Nixes Mate Review

issue 28/29 · Summer/Fall 2023

We’re tight into hurricane season here at Nixes Mate Headquarters. No better time than to sit with our Summer/Fall 2023 issue and read your way through family dilemmas, ekphrastics, and the spirits of color and place. We have 18 writers newly joining the Nixes Mate family. In the future, we hope to read more of their work. We are happy to announce that Hannah Larrabee, who guest edited our climate change issue back in 2021, has joined our editorial staff. In addition to editorial duties, Hannah is our Explorer.

You can purchase individual copies, or SUBSCRIBE annually and receive $5 off. If you’d like to help us publish more great poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, consider becoming a patron. Enjoy!

Table of Contents

How to not be scared · Natalie Jill
Think of all the creatures evolution never created. The universe took this long to make you; it can’t unmake you now.

Notice parsley on the counter, yellowing like autumn.

Catch the moment streetlights flick on, beginning their midnight guard.

Watch how inky sunsets get from forest fire particulate. Interference makes beauty.

Glance up at the moon: there are footsteps there too. Gaze at the milky way, stemming your arms like flowers towards all that light.

Your heart doesn’t need your help to beat.

Whatever happens, make it a poem.

Elegy for Snaefellsjökull Glacier · Sara Letourneau

Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland, September 2021

You will likely die before I die.
I was not thinking of this when I was standing in
the black-gravel pull-off along Route 574,
pressing the smartphone camera’s button every few seconds
in case the previous photo was blurry.
In that moment, you were making an appearance,
cooperating with the cloudless late-summer sky
and shifting your volcano’s lenticular scarf to the right
so I could see you. White as an Arctic fox in winter,
your body of ice was dense and seemingly stationary.
Later, upon checking my photos, I discovered that
your beautiful crevasses and river-waves –
the details I’d seen with the naked eye
and hoped to capture by zooming in –
were almost invisible. Instead,
the black necks of lava rock protruding from your summit
bade me not to look away.
Those rocks are ill omens, I’ve since been told.
They were first sighted nine years ago
because you are melting.

There is no end I can conceive for myself
that can equal the agony of yours:
dissolving from the fluid, frozen state
you reveled in for 700,000 years,
down to the sickly four square miles that’s left,
growing thinner and thinner until
you’re too frail to flow,
while watching your sisters in Iceland and beyond
disintegrate in the same way.
All the while, you’re sitting with the creeping knowledge
that the world will one day be an enormous jökulhlaup –
those glacial dam bursts you know so well –
swallowing shorelines,
flooding coastal houses and businesses,
displacing and drowning their residents,
and depriving us of the many gifts
you and your siblings share with us,
like irrigation and fertile soil for our crops,
freshwater for our thirst,
and cold air to balance our climate.

I wish I could hold you out of comfort,
tell you that the future might not be so bad.
But what would make your passing worse:
The lie to ease your pain?
Or the tender, well-intended gesture?
The warmth I create – not with my heart,
but with my hands, my car, my electricity –
is only bringing your eviction date closer.
I am thirty-seven years old,
and if the estimates hold true,
you will likely die before I die, and now I know
that the rivulets and waterfalls I spotted
while driving along your peninsula’s coast
are not meltwater,
but the tear-streams of a grandmother,
crying her last.

The Moon is My NonBinary Mirror · Meghan Sterling
A small unfurling, like hair from a woman’s
legs. A man’s legs. The thick of the calves,
the rope of the thighs. My woman-man legs
wrapped around spring, its tendrils coming
through the forest floor with a whisper like
the moon. The moon was always my lover
in the spring. Was never. I thought she was so she.
I wanted her to be a him. I wanted the him of her,
coarseness shaved away, leaving that shadow with
its delicate pocks. The tender her in him, that wide white bone.
Two of us inside the one. A forest of moons, where beneath
the canopy, there is light. See how things grow: a fern
like a baby reaching out of the vast nest of its mother.
The thin fern cresting, its body made alive with hair like
nerves. A woman who survived cancer once told a friend,
“I will never shave my body again,” like she was new,
curls in every corner, vibrant, thick with health. Why
would I want to be rid of it? My birthright, my sex.
Why should the moon have to choose? The forest knows.
The bud comes to us in a coating of fur.
Is April, After All, the Cruelest Month? · Laura Gamache
Trowels in stiff-gloved hands, my neighbors
bend over raised beds, transplant
geraniums, circle their azaleas
with blood meal and chicken manure.

