Kyle Liang

An ABC In Question

why does it always have to be about race? because you made it that way!”
—Danez Smith

You ask me what I eat at home
so I tell you I feed on ghosts

of my ancestors who saved me
all the best pieces. You ask me

what I speak when with
my family so I tell you

battle codes. I tell you paper
boats. I tell you it’s something

you wouldn’t want
to understand. Yet

you keep asking me.
You want to know why

I look like I’m always squinting
and laugh when I respond

it’s because I don’t know
who I can trust. You insist

on tracing your tongue along
my skin in search of something,

anything, you won’t like.
An anxious reminder

your instinct was right.
It doesn’t taste good

but then you can say at least
I tried. You can

close your trusty eyes tonight
certain of their judgement.

And I can close mine
with one still open.



yesterday i spent an hour looking at the census
to see if we really are as small as my teachers
make me feel. even at the birthday party
they insisted on throwing to celebrate
my arrival on this planet, nobody wanted
to be there. there were limp balloons
in all my least favorite colors, envelopes
full of gift cards to stores i never shop at,

                                 no one asked what music i wanted
so the dj played toby keith requests while i sat
in the corner waiting for the cotton-eyed joe
to leave the back of my teeth.

                                 at the end of the night
i stood by the door thanking guests
as they left. halfway through i noticed
my lips were saying i’m sorry instead.
the repetition i demanded must have
triggered it. without any witnesses,

my teachers lined up along
the perimeter to watch me fold
empty chairs and stack them
where they said. we saved you
a piece of cake they hissed.
sarah is bringing the rest back
to her kids. they haven’t eaten
dessert yet. make sure you shut off
all the lights before you pop the balloons.
we’ll leave you a knife and gun to decide
which you want to use. and by the way,
happy birthday. the door shuts.



I’m sorry our symptoms / illnesses / accent / voices / echoes / steamed fish / ginger tea“alternative” medicine / holisticness / wishes for good health and happiness / stories you hear about on NPR / “choices” / ideas about the afterlife / parents / ancestors / money burning / roast pork hanging behind smoke-pressed windows / incense lifting spirits through homes / ways of promising success for our children / pride / guānxi / bravery / survival tactics / bare feet / shaking legs just strong enough to carry what’s left of our veterans after you plunged your Western insecurities through their flail ribs / arms wrapped tight around what still belongs to us / inside jokes / family ashes / badassness / right to health / right to the same freedoms as you / right to be here / existence is a burden during your 8-hour shifts / 40 hours a week. I’m sorry you need a class to unlearn your biases. I’m sorry you make mistakes. I’m sorry my definition of racism didn’t fit any of your four options on the quiz. I’m sorry you’re racist. I’m sorry that I am a homeless thought in your heated home. I’m sorry for admiring your coated shoulders / aweing at your 3 hours scheduled / mandated / morally obligated / disingenuously designed / conveniently set aside every Thursday from nine to noon when class isn’t dismissed early (which it usually is) to consider the wind. I’m sorry it’s cold outside. I wish it didn’t have to be. I really do. I wish it didn’t have to be so fucking cold out here. I’m sorry this is going to hurt me a lot more than it’s going to hurt you. I’m sorry if you can’t accept my apology.

Kyle Liang is a 23-year-old, first-generation-born, Asian American and author of the chapbook, How to Build a House (Swan Scythe Press, 2018). His work has appeared in Stirring, ApogeeHobart, and elsewhere. He has been nominated for Best of the NetBest New Poets, and Pushcart. You can find Kyle at Quinnipiac University, falling asleep at his keyboard the night before an exam, or on his website at




