birthed me from desert death and snake rattle swaddled in strange silhouette i buried the first of my
beginnings bound together by sticky caramel spread from south america abandoned by father’s tongue i come from dried fig and dragon myth from the era of superheroes and revolutionaries in bedtime stories and childhood texts the words that grant us adult strength raised me to expect more from the world
i did not become a person until i was fourteen when Mouth realized its mobility and was quick to defend Self and Stigma
from childhood revolutionary texts inspiration from magic and mythos to deliver verdict to villain strength from starship explorers
at eighteen i exchanged arid desert and mediterranean coast for humid dusk and cicada song abandoned mother’s tongue for mother’s land encountered mother’s identity and claimed it as my own forged mother and father tongue into skeleton key to construct my own bridges and holy texts
i mistook my first snowfall as wildfire ash confused the numbness of my nose as smokescreen instead of burning winter intent so i rewrote the list of things i knew to say you are still being made.
By Mia T. Hamernik
Mia T. Hamernik is a California native pursuing her bachelor’s degree at Washington University in St. Louis. She likes to remind people she’s Latina by bemoaning the severe limitation of Mexican restaurants in St. Louis and listening to Bad Bunny on full blast at every opportunity. She has not suffered a foosball defeat in six years.
They’ll turn her gay. Those girls she hangs out with, wearing suits to dances and cutting their hair short.
The room is dim, blinds closed as always, something about a glare on the TV screen. Papa is telling me about the girls who are infecting my cousin in between bites of fruit and cheese, neatly sliced on his plate.
She dresses like such a boy. I hate the way she dresses. I hate the slit she cuts in her eyebrow. I wouldn’t let her out of the house like that if she was my daughter.
The TV blares on behind me, playing reruns of old westerns. The cowboy hero lifts the damsel onto his horse. He rides off while she is still adjusting her layered dress draped sidesaddle. Her hat blows off in the wind. It lands in the dust. I take a bite of the plum Papa cut for me and let the skin snap between my teeth.
We all thought she was so hot.
My date sits across from me at the round cafe table, describing how he and the boys drooled over the girl in his class. I cup my hands around my hot chocolate mug and stare at the mural on the wall over his shoulder. The painted girl is kneeling on the grass holding a daisy between her thumb and forefinger admiring it without tearing from the earth.
She kicked her legs on the chair in front of her and- you wouldn’t believe it – her legs were as hairy as mine! As soon as we saw that, we were all like ew, nevermind.
He laughed, shaking his head, his hair bouncing slightly under the layer of gel. He got up to refill my water cup. The painted girl’s painted hair is the same color as the wheat field behind her, the same color as the sun. She has a hint on a smile tilting on her lips. I crossed my legs under the table and wondered if the boy’s story was from before or after we started dating.
Hey sweetheart, you need help with that?
My coworker is leaning on the shelves in the back of the store, where we keep the 500-gram fireworks. He ignores the new truckload of boxes but offers his calloused hand to me as I carry a ladder to the front of the store. The box next to his elbow is the firework “American Beauty”. On the packaging is a woman in leather laying on a black motorcycle, her skimpy clothes barely more than undergarments, her bedroom eyes staring blankly. I decline his help and walk past him and the motorcycle girl.
Well, there’s no need to get huffy. I was just offerin’.
The stock boy two years younger than me passes by straining under the weight of “Green Envy” which displays an angry red-headed woman with only leaves to cover her, and “Sexy” which shows a woman in only lingerie and feathered wings. The man yanks his baseball cap further over his gray ponytail and leans back against the shelf, nothing to offer the boy. The glossy women on the fireworks boxes watch me wipe gunpowder from my brow and climb the ladder, unassisted.
My roommate sits cross-legged on her bed, tapping her slender fingers against her cheekbone. I look up at her, her paint-splattered freckles, her dyed maroon hair tucked behind her ear. She stares back at me, eyebrows knit together.
I don’t know.I can’t think of a time someone treated me differently because I’m a girl.
By Ally Blovits
Ally Blovits is an undergraduate student at Michigan State University studying creative writing and theatre. When not in East Lansing at MSU, Ally lives in Grandville, Michigan with her parents and her twin brother. Ally’s work has previously been published in Apiary Magazine, The Sheepshead Review, and LAMP poetry collection.
