HOOLIGAN // DECEMBER 2018
KAINA KAINA KAINA KAINA
HOOLIGAN MAG IS
EDITOR IN CHIEF MORGAN MARTINEZ
MANAGING EDITOR RIVKA YEKER
ASSOCIATE EDITOR ROSIE ACCOLA
special thanks RAYCH JACKSON LEVI TODD LIZZ ORTIZ KAINA CASTILLO PAUL ROBINSON ONYX PREYE ENGOBOR DENNIS ELLIOTT
hooligan mag issue #27
// BY LEVI TODD // PORTRAITS BY LIZZ ORTIZ
Raych Jackson has had a whirlwind of a year. In 2018, she wrote and performed in the play Goddesses of Slam which premiered in Switzerland, she appeared in the anthology Breakbeat Poets Volume II: Black Girl Magic, was published by Poetry Magazine, and curated a room for Refinery 29â€™s Chicago stop of 29Rooms, among countless other projects. Her LLC name, Awkward Connoisseur LLC, lays it plainly: Raych has countless creative talents and unfathomable energy to drive her forward, while remaining authentically herself. We chatted over email about what sheâ€™s been up to in the last year, and how the church became her first performance space.
Hello! How’s freelance life been treating you? Freelance life has been hard! In order to survive, I have my hands in a couple of different places. I just got back from writing a show in Switzerland. I’ve been voice acting! I’ve been editing plays! I’m busy, but definitely happier this way! It definitely sounds like you’re juggling a lot of fun projects. For folks who aren’t familiar with what you do, can you briefly summarize what all you’ve been working on lately? Yes! I’ve been finishing and finalizing my manuscript. I plan on dropping a book of poems soon. I’m terrified. Letting someone in my life in such a way is new. I’ve also been trying to break more into the voice acting world. I just recently voiced DJ Raych in Mad Verse City, a game through Jackbox games. I’ve also been completing some essays I’ve been sitting on. I’ve honestly been a bit too nervous to release things into the world but lately I feel grounded and ready. My homie Toaster and I also run a monthly poetry event called Big Kid Slam. People 18 and over are able to compete in three rounds for prizes, for free. It happens every last Friday at Young Chicago Authors. That is a lot! Can you tell us more about the manuscript you’re working on?
I want to see more creatives curating for themselves and friends. It’s ok to make a new avenue. The events and the space are out there! Creating those spaces and those shows fill the deficit in whatever community we see.
My manuscript is a lot about my youth and growing up a “church baby”. I focus on lessons in tales like Jonah and Jezebel and constantly compare them to my life. It’s what I was taught to do in Sunday School. I write a lot on conflicting stories and the Christian faith. Including joy poems is the hardest part about this collection. I want to also emphasize the positive moments within the church. I learned how to jump double dutch there. The church was my first stage.
“I Ask What ‘Circumcision’ Means in a Full Sunday School Class” comes to mind as a poem that questions the teachings of your childhood church while making space for joy and humor-- “Everyone here makes me feel like I need fixing, tie knots in my cheeks so my smile stays in place and I’ll raise my hand and latch eyes onto any Sunday School leader that thinks I’m broken, and I’ll ask that blatant sex question in Sunday School. I dare God himself to shatter the fence around my snow.” I love what you said about the church being your first stage, can you say more about that? I was able to perform young in front of hundreds. My childhood church was big on singing, performance, plays etc. In fact my childhood church had “Jr. Church” where the children [ages] four to 12 have their own service in the basement. I was a favorite church baby and I commanded audiences from a single digit. I even was Jesus at Vacation Bible School once. For that aspect of my youth, I am forever grateful. My first auditions and understanding of tech came from the church. I learned how to read an audience when I was a preteen. My father is a noted devotional leader and my mother a choir director. Of course they had a child that loved the spotlight. Unfortunately, the spotlight didn’t always shine on me in my favor. As much as I loved to perform I still had these nagging questions about my parents’ faith. I know my parents are following what they believe and will go to their version of heaven. Those are good people. It would be the other people and the other things in the church I’d see. It would be the Bible stories and the dress codes only for women that had me overflowing with questions and abrasive statements. For that, I was not always liked. It seems like the church was a really foundational space for you in a lot of ways, and I love that you can trace your tradition of performance that far back. Do you feel a spiritual aspect to the performances you offer today, or do you consider that separate from your spirituality? Oof. What a good question. Honestly my spirituality comes in waves. Because of how I was raised, I question everything remotely spiritual and that’s unfair. My poems are literally me challenging God. I don’t consider my performance separate from my spirituality. Even a line in a poem about something abstract might still be a hint to God.
