First, election day, and then
not so strange being close in bed
but first being strange
but not being in bed
being in body kind;
being slow, being not hurried for pleasure
being not at all the fantasie in men’s eyes;
being two, but not us, we
being lips, being breasts,
being you, being me, the bed being round,
plunging line of winter being one,
careful we, cutting away what is death.
Not even necessary, love
but there is love
and earlier there was my sadness for summer again
and the black dog chewed a squirrel
winter people crawled into tin holes.
Election day, I choose you, choose me, choose you
and earlier, the old woman wheeled to the polling place by her son,
a great book in her lap
fat boy in a green jacket, sparrow on a black roof
orange room very dry
but not dry, very lonely
but not lonely
only the blue jay
only the blue jay pecking on the window
not flying but then flying
from the black roof
not hearing my own voice loving for a long time
and then not even necessary, love,
not so strange being close in bed
but first being strange
being in body kind
falling through the fruits of winter
cutting away what is death
Susan Zeni wants her poems to tell the stories of people living on the margins of society. She lived in Manhattan on Avenue A, in Chinatown and in Harlem for five years, Seattle for ten, and is now ensconced back in the Midwest after years of teaching community college. Publications and honors include a Lucille Medwick Award for a poem with an humanitarian theme, “Black Angel,” published in the New York Quarterly, danced by the Erick Hawkins dance troupe, and read up on stage with Gwendolyn Brooks; a Seattle Weekly portrait of Ralph and Mary moved out of their Second Avenue Hotel digs by the Seattle Art Museum; and “The Street Walker’s Guide to Wealth,”recently published by the Minneapolis StarTribune.
Susan gets her kicks playing accordion, having been in a number of bands, including the Polkastra and the all grrrl klezmer band, the Tsatskelehs, as well as performing solo at local art openings, Quaker events, and farmers’ markets.
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.”
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.
This is an act
in which the other is absent
They may or may not
be physically present
but always abstracted
David Leavitt leaves
the house next door
complain to you
of the static – your sex
jammed their headsets
and shocked their children
They would have you believe
what you did was not private
But did anything happen?
you ask yourself hopelessly
It was carnivorous
naming your feelings
seems almost an insult
to the other
when what is wanted
are acts of love
specific as dreams
Paula Bonnell’s poems have appeared in such periodicals as APR, The Hudson Review, Rattle, and Spillway, and in four collections, including Airs & Voices, chosen by Mark Jarman for a Ciardi Prize; Message, a hardcover debut, and two chapbooks: Before the Alphabet, a story in free verse of a child’s kindergarten year, and tales retold, as well as winning awards from the New England Poetry Club, the City of Boston, and Negative Capability, among others. www.paulabonnell.net
Bill Wolak has just published his eighteenth book of poetry entitled All the Wind’s Unfinished Kisses with Ekstasis Editions. His collages have appeared as cover art for such magazines as Phoebe, Harbinger Asylum, Baldhip Magazine, Barfly Poetry Magazine, Ragazine, Cardinal Sins, Pithead Chapel, The Wire’s Dream, Thirteen Ways Magazine, Phantom Kangaroo, Rathalla Review, Free Lit Magazine, Typehouse Magazine, and Flare Magazine.
A long time ago, Ann Marie Sekeres went to art school and learned to paint. She showed a bit around New York in the 90s, but didn’t get where she wanted to be, but did become a very happy museum and nonprofit publicity director and started a family. She found out about the procreate drawing app from an illustrator she hired, stole her kid’s iPad and has been drawing every day since. Follow her work at @annmarieprojects on Instagram.
Grace Gardiner is a British-American non-binary poet and burgeoning intermedia installation artist. They are currently pursuing their PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Missouri, Columbia, where they live with their partner and one too many brown recluses. Find them online at pearlsthatwere.tumblr.com.
The hands that caught me as I entered
the world were the same hands that examined
me at sixteen, back flattened against a white sheet.
There was no discussion of sexual activity,
birth control, or even menstruation.
This man revered by my mother,
told me I could lose weight, told me
to diet, that in his country people are hungry.
My own hands clutched the fabric,
tried to not cry the instant
tears that would come hot in the car.
My place in the world
welled inside me like the ghost
of a boulder, great and silent.
Sarah Lilius is the author of four chapbooks, including GIRL (dancing girl press, 2017), and Thirsty Bones (Blood Pudding Press, 2017). Her work has appeared in the Denver Quarterly, Pithead Chapel, Entropy, and Fourteen Hills. She lives in Virginia with her husband and sons. Her website is sarahlilius.com.
When I was five years old, I said to my mother, I want to be a frittata when I grow up.
