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To Angel, The quest to discover the woman I am began with you. Each conversation between us, whether in encouragement or in disagreement, has chipped the circular wall I built around myself as a child. You mean everything to me, and without you, life would be horribly tangent-free. To My ROSIs, Every time we meet, I am in awe of the power inside each of you. You push me to find myself, not be someone else. Fifteen years ago, I would have shunned women like you – strong and self aware – because I was afraid your beauty would outshine mine; and in my lonely state, knew I couldn’t afford to lose any admirers. Now I find myself anxious to bathe in the warmth of real women who have taught me my beauty is no more or no less than that of another.

*Cover Images by Kristin Fouquet

Editor: Crystal Folz

Katie Moore

Katie Moore is a writer, mother, and wife-- in that order. Sorry, husband. This is her “bio” bio. She is completely unfit for “real” work, as all she does is scribble, but she has big dreams. She has no time for listing publishing credits. Currently, she co-edits The Legendary, an on-line home for the edgiest words around. Her future plans include raising ballsy daughters, starting a small press, conquering anxiety through mantra, and learning to speak Hebrew. Contact her at Really, she loves e-mail. Now, the real me... I love women. I love women inside, outside, upside down, up close, and from afar. I love the woman my Mother is, and I love the women my daughters will grow up to be. I love our cello curves and wealth of love, our jumps to jealousy and crying jags. I love women, now, but even as a lifelong devotee to Goddess it took a lot to get here. My journey led me through feeling that women had to be held at arms length, to a belief in the common bond between sisters that can be not only a lifeline, but a jump rope, a leash, and a love letter. I owe the transformation to all the people in my life, men too, but especially the Daughters of The Moon-- a very quirky family and place where we leave the world behind and bask in sisterhood. And even more especially, to a certain gal who knows who she is and would blush if I mentioned her name. When Crystal asked me to be a part of this fabulous group of printed women, I was thrilled. It doesn't take a lot to get me excited about either words or women. At first, in my exuberance, I tried to write something that sang of my own weird brand of feminism and uplifted the spirit of woman kind. It was a disaster, obviously. Much like women, words just want to be what they are. My words are who I am and what I love, and as I write this I'm anxious to see them printed in these pages. But I am even more excited to read the other women, feel like I know just a bit of them, and expand my understanding of who we all are.

The Girl Circus Toe-holding the high wire, on waking, the balancing act begins. Juggling with my tongue out and my face screwed up while wearing a pink tutu and glitter, or a checkered apron and fuzzy slippers. A one woman, one ring, one-day-at-a-time sideshow. I throw the knives, ride the elephants, tame the lions, fly the trapeze, cavort with clowns, trick trip for laughs, work without a net, outside a tent, absent the fanfare, lights, balloons, and cotton candy. No posters and billboards herald my coming. No ticket booths, my admission is free. It costs only time and a good eye to watch me wow the invisible crowd. Come one, come all, to the greatest little show on earth, a stealthy circus, woman, mother, lover, wife.

On Like Hating Like Sister, Lover, Soul I’ve shared sheets with, I don’t understand. I don’t understand why women wrap themselves in false faces, steal smiles with lies, kiss harder when they hate you. Why do we remember forever, never forget or forgive inside where it matters? We hold it close secret deadly. My Grandmother says lies are breast cancer, hovering with worry, hate, jealousy, and poor self esteem, waiting to make us sick. Evangelical, testifying, she puts it out plain, God makes ugly match Inside Outside. Don’t the bitches always lose the boobs? I forgot to say she’s crazy, which comes from too much lust, fornication and fluids, snatching at the married men. Why do women always play punishing priest to our own hidden heretic? Why can’t we just settle for our skin, stop measuring mine against yours? Why are we all forgetting how to give in and cry?

Sister, Mother, I don’t understand where we came from or who we are held against a backdrop, strange expectations of a fragile strength. We are breaking ourselves in confusion, sentencing ourselves to a lifetime afraid of similar shapes.

acceptance my body is a barefoot yantra, a drifting dancer, soulmate squared, rumpled revolutionary, heather eyed and strawberry haired. I am, uncoiled, Kundalini, complete, I’m/perfect, singular, unpaired.

