American Nightmare By Pj Carmichael

American Nightmare

Wasting money by passing time.

Seconds to minutes,
cents to dollars,
billions through the years.

(I work to live,
but I do not live to work.)

One morning I awoke from a
22 year slumber, only to find
that the bills weren’t paid,
and the debt collectors are
always armed
to to the teeth.

Phone calls: fiscal stressors,
reminders of debt, indication
of past transactions
long forgotten.

(They always want more.)

I wake to an 8-hour-day
that roughly translates
to food, shelter, boredom,
and alienation.

“Growing up” is a financial statement.

By Pj Carmichael

Biography:

PJ Carmichael is a writer, artist, visionary, and adolescent from Wakefield, Massachusetts. His work focuses on the synthesis of sociology, psychology, philosophy, and empiricism. Through his work, he aims to bridge the gap between the concrete and the abstract. He enjoys hiking, biking, exploring, taking photographs, and exploring the metaphysical.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? By Irene Vazquez

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

The fifth time you feel like an imposter
in your own skin
you are 15
almond-eyed boy asking if you speak Spanish
trying to coax your two right feet into dancing

Bailemos.”

When was the last time someone loved you,
you, your bottomless soul
you, your Southern roots
you, your Mexican blood?

“You’ve been hiding your Latin heritage.”

You go home
resuming your favorite habit
angering your mother
falling in love with white boys who don’t love you
everyone’s still surprised you speak Spanish

“Can I touch your hair? We don’t have anything like that here.”

Think of your Abuelita
skin dripping off her hands
soft, comfortable
think of shared afternoons, sipping coffee
the way she held you so that you finally knew who you were
or maybe you didn’t
but your label didn’t matter

“Hijita de mi vida, te quiero tanto.”

You remember that the last time you held her was at her funeral
hands
soft, comfortable
it’s been almost a year
your peach pit heart forgets how to feel

Qué lejos estoy del suelo donde he nacido.”

You falter
apologize
your mother doesn’t speak your mother tongue
makes it so hard to sing

“Our American accents are good enough to fool them, no?”

By Irene Vazquez

Biography:

Irene Vazquez is a mixed-race poet (African-American and Mexican) currently residing in Houston, Texas. She attends St. John’s School where she writes and edits for her school newspaper, The Review, which received a Gold Crown rating from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association.

The summer of 2014, Irene spent three weeks at Interlochen Center for the Arts studying creative writing. There, she worked under poets like Travis Wade and Francine J. Harris.

Irene received a regional Silver Key for her poetry in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and she received an honorable mention in the 2014 Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest, sponsored by Hollins University.

Her work has previously appeared in Autumn Sky Poetry Daily.

She often writes about the intersection of her identities in modern America and what it means to have her childhood dreams of a “post-racial America” shattered.

 

Equality is a right, not a rarity By Kimberly Siehl

Equality is a right, not a rarity

To the boy who said I should be more ladylike:
I will not cross my legs or twirl my hair
around my finger because it makes
me whole.
I will not bat my eyelashes at you
when you hold the door open for me
and I will not bat my eyelashes at you
when you don’t.
I will not wait for your text messages every night
as if I need your written validation
for my existence.
I will not sit back and laugh at jokes that I
don’t find funny because I can make a room
roar with laughter in seconds flat.

To the boy who said I’m “smart for a girl”:
I will not stop reading book after book
until I’m sure my knowledge can wipe you
off your feet.
I will not feel guilty when I correct your grammar
or point out when you have misspoken.
I will not bow down to you because your father
is a successful businessman and I will not
let you leave until you hear about my mother
who is a profound bio-chemist.
I will not stop using words that confuse you
and I will not stop discussing politics or
the woes of capitalism because my female opinions
make you ‘uncomfortable’.

