The Trans and GNC Arts Review: Edition One Spring 2021 - Fall 2021: Given

Page 1





Contents 6


the house that she lived in | theo poling

peace in my senses | rose younglove



given | karla rodriguez-garcia

20210207 | lee hubbel



i am not unmade by your wishes | rose younglove

laramidia | paz regueiro



i look at my naked body with a censor bar | baz crow

tender declarations | rose younglove



glitchy | kate deslauries

utopia | theo poling



boxed in | theo poling

womanhood and i get into fights | isabella crow



secondhand shoes | rose younglove

20210108 | lee hubbel



the label crisis | emma laible

mama drives me home | paz regueiro



you are bleeding | kate deslauries

held apart | xochi sanchez

33 202110109 | lee hubbel

Letter from the Editor: Hi, all. Welcome to the first yearly edition of the Trans and GNC Arts Review, Spring-Fall 2021: Given. This name was chosen from one of our submissions, and encapsulates a general theme found in the content for this year: a feeling of transactions, transitions, gives and takes, gifts and sacrifices. Being trans is infinitely many things, and is represented uniquely in all individuals, but our society often frames our thoughts, our expressions, our relationships, ourselves. This magazine was started in a pandemic in a fully-virtual school year by a new student, adding to a feeling of change, transition, giving what you can, and having things taken from you. It’s been a difficult year, but an absolutely wonderful one, too; change often means growth. We hope to grow even more, together, with you, into the next year, and beyond. Thank you for reading. Theo

WE WANT YOUR SUBMISSIONS Have experience with gender? Let’s talk about that! TaGAR is an inclusive, safe, ally-welcome space to discuss gender and its intersections in society. The work we create, read, celebrate, and publish shares, expresses, criticizes, celebrates, and questions gender in many different ways. Any kind of art--visual, written, mixed media, auditory--is welcome, as long as it was created with gender in mind or by an author who has interacted with gender in their own ways. Every year, we publish a new volume, and host talks, open mic nights, events, and discussions. Join us to create new art or submit your existing art to the next edition of the magazine. Here are different ways to get in touch with us, attend meetings, and submit: email: ig: transgncartsreview linktree: website: issuu: transgncartsreview Thanks!

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The House that She Lived In THEO POLING

They don’t tell you that you have to change the doors. We bought this house knowing it was old. We wanted something with good bones, something that would last. I thought the term “forever home” was a too lighthearted and cheesy way to describe the place I’m eventually going to die in, but that was what we were looking for. A place to settle into. We weren’t travelers. We weren’t particularly social. But it was because we had each other, not because we were goblins or Boo Radleys. Every day waking up next to her was a new adventure. For her, the house has already served its purpose.



and inside them, new doors. The shifting foundation had warped and put pressure on

There were a few things I knew had to be

them. It all had to be redone.

done. Her mother was very practical: we learned how to clean the gutters, dust the

That is what I had a problem with.

light fixtures, and replace the wallpaper ourselves. Her mother was a sturdy woman.

After our walk, after feeding the cat, after

She’d come over in messy jeans and a t-shirt

breakfast, she would disappear into her

and rip out our sink in time for lunch.

writing room, singing a morning song under her breath, a different one every day, of her

I knew the house would be a project, I knew

own creation. As she passed through the

it, but I didn’t know about the doors.

doorway, the open doors, she’d pass her hand over the moulding, over the threshold,

The thing about old houses is that they

and then she’d close the doors. Everything in

become part of the earth. They have a

this house creaked and talked back, but the

concrete foundation dug into the dirt to keep

house would go silent for her ritual. I never

it strong and sturdy. But the thing about

heard that door shut in my life, yet every day,

the earth is that she is ever-moving, ever-

it was closed until mid-afternoon.

changing. No one ever looks into the same creek twice. Someone important said that.

I would leave her to her writing. It was what sustained her, in more ways than one. I don’t

It’s not just water. The silt and the seeds and

remember what I would do during that time.

the roots change and grow and move and

It doesn’t matter anymore. All I remember

shift, and under that are tectonic plates, too,

is that when she was done, she’d swing the

constantly restless.

doors back open, and I’d know. I’d just know. I don’t know if it was the draftiness of the house

After a long enough time, the earth under

or some subtle movement or something

the house moves. It shrugs its shoulders. It

between me and her, but I’d know every time,


and I’d come to see her.

And the house goes along with it. If the earth

The evenings belonged to us. I could listen

shifts to the left, in what will be a hill in 500

to her talk about what she was fixated on that

million years, the house shifts, too, and the

day for hours. The funny thing is, she wasn’t

floors go topsy-turvy. The inspector placed a

much of a talker, except for some evenings

marble on the hardwood floors and it veered

when something gripped her soul and she

straight for the doorway into her writing room.

would have to talk and talk and talk until she

It was going to be expensive, he said. I didn’t

shook it loose. Nothing I said ever seemed to

care about that. We’ll have to rip things up, put

help so I’d just listen.

new supports in, new floors. New doorways,


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I didn’t want the doors gone. But it was a


safety issue, a code inspection thing. If I didn’t want the house to kill me, or if I wanted

When it was brand new in my mind and I was

to sell, I’d have to fix it.

freshly alone, I took it upon myself to remove all indicators of sickness from the house. It

I didn’t particularly care about either of those

was a big project. They were everywhere.

things, but I felt I had to do it. In the garbage cans in the kitchen and the They worked for about six weeks in the

bathroom, hundreds of disposable syringes,

summer to get it all done. Six weeks with

vials, pill packets, bandaids, and other

workboots on the carpet, unfamiliar men

detritus sat. The first thing I did was collect

in my kitchen handing me back the empty

everything. There were a few fallen plastic

glasses I’d filled with lemonade. Six weeks

containers under the bed and by the TV, and

watching the house turn into a construction

I grabbed those too. Then I swung everything

project and then back into a house again.

into the trash bin outside, letting the lid slam shut with a definitive whump.

I expected to feel relieved the first day they were gone and the work was done. But when

I didn’t quite know what to do with the IV pole

I came downstairs that morning, there was

by the bed, or the oxygen concentrator. They

a great, gaping pit in my stomach, sucking

were both big and awkward, and staring at

everything into it, even my breath.

them for too long was starting a fire under my feet and behind my eyes, so I just grabbed

The doorway was still there. But the paint

them. I pulled something in my back when

was blindingly white. The hinges were bright

I hauled them downstairs in one trip, but it

gold instead of a weary, browned brass. The

didn’t matter. All that mattered was getting

floorboards matched the rest of the house

them by the curb. Getting them out.

in staining and width, but they didn’t dip in the middle. They weren’t dull with years of

There was some stuff in the fridge, too, and

footsteps, scratched by the cat’s claws. They

out it went. Then I noticed the upcoming

shone, hard and strong and even, as if they’d

appointments on the calendar, so I threw

never been touched.

the whole thing out. That started a flurry of realizations, until the trash cans were full

I tried to force the image of her movements,

again, and those went out, too.

her billowing skirt, onto this image of the bright white door and the shiny floor, but it

There was a calm after that. I stood in the

didn’t fit. That’s not where she had been.

middle of the living room with my hands on

And that was only the start of it all.

my hips surveying the world around me. It looked a little normal again, but I could still smell the sickness, could feel it clinging to


every surface. I


detergent I’d bought.







wash: rugs.

