Millicent Borges Accardi

Carrying Someone You’d not Seen in 15 Years

The body goes light,           as if keeping            a piece of paper,
soft         and              awkward in your           arms.
There is a pulse         and so you              continue.
They              are without           words or sounds.
You imagine calling          a hospital                  and screaming
into the phone at the ER  nurse           to put              your mother
on the other end.  It is night time, isn’t it
always? And               you are in a hotel           in New York
City, two days            past           Valentine’s, and
one day         past the anniversary,           the first             year
your parents did not           dance                around the
room,            your mother        hovering            over your
Father’s shoes            as if she          were                                            already.


Millicent Borges Accardi, a Portuguese-American writer, is the author of three poetry books, most recently Only More So (Salmon Poetry). Her awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), CantoMundo, the California Arts Council, Yaddo, Fundação Luso-Americana, and Barbara Deming Foundation.




Ruth Irupé Sanabria

Venn Stardust

You see what she does not see.
You see through the snow
an abandoned nest
nestled in the heart 
of the thorny red 

Nowhere and everywhere in this town, all day, on the wires
between luck and calamity, the mockingbirds echo-shadow:
siren, horn, and the litany of other shit they hear.
One day, you’ll know why

but for now, step outside, no longer holding my hand -
see past the voids and repetitions,
past the cracked blue shells and blood orange yolk
all on our stoops, all on our sidewalk.

Regardless of the analysis your English teacher posits
about mockingbird metaphors as she looks at you, warmly;
regardless of how, in the a⋂b intersection of her wild venn diagrams, 
she writes “separation of children from their mothers” and looks at you - warmly, 

hide the nests and hold flat the water. See all the sheets.
What did the president say?
Notice how some teachers don’t notice the very room is breathing.
You did not come here to teach her anything, nor did the mockingbirds.
No one gives away the songs of their hearts.
And you are not ornament inoffensive. 
Hear what is.  Remember what you can see. 

Ruth Irupé Sanabria, a 2018 CantoMundo fellow, has published two collections of poetry The Strange House Testifies and Beasts Behave in Foreign Land. Her poems also appear in What Saves Us: Poems of Empathy and Outrage in the Age of Trump and Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism, 




Roberto F. Santiago

Portrait of Petroklos 

             after Ron Prigat’s “Ken Looking at Caravaggio”

The shadow cast from a single lantern is not biblical,
Though it is indistinguishable in proportion. He is
A symphony exploding slowly at first, in shifts &silently.
A meticulously petalled
crescendo, brimming with
Vibration. H
is breath, a plié stolen from the blackness of
Caravaggio; a m
erlot-lipped recitation of Cavafy under
Black lace. The black of scriptures that bleed when you touch
Them. Silhouette
as the naked black of an observer on his
Neck. His eyes glister gold-as-riverlight, an expression
Old as the earliest form of wonderment. A pleasury,
A seance, gossamer-white flamelicked and split
Up the center. His vanillin abounds. A furrow beneath
Mourning. A psalm of Achilles’ horses. On his brow,
a covenant with any creator willing to listen.

Roberto F. Santiago is the author of Angel Park (2015)—a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award in Poetry—and LIKE SUGAR (Nomadic, 2020). He received an MFA from Rutgers and MSW from UC Berkeley. Recent work appears in Apogee, Foglifter, and The Ninth Letter. Roberto lives in San Francisco.




Peggy Robles-Alvarado

When Tía Teaches You How To Keep Your Man 

She says
Men only need two things: 
La comida y el culo

between drags of a Newport cigarette that balances 
casually between fingertips knowing everything
in a country foreign to your touch is temporary, always 
trying to eat but never fed to satisfaction  

An ephemeral stream that feared anything outside her 
5 block borrowed country, her section 8 sky greyed by
the barely-there rays of a New York City sun that she 
could never imagine warming  her childhood home in 
Santiago, that sphere of fire dulled among the rooftops
couldn’t bronze her skin even in summer, she laughed, 
bragged about her stove having more passion than Helios 
himself, cursed a coñaso at  the impotence of small Gods 
in this great city that watched newly arrived Cibaeños 
and Dominican- Yorks dance bachata to the same rhythm 
of a new world caught in their cold smiles    

She licked the sweat beading off her lover's brow who 
married her cousin for papers, pursed her lips the same way 
she had done when she arrived carrying an avocado seed 
in her mouth past customs; No one cared to hear her 
voice anyway

Mothering was as foreign as English but she continued to 
summon her womb, pushing forth the weight of five mouths 
her hands couldn’t quiet,  their bellies tied to her own empty,
bottle after bottle, first milk then water, lover after lover, first 
wind gust then ghost    

No one wanted her fracture, her undone seams of a body 
with too much to say and nothing but a fist to say it with 
Men were the only animals she couldn't slaughter in her two 
bedroom apartment where live poultry met its end on the  
kitchen counter every Christmas, so she held their throats 
during sex, bucking to the pulse of carotid arteries, her spine  
singing perico ripiao, the warmth of his jaw caught in her 
fingernails, reminded her of eating limoncillos en la marquesina 
of Abuela’s casita, the juice marking a slow sway down her chin 

always hungry, always looking to be fed  
cooked enough to feed all the married men in 
her building, knowing there are three ways into this 
country- water, wind and wound

Peggy Robles-Alvarado is Pushcart Prize nominee, CantoMundo Fellow, and an International Latino Book Award winner. As a tenured educator with an MFA in Performance Studies, she authored Conversations with My Skin (2011), Homage to the Warrior Women (2012) and curated The Abuela Stories Project (2016).  Find her @




C. A. Schaefer

       I would rather wear a dress than have a body. A good dress defers wrinkles and sagging, refutes deformity. I substitute my childhood body with my first dress, gray cotton printed with pearl-pink pansies. My arms become the arms of the dress, fabric tight above the elbows, ruffled with machine lace. When I grow out of it, that dress becomes my sister’s, and I lose the shape of myself.

       I had other dresses, though, and other bodies. The homemade royal blue taffeta with raw seams beneath, puffy Princess Diana sleeves, and a bertha of translucent ivory lace. I spun in it, skimming the tiled floor before falling in a mushroom circle of blue fabric, more buoyant than my legs would ever permit me to be.

