Off Menu Press: Memory Edition

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m ee m mo o rr yy m e n n u i - t i n g e d

o f f menu press m a r c h 2021


“In this moment of enchantment when you are remembering something in the world, or something in the world is remembering you, you are not alone or hallucinating or making something out of nothing but your own unconscious thoughts. You have bumped into somebody else’s memory; you have encountered

haunting

and

the

picture of it the ghost imprints.”

avery gordon


off menu press

We asked contributors to submit anything that fit into their mental map of what memory is, does, and feels like - childhood fantasies and tragedies; your nostalgia for a feeling or a person; the physical and existential pain you carry from the matriarchs of your family; the description of an ennui-tinged visceral reminiscence; the dark recollections you’ve been nervous to commit to writing; the echo of that moment when the wind was knocked out of you; the romanticized rememberings selfaware enough to recognize their own fiction; the strange, flashbulbs you discovered later in life while meditating or tripping; the rosey retrospections you’ve let take over the tragic truths; the authentic, ugly secretions of your past that need a good literary home. This collection, which includes 27 pieces of poetry and prose, explores these themes: personal, intergenerational, and embodied memory.


memory

We’d like to offer a general content warning for the pieces in this issue. This edition may contain content that upsets some readers. This includes prose and poetry that deals with death, grieving, sexual assault, abuse, chronic illness, and mental health.


off menu press in loving gabbi affainie

Night wears her best little black dress, a closet-keeper for sure A stunning number of rich velvet dotted with so many bright diamonds And I think— sweets, work, pain, shoes money, poverty, drugs, booze. yes those—but there is absolutely no such thing as an excess of stars. The grass welcomes and whispers against my skin As we settle into the comfortable futility of counting them I make it to a hundred-thirty-two and can’t help but think The placement of that nebula makes for a cute bunny’s tail That’s when you speak You’re new to the neighbourhood. We do things a little differently here. Yeah? Quite. What’s so different? What are stars made of where you come from? I’m so thrown that I forget to be irritated at being answered with a question And start to explain the gargantuan process of fusion and pressure. Of something so very small Fleeting really Exploding Into something unfathomably brilliant and powerful And how it all is to go on and on when it probably should never have been. After all, it’s all the same stuff as the rest of the universe. Why them? What are stars made of where you come from? I’m starting to think you enjoy being cryptic, but I close my eyes and think. Potential. Memory. Miracles. It’s starting now, you say. I sit up and open my eyes and

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memory

And-The stars begin to fall But they’re pages Glimmering, glittering, glowing They shoot across the sky trailing phrases and formulae across the black dress They whisper and sing and cry and shout and explain and argue and laugh A cacophonous symphony that is no less beautiful for its many parts, many voices They invite I reach my hands to catch one and at that first brush I understand what magic is Another A woman’s thesis on the universe Another The dearest wish to give the world more music Another Sobering words on how we are doomed to repeat that which we do not know Another A tale of how loss need not be the end Another, another, another I laugh through my tears and try to catch my breath because I haven’t had enough and neither have you Potential. Memory. Miracles. It’s not so different after all, I say You smile.

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salad days brandi spering content warning: chronic illness / medication

In the morning, Dad would bring me a Cosmic Brownie, Pinwheels and coffee from the corner store. We spoke and shared silence. Didn’t really adjust the radio. I felt the constant desire to hug him, which was hard when all you can do is twist your torso in your seat. He would make sure to ask me—often more than once within a drive, “Guess what? I love ya” And I said it right back. But I didn’t know everything a child should know about their father. His mother’s maiden name. Or first. His number of siblings, only one of which I met at the time.

I knew he was in pain, especially when the air was damp: his bones ached. Depending on if he took his medicine, he was either awake or asleep for a week straight. Before he moved out of Mom’s, he spent nights reorganizing all of the cabinets and the cellar way, made cornbread. He’d wake us up, calling that it was “Time to make the donuts!” But when Sanna and I would finally come downstairs, we’d find him tucked behind a door, sometimes of the fridge, snoring lightly.

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memory

A memory has unlocked itself as they tend to when one stirs up bits of another in flashes of tunnel vision.

Standing in a doorway, two hospital beds. Dad’s at the far end. I hide my face behind the woodwork of the door frame.

I have closed by eyes for quite some time

I don’t know at what point in his long recovery this visit took place.

I am known to let my imagination run rampant.

Make nice with the glue in my blind spots.

Sometimes it is hard to tell what is too soon or too much with children.

Crumbs are always a given, despite attempts

at a clean sweep.

I’m sure I was given a watered-down explanation. I’m sure it was muddled with my own workings as well.

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off menu press photograph of my 奶奶 in her youth jasmine kapadia After 静夜思 by Tang Dynasty poet 李白 床前明月光, 疑是地上霜。 (The bright moonlight before my bed, seems like frost on the ground.) in my poems, my 奶奶 swallows god and curls her hair. she is the dragonfly that flew into the mosquito net three times she sits on the balcony with a leg slung over the railing and bites into a white peach, waves to the 豆花 阿姨’s son as he passes her. her 糖葫芦 body melts glossy onto the king-size, all half-filled rice bowls and cracked milk teeth. 舉頭望明月, 低頭思故鄉。 (I lift my head and gaze at the bright moon, I lower my head and yearn for my homeland.) my 奶奶 insists on scooping the moon into her bowl of 魚丸湯 with a porcelain spoon. she sings off-key and doesn’t know how to cook. in my poems, she is smeared lip tint after first kiss a blurry traffic light body sitting on the third-floor stairs runny red ink typhoon of a homeland. Translations: 静夜思: Silent Night’s Thoughts 李白: Li Bai, a Chinese Poet Nai Nai/奶奶: Grandmother 豆花: Tofu Pudding 阿姨: Aunt, used in this context for a woman in similar age to one’s parents 糖葫芦: Candied Fruit 魚丸湯: Fishball Soup

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memory

corazon de cenicero daliah angelique

i broke 2 vibrators we ran through the street i had a nice buzz going, so i bought an armful of Ring Pops to bring back to the party smiles and high fructose corn syrup for everyone we drank la croix in the shower i said “watch this!” and let it ooze from my mouth, hairspray flavored fizz foaming down my chest it was enough to make you laugh everything is enough if i can make you laugh you said “you’ve got pound puppy eyes,” and, “if it’s so heavy, let’s carry it together” well, i made a bed and i lived in it you asked “what do you see?” and i lied i had one foot out the door with nothing but a steep drop on the other side, some jagged rocks, a pyre i tried to tell you, there’s a rigidness in me there’s something i can’t give you you’re reaching for a sharp edge you’re looking for sugar in an ashtray