Because of how I was raised, I question everything remotely spiritual and that’s unfair. My poems are literally me challenging God. I don’t consider my performance separate from my spirituality.
Can you tell us about one of your favorite poems in the manuscript? My favorite poem changes each day. My poems mean different things for me at different times. Right now, my favorite poem from the manuscript is a sonnet for my father. His faith has always interested me. He can’t exactly hold a note, but isn’t embarrassed to sing loud and big. Most weeks he’d lead devotion and sing right in the mic. No one can tell him shit about the way he praises. He would always say “I don’t go to church for other people.” I admire that dedication a lot. What’s been your experience going back and forth between working on the poetry manuscript and essay collection? Is that an easy transition for you to make or do you have to separate them in your mind? I separate them in my mind. I think writers all have different processes. For me, right now, I need to only focus on finishing this poetry manuscript. I have loosie essays and ideas floating around in my Google Drive but my collection of poems cohesive (and almost ready yikes). With the nature of freelance work blurring personal and professional, what are some things that you do that are just for you? How do you check in and hold space with yourself? WOW. Still learning this one. For now, I set a schedule. I wake up around the same time, write around the same time, eat around the same time and sleep around the same time. Freelancing is a job. I have an alarm and a bedtime. I have work to finish. I’m probably the hardest most and critical boss I’ve ever had. I need to make sure I’m still giving myself a chance to decompress. Writing “brain break” on my schedule may sound silly to some, however I need the visual. I hold space with myself by stealing Type A methods (as usual) and writing everything down in my schedule. Then I read or binge watch a TV show.
Big Kid Slam is a really terrific event that you and Toaster Henderson co-host, and you’ve mentioned in other interviews that you were trying to offer an anti-slam of sorts that didn’t take place at a bar, didn’t have a cover, and was in an accessible venue. Assuming all resources/time/energy were available, what other events would you like to see or host for Chicago’s creative scene? Or which existing events would you like to offer more support to? The Chicago creative scene is wildly talented. I deadass get encouraged to work more by looking at my friends. However, the Chicago creative scene isn’t just male rappers. We’re tired of all the posts and write-ups framing it as such. There are poets, singers, visual artists, comedians, designers, gallery owners, etc. that are thriving. People in the Chicago creative scene also don’t all identify as men. There are women and non-binary artists crushing it. Toaster and I host Big Kid Slam every last Friday at the Young Chicago Author’s gallery. We wanted to restructure the slam community in Chicago. I’m not white and I’m not straight. Where is the space for me to slam? It was moving to watch other artists in different mediums in Chicago get fed up and create their own space, own gallery, own blog. For example, Luya Poetry hosts an open mic every second Wednesday at Isa Studios; an event space owned by a woman of color. Oh Word? Open mic happens the last Thursday of the month at the Silver Room, which is black owned. Super shoutout to Christina Aldana and LA Van Gogh! Artists curating their own event is so important. I want to see more creatives curating for themselves and friends. It’s ok to make a new avenue. The events and the space are out there! Creating those spaces and those shows fill the deficit in whatever community we see. A last and very important question: which Bob’s Burgers character do you most identify with? I identify with all three Belcher Kids! I am Louise’s pessimism as much as I am Gene and Tina’s optimism. I identify with Tina’s insecurities as much as Louise and Gene’s confidence. Although my childhood adventures weren’t as exciting, I got into some shit. I’m also good at popping out a random simile that loosely ties to a topic like Gene. I love the kids’ “all or nothing” attitude. That’s been my focus these past two years. I’m a Gemini so I hope that helps why my answer is more than one person. Ha.
To support Raych Jackson and her creative projects, visit her Patreon. To read more of her work, visit her website. Big Kid Slam takes place at 7pm the last Friday of every month at Young Chicago Authors.
