Suzanne Manizza Roszak

Migration in Four Acts


They say that through a storm’s arrival a true woman will wear her butterflies. 

Leaves turn themselves over, socks and underwear still on the line. The fabrics discolored, bleached, discolored again.

At some point you’ve been out in the wind. Do not return to the stove; inside is where the wildness is.

Oh ———, stranger, do not accidentally set yourself ablaze. Remember, it is someone’s sixth birthday. The mineral solvents have as low a flashpoint as charcoal starter fluid.

What has all this traveling come to? It is the year when they eat from the dog’s bowl.



So I didn’t love that country my family’s families put on like a bad hand-me-down, their small bodies always swimming. 

I didn’t love it then on the blacktop alone, then under the stark watch of a flagpole, then when they slaughtered my name on the intercom,

then when the right man won the presidency—for who were we kidding; it was always a man—

and when streets and schools and shopping malls erupted anyway with bodies, bodies laid low by shiny white trigger fingers, 

and the summer was ever-hotter and

                             none of us 

                                           could find a 

                                                         way home. 



The counting of all the goods, materials, etc. kept in a place.

Dried black beans. / Dried pinto beans. / Dried kidney beans. // Whole spelt flour. / White spelt flour. / Almond flour. // Honey. / Maple syrup. / Sucanat (since 1978). 

Sheep’s cheese. / Goat milk. / Ghee. // Egg. / Chicken breast. / Chicken skin.  

Nuts. / Teas. // Flat, dried fruits.

Cups for drinking. / Cups for measuring. / Spoons named for gathering spaces. // Blood-red towels (December again). / Branches sawed from trees. / Inedible berries. 

Knife block. / Mallet. / Mortar, pestle. // Plastic lighter. / Match-box. / Candlewax. 

Knobs. / Burners. // Bright blue flame.



I am an animal in a web, a system. Naples opens like an oyster², though I am not there. Apples grow, more-than-human, from horizontal branches: not needing an interpreter.

                             All bodies burn, 

                                           their exploded substance

                                                            burst painfully into meanings.

The butterflies that matter are not the ones on the housedress.

¹ Gibson, James William. A Reenchanted World: The Quest for a New Kinship with Nature. Holt, 2009.
² Iovino, Serenella. “Bodies of Naples: Stories, Matter, and the Landscapes of Porosity.” Material Ecocriticism, edited by Serenella Iovino and Serpil Oppermann, Indiana UP, 2014.


Suzanne Manizza Roszak’s creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in Bellingham Review, Burnside Review, Colorado Review, The Journal, New Letters, ROOM, and Verse Daily. Suzanne did her MFA at UC Irvine; today she is an assistant professor of English at the University of Groningen in the north of the Netherlands and an editorial assistant for Seneca Review.




P. L. Watts


Alt 1) We are never taken away from our birth parents:

But we are poor, and our birth mother is bipolar. After an ever-escalating set of violent episodes ends in the emergency room, our birth father has our mother institutionalized to protect us. But he himself escapes into drugs. Our little brother, Eddie, is autistic. With both parents incapacitated, he is left without a caretaker. I drop out of school at sixteen to take care of them all. Cricket runs off a year later and gets pregnant. The baby is taken away, and Cricket dies strung out under a bridge.

I never stop believing the world is flat.

Alt 2) Mommy takes me and Cricket away from our birth parents, her son and daughter-in-law, but her real daughters, our aunts, never die:

I am an angry child, but I am put into therapy where I learn how to process my anger in a healthy way. At the suggestion of the therapist, Mommy takes me for regular one-on-one adventures down by the beach until I feel safe. We walk along the shore, our toes burrowing into the soft white sand, ice cream dripping down our arms, collecting the colorful little butterfly coquina shells. She teaches me how to tell the difference between grey stingrays and harmless brown water skates so I don’t have to discover by stepping on one. She throws me elaborate Jimmy Buffet-themed birthday parties. I feel loved. 

She still divorces Papi, but her daughter Titi Lauri comes to live with us and she spends special time with me, as well. She teaches me how to tap holes in coconuts to drink the milk while preserving the meat and how to press hibiscus flowers between the pages of my diary. When her son, Baby J, is born, we all live together, and he is like a little brother. He never becomes a drug dealer, and he never gets violent or mean. And nobody ever touches me down there. And I never go hungry or have to hide.

