Survival Through Art
Wicked Banshee Press #2 Fall 2014

In This Edition: Anna Meister//Dorothy Alexander//Katrina Chaves//
Blythe Baird//E. Amato// Ginna FunkWallace//Ayanna Gallant//
Jamila Reddy//Victoria Kalos//Lauren Wheeler//Liv Mammone//
DeAnn Emett//Tiffany Santos//Morgan Coleman//Jen Stein//
Deborah DEEP Mouton//Elliott batTzedek//Ellie White//
Jennifer Bradpiece//Amber Flame//Karen Ladson//Muggs Fogarty//
Princess McDowell//Molly Kat//Trish Hopkinson//
JenniferLeigh-Oprihory//Taylor Steele//Lori DeSanti//
Cassie Ciopryna//Shloka Shankar//Sacha Jacobson
In This Issue:
Statements on Survival from our editors
An Interview with writer, activist and second Transgendered person to run for office in Oklahoma, Paula Sophia Schonauer by Jennifer E. Hudgens

From Our Editors:

Won’t you come celebrate with me/that every day/something has tried to kill me/and has failed.- Lucille Clifton

When myself and Jennifer discussed the theme of ‘Survival’ for this issue, we were sharing a room with several other amazing women in Austin, Texas during the 2014 Women of the World Poetry Slam. This would turn out to be one of the most affirming events of my life — I traveled across country on train for this event. By myself.

As a person living with several invisible disabilities, poetry and advocacy fell into each others laps. My epilepsy gave me the time to write poems, my poetry gave me an outlet for the frustration of a neurological disease that pounced on me at the beginning of my 20’s. Every day I am presented with a new opportunity to fall down and give up — or to do something, to change this world, the way we think about illness and survival. We need to stop surviving and start living.

I am proud of every poet in this issue of Wicked Banshee Press. For their catharsis, for showing up today when sometimes that is too much. For giving a piece of themselves in order for someone else to heal. For being unapologetic, being the wicked writers we ask them to be. For being here.
-SaraEve Fermin, Editor In Chief

On Surviving

She asks me why I do not own a gun
after I tell her I am afraid of the dark,
I pause, teetering between truth and sugar,
she wants sugar, so I mumble and
walk away, I do not own a gun
because I am afraid my mouth
will fall madly in love with the taste
of metal, the slick of the trigger
always stuck in my throat, I am

a miracle of dead eyes and broken
sunsets, you are welcome, welcome
to drown, to break, to fall apart inside
me, I will hold you, we will meld into

fish, bodies dancing to the sound
of sirens, swimming to the crack
and crumble of waves against shore,
we climb out of my body grasping at stars,
becoming the soft hum of night, our
memories are sweet and savory, we fall in
love with falling, we linger until the sun
comes up-we have made it, we have stayed-
we have chosen to breathe steady
into morning.

-Jennifer Hudgens

One Day

I’ve been laying low
listening to the the lightening.
It kisses the clouds
curious with it’s static
scar marks.

When this clears,
in the morning sun,
we will still wallow and wail
when the bell tower is lowered.

Hope, hear my heart song
beating out the rhythm of love.
It skips notes and lyrics in
it’s sadness. I will sing on
with palms to the sun, I will pray
for a calm rain
away from these feelings.

Wondering, what will become
of this sticky twisted monkey’s
nest of unrest.

The hatchling lay sleeping.
Hands made of human
mold the mud of this madness.

Every twist a tourniquet of
Fear Culture’s little sister
smeared in sidewalk chalk.
MY DICK IS SO BIG”, written
in bruise and cat-call walks.

Evolution Still Pending.
I am a cranium civil war dance.
I am a puppet woman
my strings are infinite.

One day, I will slit open
the throat of some Goddess
now forgotten. I’ll drink her
blood in desperate gulps.
A vengeful gate-keeper
turned murderer. Eradicating
the too many voices in my rooms.

One day, I will stop
washing skin no longer
sandpaper muscle.
I’ll stop shaving, stop trimming
the gardens. I’ll stop painting
my leaves Autumn. I’ll stop
making a mockery of lungs.
I’ll stop burning myself
in the shower. I’ll stop
being paranoid. I’ll stop
this pretty panic attack
thunder cloud.

One day, I’ll write that poem
the one I’m most afraid of. I’ll stop
this isolation. I’ll make that call
I owe to a good friend.
I’ll get out of the nest,
find something to create.
I’ll stop lecturing
my present and be
present with myself.

One day, I will start that
walking plan bee hive
art project kick knack jewelry
making, story painting, song
swaying, enlightened planetary
civilization living.

One day, I will stop
washing my memories
away like shame.

One day, I will be
like the robin on my garden
fence. Just there eyeing me,
just being a robin.
Me still. In the mud.
With dirt under my nails
from yesterday.

One day, I will lie down
until my toes turn
into dandelions. Until my head
sprouts two sunflowers. Make
my breasts into birds breath,
my uterus into a bees nest.

Let them pull down my bones.
I can finally take root in
something. Weave my
wishes into rumors.
Leave my flesh
to the earthworms
I will make sense again.

-Michelle Nimmo

Interview with Paula Sophia Schonauer by Editor Jennifer Hudgens

I have had the privilege of knowing Paula Sophia Schonauer for several years through the Oklahoma poetry community. She is an incredible human being, writer, and LGBTQ advocate. She is the second transgendered person to run for office in Oklahoma. If you ever get the chance to read her work, do so. If you can sit down and have a conversation with her, please take the opportunity. She is kind beyond words. She very graciously agreed to answer some questions for me for our current issue. Many thanks Paula for being a special part of Wicked Banshee Press.
~Jennifer E. Hudgens

JEH: How long have you been writing poetry and fiction?
PSS: I’ve been writing stories since 5th grade. I had to use my spelling words in a story, and I wrote a piece called “Stewey, the Last Boy on Earth” about a sudden mutation of earthly animals, giving them intelligence like humans. Soon, all the species divided into groups: reptiles, mammals, birds, and fish. All of them were hostile toward humans, though.
My story won a prize and was published in a weekly reader called Ranger Rick. I was hooked, vowing to write a novel someday. I started writing poetry in 7th grade. Pretty sappy stuff as I recall.

JEH: Do you believe that poetry (writing and community involvement) can save lives? Has writing helped you through struggles in your own life? Do you think you would have survived without writing as an outlet?
PSS: Writing has indeed saved my life, the catharsis of it allowed me to process thoughts and emotions during tough times. Later, through the use of metaphor, I began understanding my fears and anxieties a lot better, and I started wrestling with them through writing. My novel, Shadowboxer, is a product of this process.

JEH: As a transgender woman in Oklahoma who has recently retired from the Oklahoma Police Department and is now running for office, how does it feel to be making history in a predominantly red state?
PSS: As of this writing I came 22 votes short of making history, but I feel good about my performance in the polls. House District 88 showed that a transwoman can have a voice in civic affairs, erasing any concerns about my viability as a candidate and as a person.

