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THEM is. iii / 2017


Cover design & Issue Layout by Jos Charles. Text set in Bell MT and IM Fell Great Primer. All Copyrights are retained by the original authors and artists with the exception of archival rights. themlit.com themliterature@gmail.com facebook.com/themlit @themlit ISSN: 2332 – 0354 Š2017


TO THE READER

Since its founding in 2013, THEM has published the work of dozens of emerging and established trans writers. We remain proud of the work we’ve done thus far as the first journal in the US dedicated to trans literature. However, we’ve decided it is time to expand. To that end, we have some exciting news. This will be the last issue in which we function as THEM. After checking in with ourselves and our contributors, we will be undergoing redevelopment: clarifying our mission and scope while renewing our commitment to publishing and producing work along the spectrum of trans identity, literature, art, and experience. We will have a new name, but our editorial team will remain the same; we’re still looking forward to bringing you more exciting and moving work, as we’ve always sought to do. We hope you enjoy Issue III of THEM, some of the most urgent and innovative work we’ve featured to date. You can still check out all of our issues online at issuu.com while our new platform is being developed. And we hope you’ll follow along with us in the next phase that we take. We look forward to your feedback, and thank you for reading.

Sincerely,

THEM Editorial Staff Jos Charles, SA Smythe, & Emerson Whitney


Issue iii SPRING 2017

Founding-Editor Jos Charles

Editor SA Smythe Editor Emerson Whitney


THEM IS A BODY.

THEM is a body of writers, of writing that does not conform.

Whether we lie outside, between, reject, or move freely between gender identities, our bodies are a site of disruption, confusion, and instability for those around us.

THEM IS DISASSEMBLY.

Like gender, writing has failed us. Gender has never been simple because our bodies have never been simple. Caught in an assembling of violences distributed by race, ability, capital, our genders bare mistrust unequally.

THEM is unashamed to speak “I” or to address “you” in all its multiplicity; THEM is unashamed to bear an “us” in all its difference. We accept we have been constructed as many, so we reject the fiction we share a common identity to call home; we come from below. We admit we were never singular.

WE ARE THEM.


CONTENTS

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

Alain Ginsberg

1 2

METAGROBOLOGY, OR ON BEING A PUZZLE, IN VI ACTS

Andriniki Mattis

5

WHAT CAN BE SAID ABOUT TWO BOIS IN LOVE I WANT TO WEAR FLOWERS IN MY HAIR & KEEP THE BOY IN ME

Autumn Rose Barksdale

13

SEVEN NOTES ON THE BODY AFTER SEEING IT FOR THE FIRST TIME

Beyza Ozer

15

WE COULD BE ASTRONAUTS LAKE MICHIGAN KEEPS EATING PEOPLE SPRAINED ANKLE JULY 17 2015 A SET OF TEETH

Cody Pherigo WHEN MY BODY IS A METAPHOR FOR FAITH HE-DOG

22


Eli Tareq-Lynch

24

MY SISTER AND I DON’T LIVE IN ZALKA (EXCEPT IN JULY)

Essa Ranapiri

26

LIGHTER THAN WHAT HUE

Hafsa Musa

28

EIGHT STEPS TOWARDS FREESIA

Jay Besemer

33

HAPPY LITTLE DATA IN THE PRESENCE OF CAMERAS

Joe Gutierrez

36

IT MUST HAVE A DANCE GROOVE THAT RUNS ALL THE WAY THROUGH

k. ho

37

ARRIVAL

Lii Xu

39

YOUR SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN

mud howard TURN UP ALONE

43


Nat Raha

45

FROM £ /€XTINCTIONS FROM DE/COMPOSITIONS

Ollie Schminkey 50 INSTEAD I NAMED THE BOY PUSHY, SILLY BOY, YOU, BOY, JUST BOY

Taylor Johnson 52 EMULATION HAVING COME THIS FAR

Terry Abrahams 57 DIANA PASTORAL

Zareen Zahra Zeero

59

UNTITLED TO THE HOOPOE CONTRIBUTORS

61


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

Things, simply, expectantly or not, change. One commits themself to things given over--location, a body, words. The land erupts. How can anything be this urgent? writes Lii Xu. There are analogies to transness and land, property, language, I needn’t rehearse here. There is nothing to teach that hasn’t been taught better by Sylvia Rivera, Esdras Parra, Vaginal Davis, the countless, before me. Nothing to say that isn’t the impossible sum of those in any life, history, who, with hands and time, taught and make up the conditions of that life. Who am I to forget myself, as Mattis writes. So rather I would gesture to that givenness, a memorium, to the grace of those who came before. There is only, for me, here, the contemporaneity, perhaps, Raha speaks of: to recommit ourselves to remembrance, to that spirit, of what and who brought us into a together. A collection. And though much has changed, is changing, there is at least this return. Our breath, offered; eruption. I would go on quoting the whole of this Issue, the givingness of these authors. But, to use a line from Zeero, soon we will be acquainted—in thanks, accordance, our holding and handing of the word.

Yours, Jos Charles


OR

METAGROBOLOGY, ON BEING A PUZZLE, IN VI ACTS Alain Ginsberg

i.

I like going places new. It reminds me that there are things This Broken can do that That Whole could not.

ii.

John Spilsbury creates the first puzzle in 1767, he, a map maker, an engraver a cartogropher of being, a surgeon of spare thoughts. Take these pieces, form them into a whole something, they make a real picture when together, they are only beautiful when complete.

Ginsberg |

2


iii.