I am not bullied at school in this timeline, either. In fact, I am popular. I’m even a mean girl. I graduate top of my class. I go to Duke and become an art critic. I get married and have a family. Cricket gets married and has a family. Baby J is a bachelor for many years, but even he, eventually, gets married and has a family. We all go up to the family reunions in Mayberry each year. We are not the nicest people on the planet, but we are, for the most part, quite blessedly boring.

Alt 3) Mommy takes us, her daughters die, but she doesn’t leave Papi:

She emotionally abandons both me and Cricket and clings to him for emotional support. They are both alcoholics, and Cricket and I are both left to run feral. We make mischief in the neighborhood—throwing golf balls through windows, smashing kumquats and grapefruits on neighbors’ cars. By eleven, we’re stealing beer and cigarettes from the Seven Eleven and getting caught with them in the school bathroom. I get suspended for fighting some bitch at the bus stop who taunted Cricket about dirty clothes and hair. 

I break the bitch’s nose. 

I am sent off to boot camp at fourteen. The authorities decide I am a bad influence on Cricket, so I am put in a group home where I learn to light girls’ hair on fire when they cross me. It’s a wake-up call for Mommy who gets clean long enough to help Cricket finish high school, go off to college. Everyone shakes their head about how I ended up (in jail for robbing a liquor store at twenty which morphs into drug charges, theft charges, violent and disorderly conduct. I never really get out.) But they all agree there was nothing to be done. 

Some seeds are just bad.

Alt 4) Mommy takes us, her daughters die, she leaves Papi, but that middle school science teacher who noticed I never smile realizes it might be because something’s wrong at home, so she files a report with social services:

I am still abused by “Uncle Bob.” Mommy still loves Cricket, not me. I am still left to run feral through the rough sawgrass. I still find ways to let Papi back in, to hero-worship him because I need someone to love. He still teaches me to drink and shoot cans off old stumps at the dump. And I still let him touch me, and I still crave that closeness. But the authorities see his DUIs and Mommy’s depression and Bob’s abuse. A medical exam confirms I am malnourished. I am taken away to live with a non-kinship foster family. Cricket, who’s not found to be in the same danger, is allowed to stay. I never find out how they end up, because I never see them again. 

My new foster family is OK. They live in a gated community and have a kid of their own, so I never feel like more than a rescue dog. But I’m put in therapy and a caseworker actually meets with me weekly. I also have special “classes” at school to work on my anger and social skills. I graduate from high school but don’t go to college. I end up working as a grocery clerk for many years, but I always keep writing a little on the side. I start writing letters to the editor, and eventually he tells me I have some promise. I become a local reporter in my forties. I get married a little late. We never have kids (or much of a sex life), but he’s kind. 

It’s not a bad life.

Alt 5) Mommy takes us, her daughters die, she leaves Papi, Baby J comes to live with us, but my high school choir teacher knows something is wrong, and she won’t shut up until somebody listens:

All the bad shit happens—the abuse, the neglect, the rape, the violence—but I am legally emancipated at sixteen. I go live with my choir teacher and her partner. I help them with their musical theater company. We ride all over town setting up equipment, rehearsing, singing songs from Victor, Victoria. I learn about the Indigo Girls way earlier, and I’m obsessed. I am half in love with them both. They put me in therapy and help me sue Florida Child Protective Services for negligence. I am wealthy by eighteen. 

When I graduate high school, I go to Sarah Lawrence and study musical theater. I become a high school choir teacher and playwright. I work my shit out and meet a beautiful woman with black, black hair, like the song. We’re married beneath a blooming poinciana tree, its top, the color of blood and love. We adopt a toddler out of the system and love her to pieces. (She’ll seek therapy of her own for this smothering in her late twenties.) When I am thirty, I write a play called Feral about my life. It’s optioned and made into a movie. 

I buy a fucking yacht.

Cricket and Mommy and Papi and Baby J all end up just as they ended up, but I don’t blame myself for it in this timeline. I know what happened to me was fucked up. 

I never learn forgiveness. 

Alt 6) Everything happens just as it happened except they don’t all die when I leave:

I never stop hearing their voices in my head. I never stop believing everything that happened was my fault. That I was evil. That I was unlovable. I run as far as I can, as fast as I can. I cut all ties. But I never really stop hearing them.

This is the only timeline that might end by my own hand.

Alt 7) It all happens. Nobody intervenes:

At eighteen, I run away to a tiny school in the New Mexico high desert where I can read the Classics with just the coyotes and Chihuahuan ravens to keep me company. Within four years, Mommy, Papi, and Baby J are dead. Cricket and I are estranged. For twenty years, I run from state to state, job to job, college to college, bad relationship to bad relationship; anything to keep from drowning. When I run out of energy for running and places to hide, I finally realize God was waiting all along.

