Vincent Antonio Rendoni


I witnessed something beautiful, friends

One day,

on my father’s monthly visit
to give his father
some money


who kicked him out at sixteen
who didn’t believe in touch or mercy

caught his son limping

& put away the contempt fathers have for sons
& suspended the law of machismo reached for the rusted Texaco box
with the antiseptic, tweezers & gauze
slapped his knee
& called to his son’s feet,
& began working his way
through the skin & blood
of a used car salesman’s ingrown toenail

& never thought, not even once

as he cut through the keratin
cleaning & washing the lowest part
of working folk
that this is something
a man has to think about.


Boundary Waters

Donald Platt


Accessible primarily by canoe, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, in northeast Minnesota . . . extends 150 miles along the U.S.-Canada border, covering approximately 1,098,000 acres . . .
— Explore Minnesota


I want to go

to the Boundary Waters, canoe its one thousand lakes,

hundreds of miles


of rivers. So many places I’ve never been. I’d like to see sunset

reflected in Tuscarora

Lake, when it’s so still you cannot tell the difference


between sky on fire

and water on fire. Rosanne and I could paddle together

in our red canoe


to the very middle of the lake. Her hair would outshine sunset.

One loon would call

to another loon with its otherworldly wail from across


wide water.

That’s all I want to hear. But Rosanne, who has been to the Boundary

Waters and back,


tells me gently, firmly, matter-of-factly—in the voice

I love more

than any other woman’s voice—that no, I will never go as far


as Tuscarora

Lake. My body with its nerve pain, unable to walk anymore

without its rollator,


would not be able to do even one long portage.

She’s right, of course.

And even if I were to canoe that cold, aquifer-fed water


so clear I can see

twenty feet down to the rocky bottom, always another

waterway is waiting.


Night calls me with its unanswerable cry. Death’s loon

cries out

to me to come, come. Canoe to him alone across


dark, starlit water

where the moon now rises. Keep him company upon those other

boundaryless waters.


Weight of Water

Allison Field Bell


Yesterday at the kitchen sink, my lover told me again
how I can’t do it right—load the dishwasher, wash the cast iron.
No soap, no scrubbing. My hands submerged in water, scalding.


Today, I’d rather be a fish. Scales, gills, unblinking eyes. Curl
around the toxic tentacles of that blooming mass: the anemone.
Brilliant orange and white stripes against the rainbow of reef.


None of that anxiety that dwells in the stomach, hollows it out, drops
it to the knees. The way my lover yelled when I panicked—
shook and shimmied. Too much, too much.


Too much pressure from the weight of water above,
but not feeling the ear-popping ascent from the depths of
the sandy floor. Water crushing bones. A whole sea of it to live in.


I’d like to be a shark. A predator. Free in my own kingdom.
Beast so ancient, so full of its own history, so full of its
own instinct. So full. So unlike the way I am. Sitting on the edge


of the bed now, my lover beyond a slammed door. I wonder
what it is to escape something. Where it is I could go. Beyond
the twist of whitewater, the shallow sand shelf to the deep


underbelly of sea, cold dark infinite. Bliss, all that water, swimming.



Travis Mossotti


Here’s the orchard someone else will tend to.
And the crawl space beneath the porch
of the house where someone else’s barn cat
will slumber through the summer nights
dreaming of long-tailed mice in the high grass.
Over that field, the light dips and refracts
through the broken glass of the muck pond
where a catfish will take someone else’s bait
and hook—that it might meet the refined
heat of a skillet. The ghosts of a thousand
head of cattle walk through the woods at night
in someone else’s dream while the windows,
cracked slightly, let a mild breeze pass
through the empty rooms like an appraiser.
There is no death that cannot be undone
by simply turning the compost with a pitchfork
or by scattering scratch in the dirt for chickens
who sing each time they lay, but every repair
is only a gesture against the torment of slow
winds and steady rain and heavy sun. It will be
someone else who grows too old to climb
the ladder into the barn’s cool loft or the flight
of stairs that lead to and from their own bed.
It will be their hand weighing the mortgage.
It will be their face forgetting its smile. Listen,
if the well pump kicks to life at dawn, it will be
someone else drawing a bath for the last time—
joints relaxing as their form submerges, body
recovering and failing in the same held breath.



