Maya Owen

Penetralia

 after Mary Oliver, for Karl von Frisch 
 

 If you’re having a panic attack
 you should try to notice three things,
 like your toes in your shoes, the pressure 
 that frees the cold spritz of a grape,
                     Zora 
 laughing in the other room at what 
 she'll come and show you in a minute.  
 

 With honeybees, there’s a dance 
 that means Nectar is near
 and sweet, and another expressing 
 nothing but joy. 
                Entomologists accept it now, 
 but it would be decades before the man who first noticed 
 was acquitted of “Jewish” science.
 That’s how it is with noticing: 
 when you do it first, they find a way 
 to call it madness.
 
 
 

 

 

 

 *
 

 

 

 

 

                     How long have you been talking?
 

 Meanwhile I’ve been diligently 
 admiring your eyelashes. Maya, 
 

 this is important, you say. You mean 
 the light on your eyelashes isn’t.  
 

 

 

 

 

 

 *
 

 

 

 

 

 

 Noticing pollinates noticing.
 Ask Mary, obliged to notice / more 
 and more about the white moths, 
 the pink moccasins. All that
 

 energy. A bee’s life 
 is like a magic well: the more you draw from it, 
 the more it fills with water, said Karl, 
 beneath his moustache made of bees. No one 
 

 finds the centre, just a wasp 
 inside a fig. The work 
                     will never be completed—
            this meting out 
 

 of secret choreographies, of a timely             
                     sprig of eyelash-light
            to those who pay attention, who move 
 towards the nakedness of things. 

Worm Song

As I’m sure you know, earthworms
have voices and sing.
I don’t need to tell you
that their stridulations
can be heard
through twelve miles of soil,
and that they emit these sounds not as we previously thought
(muscling through burrows, dislodging air)
but by opening and closing their mouths. So you know, too, they rarely
sing alone, preferring a chorus. And they have five hearts,
and two simultaneous sexes, and busy the surface
with nightly orgies. Our lives depend on the worm’s
pleasure, as well as its toil.

No doubt you’re aware that earthworms were sacred in Egypt.
Cleopatra permitted no farmer to trouble a worm in the midst of its work.

It was a good law, Cleopatra’s.
She understood—how worms, simply
by doing worm things, make date palms, plum trees, pomegranates
possible. And how gingerly
we ought to tread on the earth, saying sorry
worm, sorry, didn’t see you down there. No
no, it’s my fault. As you were.

You’ll have realised by now why I’m telling you this.

I thought that we would be sacred to someone.
I thought there would be a law on our side.

One guess
what my nation protects
instead of our trampleable
bodies, our buried
voices and songs.

Cut an earthworm,
you’ve heard, and its halves will heal whole
then shimmy off—flummoxed
but largely okay, shaking their pink
heads free of the dream
of a lengthier life.

It’s a game children play,
practicing tyranny, thrilling their friends:
look how much they can inflict
without squirming! Look
where the myth of resilience
ends.

Below loam,
beneath leafmould
a worm song winds down.
Not diminishing.
Deepening.

Maya is shown before a wall of magenta. Maya has dark or dark purple hair of a few inches length, parted at the side, and pale skin. Maya wears a black stand collar shirt, and a dark grey or black blazer with wing lapels.

Maya Owen writes, sings, and hopes to see a whale in real life. Her poems appear (or will) in The Offing, Palette Poetry, Berfrois, HAD, The Shallow Ends, Muzzle, and elsewhere. Sometimes they’re nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of The Net Anthology. Currently she reads for Monstering, a magazine by and for disabled women and non-binary people, and has accidentally started a queer roller skating club. She’s passionate about the proper etiquette for transporting snails to safety after rain. 

 

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MM James

Plastic Heaven Lasts Forever 

 13 eons ago i grieved shyly— 
 as i couldn’t make mincemeat 
 out of the night we met, 
 i had a hard time with the teeth, 
 entirely non-compostable.
 
 no lies, really decomposing.
 
                     shuffle,
*this is our empty box 
 [perhaps outrage is a conditioned
 response to move what we cannot touch]
 
 mid-afternoon & i think 
 those thoughts inconsolable: 
 “O, to unscramble your face 
 like those sliding tile puzzles 
 you find gambling in cereal
 boxes until they are no longer plastic.”
 
 reshuffle:
*this is our newborn box 
 [we realized electrons can only push
 so we scrabbled my knees 
 with your daisy chaining fingers
 in an attempt to touch] 

 like the gum in your anagrammatic intestines,
 has it really been 7 years since we were
 unchanging? a linear  perception of time is like 
 rounding my height down to 5’11. 
 plastic heaven lasts forever 
 & my bones are tethered for as long as

forever is. unshuffled. 
 *this is our terminal box 
 [like the little letters you passed me 
 while we waited for time to reboot 
 the right-side of their mind.]

