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How did you squeeze yourself

through the bathroom window,

to escape from him?

You must be a shapeshifter.

That’s what I told her.


She shrugged and said, I didn’t think about it.

Physics is not my subject.  I just jumped

from the bathtub up onto the window sill,

shoving the window open with my shoulder.

Look how it scraped my skin.


Do you think that he wants you

to be small, all the time?


I think he wants me to shape shift, he

is the one who tries to make me

whatever he needs at the moment.

Be a cook: cook.  Be a maid: clean.

Be a puta:  suck or fuck.


You are the one to decide

when you want to shape shift,

I insist.  Why don’t you

become something huge

that can’t be defeated?


A big bad-ass Statue of Liberty,

she smiles.

That’ll work.




by Tammy Melody Gomez


Tammy Gomez is an activist, performance artist, and writer whose work is published in collections including Women in Nature (2014), and Entre Guadalupe y Malinche: Tejanas in Literature and Art (UT Press, 2016).  She is profiled in Las Tejanas: 300 Years of History (UT Press, 2003), and was honored by Goucher College (Maryland) with the “Alumnae/i Award for Excellence in Public Service” in 2010. She is a fellow of the Black Earth Institute

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Night in Coney Island


Change, I wanted to say. Turn, I wanted to say. Twist

of fate, I wanted to say. Edge of history, I wanted to say. I said: ‘news.’

I said: ‘flash.’ I said: ‘extra’. . . extra . . . extra . . . extra . . .



Held in a window. Assigned to descend to the street. Take what

you want from here. There are thousands of voices

vouching for revolutions.There are waves


beyond this rhythm. Know this. There are tides

with different times. Slowly the sky unfolds

in ripples canopies waves. Take the sky cold soda &


water for a dollar one dollar one dollar water a chorus. You

as compared with the week before looking for

yourself through old streets


A woman on the boardwalk glides by

with two roosters—one tucked under each arm—

dances to the rhythms of the Coney Island night sky and


first city stars: Polaris, Cassiopeia. This New York City vertebrae.

Memory. Nebulous Insomnia. Guy clicking gum chewing gum

boys drinking a bottle of screw top red from a plastic bag.


Night begins. A man with a t-shirt

that reads: Please Baby Please

Please Baby Please Please Please




Note: Epigraph from Vito Acconci’s The Red Tapes (1977)



Amanda Deutch’s poems have been published widely in journals online and in print. Recent  publications include: The Rumpus, 92Y Words We Live In, Revolver, Denver Quarterly, Manhattanville Review, and Barrow Street. Deutch is the author of six chapbooks, including Pull Yourself Together (dancing girl press, 2016) and Fit to Print (Harsimus Press, 2015) a chapbook anthology of 3 artists (Barbara Henry, Rosaire Appel, Amanda Deutch) who use The New York Times as inspiration. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and she has been awarded grants, fellowships and residencies from Footpaths to Creativity (Flores, Azores), Then Betsy Writer’s Room (Miami, Florida), Poets & Writers and NYFA. Deutch lives in Brooklyn, where she curates Parachute Literary Arts site-specific events and libraries. For more information about her curatorial & community arts work, check out

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The months fly by
   from last November
      until September;
these past ten months
    I’ve been admitted and discharged
         from the hospital six times
The cancer metastasized
      into both lungs
and then the brain:
   radiation in February
        to a mass by the right temple
neurosurgery to the top of the brain
      in July and last Friday
  the last radiation treatment
      to the tumor
             in the frontal lobe
A cancer survivor for twenty three years
   diagnosed when my daughter
         was only four years old,
I feel blessed having seen her grow up
   feeling blessed to still be here
          and to still be standing
Fay Chiang is a poet and visual who believes culture is a spiritual and psychological weapon used for the empowerment of people and communities.Working at Project Reach, she is also a member of Zero Capital and the Orchard Street Advocacy Wellness Center. Battling her tenth bout of breast cancer, she is working on her memoir.Seven Continents Nine Lives (Bowery Books) is her most recent collection of poetry. And she is the mother of the inimitable Xian.

