To Your Health By Lydia Havens

To Your Health

Blood gets thicker in the mouth, mixed
with all the spit and the salt and the lies.
In my sink, blood tells lies:

This is from when I got into a fist-fight
with my serotonin. My serotonin won.

This is from when I swallowed every shattered
secret I am still keeping to this day.

This is from when I lost any wisdom I had,
and my wisdom teeth.

Blood never wants to tell the truth, not even
in the mouth. You cannot tell the truth with
just your mouth. You cannot beg for forgiveness
with just your mouth. I am begging for
forgiveness with driftwood teeth, a swollen
pink roof, a tongue like a land mine, hands
that wring too much decay into the world,
a spine that has so much in common with
barbed wire. I am begging for forgiveness
with everything I’ve got attached to me
and it’s still not enough.

But please, forgive me. Forgive me for not
treating my mouth like a cathedral the way
I should have. My mouth is so busted down
these days; in not taking care of it I have
vandalized myself. I have taken the can
of spray paint and written DO NOT ENTER
for every potential lover to read as they
lean in for the first kiss. I have been talking
to myself in a blood language. I have
been lying about everything. So here is the truth:

My mouth never gets a second chance.
My body never gets a second chance.

Depression baptizes you in negligence.
The aftermath of this is full of swamp and marsh.
This is not me begging for forgiveness from the world.
This is me begging for forgiveness from myself.

By Lydia Havens

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.

Ascension By Zoe Blue

Ascension

from my melted pink bedroom
a world of shade and lemonade and rain
lies bathed in all that is august
just beyond the fence

and my father the carpenter
he keeps the pickets straight
while my mother plants ivy designed to slip
lithe tongue into the honey
of the other side

the place for whose promise we pray
and from whose leakage we subsist
as we sit
scrubbing old batteries
of their own acid

as we watch
the ceiling tiles rot
counting spots of wet decay as blessings
miracles of motion on a dead-end road

and as my imagined sister
the pressure-treated angel
dreams of a life
where the ice cream truck
will come around
someday

By Zoe Blue

Biography:

Zoe Blue writes about hope and the many colors childhood takes on in memory. Her work has been published in Little River and Electric Cereal. In June she put her first e-book, Redemption Center, out into the world. More of her work is forthcoming on her portfolio blog, byzoeblue.tumblr.com.

Small Town By Lindsay Maruska

Small Town 

from the white-bone city to the
blue-smoke hills you’ve got mud
on your brand-new suits and you
were never meant for a place
so bathed in blood and dirt-

but here are mysteries in copses
slender trees turned toward the sun
and when all the marble’s been
overturned there’s nowhere else
that’s left to run but for the outlying

demotic counties, soft swing of
words, winds whispered low and
you do not belong inside the
furnace ruins left to rot in hungry

shadowed woods-

the girls who work in the diner all
have matching tattoos on their
wrists and the woman on the corner
watches you close- you swear you saw
her last in Washington Circle Park,
gnarled hands around a dripping bag-

there are no secrets had without
some sinew in return-

these hills are pockmarked with
caves, with runs of water drunk in
the dark- the high school girls in
oversized sweaters stand in a circle
in the memorial park where the bronze

soldier’s face watches you walk down
these streets; no marble here but
natural stone worn down to see what’s
underneath the older temples tied
to wood, to seasons standing head to head
and the earth has spun its magnetic
wreathe-

“don’t be here when the winter comes”
the waitress whispers when she passes
“it’s all fun and games when the summer
dances but wait until the green’s all gone
and we’re forced to do what must be done-

you think it’s some symbolic play
but it’s just the way we live, what we’ve
been born to- and I would run if I were
you”

you  doesn’t listen
but she didn’t expect you
to.

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.

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.