reflection, rebirth issue ii
Editor’s Note This past year has been nothing but emotion. A ride of pain, grief, and mourning. This year we lost. We lost our queer family, our black brothers & sisters, & we lost the election. This year we lost our voices. But now, it is not a time of grievance anymore. Now, let us sit by the fireside in harmony. Let the fire wash away all worries. Let us sing in the midst of holly and pine, when the outside, the snow kisses the earth. It is a time for reflection, and most importantly, rebirth. Let next year be filled with so much more light. Cheers, to “Reflection, Rebirth.” We hope you love issue ii as much as we adore it. Thank you, for allowing art to consume you, for letting every inch of emotion wash you clean. What a wonderful gift art is. Happy holidays, x Venus Magazine
Bernice and the Beach by Saquina Karla C. Guiam The beach promised Bernice the big bang will get better. This war measures time before history testifies the onslaught of floods: most calamities are born underneath, even a god cannot lift from the ground up. But the water is old/unchanging/constant Bernice, the big bang will be better Let it cool & rest by the shore.
Avatar by Saquina Karla C. Guiam Father said this name will make you strong, Mother said but there are teeth in it— I didn’t know what they meant, at first; I remember taking six moons into my mouth—sweetness and salt imprinted on each molar and canine, chasing me to sleep, with fear following close. When I wake up, my mouth does not feel like my mouth; my skin does not feel like my skin—something feral and old and deep takes me in its arms, I feel my body coil and tighten; it says, this is a little too small for me.
Self-Portrait As Joan of Arc by Emma Camp
Raking coals is a kind of scream. A body so open to flames you can hear skin cracking. Let them caress the basins of her hips, legs exposed without chainmail to bruise them. Her shaved head is as yellow as a bruise. A halo bludgeoned in. A wrinkled almond in the gored palms of Saint Catherine. Prick saintly fleshâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;hold it to your chest and call it holy. Ignore the white horse behind her eyes. Let muscles slip from bone. Pull girl into ash. Scrape relics from her charred thighs, the ribbon scar where the crossbow pierced. Hold to your lips the stubble and smoke of her.
Hunting by Emma Camp In my family, we let women do the butchering. Train them up grapple at every thorax: keep house pinned at soft flesh. Strangle for unclean curls of meat. I have learned to paint myself like Diana. Kneading guts to slice up. Sometimes I wonder how long I can make flesh keep. A slab of musclegirl in an icebox: carve away at her pricking ribs, scrape fingernails down her puckered thighs. Gorge out every fiber of meat from a body and call it food.
MY DESIRE, DIGESTED by Jaisha Jansena
Wonderland, Wilted by Archita Mittra (previously published in Fan/verses Mag) There are stories we don’t tell anymore. Of Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole, skirts askew and blue eyes dreaming nightmare cupboards and vintage tea parties by the ancient sea. I was Alice too, once. The White Rabbit still burrows in the garden thin and weakly; red eyes old as the sun. Sometimes I think I see a white shadow shifting across the azaleas. Sometimes it is grey. Sometimes when I weave my yarn, it is not there. The gleam of dull rusty metal. I find the stopwatch at last, when I’m a shadow of the girl I once knew. It has stopped working the day my heart unlearned how to sing. I try fix it but my fingers begin to bleed, the colour of painted red roses, frozen in some wilted stasis of childhood. The Hatter visits me sometimes. He makes hats still, decorates them with vulture feathers and cracked oyster shells. He brought me a walrus tooth once, for old times’ sake, he said. Beneath my skirts, is a barren world I tell him. We drink cold tea. The Cat died last night. I found it on the doorstep this morning, its mutilated head grinning a few feet away. I pray to the Cheshire moon as the ghost-children watch from the shadows. The playing cards lie on the table, gathering dust. and careless hope; trapped in her cardboard prison, the Queen of Hearts is crying.
I like to think, the ivory White Knight is still waiting for her, for tales to tell themselves, like they used to, in another half-remembered life. I shuffle the cards for the last time, willing the story to come to life. But Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m not Alice anymore.
