Vol. 10 Issue 3
The Bitchin’ Kitsch (2010-present) or The B’K is a quarterly compzine edited and published by The Talbot-Heindl Experience, LLC in Denver, CO. The B’K is an outlet for people who may not be accepted or considered by more traditional publications. The B’K aims to have a diverse publication from a diverse set of voices and promises inclusivity, diversity, and respectful discourse. Issues are published in January, April, July, and October.
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About the Cover
CW: Sexual Assault and Rape This digital art and photography piece by Antiheroine Anesthetix is titled “t r a u m a g h o s t s : a s e q u e n c e” “In the summer of 2015, a man who lived in my neighborhood sexually assaulted me. “Having this piece in this specific issue marks the four-year anniversary of this particular trauma. And while I couldn’t find the right language and sometimes no language at all, I could always create the pictures. I had to create the pictures. I had to find a way to communicate again. To stop being silenced. To take away his power. To declaw and defang what he represents in my life. It’s been four years and I’m finally blooming again. Warped, torn, cast into blackness, but somehow still blooming and filled with color. These are my colors. These are the ghosts of my journey into a private, voiceless, wordless world of unspeakable acts and indescribable healing. And I hope anyone who experienced similar traumas finds comfort that healing happens. It takes years, but they are still your years. They are still your colors. You are still you. You are still whole. And you are still beautiful. You will bloom.”
Table of Contents Art Chad Fisher Sasheera Gounden Julie Kitzes Mark Myavec Olivier Schopfer Katy L. Wood
DC Diamondopolous Ewa Mazierska Michael Prihoda
Cover 7 11, 43, 51 56 32-33, 49 31, 40-41, 45 17
14-16 28-30 20-23 36-38
Non-Fiction Julie Kitzes Chris Talbot-Heindl
12-13 24-25, 52-53
blume (Michael johann bauer) 44 Benjamin D. Carson 39 Kendra Craighead 9 Holly Day 8 gao 10 Donald E. Gasperson 54 Kara Goughnour 6 Cassidy Hill 42 Daniel Hotham 48 Anne Marie Holwerda Warner 4-5 Alexandra Moleski 18 Daniel Newcomer 50 Sarah Nichols 26-27 Robin Ray 19 Dr. Mel Waldman 34-35, 46-47 Thom Young 55
24 Exposures by:
Anne Marie Holwerda Warner
Mushroom ricotta galette: post well for best revenge. Pulse butter, flour, vinegar and ice water until pieces resemble the size of small peas. You’ll have a shaggy dough you’ll be tempted to overwork. Ha ha. It’s all good. Refrigerate overnight only to discover in a choir loft hand gaze: dough caked into wedding ring prongs. She said, “I’m leaving you” and he posted: This is actually the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. Fuck: that. Snap: this. Egg wash. Bake. Garnish with lemon zest, dill, cilantro, parsley over crusted homegrown greens. I was there thirteen years ago. I remember only the coffee, [dry] waterfalls, hiking in to emerald sand, swimming [startled] with turtles at Hapuna beach. An oriole alights from the red feeder hungry, mournful to have been born not a hummingbird. Find “when the party’s over” on Youtube and you’ll get why I cried all the way to Target. Draw fish with pencil on aquarium glass. This post-pint-of-gose re-friending should have never happened. Rounding the corner, a newel post rib bruise. You can wear it and be my queen.
Happy 200th birthday, Walt, have a Virginia Beach mass shooting to serve as a nice bookend to a comment section beginning with Hurricane Florence. Stir vigorously to dissolve honey. This is your dressing. Lupines: welcome and thanks for delivering the commencement address. Orange Irises: please bloom your beards in time to #wearorange. You probably like getting older. Oh the lights we string and burlap we wrap just to see a drunken bumble bee roll in magnolia pollen euphoria: an ecstatic birth, rich in nutrition. I am not your dame’s rocket, your dew claw, your designated oil slick rainbow. Think of all the poetry women will write when machines wash the plates and the pantaloons. Wild Ginger, dear, you are running around dazzling all the wrong ones. Be stationary; graciously offer yourself to the pipevine swallowtail as is your duty. If you are an expectant mother standing in a volcano on a tradewinds day: protect, protect! Spoons on glass, on teeth. Residual love. Lava flow. A newborn land’s fiery birth. Maestoso. Bee bread. Don’t shoot. Tell the truth and it will take you down in the end.
Above-Ground Love by:
Kara Goughnour You say I want to do something menial and you are all that I see. Arrange my ribs by size and curve, my teeth by color, by ability to bite. Down at the edge of your property, my hair grows sometimes spry, sometimes barbed wire, ebbing behind the bright splash of sun, the overflowing spring-river. This body is, architecturally, an arch for you to walk through. This body a mine shaft, your cheeks gleaming splatters of gold. These lips a licking crick, sulfuric, this love a canary before the air set in. You collect every piece of me and hold them in your red palms. In scavenging, I have learned that saying You are a resource is admitting love. This mind is eternally internal, but I will never be too busy breathing my own breath’s tune to not breathe You. You ask if, in love, you will find yourself happy and I say Of course not, but you will find happiness. I ask if, in love, this life will become perfect and you say both Of course not and Yes, it already is.
Summer Camp with Derek ‘96 by:
Chad Fisher 7
In the shadows of derelict trains, four bloody fingertips tumble into a pile disordered as books balanced on the head of a sad librarian. The donor, arms around God, will remind you of these fingertips on the day you meet her on your first sunrise as a fresh body in the morgue on that day you believe you will be able to go anywhere because of the few memorable good deeds you’ve performed, your repeated acts of contrition. When you get tired of carrying her fingers in your pocket pretending that you were the one who severed them from her hand in some bizarre rite of manhood, you will have to find a new place to hide them perhaps in the folds of a stranger’s sofa, a dentist’s lobby, stuffed in the cavity of a patient during open heart surgery, in the bottom of the kitchen trash.
