Mother Medea and other Stories EMOTIONAL ALCHEMY
Emotional Alchemy Presents
Mother Medea and Other Stories
Prologue Womanhood. A noun. A stain you can’t wash out with soap. A wish only made of pink. A flower mistakenly cut in the garden. He thinks between your legs smells sweet, but you pursue the stink of an animal decaying in the woods. The shadow that inhabits your bedroom: it’s a dirt road that leads to nowhere. What else would your femininity search out? The easiest way to be a daughter? Take whatever you gather from these stories and bury it underneath your tongue; whenever you speak, you will recall the uneasiness, the predator, the victim. Take one step at a time, and don’t make a sound when vulnerability escapes the wolf’s jaw. What is courage without repression? Seek the answer, but only tell those who believe their encounter with Eve was really their mother embodying dominance. The stories will say: The river demands her body. And you won’t know what to do but follow them. You have no choice. Scream, choke, drown. It doesn’t matter; the blood will only disguise itself as melancholia, waiting for you at the bottom of the stairs. This didn’t start with you; it’s hereditary. Your mother and grandmother and her mother found themselves terminating the peach flowers before they could turn into fruit. What if these stories suggested a way out? A dream of doors, and the one you choose to open reveals a milk snake, harmless and paying no attention to the cow’s generous udders. Remove the pearls; they’re nonessential. You don’t need to know how your mother feels when another girl bleeds: unbothered and still licking her lips.
Written by Chimen Kouri
Content Mother Medea by Constance Bourg ⋅ pg.14
A Woman Scorned by Constance Bourg⋅ pg.15
There's No Honey in This Beehive by Kendra Nuttall ⋅ pg.17 The Wayward Witch by Stephanie Lamb ⋅ pg.20
Haunted House by Valeria Dhamar Limon Ayala ⋅ pg.21 Blasphemous Babylonians by Stephanie Lamb ⋅ pg.23 The Cottage by Gina Bowen ⋅ pg.26
Pretty as She Floats by Kate Gough ⋅ pg.38
Unisexist Sacrilege by Mara Rothman ⋅ pg.39 Labor + Delivery by Emily Perkovich ⋅ pg.40 Ghost Stories by Sidrah ⋅ pg.44 Veils by Zoe Burleson ⋅ pg.47
Open Season by Clementine Valerie Black ⋅ pg.48 Untitled Collage by Amy Canning ⋅ pg.50
"Ocean Bones" and "Pisces Goddess" by Regina Viqueria Rossi ⋅ pg.51 Ghost Woman by Allison Friske ⋅ pg.52
Inside | Outside by Emily Rose Hodson ⋅ pg.55
The Whispers Have Always Been Here by Emily Perkovich ⋅ pg.58 Daemum by Gina Bowen ⋅ pg.65 Angry by Cait Thomson ⋅ pg.71
All Birds Are Flightless at the End by Sabina Leybold ⋅ pg.72 Red Dances Oblivion by Tiffiny Rose Allen ⋅ pg.74
Things We Hid Between Our Bones by Melissa James ⋅ pg.77 11
by Constance Bourg In the bedroom, a putrefying. An odour of flesh dissolved. Perfume still lingers, the children quietly yammering in the corner. Voices roam from concrete wall to concrete wall, undecided. A thick atmosphere carries the message. This isn't over. Slanting shadows slice the street light coming in like a foreboding. I am ascending. I pass stairs, under peeling ceiling paint. I will do what comes naturally, what I was made to do. Cleave flesh, pierce heart. My creation. A skull lies half-rid of finery. Gifts jellied into congealed blood. A father's voice hushed by Proxima. None of this matters to me. This is the past. Now only the future counts. I can feel the unfamiliar woman turned prophet after bed betrayal. Left abandoned and murderous by the tyrant of her body. Heard tongues wagging about her brewing with special knowledge. Now she is cornered like a rat. I will do her bidding. I will slash the flesh half hers, half his. Rid her of his only power left. Speak words that will fall like sods. The force at the point punctures. I find a space between the ribs and sigh briefly because I must leave and repeat. Fifteen centimeters. A deep bite through linen, through delicate flesh. Fresh blood wells up to join the pooled putrefaction. And I slip wet and sticky between her waistband as she carries me into the darkest night I have ever known.
THERE'S NO HONEY IN THIS BEEHIVE by Kendra Nuttall
Mothers of multi-level marketing and madness stalk the streets, pushing strollers and pills. They pocket themselves in peasant dress folds and paint pretty smiles for men in suits. They trade pennies for lipstick and gym memberships, constantly on the run from years lived in months. I’d stab myself too, jab the needle right between my eyes, if my worth was priced against porcelain. Steam the wrinkles, cut the cold, preserve my tears in a mason jar next to the peaches and strawberry jam.
WAYWARD WITCH by Stephanie Lamb
She dreams in shades of black She speaks in scarlet hymns Gorging on the cancer Plague casting with the pen Emerald-eyed spells cast upon ruby thrones No substance in the marrow Hollow are her bones Don't trust the Wayward Witch casting shadows in the night Failed to see with the rising sun hexes disintegrate in the light
BLASPHEMOUS BABYLONIANS by Stephanie Lamb
We met where dandelions grew from lion's teeth And lilacs choked loving beasts A place where angels sullenly clipped their wings And demons traded in their howls and learned to sing Pawns disguised as hubris Gods Thrones of Kings and Queens adorned by false love Crimson scorched earth below and violet tempest above You, me, them, us Kingdoms fell and the ending re-wrote All because the looking glass was cracked and sold Ascension through sex and rum And we call it immaculate conception The sun shines bright when the son is the most beloved Turn water to wine Bathe in the blood Obliterated blasphemy looking the fish in the eye Escape on the wings of an angel But fish don't fly
THE COTTAGE by Gina Bowen
Belinda’s knuckles whitened as she kneaded the bread slowly with bony fingers. She watched them in the moonlight pouring into the cabin window, allowing the shapes they made to soak into her ocular view. The ball of dough bulged over the edges and left imprints upon the skin, flour peppering the rugged top of the table as she worked, mousy brown curls spilling down into her face. The sweat from her forehead glistened, mixing into the bread to give it the sour taste she always remembered it having. Belinda woke every day at this time to work, kept company by the sounds of the forest, which lifted from slumber beside her. She had been doing this for years now. It had been six years since her mother and father passed on due to the local famine. Only thirteen years of age, she kept the house alone and worked at night for her keep. The villagers in town felt sorry for her, offering leftover scraps so she could make bread for herself and survive in the home she had grown up in. None of them offered once to take her in, and Belinda was too polite to ask for their charity. A resilient girl, she used what was gifted to her to bake bread she would later sell in the village on weekend mornings to keep her afloat for the following week. It had worked these past six years, and she always thought she could continue in such a manner. That was until the accident at the mill last spring. Belinda furrowed her brow as she realized the heft of flour she had worked through was now low. The townspeople were struggling, and Belinda was not sure if Mr. Forrester’s son would be able to sneak away another sack of flour for her to make her means with. The hen she managed to keep well, Corrine, was getting old. Her eggs were growing sour as of late. Belinda took the days as they came, sleeping until the sun slipped to drop below the distant horizon and then waking to work. One day, there would be nothing left. Belinda, too, would be a ghost lost, no different than her parents. A chill escaped through the window, and Belinda wrapped her mother’s shawl about her slender frame to hold close. Her body shivered as she moved toward the window to peer outside. It had been a tiring day. She was out of flour and had only been able to knead one loaf of bread. A sigh escaped her lips. She watched the smoke of her breath lingering, keeping her company. Belinda gazed out into the trees. She did not hear the soft singing seeping from somewhere deep in the woods.
