Volume II November 2014
Welcome to VOLUME II of F WORD, a feminist publication at McGill. We provide a platform for feminist voices, and works by women, which are underrepresented in our community. Our notion of feminism is not limited to gender politics, but rather extends to all anti-oppressive perspectives. Though we do not align ourselves with one particular feminist perspective, the publication is politically motivated in its am to discredit the negative stigma feminism has acquired as a deconstructive philosophy. Our mission statement, (featured below), was crafted with a focus on remaining impartial to content, so long as it is constructive. As well as being a platform for our contributors, we hope F WORD will evolve to be considered a community resource on current feminist events and opportunities at McGill, and in Montreal at large. To access our running events page and past issues, visit fwordmtl.com. For news and popular articles about feminism follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/fwordmtl. For feminist art and content follow us on Tumblr at fwordmtl.tumblr.com. We are currently working to partner with other groups and organizations that share our anti-oppressive values and interests. If you or a group you are involved would like to collaborate with F WORD, please e-mail us. Submissions? Collaboration ideas? Send ‘em: firstname.lastname@example.org You can also submit through our website at fwordmtl.com/submit We hope you will appreciate this compilation of diverse feminist works. Many thanks and much feminist love to all our contributors and everyone who has supported F WORD thus far!
F WORD seeks to explore feminism in its present-day cultural context as a unifying, anti-oppressive, intersectional force. We seek to provide an accessible community resource through inclusive, constructive multi-media content.Through our collective’s non-hierarchical structure, we aim to challenge and move away from existing systems of oppression. We seek to prompt discussion:
What does feminism mean to you?
F Word acknowledges that Montreal/ McGill is on traditional Haudenosaunne or Kanien’kehá:ka land
Table of Contents Untitled by Georgia Gleason Untitled by Natalie Liconti
ownmaking by Frances Maychak
Rethinking “The Internet is for Porn” by Emily Sheiner
binary supposition by Kara Katon Untitled by Uma Vespaziani
The Sunday Market, Careless Whispers, and The Brick by Anouk Ferland
Demon in the mirror by Vita Azaro
post incident by Phoebe Fregoli girl by Julia Epstein
Untitled by Phoebe Frigoli
Translation by Erin Strawbridge
Unitled by Carolyn Ligeza (Trigger Warning: self-harm)
Tornabuoni Female Portraits by Stéphanie Hornstein
hands by Julia Epstein
Cocks and Bulls and Tigers by Hannah Korbee
Coward by Erin Strawbridge
business by Julia Epstein [The sound of a door shutting is heard] by Stephanie Simpson
School quire by Ilona Martonfi (Trigger Warning: abuse)
Untitled by Georgia Gleason boys by Mia Poirier
Aludttej (Sleeping Milk) by Ilona Martonfi (Trigger Warning: abuse) 21 Untitled by Natalie Liconti Letter in Late October by Ilona Martonfi (Trigger Warning: abuse)
Unsafe Places by Hannah Korbee Untitled by Georgia Gleason
Front cover by Elisabeth Sulmont, back cover by Clara Lagacé
ownmaking you are a solid, sordid whole rooted body base, still. my self, cockcrow dew daubed across the bedroom ownmaking digest: I am small, wizened driftwood scaffolding fallible, canâ€™t make a fist around you chalk line morsels make a gaunt floor plan incessant hills and ridges: the landscape of woman. if my body is a place I am A Stranger there, despite the roads I know so well.
