Pride Poems spotlights LGBTQ+ poets from the greater Washington, DC region, by releasing a new video each day during the month of June, in honor of National Pride Month.

In 2024, Pride Poems selected thirty poets from the nation’s capital reading Tributes: original poems written for, about, or in the style of someone the writer admires—someone famous or not. Responding to the theme in creative ways, the project includes poems inspired by other poets (such as Essex Hemphill, Adrienne Rich, Joy Harjo, and Pat Parker) as well as poems for actors, musicians, painters, even Barbie and Ken dolls. There are odes, a haibun, and collaborative forms, written in a wealth of styles that are a moving testimonial to the ways queer writers are influenced and inspired.

  1. “Valuable weight” by Marlena Chertock

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    Valuable weight
      after “Stubborn Ounces” by Bonaro W. Overstreet
    They’ll tell you
    you have to change,
    fit in, can’t be
    caring for others
    your whole life,
    need to focus on you.
    They’ll say stop caring
    about anyone else
    but yourself, otherwise
    you’ll be trampled on.
    They say you can’t
    make a living
    out of anything
    you love —
    that’s not
    true work.
    Don’t move
    over for them,
    don’t budge
    on your convictions.
    Choose carefully
    where you put
    the stubborn ounces
    of your weight.
    into the earth —
    see the indentation
    you leave?
    Your stubborn
    weight matters, you
    weigh as much as you need
    to, you beautiful
    mesh of stardust,
    you add
    valuable weight
    to this world.

    Marlena Chertock is a disabled, lesbian, Jewish poet with two books of poetry, Crumb-sized: Poems (Unnamed Press, 2017) and On that one-way trip to Mars (Bottlecap Press, 2016). She uses her skeletal dysplasia as a bridge to scientific poetry. Her poetry and prose has appeared in AWP’s The Writer’s Notebook, Breath & Shadow, The Deaf Poets Society, Lambda Literary Review, Little Patuxent Review, Paper Darts, Paranoid Tree, Washington Independent Review of Books, WMN Zine, Wordgathering, and more.

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    Marlena Chertock is a resident of Takoma.

  2. “After Cavafy” by Bernard Welt

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    After Cavafy

    I like Scott.
    Jeremy is a perfect dear.
    Tim is amazing.
    Allen I could live without altogether.
    Martin is up to something.
    Seriously, I don’t know how Johan does it.
    Jim is in for a big surprise.
    Alistair’s very connected, you know.
    I really don’t know what’s to become of Alberto.
    Karl will grow out if it.
    Steven went to one of those private boarding schools, so it’s like . . . y’know . . Colin — I mean, where do you start?
    Nelson’s been at this a long while.
    I wouldn’t trust Destry in a dark corner.
    Daniel shouldn’t have but of course he did.
    Look, I adore Ellis, but really…

    Franklin has an opinion on everything, and unfortunately, he’s usually right.
    I don’t know what they expected when they named him Roy.
    Oh yeah, Walter. Again.
    Calvin has a certain quality, don’t you think?
    I can’t wait to hear what Antonio has to say about this.
    I don’t think Wayne has any idea.
    Wes likes ‘em young and pretty.
    Um … Billy. Well, uh . . .yeah.
    Henry? If I did, I’ll never tell.
    If Bob would get off his ass once in a while, he could conquer the world.
    Reggie’s one of those people who … well, I don’t know what.
    Lester? I wouldn’t piss on him if his hair was on fire.
    Trevor is just such a lovely person. That’s his whole problem, really.
    It’s terrible about Howard but honestly, he brought it on himself.

    Bernard Welt’s poetry has appeared widely in journals, art catalogs, and anthologies including The Best American Poetry. He started his education in poetry at the Mass Transit open readings and the Folio Books readings in Washington, DC, and in The Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars. He has received a US National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writers Fellowship and a Lambda Book Award nomination.

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  3. “a woman left lonely” by Jane E. Palmer

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    a woman left lonely

    as the story goes
    heroin killed Janis
    but that story is

    too simple

    in san francisco,
    2000 miles from her
    Texas hometown
    she found kindred spirits

    she fell in love
    with the stage
    and women
    and men
    and southern comfort
    and getting high

    she carried her
    first loves
    with her
    on tour:
    bags of books,
    including, always,
    her battered copy of
    Lady Sings the Blues.

    this beautiful soul,
    who was kicked out
    of choir as a child
    because she was
    too much
    too loud
    too wild,

    became a lead singer
    with a voice that
    was unforgettable
    and sad

    this brilliant mind
    let her heart

    that night
    at the landmark hotel
    she was buried alive
    by an insatiable
    for the

    Jane Palmer is a professor, activist, writer, and part-time MFA student at American University. She writes poetry, creative non-fiction, picture books, and academic articles. She spends her screen-free time searching for the best playground ever with her 6 year old, sewing, hanging out with friends, traveling, and dreaming of a world without violence.

  4. “Sweet Lorraine” by Malik Thompson

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    Sweet Lorraine

    “My Lord calls me. He calls me by the thunder. I ain’t got long to stay here.”
    — Lorraine Hansberry

    Your radiant smile can thaw      hearts
    As swiftly as it   freezes
    Such loneliness hidden                  Behind your eyes   Ocean depths
    a loneliness
    So deep   Sweet hymns flicker
    In the mouths of ghosts &   Jimmy
    Won’t be here   this evening  won’t            be here
    To hold      the thunder
    At bay   Your lion man—            his storm clouds swollen    clenched vow of August rain
    Lorraine   it doesn’t explode
    it doesn’t explode
    it doesn’t explode

    Malik Thompson is a Black queer man from Washington, DC. His work is featured, or forthcoming, in The Cincinnati Review, Denver Quarterly Review, Sundog Lit, Diode, MQR Mixtape, Oroboro, Poet Lore, and other places. He has received support from Lambda Literary, Obsidian Foundation, Brooklyn Poets, Cave Canem, and other organizations.