[they make me feel like you’re really here.]

MM is shown before a flatscreen television which display san image of a brick fireplace wood fire. MM has black hair and pale skin. MM wears lavender eyeshadow and black lipstick, a green maxi skirt, and a black silk or polyester blouse with a dagger collar, and ruffles to either side of the front buttons. MMs arm is outstretched on a wooden plank table. On the table are a silver lava lamp with blue fluid, and a stack of The Simpsons DVD box sets.

MMJames (Maggie Matthew James) is a concrete poet and essayist from Sussex and the Bay Area. Their work has appeared in *82 Review and Jeopardy Magazine. They moonlight as a roly-poly who lives in our brains, @pingotooby on Instagram.

 

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Jessica Lowell Mason

Hex Edyewcation, Sapphix, and the MaThematix of Hex Linguistics

Do you speak more than one language? Have you long wished to be multilingual but have felt too intimidated, or unequipped? I suppose you might think about the nature of language in very traditional sense, as cultural constructions attached to or deriving from geographical regions, but language formation is very much a product of the consciousness, and as such, linguistic construction and practice transcends geography. For a moment, I would like to take you out of your usual conceptions about the meaning of language. Seeing language as a product of geography is a very normal thing to do and it happens when your consciousness has been instructed to think about language and life through the limitations of The Literal and The Simplistic; but there are other, abnormal, less literal, and more complex, ways of looking at language that are –just as if not– more fulfilling.

You have, no doubt, encountered “sign language,”– American Sign Language (ASL), but the study of language, through lexicology and semiotics, tells us that that the signs and symbols that comprise human languages expand beyond individual systems of application or titles.

Have you ever wondered what a LESBIAN LANGUAGE might look like? Lesbianism is not traditionally thought of as a language, but there have been lesbians, like poet Adrienne Rich, who have urged readers to consider that there are shared experiences among lesbians that should be recognized and honored through language and linguistic practices. Rich’s The Dream of a Common Language suggests that the connection between consciousness and language can play a role in the development and survival of communities, particularly of communities that are oppressed or endangered in some way.

Sapphic languages exist and hexist: that they have existed since the dawn of Sappho.

I have created this website to share with you fragments of my what I call my ‘Sapphic consciousness’ as well as to introduce to you the substitutive linguistic practices in which I strive to disrupt and dismantle certain traditional linguistic practices, including some normative uses of the ‘rules’ of grammar and punctuation in Standard American English.

Hex Linguistics, or Sapphix, is one of many projects that are part of my ongoing study of language and identity.

Let’s get started.

SAPPHIX is part of the Sapphic system of HEX LINGUISTICS. It is a hexperiment with language and is always in-process. SAPPHIX is ever-evolving and non-static, like Judith Butler suggests about gender performativity; it comes to hexist via the mobility of SAPPHIC SUBSTITUTIVE PRACTICE. In this way, it is practice writing theory rather than theory generating practice. I began engaging in Sapphic substitutive practice on a whim, in the spirit of fun and just playing around with words, especially with the beginnings and endings of words. Over time, I became a hexpert and a mistress (or mystic /mistrexx – linguistic subversions ‘master’) in the Sapphic substitutive practice.

While I had no prior knowledge of Mary Daly’s work in Wickedary (what she did not call but what was Sapphic Substitutive Practice) when I began engaging in these linguistic hexperiments; I consider Mary Daly’s Wickedary, as well as the work of Gertrude Stein, as being source material for Hex Linguistics and Sapphix, and in all of my applications, I recognize and give credit to Daly and Stein for laying the foundation for what has evolved into Sapphix and Hex Linguistics. I recommend highly that if you are interested in learning Hex and speaking Sapphix fluently, you first read something by Stein and Wickedary by Daly. A dose of Chaucer wouldn’t hurt, either.

Before you proceed any further–

If you engage in SAPPHIC SUBSTITUTIVE PRACTICE, or if you practice THE ART OF HEX LINGUISTICS, and if you apply the language of SAPPHIX, please note, in the spirit of citation, that you are doing so.

Hex Linguistics is an art, and, therefore, what I consider a form of magic. Lavender Magic. (Anyone can read ‘the classics’,  but very few know how to read (the) Sapphix…)

The most basic of all Sapphic Principles:

The (x)=(ad) Head/Hex Substitutive Principle from The (Hypo-thetical) Book of Sapphix.

If He(x) = He(ad), then (x) = (ad).

See ‘figure’ below for a compelling example.

 ‘Madchen in Uniform’, 1958. Alamy Stock Photo. 

