Jamele Adams, aka Harlym 1two5, is a poetic force to be reckoned with and the Dean of Students at Brandeis University. In his words: "Poetry climbs the limbs of wind soaked dream tops And sherlocked gumdrops missing teeth. Shoot the city And suffocate the criminal. Strangle the miscarriage of peace Give people a reason to love themselves. This is my bio."

For the Love of a Dream

For the love of a dream
I will run full steam
Into the spleen
Of a nightmare
Until it has nothing 
Mean to lean on
And we can all sing

For the love of your dream
I will unlace my eyelids
Let them flutter to the floor
Catch as much as I can in my eyes 
So the dirt never gets in yours

Did you know Dreams know pain?
That they understand sacrifice,
And cradle the causes of your self-esteem.
Scrape the grit of sorrow
Keep us alive
Never rest
And love til death

What would you do for the love of your dream?
Would you be first?
Would you be failure?
Would you loose roses from your veins?
Could be homeless?
Could you be without?

How outside of yourself would you go to get out of your own way?
Would you be the canvas for a gun drawn on someone else?

What would you not do?
Would you save a life,
If it was the dream of millions to kill that person?
Would you forgive?
Could you forget?
Could you be selfless?
Would you privilege poverty?
Lose the light from your halo?
And clip your wings,
So others could fly?
Could you put new colors in the rainbow?
Would you go numb and limp and limbless?

How important are hands
To someone that can only Picaso their dreams in sign language?
So listen carefully to what your fingertips touch

For the love of a dream
You must live again......everyday
Making the lives of others better.

Noah Burton was born in Kansas City, Kansas and grew up in Virginia. He graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, where he studied philosophy and is currently attending the University of New Hampshire's MFA program and teaching at the university. His poems have appeared in BurningwordThe Doctor T.J. Eckleburg ReviewScapegoat Review, and Kenning Journal, and are forthcoming in Basalt Magazine


A rod in his hands 
for digging in the garden. 
Crawling in. The hole 
closing above him. 
Artichokes rooting. 
Ginger. Like a pillow 
behind his head—a potato. 
The vegetables form a tribunal.
Decide that he can 
stay here, and will.

Originally published in The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review

M.P. Carver, poet, lives in Salem, MA. She is a member of YesNo Press--publisher of the Zig Zag Folios--and Poetry Editor of Soundings East. Her work has appeared in various local journals, and she has been featured at multiple venues across the state.

Do Not Bow to a Deer

Do not bow to a deer and do not stare a monkey in the eyes
These are useful things to know, and in this way I have made my poetry useful
All this talk about meaning, but what we really want is to mess around
And pretend we’re not under obligation to anybody else’s suffering.

What I want is to see Buddha statues made out of glittery ground-bones
“Please note that by dying you authorize your bones to be used in any way
This institution may deem fit, any part of this agreement may be changed
At any time, if you choose to terminate this agreement, you agree not to die.”

Back before I was pushing around poems, I had to sleep without any miracles
Besides the singing of the rocks and the way blood goes from red to blue
Blue to red, red to blue, without expecting anything from anybody
Now I’ve got googols of miracles, no more accountable than sand grains.

And I got you, too, and what a deal!
I didn’t sign anything, after all.

Sam Cha received his MFA from UMass Boston, where he was the 2011 and 2012 recipient of the Academy of American Poets Prize. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Amethyst Arsenic, apt, Anderbo, Better, decomP, DIAGRAM, Cleaver, Printer's Devil Review, Memorious, RHINO, and Toad. He's a poetry editor at Radius and at Off the Coast. He lives and writes in Cambridge, MA.

Aphasia Sonnet

They left it going. The timer? I mean tumor!
—which is how dying makes words. They float

in, out, mix, mash. Smash. I can't tell time or
tomb from what or not. Can't tell you the truth

without lying. "I drove past the police 
steak house yesterday," but I meant stakeout. 

See? All muddled, all varieties of loss
or less, some in my voice, but mostly not.

This morning: wanted to write a painting―
was crooked. But this eye (left) wants to stare

at leaves turning. Red, unread. Fall's something 
like spring, but more ruined. See the world pared

down? No more words: I go. This body, my tree.
Mind never. No voice but ground. River? Sea,

Charles Coe is author of two books of poetry and his work has appeared in a number of literary reviews and anthologies. He is the winner of a fellowship in poetry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Charles’s poems have been set by a number of composers, and a short film based on his poem “Fortress” is currently in production by filmmaker Roberto Mighty. He was selected by the Associates of the Boston Public Library as a “BostonLiterary Light for 2014.” His novella, "Spin Cycles," was published in November, 2014 by Gemma Media. 

A Poem for Happy Endings

The hero gets the girl.
The villain plunges to his doom;
his bitter face disappears in fire and smoke.
The estranged lovers embrace,
while violins cue the audience
to reach for tissues.

The script I wrote for my parents included 
Father’s retirement scene: the crowded banquet 
hall, speaker after speaker telling stories
filled with that rough humor 
men use to disguise their love. 

And then, the days fishing, tinkering with the 
lawn mower, sitting on the porch with a western 
novel, keeping a watchful eye on traffic.

The camera turns now to Mother; in a long shot 
we see the little grey house with garden in back, 
a small figure kneeling in the dirt, a big floppy hat
blocking the sun. She’s digging a hole for next petunia;
zoom in on a wrist fine-boned as a bird’s.

Who hands out the happy endings?
Who, late one night, stood outside
my parents’ home, gazed a moment at some 
mark scrawled on the door, then just turned to walk away, 
the sound of footsteps fading on the empty street?

Josh Cook’s poetry has appeared in Epicenter MagazineLyrical Somervillein Plume Poetry Anthology 2012 and 2013, and elsewhere. Other work has appeared in The Coe ReviewThe Owen Wister ReviewBargeapt literary magazine and other print and online journals. He was also a finalist for the 2011 and 2012 Cupboard Fiction Prize. He is a poetry reviewer for Bookslut.com, who featured his essay, “The Problem with American Poetry,” in Bookslut 100. Other criticism has appeared in The Millions and The RumpusHe is a blogger, bookseller, and magazine buyer for Porter Square Books in Cambridge, and writes the books and culture blog “In Order of Importance.” His novel An Exaggerated Murder is forthcoming from Melville House in the Winter of 2015.

Jacques LaPlante was a Decade Too Late 

People herded their cars in the parking lot
then herded themselves in the hockey arena.
They gathered concessions,
kept track of the kids,
exchanged the language
built up in their brains
over the week.
The important thing about this:
this is important.

He was covered by bruises.
He was always covered with bruises.
If he wasn't
they wouldn't play him.
Most of the time he was covered with bruises
the same way he was covered by clothes.
Tonight, his bruises felt like damage.
Damage in his organs.