       The thin-striped plaid I wore in fifth grade, the last time my body was undifferentiated, mostly unsexed. The dresses I wanted and could not possess: my mother’s pleated pale green polyester dress, last worn for her wedding reception. My great-aunt’s spangled evening gown slowly disintegrating from exposure to air and sunlight, but that made my wrists shimmer in jet.

       Dress was the closest I had to religion. I read about their powers in the lavish details of my books. The clothes were stories buried inside stories: apple-green net, Cluny lace, organdie, rose petal silk, cut velvet. Brown cambric, a flounce of poplin, bound in a band of plain brown silk. I learned that sometimes the loss of a dress was a portent of another loss, the moment in which scissors snipped or buttons popped, and left nothing but the shivering animal of the body beneath. The orphan girl, bereft of fur wraps and white frocks, left alone in a black crepe dress.

       I tried to learn to dress myself like these women did; I searched clothing catalogues, circling favorite outfits, and tried to remember precise combinations of color. Soft Orchid or Bright Pink? Watermelon Sorbet or Poppy Blue? The names were seductive. But mostly the clothes I wore refused to reshape me. When I sat on the toilet, the flesh on my thighs puffed out like small pillows. No one I knew had calves as round and full as mine.

       I wanted to live inside bodies like the ones of the other girls in my fifth grade class, girls whose legs were slender and lovely, their hands thin, their feet narrow. I covered my body in t-shirts, a pair of knee-length kelly green shorts; my feet could only fit in boy’s sneakers, utilitarian and primary-colored.

       I understood, in some small and unarticulated way, Judith Butler’s musings on identity. The women who dressed in my books glimpsed, as Butler did, how gender came to be. It rose past the body and into the dress, into the graceful pageant wave, into the way I learned to modulate my steps. Women put on a work dress and their selves deflated, condensed to a single task. But when they entered the world, they slid pearl necklaces over their heads, fastened the strings of violet silk, and assumed their becoming. To get dressed was to carve out a space in which they could exist. I tried to costume myself in the same way. “It’s the dress, dear,” I said, echoing my books to my reflection. I draped my arms in my mother’s clothing, turning my shoulder to admire the fall of a painted silk scarf down my back, clamping her clip-on tortoise earrings to my tender ears. “Fine feathers.”

       Dress softened the treachery of my body’s development. Small dark hairs, unerringly visible, cloaked my limbs. I wore jeans and long sleeves in the humid heat of the summer, refusing shorts until I finally picked up my father’s razor and began to shave. I wore a skirt that afternoon to the dentist, where, splayed in the chair, lines of dried blood appeared under the clinical lights. I could either bleed or be shrouded. Dress became a way to negotiate with that world.

       I shamefully wore a C-cup bra in eighth grade, DD in tenth, and continued to inch up the alphabet. My breasts felt cartoonishly sexual in the model of Jessica Rabbit, who cooed voluptuously on screen as if her words in themselves were curved (She fascinated me, the way her glittering sheath clung to her body and then fell away). Boys, some far more slim and elegant than my early-woman body, avoided me. When a friend fell asleep with her head on my shoulder, I heard the word lesbian giggled through the bus.

       I tried not to look at my body in the bath, and instead slid it under a white soapy film. I told my mother, whose body resembled mine, that I wanted minimizers. Anything to flatten the flesh and make it less obtrusive, less obvious.

       My gender is wholly feminine. I like the word femme for it, which indicates a conscious femininity performed not to attract masculine desire, but with queer longing in mind. But my body has never permitted ambivalence. In my high school’s performance of Guys and Dolls, I was given a men’s suit in delicate stripes of pastel yellow and blue. I did not look like a man, even with my face scrubbed and hair pulled tight against my hairline, flattened with a wide Ace bandage. I didn’t know then that this is something many trans men try when first attempting transitioning, and that the bandage’s tendency to contract when the rib cage expands can injure breast tissue and fracture the ribs. I could bear it for an hour, and then, standing in the stall, would remove my shirt and unravel myself breath by breath. My flesh softened the crisp lines of jacket and sleeve, swelled at the trouser seams, and failed to disguise.

       Of course, men have not always worn pants. I show my students a sketch of Ancient Greece’s thigh-high dresses and laced gladiator sandals. They laugh, palpably embarrassed by the sight of a masculine body tainted by femininity. But a dress is utilitarian.

       In class, we look at men’s calf shapers, corsets, and how men historically have padded their hips and chests. Beau Brummel, who needed a valet to pull the close-cleaving jacket over his shoulders. Oscar Wilde wearing silk-trimmed velvet waistcoats below the intricate knots of his ties. Kings donned protruding ivory codpieces, stark white hose that revealed a man’s well-turned calves, and lavender court suits embroidered with pink and violet cowslips.

       We wear clothes to establish gender, or to refute it. This is a balance that queer women, in particular, have to navigate. I do not dress like a straight person’s idea of a queer woman; I do not dress how many other queer women think I should.

       The first time I attended a campus support group for gay and lesbian students, I wore a shirt that flared canary yellow, an alarm of uncertainty about my orientation. It was worse than feminine, little girl cute: Swiss dot cotton, Peter Pan collar, puffed sleeves, buttons covered in fabric.

       Toward the end of the meeting, a student across from me rose and centered her fist in her palm. We need to be visible, she said. Shave our heads, she continued, seeming to speak to me directly. Wear shirts that declare our difference (she was wearing a tank top that my mind refused to call anything but a wifebeater). We should reject bras and never wear dresses.

       I believed in the same things that she did, to some extent. That normalcy and invisibility were antithetical to liberation. But what she advocated for was a misunderstanding of dress, assuming that it could supplant other aspects of identity. Dress is performance in many ways: prom and theatre. But what Judith Butler and any actor understands, is that the assumption of a costume is not enough to create any kind of role.

       Still, it helps. There are certain clothes that I wear only to teach. My wife and I refer to these as “teacher drag,” because they have a certain stagy quality to them: a brown sweater vest, a navy blazer, a burgundy turtleneck. I wear these things in part because I am performing confidence and intellectualism, much as an actress who puts on a pair of glasses in a film is performing undesireability. I must be the teacher, dressed like that. It is my way of negotiating the world, of shaping expectations before I even speak.

