Beyond Narcissus’ Pool by Thomas A. E. Hesketh

My friend,

            Let me ask of you, if I may,  
                         with the aid of the Muse who has guided me thus far,  
                                     along the path I have travelled,  
                                                 which intersected yours, as you may recall,  
                                                            when the Sun shone brighter in the sky, stars were fixed, 
                                                                        and storm clouds were another person’s shadow, 

                                                 about a matter of some concern, personally;  
                                                              an imposition I would not think to assert,  
                                                              without having known you, in the time when words had left  

us each,  

             the time we no longer mention, except by the most oblique of references  
                         conscious of the sorrow underlying our efforts to survive, persevere,  
                                      looking into the mirror of our souls, finding there no well of insight, no  
                                                   center within the iris,  
                                                                no plumb line between our heads and our hearts, yet 

         we took  


                      we needed to take,  
                            sometimes two, 
                                           grasping at air with our tongues,  
                                                        still bleeding from vain attempts  
                                                                 to quell the instinctual need  
                                                                          to howl at the Moon’s craters’ lightness; albeida;  

           starring at our fates, dust in cold orbit 

I find myself these days poised, unsteady;  
           as if reaching for balance: blindfolded; a snail crawling the length of a straight 
                      razor; an island under siege from all directions, with the volcano


                      birds’ beaks thrashing my Promethean liver; severed fingers in buttered bowls; 
                                   bards’ slit maws’ gargles, a baobab adrift at sea; 
                                                                                                                         out of place – 

           It is not about the bedbugs of life, I think; (certainly) therefore, in grids; I made my peace 
                      with a cockroach, a pumice stone, and an iron griddle; have seen the Grand 

                                 Canyon, Niagara Falls, and the cathedral of Notre Dame – before the fire; 
                                 more than mere trifles, less  

                                                                                                                                    than mortality; 

           “Which wishy-washy witch wishes wishbones well”, was whispered once, wistfully. 

Are you distracted yet, again?  
           Is this the point on the line when the circular becomes perpendicular, properly  


                                                       Meet you halfway, 
                                                                                                   yours can be the bigger half,  

but the last word is still 

                                      uncertain, albeit ineffable, they say, . . .  

                                                                                                   So, we’ll dispense with the  


                                                     squaring the edges at the horizon of introspection, calling  
                             the surf to retreat, wishing good tidings, prizing drift-would with all Kant, 
at least for a mo(re)-ment; an extended pause, a hiatus between assignments of being  

            Why haven’t you answered my dream mail? 

                                                                             I inhale, you exhale 
                                                               We have the same birthday 
                          We share the same fingerprints We should not be so incommunicado,  eh?  
           I look forward to your reply, Or will we each be  left, alter-half-egos? 

                                                                                                                Be well,  

Thomas A. E. Hesketh was born in Toronto, Canada, on a cusp, last millennium; none of it his fault. Most of what has happened to him has happened to others, too. He enjoys poetry because of its verbal range, except the caesuras, and chess, which is non-verbal, except the regicide.

Eora, Ramaytush, English by Rachel Chalmers

Eora, Ramaytush, English1 by Rachel Chalmers

Mungi, wilkawarep, lightning,
Burra, rinnimi, sky, 
Murungal, pura, thunder, 
May, hiin, eye.

Darrabara, puuhi, daylight, 
Minak, muur, night, 
Biyanga, ‘apaa, father, 
Dyirra, laskainin, white. 

Wiyanga, ‘anaa, mother, 
Mudjil, chitkote, red, 
Mudung, ‘ishsha, living, 
Gugun, hurwishte, dead. 

1 Eora, or Dharug, is the original language of the Sydney region of Australia, where I was born and raised. Ramaytush is the original language of San Francisco, where I live today. Both survive in fragmentary form. English is the only language I speak.

Rachel Chalmers is an Australian writer living in San Francisco. Her work has appeared in SalonPainted Bride QuarterlyThe Marlboro Review, The Southern California Review and elsewhere.

