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

Shutting Me Up By Rivka Yeker

Shutting Me Up

Men will leave you
feeling like you did

something wrong.

They will leave and

You will apologize
over and over again
I’m Sorry I’m Sorry

They will mope,
their heads down
embarrassed.

When was the last time
a man treated me like
someone that had
something to say,

without first
covering my
lips with their
tongue?

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.

Learning to Dance By Urvi Kumbhat

Learning to Dance

She untangles the knots in my hair,
Running the fine-toothed comb
With the rhythm of an experienced hand
Calloused and work-worn, steady—
She massages the scalp of a teenager.
She is not much older than me,
Her innocent face shimmers with sweat,
The fake silver on her nose glints metallic.
She has just finished washing the clothes
And now she is bathed in the light—
The fluorescent light of my study table
Unable to read the words I type about her,
Unable to understand if I read them to her.
My head shakes under her gentle fingers
The oil is dripping through my hair,
Hair that she nourishes with
Passion far greater than mine
It is just hair after all—
And she can massage it for me.

But our household help has a daughter,
The very light of her life—
She came to stay with us twice,
A bubbly girl of 9, bright as the sun.
And as her mother molds my hair
Curving it into a neat braid,
I think of her short unruly hair
Spinning in the air as she dances.
The next time she came, I played music
She stood still, her hands behind her back
She smiled sheepishly, silently.
Her grandmother in the village
Told her that good girls don’t dance.
It took me two whole days of coaxing
To convince her to sway to the music.
I finger the symmetrical bumps in my hair,
And I wonder who told our maid not to dance.
I think of her daughter’s education.
Her mother will send her to school,
Only as long as she has the money
And so when my own mother tells me
Our maid quit and found a better-paying job
I think of her daughter learning how to dance
And suppress the sadness that comes
With realizing I may never see her again.

By Urvi Kumbhat

Biography:

Urvi Kumbhat is a rising second year at the University of Chicago, and can usually be found curled into various gravity defying positions on her bed. She grew up thinking that she had to write when she could not do, but has come to realize that writing is her favorite kind of doing. When she isn’t writing strangely cryptic bios, she is reading, dancing (with or without music), drinking coffee and occasionally studying.

I WAS DRUNK WHEN I WROTE THIS By Ari Eastman

I WAS DRUNK WHEN I WROTE THIS

so this is the poem where I say I think
I drink too much
where I say

you’ll meet me at the bar on Magnolia and see how quickly my cheeks flush

that everyone else can drink
more

so there’s no way
I could have a problem, I must be overreacting,

must be in my head

I’m not a social drinker, I say

to no one

I say in my head
but force it out
with the last glass of wine

You’re right.
I do not pound shots
or wake up in foreign beds
or any other Hollywood way
we’ve decided to paint addiction

so this is the poem where I ask,
what does it mean if it’s in my bedroom?

Me and a bottle,
and I don’t make mistakes
and I don’t wreck cars
and I don’t say things
I wouldn’t say
sober

But this world doesn’t feel okay
unless I’ve got something
in my system

it doesn’t feel good
to be alone without

a numbing agent

I make a joke about not being an alcoholic
and my friend chuckles,
“Not yet.”

and she laughs,
and I taste my grandfather’s stomach bile, how liquor tore through his body
until it was crumpled on the floor, something for my mom
to find,
a belated birthday gift.

is that not something to be concerned about?

is that not something
to announce
in a room?

By Ari Eastman

Biography:

Ari Eastman is a spoken word poet, writer, and mental health activist. Her work has been featured in Thought Catalog, The Rising Phoenix Review, and Words Dance Publishing. She is also the author of two other collections of poetry with a third one coming out fall 2016. She currently resides in California and enjoys crying to old Buffy The Vampire Slayer episodes.