He always lead the team out of the locker room.
This said something about his importance.
A place of value, of course,
and respect, but;
also another lonely responsibility.
It was time to lead the team out of the locker room.
The ice was suddenly ten miles away.

Recent studies have shown that sitting still for extended periods of time--
as required in most modern work places--
takes almost as many years off your life as smoking cigarettes.
The body evolved with a great deal of flexibility, but there is still a limit.
It is strange how easy it is to discover what we did not evolve to endure.
Stranger how easy it is to endure those discoveries.

25 saves in a 5-3 win is something to be proud of.
He didn't feel proud.
He didn't feel anything.
No.  He found a feeling
entombed in the tomb of his bruise.

He felt wrong.
Sitting on the bench in the locker room
all his teammates doing.

Then he was on the floor.
Of all the places he'd been
he'd never been on a locker room floor.

Something new was happening.
and it had nothing to do with pain.

Kelly Headshot Primary copy.jpg

Kelly DuMar is a poet, playwright and workshop facilitator whose chapbook “All These Cures,” won the 2014 Lit House Press poetry contest. Kelly’s poems and essays are published in dozens of literary journals, including Poydras ReviewKindredPamplemousseTupelo Quarterly, and Lumina. Her award winning plays are produced around the US and published by dramatic publishers. She produces the Our Voices Festival of Women Playwrights & Poets, held at Wellesley College, now in its 9th year. She’s a member of the faculty and Advisory Boards of two writing organizations she cares deeply about, The International Women’s Writing Guild, and The Transformative Language Arts Network.  A former psychotherapist, Kelly’s training in psychodrama and Playback Theatre enliven her creative writing workshops with transformative energy. Her website is KellyDuMar.com

Tree of the Apple

One thing you can do, your father suggests, after the funeral, when you’re faithless

and stupid with grief, is plant something to believe in, like a tree. Nothing can stand in place of a boy becoming the man you would marry – but any life you set into soil, he says, could stand one day for something tempting and fruitful as love. This life can be a tree of your choosing – and an apple is fine.

So, together, you climb to the un-mowed meadow he owns at the top of this town’s highest hill, overlooking the whole of your father’s farm and beyond to the blast-bright sheet of Sebasticook shimmering under a joyless blue heaven. Holding between you this burlapped ball of life there is so much silence, sharing the spade, disrupting the earth. You tip the sapling into the hole, watch as the water you carried in the milk plastic jug puddles into the well of dirt and vanishes.

After you leave your father’s farm for the home where you live with your mother, you send news of new life on the hill with the view in a letter to his mother. You promise her apples and she never answers.

Seasons later, when you visit the farm, you ask your father to show you the tree so you’ll see what is grown, and he tells you it’s gone. He never believed, you see, in the promise of fruit from a tree you weren’t able to tend. There was only this outcome: a cloudless spring day under terrible blue, a burlapped ball of roots, the pooling of water poured from a jug - the holy moment that saves your life. 

Published in Kindred, 2015

Carolyn A. Dragon is a survivor of the corporate jungle. Through The Poet’s Way, Carolyn helps courageous individuals and organizations navigate and master the complexities of life using the age-old practices of poets: Start Authentically, Explore Creatively, Live Expressively. She is also the owner and the proprietor of the Fish Ranch Think Tank located on Boston’s south shore where she provides life coaching, business consulting and experiential retreats and workshops. 

Life Questions Me

Life questions me
I question it back

It beckons me
I respond with intent

Use me up
Wring me out

Life, now you see it
Now you don't


Johnette Marie Ellis is a native Bostonian who found her way back home after several bouts in New York City. As a second year MFA candidate in Creative Writing at Emerson College, Johnette is looking for new strategies and questions to nurture a mission driven path. She worked in the non-profit sector for 10 years, serving primarily as a community builder and advocate for the redistribution of power and access through programs and policy. Now Johnette has her sights set on harnessing the power and influence of creativity as an educator and poet. Currently she works with emersonWRITES as a poetry teacher and as an instructor in Emerson’s First Year Writing Program.


i can’t imagine staying. 
there’s so much of me in the soot
so much of me in the pissy alley. 

moss is making way though.
the rootless warrior
loosening ground, dissolving rock. 

still they keep making walkways
hard heads keep scraping the sky.  

in september they removed the piece
of sidewalk with her name in it.
then we painted the walls ladybug red
a shade she would have liked for her nails. 

she made me a city girl.
we would end up in bare feet
picking glass out of our toes though. 

she wanted a rose garden in the alley
neighbors are planting cameras instead. 

it’s been 5 years since we’ve had curtains
revealing the tomb
we’ve become - now we need them.  

something small is rooting
in need of protection.
i’m still a little girl
here, inside.

Joey Gould is an educator, produce clerk, & poet, published in Paper Nautilus & at Masspoetry.org, who enjoys setting up an improv poetry booth at art openings & farmers markets. 

All in one breath

Who knows one? I know one,

one wind flicks flames of

candles of the first Seder,

open windows to sing to the outside,

one meal from a week’s cooking.

One loud table, & I imagine

the noise of that Last Supper—

one is our G-d, 13 are his attributes

(as the last speech of the Seder

 must recount in one breath)

but I know he is thanks

& he is here at the end of our cups

in the happiness of singing grace,

pragmatic jews, after

the meal, once shouted

& stomped on the tables

in the hostel Beit Riklis

by 17-year-old Machon kids

to the rest of the diners—

Baruch attah, blessed art thou

footprints on the table,

& thanks. & reverence:

I duck my head under

the prayer shawl to bow respect,

let the blanket cover, drape over.

One Kiddush cup,

one white tablecloth.

One roof over many heads,

& the unique sky so up, so alive

with wind, with breath,

as I breathe &

burst: who knows one?

Regie Gibson is a poet, songwriter, author, workshop facilitator, and educator. Gibson and his work appear in the film Love Jones, based largely on events in his life. In 1999 he performed for the award-winning Traffic Series at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater where he adapted the work of Kurt Vonnegut. In addition, he has performed at The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago Field Museum of Natural History, and many other venues. Gibson is widely published in anthologies, magazines, and journals, such as Power Lines, An Anthology of Poetry along with Pulitzer-Prize winning poets Gwendolyn Brooks, Yosef Komunyakaa, and Lisel Mueller. His first full-length book of poetry, Storms Beneath The Skin, was released in 2001. Gibson has also taught, lectured and facilitated workshops.


Godholler // 1. n. A primal word. The first cry of creation. The sound from which all things manifest­­­­–––as in, Yes: the word his mother gave his father, in 1967, after he’d chased her for 8 years. Yes, there, in the cotton field, he, the father, wearing a halo of daysweat and dust. Yes: the word that became the kiss that became the tongue on the pulse that became the hand that turned up the transistor radio so Smokey Robinson and the Miracles could punctuate the newfound syllable with Ooooh, Baby, Baby becoming the baby they would have together, there, in that small Mississippi backwater they would soon leave for the promise of Chicago’s smokestacks and skyscrapers. 2. v. To loudly command with supreme and unquestioned authority––– as when the mother, like a carnival ventriloquist, sits with a deity on her knee making it mouth her “Thou Shalt Not’s”, or, when the father, fearing the son is gay, attempts to yell him into a “real man”. 3. n.  The sound the boy, now a man with sons, attempts to muffle in his poetry. 

