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FWWR ANTHOLOGY 2020


ANTHOLOGY FALL 2020

Editor in Chief: Megan Febuary Poetry Editor: Thea Matthews Nonfiction Editor: Nica Selvaggio


04 Editor's Note 06 T Clear 09 Ashley Blake 12 Skyla Grayce 18 Diya Sangupta 21 Taylor Solano 23 Sharon Volpe 29 Meg Posner 34 Kathleen Karr 38 Molly Senecal 41 Makea King 45 Connie Pertuz-Meza 51 Della Hick-Wilson

2020 56 Emi Bergquist 59 Laurie Buelvas 63 Hyewon (Henie) Cho 67 Shana Schmoyer 70 Sophie Wagner 75 Pooja Gupta 79 Valin Paige 81 Christine Handy 85 Nica Selvaggio 90 Meet the Authors


Dear readers,

When I started For Women Who Roar, it came from the poetry and prose bubbling up within me, a desire to desperately find words for what was unsayable within me. Soon after the words poured from me, I had a vision of you, yes you. I saw women from all over the world finding their voice through writing and healing. For Women Who Roar was born and became a storytelling space for all who longed to connect and share. This anthology of 2020 was such an honor to compile with beautiful poetry, stories, and interviews that reminded me why we need women's voices more than ever. Thank you for reading and for being part of the collective roar. I love you.

Xo, Megan Febuary Editor-in-Chief

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By T. Clear

Hazard I’m in the danger zone on the brink of the cliff the balcony, the roof garden a blade at my wrist the train a heartbeat away dead-center of the tracks the freeway, spilled out and inside up, disassembled erupted, orange alert I’m setting off alarms and motion detectors out of the gates and there’s no reverse there’s no stopping no finish line, no busted bank account no credit limit to speak of I’m hurricane and typhoon tidal wave and slipped fault lines I’m the gravitational pull and the lunar surge of seas in the line of fire ice cracking underfoot flares on the roadside gas leaking out, a match

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By T. Clear

fractured ankle, cracked rib gash to the forehead on the edge of surrender on the verge of capitulation on the lip, the threshold white flag inching up the stick towel poised for the throw waning ebbing easing in for good for bad for the long or the short of it I’m in

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By Ashley Blake

Night of Fires America is on fire The map is lit up like fireflies dancing in the night Ash floating up into the skies Will it quench our rage Will it soak up our tears Will the fire rise up to our oppressors ears The skies are on fire We lit them up Watch it burn Watch it burn Will we see the tides turn Will our babies return to their mothers Instead of the urns America is on fire fire that’s been flowing through our veins The fire we were born with is lit again Over and over we bleed and we sin Crying for justice Crying to live the lives we were brought into

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By Ashley Blake

No one asked what color skin We would like to be born in No one asked if we’d like to be mad with the madness Of being murdered and resented America is on fire The fire that’s been lit for generations That cleared the land for the fields My ancestors enslaved in America is on fire Johnson tell us to march towards the rising sun Sing till victory is won How many years have passed Still chanting a reprise from 1899 looking for liberty in the same land Still longing for the right to not be forced into breathing our last breath America is on fireThe fire that’s fueled By the blood of our brothers The tears of our mothers The silence of our pale friends Who will stop the fire When will freedom begin

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By Skyla Grayce

Dare To Dream To Dream. I did once. I was known as a child to be full of the magic of innocence. I played in my imagination way beyond the years expected. Even as I reached puberty and grew hairs under my arms I sat in a bath with my childhood friend and asked him what they were and why they were here? I believed in Santa Claus until I was eleven. I believed in magic and I had big dreams. I believed in myself and my abilities to create inconceivable things. To be that story of the impossible made possible. I could taste the atmosphere of ‘making it’. I didn’t care how I was to get there. I just knew with a deep seated knowing that was where I was going. It was my destiny. It was what was in the movies. It was the only option for me. My feet left the earth and I stayed above ground hovering as I tried to reach higher. There must have been a moment when the innocence of my dreams shifted into the dreamer. The delicate intimacy of my childhood flame blew out and I chose my imagination as a world I could create to check out. To hide, to feel safe in. At fourteen my dreams came true on the stairs. I sat with the green carpet tickling my toes as my mother said ‘that was Jane from Bodyworks, you made the list. She wants you to be the alto to sing with Westlife’. Tears burned my eyes as I felt my whole being breathe out. I knew it, I was going to be famous. Turning over and over again in the kitchen practice pirouettes. My mum would ask me ‘Kitty.’, ‘yes’, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ - ‘Famous.’

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By Skyla Grace

Famous. Fame. What did that mean to me then? What did it mean to the seven year old me? The sweet innocent child dancing in the kitchen. My adult self tells me it was a ticket out of an abusive home. It was a ticket to a life I got to create as my own with my own rules. It was a chance for the whole world to know who I was and put my name in lights. It was recognition that who I was was enough, was ok, was more then I had been told. That my energy, my expression, my joy, my passion, my deep feeling and sensitivity was all for a reason. That it was all of me that had been getting me ready to be known for exactly that - myself. So I dreamed. I watched movies, musicals, sang songs, danced down the road, day dreamed of my life beyond this house, this family, this village, this school, these people. One day I will be surrounded by people who see me, who accept me for me. I didn’t know who I was. I could taste her. But I couldn’t see. I was so courageous back then. I believed in myself. The yearbook at age eighteen, turns to page sixteen. Kitty: Most likely to be… famous. What started as an innocent dream became an obsession. Became a desperate neediness in me to mean something to myself. It became a fuck you to every oppressor, bully and arsehole who had hurt me. It was my way of saying all the pain you went through, all the abuse, all the tears you cried that were for this. You can now make sense of them. See you needed to experience that so you could be a good actress, so that you could sing with the depth of soul your voice carries. So your stories could touch people like they do. See that harm, that horrible time in your life was for this. The problem with a dream when it gets entangled with the trauma you have endured is that the innocence of the dream dies. What is left is a drama that keeps you from progressing that holds you back. That prevents you from learning, that takes your mistakes and tells you they are failures. That uses all the no’s and not nows as never. That takes all the times you fell down as the reason you should never get up.

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By Skyla Grace

This is when the dream and you become very far apart. The mountain to your actualization becomes a broken bridge between two planets moving away from each other. What I know about dreams now is that they are quiet. They live inside my heart and whisper softly to me the things that are for me. They are innocent, they want for nothing and offer everything. They support your continual growth and development and they allow you to learn and blossom. They are the fire that ignites your becoming. I don’t know what my dreams are. I thought I did. But dreams became dangerous for me and created pain that at times I would beg to die rather than feel it. My ‘dreams’ let me down. They hurt me. They took me on a trip deep within the walls of my own personal hell. Dreams walked me into the heart of my depression. Dreams let me down. Dreams destroyed me time and time again. My dreams were not helpful. So I locked the doors on my dreams. I learned that dreams were not it. They were not the way to live, they were a distraction from what was important. My survival. Feeding myself, creating shelter, having nourishing and loving relationships, getting help, slowing down, learning about myself. Healing my trauma that had entangled itself around my dreams. What I am now waking up to as I sit in my house, with my boyfriend in a beautiful part of the countryside with money in my bank account, a business of my own and a creative partnership that reprogrammed my brain on what is possible in collaboration with someone. I have created foundations. Foundations strong enough to hold dreams. But I can’t find them any more. I lost them. I lost the key to the door of my dreams. Because I locked it. I locked the door on my dreams and in doing so I locked away my creativity. So now I am wandering the world naked. No more dreams. There are said to be three spiritual questions that one can turn to in moments of crisis. 1. Who am I? 2. Why am I here? 3. How shall I live? 14


By Skyla Grace

I don’t know what I am doing here. I don’t know who I am. I have no idea how I should live. These questions for me are the hardest questions in the whole world and yet I burn for the answers.I cry for the truth of them. I am thirsty for them. I am tired of not knowing. And for some reason I think the key to this is for the door that says dreams. And I am ashamed to admit that I am too scared to go in. Dreams have got me into so much trouble. Caused me so much pain. Hurt so many people. Wasted so much time. Made a fool of me. Embarrassed me. Tortured me. Tested me beyond measure. So why is it when I look at others, people on the internet, friends and family members that they manage it. They create it. They live a dream. Or is this a projected image from the movies that I see that is not real. What is a dream? Can I live mine? Are dreams only for the few? Or the many? Spiritual development when you are riddled with trauma is not a mindset journey it's a somatic unlearning of exploring what it means to be safe within your own body. Was it the trauma I had that held the reins of my dreams back? I want to trust myself to dream I want to create my dreams To dance in the sunlight and fall into the arms of the stars and melt into my true nature but I am locked. I am locked outside the door. Blind and alone. Unable to find the key unable to see the door itself. Searching for a gateway. Desperate for the doorway into my own dreams. 15


By Skyla Grace

It's the mystery of all mysteries. What sits behind that door. Dreams? My dreams? My creativity? Myself? Permission to dream please. Is it safe to? Is it safe to offer my heart, to allow my innocence to step out and play? Can I take care of her? Can I love Kitty? Allow her to play, to dance and to dream.

