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ransack press

ISSUE / 1 THE BODY


OUR MISSION Ransack Press exists to find and publish writing that bends the rules and regulations of genre, as well as visual art that peaks interest and enhances understanding. We are a queer-run organization that works hard to advocate for all people who may feel marginalized (queer, poc, incarcerated, differently abled, non-neurotypical, etc) and value publishing emerging artists alongside well-established ones. (trigger warning: nudity, some mentions of sex, some mentions of abuse) This publication is for you. Thank you for reading.


TABLE OF CONTENTS Omi Aliaga.....................................................................................3

ISSUE 1 / THE BODY

Margot Mitchell-Nockowitz.............................................5 Ash Dietrich..................................................................................9 Sav Robinson..............................................................................13 Margaux King.............................................................................17 Lemmy............................................................................................25 Jade Kelly......................................................................................27 Kyrie Clemmer..........................................................................32 Horoscopes..................................................................................35 Danny Bowman......................................................................40 Lily Someson.............................................................................44 Feature: Ryan Barhaug.....................................................47 Natalie Benson-Greer.........................................................54 Jessica Powers..........................................................................60 Adele Tamae...............................................................................61 Emily Bieniek.............................................................................66 Mo Santiago...............................................................................68 Interview with T Clutch Fleischmann....................74 Staff...................................................................................................80


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this body as an allegory for “leaving” omi aliaga

blue light omi aliaga

i want to say i’ve been staring at the light for too long. i’ve been looking into the green sea, the bed, the sweater left on your bedroom floor & i can’t find anything grand to say about it anymore. we wait for the flood, fill up on the absence of it. the missing, the lack, the longing: & i want to tell you that i’m all of it. i know, i’m tired of all the ways i make a body an empty room. i know, i know. when we were seventeen & everything was sickly full & everything was the backseat of a car & everything was the open road falling behind us i thought the gold backs of your wrists on my mouth was some sort of prayer. here, now. my name, the bullet, your wound of a mouth. the knowing that it meant nothing to me. look at this ruin, & look at my fists, red with unmaking. i’m all of it.

i still remember that 2am on the highway, our mouths blue slits over the asphalt of your yellow-bellied indiana summer. i had a heart that wouldn’t talk to me anymore. you skipped rocks on the ocean of me anyway. it’s a little funny to me now, how i told you i was running cold most of those days & you begged me to burn a house down. you begged me to hold your heart underwater. broke all my words into pieces i could swallow. looked out the window & saw all our ghosts burn wild thru your headlights. i know i’ve always found a way to stay silent. think i’ve left my teeth at the bottom of lake michigan. think i made promises i knew i couldn’t keep. made them anyway.

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OF BOYS WHO DROWN by omi aliaga transgenre fiction ma says all boys are filled to the brim with river water, some bluer, more storm. you say this to me where the sun spills her fire until she runs dry, a bruised sort of wanting. kinda like you. the hot wind in our hair, i see salvation in the curve of your neck, want to believe in it as god. you look at me & i see myself, bluer, more storm, spilling past my edges against all prayers for calm. don’t get me wrong, i love that about you, and your words are blown like glass, sweet flame against clarity & up on that hill beneath the dying light i believed you, like i believed in your hands as they pressed the swell of my ribs the night you pulled me from clay made of seashell & upturned palms. you told me we were made for this endless loving & crashing & god, it meant everything to me. you’ll always mean everything to me. boy made of bluer things & more storm hugs bony knees to his chest, lets these words out for the wind, where do boys go when their hearts can no longer stand the drowning? i know i’m only asking because your eyes are begging me not to. your bloody mouth splits like a wound, cherry pits on your tongue, you laugh until nothing matters. i hold my breath for the boy the world will take from me, though i fear it never gave him to me at all.

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"THE BODY: THE HOLDER OF MEMORIES"   MARGO MITHCELL-NOCKOWITZ

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MOTHER, AND THE ONE I MAY LOVE Margot Mitchell-Nockowitz

The divine matriarch, She sits as the high priestess holy, I am hers to command  But when she wavers in speech and falls with shackles weighting her I remember her human, I remember her not as holy  Instead, as half of me and me as half of Her

She could exclaim Come as you are, and I love whole and high and blessed  Although I have been trained better than to believe her sermons  I reply,  But if I fall like you, will you still pray and praise  Rising from my knees to greet her tender skin,  so frail cellophane I touch in a familiar caress

I mean only yes, and yes only for you, Love And to her I sung, Thank God for the God that has made me,  That I one day will surrender liveliness to

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ANYTHING PAST 5PM Margot Mitchell-Nockowitz

I’m only awake to mourn over You whom I’ve woken for. I’m up - spry, I am up and spry and so drained Because I’m alone, always the single self plagued by the ever multiple - reminding the tailored body I have to go to sleep when Everyone else does, because I do what everyone else does When the neighborhood has been lonely And the mowers go and go, and buzz like drunken stupor, When I’m wet again for the fourth time, Since I opened to you, you whom I’ve woken for Both the day and the memory of days gone by hours of sex and sleep, I am still alone I go, and go on, and I am drunk from waking Like the stupor, like the evening without noise, Everyone is returning, and I am draining again Stretched back in the Gaunt Bed And the night gets colder past 5PM I, routine - subject to stay exactly the same Until - the evening tells - it’s time to say hello to the One that I’ve rested and risen for Will it, I ask, one day be myself?

