WAYNE LITERARY REVIEW id
WAYNE LITERARY REVIEW
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TEAM EXECUTIVE EDITOR & DESIGNER
Avery Zimmerman Olivia Rae Olivia Yost Nicole Saez
ON THE COVER
Choose Life Gala Knรถrr
Contents Foreword 9 Carrie Paveglio
My Name is Rupa Eleanor Swanson
Nestled 13 Colleen Maynard
Back In The Cut (Again & Again) Olivia Rae
You, i, Selfhood. 16 Dee Henderson
TREE’S LAMENT 19 Duane L. Herrmann
Memorizing Bloomtimes 20 Olivia Yost
Brown 21 Reynaldo George Hinojosa Jr.
Shikoni përtej asaj që shihni | يلالخ َعّلطا Words by Elsa Nilaj Art by Shaam Phanes
“Black Don’t Crack” and Other Tales in Multiple Choice valerie Aimee Smith
26 Rachel Tapling PIGMENT IMPAIRED 30 A.E. Merck ERDAN, ANKARA 2013 32 Michael Boettcher Extinction Theories
Self Portrait, 2019 34 Chance Timm
The Hidden Soldier Louie Alkasmikha
38 Elijah Sparkman (Sexy) Pointless
If You Love Me, You Will Try to Sing 44 Nick Indigo Szydlo
Übermensch David Capps
Self-portrait of the Artist as a Person Samuel Beale
Aubade to my Past Mason Finamore
The Chinese Character: Lesson Two Yuan ChangmingÂ
50 Kristen Clark Tick
Joseph Baron Pravda
Sisterhood or How we break in women
56 Josie Levin Mouthful of Babies 75 Channa Goldman The Last Time 76 Jane Johns Identifying Father 78 Tuesday Taylor LESBOS
Coming of Age 79 Tuesday Taylor
Dynamite 80 Daniel N. Johnson
81 Maceo Paisley Dynamite
84 Mary Anna Kruch Sanguine 85 Jacquelyn Azar Flight
Chrysalis 87 Saylem Celeste
Lines Across the Border 90 Marianne Samano
91 Reynaldo George Hinojosa Jr. Fruit
“Value” 93 Amy Loji
Can god hear me from Chicago.. 95 Layali Algomai
97 Kaleigh Wright HEAVY LIGHT
iii. 98 e.a. toles
Hipster 100 Phyllis Houseman
102 Amy Lynn Hess Medea
Autoportrait on Autopilot Olivia Rae
background noise Jan Ball
Donna, Meaning Lady Adam Dietz
mind control (a.k.a. depression) Audrey Wilson
Spanglish 113 Julianne Meiu
Becoming Queer/Queer Becoming: Art, Affect, and the Dissolution of Being (Human)
Excerpt from “Waterbearers”
renée c. hoogland V. Efua Prince
Contributor Bios 132
Carrie Paveglio I am closing out day 20 of quarantine as I write this. Even when this review is published in print several months after schedule due to COVID-19, we may still be in quarantine, or, possibly, in the second cycle of social distancing measures. All this is to say, many of us have been, and will be, spending a lot more time alone. Or semi-alone, with fewer distractions. Maybe the jobs or activities that defined you are now prohibited. Or you can no longer see your favorite people, go to your favorite placesâ€”so, as we enter a kind of collective introspection, what is left? How does our idea of ourselves morph as we no longer have the world reflecting back on us? For those often on the end of a beam that does not accurately define them, this time may offer clarity of self, but others still are experiencing an echo-chamber of self-doubt and confusion. Those deemed essential have seen their days grow hellishâ€”full of death while avoiding droplets or contact or anger from others. They have even less certainty and even less time to begin to think about it. Healthcare professionals are serving as the final comfort to dying patients, whose families are not allowed in their presence; grocery workers are charging to their bathrooms upon returning home to scrub any trace of the virus off their clothes and bodies so as to not risk their family members; even those working from home must trick their brain into productivity by delaying reflection. Those forced out and those locked in are on two ends of a spectrum, thrashing back from the edge while making very sure we do not cross over to the other side and invert our stress and fears. 9
During this time, I have remained mostly distracted. While I am lucky enough to still have a job, increased responsibilities in light of the pandemic have left me with little time to consider the enormity of this situation. One of my first opportunities to do so was in writing this foreword—the first few attempts to do so were unsuccessful. Nothing I wrote felt meaningful, or meaningful enough for anyone to read amid the madness. But ignoring it here would be ingenuine, so here’s an attempt at reflection. We are all sitting with one absence or another: each other, first and foremost, but also the routines, the rhythms, the smells. Our lives are devoid of the macro-nuances of the every day, ones that seemed insignificant before, but have now left a hole that ebbs and fluctuates as we settle into our new reality—the small talk with regulars at the restaurant you worked at, the mouthed hellos to acquaintances while walking to class, the performativity that comes with an ironed shirt, the specific walk you took to work or class that just seems wrong to replicate as a loop without a destination. These moments are being replaced with ones increasingly more intimate, more internal, and more restrained. I found the following works included in this year’s review have only grown more relevant; many of the featured writers in our collection defined identity as the thing the world tells them they are missing: an absence of straightness, or whiteness, or kindness, cis-ness, or a perfectly-abled body or mind. The ringing cavern forged by grief or depression. Adolescence lingering as it withers. Other pieces fixated on tangible things, places especially: the right city or the wrong city or a changing city bringing them toward themselves. Fixations of skin to understand what is going on inside of it. Professions for hands that callous ambition. Projections of ancestry, rewritings of memory and calls for new legacies all follow. 10
Especially as we are discovering these facets of identity, we may see their development as something taken from us. But they will always forge ahead, clambering to the front of our sticky brains and begging for consideration. If any come to you now in our communal silence, welcome them, or, at least do not shut them out. Meditate on the contradictions that lie between our internal shouts and the murmurs of the external world. Identity is the space between us just as much as it is the humanity pulling us together. We are, first and foremost, a body, an entity, transformed by projections from within and without, hardened by circumstance, made vulnerable by systematic bigotry, lines deepened and minds smoothed by age, disadvantaged by chance and by designâ€”thrust out into contaminated air or burrowed deep into our own stale breath.
My Name is Rupa Eleanor Swanson In April, I sat at my sewing machine holding the yoke of a shirt, a Wrangler, mixed colors, a plaid fabric. I ran a seam. It takes two hands to make a shirt, sure hands, no hesitating, for the bosses want the work done fast. My mother stood near me saying we’d take breakfast together. We both worked in Rana Plaza. She made shorts and I made shirts. Later, in the building’s rubble, they’d find labels and piles of unfinished clothing—C & A, Benetton, Mango, Primack, Cato. The factory floor rolled beneath my feet. My mother vanished. That morning, we’d seen cracks in our building, but were told to enter or we would not be paid. I dropped the unfinished shirt and ran through thick dust, screaming, save me. I am alive. I am here. I am Rupa!
Nestled Colleen Maynard Corn and cars flash past while I run Windsor road at dusk. Some of the cornfields are lined with those miniature forests you see by the road, trees waterlogged in swampy ditches. If you were to drop a very large rock into this muck, you would hear the gentle sloshing of water on rotted wood. Where the roots of the trees spread out to touch each other, there’s a scent of rancid pecans and old apples. I’ve smelled these roots before in my friend’s backyard, back by the creek in the woods.
They’ll creep under our Girl Scout bodies inside the nylon tent and cushion our fear when the wild turkeys scream like children being tortured. We won’t dare leave to pee, for fear the thick mess will lurch backward like springy tendons. I can’t fall asleep; won’t stop scanning for pain. My real life is safe, wholesome: church every Sunday, siblings to watch out for. Swaths of Irish family I am expected to remember, elders that go on and on whom we’ve learned to be respectful and patient with. I have to make up scandal, tarnish, teach myself how to brood and mourn. I’ve begun slitting my wrists and keeping others’ secrets. Self-torture is so much labor, but it’s a seductive salve for the innocence my friends hoist on me. It is, at least, my very own. At breakfast the day is spread open like a new diary as it still does for a little while early mornings. The roots are now a thick carpet insulating and protecting us. I keep touching the skin around my eyes, the corners of my lips, certain I have missed a veil of dried tears or the milky trails of sleep. We roll our tent into its duffel bag 13
and fold up the faded Disney sleeping bags. As we walk back to the house it is quiet in the cornfields. Our mouths are cotton-candy with the sugar of boxed pancakes. The traffic light at the four-corners blinks red on each side. By noon all that will be left is a square of weeds imprinted where our things had been, like a basket of plastic Easter grass once all the chocolates are eaten and the eggs returned to the fridge.
Back In The Cut (Again & Again) Olivia Rae As a teenager, I cut weeds that grew out of the cracks of my driveway. I cut coupons out of newspapers and magazines at the dining room table while my mother microwaved 3 day old spaghetti. I cut it up on the dance floor of my bedroom, moving inside my skin-tight jeans in ways no one would believe. I cut lifelong friendships out of my life. I cut collars off my t-shirts. I cut annoying boys in lunch lines and got annoyed when they cut me. I cut personal stories out of my essays because I wanted to keep them for myself. And because they felt shameful. And because I didnâ€™t want pity. And because when my mother found my wounds, I cut a silent deal with her to never cut or talk about cutting again.
You, i, Selfhood. Dee Henderson How did You come to be You? Did You fight, did You scramble and climb out the pit of nothing? Do bloody finger marks and shed nails mark your ascent, your red path to personhood? How did You unite the myriad things? How did your animal brained lust, your writhing urge to fuck, become one with your cerebral love? How did your religion—borrowed and stolen, changed and adopted; the thoughts of countless minds, writings of thousands of different good and bad others who also called themselves themselves— how did that conglomerate tradition become You? How did the urge to sit become the same as the urge to work? Your dirt-stained hands, your sunburns and tendons and passionate stewardship— how did that You make itself the You of the couch, holding me as we watch lazy-minded distractions? Did You consolidate by force? Did You general an army of inexhaustible will, bringing together the contradictions, the concepts, the urges— uniting the myriad things under the banner of You? Love, i have never doubted that You were You,
but i envy that selfhood. What power it must bring. Mine was never so adamant; a cheesecloth self. Barely enough to hold all of me inside, identity leaks through always. i drip and pool upon the earth. A single finger, one concerted push could puncture my self-vessel. Every love and belief and inward-looking conception could flood out onto the flat plain of no-oneness, emptied in a rush like a burst Holland dyke. I’ve had to weave this flimsy self by hand. No guidance or precedent; a girl made out of wholecloth, by dim light, by desperation. Perhaps it is the nature of my constitution to be unsure. My self, without the stamp of the State to enforce unity, is a rogue body. The name on record is not mine. It smells of the metallic blood of an unjust birth, it sounds of the setting of bayonets, it is the violence of a nonconsensual institution. Rejecting the given mandate, I’ve woven without a pattern. Despite the hate i feel for what i didn’t choose, this ramshackle self I’ve made is functional, and as me as I’ve found so far. 17
We each have our own power. Your beautiful definition, your seamlessly merged contradictions, makes You always the stronger of us. Despite that, in better moments, i appreciate the insight Iâ€™ve gained from the needle-pricks and failed attempts at personhood. As your love consolidates all the disparate parts of me, i can pull You apart. We can teach each other how to be, and not be, and oscillate between modes of self.
