Phyllis Brotherton

Methods of Accounting

There’s something comforting about inventory,
futile as it may be, the act of assessment,
itself, a form of care.

⁠—Danusha Lameris, from The God of Numbers


My mother, who worked as a bookkeeper in a men’s clothing store during my teenage years, once knocked on the door of a ramshackle house. She needed to collect payment or repossess a suit coat purchased on credit for a son’s graduation the next night. The woman who answered the door said she had no money for the payment and retrieved the coat from a back closet, handing it over still wrapped in black plastic, stamped with the store’s logo in gold. After a long pause, mother handed the coat back to the woman and said, “I’ll come back on Monday.” This story became a lesson for me in heart and numbers.

Later in college I’d learn the Accrual method of accounting, which differs from the more common and simplistic Cash method, in that one must account for not only what’s paid or collected, but also incurred and earned, owed and due. 

In this way, we look forward and back, assessing all that has been and what we know will be and write it down, account for it in the ledgers that span the years, kept in ink by the hands of my mother, and by me now with the ease of pushing a button on a computer keyboard. I can see my mother turning the thick light green pages of vertical columns and horizontal lines, carefully inking dates, descriptions, debits and credits, flipping back and forth through the ledger book, adding and subtracting, until she had reached the desired accounting state of balance.

Lesson from a high school Bookkeeping class:  What you Own – What you Owe = What you’re Worth


At fifteen, that same woman’s teenaged daughter went to work in Oklahoma City, the only seemingly viable alternative to the shunning by schoolmates after the Moore High School quarterback raped her. In her job at the Park Terrace Theater in the city many referred to as Big Town, she quickly moved from concessionaire at $.75/hour to cashier at $1.25/hour, removing the candy striper uniform in favor of street clothes she bought and paid for herself, several pieces of which one year came in the same blinding, popular shade of lime. As cashier, she became adept at rolling coins (the secret to which is first creating 5 to 10 short individual stacks for each coin type, then carefully picking up and sliding each stack down the paper tubes to a waiting inserted finger at the bottom), and binding paper money of various denominations with the Presidents’ heads all facing the same direction. She found a surprising inherited comfort and order in balancing the till. Balancing the concession stand cash drawer was complicated. Every cup, candy bar and box of frozen hot dogs had to be counted before opening (beginning inventory) and after closing (ending inventory), or at each shift change, to determine the number of each item presumably sold. Each inventory item count was then multiplied by the sale price to derive the total amount that should remain after deducting the starting till amount of say, $25.00. Any shortages had to be made up by the concession staff working that particular shift. This practice had a very strong affect in focusing the mind on charging the right amounts; adding, subtracting and multiplying accurately in your head, counting back the correct change. There were no cash registers or calculators; the only adding machine at the cashier’s desk in the manager’s office. Errors were rare. 

After the last showing of first run hits like The Sound of Music and Cool Hand Luke, the soundtracks to which she had memorized every word, she drove downtown to drop off the night deposit. At midnight, accompanied by an usher in a red uniform with gold epaulets, and holding a bank bag containing upwards of $25,000 in cash, she would pull up to the curb in front of the First National Bank, jump out, cross the sidewalk of the empty, dark street, pull open the heavy silver-gray night deposit drawer and drop the fat bag in. This ritual errand, never a quiet or clandestine one, involved much laughter, open car windows, blaring music, and frequent loud singing. Nothing bad ever happened; nothing ever went wrong.

She had a crush on her boss, Lindy, the Syrian theater manager, and in her eyes a god. She did everything for him she possibly could, including offering to clean his bachelor apartment for extra money, remembering even today his lone, curly, black pubic hair on the toilet seat, which intrigued and repulsed her at the same time. As a surprise gesture of first love, she baked a pineapple upside down cake in his unused oven, leaving it for him, fragrant and warm on his kitchen counter. Lindy eased her out of her crush by thanking her, saying that he considered her feelings for him an extreme compliment; a lesson she remembered and used later in life.

She then switched the object of her affection to another older man who frequented the theatre. One night when buying a theater ticket, he laughed and said, “Call me Pork Chop.” Pork Chop, who turned out to be Conway Twitty’s drummer, was chubby and kind, teaching her arousal to the brink of something she did not yet know. In reflecting later, she realized he always generously encouraged her to leave his apartment in time to meet her parent’s curfew, taking home with her no other burden of conscience than trembling legs. Thus began her career in Accounting. 

Beginning Inventory + Purchases – Ending Inventory = Cost of Goods Sold


She dreams of the kill floor. Remembers it as it actually was, bloody behind her eyelids, blood draining into a grate under a bovine body hanging by its hooves. It has ceased to have a hide by now, wooden plug bullet to the head. After 700 hundred head killed that day, a rubber-booted man hoses everything down.

Not just a slaughterhouse, but a feedlot of 15,000 fattening cattle, and a 6,000 acre farm of row crops in various stages of harvest and replanting. I arrive for the first time in the San Joaquin Valley with my son and his father, stateside again after three years in Iran, and stunned from my father’s sudden death in Oklahoma.  We drive up Highway 99 from Los Angeles, observing the deep expanse of fields, orchards, groves and vineyards. Hired as the Assistant Controller, the meat packing plant and farming operation is my first job in California.