To the boy who said he hated my body:
I will not spend extra hours at the gym
to keep you from seeing my thighs jiggle
and I will not eat food fit for birds
to ensure you can fit your hand between my thighs.
I will not stop wearing that skin tight dress that
makes my ass look out of this world and I
certainly will not break your gaze when
you evaluate my worth.
I will not stop applying winged eyeliner or bright
red lipstick because I’m not here to look
like your man-made masterpiece.
I will not be a product of your temptation.

To the boy who sees me as an equal:
I will not praise you as if you are a rare species
nor will I boast that you are one of a kind.
I will not drunkenly utter that “I’ve finally got one!”
to my girlfriends over wine
because a boy with a level head shouldn’t be
impossible to find.
I will not pin you up next to my trophies
or diplomas as if you are some sort of accomplishment.
I will not degrade you to what we have been degraded
to all along.

I will defend the girls who are told they are not ladylike
I will protect the girls who are told they are too smart
I will support the girls who are told they should fix their bodies
I will fight for the girls who you tell are not good enough
and I will praise the girls who simply do not care.

Equality is a right, not a rarity.

By Kimberly Siehl

Biography:

My name is Kimberly Siehl and I’m a 20 year old student at The College of New Jersey studying clinical psychology and spanish. I love writing, singing, dogs, and good food.

How To Tell a Rape Joke By Lindsey Hobart

How To Tell a Rape Joke

First:
Be the girl walking down the street
in the middle of the night,
eyes fixed ahead of her,
car keys between white
knuckles, pepper spray
in the other, because no,
not all men, but enough
that you walk a little faster,
stand a little taller, measure
the distance between you
and the man walking on the
sidewalk across from you
because you know how the joke goes:
a girl walks into a bar alone.
That was her first mistake.

Second:
Be the girl that rehearses the word “no”
in the mirror every morning she wakes up,
because after seventeen years
it still feels weird on her tongue,
because the last time she said it,
it came out as a whisper that
she did not recognize.
Because you know how the saying goes:
if a girl says no six times
and nobody is around to hear it,
will any sound come from her throat
the tenth time she pleads?

Third:
Learn to yell fire instead of rape
because burning buildings
are more important than
bodies turned to caution tape,
because men learn the word no
shortly after birth but when
your voice is shaking
the lines become blurred,
because
here is the punchline:
1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime
and my body was turned into a statistic overnight,
and you’re telling me I don’t need women’s rights
and they say I will always be in the same room as a survivor
even when I’m in that room alone.

By Lindsey Hobart

Biography:

Lindsey Hobart is a seventeen year-old poet from a New York town that’s as quiet as her voice. Her work has been featured in Canvas Lit and she is a winning Slam Poet.

Eurydice By Emily Palermo

Eurydice

Tragic
they call me.
Lost, forgotten.
My snakebite heart
growing colder
by the second.
My gooseflesh skin
greying ugly in the dark.
So it goes. No matter.

What awaited me
in the land of the living?
His hand creeping starved
between my thighs?
The sweet stench of rot
choking itself in my hair?

Let me be honest here,
whisper my story in your ear.
Let me tell you
how I was silent as he turned,
how I never reached for him
as Death’s cold fingers
curled around my waist,
how I wanted him
to look back,
how I craved it
with all of my unbeating heart.

Let me tell you how I chose hell.

By Emily Palermo

Biography:

Emily Palermo is a nineteen-year old aspiring writer from Louisiana, where she is currently pursuing a degree in English Literature. Her greatest influences include Richard Siken and Margaret Atwood. In her free time, she likes to frequent coffee shops and bookstores, talk about her dog, and wax poetic about Vincent van Gogh. More of her work can be found at http://starredsoul.tumblr.com/

The Nature of Living By Madeleine Christie

The Nature of Living

The nature of living after the flood is
one of decay. The walls shuddering / the
damp creeping in / a cough settling deep
in your lungs. So much for purification.
So much for absolution. Everything is
born-again & already rotting.

The nature of living after the fire is
eyes red & burning. No voices / no
words / no speaking. Our throats too
heavy with the weight of the smoke
we swallowed to survive

The nature of living after the end is
an endless wandering / a body searching /
a body turning wasteland. The lines that
shouldn’t be crossed have been carelessly
abandoned / pale scars across the earth /
& no one watches where they step anymore.

