Sade LaNay

Entry 047

Spring Fling; Roy; Last Nights of Venus in Leo

watching my blood fill the sink sucked down the drain what is it like? all my girl friends ask me when I tell them about the sponges I kind of love it but i’m groß like that I like feeling like I can touch a part of myself that no one else can men use words like “tight” “wet” “hot” or one guy said “my dick feels nuts” & it was really distracting i would be happy to sext anyone who paid me to do so no more writing for free or maybe a writing workshop where I teach men to be better sexters because a text that says let me rub my cock between your tits until i cum on your chest just sounds like you asking me to let you make a mess i have to clean up later but if a text says i wanna be your footstool well that changes things… &&& when the submissive asked if he could come over during my period I hesitated—because it felt like… that’s my time—I’ve heard women talk about it but I’ve never had sex while menstruating… willingly & I wasn’t… because it was almost over & sometimes I just want to be unhindered & idgaf & i was getting ready for bed & just wanted one more cigarette & the moon was full & close through the trees & he was already in the apartment–alreadyintheroom–already taking his dick out–taking off his clothes–pulling off my clothes–pinning me against the wall–grabbing my wrists–biting me {i said no a bunch of times} [what is unclear about “I do not want to have sex with you”] I wasn’t strong enough I couldn’t overpower him|passive|think maybe it won’t hurt (but it does) {I guess you can’t get pregnant if you’re on your period so there’s thatthatthat} nowhere to go////a spontaneous tryst with a frenchman &&& in his bed after naked and smoking he brought me lemonade he recited Invictus &&& the sex was okay–we tired ourselves out (his bed was almost too soft) but the best part was his voice reciting that poem him lighting two cigarettes at once & setting one between my parted lips & in his tiny shower kissing in a way that’s hard to stop & his solid hands in my hair & the hot water & I had him take me home because in the morning I was leaving for NYC or AWP or West Philly I was going somewhere &&& he would call during the summer & I wouldn’t answer because I was afraid to be triggered///I was moving any way it… was interesting///looking at each other///standing in his kitchen he touched my face & said you’re incredibly sexy in person or some shit–I said oh and shrugged–getting into bed that night felt so good

Sex is better when you can remain in your body.

“Will you?”

I squeeze the lotion into his hand. Unbend my leg so that my foot is in his lap. He steadies my left calf in his right hand and meets my eyes. I try not to smile. He’s thorough about it. His hands are firm, kneading. He opens his palm for more lotion. I lift my right leg onto the bed. He starts at the top of my foot working the creme up into my thigh. My skin is pale for this late in the summer. I’ve been inside a lot. I don’t like to be barelegged anyhow. It feels like I am tempting something. I watch his hands. The way they slide up and down. The veins visible and twisting with the muscles on the backs of his hands. His clean, close cut nails. The hair on his arms. I get to decide what happens.

“My back now.”

I take my shirt off. My hair gets caught in it. I sit back on my knees, gather my hair over my left shoulder. The lotion is cool on my back. My hands sink into the pillow in front of me and furl into fists. His hands aren’t soft. He squishes my shoulders. Unhooks my bra. I lean forward and rest on my forearms. He pulls my panties away. Holds me in his hand. I am slick. I lie down roll onto my back. I wish there was some way to watch what he was doing. My brain can only create an image for the inside of my eyelids based on sensational recognition of what part of him is touching me. His mustache and stubble feel like< stiff bristles. It’s hard to know what to call the parts of my body that I never talk about. Is he penetrating me with his tongue? My fingertips glide against his warm, bald head. Which orgasm is this? Once you know that it’s just pee, is squirting still something to brag about? Is this really what heroin feels like? I arch my back, lift my hips off the bed. I cast my hands palm down at my sides. Will my eyes to open and dart around the room. Be in the room. Remain here for this. Stay in my skin alongside every nerve ending. I’m thirsty. His mouth is wet and open over my left nipple. He exhales. The hair on his dimpled chin grazes my collarbone, his teeth on the skin of my neck. I attempt to focus as muscles clench and go limp. I reach for his face. I smell myself on his lips. I wonder. I am lonely. I settle my head on the pillows. I rest my right index finger against his jaw then sweep my thumb down his nose, through his mustache between his rosy thin lips. His central incisors scrape the grooves of my thumbpad. He brushes my hair over my shoulder with his left hand. A running grasp from my shoulder blade to elbow breaks into just his fingers skimming my forearm. I do my best not to squirm. I enjoy the aimlessness of his caress. He runs his hands over my breasts and belly like someone enamored with touching, enthralled with texture. We lie close together, close to still. I am beginning to doze off. He cups my cheek and puts his shirt back on. I walk him out. It’s that moment right before sunrise when the sky becomes visible.

I lock the door and return to bed.

