Tender - Issue I, Venus Magazine

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tender ISSUE I



A Word from the Editor-In-Chief Dear reader, Thank you for opening this up. We are beyond ecstatic to have our first issue available. It is nothing but tender -- through pain, healing, growth, softness, and more. It is a song of human. We hope you enjoy these words, what a gift from every artist involved.

Stay​ ​ tender, loves.

Pride / Pried by Bronwen Brenner I wanted blue eyes Until I saw the sea Of teeth and needles Drifting in cobalt oxide And remembered how You looked with your mouth Pried open and realized That I could drown in pinkness Just as easily Â

Mercury by Anika Prakash

White noise winding down our bodies: static, or vibrato, or a crescendo of refraction. Bathing in silver, a sliver of light coming through the blinds. Porcelain swallowing body, shards of glass instead of salt crystals. No sand, just thick mud that consumes: a mistake, or a burial, or a decrescendo as light streams through the window.

Kenopsia… and the Haunted House by Richa Gupta Kenopsia (n). the eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that’s usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet A haunted house is reminiscent of malicious ghosts, hidden shadows, and strange noises at night. It makes us think of a dark mansion surrounded by skeletal trees, ready to be inhabited by a joyful, unsuspecting family. It reminds us of lightning, howls of fear, and an attic choked with darkness. From what we’ve read and watched, a haunted house is infused with a chilling backstory—one of sacrifices, betrayal, flames, unexplained deaths. It’s been so recycled in popular culture and media that people seem to forget the true meaning of a “haunted house”. Every old house that is moved into is haunted. It is haunted by the memories and experiences of the previous owners, by the footsteps that had etched themselves into dust. And those memories can be beautiful—they can be memories of happiness, of pleasure, of childish excitement. Memories of a little girl taking her first step, a teenager preparing her first meal, a senior getting into the college of her choice. These old laughs and cries hover in the air, even though their owners may have moved out. Old voices permeate throughout, even though the house may be inhabited by entirely new, different people. Every house is haunted— —even if it was built from scratch and lived in for the first time. What about the people who lived on that dirt, and the memories that were created on that particular patch of earth? What about the children who ran around and fell in the mud, the adults who sat and gravely spoke about issues that are now outdated and uninteresting—and who are probably far away, maybe in another country, living another life? Now, we are just building upon those memories, without realizing that its grounds are haunted by the specter of old memories and bygone experiences. Old classrooms. One time, my mother took me to her old school in her village, which is now stark and empty. My little sister had whispered to me: “this place feels haunted”. I had brushed her suggestion aside, although she did have a reason to say that: the breeze seemed to be eerily whispering through the creaking windows, and our surroundings were silent enough for a tap to seem loud. But now I know that it is haunted. It is haunted by the reminders of old school students, by the classes that were taught, by the usual drama that seems to pervade every school’s atmosphere. It is a haunted school, but not in the customary sense. Ghosts don’t jump out and malignant spirits don’t linger. We leave not with terror, but with Nostalgia. Kenopsia: the eeriness of places left behind. Every house moved into is a haunted house. The floorboards may creak with impressions of a beaming baby learning how to walk, the wind may rustle the bedspread—and make it whisper with old conversations. Most of the time, these impressions are mistaken for

imagination. But the next time our imagination makes us perceive something puzzling or inexplicable… don’t think about the phantom that floats in the corridors. Think about the experiences that were borne, the smiles that were conjured, the beautiful memories that were summoned. Because we’re not alone. Every house is a haunted house.


Habseligkeitenhabs by Margaryta Golovchenko Â

Carmen Miranda Lady by Kyle Hemmings When our mothers' kitchens belch from their own emptiness, when we prick our fingers on the cactus growing in our dreams of one oasis within another, of familiar rubber faces that stretch and snap, or the underpaid clowns who say "go away, kids, the ice cream trucks are broken down, you'll never be fed"—the Carmen Miranda lady appears. Skiff and I catch the peaches and pickles that fall from her fruit turbans, from her wide straw hats too large for this world. Under the shade of a Mimosa tree, she sings that old pop tune, "Have you ever seen two pippins pogo?" We make fun of each other's bony knees. We juggle crab-apples and golden apricots. But the men in the neighborhood are angry. They say The Carmen Miranda Lady has been stealing from their backyards, has been shaking their trees. She stops coming around. Some say she was forced to swallow a thousand apple seeds, was buried in an anonymous ditch. For days and days, I dream of colored dust. Some say the sun still comes out at night to do a black samba.