Lolita Lolita, I’m lusty for you. A woman’s non-lesbian longing for a slim waist, weightless breasts, and a sunny day to waste playing with balls.

Late Night Jedi It's only 2 AM. There's still coffee in the pot. We look at each other, peering over our separate computer screens. My face is lit with the crisp blue glow of the word processor, yours a mottled, melting blur of colors as demons surround your Elf and go in for the kill. I love you. You're so cute. Where did you even get a copy of Diablo? I smile and stare at you over my glasses until you decode the curve of my lips, waiting. I turn off my machine. This is why I am with you, this moment, when I cast my bedroom eyes and you look at me like you just can't believe you're about to see me naked, and ohmygod are you ever glad. I call it your Jedi moment. This is just how you would look if Yoda showed up and told you that, yes, you are a Jedi. I giggle when you make your best sexy face and growl, pulsing your fingers like claws in my direction as I carry my mug into the kitchen to the coffee pot for one last refill. You join me there with your own empty cup. I pour them both black, as you like it, skipping my cream and sugar. Later we'll wax preposterously poetic about bitter kisses and laugh to sleep. We look at each other. You really need a haircut. “I call top.” “Yes, ma'am.” We blush and drain our mugs simultaneously.

Aleathia Drehmer My name is Aleathia Drehmer and I am a word addict. I will not sit down. But really, I have been in love with poetry since I was ten years old. I first read my father’s poems then and it opened up a different world to me and allowed me to look at everything from a new perspective. I have spent most of my life traveling around, not for military or business, and was often the new kid in town. Writing helped to buffer those feelings of never fitting in. I was shy, so you can imagine how hard being new was. Now, I am settled in a hamlet in upstate New York with my precious child and one excessively furry cat named Carrot. I work as a nurse which I find to be one of the hardest and most thankless jobs you could ever have. I am a bit too sensitive for it, but it grounds me in the reality of the human condition on a very local level. In the last year or so, I began to notice how few female writers there are out there to read and being a part of this project that is showcasing women writers is an honor. I think women have a lot to say and often get disregarded or feel forced to write with very masculine overtones just to get published. I think the poetry community will see a resurgence of great women that wield worded weapons. They better be ready.

Four Invisible Hands (collaboration with Beto Palaio) Esperanza awoke to the cold dew of a desert night. Sagebrush and Yucca perfume stroked her face and sent a chill down her body. She opened her eyes slightly, just until they were slits and they captured the image of a globe of stars swimming in the ink of the sky. Esperanza took inventory of her limbs slowly; she moved her shoeless feet, driving pains through her hips up to her back. She felt the ground with her fingers and noticed the dry earth was still warm from the day’s sun. She dug the heat with her nails, lodging it underneath, wishing she could pull it over her like a blanket and fall back to sleep, fall into that darkness once more, but the aching in her bones would not cease. Esperanza lay there trying to remember how she came to this place in the desert where no lights flicker except the stars, where the silence was interrupted only by the wind moving devils through the dust. "Yes," she said, "the sea is outside the window. I heard it." I told her, "We don't have a sea, not here in Indiana." She is now feverless, and she dreams of the sea in every moment, night and day. The church has proclaimed God will save this poor girl, and Father Amis comes every afternoon to do the saving. He is an expert in sodomy, disguised as ritual saving, and his face becomes luminous when someone says...exorcism. To him, every mind is like a scout knot; the unimportant facts are suppressed and the imperative ones, only vital things, survive. The trivial things merely vibrate the strings of gospel played on harps. "Pass me the bible please. The ancestors suffer inside a person in such a state. They must come out, one way or another," Father Amis says. The crucifix lay in one hand and a tiny bottle of water in the other. Father Amis always holds this transgression to be very special. He keeps score against the devil. "Open up!" He says, raising his voice. Through the open window he could only see, in the far away distance, trucks running in the morning mist. Like migratory birds, they came from the north and were never seen again. "I belong to that wave," Esperanza whispers, "now let me go." Esperanza grasps her hand into that of Father Amis. She does not feel safe beside him, but needs to touch his skin for a while. She can taste the ocean in her mouth. Her tongue is a salt flat left when the sun had taken away what she loves the most. She senses her hand in Father Amis’ hand, and it gives her and uneasy feeling of connectedness that she does not desire, and in his skin she can feel the evil no one else can see.

