Claustrophobia By Raquel Isabelle de Alderete

Claustrophobia

you kiss him on the mouth or on the upturned curve of his jaw or in the hollow point where his throat meets his body and you think of when you were sixteen and in love with the city and how if you could, you’d be a rainstorm and chase yourself off into the wilds of new countries

but you are a twenty-something with no money and a backpack of family trouble and a life that isn’t going the way that you wanted and a sick feeling in your stomach and lately all of the boys have started tasting exactly the same and every book reads the same way

you wake up in new sheets or new skylines or new shoes and it doesn’t solve the deep cracks in you – but aren’t adults supposed to have their shit together isn’t that why you don’t want to call back your father isn’t that why it’s okay that you can’t find your heart

you kiss her on the mouth or on her hipbones or on the bruises of her knuckles and you think of when you were fifteen and believing in a future where you were all put together and you think to your younger self: i’m so sorry, i’m so sorry, i’ve let us both down, haven’t i

and it’s so easy to pretend nothing’s the matter if you fill up your head with less important puzzles, if you walk yourself through romances and parties and pizza calories instead of wondering where you’ll be by the time that everything catches up around your feet, it’s easier to buy a bottle of whiskey than to tell her your secrets, it’s easier to smoke weed than to make an art piece that actually lingers, no,

there are those of us who are runners but we never quite got our feet under us

tonight we make a quiet prayer to the moon: don’t let me die in this town, not here, not where nothing moves

By Raquel Isabelle de Alderete

Boombox By Maria Ng

Boombox

Her sour
clouds clog
her nostrils.

Clotting the
very tunnels
that oxygenate

her mind. And
when she settles
in the A-train

she brings back
the 80s. Remembering
something she never had.

Clearly non-existent in
that decade yet longing
for an extinct time.

But that’s something
us millennials, or so
people claim, crave.

A sort of nourishment from the past
that isn’t the same in the digital age,
and she sets her ear on the boombox

with the music on a low
setting. Red corvettes, fingerless
gloves, and pot parties.

Pseudo saccharine sweetening
her intentions for a better future.
Pot making her future actions
rot by the time she’s woke.

Her boombox and her
existential crisis is a millennial
cliché.

A briny fermented aspiration
that overcooks pasts its ripeness.
Tasting like the very result of
failure that never overcomes her.

By Maria Ng

Biography:

Maria Ng is a New Yorker living in New Jersey. She spends her days writing, blogging about books and zines, and going to college. She often writes about mixed identity (Afro-Latina and Chinese), memories of family, living in New York, fearing of what’s going to happen in the future, relearning and forgetting languages, and lonely fictional people that are merely reflections of herself. She has an existential crisis every few months or so and is still unsure of what to do now.

She considers writing a form of healing, protest, and sometimes a violence towards your own self. She writes poetry but wishes to be a novelist. She doesn’t like to remember high school, especially the horrendous fiction and poetry she wrote for her creative writing class.

She has previously been published in Rasasvada, Paper Crown Magazine and some other zines.

Hunger By Martina Dominique Dansereau

Hunger

She asks if I have been eating and I say yes, I have. I never
miss a meal. Every day I sit down and fork pieces of sadness,
swallowing sorrow that melts on my tongue until my teeth chatter

and my bones start to shake out of my skin.
I say I’m trying something new, an experiment.
I’m living on six glasses of water a day.

I wear hunger like armour, my collarbones steel-plated,
chainmail ribs clattering whenever I breathe.
These cravings hit me like arrows but snap like finger-bones

and my hands whisper envy, envy, envy. Hunger
gives me a paintbrush and teaches me to be an artist,
sketching out dotted lines on where to crease the skin,

carving flesh away into sharp-edged origami.
It is walking along a high-wire, sculpting this silhouette
thin as a pane of glass with a chisel in trembling fingers,

praying all the while that I will not shatter. I fold myself
into a paper crane because birds have hollow bones
and maybe this way I will be weightless, maybe this way

he will love me. I have always been too much—
too queer, too radical, too mentally ill, too much to hold in these
two hands. The less of me there is, the more loveable I become.

Hunger is a way to forget his voice. The sharpness of skin
draped over ribs almost overwhelms the sharpness of memories,
the way he looked at me as if I was part deformity,

wriggling-worm tongue never human enough to be more
than a pile of waste not worth paying attention to unless I
was monster—nowadays, all I ever taste is dirt.

