Gaps By Noriko Nakada

Gaps

Your baby teeth
and the baby teeth of all ten
of your siblings were not
included in what
you could carry

when stripped down
to two bags each.
Books and photographs
letters and childhood treasures
were also left behind.

Top teeth were buried in fields
became city streets
(for the older boys)
became suburban wastelands
(for the younger kids).

Bottom teeth were tossed
onto rooftops, shards of bone
bleached by the sun
may still linger on
somewhere above 39th Street.

Long after tongues
and tiny fingers worried and pried
where blood trickled
until tooth wriggled loose
part pain, part magic

and new teeth grew in.
So by the time you left
people barely remembered
the phantom spaces
a family left behind.

By Noriko Nakada

Biography:

Noriko Nakada writes, blogs, tweets, parents, and teaches middle school in Los Angeles. She is committed to writing thought-provoking creative non-fiction, fiction, and poetry.

The Rose By Jessica C. Mehta

The Rose

I heard my sister sing
before I knew her, years
before we met. Picking through old
cassettes in the front room, the scent
of mold and sweat, my father’s beautiful
handwriting soared like wings
across yellowed masking tape. I didn’t know
an Angela, but I knew
her voice like my own. Smoky
and anxiously wild. For three hours I listened
to her urge “The Rose” into untamed
blossom. My mother stumbled
upon me in tears, destroyed the tape
and slapped my head. I’d be grown
before I held her, heard
her sing again. Now, gone, my memory
replays her voice in my mind, grainy
and clicking like tired tapes do.

By Jessica C. Mehta

Biography:

Jessica (Tyner) Mehta is a poet and novelist, and member of the Cherokee Nation. Jessica is the author of ten books including the forthcoming Savagery, the forthcoming Drag Me Through the Mess, and the forthcoming Drag Me Through the Mess. Previous books include Constellations of My Body, Secret-Telling Bones, Orygun, What Makes an Always, and The Last Exotic Petting Zoo and The Wrong Kind of Indian. She’s been awarded numerous poet-in-residencies posts, including positions at Hosking Houses Trust and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, Paris Lit Up in France, and the Acequia Madre House in Santa Fe, NM. Jessica is the recipient of a Barbara Deming Memorial Fund in Poetry. She is the owner of a multi-award winning writing services business, MehtaFor, and is the founder of the Get it Ohm! karma yoga movement. Visit Jessica’s author site at www.jessicatynermehta.com.

The Rickshaw Puller of Calcutta By Saima Afreen

The Rickshaw Puller of Calcutta

Sunset was never his home
He lives in his two hands
Two feet.

The wooden vehicle is his soul
Its handles whip the thick dust
In arteries of New Market
Flushing streamers of Christmas trees and soft jingles
On silver screen of New Empire Cinema Hall.

His skin and bones were shown there once
In Do Beegha Zameen.

It doesn’t matter to me
How he maps his two yards
Everyday
Paddling through Monsoon gurgles
Of Ripon Street, Burra Bazaar
Past a fat cussing woman who tosses
A five rupee coin in the gutter of his soul
The stink is of a green chilli, a tiny onion
A handful of sattu.

He kneads the maps of villages in Bihar,
And cements the cracks
In his face
Silent. Neutral. Unmoved.
The haze of too-green trees tires him
The flush of red on Calcutta Corporation buildings
Leaks from his feet.

He runs, streets flash past his blood
Tea-shops zoom in with their china
A masthead flattens his picture
Muddled, wrinkled.

His face was always a lantern for lonesome passengers.

They bury his story in two inches column
The dawn wakes up to the lost song
Of a brass bell in bony palms
Now pinned to cold stars
Dripping on a Wasim Kapoor canvas.

Do Beegha Zameen – A famous Bollywood movie on sad plight of rickshaw pullers
Sattu – Dry, roasted, powdered grams that serve as meal for the poor in India
Wasim Kapoor – A famous artist of Calcutta who painted a series of works on rickshaw wallahs

By Saima Afreen

Biography:

Saima Afreen is an award-winning poet who also moonlights as a journalist with The New Indian Express. Her poems have appeared in several national and international journals like Indian Literature, HCE Review, The Bellingham Review, The Stillwater Review, The McNeese Review, The Nassau Review, The Oklahoma Review, Staghill Literary Journal, The Notre Dame Review, Honest Ulsterman, and Existere among others. She has been part of literary festivals and platforms such as Sahitya Akademi Poets’ Meet, Goa Arts and Literary Festival, TEDx VNR-VJIET, Prakriti Poetry Festival, Betty June Silconas Poetry Festival (New Jersey) and Helsinki Poetry Jam. She was awarded Villa Sarkia Writers Residency (Finland) for autumn 2017 where she completed the manuscript of her debut poetry book ‘Sin of Semantics and Other Poems’.

Bhishti By Saima Afreen

Bhishti

Thirst was the sanctuary
where his craft bloomed
in dry wells, parched taps.

