Wicked Banshee Press

Issue #1 Spring 2014


In this Edition: Reena Berroa//Tara Betts//Emma Bovill//
Judyth Brown//Jenith Charpentier// Cassandra DeAlba//
Lea Deschenes//Amelia Garcia//Sacha Jaconson//Karolina Manko//
Emily O’Neill//Abagail Rose//Rowie Shebala//TL Sherwood//Stephanie Lane Sutton//Ellyn Touchette//Rachel Theress//Kayla Wheeler//Ellie White
In This Issue:
a statement from 2014 Women of the World Host City Director Tova Charles
an interview with 2013 Women of the World Poetry Slam Winner Denise Frohman by Jennifer Hudgens


An Interview With Denise Frohman
by Jennifer Hudgens

I had the privilege of meeting Denice Frohman at the 2013 Women of the World Poetry Slam (WoWPS.) Denice was friendly, kind and welcoming. After the blur of the week’s events and I’m sure shock from just having won, she was still calm, still cool. Denice set aside some time from her incredible life as a poet, performer and educator to answer some questions. We are truly grateful here at Wicked Banshee Press to have her featured in our inaugural issue.

JH: What is one book you never leave home without?
DF: Borderlands, by Gloria Anzaldua and anything Audre Lorde.

JH: What advice would you give to baby Denice, or Denice ten years ago?
DF: Don't be scared to fail.

JH: When did you start writing poetry? Tell me a little about your process, from writing to editing to performing.

DF: I started writing poetry my freshman year of college. Coming to poetry was a slow brew. It wasn't something I was attracted to in high school because I wasn't exposed to writers that looked like me or reflected my experience. I think I am always learning about my writing process every time I write a poem. I write best when I don't self-edit during the process. Editing is still an important step to me but a dance I'm constantly learning when to leave or pick up again. Some poems live best exactly how they are when they came out of your body, others need tuning. The performing comes along as I understand the personality of the poem. It takes at least 5-6 live runs for me to build that relationship. Still, there are poems I've been performing for a long time that I still find new ways to play with. That's what I love about performing. There is always something to discover.

JH: What is your message?
DF: Be you. It sounds simple, but because much of my work speaks to the marginalized communities to which I belong, it actually can be a revolutionary thing for us. To be US. Despite. Even though. And still. We survive.

JH: How long have you been performing poetry on stage?
DF: 10 years.

JH: What advice would you give an aspiring poet?
DF: READ! READ! READ! It's how you learn what's possible with language. With that, I caution that you still need to live inside your own voice. Reading and studying other poets isn't about copying from them and saying "hey that worked, so let me do it exactly the same," it's about being inspired.

JH: What was your experience at WoWPS in 2013? When you found out you'd made finals stage, how did you feel? What went through your mind when you found out you'd won?
DF: I was truly honored and overwhelmed. There were so many great writers there. I was in a daze after my final poem. There was so much happening. It took me awhile to even figure out what happened. 2013 was special because I got to connect with a lot of women at the competition. That was as much a goal for me as anything else.

JH: What is your favorite food?
DF: I love all kinds of food, but I'd have to say Spanish food and soul food.

JH: What moves you?
DF: Honesty and integrity. Risk taking. Community. Young people.

JH: If you could do/be anything what would it be, and why?
DF: I'm doing exactly what I love. Couldn't ask for anything else.


A Statement By Tova Charles, Host City Chair, Austin TX
2014 Women of the World Poetry Slam

I was asked to write about what the Women of the World (WoWPS) mean to me and what it means to be the Host City Chair. I have so much to be thankful for the opportunity to bring this wonderful festival to Austin, TX, as I have been attending WoWPS since 2011. It was the first individual poetry slam that I competed in outside of Austin. I was nervous and felt I was carrying my city on my shoulders. WoWPS was a life changing experience and gave me the courage to stand on my own words and accept that I am supposed to be here, that this was my calling. WoWps give a voice to women that feel like they are silenced in their own city. I am lucky to live in a city that encourage and honor the women in our scene but I know that not everyone is as blessed and I am excited to have poets from all over the county to get to experience what I do every day, love and greatness. Being the host city chair meant big shoes to fill but I have had great help putting this together from my community, from the people that have given us their venues to the food trucks that have given the poets discounts, everyone has given what they could to make this show great. I am so happy that the poets get to see the best of the city and my city gets to see the best poets in the world. This is the first WoWPS in the south and we will have beautiful weather and people to welcome all here. We are right after SXSW and the city is still buzzing. I would just like to say Welcome to Austin and say I hope that you have a great time.


Throwing Away a Wedding Dress

Disposal was the sailing arc
of crinoline, beaded satin, lace,
fabric sea rising and falling,
mangled neck and diaphanous
feathers of a dove thrown.

Or is it more angel food cake,
dented and dew-dotted, dried
fondant, crumbling and collapsed
in loose folds, a montage
that dumpsters hold.

Still white like hair
once sprouted brown
before makeshift promises,
dryrotting cotton and paper.

Instead moving men pack
so fast, the strapless halo
of a dress, molted angel skin,
is stowed on the truck.

My soft sharp pleas
catch one mover’s ear
to stop that dress, so
it slumps half-folded
in mounds of spoiled food,
pizza boxes, beer bottles,
cans, and junk mail.

That dress worn once
never made it to another
apartment, where I sleep
alone in the biggest bed
I’ve ever owned. I swept
the room where the bed
once stood, emptied.