Esperanza tries to lift her delicate fingers from the center of his palm, but he grips her there and begins speaking his exorcism. The words quickly form in the air and then float down onto her chest and into her like tattoos. These words a comfort to her now like daily prayers, she could speak it from memory with him, but decides not to. She lay there waiting for the spirits to be driven out, these devilish ghosts, but nothing happens. Esperanza feels the fever begin to rise and take her over again. She cannot keep her eyes open; cannot will away what Father Amis will do to her, so she settles into it like a bear in winter. “Yes,” she thinks, “I will be a bear in winter.”

Sparking the Fire I'm my least jaded in the morning while sheets are still warm from sleep, hair mussed with dreams, and skin shiny having run from ghosts. I wake with cat mewing at the door, white paw beneath threshold, searching for a magic latch to unhook, that lets him curl into the crook of my knees. The TV is on low, some far away sounds of two dimensional, neon-colored faces, my child speaking softly and innocently to imaginary people on the couch, then, for a moment, all is silent save the scraping of the plow's blade pushing night snow into jagged heaps. Door clicks open and my progeny eases in to deliver rapid-fire cartoon fantasies about the time she was a cat trainer living in the circus, and didn't I remember that? Or, am I just too old to imagine it?

Kristin Fouquet When Crystal Folz invited me to be part of her Women’s collaborative, I was flattered, but hesitant. It’s been my wish to be thought of as a writer, not specifically as a writer for women. I’ve tried to write from both the feminine and masculine perspective, as in my story A Standard Pack (Shoots and Vines, November 2008). My female characters are not always well-behaved and are occasionally even unlikable. I’m grateful when women embrace my work and see my characters as real in the context of their world. To deny that I’m a woman and have a different perspective from most men would be an understatement. When reminded of all the female writers I’ve admired and loved reading, I am ashamed that I ever felt the slightest pause. So, I am honored to have my contribution, Faithful Still, included in this collection of diverse writers, each possessing a strong voice and a sincere feminine perspective. Kristin Fouquet Le Salon ( )

Faithful Still The moonlight illuminated Dahlia’s bare breasts. She remembered when Gerard used to appreciate them. Ten years ago, he thought she was a goddess. Of course, he believed that she was just as beautiful, but he had lost his desire. Dahlia slid her middle finger from her chin down her long neck, remembering how his tongue would take that same path on nights long ago. Cupping her breasts the way he would, she resented her needs. She had been warned that the twenty year age difference would disappoint her one day. Time had been cruel to the lovers. Lifting her feet to the headboard, her shapely legs were barely visible in the dark room. Her mind drifted to the lustful glances of strangers and how they reassured her desirability. She grimaced at the unfairness of it. At forty, she was now obsessed with pleasure. It was such a terrible turn that just as her interest had increased dramatically, Gerard’s had declined. She licked two fingertips. He had been so passionate in the beginning: his tongue, his fingers, his cock. She grabbed an inner thigh in frustration. Nimble fingers worked and found the spot. They quickened as she remembered Gerard touching her there on long trips in the car, teasing her until they had to pull over to satiate one another. Feeling the wetness, her thoughts wandered and deceived her: the neighbor across the street, Gerard’s doctor, the man with the dark eyes at the store, her brother-in-law. Yes, she knew they wanted her. Dahlia was certain she could have them; all of them, if only she let them know. They would take her. Yes, they would. As her body quivered in relief, tears fell. Dahlia did not want any of them. The man of her dreams slept next to her. The only man she truly desired was her husband. Gerard snored evenly. He no longer dreamed.

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder In the past, I felt either ignored or kicked around by the literary world. I was told that my voice is too full of rural vernacular to be considered poetic. Then I went online and discovered a revolution. I have met (and read) many women in the past year who are changing the face of publishing. They are strong, independent thinkers. They are amazing writers and editors. They are out there creating new mentors in the small press world. And they are extending a hand to other poets and telling us to “come on in.” That is something to celebrate. I am so pleased to be included with the talented women in this journal. . My recent publications are in Shoots & Vines, Side of Grits, Rusty Truck, Ouroboros Review, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and Poeisis #2. I have work forthcoming in Big Hammer, Literary Mary and Plain Spoke, and I will have a chapbook coming out via Crystal Folz’s Backpack Press this summer.