Nepantla by Fernanda Vega

When crippled with otherness: I celebrate our differences
When treated like a stranger: I embrace our humanness
When provoked with rupture: I tend to my mother Coyolxāuhqui
When disjointed by oppression and pain: I appease in my bodymindspirit
When told that I don’t belong ni aquí ni allá
I bury my roots in the interstitial space, 
     in nepantla
Because, yes, I am different. What it’s labeled as other is my force.
I am the combination of cultures, of languages, of traditions.
I represent the struggle for acceptance and for healing,
          Soy Curandera Scholar Activist. 
I walk this path always seeking to spread and receive compassion;
to be firm when needed or to spread balm on my wounds.
I embody traditions observed under a critical loving perspective
and my bravery encourages me to transform 
for the better of my ancestres and future ancestors. 
Hey, wait! 
May all this push me to the peripheria, to the borders? 
I am not willing to leave completely. 
Harrowing it is, yet, I dwell in that space, 
in the in-between, 
                          in nepantla.

Fernanda Vega  Born tapatía, later adopted a borderlands identity who feel-thinks as Buddhist. She has an Anzaldúan heart; and she is an advocate of long talks, good food and bikes. To dodge neoliberal imposed celerity, she carves time to type poetry and to sip tea on a sunny spot. ig: _tragalibros

The Cup of Trembling Saramanda Swigart

The sunset is made of gold. It is                                                                                                                                              made of gold, the sunset, this sunset.                                                                                                                                made of gold—-pure gold spills down the mountainside                                                                                                     and I kneel before the mountainside’s golden 

Kneel on the stone and burn this image into my forsaken
brain, sear gold onto my retinas, behind its sackcloth
consciousness (made of gold it is made 
of pure gold--this sunset--made of made of made of the

This gold is flaked from god's massive loneliness, our lord
of deep aching things--
who makes abysses and ruins, a 
cosmos crowded
with empty and ravenous math, with savage laws to bind it; 
this god's mind stokes gravity, black holes, cataclysms, does 
not rest for a moment
     on me

This god built a Martian peak in our orrery without a single
climber; gave titan oceans of gasoline, methane rain, and 
no machines to mine,
and one orb that seethes, greedy with life, spending itself in 
the terror of the spheres and it and I will die without 
consent, or comment, or comfort, but today the sky lusters
     so I own

a sunset made of gold, of gold, of gold, of perfect gold. It is
made of gold, the sunset, this sunset. Never never
forget this sunset of gold, the way it pours like yolk over the
mountain scree, made for me to drink--drink until it turns, 
like all things, into
     what is no more

Ghost Species by Jillian Wasick

We were wrong to spurn 
the Neanderthals. 
Too fast 
we followed 
the first man who cried 
savage, his fingers pawing skull, 
and the scientists 
who nodded yes 
without looking side to side. 

I read this in a magazine left open, 
an issue from last year, when 
we still closed our days 
with the same turquoise door. 

But they plucked 
dark feathers for ceremony, 
colored their cheeks, 
broke the earth 
to press their dead 
into calmer land. 
Intention, superstition, 
worldview. We draw them 
closer to human. 
A charge made from nothing new, just 

from looking back 
at things settled in museums. 
Spears, jawbones craggy as cliffs, 
ankles edged by bone spurs 
jutting out like tiny, white lips. 

Slowly, geneticists turned true the few whispers.
The Neanderthals 
are in us. 
From both bodies wanting 
or broken halves breaching 
is unknown, 
as ancestor truths often go.
I turn the page and see my nails
need cutting. He’d smile 
when I told him, scurry and return
to set his clippers in my hands.
I’d press the silver, sending clicks
chiming, pale slits flying 
from my body as he stayed close. 