At midnight hunger takes me in its arms
and I find comfort in the jagged glass inside my stomach.
It reminds me of what it felt like to be alive, back before

life was holding my breath and tiptoeing around a man
so I wouldn’t remind him of the air in my lungs,
so he would have more room, before life was pleating myself

into boxes stacked in corners and hoping he would forget
about the matter I took up in all the wrong ways, before life
was a reminder of all my failures to exist as I should.

Hunger coaxes my skeleton out of my skin and she sings,
We’re halfway there, baby. Halfway to a ghost.
I walk to the kitchen and stand in front of the fridge

and it is beautiful, the way the liquid moonlight gleams
against the unopened seals on everything lining the shelves
and the whole time, hunger is right beside me and it

follows me back to bed to spoon me under the covers
and hold my hand, singing me lullabies until I fall into a sleep
where taking up space doesn’t make me feel like I am

an outsider in my own skin

By Martina Dominique Dansereau

Biography:

Martina Dominique Dansereau is an 18 year old (gender)queer writer from the lower mainland of Vancouver, Canada, who spends the majority of xyr time blogging, snuggling snakes, and crying over spoken word. 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, and xe is a poetry reader for Persephone’s Daughters, a lit mag dedicated to empowering women. Xe is passionate about anti-oppression, anarcha-feminism, queering platonic relationships, radicalizing self-care, and going on midnight walks in the rain. You can find more of xyr poetry online at http://numinouslights.co.vu

Yorick By Michael Madill

Yorick

It’s cold outside,
But here he sits with downcast face and upturned mind.
Get a job, you think as you hurry by,
Hands stuffed in pockets, warm,
Avoiding his pleading eyes.
He was you once, you know, flush with a payday’s glow,
But he got a divorce and took a drink.
Now he lives in the snow, the bus station, or the Burger King.
Anywhere he can go to escape the cold,
To escape his mind,
To escape your pity.
He doesn’t want your pity. He wants your money.
Money is help, release, food, drink, clothes, and shelter.
Remember that next time you smugly press your thirty-eight cents
Into his palm and smile at him as if you were patting a dog,
Because your money is what he wants,
But your love is what he needs if he is ever going to get home again.
You wouldn’t understand, because you’ve always had
A home, secure against fear, hunger, and want.
Money can buy you shelter, but only love can make a home.
Without it he’s condemned
To roam from box to box, no end
In sight, his life a welter of tearful frustration
Day and night, night and day.
So when the dirty smelly man at the corner asks you for a dollar,
Give it to him,
And add a human touch. Say a word, offer him the hope it will stop.
Sometimes all it takes is a smile, a cup of coffee, a newspaper.
Do it because you can, and acknowledge him.
Alas, poor man. I knew him. He was me once.

By Michael Madill

Biography:

I write the blog Vegan Pluck, about veganism and its food and politics, here http://veganpluck.com/blog.html.  I was educated at London University and the University of Michigan, and I live in Chicago with my family.

Hawk Shop: Buy Sell Pawn By Lindsay Maruska

Hawk Shop: Buy Sell Pawn

every door an open door to bloody
palms, silver fee; the lot next between
is over grown, dirty forgotten flowers
claw out pavement cracks and roots
that swallow whole all dark earth-

three bikes out front but no one knows
who they’re for; kids in the backseat of cars
pulled up to the curb, hands against the
smeared window glass- they know
better than to speak

important business is going on
inside.

and it is always shadowed in precarious
piles, the gods of debt cracking split-lip
smiles from their backroom perches and
the blood they’ll earn- they’ve been
around for a long time now and
they drink the desperation in turn-

no one knows the owner, he doesn’t
live in town; the girl behind the counter
might once have been the teacher’s pet the
ribbon-threaded library queen but she’s
seen too much of what wakes in the dark
to ever work anywhere else-

all the encased promises,
rings and lockets, TVs, guns-
held-up point blank for another
oath, a few more days untinged
by blood a pool of wan yellow light
an offhand nod to the kids outside
and nothing’s ever worth what it’s
worth when it’s handed over
spilling pride and broken knuckles,
bruised-up jaws- they know the ghosts lurk
right inside but wonders always cease
to matter when you need to know
you can eat tonight.

