Talking to My Mother About Marriage Partnerships By Salma Deera

Talking to My Mother About Marriage Partnerships

get married soon,’ mother says.
‘it will be good for you. you’re getting old.
you need to have somebody with you.’
i ask her why why why, and it always
boils down to one word. partnership.
‘like the partnership between anjero and sugar.’
i tell her i dislike anjero, so she says
‘fish and chips. A marriage is fish and chips. you need
each other to fill your bellies well. it is a partnership’
if i ask her about love, she shakes her head with vigour.
‘i’m not talking about love. love ruins things.
a marriage is not made of love. but partners.’
so for once i listen to her, and i take a good look.
i look at the partnership
between my aunt’s bruised
cheek and her husband’s knuckles.
i gaze at the partnership between
my father’s no’s and my mother’s yes’s
and how his ‘no’ always has the last word.
i look at the partnership between
my grandmother’s loose cannon mouth
and the holes it leaves in my grandfather’s heart.
and finally I have an answer for my mother.
I tell her ‘I grieve for all the
people who have been told that a person chewing
on what their soul has to offer rather than kissing it,
is what a marriage is.

By Salma Deera


Salma Deera is a Kenyan born poet of Bavanese descent. She is based in London and is an English Literature graduate. Her first poetry collection, Letters from Medea, was published in October.


the soul is a ragged thing By K. Valerie

the soul is a ragged thing

the first time I hurt myself enough to bleed
I did it in the shower.
I had missed rehearsal because I thought it was on the wrong day
it was one of only two rehearsals we would have –
I did it because I thought I deserved it
I did it because it made the pain in my head turn into the pain in my arm
and at least the pain in my arm didn’t make me want to kill myself
I didn’t do it because it made me feel better
it didn’t make me feel better
it just made me feel emptier
but being empty is better than being alone with myself.

I know how to deal with emptiness
I can face the void even on days I can’t face the mirror –
the void and I are well acquainted
we are an unrequited love story or better yet, a love triangle
everything you didn’t want to see in a young adult novel
me and the void and being a functional human being
which one will she pick?
stay tuned for the next episode!

my life is like a tv show that used to be pretty good
but now the writers are screwing the fans over
with terrible characterization and queerbaiting and overdone plot lines
and they really should have wrapped it up
like three seasons ago,
looking at you, supernatural,
but they didn’t
and I’m still here
and the fans aren’t watching the show anymore
not that I blame them –
lethargic self-annihilation is less interesting
than witty comebacks and emotions that make sense

the first time I hurt myself enough to bleed
it took ten days to fully heal.
I didn’t shower for ten days.
it took that long for skin to grow over the absence I left
it took that long for that patch of me to become reborn –
do you believe in reincarnation
scientists say that every single cell in our skeleton
gets replaced every seven years.
I am not the girl I was seven years ago
our backbones are not the same and the cage around my heart is changed
I think the girl I was seven years ago would not be proud
of the girl I am today
I think she would be sad and try to save me
because that’s what I do
and I’d tell myself I don’t need saving
because that’s also what I do
maybe I should start doing different things and put these new bones
to new uses because clearly this old path is going to lead me
right off a bridge and I don’t know if I want to fall
but mostly I am floating,
floating right off of planet earth so untethered it’s terrifying –
where did my ground go
where did my hot-air balloon rope go
is it around my neck and I just can’t see it
is it around my neck and I just can’t see it
someone please tell me if I am okay

the first time I hurt myself enough to bleed
it felt like peace
someone please tell me
is the war worth it –

By K. Valerie


K. Valerie is an undergraduate working on graduating in three years with a double major in biology and economics and a minor in political science. Despite this, she still has some free time and while it lasts she takes naps, plays violin, and argues with politicians on TV. She writes poetry to help her figure out what her truth is. Her writing blog is


Alien By Emily Yin


They say empty yourself, and she says it is no longer possible.
Define ostracism. Unholy ostrich, burying
its head in sandy graves.

Yeah, Im okay. (Consider the ostrich, which remakes
reality through denial. Which is to say: if she ignores the elephant
in the room, it eventually becomes a flea. Which is to say:
her smile hangs on a tightrope.) She toes it daily, fearing
that one misstep, one wavering smile or slacken hand, will reveal
her guilt. But happiness is not a path to walk. The line cannot hold;
things fall apart.

She says help and it comes out as great. Something got lost
in translation. Great—wasn’t meant to be found again.

Call her strange. Call her alien,
but it’s not her fault. She was made a leper by this world.
Blame it on the sunset of her composure.
Please, please understand. Such words are cheapened
by a shaking voice.

What is her guilt?
Her guilt is written on her face, frozen
and misconstrued as cold. Her guilt is stained
on thawing eyes, breaking lips. Her guilt
is only that she wages a silent war to purge her fear of living.
They understand fear of dogs, of darkness, of death.
Hers is unforgivable.

They say speak up, and she says you wont hear me anyway.

By Emily Yin


Emily Yin is a junior at Acton Boxborough Regional High School. Her work has been nationally recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and has been published or is forthcoming in The Eunoia Review, The Riveter Review, GREYstone, and Polyphony H.S., among others.

Hide The Matches By Paola Bennet

Hide The Matches

I am remembering years of flame,
when mine were fuse-lit veins
and firecracker heart,
with a beat that lit up the sky.
My sister spoke softer than me then;
we had lemon in our hair, our teeth,
breathing sharp hot summertime.