Duane L. Herrmann
How could my people do this to me? Picnic in my shade and nap there, climb my limbs, collect autumn leaves – then do this to me! I am ashamed! How can they do this to me? How can they hang their own kind from my branches? Bodies do not ornament! They think I can’t feel this burden? I cannot endure to live if this is what they do. I harbor life, not bring death! I am ashamed! I’d rather die! Cut me! Burn me! But don’t use me to kill. My roots are curling, leaves are wilting, I am dying…
Memorizing Bloomtimes Olivia Yost Watch the world rotting itself so clean and slip into a delirium hedges undressing while I walk Sky blue house blue red on blue and blue white fragrance lolling forwards lacing branches hesitate and hover hesitate hover stop open petals racing petals dripping petals melting metal lacing to the tips of walk past them sucking on spireaâ€™s fingers stop again stop again so pretty leaves sucking on humidity white tongues sitting on top of hedges white tongues sitting outside their mouths
Brown Reynaldo George Hinojosa Jr. Every day I carry my brown skin Because it is the only land I have left I lay it in the dirt So that I may remember cracked bones My ancestors left behind for me to mend I lay it in the dirt to hear the root And feed the mysterious cost of light I lay beside it So that I may blend
Shikoni përtej asaj që shihni | يلالخ َعّلطا Words by Elsa Nilaj Art by Shaam Phanes
There is no I in me And that’s because I’m Two different people. I do not know which to choose, but, i, carries the soul, and me, creates the window. If only it worked with a hyphen, maybe then I would grow accustomed to both night and day maybe then I would see the other eye and outline them
“Black Don’t Crack” and Other Tales in Multiple Choice Valerie Aimee Smith 1. She runs to my lap and screams, a. Mom! I love my hair and all my friends want to touch it. b. Mom! I love my hair. c. yellow d. nothing. I pull her back into my womb and show her copper. 2. You have beautiful skin. To which I reply, a. My mother has skin like milk chocolate. b. Thank you. c. Soap and water. d. This poem’s title. 3. Scenario: Jumping off a bridge. You will be the only one going to jail out of a room full of people all doing the same a. drug b. person c. weapon d. breath
4. Magical Negro: Because these are our rules, you cannot use someone else’s
a. comb b. brush c. makeup d. man 5. He shoulders to my shoulder and asks when he will grow a mustache, and I say,
a. Your father’s grandmother was Ute. b. Your mother’s grandmother was Cherokee. c. Your uncle’s mustache just came in. He’s 46. d. nothing, thinking about so many people. 6. History a. He worked on the railroad. b. He worked on the railroad. c. He worked on the railroad. d. He worked on the railroad. 7. Your cousin is a. Jesse Owens b. John Stallworth c. a neuroscientist d.waiting for you
Extinction Theories Rachel Tapling My friend and I are standing in the rose garden of the Henry Ford Estate, our children climbing around rock walls in the clear, crisp, unending grey of Detroit winter. We are both crying as I describe my son’s 4th grade classroom, where the day before I’d watched him study in a beanbag chair, under a loft of other kids, sprawled out like vines. “I’m having trouble finding good data.” He said. He tabs back and forth, researching on a laptop, while I look at the poetry that he read aloud in a coffee shop last week. To my friend, I say, “I don’t know a child who doesn’t deserve this.” “There isn’t a child who doesn’t deserve this.” She adds. We brush off our toddlers, covered in snow and rocks, and head back to the pool house, where docents let our kids use the bathroom. One year, as my husband and I sat at one of those tables shaped like kidney beans, the teacher asked us what our discipline policies were at home, considering. Like usual, I couldn’t respond right away, I am better at thinking on my feet in my own classroom, with teenagers. With the tables literally turned, all I could manage was a sharp intake of breath before answering in my own teacher voice. “Considering?” I asked. “Considering the way he has unravelled by the time I see him?” I sputtered. “He is always very concerned about that behavior chart. It’s not like he doesn’t care. We hope for a green day, but they are few. Yellow days aren’t too bad. But I am telling you he gets in the car and sobs when he gets red, and can barely remember how it 26
happened.” I don’t know what else to say, so I say nothing else. What could we do on a yellow day, a red day, at 4pm in response to an impulse at 10am? This child of ours, bright, kinetic, sensitive, didn’t even know he was on thin ice. We left, light-headed. The next year we went in with oxygen masks. We couldn’t be caught again, gasping for air in those small chairs. We were ready to bring up his high test scores, his friendliness. Instead, his new teacher slid a form across the table to us, smiling. He’d been observed, recommended, and would we sign consent for a gifted program? We were alien to this wealthy district, having stumbled through apartment floods, garage fires, unemployment and surprise babies to live with family in this closed, suburban school system. Blocks from the lake. Blocks from the city. Our son, drawn in like a magnet, was gifted this zip code. Breathing rare air, he could draw deep. The meteor theory is the most dramatic, he says. Something alien, the size of a city, cracks open the earth and in half the time it takes a brontosaurus to blink, the earth is on fire, then buried in ash, then cold, layering millions of fossils upon millions more as they fall, like Pompeiian citizens lacing their sandals. But there are other theories. Did the flora change, insidiously, poisonously over decades, as the climate did, temping and tricking dull tastebuds? Were the seeds of death sown even before the meteor, organs slowly shutting down from bitter leaves until herds were too thin, food too scarce, and starved? Even more, did the earth itself change? Betraying them beneath their feet and in their air with volcanoes and super volcanoes? My 10-year old was the 8th generation on his father’s side to be born in Detroit. I was a transplant as a teenager from MidMichigan. I knew how to milk cows but had never been to a Starbucks, had never heard of a pierogi. And then here, I was baffled by the suburbs and the hard lines between them. I didn’t understand warnings about my neighborhood from others who lived further north. I learned about urban sprawl, redlining, 27
and later, gentrification by watching it unfold before my eyes. I couldn’t stop talking about it. I couldn’t stop asking about it. I agonized about where to live, where to teach, and still do. As a history teacher, I dug in to the stories of this place, and have been trying to find mine, when my history is nothing to repeat. My ancestors put Native children in Leiderhosen, after all. My little family was displaced by minor catastrophes but we could still look the part in this wealthy area. My van might be 13 years old, but my skin is white. My son blends in with classmates who spend winter break at Disney, spring break in Naples. At least on the outside, he is the same. While just a few minutes away, glacial history crying out beneath my feet, I wrestle with the agonies in my classroom and whether I am best suited to be there. Truly, I am not. In this city with new stadiums but closing schools; with missing bond money but bars for miles—my students are the forgotten. Their lives are endangered beneath the guise of progress. I cannot stay late and arrive hours early like my colleagues, because I have 3 kids of my own. Still, I come home to the desk my husband set up for me in the back bedroom, and hustle away as best I can. It isn’t nearly enough. Four of the six of us on my floor have second jobs. We don’t have textbooks because the students aren’t allowed to visit their lockers in between classes. So everything the students touch, we have created and printed. We have one copier for 30 teachers, so the math teacher across the hall petitioned for her own key to the building so she could stay late enough to get her copies made. Students are escorted from one room to the next in tight lines, by the teachers. We don’t even have passing time to ourselves, and neither do the kids. We watch as they haul binders from class to class under constant watch and camera. It takes my breath away to consider what lead to this, and what effects it has. We hand out water bottles when the water tests don’t come back clean. I quietly excuse assignments from a child who didn’t come home last night, who walked to school from wherever he was to my 28
classroom where he is, angry and withdrawn. I look the other way when food goes missing from my desk, and leave my cabinet with supplies open, unlocked. I hoard the little notes the students leave on my laptop, because it is the sustenance I need. Small, immeasurable kindnesses I long to repay with interest. Still, I know I cannot do this forever. Or for long. Who can absolve me, forgive me for not having the depths of time and endurance needed? Which turn of wind or weather will bring them a better teacher, safer building, fresher air? “No one with another life can do this. You know you were the only one married with kids”, an administrator says conversationally as I sign papers to hand over my keys. “I learned that right away. I appreciate what you tried to do.” I am gutted, gasping. The next year I am hired elsewhere, with more copiers and a newer building, but similar issues. I feel I have found my footing, but learn that last year the salutatorian had her mic cut when she asked why teachers in other districts stay all year, while her classes are regularly taught by subs, shuffled around. “I didn’t even know this wasn’t normal.” She said. My son’s report earns him an A, and he wins a science award. His ADHD hasn’t come up in a while, since he can sit where he wants, move with ease around the room, and choose his research. “You’re doing a good job, mama.” His teacher tells me. It may not have been all at once, the 10-year old explains. He points to the data on the screen of iridium and fossils, shifts in his papasan chair, and sighs.
PIGMENT IMPAIRED A.E. Merck You can create or quantify. Make something great for its sake or dollar signs. But when you imitate and fake on a trait you’ve not defined, Your fresh painted blank slate is off base and off design. You take, then discard the guys, That gave you the game and all the raw supplies. Does it equate that what predates the great wave that you personify, Can’t gain the same weight that you’ve obtained with zero bonds or ties? Your heroes modify the arts to find a path through darker times. You monetize culture aside from scrutiny or darting eyes. No hardships plights or starving nights You bargained swiped an altered price. Respond to hypes, then popularize with watered down soul. Mass production off of garnished life was hardly the goal. It was to grow from the rotten seeds your forefathers sowed. Who would know that their progeny’d be drawn to our core? Chad annexed our dress. Steph inject them curves. She self address bad bitch. He plans to test N-word. Uh uh You ain’t getting back that word, kid. Don’t care if you mimic just how you heard it.
Understand that we flipped it, retconned repurpose The term’s main intention’s not to come out your lips. But I get it. It’s your lineal privilege. You descend from inventors who thought up and penned the word Nigger. Who would figure it’d be featured by influential figures? Placed in hits that gross figures where its victims inhibit . . . You to say it? For heaven’s sake it’s Like your invention’s been poached, Appropriated. That’s how it feels when folks steal what you co-created. Is the trade a fair deal? Hell no, it’s weighted . . . Differently here. We adorned the culture Opposed to stripping from heirs You don’t see color? Why all the whispers and stares? Unravel woes by unstitching the stitches you wear. Burning underneath our clothes inextinguishable flares. You can’t mimic the glare. Cause you’re true colors show That you’re pigment impaired.
ERDAN, ANKARA 2013 Michael Boettcher Hair as black as sleep, rich lips always in a smile, despite the crackdown. “Do you want to kiss me?” “Yes, but can you be open here?” SSSHHHH! hissed the bartender. Almost silently: “I am open wherever I go,” at this moment exiled in one of a million bars down one of a million sokaks, lights off, metal gates over the doors as riot polis march past, having left a smoking stinking stinging searing calling card canister on the street where we came for company, Efes beer and a quiet curse on the president. I’d asked him about gay life in Ankara and he told me his story in English so impeccable I’d first thought him from London. He complimented my meager Turkish, never averting his gaze or moving his hand from my arm. Then in a flash: “The owner says we have to leave, quickly, quickly!” Cops gone, air and coast clearer. 32
“Do you want to see my apartment?” Yes, but we leave tomorrow and I can’t abandon my friends. So we kissed on both cheeks, lingering for the second one as his friends gathered and mine jogged toward the hotel, away from this corner of two of a million sokaks, lights out, windows smashed, trash burning, crying youths with faces melting from the tear gas scattering to the night. “Memnun oldun.” he sighed. Nice to meet you too.
Self Portrait, 2019 Chance Timm There is a girl carved from the carrion: lady in leather, bright red shoes on the cobblestone, woman in blue light, holding in thin hands a baby pink flower and a suitcase, covered in black butterflies. A crone boarding the plane, dead in the air, girl again on the ground. Still in hand the carry-onâ€” black butterflies.
The Hidden Soldier Louie Alkasmikha I walk and stumble. right limp I sway left left step I sway right. right limp I try to walk a left step straight line right limp and make so Left step sure I do not bang my head against the wall. I question my deformities as I stroll around. I wonder if there will ever be an end to this. I wonder if there will be a cure for this sickness. I remember the day this started when the mouth and muscles in the body stopped reacting with one another. It happens again and again. I 35
look like a wretch and fool stuck frozen in time with nowhere to turn. I remember when taking the drops to ease the pain. I can only go so far until I reach the wall like a small fly stuck in a room, trapped. But I still go on. Unlike an army soldier who can reach the end of the battle, I will be in a neverending war. Every part of my body will fight every year, every month, every week, day, hour, minute, second until the end. I worry about that day in the future when my entire body 36
is frozen forever and I am only able to think and feel everything. Until then, I will still walk, limp, journey and fly. This is my sword, my gun, and my wings.
(Sexy) Pointless Elijah Sparkman From here, the clouds looked like Big Planets! Yeah. And the sun? It was definitely in love with the sky. She thought it looked cool, but she also knew it was just her way of seeing it. It had something to do with the way that work can train your mind. The way everyday tasks can seep into everyday sights. That was her idea about it at least. Hence: cloud planets. Hence: Sun feelings. Her official title had been: Deputy Planet Associate. She did the work of designing the planets. That is, her and her committee. They were assigned to three out of the then nine planets. They did committee shit, mostly. Argued and drank coffee and argued on occasion about the formation of the solar system. You know: how to do it. It being their job and all. Jupiter was, admittedly, her favorite: it having that Marilyn Monroe mole. Thatâ€™d been her idea, or, at least, her and her friend Rachel together. Really, the whole committeeâ€™s idea. An homage idea. A together idea. Sometimes, the feeling went, all it takes is one little flaw to make something perfect! Cute idea. 38
Neptune. It was a close two. They tried to invent a whole new color with that one. Give Crayola a run for their Marker Money! There were a lot of weird mixes thrown in the Think Tank. That was a super fun day. A lot of good stuff. The winner tho: “like if you dropped a Blue Raspberry Slurpee on an Unhealthy Glacier.” Pretty evocative stuff. If she didn’t say so herself. And she did, in fact, say that! But that was Before. There’s always a Before. Now. There’s always a Now, too. Now, she worked register at the grocery store. The place was called Good Living Groceries. And it had found its own new ways of taking over her life, her mind. Her sights. Habituations. Patterns even! For instance: bags. Bags could be for anything and everything now! As long as the carrier wanted it. You always have to ask if the customer wants the bag. Some people don’t want bags. Some people are turned off by them. Pollution. But some people do. To them she says, but also, to everyone, she says, before giving them a bag: Would you like a bag with that?
And then there are the beeps. Beep. Broccoli. Beep. Rutabaga. Beep. Ruffles. Beep. Milk. Beep. Eggs. Beep. Bacon. Beep. Frozen pizza. Beep etcetera! Beep ad infinitum. Beep. Beep on end. All of this is to say— And there’s always something to say. That when the critiques came out, she was only halfway hurt. Her having a new job and all. The critiques were on the planets, and they were, like, in regards to their importance. They were sexy, they said. No doubt. They say stuff like that. But, they also said, they were pointless, the planets were. What was even the point? They assessed. The Detroit Free Press was blunt: We honestly don’t get it. Why are the planets there? What is the purpose? Is there something here that we’re supposed to be getting, that’s just over our heads? No pun intended. Really. Honest. But honestly. The New York Times went especially hard on Uranus. What the fuck is up with this planet? They wrote. Were they high? Was the sub-committee responsible for creating Uranus… were they high, under the influence, of drugs? She laughed reading that. Good Living Ramen boiling on the stove. 40
Good Living Chewy Bar in hand. She remembered that. They were high. They were so high! Her and Bob had sneaked into a stairwell. Lit up a spliff. By then, her and Bob had become a little burnt out on the sun and the planets. Needed to wind down. They had one more planet to go. So they felt they deserved it! Theyâ€™re smoking the spliff. Bob said something. She said Fuck You. He said Up Yours. She said Your Anus! Voila. And thus, a planet was born. It was dumb. But so many things that two people say to each other are dumb! So she liked that memory. Memory. Beep. Pumpkin. Beep. Spice. Beep. Oregano. Beep. Flour. Beep. Bread. Beep. Another day. Another line. Rocks that look like asteroids. Another list thatâ€™s not hers but is. At home the TV pundits were discussing Earth.
It seemed that her planets, her committee’s planets, in their lighthearted way, were just the tip of the planet iceberg. Earth, according to the pundits, had significant flaws, too. She sort of tuned out here. Because. She remembered a memory. Another memory! It’s funny how they come. In the memory it is her second, or third or fourth, day at the Planet Factory. She is walking to refill a water bottle. A wrong turn somewhere and she winds up at the doors to the Earth Center. KeyCard Console lit up in an “Xbox” green color. She hears it make a couple green beep sounds. Sort of menacing, in a movie way. (There’s always a wrong turn and an allusion to the movies!) (Not always an allusion to an Xbox gaming system, however…) She thinks: Well, my goodness. Pretty Big Wig thing they’ve got going on here. And she walked away. That was it. And she, honestly, didn’t think about it much after that. That was their thing, whoever was in there. She, well, she needed some damn water and to get back to her committee so she didn’t get fired. She’d only just started. Really, she didn’t think about it till now. Watching TV. The Earth Room. It occurred to her. What if she had been in the Earth room? After all, she was so close.
