MEGAPHONING, a poem by Blaize Dicus, Featured on Life As Activism

…The rivers evaporate, fill the sky with water, then fall again to soak the soil. Trees grow,
pines cedars, sturdy. A system designed to give what is needed; a system that burns
when poisoned….

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TWO FLASH PIECES by Marc Harshman

He walks under an onyx set of moons whose one good eye blinks like the cherry top called to that last moment in his old life. Yesterday, the warden warned the leaky faucet would not be tolerated, and so it became the last domino to topple, and how true they all fell.  Now he draws on his jeans under the mirror of clouds.  It was time to reset his watch, as well, the cheap Timex from Aunt Alice, set it to a more auspicious hour—perhaps Twelfth Night off Dame Street in a drawing room where they were dancing in quadrilles and pansy skirts.  Or to an hour of privacy where the fairy tale poet still searches vodka in the closed garage that tilts to Africa. 

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FOR THE LIFE OF YOU by Brandon Timm

The high-pitched animal cries of your boy come hurtling to you drunk at the breakfast table from the backyard and until you finally hear “Dad! Dad! Dad!” it’s only by that terminal “Dad!” when anything registers—those cries and yelps and weight of the sliding glass door as you wrench it open into the sharp February bluster that spreads against your arms and face, snow falling in the crushed heels of the shoes slid on like slippers before crossing your uneven deck. There he is, your boy, standing on a cheap, green-plastic, piece-of-shit chair holding his puppy’s leash untethered in a red glove.

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TWO POEMS by Marcia Roberts

along the pathway through live oak
and cedar trees ant trails lead
to dead cicadas and worms

I look for lichen-covered twigs
and a piece of prickly pear
to dry and paint on canvas

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Cici squints at Agatha’s toes, bunched together like an Indy 500 pile-up of smashed, shiny speed-racers. “And that’s why you wear socks in bed,” she says, leaning against the short kitchen counter as she points a slice of toast dripping with butter and honey at her wife’s feet. “It’s good you’re getting them looked at.”

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SNAKE by Nadia Laher

She found it under her bedside table curled like a sleeping black snake. She stared at it for a second, then grabbed it and ran back down the stairs, thinking maybe this would save them. But when she flung open the door he was already gone, and then it was just her squinting into the bright sunlight, holding an old belt in her hands like a sad wish.

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THE SONGS OF MY YOUTH by Nancy Hightower

Facebook has had one of those circulating memes, the ones that ask you to make lists that somehow make you feel nostalgic for a life you’re not sure you ever really had. The latest: list ten albums that influenced you as a teenager. Then: list ten albums that influenced you before you were a teenager. I do not make a list. Instead, I read your list, the choices that betrayed your rebellion or geekiness or prescient cool factor. I want to make my own list, but your list is better. I want to make my own list, but my throat catches as I hum songs I once took great pains to forget, songs that betray a disjointed yet emotionally accurate soundtrack.

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There was something about my smile the other kids didn’t like. Maybe it was the fear in it, the false bravado. Who knows what sets the wolf-pack off?

These days, I sit in my castle without really caring what anyone else thinks. I drink lattes in the morning, expensive scotches late into the evening. Sometimes there’s a needle to thread. I have a family and friends who like to drink with me.

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LETTER TO A POET by Jeanne Walker

Midnight ticks in a quiet lab around
one sleepy dork who, suddenly sits up,
hearing two black holes larger
than Manhattan as they merge to one
unimaginably extreme black nothing

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Black skin tastes better when
the wheat has already been
threshed; just a kiss. I watched her “paint
her face” from the field through the
window. Death bruises like a
tornado; the land is new. We had

only just arrived when the
tornado came and tore everything
up. Watch the eye sweep him up into

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ESCAMBIA by Donald Ryan

We pulled off at the fruit stand halfway between the hospital and the funeral home.

“The peaches are in season,” Father said to Mother in the passenger seat.

“It was just like he was sleeping,” my aunt said to herself in the back, her eyes never leaving the rear window.

With the exception of my aunt, we got out of the car. Mother leaned on the passenger door. Father examined the stacks of wicker baskets piled on the makeshift plywood table.

“How much for a bundle?”