I am baptized and join a church where I learn about community, intimacy. Mommy and Papi and Baby J’s ghosts haunt me for years, but I finally see their pain and the truly impersonal nature of their crimes. An elderly woman from my church is a medium. When I go to tea at her house, she invites them in over the cross-stitching, and I forgive them. Mommy asks what she should do now; we tell her to go towards the light. I spend years in and out of therapy, but I doubt I ever really get it all worked out. Just as I doubt that I ever get married or score a movie deal. But I do start to write. Somebody reads one of my essays and understands a piece of her own life, like I did when reading The Language of Flowers. I eventually learn all the names of my mailman’s children and share coffee over my camp stove with the homeless woman at the end of the street.

I die without family but surrounded by love.


P. L. Watts escaped the Florida foster care system and worked her way through college and graduate school. She earned an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a Lambda Literary Fellowship for Emerging LGBTQ Writers. Her personal essays have appeared in Ruminate, New Letters, The Florida Review, Nightmare Magazine, and elsewhere. Her queer, gothic novella THE BONNY SWANS was released from Cemetery Gates Media in January 2023 as part of Mother Horror’s My Dark Library series. Find her work online at




Maria Elena Gigante

One Big Nuclear Family

Nuclear fuel containers are known to crack. If not properly contained, nuclear fuel may seep out into its natural surroundings and have disastrous effects (e.g., cancer, blood disease, bone decay). Once nuclear fuel has aged sufficiently, it may be transferred to dry cask storage.

hey spent nuclear fuel container 
how thick are you?                          

People who like to call themselves “God-fearing” typically advertise belonging to two nuclear families in one lifetime: the one in which they were raised, and the one which they create with an opposite-sex spouse and two point five well-behaved children. As the Bible saith, Nuclear begets Nuclear, and so on, ad infinitum. Unless waste overtakes the planet, and the ARKK disintegrates, and we are all* swimming with the flora and fauna in human-made power-sludge, until we deteriorate in a glowing halo of our ingenuity. 

*The oligarchs chosen few will inevitably board tiny, penis-shaped rocket ships and embark for gravity-less pastures to jizz themselves into.

Nuclear is derived from the Latin word for “nut.” Likewise, to go nuclear means to go nuts. The Ides of March are come.

are you old enough to                  
experience dry cask storage?    

If absorbed into the atmosphere, nuclear fuel can rain its toxicity down upon faraway lands and upend ecosystems. Thus, nuclear fuel can create largescale panic and send people fleeing for their lives. Yet, many nations continue to depend on nuclear fuel, despite its dangers.

are you cracking at the seams?

As the sooths of Social Media saith, we are all, sometimes, in one way or another, toxic. Are you in a toxic relationship? Is your ex toxic? How to know if you’re the toxic one. We are all, sometimes, they profess, like plutonium and uranium derivatives straining to break free from our concrete and steel containers.

swipe right                                   
it was meant to be                      


Maria Elena Gigante (she/her) is a queer, nonbinary writer who teaches at Western Michigan University. Her previous publications are in rhetoric and composition, and she recently began writing micro memoirs and flash essays. Her first creative piece can be found in the Journal of Compressed Creative Arts.




Suzanne Richardson


Patient may have permanent heart damage post-surgery. It’s too soon to tell. Patient should closely monitor heart activity when exercising, walking, & sitting. Regular appointments with doctors should be kept.

Q: What is not punishment but feels like it?

A: Knowing someone else is kissing the person you want.

My heart is better broken
                                                            all the doors open

My heart is better melted
                                                            drip drip rain pelted

My heart is better blocked
                                                            inside a wooden box

Patient’s heart reached 180 bpm while she was at a poetry reading.
Patient’s heart reached 182 bpm while she was thinking about him.
Patient’s heart reached 194 bpm in her sleep. She was dreaming about sex.
Patient’s heart reached 192 bpm when she opened her dresser & found her mother had rearranged all her lingerie while she was in the hospital, folded it neatly, & put it in the bottom drawer, including the corset, the straps.
Patient’s heart reached 210 bpm while sitting on the couch thinking about sex with him.
Recommendation: patient needs to stop thinking about him & what her mother thinks.

Q: What brings people towards you?
A: Fantasy.

We collaborated on sourness. The mystery of the lemon. The passion of the lemon. The brutality of the lemon. The sideways glance of a lemon. The pretending of a lemon. The army of a lemon.

