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 2023, the theme for Pride Poems was “heritage.” We asked poets to consider how they have been influenced by the groups to which they belong: family, neighborhood, place of birth, the queer community, or those with whom they share a language, country of origin, or religion. How do we claim and recognize our forebears? Half of the featured poets were new to the project, and the theme allowed us to highlight the amazing diversity of LGBTQ+ poets from the DC region—from a range of backgrounds, ethnicities, races, countries of origin, and ages.

  1. “Ghazal for Lost Women” by Danielle Badra

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    Ghazal for Lost Women

    Under the harvest moon there is always a camel & the camel is always a far lost woman,
    lost to the world she once inhabited of red wine and unleavened wafers. Woman

    wafting scent of orange blossom seeping from attar syrup cooled on the kitchen counter,
    counter to the culture of her mother who baked with anise seeds instead of walnuts. She

    walled herself inside her fearful heritage when the once world’s center certainly collapsed,
    collapsing her English into Arabic attempts for fresh watermelon, bateekh woman.

    Bateekh, her favorite word to pronounce when she was unfamiliar with phlegmy letters.
    Let her return to the camel & the camel return to her a sense of discomfort like the day she

    hid beneath pines playing with the boy next door a game that made her feel monstrous.
    The monsters under her mattress were really inside her all along, terrorist woman,

    terrorized by the thought of an evil side to her bloodline, of suicide bombers and martyrs,
    martyrdom was never all that appealing in comparison to mediocrity, the average woman.

    Rage is relative to bloody knuckles and what it was they were fighting for. For her huriya,
    freedom is relative to the laws that bind, she was bound only to her body, scarred woman.

    Scarab beetles stood for reincarnation in Ancient Egypt, said to push across the sky the sun.
    Deadly woman, deep is your longing for the land of memories, dwelling place of desires, al-shams.

    Danielle Badra (she/they) is a queer Arab-American poet from Michigan who currently resides in Virginia. She is the 2022-2024 Fairfax Poet Laureate. 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 through the University of Arkansas Press in 2021.

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    Previously appeared in Like We Still Speak, University of Arkansas Press (2021). Reprinted with permission of University of Arkansas Press.
  2. “Gabriel” by Malik Thompson

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    after Adrienne Rich

    O monstrous divinity,
    O grisled seraph with

    skull of man &
    star-bleached wing,

    your beautiful face
    veiled in dark fire,

    the coil & shudder
    of those insatiate flames—

    unspeaking beast
    fallen from the moon’s

    umbral half. Everyone’s eidolon
    cloaked in the mythos

    of scripture.

    you visit me nightly—
    in my bedroom, looming

    for another hushed
    evening. Tender soul

    or impending tempest?
    You breathe wind

    into your celestial horn,
    unleashing a god-flecked

    squall—cracked asphalt
    washed off

    in hallowed rain.
    His message

    drenches his body,
    so I pull

    further back—

    Malik Thompson is a Black queer man from Washington, DC. His worked is featured or forthcoming in Poet Lore, Voicemail Poems, and MQR Mixtape, among other publications. Thompson is a Tin House alum, and has received support from Lambda Literary, The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Brooklyn Poets, and Obsidian Foundation.

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    Malik Thompson is a resident of Mt Pleasant.

  3. “Jewish Tourist in Toledo, Spain” by Jessica Genia Simon

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    Jewish Tourist in Toledo, Spain

    Stones are more reliable than men.
    On the walls of this Catholic church,
    once a synagogue, then a mosque
    a Cross adorns the throne, but a Star of David
    hides in a ceiling tile; a Converso.
    Arabic appears through whitewash; a Morisco.

    In a souvenir shop, a man shows me
    a statue of The Virgin Mary
    that used to hide a mezuzah
    on a door jamb, points to his forearm,
    “Jewish blood.”

    He tells me his grandfather kept
    the key to the Toledo home
    abandoned after the Inquisition.
    A Palestinian man holds onto a key
    to his grandfather’s house
    in Jerusalem, a house that may
    or may not, still stand.

    There exists a certain amnesia
    in countries and pious men.
    One God paints over another,
    switches the symbol above the door.
    Men chisel granite,
    build cities atop cities,
    say there is nothing beneath,

    but stone remains. No matter
    how deep truth is buried,
    time turns rock
    to fossilized braille.
    Men hold onto keys
    and history flows down
    tributaries of memory
    to etched stones.
    I turn to leave Toledo, cross back
    over the bridge as the city ebbs away
    through the window of the train.

    Jessica Genia Simon began writing poetry at age seven. Her poems have been published in many journals including the Atlanta Review and Super Stoked: An Anthology of Queer Poetry from the Capturing Fire Slam & Summit. She works at a gun violence prevention nonprofit in D.C. and lives with her wife, daughter, and orange tabby cat in Silver Spring, Maryland. Her first poetry collection is Built of All I Shape and Name, Kelsay Books, 2023.

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    Previously published in Built of All I Shape and Name, Kelsay Books, 2023. Reprinted with permission of the author.
  4. “Why I Can’t Say the Word Lesbian Without Thinking of My Therapist” by Emily Holland

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    Why I Can’t Say the Word Lesbian Without Thinking of My Therapist

    At Sarah’s thirteenth birthday party, someone
    said Your mom is—what


    is abomination is
    the thingGod warned us about.

    There must be something, they said,
    in the bloodinsoluble—

    how it turns red when touchedby oxygen,
    we, too, turnfrom God

    when touched

    by someone like her.

    . . .

    Prom night, after dancing,someone said
    Your sister is—what

    acting different

    cut her beautiful brown hair
    down to the root,

    pruned it back
    so farit might not grow again,

    acting lessfeminine, more

    in control.

    . . .

    My first year at college
    someone said You are—what


    descendant of dyke,
    divergence in a long lineage.
    Tainted bloodline.

    Desire never matters here.

    These are the possibilities passed down to us: to be
    or to become

    or to have always been.

    These are what we call signs only
    in hindsight:

    smell of bubblegum chapsticksharing a sleeping bag
    tucking her hair behind an earwanting to hold her hand
    or touch her cheekthe way best friends never do.

    Emily Holland (they/she) is a genderqueer lesbian writer. Their poems appear or are forthcoming in publications including HAD, Shenandoah, DIALOGIST, Little Patuxent Review, lstw, and Black Warrior Review. They are the author of the chapbook Lineage (dancing girl press) and the recipient of multiple fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. She is currently the editor of Poet Lore, an adjunct professor at GWU, and the chair of OutWrite, DC’s LGBTQIA+ literary festival.

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    Previously appeared in Wussy. Reprinted with permission of the author.
  5. “What Persephone Taught Me” by Casey Catherine Moore

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    What Persephone Taught Me

    I can survive amid summer wildfires.

    When I can’t see, but still perceive,
    with singed hair and crimson eyes,
    mind and body constantly reeling,
    and a pulse I can never stop feeling.