-Tara Betts


Foreigner

When falling in love with men with decorous eyes and loyal chests,
remember you are foreigner,
remind yourself that dinner is just a show and tell,
parade through their questioning,
giraffe your way through the room of dry bones and wet smiles,
exhale easily at every enticing glance,
you are just a meal for their gossip.
When your boyfriend sits you at the dinner table,
try not to flinch when they pass plate after plate of disapproval,
this is a well cooked test passed down through generations of first impressions.
Swallow down his aunts criticism at your lifestyle choices,
distract them,
impress them with the little you know of their home.
Do not consider yourself traitor,
Pledging allegiance to a family that will not offer you asylum on their land,
ignore the signs,
like a flag waving you to safety.
You’re not sure he loves the broken parts of you,
the pieces stone walled into present tense dignity,
you’ll ignore this sidestep dance unbecoming of your worth.
He doesn’t claim you.
When your race is escorted into conversation hold your head up,
like abuela does when she prays for days with more sunshine than rain,
they will squeal and name their favorite novela,
the leading character some oiled up Spaniard with bright eyes,
they will turn your heritage into an amusement park,
tell you all the times they ate rice and beans,
render up the memory of that one time they met some guy from some island that is not yours.
Exclaim how much they loved La Bamba,
And West Side Story,
because it's so realistic to call out a name like Maria in the Barrio and expect only one head to turn.
They will not care that you do not call any of these people family,
No effort will be made to differentiate your character.
You will be play-doh lumped after a long day,
gray,
mixed in with the rest of these mismatched scraps.
When your boyfriend tells you that you're sexy because you're Dominican, that when you speak Spanish it does things to him,
tell him yes,
it communicates his ignorance.
Laugh at the surprise painted on his face when you tell him your favorite movie is an Indian one,
that when Kareena Kapoor sits in her living room singing Kasam ki Kasam you cry.
You cry every damn time and sing along with a led heavy heart,
not because you prefer to dress Urdu up like your native Spanish but because love is sung sweetly off every tongue brave enough to speak it.
When your boyfriend is not brave enough to whisper your name without guilt carved across his cheeks,
when everyone is trying to make a wife out of you before you make a woman of yourself.
When he sits at the dinner table only willing to claim you fad,
phase,
flame,
to be blown out,
be your own happy ending.
Claim yourself woman and bow down the faces of all who question your utility.
Scream your plight into his eyeholes and no reply will come.
When falling in love with men with bloodlines thick in apologies yet bold in catechism,
remember you are foreigner.
Then dump his ass.

-Reena Berroa


I’ll Say What I Want To

after Miley Cyrus/Megan Falley/Lesley Gore,
inspired by Kayla Wheeler

It's my party so I'll lie and say the invitation
was meant for your neighbor. I never wanted
you around in the first place so this is my elaborate
way of saying you can't sit with us, the tickets
to the cool kids table are sold out. You're too late.
All the red cups have been filled with a drink
named after something stupid you said once.
It's my party so I'll toast to your showing up
and announce at the end that you are forever
unwelcome here. I'll call a car to pick you up,
pay it hundreds of dollars to not turn around
no matter how much you yell or beg. There
isn’t a single hater on this guest list. There
isn’t room for an abuser of anything on this
dance floor, so move. This is my house now.

My Sexuality is a Dirty Chai

She’s a barista, of course. She always is.
She’s got broad shoulders, an open men’s
button-up tracing her torso over a thrift
store t-shirt the way some lovers have traced
mine with their fingertips. She is effortlessly
feminine in her masculinity and she wears it
so very well.
There’s something monumental about her.
I seem to be standing opposite of the most
strangely beautiful skyscraper. Lights
from the food truck outside flicker through
the window behind her as she smiles.
I try to remember how to exhale.
I try to take all of this at face value.
This is a shallow infatuation, at most.
Then the most striking example of lovely
stares me in the eyes with a pierced lip
and a mohawk and asks what I’d like.
I tell her to make me her favorite drink.
She smiles slightly as she hands me
a dirty chai and tells me what it’s called
like it’s some sort of secret,
like she knows something I didn’t
before stepping into this room.

-Emma Bovill


The Giantkiller

Your father planted you
In the pumpkin season
But when my time came,
As there was none to do it for me,
I delivered you with my own two hands.
We were oak and vine,
Lost wife and fatherless child.
We made the best of what our poor garden yielded
In raising you
I was fostered in the ways of happiness.

When you’d grown too tall for the narrow bed,
you left to find new ground.
You wander like a cockle-bur hooked to the
closest passing rider.
Wind-borne, and unbound,
You set roots among the tangled arms of friends
I have never seen,
in places I did not know

Rooted far behind you
I kept faith without surety
save for the traveling whisper
Jack gone to seek a fortune,
Battling giants, climbing to high places
full of wonder.

Until one grey morning
you drifted home like autumn
to breath beside me,
if only for the moment.
Your arms entangle me
if only for the moment,
Wondering that it’s all just as you left it,
you ask me to be constant,
to be with you forever,
you ask me sweetly not to die.

When I brought you to light my duty was
to see you from one sunrise to the next
as if there would never be an end to sunrises.
But nothing stays constant.
The seasons shift though you don’t see 'em,
Time stands still only when we die.