Your life was for the birds. Three days after you’ve gone, red-winged blackbirds and sparrows still sit at your sill, looking for seed. In the window, the cat sleeps, dreaming of mourning doves and other manna she’s never known. In the field beyond your fence, squirrels wait in trees for seeds from the feeder to fall, deer wish for water to be poured in bird baths like wine, and starlings watch the door for your resurrection, hoping you’re about to burst forth carrying bits of bread and crusts, cupping victuals in your venerable hands, communion for crows.
By Kristen Perillo
Kristen Perillo is a writer and high school English teacher in Buffalo, NY. Her former fitness blog was developed into a memoir, Following Fit, and her writing can be found at kristenperillo.com.
I want to run through my body and lock every door inside of me, I want to live in a dark box where I am invisible, I want to stack furniture against my heart. I want to stretch myself so thin and far apart That any ropes still snaking around my body burst And fall slack to the ground. I want to slam the blinds closed And dance and scream inside my head Until every part of you runs out of my eyes and ears. I want to stand on the roof of my life and scream “NO” Until it gets through your thick skull that I never wanted it. I want to plant a tree made out of what is left of myself and eat its fruit. I want to cut you out of myself with giant ceremonial scissors. I want to float above everything and watch my world go on without your abuse.
By Audrey McGuinness
Audrey McGuinness is from Oakland, California and is a first year at Macalester College. She has dedicated a great deal of time and energy to processing trauma, abuse, and assault, and balances these experiences by seeking beauty in mundanity. She writes when poems start writing themselves in her head.
i try for you like the world is on fire and i live for you when you don’t want to anymore. i’m sorry your dad told you if you pressed your thirteen year old lips against hers and felt something he’d kill you and now the world won’t be the only one burning. i’m sorry your stuffy white priest in stuffy white clothes clenched his hands around your throat after he groped your budding breasts and told you that’s the only kind of touch you need to like. i’m sorry i didn’t pin you up against the wall and show you how passion feels when i knew your eyes were hungry, begging “taste me”. i’m sorry he tasted sour, they all will for us, he’s just itching to pull up your skirt and show you he can make you straight (if you two only spend one magical night together). isn’t it enough to watch him come? selfish bitch.
i’m sorry parades feel too big and her hand feels too small and you’re starting to believe there’s just no place for you between it all. but i try for you like the world is on fire, i write for you so you don’t have to, and i love for you so we never have to apologize again.
By Siri Greene
Siri Greene (she/her) is a first year at Macalester College. She grew up in rainy Seattle and loves expressing herself through poetry and music. She writes poems as a way to heal, and often explores mental illness, sexual assault, and queer identity in her work.
I never knew I would miss the heat of your sun, That decorated my black skin with pearls of sweat. I never thought I would yearn for your sand That made my house smell like petrichor in your rainy days.
Today, I opened my windows and did not see your face So, with my mahogany hands, I attempted to fill The fading sunglow hole left by the daffodils The daffodils of your gardens.
I wore my clothes and smelled,
the wintergreen dream scent of my grandmother The perfume of her warm love Her hugging voice and tender look.
I put my shoes on, and stepped on the road, But did not meet elders around a baobab, Who greeted me with smiles, Waving hands while playing Checkers.
I waited at the corner of the street, next to the bakery And could not see the faces of my childhood friends To keep playing hide and seek, And tearing joy trying to reach mangoes at high peaks.
So, I went back to my room disappointed But the lap of my mother had deserted Her soft hands were not in my hair Her big palms did not hold my face, My tears splashed loudly on the floor.
I looked at the mirror with puffy eyes,
Desperately searching for the wisdom in my dad’s look Or the kind lines in my brother’s book Maybe the cycle of the moon over my rooftop.
Nothing stared back.
But a lonely girl waiting for the echo of home Her Mahogany hands attempting to fill The fading sunglow hole left by the daffodils The daffodils of Dakar.
By Anna D Sene
Anna Diagne Sene was born and raised in Dakar. Anna started writing in English to get out of her comfort zone, and to reflect on her life as a Black Muslim woman. Outside school, she likes reading, meeting new people, drinking bubble tea, and eating cere, her favourite Senegalese meal.
I thought I wanted you teach me big girl things, where I’d forget what was childish or juvenile. So I fell into you, because I thought you’d catch me before I hit the ground, small, jagged pieces of me scattered everywhere, big ones too. Maybe you were terrified. Maybe I changed, became something too heavy and you moved your hand away. I’ve never heard a heart beat as fast as I have than in that car with you, on those nights, driving down quiet, empty highways, where I learned big girl things, mistook dream for reality, let you take, and go on taking because I thought you’d keep me safe. But maybe that car was really a cage, and your hands were just big, beautiful lies, inlayed and blinding, sharp like blades, trying not to scratch but still leaving a wound. Either way, what did you teach me? What did I learn from you? That maybe love is really just a mirage, some unsolvable thing that leaves us twisted, possibly mad. That maybe kisses are just small, violent agonies and big girl things are as unbearable as they seem. What else? I don’t really know. The only thing left to say it this: you are the impossible thing I am trying to forget, and yet, still keep remembering.
