Image Credit: Palomidez at Flickr

Hey there, friends. Submissions open tomorrow, and we’re so thrilled to get started reading for Issue 39. We ran the numbers, and we put eyes on over 4,000 submissions last year. Think about that for a second. This little magazine, with its team of editors who work for sweet potato chips, cat pictures, and the occasional giddy feeling, held your work in their hands and their hearts exactly 4,432 times. How incredible is that, right?!

This year, we hope to see even more work from all corners of the globe, so that we can continue to publish work that astonishes us. A few weeks ago, we wrote on Twitter about the importance of fighting for art and taking up space. Our feelings on this haven’t changed. We want to continue to fight for your right to take up space, and the time has come for us to fight for ourselves as well.

Starting this year, Passages North is implementing year-round Rocket Fuel submissions. Let us be clear right off the bat: submissions are still free. Submissions will always be free, except on the occasions we hit our 500-submission-per-month cap on Submittable (at which point we hope you’ll wait until submissions are free again the following month). Our hope is that, given the opportunity, our readers will see the magazine as a worthwhile endeavor that deserves their financial support. We understand and respect that our community comes from diverse backgrounds, and that supporting the journal financially may not be possible for everyone. Rocket Fuel submissions won’t receive priority reading; they won’t receive special consideration, or have different guidelines. The only difference between Rocket Fuel submissions and regular submissions is your desire to support the work we do with your money as well as your time and your creativity.

We hope you view this change the same way we do: as a way for us to work toward our ultimate goal of self-sustainability. In the meantime, we’re here for you.

Thank you so much for your continued support, and for giving us 4,432 opportunities to earn your trust last year. We can’t wait to earn it all over again.

Until then: do good. Be well.

Jacqueline Boucher
Managing Editor

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Golden Hour, NYC

Photo Credit: Michael Comeau, Flickr

Urgent and Timely Responses urges writers to engage with the news that directly affects their lives as artists and as human beings. If you would like to submit a response, please see our call for submissions here.

The Emperor Has No Balls

After INDECLINE’s multicity
American art installation featuring a naked
Donald Trump
August 2016

written in collaboration with
allen ginsberg &
karl marx

the little old man destroyed
by madness : his face is a grimace
of sorrow & gloom
hysterical naked
madhouse : trumping tower
trumping fame
trumping power
yacketa yakhe’s
[screaming, vomiting] facts :
          cock & endless balls
          anecdotes : promises
          budgets : borders
          as they break & fall
          as they break & fall.

          Union Square, NY—Bulbous, veiny
birthday boy slaps mystified, giggly, selfie-
snapping crowds at impromptu strip sess

Cold of heart, cold of mind dragging
the negro streets
a lost
battalion of sardonic
who threw down a wall
who threw down terrorism
(eating) fire & jump(ing) in limousines
out of Gingrich’s moon.

the little old man
talked continuously
seventy hours from park to pad to bar to
Bellevue to museum to Brooklyn Bridge
rushing, rushing
looking for his anger fix.

:            :            :            :            :            :

they seem to feel no pain at all
jumping down stoops off fire escapes
the waves swirling
white supreme as whip cream
no muslims no mexicans
shut down these huddled masses
yearning to break free
          Visions! omens! hallucinations!
          harlequin speech of
          cock & endless balls!
          gone down the American river
          shuddering! mouth-wracked &
          battered bleak of brain all drained of
          brilliance in the drear light of ashcan
          rantings and kind king light of mind.

Lindsey Thäden is the most recent winner of New York City’s 2016 Poetweet contest, with her twitter poem on China Town. Thaden is a poet who happens to be a Doctorate of Nursing Practice Candidate at South Dakota State University; she views her medical career as literary research. Thaden is fluent in Spanish, and speaks some Japanese and French as well. Thaden’s poetry has been featured in the New York Post, the TCU Daily Skiff, and eleven40seven. Her Japanese inspired artwork has been featured in the Harvard Summer Review.

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Photo by Chris Gray

This week, Associate Fiction Editor Ethan Brightbill asked our editors what they struggle with most in their writing.

Hayley Fitz
Associate Editor, Fiction
Cleveland, Ohio

I have a hard time settling down long enough to describe things, especially settings. My writing is usually pretty voice-y, and I zoom through scenes with dialogue and action, so it’s tough for me to find a natural way to be like, oh, also, they’re in a morgue right now, that is probably a notable thing.

Ashley Adams
Associate Editor, Nonfiction
Watervliet, Michigan

Titles are hard.

