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Sometimes medusas aren’t laughing: sometimes we’re bleeding. We’ve had a lot on our minds lately—things that sting, prick, and provoke us. We hope these pieces inspire the same for you. If something in this world makes your blood boil, 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 2019 spring publication—by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
cover: melting, emily zhao
THE FALL: NOVEMBER 8, 2018 If God formed Eve from Adam’s rib, it makes sense that RBG broke three— male marrow must be the weakest part of otherwise formidable female flesh. Eve’s daughters eat the fruit, offer bones to the eighty-five-year-old, fractured after twenty years without a single day off; even God rested on the seventh day. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes might we all fall down without this woman; she vies with termless serpents and judges man like the God who made her. taylor puccini
Within Grasp kelly oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;donovan
I HOPE YOU KNOW I hope you know your shoulder blades are sharp enough to distance yourself from him maybe they call us the impulse generation for a reason because people like you and I, you and your burnt fingertips are plainly set on the mistakes of mother nature, and poverty, and Wanting to feel good
but mainly Wanting to feel good and getting lost on the way home and fraying the edges of your rusted corduroy jacket your gums havenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t stopped bleeding, I see it when you speak like smooth velvet frosting caked blood on the corners of your lips I wonder if everything natural is made to be painful sonja goldman
VALLEY OF THE MUSE katherine oksen i see chimneys and smokestacks erect like pillars like castles like fingers reaching towards the sky the sky gray like ash like concrete like the limbs of workers pressing upward rising like heat trying to hold the weight of the world the weight of the cemented sky—stick your handprint in this while it’s still wet and new; there’s no other way to leave your mark. we’re all cogs in the wheel and the wheel is turning too fast and my hands are still helping it spin. i’m choking on smoke and ash my tongue swollen with burnt chalk and pulp my teeth rattle like train cars like the iron spines of railroad tracks scarring the earth in the name of efficiency and my fingernails are all black and cracking like concrete from the weight of the world and holding up the castles of capitalism and for what? when i walk across lonely cobblestones i search for pictures in the clouds of smoke that rise like halos like kite strings from chimneys and smokestacks i jam cigarettes through my gums and pinch the ends between broken fingers because if i’m going to choke on the smoke damn right it will be my own
CONFECTIONER’S REMORSE poprocks™ in lungs can have this effect this—can’t breathe, bee stings, and scraped knees within— one glance at nostalgia peels open my throat, pours in a new pack, and blows me a kiss while I suffocate in sugar
IF PUBERTY PACKED LUNCHES julia nagle grape stems like skeletons fruits plucked off by eager hands and lips popped into mouths and rolled around on youthful tongues before being crushed to squirt seeds so small and meaningless they could be old hopes or wet dreams
STUDIES IN POETRY lillian hicks
There’s this guy who sits next to me in Poetry class, and he squeezes himself into a lefty desk everyday, even though there are open righty desks a few seats down, and I think that he thinks I think I like him, and he thinks that I think he thinks I think I like him, and I think he thinks this is something it isn’t: When he sends me his essays to edit, hits share on that Google Drive doc, he acts like it contains his own poems, like he’s sending me the link to his soul or something, and not just his shitty analysis of Ezra Pound’s vision for the modernist movement, And when we go around the circle, taking turns butchering The Wasteland and Alfred J. Prufrock, four lines at a time, very respectfully passing it along to the redhead on our right who can’t stop talking, talking, and talking about what she learned while she was cramming for the AP Lit exam, When we go around the circle, and it’s my turn to read, he locks his weird eyes on me, laser beams coming from under his eyebrows, he locks his weird eyes on me, and stares at me like I’m reading just to him, sitting naked in his dorm room, like I’m reading just to him. It’s not that deep, Mike; I’m just a good conversationalist.
BEDROOM PANTOUM My girlfriend puts her hair up, throws her dinner up again. I roll over—I can’t sleep, my brain’s engaged tonight. My girlfriend throws her dinner up. Two people I know (who don’t know each other) got engaged tonight, I heard. One day, I’ll come home and she’ll say, We’re just two people I know who don’t know each other, and we’ll buy a cat. One day I’ll come home, and she’ll say, So now you’re turning me into poetry, too. We’ll buy another cat, and I’ll rip a page out of my journal. So now you’re turning me into poetry, too— there is something curious-yellow inside me. I’ll rip a page out of my journal and put a postage stamp on it. There is something curious-yellow inside of me oozing like a sinus infection. I’ll put a postage stamp on it and send it to a magazine. My girlfriend’s smile oozes like a sinus infection; she puts her arm around me. I’ll send this to a magazine. My girlfriend has her hair up and her arm wound around me. I roll over—I can’t sleep.
