Categories
2020 Under Pressure

Under Pressure: Anthony Cody

Borderland Apocrypha, Anthony Cody

Anthony Cody is the author of Borderland Apocrypha (Omnidawn, April 2020), winner of the 2018 Omnidawn Open Book Contest selected by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge. He is a CantoMundo fellow from Fresno, California with lineage in both the Bracero Program and the Dust Bowl. His poetry has appeared in Gulf Coast, Ninth Letter, Prairie Schooner, TriQuarterly, The Boiler, ctrl+v journal, among other journals. Anthony is a member of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle where he co-edited How Do I Begin?: A Hmong American Literary Anthology (Heyday, August 2011). In 2018, he received the Galway Kinnell Scholarship to attend the Community of Writers, and nominations for a Best of the Net and a Best New Poets 2018 via The Boiler. He is a 2020 Desert Nights, Rising Stars Fellow at Arizona State University. Most recently, Anthony won the inaugural 2020 CantoMundo Guzmán Mendoza / Paredez Fellowship for his work-in-progress poetry manuscript, The Rendering, selected by Aracelis Girmay. A recent MFA-Creative Writing graduate at Fresno State, he serves as a fellow in the Laureate Lab Visual Wordist Studio created by Juan Felipe Herrera, communications manager for CantoMundo, as well as an associate poetry editor for Noemi Press.

Interview

Sebastián Hasani Páramo: How long did Borderland Apocrypha from conception to publication?

Anthony Cody: The more I reflect upon the origins of Borderland Apocrypha, the less certain of a single, specific origin of where the book first started. The first poem I wrote that would fit within the framework of the book was an ekphrastic poem after seeing Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Riding with Death” in 2013. Titled, “Juan Doe Rides with Death”, the poem never made it into the final manuscript, as perhaps it was attempting to do too much within the scope of the manuscript. In many ways, it was retracing disembodied histories and re-examining the self in the unnamed and unclaimed bodies crossing the border. This could be one origin. Another origin would be the archival research work on the lynchings in the southwest following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, which began for me at the beginning of 2015, and steadily increased through the summer of 2018. The other beginning would be the experimental style within the collection, this began in December of 2016, when I began using a comic strip writing pad that was 5” long by 17” wide. This new, wider form opened possibilities for what these poems wanted to be, and helped reset my vision to see a new shape that would manifest into a book.

SHP: How do you feel about deadlines? Are they a good or bad pressure for you?

AC: Deadlines help me focus. My brain is often a very jumbled and over-extended space that makes things very murky and abstract. Without a deadline, days turn into weeks, and weeks to seasons. Now, with the shelter-in-place order, this can happen to me at an exponential rate. I am exceedingly aware of this time issue, so I often have an email to-do list plug-in, as well as a stickie note app opened to help me stay organized and not lose sight of the work and deadlines. 

By nature, I am relatively laid back, so the increased pressure of the deadline helps me find a balance.

SHP: Who are you crushing on arts-wise?

AC: For the last few months, I have been doing deep dives with the writing, hybridity, and public performances of Guillermo Gómez-Peña, the mixed media art around climate and topographies of Vero Glezqui, as well as the Dust Bowl photographs of Dorothea Lange.

However, with the recent passing of my dear friend, Pos Moua, I have been revisiting his work. A person of firsts in Hmong poetry in America, I have been revisiting his chapbook “Where the Torches are Burning”, the first Hmong American poetry publication in America by a poet in 2001, as well as his debut collection “Karst Mountains Will Bloom”, published in early 2019. In his pages, I once again hear his tender lyricism and deep mystic inquiry of nature and the self. The wisdom and deep knowing in his writing and his musings allows me to remember to look deep into the beyond of a “burbling brook” to not only see yourself, but every ancestor that came before you. Read Pos Moua’s work. Remember Pos Moua’s name.

SHP: Besides writing, what other daily rituals do you participate in or feel are important to your writing?

AC: I am in the process of shifting many of the daily rituals that I have grown accustomed to over the last several years while serving as a fellow in the Laureate Lab Visual Wordist Studio at Fresno State. The studio space allowed me to explore and make in a variety of mediums, and more importantly, collaborate with others to make art and lead generative, creative workshops. These three elements help me continue to ask more from myself, and my writing.

SHP: What is a favorite piece of advice from a mentor of yours? How did it help you with your writing?

AC: I have been blessed to work closely with Juan Felipe Herrera in the Laureate Lab Visual Wordist Studio at Fresno State over the last four years. In 2016, he provided two very distinct pieces of advice that were so profound to my own path at the time. I recall them both very clearly, and both times, I walked up to the whiteboard in our studio and wrote them down.

The first, “Abandon the left margin in your poems.” The second, “write beyond the publisher.” In both instances, he was clear to note the risk in making and being left in obscurity. Yet, for the first time in my life, I felt that I should make poems that spoke to my own internal wildness that I do not outwardly express. In tandem, the advice served as a foundation on which I carried forward in Borderland Apocrypha, and all subsequent writing.

SHP: Do you keep a journal, or do you prefer to write on anything you can find?

AC: Definitely anything I can find. This is definitely related to my use of a 5” x 17” comic strip pad to draft poems and the new paths found using that form for my collection. I would say that I am continually using different mediums to write on. Looking at my small pile of things in my bag at the moment this includes: envelopes, card catalog cards, a recycled envelope, several pieces of newspaper which I have taped together to form a larger piece of paper, and a small phonebook that was delivered on my door last year.