KAINA CASTILLO AND THE BOLDNESS OF SELF-LOVE, ACCOUNTABILITY & GROWTH KAINA CASTILLO AND THE BOLDNESS OF SELF-LOVE, ACCOUNTABILITY & GROWTH KAINA CASTILLO AND THE BOLDNESS OF SELF-LOVE, ACCOUNTABILITY & GROWTH KAINA CASTILLO AND THE BOLDNESS OF SELF-LOVE, ACCOUNTABILITY & GROWTH KAINA CASTILLO AND THE BOLDNESS OF SELF-LOVE, ACCOUNTABILITY & GROWTH
interviewed by PAUL ROBINSON
photographed by DENNIS ELLIOTT
ONYX PREYE ENGOBOR
Kaina Castillo arrived to the music industry by way of Irving Park to historic Northside neighborhood, Logan Square, in Chicago, IL. Logan Square—a site where copious working-class, brown folks are being displaced from their homes—is comprised of predominantly white and Hispanic families. Kaina resides there currently and says, “[Logan Square] is getting pretty gentrified, but I have vivid memories of coming to this place with my parents when I was a child; there was a megamall I visited before it was knocked down, my pediatrician, and this little music store called ‘Disco City’.” Logan Square continues to rapidly reshape its structure, bringing a stark myriad of changes to the way Kaina remembers the Windy City locale. With commitment to her ever-changing home strapped onto her back, Kaina has spent the latter half of 2018 soldiering through concert performances, collaborations with big names, and preparation for an upcoming studio album. These recent credits might deceive newcomers into believing Kaina’s ongoing rise materialized from thin air, but her roots and creativity have been married to community and self-care through the facet of art since childhood.
When Kaina was eighteen, her extracurriculars included participating in the Young Chicago Authors program as a high school student, a local organization dedicated to cultivating the artistic, writing abilities of the multi-talented youth of Chicago through workshops and open mics. Young Chicago Authors employs a highly decorated squad of mentors, teachers and more — their current staff enlists Kevin Coval as Artistic Director, Jamila Woods as an Associate Artistic Director, Britteney Black Rose Kapri as an Artistic Fellow, and José Olivarez as a Teaching Artist Fellow. Kaina sculpted a vignette of her time with the organization as we spoke, saying,“With Young Chicago Authors, I started out attending their open mics and slammed my senior year of high school where they sent some of their Teaching Artists to help us develop our skills; I then interned as a Programming and Production intern.” Kaina would later matriculate to DePaul University as a first-generation college student, enrolling as a Public Relations and Advertising major before leaving the institution to further pursue her growing musical interests with the support of her peers, one of which includes longtime friend and producer, Sen Morimoto. Sen is responsible for a majority of the production on Kaina’s upcoming, untitled full-length album. Kaina humbles herself by admitting it wasn’t until recently did she begin to involve intentionality around her writing process, oscillating from creating songs composed of unedited journal entries of her youth to edited articulations of her songwriting skills for public consumption. The conversation we had about this change in approach unveiled the difficulties of becoming a public figure and creative. There’s a difficulty Kaina and I bonded over in terms of holding yourself accountable as marginalized people of color with voices. We often struggle for representation, and when that representation is granted, it might force us into becoming the tokenized spokesperson for our communities. Being an acclaimed artist is more than empty fame; we have responsibilities to the many worlds that shape us and this undoubtedly entangles itself in the writing process. Kaina informed me that originally writing her thoughts down and recording them from the pad, as is, provided her with an early feeling of authenticity, but challenging that perspective to hone her craft feels like a necessity and a form of holding herself accountable. There was a time when jotting down her anger, sadness and frustrations about her friendships and relationships then recording them immediately made sense; however, throughout our conversation, it became clear that Kaina was concerned about how unedited emotions might allow for miscommunication and hurting the people she cares about. Now, she welcomes the song-editing process as self-growth. Diving into Kaina’s past discography offered me the 2016 EP “Sweet ASL,” (pronounced “Sweet as hell,” a nod to Chicago slang) with the Burn Twins and Bedows. Kaina heard the confusion in my pronunciation immediately and shot back, jokingly, “Are you from Chicago?” The project consists of a warming interlude, “Perspective,” where Kaina and friends sing as a collective, “Maybe life is all about the way you put it in perspective / Maybe life is all about the way you put it in perspective.” The soulful jazz instrumentation fits in with what I believe to be the Chicago renaissance , coming on the heels of Drill rap. But, Kaina informs me that the scene in Chicago is vast, there isn’t one singular sound or movement, but rather sounds that exists alongside each other, “Chicago sound is so distinct. Chicago music has such a lineage between blues music and house, soul and more. I think that’s why a lot of Chicago artists and myself sound like an iteration of soul and the hustle of the city, with a sweetness that’s sort of haunting but honest.”
Chicago sound is so distinct. Chicago music has such a lineage between blues music and house, soul and more. I think that’s why a lot of Chicago artists and myself sound like an iteration of soul and the hustle of the city, with a sweetness that’s sort of haunting but honest.
