if i die of gun violence By Sarah Waring

if i die of gun violence

If I die of gun violence
I want my funeral to be a rally.
I want my eulogy to be three hours long
and read live on the phone with a senator.
I want the texts I sent my parents from under my desk
to be printed and framed and left on the steps of the NRA headquarters.
I want protest signs on my grave instead of flowers.

If I die of gun violence I want someone to publish my poems
and dedicate the book to everyone who is still fighting.
I want my school principal to visit my grave
and decide that good intentions are not enough.
I want my friends to light candles for me at 2 AM and watch
the smoke blow upwards towards the stars.

If I die of gun violence
I want people to understand what it means to be alive.
how electric blood felt through my veins
how i could reach out and touch the world around me
how i had a heartbeat

how I would have made baby noises at my dog that morning
and groaned about my science test in the afternoon
my dad’s goofy drawing would be on my paper lunch bag

And after I die no one will know these things
But I want them to. I want it to be written
On every sign at every march
That I stuck my pinky up every time I passed a graveyard
As a sign of respect to the dead

I want people to remember that this body right here held
a force that no scientist can perfectly recreate,

wiped out in an instant
by one bullet out of many and
If I die of gun violence I want to know
That I will be the last person to die of gun violence.
Let the minute of silence you hold for me
Be the only act of silence the world has to see again.

Let my parents be the last to lose a daughter
to a kid with a gun in a school
Let there never be another lockdown
or another walkout or another “troubled teen
who happened to get his hands on a deadly weapon”

If I die of gun violence, do not blame it on me
do not say I was the one that brought on my own death,
because if you mourn me you will mourn
A girl who spent every single year of her life fighting to keep it
and if you can’t remember
the meaning of my name, it should never leave your lips

If I die of gun violence I want to know
that I am leaving a world that can change
I want to know that when I am gone someone will care
someone will scream for me
someone will feel for me
when a kid with a gun takes it all away.

By Sarah Waring

A poem from Disarm: A Themed issue Responding to Mass Shootings in America

Home By Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto

Home

―for places struggling

A home is a place that knows the geometry of your body.
A home is a place where your heart yearns to return.
A home is like a child on whose fingers you find flowery dimples.
A home is never a city where fire grows for all things to die.

But my own home is a different home:
My home is a place where dead bodies grow,
Where houses and schools are brought down and left in ruins,
Where children play in their dreams as playgrounds are turned graveyards,
Where brothers carry dirges in their mouths and sing them like anthems,
Where sisters count on their fingers the darkness that adorns their smiles,
Where mothers are scared to birth, nurse and care or even speak,
And where fathers are too afraid to love, too afraid to live and drink.
My home is a place marked by destruction
Where bombs and shrapnel make themselves an abode.
My home is a place where fire grows for all things to die.

My home is an ocean filled with storms and fear:
You can find in it sisters in hijabs―
Whose strings are all broken by boys who
Draw semen between their thighs ― drowned in the lagoons;
You can find in it brothers in bandannas whose lives and lungs
And livers are smoked and dried by mashed leaves;
You can find in it children who know laughter as strangers and who
Are beaten by hunger and decorated by dirt and are adverts for maladies.
My home is a place where fire grows for all things to die.

Yet, every night I burn incenses before I sleep,
Hoping that each dawn will some day
Bring a new smile upon my home:
Where people will grow to age; where love will flower and
Where fire will never grow for all things to die.

By Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto

Biography:

He (@ChinuaEzenwa) is from Owerri-Nkworji in Nkwerre, Imo state, Nigeria and a lover of literature. He has won the Association Of Nigerian Author’s Literary Award for Mazariyya Ana Teen Poetry Prize, 2009; Speak to the Heart Inc. Poetry Competition, 2016. He became a runner-up in Etisalat Prize for Literature, Flash fiction, 2014 with I Saved My Marriage. Recently, he won the Castello di Duino Poesia Prize for an unpublished poem, 2018. And some of his works have appeared in Lunaris Review, AFREADA, Kalahari Review, Praxismagazine, The Rising Phoenix Review and Raffish Magazine.