CW: Eating disorder Begin the day with a bruise and make-up, a good story about how it got there, tie up your hair and contort to the floor; knees hug porcelain, the wide end of the chopstick stabbing the back of your throat, apply chap stick, run water, rub the surface of your shirt where your stomach once was and maybe it will be again, someday you’ll stop, you’ll start with saltine crackers stacked between your hip bone and the bottom of your rib cage, sugar cane for support, then cereal, salted steak instead of liver, five minutes after dinner and the steam from the shower makes it easier to heave without worrying how to stifle the sound of the disease that makes you believe, this is the only way to survive.
Ballad of Our Canvas Bodies by:
The paint dries on the boy’s skin as his glazed eyes roll over the mirrored figure before him; poisoned his voice and poise with cyanide silence, leaving his own body writhing, frothing at the mouth: chest rising and falling like the hands that vote for the boy to be ousted. He sold his soul, yes, but even Faustus reaped the riches: the boy sewed countless seeds and this is the finished harvest? No. He never sold his soul: it was stolen, usurped, bound, gagged and replaced by another. So the other reaped, but his own was. Voice has turned into a gurgle of oil paint and emulated phrases, face a meeting place of seething rage and graffiti, scent no longer belonging to him but now a sweet melancholy concoction of self-loathing and acrylic, pouring from the pores of the ridiculed. He draws on a mask in the nighttime, praying that if he sleeps in the pretence: maybe he’ll wake up that way. Costume Scrawled on with borrowed mannerisms plastered across conversations, across coffee tables, caught in the cross fire: firing fake smiles and forcibly casual crossed limbs; saw the line and crossed, cross country distances between the boy’s true-self and this cross between a facade and a marionette. Sincerity is crossed off the list And as his tears tear holes in his canvas cheeks, moistened paint layers congealing at the curve of his lips, the boy forgets how much of himself is a portrait.
Ice Cream Pattern by:
Why you shouldn’t make a life plan by:
How a brain hemorrhage and a tumor taught me to accept my unlived life I just had my 31st birthday and was shocked at the difference a year has made. When I turned 30 I basically had a mental breakdown and midlife crisis. I’ve always had the notion, based on my family history and preexisting health problems, that I wouldn’t be one of those people that lives to a ripe old age, so to me, my thirties represent mid-life. As the dreaded 30 loomed on I couldn’t help but think about all the goals I had failed to achieve. When I was in high school we had to make a life plan with a list of goals we wanted to have completed by the age of 30. In retrospect this seems like kind of a screwed up assignment and a lot of pressure to put on a kid. My 15-year-old self was all over the place with life goals and some of them I certainly did accomplish: “See Green Day in concert.” Check. “Get a tattoo.” Check “Dye my hair purple.” Check “Find my soul mate.” Check However, there are an awful lot of goals I either haven’t achieved or didn’t pursue for one reason or another. Big ones like educational goals, career goals, traveling the world, and having children. So at the age of 30, because of this perceived life plan, I felt like a complete failure that hadn’t amounted to anything. I spent my 30th birthday in a deep depression throwing a pity party for myself. I had just graduated with my bachelor’s degree a couple months before — something I thought would happen much earlier in life, was childless, chronically ill, financially unstable, unsuccessful in my career, unsatisfied with my body image, unworldly, unaccomplished, and generally unhappy.
Now at 31 I’m still all of these things, except I’ve come to terms with them and have learned that “life plans” are unhealthy wastes of energy because you simply can’t plan out life. Life just happens and there’s nothing you can do to really shape it. Despite your best efforts, life is chaos and it will always throw you curve-balls. The most helpful thing to do is just go with the flow and make the best of the situation. In my 30th year on this planet a surprise brain hemorrhage and a tumor, that couldn’t be ruled out as cancer until after it was surgically removed, really cemented this idea. Life is out of our control, but the things I have been able to control are my outlook — trying to make myself happy and investing my time and energy into the activities and relationships with people that matter to me the most. You can slave away and deprive yourself to be the best in your field, to have the best body, to be rich, to have the most followers on social media, but if these things aren’t making you happy immediately then what’s the point? There’s something to be said for delayed gratification and working hard towards a goal. But if it consumes you to the point that you’re not enjoying your life in the present, then it’s pointless. Because you could always have an aneurysm or die in an automotive accident at any time. Life is always going to be filled with unaccomplished goals, with death, loss, and heartbreak. Rather than dwelling on them, it’s important to open your eyes, look around, and realize life goes on. Sometimes the terrible bullshit in life can make you all the more thankful for what you do have and make you learn to count the positives rather than the negatives. So at the age of 31 I’m finally ready to embrace the concept of “YOLO” and stop worrying about the future. I’m doing things that I would be too insecure about or worry too much about the repercussions in the past. That’s not to say that I’m going to abandon all of my goals or live recklessly, but I don’t intend to have any more pity parties if life doesn’t go according to my wishes. If I could send a message to my 15 year old self, it would be to rip that paper up and instead simply write “Try your best and live in the present.”
At the unaware CW: Deals with thetime AIDS this crisispiece of thewas 80’s,published, the callouswe waywere in which thoseof dying from it were treated, internalized theincluding problematic piecescallousness. (racist and transphobic) that the author was publishing elsewhere. After learning of these pieces, we decided to remove this author from our issues.
and silk costumes, boas, several strands of pearls, and oodles of costume jewelry. His move to San Diego had been a windfall—the most money he’d ever made doing drag. He lived to entertain. On stage, he was Jasmine and loved. Standing-room only. Now he was
were the names of seven young men.