“Sweet ASL” demonstrated a challenge to the notion that Kaina’s singing-songwriting abilities were unrefined; there’s a brilliance to the way Kaina rawly evokes contemplation both in her past and present music. Castillo’s YouTube page is home to a more recent single, “Happy,” where she sings with a gaze fixed on the camera. The music video is framed in a lush, bluish hue, a juxtaposition to the song’s meditations on happiness, “My head’s on right where it should be / When you stand close to me / My smile jumps to a starlit night / When you are happy / My head’s on right where it should be / When you stand close to me / My smile jumps to a starlit night / When you are happy.” The imagery elicits melancholy, but the words inspire love, closeness and, romance. Kaina said to me that “Happy” is accepting love in the forms it presents itself in, although sometimes that looks different from what we’re used to or expect, “[‘Happy’] is hopeful and about gratitude but we’re also human and we sometimes feel conflicted or confused about our feelings themselves. In the end, I feel like I can always pause and think about the way people or love shows up for me in my life that I may be glazing over. Ultimately, I’m happy even if it’s not in its most digestible form for me.” We have to acknowledge that love exists in many fashions and that we have to familiarize ourselves with those forms and decide which ones we accept and leave behind. This year Kaina has become an unstoppable force. Pivoting as Saba’s, fellow Chicagoan, supporting vocalist for his NPR Tiny Desk concert, performing at Red Bull’s Latinx Music Festival alongside household names such as Princess Nokia, and opening for Kali Uchis. And although the story of opening for Kali Uchis is an impressive one (she was retweeted by fans to Uchis’ attention) Kaina’s moments of glory have and continue to be results of hard work, and are far from sheer luck. After the Kali Uchis concert, some of Kaina’s fans let her know how heartfelt the experience was for them as young, brown kids trying to find their own relationships with Latinx identity. Kaina is reaching people by being authentically herself through her music whether unedited and edited lyrics alike. Her response about her role in music “I didn’t really speak Spanish much growing up, and now I’m offered the possibility to ride the wave of Spanish-speaking music for quick, mainstream popularity, in addition to helping people be seen, but there’s a version of myself that makes people feel visible too.” Though she wants to use her identity as a tool for inspiration, Castillo refuses to broadcast her multilingualism solely for commodification. Kaina cites neo-soul staple, D’Angelo, and Afro-Cuban megastar, Celia Cruz as a couple of her most important influences musically, saying, “Someone asked me who my musical influences are the other day and I said D’Angelo, Celia Cruz and, Sen Morimoto, who is my best friend, but sort of signifies how much I feel inspired by my direct community. It’s funny, because D’Angelo and Celia Cruz are incredibly similar but different in many ways. I feel like my new material lies within the intersection of these performers.” While Celia Cruz and D’Angelo might seem polarized to some, both artists embody triumph, inspiration, and dedication to pushing musicality forward with unbridled honesty that Kaina wields as signature themes of her songs. When I listen to her music, I hear the same intensity of emotion that reminds me of the head-nodding D’Angelo’s “Black Messiah” sends me into every time. Kaina is an emerging artist from Chicago uncovering what it means to grow as both an individual, and as an artist, while maintaining the respect for and dedication to the community she loves dearly. Kaina’s process isn’t solely about writing beautiful songs, she yearns to develop strong relationships with her collaborators and fans, and works towards manifesting community in all aspects of her artistry. We spoke for over an hour about the amount of juggling required to perform all these roles, not just adequately but impressively, and the grip she has on all of the hats she wears is a testament to the force that is KAINA.
Keep up with Kaina on Twitter and Instagram.
of â€œfailureâ€? rosie a cco la
My favorite shot in the 2018 remake of A Star is Born is when Lady Gaga stands dead center in the bathroom at work and screams, using her entire body. Seven months graduated from college, nothing felt more real to me than feeling so debased by capitalism and men, that you couldn’t even bother to lock the stall door as you scream. This, I thought, is my plight. I was freshly fired from my temp job as a file clerk after placing certain files in the wrong sections of personnel files. It was my first real job out of college, and the intermediary who represented the temp agency said that while the company liked me, I had made too many mistakes and so, “they [were] letting me go.” This phone call came to me while I was on my way to work, and I kept it together on the phone, even as the temp representative demurred, “Well, we do give second chances.” I was crushed, and even though I hated the job itself, I resented being unable to succeed. The office where I worked was a dismal HR hub, with cheesy paintings and a cross-stitch of the beatitudes, added for what could be loosely defined as ‘decor’. The lighting was a fluorescent nightmare, similar to a 24hour grocery store, and within days I could have sworn it was making me break out. Fresh from art school, where I was free to show up to my editing job wearing oversized flannels and combat boots, being subject to a life of sensible Mary Janes and opaque tights felt like a highly specific hell. My art degree had taught me many things: how to work on multiple projects with equally tight deadlines, how to articulate my ideas to people, how to write endless research papers, but it neglected to ease