Timothy Gager is the author of eleven books of short fiction and poetry. His latest, TheThursday Appointments of Bill Sloan, (Big Table Publishing) is his first novel. He hosts the successful Dire Literary Series in Cambridge, Massachusetts for over thirteen years and is the co-founder of Somerville News Writers Festival. His work appears in over 300 journals, of which nine have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His work has been read on National Public Radio.

The Shutting Door

We are solid oak doors that shut
on our past, close on dead mothers,
sons, daughters. These doors swell
often, won’t open. One midnight

we walked towards woods, the moss
cold under our toes, as we were,
caught in the light for a moment;
a glimpse of half full. We are dim

lights on dark nights, sending out calls
to the wolves howling at the sun
because the moon hanging there,
yet never seems to hear them.

If I should need to step back to see
how you glow in this light,
illumination, I can be at one with that,
us, growing like violets in the dark.

As a writing performer, Erich Haygun has represented Boston, MA, Providence, RI and Vancouver, BC at international poetry competitions and has toured throughout North America and Europe. Haygun is also a resident, organizer and recording artist for the DIY record label/ house venue/ social anarchy The Whitehaus Family Record, as well as a volunteer outreach speaker and poet laureate for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, and producer of the monthly omnigenre variety show CHEAP SEATS.


In workshops I facilitate for high school students,
I tell them the importance of being a good bystander.
I tell them the incident of Kitty Genovese, 1964.
Stabbed and raped repeatedly in a parking lot while an
Entire building of witnesses did not know it was their problem.
I do not tell them why I have volunteered to tell them this.

In conversations with men I work for
I do not tell them there are words I will never tell anyone.
If you aren't familiar with the idiom "No Homo," I will be the one
To tell you that what began as some dumb shit a rapper said,
Has become an elaborate game of monitoring peer behavior
Through the lens of homosexuality, claiming a pat on the back of
The head simulating a blowjob every time the disclaimer is not spoken.

I tell my coworkers that for straight guys,
They think about gay sex, like, really a lot.
I do not tell them every fact I know about violence.
I tell them cities I've lived in, reasons I've been arrested.
In this telling I do not explain whoever I kiss, I call myself queer.
I tell them that I simply opt out of their game.

When footage of the word faggot falling from
Kobe Bryant's lips comes on television at work
The reaction is not as bad as I expect.
But it's not any better. And I tell them nothing. 
I do not tell them how the point isn't Kobe's temper
Or the referee's feelings or the price of the penalty.

I do not tell them the moral equivalency
Of a white player and a different slur.
I do not tell them I believe this is all related.
I tell them nothing. Nothing I tell them will help.
I tell adolescent reflections of myself that their
Actions directly impact the community we share.

I tell them that all assault affects each of us
And that it never only their responsibility.
In this telling, I do not address questions
The room does not need to know my answer for.
I do not tell them the right to unspeak from personal experience.
I do not tell them how often I am a staggering coward.

Published poet Gayle C. Heney is North Andover's former two-term poet laureate and a member of the Grey Court Poets. Heney has taught workshops at the Peabody Essex Museum, libraries, schools, Essex Art Center, Rolling Ridge Conference Center, Salem Arts Festivals, and UMass, Boston. She is the producer and host of the TV series Write Now, and co-producer of Opportunity for Poetry.

Sunday Morning

His face is that of a boy
hair falling in soft curls
just above the shoulder,
but his posture that of
a frightened man.
Sun glinting off the frozen lake,
air still, he listens before
disappearing into cover of conifers,
rock escarpments and snow.

Another is tall, lean, dressed
in gunmetal grey, a rucksack
supported on his shoulders,
sharpened metal in his hand,
face blackened by soot.

The third: heavy, well-worn boots;
billowing, black  trench coat
tied with a rope; sniffing the air
like some feral ancestor.
I run.

Heather Hughes hangs her heart in Boston and Miami. She holds an MLA in foreign literature from Harvard University Extension and is tragically close to graduating from Lesley University’s MFA program.Bad Penny Review, Cream City Review, Grain, Prick of the Spindle, and other excellent journals have published her work. All her tattoos are winged. Her writing and letterpress experiments live at www.dragonheartbeat.tumblr.com. 

Stars Disturbed Him  

Once there was a man who couldn’t.
Dawn scuffled and shuffled on his stoop.
The whole day he slopped plum paint on the door. 

He sealed the house with fumes.
He evensonged as he worked.
Gnawed lightyears and scratched his knuckles. 

Once there was a man who couldn’t sleep.
Grackles flapped in his kitchen.
Grackles shook off asteroids on the table. 

Their claws skreetched in the plum-dim house.
Their beaks knuckled and knocked,
struck sparks off the raw rimy rocks. 

Once there was a man who couldn’t sleep because the noise,
because destroys, because certain seasons are not fit.
ecause news of the world grackled and crackled on his table.

Neiel Israel is an internationally acclaimed poet, vocalist, and arts educator.  Emerging from the Boston spoken-word scene, she quickly distinguished herself as a powerful, and lyrical poetic voice.  With her captivating voice she became a member of the 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 Lizard Lounge National Poetry Slam Team; as well as the Lizard Lounge Representative for 2011 Women of the World Poetry Slam. Neiel has a B.A. in English, and graduated with honors, from University of Massachusetts Boston; and was recently featured on Urban Update WHDH-TV Chanel 7.  As an international teaching artist, Neiel leads workshops and classes in creative writing for schools, community programs, and colleges.


We Fly, I Fly, You Fly  
No broken covenant wings here
We dust off persecution, that’s not a problem
Figured out the exact calculations 
Of water walking, and moon gliding

We Fly, I Fly, You Fly  
Put on our best clothes when we leave home,
And oh, just let the sun be shining, let the sun be shining
We do give thanks, speaking, greeting, smiling

Hair always looking good, stop playing
We know what it is to be Fly
Dodging bullets, that’s nothing
Just look at all the babies being born everyday
Another one and another one

We Fly, I Fly, You Fly
They write songs about the sun malfunctioning when we leave,
“Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone, it’s not warm when she’s away”

I wear lip gloss because it’s Fly, looks like a sunrise to me
Fly is the cherry on top just because it can be
Move over ordinary, I’m not from that tribe
A wife is not the same thing as a bride

We Fly, I Fly, You Fly
We try to exemplify Fly-ness
We are schooled about Fly-ness early
We may be asked to change position
Or move, or Fly away, to the before life  