Rethinking “The Internet is for Porn”: A Young Girl’s Contribution to Women’s Self-Sexualization Emily Sheiner “The internet is for porn,” a statement made famous by the off-Broadway musical sensation Avenue Q in 2003, is both embarrassingly humorous and painstakingly true. Since the rise of the Internet in the 1990s, web pornography has grown into a worldwide economical sensation, grossing 4.9 billion dollars annually and consisting of 12% of all websites. Pornography is unarguably a majorly profitable, highly accessible and commercialized industry whose images have seeped into the popular imagination to define modern sexuality. The inundation of pornographic images twenty-first century Internet-users are subjected to contributes to skewed expectations female eroticism. The unbridled expanse of the internet paired with rampant accessibility to pornography has desensitized viewers to harmful objectifications of the female body, so much so that women themselves have not only grown accustomed to such sexual objectification, but have begun contributing to this endemic through self-sexualization, particularly through participation in internet pornography. Women’s involvement in pornography is a matter that has long divided feminists; while it may communicate women’s sexual adeptness, it predominantly perpetuates the conception that women are subordinate to men in a sexual context, a notion that only serves to deter feminist efforts. Belle Knox (fig.1) is an up-and-coming pornography starlet with a slim frame, youthful face and is an advocate for joys of “rough sex.” While characters like Belle Knox are a dime-adozen on the Internet porn circuit, this young actress has sparked much media attention for one ultimately surprising reason: she is a Duke University freshman. Not only is she highly intelligent as evidenced by her alma mater, Duke boasts a slim 12% acceptance rate , she is independently paying her $60 000 tuition through the means of her budding acting career. Miriam Weeks, the star’s real name, was outed by a classmate via social media in early 2014, and she has since received violent threats for shaming the Duke community and for her “hypocritical” actions. Weeks is a Women’s Studies major and a self-proclaimed feminist, a combination considered unfathomable by the majority of her challengers. Weeks has been
interviewed by Duke University’s The Chronicle, Fox News, and has appeared on the View. This media attention has garnered a spectrum of reactions from the public, from resolute support to cruel condemnation. In an article published on March 4th 2014 on the female-centric website www.xojane.com, Weeks claims the title of the “Duke University Porn Star.” In her diatribe she challenges the conception that pornographic performance is shameful while its consumption is celebrated, asserting her “experience in porn has been nothing but supportive, exciting, thrilling and empowering.” Weeks is unashamed of her participation in pornography and celebrates it as a healthy outlet for artistic and sexual expression. She defends performing rough sex by labeling it a personal choice and a liberating practice, stating “everyone has their kinks and we should not shame anyone for enjoying something that is perfectly legal and consensual for all parties involved.” In an unrelenting voice, Weeks defends her right to work in the sex industry and her freedom of choice as a woman. While Weeks’ autonomy over her body and her enthusiasm to challenge conceptions of normative female sexuality are noteworthy, there are some holes in her argument that cannot simply go overlooked. Every woman has the inalienable right to express or suppress her own unique libidinal desires, Weeks included. However labeling oneself as a feminist while simultaneously participating in an industry that disseminates harmful images of women and perpetuates unreasonable expectations of female sexuality demands a negotiation pertaining to the nature of porn itself. As communications theorist Marshall McLuhan famously coined the phrase “the medium is the message,” it is not Weeks’ intended message of sexual liberation that is flawed but rather the means she uses to deliver said message: mainstream pornography. Based on the fact that pornography is largely deemed as “obscene,” watching pornography is thrilling because it is predicated on surveillance, where the viewer is offered a glimpse into two domains usually reserved for private exploration: nudity and intimacy. These two entities are ultimately consumed