Entry 49

maybe if i tweet all of my sad thoughts i’ll be less sad/feel like i’ve tried that before and it hasn’t worked/like all the medications i’ve ever been on: Effexor, Ambien, Seroquel, Abilify, Lexapro, Geodon (i can still feel that one), Clonapan Klonopin, Ativan (because I wouldn’t/couldn’t stop crying & it was upsetting the other patients), Respordol Risperdal, Lithium, Wellbutrin, Prozac (made me irritable/outwardly aggressive), Remeron, Lamictal, Trazadone, Cymbalta, crazycrazycrazy, they’re going to drag you away one day, lock you up, you just have to be so miserable all the time five hospitalizations I can’t go back I feel crazy no i do i feel crazy like something is wrong with how i feel and no one else in my family will admit when they are sad & sometimes i forget that it’s okay to cry now i’m not a child anymore but i still feel like one when i get upset i feel little again and like negated (i’m not smart i just know things because i live in my body) i used to break things when i was angry i couldn’t stand the feeling of it in my body of just wanting to scream and i broke my favorite tea pots one of them was musical with a sledgehammer i found in the back yard it only felt good for a millisecond a man who was stalking me felt like he needed to put me in my place like i should be grateful for the attention why did i have such a bad attitude [better question: why didn’t anyone in the community around me intervene? they were all there at the barbeque where he confronted me] and then i broke my guitar after fighting with my best friend because i really wanted to grab him by his golden mane of hair and say softly listen you have no idea who you are speaking to that way, i am not your mother, i’m not here to make you comfortable to entertain you to be your fun but i apologized anyway because i always apologized for being overdramatic, for making a scene, a big deal out of nothing being crazy acting crazyfeeling crazy is it 12:15 or 1:30? neither.

Entry 054

I’m so fucking sad today I feel like spoiled milk//At the poetry project sometimes when I’m talking I realize that I’m talking and I hate what I’m saying and it feels stupid so I want to stop but I’ve already opened my mouth like if I give someone a blow job and I just want it to be over in both situations no one can tell the difference or they miss the split second of hesitation “there is nothing to be gained from emotional responsiveness”//thinking about having to go back to Indiana I think it would make everyone sad to know I don’t really want to//it doesn’t feel like a break it feels like work most things feel like labor but it’s easy to be with some people when I don’t have to perform or make someone happy &&that’s not even what I mean:::what I mean is there are some people who already know my language who don’t need it translated or explained && it’s not like other ppl are wrong for needing translation or explanation//but “the violence of the coping strata is ______ & specific” I confuse myself too//until someone says yes or yeah or I know what you mean or if they look at me or/and tilt their head or smile a certain way and then and then and then it’s easier to sleep at night when I haven’t had to explain what I mean when I’m saying “I’m tired” & I might want to die sometimes & just shoot myself somewhere can’t decide where & it’s just that I’ve been feeling things all day that make me feel so hopeless & pointless & if it was 6 or 7 years ago I might have a thought like I can’t kill myself, my room is such a mess, I haven’t even unpacked everything! once I unpack everything and clean my room then I can think about killing myself && then I would unpack and clean and hang the paintings & the photos & at the end of the day I would really think about suicide///today I just couldn’t focus and I was trying to write & solve problems but instead I fell into bed & cried until I slept all afternoon//woke up at 6:24 && cried somemore because I didn’t want the outside to touch me///my hands are so cold all the time & I’m not sure these shoes fit right//but then it’s okay & it’s easier to be in the room & I’m with people I know & I think that one reason I’m afraid to go back is because I know I’m different now & maybe they won’t understand me & I’m less accommodating & it hurts to know that maybe I’m a stranger to everyone I’m strange—

Sade LaNay is a poet and artist from Houston, TX. Sade is the author of Dream Machine (co-im-press, 2014), I love you and I’m not dead (Argos Books, 2019) and self portrait (Birds of Lace, forthcoming) with poems featured in the Electric Gurlesque and Bettering American Poetry anthologies. They are a graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing at the Pratt Institute.

George Abraham

Video Loop : Tel Aviv Airport panic attack

israel: land of creation


Travel Notice:
         תיירים יכולים לוותר מתביעה לפי
         200 דולר סחורה
         tourists can forego claiming under
         200 USD in merchandise 
         يمكن للسياح التخلي مدعيا تحت
         200 دولار أمريكي في البضائع


israeli man points / camera towards / himself, kisses / his wife, subtle / smile at sunset 


woman in white
-face, opera house
vignette – strips skirt;
flesh, bare white against
spotlight’s glare, 
seeking sunlight – 


Travel Advisory:

         the following are prohibited:
         weapons/ عملاء كيميائيين/
         المواد الإباحية / الكحول
         العطور أكثر من 3 أوقية


israel: land
of creation


violinist touches string
as he might a lover – 
soft vibratto, wrist
a delicate symphony – 
a woman’s soft lips 
against clarinet          [zoom out]
         full concert hall – 
         glaring spotlight –

(couple making aaliyah / cuts in front of / teleprompter – child / in hand, 3 children / in their shadow)


it’s been an hour // since they took Z // at security – he was //  the only dark-skinned muslim // in our group // my cross hangs heavy // around my throat // & name // & bloodline – 

Travel Advisory: 
beware of prohibited materials 
beware of أسلحة
tourists can forego (themselves) 


of creation 


[Tel Aviv 
shoreline] – sunset,
a bearded man kicks 
soccer ball – same Israeli
couple interlocks lips
& countries – spoils of 
conquest (90 minutes // Z 
Isn’t back
) knife caresses
wine glass 
full of another
blood,    again – 


the couple is gone. 
the airport, empty
aside from our 
collective pulse – 
i re-activate facebook
turn on my phone 
& relay the good news – 

         i’m home 
         ( no word from Z )

         i’m finally 

         Home –

Infinite: a history of parallel bodies

The following poem concerns a character, Elizabeth, from the video game Bioshock: Infinite. She has the power to form holes in the space-time continuum and travel between parallel universes.  The game begins in the reality where Elizabeth is confined in a dark tower which drains her powers, and is guarded by a metallic beast, the Songbird, in order to be studied as specimen and later brainwashed by their society’s dictator. In all realities, we arrive at Elizabeth by traveling through a lighthouse.

