Portrait of butterflies in bloom

by Isabella Urdahl

“Tous les amoureux ont-ils l’impression d’inventer quelque chose?”

                Portrait de la jeune fille en feu

In my chest there bloom butterflies with flower petal wings.

They need air so I give them the memory of the breath leaving my lungs, 

         quand tes lèvres

        turned up at the corners, une intrigue

        a soft lighthouse from across the room.

They take all my oxygen and I surrender

         it like the body surrenders

         to a song, to the touch of tes

         doigts qui jouent on my skin. 

I cannot remember a time when I didn’t need more oxygen, 

       but you leave me so breathless my body might have just found itself again –  

       Je voudrais courir et fling my watercolor limbs 

       off this cliff and plummet. Wingless, 

        bouleversée, and wanton.

Who knew le coup de foudre could make you feel so electric.

Take it all and breathe it back 

         into me with your tongue, 

         which is ta question et 

         ma réponse in one. 

Take these butterflies. 

         My ribcage a mere canvas house 

         for their explosion of hues and 


that your eyes painted into me like a rayon de lune 

          pirouetting off glass and into a room that was waiting for le soleil.

I knew nothing of music until your color-bathed fingers

        traveled the trembling paper of my chest.

        Flower petal wings string a symphony in my stomach, 

        orchestrated by the brushstrokes your lips coat onto mine.

Would Camus think me in love? 

          “. . . tout donner, tout sacrifier sans espoir de retour”

Perhaps, although 

         I think Madame Desbordes-Valmore’s powdered nose would turn 

         at the way 

je laisse tes paroles danser dans mes artères.

         And your words honey-stick to me but I’d make a welcome sign for bee stings.

         And I’d carry all les crèves-coeur,

         for one mouthful of your syllables ambering my vision.

I think Balzac knew what he was saying when he named Love — poetry of the senses.

Que tu es belle.

           The shape of your laugh is my favorite line break.

           The life raft of your smile hidden behind your hand, la syllabe qui interrompt mon mètre.

The curve where ta joue rencontre ton cou, a liaison more imaginative

           than tout ce que la langue française pourrait rêver.

And I a — ,

          en train de prier,

          pour tu, que tu complètes la phrase, la peinture

          that you began in my body.

discount silky conditioning lotion for oily skin

by Nasrin Lin 

*TW: contains queer slurs

golden immigrant child

watches the Sunday football game

plays pong with his friends

in letters and track pants

drops a “faggot” at each plop

a prepackaged narrative arc

golden immigrant child

lands jobs at fancy acronyms

a bona fide entrepreneur seeks

a bitch that cooks and free

reign on the n-word

using the friend card that doubles

as business card coded handshake

golden immigrant child

aims for that penthouse

with three pools and immigrant maids

collectively known as the ah-yis

because one saves too little face

and two is just the Congratulations

paper cutout on the cake

three is the cake you stick your dick into

after everybody leaves        


golden immigrant child

gets a wedding invitation

from his disowned sister

the estranged daughter  

that dirty dyke   cancerous

rot in this great family name 

golden immigrant child

pure golden bred reminiscing

on brighter days

yellow news

by Elli Sol Strich

When she called the sky was a yellow-cold

static spewing over the line 

hollow voice cracking

I held my breath and

traced thin wavering pavement cracks

slender summer rain that started slowly

was now thunder crying 

a heaving silence- 

I tried listening to her sliver voice

words plunging into my ear, 

nestling into crevasses, throbbing, itching 

Tried explaining to the worms writhing past

the too-clean-sky morning, her once bursting laugh 

that marinated words in saffron-

no longer listening now only watching.

empty shadows on sun-stained cement, 

frail dandelions wilting; 

their heads bowing, bowing as if praying, 

that metallic after-taste of sour yellow,

swallowing the bitterness.


