, Abul Hasan Sahitya Award, the Arani Sahitya Award and the Boishakhi Television Award. Currently, he is working as a translator at the Bangla Academy.
Face to Face
“We got married,” the man said. “In the winter, five years ago.”
“Okay. A lot of weddings take place in the winter. I got married in the winter too,” I said.
“She left me in the summer. It was very hot that day,” the man said.
“Divorce? There are too many divorces nowadays. It’s the same in winter or summer. The destructive side of women’s empowerment. The more women earn, the more their families break up. Too many families split up every now and then.”
“No, not divorce,” the man replied in a slightly grumpy tone.
“Extra marital affair? It also happens a lot nowadays. Having an affair with a friend or a boss is a normal thing. In many cases, wives and daughters are sleeping or running away even with drivers. Too many cases,” I said encouragingly.
“Not that either,” the man said. “Death,” he said and looked before him with annoyance. As if death is an unpleasant thing.
“Accident? There are too many deaths on the road. Nearly sixty-four people are killed in road accidents every day. Can you imagine?” I said happily, as if we were not talking about death but about some funny subject.”
“No. Murder,” the man replied unmindfully.
“Is it so? Was it looters? It happens a lot in the city—in alleys gullies, even on the main roads. Even at daylight. Murders have risen too. One can get killed simply for slapping someone. It’s a daily occurrence,” I said to comfort him.
“I killed her,” the man said in a cool voice. “The driver is a proven killer. He is in prison.” The man stopped speaking and looked at a young girl coming out of a shopping mall across the street. I stand still, transfixed. The girl crossed the road and approached the man.
With a smile on his face, the man said to the girl or to me, “We’ll get married some winter.”
“Let’s watch that movie again,” the girl said cheerfully as she held my hand. The man vanished in an instant. Watching a movie or just having fun with a driver’s wife is a rare thing in the city. It rarely happens. Why does it happen so rarely? Iwondered while walking towards the alley of some movie theatre.
Wandering troubadour Lorraine Caputo is a documentary poet, translator and travel writer. Her works appear in over 400 journals on six continents, and 23 poetry collections – including Caribbean Interludes (Origami Poems Project, 2022) and the upcoming In the Jaguar Valley (dancing girl press, 2022). Her writing has been honored by the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada (2011) and thrice nominated for the Best of the Net. She journeys through Latin America with her faithful knapsack Rocinante, doing literary readings and listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth. Follow her adventures at www.facebook.com/lorrainecaputo.wanderer or https://latinamericawanderer.wordpress.com.
I sleep soundly
twice hearing the rain
I dream of a question
I do not remember
& when I awaken
gentle mist is
soothing the earth
yes, there have been—
though I can not re-
I awaken a bit
after 3:30 a.m.
believing it is already
Now I cannot return to sleep…
my arisen mind
A sea lion swims &
tumbles, calling to me
to draw him
I stumble out of bed
& begin to capture his image
within a Galapagan sea
Beneath this new moon
no dreams do I
…at this moment…
can I conjure
I awaken from a night
& once more
The dreams this past night—
Yet clings one
to my memory
I stay in bed
after the alarm beeps
The night’s dreams drift
like cirrus clouds
through the morning
& I lose them
upon fully awakening
Once more, though, they
are of things
Perhaps some of those
shall gather during the day
lessening the glare
the scorch of
Hopefully not to gather
rattling, lightning striking…
Of dreams I remember none
perhaps because the rumble
of my thoughts
is too loud
I awaken so suddenly
that my dreams
& sink to some
Dream I do
a poem formed
words weaving fine silk
with the dawn
The days pass.
Now the sky greys at 7 & so.
Misty fog purls amongst frosty burnished leaves.
I watch the geese flying southeast,
their necks stretched long.
The rains come,
pulsating throughout the clouded noons.
& some evenings,
the downpours rush deeply.
The wind gusts,
bending & stripping trees.
But they are empty of your voice,
The days pass.
Now the sky greys at 6 & so.
Icy sunsets paint the southwestern sky.
I watch the squirrels scurrying
along the limbs of a now-naked walnut.
The days pass.
Now the sky greys nearer to 5 & so.
Finally the sycamore leaves lose hold
& float on the rains to the cold-crisped ground.
I know I must pass this winter here.