On her first tour of the ranches, the owner and vice-president, from the front seat of a Town Car, point out row crops of tomatoes and cotton, especially admiring the tall stand of safflower. The owner says, “The wetbacks get in there and hide.” She has never heard this term and pictures wild boar running from hunters. “Are they dangerous?” she asks. Through uproarious guffaws, they explain they mean the illegal Mexicans running from the INS. She never lives it down, but never forgets, a seed planted to fight back.

Here I expand my knowledge in counting and measuring: heads per day slaughtered, aerial photo counts of feedlot cattle, half-carcasses sliding on hooks through a freezer in the 4 a.m. dawn, tons of manure estimated through measurement and mathematical equations. Learning new methods of taking inventory leads me to calculate yield. An employee is found guilty of embezzlement for, on instruction from his supervisor, switching out cheap cuts for prime steaks. Devising a method to determine restitution, I calculate the expected yield for certain cuts of beef, compare those numbers with actual yields, price out the difference, estimating the actual value of Cost of Goods Sold. The supervisor is never charged with a crime. The underling, who simply took orders from his boss, will spend the rest of his life paying back the multi-millionaire owner.

Federal Inspectors stand by to resume grading. She counts, balances, reconciles. She discovers an obscure tax law by which revenue from the sale of hides can be deemed exempt. During the noon hour, she will drink two martinis with the foreman, her lover, then return to tallying the accumulation of fortune. Sometimes in a hotel bed they discuss efficiencies, how to improve yield, and decrease the cost per pound to reach kill weight.

At the corner of Fruit and Church, I am promoted to Chief Controller. I abandon any sense of self control, launching forward with another kind of abandon: a simple disposition of others’ feelings, primarily my son’s and his father’s, seeking new acquisitions and mergers, ignoring entire human ledgers, focusing only on balancing my own, convincing myself there is someone, or something else out there better; a “Cost of Goods Sold” equation out of whack.   

The cattle cease knowing in an instant, will never know a thing. Strip the hide, move the carcass along to butchery, separating, trimming, sawed down the middle, sliding it along to the next frozen chamber.

Revenue – Expense = Surplus or (Deficit), Profit or (Loss)


Over-expansion, ill-advised investments, market forces, or any number of single factors or a combination thereof, can lead to deficits or losses sufficient to call into question an entity’s “going concern” status, sometimes leading to voluntary or forced liquidation, applying equally to business or relationships. In 1992, after two divorces from men and a failed relationship with a woman, I find myself facing major liquidation. Experienced with involuntary bankruptcy (both emotionally and in the courts), not at my own hands, but imposed by the actions of a second husband, I face the biggest professional challenge of my life to date: winding down a 75-year old olive processing plant and farming cooperative. The parallels between a company’s poor management decisions over many years and some of my own heretofore poor, personal decisions fly right past me then.

Four hundred and fifty employees, warehouses of inventory and equipment, and various properties throughout California are eventually reduced to one banker’s box in my bedroom closet. All along the way I strove to protect what remained, what I had come to think of as a carcass, from those who wanted a piece of what fleshy assets remained; creditors to whom amounts, either real or imagined, accurate or inaccurate, understated or grossly inflated, are owed. Then began the adjudication process, fighting it out through the courts, the sorting of the wheat from the chaff and in the end, negotiation and settlement. 

Eventually, everything had been accounted for: anything not nailed down (and some that was) sold, raw ingredients turned into finished product, real estate offloaded, environmental contamination dealt with in a 70-year clean-up plan that will outlive everyone. 

Eventually, you come to terms with liquidation, though some actions can never be explained or recanted, and some will never be made whole. One bright spot: preserving an employee pension plan from creditors, which many assume can never be touched, but the creditors try. Needless to say, among the battles and destruction are many professionally satisfying and rewarding moments, not unlike life. In the end, you write a final check to a local charity, in too de minimis an amount to be parsed further, destroy corporate seals, and begin again.  

Assets – (Liabilities + Net Worth) = -0-


…cannot be counted, but instead must be assigned a value by means of a generally accepted accounting method or sometimes requiring mere estimation. Human resources can be counted in numbers of people, or measured in “full time equivalents,” calculated based on a forty-hour work week as a baseline, resulting in fractions of a person, such as in 1.5 FTE’s. The value of an intangible is greatly diminished in a distress situation, such as a forced sale, absent a willing buyer and willing seller. Collateral may become worthless. Collateral damage can result. 

For example, what is the value of a man who, in order to earn more for his family, picks olives with a prohibited, but less heavy metal ladder, in a tree left too tall, because topping trees is expensive and decreases yield; is electrocuted when the ladder swings too near a power line?

And, when there is only one warehouse job left, what is the value of older Union Employee No. 1, with the most seniority, who in a layoff loses his job to Union Employee, say No. 43, in a work performance test requiring extreme stamina that pits the two against each other? 