I bend over the page or laptop, open
another book, try out lines, hoping a poem
will take root. If I transplant too early
the fragile germ will fizzle out.

Too much enthusiasm will wither it.
I want it, like my elderly rhododendron,
to un-origami fever-bright blooms from
tight buds, can’t bear to sit in the same room.

Doom is woven into beginnings: pots
crumble, Spanish bluebells take over
the yard. I fear the eagerness of my voice.
Scrape back to bare soil, trowel rusted,

pen leaking ink. April teases senses
dulled by winter’s dusty darkened spaces
with its fragrant extravagance, naked
call – is it, am I – cruel after all?

Lavender Honey · R. A. Allen

I was in Paris
On the plane over,
I decided to gather material
for a Paris guidebook.
Something anti-Gopnikian.
Something to confirm the rudeness
of Parisians who pretend not to speak
English when Americans ask
where to buy a jar of miel de lavande.
Diligently – but unsuccessfully –
I searched for rude Frenchpersons.
My guidebook was deliquescing
into a pamphlet. Eventually,
I realized my frog-gigging gambits
were flawed. Opening with “Bonjour”
(while flashing a list of Francophrases)
actually averts Yank-aversion
A modicum of respect
is like nectar for bees.
On my final day, I was royally insulted
by the maître d’ at Les Deux Musées.
He was un connard that any American
could hate & appreciate. I had to love
him. Not worth a guidebook, but
at least I came home with this poem.

This Land · Alexis Ivy
My Honda broke down on the I-80
smoke a hundred cigarettes waiting
for the bus to take me out of Wyoming.
Being white, no policeman bothered me.

Hitchhiked through Utah headed for Denver,
a dozen desert hours spent with that trucker.
We spoke of Standing Rock and the bourgeoisie.
In this story, I got home safely.

See a man in bushes by a northern freeway
his way to shelter, healthcare, three meals a day.
In this wishful America no one gets deported,
and at-risk humans are all supported.

The pain of folks hurting is my fighting
for their rights and their dignity,
and the soul truth – my privilege lets me
choose which America is meant for me.

The Fog · Allya Yourish
My students, thirteen years old and small, black tudong tucked
around their faces, knocking on my bedroom windows, saying, Miss,
Miss, you must get up! The fog is coming! And I am mid-afternoon
nap, blurry with sleep. And the fog is coming, faster still
due to the jungle-rusted trucks the men are driving at a steady ooze
forward, into the heart of the neighborhood, the men in space suits carrying hoses
issuing forth blasts of blank white. Laura and I hide
the food, close the glass door, slip on our plastic shoes that slap the ground
with every step. We lock our gate and then run, the fog follows
disappearing our house, our car, our neighbors’
homes stand empty, are swallowed by opaque air.
And the fog keeps appearing
at every corner, a wall erasing our surroundings, herding us
further from our home, rendering the familiar neighborhood ghostly,
strange. The fog comes closer. It smells sharp,
cloying. We run past the field with the feral puppies we visit daily– their yips
are silent today– we sprint through the empty
playground. And then, at last, an alley.
Air finally transparent and shimmering in the warm light,
at its end: our favorite roadside stand, teh tarik and roti canai
while we wait. My students are already there, explain
the fog is to kill the bugs, the bugs that suck blood and carry diseases.
There has been disease here, and so something had to be done
about it, which is the fog.
It is simple, in this way.
The fog disperses finely into the air,
gaseous poison turning invisible in the sticky yellow
of late afternoon, bugs falling on linoleum, dead in its wake.
Good Pentecostals Don’t Pierce Their Ears · Ammanda Moore
In the church, the body is God’s temple; it shouldn’t be marked or pierced or decorated beyond its natural beauty.