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off menu press

a nostalgia for rice anu pohani

I know I am sick today. I know because I want to lie in bed until after ‘The Price is Right,’ 11am -12pm Eastern Standard Time, but my mother would be calling me down for something to eat. My mother will have made khichdi with aloo fry and all will be right. The memory of my mother’s khichdi and I feel tears build in addition to my runny nose. It is a velvety white rice and green dahl porridge with mustard seeds for texture. Mom’s potatoes, aloo, had that perfect softness from having the lid over them to keep them warm, with a small amount of residual crunch from the initial frying. It is the perfect sick food. The porridge somehow stays warm despite adding the requisite refrigerated yoghurt. Her aloo are always a bit too salty on their own, but perfect in the porridge mixed with yogurt, providing a little savoury surprise in each mouthful. Recreating what I remember is impossible. Rod Roddy died in 2003 and Bob Barker retired from the show in 2007. I am over 40 and moved out of the suburban New Jersey home in the 1990s. Plus, my mother is an ocean away. As for the food, I only buy brown rice and haven’t eaten a fried potato in at least six months. I must cater to my own sick needs. Khichdi is the only thing I think I can keep down, is gentle and bland enough to fill my stomach so I can go back to sleep until my kids come back from school. I’ve thrown my work phone under a pile of laundry so I can’t hear it buzzing. I come down to the kitchen but of course my mother is absent, and there is nothing on the stove. Toast is not my sick food. Khichdi is. I need to provide myself a warm, solid, achingly remembered feeling in the bottom of my stomach. Because I stayed in bed those years ago, I have no idea how khichdi gets its porridge consistency. I open my copy of Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course, recalling a recipe called ‘kedgeree’ in there. Kedgeree - if I squint at that word, I can see the object of my desire - khichdi. Like khichdi, her kedgeree is a rice dish, but all similarity ends there. The British kedgeree has smoked fish and curry powder, a mockery the thought of which makes me want to vomit. The British version does not have a risotto-like consistency. I’ll have to improvise.

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memory

Mom always cut the potatoes super small, an effort no sick person is willing to make for themselves. I am too tired to make potatoes. The brown rice and lentils never melt into to porridge, no matter how much water I add. Determined to stay the course, for the final step, I fry and add the mustard seeds. Maybe it would have come together for my mother and her magic, but my resulting bowl has no healing properties, nor any flavour that I care to recall. I persist, eating a couple of spoonsful slowly. The grains get stuck with the lump in my throat from the tears I won’t cry. In the hopes of a miraculous transformation, I heat up the khichdi in the microwave after adding yogurt. For the minute’s wait, I envisage the two components melding together, coming out hot and creamy, a closer approximation to my reminiscence. Still, it tastes fibrous, sour, sad and I give up on my bowl after a few more bites. I put it in the sink. After a beat, I rinse the bowl and put it in the dishwasher. I go back to my room to hide under a down blanket. In my head, I hear ‘Come on down! You’re the next contestant on the Price is Right,’ in Rod’s bold voice, accompanied by a jingle I can’t quite remember. Back then, after the game show, it would have been time for the soaps. Funny, in the here and now, soaps are on TV at the same time. Having never understood how people could watch them, I go back to sleep, wanting to feel better, hoping that if I feel better, I will miss my mother less. Now, just like then, the return of everyone from school will mean my sick day is over. I remember the sounds of Mom frying other things to go with the rice she didn’t mush up for me. My kid’s laughter wakes me up. The slamming of bags down in the hall, the bustle of an afterschool snack follows. I stay in bed, heartsick that I wake only to find my brown rice, potato-less, crunchy khichdi. My kids won’t mind it. They have no reference point for what it should taste like and toast is their sick food.

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off menu press nelson erica wheadon

It was your idea to teach me how to sleep on hard ground and listen for night calls, trust the nocturnal foraging with its snuffles and buzzes; a cacophony of tiny predators outside our zippered shield. In the morning would be bitter sludge that we would drink with straight faces, the ocean a baptismal prayer washing us naked on the shore; the cotton candy clouds that we stole turning to billowing black. We had checked the charts, but could not dodge the storm, butterless pancakes dry in our mouths, sand in our lashes but you kissed me in the places you would take her one day and we took down the tent, and collapsed its bones and still we never saw it coming.

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memory

failure shiksha dheda content warning: OCD I see you laying there. Face smashed into the cold tiled floor. Your body, limb; empty almost of all motion. Your arms twitch a little. I want to pick up you from the filthy floor; carry you to safety. I know you trust me to do that. But I cannot. I feel frozen. In shock. In desperation. In confusion. I don’t know how to pick up you. Physically, I know I can. Mentally, I know I cannot. I haven’t touched another person in months. (I think I have forgotten how to). I haven’t held another body in years. (I don’t know how to). Help comes eventually. You’re safe now. Your head is bleeding somehow. I can’t do anything to help. I stand in the furthest corner Away from the mayhem, Away from your blood. Away from my failure. From all the days I have lived with this disorder, I think I hate this one the most.

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one card for the moon, one card for the angels avery sabine

i like to pretend to be the elephant i mean i seriously get scared when you bring up shit i don’t remember, no really it disturbs me what do you mean we kept the microwave outside? i’ll think about it and skirt and loop and bend and dip my flips around pretending it couldn’t possibly be weed which potentially enabled me to forget that, if it ever really happened but i remember so many peoples’ names, when it’s mine they forget and i could tell you what you said that made me first notice you, or at the very least what you were wearing if it was worth remembering! and i guess, for me, it usually is. my computer’s got a heartbeat or maybe fluttering eyes like a doll feigning sleep when you turn it horizontal and it keeps time to the memories–and keeps coaxing out an oncoming headache–which are kind of like this dream i had, where he took me in his brother’s room and it had pictures that could move hung up all over the walls and even though it was kind of some harry potter shit in the afterthought it still made me almost cry when i told him about it at the farmer’s market i think he thought it was sweet too hopefully and i remember some things so dearly i can smell them! thats heat like water in the air making mud in your mouth and you like it and you spread it across your tongue by pressing it flat to the roof of your mouth the cozy underside of your brain nestled purring in your skull

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memory

tumble dry low rachael marie walker content warning: sexual violence perpetrated by a partner You sit cross-legged on the folding tables in your college’s laundry room, legs cold and bare, wearing your sister’s dance shorts. Your sister is five years younger and athletic, a competitive dancer, so what flatters her body only highlights what you dislike about your own -- the heavy thighs, the pinched-in hips. It’s very early in the morning, your favorite time to do laundry, when it’s only you and the humming fluorescents and the sticky tile and the overpowering scent of fifteen different laundry detergents dripped on the counters. You are in your second year at a teeny-tiny women’s college in the middle of the Blue Ridge and usually leave your laundry to spin on its own while you read in your fairy-lit dorm room, but tonight, you sit and wait with it. You’re drying your sheets. Your dad bought you these sheets and didn’t think about why you would prefer black to white or green to white or any color to white, so now you’re stuck with sheets that bear pinked stains. You’re washing your sheets and praying they smell like you, like lavender castile soap. You are still getting your strength back after a hospital visit for a kidney stone. An orange prescription bottle of painkillers sits on your nightstand, next to the uncracked spines of books for your British Literature class, underneath the lamp your dad’s first post-divorce girlfriend bought you. Your boyfriend left a couple things in your dorm room, as he always does before he drives three hours home: a pair of rain-drenched socks, several pennies, half a box of Dr. Pepper cans that you won’t drink. Despite the pain, as soon as he left, you bent down and cleaned up your floor. Hands and knees. You scrubbed away his forgotten residue of Dr. Pepper and hair congealed on the hardwood floor. The sheets throw themselves against the clear window of the dryer, still heavy and thick with water. The laundry room has been barely touched since it was built in the seventies, painted a manic bright yellow. The heater shudders to life, coughing and sputtering. You sit under one of many ceiling tiles stained brown with seeping rainwater. One other dryer spins to its stop, buzzing like a roommate’s alarm clock, and you hope the laundry’s owner will stay lounging on her twin bed, watching Netflix on her laptop.