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    Malik Thompson is a resident of Mt Pleasant.

    Previously appeared in Oroboro Vol. 8. Reprinted with the permission of Oroboro/Death Rattle.
  5. “Even The Farmers Pray For Coyotes Now: A Tribute to Folk Artist Willi Carlisle” by Blake Helene Cleve Mihm

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    Even The Farmers Pray For Coyotes Now: A Tribute to Folk Artist Willi Carlisle

    If America had a bulletin, Undesirables Weekly or something, and you flipped past all the queers, the Black and Brown folks, the unemployed uninsured uninitiated, right to the centerfold,
    you’d find a teeny tiny picture of a coyote.
    The so-called Arch Predator of our Time, victim of all you can hunt specials past and present, the germ warfare mongrel itch of strychnine, stacks of acme catalogs brimming with new ways to earn bounties against fur left to rot.

    But last night I lay in bed pondering the future with apocalyptic doom, and a single quivering trill echoed through my window, swelled into a choir, song heard coast to coast, a herald to open our golden eyes wide and rouse a lesson in resilience from the poster child of pestilence:

    They may witness our pain but do not let them forget how beautifully we sing.

    Oh Old God Coyote,
    give me hunger,
    for a world big enough to hold
    all the wiley ass acting Gods,
    to silence the bans brought in, our bodies
    called a sin,
    laws that make varmints
    of us all.

    I sure wish I knew what the auguries foretold.
    Must I hold onto an ovary, keep my bones
    from shattering in case they outlaw
    my manhood.
    Wherever we end
    up, my fellow rabble rousers,
    when I die, it will be
    reparably and redeemably at your side.

    Blake Mihm (they/he) is a nonbinary trans man. He lives in suburban Maryland with his two dogs, but his heart thrives in every bog he’s sunk his feet into. Their work has been featured in Lilac Peril, New Words Press, and Backwards Trajectory.

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  6. “Jewelweed” by Hiram Larew

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    The first time I saw someone like me
           was on a farm —
    There was a shagbark hickory overhead
    And some wrapped up sandwiches somewhere
    I believe
    I was just starting to look at
    anything whistling
    And as I recall he was wearing two strings —
    one in a knot around a wrist
    and the other
    around my dreams.
    Fast forward to this moment in this city’s bustle 
    with stark stacked skies and 
    sidewalks that cram
    The more I try to figure out
            who’s me in the crowd —
    rings and bells —
    the more my eyes go beyond me.
    And also there’s the difference between
    the outspoken grins I see today
    and those guesses of lips from long ago
    that opened me up like jewelweed —
    The difference seems somehow wondrously between
    what might have been
    and now
    oh no never

    Larew’s poems appear widely. His most recent collection, Patchy Ways, was released by CyberWit Press in 2023. As Founder of Poetry X Hunger, he is bringing a world of poets to the anti-hunger cause.

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  7. “golden shovel poem (after lino anunciacion’s anchored, house fire II)” by Ishanee Chanda

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    golden shovel poem
    (after lino anunciacion’s anchored, house fire II)

    when tate is sleeping, i
    find myself making a joke and a wish;
    a joke that there is nothing more in this life to
    dream of, and a wish that every light shift
    in the room is the earth beckoning us into
    eden. when gravity bends into her jawline, something
    stirs inside of me. this bed is soft.
    the blinds are pulled, and
    eternity hums silent
    like a small
    prayer. is it enough
    to love quietly, to
    worship when there is sleep
    in their eyes or hesitation under
    their breath. the
    question is if love is worth more in the shade
    or out in the sun. we should ask this of
    our lovers. what is your
    last failure. where in your collarbone
    do you keep your sorrow. for
    how many years can we see the
    end of this. can i rest
    at home there, at the end of
    this rope, with you. will you be my
    everlasting peace. tate, you are the love of my life.

    Ishanee Chanda is a prose writer and poet from Dallas, Texas. She is the author of two books of poetry, oh, these walls, they crumble (2018) and The Overflow (2018). Ishanee enjoys Netflix marathons, making pasta from scratch, and shaking cocktails for other people. She lives in Brookland, Washington DC with her little family.

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    Ishanee Chanda is a resident of Brookland.

  8. “Ode on Motherhood” by Danielle Evennou

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    Ode on Motherhood
    After Barbara Hamby’s “Ode on Dictionaries”

    A is for attempting your best
    Bleached-out version of yourself
    Calculating how long you can go without diapers, formula, sleep
    Deprivation triggers depression, a dependable friend
    Each time your child does something new and cute
    Feel renewed, fake free-range parenting to form a connection with another human adult while your child plays in filth
    Gestational diabetes test failed like the bar exam
    High blood pressure tracked with an at-home monitor
    Ice cream straight from the carton once the kid is asleep, mint chocolate chip
    Just as soon as everyone is healthy again
    Killer heartburn, pink eye, coxsackievirus
    Lullaby sung with whatever note your lungs can muster
    Mountain of laundry so high Spanx thongs are your only clean underwear
    Nix nail appointments and nutritious meals
    Opt for Oreos
    Pee is something you mop up with the bottom of your sock
    Queer identity concealed in WhatsApp parent groups, you cannot
    Remember the last time you read
    Something for pleasure
    Tough like the patch of skin on the outside of your left ankle
    Underwater but still breathing
    Vacation is a
    Waiting room at the dentist to
    X-ray your teeth, loosened by hormones
    You, just you, a rare thing to contemplate
    Zestless and zagging toward the amazing zone

    Danielle Evennou (she/her/hers) is a writer who grew up in suburban New Jersey. For over a decade, she has kept herself busy by hosting poetry readings, workshops, and open mics in Washington, DC. In 2016, she founded Slipform, a writing workshop that explores gender, sexuality, and formal poetic structures. Her poetry and memoir appear in apt, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Dryland, and Split Lip Magazine. Her chapbook, Difficult Trick, was published by dancing girl press in 2017. With the help of therapy, she is learning how to calm the f*** down.

