Here's what I know to be true; it always hurts. There's no one way to move through what breaks and seems to keep on breaking inside of us. I say seems to because I've come to find that it can often feel like one is more warped than they are. Time may not heal every wound but it does heal some. Sifting through old bruises and scars, learning the language of each, we do sacred, scary work with what went wrong.
With a new year comes a pressure to somehow be better than the all the years that came before, but the truth is, in some ways, we always are. Our inner country is one of flux and travel. Sometimes here, other times over there. Any location can go dark at any moment. What about the light? That too comes and goes. We aren't good or bad, we're mostly, each of us, trying to fit the pieces together all at once, frustrated that the pattern keeps on changing.
I am not a particularly happy person, but I am content. Not satisfied or satiated, a state of the beyond, belly full, cup overfloweth. If anything, we never seem to have everything that we need for the work there is to do. It is life long, all the fitting and weaving, the tearing and mending. Sometimes we have to build a room for all that we do not know. Blank states, numb, wailing, longing.
Better partnering with out capacities is a nascent state, evolutionary taste buds still forming, feeling their way along the soul's trenches. Here's what I also know to be true; we never arrive, we keep walking. We walk standing still, curled into the fetal position, rocking in corners, laid out on the floor, down for the count, we keep counting, we keep climbing.
Give yourself permission to sit with all of your parts. The beautiful, the ugly, the unknown. The deepest part of trauma's work is arriving without knowing the destination. The future. More will be revealed. It is sacred, scary work. It is a new year. And we're still here. We're still here.
Editor - AHC
The Once and Future Cult Member
I could only become a saint once I realized
that all fish think they're flying. They don’t understand
the unknowable depth of the waters which suspend
them, can’t feel a change in the tide when the tide
is the only thing keeping them alive and afloat.
Are my gills as holy as theirs? Are my fins as loved
by God because a man chose me to be chosen?
Behind my eyelids I am still drowning in that ocean,
the Lord’s bathtub, held under by well-meaning hands
in a ritual of suffocation to bring me back to life
and I’ve never stopped dripping. I’m a safety hazard.
I slip through the world leaving dew drops
in my wake, puddles in the beds of my lovers
who say it’s just water and I don’t know how
to tell them that it’s wine, that it’s blood,
that I’ve probably ruined their sheets and I know
their bodies can dry but mine can’t, I can’t,
I’ve been drenched for as long as I can remember
by the unknowable nature of the water made holy
by lives lived in guilt, lives lived on the inside
of the outside. And I still take a sip when I can.
Still breathe it in to the lungs which learned to take
oxygen in many forms, quickly but never completely.
Once you’ve said goodbye, the cult of losing
is the last one left for you. The only one.
And did you know that poetry is the language
of the unconscious? That escape was in the pages
that I read before I ever wrote them?
And have I told you how the fish still follow me?
I am still marching to Zion. I can still hear them sing.
Why I Sleep So Much in November
Because October reminded me that the orange
jacket I bought at Goodwill last fall shrank
in the dryer, of the weight words carry
in the winter. Because straight people call
it cuffing season. Because Twitter tells me I was born
under a Scorpio Sun which means pressure
to have fun on my birthday and to be sexy
and mysterious, two things I only know
how to be in the spring. Because I’ve learned to love
sycamore trees and other things that leave.
Like the first girl who took her shirt off
for me, who moved to Spokane a week later.
Like summer, when there’s comfort
at the bottom of the deep end of the pool,
water rushing in to the loudest places
inside of me, suspending the whispers until winter
comes and freezes them away. The weight of the words.
Cold imposters in my mouth. Because the smell
of the car’s heater reminds me of last November.
Because blowing smoke out the window reminds me
I can choose to be empty. Because we all
choose different ways to keep ourselves warm.
Caroline Butler is a poet living in Tallahassee, Florida. She is pursuing a degree in Creative Writing from Florida State University. Her work has appeared in Ink & Nebula and Peculiars Magazine and is forthcoming in Before I Leave. She is the social media intern at Rose Quartz Magazine. She tweets @car0linebutler.
The phone chimes
New York is calling Los Angeles
“Mom, I have to tell you something”
— “something bad happened”
a man followed
her girlfriend home on the train
pushed inside the door of their apartment
pursued her down the hall
into the elevator
his breath bangs against the cube
two bodies shut inside a metal box
they levitate to the fifth floor
doors break open
he shoves her into the stairwell
and jerks down her pants
between the ground
and the fifth floor
he gives her — a black eye
somewhere between the ground
and the fifth floor
he gives her — a concussion
something has been broken
— something bad has happened
“don’t worry,” she says
“my mama-learning kicked in”
“there are reasons…to act crazy”
she’d buzzed her girlfriend in
and knew the time it took
to reach their door
she thundered down the hall
and found her lover crammed into a corner
beneath a shadow
my Piscean girl became a fire sign
he dropped her lover’s body
drop. Pivot. Sprint.
