by Aeon Ginsberg
My Rapist Speaks In Two Parts
this, this is a safe space
we are all queer here.
you can sleep on my couch
this is a safe space
we are all polyamourous queers here.
we have the same pronouns
we are safe together
Welcome back, are you drunk
I’m a little tipsy
I’m a little horny too.
So, are we all in
your partner said you were okay
with being hung,
Welcome to my room
it is in the basement. There is one exit.
Landlord calls the wooden stairs a fire
My bed is big enough for a cage match.
Welcome. Are you drunk?
I like how rough you think you can be
how rough you think you can be/
think you can be rough with me.
welcome. well. well.
this is a safe space.
this is a queer space.
you can sleep on my couch. we share the same
I split open the wound of my lips.
I mean to say mouth and hear months,
it has almost been four years and in this way I know death,
by which I mean to say know debt.
Know more people who have listened
to my assault-story, the one where I don’t get a name
or voice or sound or how my breath reeked of kerosene,
this voice, a gas lit oven, yes yes yes yes yes
we do so speak pilot without knowing how to drive away.
I see my rapist, a headline saying a number and a tally and
know if not by the bullet we will die by the identity.
I bookmark a mug that says “kill your local rapist”
and know I don’t want to see another trans death
and what else do I have but blood on my skin.
In the story a trans person teaches me how to accept myself
while coercing me into their sheets, there are stains in rooms my name
has made. The trans person brings me too the queer fourth of july
and I learn to unhinge my jaw and is this not sin, a mouth
so open it speaks what you ask of it?
The solace is that a holiday about colonizing
is a reminder for my renamed body
and how I do so miss being useful.
I am raped by the mirror of myself,
I’m am folded into the dry sheets,
there are hands that look like mine that
have taken another road from here, one
that perpetuates the violence against each other.
A hawk will not eat the body of another hawk
but the hummingbird tastes just as sweet.
I tell a friend my rapists name and a hawk
will not eat the body of another hawk,
we are willing to abuse our own
but unwilling to consume them.
Aeon Ginsberg (they/them) is an agender writer and performer from Baltimore City, MD whose work focuses on narratives of gender identity, sexuality, and mental health and they ways in which trauma informs and skews those narratives. Their work has been featured or is forthcoming from The Account, Metatron, Queen Mob's Tea House (Queen of Pentacles), and elsewhere. Outside of writing Alain has been described as a mixologist on yelp, and is always surprised by their thigh muscles. They are a Taurus.
by Sarah Dauer
you can personify me as any fruit you’d like
dripping, quenching grapefruit
you are the second coming
always the first cumming
carve you out a good one
sugar, sugar all over you
hold your hand when it gets
scary out there, call your mother
when you have an allergic reaction
to peanuts, lipsync to barf day
by diet cig just the two of us
in the communal bathroom, on the
front porch, in a dream i had
in which i was writing the great
american novel and you were
curing ultcerative colitis
because this is why i kiss you,
this is why i shove my tongue down
your throat like, can you feel it yet?
don’t you wanna google
mouth herpes on a thursday in
a chilis? like, i wanna love you
like the very first time i saw
your collection of seashells and you
saw me smile with cinnamon gum
lumped in my lower lip because
my face just does this
stupid lookin thing
when i see you –
i just can’t help it
Sarah Dauer is a 19-year-old queer Jewish poet from New Jersey going to school in Western Mass. She is still figuring it all out, and is thankful for everyone’s patience. Her poetry has been previously published in Vagabond City and Yellow Chair Review. She is currently trying to write a play about the moon and a collection of short poetry about loving someone with ALS. For bagel related content follow her on twitter @lameearthpers0n
by Audrey Conklin
Red Light Green Light
On days when she
felt full of spite,
she’d press her thumb
to a crosswalk light
to stop fast traffic
at her command.
Then she’d stand
still in her place
and, looking over
each stagnant lane,
a long-lost power
that had all along
been inside her hands.
Audrey Conklin is a college student in Boston, MA. She is currently studying to get her BFA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing and working on a collection of poetry that focuses on youth, passing time, and the intimacy of special places.
by Jacob Zlomke
Deceased Man Leaves Behind 1000s of Pages of Really Awful Poetry
When the wind blows do you ever hope it crashes through your windows
and carries off your house too and especially your office, though
it’s a squat red brick thing – it’s not going anywhere.
I’m thinking about me on a boat and you’re on it too.
Quite a lot of people are on it actually, so when it sinks and I’m treading water
I can’t find you.
I view airports through a paranormal sense of inaccessibility
Like I wasn’t meant to leave, like they are designed so I, specifically, won’t leave.
But maybe I’ll feel brave on a 12-hour layover in Beijing.
True, though, that I’ve wanted to be a tree.
Be a really, really tall, cool tree and have roots that are deep.
But not in that order, I guess.
Jacob Zlomke is a Nebraskan, writer, and wannabe award winning journalist. He loves the Great Plains unconditionally.
by Riley Doherty
the sun bruises the sky as it sets
i love you i love you i love you
riley doherty would like you to think of her as a sentient bouquet of flowers. She lives in athens, ohio where she hosts the weekly poetry night at donkey coffee. You can find her on twitter or insta at @riridoh or if you're interested in longform ramblings tinyletter.com/misrememberings
by Graham Irvin
Different kinds of animals
cooking steak badly, too
rare, taking photos
to share online, eating it too
rare feeling like a werewolf
whatever the red stuff inside
the meat is, it’s running
down my chin
violence isn’t the answer but I want it
sometimes and here
it is staring me in the face
a grizzly bear eats xanax
so she won’t attack her
co-workers in an Old Navy commercial
her mother is a human
and they are both confused
when the police arrest the grizzly bear,
after what she’s done, they cook a pan of blood
until it turns brown and feed it
to her during the investigation
and she confesses quietly and eventually
her mother sees it was something to be proud of
violence is a change
in tone, a rotting tooth
in a mouth reading
about a rotting tooth, four days
in a hospital bed with the same pain
as your mother, a word or any
word or text
messages at 3am or unanswered
Craigslist casual encounters
and it is all happening
like breath in the lungs of a sky-
I am the neck and process
of all the leaves falling into the dinosaur
stomach like a golden gate suicide
finishing as much as I can
of the steak, storing it
in a sandwich bag with a monster
face on the front, hiding
the violent animal of myself
I held a knotted white sock attached
to the jaw of my first dog whose face
betrayed excitement and frustration for not
having full control, for having to fight
my smallness. My feet disappeared
into couch cushions, cold crumbs
against my sole, wood covered
loosely by thin spider web fabric.