We may be asked to Fly away at any minute 
On command, no questions asked 

We Fly, I Fly, You Fly
There are rewards for being Fly
Fly house, Fly car, Fly girl,  
Fly man, Fly woman, Fly spirit,
Fly feel it, Fly lover, Fly friend,  
Fly noun, verb Flying  
Water Flies, Wind Flies,  
Planets Fly around the sun 

The sun has everyone’s attention 
It is the Fly-est-making days happen
And months and years too
It’s Fly the way the sun tells time
Be careful you don’t get burned
The sun spits

We Fly, I Fly, You Fly,
Like an army of dragons
Rappers, poets, singers, teachers, preachers
Bishops, pawns, rooks, knights, queens, kings,
Ballers, gods, Children of God
Fly seed, Fly mentality, uplifting, giving

Fly like Jazz, 
Fly like the color blue
We made the color blue, Music!
Heaven and earth Fly, giving birth Fly
Having enough to eat Fly, 
Eating healthy Fly,
Taking care of mind, body, soul, spirit
Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly,
Meditating Fly, communicating Fly

Fly people have the Holy Ghost
Good intentions, not pretending
They forgive and ask forgiveness

We Fly, I Fly, You Fly
Enough to detect negativity, Fly
Immune to negative frequencies

Fly aura, Fly freedom, Fly justice,
Fly hope, Fly truth, Fly love,
Fly ancestors guiding us

Emily Jaeger is an MFA candidate in poetry at UMASS Boston and co-editor of Window Cat Press, a zine showcasing the works of young, emerging writers. She runs the Literary Roundtable, a Jewish writers' workshop, for the New Center Now. A returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Emily is passionate about innovative literary community organizing and bringing poetry to unexpected places. Her writing has appeared in Zeek, Broadsided, Broad!, Cecile's Writers' Magazine, and the Jewish Journal.

To My Hands

What can I give
            but my hands?
            Hands that tightened on the top of the purse.
            Hands that bought and took.
            Hands that shot up to speak first.
            Hands that hung at the sides afraid to even flinch.
            Hands that stayed closed.

Open my hands.
Let these hands take pause, listen.
Give them the right words, the right ink.
These hands know how to dig.
How to turn the earth.

            Let them build a home
            not a wall.
            Let them build a table
            not an altar.

Jennifer Jean’s most recent poetry collection is The Fool (Big Table Publishing). Other poetry collections include: The Archivist, Fishwife, and In the War; as well, she's released Fishwife Tales, a collaborative CD comprised of art songs and accompanied recitations. Her poetry and prose have been published in numerous journals and anthologies, including: Drunken Boat, Tidal Basin Review, Denver Quarterly, Caketrain, Poetica, and The Mom Egg Journal. Jennifer is a volunteer blogger for Amirah, a website advocating for sex-trafficking survivors; she’s a principal organizer of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival; and, she teaches writing at Salem State University. For more about Jennifer, visit: www.fishwifetales.com.

Getting to Know You

Remember yesterday, when an 8.8 hit Chile
and the earth’s axis tilted?

800 died and
the days became shorter

by 1.26 milliseconds.

Remember before I met you? There was a time
they told me about you.

How the teenage you tossed grapes to hovering gulls
when out at sea. How you hooked one grape 
and tugged a floating gull behind the tacking boat
called New Hope.

They told me you ate raw bacon.

How your mom made you

wear your hair in a bowl cut.
Now you’re blushing.

Thank you.
The days are longer


Danielle Jones-Pruett holds an MFA from the University of Massachusetts Boston, and is program coordinator for the Writers House at Merrimack College. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best New Poets 2014, Beloit Poetry Journal, Cider Press Review, and elsewhere. She is a recipient of a 2014 Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award. 

Escape Acts 

She holds her breath as the pine box closes
on the tangled knot of her husband’s body.
After pounding nails into the packing crate, 

she curtsies to the crowd, then watches
as they tie it shut.  It takes six men
to pull it to the edge of the dock, frayed 

rope almost breaking. They push
the box into the river, which drinks
him in, swallow by swallow. She waits. 


Hundreds of times she saw him sink,
or dangle—straitjacketed—like an albino bat,
or stiff in his own grave, bound by chains, 

face disappearing under clods of dirt.
There was always a moment—this time he won’t
but then his hand scratched through earth, 

or his head broke the barely visible line
of thin air. She envied these moments
of death, rebirth. Her job was to smile. 


He sits in a red velvet armchair, wearing
the black robe she gave him on his last birthday.
The radio’s on, but she isn’t sure he’s listening: 

his eyes are closed. In the small kitchen,
at the table for two, she’s mending his costume,
a row of straight pins in her mouth. Off season 

there’s nothing to say. She holds one of his shirts
to light, admires her handiwork: the scar of stitches
barely visible on fine silk.

Jennifer Keogh is a Poetry MFA student at Emerson College and a course instructor in the emersonWRITES program. She is also a reader for Redivider, a waitress, and a seller of the clothes she shamelessly loves to wear at American Eagle. She loves writing because it scares her, challenges her, and gives her butterflies. You can find her poetry in Emerson's 48 Review and in the inaugural issue of East Coast Ink. Her BFA thesis, which she self-published is available on Amazon.com. She is a self-proclaimed foodie, pen collector, friend of the ghost of Emily Bronte, and yogini. A Rhode Island native, she loves nothing more than a hot cup of New England clam chowder on a 90 degree day and iced coffee in December.

4 Years Later 

Your ballooning love hovers
above my head. I’m laughing
at the garland you insisted on jerking
across the mantle until it would stay. 

You keep asking, dangerously,
What does Christmas mean to you?
& giggling before
I can pin a thought to my tongue. 

I’m intoxicated, vacant-minded,
tangled from the sweet nibbling
we’ve been doing
on Kisses, under mistletoe. 

We’ve made camp
in front of the fireplace, harboring
hangovers from hot chocolate
& the brightly-colored tree
marshmallows we couldn’t resist. 

In their tanks, your maple tarantulas
look like they’re on their deathbeds,
spinning horsehair-like webs
in protest of your not feeding them. 

I tell you, Christmas means
you should feed Rosy & Cocoa
cinnamon-encrusted crickets.

Hannah Larrabee has a MFA in creative writing, and now engages in two very different fields of work: teaching and application technology. Her chapbook, Virgo, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2009 and nominated for a Massachusetts Book Award, and a PEN New England Literary Award. Her poems have appeared in: Printer’s Devil Review, Best Indie Lit in New England, Tidal Basin Review, Contemporary American Voices, Extract(s), Conceit Magazine, and others. She’s taught at the New Hampshire Institute of Art, and still teaches at Northern Essex Community College.   

Hard Feelings

As opposed to easy, 
as opposed to  

“no hard feelings”
which almost certainly  

requires hard feelings 
to begin with 

as if telling someone
to quit it! 

slap some sense into 
their feelings 

like hitting a dog 
for peeing on the carpet, 

always two different 

I read the headlines about
six men who emerged 

from a capsule in Russia
after 500 days  

meant to simulate 
an expedition to Mars.  

