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 Isla Cueva

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 Isla Cueva

Biography:

Isla Cueva  is a writer from Arizona.

Me and Eileen in a 1980s Heaven By Jenna Velez

Me and Eileen in a 1980s Heaven

They were playing
That song she likes
Balloons ascending
To a 1980s heaven

I remember I held her
Like a drowning man
Axinite eyes shut to the
Infrared heat of unused bodies
Opened wide for the one
Who mattered most

Air heavy with purple fog
And the threat of goodbye
Nevermind
When she tastes like static
Lips fuzzy like orgasmic bees
Making out with TV noise
Arm hair on standby

She was my Eileen in that dress
My face hiding that goodbye in her
Throbbing neck all the while
Friends dry hump the coat rack
Sneaking swigs of communion
In the church basement
Like a depraved Dionysus
Disguised in priest’s robes
The only time I felt I could
Go to a 1980s heaven too
Jenna Velez

By Jenna Velez

Biography:

Jenna Velez is a queer poet from suburban Philadelphia. Her work has been previously published in yell/shout/scream journal. When she isn’t writing she’s usually baking, painting, or practicing witchcraft. She tweets @northernbruja and can also be found at jennavelez.weebly.com.

Bodies of Water By Jessica C. Mehta

Bodies of Water

We are made of the ocean,
spiked with salt and crackling
bones half gone to sand. Within us
is the whole wide sea, swimming
fish and fragile reefs. Sirens
aren’t made up, they tuck
and knot between our ribs—call us
to our depths with songs
that ring of memories. We tell children,
Never turn your back to the waves
not for the unknown, surprise
tsunamis and creeper currents, but for all
the knowing stored
like sunken chests within our marrow.
What goes challenger deep
rises again. In every particle
of our everything, the calcium
that builds our skeleton, we remember
the brine that came before, and all
the leagues of which we’ll go.

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.

Senator By Kristin Garth

Senator

You have people. One drives me now, a cop,
off-duty. Knock, a giveaway, before
I see the holstered gun. Won’t chat or stop
until I’m locked behind your hotel door.
You have me. Younger than your daughter, all
the hair I have removed or bleached at your
request, camera ready for your call
to action. “Think of them as me but more.”
You have your friends, ones, like me, who know
the secret parts of you. Co-stars rotate
inside my screams, a tiny tied-down show.
The believers of your speeches, the great
women’s rights defender except for mine.
For them, you hide. With me, you cross the line.

first published in Rise Up Review

By Kristin Garth

Biography:

Kristin Garth is a poet from Pensacola and a sonnet stalker. Her sonnets have stalked magazines like Five: 2: One, Glass, Anti-Heroin Chic, Occulum, Drunk Monkeys, Luna Luna, TERSE. Journal and many more. Her chapbook Pink Plastic House is available from Maverick Duck Press, and she has two forthcoming: Pensacola Girls (Bone & Ink Press, Sept 2018) and Shakespeare for Sociopaths (The Hedgehog Poetry Press Jan 2019). Follow her on Twitter: @lolaandjolie

Heart of a Little Brown Girl//Anxiety Pt.I By Autumn Smith

Heart of a Little Brown Girl//Anxiety Pt.I

Breath, talks back.
lip out, arms crossed.

Breath, like a child,
skips rocks against hearts when angry.
Sees how many waves she can create against the ripples of blood stream.

Counts the cracks on the stones, once landed
she kintsugi’s the mistakes afterwards.

Breath always gives lip. Tries to sneak out under the moon
& grows tired of this body,
working it all day.

Some nights,
I’m sure she is one step away
from leaving me for good.
Wringing out my lungs.
Taking every last bit of herself from inside
& packing it so tight my face blues.

Breath takes her sweet time;
locks the door,
leaves her spare key,
& saunters up and out
my mouth

like a child.
She doesn’t even care
to look back.

By Autumn Smith

Biography:

A Cleveland bred poet, Autumn focused on the rhythm and conveying her ideas through image and senses in her poems. Originally a spoken word poet, she participated in the Brave New Voices competition in 2011, ran a spoken word club and poetry workshops throughout college, and is now a contributing editor for Barnhouse Journal. Through exploration of race, mental illness, and humanity, she delves deeper into her own existence. Her main inspirations are Andrea Gibson, Anis Mojgani, and Naomi Shihad Nye.

Marbles By Noriko Nakada

Marbles

on the 75th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066

My father turns eleven just before
he’s told “take only what you can carry.”
He chooses marbles, polished glass spheres, smooth
and cold in his jacket pocket. Six in
all: a shooter, a cats eye, two aggies,
two comets, in swirls of yellow and blue.
Dad holds them tight in sweaty palms as he
waits in lines with his sisters for breakfast,
lunch, and dinner, six marbles hoping for
a game in the dust on a hot summer
afternoon. But six marbles aren’t enough
for a game, and he’s scared of losing more
so he only pulls them out late at night
on the straw mattress where he sleeps in the
room he shares with his mother and father,
eldest brother, two sisters, young brother.
One night he flicks the shooter with his thumb,
knocks it hard against the others and sends
two marbles rolling across pine boards where they
gain momentum (the floors aren’t level) and
they find a crack just wide enough for them
to fall. Two marbles lost, never finding
their way back to my father, just like
the brothers who, after the war, never
find a way home. He still has his shooter,
a cats eye, an aggie, and one comet
when they board a train to Heart Mountain. The
train stops often and he feels like the trip
takes forever. Even though he wants to
keep his marbles safe, the train jolts and three
more escape, rolling beneath the bench seats
disappearing. All he can say is what
they all say these days. Shikata ga nai.
It cannot be helped. There is nothing to
do. At last, they arrive and step into
a mass of faces (Dad had never seen
so many Japanese before). He still
has one marble in his pocket to help
him remember who he once was. He holds
his last marble and as he gazes up
at the night desert sky, and the expanse
of stars (Dad had never seen so many
before) he wonders if they will ever
find their way back to who they were before.

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.

#Me Too By Destyni Boulanger

#Me Too

Much later,
when I am alone in my bed
in a different part of our city,
I feel the weight of you
flattening me.
For a bit, I had let
myself forget how heavy you are,
your limbs so much bigger
than the parts of me
that tried to push
you away.
And now,
it has been months
since I’ve slept
without your elbows digging
into my rib cage
your beard like sandpaper against my
throat, breath in my ear
reminding me that you
where the first person/last person,
who could ever
want me.
You are so goddamn heavy
and I am so fucking tired
and tonight it feels
like your bones might grind
every piece of me
to dust.

Lord,
wouldn’t that be
a release?

By Destyni Boulanger

Biography:

Destyni Boulanger is a full-time English Major/paper-writing-machine. She’s authored a chapbook called Scorpion Girl and has performed spoken word poetry across Western Canada. When she isn’t writing or studying she runs a community bike shop in hopes of funding her lifelong dream to live in her van and travel the world.