He carries carcass of Ganga
on his shoulders in a goatskin
bag. His ancestors ride
on its smooth finish
similar to that of the camels
resting under date palm trees.

And as the desert cools in his
memory, the only story he knows
is of his father, he sprinkles
molten clouds on shadows
of minarets that grow long on blazing roads

of Dharamtalla.

He strokes this smooth shadow
with his thumb. Its tip is fire.
He looks back at another water-man whom Emperor Jahangir made king for a day
and at his mother saying, “Water is staircase to paradise.
…give it to every mouth.”
He opens the mouth of his goatskin sack
to the tongue
s of thirsty dogs
of Bow Barracks

and moves in circles of Fire
waiting for his bones
to become water.

Bhishti – Water carriers who supply water in goatskin bags. The community is disappearing fast
Dharamtalla – Busy merchant area in Calcutta
Bow Barracks – An area of Calcutta

By Saima Afreen

Biography:

Saima Afreen is an award-winning poet who also moonlights as a journalist with The New Indian Express. Her poems have appeared in several national and international journals like Indian Literature, HCE Review, The Bellingham Review, The Stillwater Review, The McNeese Review, The Nassau Review, The Oklahoma Review, Staghill Literary Journal, The Notre Dame Review, Honest Ulsterman, and Existere among others. She has been part of literary festivals and platforms such as Sahitya Akademi Poets’ Meet, Goa Arts and Literary Festival, TEDx VNR-VJIET, Prakriti Poetry Festival, Betty June Silconas Poetry Festival (New Jersey) and Helsinki Poetry Jam. She was awarded Villa Sarkia Writers Residency (Finland) for autumn 2017 where she completed the manuscript of her debut poetry book ‘Sin of Semantics and Other Poems’.

Reality Show By Joan Annsfire

Reality Show

I was weaned on fear,
marinated in bitterness;
My grandparents fed me stories
of fleeing the Czar,
the Cossacks, the pogroms.

Growing up in Ohio,
the fifties were difficult years
my Jewish family, outsiders, determined
that the events in Russia, in Germany,
would not happen again,
could not happen here.

With this election the universe shifted.
Words, like bullets, ripped through
a veil of pretense leaving us
stranded on an ice floe
of worse case scenarios.

Distortion, dystopia;
Daily news coverage
has become a reality show
in which I am powerless
to change the channel.

A ship of state,
tilting menacingly off balance,
leaning precariously
over a roiling sea.

Unlike the frogs in the pot,
I am aware of the heat rising.
I move in sometimes in anger,
other times in hypnotic denial.
Witnessing the frontlines of a culture war
that has enveloped us
without warning.

In nightmare visions
I dodge cars, teargas, bullets,
escape down totalitarian streets,
covered in the toxic white dust of nationalism;
a caustic mixture
of hatred and despair.

Perhaps I will get used to it, become inured,
the same way that online comments
about lampshades, ovens and gas chambers,
one day lost much of their capacity
to shock or wound.

Now casualties mount
and desperation rules.
I re-examine history, mobilize inner strength
and measure resistance
against the weight
of authoritarian forces.

History’s clock is unrelenting.
It ticks off minutes, hours;
we watch, mesmerized,
as the needle of racial memory
moves closer to zero.

The longest night has just begun.
Shapeless as shadows,
my ancestors surround me;
gather like exiles,
hover like phantoms,
whisper in foreign tongues.

Awake, alive, afraid,
I understand every word.

By Joan Annsfire

Biography:

Joan Annsfire lives is a retired librarian who lives in Berkeley California and writes poetry, memoir, and non-fiction. Her poetry chapbook, “Distant Music” was published by Headmistress Press.

Her poetry has appeared most recently in the anthology “Older Queer Women: the Intimacy of Survival,” Lambert and Einstein and “9/11: The Fall of American Democracy, Casey Lawrence. The Times They Were A- Changing, Women Remember the 60’s and 70’s,” Farrell, Meyers and Starfire. “The Queer Collection,” “99 Poems for the 99 Percent,” “Milk and Honey, a Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry” and “The Other side of the Postcard among others as well as online and in literary journals including, Counterpunch’s Poet’s Basement, Lavender Review, Sinister Wisdom, The 13th Moon, Bridges, The Evergreen Chronicles, OccuPoetry, The SoMa Literary Review and The Harrington Lesbian Literary Quarterly.

Her stories have appeared in “Identity Envy,” Readtheselips, Aunt Lute Press blog about the seventies, “Uprooted, an Anthology on Gender and Illness,”and Harrington Lesbian Literary Quarterly, and the just published anthology, “Dispatches From Lesbian America,” edited by Smith, Berber and Capone.

 

In Which I Try To Explain Borderline Personality Disorder By Jasper Hardin

In Which I Try To Explain Borderline Personality Disorder

We admire the chameleon,
the way it can blend into
any environment of its choosing.
Become the background or sky,
so bright and shining
even if the chameleon
itself doesn’t feel bright or shining.