Madeleine Christie

Biography:

Madeleine Christie goes by Maddie except when writing poetry. An 18-year-old currently living in New Zealand & studying classics and linguistics, she has a love for language & a desire to see the world. She buys far too many poetry books for someone on a student budget & is fascinated by mythos, the cosmos & the nature of humanity. More of her work can be found at vespairs.tumblr.com

Punk Rock As A Religious Institution By Jordan Hamilton

Punk Rock As A Religious Institution

My first punk show was the real Fourth Great Awakening
It was Southern Baptists
singing to snakes
speaking in tongues
preaching about Hellfire and Brimstone
My first punk show was like shaking hands with Jesus
Not the healing the sick
feeding the hungry with
fishes and loaves Jesus
No
This Jesus
started cleansing the temple
wearing a faded leather jacket
A Stick To Your Guns t-shirt
and ripped jeans
kicking over market stalls and money changer’s tables
swinging a nail bat
exhorting,”Be gone from my Father’s house. Begone you thieves.
Get the fuck out or, I swear to me, I will crack skulls.”
My first punk show taught me how to pray
taught me that prayers sound a lot like 300 hundred voices all singing the same song
300 different ways
Taught me that prayers
are better offered with your body
are better offered in the mosh pit
I have never been comfortable
praying on my knees
Punk rock’s commandments are simple
The venue is an altar
a sacred place
Leave your hate and insecurities in the car
It’s gonna be packed
If you want breathing room
You’d better be willing to fight for it
No one is going to give you anything you haven’t earned
When someone is willing to stand in front of you
and give everything they have
You better be willing
to give nothing less in return
Punk rock has no gender
no race
no religion
this is humanity
as a brotherhood
So when someone falls
you always pick them back up
My first punk show was a shitty dive bar with a bad PA
My God
It was glorious

By Jordan Hamilton

Biography:

Jordan Hamilton is a 23 year old poet from Aransas Pass, Texas. He was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 2014, where he learned to stare open eyed into clouds of CS gas while reciting Buddy Wakefield’s “Human the Death Dance.” He thinks punk rock can save the world and find his dreams in the stories of strangers. He wants you to know that your survival is the highest form of courage. His work can be found at workingonhumble.com or in audio format at jordanhamilton.bandcamp.com

I Spent Twenty-Two Years Trying To Be Nice About It By Trista Mateer

I Spent Twenty-Two Years Trying To Be Nice About It

The first time a man slaps me on the ass,
I am fourteen years old, bussing tables at a family restaurant.
He asks where I go to college and laughs.
I laugh too but the sound gets caught in my throat.
I haven’t even been kissed for the first time yet.
I have always been told that “boys will be boys”,
so when I come to accept that men will be men,
nobody corrects me.
He wraps his arm around my waist,
hand warm on the place my work shirt rides up
above my khaki shorts—
and frowns when a waitress shoos him away.
I thank her nervously. I’m worried that she’ll think poorly of me.
I trap the word slut in the back of my throat with the laughter.
She tells me that the customer is always right,
so I have to be polite, but I can still say no
if I do it quietly.

When I first learn that no does not always stop
slipping lips and wandering hands,
I am sixteen years old in a plaid miniskirt.
I am told that it is my fault for being tempting;
and it feels like the truth.
I already refuse to wear shorts outside of the house.
It makes me nervous to be alone somewhere with another person
when I have a dress on.
I throw out my miniskirts and I apologize.

By this time, catcalls make me jump out of my skin.
I never figure out how to take them as a compliment.
I always get uncomfortable when men make jokes
about why women go to the bathroom in groups.
Nobody likes to hear that we are taught from the youngest age
that we should never go anywhere
alone.