It didn’t smell like her. Nothing did. Not the


bed, not the couch, not the doorway to her

dusted and vacuumed and carpet cleaned,

writing room. I’d killed every last particle of

borrowing her mom’s machine to really get

her floating through the air.

to the deepest layer of everything, to soak it all in bleach.

And the harder I tried to remember her smell the more it slipped through my fingers like

The smell of sickness was replaced with a

I was a sieve. Brains are awful that way,

sterile smell, a hospital one, and I hated that

polluting and corrupting memories the more

even more.

you access them, but I couldn’t stop. I tried to remember how she smelled after a shower

I cleaned everything as if I were preparing

or being out in the rain. I tried to remember

the house for a party. I scrubbed the grout

how she smelled after going for a run. I tried

in the showers and ran a washcloth over the

to remember how she smelled when she fell

inside of cabinets and behind the washing

asleep on my shoulder. How she smelled

machine. When I was done, it was spotless.

when she woke up, one note at a time, in a

This was enough to keep me going until the

gentle song, along with the sun, which was

clean smell faded.

too early for me, but I always tried to catch that moment.

When another smell returned, it was wrong. It took me a long time to track it down, to

I couldn’t remember. I couldn’t, I couldn’t, I

figure out the problem. For months, it just

couldn’t. Part of me knew it, instinctively, it

wormed in the back of my brain, digging

was deeply rooted in me. It was a part of me.

past the bark, rotting the wood. I shivered

If I could smell it, I’d know it immediately, no

as autumn fell around me. The first autumn

matter where I was: in Paris or in a sewer. I’d


know her any day.

I had a bad night. I had a dream. Not a bad

But I couldn’t summon it, and I couldn’t find

one. A perfectly regular one. She made me

it anywhere. Even her favorite blanket, gone

eggs for breakfast but they were too runny.

unused all summer because it was thick with

I ate them anyway. I woke up with the flavor

wool, trapped at the bottom of the linen

in my mouth and her crow’s feet on my mind.

closet, just smelled like moths.

I leaned over, instinctively, curling over the other side of the bed, the space where she

After that, I noticed the absence everywhere.

should be. I breathed in deeply.

There’d been a stain by the right armrest of the couch for years, for years and years, from

Nothing. Nothing but the new laundry

when she spilled butter for the popcorn. We


spring-fall 2021

kept meaning to clean it up but we never did.

touched by her. Never kissed by her. Eyes that

It eventually got covered up by a cat bed and

never met her. And seven years after that, I

we forgot about it, but when she was gone

will be dead or demented. The memories will

and the cat was gone, the cat bed went. And

shatter like old clay pots found in the earth

when I cleaned, so did the stain.

by archeologists.

The room no longer carried the memory of

And one day, one day, she will be gone.

her laughing in embarrassment. She usually had a laugh I’d describe as cute, but she’d

I keep trying to catch her in my hands

been so mortified after ruining the carpet just

somehow. But every couple of months, every

a few weeks after moving in that her laugh

couple of years, I use up her shampoo. I

adopted a wheeze, an in, out, in, out wheeze

rip the kitchen rug and replace it. Even the

like a donkey in a cartoon. I couldn’t help

window casings had to be replaced. They

but laugh at her, which only made her laugh

look different now. Maybe the old windows

harder until the whole mess was forgotten.

were leaded, were original to the house.

If I grow old, a prospect I’m not keen on, I will

How long until she is gone? Until the house

develop Alzheimer’s like both my parents

has new skin cells, new bones, new organ

did. I will begin to lose it. And, without that

material? And when I am gone, the people

stain there, I will forget the popcorn incident

who live here next will never have known her,

ever happened.

and there will be nothing of her to uncover from the house. No story to be told.

Smell by smell, memory by memory, I will forget her.

I am stuck in a perpetual paradox. If I think about her too long I fear for the memories

It sounds impossible. We spent fourteen years

I’m changing, I fear for the hands that haven’t

together. From day one, we were inseparable,

held her in so long, and my chest goes tight.

hanging out every day, ostracizing our friends

My head goes tight. I’m scared to think about

by accident. They say your entire body is new


every seven years: new skin cells, new bone, new organ material. I became a whole new

But I am so, so scared not to do it. To avoid

person molded entirely by her in that time.

the thought, the horrible sadness, the grief,

My brain filled up with knowledge about

the paranoid fear. To live on like a regular

her: her favorite sugary breakfast cereal, the

person, distracting myself with food and

limited number of things in life she actually

movies and work. No matter how debilitating

hated, including squirrels.

it is, to ignore it all would be worse. It would only speed up the forgetting, not delay it.

But my body is still changing. In another seven years, I will have a body that was never

It’s like touching a statue every day and


expecting it not to go brassy and shiny. Our

doors shut to write. The wallpaper was red

skin has oils, oils that break down the patina

and gaudy, with collages of fat flowers. The

of the copper and brass and make it change

bookshelves were old and ornate, but the

color. There is nothing you can do to stop it.

wrong stain color, too dark. There was a

You are a human being.

round dehumidifier in the corner and two wicker trash cans.

Every day something else withers. Something else is worn down, just a little bit, but over

And, along the north wall, her desk. Her huge,

time, it will be unrecognizable.

dark, clunky, solid wood desk, original to the house. The previous owners hadn’t wanted

I haunt the house like a ghost, unable to

to drag the behemoth out, so they’d left it,

enjoy it, unable to leave it.

and she had adopted it and taken care of it, covered it in computers and typewriters and

There is one room I didn’t clean, one room

sticky notes and journals and pens.

that was only touched by workmen. And there it sat, still covered with those I was never allowed in there before. When

things, as if its occupant would return at any

she was writing, she was somewhere else,

moment to continue her work.

and the pages she left behind were sacred mementos of her time there. It was not a

I sat down in the chair as if possessed.

spoken rule, but I gave her her space. She

Before, this would have been a violation, an

always needed a space of her own, that was

illicit thing. Now, I thought nothing of it. I sat,

just hers, and the writing room was it.

my hands hovering over the surface of the desk. What to touch first? I was crippled by

I had to let the workmen in to replace the

indecision, afraid to move something and

door, and then later, to plunge deeper into

erase another tiny piece of her from the

the room to remove the window casings.


I couldn’t help myself. After they left, I

This was the last piece left.

glanced inside. I let out a breath, and it stirred the dust. I It was a space separate to what the rest of the

sneezed, and a paper slid across the desk,

house had become. It was like an abandoned

careening toward the edge. Out of instinct I

museum, the artifacts preserved in dust and

snatched it out of the air.

stillness. Before I could stop myself, I was reading it. But it was still familiar. God, it was familiar.

It was in her handwriting in a smudgy, leaky

I’d glanced inside a million times before,

pen. She was left-handed, so the margins

innocently, right before she’d swung the

were covered in blurry fingerprints from the


spring-fall 2021

ink staining her hand.

was part of it. Even if I forget, if history never remembers in the first place, it still happened.

It was a journal entry. From June, so recent, so long ago.

And here, on her desk, are millions and millions of her thoughts.

It was a grocery list and a brainstorming list of what to get me for my birthday. At the

I spent the next few months reading through

bottom, she left a note to herself:

everything in the journals and on the computer and on the desk. I took pictures

Feeling kind of foggy today. I know the tests

and typed it up myself. There was one way

will come back bad, and I know it will break

she could be remembered forever. She could

her. Hoping to give her everything before it

be summoned in my muddled, aging brain.

runs out.

She could be here for others to read about.

A tear hit the page, then another, then another.

