Silence Becomes Them – Brian Byrdsong

Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

Eddie opened his eyes and saw a pair of greyish eyes staring back at him. Amidst his sleepy stupor, he failed to immediately recognize that they were the eyes of his boyfriend, Arno. His first thought, once he realized who was staring back at him, was about the reasons Arno could have to hover over him. His second thought was wondering why Arno’s mouth was duct-taped. 

Arno gestured to Eddie, placing a single finger over his duct-taped mouth, and turned around to grab a piece of paper. He quickly whipped himself around again and held the paper up. In large letters, Eddie saw the words “Don’t Speak.” Eddie, thinking this was some sort of awkward or poorly executed prank, he yelled at Arno. 

“Why not!”

Jagged shapes materialized in front of Eddie’s mouth and flew at Arno, violently pushing him against the wall. Arno once again lifted the piece of paper and held it up. He pointed at it, reinforcing the message it contained. 

Eddie ran over to Arno and hugged him. He could not help but let out a small whisper apologizing for his mistake. Eddie immediately suffered the consequences. He felt hundreds of little shapes in his mouth, escaping slowly and burning his lips and tongue. Eddie clenched his jaw and tried to stop himself from vocalizing anymore. Eddie ran his hands all around Arno, checking for injuries and breathed in relief after he found none. 

He gestured for Arno to follow him and led him to the computer. It seemed that in his fear, Arno had not had the wherewithal to see if this strange phenomenon was happening anywhere else. He flipped the laptop open and backed away, afraid that the start-up sound may just slap him across the face. Much to his joy, it didn’t. He searched the first news site he could think of. Breaking news was highlighted and flashing in black and red at the top of the website’s homepage. It was an article. It stated that, in no uncertain terms, a global phenomenon was happening. 

All around the world, apparently, reports were sent in, in the form of videos. One of the videos showed a spectator loudly marveling at the heads carved into Mt. Rushmore. Those shapes materialized, but from this person, who Eddie assumed was yelling, the shapes were huge. They knocked off the nose of George Washington; another showed the Coliseum being crumbled by a crowd of young men who had already decided to harness their voices to cause trouble. 

Eddie couldn’t bear to continue watching the destruction and slammed the laptop closed. Arno gently rubbed Eddie’s back. Eddie could tell that Arno wanted to comfort him with his words, as he had frequently done in the past, and Eddie wanted that too. It pained him that he couldn’t hear Arno’s sweet, yet, lazy sounding voice dole out the wisdom that he needed. 

Eddie decided that all they could do was to keep living as usual, even though that was difficult to do. Neither Eddie nor Arno could go to work. If the school in which Arno worked had still been in session, Arno might have killed all the children in an attempt to teach. Eddie was a public speaker by trade. His very livelihood depended on his voice, and, if he couldn’t use it, he’d be destitute. So, they confirmed by email that all upcoming schedules were canceled and hoped that this whole thing would subside. 

But, despite their greatest hopes, the unexplainable weaponization of human sound continued. Day in and day out, Arno and Eddie kept passing notes, like schoolboys holding on to a secret that they daren’t share with anyone else, like Eddie did with his first crush. Back then, it was exhilarating. Now, it was exhausting. 

For weeks they lived like this. They watched reruns of the shows they liked. They watched a bunch of old movies that they never had time to view. Then, the day came that they ran out of food. Their fridge was barren. All that remained was a semi-empty jug of milk and a bottle of ketchup. They decided to make the drive to the city. The closer they got to it, the more in disbelief they became. Entire buildings were toppled. Roads had been destroyed.  But, like a canary in a coal mine, miraculously, the grocery store appeared pristine.

Walking in for them felt eerie. No one spoke. There were no pleasant ‘hellos’ or thank you’s,’ there was only the deafening silence that had plagued them for weeks. As they shopped, something stopped them in their tracks. The grocery store used to have music play as customers shopped. Now, the grocery store had replaced them with televisions, that would let its patrons know if anything urgent was being addressed. On those televisions, a vital address from the president began to roll across the screen. The president’s address outlined the mandatory changes that would sweep across the country. 

  1. ASL was now the official spoken language of the United States. 
  2. Speaking would now be considered a crime. Those who were arrested for the offense would be placed in a facility that would most likely withstand the power of their voice. 