by the viewer, often at a cost of a subscription or by engaging with advertising content. While accessing clips of pornographic content without paying a subscription fee is possible with only a few clicks, in fact 9/10 users only access free content, profit is still being generated for providers through advertising and web hosting fees. This means the female body is being sold and consumed, given exchange value in a marketplace. Weeks participates in this marketplace by offering her body as a prop, commodifying and relinquishing control of her nudity and intimacy, two domains essential to female autonomy. By earning an insignificant fraction of her videos’ net worth in exchange for her body, Weeks is endorsing the “buy-into notion that demeaning women’s bodies in exchange for profit is acceptable” and is ultimately being monetarily and physically exploited. In order to generate 4.9 billion dollars annually, the worldwide Internet pornography industry unquestionably has high market-demand. While many women do watch pornography, the majority of Internet porn’s customer base is male. According to a General Social Survey on Internet usage conducted in 2000, Men are 543% more likely to look at pornography than women. In a 2011 study published in the Journal of Sex Research that interviewed 782 American college students, it was recorded that 58% of men said they viewed pornography more than once a week. It is unarguable that the majority of porn is produced to cater to the heteronormative male subject. By participating in pornography that Weeks titles “rough sex” she is not only commodifying her body, she is also allowing her body to be physically subordinated by and for the pleasure of men. In the videos that Belle Knox stars in she can be seen giving what she herself calls “rough blow jobs” and receiving “facials” wherein her sexual partner ejaculates on her face. Weeks however is not alone in this regard, according to statistics, 88% of pornographic content portrays scenes of aggressive sex including spanking, gagging and slapping and 49% contains verbal aggression. While Weeks may “get off” from engaging in such activity, a right she is more than entitled to, she is nonetheless communicating to a primarily male audience that aggressive intercourse is not only acceptable without prior consent, but enjoyed by women. She is therefore
promoting violence towards women in some capacity, an issue that feminists have tirelessly protested. Nowhere in Weeks’ videos is she seen brutalizing or subordinating her partner in return. She is however captured prioritizing her male partner’s pleasure and engaging in female-on-female sex before the presence of a man. Through the medium of pornography Weeks is contributing to the perpetuation of the notion that a man comes first in sex. Weeks is furthermore affirming the assumption that the body is a woman’s primary source of power. In today’s post-feminist media culture the female body is constantly portrayed as a woman’s basis of identity. She is attributed even more power if she is deemed sexy by an external, often male, source. By using her primarily naked body as her source of empowerment and by being subsequently validated by the medium of film and therefore surveillance, Weeks is permitting the public to further code the female body as simply a sexualized machine. So what does an average college student’s participation in Internet pornography say about our culture? It is as if “porn is not [only] becoming mainstream, [but] the mainstream has become porned.” Rosalind Gill argues that there has been a major shift in popular culture wherein there is a “deliberate re-sexualization and re-commodification of women’s bodies.” A central tenet of the feminist agenda was once protesting the objectification of women, fighting against their conceptualization and consumption as mere “sexual objects.” It is strange that at a time where women are achieving success at an exponential rate, “in school, university and [in] the workplace” and messages of “girl power” have become popular in music, television and books, that women are actually contributing to their own re-sexualization. Gill suggests that this phenomenon is a response to a construction of a new feminist figure in popular culture; “the sexually autonomous heterosexual young woman who plays with her sexual power and is forever “up for it.”” Weeks is attempting to embody this new neoliberal feminist character.
Read the rest at fwordmtl.com/Sheiner
binary supposition Kara Katon
Uma Vespaziani For Umaâ€™s explanation and more photographs in her series, go to fwordmtl.com/Vespaziani
The Sunday Market Le marché est au rendez vous Du week end J’y étais aussi Petite fille du dimanche Les bras nus tendus vers les pommes La langue pendante devant les croissants Et tant de fromages que la tête me tournait Mais je n’ai pas vu le clown en chocolat Celui qui satisfait tous les estomacs Et qui rappelle aux adultes Que le péché a bien meilleur goût dans la Grâce enfantine. -Anouk Ferland
The Brick Stoned woman picked up the brick and dropped it at her feet where she was building her hut It did not make a sound It did not make a pain It fell to the ground, heavy and rust
to build her boyish dreams in a hut on earth
………………………..I swallow coffee
at the feet of the mountain.
at the feet of her feet - more importantly,
……………………like the gullible audience ……………….to your mannerisms.