How would she have made Earth? On the Earth committee. Then she thought, she couldn’t possibly imagine that. Earth is, like, Earth. Then she thought, well, maybe she could… Then she thought—so many thoughts!—that maybe she shouldn’t. That wasn’t her room. Who was she to be in that room? And then she thought, a last thought for this story. Well, I’m me. And there she was. And the Earth was new again!
If You Love Me, You Will Try to Sing Nick Indigo Szydlo 1. had i known that all the oppositions i had felt were binaries : not limitless options for balancing my spirit rather than stalling it or ripping it apart maybe i’d have quieted enough to hear the universe sing her love songs energies bellowing in and bellying out of existence all i heard was the crackle of the sun in the void of space my body had occupied before the oxygen pulled out a perfect sequoia punchoutline where i had planted roots as my limbs stretched out infinitely 2. stopped growing at precisely the moment i stopped believing chest full of scars and spoiled milk from strangers calling me ma’am instead of Peter Pan 3. if you love me you will try to sing by taking in all the air not just enough to make a small noise you will cut off your heaviness. you will cut off your shadow. you will cut off your ma’amness. you will cut off the dead leaves. 44
Ăœbermensch David Capps With his inability to be subject to moral dilemmas he will miss out (however long his natural lifespan is) on the reassurance of tears, his only go as far as wishes and possess little to no understanding about the unrecoverable sense of late night conversations that seemed so meaningful, the softness of the following morning, lying together in responsiveness beneath the same blue quilt.
Self-portrait of the Artist as a Person Samuel Beale I was diagnosed with autism when I was six. I’m made very uncomfortable by large groups of people, bright flashing lights, and unnecessarily loud music. I question how people can meet new friends at parties when you can barely hear them scream over all the noise. I like observing specific details, like how I was born at 10:31 PM on June 2nd. When I’m explaining something, I feel as though I need to get across all the information immediately. This is why so many of my sentences have additional phrases. I’m trying to cut back. I like observing patterns. I was in a reading activity with a class a few weeks ago, and we were reading five short stories from the author. Everyone read a paragraph before the person sitting to their left read the next. I ended up reading both the first and last paragraph of the third short story. The person sitting to my left, Emily, read both the first paragraph of the first story and the last paragraph of the last story. I thought that this coincidence was really cool. I like that sore feeling that one gets in their body after running. I also really love eating food after a long, challenging workout. I really like drinking water. I love cats and I really, really love dogs. I love giving and receiving hugs. My friends are very important to me, but making friends is hard because I’m so quiet. There are some people who I’m no longer friends with. I am disappointed with how some of those friendships ended, yet I still appreciate the lessons and joy they gave me. One of the things that I love most is when I get an idea. I forget some of them, but others never leave me. I have a fairly good idea of what one of my most important stories should be. It came to me in a dream. 46
I have a lot of difficulty defining what it is that I hate. I don’t like nuts, except I recently found that I like cashews. I hate ignorance, and I sound like a supervillain when I talk about why I hate it so much. I am vehemently against the practice of giving someone a pet without any prior discussion, because it traps the recipient into a connection with the sender. Whenever I hear about this happening, I suspect emotional manipulation. I don’t like to tell people “Good luck” because what happens to them shouldn’t be determined by factors they can’t control. I picked this belief up from The Catcher in the Rye, a book that I dislike. I say to people “Take care” when saying good bye. This is my way of saying “Even if we never see each other again, I still want you to be happy and successful.” I feel clingy when I say “See you later.” In my first year of college, I made a friend in my math class. She was absent several days, so I sent her the lecture notes even when she didn’t ask for them. One day, I realized that I hadn’t heard from her in a while, so I texted her. I learned that she was no longer at school. She didn’t say why, and her response suggested that she didn’t want to talk to me. I haven’t heard from her since. Whatever she’s doing, I hope she’s happy. I don’t know why I write anymore. I started writing because I wanted to tell stories. That desire clashes with how my writing voice actually sounds: I write more mechanically, as though I’m explaining how to use a piece of equipment. I don’t see this as a bad thing, but instead find it fascinating. My favorite books have always been the Artemis Fowl series. I have a lot of trouble getting myself to read consistently. I have difficulty focusing on books and finding the deeper meaning within words. I wonder if I have ADD that’s gone undiagnosed. I wish that I was better at writing consistently. I have not yet published anything, and I’d like to change that. I was recently confronted by the reality that what’s holding me back most is a low opinion of myself and my abilities. I’m trying to be more self-affirming. I’m a good writer, and what I’ve written is worth reading. 47
Aubade to my Past Mason Finamore I say goodbye to the little boy with a crooked smile; to the little boy tossed around like clothes in a washer meant to clean up messes but what washed away was the sparkle in his eyes now a darkened brown blending with the night while his skin remained stained in black and blue I say goodbye to the breath I once knew as my friend, a reminder of the life still left inside leaving on the nights Iâ€™d lie awake prepping traps in my room, rocks balanced on my door to warn me of intruders. I spent it all waiting for the dreaded arrival of an unwanted guest, waiting for him to come back for seconds, leftovers of the person that I used to be. Fear of losing it was why I lost it anyways, replaced by a dull ache in my stomach like a foot resting on my chest, sinking in, except this time it wasnâ€™t his but one pressing on my brain, killing my insides. I say goodbye to half my body, cut away like the bruised part of an apple, the part that was most traumatized because I didnâ€™t like the metallic taste of the damages so I turned it to the other side, the new side, the clean side, the safe side and took a big, empty bite.
The Chinese Character: Lesson Two
怒: anger results from slavery Rising above heart 愁: worry occurs when autumn Sits high on your heart 闷: depressed whenever your heart is Shut behind a door 意: meaning is defined as A sound over the heart 思: thought takes place Right in the field of heart 忘: forgetting happens When there’s death on heart 忍: to tolerate is to bear a knife Right above your heart
Tick Kristen Clark Sweeping barefooted in the kitchen, swaying hips a little more than necessary just to match the swinging twangs of an old country song, all full of melancholy and a tender joy under the surface. The earth outside is a world of rich black mud and green trees dripping rainwater off new leaves. Scents of almost-summer waltz into the room through the top half of a Dutch door. The other kids are around too, bouncing a little to the shivering guitar singing through the radio. Some old song about a man named Clayton Delaney. That’s when I see the tick on the floor, tiny black legs moving slowly, deliberately, meaningfully across the floor. That’s me with the broom in my hand raising the hue-and-cry. “Grab the plyers!” Only we take too long with the job. We watch the little tick crawl steadily and soberly over the linoleum, each leg firmly planting purpose into the floor. We name him Clayton Delaney like the man who died in the song. We laugh and joke some more while we get the plyers ready, positioned like a medieval torture device around the moving body. More laughter, more references to poor Clayton Delaney, more looking at the busy little tick. “Maybe he never even bit anybody,” I cry out in joking protest. My sister smilingly shakes her head, lovingly crushes the plyers shut. I’m happy she’s the one to do it. More laughing, more joking as Clayton Delaney is flushed down the toilet with mock ceremony. I think briefly of my nightmare from long ago, a child’s image of a satanic Saddam Hussein pushing people through a gigantic human shredder like a crazed sawmiller, blood and body parts swirling around like a tornado. Cry out happily, “Why’d we have to kill ‘em?” Go back to the broom, imagine what would’ve happened if Clayton were still alive. Maybe he never would’ve bitten anybody after all. Maybe he 50
would’ve, and it wouldn’t have mattered. Not every tick has Lyme. Maybe Clayton Delaney was the beautiful one. And then what am I? I swing again to a mournful guitar, wishing I’d never seen Clayton Delaney, ‘cuz I’d love him if only ticks didn’t suck blood.
Sinead, Joseph Baron Pravda. 52
Despair Brent Royster High above, see its bright skin and fiber — the incessant dread grows denser and then fades, like a strobe, so don’t stare. Cover your eyes, then lower your guard. Even in odd places, it appears. Stage lights lift, curtains part, you’re enjoying the show. Musical instruments glitter and spin. Scanning a menu, you order lunch while the enormous panda with brown eyes and recorded voice mimics vintage cartoons and begs you to come back soon. Beavers, antelope, tiny birds all speak a hinged electric voice, the compliant air shrivels like a lost balloon. Dropping coins, magnetic humming vibrates the shell: animals awake to glare at you while you eat pizza and sip diet soda. You’re just here on business. You wore a yellow bow tie so as not to offend anyone, and when the restaurant turns to face you and sing “Happy Birthday,” you look around for some kid crying. Every time you go somewhere in street clothes, you’re treated like dirt. You hate it. So you begin dressing up for the most mundane occasions.
A tuxedo pumping gas, a chancellor’s gown folding laundry. Now, huddled in some fantasy jungle of gears and servos, you wish you hadn’t worn the damned three-piece. Why clash? Captured like a frog in that tight suit of yours, you’re wondering why you’ve been brought here. Don’t make me spell it out for you, whispers the panda that winks into your Shirley Temple. We fear for each other. When you lean back into the sharp sleep you remember what the mind wants and cannot have. Gobs of pizza sauce splatter your shirtfront. A rotten brat is whacking you repeatedly with a party whistle. You notice the animals garbling through the routine, and when you focus, see they want to get out too, are tired of the monkey’s cymbal crash, the rabbit hopping in to pantomime Little Miss Muffet. When the manager appears and waves an apron on your face thousands of tiny green dots fill your eyes. Suddenly, awake and flying high above yourself, you are a hawk disappearing in dense branches. You’re here and you’re leaving. Then, you are the moon. All the shadows vanish for you.
Sisterhood or How we break in women Shawntai Brown Initiation Snapback of bra strap lifts the panicked flesh a moles path Rite of passage know to duck away become crazed headlights will follow for blocks man hanging out arm like a hook fishing begging fishing begging Womanhood beauty is not admiration is commodity find a way to spin possession into gold
(A one act play of lesbian tragedy, in the greek style)
Josie Levin Dramatis Personae (in order of appearance) BODY OF LESBOS, a city destroyed CHORUS of lesbian mourners HESTIA, goddess of the hearth THE DOCILE WOMAN, a sister assassin AN UNNAMED MAN, this could be anyone, actually
Preface There is an isle off the shore of Greece for which we are named. A long time ago, one of us wrote beautiful poems there. And they burned. Setting Lesbos is a bare stage: white walls against wood floor, lying too still to be sleeping. There is no curtain big enough to hide this tragedy.
PROLOGUE [enter Body of Lesbos with blood on her throat] BODY OF LESBOS: …. BODY OF LESBOS: …. BODY OF LESBOS: ..... [exit Body of Lesbos] SCENE I [enter Chorus] CHORUS: It is all very sad, How Lesbos died:
Went up with the intact manuscripts Too deviant for the new world And lesbian bones scattered from Hestia’s burning hearth to what quiet remains of Olympus above
[enter Hestia] HESTIA: Did someone say Hestia? CHORUS: Did you hear something just now? No, me neither.
HESTIA: That was me. CHORUS: And you are? HESTIA: Hestia. CHORUS: Who? HESTIA: Goddess of the hearth. You just said it. CHORUS: Oh. I wasn’t listening. HESTIA: Hestia. Tender to the flame of Olympus. CHORUS: And what does Olympus want of our mourning? HESTIA: Nothing. I bring news of Lesbos. CHORUS: Oh. She’s dead. HESTIA: I know. I’ve brought her body back from Hades. 58
CHORUS: Why? What business do you have, delivering us our dead? Are you Charon? HESTIA: I am Hestia. I do not deliver the dead. CHORUS: Oh. Then why bring her to us? HESTIA: Lesbos was a hearth like any other. CHORUS: You knew her well? HESTIA: Intimately. CHORUS: A lover then? HESTIA: I take no lover amongst my domain. CHORUS: What domain is that? HESTIA: I am the goddess of the hearth. CHORUS: Oh. I thought that was Hestia. 59
[enter the Docile Woman with blood on her hands] CHORUS: No. No more. THE DOCILE WOMAN: Relax ladies. Lesbos is dead. She went down easy. CHORUS: No. Not easy. She killed greater gods who came beneath her sheets. THE DOCILE WOMAN: But hadn’t the heart or head to fend off the hollow assassin in the familiar face. HESTIA: Who was it that pulled her to sleep with sweet promises of nymphs waiting on the breeze? THE DOCILE WOMAN: Who are you, to ask such a thing? CHORUS: That’s just Hestia. THE DOCILE WOMAN: Oh. HESTIA: And you are?
THE DOCILE WOMAN: Can’t you read? The Docile Woman, a sister assassin. HESTIA: Oh. CHORUS: Her mother must be so proud. HESTIA: And the mourning Chorus? CHORUS: Felt the snap of Lesbos’ neck like the line of a noose, trying to tug us home. HESTIA: Oh. When’s the trial? CHORUS: What trial? Who do you suggest we try? HESTIA: The murderer before us. THE DOCILE WOMAN: Murderer? Surely you don’t mean me? HESTIA: Did you not kill Lesbos? THE DOCILE WOMAN: Only in the way one stamps out an ugly spider before the husband gets home. 61
CHORUS: Most spiders are female. THE DOCILE WOMAN: And most women have their guts scuffing their heels. [exit the Docile Woman] HESTIA: Well. CHORUS: Well? HESTIA: Don’t you want revenge? CHORUS: We want justice. We’ll take revenge, though. HESTIA: But you are not taking it. CHORUS: The Docile Woman is hollow. She does not move without a hand to wield her. HESTIA: Then we shall try the wielder. CHORUS: Oh. Poor Hesta. HESTIA: Hestia. 62
CHORUS: Whatever. The hand that guided her wrists so artfully is too high a target to fire our crooked arrows on. HESTIA: Name that hand. CHORUS: No. HESTIA: Why? CHORUS: He is nameless. HESTIA: Oh. CHORUS: You’ll face him soon enough. HESTIA: How do you know? CHORUS: Didn’t you read the Dramatis Personae (in order of appearance)? HESTIA: It said Unnamed, not nameless. CHORUS: Same thing. HESTIA: Not really. 63
CHORUS: Silly girl. HESTIA: I’m not a girl. I’m a goddess. CHORUS: Really? Which one? SCENE II [Hestia lies in the many arms of the Chorus] HESTIA: Tell me about the Unnamed Man. CHORUS: What is there to say? He is a man. HESTIA: How does he wield the Docile Woman? CHORUS: He took her edge and spun the point on Lesbos. HESTIA: What edge does he use of her? Surely not her empty eyes or breakable hips. CHORUS: Careful. She is a sharper blade than she looks.