When you're trying to learn about puzzles, obsolete becomes a second tongue becomes a slick filter of saliva around your second mouth learning to pose a pusle. It only became a game when commodifying this dead fish was easier than the deboning.

iv.

The first time this body became a jigsaw, a recall of tainted goods, an expectation of amber alerts, was a lesson that there are parts of myself that were taken from me.

I am trying to fit them back into a place that I did not know was a place.

3

| Gi nsbe rg


v.

Metagrobology is an appropriation of French, a stolen piece of satire. mĂŠtagabouliser (n.) puzzle, baffle, mystify. A metagrobologist creates and completes puzzles.

Some days my Abusers are Metagrobologists. Some days I am my own Puzzler. I am between states of completeness.

vi.

I go places new often, it is a reminder of how I have not yet completed something that has not yet been finished.

Gi nsbe rg |

4


WHAT CAN BE SAID ABOUT TWO BOIS IN LOVE Andriniki Mattis

pine for a chest flatter than

i open

a plank of wood

my mouth make space

for the sweet

car tires massage roads moan & slide by

the unending song of streets

dethrones my body gives dreams that bronze & tame the quiet riot

5

| Matti s

the daylight that pierces


who jostle their skin & their hips who curse the terrain

always in bloom

envelope of your lips to enter

my lungs Mattis |

6


where i nest this

i have forgotten how to hear the pendulum of worry pumping

my chest

your eyes

of fire

crack

pummel

7

| Matti s

my throat


forever weather of indifference

how you plant me

let this body

anchor

around me

Mattis |

8


I WANT TO WEAR FLOWERS IN MY HAIR & KEEP THE BOY IN ME

in the water i mistake each breath

i catch my reflection

a vine

it spits up in the wave

i lie in sand & remember the children of night who found their bodies raked of its stars

& in the clouds i find a blank page buildings cut into planes

9

| Matti s


holding me

above my body propelling the stones of my arms out of water

sun rations itself

on my eyelids the ocean emptied of others shells bury inside my mouth

who am i to forget myself & the selves i have risen from even my blood is storied

home to wounds i cannot see from a time that unborns me

i am a casualty of the amerikan dream narrative of the concaved sky meddling in possibilities wilder than skylines

M a t t i s | 10


i will be carefree allow the slow turn of my legs to head rolling make waves of grass

catapulted to concrete meeting a thud

falling falling

i will be the submarine that rips through the thick paste of water

i will begin again bleed the chorus of bees from my head rays of golden flakes

pansies sashaying on sidewalk freckling my mouth

o those orchids

such petalled hips

those advisors to nightfall

are losing themselves

worn from the silence of being a person of being a body of water refusing the

11 | M a t t i s


dry ocean

institutions

falling

like glass snow globes falling

minced glass

& surface

decoding the algorithm to life outside of confines

black girls made to reach for their girlhood

veiled by an incision of stars

cut down as wood

shape of its container

M a t t i s | 12


SEVEN NOTES ON THE BODY AFTER SEEING IT FOR THE FIRST TIME Autumn Rose Barksdale

1.

The body is a stranger. The body is a rippled reflection, a fun house mirror, a trick of bending light.

2.

They say her body is built like the ocean, an unending body of water. That she is pregnant with moon. That she is vast, and holy, and brave.

3.

But I am not built like the ocean. My body is soil, a continent, a mansion house. It is solid and stone, it is massive and empty, too big to be lived in alone.

13 | B a r k s d a l e


4.

I live here alone.

5.

The body is a spinning globe, a lonely planet.

6.

The body is a strengthening storm.

7.

Some nights, I look down at my thighs, basking in the soft blue glow of the television’s empty light, and I see a moon lit beach curling into the darkest water. Some nights I see nothing at all.

Barksdale |

14


WE COULD BE ASTRONAUTS Beyza Ozer

have you seen the death of a star & the birth of a cell / an open eye & a nebula / an entire bathtub

filled with blue light / the way planets move

carefully

no one dies

& the way humans collide never

//// & when someone does grief becomes irrelevant

waiting to turn into mist / but only coming out smoke waiting to walk again. happen we know that much

I won't roller skate in your graveyard

I cannot roller skate / also my ankles are sprained / though I run every marathon every time to follow you up there imagine the blood in my mouth feminine bone

& spit everything out //

yes I am sitting in a pile of dirt we had in the house on Washtenaw

my grandmother cried

15 | O z e r

lose

ode to my fat / my open & the shaped

where my grandfather slept &

I need to wash my fucking hands.

get the fuck out of the house //////// this is when I tell Kenan the universe can express itself

&

I separate my breasts with two fingers

push my cuticles back down the side of each finger

bone ///// like the couch

sometimes

it won't because

without getting violent

my grandfather needs to we are the only way & my mother's door slams


LAKE MICHIGAN KEEPS EATING PEOPLE

& it is mostly made of dead things proximity to me &

so when you think about it / the most alive thing in

all my dead friends is so violently blue & gray /// at the same time. Mom

is like Dede is like me. All lonely / choosing to be alone

thousands of miles away no

matter where we are

Yaye says she just wants to have breakfast with him one last time. She says, your anneanne always wanted to visit the coast of california. I say, you will. I say, i'll take her.

The picture from 1997 / same carpet in the same house / my face buried in mom's shoulder eating hair / her jaw-cracking smile turned color into scent / rain every day & a choice of pants or a dress

/ a home in America /

before.

This is how depression starts. Glasses. Feet too large.

