What is it that we owe to each other?

illustrated image of a field of bright orange and yellow calendulas with an eye in the center with long eyelashes and the reflection of the light of the flowers within it
Art by Kristina Closs

The First Toast

by Aria Aber

What is it that we owe to each other?
I drink to the moment that rises
like a calendula flicker
behind your eyelids.
I drink to the world
still veiled with the words
of childhood, our faces warm
in history’s collateral light.

from Hard Damage

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her child would never know the damp of hunger in his bones

illustration of a mother and sun as silhouettes, eating burgers and fries with blue waves in the background
Art by Kristina Closs

I Tell My Mother About My Depression

by Eric Tran

She is ashamed of my seasickness,
her son, bled down from boat people.

We are kidding, of course: between waves
and prayers to Mercy, she swore

her child would never know
the damp of hunger in his bones.

She wanted him fat like clay
and just as soft. In college, I lost

ten pounds of myself and half
the words she sang to me as a baby.

The aunties cooed my new frame
but she was silent, both of us famished

for the words we meant. I say 
I’m sad from sun to sun

and her response is a crisp
twenty for the quiet burger joint

we visited when I was young
and never talked, or didn’t need

words, our mouths and bellies
singing the same full rhythm.

from The Gutter Spread Guide to Prayer

Have you been content enough being this content?

illustration of a mandala comprised of the objects of the poem--teeth, frogs, needles, pillows, steaming kettles, flowers, the word should.
Art by Kristina Closs

Self-Care

by Solmaz Sharif

Have you tried
rose hydrosol? Smoky quartz
in a steel bottle

of glacial water? Tincture
drawn from the stamens
of daylilies grown
on the western sides

of two-story homes?
Pancreas of toad?
Deodorant paste?

Have you removed
all your metal fillings? Made peace
with your mother? With all
the mothers you can? Or tried

car exhaust? Holding your face
to the steaming kettle?
Primal screamed into

a down-alternative pillow
in a wood while tree-bathing?
Have you finally stopped
shoulding all over yourself? 

Has your copay increased? 
Right hip stiffened?
Has the shore risen

as you closed up shop?
And have you put your weight
behind its glass door to keep
the ocean out? All of it? 

Rang the singing bowl
next to the sloping toilet?
Mainlined lithium? 

Colored in another mandala?
Have you looked 
yourself in the mirror
and found the blessed halo

of a ring light in each iris?
Have you been content enough
being this content? Whose

shop was it? 

from Customs