5/2/2019 0 Comments
Editor's Remarks: "The Wound That Never Heals Meets The Fire That Never Goes Out"
and those who
live and work in
"When one asks if a falling tree makes a sound if no one hears it, is one also asking what becomes of a feeling if no one responds?
Aliveness, Kabbalah teaches us, is shattered, sparks thrown in all directions. Wherever you find yourself, there are sparks waiting to be redeemed, waiting for your partnership, your work. To work with shattered sparks, the work of lifetimes. To offer a place to talk about life, explore one's truth, to taste experience and perhaps build a capacity to let experience build.
Are there resources that are beyond self-interest and guilt to make us want to help each other? The look of a face? The appeal of a plight? Maybe if we ignore it, look the other way, that empathic sensation will pass or lighten, and we can carry on. Do we wish or dare to help only if we can afford to? It is possible to go through life ignoring the still small voice that asks, "Can we afford not to?"
We need to learn to speak inside the storm, to hear storm's voice. How is it possible to stay respectful and caring in a storm? How to respect and care for storm, our stormy states, emotional storms? A receptive sensing and speaking from the storm center that goes with expressive reaching out? A capacity we need to discover and nourish. It is, after all, something of what we mean when we say we value speaking heart to heart."
Heart to heart, hurt to hurt. All too many of us have had to make due with compromised and shattered states. Sleepless nights praying (although never quite sure to what) that the pain in us would just go silent. A funny thing began to happen when we realized that it wouldn't. Words welled up from the place where we had expected some impossible God to step in and just withdraw the deep arrow of our sorrow. Words like; I'm still here and this is not all that happened to me. There is more, and in time, we learn to nurture it as best we can.
Growing up I was taught to feel small. I was small. Damaged adult's could take everything that was wrong in them out on me. Hollowed out rooms that have kept still, small shadows, lurching and longing in me for belonging ever since. Sometimes those hollowed out parts found willing ears, understanding spaces, gentle hearts, how few and far between. Can we ever say we have enough spaces for caring?
Endings are bittersweet. Letting go can often be harder than holding on. I want to say a few words about the incredible writers in our last issue. They are the reason for caring and creating space for storm survivors/transformers, those who rise up out of the dark heart of storm and redeem their shattered sparks.
Community isn't something that can be left unattended, it calls for us to work with each other in often daunting and unpredictable ways. We can't know unless we've been there, and so many of us have. Fewer still have been there together; that is community. If one breaks, I too break. These are not just words, it is the very tie that binds - more incommon than outcommon.
Our featured poet, Kristin Ryan, writes nearly the impossible. How does one even begin to speak the place where lines were crossed in us so young, so early? Ryan's poems remind us of the horrific damage that can be done to the most vulnerable. But also, of what survives, life clinging to a branch in flood waters. Annie Rogers writes; "What has been wordless now is coming into words.” In her poem, The Therapist Says, Ryan threads the darkest of the dark into an impossible speech. It is a poem that lights the way.
Julianne Carew's "Water" is like a sister piece to Ryan's. Both writers have found the words for something that feels too huge for words. Too painful to hold in two, small, trembling hands. Carew and Ryan both point toward the unbearable place Annie Rogers charted in her heartbreaking book, A Shining Affliction, a few words that I think bear repeating here;
“The future has already been laid down in the vanishing tracks of the past. It is as though I have forgotten that those tracks were laid down someplace within my child’s body. This child could already foretell the future through the past…All my life it becomes clear, I’ve been living within a particular play in the endless past…The pain of it is so unbearable that it surrounds [one.] When there are no words for this, no thoughts, then it can only be lived out… My fear of being abandoned, a terror in my body like the terror of immanent death, is the play I have lived all my life trying to escape… Fleeing my own terror, I created a play of vigilance and waiting – waiting for the appearance of my (remembered) mother and father, or waiting for their surrogates in later years. To stop this vigilance is to know the terror of “I will die.” Perhaps if I could play my part just right, I could magically find the feelings and gestures that would conjure up the mother who sometimes comforted me, the father who swept me up off the floor and sometimes danced with me. Who has ever loved and not learned to do this – to conjure oneself and others with the most loving gestures?” -Annie Rogers
When what we have been through is too much to bear we must dissociate parts of our experience lest storm waters take us totally under. A poem, a story, these are like a box for all of our “things and missing things“. If this space has served even a fraction of such for those who have shared their missing things with us, then what a small but miraculous happening. There has not been a single poem or story or stroke of the artist's brush, or lilt of the singer's voice that hasn't floored me, fed me, watered thirsty and aching roots inside me these past four years. I write to heal and I suspect every one I know does too. Isn't it amazing how easily we can sometimes forget that? If we remembered it more often we might see that our differences make no damn difference.