“This is all I have this morning, sir,” she pleaded, her bottom lip trembling as she held out the loaf of bread. “I have run through my entire sack of flour already and barely have anything left for me. If you purchase what I have, it will surely help me find something to eat. I am low on supplies as it is, and the wind is getting colder now.” Belinda looked hopefully from underneath her eyelashes at the man behind his stand of honey. She could feel the heat creeping from the back of her neck. The man clicked his tongue and wiped his grubby hands along his apron. “Miss,” he grunted. “If I had the means at the moment, I would offer to buy your bread. You know the situation here is dire, and none of us have any extra offerings.” Turning a shade or two redder than before, Belinda nodded in thanks and spun on her heels. Making her way toward the edge of the marketplace, her skin began to tingle. She felt as though her movements were being calculated somehow. She felt she was on fire. The heat dissipated quickly as she felt the strain of someone watching. Belinda liked to think that her parents were looking down on her from time to time, but this stare felt different. It was as if a pair of eyes had stuck themselves to her back, and they would not leave. Looking around the bustling market, Belinda saw nothing out of place. She was about to set off for home when she caught sight of the man leaning against the doorway of the barn. Peter. The smirk grew upon his face as he caught Belinda’s gaze. The green in her eyes flickered as she slowly made her way toward him. He was twice her age and tall. His curly mop made his jawline seem even more handsome, and though Belinda found him quite amiable, she was too young to fully sort out her feelings. “Peter!” she called out, her green hooded shawl billowing behind her. “Shhh...” he reprimanded, putting a finger against Belinda’s lips once she approached. “Is there any flour for me today?” Hope clung tight to her chest as she asked the question. Almost simultaneously, her stomach growled, reminding her that hunger pains were not leaving her presently or in the future. Peter’s fingers lifted to play with the hanging strings from her cape as she pressed close to him upon entrance of the barn. “Not today, Belinda,” he said. “You should know better."
Her head hung low. Tears pooled her waterlines and stung their way against her desperate blinks. “How am I to make bread to sell? How am I to eat?” Peter’s hand fumbled around his pocket. He pulled out a tiny butter cookie and held it up to Belinda’s face. The barn seemed darker now than it had when she came about. He put his hand against the small of her back, moving closer to her than ever before. She could feel her body vibrating in some strange sensation she was unfamiliar with. Her fingertips fiddled with the sides of her tattered dress. What was she to feel in this very moment? Curiosity began to catch up with her ragged breathing. Was this supposed to be what it felt like? Peter was, indeed, so very handsome. She had never been alone with a man before. Her eyes lowered toward the dirt of the floor, the questions about desire, wanting, and womanhood circling her head. Vultures. Picking, prodding, and looming over girlish expectations – norms predatory and deadly. Norms that could kill. No sooner than her thoughts began to race, Peter gently pushed the butter cookie against her soft lips and bent his head to meet her own. Whispering into her ringlets, he breathed, “I can teach you of other ways to satisfy hunger.” Belinda’s eyes widened, his hand sliding from her back to her hand, where he would then lead her deeper into the barn, and they would not emerge for quite some time. *** The hauntings came at night. They penetrated her slumber and left her body drenched in a cold sweat. She could feel the bleeding of their dreams and would envision herself, a child, digging the graves of her deceased parents in a dead patch in the midst of Harper’s Wood. Waking up was never actually awake. The bruises from her nightmare-elicited clawing stained themselves against her clavicle, as though they were fresh. She would forget about the phantoms as she worked her evenings after the witching hour. Perhaps it was her work that kept the worst at bay. Perhaps this was the worst. The night after her meeting with Peter was different. Belinda was not choked by the ghosts that normally plagued her sleep. That night, she dreamt of wolves in a sea of red. Their jaws were coming unhinged, open wide for feasting, for devouring. They held her name somewhere within the pupils of their yellow eyes and kept her there, in confinement. She still woke at midnight, as always. This time, she would see the red that ran itself down from between her legs.
The wind was cool and damp against her skin as she made her way further into the forest. Water. It was not unusual for her to wander into the forest to fetch some for herself or for her work, but she tried to ration how often she did so. The freshest water Belinda could reach was from a small stream that was an hour and a half’s walk from her cabin in the woods. The wooden bucket she carried in her hands was heavy, even empty, and the cold bit harshly through her fingertips. The scarf that tied her curls against her head barely kept it warm as it was, and she was incredibly worried about the fevers. The soft earth crunched beneath her feet. She saw the large white birch hanging over her from within a clearing, and she knew she had almost arrived. Readying the bucket, Belinda was making her way toward the stream when something stopped her in her tracks. Her body froze against the temperature of the dead wind that hung in the air.
Belinda. Belinda turned around. Her eyes scanned the forest, saw nothing but trees.
Belinda. She heard the voice call again. Was it the wind? Quickly, she started on her way back and her foot caught against a stone. As she fell, her face hit the forest floor, fallen branches scratching hard against her cheek. Cursing, she barely felt the bucket tumble from her hands as she placed them out to break her fall. Water spilled into the earth, penetrating the pores and sinking away. Grumbling, Belinda collected the pail and straightened herself. Turning back toward the stream she received the water from, she came to a sudden halt. Her mouth gaped open in surprise, blinking her eyes in disbelief. The stream was gone. There was nothing before her but trees. Confused, Belinda twirled around. Perhaps she had gone further away than she thought. Taking a closer look at her surroundings, she came to the realization that there was nothing familiar about the part of the wood she found herself in. She was lost. Her eyes moved up to the looming trees. Their branches bent down toward her, almost as though they wanted to claw at her cloak. Her thoughts raced in wonderment. Where was she? How long had she even been out in these woods? It must have been past three a.m. There would be no bread to be made, and it was not as if she even had any flour left.
Considering that the stream had seemed to disappear, Belinda had no choice but to leave her bucket empty. She carefully set foot further into the woods, hoping to make her way home. She walked on for quite some time, the woods unusually silent in their spinning, their secrets trailing at her feet. Soon enough, the path would clear, and Belinda would come to find a modest, gentle garden blooming in this wintertime connected to a tiny house she had never once before seen. *** Lilac melted into the air as Belinda walked down the dirt trail and into the ivycovered gated garden. Ice filled the air now, and the moonlight released her silver onto the blooming garden. Rose petals splayed open and inviting, silky to the touch. They brought life to the smoky haze that covered the land. Her surroundings surprised and enticed Belinda. She had not heard of anyone living anywhere in the woods. The glamour of the garden left her breathless and lingering until her eyes landed on a small, oak door of an unfamiliar cottage. Making her way toward the wooden door, Belinda ran a hesitant hand along the metal detailing. Belinda then noticed the flickering of light seeping from one of its edges. Strangely, the cottage door had seemed to had been left slightly ajar. The warm orange glow that bled out from inside enticed her well enough, but her nostrils tingled at something even more alluring. It had been ages since Belinda tasted the buttery nature of rabbit, yet she could certainly recall the smell. The decorative and unknown nature of the cottage certainly was enchanting, but the smell wafting warmth into her bones was what seduced her even more. “Hello?” Belinda called into the house as she gently nudged the door open further. Peeking through the doorway, Belinda could see a kitchen table heavy with cake, breads, and jam. Her stomach grumbled, unsure of the last time she had eaten anything. She exhibited caution as she stepped into the doorway, calling out again. The fire was roaring, and a flush appeared instantly on Belinda’s frosted cheeks. She shivered from the relief and stepped over toward the fire, where a pot hovered, boiling up something delicious. Something that made her stomach cry out beneath its usual ache. Belinda could smell the potatoes, carrots, and meat from where she stood. “Is anyone home?” she called out once more, only to be answered with silence. “I’ve somehow found myself lost in the woods and stumbled upon this home.”