No Reason Disclaimer: This ain’t my hubby. She spent two hours-hair, makeup, perfect little red dress to get him to notice her damn fine ass. Thirty-eight-years old and it’s the first time she ever felt like a woman. On the street, he fumbles through his wallet and tells her she looks nice. A teenage girl walks by-flat ass, sweat pants pimples, buck teeth, no makeup, greasy hair. The gerbil on his wheel wakes up & HIGH SKOOL flashes through his synapses. All those alarms, whistles, bells, freaking neon lights, make his head spin around googly eyed to gah gah

a greasy little buck tooth no ass girl.

The gerbil goes to sleep and he spends the next two hours wondering how he woke up one day married to a thirty-eight-year old bitch who’s always pissed off for no reason.

Miss Maudene Redefines The 70’s At seventy eight, Miss Maudene doesn’t know how to do old lady. She does know how to play an electric guitar, jog around her island, do yoga in the woods. Miss Maudene laughs the notes of a thousand songs; she dances on the beach, layered in mist, sun, the pounding passion of sand. She leaves her silver hair undone to the waist, takes her black lab in a beat up pickup truck to visit old folks at the nursing home. She grows a little garden full of pot, collects shotguns, sells her paintings on the beach, rigs up her shrimp boat in the setting sun, shows the boys how to pull nets like a sea-strong woman. Her biggest critics are friends from her own generation; they call all the time to say she must slow down. It just doesn’t look right for a woman of her age to show so much leg.

People may talk, guffaw, whisper behind cupped hands, call her a ridiculous old lady with sagging boobs or a birthday card cartoon. Miss Maudene says her boobs are just fine, thank you, and she might even buy a bikini. She lets the machine pick up her telephone calls, surfs the net, carries a longboard to shore to ride the deep green swells when a hurricane is coming. Miss Maudene grew up in an orphanage. Except for a few old nuns who tried to beat her into submission, she never had a mother to show her how to put on a shawl and gracefully crawl to the grave.

To The Chick In A Workshop Who Said My Jezebel Poetry Hurts The Women’s Movement ‌dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel 2 Kings 9:36 Jezebel ended up dog food. All she wanted was to please her man, to sink her canines in his grapes. All she wanted was a little shade of red, a little piece, a little kingdom. All she wanted was a little swivel to the hips, jing jangly wrists, maybe Maybelline eyes but so what?

Wonder what Jezebel thought when she painted her face and looked out the window that last time? Maybe she wished she had given a few more readings. Sleeping to the top of the heap takes a lot out of a gal. Maybe she really had a profound message for the women’s movement: Listen up ladies. You’ve got to be fool enough to be tricked by a snake. You’ve got to wake before dawn to scrub and clean and bake. You’ve got to be a bitch or a virgin or a whore to go down in his story.

Or maybe she just thought: Hell. Wouldn’t you know they’d send eunuchs to kill me? Poor Jezebel. All she wanted was a little kibble of the action. All she got was Alpo beef chunks palm side up beside a big white wall. Eaten by bitches.

Misti Rainwater-Lites Misti Rainwater-Lites has chapbooks available from Scintillating Publications, Kendra Steiner Editions, Erbacce Press and Deadbeat Press. Misti is a mom and wife, amateur photographer and an aspiring novelist.

The Rain is My Excuse checked the checking account online hated my husband the breadwinner hated myself the crumb nibbler goddamn it, I deserve a pizza and a carrot cake strip a gram for dessert fired off a few bile spewing electronic messages to assorted lucky players broke down in front of sixteen month old son he chewed on a superhero sticker to get my attention crawled up on the couch looked at me with eyes as blue and pure as mine once were the rain is my excuse camping out with tangelos and David Lerner the phone is off my baby boy has been whisked off to the ranch I take self-photographs until the batteries die I’m not photogenic but it passes the hours

Shaving Linoleum Copulating cockroaches in the cabinet have all the fun. Mother is disappointed in me again, baby is sleeping, sister is estranged, grandmother is dying, brother is crazy, husband is slaving mind body and spirit in the Gulf of Mexico. I’m sitting naked on the toilet shaving the dirty linoleum with a pink razor. I’m letting the hair on my legs and pits grow because I’m not participating in any pageants. I shave the linoleum and turn off the incessant insect chatter of my mind. I’m not auditioning.

