Formaldehyde

by Jason Morphew

On the Caddo River
there’s a train trestle
and a swimming hole
down a dirt path
from a cemetery
where my brother
and his recent ancestors
bleed formaldehyde
into the water table.
It’s good for you
and children
diving from the trestle
into chemicals below
it keeps you dead
and white longer
skincare for the departed
poison for the getting ready
to go.



Jason Morphew started life in a mobile home in Pike County, Arkansas. The Washington Post calls Morphew’s 2018 full-length collection, dead boy a “striking debut . . . presented with an edginess and sharp intelligence that make the poems pop,” and The Antioch Review calls it “brilliant.” Jason has shared stages with Claudia Rankine, Afaa Michael Weaver, and Joe Wenderoth. He holds a PhD in English Renaissance Literature from UCLA and has taught English at UCLA, UC Davis, and Mt. St. Mary’s University. As a singer-songwriter, Morphew released albums on the labels Brassland, Ba Da Bing, Max, and Unread. He currently lives in Los Angeles with his family.

imaginary lakes & the houses near them

by Timothy Otte

more than sex or money
    mostly what I want is stillness
I could give up almost anything
    —just give me an hour
every morning with a cup of coffee
    & the loons

    calling through fog
over smooth water

                  *

let the city remain where it is
    small & far off

    most days I am not myself
other days I wake & sleep
    with the sun

I’ll leave my body here
    encased in concrete
if my spirit can walk
    through the meadow
    through the reeds

                  *

more than knowledge & power
    what I want is rain felting
the surface of the lake

keep your large rooms
keep the bars & tall buildings

    give me the whole sky
& hands to hold it

I’ll drink the iron-flavored
    well water
whiskey in winter

gin in summer

                  *

this is sentimental
    so be it
        —this is sentimental

                  *

    if I had known how easy
        contentment could be
    I wouldn’t have wasted my life
in these ways

I might simply have dug a hole
    & called it home
        hollowed a dead tree
    to fill with chimes

their song coloring the edges
    of winter

    stillness is a sort of wisdom
        wisdom is knowing nothing
is ever still or still for long


Timothy Otte’s poems have appeared, or are forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Fence, Sixth Finch, SAND Journal, Structo, and elsewhere. My book reviews have appeared on LitHub, the Colorado Review, and in the Poetry Project Newsletter. Timothy is from and lives in Minneapolis, where he works at Coffee House Press, but he also keeps a home on the internet: timothyotte.com.

Last Transit of Venus This Century Draws Stargazers Around the World

a Golden Shovel after Margaret Atwood’s “you fit into me” by Soleil Davíd


High noon & I trek out to a Gangnam playground with you,
sit on a swing, trace larger & larger arcs & you fit
your face over the pinhole projector you made, staring into
the haloed reflection of a sun as yet unblemished. Around me

the cicadas trill, my summer dress flies up as I swing down. I like
us this way, tracing heavenly bodies in enclosed cardboard, a
hushed viewing room. Elsewhere a K-pop song, its hook
a cacophony, a far clangor of golden cymbals going into
its third verse. You don’t hear me make this observation. An
astronomical thing, our yard of silence. Your eye

is still trained downward, the sun content to shine behind you, a
rapt viewer following Venus’ path, as if it were a kind of fish
swimming upward. I leap off, nail the dismount, kneel & hook

both thumbs to the edges of the box, dive my head in, an
astronaut whose gaze waters in the sudden solitude, open
to a pockmark of a planet smudging sun, blurring my eye.



Soleil Davíd’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Arkansas International, Post No Ills, and The Margins, among other journals. Davíd was born and raised in the Philippines and received her B.A. with high distinction in English from the University of California, Berkeley. A VONA/Voices alumna, she has received fellowships from PEN America, Bread Loaf Translators’ Conference, and from Indiana University, Bloomington, where she is currently an MFA candidate in poetry. She is the current Poetry Editor of Indiana Review.

Antiquity

by Carrie Greenlaw

A long time ago
things used to turn off.

Sleep drifted in great swaths
that blotted out the stars,
upending Gutenberg’s press,
the cotton gin, splintering looms

and memory used the dark
to tend its garden.
We spun oblivion into silks;
forgetfulness, a saint’s medallion
forged of pilgrimage through pain.

These forests have been razed.
The world undulates and feels unwise.
Deglove means skin turned inside out.

Our hands shed uncontrollably
and out of sight.

Metaphors lead to motherhood.
In each orphanage,
urgency weeps from a dark grid of cradles.

Foul milk or no milk—
which mouth
can tell the difference?



Carrie Greenlaw is a poet and artist residing on the North Side of Pittsburgh. Her work has been featured in Masque & Spectacle, River & South Review, Inscape, and other publications. Her debut chapbook, Dark Garnet, is forthcoming by L&S Press in January 2020. She believes in living low and living slow. More at carriegreenlaw.com.