No can do, James. You’re not going to pull me down today. It’s Pride. I’m going to party. Donna was coming. At St. Mark’s, the only person who bathed and dressed him, changed his sheets and
on his body. Jasmine dressed in black sweatpants and a gold lámay blouse, brushed her long stringy lip gloss and blue eyeshadow. many men he had slept with. Was he kidding? “Honey, how many stars are there in the heavens?” Hundreds, thousands, in parks, bath houses, clubs, from San Fransisco to LA and San Diego. The doctor had kept a straight face when James answered. The nurse turned her back on him.
starving who thought they were alone in the world. James’s life had been about dick and where to get the next fuck. Jasmine’s life was drag, Vogue Magazine. mother’s dress and high heels, they demanded, “Get out now and don’t you ever come life.” Jasmine grabbed a green thewas trunk and wrapped it around her neck. You think At the timeboa thisfrom piece published, we were unaware that’ll hide your Sarcoma, pieces James baited. tugged at the feathers that of Kaposi’s the problematic (racist Jasmine and transphobic) that
the author was publishing elsewhere. After learning of these pieces, we decided to remove this author from our issues. to dance, but her legs ached. You can’t even walk, sucker.
“Shut-up, James.” Jasmine said, pulling herself up and moving to the window. When he heard a car, he backed out of view. James never wanted Donna to know what she meant to Jasmine. He held onto furniture as he made his way to the red velvet couch and sat, poised, Donna knocked and opened the door.
You’ll look like a sick bastard in that baby buggy, James bullied. Everyone will know you have AIDS. “I can’t go.” “It’s up to you.”
Gay by birth, fabulous by choice, on his blouse.“We need to pump ourselves up. If we don’t, who will?” “They want all queers dead. Looks like they’ll get their way.” medicine.” “Thank God for lesbians,” he said and wondered if gay men would do the same if
lesbians were dying. Donna released the footrests on the wheelchair. “I’m not going. Everyone will know I have AIDS.” “You do, James.” compassion and strength. At the time this piece was published, we were
unawareI of the problematic pieces (racist and “What if I run into someone know?” transphobic) that the author was publishing
“You’ll know what to say.” elsewhere. After learning of these pieces, we
decided to remove this author from our issues.
table. “Fucking closet cases. Even in death.” Jasmine felt the weepies coming on. James scolded, Be a man. Only sissies cry. But Jasmine was female, too. “In my obit, I want you to put that I died of AIDS. I want everyone to know.” He held onto the seat of the wheelchair and winced as he pulled himself up. The smell of
on bikes. Donna shoved the wheelchair forward. “I’ve brought water and trail mix.”
Donna laughed, pushed him outside, and shut the door. The ocean air breathed vitality into his frail body. He raised his face to the sun and began toward the swirling white splashes in a blue background. He heard applause and whistles parade on and forget about himself and all the dying young men.
Bangle Lady by:
Katy L. Wood
Alexandra Moleski Time thickens and drips so nauseatingly slowly that I am afraid to stand up and feel its weight crumple my spine and force my nose to the earth. So I loaf anxiously in the intrusive sun, unmoving and unsure of myself, where my chest carries most of the burden. The air tastes bitter and accusatory, and the people that crawl by stare at me expectantly. But when they open their mouths, all I can hear is clicking and buzzing. Squirming insects between their teeth. My head feels heavy and it vibrates when the insects scream. I am afraid to move or yell out. What if I fail?
Robin Ray I thought this incinerator would burn. Soothing, actually. Years of anguish turning to ash. Minute pieces of bone with hope still trapped in the marrow, smoldering. A co-worker I knew weathered the same fate but he complained the fire tasted like poison sumac. His tenor stretched upward through the oven, perfect coloratura begging the mortician to douse the flames. He’d been suddenly reminded of unfinished business and wanted to get to it right away. Didn’t he realize his soul had already left, that’s why he couldn’t move? He cursed me for knowing. I curse him for sleeping.
The Widow by:
Of all the houses on our street, the last but one was the most mysterious to me. Or, to be precise, first it was simply unknown; there was no mystery, because there was no curiosity on my part to learn what was going on there. I knew that the people who lived there were an old widow and her daughter. The widow was not unfriendly, but she wasn’t one for small talk or gossip. As for her daughter, she was even less talkative. For Christmas and Easter the widow and her daughter stayed in their home and nobody visited them. One could see them in the church, sitting some distance from the altar, as if not to attract attention, although nobody paid much attention to them anyway. The only person in my family who had any relation with the widow was my granny, who exchanged seeds and plants with her. She claimed that the widow had the best cucumbers and tomatoes on our street and she was the first to try new vegetables such as peppers and oddly shaped pumpkins, whose proper name “squash” I learnt many years later. At some stage the daughter left our village to study biology or chemistry in Toruń, but she returned home after finishing her education, and became a teacher in a neighboring village. Some years later she was promoted to headmistress in the same school. She was the first female teacher in our village to drive her own car, although nobody saw her having driving lessons, passing a test or taking advice where to get the best bargain for the car. People assumed that the money for the car came from renting their land. The car added to the daughter’s unknowability, as one cannot see car drivers properly, in contrast to cyclists who cannot easily ignore those shouting at them. By the time I asked my mother what happened to these distant neighbors, the daughter was in her forties and she was still unmarried and lived with her mother. This was an uncommon position for women in our village, except that it befell female teachers more often than members of any other occupational group, simply because teachers in Poland are mostly women, so they have few opportunities for office romance and live under pressure to behave modestly. To that I shall add that the widow’s daughter wasn’t a beauty. She had a square peasant face, bluntly cut mousy blonde hair which looked greasy even when freshly washed and a stocky body, clad in shapeless brown or grey skirts or trousers of the same color. But she wasn’t ugly either; just plain. Our village was full of people who looked like her and it wasn’t difficult to imagine her going to the altar with her male equivalent. One thing which made the house where the widow and her daughter lived unknowable was that it was built kind of back to front. The front facing the street had only two narrow windows, like squinted spying eyes, turned 180 degrees. By contrast, the back of the house had two large windows and wide double doors, overseeing a large backyard. When my granny used to visit the widow and the widow was in charge of the house, it was an ordinary backyard with hens pecking at the grass. The garden with these magnificent vegetables was then at the front of the house.