I’m not going for any glittering crowns. If somebody saw me like this somebody would worry. I’m fine, really, but I can’t prove it.

My Heart All Ablaze otherwise, too: I would not have crashed this party if I’d known you’d be standing there so black leather aloof fine immune to drunk sorority check administrations and Kelli’s special brownies my heart stepped on your toes because they were there and asked for a cigarette and a block of ice I’m tired of apologizing for my lisp, my drawl, my bad doll pinafore and cheetah on the prowl libido the most romance I can conjure up due to life too long on dusty shelf: I will be yours, engraved, conjoined, hypnotized your diseases will by my diseases your cats and goldfish will be my cats and goldfish the teeming zoo awaits

In Front of the Baby The baby is pure. The baby is angel of the morning. The baby is giggle grin while eating the poop that fell from diaper. Do not eat Funyuns around the baby. Do not say “cock” / “dick” / “cunt” / “motherfucker” / “goddamn” around the baby. Do not reveal the yawning maw that is working class American marriage to the baby. Baby must be protected at all costs. Nothing can be revealed, nothing ugly, nothing insane, nothing in the way of heaven, until baby is old enough to take the unspeakable pain and make something out of it that is mute and gorgeous and larger than this shoe box life.

Wanda Darlene Campbell Wanda Darlene Campbell grew up in the Appalachian foothills where she still lives and teaches. She is a novelist and poet whose work has appeared in multiple national and international publications. Much of her work deals with the exploitation of Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia with proceeds going to fight Mountain Top Removal. Wanda also writes often on being a woman. “What is the spirit of a strong woman? I believe it is the ability to find peace in the most adverse of circumstances, to keep moving forward in spite of obstacles or set backs. It is the courage to be ourselves in a world that tries to mold us into commercial images. The thing about images is that they aren’t real. They are fading fads, just like last year’s purses and they are controlled by those who profit from them, exploiters. Exploiters, be they companies trying to make money from us or some individual wanting to control us or mooch off us, prey upon on our insecurities and fears. They keep us focused on these things and either keep us occupied with trying to fix them or down on ourselves because we have them. If we listen to them long enough, they began to define who we are. The worst mistake a woman can make is to live her life based upon whom others want her to be, rather than upon whom she really is. The old saying, “to thine ownself be true” applies more today than ever and it should figuratively be tattooed above every woman’s heart. We tend to think that women of yesteryear were in bondage [many were], but women today are in a different kind of bondage. I can’t count the women I know who are in bondage to a modern way of life that has stripped them of their self-identities and robbed them of their self-worth. Being out of the house does not set a woman free, but discovering her own identity and being true that identity does. Knowing what is true and then living her life based upon that truth brings freedom.”

The Entrapment Your hair doesn’t shine. Men won’t like-like you. Buy this shampoo. Your teeth look old, faded, this chemical will make you desirable. You are too fat. This diet plan will help you become—attractive. Your legs, too much stubble, purchase this razor. Bring out your inner deity. You lack color. Buy more cosmetics. Get rid of those spider veins. Shape up that flappy rack. See Doctors Nip and Tuck about plastic surgery. Oh, there is no place for women over thirty or at least those who look it. You are not good enough. Eat this fruit. You’ll be—a goddess.

Natural Woman I am a Mexica warrior woman, bathed brown in sun, obsidian blade in my hand, a cannibal for survival, and a gentle gypsy, dark and magical, red-dress dancing and many-bracelets laughing at shifting shapes in a camp fire’s dying leaps and I am a hillbilly youth, innocent as a fawn in dry grass, peaceful, Earth-knowing,

with a Cherokee heart and mountain twang, three women wrapped in clay, bottled in blood and bone, a collector of skulls, a counter of hearts and a giver of grace.