Footfalls by Kyle Hemmings You've suffered from insomnia since you learned that you could never truly close your eyes. Dizzy from un-sleep, you cover 3/4th of your red eye self with wallpaper. You wish you could dream of electric frogs jumping across the canals of your brain. The cell phone's chirp becomes a siren. A woman, whose voice you don't recognize, says ​We never met but… ​Remember the Local 251 bust, whistleblower? She's been living on food stamps since her old man got stuffed in a can. She says someone is watching you. She says Sleep with one eye open, Mr. Whistleblower. The face in the mirror is only 2/3rds yours. Your hands have no connection to your core. Shadows move within shadows. Distant barking of a dog. Fall. Be still. Don't put up a fight. In the veins of the night. Glass doll sigh. Shut eye.

You're Not Really Wasting My Time as We Sit Here Talking About Snow by Kyle Hemmings In my basement, Grace Slick was singing "White Rabbit". Cindy Evans, the girl about to go away to school three states over, was showing pictures of her last ski trip to Lake Tahoe. Wearing a deep green turtleneck, that modest smile, she looked as timeless as the mountains and trees behind her. The kind of beauty that never has to scream or become shaken. You just disappear in its presence. You become the epiphany. I'd always remember that photo, a key to a world I could only access through negative space. I mean the deep space through which I could fall forever, never to float. Grace Slick continued to sing about the Mad Hatter and Alice and pills, small pills, or the ones mother gives you and Cindy was talking about all kinds of snow. Then she smiled like she did for that photo. We made out for awhile until she gently pushed me away, complaining of a vague pain in her neck and shoulder because she couldn't remember the exact medical term and I said I was really insecure, I mean about her finding somebody else. I pictured weeks of unanswered mail, cramming for final exams on West Civilization I. I never believed that distance makes the heart fonder. It turns love into a photo of trees, voiceless trees, groves of yellow pine wedging a lake that's a tourist attraction. In curved perspective through a fisheye lens, the trees don't resemble trees at all but something scaled down and miniature, what you'd find in snow globes. And she changed the subject and said she collected snow. ​What? I said, almost laughing. Yup, she said, and explained how each snowflake had its own unique design and nothing could replace it. I kept quiet; I heard this myth before. ​Like you, she said. ​You are unique. There is no one like you. Grace Slick stopped singing. I kind of figured out what Cindy was telling me, those negative spaces between words. Soon I wouldn't be able to see her at all. I kept melting until I was smaller than Alice in the looking glass, until Cindy closed and opened her hand and said See?

In Search of Home by Ananya Kumar-Banerjee right by radio city music hall, that middle section of the city where everything is too loud, that place between my ankles and toes where i still hurt. each subway stop is a memory, a passing inspection of past introspection, some sort of reverse clairvoyance, my eyes stick to the tiles like i am kissing you all over again, like i am home. i feel warm where i shouldn’t, cold where i shouldn’t, i feel the sky in my arms and i wonder if she cries at night too. i wonder if she feels alone like i do. time square where the clock is ticking, where the tourists are scanning the streets for a polyester clad pickpocket. we are all looking for things we will never find. i am looking for your lips through the lambswool section of j crew, searching for that feeling like i am safe, like between your arms is the sun, like together we are the universe and i am whole, again. intensity in eyedrops, in insulin tablets at the doctor’s office, listening but they do not hear me. they never do. intensity like crying on the subway, like two songs that break a hole in my belly. intensity like my city, like their city, like her city, his city, inten-sity. intensity like i don’t mean to miss you, like i do anyway. like maybe i am shortchanging, pulling pennies from my own pockets in an effort to soothe momentary sores. solitude in search of something inevitable, unprofitable. in search of something surreal. in search of home.