M. Carmen Lane

Skin Hunger

This is the difficult. This is the strange rage laid dormant in the belly—water through the shoddy dam angry. A dry-mouthed grief at the edge of healing.  This is fury. The stinging ache of a not-touched body. The beginning of the moan, guttural—before the song comes. This is the painful. The scratchy red of eyes at the precipice of old tears finally ready to flow. This is the in-between. The coughing up of after the near drown—the instinct to live and draw breath. This is excavated memory. The awareness of wrenching aortic patterns—the hot and heavy energy of ancestral unfinished business. The guilty healing vibration of “I’m sorry I’ve passed this on to you.” Fuck. Fuck this. I saw the pain in her eyes and still yelled. I raged about while she pretended nothing different was occurring. Her brain was doing the difficult mental dance post stroke to understand. She was keeping the peace or manipulating to maintain care. This is not normal. They offer “thoughts and prayers.” Sitting in the privilege of not being dirty with family story. Fuck them all. Fuck you all. Caring is a foreign concept to the settler. Empathy is a lost art to the settled. The stabbing throb of inflammation in my joints. I am pushing through to keep an elder alive.  Did he die because I stopped touching him? Did I choose her skin over his love? I want to bludgeon in the old way the next person who texts to fulfill the obligation of care without the accountability of seeing taking in the impact of struggle. My right knee hurts. I am alive in the moist earth of our Mother, she knows me in a different way—it smells different with her. I awake in the filth of the city, tense with the abundance of settled walking about post-apocalyptic searching for freedom. Their comfort will always cost the lives of the human beings. He wears my shirt and I hope it is enough that he will never feel what it is like to live in my body. His mother thinks he may be two:spirit. It is difficult to walk between the currents when the oil keeps spilling and their blood keeps pumping.  

M. Carmen Lane (Tuscarora, Mohawk, African-American) is a two:spirit poet and cultural worker living in Kahyonha:ke (Cleveland, Ohio). Their poetry has been published in the Yellow Medicine Review, River Blood & Corn, and Red Ink Magazine. Carmen contributed to the Lambda Literary nominated anthology Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literatures. Their first collection of poetry is Calling Out After Slaughter (GTK Press, 2015).




Scherezade Siobhan


Each hiccup is hindsight      Breath          tossed out
in spasms of trickled trout             Did you imagine

your lungs    meat-totes drooling tar      Bombay
blasted from       its loaded nightjar        You inherit

a country just        like an addiction      shifting to your
veins before you       could learn             how to trench

your blood      The gardened swarm       red valerian
flecking sorceries of hoverflies           My grandfather’s

shadow bent            over some logic                 or ledger
in stony devotion    Light engraving           on his kurta

the tiny joys        of ashoka buds                 When I say
contain             do I mean to shelter           or to shut in?

The books were auctioned off                    to a besotted
truss of votarists               My mother        brought back

the cushion covers embroidered           by cattle-breeders
Never to use    only to touch      on certain damp evenings     

when     the air would explode   in histrionics of a thousand
wings      Little pieties of Light      Emeralds To lose is

always       a euphemism for being          stranded or stilled
in the middle of a memory                that will     not concede

to any        obedience of closure                 or continuities




When Q died, the debris refused
any further diagnosis. I am Afghan  
only when rug or opium. What count
-ry can be smoked into a signal-fire?
Praise be to the kabuliwallah, baby
alligator skins shirting chubby melons,
grandmotherly lapis flirting with new
cleavage. A hundred years will root
in a bed of brave turnips planted to
salt away a porch-full of daughters.
Empire red on our tongues, the goat
profaned to loiter before buzkashi.
The blue wave of Her veil stammering in
the clutch of a deep gust like a tired flag.
Next to her, a boy the size of a birthday
candle. Shoeless feet, cognac-tinseled
eyes. De veritatibus primis, hymned the
lapidary. There must be peace in knowing
that you can cut life from the grey mood of
any stone. The day after the first drone, his
body emptied the final palate of its dreams
in a dugout of blood-complexioned rocks.
Everything that is possible demands to exist.


In General Theory of Victims, François Laruelle asks: “[W]ho deserves to arise, who is able to?”

Suppose this thing we won’t name is just the patient magic of nymphing for trouts—the angler lured in mid-tongue & the rest of its body leaving water like a ghazal of light.

Mine was a swift terror—a slippery amphibian in its practical spacing. Grew gills in the bathtub, flexed limbs in the bed. On some afternoons, it was a clique of wire-hangers asking to be unshaped, straightened into a quicker consequence.

In whichever tasteless city he threatened to abandon me throughout the trip, I often did find at least one animal of unashamed flaunting. Some thin leak of sulfur blurring the pelt of roads.

Propped against a harem of pillows, negotiating with the bone spur to pull back some of its flames from my spine, I burrow into a pdf about fibromyalgia. Differential diagnosis. Meaning your pain labours under a pseudonym. Meaning something is hunting you from within with a wolfpack of newly readied teeth.