In real life, this would 
require them 

to be 100 days from earth
at times, 

again, a language 
that lacks distance,  

how far is a day? 

It is everywhere,
people telling 

other people how 
to feel. 

And what I know best 
is that this  

is a failure, that when 
it comes time  

to acknowledge what 
is lost: 

a baby, a relationship,

the redeeming moment 
of a conversation,  

we might as well
be 100 days from each other 

we might as well 
set up shop on Mars 
dumb fools that we are
(no hard feelings)
we are willing to brave
new planets

 to live lonely again. 

Jennifer Martelli’s chapbook, Apostrophe, was published in 2011 by Big Table Publishing Company.  She is the recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant in Poetry and a Pushcart Prize nominee.  Most recently, her poetry has been published in Bop Dead City, Tar River Poetry, burntdistrict, Jersey Devil Press and Right Hand Pointing.  She’s taught high school English and women’s literature at Emerson College.  She’s an associate editor for The Compassion Project:  An Anthology, and lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts with her family.

Pete Townshend’s Voice Behind Me, The Snowplow’s Blade Before Me 

I’ve sent my husband down the cellar to play The Who
then Elvis Costello then Velvet Underground.  Sent him 

down with the cat.  We’ll never leave that rotten decade,
I say.  I’ve cooked all day, heavy fatty foods.   Bought rock 

salt, bags of it, poured it over my front steps as the plow
scrapes the dry street.  My heart is drawn to what’s left on the pitch. 

There’s barely enough snow to call it tv static.  The street lamps’
strange ovals I confused with the moon, that little camel’s hump. 

Don’t trust me.  I am not trustworthy:  not because I’m from this
angry state but because I like the closing in.  The clouds 

sag with the weight of snow.   Like a uterine wall, they need to let go,
bleed out something cold, then we’ll see what’s left.  If the sky 

reflects an interior life, this is a dull one.  Nothing toxic, nothing, not even 
yoga or crystal has ever relieved me for long.  An eye 

is supposed to open in the middle of my brow.  The snowy weight
hurts, gives me an ice spike, and I taste cold knives when I swallow.

Jonathan Mendoza is a spoken word artist/educator, musician, occasional filmmaker and student. He is a youth peer-leader and co-teacher in spoken word at the IBA Youth Development Program in Boston’s South End and is also a MassLEAP spoken word teaching-artist. He was a member and co-coach of two Louder Than A Bomb semi-finalist teams and competed with Emerson College’s 2014 CUPSI team in Boulder, Colorado. Jonathan is seriously addicted to art that helps positively transform individuals and communities.

On the Boston Marathon of 2014

Let this be progress.
Let this be moving.
Let this be fresh air and new days.
Let this be a moment separate from the last.

Let this be remembrance
of tragedy
and mourning.
Let this be sorrow.
Let this be knife-took-their-skin.

Let this be wake-up call.
Let this be spilt blood.
Let this be
Let this be terrorized beauty.
Let this be city strength through 50 homicides in a year.

Let this be cognizance.
Let this be empathy.
Let this
be tragedy
and mourning.
Let this be anything but forgetting.

Amy Mevorach was the winner of the Natick poetry slam in 2013 and 2014 and has performed poetry and competed in poetry slams since 2000, featuring most recently at Gallery 55 in Natick. She earned a B.A. in Creative Writing from Middlebury College and worked as an editor forBooks of Hope and assistant editor of The Hudson Review Amy Mevorach conducts poetry workshops and slams in school and church communities, and will be the featured poet at Wake Up and Smell the Poetry in Hopkinton this February.  “My poems are not soft and pretty; they are hard and striking, like stones, like truth, and every time I stand at the microphone I am David, giving it to Goliath.”

Crown Heights, Brooklyn

The doorman let me in
to the courtyard.
I sat by the Koi pond
and listened to a white haired woman talk
of how her international entrepreneurial success
made her feel comfortable
in her own skin.

I nodded but did not ask,
how could you be uncomfortable in your skin
if your skin is sitting by the koi pond in moonlight
receiving a glass of sangria
from the tanned hands
of a laughing young woman
in a koi-colored dress?
How could you be uncomfortable in your own skin
if you own because of your skin?
I listened but did not own up to where I lived
before I got a break and could afford to be bored
by the rich and fake.

Halfway between Eastern Parkway
and Bed-Stuy I caught somebody’s eye.
Somebody on a stoop, pissed to see me, hissed at me, see
why I’m staring at my feet with the beat
of Run DMC in my ears
my fears beating my blood
as I walk the street for something to eat
like a meat patty or jerk chicken
Yeah, I’m in Brooklyn.
Because I feel I am not enough
territorial braggadocio is my bluff
for confidence.
So nobody knows I am chicken
every time I cross the street.

In Crown Heights I walk home nights
and early mornings
in spite of warnings from police
and other white people
“let me help you change that tire,
this is not a place you want to get stuck”
what the -- I live here
I didn’t get stuck, I can leave anytime
and come back with grant money to teach poetry
to “underserved communities”
which is only a typo away from undeserved.
The error lies less in typography
than in political geography.

Nobody tells me my ‘hood is nice
no Caucasian will visit me twice
but the women around me keep me from harm,
Lily, downstairs, pinches tight on my arm
drags me from the street
He’s packing heat, she says, alarmed,
don’t talk to the dealers, the wheelers, the stealers
or the feelers.

But she does not say the rappers.

One day as I pass the men who play chess
I am tracked
I become white and a man becomes black
and opposites attract
so he follows me home.
Afraid of being attacked
I walk alone
until my friend Smoke comes out of the alley
and says, hey, you got yourself a tail.
the gentleman slides behind me like a bishop taking the queen and says, oh, you like white girls too?
Smoke replies, this ain’t no white girl. This is Amy.
He’s the only one in the neighborhood who can name me.
Smoke is a rapper.
and where cultures intersect
poetry connects.

At Mrs. B’s table I count
cash for my rent and stare
at her carving of the serenity prayer  
wonder what it means to her
Mrs. B says I’m glad we had you here
we never had any problems did we dear?

No, no problems, I keep to myself
don’t talk
with a young man who glances up and down the block
his head like a pendulum on a clock
his time on earth going tick tick tock
any moment he could die
or be cuffed
emotions must be stuffed.

At sunset a mother unclips laundry from the line
and calls her son home to bed.
Messiah! Messiah!
Some nights when the lights are dead
 I hear women scream like their boys
ain’t never coming home again.