Melancholia in Ancient China by Yew San Cheah 0/1 empty palace on the boxed-up hill. Doze on barren grass. Slip on long gauze stockings. Hear the spaceship nightingales sing. Wade in the pond. Write something. Write “choral operas”. Use an aggressive verb. ……The water flows ceaselessly under the south side of the bridge…… 1/6 empty garden. Mope in the garden, like a regal, dynastic Emperor. Sing a new song. Pray for the men dying in the Middle Kingdom. Examine a fish-skin arrow. Play spaceship chess. Board a jeweled car, lined with servants playing flutes of gold. ½ empty field, sprawling with a thousand miles of dead grass. Watch the moon behind a rock. Ingest something. Take a cold bath. Cut wood but suck at it. Admire the moonlight playing tag in the trees. Complain about the desolate fields. Hunt a deer and a rare species of mongoose. Complain ceaselessly. ¾ empty cottage. Knit dunce caps. Paint gongbi on waste calligraphy paper. Practice herbal remediation. Cook something. Sit upright on a hard bed and look down at the moonlit futon and raise the head to look at the bright moon. Put down the head and pine about how much home is missed. 1/1 empty river. Old philosopher is destroying the Guzheng. Two unattached assassins in snow-filled robes are fighting and flying across the surface of the water. Much water runs under the river-bridge. Be opportunistic. Think about: “the cradle of chinese civilization.” This story first appeared in ​Yellow Chair Review as the winner of the magazine’s “Rock the Chair” poetry contest, week of July 31 2016.

A CERTAIN KIND OF SOFTNESS by Emily Palermo i don’t like the way this story goes so i’m going to rewrite it: i’m in a room with no doors so she makes one and the light is so beautiful when it floods through i’m in a room of four white walls so she breaks them all down and i’m drinking her in all desperate and it’s not violent and we’re not violent— we’re goddamn radiant. sunflowers blossoming from our skins something safe, something shining with my hand in her hand, with no one afraid.

A TRANSLATION by Emily Palermo a dream of your body in the morning, twisted around the light like a broken sycamore tree that i’m not allowed to forget. maybe it’s a penance, a punishment because i didn’t mean it when i told you to leave. sometimes i say things just to know that i can still speak out loud, that my mouth’s still there, that i didn’t rub it off while i was sleeping. maybe the words are supposed to mean something. they should matter, you say to me, and i’m not listening because i know they do and i don’t want to hear it aloud, see it hanging vulnerable, split open in the air between us. and the truth is this, i’m talking circles and you’re talking circles and everything means everything and nothing means nothing, and that’s the ways it’s supposed to be and we just can’t bear it— so we take the dreams and we hold them gently like little absolutions.


Serbian Proverb by Margaryta Golovchenko (art above)

Horse by Marie Ungar It’s late, and I’m emptying the last trash bin behind the school when I see them—three kids over by the swing set, barely visible in the dim light. Two are big and tall, while the third’s short and scrawny, then one of the tall ones has the short kid’s arms pinned, while the other’s about to punch him in the face. I run towards them yelling, and the bullies scatter. I reach the kid, panting, but he’s just sitting there calmly. I offer my hand. When he doesn’t take it, I shove it awkwardly in my pocket. “I’m Devin,” I say. I ask him his name, but he says he’s not supposed to talk to strangers. “I’m not a stranger; I’m the janitor.” He studies me real hard, like I’m under a microscope. He stares so long I’m about to ask if it’s for science homework when he says, “Timothy. My name’s Timothy.” “Okay...Timothy. Tim. Timmy—Can I call you Timmy?” He doesn’t answer. He’s doing the microscope-stare again. “Why’d those kids attack you? ...Timmy.” He just shrugs. Poor kid. I look around at the deserted playground, and the school with all its lights out. “Why’re you still here, anyway?” At this he looks up, grinning. “I’m waiting for my horse.” The way he says it… whatever this horse is, it sure means a lot to him. “You should call your parents.” I hold out my beat-up flip phone, and he looks at me like I’m giving a prison sentence. He dials tentatively, hanging up after a few mumbled words. “They’re coming?” “Yeah.” We wait by the front of the school, and he plays with a stick, drawing lines in the dirt until they form a horse. He finishes by putting the stick along its neck, where the mane would go. Clearly nobody’s taught him to draw right. That horse’s mane deserves three sticks, at least. But I know how sensitive kids can be, so I keep it to myself, asking the horse’s name instead. He looks surprised. “It doesn’t have a name…does it need one?” “All horses need a name,” I joke. “What’s it for, anyway?” He stares at me like I haven’t got a clue, which I suppose I don’t. “What any horse is for. It takes you someplace else.” “Where?” He pauses to think. “Someplace better.” *** A few days later, I’m scraping gum from desks in the B Wing, and I look up to find the kid sitting there, quiet and serious-like, staring out the window. “Your horse ever come?” He shakes his head.