Scherezade Siobhan is a psychologist, community catalyst, and a writer. She is the author of three books—Bone Tongue (Thought Catalog Books, 2015), Father, Husband, (Salopress UK), & The Bluest Kali (Lithic Press, 2018). She is the creator and curator of The Mira Project, a global dialogue on women’s mental health, gendered violence, and street harassment. She is the founder and Chief Therapist at The Talking Compass—a therapeutic practice created to provide affordable mental health help for people. She can be found squeeing about militant bunnies at @zaharaesque on twitter/fb/IG and at her website.




Sarah Sgro

Upon Inspection of These Sanctifying Portraits

firstly I would like to sever             every metaphor           in which my body is a meal

my breasts are not bread         or anything a man would like to break             & spread

I am no vessel            for the butter in your mouth            I have never salivated

at the legend of my breasts upon a plate          paint my body               & you’ve made a myth

of all its elements             I am bored by your belief in purity               as supernatural

hunger is an impulse              that I moderate like any other             reason with your hunger

& you realize it is fear or dehydration    the body is equipped               to handle its starvation

similarly I am satisfied alone             I fall asleep & lose my mind             amid the creamy insides

my thighs emerge              congealed with nectar          from the sun               I was born

with many comforts             instantly a breast inside my mouth          mother-room

which nourished me            yes the supple cord was cleaved                yes I claw the air

when a nipple surfaces in dreams            but I do not desire                what is no longer

affixed to me           if you haven’t filled your body adequately          I am not accountable

for all that space         I am not a still-life         of your hunger         pressed

against the bed          a sharp thing enters         scalpel in my chest     fork between my legs

Sarah Sgro is the author of the full-length collection If The Future Is A Fetish (YesYes Books 2019) and the chapbook Without Them I Am Still A Mother (Letter [r] Press 2017). Sgro earned her MFA in Poetry from the University of Mississippi and is pursuing her Ph.D. in English at SUNY Buffalo, where she studies waste in relation to gender and futurity. She previously served as Poetry Editor for the Yalobusha Review and as an editorial assistant for Guernica, and she currently reads poetry submissions for Muzzle. Her work appears in BOAAT, Cosmonauts Avenue, The Offing, and other journals.




Kimberly Quiogue Andrews

The Anglo-Saxons Move to Warmer Climes

                                        I am not afraid, and am always ready to do my duty,
                                        but I would like someone to tell me what we are fighting for.
                                       —Arthur Vickers, Sgt, 1st Nebraska Regiment,
                                        Philippine-American War (1899)

Us neither-nors          have always known:

Some stories don’t need            a serial epic.

You want what you want           for wanting’s sake.


Mother, apart from everything, I have gone looking for you, as you must have known and as you must continue to know. The color of searching and also of the darkness is blue, the blue leaves and their bluer underbellies. The blue boat of the coming dawn. Night remains itself, cooler in some places than in others; its generative nature remains also, despite the already-gone quality of starlight.

I have wanted to explain certain things about the difference between the brain and the body. Not that I’m some sort of Cartesian dualist but we also choose neither the shell nor the way in which it is received in the world. Sometimes we think we can hide the body in work. Sometimes the body becomes honored in work, as in “Filipinos are really hard workers.” Oftentimes that honor lies in wait like a cartoon trap covered in leaves. The leaves are blue, or they are ordinary green and brown.

And then the mind works too hard when the body does not have to. When the body, for instance, has been constructed as neutral. When I desired to become more specifically utterable and less like the sound of tides, a mild whoosh, you were alarmed. You disguise your alarm as nonchalance, which exacerbates my generalized anxiety. You say “you’re like barely Filipino, I don’t even feel Filipino” and I want to say “Filipina, mom” but instead both my spellcheck and the strap around my chest draw a bright red line under my torso.

In the end you have nothing for which to answer, as I have been bad at asking. I remain terrified of the ocean and laugh it off by making jokes about the food chain. Something could just straight up eat you, I say, bobbing along. You could just be subsumed and no one would know you were ever there.

Kimberly Quiogue Andrews is a poet and literary critic. She is also the author of BETWEEN, winner of the 2017 New Women’s Voices Chapbook Prize from Finishing Line Press. Her recent work in various genres appears in Poetry Northwest, The Shallow Ends, The Recluse, the Los Angeles Review of Books, ASAP/J, and elsewhere. She lives in Maryland and teaches at Washington College, and you can find her on Twitter at @kqandrews.




