Hollows by Monique Quintana

California reads like an old school map with monsters on the periphery. Teeth turn to tiny white crosses as grave markers, spitting out holy water from basins lodged in a wall of adobe and stone. Those monsters are my cousins a thousand times removed, telling burnished hands to work, searing their heads out of the soil to bark orders, moist soil, dry soil, beach sand as dark as my sister’s hair. My sister sleeps in her bed again, and her hair is growing. I send her apps with whale sounds to drown our mother’s scolding, even though it’s good for us. I’ve heckled mornings running and swallowing the bugs and the dry heat of my town. My rental was built in 1927 and the closet only has room for two party dresses. Down the road, fruit grows, plucking my father’s fingers as a boy. The mist burrows in the scales of fish swam from Michoacán, making them whistle tales about fake clouds and giants sleeping under grass to make mountains to protect us from fault lines. My sister sleeps in her bed again, and her hair is growing.


Quintana_Headshot_SP21Monique Quintana is a Xicana from Fresno, CA, and the author of the novella Cenote City (Clash Books, 2019). Her work has appeared in Pank, Wildness, The Acentos Review, and Winter Tangerine, among other publications. She has been nominated for Best of the Net, Best Microfiction, and the Pushcart Prize, and has been awarded artist residencies to Yaddo, The Mineral School, and Sundress Academy of the Arts. She has received support from the Community of Writers, the Open Mouth Poetry Retreat, and she was the inaugural winner of Amplify’s Megaphone Fellowship for a Writer of Color. You can find her @quintanagothic and moniquequintana.com.

Beer Breath and Hauntings by Ashley Sapp

My dad has called again, and this time there is a voicemail. This time, he says I haven’t heard from you in a while and I love you. He says, I want to know whether you’re okay, but it has been over a year and I am not sure that I am. The last communication between he and one of us was when he drunkenly told my sister that she was dead to him, so if that is the case, why does he think it is okay, now, to call me as though I am not her ally, as though it has ever not been the two of us against everyone else? As though the fight between them didn’t start when he said I was a disappointment. As though I have not heard all the things he has called me and accused me of. If that is the kind of love he has to offer, and I know full well by now that every kernel of love comes with a rope, then I do not want it. It is not safe here where there is no accountability,
and it has taken me thirty-three years to validate my pain. And yet, he also instilled guilt within me, so every time I hear his slurred voice, I am made a child again, haunted by ghosts of what could have been. Haunted, you see, first by his words and then by his absence. Haunted by everything I had yet to lose. So when he says I love you, he means, I need to hurt you. When he says, I want to know whether you are okay, he means, how dare you live outside of my reach? And I have dared to live, long ago deciding that I want to survive his love, not die from it. I will be his ghost. I will be his haunt, a forever reminder that his blurry breath no longer determines my fear.


xqN64w_T_400x400Ashley Sapp (she/her) resides in Columbia, South Carolina, with her dog Barkley. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of South Carolina in 2010, and her work has previously appeared in Indie Chick, Variant Lit, Emerge Literary Journal, Common Ground Review, and elsewhere. Ashley has written two poetry collections: Wild Becomes You and Silence Is A Ballad. She can be found on Twitter @ashthesapp, Instagram @ashsappley. Website: https://linktr.ee/ashsappley

This Splenda Packet Advises Me, “BE THE ENERGY YOU WANT TO ATTRACT” by Carolyn Oliver

Lately I have been the energy of the kitefin shark, enormous-eyed, fatty-livered slow cruiser of the mesopelagic depths, hunting the sweet edge of daylight and everdark, belly glowing secret blue. Given this bit of encouragement, though, I’m considering attracting a new kind of energy: the energy of a petrified tree sixty feet tall and twenty million years old, the one paleobotanists just uncovered and lovingly extricated from highway dirt on Lesbos. Yes, I am now the energy of this tree that fell, whole, all its tree organs still attached, this tree making the best of a volcanic eruption. I am the energy of slow hardening, of lying in wait for the right eyes. That Miocene kind of patience.


Carolyn_Oliver_color_photo_by_Benjamin_OliverCarolyn Oliver’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Massachusetts Review, Tin House Online, Indiana Review, Cincinnati Review, 32 Poems, SmokeLong Quarterly, Terrain.org, The South Carolina Review, Necessary Fiction, and elsewhere. A nominee for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net in both fiction and poetry, Carolyn is the winner of the Goldstein Prize from Michigan Quarterly Review, the Writer’s Block Prize in Poetry, and the Frank O’Hara Prize from The Worcester Review, where she now serves as co-editor. Carolyn lives in Massachusetts with her family. Learn more about her work at carolynoliver.net.

