Second Poem for Nexplanon By Lydia Havens

Second Poem for Nexplanon

the snow melts off the roof and into the back alley
just as my period finally ends. the doctor
at planned parenthood had warned me about this:
it will start, and it will not stop. could be
a couple weeks, or a month. there will be spotting:
hungry freckles against cotton. there will be
heavy-flow: sword-swallowing and a flood
in the bathtub. there will be nativity: or so
the body thinks.

i did try to name every pair of ruined underwear
thank you. i asked every painkiller if it was
doing all right. but i can’t stop remembering
how the doctor at planned parenthood
called me smart as she shot the implant
into my left arm. i can’t stop picturing
the snow turning red. when i sleep,
every child the lawmakers say i am killing
becomes a winter storm, and they give
each one my name.

By Lydia Havens

Biography:

Lydia Havens is a poet and editor currently living in Boise, Idaho. Her work has previously been published or is forthcoming in Winter Tangerine, Cosmonauts Avenue, and Black Napkin Press, among others. Videos of her spoken word performances have been published on YouTube channels such as Button Poetry and Write About Now. Her first full-length collection, Survive Like the Water, was published in early 2017 by Rising Phoenix Press. Lydia currently works for Big Tree Arts Inc., and is a member of Boise’s 2017 National Poetry Slam team. She really likes exclamation points and lizards.

My Inheritance Does Not Come in the Form of Wealth. Instead, By Jasmine Cui

My Inheritance Does Not Come in the Form of Wealth. Instead,

I was born choking
on my own spit.

Stutter-song, this, a habit
I inherited like birthmarks.

Such things are not self-taut.
From my father, I learnt

to fear famine — a hunger
that haunts / hunts.

Still, he is wary of abundance.
Once, an uncle bet my father

in a game of poker.
As if shared blood was worth less

than a stack of cards.
From this, I learnt to flinch

as cars thundered through
our neighborhood, wondering

if they too were coming
to take me.

His sleeplessness,
I have adopted

as a kind of insomnia
luring me to the veranda

where wind pulls light taught, stretches it
wire thin. Flickering knife marks split

topography into neat hemispheres.
I watch the sky dilate, yawn open.

I mistake peonies for shrapnel,
my shadow for a gun.

By Jasmine Cui

Biography:

Jasmine Cui is 18 years old and is majoring in Political Science, Economics, and Chemistry at SUNY Geneseo. She aspires to be like her parents who are first-generation Americans that fought an extraordinary battle for their place in this country. She is the founder and co-Editor in Chief of The Ellis Review.

A Review of Natalie Wee’s Our Bodies and Other Fine Machines By Jeffrey Holmes

A Review of Natalie Wee’s Our Body and Other Fine Machines

“What is it like to be made a person / instead of a stranger’s dim shadow?”

Ruminations on what constitutes identity run rampant on Our Bodies and Other Fine Machines, Natalie Wee’s 2016 anthology of poetry (Words Dance Publishing).  This excerpt, from “Either / Or / Other” sketches a history of identity as one of inequality and exploitation, citing both historical inequality in post-Civil War United States to pop culture, and drawing on the queerbaiting television series The 100.  Wee’s ability to synthesis disparate pieces of information allows her to cultivate a voice with a multi-faceted understanding of how deep its impact can run.  In this piece, the technique sets up a house of mirrors not to answer the question of what constitutes an identity, rather, to demonstrate the maintenance of identity.  For Wee, a precedent set by a historical event is reflected through that culture’s media and the implications of that media can lead to the maintenance of cultural identity.  For this reason, much of Our Bodies advances strategies on reclaiming one’s selfhood while living in a culturally-inscribed body.