The second time that no does not stop someone,
I am nineteen years old in the passenger seat of a pickup truck.
My date pulls up in front of my house
but hits the door lock instead of letting me out,
wraps his hand around my throat
because I told him I just thought we should be friends.
When I cry later to my mother about it,
she only asks if he’d been drinking
because you know how men can get sometimes.

And I do know how men can get sometimes.
On another date, I am told by a man
that it will be my fault if he ever goes too far
because his brain is wired like an animal.
I want to say that even my dogs recognize the word no,
but I am afraid of how he might react so I don’t argue.
I sit through the rest of the date with a smile on my face.
We even kiss afterwards.
And it is not the last time I try to make kissing into a bandage
for something that never should have happened.

The third time is only a few months later.
The third time is the worst time.
When I first say no, I think maybe he doesn’t hear me
but it has nothing to do with volume.
It takes me years to lay on a hammock again.
Spring might always remind me of bursting instead of blooming.

I carry my keys just to walk to the mailbox at night.
I’m too paranoid to jog down my street alone.
I am groped on the sidewalk,
I am groped on the bus,
and even once at the grocery store.

Newly twenty-one years old,
I am followed all the way to my friend’s car
by a group of men who stand around
laughing and jeering and banging on the windows.
It is the last time I ever let a man buy me a drink at a bar.

I have men in my life who call themselves my friends
who put their hands on my hips and my thighs
without my permission.
There is no question.
They do not think they have to ask.
They laugh when I bristle.
They call me bitchy when I tell them to back off

but it takes twenty-two years for me to realize
only I have a right to my body.

I used to bite my tongue, but I do not say NO quietly anymore.
I bark my discomfort like an old dog,
weary and uncomfortable even in its sleep.

By Trista Mateer

Biography:

Trista Mateer is a writer and poet living outside of Baltimore, Maryland. She believes in lipstick, black tea, and owning more books than she can ever possibly read. Known for her eponymous blog, she is also the author of two collections of poetry. More of her work can be found at: tristamateer.com

Power Pigs (Make A Movie Make Us Laugh Star In A Show Drop A Beat Make A Three-Pointer We’ll Forgive You) By Fortesa Latifi

Power Pigs (Make A Movie Make Us Laugh Star In A Show Drop A Beat Make A Three-Pointer We’ll Forgive You)

Your best friend was born and raised in this town
and being born and raised in this town means loving basketball.
Scratch that- it means worshiping.
The game, the team, the fanfare of it all.
So when you go to a concert on a warm October night
and see the team there, you ask them if you could all
take a picture together and they say yes

In 1977, Roman Polanski raped a 13-year old girl.
He was arrested and charged with rape by use of drugs,
perversion, sodomy, lewd and lascivious acts upon a child
under 14, and furnishing a controlled substance to a minor.
When he learned he would likely be facing imprisonment
and deportation, Polanski fled to France. In 2009, Polanski
was detained at Zurich Airport. While he was in custody,
over 100 people in the film industry publicly called for his
release in a petition. Since 1979, he has won twenty awards
for his filmmaking.

As the flash is going off, the shooting guard of the basketball team
who has rosary beads tattooed around his wrists
slips his hands between your best friend’s legs
sliding his fingers into her through her leggings.
In the picture, her mouth is opened into an “o”
of surprise.

In 1985, Bill Cosby allegedly raped Barbara Bowman.
42 other women have come forward with their
accounts of sexual assault and rape at the hands
of Bill Cosby, with the earliest incident dating back to
1965. Although accusations of sexual assault and rape
have chased Cosby for decades, it has not impacted his
life, career, or marriage. In 2009, he won the Mark Twain
Prize for American Humor and in 2010, he won the
Marian Anderson Award, which honors individuals
who have changed society through their art.

You keep asking what’s wrong and when she tells you,
your heart drops into your feet. 20 minutes later,
you watch him get kicked out of the concert.
So you follow him.