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    Danielle Evennou is a resident of Langdon.

  9. “Owls” by Robert L. Giron

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    The scent of fresh basil
    wet by the light shower
    mixed with the aroma
    of hyacinths imbue the air.

    Slowly night creatures
    venture from their dens,
    searching for wants, needs.

    Safe, the environs are lush
    with life.

    The owls keep watch.

    Gradually, clouds move in
    casting a pall,
    deafening the din.

    the owls call out,
    as two, four, six
    are hauled away,
    others hide.

    The scent of day and night
    transformed into fear and ash.

    Now, the piercing owls’ vigil
    wails the wake.

    —ready to take flight

    Robert L. Giron

    Robert L. Giron’s latest collection of poetry is Songs for the Spirit / Canciones para el Espíritu (Gival Press, 2023). He has authored five other collections of poetry and has edited five anthologies. His poetry and fiction have appeared in national and international anthologies among other publications. Born in Nebraska, he describes himself as a transplanted Texan, with family roots that go back over four centuries. He lives in Arlington, Virginia, with his husband Ken. An American of diverse ethnicities and trilingual, he describes himself as “just a man of the world” who can easily fit in with various cultural groups.

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  10. “East Florida” by Hailey Leithauser

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    East Florida

    Beneath the hazed moon, this 
      hazy absence of stars, 
    how the hearts of the frogs 
      are breaking!
    How they stretch and bloat 
      the fine elastic 
    of their chests, and how 
      their bloated hearts 
    are so greatly breaking.
      This night of camp-tent
    swelter belongs to the frogs;
      the distant car rattling 
    slowly home and the nameless,
      distant dog know 
    nothing of barrenness, the lone 
      washer chuffing through 
    the open door of the Laundromat 
      cannot muster an equal 
    grief, so let us pause then to 
      give praise for the broad 
    nostrils and the glottises of frogs. 
      Let us pause for the great 
    and cupidinous faith that doles 
      and gravels in the swell of 
    their thousand throats, in the gellant 
      swell of a thousand 
    bulged and gibbous jowls.  
      Beneath the street lamps, 
    the damp porches din with
      a stridulous passion; 
    the car lots and darkened 
      surf stands echo 
    with an unbroken desolation
      and hope, so let 
    the vacant causeway crowd  
      with wheeze and jug 
    and whoop, the slim alleys  
      hoarsen and gruff. 
    Let us give loud and stentorian 
      praise for the gullets This
    of frogs, that their maws 
      may widen, their dry 
    lips bubble and their bellies
      spread. That they may 
    throb and chirrup and croak 
      unendingly, unendingly, 
    of strange and taintless 
      beauty, make of 
    our portion proper melody. 

    Hailey Leithauser is a retired librarian living in Silver Spring, MD. Her books are Swoop (Graywolf Press, 2013), winner of the Poetry Foundation’s Emily Dickinson First Book Award and the Towson Prize for Poetry, and Saint Worm (Able Muse Press, 2019). Her work appears widely in journals and anthologies including Agni, the Gettysburg Review, Poetry, the Yale Review and three appearances in Best American Poetry.

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    This poem first appeared in the Cincinnati Review. Reprinted by permission of the author.
  11. “Dear Pat Parker,” by Richard Hamilton

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    Dear Pat Parker,

    Inhuman haze of hospital stays.
    By bouquet of nasturtiums wild,
    and quills, for anodynes. A hardhead

    makes a soft behind. Or pious path
    to galling verse, the sweat of
    queer bells sway. For patent blue

    sedate of wings, the plowman
    shepherd, fisherman. The fat of
    judgement’s sounder days, when

    all for flesh-light heaven made.
    A hardhead makes a soft behind—
    the child and sickly, self-forbidden.

    The impetus for skyline, limned.
    Or sun which turned those
    harlot wings. No mastery in man’s great fall,

    if closer wed than to absolve.
    A hardhead makes a soft behind.
    O, Icarus. Parker to the partridge

    tree: admonish thee, impoverished staff.
    A body, taint butts up against
    another tainted body.

    Richard Hamilton was born in Elizabeth, NJ and raised in the American south. Hamilton holds degrees from Colorado State University, New York University, and the University of Alabama, where he earned an MFA in poetry.  Author of Rest of Us (Re-Center Press, 2021) and Discordant (Autumn House Press, 2023), his poetry has been published in Wry Press and is forthcoming in Obsidian Journal, Ocean State Review, and Lana Turner Journal.

    Richard Hamilton is a resident of Southeast.

  12. “For Gaza, For Palestine” by Danielle Badra

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    For Gaza, For Palestine
    “If we must die, you must live and prevent the death of the rest of us. If we must be displaced, fleeing death, then you must prevent the displacement of all of us.” – Bisan Owda
    You are            I am watching a genocide and it isn’t the first time
    watching         what my local news calls a conflict
    it                       is not a conflict
    and                   what exists between the river and the sea is apartheid
    we are              I am on this side of the screen, the safe side,
    living                in my home with my wife and my daughter
    it         this life feels false, false avocado puree painted on my baby’s
    joyful face
    and     reality is ground bird feed for an orphaned boy trying to feed
    his siblings
    for                     the world is witnessing the horrors of hatred manifest
    humanity is hungry, is scarred, is demolished, is scared, is displaced, is
    dying, is dead
    and                    to a million voices screaming into the night and through the
    day for their lives
    existence           the right to exist is fickle in a time and a place that is
    you should        keep your eyes open because you can and you can
    not                      forget the blood painted faces of fathers carrying their
    cloaked children
    get tired             only when the keys are returned to the people and their
    ghosts are full
    of it                     of the food and the freedom they were deprived in life, only
    then will we rest
    *The language in the left column is also from Bisan Owda.