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You always wash your sheets after your boyfriend leaves and you tell yourself it’s because he brings crumbs with him. Or perhaps because his hair gets everywhere, and you like when your friends can lie in bed with you without picking long brown hairs off their sweaters. You say it’s because he wears clothes that fall apart and leave flaking mock leather behind, or because he drools in his sleep, or any number of half-baked reasons but the truth is: after he leaves, you want him gone. You are left exorcising the room of him, burning sage and letting light settle over all the books and bedsheets, the hardwood floors and dirty towels. You scrub the wood until it shines. You throw open the blinds. These sheets are the only ones you own. Maybe the sudsy, lukewarm water will drown the parts of him he spilled here last night when you said no, when you said don’t, when you told him you hurt and he made the hurt tear right through you, through the hollow parts of yourself, echoing through your skin and blood and bones. You slept next to this man after. You waited for the painkillers to take you under, bring you dreamless heavy sleep that still weighs on you like he did, body heavy, body unforgiving, left hand on mouth, right hand on throat. You wonder if he would call it what it is. You hop off the table, stretching legs like a deer learning to walk, until you stand face-to-face against your drying laundry. It’s starting to look like a ball of bread, ready to be kneaded. You crack your knuckles. Fifteen minutes to go. The crisp, clean smell of your off-brand dryer sheets exhales over this part of campus. Your phone buzzes. You haven’t been checking it: the reception in the laundry room is bad, the room built almost entirely from cinderblock and brick. He called you ten times. You hold your breath as you put your phone to your ear. It rings. And rings. And rings.

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memory

jewel beetle elizabeth joy levinson

Strange beetle whispering in my ear, your raindescent carapace, a clumsy click against my neck, you are memory, a three wishes story, brass lamp, monkey hand, hand I shake to hold inside of me.

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off menu press the last time i saw my mother maria mcleod

She is onion skin crisscrossed with spider veins, cobwebs of capillaries, a puzzle of bird bones evident just beneath the skin. The pulse at her wrist visible like the beating heart of a reptile pinned, awaiting the first cut, death by dissection. My mother, my first body. Her skin has drawn in around the bones of her face, hollow cheeked, false teeth slipping. Emaciated, gaunt in the overly stuffed upholstered easy chair, curled up, fetal position, mouth agape, eyes closed in this living room that smells of her past: cigarettes and matted dogs, stained carpets and an oily film across the walls layered with a coat of dust. She’s the skeletal body in the concentration camp photo, a paleness the pallor of the open-casket dead. My father and the hospice nurse try to rouse her — Our girl’s come home to see you, my father says, voice cracking, sentimental. No, I say, It’s OK, let her sleep. Oh, but it’s good for her to be awake, they say, trying to un-crumple her collapsed body, trying to push her up straight. What have I come for? Her fingernails are adorned with the outcome of a trip to a strip mall nail salon: black and gold, with glued-on rhinestones, all except for the nail of one thumb, which is yellowed and pitted. It’s evidence of the new girl, her latest aide, the one who calls my forever foul-mouthed, nicotine-stained mother, Sweetie. My mother, she would have hated her hands looking like that. She would have squashed her cigarette butt in a tin lid and cursed us, god-damn-you-all, for her hideous hand art.

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memory

Her eyes flutter open, her pupils are but pin holes, irises turned from blue to gray. She’s like a leaf, fallen from its tree, losing its color, drying out. She doesn’t see me. Her eyes don’t move, don’t settle upon me. Her voice is a mumble, a series of slurry words, small cries, but she’s talking to ghosts, all the dead who have gone before her. Tell her you’re here, someone says. Give her a hug, someone else says. No, no, I say, I don’t think so. She never liked to be touched, or to touch or hold others. She went stiff at the very idea of an embrace. Still, I try, I take her hand, Momma, I say. Momma? She feels unexpectedly warm. I try to recall being small, try to block out the expectant faces of the audience around me. I’m here, momma? The words exit my mouth in odd angles, like a script I’ve yet to memorize, a school play in which I’ve been forced to take part. When did I last call her momma, wasn’t I just a child? The aide enters the room with a bowl of pinkish liquid and an oversized, blunt-edged syringe, no needle. Tomato soup. She fills the syringe with it and holds it to my mother’s mouth. She grasps my mother’s face with one hand, gently, syringe with the other. She’s working to get her to raise her chin, to turn up her face so she can squirt the soup and have my mother take it in. I watch this, the demonstration of meal time, the two ounces they hope against hope she’ll eat. Soup escapes her lips, dribbles down the sides her face. She resembles a messy baby bird. She closes her eyes, swallows, as her aide coos: good, honey, sweetie, oh, that’s good.

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off menu press

the bridge to new year genevieve hartman

january 2020 pink & black heelys over millenium bridge, the sharp zzzzzzt makes me hide a smile. every so often the girl slips, caught only by her mother’s hand. underfoot the metal grating is slick with darkness & leftover water from the drizzle earlier in the day. little bubbles appear & pop with each step, each slow roll of wheeled shoes i didn’t know they still made. overhead st. paul’s looms in the hazel-grey. hazy & definite. i try to take a picture, but all that shows up in the photo is what is missing: the smell of sugar-roasted nuts that lingers from hours before & the blueness of sky that must have been. the spatter of rain still falling, the warmth of my hand in your pocket. the fizz of bubbles that i was too tired & jet lagged to drink on new years eve. the insistent roll-slip-roll of a new decade’s troubles waiting in the dark.

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memory

nothing special camille e. colpitts This may seem special. The raging of stars is an ordinary occurrence. This is no different. I send things in the mail, funny notes, and relentless “I love you’s”. This must be what he needs. I confer with YouTube. The experiences of other people substitute for what I don’t yet know. There could be thousands of miles or twenty footsteps. I can’t be sure, except to say, this man, this boy, who I love are farther than my skin reaches and it aches all the same. The heart is all muscle memory. I tell myself I still know everything there is to know about them. But what is memory if not a storied set of lies, the grieving for truth? My lover smells of cedar, laundry, and I try to measure his weight with pillow substitutes. My baby smells of oatmeal, chamomile and creosote, fresh rain stuff. These are lies I tell myself over ice lattes. I am not quite sure. So I lean into the story and wait to be proven wrong someday: the basis of new memories. When I remember I am lactose intolerant the latte ruins my day. How will they remember me? When the prison frees my lover, who thought he needed weapons, like he needed money, because he couldn’t remember who he once was before these. I refrain from writing, “Do you still miss me too?” Most of all, when the distance ends and viruses decline, will the other one, my son, still know his mama’s smell? I refrain from writing, “I’ll see you soon.”