Gold by Michele Popadich

zhito / I never knew what it was made of / this wheat berries dish / boiled / ground down & mixed with nuts / sugar & packed into a crystal bowl / for special occasions like  holy days & in mourning on the morning of Nana’s funeral / Baba hands me a box of raisins / gold & dark ones stacked together to draw on top of the zhito / a cross & I feel as if the task is too holy for me / this placing of pieces in place of piecing us back together / “Ona je otišla” / She is gone / Baba tells me / the orchestrator of grief / with her hands on the neckline of my black dress / I  pinch it an inch higher / in church light pours in like fire / stained glass stamps a kaleidoscope of color / I am having a very hard time putting a hand on Nana’s hand but Baba collapses into her casket / she calls out to her / with a name too holy to write on this page & I cannot look away from this wholesome embrace / Baba a slanted black silhouette / bun flattened at the base of her head & I feel bad that it was so hard for me to put a hand on her hand & that the only coat I had was purple & not black but I never knew what grief was made of / in English — she is gone is state of being / a happening to you / in Serbian — “ona je otišla” is agent she went / left / departed / when I cross the sweet zhito with raisins / the pieces are coming together / Baba tells me to pluck away the dark ones for her departure / only the gold ones for / Nana


PotraitMichele Popadich is an MFA student in creative nonfiction at Northwestern University. Her essays have appeared in Hippocampus Magazine, Talking Writing, and Driftless. Her poems have appeared in Heavy Feather Review and LOCUS. You can also hear her tell stories in various live lit venues around Chicago. Follow Michele on Twitter @miche1ewith1L and check out her past work on michele with one l (www.miche1e.com).

The Editorial Says College Girls Should Just Stop Getting Drunk by Emily Banks

And when I peed on the floor at Pi Lam, I assured my friends it was fine because it was the study
room and no one goes in there. That’s what Sam said. He’d gone to find a condom and I’d already
undressed. At least I was being responsible—with the condom, I mean. I thought Sam looked like Rahm Emmanuel, who was Obama’s Chief of Staff then and made headlines for accosting Eric Massa naked in the congressional gym’s locker room to pass the universal health care bill. In a New York Times profile, he bragged his office was bigger than Joe Biden’s.

I’d met Sam during my brief stint as a reporter for the campus newspaper. He was the campaign manager for a Student Body President candidate doomed to lose. The candidate was hot so I primarily watched him at the debate I was supposed to cover and said yes when he offered me a ride back to my dorm, though it was only a five minute walk. Then Sam was talking from the passenger seat, fast and direct, hyped up on political adrenaline. His mother was from Brooklyn like me and he sang “Brooklyn Girls” by Charles Hamilton to me and I asked for his number under the pretense of future journalistic inquiry. My ethics were questionable, certainly.

That night I was out with a boy I loved who had a French girlfriend and his friend who looked like a bird of prey when I texted Sam, calling him Rahm, to offer him the newspaper’s endorsement in exchange for a good time though in reality I had no say over the endorsement. On a couch in the Pi Lam basement he asked why I was wearing a sweatshirt to a party so I took it off, revealing a v-neck tee, and he slid closer to me. I peed on carpet so it soaked up quickly. I don’t remember what the sex felt like. Mostly I remember walking out into the night, leaving the house aglow with its red cups, its lingering odor of sweat and Everclear, behind me as I tripped dancingly down West Cameron, proud the way a dog might be after peeing on a grand old tree. Here’s what I want: for all girls to be free.


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Emily Banks is the author of Mother Water (Lynx House Press, 2020). Her poems have appeared in 32 Poems, Heavy Feather Review, Bear Review, The Cortland Review, Superstition Review, and other journals. She received her MFA from the University of Maryland and currently lives in Atlanta, where she is a doctoral candidate at Emory University.

the revivals we cleave, we endure by Vic Nogay

when she came to me at dawn / i was already spinning in the water up to my ankles with my long cotton cardigan pulling wet and winding up around my knees / body nude but glitter-sparking in the summer sun / there were mothers and sons and grandmas with their dogs and husbands walking by and looking without looking / and some even looked / like really looked / but i couldn’t be moved by any force but my own / my arms open wide while the world renamed me Beautiful because i was alive / and coming alive again.

when i came home near noon / light and heavy and sparkling new / i shed golden champagne skin of the morning around carelessly in the garden and on the sun-kissed heads of my children so they would grow roots and grow strong and grow real and irrefutable / i left some in our bed and painted it on my reflection in the mirror so i could see it when i didn’t believe / i sent some through the air vents and down drains so it would travel far and maybe come back to me too / someday / when i might need it.

when you woke at dusk some nights later / you thundered / unhinged the sky into your orbit / in the rain / you opened your mouth to let the water soothe the blackouts stuck to your teeth / cavities or carbon or the colossal crack of gunfire // you choked / forked a single speck of glitter from under your tongue / and spit it out at your feet.


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Vic Nogay writes to explore her traumas, misremembrances, and Ohio, where she is from. She is an animal cruelty investigator and a mother. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Emerge Literary Journal, perhappened, Free Flash Fiction, Ellipsis Zine, and others. She tweets @vicnogay. Read more: linktr.ee/vicnogay.