    I can survive under winter darkness.

    When my leaves are gone,
    the ice rain is heavy,
    I am unsteady,
    and my branches freeze
    and fall to the Earth
    with a thunder crack.

    I’ve survived
    fires and floods,
    hurricanes and tornadoes,
    summer volcanoes,
    and days and weeks without rain
    when the shakes begin to addle my brain;
    and long winter nights
    when the ice enters my bones
    and flash-freezes me within my mind alone.

    I am
    I am still
    I am still here.

    I survive by soaking up the summer sun
    to radiate later from my skin
    and by saving winter ice under my tongue
    to cool my core on the Dog Days
    when everything rages within.

    My roots always burrow deeper into Earth,
    sending sweet fruits of Ceres
    up through my feet, into my trunk, and out
    to my fingertip branches and wearied leaves.

    I am
    I am still
    I am still here.

    Surviving the seasons made me know
    the strength of the root.

    Casey Catherine Moore is a bipolar, bisexual writer, educator, and activist. She holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of South Carolina with a focus on Classics, Latin poetry, and women’s and gender studies. Moore’s work can be found in academic and creative publications including the Comparatist, Sinister Wisdom, Samfiftyfour, Oyster River Pages, and Bourgeon. She is the co-producer and co-host of Homo Stanzas, a queer spoken word showcase, and she has been a featured poet for Busboys & Poets, The Nail Salon, Capturing Fire, and the 2022 March for Medicare for All Rally in Washington, DC.

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    Casey Catherine Moore is a resident of Cathedral Heights.

  6. “Self” by Jona Colson

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    What am I made of? Eggs over easy
    and white toast. A mid April notion

    of love under spring’s harsh blossom,
    or a basket of red coxcombs and daisies

    beside my father’s casket.
    It’s hard to think beyond the house

    on the hill—the garden filled with
    corn and radishes. When I was five

    I slept by a watermelon in the full moon
    and woke up to walk in the grasslands

    that are now covered in new homes and fences.
    Perhaps I am merely anxious puffs of breath at 3 a.m.

    since my mother said I am cursed and belong
    elsewhere only to be missed someday.

    Jona Colson’s poetry collection, Said Through Glass, won the 2018 Jean Feldman Poetry Prize from the Washington Writers’ Publishing House. He is the co-editor of This Is What America Looks Like: Poetry and Fiction from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia (2021). His poems have appeared in Ploughshares, The Southern Review, The Massachusetts Review and elsewhere. His translations and interviews can be found in Prairie Schooner, Tupelo Quarterly, and The Writer’s Chronicle. He has received fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. He is a professor of ESL at Montgomery College in Maryland and lives in Washington, DC. In 2022, he became co-president with Caroline Bock of the Washington Writer’s Publishing House and edits the bi-weekly journal, WWPH Writes.

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    Jona Colson is a resident of Dupont Circle.

    Previously appeared in Said Through Glass (Washington Writers' Publishing House). Reprinted with permission of the author.
  7. “The Act of Breathing” by H.L. Sudler

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    The Act of Breathing

    When first we wake
    We consciously experience the act of breathing.
    That first deep inhale
    Through the mouth, through the nostrils.
    We open our eyes
    And our eyes are opened.
    When we inhale,
    We breathe in everything that has come before.
    Last night, yesterday, the day before, last week, last month, last year,
    Decades and centuries ago.
    Our youth, our childhood.
    When we inhale,
    We breathe in everything that has come before.
    Fill our lungs with it, and also our memory.
    Words of our mother and father, words of our grandparents.
    Words of lovers and teachers and friends.
    Words of enemies and rivals and sages and mentors.
    Don’t touch that fire!
    Look before you leap!
    Obey your mother and father.
    The price of love is steep.
    Stand up straighter!
    Stand your ground!
    Love your neighbor.
    All things come around.
    When we inhale,
    We breathe in everything that has come before.
    Smells, tastes, feelings, sounds.
    Also: past lives and history.
    Also: the sins of our fathers, our founding fathers.
    Liberty! Rights! Evolution! Framework!
    But also: enslavement, suppression, division, appropriation.
    When we inhale,
    We breathe in everything that has come before.
    But for the African American breathing is precious;
    For any breath could be our last.
    And so we breathe in.
    To remember, to recall, to honor.
    To summon the strength, patience, and determination that imbued the spirits of our ancestors
    Who likely paid a greater price for their lives than we could ever imagine.
    And we breathe out.
    To release our pain, to clear our minds, to push forward, to calm down.
    The act of breathing is a skill.
    For some more than others.
    The catch is to not hold your breath!
    Living neither here nor there, trapped in time!
    But to put both feet on the floor.
    To exhale.
    And with one big push
    Stand tall and move on with your day.
    With one big push
    Stand tall and move toward your waiting bright future.
    This is the act of breathing.

    H.L. Sudler is the author of six books, including Patriarch: My Extraordinary Journey from Man to Gentleman, CafeLiving’s Favorite Cocktails (with Keith Vient), Man to Gentleman: A Beginner’s Guide to Manhood, his short story collection The Looking Glass: Tales of Light and Dark, and his thriller novel series Summerville and Return to Summerville. His short story The Way of All Flesh was selected for the PATHS Humanitarian Writing Award. He has served as a magazine publisher, a newspaper editor, and a contributing writer to numerous anthologies and periodicals. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and currently lives in Washington, DC.

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  8. “Š” by Natasha Sajé

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    at the room of a sleeping child, a finger to the threshold

    teeth drawn together
    hissing softened by lips
    echoed in the cave

    little roof (strešica)

    difference between a chocolatier (Kraš) and lime-
    stone (kras), white rocks
    struck by moon

    as in sugar
    which can be made from beets, cane, corn, maple, fruit, and milk

    its sweetness rhymes with bees

    we say one thing is not another thing
    and in this language every letter is pronounced

    cup gathering a drop of sound

    dusty taste of the water

    filmed skin after walking in the river

    sound the residue of letters

    I’d like a letter that splinters

    language from its parents to build
    a house of sticks overlooking the sea, letting waves
    instruct me—air
    rushing through my teeth is also air
    that could have passed through the tailpipe of a bus

    I want happiness without a hole in it, the heroine says,
    and the reader knows she’s doomed to a life of rifts

    some ideas are so deep you can live in them, deeper than the highest
    mountains are high, subterranean stalactites forming
    gypsum flowers like wallpaper

    in such darkness the pale pink
    olm, his degenerated eyes covered
    by skin, can live to a hundred years of age

    wan cousin of the newt or salamander
    finding his way via smell

    even Proteus, shepherd of the sea’s flocks, cannot
    protect him from polluted groundwater
    and his own rarity

    he lives only in one place on earth
    a place where š is uttered

    and might, if things were different, be
    a dragon in the ocean’s waving

    fricative, or at least a snake with a crown

    none poisonous in this quiet country

    Natasha Sajé was born stateless in Germany and grew up in NYC and suburbs. She lived in either DC or Baltimore 1978-1998, at which point, equipped with a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, she took a teaching job at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. Now retired from that job/exile, she lives in DC with her Veterans Administration employee (and Boston sports fan) wife. Natasha teaches poetry and non-fiction writing at the Vermont College of Fine Arts and is the author of five books of poems; a memoir-in-essays (Terroir: Love, Out of Place); and a postmodern poetry handbook.