Monochrome Dream by Archita Mittra (previously published in â&#x20AC;&#x2039;Calcutta Cacophony) A fairground, in autumn. A world of puppet shows, stale candy and men in rainbow-coloured suits. You spot a black mongrel dog in a far corner, eyes fixed on the spinning ferris wheel. There is something magical in the caramel-incensed air, tonight. You pretend for a moment, that you and the dog are time travellers. The sand shifts gently beneath your feet. Perhaps, this is a medieval carnival, where the children wear masks and have feathers in their air. In the blur of shimmering faerylights and a merry crowd, you look for that magic toy shop, where the dolls of porcelain come alive at night. A man you've never known beckons to you, with bubbles the pink of a shy, secret blush. For a moment, you're there, in the other world, of pink snowflakes and crystal balls. He offers to teach you how to create them, those magical, ephemeral worlds of strangeness, and you can half-see him through the translucent pink haze-a lonely traveller, caught between worlds. Later, when you'll remember him, you'll forget the dog that followed you home, the caramel caught between your unbrushed teeth and the ferris wheel that never stopped spinning. The bubbles, you'll say, weren't pink at all, but blank and colourless, empty as the dead dreams of childhood.
season of rain by Archita Mittra a world of stuttering streetlamps, sinking paperboats &amp; swirling water, you were born into. shadows possessed you till you laughed at your own reflection in the dirty water. like fishes, men swam from afar to see you but this was no medieval venice & you were no mermaid nor queen but a wild-lipped thing, with ocean hair and sea-shell skin, a bastard child the tide forgot to claim. you learnt to read the mumblings of thunder on nights the sky sputtered so much with rain that they left you out in the dark-stained streets alone. you counted the lightning strikes & predicted exactly when the tower would fall except they did not believe you and for this they called you witch woman. she said, you smelled like rain-mist, that your heart was moist as a rain-washed city that on nights you danced beneath the streetlamps amber gaze in a crimson dress soaked with despair, you had the grace of a ballerina who lost her leg. she said, you had been a mermaid only once & a long long time ago when the sky was sea &the sun an ancient pearl the great oyster had left behind when she created this world with spit. kissing your love-starved fingers, she said, you had been loved,
many many lives ago by a sailor who drowned in the starlit sea chanting your name to the waves. sometimes you prowl this city with webbed feet guiding paper boats to places children visit every night till they are old enough to be exiled. the shadows in the puddles tell you when it is time. you write a love letter to yourself and place it in the old wine bottle the sailor had cast away & sail it down the river-road for your future self to find in the rains to come.
Crime Scene Love by Kelsey Krempasky someday I will learn how to hate you how to pick you from under my nails. how to look at my hands and stop seeing a crime scene with an outline of a body that looks like mine wrapped around yours. the problem is today is not today. the problem is today I still love you and this love hurts. it burns. it blisters. it feeds on promises you placed between my ribs. it moves. it beats. it makes bullet wounds out of fresh starts and the names that come with them. see, I can’t bandage this one up. I can’t heal this time. can’t move can’t breathe can’t leave when you are still there Still breathing still holding your head high and I don’t remember losing you but it feels like maybe you were digging a graveyard for this while i was stitching pieces of your name to the inside of my throat and even after all this time this space
you are all ache. all trigger. me. a target. me. standing still. my heart saying â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;here. shoot. I would still do anything for You.â&#x20AC;?
Soft by Kelsey Krempasky but you see im so damn tired of being hard of looking at these hands and wondering where they came from and I think I know how Icarus felt when he saw the sun for the first time because I look at you and I see the universe. I look at you and I want the soft bits the bits where we swallow fairytales and make our own endings. oh God, to be full of tenderness for you. to make your name a language for this broken battle country to see a future that isn’t full of jagged edges where I choose the knife over name but to choose momentsa series of softness of breath on breath wind moving through our window as the moon sighs “finally. finally she has learned that love doesn’t need to taste like leaving.”
