Driving West into Gary on U.S. Highway 12/20

by Ellen A. Orner

Andy’s on 20 – Vienna Beef. Drifter’s Restaurant and Lounge. Absolute Air Heating and Cooling. Depot Dog – Vienna Beef. The People of Gary Welcome You. Need a Divorce?

Marsh grass. Cottonwood. Goldenrod. Mosquito swarm. Freight train. Amtrak. Another freight train. Honey’s Gentleman’s Club. PolekatZ. Lightning Fireworks – We Have What the Others Don’t. RomantiX. RomantiX. RomantiX.

Dune grass. Cottonwood. Sand dune. Honey’s 2. Laser tag warehouse with caved-in roof. All Mart Flea Market. Asphalt. Cinderblock. Discount Cigarettes. Ponderosa Steakhouse. Smog. Wing Wah Restaurant. Mufflers 4 Less. Used Truck Tires. Republic Frame and Axle. Fresh Fish. Temptation Gentlemen’s Club. Dunes U Store. Steel Transport – Safety Inspection Lane. Trailer park. Move Your Home Here – 219-938-0772. Semi Truck Parking. Deep Foundation Contractor since 1977. R&G Pallets. Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant. Shangri-La Gentlemen’s Club. Banquet Hall/Church/Full Kitchenette with Fridge/100+ Digital Channels/Free Phone for $696 per month with FREE SUNDAYS.

Jonathan’s Pancake House. Empty sign frames. Northwest Indiana Humane Society. Fortune House Chinese Dine-in. McDonald’s. Miller Beach Home Center. Arman’s for Jolly Good Food – Vienna Beef. South Shore Line Train Station. M & M III Beauty Supply – Dollar Gifts. Darnail Lyles, Esq. Attorney At Law. Cottonwood. Maple. Oak. Miller K Market. Fagen Pharmacy Liquor. Race Way Gas. Sporting Life Liquors. Healthy Smiles. Dom and Pete’s Point View Bar: Package Liquor, Fine Food. GoLo Gas. Cottonwood. Pine. Train tracks. Long line of 1940s pre-fabs. Smog. Power lines. Concrete. Road Construction Next 5 Miles.

Danger High Voltage. Pandora’s Show Club – Now Hiring. Junction Interstate 90. Milkweed. Marsh Grass. Hurt in a Wreck? 222-2222. Motel with green roof and no walls. Cottonwood. Dune grass. Ramp to Toll Road. Junction Interstate 65. Dunes Highway/West 12, West 20. Mint-green warehouse. Door 17. Red brick. Smokestacks. Road Construction Ahead. Walter Bates Steel Corporation. Rail Road Crossing. Centennial Processing. Rusted bridge. Rusted steel coils.

Dunes Court Apartments. Lake Street Express I: Full Line Groceries – Fresh Fruits and Veggies. Handmade signs. Painted brick houses. Yard with weeds taller than fence. Yard with close-clipped grass. Ivy on brick. Grass on roof. Life-sized Christ on cross.

Avila’s Auto Repair – Body and Mechanical. The Difference Between A Parent Who Hits His Child & A Parent Who Doesn’t…About 10 Seconds! SHARKS: 1 lb. shrimp $9.98. Freight train. Ambulance. Mr. Archie’s Grill and Sports Bar – No Standing Outside Vehicles. US Steel SteelYard – Home of the RailCats. Passenger train. Decommissioned steam engine. Junction Indiana 53. Life-sized statue of Elbert Henry Gary, Lawyer, Industrialist, Benefactor, Founder in 1906 of the City of Gary.

Lake County Superior Courthouse. Greyhound Station. Three-story brick houses. Wooden fence. Chain-link fence. Bright blue house. Molding yellow house. Charred cement house. Row of burned-out houses in pastels. New sidewalk. Row of dog runs. JR’s Liquors 2. Two-story brick houses. Single-story brick houses. Yards. Houses.

Ellen A. Orner is communications director at the University of Tennessee School of Art and reading series coordinator for The Sundress Academy of the Arts. She was the 2016 nonfiction editor for Grist: A Journal of the Literary Arts and nonfiction coordinator for the 2018 Best of the Net Anthology. She was born and raised in Gary, Indiana.

Three Poems

by Emperatriz Ung

Dear Imperial Lotus

Bloom away from muddy water
Train tracks run west to touch east
to connect you back home
San Francisco never had it easy

Roll into the mud
Clay mixture on angel island skin so soothing
Lie on the bridge it shakes
Sun kiss sun burn
pinned to the sky
莲花 can’t touch home

We hug walls of the tunnel
Golden candles light our way
Roots torn when lifted
out of the Middle Kingdom earth
implanted elsewhere
美籍华人 bloom from 血统 drops

Code for
are you one of us?

