: (of an animal) shed old feathers, hair, or skin, or an old shell, to make way for a new growth.
DEAR READER, Sometimes medusas aren’t laughing: sometimes we’re molting. It can be uncomfortable for a snake to shed its skin. It has to writhe and wriggle against rocks and trees, pushing back against the familiar in order to rid itself of old parasites. The past few years have been a catalyst for change—for the sloughing of individuals, notions, and systems that no longer nourish us. With this shedding, however, comes the potential for new growth—the chance to don the new, evolving facets of ourselves that emerge from the debris. If something in this world provokes you to molt, pick up a pen and submit to our zine next year. In the meantime, submit your polished literary fiction, poetry, and art to The Laughing Medusa—our 2022 spring publication—by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
cover art: untitled by Mikaela Savage (she/her)
august i am still thinking about it. that summer drip, the winter pine, the sweat of your upper lip and the icky stick of your tongue. the beehives you left in my lungs will not bend to me. my cilia stretches to soak up their honey before it can flood me but i am too limp with want, begging you to wither so i can suck the punch from your teeth make you feel the buzz you left too late the bees have drowned themselves Lexie Slotterback (she/her)
backwater blues how am i? could be better been licking gutter grime off my fingertips like chicken grease all day, can’t find a way to say i love without it sounding like the time i tried to write a play at sixteen, forcing dialogue to navigate predestination no flow, no nature but i used to be better at finding direction, used to let the wind flood me, flood me don’t wanna spit up no more there aren’t stars no more even when i’m spinning, can’t make out the constellations the way i used to, cannot map my universe any more than a child, cannot understand death i cannot fade, don’t let me become worm feed or star group or memory but are we all just mulch or stardust or echoes screaming, i used to be special? used to be something to come back to, no it’s okay leave me here in the fumes i know your mother wants you home by dinner, so don’t disappoint. Lexie Slotterback (she/her)
Prom Dress Shopping with my Mother I stand in the plain, over-lit dressing room alone. I couldn’t stop touching my ribs touching my tits touching my waist touching my hips touching my thighs; the black fabric clung to me like a mother Waiting for the Storm to be over and the celebration to begin. I was beautiful enough She was beautiful despite her damaged skin and sunken eyes older, somehow, than she was just three months ago but she was smiling, reveling in this moment. gold beads wait patiently on a train to nowhere She’s sitting on her knees pinning the back up a bustle it’s called should I have already known that? She puts in the last pin and now I am free to run, to dance, to love on my own that’s what I wanted, isn’t it?
Her arms embrace me two shattered souls making a stained-glass window peeling away plaster walls of “I’m sorry” of “I’ll be home soon” of “do you need me?” Yes “No” but I want you Brady Luck (they/them)
Poem for America that regurgitates out of my mouth They say I am a North American buffalo, the kidnapped beast. I held my breath prior, and arrived finally at home. My muted, wooly, tone-deaf patriotism. That’s the type of buffalo I am. The water sources I go to are not the clear, crisp, crystalline ponds of the wild wild west, but the blush-pink-beige-khaki-brown paint water left in the cup as you dipped your paintbrush in and out savagely as a child in the third grade art room. The cheerless, opaque grey that discontented me always. The buffalo who saw the emblazoned eagle memorabilia and serpent cynicism and wondered: about the cult of artisans which still ring their golden bells, about the witnesses who wear their dry-cleaned white, powdery, button-up shirts full of tetrachloroethylene from the dry-cleaners, yet let their mustard-yellow fledglings perish as their ribs and collarbones and ankles are swallowed up, guzzled, and slugged down by its own human carcass. Rather than give them the bubblegum-pink antibiotic. Those babes will never know the tang and chalk of the medicinal flavor, the big pharmaceutical companies never getting the chance to dance around in their fresh little nostrils, instead their bodies litter the sides of the roads; ribs, red and fat, lay exposed on the side of the turnpike like the baby back ribs of a roadkill deer.