I wish I could say something about everyone's contributions to our last issue. Suffice it to say that every single piece here is here for a reason. You are here for a reason. You make the world not just a better place, seeing as it's the only place we have - you show us the road map for communing inside the storm. Your work brings us close to something Eigen points to, with many bells left ringing in the heart; "There is another love, deeper love, that helps, or tries to. We have a deep need – but I cannot quite say what it is. Faith is part of it, but it is much more.”
The thing itself, is that what we are, together, in any space where more than one meets another and another and another? On down the road, sometimes together, sometimes alone. Faith, scattered sparks, in every single word, every voice, every story.
'One day you will see yourself coming down the road to meet yourself and you will say, 'yes'.
Safe Passage to you all, on every road, in every hour, in every life.
5/2/2019 0 Comments
Featured Poet: Kristin Ryan
Kristin Ryan is a poet working towards healing, and full sleeves of tattoos. She is a recipient of the Nancy D. Hargrove Editor's Prize in Poetry, was listed as a Write Bloody Finalist, and has been nominated for Best New Poets. Her poems have been featured in Glass, Jabberwock Review, Milk and Beans, and SWWIM Everyday among others. She holds an MFA from Ashland University and works in the mental health field. She tweets @kristinwrites
in this version we are baby mamas
in this version we are disney pocahontas
in this version we are panhandling
on the corner of spirituality and alcoholism
we keep at least one long, loaded
shotgun in every plateless car
in this version we are not brown enough
and we are not white enough
our voices are replaced with the mechanical
cha-chings of neon slot machines
in this version we are k-mart Halloween costumes
a plastic coachella trend atop the sunburned
heads in which we have never once
been given a second thought
in this version we are the minority
of minorities we are the tokens
of academia whose names do not live
on any professors quick-to-dismiss tongue--
but i don’t want to be your edward curtis photograph
i don’t want to go down in history just
another specimen—a female body left to rot
like her ancestors regimen
so in my version we are static
we are sound and sinew woven together
by wrinkled, brown thumbs
in my version we are bone-white doves
we are scaled and goat-eyed
in my version we are people
we are standing side-by-side along earth’s backbone,
dancing to a song sung to us under the breath of the wind
Emily Clarke is a Cahuilla Native American writer, activist, photographer, Zine artist, and Traditional Bird Dancer. Emily graduated from Idyllwild Arts Academy in May of 2018 with a certificate in Creative Writing and is now continuing her study of writing at University of California, Riverside. Emily’s work has been featured in News From Native California, Four Winds Literary Journal, and Hoot Review. She has been a featured reader at events such as Indigenous Now, And The Earth Was Shaken, and UCLA’s Environmentalists of Color Climate Justice Forum. Currently, Emily is writing poetry exploring modern Cahuilla identity, feminism, and human intimacy.
5/2/2019 0 Comments
Poetry by Bronte Billings
When we were young
hands slid up our throats
to pluck out pearls. We had our
little pieces, the sticky fingers
hidden behind our uvula tutting
secrets to our tongue. For a
moment we were iridescent, smooth
untouched changelings. You bit
off fingers by their knuckles and I
smothered palms in the empty spaces
of my gums. I tried to tell you
how to hide your silky whites, cover
your lips with cerulean shell, learn to
live with the fingers tickling your
trachea. Why can’t we be young
together, pearls under our tongues and
fingers washed of prints. You opened
up sooner, incisors jagged and
cut—there were different rings
to us. Small slit lines on the inside
of our mouths. I tried to tell you,
keep closed longer, let time carve
itself out in you. When we were young
I showed you how pearls are made
of the hard grain stuck in our
teeth. You thought it was only one
bead we had to give. To bloom
once to never again. I swallowed
my whites into black pores and you
softened your skin to muddy pulp. I
wanted to cover you in crusted seafoam, but
all you saw was sand and yellow bruises.