Hex Substitutive Principle (x)=(ad):

(X) = (AD) / (x) = (ad)

Application Formula: Insert substitutive principle (X)=(AD)/(x)=(ad) into any linguistic context in order to perform a substitutive linguistic hex on –or to HEX– the patriarchal use and to engage in the Sapphic subversive linguistic practice of the language SAPPHIX.

If you want to Sapphically encode something and make it hard for others to understand, you can apply the principle: as much or as little as you see fit. You can apply it in instances in which it looks aesthetically pleasing to you and can be understood by others, or you can apply it to baffle and totally confuse your reader, rendering yourself in some way safer from comprehension and judgment, which may be of use or interest to you, depending on how interesting you find language and whether you want to try to develop a degree of proficiency in the art of coding, ala Sapphix.

Sapphix must always be used with a sense of humor and with linguistic longing. It will not work otherwise (for instance, if you don’t know the traditional meaning of the word “parody,” don’t even think about trying to understand Sapphix).

There is a formula to the Sapphic principle of Sapphix (as you witnessed above), but subverting the formula to suit your Sapphic needs is always encouraged, as long you cite Sapphix and the Sapphic Sphinx.

Hexamples for your Sapphic Codification Pleasure:

Sex –> Sead (“I haven’t had Sead in ages” or “God you’re so Seady.”)

T-Rex –> T-Read (“Look out; Tyrannosaurus Read is about to eat you!”)

X-Ray –> Ad-Ray (“How long has it been since we took ad-rays of your crooked mouth?”)

Examine –> Eadamine (“It is time for me to eadamine you; get on the table.”)

Flex –> Flead (“Flead those non-existent muscles”)

Exact –> Eadact (“Eadactly: that is Eadactly what I did not mean.”)

Experiment –> Eadperiment (“I want to be your lesbian eadperiment.”)

Elixir –> Eliadir (“She poured the Sapphic eliadir down her throat, and voila!”)

Juice box –> Juice boad (“There is too much high fructose corn syrup in this juice boad!”)


Read –> Rex (“What do we do after school? We rex. We rex books. Ever heard of them?!”)

Bedspread–> Bedsprex (“She lay buried beneath a bedsprex infused with lilac extract”)

Saddness –> Sxdness (“Her eyes were transfixed on the sxdness of the portrait.”)

Radical –> Rxical (“Rxdical lesbians support transgender rights!”)

Misadventure –> Misxventure (“I begged her to take me on a misxventure”)

Steadfast –> Stexfast (“My love for Fraggle Rock was stexfast; nothing could move it!)

Advent –> Xvent (“The cat was grateful for the xvent of the French Angel Fish in her terrarium.”)

Hex linguistics involves the deliberate practice of Sapphic substitution: the substitution of traditional morphemes (prefixes, suffixes, roots) and letters for Sapphic morphemes (prefixes, suffixes, roots) and letters.

Of course, the most effective uses of the (x)=(ad) Sapphic Substitutive Principle are those that involve words that have ‘HEAD’ or ‘HEX’ built into them.

Spearhead = Spearhex

Fiddlehead = Fiddlehex

Beachhead = Beachhex

Blackhead/Whitehead = Blackhex/Whitehex

(Or, if you’re a witch, the obvious: Greenhead = Greenhex)

Metalhead = Metalhex

Heady = Hexy

Headstart = Hexstart

Headcase = Hexcase

As far as HEX words becoming HEAD words: the reversal can and should be done. However, the hex words, in and of themselves, warrant attention just as they are for the purposes of hexification (or Sapphic Redefinition).

Hexarchy is a word that traditionally refers to a group of six states, but the Sapphic definition is this:

Hexarchy: An alliance of six Sapphic states of mind that combine in a cauldron of Sapphic consciousness to perform Sapphic anarchy against patriarchal and heteronormative govern(mental) forces.

This is the magic of hex. The magic to create Sapphic meaning, at will. And it is only the beginning, only scratching the Sapphic surface of Hex Linguistics.

Who might be interested in hex linguistics? Anyone interested in language or lesbian culture and writing.

Hex linguistics will expand with the hexpansion of your consciousness, but only if you, by Sapphic nature or Sapphic nurture, have developed a Hexth Sense.

A hex is spell conjured by a linguistic witch.

The application of a linguistic hex has to do with dismantling grammar and disrupting patriarchal, heteronormative usage. Hex linguistix creates space for something else to exist (to hexist). It is the art of creating Sapphic meaning– the subversive creation of something new.

What, for instance, is a ‘beachhex’? What is ‘fiddlehex’ and what is ‘spearhex?’ New language uses creates opportunities for new definitions and applications. This is what some writers do!

