Before or after you dig into this week's cover story on a young, politically engaged group of Cleveland poets who are building community through their art
, read some of their poems for yourself.
(she/her) is an educator and writer. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The Academy of American Poets (Poets.org), Cherry Tree, Pleiades, wildness, Cream City Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Boiler, McSweeney's, Lunch Ticket, Gordon Square Review, and elsewhere. She is a poetry reader for Split Lip Magazine and was a finalist in Write Bloody's 2019 book contest. She lives in Tremont with her spouse and three cats. Find her online at megannevillepoetry.com
TO THE WOMEN WHO SURROUNDED THE PENTAGON
First appeared in Gordon Square Review.
with their sturdy legs, milk-flat breasts,
& embroidered panels of muslin –
who deployed on overnight greyhounds
leaving their children in ohio while
they took on world leaders with needles
& thread greased with beeswax –
who could not bear to think of us as
lost in a nuclear war, dissolved by splitting
atoms as miraculously as they’d conceived us.
we ate pizza & watched nickelodeon
while they wedged themselves before
any lawmakers or gods who’d hear
prayers for non-proliferation. that late
summer afternoon in 1985 they
so believed in their fabric activism –
thought by unfolding & tying together
each piece they could hug evil
out of the world & make peace.
oh, mothers of that generation:
the world is still a vortex of hate.
those men did not listen or act & you
returned home to trim crusts from bread.
we’ve grown up & as you’d
hoped, most were not lost —
but we’ve seen believing isn’t enough.
blanket the world. blanket as a noun &
verb. cover the earth with your stitchery,
but the feet always find their way out.
(he/him) is a poet from Cleveland, Ohio. he is co-director of grieveland, a poetry project. his recent poems can be found in jubilat, Passages North, Hobart, Poetry Northwest & more. his plays have been produced by convergence-continuum. find him at @likelykevin.
The light is a place where i can re-use drugs & there are pillows under my head in the bed of my cell. where there’s no jail. where my name spoken under the muzzle of a gun inspires laughter, not fear. where the bears can use the grocery store as they please & where my sister, dusting nestled dirt off her knees, holds me for the first time since i was five. the light, loud as it is, audacious as it is; where there’s a fire in my mouth, where i cough & we all turn to ash. where we build new worlds; riding rafts down the sink drain on a summer morning. Oh little-us, oh vengeful us, where is the salt under your lip? where is the filament? where does the sinkhole begin. In the light, i jump out of a baby’s mouth. i want to be born again. like salt on the cracked road; tires ripped & torn to shreds, car soaring over the river; bright light in my eyes turning everything white for days. my eyes clear up & now a tall man in the desert stands over me holding a can of gasoline. crumpled, i offer myself to him, tongue out. i wish i knew more about planes. & about love, the whistling in my ears, the real silence. The light, the light, bright slate, yet nothing, yet wedding bells, diamond rings, cigarette halos billowing over the creek. God arriving like he always does: a hug, warm hands, all of my dead family behind him, grinning. The light is a place where there is no joy & no pillows & no jails & no cocaine & no hashtags & no sports & no nostalgia & noprotests & no war & no balconies & no dead ___s & no more books about dead ___s & no idols & no rafts & no banks & no audience & no stage & make up & no applause & no anxiety & no tears & i’m just so tired of talking about this again.
(she/her) is a Palestinian-American poet and reporter. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in POETRY, Hobart and Jubilat. Her essays have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Literary Hub, and Adroit Journal. Hindi is the Equity and Inclusion Reporter for The Devil Strip Magazine. Visit her website at noorhindi.com.
Fuck Your Lecture on Craft, My People Are Dying
Colonizers write about flowers.
I tell you about children throwing rocks at Israeli tanks
seconds before becoming daisies.
I want to be like those poets who care about the moon.
Palestinians don’t see the moon from jail cells and prisons.
It’s so beautiful, the moon.
They’re so beautiful, the flowers.
I pick flowers for my dead father when I’m sad.
He watches Al Jazeera all day.
I wish Jessica would stop texting me Happy Ramadan.
I know I’m American because when I walk into a room something dies.
Metaphors about death are for poets who think ghosts care about sound.