What is the value of a company President made richer by a pension settlement, when equated to hundreds of retired employees who lose their promised lifetime health insurance?

What is the value of a relationship with a son basically lost, due in no small part to your own actions or inactions, to judgments, misunderstanding, and the essential difficulty in letting go of the past and moving on?

What can be gained or lost, lessons learned or ignored, through experience and the passage of time—both intangibles?

Phyllis Brotherton, long-time financial executive, workout and crisis-management specialist, received her MFA in Creative Writing from Fresno State University. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals, including Shark Reef, Pithead Chapel, Under the Gum Tree, Entropy, and Brevity. Her essay “Ashes and File Cabinets” was nominated for the Best of the Net Awards by Jet Fuel Review. She is currently marketing her book manuscript of personal essays, tentatively titled, Creating Artifacts for publication.




Brennan Bogert

Elegy for My Elegies to Trans Girls’ Bodies

I said       knowing well it’s all I have left       (like coins
in the hotel-room sofa child’s room sidewalk)       I’d never       write                     another

never feel those names—a sentence ending
             in my body—

but here I am       (dropping a notebook off at the community college       where the welcome mat
faces the wrong way     toward the street     welcoming us out)                      and I miss it:

building another box to bundle her body in          another newsprint wrapping for

                     the raw red                meat       of our organs into somebody else’s lap to say

                                                        look at this

                     Look who I miss

What a mess       I made

                               What a violence left of lips and hair and     the lovely ream of her spine
                                (swinging when we danced.)

                                                                                                                                                 I’m doing it again.

I can see her      bodies laid out the width of a page
        even thinner                   I can lose her        on my finger               but it gets people to listen

when we say her names          our dedications

                   are dead.      Our dedications are the songs we have left

in favor of the elegy.

But elegy       it works.       It keeps us going       fed me through one summer       jobless
     except trading bodies

and elegy?     it helped me
                                                      to say I’m sorry
                                                                                  I’m here
                          still sorry he walked past me.

               Building a box to bury her bodies in,       my dedication
means I’m living                 somehow.

But I can live without this
                                                                        the way I live without you.

I can live and sell
               myself in other ways.
                              (I guess I still have to. (


Golden Sings While Her Sister Gives Up Her Tail

A crowd gathers          in the club she left          & I swallow each man          like a fish
filled with eggs             take them in      to my mouth         & structure
them on my tongue.    Men float the moans.               I amplify
the clean ending                                                                            the sea-foam sympathetic.

Call mine a body            of electronic                  delay
Call it some kind of sea               some current              kind of body.

We found ourselves with body                  by the sea a body
washed up &     scented like a                    salt-skin fish
Gills tremored like crab         legs under sand        fighting the weight of delay.

Something in our cells smelled the structure
of waves.           But babe               I am so sympathetic
to your loneliness.        You choke & I             I amplify

what you are gasping for.
                                                 I am amply
such an able body           two wholes     to embody
the waterlung &              legless voice.
                                                                     I used to think                          Pathetic
Me            a school-less friend             a freakish fish.

Even the whales had been to land               pointed to the structures
left of their legs             after a million  year             delay

& I confess                       I did     delay
my coming to land        ate more kelp than I cared             kept yelling just to amplify
the waves.         But then I thought of legs!                            How nice those structures
& walking would be!
                                          We had dancing to embody!

& I had had enough of fin       & sonic     squeaking at the eels        & fearing fishermen
who just looked            in yellow plastic           nautically-knotted           so pathetic!

But how could I claim           to be better        still wearing my mother’s scales?           I am empathetic
to all the creatures           of indecision           digestion &        delay

to the people who throw a hand in in an                     attempt to fish
out a future
                        to speak up &                      after a time           bravely amplify
the playful forked pianos of their teeth.
                                                                        Whose body
can keep the same structures                 the same strictures of their body?           I will bite

any body’s impositions              change the skin’s structures
the body’s breathy           sympathy
to itself
              the insane attachment to stay breathing.           I will let my body
be sand soothing the motion of waves        each a grain of delay.

I can lie               lie down with you          & be an ampoule
of sealed & sterile pleasure      or the freshly netted fish

of joy      swimming with blood.                in the current        I decorate this body
break shells & shards             to pierce this structure.

I will make a hymn of fallow fishish
gurgles & gasps.       I can be           sympathetic

I can bridge         the habitat & habit of delay
& make a fluid                   language           make sound so fine
                                                                                                                —& yes—
                                                                                                                                       so amplified.

Brennan Bogert is a poet, freelance writer and editor, and collector of street-sounds. She regularly contributes LGBT Arts and Culture coverage for Go Magazine. Other places her work has appeared include Iowa’s Best Emerging Poets, Cathexis NW, The Paha Review, Little Village Magazine, and elsewhere. She graduated from The University of Iowa with B.A. in English and Creative Writing and is currently pursuing her MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. You can learn more about her at





Mullins Court

When Cam, Twin, & I flock home.
We a blistering bee hive at the tall glass
of spring, bumping and thumping

the sap of our gums, back and forth, like heat
tag in June. We boy loud, but gurl
hymns off our tongue like moon breaking

open dusk. We all the ratchet friend
when we lean in together, forget
to bite our twang & enjambed Black.