A house / Washtenaw Avenue. Ceilings

that popped birthday balloons. ///////////// He lived in the basement until his bones felt / tired. Too close to their joints.

nereye gidiyorsun, dede?

/

eve, canim.

Oze r |

16


SPRAINED ANKLE

Most of the time I am too tired to do anything

Most of the time I’d rather just connect the dots on your back

& this isn’t true,

but warm weather makes me feel less & less uneasy

each spring

that reminds me

Hurry up, we’re dreaming

We don’t have time to change into our pajamas / even if we had pajamas / we don’t / we have skin, though / the only thing that won’t follow us after we die / don’t worry / we’re dreaming now / & we will meet again / on a baseball diamond at the park next to your old house / in a room with no windows & endless light from our favorite city / I will be okay then & so will my mom / she leaves the city lights on when she knows I can’t sleep / her sadness always standing in the corner/ right now my pockets are empty / I’m begging you to fill them with some type of sand or dust

I promise

I won’t be able to tell the difference. You meet me where it is possible / that

space between the universe next to the one we used to be in / the flowers & light / after all these minutes / you hold me

17 | O z e r


My body turns into what it was meant to be / before the moondust billions of years ago decided otherwise / & I’ve forgiven her by now but I still cannot sleep / there’s just always that /

light

Isn’t this weather nice? Are you okay?

You meet me where it is possible. It’s soft, first. But then we start to press.

Oze r |

18


JULY 17 2015

Honestly

I’m just dying all over the place. /////////////////////////// the only comet an

imperfect shade of brown. Mountaintops too blue & too far /// away, trying every morning to jump over the moon, asleep / she’s asleep / the year my mom spent in her bed & the morning she wasn’t there

I ripped the sheets off her bed & hid them under mine //////////////// the hospital / the sheets were rough, hard / everyone was dying more brown. I’m tired of washing my hands.

I light up anyway / miles from where my anneanne’s tulips grow. Even farther than Halfeti the blackest rose won’t grow anywhere else / I’ve never seen anyone

Eat a flower ////////////////// I’ve never felt one die in my stomach / a flower. I’ve felt myself dying. My stomach makes no sense. Or my chest. My pronoun

is flower & pollen fucks up every

throat / it’s not hard to skydive / just jump when the man says jump.

mashallah as the sky kissed my cheeks & I fell. I want to go home.

tangle in the street lights on Istiklal caddesi where my grandfather walks alone every night / forgetting the bombs & gunshots though I never can. He loves the lanterns. go home, dede, lütfen. Mom’s city lights already wake me up every night.

19 | O z e r


When I see her eyes

yours glow too / both tired & mine / well I’m a flower, senin çiçek. No

stomach or chest / alive & pretty when I want to be

iyi geceler

/

you too

/

canim, salaklik yapma

/

i’m sorry for asking.

Oze r |

20


A SET OF TEETH

i would die for you did you know that? a jar filled with water believing it's a fucking ocean spilling all over the place my house is a house with my parent's bedroom chewed off i lost my first tooth in the biggest field america could grow & cried for days thinking i could hold on to something that was mine in gums since birth what do you lose when you die? a bird can fly anywhere & i keep dreaming about a hospital room i never visited

21 | O z e r


WHEN MY BODY IS A METAPHOR FOR FAITH Cody Pherigo

I believe in the muscle of genetics— chuckling and choosing.

I believe in the return of summer sweat.

I believe in candor dripping into.

I believe in feral lungs.

I believe this day has beaten me to it.

I believe in the fidelity of Renaissance.

I believe in benisons, a queer Benedict, and the bodiless.

I believe in gender: Spiked drink. Communion.

P h e r i g o | 22


HE-DOG

Don’t be a He-head a dick-dock dog.

Brush the Goliath coast the fertile circle:

Home came home.

Come, ken.

Coming coo-coo.

23 | P h e r i g o


MY SISTER AND I DON’T LIVE IN ZALKA (EXCEPT IN JULY) Eli Tareq Lynch

My aunt crouches over my sister’s body, furious as my sister, curled up into a small ball on the bed we’re sharing, screams leave me alone in that way she does when she feels stubborn, my aunt’s eyes furrow deeper, mah tit jewabi aah leyi, everyone is screaming and I’m just watching and my aunt’s body is lunging and my sister is a tighter ball and being shaken and my aunt is being pulled and I’m usually stronger but she’s angry and she’s on my sister and on her meds and on autopilot.

When I finally pull her off her eyes are puppy dog sad, she says you hurt me and shows me the marks on her arms I made pulling her off, tells me she can’t remember what just happened and she can’t remember being on my sister and being on her meds and being on autopilot.

Ly nch |

24


In the living room, khalo tells me she has very little healthy brain cells left from all the excess meds and I can’t help but tell her I’m sorry when she pouts on the couch and the fan oscillates cooling my body with every stroke.