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off menu press

begin again aura martin

Cento from “Benediction as Disdained Cuisine,” “For Now, Nothing Burns,” and “Reversal” by Jihyun Yun & Human Acts by Han Kang We stayed there drinking until the streets began to fill again, with men and women hastening to work, the collars of their woolen coats turned up against the cold. Let’s go over there, where the flowers are blooming. You raise your head to the falling rain. Some memories never heal. Please dream me whole into another season so I may dare begin again. Call us lotus. Possibility, multitude and sweet. We bloom into tomorrow.

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contributors Gabbi Affainie (she/her) is an aspiring artist and writer based in Ontario, Canada. She adores diverse fiction of all sorts, especially fantasy, and loves to see women and non-binary people take centre stage. Lives vicariously through cat owners and has enough canisters of tea to make a tower to the Moon. Can be found at @ Vyndasia on Twitter. Currently assembling a varying body of work from the safety for her dark, dank lair. Daliah Angelique (she/her) is a lesbian poet chronicling memory, late stage capitalist hellscapes, and feminine rage. Her work has appeared in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Poetry Society of New York, and Anti-Heroin Chic. She lives in Washington state with her wife and chihuahua. Find her on Instagram at @limpbizkitmom. Camille E. Colpitts (she/her/they) is a Black-mixed, southern-born, queer-fem writer living in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her writing focuses on trauma, love, and the stuff in-between. She is committed to bettering her baby’s future. She is currently busy tinkering away at her memoir. Shiksha Dheda is a South African of Indian descent. She uses poetry(mostly) to express her internal and external struggles and journeys, inclusive of her OCD and depression roller-coaster ventures. Mostly, however, she writes in the hopes that someday, someone will see her as she is; an incomplete poem. Her work has been featured (on/forthcoming) in Mixed Mag, The Daily Drunk, Visual Verse, The Kalahari Review, Brave Voices, Glitchwords, Versification, and elsewhere. You can find her on Twitter: @ShikshaWrites. Genevieve Hartman (she/her) is a Korean American poet based in upstate New York. She is the Director of Development & Communications for BOA Editions & reads poetry for VIDA Review. Her work can be found in Brushfire, Stone Canoe, Meniscus Journal, 20


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EcoTheo, & others. Find her reading or buying another plant; follow her on Instagram at @gena_hartman. Jasmine Kapadia (she/her) has work featured in Same Faces, Malala Fund’s Assembly, and Cathartic Youth Lit, among others. When not writing, she can be found blasting Beyoncé or watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. Find her on Instagram: @jazzymoons or at jasminekapadia.com Elizabeth Joy Levinson (she/her) teaches and writes on the southwest side of Chicago. She has an MFA in Poetry from Pacific University and an MAT in Biology from Miami University. Recent work has been published in Entropy, Slipstream, Whale Road Review, and FEED. She is the author of two chapbooks: As Wild Animals (Dancing Girl Press) and Running Aground (Finishing Line Press). Aura Martin (she/her) is the author of the chapbook Those Embroidered Suns (Lazy Adventurer Publishing) and the micro-chapbook Thumbprint Lizards (Maverick Duck Press). Her poems have appeared in EX/POST MAGAZINE, Kissing Dynamite, perhappened mag, and elsewhere. Find Aura on Twitter @instamartin17. Maria McLeod (she/her or ze/zir) writes poetry, fiction, monologues and plays. Honors include three Pushcart Prize nominations and the Indiana Review Poetry Prize. She’s been published nationally and internationally in literary journals such as The Interpreter’s House, Puerto Del Sol, Painted Bride Quarterly, Pearl, Crab Orchard Review, The Brooklyn Rail, and Critical Quarterly. Anu Pohani is an Asian-American expat living in London. After decades spent deep in numbers, haplessly mothering two children, she is grateful for the pivot to right-brain pursuits. Her first piece of published writing appeared in Off Menu Press’ BIPOC issue, ‘Art as Activism.’ She can be found on Twitter @AnuPohani. 21


memory

avery sabine is a poet in seattle, and also a poet from california. their work can be found on instagram @rough_moon_ in collaboration with other poets, their absurd tweets can be found @pepchini but are often lacking in poetry. they are working on a website <3 Brandi Spering (she/her) is a writer and artist from Philadelphia. Her first book, This I Can Tell You, is forthcoming Perennial Press, March 2021. Other works can be found in super / natural: art and fiction for the future, Schuylkill Valley Journal, and more. Follow her on instagram @brnd_sprng, and her work at brandispering. com. Rachael Marie Walker (she/they) is a DC-based writer, reader, and baker whose work concentrates on family, memory, femininity, ghosts, and queerness. You can read more of their work in Two Cities Review, Bone & Ink Literary Magazine, and forthcoming in Emerald City Literature Review. Follow them on Twitter @flowerqweer. Erica Wheadon (she/her) is an Australian writer, editor and photographer. In 2020, she completed her Masters of Arts in Writing & Literature from Deakin University, and her work has been featured in a range of online publications, anthologies and festivals. She is an accidental poet and serial playlist creator and is currently writing her first book. Twitter: @erica_wheadon / Website: www.ericawheadon.com

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m ee m mo o rr yy m f l a s h b u l b s

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memory dreamer, dweller j. c. elkin The places I could never forget were places I could not consciously remember. They came to me in dreams from a time when I was pre-verbal, pre-visual even. The first came from the womb, or so a dream analyst told me. I was floating in a black void with nothing but a strand of bubble gum stretched across the horizon of my contentment. All was in perfect equilibrium. A drop of water then appeared on high, hung for a moment of ominous threat, and fell in slow motion toward the strand of my peace. I watched in helpless dread as it descended and splashed with the static-scratch of a phonograph needle dropped at high volume. The strand snarled in a hopeless tangle, and I awoke in tears. I could go months or years without dreaming this. Then the vision would return, unbidden as a ghost when I felt stressed. The other dream-place was a house as plain as a barn on a barren rise of land, as barren as my recall and whitewashed with longing. I experienced it as a sense of loss in pining, drive-by dreams. It was, and I sensed, had always been tantalizingly out of reach. I had lost it somehow and could not rest until it was found. My mother could not name it. Not when I was four, or seven, or twelve, or twenty. Once, however, she cocked her dark head, furrowed her thick brows, and said, “It almost sounds like—nah. You wouldn’t remember.” One day shortly after the millennium and a year before she died, as if by divine arrangement, we were driving near the development my family had left when I was ten months old. “Have you ever seen the duplex we owned when you were a baby?” she asked. I knew the place only from grainy black and white photos. She pulled into a neighborhood that had once been military housing but now bore four decades of renovation. It was a patchwork of individualized overcrowding with raised rooves, glass atriums, and chain link. “All the houses looked alike then,” she mused. “The first time I went to run errands, I got lost coming home. Every third duplex was cream, steel, or mint. I drove in circles till a lady in slippers tiptoed through the snow to ask if I was the new neighbor looking for home. It happened a lot.” Regarding her old street from the car, she sighed. “Things sure

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look different.” I pointed to a white ranch across the street from our own. It was as plain as a barn on a barren rise. “What about that one?” I asked. “You know,” she hesitated. “That’s just how it was. The only one that remains the same.” I knew without her telling me, for it was as I remembered. She’d always thought I was remembering the foursquare where I’d grown up, as it had looked before renovations, but I knew better. Our house was three stories tall, and my dream house was short. She indicated a window. “Your crib was there.” I felt it to be true, as if I were pressing my nose against the glass. She pointed out a pine I knew by location more than size. “Your playpen was there, where I could watch you while your brothers played.” I inhaled the evergreen scent and felt again the sensation of pressing my face to the rungs. That spot, that one view of the world was my first lens on life, my first nest, a cradle of contentment before I knew there was anything beyond my horizon. The house dream vanished that day. As for the womb dream, my mother took it with her when she died. We can go home again, but it kills the pining.