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Self-Care with Diya Sangupta How has creating art supported your healing journey? At the lowest point of my life I realized that the creative process and healing process arise from the same source. It stems from the need to develop inner peace and block out the outer chaos and noise. I used to suffer from massive anxiety; panic attacks that left me short of oxygen. In fact, I still do sometimes. The only difference is, I have developed the capacity to overpower it now. I am not saying Creating Art will snap you out of your problems within a fraction of seconds. It is a process. It takes a lot of time, patience and practice. Creating has truly proved to be therapeutic for me. It has not only calmed my mind but has also healed my body. It has created a bubble of happiness inside my head that constantly radiates positive energy. I am a staunch believer of "thoughts become things" so it is extremely important to choose the good ones. I feel people who can create Art, any form of Art, are truly blessed.

What does it mean for you to roar? Can you share about a time you overcame feeling silenced? The one's who uplift you, extend a hand towards you while climbing up the ladder of success and take care of their tribe are the one's who truly roar. They are just badass. I am one of those fortunate ones who never had their voice silenced ever. Only one instance I can think of is an abusive relationship with a classic case of gaslighting. Took me 6 years to get out it. Came out of it as an empty shell of a woman with body image issues and went ahead and became the woman my ex would never dare to toy with. 18


Self-Care with Diya Sangupta

What prompted your art style? I don't really have an Art Style. I stick to no single aesthetic because I feel it somewhat limits creativity. I tried sticking to a particular style for a while. And I got Bored. Very Very Bored. It just narrows your options to work on versatile projects that require different approaches to style and techniques. For example I create both editorial and children's book illustrations and they both require starkly different styles of drawing and coloring. A significant amount of pressure has been applied on artists over the years to develop their signature style, without which one is not likely to succeed in the art world. It not only causes an undue amount of stress in the mind of artists but also forces them to stick to a particular style without any scope of experimentation. Art should just be about creating. It should free you, not restrict you.

What advice would you give to artist that want to pursue their craft, but don't know where to begin? One thing no art school will ever tell you is that if you want to pursue art as a career, you will have to step out in the world not just as an artist but also as an entrepreneur. As much as I hate commercialization of Art, I also know you need money to survive. So, just creating is not enough. Market yourself Aggressively. Network as if there's no tomorrow. Have an online presence. Meeting the right people is very important. It helps in the long run. Especially if you decide to go the freelance way.

What is one thing you want women to know today? It would be a rather beautiful world to live in if women are taught to love each other fiercely and not compete against each other and hate their own body. We have generations of Hate to unlearn and replace it with love. So we need to support each other and not compete against each other. So surround yourself with girlfriends who support you, push you to do better. Good times and positivity. No mess. No Drama.

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By Taylor Solano

Through The Air She dances through the air is propelled not by his hot breath but by her own strength and at every turn lifts herself up higher she rises above the weight of him on her limp body leaps and bounds in resiliency she is her freedom

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Art Allows Me to Step Outside Myself with Sharon Volpe How has creating art supported your healing journey? Art allows me to step outside myself. If I am feeling down or feeling insecure about my art that actually the creating of it will give me a sense of empowerment. I will feel renewed because I created something fresh and each time my artwork grows and then I can heal. What does it mean for you to roar? Can you share about a time you overcame feeling silenced? I think its to push on even when people are trying to keep you in a box. Top brush it aside and keep persevering. Not to yell and scream and confront but to silently show strength. I often have to keep this approach in mind as to my experience in my MFA program and feeling silenced as to being compared to others, or my opinions and creative thoughts were pushed aside. Being told "you are not good at that style,", or "that's not for you" .... This is not always coming from men either. Sometimes we can allow other women to silence us. It becomes a cycle of being silenced, and then silencing other when we shouldn't. I kept my inner strength and just kept working and working each day because I knew that my art could evolve and become impactful. People could and would notice my artwork. I think back to that time and I am still learning from it, but knowing that it's better to be put down by others that do nothing, then do nothing and criticize. Just keep pushing forward. 23


Art Allows Me to Step Outside Myself with Sharon Volpe

What prompted your art style? I don't really have an Art Style. I stick to no single aesthetic because I feel it somewhat limits creativity. I tried sticking to a particular style for a while. And I got Bored. Very Very Bored. It just narrows your options to work on versatile projects that require different approaches to style and techniques. For example I create both editorial and children's book illustrations and they both require starkly different styles of drawing and coloring. A significant amount of pressure has been applied on artists over the years to develop their signature style, without which one is not likely to succeed in the art world. It not only causes an undue amount of stress in the mind of artists but also forces them to stick to a particular style without any scope of experimentation. Art should just be about creating. It should free you, not restrict you.

What prompted these beautiful portraits? My purpose is to show the expression and power men and women have from the inside out. I use colors, symbols and textures to bring that out. Also, growing up my love for fashion, advertising and beauty of all kinds, sizes and races started at a young age. My parents owned a retail store, so I was fascinated with fantasy through how we look and feel by what we wore or the way we smell. On the other end, I was a painter and vigorously studied the way people were altered in the works of Matisse, Picasso, Modigliani, and even Warhol. How they captivated a moment and even showed human emotions, or a special time period with color and line. I studied graphic design and illustration, and worked hard to develop my own unique style that tells a story of a human’s emotions through shapes , brush stokes, and composition. I work in varied mediums from digital painting to acrylic painting, and sometimes the how they can be combined so seamlessly. Through my portraits and figurative work, my objective is to portray a reinterpretation of ideal beauty. The GOAL: to create images that makes a viewer stop in their tracks and wonder.Hoping at least that I make people say “I wonder what they are thinking, or are they feeling empowered?� 26


Art Allows Me to Step Outside Myself with Sharon Volpe

What advice would you give to artist that want to pursue their craft, but don't know where to begin? Draw the same thing 500 times. Then you will see something from that, I promise you will.

What is one thing you want women to know today? To be yourself. Take it or leave it. Some will tag along for the ride and others will not. But do not lose sight of yourself and your goals and what makes you feel good inside. Don't change for other, be true to you.

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By Meg Posner

Dear Girl; Dear Woman Sweet Girl Ten and Timid Round Flushed Freckled cheeks Framed by curlskept wild to collect dandelion fluffRemember: You believe in their seeds-carrying wishes upon the wind. **** Sensual Woman Tentative and Tired Round Curved Widened womb Touched by yellow lightkept warm to teach the hummed inward language of our sisters29


By Meg Posner

Remember: You belong to a lineage of mothers whose worn and weathered hands remained soft. **** Curious Girl Barefoot in the dewey-damp grass Content in the company of caterpillars Fingernailsdirtied Graceful, gracefully colliding into the spaces in-betweenRemember: Tell your stories with the attitude of a lionesswith appetite with your arms legs Flourish Fumble Find the ground again. **** Cautious Woman Bare

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By Meg Posner

in the drowsy-dusk Calm in the presence of whimsy-pink clouds **** Cautious Woman Bare in the drowsy-dusk Calm in the presence of whimsy-pink clouds Armstattooed Grateful, gratefully struggling out of too-tight skinRemember: Live like the mothWith conviction with your core muscle Clamber Claw Connect again. **** Brave Girl Sundressruffled 31


By Meg Posner

Remember: Sweetly sew in a pocket for a summer-warm tomatofuzzy plucked from the vine. **** Butterfly Woman Remember: Boldly bite into the flesh of a sun-sweetened tomatodrip seeds down fuzzy bare legs resolutely rooted in the soil.

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By Kathleen Karr

Healing For The Hunted I’m not even sure when it happened. Was it an exact moment? Could I suspend it in time and examine it for hours, days even? Could I break it down and process it into something I could possibly one day understand? That would be easier, I suppose. To have someone to blame. To designate an origin from which all of this chaos and discomfort within me was born. But I don’t think I can tie it back to a moment, to a single event. I think it has been a lifetime of moments, a sea of events. And I have been drowning. I have been using a variety of inefficient resources to keep me afloat, to keep me from completely going under. I remember the first time I explored my own body. My young hands moving over my skin. I was nervous. I had been told this was bad. I had been told this was a sin. I was maybe twelve. I don’t know how old he was. He was on the other side of the computer screen, the liquid crystal display technology separating him from any accountability for his actions. He told me to explore my body. To send him pictures, so I did. I sent him pictures of myself, of my naked youth. In this culture, to be desired is to be worth something. To be young, to be available, to be vulnerable. Greedy lions lick their chops, drool dripping down their chins. They have a hunger that, when it is fed, can only lead to more hunger. And they always want more. He wanted more pictures. He blackmailed me. Twelve years old and he blackmailed me. If I didn’t send him more pictures, he threatened he would post the ones I had already sent him for everyone to see. Yes, the first time I touched my body ended in terror. My exploration of self-pleasure was intertwined with the horrible pain of someone else having power over me. Exposed and exploited. A literal snapshot in time of my innocence corrupted, trust betrayed.