We collaborated on moons. Young moon. Bird moon. Done moon. Vicious moon. Hungry moon. Summon moon. Cruel moon. Leather moon. Bring us together moon. Bite moon. Pleasure moon. Treasure moon. Sigh moon. Tide moon. Patient moon.

We collaborated on thirst. We drank the desert to be together. We were one-armed saints praying.

Diary entry May 5th 2020: I can’t wait to touch a person again. I can’t wait to touch him.
Diary entry December 29th  2020: he’s the only person I’ve touched for a year.

Q: What pushes people away from you?
A: Reality.

Reality: patient has depression + low self-esteem + CPTSD from adulthood formed in chaotic romantic relationships with partners with substance abuse + domestic violence+++++++++
Reality:  he prefers his women less traumatized, & 10 years younger than me.
Reality: no heart restoration is available. Learning to live with changes.

Patient’s heart reached 165 bpm walking.
Patient’s heart reached 180 bpm while crying.
Recommendation: more walking, less crying.

Q: What feels like a leash but isn’t?
A: Attraction.

The tourist attraction of my body. I now keep it closed to visitors.
He was the last person to enjoy my unscarred body. He has the only photos of my unscarred body. Part of me worries he deleted them. They’re the only record of me before all the pain. I need that version of me to exist somewhere. I want to ask him to keep them, keep them for my sake, but we’re not even speaking. How can I ask him to hold a version of me that is already gone? A version I couldn’t even keep?

Q: What feels like a collar but isn’t?
A: When his energy lingers.

August 2022
to: suzanne @……………

Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii  silence. I am just bad iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiline. My own feelings are easy biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii. I fear iiiiiiiiii the wrong tiiiiiiiiiiii not enough of the right eiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii Silence is iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii  intending silence. Iooooon meaning t…………………………………..

I do think about you a lot I miss ooooooooooooo I miss oiiiiiiiiiiiiii  with you. I miss tiiii………how ………………………  secrets like how I………………………….e  flying n ………………………………….h is validating.

I…………….  write more bu…………………… I  should g…………………  Maybe we could t………………………..  I miss you.

My heart is better wicked
                                                                perfectly restricted 
My heart is better ridden
                                                                like a wild horse in submission
My heart is better wishing
                                                                searching, static, transmitting  

Patient’s heart reached 176 bpm while laughing with her friends.
Patient’s heart reached 177 bpm while riding her bike.
Patient’s heart reached 186 bpm while watching her friends get married. 
Recommendation: normal-ish. 

My heart is better stone
                                                                 found in the ground like bones

My heart is better anchored
                                                                 like a shoreline it grows fainter

Ekphrasis Watching Youtube Video of Woman Cutting off Her Submissive Binding Collar:

                 the subject                              slices                            the master                    
                 the obedient                           lacerates                     the king                                   
                 the meek                                 subverts                      the chief                             
                 the leatherette                       squeezes                     the dominant
                 the passive                              jeopardizes                 the upper hand
                 the limited                              ravages                        the rules
                 & yet, she cannot stop crying while she’s cutting.

My heart is better loved
                                                                  wide open turtle dove


Suzanne Richardson earned her MFA at the University of New Mexico. She is a writer living in Binghamton, New York, and a Ph.D. student in creative writing at SUNY Binghamton. Her writing has appeared in Bomb Magazine, Gulf Coast, Poet Lore, Florida Review, DIALOGIST, Columbia Journal and New Ohio Review, among others. Find more of her writing at Catch her on Twitter as @oozannesay.




Birch Rosen

Blue Hair and Deadname

I’ve told the receptionist my full name and date of birth, so I know there’s a problem when she pauses, then asks what time my appointment is for. I tell her.

“Has anything changed?” she asks.

“No,” I say. I’m not sure when I last came to this clinic, so it’s not a lie, exactly, but I doubt it’s true. Some recent changes, depending on how you define recent, are: I’ve gotten married, I’ve changed my legal name and gender, and I’ve had a hysterectomy and phalloplasty. Why did I tell her no? I know why, though: there’s a woman at the next window over who’s checking in multiple children for appointments. I don’t want to out myself to her, and besides, my receptionist has already been sighing and asking me to repeat myself due to the noise of the adjacent check-in.

“Actually, I’m gonna need to see your ID, too.” Relief. My driver’s license is up to date. She can see my name and fix anything outdated in the system without me needing to say it out loud.

In the hallway to the waiting room, I shoot my wife a quick text: the worst is over

In the waiting room, there’s a slender, lightly muscled person with short, brown and blue hair, whom I register as likely kin, sitting along one long wall, and some guy sitting along the other. I take a seat in the middle.

