All Through the Town (On a Bus in L.A.) By Jessie Lynn McMains

All Through the Town (On a Bus in L.A.)

On the train from Long Beach to L.A.
on my way to see Dee Dee Ramone and Peter Lorre
at Hollywood Forever, an announcement crackled
over the loudspeaker: Construction on the tracks
ahead. Compton is the last stop. Disembark there
and catch a bus.

And the train groaned to a stop and the passengers
sighed, and funneled out of the train and formed
two lines – one for a bus that would make every stop
and one for a shuttle going straight to the station
where we could catch another train.

And in line for the shuttle, the man in front of
me talked on his cellphone: He did what to her?
Nuh-uh. You tell him he can’t treat your sister
that way. Hell, tell him he can’t treat any woman
that way. And if he don’t listen, you call me, and I’ll shut
that motherfucker down.

And everyone shuffled on board the shuttle,
and the driver warned us: This is the express bus.
We ain’t stoppin’ ’til we get to the transfer point. We’re goin’
straight to 7th Street. He paused, a beat, then:
Comin’ straight outta Compton. The bus was buoyed
by our laughter.

And the bus floated down the road, and I sat
in the way back, in a section that had been added
on; a miraculous monstrosity of metal and plastic.
Every time we turned a corner it expanded
like the bellows of an accordion. A little girl sang
along to the wheezy song:

And the wheels on the bus go round and round
All through the town

And a teenage boy at the front of the bus stood
to let an elderly woman sit down. And a Japanese
couple sat side-by-side. They had a huge silver suitcase
between them and sometimes, the woman whispered
in the man’s ear and he chuckled low at a joke
the rest of us weren’t in on.

And outside the bus there were streets of pink-painted
bungalows, kids’ bikes propped against purple
jacaranda trees, community gardens of cabbage
and bougainvillea vines; other neighborhoods had closed-down
storefronts and no one around but a woman selling
tamales: cactus, carne, cerdo.

And everyone wished the bus would stop there
So we could dine

And on the bus two young Latinas twined together;
the taller one had two black braids down her back – amorcita
she said, and kissed the shorter girl’s forehead,
and the shorter girl giggle-sighed and blew a bungalow-pink
bubble with her gum, and the whole bus was
their pink sugar love-bubble.

And through the windows of the bus I saw the Hollywood
Hills in the distance, brown and tinder-dry from the drought
and somewhere up on them was the Hollywood sign,
with the Land gone but still sensed like a phantom limb, like
the scent of a starlet’s perfume; a sad, lovely dream of a lost
Angeles.

And a young black man sauntered from the front of the bus
toward the back. He was selling mixtapes and candy bars and
no one wanted his sick beats or sweet treats, except one
middle-aged white lady who wanted a Hershey bar. She gave him
ten bucks and he looted his pockets for change but she said:
It’s okay. Keep it.

On the days when the headlines get to me, I think of that bus
ride: It’s okay, keep it. Amorcita. Dreams of old Hollywood,
tamales and gardens. Tell him he can’t treat women that way. Mixtapes
and sweetness on a laughter-buoyed love-bubble. Straight
outta Compton

And round and round
all over town

By Jessie Lynn McMains

Biography:

Jessie Lynn McMains (aka Rust Belt Jessie), is the Poet Laureate of Racine, Wisconsin. She has performed spoken word on tour with the Perpetual Motion Roadshow, at FILF in Cleveland, and at Queer Open Mic and Bitchez Nueve in San Francisco, as well as various other places across the US and Canada. She has been publishing her prose and poetry in her own zines since 1994, and her work has also appeared in The Chapess, New Pop Lit,The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society, Wonderlust Lit Zine, Razorcake, and Word Riot, amongst others. Her short story “Insect Summer” was nominated for the 2015 Pushcart Prize. She currently writes music reviews and essays for Witchsong. Someone once called her the Debbie Harry of poetry, and she thinks that’s a pretty rad description. If you like, you can also refer to her as the punk rock Edna St. Vincent Millay. She loves music, adventure, community gardens, home-brewed beer, tarot, dancing, playing dress-up, her friends and family, and her four-year-old kidlet. She collects souvenir pennies and stick and poke tattoos. She is perpetually melancholy, restless, and nostalgic. She believes storytelling can change the world. You can find her website at recklesschants.net and her blog at rustbeltjessie.tumblr.com.