A Woman of Summer 2nd place in ISBC Competition Tell me what is more beautiful than strength of a life well-lived. My hands, lean and firm, are scarred by youthful poverty. while my sculpted arms, sinewy and brown, were chiseled by a farmer's hoe. and these legs, are solid and shapely, strong as trees made so by hill-treading My wit is sharp as tobacco spears slicing traps of star-dream slayers while my heart beats steady for the children who have listened to my song. So, now that you know I am not a T.V. woman-child, am I less lovely?

Constance Stadler Constance Stadler has been writing, publishing, and editing poetry from the ‘prehistoric’ epoch of print journals to modern e-times. She is a former editor of South and West, is currently a contributing editor to Eviscerator Heaven and recently, the Review Editor for Calliope Nerve. She has published nearly 400 poems, many in her first three chapbooks released in her ‘first manifestation’ as a poet, and has recently released her first new chaps in 20 years, Tinted Steam (Shadow Archer Press) and Sublunary Curse (Erbacce). A new eBook Paper Cut (Calliope Media/Books) will be released in Summer 2009. In Carcass, the unique nurturing quality that I have beheld in many women is celebrated in counterpoint to our natural state of denial/oblivion. Freshly wounded speaks of a unique woman-to-woman bonding that transcends even the palliative of time. Finally, My Parasite is a poem of transition, from dependent abasement to the first steps towards a regained renewed selfhood.

Carcass Flying down 66 Hell bent to beat Beltway crunch In our trapezoids of black plastique adjustable faux leather IV of cold, crap caffeinated Radio assault… The world is now measured By distance of fender bright Red tail light blight And reality confirmed by Rear and side Refractions. A side glance notes tree, grass black and mall town neon One blurred continuity of surreal script. Roadkill sprawl, A momentary Punctuation. Until that night Turning into driveway On mailboxed slope One lone dead fawn. Kneeling, I feel feint warm Stillness. Damp nosed and breathless Captured by gaze of milk Hooded eyes From black form to melded Pieta Thoughts of simple life …never known… A grieving doe. A tuft of taste. This belly stroke. Exposed in the glare of Headlights on high Rushing endlessly by…

freshly wounded I have been waiting for the heart to heal. They promised it would. ... bright gladiola circlets, big, fatted mummed hearts all wilting in the august dust even as the spare words that certified the leaving of your body were done just so. small wonder my father, your youngest, our baby had to carry me away raging and clawing. This is not the poem of why Mamow That is between us. No, these are the words of was, a telling a simple recording. It is the story of the tin rouge box, all beat up and rose flecked the ancient pad I stroke against my cheek on days like this. It bears fruit in the faithful tending of a frail african violet that in your absence never blooms. It is an image on silkscreen full-faced and claiming her own, towering over the breakers deliberately placed to kindle and forget

"...a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck , and a hug around the neck." It is the carving of twenty five years and the piece I have not found and the wound that will not close and the absolute certainty they lied.

My Parasite You spoon-feed endearments Like medication Just enough to keep me Hanging from the lip Just enough to stave The toxicity Of you In me. Like Diana I slay The suckling wanna be Takers of me Laughing at derangements As their infernos of desire ‘Fire’ phantasmal projections Not nearly a hollow hologram Of anything near who I am. So I fear not Of breaking hearts Because they are dribble drunk On poem-image fantasies. But you, know The strengths and the fallows The beauty and the scars My deepest beliefs The abyss of gilded regret Half-opened sighs Opaque eyes Fashioned By eons of abuse-neglect. And knowing this You seize my need My vulnerability …and squeeze.

But moments come When I can raise my head And behold your glycene emptiness I now feel this jolt in core As never before And though I am skin-peeled Brazing in your thick sick licks. I know each day More and more and more That soon I shall Never take another taste… …and crawl my way to light Or strew my shreds to Zephyrus’ Flight To anywhere But you.