It was not surrounded by a fence, but by tall hollyhocks, always gently moving in the wind and proudly displaying their flowers. When the daughter returned to live back with her mother, she took over the estate and things started to change. She got rid of the hollyhocks and erected a tall fence. Where there used to be a vegetable garden, there was now a flower garden and the vegetable garden was reduced and moved to a distant corner, on the right side of the house. It stopped looking like a proper vegetable garden and more like an inroad into the field of their neighbor, who grew potatoes and fodder beets. The real change happened at the courtyard. The hens disappeared and the large space was transformed into an exotic flower display, with the plants showcased in fancy pots and arranged on special ladders or other contraptions. They flowered even in winter, thanks to the daughter moving them to a fancy greenhouse. Such a conspicuous display was completely untypical of our village, where people grew flowers, but didn’t arrange them. What was even more unusual was that this exotic collection was private – the flowers couldn’t be seen from the street. To see them, people had to enter the courtyard. This required knocking and pretending that they had an errand for the widow or her daughter. Most of the time, however, nobody let them in. People gossiped that the widow was there, but the daughter locked her up and didn’t allow her to have any guests. I, for that matter, hadn’t seen the widow for ages, but once, when I passed by their house cycling, I spotted her extracting the weeds from the vegetable garden. She saw me too and waved to me, so I stopped my bike and walked through the field to meet her. I was surprised that she recognized me, given that we never had a proper conversation, at least not since the death of my granny. “You are Mrs. K’s granddaughter, aren’t you?” she asked me rhetorically, yet, straight to the point. “I am.” “But you don’t live here anymore?” she asked. “Indeed, I moved away many years ago, but keep coming back every summer.” “When your granny was alive, we had the best gardens on our street and even in the whole village. Her parsnips were huge, tasty and stayed fresh the whole year. Her spice plantation was also unbeatable and she gave everybody dill and horseradish for making sour cucumbers. But I had the best tomatoes and beans, because at the time I was able to travel to Włocławek or even Bydgoszcz to buy new seeds and plants. Now, I couldn’t go to Włocławek– too much hassle and my daughter wouldn’t allow me. She says I’m senile and need to stay at home, because otherwise I will be lost.” I replied, to be polite: “Your daughter must had inherited your green hands, given the flower display in the backyard.” “Well, she doesn’t plant or prune them. She just buys them and sticks them on these
contraptions. For me, they are dead.” “But they are beautiful,” I said. “I’ve never seen anything like that anywhere else in Poland.” “Well, she travels far away to get them, sometimes as far as Białystok or Wrocław. The girl only has two things on her mind: flowers and the church.” “I didn’t know she was so religious.” “Yes, she was and it’s got worse since she retired. She goes on these various religious pilgrimages and gatherings. Often she goes to the flower market and religious events at the same time, going away for three or four days at a time.” But there was no pride in the widow’s voice, only sadness. “You know, she’s a spinster, this daughter of mine.” “Yes, I know.” “She likes it this way. Even when she was a teenager, she said that she wouldn’t get married because she couldn’t allow a nasty or ugly man enter our house.” “She must have been a strong character then, your daughter,” I said. “Yes, she is,” the widow admitted. I couldn’t stay much longer, so I left and didn’t hear about the widow and her daughter for a long time – till the daughter died. Her death was remarkable and shed new light on her passion for collecting beautiful flowers. It turned out that she had a heart attack when attending a peep show in the East of Poland, looking at young male strippers from Ukraine, performing for private clients. She was sixty-five. Such performances were the real goals of her “religious pilgrimages.” I couldn’t help but smile when a neighbor told me, realising that in our village we have our own versions of the main literary types, including a female version of Professor Aschenbach from Thomas Mann’s novella, dying in the moment of a voyeuristic ecstasy. “Does the widow know what killed her daughter?” “No,” the neighbor said. “We decided that it was better to keep her in the dark. She thinks she died at some religious meeting. Which is true, in a sense,” giggled the neighbor. “What will happen to the widow?” I asked. “She will go to the old people’s home, I guess”’ said the neighbor. “She has nobody to look after her, but she has money, plenty of money, especially if she sells the house and the land. It is worth hundreds of thousands of Euros these days.” “It makes sense to sell it,” I said, although it caused me sorrow to think about all the houses and farms in our village which were passing to strangers. Then I stopped thinking about the widow, again, assuming that she died. But then, several years
after learning about the fate of her daughter, when cycling, I spotted her in her garden. This time she didn’t wave to me, but I decided to approach her of my own accord. She was using a walking stick now and a special weeding tool which didn’t require for her to kneel down. She was also wearing a hearing aid, which was a relief, as it meant that I didn’t need to shout to her. Again, she recognised me and told me, showing me her weeding tool: “This was made especially for me. It has different endings for different actions. I paid two thousand zloty for it, but it’s worth every penny. Still, I cannot do everything in the garden or at home myself. A gardener comes once a week to help me and a nurse every day.” “It’s great that you can still live in your own home,” I said. “Yes, it is. One doctor wanted to send me to a nursing home, but I objected. A special committee from Bydgoszcz came to assess me and agreed that I was okay to be on my own and, besides, there were no places in any nursing home this side of Włocławek.” “This is great,” I repeated, “but a shame there are no places for old folk.” “Do you know how old I am?” she asked me. “I don’t know,” I replied. “One hundred and one. Most people think that I should have died a long time ago, given that my life has been so bare - I lost my husband early, my sister died in her sixties, I had no grandchildren and now my only daughter is dead. Truth be told, I’m not afraid to die, but I still enjoy living. My garden keeps me going.” I realised that it was also what my granny used to say. I didn’t begrudge the widow her longevity, but I was sad thinking that our garden hadn’t kept my granny as long as the widow. It was the late August and the widow’s garden was full of vegetables. She gave me a plastic bag in which I put some cucumbers, tomatoes and beans. “Take as much as you want as in two days the rest will be collected by Mr. M” (who was another neighbor). And when I was leaving, she said: “You look like your granny. She also had these light-blue eyes and a crooked her head like that when she was talking. I do miss her badly.” “So do I,” I replied and mounted my bike.
