Election Day – Susan Zeni

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Photo: Pamela Calloway

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
careful we
falling through the fruits of winter
cutting away what is death


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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.

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

Sex at the Airport – Paula Bonnell

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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
Arriving passengers
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
they accuse
and yet
naming your feelings
seems almost an insult
to the other
when what is wanted
are acts of love
serum-filled
specific as dreams


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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

Art by Bill Wolak

 

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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.

Temple of Christ – Amanda E.K.

 

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Photo by Bianca Berg

 

 

Temple of Christ

In the dressing room, pre-photoshoot, the others start to strip down and change into their costumes. I stand frozen, clothes in my arms that I planned to change into in the bathroom, but now that everyone’s changing out in the open I feel prudish for seeking privacy.

 

I’m taken back to middle school, high school locker rooms—to changing rooms at the pool, and to sleepovers where I was the only one who seemed to be anxious about showing my body. The only one who seemed to think that bodies weren’t for flaunting, or even for being comfortable letting other people see. 

 

I hear that old voice tell me: “This isn’t allowed for you, even if it’s allowed for others.” It’s the voice that tells me to lessen myself, to withdraw, to separate. (Be in the world, not of it.) It’s a childlike feeling, like when adults tell you to plug your ears and close your eyes because you’re not old enough to know what they know.

 

I was told my body was a temple of Christ, and though I’m no longer a Christian I’m alarmed to realize I still believe this. Not that my body belongs to Jesus like a temporary gift to take care of—but that it’s something to earn. I still believe the sight of my naked body must be earned. That I shouldn’t reveal it to just anyone, and that the people who do see me and touch me should feel privileged to do so.

 

Where is the line between vanity and self-respect?

 

The Church made me believe my body is nothing but sexual.

 

Standing in the corner of the room, awkward and quiet, I’m surprised and frustrated to realize I still have these inclinations toward body-shyness (especially since I spend most of my time at home in the nude). 

 

It feels wrong to see the other women’s naked breasts, their butts. I try not to look, but can’t avoid it. But for them it seems like nothing, completely natural. 

 

I think: Should I be just as comfortable? Is that really okay?

 

So I take off my shirt (facing the wall). I feel silly for my discomfort. (It’s no big deal, after all.) Maybe I’m worried I’ll be aroused, and that arousal is inappropriate. But it’s not that. It’s hard to reframe messages instilled when you are young. But now that I’m aware I can start.


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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

Art by Ann Marie Sekeres

 

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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. 

popping knuckles doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you – Zach Marcum

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Photo: Louis Hansel

have been stealing roommate’s Babybel mini cheese-wheels one by one over the past few weeks.

saw person swooshing metal detector back and forth in the park.

he must’ve thought, “ooh, nice day. I should swoosh my metal detector back and forth in the park.”

felt clear, uninhibited sun on my face for first time in months

thought of texting “I love you” to everyone in my phone.

last week fell in desperate love with girl on Instagram

dmed her “I’m in love w/ you,” around 1:46am.

the bag of Babybel mini cheese-wheels is getting concernedly low.

have been trying to take 3 slow breaths in my car before and after driving.

learned that caterpillar dematerializes in its cocoon, unmakes itself into cells.

squeezed an avocado that made my knuckle pop.

thought of the sometimes troubling intimate relationship I’m in as a non-failure.

popping knuckles is really just nitrogen releasing and doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you.

non-failure because it exists at all.

yesterday saw a car turn onto a one way street in the wrong direction, then quickly reverse back to the junction.

walked home from the park imagining I drove in the near lane when the car turned the wrong way and we hit head on, smashing my teeth into my throat.

closed my eyes and shook my head softly.

tried to explain to two 21 year olds the feeling of your late 20s. the sensation of slipping.

stumbled on the words, self corrected, didn’t say much of anything.

girl on Instagram has not responded to my message.

a person sits behind me in class and watches episodes of hell’s kitchen on his phone with the volume off.


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Zach Marcum is the 2000 dunk contest but in human form.

AFTERMATH + AFTERMATH – Grace Gardiner

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Photo: Satoshi Urakawa

AFTERMATH

like wind         pain takes

……………shape               against body

 

cuts its             portrait

…………..out of in          with flesh

 

the frame         left

…………..when               adrenaline

 

lets                   the outside

………..remind             the skin

 

where              you end

………….there                you begin

 

AFTERMATH

when the woman corrects

……….her should to could

 

…………………….as in you ­______

……………………………..have died

 

……………………you think the swath

…………from c to s-h the payment

 

you might use to rewind

…………your plural wounds

 

……………………the car & you both

……………………………….just two bodies

 

…………………….untethered subsumed

………….by you only

 

to playact the rift

………..one form seeks from another


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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 – Sarah Lilius

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Photo: Eberhard Grossgasteiger

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

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.