After a few minutes, a medical assistant emerges for me.


Oh fuck. Fuck! I can’t answer to that. I won’t.

In the more-than-a-year since I legally changed my name, I’ve never been publicly deadnamed. I look up at the MA reflexively, the horror on my face probably telegraphing that I have some connection to this name, even though I won’t acknowledge it as my own. To correct her, though, would be to announce to the other patients in the room that I’m trans, not to mention granting them the intimate knowledge of who I was before I transitioned. I can’t. I won’t.

She calls it out again. This time I pointedly ignore her. I ignore everything, especially the man sitting somewhere across from me. I let the MA walk back into the clinic without a patient.

I sigh deeply and immediately regret it. Great, more evidence for the other patients that whatever just happened, it was about me. Trying to keep my affect perfectly even now, I text my wife that they deadnamed me. What do I do? I don’t need this appointment. I’d be fine with walking out, but I have to let some time pass, or I’ll make myself even more conspicuous to the other people here. I’ll walk out, but I’ll give it maybe 15 minutes first.

The MA is back.

“Kevin?” Across from me, Kevin rises and follows her back without issue or complaint. Kevin. How nice for Kevin.

The MA is back for me before long.

“Last name R——?”

I have to acknowledge this, I think. I rise reluctantly and come to stand near her in the hall, not passing through the door yet.

“And what was the first name?” she asks.

“Birch,” I say, trying not to let the humiliation or frustration show; it’s not her fault the paperwork she’s looking at has the wrong name.

But it’s someone’s fault. My doctor’s referral would have been for my legal name, my correct name, my real name, and the receptionist should’ve seen my name on both my driver’s license and my insurance card. Maybe this is the receptionist’s fault.

“How do you pronounce that?” the MA asks. It’s a reasonable question for my deadname, but not for the one I just told her.

“Birch,” I repeat. My deadname is multisyllabic and sounds nothing like Birch.

“And date of birth?”

I answer, although my legal last name, the only one anyone in the medical system has ever heard, is a lot more distinctive than Rosen. This isn’t a case of two people who just happen to share a last name, and I think we both know it, but neither of us break from the charade.

“Okay, it just has a totally different name here,” she says. “Let me just go back real quick.”

I return to my seat, keeping my body language as neutral as possible while directing my gaze down and straight in front of me. I’m keenly aware there’s still someone else in here waiting, who’s overheard all of this, who knows I’m M——. I know they can see me, so the best I can do is not see them.

“Doctor’s offices, huh?” a voice from behind me says.

I don’t have casual conversations with strangers. I crave the ease of connection with the cashier, the barber, the person in front of me in line, but it’s rarely my experience. Most small talk I could make (what I do for work; what I’ve been up to, today or ever) is only one or two questions removed from my transness. It’s not that the topic is off limits, just that I’m selective about who I allow to engage with me about it.

But I turn around in my chair, remembering for the first time the specifics I observed about the only other person left in the room with me. Blue Hair here has instantly become my new best friend, a witness who actually understands. With Kevin gone, this waiting room is a two-person trans space.

We’re both masked, so I put as much expression as possible into my answering eyebrow raise and eye roll. I hope my smirk comes through. I sigh loudly, on purpose this time.

“‘How do you pronounce that?’” I quote back, bringing a hand to my forehead and allowing my previously stifled exasperation to overtake my face.

“Not like that!” Blue Hair answers, roleplaying as me. Bless you bless you bless you. “That’s the worst way to pronounce it!”

Their levity restores me to myself. I don’t thank them out loud, the words in my heart feeling both too much and not enough, but I hope they can see what they’ve done for me.

The MA returns, this time asking for Birch. I give Blue Hair a masked smile and a little wave, which they return, on my way out of the waiting room.

The appointment, despite the pain it’s already caused me, is as quick as I’d imagined—over within five minutes—and as pointless, yielding a benign diagnosis I don’t care about and a follow-up care plan of never coming back here.

I look for Blue Hair on my way out, but they’re gone.

I wish I’d asked their name.


Birch Rosen ( is a trans nonbinary writer living in the Seattle area on the unceded land of Coast Salish peoples. Their work has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Bellevue Literary Review, and From the Waist Down: The Body in Healthcare (Papeachu Press). They are the 2022 winner of the King County Library System poetry contest and the author of the zines Boobless, T&A (Transitioning & Attractiveness), and the Trans Restroom Rants series. Find them @birchwrites.