Belinda reached out and gently touched the handle of the stew, tentatively considering stirring it. She was so terribly hungry and wondered if the caretaker of this property would mind if she had a bite. No sooner than her fingers firmly grasped the handle to turn the contents of the pot, she felt a presence wash over from behind her. “Have you lost your way, child?” The voice dripped with tart sweetness. Belinda turned around, startled, allowing the spoon to clatter to the floor. “Oh!” she exclaimed, clutching her cloak. “I’m terribly sorry. I was calling out, but no one seemed to answer. I-I didn’t mean to intrude into your home,” she stammered. The woman who stood before her was bathed in ebony ringlets that fell gracefully down to her waist. Her red mouth was turned into a slight smile, a stark contrast to her milky skin. She donned a tight brown corset and textured skirts, an outfit that complimented her ample bosom. And her eyes. Her eyes gleamed sapphire, something Belinda had not seen before. The beauty forced her to gasp. “I’m— I’m not a child,” Belinda finally asserted. The woman let out a breathy chuckle and said, “No,” moving to a small cupboard to retrieve a clean spoon. “Of course not.” The woman scooped some stew into a bowl and placed it upon the table. She looked up at Belinda with earnest eyes beneath the dark tresses and asked, “Well? Are you not hungry? You have clearly caught a chill and seem to have traveled far.” She set the bowl down across from where she pulled a chair out for herself. “Tell me. What is your name? Where have you traveled from?” “I’m Belinda,” she replied hurriedly as she joined the woman at the table. As she sat down, she took a hearty spoonful of the soup and shoveled it into her mouth. Belinda felt the warmth fill her. The rabbit tenderly melting beneath the flesh of her tongue. She couldn’t remember the last time she had eaten rabbit. It was magic. “Thank you for the meal,” she went on, barely lifting her head. “I come from the village on the other side of the forest. I must have made a wrong turn after I went to well my water. I ended up here.” The woman watched her, eyes sparkling with amusement as Belinda ate and spoke with a mouth full of rabbit meat.
“My, my. Seems like a tale indeed.” The woman studied her for a moment before offering, “There’s plenty more for you to eat, sweet girl. Don’t be shy. Fill yourself and stay the night so you can return at light of morning. The woods at night are dark. She plays tricks.” The stew was gone before Belinda lifted the end of her cloak to wipe the spillage from her mouth. Glancing up, her eyes caught the woman’s own. They seemed to flash a smirk that Belinda could not exactly see upon her hostess’s lips. The air hung momentarily. The fireplace both deafening and silencing. It filled the room with a strange heaviness Belinda could only barely pick up on. Hunger and warmth clouded her judgment. The woman’s skirts swished in a single motion as she moved her chair to settle beside Belinda’s. She picked up one of the opened jars of plum jam from the table and offered it to Belinda. “Dessert? I jar them myself. Please, try some.” Belinda was ever so hungry still. Hesitating for only a moment, she plucked a spoon from the table. The woman pushed her hand down. “Wait. It tastes better on the fingers.” Belinda held her breath as she watched her hostess dip her fingertips into the jelly, purple glistening on top of her long, slender tips. Belinda’s eyes widened in surprise as she pushed her fingertips to Belinda’s lips. Her breath caught in her chest, unsure of what was happening. “Go on, sweet girl,” she crooned. “Try.” Lips quivering from anticipation and nervousness, Belinda parted them obediently. She sucked the sweet jelly from the woman’s soft flesh. Raspberry plum mixed with her own vanilla musk. She ran her tongue around coated fingers to ensure she took in every last drop of jam. “That’s right,” she whispered. “Lick them clean.” Belinda looked away once she finished, unsure of these recent events. Humiliation crept across her skin as the woman laughed breathily once again. Her hostess studied her, eyes flashing in secrecy, gold flecks glinting in the light of the fire. They watched each other momentarily. One woman and the other just becoming. They marked a pale reflection of age and the blossoming that was to be. Magic coated the small cottage. Belinda could feel it but was unable to recognize it at that very moment. 33
The flesh of Belinda’s tongue softly wrapped itself around her hostess’s skin. The tartness of the plum caused her lips to tingle. A prickling sensation reverberated down her body. Belinda could feel the space between her thighs grow warm. “You must stay the night,” the hostess instructed, breaking the tension of the silence. “You mustn’t travel the woods this late. There are wolves out there. Possibly even witches.” The soft glint in her pupils and twitch of her brows both went unnoticed. She took Belinda’s hand and gently led her to the bed. She moved across the wooden floor like a water nymph. Belinda followed suit, analyzing the woman’s curves as they made their way. Riddled with confusion, Belinda very much so wanted to rest. Her body, however, remained completely and fully awake. Her hostess gently helped Belinda slip under the covers. She leaned over above her, the milky skin of her supple bosom heaving over her. Belinda’s lips parted momentarily, her eyes darting away as she ran her fingers along the covers of the bed. The covers were quilted, soft, woven with glittering thread. Belinda had never seen anything that exquisite in her whole life. For a moment, Belinda lifted her head to issue protest, yet exhaustion caught her head in a spin. There was no use in arguing. The bed summoned her, and she was so very tired already. The blankets hugged her aching bones as she laid herself down further beneath the quilts. Her hostess took the place beside her, slipping into the covers fluidly, now disrobed from her dress. With widened eyes, Belinda watched the figure of this secretive woman. They traveled along the journey that was her body. Her ample breasts. Her full hips. Her slender yet muscular calves. It was easy to see that this woman possessed some sort of magic. Her skin was porcelain and full, pink with life and scented with earth. Who was such a woman? Where had she come from? Had she always been here, or was she as old as the earth? Belinda was in complete awe of the sorcery of this woman’s femininity, enchanted even. Was that what she was? Was she an enchantress? Bare and displayed, Belinda’s hostess wrapped her arms around Belinda’s waist, stopping the shivering that made itself a parasite beneath her skin for so many years. Belinda had no bedclothes and was chilled by her nakedness as she slipped into the enticing bed.
The warmth of the bed and the woman’s body sunk into her. It consumed her whole. She pushed herself further against the woman’s skin until she felt like she fit into her completely. Their eyes locked together, and her heart began to race wildly. The magnetism from her hostess’s skin was electric, and Belinda wanted more. She laid still, pressing against her, and felt the rise and fall of the woman’s breasts against her merely budding ones. There was the tingling again, as she had felt it before when she was with Peter. This time, it was different. This time, she became aware of the space between her thighs. This time, it was throbbing. Her hostess looked down at her, dark tresses cascading over her shoulders and onto Belinda’s body. Belinda did not know where she ended and where she began. The enchantress parted her full lips to push themselves against Belinda’s in a kiss, leftover jam staining purple where they planted. Belinda could feel the aching heat grow stronger now. Her eyes fluttered shut, and the surprise disappeared from her face as she opened her lips in acceptance of the kiss, holding their coupling for as long as time allowed. The heat that now plagued Belinda became explosive. Unlike earlier that day, Belinda felt ready. Exploration did not frighten her. She was ready, and she was wanting, her body vibrating to remind her that she was Belinda. And she was magic. And she was alive. Together, their bodies would melt, and Belinda would be devoured. She, in turn, would wield the power of consumption. She would be possessed by and possess her own magics. The two would lie together for the remainder of that long night. In the morning, the mist would lift, and the cottage would be nothing but abandoned rubble. As for Belinda, she would have found her place, born into the woods, emanating the magic she had so willfully consumed.
PRETTY AS SHE FLOATS DOWN THE SEINE by Kate Gough Plug the paper cut with crumpled lace, smooth it out as you bleed, until your skin turns blue. Be prettier than the wounded, you must ache but never bruise. Corset yourself round, an hourglass that must not break, but be careful, you are made of shards fierce, ceramic pout, your lips keep a secret under all that gloss. Pretty as you bleed, cramps should hunch you over, but you sit still as your innards bloat. Like the woman in the seine, thick skin, they threw her in, blood tempts the eels, swimming in the reeds. She was the snake of sin. Pretty as you starve, when your stomach gnaws and growls, swallow first the toxic bile, rosewater to coat the throat. Like the woman in the seine, stick thin, they threw her in without knowing if she’d float. She wore stones in the lining of her baptism dress. Pretty as you wed, you wear a crown of wildflowers one for every bride forced to marry in that old stone church. Like the woman in the seine, white dress, they threw her in, naked and drenched, she was the whore who had it coming when she said the words “I do.” Pretty as you rot, you are the corpse that turned up in the seine, the ghost of sin, they threw you in, you were the whore who forgot to keep her blotted mouth shut. And they said it was up to her whether she’d sink or swim. Pretty she did float, she did rot.