I used to pinch
my skin until I found
estranged folds of
diluted spots across
my flesh. My mother never
told me yellow
I am pink
rosacea ridging along
Cover me, I cauterize
open gaps of gummy
insides. The women
I know compromised
stability for soapstone
tongues. As in, they
flushed out their
lungs with talc to
breathe clean. I try
to be like them. Dig in
to my thighs
of roaming red
the moon in my
palms, gather myself
in one hand and
smother what doesn’t
Bronte Billings lives in Northeast Ohio with her not so balding black cat beauty. She earned her MFA in poetry through the NEOMFA. Bronte is the recipient of the 2015 & 2016 Academy of American Poets Prize and the 2017 Leonard Trawick Award. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in Jenny Magazine, Bone Bouquet, Pussy Magic, Pinwheel, Salt Water Soul and Barnhouse.
I am going 90 on a foggy highway.
Jesus lock the wheels and let me crash
Until my head paints modern art on the window.
Make me interpretable.
Organic graffiti on a canvas of broken glass.
I am going 100 through a meat grinder.
Jesus turn the handle and let me churn
Patties of peace and panic.
Taste my flavor.
Cranium cakes packed in insecurity and/or afterbirth.
I am going 110 through life bipolar as a happy sad man in a happy sad world.
Jesus spin the earth and let me sleep
Until the nights are not nightly.
Undo my twilight thoughts,
And give a divided mind visions to hope for.
Coleman Bomar is a member of the International English Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta, and an Isaac Anderson Fellow at Maryville College. He enjoys writing intentionally subversive fantastical poetry aimed at exposing surroundings rather than beautifying.
5/2/2019 1 Comment
Baby Teeth by M. M. Adjarian
The first tooth fell out when I was five.
From then on, my tongue played hide & seek
behind my gums, testing, pushing, drawing back.
More teeth fell; pink gaps opened doors in my smile.
Mama washed & dried my baby teeth,
Covering them in shrouds of plastic wrap,
then tied the rectangles in shiny gold thread
straight from fairyland, she said.
Her first lie.
The thread came from the belly of a tall bamboo basket.
I knew because I peeked inside to make sure it was
woolen balls to knit & silk & cotton strands to sew
that Mama kept, & not spitting snakes to charm.
The tooth fairy never took my teeth.
She let me keep them & the crinkled dollar bill
that appeared under each one as they reposed in state,
tiny mummies atop the dresser in my room.
The dollar folded in my pocket,
I put the teeth in a gold-papered box & laid them to rest,
pharaohs to reign the dark world of small things
inside Mama’s teakwood drop-front dresser.
The teeth were mine to keep, she said – companions
for the winged glass horse I bought on Olvera Street in second grade
& a ceramic Siamese cat, a gift from the widow next door
who invited me over to drink tea one day.
Her second lie.
When I grew up & went away & Mama claimed these things –
the horse, the cat, the baby teeth,
all milk & tea & childhood innocence –
because they inhabited a space that was hers.
She ate for me before I was born & built my bones
then devoured the things I called my own.
But the baby teeth, remnants of mineral infusions
from her body to mine, they could have been hers.
Calcium, clay & glass couldn’t strengthen softening bones.
Her spine curved over like the cane she would not use.
Smaller, more fragile, she moved on unsteady feet –
An optical illusion, she said.
Her third lie.
Then came the falls that broke Mama & put her in a wheelchair
before she became dust, before bones made of a glass horse & its wings
a ceramic cat & baby teeth in a gold-papered box
went to the place where lost things go.
M. M. Adjarian has published her work in journals such as the Baltimore Review, Verdad, South 85, The Missing Slate, Serving House Journal, Pif Magazine, Grub Street, Crack the Spine and Poetry Quarterly. She lives in Austin.
5/2/2019 1 Comment
Poetry by Kathy Parker
Love Is Rarely More Than a Fatal Blow We Never See Coming
When the boy with the green eyes comes looking for my body, I let him.
He is absent-minded hands upon the soft curves of my flesh;
he takes in the body but not the girl and I tell myself it is enough
for I am desperate to believe these crumbs he offers
will sustain my hungry bones
until I know what it feels like to be loved,
and not just settled for.