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"THE BODY: THE HOLDER OF MEMORIES"   MARGO MITHCELL-NOCKOWITZ

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HAIR by Ash Dietrich nonfiction

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   Today is a bad day. I can already feel it when I sit up in bed and am forced to face my reflection in the mirror hanging across from me. Who thought that was a good place for a mirror? Not me, but I'm too lazy to move it, and my basement lacks wall space. "Who the hell are you?" I ask it. I tug at my blond hair and pull it down over my eyes. I am not me. I wear an oversized shirt to bed like a cheap nightgown. It almost reaches my knees, but somehow manages to cling to my chest, not tightly, but tight enough. I am not me. I fall flat onto my bed and slide off slowly, feet first, to avoid the mirror. My body crumples onto the hard floor. I feel the cold cement on my ankles, knees, outer thigh as I should, but this is not my body. My body is somewhere else, waiting for me. It is flat and sharp.      I pick up this body and drag it up the stairs. Left, right. Remember to pick up the feet. They are not your feet, so you must tell them when to move. My house is empty. No one is here to help me locate my body. Every surface is reflective. The microwave, the china cabinet, the bathroom doorknob. I stand at the top of the stairs and lean against the door. It is wooden, so there is no reflection. A lock of blond hair hangs over my eyes. This is not my hair. I want my hair back. 

   This body carries me around the corner, to the bathroom. There is a double mirror here. Double reflection of this foreign body. I open the cabinet so the mirrors face each other, away from me. My vision has blurred. I can't tell if it's from tears or if I'm still tired. I rub my eyes. It's tears. I stare into the cabinet, examining every shelf. Eye drops, hand sanitizer, empty bottles, body lotion that says it smells like "love". It smells like chemically formulated bubblegum and roses. Not love. Next shelf up. Hair dye. Jars stacked on empty jars of hair dye. Half a jar of rusty orange, two jars of turquoise and one forest green with dribbles left in each, less than half a jar each of hot pink, red violet, dark blue violet. I scoop a hand behind the stack and pull the jars off the shelf. They tumble into the sink. I close the cabinet, and the reflections return. My eyes dart from the reflections to the rainbow in my sink. Back and forth. My mind is racing. Eyes welling with tears, I grab random jars and place them on the edge of the sink.      None have enough for my entire head, so I decide to mix. I open the cabinet below the sink and grab my mixing bowl, brush, and white conditioner for good measure. I'm not ready to commit to whatever I'm about to do to this body, so the conditioner will dilute the hell out of any pigment. I dump roughly half a cup of conditioner into the bowl and stare at the jars I've chosen. Pink, red violet, blue. Well, if pink is feminine and blue is masculine, then this body needs a mix. My logic is laughable, but in the state I'm in, I roll with it. With the back of the brush, I scoop out small globs of each colour and flick them into the bowl of conditioner. I flip it over and mix the concoction with the bristles. The pink swirls into the blue, into the violet, into the white conditioner, creating the most beautiful grey-purple I have ever blended. I dip my hand into the bowl and scoop a handful onto the top of my head without even looking in the mirror. I continue to slap more on my head and lather it throughout my hair ravenously, front to back, top to bottom, until I run out. 

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I immediately make another batch, not even attempting to match the last one. Once it becomes a shade of purple, I slather it through the rest of my hair and mix it with the already saturated patches to even the colour out a little. I run my hands through my hair quickly to make sure there are no dry patches and end up spiking it into a faux hawk that holds its shape perfectly from all the product. Not once did I use the mirror for reference, so I have no clue how I actually look. Last time I mixed conditioner into my dye, the colour was so subtle it was nearly two hours wasted.    I duck out of the bathroom and avoid all reflective surfaces on my way to the kitchen. Sharp left turn from the bathroom to avoid the turtle tank, look straight ahead as you pass the freshly polished picture frame hanging on the wall, enter the kitchen and b-line for the bag of bags hanging by the back door before you have the chance to see yourself in the microwave or oven doors. Quickly tuck your hair into the bag and tie it at the back of the neck or above the forehead in front like a cute bow. I tie around the back of the neck. Now I'm free to roam the house, reflective surfaces and all. I check the time on the microwave. 11:34 AM. Wow. This has to be the earliest I've ever had a meltdown.                 There's a reason I prefer to sleep in. I glance at my reflection, but can only see the white plastic covering my hair. My heart begins to race. I can feel it pounding in my ears. Behind my eyes. In my throat. My lungs shrivel up. Knees buckle. I fold like an old bed sheet that unclipped from the clothesline. My eyes open and I sit up as my limbs reanimate one by one. My arms push my torso upright. My torso stiffens, spine straightens. Legs are still numb, but they usually take some time to warm back up after an attack. I wiggle my toes and look up at the microwave clock. 12:45 on the dot. Looks like I took an impromptu nap on the kitchen floor. At least no one is home. Collapsing and being out cold for an hour in only a shirt-dress and plastic bag head wrap isn't a good look for me.

   By the time I wiggle my legs back to life, it's 1:15. I tear the bag from my head and grab the stove to pull myself up, turning on my heels the moment I'm upright. I glide back to the bathroom and fall into the tub. My head hovers under the faucet as I brace myself for the coldest water my house will provide. Dye begins to flow from my hair and down the drain in cloudy grey streams. My heart is thumping again. I breathe deeply and close my eyes. Passing out and drowning in a pool of hair dye sounds like my way to go, but not yet. I twist my head under the water to wash out the rest of the dye before the brain freeze kicks in, and turn the water off. With my eyes still closed, I reach over the tub for a towel and begin squeezing water out of the ends of my hair.                Growing impatient, I furiously shake my head before twisting the towel tightly around it to absorb the remaining water. I let the towel drop to my knees and open my eyes. Peering through a purple mess of hair, my breath is cut short. Oh my god. What the fuck did I just do? Did I really just stain my hair after months of lightening it? I was a step away from white. That's what I wanted. At least, that's what I thought I wanted. But my reflection proved otherwise earlier. I can't undo this blur of a morning, so I roll over the tub's edge onto the plush shower mat and stand up, my back to the mirrors. I squeeze my eyes shut and spin around. My left eye flickers open. By the time my right eye is open, the left has welled with tears.      I stare blankly at the short purple hair spiked in every direction and feel fourteen again. In shock. In disbelief of what I’ve just done. In love. With my hair. The colour. The haphazard patches of more pink and more blue toned purple, like a galaxy expanding from within. I am in love. With myself. My reflection is finally me again. I'm no longer a little blond boy. I am me. I hold a galaxy within myself, constantly changing and expanding. And for once, I welcome the tears. They warm my face and leave an assuring twinkle in my eyes.      I am me again.