Military surplus stores where the titans of the primal earth would surely die as the smell of cobwebs, mustard gas, and molded nylon pricks tears in the down-turned eyes, wrapped up in the hair-dried cellophane of the suddenly shushed voices. Almost Americana, yet those uniforms are not real-estate, rather: the exoskeletons of their last owners now hanging on the clothes rack On sale. The masses sent out to fight who later learned they were always meant to be dead. The buffalo does not travel far– lingers by home, unable to leave it fully, finds a piece of it everywhere it goes. So brown and full and rich. Solid. In the winter time each of its ribs are fully visible. The inside of a baby grand piano. The piling feet of snow blocking them from every happiness imaginable, but they do not even realize. Rather to them, life has dealt them hell. They just keep going.
Marielle Caparso (she/her)
all that for a sixers game? the way that her stomach bile rolls off her tongue like a teardrop off the eyelashes of some fancy new actor that all the girls your age love would cry on screen over his broken futuristic motorbike or his whatever-the-hell-it-is-men-pretend-to-care-about-these-days scenario and her lungs fill with albuterol instead of smoke guzzling pepto-bismol as if someone had tied her to train tracks and an upset stomach was the only thing stopping her from escaping the streetcar barreling down the c line there’s a tremor in her hands that no one else would notice – can’t you see what you’ve done? can’t you see she’s tearing the iv needles out of her arm with one hand and dialing your number with the other? it’s still a mystery to her, isn’t it, the poor thing. the way it’s all connected, the drainage of time mama called the doctor and the doctor said there’s inflammation in your electrolytic cells, an issue with your tachycardia when you’re near him, or a physically exhausting, emotionally nauseating, post-modern bronchial syndrome if you will. we’ll name it after you, don’t worry open up and let me see. Pam Zhou (she/her)
Mikaela Savage (she/her)
Rat sushi I push through throngs of masked people. I do not know them. They do not want to know me. It’s a competition. We fight for her. Who can be the Fastest Most cunning Sharpest Most Strategic Most Dedicated. I want it to be me. I do not know if it can be. To soldier through the crowd and reach out to touch her. Vivid tones of greens, oranges, and pink alight her mass. She is color. She is balance. She is variety. She is timeless. She is cultural. Overwhelmed, I take in her wholeness. I feel the hunger and desire flow through me. cucumber avocado roll $13.99. Yes, that’s the girl I know. The one I love Want Crave Fight for. Sarah Knapp (she/her)
Emma Baldwin (she/her)
Susanne Hahs (she/her)
Where There’s Smoke… I know how it feels to pull the fire alarm and you are the only one who can hear it. Soft carpets are hard when you’re held at a distance, And seventh-grade fingers were shaped for pressing their pink prunes into bathroom counters, smudging steam into white, pulling at yellow towel threads & chipping on the chain of a swingset. But learning to make knives out of nothing keeps your mind off the smoke that creeps ever closer through the corners of your closet door My brother is downstairs. the TV is on and I know it won’t cover the sounds of a hundred and twenty pounds hitting his ceiling over and over, I do it anyway and he turns up the volume. Is it still a tantrum if you’re fifteen? I want to know if I can take myself seriously. I pull myself into the bathroom by its walls to see how pretty I am when I cry but I can’t look at the mirror so I swallow it, let its shards slide down easy and gut me inside out. I am the deer my brother brings home from Arkansas in pieces Grab the head close for a picture act like you like each other. My grandfather gave him a gun wrapped with a bow and I wonder what there is to hunt in California No one tells me about the target on my back. This home’s wood is just alive enough to watch, holding its breath in the quiet of a forest
manufactured Where it is always open season and fluorescent day. There are eyes in the walls without mouths, doors at my back without locks, and a boy with an undone ribbon. The corpse smiles for the Christmas card. Jules DiGregorio (she/they)
There’s A Girl With a Lighter My phone rings from an unknown number and I pick it up to have someone to talk to. It is the killer and he is inside the house. I board myself in with ice cream and oreos, this is what formaldehyde tastes like, sweet vanilla sugar and glass But there is no one to tell me to finish my plate and lonely children do things just because they can So I stand on the coffee table and hold the hole between my ribs and want to be wanted. I ate a pint of vanilla ice cream last night instead of smoking a cigarette to prove something to myself, I proved that I haven’t stopped wishing my stomach was a hole. That I can’t eat vanilla ice cream without thinking of the walk home from middle school, and drinking milkshakes with boys who I call my friends until they read me porn off a sticky iPad and say this makes me think of you. She wonders why I walk home alone, I am asking for something to happen. I don’t remember asking. But She would feel safer if She knew I was with that nice boy down the street. I get what She means, that way I can keep my eye on the threat. Hold its hand. This is what it means to be safe. I am bored of making myself bleed and find boys like this to do it for me. I wasn’t even looking. Razor blades and rubber bands are a joke and I am cool enough to laugh along And I am proud of the way I let myself be loved, let him grab you by the throat, now I’ve learned to ask for it. I call the killer and he is inside the house and I tell him what color underwear I am wearing. This is how I take care of myself By becoming something else, by learning that I am wanted after all.