25 | L y n c h


LIGHTER THAN WHAT? Essa Ranapiri

bee stuck in sand stinger surface moan mumbled striation hungered by wasp and dogwood a murmur of drift tide that spends half closed up in grit like the apple your bite from a rock to ground-shocked stagnance that hits the exact timbre of sex without guilt

clouds like spiral water like waveform the sun hits the lines too bright without shade

R a n a p i r i | 26


HUE

There was a Majorelle Persian base Sieved peel of Viking climes G-d shaved onto the skin For a tickled pink That spots over arms With gingered crystal Uncut and unplundered Left spurred in tender Spikes To split the watermelon Maya and electric blur from that common black pinprick A maze And the morning You slept through

27 | R a n a p i r i


EIGHT STEPS TOWARDS FREESIA Hafsa Musa

scene zero.

four rooms shoveled up with night. fat refrigerators churning themselves inside out, spilling leftovers on the tile, freezers filled with ice. our brown bodies packed too tightly against the roast beef. preservation smelling a lot like spoiling meat. flyswatters hang above the kitchen sink and circle our dying basil bush. the bush presses disease-dipped leaves to the windowpane; its longing is fragrant. the flies are screaming again in their guttural tongue – we, me and you, are screaming too, into our napkins and crooked elbows. white suburban etiquette sinks taproots into our brown cores. the sink drips, drips, drips. we relieve ourselves in polite teaspoon increments, dumping urine daintly into toilet bowls and microwavable tupperware.

scene one.

you and i at the kitchen table. bacon bubbling on the stove. cartoons chanting through satellite static. everything is white, therefore everything is clean and perfect. this whole long minute is a ritual of convention. our hands have been pickled in cold soy milk, our mouths twin basins of silence and half-chewed cereal.

Musa |

28


scene two.

scene one is stretching forward into scene two, adamantly queering temporality, and we ignore it, pointedly glancing past the neon numbers blinking on the microwave’s clock. flies buzzing in our ears the only noise, we cannot stand ourselves and so we sit, we are waiting for something wonderful without knowing what. enter THE WOMAN, with her wild waves in cornrows and baby hairs laid flat, breath whiskey sour. THE WOMAN is subliminally beautiful; her eyes shine bristle with coal and soot, she stinks of smoke, she sets the couch on fire in a blaze of nonchalance. we do not look at the ghosts in her left fist. a cartoon animal coos in the background, “Boy, isn’t she lovely ?” THE WOMAN shuts the television off with a glare. night boards up the back of her eyelids and she sits, heavily, on a beanbag chair. we do not look at THE WOMAN. she is a silent shade, watching. the smoke detector goes off. static resumes.

scene three.

you gag around your cereal, grainy, soggy inner tubes dribble down your chin. i wipe them up, but only some of them, because i am petty and love to hurt you. smoke rising from the stove; the bacon’s burned. we will have to find another distraction. we spend two minutes taking apart our bodies, looking for anything to focus on that isn’t her. we put ourselves back together quickly, careful to miss the messiest parts of ourselves.

29 | M u s a


scene four.

THE WOMAN will not be ignored. i can smell her breath from across the room and i lean into it, half drunk, eager for revulsion. she stalks us both from the living room, broad shoulders stunningly catlike in lowlighting. the moisture beading at my neck, my thighs; it is opalescent warning. she stalks into the kitchen. our pristine, white kitchen. raises a lip, sneers, “Is this the best you can do?” DIGNITY and SELF-RESPECT make their exits.

scene five.

THE WOMAN tears me apart with her eyes. i am ashamed of you, i am ashamed for you, she does this all in front of you and you say nothing, flushed and staring down at the table, clinging to your knife and fork like they can still save you. i am ashamed that i am letting her, wanting her, wanting her. her eyes take apart my flimsy dress, these static doll parts holding me together. there are other parts moving now, deeper, damper. i am wanting her to move those too. we all know this.

THE WOMAN repeats, “Is this the best you can do?”

THE WOMAN repeats, “Is this the best you can do?”

Musa |

30


scene six.

i want her to rip me out of my chair but i know she won’t. she wants me to come willingly. i look to you for permission because that’s how i’ve been raised (imagine: mother slapping my knees until they cross, learning to walk with books on my head, learning that my hips were made for a man’s plunder. imagine: throwing up into toilet bowls after dreaming of chest hair and smaller breasts, a penis protruding from my vulva, a course beard bordering my chin and adorned with hyacinth and wildflowers. imagine: an intersection of MAN/WOMAN and me being run off the damn road.) but you, coward, won’t meet my eyes. your knuckles have gone white around the fork, your skin a flag of surrender: go. run off. be dangerous.

scene seven.

i shed my dress and lay on the table to pull on a pair of blue jeans. by now the kitchen is ablaze, the basil has caught and the flies sing drowning hymnals, for the first time i am not afraid of this white yawn of a house. THE WOMAN breathes easily in the smoke, the coals of her eyes smoking too. she smiles at my breasts and touches them, once, and i lay my hand there too, i feel the prick of ingrown hairs. she kisses me, once, an invitation.

THE WOMAN says, “Come as you are.”

THE WOMAN says, “But you must come now.”

31 | M u s a


scene eight.

when they find my body, have them adorn it with freesia and honeysuckle. present me open casket and allow no one into the funeral. when she leaves me, it will be wholly. i am nothing without her hard arms and bullet-hole mouth. the kitchenette girl in the babydoll blue was never me. i am something earthy and raw, i am constantly evolving, i am a planet orbitting myself, i draw and am drawn to bodily change. i bury girlhood’s wan smile in the wet earth and take to the seas. THE WOMAN harangues the winds into submission. we two, we take what has always belonged to us but was never given. we two, we have made a choice beyond man and woman; there is not a single domestic bone between us. we two, we go where the water does. we flow. we go.

turn off the kitchen sink. i will make my own waves.

Musa |

32


HAPPY LITTLE DATA Jay Besemer

blood sits in your hand a moving target film in a can the blood pulls from the body into your hand

knocks against a wall of light a wall of glass your hand

this blood is a lamp & its projection

a shower of data happy little data

33 | B e s e m e r


IN THE PRESENCE OF CAMERAS

the priest of hummingbirds elaborates: in your refuge the bone meal drifts in fugues from corner to corner, sad husk of merchandise left over.

i am the metronome i am the part of his speech that oscillates.

make a beeline make a pillow & sew inside it the skeleton of a nightjar.

moved to a light-tight room the priest refuses to speak, to eat or to imitate the bestsellers.