I close the doors of my mind
to your echoing song
Santa Bárbara bendita …….
I so long to be anywhere else than here
but this is where I am to be,
at this time, at this place.
One December shortly-after-noon,
ice daggers pierce & entomb this drowsy world.
The days pass.
For a month & more,
all is white & grey & cinder-black.
Cold seeps through the cracks of my room.
I pass the hours now & again
wishing to hear your voice
wishing for your touch.
One dark long-after-midnight,
yellow lamplight strokes the snows
swirling outside my window.
Far off, muffled beneath the frozen-sky blanket, I believe I hear thunder.
But I turn away in doubt.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
For a second spring night in a row,
your booming voice shakes me from the depths of ebony sleep.
The sky pulses white rumbles
with immediate thunder.
Overhead, down the rooftiles,
rain washes in thick waves.
& just as quickly, your thirteenth-hour door
silently closes into black.
I drift towards the Dreamworld,
Changó Santa Bárbara …
Scott Ferry helps our Veterans heal as a Rn in the Seattle area. Hi slatest book of poetry, The Long Blade of Days Ahead, is not available from Impspired Press. More of his work can be found @ ferrypoetry.com.
hands inside my hands
opening like blisters
my eyelids close and close
under my face is another
face in a fugue
inside is a child in a hive of
mirror-stung but queen-
my hands splayed and
i am afraid that these poems
have become too thin
that they aren’t even words anymore
but a ripping off of tags
ribbons of skin unstitching
until all of the coastlines and laden skies
fall inward in a sobbing
which feels like
sometimes my face feels small in my hands
a bird skull under an
Ali Imran is a poet and writer based in Washington D.C. In his works, Imran explores the philosophical ideas of thinkers in the Eastern and Western worlds. Having lived and worked in South Asia, Europe, and the United States, Imran has been writing about an array of challenges like human disconnects, climate change, Nature, the human soul and city life, universal mysteries, and immigrants. He approaches modern themes with a blend of metamodern, mystic, and romantic poetic styles. His journalistic work in several parts of the world has given him an added experience as a writer and poet. Imran’s poem on affinity for peace was selected for a dramatic performance by the World Consciousness Alliance at their 2020 annual event in Washington D.C. Recently, the American University in Washington picked his poem ” La Convivencia for our Times” for reading as part of the discussion on the state of arts and culture in Muslim-majority countries. His first book, a translation of an autobiography, will be out shortly. Currently, Imran is compiling a collection of his poems composed over years. Imran’s works have appeared in several publications since his college days when he served as student editor of the Murray College magazine in Sialkot, Pakistan.
In search of my voice
In the sweet pain of romance,
depth of a silent Chaplin movie,
cries of a disappearing forest,
eyes of the school-denied Afghan girls
I search my soul –
my lost voice,
and some meters for my survival.
Suffering near and far,
all mingle in me –
reflections in the mirror,
inflictions on my being.
Winds make me float on waves,
and the singing birds make me float
on water like petals and leaves.
Smiles, sighs, cries
and waves of laughter,
of a platonic lover
and absolute surrender
to my love –
they all come knocking at my heart,
in one sweeping tide.
As if I must find
a rope walker’s balance
with a moonwalker’s finesse,
I make rhymes my reasons
to wonder and wander,
in my stirred-up imagination.
Steps – real and surreal –
push me into the vastness
of space and time.
Somehow, I find words
to defy the absurd
and share the unspoken –
dormant and the new arrivals.
Whispers rising gently,
from the inmost of my heart
of the bygone Aleppo streets
I also see hopes for tomorrow,
falter, stumble, and walk again
in a halo-like circle
of dust and light,
a collective harvest of ages.
Richard Skinner has published five books of poems, the most recent of which is Dream into Play (Poetry Salzburg, 2022). His next collection, White Noise Machine, is out with Salt in June 2023. Richard is Director of the Fiction Programme at Faber Academy. He also runs a small press, VanguardEditions, was the co-editor of Magma 80 and is the current editor of 14 magazine.
stubby stalks deliver a single flower,
that thrives deep into summer
so hardy, so frail—our true
Igor Ursenco is an award-winning author of 11 published books in various genres, a polyglot philosopher and culture theorist with a PhD about Intertextuality in Poetry.