me into an office environment wherein it would be necessary to adhere to a strange anti-fashion concept called, “business casual”. My cubicle was across from a small mini fridge, and I shared the space with a color Xerox printer which I would sometimes try to coax into working. I spent hours assembling thick, green, personnel folders and then filing them in gigantic industrial file cabinets housed in the back room. To help pass the time as I yanked open cabinets and alphabetized miscellaneous I9s, I listened to True Crime podcasts, learning about the Golden State Killer or Zodiac, as I hole-punched an endless stream of documents, quite literally pushing paper. Eventually, I started listening to You Must Remember This, a podcast which documents Hollywood’s first century. The episode that really caught my attention centered around Judy Garland. I grew up on movie musicals like Meet me in St. Louis, and I think there’s something about the relentless mundanity of temporary work that makes the escapist world of big, studio, musicals especially appealing. Yet, hearing about how the studio system blatantly verbally abused Garland forcing her to yo-yo diet and introducing her to uppers as a teenager I felt a profound empathy for her. Garland’s last role was starring in the 1954 production of A Star is Born alongside James Mason. Critics positioned Garland’s performance as a monumental comeback, and she won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in 1955. The central plot of A Star is Born focuses on a moment of rupture. A washed-up actor (or rockstar in the later iterations) stumbles into a random bar jonesing for a drink, only to discover a beautiful girl with a dynamite voice (Garland, Streisand, Gaga, take your pick). He becomes immediately fascinated with her, and they fall in love though eventually, her star power eclipses his own, causing a rift in the relationship which results in his death. The final shot of the film always focuses on the initial star, rediscovering her power while commemorating her husband, and subsequently rising from the ashes phoenix-like. Stars, both celestial and celebrity, it must be noted, are created under immense pressure. When I went to see the Lady Gaga version, I had minimal expectations. Still downtrodden by my inability to file things (for someone who got her BFA in writing I must have truly sucked at wrangling the alphabet), I was excited by the idea of being able to delve into a movie, literally any movie, with the pure escapist intent for which cinema was originally intended.
From the years 2009-2012, I had a monumental all-consuming, “wannabe you / wanna sleep with you / I’ll happily style your wigs” crush on Lady Gaga. With only a shoddy public school art education, Lady Gaga taught me everything I knew about artifice, obfuscation, the basics of Andy Warhol’s work, and consuming media critically. Upon seeing the film, I retroactively realized that Lady Gaga instilled in me all of my 1001 level Art History knowledge years before I sat down in a crowded auditorium for my required Art History survey in college. Watching Lady Gaga with muddy brown hair, making fun of her nose and singing in parking lots and gluing down her brows, felt transcendent. As a teenager, my love for Lady Gaga had an altruistic slant, I wanted nothing but good for her and through her endless barrage of tweets to her fans (there was no Instagram back then) I couldn’t help but feel like she wanted the same for me. Eventually, I did get another job, this time at my favorite bookstore. While I was ringing up books for a customer one day she remarked, “I can’t imagine being a writer, you know?” I laughed and told her that I could, that I was, in fact, a writer and she looked briefly shocked. “I mean, I just can’t imagine being alone and writing all day,” she admitted. I reassured her that you get used to it and handed her some complimentary bookmarks, but what I wanted to say was that being a writer is so much more than that -- that the best part of writing is in fact, the people around me. When we meet Ally at the start of the film, she’s complacent. She’s not overjoyed to be waiting tables, but she does it anyway. She lives with her dad and lovingly waits upon him and his cab driver buddies, as any dutiful Italian girl would. Once a week, she sings at a drag bar where she used to work as a server, and it is there, for 10-15 minute bits that she is allowed to shine. Honestly, that was what felt the most real to me: the idea of the day-to-night passion project tucked between shifts at work or days off. Who hasn’t rushed to a show in a frantic attempt to catch the last set after work? In the film, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper pen the chorus of the now-radio-hit, “Shallow” in the parking lot of a convenience store. They sit on the curb tipsy after a night out, and as Lady Gaga belts about being “off the deep end”, Bradley Cooper smiles kind of awestruck. Jack forces Ally to see herself as someone with potential, as a songwriter, as someone worth listening to. I do not wish to focus on the incredible chemistry between Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, as Ally and Jackson. For all of the tenderness between them, the hints of codependency and toxic masculinity left a bad taste in my mouth. In fact, though it did win me over weirdly, I’d rather not focus much on Ally and Jack’s romantic relationship, rather I’d like to focus on their work as creative partners and discuss how the people who kick your ass enough to force you to make what you really need to make, are another kind of soulmate. As Uproxx noted, about “Shallow” in particular, “As a woman, it’s maddeningly rare to feel like you’re being heard, that other people are truly recognizing you for your talent.” What compels A Star is Born in all four of the iterations, is the appeal of feeling truly seen by another person.