    Danielle Badra is the Fairfax County Poet Laureate (2022-2024). Her poems have appeared in Mizna, Cincinnati Review,Duende, The Greensboro Review, Split This Rock, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and elsewhere. Dialogue with the Dead (Finishing Line Press, 2015) is her first chapbook, a collection of contrapuntal poems in dialogue with her deceased sister. Her book, Like We Still Speak, was selected by Fady Joudah and Hayan Charara as the winner of the 2021 Etel Adnan Poetry Prize and published by the University of Arkansas Press.

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  13. “Ode to My Mother” by Jona Colson

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    Ode to My Mother
    I remember how you taught me numbers.
    Counting the trees and cardinals—one, two, three.
    I remember how you loved me. I was your extra prince.
    But where do extra princes go? Up? Down? Out on the limb?
    I was learning to detach from the numbers and the prayers.
    There is always despair in the body. Trauma wedded to bliss.
    Today is no different than the day when your breathing stopped.
    I was not good enough to let go and follow you. Here—
    watch the sparrows in the oak. One, two, three.

    Jona Colson is Queer poet, educator, and translator. His poetry collection, Said Through Glass, won the Jean Feldman Poetry Prize (Washington Writers’ Publishing House, 2018). He has translated a full-length translated collection of poems Aguas/Waters by Uruguayan author Miguel Avero (WWPH, 2024). He is also the co-editor of This Is What America Looks Like: Poetry and Fiction from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia (WWPH, 2021). His poems have appeared in Ploughshares, The Southern Review, The Massachusetts Review and elsewhere. He is co-president of the Washington Writers’ Publishing House and edits the bi-weekly journal, WWPH Writes. He is a professor of ESL at Montgomery College and lives in Washington, DC.

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    Jona Colson is a resident of Dupont Circle.

  14. “Dad Says” by Roberta Beary

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    Dad Says

    It’s a phase that some boys go through but most don’t. Most don’t wear their sister’s lipstick and keep it a secret. A secret my brother knows is that I like kissing my best friend Esme who dresses in boy clothes. My best friend Esme who dresses in boy clothes is what Dad calls a phase some girls go through but most don’t.

    upside down
    moon rising

    Roberta Beary identifies as genderfluid and writes to connect with the silenced. Their debut poetry collection, The Unworn Necklace (Snapshot Press, 2007), was selected as a Poetry Society of America finalist. They were awarded the Bridport Prize for Poetry in 2022 and were named as a Rattle contest finalist in 2023.

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    Roberta Beary is a resident of Petworth.

    Previously appeared in MacQueen's Quinterly, Issue 20. Reprinted with author's permission.
  15. “And They Look” by Tanya Olson

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    And They Look

    alike too Like my mother and I
    look alike Every time we see
    Junior on HeeHaw she notes
    He could be family Big moon
    face Crinkle eye smile Family
    is like a string to my mother
    Every member a knot Connected
    but apart In heaven you will
    recognize every knot on our string
    and they will already know you

    One day my mother declares
    she wants to be the woman
    who sings backup and plays
    tambourine for Culture Club
    We have just gotten MTV
    and still watch it like it is a show
    Turn it on at the top of the hour
    and sit there for 30 minutes
    as the videos click by
    Helen Terry I discover decades
    later when we have the internet
    and can wonder about a fact
    and then find it My mother
    long dead never searched the internet
    My mother never sent an email
    Helen Terry though is still alive

    Helen Terry is the big voice
    in all the great Culture Club songs
    Karma Chameleon
    I’ll Tumble For You
    I Know You Miss Me Blind
    Hers is the voice that echoes
    whatever Boy George sings first
    I’m a man (a man)
    without conviction
    Hers is the voice that holds up his

    Progress is seldom a true story
    Step up Slide back But my friend
    Clark always likes to point out
    You and I could spend whole lunchtimes
    discussing whether Boy George
    might possibly be gay We share
    pronouns at the start of meetings now
    but honestly I do not want to tell you
    my pronouns Sirred in line
    Brothered by security Hey guyed
    at the store These moments
    of slippage are pure butch
    triumph Between the guess
    the confusion the correction
    I feel most seen

    I know how to watch MTV now
    Know how to look up facts Have yet
    to spend meaningful time with
    my mother since she died Spotted
    her in the highest row of a stadium
    once She stood when I stood Sat
    when I sat They call my name
    and she pounds her hands together
    like she is playing a tambourine
    She shows up in my dreams but
    we speak of nothing real I know not
    of an afterlife or if we are gifted
    some chance to live again In this
    as in so many things I am a man
    (a man) who does not know

    Tanya Olson lives in Silver Spring, Maryland. Her first book, Boyishly, was published by YesYes Books in 2013 and received an American Book Award. Her second book, Stay, was released from YesYes Books in 2019, and her third, Born Backwards, is newly available from YesYes Books in June 2024.