Code for
what are you? Where are you from?

Rare hybrid, 南美
Beckons la flor de loto to face el sur
tongues tumble
dance to catch unfamiliar tones

The Real-life Captain Mageds

Stories of Neighborhood Soccer Teams and The Occupation

by Hasheemah Afaneh

Between my paternal grandparents’ home in Jabal Al-taweel, which literally translates to long mountain, and an Israeli settlement named Psagot that did not exist when my father was growing up in Palestine, there is a long, gravel road that leads to nowhere and to anywhere. I only realized this last summer. A person walking, biking, or driving through will eventually hit a dead end, but when a U-turn is made, the road to nowhere becomes the road to anywhere: Ramallah, Nablus, Jericho, Jerusalem, Haifa – even Beirut and Amman. This road could be the start to the rest of the world, but couldn’t this be said about any road?

The neighborhood’s children and youth, a demographic to which my younger brother, cousins, and their friends from ages eight to nineteen belong to, use this gravel road as a soccer field. One of the children takes rocks and sets up the goals for both teams, and another brings a soccer ball. They shout and yell as they form their teams, and then, the game begins. Often, one of the players kicks the ball so high in the midst of showing off his skills that it falls near the settlement fence. It’s usually my cousin Alaa.

“Did you have to do that?” One of Alaa’s older brothers yells in Arabic.  

“I’ll go get it!” Alaa yells back.

“Alaa, yumma, why did you do that?” My aunt yells, too, if she’s sitting outside with my grandmother.

It is the same scenario all the time.

Alaa shakes his head and runs near the settlement fence to go get the soccer ball. The players stand quiet. My aunt stands up from the plastic chair she’s sitting on with her hand on her chest, and an Israeli soldier appears out of nowhere. Both my aunt and the soldier watch Alaa as he grabs the soccer ball and runs back to the road. My aunt sits back on the plastic chair and resumes conversation with my grandmother, and the soldier goes back to wherever he came from.

It happens all the time.

The summer after second grade formed my first memories of Palestine. My mother would turn on the television every morning to a channel called Spacetoon, the equivalent of PBS Kids, and my brother and I would watch the Arabic version of the Japanese manga called “Captain Maged.” The story revolves around intense soccer games, Maged, his friends, and his rivalries. I was obsessed with Captain Maged. I wanted to be him, overcoming my imaginary opponents in my quest to become a successful soccer player. It was a phase that took over my imagination that entire summer.

One day that summer, my mother, brother, and I were at the muntazah, a park filled with sand, slides, and swings not too far from our home, when someone had informed my mother that the Israeli military was imposing a curfew on our city-town. Mamnoo’ tajawwol, it was called, which literally translates to ‘not allowed to move’. A Palestinian man from our city-town had been killed by the Israeli military a block away from our home.

Yullah, yullah,” I remember my mother saying, with a panic filling her voice. Come on, come on. She walked us home as fast as she could.

The closer we got to home, the quieter our surroundings became. The road that leads to the entrance of our home was blocked by a heavy military presence, so we had to get home from the back entrance of my neighbor’s apartment building. The details become vague after this point, but I remember three things like they occurred only the other day. First, there was a military tank situated at the top of the hill northeast of our home – and straight across from where the man was killed – for three days. Then, there was no electricity at nightfall, so we relied on candles. Finally, a mattress was put on the floor for my brother and I to sleep on in case a bullet flew through one of the windows.

I don’t recall the man’s name, but I recall what people said he was doing right before it happened. He was coaching a soccer team of adolescents when soldiers shot at him, killing him instantly. I thought of how he was someone’s real-life “Captain Maged.” That was about eighteen years ago, shortly before my mother, brother, and I returned to America and before the second intifada was to erupt.   

In the summer of 2017, as I was on a bus in route to Jerusalem, I noticed that some children do not get the soccer balls back like my cousin Alaa, and like the unnamed man, they do not get to play freely in their neighborhoods. As the bus drove past meters and meters of the Apartheid wall, I noticed that there were soccer balls kicked up and caught into the barbed wire at the top of the eight-meter long concrete structure. I imagined the children yelling at each other for who would have to go purchase a new soccer ball. Perhaps they all chip in a few shekels to buy a new one. After all, the children didn’t put up the Apartheid wall. The occupation did.

I did not understand the concept of the “right to play,” one of the many rights violated by the Israeli occupation, until I saw how neighborhood soccer teams freeze in time as neighborhood soccer teams. That is not to say these teams do not become bigger and stronger. The neighborhoods of Palestine are filled with Captain Mageds, but their opponents are larger than the opposing team. There is a limit to how high they can kick the ball before its stuck in some physical barrier.