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September Villanelle 

blue morning glories and cloudless blue sky
on spiraling wind, flocks take wing, leaves fall
the first breath of autumn, summer’s last sigh

in dreams I’m searching for rhymes low and high
a nightmare! my screen hits a fatal stall
still, blue morning glories, cloudless blue sky

ripe tomatoes spill seeds, milkweed seeds fly
so much abundance till hard frost takes all
the first breath of autumn, summer’s last sigh

from spring to beyond plants bloom, bear and die
I love each in passing, death casts no pall
blue morning glories and cloudless blue sky

who is not stirred by wild geese in full cry
or the raven’s raucous, comical call
the first breath of autumn, summer’s last sigh

so many poignant ways to say goodbye
one day I’ll pass through the gap in the wall
blue morning glories and cloudless blue sky
the first breath of autumn, summer’s last sigh


Elizabeth Cunningham is best known for The Maeve Chronicles, a series of award-winning novels featuring a feisty Celtic Magdalen. So Ecstasy Can Find you is her most recent collection of poems. Murder at the Rummage Sale, her debut mystery novel, has just been published. She is a fellow emeritus of Black Earth Institute.

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Another September


Mami believed in the good and the bad clear

Cut black and white back in 1957 when in black

And white we watched cowboy TV shows

A bit into the story she’d interrupt the

Narrative with her who’s and who’s

¿Quien es el malo?

¿Quien es el bueno?


She’d interrupt many many times

Though the good one she’d guess

By the color of his hat and outfit

The one in white no?

¿El blanco no?

The bad one black head to toe?

¿El negro no?


In those days it was easy to tell

The good from the bad

But she wanted to be doubly sure

To keep her good and bad in their place

Mami was afraid for ese Martin Luther King Jr.

We saw on TV and the kids in Arkansas

King was el negrito bueno still if he didn’t watch it


That negrito bueno was gonna get himself killed

Was gonna get those poor nine niños most

Dressed in pure white killed in Little Rock

Killed didn’t matter if they too were

Good like los buenos in the TV shows

That he looked like el buen negrito

That he was a minister hombre de Dios


Wasn’t good enough Mami lamented

Couldn’t he just keep good and quiet

Looking like the all in white cowboys los buenos

Deep down Mami always knew who were the good

To pray was ok but non violence she feared

Was asking for it…

!Ay bendito!


Lydia Cortes, a Williamsburg, Brooklyn born Puerto Rican, also lived in Rome. Two collections of poetry are Lust for Lustand Whose Place. Her work appears in The Anthology of Puerto Rican Poetry: (Aboriginal to Contemporary Times); Breaking Ground, Anthology of Puerto Rican Women Writers in New York; Monologues From the Road (a play); Through the Kitchen Window; and in Phati’tude Literary Magazine. In August, Upstreet literary magazine, published her poetry in their #12 issue. She is working on a memoir in verses, in whichAnother September will appear.

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September 25, 2016

There was no revolution

by Seamus Cashman



there was no revolution:


no one sang; and train tracks seemed

an ok place to sit by and wait;

– no guitar in sight; warm air

brimmed to overflow, melodic

cowling for our ears;

silence bursting to converse

to breathe an urgency,

a commotion.


But no one moved,

even as a train passed by

pulling itself through.

That seemed to suck all

in its after-draught,

and the silence



At one edge of our universe

a solitary figure fell

to ground in dreamlike fugitive collapse,

crumpling slowly inward.

That disturbance left us

—each alone,

and without expectation.



Seamus Cashman lives in Dublin, Ireland. His fourth poetry volume is a book length ekphrastic epic in thirty-one Movements, The Sistine Gaze: I too begin with scaffolding (Salmon Poetry, 2015). He is an International emeritus fellow of the Black Earth Institute.

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From a train, northbound, the young revolutionary foresees a new history


A bent knee as bulwark.


Along a Oaxacan country-


side, homes strangle

hems of hills, stones


jutting from stone. You wanted

to climb from the neighbor’s garden


to a governor’s library – chrysalis

articles of the nation, snake


plans for a new era of security

     & justice, butterfly


pyramid, mark

how bone, agreement


can crumple. This your grandmother

had whispered to your mother

when you were born: forgive fire


for it must reach

its course, even


as woods rebuild from ash, even

as edges of old scrolls char, even


as tomorrow begets a new daughter

who ignites destiny & all that came before.