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I flick brother’s ear;
say you could hide something
in here. Stonefruit maybe,

or the yolks we collect
from Narragansett. Our skin
yellow-like, hair both brush

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That afternoon at home, I am straddling my little brother, his arms pinned under the strength of my thighs, and I am spitting in his face while he screams. I let the spit drip slowly from my mouth onto his face, a long string of it, so he can see it coming. My mom sees it coming too and pulls me off him, sending me to my room. I get talked at for an hour by her and then another hour by my dad. You’re almost five years older than he is, they say. Someday, he’s going to be bigger than you, they say. What will you do then?

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—Time to step up to the plate, Jimbo.

—What’s for supper?

—You’re on deck, right? We all are. We each have to take our turn at bat.

—Them things carry rabies.

—Take our hacks and swing for the fences. Knock the cover off the ball. Go yard.

—I gotta tell you, Dwight, I ain’t entirely sure I—

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ON HOLD: by Elizabeth Morton

I can hold
my breath
for three minutes flat
in the superstore aisle
between woks
and waffle-irons
screaming catchphrases
in my head or
buying pillows
at the counter

like it’s underwater
wrong chemicals
in my lungs and
the jukebox

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When I first showed up the halo of my silhouette
dissolved like a jolly rancher

I began to put my mouth on every darkling
tried to eat away as much of it as I thought I could

After a couple of missing molars
I smeared my hand across my face

In a state of self-devour
I wore my bloodied ghost like a surgeon’s mask

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Margo is eight years old and she doesn’t care about the New Mexican heat, or the drought, or that it is dry and her lips are cracked and her skin is slick with sweat. Her hair sticks to her forehead and neck in thick, twine-like clumps. Her father smells like he always does: motor oil and cigarettes.

Her mother brings home a dog when she’s supposed to bring home milk. The black fluffball almost looks like a porcupine; it runs around the living room and chases around shards of gravel her father tosses, the ones gathered from the driveway. He sits on the couch. Margo sits next to him, silently wishing her father lets them keep the dog, certain he was too obstinate to let it be so.

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Leafing out, the trees blur in green mist,
celandine poppies bright fingerprints
at their feet. The persistent creek has hollowed dips,
roundels, arches into the limestone floor.
Waterleaf, twinleaf, spring beauties wander beside
blueeyed Mary, larkspur.
The trout lilies are mostly gone,
Jacobs-ladder has not yet arrived,
seersucker sedge returning, green fists
knocking along the slopes.

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FLORIDA MAN by Tyler Gillespie

And that spring a man beat his
94-year-old grandma
then ran off with her jewelry
and SUV. Judge set bail
at $77,000, said man cannot
ever contact her (in critical
condition). Week earlier
I had moved home, back in with
my own grandma. At 29,
hadn’t lived in Florida
for nearly six years. I heard
of this senior attack on
the six o’clock news.

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TIGER-BOY by C. Wade Bentley

I remember when the doctor first told me

the red-with-yellow-frosting sores on my legs

were something called impetigo, all I heard

was tiger, and I thought maybe I was morphing

into a tiger or that I would soon have tiger

superpowers or, at the very least, that I shared

the same awesome disease that tigers get. So

you’ll understand my disappointment when after

two weeks of my mother dabbing at scabs

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CARTOGRAPHY by Emily Paige Wilson

Morning makes itself bluer by the minute. Colder, too, as the temperature falls. In my friend’s apartment, we sit in her breakfast nook while the bay window lets in light. Steam rises from white plates, broccoli omelets and the scent of garlic and salt. My friend lists places in the tourist district we’ll visit today, leads me to an expansive map stretched across a wall. The Czech Republic’s outline etched in black. All the country’s borders linked and locked by land; the Vltava a thin, persistent reminder of thirst twisting through. She points to Malá Strana, the John Lennon Wall where people paint a layered collage of lyrics on brick.

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UNFINISHED by Peter Grandbois

If I opened my eyes
from this pretended sleep,
I wouldn’t be salting
the driveway before dawn,
though the snow stopped
and the air’s no longer freezing.
The trees would speak their silent
part. Swallows would arc
through the brightening sky.
And we would not be as we are.