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memory ...in heaven. ella frauenhofer

There are shades I’ve only seen in my new apartment. Pink streaks bouncing off of orange stripes. Golds that make me sit up and stare at my wall. There are beams that shine off the surfaces and make me feel at home... in heaven. The third floor hovers in the skies and sees more than you and i on the street. It sees curbside delivery go wrong and neighbors across the way with a red light to match mine. Those who I want to know. And kind of want to fuck. You’re more honest than I remember, more hurtful. Or have I become more fragile? I thought I’d been hardening this whole time. Or maybe it’s because every last thing you’ve confirmed, I know to be true. Why do we all obsess over love? Or is that just me? Am I the only one who chooses your neighborhood to ride my bike through? with that guilty hope that you’ll be at the corner, and I can effortlessly say I was “coincidentally” in the area. i hate that. And if there’s anything I’ve learned in my 24 years of life it’s that everything you do to others gets done to you. Especially ghosting. I’m waiting for someone to come fix my rotary phone so I can actually get rid of my iphone. Did you know the new ones come with 3 cameras... for what? Seems like we’re all too busy taking pictures to use the call feature. Well maybe my phone won’t be compatible with yours. Maybe I won’t have to say I’m in the neighborhood. Maybe you’ll come see me for a change. Here in heaven, you’ll see shades you’ve never seen before. Here in heaven, it’s all a lie. We dress like angels but run with dirt. There’s nothing holy here. Just things thrown up and thrown out. And laying on the couch naked. My virgo rising is a curse, a know-it-all in disguise as a virgin. The sun is perpetually consoling the moon, telling her to catch up, to get with it. I always feel like I’m trying to catch up, to get with it. Sometimes I need somebody so badly that I know I need myself. My mom had a dream about you and i. The blonde one. She said we seemed happy, decided to get back together. Told us we needed to communicate more. My mom’s having dreams about you and i. My mom’s having dreams about you and i. She said I’ve been smiling.

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the flint waltz bridget duquette

My childhood memories are sparse. I rely on my mother to fill in the gaps—the pools of blackness surrounding the tiny pin-prick islands of recollection. “Where were we that night, when we were stranded on the side of the highway?” “That was Flint, Michigan,” mom says. “Were we heading out west or coming back?” “We were on our way home.” When I was six years old, my family moved across Canada from a tiny little Ontario town called Croydon to Victoria, British Columbia. When I tell people this, they ask, “Were your parents in the military?” “Did they get jobs out there?” “Did you have family in the area?” No. No. Kind of. My uncle was well-established in the art community out west, and my dad thought he might set him up with a job as a set painter in the movies. “He knew it wasn’t a sure thing,” mom says. “He said if we were going to starve to death, he wanted to do it somewhere beautiful.” My dad bought a falling-apart old van for the trip and the seven of us—dad, mom, my four siblings and I—piled in and headed west, pulling our meagre possessions behind us in a wooden-sided trailer. When we finally made it to BC after a slow, snaky trip across the country, there was no job waiting for dad. And, although BC was beautiful, it rained almost constantly. We lived in campgrounds at first, which made the rain seem that much worse. I remember a persistent, lingering dampness in our tent. We then spent some time in motels before moving into a tiny, run-down house and, later, into a big, run-down house. We were just barely scraping by when, one day, mom spotted a rat in the living room. “That was it for me,” she says. “I could handle all the mice, but the rat was too much. Right then and there, I asked dad to bring us home.” Eighteen months after arriving in BC, we once again piled into the car and drove back to Ontario. We were in no rush, so we dipped into the US on the way back, just for a change of scenery. That was how we ended up in Michigan one night,

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memory stranded on the side of the highway with a broken trailer. “Do you remember the song I played for you while we waited?” mom asks. “Waited for what?” “For dad to check out the trailer. I was afraid we’d be hit by a car, so I took out my accordion and made up a song to distract us. I called it The Flint Waltz.” “How did it go?” “I don’t remember.” Dad determined that the trailer’s axle was broken. He also decided there was not much he could do to fix it in the middle of the night in a strange city, in a strange country. So, he decided we would leave the trailer there for the night, find a motel in town, and deal with the problem in the morning. In the meantime, all of our possessions would stay where they were on the side of the road. As we drove away in the very dark night, I thought of my teddies and dollies, all alone in the black garbage bag I’d used as their carrier. I was sure I would never see them again. It all felt so inevitable. I don’t recall what our motel room in Flint looked like or if we managed to sleep that night. In the morning, we found a mechanic and led him to the spot where we’d left the trailer. Amazingly, it was still there. The trailer, and all its contents, were utterly undisturbed. The whole occurrence seemed quasi-miraculous. It felt for a minute like we were rare and special, singled out for good fortune and joy and success. It felt like we couldn’t be touched. I don’t remember much after that. Mom tells me the trailer was towed to a Target parking lot, where dad spent most of the day repairing it. Then we were on the road again, heading to Ontario. There was no plan in place for our arrival, no job waiting for mom or dad. We ended up living in our grandma’s bungalow, fighting for space among her piles of worthless antiques, for just over a year. Then we moved on to the next disaster. “I wouldn’t call Wasaga Beach a disaster,” mom says. “I thought we made the most of it.” She is always eager to offer up details of our follies—the numerous sticky situations we found ourselves in. She does not glaze over any of the uglier details. Yet she seems surprised whenever I suggest that we went through anything unpleasant or unenjoyable. And, of course, I can’t really argue with her. I was just a kid when all that happened. She remembers better than I do.

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stained yellow claire taylor content warning: tobacco use + visceral end-of-life scene I remember my grandmother’s hands shuffling a deck of cards. Passing the stack from one translucent palm to another. A blur of red and black between wrinkled fingers. She grew old fast and died young. Body folding in on itself. First her mouth, thin lips coated with drool. She’d press a tissue to her face and laugh. And laugh and laugh. Or cry and cry and cry. Emotions out of control. Then her legs, trunks turned to weak, twisted limbs. She’d scoot down the stairs on her bottom. Shift from bed to chair to toilet to chair to bed, needing help. Then her arms, bent elbows and shrugged shoulders. Skin piling up in every crevice like blankets discarded in the warm night. Everything, all of it, folding up, tucking away, disappearing. But still her hands, a single finger pointing to wants: water, pillow, coffee, lighter. A shaky V bringing the filter to her shriveled lips. Blue veins clutching each cigarette like a life.