Since his teen poetry debut book „Logos”, My Father: My Mother „Imago”, Igor has adopted a genuine culturological approachhe proposed to be followed up as EgoBesTiaR. This distinct celebration of the integrative archetypal alterity engajed him as a catalyst of the refreshing Theo-e-Retikon movement inpoetry, fiction, essays research & screenplay/drama manifestation. Sporadic distribution in the British-Spanish movie “One of the Hollywood Ten (2000) directed by Karl Francis. Finalist of the first edition of the Folk Music Festival ”Yellow Quince”, (Chisinau, 1990). His texts appeared elsewhere in literature magazines, culture newspapers, and electronic portals from Romania, Moldova, Italy, Germany, Ireland, Spain, and Canada.
It’s my Thirst which concedes there is Water.
Irrigated, my Soul awakes forth:
I’m surviving my Nights, for I taper
this Body’s Worth…
I exceed all my Fates. A trespasser
fighting back Wasted Battles on remote.
Humblest Hero ever spotted to shatter
his appealing white skull at blind spot…
Who am I? Much than Thoughts? Yet I master
all my gimmicks as a Art of boycott:
May I be my own Breath, confined by rather
things it says me not?
My World now: blue Eyes, blue Wings & blue Moon,
blue Pain, blue Taxi. And the rest of Earthy past Clue:
blue Bullets, blue Trigger & ever Blade blue…
Yet I should not forget this thread upon my Return:
blue Men drinking blue Glasses of Spleen,
blue Thunder, blue Serotonin stemming the Flood,
even blue Birth Light once I stood
in & of all things the never-never blue Green…
What one cannot see on Discovery Channel
All the days and nights you can afford
to exhaust the Love eating it like a caviar
with a ladle without caring
that stomach might turn inevitable upside
down. Those moments of short madness
when you behave exactly like a submarine
violating during its submergence the sovereign
territorial waters. And all the time me sitting tight
like the little Estonia next to the impenetrable Russia
The Amphora and The Palimpsest
I’m going to pray with the untorn
Aesthetics at my sight until
dawn arrives hoping
that the rolling
Planets like some beasts
in my brain
to grow over night
out of vitriolic fall-out
a strange grass under their
perfect skin for parchment manufacture
The Artist’s Portrait taken at His Right Age
Over the decaying matter I’m laying
the same elastic skin daily. The photo-shopped Image
of the World it’s but a benign
hymen, keeping me in its ecological circuit. The Proof
of Supreme Heroism means not to stop
the World Ultimate War, but to mix
on “Amazon Delivery” all the orders of the revitalizing
enzyme bottled in Tibet. I’m trying my best
to tamper the sensitive bowels
of the castes and official ideologies reaching
the age of degradation. Honoured to be myself
the Pyrotechnician who over the remains
of the embers is throwing the footage
any ambitious movie Director keeps
looking for at the Beginning
and End of Career. Someday they will dare
to recognize in my mortuary Mask
the very Creator always in needs for
Flawless Beauty and Blue-Blue Eyes
for such rare Close-ups that even
Hollywood would die of envy.
Born and raised in Iran, Bahar Momeni is a Ph.D. student of literature at The University of Texas at Dallas. Bahar is a writer, poet, and translator and teaches creative writing at UTD. The upheaval in Iran in 2009, followed by the Green movement, was the catalyst for Bahar’s migration to the U.S. Women’s struggles and resistance in daily life are the focal points in Bahar’s creative work and research. For the past three years, she has been working on producing her debut semi-autobiographical graphic novel.
Sound of Silk
Stand up in your regal rags,
Forget that you are wearing a modest grab,
Hidden in your cold, concealed cellar,
Shine on your hidden shrine,
Mature and noble like Shiraz* wine.
You are a woman,
And your voice is haram*
You have no place to practice,
Cause beauty became forbidden in your Iran,
And your singing now is a sinful crime.
But who can muffle the raging waterfalls of Iran?
Close your eyes,
You are the queen of the crowd,
Among the solitude of
These silent walls.
You are fierce,
Spread your wings and sing!
Let the silky softness of your voice
Scratches their prickly small beings.
The darkness of the world bursts into the light,
The olive trees blossom,
And the gazelles find their mates,
The mothers nestle their breastfed babies.