Why to Use Affirming Pronouns
Chrissplains Nonbinary Advocacy to Cisgender People by:
Anyplace But Here by:
Sarah Nichols First goddamn week o’winter. Oh, come on. Maybe we’re at war with Norway it may not clear up for a week. Very superstitious, the writing’s on the wall very superstitious. My god, it’s gettin’ late. Reach anybody yet ? We’re a 1,000 miles from anybody, man. Door number one door number two door number three What are you waiting for ? We can’t learn anything from this. It looks like something buried under the ice. I don’t know. I just cannot believe this voodoo bullshit. Chariots of the gods, man. They practically own South America. How can it look like a dog ? I’m going to hide this tape when I’m finished. I think it rips through your clothes when it takes you over. Nobody
trusts anybody now. We’re all very tired. It got back in again. That’s suicide. What can we do What can we do We’re gonna burn this place down. Right down to the ice. You the only one who made it did you kill it I got lost in the snow.
Source: Bill Lancaster, Screenplay. The Thing. Dir. John Carpenter, Universal, 1982. With lines from Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” heard in the film.
Water Glasses by:
I stepped back behind the wait station and began to contemplate the water glasses. Five filled. Two empty glasses on the end…. Could fill them… or… not… If I fill them I’ll have to refill the pitcher…means walking into the kitchen… if I don’t fill them I’m going to run out of water glasses. Unless I fill them later…It might get busy…wouldn’t have time… I could fill the glasses but let the water level in the pitcher drop…How much would it drop? If I got a smaller pitcher, it wouldn’t drop as much. At least it wouldn’t look like it had dropped as much. No one is going to look at the pitcher. I could take the empty glasses off the end of the shelf…Then at least I wouldn’t have to think about them. I could put them under the counter…There… *** This process continued until interrupted. *** It was getting warm outside. It was going to get hot. No ice…the ice is in the kitchen. I could fill the pitcher and get the ice at the same time. What would Corey think? Doesn’t everyone fill the glasses with water and ice before the meal…during setup. There are two filled with ice. That’s enough for one more table of two. What if it’s a table for four? Two would get water with ice and two would get water without ice…Maybe they wouldn’t notice…. Better get the ice now… Some prisons have no walls. The O.C.D. combined with an advanced case of bi-polar disorder, then on the depressive side, will do that to you. Now all the water glasses are filled. But three don’t have any ice…The empty glasses under the counter don’t have any ice either. They don’t even have any water. What will people think when they see empty glasses under the counter? Nobody puts empty glasses under the counter…better put them back on the shelf…there… *** I was living in a western New York college town, and I had a part-time job in a vegetarian restaurant. I was a waiter, though on some days I helped in the kitchen. It was communal in that way. The wooden interior was inviting, with the morning sun flooding in through the large picture window. In the kitchen, the corn sautéed in garlic sauce and the brown rice puffed nicely. The couple in the two-seater by the window had been ready for ten minutes. I walked over to
take their order. The woman wore a long maroon skirt, and the man had his hair pulled loosely back in a ponytail. “I’ll have the soup and salad. With cornbread, right?” the woman asked. I looked at her, but I did not fully comprehend the question. I nodded. I made some effort to write down her request, but the writing was not coherent. These people had water. But the man had no ice, or very little. They needed ice. “The choices?” she asked again, smiling a little more forcefully. I tried to focus. Salad dressing. “There’s blue cheese. There’s also Russian and… a French” She ordered the French. I got something down on paper about the man’s order - the writing was not coherent - and retreated to the wait station. The ice glasses were still there. I counted them again, five filled, two empty. Of the five filled, three didn’t have any ice. *** The order slip with the pencil scratch marks on it was crumpled and placed in the front left pocket of my denim apron. I must have meant to do something with it. I just didn’t. I was simply too caught up in the inner monologue. The couple was quietly looking at one another across the table for two. The kitchen staff were leaning against the stove and perusing the Sunday paper. Nothing was happening. Forty-five minutes went by in this condition of suspended animation. The couple refrained from registering any form of complaint. They were very polite. Only after this extended period of time did I comprehend that the notes were still in the pocket of my apron and take the appropriate step of handing them into the kitchen. There are limits to what even vegetarian restaurants in college towns will put up with. I lost the job, or if they hadn’t actually fired me, I just didn’t actually show up. It wasn’t just the one incident. There was a pattern here. All functioning effectively stopped. I wandered around lost in my own world. By the middle of June, I resembled a washed-out rag left too long in the sun. I slept, I guess. I ate when I thought about it. I stumbled through parking lots unable to get to the far side without stopping to pick up the crushed soda cans and wind-blown newspaper. Before the city cleared out for the summer there had been some contact with other students, but with my housemates gone, I let myself go. I spent nights in a top floor room strewn with cloths and three-day old plates of dried spaghetti. I hadn’t paid any rent, but I’d lived in the house a long time and it was summer time. It was the same house where I’d wandered the halls singing Carly Simon’s I Haven’t Got Time for the Pain. I was trying to convince myself, but I was not successful. I’m not saying I was ignored. People had tried to intervene. “Why don’t you go see someone?”