We proud we is what we is. Hey bitch
& wha’s poppin is how we knight each other
home. We defy the apple in our throats.

Adam ain’t Black enough to hold our kind
of love. Our throats hug, veins rip caskets
from each others capillaries, teeth shimmer

like CD cycles, Walkman strapped to
our bony hips. Doing circles ‘round
the cul-de-sac we learned this Black hood.


Trans Day of Remembrance

Golden (they/them) is a black gender-nonconforming trans-femme photographer and poet raised in Hampton, VA, currently residing in Boston, MA. Their work deals with the intersections of blackness and gender within the construct of America. Golden is a 2017/2019 Pink Door Fellow, the 2018 House Slam Grand Slam Champion, the 2016 NYU Grand Slam Champion, & was apart of the 2017 & 2018 NYU CUPSI Championship winning team. Their work has been featured on/at the Shade Journal, the Offing, Button Poetry, i-D, Interview Magazine, & elsewhere. Golden holds a BFA in Photography from New York University. Website: Instagram: mylesgolden. Twitter: mylessgolden.




Jenny L. Davis


1. If we don’t know our clan,
does that mean we can eat all of the animals—
or none of them?

2. If my partner and I are both
from matriarchal communities,
whose family do we move in with?
(and who provides the deer for the wedding?)

3. If being de-colonial means I should give up fry bread,
do I also have to give up my glasses? They’re the only
way I can see the beads to make my traditional regalia.

4. If I am deer clan on my Mom’s side
but the sorting hat put me in Ravenclaw,
Which animal do I put on my beaded medallion?
Can I put both?



“Well, which are you—a finger or a thumb?”


              I am a hand
                            an arm reaching
                            a body
                            a community across generations
              I am
                            the cosmos translucent.

“Ok…I’ll put you down for thumb, then”



If I die tomorrow,

don’t let them put me in the department storage room,
                                                                                              (lord knows I came out of the closet decades ago)

wrap me in plastic,
                                                                                               (I, like my ancestors, prefer natural fabrics,
                                                                                                                    silk is best, but cashmere will also do)

or break off pieces of my teeth
                                                                                               (Instagram can tell them what my diet consisted of).


Jenny L. Davis (Chickasaw) is a Two-Spirit/queer Indigenous writer from Oklahoma who currently lives in Illinois where she is an assistant professor of American Indian Studies and Anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her creative work has been featured in journals and anthologies including Transmotion, Santa Ana River Review, Broadsided, Yellow Medicine Review, As/Us, Raven Chronicles, and Resist Much/Obey Little: Inaugural Poems to the Resistance.





Rants from a Kong Qweer

I’ve got your back

A good way to die would be to infect an unknown, rare disease
Letting your body leave its mark on medical records and gruesome graphical Facebook articles
But it’s more important to contract one that is special enough

Have you ever taken the time to take off your friend’s glasses and ask if they’re struggling to see through you?
No. We even sell glasses as fashionable items, as drugs to patients of Myopia.
Because a disease is prominent enough we are expected to carry it without the love of others.
Because a disease is prominent enough it is safe to assume that it will not consume you.
Because a disease is prominent enough people could tell you that you will be able to go through this shit alone, intelligently pushing the loaded baggage away.
Because a disease is prominent enough nobody sees anything wrong with having tons of luggage rotating cluelessly on the endless belt hoping that someone would pick them up hoping that they could satisfy others with what’s inside hoping that they’ll belong.

I saw them desperately trying to exhale the black holes out of their bodies
So they could join the circle again
A circle still floating, trying to find some common ground discussing about universities, horoscopes, failed relationships.
They knew they could blend into any circle they wanted, as usual
But tonight they were drawn to sharp edges and angles and slopes and puffs of vanishing smoke
Octagon. Nonagon. Decagon. Dodecagon. Add more edges do some exercise think positive you need something new in your life now pour in more the more edges you have the better you’re doing but before you know it the circle comes to an end again you are back where you’ve started so could you please just leave them alone?

You know that’s a lie right? 
Don’t even ask if they’re okay just stare straight into their eyes
Let them swear at you. Let them shove you. Let them scream at you. Surrender.
They wouldn’t do this to you if they could see another way out.
Continuously reassure them tell them you’re staying, you’re staying no matter what and a broken vase doesn’t have to glued together again to restore its beauty because their shattered pieces are just as good
Push their head against your chest because moist and slime on your shirt is temporary and if you do this right this state shall pass too

Spend a minute staring at just one word, and its meaning will be lost completely.
They texted me the next day apologizing, promising that they’ve recovered now
I couldn’t help but question, if they felt compelled to put on a cloak in front of me
Or if they wanted to earn enough quota of normality so they could run away from their feelings again in case of emergency

I want you to know that a tablecloth is the most useless garment of human history.
Of course you have edges, of course assholes would scratch on your perfectly refined surface, of course sometimes ants crawl over you
And of course the rice stuck on you could be washed away.
You are a table. You are my springboard of ideas, you support all the authors of narratives, all the occasional naps, storing essentials for me never doubting that I’d not come back.
A table could function, even if it’s not in a fine state, even if it’s naked.