I. portrait of specimen in dark universe

in the beginning, there was
the body. a you, finite enough
to reside, compact, in the confines
of space & time –
                        but before there was
a you, there was the empty. that resides strong
in the body. a longing. a definition – can the body
exist without the Loneliness it counters
                        & inhabits –

yes – the Loneliness grew strong within
you. made a world of you, dark
& vast as the beast that guards it;
became a copper-lunged thing;
a throat that sings without breathing,
strips the music from your little
bones; winged beast of metallic
claw & its anthem of shredding wire:
all the delicate machinery built
to contain you –

but in this reality, you are tame
& young. small. hollow
-boned, yet shatterproof in all
your body’s oblivious histories.

you cannot know the way you split galaxies
with a single breath; the universes
your hands can unlock in a single strike –
your history, a petty matchbox; a thing that ignites
with friction & hands, always the hands;

you are oblivious of the scientists
behind the screens, who claim
they built you; observing the specimen
of you – who built a tower in you,
the Lonely that makes you retreat
into yourself; who wrote the books
you could never find yourself in; books
that claim they saved you & built all
the delicate machinery & winged
beasts that strip you of flight & sweet

          wingless child –

the body is an infinity
you have yet to unravel –

II. portrait of specimen as apocalypse

what you know of         history is a conjuring                  of endless winter; in this
reality, a decade            of torture, cast upon your           body makes you body
of bloodied riot,              memory                                          jaded

                        collapsing under the dust
                       of you – of men & their science
    who built a dictator                       in you & the universe, you
                                                                                inherited – who        
                                                                                made Atlas of you –

                                      placed the weight of their
                                      universe on your shoulders
                                      & begged a genesis of you –

in this reality, you are a god
in some sense. Galaxies,

                                                                                                              collapsing under the rage
                                                                                                              of you, a drunk architecture

of limbs, horizons swept
into a singularity & all the stars

                                                                                                              on your breath; behold the weapon
                                                                                                               they made of your infinity –

in the wrong hands,
you are body of endless

rapture; the beautiful
devastation of endless

histories repeating them
-selves, of endless

fruition, a lineage
of hands, of endless

wreckage, of
body     endless –

    of endless

    of endless

    of endless

II. portrait of specimen as lighthouse, in spacetime continuum
or the ghost of my cis gender haunts the genderfluid topology of my body

Instructions: cut and paste this poem onto a knotted 3-dimensional realization of a projective plane – a topological space that cannot exist, without knotting in
on itself at a single point, in dimensions lower than 4. The “you” is to be placed at the point of singularity; the paths stemming from the “you” merely conform to
the topology of the space. This poem is a trajectory
from the self, back to the self.

a lighthouse: there is always: a lighthouse: there is always:
a man: a lighthouse: searching: there is always:  hands
searching: the man: the lighthouse: the blood: on his
searching hands: there is always a man who claims
he built you: with his hands: searching: brief light
-houses: there is always the hands: that made: that
searched: that parted: history: there is always a history:
of hands: trapped between past: and present: hands
that built: a history: of you: there is always: a you: strong
-blooded: heavy-handed: a lighthouse: an infinity of them:
a trace: a lineage: a man: who claims you: and your non
-linear histories: a man: who searches: an infinity: of dim
-ensions: and impossible bloodlines: for the work: of his own:
hands: a map: there is always: a map: that leads him: to you:
his own: his blood: searching: a map: a lighthouse: there is always:
a lighthouse: a nail: a door: a man: searching: an infinity: of light
-houses: for you: a map: of history: of men: like him: who built:
an infinity: a bloodline: a you: to conquer: heavy-handed: there is
always: a you: a thing: with blood: and hands: trapped: between two
impossible: realities: there is always: the man: with an infinity:
of hands: who claims: he built you: always: a you: built: of man:
of hands: this man: these hands: this lighthouse: this search: this want:
this history: these hands: this infinite: bloodline: searching: reaching:

IV. portrait of specimen at baptism

you killed a man today.
let his blood darken
the waters he found
himself in; found his
god in; before he birthed
one; yes, the infinity
the history, the dim
-ensions placed on you
makes you god, child;
which makes you bloody
-handed, yes, but at his
expense, you escaped
the massacre of your
-self; made all the
necessary wounds to get
here, with your God,
his lungs emptying
beneath the surface
of his own making;
Father, isn’t this everything
you asked of your greatest
creations? to quiet
the pulse of every blood
seeking to end you?
what of the self can exist
after it destroys its maker?
isn’t this the most graceless
suicide; to escape not only
the body, but the history
it was born into –

V. litany for specimen as Songbird

praise the bones hollow enough
to fit a body in – the expense of wings;

teach me how to fly, despite the weight
placed onto my human form;

call hallowed the ones who can bare
this weight of me; cast their names

into an eternal promise to sunrise
& call them blessed ephemerality,

holiest impermenance; teach me to find music
in that, for where there is song, there is voice

& where there is voice, there is reason
to wander, to love, to rediscover

being; teach me how to wear my blood
without wanting to escape it;

teach me to be a thing that does not snap
btween my abuser’s hands;

teach me to be a thing not hunted
by its own magic;

to unlearn the body & its forsaken
histories; how it molds itself into godless iron

every wound, a battle song, a small rebellion;
teach me to find praise in that –

in this testimony of sacrifice; in the restless
homes I built in unforgiving stratospheres;

teach me how to sing without apologizing
for the space i take up –

teach me to find glory in flight, despite every
winter & migration this body inherits;

how not all resurrections are worth praise & ceremony
but that i still sing is testament to how my voice