       This is the real purpose of dressing for the occasion: not just social norms, but a way of negotiating with the world’s perception. I weigh a little more, or about the same, as the average American woman. I veer on plus-sized but am what is called a “small fat,” a woman who can sometimes wear straight sizes but sometimes settles gratefully into a 1X or 2X. Denim marks me with a series of dappled pink marks, and tights make a riotous ring of scratches at the softest part of my belly. Bras leave welts on my back and wounds on my side.  But a pair of leggings or a loose-cut shirt looks sloppy on me, as they rarely do on thinner bodies. Dressing nicely (in ways that read as feminine, as safely middle-class, as attractive and clean) asks people to treat my body well.

       These associations have long been present in the Western world, but in the past hundred years there’s been a slow movement, shifting the locus of control from outside the body to inside it. The corset, the waist trainer, the girdle, have been replaced with athleisure that puts the body’s self-denial and discipline on display. Advertisements celebrate women’s liberation into yoga pants. We are free now from dress and underpinnings, corset and crinoline. So goes our cultural narrative. Asterisk: assuming said body is thin enough, white enough, young enough, able enough.

       My favorite brand of jeans promises that I will “look, feel, and wear a size smaller” through their ability to flatten, contour, slim, shape, or lift. They displace and smooth fat at the hips, the accumulation of skin at the waist, just as corsets did, to “permanently reduce and improve the figure.” That bodies can disappear inside clothes is the fiction we love. It’s the reason fashion designers cast models who they deem can act as living hangers. Their bodies are invisible, weightless, the inverse of the emperor with no clothes. The dress with no woman inside of it. That these women are malnourished, underweight, smoking cigarettes and liquid fasting backstage is beside the point. These models breathe silk, they move and a gown moves with them. Most couture is meant for them alone. Their extraordinary bodies, beaded and caped and fluttering, present vitality. They argue for beauty.

       Part of me wishes we’d return to clothing that lies more honestly about the body. We’re all in on the joke; nobody’s waist looks like that, so everyone’s does. The optical illusion of an hourglass for a medieval woman’s ensemble mattered more than her actual shape. The bottom half relied on a farthingale—an early hooped petticoat padded with thick rolls of muslin—that grew like a layer cake, the waist shrinking in an optical illusion. Up top, the bodice was compressed into one long conical shape, breasts flattened, waist elongated. They called their proto-corsets bodies. The richer a woman was, the more ostentatious the fabric of her body. Henry VIII’s queens ordered ones stitched from crimson satin, cloth of silver, sweet leather, black velvet, and French damask. Their household inventories are the closest that historians get to a biography for these women.

       I want a biography of dress. The clothing I wore is the evidence that I am willing to give. Not the private writing, full of shame and triviality, but the dresses I’ve compiled to cover my body. The ivory-peach dress with the sleeves that fluttered—you look beautiful, my girlfriend says. The black halter, mostly backless, the velvet ribbon bisecting the nape of my neck. The dresses full of flowers, a garden stretched across my body, abundance and life as my cells weaken and begin to disperse as slowly as they do for a mostly-healthy living being. My clothes keep me together.

       I make sense of the world through dress. The progression of time is easy to think of in terms of fashion: there’s some stuttering, some doubling back, but dress lets me see the flickering shape of human desire, pettiness, and love in the muddle of history. The hourglass Elizabethans gave way to seventeenth-century high waists and full skirts, evoking fertility, creating women who could float on the canals of Amsterdam and Venice. Dour Dutch women showed their status by wearing black, a color that soon faded to rusty plum if not maintained. The lace-edged ruffs that trembled at their throats remind me of birds, the human body flaunting its plumage for a possible mate.

       I search for a favorite era, a time in which I would have been beautiful, as if I can make some kind of peace with my shape by imagining it elsewhere. But there is never an ideal. There’s only whatever costume people have adopted to convey health and wealth, to model piety or confess to infidelity, to demonstrate sexual longing or signal a political alignment. No one silhouette remains desired for long. Skirts grow longer and wider, then shorter and thinner. Conspicuous consumption led to English court mantuas that could span the width of a contemporary dinner table, and, centuries later, became delicate, kimono-like lace gowns. I admire the relentless absurdity of dress. The robe volante, created around the same time as the Persian-influenced, unisex dressing gown called the banyan, made the women who wore them resemble pregnant triangles. In the 1820’s, dresses were so stuffed with horsehair and gilded with ribbon trimming that the gowns stand, fully embodied on their own.

       Clothing today seems flat and mundane in comparison to the dresses trimmed with woven silk braid, hand-pleated ribbons that remind me of Christmas candy; tambour beading, which requires an artist to bead by feel and not sight; Brussels lace and bizarre silks. The dresses that remain intact in museums, even faded and preserved, are more vivid than something I could buy in a store. Even the backs of a these dresses are be pin-tucked or flounced, cascading or bustled, hours lavished on something that the wearer might never see.

       The clothes today, conversely, are often designed for the selfie. These dresses are intended to be seen fixed from overhead, or draped and pinned around blank mannequin’s form. But they are clothes that are also meant for the coffin, the only time we are truly formed and fixed. My cousin’s body, cloaked in the religious garb of white blouse and vivid green silk skirt was meant to signal her ascendency into heaven, but served practically to conceal the abrasions and broken bones, the burst blood vessels, the bruising from where a SUV had crossed a lane and overtaken her bicycle. The clothes held off, for just a moment longer, the reminder of her body. They offered the illusion that she might carelessly stretch her mouth back to life and lift her head.

       In the nineteenth-century, mourning rituals helped shape grief in another way by prescribing what kind of clothes a person might wear after a death, and how long their sadness was meant to last. First cousins require four weeks of mourning; aunts and uncles, two months. Widowed wives, being the most bereaved, mourn for a full two years. There’s something I find attractive about permission to mourn so visibly, to let body occupy the space of grief in paramatta silk or bombazine. Mourning fabric was black fabric, chosen because it absorbed and did not reflect the light.

       But any dress today could be suitable for mourning. Every piece of clothing I own has an innocuous tag that tells the story: made in India. Made in Burma. Taiwan. China. Bangladesh. Western fashion has been stealing from these countries for centuries—it used to be that we were manic for paisley shawls, sari striped silk, and bolts of printed muslin. Kashmiri shawls were first coveted, then copied to the extent that demand rose for the knock-offs alone. Now we’ve taken enough designs, enough sacred heritage for patterns, we simply go overseas to have our clothes sewn.  