When the dog dropped the toy, steadied
his breathing, laid into sleep
on the coarse floor the white sock was red
from his play. There was a fireplace made of brick
that meant dungeons to my child brain.
There were sharp and dangerous points
along everything that told me how I could hurt.
Poltergeist played on the deep back TV.
I didn’t watch. I knelt and held his thick skull
covered in wrinkles, my thumbs circled
the membrane of dog ear, tried to haunt
the thought into whatever he understood
me to be. I told him he would die
beneath the back porch of a different house
grey and blind, his bones full of cancer,
and would not have enough teeth to bleed
into anything, but his patch of earth
would be cool and he would make our father cry.
Monitoring an Active Volcano
I was nowhere near born for Kilauea
Not even a floating single cell for st. helen.
Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it
And when Harry Glicken died in Japan, cremated by the Roman fart of a mountain, my skull was soft in my mother’s hands. I cooed like some kind of idiot
Tell the lava I stopped smoking for good
The earth is belching fumes and ash, mad too, not polite enough to apologize, and this isn’t political. The rocks are stressed, the trees are drowning in fire
They wore asbestos gloves, gas masks, tin foil hats, and still 30,000 scientists were lost:
Rock, ate rocks
Dennis Efird, stuttering fool
Kay Efird, loved cheerwine
Charlie, when she was born the others had the nerve to call her name weird
Donald Efird, good hair, half a thumb, played guitar by ear but only covers
Annie, low to the ground and sad
Brent Efird, loved NFL Blitz, Grand Theft Auto, biggest penis of all the cousins
Tammy Efird, all her dogs too, the dead ones the frail ones, the ones hit by school buses, photo albums all over Facebook
Clayton Efird, cried picking his nose while listening to Queen
His father, no record of his name
Chris Keever, Shelley’s kid, who fought in Desert Storm, mostly behind a computer screen. There was a photo of him in an M1 tank on Shelley’s apartment wall. Saw it every Christmas eve breakfast
Paul Keever, fought in the war too but didn’t talk about it. There was one photo of him smoking, holding an M16
His girl Callie. She had three daughters then lymphoma. Her skin looked bad but she never lost her hair. Used to live with her grandmother in the double wide when her mama was in prison and her daddy didn’t want her. We played truth or dare sometimes, she was my first real kiss
Genevieve Keever, who became Genevieve Courtney and spent all her time in Charlotte. She always told her son she loved him, it was the first his wife had ever heard the word. Drove Callie to chemo and watched those kids whenever she needed rest. Watched me too, took me to Ryan’s buffet and never once complained when I only ate 3 tacos, green jello, and a chocolate vanilla swirl
Dean Keever. He was bald but made it work, got fired from the power plant for being high on the job, house always smelled like piss. Had a stroke once but it didn’t slow him down. Told me “That’s a real shame” when I didn’t know much about cars and I guess I had to agree
Melissa Keever, always short. House made of creaks and moans.
Sarah Keever. She was trying for kids not long ago. Used to take growth hormones because she was so little. I kissed her too but it didn’t mean as much.
Charlie Brown Irvin Marty
Sherry Keever Irvin Sydney
Graham Justin Irvin
Graham Irvin is a writer from North Carolina whose work has appeared in New Bile, The Tusk, Main Street Rag, and others. He is an MFA candidate and scans paper in an office to feed himself.
by Margaret O'Connell
All Of My Daydreams Have The Same Lighting And If Heaven Exists, I Hope It's That Color
I would like everyone at this party to stop trying to get laid for a moment
and to appreciate the smell of home-cooked rice
that’s coming out of the yellow window across the street
I love people who have the decadence to cook for themselves at midnight
and by that I mean I love people who aren’t as depressed as I am
I eat like seven granola bars a day
I think they’re not as good for me as I pretend they are
much like Subway or Starbucks or the Internet
I would like so much right now to be a face in that yellow window
maybe someone else would be with me
but probably not
because unlike everyone else at this party
I’m not trying to get laid tonight
partially because I’m on my period
but mostly because I’m afraid of intimacy
telling someone you love them when you’re drunk at a party is a lot like taking condoms from the bowl at the free clinic:
a cheap, safe, preventative measure
so I think I’ll tell the next person I see at this party that I love them
but that I don’t want to get laid tonight
and would they like to go stand in a yellow window with me?
Margaret O’Connell is a Midwestern water sprite who somehow managed to find her way down the Mississippi to New Orleans. She studies writing and philosophy and can be found climbing trees, hyperbolizing, and being the first person to dance at the party. Her best friend’s ex once told her that personality-wise she’s “like a seven,” which she thinks is a pretty solid rating.
by Lily Joseph Rich
last night i peed in the merrimack river as a way to get back at manchester
it wasn't very poetic or rebellious at all
i wasn't trying to make some big point
pull reason out of nothing like red bird from ashes
i go to see the merrimack because i understand it
even at 5 am it makes sense to me
all i've wanted to do since i arrived here is flow right back out
but i'm stuck
and you're stuck
also to me and i am stuck to the brick sidewalk where i cried
the edge of the merrimack is a good place to go when you want to kill yourself but know you will give up
and go home
the edge of the merrimack is a good place to cry because if your tears land in the water then at least
some part of you will leave this city
the edge of the merrimack is a good place to scream expletives as loud as you can at the night
because neither the river or the night can say anything back
repeating what you say in a funny voice won’t do shit
after all, you said it first
not to mention you need the night and the river just as much as they don't need you
and i need a lot of people just as much as they don't need me or maybe won't need me until i am gone
if i go i wonder if i will stay gone
i mean, the sun always comes back up
the clouds always rain back down
the birds always return to your backyard in the spring
and everything is new again
the birds always return and everything is new
lily joseph rich is a non-binary trans woman from massachusetts. she flips burgers for a living and somehow doesn't hate it. in her spare time she works with fabrics, markers, words, and a guitar.
by Jakob Maier
Passing as the clouds
labor over & empty
themselves of themselves,
until no clouds are left.