Doubt By Alexis Smithers

Doubt

We’re watching Doubt and I pause right before Viola Davis’s part because
where do we ever get such a succinct explanation of racism and classism as it intersects with
abuse
it’s like she’s broken the fourth wall and it’s bleeding into our truths and
my cousin told me it’s just a movie.
But then he asked me if I thought the
Trinity is more like the Tragedy Trifecta where
the Father is priest
the Son is the child
and the Holy Spirit is haunting.
And like that one gospel
no one believes the child until after they’re dead
but a lot of kids aren’t strong enough to Messiah and
push themselves up out of the grave.
They just stay dead.
He asked me don’t you think there’s
there’s something sick in making children get on their knees to
ask someone who holds their world in their hands
for forgiveness?
He said the only times you should be down like that is when you’re giving someone head or
praying, not both.
I asked him if he was okay and he pressed play and Viola told Meryl Streep that “it’s just til
June.”
He said, “I fucking hate summer.”
He might’ve been trying to tell me something.
But then again, maybe not.

By Alexis Smithers

Biography:

Alexis Smithers is a twenty one year old explosion of messes. They are queer black writer that was published in a book about how horses heal (Wild at Heart by Heather Kirby), and has work that can be found on theEEEL. Fun facts: they tied a pillowcase to their back and tried to fly after seeing Sky High, their mantra can be found in Wreck-It Ralph, The Babadook, or Orphan Black (depending on the day) and they’re terrified of mostly everything but art makes the fear easier to hold.

Wishbone By Martina Dominique Dansereau

Wishbone

Inspired by “Wishbone” by Richard Siken

You are talking about your ex-boyfriend
and I am telling you about how when I tried to kill myself,
I couldn’t find a sharp enough knife.
I even tried a cleaver from the kitchen drawer,
but I couldn’t bring myself to push hard enough,
I say.
If could have, I would have cut myself into marble
slabs and built a castle. I would have been happy there,
I say.
This is where everything splits in half, love or death,
and death is starting to seem less like a destination,
more like someplace you wake up after a night so drunk
with stars you lose count of your wishes. This afternoon
is bone white. You talk about your breakup, how you’re
swearing off boys again because girls have always
been hotter anyways; you list the names of all the ones
you would fuck and I’m here listing off all the medications
that have run their course through my body like ex-lovers.
Citalopram. Fluoxetine. Olanzapine. Bupropion.
Risperidone. Venlafaxine. Mirtazapine.
Aripiprazole. I could write an alphabet song
out of all these anti-everything’s I’ve tried and forgone.
That’s funny, isn’t it? It’s a joke, you’re supposed
to be laughing, but instead you’re giving me that Look like
when I try to tell you about the music that plays
in my therapist’s waiting room. Be quiet now, it says,
you’re breaking the rules, as if we’re playing hide-and-seek
and this life is a child—like if we can’t see it, it can’t see us.
As if it won’t always find us again, peel back the bed covers,
here you are, it’s your turn now. Grab an end, pull hard.
When we last dried out a wishbone, I ended up with
the smaller piece. I asked what you had wished for and
all you said was that you wanted me to be okay again.
These days you speak a foreign tongue and I keep passing
you dictionaries hoping you’ll get the hint. I cry
so much at night that my bed floats away and strands
me on an island of sadness so big it swallows up my world.
The nights I run out of tears, this riverbank has graves
in it, I’m sleeping with the dead. You’re talking about
falling in love again and I am dressing up corpses, pretending
that I’m not rotting. Can you smell it? Flowers, you tell me,
it’s the flowers. You’ve turned my wrists into roses and
I am still cleaning up the blood. You keep telling me about
the normal things, but I can’t remember what that world
was like; all I can do is take these pieces of mine, these
dull shards of reality, and toss them up in the air. Love
or death, we can’t have both. Catch, grab an end, pull hard.
Make a wish.