Brenna Womer
Associate Editor, Fiction

I always get stuck in the revision process. Pacing or organization will eat at me for days, and I’ll end up using backspace just to avoid the problem. I’ve learned to save multiple copies to protect my writing from me.

Jacob Hall
Associate Editor, Fiction
Decatur, Illinois

I have a difficult time with plot. I love writing characters and putting thoughts in their heads. I enjoy setting a scene and exploring the peculiarities of a place, but, damn it, I suppose something has to happen, too.

Jason Teal
Associate Editor, Fiction
Sandusky, Ohio

There’s the actual writing, but I’d say the second sentence is where my fears fall. The first sentence can live on in perpetuity in my document, and I can feign contentment with that bit. But that second sentence really seals it, this is a draft, time to go, get anything out of this, and then I crumble, talk myself down from the high of writing, must build my spirits back up.

So, that second sentence. It can break me. I don’t know. It’s a roller coaster.

Jacqueline Boucher
Managing Editor
Juneau, Alaska

You know that really beautiful trait in young writers where they create raw, magic sentences by virtue of gutting themselves and bleeding all over the page? That amazing phase we spend years and years honing into something that’s a little more practiced, a little more nuanced, and a little less emotionally devastating to go through? Yeah, I never progressed past that phase, and as a result, writing is a really taxing process…which means it goes very slow.

Sarah Wenman David
Associate Editor, Fiction
Minocqua, Wisconsin

Convincing myself that I really do need to write at least a little every day. Maintaining a balance between over-editing a piece and polishing it enough so that I can handle it seeing the light of day. Also, I struggle with dialogue in shorter pieces–trying to figure out what I really need and what’s taking up space in a short story.

Colton Lindsey
Associate Editor, Fiction and Poetry
Heber Springs, Arkansas

I believe my greatest struggle when it comes to my writing would be beating the resistance that tells me it’s okay to not write that day. Every writer feels this urge at one point or another, but for me resistance is as real and present as a good friend would be. The act of setting aside the time, saying “No” to resistance, and putting pen to paper makes all the difference.

Alexander Clark
Associate Editor, Nonfiction
Mount Pleasant, Michigan

Letting the first draft be a rough draft and avoiding the urge to make it perfect. I’ve learned that you can’t grow as a writer and try new things if you spend too much time editing before you’ve had a chance to put it all down on a page.

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Photo Credit: pEtE at Flickr

Phew. Contest season was a long one this year, folks. We just want to begin by thanking each and every one of you who contributed to the 2016 Waasnode Fiction Prize. Passages received over 200 wildly varied entrants, which made our decision a tough one. In the end, we sent four stories on to our judge, Tiphanie Yanique, and we’re thrilled to announce our winners!

Winner: Jonathan Escoffery’s “In Flux.”
About “In Flux,” Tiphanie Yanique writes:

This is a hyper real story written in episodic bursts which read quickly and compellingly. In Flux is a coming of age story about an American boy of Jamaican parentage who is in active pursuit of his ethnic identity. Along the way, he also discovers the depths and shallows of community created by individuals via friendship and romantic love. Meanwhile, his natal community is being torn apart–his parents are separating, and he and his brother are made to live with different parents. The story is often heartbreaking and even sometimes funny. We cheer for the main character, even when we are dismayed by his choices and the choices others make around him. Ultimately, the young man’s curiosity and ability to reinvent himself are his strongest traits.

Runner Up: Robert James Russel’s “She Lit a Fire”
About “She Lit a Fire,” Tiphanie Yanique writes:

This story is written smartly from the first person perspective of a father who is witnessing his transgendered child’s transition from male to female. Though the father is a dead beat and the child an angsty young adult, the reader feels for both of them as they navigate the American wilderness on an impromptu camping trip. A darkness at the heart of the trip keeps the reader feeling on edge. Ultimately, it is the dad who undergoes at least a couple of transitions over the course of the story.

Honorable Mentions Appearing in Issue 38
Ari Laurel’s “Kissy Suzuki Puts on Her Face”
Mary LaChappelle’s “Saab Story”

Thanks again to everyone who took part in this year’s Waasnode prize, and for your continued patience while we made a series of tough decisions. Keep an eye out for announcements about future contests, and for regular submissions opening September 1st!

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Photo by John McCormick

With only a couple weeks of August left, Associate Fiction Editor Ethan Brightbill asked our editors what they will miss most about U.P. summers. From elder gods to ice cream, there’s much to long for.