       If I tried to trace the supply line of my favorite dress, reaching back from shop to stitcher to cutter to draper, back to weaver and dyer, I wouldn’t be able to. Companies escape anti-slavery laws by subcontracting unto subcontracts, deniability rooted in unknowing. Clothes that I wore in the mid-nineties, purchased at Macy’s, might have been sewn by one of seventy-two Thai slave workers who lived in a chain of California duplexes ringed with barbed wire. Chances are even better that my first bra was sewn by a woman in a South Carolina prison, paid thirty-five cents an hour to slip elastic inside machine-sewn lace.  

       This history doesn’t change. In 2012, one hundred and one years after the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, the Tazreen Fashion Factory burns down in Bangladesh, killing at least 117 people. The fireproof tags meant for the clothes are discovered later, bearing names of Walmart, Carrefour, and IKEA. Even if I don’t wear these clothes, I am still culpable, I am helpless before the specter of these ruined bodies. Helpless is a wealthy woman’s word, evoking the deliberate choice to be in despair, like the anorexic models who strip themselves of their nourishing fat. But also the bodies of the women in Cambodian garment factories too, who have begun to faint in waves, falling prone to the floor one after another until they carpet the factory. Foreign journalists photograph them sprawled on the ground. Mass hysteria, remarks a Cambodian newspaper. Then, they too draw a line between past and present. Not unlike English workers centuries ago.

       Exploitation is just on a different scale now, in a different country. Embroiderers in the nineteenth-century stitched bone-white flowers onto white tea gowns while they crouched in their tenement homes, hands gloved to prevent smudging. Children now and then, employed to creep under humming machines, could slip a hand in the wrong place and have it ground to bone and blood. The best ornamentation has always come from ceaseless human labor. Embroidery machines can’t replace the calluses and needled wounds. The patterns produced from a computer are embarrassingly crude, wide tulips in the place of tiny repeated flowers.

       The only solution I can find is to raise my own sheep, shear my own wool, to card and loom, to dye, to stitch and scissor. But better still to stop caring, to transgress without pleasure. The ancient accusation of vanity appears, this time cloaked in different rhetoric: dress is frivolous, a waste of time and good material. I’m betraying the sisterhood by being one of those women who love clothes and jewelry. Misguided at best, actively anti-feminist at worst. “A woman’s clothes,” declares the advertisement that I continually see online, “should be the least interesting thing about her.”

       But to ignore the importance of dress seems another false choice, a willful misunderstanding of its potency and power. In the days of Stonewall, queer men and women slipped into clothes that made them feel beautiful. Panties sheer and filmy with lace, tiny rhinestone buckles, military jackets with their brass buttons. Leather jackets, neckties, iron-pleated plaid skirts. Things they could breathe freely inside. If they were discovered in a single article of another sex’s clothing, went the rule, meant that the police could arrest them for deviance. For some trans women, the act of wearing a dress is a revolution, a declaration that I am who I am. When I am twenty, cashiering at a grocery store in central Utah, a woman shops every Wednesday in bright dresses made of delicately layered silk, flutters of tangerine, butter-yellow, periwinkle, or rose madder. I watch people stare at her jaw line while she pauses to pluck a red cabbage from the crate.

       Who gets to wear a dress, what dress, and how? The fashionable way to wipe out indigenous women’s bodies was to first force them into colonial garb and then to appropriate their designs and silhouettes. Domestic servants in colonial India wore corsets while England shuttled sari silk for their own designs. Pocahontas, painted in an Elizabethan ruff and pearls, with wisps of black hair escaping her coif, has the steadied and silent gaze of a woman who understood this.

       I run my hands over the dresses in my closet, as if to feel all the bodies that were needed to create these ghosts. The hundred dollar pale blue silk dress, with its lace inset to cover the collarbone, fastened up to the hollow of my throat, seems to heat under my fingers, same as the boiling water that killed the thousands of silkworms that spun the material. My favorite shirtdress, printed in concentric circles of fall colors: orange, yellow, maroon, and brown. Made in Bangladesh. The dress that my mother sewed out of pure love, fitting green taffeta onto my sixteen-year-old body, standing with me on Sundays to choose the right silver buttons and silk cording, reminds me of the slash the scissors made on her palm. Other dresses grow heavy with the memory folded in the skirts. My faded cotton sundress I can’t bring myself to throw out, Prussian blue printed with white bicycles, worn the summer I learned letterpress printing.

       This is another lure to dress. Retail fashion understands this. Buy new clothes and receive a new self. Defend yourself against aging, against sagging, against the inevitable losses and gains of the body. I craved saddle shoes in fifth grade, imagining that I would transform the moment I slipped them onto my too-wide feet. When I married another woman, I chose a froth of French lace and Italian cotton tulle, a piece of lace from my great-grandmother’s gown sewn onto the bodice. I wanted legitimacy from this dress. The court ruling permitting us was tender and new. Clothing was a talisman again, a way to preserve and to guard.

       But the trouble is that these identities are as easily shed as they are acquired.  Americans discard nearly 82 pounds of clothing, per person, per year, to the total of thirteen million tons. So far this year I have rid myself of an old pink cashmere scarf, a striped sweater dress, a black sheath dress, and a white and black wool skirt. A vibrant green blouse with scalloped sleeves, four pairs of jeans, two pairs of shorts, a purple sweater interwoven with silver threads, four sagging bras, and a grocery bag of unmatched socks and torn underwear. Most of it, I know, will end in a landfill. Some of it may be shipped to other countries under the guise of charity, cheap American denim and Disney knockoff shirts flooding local textile markets.

       In the past, holes were patched, fabric re-dyed, hems turned over. Clothes were patched into quilts, braided into rugs, folded into a doll or a bandage. But the things we wear today are cheaply made and frequently synthetic. My favorite pink cardigan splits first at the neck seam, and then, improbably, in the middle of the sleeve.