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By Kathleen Karr

The lion is chasing an antelope on a savanna somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. The antelope’s first reaction is to look for help, but her peers have already scattered. She has been previously injured. She limps along, knowing that fighting was never an option. Nor can she run away. She must freeze. She must pretend to already be dead if she has any hopes of remaining alive. It’s a hot summer night in a small beach town I’m visiting with my friends the summer before we go to college. I just met him tonight, a couple of hours ago actually. He takes my hand and leads me to his bedroom. I don’t know him at all. I know he’s older than me, and that I don’t really want to be there. He guides me to his bed, and I lay down on top of the covers. My body tenses as I spot the lion on the horizon. I am injured from experiences before this. I want to say no, but I don’t want to make things uncomfortable. I know that putting up a fight isn’t an option. I know that I cannot outrun him. My body freezes as he goes down on me. I go somewhere else. I cannot stay and watch the bloodbath. But my body, she remembers everything. Did you know that baby elephants are held in captivity by a small, single rope? The rope is too strong for the baby elephants to escape from. As the elephants grow in strength and size, the captors continue to use the same small rope. The elephants have everything they need to be free, but they have conditioned their own minds to believe that the rope is too strong for them to break away from. So they stay enslaved not by physical restraints, but by the limitations of their own minds as a result of their experiences. They think they will never be free, so eventually they stop trying to be. I stopped trying, too. I don’t know how many times I froze. I don’t know how many times I wanted to say no, but didn’t. All of the unspoken “No’s” gathered together and accumulated in my body, tangling a web of unrest deep in my gut. My inner being was rife with the discomfort of habitually biting my tongue, of all of the unexpressed boundaries, piling up on one another and rotting in my core. Fight-flight-freeze was more than just a trauma response, it was a way of surviving life. There were many moments of surrender in my healing journey -- completely separate yet somehow connected occasions where I finally realized the insanity of the way I was living. In Alcoholics Anonymous they say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. 35


By Kathleen Karr

Well for me, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again knowing exactly what’s going to happen and doing it anyways. I didn’t care about the consequences, I wanted to be numb. I wanted to forget. I wanted to run away. Until finally I couldn’t anymore. Someone else had to point it out to me, that I was actually strong enough to break through the tiny rope that had shackled me for all these years to a life I had not chosen for myself. I believed her because she had broken through her own rope and come back to tell others they could do it, too. This healing journey has been a long one, full of both joyful moments and weary ones. It has been anything but linear. Remember the game Chutes & Ladders from when we were kids? Go up the ladder, fall back down the slide. That is what recovery has felt like at times. But I am always moving towards something -- towards healing, understanding, accepting. I am no longer chained to a reality that keeps me from even allowing myself to play. Healing has been a hurricane of tears. It has tasted like many pints of ice cream. It has felt like dying over and over again, only to end up giving birth to a new self. It has been heavy and obtuse at times, but the difference is I no longer have to carry my truths alone in shame. Healing has been a series of reconnecting with a primal power within me that I forgot I possessed. It has looked like listening to my body and giving her a voice -- taking the tape off of her mouth and letting her scream, “NO, NO, FUCK NO” until she finally realized I wasn’t going to let her be hurt like that anymore. Today, I have a choice. Healing has not been easy, but it has been worth it. Instead of running from my thoughts and feelings I invite them and ask what lessons they have for me, even the uncomfortable ones… especially the uncomfortable ones. I have been on the mend, carefully stitching body and soul back together after years of unknowingly disassociating from life. I am regaining strength and stepping back into my wholeness every day. I am here to help others realize that they, too, are capable and inherently worthy of great healing. To remind them of their strength and hold space for their wounds. And to show them that freedom is just on the other side of a rope that is only as limiting as we allow it to be.

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By. Molly Senecal

Too Three letters with the power to destroy, to annihilate, to burn everything down. Too These three letters can throw the scale off balance, topple the house of cards, bring the whole damn thing down. You shake your head; I see you disagree with me. Bear with me, stay with me for a moment. Let me start with this: Too large, too big, too heavy The weight of my grief, of all the sad stories that I carry hang on my soul just as my rolls of soft, stretched flesh hang on my bones. Countless times I wanted to cut off parts of my body, my soft stomach, my jiggly thighs, my sagging breast. In my mind, I take a pair of scissors and slice off the “too-much” parts of me. They lay like slices of raw meat on a platter (sacrificial offerings!) Then I slice off all the sad stories — stories of daughter-grief, of violence and trauma, and — the heaviest one of all — shame. They bleed down my arms, between my ribs, my thighs and you avert your eyes.) I remember the first time someone told me that my body was too heavy. I can still recall the shock and disbelief, followed by shame. My seven-year-old mind could not comprehend how this glorious body could be wrong. But the ground opened up and swallowed me, my shame swallowed me, and — though I’m trying — I still haven’t found the way back to that gloriousness. Too nice, too good, too quiet 38


By Molly Senecal

Regrets lie next to me like a constant companion, like shadows tied to your feet. Maybe that’s why I run, all the time. But it’s not enough. Even after twenty or thirty miles, I still can’t outrun myself. I see now that I was the too-good mother, the too-nice mother when I should have been the fucking fire-breathing dragon mother — I should have burned that shit down for you. And I should have burned that shit down for me too. Older now, I understand that regrets, like trauma, are passed down from woman to woman. Like a bloody heirloom, a red-stained family crest. The regrets of my grandmothers, my aunts, my mothers, my sisters — we were all too nice, too good, too quiet when we should have owned our words; worn the loud, tight clothes; claimed our space with flung out hips and our hair thrown back. And we should’ve been loved for it. What a legacy that would have been. Too sad, too much, too long People whisper, is she still depressed? She’s so sad. It’s been over a year now, it’s been too long. Those people don’t understand that the days are long and short at the same time. It feels like no-time and forever in the same breath. So I write. I write about my should-havelived child, I write all the words that my younger self wanted to say, but didn’t know how. My words anchor me to the living, they give me a way to move through the now, to braid joy and sorrow even as I carry this absence, these traumas. My secret solace is twilight. Twilight is when sacred words float up to my hands, my mouth. As often as I can, I walk the shore of the lake as the sun sets. I pick up stone, after stone — holding them in my hand, blessing these smooth, river stones. Then I put them back — these words warmed by my hand and by the fading sun. Too So I ask you this — who decided this? Who gets to throw this word at us, carelessly, leaving wreckage in its wake? Who says we are too much? That we take up too much space? That we’ve cried too long for a dead daughter?Fuck them. Let’s burn this shit down. Let’s make a mother loving glorious bonfire.

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By Makea King

Woman Easing Into Repose Week One. You wake up. It’s morning. It’s a pretty morning. You yawn and stretch. You roll over in bed and pick up your phone. It’s 7:30 am. It’s a Friday. It’s sunny outside. Today is your birthday. You’re 36. You remember you’re off today. Whatever being “off” means right now. You have a virtual meeting at 11 am. Doesn’t quite make sense to not log in to the meeting since you’re home. Hell, everyone is home. You can always take “off” after the meeting. The champagne can wait. You’re 36 now. Sacrifices must be made. Week Two. You wake up early. The voice of David Green updates you on the devastation that occurred while you fitfully slept. You sit at the kitchen counter with your laptop, stretching the limit of how many browser tabs you can have open at once. You listen to NPR updates playing from the kitchen radio while reading news articles in between work emails and virtual meetings. You drown yourself in Coronavirus facts because knowledge is how you attempt to gain control. The more you know, you know? You cry while watching the evening news. You worry constantly about your mom working in a nursing home. Your younger brother delivering medical supplies. Your aunt fulfilling orders at a distribution center. It gets harder to wake up and keep your schedule. You lose a whole day zoning out in front of your laptop instead of writing the paper that’s due for your graduate degree program.

