Broken Tongues By Alex Dang

Broken Tongues

I remember not knowing how to speak.

When I was in pre-school, my family was worried
that no one would understand me.
I spoke in this Frankenstein monster tongue
of Vietnamese and English.
(The gaps between two broken
languages cannot make a full sentence.)

Every other Wednesday, during kindergarten,
I’d be called out of class to fix my speech.

My words
blurred like hummingbird wings
and the song came out as a whirlwind:
too quick to comprehend,
too fast to decipher.

There were strands of line
pouring out with different clicks
and keys. A broken Morse code
that twisted wicked confusion easy.

I learned how to smooth and comb
the knots of my talk at the same time
I was taught Chinese in school.
No one would expect chipped china plates
lined along my soft gums.

I only mastered English, though.
During family gatherings,
uncles and aunts
spoke slowly to me,
sentences hanging in the air,

while on the other hand,
I would read letters with important headings
and big government stamps to my parents.

I made speeches;
I learned to do jump-rope rhymes like
“99 nuns in an Indiana Nunnery,” or
“I wish to wash my Irish wristwatch.”
Things my parents could never say!

And in class, I studied Chinese,
found out how to say the things
I already knew how to say in English
but forgot to label in Vietnamese.

There are some Chinese words that
sound exactly like their English definition:
Coca-Cola.
Coffee.
Email.

And there are some Vietnamese words
that sound ugly and jagged when they
dangle from my mouth:

They hang awkward and loose
from my teeth; I speak elbows
and frayed vocal cord.

As hard as I tried
to adopt back my native voice,
it never came out as smooth as
the silky, commercial talk
that I heard on television every day.

My mother is Chinese.
My father is Vietnamese.
I am American.

She speaks Chinese.
He dreams Vietnamese.
I speak repaired tongue.
I dream renovated dialect.

I’m sorry but can you say it a bit slower?
em không biết nói tiếng Việt
I’m sorry but can you repeat yourself?
我不知道很多中文

It’s not that I don’t want to talk to you,
it’s just because I can’t.
It’s because I don’t know how.

I’m still trying to tell you.
I’m still holding on so tightly to the stitched words
and patched up language of my childhood.

Even in my perfect English,
There are some things I just can’t say.

Xong phim is a Vietnamese word does not exist in English.
It means
I am done.
It means
I am through with you.
I am at the end of my rope.

By Alex Dang

Biography:

Alex Dang is a member of the 2013, 2014, and 2015 Portland Poetry Slam Team competing at the National Poetry Slam and the youngest representative from Portland in the slam’s history. Alex is the Eugene Grand Slam Champion of 2014 and 2015. Videos of his performances have amassed over 1.5 million views on YouTube. He has been a speaker at two TEDx events: TEDxReno and TEDxUOregon. A nationally touring poet, Alex has performed in over 35 cities, 20 states, and is a world renowned burger expert.

Boy Learns to Sew By Mica K

Boy Learns to Sew

You gotta learn to love
what can kill you in order to survive.
This is why I’m enamored with God,
the ocean, and the palms of my hands.

Everywhere I go, a piece of my heart
is asking for something. Muddy street corners
turn me into a beggar. Sunsets turn me into a poet,
which is another form of beggar.

I open my mouth and church bells fall out,
crack open when they hit the pavement.
Doves and orphans climb out of the shards
with my songs in their throats.

In the window of my kitchen
there is sunlight. Look through the window
of my skin and you’ll find an ache leftover
from wisdom teeth, piles of salt, piles of unthreaded
needles, all the dreams I’ve buried like ashes
in the backyard beneath the maple tree.

I keep pricking my fingers on accident.
My mother says, “It’s all a learning process,”
the blood on my shirt, the oversized stitches,
the wounds in my chest that never seem to close
no matter how many times I mend them.

By Mica K

Biography:

Mica K is a twenty year old Virginia kid who gets sentimental about constellations, sunrises, hot tea, and good poetry. They were more than likely born with a book in their hand and a poem in their mouth. They currently study English and Creative Writing at university.

Here Is The Aspen Tree By Martina Dominique Dansereau

Here Is The Aspen Tree

He says fuck you, queer
and the words roll down my spine like a tractor
plowing away at my dirt-and-stone
pride, catching the roots of the budding flowers sown
into my heart and tearing them out of the earth. You and I
had gardened for a long time before those flowers had sprouted.
I remember sitting with you in the
early hours of morning and
trying to plot the land, eyeing the pothole-weed-rock terrain
and sketching how to make
something beautiful out of these disasters we called our
identities, reaping parts of ourselves
until they crumbled into sand. We have a lot of work to do,
you said, and so we marched through cities
and took back the night, painting ‘queer’ across wind-roughened
cheeks and stamping it on lips tasting of stale smoke and chapstick.
Behind the wall of reclaimed slurs, we planted seeds that we hoped
would grow into a forest.
Here is the aspen tree, here is
the birch, here is something
unrecognizable that we made out of the shadows. There
are the tulips we whispered out of the ground, softly. There, our
orchards that we had worked to cultivate from
these pieces of ourselves that we have only just begun to understand,
carving ourselves homes out of unfamiliarity.
You and I are walking in the city when he
comes up from behind, says fuck you, queer
and spits at our feet. You take my hand and try
to squeeze me strength
but here is the aspen tree
and here it is falling, and
there petals are shedding as the flowers-turned-glass shards pierce
through skin, splitting open, bleeding inwards.
We tried to grow forests,
but men cut them down.