Yet the pumpkin seeds soaking in my bowl
Shoulder silver slim, eager for the surface.
The hand that stirs them does not know
If it separates husband and mother,
brother and wife.
the hand that split the hollow womb of home
Frees them from the suffocating dark and
Between slick fingers,
sets them adventuring,
Dancing up unbound and almost as light as air.
They seek new ground to bring them to fruit.
For fruit bears no fruit
until it is broken.

So we start saying goodbye to our children
on the day that they are born
We share this life, not as one
or even side by side.
But as root and stem
we season together all so briefly.
Could I be with you forever?
Could it be any other way?

I am the seed in your pocket no matter where you go.
Brave the dark places and I am there.
Though we may not meet again while our feet are still dancing,
I am constant.

So I send my love to you on the summer wind,
And I pray
that one skipping particle of my breath
Will find the resonant fruit in your chest
And bring you home.

-Judyth Brown


Body Politic

I stand redacted, thick-line
stricken, blank-spaced
with revocation.

Faced with reduction,
I learn myself small.
sacrifice my softer sides,
forfeit my documentation.

Still, the ink bleeds through.

Still, I cling to these papers,
this perforated history,
this defective account,
this quiet noise.

My residual language stales
in my mouth, my needle tongue
pierces each potential word, threads
them down my halted throat.

Still, the ink bleeds through.

Still, I try to bridge the gaps,
opaque the windowpanes,
vague the depressions,
fasten the lack.

My wanton teeth fuse silence
to my protest jaw. My statue body,
disinclined to spark, combusts
just the same, smolders hide to soot.

Still, the ink bleeds through.

Still, I battle ignition.
fabricate reservoir towns,
smother the sink
fiction the flood.

My contentious fingers pulverize
evidence, powder my nose with
the ash of speak. I crumble to

bystander, watch myself break.
Still, the ink bleeds through.

By way of apology for my lack of will…

I was an insufficient cartographer.
Roads meandered and trailed off
the edges of my chin. My blue-veined
hands, the nervous spine of boundary,
a bluff that slipped and slid
into vacancy.
The measure of a life must be taken from the inside out.
I became an arborist,
extracted pieces of myself,
collected core samples. Years marked with light and dark, shallow
and deep.
Sometimes I took too much.
I spent time beach-combing, cupping
memories in my hands, pressing
them into fairy tales, helpless to capture
what was already spilling through
the cracks.
I know I lost things that you needed me to save.
In the end, I tried story-telling –
wrote until my hands were calloused.
When my breathing became ragged,
my circulation unpredictable,
I burned it all to stay warm.

I wasn’t ready to say good-bye.

-Jenith Charpentier


misconception

the history of the world is not beautiful or sad – it is the engine
under the grass, the ghost in the machine-made pond, the wind
pushing back against a tiny, futile sail.
a garden at twilight. hedges looming like teeth. points of light
in a grimy sky, airplanes not like shooting stars but rips
in a lampshade, cracks in a honeypot, letting the sweetness out.
the history of the world is the hand smothering you in the night.

some anxiety metaphors

a town where the church bells never stop ringing
snow made of needles
rain made of knives
a beehive hanging from each ear
a swimming pool you’re drowning in
twine from each pore of the showerhead
mud from the faucet
in the backyard a single hole growing larger
every moment you look away –
you can only save yourself
by pulling up a chair
and staring in

-Cassandra de Alba


Falada

Shoulders harnessed, she visits my hallway
daily to complain. She would like a drink.
She would like a glittered skin and a sad farewell.
She would like to be queen instead of lording over geese.

Have pity on the rain. I gave her transport
comfortably under crows and then
she rode me to the butcher’s knife, its kindness.
No one had seen her: not pumpkin, nor mirror, nor king.

No wonder she let my head hang.
No wonder she still spoke to it
and heard it answer back, my mouth
full of taxidermist’s straw, glass eyes

glazed in teared reflections.
Tell your troubles to the oven,
I know what becomes of your confessors.
You have your husband. Your loyal nag is dead.

I am a different story altogether.

Catalog of the Migration

The Mask People crept out of the woodwork
dressed in coats made of pockets, each filled
with exquisite carvings of jade, hide and bone;
of quicksilver, dough and of silicone flesh
so well-sculpted you’d swear on the smile.

They take names from their current expression,
change expressions to follow the wind
or suspected late rain. When they came,
they took over the town and looked
just like the neighbors.

You have notebooks filled with their customs,
their casual menace and filter-lace veils
that crisscross an X over each shadowed eye
their eyes meet. You could never adjust.
They consider your one face obscene,

mouth a plague, so why speak? When you try,
they slip out of the woodwork, surround you
in sleep. Stuff your throat with blank sheets,
origami giraffes, feathered swans. You choke
on their bleached-letter soup and fail

to cut purpose a vent through the weights
on your chest:

All that deaf air and disappointment.
All that duty and failure laid on your doorstep before they light the bag and ring the bell.
All that scar tissue where you kissed
their fever-red cheeks
and stuck to iron.

Tonight, you’ll leave the city to claim your naked birthright:
tear it from your throat under a reflective moon:
however shameful, however shamed. You will burn
the RSVP, the face, the coat left by your bed;
refasten your tongue to its moorings.

There is a tree falling in this mute forest: Listen.
You will each bear witness to the other’s fall.