TO THE GUY WHO REALLY NEEDED A NAP I was honestly surprised that your silver little sports car survived the impact, that it wasn’t crushed like a tin can. Wasn’t crushed like my collarbone under the force of the seatbelt. People are afraid of so many things, like heights and death and oblivion and plane crashes and bumblebees, but all they really need to be afraid of are sleep deprived college kids driving home for spring break, hopped up on Red Bulls from rest stops and Wawas. I was also surprised when you fixed your gaze on me, catching my eye across the highway littered with what used to be my car, smiling and waving like a pageant girl as they put my father on a stretcher. You smiled at the guy in the third car, too. The guy whose head you put through a windshield. He had too much blood in his mouth to smile back. I stand a little off kilter now, right shoulder drooping. Doctors always point it out, as if I can’t feel it, as if I need the reminder that I had to quit ballet because I became too crooked to be elegant, the exclamation point of my spine curving to a question mark like it’s no longer sure it can hold itself together. I have to carry Tylenol in my backpack because every day hurts a little more than the last. No surgeon would even try the surgery to fix it because I could end up paralyzed. Or dead. The odds weren’t great. I guess if I had to choose between feeling the pain or feeling nothing, I’d pick the pain. But God, I wish you’d just pulled over and taken a nap.
INTERIOR DECORATING I was living in a pit. It was my permanent residence, listed on forms and applications, I9s, and bank statements. I knew each tucked away corner, which spot was best for weeping, which crevice echoed my screams back the loudest. Since I saw no other shelters near me, temporary or otherwise, I decided to decorate. There was no need for a mattress or a bedframe, my body numb and too tired to sleep. But I found places to hang old memories, curtains sewn from hospital-green bed sheets, a weathered rug that really tied the place together. Months after I was settled in, you came by to check on me. Maybe it was the smell, or maybe you wanted some tips on interior decorating. “There are some new apartments up the street,” you tell me. “I could co-sign the lease,” you tell me. At a slow, measured pace, we tear down the curtains, burn the rug, pack up the memories in their picture frames—perhaps I’ll feel like looking at them later. On the steep climb out, you showed no strain in your face as you held me up, arms hooked under my shoulders.
out of order emily zhao
HE SAID I WANT THIS TO BE OUR FIRST COUCH katherine oksen white washed brick walls stained oak furniture copper pots and pans like tassel earrings that dangle low and dance on collarbones cups of tea and potted plants spill out over blue ceramic edges, a red couch and piles of knit blanketsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; think thick yarn and fingers interlacing folding over and over again these candles are always lit air warm and clean like fresh linen like steeping tea like crackling cedar like grapefruit peels and citrus flesh. you make breakfast while i pour coffee into mosaic mugs, tendrils of steam wrap us up in creamy sweaters i make dinner, you pour red into tall stemmed glasses i peek at our reflection staring back at us: we are all smiles and besos baby i taste all the love and honey in the atmosphere you listen to happy songs i write happy poems because i have nothing sad nothing bad to write about and if i did i would wash our sheets until they stripped to threadbare until my fingers turned red and raw, iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d blame it on my manicurist then sweep everything else under our absolutely lovely, exquisitely beautiful, Persian-style rug every time you turn around i press my toes into it, hard
HEARTBREAK OF WAR When my grandmother was a little girl she dragged her toes to bend the straws of hay to keep the blood from her shadows on the long walk home and my mother told me that when she was a little girl, she learned to walk in a graveyard. It’s not my grandmother’s fault you see her child died and then her husband died and then her brother died and now she wants to because that’s what everyone else is doing they’re dying. Maybe she thought spending Sunday afternoons amidst tooth-like gravestones would sharpen her soul into a ghost. Maybe her soulshavings were absorbed by my angel mother or maybe God decided little girls who drag their toes and become old women in cemeteries don’t get to die just Yet but then my brother and I were born and for a moment, the death chatter was silenced. But now she starts again sometimes you just wait she tells me it’ll either be cancer or heartbreak or war because she’s still talking about death as if it’s one of those birds that sits on your shoulder eventually you’d think you’d forget about the bird but you can’t because the longer it’s perched on your bone of a shoulder the tighter its little claws press into your skin until finally there’s a red stain sitting in the bend of your elbow and it’s got a trail. I ask my grandmother what do you know about heartbreak you married the first and only love of your life. My grandmother says heartbreak isn’t just someone breaking your heart it could be something. Like the time her childhood friend fell in love with an Australian soldier in 1946 Italy and the time the Australian soldier had to leave in 1947. She was heartbroken but he didn’t break it just like my grandmother’s heart shattered to fine shards of glass when my grandfather died It wasn’t his fault It wasn’t my mother’s fault but now I bet she can still feel the fake petals framing the gravestones rub against her little girl toes. My grandmother should have taught her to drag them.