Like love with its lightning
& us counting seconds
to know how far away it is,
& in which direction
it is moving. Toward or away.
The things we love consume us
the same way the cactus you keep
on your windowsill eats the soil.
It is all taking—the yellow light
it steals, the water it pulls inside
itself, the interstices in dirt where
roots push through to devour. You
in my dream last night simply lying
next to me, talking in your sleep
about the meteor shower. How
the rocks and the atmosphere hold
each other for a brief second,
then burn. The cactus growing
its flower for a year & a half
before closing it for the night.
It’s like a dog running
with a stick twice its size.
It’s like tearing up
all the shoots from the plum tree.
It’s like taking paintings
back into the attic.
It’s like forgetting the wine
half-drunk & open too long.
It’s like crossing over a river
on the salmon’s spawning bodies.
It’s like Nina Simone singing
so soon & so embarrassingly soft.
It’s like every single poem
that ends with a sunset.
It’s like the sunset ending
& us letting it happen.
Jakob Maier is a poet and musician from Portland, OR. He is an MFA candidate at Syracuse University, where he serves as poetry editor for Salt Hill Journal. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Fields, Shabby Doll House, Gesture, Spy Kids Review, and more. He's alive at @iammaier.
by Lake W
Ramon sings a song I don’t know
and it sounds a lot like screeching
and the woman beside him behind
the counter doesn’t know the song
or if my soda is a Sprite or not
so she asks me to dip my head
and fit my lips around the straw
I think Ramon and I are making
eyes at each other because boys
don’t smile at me at least
and Ramon asks if I’m taking her
out or she’s taking me and I say
we’re just friends we are
but her popcorn flits from her
pinched fingertips and folds
its blown coat around its kernel
before it collapses on tile as she
laughs out the girl’s name one
who drinks green tea that I want
to taste on her teeth one with
wrists gilded golden bracelets
I want to fit my own hands in
Lake W. is a teenager living in the United States. Her work has previously appeared in Before I Leave Zine and Vagabond City Literary Journal. She tweets @lakewrites and her Tumblr is @stonemattress.
untitled 012217 (RIP boncourse)
I’m high as shit yo but I was talking to myself on the D train platform & casually threw out the word promulgate, explaining to myself that I was naturally on a downswing & I ain’t need shit like drinking to promulgate that. But anyways I look up promulgate via dictionary.com & find out I used it correctly. I’m that nigg. I finish my bagel over a cylindrical MTA trashcan so I can throw out the bag & the foil & the parchment & napkins at the same damn time. Shouting about arrows on the 59th platform but I’m on the train. Love gettin new crushes. Love the affection coming up off Shy’s face from our freckle area. It’s like weird that we have the same body & I legit feel closer to them because of it. Same clay looking ass. A text: omg i was thinking last night bout how i have giant crushes on all my friends and I'm at least a smidge sexually attracted to them minimum haha. A reply: all my non-friends are boring. You couldn’t afford to pay me to stop gushin. Are niggas really tryna sell body wash on the 6 or is this a joke I’m eavesdropping on? Always windy af on the Concourse. The street signs squeak from steel on steel grinding.
‘See you when I get back. I might die in an airplane before then. I’m taking hella planes.’ You’re prolly not the only one who thinks that’s funny. Misty Ass Manhattan. Thick fog, lil face ass. I rubberneck on two policeman treating two white guys tryna fight v v respectfully. I’m wild paranoid rn because I’m high but like I know that’s just my body warning me that there’s possible danger afoot—uncomfortable but necessary. Everybody crossing the street or reaching into front seats is a potential threat when shit’s all cloaked up. I make it to 125th w one min before my 30-day metrocard expires—& a 6min 4 train. A old man, maad dark, approaches me & asks for a quarter & I’m automatically shaking my head & shit. ‘Next time?’ ‘Sorry man naw.’ ‘Don't you ever say sorry!’ I'm tryna listen to my body’s alert system. ‘As a muslim, my daddy told me—he died in 2000, uh 2—he told me, “Never say sorry. You only sorry for yourself!” So I tell I tell the next person, don’t say sorry, tell em, I don’t got it right now, but next time. & it don’t gotta be me, could be the next person!’ You right. Next time I got you. I’m only thinking negatively. I fw rap & shoegaze in the same way cuz they got the same beats & both quintessentially 90’s. Always wanna listen to Nas after Slowdive.
msw writes philosophical nonfiction lolll & his first book 'Sparse Black Whimsy: A Memoir' is dropping via 2fast2house on 4/20. His Instagram & Twitter are both gold. marcusscottwilliams & mswthug, respectively. He loves you.
by Rebecca Upton
therapists have never told me
anything about myself
that i didn’t already know.
i’m painfully aware of
all of my flaws.
i just need someone to tell me
what i should do about them.
told me i needed to exercise more.
i said that would never happen.
he gave me rorschach tests.
i saw the results
but they left me with no clarity.
he made sailboat metaphors a lot.
how are sailboats supposed to make me better
my hands have forgotten
the script they were supposed to follow,
how to pick up my phone and call my mother.
but my lungs remember how to smoke a cigarette
and my fingers remember
how to tap the like button
on instagram, facebook, twitter, tumblr posts.
i will always excel in
sometimes it’s hard
just to be a person.
i often ignore facebook event invitations.
why should i go out
when i could just watch Netflix
i’m sorry but unfortunately
the syllables spoken in our last conversation
seem to have escaped
i hope someday
you’ll be impressed
by my ability to thrive
under the harshest living conditions.
The Granite State
i don’t drink enough water.
i don’t look away from my phone
i wish i lived in a town
i could romanticize.
there is nothing romantic
about a town where most places
close at 5pm and every person
seems to know everyone else.
i want to fall in love with a city
miles away from where i was born
but i am stuck here
because i can’t afford
out of state tuition.
i had a dream
that i made my
college debt disappear
just by snapping
now i snap my fingers
and nothing happens.
nothing happens anywhere.
wherever i go i won’t
stop checking my phone.
i walk these streets reluctantly
and sigh dramatically
every time i encounter a stop sign.