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By Makea King

Week Three. You wake up restless. It’s a sunny day. The sun streaming through your mini blinds is quite beautiful. You yawn and stretch. Decide to do a few yoga poses. Downward dog. Chaturanga. Upward-facing dog. You get the idea. It’s time to get out. You dress and grab your iPod. Your cat meows loudly while sitting in front of her nearly full bowl of food. You ignore her. You sit to put your sneakers on and your other cat comes to tempt you with an exposed belly. You do not fall for this trick. The cats are devious this morning. It’s going to be a good day. You press play and Dua Lipa’s husky voice fills your head. Your route is automatic now. Your feet propel you forward in pace to the drum beats reverberating in your earbuds. You don’t see too many people out today. Until. Until the man hauling his recycling container walks down his front steps. You push your shoulders back as you eye the items in his container. Not likely single. You smile anyway. He does not. As you near, he stays on the grass waiting for you to pass. You wonder if he’s checking out your ass. You have a great ass. The breeze shifts and you catch a whiff of cologne? Masculine body wash? Something deep inside you clenches and makes you catch your breath. How long has it been? You start a mental calculation as you turn the corner. The wind shifts and you realize it’s someone’s laundry day. Alanis comes on your iPod. You prepare for the incline. Week Four. You wake up, much later than you thought you would. You can already hear the tiny voices of the neighbor’s kids. And the other neighbor’s kids. Their high pitch squeals and effervescent laughter makes you smile into your pillow. Your sweet, overpriced pillow that you ordered from Amazon because you have neck problems now. You get up and stretch. Count the pops and pulls that release in your body as you descend into a forward bend. You rise up and wince. Namaste. Your walk is filled with faces. New discoveries of the people who live behind the painted doors on the block. You take an afternoon break from NPR and put your Spotify subscription to use. Music buoys you as everything becomes too overwhelming. 42


By Makea King

You feel flighty and ache to use your hands. You rearrange and reorganize. You dust. Dust! You pull out recipes from cookbooks you had forgotten you purchased. You stand over the stove. Smells simmering beneath you. Your wine glass is full and hearty. The Italian market has become your favorite escape. Today the store clerks sang in Italian behind the counter. You blushed behind your face mask. You sit at the table and use linens with dinner. You light the candles and turn on the vintage lamp in the corner. You sip your wine and say a prayer of thanks. You will count your blessings tonight. Right after you take your Zoloft.

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By Connie Pertuz-Meza

Before My Time Mami always bragged about how she got her period at fifteen. Like everything with Mami, her first menses story is part tragedy, part biblical, and part cuento, bound by layers of things never spoken and tied neatly by a miracle, evidence of how tight she was with Papa Dios. I got my period at eleven, hid it from Mami and everyone else for over a year for all those reasons never spoken and more. Later, almost a decade later, my older sister hid her pregnancy at twenty-two, while living at home and unmarried. Mami had not been a safe place for either one of us. Mami never told us stories from fairy tale books or ones that her mother recited to her on account that Mami never went to school and taught herself to read with the Bible. The only stories Mami recounted were the ones she pulled from her life, sprinkled with images from the Bibles, and a plethora of Colombian sayings. * I was draped over the plastic covered recliner in my childhood living room. My sister, Joann, had the sofa to herself and was stretched out like taffy, controlling the remote. The theme song of Just The Ten Of Us filled our two-bedroom apartment. It had long become my habit to measure time by TV shows for that day. Over thirty minutes, the dull ache in my lower abdomen began right before the start of Mr. Belvedere, which was just on. I tried not to move, as to not disturb the waves of pain. Unaware that pain vibrates, shifts, and subsides, and it can’t be tricked, no matter how perfectly still you are. But, this too had become my habit to drift away and ignore the sensations that rose and fell in my body. Once the end credits rolled, the ache found itself wrapped around my lower back. I pressed myself up on the recliner and looked over at Joann. It was an unwritten rule that we never spoke about things which mattered, instead we spoke about Menudo, the latest episode of whatever sitcom we were watching, and rolled our eyes when we were a safe distance from Mami about her latest prophetic dream. 45


By Connie Pertuz-Meza

We didn’t talk about Papi’s drinking, never revisited Mami’s fits of rage or erratic behavior, and we certainly didn’t talk about how Mami insisted on cleaning our privates. Ashamed, I was certain my third and fourth grade classmates did not sit on the toilet every morning while their mother washed between their legs with a bar of Ivory soap and an old sand bucket with the handle snapped off. Old enough to feel the discomfort bolt through my body and hang my head in shame at family parties when Mami insisted on going to the bathroom with me to make sure I wiped privately. When I protested. I was told I was too young, I couldn’t possibly know how to take care of myself. All of these thoughts ran through my head as I unfolded myself from the recliner and walked towards the bathroom. Once in the bathroom, I sat on the toilet and pulled my panties to my knee to be confronted by a muddy brown stain. Breathing a sigh of relief, I lined folded toilet paper on the crotch of my panty. Whatever, this sticky brownness was, it wasn’t my period. La regla, was how Mami called her period, I marveled that it was synonymous with the Spanish word for ruler. At eleven I did not want to be measured as a woman. In her eyes, Mami saw being a woman a death sentence, leading only to tragedy, starting way before your period, but the actual act of bleeding once a month made everything more gruesome and unappealing. Mami took to saying how she did not want Joann and I to grow up. She gave us baby bottles till we were well past eight and having us take baths in a baby pink tub until our growing bodies could no longer fold and contort themselves to fit the tiny tub. When Joann was in fifth grade and I was in second, Mami came home upset, it was always the same, a classmate from Joann’s class got her period or a family friend’s or neighbor’s daughter. When Griselda's mom, one of Joann’s classmate’s mothers, shared with her that her daughter had started her period the summer before. Mami shook her head in disbelief. “ Ya se hizo señorita antes de tiempo Griselda.” It sounded like a terrible diagnosis with an even more terrible prognosis, period, becoming a young lady before it was time. A fear slithered over my body as I worried about when it would betray me. Fifteen, Mami touted this age over her head, like the grand slam period trophy. But when she told this story, which she did every time she came home to announce another victim to the period war, Mami also spoke about her terrible life and how the only person who had her back was her main boo, Papa Dios. 46


By Connie Pertuz-Meza

“I was worried, you know.” Mami said. I sat with my elbows propped on the kitchen table, a copy of The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter in my hands, my legs and feet bouncing up and down nonstop. I stole a glance towards Mami who stood in front of the stove, arepas grilling in the large pan she used with that sole purpose. I had heard this story so many times, and if this was a scene on the television I could provide the subtitles for the closed captioning. Mami’s period story always started this way. “I found out about la regla because I heard my Tia and primas talking about it, but no one ever spoke to me about it, I had no idea this happened to women. My period came and went without a problem for the first few months. Then it stopped.” At this point in the story Mami held her hands up mid air in halted position, palms outward. “I had no idea what was happening to me. You know, ignorant.” Confused, I wanted to ask Mami why did her period disappear, but instead I reread the same page over and over again unable to concentrate in the world of two mutes who could not hear the world around them. I looked towards the living room. Joann's neck was twisted in the direction of the television. Mami let her lips always curl around the word ignorant as if it were her fault that she was born in a remote and rural part of Colombia, where it was Sally Struther commercial poor, where eggs were a luxury. At eleven she was sent to live with a Tia to the coastal part of Colombia. In exchange for household work, Mami’s Tia would send her to school, at last she would learn to read and write. Mami soon realized how the only thing awaiting her was back bending work and endless teasing from her primas. She bounced from one Tia to another in Barranquilla. “I was patient. Every month I waited. One. Two. Three. Four. Nada.” Mami let the word nada remain suspended in a long pause. “I was always skinny,” Mami said looking in my direction, measuring my thick thighs and wide hips. Shame filled, by the constant policing of my body by my mother, early on I sought refuge in grilled cheeses, cheddar popcorn, and chocolate cupcakes. Now aware, the extra weight I padded myself with was a map of my trauma, everything never felt and said, stuck to my body. “I heard people whispering that if you didn’t get your period you just died. I convinced myself that I was dying. That my belly was round with trapped blood.” 47


By Connie Pertuz-Meza

Later, horrified and filled with sadness, which soaked my bones. I’d comb over all the details of Mami’s story searching for other clues, as I tried to understand her in order to understand myself, desperate to understand what had happened to Mami as a young servant girl in la casa de Las Tias. Where every man in the house tried to attack her, a grab, a forceful embrace, and slipping into her bed late at night as she slept. Mami insisted that she fought all three offenders as a young girl, on account of her being tough, not afraid to fight. I wondered how much Mami had forgotten, and how many details were carefully constructed in order to change the ending, making herself a fighter and not a victim. “I was worried sick and went to my favorite Church in Barranquilla. La Iglesia de Chiquinquira. I climbed up those steps certain I was dying and only God could save me. I prayed with all my soul. Everything I had inside me.” Mami always closed her eyes at this point and tilted her head upward. A dreamy smile plastered on her face as she imagined what she called her real home. El Reino Eterno. “I wept. Do you know that if you pray hard enough you cry?” Mami opened her eyes and stared at an imaginary audience. “Y que paso? I’m up and going down the stairs when before I walk down the last step a gush of blood comes down. My period. I ran all the way home thanking el numero uno, Papa Dios. My period was a miracle.” I rolled my eyes, Mami celebrated her period, but no one else was allowed to bleed, especially me. All of this swirled through my mind, as I marched out of the bathroom, wishing I could stomp Mami’s voice narrating through my head. There was a graveyard of girls who became young ladies way before their time, Mami’s period story, and the sexual attacks from her Aunts’ husbands, and that brown sticky stain on my panty. Mami always left me in the shadows, I sat back down on the recliner, careful to sit on my tailbone, afraid if I sat on my seat, something would burst inside of me like it did for Mami on those church steps. Joann was channeling surfing, after Just The Ten Of Us, 2020 was on, every week exposing one truth or another. “Want to watch some old 21 Jumpstreet?” Not waiting for my reply, Joann walked over to the entertainment center and popped videotape into the VCR. We taped a lot of the shows we watched, re-watching them so often I memorized scenes and loved to narrate them aloud to Joann right before we went to bed. 48