We admire the chameleon,
who can have a fulfilling life
even if it means losing itself.
We admire the chameleon,
until a person sees the stars
sparkling in the sky and says:

‘I could be a galaxy, than
maybe someone might love me.
then maybe I’d want to breathe.’

We don’t ask what kind of
sharp tooth predator saw the
chameleon in all it’s ever
changing glory and decided
to feast on it, saw it up against
a tree so comfortable as the
bark and thought what a good
home it would have forced
inside the predators body.

I’ve tried so hard to
forget about my rapist.
What it felt like to have
her lying on top of me.
How she said she loved
me so I thought it meant
that her not listening to me
say no was just affection.
She called me a boy
as she undressed me
and I think I mistook that for love.
I spent the whole night attempting
to make myself the color of the couch.
Wishing I could become
my surrounding environment.
Hoping that she would stop
or at least that my heart
would stop in the process.

What we don’t know about
chameleons is they also change
color to regulate temperature in
their body and reflect their moods.

What people typically don’t know is
that borderline personality disorder
is often formed from trauma.
The fluctuating moods that come
with the illness is the brains attempt
at protecting the body that contains it.

We forgot that the chameleon
camouflages as a tool of survival.
We forgot that in some point in evolution
it became necessary for a creature to change
everything to protect itself.

We don’t ask if a chameleon
has ever sat across a river bed,
blended in with the sand, saw
the water moving in such an
enchanting manner and thought:
‘I could swallow myself.’

We don’t ask if a chameleon
has looked at the animals
swimming across the river
and envied the liquid beneath it.
We don’t ask if it ever thought to it self:
‘I could carry everyone on my back.
That way I’d never be alone.’

We admire the people who sparkle,
but not the people who can’t stay
with themselves for too long.
We admire the people who can
survive adversity without lasting wounds.
But not the people who have
to adapt as a form of defense.
Not the people whose trauma is too heavy.

It is an unknown fact that the chameleon’s
main reason for camouflage is not
protecting themselves from predators.
Chameleons are very resilient animals.
They can typically out run
whatever wants to eat them.

It is an unknown fact that people
with borderline personality disorder
are also extremely resilient.
We can outrun the pain and the trauma.
Even when it doesn’t feel like it.
Even if it hurts the most.

I have become extremely resilient.
I have promised myself that
I will not camouflage myself out of existence.
That I can be a galaxy.
I can be an evolutionary necessity.
And even if someone doesn’t love me,
I can be the reason that I want to breathe.

By Jasper Hardin

Biography:

Jasper Hardin is a poet of many identities who lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He competed in the 2018 Rustbelt Competition. He has a self published chapbook entitled I Could Be A Galaxy. He is developing an online journal dedicated to Non-speaking and Semi-speaking writers and visual artists. Jasper uses poetry as a vehicle for conversations he feels are important. He is so glad that you’re here to listen!

Generational Mortal Kombat By By Wanda Deglane

Generational Mortal Kombat

The floor of my father’s childhood home was caked in blood
and littered in bottles of things he was too young to know.
His father         reeked                   of whiskey and my dad at 10 years old
watched               as his mother’s eyes         sunk away to                    nothing,
her skin sallow and garnished with scrapes and bruises of all colors,
my grandfather’s great fists sent her straight to silence, to dirt,
to                                                   oblivion.

My mother shows my brother and me a video she saw on Facebook:
a guy and his girlfriend are beating each other,                   and
with each strike, a sound effect from Mortal Kombat plays.
They laugh, and I say,                  That’s not funny.                   I look at my mother.

My father inherited the fists of his father,
I watched from the staircase as they pummeled my mother                to a pulp
in the garage one Christmas Eve when I was too young to move.
It plays over         and over            and over:                        My father, roaring
PEDAZO DE MIERDA,                      the crunch of her body               hitting the wall,
her screams,                                  the garage door                    shutting.

My mother says Oh shut up, Wanda, I say again,
Domestic abuse isn’t funny.

Half the time, I’m still on another staircase,
reliving cold eyes,     a face contorting,                    boiling mad.
The hands of a once-lover,         coiling around my neck
until my breaths come short,         my vision goes                fuzzy
Fingers tightening,                       throwing me down the stairs
limbs scraped                   red-hot            my head screaming.

Get off your fucking high horse, Wanda, my brother says.
It’s not funny, and I should know, I say to him.                  And they laugh, and tell me,
Maybe hitting is the only way to shut you up.

By Wanda Deglane

Biography:

Wanda Deglane is a freshman at Arizona State University, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Her poetry has been published on Spider Mirror, and is forthcoming from Veronica, Porridge Magazine, and elsewhere. She is the daughter of Peruvian immigrants and lives with her huge family in Glendale, Arizona. When she isn’t writing, she paints and spends time with her dog, Princess Leia.