The Invasives

by Michele Sharpe

I was six or seven, on vacation.
Flamingos landed in their hundreds by
the infield lake at Hialeah.
Their pink, so lipsticky. Their size.
How could a bird be taller than me?
An old man called them exotic, from Cuba.
The flamingos bred.
                       Hialeah shipped the fledglings
to zoos around the country. Some escaped,

provoking rails against exotics, and now
I hear flamingos are our natives after all.
Hunted for their feathers and their meat,
the old ones fled Old Florida like other
natives fled conquistadors across
and back across and under,
                            over, through
swamp/river/prairie/sea.

Up north, on Ichetucknee, I watch the manatees
browse on water lettuce from my kayak.
Upstream, well-intentioned activists
pull at what they think
a strange and noxious weed.
It might as well be called another world,

the research station thirty miles away,
where water lettuce seeds, preserved like flies
in amber, speckle fossils older than
our puny memories.
                                           They stay inside
their case and wait for vindication.



Michele Sharpe, a poet and essayist, is also a high school dropout, hepatitis C survivor, adoptee, and former trial attorney. Her essays have been published or are forthcoming in the New York Times, The Rumpus, Guernica, Catapult, and The Sycamore Review. Michele’s recent poems can be found in B O D Y, Rogue Agent, Poet Lore, North American Review, Stirring, and Baltimore Review.

Faced with Extinction

by Susanna Lang

the dinosaurs made themselves
small, gaudy with feathers,
lighter than air. Compass needles
enthralled by the earth.

Case in point: this starling,
the iridescence at its neck,
its command of language.

Cocks its head, unafraid.
It should be more wary: my kind
have gone the other way.

I had to bend over to kiss
my grandmother, who
made herself small
to escape the pogroms.
But I grew tall, put on weight.

In the 18th century, men
wore lace at the throat
like this starling. Now
a young man in my class
boasts of his new sweatshirt—
white, nondescript
except for the logo.
No more gaud.

Our planes tumble out of the sky.
Our devices have lost our way.
Our capacious brains
have rooms for rent.

No need for asteroids.
We are picking apart
our own nest.



Susanna Lang’s third collection of poems, Travel Notes from the River Styx, was released in 2017 from Terrapin Books. Her chapbook, Self-Portraits, is forthcoming from Blue Lyra Press in June 2020. A two-time Hambidge fellow, Susanna’s poems and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in publications such as Prairie Schooner, december, New Poetry in Translation, The Literary Review, American Life in Poetry, and Verse Daily. Her translations of poetry by Yves Bonnefoy include Words in Stone and The Origin of Language, and she is now working with Nohad Salameh and Souad Labbize to translate their poems. She lives and teaches in Chicago. More information available at susannalang.com.

Two Poems

Oil Spills and Orcas

by Jasmin Lankford

Scatter white lilies in the water to save the Salish orcas.
Southern resident killer whales battle big business boats
as Trans Mountain Expansion engines emit a frequency
masking orca communication among mates.

British Columbia borders watch a whale hold her dead
calf above rough waves for weeks. All mothers mourn
lost babies. Her family, a pod of 30, float on without her.

In the church, lilies line the altar above a small casket.
No one speaks of the silence, even if they’ve felt it before.
There is no body in the box, but a soul swims to heaven.

In ancient Roman mythology, the genus name Orcinus
means “of the kingdom of the dead.” Mourning mothers
accept lilies as crude oil tankers tell orcas their irrelevance
to pipeline production. A kingdom of mothers without
children reign quietly in communities across every species.

Everyone is just struggling to swim with part of their body
weighing them down. Do their wombs recover? Where
is the resting place for whales? 75 orcas live near Seattle
while Chinook salmon, their primary prey, are dying.
Tanker traffic and runoff pollution conceive shoreside tombs.

The church mother by her baby tries not to drown in the death,
nods as people say she can just try again. The orca finally
drops her calf, letting it sink in the sea. A boat spills oil
on its way through wildlife. The lilies die within days.




Jasmin Lankford is a poet, cat mom, and world wanderer native to Florida. She graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Communications. Once upon a time, she studied Creative Writing in Paris. Her work has been published in Honey & Lime Literary Magazine, Kissing Dynamite, and Ink & Nebula. For more information, visit jasminlankford.com.

every memory is another country

by MJ Santiago

When walking through Houston heat, I became
the only living creature; an alien
in a land made for eating oil. Streets made
maps meant to lead me safely towards
another planet. Remembering when
I heard the word alien and thought it meant
primarily, foreign, like a country.
Green meant legal, like a card, or a going.
Like when a carrying makes movement safe.
Back then, in Florida, I never walked.
I was one of many living creatures.
Back then, I thought California was a
planet. The word originally was
yet another country where I was from.




MJ Santiago is a queer Chicanx from Central Florida. They take photos, write poems, and organize with their community of LGBT people of color in Brooklyn, NY. Their first chapbook, Baby Knife, was published by Tenderness Lit in 2018. More of their work can be found at mjsantiago.com.