Such words, of my invention, warrant an dictionary entry in the Sapphic Dictionary of Hex. Words invented using Substitutive Principle of Head/Hex (ad)=(x) become part of the language of SAPPHIX, and I define them using my Hexicology and background in Sapphology.

Hex is synonymous with Head for preliminary purposes, but when the substitution of ‘hex’ for ‘head’ occurs, the synonymic limits of language dissolve.

Note: Reproduction rights to the image from Madchen in Uniform were purchased from ASP for personal, non-commercial use by the webmistress, HJ.

Author’s Statement:

The linguistic practices that I refer to as ‘Sapphix’ and ‘Hex Linguistics’ grew out of encounters I had in high school with Shakespearean wordplay and, subsequently, the influence of my undergraduate encounters with the substitutive work of Ferdinand de Saussure’s semiology. The shifts in my awareness of possibilities in my own language uses, especially with grammar, grew over time and with private practice. The language play with which I experimented was very much connected with my exploration of identity, and I began to see that challenging and moving outside of linguistic norms was connected at a deeper level with consciousness and identity. What I saw in language others could not see, so to speak, and what I thought to do with language, others were not thinking to do, and so I discovered that I could make a language that came from me and my identity as a lesbian –– the language itself and the choices I made when using it came directly from a desire to speak in a language outside the heteronorm, and for me that was Sapphic –– a language for or between women. The new kind of seeing, which recognized Sapphic possibilities in language that heteronormative others could not see, was an art of identity and consciousness-making that I knew would be perceived simultaneously as abnormal and mad. And yet, that seemed to me no reason not to explore and develop it as a language system born of outsidership, having its own set of rules and enacting its own forms of insidership and validation. Thus, Sapphix was created out of a need to communicate in a way that creates possibilities, offers safe subaltern intimacy between its users, and challenges heteronormative linguistic legibility itself by devising its own.

Language can be played with so that new meanings are added or created, or that hidden or double meanings are developed through subversions and substitutions . It is a Sapphic code, its own linguistic system, where the devising of the language is ongoing and wherein the process of creating language is also a space for articulating something that resists legibility: Sapphicism. As we know and conceive of Sappho, the ancient Greek poet, today, there is both contestation and ambiguity surrounding her identity, sexuality, and history. As a figure, she resists legibility and subverts biographical narrative. Her writing and her identity are only available to us in fragments, and in this way, her work resists normative interpretation. The non-sense of the fragment is not without sense: it makes a sense that is not legible through heteronormativity. The nature of the fragment is a mad form of language in that the norms of logical ordering and normative coherence are disrupted. The ‘rules,’ or norms, of language are dismantled by the fragments through which her writing enters the world today. We can try to force the fragments into normative narratives of  meaning or identity, or we can choose to learn from the fragment to make new meaning and think differently about language, meaning, and identity. 

Sapphix is a manifestation of a pursuit and exploration of the latter. It is an example of my own lesbian “hysterical” expression, not meant to be understood through a normative lens, as it combines my attention to the linguistic practices of lesbians, is derived from my own play with the role of lesbian linguistic hysteria – a pushback against Western medicine’s harmful patriarchal construction of ‘female hysteria,’ and is reclaimative in the sense that the construction of madness – of resistance to linguistic sanist legibility – is an act of agency and empowerment. My interest in contributing to mad epistemologies is focused primarily on the way that Sapphix brings attention and study to the subjects of diversity in legibility and linguistic justice.  It draws wisdom from the normatively-illegible, that is, what is illegible and inaccessible to a heteroneuronormative majority but legible and accessible to a neurodivergent queer mad lesbian minority. By disrupting the idea that we can only engage with language in heteronormative ways and by demonstrating what thinking outside of heteronormative linguistic parameters looks like, I hope to encourage others to claim their power to play with and create their non-normative linguistic systems, as well as to increase understanding around how mad practice can be studied and understood as a praxis. This is a praxis that asserts that madness can be the state of creation of something with its own internal logic that is legible given a wider diversity of lenses for legibility or linguistic apparatuses.

Jessica is shown before a grey ceiling and dark wooden door. Jessica has pale skin, and blond hair which is dark at the roots, and falls below the shoulders. Jessica wears eyeshadow, a silver circled-star-with-pendant earring, a black band choker, a red sweater or blouse, and a grey vest.