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    Natasha Sajé is a resident of Cleveland Park.

    Previously appeared in Vivarium (Tupelo Press, 2014). Reprinted with permission of the author.
  9. “Federal Hill Fourth of July” by Heidi Mordhorst

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    Federal Hill Fourth of July

    We leaned into the hill as the night exploded toward us.
    The grass grew high and green and thick.
    Into the thick the high the hill exploded as grass
    Night leaned toward green and we and us grew

    Thunder worked a fire in the star-shattered air.
    The noise engulfed the breathing throng.
    Breathing athunder the star-throng engulfed
    The noise shattered the fire worked in air

    Only you and I, fingers touching, stand alight.
    A current holds us to the ground.
    Fingers alight you the only ground I stand
    A current touching to hold us and

    Heidi Mordhorst is the author of two collections of poetry for young readers as well as contributions to journals and anthologies for adults and children. She taught in public school classrooms for 35 years and recently served on the NCTE Excellence in Poetry Award Committee. Mordhorst now offers multiarts poetry programming for young writers at school sites around the DMV and at her home studio in Silver Spring.

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  10. “Taxi Driver Brother Man” by Sunu P. Chandy

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    Taxi Driver Brother Man

    Winter fling and I trying to get home
    Sunday night from the dyke bar.
    But taxi cabs are not stopping
    for Black girls who look like Black boys,
    or for Indian girl in baggy pants
    hanging out with Black bois,
    not looking like attorney in suit
    with white friends and briefcase.

    Winter fling and I finally get a cab
    and have the nerve to start kissing.
    After all that is why she got on the plane
    and came to this city –
    no cousins that she needs to visit really.
    We start kissing and Taxi Driver Brother Man
    says, I don’t take that in my cab. We stop immediately,
    and we stop completely. But his disgust
    too potent perhaps, Taxi Driver
    Brother Man pulls over—Just get out.
    Angry and afraid, the cold unbearable,
    we wait and wait, once again.

    Next day I see a brochure about how city cabs can’t discriminate
    on the basis of sexual orientation, or race.
    Would Taxi Driver Brother Man have kicked out
    a straight, white, kissing couple?
    Don’t think so. Don’t think so.

    Do I call the enemy, the TLC, the Taxi
    and Limousine Commission
    on Taxi Driver Brother Man?
    The same place that takes away their licenses,
    for bullshit reasons?
    Don’t think so. Don’t think so.

    And would I feel the same way if my dad
    was the taxi driver and the two girls kissing
    were some punk Lower Eastside white girls?
    Don’t think so. Don’t think so.
    I might be saying, Why they gotta disrespect
    an older South Asian man with this mess?
    What’s wrong with them?

    I don’t want to be kicked out Taxi Driver Brother Man,
    and I don’t want to turn you in either.

    A few days later I am speaking on a panel
    with Taxi Advocate Professor Man. I pretend I am down
    for their cause, completely. But what I really want to know
    is, when is Taxi Driver Brother Man, gonna be down for me?

    Sunu P. Chandy (she/her) is a social justice activist through her work as a poet and a civil rights attorney.  She’s a queer woman of color and lives in Washington, D.C. with her family. Chandy is the daughter of immigrants from Kerala, India. Her collection of poems, My Dear Comrades, won the 2021 Terry J. Cox Prize, and was published by Regal House in March 2023. Chandy is delighted to highlight the book’s incredible cover artist, Ragni Agarwal.  Chandy is also the legal director at the National Women’s Law Center, and on the board of the Transgender Law Center. Chandy was honored as one the 2021 Queer Women of Washington.

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    Previously appeared in My Dear Comrades, Regal House Publishing, 2023. Reprinted with permission of the author.
  11. “The Silence of Ice” by Ron Leo Vogel

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    The Silence of Ice

    We sit at the kitchen table for dinner
    my father at the head, the rest of us
    at our determined places, the 5 o’clock ritual
    talking in silence                     the black-ice lake
    offers a different silence, I skate alone
    blades slice the ice surface, space and time embrace
    a freedom as fast as the clouds and I can fly

    I stop where a leaf, shriveled and veined
    lies frozen, silent and clear
    once green and vivid with summer
    like a secret freezes a life to ice

    I tell my parents, my father is silent
    the three of us seated at the kitchen table
    until the gasp, from long-trapped air
    under frigid layers, and now appearing
    purple with rage, fractures the familiar surface:
    Don’t talk about gay in this house!

    Ice is black when it freezes
    so fast in time and space
    there are no air bubbles
    to trap, to suspend
    in silence – we sit at the table
    frozen for two more decades.

    Ron Leo Vogel (he/him) writes poetry and essays. The son of immigrants who fled war in Europe, he grew up in New York’s Hudson River Valley. He was awarded the Prentice Prize in German from Wesleyan University where he translated short stories. His recent work has appeared in the literary journal Pensive.

  12. “You Will Not Always Hear Cicada and Birdsong” by Kristen Zory King

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    You Will Not Always Hear Cicada and Birdsong

    They are impermanent,
    like a paper cut or heartburn
    or the dogwood with its blight.
    So you etch your name
    to a small pane of glass,
    plant foxglove in the garden,
    use a knife to carve love
    into the tender flesh of birch
    and say: I was here. Beg:
    Remember. I, too, watched
    light filter through the window,
    hoped it would tell me something
    I didn’t already know.

    Kristen Zory King is a writer, teaching artist, and yoga instructor based in Washington, DC. Find King online at

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    Kristen Zory King is a resident of Mt. Pleasant.

  13. “Blossoms” by Kathi Wolfe

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    for my aunt

    When I was seven, I didn’t want to grow up
    to be an old maid like you. I knew only

    a hubby, two children – a girl wearing red
    Mary Janes and a boy with blue suspenders –

    and a dog like Lassie would do for me.
    But I loved to lick the icing of the pretty

    pink cupcakes you brought to our house.
    “It was swell during the War,” you said,

    when I was 15, “I left the Pine Barrens
    for Washington, D.C. I met Eleanor R

    at a Hot Shoppe. I was so excited – my
    hands shook when she lit my cigarette.

    Later, I fell in love with Rose by the cherry
    blossoms.” I don’t know how things with you

    and Rose came to an end. You never
    mentioned her again. Now, In D.C., alone, no

    kids or dog, years after my lover’s death,
    I take a breath and carry on your life.