Beseme r |

34


contemplation yields to fact-checking then step-dancing then shoveling shit against the door.

eradication is out of favor; now it’s all irradiation & the strength that comes from leaning on a fence in the presence of cameras.

i am the runt of the moment i am the all-access wristband i am the hummingbird, the actual hummingbird.

35 | B e s e m e r


IT MUST HAVE A DANCE GROOVE THAT RUNS ALL THE WAY THROUGH Joe Gutierrez

IT MUST NOT BE LONGER THAN 3:30 IT HAS TO BE SERVED ON A BED OF JASMINE RICE TWO SOURCES OF HEAT MUST COME TOGETHER YOU MAY CALL IT BLUE JUSTICE IT MUST BE INFLAMMATORY IT HAS TO BE WILD DOGS YOU HAVE TO BRING CACTI TO THE PARTY THERE YOU WILL LOSE ALL SELF-CONTROL IT MUST BE TRANS IT NEEDS TO BE BROWN IT NEEDS TO BE BLACK THERE WILL BE CARAMEL DISCHARGE IT BRINGS A LOT OF DANGER TO A SMALL TOWN THE DOG HAS TO BE IN THE CAR FOR THE ENGINE TO START YOU MUST PAY THE PSYCHIC PRICE IT HAS TO BE EMOTIONAL MATHEMATICS WATER HAS TO BE DESALINATED IT SHOULD EXIST IN THE BODEGA SOMEONE NEEDS TO TELL THE DOG THERE CAN’T BE A PRIVATE BARBECUE PANTY BOYS HAVE TO BE HIRED A MOUNTAIN HAS TO KNOW OF COURSE THERE WILL BE AN ACTIVE VOLCANO YOU MUST PARALLEL PARK YOU HAVE TO MAKE IT YOUR BUSINESS IT SHOULD INCITE GAY PANIC YOU MUST BE PROUD TO SERVE IT

Gutie rrez |

36


ARRIVAL k. ho

two thermoses of coffee in and we set down the coast of oregon. in the morning you kissed my ears and turned off the tchaikovsky – last night of rolled tobacco smoke and music without words. you break off shrapnel from a recently melted and now reformed bar of dark chocolate and hand it to me at the three-quarter point. when we stopped for coffee thirty miles back we counted how many white people we had already pissed off, us touching and licking and pressing our bodies close at gas stations, red lights, other americanpeople roadside attractions.

by noon the stateway yawns in front and the salt air hazes above like morning mist. on our left are cliffs like brittle chocolate being plundered and plummeted by unruly ocean, eddie vedder on the radio and the hard sun is hot and leaking through the windows, catching in a pool where our hands slip together – bodies of their own.

I get five points for spotting a whale and I’m proud of myself for noticing because its spray looks so much like the other shards of bruised water coughed up among this white foam big rock. the drunk woman at the counter of the lighthouse giftshop looks at me narrowly when I reach her with three postcards, dives back into her chatter with the newlywed blond couple from Washington as soon as I give her a crumpled dollar.

37 | h o


today we kissed at almost all the stop lights in the city, grazed our bodies along the coast as the portland glint disappeared and the pacific roar like I have never seen reared itself closer and ever more wondrous. visitors in time immemorial and settlers on stolen territory, blue line crash and three hours sliding by. your hand on my knee. a map on my thigh. anxiety rippling across your fingers when it is white people serving us: food, fuel, liquor, all the same. we are quiet travellers, queer and chinese and girlyboyish all over, unplaced and bizarre but perpetually kissing. watched by rv families with their potato chip plates. we return their stares with unflinching eyes.

for the last 25 miles we do not speak and I write you love letters on all three postcards, all of which I will send you Maybe Eventually Or Not. we’ve driven four hours to spend one night to see the ocean here, and tomorrow we’ll early-drive the four back, to the bus that will thrust me higher up the salish coast, away from you, past this gaping rock with its timeless bodies and sideways birds, where the clouds make loops in the sky and where holding you feels like history. your hands, inside my skin, whisk me there.

ho |

38


YOUR SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN Lii Xu

Ma, I went to the woods today, Ma! I'll be back once I'm sorted and strong. I hope you'll at least pretend to recognize me, as the germ of the proud something standing newly before you! This morning the trees are as ancient as skyscrapers and probably much taller. I've never felt this surrounded before, not even that time you took me to see all those relatives I hadn't met yet, who were all another world of curious about what you told me later was unwaxed dental floss, the texture of my hair, the appearance of my father, our diet. Here there are swarms of trees and I promise I will make them into worthy opponents, do them better than I did for you or our spreading city. I don't know how to chop a tree with my body alone, like my swarthy and cunning ancestors surely did. This will change. This will change. Soon I'll be slapping them to the ground and frappĂŠing their pulp into tree sugar and tree jam. Slather some pinecones with the good stuff. Those will be your souvenirs, Ma, I'm going to be useful after all!!

39 | X u


It's lunchtime. I can tell by the way the animals are eating each other, the way my stomach is starting to turn me around. No, don't you worry about me, you raised me with a head firmly on my head and I'll figure it out just like I figured you out. What's there to figure? Though it's impressive, this green ecology of everything devouring everything. Not that nothing devoured nothing in our flat city, whose bubbling edges form enclosures around anything that it knows is not of it, not yet. But we come from a place where it is fairly well understood how the people are eating each other, and each other's time – you just do it, it is easy, it is done. Here, the insects are performing some kind of techno.