JEH: What’s in store after the election? Do you have any upcoming projects you want to brag about? Any new adventures on the horizon?
PSS: I will be working on the edits of my new short story collection, Dirty Laundry, which is due for release later this year. I’m also finishing a film project I’ve been working on for 12 years. When we release the film, I’m planning on doing a live spoken word performance reflecting the themes of the film. I also have a novel to finish, a paranormal thriller I’m calling Graveyards.

JEH: What advice would you give to anyone struggling with gender, identity, sexuality, or body issues?
PSS: I think it’s important to seek your true self, to get down to the essence of who you are, how you’re comfortable, and how you’re talented. As you discover these things, I think it’s useful to have a method of processing — whether through therapy, spiritual guidance, meditation, or reflection – that allows you to understand and celebrate who you are. Don’t get caught in the trap of popular media and all its misleading images.

JEH: What are three things you cannot live without?
PSS: I can’t live without community, of having a place to be where people accept me as I am.
I would have a difficult time living without art and music, and I’d definitely lose interest in life without intellectual engagement, exploration of ideas, and meaningful dialogue.
These things, you know, beyond food, clothing, and shelter.

JEH: If you had the opportunity to go back ten years to give yourself advice, what would you say?
PSS: I don’t play that game. I try to stay in the present. I wouldn’t believe myself anyway.

JEH: What’s your favorite band or genre of music? What do you listen to that inspires creativity?
PSS: I like to listen to Jazz when I’m writing, sometimes Rhythm and Blues. Complete silence distracts me, creating an echo chamber of self-limiting criticism.
I like all kinds of music, and it’s difficult to name a particular band at any given time. Lately, I’m enjoying Pink Floyd, re-exploring the album Animals, a treatment on George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

JEH: Top 5 authors/books every person should read before they die?
PSS: I do not have the hubris to tell people what they should read. I will only tell them to read as much as possible, even things that don’t particularly strike their fancies so they can stretch their perspectives. That being said, I love:
Tim O’Brien The Things They Carried
Denis Johnson Jesus’ Son
Louise Erdrich Love Medicine
Jennifer Egan A Visit from the Goon Squad
Colum McCann Let the Great World Spin

When I grow up, I want to write like they do.

JEH: If you could pinpoint one person who changed your life in the biggest way, who was it? Who had the biggest impact on who you are today?
PSS: I’d be hard pressed to name a single person who changed my life, but I guess I’ve looked to possibility role models, people like Kate Bornstein who’ve explored gender in creative ways. I’ve also had plenty of negative role models, people who I won’t mention here, but who’ve been examples of how not to be. In fact, the negative people have had the biggest impact, providing plenty of examples of the cost of self-limiting destructive behaviors and rut-making habits. I’ve always pushed myself to do new things, even things that frightened me, so I can stretch my abilities.

JEH: What would be your best advice to any aspiring writer?
PSS: First of all, read. Read a lot of different stuff.
Second, and most importantly, write. Write. Write. Try not to judge yourself too much. Just let it flow so you can find your own voice. It’s okay to imitate other writers in the early stages as you refine your own style. And this only happens when you write. A lot.

JEH: What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t writing?
PSS: I like to ride my motorcycle. I like to drink coffee and have conversations until dawn, and I like to play drums.

JEH: What is your guiltiest (or nerdiest) pleasure?
PSS: Sometimes I listen to Abba. They were so popular when I was a kid.

JEH: If you could have any super power what would it be and why?
PSS: I think this is a carryover from my time as a police officer, but I’d like to be able to settle conflicts by saying, “Peace, be still.”

JEH: Where can our readers find out more about you, your writing’s, and your LGBTQ advocacy?
PSS: My novel is still available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and other distributors online. The print version is available at Full Circle Book Store in Oklahoma City and other retailers who can order it.
Shadowboxer by Paula Sophia – Etopia Press 2011
I’m also a frequent contributor to the Red Dirt Report in Oklahoma City. I’ve also contributed to The Gayly, Our Big Gayborhood, The Molotov Cocktail, The Red Fez, Bicycle Review, and many others.


Mayo Clinic

Home of the smokestacks & brick teeth,
oh, Rochester, Minnesota, & our long drive up
during my fourteenth winter, real quiet, everything
gray: the sky, the newspaper, my face,
our hotel with the Renaissance-themed restaurant
connected to the famous research hospital
by underground tunnels, oh, the tests they schedule
for me, more this time, more daytime television
& math worksheets, more shakes that taste like sour chalk
& make my shit white as eggs, more nightmares
about the smell of the school bus, the girls who laugh
& say ghost or worse, say dead girl walking,
more itchy backless gowns & machines they put me in,
oh, the pictures of my insides, oh, the mystery of my insides,
the things stuck to my chest, my ribs & belly
poked by cold hands, & the white-walled rooms with crayons
where i draw about my pain, oh, how they whisper
& nod behind clipboards, oh, how they scratch their heads,
how i feel like a goldfish, experiment, damn monkey at the zoo, oh,
their questions, more questions still, more prescriptions
to fill for blue & green & pink pills, & my mother asleep
for a moment near the window with the view of nothing,
no garage or cherry tree, her body folded in a stiff chair
while my father stands by the door, crossed arms & a coffee,
& he sighs, & that sigh of his, oh, it lets me know
i am home.

-Anna Meister


LOT’S OTHER WIFE

I saw Mama’s generation making do or doing without patching the patches smiling through the grit asking if anyone needed anything always standing in a taller shadow

As I grew I prayed Please don’t let me be a martyr even if I’m called strange or a bitch or if I become an outcast

Help me not to do my duty Help me not to apologize Help me not to look back

not to be a pillar of salt

COMING OF AGE STORY

At thirty I winced and vowed never
to acknowledge birthdays as limitation

At forty I perfected my swishy walk
to disguise the years roiling up in my wake.

At fifty I began to take long hikes
backpacking across whole continents

At sixty I joined a yoga group
and contorted myself backward twenty years

At seventy, I moved in ever longer strides
shoulders thrust back, breasts thrust forward

Now, at eighty, I embrace my age,
I grab it by the shoulders, kiss it on the mouth
thrusting my tongue in, bending all those years
backwards until we both fall down
laughing at all the nonsense we’ve been through

-Dorothy Alexander

After The Shipwreck

Well-versed in the language of lovers / letters/
ludicrous alliteration,
I stare at the page / page stares back.
“No written word will offer hope
to a black-footed albatross,”
I sigh.

Still- there are two kinds of people in this world:
those who hold it together/ those who tear it apart.
So I write anyway
and pray.