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in the shape of my body, i am dancing Sav Robinson in the shape of a body (his) / i am dancing / feel the shift of weight /         on ball mounts of weathered feet (his) /   feel swelled chest (his) /   ribs encased in protruding fleshy tomb (his) / in the facade of a feminine body    hers /    i am still    dancing / feel the slink of sunken sides slip then soften        into wistful lover’s touch    hers /   feel cone flesh    hers    rest atop   swelled chest (his) /     lips pursed skyward to all angels    hers    / in the manipulation for a masculine body   theirs /   i dance more /      (like him than her)      / feel the spill of anger /    borne of misplaced power /           in swelled chest flatlined /   into swelled shoulders /      into swelled forearms flatlined /      into fists          / down into toenail beds swelled theirs(his) /  feel jaw clenched theirs(his) /   bones grinding against themselves against him against me (against) / in the shape of a human body battling to feel human in a body /    mine,    i dance     among other things /  and don’t stop /       feel the sink of ink (he despises) /   between   constellations hers /  become constellations themselves /      until this safeguarded skin (his) /   is all constellation /     all open boundless light       / feel shaved head  she’s reluctant to like /     body like them  i have too long been reluctant /    to love     / swelled chest cone flesh jaw clenched shaved head /    swelled  ,   chest   ,   cone   ,   flesh   ,   jaw  ,  clenched ,    shaved  ,   head. 

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an ode to you in pink & the pink   in you Sav Robinson everything has always been pink: a prom dress   the closet door   a two-piece bathing suit to match your cousin. remember how the specks of glitter waved to everyone gathered ‘round you in grandma’s sunlight. remember how you drowned them in chlorine to make sure they couldn’t speak. to match your cousin meant you were being auspicious. no   rather   the attempt to scrounge for bits of sweetness in the shrunken chalice of a troubled & troubling mind & then nodding, always. you could never truly be like her, lightning's yellow halo that’s here & the most beautiful for a moment but always gliding into the next      realms uncharted so that’s it’s never fully realized. so it’s perpetually longed for. every year, a line of impossibly white-toothed women & then you: swollen or sunk into the corner   cut out   or caught in the bathroom drowning in the mostly blue specks of a spotless mirror. picking at the red or the yellow nearing pink until it scabs into redbrown & doing it again. doing it until the shutter stops yelling stops coercing the women to smile.

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tell me where you are now. i think i see you in the garden, another rose spiraling inside or outside of yourself & i think if you were a rose  you’d be a pink one although i know you wish   sometimes   i’d think different. 

but everything has always been pink: you can reach inside it, churn it into knots, rip it under the assumption it’s whole, maybe even stick it under the red rivers of your tongue & save it for later & it’ll still blush that same perennial shade. so this must be the undoing the reclamation. when you peek outside your soft strawberry head buoys its way to the sun and back again. 

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MARGAUX KING

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MARGAUX KING

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MARGAUX KING

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MARGAUX KING

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HEART SICK Lemmy

MATTER Lemmy

the heart-it just went ballistic, just grew another head. the cops were called, which I thought was totally unnecessary. Learn more. Find the latest news. Subscribe

How does it look when the Earth is bombarded? particles hit it for a particular purpose: a psychological mindfuck tool The presence of the missing matter neatly explains the strange behaviours of galaxies as distinct as mind & spirit Learn why no information is available stock up on organic kale we don’t want them to go missing This was bound to happen at some point when you don’t do anything we are far too impressed by our own cleverness and self-consciousness we want to consume more than we expend into the light is matter conscious interactions between living & dead? a topic (of a wound) rare.

the heart? Temporarily out of stock. SICK USA | SICK getting MurderedByWords while losing its words mid-sentence & having dizzy spells picture the germiest place in your house & connect it to a world in need, then, bring it up by vomiting I need my junk fix, I’m sick, man. are we contagious?

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QUANTEM ENTANGLEMENT by Jade Kelly transgenre/experimental

   I’m listening to "Raise Your Skinny Firsts Like Antennas to Heaven" by Godspeed You Black Emperor and thinking about bodies both astral and physical though I suppose there isn’t really a difference even though there is.      I’m more concerned with what parts of my body grow hair than I am with entire galaxies exploding just because they are far away or long ago. But the thing about light is that it’s both a wave and a particle but also neither and I want to be that way too.      This morning I thought I was having a heart attack and when I finally wasn’t I slumped in bed and thought about what it would be like to shave my chest. Where would I stop? I want to Nair my body and shave my face so that I’m smooth in places that will make me happy but not in the places society tells women they should be smooth. I’d make my breasts as pale and naked and potent as the hands on the album cover that I’m listening to right now. But what’s behind them? 