Michael Chang


wanna sleep till i see u again
words u generally wanna hear
except when ur already at their haus
hey do u wanna get outta here
i like it when u talk abt cannes
so much
i like it so much
i’m a same-sex couple
a warehouse
nothing in me but a grand piano
stop staring
start tearing
if u’d changed u wouldn’t be here
did u see my present
the one i left
believing u could be deterred
i think i threw it out
as they used to say in hollywood
that movie sold popcorn
he asked to take me to the pound shop
but it was just a dollar tree
u go to the disco, panic
they want a better look at u
any acknowledgment of their infinitesimal existence
as mark twain’s old saw has it
the difference between a fire & a firefly
rain that looks like u, clean sheets
we luv to be intrusive
take an invasive procedure
make it more invasive
find it hard to leave relationships
luv being in luv w/ machines
money from a white-shoe firm
in fact a frozen-foods conglomerate
angel cakes bearing lines of credit
do not be afraid


I Woke Up Eating Donuts in the Rain

Jarrett Moseley


is the note I left for myself
on the introduction page
of a poetry book
three years ago.


I did not wake up eating donuts in the rain
except for once
when I was a kid
and even then I was dreaming.


I’m always dreaming
of an elsewhere
where the reams of grass
I tucked into a wicker basket
last July have not withered
and the grease of fast food
slides off my fingers like sunlight
and a child touches a mirror, feeling
unlike a severed power line.


I was not that child.
When I was nine, I wrote a song
about the black tongue of death
before I even knew what it looked like.


I don’t know what to make of that
or if everything is a river
though I keep having the persistent feeling
that everything is supposed to be a river
even bad things
like loneliness.


Three years ago, I was lonely
and writing sad notes to myself
like screaming into a shower head.


Since then
Mason died
and Savanah moved to New York
and Gracie left New York for L.A.
and Sarah gave birth
and I decided against writing summary poems
but here I am.


When I say I’m always dreaming
that’s not what I mean
but that there’s a place inside me called outwards
where each thing faces away
from the next thing.


The couch back pushed against another couch back
which is facing away from the mirror
which is facing away from the window
which is facing away from the outside lawn
which is facing away from the world’s
violent unbuckling.


You can just say a lot of things
and get away with it
and even without music
or a bicycle wreck set on a loop forever
or waving one’s arms in circles from a distance


but once love gets involved
the whole thing turns red-tinted and jutted.


The last person who touched me naked,
we didn’t even have sex
we didn’t even know each other
we just slept in the same bed
with our feet barely brushing,
which is more intimate than sex
then never spoke again.


I could write an entire symphony
on things more intimate than sex.


I slap the back of a friend,
a boy holds the book at just the right angle,
we watch the car skid out on the road.


The news blurs into the radio,
a stone reverses back through a window,
the ground is seared with footprints.


Remember you are a river—
maybe that’s what the note should have said,
to move inside the banks of my body
through absolute loneliness
to write not about the leaf stuck in my hair
but rather, the wind that put it there.


Three years ago I was not having sex,
no one was sleeping in my bed,
my shoulder was like a stick in the mud,
and I didn’t even dream.


But today,
on the 12th of March,
pollen scattered like yellow DNA
across the glass porch table
that points outwards


into the community courtyard
where a girl mounts her pink tricycle
as her father pushes behind,
into the 70-degree warmth
swarming the dogwood trees
and the cardinals they carry,
into the peace of learning
to love the cliché
of blooming hope,


I open a poetry book and read
the note I had forgotten about.


you don’t want to dream.
Sometimes you don’t want to think
about death
or loneliness
or even sex.


You want to wake up
eating donuts in the rain,
to feel the river rise,
and to float a letter
to yourself
from one world
hoping it finds you
happily in the next.


Dirty Moon Dog

Francine Witte


Tonight is the night
of the Dirty Moon,
where dust and scrub
show up thumbprint
on the lunar face.
Visible here on Earth
for only a speck,
showing itself quiet
in July or maybe
November. No one
talks about the Dirty
Moon the way no one
talks about the second
Love goes cold, maybe
one less phone call,
one less kiss, or
the way your parents
go see-through,
translucent on
their way to being
gone. But tonight,
right now, a dog
is howling it out.
He is alone
in a field, around
him the worry
of wheat, a shush,
a soft wind trying
to quiet him, his snout
full up, his mouth open
wide into the night.