Christy Davids

[wound material]

when I feel my thyroid
grind against the
sinews of my neck as I
turn my head, I imagine
the dying gland
wrapped in conditional
money / the notes,
letters minted for
telling me I am
ungrateful, stifle the
turn. each cracking
twist of gland against
muscle a snapping
rubber band reminding
me to behave better to
obey the conditions of
the money that has so
thickened the dead
gland that it causes
internal snapping

a constant, ordered shudder
not mended by swallowing

a blockage blocking speech
at least making the language
trapped in my throat inaudible

no one told me family was
another mode of commerce

it’s what’s not said that

        I, then, am unlanguaged

in my swollen throat / the
laws of capital


Christy Davids is a poet and teacher. She collects recordings at poetry//SOUNDS and co-curates the Philadelphia-based reading series Charmed Instruments. Some of her work can be found in VOLTOpen HouseBedfellows,  Jacket2DusieThe Tiny, and the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet, among others. Her chapbook on heat (2017) was selected by the editors in BOAAT Press’s 2016 chapbook competition, and her chapbook wanton is forthcoming from DoubleCross Press.




Raena Shirali

we don’t belong      :

in rooms with family spirits / central on blueprints

near rivers where one could be caught / submerged

with our teeth sunk in thighs

with our thighs visible to a flash of teeth

licking milk off our mouths’ edges

near gold / paint / pearls or oysters

straight-backed & sure

close to the horizon / drop-off point

in classrooms / learning about the end of the world

contemplating heat

dipping ring fingers in turmeric & slaked lime

asking about symbols / patterns in sand

asking but do we worship the violent goddesses?

calling each other queen like it undoes the fact of their stares

next to our husbands

together in rivers

baring our teeth at the stupid sun

calling it blood lust killing us across oceans

blessing durga’s foot on her man’s neck, tongue thrust out—

                                      even our idols were made to feel shamed


daayan after a village feast

any way to the bottom of a bottle is one the men
             will pioneer. moonlit paths through the pale green
                         growth. they trade tea leaves, tobacco, ghee. they trade

what we women toiled. naturally, we sneak sips, dilute
             the remainder like kids—slinking on packed mud, careful
                         not to step too heavy. i’m the only one who takes

full flasks like this. that’s not why they want
             my pasture. they don’t know their own skin
                         glows amber—we all sweat it out the same.

our teeth slump against gums & all our bones
             whittle down. maybe they feel bright yellow
                         in their lungs, the unsung chakra, & think it’s my fault

their feet slur the dirt. they pull me in with spindly
             arms, kiss me flat on the forehead, brandy
                         breathing their half-lie : how capable they are

of love. moments before the blackout, all their limbs
             ablaze, the whole world must seem possible & warm
                         & fused. it must be intoxicating to survive.

they pass out unarmed, sloughed against fences,
             & i slip bottles from loose fists, tuck them into our
                         baskets. we become mist, shift groveward, flee.


Artist’s Statement

Since before the publication of my first book, I have been researching the ongoing practice of witch hunting in India, generating poems engaging with that landscape, and with personae and myths associated with the treatment of women in Jharkhand. The two poems featured here engage with that subject matter uniquely. “daayan after a village feast” is written in the persona of a daayan (a woman accused of being a witch). While our daayan’s particular voice is imagined, the scene this poem paints is not, recalling some of Jharkhand’s present-day systems.

If “daayan after a village feast” engages traditionally with persona writing, “we don’t belong : ” subverts it, asking more broadly: how do antiquated and existing norms surrounding female mysticism in India inform this culture’s treatment of women? This poem derives its grounding lines from anthropological research related to the politics of accusation; the poem’s first line refers to the superstition that women are more likely to become (or be called) witches if they enter the rooms in a home where family spirits are thought to reside, where there are altars, or in rooms that happen to be in the very center of the dwelling. The poem juxtaposes the way women are allowed to move through that (& this) world with imagery grounded both in Indian and American culture.

Finally, “we don’t belong :” refers to patriarchal interpretations of Hindu mythology surrounding the goddess Durga, often depicted with her tongue stuck out, presumably in shame, as she accidentally tramples her husband while killing demons. This notion—of shame from denying our “domestic duties” while manifesting and experiencing raw power—is central to discussions about women’s “safety,” and what women are at liberty to do in public spaces.

