Everything beautiful lay both forwards and backwards.

an illustration of purple coneflowers in a circle of full bloom to a dead flower, with a bee in the center and a butterfly stretched across the black background
Art by Kristina Closs

Everything Lies in All Directions

by Hua Xi

Death is the same in both directions.
It wants to go somewhere. It wants to come back.
Once I came back through a grass. Purple coneflowers
floated there, attracting bees. The whole field was humming.
Once I came back through the dead. This roughly translates
to something my mother lived through in Chinese.
My mother said, “I don’t read. It’s too tiring.”
It’s true–people who wrote things
lied to her. Once I came back through a poem.
Time refused to pass there, and loneliness
drifted down past my window like snow.
Alone, I did not move. Worlds changed around me.
Everything beautiful lay both forwards and backwards.
Everything translated into butterflies, which billowed
into a breath of tall summer. They blew out of the past
and into the future. Was it yours or was it mine?
Then, I was a child. Once, my mother was.
This is how you learn that nothing ends
unless it has to.


to you the past is us the past the past is everything

a composite image of a black and white photo of four young people walking with flowers illustrated below and red abstract lines in the right corner
Art by Kristina Closs; Photo slice is from a picture of my mom and three of her siblings walking down the street in Damascus in the 1950s.


by Ahmad Almallah

we sat together you and I mother next to son
the armchairs worn against the dullness of white walls
you read aloud the same sentence over and over

I place your hand in mine do I let go I stand
there was between us something everything
to you the past is us the past the past is everything

and there I look the beige cupboard full of pictures
it’s still closed up your youth I know almost nothing
I am your son the youngest one the son of your aging

I open up the beige the black and white pictures
your arms revealed and in the sun revealing
the weak and slender hand is aimless on the table

I place a photo in your palm your daughter and your sons
I am a child the funny face I make you point to him
you ask if he belongs to me I say he is your son

you do not know you look at me in wonder
the past the past is everything the present
your mind the nerves the stems of blood bursting

from Bitter English

her voice is a whole choir burning

Art by Kristina Closs

catatonia mercy / or what i learned from mother
by Kemi Alabi

i was raised by the ghost who haunts the house i grew up in / she calls at least once a week
are you okay? / yes it’s sunny / i say from the closet / curled between a suitcase and the
wall / she’s fourth generation spoiled fruit ‘neath the poplars / born in the basement of a
bombed-out church / i’ve inherited the snapped neck / the smoked lungs / the terror / have
you eaten?/ the ghost smooths her dress over a billowing cough / yes / i yell / fists stuffed
into my mouth / i don’t ask about Charleston / if she tastes the bullet meal / are you lying?/
her voice is a whole choir burning / i don’t know / my voice is the shot that missed the
child / we survive / the ghost mistakes her chill for breath / i know / i lie / staring straight
through my chest / and we /the lucky ones / have never known greater mercies

from Against Heaven