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.

THE Q WORD By Ashe Vernon

THE Q WORD

I made the word “queer” a part of me
right around the time I started college—
back when nothing really made sense
and I needed a place to call home.
I know what it is.
Queer is a word with skeletons in its closet,
a word with a past, queer
is a word with a body count.
And we took it back.
Because queer was the word they threw
along with their fists when they
wanted it to hurt. And we smiled back:
bruised knuckles, clenched teeth,
come and take it.
Queer loved us
when our fathers looked through us
and talked about grandchildren
we didn’t know if we’d
ever be able to have.
Queer loved us when the law said
we didn’t have the right to love each other.
Queer loved us when the townsfolk were
setting their fires and
sharpening their pitchforks.
I won’t ask for a show of hands.
I know it’s not safe for some of us.
But I’ll extend my hand to you;
I use this word to stand for love after
all the years it was used to hate. I use it
because it saved me: a word like
heavy rainfall on a crop dying of thirst.
I made the word queer a part of me
back when no other word seemed to fit right
and it’s still the warm hearth I come home to.
And if that’s not revolution,
I don’t know what is, because to me
that’s liberation.
Because if queer can save
that lost little kid, then
maybe there’s hope for the ones who are
let down by the their parents,
beat up by their peers.
I have to believe that this word can do better.
Because it’s been causing harm for too many years.

By Ashe Vernon

Biography:

Ashe Vernon is a produced playwright, an actor, and a poet. She’s been writing for as long as she can remember, but found poetry when she most needed it. She recently graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University with a degree in theatre and gender studies. Before she hits the job market with her oh-so-impressive fine arts degree, Ashe is spending the summer on tour doing spoken word with her best friend and partner in crime. Her first book of poetry, Belly of the Beast, was published by Words Dance Publishing and her second, Wrong Side of a Fist Fight, will be coming out through Where Are You Press, this July. She spends most of her time writing her way out of dark places, and looking to the stars. Ashe has featured in venues across Texas, such as The Standpipe Coffee House in Lufkin, Nacogdoches Literary Readings, and Love Jonz Spoken Jazz, in Duncanville. She has placed first at WriteAboutNow in Houston and her work has been published in Word Dance Magazine, and volumes one and two of the Literary Sexts anthologies. Ashe has no concept of the term “inside-voice” and spends every waking hour with her giant bear-cub of a cat. She plans on moving to a big city and covering herself with tattoos. It’s going pretty well, so far.

Loving What Matters By Anita Dutt

Loving What Matters

She is still learning how to cradle self-love; how to
nurse the words that scrape their knees tumbling off her.
Tungsten translates to heavy stone and she wonders
if that is just another name for her heart.
On Sunday’s, she starches her best poem, folds it
precisely into an envelope, and offers it humbly
when the collection bag prompts for a symbol of devotion.
And she never means for it to be a consolation for money,
it is just the most worthy thing she knows to give.
She begins her day with ten tokens.
When she wakes from a restless sleep she knows
she already needs to use three.
When she runs out of milk, when she misses the bus;
when her friends are the epitome of joy and she
is somewhere between existing and trying to live.
She never has enough, never has any spare,
but she learns how to make them stretch like a mother
clothing her family earnestly with hand-me-downs and op shops.
And maybe you will never have enough love.
And maybe love won’t be perfect or brand new.
Maybe love is giving what you have
to something or someone that matters.
And maybe she is what matters.

By Anita Dutt

Biography:

Anita Dutt is not a musician but that has not stopped her from trying to play the heartstrings. Her composition of poetry can be found at ww.aribcagesymphony.tumblr.com. She is an Australian university student studying so that one day she can be a part of the healing.