-Lea Deschenes


The Church of Slam

inspired by a tweet by Anis Mojgani

“There's blood in the holy water again,” I say.
A woman who's been attending this church
much longer than I have
raises an eyebrow in my direction
and says, “Yes. You're welcome.”

The Diagnosis

For years I've offered myself up,
a body to be possessed,
not knowing that those demons
have always lived inside me.

Genetic predisposition, they call it.
Some things just run in the family
like secrets
and fear.

I know how easy it would be
to walk into a busy street without looking.
When I try to tell my friends about this,
I don't hear the way my voice cracks
with the same sound of my great-grandfather
choking on his cries for help.

I know Shame is a friend of darkness,
and silence is never golden.
It's a waiting bridge
that knows my name
and wants me to come home
to the turbulent waves.

When I finally learn about my great-grandfather's suicide
it's too late to take back the scars,
but I bet his hands could've read my braille perfectly
because we've all got our ugly,
even if we have to uproot our comfort to see it,
even if we can't call it by name.
In twenty four years I've learned that
the greatest act of violence against myself
is putting on the mask of perfection.

When I learn about my grandmother's antidepressants
I feel like a rusted wish at the bottom of a well.
I understand now that I'm afraid of heights
because every breath on the edge of a cliff
is a fight against the urge to jump.

I didn't realize so many people in my family
were unsung survival stories.
I didn't realize the breakdown was the truth
we're all too afraid to tell.
I didn't realize that Shame was so close to all of us.
We never pull him up a chair at the dinner table
with all the spotless plates.
We never answer the door when he comes home.
We can't even look him in the face.

-Dylan Garcia


GET BIG FAST or HOW TO BECOME A BURNOUT

You are the flint steps on a steel floor
Stick legs rubbing together, your ribs-
Matchbooks, your fingers-matchsticks
Strike anywhere. You are concentrated
Sunbeam magnifying glass. You are catching.
You are a handful of try and perseverance

You are thin smoke signal slipping upward
You are accidental on purpose, and suddenly
You are small light, small flame, small stage
You have no voice. You will have to roar to be
Heard. Get a grasp on that kindling and grow.
You will go places, ride the highways, you are not
Some stay at home candlelight calling home children

You are not all smoke and mirrors, not parlor tricks
You have a glowing ember heart, an eternal flame
Rising from your gut like heat, rising through your throat
Now speak, rise through the night, rise above roadsides
Rise until towns take notice, rise until the world takes notice

Take the flame, the fire, the burning and burst
Explode, bathe in oxygen, burn 'til you're blue
Roar ‘til you are white hot screaming steam
Eat everything in your path and raise to the heavens
Be hot, be bold, blaze a path of amazing

You wildfire, you destruction, you life changer
Look how hot you are! You’ve caught everything
Aflame. You are consuming. All consuming. You
Are consuming everything. Your belly is bloated
With neighborhoods and national parks and still
You continue feeding.

You ignore the screaming, the seething hatred
The people’s fire hose spraying
It’s nothing but steam and contradiction
You are hungry for fire trucks and spit-roasted bravery
You roll into yourself and dash the earth
You burning red dragon, hot poker teeth
Gnashing at the very sun who made you

You can only deny time for so long

They will call you great,
Infamous, angry, relentless
They will remember you
They will always remember you
But not for your flame or talent for illumination
Not for the time you beat out the stars
And lit up the night with all you had in you
They will remember your callous, your evil
Your black mark, your scorch
They will remember the moment you finally
Went out

Now wipe your face with ash-paint
That is all you have left
Your voice is cough and choke
You are melted and boiled away
You are cold
You are no more

TRAFFICK

I am always waiting in traffic
There is always someone in front of me
My exits always blocked
It's like they don't speak my language here
I'm not old enough to drive yet
I am always in the back of the van
I am Hungary
I am Thailand
I am Mexico
I am maid in America
I am road rage
I am red light
I am bloody lip
I am nothing
But this gaping hole
This ten car pile-up of a girl
You slow down to look
But you NEVER stop to help
I am your cheap thrills
Your exposed body

I am Claudia
I am Ingrid
I am Manuel
I am Michelle
I am Haeyin
I am a whisper
You will forget my name
You have already forgotten it
You will never know it

I am lucrative
I am dispensable
I am in the parking lot
Double parked
My doors are locked
The keys are available
Name your price
I am clean like your dishes
Rough like my hands
I am running on empty
All my meals are unleaded
And flammable
Spontaneous combustion
Is not unheard of
No one will know I am missing

When I got here
Everything was convertibles
Luxury upholstery
Wind and the illusion of freedom
At seventy miles per hour
Now it's pintos and
Armored cars and
Bumper to bumper
The air tastes of exhaust
Of burning oil
Melting asphalt
And tires
I am so tired

My heart is high speed chases
With each rolled down window
Each Good Samaritan
But he's always a heretic
I used to think pain could become calloused
But road rash on road rash just rubs wounds raw
Work my fingers to the bone
I want to go home

My highway has teeth marks
Men with guns
Barbed wire
I know the road kill by name
Amita
Josef
Karina
Sierra
Mackenzie

Where are the drunk drivers of mercy?
When will my windows break
As I roll over again and again
All this friction should start fires
I am not smart
But I know the smell of burning
My poor mother
The news would kill her
Would set her house on fire
Would put a bullet through my sister's head
Would break all my grandmother's bones

China
Has such pretty girls
Such beautiful women
And children
This traffic jam is full of imports
Fucking Asian drivers
Don't worry
Traffic does not discriminate
The American drivers are horrible too
Hit and runs are no stranger to the U.S.
Like always, this country has to be the best
At everything
Go big or go home
They never go home
Always go for the gold
My back has the metal burned into it

This traffic
This trafficking
Is human
I, am human.