Baby in a Blender by Jason L. Morphew The day after she miscarried again we stumbled into Macyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s our matrimonial blender was dead we identified then clutched the most expensive one they had a Vitamix brought it home and blended everything in sight beets rhubarbs raspberries wine music mortgage manuscript our nanny watching with a frightened look as if remembering the playground jokes about the quality of red spinning everything mixed with everything else all those vitamins nourishing the earth pulling it out putting it inside love is hilarious and immature my lips covered with blood.
Song for the Hook-Up by Ezra Lebovitz It's a world in color. Or maybe the color is warmth, like the way they laid the frozen abreast the ones who hadn't frozen yet. Like shades of burgundy. Maybe it is doesn't matter what it is when there's no room for you to shiver between his arms. There's a dream where I share some corner of skin with him, and my teeth are clenched, and there's no room for want. Packed too close for goosebumps, those half-remembered songs— it's all about coping. It doesn’t matter how. Press the boy closer. Swallow burgundy. Is it worth giving up the body if you get to borrow hands that don’t shake? You want this. Do you love the boy? There's no one else left worth loving. It’s not good enough. But why does anybody love any body? Because he makes your hands feel like hands again. Because the body starts to feel like your own. It doesn't have to be love, as long as it helps you sleep at night. Find me with unbreaking bones, coughing up his tongue.
Catching Stars by Betsy Jennifer
We Trace the Moon in a Green and Gold Field by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland The universe is made of salt blue mist along a thousand horizon lines and the line in front of us cradles the moon, this uncut lit peach, casting long shadow spells at our feet. Moon fire at the fingertips of oaks, pines, red-edged maples. They reach up to touch that which holds the raw stitch of this universe: full belly moon, hot on winter, milk moonlight on my breast as I nurse my sweet baby.
Something About Bursting by Lauren Suchenski And maybe tonight the sky will just sink through the telephone wires and finally reach me. Maybe the porch will swing on its axis and the platform of our loves will all dangle like strings and shoelaces from the blades of grass holding our heads together. Tonight as the sky glows whiteblue and bluedarkblue for moments of moments, maybe Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll catch a glimpse of the Real Blue...the one tunneled and funneled and buried deep within the depth of blue that is always trying to trick me with the simplicity of its hue. Maybe the trees will put their shoes on and walk into the street and just sit on the double yellow lines, all the cars will stop, everyone will peel themselves out of their seat belts, and weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll all sit and watch the sky together like a great drive in movie. Drive up, drive in, move in, movie theatre of eternity. Maybe my words mean nothing. Maybe my patience has been eaten up by a little remote control on wheels, with a furry little mouth and a gulping hunger for brain cells. Maybe all this silence will ferment our hearts and we will turn a wine red blood within our soul cells. Maybe the rate of the flow of the light is too fast to ever catch like snowflakes on your tongue. Maybe all the shutters and doors and windows will fly off their hinges and assemble a treehouse for us all to climb into, quietly, sweetly and secretly we will play our childhoods out on decks of cards and everyone will win. Maybe the clouds are holding the cards, dabbling through aches and twists of the spine of the universe, cracking joints and bits of fluffy white sentience. Maybe all the energy in those telephone wires could be funneled right to the pit our stomachs, fill up our hearts and burst through our weary souls. Burst me awake. Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow.
