Flat Ink e
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Alternate Endings Issue #1 / January 2022 / with Dilara Sümbül & Crystal Peng
Leopards break into the temple and drink to the dregs what is in the sacrificial pitchers; this is repeated over and over again; finally it can be calculated in advance, and it becomes a part of the ceremony. —Franz Kafka
“I think here I will leave you. It has come to seem there is no perfect ending. Indeed, there are infinite endings. Or perhaps, once one begins, there are only endings.” ― Louise Glück
"It's not the endings that will haunt you But the space where they should lie, The things that simply faded Without one final wave goodbye.” ― Erin Hanson “And now we welcome the new year, full of things that Original art for Flat Ink by Maria Jose Garcia Reyes
have never been” ― Rainer Maria Rilke
Alternate Endings Issue #1 / January 2022
Edited by Dilara Sümbül & Crystal Peng, with Dhwanee Goyal, Nandini Rabindra Maharana, Maryam Arshad, & Kai Van Ginkel. Read by Vrinda Gandhi & Angelina Yeung
Issue design by Dilara Sümbül / Copyright © 2021 Flat Ink Magazine
SELF-TITLED by CL Forest…………………1 "it must have been the fish who braved my mother’s / Womb between my father’s punch, my aquatic swimmers"
I'M A CAR WRECK IN WINTER by Emma Deimling…………………6 "my notebook / wedged beneath the car seat where he couldn’t find it. / sometimes, i wonder if i cared more about hiding it / than the wreck"
MY FISH by CL Forest…………………2 home/bound by Emma McCoy…………………7 "patient me and doctor you, kisser / And kisser" (love) languages by Zo Estacio…………………3
"The pebbled path haunts me gently / like the drifting thought behind / my mind."
"I archive both the bite in her tone and the love that sits somewhere in it"
variation on a theme, for light is everywhere— by Jen Schneider…………………8
I THINK EVERYONE HAS A SCAR... by Gspere………4
"i knew not how to consume or converse with joy or jest. too much waiting. too many weights. too many crumbs."
"If a poem is the shortest route to tell about / grief, then an anthology is not dissimilar to a / scar." brother by Jeremy Karn…………………5 "i imagine he saw himself in the water, his palms on / the face of its coldness"
Just Married by M. Macallan Lay…………………9 "The “I do” is a fracture in our well-established bone structure."
Original art for Flat Ink by Maria Jose Garcia Reyes
Self-Titled CL Forect
My chest is a home to many fish, salmon and some invasive species I am not sure how the fish got here, as long as I have been swimming I have known them, it must have been the fish who braved my mother’s Womb between my father’s punch, my aquatic swimmers My fish who create a home in school, what the fish eat I cannot say for certain, it is enough to sustain them Through tidal waves, grief and salty tears, I am a storm Of slapping fins, gulping gills and bobbing mouths This ecosystem feels so precarious Smoke in my lungs around my heart Engulfs my stomach, I gasp for air While the fish gasp for water Neither of us is wrong I shrink my abdomen I nearly lose my own Great lake
My Fish CL Forest
Only children cast nets so wide the fish inside are not trapped But contained for play, we heal and nurse, swim between identities Wander roles build relationships, patient me and doctor you, kisser And kisser, we handle our imaginations as delicately as the laces In an antique sewing box, return ladybugs to shady leaves We are only children, we only live over a hundred, tell our own Stories, humming through sordid spaces, make space for our people And hold it, and hold it, and hold it We are the only ones the world has seen casting nets With no intention of burying what is inside
Forest has a degree in cultural anthropology and comparative literature. He works as a kitchen assistant at Mylk and Hummus and as a staff person at Beyond Van Gogh. His visual poems were selected for the 2021 Lit Show by Infinity’s Kitchen.
(love) languages Zo Estacio home is an intangible deity, the way that it’s not the best place to find myself in is the first language I learn— don’t be too loud but respond when you need to, whatever you feel will offend your mother so it’s better if you don’t speak, but your silence offends her too— the validity of my victimhood is lost somewhere in my privilege. Ma teaches us not to call her Lola and it’s Nanay instead of Mama and I don’t know when the names started to elicit a wince instead of a smile. I come to the conclusion that there will always be some degree of negativity, a calibre of toxicity and something close to pain that comes from growing up. yes I have come to learn that it’s not supposed to be this way, I know now that what I have as a structure is all the things I can’t be, won’t let myself be— toxic, angry, ignorant, aggressive— but this is what I have and it’s not enough. Here are the parameters of what’s normal and if I was anything less or anything more the altar becomes a courtroom. this is an unwritten story of my youth and it was Julian Randall who said now I am gorgeous in all the languages I mothered and yes, I’m twisting his prose to carve my own definition the same way I do with my life lines: music and books and poems.