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cold and intimate rebecca portela

held hostage by the hand on my neck probing information out of this body attached to my throat but I do not budge or squeal blindfolded faithful to a place of worship; a sensitive darkness my disabled vision secures the fear to trust; a peripheral view perceived hallucinating emotions startled as a sudden attack invades this narrow space with its abrasive Raw Nudity groping my frigid sadness whispering obscenities with a dirty tongue an anxious mouth gnaws at this womanhood like a habit or a ritual less of a hunger not like a need controlled in a hypnotic allegiance involuntary sacrificed I can’t bear to unwrap the sheets and witness alive death

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highway prayer monica flores On the drive home from seeing Rev. Jimmy Swaggart in Houston the humming from the highway fades but the passing headlights don’t they just stop where they are and sit like small moons on a string Dad pulls us over says “We’re almost home” but we don’t move on that highway watching waving hands like they’re holy watching eyes looking upwards in anger We wait in darkness cloaked in headlights sad eyes like tractor beams holding us tight and holy But we know how to wait We sit in the old Blazer laugh about how many times Swaggart cried until we feel a little bad about it Then Dad does an impression of R.W. Schambach booming “Have faith! Have faith!” and we laugh again

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memory you will never trust your body’s song again beth spencer content warning: teen pregnancy In a car’s backseat beneath a grove of oaks you will finally go too far and he will come, too quickly Two months later injected with your urine, a frog will lay her eggs and they will drag you to the parish house where the grown-ups will discuss you decide if you should marry or be taken to a home in California to leave the baby there You will swallow your prenatal vitamins You will agree to everything You will have no power, but you won’t complain because as your mother told you you made this bed, you’ll lie in it. You will be poor for many months you’ll wear the same two things: your jeans, unzipped, fastened with a shoelace tied from buttonhole to button beneath your new husband’s oldest shirt or you’ll wear a ratty yellow robe terry cloth, snagged and unraveling. You will rarely leave the trailer where you will grow so large, so lonely You will be friendless but for the doll that you will build one day on the blue couch of boots and pants, and sweatshirt, of hat and scarf her head a cheery pillow until you see what you have done and you will cry as you hurriedly undo her You will crave oranges that you can’t afford and spoon a runny homemade fudge into your hungry mouth Your mother will be far away with children of her own They will call you once on Christmas Your body will engrave a map shiny pearly roads of blue that radiate around the north pole of your belly button popped cupola atop your dome of shame

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red bird ilene dube

It was in February when I first spotted him on an azalea twig in my backyard. With his bright red plumage he stood upright, as if on stage. He shifted from one leg to the other, then broke out in song: “Cheeter cheeter cheeter cheeter cheeter.” Nagy! The poor fellow had died before I ever got to the hospital to see him. I had tried contacting his daughter, though not that hard—I guess I didn’t really want to see him in that condition. But Nagy had forgiven me and now he was living in a bush in my backyard. Nagy and I met 10 years earlier, in an Edward Turrell installation. I had walked the long, dark corridor, holding onto the handrail as my eyes adjusted to the dark. At the end of the tunnel I found the seat and relaxed into it as my eyes continued to acclimate. The instructions on the museum’s wall said it could take 20 to 40 minutes for the eyes to adjust, before you could experience whatever it was you were supposed to experience. I sat and watched the great darkness, until suddenly I saw it, an orange pulsating light. Its amorphous shape throbbed, like a blob of very faint color. The more I paid attention, the more I saw. After a lifetime of meditating with them closed, my eyes were now opened. Suddenly hands were groping my arms and shoulder, and we were both screaming. Loudly, apparently, because the security guard came with a flashlight. Nagy and I were apologizing to each other, and to the security guard, who must have had this kind of thing happen several times a day. Nagy had come quietly through the dark tunnel, also hugging the rail, groping for the seat, not realizing another person was in it. Later, outside the installation, we laughed about the encounter and met each other’s spouses. Edith was an artist, and I signed up for a workshop with her. We made moth prints on gossamer papers. Even though Edith predeceased Nagy, her bird didn’t come until after his. The female cardinal was not as bright in color, and he was more visible, guarding the nest. I was afraid that if I stopped watching, the cardinals would go away. I spent long hours at the window, waiting, wondering.

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We had a vacation planned. After packing and making all the final arrangements, I stood at the window and watched, knowing it might be the last I’d see of Edith and Nagy. We stayed in a large hotel. One morning while I was in the lobby rest room, I heard a woman weeping in another stall. I didn’t know what to do. We both came out at the same time, and she seemed ok. When she went to the sink and put her hands under the automatic faucet and soap dispenser, nothing came out. But she made a motion as if washing her hands. We walked to the elevator. I pressed the button for the top floor; she pressed the button above it. When we came to my floor, neither of us got off. The doors closed, and we rode up to the sky garden. I stepped out of the elevator first, but when I turned she was no longer there.

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barriers ruth callaghan do valle

A Kazakh dance troupe came to town once In a whirl of costumes bright as flags The boys stamped and kicked The girls stepped and smiled As the applause died down They invited us to join them Over to the girls’ side with their Skirts, steps and smiles I was called back by their leader With a curt - ‘Boys here’ Mutely I followed Flushed red but relieved To learn the stamps and kicks

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exorcism kerry ryan Your old ghost haunts the new house. She prowls the borders of your marriage bed. The full moon illuminates her sneer. You pull the duvet over your head. Grip your husband’s living, breathing flesh. The dog next door howls, dragging its chain, as she taunts: Who would ever love you? At the sink, you sing to Dancing Queen on the radio. Your love kisses a ring on your neck. You imagined this. That this might be possible—such a clean snap of pure joy. But you shiver and turn. She’s in the doorway, polishing her scythe. The next morning, your son won’t put on his shoes. You shout and he cries, his baby face turning the exact shade of heartbreak. She cackles on the stairs. Her teeth, black stubs. See? You’ll fuck this up like you fuck everything up. Something shifts. You wait, bide your time. In secret, when it’s safe, you snatch five minutes here, there. You read old, new books: golden keys; enchantments decanting theories, advice, distilling oil of toad, eye of newt. At Halloween, you wear a white witch’s hat and your wedding dress. You look like a princess, your son says. No, you say. I’m much more than that. He chews the silk ear of his bunny costume as you stroll through evening shadows where trick or treaters knock. Happy, he says. You nod and wait. She’s there at the mouth of Lime Tree Avenue, swinging her scythe. She lets loose her banshee screech. A tiny devil starts to cry. Great costume, a zombie shouts. Her hollow eyes never leave your face. You move towards her. Her laughter clanking like a bag of cans. You lean in—she reeks of fag ends, vodka bottles—and your words become arrows. She shrinks, hissing: How dare you? How dare you? Putrid smoke rises then clears. In her place, a wee girl with scraped knees trembles, eyes wide. You crouch low and take her hand. You don’t need to be afraid now.