Falling by Tian Tran
Freedom by Tian Tran
Chloe by Robert Boucheron My name is Chloe and I live at the animal shelter. Someday, I hope to meet a thoughtful, considerate person such as yourself. Meanwhile, I groom myself and rest. Marianne wrote a description of me and clipped it to the front of my unit, blocking me from view. You may as well read it. “Chloe is a sweet, placid, adorable old thing, a classic calico kitty with splotches of orange, white and chocolate in her fur. She loves to sit in the window and watch the world go by, or sit in your lap and purr, or just sit and meditate. So much contemplation has made her wise beyond her years. She is about twelve years old, and lived with an elderly lady who took loving care of her. Definitely an indoor cat, Chloe is in excellent health, has had all her shots, and is spayed. She may be a little overweight from lack of exercise, but if you play with her, she will quickly shed those pounds! She loves to romp with a sensitive, gentle adult. Chloe might not do well with rambunctious children or a household that already has a dog. And she has not lived with other cats, so it is hard to say if she would make friends. She is a furred person singular, as pretty as a picture, and eager to make your acquaintance.” I could take issue with “splotches.” Marianne writes hundreds of cat bios, and they tend to repeat, so she throws in odd things. They feed us well here, that fancy scientific chow, so it’s possible that I gained a pound or two. They keep us in these steel-barred units and give us one exercise period a day, like jailbirds, so that’s another factor. But the part about children and other animals—Marianne nailed that one. The elderly lady was carried out feet first. Her name was Ruthie or Mrs. Garrison, depending on her mood. I was resting with my eyes closed, when I heard a crash. I yawned, then strolled over to investigate. Ruthie lay crumpled on the floor, clutching a watering can with a long skinny spout. Maybe she was trying to reach the spider plant and lost her balance. Maybe she tripped. The place was littered throw rugs and carpet samples with frayed edges, great for digging in your claws but not exactly magazine-style décor. I lay next to her for a while, then went back to my warm spot. Fortunately, the home health aide checked on Ruthie once a day. She was still breathing. The aide phoned it in. They asked her “What year is this?” and “How many fingers am I holding up?” Then they strapped her on a gurney and took her away. The apartment manager called me “poor thing,” and picked up the watering can. Then she called the animal shelter and said she had an arrival. Maybe it was last week, or maybe it was months ago. I lose track of time in here. Now that I’ve caught your attention, I’ll make a little effort. First, a good stretch, then a poised, seated posture. Ears forward, tip of tail vibrating to show interest. You can take me out of the cage and hold me. Ruthie liked to cradle me like a baby and sing hymns. It was a little bizarre, but I got used to it. If you like, a staff member will escort us to the interview room. Wendell, not Marianne—today’s not her shift. It’s that room with the glass wall facing the lobby. See the rocking chair, the plush carpet, and the climbing contraption? You didn’t hear it from me, but it’s called a “feline environment.” Easy does it as you lift me. I’m heavier than you expect. Wendell will come back in a few. Take your time. Did he just wink? Yes, you can close the door. I’m okay. Are you okay? The toys are cute—the fuzzy ball, the string thing, the feathered birdie, the stuffed mouse. The mouse is okay—it squeaks when you bite hard. I’m not interested right now. Once I got beyond kittenhood, I haven’t been big on toys.
Pet me all you want—I won’t break. Yes, that feels good. When I close my eyes and purr that means keep it up. You’ve been around cats, haven’t you? I can tell. You can call me Chloe, but it’s not my real name. Marianne makes them up. Hundreds of them, whatever pops into her head. So you can change it. Just keep doing that thing with your fingers on my neck. A little rocking chair time in your lap? Suits me fine. Oops, I didn’t mean to snag your sleeve with my claw. Sometimes they just stick out like that. I don’t say: “Now I will extend my claw and rip that sucker to shreds.” It just happens, okay? You understand about accidents. Keep doing that massage thing and we’ll get along fine. Wendell is knocking on the glass. He can be goofy, but he’s a good kid. And he knows cats. Interview time is up? Okay, that’s cool. You want to adopt me? Really? Sure, I mean, yes, I mean, that’s cool. Did you know that the animal shelter is running a special today? Two for one or half price. Technically, they don’t sell cats—it’s an adoption fee. You just want one cat. That is totally okay with me. Fill out the paperwork, and pledge to treat me humanely. Sign your name where it says “parent.” Personal check, credit or debit card—they’re all good. You brought your own pet carrier? Super! But wait, that’s not all. They give you a free bag of cat chow. It must be some promotional deal with the pet food company. Do I want to say goodbye to the animal shelter staff? Not really. They’re okay, but enough is enough. I am totally ready to blow this joint and live with you forever. That’s a long time, right?