LABOR AND DELIVERY by Emily Perkovich
I once had a daughter. We were the same age. Well, we weren’t the same age, but we were close enough in age that she wasn’t my daughter. I once had a daughter, and she was my sister. And after she went away, I kept giving birth to her. Birth is a painful subject when you are not connected by blood. I once had a daughter, but we never shared blood. She shared blood easily. I have always stored my blood outside to make more room for sisters. I once had a daughter who was my sister, and we didn’t share blood because she wasn’t my daughter. We were both crying, and she kissed my teeth, and I licked tears from her cheeks, and my tongue pressed too hard, so I swallowed her. My daughter and I were the same size, and she passed through my throat like a knot, but I have always loved my daughter, so I stretched and gulped and smiled through the pain. So just past the cave in my mouth was a stretching tunnel. The tunnel was raw and happy and spit my daughter into my belly because that is the safest place inside a woman. The problem with a woman is that she will always want to be a safe house. A safe house is a painful subject when you are not connected by blood. A daughter is a painful subject when you are not connected by blood. I once had a daughter, and while she was crying, I hid her behind my rib cage because that’s what sisters do. My rib cage was a safe house, but the problem with a woman is that she’s still a cage. The problem with a woman is that her safest place is inside. The problem with a daughter is that the only way out of a cage is through birth. So in my abdomen, I made up a guest bed for my sister, and as she made her way into hiding, my daughter saw that she was safe behind my sternum. Safe is a painful subject when you are not connected by blood. I liked to whisper the word “safe” down my throat and let it drift across my daughter, but a rib cage is still a cage, so she usually heard the word “stay.” The problem with staying is that no one wants to stay. Staying is a painful subject when you are not connected by blood. I once had a daughter, and she was my sister, and sisters can stay, but sisters can also be jealous.
A mother can keep a daughter safe, but a daughter can only stay for a mother. So I once had a daughter, but we were the same age, so she wasn’t sure how to stay. I was jealous because she was my sister, but because she was my daughter, I could keep her safe, and she was in a cage, so she could only want to leave, but I have always loved my daughter, so I let her scratch and grow, and my body stretched and stretched. So my daughter was in a stretching guest room, and I was a safe house, and my sister was lonely and confused because I had stopped whispering. The problem with being a mother is that you don’t always know whether your daughter wants you to whisper. So I stopped whispering, and my daughter was growing, and my stomach was stretching, and my sister was feeling abandoned. My sister only saw the growing. My sister couldn’t hear the whispers. The problem with a sister who is a daughter is that the mother is confused. A daughter is a confusing subject when you are not connected by blood. Confusion is always a confusing subject. Confusion is a painful subject. Confusion is the thing that cries. So I was confused that I was jealous and wasn’t sure if I should continue whispering and I was crying, and my daughter was confused that she was growing and she was crying, and my sister was confused that she was jealous and lonely and she was crying. And the problem with a woman is she is always crying with nowhere to go. So my belly was full of my daughter, and I was crying and my daughter was crying and my sister was crying, and my belly was full of us crying. The swelling was pushing at my rib cage, and my rib cage wasn’t sure where to go, so it pushed back trying to keep everyone safe. The thorax is the thing that’s sharp. The thorax burst our bubble. So my daughter couldn’t swim, and everything was filling with tears, and the safe house was crumbling. I could probably swim, but I couldn’t whisper, so I wasn’t sure what to tell her. My sister was jealous, and she was no help, so my daughter drowned her. I once had a daughter, and she was my sister, but my sister was unreasonable, so we drowned her. My daughter kicked and screamed and thrashed her way out of my bursting cavities. I once had a daughter, and I birthed her in my blood, but she was also sometimes my sister, and blood is too much responsibility for a sister. Blood is the thing for a daughter. And my daughter had too much blood of her own. I once had a daughter, and I keep giving birth to her. The problem with the birthing is that we all bleed out. The bleeding is the thing that cries. The daughter is the thing that cries.
GHOST STORIES by Sidrah
My mother raised me on ghost stories of a lurking demi-monde, of djinns in the woods that covet girlish laughter and itch to run smokeless fingers through sin-spun hair. You'd never smell them on the air, no chills down your spine: “You'll know when the devil is near, when you feel those tresses begin to sear. Now cover your head as you should, don't laugh so loudly, and don't go into the woods.” I never believed the stories I never needed to, living in concrete jungles where fluorescent light permeates even the shadow realms. Is it truly djinns we fear? Or is it the moon and stars that sparkle so free and sincere? Perhaps we are merely terrified of what light might lure our daughters outdoors, into the night and keep them here. Yet when I visit our village, even I tread lightly, with muted laughter, and dropped gaze,
for the darkness here is ubiquitous; the shadows of djinns haunting even the days. At night as I lay on my charpai, I listen to the jackals’ outcries, the wild calls circling in my ears; God knows what torments them. Or frees them. When I was a child, the heat drove us to sleep under skies so bestrewn with stars, yet still so endlessly obsidian, I could stumble into it and never stop falling. We now bolt the doors and sleep with fans on. Longing for those fearless days once more, of dreaming beneath celestial bodies, I unbolt the door to the veranda and step out into shadow-crowned effulgence, towards trees that unfurl, their branches beckoning. I answer the call of the wild, laughter harmonized with the chorus of jackals. I toss my head back, now throat exposed and ready to howl. But beware, beware, for whose fingers are those in my hair?
by Zoe Burleson There’s a place Imogen goes to disappear. Foxes slink through the ribbons of grass, robins between their teeth. Orange fur and piles of mud holding drowned fingers, fungi necklaces around gray necks, and thin roots decorate lace. The little bog by the train tracks, completely silent of the hum of street lights or gossiping old women who hiss when they pass her on the main street. Here, the low boardwalk and ticklish grass remind her of family stories. Fiancées drowned in tiny boats, wine stains spelling out initials, and baby blankets turned into newlywed quilts. When she was growing up, Imogen had heard local folklore of old men dragging dead bodies into the water or abandoned brides sinking in their heavy wedding dresses. On nights where the moon was especially big and the fog especially thick, she would dream of veils and long silver hair twisting with the moss and algae. Wedding rings would slip off their skeleton fingers and float down to the bottom, turning into hula hoops for tadpoles. The skeletons would dance together, joining hands in tragedy. She never told anyone that when she was ten, a ring slipped into her rain boot after she had fallen into the murky waters. She made a plan that night, laying in her bed still shivering with damp hair, that the day she got married, she would go to the bog, return the wedding ring to its home, and set a bundle of wildflowers drifting atop its ripples. Like she was leaving a past marriage to the water and all its secrets for a new life. She would cure the heartache of this cursed little town.
by Clementine Valerie Black My grandfather tells me, “I shot Bambi”; a hiss of laughter filtered through crooked, nicotine-stained teeth I am nearly five feet of formerly live wire, and he prods, waiting for the familiar snap of arcing electricity. I give him nothing. spark nor sugar left in me. in the kitchen, grandmother stacks brick after brick of frozen meat and I pretend I don’t know what’s locked in venison masonry. they call it harvesting. picture me: a doe in heat. forest air heavy, heady, estrogenic scent permeating. males shredding velvet for a chance to breed and I, spindle-legged on the sidelines, stand resigned to the violence of rutting. unfazed by the urgency of two bucks grappling, the taste of surrender thick and muddled with victory. the crack of gunfire rings out over ancient trees– I am hunted by everything, everyone wants to see my body bagged, filled with stuffing, mounted, silent. a good trophy. if I am permitted to ripen on a bed of desiccated leaves come spring, two fawns sprinkled with white spots will grant respite, a chance to breathe (because they won’t shoot when you are suckling) but seasons stretch so subtly, it isn’t long before we each face our destiny watch helpless as a grandstand of a man takes aim, wipes your baby’s blood off rough-hewn hands, winks at a threshold of a girl to say “this is the way.”
GHOST WOMAN by Allison Friske
My lover’s teeth meet the skin of my neck and I, chapped lips and parched scream declare the dryness of dust, tongue shriveled prune. My lover knows me as meat. Hanging by my feet and open-souled through viewing glass. What has made me bone-dry is leeching me ever still like starving vampire, like lemon juicer. My lover’s teeth search for life like antenna, like whisker, find mouth opened O, the smell of my ancient death and the developing sound of a haunt.
