1 how to wake up and get dressed by kristina ten
2 the persistence of sea slugs by riss rosado
5 do you wanna get outta here? by olivia shetler
7 break by riss rosado
8 the wetness by kristina ten
10 disarray by riss rosado
11 the salt in your hair by olivia shetler
14 first english lesson by kristina ten
16 milkless by kristina ten
19 balloons by riss rosado
20 lazy by kristina ten
21 the artist by riss rosado
photographs & illustrations by olivia shetler
how to wake up and get dressed Lift yourself out of sleep like water. Yes, it’s cold, but you’ll get used to it. Think about the sungolds. How they’ll taste three ways, fresh, stewed, and oven-candied, on a plate with oatmeal-molasses bread and a slab of salted butter, fat and slippery as a seal. Remember the last thing she said to you: Don’t buy anything with a lid you can’t unscrew yourself. Wear your backpack in front like a kangaroo belly. Shift the books inside and ask, Can you hear the heartbeat? Move the zippers and say, Coo coo, coo coo. Look out the window. This train is wobbly but it’s homebound. Plant your hooves surely and sidelong so when the canyon calls— Children!—you can say, You are no mother of mine.
the persistence of sea slugs how does a brain hold on to a memory transient changes in gene expression long-term evolution in a DNA to-go box it turns out you can torture a sea slug take out its RNA plug it into another sea slug the second slug shivers it’s so present it’s transferrable → 2
none of that matters how doesn’t a brain hold on to a memory show me a cat sinking claws into your arm to avoid a bath i’ll show you the way you landed against me when we first took a shower together i am having no trouble not forgetting you you’re here in my muscles that 45 minute highway hypnosis from workplace to driveway you’re every inhaled bundle of basil torn shred of rosemary that i dab behind both ears you’re the ice box laugh to the same stupid joke i told you every time you pulled out a pack of light brown Nat Sherman’s 6.99 you’re every text i don’t send first because i’m either being too much or not being enough but all of the answers are me being me so that sucks you’re every caterpillar i save every spider i squish because you never know with spiders some bite you’re the ache in my patella tendon because you said maybe losing weight would help you’re the crystals i never buy for myself but accept from strange human tumbleweeds i remember you saying they were talking to you the crystals in the home you were sitting were talking to you they told you to eat meat and invite me over
taurine fluorite rose quartz and tourmaline you arranged a constellation on my belly “breathe” you flexed my feet backwards with force double your size cradled my head pulled away from my heart they’re too close, you said this was meant to clear congestion in my gut and emotional core but all i could feel was cold your mouth drips desert jewels bursting dehydrated vibrancy to the horizon i remember feeling like such a nerd for not taking as much acid i remember you repeating “i don’t remember how to talk” and insisting “babe, you’re talking” you curled like a roly poly shaking with giggles. and fear i couldn’t diagnose you were miles away always but i enjoyed running after you so much i didn’t notice i’m still running after you so present it’s transferable how doesn’t a brain hold on
do you wanna get outta here? been standing here for four straight years in doc martens boots, ankles circling to get the swell outta them. canâ€™t seem to stand still, so do you wanna get outta here?
shared earbuds led to shared spaces led to the blueberry-blue house before the hill ends that’s still blue years after you’ve gone too insensitive to fade too sore not to stick out. i wanna get outta here. intertwining ankles under covers made my ankles weak for you. they sprain every year but it’s probably not related. do you wanna get outta here? a haircut in the back of the classroom wasn’t our best idea yet but there i was, newsprint on my back a paper cape for anything-but-cold shoulders. my hair’s grown out and you’ve cut yours short almost like a trade but i never wanted that. i wanted outta this. they say people change and maybe i have but my ankles are still weak for you and the blueberry house is still just as blue. do you wanna get outta here?