Raena Shirali is the author of GILT (YesYes Books, 2017), winner of the 2018 Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award. Shirali’s honors include a Pushcart Prize, the Philip Roth Residency at Bucknell University’s Stadler Center for Poetry, and poetry prizes from Boston Review, Gulf Coast, and Cosmonauts Avenue. She currently lives in Philadelphia, where she is a co-organizer for We (Too) Are Philly—a summer poetry festival highlighting voices of color. She also serves as Poetry Editor for Muzzle Magazine, and is on the editorial team for Vinyl. Find out more at




torrin a. greathouse

On Re-lacing My Shoes


           when the officers first return my shoes, laces tangled beside them, i
           realize i never learned the pattern of their threads. struggle to cross
           the twine under itself to form an orderly set of bars.


           i am Googling common+shoe+lace+tying+patterns
           & most+efficient+shoe+tying+pattern
           & average+tensile+strength+of+shoe+laces
           & average+length+of+time+for+suffocation
           & why+did+prisons+first+start+using+safety+glass+cells
           & suicide+statistics+in+US+prison+system
           & transgender+suicide+in+US+prison+system.


         excerpt from therapy journal

        new symptom: since confinement i’ve struggled with the feeling that
        my shoes are too tight, laces pulled taut, bones so close to snapping like
        a lock’s mouth.


          list of institutional euphemisms:
          special housing, protective custody, adjustment center, safety housing,
          administrative segregation, softie tank

          solitary confinement


          plexiglass cells were first integrated in prison corridors to give guards
          easy access to prisoners, the visibility of each cell preventing escape       
          attempts. there are a series of openings near the ceiling which allows     
          guards to administer capsicum spray without endangering officers.


          excerpt from therapy journal

          new symptom: extreme sensitivity to light, creating migraines & visual
          hallucinations. in solitary, the lights never go out.


          official explanation:
          this ensures officers are capable of observing prisoners at all times.

          institutional euphemism:
          this is a safety measure, meant to ensure the health & well-being of


          deprived of human interaction, prisoners begin to experience anxiety,
          depression, panic, insomnia, paranoia, & increased aggression. after 72
          hours of sleep deprivation, even prisoners without a history of
          psychosis will begin to experience distinct hallucinations. these effects
          are more pronounced in those with preexisting mental conditions.


           excerpt from therapy journal

          new symptom: i have forgotten how to tie my shoes. i can visualize the
          pattern, like my mother taught me. the rabbit circling the tree, diving
          into its warren. i remember every step. but each time it comes out a

Aubade w/ Autoimmune Disorder

“the parts of the plant where the sperm is received is called the stigma” -sam sax

+ the stigma is also a marking of disease
a red X across the door     of those infected w/ the plague

        [how once HIV was called the gay plague]

perhaps then the word faggot     too is a stigma
when it marks a door     or body

        + aren’t these both places where something is received

how when the older man     face sunken as damp earth
invites me over     feeds me drinks + the promise of money

        i stigma my lips into entrance to receive him

he slips off the condom     cums across his chest
[he will not let me taste it   + i wonder again if he is dying]

        his seed sprouts a bandolier of orchids     blooms his palms into funeral bouquets

years later i find him on Facebook     read about the drugs that keep him alive
pinioned in my cellphone’s blue light of dawn     i stroke myself

        to the memory of his arms   + the bills stained red w/ ink     

weep + cum in my own mouth     hold it there miracle
of my virus-free blood     dissolving like honey

-suckle     candied petals across my tongue


Apologia for Snapchat of Birdless Wing

forgive me     given half a chance
i’d shake the jar of fireflies

hoping to coax more brilliance from their fear   
sweat sieved like bath water     in Midas’ hand

watch the little glints rattled
loose of light     jar smeared with sunstains

tear the snail from its geode
-curl of a shell     its back peeled as half-ripe fruit

expecting some glittering secret inside
i’d take scissors to the rabbits ear

snip bloodless     velvet from its skull   
i’m so full of child’s arrogance

that any beauty     sufficiency dissected
could be made my own     i’d tear the dead star

-ling’s wing & pose it     for a picture
limp omen     spread like knifed fingers

i’m sorry     i’ve forgotten
which of these stories are true

& which i’ve invented to upset you
i’m marveled at the slaughter

of my hands     at the voyeur
sitting naked in the back of my eye

how they hunger     for the fracture
of such soft things     how gentle anatomy

is undone     & how any veins are so alike
in their unbraiding     bronze-blue

alchemied to common rust     forgive me
my first thought of any body     is how it empties


