We stood behind cool new
med school glass watching
Mexican farmworkers cross
the highway, tend cotton
in hundred-and-ten heat.

A classmate said he worked
harder up here
in the library, deserved
all that future money.
Above the old anatomy

lab where cadavers slept
in formaldehyde, we poured
our best years into tomes
of pharmacology, then headed
to China Express

on Fourth for exotic oyster
sauce, cashews, tired of buffalo
wings and Coke. My lab partner
joked, How do you get a hundred
Jews into a VW Bug?*

*Answer: throw a penny in

while little Laura Garcia
two nights ago in the ER
bled from her nose.
The head pathologist,
sporting a janitorial ring of keys,

said the intern packed it
with gauze and sent
her parents packing, a sixty-mile
round-trip to autopsy,
pointed out the leukemic

drainage from her chest
with his scalpel. Later,
puckish Dr. P. would flash
his smile and slides of naked women
between cuts of uterine wall.


Abby Caplin’s poem “Still Arguing with Old Synagogue” was a finalist in the 2015 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Award. She is also a recipient of the San Francisco Poets Eleven 2016 poetry contest, judged by Jack Hirschman. She participated in workshops at the Key West Literary Seminar, the Annual Taos Writing Retreat for Health Professionals, the Healing Art of Writing, and Gotham Writers’ Workshops. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Adanna, Big Muddy, The Binnacle, Burningword, Crack the Spine, Forge, The Healing Muse, OxMag, Poetica, The Scream Online, TSR: The Southampton Review, Tiger’s Eye, Tikkun, Willow Review and others.

Mirror, Mirror

There was a kingdom in the clouds.
Cradled too close by mountain peaks,
the populace throbbed at the brim.
Houses climbing cliffs like animals
escaping. Each year rooftops rested
closer to the stars; each year tunnels
rooted deeper into stone.

Tremors shivered through glass and steel.
Engineers and architects calculated
loads in the margins, torque and sway.
Where the air is light, snow is heavy,
and avalanches are netted like beasts.
Oracles warning of volcanic eruptions
were the madmen shouting on street corners.

The Queen had begun to dream of fire.

Dawn is creeping pink
but the valley is still in twilight.
Once the sun rises, the whole kingdom
will glitter like crystal.
My jewel-box, thinks Queen Karina
as she looks out each morning
from her bedroom in the seventh tower.

She begins to sing softly.
“Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
who’s the fairest of them all?”
It is a catchy tune, bitter and funny.
She presses an injector to her thigh,
inspects the wound. A purposeful breach.
No cure, only pinpricks and time.

The Sickness encircles the kingdom
like the arms of a wit-sick parent.
Poison in the milk. Long before this rot,
children have withered in the womb.
Long have the people been turning
to stunted alpine trees, their eyes
all the same color: rain about to fall.

Only the princess pristine,
Rose, that daughter of the lowlands.
Skin like river-clay, hair
like thunderheads over the floodplain.
Snow-white, the people jeer. Untouched
and untouchable, she watches them die
from the turret. The people riot.

Somewhere, someone is starting a fire.

Karina lifts the veil from her mirror,
surveying the wreckage of her face.
The left cheek melting away from bone,
red shining flesh beneath the eye.
Sores blossoming, chin to nipple.
She chuckles, thinking of verses
once written in praise of those breasts.

The Queen puts on her mask
                and strides to the throne room.

Tammy Bendetti lives, works, and drinks too much coffee on Colorado’s Western Slope with her husband and two small daughters. She completed a poetry workshop with Wyatt Prunty at Sewanee: The University of the South, and received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Colorado Mesa University. Her poetry has most recently appeared in Calliope and Grand Valley Magazine, and is forthcoming from Right Hand Pointing. She is currently building a secret room under her stairs but does not plan to keep any wizards in it.

The Love You Take

Lahore, Easter Sunday, 2016

The love you take
creates entropy after you —
limbs, seared flesh,
the taste of blood lancing through air,
toy shrapnel littering the grassy knoll,
almost like dew.
we attempt to contain it
in coffins with body parts
covered in bolts of fabric
and arranged neatly in human form.
The love you take is equal
to the infinite depth of the hospital wall
that holds each survivor’s vacant gaze,
to each particle of earth
that blankets scores of new graves,
to every rosary bead prayed upon,
to the abiding reverberation of
our whispered plea: no, no, no, no

Noorulain Noor is a member of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley and a two time Pushcart Prize nominee. Her poetry has appeared in Spillway, Sugar Mule, Santa Clara Review, Muzzle and other journals. Raised in Lahore, Pakistan. Noorulain now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her poetry explores the broad themes of identity, multiculturalism, and the immigrant experience.