& the voices of the lineage & ghosts i carry
still live, loudly; still sing praise to every god

who failed them, reminding them of this lineage
of the bold blooded; how we tear down entire universes

in a single breath & apologize for none of it,
in spite of every apology we write our bodies into;

despite everything that claims us weapon,
or terrorist, or specimen; despite every wall,

every scalpel, every blade that clipped us of flight,
               we sing –

                                              we rise –

                                                                             we fly

                                                                                                    Home –

George Abraham is a Palestinian-American Poet, Activist, and Engineering PhD Candidate at Harvard University. He is the author of two chapbooks: al youm, winner of the Atlas Review’s 2016 chapbook contest, and the specimen’s apology, forthcoming with Sibling Rivalry Press. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Vinyl, Apogee, Kweli, Hawai’i Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and anthologies such as Bettering American Poetry 2016, Nepantla, and the Ghassan Kanafani Palestinian Literature Anthology.

Sophie Hoyle

PERMASTRESS addresses Anxiety disorder, the technomediation of the body and the role of collective anxiety in geopolitical discourses.


Permastress (2016) Clips 1-8 from Sophie Hoyle on Vimeo.


Permastress (2016) Installation Documentation from Sophie Hoyle on Vimeo.


Inner Security from Sophie Hoyle on Vimeo.

Artist’s Statement

I’m an artist and writer whose work and research explores an intersectional approach to post- colonial, queer, feminist and disability issues. I work in moving-image, installation and video-essay to look at the relation of the personal to (and as) political, individual and collective anxieties, and how alliances can be formed where different kinds of inequality and marginalisation intersect. I explore biographical experiences of being queer and part of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) diaspora, to relate the interpersonal to wider structural violence. From direct experience of psychiatric conditions and trauma, or PTSD (Post-Traumatic-Stress- Disorder), I began to look at the politics of collective trauma in communities and societies in the MENA region through post-colonial critique, anti-psychiatry and transcultural psychiatry, and the history and use of medical technologies rooted in biopolitical control.

Sophie Hoyle is an artist and writer currently based in London, UK. Recent exhibitions, screenings and published texts include: Sheer—Naked—Aggression, Chalton Gallery, London; Archipelago, Issue 4; The Southern Summer School, BAK, Utrecht; Power: The Politics of Disability, London (all 2017); The 3D Additivist Cookbook; Clearview Presents; Mimesis for Cosmos Carl; Off to Mahagonny, London; This Time With FEELing [space] London, and Anxious to Secure, Transmediale HKW Berlin (all 2016).

Sarit Ben Aryeh Frishman


“If I’d’ve seen you someplace,  I’d’ve thought you were a straight girl” was the day I went home and shaved half my head
“Femme Visibility Cut”
7 months later for my birthday,  I got the word,  “Femme” tattooed in black above my cleavage. 

When I met you at Bluestockings,  we had the same haircut
Proud gray roots
But yours was dyed pink at the ends, and on your chest, 
Where mine said “Femme” was the word “home”

I’m sitting at a table in the Met Life building in Midtown Manhattan,  waiting for the charger port on my phone to be fixed.  My overwhelmed autistic ears are stuffed with rolled up halves of a paper napkin, an insufficient measure to block out the large wall mounted TV tuned to CNN, and the men around me taking up too much space with their voices.  
I’ve been re-reading “Love Cake”, and I’m writing this longhand on a piece of stenographer’s paper with a pen I borrowed from the front desk on top of its cover.  
In the picture inside, you have a full head of hair,  and I wonder if someone once made you feel invisible.  I want to tell you,  that even without the undercut,  the tattoos or the “switchblade hip switch”
If I had seen you in the wild
I would have seen you right away
Queer, Brown, Hard Femme
Because we are not invisible
We take up more space than these chattering men, CNN and Midtown put together
Just by being the 
Unbreakable Bitches we are
But until I picked up your books, 
Found your words when I lacked my own
I might never have discovered this Femme/home.  

Sarit Ben Aryeh Frishman is an SDQTPOC, mentally ill, autistic, Femme sex worker who lives in New York. She is 48.

Ysabel Y. Gonzalez

Apocalyptic Luck

Some of us will be relieved when the world ends,
no more bones to shine.

When we see a comet dashing towards earth,
we’ll cheer, think finally— 

not because there’s an afterlife waiting
for us

but because we’re exhausted scratching at our scarred

day after day, tiny pluckings at the skin 
until we’re raw,

red at the helm of our flesh a hacked-on reminder
that there’s 

luck in an ending invoked, when we tell an apocalypse: 
come, do 

your fiery blaze

ease our yoke with a shower of cosmic 

That’s what people like me call


Some people
leap or slice
to start over

I know too well
this urge
but also know
I’ll just be sent back

constant tinkering
synapses don’t mend
so in short-lasting light
I conjure up 
a litany for Lucid

         praise Your steady
         guide my hands
         guide my feet
         guide my tongue

And this is how 
witchcraft began

stealing back 
a sober mind
through fiery prayer
but not to their god

Newark, NJ-based Ysabel Y. Gonzalez received her BA from Rutgers University, and an MFA in Poetry from Drew University. Ysabel has received invitations to attend VONA, Tin House, Ashbery Home School, and BOAAT Press workshops. She’s a CantoMundo Fellow, and has been published in the Paterson Literary Review, Tinderbox Journal, Anomaly, Vinyl, It was Written: Poetry Inspired by Hip-Hop, Wide Shore, Waxwing Literary Journal, and others.  You can read more about her work, at