“Still waiting?” A nod. I stop my scraping to sit next to him. Outside, the sky is dark and cloudy, the parking lot scattered with a couple lone cars. “So this horse… ever think it’s maybe… you know… just in your head?” He looks puzzled for a minute, then his eyes narrow. His headshake is firm, almost angry. I raise my hands in submission, my tongue fumbling frantically for a different subject. “What’d your parents say? About last night?” Another shrug. I swear, he does more talking with his shoulders than his mouth. “They’re not my parents… They’re my ​foster parents.” He spits out the word like it tastes bitter. “Foster parents are still parents.” He looks straight into my eyes, all bottled-up fury and cold, quiet intensity. “Yeah,” he says, “but real parents don’t want to give you up.” *** The weeks pass like clockwork. Whenever I see the kid, he looks tired--no, worn-down, like an old rag that’s been washed one too many times. I appreciate what foster parents do, giving kids like Timmy a home. But he clearly hasn’t had luck with the system. As our brief conversations grow more frequent, I think understand him more. He’s still strange, still awkward, lost in his own little world. But I understand that. Then one day he finds me after school, emptying the trash. “I’m leaving. They found someone new to take me.” He sounds somehow disappointed. I tell him I’m sorry, but isn’t this what he wanted all along? For his horse to come, and whisk him away? Yeah, he says, but away isn’t always better. His horse is meant to take him someplace better. I tell him not to worry—the horse will come eventually. I don’t know why I tell him this. I guess something about the kid makes you want to believe you can ride off into the sunset to your fairytale ending. He asks if I’ll come with him, to meet his new ‘parents.’ I’m surprised, but I agree, since it looks like he’s about to cry. He writes the office’s address in careful, wobbly letters, then runs off, leaving me with a slip of paper and a strange, unsteady feeling in my chest. *** They don’t seem ​too horrible. The woman is tall and skinny as a stick, her face pinched like she smells something awful. The man wears an expensive suit and talks through his nose in a dull monotone. Timmy pulls me aside to say goodbye, and whispers, dead-seriously, that the man sounds like a duck. I laugh, then I have to stare at my feet, away from the overhead lights making my eyes water. He hugs me tightly, a tiny boa constrictor. “Hey,” I say. “I’ll call—see how you’re doing… Okay?” He nods, then grabs some paper to scribble down a phone number. I clutch that paper tight as I walk out of the building. It’s raining, and my clothes are wet by the time I reach my truck. Then I’m off, windshield wipers wiping, but

the street still looks blurry. My hands nervously fiddle with the scrap of paper over the steering wheel, but when I finally open it, there’s no phone number. The legs are slightly crooked, the mane just one stick. But what draws my eye and catches in my throat is the message at the bottom, messily written. My horse’s name, it says, ​it’s Devin. Turning around, I drive back through the rain.