In 1990, Charlie Sheen shot his fiancé, Kelly Preston, in the arm.
Six years later, he was arrested for repeatedly beating
his girlfriend, Brittany Ashland. He pleaded no contest to battery
charges and got two years probation and a $2,800 fine.
In 2006, his wife Denise Richards got a restraining order against him
after repeated threats of violence from Sheen.
In 2010, he was the highest-paid actor on TV.

And you scream. And your best friend sits on a curb
across the street and she cries. And you scream.
And she’ll never talk about this night again.
And he asks you what the fuck you want from him.
And you want to say leave us alone leave us alone.
And you scream. And she cries.

In 2000, Eminem’s wife Kim Mathers attempted suicide
after he performed a song detailing his desire to violently
murder her while beating a blow-up doll on stage that was
meant to resemble her. During that same year, Eminem released
a song expressing hatred toward his mother and his longing
to rape her. “Just bend over like a slut OK Ma? Oh, now he’s raping
his own mother, abusing a whore, snorting coke, and we gave him
the Rolling Stone cover”. Despite a history of violence and songs that
are rife with misogynistic, abusive, and homophobic themes,
Eminem has won 15 Grammy Awards throughout his career and in
2013, was awarded the Global Icon Award at the MTV European Music Awards.

She didn’t ask you to touch her she didn’t want this
you have no right she didn’t want this how could you
how could you how could you.

In 2009, Chris Brown was charged with felony assault
for a vicious attack against his girlfriend Rihanna on the
night before the Grammys. Brown was sentenced to five years
of probation and 1,400 hours of community service.
In 2012, Chris Brown won his first Grammy. In 2015,
he sat in the audience of the Grammy Awards as
President Obama issued a PSA imploring the country
to help stop violence against women and girls.
“Artists have a unique power to change minds and attitudes,
and get us thinking and talking about what matters.”
That night, Chris Brown was nominated for the
Best Urban Contemporary Album Award.

Three months later, you’re watching a basketball game with your friends
and the boy with the tattoo of the rosary beads makes a 3-pointer
and your best friend looks away from the TV but that doesn’t stop
the stadium from erupting in cheers and they’re chanting his name
and they’re chanting his name and they’re chanting his name.

By Fortesa Latifi

Biography:

Fortesa Latifi is a 22-year old poet. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona and calls the desert home. Her first book, This Is How We Find Each Other, was published through Where Are You press in 2014 and she still can’t believe it. Her work has been featured in Persona, Words Dance, and Rising Phoenix. She is currently a contributing editor at Words Dance and a contributing author for Kosovo 2.0. She is working on her second book which will come out in the fall. She hopes it reminds you of being young and having lipstick smudged on your teeth. You can find her online at madgirlf.tumblr.com

Hey Sexy What’s Your Name By Auriel Haack

Hey Sexy What’s Your Name

On a side road near my house while on an early morning run:
“Hey, baby, I know another way to make you sweat.”
The driver of the truck punches the gas and spits gravel in my face.
I barely notice, too stunned by the words.
He was old enough to be my father.

On a city sidewalk:
“Hey, purple shirt! Hey, nice tits! Smile for me!”
I lock my jaw. Put my head down and keep walking.
God knows it’s not the first time.
God knows it won’t be the last.

On a dance floor:
Unfamiliar hands pressed flush against my skin.
A foreign mouth lunging for me.
I skitter back and his mouth collides with my collarbone.
He walks away, throws “fat bitch” over his shoulder
like his palms weren’t just skimming my thighs.
Everyone will see the bruise peeking from my collar and give me the look that says
they know what I’ve been up to.
I will not know how to tell them that I was trying to run.

Everywhere I go:
I am being punished.
I have committed the unforgivable crime of being a woman, but
I am not sorry. I will not apologize for having this body.
I don’t know what it would be like to not be afraid. But I am trying.
I will not smile. I will not look their way.
I will be unapologetic, and strong, and beautiful, and brave.

By Auriel Haack

Biography:

Auriel Haack is a poet living in Jacksonville, Florida. She is a senior in high school. More of her work can be found at poppyflowerpoetry.tumblr.com