A Star is Born is often dismissed as camp just as in the film itself where Cooper constantly dismisses Gaga’s burgeoning pop career as lesser than rock and roll with that signature mix of elitism and misogyny. Yet what people don’t realize is that the concept of camp works because it is rooted in a genuine appreciation for the media that is being consumed. Something about this movie made me re-evaluate how I consume media, and somehow it helped me access joy in a way that I hadn’t considered in years; it reminded me that joy was still something that could be accessed, even if things weren’t working out the way I frantically planned before I graduated college.
Stars, both celestial and celebrity, it must be noted, are created under immense pressure.
I remembered my love of Broadway mavens like Barbara Streisand who carried themselves with the knowledge that, no matter what anyone else said, they were bonafide stars. Jokingly, I started saying that I wanted to approach my poetry practice, “like a vaudeville chanteuse,” with a toothy grin and anecdotes about bein’ a workin’ gal. At first, I was worried that the people I loved would think I was a giant failure and weirdo for 1.) getting fired from a temp job, and 2.) running around saying “chanteuse” in conversation but the opposite happened: my friends still loved me. In fact, they encouraged me, cheered me on and made sure that I felt loved outside of my dreams, in the non-space of the day-to-day. I started doing my eye makeup again, placing smudges of glitter on the inner corner of my eyes with a gentle touch as I got ready for work. I wrote poems in the corner booths of karaoke bars with my friends. I sang “Shallow” while waiting in line at McDonald’s once because Mack said, “Rosie, this is your moment” and then I had to go for it. Lady Gaga is adamant that, technically speaking, Ally’s star isn’t born until the final frame of the film. She told Insider, “She becomes famous in the film, but a star is not born until the end. I think the star in this film is human courage. It’s bravery.” There are all sorts of ways to brave. The town where I live now has one karaoke bar that is open on weeknights, and for some reason whenever someone sings a slow song the couples slow dance along, like real slow dancing with cheeks pressed onto shoulders and twirls and dips. It is the sweetest, most campy thing I have ever seen, and it is brave. In spite of certain lapses of cynicism, I find that I am continually in awe of the people around me. I watch them take the time to be sweet and vulnerable in public, to write poems and construct looks, to hustle between jobs, to try their best to be a good sibling or partner, to find their own ways to shine; and I feel so lucky that I get to bask in their glow.
SPILLED INK SPILLED INK SPILLED INK SPILLED INK
REPLACING GHOSTS by Eli Harvey
Until I was an adult, I didn’t question why my friends were not allowed in my childhood home. Unlike other kids, I had no sleepovers and if I did bring someone to my home, my mother waited in her room until she thought they’d gone away. Now, we have our own homes, you and me, filled with our books on trauma and astrology and tarot and all the things that make a science of magic and let rules finally feel safe. My friend Layne asks me if I believe in “past lives and all that” while we drink coffee out of mismatched mugs and our dogs touch noses, in love, we think. I tell Layne, I think in a past life, my family was you and I think every day we say spells to ourselves to fix what they did to us, too. You are so good at being gracious, for the good and the bad, at reinventing all the things they never gave us, we never had, and you light candles and you listen to me when I talk about ghosts, and your home is becoming our home, and that hurts and heals me the most. I am learning to love in small, silent ways, to make space for your stories and to show up when you say you need me and to let you decide when I’m allowed in your space.
ON DISCONTENT by Hanne Williams-Baron
What does a groundhog know about the seasons? Each morning he wakes and the sun cycles its same boring molten haze As a girl, I slept with one thigh over the quilt, one beneath like a sea star twisted at an aquarium Violence hides in the ground and emerges when I am feeling good Expects the whole year to know its name Itâ€™s hard to picture bad men as children before they had words, before they swam wrong like sickly manta rays The touch pool jolts and I see my round face warp Raise my voice and ripples erupt like mounds of moving dirt When I rage I wonder if I am like them The air moves the same from an open mouth no matter the intent of the breath somewhere a child is trying to sleep, too warm, restless weâ€™re all itching for a season to wade in a swimming pool a lowing pit some green and sunken earth
MY FAMILY MOURNS X by Jimena Lucero
I walk into our house & Daniel says it’s like a new roommate moved in. He keeps to himself, slams his door & I hold on to a chair as though his force will shatter every light bulb. I am more tender because a school of butterflies make up my spine. My breasts are small, the nipples dark brown screws. My ring finger is still crooked but now cautious of knives. Daniel & I speak silence better. Our wounds remain locked in the larynx. Jenny doesn’t call for X anymore. She calls me Jimena. It was easier for her to rename me. She witnessed the burial, every trace of X erased— How the sun dried the bones & I ate them like I do my mom’s blood orange rice. Jenny lists the ways in which we are similar: both of us can form a village from our laughter & both of us are women. Mom tells me she misses the way X danced around the house. There is more humor in boys, she says. We walk by the mirror hanging in the dining room. I tell her, Look at that girl, Isn’t she the most alive?