By Connie Pertuz-Meza

I nodded, as I stared at the back of Joann’s head bent over the VCR, rewinding and hitting play. I thought about how she had just begun her period less than half a year ago. Mami had called her friends and moaned over the phone: Se hizo señorita. She did not include the antes de tiempo, because at thirteen Joann was expected to start a period, but I wasn’t. I would become a young lady before my time. It made me wrong. “I think there is another 21 Jumpstreet episode after this.” Joann flung herself on the sofa. Only the glow of the television was alive in our apartment that night. Mami was asleep in her room after a long day of cleaning houses, then selling clothes around the neighborhood till late in the evening. Papi was not home and would not arrive till the sky turned from ink black to navy. When I finally went to bed I lay flat staring at the ceiling, my hands folded over my stomach, and ankles crossed. Fear wrapped itself around my throat, I was afraid to swallow, worried that I’d dislodge something stuck, and that the brown stickiness would turn bright red and flow, like the tears now brimming my eyes. I did not want to be a senorita. I wanted to be Mami’s little girl. * The next month a bright red streak in the middle of my panties, I was in social studies class. Menstrual pain seized me, overcome with nausea I raised my hand and went straight to the bathroom. There was no denying me hice señorita antes de tiempo. I never planned not telling Mami, I just didn’t tell her that month, instead I used folded pieces of bounty as a pad, taking only one or two from Joann’s stash, afraid she’d realize they were missing and run her mouth to Mami. Who would then confront me and once I fessed up, Mami would tell all her comadres and la vecinas I had become señorita antes de tiempo. When I did wear a pad I’d walk out of the bathroom with it balled tightly in my fist burying it deep in the garbage past the platano peels and the day old rice. I loved the tickle I got in my stomach for doing something I knew I shouldn’t and getting away from it. The next month after, I was not scared to not tell Mami, scared to give up the control I felt. For the first time my body felt like my own. It was better than being Mami’s girl. This went on for a year and a half. When I finally told Mami and Joann I had my period, I made sure I told them when I would not be accused of becoming a senorita before time. 49


Small Cures with Poet Della Hicks-Wilson Della, you are such brilliant poet. When did you start writing? How has writing supported your voice and story? Just being called a poet is a huge compliment within itself, so thank you. I started writing words that rhymed or had another meaning not long after I had mastered the act of physically writing, so really young - and I was maybe 8 years old when I was first asked by my teacher to perform a poem I’d written at a school assembly. I remember another teacher approaching me in the playground to tell me how great it was and I felt like the whole small world I knew was watching me for the entire day. It was my first real taste I had of how powerful my words could be. My voice and my writing have literally and figuratively been developing in tandem ever since. When I think about it, writing is one of the few things that has never left me. I can’t have one (voice) without the other (writing). In keeping with that, words are where I go to make sense of my story, to console or celebrate myself, to work through the difficult things in a loving way.

What would you tell a new writer that is just starting out and doesn't know where to begin? What do you wish someone had told you? I would say start there, start in that uncertain space. Toni Morrison said that her novels always began with a question, so what is yours? What do you want to know? What are you trying to figure out? It’s something that I have been thinking about a lot as I slowly start working on my second book, and it really does help in the writing because everything you write is a response, everything has a purpose. I think I received the advice I wish I would have been given - just write - my mum would always tell me that. I’m a notorious planner and although there’s strength in that, there’s also opportunity to extinguish the original spark that made you pick up the pen in the first place. Get the content down, craft and critique it later.

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Small Cures with Poet Della Hicks-Wilson

When you think of the word healing, what comes up for you? Tell us about a time in your life where you felt small and a time you felt empowered. Words. Art. I believe deeply in the curative power of them - and it’s where the title of my book, Small Cures came from. To heal we must accept, and to me, the easiest way to accept something is through language. Language can make the most unpalatable truths palatable. One of my favorite art forms that does this for me is spoken word poetry. I have spent hours at a time in that rabbit hole on YouTube and often I’ll meditate on a specific poem over and over again. The words either carry me away from my hurt or they give me perspective on it. When readers tell me that my words have helped them, soothed them, healed them, it touches me deeply, because if I close my eyes I can still remember and re-feel the feeling I got when I first read and heard Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem For Colored Girls. Fittingly, one of the times in my life when I felt small is when I didn’t have the language. The hurt took over. I was in a seminar at university, I studied English at Cambridge, and we were talking about Jamaica Kincaid’s book-length essay, A Small Place. It is a book about Antigua and its British colonial legacy and I was the only black person in the room. And out of almost nowhere, someone blurted out that slavery wasn’t that bad, or wasn’t as bad as another tragedy. And I just didn’t have the right words, and on reflection, possibly the desire to explain something that to me was so devastatingly obvious. So many years later, when I was sitting in an office and a white colleague casually used a heavily loaded derogatory term to describe the medical care in another Caribbean island, I can’t tell you how empowered I felt when the language came. Ignorance doesn’t stand a chance against language. And language is one of the greatest forms of protest I think.

Your debut poetry book is here! Congrats! Tell us about what prompted the writing of this book and the challenges you went through to create it. Thank you very much, the amount of love the book has received has been incredible, beyond. As I explain in the preface to Small Cures, I’ve always wanted to write a book and have whole notebooks filled with outlines and snippets. But like many great things, this book was not planned. I started sharing poetry on Tumblr back in 2013, really as a form of self-care, although I didn’t have that language for it back then. 52


Small Cures with Poet Della Hicks-Wilson

And the work, predominately short journal-like entries really resonated with people and before I knew it I had hundreds of thousands of likes and shares and lots of followers asking me for a book of these poems. My friends and family were asking the same thing and I thought why not make this project number one. I did not think it would take me this long, life happened and I’m a busy mum of two beautiful and boisterous boys (5 and 2). In addition to that, I’m a perfectionist. It was crucial to me that the poems were presented in the right way. I had a vision of creating something which I don’t think has been done before with “Instagram poetry”: a book-length lyrical self(love) poem, made from smaller poems and told in three progressive parts. So in addition to writing new poems, I spent a huge amount of time on the editing: selecting poems, revising old pieces and weaving them together so that they would feel like were always supposed to be one, and at the same, completely independent from one another. It was a puzzle, and as I grew as a person over the years, the final picture I was working towards did as well, and that was a huge challenge to work through. But we made it.

f you could sit with your younger self—what would you say? Whew, I was thinking about this the other day actually. And it dawned on me that Small Cures is a letter to my younger self. And that maybe three books from now, that will be another and then another. A letter to every milestone. But if I only had say five minutes to sit with her, I would say this: Della, never settle. Do not stay in anything that doesn’t feel good most of the time. Say yes more. You do not want a life spent remembering the no’s. Just try. Submit the thing. It doesn’t have to be your idea of perfect. No thing is. Hold on to like-minded people, the ones that show you love. In love, language is not enough.

If you were handed a microphone and asked to speak to every woman what would you want them to know? This might sound like a cop out and a really cheeky way of inadvertently telling your readers to buy my book, but honestly I would grab Small Cures and read it aloud, from part to part, front to back, as I largely intended it to be consumed. Small Cures is a long lyrical love song and so many of my readers, mostly women agree, that the world, especially now, needs so many more of these. 54


By Emi Bergquist

New Shape Of Family Instigated by brightless days like childhood and how far we’ve come from trying to figure out who was playing good cop or bad cop and aren’t all cops from that town the same kind of bastard anyway? Yet we cannot easily forget what was once familiar the dust in our lungs and dirt on the bottom of our feet, the smallness we felt surrounded by mountains with their looming shadows, calling the basement of that pink house on the corner of despair and loneliness home and then running away from it. This is to say, the good times were like Christmas morning: the smell of Swedish pancakes wafting from our grandparent’s kitchen, that pleated knit tablecloth from the 70’s on the dining room table where we sat and said grace before we ate from those blue paisley patterned plates, and Mor-Mor with her bald head and silver cap tooth smile. Someone once told me that it is not where we come from but who we come from that matters. But how do you reclaim an identity you never knew when the only tradition you have is the inheritance of your blood? 56


By Emi Bergquist

This is to say, we now stand on the other side of those memories, recycling the past to create this new shape of family. I watch as your son discovers his own cleverness around every corner, growing with the same sense of wild freedom you once planted in me. And from these fields, we’ve harvested more than dreams.