And the smiling little girls whirl under the sun.
*Shiraz: An old city in Iran famous for its poetry, culture, and wine.
*Haram: An Arabic term meaning “forbidden” by Islamic laws.
Sitting at my desk in my faraway nest,
I’m fascinated with your amber fall in my head.
Order a coffee from Starbucks in a foreign town,
Sip Persian tea at Naderi cafe in Tehran’s heart.
I walk a bizarre, noisy street in London,
I see the blurred beauty of your bedlam,
Bereft and befuddled between East and West.
I fought, flourished, and finally forgot.
I learned how to cry, run, die without being shot.
Said goodbye, frustrated and flummoxed in my fog
But I know you will walk in me all day long.
A Letter to Mahsa/Jina Amini, A Girl with Many Names
It was the end of summer,
The time to pick the ripe cherries in your town,
You were Kurd, and you were young,
Your journey started in Kurdistan,
And found its destiny under the ashamed, gloomy sky of Tehran.
It was the end of summer,
And you deserved to have fun,
You were admitted to a college,
The chosen one.
It was the end of summer,
And the darkness could not stand your shine.
Your elegance and innocence were the unforgivable signs,
To their IMmorality police that stopped you from being so alive.
But did you know that death has the plan to make you immortal?
They captured you in front of your brother’s dismayed eyes,
Abducted your life,
And murdered your light to make an endless night.
But did they know you were a sacrifice
To make liberation’s flame ignite?
They stole your birth name when you were a child,
Cause you were Kurd,
And Jina was the name of life.
You became Mahsa in their papers,
And finally earned Jina, life on your headstone.
They plotted to slaughter
But you morphed into
An everlasting Shahrzad
To keep thousands of women’s stories alive.
It was the end of summer,
The harvesting time,
And liberation was
The ripe fruit
That you picked for us.
You are asleep now,
With your delicate body
In the tall mountains of
More alive in your grave than any of us.
Under the hopeful, grieving skies,
Now you own so many names and so many faces
When you don’t even need one,
Cause your immortal names became
Woman, Life, Freedom in Iran.
Bushra Moussaoui is a writer from the Oregon Coast Range. A biologist by training but a writer by nature, she recently received an M.S. from New Mexico State University for her research on avian vocal communication but now returns to poetry to capture the intricacies of our internal and external worlds.
She took the train up the hill,
without an alibi, but time to kill,
and watched with spacious eyes
the little houses huddle by,
smears of glistening gray
and fuzzy hazes of green overlay.
She closed her eyes and thought of nothing
and didn’t see the cerulean streams gushing.
She missed it all,
the natural scene that was meant to enthrall.
And saw instead blackness and colorful imprints
blazed by the sun on the backs of her eyelids.
Amidst the syrupy day-glow,
she witnessed a synthetic and frivolous light show.
She took the train down the hill,
with no ambition still,
and lost herself to sleep
in a sinking, pathetic feat.
Drowsy in a swamp of apathy,
she expired from lazy catastrophe.
Thoughts become hermits in a museless mind.
Blowing out orange lights that glow atop bookshelves
until the room is dark enough
to furnish the depths of solitude
they carry on their backs.
Scraping away spindly cobwebs
that decorate doorways like lace trim
and sweep feathers from the floor
leaving it cold, hostility cutting into toes.
Covering windows with mirrors
so that looking out is met with scratched up reflections
of a life within,
and dusting up laughter into a pile by the door,
clearing, from moss that grows on the rafters,
even the flowers that had bloomed last spring.
Hanging, instead, insecurity—
little glass bulbs painted black—
and squeezing shame like caulk into cracks in the walls.
Arranging fears and anxieties as precious ceramics
on the windowsills,
occupying every mindful cavity
with reasons to say “no”,
to stay safe in a house cleaned out
from all things that grow.
I wish I could live in a tiny cabin in the woods
and admire beautiful things,
praising shiny pond stones
for glistening when sunlit,
on their gently rolling slopes.
I would gaze from beneath a scraped skylight
and sing the night to sleep,
observing all the shades of black smeared in the sky glow,
wide awake, adoring the glittering dots
until the night blushes and they shy away.
I would throw seeds for the birds
on the stony steps
and watch the morning moths flit about
lazily on the window panes,
their wings fuzzy and speckled beige,
tracing bug trails with my pinky,
lying in meadow grasses.