But finally, at twenty-six years old, two little diamonds sparkled against my skin.

My mom entered the restaurant all smiles, her long hair wound up into a bun like a little castle. It’d been months since I’d seen her.

A gasp.

“What’ve you done to your ears?” She shrieked, clutching her chest.

And then she was gone — locked away to grieve in the bathroom.

I touched my ear and grinned.

What She Said · Subhaga Crystal Bacon

When she asked me if I was in love
with that girl – nineteen to my twenty-one –
when she coaxed the truth from me one Sunday
afternoon, my father in the basement watching football,
roast in the oven – when in that wounded voice
she said your daddy and I are worried

about you. And then when I said yes,
and what relief to speak the truth –
never having the freedom to lie, to hide
anything about myself from her prying eyes –
she said I’m glad you feel good about this
now that you’ve ruined our lives.

She said it would be better if you were hooked
on drugs. She said, you’re killing your father.
She said, whoever you told this, you tell them
that it was a mistake, and you find some man to date.

She put her foot down. But this, she could not forbid
although she tried. When my brother said he didn’t want
that – meaning me – around his children, she said
he was devout; I can’t remember to what.
And that was the end of being her child for a very long while.

Later, when she needed me to care for her in her age,
she said: I’m prouder of you than all my children.

And what did she say to her other two?

Family in a Kit – San Antonio, Texas 2008 · Daphne Santana-Strassman
They are all dead. I count slowly to six. I keep count in names, not numbers as I notice my fingers keeping a beat. Had I been able to see the coffins interred, neatly stacked, I could have counted by numbers instead. My maternal family – and here I can’t come up with the right word – “live” in this gravesite underneath grass and dirt.

A fleeting thought that all I need is an incantation. Mix legitimate longing, aligned with two planets, on the fifth day of a leap year during a sleepy crescent moon to bring your family back to life. With the right spell, my family in a kit could materialize. It would have to be more elaborate than “just add water” or “assembly required.” But in this fantasy, I embrace my Brujeria.

I replay faint scripts of cemetery visit rituals, and my adult feet weigh heavy and guilty. I am standing on top of my family. I don’t resist the memories, the brain racket is familiar. My eyes are open but I can see the past: places, furniture, meals, and even hear a song from my childhood. The right side of my head pulses, a migraine approaches, maybe.

I sit down on the red granite bench my sister had installed a year ago. It looks nice but it’s cold. Then a faint mist of water carried by the wind wakes me up enough to breathe deeply. I hear the sprinklers start their rhythmic cadence and watch long arches of water trying to resuscitate the fading Bermuda grass.
The birds have done quite a number on the sacred heart of Jesus no longer protected by the blue and white gingham Butter Crust bread bag Buelita tied violently with rubber bands around his neck. An unelegant solution, but it kept Jesus’ cabezita protected from the urracas.

Cleaning is what comes next, but I don’t visit like the eldest sibling does, with a bucket, a brush, and pruning shears to tame the anemic rose bushes flanking the grave that regardless of care, remain reddish, not red, thorny, and unapproachable. My ready-to-buy bouquet might have replaced wilted flowers, but the ones she brought still serve faithfully and perk out somewhat fresh. I stick my carnations into the mix of real and plastic flowers, inside the Folgers coffee can, wrapped in embossed gold foil. The makeshift vase is a chimera born of financial necessity, and seeing beauty and potential in the plainest of objects. Plus, thieves never bothered with a wrapped can.

Fixing my flowers, I’m distracted by street noise that wasn’t here when I was a child. Traffic and sirens remind me that things change.