HESTIA: Then I’m better off breaking the instrument. CHORUS: Oh sure. Why didn’t we think of that. She waits for your betrayal from her mounting on his wall. HESTIA: If only she would bare her throat to me as she does to him. CHORUS: Be reasonable. Killing her is sacrilege, sororicide. HESTIA: It is also necessity. [exit Hestia] CHORUS: Poor old/young Hestia of the hearth. We see how mourning has leaden you feet. But know better than to follow on the heels of madness. No matter how hot she is. Who knows why the Chorus never dies? You don’t, but we do; we know a lot of things. But there is no play named CHORUS. And we do not speak without prompt. [enter an Unnamed Man] CHORUS: Ugh. But we wish we did.
AN UNNAMED MAN: Greetings ladies. How are you on this fine day of reckoning? CHORUS: He asks but doesn’t care for an answer. He knows how we suffer in the ashes. AN UNNAMED MAN: Don’t be such a bummer, girls. CHORUS: He passes his hand from lower back to lower - back. AN UNNAMED MAN: Haha. Sorry about that. CHORUS: It’s still there. [enter Hestia and Body of Lesbos] BODY OF LESBOS: …. CHORUS: Hestia. HESTIA: It’s Hestia, actually. CHORUS: That’s what we said. HESTIA: Oh.
BODY OF LESBOS: ….. CHORUS: What have you done? HESTIA: Brought back the Body of Lesbos. I said that in Scene I. CHORUS: Oh. BODY OF LESBOS: …. HESTIA: And I return to find with you? CHORUS: An Unnamed Man. HESTIA: Oh. AN UNNAMED MAN: Why you must be Hestia, resurrector of Lesbos. I suppose that means I have a bone to pick with you. CHORUS: Don’t touch her. AN UNNAMED MAN: Why not? HESTIA: I’ve never known a man’s touch. You will not be the first. 67
AN UNNAMED MAN: You’re a virgin goddess? CHORUS: Those who do not know the touch of a man do not necessarily know none at all. AN UNNAMED MAN: I don’t understand. HESTIA: What do you know of me? AN UNNAMED MAN: Nothing. HESTIA: No one knows Hestia, the hearth. Docile enough to vacate her throne but still maintains the flame. AN UNNAMED MAN: That’s very mature of you CHORUS: That’s very sad of you. HESTIA: No, it’s not. Don’t tell me what I am. CHORUS: Sorry. HESTIA: Good. BODY OF LESBOS: 68
…. [exit Body Of Lesbos] HESTIA: Oh. She’s right. Chorus. CHORUS: Yes? HESTIA: The time for mourning has passed. Soon the final blood will be had. It has no need for observers. Leave. CHORUS: Oh. [exit Chorus] AN UNNAMED MAN: Harsh. Those friends of yours? HESTIA: I have no interest in pleasantries. AN UNNAMED MAN: Then what does interest you? HESTIA: A good meal and a warm breast on which to lay. AN UNNAMED MAN: You’ll find none warm here. 69
[exit an Unnamed Man] HESTIA: No, not anymore. [exit Hestia] SCENE III [enter Body Of Lesbos] BODY OF LESBOS: ….. [enter an Unnamed Man] AN UNNAMED MAN: Right, that. Sweetheart could you come out here? [enter the Docile Woman] BODY OF LESBOS: ….. THE DOCILE WOMAN: Is that the Body of Lesbos? I thought I already killed her. AN UNNAMED MAN: You did. And you did such a swell job of it that you need to do it one more time. THE DOCILE WOMAN: Til her marrow’s spilled out?
AN UNNAMED MAN: Mouth open wide, THE DOCILE WOMAN: Final scream silenced. BODY OF LESBOS: ….. AN UNNAMED MAN: Don’t be scared, dear. She cannot speak now. THE DOCILE WOMAN: But she can still put her fingers around a throat and squeeze. BODY OF LESBOS: ….. THE DOCILE WOMAN: You must be so lonely in that Body of yours. Who could stand to love such sharp bones and jagged edges? Certainly not me. Certainly not you. AN UNNAMED MAN: She who shall wallow at your feet should never seek to stand by your side. BODY OF LESBOS: ….. THE DOCILE WOMAN: I see. Leave us. AN UNNAMED MAN: Excuse me? 71
THE DOCILE WOMAN: The Body of Lesbos will not face me in your presence. She is asking you to leave. AN UNNAMED MAN: Haha. Why doesn’t she ask me herself? BODY OF LESBOS: ….. AN UNNAMED MAN: Right. [exit an Unnamed Man] THE DOCILE WOMAN: Do you feel better now that it’s just us girls? BODY OF LESBOS: ….. THE DOCILE WOMAN: We cannot both be villain and victim. Pick one caldron to brew, sister witch, and I will choose the other. [Body of Lesbos and the Docile Woman embrace] THE DOCILE WOMAN: This Docile Woman Is Pounding Her Fists
BODY OF LESBOS: Against My Chest. Begging Me To Let. Her. In. Or Snap. Her. Neck. [exit Body of Lesbos and the Docile Woman, still embracing] EPILOGUE [enter Hestia and Chorus] HESTIA: What happens now? CHORUS: One must cut the others throat if either are to survive. But neither will. HESTIA: Oh. CHORUS: Are you sad, now that Lesbos is dead? HESTIA: I thought I would be. CHORUS: We did too. HESTIA: But Iâ€™m not. 73
CHORUS: You’re not? HESTIA: No. CHORUS: Oh. HESTIA: Lesbos has been dead. It is no mercy to let the Body remain. It is no mercy for me to remain with it. CHORUS: Where will you go? HESTIA: I don’t know. Where are you going? CHORUS: Onto the next story. HESTIA: Oh. Can I come? [exit Hestia and Chorus]
Mouthful of Babies Channa Goldman What woman would you die for? Once the glass goes broken, there becomes a bedroom. Sliced open. Your naked body rests on both poles. Supper might be ready, but it goes cold the moment your hunger knows you by name. Which night will you go beneath once the throat you were born into becomes voiceless, and tastes like an ash tray Sunday, served up by the Virgin herself? The womb is a waste if it is to be owned by some father. I saw her last night—she had a miscarriage in the bathroom at McDonald’s and I said: Honey, the blood is nothing but where did the baby go? She points upwards with her thumb, as though she’s got a god in her hand. Tonight, we swallow all the pieces, spitting them right back out again as we please. And when we do, they arrive. Completely whole.
The Last Time Jane Johns The first time someone asked me if I was gay was backstage during rehearsal of my high school’s production of Alice In Wonderland. I was completely caught off guard by the question. I laughed uncomfortably, replied with a no, and made some joke about penises. The first time I had a crush on a girl was in second grade. At the time, I didn’t realize my infatuation with this friend of mine was unusual. I just thought I liked her a lot. I had a dream where I held her hand and felt terribly odd. I’m shocked I still remember this. The first time I accepted the fact that I was gay was in the tenth grade talking about boys with my friends at lunch. As I listened to them talk about how cute they thought each of their crushes was, I was trying to think of a boy that was somewhat sexually attractive to me so I would have a boy to swoon over as well. When my turn came to share my current crush, I thought of the nicest guy I knew and said he was “super cute”. I laid in bed that night trying to force myself to think about him when I masturbated. I couldn’t stop thinking about the scene of Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox making out in Jennifer’s Body. The first time I was ashamed of my sexuality was when I was a junior in high school. One week at church, our youth group class was split up between boys and girls, and our youth pastors began to talk to us about sex and sexuality. Everyone was told to come up with questions about the topic. When the girl next to me asked the youth pastor for advice about confronting her out-of-the-closet gay guy friend about his sexuality, I could feel my heart racing. I was anticipating a kind answer from my youth pastor about acceptance or some bullshit. Instead, she told her not to talk to him again if he 76
was going to “push his lifestyle” onto her and “continue to choose to ignore god.” I slowly stopped attending church. The first time I felt disgusted by myself was sitting on my living room couch during my sophomore year of college. I had the The Ellen Show playing on the TV. As Ellen danced through the crowd, my older sister began complaining about how “dykey” Ellen was. My mom chimed in and said that she would think Ellen was an amazing person if she wasn’t mentally ill. A discussion began about how gross she was and I continued to stare at my phone as if I could not hear them and kept my in-the-closet mouth shut. Everything they said was about me. The day I felt most proud of my sexuality was when I came out to my younger sister. She claimed she was suspicious and asked me if I had a crush on one of my best friends, who happened to be my first girlfriend. She came out to me as bisexual that day. She is the only person I can talk to when I think about my mom hating me. The day I come out will someday make it onto this page. I love those in my life even if they do not know everything about me. I just want to cherish the time I have left with them. Culture and religion are two things I continue to struggle with. I have faith in God, but not the church. I am a proud Arab-American, but I do not support many Middle Eastern traditional beliefs and value-systems. We are each our own breed and accepting that is not easy. As we continue to evolve, it becomes less complicated. I will continue to learn that lesson until the day climate change kills us all.
Our reflections cease acknowledgment of each other. Cracked cuticles bleed regretted resentment, fingertips fileted wide as deserted self-acceptance. Curdled memories dripped from cemented oil & tar stained hands. Contorted fingerprints of pain resemble mine.
Identifying Father Tuesday Taylor
Becoming murders of their own spirit, black boys, no longer believe hope keeps evil at bay, or trust, hands of fathers will protect. Perpetrators possessing robust breasts are trophies, while mothers name them babysitters. Consciousness is sold for a 50 sack of loud, cup of lean, shared with Molly, who is never called a bitch.
Coming of Age, Tuesday Taylor
Dynamite, Daniel N. Johnson.
Dynamite Maceo Paisley I am a stick of dynamite, waiting to be lit. My fuse is a short coil curl some may describe as nappy atop my head. Packed full of gun powder, I have seen my share of pain and joy. I have travelled I have loved but I have yet to do what I was created to do. Explode. I sit in traffic, hoping to crash violently. To be struck head on by another vehicle. I hope for fire and metal and glass to burst out in all directions. I want to go out with a bang. It is the only eat I feel is fitting. Cause sitting in this box is not living. I only known one stick to light his own fuse, and he died at 33. but dynamite isnâ€™t supposed to last long. It is supposed to leave a mark, create a space, move, or destroy. It is passionate, I am passionate.Â It is dangerous, I am dangerous. I am a red stick of dynamite. Black dynamite. Boy Dynamite Black boy dynamite. I am a little black boy.
They tell me who I can be, and it scares me half to death. They tell me about the change I can make and the power I have. How it’s all up to me. “Just go and do it” “Reach for it” “Take it” “Grab it” And I’m scared I’ve got them all fooled, scared of their disappointment and mind. Because part of me believes them. I know there is something to this dynamic thing. But what if I am a dud, that lame popper whose biggest boom is his fuse. You brace for the sound and then, It fails you. I couldn’t take being a dud, but I can’t take this box either. So I have to... I must... I will explode. I was made to. I can feel the chemicals in me and I can feel the respect I get. I am not unique but I am special. I am dynamite. I am a bomb. I am the bomb. I am the explosion. I’m just waiting on my fuse to get lit. Because when I become what I was made to become. There will be a hole in a mountain. Maybe not a big one, but I will knock loose a rock that hits a boulder and cause a landslide. Move a city down a slope faster than a skier off a lift. And you can’t dodge a city. You just become part of the movement.
And it doesnâ€™t matter how you feel about it. The point is that you feel.Â Explosions are undeniable. They stir up emotions. They cause chain reactions. They inspire. I am dynamite. I was put here to make you feel. I was put here to inspire.
Mary Anna Kruch I. A metal tag from biopsy lies deep within a breast to the right of heartbeat under an opaque cavern beneath a creased contour — detonates sirens at security requires personal pat-downs that rubber-glove both cups stir distress; I am frozen in a fight or flight mode where I must choose neither but want to choose both. I deep-breathe pretend calm, hand over my Pre-Checked body, weigh the need to expose new scars; beg postponement to grope raw skin. II. Still, with each flight plan a foreplan is set to reclaim comfort — unease takes a back seat to tolerance: acceptance of protocol and a grasp of the greater good propel me forward to remove my coat, alert security to tags, bionic knees, and new shoulder, appeal to guards’ humanity — then arrive at the gate intact: having grown stronger, ready for flight.
Sanguine Jacquelyn Azar
“Hope” is the thing with feathers —Emily Dickinson
The cardinal told me it would be okay, he landed in my lap on the bench at Cass and Warren. My cigarette smoke floated into the grey sky like a ghoul, a ghost but was dissipated by the wings of the red bird. He vanished like an apparition, like a freighter in fog over the Detroit river; the passage between that leads to bigger things. From Saint Clair to Huron to Michigan to Superior, the red wings carry me to Keweenaw skies and mines of copper. Floating on my back through the Straits of Mackinac 85
the bridge shields my body from the red feathers falling from the sky in thousands. They sink like skipped rocks; once airborne, now drowning. I reach for the cardinal, but Iâ€™m reaching for the ceiling in a hospital gown. The light flutters around the room frantically like a caged bird, slamming into glass windows with a false sense of sanguinity illuminated in red.