Julian Randall

This Land Is Where We Buried Everything That Came Before You: African American History and Concepts of Ownership in Early Elementary Education


Within the history of Afro-American existence much scholastic importance has been attributed to the weight of February. This is certainly understandable as Blackness in the pedagogical tradition is nothing if not a silhouette in a pelagic winter. However, understated in all of this is the significance of the “Token” as a kind of tragic hero in the tradition of sole survivors such as Odysseus. More specifically, how a boy might see his undoing and howl across the unflinching snow and never identify the echo. This Sonics of Blackness is a criminally under represented element of how one conveys to a room full of second graders the savage lick of a whip as a means of explaining an entire history. The question of this poem then is how the educator of the classroom approaches the subject of slavery when only one Black child sits in the room worrying at a shoelace, as if preparing. This poem takes as its primary subject a boy no older than 7 embraced by his white best friend as the white best friend states “I am glad slavery is over, I would have hated to own you.” Followed by the boy sitting on his hands until they are blood bulbous and no longer entirely his own. How he looks beyond the window onto the playground and beneath the snow imagines an entire country; beneath that country, another.

Frank Ocean Sighting #268: Frank Ocean Is Rumored to Speak of Rivers Which is Likely a Lie (Disc 1)

Junior year come around
& in my dorm room
animal level desire makes me
more me in some ways
My savage tongue drizzles
onto an empty bed
Empty         except me
      nothing new
to splinter the obese quiet
Lonely & holding court with stains
Drake vibrates through the next wall

Lust got loose in the hallway
sex echoes between melodies
I thumb at flakes of paint
I ain’t got nobody    no music
No woman    no man
this makes me the anomaly
again     My man handsome
as anything that don’t quite exist
My man just the hum glazing my fist
Beneath my nails    olive coats of landscape

Gossip tells us there’s two discs
Rumor tells us it’s posthumous
Sense should’ve told me not to sleep
with this white girl    knowing history
like I do     yet here    me frightened
me jutting my hips in the dull light
Gossip tells us one of the discs
is River     Booze shuffled off her lips
It never met my mouth     I quivered inside her
loneliness    she told me    You need to quit being
such uh bitch & fuck me    I obeyed     then exited

For weeks it goes like that
this memory I shudder to call
abuse     Yet it was
the story is gauze
I already bled through it
She called me a coward
for each of my refusals
I ask myself    why I stayed
The sex was bad    I was scared
of her solitude    her fragile quiet
her desire for me to be hers outside
Some vases shatter   get filled with gold
Some vases shatter   just become fragments
that hold my eyes    as I drop the lid over them
Leave their little trauma in the hallway

My whole body an Achilles Heel
momma’s ever tender failing
destined for a puncture’s fame
The album was a hoax
I was just as depressed as before
& now mother to half a secret
Still I was ablaze with want
for sex     yes      but mostly
I just wanted it to end
My friends & their partners
are in the main room playing Monopoly
discussing gains & losses & losses
I’m invited as an afterthought
Still ablaze I put on my coat
It is 3am     and the downpour is torrential
I shouldn’t be going anywhere
I’m not sure I’m going anywhere
so much as testing if anyone would stop me
while I stroll past them        They didn’t
& when I stepped outside to quench
the gene which gives me my father’s sadness
it rained until every puddle was rabid

(Self) Inflicted

I enter this story by the same door each time. Sweet tragedy, honeyed tongue of the night bucks down my throat again and again. It is as common a myth as I can bear: Everyone Remembers Their First Time. Suppose I do, for argument’s sake. Suppose a memory knows violence inherently as a wolf knows that it deserves. Suppose we can call the result, result. That it is something more than my need to be sacrificed to myself. I did this to myself, the shots quivered, then didn’t.

My face made smaller and smaller in the dimming melody. Taint me in the glass, eclipse a flood a quarter inch at a time. I am saying here, that if I pretend I can remember much of anything, I like to think I could see my face in the shot glass. Self as parenthetical, self as wound framed by the less tarnished. I did this to myself, surrounded by my friends who are all prettier than me. Now, too drunk. Now, gone. Now, faded; life span of a bruise.

I wanted that, a reckless beauty; dauntless and inundating the room. I inflict myself on myself. Still. Hasty yes and yes and yes. I thought, even when surrounded, that I was alone. What is there really to learn from Troy, besides isolation begets permeability?

Sacrifice begets visibility; I am never more dazzling than when I’m sucking my own knife clean. I sprinted towards the light, nobody knew I was absent. Past that, desire begets a gash in the memory. I remember teeth, and how the blood didn’t leave my neck. Pooled instead. Bruised constellation. Botched hanging. Loud islands of regret. Too drunk. I make terrible prey. Mutter yes as if it can mean anything.

Oh teeth, my one clean memory, little disorganized search lamps, I count you as my audience; the way stars are beautiful until they are revealed as planes; the way what is touched erodes into an unremarkable darkness; the way the light of what is gone; reaches dim, reaches still.

Julian Randall is a Living Queer Black poet from Chicago. A Pushcart Prize nominee he has received fellowships from Callaloo, BOAAT and the Watering Hole and was the 2015 National College Slam (CUPSI) Best Poet. Julian is the curator of Winter Tangerine Review’s Lineage of Mirrors and a poetry editor for Freezeray Magazine. He is also a cofounder of the Afrolatinx poetry collective Piel Cafe. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as Nepantla, Rattle Poets Respond, Ninth Letter, Vinyl, Prairie Schooner, and The Adroit Journal, among others. He is a candidate for his MFA in Poetry at Ole Miss.