Afraid he will leave before I can make him stay,
I turn my body into a war-zone.
I torture it, starve it, persecute it for every morsel it consumes
and for every proportion of this womanly mass
that does not shrink beneath the underskirts of my skin
and if my body is the only currency of which I have to saddle his pockets
then I will punish it into flawless compliance
and maybe then
it will no longer be her name
that rises and falls with every breath he kisses into my lungs;
rife with the taste of her memory
which he cannot drown beneath the sinkholes of his eyes
where I am too afraid to swim.
My body fades until all that encases these organs
is the corpse-like skin of an empty beggar and it weeps its song of victory,
please stay, please stay, please stay,
he does not know the sound of my name upon his tongue
and my heart becomes a wasteland
as vacant as the hollows of my cheeks
but I tell myself this is love because even though his laces are tied
he has not yet left
and I am still cleaning the mess from the ones who came before
and slit my wrists with the sharp edge of their goodbyes;
whose blood of abandonment I used
to finger-paint the words of my story upon the walls of my house:
Everyone you love, leaves.
But hope is a diehard weapon
and though his finger rests on the trigger
I tell myself he will be the restoration not the destruction;
the healing, and not the wound.
Love is rarely more than a fatal blow
we never see coming.
When the boy with the green eyes no longer comes looking for my body,
I write a new story upon the walls of my house:
Leave first, before they leave you.
Cursed with the hands of an explorer,
I am persuaded by eyes as dark as caves,
always intrigued by the burial ground of people’s hearts.
I have become a professional in the archaeology of pretence -
raised with dirt beneath my fingernails
I cannot help but dig for evidence beneath earth,
intention beneath word;
pick at meaning until it bleeds
then blame the wasteland for the flies.
He asks if I’m alone but not if I’m okay.
Letters fall from his tongue like charms of a bracelet;
I excavate truth not in the words he speaks,
but the emptiness between.
Pretence: An attempt to make something
that is not the case appear true.
Forgive me for wasting your time,
I thought there would be more to find here.
I had forgotten how caves are nothing more
than vacant spaces
another would desire us to fill,
all the while left hollow ourselves.
I have found that truth lies in the spaces between the words,
in the cracks in the pavements we tiptoe over
as if we are afraid of seven years bad luck, afraid to break our mother’s back,
afraid of what honesty will do – or undo –
in the lives we have so carefully swathed with our own language,
so fluent in things of the weather.
Unspoken words get caught in our throat;
we choke on their sharp edges and spit them back onto our plates
and instead satiate our fear of the silence
with words soaked in honey that are swallowed with ease;
malnourishing ourselves with empty calories
and all the while wondering why we never feel complete.
I wonder if this is why some of us like to chew on metaphors;
here we can taste truth without saying truth,
here we can walk on the cracks without falling through
and I think that’s the only way some of us will ever feel safe.
Maybe that’s all our lives really are anyway;
a metaphor, an analogy, a parable.
Maybe none of this is real,
maybe we are all just the same stories spoken to new generations.
Maybe we are nothing more than a social experiment, Big Brother,
watched and scored and already lost to government control
and maybe freedom is nothing more than illusion
and the last person standing, wins.
Maybe you no longer love me.
Maybe we have come too unstuck to hold together anymore.
I look at you and want to speak these things out loud,
I want to tell you how I think I’m sinking
into the deepest part of myself and can’t find the way out.
But your eyes are fixed on the afternoon sun as it comes through the window
that faces west towards the ocean
so I watch fallen leaves scatter at the kiss of the wind and hear the sound
of the currawong calling in the distance.
You note the shifting light; perhaps the change of season is close,
you say, and I reply,
perhaps it is.
Kathy Parker is a writer, poet and spoken word performer from South Australia.
Kathy’s poems are raw, emotional and unapologetic; encompassing themes such as trauma, abuse, domestic violence, body image, self-worth, love, loss and healing. She writes from the heart of a survivor and warrior; confronting the brokenness of her life while leaving others empowered to overcome the brokenness of theirs.
When not writing poetry, Kathy is a contributor for Network Ten’s news website, 10 Daily, with work also published at SA Life Magazine, Elephant Journal, The Mighty, The Minds Journal, and Thought Catalog.