For thirty summers 
college students have traveled
to a cave ten stories 
tall in Gibraltar. 
Like ancient women knitting
they are hunched, 
chipping away at a sandy hearth,
pulling away pine-nut husks,
flint fallen from axes. 
Never bones 
found, just things  
once touched. 

I think of my ridged bobby pins
underneath our bed, wonder
how many more Saturdays 
he will sweep 
and still find them. 

The Neanderthals had 
a last refuge on Gibraltar. 
An expert called them the butterflies
and snow leopards of our time.
All of them a ghost species.
Still alive, but no longer enough.
They’d passed the point of no return.
And I wonder if there is a knowing,
if it is freeing or sweet.  
And what he would say,
looking back.

Jillian Wasick is a former public school educator and current instructional designer for a nonprofit organization. She was a Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing Fellow in 2019. Jillian enjoys dancing and trying to emulate the Wicked Witch while biking the streets of San Francisco, where she lives.

The Singer by Shannon Wolfe

Alan’s songs still echo from the basement of the house.  Gingerbread, pink, sweating like an old southern Baptist lady in the forever sun. The willows on either side fanning, their shade more illusion than testament. 

Gil speaks to me in the quietest tones as I make my way up to the tired porch, painted icing railing flaking under my hand. 

This grand old dame’s best days so long past her, her bones a home of bitter chocolate drop memories.
Her shutter lashes no longer batting, sagging from hinges now like tears, now like rust.
This man before me too stuffed with the past, flickering in and out of him like damaged silver film.
“He’s been loud down there now that I have a new man.” Gil, fishlike eyes a suit of fine pressed pastel.
His freckled hand opens on empty air. “I used to not mind but now I want him to find peace.”
How sad, how tired I am of putting ghosts to sleep, throat devouring these words I won’t speak. 

Inside tastes of peppermint, Nagel, lavender and electricity.  Beyond these angles the stuffing is coming out and the wallpaper a candied peel but there’s sweetness here still.  A tin radio, a whisper, a rhythm under my feet where it’s not meant to be.  Alan, a photo on the mantel floating, 
Grinning, gracious long dark face. 
Alan, a song long ago that finished singing. 
Oh, how he loved you, Gil. 
How he loves you still. 
The sound of this love curling here on a cinnamon breeze, immortal and melancholy.
I snatch the notes from the air and swallow them whole, and I sing their special song.
“Smile, though your heart is aching. 
Smile, even though it’s breaking.

The piano in the corner protests on its own. 
A music box flung, hands unseen, sails through the air, 
“When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by.” 
Oh how the house is sweltering, hot syrup and time too sweet to digest. 
“If you smile though your fear and sorrow.” 
A figure flickering, his delicate fingers splayed over the keys. 
“Smile, and maybe tomorrow you’ll see the sun shining through.” 
A look of understanding like a skipping record, a broken note suspended in midair.
“For you.” 
And then I have him, a trembling clef curled under my tongue. 
“Light up your face with gladness, hide every trace of sadness.” 
(Souls taste of sweet smoke, in case you didn’t know.) 
And here I urge him to linger no more on this lullaby. 
And here I unmake him and return him to melody. 
The ghost sighs in wonder and fades into silence, his last refrain spent as he joins the eternal choir.

Shannon Wolfe is a long-time San Francisco resident who has contributed work to Forum Magazine, Sandy Magazine, and Scary Monsters. 

Two Lovers Sitting at a Table, Drinking Coffee by Jamie Avery

Give me your gentle mornings, 
your seashells, your palms. 

Lend me your wine-stained 
mouth. In the early light, speak softly. 

Tell me: Where’s your favorite mountain?
What shapes do you dream in

How old were you the first time 
you realized you’ll die? 

Were you scared then? 
And what scares you now? 

Give me your gentle mornings, 
your seashells, your palms. 

Anything you place 
in my hands, I will hold.