By Karese Burrows
Karese Burrows is a poet and graphic designer from The Bahamas. Her poetry has previously been featured in The Rising Phoenix Review, Harpoon Review, L’Ephemere Review, Penstrike Journal and Words Dance Publishing. Her first chapbook This Is How We Lost Each Other was published by UK independent publisher Platypus Press in 2018 and can be purchased from Platypus Press, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. She can be found at kareseburrows.tumblr.com.
This time, I’ll say “[black boy] put his hands up”, and I’ll mean class participation. I’ll mean roller coaster. I’ll mean dancing, not police raid.
This time, I’ll say “[black boy] had chains around his wrists”, and I’ll mean jewelry. I’ll mean they had diamonds in them, gold.
This time, I’ll say “[black boy] was unarmed”, and I’ll mean he finally opened up to me. I’ll mean this beautiful brown body.
This time, I’ll say “[black boy] fell to the ground”, and I’ll mean football. (American or European.) I’ll mean basketball, wrestling. I’ll mean he got back up because
this time, I’ll say “[black boy] will be buried”, and I’ll mean in the crook of my neck. I’ll mean between my legs, so he’ll still see heaven.
This time, [black boy] will say “I can’t breathe”, and he’ll mean damn, she was so fucking beautiful when she walked into the room.
He’ll mean don’t call the police, and, there’s no need for an ambulance because
this time, his blood will be rushing to his dick and not out of his head onto the pavement on the side of the road.
By Mia M
Mia M is a nineteen-year-old Congolese girl currently living in South Africa. She is a social activist studying Human Rights Law and Gender Equality Fundamentals who likes to write poetry loosely based on those themes. You can find her on Instagram (@whereismia.exe). Also see her gender justice movement on Instagram (@move4men).
I. Turmeric: derivative of terra merita, Latin for “deserving earth”
A. I am the daughter of farmers. My mulch-weathered dark feet are tangible of pedigree
1.Great-grandpapa washed his face in
2. dark soil. Massaged cow’s urine to make a cup
3. of black & white mocha
B. Indians are known to worship the earth. Loam & all. Ground
1. a worshipped devi. Mother Sita, mother earth. Late night
2. parties of golden spiced carols
3. shoved into a campfire of curry & dirt
C. From where we birth
1. Nani smothered me with fuller’s earth. Mongers,
2. we were called. Pink American
3. baby turned brown
4. One bungled kiss from grandpapa’s
5. charred dry lips
D. From where we die. Indians are burned
1. our singed ashes tossed into sacred
2. puddles. Left nibbling
E. of unearthed beauty: green
1. Flesh eaten wounds meander
2. my soul. Cultivated in our farm, my name
3. is the spinach fronds mistaken for
4. me, the earth
II. Turmeric: integral of tumere, Latin for “to swell”
1.Hyperpigmentation: I souse my nail beds in makhani. But swathed with roti before intercourse. Golden discharge past cooked flour, fifty buck acrylics tarnished. My boyfriend doesn’t hold my hand. Laughter at lunch. I sever my nails, yellow hues darken to red.
2. Jaundice: I wear mama’s hand-me-downs for pooja. White kurtas & dupattas are hard to come by, she says. Saffron & sandalwood blister my bodice. Corroding white chiffon & white blood cells. A hushed temple of prayer, I stand. Breasts tinted my white friend’s blonde hair.
3. Virus: Muffled peddlers, deities, guava kiosks. A fractured yellow veil blinds me, flirting with the smog & the gossip. The dark man unsheathes a fistful of mutants into the oil. Parging softened dregs on his scalp. Augmented swirls searing antibodies and onions, single handed invasion. One yellow. Mulled. Hijack
By Palak Parikh
Palak Parikh is an emerging Indian-American writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. She is intrigued with writing as a means to foster female empowerment and connect with first generation Americans. She often explores topics like feminism, race, and cultural mongrelization. She has been recognized by the California State PTA and Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. When she is not writing, Palak enjoys drinking coffee and trying new exotic foods!