break Blue hasn’t been around for a minute if you’re counting dimes one mississippi i’m still holding this 80% finished pack of light blue Spirits waiting to pass them back to your elegant fingers i still don’t know if i’m inhaling right and learning to breathe at my age is harder than the instinct of infancy how is it the baby knows to hold its breath i’ve heard with need Newborns crawl skin to skin on their mothers i’ve heard light blue Spirits turn to dust if you wait too long too lonely for the wrong people unrequited unreturned you bind yourself to the cliff for likes but we know you’re gone is it worth the pretty picture if the frame is hollow
the wetness We are all creatures but you are an animal. It’s not unbelievable fucking prick hour at the local mixology bar, yet here you are, all your heavies heavy— dabbing salt on the rims of overturned wounds. Not just any, mind me, but the kind mined from Mediterranean seas whose salinity brings bodies to float. Flesh bags buoyant in the vast cobalt, coarse crystals from the gourmet aisle at half a gas tank or (round up to) four tubes of waterproof mascara a pound. Wouldn’t I be tickled to know you named this one Tequila Mockingbird or (still mulling over) Agave Maria? →
Talk about keeping my lights light, little umbrella statements. Talk about the stirring straw like an organ— be careful, it’s breaking— as I gnaw it into a limpid accordion. Talk about chewed up. Say amuse-bouche with more vowels than it needs and you know it. Make laugh the mouth. Memorize the ingredients: one and a half ounces reposado tequila, one ounce white port, half ounce Velvet Falernum, juice of one medium lemon (when life gives you) sugarcoat with half ounce rich simple syrup. We shake and strain. Shake, strain, add a splash of— do not say One Hundred Ginger Beers of Solitude, do not say One Hundred Ginger Beers of Solitude— until we’re laughing. How to speak this talk about gluttony until we’re slurring. In your black work buttondowns comma me feeling tiny semicolon the things open parenthesis the stains close parenthesis we wear on our sleeves semicolon electrolytes ha ha and the wetness period period period It’s easier to answer What are you drinking than What are you thinking comma isn’t it question mark isn’t it
disarray (I haven’t had to answer to this sort of accusation in years) a smashed flower on the sidewalk the stem ground into your furrowed brow dainty, bloodied, screaming like the kettle you haven’t relieved from its pressured cries fishnet stockings from your triumphant hips tied ‘round a “no smoking” sign your hair like listless ferns twisting through my fingers that same black dress you wore to shreds pacing fiery indifference until you shivered delight when you’d bury me in shallow dirt knowing it wouldn’t be enough to keep me down but enough to make me want to claw my way back to you strike me once cry, HOLY
the salt in your hair Most people don’t know this, but when we say “salt and pepper hair,” that’s not really an expression; your body holds on to its memories, you see, and keeps them crystallized inside you, cocooned and waiting till you need them most. When your gray hairs come in, you should know that the color comes from the salt locked in the strands, and with the salt: memories. It’s sometimes too much for the brain to handle, you know? Just because you think you’ve forgotten something doesn’t mean it isn’t still inside of you, though; it’s kept safe for later. Each hair contains several memories. Some strands have a theme, like all of your birthday memories, the memories of places you visited, every single lover...but most are a bit more random. The body organizes things in mysterious ways. The first gray, though, will always house the strongest memories; of this, trichologists are certain. The morning that I saw my first gray in my mirror’s reflection, I couldn’t wait to pull it out and taste it. I knew not to, though, because that would be a waste--like eating a grape when what you really wanted was wine. The first hair, after all, is the most special. The Grand Cru. Can’t cut that stalk prematurely. 11
