Storage Bin

To live between borders

Oscillating needle prick

   Constant shuttle to

Back       Forward       Center

the      bridge      seems      long




Grief hides under left armpit

Fear likes the sock drawer

“hang joy here”

We are unwhole

S   e   p   a   r   a   t   e

absorbing every speck and grit

yet none

We belong to every/thing

and no/thing at once

We rely on this

for an opening

Melissa Eleftherion was born & raised in Brooklyn. A high school dropout, she went on to earn an MFA in Poetry from Mills College and an MLIS from San Jose State University. She is the author of huminsect, prism maps, Pigtail Duty, the leaves the leaves, green glass asterisms, and several other chapbooks. Her first full-length collection, field guide to autobiography, is forthcoming from H_NGM_N. Founder of the Poetry Center Chapbook Exchange, Melissa lives in Mendocino County where she works as a Teen Librarian, teaches creative writing, & curates the LOBA Reading Series at the Ukiah Library. More of her work can be found @

On discovering Afrofuturism

The future of me is blurry.
I risk everything
in becoming
my real self, bloody
veins and tissue pumping
out of me like lava.

I slept, curled up,
waiting for Mother
        to hold me,
sew me back together.
She used to hold us all,
in ancient and sacred spaces
She told us: baby,
you are infinitely worthy.

But now the skin under my skin
ripples, disturbing
the green grass I planted,
my well-kept lawn
not all at once, but slowly.

The born self is gone,
turned to fragile rock.
A new age, a new dawn,
the future now,
is coming.

Renee Christopher earned her B.A. in English and Communications from the University of California, Santa Barbara which she uses to sell pizza in her hometown. She can generally be found petting strangers’ dogs. You can find her tweeting about representation, entertainment, and working in customer service @jademoonsun on Twitter.

Apology, for E

We couldn’t foresee SCOTUS 2015
though the boy who took me from you
turned my left breast into a cracked diviner’s ball,
the purple ring of dental bruises like fissures in the crystal.

And when he dragged me into the woods
to a blanket he’d prepared,
I wasn’t thinking of a band around your ring finger.
But I did pretend, as he made me choke him
down, that the black eclipsing my vision
was the sleep you and I had ferreted away

in each other’s arms—waking up before dawn
to slide to our opposite sides of the bed
just before one of our parents cracked the door.
And after that summer, you wouldn’t speak to me,

so I walled up the part of myself that had pinned you
down on the floor in a puddle of writhing—my name
a sound among others, floating up into the cheap wallpaper
and disappearing. Like you, I pretended
we were never us. I pretended to be one of them,

with the thick lies coating my skin like flu fever,
because hate is a virus that can’t leave you
once you’ve contracted it, once you’ve
been pulled straight down on a pillar of boy
by your hips, and just as the blood takes a while
to slide out, so too did I take years to understand

that wanting both shouldn’t have made me throw up my arms
and surrender to violence. As one covers the mirror
at funerals with a veil, I tried to forget you, but really
I was trying to lose myself. As if a deluge
of aftershave and cocks could erase the spirit.

As if you and I shared what we did
on an island we couldn’t map blind.
As if swimming to the mainland
made me strong, not craven.

Kristi Carter has poems published or forthcoming in journals such as Spillway Magazine, So to Speak, CALYX Journal, and Hawai’i Review. She is originally from the foothills of North Carolina. She currently lives in Nebraska.



                    when you leave your house this morning,
Remember two words:       Thank You.

Say “thank you” to the man outside of the bodega
who says “good morning” to all the pretty girls.

Say “thank you” to the guy that eloquently
acknowledges your well sculpted ass with a “Dammmn Gurl”
             (why else would you dress like that?)

Say “thank you” to the guy at the bar that leans over his friend
and whispers, loud enough for you to hear, all the ways he’d like to
bend your body.

Say “thank you” to the family friend who told you at seven
that      kisses made breasts grow bigger.

Say thank you to the countless men who have grabbed you
on the subway                            in night clubs
at bus stops
(our bodies have never been our own).

Say THANK YOU                       THANK YOU                       THANK YOU

Say “thank you” because silence is subversion,              ‘conceited bitch.’

Natalie N. Caro is a Bronx-born poet and the 2013 recipient of the Bronx Recognizes Its Own Award in Poetry. She holds a B.A. in English Literature and Philosophy from Lehman College/CUNY and an MFA in Poetry from City College/CUNY where she selected as one of the first recipients of the Creative Writing Fellowship. Sometimes, she swears that school saved her, but then she thinks about colonization of the mind and feels some type of way. Natalie likes to tweet at bars about teeth and trauma. Follow her and her scattered thoughts on twitter @scatteredstanza.