I wrote about her with a fervor that burned

I hadn’t cried once since it happened, but the

out quickly. I got the big stuff down first, the

water had been pushing at the dam, which

habits she had and the things I loved about

had just been blasted to bits.

her. I filled it in with details and quotes. I cleaned up her desk and put her work in

I sobbed, big and ugly, sucking in jagged

folders on the bookshelf.

breaths and moaning them back out, eyes scrunched up, lip wobbling like a child. I cried

And now, every morning, I walk under the

and cried and cried, sitting hunched over at

new door frame, sliding my hands along its

her desk and getting tears all over that note,

edges, and silently close the doors before

blurring the words until they mixed together,

sitting at the desk and working until mid-

but I still remembered them.


I would remember them for a long time. Not forever, but a long time, I knew. I missed her so much. It hurt every day, a new wound, but this was a good pain. There is more to missing her than cataloging things. Filing memories and objects away, holy, untouchable. There is more to missing her than forgetting her. She lived a wonderful life here, with me, I




spring-fall 2021

I am not unmade by your wishes ROSE YOUNGLOVE

I am not unmade by your wishes Curves and soft lips and hazel eyes I always wanted to be green How many times must I reinvent myself Before I am satisfied I understand the appeal of continually moving Of shredding a shell to awaken new feathers But I am so tired And ready to be satisfied with who I am I am afraid I am not meant to be what I am The pitter patter adaptation is too slow Too unenthusiastic And for some too much at all Blue lights from laptops Telling me I can be everything and more I am so tired of being only to be changing Damn the thrill of change I want consistency Please rip the raw wrappers of your rage From my grasps I am not unmade by your wishes Just unloved


I dreamt of God And he told me Do not become complacent But I am so tired And I want to give in completely With no shame No regrets Just silence and consistency I am afraid I am not meant to be what I am When I rip up the definition of me My courage is melodic, inspiring It cannot be empty Not shameful or so very tired What frame shall I cram myself into To hide from my growing boredom and discontent Am I grasping for thinly veiled escapes in my efforts to wrap myself under a new skin


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i look at my naked body with a censor bar BAZ CROW

once a month i meet the person i am becoming / in some kind of butch reading of the tea dregs / or rather the scraps of hair buzzed from my scalp / wilted on the creaky polish of the barbershop floor. / i am not a pretty girl / i do not remember the last time i was. / call me a winter stag loose of his horns, / the bull without the dagger, / a thousand packing peanuts in soggy cardboard. / my body is lucky to have me, though i am stored / entirely in the crawlspace beneath my left collarbone. / the rest of me is a flushed misshapen / pillsbury dough boy-girl / fucked up hybrid where god took the bad parts of both gingerbread cookie-cutter shapes / and baked me all in one giant lump. / i hope i am still edible / i am pink and inflamed. / my body is like some great picked-at scab / and i’m always happy to offer up its blood. / how can you look at me and feel anything that looks like love? / i chose to make myself / into this halfway house for people i’m not quite ready to be. / i recoil like i’ve been burned / if i am touched / though i’ve never been burned, / nor touched. / i dream only of an / imaginary dick / i don’t want and will never have, / oh what the hell, / sew it on, cover me up, / let me slide into someone who is blind / and sees not this pinked-up-fuckedup body-of-mine / but feels what i am making them feel, / which is goodness, / which is my redemption.




spring-fall 2021


My life does not fit nicely into boxes. It doesn’t even fit into brand new boxes, or boxes of my own design. No, the pieces of my life spill out everywhere, like confetti, and it is beautiful. I am nonbinary. A lot of people think being nonbinary is a “third” box-that there’s boy, girl, and neither. That boys use “he” and girls use “she” and nonbinary people use “they.” Being nonbinary is not a third box. It is not just neutral descriptors like person or sibling. Nonbinary people do not have to be androgynous. They don’t need to be named Alex or Jordan. Nonbinary means outside of the binary, outside of construction--not making a “tri-nary” instead. Nonbinary people can use “she.” They can be comfortable being called a guy. Both of those things can be true at the same time in the same person. The dazzling, boxless magic of my identity is the woven layers of difference that other people might find at odds, unable to mesh. I’ve had my very existence challenge folks who love their boxes. Their stares mean nothing when someone else sees hope for themselves in me.


I am not contradictory. I am not hypocritical. No, I am magical. I listen to my inner spirit and I try to make that confetti of light and foxes as happy as possible. I wear pink dresses and I write stories where I am a prince. Sometimes I grow my hair out. Sometimes I don’t. No matter how I’m perceived, I am always me. For some people, it can be excruciating to process that there are other boxes, there are things that aren’t boxes, and there are absences of things. It’s like we’re taught from birth to recognize Blue and Yellow. If some people have a really tough time with Light Blue or Neon Yellow, imagine how they’d react to Green! We’re not even bringing up Purple yet-that might overwhelm them. I love my multicolored identity because it fits me perfectly. My identity shows people that there are more ways to think and more ways to be. Some people like their boxes, but the people who want to step outside of them or change them should never feel scared. We should be celebrating any time someone explores something new, even if they eventually change their minds. All exploration is you giving attention and care to yourself. All of it is growing flowers and confetti in your mind. We can only see the truth of each other’s hearts if we can see beyond the walls of our boxes.


spring-fall 2021

Secondhand Shoes Parker leaves ROSE YOUNGLOVE

a squeaking, rubber red trail over the wet concrete. Parker is eight years old. It is sprinkling outside on a warm, Friday afternoon. Parker’s mother insists they wear shoes outside, even though Parker loves the wet dirt and grass against their feet and between their toes. Parker and their mother’s relationship requires compromise. “You’ll catch a cold out there without proper shoes on, young lady,” their mother, Mrs. Brown, had fussed. Parker’s baby sister, Aiysha, is curled up in Mrs. Brown’s arm, cradled by a bright pink blanket. The baby sleeps on, oblivious to the conflict around her. Aiysha is like a new pet to her mother, like the turtles whose necks are


wrapped in stripes of black and green. But

smile is wide.

Aiysha is wrapped in soft colors and her dark curls are held back in a sewn headband. A

Parker wears their fluffy hair in curly brown

red rose is stitched into the right corner of the

pigtails, each one tied off with an elastic

adornment. Their mother smiles and tucks a

and a red plastic bear. Their mother loves

curl under the pink fabric.

to accessorize, and so does Parker. They are similar in many ways. Just the way their

“Aiysha is still so young…” Mrs. Brown had

mother likes.

paused, unsure how to address this sentence to her child in denial. “She’s so young,

Mrs. Brown loves the color red. Parker thinks

sweetheart. What if you give your baby sister

red is captivating and explosive, like the

a cold?” their mother had said, gazing at the

breath of a dragon. Red is hot, and loud, and

sleeping baby with awe. She then turned back


to Parker and frowned. Their mother is strong. Parker wears the rain boots. Mrs. Brown works on the PTA with Zahra’s Their rain boots splash in scattered puddles.

mother. Zahra’s mother is a tall, happy

Parker’s already unsteady balance wobbles

woman with a smile that takes up half of

in too big of shoes. The squeaking, sticky

her face. Like mother, like daughter: Zahra

material of the shoes smells strong—the

always finds something nice to say about

sticky, rubbery scent Parker doesn’t like. Their

others. Zahra says that Parker’s mom makes

mother doesn’t like when Parker complains

the best cookies. Parker agrees. The warm,

about sounds and smells, so Parker keeps

mouthwatering chocolate chip cookies melt

these thoughts to themself. Parker means

in Parker’s mouth and their wandering hands

to quiet their thoughts and think something

always found a way to snag another cookie

more acceptable, but their mind is now

from their mother’s glass bowl.