Two Poems

Rebecca Foust

Ocean Beach

I am not quite thirty again
on a beach under a three-quarter moon
slung low in the sky, stars pricking
darkness & so cold where the tide
rushes in, swirling ankles then knees
& you swooping me up in your arms
like any fantasy of rescue & I’m ravished
in John Donne’s sense of the word
& pretty much every sense
of the word, licked up & down my spine
by freezing flame, slicked wet
like a dog in the rain, every nerve
buzzing bees in a beauty bush June—
it happens every time I return
to memory’s long, low curve of cold sand,
the swallowed surge of a wave,
held breath knocked out & away
into liquefaction & release,
an icicle held in your warm, bare hand.



In a myth from the southern sea
a woman loved a god
in the guise of a bull, or maybe
it was the sea, or maybe
it was a bull made of waves
that came from behind
all muscle & surge
to her knees, waist, chest,
throat, mouth & eyes, then left
with the morning tide.


They say she near died, burned
by sorrow & salt & sun
before she thought to build
a bull of wood she could live
within. For she was also a god
who could drain all she filled
& fill all she drained
like us, who daily dwell
in a world that swallows us whole,
while we take it, holy, inside.


Review: All The World Beside by Garrard Conley

Review of All the World Beside, by Garrard ConleyRiverhead Books, 352 pages, $28, Publication Date: March 26, 2024

Review by Brian Alessandro


Though Garrard Conley’s transcendent debut, All the World Beside, is ostensibly about an eighteenth century gay love affair between Arthur Lyman, a physician, and Nathaniel Whitfield, a reverend, the novel is chiefly concerned with the nature of desire and the salvation of the soul.


The story unfolds in Cana, Massachusetts amid the Puritan push for utopia. Arthur is married to the bold, scandalous Anne while Nathaniel’s wife is the accommodating, unwell Catherine. Both men have children. Arthur’s daughter, Martha, and Nathaniel’s daughter, Sarah, eventually become friends by way of Anne’s engineering, but it is Ezekiel, Nathaniel’s son, around whom the plot is framed. His letters to Sarah, years after the central events of the novel, anchor the story, providing an additional layer of tragedy.


We soon learn that Ezekiel, named after the prophet who saw the demise of Jerusalem, is answering for the sins of his father through exile. While Nathaniel is away with Arthur, Sarah becomes possessed by righteousness and castigates the citizens of Cana who are swayed by a swindler selling watches. She scolds them for their pagan proclivities, claiming they have become Satan’s puppets, especially her father who sins with Arthur, and her mother who hides his sin. Sarah feels responsible for the town’s great awakening. The Great Awakenings—a succession of religious revivals led by evangelical Protestant ministers that gripped believers throughout the early eighteenth century and into the late twentieth century—play a central role in the novel.


When Ezekiel’s mother calls a group of French sex workers “nobodies,” Ezekiel internalizes the notion of a “nobody” as someone without a home, free to do as they like, including finding a home as they see fit, a “terrifying and exciting” prospect. We learn that Ezekiel was cast off to the hinterlands because he would not betray Nathaniel and Arthur, his “two fathers.” In his quiet despair, Ezekiel questions a “God who has created such impossible conditions.”


Conley does not hide his numerous parallels to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter or Arthur Miller’s The Crucible: pilgrim judgment, shunning, damning ostracization, banishment, and the weight of mortal transgression, along with the characters’ names themselves. The novel intrigues and mesmerizes with its density of complex histories, scandalous pasts, tormenting secrets, and haunting lies.


Conley’s revelatory 2016 memoir, Boy Erased, also dealt with the cruel and ignorant things people do in the name of religion, but with compassion and insight. Homosexuality and Christianity coexist in an uneasy arrangement in Conley’s personal world, as in his fiction. The characters treat each other with care, tenderness, and concern for their well-being. Even Nathaniel and Arthur are protected and loved by their families and communities.


All The World Beside is largely a meditation on the simplicity, beauty, and goodness of nature and faith, despite the pain both cause. The characters are at the nonnegotiable pull of a wild will and its demands, as well as the imagined expectations of God. The punishments doled out by religious law seem unreasonable, even draconian, but in Conley’s view, these are the products of fear and reverence. In a moment of the metaphysical melding with the scientific, Nathaniel says to Arthur, “You said wounds allow love to enter the body more freely.”