bad love by Lakshmi Mitra my body cannot hold love / nor differentiate between the good & the ugly. in midwinter, the coconuts drop into our garden-bed (dhuk. dhuk. dhuk.) / when we hold them in our hands, we find they are void of liquid / empty shells, faces buried in the soil. the petni who plagues the tree, she leeches / the water and hides in the fringe-curtain leaves. eyes like the devil, says my grandmother / a white saree-shroud to conceal her fog-kissed hair, her hungering limbs; shadowy half-smile. in bengal, says my grandmother, the women / are all ghosts. & was she another victim of bad love. hoarding sly warmth slipped into her outstretched palms, feeling the sun grow arctic / crying cold into the ocean as her hands came away empty / a sting of regret for every loveless month that takes its leave, a wash of moonlight. was she the woman / who traded her gold bangles / her mehndi ceremony / her alta-licked feet / to stand alone on a verandah at night and kiss her fingers / to the moon / to a love that cannot leave her or mould her or burn her or gently break her. do you think she gave away so much of herself / that she cannot now / find the pieces. Previously published in ​The Fem.

Privacy of the Sea, ​after Laura Kasischke by Erin O’Malley

a different kind of wild away from the rabid shores of foam below drunken boats and their men underwater where one thousand fathomless midnights drown and challenge descent into trench deep warfare an ebbing shipyard of moonsunken tides

Springsong by Erin O’Malley this may this please when she leaves this begging your lips paper like the wings of a sunned moth these stars for teeth press her last words into the corners of your mouth give me gemini and taurus the closest her tongue will ever come to eulogizing your jaw o garden of ghost town devotion the wind blows your sandstorm chest into glass teach me how to stay & decay metal salts petalling into stained window tell me what to call a prayer after it has bloomed itself pink & true



by Angelina Ferdanez

The Secret Fire in the Elser House by Daniel Blokh Marie could stand in the doorway behind him for hours. Silent, she watched his pencils grow dull, the measures scrawled on his papers becoming blurs. How his hand never ceased! His quick fingers only lifting to flick another match out of the box, to revive a candle into vivid red luster and fill the room with smoke. He would only call her name when he grew hungry, and she would dart into another room to answer him, so that her voice would seem distant. The stove was lit, the soup poured, the mug filled steaming to the brim with his favorite mint tea. She knew this cup, too, would be broken. There was time before he would bellow her name. She would let the tea cool, she thought. Outside the window, my dogs were chasing one another. Their wild, atonal howling filled her ears, and though she loved to watch them play, it was only a matter of time before one of them tore into the other and she quickly turned away.

Self Portrait as Doorhandle by Daniel Blokh

I cannot count the times those soft hands have come to rest over me, grasped, tried to turn and pull open. I dream of the fingers chipping at the nails, but they only loosen. I wait to be another home. I learn to hang between two fumbling vacancies. Come, try me. You have left the key in a cloud of fog somewhere on your path home. You will dream of warmth and pull away in silence.

Public Enemy No. 1 by Christina Im In 1999, the NSA banned the Furby from its property due to concerns that the toy’s alleged ability to record and repeat information made it a potential threat to U.S. national security. In the room where all the telephones have gone down to die. Yes, there. Hard to miss, I know—murder-blue and unblinking. Keep your gun close and your death wish closer. Who would’ve guessed that throat was good for something other than bending in a rich boy’s hands. What do you mean it knows your name. Don’t listen. Think only of whatever else its tongue can do. Deep breaths. Biggest mistake man ever made was bleeding the execution out of technicolor. Instead you’ll have to strangle it in some ancient dialect of gray. Don’t go all soft and stung on me now. We don’t keep the body around for its mercies. Hold your ground. What do you mean it’s on to you. You haven’t done anything wrong. You were trained to save your lungs for this. Unspool in its name. Don’t listen. Do your duty to your language, its greed. What a man doesn’t know won’t hurt him. What a nation doesn’t know won’t fix the face of a god who can hear the heads roll no matter how far he runs. Don’t listen. Keep your arms away from lightbulbs in the land of the free. It’s lying. Don’t listen. Those are words it learned from us. It’s not going anywhere. Stay with me and when you’re ready shoot. That’s right. Think of its skeleton drowned in tar. Every oiled joint in every city will thank you, son. From sea to skin-choked sea.