On Discovering my Gag Reflex, an Absence

how to tell the story? therapist says
you bury trauma in shock value; no,
that’s a lie, therapist is withholding
judgment; this makes one of you;
this story is about sex; but
it’s not; but maybe, it’d be easier
that way; his hand clenching; like
teeth; on the back of your neck; your lips
pressed to the stiff curl of fur; skin
linoleum white; how a story turns
in on itself; how fingers find the back
of a throat; attempt to reframe body
in its emptying; fail; saliva curling down
your palm like handwriting; therapist scrawls
dysphoria in her notes; saliva pools
w/ tears on white linoleum; this story
is about sex; but not how you assume
it is; words load themselves like a gun;
i say gag; you are already imagining
the scent of sweat; the sound of one body
choking on another; instead i mean
the desperate of one body to empty itself
into change; instead i mean disorder;
ketosis; acid stained teeth; how the words
do all the work for you; reframe the story;
so it tells itself; before you even
open your mouth

torrin a. greathouse is a genderqueer trans womxn & cripple-punk currently haunting the greater Boston area. She is the author of boy/girl/ghost (TAR Chapbook Series, 2018) & winner of the Peseroff Poetry Prize, Palette Poetry Prize, & the Naugatuck River Narrative Poetry Prize. Their work is published/forthcoming in POETRY, The New York Times, Poem-a-Day, Muzzle, Redivider, BOAAT, & The Rumpus. When she is not writing, her hobbies include awkwardly drinking coffee at parties & trying to find some goddamn size 13 heels.




Spencer Williams

Rumination on a Mother//Sister Tongue

                         My girlbody
        tangled in
           yolk strings
                    aside my

                                     an embryonic
                                              between us
                                                         through a
                                                          thick of reeds
                                                                 grey as
                                      assigned              biology.

                                      I think about this
                                             our mother’s womb
                                          like hands
                                                  digging out
                                          the fleshy core
                                         of pan de muerto.
                                                             In her, we grew
                                                                  the outer rim
                                                          of flimsy paper womb
                                        so           muted
                                           in pink as to
                     appear bashful
     or embarrassed
        by           borders,
           by the
                     to which our
                        would eventually
                              on the outside,
                     invisible even
                              when facing


                                                    Towards             the edge
                                                           a plate
                                                      off white
                                                        and weeds
                                                           with lust,
                                                              full recon-
                                               like siblings
                                                          with countries
                                                                                      at war
                                                                                            each other’s
                                                   chunks of
                   internal          bleeding
                in pieces
                in                                          water
                            salt dissolves
       a border

     wet with
                                            leaking                               cursive
                       over both
                                          our                                                   names.


In a reoccurring dream,      we are bulbous
                                                                                              shapes                                 floating
                                                                                            muddy                                   and
                                                                                         sheltering                                    flies
                                                                                in                                                  upended
                                                                                 creek beds.

                                              I believe my                                     sister
                                                 told me

                                                                                         never give
                                                                                               name to
                                                                                          as if to
                                                                                                  share it.

                                                                                                            I still
                                                                                                            have siblings
                                                                                                   I’ve never met
                                                                                                      deep into
                                                                                                                 my girth.
                                                                 If                       they are dead,
                                                                    then I am buried                 too and
                                                                    the lot of us are
                                                                                        pale spots
                                                                           of land                       floating
                                                                   like an
                                                                                                   beneath                  the ground.


                                              It is no use.
                                                                          If my blood sister’s
                                               betray reflections
                                                 of my own,
                                    they are cursed
                                                         to stain
                               every surface
                 with oil.
                                                                          For though I outlived
                                                                                the salt
                                                                                         burn of my birth,
                                                                            I remain
                                                                                         of the month
                                                                    my sister came,                       only
                                                                                    that it happened,

                                                                                                           that it is as factual
as the name I
                                         give myself.