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   I’d leave my armpits rough and wouldn’t shave my legs so I guess I'd end up with a sort of reverse hair shirt of skin and I don’t know where exactly to put the edges. And it’s these stupid details that I get bogged down in lying in bed when I should be getting up and working the sun and cold leaking through the thin sheet over my window staring around the inside of my eyelids like a night sky looking for Jupiter. But it’s not the point I’ll never be in a new body or maybe I will but this one has held in energy that threatens to tear it apart and suck it down to nothing or not nothing but something to dense to lift and dark to see.     Sometimes I want to know what dark matter is like maybe if I do it will be my gender my name it will tell me something I need to hear.      When I was little I had hair down almost to my waist and I wanted to be an astrophysicist because understanding the darkness was the only thing that made it less scary. But now I think the opposite might be true. I didn’t shave today ad I don’t know what lives behind my breasts or how to calculate the time it takes for light to hit my window and then bounce between my mirror and my eyes. I know that light takes about 8 minutes to reach the earth and that in 4 million years the sun will explode and that I will never be an astrophysicist because it’s too much math and that thinking about how small I am doesn’t scare me anymore and I know that all these things are not the point.      What’s behind my breasts?      In this book by Douglas Adams there is this machine of punishment. A corporal punishment because even in the infinity 

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of time and space Douglas Adams was a white man born in the fifties so there was still a prison industrial complex orbiting every star. There was this machine. All it did was show you how small you are in the universe and it was supposed to be crueler than death. A being with two heads three arms and a drinking problem enters it and it tells him he is the most important thing in the universe.    He exits feeling how he already felt when he entered.      This is only because he was tricked into an artificial universe made by a dictionary that was also a bird that existed in five dimensions which the was created just for him.      I’m not sure if I went in that machine how I’d feel.      Would going mad from my own insignificance or being told I’m the most important thing in the universe be lonelier? Why does it have to be one or the other why do prisons orbit imaginary stars why do I care whether I have hair when everything I have ever seen or felt or tasted or loved was once just an explosion?

important as gender and even still sweating in my bed thinking like this breathing smoke and pissing air I don’t know what I’m talking about and even if I did it wouldn’t matter.    What is behind my breasts?      Maybe I’ll shave tomorrow.      Until then I’m going to sit on my bed in the dark typing and smoking and thinking about light and energy and other things that only matter if I’m not alone in the universe or I guess they matter if I’m not but I’m not sure. I haven’t cried properly in years and that isn’t sad or happy because at this point I’m pretty sure that the only thing I’m pretty sure of is that if anything can actually be reduced to a binary then I reject it.      Even that.      Until then I’m here now. Navel-gazing so hard I can ignore gender science god and time. Maybe navel-gazing so hard I can punch a hole through my intestines so hard that my waveform collapses and I get sucked into something dense and solid and impossible to see. I think I would like that very much.

   Why does this matter and why does it matter if it doesn’t matter or why doesn’t it matter if it does, there is no difference between energy and matter except for the speed at which it vibrates we have reached a point where science and religion tell us roughly the same thing about the nature of reality and all philosophy does is try to let us understand a five dimensional picture in three detentions and entropy is as arbitrary and 

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"SOMETHING LIKE A JOURNAL ENTRY" A SERIES ON GENDER IDENTITY AND DYSPHORIA KYRIE CLEMMER

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"OUTSIDE / IN" KYRIE CLEMMER

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SUMMER HOROSCOPES by the Ransack Editors

ARIES Love love love love love. Try not to feel too stupid. The fire under you is acting peculiar and decided to dim long enough to see the things that are beyond all of this passion. It’s all very odd and disheartening. Do not take this for granted — every morning there is the wonderful opportunity to start taking yourself less seriously. Maybe try kissing three people this summer, all in the same day. Maybe try wearing more blue.

TAURUS

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Taurus, you’re like a caterpillar. You’re wired to latch onto everything, but sometimes you get so nestled in the nourishment of a single leaf that you don’t realize it’s nearly disappeared underneath the bulk of your smothering. Even more so, you forget that there are plenty of other plants fawning over your special touch locked right in the pit of your own eyes. Don’t worry about the numbers. There’s only you.  

GEMINI There’s so many of you this season, Gemini. It’s like you can’t pick which face to show to the rest of us. You keep looking for your answers when you’ve known them all the whole time. The moon has been watching you even more intently than before, and it’s time to put your plans in motion. Ask out your crush before the world ends. Try reading them poetry about the world ending.

CANCER All the sunbeams have reached down to kiss you - and now all this attention is shaking your security. This heat has been straining your emotions, maybe even sending you into a paranoid frenzy. Just hold out for that loud grey rain storm to lull you back to safety.

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LEO I see you singing the same song from last summer, and it’s time to get a new song. The sun only kisses the people who deserve her, so make her deserve you. There’s been a rain cloud over your head for months that you can’t seem to shake, so maybe try making vegetable soup and prioritizing your needs more. Call a woman who raised you on the phone later today. You’ll get so many opportunities to be recklessly content, so make them count. You’ll only fall in love once this season, and make it count.

VIRGO You are always the first one to show up to the party, and not because you like to party. Unless the party is held in a broken clock, stuttering it’s way back into the confines of the past. But everyone knows your spirit is a birth-- it’s about careful stagnation as much as it is about newness and fresh possibility. Buy something that lights up. Something that reminds you that you’re here.

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LIBRA You’ve been meeting so many amazing people this summer that it’s time to have get-together with them. Invite every one of those new lovers so they can all fawn over you and talk about the meaning of life. You keep trying to be beautiful but you never really know why. Fill your agenda with ways to start loving people better. It’s time to think about doing everything you said you would never be able to do.

SCORPIO

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You can’t seem to find a balance between sun crisped skin and air conditioned chills. The nights haven’t been revealing as much truth as they used to, so you’re gonna have to search through the days. Look straight into the sun stroked love and let it pull you past this existential dread. .

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SAGITTARIUS Ah, Sag. All you’ve been doing is staring at lemon leaves. If we’re all lucky, the weather will take lessons on how to act from your moods. There’s something about how summer makes you hungry for another mouth to feed. Ex lovers, in droves, for all the right reasons. Try cleaning out the closet instead of throwing things under the bed. Try not to set the room on fire again. Only fall if you want to.