— he ran
she carried the weight
her girlfriend’s limp form
back to their room
and shut the door
“have you gone outside yet?”
I ask her girlfriend
“once,” she says
dressed in layers for protection
I imagine her thin brown frame
fat as an egg, tottering
down broadway in manhattan
wearing every garment she owns
maybe she’d feel safer
if she wore extra underwear
pants, and shirts. maybe if she wore
more socks, jackets. a hat
may all the fibers of the world
the buttons and the zippers
conspire in her favor
to protect her from rape
“I think I’ll cut off my hair, aunty,” her girlfriend says
long pause . . .
“let it fall”
her hair is shiny black
like a 1970s “breck girl” tv commercial
I learned this when she first
came to dinner
at the table, she tugged
the rubber band of her bun
shook her head in slow motion
from side to side
to release her pakistani-texan magic
into the room
each strand landed
we laughed for her lucky hair
and ate our supper
now, she wants to remove
the tresses from her crown
above her bruised eye
she wants to be
“she didn’t see herself
as a target of sexual assault,”
my son says “she saw herself
as one of the guys”
It didn’t matter how
she saw herself
butch or fem, queer as anyone
along the spectrum
it didn’t matter
to the rapist who saw her
as their prey
a dam breaks inside me
— I swim out to my younger self
the girl who cut off
her own hair
dressed in black
occupied a punk rock habitat
a shark, gliding along
the bottom of the City of Los Angeles
age seven was the first
groping of my body
by a stranger
I’d learned to ride a bike
and was returning from
my first solo flight
to the corner store
the shame wouldn’t wash off
this poem is the place holder
for an encyclopedia of events
during each phase
of my existence in this body
risk covered 97%
of my earth’s surface
everywhere I went
in the body of a girl
everywhere I’ve gone
in the body of a woman
I have been at risk
and I am the lucky story
my children have always
been at risk
“not at risk,” a friend says
I’ve never questioned
their innate possibilities
I have questioned
how their possibilities
will be received in this world
my daughter’s two-year old kepele
resting on a pillow
after a hard day at pre-school
Katie says my skin’s
the color of poo-poo
shattered glass inside my chest
I make a movie on retribution
vengeance. a homemade flick
inside my head
cut: I fly through the clouds
like carmen san diego
black fedora hat
trench coat flapping in the wind
I sniff the doorframe
of my daughter’s apartment
for the assailant’s stench
and decode his exact hyper-location
with my chemo-sensory perception
cut: I navigate skyscrapers
one arm stretched out
cut: my feet land softly
on the earth’s surface in queens
triggering a cloud of dust
a silver aura rises
cut: my head snaps right
his stink. I stride toward him
trench coat arms
against the pavement
cut: I pull open the squeaky gate
pass the wild ivy to face him
moist with salty sweat
my elbow coils back
like an arrow
I take lightning aim
cut: I annihilate him with a wish
his cells disaggregate before me
bits and chunks. a pile of powder.
LA and NY
“shall I go there?” I ask my daughter
“yes, but I was thinking
of coming home…” she says
please. come. I buy a ticket.
three members of a family
— mother, daughter, and son
gather beside the apricot tree
spread wide a cotton sheet
on the ground
a wooden stool
a small mirror
a pair of scissors
I wash my hands with rose water
and kneel before her
the trauma won’t evaporate
but she wants the hair to go
daughter’s head in mother’s hands
a sharp tool. gentle cropping
sister’s head in brother’s hands
low burr of an electric buzzer
sun illuminates the yard
and a pile of fear falls
severed beneath her
on the earth
she sits up, tall
blows confetti flecks of curl
from her face and hands
Amy Shimshon-Santo is a poly-lingual writer and educator (English, Spanish, Portuguese). She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize in creative non-fiction (2017), Best of the Net in poetry (2018). Her writing has been published by Lady Liberty Lit, Zócalo Public Square, Yes Poetry, Awkward Mermaid Lit Mag, Rose Quartz Journal, Rag Queen, Full Blede, PCC Inscape Mag, ACIC, Spectrum, SAGE Publications, UC Press, SUNY Press, Public!: A Journal of Imagining America, Teaching Artist Journal, Tiferet Journal, and Critical Planning Journal. She can be reached at www.amyshimshon.com. Twitter: @amyshimshon Instagram: @shimshona
Leave Your Past Behind
I see the weight
You choose to carry still,
Your head and heart
Downwards to the ground.