Conley’s voice is clear but ambiguous, gentle but never coddling, and firm but not merciless. His spare language is imbued with an assurance that disarms with its sincerity. The novel was born of Conley’s conversation with his Missionary Baptist father, and a subsequent objective to prove queer people existed and even thrived during the 1700s. The eighteenth century was the Age of Reason, after all, and enlightenment meant privileging science over blind faith. These dualities are at play in the relationship between Nathaniel, a man of faith, and Arthur, a practitioner of medicine. Nathaniel is responsible for the town’s spiritual health while Arthur bears responsibility for the inhabitants’ physical wellbeing. The soul and the body intermingle. The divine and the material parry.


By virtue of the milieu and period, Conley tells an elemental story about faith and nature, free from civilized constructions and cultural touchstones. The focus here is on engagement with God, with imagination, with the soil, and, finally, with each other. Still, there pervades a din of the superstitious, the anxiety of bearing a mark and being damned, the devil lurking in the shadows, ready to claim his due. “The devil never forces a hand. He is cleverer than that. He tempts.” Nature itself possesses evil, or at least, indifferent properties. But God is everywhere too. The divine is a constant presence and a perpetual promise, a goal to work toward, and a pleasure to be earned.


The love shared between Nathaniel and Arthur feels like an invention, even if the men discover that their shared feelings are all too familiar. Theirs is the possible start of a freer land, one of not just national possibilities but also a sexual renaissance. “We just invented it,” says Nathaniel to Arthur. “Never before has another man done what I have done or felt what I have felt. God did not create this. It is not natural. It is not divine. It is nothing but what it is, here in this bed.”


Though the families keep their secrets, Nathaniel and Arthur’s love harms them. Sarah, in her rapturous call to duty, believes that their sin prevents the salvation of the town. “A town must be safe before it may be saved,” claims a parishioner named Priscilla. Conley maintains nebulous motives for his characters, especially the men’s families. Do they keep the secret of the affair to protect their husbands and fathers, or to protect themselves? To ensure the awakening unfolds unsullied, or to preserve the fantasy of their faith? Catherine tells Sarah, “Men have the power to change. Women cannot change, not really; they have no such luxury, but men change all the time.”


All The World Beside’s bittersweet tone is perhaps best captured by Catherine who, overcome by her family’s lot in life, laments, “There is life yet to mourn the loss of beauty.”


Conley ends with an academic postscript that rigorously assays the hidden history of LGBTQ life. He so expertly evokes the eighteenth century that the modern thoughts and words of the closing essay stand as a jarring contrast and pointed reminder of where we’ve been and where we are. In the end, Conley tells a story that feels ancient but somehow new, and he does so with grace, restraint, and generosity. His characters are as alive and urgent today as they would have been over 250 years ago, and the world, though changed, remains in many heartbreaking and healing ways, the same.


In the Nude

Brendan Gillen

Charlotte lived in the Village, where the buildings shared narrow courtyards, so it was not a matter of neighbors seeing. Of course they saw. She sometimes waved. The uptight spinster across the street who pulled her curtains. The young men whose kitchen window was adjacent to her bedroom. They did not stare. They smiled giddily and waved and went about their business. Who knows what they said when they ducked out of sight? Charlotte didn’t care. Her days of giving a damn were long gone.


One afternoon, the police came. The knock was polite. Charlotte answered in her robe. She could have been their mother. They hardly looked old enough to drive, let alone carry weapons.


“Good afternoon, ma’am,” said the bearded officer. His nameplate read: Finn. He seemed to be in charge. “There’s been a report of a disturbance.”


She clocked the shaven one eying her figure, which she maintained with water aerobics.


“A disturbance?” Charlotte said. “Here?”


“Yes, ma’am,” Finn said.


Charlotte wondered if one of them always spoke, if their roles were set, or if they sometimes traded.


 “I make a real effort to keep to myself,” she said.


“It has nothing to do with noise, ma’am,” Finn said.


The clean-shaven young man adjusted his belt. His radio chirped. His name was Bradford.


“There was a call that you’ve been going about your apartment in the, ah, nude and whatnot.”


Charlotte bit her cheek to keep from laughing. In the nude! For such a progressive city, New York’s sense of civic propriety was practically Victorian.


“I see,” she said. “Is it illegal? This is my home.”