AQUARIUS There’s a sea and a boat and a sky and you. You always get confused about which is which. This is to say that maybe you can’t save everyone else all the time. But maybe you can. Buy something that you deserve this month, like a bouquet or a shot at forgiveness. Maybe you should eat more fruit. Maybe you should cry more often. .

CAPRICORN You’ve been standing at the length of your toes for far too long trying to reach the peach whose mouth is closest to kissing the sky’s. They, strained by the weight of your world, as well as everyone who cares about you, are begging you to come back down and join them in the middle, where the peaches are perfectly ripe. And you are so loyal to them that you will. Consider the circumstances that are optimal for the melting of ice. Melting as a form of taking up space where you are.

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PISCES Your center of gravity has been hard to detect underneath all the stirring lately. It's not like you to allow yourself to be swathed by the tenderness of the sun, soft and sanguine, but maybe it should be. Maybe you are the sun as much as you are the twilight that eventually consumes it. Look to both of your kindred souls for balance when the tides of gloom roll in.

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I NEVER LIKED IT BUT I'M TRYING by Danny Bowman nonfiction

Root             /root/ 1. My feet hit the ground in a steady rhythm, even when they aren’t in motion. As I sit on the floral couch of this vintage apartment, there is a throbbing in the pads. Switching positions does nothing for it. The feeling starts at the arch, somewhere in the center, probably between bone and muscle tissue. It spreads outward, typically reaching my heel before filling each toe. I tried popping it a while ago, but it didn’t bring any relief. What is this feeling? You say it’s nothing—that my mind is playing tricks on me. It wouldn’t be the first time

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that’s happened. 2. Dad said that I hide my emotions better than my brother. Say’s that he’s more of a feeler than I am, more like mom. What if I don’t want to be a feeler? I’m too busy changing and learning new things too get stuck crying over someone that I never wanted to know.

Sacral                 /ˈsakrəl,ˈsākrəl/ 1. Being touched by you is something I thought I would never enjoy. Not because I don’t love you. I just never knew hands could feel so good against this rough skin. Skin that sheds in such an ugly way. Skin that never fit completely right. Skin that wasn’t real skin. I’m still finding words to describe this skin. And you. Even me. But please, never stop touching me with those hands. I don’t want to think about the skin, but how your hands feel when they slide down my body in ways that others tried, but no one else could ever manage. 2. I went home a few weeks ago when Mom was in the hospital. A few friends from high school wanted to meet up, so we went to this small café in

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downtown Alton. One of my friends said to me through sips at a frozen mocha of some sort, “Remember when you used to be vanilla?” And the other laughed. To be honest, I don’t. Who really remembers what it’s like to be something when you weren’t that way to begin with?

Solar Plexus                       /ˌsōlər ˈpleksəs/ 1. I wish there was something about me that I could say, without a doubt, that I love. I don’t know what it is you see, but whatever it is, I’m glad that you see it. 2. I wore a suit at graduation. It’s a sparkly rainbow blazer, with black lapels and some sort of circle print that kind of looks like leopard spots. My brother and Dad said I was rocking that David Bowie style. Mom just stared silently, with a stare that saw right through me. I wonder if that’s when she realized that I wasn’t her little girl. I wasn’t her little boy either. Just me.

I don’t know if loving myself has been something I’ve ever been capable of doing. 2. There was nothing left for me there in that house. So, I left. Crown           /kroun/ 1. I want to wear myself proudly. I’ve been shedding old layers and making something new from it. You helped me with each stitch, weaving in touches and new words into the fabric. It’s not even close to being finished. It may never be finished. But it’s a start.

Heart           /härt/

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1. What if the reason I can’t love myself, is because I’m still apart of this family.

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scene in which the lover becomes the coroner lily someson the heartbreaking   comes next. we are sitting on your kitchen floor as you tell me you love me and i say something about the floorboards breaking. i feel      sorry. you are             turning on a television saying look                     at me, look at me, but i'm breaking my body off                           into pieces and giving it to those                     who won't make eye contact.               the man on the radio is singing       about all of this dead weight. my body, made            of wrought iron,                  goes rigid when you                       touch it for too long.   you prepare for the autopsy, you're putting        on the gloves as you talk about a home             on a lake in ohio and you're weaving a bright                   sweet sky but both of our heads are too submerged                       in the lake to notice. i feel sorry. can you see                  the smoke signals from that              ripened shore? can you think about          all of this wanting?

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you shake your head and we sink, you shake and shake and we touch, see light and refuse to      follow it

ode to the internet list of "top 10 greatest lgbt poets of all time" which does not have one woman of color on it lily someson audre lorde is having a tender night in with her partner on the u.s. virgin islands and she is far from perhaps everything that once held her and no one knows her name       and no one pretends to know her name       and no one talks in circles around mfa classrooms about her name      and no one knows her partner's name      and she is laying in a bed made of down and pomegranate seeds and she has grown tired from writing and saving our livelihoods      her partner    this woman      from mars      keeps tracing her hair in the burnt evening     and the leaves in the town of st. croix never turn brown that season     not once     they just beg to stay some passioned summer color     matching the glow from a fireplace over their darkened features    and this season love is anonymous and explosive    and something that is not coveted   for wikipedia pages      she whispers to her lover in poetry about the possibility of death and living     forever   speaking softly of ghosts and how they have not     come for her yet     and here audre lorde is holding out a muted touch to her partner's waist and the curve underneath it      knowing it will all never     be documented     just this moment, a quiet     mess of mouths and longing   for light to catch     where it has always belonged     and for things to perhaps    become easier

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FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER

RYAN BARHAUG

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DISPLACED by Natalie Benson-Greer fiction