Admit the myths
That web that binds you
To what was;
And blinds you to
Your light and power.
Take back your truth.
Decide to tell
Your grown up story.
Dig now a hole and bury deep
The sugar coated lies,
Regrets, and shame
That hold you down and back.
Scatter your excuses.
Let go the blame and guilt.
Just let them go,
And cover them with grace.
Stand tall again, to dream
And shine your light.
See the wonder of all
That lies before you.
Refined By Fire
Start from where you are.
Come to the threshold
Of this day,
And surrender your heart;
Dive into adventures
And may your spirit dance,
Not drag its heels through life.
Start believing in your dreams
The ones that echo, whisper still,
For life is not a dress rehearsal.
Drown the doubters,
Drown your fears
With faith in you,
And jump through risk
To learn the art of start.
Unwrap your gifts
To share them with a world
That aches to fill the space
Your wrapping up of
Self for fear of others leaves.
You are made from stardust.
Start to live again
Unpeel your heart from
All its layered grief
That’s made you cold,
That’s left you brittle.
Pick up your Kintsukuroi pieces,
For you are gold,
Refined by fire.
I see your scars.
I see your beauty.
Caroline is originally from Northern Ireland, now living in Ayrshire. She writes stories through her poems, mainly on philosophical, political and life experience themes and has been published in the UK, Ireland and the U.S. She is the social media manager for the Federation of Writers Scotland, is on the Poets Advisory Group for the Scottish Poetry Library, is a keen part of the Women Aloud NI community and a member of Scottish Pen.
She writes books on journaling and happiness and wellbeing, and runs a number of workshops that dare people to be happier. .
Some Kind of Love Poem
From this position, love appears, or from
That angle, there it is, though completely
Unexpected, even a surprise, and
Maybe not even welcome, after all,
There are so many other things to do,
Like going to the gym or making lists
Of things to do, love not being one of
Those items listed, and yet love is there,
Unexpectedly or not, love wants you
To know that it is all that you need or
Ever wanted, even when you ask it:
Is that all that love is? And the answer,
Of course, is, yes, that is all that love is,
That is all love will ever be, and more.
*Originally appeared in PN Review
M. G. Stephens is author of 22 books, including the novel The Brooklyn Book of the Dead; the travel memoir Lost in Seoul (Random House); and the award-winning essay collection Green Dreams. His recent poetry collections include Occam's Razor (First Person Books, 2015); Top Boy (Spuyten Duyvil, 2017); and the e-chapbook Resistance (Political Poems) (Dispatches from the Poetry Wars, 2018).
You need never go
nearer. The dance means not touching
the hand. Never.
Back and forth
tapping the racks
reading each other
time and times.
themselves while face to face
hands stretched over
that stone vat.
You don’t need to know
how I wipe mine.
You wipe yours with
the whitened plaques of my skull.
They are pretty. Like jasmine.
You make it so.
I am blue.
I make shoes glow.
I make old new.
I empty the bucket
to fill it up
fill it up
fill it up
so you can love and pray
so I can pray and love.
The difference is smells
waves are same
but all is white.
How can I nevermore?
I leave to grow bad.
Shards of together – jewels.
We live everywhere.
If we feel we feel cold.
If we feel we feel hunger.
Burn the photos before they fade.
All are the same in Love.
No one is the same
My history has vanished –
crushed false stone
pages erased. Because wrong.
I found the book in the waves
who swallowed letters off the page.
Glitter is just plastic.
Under my skin
in forgotten sanskrit –
must I learn?
Must I live to tell
Or multiply in me
the round rice the fields didn’t reclaim?
The pink breeze answers
And then it comes:
Do you promise?
Do you love me? Love.
Someone once taught me
Some forgotten kindness
in a shipwrecked brain.
head ducking so calm below
so calm just beyond.
Don’t be like those
bulbs six feet under
dangling backward green hairs
from scalp of sand scratched by crabs.
They, with the first thunder
do not wait to be tugged
from rootholds. They go
unshackled to meet
shore and death
to be like the beach-striped tribe.