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By Laurie Buelvas

I Speak the Language of Sorrow and Pain / Hablo el Lenguaje del Dolor y Sufrimiento Intense Kahlo kind of pain Bare-knuckled Bloody knuckled Climbing out of a crevasse Kind of pain Sorrow so deep As a river-split canyon Being gagged so I can’t Speak my pain into space The rocks pound deeper Into the abyss Traveling beyond the flesh If I can define it, it exists If I give it form, it takes shape If I can limit the boundaries I can control it and make it mine 59


By Laurie Buelvas

It is my pain It bears my name It will serve me It makes me strong Speaking sorrow and pain There is a gain in the kind of pain It is kind of pain To be the blame To wake me up To be alive again am alive I feel Soldiers forget to feel pain Soldiers don’t let their enemies see Or speak the language of sorrow and pain It only exists if I give it a name. Hablo el Lenguaje del Dolor y Sufrimiento Intenso Dolor como la de Kahlo Punos ensangrentados Escalando la cara de la Piedra Ese tipo de dolor Lastimada profundamente Como un rio separado, Por las piedras que le dan forma Amordazada para que no Hable mi dolor al espacio 60


By Laurie Buelvas

Las piedras pegan mas duro El rio termina en abismo Viajando mas alla del cuerpo Si lo puedo definer, existe Si le doy forma, toma su figura Si le doy frontera sYo lo controlo y lo domino Es mi dolor Tiene mi nombre Me sirve Me pone fuerte Hablando del dolor y sufrimiento Hay algo para ganar En este tipo de dolor Es compasivo del sufrimiento En tomar todas las culpas Para despertarme A las calumnias de la vida otra vez Y seguir completamente viva Yo vivo Yo siento Soldados se olvidan de sentir su dolor Soldados no permiten que sus enemigos miren Ni que hablen El lenguaje del dolor y sufrimiento Solamente existe si le doy nombre

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Art As Escape with Hyewon (Henie) Cho How has creating art supported your healing journey? Art has been a way for me to escape whenever I feel stressed out. I’ve always taken creating art for granted, until I started my high school year. I’ve always been busy and stressed about school, which made me become anxious all the time. However, once in a while, I would paint and draw and I’ve never realized until now how relaxing creating art can be.

What does it mean for you to roar? Can you share about a time you overcame feeling silenced? Coming from a country that prioritizes and values academic performances, I had a hard time convincing myself and others that what I do —making art— is valuable. This one time, someone asked what I wanted to do in the future. I answered that I’m directing myself into the art majors because I enjoy making art. But he didn’t take my answer seriously. He couldn’t quite understand why someone would choose to pick art as their career because Korean society often tends to define art careers “unsuccessful”— since it has no academic aspects to it. Therefore, a lot of artists (especially traditional artists) are often not appreciated enough. I overcome this obstacle by just trusting myself and believing that others' opinions should not interfere with my goals and dreams.

What prompted your art style? I don’t think I necessarily have a certain style since I’m still exploring ways to create art. But some consistent characteristics most of my artworks have is that they all tend to be colorful. I’ve only been seriously experimenting with my art style for about a year. I hope that one day I become more certain with my artistic style.

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Art As Escape with Hyewon (Henie) Cho

What advice would you give to artists that want to pursue their craft, but don't know where to begin? One advice is to not be so reluctant. I remember that when I started art, I was constantly worried about the quality of my work. Your artwork doesn’t need to be perfect so just go for it. Obviously the first few artworks are not going to be masterpieces but don’t get so caught up with that. If you don’t like it, then just try again, there are plenty of opportunities to get it the way you’d like. Spending too much time in planning or worrying will only prevent you from improving.

What is one thing you want women to know today? I want women to know that they don’t need to be approved by society in order to be valued. I feel like society has created so many impossible expectations and rules for women to adhere to in order to be considered a “perfect woman”. An individual’s worth does not depend on the expectations and opinions of other people. So don’t think your value as a woman is degraded just because you can’t fit into the standards and expectations society has set.

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By Shana Schmoyer

The Body Remembers The body remembers. The body reminds. It remembers the fire inside. Oh, how everything had to be kept inside. The need to release the flame The body remembers the slap, the sting, the shame. The shock, isolation, and the release of pain. The body remembers the ache for acceptance and love. It remembers touch as agony. Love as loneliness. It remembers a broken trust by thrust. It remembers the silent prayers as tears rolled off each cheek. It remembers the silent cries, loud cries, whole body cries - alone. It remembers objectification, subjectification, dismissiveness, isolation, sadness. The body remembers the destruction created by food, by pills, by agony. It remembers how silent the mouth was and how loud the torment remained. It remembers. The body remembers and the body defies. Wreaks havoc on the insides. Always inside. The fire burns and takes. Starts below the heart. It takes away the need of a mother’s disdain. 67


By Shana Schmoyer

The need of a father’s neglect. The need of a sibling’s disillusion. The fire gives pain so the body can remember. The flame needs to burn and burn and burn. The world moves on and the flame collapses you in.

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By Sophie Wagner

Reclaiming My Life You are too Fat, too thin, too loud, Too much Sit down quietly and take your medicine pup Too quiet and weak Do you speak? They ask Do you ever quit speaking? They ask You are, and will never be, Enough Sit patiently and don’t act up Close your legs and shut your mouth Not around him, not while he’s In the house Watch what you wear and watch your poise A prize, a sculpture His So don’t make a noise Be effortless and tragic Your emotions are hysterical you’re being, Dramatic And no matter what, you were asking for it

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By Sophie Wagner

But I know it was my fault, giving him my Power And I know what must be done I have to be Louder What you did was your fault And yours alone And someday,I'll find my peace, and be proud on my own It is now your final hour I am taking back My power

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By Dana Kinsey

Her Body A Temple Mirrors stretch ceiling to floor only wall decor her own body black-legginged taut white tank top torso-molded action figure ready to raise iron light grip human crane arms palms face mirror knuckles rest on thick quads Soft bend in knees quick glance at her stance in glass she thrusts her broad shoulders forward rotates them back to sockets then up to ears drops them in line exhales time for what builds her tearing down muscle to mend it again Forearms straight she raises dumbbells contracts biceps declares war on gravity her arms stop 90 degrees before final assent to shoulders muscles assert themselves grow hills valleys rippled landscapes under supple skin bold sinew Weights ascend now the burden she chose curled fists rise to finish what she wills them to do fold arms in half to elongate again lengthen contract repeat again muscles crave stress know damage repairs itself know human bodies hold something divine 73


Faces In Daily Races with Pooja Gupta How has creating art supported your healing journey? Creating art for years, my healing began to happen in ways I didn't even realize at first. For many years I saw art as a skill, when really it was my passion. Now I paint to escape, getting so immersed that it works like a meditation, taking me away from tortured thoughts and unnecessary outbursts. I pour my heart onto a silent listener instead - my canvas. While creating, I don't think, feel, or hear anything that's outside or unnecessary, but only the calling of my inner ideas. My dreams and thoughts have changed to productive healing actions as my days are being spent on making something new, making something better. Having a tangible creation to show for my emotions is slowly giving me a new sense of self worth

What does it mean for you to roar? Can you share about a time you overcame feeling silenced? For me roaring is coming out with passion. It could be silent, it could be loud, but it's a creation that would rather help thousands out there instead of wrecking them. To me it's pouring out fearlessly, strongly enough to be heard, to share the message that we can do anything! Just recently during the quarantine, I was silenced by my own feelings of worthlessness, when inside I just wanted to show the world that I can create something too. Normally, I'd get lost in saying words that would never be heard. But this time, I chose to show them. I overcame myself and took action to create, thinking that that was the only way left to show them that I was worth believing in. And it worked. For me. . 75


Faces In Daily Races with Pooja Gupta

What prompted this art series? Faces in Daily Races' is an example of my traditional oil paint works. But in honesty, I don't have just one style of art. My work, my art, is constantly changing, and what prompts this constant flow is the need and availability of the hour. I have always believed in abundance, so even on days when I won't have paint, I'd fill pages with charcoal, or when I won't have brushes, I'd use my fingers to paint. The idea was always to allow myself to honestly let out whatever was in the heart, on to the canvas. No matter how

What advice would you give to artist that want to pursue their craft, but don't know where to begin? My advice is to not give too much thought to doing something big every time. Don't just create to get somewhere, to exhibit or publish or be recognized as an artist, but to experience doing what you feel like doing. Everybody's perspective on a creation is going to be different, so the ultimate result should be satisfying ourselves, even if it's just by the first step of creating. The trick is to make a place where your stuff is kept and just keep your will power ticking. And then you feel the importance and need of creation in this universe. Your craft is a new gift for the world, allow it to exist as is.

What is one thing you want women to know today? Feel it in your bones, believe that we can do a lot. We are a much prettier and hardworking lot than men - with sentiments, emotions, passions, and care and maturity, which can put life in any creation of ours. So let's roar out in the world and not bury ourselves in self-made graves of fear and submissiveness.