Eddie and Arno were dumbfounded. They wondered whether there was truly no solution to this situation. The next few years would prove that thought true. Movies and TV became a thing of the past. Those who tried to record them were jailed for public endangerment. The world, or the world that Eddie knew, became a slower and more friendly place. A place in which people’s feelings could no longer be voiced immediately. It became a world of text. 

But, for any of the good that came about, there were plenty of negative aspects as well as well. Incarceration rates tripled. Protests for change could largely be ignored, and if they weren’t, more often than not, that meant that a building had been shouted down as a statement. The decrease in entertainment sales dealt a massive blow to the economy. Birth rates dropped, as no one could quite figure out how to get babies to be silent all the time. There were more newborn orphans than ever, as many children who were born had unknowingly killed their parents, or the parents simply realized there were not up to the task of risking their lives daily to raise a child.  

For Eddie and Arno, things were mostly okay. Eddie had made and saved quite a bit of money from his career. It was enough to retire on, and that’s precisely what he did. But as comfortable as they were, alone in their middle of nowhere home, Eddie wished things had remained the same. He missed speaking in front of crowds, he missed the sounds of people. He missed the person who would whistle as they walked down the street. He missed the sound of ridiculous advertisements. He missed what he now felt was the most critical part of the human experience…having a voice. 


Brian Byrdsong is a gay, black, bilingual writer living in Denver, CO. Originally from Georgia, he’s called Colorado home since 2010, when he moved there to attend the University of Northern Colorado. He has degrees in both Spanish and Communications. When he’s not writing, he enjoys playing video games with his partner and spending time with his cat, Mew. @arrythmicbyrd Instagram.com/arrythmicbyrd www.abyrdmind.com

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In Our Own Small Bodies — Violet Mitchell

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your breasts hang in a fog & you can no longer see the ceiling or clouds & can no longer
feel your (   ) you do not know where they are

his jeans ripped at the knee showed hair (   ) & dried scraps he says unreasons says hair says bodies says sweat says it won’t matter once it’s done

a pear split so that you could dig out the seed to see what you’ve always wanted to rid (         )

hexagon breath turning like a wheel up your throat clunky like (          it was man-made          ) the air was yellow & glittering sharp a fast sun was it always so full-bodied

until then you had always loved yellow

it was like a side stitch after running too far it pierced that you looked to the stars & ran to find thread sew sew sew it tighter

your opening is gone it is red & songblue it wasn’t firework it wasn’t a redred balloon it was a dried puddle

set of drawers with kids’ clothing the shade of moths’ wings holes absorbing the mahogany grief this is the morning you decide your new outfit

it was late late light loose hair clinging to plastic rose petals       quiet & dry

(       ) you kept wanting to close the shades to stop the light to just know the lick of darkness to just be in it & not be talked at about pointed stars & wishes they made

if you are caught in quicksand you have to lay down flat spread your limbs hold your weight in your chest you must face palms up & open like the sky you watch who is blue & counting ( close) your eyes (think) of water (think) of the year the flood came & swept your home away

he said he found a ring it was diamonds cut from earth just like you how you were born he slipped it over your ankles, thighs, hips (   *   ) & when he reached your stomach rock after rock fell out of you & became the ring became a gift of the earth’s ground


Violet Mitchell is a Denver-based writer and artist. She earned a B.A S. in cognitive literary studies and is completing an MFA degree in creative writing poetry, both from Regis University. Her work has been published in Heavy Feather Review, The Blue Route, Sixfold, Word for Word, ANGLES, Furrow Magazine, and several other journals. She received the Robert A. O’Sullivan, S.J. Memorial Award for Excellence in Writing in 2019.

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Standing at the Edge of the World — Alyssa Jordan

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Photo: Kyle Ryan

i. In the garden, Jena thrives.

Loneliness has transformed into electric-green cacti and short, spiny plants. Anxiety raises flowers that look vibrant and oily in the daylight. Restlessness enriches the earth, coloring flora with a spill of magenta, a blaze of orange.

In the end, fear evaporates entirely under the sun. It turns into the soil caked under her nails, the wet clumps that stick to her thighs and the back of her knees.

This garden takes terrible things and puts them to good use.

At least, that’s what she tells herself.

 

ii. When Jena is eight, her father picks her up from school and drives for two days straight.

He tells her it’s for the best.

Sometimes, he says, running is the only thing a person can do.

The farther they drive, the quieter she becomes. Tears dry to salt on her skin. Beneath their feet, the thunderous rhythm has become something dangerous.

In her mind, she disappears.