Lora Bishop Was Once a Girl By Kailey Tedesco

Lora Bishop Was Once a Girl

Before vines bound the windows,
intrigued voyeurs saw, every
night, Ms. Bishop, sagged and grey
as a Havisham cake, watching
television in the bathtub.

Must have been a hundred years ago-
Lora Bishop: Miss Wichita
Queen at sixteen. She could conjure

a man twice her age
with a flip of blond hair,
but found she couldn’t
speak, and plunged into

her claw-foot sea. Now
she reads the twelve-inch
screen like some read tea,
sipping away the cream
of nine-o-clock

news and swirling the
static in her cup. The
neighborhood boys swore
she knew

death would come, when,
one cold night, she disrobed
to take her bath, and with
a final wink before the window,

sunk beneath the water.

By Kailey Tedesco

Biography:

Kailey Tedesco is currently earning her MFA in poetry at Arcadia University. She is a former resident poet and current poetry editor for Lehigh Valley Vanguard. She also edits for Marathon Literary Review. Her work focuses on perceptions of femininity, often in a surrealistic manner. Many of her poems are inspired by confessional or Gurlesque poetics paired with her own experiences in cemeteries and abandoned amusement parks. You can find her poems featured in such publications asFLAPPERHOUSE and Jersey Devil Press. For more about Kailey Tedesco, please follow her on Twitter: @kaileytedesco.

pocket dialing through air raids By Thira Mohamad

pocket dialing through air raids

slow evening / carpet bombing / dust
mite colonies scatter / mud bodies below

head on tails / on tales of aladdin
thief of fate / no djinns & magic lamp

one flying carpet overturned / soil shake
kosher salt / peppering souks / special soup

seasoning / orphan blood & jasmine tears
telephone wires / partition & pillage calling

lost lovers / wrong numbers
butt dial / ass cheeks spread

like rye bread / whole wheat
burnt fields / lamb to the slaughter

for dinner later / rib shank & breast
no different from the rest / compiled collateral

pile / unsent messages & power trip / error
screen not loading / image censored

pixel grain / habibi of no name face
by the byline / vanishing without a trace

By Thira Mohamad

Biography:

Thira Mohamad is a writer in perpetual progress based in Toronto, by way of South China Sea. A storyteller of South/East Asian origins, her poetic roots can be traced back through her maternal line. She utilizes art and its boundless dimensions to navigate the nuances of her identity. A failed archaeologist, she is currently crawling through university to finish her undergraduate degree. Thira regularly participates in poetry readings within Toronto’s diasporic community. Some of her writings can be found on her personal blog bayuandbooks.wordpress.com

Kite-Flying By Reina Adriano

Kite-Flying

As we step into the field, know what the elders will tell us:
one will have to outlast the many. We are at the point

of acceptance. Here, nobody says I’m sorry, forgive me.
I think of a battlefield that never was. Green grass continues

to thrive for dewdrops. Weeds covet soil. Shoe prints mark scars
on the ground. Above us: sun-stained sky that deceives

our eyes. Blinded, we all go for recognition. We can only try too hard
or not at all. See the crisscross markings on our skin, thread looped

twice or thrice around our fingers. This point of placement sits still –
there is no suspense, no action. The memory of building what will be destroyed

eventually fades. The instructions leer at us: do not add weight
on the body; put tails for balance, instead. Upon release, neither run

nor saunter. Walk. What does not succumb to threat must follow
in the absence of force. As such, we know war even though

we have never seen it. An airplane passes by but no one else seems
to notice. The truth: we cannot go any higher when strings hold us down.

Now pull to show tension. We always, always want to win.

By Reina Adriano

Biography:

Reina Adriano is an incoming senior studying BS/M Applied Mathematics major in Mathematical Finance and double majoring in BFA Creative Writing at the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines.
She was a fellow for the essay in the 20th Ateneo Heights Writers Workshop.
Her works have been published in the previous issues of Heights and Plural Prose Journal.
She is, as always, thankful.