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FUTURE ECOLOGIES by Madeleine Wattenbarger

Today’s look: be merciful
I gently suggest

that you check the earth on which you stand—
Ye are actually pretty rich

My friends, we have a job
Step aside Mother Earth

Vote or the dark happens
If it still happens, is this foreshadowing?

Do presidential candidates cry when traveling?
Politics is unfit for love

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A DIFFICULT WOMAN by Taylor Kobran

Well it should come as no shock to you, I’m sure, that on more than one occasion, I have been told I am a difficult woman.

If you’d been around longer, you would have found pretty quick that that’d be the truth, honey. You would have been embarrassed of me, like your little brothers, but maybe a little proud too, because us girls have to stick together.

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ALARM by Sandra Shaw Homer

When it became clear my grandmother could no longer live alone, I was the one who took the initiative to find a place for her, and I wanted it to be near me. She refused to go to the only facility in Albany, where she lived, because there was a patient there she intensely disliked, and she loathed the idea of going to Florida, near her two sons, so we found a “life-care” facility in a pretty, rural area outside Philadelphia. My sister, also nearby, handles our grandmother’s affairs while I visit and occasionally deal with the staff. This division of labor falls to each of us naturally, and I’m happy with my share.

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And then he won and we kept drinking about it, what else to do but keep drinking about it, and no one knew whether to stay or not, it was worse too because the alcohol wasn’t doing anything, and all I wanted was to be with Jean, but she was somewhere else, with someone else, so I had to go home alone, but first I bought groceries at the place that stays open all night, discount tuna salad, spelt bagels, cream cheese, and then walked south, not quite trusting the reality, a nameless void ahead of me, and my apartment was dead, it was dead quiet, and I hadn’t done dishes earlier which is the most depressing thing, and I unpacked my groceries, and put a bagel in the toaster, and then had to clean a knife to smear on the cream cheese

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DARK, DARKER by Jeevika Verma

dark, darker

when I frown
into this mirror
a depth takes
my forehead

inside there is a little white man

sitting straight
working hard
flipping through
pages used unused

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TRUE SALT by Elizabeth Schmidt

Today I walk past boys and their mothers. I’m parallel to them as they disobey traffic laws and take risks. I remember my mother telling me to ‘look both ways’ while I watch their heads remain constant and straight. This boy has a clear path, it’s safe even if he takes some risks. I’m eating a croissant and it’s burnt. If you burn a croissant even just a little bit it tastes salty. My boy left the taste of salt on my tongue and I guess he is a man. I’ve known the taste of true salt longer than I’d like to admit. I’ve known the taste longer than I’ll say. I watch boys defy the law, the written law and the laws of physics. I have seen their bodies suspend and twist in ways my body will never move. I feel inflexible. Sometimes when I bleed my leg goes numb, just one, but the leg is variable.

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someone else’s car / a big dude dragging me up a flight of stairs / seeing my brother / we’re in his dorm / I don’t acknowledge him, because of the amethyst in the corner / loving its purple color / trying to eat it but failing because it’s a stone/ barricading myself in his dorm room/ the big dude breaks down the door / drags me out / kiss him on the cheek/ slaps me in response / hours later / I’m on my knees / my mouth dry

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SELF CHECK by Danielle Dreger

March in Seattle roared like a lion, that is if a lion sneezed pink cherry blossoms and pelted your face with ice pellets the size of golf balls. It wasn’t global warming, it was spring. At least it felt like spring.

Merrin had watched the Groundhog discover his shadow on television last month, so she was pretty certain that spring had sprung as she dashed from her car into the safe haven of Safeway in the middle of an unexpected hail storm. The damn cat had shredded her last roll of toilet paper and she was in dire need of a Diet Coke. Merrin’s plan had been to give up Diet Coke for Lent, but that had lasted exactly twenty-seven minutes. She could have given up something else, but she didn’t have the heart or the willpower.

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The taxi had finally arrived. The driver watched Eulália Dias as she descended from her front porch one heavy step at a time. He got out of the cab to open the back door for her, smiled an apology for being late, and asked where she was headed.

“I go to St. Helen’s Church on Dundas, you know where it is? But I need to sit in the front seat because of my legs. Please, you have to hurry. I’m going to be late for my granddaughter’s First Communion.”