Jessica Lowell Mason is a Ph.D. student and teaching assistant in the Global Gender and Sexuality Studies Department at the University at Buffalo. Jessica has taught writing courses at Buffalo State College, Carl Sandburg College, Spoon River College, and Western Illinois University. She currently teaches courses related to gender, pop culture, and media literacy at the University at Buffalo. A writer, educator, and performer, Jessica has worked for Shakespeare in Delaware Park, Ujima Theatre Co., Just Buffalo Literary Center, the Jewish Repertory Theatre, and Prometheus Books. In 2014, Jessica was awarded the Gloria Anzaldúa Rhetorician Award by the Conference on College Composition and Communication. Some of her poems, articles, and reviews have been published by Sinister Wisdom, Lambda Literary, Gender Focus, The Comstock Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Lavender Review, Wilde Magazine, IthacaLit, The Feminist Wire, and Praeger. Her first chapbook,  Woman in Disguise, was published by Saltfire Press in 2013. Her first full-length book of poetry, Straight Jacket, was published in 2019 by Finishing Line Press. She is the co-founder of Madwomen in the Attic, a feminist mental health literacy organization in Buffalo, NY.

 

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Xuan Nguyen || FEYXUAN

THE DIVINE DO NOT LIVE ON THE FIRST FLOOR 

Video description: In a black-and-white VHS style recording, a goth queer of ambiguous gender wears cat ears, round glasses, and a vintage leather jacket in front of a large microphone as they read a poem about divinity. 

The poem read in this video was first published in Nectar Poetry

Artist Statement:

Goth catboy in leather jacket reading poetry about the monstrous divine at an open mic in the 90s recorded on VCR. 

The poem is part of my THE FAIRIES SING EACH TO EACH (TFSETE) narrative poetry collection which will come out someday, perhaps 2021-2022. The stageplay / lyricbook hybrid version is coming out at the end of February with Flower Press. 

TFSETE is about a madness that makes you feel a deep connection with the divine. I am Mad in the way all traumatized schizophrenics are, which is to say completely unlike one another and the vast swathes of people that populate the Kingdom of Earth. 

Amadeus Vu, the main character of TFSETE, has an obsession with the divine fey and being a man who will become Empress of Heaven. For Amadeus, this obsession is characterized by a monstrosity bred from a madness that has a uniquely traumatized formulation but no specific DSM category. 

In THE DIVINE DO NOT LIVE ON THE FIRST FLOOR, there exists this concept of who will remember you when you die? As an artist, a creator, who will remember your work? What legacy will you leave behind? And are you not destined to be forgotten, if not now, then someday? I think a lot about what it means to be a chronically ill, Mad artist whose particular medicated schizophrenia enables them to be a creative polymath and a rational failure. 

The Sword of Damocles hangs on a thread above me, and it is only a matter of time before it falls. To be Disabled & Mad is to live a doomed existence. But, I said once something that I want to live by. The odds are against me, but the gods are on my side. 

The odds are against Amadeus, but the gods are on her side. Even if he will be forgotten. 

Xuan Nguyen || FEYXUAN is shown, before a white lace curtain with floral details. Xuan has dark red hair that falls below the shoulders, and light skin. Xuan wears black eyelashes, a black rubber joker with black rubber spikes and chainring, and a black shortsleeved shirt with a stand collar and a v-neckline.

Xuan Nguyen || FEYXUAN is a fey orchestral music composer, writer-poet, and illustrator-designer. Their recent projects have involved the solo development of aesthetic interactive fiction games exploring the nuances not exclusive to the following: power, trauma, madness, nonbinariness, divinity, and monstrosity. Their chapbooks include LUNG, CROWN, AND STAR (Dec 2020, Lazy Adventurer) and THE FAIRIES SING EACH TO EACH (Feb 2021, Flower Press), and their upcoming novella is LIAR, LIONNESS (March 2021, Flower Press). Someday, they’d like to create something that makes them feel like Revolutionary Girl Utena does.

 

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Jane Shi

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* An HTML script which runs at https://www.w3schools.com/code/tryit.asp?filename=GJIAQ5GHMSIY

History Flipping**

“She mimicks the speaking. That might resemble speech. (Anything at all.) Bared noise, grown, bits torn from words. Since she hesitates to measure the accuracy, she resorts to mimicking gestures with the mouth. The entire lower lip would lift upwards then sink back to its original place.” – Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Dictee

To meet diagnostic criteria for ASD according to DSM-5, a child must have persistent deficits in each of three areas of social communication and interaction (see A.1. through A.3. below) plus at least two of four types of restricted , repetitive behaviors (see B.1. through B.4. below).

  1. Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as manifested by the following, currently or by history (examples are illustrative, not exhaust;ive see text):
    1. Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, ranging, for example, from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back-and-forth conversation; to reduced sharing of ;interests, emotions, or affect; to failure to initiate or respond to social interactions.
    2. Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, ranging, for example, from poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication; to abnormalities in eye contact and body language or deficits in understanding and use of gestures; to a total lack of facial expressions and nonverbal communication.
    3. Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understand relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends; to absence of interest in peers.

Specify current severity:

Severity is based on social communication impairments and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior.