    Kathi Wolfe’s work has appeared in Poetry Magazine, The New York Times, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and other publications. Wolfe’s most recent collection is Love and Kumquats (BrickHouse Books). She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Wolfe was a 2008 Lambda Literary Emerging Writer Fellow. She is a contributor with the Washington Blade, the LGBTQ+ paper.

    Previously appeared in WWPH Writes. Reprinted with permission of the editors.
  14. “Gandhi, or 5’5″” by Mariah Barber

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    Gandhi, or 5’5″

    From what the textbooks portray Mahatma Gandhi stood at about 5’5″
    A rather frail looking man I’m sure could have only been 100 pounds, soaking wet
    But the strength he carried in his heels was enough to weigh out the shackles of apartheid that had held India in imbalance for centuries
    The peace that he exuded from his palms pressed together in prayer was enough to restrain the crooked views buried deep in generations of hate resetting DNA straight
    My brother stands at a solid six foot one
    More head than body I had no idea of the weight he bore in his bones
    Only a junior at my old Alma Mater
    His almond eyes have always possessed a sense of hidden wisdom
    Knowledge well beyond his mere sixteen years
    My mother called me at last week in the smallest voice I’ve ever heard escape her lips
    Her words hit me like a sucker punch to the ribs,
    Her voice pin pricking the air from my lungs
    When she uttered the words: :
    Riah what has gotten into your brother who he is trying to be Gandhi or something refusing to eat because I won’t sign his paperwork to join the new LGBT gay group at the high school what do you know about this?
    It took me a moment to process the full of all she said but after sometime I reply with as much reverence as you can hold for a queen who’s just lost the last droplet of respect as she denounced her throne by clumsily dropping her last sentence
    I’ll talk to him
    I’ve always wondered if the dial tone that soon hit my mother’s eardrum more like a red flag or a cold shower calling for her to wake up from her complacency
    To open her eyes and ears to the world around her to see the beauty in what she intended to be an insult

    Because I’m proud to call my brother a freaking modern day Gandhi in a world full of bigots
    I wish she could clear the hate from her sight cause like oil it’s left her blinded to what true love looks like
    It cuts me deeper every time she calls to see if I’m still with her
    Or why my brother still hangs out with his lesbian best friend because people may get the wrong idea
    Or how her eyes slice my soul every time she stares at my rainbow pin
    Or how I was afraid to share this poem because I didn’t want people to know what she thought of me
    How little she thought of me

    If my brother was Gandhi
    I would be his bindi
    His third eye helping him to see through the destruction of this world
    I would warn him that they will try to bend and break him
    But that’s why God built his bones like white columns on a temple
    That’s why God put all that knowledge between your temples
    I would show him how they would try to break him bend him into society’s often tight fitting molds
    Try to turtleneck his soul
    But his heart was never meant to be covered or closed
    leave that to the doors and windows
    So when they will try to straight jacket his personality
    know in the mist of four white colored walls
    you’re far from
    crazy that just the world’s way of trying to put you in another box
    but always meant to be more of a circle man
    Full of unity and life
    you’re in good company
    all compasses and cloudscape lenses
    Hell people even tried to make this earth flat out of fear
    so you see past prejudice and for that the world will always seem threatened
    you must be a muhadma of a man
    taking their advice with a grain of salt
    because you remember in another life you too had to protest that too
    And when you didn’t join America they tried to beat you into compliance and Water you down with the Adderall they inject into you bloodstream
    But know Gandhi was imprisoned too and they never had even the slightest handle on his spirit
    So stand even when others are too foolish to sit
    Pray even when they say your cause is already forsaken
    Call out even when the abyss is so dark you assume you fell on deaf ears
    Cause today more than ever this world needs a person as spherical as you to lead it
    Name it
    And call it
    And if you must sign truth when ignorant hands are either too shaky or in clenched fists
    Cause sometimes forgery is necessary when no authentic love surrounds you
    And I love you
    Even when the world forsakes you
    I realized I never hung up on my mother just clicked over to the other line
    Hell When Gandhi calls you don’t keep him waiting

    Mariah Barber is an author, certified health education specialist, DEI consultant , and researcher who has been working in public health for over a decade. Barber holds an MPH in community, social and behavioral health as well as a B. S. in public health with a concentration in community health and a B.A. in international studies with a concentration in Latin America. She has a dual certification in cultural competency and global understating as well as an immediate language proficiency in Spanish. Historically, Barber‘s work has been focused on the intersectionality between biological and social sciences on a global scale. Additionally, her professional experience includes working as a radio personality, spoken word artist, content curator, mentor, moderator, researcher, counselor, facilitator, writer, researcher advocate, organizer, teacher, podcaster, blogger, public speaker and educator which all influence the passion that she brings to public health initiatives. Her mission and mantra in life is: “Some People Do, Some People Never Do, Some People Overdo, How Do you Do?” Barber does things to uplift unheard voices.

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    Mariah Barber is a resident of Noma.

    Originally appeared in “Of Mics and Pens and Gods and Other College Courses“ in the documentary “An Education.“ Reprinted with permission of the author.
  15. “Memorandum to the Young Homosexual” by Yermiyahu Ahron Taub

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    Memorandum to the Young Homosexual

    I’ve seen you looking, boy.
    No, of course not at an old queen like me, my southerly titties
    sheathed in silk and sequins and Turkish cigarette smoke.
    Still, I do have my admirers, even if you won’t find them
    in the bars or the bathhouses or the brambles.  We gather in my apartment
    well east of Tompkins Square Park. Jimmy, Stephen, Reginald always
    come. Henry and Lars, too. Good men all, though not without their
    foibles. Stephen, for example, has always been paranoid. Still
    fearful of arrest. Yes, even in my apartment. Even to this day. I know
    it’s a bit out of the way, but the invitation is always open. Although the
    refreshment is light—wine, cheese, crackers— and the attire is casual, it is
    still a royal court of sorts. All right, a salon then, if you insist.
    Or perhaps an oral history archive or a museum of relics?

    I’ve seen you looking, boy.
    It takes one to know one, and I know that of which I speak.
    In my day, you see, interfacing wasn’t virtual.
    Encounter required touch. And to make that happen, the body and its
    language had to be read, a literacy which required years for mastery.
    There was nothing instinctive or “gut” about it.
    The stakes were high, mind you. You could end up in handcuffs—
    and I don’t mean the velvet ones—in a cell with pimps and killers
    and with your name on a list in the papers and out of a job.
    You could end up pummeled or slashed or slain and dumped
    into the river or beneath an overpass, the traffic whirring overhead—
    the stuff of pulp novels minus the campy covers or noir
    without the hard-nosed dick to rescue you. Of course, you still could.