1. My first inkling of what it meant to be home was found in places. I often find that I have to set up camp—that is to build from the ground up and take my limbs back down again, akin to nomadic travelers of prehistoric times. I wonder if I feel closer to them than I do with those who surround me. With those who surround me. Me. 2. An Idea: Most have in fact found their home, and I have not yet ‘found’ mine. When considering the facets of identity that I have been randomized with, it’s damn near impossible to miss why that is a form of truth. I am told that I have every bad card in the deck—yet somehow, all flows through me and my filters of the Earth first. 3. I am simultaneously a part of the creators of the world and also have no claim to it. Your children never owe you shit anyway. 4. The similarities between this queered life and the metamorphosis process of a butterfly have become a vital thread that I wrap myself in for strength, comfort, and promise. I want to iterate it as it was explained to me first: When the butterfly is ready to undergo its process of metamorphosis, it cracks the beginnings of its pupa out of its head to form its chrysalis. Then it sits in goo. It then pumps a fluid into its new wings to expand outwards through the chrysalis and into its past environment, emerged almost entirely, anew. 5. Aside from the fact that I probably fucked that up somewhere, this is what I know to be true; the idea of the chrysalis and I have had a long, and challenging three years together and for the guidance of its divine and graceful hand, I am grateful. And I am scarred. I’ve learned a lot of lessons and I don’t know how many more times I have to go through absolute fuckery before I am 87
finally made out to be the person who is me. I’m tired. But I’m not done yet. 6. Before the caterpillar becomes a caterpillar (which in itself is actually classified as the stage of larvae in the butterfly’s life cycle), it is an egg. I was also once an egg. Invisible. Protected. Alive. 7. Then the egg becomes the caterpillar. It feeds on its host plant. It rests on its host plant. It shits on its host plant. It sheds its exoskeleton several times and peels back the layers of bullshit. Layer. By. Layer. 8. It behaved. It followed suit. It died several times over. It disobeyed. It lived. It came to know its tiny world well. Well enough. 9. chrys·a·lis /ˈkrisələs/ noun noun: chrysalis; plural noun: chrysalises 10. A quiescent insect pupa, especially of a butterfly or moth. 10.2. The hard outer case enclosing a chrysalis. 10.3. A transitional state. 11. Liquidation. Every single cell of your body, your life, your soul. Eradicated. Everything you ever thought to be true. Destroyed. Have you ever known what it means to be primordial soup? Against your will? 12. My first inkling of what it meant to be home was found in places. ((ERADICATED)!) I often find that I have to set up camp—that is to build from the ground up and take my limbs back down again, akin to nomadic travelers of prehistoric times. (LIQUIDATION!) I wonder if I feel closer to them than I do with 88
those who surround me. (DESTROYED!) 13. This is what I know to be true; the idea of the chrysalis and I are one. My bitter, Gay, Black ass didnâ€™t ask to be hereâ€”but I know that I have something bad to say. They are breaking free of their ooze coffin. Battered, but free.
Lines Across the Border, Marianne Samano
Reynaldo George Hinojosa Jr.
My skin peels Like a mistrusted fruit Whose zest is colorful enough For the ghetto liberal In a strange melody Haunting the soil I remember the taste As if it were meant for me My skin peels Like burnt rubber Screaming under moonlight Echoing in its carbon chamber I was born here centuries ago And yet the offices remain white As clouds of power cough the air And suffocate the sun My skin peels Because it was made to Suffer and build roads And stuff coffins with barbed wire In a strange melody I hear Sisyphus carrying history Smiling because he has to Singing over every abandoned voice
My skin peels Like pavement meant to lead But only manages to follow Designated paths designed by every office I was born here centuries ago To this land of my skin To the breath of mother and father And the slap of blood drops on the pond And my skin peels Because it has to Keep carrying the history Suffer and build roads
another hole in a story, another burial to collect bones —Melba Joyce Boyd, “The Burial of a Building”
Amy Loji Another shuttered up building, shielded in intricate lattice. An ivory monument that hides in plain sight on the east side of Woodward. Unlike the city’s sculptures in bronze— Alexander the Great, who lives on Warren, Michigan soldiers and sailors that gather downtown— This one’s plaque is just black block letters on white space: “VALUE”. The building’s location on the corner of Melbourne seemed cliché-poetic to me. This new version held me, led me, loved me, and let me experiment. My spindly legs pumped cheap bicycle iron; pedestrians passed me, tousled crowns bowed to the wind. But despite the drag, what the bulging bags held (as I struggled to balance with one on each handlebar) was sweet self-expression: a low-stakes liberation. When I heard the whisper “permanently closed” I thought the omniscient authority of the internet had withered. 93
I suppose I should be grateful that by this time I had a car. Another big brand store, another luxury condo development with thin pretend-balconies and backyard-pool prices. Another fine-dining establishment. Another link in the chain link fence that was born from encircling Campus Martius but kept creeping north and east and west. There’s all that. There’s sporting games and indigo-glazed sky. But there’s no more kind cashier who showered me with coupons because I was never organized enough to just pick up the Metro Times for once. There’s no more glass display case shielding the kind of earrings that were never designed, just born, by time and time’s trends. There’s no more ornate wedding dress display, the one with so much love that it reminds you that weddings aren’t really about money. Now it’s just another piece of lost four-walled luggage. Memories to scrap or salvage, and the rest packed tight.
Can god hear me from Chicago..
I stopped reading heMmingway / the same way I stopped learning guitar: with a pulse in my body only white men know / how to trigger ..يردص يل حرشا يبر يبر.. tell me what to do [with my hands]
is my salah [still] mine .. when I am manic and reciting in english / between aisles of a Chicago CVS / with my hijab tied to a song.. يردص يل حرشا يبر ..in hamtramck يردص يل حرشا يبر ..playing through narrow stairwells of Caniff — lovers disguise life in garbage bags يردص يل حرشا يبر ..and thrift store fur يردص يل حرشا يبر ..يردص يل حرشا يبر 95
.. Wayestirli amri Wa7lal 3qdatan min leesani Allahumaâ€™ ameen.
I’ve never been one for structured religion. Ectoplasm erupting, substance of flesh & bones, fiber & liquids Lips drawing angelic, broken blood vessels across collared bones. Fingertips, lips, tripping crossing tic tac toe in the constellations carved blindly between the notches of your spine— Lobe plucking, shoulder salt, chiseled cheeked or cadence molded over neck gooseflesh. And I smile. There isn’t clairvoyance wired amongst the whiskers of our tin car telephones; And I know ONE DAY YOU will be the spotlight of too many rum stained poems, Water colored discrepancy flowing From cooked veins to crooked teeth To paper begging volume, All this heavy light. ATLAS
e.a. toles the night is long and the moon has forgotten my nameâ€” June, I feel between the ribs, the insecurities, I finger them until each curve is committed, until hard flexibility becomes a way of life. sometimes I wonder why the sun keeps its routines. maybe I am dried and boring, perhaps the leaves collected and stored were known to each child. soon only the quiet lips will speak of any faith, they will speak of bone gone rot with holy hypocrisiesâ€” we will stitch our fingers to each other, fearing too strong of a grasp. 98
sometimes my skin forgets me. sometimes all that I have is the memory of desire, sometimes I am only a ventricleâ€” I wish to be clothedâ€”
We listened as the Rabbi called out the names of the departed as is the Jewish custom. My daughter and I sat near the back of the sanctuary; we were among the last to enter. The elderly guardian of the door had limped across the entry to let us in. Her left foot dragged, but her warm smile welcomed. Did she also smile at the Hipster? He entered late, as the Rabbi began her sermon, and slid into a seat behind us. The man was in his twenties, immaculate in his suit and tie and suspenders. A black wool felt hat tilted on his head. My daughter later identified his style of dress as Hipster. The congregation was quiet, intent on the words of the Rabbi. “Joseph was the darling of his father. So much so his brothers hated him and schemed to get rid of him. They threw him in a pit—” A loud BANG turned out to be a heavy prayer book smashing down on the back of our wooden pew, not the first bullet from an AK-47 assault weapon. The ricochet of sound stopped the Rabbi in mid-parable. A wave of alarm swept over the room. The Hipster stood gripping the prayer book and spoke to the Rabbi by name. “Rabbi Luria, what authority do you have to stand there—” “Sir, I’ll be happy to answer your questions after the service.” 100
“I need to know now—” “Please leave, sir.” Around the room, broad-shouldered men in yarmulkes stood and strode toward the Hipster. “I am a righteous man,” he muttered, as he left the pew and hastened out the sanctuary door. My Jack would have led the defenders of our Sabbath. But his was one of the names the Rabbi had lamented. Dead these three years—today.
Amy Lynn Hess
She is the bloody cock in the yard her blanched feathers are askew hairpins protruding wickedly threatening the whitewashed tractor tire One egg falls then another Medea, spotted with bloody yokes and malignant tumors of the head malevolent tomato worms criticize her in her orange lipstick there is powder under her arms on Sundays to keep the living lice away The bloody cock’s lips are parched resplendently she is the bloody cock, Medea knitting one pearling two taking a drag 102
Autoportrait on Autopilot Olivia Rae When I look up at the thin line of chalky white paint slathered across my bedroom wall at ungodly hours of the morning—as I am just getting in for the night—I think about how my death will probably be a lot like my birth: outstandingly painful with copious amounts of fighting, repeatedly going in and out with such intense delirium that my mother thinks to herself, “my child will be born without a mother” or, alternatively will think, “my child will die while her mother lives.” She tells me I rolled over in my crib that first night in the hospital. She tells me I never wanted to be held against her chest. She tells me when I was 5 years old, she took me to a pediatrician who diagnosed me with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, which probably had everything to do with the countless antibiotics, steroids, albuterol treatments, and weekly antihistamine shots and nothing to do with my parents’ divorce a year later. Most of my memories from the first 12 years of my life are external, that is, they do not come from my own consciousness—I have spent years since trying to grasp what I do not know, trying to understand who I was or what I was. I don’t remember scratching my eczema riddled skin until it bled, stripping down naked and running around my cousin’s cabin up north, or screaming underneath tables at Italia Gardens while my grandfather shamefully walked out for a smoke. I do remember kicking a boy in the shin at recess in the third grade for playing with my best friend, wanting so badly to spend time with my sister that I grabbed her arm until it bruised, and unjustifiably hating my mother to the point that I thought about killing myself solely so I could blame her in my suicide note. I remember guilty feelings more than actions. Instincts more than reason. I don’t remember my own consciousness or maybe I have chosen to forget it. But now that I live consciously— or at the very least try to— how can I 103
write an autoportait of a life half-lived on autopilot? Or maybe, more appropriately, how can’t I? Every piece I produce is a new consciousness, a new living, breathing mechanism that teaches me who I was and who I am. Research essays, excel spreadsheets, and autoportraits: I write to remember, to exist, to be. I love even numbers, especially eight. I count the number of steps I take as I walk to class and always make sure I end on an even note. I calculate my tip amounts at restaurants to make sure the total comes out evenly, with no change. I hate change. In the winter, I eat pad thai curry at least twice a week. I call my cat handsome at least eight times a day but have no idea how to compliment people. I call my big sister more than my mother or father. The thought of being a big sister to my little sister makes me sick to my stomach. I hate showering, but I love being clean. I hate doing homework, but I love being praised. I hate pushing myself outside of my comfort zone but consistently preach about doing so in my own writing. On my best days, I feel like an imposter. On my worst, I feel like a failure. On my in-between days, I feel in-between. I read stories and watch movies about people falling in love, but I’ve yet to do so myself. I hate falling. I once took a movement class where all we did was fall and get back up—I almost cried. This summer, I cried at the gym when all I wanted to do was smoke with my friends, but all I felt I could do was bench press. I cry every time I watch Christopher Robin. I laugh at selfdeprecating jokes. I cry when I ask people for help. I laugh when I’m vulnerable. I laugh when I’m confident. On my favorite nights, I cry and laugh and don’t question the difference. I collect coffee mugs for those nights; my current favorite has the words Souper Woman etched onto its forest-green porcelain. Still, I resist choosing favorites because I know favoritism is fleeting. And I resist opening up because I know human connection is fleeting. And I resist any thought that my life since 12 has been lived on autopilot because life is fleeting, and I don’t want to think I’ve wasted it. 104
I write myself into existence, often and relentlessly, as the pilot of my own elusive mind— I must. “The opposite of autopilot is purposeful living.” This is the first thing to pop up when I google ‘autopilot antonyms.’ Maybe I write to purposefully live. Or I live to purposefully write. Either way, here’s to hoping it’s purposeful.