By Nuha Shaikh 

情爱的你 —

Fall is the season of goodbyes, of turning over new leaves and pressing the most brightly colored memories in between the pages of the few books I brought with me to college. I’ve been compulsively picking up the leaves that catch my eye, I feel guilty otherwise. There’s a stack of at least eleven of them now. I don’t want to forget any of these days.

                 O Allah, there is nothing made easy except what you make easy, 

                 and You make difficulty easy, if You wish

                                                                             اللَّهُمَّ لَا سَهْلَ إِلَّا مَا جَعَلْتَهُ سَهْلًا، وَأَنْتَ تَجْعَلُ الْحَزْنَ سَهْلًا إِذَا شِئْتَ

It’s 2020, I’m now 20, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so clearly. How desperately I wish my reflexes were right, so that I could hold on to you forever, curled fingers around your own, and we could be young and eternal, friendship and love perfectly balanced as we found a home in each other, growing up together.

                Find, find, find a friend, 

                I found a good friend, 

                salute to them and hold their hand, 

                You are my good friend, 







I left home, finally, after dreaming about it for years, escape was such a tantalizing flight, as I headed East into the Sunrise. I left a space for you, honored who we used to be, and gave us room to grow. But giving you room and board only left me lonely and alone, dusty beds and cracked mirrors, open windows restless in the wind.

                  I don’t think anything will happen but I still hope, God willing.

                                                                                                                            إن شاء الله.

I’ve now latched the windows and closed the doors. You still have the key but the path to me is quite different than when you left me, and then I left you. If you make your way back to me, I welcome you with open hands, as always. And if you don’t, that’s okay too. I’ve said my goodbyes and made my peace with the ghost of you that lingers in me. 

                    Please take care of yourself. 




Catalogue of Searching

by Isabella Urdahl

        modeled after Rebecca Lindenberg’s Catalogue of Ephemera

I’ve been given soft maple lighting threaded with pieces of piano.

I’ve been given un coup de foudre, bouleverser, and tu me manques.

I’ve been given caramels of his language to coat my tongue with.

I’ve been given her playlists that stick like gum in my brain.

I’ve been given a stress ball made of shards of broken glass. I used to like that photo.

I’ve been given sound bites on Tokyo, PhDs, Arcadia, and Paradise Lost.

I’ve been given little electric text bubbles on the best way to drown in knowledge.

I’ve been given a needle full of serotonin.

I’ve been given the pages of Possession and the melody of Honeybee.

I’ve been given lyrics of Luck Pusher and I’ve been given bad odds.

I’ve been given a heavy sweater that swallows me whole in defenseless cashmere. 

I’ve been given soft folds of pleading, delicate cream cotton.

I’ve been given the souls of Europe’s lonely, hopeful cobblestone streets, New York’s 

ambitious hum, and a forest lake dripping in sunshine.

I’ve been given midnight November runs.

I’ve been given ice-cube ears, snowflaked hair, a face full of moonlight and 

cheeks of poppy petals.

I’ve been given humid August nights, shirts kissing skin, clinging tight 

through sweat and a heartbeat. 

I’ve been given gasping for air.

I’ve been given hands faltering over a keyboard, stumbling syllables. 

I’ve been given awkward teenager poems.

I’ve been given a cramp in my cardiac muscle, 

a corkscrew exploding open a pomegranate into pebbles. 

I’ve been given the plum slosh of mellow red merlot.

I’ve been given an absinthe-burned tongue.

I’ve been given the dehydrating warm beige of the Sahara.

I’ve been given the fresh laundry and dried basil aroma of a well-loved studio 

in a city held together by aching plaster stones and cracking plywood wishes.

I’ve been given a bookshelf to hold the overflowing pile on my bedside table.

I’ve been given Christmas decorations in May.

I’ve been given About Time and melting bronze clocks that stain my hands sunset.

I’ve been given a pulled tooth and the raw, fleshy gap 

that it leaves behind.

One I can’t help but touch, 

despite the blood.

I’ve been given Murakami’s On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful 

April Morning and I’ve been given wondering if 75% Perfect means a best 

friend or a glass ¼ empty.