Hasheemah Afaneh is a Palestinian-American writer currently based in New Orleans. After living in the Palestinian Territories for years, she was inspired to pursue a masters degree in public health from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, managing to keep in touch with her passion for storytelling and writing while balancing her love for community health research. She blogs at norestrictionsonwords.wordpress.com and has written for various media outlets, including the Huffington Post, the Fair Observer, and This Week in Palestine.


by Jacqueline Jules

The water is three shades of blue,

still as a warm bath, waiting.

The sands are pink pastel,

thanks to coral reefs, heads poking out

like the turtles paddling everywhere.

Passion flowers wave from every other tree.

Spice leaves share the scent of cinnamon.

Aloe vera grows wild.

The island has no snakes, no mosquitoes.

Only rolling hills with brightly painted houses.

Neon green and shocking pink. White tops

shining in the sun. Idyllic until

the tour guide explains how the ridged roofs

are coated in lime, purifying rainwater

cleverly captured in cisterns; how the cozy

cement structures can withstand

hurricane winds; how even in paradise

one must be prepared to weather storms.

Jacqueline Jules is the author of three chapbooks, Field Trip to the Museum (Finishing Line Press), Stronger Than Cleopatra (ELJ Publications), and Itzhak Perlman’s Broken String, winner of the 2016 Helen Kay Chapbook Prize from Evening Street Press. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including Cider Press Review, Potomac Review, Inkwell, Hospital Drive, and Imitation Fruit. She is also the author of 40 books for young readers. Visit www.jacquelinejules.com


by SK Grout

The porch table, levelled with food,
waits for the afternoon sun to ripen,
and sweep us all outside. Last night’s
disagreements limp between us

and we cannot build a bridge over blood;
we know its thickness and its cost.
After the meal, we must still perform our lives
as large machines that lie obediently.

The avocado dip, the ham and cheese omelette,
the artichoke hearts like bombs at our table
and who can talk when there is no listening,
just words of absolute that mute us, that scatter

like the aftermath of a knife fight. Love
and the law sit at this table, but they will not
pass the butter. The afternoon creeps on
with the light of a calling ghost and somebody

makes the choice, perverts the course,
and begins their next sentence with the wall

SK Grout grew up in New Zealand, has lived in Germany and now splits her time as best she can between London and Auckland. She is the author of the micro chapbook “to be female is to be interrogated” (2018, the poetry annals). She holds a post-graduate degree in creative writing from City, University of London. She was commended in the 2019 Verve Poetry Festival prize. Her work also appears in Crannóg, Landfall, Rising Phoenix Press, Banshee Lit, Parentheses Journal, Barren Magazine and elsewhere. She tweets @indeskidge.

Two Poems

by Marlin M. Jenkins

self-portrait as cape cod ghost

i am very practiced in visitation, in which i am the one visiting; i pass a sign for ghost tours, which don’t interest me—what is a ghost tour to the already ethereal?

white tourists refuse to move as to share the sidewalk and i specify white because all of them are

i know i’m a tourist here, too, more or less, but ghosts, permeable as we may be, know how to watch where we’re going, or at least put in the effort

down the one main street i make my way through and past bodies, flinch at doors dropped in front of me

no one here summoned me and yet here i am to wander the streets alone, to walk a gay haven lined with pride flags but no welcome for the body of a queer black boy

a black ghost—often invisible, often a cause of fear

most of my metaphors are a form of coping

most of my coping is a form of magic—no one offers to be my assistant, everyone mistakes the waving black curtain for a trick of the light, I transmute my trauma into a scroll and drop it in a bottle in the Atlantic

the bottle is opaque but the scroll translucent

the bottle washes all the way home and waits in my own mailbox for me to return

i’m the most boring kind of ghost—can’t walk through walls, can’t fly, can’t cheat death but instead death cheats me and calls it a history lesson

there are only two people of color at the concert and the metaphor writes itself because we sit all the way in the back before realizing we’re alone

the guitarist plays the guitar like a violin and uses a loop petal

i get lost on the way back but only a little, find a monument to orient me

the bnb room is upstairs, small but there are two black people in it, neither family nor lovers, and i’m no good with numbers but i know at least when i’m not impossibly outnumbered and lonely

in some towns, they’re coating the streets white so they don’t absorb the sun’s heat, reducing temperatures—better for the environment; when I leave this town it will be easier for it to achieve homeostasis

