Prime Number Magazine, Issue 137, Jul – Sep 2018


Selected by Terri Kirby Erickson

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Jesse Albatrosov

Followed by Bio and Q&A


Strawberry Fields


You were still unbathed when they came,

dark, smooth, ruby-wine kisses of a mother

who’d never rocked a girl—

cardinal marks blistering on pale skin

not yet washed of the inside of me.

We rubbed it in, the waxy chapstick for new arms,

legs, matted into your almond hair, combed

over with muck, otherworldly goo.

You were three days new when I questioned it—

the out of place blush, crimson streaks and battle scars,

vibrant, throaty rose dimples below your chin and rib.

As they puckered and began to grow,

each mark rising delicately, wrinkled skin pleated

with burgundy brush strokes, a certain mark;

it was beautiful but foreboding.

What if it grows and grows until it swallows her?

I’d press it down each time to stunt it,

a reminder that I grew you so far, an inviting press.

You can stay if you want, but don’t get carried away.

Everything you loved was strawberry—

flavors, hearty colors dipped in sugary reds, pinks,

inviting ambiance, ruddy, erubescent plains,

they ripened with age and began to wither,

recede back into the sweet space within you

where their vines had been rooted, three years,

but this fruitage is spent, our harvest exhausted.

I can still see freckles of them, moments of your time

tilling fields of mawkish blooms, dahlia ripples

on your ocean of newness.


Jesse Albatrosov is an emerging poet living and writing in the Central Florida area with her husband and five children. She was the runner up in the 2017 Writer's Atelier contest for short fiction and her work is published or forthcoming in THAT Literary Review, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Mothers Always Write, Streetlight Magazine and others. You can find her online at


This piece was inspired by my daughter—always up to her elbows in a batch of fresh strawberries—and her once prominent but soon fading strawberry hemangioma birth marks.


What book or movie made you cry, or at least weepy?

We had a “family movie night” with the Studio Ghibli film Grave of the Fireflies a few years ago. Our then ten and eight year old sons watched me sob throughout, eyes peeled in horror. Though it was a beautiful and important movie, I won’t be surprised when they find their own poetic voices and write me angst filled poetry about the experience years from now. 

What is your favorite band?

I always tell my twelve-year-old that adults don’t have favorite bands, but here we are! I would have to say Blind Pilot, with Copeland being a close second—maybe even a tie. Adults don’t have favorite bands because they can’t choose just one.

What country have you not visited that is on your bucket list?

My bucket list country is definitely England. As a huge Doctor Who nerd, I have a very unrealistic idea that I will somehow be swept away in a TARDIS as a companion, if I ever make it to the UK.

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Emalohi L. Iruobe

Followed by Bio and Q&A       




Whereas, I, Emalohi Louisa Iruobe, wish to enter into an agreement for self-fulfillment with my self-portrait.

Wherein, I find myself at the frontier of melancholy, beyond which there must be a release. I stand, mouth agape, palms upturned, eyes brimming, set for the other side. 

It is winter here in Bear, but I seem to have been carrying layers of freezing beneath my blue skin disguised by melanin. I have been cold since May. 

Now, I must decide about this accumulation of grief; time moves and you, who remain in place, have layers upon layers of snow make a country out of your belly. 

Therefore, I want a me that makes weapons out of snow, that hurls it up and watches it fall in crystal drops. 

A me that would like to say, "I made moinmoin with my mother today, and as usual, she didn't let me salt the beans," but she is gone and I can’t. 

So how do I transform the wreckage of a life still breathing?

A rapid-fire acknowledgment of the beauty that emerges from sorrow;

I will find the love that once disguised itself as hubris—a mechanism for defending hearts, 

I will, with ardent fervor, transform loss into possibility—the irony of dying in order to live.

I agree with you, myself, I will no longer behave as a wound. 


Emalohi L. Iruobe is a slasher—attorney/writer/poet/artist/unmothered. She is interested in themes of grief, love, pain and womanhood as an African woman living in Africa and America. She is consistently cross-examining her humanity through the intersectionality of gender, race, and origin, hoping to find rest. 

Inspiration for this particular poem (and the body of work it’s a part of) came after the death of my mother in May 2017. I continue to grapple with the grief, denial and pain that her transition continues to bring me. Being bereaved and living in a space that considers bereavement or grieving as an inconvenience has made it extremely difficult to properly deal with my grief. I wrote an Agreement in December 2017 as I sat in a cold room in Bear, Delaware, isolated and confronted with the harsh reality that life continued, and I had frozen myself with despair. was trying to make a pact with myself to live with but not be consumed by the grief. 


What book or movie made you cry, or at least weepy?

Homegoing by Yaa Gyas.

What is your favorite band?

I really like Vancouver Sleep Clinic.

What country have you not visited that is on your bucket list?

I'd like to go to Japan. Mostly for the food and the technology.