Rebecca Upton is a college student from New Hampshire. She is the author of two chapbooks, looking for ltr with goth and To My Disorder, which can be found along with her other writing pieces at crackedmoth.tumblr.com. She tweets as vaporwavemoth. She likes Elliott Smith, 90's emo music, and cheap wine.
by Kyle Flak
in a minute
i've gotta get ready
to go to work
my whole job in life should be to kiss you over and over again in the moonlight
while all the creepy mannequins downtown look on
from their shop windows
Kyle Flak is the author of I AM SORRY FOR EVERYTHING IN THE WHOLE ENTIRE UNIVERSE (Gold Wake Press, 2017),WHAT HANK SAID ON THE BUS (Publishing Genius, 2013) (Winner of the Chris Toll Prize), THE SECRET ADMIRER (Adastra Press, 2010), and HARMONICA DAYS (New Sins Press, 2009). In 2013, he was a finalist for a Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship from The Poetry Foundation. In 2015, he was chosen as a "Poet to Notice" by Grandma Moses Press. His writing has recently appeared in Frogpond, Hart House Review, Makeout Creek, Mudfish, Poetry East, Spinning Jenny, Whiskey Island, and various other magazine / anthology type of things. He went to school at Northern Michigan University and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
by Gabriel McCulloch
I Miss You, Tom (and Aliens Exist）
I don't think people get as sad as I do
When I show them Tom Delonge's Instagram
And explain in exasperation
How good it all coulda been
They see a former celeb off the deep end
While I'm crying over the words that were never written
And the teenage exuberance I'll never remember having
But now he's just like a weird uncle
Or your cousin who found Jesus
So gimme one good reason
why I can't die a little on the inside with
every photoshopped conspiracy theory screenshot
that I know could've been a great fart joke instead
Gabriel McCulloch is an actor, musician, writer and corporate food industry underling living in New Orleans, LA. He graduated from Loyola University in 2016 and has spent the past year unraveling into threads of click-bait existentialism. Obv he is beyond hyped and honored to be published in tenderness, yea <3
by Jesse Rice Evans
When I say gunk I mean myofascia so don't stop yr demotion to cardinal, pillar; if gone is the word you are looking for, i’m
in my big dream, big woken snuff blood bitch blood filling the tough sink linoleum, mopped into a sprawl, a yawn of blood, a yelp in me inside of me in side like I've been folded inside out and if I dip my finger into my own blood I feel it behind my knees eyes unctuous AF;
I post about it on the internet and write about it, cycle of set of behaviors I drool over, big gums flaming blood into magic saliva salivating delineating haunch or glimpse or you at the end of a long wooden table eating peanuts and kissing me oh don't stop kissing me
I go to physical therapy my physical therapist is small with hot dry hands that don't shake even a little bit he seems sturdy and he believes that my shoulder blades can touch each other if I try hard enough he says your left elbow is swollen trycing it sorry try icing it but it's winter so why would I ice the frozen meat of my body, the wool coat I dragged off a rack on Lexington and pulled around my shoulder like a cape, $20 cashmere in a dry cleaner bag, the wool the only warm thing
I try on my new clothes, they are supposed to already fit me and I am supposed to feel at home and I do but I am inconsistent, aggressive, everyone tells me and I sort of already know but definitely struggle to care bc if I weren't a femme would it matter my demeanor would it matter to anyone how much space I need between my thighs on the crowded 4 train how I could turn my neck 360 degrees then could stretch this rubber band long AF like a rainbow in front of my chest, arcing in then yawning out, again, and, again,
How to Be Impressive
Get up when you can't
Remember how to roll a spliff; forget for 6 years; remember again
Carry everything you own on your back for one day;
Take the express train while holding everything you own
Forget about being on time,
Get there early AF
Let your whole body quake
Whenever it wants to
Become whole then unspool into your patterned duvet cover each night like a reality star drench
Get sorry get excited get woke get up get better get junk
Call yourself a stage name: Chrysanthemum or Fin or Eli
Don't forget: water the golden pothos each Sunday
Make a list that is more like a saga:
dress, socks first, minimize spasms with herbs and heat wraps
as needed, lay down and breathe
into your hips and throat, spoon yogurt
Remember your body a blistering garment strong against the urges of evening
Be or get a clunky apology
Jesse Rice-Evans is a queer Southern poet. The nonfiction editor of Identity Theory, her first chapbook, Soft Switch, was recently released by Damaged Goods Press. Currently, she teaches writing at City College and The Cooper Union in New York.
by Simon Wish
10 pm, unfurling
getting turned to rain through the nitecloth
im fragile right now
earth is very beautiful
type yes if you agree
driving my truck in circles
on the gravel
im riding myself into the sunset
can you imagine ever the perfect mountain
surprise every mountain is perfect
lick me on the inside
of my skateboard
touch my paw
against your paw
you smell good
i am liking the way you smell
my little one of the good forest
the sweet ears and hands of you !
get me down
to the bottom of the lake
splash me against the water
i love you
simon wish is a gay boy living in philadelphia. they love rocks and co edit glo worm press. follow them on twitter @atreewithagrape :)
by Shane Gannaway
What is wrong with you?
An acoustic guitar dilly dallies while I warm up.
It's all Grammy nonsense today, and this is preferred
to the normal noise: bombings, sex slaves, prisoners
too far imprisoned. Ignorance is too great
to be ignored. So sometimes coffee can smell like
doughnuts, and we can stop pretending like we're
dying, if we live in the West and we're white and
we sip mimosas on a Sunday (God, what are you
doing, don't sip, are you a savage? Are you fresh
off the boat? That's disgusting) life can be just fucking
grand. Or, you can grab a
Bloody Mary, that celery
is zero calories, trust me.
Shane Gannaway graduated from Austin College with a B.A. in Liberal
Arts, and a double major in English and Media Studies. His poetry and
short fiction have appeared in Austin College’s literary magazine,
Suspension, new wave vomit, The Molotov Cocktail, and Thunderclap
Press. He lives where he was born, Austin, TX.
by Erin Flegg
I Picked A Garden
One day he brings you a flower. It's a test,
he says, see how long you can keep it alive.