That question really pissed me off. I’d heard it from friends, from family members. I just snapped back. I had no great logical response. I just wanted nothing to do with it. College towns do really clear out after graduation, at least this college town did. Just about everyone was gone. One friend was still around. We were standing around in the basement room that had been home for three. Pete, my roommate since freshman year, had pulled out right after graduation, and now Gary was preparing to move back to his parents’ house across town. He was quietly placing some shirts in a duffle bag. The room was largely underground, but it did have a line of windows, high along one wall that opened out on street level. One of the beds was on a platform even with these windows. Pete had slept on a mattress beneath before their third roommate moved out. Since my return I’d been camped out in a sleeping bag somewhere in the middle of the room. I’d gone to Washington D.C. to take an internship with a leader of the anti-nuclear weapons campaign, known in some circles as The Freeze Campaign. He was a big kahuna, who organized rock concerts and protest marches, and gave out foundation money to smaller anti-nuclear weapons groups. In 1983 all of this was quite fashionable. Ronald Reagan had the leftist fringe of the college population convinced that he was planning Armageddon. The internship was an honor. Unfortunately, things went flat when I passed the day seated on the floor with my back to the wall, unable to articulate urgency of my convictions. My housemates had taken me in along with my nine cardboard boxes of important papers. Gary looked up from his packing, “I didn’t say anything,” he said quietly. He wanted reinforcement for the tact he had shown. I didn’t miss a beat, “I’d only have turned on you.” I came back. Gary finished his packing and later that afternoon, he moved out. What was I supposed to acknowledge? That there was something wrong with my head? That I could no longer walk without stopping to pick up trash? That everything, I mean everything had come to a stop? I had no idea what was going on. I had no way of thinking about what was going on. Above all, I had no idea that there was anything that could be done to fix the problem. Someone tells you, “You look tired.” You say, “Yeah, I was out late last night.” Maybe you go to sleep early the next night. Someone tells you, “It seems like something is wrong with your head.” You snap. I’m afraid that’s just the way it works. Family eventually intervened. I deferred and was brought to the help I needed. One of the finest psychiatrists in New York City diagnosed my illness and understood how to mitigate it. We worked together for the next twenty-five years. I hadn’t been much of a waiter, but once I got the swing of it, I proved an admirable patient. Matched with this capable doctor, I progressed. I now quickly and easily make such challenging choices as which water glasses should be filled with ice.
No Trespassing by:
Cayo Hueso The Island of Bones by:
Dr. Mel Waldman
& strolling across the universe
the buried tale
along Duval Street
drifting from the Gulf of Mexico
to the Atlantic Ocean
the ruins of time
in Cayo Hueso
the lost bones
the Island of Bones
of the Calusa Indians
I taste the lingering scent of wild orchids
bleaching in the tropical sun
& the ferocious spirit of the dead
swirling around the rim of my otherworldly house my bestial brain
covered by the sensuous fragrance of Frangipani
& in this phosphorescing moment I dream of the unfathomable & crossing invisible boundaries I inhale the veiled spirit of Cayo Hueso
& covered too by a cornucopia of colors the gorgeous vastness of multicolored vegetation & the overflow
of paradox & beauty Bougainvillea & Hibiscus Royal Poinciana & night-blooming Cereus & a kaleidoscope of enchanting flowers conceals the harrowing hours of lost time & the butchered dead faraway in the deep of yesterday in haunting Cayo Hueso the Island of Bones
7 of clubs by:
My parents called me Virgil and you can guess what all the kids at school called me. I just told them my family owned that major airline and regularly took private trips to space. I told everyone I knew what zero g felt like, so all in all they could suck it. I got a new chance at name recognition when Duff moved in next door shortly before school started again. Our yards didn’t have fencing or anything, just a shallow ditch featuring a drain cover and a meager raspberry patch giving toward the neighbor’s flower beds that had once been home to a family of ducks. I met him for the first time while I was practicing free throws, intent as I was on making the A team come October tryouts for the middle school team. I wasn’t fast or tall or even particularly agile so I figured the fundamentals of nailing free throws at above a 90% clip was the only hope I had of impressing Coach Kozak enough to give me a spot as a late-game sub, maybe even a starting guard. By the time Duff came over to say hello I’d hit 13 out of 19 and was sweating a singular trickle down the right side of my scalp right where my parted hair ended its sideways swoop. My mom had insisted I get a trendy haircut, this over dinner as, for some reason, the news played that old footage of the Cambodian monks setting themselves on fire in the streets, which absolutely got my dad’s attention, had him murmuring “not a bad way to go” as he absently forked asparagus into his maw. I clanked the twentieth shot off the near edge of the rim, ball bounding jaggedly away from me, my feet rooted to the yellow stripe my dad had helped me measure off and paint on our driveway as free throw line. Duff coolly snatched the ball and passed it back to me, indicating I take another. He was instantly cool to me. Everyone else on my basketball team would have immediately tried some impressive twisting layup routine, hogging the ball in the process calling me their favorite epithet. I put this one straight through, swish. “Acceptable,” Duff said, before walking back home. “Only 67% though,” I heard him say as the screen door of his house screeched shut. The next time I saw Duff I paid more attention. He was sitting cross-legged on his back porch. I had been weeding the strawberries, which, despite my dad’s having put down copious amounts of mulch, were sporting more weeds than strawberries. Duff seemed more interesting than