consumed with thoughts of their mother. “Stop that,” their mother scolded, ignoring They wish their mother had come outside

Parker’s wide eyes. Parker’s shoulders pooled

to play, to splash and laugh and be loud, to

around their neck like an oversized life jacket.

be like Parker and to be okay with that. But

They swallowed nervously and nodded with

Mrs. Brown detests the rain. Oh well. Parker’s

their mother’s next statement. “Too many

laughter bounces and bubbles out of them

sweets are bad for ladies of any age.”

like uncertain raindrops. Parker’s hands clench into tiny fists as water splashes against their

Parker loves their mother very much even


when her words made their stomach hurt and their throat dry. Those comments, her

The dimples in Parker’s cheeks glow and their

comments, hurt with a thick, uncomfortably


spring-fall 2021

wet weight like the tremble of Parker’s chin

She is strong, committed, certain in everything

when school becomes too much. They do not

that she does, and always, always in red. Mrs.

like school. Parker retreats from the weight of

Brown loves the color red. She wears it on her

school with glittery pencils and the dinosaur

lips and drinks a glass of it with each meal.

erasers they stuff into their pencil case. Mrs.

She whispers red secrets into Mr. Brown’s

Brown casts a shadow over Parker’s mind, but

mouth when she thinks Parker isn’t looking.

they are unsure if this shadow is a reflection or

Parker has seen the red stains over Mrs.

a rebuke. After all, how can their mother have

Brown’s fork or her father’s cheek before he

anything but good intentions? Those thoughts

left for work.

weigh too heavily on Parker’s shoulders, like freezing raindrops rolling down their

Parker is entranced by the subtle, scarlet

back. Parker closes their eyes and exhales,

clues. A stamp of Mrs. Brown’s existence

reminding themselves of every kindness Mrs.

bleeding into the lives of others. After all, their

Brown has shown them.

mother rarely kisses anyone on the cheek. Parker had not understood why their mother

Parker stomps into a large puddle, watching

pressed her lips to their father’s face or

the clear water turn red over their rainboots.

Aiysha’s rosy cheeks. But her mother had said

Parker attempts to shake off the bad, not-

it was important.

mothering glare she had gave them. Mrs. Brown loves them, and Parker loves her.

Their mother knows a great deal and perhaps,

Instead, Parker thinks of every reason she

Parker thinks, their mother knows everything.

and her mother are so similar. When Parker

She shows Parker how to eat at the dinner

isn’t staining their clothes or sneaking cookies

table and which clothes best match Parker’s

from a glass jar, that is. When Parker wears

eyes. She speaks her way through teacher’s

pink and molds themself into a taller, stronger

meetings where Parker is called “unique,”

person. Like Aiysha who is quiet and good. Or,

“curious,” “overzealous,” or any deplorable

at least, that’s how Parker imagines Aiysha will

synonym for Parker’s behavior in class. School

grow up to be.

is a topic of disdain between Parker and Mrs. Brown. Parker is loud, Parker is unsociable,

Aiysha is good because Aiysha is like their

Parker is anything except red, strong, and



Parker loves the way their mother seems to

“Another low grade,” her mother had

dance through the halls, a tune in her mouth.

whispered last night.

Mrs. Brown has many admirable qualities, but what Parker admires the most is their mother’s

Parker had come downstairs to ask their

sense of style. Mr. Brown likes Mrs. Brown too.

parents to come say goodnight. Their feet

He loves to hold her waist and laugh with her

stopped on the stairs as they listened to their

over dinner. Everyone loves Parker’s mother.

parents talk. Parker stood on their tip toes,


their dark head curling over the railing of the

“You weren’t always so aware of your strength

steps. A crumpled sheet covered in Parker’s

and beauty,” he said softly. “And neither was

messy scrawl sat on the kitchen table. Mrs.

I. Remember how dim Mr. Brown was, Mrs.

Brown sighed audibly, staring up at Mr. Brown.


“She’ll never surpass them at this point, dear,”

Their mother looked up at him and sniffled, a

she had said.

wet sound Parker thought they had imagined. As quickly as it had occurred the sniffle

Parker frowned, their brow quirking as their

passed, struggling to turn into a wet laugh

mother spoke. Who was she talking about?

from their mother’s red lips.

What girl? Mr. Brown smiled, “How can we fault Parker for “Parker is special, unique. She’ll-” he cleared

not knowing where they need help?”

his throat, frowning. “Parker needs some help, but don’t we all?”

He ran a hand through his wife’s hair, smiling at her like she was something gentle and

“She’ll never get anywhere in life if she wastes

complicated. It reminded Parker of their desk

time arguing with her teachers over her name,”

at school, crowded and heavy and seconds

she frowned. She bit her lip, before her dark

from falling out of its container. Parker had

eyes met her husband’s. Something in her

inhaled sharply, startling further when Mr.

eyes was big, bigger than the feelings that she

Brown’s gaze returned to the stairs.

showed Parker. Parker tiptoed further down the stairs to get a better view of their mother.

Parker had used that moment to sneak back

The air felt heavy in the room, thick and

up the stairs into their too pretty, too pink

uncomfortable as if too many hot tears had

bedroom. Parker was too boisterous, too… too

fallen down Parker’s face.

much of something their mother clearly didn’t want. Parker’s eyes were dark brown. The only

Those same tears threatened to fall now.

red in Parker’s life was through their mother

Parker’s father spoke something soft and

and over their report card.

held Mrs. Brown’s hand. His gaze wandered to the stairs, and Parker bit their lip, hoping

Parker is not sure why school was difficult

they had not been seen. But whatever was

for them, only that it is. A small part of Parker

bothering their father was dismissed in favor

thinks their eyes are to blame. Their dark

of comforting their mother.

brown eyes are a continuous source of critique. Parker’s mother always uses their

“Parker,” Mr. Brown stressed, the hand on his

eyes as an excuse to buy them “more colorful

wife’s back supportive but strong. “Parker… will


be okay. She’s – Parker is a tough kid. They just need some help, my dear.”

Mrs. Brown takes great joy in dressing Parker


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up. The itchy, lace collars and the thick, frilly

“Yes, covered by mud- mud, Janice,” Mrs.

pink waves of satin skirts above Parker’s

Brown says, frowning as she balanced the

MaryJane’s. Parker tries their best to be as

phone against her ear.

colorful in school as they are in clothing. Parker wants to be confident, ambitious, and

“How am I supposed to recover in time for the

strong like their mother.

party? Yes, I know mom is coming, Jan, thank you.”

But as they grow older it becomes more apparent that Parker is not the right kind of

Mrs. Brown sighs and, had her hands been


free, Parker expects she would have run one over her face. Parker had been torn between offering to go shopping with their mother and staying home. Somewhere along the lines their line of communication had snapped, and Parker isn’t sure how to string it back together.