Our loves’ cook burned the pie The indelible passing folly and the lack of knowings make this dessert a pot pourri of good intentions that went no where. -Anouk Ferland
Demon in the Mirror Vita Azaro The creature in the mirror stared back at me. What had I unleashed? A demon. A spectre of myself. No, no, that was me. That was me in the mirror. And my body, the body I thought existed…? Can I see it? Can I truly ever see it? When you look down at yourself can you truly see your body? No, you see shapes that you connect to the mental image you have of yourself thanks to…mirrors. I’ve always hated looking down at myself. You see that little weird flashing piece of flesh that is your nose and that changes depending on which eye is looking at it, or if both are. And then an uninspiring mass of body. That can’t be me. It isn’t, but the girl in the mirror… I see her eyes. I love her mouth, I delight in every fold and curve it indulges. I love looking at her face tilt up, her lips parted and eyes slanted. And now she is alive. Her eyes are piercing me, they tell me of my inexistence. This is how it feels, to be fully conscious of not being, that the girl I am looking at is the only person in this room, and that I must get inside her. I must be her. She isn’t me… She has so much life in her. I love her. I would love her if I could. I think that everybody should love her, but it’s not so much a matter of it being her…rather it’s to do with that vitality. The girl in the mirror has it. She is bursting, good Lord, bursting! I look at her, dissociated from me, and my mind is racing. It’s racing through her life. As a child she was pure and wise and full of natural grace and budding talent. Then ills were brought upon her until they imprinted themselves unto her disposition, and ravaging torment was born beneath her small breasts. Moments of highest purity intermingled with cloudy thoughts of splintered identity and lost natural endowments. Emotions that would make her writhe in her bed on hot summer nights. She grew, double-edged, and in the dark cave of her bosom, thoughts continuously festered. Some were high-flying and others perverse. She lived every important personal contact with the greatest of emotional investments. The woman in the mirror is clawing at the glass. Her hands are feeble yet desperate. She feels yearning in her abdomen and she knows a fairy is born. One day, all would marvel at the force unleashed. She merely had to liberate herself from her glass cage. Torturous passions and blood felt galvanization. Where was the spark that had lighted her but a few years ago? Where were the stimuli that had made her believe in her ability of Creation? She would free the demon. It would happen in a cathartic moment some day when pale was not the predominant flavour of her days. In a world of vibrant colours, glances lurking around corners, hands pulling her hair. When hands would pull at her body, and she would shed the layers of her past, of her innards, the dead skins of the bygone days of apathy and societal obedience. She would lose it all, until she had no body, no flesh, no sex. Raw, biting potency with a cat’s tongue would be all to remain. The mirrors in her mind that showed only images exhausted through reflection of days spent drowning in a surreal world, of blind walks through the halls when she would run her fingers against the painted brick and then stumble, her mind blurry, vision clouded, head racing and body irresponsive – all this would vanish. There would be no need for her to be man or woman, she would be only temptress, to life and to visceral, emotional flooding.
post-incident she checks her phone still no sign of her daughter. mom, how do i tell you, it still bothers me. you asked me if i forgave you, how could i have said anything but yes, i couldnt see your eyes but i could feel them through the phone, hear you catch your breath in your chest through the static. i mightâ€™ve said it was fine but there is a reason i do not call, mom. its not that i dont think of you, its not that at all. -Phoebe Fregoli
girl Julia Epstein
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This is a peice that I did earlier this year. It helped me express how I constantly felt unaccomplished, because of expectations people had for me. Constantly questioning why I could never fit in the norm.
why is my body wrong? why are my feelings wrong? why are my opinions wrong?