Note: The words “my lover’s teeth” are inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s “Berenice” and a prompt by @chelseascluster on Instagram, and “parched scream” are words from Sylvia Plath’s “Street Song” and a prompt from @lemondaisypoetry on Instagram.
INSIDE | OUTSIDE by Emily Hodson dust creeps up my hem / wrinkled dress dreaming of sleeping in ivy fields / instead / I watch dust motes / against itchy uncleaned sheep wool / taste of metal settles on my gums / washes over my teeth when I chew the side of my cheek / light only comes from movement / don’t move too fast / it will be missed / like the blood from my bitten nail beds / regret fills my lungs / my eyesight adjusts and I become a wolf / searching for the scent of something else / my own stench and stained soles / rubbing over grit / suffocating on stone-cold graveyard mist / the words stuck to my tongue / swirl it across my lips / moisture for a moment / cracked again instantly / pulling my heart out through my throat / choking on my mouth as it collapses inwards / hold this bloody wreck away from my skin / the last thing I see is my heart still beating ______________________________________________________________________ wander through the headstones and wonder about their faces / have they ever visited the ones left behind? / and did it hurt? / wrenching aching bones and collapsing bodies above the earth / grass grown over the death / pushed aside / I sit beside you and tell you about the girl / she said my name yesterday / softly / so I whisper hers into your flower pot / spit out orange seeds / pick pith from between my teeth / your smile appeared in the moon last night / I tell you that too / silence from you / silence from her / alone is a feeling that has made itself comfortable in my home / something has drunk the water from the vase / I refill it / slowly / and think about the tulips that have died / do you want roses instead? / would you push the thorn into your finger just to see the blood? / I know the answer / I stand up and stretch / leave your headstone heavy with my thoughts
THE WHISPERS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN THERE by Emily Perkovich
There has never been an exit. There is only the lingering. When did the voices start? There was never an onslaught. I am on my knees, picnicking scraps of my dignity, before I know the word. I feel the tongue of my flesh alight before I hear the buzz of their wind song. Is it ok to begin with the obvious? I’m in the kitchen cutting lemons. I let this wash over me. I let it stain my fingertips and bask in the complacency of the way the citrus will stick to the countertops. The pulp softens, releases, blood spurts to land on the glinting, rose flecks in the marble. I can remember telling admirers and guests that we moved here for the kitchen. I just couldn’t resist copper appliances and a farmhouse sink. The window sash reminded me of my childhood. The light hits the floorboards just right at midday, and the dust motes play in desaturation. The lie is less heavy than the truth. How do I say that I chose this house for the feel of the grass between my toes? “Just look at the garden!” is too close to reality. Better to blame the kitchen. From the street, you can watch the way the house stretches, two, white-washed stories, ready to greet the sun. The porch fetal position, cradles the front and sides, and roses flourish about the foundation. There are enough trees and foliage on the property line that the fence surrounding it is unnecessary, rendered an aesthetic. I like the way the ivy climbs between the slats. I have found myself praying for it to creep across me in the night. To cover the back chimney, slither through my open window, and wrap me in chest-tightening, forced sleep. I know what it will say when it comes. I head for the door at the back of the house, lemons in hand. In a patch of bright sunlight is a pitcher of tea. I pick up the decanter and drop in my offering. I should go back inside. The dahlias shush at the far end of the yard. The sweet pea titters. I feel my face heating as goosebumps rise across my legs. The grass is in need of cutting, and as the wind comes through, it bends towards me, imploring, begging for my attention. “coraaaaaa?” Is it ok to begin with the obvious?
The whispers have always been here. The breeze pulls my hair away from my face, cools the sweat at my collar-bones. I slip out of my shoes, my grip slackens. “cora,” the sigh washes over me as the whispers breathe out my name. The pitcher falls from my hand, shatters. Sugared tea and lemon spread across the bricks. The sticky liquid slips between my toes, and I am undeterred. I close my eyes, lifting my face into the wind. The hem of my skirt is dancing between my legs, bringing wet heat. My right foot comes down on broken glass. The blood is immediate. I am snapped open. The moment not ending but seeping around and out of me. No. I should go back inside. The breeze settles. I limp back to the kitchen, anger pulsing with each rush of blood. Inside, I curse the flight of stairs and then curse the clawfoot tub in the bathroom. Its high walls mean I have to climb into the bath to wash the blood and muddy tea from my feet. I am dripping scarlet on the tile as I wait for the water to become a tolerable temperature, and my mind is settling into all of the cleanup that this one moment has caused. I twist the knobs, wait for the bite of cold to even out before I lift myself in. I can’t seem to get the water right. I watch my toes reddening, and my brain chimes in with one of its classic misfires, whispers I’m cold, as sweat drips down my spine. It ebbs and flows out, boiling me in my own reflection, but the red never seems a bright enough shade. The blisters never bubble at the rate I had hoped. I want to watch myself disappear. I want the muscles to thrust their way to the surface and the bones to crack on the tide. I want to watch the way I fall apart. I want to fill the bath with dirt then drown in muddy banks. I sink in, fully clothed, but I do not plug the drain. I feel the backs of my thighs burning and press my body down, ears between my legs. My feet are no longer bleeding, and the water is clear, but I can still smell copper. It hangs around, bitter and sharp. I lift my face, remembering the hot moisture that I had felt in the garden. I stick my hand between my legs, and it comes out stained with the pink, new blood of beginning. This is too much. I bury my head between my knees and let the steam lull me.
The bathtub has always been a safe place. Mama had a temper. She would stumble around the trailer, slamming doors, shouting, stomping, but she never looked in the tub. I would curl up, pull the shower curtain around, and wait out the storm. Most times, she would pass out on the couch, but some nights I’d find her, limbs splayed, commandeering the entire bed. Sleeping on the couch meant the whispers would keep me awake all night. “cora?” It seeped in under the door. It would rattle around in my chest, my head. The hush was always floating over me when I was alone. I dream of my mama. She enters the bathroom, feet bleeding, cigarette hanging from her right hand. Her nightgown has a rose pattern, barely discernible through the stains. I am still in my dress with the water swirling around at my feet, and she climbs in facing me, pushes her legs between my thighs, so I am spread wide open around her. The tub fills quickly, blood swirling between our legs. Her skin is waxy, dripping down her face. She is screaming, and the water is roiling, and the blood is thickening across the surface, turning everything sticky and viscous. My lungs tighten, and my chest feels heavy, and the tap is off, but the blood is pouring out of my eyes and my nose and my ears and between my legs, faster now. The hot, metallic syrup is up to my waist. My mama is screaming. My mouth will not open. I am closed up. My tears come out thick and crimson. I hear the whispers over her screaming. They are calling me, as always. My stomach cramps, and I dig my nails into my lips, trying to release the noise the pain wants to let out through my mouth. I tear crescent bites into the skin, unable to break the seal. The pressure is building, my mama’s whimpering shouts pushing their way inside of me and clenching at my guts. Something is tugging behind my navel, and I feel its pull tighten around my lungs. I am swallowing my tongue. It is crawling down my throat. My eyes are bulging. My mama reaches between her legs and pulls out a thrashing mass. All three of us scream in unison. A throbbing crescendo yanked out of me as I am birthed. Her between my legs, me between her. New blood. I wake with cold water rushing around me, grateful that I never dropped the plug in. I am shivering, and my back and neck are kinked from my stooped position. There is still some light outside, so I can’t have slept extensively long, but it was long enough to run the water heater down. I stand and remove my wet clothes, remembering that I still need to clean up the dirty footprints that I tracked through the house and the glass outside. The day has gotten away from me.