I orphan my shame, I have an arsenal of arguments as to why I’m right, this is what I have and it’s not enough. I'veenough I’ve heard that the best thing I can do for myself is to let myself live but live is to lie and pretend, to hide my poems about my hurt. I can’t remember who said Let us be better than our lost days. Let them blur into wet paint. I can’t remember who said try to love the questions themselves so I do, I unravel another language that’s filled with shameless jokes and buoyant conversations and shared meals and I pin the blame on my best friends for being responsible at the entirety of my music taste and I know can’t fit everything into one poem but truly— I’ve spent all my stars wishing we shared the same blood. It wasit was Sandra Cisneros who said I want to be like the waves on the sea, like the clouds in the wind, but I’m me. One day I’ll shake the sky like a hundred violins. So maybe I will, I will find better things to write poems about.
Ma slides a bowl of fruit in my direction, in affection or apology, I don’t want to know (guavas, pineapple chunks, grapes, ponkans, siniguelas) and she tells me to eat, and there’s another language when I exchange tea and coffee with Lolo, or when I wake up to a cup of taho in the morning. I remember that my brothers know my language of silence and they have learned to navigate around is and this is the love I deserve and I know I would go to the ends of the earth for my siblings. but this doesn’t erase the pain, I try to remember what I do have and what others don’t even if it’s an unfair thought so I let myself be loved and I sit on a throne of patience and exhaustion and I try and one day it will be enough. I know, I know, I know they care, I know time heals all wounds but time will let them fade away too and it was Blythe Baird who said I’m trying to remember that sometimes people love us in ways that we do not understand how to be loved so maybe I am loved as my grandmother tells me another story of how she raised three girls in the strings of poverty, all of them graduates, I am trying to be still, as Ma smiles at the product of a generation-long sacrifice. I am refraining myself from asking why are we held by the same hands that have never touched the opposite side of the cards? and I tell myself that one day I’ll reclaim the empty pages of my girlhood, I’ll find the courage to be mad while still understanding, I’ll speak two or a dozen languages where I am both forgiven and forgiving. so home right now is Ma’s walls lined with glass figurines, Lolo’s stack of vinyls, and again, I’m sitting in the silence, in her cadence I archive both the bite in her tone and the love that sits somewhere in it. I know that I, too, love them in ways they don’t understand how to be loved.
notes on the piece: *the earliest versions of this poem was originally an EngLit project as a reply poem to Rodrigo Sicat’s King Kanakung Pamagtua or In My Old Age. *Let us be better than our lost days. Let them blur into wet paint. & try to love the questions themselves are from Rhiannon’s McGavin’s Resolution in her book Grocery List Poems & Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet respectively. *I orphan my shame is reminiscent of and adapted from the language and style of Julian Randall’s The King Is Dead, Long Live the King (where now I am gorgeous in all the languages I mothered is also found)
Zo is a Humanities student and has a love for clouds, poetry and memoirs. They are a big believer in the arts as a language that enables deep human connections. She can be found listening to movie soundtracks or staining her table with calligraphy ink.
I THINK EVERYONE HAS A SCAR THEY NEVER REALLY SHOW Gspere
There is surely nothing new here. Maybe, a language, a sigh & sign only these scars feel. How easy it could be for one's pain to flicker without burning. a radiating sun drifting drop by drop into the cloud.
If a poem is the shortest route to tell about grief, then an anthology is not dissimilar to a scar. I come from a country where one depressed soul is equal to a lever lifting another. I say my body lifts itself when I hold a hand, like two birds flying in one accord.
My body keeps dropping letters telling me it's weak of feeling pains like sponges drown in an ocean of tears. I write & write & someone else joins in the medley of my pains. It's like the body having two hearts it can't safeguard.
