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Poetry Summer 2021    fiction    all issues

Cover of Poetry Summer 2021


Diana Akhmetianova

Monique Jonath
& other poems

Alix Christofides Lowenthal
Before and After
& other poems

Rebbekah Vega-Romero
La Persona Que Quiero Ser
& other poems

Oak Morse
Incandescent Light That Peeks Through Secrets
& other poems

George Kramer
The Last Aspen Stand
& other poems

Elizabeth Sutterlin
Meditations on Mars
& other poems

Holly Marie Roland
& other poems

Devon Bohm
A Bouquet of Cherry Blossoms
& other poems

Ana Reisens
In praise of an everyday object
& other poems

Maxi Wardcantori
The Understory
& other poems

William A. Greenfield
& other poems

Karen L Kilcup
The Sky Is Just About to Fall
& other poems

Pamela Wax
He dreams of birds
& other poems

Mary Jane Panke
& other poems

a mykl herdklotz
Mouettes et Mastodontes
& other poems

Claudia Maurino
Good Pilgrim
& other poems

Mary Pacifico Curtis
One Mystical Day
& other poems

Tess Cooper
Airport Poem
& other poems

Peter Kent
Congress of Ravens
& other poems

Kimberly Sailor
White Women Running
& other poems

Bill Cushing
Creating a Corpse
& other poems

Everett Roberts
& other poems

Susan Marie Powers
Canada Geese
& other poems

Writer's Site

Rebbekah Vega-Romero

Look at My Skin

Look at my skin

                                                    in the sun:

My limbs are stretched & strong & aching

in the good way

with each pounding step.

The shadow of a ripening green branch bobs on the wind

crossing dark stripes over

cinnamon dusted warm milk.

In the bright patches,

the light catches tiny hairs

and the freckles glow gold

like a map of my secrets.

Look at my skin

                                                    in the night:

Stiff & drenched in sweat,

awakened by the twisting in the deepest part of me.

The hand I place on my soft home

seems to glow in the dark,

marking me like the alien-freakshow-notright-geneticmutant

I was am will be can only be,

the ghost of his long dead abuela

come to visit shame on my brown father.

Look at my skin

                                                    in the mirror:

Under my eyes, so thin

almost blue.

My features are draped in a cloth

that was not cut for them,

and it is beginning to unravel at the seams.

Green Velvet

There is a trunk—

Well, it’s a plastic tub these days

Pero let’s pretend it’s still the cedar trunk

my parents sold when they divorced:

A trunk in my mother’s bedroom closet,

filled with custom, handmade cupcake dresses,

every texture & pattern more exuberant than the last.

The hands that made them are long gone

the girls that filled them are all grown.

They look like miniature vintage gowns

for princesas mas pequenas

circa 1957

Pero they are really from the ’90s:

You see the woman that made them

crossed an ocean & survived Communism

Who were we to demand

she also update her taste?

Looking through this trunk of my birthdays

Y los cumpleaños de mi hermanita

it’s like holding her brave & steadfast heart in my hands,

                                                         el corazón de mi abuela,

                                                         my sweet & vulgar Bubba

(As a baby I couldn’t say abuela & it stuck)

The woman from whom I get:

Afro curls & curves—a shape that passed directly from her

to mi tia & then somehow blossomed on my hips at age twelve;

A seamstress’s hands—long & nimble fingers

that are already knotting up at the joints

though my knobs are from typing rather than stitching

and the thin skin over the knuckles is milky blue

where hers was the warmest nutmeg;

An immutable heart—the sort of loyalty

that can bear operatic wrongdoings

and still, improbably burn with laughing, luminous love.

My favorite piece is the one we made together

for my sister’s sixth birthday,

she took a drawing of mine & with her inimitable brujería

breathed into reality, stitch by patient stitch:

A dress.

I don’t remember most of my childhood

Pero yo me recuerdo la tienda

filled with fabrics & the smell,

old with dust & new with unmade stories,

and the way the green bolt of velvet felt

to mis manos like the grass under my feet in Prospect Park.

Velvet, green velvet:

I remember sitting at her feet

stitching pearls on the puffed sleeves

while she hummed melodies I can no longer trace.

Velvet, still soft in my arms:

I remember her measuring tape

against my shoulders & down my back

flicking feathers of light

where the dress would embrace me.

Velvet, heavy despite its cool silk underbelly:

I remember her hand,

grabbing my crotch to say

“Cuidate eso”

and then resting on my heart to add

“Cuidate eso.”

When I hold este terciopelo verde

I pretend I am holding her hand

and we’re halfway to a world where I remember her tongue

and she hears the songs I am singing with mine:

A world where she can still give me

inappropriate advice, for this unimaginable heartbreak

and I can show her how the fashions have changed

but velvet is always in style.

