Poem 20 ± November 20, 2016

Merrill Cole
Warm Brother

Around my head the ghost face rolls,
unsteady halo, stolen gold,
radioactive discharge
burning off, all I could never
bring myself to bless. Lopsided man,

can you say or guess what fig leafs
your cold nakedness, the half-life
of quarter-loves, shadow figures
against the wall—all man, or
maybe doll? Who cannot touch

himself, whose pleading seems record
of an instrument that scrapes off crust
of sentiment, that wind-up talk:
I want to swallow you, I will
peel away your wings. The wet grin

slides into my undefended
mouth. Staccato laughter rings out:
hot spit flying into emptiness,
biohazard semen and piss.
This upbeat ballad played backwards,

phantom twin, an automaton
bruising out the numbers again,
x-ray trespass, you cannot see,
curse lipped in the mirror, warmer
brother—ultraviolet—almost me.

Merrill Cole

Merrill Cole is Professor of English at Western Illinois University and the Advisor for the newly established interdisciplinary undergraduate Minor in Queer Studies. He is the author of The Other Orpheus: A Poetics of Modern Homosexuality, as well as numerous essays and poems. A recent Fulbright scholar in Berlin, Germany, he translated Anita Berber and Sebastian Droste’s 1923 Dances of Vice, Horror, and Ecstasy. Merrill has been HIV+ since 1989. He lives in rural Illinois with his husband, Rick Ponce, and three cats.

Poem 13 ± November 13, 2016

Matthew Cook
An Appetite for Distances

Let’s talk about dawn,

a state,

though foggy territory
without coffee.
To understand this feeling
is to see part
of the rock in the palm

hiding the bruise it leaves.
The morning air
shines slick as china saucers.

Location is a relationship,
an appetite
for distances. Someone

plays a saxophone
in the parking structure.
The music takes risks,
its art so breathless
commuters grab for air
in wake of departing trains.

The music ends in lullaby—
Soft, now, the windows must
be dreaming. Let them finish.


matthew-coolMatthew Cook’s poems have appeared in Muzzle, HocTok, Assaracus, Penumbra, The Squaw Valley Review, Cactus Heart, and Howlarium, among others. He was awarded the Stewart Prize for his creative writing while earning his BA in Literature and Writing at the University of California, San Diego. He holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was both a Maytag Fellow and an Alberta Kelly Fellow in poetry. Matthew works as a researcher and lives in Eugene, Oregon. Please find him at matthew-cook.org

Poem 18 ± November 18, 2016

Levi Mericle

How we remember, what we remember,
and why we remember form the most personal map of our individuality.
—Christina Baldwin

Forgive me Father,
but I am not a dying age.
not a lopsided heart cage you pretend to enter.

Where all you’ll find here is barbed wire
the rotted stench of heartbreak-meat
a dusty eulogy that was never read.

But instead you’ll find the polished gleam of another
the intoxicating embrace of a soulmate.
A masterpiece ending to the story written by the stars.

Forgive me Mother,
but I am not a postdated check
or a reserved royalty.

a loveless egg-sack the hen abandoned
a token black hand you shake but know is dirtied
a chuckle in your frogged throat by the mere mention of my affliction.

No, I am a welcomed tourist in the land of embrace.
A carpenter with sculpted words and enduring tools a mother would be proud of.

Forgive me Brother,
but I am not a cobblestone staircase.
an ancient walk-place you have to bear.

it’s a troubled trod for you isn’t it brother?
A beckoned, godless terrain your feet must endure
a callused journey you’ll never want to take again.

But I am pillow-cased yellow brick road.
a foundation,
a pathway that will lead you home.

Forgive me Sister,
but I am not a lost cause with a simple clause
a freckle nosed brother you cherished once in a daydream.

I was never par for your course.
Always coarse in a smoothened jester of compassion
hollowed in ways I never understood until now.

Forgiveness must be earned.

And I am not graphite in a lead-penciled world.

I will write my signature
among every other on earth
in the book eternity will remember–

in a book eternity will read.


levi-j-mericleLevi J. Mericle is a poet/spoken-word artist, lyricist and fiction writer from Tucumcari, New Mexico. Currently he is associated with the New Mexico State Poetry Society and gives readings from his work. His work has appeared in multiple anthologies and can be seen in many lit magazines and journals from over half a dozen countries such as Black Heart Magazine, Mused, Flash Fiction Magazine, eFiction India, Awakenings Review, University of Madrid’s literary magazine and more. He is an advocate for the anti bullying movement as well as an advocate for the LGBTQ community.

Poem 17 ± November 17, 2016

Miguel Murphy

Because the storms, white emissions, emissaries
of spring come spilling

winter too—
He looked

into my face
as if leaning into a mirror

he could not
drink. Please—

Your bone structure is superb.
Your heart is haute couture.

The plague has petals handsomer than yours.

As if pleasure had a counterfeit.

As if there were a way to protect yourself
against a vast night slicked inside another

human body. Heart, seed,
tearful silence,

thirst. His face darkening
the gulf in him,

like the truth—
the blood test.