As a little girl, I came here with my grandparents on Sundays and holidays. It was quiet then at San Fernando Cemetery and much greener, like a park. I’d built up a thirst running and zigzagging through the small flat stone plates with people’s names on them and drank from the sprinklers. Birds during the day and fireflies at dusk fluttered around and every once in a while, we saw butterflies. When the humid summers scorched us, we swatted mosquitoes, and at night counted our raised bumps to see who had the most bites.

The sky is clear. Anxious, my middle-aged brain reminds me I need to make a call or cross something off my neat list. I wrap my shawl tighter to keep the brief Texas winter air off my shoulders and look at the gravestone one more time. Hiking up my skirt, I try to kneel as close as I can, as if the sacred heart of Jesus marble can hear me. I want to speak something to make me believe in god again. I want to talk to them, all of them, but I can’t. I want my mom. Mami. Half of my story laid to rest with them inside the ground.

On the channels of their carved names, I trace the letters with my index finger thinking that it might feel like writing in the sand. But the grooves are coarse and narrow, and my finger too big. The edges almost cut me and I let go. I am no longer kneeling, but sitting holding Jesus, one arm around his dirty neck, a drunken loose girl trying to tell an incomprehensible story after a party. I am half kneeling and half sitting hugging Jesus and tracing six names.

Oralia Torres Rocamontes… Juan Vaquera Rocamontes… Homero Juan Rocamontes… Gema Oralia Rocamontes… Maria De La Luz Rocamontes… Sergio Rolando Rocamontes.

I strip my name free of the American husbands and whisper…

Daphne Gema Santana Rocamontes.

Snow at Louveciennes by Alfred Sisley, 1878 · Donna Pucciani

Museee d’Orsay, Paris

Awash in white, winter speaks
the silent language of deep snow,
entombing everything in sight –

the carpeted country path, the roofs
of modest dwellings on either side,
the boughs of trees leaning into each other,
laden with the disembodied ghosts
of last night’s blizzard.

Between stone walls shouldering the weight
of pale greenish drifts, walks a thin, solitary figure,
black on white, aiming for what appears to be
a dead end, her dark cloak an ebony sigh.

The church tower floats overhead
in the vaguely gray sky, its muted bells
looming like the phantom invitations
of angels.

we’d kissed for fleshly return · Jill Pearlman

Laid up, ill 

oh prickly one, with your autumn fruit 

and blistered lips burned in the desert sun,

who scaled hills like a goat before taking off your boots  

in a room where language runs to millimeters, grams, syringes

squaring off against fluorescent light so bright it frightens.

We’d kissed for fleshly return, not faux transcendence.

The nurse questioned me about your skin: where is it war-torn, ragged –  

I scan lips, cheeks fragrant with crushed seeds and leaves,

fingertips, penis, tubes making loops

come circle full to your feet, unshod, tender, cracked.

Is there anything more, nurse.

I ask your openhearted soles and gorgeous metatarsals to hold earth close.

the cord · Mark Belair
a long / dangling / loop of cord / frayed and stretched to near-breaking / has served generations of sextons and priests / wishing to open the high / stained glass windows / whose warrior angels / bearing swords and breastplates / overlook

this gothic church filled with statues of / saints / loyal apostles / roman soldiers / kings and emperors / early church fathers / the virgin mary at the annunciation / christ cradling his sacred heart / christ nailed to a splintered cross / and of the damned amid flames / in poses of grief and shame / near a saint who lies in peace / beside a jeweled box of his relics

yet it’s the worn / but still working cord / that calls me to worship

To read the rest of Issue 28/29, consider purchasing a copy, or, better yet, subscribe so you won’t miss out on future issues of Nixes Mate Review.

Fonts used:
Arvo for text; Merriweather Sans for titles; Montserrat for button and navigation text; Cormorant for issue title.

All works copyrighted by their authors; all rights reserved.

Cover image used with permission.

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