-Sacha Jacobson


A Severance

We who sit in the diner and talk of memories:
bad dates, favorite songs, expired secrets;
we love a forgotten kind of love.
A hand pours sugar in a coffee, adds milk.
I stir in my seat wrestling the swelling
of guilt and famine.

I want to love the man who loves me
but I am tired of the distance between
bodies that refuse to be manned by the mind,
longing the other superficially,
only out of practice and repetition.

Intelligence is a faulty platform for passion,
barren and impotent. The mind
fails to vessel the soul’s vastness.
It cannot compute emotion. It short-circuits
at the feeling of catalytic collision,
misfires synapses in panicked response.
Promises Forever while the heart rages
in its lonely protest, asking permission
to take over, to use force. The heart screams
love is not a lesson in taming your fear of solitude.
Love is the radical notion that you can
withstand another’s solitude.

I want another
to kiss me like a guillotine. I am ready
for a severance. I am ready to become
a white flag revolution. I am ready to be
kissed and touched by the unfamiliar and
primordial, a basic fear of the unseeable.
to lay in the dark with nothing
but a heart that beats wildly with fever
and says I love my neighbor
just as I love myself. At the same time.

And so, Love is warlike paradox.
What is good for the Other excludes me.
What is good for me excludes the Other.
So which is a more honest attempt?
The guilt or the famine?

¿Donde Esta Ana?

For Ana Mendieta

Ana! O, Ana! I see your body
falling like a raindrop of black hair
from the balcony of your Greenwich Village
apartment. A crowd gathering- flowers
for a feast- lapping up your final work;
the one in which you return to the Great Circle.
This time, a different kind of naked. Unseeable.
This time, your own terror playing the role
of reoccurring theme. An unnatural ending.

Ana! O Ana! What was it like to bury yourself
naked in the Mexican sand years earlier?
Reunite with that primordial bed at the mouth
of the ocean? Revel in the texture
of your brown skin against the taupe tongue?
What was it like to become aware of the body,
so implicitly linked to the dirt? Holy heap
of ash and chemical compounds.
Sacred sack of collarbone and amygdala.

Painful

“Beauty is always a little bit painful.”
That’s how my mother taught me
to walk in heels, and how I later taught
Victoria to curl her eyelashes.

Years from now you will be a big girl
with long legs and red lips
a baby on your hip, silver band
on the hand you scoop dirt with.

Time doesn’t disfigure you,
only how you relate to others.
In the restaurants, the younger girls
will look at you and smile politely.

You’ll want to strangle them.
Sometimes, you already do.
They’re fragile little Spring stems.
You’ve already weathered your Winter.

You understand how to fit in. You rest
assured of your role in the lives of others.
Watch your reflection glide in store-windows,
in your children’s faces.

Stretched thing, you are everywhere
at once. Red-lips, curves, long neck.
Yet the pain is a constant. It always hurts
to compare, to deconstruct

other women. It’s nature.
The paradox of femininity
was your mother’s first lesson.
What will be your daughter’s?

-Karolina Manko


Witchcraft

In spite of enchantment you hid,
drew a black curtain, played dead
for a century. One hundred years of fever

dreaming, mummified in goose down. The floor dared you
to fall though it. The sheets, braided rope around your neck.
You thought you’d surely break in two.

But you could not die. Instead you dreamed
of three little spinners who drifted
out of the stone ceiling fully formed.

The women bid you drink from gold thimbles,
unscrewed sun from sky saying, “Eat, leave
the skin on, trust your teeth,” and “Never

live in fear of charming men’s hands. They cannot keep
promises.” These hussies fed you ten moon pies
a night until you were sugar. They killed the clouds,

cried over your tomb until it eroded
and you tumbled down the castle wall like wax.
The fever broke. You were free

and fated to be unhappy. But the spinners,
like the walls and geese before them
dared you to die once more

and you couldn’t.

-Emily O’ Neill


Women

after Dorianne Laux

It’s easy. Sugar & spice & everything sweet,
the fettered blessings of a body made of meat.
Hot irons, manicures, lace bras, sweeping
floors & glass ceilings. To bear a birthright of silence, keep
the smouldering contained in the hearth. Believe
& guard the precarious value of the untouched heat
& purity of the prism between the thighs. Deep
in the catacomb of softly curtained rooms, we sleep
with the heritage of witch hunts & sliced breasts. To walk streets
lousy with psssssst prettylady. To wait, to not weep.
Cross over watery battlelines into the neat
box of “crazy...easily offended...you need
to learn to take a joke…I need you to complete
me.” We live in the valley of flesh, swim in our own sweat.
We who pour blood without dying. We are weary thieves,
looting riches from our own vaults. This is not defeat.
We shed our sons & daughters for the moon, with relief.

-Abigail Rose


Why I Never Spoke

No one ever remembers me in the story.
I’m not what you think I am.
And nor is he.
Have you noticed there’s no girls here besides the two of us?
Do you think he brought you
to show you clapping hands
how to save fairies?
You think he brought you here because he loves you?