the stairs are too steep—

i walk up to the top room—

bodies down the streets

Two Poems

by Lip Manegio


i am held in the wet of a mouth & someone names it sermon
my body pulpit / my gender responsorial psalm
        a thing only made complete when someone else repeats it back to me
everything is slick as we break bread and make this a final supper

i lie and do not tell my grandmother
                        i never took a saint’s name
                i say i would have picked Joan
                and maybe it was because i could already taste the light

apostle me to bed
    i mean
i was always something communion wafer

the church kneelers are always the first to be taken by the moss
the tabernacle is always the last
                trying to protect the body right till the end

we were all baptized once
                      we were all sacred once

a hand draws me into oil anointed & a body is made holy again
    i mean
all of the doors have lambs blood above them
        & no one dares to touch me without my prayer

Three Poems

by Holly Iglesias

Processed Cheese

Student to his professor, I knew no response to you’re quite lovely besides oh and that vague nod with which the young surrender control over their bodies. He fed me kumquats and Dubonnet, recounting his time overseas in the service, springtime of the Cold War, when crew-cuts and confessional poets were in vogue. He had returned home with three children and a French wife who divorced him after the birth of three more, a woman whose life inside a lime-green shotgun house near the Plum Street Snowball stand seemed full of charm. I envied her alien status, her facility with garlic, her French-speaking children who stayed with their father every other weekend, eating peaches in heavy syrup as he tapped at the typewriter, tipsy. He heaped gifts upon me—pocket dictionaries, amphetamines, paperback editions of Rimbaud and Valéry—until I had the vocabulary of a budding symboliste, a satchel of words I would carry onto the trains of Europe, roaming with yet another of the century’s lost generations. He released me after graduation into the world, insisting I see France, subsist on Médoc reds and foil-wrapped wedges of La Vache qui Rit, read Le Fleurs du Mal on a bench by the Tuileries basin until I too swooned in poetry’s drunken boat. It was difficult to say if he lost me or I lost him, but torrid verse continued to haunt my chastened life as did the cheese, which I tucked each day into my daughter’s Star Wars lunch box, the red cow with the gypsy earrings still laughing.

Three Poems

by Peter Mason

When I Say Water, I Mean

The re-experiencing symptom criteria of PTSD include intrusive memories of the traumatic event, and the avoidance symptom criteria include the inability to recall important aspects of the trauma.

-Samuelson, Kristin W. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Declarative Memory Functioning: A Review.” Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience 13.3 (2011): 346–351.

the men I tried to love were always
so delicate in the way they held me
between their hips         as if a soft
rabbit’s back cradled in the damp
of their thighs         so often I am afraid
I don’t dream because the water
will become me         will drown me in what

my therapist says I don’t remember it
right         if anything her
a violet coiling thing that stuffs the throat
tentacled bloom becoming what was
years         my body says look how she churns
in your mouth         here are all of your teeth
wet and shining in your palm

Three Poems

by Robbie Q. Telfer

The Windshield Effect

The news isn’t good
it isn’t evil either
the news vomits 58 minutes
of real doomblood but on a
lighter note, here is video
of a rat wearing
a tiger costume
good night, Chicago.

An old commie organizing tactic
goes you frame every struggle
with victories and hope
like the only reason we eat
sandwiches is the bread.

My partner has Celiacs
and sometimes gawks at me
like a pervert when I eat
clearly delicious breads.

don’t know what we got till it’s gone

They have recently discovered
dozens of different aquatic fungi
at the bottom of the Great Lakes
and immediately sandwiched their
conservation in the gluten free
bullshit of “who knows what
disease these fungi might cure.”

I understand you need to get funding
and I understand lots of people
don’t see worth in something unless
it cures someone they know personally
of the thing that is killing them.

Something people say to get you
to like bats is “they can eat 1000
mosquitoes in an hour” which is
probably impossible and also
shouldn’t be the only thing that
keeps the little Caesar inside you
from thumbsing down all bats
in our big blue coliseum.

Oh my god it was fucking huge.
What was?
The spider.
Oh yeah like how big?
Like this (                ).
So like two inches?
Yeah. Fucking huge.
Did you walk away from it on your comparatively enormous legs?
No, I had to smoosh it with a Boden catalog.

The news about the bugs
it isn’t good.
This will be calamitous
to us – our crops, food webs.
And yet here I am
telling you that that’s
not a good reason
to save them.
If you don’t want
your species to go
extinct, is the god
you pray to a hope
you will one day
cure another species’

I hated Obamacare
but then I got to
live a little longer
and now I love it.

What do you call a
protest vote where
you vote for the candidate
who most perfectly
reflects your heretofore
unelectable worldview?
A vote.
Anyway, I vote for bugs.