“On the Queer Girl Fantasy” zooms in on one facet of Wee’s identity to illustrate the discontinuity between identity as a cultural idea and identity as it applies to Wee’s life.  “Men’s faces crack open to swallow me whole,” Wee says, commenting on the fetishizing of her orientation.  As Wee observes, the heterosexual over-fascination of queer relationships fails to recognize the legitimacy between queer partners.  At its extreme, it treats those in queer relationships as sexual commodities, Wee describing it as “Body as sport / Eyes on everyone except each other.”  “Fantasy” is an act of metonymy, as Wee’s experiences are unfortunately common for members of the LGBT+ community in the Western world.  While this piece turns to pay attention to the passion Wee brings to her relationships, it implies that one way to be an ally to those in queer relationships is through consideration and privacy.  An approach like that may help in remedying the burning gaze of onlookers that currently render Wee as the object of fantasy.

The advantage of presenting this collection as an anthology is that it allows Wee to dissect the constituents of identity and selfhood and continually approach those components from different angles.  That is not to say that the sum of Our Bodies is greater than its parts, as the individual works presented here carry a striking pathos.  “Therapy Talk” details Wee’s side of a therapy session, but the prose on the page is set up in a series of uneven columns with gaps that split each line at varying points, suggesting a disconnect between Wee and the woman she is working with.  Another possible interpretation is the difficulty of confession, with every gap between words imitating a Wee struggling to discuss prior instances of self-harm.  Wee’s resolve in the face of adversity is inspiring, and pieces like “Therapy Talk” bare her vulnerabilities, reminding her audience that despite a nearly superhuman show of strength, she too is human.

The most striking quality of Our Bodies is Wee’s sense of balance.  This may be a lean anthology of poetic works, but it ranges from discussing racial and sexual inequality to individual accounts of mental illness and therapy sessions.  Dedicating several pieces to other people, Wee’s voice is never overwhelmed by the myriad of subjects she takes on in this collection.  A given piece does not need to be about Wee for the audience to feel connected to her, as the closeness Wee feels for what she writes about allows for any of these works to function in a personal domain.  The final takeaway from this anthology is revealed in the title: Wee writes about anyone and everyone in a collection that is not hers, rather, it is ours.

You can find more information about Our Bodies and Other Fine Machines by visiting Words Dance Publishing. You can also purchase a copy of the collection as an eBook or a paperback copy.

By Jeffrey Holmes

Biography:

Jeffrey Holmes is a journalist and philosophy graduate student from Philadelphia, PA.  Their experience includes writing and editing for a range of publications, including the Daily Local News, the West Chester Zine, and RateYourMusic.  During their bachelor’s program, Holmes served as the entertainment editor for the Quad, West Chester University’s campus newspaper and a DJ for 91.7 WCUR FM.  Recently, they presented original work on environmental conservation at Yale University’s Graduate Conference in Religion and Ecology, and currently, they are finishing a master’s thesis on identity politics in the United States.

Hymn Of Clean Water By Precious Arinze

Hymn Of Clean Water

for every poem you write about here
an honest politician is born

every time you write how disaster
made a colony of our bones
a child’s hunger means something

every time you chant
BRING BACK OUR GIRLS
a silent woman reclaims expression

for every call to prayer
every sighting of a minaret
the unbearableness of God feels holy

for every time you outlaw child marriage
dead flowers bloom again

for every story we reclaim in our dialects
a colonial narrative is overthrown

for every time the government beshields
her people
buckets of memories come back
emptied of blood

for every time we collect our tongues
say an anthem for the beauty of our cultures
Okonkwo is alive and well

for every week without a bomb blast
the tears written on our faces
are not calligraphy, but salvation

for every limb that is not mutilated
every uncovering of unseeing eyes
every hymn of clean water
every budget well spent
we make a religion of humanity

insha’Allah the archeology of ourselves will begin
we will unearth a language for communal grief
for solidarity
for restoration
insha’Allah we will flood this desert full of hope
insha’Allah we will be more alive
than we could ever be

By Precious Arinze

Biography:

Precious Arinze is a Nigerian Poet, freelance writer, and undergraduate student of Law at the University of Benin. Her work has appeared in Mikrokosmos journal and is forthcoming everywhere.