“Not exactly, but if it continues to be a public disturbance—”


“Who was it that complained?”


“We can’t divulge that information, ma’am,” Finn said. But Charlotte knew. In some ways, she’d been waiting for it. She didn’t know the woman’s name, but they’d passed each other plenty of times on the street. In another life, they might have been friends. In this life, her neighbor was stoop-shouldered and severe, and she pushed her chaotic hoard of belongings around the neighborhood in a rolling cart.

“All we’re asking,” Finn continued, “is that you cover up.”


Instinctively, Charlotte released the clutch she held on the collar of her robe so that it fell open at her throat. Bradford stole a glance at her cleavage. Finn dropped his hand to his taser.


“Ma’am,” he said. “It’s a simple request.”


She thought of Donald. How could she not? His mustache. His overcoat. Always layered. Their marriage was full of love. Over thirty years. Toward the end there was no sex, not because they didn’t want it, but because of his condition. It worsened precipitously in the final months. He was hollowed out, hunched over. Clothes hung about him as though they’d been donated by a much bigger man. It was awful to see. Yet Charlotte had felt an undercurrent of liberation. An unburdening, a shedding of skin. She waited until Donald passed to express it. To do otherwise would have been cruel. She sold the house, bought the studio in the city. She began to paint, went for cocktails. It wasn’t even a year before she brought a man half her age back to the apartment. She was taking control of her grief. Of her life. She knew Donald would have understood. She’d given up her career at McCann to make their home, raise their boys. This was her time. Yes, he would have understood. She was certain. She was the only woman he’d ever loved.


“Let me ask you something,” Charlotte said to the officers. “Have either of you tried it?”


Finn cleared his throat. His hand twitched on the taser. “Ma’am?” he said.


“Walking around the house,” she said, “in the nude.”


Bradford swallowed. The arrowhead of his Adam’s apple dipped.


“Ma’am, this doesn’t have to be difficult,” Finn said, losing patience. “This isn’t a negotiation.”


“Oh, it’s not difficult at all,” she said. “You’d be surprised how good it feels. The world is constrictive enough.”


“I’ve tried it,” Bradford said, seeming to startle himself. “Sleeping naked, I mean.”


“See?” Charlotte grinned. She clapped involuntarily. Heat rose to her face. “And?”


“It was okay. Little chilly.”


“Enough,” Finn snapped. He’d been undermined.


“Oh, give it another shot, Bradford,” Charlotte said. “You too, Finn. Your wives or girlfriends or boyfriends, whatever, will notice the shift, trust me. Especially after a long day in those uniforms. Don’t they itch?”


“Wives,” Finn said, flustered. “Listen, if we get another complaint to this address? We won’t be so cordial.”


Charlotte looked Finn in the eye and smiled. He flinched, and she saw his guard drop. It was all very silly. The roles we convinced ourselves to play.


“That won’t be necessary,” Charlotte said. “Message is loud and clear. All I can say is that I hope you gentlemen find comfort in your own skin before it’s too late.”


“And I hope this is the last we see of each other,” Finn said. One of their radios crackled. “Good afternoon.”


Finn turned and made his way from the threshold. Bradford lingered a moment, and, ever so slightly, smiled, as if to say, Thank you. Then he ducked out of sight.


Charlotte closed the door, went to her nightstand, leaned against the bed. She picked up the framed photo of Donald, touched his face through the glass. He was squinting in the direct sunlight, ballcap pulled low, one of their last journeys to the desert.


“Miss you, love,” she said. “We would’ve had fun. I’d’ve loosened you up.” At least she would have tried. But had he never passed, would she have arrived here, at herself? It was impossible to know.


She went to the window and looked down on the street, the slow-moving traffic, the bustle and flow of a Manhattan afternoon. The spinster was not at her window, but Charlotte could see the tunneling squeeze, the decades of accumulation. She decided she would get dressed and go over there, try the third-floor buzzers until she found the right one. Maybe all the woman needed was someone to talk to, or, more likely, someone to listen.


For now, she closed the curtains against the glare, dropped her robe, studied her figure in the mirror. It was something you had to work for. Not the body, the love for it. That alone was worth the heartbreak.


“Oh, I hope you’re watching,” she said.


Then she danced to the song in her head, the one Donald loved most. A slow bolero, a languid ache, an invitation to the rest of your life.