Gideon Emmanuel ( he /him) is a young poet, teacher, lover of kids/nature, orphans & depressed people, from Lagos, Nigeria. His poems have appeared in Eboquills, U_Rights magazine, Arthut anthology, Boardspeck, Street Child anthology, Terror house, Agape Review, Poemify Publisher, Fiery Scribe Review & forthcoming in Brittle Papers, Ninshar Arts & elsewhere.
brother Jeremy Karn
soul-jay, our brother died. i saw how pity looked for a space to fit in his opened mouths that mentioned our names on his blood-soaked lips. it was just two weeks after the community’s youths demanded his parents to warn him of their properties. at dawn, soul-jay was taken to the river we all bathed in after the war for many years, after playing soccer. soul-jay knew that all caught criminals had met their death there. i imagine he saw himself in the water, his palms on the face of its coldness - his mouth soaking wet with laughter as he called others naked boys to splash their bodies into the water. that day it was different, it was soul-jay alone covered in blood. it was soul-jay alone that was pushed in the river - his body tied up with his shirt. i saw how his body splashed into the river & sank into its depth like a stone never to be seen again. we never found his body. never.
Jeremy T. Karn’s chapbook, Miryam Magdalit, was selected by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani for the New Generation African Poet (African Poetry Book Fund), 2021. His works appeared & forthcoming in the 20.35: Contemporary African Poets Anthology, Hoxie Gorge Review, Ghost Heart Literary Journal, Whale Road, IceFloe Press, Lolwe, FERAL Poetry, Kissing Dynamite, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Olongo Africa, Liminal Transit Review, Auto Focus Lit, Stone Poetry journal, Afro Literary Magazine, Eremite Poetry, and elsewhere. He is the 2020 winner of the ARTmosterrific editor choice award. He tweets @jeremy_karn96
I'M A CAR WRECK IN WINTER i drowned in the shallows of his collarbones as dawn coaxed over the treetops, furred in needles and the carcasses of birds nests. he dyed me with blue eyes, shoulders slouched forwards, cyclamen folded against the snowed-in sun, a stray cat curled up in the shadows of dumpsters. like peter pan, he had that daydream hidden in the indentation of his right dimple. i wish i could remember when my name in his mouth became a threat—the sharp sting of a slap that never went away. he left a car wrecked in the woods, my heart mangled somewhere between the frayed seatbelt and the center console, my notebook wedged beneath the car seat where he couldn’t find it. sometimes, i wonder if i cared more about hiding it than the wreck, the pocket of words i didn’t want him to see so he wouldn’t find out that, compared to my poems, i’m a husk—evaded gazes and harsh laughter scraped with frostbit skin, i’ve never written a poem i liked, never been with a person i loved. he was drunk on wine i could never afford. he called again because he only liked to talk to me when wasted. snow in his hair, the impression of my smile on his fingertips, i thought
i would only ever feel safe upstate, but he took that away from me too. cold mornings weigh on me, wet grave dirt on my chest. it’s still there in the periphery, smeared with days of heat and melted ice. i pour the canister of torn, blank pages and gasoline over the backseat, the leather caked in the words i’ve lost again and again, sit in the front seat, the windshield splintered with his smile and the one i never showed him. the notebook is still there but the flames hunger its staled phrases just as easily as my skin, the blackened edges curl in the wind, flake away all the words i’ve ever written that i never liked but always loved.
Emma Deimling currently works as a writing tutor at the Ohio State University’s writing center. They have been published in numerous magazines, including Crow & Cross Keys and The Broadkill Review. She lives in Columbus, Ohio. You can find them on Twitter @EmmaDeimling.
home/bound The pebbled path haunts me gently like the drifting thought behind my mind. Coming to the surface on manuscript days and loose-leaf nights. The way it winds to the door and ends with grace. The way I ran on summer mornings when the ground was still cool enough for bare feet. I am undone a little. I can see it from my office window, the grave-markers of living in a childhood home condemn me softly. Each pebble whispering some new memory as my son runs barefoot under my window, I am ink-stained and guilty of never writing enough of me, of the gentle opening in me, of the deeply familiar novelty that is a pebbled path Emma McCoy
Emma McCoy is a poet, writer, and student trying her best. Her work can be found in places like Seaborne Magazine, Paddler Press, The Crux, and Catfish Creek. She is currently working on her first chapbook.