weeds. He was wearing thick glasses, had close-buzzed hair, and was wearing blue khaki shorts that I thought looked strange next to his dark legs. But what did I know about fashion. He appeared tightly wound and I suddenly wondered if I made him uncomfortable, a pasty uncool white kid whose spot on the middle school basketball team was definitely undecided and hypothetical at best. He probably had better friends than me. Didn’t need me at all. Duff was shuffling a deck of cards, his hands undergoing some kind of ritual movement. Like a wizard preparing a spell. He motioned for me to sit. Despite the abundance of porch furniture dotting the expansive back-end of Duff’s house, he was sitting on the decking, so I joined him there. “Ma’ll bring you some water. She knows that kind of stuff,” he said. I was sweating noticeably and felt embarrassed by it. Within minutes, Duff still shuffling, his mom came out carrying a tray with two water glasses and a pitcher. “Here you go boys,” she said. “So nice of you to stop by, Virgil.” She seemed genuine and was holding out her hand but I was so stunned she knew my name I lingered an uncomfortable beat before shoving mine out to shake. She had a stunning set of braids that fell in black coils about her head and I could tell she had lived places, big places like Milwaukee or Chicago or Minneapolis. My parents had barely ever been to the Dells. I was in awe of her. His mom went back inside and before I could ask, Duff looked at me, mischief in his eyes, asked, “Where’s your dad?” “I dunno, doing dad stuff, working probably. That’s what dads do, isn’t it?” I knew he knew the question I had been about to ask. “Name a card,” Duff said. All this time, he’d still been shuffling. I sipped my water. I told him, “7 of clubs.” He stopped shuffling, slid the top card my home, prompted me to flip it. I did. It was the 7 of clubs. “Not bad, right?” Duff asked. School started and was fine. I kept shooting free throws, but not after school, from the minute I stepped off the bus to the minute mom called me in for dinner. My September average was 83%, tracked in a lined college-rule notebook my mom had bought me for pre-algebra when we went back-to-school shopping at Kmart. It never got used for that. I borrowed Duff’s notes when I was in dire need. His notes were lazy, missing critical steps to most of the processes we covered, but
they always found the right answer, as if he knew from the get-go and could barely be bothered to track the redundant process of proving himself right. Duff had taken to sitting up against our garage door as I shot and retrieved free throw after free throw. The net was ratty, weather-worn, and was beginning to let made shots dribble off in weird directions. Duff thought the cardio was good for me, told me not to replace the net with something more predictable. He tracked my makes and misses in the notebook for me and shuffled his deck of cards during every other living moment in my presence. At the end of every session, he’d tell me to name a card, stop shuffling, wait for me to say it, and then flip over the 7 of clubs. It had become our personal miracle. I didn’t probe into how he did it, and he never offered a clue and things carried on this way until basketball tryouts came. I wasn’t fast, I wasn’t agile, I wasn’t good at defense. I could shoot free throws and made ten in a row until Coach Kozak came around and watched me do the 11th, which I thumped too hard against the backboard, losing all nuance and touch in my release. I left tryouts early, calling my mom to come pick me up. “Not a bad way to go,” I tried to tell myself, echoing my dad’s words about the monks who’d immolated themselves. But it was the worst way to go. I was a coward. I went to Duff’s back porch. He wasn’t there. I knocked on the back door and his mom answered, told me Duff was working on something but would come by when he was done. I went home, collapsed on my couch. I jumped when I heard the doorbell, got up, approached slowly after yelling to mom that I’d get it. When I got there, Duff was gone, a deck of cards sitting on the step, pinning something beneath it. I crouched and pulled up a note along with the deck of cards. I’d only seen Duff’s handwriting in numerals and algebraic formulas. It was cramped. The note said, “some things never change.” Confused, I opened the pack of cards, took out the deck, started riffling through. Every single card was the 7 of clubs. I quit shooting free throws after that. Spent days after school on Duff’s back porch with him as he shuffled a new deck of cards. I didn’t ask if they were all the same or not. Eventually, he’d ask me to name a card and every time I’d say, “7 of clubs.” He’d ease the top card off the deck as if it were a rigged explosive, look at it, nod at me, and replace it without letting me look. I always let out an exaggerated whoop of astonishment. Our personal miracle. One day I borrowed my dad’s tablet and showed Duff the footage of the monks burning in the street by choice. I’m not sure what I was fishing for but it seemed like Duff might be the only person capable of understanding me in that moment. My crisis. “Not a bad way to go, Virg,” he said.
Benjamin D. Carson When my old skin sags she promises to prop it up with sticks, a tent she said to keep her out of the rain. When my bones creak she said one table spoon of olive oil will do it; you’ll swing open silently with the breeze, letting the fresh air in. When my eyes go, she swears she’ll never again misplace her glasses so that she can always find my hearing aid, my teeth, and my flyswatter. When I can no longer move she promises to hold my hand, tap my toes, and dance me off to sleep.
Cassidy Hill You were planted in soil under a vast field of possibility hiding behind hopeful prospect wanting whimsical wonder. You were nourished by a woman whose sweat cultivates courage and fearlessness rooted in redoubtable resistance. You were sustained by a man whose eloquent gestures carry more weight than an encyclopedia invested in international idioms. You sprouted by world expectation not aware enough to understand that your silent significance is more than just your budding, butter bulb. Previously published in The Gideon Poetry Review.