       I try to save things from the wrack and ruin of the landfill, but all I’ve created is a living mausoleum that swells inside my closet. Things that no longer fit, are faded and thin, or pilled and stained. Most are hidden inside cardboard boxes, but my wedding dress is on display, visible through the plastic window of the box. It stares without seeing, torso deflated and disembodied. The preservation service (what had I imagined) meant that the dress arrived embalmed, pristine in an acid-free tissue wrapping. My wife’s dress rests next to it, in its own box. Dress sits by dress, coffin someday by coffin.  
But sometimes our dresses outlive our skin. Bodies preserved in bogs have been discovered still wearing woolen skirts and sheepskin cloaks, the clothes preserved well enough to cut a pattern from. Egyptian beaded dresses are lifted from bandaged corpses and stolen away to Western museums, where they hang off cloth torsos, permitting visitors to imagine the body within. Mummified Dutch women surrender their caps and gloves to archeologists, leaving their bare skulls and leathered hands exposed. Air-conditioned boxes contain mourning shoes and wedding gowns of famous women. Walking through a fashion museum, I catch sight of Queen Victoria’s fat birdlike figure, flickering through the shape of her black silk gown. Our clothes offer a gasp of immortality: a remembrance of the space our bodies occupied, the genders we assume and are assigned, and the endless performances we gave. I tell my wife to wear Italian mourning garb to my funeral: an expensive black lace dress, a heavy widow’s veil, a felt hat tilted rakishly over her forehead.

       After I die, an enterprising mortician might slit one of my dresses open in the back and arrange it around my body. Bury me in pansy cotton, blue taffeta, my French lace. Drape me in butterfly linen or black velvet, cut to expose and not conceal. Just remove a few bones, drain the blood, or cut out an organ or two. Anything, in death, will fit.

C. A. Schaefer‘s stories and creative nonfiction have appeared in Indiana Review, Mid-American Review, Phantom Drift, Passages North, and elsewhere. A former editor of Quarterly West, she holds a Ph.D. from the University of Utah. She lives in Salt Lake City with her wife and a small menagerie of cats. Read more at

Connor Wright

1. This first photo was taken backstage at timezone, a fashion show event that used to be organized by Channy Lucienne (@certifiedradical on Instagram) that I modeled for. The clothes are mine, but they were just doing my makeup before I got changed.

2., 3. Anna Schooley, a high school studnet in Cypress, took these. We’re pretty good friends, and we took these in my bedroom after we had set up a janky white backdrop and lights.

4. Richie Talboy, a fashion photographer I met at a party, decided to have a test shoot in his studio for funsies. This was taken in the Spring in New York.

5. This was taken by Cary Fagan, who’s my good friend and a rising fashion photographer. We were at the medical center and I styled the look and this just came out of us hanging out.

6. This photo was taken at Cherryhurst House and the clothes were designed by Isabel Wilson. We were taking photos for her website just before her fashion show.

7. I was with my friend outside of the Menil when this photo was taken. I got the jacket in a German flea market when I was visiting my brother, who lives in  Munich. 

8. We took this photo in my friend’s elevator to her apartment. I deconstructed the wifebeater myself, but I gave it to my friend in exchange for a tote bag that she’d paint her boobs onto (as part of a series).

9. Julia Rossel, who is studying visual arts at HSPVA, took this photo for a piece she was working on at the time.

10. My friend Alec Martinez took this portrait.

Connor Wright is a 17-year-old senior at High School for the Performing & Visual Arts in Houston, Texas, where he studies classical double bass. He has been featured in Nicotine Magazine.




Barrett White

Manic Panic or (A Micro-Nonfiction About Annie Clark and How She Helped Me Grow)

I almost threw up the first time I internalized St. Vincent’s “The Party.”

It was the first time that music really sounded like poetry to me. I pictured my own relationship fizzling out like a dying candle, having gone stale due to inaction or indifference. Much like St. Vincent’s narrator, we would try to salvage what we had, but alas: The party is over and we both look the fool.

I grew up on dad’s Van Halen and mom’s Garth Brooks – music you can really tap your foot to, sure – but upon discovering the music that spoke to me, I was smitten with a queer woman who stood no taller than 5’7” and could shred on a guitar with more emotion than that of the Pietà.

Under the neon sign of the Continental Club in midtown, I sat on the concrete, tacos in hand, and listened to her myriad catalogue on shuffle. I was working for a now-defunct music festival on their public relations team. If I was to produce content to promote Annie Clark – who would be lighting up one of our stages that year – I had to make sure my angle was perfect. Masseduction had just dropped.

“Who is Johnny,” reporters ask her ad nauseum. He first appeared in the title song of her 2007 debut album Marry Me as a “rock with a heart like a socket I can plug into at will,” and returned in her self-titled project in the track “Prince Johnny,” a person of interest to her who was lost in a downward spiral – as she was, too. “Johnny’s Johnny. Everyone knows a Johnny,” I remember Clark saying in an interview once.

Beneath the neon glow on that midtown sidewalk, somewhere between “Slow Disco” and “Happy Birthday, Johnny,” I remembered the folks in my life that I’ve lost connection to. The manic panic of Masseduction’s wild Holzer-when-not-pastel palette fell away, and while Clark could have been talking about a former lover, a brother, a friend, I thought of my birth mother.

At the time, I didn’t know where she was and the longing to know her was deep and heavy. She had left when I was two, and was in and out of jail thereafter, farther estranged with every passing year. I hadn’t seen her since I was six? Eight? I had a wonderful mother who raised me with my dad, but the woman who birthed me, I couldn’t help but wonderwho she was. 

Her favorite song. Her favorite color. If she was still alive?

As Clark crooned, “When you get free, Johnny, I hope you find peace,” I wept into my barbacoa.

I might never get the chance to answer those questions. Despite her flaws and transgressions, she was a human life that I valued for reasons I never learned to articulate. Did I want to know her so that I could infer whether I would parent my own children the way she did (or didn’t)? If my own tendencies were inherited?

When the festival went live that year, St. Vincent was in good company. The lineup was female-led, in which Clark fell in rank with such powerful femmes as Solange, Phantogram, and Pussy Riot. My impossible task became trying not to think about my meds for anxiety, depression, and sleep when she rattled off the lyrics to “Pills.”

This was the first time I’d been confronted with the Masseduction-era aesthetic without the lens of a Spotify album cover. The latex. The thigh-high boots. The blazing red – everywhere – and the dual-tone blues and oranges of the digital art behind her. It was otherworldly. It was mid-modern with healthy deviance. The Holzer influence was back during “Sugarboy,” when Clark promised me that she was a lot like me. Alone like me. The lyrics ticked across the breadth of the stage above her perfectly slicked hair while she and her guitar wailed, and wailed.