Secret Lives by Prerna Bakshi (First published in ​Secrets & Dreams, Kind of a Hurricane Press) She never hangs her lingerie on the clothesline. She was told women are supposed to keep their undergarments away from the public eye. She never stores tampons and pads in places easily visible. She hides them in the darkest possible plastic bags. She never gets up without asking one of her friends: Peeche theek hai na? Because heaven forbid if anyone finds out she is on her period. Living her life as though she is a member of some secret society, she secretly wonders if it is shame that defines womanhood; if to be a woman means something to be ashamed of; if to be a woman means to be dirty; like the dirty laundry that stays hidden in the closet, quietly stashed away; like those used, bloody tampons that stay hidden sitting in the trash. If to be a woman is to be dirty, then I don’t want the dirt to ever wash away. Let the stench of this dirt choke you a little.

Coming Out by Prerna Bakshi (First published ​in Sick Lit Magazine) 12 years old. Come here, he said. Look what I’ve got for you, he said. I wanted it to be a surprise, he said. I’ve been planning to show you for days, he said. I’ve made sure it pops out as soon as you unwrap it, he said. I bet you’ll open your mouth as soon as you see it, he said. You might scream, he said. You might cry, he said. You might say I shouldn’t have, he said. But I know you wanted it, he said. So don’t be shy, he said. Come here, he said. Come and lie down with me, he said. It’s under these sheets, he said. Get your head under there, he said. Start looking, he said. Don’t come out until you find it, he said. I hadn’t come out until now.

Psalm By María Cristina Fernández Hall We drove in safe seats of bible notes. Two years passed at the verge of a staircase railed with threat. Mother was young; I collected windows: reluctant care she deemed duty. Then time turned her, stepped her aside I gave myself up to a foreign home, And she, who for decades had veiled ethics under penitence, opened her rib now for the pouring of a river no meeker than a psalm. (Reading video published on ​Mexico City Lit)

Elements of Home By María Cristina Fernández Hall My apartment burning down was just an afterthought. Nights cackling at coffee tables, bodies smoldering on sofa beds— I sieve and swallow other warmths. If there is a mild psychopathy to wrapping hearts in bacon, it should be forgiven by the sizzle in my own veins. Now I prod through thistle beds, thick in false callings from stove, to scarf, to blue eye, curing everything with salt. The heedless tallow seethes I leave it open to the air until I’m left alone to render the elements of home.

Hymn 32: Headless by Kathryn Hargett Who knows the boys better than the coyotes in their ribs? Or my brother’s mouth, wider than the June that swallowed him—& the others, the ones with names that ghost away from my hands— burning the air out of the room, lurching over, folding into faces. What is worse? Somewhere, in the hill rot, I watched myself dissolve into sand between their fingers. I watched coyotes shed rivers, cleave dresses, then become a smear of light. Brother, I’m trying to understand these boys who destroy the bodies of others on a flat, reptile screen, their eyes fleshed & petaling away: the ones who sit lemon slices in my mouth until I become a sinkhole, slick all the kitchen floors in kerosene & move towards me bearing hyacinths. What is worse? I know boys who pull girls apart like the bones of a New Year fish, & I know boys who move like songbirds, whose faces eclipse into jars in the morning light: maps of arms & olives & teeth rising up to meet me. Tell me, what is worse? They close their hands & cathedrals lift their heads from the cartilage & moss, capping the worst of it. Tell me, brother. I will line them all in a row. I will call them Window, call them Run Run Run, until they fall at my feet as green bottles. Tell me, brother. Please. I know what’s inside. I know what’s coming next.

Thanatopsis, ​After Ian Burnette by Kathryn Hargett

1. In the creeks outside Birmingham, we scraped the earth into warm yellow milk: papa’s lips against the Madonna’s brown neck— her hands instead a cathedral of teeth. The sky was an aging god, shed itself & filled our palms with wasps & rattlesnake skins, like an anxious mother setting seeds into a son’s open mouth. We called the oil churning in the water nebulae, scrubbed our calloused feet with dark matter & red clay, lanced our veins with ash & rotted bark. 2. Then the dead sparrows appeared as lilies on the water, their bellies parred open by this boddhisattva or that, the wings floating a hand’s length away like green bottles-- the sky’s father-rage, the dry grasses beneath us cleaved into a tide of jaundiced wheat. 3. By morning, the creek was filled with gasoline, our bodies—lit match.