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  16. “gender euphoria as personal hyrule” by nat raum

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    gender euphoria as personal hyrule
    After The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

    fast travel offers an allure for my limbs especially,
    throb as they do after three or four trips
    up and down the block. but i imagine the ability
    to evaporate, reconstruct myself at point B
    in place of being seen in the wild. it’s not

    for a lack of craving the fresh air. rather, the look
    of this body means i can only be woman when
    i walk down the street; i lose the self i have
    sculpted in her absence while my breasts still
    dome and dart my ironic t-shirt for all to see.

    in actuality, gender is closer to an old forester
    calling me a bright-eyed young man, bestowing
    on me the masculine urge to spear a passing monster 
    until it dissolves into blackblight, finished with a flourish.
    gender is an arrangement of pixels on a screen

    dressed in sheikah armor dyed armoranthine,
    a haircut i envy not only because mine won’t fall
    like that, but also for the boyface it frames. the boy
    in me is taciturn, but when i let him go too silent,
    i fear i’ll never shake womanhood. i know i’ll never

    be fog, wish as i might to atomize these aching
    hips and knees, to be perceived as pure water:
    completely neutral. but is it so much to ask
    that i might one day shed the skin of woman, be held
    and holy in the wake of bright-eyed resurrection?

    nat raum is a queer disabled artist and writer based on unceded Piscataway and Susquehannock land in Baltimore. They’re the editor-in-chief of fifth wheel press and the author of you stupid slut (Dream Boy Book Club, 2022), the abyss is staring back (Querencia Press, 2023), random access memory (Bullshit Lit, 2023), and several others.

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    Previously appeared in Penumbra Online. Reprinted with permission by the author.
  17. “For Adrienne” by Jennifer Meneray

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    For Adrienne 

    Rich in color, heroine, your life established a feminism most overlook, 

    Reduced to a theorist, I fear your poetry has long been forgotten, 

    Go fearless when diving into the wreck exploring hidden truths with fierce curiosity, 

    Interpretation is subjective, we are missing the point. 

    In the evening, the city converses on a hunger that grows beneath dampened spirits, 

    The lioness states with complex confidence– what was, is; what might have been, might be. 

    The demon lover ponders what beckons a second sight at twilight while the eye reviews hubble photographs: after Sappho.

    You spoke lavender to the hearts of menace leaving them archaic, 

    Pieces of the lesbian continuum have caused disdain, 

    don’t flinch, you said, 

    The observer, waking in the dark, asks “aren’t continuums endless?” 

    The stranger adds, “evolving with time, a lesbian continuum, would continue resistance.” 

    The song sings, “they live indirectly in every lesbian heart…” 

    And I, I bring my tigers to speak what ghosts can say. 


    Aunt Jennifer

    Jennifer Meneray uses writing as a means of self-expression and self-healing. As a lesbian feminist, she explores the themes of equity, inclusion, liberation, and empowerment. Her goal is to encourage others to use art as a form of expression that empowers them to be authentic and unapologetic in their existence.

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  18. “Demuth In Lancaster” by Dan Vera

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    Demuth In Lancaster
    There is a crusade against vice in Lancaster…I am going home to speak for vice. Charles Demuth (1883-1935)
    Sugar vein flower lover.

    You arose from your mother Augusta’s garden,
    to draw the world precise and alive
    that perfect geometry of this city
    its factory lines abstracted,
    the pulsing curve of tulips and apples
    red cabbage and rhubarb alongside the revelation
    of warmer flowers in the steam baths of New York,
    the mystical codes of numbers and sky,
    everything came alive in you.

    Deem, how amiable was your laugh
    to charm the bitterest of artist hearts—
    even Georgia O’Keefe the scowl loved you
    and William Carlos prized you so
    for your generous embrace.

    You seem all but forgotten now
    even on the brick streets of the city you returned to,
    Where you spent your last days with the needle and the brush.

    At King and Duke streets, your house is a museum now,
    Your watercolors, blossoms of petal and flesh
    hang in sight of Augusta’s Victorian flowered rows,
    The fruit, the vegetable, the silo, the cityscape,
    in the front room,
    the nudes in the darkest corners
    standing as you found them
    gleaming in their wet caverns of joy.

    Dan Vera is an award-winning writer, editor, and literary historian living in Washington, DC. The author of two poetry collections and co-editor of Imaniman: Poets Writing In The Anzaldúan Borderlands, his next book of poetry will be released in 2025 from FlowerSong Press. His poetry appears in various journals, anthologies, and academic curricula and in the Library of America’s Latino Poetry anthology out this year.

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    Dan Vera is a resident of Brookland.

    © Dan Vera
  19. “sing me at midnight” by Andy VanDoren

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    sing me at midnight
    for/after Wilfred Owen

    the dawn of spring is a memory
    buried with the past, salted with the earth

    silent, where once day broke
    in song, and not spirits nor on bones.

    dead boys in their dusk, on their way
    to you, with your murmurous heart,

    a chord concealed under cloak of
    midnight, a future unexhumed.

    Andy VanDoren (the pen name of a local artist) is a queer, synesthetic poet inspired by natural phenomena. Themes of their work include abstracting reality and unreliable narrators. Through poetry, they paint pictures of how the world looks from inside their mind. They are published in Celestite Poetry, Lavender Lime, Ink Drinkers, and more.

    Andy VanDoren is a resident of Brookland.

  20. “Barbies and Kens” by Keith David Parsons

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    Barbies and Kens

    With Chrysta, we played
    house with her Barbies; or searched
    the pine woods for mushrooms;
    built a fort on the hill of shadows.

    Her mother’s name was Barbara
    we all went to the same church
    the Navy husbands played paintball
    and shared their purple welts.

    Barb starred as Red Riding Hood
    in the community theater’s Red vs. the Wolf
    another husband, not hers, the lupine
    co-star, and I, a deer.

    “Do you want to kiss me?”
    Chrysta’s note was forward for ten;
    and I dithered, at eight – but
    eventually checked “yes.”

    “She’s learned her mother’s wiles!”
    my mother fumed, privately
    when I told her of the awkward peck
    as twitterpated as sparrows in spring.

