Category Archives: Poetry.

A Love Letter from My Dead Name

By Jordyn King

Dear Jordyn,
It is June 29th.
My 23rd birthday, and your first.
And though you know who I am
I have no idea who you are just yet;
That’s okay, though. Part of the beauty of shedding an identity
is the ability to craft a new one, and
I have a guess about the beautiful
person you’ll become.
Now, I have some things to ask you,
but first and foremost,
I want to congratulate us or…
you.
You searched for your name for a full year,
and I think you found the one tailor made for you.
It is strange to think we are the same person, but this point,
our birthday, marks a completely new chapter in your life
So Congratulations, Jordyn. Truly.

I want to make a couple requests of you,
if you’ll allow me.
You don’t need to heed them all,
but I think it’s gonna help.

1: I ask that you remember me.
It’s hard for me to accept that I’ll be gone forever,
and I know you’ll do great things without me holding you back, but still,
I ask that you keep a part of me in the most secret chambers of your heart
So that when the road seems hardest, you might remember who we once were
and celebrate how far you’ve come, and how much further you can still go.

2: I ask you to forgive me my shortcomings:
I know they’ll probably follow you,
but I want it stated that my sins are not yours. Let your first breaths be pure
and free of guilt about my past.
I will carry those to my grave for you

3: I ask that you keep on fighting.
I know you will; it’s part of who I became and, therefore, part of who you’ve always been. But for the sake of the people
we both love, I want you to hold your fist high,
and fight like you have nothing left to lose.

4: Love everyone. Love them fiercely, and without hesitation or remorse.
I was never really known for regret, except once…remember that one,
to remind you of the consequences, and then love everyone anyways.
Love them through heartbreak and through bad times and falling outs.
Love them always, and love them the way I love being you.

5: Finally, I ask that you love yourself.
You are the future we didn’t think would be possible,
the person that we never thought we’d live to be when we were younger.
Remember to love yourself,
and be kind to yourself.
And remember that you made it
for all of us.
So happy birthday Jordyn.

Forever in your heart,
[REDACTED] Your Dead Name

Far from Okay

By Benjamin Stevenson

Rubbing it raw, I gulped the load
and slithered away from him.
I thought the boys in the videos
made it look so much easier.
Crawling up the ladder of pelvic
bones I wish I had broken, I stumbled
disappointingly into a familiar feeling.

Sometimes bad men ask me,
Did you have fun down
on all fours like the bitch you
are? You actually looked like
you wanted to die this time.

Stripped of the flesh,
I plugged the wounds
and soaked the husk
I call a body in warm water,
because I know
it is best for blood
and in that moment
he could have emptied
a boiling pot onto my back, and
scrubbed me like a kitchen table
far from clean and certainly
far from okay.

I still wouldn’t have felt a thing.

Notes for My Underpaid Therapist

By Benjamin Stevenson

Heather,
I have been thinking a lot about death
about sensations
how my chest would feel
while falling through dusty
air in a desert city___
slipping off
the balcony. But the image no longer
seems poetic, when I imagine what
bones might sound like crashing
against stale concrete. Stiff
as a board, & white as a candle.
I have been thinking about the
darkness that would certainly
follow me to this lonely place.
how metaphorical doors would wax &
wane far too quickly to respond
timely, nor fashionably
& how goddamn depressing this reads
on the unbroken screen of a MacBook I can
not afford, but that all my pretty white friends have.

Heather,
I have been thinking a lot about
my childhood, and all the things
I cannot and do not want to remember-
selective memory loss
Do you ever wonder if some children
need a slice of darkness to develop
into the tragic adults which our excuse
for a god determines them to become?
I do & this glimmering idea,
makes life almost fathomable,
or at least this is what I tell
myself at the end of every blurry night.

Heather,
Do you still think we’re making progress?

From the Backroads of Rural Mississippi

By Sarah Shields

In the seat of my bike, racing down a backroad, skin blistering in the sunshine, my aunt hollered at me from her porch swing,

“You got a rat’s nest in the back of that head of yours, Sarah.”

But brushing my hair was the least of my worries. I was in constant motion—had too much to do, to see, to explore.

The heat was waiting on me.

The days were so hot it felt as if the heat enveloped your whole body as soon as you stepped outside, and when you breathed deep, the humid air turned to liquid in your lungs.

Cars rambled slowly down the distant highway. The table saw hummed and wood whined as my Papaw created a masterpiece with his hands, bending it to his will. A roar echoed from the garden down the road. I knew if I waited long enough, I would see my father proudly posted atop his red 1986 Massey Ferguson tractor.

Smells mixed together in the air. Sawdust, old leather, honeysuckle, freshly turned dirt.

And heat.

If you’re from the Deep South, you understand the way heat smells.

After moving to what my family termed the “big city,” a man once told me,

“You smell different, not like soap or perfume, but something else.”