  1. B. Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities, as manifested by at least two of the following, currently or by history (examples are illustrative, not exhaustive; see text):
    1. 1. Stereotyped or repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech (e.g., simple motor stereotypes, lining up toys or flipping objects, echolalia, idiosyncratic phrases).
    2. 2. Insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines, or ritualized patterns of verbal or nonverbal behavior (e.g., extreme distress at small changes, difficulties with transitions, rigid thinking patterns, greeting rituals, need to take same route or eat same food every day).
    3. 3. Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus (e.g., strong attachment to or preoccupation with unusual objects, excessively circumscribed or perseverative interests).
    4. 4. Hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment (e.g. apparent indifference to pain/temperature, adverse response to specific sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of objects, visual fascination with lights or movement).

Specify current severity:

Severity is based on social communication impairments and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior.

  1. C. Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities, or may be masked by learned strategies in later life).
  2. D. Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning.
  3. E. These disturbances are not better explained by intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder or global developmental delay. Intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder frequently co-occur; to make comorbid diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability, social communication should be below that expected for general developmental level.

Note: Individuals with a well-established DSM-IV diagnosis of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified should be given the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Individuals who have marked deficits in social communication, but whose symptoms do not otherwise meet criteria for autism spectrum disorder, should be evaluated for social (pragmatic) communication disorder.

**  The elided text is from the diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder from The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).  

Imperfections

did your skin pull frays from dining table linen did
fruit knives carve toes out of calcified chairs did
my words crack our wooden coat hanger apart did 

an absence of apology break this bottleneck spell did
it then crush our chalk-lined hands did
sirens come get me after you called did 

they scream in my body like a lost child did 
every impulse grow iridescent ash fall did
thirty-three steps on our way to mend did 

that feel too hard for us to swallow did 
you think of my grandmother when you told on me did 
you dream about tracing a line to yours did

I ask too much of you with a dirty dish tongue did
you spit out chicken bones with coals in your socks did
I wrap seventeen sheets across my face then stop did

it hurt too much to tell the truth on this couch did
it burn too much to leave our bathroom lights on did
you hang them out after dark for my corridor did

you see your imperfections at sunrise did
you forgive me for finding its shadows did
you let me forgive you too did you let me before you did

Ketchup Chip Wilson

I sublimated my violent temper 
to give myself 50 orgasms in one night

I picked my egg shell towel from off the floor
and made a leather jacket out of your Birkenstocks

I changed my name to petty 
just to change it back to Pretty Petty

I told myself I was enough 
enough times my tongue fell off
and I said, “oh no” except it sounded more like
 
owo

I realized everything I ever said to you sounded like a Hamlet
soliloquy remixed into a 24-hour lo fi hip hop anime girl studying YouTube video 

I forgot everything you ever said to me 

I wrote a sci-fi thriller about us taking down Chip Wilson 
just to wake up to realize you’re Chip Wilson’s assistant

I want to dress up for Halloween as Ketchup Chip Wilson 
but don’t want to appropriate white people culture

(anyone… have any advice on that?) 

if I projected all my intergenerational trauma onto you 
then why aren’t you playing and selling out multiple nights in a row at VIFF?

I will never be a Christmas person but this year you left me
enough of you to weave a tinsel of saliva around my winter boots

as tired and stretched and ridiculous as an American
Girl doll accessory hair ribbon

In a double exposure, Jane is shown before a white wall and a wooden bookshelf. Jane has black hair with cut bangs, that otherwise falls about the chin, and light skin. Jane wears a half-sleeved black v-neck blouse or dress, and hornrim eyeglasses. Jane is seated, and holds half of a large reddish orange citrus fruit, or pomegranate.

Jane Shi is a queer Chinese settler living on the unceded, traditional, and ancestral homelands of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. Her writing has appeared in Briarpatch, Canthius, Plenitude, and Arc, among others. Her other accolades include being called aggressive, a Spoiled Brat, a no xiaojie, and “someone who should dress like her intellect.” Clinicians have applied Freud to her bisexual sitting habits to disastrous results. Someone once said she has BPD and should get help. Someone else asked her to google how to assert boundaries. She made up her own search engine which told her she’s autistic, instead. She wants to live in a world where love is not a limited resource, land is not mined, hearts are not filched, and bodies are not violated.

 

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K.S.Y. Varnam

Too/Not

Too much is what they call you
when your shape is unfamiliar,
when your neurons grow at a different speed,
when you speak in tongues too lilting
for them to follow the rhythm.
Sometimes we miss each other,
our movements and thoughts parallel.
Not enough because they can’t track
what they can’t sense, so we look
like we’re doing nothing
when we’re doing everything,
every motion, every moment a choice
to continue wading through
a current meant for different bodies,
minds that flow the other direction.

