Session Two Anthology

MENTOR: Cynthia Dewi Oka


        the symphony
            she once ghosted with
        now whispers 

        confession to the wind

        strings grief
            a pearl necklace

            sweet as her children’s

        absolution is a devil tongue

         a scorpion’s tail buds
            into flower
            blooms honey-rum pollen

        & her knees crawl out the river raw


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Karla Cordero is a descendant of the Chichimeca tribe from northern Mexico, a Chicana poet, educator, and activist, raised along the borderlands of Calexico, CA. She is a Pushcart nominee and has been offered fellowships from CantoMundo, VONA, Macondo, and The Loft Literary Center. She is the editor of SpitJournal, an online literary review for poetry and social justice. Her work has appeared and forthcoming in The Boiler Journal, ANMLY, The Cosmonauts Avenue, Tinderbox, Word Riot, Poetry International, The Acentos Review, among other anthologies and publications. Karla’s chapbook, Grasshoppers Before Gods (2016) was published by Dancing Girl Press and her first book is to be published by NOT A CULT. Publishing (Fall 2018).

no one can find my body

I slept beneath the sand for weeks
    until I realized the fissures wouldn't close.
I emerged, skimping towards your vastness. I already knew
            where to go. Seagulls nipped at my shell,
        but I dragged myself past them. You were so close
            I could taste the salt through the tears and egg yolk
        dripping from my mouth.

You were full and empty.
            You tasted deep, like home.
It made sense that your water filled in the fractures,
    smoothed them over.
            Your cold hands were everywhere.
    The texture kept me awake.

You used to sweep me under, not to kill me
                                    but to test my lungs.
How long I could go without suffocating. The trick
                    was reminding myself that if I died here,
                I’d never see the shore again.

Sometimes, what I wanted to escape
                followed me into the water.
Sometimes, moments I’d lost remerged,
        swimming into a school of fish.
Old faces floated beneath the surface, ruined pictures
                    plucked from the foam and sometimes tossed back.
            You were how I wanted to forget,
but then I realized that maybe, you weren’t supposed
    to let me forget. Maybe that’s why the photos kept slipping
back across the edge of shore.

I've grown up since I first went to you.
                                        Now, I am giant.
            The seagulls don't aim for me anymore;
sharks have taken their place. It's alright.
                My shell’s so tough, no one has been able to bite through it.

I know you now under a different name. I’m still
        trying to clutch it, claim it. As of now, it’s only a gurgle of seawater.
You’re still cold, but there's sweetness. I've learned
        to turn your salt into an embrace.

I go to you after another hard day,
shaking sand from my steaming flesh,
dragging myself to you. I am tired,
                            but you’re so close.
You’re a chant beneath my tongue,
my heart safe in your surf, somewhere
no one can find my body.

I enter the way I know how:
        seeping in cell by cell, your arms rising
                to meet me as my shell disappears beneath the waves,
        ridges of sand leading into your mouth.



Dynas Johnson is an English major at Temple University and a contributing editor for Hyphen, Temple’s undergraduate literary magazine. She has poems featured in Sooth Swarm Journal, Ghost Proposal, Rogue Agent, and Vagabond City Lit. When she is not writing, she can be found studying, listening to BTS, or looking for new bubble tea places. You can find her on Instagram: @dynasaur0 and on tumblr:

case studies

the wind shoves
its fingers under
skin, stripping
her bark, flinging her pieces
all over the yard.

the rain hits
mulch, bounces back brown
water on
your black shoes.
fist full of leaves, you insist
shrub is hydrangea.

sugar pine
bleeds for nine months – oozes
sticky since
you used her
for support while hacking down
the giant oak out back.

you tell me
i calculate risk
from stories
not facts. you
massage slivers of self-doubt
into my own home.


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donia salem harhoor is an Egyptian-American co-conspirator with her 11-year-old cub. She is Executive Director of The Outlet Dance Project. harhoor is a member of Sakshi Productions and is part of the Brown Girl in the Ring Collective. In 2016, she was an artist-in-residence with Swim Pony. Her poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Sukoon, Ballet Review, and Anomaly. She has her MFA in Interdisciplinary Art from Goddard College.


There you are, facing the hive.
The bed dark with ghosts of mangrove.  
Some time ago, your head burst through the waters of your shoulder. 
Some time ago, night was a negligent parent. 
Your first instinct is to reach for the iPhone, flotation device in the black square. 
The prince has been found. Motionless in a shaft of moonlight.
Out of blood-thinning poverties shall rise lung-quaking, bowl-breaking
propaganda. “There are five layers of being,” says the yoga instructor, 
daybreak in a sky of passive sentences. “Picture yourself as a flower.”
But where you reach for ancestry, there is only mind. 
A distance abandoned by other distances.
A bayonet inside a thumb drive.   
Right knee folded over left, the key is to throw your eyes
at the opposite wall – let it absorb the firing nectar. 
Some time ago, you were a glisten in the swarm of your muscles.    
Some time ago, your father drowned at the kitchen table waiting for your mother’s call. 
In the room where bees were bred, sunlight fell  
like bars of gold. (No one was watching). 
You understand censorship as a bone lodged in a beautiful ear. 
An ear where pain spreads like an omelet, bubbling with ferocity.
When it hails, the fires grow paradoxically higher and begin to prophesy
like eucalyptus. You are told there might be plateau
if you allow enough care for your body, this meat of revolution. 
For instance, dab gently with paper towel to prepare it for seasoning
(checking your messages, still) – as silk is preparation for snow. 
They are saying that the prince fed the bees in his flesh too much honey. 
That his hands were forbidden land where glass tulips unfurled, 
Investigation after investigation reveals the river swallowed only
his face and every other slogan. 
Sometime ago, you laughed at the adult terror of rust, flight, hen-blood. 
Sometime ago, you forgot about the door you left locked and behind it, you, 
like Someone’s child waiting for Someone. 
Maybe she did call, but his concentration is what mattered.  
How he willed that arrival under a roof gold with malice. See?
How skin waltzed among the spinning blades, spidered the eyelids of spring, 
sometime ago. O guard
of minor history, spreadsheet  
dominatrix, O goddess of the ruined pans! Admit it. 
You want a few stems of their sadness to water (she worked under a blue sun
while he duct-taped the bottoms of secondhand shoes) 
For when the stars go out.    


Cynthia Dewi Oka is a poet and author of Nomad of Salt and Hard Water (Thread Makes Blanket, 2016). A Pushcart Prize Nominee, her poems have appeared online and in print, including in Guernica, Black Renaissance Noire, Painted Bride Quarterly, Dusie, The Wide Shore, The Collapsar, Apogee, Kweli, As Us Journal, Obsidian, She is a contributor to the anthologies Read Women (Locked Horn Press, 2014), Dismantle (Thread Makes Blanket, 2014), and Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Frontlines (PM Press, 2016). Cynthia has been awarded the Fifth Wednesday Journal Editor’s Prize in Poetry, scholarships from the Voices of Our Nations (VONA) Writing Workshop and Vermont Studio Center, and the Art and Change Grant from Leeway Foundation. An immigrant from Bali, Indonesia, she is now based in South Jersey/Philly. Her second poetry collection is forthcoming in 2017 from Northwestern University Press.