Recall these
melting glaciers/ rising tides/ endangered birds/ endangered words/
forgotten grandmothers-

it isn’t enough:

Back in days of Walter Moinahan, working on the farm, smoking her first cigarette,
Maynard’s Methodist Church gave her a key- “my very own key, to play whenever I want!”-
to practice the organ — despite the cold.
Despite miles, and fingers numb.
Then-
this custodian.

She remembers winter gloves- restricting.
She remembers what that nice lady said about the “man who mops the floors”-
These things, they stick-
eighty-something years later.
Who needs to play an organ anyway?

Better to marry, do the right thing.
Must be Woman, while still a girl.
This is the cross she bears,
so she unburdens her granddaughter with books-

they are what I love,
stacked by my bed,
strewn across the floor:

they are freedom.

***

With her weathered copy of “Little Women,” I fall upon the ground; clutch the grass
as if it is the breast of my lover;
feel the itch of each blade pulling me in/
soil and warmth of sun
drawing eternal life to and from.

Later stumbling
into shade of woods,
expecting unornamented quiet,
I find fragile wildflowers

waiting.
Lady slippers shouting delicate testaments
to zinfandel possibility.
No matter how slowly seeds spread,
they are
undaunted. Joyful.

I see the face of my mother/ hear my mother’s sister
reading Mary Oliver out loud,
“Have you ever been so happy?”
***

somewhere in America, a little boy asks
for ice cream / attention/ plasma screens;

somewhere else,
Elizabeth tosses
blue fish back into sea / falls in love with Scorton Creek.

-Katrina Chaves

MOTHER OF COLUMBINE

On Monday, January 29th, 1979, sixteen-year-old Brenda Ann Spencer opened fire on a local elementary school, becoming America’s very first school shooter- killing two and injuring eight. When asked why she did it, Brenda told reporters, “I don’t like Monday’s. This livens up the day.”

It was the year I asked for a radio,
and my father bought me a rifle.

He’s something of a stay-at-home scientist.
His latest hypothesis is serial killers are not born.
We are raised.

Experiment #1: What happens when you force
your daughter to grow up splitting your mattress,

pretending we do not share blood while we share a bed.
Keep condoms in the cookie jar.

When I stopped eating, he stopped buying food.

When I pierced my ears with pencils in the sixth grade and
abbreviated my wrists in the seventh,
he let me.

This year, I told three teachers I was suicidal.
The school recommended psychiatric help,
but then, then… experiment #2.
He wouldn’t let me.

Psychiatric means doctors, Brenda.
A doctor would butcher the control group.

When he got me the gun for Christmas, I knew.
I asked “Do you want me to kill myself?”
but he didn’t answer, so I made a riot
of his silence.

My hands: fumbling, having a hard time deciding
which way I deserved to point the gun.

Posted like a bulletin by my bedroom window- every bullet,
every shot, every kid severed from their parent,
hearts like hangnails,

I said I wanted music for Christmas, and the gunshots
just have this rhythm to them.

I’m calling the bluff of every parent
at Cleveland Elementary who taught
their kid that safety is a guarantee.
No one was there for me.

So I took to extremities, now
It’s kind of like I’m a celebrity.

The camera crew got here long before the ambulance did.
Consider how easy making history is.

What am I supposed to do when the fireman responding to
my 911 call is the one who started the fire?

The New York Times may have renamed me
“Mother of Columbine,” but certainly,
my father is proud of me.

He has to be, he looks just like me.
It’s like me and him are the lower and uppercases of a person.

But maybe he only loved watching the gruesome seeds of
himself he planted in me, blooming.

No villain ever came out of the
womb with a blueprint for destruction.
Someone gave it to them.

It was the year I asked for a radio.

-Blythe Baird

Battered Women

Battered woman just searching for some shelter

The old woman uses shards of glass bottles rusty pen knives and the tabs from soda cans to scrape away the details of a girl’s femininity assuring leaves will never unfurl scared girls tirelessly told tales of uncleanliness and unsightliness, acquiescing to the need to fit in

No one’s ever seen one, trailing on the ground, but that’s surely what will happen to you if we don’t perform this ritual, it will just keep growing and growing and you will be walking around dangling an elephant’s trunk between your legs and then no man will want you.

After the cutting is done, the sewing starts, leaving the smallest possible opening assuring a man paramount experience of pleasure while leaving girls prone permanently to pain and infection

Since feeling is first
what is it to have it taken
truncated before it’s even begun to be felt

After childbirth many get re-sewn to renew the pleasure of their mate, not just where they’re torn, but all the way almost closed so a man will have to break her to get in – see she does this for him — no one forces this: it is done by the same old women who use shards of glass bottles rusty pen knives and tabs from soda cans who were once young girls themselves who are also missing large parts of their femininity

Battered women just searching for sense of selves

Shiny scalpels sterile syringes entice sixteen-year old girls reading seventeen magazine dreaming of becoming free to change size and shape inject lips truncate noses uplift breasts stomachs nipped and tucked away

because noses keep growing and growing and growing until you have an elephant’s trunk on your face and men only want girls like barbie with impossible measurements

The power of the word is that the myth of belonging coaxes us to rearrange faces; that the need to belong seems constantly to lead to self-mutilation

The cut as sharp as if she held the knife herself

Because girls in Africa generally don’t run away;
because willing submission seems to be taught and learned every day;
because girls read magazines and dream of having different faces;
because as we condescendingly liberate some from ancient tribal traditions,
we are enforcing our own with even more sly incisions,
scorning our own beings
treating true selves with derision
until the face in the mirror
is no face you’ve ever lived in
and isn’t that a high price to pay just to fit in

Battered woman just searching for some shelter
Battered women just searching for sense of selves
The cut as sharp as if she held the knife herself

How to be Married to a Rapist

Keep your eyes closed at all times.

Lock the windows and the doors draw the curtains so
that nothing gets in or out.

Tell yourself rape is just a technical term for nonconsensual
sex with a minor.

Keep two wolves penned in the backyard. One wolf is
the wolf you know; the other is named Justice.

When he touches you, don’t think of her legs up in the
backseat of her Daddy’s Beamer.

Open the windows and the doors, part the curtains to
let the wind blow through the house.

When you look at him, never wonder
if he wishes your thighs were still in high school.

Open the windows and the doors, part the curtains, let
the hurricane do your sweeping.

As you receive his seed never question that the image
in his mind is all yours.

Open the pen; let out the wolves.

Hope the seahorse growing in your belly will not form
in the shape of daughter.

Take off the doors, tear down the curtains, smash the
windows with your fists, and stand aside so that Justice
can blow through the house.

Keep hoping the day of reckoning won’t come; even
when it appears as a wolf at your threshold, teeth-bared,
eyes boring into you.

-E. Amato

The Support Group For Things I’ve Forgotten

Every Spider I’ve Ever Killed sits
in a web near a mop in the corner,
does not flinch as they start to file in.

The Color of My Grandmother’s Eyes,
The First Time I Shoplifted,
Why I Ever Believed Monsters Were Real.