A STUDY OF THE PHOENIX AS A FLAME By Stephanie Tom

A STUDY OF THE PHOENIX AS A FLAME

If you’ve ever heard of the legend of the phoenix,
then you know that every time it nears death,
it throws itself onto a pyre and burns,
before being reborn as a fledgling again.
It has learned, in all of its lives, the sanctity of life.
As humans, we are unable to burn more than once;
but in accordance to reincarnation,
Buddhists and Hindus, among others, know that
life is about evolution. (The argument can be made that
Darwin knew that, too, but biology has only proven to be
fallible when body is able to break mind, and vice versa.)

It can also be argued, upon observation, that
the phoenix, being born from fire after death,
has been both flame and fledgling,
driving the question of which came first.
There is no answer – the phoenix has simply
been living in loops, been reincarnated so many times
that it has adapted the flame as its own feathers.
The phoenix, therefore, has characteristics of both
the flame and the fledgling – the
scorching tongue and claws of fire, the
bright-eyed purity of a baby bird born from new ground, the
bold colors and roaring heart of flame, and the
soft of fledgling that would eventually grow tough.
By harnessing a dual nature, the phoenix has learned
to become bigger than itself, and adapt; it has become
the paragon of evolution, by adopting and becoming the traits
that would define it in all aspects of its lives.
The phoenix has learned how to be fire and ice,
rock and feather at the same time; it has learned
to bare itself inside out, because everything that it is
is everything that it was and ever will be.

There’s something to be said for
the language of life that a phoenix can teach us.
Hopefully, despite the fact that we can only burn once,
it isn’t too late to learn how to evolve.

By Stephanie Tom

Biography:

Stephanie Tom is a high school student who lives in New York and likes to scour the internet for contemporary poetry. She is an editor for her school newspaper, an assistant editor for her school literary magazine, and has more works in progress than she can handle at the moment.

Consolation By Melanie Corning

Consolation

a poem for Philando Castile.

There is no consolation
when a light goes out like this:
a thirty-two year old black man dead
because he “looked like a suspect”
while driving with his family
after haircuts and grocery shopping
ten days before his birthday.

There is no comfort
for the four year old who witnessed his execution
from her backseat car seat viewpoint
and then told her crying mother,
“It’s okay Mommy, I’m right here with you.”

There are no words
for forty-nine traffic stops in thirteen years,
for five bullets and no first aid,
for hundreds of others like him.

There is no consolation for any of this,
but if there were, it might be the dozens of children
at the J. J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in St. Paul–
where he worked as a cafeteria supervisor
and was known as Mr. Phil–
who loved him.

And it could also be their parents
who took to the internet to praise him,
their gentle “Mr. Rogers with dreadlocks.”
So much more than a suspect
or another dead thug.

And the fact is
those young people will carry a bit of him
everywhere they go for their rest of their lives,
his memory hitching a ride through time without him

like starlight
that hurtles on through space for light years
even after the star is extinguished,
hauling thousands of wishes across the night sky,
allowing us to hope.

By Melanie Corning

Biography:

Melanie Corning is a writer and teacher in Boston. She recently finished her MA in English at Middlebury’s Bread Loaf School, where she learned to love both poetry and mountains. Her work has appeared in the Bread Loaf Journal and in a Google Drive folder called “drafts.”

juntos By Talia Flores

juntos

in the middle of full-bodied days
you’ll watch the boys play fútbol
sometimes,

their shoulders arched like God
plucked them from their sockets,
the sun a dry eye.

the sun is crescented like heaven-
like their eagle-feather skin, your
almost-azúcar tongue,

& they yell their graveyard yells

(mama, somethin’ must be dyin’!)

& you can’t help but bubble laughter
like an ocean’s crying.

you’re young & you still don’t know
that wait (esperar) & hope (esperar)

taste the same.
when you’re old you will only

hope to wait, to not be shot by
white-eyed up-tights & los chismosos,

no, racism deserves a grosser word
than digression. espera que you will

be more than dark hips, stuck-slick
names.

espera hasta they’re head
over head.