                                                                                                      And if my blood
                                                                            sister’s mouth
                         in          shape
                 my own, her
                           tongue remains
                           a stranger
                   unghosted by
                                            familial                    misinterpretation,
                  meaning she
          must know
this feeling too,
                  can spell it out
                                             in ways I
                                                             cannot translate.


my adoptive mother,                travelled
                                                     to Beijing
                                                                  with Carl
                                            to bring home
                                        his adopted                    daughter,
                                                         Carol too brought
                                        back a dish                                  of red
                                               paste for me
                                                                    to stamp
                                                                     my name
                                                            in Hanzi with.
                                                                                My name thus
                                     an imprint
                                       on every
                                                 bedroom wall,
                                                             a wound
                                     and                                                              breathing.
                                                                                                   My fingers
                                                                                     softly              my name
                                                                                           into the chalk
                                                         the blood of it
                                         fading like
                                         a mother
                                                 tongue buried
                                                            by generation.


            The papers say the two of us
are not                twins
                                                              even as I do
                                              not reject
                                                           the idea
                                                                        that we are,
                                                                        in some
                                                                              psychic way,
bridged                                                                                   by thread
          at the
            Us two        (then three,       then four siblings)
                           uncut from
                the same
tired cloth,
                       like a handful
       of loose hair,
a scab
           browning at
the knee.

       Sister,             where
              do                        you                                                                           reside?
When                              I                                                                                              pull
           hairs             from                                                                                         my
      face…                are                                                                                                 you
there in the wound?                            Is this you
        you          threatening                     to
                                        bleed                                           me?


In sleep,
            I see birth mother
                    above                   me,                                                                                bright
  pink                      and
   as                              a                                                                                 prophecy.        She
                          chokes down
                     my body until her
                                      floods with
                                 cells and       opposition.

                                                                    On the night I was conceived,

                                                                   birth mother’s hair                            into canals
                                                                             of blood.
                             Seven months later,
and I entered grave
                                                         How                                         to name
                                                                                                 a dying breath
                                                                            something other than quick,
                                          How to trace
                                    the blood
                                        back to a mother
                   I have one
                   photo of, who
                                           does not know
                                      I am not what
                                         they first called
           How many ways
                                     to call me “sir,”
                                     “tranny faggot”.

                                                                  How many
                                                  ways to deduce
                                    whether or not
                     mother’s addiction
                                             inflicted upon me
                                    my penchant for
                     the dangerous, as in

how                                       many men
do we now                                              share between
                                                              How to
                                           to carve birth mother
                                               out like
                                  a stone wedged
                                                  into my naval.
                                     How to find
                                     her teeth
                                  nose         eyes
                                             in a week’s worth
                                  of Facebook searches.

                                      How to tell her
                                          I am not
                                       her son, that I am
                                                           her daughter.

                                                 How many ways to
                                say “daughter”
                                                            “tranny faggot”.


                                      In a dream, I address my
birth mother,
                ask her
                           to guess
                                           how many
                                                                         I see
                                              in the mirror
                                                                     each day.

                                                                        Ask her to
                                                              tell me
                                                          the number of
                                                                       siblings that
                                     am                  here.
                                            Ask her to
                                                          me to
                                                                  the spot
                                                               where my birth father
                                                                  touched her      ferocious
                                                             and summoned               me.


The description provided by the Tate and National Galleries website regarding Louis Bourgeois’
“A’L’Infini” series deduces
that the title,          “into infinity”      is
of both
an unmapped
and a life

                                                                              So then.

                                                                                           At the end
                                                                                           of life, there
                                                                                           are still

                                                                                                       borders to
                                                                                                       be crossed,

                                                                                                       averse to
                                                                                                       location and
                                                                                                            thus preserved
                                                                                                                              by their

                       Perhaps, this
                                                                                                                        is most accurately

                                                       how I think
                                                                 of you,
dear siblings:
                                                                                                 In portrait.               As borders
                             struck down


                                                                  By this, I mean
                                                                                          I know you
                                                                                by the homes
                                                                         that won’t lay
                                                                                         claim to me
                                                                                         in full.

                                                                         When I
                                                                                 close my eyes
                                                         there is not one

                                                         thing that
                                                         owns me.

                                        Thus, my branch
                                   among the
                  oyamel does
             not know
of its
             address, is
             blind to
                         the other branches
             waving beside it.


                       Roots, we are
                                  so many
                            bodies between
                                        both here
                                           and not here.
                                                In Chula Vista,
                        I                 climb the hill towards         my house          each morning.
                                                        When            I reach          the top,

                                               the border plays                     catch with

                                                                            my                    body
                                       and feeds me
                     to the sky.

