Human Remains By Miriam Kramer

Human Remains

It is an inarguable truth that
in death, someone always finds the
body. The remains
that once contained the living
parts of a loved one.

On the bottom
bunk of my first college
dorm room, I traced the faded
apologies scrawled
into my arm, while across 300
miles of telephone wire, I listened
to my mother’s voice. She said
the pain of missing me was a newly
permanent part of her.
Like someone had cut
off one of her limbs, and it wouldn’t stop
bleeding.
14 years later this phantom
pain remains with her,
I see it in the pallor of her
lips, lack of color blending
in to tanned skin.
She cannot afford to lose any more
appendages.
I remember this when my throat
is full of bile flavored
“sorry”s,
The guilt a regenerating pit
rooted in my trachea.
This remorse laden asphyxiation
is all
I would bequeath
to her.

If I died today,
my father would find my body, standing
over me. I would leave him
with shoulders slumped.
We have the same posture, curvature of spine.
Neither of us
would ever
stand upright
again.

By Miriam Kramer

Biography:

Miriam Kramer studied Creative Writing at Pacific University, and works at a local bookstore. She lives in Bound Brook, NJ, with her faucet obsessed cat, Ernie. She is overly sentimental, and has been known to rescue items from other peoples’ garbage.

Elegy of a Dress By Riley Zahn

Elegy of a Dress

Hello Riley.
It’s been a while.
Did you miss me?
Don’t answer that,
we both know you did.
Remember the first time you wore me?
You slipped my soft cotton shoulders over yours,
and it was
ok.
The Heavens didn’t open up,
Angels didn’t sing,
you didn’t have an Epiphany.
You felt ok
for the first time in weeks.

Do you remember the second time you wore me?
That black dress in July was an interesting choice.
It was the first time you wore me in public.
Remember that feeling of victory?
You couldn’t have done it without me
You were flying that day.
You were open sky, and wind through your hair,
riding currents of agency, wherever you wanted to go
The prison society tried to lock you in
looked like a miniature doll house from such great heights.

Then you landed, and realized:
The prison is not as small as it looks from up in the air.

Remember all the times you were misgendered?
What did they have in common?
Don’t answer that, we both know what it is.
You looked down and I wasn’t there.
Do you think that’s a coincidence?
Do you think you don’t need me?
Silly girl, femininity is the ransom
You pay in exchange for your womanhood.

You don’t have a choice.
You just traded one prison for another,
Don’t think of me as a coffin that cinches at the waist
And flares out at the bottom.
Think of me as an obligation,
that accessorizes so well your joy.

Besides, who else is going to hide your body?
Conceal how wide your shoulders are
Obscure how narrow your hips are?
You don’t love yourself, you love the illusion I’ve made for you.
You are nothing without me.

But fine,
go ahead,
wear that flannel shirt.
I’m sure your date will gender you correctly without me.
I’m sure she’ll see you as you want to be seen without me.
I’m sure you’re be woman enough
Without me.

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.

Chronic Nausea By Audrey Lee

Chronic Nausea

I am jealous of the girls
whose carved fingernails curl into fists.
They are God’s girls and have flesh
on their bones, something in their hearts
like church chimes on a bright Sunday –

He was a Christian, a good old
gasoline boy. He jostled over to me,
swaggering and telling of
what layer of hell I could end up in.

Meanwhile my hands thread away at a wood loom:
I weave a girl I wish to be –
I tell him to drown himself in the lake over the hill,
let his bluntness fossilize to be found.

So I wonder why I am gnawing away at toothless gums,
why I am kissing castor oil lips
of a girl that I have only read about
in library sanctioned pages. Where she wouldn’t do this,

the police dig up a body from the water
a few days later. I am not sure if my skin after a shower
looks the same, or when I am bloated
with the pregnancy of a small apple in my stomach.

There’s a graveyard. There’s a hymnal, there’s
a pale girl. She doesn’t know which she should
be asking more of. This is fine,
I tell myself under the shadow of
a bell tower and a steeple.

By Audrey Lee

Biography:

Audrey Lee will be attending Franklin and Marshall College this coming fall. She is the winner of the 2016 DeSales University Poetry Contest and her writing has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and Columbia College of Chicago. Her work has been featured in or is forthcoming from Teen Vogue, Rookie Magazine, The Ellis Review, and Paper Swans Press. Her chapbook Unknown Futures is forthcoming from Red Paint Hill Publishing in 2018.