I’ve been given the amnesia of Iceland’s Northern Lights.

I’ve been given accidentally blue fingers.

I’ve been given the thing that feathers.

I’ve been given a fresh page and the first drop of ink.


by Lauren Daukaus

you are not safe 

and I am not safe.

you may, however, 

be tempted to believe 

otherwise, as many fools 

before you have done, and as 

many fools after you will do. you

may be so inclined to fall subject to 

promises of the forever, the certain, the 

damned. and you may find yourself wishing

that the existentialist within you dies as you crawl

into bed with a naive smile and a mind shut so tight it

forgets how to inhale. I, of course, do not wish you this fate. 

I pray that you live knowing every step you take may lead 

you off a cliff, that you understand this impossible, 

fragile, random existence. and that you use this 

knowledge to be grateful, brave, loving every

chance you get. we fleeting humans tend to

long for security. and with that dream

we discard our sacred vitality. if 

you’d like, we can hold hands

and just freefall, tumbling

into uncertainty. please, 

darling, please leap 

before you look.


by Nasrin Lin 

Think about / the allure in being vulgar

this walking banyan freak

flooded to the brim / a barbiturate-assemblage

self-tentacled / goddess of the swamp

call me Nüwa / so I can sing myself a song

and mold a choir out of recurring dreams / a pillar

from the five elements / in my own image

transmembering into a song

this procreant urge of the world / out

of order, right order / breathe into me a composition

not pensées but processes / revisited via turning pages

in and out and in between / then call me Hart Crane

and meet me at the bottom of the sea / the cruel and the free


by Paula Gil-Ordoñez Gomez 

my footsteps feel heavy

in my childhood

backyard tonight as i relight 

i feel my nose touch

flame and i burn 

up it’s a subtle 

touch and i’m grateful 

for my lips pressed 

against a nurturing 

burn i feel go through 

my throat it hurts 

but it’s kind as well

sometimes i feel 

really beautiful 

when my cheeks 

are flushed and my hair 

is golden but

i envy the girls 

who never get cold 

built with frail frames 

that don’t hide 

under swarms 

of jacket and scarf

i don’t even want 

the second cig

anymore but i finish 

everything i start 

for the most part 

the last ash falls 

into a bruised plant 

and i collect it 

back into my empty

can so my parents don’t 

recognize this vice 

the burn feels good 

on my skin and i slightly 

wish there was more 

to pick up i want 


by Joseph Harmon

I’m out with the dog, which isn’t my dog. I keep forgetting his name, but I appreciate the company. He’s throwing this eager look back at me, like I’ve got a direction in mind. I don’t. He knows the woods better, and we’ll just have to live with that.

Ah, dog, what are you doing? Crunching through the frozen creek bed, is what. Now he looks a little startled. Buddy, what did you expect?

Earlier that morning, I said yes. Yes to all of it. I’m going to apply to new jobs, I’ll tidy up the weird little tchotchkes Paul has lying around, I’ll give Sarah a call and say exactly what I mean. Then, as I was brushing my teeth and looking through Paul’s medicine cabinet, something about the light outside changed. I don’t know why, but any possibility of those things happening shut down. So I thought to myself, Uh, why don’t we take a little break? I went online and lost myself in a spiral of news, funny videos, and old emails that reminded me what I meant to people. The day went down the drain, and here I was walking this dog.

My brother, Paul, part of him had to be loving this. An ego boost. He’s not the runt anymore; I’m the one camped out in his guest room. I won’t mention it unless he gives me a reason to lash out, but he’s being too cautious for that. In passing, he sometimes rests a hand on my shoulder like a sensitive kindergarten teacher—which he is, actually, and a pretty good one from what I’ve heard. He’s patient and he listens. He tells me that the kids surprise him every day.

