One-Sided Conversations Between a Black Girl and God By Madelyn McZeal

One-Sided Conversations Between a Black Girl and God

Dear God,
I have begun picturing
my entrance to Your kingdom
with my hands up
What does it mean
when I pray
until my palms are streaked with ash
Moses never mentioned
the aftermath of seeing God, burning,
turned to cinder
Lord, What does it mean
to be saved?

Dear God,
I pray that You teach me
how to bleed with mercy
I am slow of speech and
tongue but my hands are willing,
open

Dear God,
I toss the word
Surrender
around my mouth,
my tongue burdened
by the weight of parting
this sea, keeping a dry path
for grief across my teeth
Why do You ask us
for such heavy a thing?

Dear God,
Postcard, burning bush, bullet,
send me a sign, Lord
I’ll be waiting with
my hands up

By Madelyn McZeal

Madelyn McZeal is a queer 17 year old African American girl from Houston, Texas. She enjoys old books, rainy days, and unfinished poems. She is an editor of Zig Zag Zine, a small publication for women, PoC, and members of the lgbt+ community. More information about the zine can be found at zigzagzine.co.vu and her own poetry can be found at blood-to-ink.tumblr.com.

evolution By Nooshin Ghanbari

evolution

in loving memory of Chug Siu

I.
a little boy with jet black hair
has already seen too much
the last name Yang sticks out against
ground the color of rotting meat
he doesn’t hear his mother’s cries
her whispers of we must save him
he doesn’t hear the violence
he doesn’t know what to listen for.

II.
the young man with jet black hair
doesn’t want his new name
Chang is only two letters off
but saves him from war-torn China
Chang leaves behind his mother and father
and everything he ever knew.

III.
the young man can’t write
or rather, the soldier can’t read
Chang on a forged passport becomes Chug
and the young man with jet black hair
sits in a boat with his back to the wind
the further from Yang, the better.

IV.
the old man trades jet black hair for streaks of silver
and hands Chug to his daughter in a box with a doll
and a yellow silk dress
the name falls from her to me
but Chug sounds funny on private school playgrounds
mixed with middle names like Elizabeth and John
little boys and girls spit out a laugh and point
chewed fingers saying she’s different she’s weird.

V.
a young woman
(her hair not quite as black)
fidgets in her seat as she fills out the forms before her
what is your middle name? they ask.

she leaves the question blank.

By Nooshin Ghanbari

Biography:

Nooshin Ghanbari is a third-year English major at the University of Texas at Austin, where she was recently awarded the 2016 Ellen Engler Burks Memorial Scholarship for Creative Writing. She currently serves as the assistant poetry editor of The Nocturnal Literary Review, the official journal of the university’s Plan II Honors program. Her poetry has previously appeared in Skylark Review.

What Does It Mean to Be Love? By Rivka Yeker

What Does It Mean to Be Love?

You don’t feel your face drenched in
droplets of cold water,
until you step inside of your apartment soaking
in the sky’s sadness.
It isn’t until your face is overheating
and you’ve scratched your scalp enough
for it to burn like your cheeks amidst
anxiety attack. You can’t tell that your
body is panicking until it is screaming
at you.
You can’t tell that most things are happening
until the damage embraces your neck,
like someone strangling you or shaking you,
or yelling at you, pinching you.
You don’t feel yourself
falling for someone
until they are exiting
through the back door
leaving you with
nothing.

By Rivka Yeker

Biography:

Rivka Yeker lives in Chicago and is a student at DePaul University studying Media & Cinema Studies, Public Relations/Advertising, and Creative Writing and is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Hooligan Mag. While she’s not running Hooligan, slinging coffee and books, and going to school, she’s forming new theories on human connection, absorbing and critically assessing media, reading comics, and yelling poetry in front of strangers.

BASIC ALLOWANCE FOR HOUSING By Aaron Graham

BASIC ALLOWANCE FOR HOUSING

One week before deployment,
we staged his wedding
behind India company’s barracks.

In the smoke-pit, his seabag
is stacked with issued gear:
shit-paper, load bearing vests.