I stared up into the white December sky flanking the Houston skyline which sprouted up from all around us. The chill of the air was only interrupted by the backpack of the woman ahead of me. Jumping while we all danced, her backpack jerked me back into reality every time it hit me in the chest. Only when she turned around for a selfie with her squad did I realize it was Pussy Riot themselves. Until I recognized their faces, they had blended in with the other festival attendees; after all, they were without the neon ski caps that I had seen them don earlier in the day, when they’d performed on our largest stage with a banner that screamed, GOODNIGHT WHITE PRIDE.

Who else can say that they danced to “Masseduction” with Nadya Tolokno?

It’s been several years since that day I met Nadya and saw Clark live for the first time. And from the first time I heard her music, nearly a decade had passed.

I was in high school and still toying with the idea of coming out of the closet to my family when I came across her first album. Real recognizes real, or queer recognizes queer, and I was pulled in by the sound of the weird girl who could shred. The weird girl from Texas who sang about the most visceral things and paired it to the most floral music – at the time, a sound that betrayed her look.

In the years since her first release, her style evolved to create the commanding presence she is today. The bite was always there, but it came from a package that appeared meek, not unlike discovering cayenne in a dish you thought you’d clocked. The pretty-vicious of Marry Me and Actor and the avant weight of Strange Mercy could have only led to the larger than life near-future dystopian head of state we heard in St. Vincent.

The parallels of Clark’s evolving queer style and my own aren’t lost on me. As I came into my own, I enjoyed the push of a harder, sleazier aesthetic as she rebranded and took the reins of her career for herself. I was inspired by the power dynamic present in her clothing, makeup, and promos – the clean cuts, the focus looking down on the camera – and hoped I could emulate it as I came into my own in college, despite never seeing this side of my own self before. But if she could do it, why couldn’t I?

By the time Masseduction came out, I was feigning confidence. This album and the leather, latex, and barbed lines it brought with it had me realizing I had fallen in line again with what the work meant to me – sexually confident, uncomfortably nostalgic, and abundantly queer.

Throughout Clark’s career, the laureate lyrics remained while the aesthetic advanced, and I strung along like a dog in tow. Over coffee and over the course of months and years, I studied from an unknowing poet how to turn a phrase and tell a story, while losing my mind with how well the lyrics applied to my own experiences – or how well I could apply them myself.

In “Year of the Tiger” and “Strange Mercy,” I pictured myself as a child, faced with the impossible news that my birth mother was going to jail, prison, rehab, another city. I was never granted the opportunity to talk to my well-meaning – if not entirely misled and hurt – unknown parent through the double-paned glass. For me, the glass was replaced with other family members, the jail swapped out for a holiday gathering. Aunts and uncles were uneasy to discuss her whereabouts because they, too, were hurt by her life. Forever protected from the image of her pale, pocked, and exhausted face under harsh fluorescents, I was left to send messages to her through family who may or may not have answered her collect calls.

After the festival that year, I went home to my studio apartment, less than a mile from the festival site. The 1930s apartment building was a reprieve from the hustle but was not immune to the noise of it. The train, the sirens, and the neighbors reminded me I was not alone in this world, and never would be, but my conscious focus on my brief history, my unrequited exertion to break into the scene as a young writer, and my apartment heater that didn’t work pulled me onto the hardwood floor. Perhaps it was the rhythm of the music or the mania itself, but I played St. Vincent’s catalogue on repeat again, sprawled on the rug with my dog curled into a donut at my side. It was a futile attempt to leverage history with the present through lyrics that weren’t written for me anyway.

Unbeknownst to her and without consent, I had been using Annie Clark as a muse, assigning her very personal lyrics to my own very personal – and vastly different – life. In this time as I flailed about in my unchecked mood swings and longing for a life that I didn’t know (nor did I know I would want should it be granted to me), I had failed to register the hopeful uptick of the final bars of “Smoking Section.”

In predictable fashion, I put the song on repeat. I walked my dog to Hermann Park and back. I was in Houston on those streets, in practice, but certainly not in theory. My mind was everywhere else all at once. Had the drama been real? Or was I still strung out on my own insecurities, the longing to know anything about my birth mother, and the exhausting coming out experience and the years that followed, from being on the brink of poverty to the struggle to find a job? 

As much as I wanted to fling myself from the roof of my apartment building like the narrator of “Smoking Section,” I had to believe Clark when she posed, “What could be better than love? It’s not the end.”

It’s not the end.

It’s not the end.

In “I Prefer Your Love,” a tender ballad about a mother’s love – the only St. Vincent song actually about a mother – I thought of the mother who raised me, and not the one who had left. “All the good in me’s because of you,” she whimpers, underscored by a haunting disembodied vocal describing a “little baby on your knees, ‘cause the world has got you down.” I wrestle with the solace that I must feel in that my birth mother left so early on. Because of that, I was raised by a mother who fostered the growth, the writer, and, well, the good, in me. Something the other couldn’t do.

My mom took on a lost feral child. Maybe, if St. Vincent wrote a song about that, I would send it to my mom as an apology for all the years I spent as a lawless youth, a questioning and quiet teen, and eventually, an unapologetically queer adult.

Or, perhaps she did write one and I just haven’t interpreted it that way yet. Give me time.

As a hungry 27-year-old in New York City’s East Village, I stepped foot into a tattoo parlor. After about an hour or so, I left with a lifelong marker on my right thigh:

I don’t think the past is better, better
Just ‘cause it’s cased in glass
Protecting us from our now and later

Annie Clark taught me that nostalgia – good or bad – is skewed. Your memory is not in context, and if you aren’t careful, your past will hinder your future if you spend too much time lost in it in the present. I smiled into the white February sky flanking the Manhattan skyline which sprouted up from all around me. The chill of the air interrupted only by the voice of my roommate, grounding me in the present.

Barrett White is a print journalist, editor, and dog person based in Houston. He attended University of Houston in the esteemed Creative Writing program and has spent close to a decade in queer media, lending his voice to both regional and national outlets alike. He is also a co-host on The 2081 Project, a podcast that looks deeply into the issue of LGBTQ+ equality in America, due to premiere in January 2020. To pay for his coffee and his dog’s pampered lifestyle, he writes full time for communications and government affairs in the realm of healthcare.