Exercises On Dealing With News Of A Child Marriage Somewhere By Precious Arinze

Exercises On Dealing With News Of A Child Marriage Somewhere

A. Define loss in the following topics:
The pieces were pieces before everything broke.
There is a relativity to what culture you can call
yours/theirs alone.
To spread a disease, dip it in the Holy word, hide it
under a veil, exhume a twelve year old girl
collapsing back into her mother’s eyes, tear
stained henna distilling love and innocence,
Asalam aleikum escaping somewhere out
of sight.

B. Identify the sources:
They carcass long before we bury their bodies.
A wedding ceremony for a girl to lie down
and decay in.

C. Imagine all other possible scenarios,
The girl takes one piece, carries her hymen to
the top of a hill in the desert.
If we send anger and outrage to join her there,
if the desert sun scorches them up,
if the sun lends a currency back to us,
if the currency exchanges for justice,
for religion,
if religion and justice are a bargain on hot coals,
if hot coals are childlike feet running across
a country to a God they can swallow,
say the country was enough to keep them safe,
prevent fears of outside coming in.
Think of a wall with water tirelessly seeping into it.
Think of the double sensation.
The hard softness.
Envision the eventual crumble, like a burdened womb
expelling life.

D. Answer the following questions:
If John the Baptist must come before Jesus,
what comes after marital rape and VVF?
What precedes the funeral of girlhood receding
faster than it arrives?
Why do men carve graveyards to bury their seeds
out of the bodies of little girls?

E. Craft a version of what the girl does next.
When the midwife hands the girl her daughter, she will
bathe her tears, run out and drown her in the river –
an understanding that water can be more forgiving
than men’s hands, than poverty pillaged by faith,
than crime scenes that aren’t yet, but soon will be
her body too.

F. Breathing exercises.
Inhale: the girl wants to be nothing but wind,
nothing but the thing trees bow to,
nothing but….
Her pieces stay pieces after everything breaks.
Say you fracture your humanity, the cracks lead away from
the desert, a piece of you gets trapped in….
Exhale.
Repeat until calm enough to maybe live with yourself.

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.

STRANGELOVE (OR, THEY WANT YOU TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE MOTHER OF ALL BOMBS) By Nina Sudhakar

STRANGELOVE (OR, THEY WANT YOU TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE MOTHER OF ALL BOMBS)

She was made to birth an arsenal
of sharp edges, slapped into a wail
for confrontation by men who demonize
the world to anoint themselves exorcists
& meanwhile wonder where the better angels
of our nature have gone. Perhaps she’d have
told us of precariousness, the vanishing point
between life & death, the dimming of our
collective horizons, that sanguinity means
optimistic but also blood-red, bloody. That
mother bombs dropped on mother lands
make us all children of destruction, the planet
a hungry mouth, or rather, an empty hole, into
which pour gallons of glacial weep & the ashes
of charred fields, the skeletal remnants of a
civilization that dreamt of power as a blessing
to render us all accursed. Perhaps she’d have
looked at us with the wry smile of one who
recognizes irony, who possesses the strength
to abide intended consequences, who recalls
the words to the lullaby humming deep in our
collective veins. Perhaps she’d have rocked us
to sleep on an earth slick with rebirth, cozy &
womb-damp, lodging a seed of doubt behind the
first inkling of a molar, to be tongued gently &
nurtured to maturity so that we know when to
be sure. Perhaps we are all waiting for an
admonishment louder than the shattering,
louder than certainty, soft enough to coax
an insurrection of doves from the ashes.

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.

shield me from fire, wind, and the love of cruel men By Isabelle Jia

shield me from fire, wind, and the love of cruel men

mama cradles a tangle of wisps to her breast.
it goes: uh na, pat, uh na, pat, uh na , pat
in her breath there is serenity for
the fear of losing liveliness.
mama pulls the blinds close.

they sing: hollow, home, hollow, home, hollow
stomachs pound against fat babies who
sold their souls.

mama lays next to an empty man.
he says: sleep, child, sleep, child
let me pluck the petals of your flower
break the stem two times and again.

mama shifts shrouds.
come here: fear, her, fear
the strength grown in
pitless cherry hearts.

mama stays up with the moon.
she croons: keep, them
away from sea glass men
sharpen their bodies to cut back.

mama’s still waiting for the sun.
i say:
baby
daughter
free.

By Isabelle Jia

Biography:

Isabelle Jia is a seventeen-year old poet whose work has appeared, or is forthcoming in the Blueshift Journal, Polyphony HS, Track Four, and many more. Jia has attended the Iowa Young Writer’s Studio and the California State Summer School of Arts. She has also been recognized as a California Arts Scholar, by the Walt Whitman Poetry Foundation, and the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. She is an editorial intern and social media editor for Tinderbox Poetry as well as a poetry reader for Glass Kite. Jia currently resides in San Francisco Bay Area, CA.