variation on a theme, for light is everywhere – in the twinkle that is/was your/our eyes, the cup that is my palm, in the chipped ceramic tumbler that housed my morning fuel, in the smallest pockets of air between the fabric that hugs/hides to embrace the unknown, the morning sun, the green in your eye – under the blue cloth cap & over the cream cellophane wrapper of your our sandwich & days sandwiched by tuna & time on toast i had have never seen anyone eat a sandwich the way you devour(ed) your tuna on toast. clumps & clusters of carefully scooped calories. nothing like the notion of numbered halves and triangular bites to boost both adrenaline and anxiety. wrapped in cellophane. secured under foil. fanfare meets cutlery, parked in the kitchen sink. i had prepared it that morning. the morning before that and before that and before that. before I knew you, too. though – like hunger – to know is relative and we are not relatives. we share(d) no blood. not even circumstance. nothing more than a seat on the bus. i’d mash then scoop the tuna in a small bowl while listening to tunes that both mark and mar headlines. the tunes procured through years of both growth thru grains and grime thru rains. the bowl purchased at a summer flea market. i liked the way the light from the window over my kitchen sink would make it shine. not unlike the way your eyes would light up as i boarded the bus on which we’d share a seat. each Monday. Tuesday through Friday too. patterns of consumption and conversation persist. for a seven-minute stretch north.
a fan of sport & seventh inning stretches, you made the trip not light, but lighter. i suspect the smell of the tuna irritated the turned-up noses in seats behind & in front of mine/yours/ours. perhaps the smell of the layers of cloth – heavy canvas barn jacket, worn flannel woven with shades of blue, grass-stained denim – that clothed your limbs & heart. your full lips – both cracked & creased of balm & bruises – would pause then squash down on the crisp toast corners. tiny bits of celery in your beard. tinier bits of serendipity in your brusque posterior. i had have never seen anyone enjoy a sandwich the way you savor(ed) your tuna on toast. eyes focused on protein layers. fingers flat against sliced bread. confetti crumbs. mouthed motions & peculiar patterns. clamp. chew. chomp. swallow. smile. again. despite the heaviness of the t(issues). of the cloth(ing). of the sentiment (scent). of the engineering (engine). of the bruis(ruse)s. you were always light(er), relatively, yet never a relative. newspaper on lap. simultaneously open & shut. rays of light (& fright) of many angles. section b. page 10. sandwich crust corners. bus route lines. intersections & intersecting rays of joy (& traffic jumbles). like knowledge, chirps, & spontaneous chatter, dialogue always meaningful, dialogue always memorable. patterns always curious. curiosity always relative, too. you both consumed and extracted knowledge through the tip of a ballpoint pen that bore the name of high-end cafes & restaurant brands that would dot the city proper. your greetings always proper. hands would lift the paper on the seat to your right. your capped head would rise, then tilt. eyes lit of synapses the color of chocolate moon pies. extra cream. extra care. Extra ___. you consumed the air between us with a ferocity i had believed was reserved for wrestling rings and jungles. i knew not how to consume or converse with joy or jest. too much waiting. too many weights. too many crumbs. you taught me that life is lived in a series of moments, each bite, each morsel, each smile, each seat on the bus – each space between us, worth more (than) time, worth everything. for light is – & streams – everywhere.
Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania. She is a Best of the Net nominee, with stories, poems, and essays published in a wide variety of literary and scholarly journals. She is the author of A Collection of Recollections (Next Chapter), Invisible Ink (Toho Pub), On Daily Puzzles: (Un)locking Invisibility and On Crossroads and Fill in the Blank Puzzles (forthcoming, Moonstone Press), and Blindfolds, Bruises, and Breakups (forthcoming, Atmosphere Press).
M. Macallan Lay is a creative writer and current MFA candidate. Their work has been featured or is forthcoming in Lavender Lime, Bad Jacket, Litmag, and various college-ruled notebooks littered across her one bedroom apartment. She was born, raised, and educated in Saint Louis where she currently resides. You can find them online @narcotoxxin.
Just Married M. Macallan Lay
The crisp winter air falls over the suburbs like the veil of a new bride. We are getting fucked up to the tune of Canon in D, saturated in despondency. The cream-colored ranunculus morphed into some kind of forewarning. I got my foot stuck in the pew. My mother claims I ruined the entire wedding, but this jig was up before it even started. An absence before the exit, a hearse before the body. The “I do” is a fracture in our well-established bone structure. The greatest flaw in our belief system is that we might belong to ourselves.
Special thanks to Dhwanee Goyal, Nandini Rabindra Maharana, Maryam Arshad, Kai Van Ginkel. Vrinda Gandhi, Angelina Yeung, Audrey Snow Matzke, Mckenna Saady, Zo Estacio, Angelina Yeung, Dilara Sümbül, & Crystal Peng Issue design by Dilara Sümbül / Copyright © 2021 Flat Ink Magazine