Parker is 11 years old, and the rain puddles are

It reminds Parker of the red and brown leaves

pooling into the front yard.

crumpling under their rainboots, slowly being pulled apart. Parker stares down at their

Mrs. Brown grumbles to herself as she carries

rainboots crushing the brown leaves. Their red

in bags from the car, probably something to

rainboots, of course.

do with the tulips drowning in the downpour. The pink petals clasp to one another like rats

Parker had wanted another pair of shoes, not

in the rain. Parker does not dislike flowers,

the dark red boots adorning their feet. But

they just… don’t understand their appeal.

it was either red boots or the pink rainboots

Flowers are nothing special, after all. They

their mother had cooed over. Don’t these

grow, they drink in the water, and they sit in

look nice, she had asked. Wouldn’t you like a

the sun just like Parker. Parker wears pink, but

nice pair of boots with flowers on the sides?

no one ever seems as endeared with Parker

And wouldn’t Parker like to try on the pink

as they are with their mother’s tulips.

shoes? Aiysha loved her pink and purple striped rainboots, and didn’t Parker want to try

Mrs. Brown, however, tends to the flowers as

something new?

if they were brought from her womb and not some pale, bony looking seeds hiding in the

Their father had suggested another pair of

dirt. They aren’t pretty, they’re plain, and yet

shoes, a dark green pair with polka dots, but

everyone loves them for exactly what they

Mrs. Brown had shushed him and returned

are. Parker frowns at the tulips. They have an

to her own suggestions. He’d sighed after his

unexpected source of pride that they didn’t

second suggestion was ignored. Parker and

fall under the rain like those fragile flowers.

Mr. Brown had stared at one another then, both wondering when the other would again


have the courage to speak up.

store, tucked away behind an obnoxious pair of hot pink ruffled shoes- blegh. But then

“Jamar says the house looks clean but

Parker sees them, the perfect pair. Or at least,

how are we supposed to recover from this

Parker imagines that’s what it will be like when

downpour? No, I can’t ask her. She’s playing

they go shopping.

in the mud. Because that is what she does, Jan. Has that child ever shown the slightest

Parker is 14 years old and their parents want

interest in interacting with others?”

to stop at the mall to look at dresses, well, their mother does. Mr. Brown is just here for

Parker ignores their mother’s prattling of a

the pretzel special. He brags about the buy

name they refused to use, and a party they

one get one free bargain to Parker over the

do not want to prepare for. Parties mean

pretzels and smoothies. Parker doesn’t see

uncomfortable dresses and too many people

why it’s a big deal, but they try their best to

hugging them for too long in a big house

listen as he gestures around the blue tiled

turned too small with all of them breathing in

mall. He laughs at something Aiysha says and

the same space. It is this fear which pushed

bumps her nose with his index finger.

Parker outside, reminding them of the joys of an imperfect yard, of a place where you did

Mrs. Brown seems frustrated with the

not have to act like a lady.

boisterous crowd following her, the rest of the Browns. Parker finds it odd since their

“Aiysha catches colds so easily, especially this

mother is normally so eager to please. She

time of year.”

takes great pride in her presence anywhere. Perhaps the rest of her family takes away from

Ah, their little sister. Yes, the party is this

that, or perhaps its just Parker’s fault again.

weekend! Aiysha’s fifth birthday is only a few days away. Parker can picture it now, the front

Parker thinks they’ve been quite successful

yard wrapped in rose gold lighting and the

in keeping their thoughts to themself. But

trees filled with pink streamers.

something in Parker’s expression must give them away. Is it the curve of their hand against

Mrs. Brown wouldn’t dare touch her precious

their cheek as they stare off at another store?

flowers, but the fading brown leaves of

Whatever the reason, Mr. Brown waves a hand

Autumn are to be wrapped in pink silk. Mrs.

in front of Parker’s face, saying the wrong

Brown prefers everything to be wrapped in

name, the name that doesn’t belong to them.

pretty, obedient silence. “Hey kiddo, what’s going on in there today?” He laughs. “You seem more spaced out than usual.” The shoes are hidden in the corner of a thrift

Parker isn’t sure if its an accusation or a


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statement. But they are intrigued by it.

Aiysha is no longer laughing. The eight year

Their father smiles and begins waving his

old stares at Parker with perplexed, hazel

hands around in dramatic gestures. He says

eyes. Her bouncing legs are now still against

something else and Aiysha laughs again.

the plastic, green food court booth. She can

Aiysha, wearing the purple butterfly jacket

never sit still. Parker has never wanted their

and a pink jumper that their mom let her pick

sister to be loud more than right now. They


had expected an instant answer. What did Aiysha expect? Her gaze drifts from Parker

“-ah? Hey kiddo, are you listening?” Their

to her father, her bottom lip shaking with

father asks, his eyebrows raised. “I thought

what Parker can only assume is an uncertain

maybe you, Aiysha, and I could have some

question about mothers and love.

time to ourselves around the store. How about it?”

“She never wants me to look like me,” Parker continues. “Or- or let me call myself me. Is that

Parker nods, half listening, half stuck in their

why she’s shopping alone?”

own thoughts of butterflies and red rainboots and drowned flowers. It seems like everything

“I… well,” their father blinks, his usually smooth

their mother loves is destined to be destroyed.

voice falling flat. “Sometimes your mother

Its like Aiysha’s smile, sweet but fragile. In

needs… alone time. And when adults need

an odd moment of clarity Parker voices this

alone time, they still love their children very

thought out loud or, they mean to, but instead


the real question on their mind is spoken into the air.

Parker frowns. “If she wants to be away from us how do you know that? How do you know

Their brown eyes stare up at their calm, easily

that she loves us?”

smiling dad. Mr. Brown blinks, opening his mouth and “Does mom like me?”

then closing it again. His lips flap with half spoken words and uneven breaths before

He blinks rapidly. The smile drops so quickly

he shakes his head, smiling at her. Suddenly

from his face that Parker wonders if it was ever

it becomes especially important for them to

there. This is their father, the one with all the

go shoe shopping. Their father prattles on

answers and stories. But his calm, knowing

about nothing of significance while holding

expression of ease and experience crumples.

their hand. Or perhaps it is exactly the answer

The uncertaincity pulls into a crease between

Parker is looking for and they just didn’t hear

his brow. His brown eyes stare down at Parker

it. They have never been very good at asking

as he tilts his head.

for what they really want and are even less equipped to take the directions to get there.

“Does your mother- does she… what?”

But the blue shoes in the windowsill spoke to


Parker like nothing else has.

so. But Parker’s dad speaks before they can even open their mouth. Where did he come

In a dusty window sits an orange tabby cat.


The window barricades a gray carpet with bright shoes. But the cat doesn’t pay the

“Hello,” he says, his calm mannerisms having

shoes any mind. The cat is rolling around, its

returned. “My children and I would like to see

head moving from side to side. Eventually

the blue, lace up shoes in the store window.”

the cat falls against a pair of worn shoes. Big, chunky blue shoes that call their name. It’s as

He gazes at Parker and Aiysha. Parker in

if the cat is talking to Parker, as if they want

the crumpled, red dinosaur t-shirt they had

Parker to have the shoes.

begged their parents for at the museum. Aiysha, in her butterfly jacket with her braids

Parker grabs Aiysha’s hand, startling the little

tied off in pink elastics. Parker’s hair is far too

girl, but Parker is too excited to care. Maybe

short to be handled by their mother now.

today will be the day. They run towards the

Parker had unsuccessfully tried shaving

store. It’s lined with blinking red and blue

their hair off last Wednesday at three in the

lights. The scarlet would normally have been


enough to deter them. But the shoes are waiting, and Parker doesn’t want anyone else

Their father buys the blue shoes.