Jessica Graustein In real life, I'm J.S. Graustein. I've earned a masters degree in biology with that name, taught college freshmen, borne two children, taught Sunday School, and continue to build a life with my husband. My passion for words helps me breathe on a daily basis by carving out space that's purely mine, devoid of family expectation. As J.S. Graustein, my work has found homes in diverse locales that include Ladybug Magazine, Christian Early Education, Flash Fire 500, Nanoism, and Wamack: a Journal of the Arts. I also edit Form.Reborn and PicFic for Folded Word Press. But I wrote my first book as J Sudborough at the age of six, detailing every nuance of the brick house we'd just moved into. The book was hand-stitched with a calico cover by mom. I then flirted with poetry throughout my childhood. â œThe Eagleâ won Jackson High School's Quill & Scroll contest and later yielded a typewritten letter from Madeleine L'Engle after I sent her a copy. I loved first as J Sudborough. Earned my first degrees. Grasped my independence. Somewhere within that name the core of me still breathes, so I cling to it for some works. Intimate worksâ ”like the ones forthcoming in Rattlesnake Review, Fuselit, and the volume you're reading now.

Wish I Did I bathe in foggy shafts of light smuggled through an Oxford pane write in time to breath his breath in sleep after we've known each other with every sense. I rest my pen afraid the scratch of point on paper will hasten in the day before I've felt our night again third night this week our week without the kids. He'll wake up soon and shower don a borrowed towel, shave while squinting in my travel mirror maybe even wink at me or hold my hand at breakfast Full English breakfast without whine or meds or bickering. I do not miss my kids.

On Our Anniversaries seventeen years ago we said ‘I do’ my body trembled in virgin-white satin I sewed myself dripped emerald amber from oak trim rippled windows I loved you behind my home-made veil but not enough to leave him at the altar I wondered then and shouldn't now at your church 300 miles away did you pause and love me too?

Puzzle Child She kisses her son, hears his sleep feels life in his relaxed cheek smells the breath of angels while his battered walls splintered toys meltdown in the shadows. She wraps nail-scarred arms around him, pretends he cares wishes she could hug him, awake.

For a Moment She Lets Him Go Her split lip stains her teeth his fist with liquid iron. She wants to cry, run, anything. Instead she faces him expressionless motionless. Flat-affect has the opposite effect: his head slams her nose. CRACK drowns his screams in purple ooze below her skin— her septum's 10° off axis. She's gone fetal. He's out the door without his ID tag Thomas jacket or light-up sneakers. Her son is out that door— the one still open, letting in mosquitoes.

Holly Day Holly Day is a freelance writer and travel writing instructor living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband and two children. Her poetry has been recently published in Freshwater, Skidrow Penthouse, and The Long Islander. Her most recent nonfiction books are Music Theory for Dummies, Music Composition for Dummies, and Walking Twin Cities. When she's not writing--which is often--she can be found petting her cat, Pluto, or sitting out in the garden, stitching erotic needlepoint canvases.

Love one more man has moved into my life, making evenings a place where one more person can lie to me, bring out fear unbidden, uninspired, just knowing "Someday I will hate you." Waiting for the night when the mountain of shadows behind my bedroom window moves to become an overplayed movie of violence, an overplayed night of paranoia. I keep my penknife sharpened, watch the mountain of a man in my bed sleep, weigh his strengths against my tension, waiting for the day when he wakes up, and, uninspired by our day-to-day lives, takes his lies away, leaving me alone with only the comfort of the solitary, this evening.

Love Is At the End of the Rainbow The phone rings and it's a salesman and I pick it up and scream "Love me!" because it's the first thing I think of in the morning, I want someone to love me and I don't know how to ask politely anymore. The phone rings And it's my husband he's calling from work and I scream "Love me!" and hang up because I don't want to hear him say he can't anymore. The phone rings and it's my sister and I scream "Love me! Fucking love me!" because I want her to and she Hasn't for years and I don't know how to get up from the floor go about my day try to live my life if these people around me don't love me the way I need to be loved and please don't ask me how I need to be loved because I'm not very good with words anymore but please.

Marie Gornell For a long time I had victim tattooed across my forehead: victim of witness to domestic violence, alcoholism and abuse; a father I recall as wasted talent; a mother who wallowed in drama. I near enough became that same woman - my distrust, fear, and contempt of men has been a thorn in side. Writing for me as a woman has been a calling I've always heard but blocked until a breakdown and total retreat from society led me to find self and reason to be alive; I find it cathartic painful, wonderful and enlightening some days writing my way out of complete madness making sense of the world and embracing my femininity. Through this I've left behind the past and found something near to peace. I've also met and connected with some beautiful poets and writers, for the first time witnessed the pain and self torture men also experience through reading their work. I've been greatly influenced by a book called 'Women Who Run with Wolves' - truly embracing my creativity and seeing it as a transformative process. No longer a victim, I want to be a beacon of light to others and heal with my words.