I wish I could escape
and pay attention to all the beautiful forgotten things,
reminding them just how lovely
Clara Bush Vadala is a poet and veterinarian from Van Alstyne, Texas. Her poems can be found in or are forthcoming from Moss Puppy, New South Review, and Iron Horse Literary Review, among others. Her full-length poetry collection, Resembling a Wild Animal is forthcoming from ELJ Editions in 2024.
At the altar of the memory of the hammerhead
The pull of the shark
is sharp, convincing, the thick hook
slung deep behind his teeth.
My kid skin, made of silk,
strokes the barb-leather shark’s
back, its salt-scale sandpapering
my hand. As the sun goes
down, the older boy on the beach
dumbly jumps to shove the thick clot
of his fist into its teeth, and I wish
I’d hissed he’s still alive, my white
hair shaking in the wind, pale
as the inside of his gills. I touch
his belly as if my fingers could cut
him like a paring knife
but we do not gut this fish.
Instead I shimmer into fish, wade
my waist into the surf, the shark
hovers over my hands a moment
I am more than mammal,
then hammers his flat head
into the sea. Another day,
I make my name in the sand
and let it be swept away.
The tide holds my name
in its mouth, even now,
I can still taste the salt.
At the altar of where the grass is really greener
And the Christmas tree is really green all year
And not spray painted green and missing all its needles
And decorated with recycled cans of Lonestar beer
And chainlink fence toppers with decorated wood
Duct taped to the side of them. At the altar where
The cattle don’t need a shovel to break their water
Into palatable pieces, where the tortoise has 1/6
An acre to do its grazing, where nightshade only
Grows in pastures where no one is going to eat it
Accidentally. At the altar where the grass becomes
A tiny wheel with thorns, where little white flowers
Spot the yard, where ants excavate after rain,
Remaking their mounds, malleable and unearthly.
Where the last of the sugary hummingbird feeders
Expires into something that would keep even
The most devoted bird from being sober. At this
Altar, the yard comes to be clean shaven in summer,
To prepare for its job of greening, and greenering
The grass beside it, and beside that, and beside that.
At the altar of imagined domestication
A news title reads ‘only a human
skull and a pair of pants’ left after
the elephant kills the rhino
poacher and lions eat the remains.
When the rabbit dies the cat stretches
all its slender limbs in satisfaction
one wild thing to another.
The old coyote in the yard is in charge
of starting the midnight serenade.
Dominion does not include the wolf spider.
Unfortunately, it is more like the mother
of feral pigs dead on the roadside.
It is more like the loose dog watching
all her spotted piglets scrambling into brush,
less and less like the mother, the further they run.
It is more like when we hear about
the tamarins missing from the Dallas Zoo,
the snow leopard’s escape, the lappet-faced
vulture dead of a suspicious wound.
At the altar of the black dog
At which I say I don’t want to hit him and the man says you’re better
than me, I would’ve just kept going. You should just keep going, go
or you’ll be here all day. And so I am here all day and I don’t tell
the man I am a veterinarian, because what would it prove? I roll up
my window and watch him shoveling in his yard. Over his shoulder
and into the dirt, the spear of the shovel smacks again and again. I
can’t figure out what he’s digging for. As the dog gets closer, I open
the door a bit and see that his fur has frozen into tiny black icicles
and his tongue is lolling. I realize there is only the illusion of a tail,
short, bobbed, the rest only black hair. The dog crouches as if to leap
over the car into the yard on the other side, where a female dog is
shuffling her puppies under the hay to stay warm. That man is still
at it with the shovel. The dog is still stop-motioning toward me, away,
toward, away, toward, I realize, with the swing of the shovel, up, down,
up, down. Just because the dog is eating out of the roadside ditch
does not mean it is not in pain. What does the man want me to do?
The dog will not just pixelate into something flat I can pass over.
What will happen to the dog, sitting by the tire now, if I kiss him
on the nose. Will my lips freeze there in the cold like a tongue to a
light pole? Will the dog turn into a prince? Suddenly, the sun is setting,
the roads are freezing over. As the dark curtain billows down from
somewhere above, the black dog disappears within it, the shovel
chinks the hard earth. The man is suddenly nowhere to be seen.