My First Favorite Color brings coffee, luke-
warm. My Fourth Kiss brings yesterday’s
donuts. They pull chairs too old to remember

how to creak into a circle and recount the passing
of time. The Second Time I Said a Curse Word
picks her teeth and doesn’t speak but will

occasionally grunt. My Tenth Kiss flirts with My Second
Grade Teacher while The Day I Learned to Tie
My Own Shoes has a smoke. Here in the real world,

as I was getting dressed yesterday,
pulling on my panties I wondered,
was this the pair I was raped in?

I remembered, but the point is,
I nearly forgot. Which means one day,
I will. There is a chair in that room

with his name on it, and – look
the letters are fading
fast.

I Had A Dream In Which I Carved The Skin From My Rapist’s Body With A Seashell While He Was Still Alive And Tied To A Post:

after Jan Beatty

When I woke up the shell was still in my hand, the blood
charging up my arm like a savior plague, a shadowing creep,
waltzing round my neck and into my ear; it went straight

for my tongue.

I went wild with the copper of it, wanted more, danced out
of the house and hunted down my last boss, the one
who told me he fucked his friend after she said NO, sliced

him up like deli meat. Found the man who asked
seventeen-year-old-waitress ME to sit
on his mashed potatoes for gravy, carved him seventeen
new smiles. The corncob boys who screamed FAGGOT

at me from their pickup truck while I pumped gas are now a pile
of orphan limbs. The man on the train in Italy who said
but I just want to cuddle won’t be cuddling anyone
anymore. The boy in Spain who grabbed my ass on the street,

what can anyone grab with no hands? This seashell
is thirsty and I like how it dances, I went back to the post
in the dream and opened the man who had told me he owned me
from gullet
to groin,
step one two, shuffle ball change, chop chop chop.

-Ginna FunkWallace

Pregnant Pause

My friend Mike uses the phrase “pregnant pause”
quite often when referring to cadences of our spoken word
Ain’t it some shit that sentences can do it I can’t.
Be filled with something to give another thing emphasis or meaning.

Someone just knocked up this poem.

What To Expect When You’re Expecting doesn’t come in an adoption edition
because there is no way you can expect what’s coming…or not coming.

I am pregnant with uncertainty.

The books we do have tell me to use the waiting time like gestation.
To call my self expecting…
pregnant.
I couldn’t help but think of
just anything assuming this role
for the sake of adequate preparation.
Our baby’s room is pregnant with a crib and rocking chair.
Our dinner table is pregnant with the empty space between conversation.
My family and friends are pregnant with questions of “Where’s the baby?”
as if it got lost on the way to our lives.

The toaster is pregnant with toast.
The refrigerator is pregnant with refrigerated things.
The blender is pregnant with blended things.
You would think women would be called “Babiers”
because that’s what should be inside me.

I am pregnant with so much paperwork
I have paper cuts in my uterus.

My belly,
round for all the wrong reasons,
is getting more attention these days because
I have been pregnant for 4 years with the idea of a person.

A pregnant pause, Mike says, is an empty space
indicating control in pace.

I hope he’s right.

-Ayanna Gallant

all of my shames

in the smallest place in my house, i have buried
all of my shames. i have taken some from every branch
of my family tree, tucked them in quietly,
watched them sleep. i have silenced the ticking
of my grandfather’s heart, taken too soon.
i have folded up and put away all of the fathers
gone. i have laid down my fears like stones.

in went the first time.
in went the lie that broke me like a hurricane.
then the truth.

in went his hand against her neck.
the church. the language.
the fire. the blood.

this: my song

in the beginning there was
music. and the body.
a call and response.
a memory. a magic.
a sacred script
a body language

now
that is made myth
the call sounds different

i have no response

when men’s eyes
ride the wave
of my body

hang from every move
like an anchor

i become
mermaid
Venus Noire
Sarah, primate
a clown
in a false king’s court

they will have you believe
that a club is no place
to belong to yourself

but here i am
anyway
trying to
manufacture magic out
of men who see me
as salt
shaker, ass
clap twerk
team and pole
dance

in this place
built on the
business
of lonely

my desire has a hand
over its mouth

here
to move is to be made
mannequin:
pretty
silent
on display

so i have learned
to dance like floodwater

make sure that no one wants me

learned to cast no shadows
lest men think
i belong to them

learned:
do not be too brick house
they will want to sleep inside you

learned:
dance with fists closed
ready to defend your body’s honor

learned:
dance with mouth open
ready to correct them
when they call you out your name

learned:
dance with arms wide
ready to swing

dance
like you are shaking off
something unholy
because you are

dance
like preparing for war

dance
like you deserve it

dance so that one day
they will learn.

they will learn.

they will learn:
my body
is mine
here
and everywhere else

they will learn:
my shimmy and sway
is a celebration
that belongs
to me

they will learn:
loud music does not mean
i will be quiet

they will learn
so i won’t have to teach
my daughters
to dance when no one
is watching.

-Jamila Reddy

Odyssey

Revving Odyssey zooms,
bold Andretti maneuver
between blue painted lines.

Chic driver pirouettes from seat
to public street, exclusive ground-
kept her motor running, lock horn blasting.

My handicapped sticker metronome lagged
I unleashed seatbelt, goaded door with feet,
pivoting from mats to macadam.

Clutched my baker’s dozen mail pile, tight,
damp slip from lobbyist to politician’s grip.
My monthly check fails any rate of exchange.

My slice reduced from sliver to crumb.
Disabled shrink on demand, condemned mice
behind walls, barely heard, rarely seen.

My labored steps ramp negative internal dialogue
sanctioning my low status entrance.
Odyssey driver boogies back to special place.

High heels snap, a two-timing ship-shape dancer.
She’s in a hurry. Snubs behind-the-timers, transfixed narcissist
ignores mourning dove nest in oak’s wrinkled curve;

jets by the letter carrier on the bench, on break,
jut his face into sunlight, smiles a broad smile,
sighs a contented sigh.

The illegal entitled diva, a cheered victorious priority,
missed the epic happy ending noted
by mystical cripple with nothing but time.

-Victoria Kalos

Shaved

Ghosts make themselves at home in my hair,
rest their weightless bodies in the hammocks
of my dreadlocks, and whisper hard-spun tales
a hair’s breadth from the eager funnel of my ear.

When their storytelling gets as loud as it is today,
I consider handing out eviction notices:
the buzz of electric clippers rumbling
along the fault line at the nape of my neck,
the sound of their disembodied bodies bisected
by the simple snip of shears.

-Lauren Wheeler

[Untitled]

I’m twenty three and I just made chicken soup for the first time.

and there are so many moments with that sort of joy
but they’re not beautiful.

They’re years late. They come on Wednesday afternoons with shaking hands.

I peel a fruit without slicing a thumb
even if it takes an hour.