Known for her sparkly eyeshadow and raucous laughter, Purvi Shah inspires change as a social justice advocate and writer. She is curious about language as dreamwork for love, transformation, and justice. She won the inaugural SONY South Asian Social Service Excellence Award for her leadership fighting violence against women. During the 10th anniversary of 9/11, she directed Together We Are New York, a community-based poetry project to highlight Asian American voices and experiences. In Terrain Tracks (New Rivers Press: 2006), she plumbs migrations and belongings. Her new chaplet, Dark Lip of the Beloved: Sound Your Fiery God-Praise (Belladonna*: 2015), explores women’s devotions, status, and being. Her first play, Light as a Mountain, had a staged reading in 2016 through INKTank, a playwrights residency by Rising Circle Theater Collective. She serves as a contributing editor to Aster(ix) and a board member of The Poetry Project. Discover more @PurviPoets or


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            For John Coltrane. For autumn.


The day spends everything

on color.


We withdraw

from the descending



to our houses. Toward


the flannel.

One was born knowing


long legends. He could fray

changes. Blew


cadence. With a horn, he bent

and burdened notes


to clouds.

The trees in their raiment


chord and lengthen.

Each heart wears the start


of sleep, and all the leaves

in a hurry to browning.



Lauren Camp is the author of three books, most recently One Hundred Hungers, winner of the Dorset Prize (Tupelo Press, 2016). Her poems appear in New England Review, Poetry International, Beloit Poetry Journal and elsewhere. Some of her poems have been translated into Turkish, Mandarin and Spanish. Lauren is a Black Earth Institute Fellow and the producer/host of Santa Fe Public Radio’s “Audio Saucepan,” which interweaves global music with contemporary poetry.

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Because This Is What Love Comes To


I brush away snow to watch the pulse of water

beneath ice, the river’s heart that throbs on and on


despite winter’s cold. After more than an hour cutting

new trail, I can feel my pulse along the left temple


and give thanks for its continuous beating.  We’re allowed

to name the stars more than once. Look at the naked sky


in January. The light we’re blind to at midday traveling

toward us until it’s broken by alder cones and becomes nothing


more than shadow. My heart sits impatiently in the basket

of my ribs while my skis make a lonely sound. As night


comes down, I’m reminded that not long ago

the pierced dark showed ships at sea a way home.

–  Todd Davis


Todd Davis is the author of five collections of poetry, most recently Winterkill and In the Kingdom of the Ditch, both published by Michigan State University Press. He is a fellow in the Black Earth Institute and a professor of environmental studies and creative writing at Pennsylvania State University’s Altoona College.

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Be the Sword: An Exhortation

Cait Johnson

You jeweled hilt

you bright reflecting blade

use your




but not to wound or rend.

Be the sword of blessing,

sword a beacon;

shine light over this confused,

this tangled

human world.

Cut away the killing noise

empty words

reveal the soul’s essentials.

Make something.

Make it true and real and beautiful.

Polish the sword of yourself.

Make it shine.



Cait Johnson has authored six works of spiritual non-fiction, including Celebrating the Great Mother (co-authored with Maura D. Shaw), a handbook of earth-honoring creative projects and ritual celebrations for parents and children; Witch in the Kitchen, which restores a sense of the sacred to cooking and eating; and Earth, Water, Fire, and Air, a look at the common elemental roots of the great religious traditions. She writes poetry grounded in an appreciation of the sacredness in the everyday, feminist spirituality, and the interconnectedness of all things; her poem “Cold Moon” was included inMeasure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Meters, from Random House. She is formerly faculty at the Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing program at the University of Southern Maine, and is an Emeritus Fellow of the Black Earth Institute. She has trained with the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology and is a shamanic practitioner with a private practice as an intuitive counselor in the Hudson Valley, where she writes, directs, and performs in shamanic theatre. Her latest book, The Road to Minsk, with artwork by Ania Aldrich, is just out from Baba Yaga Press.