transcend to turn astray by:
blume (michael johann bauer) i stepped on ice broke through fell in swam dark waters rose i saw some light and felt some warmth not knowing where it was from i heard your voice i smelled your sins that turned to poetry you grabbed my arm you kissed my cheek as time just passed away now we are gone voices remain echoes of insolence we could return perhaps we we will and find our inner selves
Ajuy, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain by:
Bizarro Nights on Mallory Square by:
Dr. Mel Waldman
Bizarro nights on Mallory Square the bestial beauty & the fantastic fury of the otherworldly gathering of strangers in search of Un-Reality
& phantom visitors coming forth from everywhere & nowhere craving the unfathomable & an eerie everlasting moment of ecstasy
& haunted souls hungry for the taste of sweet phantasmagoria & a sensuous divinity with tongues swirling & swishing in the celestial opalescence of a dream
& voluptuous lips & oval chasms of the Apocalypse devouring a beautiful madness biting & chewing the ineffable drinking a kaleidoscope of illusions & swallowing the mystical light by the Gulf of Mexico while the invisible universe rushes slowly across the teeming docks
Bizarro nights on Mallory Square & lost beings & non-beings & creatures of obscurity bathed in divine luminescence watch the metaphysical Show of Un-Reality & wait for a glorious sunset & revelations from beyond or within
The Buddha reveals himself Underneath a bonsai tree where A waterfall pools at his feet And moss starts growing between his toes. I’m sitting watching on an island Formed by a small rock meditating Before I face an untutored sky I didn’t care about constellations anymore I just wanted to sweat out my addiction for a while. I need to expose myself to sunlight more often Sweat out my knowledge of anatomy or at least That’s what I keep telling myself like I’m some cassette tape. Eventually, I’ll open up the window to let the sun in Maybe that’ll clear the air and make the room a little whiter Or at least give me a little heat because I think the radiator’s broken.
From Somewhere to Something by:
Your tongue in the dark by:
Daniel Newcomer To spread the frame Of an eye-rounded void Shaped like a tunnel, and There is a whole world Beyond. I pry open the eye And the darkness floats upon me Wraps me like an amoeba To the mollusk “Are you here?” If I shout any louder The worry that Drifts like fire Comes licking away My layers of skin “Please tell me if you’re here!” I cannot scream My eye-rounded void regresses I am dark water Forever with ripples Slowly I’ve lost myself Infinitely The world beyond Ascends, descends Bends Then, I see you Even in the darkness We’re all seen And I wait For you To lick away My skin.
Cover Girl by:
Chrissplains NonBinary advocacy to cisgender people
WE’ve all been in that facebook group or work meeting where the question of how to best deal with a microoaggression pops up. And the people who experience that micro-aggression personally Open themselves up and tell their story and experience.
Story and Art By: Chris Talbot-Heindl And then, in swoops an "ally" who negates everything that the person with experience just said, claiming they know better. They reference their best friend, their spouse, or sometimes their father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate.*
topic: Why to defer to Nonbinary people on their experiences
*Spaceballs reference, because reasons.
This little comic is going to attempt to help people visualize why it’s vitally important to trust the experiences of nonbinary people. And why it is necessary to center on the lived experience of nonbinary people (not the opinion of someone who thought about it for a sec).
True story: I used to belong to a facebook group where people were welcome to ask questions about lgbtiqa2+ people and people who belonged to those identities would answer their question. It’s a great thought, but only if those who have those identities are centered in the conversation. the question was posed about if nonbinary people should be allowed to attend a gendered event if they identified as belonging to that gendered space for that particular event. one self-identified cisgender woman told the poster that they should tell that nonbinary person to "reflect" on how asking to be included would be confusing for the cisgender men that were attending. I suggested that the poster absolutely not do that for many reasons, But it didn’t matter. The other cisgender readers thought this was sound advice and weren’t swayed when the cisgender woman called the nonbinary person "bizarre" and showed how little she understood of identity. She implied there was one way of expressing nonbinary identity and didn’t understand the difference between sexual expression and someone’s gender identity. The opinions of a cisgender woman who didn’t understand the identity and who had thought aboutit for a few minutes was valued as much as my lived experience. worse, it was valued more because reaffirmed what the original poster wanted to hear: this nonbinary person was "bizarre" and how they identified didn’t matter; the original poster could exclude them.
This is not an unusual occurrence. I experience it multiple times a day in my non-profit resources groups. I find it bizarre that these opinions would be given the same weight.
Pretend for a second that you are going to buy a vacuum cleaner and you want to make sure you understand proper maintenance. You could ask someone who has the vacuum cleaner or someone who doesn’t and who thought about it for two seconds. Except, a more accurate example would be: you could ask the actual vacuum cleaner!
some dude who’s father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate used the vacuum once
The good news is that it’s never too late to make a big u-turn! If you find yourself centering your two minute (or even two hour) opinion over the real lived experience of your nonbinary friend, stop, apologize, and encourage other cisgender people to center your nonbinary friend’s real experience. That will stop the cycle and save your friend a lot of heartache.
We should really listen to the vacuum on this one, Dark helmet.
they / t hem / theirs
Of course, this isn’t an accurate example since the vacuum cleaner is unlikely to have the kind of complex feelings your nonbinary neighbors have about their identity. Imagine hearing someone deny your experience, talk over you, and find general acceptance from others over Your real lived experience. It’s not an affirming feeling. It’s frustrating and lonely.
Thanks, Lone Star! What I was saying...
go over my helmet? Well, I guess it only makes sense... This time.
Chrissplains Nonbinary Advocacy to Cisgender People
This goes for so much more than gender and gender identity. It would be great, as a society, if we got to the point where we trusted people within an historically marginalized identity on their experience with living that identity. We would learn a whole lot if we listened more and expressed our opinions a whole lot less. Plus, we would be better (or actual) allies to our friends from historically marginalized identities!
Why to Defer to Nonbinary People on Their Experiences
We all like to be heard and we all have opinions. But not all opinions are equal. If we strive for equity and inclusion, we need to value lived experience over random opinions. This isn’t coffee vs tea This valuing our friends and affirming their identity.
Donald E Gasperson being old worry grows quiet though the failing years hum a long vowel a single syllable an elegy too thin for wisdom that old scoundrel for all its brevity no credulous word reads quite as well but use your reason pen an opinion find the words perhaps a prayer frail and dear that speaks of death not knowing who will read this final note
Thom Young the surf isn’t what it use to be now it washes up lives and dirty needles and once they found a lady in a green dress face down on the beach she said her name was Amber which seemed like a good enough name but the tourists were too distracted by a school of Bluefish to know they were already eaten alive.