There is a church on the corner.
Every Sunday night
when the sky changes into evening attire
pained hearts harmonize
with a joyful choir.
I long to line up and go in
but I wear my sin like a stain on my skin
and I wear my skin
like I want to go home and change.
What if you didn’t like my tint
What if I couldn’t take a hint
would you flick me away
like a piece of lint
or like dandruff brush me off
the shoulder
of your smooth

Lewis Morris is a dork.  He's also a multi-talented poet, writer, beatmaker, and MC.  Lewis started writing at the age of eleven, and discovered poetry slam at age fourteen.  Since then, he has performed at The Apollo Theater, The Smithsonian, TEDxBoston 2011, among many others.  In college, Lewis founded The OFFICIAL MassArt Poetry Alliance, a student group that has sparked other colleges and universities in the area to build poetry scenes of their own.  A skilled and trained educator, Lewis has taught at schools all over Massachusetts and beyond.  His workshops are known for producing a high level of writing from every member who attends.

Flatline Poetry's Lewis Morris performs his original poem, "No Angel" with original vocal accompaniment by Lissa Piercy and Kaleigh O'Keefe, Cambridge, MA, Oct 2014.

Ricky Orng is a Cambodian-American writer and performer based in Lowell Massachusetts. He is the Director of Lowell's Youth Spoken Word organization, FreeVerse! - and coaches their slam team who placed 2nd in Louder Than A Bomb Massachusetts 2013. His writing reflects on being 2nd generation American, dealing with Asian stereotypes and the consequences of The Khmer Rouge. Ricky is a Gemini, loves Autumn, bikes occasionally and photographs people for fun. His work can be found on www.poetrybyrickyorng.tumblr.com.

Reasons Why You Wish You Could Swim

1) It’s the hottest day in July. You’re at your friends house for a barbecue in which they opened the pool for - and all the cute girls are chilling on the deep end.

2) In case of a zombie apocalypse, swimming will definitely come in handy as a means of traveling and escaping zombie attacks, since theoretically, zombies can’t swim.

3) You are not a zombie!

4) Doggie paddling only seems cute and fun… For the first 5-10 minutes. Anymore after that you will just look sad and pathetic.

5) Your body is approximately three quarters water. Your planet is approximately that in ocean. It feels so familiar and you just want to be a part of something bigger.

6) When you was 7 and went fishing in the harbor, the sudden unfamiliar tug of the line and jerk of the fishing rod was one of many first battles. You felt like your soul was the one caught on the other end - and this back and forth struggle was a magical dance and you didn’t know whether to hold on or let yourself go.

7) When you was 9 years, old you tried skipping a chuck of ice across the frozen lake in your backyard. It didn’t skip. It just sounded like a choir of mermaids.

8) Your body is approximately three quarters water. You ask yourself - how much of you belongs to someone else?

9) She made your heart skipped - and now you’ve been chasing mermaids ever since.

10) It feels like the hottest day in July. And all you want to do is see your friend in a bathing suit!

11) You never flew in your dreams..

12) Swimming must feel like flying..

13) You saw the sky on the face of the harbor and watched your soul danced to the music of the Chesapeake Bay.

14) You think loving someone sometimes feel like swimming. You don’t completely know how to swim but you’ve experience drowning. You just want to have the option.

January Gill O’Neil is the author of Underlife (CavanKerry Press 2009), and a forthcoming collection, Misery Islands (CavanKerry Press 2014). She is the executive director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival and an assistant professor of English at Salem State University.

Night at the Roller Palace

After the birthday crowds thin out,
after the Hokey Pokey and Chicken Dance,
after the parents have towed their shaky kids  
like cabooses ready to decouple
and the pint-sized skaters have circled the rink
like a gang of meerkats spun into a 10-car pileup,
you turn sideways and angle by as “Another One Bites the Dust”
thumps overhead. You give a finger point to the DJ stand
because, in your mind, you are soldiers in the march against time,
grooving to the retro beat while the disco ball shines overhead
cut crystal against rainbow walls.
You glide like Mercury or Apollo Ono
without wings or skin suit, in low-rider jeans
that hug your body like you hug corners,
pass them all on the smoothed-out parquet floor,
worn down by time and rhythm. The trick is
to make it look effortless, remind them that
your quickness is a kind of love. You are the spark
between wood and wheel. And when your cranky kids
hang out by the wall ready to go,
holding those eight wheels by their brown leather tongues,
you give them a wave and keep circling,
Just one more song, you say.   
This is your “me” time. It’s all-skate.
You’ve got your whole self in--
that’s what it’s all about.

Ralph Pennel's writing has appeared in The Cape Rock, Ropes, Open to Interpretation, Ibbetson Street, The Smoking Poet, Unbound Press, Monologues From the Road, Right Hand Pointing, and various other journals. He has also published reviews with Cervena Barva Press and Rain Taxi Review of Books. Ralph teaches literature for Bunker Hill Community College and poetry at Bentley University. He is founding editor and the fiction editor for the online literary magazine, Midway Journal. Ralph’s first poetry manuscript, A World Less Perfect for Dying In, will be published in January of 2015. He lives and writes in Somerville, Massachusetts.


one was a photo of a photo
of itself.

on the back, it read:
wish you were here.

            one was a painted brick,
            worth its weight in postage.

one was a flock of birds,
that spelled out her name when it flew overhead. 

            one was a series of books,
            each with a single highlighted word
            she had to find to glean its meaning.

one was a flowerbed. just because.

            together, they applied for a NEA,
            to support their correspondence.

            then wrote grant letters to each other
            that explained the need for art in their exchange.

            eventually the stacks of letters became the art the NEA supported.

MOMA set her postcards on fire.
the smoke rose into the clouds, which made it rain. 

and when it reached her,
she could feel the words in the drops on her skin. 

they plucked at her like a harp.

            once MOMA sent an EKG.
            the caption read, "this here, this peak right here, is the exact moment
            when i thought of you."

MOMA sometimes whispers her name into paper.
so when she holds it to a candle, she believes the shadow 

like knowing of heart beats
before the heart.

Emily Pettit is the author of Goat in the Snow. She is a writer, visual artist, teacher, an editor for Factory Hollow Press, and the Publisher of jubilat. She teaches at Elms College and Flying Object. Read some recent poems here or checkout her Tumblr.


I put my hand on your hand. Mostly I meant to
be good. It was the shaking sky and what I wanted
to see below. It is always shaking where I am. 
What do you know from the shoulder up?
I know you can only watch the plane
until you can’t. Prominent cloud features are not far
from my mind. It’s an attempt to protect
both of our mind circumferences from being mistaken
for a shark that stops swimming. And other forms
of disaster. I apologize. I would do anything
for a different look from you. Animals in the ocean
make mistakes too, maybe. And our memories.
I know memory is remarkable and unpredictable.
And I am meaning to be better with what I know.
I know now is not the time to take up flying.
You say, I’m watching you. And I say, No, I’m watching you.
I am the government on the moon and
I mean to let you forgive me. 