By Martina Dominique Dansereau

Biography:

Martina Dominique Dansereau is an 18 year old (gender)queer writer and performance poet from 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. Xe is a poetry reader for Persephone’s Daughters, a lit mag dedicated to empowering women, and has work published or forthcoming in the Rising Phoenix Review, Oddball Magazine, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and Doll Hospital Journal. Xe is passionate about anti-oppression, 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.

Disintegrating By Hannah T. Rosenthal

Disintegrating

Words are melting on my tongue
like ice;  water is running down my throat.
A cold sensation that makes me gasp
for air.

Words so heavy, they drag me down.
They are hard to swallow, but even harder
to speak; all they do is leave a metallic taste
in my mouth that carries the reminder
of blood. A silent warning, a sense of
distress in every beat of my heart.

Words never uttered are the
loudest, you know. They scream inside
the mind, they ache behind closed eyes.
They are the pain you try to soothe
with fingers pressed to temples.

We try to silence the voices in our
heads, try to suffocate them –
and in the process we forget that
we need to breathe, too.

By Hannah T. Rosenthal

Biography:

Hannah T. Rosenthal is a nineteen-year-old aspiring writer currently living in Germany. She is interested in literature of all kinds and language, as well as its development and linguistics per se. Aside from that mythology and philosophy are counted among her greatest interests. More of her writing can be found at ourfragilestars.tumblr.com.

The Territory of a Boy By Isaac Frank

The Territory of a Boy

Tell my parents I’m sorry;
The only grandchild they’ll ever have are these words,
the ones I’ve lent my teeth to – biting through, a kind of skin
outside of my skin, like expensive lingerie,
or loaded dice, or something that makes dying look comfortable
because the only way a boy touches another boy is with a eulogy
pinned to his fingers.

Come here, forgive me that body of yours
our skeletons are crawling out of their closets together, whether
we want them to or not, they come from the ground, slow dancing
finger bones pulling themselves out of a grave we put them in –
how do you feel about nail marks on your back?
It’s kind of a trademark of mine, I need to leave something on
every boy I touch.

You’re at the end of high school and all eyes are on this stage,
you have one minute to speak, the lights are dim for you
and this is how they want it:
I vow to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth
or so help me god,
I will not turn this boy into morse code for me
he will not be something for me to touch only when they’re not looking.

There’s a cute boy with black eyes in the back of the room,
a red plastic cup clutched in one hand, like it’s your hand
well, tell me the meaning of consent
because his eyes are pushing into mine,
and that in itself is a kind of murder, for boys like me.

The girls have something that feels like fabric softener
in the womb of their mouths, but the boys
taste like beers on the couch in the afternoon, the quiet crack
of a soda can,   the gasp that is passed from mouth to mouth;
love so thick you can choke on it, love bleeding into the throat.

Oh boy, you’re wearing a red shirt and I’m pulling it off
It’s funny,
nothing but red, and red means dead    -because boys like me;
you’ve been told we can’t keep our hands to ourselves, we’ll
put them anywhere you’ll let us, so
Pray the Gay away, but the weight of a boys sins are written
backwards across the curve of his lips.

I heard you pray for a witch hunt, but you’re a good boy
and you dress nicely; all firm press, all pant suit, all childhood
lust,           like a tree fort is built in the arch of your back
I’m kissing your neck and I’m kissing and I’m kissing because
tomorrow the purple might not be nearly so kind, because for boys
like us;
we have to love like we’re choking on it, around some people,
the wrong people –            our love is kissing as we fall,
sex like getting caught by the throat.