1200 Generations

1200 generations a slave

40 days and 40 nights

   fighting tides




   is an island

sustaining life

with limitations

like stuck on occupied lands

nuclear godheads and land grabs

she sees way past

   the glass ceiling

way past

the wall street walls

   and histories of slavery

right on

dirty new york streets

she climbs and climbs

the corporate ladder

can lead right up

   to the floors of world trade

   controlled demolitions

buildings with codes

she can be lost

in the stairwells

of concrete remote control

   bombs and drones drive her nuts

she keeps on though


carrying the tradition

mother ma life giver,

the planter,

master maker

the light

   the creator.

ava bird is an american based poet, writer, editor, reviewer, producer, magical elixir maker and more! Her poetic and other works are printed in historical anthologies, academic journals, spiritual publications, online, recorded for radio and exhibited in galleries. She has published two books of poetry and prose ‘the new now’ and ‘rage against the war machine’ and is an organizer for the worldwide poetry movement 100thousand poets for change. You may also see her artwork somewhere! Connect @ facebook: avabirdpoetic

The Funeral of a Nation

My grandfather is dead. I thought there would be more time, another birthday party for me to ignore the invitation for. But he has been dead for two weeks. Long enough to cast a vote for presidency. Long enough for a large and estranged family to organize the funeral, buy plane tickets, or save up gas money for the trek to the homestead of Michigan.

For most of the seventeen-hour drive, my partner and I have been bouncing around from CDs, to the iPod, to the radio, to small breaks with RedBull. As we finally cross from Ohio into Michigan, our sense of relief is met with a terrifying sense of dread. Miles tick down like the ball dropping on New Year’s. We find we’re listening to NPR more and more. In the next twenty-four hours, everything is going to change. My grandfather will be eulogized. The nation will either have its first female president, or a man who….

I shake my head.

I can’t even think of what would happen if he gets elected. I take shallow measured breaths, with each one, praying to get through the next two days in one piece. My dogs are sleeping in the back seat. My partner is barely awake beside me. My sister is dating another woman on the other side of the country. My nieces are tucked safely in bed in the state I’ve just arrived in.

There is so much at stake in this election.

“If he wins, we should buy a gun,” I tell my partner, voice hiding within the confines of the night. If I speak too loudly, if I brace myself too much, I may tip the election in favor of the sum of all fears. I can’t even bring myself to say his name.

“You should buy a knife. Maybe two. One to keep with you at all times, and one to keep in your car,” he responds. He doesn’t need to say it. In the silence, we both hear Grab them by the pussy. I bite my teeth together. I dare someone to grab me. “We should stock up on water and dog food.” We bounce ideas back and forth, preparing for another war.

On the radio, it’s announced that Trump has won another state. And another. Clinton has fallen behind. We breathe more, we drive, the dogs stay asleep in the backseat. Another mile ticks by. Ten more. We’re so close to the end.

Headlights cut through the dark road and spill onto my mother’s small house. We pull in the driveway and she meets us outside, cigarette in hand. I last saw her barely over a week ago, for another family member’s funeral. I’d picked her and my oldest sister up from the airport and was informed that the woman standing in front of me would be voting for Trump.

I’d been told earlier in the drive that she never made it to the polls. A pathological liar my entire life, I am not sure what to believe. I take refuge in the fact that even if she did vote, she has the decency to lie to me about it.

We stumble into the house, her dogs, locked away in a bedroom with her husband, bark loud enough to wake the neighborhood. My dogs make their way into the fenced in area, do their business and follow me to the bedroom.

My bones are tired and sore from the drive, from the radio, from the fact Clinton still hasn’t pulled into the lead. My partner crawls into bed beside me while my mother makes up an air mattress in the living room. She and her husband of ten years have slept separately for longer than I can remember.
Blue light illuminates the room as my partner checks the latest information for the election. “Trump is still ahead,” he says.

“I’m so scared,” I whisper as a dog crawls under the blankets and nestles against my neck. He pushes the button to kill the screen to his phone and we’re in complete darkness. My partner’s hand stumbles through the shadows to find me. He tries to reassure me with his touch, but I am mostly numb. He can’t win the election. He just can’t.

“We’ll know more in the morning. There are still a lot of votes to be counted.”

I lay awake while his breathing evens out. All three dogs breathe nearly in unison, like ocean waves crashing and going back out to sea. Slowly, I relax and follow suit. It’s still dark when he stirs beside me. I don’t know what time it is, but my body screams to remain still, hidden in blackness for several more hours. Though my eyes are closed, they register the difference in lighting as his phone jumps to life.

“Trump won,” he says.