    I’ve seen you looking, boy.
    I know of the gaze drawn to strapping workmen.
    Sometimes I saw them on the way to my office job,
    shirtless at a building site, whistling at women going by,
    eating a sandwich in wax paper and swilling I-never-knew-what
    from a blue metal thermos. I still recall that shade of blue.
    Sometimes in the diner Helena, my girlfriend from the office,
    and I favored for lunch. Their pastrami sandwiches were legendary.
    No, Helena was not my beard. She was a friend, a worksite-specific one,
    to be sure. Sometimes I would see men by the piers at night or early
    morning, when the ache got the better of me and repartee and bourbon
    were no longer enough. My reading skills were most essential
    in the darkest dark, without aid of moon or flash- or streetlight.

    I’ve seen you looking, boy.
    And I am not impressed; you have much to learn.
    You need to master the art of the surreptitious glance.
    The eye should lightly graze; avoid the full-fronted stare,
    but don’t assume a position of coyness, either.
    You aren’t a demure maiden or a geisha.
    Don’t conceal your smile by your hand or shadow.
    Your shoulders should not slouch,
    but they needn’t be militarily set back, either.
    You will have to do all this in a matter of seconds. Little thing like you,
    your life may depend on it. And no, that’s not hyperbole.
    Is there a Helena in your life? Come to our next gathering, sweet pea.
    I’m sure Lars can rustle up just the right young lady for you.

    Yermiyahu Ahron Taub is a poet, writer, and Yiddish literary translator. He is the author of two books of fiction, Beloved Comrades: a Novel in Stories (2020) and Prodigal Children in the House of G-d: Stories (2018), and six volumes of poetry, including A Mouse Among Tottering Skyscrapers: Selected Yiddish Poems (2017). Taub’s most recent translation from the Yiddish is Dineh: an Autobiographical Novel by Ida Maze (2022).

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    Yermiyahu Ahron Taub is a resident of Brookland.

    Previously appeared in The Education of a Daffodil/Di bildung fun a geln nartsis (Hadassa Word Press, 2017). Reprinted with permission of the author.
  16. “Love of Hate of Love” by Chris Biles

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    Love of Hate of Love

    I practice punching
    at the kitchen table
    on the couch
    in my sleep
    I make a fist
    study the veins that press out
    against the skin of my forearms

    I see my life there
    heritage of hate
    the blood runs thick:
    my rage, my joy
    the tender twisting of the two
    – my love of hate
    rising in my pulse
    with the power of perceived necessity.

    I make a fist
    and see my life there

    Then I pause
    lay down my hand
    let it rest on the kitchen table
    beside the gentle whorls of woodgrain

    I study the stillness
    and the weight of reality hits
    as I wonder
    if my narrow fingers
    running the length of my forearm
    would still look this way
    if I took it too far
    would still look this way
    in the stony stillness of death

    I practice punching
    at the kitchen table
    hating your hate
    but now I ponder your reaction
    if I hugged rather than hit

    I hate your hate of love
    now I realize
    your hate of love
    makes my life powerful –

    now I realize
    just being
    I hit
    like a heavy

    Chris Biles currently lives and works in Washington D.C. where she enjoys playing with the light and the dark, and losing herself in music, anything outside, and some words here and there. Biles was a finalist in the 2022 and 2023 DC Poet Project, was honored by the Monologues and Poetry International Film Festival with an official selection in 2021, and is published in a number of literary magazines, journals, and anthologies in print and online.

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    Chris Biles is a resident of Foggy Bottom.

    Previously published in Another New Calligraphy, April 2022. Reprinted with permission of the author.
  17. “Poems Knocking at My Heart” by Saundra Rose Maley

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    Poems Knocking at My Heart

    A young woman dreams
    under a cinnamon tree
    waiting as the tree blooms

    three times

    how long will I love her?
    how long will I walk this earth?

    my robe fell a thousand times
    into the shadows of our straw mat

    I cannot sleep
    the rose quartz bowl
    where she washed her hands

    her face

    stands too near the bed

    I take my brush
    and write sad poems
    in the snow

    startled plums fall

    Saundra Rose Maley is the author of the poetry collection Disappearing Act (Dryad Press, 2015). Her poems have appeared in Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Dryad, Gargoyle, and Innisfree, among other journals, and in the anthology Full Moon on K Street: Poems about Washington, D.C. She co-edited A Wild Perfection: The Selected Letters of James Wright with Anne Wright (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005) and the two have just completed So Much Secret Labor: James Wright and Translation with Jeffrey Katz.

  18. “To my mother at the start of the pandemic” by Gowri Koneswaran

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    To my mother at the start of the pandemic

    Dear Amma,
    How do we mourn
    what surrounds us?

    How we do the doing,
    keep the walls from falling,
    pantries stocked,
    silent soundscapes.

    Yesterday we talked about
    motivation and none
    and time and

    Of nourishment and cooking
    and feeling too tired to try.

    Of my childhood and your mother
    making my favorite curries and
    stitching her sari blouses
    all the years she lived with us.
    And how I never knew it was you
    who sewed my dresses.

    I informed you that I’d loved
    the plastic headbands you’d purchase,
    and broke them, one at a time, on purpose.

    Hiding on the staircase, boiling with
    the anger children can summon, directing it
    at the hardest objects in my possession.
    I knew they would break, not bend.

    We spoke of your Hindu wedding and
    how your parents’ church objected.
    You reminded me that no religion
    could cleave us.

    Then you asked me to give
    your love to my partner.
    Just one year after you met her
    and learned of my truth.

    I have nothing else to ask of you.
    Only, can we keep growing together?

    Gowri Koneswaran is a queer Eelam Tamil writer, performing artist, teacher, and lawyer. Her work has appeared in the Journal of Asian American Studies, Environmental Health Perspectives, Lantern Review, and The Margins. Her advocacy has addressed animal welfare, environmental protection, the rights of prisoners and the criminally accused in the U.S., and justice and accountability in Sri Lanka. She is the Literary Arts Programs Director at Split This Rock, a copy editor for The Abolitionist Newspaper, a Kundiman fellow, and a senior legal officer with PEARL.

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  19. “Born Backwards” by Tanya Olson

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    Born Backwards

    Feet first Ready to run
    Problem for the doctor
    Danger to my mother
    Forceps locked around
    my skull Three firm tugs
    leave a permanent dent
    Such the queer
    way to begin

    An early reader My first job
    to toddle down the driveway
    Fetch the paper Read the headline
    aloud White House Defends
    Air Raids Farm Prices Recover
    Never learned to read Just read
    A skill already inside me
    Games on the way to see Grandma
    Spell what we saw P-I-G pig
    C-O-W cow D-O-N-K-E-Y
    donkey What we heard on the radio
    That’s Elvis E-L-V-I-S They say
    he’s back but he never really
    went away

    I stay with Grandma for a week
    at the beginning and end
    of each summer Jobs at home
    don’t have a name but
    Grandma calls them chores
    Feed sheep Weed beds Pick beans
    You get the low ones I’ll get the high
    ones Together we’re a perfect pair
    Those summer weeks are the purest
    love I will ever know Fertile seeds
    in hungry soil