Papa wakes like a dust storm, all the birds flying north into the azure throat— the dead sparrows swept away like pieces of a girl’s dress, katydids spreading around us like buckshot. When papa wakes the cattails shudder under the wind’s quiet tongue— the hour stilled, the water a womb against our skin.

Birds born in cage by Margaryta Golovchenko

Kamareyka (Intersection of Caramel and Canary) by Margaryta Golovchenko I. Mother sings in the tongue of those they call barbarians, hushed but with a thrilling edge. The teashop to open years from now sleeps lazily, the cups still a design in lead and the fire’s placenta. Our battle cries leave no cracks as we walk by, as it should be—too busy popping like phonetic parcels I have yet to unwrap. Red and white go hand in hand this season, a pack of imaginary wolves an added bonus. The beginning of spring. II. The sugar jar tipped over, ratios mixed up. Too much spiced wine and not enough cherries, apples, the sunlight sort of taste. I learned there are ways the tongue can be wrong, damaged worse than anatomically perhaps from sucking on too many spoons right where the veins begin. It takes time to learn when to add garnish. Some days I’m still sitting pulling feathers from my back, sticky sweet with syrup of just the right consistency.

Calla Lily by Margaryta Golovchenko Wine coloured, the ones you know I’ll like though I drink very little. When I do it’s more fizz than talk. I wonder which came first—the Bourbon dynasty or the drink? The force of pain is proportionate to the body, an ant and a bear a raindrop and a waterfall apart. The lilies in their vase are scentless, the right splash of colour in a room I know to the point of forgetting. I learn that being tipsy can be beautiful. She wrote murder I wrote love. I knew I succeeded when plain cookies made your heart crumble. When the animal instinct always ended with apology. Tender petals could be the sweet bow of lips, the nectar on the inside the words we rarely have the grace to bestow kindly.

By Izzy Leslie

Author Bios Bronwen Brenner​ is a high school sophomore from New York City. She loves moths because they are like small ghosts. You can usually find her searching flea markets for Victorian mourning paraphernalia and vintage hats. She received the 2016 Ernst Pawel Student Writing Award for her poetry and her work is forthcoming in the teen writing anthology Breaking Bread. Anika Prakash​ is a sophomore in high school and the founder and editor-in-chief of Red Queen Literary Magazine. She currently serves as the co-news editor of Two Views Magazine and a poetry editor at Parallel Ink. She has received a Silver Award regionally from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for her poetry as well as a Silver Award for her flash fiction. Her poetry and stories can be found on Tablo, and her opinionated writing can be found on Medium. Richa Gupta​ is a high school senior from Bangalore, India. She is a lover of galaxies, time travel, and obscure sorrows. She is a blog contributor with The Huffington Post, and the founder and editor-in-chief of ​Moledro Magazine, an online literary magazine. She also enjoys working on the editorial boards for ​Phosphene, Glass Kite Anthology, and ​Polyphony H.S. Richa's poetry has appeared in Poetry Quarterly, Shot Glass Journal, After the Pause, Yellow Chair Review, New Plains Review, The Tower Journal, and ​Canvas, among others. Kyle Hemmings​ lives and works in New Jersey. He has been published in Elimae, Smokelong Quarterly, This Zine Will Change Your Life, Blaze Vox, Matchbook, and elsewhere. His latest collection of poetry/prose is ​Future Wars from ​Another New Calligraphy. He loves 50s Sci-Fi movies, manga comics, and pre-punk garage bands of the 60s. Ananya Kumar-Banerjee​ is a young woman on Indian origin based in New York City. She has been published in Textploit, Crack the Spine, and has been awarded multiple Scholastic Writing awards. Currently, Ananya is pursuing experimental combinations of nonfiction and poetry. In the summer, she likes to write in the late afternoon sunshine of Governor's Island. Ananya plans on continuing an interest in poetry for the rest of her life. Yew San Cheah​ [b. 1999] is a student from Hong Kong. He is a passionate social entrepreneur and is the co-founder and CEO of a startup education nonprofit for under-resourced, young entrepreneurs. Yew San's literary work has appeared in Fjords Review, among other places. He is an alumnus of the Iowa Young Writers' Studio. Emily Palermo​ is a twenty-year-old aspiring writer from Louisiana, where she is currently pursuing a degree in English literature. Her work has been published in ​The Rising Phoenix Review and ​-Ology Journal. Find her in a coffee shop, talking about all the dogs she saw that day.