   The piercing early morning sun of May reflects off eggshell white walls and through my sleep heavy eyelids. Something in me feels different. An unfamiliar softness.  I open my eyes, focusing in on the old peeling paint of the window sill, littered with barely filled cups and strewn ashes around the ashtray. The window is cracked open, so the musty summer air is coming in and rustling the stack of abandoned paperwork from school that sits on my floor. I crack my knuckles, mindlessly grazing over my fingers until I trace over a ring on my left hand.      I can’t remember the last time I wore jewelry. I look down to discover my moms’ wedding band, a thin gold ring with a crystal center. I can’t figure out how or where I got it. I flip back to last night, scraping around my memory for a reason. But I didn’t come home drunk or anything - all I did was watch t.v. and fall asleep. I shut my eyes tight, trying to take some deep breaths and slow my heart rate. Maybe I’m hoping to fall back asleep and wake up to find it’s just a strange dream. But when I open my eyes this time I notice the freckles all over my skin. I’ve never had freckles, but my mom did. 

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   I begin to shake, slowly and fully. Tremors start in the pit of my stomach and spread to my skin. I study my mom’s thin wrists and birthmark on her thumb, but it’s my body I’m looking at. I stumble to my feet and discover that I’m wearing my mom’s bathrobe. The blush silk clinging to the freckled skin, on the left sleeve there’s a deep blue paint stain from the night Mom painted our entryway. I reach the mirror and begin to weep. I am faced with the reflection of my late mother, not just her reflection but the realization I am her - or in her body. Her thin, amber haired, freckled body. I look just like her, during the days she took us to the Greenville park, or fine art theater, or the hours she spent in her art studio.      I try to figure out a way that this is an illusion. A strange horrendously realistic dream. I tuck myself back into bed, shaking, feeling my mom's hands, my own hands, hug my body her body - tightly. I cement my eyes closed and quake in the tears, trying to fall asleep. It is a dream, I must’ve taken too much Ambien or something. This is a dream. It has to be. I am still her an hour later, lying in bed weeping. Just like most of the past year, all I want is mom here - really here, to run her hands through my hair and tell me “Sweets, you’re gonna make it.” My mom used to bring me coffee in the morning, sneaking the mug through the hall because Dad never wanted us getting addicted to the caffeine. But my sister Lena and I would always lay in our beds eagerly awaiting our mom’s kind smile, happy with our secret. I’ve been making my own coffee for just over a year now. Dad has either grown tired of nagging or feels welcomed by the small reminder of his wife. I can hear Lena turn on music in her bedroom. Oh god, I can’t let her see me like this. I’m suppose to be ready for breakfast in half an hour. I don’t understand what’s happening to me, or how it could be. I start to cry again and when I gasp back my tears it is mom’s voice not mine. I am lost to myself. Even while I think I begin to 

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remember the day my mom, or myself I suppose, graduated high school. I am not just in my mom’s body, I am in her thoughts, as well as her feelings. I look at the scar running down my right arm to the elbow when I had my bike accident in grad school, and I remember the sixteen stitches and I hear my mom tell me the story late one night. How can I be in both of our minds and the more I sit here the more I grow into my mom.    I walk in quick semi circles around my bed - I am still in my room, my daughter’s room. I run my hands through her fine hair, and twist it into the bun I do when I’m at my art studio. How am I here? How am I her? I rummage through my fragmented knowledge on ghosts or parallel universes, until eventually I fall into an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. I crack my knuckles, like Grant, my husband, always nags me about. My head aches and I wish I could have coffee, and listen to Grant explain the health issues involved in high caffeine consumption. He just wants the best for us.      I haven’t stopped shaking and my mind feels like it’s unraveling time and space. Nothing makes sense, and I come to the conclusion that I can’t fix this on my own, in this room. I take one last look at her sweet pearl smile in the mirror, the one that used to welcome us into her arms everyday. My amber hair that used to be so much thicker before I hit my forties. The freckles that Lena is so angry she got, while I have Dad's smooth honey skin.      I step into the hallway - I smell the sweet oak of the floors, the smell I’ve missed so much. Grant must’ve just mopped because the scent of lavender and lemon drift through the house.      “Eve! Come in here!” Lena yells from her room, I walk slowly down the hall unsure of how to preempt my reveal. Deeply wishing I’ve been hallucinating, so that my family doesn’t have to mourn me all over again. Her door is still closed. I knock and slowly open it.

    Lena has her back to me, I see her strawberry blonde hair and tears begin to well in my eyes. I can’t believe how my youngest looks. She is fifteen now. I missed her last birthday.      “Hey so I need your help with this paper. I still don’t understand what ethos is. I don’t wanna ask Dad because he never knows but always just makes something up. And I know that you-” She turns mid sentence to face me. I see her face crumble in on itself, her body takes most of the shock as she shifts into stone, falling back and bracing herself on the desk. A slow whimper escaping from the bottom of her gut out through her mouth into the room. Lena moves abruptly, forcing through the hysteria and collapsing into me. Her arms tighten around my waist and her sobs rattle against me, her wet tears setting onto my skin. The warmth of her body melting me into this reality. I am really here; in some form, my mind is sharp although cascading into another consciousness. The barreling footsteps of my father pound down the hallway and into the room.      At first I am too afraid to face him, I suck in air and turn my head until I meet his gentle brown eyes. His mug falls to the ground, the ceramic shattering and pieces flee across the hardwood floor, the splashes of hot tea steaming off the ground. The last time I saw my dad cry was my mom’s funeral. The last time I saw Grant cry was in the ambulance ride to the emergency room I never reached. His face is stone. The stillest moment on earth. Lulled back to life by Lena’s low cries.      “How can - you can’t - it just can’t be.” He mutters himself into a quiet sob, he covers his shaking brow and muffles his loud weeps with his hands. He moves towards me, cupping my face between his hands and kissing my forehead, he pulls me towards him and I feel him start to cry harder. I stand between my dad and sister, my 