Up north, you learn young
how to start a fire,
we don’t hide the matches.
And what to learn? I had sulfur
steeped under my skin, waiting
for the strike.

No more.

I’m winter-whittled ribs,
can’t feel past river-blue wrists.
I know she’s in here, somewhere,
the me of red phosphorus
waiting to ignite.

I leave without a coat,
and Mama says, it’s January,
how can you dress like July?

I take a scarf to humor her,
ask in return,

When did I stop blazing
and start burning alive?

By Paola Bennet


Paola Bennet’s heart and tongue are split between New England and France, and she is in a constant lovers’ quarrel with New York. Between bouts of black-notebook coffeeshop scribblings, she is finishing a degree in Storytelling, preparing for her third musical release, and working on a collection of modern poetic retellings of Greek myth. You can delve deeper into her writing at

Body Dysphoria By Alex Lenkei

Body Dysphoria

I’ve never been much good at being a body,
at having skin and hormones
and hands attached to arms.
I’ve never known what to do
with the adrenaline and testosterone
flooding my system
and all the pubescent crises of the body.

A body is not something I am, merely
something I possess.

I’ve never been good with
making eye contact:
instead of looking at you, I look just past you
so you blur in the periphery of my field of vision. Besides,
you’re not a body either. I’m not even looking at you.
All I see is your body.

I look in the mirror to get a good look at myself
but my body is always in the way:
this tired excess of limbs
and lazy collarbone commas.
I’m not there. I’m somewhere
underneath, or just behind
this glassy world of appearances.

My body is an external thing.
It is not of me. I wish I could take it off,
leave it in the dressing room
with three other shirts
and saunter away.

I’m afraid I’ll get lost inside my body:
trapped in my chest cavity,
blood vessels shipping me off to parts unknown,
lost in the swirling daily imperfections
of ribs and thighs and face.

I’m jealous of everyone who
finds themselves in a mirror
and feels at home in their skin
and who knows what to do
with their body
in the presence of another body.

The sexed body is an objet étranger,
a foreign object.
Étranger, stranger:
I am a stranger to myself.
A stranger in a strange land,
a landscape of broken ribs
and corrugated rivers.

By Alex Lenkei

“Body Dysphoria” was previously published by Words Dance Publishing


Alex Lenkei is a graduate of American University in Washington, DC, with a Bachelor’s degree in Literature. His work has been published in Words Dance Publishing, Vagabond City, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and Sun & Sandstone. His writing emphasizes themes of language, silence, solitude, and human connection. He also collects typewriters. More of his work can be found at



I see you,
lonely darling,
skulking around weddings
like a grave robber, slicing
off the softest, fleshiest parts
of your body
like meat at Sunday market.

punishing yourself for
being untouched.
Sometimes a hand
is just a fist.
Sometimes a smile
is only a knife.
Sometimes a man is only
darkness taking shape.

You lived
two decades
with nothing but your spine
holding you up.
The way light does not care
if shadows follow
you do not have to be wanted
to prove you are real.

By Natalie Wee


Natalie Wee is the author of Our Bodies & Other Fine Machines (Words Dance Publishing, 2016). Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Drunken Boat, Asian American Writers’ Workshop, Prairie Schooner, The Adroit Journal, and more. She has been nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology and two Pushcart Prizes.



I speak two languages fluently / and dance between a third
each word a syllable haunting / my tongue / a memory behind
a memory / a song / a waltz / starlight on the darkest night
there is no moon in the sky / there is no moon

I say each word slowly / breaking it apart / with my teeth
teasing open its meaning / with my tongue / pushing it out
between my pursed lips / slowly / softly

Your name is a fourth language / one I am unfamiliar with
I do not want to / massacre it / I say it softly / you tell me
it’s too seductive / the way I say it / I cradle it against
the roof of my mouth

I speak Swahili /  like a Maasai / someone once told me
I speak Maasai / backwards / I am in the back seat of a car
my parents laugh / as I stitch together a sentence / using my teeth
I bite down the words / until they connect / in a broken sentence

Last night / I told my mother / I think she’s dead
what I meant to say  / was that / lately I’ve been missing her

In my dreams / my mouth is an amalgam / of languages
my brain pulls them together / like a quilt / a tattered blanket
bridging gaps / mismatched threads /holding them together

Awake I am constantly / borrowing / until my cup is full
until my cup spills over / until my mouth is a mess / of accents
until I am confused / until the words burr against / the roof of my mouth
until only silence / is left

I traverse three worlds / when I am awake / at my job last week
my boss pulled me aside / asked me in a whisper
Where are you from / do you have an accent?

I had forgotten / that I am a guest / that I am a stranger
that this is a strange land / that not everyone speaks
with the music of three languages / in their mouth

By N.L. Shompole


N.L. Shompole was born in Kenya and currently lives, works and writes in the San Francisco Bay Area California. Her previous works have been featured in Maps for Teeth, Kinfolks Quarterly, Invitation Annual and most recently Words Dance Publishing as well as Vagabond City Literary Journal. She has authored four poetry collections including one chapbook Cassiopeia at Midnight and Anatomy of Surrender, a compilation of poems from a yearlong poetry project completed in December 2014. Her latest collection Spectre Specter Blue Ravine was released November 2015 to spectacular reviews.

She can be reached at

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