By the time I have dressed, my anger has dissipated. I am resigned to the mess. Outside, I use a towel to scoop up misfortune, tossing the glass in recycling. I am careful to avoid stillness. I do not look at the dahlias. Their bed is their own. I fill a bucket with bleach and hot water. The rest of the afternoon, I spend on my hands and knees, scrubbing at the floors. I concentrate on the way the solution lifts the rusty mixture of blood and dirt from the wood. I watch the shadows creep across the stairs. Let the fumes cloud my worried mind. When night finally falls, I do not sleep well. Insomnia is a jealous lover. It breaks through the sleeping pills I swallow each night and cuddles close, holding me in place. I wind the quilt between my limbs, toss and turn against the pillows. My legs ache, restless. My head pulses with too much silence. I give in. I throw open the window behind my head. Is it ok to begin with the obvious? “cora?” I freeze, stop rubbing my legs against the blankets. I listen to my name hum over me like insects in the summer night. Heat is creeping up me, again. My skin aches. My nerves are over-stimulated. I reach between my legs and play in my own blood. Push at my insides. Drown in blood. Imagine the curl of ivy coiling up my thigh. Twirl my fingers to mimic the tendrils. I climb and steeple. Climax hard, moaning against the whispers. Bleed on the bedding. I dream of my mama. She is in bed, nightgown bloody, hands bloody, sheets bloody. She rocks and cries. A baby screams in the center of the bed, mottled in tissue. In her arms, raw meat. She cradles the flesh, weeps for it as the baby screams beside her. She stands without warning and proceeds to the door. I follow, and we are outside. She kneels in the woods, knees muddied, and digs at the earth. Her progress is slow. She lays her bloody bundle in the grass and twigs, then disappears farther into the trees. I watch the meat ooze. It is decaying in front of me. The red wetness of it looks sickly, wrong. Mama returns, shovel in hands, and continues digging. She digs straight down, the hole not very wide but deep. When several feet of earth have opened downward, she falls to the ground, kisses the meat, and drops it in.
I wake with blood under my nails and birds chirping. The window is still open, and the whispers are filling me. “coraaaaaa?” I know I was born from earth. I dream of my mama. Birthing stillborns. I dream of my mama. Planting stillborns. I dream of my mama. Praying to the ground. I dream of my mama. Bringing her baby back. The whispers are filling me. I begin with the obvious. I strip, head for the garden. I step outside and let the daylight wash over me. I bathe in the sunlight. I am not bleeding hard, and when I walk, I feel it dry quickly between my thighs. I make it to the edge of the lawn and drop to my knees. I press my face into the grass and listen to the whispers on the wind. I crawl to the dahlias. I pluck one and trail it across my sternum. I lay down on my back. I tense against the earth. The flowers strain against me. Whisper on my skin. They are coiling around my ankles, snaking up my thighs. They curl inside me, pushing through me, pulling me under. Unraveling me. I want the muscles to thrust their way to the surface and the bones to crack on the tide. I want to watch the way I fall apart. I am taut. I want to watch the way they mend me. I want to watch the way they birth me. I whisper. Return me to mama.
by Gina Bowen Evenings were the only time that weren’t the gallows. The air would lift from its heaviness, and light would appear, offering a sign of relief. Elaine’s fingers would curl around the edges of the windowsill of her burrow, and she would peer up at the sky. The night would shine, and it would bathe her. Every night, when it was the worst, there she would be. Somewhere, in the silver that streamed down upon the earth, would be Mother. Her skin was pure, milk shine, and smooth. Celestial in her wake, her white hair melted down across her body, cradling every single curve. She was silvery-white and radiating with love; Elaine could see it set from the smile that beamed across her full lips. She would hold out her arms and bid Elaine come. In her light, Elaine would bathe. She would shut her eyes and dream the dreams that only her heart could possibly wish upon. She would ache for an alternate life. She would be loved, and she would be happy. Mother would embrace her in the way only a mother could and lay down the crown of her head upon Elaine’s. The whispers would come in the form of lullabies, and they would transport her elsewhere. To the Better Skies. The deepest of Elaine’s dreams encouraged her to believe that there was a chance she was adopted. That Mother was needed to hold all the other broken children in the palms of her hand. That she was forced to flee through the forest and up into the night sky to watch them all. To rock them to sleep every night. To be able to love, provide, and support as a mother should. She concocted a fairy tale that she might have been left on the doorstep. Perhaps Mother was distressed. Perhaps she felt bad for the couple who desperately wanted a little girl at the time and felt she was performing an act of charity. She couldn’t imagine Mother to be so careless with a daughter she loved so much, especially when she sent her the moon every night to dress the wounds that would lash her skin during the day. The day. The Gallows Times. The Long Twelve Hours. The Times of the Lashings. Elaine winced as reality crept into her thoughts, and goose flesh began to rise beneath her skin. “Mother,” she would moan. “You must not have known what would become of me. You must have thought this was best. You must have trusted too much.”
She would rest her small head upon the sill, where Mother would keep her light, a watch to calm her nerves. To encompass her in a sense of security and safety. That was, of course, until the morning came. And mornings were when she remembered the darkness. When shivers settled into her bones and stayed there. When her lungs burned inside of her chest to embody the screams that should have been pouring from her throat. The mornings were the Gallows. And that is when She haunted. She plagued. And she terrorized Elaine. The shrieking came up with the sun.
Elaiiiinnneeeee. Elaiiiinnneeeee. She would hear the shrieks cracked and pitch, piercing away at her eardrums. The dreams she had of Mother descending to whisk her away in trails of white chiffon were burst by the onset of harsh reality. The mouth of Hell would open wide. As the door to the tiny closet where she was kept creaked open, Elaine’s eyes would squeeze shut. Her breathing shallowed. Every small puff would cling to every last inch of her nerves. Elaine would brace herself, knowing what it was she would see once she readied herself to open them. Yellow eyes with glints of red would flash from in the doorway. They were startling enough to make Elaine’s blood turn icier than the drafts that were allowed into her small burrow at night. These eyes were eyes that moved. That followed. That remained within the cloudiness of the day and burned into Elaine’s back. They stained her brain with every word, every curse, and every sputter from Hell that was uttered beneath the sharp growl that struck at her back during the day’s work. There was no longer Mother when daybreak came. The was only the Rehtom. And the Rehtom had claws. They were long, curled, and splintered. They terrified Elaine in a way she had never known. They sent tremors throughout her skin. And although they made the small girl incredibly uneasy, no terror matched the kind Elaine would feel whenever she saw the Rehtom’s mouth. The lips were twisted and blackened from the bone-ash retrieved from the children she had terrorized before Elaine. Moving like wraiths, they emanated a rank smell from the wide hole filled with pitch that contained entrance to her mouth. The open, cracked, salivating jowl was the most disturbing and unsettling of all. That mouth would wait, it would suck, and it was all-consuming.
This face did not look as such to the outside world. the Rehtom appeared to have the gentle kind demeanor of a regular mother. It carried grace and poise. Only Elaine was able to see the Hell daemon that hid from behind the stretched, plastic elastane of its outer layer of skin. Whenever the Rehtom stalked her during their errands about town, Elaine would have a moment where she seemed to be free from such horrors. Her body, however, would ache from tiredness, and her mind would dwell in anxious anticipation over the nightmares that awaited her once they returned home. After daily duties, Elaine’s heart would thump when she heard the latch of the wooden shack shut. It would shoot straight up into her mouth, and the Rehtom would remove the mask, slowly, with relish. The skin would peel off her jutted, rotting bones and create tiny piles of fresh flesh upon the wooden floors. And there would be her mouth. Those lips would curl into a wretched smile. And that smile was almost worse than the teeth. It was maniacal.
Come, child, she would wail in her cracked, dusty voice. Come. I need you to fill me. Obedient girl, I need you to feed me once more, as you have done all these days, and as you will always. Elaine would feel compelled, with any last ounce of energy she had left in her small body, to push her way toward the Rehtom. The Rehtom would release a chuckle and bend her head low. Vampiric in nature, she would suck. She would suck until Elaine saw darkness, selfishly slurping Elaine’s life force for herself until Elaine had nothing left. Obedience would come mechanically for Elaine. Her fingers and toes would move numbingly, as though yanked by puppeteer strings. Every day, Elaine would be further weakened. Every day, Elaine would lose more and more of what was left of her already dwindling life. There was only one small grain of hope that kept Elaine clinging onto, if she even had anything left in her to cling at all. She clung to the evenings. The evenings that were not the gallows. And whenever the Rehtom’s assault was the worst, that was where she would be. Mother. Mother who loved and wanted her, if only even just in her dreams. Elaine would know Mother would be coming, ready to take her away. Finally. In the evenings, Elaine waited.