Amen – a man;
you guys would love him, I promise
the kind of boy you would bring home to your parents, if you
were a girl.                          But you’re not,
and with people like these:
a boy who touches a boy like he touches a girl is the most
unspeakable thing in the room,
and every boy is a boy to die for.
because when you’re gay, every boy is a boy to die for.

By Isaac Frank

Biography:

Isaac Frank is an eighteen year-old poet and student living in Ontario, Canada. Currently finishing his final year in high school, he hopes to broadly study English Literature with degrees in Political Science and Creative Writing – ever invested in finding ways to become a university professor. His first set of work, “Bad Lines”, has received Poem of the Month publications on Mibba, and he is currently working on a second and more extensive collection of poetry titled “The Stories We’ve Known”. He can often be found drinking cold coffee, surrounded by cats, and crying over other peoples poetry.

 

Girls Who Love Church Girls By Belle Malone

Girls Who Love Church Girls

thermite bones, alkaline breath,
electric tongue–
there are butterflies in your bloodstream
and i want to rip them out.

you, in your sunday best,
bright and bleeding and beautiful-
me, in my wednesday worst,
trembling and wretched and
the antithesis of holy.

there’s a gospel in your fingertips
dragging over the ragged edges of
a broken collarbone three summers past,
the three marks that you left on my neck,
mother, daughter, holy ghost–

your tongue tastes like battery acid in
my mouth and you steal my gum and
steal my heart and steal my
very soul.
you place me between hallelujah
and amen and i’ve been stuck in
this sweet hour of prayer for three
months.

inhale flame, exhale purity, let me
breathe over that bite i left on your neck.
let me beg forgiveness under your skirt. let
me find the promised land in the valley between
your hips. let me be holy. let me be
forgiven.

amen. amen.
amen.

By Belle Malone

Biography:

Belle Malone is a genderqueer actor, musician, poet, and space enthusiast. They have been three of those things for a little over a decade, though poetry has been their newest adventure. They have fallen in love with making words scream and sigh like lovers.

Nine Years Old By Disha Ahluwalia

Nine Years Old

You are nine years old with sand in your hair
and a heart so full of innocence
when your friends point at you,
whisper ‘lesbian’ and burst into laughter-

and you don’t know what it means so
you laugh along, muttering ‘lesbian’
in between your giggles,
as though it’s a swear word.

when the dictionary tells you that it means
a woman who loves women, you scowl
because you’ve never been this confused.
why would your friends laugh at you

for being in love with women?
isn’t love the weapon that ends
all wars before they begin?

and so you ask your mama, just to be sure,
and she holds your arms and looks you
in the eyes, and she says, “darling, god
will never forgive lesbians.

they should be ashamed of themselves.”
and your scowl turns into a frown,
because you’re not sure you can love
a God that doesn’t love the idea of love.

because at nine years old, love is
pure and guileless and naive. love is
no more than holding hands and tucking
her hair behind her ears and love is

never saying no when she wants to play
or wants help with homework.
yet, at nine years old,
love is everything,

and you can never fathom why
loving women is wrong,
when your older sister is nagged
about not having a boyfriend.

when your mama notices your silence,
she asks you what’s wrong,
and you scrape out that frown and
replace it with a worried smile,

and you tell her it’s nothing,
and you scrape out the word that
felt like home to you, because
no one wants to be dissed.

and at nine years old, you are taught
to be ashamed of yourself.

By Disha Ahluwalia

Biography:

Disha Ahluwalia is a sixteen year old Indian writer settled in the Middle East. Her heart has a wild case of wanderlust and she wants to travel all seven continents to take pictures of the sunset. When she’s not busy procrastinating over cat videos or overrated TV shows, she can be found in the nook of her room spilling out ink. She has been writer for as long as she can remember and has previously been published in literary journals like Germ Magazine. More of her work can be found here: http://concealednotes.tumblr.com/