(twinned sibling plus one plus mother) songbird tap dancer baton-twirler student petite (they call her mary sunshine at school) yet hides in the dirty clothes hamper at home each night wombat lost in a Jungian forest never a quiet
never a quiet niche
argue-fight-argue even though intact family, (big-whoopy) tensions crackle like scrunched christmas paper every conflict a group sneer at her, cinderella-ed, deadened emotionally as grandpa’s choice for fingering attention, eventually scatological language with early adolescent peers, sidewalk phlegm, rude gestures losing profile as sweet magnetic child but puts energy into bodyuse: volleyball, track otherwise continues classical balletkatchaturianed, karamazoved vexed impatient like dmitri therefore mercurial lockerslams, cafeteria jello-throwing girls’ bathroom gagging suspended for smoking enter an exit, daily mass, sodality, magic jesus easter, the religious life: abraham and issaced alas— once the decision, rallied family--dad in suit, mom best cologned dress O god, ogod, ogod 106
Donna, Meaning Lady
Melodious hell echoes throughout the room. The sad-sack roosters of our modern age. My cell phone buzzing, beeping, gyrating around my nightstand, it’s the kind of self-sanctioned chaos that could only signify the start of a workday. Bleary-eyed, joints popping, I walk toward the kitchen. The smell of old Folgers and hairspray flood my nostrils. Ever-closer, I open the cupboard and blindly grab for a mug. Fingers searching, they find home in a handle. I hold the pot high above the cup and a darkened stream cascades down, spilling a little on the floor and myself, as is customary. Settling into our aged sofa, I throw back my head and give my cursed neck a full rotation. It snaps, crackles, and pops in a way that most certainly isn’t healthy for a 29-year-old man. Too early for such concerns, I think to myself. Onward and upward, I take that precious first sip — firecrackers in my mind. I’m here now. I set the mug down, coffee cooling and take in my surroundings. Satisfyingly similar, everything is in order and as it should be. Content, I bring my gaze back to the cup. Purple font, I read the words haphazardly printed on the side of the mug aloud. Donna, meaning: Lady You are an incurable romantic who loves to be in love. You are loyal in friendship and responsive in love. I stare at it blankly, studying, drinking it in... And then I notice it. Jutting through the grade school etymology ever so slightly, it’s there. Barely perceptible in the morning sun—a crack in the mug. Imperfect. Endearing. Born at the onset of our nation’s Great Depression, Donna Lou 107
Muscott, Grandma Donna as we called her, possessed a tenacity birthed from desperation and growing up dirt poor. Marrying young to a handsome local farmer named Merlin, she gave birth to three children: Kyle, Fonda (my mother), and the youngest, Cary. During their formative years, she worked part-time as a music teacher in the school district and volunteered with the local chapter of the Red Cross. Widowed at 41, she never remarried; moreover, she never saw fit to introduce her children to any new “friends” as the years went on. In the aftermath of Merlin’s death, she took on full-time work as a secretary, to keep the lights on as it were. Retiring a few years after I was born, she would drive me by the Petrol plant and proudly point the building where her desk had been. Behind the building was a tall cylindrical tube that pushed fumes and flames to the sky. As time went on, we began to eponymously call that Grandma’s torch. Pine View Estates sits perpendicular to the Pine River on the east side of St. Louis, Michigan. Though regal in title, Pine View Estates was and still is your garden variety trailer park. Though we would have never called it that back in those days. Powder blue with a snappy metallic trim, her home was nestled back near the corner of the park. Behind it, a menacing row of tall pines, and due left, a river so polluted academics have written entire dissertations on it. Though small in stature, the trailer, much like my 5-foot Grandmother who called it home, had an undeniable warmth. Harboring something of a funhouse feel, the more friends and family inside the trailer, the more spacious and comfortable it became. When my sister went off to college, I was sad and alone. Though provided with all of the advantages steeped in being the youngest child and the last born, there was a gaping hole when she left. Like an adolescent divorcee down on his luck, I spent my days watching re-runs of television shows that I didn’t understand and eating bowl upon bowl of cereal. It was around this time that my parents began to send me to my Grandmother’s for weekend trips. We had a lot of adventures in those days, but it was always the movies. The movies were a constant. 108
And so we went, time and time again. Never one to spend when it wasn’t necessary, Grandma always brought her own popcorn tucked deep into her cavernous purse; the type of frivolous rebellion that is only charming as one ages. We took in quite a few movies over the years, a lot of them adolescent drivel, the wants and needs of a spoiled young boy. Certainly, she made a sacrifice each time we slipped into the plush seats and the lights dimmed. Though sometimes she got a real kick out of the features we’d see. The more crass and low-brow, the better. I remember the two of us seeing the sequel to the Eddie Murphy film “The Nutty Professor.” Near the beginning of the film there is a scene in which Eddie, playing each member of the Klump family respectively, lets out a series of sonorous farts, real earth-shakers. Feeling unease at the filmic choice I had made, I slowly swiveled my head to gauge my Grandmother’s reaction. After several seconds stone-faced, she cackled with laughter until tears welled up in the corners of her eyes. She talked about that scene the rest of the evening. We sat silently in Cádiz, Spain as the matador arrogantly taunted the bleeding bull. Though it had been described as a bullfight, it could not in good conscience be called a fair fight with the flashy matador slipping behind the protective wall each time the everangered bull drew near. Yet, the beast persisted. With my mother, father, and sister, a row behind, my Grandmother edged closer on the bleacher seating. Believing her to have some cultural insight, as she so often did, I leaned toward her with excitement. Her brow furrowed, there was no trivia to come. In a soft tone, she said: “As you get older, you’re going to need to watch what you eat, especially in this family. I don’t want you to feel bad. Just be careful. I don’t want you to end up like me.” With watery eyes, I broke off contact, and I looked down toward my scuffed sneakers. As acutely aware of my own body as I had ever been, I felt every single pound on me at that moment. Seconds later, the bull lost the fight, and the crowd cheered wildly… as if there had ever been any doubt. Radiating with hurt, I left my Grandmother’s side and joined hands with my mother. 109
Slowly but surely, I watched my Grandmother die. In hindsight, we all talk about how abrupt it was, but in the moment, her ninemonth descent felt slow and painstaking; grains of sand singularly filling the bottom of an expanding hourglass. In short, it was a heart surgery that never really took. No one really told me more than that and in truth, I never really wanted to know. Most of the summer between 6th and 7th grade was spent at a hospital bedside, silently pleading to my Grandma. Please open your eyes. Please wake up. There were meaningful moments interspersed throughout, I’d be lying to say there weren’t. Heck, there were even times where we all thought she was going to pull through. But, it didn’t work out that way. She passed in late August of 2002. I was eating a meatball sub, kicking rocks alone in a parking lot when it happened. In the wake of her passing, Grandma’s limited assets were distributed evenly between her three children. Mostly knickknacks and items of sentiment, the process of emptying her home was arduous for all involved. Sifting through the contents of a life lived, deciding what’s essential versus nonessential, kept versus donated, we all hurriedly worked to finish the process. Though it wasn’t without occasional cheer and laughter. Near the end of the process, a copy of the Kama Sutra was pulled from beneath a nightstand next to her bed. Though no one laid claim to it. When all was said and done, I walked away with my Grandmother’s expired passport, a small pin she occasionally wore on her lapel, and a truck store mug with her name on it.
Staring down at the bottom of my cup, I read the coffee grounds like tea leaves and know that it’s time to start my day. I place the empty mug on the coaster, age visible in the morning sun. I follow the crack up the base, and read the words a final time. 110
Donna, meaning lady. You are an incurable romantic who loves to be in love. You are loyal in friendship and responsive in love. Imperfect. Endearing
mind control (a.k.a. depression)
free my hands from the double-knots on my knuckles i don’t remember how i tied myself in strings tangle like snakes teasing me for having a neck i don’t feel fear in my core yet my hands feel tight— cut to white knuckles gripping fingernails and skin merely an extra in my own documentary written, produced, directed by louder voices one night as i got into bed i noticed a clear fishing line attached to the tip of my elbow before i could question it i fell asleep 112
My skin, too pungent to be pallid, yet too milky to be part of the ochre. My Howlite exterior screeches between gated communities and barbed wire. An oily black thumbprint on a pristine, ashen tapestry. Coils disgorged from my scalp avouch the romance of a man from the West and a woman from too far South. Of a Hispanic girl unfamiliar to the jingling of copper exchanging hands on the East side of a city they’ve taught me to hate. I am the oily black thumbprint on their pristine, ashen tapestry. South of Eight Mile, authentic as cornstarch. To the North, outvoted in every communion. Ambushed in the seam of Día de Muertos and Halloween, between Tijuana and San Diego. Santa María, Madre de Dios, They wedge Mary behind my tongue, Maria. Dios te salve Maria. Lo siento, Maria. Have grace, Maria. My Howlite exterior rests on the fences of gated communities and barbed wire.
hoogland wearing her red wool sweater. Courtesy of the writer.
Becoming Queer/Queer Becoming: Art, Affect, and the Dissolution of Being (Human)
renée c. hoogland
Let me begin by doing something rather annoying, and change my title—overly long, and marred by diacritical affectation as it is−and call this essay “Unbecoming Queer Becoming: Twas My Red Wool Sweater That Made Me Gay.” Because it is true, it was my red wool sweater that made me gay. I am serious. There was, of course, nothing gay about this sweater. Nor was there, I assume, anything gay about me, at age three [Fig. 1]. At least not in the all but exclusively organic/sexual sense in which the term gay is commonly understood and primarily understandable today−a sense in which it was, needless to say, entirely unknown to my pre-Stonewall toddler self. But this sweater, the act of wearing it, and the sensation of the wearing of it, did something to me, made me feel something, that I clearly remember as somehow exciting, producing a tension that was undeniably physical, but also more, or rather, other than that; something closer to a mood, or a mode of being, an affective state that I would, in due course, in my more narrowly defined sexually affective encounters, come to recognize as decidedly queer. So that, when people ask me when I first “knew” I was gay−a question that, I need not remind you, straight-identified humans are never expected to be able to answer about their epistemological-ontological origins−my first association is not with the kindergarten teacher I was secretly in love with, or with 115
the next-door neighbor whom, my mother told me, had something “creepy” about her (and, though remaining undefined, I kind of sensed what this “creepiness” was all about, and that it somehow also had to do with me), nor even with the books that I, a few years later, furtively took out of the library, and that provided me with a rather terrifying vocabulary for my unmentionable feelings and sensations. No, neither other humans−whether as objects of desire or disgust−nor symbolic language or discursive spaces evoke my sense of primary emergence on the scene of meaning and being, but, instead, the first thing that comes to mind, is, unexceptionally, my red wool sweater, in its very tactility, its smell, its color, its timbre, its sonorous materiality. My encounters, over time, with my red wool sweater, in retrospect, thus taught me something significant about the materiality, the contingency, the affect-laden nature of the assembled/assembling phenomenon of being, or of becoming generally, and about that of unbecoming queer becoming in particular. I am claiming a certain specificity for non-heterosexual modes of embodied becoming, first, because unlike any other form of “minority” identification, such as gender, race, and ethnicity, sexuality, or, more particularly, non-heterosexualities, traditionally have been, and continue to be defined, pace Foucault, in terms of doing rather than being something, that is to say, in terms of sexual practices, and not in relation to corporeal aspects that are commonly assumed to maintain their ontological stability, such as skin color, the presence or absence of certain body parts, or the shape of a nose, lips, types of hair. The term heterosexuality, of course, also implies certain corporeal practices, but the being of being heterosexual is neither exhausted, nor all but exclusively determined by such bodily behaviors. The pervasive influence of poststructuralism, the widening range of biomedical technological interventions on the level of the flesh, and the overall increased “tolerance” for sexual diversity notwithstanding, there continues to be something unquestionable, and unquestionably natural, about the being of being heterosexual. To put it in oversimplified terms: in everyday life, heterosexuals are, non-heterosexuals become.
Such resistance to denaturalization is adequately reflected in the fact that the only common alternative term for heterosexuality is being “straight,” while its counterparts, since the first known appearance of the term homosexual in a 1868 letter by Karl-Maria Kertbeny, and the term lesbian (with its modern meaning) in a 1732 book by William King, range from tribad, fricatrice and sodomite, to Sapphist, pederast, urning, third sex, intersexual, and homophile, to current acronyms like LGBT, or LGBTQ, or simply, the equally protean, queer. There is thus something unfinalized, if not unfinalizable, about queer becoming, which is always, at the same time, a form of unbecoming. Second, non-heterosexualities, precisely because of their perceptual, and, in effect, physical and physiological elusiveness− in the sense that you cannot tell from the outside if somebody “is” gay; nor has the ongoing search for specific homosexual body parts (e.g., a lesbian finger or a gay gene) produced any satisfactory, let alone conclusive “evidence” for their cause, or their existence within prevailing frameworks of medico-scientific thought−such non-normative sexualities have thus traditionally been marked, and marked themselves off, not only through behavioral practices, but also through things, objects, materiality. This includes animate objects, or non-human animals. It is a well known fact, for example, that all lesbians love cats, while gay men favor small lapdogs, like Chihuahuas, pugs, and poodles. Lesbians also have strong emotional connections with horses, and, as far as activities are concerned, love to play softball and field hockey, while gay men, outside of the gym, prefer to invest their time in figureskating, roller-blading, as well as listening to opera and musicals. I am not listing these (admittedly stereotypical) aspects of contemporary gay and lesbian existence to poke fun at the surprisingly large numbers of so-called normal people who believe they are true. Nor do I wish to call them into question as politically incorrect, hence morally objectionable−or, at least, not in the sense in which such repudiations tend to be articulated. What I am trying to draw attention to is that becoming non-heterosexually, both epistemologically and ontologically, is, first of all, a radically 117
historical process−no softball games, but fencing and hunting, and no Birkenstocks, but a sophisticated masculine wardrobe marked Radclyffe Hall’s quintessential mannish lesbian Stephen Gordon off as a pervert in the 1920s−but also an undeniably materially embodied/embedded phenomenon within an ever-emergent system of linkages with material objects and practices, a becoming through multiplicity, an intensity of becoming in which what comes to pass is whatever comes into play between singularities at any given moment. That this, at least theoretically, equally holds true for dominant or straight modulations of becoming does nothing to detract from the fact that it is in its material practices, manifestations, and effects that the latter, heterosexuality, appears, and thus obtains as a form of natural or transcendent being, while the former, queer becoming, primarily consists in activity, in what Alfred North Whitehead calls “actual” or “living occasions,” or what Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari describe as intensive “events” within complex matrices of materiality. Seen in this light, the idea of “the closet” in relation to queer sexuality may actually not be suggestive so much of cultural silencing, or refer to an area of unarticulated secrets, but, instead, point to the liminal state of emergence that happens in the encounter, a moment of bringing forth, a poietic moment in a Heideggerian sense, in which two entities−in my own primal scene, that between me and my red wool sweater−coproduce one another in a unique and singular occasion that leaves neither entity unaffected, that transforms them both, and creates something new that was not there before. Heidegger writes: “Bringing-forth brings out of concealment into unconcealment.”1 Yet, as marked by his use of the original German verb veranlassen, meaning “to set something going,” to “start something on its way,” “bringing forth” is always processual, never final. “Coming out” of the closet, then, would be an occasion that suggests something emergent, something arriving on the scene; a moment (or, better, many such moments) that do not mark a definitive, irreversible 1 Martin Heidegger, “The Question Concerning Technology,” in Martin Heidegger: Basic Writings, ed. David Farrell Krell, trans. William Lovitt (New York: Harper & Row, 1977) 293.