why are my decisions wrong? why is my art wrong? why is my femininity wrong? Carolyn Ligeza
Female Portraiture in Santa Maria Novella’s Tornabuoni Chapel Stéphanie Hornstein In the detailed 1485 contract that bound Giovanni Tornabuoni, a wealthy Florentine, and the Ghirlandaio brothers in relation to the decoration of the Santa Maria Novella’s cappella maggiore, the patron states that he commissioned the frescoes “as an act of piety and love of God, to the exaltation of his house and family and the enhancement of the said church and chapel.” The “exaltation of his family” was no small matter to Giovanni and the enormous amount of portraiture which features in the Santa Maria Novella frescoes attest to this. Of the few female portraits, two stand out: those featured in The Visitation and Birth of the Virgin. Branded with heraldic devices, portrayed in the profile pose and dressed lavishly, these women stand as visual embodiments of the Tornabuoni household’s virtue forever commemorated as the characters of a rich family narrative. In the Italian Renaissance, portraiture was a vehicle through which the elite showcased their family’s worth. In the case of female subjects, portraits were commissioned in order to display their sitter’s—and by extension their family’s—virtue. In contemporaneous terms, this virtue was understood as a conflation of piety, chastity and obedience. Visually displayed through beauty, a wife’s virtue was directly associated to her husband’s honor and was seen as the most important thing the girl herself could bring to a marriage. “A dowry of virtue is infinitely more valuable than one of money,” wrote Vespasiano da Bisticci. Above all, in order to be considered virtuous a woman had to be chaste. Chastity was of paramount importance because it was believed that “only virginity before marriage and fidelity after it could guarantee the purity of the husband’s lineage.” Since chastity itself was impossible to display visually, painters relied on symbolism to convey this female virtue. The profile pose is the characteristic feature of Renaissance female portraiture. This model of presentation is conspicuous for keeping female sexuality in check in several ways. For one, the profile pose allows the viewer to observe the portrait without the danger of having the sitter stare back. This meant that women depicted could not challenge male authority due to the “blindness” of their profile. Since the female gaze was seen as sexual-
ly charged and rebellious in Renaissance Florence, the averted eye that profile portraiture provided was by contrast considered the mark of modesty, chastity and obedience. The link between love affairs and the gaze was so profound that when going to church, one of the few occasions on which women were allowed outside the house, they were advised to “take good care of [their] sight, holding it well and mortified so as not to mar [their] spirit with scandal.” The averted eye of a profile portrait thus indicated a woman who carefully guarded her chastity as she did not allow her gaze to linger upon any love interests. Moreover, this composition also allowed the artist to display the woman’s hair which was often bound up in an elaborate, constrictive headdress. As long hair was another symbol of female eroticism, tying it up effectively controlled it. Only virgins could wear their hair down. By forcefully averting the female gaze and presenting bound hair, the profile portrait proved an convinient format through which a painter could display a woman’s chastity. What’s more, profile portraiture was also excellent for rendering what was considered ideal feminine beauty at the time: a highly domed forehead and an elongated almost columnar neck. At the time, Italian poets and writers discussed feminine beauty in a fragmentary way, describing body parts individually and noting what was considered ideal for each. The profile portrait, “already a fragmentary statement fixing one side of the upper body but absenting the rest” , was thus the ideal plane in which physiognomical elements could be organized and tweaked. Individuality, characterized by facial asymmetry and imperfections, was sacrificed in order to conform to an ideal beauty of perfect proportions. This altering of features isn’t surprising when we consider that beauty was understood in Florence as a physical manifestation of inner virtue. Although the profile stance would be ideal to render the sensual female silhouette, the heavy clothing worn by women in portraits tend to dissimulate their body. Seen as a symbol of their family’s social status, women are pictured in portraits wearing their donora— clothing dowry. The donora, provided at the time of marriage by the father, and the counter-donora, given to the bride by the husband
were “interpreted as a sign of the honor with which she was being received into the groom’s family as well as the prestige she bore from her natal home.” The bigger a donora, the more honorable the match. Since the Florentine Renaissance was governed by a culture of display, the men tended to heap expensive clothing upon the shoulders of their daughters and wives who “quite literally carried her family’s honor on her back.” Dressed up like elaborate Christmas trees and stamped with their husband’s coat of arms, young brides would then
courage this, women’s education was axed on religion where they were instructed to model their lives on the bible’s most redeeming female: the Virgin herself. In donor portraiture, the profile directed the viewer’s gaze towards the scene depicted giving the appearance that the patron’s profound piety was keeping his attention focussed on the proceedings of the holy story. Therefore, picturing women in the profile, which harkened back to donor portrait tradition, was yet another way to validate their virtue.