Green moon, cupped shadow.
Skin, my bright cloak.

When he told me, he didn’t
know, what could he say—

That wet, ugly glean. His face,
shining like a thirst,

shining in the desert
of contemporary men, like me.
Younger, healthier and eager.


miguel-murphyMiguel Murphy is the author of Detainee and A Book Called Rats, winner of the Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry. He lives in Los Angeles where he teaches at Santa Monica College.

Poem 16 ± November 16, 2016

Benjamin Garcia

After Frida Kahlo’s The Broken Column

My backbone is my stem,
my head the bud, brain-pink
layered petals, a whirlpool’s rictus
tugs the sepal skull to bloom—
break, bedazzle, bumble my innards
outward. A god/flower/girl said:
if a flower opens, it means I want you
to try to slam me shut—good luck!


Benjamin GarciaBenjamin Garcia is a CantoMundo fellow who received his MFA from Cornell University. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in: Gulf Coast, Kenyon Review Online, As/Us, West Branch Wired, PANK, and The Collagist. He works for a non-profit as a Community Health Specialist providing HIV/HCV/STD prevention education and testing to higher risk communities throughout the Finger Lakes region of New York State.

This poem appeared in PANK.

Poem 15 ± November 15, 2016

R. Zamora Linmark
Split-Second Serenity

This afternoon I read about the time
Tim was admitted to Ward G-9 for AIDS
complications. Former lovers,
magazine editors, and writers
with drag aliases also dropped by,
as themselves or as apparitions.
But every night, at around six,
his lover Chris arrived to coax Tim
into finishing his meal, weep in
Tim’s embrace, until the last second
of visiting hours. Most time, though,
Tim was alone, building a poem
that wouldn’t, couldn’t, stop growing,
as if it had a memory of its own,
tricked itself into believing that
staying unfinished meant more
time to disappear—an inverted
Scheherazade, you could say,
except we all know remembering
is tied to forgetting and cruelty.

Suddenly, I forgot where in Tim’s
unending poem—if he were already
buried by an avalanche of love
or comparing the size of death
with someone from Marseilles—but
everything around me grew calm,
a split-second serenity
that required full submission.
And I, powerless and superstitious
to such visitation, started weeping.
For the life of me, I couldn’t stop,
because Jorge was suddenly back
in full drag regalia en route to Tour Eiffel
before training it south to Rome for
a surprise splash à la Anita Ekberg
at the Trevi fountain. He dragged
along a suitcase of cocktails, rubbing
alcohol, Betadine swabs, a Styrofoam
cooler for the bags of IV antibiotics
I once watched him inject through a PIC
line above his heart. Then Stephen
chimed in, said, “Let’s happy hour.
Hula’s in half hour. Will shower now.”

His lover William, our girlfriend Lisa,
and I got there first, ordered the
Sunday special: highball glass of
piña colada garnished with pineapple
wedge and, for the sakura effect,
a floating pink parasol toothpick.
We waited the length of three slow
rounds, took turns speaking to Stephen’s
answering machine, until worry
drove us speeding to his condo.
There, we found him, standing
and shivering under the shower
for god knows how long, in a daze,
recalling nothing, everything falling,
water after water after water.


r_zamora_linkmarkR. Zamora Linmark is the author of The Evolution of a Sigh and Drive-By Vigils published by Hanging Loose Press. He’s also published the novels Leche (Coffee House Press) and Rolling the R’s (Kaya Press). Forthcoming are These Books Belong to Ken Z, a Young Adult novel from Delacorte Press/Random House, and the poetry collection Pop Verity. Born in Manila and raised in Honolulu, he divides his writing time between Manila and Honolulu.

Poem 14 ± November 14, 2016

Oz Hardwick

Even hummingbirds are heavier than air,
their weight measured in sincerity,
their wings husks of forgetfulness.

I don’t want to acknowledge their falling,
their downward dance to feathers
stuffed into pillows on a dull brass bed,

so, instead, I will call into question
the wider relations between components:
bed, sky, all uncertain moments.

The murmuration shifts course.
What is it about? What can we learn?


oz-hardwickOz Hardwick‘s latest poetry collection is The Ringmaster’s Apprentice (Valley Press, 2014), and he is co-author, with Amina Alyal, of the Saboteur-shortlisted Close as Second Skins (IDP, 2015). Oz is Professor of English at Leeds Trinity University, and has written extensively on misericords and animal iconography in the Middle Ages under the name Paul Hardwick.

Poem 12 ± November 12, 2016

Jason Schneiderman

There’s a movie about a woman who can’t love God.

It’s a terrible movie. Low budget. Poorly acted.