/

Ma, something bright chased me until I finally pitched down a spiny hill, breathless like I was before you knew me, I thought it was Dad but I am mistaken. No wood spirit has ever visited me or you; we’ve never, ever been here and it shows.

/

Why don't they teach you how to catch a squirrel in school? I was ready to gut it with blunt fingernails, but I couldn't keep up – they know something about trees, how they could be shelters. Didn't they teach you, in your southern school, how to take lying shelter, from a bombshell? Dropped from high in the air unto people like you, grounded and just over a line? I bet they didn't teach you how to lie sheltered among those very pilots, or how to shelter a lie: how to drop a bomb and look away. That's about all we learned over on this side, no squirrels. No mention of woods or tree-shelters, no assistance with these strangers.

X u | 40


Hungry, lost, restless. Didn't bring a book, for the sake of quietly hoping to write a book. That book could have been: How to Live, Despite Your Lack of A Book. There is demand for that kind of pulp fiction, I know because I read that somewhere, before I decided to be done reading – the more I read, the more I become all those stories I stopped trying to tell you about. Ma, I miss you already, I wish you were here. With some lunch maybe. I can't really feed you, sorry.

/

Ma, it’s getting cold. Dad is here, shining, belly laughing in the dying sunlight. This very same orb under whose glare I have always read these stories, played out these scenes – I would like it to set please – this light stains my skin and everything, out here even, this wildness still illuminated by it, why couldn’t we have foreseen it?! I would like to walk away from these woods the way you walked away from your family: with a casual finality disguised as a brief melodrama, your whole body an oath that if you ever returned you would not be you. Even if you didn’t know that then. Now you do.

/

What I thought was hunger is actually thirst. How can anything be this urgent? Parched enough to try to suckle a tree. I gave it my all! And then some! I think I might die??

41 | X u


Ma, I know you said you would love me, no matter what; even, in fact, if you hated me; but, would you still love me if I laid down and let myself succumb to these trees? I love them like family but I've never, ever been here and it shows. Still. Still they'll have me, lean on me, even want me. All trees do, they're entirely made of violence. One instant you're hugging them and the next they've grown their boughs around you, you are united, they can and they will refuse to let go. Did I say instant? I might've meant generation. They move too slowly and slightly for you to guess; I've only been here a day.

X u | 42


TURN UP ALONE mud howard

my phone lying face down on the seat slutty universe inside

your mouth makes water hard prisms against my head

you thought of me, 6am when the birds woke up at crying

I spit toothpaste into the sink a crystallized caterpillar curling up to die

I’m 23 the yolks keep breaking

I crytalk about ghosts white sneakers on the cold beach

our cubic love, still shifting the hot coals of the open road eat our speed

43 | H o w a r d


I’m confounded by the heat of your voice changing to violet before my eyes

your drastic cleavage freed by the breeze the quartz sky rushing in

I hyperventilate at a gas station in San Luis Obispo

fake lovers made of crushed fibers you have a wound

whose fantasy is whose what drowning

How ard |

44


FROM

£/€XTINCTIONS

Nat Raha

45 | R a h a


Raha |

46


FROM

DE/COMPOSITIONS

floats [of] light / fractures[, again] hung mist on , the ancient law / oceanic binding & jawbones cuts across two beaches, faces different yous been trolling weathers over 400 years about [love], dont talk to us turn west, driving into the obfuscous our speech repeats of creatures , affections their & try to attend to our healths to then be here & away / a bare right to educating

47 | R a h a


for what we may be the left from a future torched, working to deeper life , we: lost girls, broken femmes / deviant aching spines & flesh, built on the shuttered mouths of rape apologists , vibrantly storms but does not just march, all fed, a collective support of all possible skins / builds conceptions & homelines to [ [ undercommon post -poning the fresh govern -ance of recognition / siren clawing up the street, teaches an ftp through all action,, feels beyond the future ruling fascists store for us / eyes closed on its corpses / present in tonight’s dreams, the dead left do not want us to love as much as this , we: anxious girls, slept debt, certain siblings, on call to the street , bandagers, we gossiped / kissed through our repressions abet vicious nights, an urgent existence fleets into & out of these burning days

R a h a | 48


growth deplete / derelict from our futures / south bridge 10.02am g4s transport turns right onto chambers st. the time to grasp frame without ever pressed by interaction of others / their easy narrations we. onlines compared notes , found little remembrance, our fragmented / drained memories through spheres & digitals waiting to pull the day out of the sea / on additional shifts / despite our contemporaneity / we among the ancient corpses of the city , the ease of this forgetting through shroudscape / infrastructs futures across the estuary / they raid & declare the illegality of hands

49 | R a h a


INSTEAD, I NAMED THE BOY PUSHY, SILLY BOY, YOU, BOY, JUST BOY Ollie Schminkey

sometimes it takes years to unearth the wolves we buried. when they do surface like moss over a pond, we name them things like bones, as if there wasn’t once a whole animal—

this is the one where i give birth to the scorpion, where he stabs his way in and then out again.

sometimes it takes a while to name.

the surprise flickers when i must rename an old boy, flip him over, a smooth rock. and how lucky am i now. to have the eyes for trauma.

i always get stuck on this moment. the one where we sit in the beige counselor’s office and he screams and dives towards my feet and wraps his arms tight around my legs, heaves his tears into my lap—i lock eyes with the counselor, my chest billowing—

Schmi nkey |

50


we learn the crying too, i think. the crying means we have finally figured out how the name works, how to devour the earth with our wet mouths.

