Brown Girl Missing

by Jessica Martinez

I was eleven when Elida Hernandez, from two blocks down,
disappeared. The only trace of her was a dropped bag
of tangerines from the Fiesta Mart.
Her mother clung to her fourth-grade picture
in front of the news camera—her toothy smile wide,
eyes shaped like almonds, the same as mine.
The reporter said there was an increase of crime
in our neighborhood, but didn’t mention
what Elida was wearing. She was forgotten in a week—replaced
with high school football playoffs.

In Juarez, Mexico, there is a row of pink crosses—one for every woman
who has been raped, tortured, then murdered.
Locals say Ciudad Juarez is the worst place
to be a woman. Once, I saw a mother being interviewed
on Univision whose daughter was found floating in a canal,
a large rock tied around her ankle to keep her submerged.
She wept and said her hija was a good girl who never
wore makeup or stayed out past sunset—but someone took her anyway.

Every man I’ve ever been with has called me an Aztec goddess,
spicy Latina, or Selena Quintanilla. I have heard Hey mami,
call me papi
ever since my curves came in—those curves that have been touched by eager hands, like colonizers raiding for gold.

It’s funny, one lover said, you’re brown but I’ve never heard
you speak Spanish.
He doesn’t mean funny like a cat playing
the piano, but funny like how twelve years later, the mayor tore
down the projects Elida grew up in and replaced them with luxury lofts,
and now the white people that moved in laugh whenever they try to order
tacos de barbacoa from the Fiesta Mart.

 

Jessica Martinez is a Retention Specialist and writing tutor at San Jacinto College, a freelance writer for the Houston Chronicle, and co-founder of the women’s online literary journal, CEO. Her work has appeared in Stephen F. Austin State University’s undergraduate journal, HUMID, and online at Digital Papercut and Sediments Literary-Arts Journal.

Cowbird

by Nels Hanson

The drab cowbird with gray,
some dull brown on throat
and breast, hops on cement
patio selecting fallen seeds
among black poison nuggets
from the red and yellow four
o’clocks from Peru. It lives
by its own obscurity, unlike
brilliant waxwing, changing
ruby-throated hummingbird
glinting with diamond flecks,
green and silver, or the pushy
scrub jay with bluest pinions,
navy slash on white neck. My
vague bird is not the rainbow,
more shadow of discarded tool
left years in rain, forgotten in
a shed by window facing only
winter light like my doorbell
with spider web. Anonymous,
the small black eyes are large
enough to see how this world
works. Six morsels taste fine,
a mockingbird starts new aria
as cowbird scurries for dusty
hedge its sanctuary, to find or
lose itself again in darkness.

Nels Hanson grew up on a small farm in the San Joaquin Valley of California and has worked as a farmer, teacher, and contract writer/editor. His fiction received the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award and Pushcart nominations in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016. His poems received a 2014 Pushcart nomination, Sharkpack Review’s 2014 Prospero Prize, and 2015 and 2016 Best of the Net nominations.

Two poems by Gale Acuff

“Shot”

How easily he could’ve thrown me down,
my father, in the photo of him and
me, mostly him, when I was just a few
months old–smack on the walkway that leads to
the house where I grew up, or tried. But how
could he have gotten away with it? Watch

the birdie, perhaps Mother’s saying, if
indeed she was behind the camera
–if so, then she still is, I can see her
as easily as I see Father and

me, stone-still, taking the photo even
now. I’ve seen this picture a hundred times
but only now has something clicked,
that, in real time, when the image was caught,
Father approached Mother, the camera
still pointed at him, more at him than me,
I hope, until they exchanged baby for
machine and, in fact, that’s the very next

photo in this family album, this
time with me in Mother’s arms but struggling
less, if one can judge of still-life that way.
And I suppose that if I didn’t know

better, she, too, could destroy me, raise me
over her head and then with both hands and
wrists and elbows and shoulders and arms dash

my still-stiffening skull on the stone where
I’d explode like a firework–I wonder
what I’d have sounded like? And can you take
a photograph of the sound of nothing

lost? I think that I’m glad that they didn’t.

 

“Understated”

Miss Hooker says that when you’re dead you feel
more alive, if you’re in Heaven that is,
if you’ve been good, if you haven’t sinned more
than you have to and you sort of have to
because Adam and Eve did and passed sin
on to us so the best we can do is
cut back, Children, don’t let Jesus have died
for nothing on the Crucifix, think of
all His pain and how it must hurt Him when
He looks down from on High on you and sees
you sinning. Miss Hooker’s our Sunday School

teacher and we’re all ten years old and if
I don’t get saved before I croak then I’ll
go to Hell and I shouldn’t want that be
it Eternity or not and it is
but not the kind Miss Hooker says I’d be
happy in. And that’s an understatement,
she says–I’ll be tortured forevermore.
When I got home from Sunday School today

I told Mother what she said, Miss Hooker
I mean, about feeling more alive in
Heaven, Hell too, I guess, but anyway
Mother said that that was a paradox,
to be dead but feel alive and it was
clever of her to say it, Miss Hooker
that is. Yes ma’am, I said, I’m not sure why,
but anyway she makes me want to die
does Miss Hooker, she makes me want to kill

myself and if I could stand the sight of
blood, I just might do it but then again
I could drown or hang myself or jump out
a high window or off a building or
throw myself in front of a train or car
but it had better be moving pretty
fast, the car that is, I mean I would die
so suddenly I’d never see any
blood at all–that’s suicide, I forgot,
and it’s a sin, it would only get me
Hell, not Heaven. Plus no more paradox.