I Explain Dysphoria to my Older Sister

Perhaps my biggest error is located in the assumption that I was built to live as
long as you, our mother, our father. I look up for a door to swim through in the
sky and find it—the door—shaped like the weightless center of a guitar. Behind
the door, I play soft mouth music. In the grey space, my tongue gyrates softly
against the ass of my teeth. I spit into the hollow and there is blood, a seed, a
sprouting limb. I have an error of a mouth, a friend remarks. On any given day, I
enter a room and count all the men I can identify—I mean—I count confidence in
waves, through heat, beyond doubt. Lipstick is an occupation—I do mean chore.
If there is a gun in the room, then I am already sucking down the barrel. If there is
no gun in the room, then I have brought one into it. Relief is a door in the sky
with chemtrails. I suck the lines, birth conspiracy—as in, am I woman, am I not?
Perhaps my biggest error is located. Perhaps my biggest error—woman, not. On
any given day, I look up and see nothing. I look up and hear no music. In my
mouth, the barrel gyrates against the ass of my tongue. If there is a gun in the
room, it is you. It is our mother, our father remarks. If there is no gun in the room,
then spit. Then limb confidence. Then sprouting doubt. Then seed heat— music
shaped like a lipstick sky. Already, I birth my weightless relief. The door beyond
is chemtrails. I can identify all soft meaning. I count and play guitar teeth.
Occupation is woman sucking down grey space. I enter men and swim through
the blood chore.

Spencer Williams is a trans poet from Chula Vista, California. She is the author of the chapbook Alien Pink (The Atlas Review Chapbook Series, 2017) and has work forthcoming from or featured in Hobart, Cosmonauts Avenue, Alien Mouth, Potluck, and others.





Women Are Easy To Love (Over The Internet)

& here i am again, slicing the corners
of my mouth, chasing the shame out.

here i am again, exposing my lack of unlearn
for fear, for the hot nights we share—sweet as
a bakery’s frosted walls—just to wake up
strangers & sticky & questioning.

let my hand go! i told you about that shit.
what if i come home and my mother sees
you     glimmering, audacious and honest,
on my skin? what if i enter your heart, a

pulsing persimmon-lipped lout & leave
it, a ghost? what of us then, huh?

tell you what! we shall marry & then
all shall answer itself. i will carry you
on my washboard shoulders, swiveling

my cracked face to kiss your honeyed thighs.
you will grip a tuft of summer hair for stability,
and trade the lemons we picked from

the pear trees for the black treacle cacti
the village boys toss between each other when
they would like to say what they dare not.

you will cook. i will support us. we will ride off
into a horizon of possibilities, swapping affection

for eternity. all will be well & far away & safe.


Jack Fumbles The Egg And It Splits Clean Open

you should not dangle things
in front of my face

my poverty does not make me special

i am hungry for shine too

i’ve becomes the boys i’ve mocked

dead & unkempt hair—a couple
curly locks escaping the tedium
of underwhelm

the places the oil touches

mysterious wrists—unseen &
boneless & twitching with fresh
red sandstone. grated & open.

dramatic assertions—greetings &
absurd happinesses. everything

archived in my fingertips. it’s a
pulseless, silent wailing distortion.

a disappointment and a prayer.
it’s terrifying. a nightmare.


You Really Seem To Think I’ll Miss You

and that’s true, kind of.

but never more than
the sound of my own voice.

never more than giving
all the things i love
about myself to a
more deserving husk.

i shouted down
an entire battalion of
carnivorous orchids.

they were like you—beautiful
& presumptuous

& arrogant

that because they
were pretty i would not
blow my indulgent breath until
they were but stem and root.

how do you think that turned out?

didn’t you ask me
why the summer field
was greenless & naked
as we drove by it?

Khalypso is a Sacramento-based activist, actor, and poet. They are fat, black, neurodivergent, queer, and an agender badass. Their work can be found in Francis HouseRigorous JournalBlood Orange Review, and Shade Journal, as well as a few others. Their chapbook, THE HOTTENTOT LIGHTS THE GAS HERSELF, was a runner up for the 2018 Two Sylvias Chapbook Prize. They are the 2019 Sacramento Youth Poet Laureate, a Leo-Virgo cusp, in need of more friends, and you can find them on Twitter at KhalypsoThePoet. If you’d like to support their work and efforts in activism and poetry, you can Paypal them here.