By Lindsay Maruska

Biography:

Lindsay Maruska is a thirty-year-old forever student who is pursuing a second MA degree while raising one child and five dogs. She is interested in modern mythology and the intersection of regional gothic and social commentary on industrial ruin.

Peach Blossoms By William Heath

Peach Blossoms

peach blossoms –
a new voice
in the church choir

the conversation
shifts again
. . . fireflies

beyond reach. . .
those tiny apples
so deep within

summer’s end
what was once a child
moongazes with me

where two streams meet
maple leaves
beginning to turn

By William Heath

Biography:

I am a semi-retired teacher at a small private school in New Hampshire, and the director of a tutoring organization. To me, there is nothing better than having an opportunity to work with students in creative writing. It’s rare that haiku and haibun are not a key component in my classes. They like it and so do I.

I live in central New Hampshire (“by the big lake” as locals say) with my wife Jacqueline, dogs Cosmo and Jake, and a cat with no name.

Fine Print By Lydia Havens

Fine Print

After Michelle Chen

i. Zoloft

At every party, you tasted like
expired orange juice, or
mouth to mouth by a waterless
swimming pool. You were the glass
that broke in my own two hands.
My mother could never make
eye contact around you, blue
filling every tile in the kitchen.
She begged me to let you go.
You are the exit music that never
paused or stopped. And maybe,

maybe you are to blame. Don’t
ask me what for.

ii. Seroquel

I could’ve sworn my mattress was breathing,
the oxygen slow-dancing beneath our bodies.
Everyday, you reminded me I can be undone.
My hands, my throat, my spine. Broken.
Slit. Snapped in half across another’s knee.
You told me this, and you said it’s to help
me. It’s for my own good.

iii. Lithium

You were always drawing chalk lines
in my mouth, playing with my esophagus
as if it were a beach ball. Fourteen-year-old
girls have always been vacations for you.
They forget to take their meds, or involuntarily
vomit them back up in the kitchen sink. When
I first met you,

I held a knife to your throat out of fear. Later,

you told me you found it exciting. You found
me exciting. I was all bobby pin limbs,
teeth in a crooked glory, afraid of everyone.
Yes, I was just like all of the others. But that,
that was the fun part.

iv. Abilify

You teach me how to make French toast,
how to fishtail-braid my hair without
looking in the mirror. Once, my hands just
dangled from my wrists. Now, they are
keeping me from losing myself again.
Not feeling nauseous or half-asleep
all of the time has never felt more like
a basic human right. I want to give you
all of the credit, but you won’t let me.
I will always try and explain this feeling,
but then I remember:

There is so little to say in euphoria.

Biography:

Lydia Havens writes and lives in Tucson, Arizona. A part of the literary non-profit Spoken Futures, her work has previously been published in Drunk in a Midnight Choir, Words Dance, and Textploit, among other places. In March 2015, she was named the Women of the World Poetry Slam Youth Champion. You can find more of her work on Tumblr, southwestwitch.tumblr.com, or on her website, lydiahavens.weebly.com.

you were six and it lived in the boy behind the gas station counter By Raquel Isabelle de Alderete

you were six and it lived in the boy behind the gas station counter 

you were six and it lived in the boy behind the gas station counter who gave you a penny with your birth year on it

you were eight and it wore the face of the woman who had too many yappy dogs and accidentally set her garbage on fire with her cigarettes and your mother referred to as “the poor thing”

you were ten and it was sucking the life from your aunt who never went to work and never learned to drive and always smelled of mildew and you never understood why she wouldn’t just do all the things she said she wanted to

you were twelve when it was you, too, when it moved in and it liked the view and now it wore your body, too.

thirteen saw it explode into your world like fireworks. it was the pretty preppy girl everybody love-hated with her big house and rich family and perfect skin and it was the teacher with a white tan line where her wedding ring used to shine who graded you all so harshly that eventually she was written up for it since you all complained so loudly

fourteen you had met it, it had worn you, it was controlling you completely, an absent numb that swallowed you completely, a blankness you called a demon or a darkness or a devil, or something, but it wasn’t you, was it, it was just a voice that was angry and tired all of the time and never felt anything – it was in your circle of friends, it was the face of your brunette friend who liked doctor who and squids and who tried to swallow so many tylenol that she briefly saw god, it was wearing the skin of the happy-go-lucky funny one who had “too much meat” on her ribs, it was your male best friend who was always too skinny and if you moved too fast towards him, he’d flinch

you were fifteen and it started to walk the bodies it wore under the ground. it took your friends from your hands and it took the lives of strangers. you cannot feel anything. you cannot do anything. your body is a weight that you are too weak to carry. you are always tired. you want to do a handstand underwater and never come up after.

