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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I Will Wait For You, Little Strawberry – Shelsea Ochoa

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Photo: Andriyko Podilnyk

I will wait for you,
Little strawberry

I knew you when you were just a little flower
With your yellow belly to the sun
I watched you dancing in the wind
Beaming, being, feeding bees
Held by a beautiful mother plant
Her deep roots locked into the wet soil like a complicated code
Her sturdy leafs collecting light for your existence
You have always been almost pure existence

Now, you are a little green bloop of a thing
I love how you hold your seeds on the outside,
Making it very clear to the birds that may eat you
That being delicious comes second
To a purpose beyond a single strawberry

In this crazy world of squirrels and crows
Nothing in life is guaranteed
So I will not wait to enjoy you
Now, as you are
Hard and green and in-between
I enjoy the wait

Just as I enjoyed the idea of you when you were nothing but an idea
I will enjoy the memory of you once only memory remains
And *squeee* maybe one day I will get to take a juicy bite
Of something so sweet and sunkissed and ruby and dazzling and bold and wow and life and pop and slurp and drippy and mmm!

I will wait for you, little strawberry
Just in case I get the chance


Shelsea Ochoa is a creative powerhouse and community activist. She is an improviser, clown, actor, storyteller, howler, teacher, facilitator, and event producer. Sometimes you can find her on Mars teaching kids about space. Other times she is a sheriff solving a murder mystery. More often than not she is cooking surprisingly good meals with ingredients that can be best described as “questionable”. (Written by her friend and biggest fan Danny.)

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This poem is from the Thought For Food anthology,
a poetry collection benefiting Denver Food Rescue.
You can purchase a copy of the book here.

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Fuck Yes! Souffle – Kevin Quinn Marchman

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Photo: Angel Sinigersky

1. One big ole frying pan. Not just big, but special. You need to decide what shape you want this to come out as. Maybe a stage, or easel or maybe a you-shaped frying pan, but it has gotta be big.

2. Add one cup of vision. Imagine this delicious, gleaming, steaming hot soufflé as the centerpiece.

3. Like, 73 parts preparation. Have each bite, individual flavor and texture of this tasty ass creation mapped out. This ain’t just food, its architecture! Mise-en-place!

4. Vigorously mix that with a dose of expectation and realization. It ain’t gonna look, taste, smell, feel like the picturesque shit you just envisioned. It’s gonna be great, but unexpected. Maybe even better than the meal you had the capacity to imagine at the start of this process.

5. Now you gotta cook. You need a lot of heat. And regular ass fire ain’t gonna cut. No electric, butane, propane or charcoal is gonna cut it. You need some powerful kindling to feed this flame. Pressure, passion, fear, desire, divine inspiration, bullshit, clarity, fun, more fun, frustration, drugs, and love. So much love. Alla dat.

Tip: Cooking time is trickier. You can cook for 1 second or 30 years and still can’t be sure it’s made to satisfaction. Time depends on what you need and when you need it. You can be assured however, that you can always pop that bad boy back in the oven and the flavor is maintained.

Hunger is a gift of priority.
It is felt. It is addressed.
No analysis or doubts are required.
Do not accept morsels when a meal is desired.
Craving is a delicious motivation.

Nourishment is achieved in many ways through many means.

Food for thought or food for soul or simply sustenance.

This dish is garnished with blessings.

Be sure to give thanks.

Most importantly, regardless of shape, ingredients or time…
You must decide the place

and people you wish to share this masterpiece with.


Kevin Quinn Marchman is an actor, producer, teaching artist and writer. He is Co-founder and current Director of Education with the Black Actors Guild. He misses the Denver Nuggets very much and hopes they miss him too.

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This poem is from the Thought For Food anthology,
a poetry collection benefiting Denver Food Rescue.
You can purchase a copy of the book here.

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In Our Own Small Bodies — Violet Mitchell

sad rainbowphoto: Dewang Gupta

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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Tomato Red – Sophie Cardin

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Photo: Daniele Levis Pelusi

 

give it to me tomato red
spread out like
flour all over the counter
cold on my back

mouths burning with
salsa and impulse

cover me with thyme
and brown sugar

dip your fingertips
in the spice jars and let me guess
what is what and which is which

I am gasping, caffeinated, like
the flame marked moka pot,
older than you, than I,
than us both together,
older than this dance, older

than the mothers, and their
pleasure, and their kitchens
filled with smells

leave me someplace warm
so I can rise, in the sun

want feasts on the body
like yeast, souring
as it chews through wheat

the basil is growing from seed
alongside salvaged potato eyes
which watch our backs

I cover everything in cilantro
but you soap-tongued screw
up your face at the taste of it
so I smear honey on my lips, and
bid you lick it off

I sink my hands, up to the elbow
into containers of rice and beans
fancying rain that won’t come till summer

cool like dried legumes and
fine like grains

I draw pictures
in the coffee grounds
spilt at breakfast

run hot water over my hands
until they are red and pink knuckled
wet and clean


Sophie Cardin is a second-year student studying political philosophy and nonviolent theory at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. She was born and raised in Denver. Sophie fell in love with poetry during her early struggles with dyslexia. She is a regular at the Friday Night Poetry Open Mic at the Mercury Cafe and the author of Lust Poems For No One In Particular.

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This poem is from the Thought For Food anthology,
a poetry collection benefiting Denver Food Rescue.
You can purchase a copy of the book here.