Some people go tip to root; chronologically. I haven’t decided yet which way I’d like to try for my first experience, but I think I might start at the root. I like the idea of going backwards, like rewinding a VHS. I’ve traced the path of my first gray countless times, from root to tip; it was only an inch long when I first noticed it. If I wait long enough, after a few years I should get a semi-decent experience from it, but I want this one to last at least a few decades (I write a note to myself to buy a deep-conditioner.) My grandmother told me once that she let one grow for years and years, would hold it away from the barber’s shears and tell them “not this one.” When she finally plucked it and started reliving those memories, she decided to keep the oldest ones for last, too. Gram tried her latest plucked hair in front of me as I sat by her bedside. She said it tasted drawn out at the base, as if her body had spent all its energy at the beginning of the strand and towards the end just...started to get a bit tired. Petering out. Maybe there were fewer remarkable things to transcribe in salt by then. When the hay-stringy hair touched her tongue, she said there was no sensation at first...then, like reluctant tea leaves in lukewarm water, the salt leached out. They were all kinds of flavors of salt; the part of the hair that grew last month when she tripped and broke her hip had a metallic tinge to it (like the salt was biting back at the inside of her mouth) and the bit from a year ago when grandpa passed was tear salt with a hint of something herbaceous, like the smell of his aftershave. As her tongue traveled down the line of hair--like one sealing an envelope--her brow would furrow and peak as she tasted the painful memories, and her eyes would brighten when she passed over a part she thought she’d forgotten, but had just found again. The time she held my mother in her arms for the first time: 12
sea salt with lavender. The time she thought she might never have a child of her own: charcoal salt. The time her first lover left her: the taste of her Camel tobacco and the salt she kissed from her brow once. Grandma’s body had held on to that. For later. As she sucked on the end of her strand, she cried a little. The tastes were purer, she said, and a bit brighter even though they were less refined. I’m told the uncomplicated flavors of youth are often the best. Grandma thinks the salt in the very tip of your first gray hair, if you make sure it doesn’t fall out, might even be amniotic; the first memory your body locks away to gift to you later, if you cherish it enough. I stare at my hairline in the rearview mirror as I drive home. I admit that plucking early can be tempting. I twist an index finger gently in my bangs--pensive--then let my hand fall back to the steering wheel. No. Not yet.
first english lesson before he knew hootie and the blowfish before he knew supertight levi’s at the mall before he knew the pledge of allegiance without cheating he knew tuna salad sandwich on whole wheat toast tuna salad sandwich on whole wheat toast before he knew pickup trucks and truck nuts two-for-one apple pies on the mcdonald’s dollar menu before he knew church clothes and closed liquor stores on sundays before he knew hey commie, go the fuck back where you came from before he knew it by heart hey commie, go the fuck back he knew tuna salad sandwich on whole wheat toast tuna salad sandwich on whole wheat toast →
before he knew i go blind before he knew only wanna be with you before he knew i’m such a baby ‘cause the dolphins make me cry he knew tuna salad sandwich on whole wheat toast like an anthem like a rock song like muscle memory, north star, rescue team like home before he knew what it meant even tuna salad he knew how to say it on whole wheat toast before he learned it was nothing like the minced fish pies of his boyhood he knew it frontwards and backwards in his own low, steady tone and his r’s rolled and in the dusty arizona singsong of his teacher he knew it like a mother’s breast tuna salad sandwich on whole wheat toast tuna salad sandwich on whole wheat toast it was only an exercise tuna salad a way to improve his diction on whole wheat but twenty years later, if overwhelmed by the menu in the deli line, if caught off-guard at the company cafeteria he will blurt it out even now even still like the reflexes of a cat always falling tuna salad sandwich on whole wheat toast like he’s holding the words on a piece of paper under his tongue my dad has eaten more tuna salad sandwiches than anybody ever on whole wheat toast so when he calls me, his english major daughter grew up with that american singsong twenty-fourhour drive-thru youtube my native language don’t know a goddamn about the way the sea tastes in sukhumi when he calls me with his newspaper-with-coffee-every-day vocabulary and says honey, i came across a new word today bigly what does that mean? i want to say in my uncertain, rust-covered russian papa, you’re no stranger to monsters in crowns i want to say tuna salad sandwich on whole wheat toast if only to land on my feet i want to say instead, tell me the story of your first english lesson tell me again how it’s made you insatiable 15