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WOOD LOT IN APRIL by Michele Leavitt

I lose the trail, or it eludes
me. Led astray, the bent-down saplings
keep their flex, may even rise.

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TWO POEMS by Flower Conroy

A door you thought locked,
not. How riddles work.
Sometimes the truth’s warped

I mean wrapped in humor,
& often the simplest unnerves
the hurt the most. I relapsed.

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He’s in his bed, crying. Except for the blond tresses of the moonlight billowing through the open window, darkness reigns—in the corners, on the bookshelves, and in his heart. His pillow is soaked, heavy with tears spilling down the sides of his bed, covering the floor, slipping beneath the door out into the hall, into the street, a veritable deluge.

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ANATOMY LESSON by Christine Hennessey

Jessica unzipped the frog’s belly with a pair of sharp scissors. As its skin slipped away, revealing the jewels buried inside—heart, lungs, kidney, stomach—she tried to ignore the uneasy feeling in her own stomach, her heart’s reluctant sprint.

When her biology teacher announced they would be dissecting frogs at the end of the year, Jessica protested the practice along with a few other girls. Her teacher, however, was not moved.

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SALVAGE by Ajay Patri

The old man woke up when the five fifteen train thundered past his one-room house. The walls trembled and dust dislodged from the wooden roof and rained down on him. His bones rattled for a while after the train had given a final desolate hoot and moved on in its journey.

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BARYCENTER by Sydney Tammarine

Last night I found you huddled in the corner of our bedroom, wide awake and shaking. This was similar but not identical to that time one year ago when I broke down the bathroom door with a hammer to find you curled in a C-shape on the tile, the way you perhaps had slept in your mother’s womb. Both times, you said you were sorry. You had lain surrounded by the glass of a shattered fifth of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7, and 27 acetaminophen 500mg/diphenhydramine-hydrochloride 25mg pills, which I scooped into the sink to count and subtract from the number on the packaging (100) to estimate the intake (73, or 36500 mg, with an error margin of 5-10 pills that I might have missed laying under your still, silenced body). It’s not the diphenhydramine-hydrochloride that will kill you. It’s the acetaminophen, and it’s slow. I didn’t know that part until later.

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MORE by Youssef Helmi

I live in the middle of a really small pool in the middle of a really big room below a really circular hole in the really high ceiling. When the sun shines through the hole, the animals come and watch. When the moon shines, they go away. I don’t know where they come from, but, every morning when I wake up, they’re there. I’m not sure if they’re the same ones every day. They’re animals; they all look the same to me.

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NOVEMBER 2016, a poem by Lynn Levin, Featured on Life As Activism

This November blew
down to the just-reaped
fields a hectic
of leaves.
More golden leaves
than fevered leaves
but the fevered
claimed the land
in the way
that we call fair.

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ASK JUNE: The Excoriated Ex and the Tragical Uglificationment of Language

Dear June,

You know what makes me mad? People who say “diminishment.” What’s wrong with good old “diminution?” And now I am seeing “abolishment,” too, for God’s sake. What is the matter with people?

I know this seems like a small thing. Okay, it is a small thing. But language can make a big difference: look at that dairy farm that would have saved $10 million dollars if they had used the Oxford comma!

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WINDOW SEAT, a poem by Molly McGinnis, Featured on Life As Activism

On my flight back to Washington at 4 am
in air marbled by night and snow
I leaned against the oval glass and saw
tiny bodies of light pushing slowly
down the mountain roads, each sphere
its own life full of sideways winds.

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LOVE, ISH, a middle grades novel by Karen Rivers, reviewed by Christine M. Hopkins

Twelve-year-old Mischa Love—or Ish—wants to be among the first colonists on Mars more than anything, and has applied to a program in Iceland offering this chance (and been rejected) nearly 50 times. She knows pretty much everything there is to know about Mars. When it comes to science, her convictions are strong. “Global warming is a real thing,” she tells us with unwavering certainty. “You can pretend it’s not, but that’s just dumb. It’s science.”