at sixteen it is your best friend with her pale blonde hair, having a panic attack outside of her classroom for getting a B on her report card. it is the way she pushes herself to the edge of her own ability. it is you, and it is her, and it is living in the chest of most people you know. it is the cheerleader and the sci-fi geek both.

seventeen. a boy on the football field became a boy under a small stone. people say, “he didn’t look depressed. how could we have known?”

and you want to tell them: depression does not have a look. it takes over in such a sly way that only those who have lived it know how to look for it. it wears the bodies of the girl dancing on the table who just did ten shots and it has the skin of the one who sits at home with her razors tucked in a box (sometimes, they are the same girl, and i have been her). it will inhabit the bones of your angry boss, of the man who just cut you off, of the boy who never stops making jokes. it roosts in the chest of poets, of artists, of the prom queen. it is clever. it knows how not to be seen.

it is in you, and it is in me. i look out for it in the bodies of others, now. the only way to kill it is to bring it into the light. i see you, and what you’re going through, and we can both fight.

By Raquel Isabelle de Alderete

Plastic Flamingos By Victoria Morgan

Plastic Flamingos

Statistically,
there are now more plastic flamingos in the world
than there are actual flamingos.

I think this has little to do with consumerism
and everything to do with how we dream of things
we will never actually see for ourselves.
I’ve never actually seen a rainforest
so I can’t for certain say that they do exist.

I have never seen my father cry so he is probably a cyborg.
As a kid I pretended that I was a princess locked in a castle.
No one was keeping me in my room
but there was just so much to imagine in there.

Now when I am locked in my room
it’s because there is too much to imagine everywhere else.

Bipolar disorder is kind of like the brat at a brain birthday party.
It wants everything everyone else has
but wants to get it by screaming and throwing cake on the ground.

Occasionally it puts itself on time-out.
For hours. For weeks. For months.
Until the dishes in the sink are a scarecrow
and everyone else has gone home.

Once, I jumped off a friend’s kitchen counter,
tried to punch a 6 foot tall man in the face,
referred to myself as, “The Tiger”,
and cleared out my bank account all in one week.

This carnival is what we call mania.

And surprisingly, it’s not what kills you.
Because despite the reckless mayhem I always seem to survive myself,
like my brain is telling me, “Not yet moron, you don’t get to die this happy.”

The funny thing is, everyone is shocked when bipolar patients kill themselves,
as if we don’t know where the razor blades are
and our hands aren’t magnets. With a suicide rate of 1 in 4,
The odds are stacked against us

but we still have the audacity to dream about tomorrow.

Because we’ve seen colors
that only Van Gogh knows about.
We’ve fallen off the cliffs of our broken skulls
and landed on our feet.
We cry like summer storms. We laugh like fireworks.
We scream like falling airplanes
‘cause our lungs run on jet fuel.

The thing is,

I’ve never actually seen death
so I cant say for certain that it does exist.
I haven’t seen enough real flamingos in my life and
I’ve never seen a rainforest
but god, do I know what it means

to live.

By Victoria Morgan

Biography:

My name is Victoria Morgan and I am an emerging poet with no previous publication of my work. I have been featured on Button Poetry for a spoken word piece I performed this March. I am currently a fourth-year student and English major at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon. I grew up in the San Francisco bay area and have been greatly influenced by its culture. Growing up my family was rather ablest. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with a mental illness that my mother became more open-minded and supportive, where as my father never acknowledged that I had a disorder at all. My personal growth within the lifestyle of a mood disorder has given me a desire to speak out on mental illness issues, especially for the benefit of struggling youth. Personally, I am rather open about my disorder, as I believe it is the first step to educating others and hopefully reducing stigmas. My poem for this submission, “Plastic Flamingos”, was written in hopes of broadening the understanding of mood disorders by giving a personal account. It also incorporates a sense of hopefulness in spite of what much of society and even some medical professionals lead us to believe. Currently this piece is not being submitted for any other publication, however it may be adapted into a spoken word piece in the future.

six privileges of being muslim in america By Bianco

six privileges of being muslim in america

1) THE TERRORISTS IN MOVIES AND TV SHOWS ARE ALWAYS MUSLIMS. WE ARE DEPICTED AS DIRTY AND BARBARIC, MOUTHS WATERING FOR BLOOD AND THE DEATH OF AMERICANS.