When I die, I promise to haunt you forever.
One day, I’ll write about the flowers like we own them.
(he/him) is a busboy from Cleveland, Ohio. His poems have appeared in Protean Magazine and the Johannesburg Review of Books. He is the author of Character Limit (Grieveland, 2019) and Love & Solidarity (Grieveland, 2020).
even the moon
The breeze through the sycamore trees’ sickly leaves
that screams worsening working conditions,
the squirrel taunting the cat from its
clicking perch, the possums hunting rats
below in the arson lot, the rats getting hunted, the cloud
of bats rising from the school’s roof into October
orange cloud cover, the spider sewing its night
against a security light, the raccoons casing
the attic windows, the millipede ducking a
stream of piss in the urinal, the mouse ripping
its leg off in the glue trap, the dog singing its song
to the whole block of dogs, even the moon in its sorry
state of endless retort — hates cops too, you are not alone.
The forest, my comrade, whispers: “I am full of cops. I am
on fire. They have names & addresses & a growing list of
co-conspirators, go, find them. Settle my debt.
Say my name.”
Katy Ring (she/her) is a poet and art-enthusiast from Cleveland, Ohio. She is a devout Leftist and believes memes are art.
an idiots guide to oversharing
after exchanging names, you should start out strong and let them know how you can’t be loved by anyone without thinking they’re going to pull the rug out from under your feet. if you can make it past introductions they’ll tell you their age, try not to think about how every time you think about death you puke in your mouth a little bit. they might start talking about travelling, which would be the perfect time to bring up how you learned a whole language for a girl who was learning how to leave you. lean in real close and whisper in their ear about how your ex-boyfriends addiction ended up stuck under your fingernails, how you can still taste iron when you think about his calloused hands. if they start talking about their hobbies, tell them how you learned to ice skate on every cold shoulder you’ve slept beside, and then warn them that you’re notorious for writing about people who don’t know how to love you the right way. when they start to look nervous (and they will) remind them that it could be worse, you could still be cutting teeth on the wrists of girls that keep their hearts far from their sleeves. it could be worse, you could still be drinking tea with boys who hold fire in their fingers. and they’ll get up to leave but god, it could be so much worse.
(they/she) is a trans-anarchist poet. They love the NBA, know the lyrics to every Saintseneca song, and have a love hate relationship with philosophy. Her work can be found in Gordon Square Review, Indianapolis Review, Honey & Lime, mutiny!, and on her website at dtmccrea.wordpress.com
. Follow them on twitter @dt_mccrea
A tired king constructs a shopping mall that is filled with existence
First appeared in Gordon Square Review, title taken from a tweet by Magic Realism Bot.
You and I are there. We are on the display rack in the window of the Footlocker. We are sitting next to each other with our knees pulled to our chests and our feet extended outward on the ground in front of us. We are wearing sneakers, and we are trying to make our bodies look like sneakers, like a pair. We are holding hands. You, in this case, are the reader. You, the reader, and I, the poet, are here in the tired king’s shopping mall filled with existence. We are holding hands, and looking at ourselves through the window of the footlocker holding hands and trying to look like sneakers. God is here too. You say I want to see God. I say don’t we all. You say don’t be pedantic. You know that’s why we came here. It’s true. When the tired king built his shopping mall filled with existence that’s how he drew everyone in. Come to my shopping mall filled with existence and see God. The statue of the horse outside of the P.F. Chang’s by the front entrance has a banner on it that reads, simply INSIDE: GOD. You and I saw an informercial for it. A middle-aged man with shiny teeth and hair and a bad suit said If you want to see God go to the shopping mall and buy my book. Or perhaps that was a televangelist program. Perhaps the infomercial said only I am that am. You say I came here to see God but we’ve only seen ourselves. So, we start walking down the hallway that ends at the entrance of the JC Penney, which is also a Dillard’s, which is also a Macy’s, which is also a Kohl’s. We can already see from where we are that the only thing inside the JC Penney Dillard’s Macy’s Kohl’s is the entire moon. We pass the Spencer’s and inside its door is a blackhole. We pass a PacSun and inside its door is a barren, cracked desert landscape with a single golden suncup blooming at the center. The last store in this hall is a Hot Topic. Everyone is there. Everyone is shopping at Hot Topic and everyone is also working at Hot Topic and everyone is also on display at Hot Topic. Everyone’s bodies are mannequins for t-shirts and everyone’s bodies are also on display to be sold. Everyone is buying each other and themselves. Everyone is selling each other and themselves to each other and themselves. We are there in all of the same roles as everyone else. We both consider buying Nirvana t-shirts and then decide we shouldn’t. Instead you buy gauges and I buy a pronoun pin. We still haven’t seen God. So, we head back towards the food court. As we pass the Kay Jewelers at the corner you nudge me and so I approach the man at the counter. Um excuse me, I say we were wondering if you could tell us where we might find God? God is here
. He says, without gesturing toward anything. You, the reader, are becoming frustrated. Make him say something else.