Jena feels safe amongst the shrubs. She can easily envision this sanctuary, and so she builds it. Trees and plants and birds sprout from the ground. They start as feathery buds with paper-thin roots. As their bodies take shape, her father’s voice thins into the breeze, his face hardens to bedrock.

Every time fear creeps in, her hands form fists. With the garden she can outrun it, outmatch it, and she barely has to wait before it subsides in the grass.

 

iii. Jena doesn’t know it yet, but theirs will be a life on the move.

It will start with a string of motels. Each one will be indistinguishable from the next, with their jelly-lit signs, the soap slivers that cut her skin. They will turn into a monochromatic blur of vending machines and scratchy sheets and stained walls.

Soon, she won’t be able to fall asleep without barks of laughter, or the drone of a generator. It will feel unnatural to sit outside the cramped design of a car. Most of her spare time will be spent in a garden that never changes.

Years will pass before she is home again, standing in a room that no longer feels like her own.


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Alyssa Jordan is a writer living in the United States. She pens literary horoscopes for F(r)iction Series. Her stories can be found or are forthcoming in The Sunlight PressX–R-A-Y Literary MagazineReflex Fiction, and more. When she’s not writing, she’s hanging out with her partner or watching too many movies. You can find her on Twitter @ajordan901 and Instagram @ajordanwriter.

Things you don’t say at the dinner table, which in my case growing up was anything. – Bruce Sterling

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Image: Federica Campanaro

I avoided speaking for fear of communication
or maybe humiliation.
I didn’t know how to talk
or specifically
to speak their language without reprisal.

Slipping up in our household was tantamount to losing
and losing was bad
and bad is how I felt
for much of my life.
See shame runs deep
in my family
which
coincidentally is quite a shame.


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Who is this Bruce Sterling character? Some call him philosopher, some call him dad. Nobody calls him a poet but that doesn’t stop him from crafting lines into something just about good enough to read. Without any formal training he seems to hold his own at the beloved Writer’s Block’s weekly writing events. He’s known to say, “Spending time with the poetry community is the only sane thing to do in this world. It fosters creativity, acceptance and huge amounts of love and frankly not much else matters.” Bruce is published in Spit Poet and Writer’s Block zines.

This poem is from our first print collection
of poetry,  “Thought For Food”, an anthology
benefiting Denver Food Rescue. To support
our fundraiser, please visit this link.

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I’m Not Ready For Curbside – Dennis Etzel, Jr.

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Image: The Visuals Project, Charles Deluvio

especially after the last time
our pizza was made by hand
sanitizer, but I believe in second
toppings & chances. I wear my mask
covered with butterflies & wonder
if the young man in the next car
chuckles at me for taking that chance
in nature-filled protection
while he has no fabric for his mouth.
I don’t want to speak for him
as a ventriloquist but I am uneasy
& worried out here in my sky
watching for birds & clouds
& the coming storm that may
or may not happen. Of course
this is me daydreaming
of last year where every surface
was immaculate as we drift
together in a winged migration
back inside. I have to admit
I have cash to pay with & can
include a nice tip as I also have time
to embrace this time. We all can
wait outside together as three birds
swoop in a motion many never do.
After the cashier hands me my pizzas
in their warm boxes, I can pause
one more time here searching
to remember when I offered change
or leftover food to anyone as a cardinal
stops for a discarded crust.


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Dennis Etzel Jr. lives in Topeka, Kansas with Carrie and the boys where he teaches English at Washburn University. His work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, BlazeVOX, Fact-Simile, 1913: a journal of poetic forms, 3:AM, Tarpaulin Sky, DIAGRAM, and others.

Submit | Poetry Anthology Raising Money for Denver Food Rescue

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Photo: Jonas Renner

SUBMISSIONS FOR THOUGHT FOR FOOD ARE CLOSED.

YOU CAN VISIT OUR FUNDRAISER FOR THOUGHT FOR FOOD HERE.

In these times of COVID-19 and social isolation, many people are out of work and lacking the resources necessary to even feed themselves.

South Broadway Press, the parent LLC of South Broadway Ghost Society, would like to help suppport local non-profit Denver Food Rescue by raising funds through an anthology of poetry entitled “Thought For Food”.