    Only years later did Mom tell me
    of the grownup tryst that roiled the church
    between the titular stars of the play
    with their predatory roles reversed.

    They moved to England shortly after;
    re-based by the Navy, it was said.
    My first kiss faded like naked
    plastic, smooth-chested

    and blank-crotched; 
    a Ken-of-the-Woods
    sinking into the shadows
    and needles of pine.

    Keith David Parsons is a person who came from West Virginia, lives in Washington, DC and is less conflicted about it than you might think. Parsons is a member of DC Poetry Collective; and was featured in iNK BLOTS, Vols. 1 and 2.

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    Keith David Parsons is a resident of Lanier Heights.

  21. “Planting the seed” by Jose Gutierrez

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    Planting the seed

    Someone plants a seed
    With the hope that
    Someday it will grow
    And give fruit
    This is what activist is,
    We are the results of dreams
    That many years ago
    LGTQ+ people planted
    Everything can not be done
    By one person,
    It’s a community work
    Even thought when it is
    Something small, it has to be done
    With love and honesty
    Focus the energy
    In something positive
    That will help develop
    Our society
    This is in memory of
    Those who with so much
    Work planted the first seeds
    For those who were
    Present creating space
    And raising their
    Hands for us
    Thank you,
    For the support, power,
    Courage, passion and love to keep

    Jose Gutierrez holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University Ana G. Mendez in Washington, DC. Jose is a local and national long-time human rights and social justice activist, immigration advocate, Latinx LGBTQ historian, artist, writer and poet. In 2020, he founded the Jose Gutierrez Archives, which preserves the history of the DC LGBTQ Latino community.  He is also the founder of DC Latino Pride, and co-founder of the Rainbow History Project.

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    Jose Gutierrez is a resident of Petworth.

  22. “Dear Roe v. Wade” by Natasha Saje

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    Dear Roe v. Wade,

    What a mess you’re in, with red states    
    eroding you like sand under a power  
    wash of picky laws, turning back time  
    to Texas, 1969. I feel for women   
    in Mississippi, listening to a doctor lie  
    that abortions cause breast cancer,   
    and that the fetus can feel pain, 
    women waiting at the only clinic in the state.
    Dangerous, this “personhood,” this lie
    extending to an embryo the powers
    not accorded to the breathing women 
    who care for and carry it over months.

    In 1973, I turned 18. 
    I appreciate your gloss on “do no harm,”
    on history: in 1787 women
    were in this way less constrained by states
    than corpses are today; they can be forced 
    to give birth. For whom is that the truth?

    We’ve made the Constitution our true
    guide, plus amendments carved in time:
    liberty and privacy inherent rights 
    for every citizen, even those as poor
    as Norma McCorvey (Roe), whose statement
    on the case reversed, pro to con, for women.  

    Yet privacy’s a cloud with women’s
    lives hovering like drops of rain. The truth: 
    so many tears. Thanks to DNA, the state
    knows everywhere we go, and sometimes, when. 
    If you had feelings, Roe v. Wade, you’d be blue,
    but you’re a court case, judicial law, 

    one that even Sarah Palin knows.   
    Irrelevance is cruel, and thinking women
    feel their bodies occupied by menace
    while living in our land of lies. 
    I availed myself of you at 29  
    and for access, I thank Maryland, my state.

    Personhood depends on power, and truth
    changes like a woman’s chance to thrive
    within her gendered state, her malady.

    Natasha Sajé was born stateless in Munich, Germany, and grew up in New York City and its suburbs. She is the author of five books of poems, including The Future Will Call You Something Else (Tupelo, 2023); a postmodern poetry handbook, Windows and Doors: A Poet Reads Literary Theory (Michigan, 2014); and a Pen finalist memoir, Terroir: Love, Out of Place (Trinity UP, 2020). She is Professor Emerita of English at Westminster University in Salt Lake City, and teaches in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing Program.

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    Natasha Saje is a resident of Cleveland Park.

    Previously appeared in The Future Will Call You Something Else (Tupelo Press, 2023). Reprinted with permission of author.
  23. “Someone Sang for Me” by Alex Carrigan

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    Someone Sang for Me
    After Joy Harjo’s “A Refuge in the Smallest of Places”

    Someone sang for me and no one else could hear it.
    I had to step outside to see if I could make out the words.

    The words took me back to rotting steps and
    peanut shells scattered across the dusty porch.

    The dusty porch where I watched tall grass bend and sway
    with the melody that creeped out of it on summer nights.

    On summer nights, I matched the rocking of my chair
    with the whistles Nanny made with each sip of her bottle.

    Her bottles gathered by the side of her chair as she muttered and
    hummed anything that came to mind, while cicadas provided backup.

    I’m backed up into this memory now that I find myself
    watching my own mother repeat these songs in her bed.

    The bed creaks as the song begins anew in my mind.
    Someone sang for me and no one else could hear it.

    Alex Carrigan (he/him) is a Pushcart-nominated editor, poet, and critic from Alexandria, VA. He is the author of Now Let’s Get Brunch: A Collection of RuPaul’s Drag Race Twitter Poetry (Querencia Press, 2023) and May All Our Pain Be Champagne: A Collection of Real Housewives Twitter Poetry (Alien Buddha Press, 2022). He has appeared in The Broadkill Review, Sage Cigarettes, Barrelhouse, Fifth Wheel Press, Cutbow Quarterly, and more.

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  24. “Count Your Blessings” by Regie Cabico

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    Count your blessings, 
    Essex Hemphill autographed inscription, 1994
    I was 23 and a fledgling homosexual 
    lost at Limelight. 