I walk the block without stopping for breath.

There isn’t a lot of romance to “wow,

I can get this pair of sneakers on.” Maybe none at all.

Maybe Sylvia did what she did
because she’d cried over burning dinner.

I’ve been there, too. I’m just not as good with the stove.

-Liv Mammone

Border Towns

She is not a man; yet she moves into my hand
like she’s trying to soak up some of my woman.
I tell her she is beautiful.
She shrugs this off, wraps hair around Adam’s
apple, curls herself small into my arms.

She is jack in the box, hiding
springs to blend in, not wanting
to startle me. I cannot know her by
winding her up.

So I adjust my gestures, touch her unique,
maneuver around foreign territory. There is
a place between countries where she tells me
we are just alike, where we are all merely skeleton
wrapped in soft tissue, where identities intertwine,
this place on her body is the physical
manifestation of Spanglish.

Her body is a border town between sand
and where tide drops off into abyss.
Her endocrine system is a seal’s refusal
to transition into fish, evolution’s way
of keeping her mammal, partially submerged,
unable to live on land or in water.
She is mermaid, wanting nothing more than
to spread fins into X-chromosome legs.

I would go the rest of my life carrying
foreign between mine, if it meant she could
feel like herself, even for a day. I would trade
my legs for fins, my lungs for gills,
if we could build a bordertown between male and female.
Where apples have no reason to be hidden,
where every body is beautiful,
in any combination of languages.

-DeAnn Emett

My task is to burn

all the excess trash
piled in the old
Export beer warehouse
Father bought, dirty con-

crete generations of dirt,
from old man Shultz. Now
shingles go in the
lurid light, flame shows more

green than blue. I’m drawn
inside, want to crawl
into the blue-black
edges & watch my

siren-song body
crackle / blacken / die.
The flame-trance thickens,
holds me still: Hold still

bitch, says, don’t scream or
else
. Familiar like
family & who-would-care
if shingles are burned

in a small town. Here.
Where my task is to
feed the fire, shut
the dampers & wait.

-Tiffany Santos

Rewind

To the man who told me that since my uncle wasn’t my blood relative
that it wasn’t incest.
I would like you to rewind and tell that to my sixteen-year-old sister’s face,
as she lit my kindergarten classroom on fire with a can of gasoline.

Nine years after the last time I crossed the threshold of being naïve to a mans touch.
Rewind, tell five year old me that she should know enough to not drink funny tasting orange juice,
tell me that at five I should know with already a second grade reading level what the words Play Boy plastered on the TV meant,
with a woman that looks like mom when she’s just gotten out of the shower,

Tell her what this means to a man that is thirty years her senior.
He is still thirty years my senior and there is still a strange bite on my tongue when I swallow orange juice,
I dare you today to tell me that this was not incest.
Rewind, tell my mother,
who when confronting my aunt about the man she kept just far enough in the basement,
he had become a nightmare,
told us we were snakes in the grass,
that we were the lying whores missing salvation.
Rewind, tell it to my fathers face when he decided my aunt was right, we were liars.
Rewind, tell it to my father who refused to break that mans jaw,
or shoot him dead between his eyes.
Rewind and tell my weeping mother that the scar tissue in my vagina,
the tumors and the cysts on my sister’s ovaries have nothing to do with a man that I called family.

Tell me its not incest when man who I was raised with as family is a uses two small bodies he hung the title niece around the neck of,
I understand now why he used pet names instead of our proper calling cards.
Rewind back to when my sister buried ghost stories in my mind so I wouldn’t spend the night in a place she already deemed a cemetery,
I dare you to coax my body back into a bed that my sister made sure I would never lie,
I promise you her lullabies didn’t sound like his hindered breathing.
Rewind, my grandmother allowed him to live in her basement.
To-live-in-her-basement.
He lived in her basement.
Rewind, explain to an ostracized gender queer identified human at 26,
why dresses still feel like the night her aunt told her a borrowed silk night gown and no panties was ok,
there were no clean ones for her.

Explain to her why the brush of a cold breeze still tastes like choking,
roiling blood and an over active imagination that causes shadows to give chase on sidewalks.
I dare you to look the two small bodies with niece hanging around their necks like
claw marks,
that their bodies were not burned down temples,
that by lighting their ghost stories they were yelling no at the top of the only mountain,
they knew how to climb.
You look them in the face,
one of them will look like their mother,
both will have their father’s eyes,
You tell them that it wasn’t a betrayal,
it wasn’t a snake bite,
I dare you to tell them that this wasn’t incest.

How We Make Beds for Our Children

A small child’s hand scrawled sign reads,
“We will not go silent.”
A slogan he created himself in an attempt to tell lawmakers
that youth shelters have a purpose,
children deserve to feel safe,
he would stand tall in all four feet of his unrest and not be silenced.

I don’t know if he understood the power in his words.
I didn’t live near a youth shelter,
to this day my mother doesn’t know I spent
much of three years under a bridge, waiting
for the 5 AM train to tell me it was
time to slip back into the house.

No one knows that I spent the first three
years of high school hiding out in holes.

I found shelter in salt water and rested,
felt safer than being at home,
hope was a joke I whispered between pursed lips,
kept boxes of cereal and soy milk in my backpack
because they didn’t need to be kept cold.

On a body littered with scars,
I can tell you they were not all accidents,
some required careful stitching,
leaving me pieced back together with thin string
so easily pulled back apart at my makeshift seams.
I am the product of a broken system.

Success of someone determined to grow
stronger than trees that bore them,
tired of only knowing a family that stands still,
the result of three attempted suicides and
self-mutilation masked as a nervous habit—
an inability to sit still for fear of being found.
I still play with my imagination,
it’s easier than growing up.
I never understood the term “future.”
future was relative to right now,
right now looked like a death sentence left defining safe differently,
a feeling mixed with remorse and disassociation
where I don’t have to act strange to avoid the hard questions
or hide the tug of a sleeve to cover scars labeled “family life.”

There are pages of this biography that
I wish I could light on fire, a signal of hope
to shine light into the dark spaces,
proving there is always something to look forward
to if you just know what to fight for.
Still we keep knowledge so easily locked into the closest grave.

We grasp hard at things that we know until we can’t share them,
this is the Island of misfit toys where children learn that speaking up gets a backhand.

Nowhere is safe,
silence is easier.
Silence is shelter.

We are the runaways,
tragic cases that wind up knee deep in prison cells,
veins more narcotic than blood-red,
easily swallowed statistics.

I still hold to the truth that I am lucky,
one of the privileged who proved strong enough to dig myself out,
tucked society’s grave in my back pocket and carry on,
because sometimes, you just need one voice that cannot be silenced.

It just takes one person to believe that a bad seed can still grow.

-Morgan Coleman

12

July 11

Intimacy is not when you enter me, though
lights pulse in and on skin and damp summer
spikes the whiskey night with an oh of want.