You say. Um, I’m sorry, where is here, exactly?
I say. God is here
. He says.
(he/him) is an artist and poet in Cleveland, Ohio. His work is on or in poets.org, Hobart, jam & sand, around. His plays have been put on by convergence continuum. Visit him at angelomaneagethewebsite.com
PICKED UP ZOETROPE FROM KEVIN’S HOUSE
First appeared in The Hunger.
By the blue chair I climbed to grab the future
It was in a PO box that was unlocked
So I backed up and jumped pretty high in but landed in the petunia bed
Who grows so much
Red and white in the middle of summer my nipples hairless in the driveway
I climbed to the roof and jumped into a bucket of ribbons or a mail truck one of those
And had gotten red juice all over my shirt I decided I would work for the living
And then that I would never work for this government a blue chair
The rim of a tea ball game that outskirt where I like to sit in and get kissed
At I hear a ringing and I think it is the doorbell TO THE OPEN BOX I climb the chair
As a child I am far away from the baseball when it hits me I went with the boys
To prom I puked all over ryan’s sister and the police arrived and justin fell over
He has leukemia later on anyway he got right back up and they arrest craig
We hold our own and wait to share a lawyer
I climb the elevator shaft to the lawyer's house and swing down
The rope he hands me full of special knots like bowlines and sheet bends
I move my body through the blue into the box
I lick the stamp or wait no what am I oh yeah I am climbing
Into the sky and eating the poison it does not filter out and spitting it out again
And eating the sauce with the daffodils
A flavor we share both of us
Tape up the box with my body inside
I thought about the echos in here there are echos in here in this small box
Its depth it had to have been a thousand feet or two
And there IS an ocean I am falling past tons of whales
And before I hit the ground the whales sing to me they sing
YOU ARE BLUE LIKE US WE SING FOR JOY TO FILL
THE AIR WE FALL INTO
(he/him) is an intersex chump getting pummeled by his own carbon footprint in Columbus, Ohio. His work is currently, or soon will be, sleeping on the pull-out couches of Hobart Pulp, The Missouri Review, Bat City Review, The Boiler, and others. He wrote The Neon Hollywood Cowboy (Big Lucks, 2021) and tweets @matt_mitchell48.
The Last Great American Blockbuster
Say neon. MTV. Cocaine. Cut it by telling me
how much of a monarch butterfly beautiful
in New York air you are.
Tell me how much it hurt you
when Wham! broke up.
The problem with iconography
is how I want to swallow all of it,
back into its outdated orbit.
I dream of a time when cracking knees
only means you can’t dance anymore.
If we could all go back, I’m sure we wouldn’t
take losing our mothers
in Times Square gift shops
We will walk through the gardens
of thick hair thinning into mullets
and come out as electric New Coke signs
Intersex bodies were just bodies,
our hearts yellow as flux capacitors.
When Ric Ocasek says who’s gonna pick you up
when you fall
and you learn how
there is a blade cutting voice in every man’s throat.
I promise you, I am dreaming of living
in a neon decade—
one where everything that is wrong with me
did not yet have a name.
(they/them) is Poetry Editor at Sonora Review and Tinderbox Poetry Journal. Their work has been featured in Button Poetry, Indiana Review, Hobart, New Poetry from the Midwest 2019, and elsewhere. You can find them at geramee.com
First appeared in Button Poetry.