DROWN AND RELEASE To kill a love is to breathe in water filling with a weight that empties you of your voice and your laughter and all of the light But there’s release in the final liquid gasp a balance of the density inside with the heaviness in a body’s suspension Under water, under-loved and a contradiction in the drops condensed, a body of water, or of hurting Life after loving requires a new ecosystem For the half life half death half memory In that new state of disorder, of what’s relative, of unraveling meaning, In that new reality of opposite: There is loving And there is water
francesca von krauland
Useless Under the Sun margherita bassi
WEDNESDAY celia smithmier
“it was a wednesday when the timetables broke. my teacher said that five times five makes twenty-five but i thought the wednesdays stopped in may and now it’s september and maybe it’s because it hasn’t snowed yet and two times wednesday is two more hells but i think i’m still in purgatory, doctor. yesterday i fell on the sidewalk trying to jump over cracks (and my mother is fine, don’t worry) but i remembered when he said insanity laughs under pressure and so i dialed 911 and i think the balloons can see my insides here but they’re just trash-bag-suffocating (do you know how unhealthy that is) and i hate this fucking plastic bench like how many tears did you papertowel-smear off this before i dumped my bones here as if nothing had ever tainted your fucking hospital and i think i’m under pressure, freddie but i think that i still know five times five” and you inspect me and say “you scraped your knee.”
delicate emily zhao
RIDESHARING The former passenger was a grad student--that’s about all I caught before we sunk into the gray Accord to fill her absence. Jairo’s car was a revolving door of human interaction, and now it was our turn to get home, clumsily conquering his backseat with our bags and bodies, groceries and Sunday escapism. Annie chomping on her oreo ice cream in the middle of fall, was borderline familial, against the backdrop of this stranger’s car, like a black box theatre act, conjuring upstate New York, afternoon suburbia, between four doors, as if they were four walls, sold out.
Never buy a used car, was how Jairo brought us to the next scene, where our father teaches us about driving and ownership, and how to live in accordance with the rules of man and machine, through his own actions. Because the repairs will cost you more than a new car, was our cue, so we nodded, taciturn, at this notion that, we could also fall into the cycle of breaking down, being bodied. The next part, the silence, was our adolescence, which Annie and I portrayed with our wordless bodies slumping back into the leather seats, like that living room couch worn-out in two spots, where we settled in the wake of fallen conversation, fallen paternal connection, which was made so clear as I untangled my headphone cords placing the earpiece in my right ear, as if to block him out, in an independent growth scene, each character turning inward. It was in this public solitude that my phone whispered clips of the Kavanaugh trial, and as I react, I am caught dipping my toes into the adulthood narrative, the second Act, where Jairo reemerges within a discourse about grievances with the world, opening up about his body of work, 105 rides a week to break even, while Brett Kavanaugh yells in my other ear about Yale, and I return with it’s unfair. Jairo nods with a father’s first acceptance of a daughter’s autonomy outright, and Annie’s lines distinguish doctors, and lawyers from the rest of us accordingly. Just as my app alerts me another woman has been added to our ride, she materializes from the rainfall outside, in nurse scrubs, overworked, as if she had fallen directly from our conversation, she enters stage left, a seasoned actor, not missing a beat, the woman contributes a grandmotherly monologue, world-weary, striking a chord, after a shift 9-7, she is heading to her night job, with wrinkled eyelids, embodying the generations of class struggle, outspoken but nonetheless uncorrected. And when she concludes, I’m forced to return to the dishonorable judge in my ear, whose nomination won’t be overturned by his weeping and gnashing of teeth, but his fall cushioned, by his upbringing, straight out of private education, and country clubs which imbue him with immunity for each foul act, as if his ownership can be extended to another’s body. I’m glad for the play, of fathers, and sisters, and grandmothers, that distracts me from screaming in accord with my whole being, and keeps my body from turning like my mind, as Jairo pulls up to the curb of our building in his gray Accord, with a kind farewell, this last line of this last scene, like an act of God, keeps me from falling out onto the pavement.