‘And so it begins.’ 1 killed, 9 wounded by gunfire as summerlike weather hits Chicago. Chicago Tribune, 1 May 2018. by Stefania Gomez
And so it begins, warmth whipping around. I wave at boys. A viejito in tiny shorts bangs on the door of a storefront filled with Singer machines. While an OG, as A would say, on the top step of a walk-up, as New Yorkers would say, wears shorts long enough to be pants. Today dandelions covered a green triangle on Blue Island between buildings. The first thunderstorm came earlier than it thought and surprised us all, even itself. A man drove by in the heat on a motorcycle, except, despite himself, it was attached to a side car, and the whole thing was painted bright as an orange. Spring is extinct. It has been replaced by summer, which is immediate, which will wake us all and that which has been dormant. I am thinking about my Contribution. I am thinking how glad I am not to be as famous as Kanye West, that my life is small enough to fit in a 1 bedroom, with the windows all flung open so the afternoon’s steam can blow through. If 10 were shot on the west side and 9 lived, summer is the living season. I will make myself a place where things can grow and burst out.
THE DEVOTIONS, THE ECHO by Delia Rainey
I drop two lemons in the dark. Boredom breaks my new bed. Buying a 12-pack with my debit card, I hold my tote bag with one fist. Is something about to happen to us? When I miss you, there is no evidence. This bar used to be a crematory. Wooden beams above me, forever. My blacked-out friend steals my tote bag. I find her by the pacman, sifting. She says, “There’s a lot of stuff in here.” She leaves her glasses in my backseat. I scroll thru a friend’s instagram all night, trying to figure out if she’s gotten a divorce. Sitting on the floor in a t-shirt, extinct. The whole time I am wondering a life. Arrange my hair in two bouquets. A tender horse greets me at the door. I save you a taco wrapped in foil. I leave gifts for you everywhere. I’m too embarrassed to adjust it. The storm sounds like a far away hole. Everyone has two shoulders in the room. In the old bar full of bones, I watch the matchstick boy’s face. He used to push me in the pit. I’m sitting on a black amp like back then. Everything repeats itself. I describe my birth to a stranger.
NETFLIX & CHILL by Jerene-Elise Nall
You watch the movie. I watch your eyes as TV blue pools dance across your pupils. Let’s swim in this side-sleeping innocence. Let’s take each other in.
THE BRIDGE by Layali Al
Lavender clouds & two-pronged forks fall curtain to the river the Ford plant fades/ behind the scenes/ a truck emerges from the skyline/ engulfed In flame the hair of hades rises giddy/ waiting/ listening mortality echoing/ against speed of sound time waits/ behind trees overlooking the underpass standing/ on fallen leaves covering/ fresh wounds like Sunday morning
SPIRONOLACTONE by Sloane Holzer
My body is a desalination plant I flush her salt regularly; spilled tears on my shower floor. Her pond scum running clean. I flush her salt regularly and carve out room for an iris blur of canal & highway floodplain strip malls Room carved out for her wet, flooding my banks. An egret wades between a twin mattress naked, cursive sheets of silt Her wet, running over my banks the thick smell of sun-ripe river and cursive heat; a fog pouring molten grey canopy The thick smell of lazy, ripe tears on the shower floor. Cursive silt on twin bodies Her pond scum runs delta along my naked sheets. Here is a desalination plant
BREATHE by Kelsey Sucena
I want to write from this place. I’ve got it polished a dozen different colors looking like sunset or lichen or some other bad metaphor. Like, maybe If I say it often you’ll hear me? Like somehow we can make sense out of all of this? I ask Ludwig what he thinks and he tells me: The limits of my language mean the limits of my world, and so how do I say that love is just not enough sometimes? Sometimes, not always. Sometimes I catch myself daydreaming, and I’m here looking all pretty and everyone’s there clapping and the whole world makes sense and this run-on-sentence that I’m living finally fits. But there’s only so much I can say in a single breathe.
Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. There’s only so much kindling left and my words keep catching fire.