He, promised me I would have children.
For a moment, the lost boys called me, Mom.
Time passed. The ticking in my belly gave way to crocodile tears.

There is a land back at home, where the stars shine bright
where the wind has a lullaby sweeter than any mermaid’s song.
My survival skills came not from him.
It was I, who saved his life,
showed him how to hunt,
how to navigate the stars and fly straight on ‘til morning.
I, who showed him how to scout trails without leaving footprints.
I, who cut his shadow free, the closest thing to his scalp.

Do you like that present he picked for you?
That piece of flamed petals, burning orange as the spark that grew in my heart-
he named me after that flower. Tiger Lilly.
I find it interesting he gave you this token.
Could this mean I’m still on his mind?
He used to kiss my shoulder,
wrap me in his arms,
whisper in my ear, tell me to close my eyes.
before I knew it, I was floating-
Coated with gold shimmer and pixie dust,
Never Never Land-ing.
I don’t even remember what my real name is.
This place will help you forget things.

I’m still stuck on an island I will never call home.
But as long as my lips are painted thin and silenced,
the boys he brought from my tribe will be spared.

Did you look before you took that leap?
Did you know it wasn’t windowsills
he let you stand on before you jumped with wings spread,
but the plank of the Jolly Roger?
Just think happy thoughts.
Think, if you could only sit on clouds, consume them like cotton candy,
swim through a night sky filled with shooting stars,

I’m sure you held him tenderly.
He can sell you dreams you wish would come true
with fairies in his pocket.

When he couldn’t capture playmates in nets,
she was the one who lured them in; the silver lining of her wings,
How she glowed,
making them think she could be captured and admired like fireflies in a jar.

Have you ever questioned him where lost boys go when they grow up?
Have you ever asked why the pirates thirst for his throat?
I fed the men of my tribe stories
issued by him, as treaty that I had escaped back at home,
promised him my silence, never exposing how lost boys
become lost when they reach a certain age.

Look where you stand:
I’m no Indian princess, not the simple red girl you think I am
Remember when you ran to your parents for protection?
Is growing up really so bad?
Are you really here for you?
Ask yourself are hooks what you should really run from?
Is he really what you think he is?

Tell me Wendy Darling-
have you seen your brothers lately?

-Rowie Shebala


MY FIRST BIG BREAK

I recall the length of your shorts
how yellow shirts worked
to brighten your face
and wipe your bloody teeth .
The opposing team’s mascot
became unhinged
from his costume head,
ran towards you
knocked you to the Astroturf
beat you with his fists
accusing you of a kiss.
He knew, he said, it was you
his girlfriend left him for.

The adults intervened, pulled him off
they didn’t bother to ask me about the
incident. I could have told them though.
The breakup didn’t come from you.
It came from me. No one expects the
high school paper’s first female
sportswriter to become a story lead.

SOME MOTHERS

Some mothers
punch numbers all day,
going in early to sit in chairs
which are uncomfortable to sit in.
Their fingers link to their eyes
picking over screen and board,
entering the amount someone owes
someone else. My mother pays them out
by numbers not amounts.
It doesn’t bother me that she
sees me as her number one,
her very first mistake.

She is stronger willed than I,
but she is miserable, and making
herself ill; while I have come to understand
that it’s watching her no longer speak out
which makes me scream out loud.
I’d rather kill my own children
so they will never have to see
the real life tragedy:
how horrible it is
to be a single
parent to an
ingrate child

like me.

-T.L. Sherwood


To The Men Who’ve Loved My Body

My first boyfriend made me feel so ugly, I didn’t stop
starving myself until my skin was whitebread—my womb:
artifact. I wanted to be so small, I didn’t stop starving
myself until my hips were pinstripes, bone white-on-white.
I wanted to be so small, I didn’t stop spreading myself even
even when he told me he felt he could reach his hand
inside of me, that I sounded like a rattle. I wanted to be nothing
if not the corridor echo. His admission of love ricocheted
and went nowhere. I was so dug out, I was practically
a mineshaft. When he finally left, I caved in to be full.

The last time I fell in love, I let him fill me out until
my gut blossomed with malt liquor, until my skin
was processed sugar. When he told me I had become
too full of my own stark loving, too much of the woman
he said he wanted, I carved his name into my skin.
Knew tree bark was husk. Resigned myself to a love
that owned. I used to stare my own face down in mirrors
to see how much uglier I could become. I was too
swollen to try to look for pretty. All I knew was of
the simplicity of stare over shatter.

Now that I’m falling in love with you, I’m afraid I’ve spent
so much time being thought process I’ve forgotten
muscle memory. My body is not some broken thing
and you have made it dance like a clock. When you tell me
I’m beautiful, make sure it is not a promise I have to keep.
Don’t love the parts of me that fake skinny. Don’t love
the parts of me carry-thick. Know I used to worry, worry.
Spent years waiting for someone worth opening the door
of my body. You knock. So when you tell me I’m beautiful,
promise you’re talking about the parts of me you can’t see.

On Teaching Poetry in Chicago Public Schools

A Response to the Fox News Correspondent who asked, “What is it about Chicago Public Schools that makes so many of its students murder victims?”

Dear Fox News,

Just to be clear: my job is to teach poetry.
I don’t know how to legally or illegally obtain
automatic weapons, the amount of pressure
it takes to pull a trigger. Someone else’s flesh
should be the hottest thing you ever touch.
In March 2013, Obama came back to Chicago to tell us
Our streets will only be as safe as our schools
are strong and our families are sound.