milkless I hate the word skyscraper. It sounds so mean. He tells me he was never sad. Cold maybe. And tired. And broke. Too broke to buy the textbooks or fix the stovetop or the shutters that banged against the kettle when the wind blew against the kettle on the stovetop or treat the measles. Too poor to buy a car. Too tired to ride the bike. But he had to ride the bike to get to the library to borrow the textbooks to light the fire. To get the degree. To light the fire. To boil the water. Uphill, both ways, in the snow. He studied physics. Everybody studied physics. This was before the invention of poetry on that side of the river. â†’
He tells me it is good to be able to fill a room with what you own and see it all without turning your head. He tells me in those days he siphoned gasoline with his mouth. With his blue lips and yellow teeth and white tongue, with his mouth. With his cheeks strained, translucent and veined. For his buddyâ€™s car, with his mouth. All the time. To light the fire. To boil the water. To sweat out the measles. This was before the invention of internet articles that explain how to safely siphon gasoline. This was between the invention of safety and the invention of mouths on that side of the river. Even young and spotted, even small and lean, he loved the smell of gasoline. He loved the word skyscraper. He thought of a tongue depressor one hundred stories tall. Say aah. He thought of a big flat popsicle stick two hundred stories tall. Say aah. He thought of hot days, hot-hot days, and a popsicle that is easy. Sweet fruit without the cracking of pomegranate rind, without the popping out of seeds. These sounds sick like resetting a bone. No, this was instant. A dripping popsicle and its stick three hundred stories tall. Say aah and scrape away the white stuff. Scrape away the white stuff. Say aah. Scrape away the clouds. I hate the word skyscraper. It sounds soâ€” I hate the weeks. I only like the weekends. I tell him that I am not sad. That I am not sad, just that when I am somewhere, I want to be somewhere else. Just that no matter where I am, as soon as I get there, I want to be going somewhere else. He tells me it must be a privilege to have the time to pay attention. He tells me that maybe he has been sad, after all, but that he had been using a different word for it. Mathless? Milkless? On that side of the river. 17
He tells me that in the coldest months, his grandmother would walk to the barn and find the whitest milkless cow and slit its throat near the river. Then she would dig a trench in the snow and bury the slight, white milkless cow and count two weeks in chalk on the wall and come back down to the river. There she would dig up the cow and take a sharpened knife to the hide and slice one frozen sheet of meat and rebury the cow near the river. He tells me that in the coldest months, he had beef popsicles to eat and if he ever wanted more, he would call to Baba: the river! To the river! To cut away the fat. To scrape away the white stuff. No, this was instant. The kettle red and screaming. This was before the invention of wanting on that side of the river. They dragged the cows down and carved numbers on their hooves. They boiled the fat down and carved symbols onto the candles, onto the soap and the candles, on that side of the river. A baby on each hip. A son or daughter wearing a rabbit fur hat on each hip. Each hip the bodyâ€™s knife. Each hip a rescue flare, each hip the bodyâ€™s knife. They burned the barns down and wrote equations in the ashes. They scraped the sky clean and wrote equations in the blue. I tell him I want to go there. To fill the room with pomegranate seeds. To light the fire. To watch the steam rise. To write poetry on the window, with my finger. Cold and reaching, a skyscraper, my finger. Write it backwards, so he can read it, or in symbols. I want to go there. To go there, and eat, and then wait to get hungry.