By Talia Flores

Biography:

Talia Flores is the recipient of the 2015 Texas Book Festival Fiction Prize and has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Her work appears or is forthcoming in National Poetry Quarterly, Words Dance, Souvenir Lit Journal, Gigantic Sequins, and more. She was a mentee in The Adroit Journal’s Mentorship Program, and she works as a reader for Polyphony H.S. and as an editorial intern for The Blueshift Journal. She will be attending Stanford University in the fall.

Kingdom: 1980’s By Majda Gama

Kingdom: 1980’s

My country was young, so was I.
Oil gushed out & diplomats rushed in,
mirrored skyscrapers filled the horizon—
one mirage replaced by another.
We recited quran, sang nasheed al-watan
every morning in the also-young decade—
The 1980’s sprung neon along the Red Sea.

& my thoughts revolved with smuggled
new wave cassettes, my driver believed
the tape deck malfunctioned when
The Human League sang Love Action.
The banishment of Madonna incited a run
on hair dye: Like a Virgin was haram
so I listened: weren’t we also shiny & new?

Overnight, new roads led out of Jeddah—
asphalt untied the desert with long fingers.
I was never born to drive it so I dreamed
from the backseat that the new airport
& compounds would bring the world to me.
Weren’t we fresh, weren’t we ripe?
We were richer, more fruitful than the top note
Wafting off a flask of Drakkar Noir.

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.

 

when we get lost in the woods after dark & i seek solace in your arms Caseyrenée Lopez

when we get lost in the woods after dark & i seek solace in your arms

my skin is wilted,
bruised peach tender.

i let swarms of bees
taste the nectar inside

my mouth. it’s bitter
on your tongue, sweet

to the ghost of me.
i wrap my thighs

in sun baked leaves,
sweat out the poison

of body shame, fatphobia.
i spit honey like venom,

erase myself repeatedly.
birds flock to the mountain

peaks i’ve created,
stacked miles high in

discarded bones.
you laugh when i’m

mean, avert your eyes,
maybe suck your teeth,

before lolling your head
to one side, limp and full

of regrets. my skin is no
more mine than yours

but it feels like a path
carved out of public

land, walked on for miles,
while we dance in the dark.

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.

IF A BODY CATCH A BODY By Cate LeBrun

IF A BODY CATCH A BODY

every 21 days I say to a mirror, start over.
I grab a stomach that doesn’t sleep, try to love my hands
around it. dog ears on the heels of days- what happened
Monday? when there was wind and I smelled like sweat.
I wear news about relapses like long sleeves, fingers
pink and hot with scar tissue. I tell myself February
will not be wrapped in sheets and I tell myself that
neither will I but I know a lie when I taste one
and this one’s a doozy. the next-day phone calls
heave dead words, leave dead animals in my lap.
I breathe stale, cement breaths. I’m bored with stories
that stir up memories, sturdy like thrift-store frames

meanwhile
my magnet rivers pool iron, the rusted bloodlines
yell and sing against the current
foaming at the mouth in the face of the elements

somewhere after I hold your face in my hands
and know I will not go anywhere. I will start over-
I am trying to love myself. maybe it’s the
same way men in boats love the catch they release
this floating past coming, going, swelling, bloating
I tell myself: breathe.
I tell myself: let go.

tomorrow
I will look in the mirror and know
I am someone to return to, I am someone I want
to steer home. you are someone to find
home in me.

By Cate LeBrun

Biography:

Cate LeBrun is a writer and special education teacher from Pasco, Washington. She enjoys the hell out of dad jokes, kindness, and the view of Mt. Rainier on a sunny day. Her work has been published in Words Dance Magazine, Gonzaga University’s Reflection, and on her mom’s refrigerator. You can find her at caterosewrites.tumblr.com, along with poetry and prose surrounding the issues of addiction, recovery, and the beauty in this gorgeous, broken world.