J.D Debris’ “[New thorns, 2020]” and Ezana Demissie’s “the US is on the brink of war and i’ve just taken a chem test”

[new thorns, 2020]
JD Debris
Pull the thorns from this borderline
‘til barbed wire runs smooth against a palm,
‘til coils of concertina
fold back inside the accordion
with a sigh. Write the crime
story of this borderline & paper-plane
it into the Pacific. Let the air out of the tires
of its patrol trucks—let it fill the lungs
of protest singers. Dull the blade
of this borderline ‘til it’s only emerald
sea glass beneath the gulf. Hold
it ‘til it dies, like a waltz,
in your arms. Robin Hood of Culiacán,
instead of bootprints on this borderline, leave a song.

Originally published in Salamander (Issue 52).

* Writing Prompt: Make a list of things that don’t have thorns, but might. Then, what happens when you pluck them?

the US is on the brink of war and i’ve just taken a chem test
Ezana Demissie

sometimes i crave the quiet space
under my eyelids,
where all i can see is a soft red,
where all i can taste is my tongue.
i feel its soft weight
press into the roof of my mouth and
hear aimless thoughts
grow to a high-pitch, a fizzing cloud
growing at the brim of my forehead,
tickling the rim of my skull.
in this space, bombs and guns
purr like kittens,
roll over as i stroke their soft bellies.
the bone under my shirt sleeve jutting into
my swimming, sleepy eyes,
muscles stiff,
my stomach rolling like a washing machine,
lungs pumping slow
and heart beating slower.
all of it could stop
and i wouldn’t know.
i wouldn’t notice

* Writing Prompt: Describe a moment when you felt disconnected from the world around you, whether the experience was positive or negative.


JD Debris writes poems, songs, and prose. He was a Goldwater Fellow at New York University, where he completed his MFA. His work has been chosen for the Donald Justice Prize, Ploughshares’ Emerging Writers Prize, and he has twice been named to Narrative’s 30 Below 30 list. His releases include The Scorpion’s Question Mark (Autumn House Press, 2023), the chapbook Sparring (Salem State University Press, 2018) and the music albums Black Market Organs (Simple Truth Records, 2017) and JD Debris Murder Club (forthcoming).

Ezana Demissie (he/they) is a 17-year-old black, trans poet based in Massachusetts. His work has appeared in Monologue Project and Thoughtprints, two student publications at his high school. He was featured as a panelist in the Massachusetts Poetry Festival and the Emily Dickinson Museum’s Tell it Slant! Poetry festival. In their free time, Ezana is learning to play the Merlin.