He must have thought you were blood, your skin showing
pink with all the life you have to spare. He
puts the plant on the window ledge next to the others, waits
for you to rise for them.
He got it wrong though. You are the light,
just a white colour, but you are no sun. You, the Flood
that seeps in through the cracks in the windows at night,
drowns all the plants while he sleeps.
But I picked a garden, he says to you, and runs
his smooth hands along the lines in your knotted skin.
And so you repent, dig plots for the futures
he keeps bringing home for you.
While he's away, you scour your corners
for green things, dig them out with hands now honed
for the task. Pinch stalks until they bleed.
Then you sneak out at night, squat
in the alley to scrape the soil from beneath
your fingernails, weave false roots to cover
There is no frost in this city to hide
your horticultural misdeeds. Your daily resistance
won't disappear under some opaque weight of cold.
So when he gets home, hold up red fingers, say,
look how I have bled for us today.
Das ist Nicht Deine
When I am 17, I go to spend a few weeks in Germany with my uncle and his family. It's a short trip, less than a month, and the reasons for it are vague. Something about culture and Aeroplan miles and a standing offer to babysit my cousins whenever. I don't think it is intended as a formative experience, but I'm not unaware of the possibilities.
My uncle was raised in a Mennonite family on the prairies, and moved to Europe after finishing his Masters to work for Daimler-Chrysler testing cars. He met and married an East German woman and they had two girls. The latest child is three and no one in my family has met her yet. I will be the first one. I feel a little smug about this. I'm very good with children.
Both kids take to me right away. The older one, named Lisa, speaks a little English but mostly she gets excited after a sentence or two and switches to German, so I just smile and try to be happy for her. But Lisa, I'm told, is friendly with everyone, just a generally pleasant child. Lucy is the real triumph, they say. Lucy doesn't like anyone. She holds my hand whenever we leave the house and she shares her toys with me. Lisa is old enough to speak in sentences far too complicated for my sub-basic German but Lucy speaks in single words and syllables, often accompanied by illustrative hand gestures. Meine! She holds both hands to her chest. Pferd! She points helpfully to the large statue of a man on a horse. Auf! She holds up some object that needs opening or closing or often just removal from the scene. (Auf, I quickly learn, is about as all-purpose a word as you'll ever catch such a linguistically particular people as the Germans using.)
But it doesn't last. One day we are running home after picking Lisa up from kindergarten and we pull away from the others, end up back in the garden and out of sight of my aunt and the neighbour kid and her mother. Lucy realizes this and tries to go running back up the road but I stop her, try to tell her that Mama is right around the corner, to stay in the yard and wait. This turns out to be a fatal mistake. She cries and she pouts at me, eyebrows lowered and teeth bared in anger. Not merely the generic sadness of small children but a deliberate sign of her disappointment in me specifically. Things are never the same. Now the only thing she says to me is Das ist meine! Das ist nicht deine! Accompanied by actions as always, it is not difficult to ascertain her meaning.
But I get used to it. When I was young and my sister was born, I often tried to play with her, talking to her and leaning over her baby seat. More often than not she would cry before I even touched her and I would get scolded. It took quite awhile for my parents to realize how devious their new baby could be.
This place, the stone buildings and the old language and the pastries, become a breeding ground for elaborate fantasies and other re-imaginings of life. I see the most beautiful child that ever was at a cello recital for kids. Lisa plays an original composition titled Der Dauphin. She is a prodigy, far more talented and full of light than I am. When I get back to Ottawa, I'll play a recording of the piece for my mother, and she'll tell me it isn't very good.
I have never had a boyfriend but there is a boy a year older than me at school back home who I've half-convinced myself is secretly in love with me. It's an unfortunate but common habit and I'm too young yet to see just how bad an idea it is. At the playground near the house with my aunt and the girls, I compose the first lines of a letter, or a novel, or an epic poem about how, by some impossible fluke of the universe, he shows up here in Stuttgart.
“He found her sitting on a swing in Zoma Rein, warm sun on her pale skin. She wore a yellow sweater and her bare feet swung loose above the ground.” It's lucky the name of the neighbourhood is conducive to this endeavour. I have a hard time believing that I will one day be something other than 17.
To learn German, I read children's books with my aunt and watch the nightly news. Stories about the European economy and Bayern Munchen. She asks me if I understand any of what the anchor is saying. She's wondering if my ancestral instincts are keen enough, if, with the proper trigger, the language centre in my brain could shift and turn like a Rubik’s cube until all the colours line up, a tiny tower of babel in my head. I lie and say it's like I'm just on the edge of understanding everything.
It's something of an unfair question. Even my grandmother and great-grandmother, the only ones left who still converse fluently in our ethnic Low-German, wouldn't have been able to keep up with the broadcast. The Mennonite dialect combines grammatical principles of High German with Dutch, Russian, Ukrainian and the ragged bits and pieces of who knows how many other European languages. My mother spoke it as a child but retains little of it now. And I, the child of a self-proclaimed exile among exiles, speak French. And reasonably well at that.
My uncle works during the day but in the evenings he likes to talk, and he talks to me like an adult, one that has information that might be useful to him. He asks about my mother. I tell him she is fine, she is always fine. She isn't really, but silence is an art in my family and I'm only just beginning to address the line between what I think is normal and what really is. He asks about my grandparents, knowing that I've seen them much more recently than he. I tell him they are fine too.
“I've never quite understood why your mom can't get along with them,” he says. This isn't news to me but it's not what I expect to hear from someone I hardly know. I sometimes forget that other people knew her long before and at least as well as I. Also, there is an edge to his otherwise warm voice that makes me uneasy.
“They don't approve of the way she's raising us,” I tell him firmly. This is a Truth, one of many solid statements of fact that I carry around with me for times when I'm called upon to speak for my mother. He shakes his head a little.
“I think your mom just likes to think that's the case.” I stiffen in my plastic chair and my face feels sharp, like a reflection of his dismissal. “We don't take our kids to church, we didn't get married in one. We just told them it's not what we want and they were fine with that.”