La Persona Que Quiero Ser*

I’ve been so many people

some days I wake up & I’m not quite sure who I am anymore.

I shuffle step by aching step from the bed

(god I sound as ancient as the redwoods

—more like a grandfather than a maiden by the day)

to the bathroom, to sit & piss away

the nightmares still clinging to mi culo,

to put off that moment when I stand to wash mis manos

and am confronted with mi cara:

Who is she?

Ruby Reb, where did you go?

Esa cara is one I don’t know

y sus ojos, yes, they are dark like mine

pero que vieja, tan triste, como una bruja!

Where is the sexy mamacita

whose nickname was puta?

What an oxymoron to call a child a whore!

Y por que? What was my crime?

My crime was being born

of a love so electric it was illegal

in several states until I was a teenager.

How can I mean to be any one person

when I am born by definition

a liminal being?

I do not & have never belonged:

Not to one person, not to one home,

Not to one race, not to one nation,          

No, not even to one God.

I was born out of many & so I am many

like old Walt, if you put an electrode to my temple

and tried to trace the fault lines of my being, you would find

a contradiction in terms

si, se puede, go ahead & try it:

I am large, I contain multitudes

y la persona que quiero ser

es una mujer que no conozco.

Sometimes I wonder if I broke the mirror

and used the shards to peel away this pale white lie

I was born into,

Would I step through a portal?

Like Alice, would I find something more

on the other side of the fun house mirror of mi piel?

When I splash mi cara con un poquito de agua,

and place the plastic slivers of focus into mis ojos

I recognize la cara staring back at me:

The person I meant to be when I was twenty-three

(she always was a tardy little puta)

She frowns at my distress & blows me un besito.

I take it in mi boca to chew like gum

throughout the day:

The person I mean to be, siempre, so far away

from the person I have here & now

and the person who brought me here from there:

We all exist in the space between

and there is no breaking the glass without

drawing sangre

to mark the change:

La cicatriz is the place where once

a threshold wound bloomed.

*A play en español on Dolly Chugh’s The Person You Mean To Be, an evolutionary homage to Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.”

The Light-Born Daughters*

The light-born daughters of black fathers

(who never knew their fathers

except to sit on their laps

when they visited once or twice)

go to the back of the closet to trace

the brilliant & vulgar sketches

their white mothers kept

even years after they both found other lovers.

The white-passing daughters of black fathers

born of the late, trophy-collecting marriages

(who watched their mothers’ eyes fill with tears

when they were asked about their fathers)

download the DNA-inspecting cell phone apps,

spit in a tube, send it out,

wait interminable weeks for permission

to learn the code of their missing fathers.

The well-spoken white-presenting daughters

of black immigrant fathers

(who long since changed their foreign names

and pressed their Afro-curls straight to match

the ivory & roses of their skin)

collect the lives of their fathers,

their radical, Black fathers

in stories told by aunties & ex-lovers

and ancient newspaper clippings & legal judgements.

The aging, white-assumed, childless daughters

(who spend the best years of their lives

hiding from & chasing their resentful dark-skinned fathers)

trade chess strategies & song lyrics with their lonely fathers

asking always for absolution from the great sin

of being born in the reverse of their image,

a reminder of how this country

might have kept their secrets sacred, if only

the DNA coin flipped the other way.

*(After Liesl Mueller’s The Late-Born Daughters)

The Unborn, el Sueño


Tu eres el sueño que me inspira

When I want to despair

You breathe for me

Mi corazón

Tu eres el sueño que me inspira

You infuse with light

The spaces between my ribs

Mi vida

Tu eres el sueño que me inspira

In my mind’s eye

You make my vision new

My child

You are the dream that inspires me

Cuando el camino es duro

Y mi corazón está solo

My love

You are the dream that inspires me

A volver al centro del escenario

Cuando sería más fácil sentarme al margen

My world

You are the dream that inspires me

A seguir luchando

A seguir escribiendo

A seguir respirando

Tu eres el nuevo sueño que vivo para ver

And I promise to keep moving on

Until we meet

Rebbekah Vega-Romero is a triracial Latina bruja, who resides in her native NYC with her familiar, a black cat named Artie. A YoungArts award-winning writer, she graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor’s in English and Theatre. Rebbekah has performed at theatres across America from Boston (A Civil War Christmas/Huntington) to Seattle (Maria/West Side Story/5th Avenue). She is the producer, writer, and star of the forthcoming short film The Question. Rebbekah hopes her work will inspire other mixed-race girls to realize that “there’s a place for us.” Visit her virtually at or @RebbekahVR.

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