One week before deployment,
she carried a bouquet of sand
in a Coors Lite can down the aisle.

The wedding party was a fire-team;
with the best man in a wife beater,
his bride walked the beach in a Goodwill dress

One full week before deployment,
he had a thought: combat pay
with dependents is twice as much

In the smoke-pit, his seabag
is stacked with issued gear:
diesel drums, canteen cups, flack jackets.

The whole week before deployment,
Their couch quartered a shit-canned
best man a honeymoon went unused.

In the smoke-pit, a seabag stacked
with issued gear: Malaria pills
anthrax vaccine and typhus, face paint.

for deployment five-man flocks of shitbirds—
load stacked gear: trauma plates and three point
slings,
lazar sights, E-tools, parachutes and pistol-grips

For five years she sang:

maa                 nee                              rah

come                  to                          the house

my tamarisk drinks no water,
dust lies on door and bolt,
the garden like a lament the city lifts

its lord, in five years
on a front lawn,
an aborted mission
a triangle folded flag.

By Aaron Graham

Biography:

Aaron Graham hails from Glenrock, Wyoming, population 1159, which boasts seven bars, six churches, a single 4-way stop sign and no stoplights. He served as the assistant editor for the Squaw Valley Review, is an alumnus of Squaw Valley Writers Workshop and The Ashbury Home School (Hudson), and was recently the “Cecilia Baker Memorial Visiting Scholar” for the 2016 Seaside Writer’s Conference. Aaron is a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq where he served with The Marine Corps’ Human Intelligence and Counterterrorism Task Force Middle East as an analyst and linguist.

His work has appeared in Cleaver Magazine, Print Oriented Bastards, SAND, The Tishman Review, The East Bay Review, Zero-Dark-Thirty and f(r)iction, His poems have been Finalists in the Tishman Review’s 2015 Poetry Contest, Tethered by Letters’ 2016 Poetry Contest, Sequestrum’s New Writer Awards, and was a national finalist for The Luminaire Award. His chapbook “Skyping from a Combat Zone” was Shortlisted for Tupelo Press’s 2016 Sunken Garden Prize. His first full length collection, “Blood Stripes”, was a finalist for Tupelo’s 2015 Berkshire Poetry Prize, and his poem, “Olfaction”, won the Seven Hills Literary Journal’s Penumbra Poetry Prize. Aaron is currently finishing his PhD in Literature at Emory University.

Lunch Hour By John Stupp

Lunch Hour

Dock Ellis
threw a no-hitter on LSD
walked 8 struck out 6
the Pirates won 2-0
I saw it on the news
in the foundry cafeteria
later Dock said
halfway through the game
he was pitching to Jimi Hendrix
with Richard Nixon calling balls and strikes
this was 1970
I had a sandwich in front of me
and a busted lunch bag
I was wearing blue coveralls
there was a line of cars in the infield
their motors running
that’s what the noise in the plant made it seem like—
during the school year
I took LSD
and put my hand through a wall
trying to work a light switch
like Dock I didn’t say anything the cops could remember
but I’m keeping a low profile
if the foreman comes around it wasn’t me
pressing greasy fingerprints on the white bread
my mother bought

By John Stupp

Biography:

John Stupp is the author of the 2007 chapbook The Blue Pacific and the 2015 full-length collection Advice from the Bed of a Friend both by Main Street Rag. His new book How Tuesday Began will be published by Finishing Line Press. Recent poetry has appeared or will be appearing in The Pittsburgh Poetry Review, By&By Poetry, LitMag and Off The Coast. He lives near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

 

East & East By Majda Gama

East & East

From Wardour Street to down the King’s Road this city is a song
We walked where I knew no song but the hum of your presence
The cobbles of Whitechapel as haphazard as punched out teeth
The East End full of old murder and new anarchy
Brick Lane infused with the scent of the older world I leave you for
I did leave sandalwood on you my variation of the seal of Suleiman
Every hoopoe I saw in Arabia I sent as a messenger to you
As if feathers and precious oil could illuminate your dark places
And neon red hairs guide you through long nights of Dexy
I drink to your memory as if spirits could conjure that night back
The gold of West Country cider from bruised windfall apples
The urine colored swill of the punks who careen through Camden Town
Brighter to me now the fox kits gamboling on the graves of Highgate
I walk our path through London widdershins so that the past stays past
From the old shore of Southwark onto Waterloo Bridge in the new rain
Everyone bursts into song albeit at soft distances from one another