By Martina Dominique Dansereau

Biography:

Martina Dominique Dansereau is a (gender) queer writer and anarcha-feminist from the lower mainland of Vancouver, Canada, who spends the majority of xyr time blogging, crying over spoken word, and attempting to leave xyr house to attend anarchist/activist events. For xem, writing is a vital part of healing from trauma and mental illness as well as a platform to share xyr voice as a marginalized identity. For over a year now xe has taken up performing spoken word at the Vancouver Poetry Slam and other venues, including organizing a monthly spoken word event at a local café for LGBTQ+ people. Xyr poetry is forthcoming in Doll Hospital Journal. Xyr passions include anti-oppression and social justice, queering platonic relationships, radicalizing self-care, cuddling pythons, going on midnight walks in the rain, and dreaming about one day being a renowned writer-activist with a house full of snakes. You can find more of xyr work online at http://numinouslights.co.vu

Eurydice Speech By Emma Bosacki

Eurydice Speech

you suck the poison out
or at least
that’s what i heard; snake bite
sucker punch, the works. i’m
trying to delineate what i know –

bad orchestras, ugly hymns,
his voice warbling above it
all, splitting the notes in two

it’s hard, my broken toes
skimming the river, my smile
like a dog bone or peach pit,
the kind of thing that
gets buried

it’s not so terrible, this following,
his fish tackle heart trembling
while he searches for me & then
tries not to look

but that’s a girl i’m not
anymore,
haunted shack hybrid,
his back as straight as
an unlucky arrow
& just as true

By Emma Bosacki

Biography:

Emma Bosacki is a poet and storyteller living in Toronto, Ontario. A soon to be student at Queen’s University, she is studying a degree in both English and Classics. Her inspiration comes from other Canadian writers such as Anne Carson, Michael Ondaatje, and Timothy Findley. She lives with her girlfriend and two cats.

Eurydice Walking By Mica K

Eurydice Walking

My heart is full of candle wax
and the deep-belly hunger
of the Dead.

Everything here moves slow:
the flickering shadows,
your tender footsteps,
the poison in my veins.

Do you remember our wedding?
Us both in white, pink orchids
woven in our hair? Hymns
echoing off the clouds?
The softness of our kiss?

Do you remember the tall dry grass
swaying? The jealous satyr
who descended like a fat, heavy fly,
red wine in his beard, dark dirt
beneath his fingernails?

How I fell back slowly,
mouth open, into a black tangle
of wild, seething vipers?

When I woke up in His Arms,
Hades told me that above us
you were weeping.

Love, I hear you weeping now.
Love, your body might be quavering
but it is still so beautiful.

It will be alright. I know
you are brave. Sing
something sweet,
sing something of home.

(I can see your fingers tremble
as they touch the lyre-strings.)

By Mica K

Biography:

Mica K is a twenty year old Virginia kid who gets sentimental about constellations, sunrises, hot tea, and good poetry. They were more than likely born with a book in their hand and a poem in their mouth. They currently study English and Creative Writing at university.

Earthquakes and Hummingbirds By Darcy Vines

Earthquakes and Hummingbirds

Ever since I can remember,
I’ve been terrified of earthquakes.
Growing up just west of Detroit,
I had never felt one before,
but the cracks in the pavement
were all I could depend on.
How dare they think about tremoring
apart.
Hummingbirds’ wings beat 70 times per second
but my hummingbird heart beat
so much faster the day
you thought my name
for the very first time.
I swore the earth was rumbling
and splitting and swallowing up
my runaway feet, all my history
following them close behind.
The first time my father kissed my mother,
she said what the hell did you do that for?
and didn’t kiss him again ‘til he apologized.
The first time she told me that story,
I cried.
I have no idea what you’ll say the first time
I kiss you, but I want it like that.
If you’ll hate me, if you’ll hit me,
if you’ll blush ruby-throated red,
I want to find out.
And if the earth does open up,
and all of my feathers burst out of my chest,
I really wouldn’t mind.

By Darcy Vines

Biography:

Darcy Vines is a 20 year old free verse poet and freelance journalist who has been writing since the early days of her teenage angst. While occasionally covering feminist film festivals and office furniture conventions, she prefers to write about falling in and out of love too easily, gender and sexuality, and her dog named Huckleberry Finn. She cites Kurt Vonnegut, Betty Smith, Richard Siken, and Andrea Gibson as the loves of her literary life and her biggest inspirations. In her free time, she is a senior in the Insignis Honors Program at Aquinas College and studies English, journalism, and writing, all while staring down the barrel of law school applications. She is a staff writer for her college’s newspaper The Saint, and has been published in the first volume of Literary Sexts as well as the 26th and 27th editions of The Sampler. In 2014 and 2015, she was a top ten finalist from Aquinas College in the Academy of American Poets Student Poetry Prize. Someday, she hopes to write something that makes sense. Until then, you can find her anywhere you can also find a good dirty chai.

Gender Fears By Mica K

Gender Fears

You want a body
with which you can identify,
a soul you can expose.

You want someone to peel back
your fuchsin cherry-flesh
and hold the damp pit of you
between their teeth.

An act of war, an act of love:
it is all throwing yourself away
for recklessness, all waking up
to smoke and flames,
all existing like a live wire
about to shock the next person
with a good grip.

See, there’s the real conflict-
you want love but the moment
it raises its bloodstained
muzzle you become a deer
that flees again, that skitters
through the laurels with a lost
girl’s song in your chest.

You dream about shapeshifters
who shiver from one skin to the next,
becoming oceans, becoming
church windows, kaleidoscopes,
things that sparkle in the light
of a hundred different Sundays.

You dream about holiness,
and a lover who will kiss the chasm
between your ribs without
feeling afraid of the weight
that emptiness leaves.

By Mica K

Biography:

Mica K is a twenty year old Virginia kid who gets sentimental about constellations, sunrises, hot tea, and good poetry. They were more than likely born with a book in their hand and a poem in their mouth. They currently study English and Creative Writing at university.