I Am Not Armed

I am not armed.
My hands are on the steering wheel in plain view.
My doors are locked.
My window is cracked only enough to push my paperwork through.

I am not armed.
There are not any weapons in my vehicle.
There are no drugs or alcohol in my vehicle.
No, you may not search my car or my person.
No, I will not roll down the window or unlock the doors.

I am not armed.
My mouth says “sir” and “please” and “thank you.”
My business cell has a call to my lawyer.
I pay $250/yr to be able to call anytime 24/7.
My personal cell is live streaming to my Facebook.
I am praying someone is awake and watching right now.

I am not armed.
I am stopped on the side of the road.
It is the middle of the night.
It is the middle of nowhere on the highway.
It is the 21st century and I am afraid.

I am not armed.
I am still fearing for my life and safety.
I fear because I am a woman alone.
I fear because I am Black in a hostile world.
I hope I get to drive away and go on with my existence.

Too many lately are not given the chance
to be anything more than a sad statistic.
No matter the actions or compliance,
there is a lack of security.
Even with nothing to hide,
even when the truth is
“I am not armed.”

Niccolea Miouo Nance is a poet, artist, amateur fire-spinner, and soon to be world traveler via sailboat. She has been putting her emotions on paper since she could first write full sentences. Niccolea began performing her spoken word poetry in 2002 and has methodically developed her talent over the years with a multitude of feature performances throughout the Phoenix metro area as well as Tucson, Flagstaff, San Diego, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, Hermosillo, MX, and Shirlington, Va (in the Dc area).

Groundbreaking Study Confirms

Nobody sleeps better than white people
studies say
with white pillows and dreams
not deferred

No one sleeps better than white people
not waiting for hell
or boot or calls from jail.
Not thinking of long
drives down Texas highways
Texas rangers and border patrol,
having to paint smiles on
proving you are American enough
traffic stops and keep your hands on the wheel

No one sleeps better than white people
and the white woman who said
I wasn’t Mexican enough to know
la lengua Española,
how many years
had it been since I’d been down to Mexico,
she asked
Ten maybe
since my dad saw his friends strung
up in trees
and he says they are killing
everyone with lenguas like ours
when they found bodies in pits
he went to give DNA samples
to see if our people
our cousins
were among them
he couldn’t stop telling me this,
the story of the bodies
and I couldn’t sleep
for weeks I silently pray
he won’t tell me which primo or prima
has been taken and that hell
is a vapor tethered in my sleep
and studies say race and ethnicity
correlate with dreams
but also bean counting
and paths of Medicaid requests for
authorization of continued care letters
line the cobwebs of dream clouds
earlier tonight under a halo moon
remembering grief and lovers’ sheets
I thought of sleep
or release or safety
This elusive idea while
we drown

Noemi Ixchel is a queer crip poet-curandera mixed media artist, writer, historian and cultural worker with Mexican and Caribbean roots.


history has a habit of metastasizing,
blurry and darker than squid ink.
yesterday an old happiness froze fingers,
then ribs, smelling like flashlight batteries.
it was dark and i dreamed
of only carrying one breathing pattern,
even and irreverent,

eyes underwater and stinging:
admiring the air
for its emptiness.
remembering how women drove
to unmarked doors
in pursuit of such purity,
only to face impermanent erasure.

a cheap caricature of loss.
disjointed and lovely in its grief,
so unlike the scars of deep sea creatures
who had never before heard
the word drown.

Shereen Lee

Skyrim Has Fallen to the Nords

I #voted this year for the first time.
Nevermind that big brother wants me to vote,
reminds me that polls are open,
to drop my slip in the box.
It’s worth it for a woman.

Breaking news: #pantsuit.

#Let’sNotDoThisAgain people.
Don’t be distracted from the goal
by the cheerleaders.