Mothering Sunday My tears flowed today After mothering Sundays Doom and gloom. I begrudged a day with her Felt displeasure Disgust Deep in my pit. I feel such a fuckin selfish bitch. Tell me its ok to grieve To hate what I came from To feel lost in that street Despise my history Wish you would hurry up DIE So I can grieve Miss you when your gone Lay flowers on your grave Speak words I’ve yet to say Forgive you for all that’s passed Because when you’re dead I’ll finally be free.

I am love Today I read the lines ‘How grateful I am. Whatsoever I need is always given to me’. (Sufi Mystic) I brushed my first signs of grey Then placed a purple flower Amongst raven hair I admired my curves And imperfections. I saw the beauty of Sunlight reflected in My daughter’s golden Hair and smiled huge. Great big love Welled up inside me. Then I went out and walked Under guidance of Sunshine like a beacon Leading me into light. It dawned Beyond what any man Could ever give me I felt loved By earth.

Crystal Folz I was hesitant to include my own work. I worried about presumptions which could be made, but frankly, that worry goes against the very heart of this zine. I Can’t Be Your Virgin and Your Mother came to me several years ago. Sorting through photos from a vacation, I came across a picture my husband had taken of me holding my youngest son. I had worked diligently to look like what I presumed others thought was beautiful. The tinier I was, the more compliments I received. Standing at the kitchen sink, I sobbed for what felt like days, because what I saw, for the first time, was protruding rib bones, a tiny waist, and deflated tits. Whatever it is that changes our perceptions, whatever leads us to believe it is important to starve ourselves – emotionally, physically, mentally – in order to be attractive women, must die by our hands. Whether with words or attitude or art, it makes no difference, only that we do it and we do it fast.

Exhaust Despair is its title, but I don’t mind seeing my name on the spine. People want happiness: souls lifted like a Sunday Pentecostal message; flowers that keep their petals in the rain. A fifteen year old girl lets a boy slobber love over her breasts, confident he won’t tell. An airbrushed photograph of a model hangs in plastic above a young woman lying on an operating table. A middle class white woman buys self help books written by men. I want pictures of my stretch marks to pop up as advertisements on internet porn sites. Everybody wants it; nobody wants to feel it. My shadow sits on a bench outside The Golden Nugget on Chicago’s west side. She’s still on the journey, keeps a bag of dope tucked into her bikini briefs and scrounges for change outside gourmet coffee shops. I asked, for you, but she refuses to write testimonials that will hold up your happy heart.

All Day Yesterday All yesterday it poured. Rain came down and enveloped the house like the shade of a maple tree, and I couldn't stop thinking about the last time you took me morel hunting. We had ignored all warnings of rain that day, because through our eyes, the sky was green and the grass was blue. Dismissing the protection of a tall maple, we leaned against a young paper white birch. Your fingers found the hem on my shirt. The curled edges of the bark left thin cuts above the dimples on my back. Yesterday I stood at the end of the driveway, water swirling around my bare feet, lightning touching ground in the field. You called me inside, put a towel around my shoulders, and said the forecast called for blue skies tomorrow.

Honestly Although we used the bed instead of the floor, and shared those smiles intended to connect souls after bodies have separated, you have to go. There is only enough room here for me. Whatever this was supposed to be, it was. So you do not have to be good now. You do not have to lie here with me or kiss my hand or say I am wonderful. I will do all of those things when you are gone.

A final note, I can’t thank you ladies enough for making this happen. Each piece I selected mirrors what I have felt inside at one point or another during my life. Having it all here, having your words here and knowing I am not alone in this, is comfort unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. If I accomplish nothing else in the literary world, I will always have this. And I know, without a doubt, that your words here will touch the lives of other women as much as they have mine. I love you all, Crystal

I Can't Be Your Virgin and Your Mother  

womens anthology, best of the underground, Julie Buffaloe-Yoder, Aleathia Drehmer, Kristin Fouquet, Constance Stadler, Misti Rainwater-Lites...

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