If only I knew how to say “FUCK THIS” when I was younger
I wouldn’t have to sit in front of the TV for hours wishing that Barney the dinosaur would just—DIE
Wishing that professor panda would tear off his fake mustache and perhaps ask how my day was going, say anything other than Chinese idioms
Wishing that the kangaroo with glasses would stop giving me awkward stares during those short pauses where it expects me to magically multiply my intelligence
Wishing that I could find the other episodes of Pokemon my brother was hiding
Wishing that Thomas the train and the Teletubbies would be released from the locked shelf, make their weird noises, turn off the switch in my brain just for a little while
Wishing that the number “1” button on the TV remote wasn’t so out of reach—wishing for permission to have dinner at my neighbor’s place every night so I could at least enjoy one full TVB drama series
Wishing for the Monkey King to take me with him to the West because I’d rather fight with monsters on the field and not in my head

If only I knew how to say “FUCK THIS” when I was younger
I wouldn’t have to sit in the corner of my kindergarten classroom wishing that everyone could just SHUT UP for a second so I could demand some answers
Dear teacher, you showed us what lions and dogs and cats and zebras and giraffes looked like and led us to ROAR WOOF MEOW together in unison but what do zebras and giraffes say? Are they not granted voices because of how odd they look?
And you told us that we were Chinese but where IS China you say we are IN China right now but isn’t this place called Hong Kong then why were all the other kids laughing at me when I said I was Hongkongese?
And you taught us to sing songs about our moms and dads being the best parents in the world which made them very happy but how would I know if they’re really the best when everybody else is singing the exact same thing?
Dear first boy I loved that hated red, what do you mean you don’t know what love means? You’re not supposed to say another girl’s name when I ask you which girl you like most. I hated red because I loved you. I removed every bits of red in my life and I guess now I have to remove love too.
And dear mom, could you please stop begging these kids to let me join their games? I’m not weird, I just prefer sitting here by myself I don’t want anything to do with these incapable savages that count with their greasy fingers and can’t properly pronounce the word “blue”
Screaming devils pooping in their pants that somehow think they’re righteous enough to laugh at other people who do the same

If only I knew how to say “FUCK THIS” when I was younger
Perhaps I wouldn’t have listened to the doctor who said I was obese
Perhaps I wouldn’t have to be “it” every time when we play tag
Perhaps I wouldn’t have to be “it” back in year7 when other girls avoided these hands grasped by my first partner because I was—disgusting
Perhaps I would have been daring enough to slam my report cards and writings and recordings in their faces, the ones who think I’m not that bright, that I am more conventionally capable than they ever will be
Perhaps I would have spent less nights suffocating myself to sleep, leaving stains of tears on my pillow convinced that I could never be loved the way I wanted to
Perhaps I would be an exact copy of Eric Cartman by now, fat, but content with everything I have, with everything that I am, brave enough to say “SCREW YOU GUYS, I’M GOING HOME” whenever I feel like it


言午正宜 is all about trying to capture the light rays of a sunny afternoon, within words, but making sure it’s not overly bright and blinding. They care about accessibility and healing from trauma, because they are trying to become better, even without knowing for sure if there’s absolute good. They’re based in Hong Kong, deep-diving into the fields of Buddhist Counseling, tarot therapy, the Taoist framework, (un)doing gender. (Trying to start a healing account on Instagram called @cornerofhealing but procrastinating at the moment. Follow/DM them anyway to ask for their paid services if you feel any resonance!).




Fiona Chamness

Top Shortage

Oracles are just bratty bottoms for the gods,
I tell a seer friend after reading signs
I’ve locked my heart away too hard.
The tarot reading roasts my ego.
It says I’m seeking the kind of stability

that only looks like stability; relying
on my work to save me will lead me
once again to ruin. How dare you come
for me like this. On the queer cruising group,
every top gets swarmed. Here, as everywhere,

the handsome white tops get swarmed most
and by the whitest congregants. We’ve run
so far from the banks and churches
and entrenchments of fascism just to seek
another fuck me daddy jesus,

one who this time will be kind
after we’re broken. Yes, I want kindness,
a spark hot enough to pin me blinded
to the wall. In the solitude I choose,
my gods are blunt. They love how I run

from them as though the heart were not round
as the earth that owns it. It’s true, I see my work
everywhere. I’ve got a lot riding
on this grouchy witch schtick,
trying to find the right words to shatter

through to a better world.
My friend is right that nothing is less
like salvation. Still, I am angry
with all these quartz-clutchers hexing
the patriarchy from a safe distance,

having made no sacrifices, as though
the earth were here for our bullshit,
as though that weren’t how our rulers
came to rule us in the first place. I’m ashamed,
too. I’m not a particularly good oracle;

everything I have to say is obvious.
The kind of spell it takes to overthrow
a dictator is the kind you cast
with your fists, and here I am banking
on books, hoping we’ll need both

because I’m not a top. My fist
is mediocre. Come to me, crush me, force me
into my body. They say the Sybil’s prophecies
were so weird because they built
her temple over a sulfur crack

and she was always breathing poison.
I wonder if we’re so different, this banal empire
that leaves fissures with every step,
the lives we spend cursing and blessing
each other in its footprints. The veil

between the worlds is thin,
but not thin enough to fuck through.
The gods can boss us, but they can’t
make us free each other. They can’t bind us
as we hunger to be bound.