AUBADE WITH LATEST NEWS By Nina Sudhakar 

AUBADE WITH LATEST NEWS

Anchor in the half-light, it’s a fact
I sometimes cry. But do not pity these tears;
they are not helpless, they are the
condensation of a gathering ache. Everything
crystallized: the dampness speaking
to underlying rot, moments when the system
betrays its decaying structure, crumbling
marble beneath sturdy façade. The futility of
pulling weeds, of brushing on a fresh coat
of paint. Let me weep instead into the cracks
as a last attempt to raise the tide: ruination
is rooted in sorrow & our eyes are fixed on the
society of a hundred years ago, maybe even
a thousand, heralding past glory as if a penance
for present sins. & here we still are, never
making the right confessions. The darkest space
not clandestine enough to reveal those secrets
centuries have been summoned to hide: I need a
flashlight instead of this history, I need my
saltwater tears. I need the castles we will build
from the scattered grains left behind.

By Nina Sudhakar 

Biography:

Nina Sudhakar is a writer, lawyer and first-generation American. Her work is forthcoming or has appeared in Litro, Arcturus and Miracle Monocle; for more, please see www.ninasudhakar.com.

The TERF on my Shoulder By Riley Zahn

The TERF on my Shoulder

There’s a trans exclusionary radical feminist that lives on my shoulder.
She thinks I’m a man.
Let’s call her Janice, or Cathy or Society,
let’s call her the TERF on my shoulder.

She’s my anti-conscience, imagine Jiminy Cricket,
but transphobic,
always reminding Pinocchio he will never be real.

She is the lingering feeling that I don’t belong
the deep breath I take before entering a women’s bathroom
and don’t release until I leave the women’s bathroom
She is the hole tucking has worn into my favorite jeans,
The moment of panic every time I interrupt someone
or show any anger.
She calls me rapist every time
I message a lesbian on tinder
or don’t disclose
my transness to the drunk boy putting
His tongue in my mouth.

She is the series of blue ink marks I write on my hand
in a women’s studies classroom:
One tally mark for each time I speak in class
not to exceed 5 tally marks, because she’s waiting
with accusations of male socialization and domination.
A cis woman who talks too much is a bitch.
A trans woman who talks too much is a man,
so I make tally marks. I wonder, if I press hard enough,
can I make myself bleed?
She tells me, you can be a real woman if you don’t bleed.

I’ve faced similar oppression as her.
Look! I even kept the receipts,
I framed them and hung them over the fireplace.
One for every idea taken out of my mouth
and pinned to the lapel of a male colleague.
One for every disapproving look for holding the hand
of someone who is not a man.
One for every time a strange man followed me home,
holding my safety in the palm of his hand,
his male gaze searing the hairs on the back of my neck.
I show her the receipts, but she never accepts them
She says,
“Sorry we don’t accept isolated incidents, only systematic oppression.”
I wonder if there is any way
I can live my life that she will approve of.

I tell her she’s wrong about me
But she will not listen.

And I tell her, I exist
And I am a woman
And I am real
And I am real
And I am real
But she does not listen,

and every time I try to smash her,
I just give myself a bruise.

By Riley Zahn

Biography:

Riley Zahn (she/her) is a trans woman, poet, educator and graduate student from Mankato, MN. She spends her time learning, unlearning, playing nerdy card games, and wondering if the people who work at the Chinese Buffet place are judging her for how often she eats there alone.

Growing Up Black By David M. Taylor

Growing Up Black

The worst part
about growing up black
isn’t wanting white girls
who have fathers with heavy fists.

Or that your history is washed away
by old white men
who carry confederate flags on Sunday.

It isn’t that the weight of your existence
follows you like poverty
or that pain is assigned to you at birth.

And it isn’t even knowing
when a cop shoots you in the back
with your open hands raised to the sky,
it’s your fault for being black.

The worst part
about growing up black
is knowing your children will suffer
through the same blackness as you.

And while you try to prepare them,
no one is ever ready to wear this skin.

By David M. Taylor

Biography:

I teach at a community college is St. Louis, MO. My work has appeared in various magazines including Trailer Park Quarterly, The Harrow, and Anthology, as well as upcoming in Misfit Magazine. I also have three poetry chapbooks—M&Ms and Other Insignificant Poems, Two Cobras in a Ritual Dance, and Life’s Ramblings.