Intimacy is not when your fingers
press a lucky penny against my neck.
It doesn’t know when the electric bill

is coming due, who left the pit of the peach
on the counter to draw ants, are you
my whiting blade, my knife?

Intimacy is not a thing that flies startled,
flapping frantic wings and casting down
tear gas over police and protesters.

Intimacy is your particular smell of cut grass
newness on my skin when my eyes are closed.
Intimacy is the ability to choose my own ending,

to close my eyes and know that yes, the faders,
yes, the instant this is time, the blue of my dress
as it rides across my thighs wading in the river

-Jen Stein

Controlless

I still struggle
At hiding the trembling of my voice
In conversations with my mother

It’s the one thing I have yet to fully restrain
I’ve learned to let the stress busy itself
Gripping my stomach in Crohn’s disease
midnight bloody stools are warning signs
that there are discussions
that I’m just not ready to have

Why won’t stomachs and colons
Obey orders like women with no other options
But to “fuck
relax
control
spit on that birthday dick
Come and get some”

Saliva bathed climaxes are scapegoats
My mouth: your underground railroads
you came so close to freedom

I gave you my contortions as a roadmap back to salvation
My martyred 2nd chance at virginity was the Lord’s work
My tattered hands pinning shoulders
rode you long enough to get to exodus
Sheets wet with fear
Sticky like an ungiven consent

I slept on the pillows to avoid
The cool of shame
Purposed your breathing the entire night with my eyes
Kept your monsters at bay
Wrangled in my insomniac restraints

The cowgirl
Fingering herself in the black light of the bedroom
Lost control
Your nude bodice
Quivering beneath me in the beveled mirrors
Lost control
Rape insists there must be a victim
But I never lost…

Maybe I asked for it
In the come hither of my “No”
In the confidence of my “Stop”
My sinful seduction
Was nothing less than powerful
Do you know the strength it takes to ignore your unyielding tongue?
To press your drunken lips against mine
10 seconds past comfort
To cooperate
To cooperate
When there are doors and windows
Fists and discs skipping
Legs circulation severed between indexes and palms
Tell me a weakling could walk in with promised lands
And out of motels empty centered in the morning

I let my camera keep images of your
Chiseled cheekbones and poisonous lips
For a month and a half
I held the money for my monthly bills in my account
20 days past due
I have searched for rewind in the replaying of your
Lips stained with my monthly visit
But there are some things you just don’t tell your mother you can’t handle

When the lights go out
And the untouched daughters of God are too weak to run
Who will hold their arms up to heaven?
Who will part their legs like Red Seas?
Who will explain to their mothers
That they just wanted to be held?
Hemoglobin at 8
Arms stretched like
a variant in an experiment
That just wants to be in control
Like tremblings in voice boxes
Like phone calls to be made
like telling my mother
That her little girl…

Her little girl can’t control herself

-Deborah DEEP Mouton

12

At 12 years old it took 12 days to find
her body in the dumpster. 12 times
she’d texted him; he said he’d sell her, cheap,
gears for her BMX bike. The details of what he did
are none of your business. Death is more than the coroner’s report
in the middle of every CSI episode. What I want you to see
is that bike, that girl on that bike, that girl who loved
the speed and the dust and who couldn’t conceive that the boy she went to meet
didn’t care about the bike, not even enough
to hide it well. She loved that bike. Does she know

he didn’t break
it,
didn’t harm it,

that her father cleaned it carefully and hung it on the pegs in her room, adorned
with her gloves and knee pads? No helmet hanging there yet;
the blue shield of strength she never removed from her head,
which they forced me to bury her

without.

What I care about is not her death,
but his. It haunts me, how he died. How her bike, fed through
the chipper truck, became half a million splinters of steel, how I cut
the bamboo tube to be just long enough, how I texted him the offer of
a blow job — Ha! — and then gave him one, tying his wrists, ripping down his pants, blowing those splinters hard into his penis, his balls and how when red flowed
it occurred to me that his penis had worn the blood of her virginity, so how I
cut it off, how I hooked the tube to an air compressor and how the fragments of carbon fiber sank
so easily into his belly, his chest, his neck, his face. How I considered, before he died,
shoving the porcupine of a penis into his own ass, but didn’t because
I couldn’t resolve the logistics of its limpness.

What I care about is how this doesn’t bring her back and how her bike
is gone, too. She loved that bike.

In the first of those long 12 days I painted a picture of her racing, to show the cops,
to show the media, to drag her safely home to me behind each stroke of the brush.
As he stood dying I shoved the picture into his face and let his blood
rush down upon it and I saw what I had made and I pronounced it good, on the evening
and the morning

of the 13th day.

I felt my life with both my hands
1.3

I felt my life with both my hands
though it had been — years
How civilized it was, yet warm —
a glacier — booming — as it cracked.
Silent — I’d thought — listening
stopped. My ear — now — to my
own chest — one thousand
acre clover’s humming —
every bloom a bee.

-Elliott batTzedek

Lunar Eclipse

-Ellie White

The Urge to Make Things Ugly

Slices shards of amber glass through fleshy toes in sparkling sand
Pries the legs off fuzzy green caterpillars
Scrapes a chiffon scarf down the peeling paint of an alley wall
Drives rusty nails into polished rosewood
Loosens salt caps on immaculately set tables
Skids tarry black across a freshly mopped floor
Clamps teeth tightly around tin foil
Knows you know exactly how it feels
Shatters the crystal vase of roses against a vanity mirror
Bites a manicured cuticle until the hangnail bleeds
Smears lipstick the color of clotted blood
Claws silk stockings over long pale thighs
Jams a new stiletto heel against the concrete floor
Spills red wine across white linens
Teeters over to the three legged desk,
perches on an empty corner
never gets invited back.

-Jennifer Bradpiece

Swallow

murderer

after Rachel McKibbens
you asked for my pride
I sent her to you
beribboned child bride

clasped neck in hand
clenched fist in cunt

you asked what I wanted
from my mouth flew a flock
unable to migrate one direction

watched bemused as I drifted
left, then wrong, never right

you asked for my belief
I bound her feet
sent her to you hobbled

called from the beds
of other lovers

you asked if this was enough
I pressed own throat
firmly to blade, then

when I gurgled from slit neck
that this love has murdered me
you dug fingers into wound

asked why the pulse beat

-Amber Flame

Luna

Let’s play house. You be the daddy.
I’ll be the eccentric neighbor.
Your children will snicker behind their hands when they catch a glimpse of me.
They’ll whisper about my cloud of hair.
Every day, I’ll let one of the caterpillars in my ribcage escape, inch into your backyard.
Your wife will not notice the cocoons dangling like paper lanterns from your oak tree.