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COLLATERAL DAMAGE, a poem by Jayne Martin, Featured on Live As Activism

Cars, packed together like cattle in a feed lot, belching noxious gases into a sky already brown with grief, circle the globe like a noose. People desperate to reach anywhere-but-here find themselves turned away again and again. Wile E Coyote continues to run down the highway, smashing into a tunnel that does not exist. Children no longer laugh at his antics.

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DOWN BELOW, a memoir by Leonora Carrington, reviewed by Justin Goodman

A hundred years after Leonora Carrington’s birth, her painting and writing seems, to the modern viewer, as defamiliarized and spontaneous as it did when it first appeared under the Surrealist banner.

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FIRST, UNCLOAK YOUR COLOREDNESS, an essay by Rachel Yang, Featured on Life As Activism

Two weeks before Election Day, I took a new job at a private high school in Minneapolis. Faculty passing by in the hall poked their heads through my doorway and asked, “So, are you the New Asma?”

“Kind of,” I replied.

But, I am not the New Asma.

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MOONCOP, a graphic novel by Tom Gauld, reviewed by Ansel Shipley

Melancholy can be a difficult tone for authors to elicit. Paired with too much unwarranted levity, or depicted as flat sadness without the requisite quiet contemplation, it can easily shift to the maudlin. Tom Gauld’s graphic novel, Mooncop, manages to delicately balance the emptiness of outer space with the intimacy of solitude, a tone which stayed with me days after putting the book down. Gauld packs an impressive amount of feeling into a tiny package—Mooncop is less than a hundred pages long and takes a maximum of thirty minutes to finish. I never felt overwhelmed by any single emotion, however, as a thin layer of meditative calm acts as a barrier between the potentially crushing despair of loneliness.

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LABYRINTH LOST, a young adult novel by Zoraida Córdova, reviewed by Leticia Urieta

Alejandra Mortiz is a bruja. She lives her life in the presence of death. She comes from a long line of brujas, each with their own unique manifestation of power.

But Alex, as her family and friends know her, does not revere the magical legacy of her family; she fears it. After seeing her Aunt Rosaria rise from the dead as a child, Alex is burdened by the sense that magic is not a gift, as her sisters Rose and Lula believe, but a curse. Her fear grows more acute as her Death Day approaches. This is a bruja’s coming of age celebration when the manifestation of her power is blessed by her ancestors.

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ASK JUNE: The Closeted Mom and the Book Group Bullies

Dear June, My father died several years ago. Mom and I have always been close, partly because I am the only daughter—I have three brothers. Since Dad died, Mom and I have become even closer, talking on the phone almost every night and sharing confidences. She never talked to me about her love life, but I just assumed this was because she didn’t have any. It turns out that I was very wrong. Since about a year after Dad’s death, she has been dating women on a regular basis, and now she is in what she calls a very serious relationship. I am totally fine with this. I am glad Mom has somebody, and am actually kind of relieved that her lover, Glenda, is a woman and not a man, mostly because women tend to live longer. The one thing that bothered me just a little was worrying whether Mom … chop! chop! read more!

SOVIET DAUGHTER: A GRAPHIC REVOLUTION by Julia Alekseyeva reviewed by Jenny Blair

Julia Alekseyeva’s Soviet Daughter: A Graphic Revolution could hardly have come at a better time. A Soviet-born woman who emigrated with her multigenerational Jewish family to the U.S. in 1992, the author entwines her great-grandmother Lola’s life story with her own, translating Lola’s own written memoir into part of a double narrative. As we all struggle to make sense of the Trump era, Alekseyeva has written and drawn a story of autocracy, revolution, and the refugee experience–and of how history affects the private lives not just of its eyewitnesses, but of many subsequent generations.

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PHOTOGRAPHY FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Activist by Lena Popkin Featured on Life As Activism

When I got home that night, I plugged my camera into my laptop and discovered that the images I had shot—without any clear intention—had captured the heartbreaking intensity of the crowd. My photos—reminiscent of the images of the 1963 March on Washington that I had recently studied—made me feel as though I had done something valuable in documenting the first breaths of resistance, and as if they might give me a voice. After posting the photographs on social media, I was surprised to discover that they served as balm for many now politically-disillusioned viewers. They felt reassured that young people, in particular, would fight back.

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