It was 1687 when a falling apple fell in natural motion by Tanya Castro

The galaxy sits in my palm. Only until it becomes a fist like watching a shark open his mouth and your life hanging on to nothing. There’s a story my father would tell my brother and I as children, there was once nothing until there was genesis. My father would list creation and I saw how it sat on his tongue, in the way that the stars sit against space. Everything sits on atmosphere. On the third day, when dry land was created, there was finally something to sit against light and sky. A reflection was born. The trees were created as well. A shadow was born. My father still tells me the story. Only now, I know how creation feels. It sits against me as I sit against it. The story ends on the seventh day, when creation finished like the way I watch a galaxy disappear when there’s nothing to hold on to. It was named gravity. The way humans fall.


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Tanya Castro is a Guatemalan-American writer from Oakland, California. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Poetry at Saint Mary’s College of California. Tanya’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Acentos Review, Anser Journal, Floresta Magazine, and FEED Lit Mag.

If by Cheryl Pappas

If I were ice I’d sculpt my way to you over a century or two. I’d rise and roll and sink and swim into the shadow depths, just to inch closer to where you are, north or south, somewhere or nowhere: everywhere. I’d rise, all aglimmer, hoping sun would catch my light, that you’d see.

Come summer I’d turn to vapor and find myself on a cloud; I’d rain on you in Newfoundland, where I’d spot you on a city street, outside the bookshop, twirling that girl’s hair, steps from the shelter of the shop.

I’d stay pooled on the pavement a moment too long, let myself be a mirror of you and the girl dry inside, laughing. I’d see you leave.

I’d attach myself to the sole of an old man’s shoe. He’d take me to his third-floor apartment, the floor a maze of magazines and photographs. I’d find a photo of a glacier and crave the certainty of stone. I’d become meshed with paper, a spruce tree from the west. Hello, old tree, I’d say.

I’d barely be, there in a plastic box waiting for pick up. At the first fierce wind, I’d hitch a ride straight to Gibraltar. I’d drop myself off on the heady branch of a stone pine, the rich scent a pleasant repository for pain.

This terrain would suit me. I may solid to rock or branch, let water become a distant memory, let the languor of ice become a dream.


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Cheryl Pappas is a writer from Boston. Her work has appeared in Juked, The Chattahoochee Review, Jellyfish Review, Hobart, SmokeLong Quarterly, and more. Her flash fiction chapbook The Clarity of Hunger will be published by Word West Press in 2021. Her website is cherylpappas.net and you can find her on Twitter at @fabulistpappas.

Sparrow Haibun by Kim Ellingson

For a short time, I was gorgeously exhausted from grief. My body rejected food. My hair fell out in thick plumes. People said, My god, you’re glowing. There was man I loved, who said, I wish you were less. I closed my mouth. I stayed silent and hungry. I lost a cup size. My skin stretched taut, thin as tissue paper. My mouth became a refuge for endangered birds. Soon, my size five prom dress fit my once size ten frame. There was no occasion to wear it aside from washing the dishes and taking out the trash. The man I loved said, look at those shoulder bones, look at those pretty closed lips. When my protruding ribcage received an ovation, the sound nearly drowned out his voice when he said, I choose her.

How can I eat when

a sparrow dies every time

I open my mouth?


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Kim Ellingson is from Token Creek, Wisconsin. She holds an MFA in poetry from Antioch University, and her work has appeared in Five:2:One, Prometheus Dreaming, Cagibi, and elsewhere. She currently lives in Omaha.

This, Too, Is a Sacrament by Kimberly Casey

This is how you make
your world small enough for you
to wake up each morning and breathe.
— “Creed” by Kwame Dawes

Run before the sun comes up, before the humidity will drag your lungs to the pavement and fill you like a watering can. Once you catch your breath, head to the backyard garden and touch each plant, inspect for new life, admire the way the vines find new directions for growth. Keep them from crowding and smothering each other. Sling the satchel across your back. Pick blueberries, dropping them into the bag producing a simple staccato percussion. Rather than taking one at a time, let your fingers curl around the bunches and pull. Forgive yourself for the ripe ones you let slip to the earth. The birds and the squirrels will clean up your messes and you have enough harvest to fill a freezer. When you sit down to sip your coffee, read the news. Put a bowl of fresh berries next to your left hand. Every time you read of a new death put a new berry into your mouth. Notice how full you become. Notice how life can get pulped between your own white teeth. And even though you haven’t eaten red meat in 11 years that doesn’t mean you didn’t inherit incisors. Leave the juice dripping from your lips. When you put on your mask and go to the protest, remember the stains you’ve made that others can’t see. Remember that pulling out your own teeth won’t undo the damage of the past.


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Kimberly Casey is a Massachusetts native who received her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. She has since moved to Huntsville, Alabama where she founded Out Loud HSV – a spoken word poetry and literary arts nonprofit dedicated to inspiring community outreach and activism through spoken word. Her work has appeared in The Southern Women’s Review, Tilde Literary Journal, and The Corvus Review, among others. Kimberly is currently pursuing an MFA at Pacific University.