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Lisa Rhoades

Followed by Bio and Q&A




for Liz


Even if all that’s left

is a harvest no one bothers to gather—

wild apples softening in the brambled

ditch of a two lane country road,

bitter little fists pocked by

codling moths, dented

and browning in the August sun,

and the work seems thankless

and lonely: too much time

rinsing and peeling, separating

rot from flesh, and even if it feels

impossible to find sweetness here,

still, some people can, and do.


Lisa Rhoades lives in Staten Island, New York, where she writes, parents two amazing kids, and works part time as a pediatric nurse. In addition to leading poetry workshops in several venues, she has published widely, including poems at Literary Mama, Sweet, Barrow Street, and New Ohio Review. She was a finalist for the 2017 Beullah Rose Poetry Prize at Smartish Pace. She is the author of a chapbook, Into Grace, published by Riverstone Press, and a full-length collection, Strange Gravity, published by Bright Hill Press. 


I started “Windfall” in late summer after a dear friend died suddenly. I was in Maine, a landscape I recently have come to love, when I started to find a way forward through that loss.


What book or movie made you cry, or at least weepy?

I’m one of those people who cries at commercials, so it might be a more interesting question to ask what book or movie DIDN’T make me cry.  I’ll get back to you when I think of one…

What is your favorite band?

My favorite band? REM, Peter Gabriel, Annie Lennox if you want the historical answer.  Alt-J and Glass Animals if we’re talking about what I’m listening to now to try and keep up with my teenaged daughter….

What country have you not visited that is on your bucket list?

Russia and the Ukraine are the landscape of my paternal grandmother’s family.  I would like to travel there. And I’ve yet to make it to Spain…

Rita Quillen

Followed by Bio and Q&A

Rita Quillen.jpg

Garden Rite


Each spring on his postage stamp of earth the same rituals:

At the first warm breeze out came the two-by-fours

nailed together into a rectangle

where he tenderly pushed lettuce seeds into soft mud

draped the airy muslin covering over it all

like a communion table waiting for the church bell

stepped back and smiled.

Consecrate this crop.


The days had to lengthen

before the rest could join in.

The old rusty push-plow of his ancestors

a hoe he had kept from the barn of his boyhood—

lifelong tie to the gardens of the dead.

It is right to give thanks and praise.


He used the creek and tree line in April

to sight the straight line that would become

by the hot buzz of August

a choir of corn releasing soft hallelujahs.

Beans would be the kneeling women at the altar,

onions the sour deacons of the doxology,

squash women in yellow bonnets and calico of his youth,


sweet fat cabbage babies wafting and waving,

in the blinding sun’s light.

We are what feeds us.


He plunged little crosses in the ground

where tomatoes, smeared with stigmata

of juicy joy, would shine over the garden.

Not a thing wrong with the bread and the wine

but a country boy had to have beans.

No communion wafer unless it was made with ground corn.

Let us keep the feast, lift up our hearts.


And my father, the high priest of the scriptural lines

of this bright dusty kingdom,

giving absolution with green garden hose in days of drought

would know precisely when to slowly lift the cloth

from that communion table, pinch tender shoots

to lay on his tongue, just the tiniest bite,


Take and eat.

This refuge, this is all—


Our salad days.


Rita Quillen’s new full-length poetry collection, The Mad Farmer’s Wife, was published in 2016 by Texas Review Press, a Texas A & M affiliation, and was a finalist for the prestigious Weatherford Award in Appalachian Literature from Berea College. Quillen’s novel Hiding Ezra, released by Little Creek Books, was a finalist for the 2005 Dana Award, and a chapter of the novel is included in Talking Appalachian, a scholarly study of Appalachian dialect published by the University of Kentucky Press in 2014. One of six semi-finalists for the 2012-14 Poet Laureate of Virginia, she received a Pushcart nomination in 2012 and 2015, and a Best of the Net nomination in 2012.


My father passed away suddenly in 2012, when we were all in the midst of caring for his older sister, who was in hospice care with pancreatic cancer. She was a childless widow and had sort of adopted me, and I her. She died almost exactly eight weeks later. I have been processing the enormous nightmare of the last half of 2012 ever since, and it is the current series of poems about my dad, a group called “The Gospel of Junior,” that seems to have finally opened up the closed room inside me and let the sunshine back in. “Garden Rite” is my favorite in the whole group, and I’m thrilled to see it in Prime Number Magazine.


What book or movie made you cry, or at least weepy?

There are so many! One from the mountains that just killed me was The Dollmaker—Jane Fonda’s telling of Harriette Arnow’s  tragic tale of the “refugees” created by WWII, who had to move off to the cities of the north to make a living.

What is your favorite band?

Again, unfair question—you would need several days. I love Americana and mountain music, so most wouldn’t be familiar with bands I love like The Black Lillies, Old Crow Medicine Show, and If Birds Could Fly.

What country have you not visited that is on your bucket list?

ARE YOU TRYING TO BE DIFFICULT?  I haven’t had the resources to travel much, but I guess I have a tie between two very different countries: Iceland and New Zealand—only because some of the most incredible photographs I’ve ever, ever seen were taken in those two countries, and I love to take pictures!