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husband and daughter. Their heartbreak grips into my muscles tearing me apart and tears seep down my cheeks. Grant breaks away and looks at me deeply, his eyes switching back and forth between mine, as if he’s searching for the answer in my pupils. “I don’t know how either, hun.” I want to tell them that it’s me. That I’m here, right fucking here. But it’s Mom’s body, she is me now.    “But we buried you.”      “I don’t know. I don’t understand what’s happening. I don’t remember anything.”      Lena is still shaking, tears still coming down her face. Grant suddenly begins to pick up the pieces of his ceramic mug from the floor, an odd sense of responsibility rushes over him. The same manner he used to have during storms or family vacations. “I should wake up Eve.”      I remembered seeing her deep brown hair crash against the glass, while our Honda ricocheted down the ravine last October. I had promised her I’d let her sit up front that night but when we discovered the seatbelt was jammed, I made her switch with me. She argued the whole drive, up until the Icy Roads advisory on the obscured mountain road. My last words to her were “I’m doing this because I love you. Now stop complaining.”      My body crushes into itself, a sharp chill surges through my skin. I had come to existence in my oldest daughter's bed that morning. The dark realization must’ve broken across my face. My husband breaks into a sprint towards Eve's room, quickly followed by me and Lena. They look up at me with a new form of agony, an aching astonishment. The three of us stand at separate sides of Eve's empty bed.

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I’ve been yelling for what seems like days, in the back of this mind or abyss or void. If you can hear me, please help me.

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Questions about my birth Jessica Powers What did she look like?          as I was extracted, almost            coming out backwards.                       Did you hold her hand,                        as they cut into her belly? Mom says I was              dark and chubby, with              thick wet curls pressed                        upon my soft skull.                        Did I remind you of something you once saw,              a pink flower wet              as a newborn with morning dew?                        or was I nothing                        but a daughter to you? Did you hold me right away?              Or did ladies come first,              the nurse and then my mother.                         When your time did come,                         did your fingers wrap around me? Mom says I was so small              my lips the size of her fingertip.              Did you notice this?                        Did you think of how                               beautiful she looked, bringing                                        the tip of her finger, the one you                                               placed a ring on, to a baby’s mouth?

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ADELE TAMAE

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ADELE TAMAE

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Thank you Adele, for our first ever commissioned piece of artwork! -The Editorial Team

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Emily Bieniek I was counting the vertebrae in my spine

but became distracted by the sensation   running my fingers over each nub

Emily Bieniek your collar bone I get stuck here the most locked on a fragile, delicate detail

     smoothly riding each slope

a ____ canvas of skin

        traveling lower until

arched & flexed

           the definition of each one sunk into my skin

muscle defined

              the possessiveness

wrapping clean bone

                  another might feel to touch me this way

I reach

                    the pads of rough fingers

I cannot feel a memory

                  scratching my skin                  inspecting up to my neck               flexing tight into my hair             forcing my head back into submission        I’d want to tear my spine out through my mouth      each spinous process knocking at the back of my throat   the discarded bones clambering to the ground      myself mutated, slithering away       sleekly into the tall grasses   of the plains

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Mo Santiago (man on the moon) if i may consecrate you in/as a ribbon to be weaved within my entropy there will be an imprint of  us while we tangle in shades of night time this is how to snare nap and curl and how two can be made in/as one and how we relax our bodies and this is how we will be tied together in/as friends  me and you mid day sun and moon

MOE SANTIAGO

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MOE SANTIAGO

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Moe Santiago (if you were listening it would go) (trigger warning, includes mentions of violence) hi dad, it’s me   i’m still a person and    i exist and   i have feeling in my skin and    when i tug on my hair     i feel it      i still feel it      i still feel you dragging me across the hall and   i can still hear mom yelling and    i still think about you      i still think about you and   i still miss you      that’s fucked up, i still miss you i’m still here     dad    and i wonder how you kicked mom out and you said it was the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do and that makes me think      about how mom tells me you still care and     you miss me and     i should talk to you and      should give you another chance and     you miss me but i don’t pick shit up off the floor and call it love     i light a match let it burn and let it stink up your house so you’ll never forget me dad       im still here

MOE SANTIAGO

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INTERVIEW with T CLUTCH FLEISCHMANN ON CURIOSITY AND THE NUANCES OF TRANS WRITING AND EDUCATION by Jade Kelly

T Clutch Fleischmann is a reviews editor at Punctuate, a nonfiction editor at DIAGRAM, a contributing editor at EssayDaily, and a nonfiction professor at Columbia College Chicago.

How important do you think curiosity is? Very important! Curiosity is a kind of open, generous experience, this simultaneous awareness that I don't know something and desire to begin to learn about it. I think we can nurture that feeling, and try to exercise our curiosity, making it a part of how we experience the world, and that's all good. I think there has to be a necessary next step, too, however -- that beginning to learn about something we don't know can be a fraught process, and that we need to treat that process itself with respect. So if curiosity leads us to stomp around somewhere we maybe shouldn't be, that's a problem. But if it's the first step in a respectful, meaningful engagement with something new, then it seems necessary if we're going to get anywhere new.