After your weary anniversary, she will bask in the glow of reruns.
You will stand on the back stairs in the night air.
You will miss the cigarette you used to have just before bed,
miss having something to do with your hands.
You will notice a silken strand caught dancing on your lip,
and pull it away to examine it.

Follow it down the footpath into my garden, to my front door.
Inside, you will find the television, dusty.
The bed, luminescent.

-Karen Ladson

Survival

Don’t know if not-dying is “survival.”
Don’t know anything. Most times,
I am a thin cage and being embodied
is and isn’t.

If not-death is survival
I may live forever.

I’m “so strong,”
blinking my eyes
and tying my shoes
like regular people.

Not making anyone
uncomfortable.

Cleaning the sheets
before guests arrive
to comment
on my trauma.

Today is a hammer coming
down, can’t be looked at. Can’t think
or feel my hands at the ends
of their reach. I am toxic.

I am tired,

all-the-way-down-tired
and I don’t want to be here.

“So strong,” just breathing

after being made into a not-person?

A maimed doe, managing to drag
her broken body back
across the highway
day in and day out
just to show somebody she can?

-Muggs Fogarty

for Karyn

my depression is a tie
it hangs in my closet
around a wire hanger
with the other accessories
I use to choke away my feelings

when I wear them
onstage in front of you
compliments mean
you like the way I hang
knot close to throat
my depression cannot be swallowed

my colorful outfits
peacock feathers to illuminate
the darkness in my chest
help you hear the sorrow I squeeze tight
open mouth and release
it is hard to be this fly

black women in ties
irregular at best
subjective novelty
but it is the most successful way I’ve found
to be heard

-Princess McDowell

Runaway

I am addicted to touch.
I know no healthy way to want you in my bed.

Alcohol fuels my best prose; I don’t want to look at whatever truth that tells in its eyes.

I am a coward.

When you tell me I’m pretty, I feel guilty.
Feel like I am misleading you.
No matter how much space exists between my body
and the lines of temporality,
I still hear your heartbeat in the curve of my midnight pillow.

Every time I commit to something, I
fight the urge to disappear before I
can be dismissed.
Sent away.

This time it’s British Columbia.
I wish I was something big.
Wish I kept eyes open or mouths closed.
Wish my ribcage was a washboard,
wish something was more solid,
wish I were ready for whatever
comes next.

I might be hiding more than I care to relay.
I’m getting bored with my crowded solitude.
I ache for some unnamable words.
I suspect they are in
Welsh, Persian, or Dutch.
I am inept, longing, it is a dangerous
familiar place to be.

I want someone to look into my eyes and see something.

I know something is there but I forget.
I forgot the borderline mania and electric buzz of love
yesterday and settled with touch could suffice.

Maybe I did it so you wouldn’t love me.

Lies.
Don’t want to infect another human with loving me,
I guess deep down I still believe the sad bastard blues compel
my untimely expiration.

My vacant stillness.

Dylan harp and gold rush trill; my perfected knot or delicate teeter.
Don’t come near me, you’ll never get out from under, they never do.

If I weren’t in a hut in the woods, in love with the land and the children
(their happiness), I’d drink myself months into teleological dump.

Remember you the best way I know how.
I don’t keep bottles anymore.

Truth is
I’m not dangerous
to myself or yours
any longer
and I don’t know how to be.
just
be.

-Molly Kat

Waiting Around

After ‘Walking Around’ by Pablo Neruda
It so happens, I am tired of being a woman.
And it happens while I wait for my children to grow
into the burning licks of adulthood. The streaks
of summer sun have gone,

drained between gaps into gutters,
and the ink-smell of report cards and recipe boxes
cringes me into corners. Still I would be satisfied
if I could draw from language
the banquet of poets.

If I could salvage the space in time
for thought and collect it
like a souvenir. I can no longer
be timid and quiet, breathless

and withdrawn.
I can’t salve the silence.
I can’t be this vineyard
to be bottled, corked,
cellared, and shelved.

That’s why the year-end gapes with pointed teeth,
growls at my crow’s feet, and gravels into my throat.
It claws its way through the edges of an age
I never planned to reach

and diffuses my life into dullness —
workout rooms and nail salons,
bleach-white sheets on clotheslines,
and treacherous photographs of younger me
at barbecues and birthday parties.

I wait. I hold still in my form-fitting camouflage.
I put on my strong suit and war paint lipstick
and I gamble on what’s expected.
And what to become. And how
to behave: mother, wife, brave.

A Leveling

He brought us here, to this juniper desert,
across Midwestern state borders into broken promise,
sloughing family fragments like tire treads along the way.
I-80 rose up like Hell’s Backbone, egoistic and narrow-
sighted with drops on either side of slight rails.
We should have been safe in the valleys,
miles away from Boulder Mountain . . .
And yet I learned to fear altitudes,
the uncertainty of my own feet,
the distant perspective of abandonment.
Two years gone. Maybe it wasn’t long enough.
The knee-locking dread never subsides.
Instead, vertigo sets in on each downward step,
handrails clinched each time I try high heels
and the teetering sets me down bare.
How can I be bowed into such spinelessness,
faint at the sight of red clay cliffs and sloping pines —
a grand staircase. Father Escalante would pray for me
to forgive. He would level my landings. He would lead
me to grace.

-Trish Hopkinson

O.J. Simpson to His Daughter, Aaren, Who Drowned Just Before Her Second Birthday

When the backyard ocean swallowed you whole,
your immature roar too tiny to pulse your lungs
into spit and breath and survival,
I prayed to the God of resurrecting children
for the first time since I was prime for the flying myself.
There have never been such things as miracles, but there are always plays. Run around the back and catch your man off guard. Plunge head-first into the chaos and let the weight of you scare the enemy until they fall. Or do nothing at all, until immobility becomes the most dynamic possible option.
And God said, Let there be light

but there was no light.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters,
and let it divide the waters from the waters

but there was just pool filter and mess of man.
And the God of resurrecting children asked me
how I could have the audacity
to make requests
when I couldn’t even
get the ingredients right
so I trapped the light
in as many cameras as my crimes could reach
and I found the water
enough to make my hands look clean
and it was good.
Go ahead, god.
Make your move.