    At lunch the radio plays
    funeral music Deep voice
    Service place and time Grandma
    tells me something about every
    name we hear Kin Job Where
    she saw them last We nap
    and wake to watch General Hospital
    which I always think is The Doctors
    because of the way it starts When
    the party line rings not our ring
    Grandma turns down the sound
    Raises her eyebrows Puts a finger
    to her lips Picks up and listens
    long enough to know what she
    needs to know

    Before bed I read to her
    from a chapter book She buys
    them from yard sales Saves them
    when the library throws them out
    This one describes how a dairy
    is run When I correctly pronounce
    pasteurize Grandma shakes her head
    in awe How would a little girl
    even know that word I swear
    sometimes you must have lived before

    While I am away the yellow
    apple tree at home gets split in two
    by lightning My father builds a stand
    in its still living half For you For reading
    he explains when I return High enough
    to see over the corn Having never
    seen an ocean I imagine I am a sailor
    spending weeks at sea From my nest
    I work through the sack of Great Kid Classics
    Grandma gave me when I left
    Up there I eat the apples that continue
    to grow at hand In each lies
    a tang of fire

    One songy poem roots in me
    that summer A caught fish
    turns into a woman and promptly
    runs away That summer I live
    off the ground surrounded by
    the rustle of tall as me corn Below
    a constant thrum of wasps
    drunk on the windfall apples
    Every morning I battle Roo
    the meanest rooster who ever
    lived His flash of spurs
    when I gather eggs hurts
    my feelings All Roo knows
    is to protect his flock
    my mother counsels And to him
    you are just the giant girl who steals

    Chores for Grandma are gentler
    Feed the bottle lambs Give them
    their names But lambs are scary too
    Such hunger when they spot me
    carrying the milk bucket The power
    and need in their unrelenting suck
    Before she opens the pasture gate
    Grandma rubberbands breadbags
    over my shoes While she makes
    supper Grandma ties a string
    to each end of the flyswatter
    so I can wear it over my shoulder
    and play it like a guitar She claps
    every time I spin around and announce
    Hello My name is Johnny Cash
    When my parents come to take me back
    I introduce them to the lambs
    Share the names I have chosen
    Peanuts Popcorn CrackerJack
    My mother feeds them apple slices
    while they gently lip her hand

    My friend Clark insists the only
    people who want big gardens
    as adults never worked in one
    as kids He’s not entirely wrong
    about this Every day is something
    Hoe Dig Plant Weed Water Pick
    My least favorite job is plucking
    hornworms off the tomatoes
    I drown each one in the coffee can
    of kerosene we use to light
    the trash barrel A song for each
    as they go Return to sender
    Address unknown Lay down
    in the corn to hide and read
    Frankenstein the final book
    in my summer series The monster
    learns to fit in by watching
    The monster runs so as not
    to hurt what he loves The monster
    promises I will be with you
    on your wedding night The monster
    doesn’t see himself as a monster
    but the world does not agree

    My contentment that summer
    will not last Soon I begin to dream
    of leaving Believe to really be
    I must go somewhere else
    Clothes Jobs Books Music
    the ways I build this distance
    I still love Elvis Still read
    voraciously Grow only
    tomatoes Name animals
    thematically This year
    my dentist correctly
    identified me as a wellwater kid
    No fluoride in those early years
    make the teeth you have today

    Some book taught me I was different
    than my parents Some book told me
    queer kids run I always misremember
    how that fish poem ends The woman
    gets away but the man vows
    to find her and keep her
    until time and times are done
    He believes together they will
    pick silver apples of the moon
    He thinks she will sit forever
    by his side Happy to watch him
    pluck the golden apples from the sun

    Tanya Olson lives in Silver Spring, Maryland and is a Lecturer in English at UMBC. Her first book, Boyishly, was published by YesYes Books in 2013 and received a 2014 American Book Award. Her second book, Stay, was released By YesYes Books in 2019. In 2010, she won a Discovery/Boston Review prize and she was named a 2011 Lambda Fellow by the Lambda Literary Foundation. Her poem “54 Prince” was chosen for inclusion in Best American Poems 2015.

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  20. “Color of Choice” by Alex Carrigan

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    Color of Choice
    For Henrietta Lacks

    Red was always around you
    and will always be what’s left of you.
    The chips of nail polish that could be
    found under your bedroom vanity.
    The blood the doctors at Johns Hopkins
    drew from you for yet another test.
    The imprints left from digging your nails
    into your palms as the news is delivered.

    Red was around you the night you revealed
    your secret to the women in your life.
    You waited until you and your companions
    were at the top of the Ferris wheel
    before you told them you have cancer.
    Their faces turned red from the glow
    of the light bulbs along the rail.
    Or maybe it was the grief that was
    finally painted over them as they wished
    the world could move again.

    Red will always be around you,
    from the faces of your five crying babies
    to the dress you wear in your gallery portrait.
    You love red so much that you made sure
    it will always be around, for that color
    is the one bit of immortality drawn from you,
    separated into slides and test tubes,
    injected and radiated, shot into space,
    your life an ever-multiplying cluster
    of red circles pressed under glass,
    defying entropy and proving you
    will always be around.

    After Jesi Bender

    Alex Carrigan (he/him) is a Pushcart-nominated editor, poet, and critic from Virginia. He is the author of May All Our Pain Be Champagne: A Collection of Real Housewives Twitter Poetry (Alien Buddha Press, 2022), and Now Let’s Get Brunch: A Collection of RuPaul’s Drag Race Twitter Poetry (Querencia Press, 2023). He has had fiction, poetry, and literary reviews published in Quail Bell Magazine, Lambda Literary Review, Barrelhouse, Sage Cigarettes (Best of the Net Nominee, 2023), Stories About Penises (Guts Publishing, 2019), and more.

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  21. “The Holy Temple of Drag” by Rasha Abdulhadi

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    The Holy Temple of Drag
    for Pulse and all my endangered kin

    I sweat out my fever that night
    in the holy temple of drag,
    watching my baby sister in a mustache and codpiece
    invite us all to take a walk on the wild side,
    wholly supplicant to the divine glamdrogyny
    that could be called down to dance through you
    if you could wrestle free enough
    if you could accept into your heart the saving power
    of glitter. and rock-n-roll. and rhythm-n-blues.
    and stank nasty love songs sung along from every stall
    in the gender neutral milk hotel
    every friday, saturday, and sunday night
    offering a new watermark on your excitement
    Until this sunday,

    when my fever was breaking,
    and you were dying, you and your partner, you and your
    mother, you and the bartender and bouncer and the 18 year old
    girl dancing her heart out and I can’t understand
    how you weren’t me or my sister
    with our shaved-head glitter-eye swagger

    or our friends, our drag sistren and brethren
    in a neighboring state where we partied
    in defiance of laws that tried to deputize and sanctify hate

    and I wondered
    if the fbi had baited a hook whose sharp sting
    went sideways– or worse, if that barb
    landed right where aim sent it
    none of us, blackbrownredyellowqueer
    tongues embroidered by other languages,
    have expected safety for a long time, if we ever could or did
    I do not mistake police or politicians for my friends
    no matter what the press statement says
    My best allies have always been resistance. Rebellion
    really brings out my eyes. I find courage
    is a look anyone can pull off and sanctuary
    exists only in the interstices we hold open for each other.

    and I wondered too
    if this was personal, a story about the hidden body
    of the gay Muslim—as occluded as the twelfth imam
    who one day prophesy says may return
    perhaps then gentle in form as a rainstorm
    whose lips fear no kiss.

    and it seems that nothing
    will feel like justice until we heal
    and that I must give myself
    to my nieces and nephews
    like a bridge.