I think about this, my mom's youngest brother calling her a liar. This is getting toward the end of the period of my life during which I will defend my mother's honour to the death, but still this raises my hackles. Her life has not been easy. The only person in her family she seemed to like, her oldest brother, died ten years ago. After that, she all but excommunicated herself from the church and her headaches got worse. At school, when my friends complain about their mothers, call them bitch or refer to them derisively by their first names, I laugh with the rest and think of mine, apologize to her through the ether. It still feels to me like the sort of sin that, if left knowingly unrepented, will get me in the end. This is before I really know much about her.
“I know for a fact that Grandma has commented to her about it on more than one occasion.” He lets it drop after this.
The second week I'm here, my other grandmother dies. My father's mother. Drained by her dementia she finally let go, once there were no more familiar faces in the world. Not even my dad's. The strangest feeling isn't that I'm far away from her, that my sister and our cousins are at the funeral, reading poems and short passages from the bible. It's that I'm surrounded by the wrong family. I am the wrong self for this, and this family might as well be strangers for all they can see of Grandma Flegg in me. The woman who let me help her bake when I was young, barked at me to get my uncooked joints off the table when I leaned on my elbows at dinner. She attempted to teach me how to properly fold fitted sheets, though with all of the kids in the family it was a lost cause. She called my six-foot-two mountain man of a father Robbie and pinched our elbows between her surprisingly strong, bony fingers whenever she felt we needed a little direction.
I am projecting at least a little and I know this, deliberately drawing on the sort of memories girls are supposed to have of their grandmothers. After the age of seven I saw her no more than once a year, maybe in the summer at the lake or at Christmas time. She was the reason my dad and I would go to the butcher shop to buy suet so he could make her traditional Christmas pudding, wrapping it up and leaving it in the cold room in the basement for months until it was ready to eat with rum-infused ice cream. My sister and I have always hated that pudding.
I am sad but I want to feel sadder. Instead I feel guilty for not coming apart more, for letting my father feel most of it for me.
When I have a little time to myself, I take my few words of German to the bakery a few blocks over and ask for eine schokoladencroissant, bitte. I hand over a few marks. Instead of the smooth German chocolate I'm expecting, the filling tastes a lot like Nutella. I don't like Nutella very much. But the pastry tastes good.
Erin Flegg is a semi-nomadic queer living somewhere between St'at'imc and Coast Salish territories (Lillooet and Vancouver, BC). Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry is Dead, Backflip Magazine and SAD Mag. In her spare times she likes to make jam.
by Nicholas Bon
I Open my Circus Mouth
when I take out everything
that is inside of me
you'll see a space
shaped like a thousand promises
The Soviets Favored Dogs for their Early Space Flights; the Americans Preferred Chimpanzees and Monkeys
when you were a window?
it was so effortless
the last time I tried to be a window
I was still just a wall
two pounds of cat food
left in the bag
you don't have a cat anymore
I've forgotten so many things
things like what you might whisper
in my ear
in the hollow
of the night
or how your hand feels
when you're happy
Nicholas Bon lives in Georgia, where he edits Epigraph Magazine. You can find his poems in Wu-Wei Fashion Mag, UCity Review, Right Hand Pointing, and elsewhere. Visit him online at nicholasbon.com.
by Heather Butler
We were not at home when a chunk
Of the moon 24 miles across
Fell into Lake Pontchartrain. So we weren’t
There when our house flooded with sudden
Brackish water, missed the sight
Of the tidal waves pouring over the streets
Of the neighborhood I grew up in.
When we did return we had to
Paddle our useless cars to the epicenter of the crash,
Where we found the chunk of the moon
24 miles across floating 8 inches above the surface
Of the crashing waves and bobbing gently
Like a buoy or a beacon. We did not mourn
Any loss; instead we shrugged
Our shoulders, rolled up our sleeves, and pulled
Driftwood and debris from the water
And built ourselves a new shelter
On the surface of the moon, 24 miles across
And eight inches above the world.
Heather Butler is a bisexual artist and writer from Metairie, Louisiana. She is the author of a chapbook, It's Okay to Not Be Afraid. Her work can be found on instagram @stainedpalms, or her tweets at the same name.
by Meredith Faulkner
I Got Honorable Mention in the Biology Category of the State Science Fair in Eighth Grade, but Now I’m Not Even Sure How to Make Soup
Problem: Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Observation: It’s getting worse, which is, incidentally, the exact same sentence I wrote on loose-leaf in my own blood two weeks ago.
Hypothesis: I can make myself afraid of anything.
1. Eating. It starts in public—what if I eat too loudly or sloppily or what if I eat the wrong things and people think I’m on my way to becoming obese or what if I actually become obese or what if I spill food all down my clothes? Then it’s ordering food, because I might mispronounce phad thai or pho or burrito gigantica or gnocchi soup or maybe they won’t hear me when I say “no tomato, please” or maybe the order will come out wrong and I will be too afraid to tell the waiter? The grocery store, too, is out, because surely someone will look in my cart and see three bags of tortilla chips and a case of Dr. Pepper and even if no customer does the cashier will definitely judge me. Then I get so scared of my anxiety that I can hardly get out of bed to make Ramen let alone a salad so I will probably just starve to death.
2. Heights. I’m not afraid of falling, not anymore, but I can’t trust myself not to jump if given the chance.
3. Traveling. I can’t drive new places without reading the map at least three times and with Siri reading me instructions as I go and even then my breath gets caught in my throat when I make an unfamiliar turn. And what if the parking lot is crowded or I get in a wreck or I run over a cyclist? Parking garages are no good because I will probably get attacked on my way to my car. And where did I put my key? Public transport is no good because there are strangers everywhere and the schedule is out of my hands and I’m afraid that if I take a subway I will simply disappear into the crowd.
4. Elevators. I will get stuck and die.
5. Coffee Shops. I don’t even like coffee so I order the frou-frou drinks with lots of whipped cream that only barely hide the fact that I have the palate of a five-year-old. The names are always so long, “venti triple-chocolate-cookie-crumble mocha with soy” or something equally ridiculous. More words mean more chances to screw up. They’ll misspell my name and maybe read it out so wrong that I don’t even know it’s mine or maybe I’ll take someone else’s drink by mistake. Or someone will take mine and I will be too scared to tell the barista.