to take them. And just like that its decided. Their father pulls Aiysha laughs and asks what Parker is looking

out his leather wallet and counts out dollars

for until they point to the tennis shoes. Then,

until the shop keeper nods. He has no hair

Aiysha’s eyes follow Parker’s fingers- the

and Parker realizes a little too late that they’re

periwinkle shoes with white laces, standing

staring at the man. Parker’s gaze drops to the

tall amongst pink heels and red sandals.

floor. But the man isn’t angry. He laughs and

The toes of the shoes are slightly scuffed,

smiles with all of his teeth when Parker waves.

wrapped in ashy grays and dotted with a few

Then he places the bag on the store’s counter.

scattered orange stains on the blue fabric. Parker insists on holding the shoe bag. Their Parker loves them.

arms cradle the white plastic like a baby. Their father smiles at Parker. He holds Aiysha’s hand

The shoes sit in the crook of Parker’s arm

and offers Parker the other. They smile but

when they run into the store. They did not

shake their head. If Parker were to hold the

mean to run, of course. Parker had meant to

bag with one hand the shoes could drop or

slowly walk up to the cashier, gesture to the

knock into something. These are their shoes,

shoes, and play around with the price. Parker

picked out just for them. Parker is so happy

has seen enough TV shows to know what

they forget to thank their father. Parker is lost

gambling is, and they had fully intended to do

in thought until they see their mother.


spring-fall 2021

Their mom is also cradling something. She’s

blinks at the small human. Aiysha smiles and

standing next to a woman in an orange kaftan.


The orange woman’s hair is wrapped in a dark blue scarf. The dark blue outlines her dark

“Look, Parker!” she says. “It’s a baby!”

features like a crayon. Her shopping cart rests at her hip, waiting. But the woman is too busy

Adebowale smiles. She pats Aiysha’s curls and

talking to Parker’s mom and staring at the

nods at their mother. Normally, Parker is afraid

package in her arms.

of people’s hands and their touches. She would stand in front of Aiysha. But Adebowale

“Woah, woah,” their father laughs, shaking his

is so warm and sincere Parker can’t imagine


her hurting someone. She’s nurturing. Parker is surprised to find themself liking Adebowale

The woman in blue raises her eyes at Parker’s

so easily. Adebowale directs her next smile to

dad. But their mother places an arm on her

Parker’s mom.

shoulder and she laughs then. The woman in blue has a name, and Parker would very much

“Very bright, this one,” she says of Aiysha.

like to know what it is. What is so special about this woman to interest their mother?

“Miss Adebowale,” Aiysha responds. “What’s a-

The blue woman notices Parker’s gaze and

what’s a Chicory?”

waves a hand, like they’re old friends meeting at a birthday party and not two strangers in a

The woman laughs. “No, no little one. His


name is Chikere. That means he was created by God, just like you and your family. He is a

“Forgive me,” the woman laughs. “My name is


Adebowale.” Mrs. Brown nods. She isn’t responding to The woman’s voice is written in cursive. Or

Adebowale. She’s just looking at the baby.

so Parker thinks. Her mouth curls around the

Parker doesn’t understand because their

letter s and holds o in her mouth for a long

mother always stresses the importance of

time. Adebowale is all hands and smiles, and it

answering when someone is talking to you.

turns out she isn’t a stranger to Parker’s mom.

But their mother doesn’t speak. She just

Neither is the blue cloth in their mother’s arms.

watches the cooing baby. And then her gaze skirts to Parker. She smiles.

Adebowale smiles fondly at Aiysha and Parker. “Would you like to see? This is Chikere.”

“Yes, they’re both very bright.” She says.

Oh. Their mother isn’t swaddling clothes or

Aiysha wants to hold the baby and there is a

shoes. In her arms is a bundle of fingers and

lot of jumping and talking before she settles

a crinkled nose on face of dark toffee. Parker

down on the floor. Their mother doesn’t say a


word about the dirty floor. She doesn’t even say its rude to sit on the floor instead of a chair. She watches Aiysha and it reminds Parker of the years when Aiysha was just a swaddled bunch against their mom’s chest. Parker doesn’t feel safe holding a baby and shakes their head at the offer. They expect their mother to be upset with the refusal. But she isn’t. She’s just quiet. Eventually she waves her old friend goodbye, leaving a smiling Adebowale and a giggling Chikere to their shopping. Mr. Brown is close behind his family as they exist the store. Their mother holds Aiysha and Parker’s hands on the way out to the car. Parker doesn’t expect their mother to give their hair any attention. Not with how short they cut it. But their mother finds a way to run her hand through their hair, whatever the length. She isn’t mad. She’s soft. She nods at Parker’s bag with a smile when everyone gets in the car. “I like your shoes,” she says. Parker smiles at her.


spring-fall 2021

the label crisis EMMA LAIBLE

there’s a battle over my identity and i’m losing. societal expectations slap labels on my face and leave bruises. none of them fits but i keep trying. i try one on and think am i just lying to myself? what if who i think i am is only who i want to be? there is cold, hard evidence supporting my speculations, but still, what if? what if i’m making these feelings up? what if i just want to “fit in” to the idea of not fitting in? is this just an aftershock of all the ways in which i’ve been wronged? will i carry this trauma with me forever? i don’t like labels that much but if i’m rejecting labels am i rejecting who i am? am i just afraid to come out and say


this is me? because that shit’s terrifying. are my feelings and fears betraying me or is this who i really am? and this is the everlasting identity crisis that i can’t quite escape the constant question that follows me every day no matter where i go but maybe this questioning makes me who i am. maybe this is me.


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you are bleeding KATE DESLAURIES

have you seen the way the ghosts stand on the ice, called by the cold and salt by the thick hot red blood thrumming through your steady veins, to gather in handfuls they stand with their legs wide, to keep steady but still they stumble on the ice and when they fall the skate cuts and blood spills all your past versions and mistakes come out steaming on the glass surface you are grey, blood long gone cold around your face you are blue, slowly feeling the frostbite set it you are pink, heart beats out a regular pace they reach out with quicksharp fingers and quicksharper tongues the reach because they need someone to talk to and you are the only one who can hear; the only one who understands all the past versions are begging you to listen and to play you are bleeding


20210109, 2021, LEE HUBBEL


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Peace in My Senses ROSE YOUNGLOVE

I do not believe I would fear sight If it mirrored the dreams of greater men I could feel the opening of aches And Not Think Of him I shall find no rest in my sight I do not believe I would fear my mouth If I only saw your gains In gaining me Not the weight of another A Hungry Mouth To Feed I shall find no rest in my mouth I do not believe I would fear sound If it knew its place and when to stop Not my ears ringing from endless echoes Nights In Thumping Music please no I shall find no rest in my ears I block the senses out I would not know what to do If I let them in Or anyone with them Until I have Until I have found rest


Red cannot possibly be this soft This kind This understanding But she is I take in her imperfections And find rest in what my eyes see I find peace in my senses Because through them I perceive her and I would not cut out the curve of her frown For the crown of her smile Rather all of it is a blessing As I can only hope I am to her


spring-fall 2021

20210207, 2021, LEE HUBBEL


laramidia PAZ REGUEIRO

do you think it hurt when laramidia fell off

the side of appalachia

she split north america in half

but did it hurt to leave

like when the rib fell off his ribcage


another version of the same man

the pieces became

something else

do you think it hurt? do you think that when laramidia got cut off

did anyone tell her?

the floor didn’t go out under her

she is the floor

the sea rose so fast

the floor didn’t go out under her

when you imbue something with that much flood

you try keeping your balance appalachia unrelenting—

laramidia tried keeping her balance

do you think it hurt when she fell off?