5/2/2019 0 Comments
Poetry by Sherry Bollero
Perhaps the cat dancing on shoelaces is in love
with the length of black line across the carpet.
Back feet go tapping across the thinness
until she tumbles and rolls away, shy.
I know there are things she hates,
things she runs from or challenges
with needling little teeth and pinpoint claws.
Even then, she leaves in a cloud of hair,
a signature left mingling with the dust.
She ignores the sun inching from the room
while dropping cotton ball mementos
as she cleans, smaller versions of her
roll under the table. She fills up this space
with bits of fur and oil adoration.
I never loved being that much
to leave pieces of me carelessly.
What if she disappears, sheds all her affections
until there’s nothing left but whiskers?
Little Love Predictions
Wedding white lace and a band of gold are tufts of cottonwood
gone tumbling. Our children with names (of some kind)
grow indistinctly into their futures as dandelion umbrellas
twirling away toward the horizon. I’ve been squinting into the future so long
my eyes have gone bad.
Someday I will bury you—will stand at the pulpit
forming the strangeness of your name on my lips, walk by
the waxen peace formed in your casket, think in hours of your ash
swept into an urn. I will be all that’s left of our good days. One half of a history
standing near the casing of the other.
We will be in shapeless black among suffocating gardens
of roses and lilies, each starving slowly in the absence of necessity.
I know this clearly. I know this like my steady reflection
in glass. We are pulling pages from our book.
I think of all the ways we could stop being.
Sherry Bollero is a doctoral student in English at the University of North Dakota (UND) where she currently teaches English composition and a course on adaptation studies. Her work has appeared in Watershed Review and The Poetry Annals' anthology The Anatomy of Desire.
5/2/2019 0 Comments
Poetry by Jen Schneider
Terry Chapman CC
So, was she right or wrong?
He beat her often, maybe daily.
All the time.
One time, he made her
lie in the bed
He set the bed on fire.
He beat her often, maybe daily.
All the time.
Us kids, we didn’t understand.
She let him.
She laid still,
like a lone flower
in a hot desert.
Confused, out of sorts,
in the bed. Motionless.
The flames screamed his fury.
And smothered her fear.
He left the house.
Not saying a word.
Not to her. Not to us.
He beat her often, maybe daily.
All the time.
we put out the fire.
She didn’t say a word.
We asked her,
Why stay silent?
For you, she said.
He’d hurt you.
All the time.
So, we stayed silent.
He still beat her.
All the time.
One time, she killed him.
For us, she said.
They did not care.
Now, we visit her.
As often as we can.
Rarely. Not daily.
Not all the time.
She sits there, still,
like a lone flower
in a hot desert.
All the time.
February 6th. 7:21 AM.
Discharge papers filed. Their corners
lined up, just right.
Staples pressed. And removed.
Personal belongings returned.
Former possessions, still mine I suppose,
Tailored for a body I no longer
own. A person I no longer know.
February 6th. 9:05 AM.
I step forward and refuse to look back.
My worn Converse sneaker,
with the hole in the right big toe,
presses down gently, then harder,
on the automatic door opener.
February 6th. 9:12 AM.
My knees shake. The glass door closes
behind me. Behind me.
Along with the darkness.
I stare ahead.
February 6th. 9:14 AM.
Pushing back memories of lockdown.
Of your sneers and cold eyes.
Pushing through a cold
wind that dances around the ragged
navy hoodie wrapped around
my waist. My heart races.
February 6th. 9:15 AM.
I clench a plastic bag
with my free hand.
Now confined to a single bag.
No longer in a single cell.
A single drop of sweat mixes with
an unexpected tear.
I bet you never knew I
was capable of crying.
Always task oriented.
You said I’d never get out.
That I’d have to listen to you forever.
Looks like I won. Maybe.
February 6th. 1:43 PM.
Inmate #867429, catching Flight #1854,
to somewhere. Making my own moves.
A single man. A free man.
Going anywhere. Not here.
February 6th. 2:14 PM.
I hope you find my note.
I want you to know.
February 6th. 8:02 AM.
I’ll say it out loud, anyway.
12 years prior. What they said I did
was, and still is, a lie.
Not that it matters. Not now.