Jason Teal
Associate Editor, Fiction
Sandusky, Ohio

Thing I’ll miss most (it’s my last year) is sticking even one toe in this righteous lake bed. Shorts as high fashion. Walkabouts without shoes. Most of all I will miss the smell of lilacs in bloom (they peak in June? July? MEMORIES ARE FLEETING). I’m getting weepy remembering the bounty of this summer. Thanks a lot.

Jacqueline Boucher
Managing Editor
Juneau, Alaska

This summer, I came into my thigh confidence enough to wear shorts for the first time in a decade. I’ll miss that. Also the satisfaction of drinking the air.

Hayley Fitz
Associate Editor, Fiction
Cleveland, Ohio

I miss nothing because I am a soulless harpy that thrives in the dead of winter. Also, crickets.

Jennifer A. Howard
Escanaba, Michigan

I’ll miss Frosty Treats. All winter, driving up Third and seeing the ice cream place shuttered: it just feels like life is on hold. Oh, and daylight.

Elisha Sheffer
Associate Editor, Fiction
Rhinelander, Wisconsin

I’ll miss how quiet Marquette is without all the students. No more napping in the trees on campus without an audience!

James Dyer
Associate Editor, Nonfiction
Somewhere, Cambodia

Of all the things I miss about Marquette summers, the thing I’ll miss most is when the tentacles of Cthulhu reach out of the lake and destroy reality.

Sarah Wenman David
Associate Editor, Fiction
Minocqua, Wisconsin

I’ll miss swimming (or “swimming”) in Lake Superior.

Colton Lindsey
Associate Editor, Fiction and Poetry
Heber Springs, Arkansas

There are summers in Marquette? I have only just arrived and my winter coat is already in need of maintenance.

Sara Ryan
Associate Editor, Poetry
Miami, Florida

I won’t miss much other than the water thawing to a bearable temperature and the beach. I’m done with all the bugs. Done, I tell you!!!

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Image Credit: Toshiyuki IAMI at Flickr

Urgent and Timely Responses urges writers to engage with the news that directly affects their lives as artists and as human beings. If you would like to submit a response, please see our call for submissions here.

Pokedex Entry #131: Lapras

“People have driven Lapras almost to the point of extinction. In the evenings, this Pokémon is said to sing plaintively as it seeks what few others of its kind still remain.”

You find yourself in a room where Drake and Snoop
and Kendrick play at a dance party you stumbled into
and again you hear nigga over white speakers and
uncomfortable only begins to explain how you feel
and you’re the only black person in the room
like you’ve been so often and people are trying to get you
to dance but you just want to leave shit you just want
to leave but they want you to dance they want you
to enjoy this on the anniversary of Michael Brown’s
death on a day where you feel so few and wish to sing
the song of your own authentic and rugged and sweet
and this circle of people feels like circus ring
or maybe more like cage or maybe more like
a ring of thieves and you say to yourself it’s just
music I mean it’s just a birthday party I mean it’s just
people having fun just the smell of booze and sweat
in a dark room where people are just people
and are just celebrating but that doesn’t stop you
from feeling out of place and scared and profoundly
upset to say the least and you know your people keep
dying while your music plays at parties where before
you walked in there were no black people
so you leave and go listen to your own rap music
from your own iTunes with your own headphones
on your own laptop to hear the songs
of us trying to remain to survive despite
to sing something to find each other again

Marlin M. Jenkins was born and raised in Detroit and is a poetry student in University of Michigan’s MFA program. His writings have been given homes by The Collagist, The Journal, Word Riot, and The Offing, among others. You can find him online at and @Marlin_Poet.

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Photo Credit: Jeff Robinson, Flickr

Urgent and Timely Responses urges writers to engage with the news that directly affects their lives as artists and as human beings. If you would like to submit a response, please see our call for submissions here.

