Poetry Section: October Issue

Artwork by Pratyusha Chakraborty

Ankush Rakela by Pooja Ugrani

1.

My paycheque overshadows my worldview

I cannot afford to voice my opinion

I squirm in the comfort of shutting up for my loved ones

My safety net wasn’t woven that dense

2.

A peek into a larger world,

I am pulled back by the ankush

of check marks against my name on a society list.

I was taught to fear instability,

to remain afloat and not cause ripples

I was also taught to use a lot of words

as any woman should in a male dominated world.

A wrinkle-free everyday

thanks to privilege

where any reaching out

is read as an act of pity

3.

I flex and the air around you shrinks

I am convex when I stand in the crowd-

entitled space, I was meant to occupy

even before I was born –

Quick to reach the counter at my local shop

I am concave as I bow down

to education and intelligence

inert happy, inside a bubble 

not wanting to interact with the outside

I fuse instead with the father of my child

we parent together, or make love.

4.

I am an umbrella over the ones I protect

and a bucket when I receive

These identities where I take your space

and you take mine

intersect

5.

When I was seven, I touched Rakela

who worked in our fields

Amma had asked me to give her a glass of water 

She swept it away

fearfully, inevitably saying,

the child doesn’t know.

Pooja Ugrani is an architect and a teacher from Bangalore, who writes from memory and personal experience about everyday things in life that intrigue and engage her. She was invited to read at the Bangalore Poetry Festival 2019 and by Champaca at the Bangalore International Center on the occasion of International Womens’ Day in March 2020.

Sasha by Miriam Sagan

My name is Sasha. I am a library.

I mean, excuse me, a librarian.

What passes for a spinster

in the twenty-first century.

That is to say, I’ve danced in bars

with women and men

and taken

some of them

home. That was

when I had an apartment

in a hillier neighborhood

than this.

But never married, and given

the current circumstances,

unlikely to have children.

My last name? Unpronouncable

with its Cyrillic syllables. My grandfather

tried to anglicize it, but it just

ended up unpronounceable

in a slightly different way.

He came to San Francisco and

drove a cab. Complaining—

or was it boasting, about how much

the family cost him—birthdays, name days, saint’s—

every party requiring a present and

every present requiring cash.

He was rich in relatives.

And I was named

for a grandmother, an aunt, and

a favorite cousin.

So just call me Sasha—that’s for

Alexandra. And no, I wasn’t

named for the famous library

that burned in the ancient world.

But I think about it. I do.

I probably think about it

more than I should.

But there isn’t much to do

in my library these days—

no patrons, no circulation,

no internet.

Just the salt water lapping

creeping higher.

I’d say about another step

on the entry staircase

a week. The ocean

takes the stairs

unlike an impatient child one at a time.

Miriam Sagan is the author of over thirty books of poetry, fiction, and memoir. Her most recent include Bluebeard’s Castle (Red Mountain, 2019) and A Hundred Cups of Coffee (Tres Chicas, 2019). She is a two-time winner of the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards as well as a recipient of the City of Santa Fe Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and a New Mexico Literary Arts Gratitude Award.

Self-Portraits by Gerard Sarnat

In one eye, none foot tall blackhole, [a] sexual, alexithymic,

in another

a stilt-walker’s

sky high

red balloon

the sexiest.

Chilling inferno between me and some personae,

You cancel a play date with myself.

Gerard Sarnat has been nominated for the pending 2022 Science Fiction Poetry Association Dwarf Star Award, won San Francisco Poetry’s 2020 Contest, the Poetry in the Arts First Place Award plus the Dorfman Prize, and has been nominated for handfuls of 2021 and previous Pushcarts plus Best of the Net Awards. Gerry is widely published including in 2022 Awakenings Review, 2022 Arts & Cultural Council of Bucks County Celebration, 2022 Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival Anthology, HitchLit Review, Lowestoft, Washington Square/NYU Review, The Deronda Review, Jewish Writing Project, Hong Kong Review, Tokyo Poetry Journal, Buddhist Poetry Review, Gargoyle, Main Street Rag, New Delta Review, Arkansas Review, Hamilton-Stone Review, Northampton Review, New Haven Poetry Institute, Texas Review, Vonnegut Journal, Brooklyn Review, San Francisco Magazine, Monterey Poetry Review, The Los Angeles Review, and The New York Times as well as by Slippery Rock, Northwestern, Pomona, Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, Penn, Columbia, North Dakota, McMaster, Maine, University of British Columbia and University of Chicago presses.

Sometimes by Tohm Bakelas

Sometimes i forget myself.
it’s not that i forget my name
or my social security number
or where i live or where i was born—
no, it’s nothing like that.

and it’s not that i dissociate
or suffer bouts of amnesia,
it’s just that i forget myself
sometimes.  

take for instance the other day,
i was driving along some county road
on my way to your house
and the music was off
and the windows were down
but i lost track of time
and where i was
and what i was doing…

it didn’t scare me,
quite the opposite actually.
it was peaceful,
sorta like dying.

and when i came to
i found myself in another town
in another state in another day

and i thought well,
maybe if i just drive back out
the way i came, things’ll return
to the way they were before

but when i got to your house
you weren’t home
and your landlord
simply frowned.

Tohm Bakelas is a social worker in a New Jersey psychiatric hospital. He has published 21 chapbooks and several collections of poetry, including “The Ants Crawl In Circles” (Whiskey City Press, 2022). He runs Between Shadows Press.  

Frankly Wild by D.S. Maolalai

god, I could make my life

burn down so easily. the house

to myself – I could go

frankly wild. leave the stove

on and leave, or call up

an old girlfriend. I remember

16, feeling much

of the same. buying bottles of wine.

sitting out in the garden. parents gone – I

could do anything once. and then that’s

what I picked. and then

now – same again, to be honest.

a lazy young man, too tired

to take opportunity. Chrysty away

the whole weekend today. her mother

(who’s with us a while now)

away. I smoke on the balcony,

drink and type poems. I drink

and read books. drink, fall asleep

on the sofa. if I were a real artist I’d have

an affair, but I’m only a poet;

an amateur half gone on wine,

ashamed of the loudness of houses without people in them.

DS Maolalai has received eleven nominations for Best of the Net and seven for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in three collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016), “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019) and “Noble Rot” (Turas Press, 2022) 

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