Marlin M. Jenkins

anxiety attack in a public university bathroom stall

i’m paranoid      everyone wants            to kill
me      well             at least        we have found
common ground           i want                 to kill
me too     do you want to help?      this can be
a collaborative project                     something
we can do together         be united        i guess
i’ve become           especially scared of people
lately                   but hey                 let’s plunge
the knife  together       call it solidarity   call it
ally-ship   call it abraham      on the mountain
doing the will of god                 but neglecting
the final instruction              i learned sacrifice
early       learned hate early           hate myself
often         it’s a viscous circle            maybe if
i flush myself            they’ll never       find me
someone hears my gasping sobs      walks up
to the stall door      knocks    asks        hey man
you alright?
and i almost  say          naw    bruh
but          i’ll open the door        if           you want
a brown body         to use            as target practice
except for the tremors         i promise i’ll stay still

anxiety attack trying to remember the word for fear of irregular groupings of holes

this time the ceiling
opening dark spots
worms again fall
through onto the bed 
mingle with bed bugs
that aren’t really there

but still the itch feels 
like some microscopic
eating away at skin
growing openings
irregular everywhere

you ever want to just
scrape all your skin
off just all of it because
there can’t be holes
in what’s not there 
can’t itch what doesn’t 
exist maybe just get rid 
of it all with a knife 
or a potato peeler or 
my own nails or maybe 
there’s a way to make 
a single incision and boil 
myself so it’s all off at once

the whole thing detached
and whole and all of it
smooth and even and even
and even

Marlin M. Jenkins was born and raised in Detroit, and studied poetry in University of Michigan’s MFA program. His writings have been given homes by The Collagist, Four Way Review, The Journal, and Bennington Review, among others. He is an editor for HEArt Online, and you can find him on Twitter @Marlin_Poet.

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Crip Infinity

If my cane is a limb,
Then so is my pen
–         Maranda Elizabeth

1.        my friend asked her facebook feed what apocalypse would be too much for us. What we would
           really want to not live beyond.  Folks mentioned cannibalism, the end of the whales, I stubborn
           said nothing.
 I already died three times and came back,
I don’t fear death, I know her.
I trust this world’s mean gorgeous unrelenting surprise 
Like the best top,
 she’s taken me to the edge of death 
and brought me back 
over and over, transformed.
but if this world was sterile scrubbed held down of crip  genius
I would not want to survive that
I would not want to live in a world where my people had been eliminated
for our own good 

2.       my goal is to make the revolution irresistable, so listen close:

in the infinite crip crazy future, I am not eliminated
and neither are you. We stand sit lie limp freak out
There are kinds of crazy that we ain’t even thought of yet.
We are the walking dead         the dead femmes walking

There’s nowhere you can hide from seeing all these birth defects,
I mean people.                  I mean us. 
We really are everywhere 
puffing, drooling stimming
The quality of our pain has changed
because no shame is the most effective anti-inflammatory

When an autistic kid is born people jump up and down
and scream quietly, in our heads.  We are so excited to find out
what we can do.

The best stim toys and futures are made by our kind
who focused and focused and focused 
til we made something the most beautiful
and every one gasped with admiration
but never surprise

Nothing horrible happens
You are not taken away
I am not left to die
We take care of each other forever

Our crip femme brown  love is something studied  in school
How we loved towards each other, again and again
     –     how a million ideations couldn’t end this
We are an epic love story
We are one of many

All of us are worthy of study and  grants, in fact
I don’t mean the abled studying us,
but us studying ourselves.
We study ourselves
we check each other out in the mirror
We are the beauty standard.
We didn’t end.
Our wild minds make the future 

I not in need of a cure

I my own amazing future

and yes, I ask:

what will we know about the queer crip body?
what do we know about the divine?
Persistent like virus
and as holy

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (she/they) is a queer disabled nonbinary femme writer and cultural worker of Burger / Tamil Sri Lankan and Irish / Roma ascent. The author of Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home, Bodymap  and Consensual Genocide, she is also, with Ching-In Chen and Jai Dulani,  co-editor of The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence in Activist Communities. Her work has been widely published, most recently in The Deaf Poets Society, Glitter and Grit, and Octavia’s Brood. Currently a lead artist with the disability justice performance collective Sins Invalid, she teaches, performs and lectures across North America. Primarily, she is a weirdo who writes about survivorhood, disability justice, transformative justice, queer femme of color lives and Sri Lankan diaspora sitting in her room.