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the enigmatic mist of nyanga zahirra dayal You don’t go on family holidays often. There are too many relatives to include and some it would be a grave offense to exclude. Because your grandmother lives in Manicaland province, a three-hour drive from the capital city where you live, your family travels there to save on hotel bills. On the edge of Zimbabwe, near the border with Mozambique is a mountainous area called Nyanga. One of your favourite places because you love mountains, feeling grounded by their strength. Mount Nyangani, the highest mountain in the country is also there. Imbued with mystery and danger, because of the many hikers who have disappeared in its blurry mists and steep gorges. The local Manyika people say a vindictive spirit swallows people by making the weather change suddenly. In moments, glimmering sunshine changes to dense fog. The missing are suspended in a timeless spiritual state called chimidza until released by the ancestral spirits of the mountain. Many fighters in the war of liberation, before Zimbabwe gained its independence from British rule, were consumed by the ferocious spirit. There was a young boy who disappeared on a hiking trip with his parents near the top of Mount Nyangani. The desperate parents visited the local elders after their son vanished. The elders called on the ancestral spirits to return him and after the rituals, the child was found a few days later. The boy showed no signs of exhaustion, dehydration or hunger and said he went for a walk for a few hours. You pile into four cars for the Nyanga road trip. Your uncle has an open van and all the children sit at the back. One of the highlights of the road trip is the stop at a restaurant and craft market called Halfway House which breaks the journey in half. There’s a bakery which sells still-warm homemade bread and cinnamon buns. The smell of cinnamon and freshly baked bread greets you as you enter the complex with an outdoor courtyard filled with hawkers selling apples and oranges from the local farms and beaded bracelets, collar necklaces, painted ostrich eggs, colourful weaved handmade baskets, and a variety of wire art. The adults hover to make sure sticky hands don’t touch anything. ‘You look with your eyes and not your hands!’ your mum says. You find a shady place under a canopy to sit. The waiters have to put four tables together to accommodate all of you. Your mum and aunt share a pack of cigarettes and the rest of the family has cinnamon buns with Fanta Grape and Sprite. The cinnamon sugar sticks to your teeth as you gobble them down. For the last half of the journey, you drive passed rolling green mountains and tea estates divided into neat little lanes. You look up and imagine what a bird would see. Your uncle slows down on the narrow bends winding around

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the mountains. Fear and excitement mingle in the laughs rising from the back of the van, it feels like you will all be tipped out over the edges and tumble down into the green valley below. Your grandmother is already waiting by the gate when you arrive later in the afternoon. She is fanning herself wildly with the checked scarf around her neck. She isn’t the affectionate type and keeps a distance from everyone. After a hot meal, you all pile back into the cars with your warmest clothes to drive to the Bvumba Mountains a few kilometres away. The narrow tarred roads coil around the steep mountains as the sun settles down to sleep. Bvumba is the Shona word for mist and they are called the Mountains of the Mist. The early mornings begin with a mist wrapping the whole area in a gossamer thread making everything look unreal. It is a huge expanse, nestling golf courses, a botanical garden and hotels but you’re going to Leopard Rock Hotel, a fairy-tale castle with palatial pink architecture and huge gardens. You haven’t come to see the gardens which are enrobed in darkness, it’s the casino that has pulled your family here. Once encased in the grandiose interior of the casino rooms, with the sound of the slot machines, the sight of the black suited waiters carrying trays of cocktails and the roulette tables where large amounts of money are transformed into lightweight chips, it’s a magical place. The plush carpet sinks under your feet and the lighting makes you feel like a celebrity. Your father is a practised gambler and the anticipation colours his cheeks and lights his eyes before he has stepped inside. You and your cousins are under eighteen and herded out of the casino rooms by the security guard leaving you to roam the lobby, lounges, restaurants and tea rooms of the hotel while the adults gamble. One of them comes out periodically to check up on all of you. You are one of the oldest and in charge of the herculean task of corralling seven children between the ages of 10 and 13. Fuelled by sugary fizzy drinks and chocolate bars it becomes a game of chase. When your aunt comes out in response to the loud commotion, she points a long, angry index finger at all of you and sucks her teeth in. ‘My palms are itching, I’m going to win tonight, can feel it here,’ she says showing her palms to you and then running back to her slot machine. The adults stay until their money runs out and emerge with flushed faces to find all of you huddled near the fireplace, overcome by sleep. You leave the hotel in the early hours of the morning cloaked in the mysterious mist of the mountains. Everything around you becomes fluid, blurring the boundaries. There is no separation between car, road, tree or building. You know the mysterious mist carries you back safely to Little Ma’s house on those labyrinthine roads because the red-eyed driver is both drunk and drowsy.

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heirloom khalisa rae

We inherit this loneliness. A gentle passing down from one generation to the next like a secret family recipe. No one knows the ingredients that made this delicious mess, but we digest it. Swallow each prideful piece and bury the weight of solitude in the junk drawer of our genes. With every new child a new symptom is added. It is the unspoken truth, a fog has hovered over our heads for decades, generations of grandmothers and grandfathers that were chronically melancholy, great aunts and uncles passing with loneliness following them like ghosts. The room in our brains is haunted, but we do not speak of this terror. We never mention the thoughts that keep sleep so distant, the sadness that gnaws at our sanity. God forbid we ask for help, too much to be colored and crazy. Too many double-edged swords could kill a man. So we suffer in silence, tuck our secrets back in, and save them for a rainy day.

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simple remembering a.j. hawthorny

I started this life as a molecule, and a simple one at that. Just one tiny speck of Hydrogen combined with two atoms of Oxygen. All to say, I started this life as a raindrop. It’s a noodly feeling to be able to feel with no sense of body. I’m not sure how or what I’m feeling, but the sentience of thousands of past lives tells me that I am, feeling that is, and thinking too. It’s a lightness mixed with a fluidity that feels permanent. It’s hard to explain. This is my first life as a non-person, and I have a nostalgia for personhood that is permeating my thoughts. I thought this would be easier. I didn’t expect that a raindrop, a drop of water, a simple three atom molecule, could think and feel. When I was choosing my next life, all I wanted was to not think or feel. If you’ve even lived just one life, experienced the heartbreak of humanity, then I think you can understand wanting to turn off the treadmill that keeps your thoughts fixed and your heart rate accelerated. I started in the ground, moisture in the soil like a comfy bed. It felt incredibly safe until it was suffocating. I looked around for other drops of water and wondered if we could communicate. Maybe I was doing something wrong, but I flung my thoughts out to them and got nothing in return. In one of my first lives, I was a great warrior. My muscles stretched like hills and my veins like streams crisscrossing the countryside. I didn’t know fear, but I was reckless in only the way the brave can be. I was timid to feel, putting my trust in thermals and breezes rather than the people around me. In a later life, I was a brilliant scientist. My brain the most powerful muscle in my body. I created and destroyed all with my thoughts as I navigated the complexities of equations, theorems, and hypotheses. But neither brawn nor brain can stem the tide of heartbreak as it carries you out to sea. The choice isn’t to sink or swim; it’s to remember or not. I want to not remember, so for now I will focus on being a simple molecule because simplicity is all I asked of this life. I’m not sure how, but it was an