Denver Food Rescue

What Denver Food Rescue does:

We increase health equity with Denver neighborhoods by rescuing high-quality, fresh produce and perishable foods that would otherwise be thrown away by grocery stores, farmers markets, and produce distributors. With the help of our amazing volunteers, the food we rescue is delivered (often biked!) to Denver neighborhoods for direct distribution at No Cost Grocery Programs (NCGPs).  NCGPs are co-created with existing community organizations like schools, recreation centers, and nonprofits that are already established and trusted within the neighborhood, decreasing transportation barriers. Residents of the NCGP community lead the distribution of rescued food, and many also help with food rescue shifts. This participation decreases stigma of traditional food pantries, empowering each neighborhood to create a program that is appropriate for their culture & community.

“Food For Thought” will be an anthology featuring a single poem by each selected contributor. Copies of “Thought For Food” will be available to contributors for $6. They will sell to other folks for $15 each.

Poems can be on any theme. If you’d like to be prompted, consider writing on the theme of food, or on life in the face of a pandemic.

“Thought For Food” marks South Broadway Press’ first release.

Submissions for this project will close on May 11th of 2020.

We will accept previously published materials.

If you would like to submit please send an email to submissions@soboghoso.org with the following information:

Subject: THOUGHT FOR FOOD

  1. Your name.
  2. A brief 100-word-or-less bio.
  3. Up to three poems as a Word document or a Google Doc. We are not paying contributors for this project, but contributor copies will be available at a discounted rate of $6 each.

Please email us at submissions@soboghoso.org with any questions.

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Photo: Kristof Zerbe

 

For Your Peace of Mind — Alyssa Jordan

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photo by: Hadley Jin

She likes to pull out her pubic hair one at a time. She waits until a forest of spindly black vines has grown between her thighs, eagerly anticipating how strong each strand will be, how thick the roots will have become.

Little slivers of pain accompany the loss of each hair. She studies the water-encapsulated tip, the fibrous black strand. She would like to uproot other things. If she could, she’d start with all the people who have caused her pain.

Mostly, she’d like to uproot the people she hears about on the news, the ones who are sometimes women but usually men.

She likes to imagine her hand gripping a pair of tweezers, snapping the pincers open and shut—like a hungry alligator—before fitting the silver tongs around each of their heads, pulling them out at the root.

Each time she tweezes her pubic hair, the pain gets a little sharper. Her smile grows a little wider.

How nice it is, she thinks, to clear the debris.


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Alyssa Jordan is a writer living in the United States. She pens literary horoscopes for F(r)iction Series. Her stories can be found or are forthcoming in The Sunlight Press, X–R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Reflex Fiction, and more. When she’s not writing, she’s hanging out with her partner or watching too many movies. You can find her on Twitter @ajordan901and Instagram @ajordanwriter.

Body Sculpt: Suffer for Beauty – Addison Herron-Wheeler

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Photo: Viktor Talashuk

She went in wanting the standard procedure, about 50 percent less body fat, no more skin on the eyelids, just lashes fluttering from the skull, and a sculpting procedure to get rid of every wrinkle, dimple, cellulite ridge, and blemish.

The red on her cheeks was washed clean, the red spots on her breasts and thighs erased. Her hairlines was brought forward so her blond bangs dangled close to the long lashes.

She also opted for the stakes driven into her heels to improve her posture and keep her spine straight. The gossamer gown they had given her, which at first clung to her every crevice and curve like a hug, now hung loose over a stick-like frame. She thought she could feel her ribs growing.

Her blood was thinned, her saliva replaced with perfume. Her ears were made smaller; her nose was removed. They cut off the tips of her fingers to make them proportional to her feet.

When it was all done, she put on a black, velvet robe and looked in the mirror. “You have to suffer for beauty” she mouthed, her thin lips pursed, her skin glowing neon blue.

She felt her ribs heaving as though they wanted to escape her body. She smiled, batting her eyelids, feeling the velvet on her tight skin. “You have to suffer.”


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Addison Herron-Wheeler is editor of OUT FRONT Magazine, web editor of New Noise Magazine, and an avid sci-fi and metal nerd. Her first collection of fiction, Respirator, will be out in 2020 on Spaceboy Books

Diaries of a Lost Pregnancy – Amanda E.K.

 

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Photo by Hello I’m Nik 🎞

 

Diaries of a Lost Pregnancy

5.18.17

Yes, Doctor, I will take a pregnancy test. I’ve been nauseous since last Thursday.

I’m in pain. I’m three days late.

5.24.17

Pelvic ultrasound to try and figure out this pain. Still haven’t heard back from the doctor.

5.30.17

I bought a stick on my way home from work. Called doctor again and they still won’t release my results. This all feels a bit dystopian and surreal.