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Untitled Haiku – Iris Groot

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Image: Kupono Kuwamura

I wish I could say
I left you behind when I
drove across country

 


Iris Groot is a non-binary artist in Aurora. Driving from city to city for poetry. Meeting amazing and skilled artist. So they have created a Facebook group called poetry people where everyone comes together to share poetry.

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This poem is from the Thought For Food anthology,
a poetry collection benefiting Denver Food Rescue.
You can purchase a copy of the book here.

Thought For Food Promotional 1

I had a wife and could not keep her – Rhienna Renèe Guedry

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Image: Kennet. William Morris, Morris & Co

When you ventured out on
dates with men, we didn’t talk about it
what was there to discuss? It was something you
thought I couldn’t give you
even though my arms were out and so was I
your whole deal was believing yourself to be
too broken to offer your chalice like the
gift of drink it was and not think of curses.
I was always onto you. I played the game—truth or dare,
poison or water, top or bottom— and followed the rules
our friends warned me to take it down a notch to
wait for you to call me for a change.
That’s the thing about the “I told you so’s”
we were as rare as hens’ teeth
ear to a glass against our thin apartment wall
you slipped the l-word in and out then took it
back like the slapping of a bug bite against your shoulder.
I cleared my throat—my heart was so far down it
made the grossest noise to call it back to the cavity where
it belonged ‘cos no one has ever loved you
without a list of reasons why they shouldn’t


Rhienna Renèe Guedry is a writer and artist who found her way to the Pacific Northwest, perhaps solely to get use of her vintage outerwear collection. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in Empty Mirror, Bitch Magazine, Screen Door, Scalawag Magazine, Taking the Lane, and elsewhere on the internet. Find more about her projects at rhienna.com or @chouchoot on Twitter.

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Love in the Time of Covid – Stina French

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Photo: Becky Mattson

Before you got laid off, you worked for Enterprise,
with no sick leave and no wage protection.

You said even the car rentals in Italy were open.
Your roommate feared you’d infect her.
You were the only one who had to leave for work.
You were the only person of color in your house.

You aren’t afraid to die, but, older than you, I am.
In Milan, lines of hearses haul coffins to cremation.
Their drivers can’t stay home, either:
hospitals have no more room to burn bodies.

During a virtual appointment one week into quarantine,
my doctor says a newly diagnosed thyroid disease
puts me in the at-risk group.
She says, don’t become inflamed.

I am putting out fires inside other fires,
but you keep your cool.
You’re out there somewhere,
listening to sunrise.
It feels like I had to shut the door
before you got inside.

We don’t know how long it will be this way.
Sometimes we walk the dog, 6-feet apart,
not holding hands or hugging.
We sleep real late;
we howl at eight;
we send video of ourselves cumming.
I make careful grocery lists,
ask for rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes.
You deliver.

I don’t touch anything you bring
until it’s wiped or sits three days,
but this morning,
my mouth knew your love
as a mango it didn’t ask for.


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Stina French writes mystery, magic-realism, flash memoir, and poetry.  She’s featured in many Colorado venues, and her work has appeared in Heavy Feather Review, Punch Drunk Press, and the podcast Witchcraftsy. She is scratching at the window of her body, writing poems like passwords to get back in.  To get forgived. To get at something like the truth. To get it to go down easy, or at all.  She wears welts from the Bible Belt, her mother’s eyes in the red fall.  She’s gone, hypergraphic.  Writes on mirrors, car windows, shower walls.  Buy her a drink or an expo marker. 

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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.

Thought For Food Promotional 1

#5 April 2020 – Ted Vaca

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Photo: Free To Use Sounds

 

for those that feel

for the mind can not
…………..touch

you

me

we hold each other so close
we squeeze
merge

break through the distance
back from the moon
circle around the globe

I sit next to you
you ask me if the canyon spirit
is going to die

we shelter in place
on a small bench
by the fountain
in Civic Center
surrounded by trees

“we have to rely
on ourselves
to keep it alive”
I say

the wind blows
people are howling
and their loneliness
and yearning
for all that they once held
burns through the dusk

you ask me if
i can feel it

“feel what” I ask

“the wild return”
you say

“of what”
I say

“of everything we ever loved
and never could tame”


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Ted Vaca Denver poet father lover crime fighter / semi holy somewhat sweet can be bitter / published here and there / Founder of The Mercury Cafe poetry slam / Coach of the 2006 Championship Denver Slam Team / Member of the 1995 Championship Slam Team from Asheville NC / Intergalactic Provocateur

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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.

Thought For Food Promotional 1

The Mechanics of Food Assistance in a Grocery Store Line – Dennis Etzel Jr.

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Photo: Peter Bond

what is taking so long? someone asks
with plastic card in hand
I will still hand over supplemental checks
like nails that board up a boat

I call them life savers out of need
even for these staples
while a scan and rescan of each item
ensures eligibility because even if WIC stickers

are misplaced on the shelves the register
has the final say and I am ready so ready
to turn around if someone gives me the drill
or again remarks it must be nice to get free food

I’ll iron out their words with my defenses
hey I’m a working professor and father
adding how I qualify as poor how my wife and I
were drilled at the food assistance office

hammered by every question
from someone who speaks in the tone
of a kindergarten teacher so my boys
will have food at the end of the month

unlike so many children in this town
even the retired chaplain who overheard
kids could get a free lunch
said why don’t they get a job


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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.

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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.

Thought For Food Promotional 1