Marie Ungar​ is a writer from Charlottesville, Virginia. She is co-founder of ​Sooth Swarm Journal, co-editor-in-chief of the ​Crossroads V Anthology, and design proof editor for ​Sincerely Magazine. Additionally, she has attended workshops run by the University of Iowa, the ​Kenyon Review, and the University of Virginia. Marie’s work has been nationally recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and is forthcoming in ​Eunoia Review. Lakshmi Mitra​ is a 20 year old college student living in Kolkata. She is mostly polite, an awkward conversationalist, and doesn’t like sudden movements. Therefore, it comes as a great surprise to her that her cats still don’t like her. She has been published in The Rising Phoenix Review, The Fem, and Words Dance among others. She blogs at​ ​thiswinterheart.tumblr.com​. Erin Jin Mei O’Malley​ is a 17-year-old writer who currently lives in Germany. She co-founded Sooth Swarm Journal, and her work has been recognized by Hollins University, Columbia College Chicago, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and others. She will eventually blog at www.explorationsoferin.com​. Daniel Blokh​ is a 15-year-old writer and author of In Migration (BAM! Publishing, 2016), available now on​ ​booksamillion.com​. ​His work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, Foyle Young Poets, Cicada Magazine, Thin Air magazine, and more. He is an editor at Parallel Ink. Christina Im​ is a Korean-American writer and high school student from Portland, Oregon. Her fiction and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in ​YARN,​Strange Horizons, ​Fissure Magazine, and The Adroit Journal, among others. In addition, her work has been recognized by Hollins University, the Adroit Prize for Poetry, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. Prerna Bakshi ​is a writer, poet and activist of Indian origin, currently based in Macao. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of the recently released full-length poetry collection, ​Burnt Rotis, With Love, long-listed for the 2015 Erbacce-Press Poetry Award in the UK and cited as one of the ‘​9 Poetry Collections That Will Change The Way You See The World​’ by Bustle in the US. Her work has been published widely, most recently in ​The Ofi Press, ​Red Wedge Magazine, TRIVIA: Voices of Feminism and​ Prachya Review: Literature & Art Without Borders, as well as anthologized in several collections, including ​America Is Not The World by Pankhearst. Website: http://prernabakshi.strikingly.com/ María Cristina Hall​ (1991) is a Mexican-American poet and translator. Editor at ​Mexico City Lit and La Cigarra, she currently teaches English at Tec de Monterrey in Mexico City. Website: mcristinafernandez.net​, Twitter: @mcristinafdz

Kathryn Hargett​ is a senior at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. Her work has been regularly recognized by universities and organizations such as Princeton University, the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the Alabama Writers' Forum, the UK Poetry Society, Hollins University, and others. She is the editor-in-chief of TRACK//FOUR, a literary magazine for writers and artists of color. Her poetry has been published in or is forthcoming from the Adroit Journal, Gigantic Sequins, DIALOGIST, the Claremont Review, Sierra Nevada Review, and elsewhere. She is a Chinese-American poet from the outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama. Margaryta Golovchenko​ is an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, studying Literature & Critical Theory and Fine Art History. There are some speculations that she hails from the moon and is simply assuming human form for the time being. She is a writer and sometimes-artist whose work has appeared in places like ​The Teacup Trail, Dear Damsels, Luna Luna Magazine, [parenthetical], and ​Tiny Donkey, among others, and is the author of the poetry chapbook Miso Mermaid (words(on)pages press, October 2016). She is also the editor for the journals ​Half Mystic and ​The Spectatorial. A majority of her time is spent munching on cherry strudel and trying to recollect her past life as a hedgehog. She can be found sharing her (mis)adventures on​ ​Twitter​.

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