-Jennifer Leigh-Oprihory

The Morning After

You want to know the best way to keep your hands clean doing filthy things

So, you ask me
Thinking there are beds I have never met that whisper about me
Behind my back
My back is an ache you could never stomach
I have seen the dark side of halo tipped wine glasses
Slow danced with rattlesnakes that only sing
When they taste blood
And I bleed
Full of heaviness like someone else’s God is watching
I am the pinky promise made with two left feet
I am organ donor still breathing on the cutting board

You want to know what happens the day after you’ve done filthy things
So you knock on the voodoo queen’s door
You want me to tell you
Draw divinity on your chest and call upon the power of three-somes
You want to know how I make one night stands look so easy
Not how I pick at my skin when the moon isn’t looking,
Every scar an unmarked grave for a suicide bomber
You don’t want to know about the scorch of demons
How it burns like a whiskey you don’t like but makes you feel like a tightrope walker
Tell the little girl in you to go to her room and plug her ears
The grownups have business to attend to
And this is no place for dreamers
Tell her she’ll understand when she’s older
Like I have filtered through the tongues that have tasted me
And learned the difference between a wish and an apology
Between cigarette smoke and hunting season
Between smiling boys and boys with bullets where their teeth should be

You want to know if you’ll stay filthy after you’ve done filthy things
And the truth is, I don’t know.
I take showers; swallow Listerine, force sleep when I’m not tired
I don’t wear much makeup. I want to be more naked
So no man can ever strip me of anything
I look at my body. There are days all I see are train tracks
And days when I thank my knees for holding up all of me
So don’t ask me about my thighs, my hands, how many names I remember
I remember everything
Ask me about the lonely
Ask me about the crying bones
Ask me about the violin heart I haven’t played in a while
I think I’m getting rusty at love
Every day is a fight against the sunset
Every night is a fight against the devil on my shoulder
Whispering I deserve to feel filthy
That I am an unfinished coffin,
I should be thankful of the boys
That have repurposed me playpen
It has taken time, but
I can tell you that I don’t always believe that
I am learning the art of myself
The history of forgiveness
That my body is not half empty
That my shame is not half full
That I am more than a night sweat
More than a splinter in a confessional

-Taylor Steele

Saving Molly

Perhaps I would have tried anything if it meant
bringing life back to the tissue inside your bones,

after man and chemotherapy failed to burn off the
stain of cancer that marred you; there were Shuaras

to tame the fire, drain venom from a harlequin snake by
pushing its fangs into the hindquarter of your family’s

best cattle — you drank oxblood and milk from hand-painted
terracotta bowls as if it were radiation. Sometimes it would

help you sleep, sometimes you sat up in the night under the
canopy of the Amazon brush to swallow hot peyote, let it

simmer inside your veins until your skin was too numb to hurt
anymore. The indigenous believed mosquitoes would flock from

the tree bark at the smell of death, come to suck the sickness
from your flesh. But I watched you sweat an ocean, drown in hope,

heard you call out to me in comatose dreams; we watched witch
doctors crush herbs that could change the direction that the earth

was spinning, both of us finally able to see the light,
the sun stretching time to make life last longer, for you.

Unwanted Life

is blooming inside my right breast,
in the deep shadow on the cat scan,

budding into petals like a black rose,
eclipsing the moon-white of my mammary

gland. It spreads like an untamed field;
raw and quiet, growing thick until the tissue

appears black, blotted out like ink. I stare
at the x-ray on the projection screen, where

a fluorescent bulb once touched the life in my flesh.
But this room is veiled in darkness, and I’m bleeding

light through my teeth.

-Lori DeSanti

Citrus and Cigarettes

On Sunday morning, I stretch, get up, stumble
to the kitchen and open the fridge for a grapefruit.
Taking the heavy yellow globe and a knife

out to the porch, I inhale fresh spring air.
Running cigarette-scented fingers through my dirty hair,
I toss it into a messy bun and finger the knife. The smoky

stench recalls days when, at fifteen, I made Chris brush
his teeth after smoking before I’d grant him a kiss — those days
when my mom’s and his cigarette-stenched lips locked

to one another. I puncture the fruit, juices oozing
onto my hands. I remember the thin scars
shown to me at separate times before I knew

what Mom and Chris had done — the evidence
of her knife slicing her wrists, his razor cutting
his inner thighs. I think now how it’s funny

I didn’t make the connection until so much later —
their scars shown to me while simultaneously
hiding their secret lives. Peeling back the rind to expose

the inner pink membrane, I eat it, slice by slice.

Surfacing

I bring my finger to my mouth, lick
it, rub my arm where the bluish
splotch appeared this morning,
and wince. It seems bruises
seep through my skin, surfacing
in not so subtle places.

I can pretend once they appear; it’s
not hard to hide and erase the dark spots
surfacing. I think everyone awakes
to a bruise they don’t recall seeing
the night before, but how did I wake
one day to memories that I had forgotten
I didn’t remember until now?

It’s not that I forgot the time I refused
my mother’s hug, when she finally asked
permission for bodies that don’t belong to her.
But I overlooked those times she lied
before I knew, how her body took advantage
of my teenage boyfriend’s lust when I was naïve
enough to believe that bruises could form out of nowhere.

When I press this discoloration on my skin,
although I don’t remember what, I know
something outside of me caused it.
Bruises don’t just form out of thin air.
They lurk in the shadows of our skin,
finding ways to reveal what’s been hidden.

-Cassie Ciopryna

Building Blocks

Words

p i l e on words

like the building blocks
of my life

teetering at the edge
…kissing my pains goodbye

metaphors woven
from a balmy breeze

that glide like paper planes
in and out
of my dreams

restlessly resilient
and malleable
a state of flux
that charges the fibres
of my being

letters on a platter
served up as appetizers
of a lost legacy

sheathed in croissants of time

a palimpsest of memory.

-Shloka Shankar

Gray Blue

On the days I fall
Into a sick-sad of ink
A well of drown
A black splotch of leak
It is not that I don’t see you
Still as blank page
I just have not learned
To chew through the choke

On the days I curl
Into a thin iron jaw
A sunken pebble
A silent clench
I slink from your touch
Because gentle feels like fire
The bad kind of burn
I still like you close

On the days I rain
Into flood swollen pillows
A silent thunder
A wet mask of self
I know that you are there
The absence of drying
A soft bed of patience
The end of the storm

The Exam

TRIGGER WARNING (rape/sexual assault, given by author)
When the doctor places
The cold metal speculum
Parting her open like
Overripe fruit
Her body turns to shiver

Her legs tighten
Trained for protection
And she finds it absurd
When she’s told to relax
To let her legs fall out
Like butterfly wings

Her lip shakes and she stares
Every inch of her focus caught
By the ugly popcorn patterned ceiling
She is in two places at once
The office turned time machine
She hears herself apologize

And she feels him force himself inside her

The nurse offers a hand
A firm and solid present
Tells her to squeeze
Says she won’t break
She holds her breath

He said it wouldn’t hurt if she didn’t scream

The doctor is gentle
Tells her every step
“My hand on your leg”
“Just a cotton swab”
“Lots of pressure”
“You’re doing great”

Small rivers flowed from the corner of her eyes

“This is when it will hurt”
Then metal and cramping
Biting and blood and again
“Just a little bit longer”
Anger and fear and breaking
Then gasping and open

The time machine was broken

“We’re almost done”
His eyes closed in climax
“Taking out the instruments”
His mess on her everything
“Don’t get up just yet”
His audacious kisses
“You did wonderfully”
You did wonderfully

“We’ll see you in two weeks”

-Sacha Jacobson