Soon, Mother. This hope would fill her heart until there was none of it left. Until the Rehtom would come again to stalk once more in the morning.
ANGRY (inspired by a prompt from Haley Jakobson) by Cait Thomson
If I’d let myself be angry I’m afraid I would start screaming and never ever stop. The dense ball of pure restless fury I keep tucked in my breast would escape from these painted lips and burn this prison to the ground. If I’d let myself be angry I would run out into the night let the driving rain and howling wind take this woman
apart. The horrid climate in this dreadful place would break down the façade piece by jewelled piece lie by cinched-in lie. This placid empty vessel existing purely to carry fine children and finer dresses would transmute into her true form a living breathing bleeding vengeful sinful siren. If only I’d let myself be angry. Good lord, if only I let myself just be. 71
ALL BIRDS ARE FLIGHTLESS AT THE END by Sabina Leybold
The year you fall in love, you open your closet to lace hanging next to denim hanging above a sparrow in rigor mortis, splayed and straddling a pair of yellow rain boots you bought because they were bright, never wore because they were bright. You’d been living a little extra those days, allowing one more re-wear than usual before washing. The smell could’ve easily been the residue of delightful neglect incubated in the weave of cotton, not of tiny lungs that wouldn’t chirp again. In your second spring together, you’re nearly sleepwalking on concrete when the sparrow returns as the crushed feathers of a blackbird. All day you hum the Beatles tune. Finally, you look up its origin story and find it was recorded exactly 28 years before your birth. So you walk the parallel street home, cherishing every flapping wing. When you arrive, you don’t unzip your coat, untie your boots. You hook your fingers through the crocheted overlay of your wedding dress, grip it tight, you could lose it any time. You spend the night feeling like your bones are hollow, your spine more root than trunk. Once you’ve nested, and just before the waterfalls freeze, you return to the tiny town where you first learned to resent the sight of your own breath. The creek recedes into a valley, continues the erosion we call rapids. You’re reminded how often people die here, how almost every suicide is framed as a tragic accident. And isn’t it? You walk the rocky riverbed rather than the muddy trail, and you’re faced with a death that the newspapers won’t cover, wouldn’t call a suicide if they did. A crow, spread mid-reach, peaceful. Your husband says you attract dead birds wherever you go. His long nose seems for the first time like a beak.
RED DANCES OBLIVION by TIFFINY ROSE ALLEN
I had stopped counting my coins and my debt. I stopped counting the sevenfold of what I perceived to be my abundance and my shortcomings. I would go to the hills, the ones that seemed to never be without the wind. I stopped weaving together the good and the bad with my every thought, and I left it be. I saw the smile of a lover that could have been A morsel of flesh that could have torn my skin. Chapped lips healed with the song of eternity, and what was marble and clean became stained red with hunger and the beautiful obscenity of lustful satisfaction. What is the reaction of the palm, the fingers Plucking a rose Skin pricking at the stem The soil That it is grown from Fed by the falling drops of red. Black cat lies next to me, next to you now As you whisper Orange eyes in a glare Knowing what’s to come Chasing mice and the bite and the red.
The cathedral calling the sinners to rest, but will they rest with the truth of knowing? A dark dance and a witch’s soothing lullaby, Was she really the fiend you said she was, Or were her songs not soft enough? Her songs were for all the lost souls, Not just you. A hand graces over soft water Feeling like a spell… The make-believe come undone, And the flowers showered by the light As you roll your knuckles in bandages and gauze To try to cover up the deep, dark, consuming Red. My soliloquy of unease, Waiting for the dawn to shine through the curtains and set me free. How I long to go where the wind is always smiling, and the morning dawn paints pictures for those who care to take a look. I'm sorry I wasn't what the world wanted me to be. Yet, hopefully, in this carnation The atmosphere will allow me room to grow. I will not stop being who I am I will not bow to treachery. I walk with the moon now, The moon knows me and the sun.
THING WE HID BETWEEN OUR BONES by Melissa James
They brought me here to rest, in neither a hospital nor a home And they speak in tones that should soothe me, but the pastel tiles make my thinking manic I watch the other ghostly girls floating around with weights hidden in their pigtails Chewing tissue with moon-rock teeth and holding pills under their dusty tongues I know I’m not like them, so I’m uneasy every day Certain that soon we’ll pull a rotting carcass out from underneath a bed And a worse thought still, what if my stomach does not churn? Instead, I fall to my knees and pray with my hungry sister Hold her crooked hands and count her loose bones Tying them together with pink, satin bows Not a ghost now, but a shadow, and soaking wet From drowning her children in the lake Scared, of course But also in love, and also in pain, And also more free now than we have ever been She won’t get better, I know But she’s looking back at me and thinking the same thing And it’s so funny, we kill ourselves laughing Deathly happy in lavender twilight At least until they find us, asleep in the morning
Contributors In Order of Appearance
Constance Bourg: Constance Bourg lives in the Flemish part of Belgium, where she volunteers at her local library. Her poems have appeared in Paper Dragon, Free Verse Revolution, Blanket Sea, Rogue Agent, the Pink Plastic House Anthology, and the Emma Press Anthology of Illness. She also dabbles in collage and is currently working on a book-long erasure poetry and collage project transforming Tove Jansson's The Summer Book. She leads a part-time life because of an invisible disability called ME/CFS. You can find her at constancebourg.wordpress.com and her Instagram @tender.rebellion Kendra Nuttall: Kendra Nuttall is a copywriter by day and poet by night. She is the author of poetry collections A Statistical Study of Randomness (Finishing Line Press, 2021) and Our Bones Ache Together (FlowerSong Press, forthcoming). Her work has appeared in Spectrum, Sad Girl Review, Capsule Stories, Chiron Review, and What Rough Beast. She is also a poetry reader for Capsule Stories. Kendra lives in Utah with her husband and poodle. Find her online at kendranuttall.com and on Instagram @kendra.nuttall Stephanie Lamb: Stephanie lives in the Southwestern United States. She began writing at a young age but primarily kept her work in private journals. In her mid-twenties, she went through an extreme writer's block while seeking medical intervention for severe insomnia, anxiety, and postpartum depression. She rediscovered her voice almost a decade later. As a mental health advocate, she now writes to empower others and give a voice to the voiceless. Her other interests include anything and everything metaphysical, mystical, and spiritual. Find her on Instagram @stephanielambpoetry Valeria Dhamar Limon Ayala: Valeria Dhamar Limon Ayala is a Mexican artist just trying to get some work out there! She has been doing collages for a few years now, and she thinks she is finally able to share it with the world. You can see more of her work on Instagram @ultracheese Gina Bowen: Gina Bowen lives in Tennessee with her heeler pup, Jolene. Gina is very interested in Gothic literature and magical realism. Although much of her writing is nature-based, she enjoys melding the spiritual realm with the natural. Furthermore, much of her writing is an exploration of the feminine identity and voice of women. Gina’s work has been published in a variety of online magazines, such as Honeyfire Lit, Blood Moon Journal, and Pvssy Magic. Follow Gina’s work on Instagram @gina.bowen.creative