Anthony “CozCon” Conover

Ultimately, my goal as an artist is to “Robin Hood” pop culture. I want to free up and reclaim the vibrance trapped in exclusionary aspects of culture like high fashion and contemporary art so it’s accessible in a way that helps other queer and brown folks to tell their own stories. I want our narratives to have access to every color in the crayon box.

Find Anthony “CozCon” Conover on Instagram @cozcomme and @cozcon, and at




Stephanie Lane Sutton

Gay Prom

I was wearing a black silk bone corset off the shoulder department store cocktail dress from 1942 & the river looked clean that day & Canada was so close I felt its wet nose pushing up against my naked clavicle. I burned a 4-inch strand of my brown brown hair until it was rust colored in Julie’s basement that same afternoon, then stained it purple with dye in a metallic silver bottle I bought at Sally’s Beauty at Eastland Mall for $4. You’ll know Hart Plaza by the suspended stone Joe Louis Fist that points toward it like a battering ram & my admission was paid for by cashing in on the bottle deposit of 250 of my parents’ Corona empties. Since the sun was still out I sat under a tree with Michael who came out that August & we shared a lemonade, the kind you get at county fairs that’s filled with lemon halves & costs $6 & only has this much water in it. He was obsessed with Djarum Blacks, they smelled like Christmas set on fire, I had one for the first time. In a near adjacent suburb, my ex-boyfriend, Alex, who came out after college, was sitting at a round table with a white table cloth in a very black suit & too much hair parted on one side, as was the style in 2006. Once it was dark we walked into the concrete earth where the best music was playing & I ate a superman-shaped pill which led to actually dancing, my god, George W. Bush was still president & would be for a while. There was Lauren from Las Vegas who was in my algebra class wearing white & we pushed our bodies together in the softest shimmer of a light & we kissed—it was the first time I kissed a girl which is exactly what everyone dreams will happen at their gay prom. I felt like I was in a movie with glitter on my cheeks & butterflies clipped in my hair & a D.J. playing something swooshy & full of bass. (The last time I saw her was when she moved into her first apartment, a garden unit in the part of town called the Cabbage Patch & it had cement brick walls & we sat on the carpeting & I asked her to turn the radio to 90.9 FM for the nightly jazz program but I can’t even remember her last name anymore.) What I remember is how the crowd looked like one big shadow with thousands of fists rising up. It took an entire day for the yellow white & red lights on Jefferson Avenue to slow down from a smearing beam into a single point & even longer for me to write this down.

Hesiod’s Skirt

Hesiod is credited with writing the Greek creation myth: the chaos of nothing, then suddenly, the earth is a woman. 

Hesiod is the first known Western author; this, too, is another kind of birth.  

In your world, everyone is named Hesiod & all of them have the dresses they want. 

Hesiod grows out their body hair & no one ever stares at their legs. 

Hesiod wants to wear sequins & tall wigs, but instead, is wearing your white bedsheet like a toga, stained with sweat. 

Hesiod goes to the salon & reinvents the razor. They shave their own head, smash an umbrella through an SUV’s windshield, says No one is fucking around here anymore. 

Paparazzi with bulbs exploding in millions of big bangs try to capture it: Hesiod’s transfiguration, Hesiod wild as a swan, Hesiod with all the magnetism of a flat earth, Hesiod’s new beauty flowing off the edge & taking ships with it. 

Hesiod lifts up their skirt, grabs a grove of crotch & aims it at all of us & the world is a unified gasp, & the world is renamed a creation myth, the nothing of chaos giving way to a birth.  

Hesiod unhinges their jaw & whispers Daddy & their tongue is a red carpet. 

Gods parade it, descend to the pink glowing pit of Hesiod’s belly. 

Each one is a litany of eaten names & mass graves; every story Hesiod tells, now, overthrows the king gods that came before.  

And when Hesiod’s belly is as swollen as a cosmos, they name it theogony, meaning a world that is born but never dies.


If a queen bee dies, you must try, immediately, to lay an egg.

Hesiod tells this story with knees crossed, a glass of neat bourbon between their palms.

At the start of a story with nothing but beginnings,
the sky’s mouth was so wide it had hips.

The river is as quiet as a needle through thread. Your cycling tape recorder blinks with chirps. Hesiod has removed their wig, their eyelashes, has smudged their face with a soft cotton wipe. The sky looks distant and is glowing dark red.

Oranos wanted to be a king forever, so every night
he fucked Gaia between her oceans, & when she
birthed his children, he’d shove them back inside.
Gaia named her favorite son Cronus, meaning time.
He would eventually kill his king father & become
his king father, like a raised hand replicating itself.

Hesiod finishes the drink, lips puckered and wet. You ask, How did Oranos die? Hesiod lights a cigarette before you can protest, then, exhales:

Gaia asked her favorite son to hide inside her womb
with a scythe, & when Oranos arrived there, his
groin was severed through. Cronus took his
dismembered sex, tossing it into the ocean.
The blood & salt foamed in bright strings of pearls,
like a glass of cold milk, until it formed Aphrodite,
which is a way to say all loveliness is born
of male destruction.

As they say this, they undo the sash of their robe, unfurling the tapestry of their body. Sweating, you want to plunge your maleness like a comet into their belly. You remember Zeus with the force of swan wings. Rain beating against glass. The milk-warm ice is being swilled by Hesiod’s backwash. You ask, What became of Oranos? Hesiod, curtained by the moon, has eyes that spark with the risk of Prometheus, stealing fire for the world:

Like a wet nurse, each night, Oranos kills us a little
by pulling his blue black blanket of cosmos across
the sky.

Hesiod’s Storm

Now the street is filled with the split backs of trees. You have a collarbone as sweaty as a downed powerline. Now here comes the lightning. It is the color of bees. You have dreams about it—men in bee costumes come and name you. He. Si. Od. See odd he in the bowl cut fringe on the ice skating rink. Peter Pan comes to mind. At some point, I come into the story, like a morning mist, floating out of a field. I wear an apron filled with walnuts. You & I smash them open with a stone. Meanwhile, the Nutcracker sits by the chimney, waiting for Christmas. As you get home, you throw it into the fire & watch the smoky white beard become a puff. Once the hurricane passes, it will be nothing but nuts for weeks. You’ll mourn every carcass of trunk & every decapitated stump, even when you are the only one left mourning. Everyone else goes back to work, gets married, has strawberry-shaped babies. You go out into the street every day in your black veil & weep. Then, one day, when the growth rings have rotted down to the zero point in history, you go back inside & put on my apron.