When we were kids, we were wild. In the third grade he bit my ear, latched on like a pit bull and didn’t let up. In high school we called him Pall Mall because he’d always be smoking them in the senior parking lot, a big scowl on his face. Maybe it’s my fault. I was a bad role model. I’ve made some wrong turns, sure, I’ll be the first one to admit that. But all through it, Paul’s gentleness was there. If he hurt someone, you could trust him to set it right. Me, I’m not so sure. We keep going anyway. I’d like to think the surprises are buried in us.

Sarah doesn’t think so. She says I’m stuck, and she wants me to shape up. I tell her I’m trying. I see what needs to happen, but I can’t seem to cross that gap. The other day, in our kitchen, I gave up in a good way. I said to her, Hey, do you want this omelette? It was a work of art. Despite how stoned I was, I had caramelized the onions and everything.

“No thanks,” she said, but I scooped it onto a plate anyway. She was wearing a kind of bitter confused smile, the new way she looked at me. I still liked it. She knew all my tricks, but that meant that she knew me.

“Honey, you’re a mess,” she said. I grinned as wide as I could.

“Can I get some constructive criticism?” I asked.

Now the dog is completely still, rigid, staring off into the pines. The sun has already disappeared, but it’s hanging around just enough to see. I should have brought a headlamp.

“What is it?” I say to the dog. “No more walk?”

The dog ignores me, and I know it must be afraid. Its instincts are kicking in, but I’m too big and dumb to sense the danger. I squint off into the distance, but see nothing.

If there’s some danger out there, I just want to see it. I want to know what I’m dealing with. It’s worse to wait. I tell myself that I’m ready but know that I’m not. The dog and I just stand there, our breath condensing in the cold. If this is it, we go out together, not knowing each other’s names. Maybe there’s something beautiful in that.

Paul has a book on the coffee table that I’ve looked through. I’ve looked through everything—my days are full of hours I didn’t know we had. It’s a book of poetry, which is not at all Paul’s thing. He got it as a white elephant gift last December. What I like about it is that it’s poetry fragments. They’re from Ancient Greece, Rome. Just a tiny piece of the author’s work stands for all they were.

I’ve been wondering if this is my fragment. If this moment will define me. My choices have led me here, so probably yes. But who’s to say that it’s a low, that there hasn’t been lower. Why is it high or low, like on some graph?

Screw it, I’m out. Don’t show me the danger. I’ll just go home. I tug the dog back. He’s still transfixed, but I make him leave. It’s Paul’s home, not mine. He built it for himself and I’m resting there before I rebuild my own. This is all temporary. I have these thoughts, and even though they’re simple, I feel like they explain everything. Then, right as I’m about to understand, they slip away.

As I open the door I remember that I made a dish in the crockpot earlier. It was stewing during the walk, waiting for me, becoming something better. The smell is warm and good and strong. It welcomes me back. That’s all I want: to be welcomed back with nobody home.

I unclip the dog and he rushes to his water bowl as if dying of thirst, sloshing it over the sides.

While he does I find the coffee table, find the book. I settle down on a quilt that Paul claims our grandmother sewed but I know for a fact he bought at Kmart.

Everything is laughter and unthinkable dust, my favorite fragment says. Is that true? They don’t know who said it.

Museum of Stolen Wishes

by Nuha Shaikh 

There are no more sacred places, 

Just land where gold once hid,

Just shards of history that

I now use to pick through my memories.

What do we collect when we eat?

Does the type of consumption matter

More than what is being consumed?

I wonder if the winners are always

The ones who are eaten,

We all lose in the end,

And their lives are the sweetest to taste.

I’ve never tried it but I’ve heard

That you taste like silk-silver,

Like molten metal made soft again

By digestion.

Is that not what success is?

A delicacy, to be sure.

In our jealousy and shame,

We watched you devour him,

And it seemed like enough

Until you turned to us and said:

Silk-silver or jade-water,

I take what I can get,

And I can taste everything,

For the world is made for

Creatures like me,

Bone-machine efficiency.

And isn’t this fair?