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You’ve mentioned in interviews before that you don’t necessarily look at teaching and writing as separate endeavors. In a 2017 interview with Ayla Maisey you said that “Teaching and writing practices can be married to each other and can fuel each other.” I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind expanding on that idea a bit. How does your experience teaching influence your writing? At its core, teaching writing means that I spend a lot of time across a few linked activities -- I read the work of my students, I read the work of published authors that I want my students to read, and I think a lot about the connection between the two. So, if I'm teaching something by Etel Adnan to a class, I'm thinking about Adnan's work, thinking about the students in the class, and thinking of all that writing in conversation. As a writer, I'm involved in a pretty similar process. I read published writers I love, I read/write my own work, and I think about all of that writing in conversation. For me, teaching is another realm of that ongoing conversation. My own writing directs what I read, which directs what I teach, which influences what my students write, which 

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changes our class conversations, and so on. Because of this, my writing is always influenced by and in conversation with my students. I love that experience, I feel very lucky to have it. I first met you a few years ago as a student in your class Transgender Writing Transgender Self and it was hugely influential on me as a writer because of the curriculum of trans writers work that you assembled, the group of fellow writers I met through the class, and your own style of teaching. You've said before that you didn’t read a book by a trans writer until you were twenty-two or twenty-three. I was around the same age when I took your class, and it was the first time I read a novel by a trans writer. How does knowing that a class you teach can have this large of an impact feel? I remember feeling so lucky that I got to teach that class so early on in my teaching career, and then walking in on the first day, immediately aware that it was such a rare group of students, and eager to get into that semester. I think people sometimes think of this idea of "trans inclusion" like the goal is to include trans people in different organizations/structures where we've been excluded or denied, and that the inclusion itself is what's good-- excluding people is mean, so you stop doing it. I think that's somewhat true (increasing access is obviously important), but I tend to think about what happens after the moment of inclusion. Once trans people are included, what do we have to offer? It's a wide range of things, of course, and so many of them vital, often even revolutionary, able to spur real, meaningful change. That's all to say, when I think about that class I think about how much I learned while sharing that space, and how I felt like I was regularly engaged in conversations that brought me to new insights, new ideas. I want everyone to read a bunch of trans writers, whether or not they're trans, whether or not they're a writer. 

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What is it like to be a trans writer and teacher in the academy? I know that a lot of other queer and trans artists find it a difficult place for obvious reasons and that many of them operate on largely social media, small press, and self-publishing platforms rather than the traditional academic model. You seem to be familiar with both these worlds. Do you think they’re different communities or part of a continuum? I think it's hard to disentangle the academy from much of the writing that happens in the US -- even writers who manage to avoid the academy are likely encountering a high portion of writers who have been shaped in the academy, and a great number of writers encounter literature through similar styles of reading that are themselves forged in these institutions. I'm thinking of how I was trained to look for metaphor in narrative in middle school, for example. So, I've always found many of my favorite writers outside of the academy, often intentionally so, but the influence of the academy seems difficult to escape. This is all insidious when I add the layer of exclusion and violence trans people face within the academy, as do many other marginalized communities. I have yet to be in an academic space that is actually inclusive to trans people, whether faculty or staff or students. There are some spaces that actively aspire to become inclusive, but the overwhelming majority of academic spaces seem only interested in the illusion of inclusivity, if even that. I keep typing out and deleting different versions of my take on all this, but I'll shorthand it to say that I'm actually very pessimistic about the academy itself. In her book Living a Feminist Life Sara Ahmed talks about "diversity work," this kind of endlessly frustrating

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labor that is supposed to lead to change in terms of inclusion, antiracism, etc., but usually doesn't actually do so. I'd recommend turning to her thoughtful writing to better understand how some of these problems maintain themselves in the structure of institutions. I'm not a fan, however, of reform or incremental change when the reality of what we have is so far from what we actual need (free education, free healthcare, prison abolition, trans people in leadership positions, and so on).

added some other dimensions, like documentation of some art/performance stuff and a series of images I made, sculptures and photographs and all that. About six months ago I finally realized it was close to done and started working on it with that goal in mind. The book I'll release into the world is a tiny fraction of what I wrote, most of which has drifted into oblivion, but all of which was necessary for me to write what's there.

I’ve spoken with you about this project before briefly; but you announced officially that your new book will be published next year by Coffee House Press. I was wondering if you’d be willing to talk a little bit about how this essay came to be, and your philosophy in approaching it. You’ve said it came out of some daily writing exercises that you did, trying to focus on a single topic for an extended period of time. What surprised you about the experience? Did you have much of an idea what the project might end up being going in? Sure, thanks for asking about the book! It's a book-length essay, which as you say will be out from CHP, I think Spring 2019. I work through process and try to resist having a final product in mind as long as possible. That said, this book was first a notebook filled with (really boring and repetitive) descriptions of ice. From there, I wrote an essay-in-verse that circled around a few subjects, mainly the ice writing, a kind of odd romantic friendship that consumed my life for a few years, and the artwork of Felix Gonzalez-Torres. When that manuscript was done, I wrote a second manuscript, this in a kind of fast-paced prose style, to account for some changes in my life that had made the original manuscript feel distant (death and breakups, mainly, but love and sex too). I then collaged the two together and

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STAFF LILY SOMESON SAV ROBINSON NATALIE BENSON-GREER JADE KELLY

WITH SPECIAL THANKS TO OMI ALIAGA


OUR CONTRIBUTERS Front Cover: Ryan Barhaug Title Page Art: Liz Johnson All Illustration: Omi Aliaga Margot Mitchell-Nockowitz Ash Dietrich Margaux King Kyrie Clemmer Danny Bowman Lemmy Jessica Powers Adele Tamae Emily Bieniek Mo Santiago

To find staff and contributor bios, additional information, and a Spotify playlist themed about THE BODY head to www.ransackpress.com To submit to the next issue of Ransack or voice compliments/concerns, go to our website or email us at info@ransackpress.com All rights reserved 2018 Š Ransack Press Chicago, IL


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Ransack Press Issue 1: THE BODY  

This issue is all about the body, intimacy, and the nuances of gender performance. It includes a potent compilation of art in a variety of d...

Ransack Press Issue 1: THE BODY  

This issue is all about the body, intimacy, and the nuances of gender performance. It includes a potent compilation of art in a variety of d...

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