6. Being alone. I cannot be left alone for too long or else my brain starts telling me that I don’t deserve to wake up in the morning, which leads to
7. Sleep. I might not wake up.
8. Caffeine. Caffeine keeps me from sleeping fourteen hours a day but it also negates my anxiety meds. My heart rate will go up and then I’m left wondering why I’m anxious when there’s nothing to be anxious about so now even thinking about caffeine makes me anxious.
9. Being with people. There are so many things that can go wrong: too loud, too quiet, wrong word choice, misinterpretations, poorly read facial cues, smelling bad, accidentally saying something offensive, clumsily running into them or spilling water or dropping something, not looking pretty enough, coming across as a know-it-all, coming across as stupid… and then I will be forever remembered as the Person With Her Foot In Her Mouth.
10. Clothes. Black makes me sweat too much but at least it hides the stains, whereas in grey I sweat less but the stains are more visible. White makes my bra show through. So I wear the same five tees every week and eventually someone will ask about it. I can’t wear shorts because of my leg hair and most shorts are short enough to show scars, anyway. Jeans are nice but I don’t look grown up enough but I am too nervous about stores to buy new things so I just buy the same things without trying them on.
11. The Post Office. I have had a prescription for more anxiety and depression meds sitting on my desk for two weeks. When I think about it I hate myself for not mailing it in sooner which makes me just stay in bed and not mail it. Again.
12. Getting Air in My Tires. I could do it at the gas station but someone might mug me while I’m standing outside my car. The dealership would take care of it but I hate driving there and never know where to park and my car is embarrassingly dirty next to all the new ones. The garage outside my neighborhood does it for free but I always feels guilty pulling up and having them try all my lights as if I was getting a new brake tag and then just asking for a free service.
14. Living. All of the above. Also, someday someone is going to get too close and will realize that I am just a hollow person faking my way through life and completely useless and if my cover gets blown I don’t know what I will do.
15. Asking for Help. I’ll probably scare anyone I tell and I don’t want anyone to be as scared as me.
Observation 2: I am only afraid once I start thinking of the object of my fear.
Observation 3: There are no scenarios in which I am able to not think and still be a functioning adult.
Conclusion: It’s getting much worse.
Meredith Faulkner is a graduate of Loyola University in New Orleans pursuing three disciplines that don't make much money. She writes about God, marriage, and mental illness. You can find her blogging about poetry at wordmakingpoets.tumblr.com.
by Lauren Stroh
I hate to sweep the mess it
is the only proof we made it
Lauren Stroh is a writer based in New Orleans, LA.
by Anahi Molina
Evening with Grandma
yesterday in the backyard i sat in a lawn chair and watched you come back from
wherever you had been, little heaven or little hell
holy ghost, heavenly being, now excommunicated from your temporary resting place,
impossibly tangible in the dense evening air
the dog barked and barked and barked because he saw you too, and he was afraid but
i know you, and i was not
the world is scary, or big, you said one of the two but i can’t remember which,
and, you said, the place after isn’t any bigger or scarier or any more or less
echoing amongst the bougainvilleas, your words slipped into each flower and crack in the pavement,
and now the dog heard and understood you, and perhaps i was the one barking, confused
you, too, will slip away to the pavement soon;
i do not know that your head spins in the night, under the covers, even when your eyes are closed, but somehow i feel it and understand it—the spinning—and i know that you must go
cross the river, blue and blue and blue under you;
those places which to the two of you will go are too far to visit, so instead you’ll hang on the wall
the ugly little black frame in which you are stuck,
we cry over it alone or in bed or somewhere we can be ignored.
Evening with Grandma 2
i am sitting on your big couch, staring at the wooden statue of jesus himself.
he watches me watching you watching tv.
mostly we watch soap operas because you really like them for some reason,
or maybe because it’s the only thing on your tv since you don’t have cable
the people we watch are grainy and wavy and they cut in and out. their spanglish cuts off into white noise often, but you don’t seem angry about this at all since this is the only tv you know
when the show finishes we go into the kitchen where you make tortillas,
the smell of masa sticking to my clothes and hair
we knead and knead until your joints hurt but it doesn’t matter since now you’re cooking the frisbees of dough, and im in the other room, accidentally pricking my fingers with needles
you have a million slips of paper on the tables and shelves and floor and mom tells you to throw them away, but i understand why you have to keep them because i keep my papers too
even though yours smell like potpourri and mine smell like desks or crayons
it’s starting to rain, but that’s OK, we need the rain, you say
who needs the rain? i wonder, but since i like to splash in it i don’t bother to ask
dad’s here and i wave goodbye to your plants and papers and tortilla presser,
and to jesus, though i am afraid of him, standing over you in the corner and watching you watch tv.
Anahi Molina is currently studying creative writing in New Orleans. Her work has appeared in The Millions and New Orleans Review. She occasionally tweets at @anahianabye.
by Daphne Calhoun
Bedrock City/Vacation Poem
The Grand Canyon is 5-6 million y/o Very Freaky and definitely a Gemini
If u drop a coin off of her she will kill a hiker below u and I’m like
I move slightly and she
U live in that big thumbprint me atop the tip of the rock nip
I feel slighted and she
Laughs and laughs
Tells me I should
Eat the Canyon rocks so Arizona stays inside of me
Daphne Calhoun is from the crystallized ether-astral body and also Nebraska, where she is a student and social worker. Daphne Calhoun is trying her best.
by Miles Honey
we’d fit in each other’s bodies so good
we’d fit in each other’s bodies so good
if you wanted we could
trade or just fuck whatever
body to body
boy vs. girl
kiss each other
kiss a mirror
Miles Honey is a queer artist and writer from Detroit mainly interested in gender/identity, interpersonal communication, and overwhelming intrapersonal uncertainty. Find more of her work at @amyfieldmouse on twitter and instagram.
by A. Zachary
reasons not to fuck me, a listicle
1. I spilled beet juice on my pillow, then pretended it was blood that had trickled from my ear in sleep, then became irrationally anxious and had to check my ears in the mirror to ascertain that they were not bleeding
2. I spent 145% of this fortnight’s income on rare adidas sneakers that I am too afraid to wear outside
3. if we fuck, I will make you into poetry
4. I will maybe stop you halfway through and get out of bed to write that poetry while you wait there frustrated, and your waiting and frustration will become part of the poem, and I’ll inform you of this, and this will make you more frustrated, and I’ll write that in, too, and this cycle will continue until either of us dies or leaves
5. my fetish is when my partner turns into a cloud and envelops me in their warm, fascinating vapor, touches me completely, and describes the feeling to me telepathically. are you down to try?