Breath in your frustration breath out your love for all things.
and now it’s ash and its forest fire and it’s starting to block out the sun
Breath in all your fears and breath out all your strength and I’m thinking that maybe these clouds can fix global warming
Breath in through your body breath out through your soul. and I’m starting to wonder if breathing was ever even right for me?
FOR CECILIA, CARMEN, AND EDDIE by Marco Aziel
Grandpa’s going to bed early No more energy for Tripoli or poker In the morning your house will feel so empty ‘Cause all the noise is flying back to Michigan tomorrow So I hope you remember which remote to use for Netflix And how to reset the Blu-ray player when it stops working Grandma, I’m still young I’ve got nothing but my present and my future Lessons learned and yet to learn To build the courage not to wait Until I’ve missed my chance to properly relate To my own old man He knows Probably better than I It’ll happen in the blink of an eye He’ll be the one to go to bed early And I’ll be the one to hear him in the way My early morning footsteps bend the floorboards out of shape I’d rather pave the way there making memories than regrets And lists of things I wished I could have said So for now, we both stay up late I understand why he plans to visit on your birthdays now You used to always say, “You never know when it will be the last.”
I WANT TO BE by Francesca Impastato
I want to be small and scattered. Like dust Under the basement couch where The broom canâ€™t reach. I want To be dust, to be everywhere at once and Give into the slightest breeze. I want to be small and scattered. Like bees Scavenging from flower to flower To make honey. I want To be honey, and melt in your tea to Make you feel better. I want to send my fist through the wall And cover it with your favorite painting. I want to cry over spilt milk, spill it again And lay in it. Absorb it all and fix Everything
RHODODENDRON by Whitney Bard
The red is gushing, exploding The red is relational AND oppositional the red is red because other things are not red And now the mouth is red from eating the fruit. And your mouth is red And I canâ€™t taste color. The red lips stain, juicing and lathering The mouth is red and wet and the lips are parentheses (they are licked open) (licked closed) (circling the sentence) (the dark guts inside the body of the text) The red mouth is trying to get the message to the dark throat The throat is trying to swallow the premise that discomfort pays off The throat is (rejecting) choking (refusing)
AN ODE TO MY AUNTIES by Najlah Iqbal
Here is to my aunties Iâ€™m talking Hyderabadi-Indian aunties the ones that make steaming cups of chai not that Starbucks chai tea nonsense, I mean that rich, cooked, masala chai that grabs the deepest parts of your soul in a warm and loving embrace. This for the aunties that let me crash at their house, and tell me their house is mine too. For the aunties that put a blanket over me, when I am fast asleep. The ones that scold me for not dressing warmer In this Chicago weather. Here is to my aunties who left their homes, open skies, crowded roads, familiar faces, rikshaws, bazaars, the Charminar, the old city â€”their India. They carried their cultures, traditions, hopes and dreams to a small apartment in Chicago where their hopes flourished in their children. Here is to my aunties Iâ€™m talking Hyderabadi-Indian aunties the ones that hug you three times on Eid, and make biryani that is so heavenly it would make any person cry while they eat. Here is to my aunties, the ones that supported and loved me since the day I felt the air of this earth and saw the light of the skies. The ones that push me to be better, do better and be stronger. There is no love deeper than an aunties. Here is to my aunties.
WATER DON’T TASTE LIKE NOTHING by Cris Hernandez
When soda cost a mere pocketful of change Is just a hop and a skip away but trying to get fiji feels like Climbing everest; cold freezing so much so That our bodies go numb to the taste Of fresh, filtered, and clear When a young man of color walks to the corner store At night to get his brothers some milk For the morning it could mean the difference between nourishment and nail In the coffin Between morning and mourning him Want it to look like eden on my block but not Give up a rib for it im sure as hell not a saint But pretty sure jesus ain’t Walk on a couple broken bottles of 40’s and vodka But it’s a miracle that I do everyday when I walk to school I can find coronas and black and milds on the grass Faster than I can configure equations in math class minority plus no money equals ca ching to big box brands Who believe we are not smart enough To be human They pre-package comfort food as a bandage to what ails us It eventually makes us sick but hey they got their sales though Millions of dollars to make us sick Brick by brick they build us a mausoleum So that they can make their thoughts and prayers And stick them between the layers of concrete That keeps us from fighting back We’ve melted walls and blurred lines We can feel hydration on our skin The same that you called dirt but we call melanin It can’t hurt us anymore because it never did
So Next time you’re drowning in dry throat and almost about to choke And i’m offering you a sip Don’t tell me water dont taste like nothing
thank you thank you thank you thank you
for being here or being here for being here or being here
#27 raych jackson
glamour in â€œfailureâ€? by rosie accola