2) HAVING TO EXPLAIN ISLAM TO PEOPLE WHO LOOK AT YOU LIKE AN OUTSIDER BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT WHITE ENOUGH, YOU’RE NOT CHRISTIAN ENOUGH, YOU DON’T FIT THEIR STEREOTYPES. BITING YOUR TONGUE WHEN SOME WHITE KID WHO THINKS HE’S ALL THAT ASKS YOU IN SEMI-SERIOUSNESS IF YOU WERE ALSO BEHIND 9/11

3) I GAVE UP MY BIRTH NAME: JALA. ARABIC AND PRONOUNCED HA-LA, BUT EVERYONE SAYS JAY-LA BECAUSE WHY WOULD THEY BOTHER LEARNING HOW TO PRONOUNCE MY NAME RIGHT WITHOUT MAKING A JOKE ABOUT JALAPENOS OR SOME OBSCURE SONG? I GAVE UP MY BIRTH NAME BECAUSE PEOPLE WOULD WRINKLE THEIR NOSES AND I’D SIGH, EXPLAIN THAT IN ARABIC IT MEANS CLARITY AND THEY NOD THEIR HEADS BEFORE BUTCHERING THE WAY IT SOUNDS.

4) IN THE FOURTH GRADE, A KID TRIED TO RIP OFF MY HIJAB BECAUSE HE THOUGHT IT WOULD BE FUNNY AND DIDN’T UNDERSTAND WHY I WORE IT ALL THE TIME. I CRIED. LATER, BEFORE I TRANSFERRED TO MY NEW SCHOOL FOR FIFTH GRADE, I STOPPED WEARING MY HIJAB BECAUSE I WANTED TO FIT IN.

5) I ASSIMILATED SO WELL INTO MY WHITE, CHRISTIAN CLASS THAT A) MY CLASSMATE THINKS IT’S OKAY FOR HIM TO SAY NIGGER/NIGGA BECAUSE HE’S JEWISH AND “OUR PEOPLE HAVE BEEN THROUGH THE SAME THING, AMIRIGHT?” HIS SKIN IS LIGHT ENOUGH NOT TO GET STOPPED AT AIRPORTS, LIGHT ENOUGH NOT TO GET PULLED OVER BY POLICE FOR NO REASON. B) MY TEACHER OFTEN FORGOT MY RELIGION AND SEEMED SURPRISED WHEN I CORRECTED HIS PRONUNCIATION OF ISLAM, MUSLIM, ARABIC, QURAN, AND MASJID. C) MY OLD TEACHER USED TO BRING MY RELIGION TO SAY WE HAD A VERY DIVERSE CLASS.

6) IF THERE IS A TERRORIST IN A MOVIE, THEY’RE PROBABLY MUSLIM BECAUSE AMERICA THINKS EVERYONE WHO’S MUSLIM, MUST BE A TERRORIST OR A BARBARIAN SINCE 9/11. WELL, I’VE NEVER TRUSTED A WHITE PERSON BECAUSE MY HISTORY BOOKS ARE WHITE WASHED, SLAVERY IS BRIEFLY MENTIONED, WHITE PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS THE SAVIORS, NOT THE ONES WHO SLAUGHTER. IN AMERICA, TELLING SOMEONE YOU’RE MUSLIM IS A SURE-FIRE AWAY FOR THEM TO JUDGE YOU AND BE PREPARED TO BE ASKED ABOUT 9/11

By Bianco

Biography:

My names are Bianco and Saafir, I go by both of them quite often. I’m trans, a PoC, and queer. I love to write. Writing’s 99% of the person I am; when I feel dysphoric, I write. When the racism I and others go through, I write it out. It’s more than an outlet, it’s a voice for people who don’t know where to find the words, a comfort, something that says ‘I’ve been there too.’ It’s been said before, but, I mean it when I say, I write to live.