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By Valin Paige

In Praise of The Deepest Winter smoke whirls in the air, great swaths of grey snatched up in the sharp winter sun, the chilled wind clawing its way across the brick exterior of the bar I push the cigarette into the bowl heavy with dust & ash, which reminds me of pyre, perhaps baptism, the way a man is made, can turn legend, like Hercules’s skin goosebumps as he murders so many women it must have stained the leaves of the forest red before they are stripped away. I like to think Winter comes from this– survivors with hands like slumbering bark. what a heavy word, survivor, thick as the first snow, all definition devoid of those we survive. we, those of the thickest roots circling their way through frozen dirt. gritted permanence. yes, winter must come from this with its cacophony of battered snow. here a cigarette is symbolic, caries its own meaning, it is a good fuck you held between the teeth. passed around. shared. my sibling buys a warm shot for me & we smile that whiskey smile, a kind of rusted crown at having been woven into someone else’s myth. we laugh like winter, our voices a deep refusal to not be cutting wind, even after. even after. 79


By Christine Handy

True Beauty I worked as model for 25 years before I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Immediately after the diagnosis I believed that my identity was gone forever, well at least the identity I had subscribed to. Modeling was not just my career, it was my life-line, who I thought I was and my comfort zone. Looking through that camera with lights all around me felt like my home. I started modeling from the tender age of 11, my career and I had grown up together. I assumed I would be a lifer. There were 60 year old models when I was young and starting out in the business. What could possibly stop me? I was young, feisty and enveloped in ambition. I was careful with my weight, I protected myself from collecting any scars or scrapes, I knew the house rules and I was wiling to protect them. I am now 50 years old and just resigned with a modeling agency. But for the past 10 years, 28 rounds of chemotherapy and 20 on-elective surgeries my career came to a blazing halt. On October 1, 2012, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Digesting the news was life shattering. My once favorite color was now a sign of death to me. Breast cancer awareness month was smothering me in my duress and pretty pink bows were everywhere I looked. To say I had 28 rounds of chemotherapy is unimaginable to most in the cancer world, but for those who are lucky enough not to understand, it’s a lot. I lost my hair, I lost the ‘beauty’ I once coveted and the same beauty that constituted my paycheck. I lost so much that I couldn’t see what I had gained. The monstrous battle was intensified by another health issue I had developed one year before. 81


By Christine Handy

Double the surgeries and add chemotherapy to the calendar was nothing short of horrible. I had been a thriving mother, athlete, model who had turned into a sickly woman fighting for her life. After the chemotherapies were over I decided it was time I figured out who I really was, and it had nothing to do with the external beauty I once cherished. My beauty ran deep, but I didn’t know it until I was forced to find it. The sickness, the disability and the fresh scars made me question my worth for a while, but that senseless worth I drew from approval from others, approval from the mirror was not worth one more second of my life. My true beauty had never been more stunning. My hair grew back, my scars got deeper and my inner light began to shine more brightly with each passing year. My strength came from my faith not in things. My focus shifted from the beauty our culture wants us to cherish to the beauty of my being not of my doing I still model which makes my heart sunny. Yet, it bears no weight on my self esteem and sense of self worth. I look different now and that’s ok. I feel different now and that’s the gift. I may have been lost for sometime, but I was made whole through the pain of being stripped away of all the false idols that I believed made me who I was. I am glad I was found.

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By Nica Selvaggio

Objects Don't Have Names I wake up. I feel tired. I am always tired. I have always been tired. I am a woman. I am a man. I am neither. I am both. I am nobody. I am everybody. I have no body. I have no home. The result of erasure? Nothing’s left. I’m supposed to be writing an essay about sexual assault. And I suppose my fatigue and gender expression and general feelings of invisibility are relevant here. I am tired. So so tired. From existing in a body that is so seen and erased at the same time. That is simultaneously praised and degraded. It makes me forget that my body is my own. I exist in a feminine appearing, thin, petite body. I exist in a body that invites the masculine gaze. I exist in a body that is viewed as an object that will satiate. The first time my body was violated was before I knew how to speak. Literally. Between the ages of 2-3 is the first time a man penetrated me. I don’t actually recall this incident, but my body does. Every time I try and open. Something closes. And that’s just the beginning. The tip of the iceberg. I have been alive on this planet for 30 years now, and the amount of times I have been catcalled, followed home by someone on the street, coerced into sex, violated, or assaulted is too many to list here. Beauty was never kind to me. 84


By Nica Selvaggio

In the past 3 years alone, I have been sexually assaulted on 5 separate occasions. I will not recall the details of those incidents here for you as trauma porn, nor will I defend my choice of the word assault. It took me too many years to call these incidents by their proper name. Convinced that “it wasn’t that bad” and that it was “my fault.” You might even be feeling that I’m being dramatic now- or that I somehow invited the violence towards myself. That I must have done something for this to happen to me so many times. Maybe I was wearing slutty clothing. Maybe I was flirting. Maybe I was drinking too much. Maybe I was intimidating and said no and sparked his rage. Maybe I didn’t fight back. Maybe it seemed like I liked it. Maybe I just laid there. Fawning. Frozen. Maybe I was asking for it. Maybe I didn’t know how to say no. Maybe I was never taught. We tend to blame and shame victims in this culture, which is why so few are willing or able to speak. And can you blame us? The consequences of being a “woman” with a voice are too great. I could name countless instances in recent years where we have watched this play out on a grand stage. I get easily overwhelmed by politics because my nervous system can’t take it, but the names Trump and Kavanaugh come to mind. I have never reported any of my rapes or assaults. I have never gone to the police. I have never shared about them publicly. About all the times a man told me he was using a condom when he was not. Or all the times when I did actually say “no” and “stop” and it was ignored so that the other person could finish. And definitely not the times when I was moaning but I felt like I was dying- a violation of my own. An object becomes an object. Except I am not an object. I am not a doll to be dressed up and played with. I do not exist to be gazed at or for anyone else’s pleasure. my no matters my pleasure matters I have a bodyI have a body? I have a b o d y. 85


By Nica Selvaggio

And I deal with daily reminders in my body of all the times it has been treated like an object. In the form of sensory flashbacks of my attacks. Blood pounding in my ears. A heartbeat that doesn’t make sense. Nerve endings on fire in my skin. The endless fatigue. The struggle to get out of bed. The lack of appetite. The floaty feeling in my head. The urge to simultaneously run a marathon smash a mirror just to see something besides me break and collapse in a heap. The hyper-vigilance I feel walking down the street. Always scanning for threat. Feeling as if I am being overtaken even when I am safe. The shadows always near. The fear never leaves. any man who has ever fucked me. couldn’t see me. I just had to step outside and take a smoke break. Get some air in my lungs. And then read what I’ve written so far out loud to myself. See if I can hear the ring of truth in my words. It’s not the symptoms of assault in my body that make me go mad. I’ve learned to manage. With daily routines designed to help me get back inside my skin. Food water exercise people sun. We’re not that different from plants. No- it’s not the physical symptoms that drive me mad, although they definitely present a challenge in my day to day living. It’s the gaslighting about the events that makes me feel like an insane person. The constant questioning of reality. I find myself double triple fact checking all of my words. Did I get that right? I am so afraid of being called a liar. Completely unwilling to unveil any details that could reveal who my attackers are. A courtroom always awaits for a woman who is unafraid to tell the truth. Rape culture permeates. I could tell you about all of my friends who have stories very similar to mine. I could tell you about the ones who chose to confront their attackers and ended up being assaulted again. I could tell you about the threats, the demeaning, the gaslighting. I could tell you about the ones who never got an apology. And never will. Or all the ones who don’t even know that they have committed assault because they were drunk and don’t remember it. Consent cannot be given while intoxicated.

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By Nica Selvaggio

I could. tell you. I could. tell you. I could. tell you. my story. my pain. but what’s. going to. make you. believe me. over any. of them? we’re not. the same.

After all, you can’t even trust the body that I’m in. Your view of my gender another act of trickery. Who am I to say that I’m not a woman? That’s the world I walk in. I have been socialized as female. I do have a pussy that has been assaulted and worshipped between my legs. I am in touch with my feminine. Sometimes I even wear lipstick. A costume of sorts. This most recent Halloween I dressed up as Mia from Pulp Fiction. Super femme in a black bob wig. Red lips. Black lace bra. Eyelashes for days. White powder and a blood stain on my nose. I didn’t recognize myself. I was out with one of my dearest fellow non-binary queer friends. They didn’t know how to dress for Halloween- it’s tricky for those of us without gender. I lent them my fluffy bunny onesie. Easier to be animal than beast. Cigarette smoke curled around us creating a safe cocoon in the neon lamplight outside of the bar. We both needed to breathe after being surrounded by sweaty dancing bodies in the basement. A private moment to share a laugh and a glance. A shock of October cold air to bring us back. A mutual understanding of how it feels to exist in a space where costumes let you blend. And the dysphoria that brings. A separateness. 87