By Majda Gama

Biography:

Majda Gama is Saudi-American poet based in the Washington, DC area where she has roots as a punk, DJ and activist. Two of her poems were picked by Ilya Kaminsky as honorable mentions in The Fairy Tale Review’s inaugural contest, other poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Gargoyle, Hunger Mountain, Mizna, War, Literature & the Arts and are forthcoming in Duende and the Hysteria anthology. As a transnational nomad living between East and West, Majda has permanent culture shock.

The Floral Knife By Ali Guerra

The Floral Knife

It always starts out the same,
eyes meet from across the room, green and
curious. Green and mystical. Green and coy,
and ready to kill.

Beginnings are exciting,
he is teasing you in the kitchen now
because he likes you
but you heard he has a girlfriend.
He must not be into her.

You are sitting in the back of the restaurant,
all your tables have paid and left
he sits in front of you
whispers something, you laugh
you think that your heart will fall out of your chest,
you think you want to explore this.

Two weeks later,
he is waking up next to you on the couch,
says he will leave her for you.

You are captivated.
You are enamored.
You are spending all your time with him,
he is crazy about you.

You go out for drinks after work,
he says “Where were you?”

You think it is love when he is protective.
You think you’ve finally found someone that cares.
You think it is love when he is jealous.
You think it is love when he tries to change you,
make you better.

That’s all he’s doing though.

Two months go by and you haven’t seen your friends
in weeks.
They understand, you’re in love.
They understand,
he’s possessive.

He tells you that your nail-biting disgusts him.
You have the hands of a child, you know.
You should start paying rent if you’re
going to be here so much.
You never do anything nice for him.
You never do anything right.
Your friends aren’t good friends.
Don’t see them.

He tells you he likes your kindness,
tells you it’s your best trait.
Why are you letting him treat you so badly?
You’re too nice.
You need to stand up for yourself.
You need some backbone.
He just doesn’t want to see you get hurt,
he is sorry he hurt you.

Wake him up with a blowjob,
be a fucking woman.
She did things
you won’t do.

You wonder why you are crying so much.
Your friends must be the problem,
not him. It must just be your job.
It must just be your parents.
It must just be you.

He says he will change,
you believe him. He says
let’s pretend the last six months didn’t happen.

He turns his hands into razor blades
when he holds you at night
pretending he could save you
by cutting you open.

By Ali Guerra

Biography:

Ali Guerra is a poet and writer currently living in Florida but hopefully making her way to the west coast soon. Her work has been featured in Thought Catalog and she is now working on her first collection of poetry which will consist of both old and new work. You can find her in cafes people-watching or drinking wine in her bedroom.

To Be A Woman By Georgie Funnell

To Be A Woman

To be a woman is to be a key,
a pin, an axe. It is to learn how
to open doors that have always
been closed to you. It is to learn that
most of them will always stay that way,
no matter how you forget the shape of your body.

To be a woman is to be the shore,
a tree, the sky. It is to notice that
nothing will ever stay. It is to notice that
your hands will always be reaching towards
things that do not let you grow, even when
you still do not feel like enough of someone.

To be a woman is to be a cloud,
a petal, flesh. It is to have a softness in your
soul that makes the gods unafraid. It is to have
a softness that does not make you a threat to
those with thicker skin, to those who want to
make an impression on you.

To be a woman is to be a vacancy sign,
an object, a word. It is to welcome the darkness
without questioning why you should make a home
for it. It is to welcome anything that is
expected of you,  so they cannot name
your body a disappointment.

To be a woman is to be a gun,
a shield, a banner. It is to fight wars that
you will never win, just in case the tides may
turn. It is to fight yourself in battles across your body
and still not know which side you want to win,
your beauty or your mind.