 

Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, Coe Review, McNeese Review, Adirondack Review, Weber: The Contemporary West, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel (BrickHouse Press, 2004), The Weight of the World (BrickHouse, 2006), and The Story of My Lives (BrickHouse, 2008). He has taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.

The Chairman Goes Swimming

by Quin Nelson

He waits unsteadily at the banister
Perhaps feeling his age, swept in
a swift wind with the expanse
of the river before him
The photographers hold,
No greatness to be captured
in the tentative moments
And then with resolve,
He lowers himself and
the water gives way
In such a vast body,
Displacement acts as disappearance
You meet him at the car,
You clutch his arm
He feels despondent, depleted
At dinner he eats little
And drinks too much
And in bed you try to speak
And he presses his forearm
at your throat,
and he insists you give like water

 

Quin Nelson works as a teaching assistant in Portland. He likes to read and write and draw and play pickup basketball, and his housemate has a cat named Spoon.

Colors

by David Brake

hues
of dead leaves & whitepink—ripening strawberries.
Red and tan and pistachio-green brownstones lit from lackluster sky lit from sun (post sunset).

Smooth-marble girl in Roman rose-garden sits and re: birds on branches
takes pictures.

I want to tell her
that colors go away at night.
Be careful,
I want to say.

What you see as beautiful will be different
come moonfall.

 

Originally from Denver, Colorado, David Brake is an undergraduate at New York University. He writes both fiction and poetry.

haiku

by Gerard Sarnat

the good thing about
being lame is that you do
not forget your cane



Gerard Sarnat’s recently been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He’s authored four collections: HOMELESS CHRONICLES (2010), Disputes (2012), 17s (2014) and Melting The Ice King (2016) which included work published in Gargoyle, Lowestoft, American Journal of Poetry, and Tishman Review, amongst others.

a love poem for a northerner

by Silvia Oviedo

Bespectacled you
Come to me with that sparking
Dual destiny one shall not deny or renounce.
Elitist, your music evolving as steadily through my ears as through the landscape of vit
you call eternal
Your forehead I have learned to love indistinctively in spite—or because—of the force of
the years,
Gradually slipping into this conglomerate of consciousness we have glued together:
How did this happen, alhaja
How did my tongue become heavier and how did my words learn to lift
themselves from the haze?
Ay, something I have yet to learn is how to read into your advances, requiring
Just the right amount of justification,
Key to the strange ways of our perpendicular hearts.
Let them liaise till they find the light, or the love, or the language,
Min skäraste: [thus I start my letters].
The notion of naming us in any vernacular I pick: nosotros, digo, nuestro, digo, nous.
Cariño, I tell you and I say cosas ñoñas and anchor myself to the tongue that is mine
when feelings burn: yo también llevo la pena dentro.
Pursuing the curves of your lips, plump like the curves on a map when there is a plosive
involved,
Quaint, your mouth a quiverful of harsh echoing arrows,
Rivers crossing the plain, crossing the lines I write when my hand rattles.
Surprisingly, your own name is my svenska shibboleth,
Traversing that landscape of thistled terrains, my mouth, a trujumana,
Unequivocally calling u, u, u.
Victory is the achievement of unpreoccupied learners I say, now verbalizing the insides
with the appropriate volume, out of the vortex leading to the vocabulary vacuum of the
uninitiated. [Also, the notion of naming us in the languages of your side: vi, vi, vi]
You told me that there is ingen w in your mother tongue, holding my left hand (me, an
untranslatable wishful wench — how would you call ‘you and i’, then?).
Extraño, I say about the lack of letters in your alphabet, the overflow of extravagant
dots. Extraño, digo when I miss my homeland but:
Why don’t I recognize that my home are our languages?
Zeugmas, both in language and love, that is what we are, zalamero.

 

Och under allt detta pågår febern, och pennar löper, löper rätt fram…
[August Strindberg]

 

Silvia Oviedo is a translator and writer originally from Spain. She has been based in San Francisco for the last 6 years, after some time in Madrid and Berlin. Silvia received her MA in Translation from Universidad Complutense. Her writing has appeared in several journals, collections and live events in Spain, Mexico and the US (El Perro, El Salón Barney, La manera de recogerse el pelo, SXO, among others), and she has been the recipient of the ‘Ciudad de Aranjuez Young Poets Prize’ in 2006, and selected by Jack Hirschman for the 2016 San Francisco Poets 11 group.