coming-into-being (as a gay or lesbian person), but literally, a contingent process of re- or indirection, of moving away from one assemblage, a certain plane of consistency, into and onto another; in short, of queering as a verb, as an activity of simultaneous becoming and unbecoming. In view of their necessarily profoundly ambivalent investments in the law of meaning and being, it is not surprising that lesbian feminists have developed the most radically anti-foundationalist accounts of such unbecoming becomings. Judith Butler famously defines both gendered and sexual identities in terms of performativity, as “ontological illusions” whose success depends on the reiteration of a certain stylization of the body, of doing one’s body in a particular way, to project a stabilized play at being something or other; a Foucaultian definition that entails the possibility for undoing, for (playing at) being (anything at all) differently.2 Assuming a largely psychoanalytic perspective, Teresa de Lauretis equally tries to explain the material, corporeal reconfiguration of straight (forward) human beings into the spectral ontology of “the lesbian” in terms of practice, primarily the practice of love, a process of bodily transfiguration she imagines as a series of “habit changes” (Bourdieu) obtaining on the level of the (Freudian) multi-componential instinct.3 Such attempts at queering the law of sexual naturalization open the way for a radical, deterritorializing project of sexual, if not ontological dissolution. I nonetheless find them unsatisfying, and not only because the word queer, used as an adverb or a noun, rather than as a verb, seems to have lost most, if not all of its potentially deregulating power. But also because Butler’s Foucaultian/Althusserian model of gender and sexual inscription ultimately renders the gay male subject into an object of prohibition, while the lesbian is reduced to the space of the abject. De Lauretis, duly foregrounding the function of the constitutive 2 Judith Butler, “Imitation and Gender Insubordination,” Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories Gay Theories, ed. Diana Fuss (New York & London: Routledge, 1991) 13-31. 3 Teresa de Lauretis, The Practice of Love: Lesbian Sexuality and Perverse Desire (Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1994).
outside, i.e., the world as such, and whatever is in it, in effecting a reconfiguration of being at the most elusive, extra-symbolic level of the instinct, both assumes a subject that preexists its transforming encounters with the world and offers a model of lesbian being that remains, in the final analysis, intra-/intersubjective in nature. Both models, albeit in different ways, thus at once preclude an affirmative mode of non-normative sexual becoming, one that is capable of accommodating the formative (or, indeed, the transformative) force of actual, embodied experience, and they obscure the poietic operation of nonhuman, and nonanimate objects and things in the corporeal, material practice of queer becoming; in brief, in queer experience as occasion, or event, qua activity. In response, I submit that it is the emergence of affect theory, in tandem with various new materialisms and neovitalisms, that at once inscribes the centrality of queer becoming in the critical focus on the nonhuman generally, and that, more specifically, offers possibilities for pursuing a much more radical project of unbecoming ontological affirmation than either a Foucaultian or a neo-Freudian/-Lacanian approach allows. As my use of the words “encounter,” “occasion,” and “event” with respect to what I have so far said about un/becoming queer indicates, I take my cue here more from affect theory, and, more specifically, from Deleuzian and Whiteheadian trends of thought, than from certain new materialisms and neo-vitalisms. This is partly because I believe, with Steve Shaviro, that “experientiality” and “affectivity” are more accommodating categories, and, in effect, more primary modalities than the notions of vitality and/ or materiality can suggest about experience in the process of its actualization, in its eventness. Partly, also−and here I must briefly return to the confessional mode in which I began−because in the course of my readings, in recent years, on “the nonhuman turn,” I found myself increasingly weary of some of the more broadranging claims made in the name of this new ontology with its focus on the “inventive capacities” ascribed to “materiality itself.”4 This may well be because I am neither a philosopher, nor a 4 Diana Coole & Samantha Frost, “Introducing the New Materialisms,” in New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, Politics, ed. by Diana Coole & Samantha Frost (Durham &
political theorist, but, indeed, ahem, what is still generally known as a humanist. While altogether congruent with the lessons I, too, have learned from, say, new body theory, complexity and systems theory, and, not to forget affect theory, or even so-called neoaesthetics, I remain somewhat skeptical about the presumed ethical and political sweep of the new materialist framework, and its role in enabling what some imagine to be “creativity and freedom,” and others an “affirmative ethics and citizenship” on a global scale.5 As a radical realist, and perhaps somewhat of a speculative one as well, not so much by default as on account of my experience of and in the world as, what the limitations of language force me awkwardly to define, “queerly positioned,” I am primarily concerned with what actually happens with concepts and ideas, how they work, what they do, and not so much in what they are, or where they they are coming from, or what their as yet unactualized potential might be. This means that my main interest in this essay, and in the nonhuman turn more generally, is the linkages, the conceptual assemblages if you will, that the various new materialisms and neo-vitalisms enable, or have already forged with a queer project that, according to some, has lost its revolutionary momentum, if it is not factually already over. Philosophy, Deleuze maintains in his 1988 conversation with Raymond Bellour and François Ewald, is “always creating new concepts. The only constraint is that these should have a necessity, as well as an unfamiliarity, and that they have both to the extent that they’re a response to real problems.”6 In this sense, the nonhuman turn offers itself as a potentially productive moment to a queer project that, I would argue, in its profoundly anti-foundationalist, anti-essentialist, and critical materialist orientation at once anticipated this turn in critical theorizing, and that has run into real problems, in that it has failed to follow through its promise of a non-human(istic), non-personal, non-subjective ontology−partly because “queer” London: Duke University Press, 20102), 8. 5 Ibid., 38. 6 Gilles Deleuze, “On Philosophy,” in Negotiations 1972-1990, trans. Martin Joughin (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990) 136.
has been largely domesticated as an identificatory term, and thus divested of its more radical, conceptual potential, partly because the queer theoretical project itself has gotten stuck in the negative sway of certain of the poststructuralisms in the context of which it first emerged. In other words, if queer theory initially appeared to project a dissolution of the subject per se, of an unbecoming human, it has, it seems, found its main potentiality in the ability to say “no” to dominant frames of psychosocial subjectivation, in what Giorgio Agamben describes as the “impotentiality” of “being able to not do.”7 The, on the contrary, affirmative assumptions underlying most of the neo-materialisms and new vitalisms provide productive opportunities to think through, and perhaps actualize, a queer potentiality−as distinct from its impotentiality−that I, for one, am not quite ready or willing to give up on. Yet, there is also a sense in which I think a specifically queer nonhuman turn may offer something more, which is, in effect, the same as to say something less, than the somewhat grandiose models of a new ethical world order in which creativity and freedom reign from within a new materialist framework. As previously suggested, and as my not quite unserious presentation of gay and lesbian existence in terms of things, objects, and material practices has hopefully illuminated, the concept of an active materiality necessarily incorporates both sensual-perceptual and affective dimensions. As Deleuze pursues his meditations on philosophy, in the conversation mentioned a moment ago, “concepts involve two other dimensions, percepts and affects … Percepts aren’t perceptions, they’re packets of sensations and relations that live on independently of whoever experiences them. Affects aren’t feelings, they’re becomings that spill over beyond whoever lives through them (thereby becoming someone else).”8 As a materially based, embodied and embedded practice, as a sensual-perceptual activity, queer−or, for that matter, any form of sexuality−I have argued, is neither a natural state of being nor a consciously adopted mode of giving expression to 7 Giorgio Agamben, “On What We Can Not do,” in Nudities, trans. David Kishik and Stefan Pedatella (Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 2011) 43. 8 Deleuze, “On Philosophy,” 137.
a preexisting self, but a complex, processual, contingent, and provisional affair that may or may not, over time, produce its own plane of consistency. As such, it is both largely unconscious (for obtaining primarily on the level of the body) and in the first place an affective phenomenon. Since, within a still overwhelmingly phallogocentric and heteronormative sociosymbolic order, the material practice of queer becoming inevitably entails a sustained activity of unbecoming, of becoming someone or something else, it is such unbecoming moments that perhaps provide the unusual circumstances under which it is possible to become conscious of this otherwise largely unconscious, perceptual-sensual and affective process. This brings me to my final point, i.e., my prioritizing of a Whiteheadian/Deleuzian notion of affect, instead of pursuing a purely materialist or neo-vitalist approach to the questions of a nonhuman ontology. In the context of his “critique of pure feeling,” Whitehead posits emotion as the basis of experience, in which the subject-object relation is foundational. Whereas objects, or entities, in a way, are given for Whitehead, in the sense that the object, or datum is “describable without reference to” its being caught up in subjective prehension, the subject is not. The subject does not preexist the occasion of its experience, but rather constitutes it: “An occasion is a subject in respect of its special activity concerning an object; and anything is an object in respect to its provocation of some special activity within a subject.” It is this kind of activity that Whitehead calls a “prehension.” And what is key in Whitehead’s recasting of the subject-object relation, as the fundamental structure of experience, is the notion of “concern,” which has nothing to do with knowledge or understanding, but which constitutes the “affective tone drawn from th[e] object and directed towards it.” This is what Whitehead defines as the “subjective form.” Both the idea of the “occasion” (which is the subject) as a “special activity” that is provoked by an object “whose relevance provokes the origination” of the very “prehension” that constitutes the experience, and the subject of the experience itself, allow us to do two, in my view, critical things.9 First, it encourages us to see 9 Alfred North Whitehead, “Objects and Subject,” in Adventures of Ideas (New York: The
affect as a force that is both impersonal and material, but that yet accommodates the possibility of differentiated provocations/ affective investments; that is to say, to somehow account for the fact that I do not experience either the world or myself as some form of massive, active materiality, but that some objects/data within this materiality “concern” me more, affect me more than others, and that the manner of my experience of them constitutes itself “depending on its complex of subjective forms.” The ontological question, of, say queer becoming, is thus neither a question of origins nor of cause-and-effect in the traditional metaphysical sense, but a question of affective modulation. Put more simply: the question is not what, or why, but how. Second, if we accept that the basis of all experience is emotion, Whitehead’s “critique of pure feeling” does not provide us with an ethics, nor with a politics, but, instead, as Shaviro has also pointed out, with an aesthetics of existence, to which I would add, that such an aesthetics is never not-not-political. Thus, it is in the aftermath of the cultural turn, and in the contexts of a materialist, vitalist, and nonhuman ontological turn, that we can, somewhat paradoxically perhaps, posit aesthetics as a first philosophy. Now, I am obviously running out of space, yet I know that in my original title I promised to pursue an argument on the operation of art, as a privileged site or forcefield of nonhuman/human deterritorialization. This argument will have to wait for another occasion, I have, once again, found myself distracted−as in being diverted, sidetracked, or drawn away from the straight path, this time from that of proper scholarly pursuit−by my intense concern for my red wool sweater, albeit, in its actual-virtual, rather than in its olfactory, tactile, material manifestations.
Free Press, 1933/1967) 176.
V. Efua Prince
Characters DANCER, a younger woman NARRATOR, an older woman SINGER, a middle-aged woman Setting The play evokes 1881 Atlanta and 2014 Flint but lends itself to any time any place. White flat sheets hang on a clothesline. There are three hard back wooden chairs and a clothes basket holding a set of sheets, unfolded as if just out of the dryer.
Opening DANCER dancing. music.Â WATERBEARER NARRATOR: 1 SINGER: fast rivers flow from high mountains NARRATOR: 2 DANCER: Water has memory. DANCER dancing without music. 126
SINGER: It remembers being in a particular place at a particular time under particular conditions with particular people. It holds onto some part of that experience and carries it along, picking up new information as it travels. Traveling incessantly like George de Baptisteâ€™s steam ship during slavery times secreting runaways across the Detroit River to Canada. You know, the Underground Railroad is the precursor to the modern-day subway train. DANCER: You donâ€™t say! SINGER: Ask Le Roi Jones. He changed his name to Amiri Baraka but before that he wrote a play, Dutchman, about a black man riding in a subway train who got confused for a moment. He thought he was free and spoke his mind to a white woman. DANCER: What happened to him? SINGER: He wound up dead. DANCER: Oh. Like Emmitt Till. SINGER: They pulled Emmitt out of the water in Money, Mississippi DANCER: Sure did. SINGER: Water holds quiet confidences.
DANCER: River water is an information superhighway. Ocean water is a World Wide Web. A pail of gray water poured into the earth is a message-in-a-bottle sending word, as it soaks into the soil, of the hands that washed shit stains from her great aunt’s gown. … NARRATOR: 3 DANCER: Mondays. Laundry begins. NARRATOR: 4 DANCER: How to Sort Clothes for Washing
What’s Needed: Hampers of dirty laundry Space on the floor
SINGER: When deciding how to separate the wash pay attention to three primary things: color, texture, and bulk. Dark colors and whites are particularly easy to distinguish. Jeans, sweat pants, jerseys, dark socks, dark undergarments, and dark colored pullovers go in one pile. Some synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester are colorfast and do not pose a hazard to other garments regardless of color. While other dark fabrics made from natural materials like cotton tend to bleed and as a result should never be washed along with light colored garments. Lighter garments can absorb the dye released into the water and if this happens, the change is generally irreversible. So whites that get washed with deep colors often turn pink or look dingy. Colors that are considered dark: black, brown, gray, most greens, most blues, purple, and red.
DANCER: White socks, undershirts, tighty-whities, wife beaters, t-shirts without large emblems, and white button-downs go into another pile. In my house, the dark pile is generally three times as large as the whites. Colors that are considered whites: white. NARRATOR: It is more difficult to determine what to put in the load of garments between the darks and the whites. Often these garments are made from light-weight materials that tend to be color fast. Pajamas, lounge wear, t-shirts, shorts, shirts with collars, knit wear, and the like. These are things that you do not want to ruin by washing them with the darks that fade or with the harsh detergents used to clean whites. Colors that are considered neither darks nor whites: less saturated hues, cotton/synthetic blend multicolored tops and bottoms, and pastels likeâ€”lemon yellow, light pinks, baby blue, mint green, and soft orange. DANCER: Bulky items are easy to separate because of their scale but for the same reason they are a bit tricky to wash. A blanket for a twin sized bed or a throw blanket might be washed along with a few other items, but generally larger blankets need to be washed on their own. Otherwise the machine may become over loaded and unbalanced. An unbalanced machine causes the barrel to spin in a lop-sided way. When that happens, the machine will jerk and hop like itâ€™s having a seizure until the weight is redistributed more evenly. If you are washing a smaller blanket, be mindful of the color and texture. Blankets often shed. For this reason, I generally wash blankets with similarly colored towels and washcloths. The dryer is usually sufficient for removing enough of the shedding from towels for it not to be a problem. Besides blankets and towels make good machine mates because washing towels along with shirts and slacks often raises the nap of the garment, making them look older and more worn. NARRATOR: Towels should also be sorted according to colorâ€”darks, lights, and 129
whites—and can be washed along with like colored bed linens. SINGER: Delicate items should be sorted into their own load. This pile should include bras, panties, trouser socks, tights, slips, camisoles, nighties, lingerie, fine knits, and blouses. Most of these fabrics are color fast but you should be careful with silk. Despite pretentious labeling that insists on Dry Clean Only or the less pretentious, more laborious Hand Wash, often silk is machine washable. The trick is to use cold water on a delicate cycle then to take them immediately from the washer and iron on a cool setting until dry. Afterward, hang on a felt covered or wooden hanger. Fine knits should also be handled with care. They may fade so be sure to sort according to color. Also, they should never be washed with anything that has Velcro in order to avoid catching on the knit weave. Likewise, bras should be hooked as to avoid snagging other items in the wash. Lay knits flat on a porous surface to dry. Be certain to remove stains through hand washing or spot treatment with peroxide or ammonia before putting items into the machine. NARRATOR: 5 SINGER: The water pours unfiltered down the drain through a hose jammed into a length of pvc piping and angled into the utility sink. Clydie the Great would have considered it sacrosanct. I never saw a bare washing machine hose until after her death. She’d cut the feet off stockings, which she couldn’t wear any longer because they had a run in them, and cover the mouth of the hose. At the top she’d twist a taught knot like the ones I’d see sometimes above her knee, put there to keep the stockings from sliding down. The stockings caught the lint before it disappeared into the plumbing. As a kid I was fascinated by the amount of lint that laundry produced. The weave trapped the lint while the stocking became a water balloon on the bottom of the sink. Sometimes I’d poke its swollen flesh to watch the water ooze through the pores. As it dried the stocking shriveled and stiffened and became useless after so many loads. 130
The stocking was an important part of my great auntâ€™s laundry ritual. But I couldnâ€™t wrap my washing machine hose with the foot of a stocking if I wanted to now. Years ago I gave up on panty hose so there are never old stockings about the house. Standing there, watching gray water swirl into eddies, I note the absent stocking. The bare mouth hose spits fibers from my laundry into the world.