If someone taught me –
and that because I know –
it means I was not
As a professor in a Chinese university, and previously while earning a PhD in France, Kate's research interests have included magical realism, feminist utopia, and world literature. She has published three books in French, including one novel. In addition to academic writing, her work appears regularly in Rain and Thunder: A Radical Feminist Journal of Discussion and Activism. She cannot yet write fiction in Mandarin, but is plodding towards this with five new words per day. These poems are part of a (not yet published) larger collection called "Indias Divine."
her new mother expected
Instead, razor wounds
testify to a silent
Sutures cannot reach beneath the
bloody tapestry of scars to
who she might have been
From the depths of the
hallows of hope
her eyes plead with me
how to help me
but I don’t know how
The Night Demon
I searched for you in the underworld
alone and wandering 'round
Too many bones to bury
Too many wounded to carry
Too much is lost, to be found
I searched for you in the underworld
I followed the night demon down
Meghan Marsden writes to make sense of her own experiences and bear witness to the human condition. Her first novel, The Choices We Make, will be available in 2019. Read more of Meghan’s work at www.TheTruthAboutLies.net
father are you sorry for the pain
you cause with each inhalation
and half-thought word spilling
forth a violent red
it is you father who draws first
blood—wetting the dry ground
every spring—of jagged vitriol
and call it petrichor
father—hear me when i tell you
the wax wings you so carefully
crafted and gifted me with love
to come back to you
are my liberation and my extrication
helped along by your presumption
i come home rather than fly too close
to the sun and drown
mother do you listen?
leave me freedom and stop
nudging the neighbor’s son
and over sung hero
to send me gifts of shiny gold
where are you?
when i say
i’m in love with nothing
but the wind and dirt
between my toes
do you see me?
when i outpace every man
you set in front
of me—even those you help
cheat to win me
oh mother do you want?
their blood staining your fingers
when i run them through
for kissing false truths
into my skin like promises
Isabella is a writer with a focus on the culture/superstition of a Mexican household and how that relates to sexuality, gender dynamics, and grief/trauma. She is a graduate from Johns Hopkins University with Bachelor’s degrees in Writing Seminars and Political Science. She is a Flash Fiction Reader and Assistant Creative Non-Fiction Editor at Homology Lit. She has work forthcoming in Honey & Lime Lit. You can find her at @izellerbach on twitter or https://izellerbach.wordpress.com/.
This is the betrayal, at long last,
it being welcome for the exchange
of freedom’s lips, always out of reach.
Kissing our thumbs for good luck,
off into the ether, but I remained
for good measure, is a thought
Truths are shared in reticence
regret beats senselessly,
and I its victim.
We analyze possibilities with nostalgia
impossible standards, I needed another reason,
relaying itself as this room stares blankly:
shoes, aligned, tidy and pristine
never missing a piece,
all is where it belongs:
where do I,
where do I,
where do I?
Falling into the looking glass
deception weaving a basket of my heart strings,
she croons, “it could be better,”
does she lie? “this is worse,”
as I convince myself otherwise,
and hoping I am light enough to float:
I am not,
I am not,
I am not.
Keana Labra was born and raised in the Bay Area, California. Her work appeared in the January 2018 and February 2018 issues of the now defunct journal, The Aoi Kuma. One may also find her literary reviews and artist interviews on the online publication, Chopsticks Alley. She was recently accepted as a regular contributor to the Royal Rose Magazineand Rose Quartz Magazine. Knowing the importance of representation, she would like her work to be evidence that Filipino Americans are also present in the literary and art world. She uses her experiences as reference for her poetry.
WRITING ABOUT BIRDS ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF YOUR DEATH
Someone said, once, a robin held silent vigil next to her feather-bare baby on a busy road. Stood
dumb-shocked near the dead hatchling, knocked from the nest
with no wings to catch wind. Dull-eyed feathered thing standing still, not moving
for cars, not moving—tell me she’s too dim-witted to feel, suddenly, loss;
to suddenly lose and know it. Tell me she can’t know it. Tell me there’s still hollow hope that one
living thing can dodge heart-hurt of quick, cruel dying.
Don’t let the dense bird know it. Because if she can
because if she can
if she can,
what does that mean for me.
HOW TO LEAVE A CHICAGO PUB AFTER A PANIC ATTACK AROUND 11 AM
You take your tame body and the tight fist of grief
and you just walk out.
You allow the steel-cold sky to propel you east
toward the lake, full of rusted ship bones
and fish with human teeth.
You take your very breakable body away,
long bones, ligaments, and all the wet blood, unsteady.
Remember, blooms of your ancestors fell from branches,
soaked the air with rotten-sweetness.
You feel death on your tongue meat,
the spot reserved for sugar.
You teach your body to go,
a congress of starlings flaring from tree-tops.
Erica Anderson-Senter lives and writes in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Pieces have appeared in Midwestern Gothic, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Crab Fat Magazine. Her chapbook, seven days now, was published by The Dandelion Review. Erica hosts free literary events throughout her city to bring art to the public. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing through the Writing Seminars at Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.