51 | S c h m i n k e y


EMULATION Taylor Johnson

The greatest man alive is dying on account of that hold grief got good on his bones

like white on rice the greatest man alive would say / with his woman gone

some years now what’s the point that I want to be my grandfather’s

son / I don’t call enough that I saw him rarely ever

except once blow into his hands fire or / and upon

his woman’s feet let out that which waterlogged and bruised

so gently / the greatest man alive which if I told anyone

J o h n s o n | 52


would not begin to believe the greatest man alive gently

walked the whole of southern Louisiana with his brothers / ran

everywhere atop a levee floating most of the time trouble started

when I young realized that I would not grow up to be the greatest man alive

though I am damn trying / to be good to my woman

even when I know gently to myself I am a canecutter man

low and country / soft as zoysia grass in Violet

or Lutcher, Louisiana / which I’ve yet to see from whence came

the greatest man alive / a whole field of soybeans across from where he stay

53 | J o h n s o n


the land / there’s water in the well and if I tell you there’s a well

whose water sweet water pushed along the salmon-sized goldfish

to the back creek once during a hurricane

would you believe the greatest man alive knows every bird and their call

and would call / only one time I see a hawk by the clothesline

with his good soot voice no chicken man magic

the greatest man alive magic come to me a whisper in

my bones / know the question to every answer garlic

make a man out of every once boy so plenty I eat and cut like

J o h n s o n | 54


the greatest man alive taught my smaller hands / the learning

I wouldn’t have / how it stays the dirt under his nails how he couldn’t wash it out

55 | J o h n s o n


HAVING COME THIS FAR

We take off our clothes at the creek’s long gapping mud mouth like a pair of wild snakes, even the jimsonweeds open their trumpet heads

in wonder. This is mercy, what you do to the small things preoccupied with living. Imagine now what gate you unhinge in me.

J o h n s o n | 56


DIANA Terry Abrahams

I think of them, the weak-eyed deer, and what we have in common.

Looking over shoulders and looking over shadows and

looking anywhere but ahead. Eyes wet with worry, we

move into crowds, thinking other animals

are trustworthy if they look like us.

57 | A b r a h a m s


PASTORAL

I am a farmboy, you a grazing deer. we watch each other carefully. we keep our heads down. we know the dusk draws shadows,

not reflections. silence surrounds us as we surround each other, each evening that passes

shearing distance to stubble. we think in glances: if you look north, so do I. often when you step, I do too.

learning you is a choice, not a rebellion. there is no weapon in our world but the eye.

A b r a h a m s | 58


UNTITLED Zareen Zahra Zeero

the tethers

of my body tied so tight

untied unraveling everywhere

the sky breaks

its shards like a bowl catching and cutting my

tethers and he told me

everywhere is falling everywhere

my clothes draping

59 | Z e e r o


drooping dropping

off my untethered limbs cradled in a shattered bowl

where the stars couple and embrace me

until i am not and there is

nothing left to do

Z e e r o | 60


TO THE HOOPOE

i am a stranger in my own house—or rather, i am the stranger that is my house soon we will be acquainted, and the house will burn and the birds in their conference will peck at the ashes thieves in an empty house

61 | Z e e r o


CONTRIBUTORS

A l a i n G i n s b e r g (they/them) is an agender writer and performer from

Baltimore City, MD. Their chapbook "Until The Cows Come Home" was published in the fall of 2016 with Elation Press, and their chapbook "Loathe/Love/Lathe" will be available in the fall of 2017 with Nostrovia! Press. Alain is a barista, a bartender, and a taurus.

A n d r i n i k i M a t t i s is a poet of non-binary trans experience with a degree in

Political & Poetic Resistance who has received fellowships from Cave Canem & Poets House. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in Nepantla, Cortland Review, Paperbag Journal, Pariah's Anthology, Typo Mag and THEM journal. They are from and currently live in Brooklyn.

A u t u m n R o s e B a r k s d a l e is a trans woman, poet and public speaker based

out of Lake Worth, Florida. Her poetry has been featured in The Offing, The Jabbercat, Crabfat, The Wanderer, and in an upcoming issue of The South Florida Poetry Journal.

b e y z a o z e r is a queer/trans/Muslim writer living in Chicago. beyza's work

has appeared in & is forthcoming from The Offing, Pinwheel, Vinyl, Nightblock, Shabby Doll House & the anthology SUBJECT TO CHANGE: TRANS POETRY & CONVERSATION (Sibling Rivalry Press 2017). beyza is the author of FAIL BETTER (fog machine 2017) & I DON'T MEAN TO REDSHIFT (Maudlin House 2016). They are deputy director of social media at YesYes Books. beyza works at Women & Children First, one of the last feminist bookstores in the country, & the Poetry Foundation.

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C o d y P h e r i g o is a queer writing animal from Kalamazoo, MI whose studies

at Bent Writing Institute and Goddard College convinced him that poets uproot politicians. He was a finalist for the 2016 Ruth Stone Poetry Prize, and is a 2016 4Culture Artist Projects Grant recipient for a literary project on transgender resilience. Cody’s work appears or is forthcoming in Atlanta Review, The James Franco Review, Seattle Erotic Arts Festival 2016 Literary Art Anthology, Gay City: Volume 6, Original Plumbing, Nerve Lantern, and he has selfpublished two chapbooks—Blue Thunder Children (2011) and Animal’s Sabbath (2013). He has taught creative writing classes widely, and is currently a writer-in-residence with the WITS program at Seattle Arts & Lectures. Born with meconium stuck in his throat, he has been extracting it ever since.