Two days later, the accidental murder of a student
at my school becomes a day old bouquet
beginning to wilt and a news camera too unwilling

to return to the scene of the crime. Fred Hampton
is not a history lesson in Chicago Public Schools.

While she’s memorizing her poem, I ask
her to be more vulnerable, and she tells me
how when she was six, she skinned her knee
and waited outside the bedroom door for
her mother, locked on the other side with
a pipe burning louder than a daughter’s whimper.

I could almost burn the pages of every poem
I’d ever written, paper cups folding under
the weight of stories they cannot undo.

Last year before the poetry slam, Wayne Strange
gets jumped for his notebook, delivers a half-memorized
poem with his face split open like a jack-knife, blood
pooled on his upper lip like the mustache he tries
so hard to grow.

He’s quarterback turned bookworm,
skips lunch on the last day of school
to read me his poem about the school closing
in his neighborhood. I want to know

Fox News, can you tell his story better
than he can? Are you soothsayer or sabertooth?
When was the last time you pointed your camera
at the ugly you crawled out of, the smother,
the smolder, the story you forgot to tell?

My students teach me new languages
for the cliché of first heartbreaks,
allegories for how much parents suck,
a fistfull of the metaphors for when they couldn’t
throw hard enough, a way to say they can
when others say they cannot.

Don’t forget the most important lesson
you’ll ever learn: everyone has a story
worth telling. Don’t forget to learn
to listen.

-Stephanie Lane Sutton


After Your Aneurysm

The dial tone sounded like EKG
rug was torn and felt like gauze
the way the dead bolt screamed
at one boot to the mouth.

Shaved six inches of scalp.
Two sections of guarding leaf split
back to gray-tongued
petal and pistol.
A swarm of venom blood,
built around an arsenal
discharged
into your unsuspecting
Sunday.

They call it miracle
that your parents knew
to come so quickly,
As if they could hear the approach of body
bag, zip.

statistics piled heavy
dirt in our hands
you could wake but with
a blank stare, your voice
shifted to an infant's
coo.

this silver lining like a two by four.

and despite your
eyes fluttered then flung open
hands waving wildly to remove
the feeding tube
We could not believe.
And how you could not remember.

Being forced still and fetal
your body full of urchins,
singed through skull and skin.
The backs of your eyelids filled
with unwound yarns of artery,
undressed poppies
that bear no comfort
Not even the gentle spoon fingers of nurses,
The way you would shame your body
too shriveled to lift the soap.

I called my mother
she told me to cook, when words fail us
there's always a dinner that can
fill the table.

I wept into that casserole
every spiral piece of pasta
a drill to my gut, reminder of
each wound piece
of a gray mass
I felt like no prayer could speak for.

Now you can sit before me.
Your left eye blurred
Hair trimmed a close crop
Your half cocked smile a bandage
for my fear of losing you again.

How purpose bears new meaning

-Rachel Therres


Lime Green Paring Knife

A Pantoum

I carved the word “Silent” into my upper right thigh.
I convinced my therapist that I had no idea--
not one in this whole empty room--
why I had done this thing to myself.

I convinced my therapist that I had no idea
how I had supposed that this would help.
Why, I had done this thing to myself
in such a state of blameless panic that I must be exonerated.

How had I supposed that this would help?
I tell her there is something inside of me
in such a state of blameless panic that it must be evacuated.
I only know so many ways to gain entry to myself.

I tell her there is something inside of me
that reminds me why I do not dare to speak.
I only know so many ways to gain entry to myself.
Evidence is my only road to salvation.

Do not dare tell me I am not trying to speak--
I carved the word “Silent” into my fucking leg.
With no evidence, there can be no salvation.
None; not in this whole empty room.

-Ellyn Touchette


Growing Up Girl In Four Parts

In November 2013, The Motion Picture Association of America censored a scene in the film Charlie Countryman, in which actress Evan Rachel Wood receives oral sex from her male co-star. The scene was deemed too graphic to be granted an R rating.

I. In junior high, my best friend was named Megan. She wore
spaghetti strap tank tops all year and was the tallest girl
in school. One sweaty afternoon before summer
break, the hockey boys invited Megan and I
to the back of the bus. I slid nervously onto a leather seat
next to Megan who whispered, we have to make out. When
I asked her why she said, I don't know, just do it. I never tell anyone
Megan was my first kiss because though I puckered my cherry
chapsticked lips, I knew that kiss did not belong to us.
The next fall, a pigtailed pre-teen left, “how to properly give
a blow job” on the browser of a school computer.
Ms. Hubert, after assuring us we'd no longer be virgins
if we swallowed boys like pints of bad cafeteria milk
said, better to keep the boyfriend you have than
be used goods to another. As girls, we are taught to give
before we ever learn what our own bodies are capable of taking.
On the way home from school that day, I bought three bags
of Ring Pops. Wore them only on my ring finger.

II. In the film Saving Private Ryan, blood pours from soldiers' heads
like spilled buckets of paint, bodies are scattered across Omaha Beach
as if nothing but fresh road kill. In slow motion, Tom Hanks watches
one of his men search the nearby sand for his arm, which just got
blown the fuck off. And to think, that the only thing more offensive
than this blood soaked mess is watching a woman receive pleasure.
Three minutes of sex that does not include a man also getting off
is too repulsive for a national audience.