6. my fetish is when I’m a coyote living near your house and I leave dead rabbits, rats, on your doorstep, but you do not take them in • undeterred, I continue to bring you my kills, hoping one eventually will please you • until there’s a mound of corpses at your door • which, one day, you burn by the trampoline • you continue to intrigue me. • for weeks I watch you through the window; I feel you watch me, too, but you do not come outside again • one night, your curtains open wide, we lock eyes as you masturbate in your bedroom • I pace around the house, trying to smell you through the walls
A. Zachary (1993–present) is the author of The End, by Anna, out now with Metatron.
by Bee Ulrich
& also, fuck amtrak
when you’re sitting on the train or something, and you take a look behind your seat to see something passing through the window, and instead of that bird or building your eyes meet a person in a thick-red-yarn-knit hat and dark bangs poking out, they’re sitting in that calm but anxious way with their hands cupped together just below their stomach and you can imagine this is their first time on the train, so they’re enjoying it but so worried they’re going to miss their stop. it’s cold this january. you are so so glad they brought their hat. and you know you don’t want to be creepy so you don’t turn all the way around and like, start a conversation because no one does that, it’s twenty-sixteen, besides they’re listening to something with heavy bass on their headphones and you know that you’d definitely hate to be bothered in the middle of a song, so instead you just take quick peeks every now and again, pretending to just look out the window behind you but turning your head a little farther to see if you catch their eye, maybe they’ll strike up a conversation with you if you just do that enough, maybe they’ll wonder if you have a nervous tic and talk to you out of worry or empathy or something. but they don’t and you hear them shuffling around in their seat, putting up the plastic folding tray and hanging their headphones on their neck, picking up their stuffed canvas messenger bag and standing up, straightening out their jacket and skirt with a few sweeps of their hands, they tap one of their flats impatiently as the train shudders to a halt one stop before yours, they step into the aisle and join the single-file line of strangers and they all walk past you to the door at the front of the train car, as they pass you see the stylized patch taking up the whole back of their padded jacket; it’s a head-on portrait of a screaming tiger with three glowing eyes and surrounded by a wreath of flames. before they get too far ahead they turn around one time and meet your eyes, for a moment you fall into a fantasy where you think they’re going through the same thing you just went through this whole train ride, but then their face twists into a snarl and they give you a mean glance and then they leave the train.
& we laid down arms
do you still take the time to visit
where we used to fight pretend
knock chests together, turn limbs
into so much slack rope?
you held a bec de corbin
how cupped palms hold water.
you hold me like your hands
are cupping fireflies.
it's dark out. the cicadas
have bloomed and we used to
tackle each other in this weather.
when you held me down
a moment too long
Bee Ulrich is a fan of frog people, medieval armor, and yelling. They're a very queer and very trans undergrad living in Newport News, Virginia, and they're glad no one's figured out they're faking this whole language thing yet. They make tweets happen @cavegift and they love you, too.
by Joseph Parker Okay
i’m not like most boys
i don’t have access to wifi
birds can’t survive in space
they need gravity to swallow
& oxygen to breathe
they should switch the legal drinking age with the legal tattoo-getting age imo
thinking of wave as both a noun & a verb
makes me feel both appreciated & calm
i have waves (n.) tattooed across
my stupid chest
surrounding a day to remember lyrics
we don’t need to talk about it ever again
hi it’s 109 degrees outside
& i’m sitting in a meditation tent
listening to elvis depressedly
i would love to eat some fruit rn
or a very long piece of bread
i have this theory nobody can love bread
& also love themselves
everybody has to choose one
i wonder if fruit loves the way i lie
in my bed eating it sometimes
i wonder if my family would still love me
if i killed a cop
when i was 13 my dad gave me the talk & said
if i grew up to be gay
he wouldn’t love me any less
joseph parker okay is the only person who lives in tucson. more of his work can be found at gumroad.com/josephparkerokay. he tweets @verysoftlake.
by Gabrielle Douglas
when i die, i want to be remembered as a person who was always smiling, or – if not so perpetually – a person who smiled a whole hell of a lot, possibly more than ever made sense.
when people unfold me like a note, i sound more like a polemical love letter than a secret.
that’s good, i think.
sometimes i wonder if i haven’t moved yet out of my freudian anal fixation stage, because so many of my internal responses to people’s stupid and inane questions and comments revolve around my butthole:
“where did i leave my x?” “in my asshole.”
“i wouldn’t feel so bad about x.” “suck on my asshole.”
“how are you?” “bleeding out of my asshole.”
and so on, and so forth.
if i had a dollar for every time i got righteously pissed at something, i’d be a millionaire.
if i had fifty cents for every time you said the wrong thing this week – usually by saying nothing at all – i’d be just as rich.
the fact that i still get pimples and i’m a sophomore in college seems to me like a cosmic irony, just like that time i sat out on the peace quad and a bird shit on the back of my arm.
at least it wasn’t in my hair.
sometimes three different people talk to me at the same fucking time, and it is at once the most annoying experience i’ve ever had and definitive proof that i am loved, even if just a little.
what would be the perfect day for me?
i’d spend it in bed, and in coffeehouses, and walking through uptown on schizophrenic pavements.
i’d spend it on the telephone, with my mom and with anna and maybe with crystal, too, talking about everything.
i’d spend it smiling constantly, or – if not so perpetually – a whole hell of a lot, possibly more than would ever make sense.
Gabrielle Douglas is a Deep South love deity in a passionate yet intermittently abusive relationship with Microsoft Word. They are currently studying Creative Writing and Religious Studies at Loyola University New Orleans and perpetually waxing poetical about the Crescent City, Mediterranean food, and video games.
by Stephanie Valente
TROUBLE SHOOTING: AS THE SCULPTOR’S LOVER
we have very limited access to the data left over
just studio visits, good burgers, pretentious conversation
followed by spilled orgasms, so it’s easy to see
where the program failed,
but the operating system keeps rebooting,
despite our forthright commands.