A little too Twin Peaks: The Return.

My pain is invalidated by the people who can help me.

I’ve been nauseous and I’m never nauseous and my boobs hurt as though gripped in a vice.

Oh kill this thing inside me if it does indeed exist! 

Drinking wine and eating Twinkies that I bought along with the store brand stick. 

My husband is out of the country. I’m scared and alone.

5.31.17 

6:30 am: 

The test is positive

11:59 pm:

I wonder if it would be a boy or a girl. I stretch my face in the mirror, imagining the combination of our features. Not that I want it. It’s only thought-play.

I don’t go to bed. I go for a walk after dark, to Observatory Park, walking in shadows, spinning on playground spinners, stumbling up a tree, swinging as high as I can go for as long as Radiohead’s “Ful Stop” plays on headphones.

I need to be higher, or lower, and since I don’t have any digging tools, up I go.

Sometimes the traffic outside my window sounds like music.

I scheduled an abortion outside an elementary school.

6.1.17

Started miscarrying during my preschool students’ graduation.

Started crying in front of the families, saying how much their children have meant to me. Several moms teared up and gave me hugs. 

My student Mariah asked me: Ms. Amanda, why are you crying? Me: I have a tummy ache. 

Crying after coming back from the bathroom, finding blood, not knowing what was happening to my body, my co-teacher asking if I’m okay and I shake my head, dissolve into tears.

I translated a message into Arabic for Elyas’s mom about how he’s been one of my favorite students and I’ll miss him. She teared up and hugged me and I felt such love for her. Translated a message into Spanish for Ricardo’s mom. I will miss the daily diversity of being a classroom teacher.

I will miss my beautiful little family.


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Amanda E.K. is the editor-in-chief of Denver’s Suspect Press. She’s also a writing instructor and a longstanding member of the Knife Brothers writing group. Her work has been featured on the Denver Orbit podcast and on Mortified Live. She has work in Suspect Press, Birdy, Jersey Devil Press, the 2018 Punch Drunk Press Poetry anthology, and Green Briar Review. She’s currently working on a memoir about her sexual development while growing up in evangelical purity culture, and she is co-writing a television series. FB: /AmandaEK  Twitter: @AmandaEKwriter  Insta: @amanda.ek.writer

Growl – Eden Axx

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You call me beautiful, cruel, tired, washed in red light, starved.
I am all of it, an aching stomach feeding off of its own lining.
My insides break down a little more with every step I take,
Towards you or away,
The loss of myself has nothing to do with you,
Despite your self-inflated groanings,
Protests of your worth to me.
I am waiting only for your inevitable decay,
All rot and words I never asked for out of a mouth I would eat clean off of your skull if given half the chance.
I am full of empty space you were never able to fill up,
But there is nothing I would not try to ease my insides growling
My stomach is a shattered gap
A thin mucous lining is the only distance protecting you from my acid
My thin body-shaped lining is the only distance protecting me from your criticism
I speak your skeleton thin language,
Or so you think, when you feed me bones,
Starved carcass of an animal you say you once loved.
I scoop handfuls of dirt down my throat,
Buried alive inside out
My gravestone teeth gnashing famished
I have never been full
Hungry stomach rumble is the drumline of my life, if it were beautiful. If it were a song.
I was never taught to be tame,
Leather wrapped ravenous
Rattle-boned desperation
My ribcage is made of zipties straining to break,
Every labored breath and ground clawed step is a victory
You see me, peckish hollow bone bird in a gilded cage by your desk,
But I am fever dream lullaby, snake in your garden while your eyes are closed, listening to the music
It’s a wish you’ve made to stars that burned out long before your birth
That you could be enough.
But you return to my room and find pinched thin  skinny.
You watch as I open my mouth and blood pours out, papercuts deep in my throat, shredded remains of all your love letters caught between my sharp stained teeth.
I know you see my open grave future in my sunken cheeks and light-lost eyes.
You kiss me, cracked lip craving in a room where the walls know only howling
There’s half a chance, here.
A lion doesn’t wait for prey when it emaciates
They aren’t deliberately cruel, lions.
But you called me beautiful,
And I waited for you.
I don’t know how to breathe when I eat.
I leave gasping.
I leave bloody, and still growling.
We both knew you could never sate me.


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Hey, I’m Eden. I like lizards and poetry and eating the flesh of politicians. Follow me on Instagram @edenaxx for completely unrelated content, by which I mean only selfies.