J.D. Scrimgeour was born in Northampton, Massachusetts and lives in Salem. He teaches at Salem State University.  An ancestor of his was accused of being a witch, and she was killed in Salem in 1692. Another ancestor served on the jury that found her guilty. J.D. Scrimgeour is the author of a collection of poetry, The Last Miles (2005) and two books of creative nonfiction. His poetry has appeared in such magazines as Poetry, Ploughshares, Colorado Review, River Styx, Tar River Poetry, Connecticut Review, and Diner, and it has won awards from the National Society of Arts and Letters, the Academy of American Poets, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. He holds a B.A. and M.A. in English from Columbia University, and an M.F.A. in poetry and Ph.D. in English from Indiana University.

For Langston

          I, too, sing America
          –Langston Hughes

America doesn’t sing.  Not much
I love you this and that, and such,

it bops along to the radio,
but turn it off, there’s no

melody, no voice, a silence
that t.v. and lunch

–the crunch of potato chips–
slip into.  No dancing, no hips

shaking and thumping the air,
no splayed, unbuttoned hair.

Langston, you had the better ear.
I trust you when you say you hear

America singing, but come today
and listen, come now, today,

and bury your pen in our throats–
those simple, sometimes angry notes

that made your line almost true:
America singing?  That was you.

Karen Skolfield’s book Frost in the Low Areas won the 2014 PEN New England Award in poetry and the First Book Award from Zone 3 Press. She received the 2015 Arts & Humanities Award from New England Public Radio, and has received additional fellowships and awards in 2014/2015 from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Ucross Foundation, Split This Rock, Hedgebrook, Vermont Studio Center, and the Sustainable Arts Foundation. New poems appear in the Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day, Baltimore Review, Hobart, Indiana Review, MIRAMAR, Pleiades, Southword Journal, and others; she teaches writing to engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she earned her Master of Fine Arts.

Raven Versus Crow

“If a raven got in a fight with a crow,
who would win?” my son asks.
“Why would a raven fight a crow?” I ask.
“It’s a strawberry,” my son says. “They’re fighting over fruit.”
“It’s hard to imagine a fight over a strawberry,” I say.
“Animals fight over food,” my son says.
“Yes,” I say, “but a strawberry? It wouldn’t be a very serious fight.”
“Oh, it’s serious,” my son says. “To the death.”
“I don’t think ravens and crows fight to the death,”
I say. “Can’t they just go find other strawberries?
Look around. It’s June. Strawberries everywhere.
The air smells like strawberry wine, which you are never
allowed to have because of the alcohol.
I don’t think birds fight to the death,” I add.
“These birds fight to the death,” my son says,
“over strawberries, even when there are strawberries
everywhere, even when it smells like strawberry wine,
which I am never allowed to have, because of the alcohol.”
He looks at me, patiently, watching me weigh the odds.
“You know the raven is bigger,” I say.
“So the raven would win?” he says.
“Not so fast,” I say. “Crows might have other crow buddies
around. But can’t one bird chase off the other - 
why does it have to be to the death?” I ask.
“Because I’m nine,” my son says.
This explains everything, except:
“How does my choice matter?” I ask.
“I mean, this whole conversation is pretend.
There’s no raven, no crow, no strawberry,
no fight, no death. There’s definitely no death,” I say.
“It’s a very important strawberry,” he says.
“I’m not sure I can finish this conversation,” I say.
“As your mom, it’s necessary that I address
the reality of death in a way that’s age-appropriate
and acknowledges the inevitability
of our eventual demise. Death is not a joke.
It’s not a casual topic of conversation,” I say,                                  
“and you know how fond I am of birds.
How could I ever pit ravens against crows?
It would be like pitting my children
against each other,” I say.
“So the crow wins?” he asks.
I say, “Not on your life.” 

Tara Skurtu teaches Creative Writing at Boston University, where she received a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship and a 2013 Academy of American Poets Prize. Her recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry WalesPoetry Review, PlumeMemoriousDMQ ReviewThe Dalhousie Review,the minnesota review, The Los Angeles Review, and the anthology Poets in Transylvania. Her poems have been translated into Romanian and Hungarian.


I stood at the stove holding
a wooden spoon in my right hand,
listening to butter sputtering against
the splattered circle of an egg. Perhaps
it was the flapping of the egg’s
wavy edges against the steel pan,
or the amorphousness of its innards
outside the carriage of its brown shell—
I remembered an odd game I played
in Brownies. The amoeba game.
In the front yard of the scout cabin,
one girl at a time would become
an amoeba and lead the rest.
We didn’t know what amoebas were,
only that they weren’t human or animal,
and moved like a thousand blind legs
treading through molasses.
So it was that our heads and arms
became legs and feet, undulating
wayward into dusk. Swaying our shoulders
left to right, we’d giggle through mouths
we weren’t supposed to have, pretending
we had no eyes and didn’t know where
we came from or where we were going.


Originally published in Poet Lore

August Smith is a Michigan-born poet, journalist, and editor. He currently lives in Somerville, MA, and is an MFA candidate at University of Massachusetts Boston. He runs a small press called Cool Skull Press that is focused on video games, pop culture, glitch art, and internet poetics. His fifth chapbook, "Bird Lizard Horse," will be published by Nostrovia! Poetry in July.

3 Deads

I am dead on the surface of the moon
and I miss you like the sun. Space is less
romantic than I thought it would be.
Instead, it’s cold and all I hear is static
and I am dead face-down on the darker side of the moon
and you are still like the sun.

I am dead in a hotel room in Kentucky,
missing you like the west coast.
It’s high noon and the Oregon Trail is between us
with its sun-bleached oxen picked vulture clean,
and you are sunbathing, getting drunk, but I am still a body in
Kentucky, nobody has found me yet
and nobody will find me for twelve more hours
until a maid named maybe Rhonda goes to investigate
and she opens the door
and yup, sure enough, there I am, dead as hell, and still no closer
to the West Coast.

Ultimately I am dead in a Radioshack somewhere,
closed for the weekend, snowing outside,
and I miss you like libraries, which are never built
next to Radioshacks. I am dead on the blue carpet,
somewhere by the USB cords, and the light from the moon,
where I am still dead, reflects off the snow banks,
reflected in the laptop monitors.

originally published in Banango Street 

Heidi Stahl has taught creative writing and literature at Tufts University, the University of California, Santa Cruz, Seattle Community College, and Bellevue Community College, and led writing groups in Seattle and Falmouth. She is a professional writer for the University of Washington. A native of Massachusetts, she spent two decades on the West Coast, and now calls Cape Cod home. Her work has appeared in Off the Coast and is upcoming in Cape Cod Poetry Review


What She Wanted

The night before
the wedding

the maid of honor lay awake
in a wooden house
full of their sleeping friends

          weary from flying
          weary from riding       up the coast

weary from the snake of longing

that slowly uncoiled within her
and silently wrapped itself
around the man behind the wheel
as they navigated

the winding hills of Sonoma
and he charmed her
with stories of his patients

          weary from the ache and insistence of life
          returning to her limbs

          weary from the daily burning
          of errant cells that didn’t know they were wrong,
          just knew to keep on

She lay alone in the twin bed
but didn’t stay there

At 3 am she arose, empty as a ghost,
that snake still unwinding
leading her to him

across the wet grass

she turned the porcelain doorknob
heard a tiny shriek
of hinges awaking

Enzo Silon Surin is a Haitian-born poet, publisher and an assistant professor of English at Bunker Hill Community College. He is the author of Higher Ground (2006) and his work is forthcoming and has appeared in a number of publications, such as The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, sx salon, Ozone Park Journal, The Mom Egg Review, Tidal Basin Review and The Caribbean Writer. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University and is Founder and Publisher at Central Square Press.