Mara Rothman: Mara Rothman (They/She) is aJewish photographer and filmmaker primarily working in New York and Connecticut. Their work ranges from the emotionally raw to the playfully benign. They are known for photographs of queer culture and androgynous fashion. Mara’s work can be seen in Toho Journal, Emotional Alchemy, and venues in Sibiu, Romania. Mara is currently working with both Rorschachromance and JOLIN designs. Find their work on Instagram @mararothman Kate Gough: Kate Gough is a Calgary-based poet and a member of the online poetry community. Her work modernizes romantic literary sensibilities and explores recovery from chronic illness and trauma. She has participated in a community poetry event, “Escapril”, releasing narrated poetry every day for a month on Youtube. She has been published in several online journals, including shegotwonder.com and wordgathering.com, as well as in her local community on disabilitypridealberta.com, and in the YYC Portraits of People project. She continues to push herself with creative challenges, through the creation of two chapbooks about her experiences with mental and physical health. Check her work at @chamomilde Emily Perkovich: Emily Perkovich is from the Chicago-land area. She is an Art Evaluator for Persephone's Daughters, and she spends her free time in the city with her family. Her work strives to erase the stigma surrounding trauma victims and their responses. Her piece “This is Performance-Art” was a finalist for the 50th New Millennium Writings Award, and she was featured in the Divine Feminist Anthology from Get Fresh Books Publishing. She is previously published with Wide Eyes Publishing, Sunday Mornings at the River, Prometheus Dreaming, and Awakened Voices. Her chapbook Expulsion was released in April 2020 with Witches N Pink, and her novella Swallow is forthcoming with Pegasus Publishers. You can find more of her work on Instagram @undermeyou Zoë Burleson: Zoë Burleson is currently a sophomore in college studying as an art major. When she is not studying, she likes to juggle numerous hobbies such as photography, collage, and writing, or she is making popcorn and rewatching Derry Girls. Her work mainly focuses on emotion, often depicting femininity and heartbreak. She is inspired by creators such as Louise Zhang, Jaime Rovenstine, Ana Mendieta, and Olivia Gatwood. Zoë hopes to one day publish her own book of poetry and photography
Clementine Valerie Black: Clementine Valerie Black grew up in the shadows of Dallas, Texas. Early on, she learned to bury anything sharp in the yard. She lives with her husband, their dog, and a little black cat. She works as a fifth-grade language arts teacher. Her students do not appreciate her sense of humor. Clementine has been writing poetry for years, but this is her first publication. Instagram: @clementinevalerieblack
Allison Friske: Allison Friske wrote her first poem in 3rd grade about her family cat who was fat and has been writing ever since. Her work has been published in Zany Mag and in the anthology War Crimes Against the Uterus from Wide Eyes Publishing. When she isn't writing, she's trying to make it through grad school by caring for her dog and plants, escaping in a book, and daydreaming about pandemicfree travels. Instagram handle: @poeticwanderings
Sidrah: I am Sidrah, a 28-year-old Pakistani poet in the UK. I’m a teacher, avid reader, part-time poet, and collector of hobbies. I've been known to dabble in photography, martial arts, and watercolour painting. I’ve been writing for 14 years, but I have kept it mostly to myself. Poetry is deeply personal to me; something to allow me to process experiences. As a result, my poetry is personal, raw and honest. I tend to write shorter pieces focused on strong imagery: an encapsulation of one moment, one feeling. I like to use poetry to answer questions or attempt to find a sense of self. My Instagram is @writing.by.sa
Emily Hodson: Emily Hodson has an honours degree in English literature and creative writing and an MA in criminology and criminal justice. She enjoyed developing her creative writing dissertation and has since concentrated her creative efforts on her poetry account, _emilyrosepoetry on Instagram. She has recently been published in Honey Fire Literary Magazine and is excited to be a copy editor for Emotional Alchemy Magazine. She currently lives in Kent, UK, with her partner and three cats.
Amy Canning: I aim to create art that can bring a sense of stillness to a person’s day. I want them to feel calm when they look at my work, which is why I try to create a dream-like atmosphere through the colour palette I use, as well as the shapes that are created either through the placement of images, drawings, or negative space. A feeling of flow and movement is also important to me as it helps achieve the dreamy atmosphere. I want to tell and work alongside imagery I’ve created. Overall, I want the viewer to feel warmth and comfort radiating from my art, so I try to achieve this as much as possible. Come find my work at @uol.art Regina Viqueira Rossi: Regina Viqueira Rossi is a NJ-based artist, educator, curator, and co-owner of With Intentions Holistic Studio, a loving space in Belmar, New Jersey for community to raise vibrations through holistic and creative practices. In her multi-disciplinary art and social practice, Regina is interested in aggrandizing the ubiquitous and exploring hybridity. Regina holds an MFA in Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York, NY and a BA in Studio Art and Peace and Conflict Studies from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. She has exhibited work at the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC, El Museo del Barrio in New York City, and PULSE Art Fair in Miami, among other spaces. Instagram: @realtime.reggie Website: reginaviqueira.com
Caitlin Thomson: Cait (she/her) is a queer mama and wife from Ottawa, Canada. She primarily writes about her experiences with anxiety, trauma, and her love of nature. She can usually be found hiking with her husband and young daughter or desperately drinking coffee. Some of her work can be found @cait.t.poetry on Instagram. Sabina Leybold: Sabina Leybold is a copywriter by day, poet by night, and essayist by weekend. Her work has been read in Honeyfire Literary Magazine and NEW NORMAL Zine, been heard at the Portland Poetry Slam, and is forthcoming in Sunday Mornings at the River. You can find Sabina hunting for street art in Philadelphia or on Instagram at @finding.finesse Tiffiny Rose Allen: Writing has always been my peace of mind and my way of dealing with life. When I'm not writing, I'm dabbling in creating jewelry, photographing nature, and petting my cats. I've self-published a few collections of poetry and have been featured in a few magazines over the last couple of years. If you'd like to see more of my work, you can check out my writing page: @dreamsinhiding.writing Melissa James: Melissa James is based in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. She began sharing her poetry and photography in Summer 2020 with the release of her first zine Of Few Words. Melissa holds a PhD in film studies and is heavily influenced by feminist film theory. She takes additional inspiration from tarot, experimental pop music, mumblecore, and autobiographical art. Instagram @offewwords.poetry
Credits Please note: Photography and art within this magazine have been sourced from either free-touse stock image resources or submitted for use by Emotional Alchemy contributors. Work within the magazine has been rightfully used and has been credited to the original owner. All written work has been submitted by Emotional Alchemy contributors and has been edited for the magazine with approval. Photography: Tanya Trofymchuk from Unsplash Photography provided for page 1 and page 2 Elia Pellegrini from Unsplash Photography provided for page 22 Tyrell James from Unsplash Photography provided for page 31 Mara Rothman mararothman.com Photography provided for page 39 Chimen Kouri Photography provided for page 46 Lucas Mendes from Unsplash Photography provided for page 49 Baran Lotfollahi from Unsplash Photography provided for page 54 82
Benigno Hoyuela from Unsplash Photography provided for page 63 Jeferson Gomes from Unsplash Photography provided for page 64 Anton Malanin from Unsplash Photography provided for page 73 Visuals of Dana from Unsplash Photography provided for page 76 Patterns: Birmingham Museums Trust from Unsplash Provided for page 6, page 8, page 10, page 12, pages 15-16, page 21-22, page 39, pages 42-43, page 46. page 49, pages 53-54, page 63-64, page 70, page 73, page 76, and pages 78-79
Collages and Drawings: Alessandro Sacchi: Untitled - Sourced From Unsplash Provided for page 13 Constance Bourg: "Woman Unscorned" Provided for page 15 Valeria Dhamar Limon Ayala: "Haunted House" Provided for page 21 Amy Canning: Untitled Provided for page 50 Regina Viqueira Rossi "Pisces Goddess,"
Drawing on Paper, 9" x 12", 2021
"Ocean Bones," 2020
Paintings: Birmingham Museums Trust from Unsplash 1 - Pygmalion and the Image - The Heart Desires, 1878. One in a series of four paintings, Artist: Edward BurneJones for pages 18-19 2 - The Wild Swans (The Twelve Brothers Turned Into Swans), 1928 Arthur Joseph Gaskin for pages 24-25 3 - Beauty and the Beast, 1904, Artist : John Dickson Batten for pages 68 4 - Hope Comforting Love in Bondage, 1901 Artist: Sidney Harold Meteyard for pages 56-57 5 - Dawn, 1871, Artist : Simeon Solomon. One of a series of paintings to complement Simeon's own prose poem, 'A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep'. for pages 36-37 83