We spend a third of our lives
           in bed, says every mattress ad, so why not
          etc. Were I a man I might better
                        belie the claim, slip on my shoes as I have longed
                       to do and walk and walk through a softened
          night, the water-sweet of summer
or perfect silence and swirling scrim
          of snow. Twice in my life I have gone
          and caught in my open-eyed net the hour
                       when all the light is the dim blue of a vein: the first,
           getting up for school to find it canceled
by an ice storm, and instead of returning
           to bed venturing into the stillness of a street
           turned treacherous crystal, reveling
                       in its secret glitter under starlight. The other time,
                       sleeping in the yard with a friend so we could wake
                                        and walk together, protected by pairing, scaling
                       a steep hill in the park to watch the sun
          rise over the soccer field. I know now we bet
                       on our skins and zip codes to save us
                       from our shapes. I can’t calculate
                                        the sum of all I’ve given up
                                        to fear, or what others have lost in fear
                                                      of me. Were I a man I would still need
                                        this face like milk should I wish truly never
                       to be hunted. As it is, I twist in near-dreams
                                        as a fish flips desperate in the inch of sour water
                                        at the bottom of a rowboat. When I snap awake,
                                        line cut, hook still buried in my jaw, I watch women
                                                      doing their makeup, for art, for pleasure,
                                                      to be recognized as lovely or as women at all.
                                                                     I watch cakes being decorated, wood
                                                      sanded down, an endless, numbing stream
                                        of camouflage, and between the compilations ads
                                                      extolling or decrying latex, sheathed microcoils, memory
                                                                     foam. Just the right firmness, just the right give.
                                                                        Cradles your pressure points. You deserve
                                                                                     a better night’s sleep.
I wonder who else is lying
                                                                     awake, watching. Our restless legion,
                                                      all our traps. Even in the dark we are imprisoned
                                                                     and imprison inside someone else’s clockwork.
                                                                     Give us the moon, you cowards. Give it back.


Fiona Chamness is writer and musician from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her work is published or forthcoming in PANK, Blood Lotus Journal, the Bear River Review, Radius Lit, Muzzle Magazine, Midwestern Gothic, HEArt, Nailed, VINYL, the Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, and the Indiana Review, as well as in several anthologies and in the poetry collection Feral Citizens, co-authored with Aimée Lê. She received the Beloit Poetry Journal’s Chad Walsh Prize in 2014. She also performs as a solo musician and with queer feminist punk band Cutting Room Floor. She is currently an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at Rutgers University, Newark.




Lily Duffy

from 18000 Silk Road

There exist certain strains of joy seeming only to arise when art is created or consumed. This thought is prompted at a red light by a song from the early 2000s that sounds as though recorded in a violent wind. Its circumstance is impartial—my meal first and later my waste. A friend creates custom clothing for fruit, places the outfitted fruits inside dollhouses in familial configurations (sitting together at a table, sharing a bed), and surveils them ‘til they rot, livestreaming through liquefication. She tacks the stained, tiny frocks to peg boards as homage.

That we could speak through ourselves to the sources of our pain, sound converting to touch. As a child, I rifled through drawers in pursuit of community: clips mingling with yarn, stamps, matches, and capsules. I haven’t seen my friends in years; I read their books so our love won’t atrophy. On someone’s porch at 4 a.m. we watch a man swap out letters on the church marquee:


I felt underqualified. Never knew what to do when I was free, so I wrote poems that were laws to protect myself. I was unaware they had magnetized me to my death.





Wisdom’s ballistic, repulsive: standing in a crowd I vomit, bodies scatter

He draws my body as the earth and installs his drawing on the outer half of my right eye. I find the image grandiose and try ignoring it, but when I stop rubbing my eye I see I’ve torn the paper—a young couple I passed on the street crawls out of my lower abdomen, lays side-by-side on my pubic bone.

What future could I possibly give them?

Heat. The chin tucked down to preserve it in the neck. Oils the imagination, or the mechanics of the image—a broad blue sky encrypting, folding into itself again and again

Passing one another on the street: “no problem”
I feel drunk. The binding element vaporizes
Obviously I am drunk, wading through traffic
All the dogs want me, they veer toward me on leashes
Ownership’s excrement
on the sole of every flexed foot

Eventually they move along. Can’t bear not to. Time blows through the trees, rustling money. Their wrists aching holding nothing—piece of shit wrists, bundle of wet sticks rotting from the center. The car cold and lonely, a small red light blinking inside.