Hesiod’s Pythia

When I cosplay as the Oracle
of Delphi, I dip my torso
in vanilla oil until I’m drunk.
I line my eyes with black wings
& massage shimmer cream
into my shoulders and cheeks.
I light my face by a glowing screen
& go live on cam.

I take the username Pythia
& the chatroom is filled with men,
each named guest[number].
They can see me in my bedroom
wallpapered with ferns, how I splay
across the pink satin bedsheets.

I take the name Pythia
after the Oracle who sat
above the fissure of Delphi
& gave me a tarot reading
that predicted my death.

She was the closest thing I’d seen
to a goddess in person,
souvenir tokens of her face
sold at carts for miles
around her. She warned me
I’d die in a temple of Zeus.

guest1256:    are you a boy or a girl

My hands are small enough
for chisels. I use them both
to shuffle my tarot deck.
I divide the cards & smash
them back together again.
I cut the cards & pull
one from the mist of intuition.

pythia:      the queen of wands
guest9898:   take your clothes off

Pythia untucks the towel
like a drape, and I am her,
my flat nipples rouged
by the fumes around me.

pythia:      ruled by Andromeda,
             nude princess chained
             to a rock in the sea.

In my free hand
I turn the wand inward,
push it deep inside me.

The flicker of the chatlog
scatters light like a disco ball.

guest1256:   i want to
             make you wet,

guest0660:   i want to smash
             the back
             of your throat

I think of Pythia,
with her all-seeing eye,
the deep blue of her iris
staining the skirt of her robes.
I think of her robe
as an opening sky. I try to read
the tasseographs of clouds.

I think of Zeus’s
salt & pepper beard,
how I want to die
lying beneath it, flickers
of white like starlight
as undying as the sky.

The wand vibrates like a summer
lightning storm inside me.
My blood is blushed with buzzing.

pythia:      fuck me, daddy fortune, take me
             to your grave & my death will make
             a temple to you, daddy lightning,
             daddy misery, let me light your image
             with the light of my effigy

If I’m going to come
then come, Death, come
in my spread, reversed, come
bring slowly building transformation
& rapid ecstasy. Oscillate
my insides into a hum. Coruscate
my night-blank face
with hot white stars.        

Stephanie Lane Sutton was born in Detroit. Her short prose can be found in The Offing, Black Warrior Review and The Adroit Journal, as well as in the micro-chapbook Shiny Insect Sex (Bull City Press). Her poetry has appeared in Glass, Tinderbox, and THRUSH Poetry Journal, among others. In 2019, she received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Miami. Previously she lived in Chicago, where she taught performance poetry at Phoenix Military Academy.




Miriam Bird Greenberg

[“We dressed our « unseemly » selves in meadow…”]

We dressed our « unseemly » selves in meadow
lark and lusted. We « blue » rose up in • smoke, cock
sure and • in our cunning, slipping into the hands 
of women as they paused • or beneath « in rest, » statues’ 
subcutaneous automata, erotica 
lly concealed under fabric’s stony folds. Chaste
ned by the gods when one moon’s mitosis-made twin drew coy
ly close, cant | ering the « roiled » tides askance, we crept  
beneath the earth’s • mantle to weather our win
ter. In our subterranean bomb shelters’ circular 
routes, street dogs and hooded children dozed • mid-blizzard; 
there, we « as hawks do » inhabited « idly » idle hands 
and • made them do our • work. In their lunar work
shops, the « dirty » gods turned pestle-burdened, pound
ing flour, but in shadow they crept « as devil
ry » down to us to stanch our lust • quiets a doubter.

Of Glamour

In the years of our ruin,
                                            the suicide 

vest is haute couture; 
                                     others wear anklets 

connected by a brief chain, so short
it can’t dirty itself 
with the street’s dust. On the roof-
tops we sleep 

where before we’d prayed; then the radio
repeated its mandate: to build effigies

no longer to the gods, but of them. Pyre-
bound, they burned to bones and rose

to the heavens, released
from the burdens humans had bestowed 
on them. Below them, deer bound-

ed through the streets, and boys
made themselves minor gods

in the abandoned workshops, golden flecks
of gold leaf flecking their tongues 

                                            where they’d touched 
one another. When I die, I want 

to watch myself 
ascending and know I look good, 

says one, gold
a balm on the lips, a dusk

shading the onion-

of his eyelids.

Of Merism

Of your body, it was like a vicuña’s, all legs
and spit. Your hair, what a bunch of eels

writhing just past your field of vision. Ears
abalone rejecting their pearls, and your fingers

each a little green garter snake swimming
in my brackish swamp, or closed to make a fist

in a forest. Your smoker’s scent, the meta-
tarsal musk of an animal gone under-

cover. Your gaze milky as marble, distant
as the square-irised eyes you’d filched

from a goat at a taxidermist’s convention. Your tales
of pomp and swagger, of victory’s hounds

losing your trail, a peacock’s tail: mostly lies.

[“In the old days and unemployed, I’d idle in the alley…”]

In the old days and unemployed, I’d idle in the alley
ways smoking or snipe-hunting unspent butts, uncertain 
in even the elegant manner I held my cigarette as if pipe
wrench (spanner) for the motorcycle I imagined I’d own, enrapt
ured then by men bound by their own devices in leather, strap
ping. Unburdened, I imagined, amid crisis days
I knew better than to be enchanted by, even then, but was; I was 
a child then: sexless, formless, practically pig – going to
and from the school I’d quit a year before – tailed to see a senior
I thought I loved (but actually wished to be), who daily
emerged in leather jacket from behind a steel door, slamming 
so sudden (as pigeons exploded from sidewalk roost) ly 
I nearly leapt out of my skin each time, my metaphor a magic 
spell I wished to cast upon myself. Then passed by, this – a nod, 
no more – girl I’d spoken to scarcely once before.

Photograph by Tonatiuh Ambrosetti

Miriam Bird Greenberg is a poet and occasional essayist with a fieldwork-derived practice. The author of In the Volcano’s Mouth, her work has appeared in Granta, Poetry, and The Baffler, and been recognized with fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center and the NEA. Some of her poems in this folio also appear in the limited-edition letterpress artist book The Other World (Center for Book Arts, 2019), designed in collaboration with master printer Keith Graham.