Maybe a mixture of the sawdust, honeysuckle, worn leather and heat has seeped into my pores, clinging to me, branding me, reminding me and anyone else who comes close enough of my Mississippi roots.

I can remember walking down that backroad named after my family, thinking how idyllic it was, but not knowing that word at the time. The tree limbs hung loosely over the road, almost as if they were longing to touch the gravel as much as I was. It looked like a scene so many Southern novels describe.

Old, shaded, beautiful. Touched by time, yet untouched by the world.

If you caught it at the right moment, the sun would make its way through the leaves onto the blue gravel pavement, creating something almost magical. Like you had been transported back in time to a place that wasn’t as affected by life and circumstance. That’s the world I grew up in. Riding horses and bikes along the old pavement, never fully understanding how special and tragic it was.

Now, as an adult, the veil that covered my eyes as a child has faded.

I understand that Mississippi isn’t fondly regarded by the rest of the world. It’s the home of racism, homophobia, sexism and obesity. I can attest to all of these things being a part of Mississippi. They are the reasons I moved to a larger, more tolerant Southern city.

But what people don’t understand are the summer days on a Southern backroad. The ones with sawdust, honeysuckle, heat and just a hint of magic.

Boots Sarah

Hope Sustains the Farmer

By Christina Schmitt

Spes Alit Agricolam

The grave was five feet deep.
I know this because he asked me to stand in it.
I am 5’7.
The sun was hot, as every May day, and the tall grasses rolled in the quick breeze.
There were the right amount of clouds for cloud watching.
I noticed this when I glanced at the sky as I was standing in the hole to be turned grave and wondered if death was ever an act of mercy.
He put the bullet in his shotgun, explaining the best way to shoot her.
It’s to draw an imaginary X between the eyes and the nose and hit the cross at an angle.
He said he saw it once in the farmer’s catalog he gets every other week.
His hands trembled.
It was Friday.

On Monday we slaughtered three piglets for a pig roast wedding.

(After he shot the piglets,
We slashed the skin above their hooves
Hung them by a forklift
Bathed them in boiling water
To burn off hair.
Delicately,
With a sharpened pocket knife,
We slit their stomachs to remove their inner organs.
It is fragile work,
As you want to avoid puncturing intestines.)

She hadn’t moved from under the only tree in the pasture except wringing with the shade as the sun changed positions. She was a calf, a little over a week old. She was born hairless, which didn’t seem like a big deal when I watched her legs straighten and buckle underneath her last week.
Because new life is always beautiful, even if it is ugly.
I got in to the habit of naming the newborns, and he warned me harshly that I best not assign her a name because it’s best if she doesn’t make it.

The difference between the piglets and the calf is
The desire to kill without a need and the need to kill without the desire, and
Isn’t this a serious human problem?

Her skin was hammered by the sun, and cracked so deeply that flies feasted. She didn’t have eyelids and usually they rolled back so that I only saw the whites of them. Without the hooves, a wanderer never would have identified this miserable creature as an oversized rodent, not a newborn calf.
I checked on her every morning in the pasture that week, praying to God for mercy. If she had the energy to banter with God, I’d assume it would’ve resembled Job’s dialogue; only, God could not banter back. How could you justify misery with a child?
The 3 p.m. bell rang to signify a time of prayer on the farm.
“How appropriate,” he mused, tipped his hat. As he sauntered towards her lifeless body, she stood. Well, she tried. Every movement she made caused her skin to crack more and blood oozed out enough for small droplets to fall in the matted grass that she refused to die in.
She stumbled around for a moment, getting closer to the hole on the other side of the tree.
She stood, facing the mound of dug up dirt, forcing him to stand over it with one foot on each side. She stared at him, whites in her eyes stark against her blood red skin.
She was ready.
“Return to your Soil and Creator,” I heard him mutter as he lifted the shotgun.
She fell, not even a foot from the grave. He reloaded once more, to be sure, and fired again.
Then, he walked away.
It helped me to know that he hurt because of this. Not that I blame him, but because I know that taking lives lie in his authority and that type of power should be humbled.
He returned, where my feet hadn’t moved, and made a motion of lifting her in the grave.

She didn’t look natural, with her legs folded over her and head cocked too far left.
He said it doesn’t matter,
but it did matter.
I regret not saying that.
He regrets waiting so long.
He asked if that was hard. I asked if death was ever easy. I was the first one to see her, last week.
He offered me the bullet casing. I said no.
Some things don’t need a totem to recall their principles.

Spes Alit Agricolam

(Hope Sustains the Farmer)

Sweet Fruit

By Alec Prevett

there were no clouds in the day
all across was a sugary electroshock blue
taffy
         stretched and squashed by a universal pull.

the trees behind the fence
mocked me with their absurd height, extending
their limbs and tasting
that sticky sky—
munching on it as giraffes do
         on leaves.

the naked fruitboys nestled in the boughs
fed on it, too, reaching
from the branches to steal blue in their hands.
they hung there, far above me, laughing
         as i drooled, hungry.