It feels good to be a #nastywoman,
part of a greater good, the Pussy Riot.
Your friends are tweeting about this.

33.8K have voted already. I voted early.
I wore my sticker today anyway.
Never used to be that proud of civic duty.

#Dedicatethevote to a loved one.
Here’s to permanent residents,
spouses not yet citizens.

Women are leaving “I voted” stickers
on Susan B. Anthony’s grave.

“I will cut off this right arm of mine
before I will ever work or demand
the ballot for the Negro and not the woman.”
—Susan B. Anthony

Wikipedia on Susan B. Anthony:
housed a woman who escaped an abusive husband,
helped a black person escape to Canada.

Drinking chai, eating dark chocolate,
support group where assault survivors
commiserate about the state of society
and mentality of hate.

The next morning,

The next week,

Strep throat,
cold sweats,
first frost.

*This is a found poem, the source of which is trending hashtags on Twitter on the night of the election.

Ani Keaten is a poet grown in the desert mountains of Idaho. She writes about daily life. She enjoys creating art with oil pastels, looking at rare rocks, and seeking out high places from which to take pictures. @anikeaten


You won’t find him on your doorstep one day,
in wrinkled clothes, with weedy hair,
mirror-eyed, shuffling, having driven all that way
to say he’s sorry, to find out how it’s been
since then for you.

There’s no second chance, wherein you–
you who now inhabit your body fully
and mark its four corners with lit candles:
summon the east the west the north the south–

will loft the spear of virgin Athena, will say no
really loudly this time, will not be drunk, or high,
will know to kick him in the balls and run
beforehand, before he has the chance.

He will not do it again. And if he does,
he won’t be caught; don’t wait
for his name in the newspaper.

You will see him perhaps in the frozen foods
of some back-woods Kroger’s. His son
is picking out pudding pops
and they are laughing widely as meadows,

and maybe he’ll look over to you and nod,
ask after your mother, say it’s nice
to see you, never acknowledge it.

Dusk will blur the day you struggle
the lame shopping cart through;
you always get the one with the wallowing wheel,
that drags you sideways, askance from your car.

The clarinet warble of his son’s
pre-pubescent voice will swing over the lot,
making a melody, not uncomforting,
as it melds with the cart’s metallic groans.

Mary Ann Honaker holds a B.A. in philosophy from West Virginia University and a Masters of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. She has previously published poetry in 2 Bridges, Harvard’s The Dudley Review, Euphony, Caveat Lector, Off the Coast, Zig Zag Folios, Van Gogh’s Ear, The Lake, and many other online and print journals. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts.

Call for submissions for 2 Special Themed Issues of Alyss:


Not My President issue for Jan. 20th 2017 publication:

Accepting fiction, CNF and poetry with themes of resistance toward the 2016 presidential election outcome and the negative consequences of Donald Trump’s campaign and the policies he’s endorsing.  For this issue we ask that you submit via the email, not Submittable.  Please send work to with the following subject: NMP Submission. Please attach work as a Word Doc file saved with the following naming convention: NMP Submission – FIRST NAME LAST NAME . Submissions close Jan. 10th but the sooner you get them in the better your chances of publication.


#SayHerName issue has a new publication date of Feb. 14th, 2017:

For the #SayHerName issue we are exclusively taking works (fiction, CNF and poetry) from Black Women Writers on the themes of #SayHerName and #BlackLivesMatter.  Please submit work via email to: with the following subject: SayHerName Sub.  Please attach work as a single Word Doc file saved with the following naming convention: SHN Sub –FIRSTNAME LASTNAME . Submissions for this issue will close on Feb. 1, 2017 but the sooner you get them in the better your chances of publication.


For our general submissions guidelines please see our submissions page:

Alyss’ 2016 Best of the Net Noms

 A little late in posting this but congrats to our 2016 Best of the Net nominees.  You can read their nominated pieces via the links below.
Almost Someone Coming Home by Alexandra Smyth
everytime I speak, my gums bleed by Amber Atiya
Grundy County by Tammy Bendetti
bone editor by Courtney Jameson
Sugar water, ugly bird by E. Kirstin Anderson
Warnings with emotions up to 40 miles per hour by Jennifer MacBain-Stephens
Grandma by Rosemary Hayward
Unfamiliar Skin by Erin Slaughter