K.S.Y. is shown before a wall of white bricks. K.S.Y. has pale skin, and short hair dyed an electric teal in the front, and otherwise rust red. K.S.Y. has several piercings, and wears silver earlobe, lip, and septum rings and studs. K.S.Y. wears clear cateye eyeglasses, and a dark sweater over a plaid collared shirt.

K.S.Y. Varnam is a queer, neurodivergent, and disabled Toronto-based writer, artist, and editor, as well as the founder of The Quilliad Press. They share a bedroom with two mischievious parrots, Riff Raff and Wobbles, both of whom regularly feature in their poetry. Much of their work also focuses on neurodivergency, disability, queerness, and feminist themes. Their work has been published in several journals, including Hamilton Arts & Letters, Plenitude, Metatron, The Quarterday Review, Breath and Shadow, CRUSH, and Transition Magazine

 

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Twoey Gray

ECT

Mad girl, I love you!

Twoey Gray is an aroace zinester, arts educator, and sweet-tooth poet-ish laaady. Her work has appeared live at the Women of the World Poetry Slam and College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational, and in video on CBC Arts and Slamfind. She is the author of Electrodaughter, a chapbook on her experience receiving electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Find her at twoeygray.com.

 

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Jocelyn Patten

Lonely Diagnosis

And if my allowing myself to be brought here confuses you, if you think for one minute that I am singing one song and dancing to another, then you have not been following along. Stick to the facts. That’s what I have to tell everybody. They are clear and crisp and lay cold and unblinking on the snow banks that lined the drive here. I press my nose to the glass and nod at each, and as they pass they slip under the car and up into the backseat and down my stomach. I feel them still; they have not melted, despite the heat in this room. There are hundreds of them, and they tell the story of what has happened to me, what was done to me in the beginning, what must be stopped. I will open my mouth round and wide, and each fact will come slipping out, only to attach itself to the blank wall that faces our chairs; there they will remain hard and sharp and be beautiful and powerful and all-knowing. And all I will have to do is point and say, here, here is all that you need to know. Here is where my doctor refuses to look, and here is what my mother does not accept. But you can see it, I know you can, and you can understand what the truth is. You can stick to the facts. You will recognize the danger I am in, and order that I be removed outside the city limits, far from the grey grip of the pill-pushing death angels. Gone, wiped off their video screens, the metal disc in my brain growing weaker and weaker with every moment. Come spring, it will be mere dust, and one morning I will stand up and sneeze, and it will all be gone. 

Jocelyn Patten lives and writes in Ottawa.  

 

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Reil Benedict Obinque

THE OLD MAN AND THE PALE GIRL

I was alone and old and it was a sweltering Monday afternoon. Sleepy, I was lying on my rattan hammock outside of my home when a girl, around nine years old, came to me because she had gotten so pale she thought she needed a physician. 

“But I am no physician, young girl. I’m a physicist,” I said, not getting out of my hammock. 

“But aren’t you a doctor?” she asked, gripping the edge of the hammock. She was so small and so close to me I needed to get up to avoid the smell of moss stuck on her hair.

“I am a doctor in physics, not a medical doctor, so if you could please go back to your parents now, for they may be looking for you.”

I stood up and she tugged the hem of my shirt, still pleading.

“But I have travelled so long with my dog, Champ, just to reach you. We’ve crossed seven rivers and my dog died on the way here. I need your help.”

“What help?” I asked, trying to get her hands off my shirt.

“I’m getting so, so pale I’m afraid I’m becoming invisible.”

Then she extended her hands and indeed they were oddly pale her skin looked like layers of gossamers, that I could see through her if I just drew myself closer. Her face, I noticed, was as white as my balding hair. But I told her, “No. There is nothing I can do.”

I turned my back and she desperately ran after me.

“No, doctor! Please don’t turn your back on me! Look! Look what’s happening!”

And when I turned around, I noticed how one of her fingers had turned translucent. 

“Have you got no daughter, doctor?” she asked, a voice of a six-your-old articulating the thought of a middle-aged lady.

“Don’t call me doctor,” I said, taken aback still by her partial invisibility, “and I did have a daughter, but she died a long time ago.”

“Then you should know how it feels to lose a daughter, sir,” she said, back to her pleading face.

I sighed and fixed my stare at the abandoned hammock. It somehow turned into an empty cradle. 

“Sir!” 

I looked at her and her hand was gone.

“Please don’t take your eyes off me. It makes me paler,” she said. “My dog had been looking after me during our journey and see what happened when he died.”

“So you just want me to look at you?”

“Please, sir.”

“Until?”

“I don’t know.”