balloons “come down!” they plead. “i can’t,” I cry, “I’m full of balloons!” this poem has no beginning calluses for praying migraine from wishing i look at the problem and see loopholes but if i jump into any of them i will be the cost the limited balance of the Already “come down!” they plead. “i can’t,” i cry, “but i can pop some of these balloons!” air escapes and sinking i have destroyed myself for less the worthiest cause but i can’t contribute and coarse parts without cement will never be concrete “you’re here!” they delight. unfinished moving parts above in no time fall past me beyond repair
lazy I have too many bones in my feet and I have too many teeth in my mouth and I put too much clout in follower count and you, my belly my lemon my grove This house is split by computer cables This house has tables that drop every plate This house is thigh-chafed sun-spoilt and Christ-cradled and you, my wet mozzarella my love And you, sugar pill pilled sweater sweet jam And you, my jelly meat suckled and shorn And you, my kill and my kill and my kill and my Cityâ€™s dumpling makers all went on strike My city is spite gold brass Stoli commercials My city is sure-footed falling uphill and you, my wall stud my knock knock my screw If you cannot be honest at least burn the truth If you cannot be ruthless at least admit that This star will one day throw us clean off This star coughs through Czech words it would mispronounce This star is bounced checks rising boats blown raspberries and you, my shower curtain my mildew I will braid the veins in your translucent wings I will sell your ivory on Amazon Prime I will watch you spread lotion across your new legs I will beg it will rhyme I will beg I will beg I will Call you my house and my city and star When you cannot be human just be what you are
the artist Paradoxically disturbing and entrancing I am a human body sculpture The Artist A pile of collected waste Part-time cook at a Benihana Steakhouse Body performative 1,000 years to decompose Face, as well as unheroic body Operations to correct the problem Collaboration as surgeon Outside New York’s James Fuentes Gallery Passerbys watched The damage to his face has been a major influence on his life “To affect people is really important” --The evolution of the human heart Is a spectator sport Da vinci knew Da vinci slicing bodies like paper dolls Studying Have you seen his sketch of hetero sex? The detail on the male body is incredible. The woman’s body doesn’t even have a head. If that isn’t patriarchal nonsense idk what is. Misogyny aside Da Vinci knew We’re all high on the brain Being the command center But this is the true traffic controller What the brain does because it wants to The heart does because it needs to The heart will keep at it 2121
After brain death Because it wants it more— This is my problem. My heart wants it more More heart less brain More brain? heart-less Brain interjects when it has to Interrupting mother in law In the middle of my good time ‘Scuse me i’m trying to fall in love over here! Da Vinci saw ecstasy and pain pain like a loss pain like a name like the albums you can’t listen to any more because their name is on the sleeve like the one bench in the one park you carved their initials into like baby teeth one mismatched earrings a roll of film kept 7 years i was so sick of looking at that stack of disposable cameras i sent them all off to be processed and an entire roll was you when you said come with me to Joshua Tree when we hiked and showered together when i pulled a roast chicken from the oven fed you crispy skin you called me a wizard when you insisted on being the big spoon you’re this tall but i knew not to fuck with you 22
when we bundled up borrowed layers looked at stars then decided being naked would be warmer when the air was so dry you said kisses would help when i loved you of course a camera full of painful memories of a beloved ex why would you do that? you know nothing lasts forever the brain does anyway.
KRISTINA TEN is a Russian-American writer of short stories and poetry. Her work has appeared in The Masters Review, Pithead Chapel, Jellyfish Review, b(OINK), and elsewhere. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Kristina lives in Chicago, Illinois, with her dog, Shapka. See more at kristinaten.com.
RISS ROSADO is bad with names but still wants to know yours. They write poetry, prose, short stories, and handwritten letters. They have featured at Quiet Lightning, Red Light Lit, Get Lit, You’re Going to Die, and more. They love a good cry and have been published in sPARKLE & bLINK, Buddy, Rag, Be About It, The East Bay Review, and the Red Light Lit anthology Love Is the Drug & Other Dark Poems.
OLIVIA SHETLER is an SF native Chinese-American artist and filmmaker. Their art has most recently been featured in the Light Grey Art Labs’ FOODIES exhibit, and they are the creator of a children’s book encouraging young girls’ self-esteem and interest in STEM fields. Their directed animated short, Horsepower, is a Napa Valley Film Festival Audience Choice Award recipient. More work is available at oshet.com.