It’s clumsy and obvious, but I used to watch it over and over

because it had something I needed. A woman, who,

visited by God, cannot love him. Her husband is dead,

her daughter too, both murdered, not senselessly,

but by a man they had tried to help, a man who took

revenge for something that was his own fault. Life,

in the movie, is a test. Life is a test, that in her suffering,

she has passed, except that in having suffered, she cannot

love God, and is refused, by her own honesty, from

the Kingdom of heaven. What the movie says is that life

is not a test. What the movie says is that even if life

is a designed to be a test, that we cannot help but love it

so much that it is everything, and we are right

to love our lives in such a way that we could even refuse heaven,

if it meant giving up on what we have here. It has been

years since I watched that movie, and I think perhaps

it’s because now, at the end of every day, I get to lie down

next to you, and that as long as your arm holds me firm

as I enter the country of sleep, I will never have to choose

between you and heaven.


Marion Ettlinger
Marion Ettlinger

Jason Schneiderman is the author of Primary Source, winner of the Benjamin Saltman Award from Red Hen Press; Striking Surface, winner of the Richard Snyder Prize from Ashland Poetry Press; and Sublimation Point, A Stahlecker Selection from Four Way Books. His poetry and essays have appeared in American Poetry Review, The Best American Poetry, Poetry London, Grand Street, The Penguin Book of the Sonnet, Story Quarterly, and Tin House, among others. Jason has received fellowships from Yaddo, The Fine Arts Work Center, and The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. He was the recipient of the Emily Dickinson Award from the Poetry Society of America in 2004 and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award in 2011. He is Poetry Editor of the Bellevue Literary Review, and Associate Editor at Painted Bride Quarterly.  Jason Schneiderman is an Associate Professor at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, part of the City University of New York.

This poem is not previously published.

Poem 11 ± November 11, 2016

Michael Broder
What Would Sylvia Have Done?

Daddy, you can fuck me up the ass,
but don’t expect me to lick your balls after.
How many poems can I write about the penetrated male anus?
One for each sphincter, maybe—
Two anal sphincters, the external, which is voluntary,
and the internal, which is involuntary,
controlling the exit of feces from the body;
also the entrance of fingers, fists, penises, dildos, butt plugs
and nozzles for anal douching. But there are other sphincters—
pupillary sphincter (in the iris of the eye);
sphincter orbicularis oculi (muscle around the eye);
upper and lower esophageal sphincters
(and…we’re back to fucking);
cardiac sphincter, atop the stomach,
keeping gastric acid from out of your throat;
pyloric sphincter (bottom of the stomach);
ileocecal sphincter (where small intestine meets large intestine,
liminal space between digestion and poop);
Oddi’s sphincter, named for Ruggero Oddi (1864–1913), Italian,
also know as Glisson’s sphincter,
named for Francis Glisson (1599–1677), British physician,
keeping bile and gall in their proper places;
sphincter urethrae, which keeps you from pissing your pants
(and also capable of being fucked, a kink known as “sounding”);
precapillary sphincters, wee microscopic bloodgates;
and finally the preputial sphincter of the foreskin
(may its memory be for a blessing).
I like to think that any sphincter can be fucked; in some
cases, maybe we just haven’t figured out how—yet.


Michael_Broder_02-12-16Michael Broder is the author of Drug and Disease Free (Indolent Books, 2016) and This Life Now (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2014), a finalist for the 2015 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Assaracus, BLOOM, Columbia Poetry Review, Court Green, OCHO, Painted Bride Quarterly, and other journals, as well as in the anthologies This New Breed: Gents, Bad Boys and Barbarians 2; My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them; Spaces Between Us: Poetry, Prose and Art on HIV/AIDS; Divining Divas: 50 Gay Men on Their Muses; and Multilingual Anthology: The Americas Poetry Festival of New York 2015. Michael is the founding publisher of  Indolent Books and the founding editor of The HIV Here and Now Project. He lives in Brooklyn with his husband, the poet Jason Schneiderman, and a backyard colony of stray and feral cats.

This poem appeared in Inklette.

Poem 10 ± November 10, 2016

Luis Lopez-Maldonado
A Cock-Filled Emptiness

I am illegal snake slithering like satan.
I am Fire&Ice Trojan™ condom.
I am the birds bees bullets babies.
I am overcooked underlooked stolen steak.
I am punched and fucked manhole cream-pie.
I am crystal rosaries hanging from brown necks.
I am mini-mí replica of my mother.
I’m a half-smashed rabbit duck skunk against gravel.
I’m a dose of muscle relaxers down thick throats.
I’m a bitch-ass faggot puto brownnoser poser.
I’m a fruit salad con limón y sal.
I’m a round rude moon raging floating above water.
I’m a Catholic Priest slut cake blooming slave.
I’m a brown stain on white wall.
I wants to die wants to cry wants to fly… away.

luis-lopez-maldonadoLuis Lopez-Maldonado is a Xicano poet born and raised in Orange County, CA. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California Riverside, majoring in Creative Writing and Dance. His work has been seen in The American Poetry Review, Cloudbank, The Packinghouse Review, Off Channel, and Spillway, among many others. He also earned a Master of Arts degree in Dance from Florida State University. He is currently a candidate for the Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing at the University of Notre Dame.