    My southern, my muslim,
    my arab, my baptist, my palestinian, my buddhist, my queer butch eyeliner
    families, hear me: my self feels like the battlefield over which the daily news is
    fought, the truth spiraled downfield to mark gains
    for one military or another
    while I’m trying to hold the world inside my skin
    and calling all my kin to hear how they’re hanging on.

    and you—
    you texted your mother that night
    to tell her you loved her.

    may I, on the night I die, with the best of my courage,
    have the last words on my lips be
    I love you. I love you world that broke me, I love you slaying
    hand, I love you betraying friend, I love you
    family that would not see me, I do not fear you for I knew
    my silence would not save me, make me invisible or hide me
    from surveillance that can find, detain, deport, or execute me
    just as surely as the hand of any man trying to terrorize my temple,
    and so I will not surrender these sacred spaces
    or let them become mute monuments. I am not here to hug any racist,
    and even if we will never be safe:
    it is you I am am pledged to, always.

    Rasha Abdulhadi is a queer Palestinian Southerner disabled by Long Covid. Rasha’s writing has appeared in Kweli, Poem-a-Day, Electric Lit, carte blanche, Anathema, Shade Journal, FIYAH, Mizna, ROOM, Strange Horizons, Beltway Poetry, and Lambda Literary. Their work is anthologized in Essential Voices: A COVID-19 Anthology, Snaring New Suns, Unfettered Hexes, Halal if You Hear Me, and Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler. A poet, and speculative fiction writer and editor, Abdulhadi is a member of Muslims for Just Futures, the Radius of Arab American Writers, and Alternate ROOTS. Their new chapbook is who is owed springtime.

    Rasha Abdulhadi is a resident of Washington, DC.

    Previously appeared in Split This Rock's Virtual Open mic. Reprinted with the author's permission.
  22. “Lucky or Lovely” by Natalie E. Illum

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    Lucky or Lovely

    after Alice Sebold

    I wanted to tell you, Mama,
    It wasn’t a sharp plunging
    into blackness. It wasn’t a hard fall.
    Not like the time I broke my kneecap
    roller-skating in kitchen, or the night
    I was kissed into oblivion.

    All I know is there were dark smudges –
    treetops too far below, that the buildings appeared
    like Northern Lights. I tried to remember

    the equation for speed, to calculate my death
    like a 9th grade math problem. But there was
    only time to think of your devastation,
    your devotion. How I would move beyond
    your forever loss. I wanted to absolve the impact –
    whisper my small happinesses. But my memory wavered
    like this plane; I was combustible.

    I love you, Mama. A bone-shattering love.
    Please know I wasn’t a broken bird. I was freed
    from the velocity of flying. I rose
    as my body collapsed, I soared
    above the wreckage.

    Natalie E. Illum is a poet, disability activist and singer living in Washington, D.C. She is the recipient of five Poetry Fellowship grants from the DC. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, a Jenny McKean Moore Fellowship, and is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Nominee. Illum is also a singer-songwriter of the band All Her Muses, whose album, Not speaking in metaphor, was a 2023 Wammie nominee for Best Pop Album. She holds an MFA from American University, and was a founding member of the mothertongue collective, an monthly LGBTQA open mic and workshop series that ran for 13 years.

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    Natalie E. Illum is a resident of Shaw.

  23. “Dear David” by K. Tyler Christensen

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    Dear David

    for David Wojnarowicz
    (b. September 14, 1954 – d. July 22, 1992)

    You died on my eleventh birthday
    while I blew out my candles you drew
    your last breath death by government neglect
    AIDS took you and your friends from the world
    of art and politics and I am your inheritor
    your queer progeny a descendant spreading
    your words as if they are your ashes
    spread on the White House lawn I spread
    your words to the bent ears of this generation
    of lovers to anyone who wakes up
    in this killing machine called america
    and who knows what it is like to have a target
    at their back to be marked as expendable
    to be subject to the eradicating impulses
    of the united states government who spread
    the lie of the ONE-TRIBE NATION
    and falsely promise freedom then indict us
    for who we love abandon us when we show up
    sick in the world they have created
    for a select few           I spread your words
    not as if they are your ashes
    but because they are your ashes—
    they are what is left of you.

    K. Tyler Christensen (any pronouns) is a writer living in Washington, DC. They are a professorial lecturer in the departments of Literature, and Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies (CRGC) at American University. Their chapbook, That Boy from Idaho, was published by Ghost City Press in 2020.

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    K. Tyler Christensen is a resident of Brookland.

  24. “How I Became a Writer” by Tanya Paperny

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    How I Became a Writer

    cut paper, hand-bound black cardboard
    ruler, X-Acto knife, self-healing mat
    Stone Soup submission mandates, “My First Book”

    a facility with language
    Santa Monica Public Library on 7th Street
    bilingual “family home”

    three siblings born in a country that no longer exists
    handmade Papier-mâché puppets
    who refused to speak English

    log of a 1994 Moscow trip —
    “it was very, very dirty there”
    “I saw the place where they cut off people’s heads”

    Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red
    an attempt to circumvent silence
    escape the “family home”

    looking out the window of a Greyhound bus
    looking out the window of an Amtrak train
    neglected industry along the Northeast Corridor

    мастер и маргарита, горе от ума, жалобная книга
    third-culture kid but not quite
    longing, diaspora, fracturing — the seductive lure of trauma

    Tanya Paperny is a writer, editor, translator, curator and community builder in Washington, DC. The child of Soviet Jewish refugees, her works deals with the aftermath of atrocity. Tanya’s essays, poetry and reporting have appeared in LitHub, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Washington City Paper, The Literary Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly and elsewhere.

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    Tanya Paperny is a resident of Edgewood.

  25. “To Live In That Country” by Dan Vera

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    To Live In That Country

    glimpsed, imagined, and longed for,
    to live within those borders
    that once seemed impregnable,
    whose language baffled yet enticed,
    whose customs lay beyond all understanding,
    its shared traditions and inside jokes,
    its annual celebrations, its
    quiet memorials to overcomings,
    to hard fought victories,
    to beloveds lost and remembered,
    to have the joy of one day becoming
    a proud and cherished citizen
    of this country, long fought for
    and now resplendent,
    to live in the country of our queer loving.