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exhilarating dizziness being evaporated from my soft pile of mulch into the air. I whirred past mountain tops, Gaia poking fun at her children the gods. I sputtered through smoke wafting up from fires, and I try not to remember. How can a drop of water, a simple molecule, an evaporated raindrop be so exhausted from trying not to remember? One would think that reincarnation would wipe you clean of the banalities of heartbreak, but here we are. Perseverating on my way to becoming precipitation. I enjoyed my time in the cloud. All things are softer in the nebulous of particles around me, even my thoughts. I think back to the first time I died and floated through the nothingness. Being in the cloud is a similar feeling, an empty sort of fullness, just waiting for the rising tide of potential to carry you on to the next thing. I feel myself getting fuller here in the cloud, and I know it’s almost time to leave. It’s a similar feeling to the afterlife where you float and float until the right next life captures your attention. I’m not sure how long I floated before I chose to be a simple molecule. Time doesn’t have much meaning when you spend all your time thinking. I fall as snow, or I suppose I’m still a raindrop in a way, still those same three atoms. It’s strange not recognizing yourself but knowing very little has changed. I feel beautiful as a snowflake, and I remember that first life. The memory of the first time I was told I was beautiful by someone who meant it with no underlying intention warms me. I worry I might melt myself. I wonder at the intricacies of my fellow snowflakes and wonder if there’s some connection of these patterns and their souls. Souls are a strange concept no matter how many times you live. I fall. Sinking towards the ground where I’ll begin this beautiful cycle over and over again. I wanted to be a simple molecule, but I can’t help but think this is not so simple. Remembering never is, but for now I’ll just be a part of this snow fall.

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contributors Ruth Callaghan do Valle writes in English with forays into Portuguese, and currently lives in small-town rural Brazil with her husband and toddler. You can find Ruth on Twitter (@rufusmctoofus), her spoken word poems on Instagram (@mctoofus) and posts about life in Brazil on her blog. (https://brazilfromtheoutsidein. wordpress.com/) Zahirra Dayal is a language teacher and writer in London. She’s also lived in Zimbabwe, South Africa and The United Arab Emirates. She is drawn to stories which question the status quo and dismantle silence. Her stories are in various places including Fahmidan Journal, Opia, Odd Mag, Small Leaf Press, The Mechanics Institute Review and Melbourne Culture Corner. She tweets @ZahirraD and her Instagram is @zahirrawrites. Ilene Dube is a writer, artist, filmmaker and curator. Her short fiction has been published in more than a dozen literary journals. Bridget Duquette (she/her) lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario. She has no Twitter page to promote. She has no project to plug. She hopes to one day be able to call herself a writer with a straight face. A graduate of Bennington Writing Seminars, J.C. Elkin is the author of World Class: Poems of the ESL Classroom (Apprentice House, 2015) and other works appearing in such publications as Ruminate, The Old Farmer’s Almanac, and Angle. Her current work in progress is a mother-daughter memoir in handwriting analysis. Monica Montelongo Flores is an assistant professor of Multiethnic American Literature at California State University—Stanislaus. She writes mostly poetry and essays, often creating hybrid forms through memoir. Find her on Twitter @DrMonicaMFlores. 42


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Ella Frauenhofer is a Chicago designer and writer. She created Sensual At Best, a fashion entity featuring 100% recycled, genderless clothing pieces, inspired by the power of sensuality as an attunement to one’s senses and emotions. In the past, she has created works blending paint and textiles, but she is forever writing. Writing is something she always comes back to for inspiration, deep reflection, cleansing, catharsis, and complete honesty. At the end of the day, Ella’s intention with her art is to uplift and validate self expression. A.J Hawthorny is a politico who has worked for politicians giving them her words as their own. Now she’s working on developing her own voice. She’s applying to law school, so when she’s not writing or reading queer YA, she can be found on law school reddit. Claire Taylor (she/her) writes from Baltimore, Maryland where she lives with her husband, young son, and a bossy old cat. Her work has appeared in a variety of print and online publications. You can find a selection of her writing at clairemtaylor.com and check out her pointless tweets @ClaireM_Taylor. Rebecca Portela is a writer and speaker for human rights and animal protection in New York City. She specializes in the genres of psychology and comedy writing. She recently finished writing her memoir, Unearthed, where she uses her unique sense of humor to address difficult subject matters, including PTSD and sexual abuse. Her work can be found in Idle Ink magazine, Beyond Words (Queer Anthology), X-Ray, trampset, io Literary, Stone of Madness Press (inaugural issue), and elsewhere. Twitter: @veganbex Khalisa Rae is a poet, activist, and journalist, living in Durham, NC with her hubby and baby kitten. She is the author of Real Girls Have Real Problems chapbook. Her poetry can be seen in Frontier, Rust and Moth, Damaged Goods, Hellebore, Terse, 43


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Sundog Lit, PANK, Luna Luna, Tishman Review, Occulum, All Female Menu, the Obsidian, among others. She is the winner of the Bright Wings Poetry contest, the Furious Flower Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize, the White Stag Publishing Contest, among others. Currently, she serves as founder of Think in Ink: A BIPOC Collective and the Women of Color Speak Reading series; and the Writing Center Director at Shaw University. Her debut collections, Ghost in a Black Girls Throat are forthcoming from Red Hen Press in April 2021 and White Stag Publishing January 2022. Her newest essays and articles can be found in NBC BLK, Catapult, Autostraddle, Black Girl Nerds, and Bitch Media. Kerry Ryan is the founder of Write like a Grrrl. Her work has been featured in various publications including Queerlings, The Manchester Review, the Kenyon Review and Spilling Ink. Her play Trust was recently performed at the Gulbenkian Theatre. Find Kerry on Twitter @kerry_h_ryan and at www.writelikeagrrrl.com In fifth grade Beth Spencer won first place in a contest with a poem called Why I Like to Read Good Books. That early success persuaded her to keep writing. Her non-fiction and poetry have been published online and in print. Her first book, C- in Conduct, available at Amazon.

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masthead Rebecca Gross (she/they) is a writer, educator, and researcher living in Los Angeles. She is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Off Menu Press. Gross teaches first-year college students rhetorical arts, a social-justice based class that encourages students to think across disciplines, through multimedia, and beyond canons. A few badass publications she’s had the privilege of publishing her work in include: Stone of Madness Press, Seiren Quarterly, Terse Journal, Variant Literature, Teen Belle Mag, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Los Angeles Progressive. When she isn’t writing, she drums in a punk band called Lady Starshine. Find more about her at rebeccagross.com or on Twitter: @becsgross. Monica Niehaus (she/her) is a product designer currently living in San Francisco. She is the designer for Off Menu Press. Niehaus currently spends most of her days working in the tech industry and building inclusive customer experiences. Find more about her at monicaniehaus.com or on Twitter:@monica_niehaus. grace novacek (she/they) is a writer and illustrator and lover of frogs from Illinois. she currently serves as the Art Director for Off Menu Press. their work has been published in Human Condition, Variant Lit, and Moonchild Mag. find out more at gnovs.com or on twitter/instagram @gnovs. anaïs peterson (name/they) is the digital content coordinator for afm. an organizer, mixed blessing, and lover of the sky anaïs writes a mix of lyric essays and prose poems around the topic of freedom in its many forms and often returning to dwell on sunflowers. anaïs’ words have appeared in sampsonia way magazine (poem of the week series), off menu press, collision lit magazine, the pitt news, fully lit magazine, mixed mag, sage cigarettes, and has upcoming in dreams walking. anaïs is also a poetry reader for non.plus lit. anaïs writes in black pen, garamond size 11, and tweets about a world beyond capitalism from @anais_pgh.

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