    Essex Hemphill 
    who wrote of gay weddings 
    and ballrooms 

    Essex Hemphill 
    who named corruption in DC,
    who lived with HIV, 

    and dismantled queerphobia 
    by staging same-sex kiss-ins 
    on church steps 

    That Essex inspired me 
    to compose my Filipino rainbow narrative. 

    I don’t count my blessings 
    but recount the unexpected goodnesses 
    of the day: 

    Teachers who greet me with coffee, 
    Students who tackle haikus with onomatopoeia, 
    My nephew in his baby Yoda birthday bathrobe, 

    Shall I count the blessings I witness 
    Or count the blessings I grant
    Iona Senior Center 
    Karin, a soprano taught the patients a canon  

    All things shall perish 
    From under the sky 
    Music alone shall live 
    Never to die 

    Bill, a once-upon-a-time tenor sang a solo 
    And wept 

    Karin wept 
    Cecilia wept 
    I wept 

    Weeping is its own music

    Did we weep at his intention or  
    The fact that Bill never spoke but could sing, 

    Did we witness a blossoming
    In radiant vibrato 
    Or an operatic prayer? 

    Days zoom,  a self-steering 
    Tesla car on New York Avenue 
    Crashing into Wendy’s

    I want to stay 
    in the belly 
    Of a birth canal 

    I want to stay an idea 
    or polished icon 

    Poems published
    work done 

    I don’t feel ready for the world 
    Masked in black brow frames,  

    Camouflage covid mask 
    Smudging my lenses, 
    my discontent breath, 

    Survivor still 
    in a city with a disgraced Popeyes 
    Chicken franchise

    Full of rats running 
    through floorboards, 

    Busboys & Poets open micers
    Pontificating misinformation,  

    shivering syllables of  no, no, no 
    shaking every bone of me 

    Sunlight is snipped 

    I am enveloped by shadows

    Essex, help me count my blessings… 

    Regie Cabico is the first Asian American and openly queer poet to win the Nuyorican Poets Cafe Grand Slam and is the Executive Director of A Gathering of the Tribes. His collection of poetry, A Rabbit in Search of a Rolex was published by Day Eight Press in 2023. He is the Kennedy Center for The Performing Arts slam poetry teaching artist and publisher of Capturing Fire Press.

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    Regie Cabico is a resident of Union Market.

  25. “Aubade with Grain, Gold, and Feather” by holly mason badra

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    Aubade with Grain, Gold, and Feather

    Morning touches the cottage window.
    We wake to the sound of cows grazing—
    this idyllic pastoral.

    We are learning to listen
    to each other’s silences.

    To ease the landscape
    of the mind.

    Two calves touch heads,
    siblings whispering.

    Their bellied songs hold us
    where we are gazing.

    Horses at the fence
    flex their muscles,
    hooves in the grain.

    The word pasture sounds like pastor.
    I have better experiences with the first.

    The barn cat drops a feather at the door.
    What was once in flight
    is now grounded.

    I recall the angel figurine
    in the flower display at Baba’s funeral.
    Her wings lined in gold.

    I kept the small statue
    to remind me of Baba’s
    all-encompassing calm.

    A feather of a man.
    Light, soft, ephemeral.

    Radiant, too, like the peacock’s plumage,
    and a sense of majesty to match.

    The angels of my childhood
    are tarnished with exclusion.

    I’ve met earth angels since then.

    The woman on the metro
    empathizing with me
    after a night gone not so right.

    My nephew
    when he offers me a kiss without request.

    My beloved
    who reminds me to be here now.
    She says, “Don’t go down the rabbit hole.”



    A bird has built a nest on the deck.

    I open the door—
    small chirps asking.

    We are all born
    with this soft hunger.

    Hold it in your hands.

    Holly Mason Badra received her MFA in Poetry from George Mason University. Her work is published in various journals. As a Kurdish-American poet, her recent projects focus on highlighting Kurdish women writers. She is the Associate Director of Women and Gender Studies at GMU.

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    Previously appeared in Meridian. Reprinted with permission of Meridian.
  26. “Gracias Pedro Zamora” by Adrian Gaston Garcia

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    Gracias Pedro Zamora

    In the summer of ‘94
    With stolen cable
    You entered our living room 
    Our bodies spread across carpeted floor 
    With rug burn staining our elbows and knees
    We watched you 
    Our eyes glued to the screen. 

    Your perfect hairstyle
    Like the models in barbershop posters and magazines
    Brought butterflies to my tummy.  

    Your bushy eyebrows
    Matched my own
    So much so that I started to love them. 

    Your contagious smile
    Would spread across my own face
    And no matter how hard I tried, 
    I could not hide it away. 

    Your accent gifted me giggles
    It shared the same sounds of family members whose tongues
    Also spoke Spanish 

    You looked familiar 
    So I would make believe 
    That somehow we were cousins
    That in a few years, when I got older, 
    I would look like you. 

    And without even knowing it, 
    Seeing you 
    Helped me see a piece of myself. 

    I remember in that episode 
    I found out that you were gay and had HIV
    And at that time, being seven years old, 
    I thought it was the same thing. 
    As you talked out loud, about your life
    I could barely understand 
    But for some reason 
    I felt that my very own secret was being exposed
    So I learned to fear you.

    But the season went on
    And both my crush and secret just kept getting bigger
    You eventually won my heart.

    It was because of you that I first saw two men fall in love 
    And get married
    Celebrating with a wedding
    That caused a lump to live in my throat. 

    When the news broke that you were sick
    So did the lump 
    That opened the floodgates 
    I could not explain to 
    The outside world 
    because I didn’t want to be associated with you.

    I cried when they announced your death
    For some reason, 
    I thought I was supposed to meet you.

    I am not sure if you ever knew the impact 
    You would have
    How many other young gay boys you go on to inspire
    Educate and save.