And wasn’t it him who told me my name? Your name is Decidua, mother of the fallen, he said, exhaling a fat bong rip. I was called otherwise; door to my left burning bright (first song I ever heard)

First I was made out of clay
Then fired into brick
Depended upon
To shatter glass

Heat is precision. Movement. A hand rubbing the back in circles until something dispenses.





What is the most effective medium
for your life?

Written into the world: you have dreamt
of injury; you will search
for the face
that injures you cleanly                         and without compromise.

The forensic artist who draws her brother in every composite sketch
is a practitioner of algorithm, indivisible from her hand’s stammer.

A sensation of being touched
as the voice speaks to you.





In a project called NO RELATION, another friend takes family portraits of unrelated adults and children. Participants travel to his home; they’re introduced and invited to join each other for a communal meal. After dessert, he asks the group a series of questions: tell me about your family; what does the word “family” mean to you; how do you feel when you spend time with your family; what are your relational titles as a family member (parent, sibling, grandparent, cousin); tell me about a person who isn’t related to you, but who feels like family. Participants answer each question one by one. They’re driven to the shoot location, where he reads them a prompt he wrote in his head on the drive. To avoid listening, the children sing incessantly. To begin speaking, the adults form their mouths then hold their breath. The process of posing participants is—if I’m wondering— collaborative.

“Now that the project is ruined,” he says, snatching his keys midair.





The high-rise balcony offers a generous stage for rotting desire, accelerating one’s experience of the past, present, and future in such painstaking synchronicity that time itself becomes septic. What is the half-life of such a condition? One looks to the street for answers and gets sick, sending down a representative in place of their body, a space taken and to veer from, to walk around.

Sometimes I have to drop

one thing off. A coin, clip

or dish. A tack driven

through a stack of paper, representing a wish for order

undermined automatically

by having hands.

Still, I’m called into daylight

to represent myself with my chosen object.

Pill wearing off, show my stomach

in public. I cry on the train

and a woman holds my hand, rubbing

her thumb over the meaty spot

between my thumb and forefinger.

She gently wakes me

before getting off at her stop. All

in silence. That jar filled, lid

spun tightly. Thinking that I might

feel less worthless if I converted

my thoughts to music. Someone spits seeds

through their railing above me

and I kick a little dirt down

from a broken planter.

Attention paid

where attention was due, that far-

feeling countenance. And nothing



Lily Duffy’s poems have appeared in APARTMENT Poetry, Bone Bouquet, Yalobusha Review, Dusie, TENDE RLOIN, and The Journal Petra, among other venues. A chapbook, Sour Candy, was published in 2018 as part of Really Serious Literature’s Disappearing Chapbook series. Originally from Maryland, Lily currently lives just outside of Denver, where she is an MSW student at Metropolitan State University of Denver and interns at a domestic violence shelter. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Colorado Boulder. With Rachel Levy, she edits DREGINALD.




Sophia Terazawa

Brave and Tiny Scholar

for Brandon and Lisa

Calm becomes the trombone, absolutely night; by nights the arrows go.

Hold my foot. For you, I dream a mountain; call me scorpion or scholar.

Suddenly, a year becomes alright. Smaller gods arrive to kiss your paw
then your brow. Scorpions arrive; melodies arrive.

Babies pull a book off a shelf. Her name is Yumi; call me Panda.

And I go, forty scars, absolutely dry; war around my ears. Smaller
clouds arrive, and I am brave, tiny Panda, scorpion of queens.


The Kiss

Walk with me, anon,
arresting thunder.

Should I leave?

The way a siege—
What blossoms underwater?

Should I wave?

For you, breathy rose of peach—
Sink us down, a throne.

It has to be—Eros.

That your birthday
led to bombing of a city.

Soon, I shower.

Bus on fire—
Both work out of time, locust.

Yesterday, I walked.

Thorn and nettle disappearing—


The Kiss, Again

Upstairs, the bus on fire held a hem of dress,
peaches after peaches. Soon, the water
infinitely red. I was burnt; surface, charged.

Soft as noun, birds anon parted glass
announcing limb by limb, going places.

Just, as now, in mouthing, when a mine
hath detonated, bodies recollect as one,
the shape of one who sees in her, returned.


Across the Willow [Salix Babylonica]

Anon two boats by dusk, rivers peal
     currency of moss.

Bells, vanilla, soft as water. There,
      I touch what’s mine

Fractures speaking, stones forget
      their nature.


Once correcting course, I walk across the bridge.

Returning—     Gibbons branch
     creating sound


     Younger ones          in ways of written

                                     saying             isn’t grief
                                                 splits when diving down.


Earthen shrapnel—          Were the barracks touched
     by vine, kudzu cities gored? How do I write
     on genocide, the after this, anon?


     I want to make a prism, less so, white.
     Swirling, gibbons stuff their mouths.

Canto: peaches dry
monumental crimes.


Anon—     The sun reframes a night—         Sleeping
     parts       are walking—       Bells.

Anon the goat is led.
     You make a field around you slaughter.