I follow the smoke to find where it feels like home, where the mirrors hold collars to my throat until I make them break. Where the closet is empty with threadless towels and half-chewed oreos and loose notebook spines that rattle like skeletons, and these antlers, too They hang heavy but make me a prize, And I can never hurt myself as well as a nice boy can No matter how hard I try. Jules DiGregorio (she/they)
To the Man in the Back of that Cop Car
I had to take photos for my first ever school project in the first grade. I was late in telling my mom that she needed to drive me uptown the air in the car was already tense. I didn’t want to tell her to pull over for me so I kept the camera to my eye, finger poised on the trigger. While trying to figure out how to capture the idea of “urban,” we locked eyes through my lens. We were separated by my camera, my mom’s car window, and the bars on his window. But that moment of what felt like eye contact to me set me in the back of the cop car with him. Feeling the icy sting of metal circling your wrists the discomfort of having to lean forward to sit with your hands behind your back. The shock of some random child bearing witness to your lowest moment, capturing it with a drugstore digital camera to plaster that picture on her trifold board for her classmates to ooh and ahh at. To the man in the back of that cop car, know that I never hit that button. Lilli Smith (she/her)
Macie Gettings (she/her)
Brady Luck, they/them choking coughing shaking crying I can’t breathe anymore as if someone is stepping on my weak lungs I can’t see anymore but being blind is better than seeing who I am and knowing that no one else sees it too my friends please listen to me hear my cries I know you love me but I’m a zoo animal trapped in a glass box to point at and called cute and when I roar you applaud and tell me I did a good job but that’s not enough how do I teach you to respect me dear god make me normal I wish I could press a press a big red button and closet doors would appear so I could step back into the unknown of certainty that I know who I am and who I’ll always be. Brady Luck (they/them)
Mikaela Savage (she/her)
untitled Sneak back in, lay down my jacket You’re still sleeping. The fan, whirring. Musty smell. I try not to wake you when I climb into bed Curl up beside you I like when you’re asleep. Bed gives under my weight, takes my shape Leaves me alone with the fan Whirring Worrying Just you and me. Close my eyes, feel a wave of slumber wash over. I let down my guard. You wake. I don’t notice until you’re on top of me. Strangling me I can’t move I forget how to breathe I try I try to shake you off I pass out, forget you by morning I don’t like being alone with you Alone with my thoughts Alison MacDonald (they/them)
leaky faucet whatever love is, i want it to spout out my lungs like a leaky faucet want it to spill till this aching breast overflows— force me to rationalize this deterioration, impose order on my flood with a terse i love you but do i? or am i afraid that when the heavy spring rains end and the floodwater seeps underground, i will be left with nothing but cicada sizzle, a buzz that will bury itself come late june. Lexie Slotterback (she/her)
Mikaela Savage (she/her)
ode to a friend of a friend who won’t remember she’s perched herself on the bed sweatshirt over her dress, drenched from the rain i barely knew her, i barely know her she’s reading my palm, she’s half leaning over her friend lays passed out in her lap happy birthday, twenty-one i’m fragile, she says, i’m really fragile but you guys know i’m whole lot of fun someone has tied their shoes twice in forty-five minutes all that time and she couldn’t do it once she was a figure skater in a past life, can’t forget it she’s very serious about what’s going on skating on ripped tights and bummed smokes typecasting everyone from some childhood show i’ll give her a light if she’ll tell me the meaning of who i have been, and what i should know Taylor M. Giuffre-Catalano (she/her)