Jamie Avery (she / they) is a writer, editor, and plant parent living in Berkeley, California. In 2020, she graduated from San Francisco State University with a BA in Creative Writing. Her work can be found in Forum Magazine and Hey I’m Alive, and her digital avatar lives on Instagram at @jamiejacquelineavery.

11:34 PM by Jamie Avery

It begins the way most things do, meaning you are late. When you fluster into the bar your stomach is growling and the honeybees in your chest buzz with nerves. He buys your drink. You say, Thank you. There are gaps. Pauses. You are both treading lightly, but the beer is helping and soon you are talking about academic elitism and Christopher Owens and the suburbs of Las Vegas where he grew up and suddenly it is ten o’clock and you are leaving the bar and walking to his place for wine or tea or chocolate. The moon is full-bellied and the sidewalk swells to greet you. When he asks if he can kiss you, you say yes. When the lights dim in his quiet Cole Valley apartment, you say yes, again, and while you are falling into something, down Belvedere and two blocks to the right, on the corner of Haight and Ashbury, there are shouts. Two men, then a third. One man has a gun. The man with the gun wears plain clothes. The man with the gun shoots the third man, twice in the stomach. Then the man with the gun pulls out his badge. There is silence before there are sirens. From his bedroom, you hear them wailing.

Jamie Avery (she / they) is a writer, editor, and plant parent living in Berkeley, California. In 2020, she graduated from San Francisco State University with a BA in Creative Writing. Her work can be found in Forum Magazine and Hey I’m Alive, and her digital avatar lives on Instagram at @jamiejacquelineavery.

After being hungover and facedown in a wildflower field in an unincorporated town outside of Fresno by Kelly Egan

All the tiny stems 
are popping right back up 
from where my body has just been 
alleviating my concerns of killing 
what I’ve just recognized, intimately, as a world. 

As a world they go on by themselves. 
As a wild they do not easily succumb. 

Which brings us to an ethics of picking them— 
            At the moment such a gesture 
            is the very etymology 
                        of violence— 

Which brings us to an ethics of silence, 
            sparse grackle and a mile-deep breeze 
                          challenging the substance of words— 

Which brings us to an ethics of crawling through a hole 
in the fence to the other side’s even more orange: 

Because we could we did not. 
Because we could but did not 
we then understood 

how indigenously, how to the moment  
precisely evolved they are always arising— 
the property lines, and pleasures of 

                                                         /  / abiding them.

Kelly Egan’s poems have appeared in Colorado ReviewLaurel ReviewRHINODenver QuarterlyLuna LunaBlazeVOXWhite Stag, and elsewhere. Her manuscript was recently a finalist in the Midwest Chapbook Contest. She lives in San Francisco and has an MFA in Poetry from Saint

Mary’s College of CA. She likes to think about outer space and visit small towns.

My Estuary by Dana Delibovi

The highway droning. Soot 
settling in. Thunder, then rainstorm. 
But not refreshing, because heat was envy 
spread across the green harbor. Jagged bottles. 
Wide concrete stanchions in the dark mud. 

Smell of low tide. Smell 
of dripping diesel and sharp envy, the wide bay 
covetous, our house leaking in silence. 
Money still evading the heat. 
The highway pointing and laughing; the harbor 

mute, a man working dockside, 
scraping, then sanding. Paycheck. And soon 
a motorboat, and then the creaky 
grind of a winch. The heat 
clinging, like a pact between 

fortune and fame. Wet humid air. The wealthy other shore 
beckoning sensuously, a fog hanging over it. My door 
bolted tight as a polemic. Rainstorm, 
pea-souper. Childhood tarred over with bills. 
Rich and poor dividing. The wide bay cutting. 

Dana Delibovi is a poet, essayist, and translator. Her work has recently appeared in After the Art, Apple Valley Review, Bluestem, The Confluence, Ezra Translations, Linden Avenue, Noon, and Zingara Poetry Review. In 2020, Delibovi received a Pushcart Prize nomination. She is consulting poetry editor at Witty Partition.