Fig. 1, Domenico Ghirlandaio, The Visitation, 1485-1490, Santa Maria Novella, Florence. pose for portraits; their entire body concealed beneath the bulk of the donora. The result is that most profiles show very limited allusions to breast and curves, yet again annulling any sexual pull the image might have. By proclaiming their family’s social status and by hiding the young bride’s sensuality and thus rendering her more chaste, the donora served two purposes in portraiture. Another way that the profile portrait displayed virtue was through its association with depictions of religious donors who were portrayed in the profile in order to distinguish them from the biblical figures that they shared scenes with. Even more than men who tended to the business matters of the household, women were charged with the piety of their family. Branded as sinners by the book of Genesis, it was believed that “everywoman dwelt in the shadow of the fallen Eve, justly sentenced to the pain of childbirth and the labor of motherhood.” Thus, it was expected that their piety be especially fervent. To en-
All the above-outlined elements of profile portraiture apply to the female subjects in the Tornabuoni chapel. The women represented are inextricably bound to the Tornabuoni family through the coat of arms visible in their dress as well as other symbols. This is easily exemplified in the portrait featured in The Visitation (fig. 1). At the far right of the scene, we find three women observing the holy story. The one leading the group has been identified as Giovanna degli Albizzi, first wife of Lorenzo Tornabuoni, Giovanni’s son. Although she is by birth an Albizzi, in the fresco she is unquestionably represented as a Tornabuoni woman. This is evidenced by the Tornabuoni diamond that is embroidered on her giornea. To make the connection even more obvious, a stylized “L”—the first letter of her husband’s name— rests on her shoulder. This makes it clear that, as a married woman, Giovanna’s virtues were to be associated with her husband’s family, not her father’s.
Read the rest at fwordmtl.com/Hornstein
hands Julia Epstein
Cocks and Bulls and Tigers He smiled, bearing pointy teeth, the colour of yellow legal paper. “I’m just being nice, all I want is a kiss pussy cat.” His mink coat brushed my arm as he reached out to touch my face. “Never. Not ever. Not even if the population dwindled from an oozing sore filled plague and you were he only unaffected specimen. Not if you bought me a million and one sunflower seeds. Not even if brushing your lips would wake you from a cursed sleep that would gain me a reward from your royal kin. Not if you offered me this establishments finest pint of golden ale and you promised me good health and a and a Starbucks gift card. Not even if you set your coat on fire and ran through the streets in an apologetic blaze. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.” “Oh, bite me bitch.” So I did. - Hannah Korbee
Coward Someone called me I was a coward the other day, They laughed, not trying to be mean, but simply because even a pg-13 is too scary for me Ending his patronizing compliment with a pat on the head I wanted to pat his head into the floor Perhaps, I don’t like to watch Saw 17 because my reality is fucking terrifying, and in my down time I wouldn’t mind watching ‘Marley and Me’, with my glass of wine “Do you want to play a game?” Trying walking home alone a little drunk in a little skirt a little too late at night Better yet, trying walking home in your sweats and a coat in broad-fucking-daylight Before you laugh at how often I flinch at nothing reflect on the fact that I’ve been sexually assaulted more times than you can count on your two hands. Your two hands, that you can use to protect yourself with... because when I make little fists I hardly make a dent. I’m not alone. I’m not the first woman to be denied consent and I won’t be the last. Being wary is a survival technique I am wary I am a warrior I am a woman I am not a coward - Erin Strawbridge
business Julia Epstein
[The sound of a door shutting is heard] Stephanie Simpson