No. she said. No, no baby. You can’t be a frittata. Why not? I asked. I love frittatas. I love cracking eggs, I love shredded cheese, and I love the little green bits that you mix into the bowl. Why can’t I be a frittata? Because you’re a Jew, baby. Jews can’t go in the oven, not ever again. Not a toaster oven? No. Not an easy bake oven? No. You can never think about being a frittata, nor write about being a frittata. If you dream about being a frittata, you must wake up and make yourself have new dreams. As Jews, we don’t use the oven. We don’t think about the oven. We can’t look at the oven. The oven is locked in a box, buried underground, and guarded by a man who swallowed the keys nearly a century ago. Those keys are never coming out. My mother put her arm around me and said, Just remember baby. The oven is buried so deep, no one can touch it again. You’ll never become a frittata.
I forgot about wanting to become a frittata. I thought about lots of things I could become instead. I was afraid of the oven, and I did not go near one for many years.
One day, I sat in my office and read that a man in a uniform rammed his truck into a protester’s leg and broke it. Before I could read it again, it was gone, his internal bleeding replaced with clickbait articles, the ambulance ride overridden by ten facts about a topic I could not remember. Four other protestors hit by the truck. An ad for a jacket to cover myself. Pepper spray to their eyes. An op-ed with comments that burned. The man’s uniform said: I-C-E. The protestor’s sign said: Never Again Para Nadie.
I opened my mouth, perched on the ledge of something I wanted to say. Before I could speak, eggs began pouring out. The yolk, wet and warm, dribbled down my lips. I collected them in my lap, and sat, waiting. I wanted an opening to grow in my computer screen, a hot gap I could crawl into. It just had to be large enough that someone else could climb into my body, sit swaying in my office chair, and I could become a frittata.
With each egg from my lips, I thought about a book I saw at my boyfriend’s house called Eggs and Cheese. It showed all the ways you could make eggs and cheese. An omelette, a souffle, a quiche, or a frittata.
My boyfriend did not have a book called Protesters and Cars, which showed all the ways protesters and cars could interact. A protester could ride in a car to a protest, or convince a car to honk in support. You could also hit a protester with a car, stop, then pump the gas pedal and drive through a line of protesters sitting cross-legged on the ground. These are all recipes in a book that has not yet been written.
There is no recipe for a protest. Just like my grandmother said, It’s all guesswork to decide which spices get simmered into the dish midway through. I have never read instructions about who gets to lock eyes with a Rhode Island license plate drawing close and fast.
My computer screen finally cracked open, and I found my grandmother sitting there like a settled stack of dishes. She said, Look up, there you are. She said,
If you want to use the oven then by the grace of God, use it. She said,
Before the existence of ovens, someone baked on hot stones outside and before there were hot stones, there was the sun on your back. She said,
When I bake, I don’t think about Jews and eggs and whether you’re allowed to crack open the ground and dig up boxes with keys in men’s stomachs. She said,
It runs down the back of your neck and trickles down your spine into new generations, then it spreads and sprouts on untouched ground. She said,
Your grandfather only eats cold cereal with milk because he is afraid of the oven. She said,
Breakfast is just news left unopened. She said, If you crawl in here with me you will find out that hiding from the oven is the same as hiding in the oven. The oven is made to be used.
I sat spitting eggs for three more hours, then I turned off my computer and made myself a frittata in my kitchen. I waited for my mother to get home.
Shoshana Lovett-Graff (she/her) is a white, Jewish queer writer originally from New Haven, Connecticut. Her work has been published in Pittsburgh Poetry Journal, The Flexible Persona (nominated for a Pushcart Prize), Atlas + Alice, Poetica, Blink-Ink, and more.
Lining them up against the brick wall,
there is nothing for the sun to bleach.
Tinny, tenacious shrieks
pierce the air and emit an aria.
Metallic, it leaves a poor taste on the tongue,
the kind of putrid fur no scraper can peel.
The sound of bones primordial
against a backdrop of bold, fuzzy shells
hangs over human heads,
calculating, ruminating, no other than a bored specter.
One person struggles to find meaning,
but is left with the other cradling the saw.
Trapped within the jungle’s fury,
even the bones are not themselves.
Morgan Ventura is a writer and folklorist from the Midwest. Her poetry has appeared in The Raven’s Perch, Really Serious Literature, Ghost City Review and is forthcoming in Clockwise Cat, while her essays have been featured in Jadaliyya and Folklore Thursday. When she is not interviewing archaeologists, she enjoys podcasts, experimental film, and exploring ruins. She splits her time between Oaxaca, Chicago, and the forests of Connecticut.