    I still get those butterflies in my tummy
    Whenever I see your photo. 

    I know now that we are family
    You were just ahead of the times.

    Adrian Gaston Garcia (aka AGG) is a queer Latine storyteller whose mission is to share narratives that build community. He currently lives in Washington, D.C. Adrian fuels his creativity via the performing arts, specifically theater, improv, and spoken word poetry. His work is largely based on his experiences and the intersectionality of his identities. It is a shout out to all the queer brown boys who choose joy as their form of resistance. Adrian is the co-host and producer of Los Bookis Podcast, a podcast for queer Latine bookworms who love queer Latine stories.

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    Adrian Gaston Garcia is a resident of Columbia Heights.

  27. “Bipolar Lady’s Prayer (to Dymphna)” by Casey Catherine Moore

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    Bipolar Lady’s Prayer (to Dymphna)

    Our sanity, who art in the clouds,
        shrouded be thy name,

    Insanity comes, it will be run,
        from the souls of your feet ‘til your mind’s undone.

    Give us this day our daily drugs,

    And forgive us for misunderstanding our wrongs,
        as we forgive those who misunderstand us.

    And lead us not into obsession,

    But deliver us from oblivion.


    Casey Catherine Moore is a bipolar, bisexual poet, writing coach, & educator. She holds a Ph.D. in CompLit from U of SC, focusing on Latin poetry, invective, & gender studies. Her first poetry collection, Psyche, is a mythology and disability-inspired retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth (Anxiety Press). She co-produces/co-hosts Homo Stanzas, a queer poetry/comedy series, & Electric Euphoria, a queer and neurodivergent series, & hosts open mics at Busboys & Poets Brookland. Her performance credits include The Kennedy Center, Poetry Out Loud, The Nail Salon, Capturing Fire, & the 2022 Medicare for All Rally in DC.

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    Casey Catherine Moore is a resident of Cathedral Heights.

  28. “December 4th, 2022 at 8:59pm” by Rachel L. Dixon

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    December 4th, 2022 at 8:59 pm

    i’m on the bus headed home from new york
    sitting next to my best friend 
    we just celebrated her birthday 
    and it was a beautiful weekend 
    it always is golden surrounded by the love good friends provide
    I don’t know whether its the bus that makes me melancholy
    or being a permanent 7th wheel. 
    I spent all weekend harmlessly flirting with their significant others 
    we laugh about it 

    i sit on the bus and my friend cries a little
    because her girlfriend lives in the city 
    we don’t know when she’s going to leave me to go pursue her life up there
    but she will 

    the level of anonymity generated from being another person in transit is freeing 
    today I wandered through a neighborhood I might never see again 

    a prayer attempts to leave my lips here in the dark 
    I want to fearlessly run towards the rest of my life

    I got a tattoo a few days ago 
    my first one that isn’t hidden 
    a stamp of approval for my own creative spirit 
    I prayed to my grandmother before the needle met my skin,
    Is it alright? 
    because it’s of some lemons 
    she had a lemon tree in her backyard when I was growing up 
    it grew lemons as big as your head
    juicy and sweet and when you have lemons
    you must make lemonade

    the people who bought her house tore down the tree

    but she answered yes 
    so it will live on me, forever 

    my birthday is next week, in just a few days 
    I don’t know what this next year will bring
    but I pray to my grandmother 
    I don’t have any answers 
    I’m trying to be okay with that

    Rachel Dixon is a theater artist local to the DMV area. She works as a teaching artist with Arena Stage, as well as the Managing Director for We Happy Few. Her other written work has been published in New York publication, TheaterHound.

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  29. “This Smile (after Mary Bowman)” by Chris Thomas

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    This Smile
    After Mary Bowman

    This smile right here ain’t no accident.
    On purpose is this smile.
    Intentional, charismatic, focused,
    This smile is sexy as fuck.

    Bare feet rooted in soil,
    Ready for the world is this smile.
    Ancestors rejoicing,
    Wildest dreams coming true.
    This smile is life everlasting.

    This smile has a past,
    But is present with a future.
    This smile exists!

    “Be determined,” said this smile.
    “Ain’t nobody got nothing on you,” fervent is this smile.
    “Yes, Mx. Cunty Hunty,” werk this smile.
    “All I see for me is better days,” shouts this smile.

    This smile is affirmation.

    I know you love this smile.
    Not as much as me.

    This smile is confident,
    Learned to let go,
    Is forgiveness,
    Dances like no tomorrow.
    Freedom is this smile.

    This smile is important,
    This smile is kind,
    This smile is smart.

    Looks in the mirror and sees my mama
    This smile.

    I’m here alive with this smile.
    I’m a survivor, fall to my knees,
    give thanks for this smile.

    Never giving up this smile.
    Unapologetic is this smile.

    Never turned its back,
    Looks forward with this smile.
    Grateful grateful grateful is this smile.

    I cried with this smile,
    Became one with this smile,
    Stopped pretending to
    smile with this smile.

    I fought for this smile.

    I love this smile.

    By Chris Thomas
    Copyright© 2023

    Chris Thomas is a Queer Black Non-Binary individual wielding words to champion Child Abuse Prevention, LGBTQIA rights, and Mental Health Awareness. Recognized by NUSPA in 2015, C. mesmerizes audiences as a performer and leads at venues like Angelina College, Georgetown University, Jefferson University, and Howard University. Collaborating with NVAFA and Carlyle House, they curate events celebrating African American excellence. Their workshop, Writing to Wellness™, empowers healing through poetry amid trauma. Advocacy spans educating adults on responding to Child Sexual Abuse and board service.

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    Chris Thomas is a resident of DC.

    Author of Reclamation; reprinted by permission of the author
See poems from: 2023 2022