To be a woman is to be a survivor,
a carer, a lover. It is to become a universe
enveloped in the clothing of skin. It is to become
proud of  having the kind of strength that
does not let you give up, even when they tell you
that is all you are good for.

By Georgie Funnell

Biography:

Georgie is a 21 year old woman, who believes in the power of poetry to heal. There are many issues that she is passionate about changing, especially the stigma surrounding mental health and the inequality between genders. Currently she lives in London having just finished a chemistry degree, although one day she dreams of moving to Paris.

body ritual By Caseyrenée Lopez

body ritual

i cook my bones in a
stock pot, my blood,
boiling, in a sauce pot.

i tear myself apart,
separate the skin
from bone, or more
specifically, separate

my skin from muscle,
tendons, veins, ligaments.
i place my organs in jars,
hoping the past

will mummify my
shriveled body, it aches
to be wrapped inside
the security of tightly

bound linen, hung out
to dry like witchy herbs.
bundled smudge filled
with lavender, rosemary,
powdered teeth & honey.

By Caseyrenée Lopez

Caseyrenée Lopez is a non-binary queerfemme atheist. They edit Crab Fat Magazine, TQ Review & Damaged Goods Press in an effort to platform marginalized writers/artists, particularly queer and trans folks. Their debut full-length collection, i was born dead, is forthcoming from ELJ publications in 2018. Follow them on Twitter @caseyreneelopez.

BLOOD By Roya Backlund

BLOOD

High school boy
passes me anonymous love note online:

You would be pretty if your nose
wasn’t so damn big.

It’s all he sees when he looks at me; its so big,
taking his attention away from my eyes, which
pretend not to see him, my lips
that search for words which do not come.
Not my boobs though, no. They’re good
when they’re this big,

like “girl” means
I am all additions and subtractions; a division
between myself.

*

I figure out just how to angle my head
so that cameras capture the girl half-shadow,
other-half struggling to bear the burden
of the rest of me.

I grow my hair out until I am a willow tree
hiding so far within myself that nobody can hear
the weeping,

rub bark into my skin until I can’t feel a thing,
crack myself at all corners, drink the word “pretty”
until maybe it glows from inside me,

“ugly” pecking away at the soft spots,
wanting to get in.

Sticks and stones extending from me like branches,
words strewn all around me like leaves
torn by the wind.

*

I am 18-year-old girl
asking doctors to carve her out of marble
and no one remembers the dreams they have
while under anesthesia

and I wake
vomiting blood into a nurse’s hands,
giving her what is supposed to stay sealed
but wanting to be rid of, what needed trimming
from myself
so that I could fit
better

but my nose is still crooked,
still fun house mirror looking back at me, my body
backstabbing my spirit,

and I am a jagged peg
in an even more jagged hole.

Smaller nose
survived a butchering
and girl thinks this is a few inches closer to the light
but soon, my sight adjusts for the difference
and the shadows
find new corners
for me to hide.

*

Girl keeps scratching herself apart,
until maybe one day, she finds the pearl
enclosed at the bottom.

No pearl feels beautiful
when it is bleeding.

She stands fully exposed
on stage, at the center of it all,
spotlight loving all
of her summation

(the darkness cannot eclipse her
here),

tells the audience to let it be known
that she won’t be shrinking away from herself
anytime soon, as if to say:

This is the face I am stuck with
and all I can do is love it shamelessly
for being the only face this kind of beautiful,
and without hesitating
to push terror into the hearts
of those who can’t handle it;

can’t handle loving the self so easily,
can’t handle beauty belonging completely to me,
can’t handle that someone was able to find it
in a world that raised us to believe
we don’t deserve it.

By Roya Backlund

Biography:

Roya Backlund is a recent graduate of University of California, Irvine with a B.A. in English literature as well as a Los Angeles-based film actress. She has been published at Thistle Magazine, Words Dance Publishing, and will be releasing her first collection of poetry this summer. She is a co-founder of Kings Zine, a literary and artistic collective. More of her writing can be found at bellydancingsmoke.tumblr.com