III. A Clockwork Orange. The Accused. The Last House on the Left.
Irreversible. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The Hills Have Eyes.
The Poker House. All of these films depict violent scenes of rape or
sexual assault, none of which were censored for rating or viewer
discretion. Evan, hasn't Hollywood taught you that the dissection
of your body is more profitable than its willful opening? What a pretty
fool you are to not know they will give you what you want, but
they don't want to see, even if you are obviously faking it.

IV. Katy Perry's 2008 hit single 'I Kissed a Girl' was number one. For seven weeks.
Megan moved to Vegas years before, but I always thought
that if I heard it from the speakers of her mother's red muscle
car I would have hated it a little less. That maybe,
if Megan and I were on the set of a movie, we could sneak
to our dressing room and hold each other, apologize
for what we didn't know and how it broke us
into becoming women, while the rest of the world sits
and just keeps watching.

Dichotomy of Girl

For Poppy Harlow, the CNN correspondent who, after hearing the guilty verdict of the Steubenvillerape trial said, I've never experienced anything like it. It was incredibly emotional, incredibly difficult even for an outsider like me, to watch what happened as these two young men with such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart.

Poppy,
I understand the truth is hard to swallow. Sometimes
it tastes like Rohypnol and cheap liquor.
Sometimes you have to pull it out of yourself
so hard it can only feel like someone took it
from you. Poppy, your voice is so small
for someone with so much to say.
The first time I was sexually assaulted
I was sixteen, working at an insignificant
coffee house. He grabbed me like I was a cup
he might actually try to drink from, like he was dying
of thirst and I was the only satiable thing. How dare
I keep him from such a basic need.
When I told my female supervisor she said,
it was probably just a joke. You were probably
in the way. Poppy, girls like me are always
getting in the way of something. I wasn't wearing
a push-up bra and thigh highs, it happened anyway.
I wasn't three Redbull vodkas into a Friday
night, it happened anyway. Do you get it now?
You are not an outsider. You are the worst
kind of misogynist for thinking this has nothing
to do with you. These rapists do not deserve sympathy,
you do, for understanding the anatomy of what you are
made of. You are made of rooms. Glass ceilings and doors
slamming with, I told you so, little girl. And Poppy,
someone won't break into your house because
you asked them not to, it is implied that
they won't come in until you invite them
and there is nothing about this that isn't
trespassing. Our bodies are the only things
we will always live in. Do you live in your body?
Or did you leave it in the dressing room? Do you
understand that you have beaten the odds
simply for having a microphone in your hand
instead of a clothes iron? But Poppy, who will
speak up now? Who will crack themselves
wide open, crawl out of the grave you've
dug in progress? Because Poppy, you've taught us
to wait for our violence like a pre-existing condition,
that every woman who cries rape is a wolf
with no fangs and this country should blame
her. America, why are you a foolish mother
who keeps repeating boys will be boys,
boys will be boys, boys will be boys,
until all of your daughters are Jane Doe,
like they asked for it.

-Kayla Wheeler


The Unbody

We are living in the unlight.
We are rising. We are falling.
We are drowning. No one is moving.
I am in a field of parsley. We are lying
on the beach. We are nowhere.
I am undoing the laundry, unweaving
the denim and polyester fibers,
ungrowing the cotton. We are sleeping
in the old periodicals, unwriting
every word in our dreams, uninventing
language and each other.
I took back gravity.
Now we are all undone. Unmade
in no one’s image. We are inside
the ocean, the rocks, the trees,
the train station. My unself is made
of amaretto and heavy cream. I am
my favorite taste. We are undefining
the dimensions. We are flat. We are
deep. We are points on an unline.
We are all part of absolutely nothing.
No one is going anywhere.

On Not Shaving My Legs

Sometimes, I see a prairie.
Each blade of dark grass
is a miracle born of fragile roots.
The ground names itself Holy.

Other times, I see the flesh
of a newly-hatched sparrow.
Pimpled with follicles, but not yet
possessing the warmth of plumage.

Sometimes, there are eyelashes,
a rabbit hair scarf, intestinal villi.

I have decided to stare at it
until I can settle on a name.
I cannot justify hiding
any part of myself
I do not know.

I’m just trying to get it right

The holy sprint to catch a bus
full of wrinkled clothes and closed ears
and the filthy musk
of a half-smoked cigarette.

My sister talking about the sunset
in Aruba. How it was over in fifteen minutes.
She said it was like the sun fell down
and I missed
the next three minutes of our conversation.

The moment the ecstasy kicked in and I realized
no one was watching. The way the air held me
up and I became simply a body dancing
in a house with a campfire in the backyard.

Everything I know about addiction (or my father).
What really happened behind the furnace
when we were little girls and why I lie about it
in poems hoping somebody notices.

It is only right
when I am not alone,
so I am building
witnesses.

-Ellie White


About Wicked Banshee Press: This publication is edited solely by women and accepts submissions solely by women, individuals who identify as women or live their life as women. We are looking for work that pushes boundaries, that explores gender roles, that is unapologetic in its honesty and integrity, poetry that aims to identify with the reader and leave them soul shocked. We are looking for YOUR poetry and art.
To learn more about our authors and submissions, visit
http://wickedbanshee.wordpress.com/
editors: SaraEve (@SaraEvePoet)
Jennifer Hudgens (@thehudgeinator)
Michelle Nimmo (guest editor)