the sea rose so fast the sea rose so fast the sea rose so fast

the sea rose so fast tagar

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Tender Declarations ROSE YOUNGLOVE I want to say I love you Like a needle through my skin I want to say I love you In the way Adam first tasted sin I adore you and it seems a waste To say something so beautiful In such a humble place If I could do what I wanted to I’d spend a lifetime with you I don’t know how to write an invitation As inviting as your blue eyes I don’t have to justify my existence to you I can exist and be happy In the space we made for each other While holding the other Like the key to open every door I finally feel happy I finally feel free Everything else is falling apart But I know you hold hands with me You make me feel real You make me feel sweet I could write about your smile And the way you spoil me But I’m just so happy That we’re trying to be free


I know it isn’t perfect But all that means is we have More life to bottle together Your favorite color is soft and sweet I want to hear your voice in the morning Your fingers curl in mine Like a bow over red paper The gentle declaration of your adoration Is warm and soft Like bread we’ll bake in the kitchen Before flour dusts my cheek And you cleanse it with a kiss You make me want to be extra To be magnificent To share every part of me with you Until you can walk in my skin blindfolded And the only sense I have Is the warmth of your skin I yearn for your touch in reds and spice And even moreso In soft calls In lily lavished balconies And any song with your name I want to say I love you Like a needle through my skin I want to say I love you In the way Adam first tasted sin I adore you and it seems a waste To say something so beautiful in such a humble place


spring-fall 2021


The news said it was for one year, but my grandmother knew better. Everyone had heard about it, she’d written, ever since it began construction seven years ago. It was a ship--a yacht, a party cruiser, the kind that costs more than the GDP of Ghana. Eleven stories tall, glass decks, private pools, buffets, gambling rooms, anything luxurious you could imagine, it was in those 50,000 square feet. Supposedly, it was a vacation getaway for the hyperelite. A year-long trip away from cities and smog and politics and bad weather. And people, regular people. But my grandmother was the help. She was


a maid. She did room service in fancy hotels,

every major news outlet, and another one

had lived in every major city in the country,

was starting a reality TV show about the

and the company she worked for brought her

yacht that everyone was excited to watch, so

onto the boat as her next gig.

it didn’t surprise my grandmother.

She’d known what it was from the moment

The only thing that surprised her was that

she stepped onboard. She was part of a

she seemed to be the only one who knew.

small staff, but the gardeners, farmers, and

Or, if other people knew, no one was voicing

cooks numbered almost in the triple digits.

it. Out of what--fear, denial, grief--she didn’t

The “sun shade” was state-of-the-art, able to


turn the entire ship into a sealed-off bubble. The day of the launch came with a lot of

She started working on launch day with

hub-bub. It was on the front page of every

her head down ignoring the cameras and

website and on the minds of everyone. It

journalists. She cleaned powder off the

was mostly because of the vacationers

toilets and stacked dozens upon dozens of

involved: the CEOs of the five biggest tech

suitcases into walk-in closets without a word.

companies, numerous oil and gas executives,

Once the ship was out at sea, the mirage

entertainment stars and producers, and

vanished. The reality TV show was mostly

countless politicians, including the president

interviews and short, staged party excursions


out to the olympic pool. They only filmed a few episodes before they stopped caring.

My grandmother’s writing was vitriolic. The letters on the page shook with how her hand

And why should they? They were gone.

must have trembled in rage. This president

There was no internet on the boat, no live TV,

was a hail mary, a euphoric promise after

only a catalog of the best entertainment in

several years under a brutally stupid and

the business, enough to last a lifetime. There

selfish administration. But some people didn’t

was no one to hold them accountable. In their

even know about that, or they didn’t care.

minds, they were beyond the world now. The people they’d left behind were nothing, the

He was supposed to be a savior, a herald of

politics trivial, the concerns laughable.

a new age. But here he was, spending an entire year of his four year term on a boat in

They headed straight for the equator, for the

the Pacific. A mega-yacht with cocaine and

warm, placid waters and great weather. The

tenured sex workers.

ship stayed miles out from any land, using fuel reserves kept on a basement deck that

The news didn’t cover it like some breach

went on for miles. The farmers and gardeners

of democracy, didn’t mention what would

harvested crops every year that the cooks

happen to the country while he was gone,

used in their five star meals.

but one of the CEOs on the boat owned


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One year turned into two, then five, then

on the boat or friends of people on the boat.

seven. Seven whole years my mother worked

All of those geniuses could be bought, of

on that ship, unable to leave, and without

course they could, they wouldn’t get money

pay. The payment they offered her was a bed

to do their research otherwise, and they had

to sleep on, a toilet to shit in, and food to eat.


She could join the other workers that had jumped overboard if it didn’t suit her.

Think about it like a game, my grandmother wrote, a game where you were a god, and

She was cut off from everything, from

you were trying to accomplish something.

everyone. I can’t imagine how lonely it must

Trying to hide something, obscure it. From

have been. But she worked. She was ignored


by the guests, invisible to most. She wrote that she was dumbfounded they managed to







last a whole seven years.

information. Buying news outlets, buying politicians. What about the ethics? What

The boat was built and stocked to last fifty

about the people who will die? What does

years, but none of that mattered. None of

it all matter if the whole planet burns within

the preparation and engineering they did

your lifetime? Before your children can grow

mattered. Hell, the yacht even had a state-of-


the-art climate system to filter out pollutants and refresh the air, one that was easy to make

They know. They always knew. But things that

and not too expensive, but never revealed to

didn’t benefit them in the ways they wanted

the public. It had only been built for the ship.

didn’t get done, and everyone else was at

That was the truth of it all, the truth that my

their mercy.

grandmother wrote over forty pages ranting about. All of the problems were solvable,

I feel my grandmother’s rage each time I

and easily. The amount of money it would

read her words. Each time I read the truth, so

take was out there. The price of each fix-

logical, so simple, but also so evil and cruel

-each effort to help the ice caps, or the

that most people rejected it outright. I can’t

ozone, or the people--was not too bad.

imagine living in a world like that.

There were geniuses out there, people who could figure out how to recycle plastic and

For seven years she worked, imagining her

create renewable energy out of accessible

hometown burning down, people dying, sea

materials. People who could make systems

levels rising, wildfires spreading, consuming

that fed and sustained themselves in a way

entire states, entire countries, with no aid

that wasn’t just neutral to the environment,

ever coming, disorganization suffocating all

but actually helpful.

the good people left. Mass migrations.

But all of the people in power were people

The signs of the end were a long time


coming. There were hints, she recalled, even

Anyone who tried to be a mediator, who tried

on that first day. Guests who would snap at

to resolve conflict, was dealt with quickly.

each other. Vacationers bored and restless after one game of strip poker.

Conspiracy theories and paranoia were king, and people were vying for the crown. But

They tried to elect a board, but everyone

the collateral damage was what killed them.

wanted a position, and everyone wanted

They stopped caring. They stopped caring

something different out of the position. They

about the help, about the things that really

were all vying for power in the ways they’d

mattered, like where their food came from

learned before the yacht, and no one was

and who fixed mechanical and electrical

willing to compromise. They’d never had to


before. None of the guests were cooks or electricians It was only after the cameras turned off and

or plumbers, so when the help worked

the batteries died that it became an actual

together as one mind, unlocking a rescue

reality TV show. The screaming matches

boat and piling onboard, the guests were left

were unscripted. The legions they formed,

to fend for themselves.

the betrayals they wrought, were all real. Alliances could be built and slashed in one

Seven years, my grandmother wrote. She

day over something as simple as a dessert

didn’t have to witness the end to know it

menu item.