Ruby Hansen Murray


       When I’m awarded a fellowship to study with Debra Earling, a writer hero of mine at a conference in the Wallowa Mountains, I accept even though I’ll have to read before the assembled conference. That’s how much I admire Debra and her work. The reading is five to seven minutes on Friday evening before the keynote speaker. If all goes well, I can do seven minutes. Sometimes, even after I’ve prepared and I think I’m okay, I shake and I can’t get my breath.
       On a Monday afternoon in early July, I arrive at the Methodist camp south of Wallowa Lake and settle into White, a forestry-service-style cabin under lodge pole pine. It’s named for a minister who lived at the camp, who called it “God’s Country” whenever he spoke of it. Of course. The Eagle Cap Mountains roll out from the lake formed by a glacial moraine. The Snake River Hell’s Canyon Wilderness runs on the east side. It’s stunning country that was Nimi’ipuu ancestral land. Nimi’ipuu or Nez Perce presence hangs over the country. The nearby town of Joseph was renamed for the respected chief, who was still alive when the town changed its name from Silver Lake or Lake City to Joseph in 1880, but although they admired him, he was never allowed to live in his homeland again.
       The conference is called “Fishtrap: Writing the West,” a mash up of Nez Perce fishing technology and a historic focus on bringing eastern publishers out to the West and introducing them to western writers like William Kittredge and Wallace Stegner. One of the co-founders was a white historian of the Nez Perce and over the years, the administrators tell us, they maintained relationships with the Nez Perce. Sometimes, like this year, they invite Native authors. The conference has a loyal faculty who come to fly fish and breathe in the beauty of the lake while teaching. There’s a progressive group of artists who live around Joseph; many of the workshop participants are white middle-aged teachers. It’s a conference with smallish workshops and a friendly vibe.
       Tuesday late afternoon, several women, including the three Native women in attendance, gather at Terminal Gravity, a brewery in Enterprise, where we’ll meet one woman’s husband. We sit around a table on the balcony, and three white men from the conference, who have the clean look of professionals, walk across the parking lot like they’re wading across a stream to reach us. One, who looks like Ernest Hemingway, clumps up the stairs and asks to buy us a drink.
       I remember him from previous conferences. At the end of the week during a panel he will ask how Indians are going to survive under Trump, as pitiful as things are. He earns a response from a Native that challenges him to describe the community that will support white elders when the administration guts nursing home funds. So, while the women reassemble with the fishermen at a larger table, I return to camp to prepare for the reading.
       In the past, I’ve tried to memorize my work as performance artists recommend. It hasn’t worked. I tried to recite a short piece at a big art gathering in Seattle. I remember how my husband sighed, frustrated that I left out an essential line. Anxiety blocks me; apparently I can’t pretend to be calm and think freely at the same time. I ask the other fellowship recipients, if they want to practice. Yes, but they can’t say when.
       As a writer, it’s not enough to publish beautiful, powerful words. You need to perform your work competently and speak fluently. The days of hermit, reclusive writers, refusing interviews, hiding out to write are generally over. I mean, writers have a responsibility to create a normal life in the midst of the hyper-competitive creative-writing industry. But writers who want to sell their books end up touring, working hard to get venues to read, to speak and teach.
       The faculty here, young and old, are promoting new work. I write books for the girl I was. I want girls on and off the Osage reservation to find books that reflect their experience, their families and worldview on the shelves at libraries in Osage County. I want a top tier agent for a chance at national reviews and wide distribution and compensation for some of the time that has gone into this work. It’s possible to write a book that interests agents, but when they meet you, they’re assessing your ability to communicate, your skill, age, and style. Your marketability. I’m not young and attractive, not spunky or hip.
       Thursday I work on the text, paring it down. Knowing the work intimately isn’t enough. Sometimes I’m too stiff, have the words mostly memorized and they’re flat. I want to preview the work with friends, who will be in the audience wishing me well.
       It’s hard for me to walk to the front of a room to read. I tell myself I don’t have the right clothes; I’m not what the audience expects. My voice is too soft. My mixed ethnicity is unclear, and I’m overweight, which some read as ignorant. I don’t accept all of the self-hate, misogyny, racism and ageism that the world distributes. I feel good about who I am, an Osage woman in her sixties, but the toxins are layered in. When I face my fear and read, as I have again and again, nothing is better than the deepening quiet in a room that tells me a scene is working.
       Friday, the fellowship recipients have lunch with the program administrator, and then we go to the White cabin and practice. It’s such a good feeling to listen to strong work, to feel the intent and to support each other. That night our readings are strong. The mock orange on the far side of the Fishtrap stage waves sweetness in the air. My voice doesn’t crack; I tell the story rather than reading it. Afterwards, Emily, Nellie and I stand together, taking pictures beside the podium in front of the Fishtrap quilt. We want to get a drink, but nothing is open.
       We sit in the lodge around a large table. Nellie has gone to be with poets in Naomi Shihab Nye’s class. They’re having a party tonight and will have another class tomorrow. Naomi is generous; her work and her countenance are like sunshine at the conference.
       A local poet and teacher comes to sit with us, saying how he appreciated me mentioning the Nez Perce elders who were here when I was some years ago. I’m glad you spoke, he says, there are two Nimi’ipuu families in the county, and the local ranchers are nervous about the 320 acres the Nez Perce bought for a Homeland Project near Wallowa.
       The man who looks like Hemingway appears. “Well, look where you are,” he says to the poet and pulls a chair up to the table.
       “We’ve had all female fellows for a long time,” he says. We were told they selected the top three applicants after a winnowing process. “When you can’t tell if the author is a man or a woman–that’s pretty good,” he says.
       “What?” I say, looking from him to the women, the stink rising. We know that agents request to see work more often when a man queries than when the same work is submitted by a female. Hemingway is saying we don’t sound female. I don’t engage with him, because I don’t want to hear anything he has to say.
       The morning after the reading, the Wallowa River is still roaring, heavy with snow melt, banging over rocks at a thousand cubic feet per second. The USGS says stream flow is dropping day by day.
       I drive north toward home through Joseph, where a new bronze statue of the chief, donated by a member of the Walton family, surveys the tourists and art galleries. The Nimi’ipuu have also recently dedicated a statue of Joseph, created by a Nez Perce sculptor near their casino in Lewiston, Idaho. I learn that this year, 2017, was the second consecutive year that all three fellowships were awarded to women. I cross my fingers for next year.