Layali Algomai is a floating creative finding place for her expression. Due to repressive ideological upbringing and abusive partnerships into adulthood, she longs for a creative freedom and an emotional acceptance that exist only in the outskirts, she believes, of every community. Louie Alkasmikha is a current English undergraduate in his senior year at Wayne State University. He has an associate in liberal arts and a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy. His poetic inspirations come from the neurological disease he has (MS) and its shortcomings. He plans to enter into academia in symbolic literature. Jacquelyn Azar graduated from Wayne State University with a degree in English in the Winter of 2019. She tutors at the University and in an adult ESL classroom in Southwest Detroit. In her free time, she enjoys writing, collaging, her dogs, and nature. She plans on becoming ESL certified and getting a master’s in TESOL. Jan Ball has had 309 poems published in various journals including: Atlanta Review, Calyx, Chiron, Connecticut Review, and Nimrod, in Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, England, India, and the U.S. Jan’s two chapbooks and full length poetry collection, I Wanted To Dance With My Father, are available from Finishing Line Press and Amazon. When not traveling, Jan and her husband like to cook for friends. Samuel Beale graduated from Wayne State University in December 2019 with a Bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in sociology. He is grateful to the English department for helping him get to where he is now and hopes people will look forward to seeing what he accomplishes in the future.
Michael Boettcher is an urban planner with Wayne County, Michigan and a professional Detroit tour guide. His poetry has appeared in the Wayne Literary Review, The Furnace, Kiss Machine, Avoid Strange Men, and several other small publications. He writes occasionally for news sites like Model D Media as well. Shawntai Brown is a Detroit writer, literacy coordinator, and teaching artist with a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from Western Michigan University and a Master of Arts in literacy learning from Marygrove College. Her poetry can be found in Kaleidoscope, Cactus Heart, and Synaesthesia Magazine. Her plays center oral testimony, queer identity, and Black community. David Capps is a philosophy professor at Western Connecticut State University. He is the author of two chapbooks: Poems from the First Voyage (The Nasiona Press, 2019) and A Non-Grecian Non-Urn (Yavanika Press, 2019). He lives in Hamden, CT. Saylem Celeste is an artist working in their hometown of Detroit, Michigan. They create images, objects, and text that communicates the living relationship between the experience of Queer, Black, Femme people and ideas of home and heritage. Yuan Changming published monographs on translation before leaving his native country. Currently, Yuan edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Qing Yuan in Vancouver. Credits include ten Pushcart nominations, eight chapbooks, and publications in Best of the Best Canadian Poetry (200817) and BestNewPoemsOnline, among 1,609 others across 44 countries. Kristen Clark studies English at Wayne State University. She lives in a rural community north of Detroit with her muse, Matthew James the Guinea Fowl. Adam Dietz is a writer and podcaster living in Milwaukee, WI.
Mason Finamore is a Pennsylvania-based writer that primarily writes screenplays and poetry. His works are inspired by the hidden dark elements of the natural world, human nature, and issues surrounding his sexuality. Channa Goldman is a junior creative writing major at Purchase College. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Pinstriped Zine, LandLocked Magazine, Liquid Imagination, Variant Literature Journal, Gutter Mag, Rookie mag, Running Wild Press, Anthology of Short Stories, Volume 4, and elsewhere. She is currently a poetry editor for Italics Mine. Dee Henderson is an undergraduate English major at Wayne State. She lives and works in Detroit. Born, raised, and remaining on the eastern Kansas prairie, Duane L. Herrmann writes about the world, raising protest when his soul cannot remain silent. In addition to poetry, he has published in print and online—history, memoirs, children’s stories, and, now, a science fiction novel: Escape from Earth, Murder on Makana. Amy Lynn Hess earned her undergraduate degree in theatre and interpretation from Central Michigan University, her Master of Arts in theater history and criticism from Ohio University, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. In addition to editing and publishing the Gypsy Daughter Chapbook series, Hess has been teaching in the Atlanta area since 2008. Reynaldo George Hinojosa Jr. is a Tejano-born writer and musician. He acquired his MFA in creative writing from the University of Texas at El Paso, and an Associate’s in music from San Antonio College. Since arriving in Michigan, Reynaldo has helped build the bookstore cooperative Book Suey. renée c. hoogland is professor of English at Wayne State University in Detroit. She is the author of three books: A Violent Embrace: Art and Aesthetics after Representation (2014); Lesbian 134
Configurations. (1997); and Elizabeth Bowen: A Reputation in Writing (1994). She served as the editor of Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts for six years, and edited the first volume of Macmillan Interdisciplinary Handbooks on Gender: Sources, Perspectives, and Methodologies (2016)—a ten-volume series for which she also acted as Senior Editor in Chief. hoogland has published widely in her areas of interest, including literature and culture after 1870, visual culture, critical theory, modern and contemporary art, gender and sexuality studies, and affect theory. She is currently working on a book project titled *The Other Side of Nowhere; or, Haunted by Death: Thoughts on Contemporary Photography,* and on an edited collection of essays, titled, *State of Exposure: “Post-Truth” and the Politics of Looking.* Phyllis Houseman was born in Detroit and received her Master of Science Education from Wayne State University. She served in the Peace Corps/Ecuador, and after returning to Detroit, taught at Munger Jr. High and Cooley High School. Phyllis has published several novels and short stories. The events of “Hipster” happened last December. Hello, the piece “The Last Time” was written by Wayne State student Jane Johns. Although Jane is proud of the story she could tell, she would prefer to remain anonymous. She is a fourth year public health student at Wayne State University. She would like to one day practice as a public health nurse in the city of Detroit, with the goal of making healthcare available and accessible to all. Jane also loves spending time in nature and eating fruits. Daniel N. Johnson is a visual artist and photographer who explores the world, attempting to capture beauty and humanity in unexpected ways. He loves the point of intersection between his art and that of other creators, be they musicians, designers, dancers, or entrepreneurs. He lives and travels from LA. Gala Knörr is a Spanish, multidisciplinary artist who has worked in painting, photography, and video. Her practice explores the intersection of technology and identity in contemporary society. 135
She is The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Basque Artist Program fellow 2017, and the winner of Generación 2020 at La Casa Encendida in Madrid. After serving in the US Army, Maceo Paisley used art to explore his experiences and identity. For the past decade Maceo has danced professionally, performed on national stages as a performance artist. He is currently living in Cass Corridor, Detroit by way of Los Angeles, CA. Mary Anna Kruch is an educator and writer. She supervises student teachers and leads a local writing group. Her poetry appears in River Poet’s Journal, Remembered Arts Journal, The Mark Literary Review, Trinity Review, and the Wayne Literary Review. Her first poetry collection, We Draw Breath from the Same Sky, was published in July 2019. Josie Levin is a visual artist and poet. She splits her time between Indianapolis and Chicago, reads large volumes of books, and occasionally writes her own. She has been published in several publications, including Cathexis Northwest Press, The 2River View, and Slaughterhouse Magazine. LESBOS is a one act play inspired by the simplistic and allusionary work of British playwright Sarah Kane about the tragedy of lesbian history. Amy Loji is a student at Wayne State University majoring in English. She writes prose and poetry, much of which is drawn from her experiences as an Australian transplant to Detroit, where she lives with her wife and four cats. She is interested in the intersections of identity and place, as well as the meaning of community: how it can be found or built, conserved or lost. Colleen Maynard’s work has been awarded a “Let Creativity Happen 2019” grant from Houston Arts Alliance and the City of Houston and has been published in matchbook and SAND Journal. Maynard holds writing and painting majors from the Kansas City Art Institute and studied botanical illustration at Illinois Natural History Survey. 136
Julianne Meiu is a first-year graduate student in the English department at Wayne State University. She recently quit her fulltime job at a law firm to study poetry, thoroughly disappointing her parents. A.E. Merck is a storyteller by nature. Regardless of the medium, the Detroit native prides himself on his ability to transform inspiration into narrative-driven compositions. Merck has work published in WusGood? and featured in the RAW Artist Showcase. He resides in Michigan with his wife and two children. Elsa Nilaj is a poet, a writer, and a filmmaker who is currently studying at WSU to obtain her M.A. degree in creative writing. @analienpoetry Shaam Phanes is an artist and storyteller who has graduated from WSU with their B.A. in English. Their Instagram showcases their art and future projects that they are a part of. @mxphanes Joseph Baron Pravda was born in Brooklyn, NY and began a career in law with the federal government during Watergate. Later, he became a public company CEO and lobbyist. A prolific writer in all genres, he illustrates his own work via storyboarding and acrylic painting (published/exhibited). A random 10 page excerpt from his play Patsy won him a competitive place at the Kennedy Center summer 2006, with subsequent lifetime privileges at the annual intensives. His work has been paged, screened, framed, and staged. V. Efua Prince is the author of Burnin’ Down the House, Daughter’s Exchange, and numerous essays including the award winning “June.” An Associate Professor of African American Studies at WSU, Prince has served as a visiting scholar at the UVA’s Woodson Institute and as a fellow at Harvard’s Du Bois Institute. Olivia Rae is a theatre artist, creative/research writer, and community engagement aficionado. Finishing up her last semester 137
at Wayne State University in 2020, Olivia has spent her last four years studying theatre; English; and gender, sexuality, and women’s studies. Olivia currently resides in Detroit, Michigan with an impressive collection of coffee mugs, her roommate, and her roommate’s cat, Bobbi. Brent Royster’s poems have been published in Center: A Journal of the Literary Arts, Cimarron Review, Crab Orchard Review, Green Mountains Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Mochila Review, The North American Review, Quarterly West, South Carolina Review, and other notable journals. He teaches at Central Texas College. Marianne Samano is a Chicana artist living in the Detroit area. She is currently studying English at Wayne State University. Her work deals with Mexican American culture and identity. She likes making zines, poetry, and nichos. Valerie Aimee Smith delights in poetry that tells the truth. She is a PhD candidate at Georgia State University and a graduate of Kennesaw State University. Her work appears in Call & Response, The Crambo, Auburn Avenue, South85, and BlazeVox. Elijah Sparkman is from Harper Woods, MI. He is an MFA student at Northern Michigan University. He is a journalist for The North Wind and the host and creator of the Onion Truck Radio Program on WUPX, which features work by writers in the Marquette area. Eleanor Swanson’s poems have been featured twice in The Missouri Review. Her work has appeared widely: in The Southern Review, Denver Quarterly, American Poetry Journal, and in many other publications. Awards include an NEA Fellowship. Her poetry collection, A Thousand Bonds, was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award. Nick Indigo Szydlo is a transdisciplinary artist who studied fibers and printmaking at Wayne State University, earning their BFA 138
in 2012. They currently live and work in Detroit. They generally describe themselves as a “closet poet,” publicly facilitate LGBTQ+ inclusive arts programming as a director at STUDIOWERQ, and maintain a personal and colorful studio arts practice. Rachel Tapling is a teacher, mother, and writer in Metro Detroit. She likes coffee and comedy, and spends a lot of time in coffee shops grading papers or writing while her boys are in baseball, wrestling, or swim lessons. She has Master’s in social studies curriculum and writes for the Detroit Mom’s Blog. Tuesday Taylor is a gut punching poet and youth social worker. Her work is raw, honest, and unapologetic. Ms. Tuesday, as her students call her, has recently been published in Gianthology, Helix Magazine, Feminine Rising, and Barzakh Magazine. To see more of her please go to https://iamtuesdaytaylor.com Chance Timm is an undergraduate English student at Wayne State University and hails from the small town of St Johns, Michigan. She can usually be found in the company of her dog, Rueben. In this particular set of poems, she hopes to explore the creation of adult identity through the memory and eventual abandonment of childhood. e.a. toles is an Fantasy author who resides in Austin, Texas. He has published poems with Figroot Press, BlazeVox, Birds Piled Loosely, and Lines of Information. Currently, he is working on finishing an endless novel and an intimate chapbook. Audrey Wilson is a recent Wayne State graduate, earning their Bachelor of Arts in English and honors gender, sexuality, and women’s studies. They are glad to have finally submitted a poem somewhere for people to read. A native central-Floridian, Kaleigh Wright grew up with a pencil in one hand, and an orange from the groves behind her house in the other. In a backwoods farm town, Kaleigh learned to work with what was around her—in subject and materials. She studies journalism at Oakland Community College. Olivia Yost is a gardener living in Detroit. 139
The Wayne Literary Review, published annually by the Wayne State University Department of English, is a literary magazine accepting submissi...
Published on May 3, 2020
The Wayne Literary Review, published annually by the Wayne State University Department of English, is a literary magazine accepting submissi...