High School English

Byron escorted from the pages,

ambulance siren falling away

through the frost window.

Peer at the clock, alter your route home—long poem.

What carries you, a lonely ascent

for which the objective’s clear: regard both time and reason.

The streets pole toward hue and cry,

the trek becomes infinite.

Better to mean what you say than to say what you mean.

Conceal your syntax, bid no explanations.


Tomorrow’s a standard deviation.

Where we live, the weight of which

depends on small silences

we fit ourselves into.

Jade Sylvan is one of the standout artists in the Boston Collectivist art movement. She's an award-winning, internationally-touring poet and nonfiction writer whose poetry and essays have been published in The Toast, BuzzFeed, PANK, and over twenty more journals, websites, and magazines. She's the author of the autobiographical novel Kissing Oscar Wilde (Write Bloody Press, 2013) and the poetry collection The Spark Singer (Spuyten Duyvil Press, 2009). In 2012, she cowrote and starred in the feature film TEN (2014), and wrote the accompanying novel. Jade’s received artist grants from The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Vermont Studio Center, and Amethyst Arsenic, and was nominated “Best Poet” by the Boston Phoenix newspaper in 2013. Jade can be seen frequently getting up to queer feminist performative no-good on- and offstage in and around Cambridge. 

You know how sometimes you’re in your twenties in America

You know how sometimes you’re in your twenties in America and you’ve learned every lesson you’re ever going to learn about ten times already, and you start to realize that’s what learning is, not answering questions, but finding ways to ask the same questions over and over again?

You’re twenty-one or twenty-nine and your heart’s been broken somewhere between four and twenty times-fetal-position-on-the-bathroom-floor broken, real-country-music broken-and you don’t know how you can ever be expected to go on like this for fifty more years and change.

You have scars. You’ve injured your body in ways that will never fully heal, and you realize you are slowly, incorrigibly sliding away from some physical perfection you imagine you must have possessed sometime in the distant past. Maybe when you were fourteen. Maybe the day you were born.

You’ve gone on and off your medication and the bottle. You’ve had your first marriage and maybe your first divorce, or maybe you’ve always broken things off or been broken off. You’ve screwed and you’ve made love. You’re pretty sure you know the difference now.

You’ve thought of suicide in a post-adolescent way at least once. Practically. Stoically. Without any late-night phone calls. Just sober in a dimly lit bedroom, weighing cons and pros.

Maybe you’ve changed your name or your gender and sometimes, if you’re not paying attention, you forget while filling out customs forms or grocery store reward card applications or your taxes and start to write those outdated letters and then, shaking your own head at itself, have to cross them out and start over. Maybe at that moment you recognize your fourteen-year-old self inside you somewhere, with black fingernail polish and matching rubber bands on her braces, and realize she’s been there all along, and she will always be there, and sometimes when you’re distracted she can sneak up to the surface of your skin just enough to slip her voice onto your paperwork.

You’ve lost god, or you’ve found Him. This hasn’t changed things as much as you’d hoped.

Maybe you’ve had a child and stared at its tubular body and limbs and twenty tiny perfect digits with awe and gratitude and terror, and you wonder what you did to trick the universe into believing you were smart or stable enough for this level of entrustment, and you realize that this is how your parents must have felt looking at you, quaking in their ridiculous retro fashions, and you can’t help but think of their parents quaking too with amazement in black and white or sepia, and their parents and theirs and all the way back to Adam and Eve or Lucy the Neanderthal and her mate, and how they all must have felt somehow the same staring down at their children, these pudgy defiances of entropy created without skill or logic or intention, by accident, flawlessly, and you think even the intelligent algorithm that sets bosons aspin must have its slip-ups and loopholes, and you think, in your most self-indulgent fantasias of personification, that the laws of motion themselves must feel uncertain at times, and maybe the gods, too, are making it all up as they go along, and maybe one day, when she’s in her twenties, you can posit this hypothesis to your child over beers, and she’ll listen and roll it over inside her perfect, separate skull, and respond with a perspective on all of it that you’ve never in your half-century of life even considered, and maybe this, her mouth which is not your mouth over the head of her beer, will finally, for a moment, make you feel unalone.

Donald Vincent is a poet, painter, and lover of all things art. He teaches literature and writing at Emerson College. He is the creator of Mr. Hip Presents, a reading series bringing together poets and spoken word artists with live jazz music. His poems have been published in Black Heart MagazineHobart PulpStone Highway Review, and elsewhere.

Lucky Charm

I inherited the bop in my walk from my great,
great grandpa’s lashings on the farm. So in Whole Foods
I divide aisles, a modern Moses parting white seas.

You’ve been warned by my charm. I crush worlds like Godzilla. False alarm.
Keep calm for I won’t cause harm.

People scramble to dodge me, the monster
with the third arm. On trains, they sneak peeks,
look away, and look again at my charm

which is like Uncle Tom, too uncool to take home to moms
so in cars, clubs, and in bathrooms, we-get-it-on-because-of-my-charm.

Hello, you remind me of a fellow by the name of Othello
and if loving you is right, I’ve-been-wrong-all-along-charm.

The take me by the hand because you-want-to-dance-charm.

Others clear throats on elevators, then
are you an entertainer questions swarm
while quickly clutching their pocketbooks. I smile
when they look and give-them-a-buck-for-the-hell-of-it-charm.

The once you’ve been charmed, you-never-go-back-charm.

Staying true to my native land, but love to slang the English-language-charm.

February first should be “Give a Thug a Hug” day. Sipping Hennessy
and Remy-Martin-charm.

Prankster and intelligent gangster all-in-one.
No forty acre and a mule, but it’s all good;
I still think we should Occupy-The-Hood-charm.

Don’t stop with the boogie-down, hip-hop music in your McDonald’s

The militant yet guilty until proven innocent, so hush, be quiet,
can’t snitch about my kind of charm.

The ones who know won’t tell, and the ones who will tell don’t know.

Can’t look away from it like a soap opera. All my children

You knew about it but forgot like last week’s newspaper headline.
I want to whistle whimsical feelings to white women, Emmett Till’s charm.

The charm that shines is the charm that blinds.