Ruby Hansen Murray is a writer and photographer, whose work appears in World Literature Today, The Rumpus, As/Us, Apogee, and Yellow Medicine Review. Winner of the 2017 Montana Prize in Creative Nonfiction, she’s a Jack Straw and VONA fellow, awarded residencies at Ragdale, Hedgebrook, Virginia Center for Creative Arts. She received an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts in 2017. She’s a citizen of the Osage Nation with West Indian roots on her mother’s side, living in the Columbia River estuary. 

Lauren Yates

The Therapist Speaks on Mania

I put up a Craigslist ad: looking to smoke weed then fuck all day. Dan writes back. He says he is free after 3:30 p.m. and he doesn’t smoke weed. Dan is a straight white man. Dan is the only graphic designer I know who doesn’t smoke weed. Dan knows he does not meet my two criteria and expects to be chosen anyway. Because I am too eager to compromise my needs, I invite Dan to my place. Dan says he will lick my asshole. Dan says he will take his time. As we are fucking, he panics and asks what time it is. I tell him 4:00. He says, “I have to pick up my kid.” Dan goes to stranger’s houses for sex, instead of picking up his child. What the fuck, Dan? I get off of Dan. He leaves the condom on my bedspread that’s now soaked through with his sweat.

I see a tote bag on the Internet. It says, “Carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man.” I only apply to jobs I’m qualified for. There are probably jobs I’m qualified for that I don’t apply to because I don’t think I’m good enough or I don’t know about them or I lose them to assholes like Dan.

When I ask, why is _______ so shitty? The answer is usually white supremacy. When I ask, why do I do these things? The answer is usually mania.

My Facebook friend starts a hashtag: #ThingsIDidWhileManic. I read through the comments and see things I’ve done. I want to comment. That I’ve shaved my head. I’ve intentionally slammed the brakes and swerved and sped when my mother pissed me off. I fucked four men in four days (not all protected). I’ve stood in my hallway naked, waiting for my neighbors to see me. I’ve drunk a bottle of clementine vodka and eaten three weed brownies. I’ve dated a man 38 years older than I am and dumped him for his son. I’ve smoked a pack of menthols in one sitting. I’ve hit my ex. I’ve hit a different ex. I’ve written 20-page love letters with hidden read receipts. I can’t bring myself to comment. I am studying to be a therapist. My professors and textbooks tell me not to reveal anything about myself. To be a blank slate. To never admit I’m not okay, either.

My ex-girlfriend is a therapist. My ex-girlfriend is a gay white woman. She and I break up because she’s not okay, either. Because she’s like Dan. I told her sex is a mandatory part of a relationship for me. We didn’t have any. At all. Aside from the one time she thought we were scissoring and she was just humping my thigh and I just laid there.

I tell my girlfriend, she isn’t fulfilling my needs. She says, I know. I cannot get angry without somebody calling me crazy. Because of my past. Because of my skin color. I am not allowed to fall apart. To be anything less than what anyone expects. I am not okay. And isn’t that the opposite of mediocrity.

Twelve Thoughts on Depression

My grandmother calls herself a “Depression Baby.”
Born in 1933, she came along at a miserable time.
She says her family got through it
by refusing to show signs of weakness.

She says she worries about my nerves.
She whispers, as if covering up a dirty habit.
I ask her why she cannot call it what it is.

The first time I told my mom I was depressed,
she laughed. “But you have it so good,” she said.
After that, I took “sad” to mean “ungrateful,”
and thought asking for help was a sign of weakness.

He and I feared becoming zombies.
We can tell “smart” from “obedient.”
We know that doctors prescribe Prozac at the drop of a hat.

My aunt’s pet cockatiel takes Prozac.

He said, “All great writers are depressed.
Why quit the tortured genius club?”

“Why apply for grad school?
Let depression be your terminal degree.”

I said, “Medication treats symptoms,
but does not cure them.”

If sickness ever disappeared completely,
the drug lords would go out of business.

They’d have to sell their vacation homes,
and who are we to deny them relaxation
from the stress of honest work.

Rock bottom is everything they say it is.
Like heaven or hell, it is not a place,
but a language you cannot understand
until you have nothing.

It’s been a year since I started medication.
I wonder if he yells “traitor” in his sleep,
if he dreams we’re Bonnie and Clyde,
and I’ve turned us into the police.

My psychiatrist says that one day,
I can come off the pills completely.

I hope sooner than later.
I have always wanted children.

At the hospital, a baby was born broken.
While pregnant, his mother had stayed on her pills.
It was either this, or the risk of her killing them both.

Sometimes, I wonder who decided
that it’s fine if you are damaged,
as long as you aren’t dead.

My grandmother calls herself a “Depression Baby.”
Born in 1933, she came along at a miserable time.

I worry my son will, too. That he will be born
broken, and will gorge himself on tainted milk.
That he will inherit a sickness he never asked for.

I hope he never learns the language of rock bottom,
but if he does, it is a language I still know how to speak.

What does it mean to have empathy
for the very affliction you caused?

It means that there is no one else
better equipped to love him than me.

Lauren T. Yates is a poet from Oceanside, CA. In 2012, Lauren earned her B.A. in English with a Creative Writing Emphasis from the University of Pennsylvania. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Bettering American Poetry 2015, Rust + Moth, Hermeneutic Chaos, and Connotation Press. Lauren’s work focuses on her identities as a queer black femme living with C-PTSD. In her free time, she enjoys watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, dancing to Joy Division, and eating gyros. For more information, visit