Not anymore. I’m going.
Dear, Daughter (1)
Sorry to leave
a note, but I had to go. (2)
Some of us have work.
Can’t afford to sleep all day.
The baby is clean, fed, and napping.
Before I forget…
They knocked yesterday.
Three quick taps, one right after the other.
You were sleeping. Again.
I was cleaning dishes. Again.
Good thing I had the place in order. (3)
Your neighbors, down the hall
and around the corner.
A sweet couple. They looked tired.
With forced smiles. And fancy clothes.
They hear the baby at night,
and say he cries.
The walls aren’t that thin.
In fact, they’re not thin at all.
Like you. (4)
He must be loud.
Too loud, I bet. Hmmph.
Are you feeding him enough?
Maybe your milk is bad.
Do you read him stories?
How often do you check his diaper?
They said they came
to congratulate you,
but I think
his cries bother them.
They left a card.
I bet they felt they had no choice.
Why do you let him cry?
I always knew you weren’t meant
To be a mother.
I have good instincts. (5)
Motherhood is my calling.
Even though you got knocked up.
Too much time behind bars
stripped you of warmth.
I see it in your eyes,
some sort of meanness. (6)
Them drugs must have messed
with your brain.
Wiped out any motherly instincts.
You should let me raise him, I think.
At my place. It’s clean. Safe. (7)
More space for me, and him.
No one will come knocking (8)
I’ll make sure he’s happy.
No more lost socks.
No more cries for milk.
No more knocks at the door. (9)
Think about it.
Play your cards
Right, this time.
Opportunities like this
won’t always come knocking.
You can go back to sleep. (11)
(1) Dear, Mother
(2) Funny, I just now found your note. At the bottom of a pile of papers I’ve never read. It’s been years. Wow.
(3) Your letters, they’ve been forwarded. But never opened. And, we left that place soon after I got a promotion at work.
(4) My thick skin is what’s gotten me through, and past, you.
(5) Looks like my instincts were right all along.
(6) You’ve sent fake good-doers knocking. To ask why I don’t answer your letters. Or return your calls.
(7) I ask how can you not know. I was never safe with you.
(8) Do you not remember? I’d call to you. While you pretended I was sleeping.
(9) I rarely sleep well. Your knocks haunt my dreams, still. Always.
(10) The baby. He’s amazing. And fully grown. Clean. Cared for. Loved. Safe.
(11) Me? My thoughts remain stuck in your words. Funny how your talk keeps my mind
a prison so much more than prison ever did.
Jen Schneider is an educator, attorney, and writer. Her work appears in The Coil, The Write Launch, The Popular Culture Studies Journal, One Sentence Stories, and other literary and scholarly journals.
5/2/2019 0 Comments
Poetry by Nkateko Masinga
Rich Mason CC
press backspace once
& hello turns to hell
even lover without the l
my friend. my beloved.
when you said heroin(e),
i thought you needed me.
not the drug.
either way, i wasn’t there
press backspace once &
heroine turns to heroin
click view history once
and you turn to drugs
i, to soft rock and boys,
both of us too far gone.
press the space bar once
and beloved becomes
be loved. oh, be loved.
please be loved,
even if it’s not
by me. rest easy.
(assuage my guilt)
dial 911 &
either of us
i thought we were taking it together,
this life trip. it’s no fun without you.
i have been jaywalking
since you walked away
i will be (guilt)-tripping
until i join you up there
fourteen lines make a sonnet or an overdose
i rehearsed the end,
took in my lines
of pow(d)er & told
them how i
who was there when she died?
a single line can end a life.
a couple(t) ends a sonnet.
it always goes this way:
two liars. one alive.
the other hovering,
desperate to come clean.
Nkateko Masinga is a South African poet and 2019 Fellow of the Ebedi International Writers Residency. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2018 and her work has received support from Pro Helvetia Johannesburg and the Swiss Arts Council. Her written work has appeared in Brittle Paper, Kalahari Review, U.S journal Illuminations, UK pamphlet pressPyramid Editions, the University of Edinburgh’s Dangerous Women Project, and elsewhere. She is the Contributing Interviewer for Poetry at Africa In Dialogue, an online interview magazine that archives creative and critical insights with Africa’s leading storytellers.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.