They wanted more. More than the 50 years

She wrote down the coordinates of the

of supplies, entertainment, and drugs they’d

ship. She taught my mother everything she

brought on board. It was never enough. It

knew about life before the world ended. She

would never be enough. The ship could

taught my mother geometry and algebra and

sustain itself, but it couldn’t sustain a system

biology and political science. She taught my

of infinite growth and greed and capital. But

mother empathy and critical thinking. And

they wouldn’t let anyone leave, sick with fear

she gave my mother the skills she needed

of what would happen to the rest.

to survive in a world where there weren’t enough resources to go around, and an

They became so bored they began to drink

abundance of fear and violence.

their own poison. My mother raised me with my grandmother’s The first murder was in year five, but it was

words. I grew to love this woman I’d never

covered up somehow with some dubious

met, and resent the woman I had. My mother

claim and a paid off doctor. The next few in

never did anything with my grandmother’s

year six were public business, though, and

wisdom, never anything real. I always had

any last vestige of decorum went overboard.

a place to stay and something to eat, but


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that was it. We lived like any other survivor,

The main deck was overgrown with grasses,

migratory, staying on land, always hiding,

weeds, vegetables, and fruits. Palm trees had


reached maturity, sticking out of the decks and waving their leaves like sails.

I left her when I was twenty six. I took a boat from a warehouse in what used to be

We climbed onboard, breathless, senseless,

California and I went into the water. I was an

and shaken. I knew in a practical sense how

idiot and almost died several times.

massive the boat was. But standing on it and staring up into the atmosphere where

But I was not alone. Out on the water, there

the decks disappeared into the clouds was

were hundreds of rafts. Survivors like me

something else entirely.

looking for something better. Something with a little less plastic and radiation.

As we walked, our feet squished ripe apples and bananas. Freshwater pools rippled with

I shared my grandmother’s words instead of

fish. The first door I opened was some kind of

hoarding them. I made them a textbook, not

medical bay. Shelves and shelves of creams

a survival guide. With a group of friends and

and antibiotics and tools and wraps that I’d

allies, we used my grandmother’s coordinates

never seen before, only read about. Enough

to sail our way across the Pacific.

to last all of us a lifetime.

It took us two years to get there, and we were

The deeper into the ship we explored, the

down two people. I was sick and fading fast.

deeper the forest, the dense, lush greenery

When we got there, the boat was gone. Of

exploding across the very walls and floors. It

course it was. The ocean was more volatile

was nothing like the brown, burnt landscape

than ever, throwing up category 5 hurricanes

I’d crawled across, struggling to breathe, my

every two months in seemingly random

entire life.

places. Trees. Trees that hadn’t been logged. Water But, like my grandmother wrote, even when

that hadn’t been poisoned or stolen. Air that

the world was cruel, it was still logical. I

didn’t burn my breast.

studied the ocean currents, the patterns of storms. And I took my dwindling troupe of

And there was so, so much of it. So much

loved ones and sent us southeast.

space to run and run and run until my legs gave out.

After another year, we found it. And no humans. Just deer and birds and The outside was covered in barnacles and

frogs and tortoises and foxes and squirrels.

seaweed, and most of the windows were

Animals I’d only seen in picture books. The

cracked and broken. It was a dark behemoth.

ship was loud. I didn’t even realize it at first,


but it was so loud. Bugs were making noise, chirping and buzzing in some unimaginable symphony. Birds tweeted and called and cooed. And the undergrowth was noisy with creatures moving and hunting and living. The only color I could see for miles was green. Every possible shade of green in the universe. It was beautiful. We built a life for ourselves, hunting the animals and eating the fruit. We healed each other. We started working on a way to get the boat engines working again. Several people went off in rescue boats to find others and bring them back. In a way, I am just like my grandmother. But in other ways, we couldn’t be more different. This boat means something different to me than it did for her. I like to think she dreamed about that, hoped for some outcome where that would be true. I would have loved to have met her. But for now, all I can do is meet other people. Meet as many people as I possibly can. And share with them the dream of my grandmother before my heart finally stops beating. The dream of life.


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womanhood and i get into fights ISABELLA CROW womanhood and i get into fights. the difference is she never learned what anger feels like and i carry it in my shoulders all the time. we’re childhood friends, raised together but grown apart she knows what i look like soaked and muddy from the sprinkler. when she comes over she stays for too long in my room, shuffles through my things, looks at old pictures of us in old pink frames and girl scout uniforms and talks as if we’re still those children. i hung up my sash a long time ago but i can still get undressed in front of her, she whispers the hushed old adage: “we’re both girls, so it’s okay.” well, i’m not anymore but i think i got grandfathered in. womanhood lets you reenter the gates as long as you keep your wristband on. womanhood is a roommate who always leaves dirty dishes in the sink. she uses up the paper towel roll and doesn’t replace it and opens a window when the AC is on. (i’m sorry, i know i’m not perfect either.) i’ll try to remember to take the trash out on tuesdays. i’m sorry that i always forget. womanhood lives in the hometown i outgrew and she still goes to the football games. when she gets too drunk in the student section i carry her home, give her water to swallow, a pretzel from concessions to soak up the booze. i hold her tenderly as she sways on her feet. she loves this town


and never misses a parade. i come back for holidays and whenever i skin my knee. womanhood and i get into fights. the difference is she never learned what anger feels like and i carry it in my shoulders every day. where i rage, womanhood hollows. where i seethe, womanhood shakes. she never knows quite what to say to me. i speak her language but she doesn’t speak mine, refuses to learn. this is america, she says. womanhood compliments my fluency as i burn from the next room over and break plates against the wall. womanhood moves out and away from me one day and i miss her like i miss the snow. it doesn’t snow here so much where i am now. not that i liked the snow very much but it’s all i ever knew, even when it bit and stung and froze and greyed. i don’t know how to handle warm in winter. i get christmas cards from womanhood, we text each other on birthdays. there is a year where we forget but only one. we’re dedicated to this. we are archivists if nothing else. womanhood and i see each other at an old friend’s barbeque. we get very drunk at each other from across the yard and eventually i’m wobbly enough to spill my styrofoam plate of food. as she helps me pick macaroni salad out of the grass i whisper to her, thank you for growing up with me. there is nothing for us to say to each other anymore. her hands full of elbow noodles, she pretends not to hear, picks me up off of the dirt. this is just like girl scouts, she says.


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20210108, 2021, LEE HUBBEL


mama drives me home PAZ REGUEIRO

you could say i’m grown now & it’s been a few years now since i saw the teeth you bore at me & you pick me up from work & your lips are pulled back & we never would have recognized you when we were both third world women but your grin pulls back the linen curtains on your eyes & your worn-out teeth just the same & the same water that nourished me when i was but a falling hammer/ dropping shoe/sword of damocles/ it rolls down your cheek now & you tell me finally how you wish you had done more for me when we were both third world women & maybe back when i was a girl i would have reached deep past my shuttered lungs & shown you how shriveled-up you left this plum-shaped heart & now i think peach-cheeked & with an apple in my throat that i’ve traded places with you & our hunger is a 4-foot creature with two dark braids & truly we’ve both held hands with her. please don’t forget that i want us both to eat.


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held apart

xochi sanchez



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