Sound by Kersten Christianson Between rain showers I sneak out on the porch at night to watch the outlined shadows of my early spring plants the foreground setting for larger trees: yellow cedar and spruce. Soused with dew: the step, the lawn. A night ideal for slug trekking as they venture through the yard, picking up plant debris and leaving slimy trails that stick to the noses of my dogs in the morning. In the distance of this evening, I hear the “Om…” of mournful buoy and I imagine its black, cylindrical shape bobbing in the sea capturing the wind in its nook and crannies chanting. It makes me think of faraway places, like China or Tibet and monks. There may be a bit of these distant lands found in Sitka Sound not too far from this porch.
Light Catcher by Kersten Christianson Like the light catcher in my window, I want to string this day, catch & hang it in the sun. Swarovski crystals of blue heron backs, red berried clusters perched atop Devil’s Club, verdant beard moss— the old lace in spruce branches. To catch the light, add argent spacers aluminum boats, silver flashers chasing coho salmon, mixed with purple mussel shells, orange kelp stitching the tide line, bone, vertebrae of salmon carcass litter the river’s mouth, the clear droplets of this week’s strands of rain, crackled glass yellow, August sun. Knot both ends. Eye hook, strand of beads, sun catcher, prism caster; I want to string this day, hang it in my window
Instead, a Sign by Kersten Christianson 11 October 2005 Here on the island, the autumn rains pound incessantly, winds shake the shingles, snow dusts the high peaks of the Sisters and, in deference to falling leaves, my dahlias bloom. Yesterday, wrapped warm in a purple blanket, sipping hot cranberry tea, I felt your first stirrings. I mistook you for a grumble. Instead, a sign of life, of spring to come.
by Tess Devine
Part-Time Bacchant by Marilyn Schotland My goodness, can you feel that? Our spirits go Hand in hand to thump against the ground. We make tiny seismic movements with our toes; An enclave of earth shakers. Are you beginning to hear it now? And as we Cut through levels of limestone, I can begin to hear Dancing, dancing, dancing, dancing, feet against solidity. Look, there he goes, off to be torn to pieces, darling. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not the whole truth, but listen to the crack of shoes on the floor. Our mistresses, their feet are numb and we creep up, creep up quietly to see our lovers and the broken illusion. In the air, I can hear trills and scurrying feet. Look down again, you will see the girls Made of clay, porcelain, jade, heliotrope and bronze, All alive with the impossibility of existence, To bring writhing together at once and shake.
subtexts by J. P. Berame (nuance ii) i hum the night out of the sun circling my head in full barely visible an analemma of glazed black crowning the bluest midnight into the very strands of my hair oil spill plumes waved along the small of my back is this how you see me? love, always i speak to you in poetry may i ask you to read the metaphors out of me?
un-utterance by J. P. Berame the earth of my lips trembles for every time you choose to be unmoving the meaning of your stillness sometimes eludes me. never mind; still i adore you even in your silence.
defer by J. P. Berame i ache with the way you utter my name like covenants on your tongue wounds for proof blood for evidence soft hostile sighs bottled tight dragging testaments around dearest, my breath always heavy with promises only i can taste.
The Invention of Skirts by Arielle Tipa The princess bore tears for this man as he wrestled with her consent. A stamen from a foreign wood sought to ruin. She was often referred as a flower. Again. And again. ~ He compared her to a river, so she relieved herself in torrents. The basin would greet him the very same night. A wet dress is a burden for pleasure. ~ Billowed and bloomed, she prepared for defilement. Head thrown back, she laughed. Hunter and prey switched sides in the woods. She threw comfits at his face, and swallowed him like fare digested.
In quest of unraveling human sorrow by Wejdan Sager Serious talks capture you standing Near the door, a gloaming sky Unanswered pleas— Serious events blossom two: Surviving oaks; hung on a masterpiece, or in one piece. Medicated peace Or, drowning chrysanthemums in a teapot of eternity. Human sorrow is in the neck area; deep As breathing shallows One’s throat narrows. Closing, preventing a heart’s spillage— Lasting choke over broken bareness; A reflex to tear glands flooding Seconds later, primitives roar; Blood rushes upward, a helpless clench on one’s mind. Spirit; programmed flee, peeling off of one’s body. Safe out of space; Smoke fleeing flames Emerge, converge those lines— in timeless rhymes.