I wanted to shoo her away and shut the door but I was afraid the moment I open it I would see only her orange headband and her orange dress floating over her orange sandals. I let her in and made sure my eyes were all on her, trying my best not to blink.  

She walked around the house dazzled by how large it was. 

“It’s only large because it’s empty,” I said, but she was no longer listening, for she was already taking her sandals off, heading toward the couch. As she was jumping on it, I stared at her, for I had to stare at her, and realized I had not seen a girl for a long time. I had not seen a hair so curly bouncing over tiny shoulders. She was flailing her hands as though there was music only she could hear. 

She fell from the couch and it shook me from my recollection. I ran toward her and pulled her up, asking if she was okay. She just giggled and said everything was fine, but she was getting hungry.

“Do you have biscuits, sir?” she asked. “Champ and I only ate moss on the way here I think they’re growing and greening inside my stomach.”

I lead her to the kitchen table and together we ate the cookies that had been untouched inside that tin box for weeks. As she ate biscuits after biscuits, leaving not even crumbs, my eyes were still on her, for I had to, but also because I was looking at how her hand was slowly going back to normal.

She yawned and slouched on her chair. 

“I’m tired,” she said just as I was about to remind her it was rude to yawn at the dining table. “Do you have storybooks, sir? Will you read me storybooks?”

“Isn’t it too early for bedtime stories?” I asked. 

“But I am sleepy.”

I took her to my daughter’s room upstairs, keeping an eye on her, telling her not to move too much for she might trip. We reached my daughter’s room I hadn’t opened for years. She walked around the room and ran her fingers along the edges of the unused cradle, poked the bobo penguin doll, traced the surface of the empty bookshelves, asking, “Sir, where are the storybooks?”

I did not know how to tell her there were none, for there was suddenly no one to read them to, that going there for the storybooks was just an excuse to go to the room I hadn’t visited for years. 

“I forgot I sold them a long time ago,” I said instead. “But I could tell you a story!”

The truth was that I knew no children’s story, that all my life I had been burying my head on my books I had forgotten stories that once filled me happiness when I was little. Having thought of the most childish story, I asked, “Do you want to hear the story of a young man and an apple?”

She seemed excited, not knowing that minutes afterward, she would be yawning as I lectured her about gravity. So this is how you make a young girl sleep, I told myself. Talk about gravity like it is a beautiful unicorn, when gravity is what’s responsible for a heart getting heavy, when gravity is what pulls a wife’s body down when she decides to hang herself, when gravity, too, pulls an infant out of its mother’s womb during a miscarriage.

I looked at the girl already sleeping on my lap as I was in the middle of grappling for an answer to her question: will I still have my gravity when I become invisible? You will not become invisible, young girl, I should have told her. I should have comforted her by saying I will never take my eyes off her, that this time I will pay more attention, for there are things more fascinating than my hunger for knowledge and validation. I should have read her stories about wizards and witches than talk to her about Newton. I should have come home when I knew they needed my affection. I did not notice I was already smoothing the girl’s curly hair, humming a lullaby I practiced a long time ago when she told me we were pregnant. 

But I was old and alone and it was a sweltering Monday afternoon when I was supposedly lying on my hammock. My own humming lulled me to sleep. I felt my eyes drooping and I tried to fight back, but something in my head told me there was no way I could do it, and that I had been like that always. I tried to pinch myself several times but my back always felt the comfortable couch. Humming and rubbing her hair, I did not notice my eyes were already closed as I lay back and started to snore.

When I awoke, I felt the weightlessness on my lap. She was no longer there. But I knew she was in the room somewhere. It was just that I could not see her. Feeling so sorry, feeling so angry at myself for having slept, I searched for a floating dress that could have been roaming around the house. Desperate, I was about to shout her name, but I remembered I never asked for her name in the first place. But I knew she was there. She must be hiding, furious at me and how I slept when I promised I would not take my eyes off her. There must be traces of her inside the house—some foot marks she had left or pieces of furniture slightly moved to tell me where she went. But the house felt so empty that my footsteps echoed inside it. 

I searched for her until sunset, until silence enveloped me like a suffocating bag to make me feel how I was so old and so alone and it was a cold Monday night and no one could look after me. I caught a glimpse of me on the window pane. I’m getting pale, I realized. I’m getting so, so pale.

Reil is shown, before a white wall and what may be a window onto a green room. Reil has light brown skin, and dark hair, shaved short at the sides and higher on top, and a thin mustache and goatee. Reil wears a crew neck shirt patterned with thin brown and white horizontal stripes.

Reil Benedict Obinque is a calculus and physics teacher in Ateneo de Davao Senior High School. Some of his works have appeared in Dagmay, Philippines Graphic, Manila Times, Likhaan: The Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature, and The Brown Orient.

 

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