Today we offer a light that isn’t really light, flat sweet bleach, and the one who will protect you. Next month’s theme is:
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Broken lenses. Tiny aperture. This poem starts with a light that isn’t really light. In a dimly lit corridor, a bird is feeding the silhouette of my body flat on the wall with slow songs. It means but one thing: I am a dirge in blood and bones. A song that is not a song but a warning bell chiming against grief. I have felt grief fall headlong on my body & sink deep until he touched my bone marrow. I have felt him straggling in my bones searching for something more tangible than joy. Say, the breath I breathe. Say, the life I live. Say, the memories in my palm. Or just anything that makes me complete a clock revolution. I walled myself into a shield. And when grief came, it was like a chisel driving deep into my bricks. I became cracks and crevices. A noun too soft to be called a concrete noun. A body running from the turbulence of the wind. A body that drops its parts as a trail for healing to find it. Like bread crumbs that lead your eyes to the lips of a rabbit. I carved hieroglyphs on my walls to remember the times when the sky was blue. And when I turned, a vulture was scavenging on them. Which is to say, even the memories are decaying matter struggling to survive in my head. This means that the sky is nightly & grief is undoing the moon’s borrowed light. Which means that when everything becomes dark, I will only see one thing. My shadow singing the songs the bird fed him a night ago.
Chinedu Gospel is a young Nigerian Poet. He writes from Anambra. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in The Rising Phoenix, LUNARIS review, Eremite poetry, Feral poetry, Poetry column NND, Fahmidan journal, Sledgehammer lit mag., among others. He tweets @gospel79070806 & on IG @gospelsofpoetry.
I’m supposed to be the friend that helps with a broken heart
I’m supposed to be the one that will hold
your hand after a breakup
Rest on the colorful distressed rug
Sit cross-legged across from you with tea
steeping in mug in hand
Scoop ice cream, and turn on ambient,
soothing animation to say, “You are safe,
you are safe.”
I’m supposed to be the shoulder to cry on
The one who will stand by and sass your
exes (if deserved) and allow your curses to the heavens
and be amused by your adventures
The one who will nod along to the bitterness
riding waves of post-romance
The one who will see you in all your seasons
where the princes and suitors still don’t.
I’m supposed to be the one who will protect
you, keep you from calling the one who
cheated on you, hold you from
breaking more hearts.
Knock sense into you day in and day out,
rant and rail against heteronormative
culture, high-five without looking when
YouTubers give another stupid video on
“why you are single,” as if it’s a bad thing
Gently wonder late into the night,
why love is.
I’m supposed to be the one,
As the aromantic asexual friend,
Who has clarity on what is wrong
Humor for what is wretched
Patience for what is needed
The one who would engrave a wooden box
for you to put your heart in when it is lonely,
to save from throwing it out altogether,
who would give it back and make you glad
you didn’t trash memories.
I’m supposed to be the one to talk to,
debrief to, hold all your secrets and drink to
all our progress, even for a moment
And tell you, rubbing your hair and stroking
your hand, that tomorrows exist and
the heart will mend.
And tell you, over and over again, how
things will turn around, how much more to
life there is.
And the light will come, and you would say
I was right, and toss hope back to me like
a beanbag game, or a bow and arrows to take turns
borrowing in the archery range in the park.
You’d give back in your own way,
with mischief and high laughter,
surprise hug attacks and mushy tousling of hair.
And to each other, we’d provide: rides & food,
time & need, because we are allies, aren’t we?
I’m the sage, sidekick, guardian, confidante,
brother, sister, sibling, cousin, jester, team—
We make a good team, in our own ways.
Or so I thought. Because now my heart is
untethered and, despite being a muscle,
ripped to ribbons and left to soak in the sink
when I do not want to wash it clean of you.
And still it shudders, and aches
at the sound of the closed door every time;
and we are still in quarantine
and I am reaching and starving
and feeble and weeping
and unable to follow my own advice
unable to give warmth to myself
unable to pull myself up from the sand
unable, and utterly alone.
Ellen Huang (she/her) is published/forthcoming in Lanke Review, Pastel Pastoral, Amethyst Review, Sledgehammer Lit, briars lit, horse egg literary, Soul Poet Society, Ghost City, and elsewhere. She reads for Whale Road Review and writes liberally about spirituality and movies here.
Once on a Ghost Ship 
My ship has sails that are made of skin.
My skin, and theirs, and hers. I’m intimate
with the flat sweet bleach of clear
noon, with ways cold stars cling to my hips and shoulders,
only mine. I have rubbed myself on every plank
and canvas. No one saw. I am the figurehead,
the wake, the rippling blueblack contrails that have already
My ship is passing over. What I have with
the wavelets is not a conversation. They won’t ever stop. All
I am is woman on water, saltmasked, flakes
brushing off and clinging to my fingernails. I’m
the only one who knows what’s
underneath. Every cry torn from my
chest to the waxing gibbous is only
mast grinding deck. My feet slap there. My toes meet
white cedar and wooden throats, resin long since gone.
My ship doesn’t bring me to anyone. I don’t know
what else there is. I am every albatross, every
tentacle skimming the surface for only seconds, every raw
exposed dawn. I am my own lazaret now, every
port and inlet lost.
Gemma Cooper-Novack’s debut poetry collection We Might As Well Be Underwater (Unsolicited Press, 2017) was a finalist for the CNY Book Award; she’s published chapbooks with Warren Tales and The Head & the Hand. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in more than twenty journals; her plays have been produced across the United States. She is a 2016 Deming Fund grantee and a doctoral candidate in literacy education at Syracuse University.
“I’ve been making photographs for more than 20 years. I have shot commissioned portraits, events, episodic video stills, interior design, architecture, and botanical rarities for scientific texts. This in addition to my own personal everyday wonder at the glory and misery that is our existence. I am compelled to photograph what catches my eye and my attention. Design, history, and intent inform my pictures to capture an instant of eloquence in balance, form, depth, and color. To look and to see.”