Mary had a Little Lamb By Kailey Tedesco

Mary had a Little Lamb

Humpty Dumpty promised
the pull-out method was fool-
proof that day they rode the
waves of a rolling field.

He jumped when she told him.
Shell and yoke rotting over
the sidewalk beneath their
studio apartment window.

She refused to look down
for nine months, wore a too-
tight blouse to the pawn shop
where she sold her mother’s ring.

Miss Muffet heard Mary
pleading through the walls –
Take a bottle. I need
to go to school.

What a shame, says Miss Muffet
eating her curds and wey, little
lamb doesn’t stand a chance
with a mother like that.

By Kailey Tedesco

Biography:

Kailey Tedesco is currently earning her MFA in poetry at Arcadia University. She is a former resident poet and current poetry editor for Lehigh Valley Vanguard. She also edits for Marathon Literary Review. Her work focuses on perceptions of femininity, often in a surrealistic manner. Many of her poems are inspired by confessional or Gurlesque poetics paired with her own experiences in cemeteries and abandoned amusement parks. You can find her poems featured in such publications as FLAPPERHOUSE and Jersey Devil Press. For more about Kailey Tedesco, please follow her on Twitter: @kaileytedesco.

A Dull Knife By Marie Anzelone

A Dull Knife

I am profoundly sad today.

   Shadows grew longer, overnight

and the odor of autumn

  can be discerned in the final

glowing embers of summer’s inferno.

  The house, it seems

already smells of winter-

   stale rooms and stagnant air

heavy with pernicious glances

   as we stalk each other like cats

through spaces inhabited

       by dreams of commonality,

now worn common by familiarity.

And I cry, seemingly, for all things today.

   The grief of unwed turtles

preparing for hibernation, I own.

   Plus the tears of plovers

 adding salt to the ocean, as the birds

   set their gaze on eroding shorelines

south.

Chief Joseph said, “My heart is sick and sad”

   and I know what he meant.

Each measured breath only reminds me

       I am closer to my last.

  I ponder old people lost in their minds

         and children with no futures;

and I think my nation has decided, we no longer

  will stand to be counted.

 I think…

     …maybe it is more than one summer

that is dying.

I have been told,

    some tears are prayers.

But I no longer feel the presence

of anything but my own thoughts

    in mine.

How does one return to the sacred?

I long to split this skin open

      with my own hand,

to escape its smothering confines

    to become larger than my limitation

more than my Self

      Live three times at once,

blaze my comet across this world’s sky.

    I would catalog dreams in ounces

if I thought the process had merit;

 but this knife appears too dull for cutting-

       my words are too short

to reach an audience,

       and they die lonely deaths each day;

like this summer coming to close.

I can see this desire’s demise

    in each crumbling road repaired

a little less each year,

    and in every wise elderly matron

      left by neighbors

to wither away in the loneliness

   of the obsolete,

  her pleas for a single listener

patted away by gentle but firm hands

   “there there- just drink your tea,

           we’ll come back tomorrow.”

And when I am honest

   while counting heartbeats,

in the still terror of the night

     the decayed sickly sweet

      smell of uselessness

is the scent on the winter breeze,

            and it scares me

     into sadness.

By Marie Anzelone

Biography:

Marie Anzalone currently splits her time between residences in New England and upstate NY in the United States and Guatemala in Central America. Originally from Appalachian Pennsylvania, she spent her early years studying ecology and nature first-hand in the woods around her home. She is an artist, scientist, writer, economics master’s degree candidate, avid outdoorswoman and start-up director of an international development non-profit organization. She has been published in human rights journals, scientific journals, and poetry anthologies. She writes fiction and non-fiction in both English and Spanish. She attempts in her writing to bridge the gap between real world influence and the individual’s inner journey to find spirit and meaning. Anzalone released two collections of poetry in 2014. Her debut collection is called A Pilgrimage in Epistles:: Poems as Letters and Observations. Her sophomore offering is titled Peregrinating North-South Compass Points: Poems in English and Spanish.