Flame by Ru Freeman
Play date with me once more
We could be swing voters
The ones nobody understands
& everyone woos
To each other is what I mean
Inside me there are Eskimo words
gathering like snow storms
& my tongue still catches
only your name
Namesakes by Jessica Mehta
My mother named me after her
father she hated. Like buying Papo’s notice
with a fat grandchild would make up
for anything. My mother
named me after famous cowboys
then went and married an NDN
herself. Meanwhile her own
mother said, No
darker. My mom named me
the second most popular girls
name in 1981 because firsts
were for good girls without
panic. My middle
name was the same as a boy
in sixth grade with greasy
nails and dirty hair so I
said it was short for Colette.
My mother was a surprise
fifteen years too late. In the hospital,
her father said, She ain’t much
to look at, is she? and asked
the nurse to name her. The little Mexican
girl chose Rita after her own
child and nobody not nowhere ever
could say a pearl was an ugly thing.
My mother named me
for a man she despised well
after his girth had gone
to skeleton and the coffin flies
went still – but still,
I thought a namesake
should mean something
good and holy like clean
slates, buried shames and starting overs.
The Constable of Doubt by Rushi Vyas
Sworn to defend the unresolved
I know nothing of distinction
Positioned between seas and lands
to which I’ve no claim I
know nothing of my sure neighbors
My gait stutters face red as the intersection’s
blinking hand red as the blooms
of Rāta and Pohutakawa the difference
between whom I know nothing of
Who holds their boundary unquestioned?
Every evening I return sworn to my gelatinous
state like an oath stuttered through the sable gait
of night Shadow the breath that colors me
Solitude my ritual communion with oxygen
gifted by the succulent and carbon by the fertilizer plant
across the harbor All I know is a wisp of lit gas rising
between here and there
Greatness Was Never Enough … by Sam Rasnake
“Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground”
– Blind Willie Johnson, 1927,
recording included on Murmurs
of the Earth, Voyager I disc, 1977
The cracked soil of southeast Texas
bakes under savanna in swelter until
there’s no escaping – no wind or rain
to let the soul breathe while the world
sleeps without knowing all its goodness,
no stories ever giving up their truths
held deep in the fist – no place to be
after fire and rubble steal all things home –
living among the ruins until his lungs
give out – an old man at 48 – nothing left
but silence and a history designed for him
not to fit – decades later, his pocketknife,
a liquid quiver over steel strings, does
find its own way into a long unknown
Sheila Brown on her art: With adapting to lockdown and life with COVID, I found myself approaching my art with a new sense of appreciation and depth, sincerity and affection. The landscape , the birdlife, our natural surroundings, flora and fauna, the spirit of people.
Although I’ve always had a strong connection to flora & fauna, a close affinity to birdlife of New Zealand, an awareness of our natural world and strong conservational and ecological ties, the awareness became more heightened during lockdown: an awareness of all the endangered species , of our footprint within nature and how we need to change how we live and operate to make that footprint far lighter. Also, a longing to hear the cry of the gull above Sumner Beach that we were no longer able to walk freely. During lockdown, we noticed the bird song in our back yard. We also began to realize the importance of relationships with people around us and with people and loved ones that we were no longer able to see. How we craved the connection with others…
The sacred kingfisher has such a strong spiritual significance to the people of Aotearoa New Zealand, where I live. I find great comfort when I see one. This one seemed to always be there during lockdown walks.
Sheila Brown is an American artist who settled by the sea in Christchurch in 1994. She worked as a landscape designer for the last eighteen years – an experience that stimulates her artistic interests. She is mostly self-taught, usually painting oils and acrylics, though she enjoys watercolours and mixed media as well. She has always lived by the sea, with an intimate connection with nature. Her awards include the Opening Award Prize at City Gallery in the prestigious Invercargill Licensing Trust Award Exhibition in 2005 and first prize at the Otago Art Society, Dunedin, in the Gaye Rowcroft Awards exhibition in June 2009. Her work can be found in Denis Robinson’s book of NZ artists, New Zealand Gallery, published in 2010. You can view her paintings at http://www.sheilabrown.co.nz.
Ru Freeman is an award-winning Sri Lankan and American novelist, poet, editor, and critic, whose work appears internationally and in translation including in the Guardian, and the New York Times. She is the author of A Disobedient Girl and On Sal Mal Lane, a New York Times Editor’s Choice Book, and the editor of the anthologies, Extraordinary Rendition: American Writers on Palestine and Indivisible: Global Leaders on Shared Security. She teaches creative writing in the US and abroad. Her new collection of fiction, Sleeping Alone, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press.
Jessica (Tyner) Mehta is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, interdisciplinary artist and poet, and author of several books. Place, space, and personal ancestry inform much of her work. She’s an editor at Airlie Press and the owner of an award-winning small business. MehtaFor is a writing services company that offers pro bono services to Native American led/serving non-profits. Jessica integrates technology, family archival photos, and performance art into many of her creative projects. ‘Red/Act’ is a pop-up virtual reality poetry experience made with proprietary software. It aims to introduce more people to poetry, and specifically indigenous poetry, through a uniquely immersive encounter. Her ‘emBODY poetry’ performance series features experimental poetry on nude form while incorporating shibari rope work to address topics on body image and eating disorders in under-represented communities. Jessica is currently in the Artist Trust Public Art Boot Camp and preparing for a public art installation in Seattle in 2021 and a STEAM grant recipient creating the second iteration of ‘Red/Act’.Her collection Selected Poems: 2000 – 2020 was awarded the 2020 Birdy Prize from Meadowlark books, and her poetry collection Savagery received gold from the 2020 Book Excellence Awards and Reader View Literary Awards. Jessica’s novel The Wrong Kind of Indian won gold at the 2019 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs) and at the American Book Fest Best Book.
Sam Rasnake’s poetry, fiction, and non-fiction have appeared in Spillway, Wigleaf, The Drunken Boat, Poets/Artists, FRiGG, Necessary Fiction, OCHO, Literal Latté, Pithead Chapel, The Southern Poetry Anthology, MiPOesias Companion 2012, The Bending Genres Anthology 2018/2019, BOXCAR Poetry Review Anthology 2 and Best of the Web 2009. He has served as a judge for the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize, University of California, Berkeley, and as an editor for Blue Fifth Review. Rasnake is the author of World within the World (Cyberwit, 2020) Cinéma Vérité (A-Minor Press, 2013) and Inside a Broken Clock (Finishing Line Press, 2010).
Rushi Vyas is the author of When I Reach For Your Pulse (forthcoming Four Way Books, 2023) and is a US-born poet of Indian descent currently living in Aotearoa New Zealand where he is working toward his PhD at Te Whare Wānanga o Ōtākou. He has degrees from the University of Colorado-Boulder (MFA) and the University of Michigan (BS). He currently serves as Reviews Editor for Gasher Journal and reviews books of poetry from Aotearoa and the US. Recent poems have been published in journals such as Tin House, 32 Poems, Landfall (NZ), Redivider, Counterclock, Waxwing and Adroit, among others.