Vernacular—     Rebirth—         Syncopating
     upside down—

We had a month to speak


     Anon, removing
to its end—


     Wasn’t I     your grief          passing through
an umbra wheel
                                       in two
     conversations, raised along your ramp?


      I saw the maple
first of all
                  was fir          collecting, therefore

     scraped across her knees.

                                          Were I
          final, daughter            lyric
     passing a hold?

          The ship is passing


Sophia Terazawa is a poet of Vietnamese-Japanese descent. She is the author of two chapbooks: Correspondent Medley (winner of the 2018 Tomaž Šalamun Prize, published with Factory Hollow Press) and I AM NOT A WAR (a winner of the 2015 Essay Press Digital Chapbook Contest). Her poems appear in The Seattle Review, Puerto del Sol, Poor Claudia, and elsewhere. She is currently working toward the MFA in Poetry at the University of Arizona. Her favorite color is purple.




Trust Tonji

The only thing I want to kill

is my dying day

but ijọ́ wo ni *Mákùú òní kú?
when will die-not not eventually die

I devour my decision to dilapidate
into the pocket of the earth

you call me village boy because
I’m used to swimming in rivers

if I dive into this white man’s pool
who knows if I might become
soluble in water

before I meet my crush
I do not want to have dissolved
like grandma’s aunt at her 103rd year

they made an obituary
to the demise of a life well-lived
I am in no mood for arguments
let’s just toast to a lie well-told

we are here at the mortuary
where they waste time preserving wastes

boring how interesting we try to make life
even when it keeps kicking our asses

the sarcasm in embalmment
like, we couldn’t save your life
now let’s save your body

before we continue
permit me to write an elegy
to the forgiveness
of the gravedigger who cracked
a joke during the burial of my mother:

even though my soul is a label to
the shadow of the darkness you dig
it could still hear the song of snares
or what is this life if not a joke
on the joker; a master comedian?

by now young cousin wants to know
what the word crush means

I stammer. I say it’s more
like your dream car?
that dream job, a dream happiness?
a beautiful wish, like love,
a rainbow you can only see
not touch

in my mother’s body
the doctor found a euphemism
a dangerous lump worth removing

what you do not know will
never fall as tears off your eyes

I crush.
on her death bed. I god.
I promise her things that are
not mine

like, say, don’t worry
everything’s gonna be fine


*Mákùú: means Die-not. It is one of the names given in the Yoruba culture, to children perceived to be Abiku (children predestined to die young), in order to pacify them to dissuasion.


The inviting architecture of grief

bearded as you are
you don’t know beans about
how to be a man

all you know is to cry like whatever
you can think of

because the doctor is a businessman
the matron is not your mate
& you’re helpless & you are not rich
& your mother is dying
& the government is nobody’s pallbearer

now every time you want to
see your mother, you see a tomb
but you still do not understand

until 4 years later
when the wounds came fresh. First,
slow, like a concubine sneaking
into an inner chamber,
then hard, like the hammerings of a blacksmith

when gloom is a garb around your heart
& grief is an unlit room
with opened arms, saying:
come, my son, come to daddy


Trust Tonji is the winner of the 2018 edition of the MLK slam competition, organized by the US Embassy in Republic of Benin. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Rattle, Agbowó, Voicemail Poems, Ethel Zine, The Friday Influence, Eunoia Review, Prachya Review, Synchronized Chaos, Kalahari Review, African Writer, Praxis Magazine, and elsewhere. Send him a tweet @TrustTonji.




beyza ozer

It’s Ongoingness

I write my eulogy on the ceiling of my bedroom so I never have the impulse to look up. Cremation is forbidden but where else would I go? No darkness from the ground will put me to rest. Allah lütfen let me lift this body to the moon. The skyscrapers poke holes into the night & before I close my eyes. Before it’s time to leave I sit up under the covers & remember that no one wants me today. I turn the sun off; she leaves without trying to convince me otherwise. Allah, how do I grow now?


I Think This Is The Last Love Poem

When Arabella laughs it feels like
allah’s prayer in my heart

I look at her in light that
took many years to get here

& maybe that fixes all the bad
all the things that keep us awake at night

or maybe it reminds me of the future
which always keeps me awake at night

I hope I am making sense but look,
maybe this isn’t actually the last love poem

Maybe this is just the first & all the rest
were letters I was too scared to call letters

& now is the right time to tell her
about when I dreamed we were superheroes

except we called each other superhomos
& she had a purple cape that matched her suit

We made the world safer for queers
& punched transphobes in the throat

& Arabella, what I’m trying to say is
would you like to try to stop hating the world with me?


beyza ozer is a queer/trans/Muslim person living in Chicago. beyza’s work has appeared in and is forthcoming from Poetry, The Offing, the anthologies Subject To Change: Trans Poetry & Conversation (Sibling Rivalry Press 2017), Halal If You Hear Me (Haymarket 2019), and others. beyza is the author of FAIL BETTER (fog machine press 2017). They are a recipient of the Windy City Times 30 Under 30 Award. beyza is manuscript editor of Critical Inquiry published by University of Chicago Press.