Pondering Watercolors for Later’s Painting

By Alec Prevett

Wheat:
Eyelids in their stillness clutching
     muddy irises like gemstones.
Vermillion:
The sun, its own eye not yet wide, peeking
     through the curtains to gently rouse us.
Pitch:
Your hair tousled and shooting
     in directions that will embarrass you.
Azure:
Flannel sheets in disarray swaddling
     us like children tired and pure.
Café Au Lait:
Those freckles large and small unwavering
     on those talcum seas, your skin.
Puce:
Shaded lips, smeared and parting
     against my shoulder, as if to whisper no,
     morning is not yet.

Long Dollar

By Jon Goode

Mr. Jones in his Sunday’s best pacing;
Mrs. Jones in her Sunday dress waiting impatient
For the ushers to begin
To usher in the church congregation
To hear about God’s salvation
And Satan’s temptation.
The flock heavy with sin
The church a weigh station
While pastor lay in wait to waylay em,
Lift lions and slay lambs at the gate
Testify, pacify and pass the plate
(Pass the plate).
And the Choir sang their songs
The congregation sang along
Waving their hands
And their Martin Luther King fans
But they weren’t fans of Martin Luther
Or Christ the martyr
They worshipped at the altar of the Long Dollar
(Of the Long Dollar)
(Of the Long Dollar).

And there I am eighteen years old
Running in late dressed in street clothes;
And when my feet hit the church doors
In jeans and shelltoes
It seemed hell froze.
I was greeted with heaven help’s
And hell no’s
I suppose those folks in salvation’s army
Fo sho don’t shop at the Salvation Army.
They all smelled like obsession.
I pray the scent of salvation’s on me.
And the Choir sang their song
The congregation sang along
Waving their hands
And their Martin Luther King fans
But they weren’t fans of Martin Luther
Or Christ the martyr
They worshipped at the altar of the Long Dollar
(Of the Long Dollar)
(Of the Long Dollar).
The preacher screamed “No weapon formed can harm me!”
Which seemed right he had a right tight army.
In fact I bet not a single congregant had even touched the hem of his garment yet.
So I sat in the front row right next to Ms. So & So
She wore her skirt real high and her hat real low.
You know, that it was known to everyone
That after the pastor would make her speak in tongues.
No one was sure if he was reaching them
But the shepherd sheared the sheep
He was surely fleecing them.
He was preaching and teaching to the young
Tell them who they are and who they should become;
And behind doors he was touching them
Right under parent’s nose he was touching them
Soon it was exposed that he was touching them
(He was touching them)
(He was touching).
And the Choir sang their songs
The congregation sang along
Waving their hands
And their Martin Luther King fans
But they weren’t fans of Martin Luther
Or Christ the martyr
They worshipped at the altar of the Long Dollar
(Of the Long Dollar)
(Of the Long Dollar).

hang out with me

By Maddie Fay

“hang out with me.”
a text i send a lot,
a little demanding,
but always sincere.
it means
“i like your company”
or “i miss the way
your nose crinkles when you laugh,”
or “there’s this new thing
i want to try,
and i want to try it with you.”

my heart stretches years
and states and oceans,
and i try to keep the people i love
as close as i can.
because their brains are magic,
because i like their insight,
because so many of us are
lost boys whose only real family
is each other.
because waking up
to another friend’s picture
on a facebook memorial post
becomes an avalanche of every
phone call i should have made.

“hang out with me”
always means “i want to see you,”
but sometimes it also means
“i don’t like the way
your new boyfriend talks to you”
or “none of us have seen you
around lately”
or “you’ve stopped eating again,
and what kind of friend would i be
if i just pretended not to notice?”

and we don’t have to talk
about anything you don’t want to,
just get in my car,
i’ll pack us both lunches,
and we can drive to the mountains.
i’ll remind you of the reasons
you are good,
the ways you have touched my life,
and why i’m glad to have you in it.
we’ll make really exciting plans
so tomorrow can stop
looking at you and licking its teeth.

i won’t pretend my love
can save you,
but some things
you can’t do on your own,
and i will help you find help.
some days you are
the brightest thing about this world
and it would never be the same
for losing you so soon.
if everyone who hurts like you
dies from it,
there will be no one left
standing at the other side,
reaching out an arm
for those who come next,
and the world will be left
to the people who inherited bridges.

i like your company,
and i would miss the way
your nose crinkles when you laugh,
and there are still so many
new things you have not yet tried.
so come over,
or call me; i’ll come get you.
you can play with my dogs,
we can count the stars.
i can lock up my knives,
you can sleep in my room,
just hang out with me
a little bit longer.