By Nica Selvaggio

A rude interruption. A drunk man who looks like every other man approaches. Drawn in by the deception of my femininity. He compliments and praises my “badass” choice in costume. Says it’s “original.” Gaze glued to my breasts. Out of the side of his mouth he says to my friend in the bunny onesie “you could have put in more effort.” I puff up and get big. No one fucks with my friends. I say “you’ve overstayed your welcome.” Eyes blazing. Not knowing if that’ll invite an attack or retreat. Not caring. So sick of the constant staring but missing. Realizing that I have been wearing a costume my whole life. Not just that Halloween. He turned on his heel abruptly. Walked away scoffing. Having no idea of the violence perpetuated in that exchange. Invisibility can be safety. Every time I have been assaulted- I have experienced gender dysphoria. stop. how can this be happening? I’m not a woman. I’m not supposed to be the one. breaking. How can I be assaulted for something that I am not? Why is it considered normal for women to be assaulted and silenced anyway? Why is this even relevant? Because the conversation on assault has to include a conversation on gender. And even more important than gender- a conversation about power. Rape isn’t about sex or gender or genitals. It’s about exerting power over another. It’s about making another person feel as if they have no power or value or boundaries. This can happen between people of any gender in any direction. Rape is a robbery of the worst kind. the innocence lost a sense of self shattered how does a person keep going without power to fuel them? 88


By Nica Selvaggio

If you can rob someone of their sense of self, you rob them of their power. If you ignore or violate a person’s basic right to their boundaries, you literally rob them of their edges. If you deny or refuse to see a person’s identity or exert power because of a person’s identity, you make that person invisible. If you treat a person like an objectthey become an object. They cease to have a name. I can tell you that through the grueling work of continuously healing from my assaults- I no longer view myself as an object. I have given myself a name. Selvaggio means Savage. And I am more beast than animal. I have a body. A body that is full of power. What’s mine cannot be taken. I am made of compassionate rage. And that rage is what has allowed me write the words that you read. I have no expectations for what you might take from this essay. It’s out of my hands. What matters is the sharing. The speaking. This essay is for those who have survived sexual assault and the subsequent trauma and erasure. I need you to know that you are not alone. You are seen here. You exist. All of your reactions are valid. Your feelings matter. Your healing matters. Your body is yours. Me too. Signed, A Tired Truth Teller

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MEET THE AUTHORS

T. Clear is a co-founder of Floating Bridge Press and Easy Speak Seattle, a bi-monthly open mic venue. Her work has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including Cascadia Review, Poetry Northwest, Scoundrel Time, The Moth, The Rise Up Review, Terrain.org and Take a Stand: Art Against Hate. She is a lifelong resident of Seattle, and is on the editorial team of Bracken Magazine. www.tclearpoet.com

Ashley Blake, known as Lae is a multidisciplinary artist who is passionate about bridging cultural and ethnic gaps. You can easily find her listening to Korean R&B while scouring through editorial photography or sewing a costume for an upcoming shoot. Her work explores the spaces between reality and fantasy, crossing cultural spheres, seeking to explain the things- seen and unseen- that connect us all. www.talesoflae.com

Taylor Solano is a journalist, writer, and educator based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She has worked as a staff writer for FLOATED Alternative Culture Magazine and The Lamron. This spring, Taylor showcased her poetry as a featured author of the Literary Partner Series at Writers & Books (Rochester, NY). She enjoys writing short pieces in the style of impressionism and often integrates mystic and realist elements in her work.www.taylorsolanowrites.com

Megan Posner is a writer, artist, and hopeful human. An endlessly curious creator of art and a collector of words. She's mostly sweet and sometimes scrappy. She curates Nutmeg & Whimsy, her website and a home for words, colors, insights, struggles, poetry and empathy. IG: @nutmeg_creations | FB: @nutmegandwhimsynutmegandwhimsy.com

Emi Bergquist is a Brooklyn based poet originally from Idaho. Emi is an active associate of the Poetry Society of New York, a regular cast member of The Poetry Brothel, an editor of Milk Press Books, and is a current collaborator with the Pandemic Poems Project. She has recent work in Oxford Public Philosophy, What Rough Beast, Oroboro, Passengers Journal, and others.

As a Latinx bilingual social worker, Paloma Pilar works primarily with African American and Latinx children and families in an African American and Latino neighborhood, Paloma Pilar has degrees from Binghamton University in New York, Harvard University School of Education and Columbia University School of Social Work. Paloma grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York with parents from El Salvador and Colombia.

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MEET THE AUTHORS

Valin Paige is a trans woman, poet, and essayist living in Saint Paul, Mn. Her writing largely focuses on topics like trauma, queer love, and how we can create the new queer mythos. Her work can be found in What Are Birds?, Freeze Ray Poetry, Crab Fat Magazine, Coffin Bell, Take a Stand, Art Against Hate: A Raven Chronicles Anthology as well as at Button Poetry and Write About Now.

Dana Kinsey is a writer, actor, and teacher with poetry published by Yellow Chair Review, Broadkill Review, Writers Resist, Spillwords, Fledgling Rag, and Silver Needle Press. Her prose appears in Teaching Theatre and Tweetspeak. Dana's play, WaterRise, was produced at the Gene Frankel Theatre in Greenwich Village for th Radioactive Women’s Festival. Visit www.wordsbyDK.com.

Sophie Wagner is a student author from Toronto, Ontario. She is a passionate advocate for discussions about mental health and as mentioned in this poem, fighting back against your oppressors and inner demons. Sophie has been a huge reader and writer her whole life and is excited to be sharing her poetry with you today.

Shana Schmoyer is a writer, trauma survivor; and lives with an autoimmune disease typically known to come from traumatic childhood experiences.

Nica Selvaggio is a Chicago born, Indiana bred, Seattle formed poet/writer/therapist/mental health advocate who is still trying to find their place in the story of all things. They are a non-binary and queer human who finds healing writing about the things that often go unspoken. Trauma. Grief. Sexuality. Addiction. Adoption. Race. Gender. Identity. Power. You can find more of Nica’s poetry and essays in the pages of Papeachu Press, For Women Who Roar, This is Jane Project, Wussy Magazine.

Molly Senecal is a deaf writer on grief, suicide, and loss. She is a mother to three children, and began writing about grief after her daughter died by suicide at college. She works at a community college in Northern California, and finds solace in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Christine Handy is the author of the best selling book Walk Beside Me. Christine travels the globe as motivational speaker. She has been Nationally recognized as a humanitarian and mentors many young women and men. Christine also speaks in the prison system in Florida to give inmates hope. Christine is a breast cancer survivor, mother, model and is currently getting her masters degree in Literature and Creative Writing at Harvard University.

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MEET THE AUTHORS

Katie Carr was born and raised in Houston, TX. She is a writer, adventurer, healer, and warrior. One of her main goals in life is to use her writing as a vehicle to help other womxn by sharing her experience, strength, and hope.

Hyewon Cho is a sophomore attending Korean International School in Seoul, South Korea. When she is not making artwork, her hobbies include walking her two-year-old collie and experimenting with old film cameras. She is currently building a portfolio for university.

Sharon Volpe Is a illustrator/painter that transforms how humans feel on the inside through to the outside using expressions, playful themes and symbols.She comes from the surrounding NYC area, and completed an M.F.A. in illustration at The Fashion Institute of Technology in 2016.

Della Hicks-Wilson is a black British poet and writer of Caribbean descent, born and raised in London. She recently published her bestselling debut collection Small Cures which became an Amazon #1 New Release in Love Poems and Poetry by Women.

Pooja Gupta is an artist with an MFA in Drawing & Painting. She creates artwork on an order basis and teaches young students of all training levels with a passion for the arts. She is a homemaker and a mother of two, on her way finding her voice and the courage to share it out loud through her artwork.

Diya is a Digital Artist based in India and working around the world. She has created art for brands like Google Arts & Culture, C.R.Y., Gaysi, The Queer Muslim Project and The British Council. You can find Diya on Instagram: the_vagabond_artist.

Connie Pertuz Meza writes stories about her life, family, and ancestors. Connie’s writing appeared in The Rumpus, Kweli Literary Journal, Raising Mothers, Dreamers Creative Writing, Voices In The Middle, the Acentos Review, MUTHA, and many more. She is a 2017 Brooklyn Film and Arts Festival Non-Fiction Prize Finalist and Honorable Mention.

Makea King lives in Baltimore and is attempting to finish her MLIS degree with her sanity. She currently works in higher education and is looking forward to being a snarky librarian who hosts dinner parties for her close friends. When not photographing her cats, she journals regularly and updates a Google Drive folder with short stories, essays, and poems.

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Interested in writing for FWWR? Our submissions open a couple times a year, so be sure to check out our site for information on when the doors open. We also have publishing opportunities for spoken word featured on the podcast and on our media channels. Email to submit.

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Profile for For Women Who Roar

FWWR Anthology 2020  

Dive in our For Women Who Roar Anthology 2020 featuring womxn's nonfiction, poetry, art, and interviews. We hope their roar inspires your ow...

FWWR Anthology 2020  

Dive in our For Women Who Roar Anthology 2020 featuring womxn's nonfiction, poetry, art, and interviews. We hope their roar inspires your ow...

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