E l i T a r e q L y n c h is a mixed Arab queer working in Montreal. They have

been published on Metatron's OMËGA blog, in Alien She Zine and have work forthcoming in Prism International. Follow them on twitter @theonlyelilynch

Essa

R a n a p i r i (formerly published under the name Joshua Morris in Mayhem, Poetry NZ, Brief, the Fem and Geometry) is a trans nonbinary individual who never grew out of their emo phase and will write until they're dead.

H a f s a M u s a (they/them) is a twenty year old black, queer, neurodivergent

and nonbinary academic, poet and aspiring novelist. In addition to being a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, they were the 2016 recipient of the Lorabel Richardson Prize, an Academy of American Poets Prize, the New Engagement James Baldwin Literary Award, and runner up for the Seldon Whitcomb Prize in Poetry. Musa is currently working on their first official chap book WE ARE VERY REAL GIRLS which centers the lives of black trans women and nonbinary people in Trump's America.

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J a y B e s e m e r is a poet, performer, artist and editor whose books and

chapbooks include Crybaby City (Spuyten Duyvil), Telephone, Chelate (both Brooklyn Arts Press), A New Territory Sought (Moria), Aster to Daylily(Damask Press) and Object with Man’s Face (Rain Taxi Ohm Editions). He is a finalist for the 2017 Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature. Jay is a contributing editor with The Operating System. Look for him on Twitter @divinetailor and on Tumblr http://jaybesemer.tumblr.com.

J o e G u t i e r r e z lives and works in Long Beach, CA, where they are completing

their BA in English. Their work Review, Horsethief, Potluck, and Rip Rap.

can

be

found

in The

Iowa

K a y ( K ) H o is an queer, non-binary artist of colour. They are a photographer,

writer, facilitator, and introvert. In their body of work, K focuses on the joy, struggle, and tenderness of living in intersectional margins. These days, they are especially curious to take part in conversations around transgression, whiteness, and un/belonging. K currently lives in unceded Coast Salish territories (Vancouver BC). You can find them at parties hiding in the bathroom in a good way.

< x u , l i i / l i x u / . // Phila PA // >writes.poetry>>>>

and>>>>otherwisegetswounded // spooky trans / Âżfrom / f i n e c h i n a-n e w y o r k //// ttthheeeeerre issss nnnnootthhiiiinnng nneewww under the sun

>;

m u d h o w a r d is a non-binary trans writer who fiercely believes in the healing

power of the selfie. mud curates pnk prl, a queer erasure zine, and GLOW, a bimonthly queer poetry series. mud is a graduate of the low-res MFA Poetry Program at the IPRC in Portland. you can find their work in The Lifted Brow,

64


Black Napkin Press and Cleaver Magazine. they love to lip sync, show up to the dance party early and paint their mustache turquoise.

N a t R a h a is a poet and trans & queer activist, living in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Her poetry includes two collections: countersonnets (Contraband Books, 2013), and Octet (Veer Books, 2010); and numerous pamphlets including 'de/compositions' (Enjoy Your Homes Press, forthcoming), '£/€xtinctions' (sociopathetic distro, 2017), '[of sirens / body & faultlines]' (Veer Books, 2015), and 'mute exterior intimate' (Oystercatcher Press, 2013). She's performed and published her work internationally. She is undertaking a PhD in Creative & Critical Writing at the University of Sussex. She is currently working with Scottish PEN, running creative writing workshops with trans* and non-binary 16-25 year olds in Edinburgh. Nat’s essay titled ‘Transfeminine Brokenness, Radical Transfeminism’ is due for publication in the South Atlantic Quarterly this summer.

O l l i e S c h m i n k e y is a white, non-binary transgender poet / musician /

artist. They facilitate, direct, and host many organizations, including a weekly writing workshop called Well-Placed Commas. They have also represented the Twin Cities in numerous national poetry competitions, and they are the proud author of their second chapbook, You Are Sad and That Sucks a Lot. You can find them touring nationally or in print in a bunch of cool lit mags. Feel free to check them out on their website, ollieschminkey.com, or on Button Poetry.

T e r r y A b r a h a m s lives and writes quietly in Toronto. His work has been a

part of BALDHIP, (parenthetical), Peach Mag, The Puritan, and many gendered mothers, among others.

65


Z a r e e n Z a h r a Z e e r o is a currently-itinerant trans nonbinary woman and art-

sound-and-word arranger from Los Angeles. Sometimes these arrangements are poems. She has previously appeared in Lumen, Deluge, and the Santa Ana River Review. Her hands won't stop turning into beetles, but she's making the best of it. You can find her other work and social media at zareenzahrazeero.com.

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Alain Ginsberg Andriniki Mattis Autumn Rose Barksdale Beyza Ozer Cody Pherigo Eli Tareq Lynch Essa Ranapiri Hafsa Musa

Jay Besemer

Lii Xu

mud howard

Terry

Abrahams

Joe Gutierrez

Nat Raha Zareen

k. ho

Taylor Johnson Zahra

Zeero

ISSUE THREE ©2017 ISSN: 2332 – 0354

Them Is. III / 2017  

Issue III of THEM lit: a trans literary journal. This issue includes work by Nat Raha, Beyza Ozer, Hafsa Musa, Zareen Zahra Zeero, and more.