    Dan Vera is a DC-based writer and editor. An award-winning author of two poetry collections, he co-edited Imaniman: Poets Writing In The Anzaldúan Borderlands (Aunt Lute, 2016). His poetry appears in various journals, anthologies, and academic curricula. A featured reader around the country including the Poetry Foundation, Poets House and Dodge Poetry Festival, Vera co-curates the literary history site DC Writers’ Homes and chaired the Split This Rock board.

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    Dan Vera is a resident of Brookland/Michigan Park.

  26. “Kourban” by Holly Mason Badra

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    The adults would say it to the kids, Kourban.
    Like the sound a sheep makes, it goes “Core-baan.”

    Kourban-e-bim, Kurdish translated into English means:
    I am willing to sacrifice myself for you. I sacrifice myself to you.

    A table of 12 chairs filled with aunts and uncles playing cards—
    A young girl, I come up to my mother and whisper something into her ear,

    I hear her tell them the secret as I walk away;
    I hear them say, Kourban.

    Not knowing then just what it meant, but knowing it made me feel
    Both pleased and embarrassed— Kourban.

    And now, when my own nephew is soft in my arms,
    Opening his little hand to the early moon, saying “hold you, hold you,”

    I look at him and the thing in my chest is Kourban.
    Escaping my lips, Kourban.

    Holly Mason Badra received her MFA in Poetry from George Mason University where she is currently the Associate Director of the Women and Gender Studies program. Her work appears in The Rumpus, The Adroit Journal, Rabbit Catastrophe Review, The Northern Virginia Review, Foothill Poetry Journal, CALYX, and elsewhere. She has been a panelist for OutWrite DC, RAWIFest, and DC’s Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here events as a Kurdish-American poet. Mason Badra is also a reader for Poetry Daily.

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    Previously appeared in The Northern Virginia Review. Reprinted with permission.
  27. “The Vista from the Mediterranean Sea” by Robert L. Giron

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    The Vista from the Mediterranean Sea

    Picture a tree, one with deep roots,
    going deep into the ground,
    spreading out amongst the land,
    with branches twisting like
    the sinew of flesh
    Not unlike the olive tree,
    bark rich in hew and texture,
    bearing fruit, as then, now and
    into the future—
    There amongst the rock, cacti,
    wildflowers cover the terrain
    lush with life out towards the sea
    as bees swarm about drawing in
    nectar from blossom to blossom
    Then the rich lather of honey
    bathes the hive and we
    the bearers of knowledge gather
    treasures to last a life time

    Robert L. Giron is the author of five collections of poetry and editor of four anthologies. His poetry and fiction have appeared in national and international anthologies among other publications. He discovered recently that his ancestry covers most of Europe and the greater Mediterranean area, including Indigenous roots from Mexico/Texas—just a man of the world. He currently is an associate editor for Potomac Review and is the editor-in-chief of ArLiJo and is the founder/publisher of Gival Press.

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  28. “A Testament of Love in the Yogurt Aisle of the Mansfield ShopRite” by Caly McCarthy

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    A Testament of Love in the Yogurt Aisle of the Mansfield ShopRite

    Every day
    for the last twenty-seven years
    my father has worn
    a self-appointed uniform
    of khaki pants,
    a collared, button-down,
    blue and white pinstripe shirt
    with a Land’s End,
    navy blue,
    V-necked sweater.
    He readily admits
    that he cannot multitask.
    And, yet,
    he buys me yogurt.

    In the supermarket parking lot
    he deposits twenty-five cents
    to release the contraption
    that locks one cart
    to the next,
    jangling the chain
    and freeing the big basket on wheels.
    he doesn’t need it.
    It’s overkill
    for thirty-two ounces
    of semi-solid milk,
    but he is a man who appreciates ritual.

    Following the perimeter of the store,
    the refrigerated path
    to the promised land of culturally sound bacteria,
    he arrives in Aisle Twenty-One
    and consults his list.
    It says:
    Stonyfield Greek,
    vanilla yogurt.
    He consults the wall.
    It says:
    organic, fruit-on-the-bottom, with almonds, sans fat, gluten-free, bound to make you joyful and prosperous, please consider reading The Paradox of Choice.

    The refrigerator case
    is a matrix of variables,
    a prime application
    of conditional probability statements.
    My father has never
    excelled in math.
    Nevertheless, he skims the non-fat selections.
    He cannot find one
    to my specifications.

    He pulls out his phone and dials.
    I am in his “Favorites” list,
    but he is of a generation
    that commits to memory the phone numbers
    of the people they love.

    I am in class,
    and my phone is on vibrate.
    He leaves a message,
    asks me to call him back,
    he wants to make sure
    that he’s looking for the right thing.

    To pass the time until my class ends,
    he walks around the store,
    takes his blood pressure
    at the machine near the pharmacy counter;
    it’s 110 over 78.
    He writes it down,
    will tell us all at dinner
    how impressive it is,
    especially for a man of his age.

    He checks his phone.
    I haven’t called back,
    but he needs to return to work.
    He hedges his bets and walks to the Courtesy Desk,
    explains that there’s no
    Stonyfield Greek,
    vanilla yogurt
    in Aisle Twenty-One.
    On their loudspeaker
    they interrupt Maroon Five
    to ask Someone in Dairy,
    to Call 2-4-5, Someone in Dairy,
    to Call 2-4-5.

    Dairy calls 2-4-5.
    There is a case of my yogurt in the back.
    They ask how much he wants.
    One container
    will last me a week.
    Maybe he knows this.
    Maybe he doesn’t.
    As long as I’ve known him,
    my dad has steadfastly believed
    in buying in bulk.
    He asks for three.

    Caly McCarthy (she/her) is an ace writer who loves finding new ways to cook beans and usurp capitalism. She serves as the Marketing and Communications Coordinator for Fairtrade America and also as a reader for Poet Lore. Her work has been published in Christian Century and enfleshed.

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    Caly McCarthy is a resident of Cleveland Park.

  29. “sepulcher” by Ishanee Chanda

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    there is a thistle of sage growing on my grandmother’s grave. it is sprouting in lumps. grief clings to its leaves. she lies underneath the earth, shattered finger bones still reaching for the five o’ clock shadow on my father’s face. he hangs a painting of her in his bedroom. she sits stiff in a chair full of dead wood, her face shining with something sickly. he sleeps in a garden of her grave. wakes up with dirt in his ears, flower buds peeking out from underneath his eyes. he says she sings to him when he sleeps. when he leaves us to follow her, we are left pulling bouquets of wildflowers out of our sheets.

    Ishanee Chanda is a prose writer and poet from Dallas, Texas. She is the author or two books of poetry titled Oh, these walls, they crumble and The Overflow. Chanda enjoys eating her weight in Thai food, singing loudly to Taylor Swift, and rolling out a fresh batch of pasta dough every night.

    Ishanee Chanda is a resident of Brookland.

See poems from: 2023 2022