No Justice, No Peace: In Memory of Alton Sterling

“They say by 21 I was supposed to die, so I’m out here celebrating my post-demise.”
–Jay Z, 2011

In Baton Rouge, you knew the right to life
Was nothing more than a cool idea, like Santa Claus
Or fate. You didn’t think about it, thought
About love instead. You loved country, rap, blues,
Giving free CDs to the lucky ones.
You loved a dash of cayenne, hit of salt,
Watching like a scientist as steam clouded the kitchen.
You loved your children—five of them—
Who will see you

In their dark faces in the mirror,
The cold blood on your shirt that day drifting
Through the veins in their dark arms. They’ll hear,
What’d I do wrong? and “Just leave him here”
Over and over on VH1 or the radio or on rainy nights
When they lie wide-eyed, trying to sleep,

While the world continues to spin. Where I live,
We make trips to the grocery store, commute
To work, whisper Did I remember to turn the iron off?
We chat at the post office—Have you heard Beyonce’s new album?
While you’re pinned down, twitching on the pavement
Like Trayvon, Eric, Freddie, Tamir. You know, my father
Was a black man, though you wouldn’t know it looking at me.
Men in uniform smile as I walk by, wink even,
Loving my curls, my “exotic caramel skin.”

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Photo Credit: Vladimir at Flickr

Urgent and Timely Responses urges writers to engage with the news that directly affects their lives as artists and as human beings. If you would like to submit a response, please see our call for submissions here.

how to be black in amerikkka

1.  don’t;
melanin will always be a weapon
used against you.

2. if you must be black
be light skint
with pretty eyes
and hair that acts white
enough beauty to take

3. if you must be black
learn to code switch
say yessir no maam
(though that’s just polite)
talk white
be respectful
announce yourself

4. do not give them a reason
they will take it and run
claim that you were running

5. see no. 1

Ashley Elizabeth is a 20-something poet from Baltimore (and graduate of Hollins University) who draws inspiration from her city, her people, her space, and her body. Ashley is an advocate of women’s rights, accessibility of the arts, and education. She has been featured in Rose Water‘s online journal.

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Photo Credit: Matthias Ripp

Urgent and Timely Responses urges artists to engage with the news that directly affects their lives as artists and as human beings. If you would like to submit a response, please see our call for submissions here.

21st Century Soundscape

we’ve been reminded [again]
there’s a time and place
for everything.

That our fate will arrive in the frame
of another          Post:          gun barrel
Pre:            opened door.

Do you imagine                    in the end,
we’ll finally hear
the difference between
a gunshot and truck backfire?

How, after the reveal behind door number __,
we’ll have decided whether it best to run

or do what I once heard
we should:          First:         cover our hands
in the blood of another
Then:         smear.

Was it for you as it was for me—
listening to a survivor describe on the radio
the scene inside the church
inside the school
inside the club, on the sidewalk
as a “chaos collection.”

Images that’ll stay with her
not as memories          but premonitions
for what she believes she’ll “no doubt see again.”

On the way to work, I remember last night’s dream:
A.   globes
B.   lines
C.   points     drifting in silence—

a            scene I described to my partner, a scholar of the Cosmos,
as          a landscape I thought I heard after waking:
an         orchestral reprise of everything innocent
falling   at once.

James A.H. White holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Florida Atlantic University, where he was the Lawrence A. Sanders poet fellow. A winner of the 2014 AWP Intro Journals Project award in Poetry, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Colorado Review, Cha, Gertrude, Tahoma Literary Review, and DIAGRAM, among others. He is the author of hiku [pull], a chapbook (Porkbelly Press, 2016). A first-generation Japanese-American, James currently resides in South Florida with his partner, John, and their two dogs.

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Photo Credit to Ed Suominen at Flickr

Urgent and Timely Responses urges writers to engage with the news that directly affects their lives as artists and as human beings. If you would like to submit a response, please see our call for submissions here.

Self-Portrait as Collected Bones [Rejoice, Rejoice]

after Paris auction of indigenous human remains & objects.

For there’s a polished-bright medal
of honor hanging in my chest like another
man’s stilled heart: for my body
lies here waiting for you in fields
broken by hands the same shapes as
howitzer blasts: for I am
learning to stand up again
with only cleaned bones: singing rejoice
rejoice are the quieted ribcages of our beloved
nation: for the massacre is only
a series of colorless photographs, archives
of snow & nothing else: mother, tell me
what you remember of another man’s hand
reaching into your throat
like a night-frozen glove: how warm
was it? Was it him with the words
of a god beaded over his lips like sweat? For
the wounded is someone touched
& entered with the weapon we shape
into fingerprints: no matter how wrecked
or soft: we return to the field
wrapped in this one name
of god: rejoice rejoice, say the hand-
bones that want the heft of memory:
for I am a decade: a century
of openmouthed thirst
even as the snow keeps falling—
& falling through:

Michael Wasson’s poems appear in American Poets, Narrative, Denver Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, and Bettering American Poetry. He is nimíipuu from the Nez Perce Reservation in Idaho and lives abroad.

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