School quire e-mail from the principal’s daughter Liebe Ilonka, What I hear from you, is very terrible. I will tell you, what I know since many years. He had with Tina W., a young student and quire singer, member in the by him founded school quire a relationship, she had a child, and he acknowledged his paternity, until that okay. She soon had a second child and gave Anton Mathes again as the father. He defended himself of paternity claims and didn’t pay for the second. I know that from teacher Edith F., who became a godmother to one of her children and who supported Tina in her difficult time. Teacher Anton Mathes was then imprisoned. My father was not alive then, he died in 1955. I do not know anything about previous sexual abuse. Did you tell anyone? Later he also molested young boys and given an early retirement. But I am not sure about that. I had only one telephone conversation with him, in 1987. I heard that he was quire director in Regensburg in St. Anton, where he also lived. At that time, I organized a trip to Regensburg with my church quire and he recommended the Karmeliten church in Regensburg. I invited him most cordially not knowing anything, but he declined my invitation. He also didn’t accept to attend the class reunion, that your friend Ingrid L. had organized, he was her teacher, where you also in her class? I promise, I will ask other people, for example Bärbel, who was a big Mathes fan and his musical talent. He sure had talent as a quire director! You will hear from me again, until then best wishes, Helga - Ilona Mortonfi
boys The older boys smoke outside during lunch, so I’ve learned how to sprint past them to the dollar store, for a milky way and a diet coke. Can’t tell if I smell tobacco or weed, either way it sticks to my knee socks. The boys watch me and smile, not because I wear a bra, but because I clutch my 5$ bill, and run. I do not smile back. Once, one of them said, “Denise had nice eyes, but no one wants to fuck nice eyes”. These boys laugh, give themselves pretend hand jobs, and my mother compliments my eyes. These boys smoke in unison, they grow their hair into long ponytails, their crooked smiles look like rows of candy bars. The lady at the dollar store handles my damp 5$ bill. I have to bite my lip when I sprint back. Their laughter like a gunshot, and I am bleeding from my mouth. - Mia Poirier
Aludttej (Sleeping Milk) Kitchen unpainted concrete floor. Woodstove. Two single beds, table, and mismatched chairs. Aluminum washbasin. Bare light bulb on ceiling. Blue enamel jug sitting on rickety counter. The sound of grinding hazelnuts. One tall window facing Erzgebirgstrasse: Medieval nunnery farm by the Moosgraben. Purple bog irises. Plum trees. Bavarian chalk hills ridge, runway of a bombed airport. I sat near anyuka and began to ask questions: my mother was preparing aludttej for túró, a soft, Magyar curd cheese. Cotton apron worn over a housedress, chunky flat shoes. Wooden spoon. Clay pot fuchsia geranium that inhabits a refugee kitchen: aludttej is easy to make at home the old-fashioned way. Pour milk into a pitcher, cover, and let the milk sit and sour, with the cream rising to the top. Use fresh, high-fat raw cow’s milk. Do not move the jug or stir it. “What was that noise?” It was from the school. Fourth grade sound of film reels. In the dark classroom. Blinds hung closed. During movie days, teacher fondling my body. My nine-year-old self. Blue flowered cotton dress, my pigtails. - Ilona Mortonfi
Letter in late October White mulberry and its weeping habit yellow autumn colors, yesterday, we were a family. Today, I sit with people I do not know: peel potatoes, scrape carrots. Set the table, blue stoneware dishes. Resident at the women’s shelter. “I hope you will stay for a few days,” my worker says. Today, I meet a Greek woman, Maria. Her son, George, died in jail because of “candies.” Today, I bake apple cranberry crisp. Sweep and mop wide plank oak floors. Share a small room with cotton curtains. Yesterday: “I will push these keys into your throat and you will be dead. Get back into the house!” Our children came outside and encircled me: protected me. Winterberry holly. Purple aster. He turned abruptly, walked to his car: started the engine, backed out of the driveway. Slate roof, copper gutters, yesterday, I lived in an old stone house. Blackened rockweed left by the tide set among dunes: clumps of marram grass. Sand circles created by the wind. - Ilona Mortonfi
Unsafe Places -the bus -the train -four doors down -at a job interview -in a classroom -on my way to the bar to meet my friends -inside the bar with my friends -outside the bar with my friends -on my way home from the bar with my friends -at the doctors office -in my pj’s, outside my front door -every time it’s dark, I’m walking alone, and I see my shadow cast by the headlights of a slow moving car -in a public bathroom -in heels -in sneakers -in the McDonalds when you got mad when I told you I could buy my own milkshake. -barefoot -the parking lot of a movie theatre -the beach -lying underneath you when you said “I want things to move faster” - Hannah Korbee
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