His words freeze the air. My heart falls out of my body and onto the floor. I’m not sure I’m breathing. “No.” I say. This can’t be happening. “What?”
“Trump won.”
“It’s my grandad’s funeral today. You couldn’t just give me a few more hours of peace?” My voice rises. A war is coming.

“You would have survived the Holocaust,” my mother told me. It is one of the first memories I have of her. A thick layer of smoke from her cigarettes surrounds her as she speaks.
“Why?” My sisters and I ask.
As though she doesn’t hear the question she continues, “Jacci and Laura have dark hair, so they would be dead. But you. You have the blond hair and blue eyes the Germans looked for.” She touches my hair gently. Only, my eyes are green and always have been.

His alarm goes off. My alarm goes off. We push snooze to avoid starting the day. Another alarm. Another. I text my oldest sister to tell her that we woke up late and will hold her up and prevent her from getting to the funeral early. She tells me she, her husband, and children will wait but we need to hurry. My mother’s voice continues to play in a loop through my head, “You would have survived the Holocaust.”

But my sisters would be dead.
My grandmother was in a concentration camp.
My sister is dating a girl.
My other sister has two daughters.
I have had an abortion.
My granddad is dead.
I’m having trouble breathing.

Sensing my distress, my partner reaches over and squeezes my knee. I exhale. I inhale. I swallow the anxiety plaguing me. I swallow the urge to vomit. I exhale, I inhale. I swallow. I did what I could. I cast my vote. My partner cast his for the first time in his twenty-three years. I had intelligent debates with people on social media and in person. I voted. I made sure to vote.

Why wasn’t it enough?

I ride in the very back of my sister’s husband’s vehicle, with my niece. There is a rest stop where I buy skittles and share with my nieces and nephew. My sister, a health nut to the core, glares at me. We discuss the election results. When we speak of my other sister, when we talk of the Vice President-Elect’s support of conversion therapy, I crack. Tears sting my eyes. The world, my nation is hollow. It is the perfect day for a funeral.

“Why are you crying?” my niece asks.
“Because I’m scared,” I tell her honestly.

The sun is bright but the creep of winter is setting into the bones of the trees. I can’t help but wonder if I’m burying my grandfather or my nation today.

In solidarity to my emotional turmoil, my partner and I take a shot of vodka in the parking lot to act as a buffer from too many feelings hitting me at once. My abusive, alcoholic father stands at the door of the church greeting people as they walk in. My sister and I stop dead in our tracks, grab her childrens’ hands and back-pedal. “Why aren’t we going in?” her husband and my partner ask. We shake our heads and keep speed walking to another entrance of the church.

I have not seen this man since I graduated high school, ten years ago. At that time I was still afraid of him. Before that encounter, he had lost custody of us during a drunken night my sisters and I try to forget. And yet, that man is no longer my father, at least not the one I knew.

He sits mere pews from me, my partner, my nieces and nephew, sister and her husband. His hair is greyer. He moves slower. Parts of me are scared as I watch his siblings sit beside him, or as I observe my sister stiffen in his mere presence.

Then, when the preacher conducting the sermon says, “Let us pray,” my father bows his head, and suddenly, the man is human. A boy who just lost his 104-year-old father. A man who lost the opportunity to watch his three children grow up and become a teacher, an intellectual, and a rebel.

The procession leads outside where there are elderly men in military uniforms standing beside flags. My granddad was a World War II Veteran, the same war I was brought up to believe I would have survived. My father stands just in front of my family. I know he recognizes my sister. I am unsure if he recognizes me. My nephew stumbles a few steps away from me, and I grab him as though the man he nears is a radioactive chemical spill rather than a man.

Gun shots ricochet through the air while my oldest niece covers her younger sister’s sensitive ears. In my arms, my nephew jerks from the sudden boom.
And then it is over.

My family and partner pile into the same vehicle we arrived in. My sister says goodbye to no one. I am shaking as I take my seat beside my niece. We eat candy until my stomach is upset.

We drive the miles to my niece’s swim practice and with each mile that stretches before us, I swallow the tears that are like acid in my throat. I take a breath deep enough to puff my chest. I sit straighter. I am the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor. I am the granddaughter of a World War II veteran. I am the sister of a queer woman. I am a woman who has had an abortion.

I would have survived the Holocaust.

I will survive this war.

Lynne Schmidt is a mental health professional in Norway, Maine. She has recently become a recurrent contributor of FIDO Magazine and has had publications in UNE Magazine, The Sun Journal, The Portland Press Herald, Her Kind Vida, several editions of Zephyr, and many others. She is the founder of AbortionChat and regularly attends reproductive justice and writing conferences where she participates in panels or hosts them. She prefers the company of her three dogs and cats to humans.

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: