LITMUS TEST By Ashe Vernon

LITMUS TEST

In middle school, the lunch room is
the worst place for feeling invisible; I feel like
everyone is looking at my mouth. I think
if I swallow fast enough, maybe
I can pretend that I never ate anything, maybe
someone will even believe me.
My best friend buys candy from the vending machine
and won’t stop talking about what a pig she is.
Sydney is a runner on the track team–five foot one and
barely a hundred pounds and
her favorite word is “fat.”
It’s her own private joke and
it’s fucking hilarious. I guess I just
always forget to laugh. See–
I am twelve years old and
everyone who has ever called me fat
meant it.
Later, when another friend of ours–a girl who is
bigger than Sydney but smaller than me–
pats her stomach and cracks a joke about
“not being the thinnest little thing,” she
looks straight at me.
And while our other friends laugh, we only nod:
the smiles on our faces looking out from some place
far away and vacant. The difference between us and them is
we are in on the joke and
we both know it isn’t funny.

Seven years later, and the poet on the microphone
is talking about her body–badmouths it, like it’s
a warzone of a country we have no business being in,
like she is a factory of fun-house mirrors and amidst
the mirage of distorted reflection, she’s
forgotten who she really is.
She talks about being fat. She doesn’t use the word.
(Poets never do)
And I look down at my body: the one
I am still learning how to love.
The voice in the back of my head that
I thought I’d finally learned how to shut up,
rears it’s ugly little mouth and whispers,
if she’s fat,  just imagine how disgusting you must look.
It’s funny, right? It’s funny.

A year after that, I stand my brutal body on stage.
What nobody in the crowd knows is that the blue puddle
of my cardigan in my seat means that this
is the first time in years I’ve let this many people
see this much of me. What nobody knows is
I used to be bigger than this and it was everyone’s favorite joke.
But nobody knows. And now, I am five foot two,
only a hundred and sixty five pounds.
I am thinner than I used to be but
I will probably never been thin enough.
And I’m sorry.
I know how it feels to hear women smaller than you
talk about their body issues. I know
how it feels like swallowing your tongue.
I never wanted to be that for anyone.

But this isn’t a contest. And if it were,
we’d all lose, anyway.
We’re already expected to be flawless.
And the inside joke of the beauty industry is
making sure we all know
we never will be.
We expect such violent perfection from our bodies.
I know how it hurts listening to a girl who
doesn’t look the way you think they should
talk about the pain that matters to you,
but we can’t turn ourselves into gatekeepers
for heartache.
We are all hurting.
There’s no litmus test for low self esteem;
no one deserves to hate their body.

The fact that so many of us do
is exactly the problem.

By Ashe Vernon

Biography:

Ashe Vernon is a produced playwright, an actor, and a poet. She’s been writing for as long as she can remember, but found poetry when she most needed it. She recently graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University with a degree in theatre and gender studies. Before she hits the job market with her oh-so-impressive fine arts degree, Ashe is spending the summer on tour doing spoken word with her best friend and partner in crime. Her first book of poetry, Belly of the Beast, was published by Words Dance Publishing and her second, Wrong Side of a Fist Fight, will be coming out through Where Are You Press, this July. She spends most of her time writing her way out of dark places, and looking to the stars. Ashe has featured in venues across Texas, such as The Standpipe Coffee House in Lufkin, Nacogdoches Literary Readings, and Love Jonz Spoken Jazz, in Duncanville. She has placed first at WriteAboutNow in Houston and her work has been published in Word Dance Magazine, and volumes one and two of the Literary Sexts anthologies. Ashe has no concept of the term “inside-voice” and spends every waking hour with her giant bear-cub of a cat. She plans on moving to a big city and covering herself with tattoos. It’s going pretty well, so far.

tornado watch 1963 By Dana Rushin

tornado watch 1963

this, is where Grandma pointed.
A spot on the orange butterfly wallpaper
where Papa splattered; his Tip Top
cigarette papers and the tin
of his half full Prince Albert
crimp cut, the last thing he held.
“Their Gods ridiculous and themselves
past shame” Milton wrote. Because
as you grow older
spots on walls can transform themselves
like little children getting over the
measles. Is there any greater
scatter of chickens into their
wire house than wind? Longer this
time than normal but their little
thin asses taking  position.

I’m grown now to compare the
diaphysis and epiphysis of all things:
The Blackened spirit that brings forth life.
The end of sorrow. How hippie and
with such impractical sadness the explanation
of the locomotive is. “This is where the
kitchen was. And in this spot, right here
next to the overturned cow, was where we
took our meals for 43 years”. Even in
the hollow dark, the sadness wore on.

By Dana Rushin

Biography:

Dana Rushin
African American Poet,
living in Detroit.
Wayne State University student….current.
unmarried. still looking.

Arlington County, 1953 By Meggie Royer

Arlington County, 1953

Once as a child you believed the graveyard shift
meant whole cemeteries uprooting themselves &
passing like ghosts through cities
to some other hills
that would accept them as they were,
would take them in
with the grace of an unhinged door.
You loved as well as anyone.
Better than a mortician,
with your softness of throat & unending want.
The way your blood sang in all octaves
like the wings of a sparrow
still curled in sleep.

By Meggie Royer

Meggie Royer is a writer and photographer from the Midwest who is currently majoring in Psychology at Macalester College. Her poems have previously appeared in Words Dance MagazineThe Harpoon ReviewMelancholy Hyperbole, and more. She has won national medals for her poetry and a writing portfolio in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and was the Macalester Honorable Mention recipient of the 2015 Academy of American Poets Student Poetry Prize.

You Don’t Need to Seek, You are Already Free By Victoria Martinez

The following poem  floats upon the questions we ask ourselves that eventually drive us mad: “Why are we here?” “When will it end?” “What is our purpose here on earth?” “Who am I?” and “What am I?” “Am I crazy?” I think we are so caught up in the deadly highs of illusion we forget to breathe.Without religion or some concept of a higher power or consciousness there are no answers to these questions. No matter how hard we search for answers, without accepting the spiritual realities of our world, as they are, we will never be truly free. At least I won’t.

You Don’t Need to Seek, You are already Free

there’s a deceptive land built inside the mind.
don’t search, don’t run in circles seeking,
don’t try to find the wonders,
the creatures will come when told!
don’t rush, be patient and watch it all unfold.

There is always a man who seems quite free,
who’s eyes can see what you can’t see.
He will sit and watch as you take a glance,
to see the land and take a chance.
with no forewarning you begin to walk,
stomping loudly, you begin to talk and talk and talk.
As you say all the things you need not say,
you can’t hear the sly liars in the busyness of day to day.
Although they smile and seem calm and kind,
you have no clue what is really on their mind.
While their felonious and evil thoughts go undetected,
you unknowingly shoot up their behaviors,
now you are infected!

Now you’re a creature just like them,
you don’t do what you want or mean what you say.
you play the capitalist, the guy with the white fence,
you pretend to be righteous, you pretend there is no wickedness.
you think you achieved the dream!

Remember the man who’s oh so free,
the one who can see what you refuse to see?
He silently watches you play the good guy,
He watches you live and watches you die.
He will watch the next one discover his mind,
He will watch you search and try to find.
He will silently watch as you try to stay sane,
He watches you fight, knowing there is nothing to gain.

It is a waste of your time and many years,
It is not worth the blood, the sweat, and so many tears.
So take my advice, don’t go into that material land of more and all,
that land of consuming all lands large and small.

This is just what it is.
this is how our souls roll,
this is just as it should be.
Don’t search. Don’t seek and
you will be free.

inhale.
exhale.
…and just
breathe.

By Victoria Martinez

When We Are Less Afraid of Loving Strangers Than The People We Know By Anita Dutt

When We Are Less Afraid of Loving Strangers Than The People We Know

I press one end of a tin can telephone to my ear and you
hold the other. We play tug of war with the rope between us.
Nylon and polyester intertwined with our voices,
Frayed at the edges with our laughter, tears and pauses.
You are always pulling me over the line of my vulnerability.
Sometimes my heels push through the sand refutably like
the ocean caught in a lover’s tiff with the shore, and other times
I surrender willingly; spill the salt that I meant for my wounds.
I try to sketch the map of your face on to the canvas of my mind
but you are one-hundred and sixty telephone poles away and
I do not know how to draw blindfolded.
All you offer is a reflection of my words, remaining anonymous.
Yet, a frame of glass offers me its name; gently tucks
mirror into my pocket knowing that I will always be
relinquishing more vulnerability than it. There will always be
an imbalance of power, but it gives me something, lets me
be the one that gets to pull the rope stronger for a moment.
Maybe I am Leonardo Da Vinci reincarnated and need a name
to draw a portrait of someone’s smile.
And maybe this has nothing to do with Mona Lisa at all.
We share our lives with people we know nothing about.
We give our name to the cashier at our morning coffee shop.
We give our name to our mother’s friend in the shopping centre.
We give our name to the receptionist at the doctor’s surgery.
I give you a piece of my life and you are a stranger.
But because I’m now someone you know you won’t give me your name.
We have come to live in a culture that no longer believes in
stranger danger because we are now made to accept that
anonymous is a name.

By Anita Dutt

Biography:

Anita Dutt is not a musician but that has not stopped her from trying to play the heartstrings. Her composition of poetry can be found at ww.aribcagesymphony.tumblr.com. She is an Australian university student studying so that one day she can be a part of the healing.

Three More Months By Rebecca Dutsar

Three More Months

There’s too much room
between our two lands,
and I know that
I haven’t got a clue what
the armchair you sit in
each night looks like
or what kind of tea
you’ve been drinking
in the morning.
I just hope parts of me
aren’t slipping away
from you, too,
like my small bed
in this room at school
and the pot of flowers
on my table.
I know that you’ve
got three more months
to spend
in London and
I haven’t got a row boat
or a passport
but I’ve got this pen
and this paper
to write you a poem,
this poem,
telling you again and again
that I miss you
and want you
to come back home.

By Rebecca Dutsar

Biography:

Rebecca Dutsar is an enthusiastic 20-year-old from Newtown, CT. She is a junior at Ithaca College where she majors in Writing and serves as the Editor-in-Chief for a campus wide publication, The Mirror Magazine. Aside from writing, she enjoys drinking tea and scrolling through photos of baby animals online. Nothing makes her happier than feeling connected to a writer while reading their work, and it her goal to give others the same feeling as they read her own poetry and short fiction.  Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Harpoon ReviewThat Lit SiteSouvenir LitUnbroken Journal, and After the Pause. You can find her on twitter @beccsdutsar.

A Letter to My Mother By Sade Andria Zabala

A Letter to My Mother

Dear mommy,
These scars on my wrist are for you,
I hope I made you proud.
It didn’t hurt like I thought it would,
I didn’t scream out loud.

Dear mommy,
I used a belt last night,
but stepdad found me out.
I couldn’t tie it around my neck,
I never was a girl scout.

Dear mommy,
I’m sorry sixty pills
were not enough to kill myself.
I’m sorry that I let your words
affect my mental health.

Dear mommy,
I promise you one day
I’ll properly end my life.
Next time I attempt suicide
I’m gonna do it right.

Dear mommy,
I’m trying not to fail so much
I hope that you can see.
I’m doing this all for you, please –
say you’re finally proud of me.

By Sade Andria Zabala

Biography:

Sade Andria Zabala is a twenty-three year old Filipina surfer and nomad residing in Denmark. She has a degree in Mass Communications and is pursuing higher education to become a certified English teacher abroad. She has self-published one collection of poems called “Coffee and Cigarettes” and is now working on her second book “War Songs” to be released this fall 2015.

In her spare time she likes to eat words, drink sunlight (or wine), and question her own existence.  You may reach her at http://surfandwrite.tumblr.com.