SHP: When it comes to writing/editing, would you consider yourself an editor or more of a curator?

AC: Both titles scare me. I would say I consider myself a spacemaker. When I am writing a poem, I try and stay out of the way. In the editing process, I find myself asking the question, how can I make space in this poem to get it to where it wants to exist in the world. I would extend this thinking to my work as an assistant editor for Noemi Press, where I often ask myself, how can I help this collection find a space to exist where it can be most true to the spirit of its making?

SHP: When and how does inspiration find you? For example, do you go outside to find it in nature, or does it suddenly come to you in the middle of the night?

AC: I find inspiration in sifting through noise. The sifting is a focusing. I feel most inspired when I have some combination of ten internet browser tabs open, sketching on a piece of paper, music playing, am reading a book or two, drinking coffee, and revising a single line or poems in my head. The accumulation of the noise often results in my most productive time happening toward the late hours of the night and I have had the chance to steadily quiet some of the noise and dive more deeply into the project I have been indirectly working on throughout the day. I am cognizant of the over-stimuli the older I get, and have been attempting to find ways to work in the quiet and discern enabling my own bad habits versus seeking inspiration. 

Today, I sat for 10 minutes with the window opened, and listened. I was not hoping for inspiration, but simply seeking an awareness of the moving.

I think this is still a work in progress.

SHP: If given the choice to spend 24 hours in a museum creating something, what medium would you prefer?

AC: I really love this question. The intriguing part is that just prior to the shelter-in-place orders in California, I was in the process of developing an art installation for my current work-in-progress, “The Rendering”, which examines the Dust Bowl and Climate Collapse. Which is all to say, the idea concept has been on my mind.

Ultimately, I would choose sound art to create and give life to the space. More than this, I would want the exhibit to be interactive for visitors, of all ages, to be able to participate, add to, and make it their own. Some of the most meaningful work and experiences I have had in my life have been when given a chance to create alongside artists and other community members, and providing that experience to others would be one of the primary focuses in a 24 hour pop-up museum show.

SHP: If you could describe Borderland Apocrypha in three words, what would they be?

AC: Restorative. Manual. Memory.

Order Borderland Apocrypha here!

Categories
2020 Poetry

Megan Neville


Megan Neville is a writer and educator based in Cleveland, Ohio. She is the author of the poetry chapbook Rust Belt Love Song (Game Over Books, 2019), and her work has been published by or is forthcoming in The Academy of American Poets (Poets.org), Cherry Tree, Cream City Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Longleaf Review, Lunch Ticket, Jelly Bucket, and elsewhere. She is a poetry reader for Split Lip Magazine, and was a finalist in Write Bloody’s 2019 book contest. Find her on Twitter @MegNev.

Categories
2020

THIRTY TWO

Build, Destroy, Repeat by Eliana Miranda

ART

ART

My work explores a universal analysis of human migration. When investigating the displacement of people, I look at the environmental and socio/political impact. I research the imagery that appears in American media and the negative influence that can derive from it. When addressing these issues, often these images contain an inherent bias such as dehumanizing immigrants and reinforcing stereotypes. 

As a way to highlight these negative undertones, the process of drawing and painting become key. In my work I use vivid colors as mechanisms for examining cause/effect and to underscore the complexity of these topics. 

Eliana Miranda is a native Texan who lives and makes paintings in Dallas. In 2010, she completed her BA from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. Miranda’s BA thesis exhibition awarded her the J. Barney Moore Prize and the Emily and Alfred Bohn Prize in Studio Art. She obtained her MA in 2012 and an MFA in 2015 from the University of Dallas. Currently she is a resident at the Goldmark Cultural Center where she is an artist and a curator for the John H. Milde Gallery and the Norman Brown Gallery. 

Categories
2020 Poetry

Dorothy Chan

TRIPLE SONNET AND THREE CHEERS OF WHITE RUSSIANS

The couple at the bar wants to adopt me, even though I’m twenty-four, and I’ve just
ordered a White Russian, and my date’s
waiting for me with his pitcher of beer,
and what was I thinking, ordering a drink
with cream in it, but at least it’s not milk,
when the wife asks me to recite a poem—
“Just a line,” she says. “I want to hear
your voice more,” as she calls her husband
to come over, and I forget about my date,
wondering if these people are looking to make
their celebrity fantasy come true, quenching
their desires for an Asian baby, only I’m not
a baby anymore, despite what some men

try to call me, and I can’t be a baby, because
I behave myself way too much, and I wonder if
the three of us are actually starring in a play
of three acts: in Act I, my character meets them
at a bar, and the wife character says she wants
to adopt me, but the audience knows, and I know
what this woman and her husband really want
isn’t an adoption, but a three-way encounter, and
hello, that’s the beauty of theater: the truth always
comes out. And question: is it considered Oedipal
or Elektra if you bang someone who is playing
your parent? I’m asking for a friend, really, since
I can’t say I’d do it, because I’m not anyone’s
fetish, and look, I get it. I hate clothes, and I might

as well be wearing a bib with my crop top and
mini skirt, and I love the video of the drag queen
getting a bib in the mail, saying she’ll bedazzle it,
rhinestoning it all over, and that would solve
at least two of my problems, and I’m drinking
a cocktail with cream in it, but at least it’s not
milk, sitting atop a pool table, spreading my legs
just a little, but not too much, reminding me of
time the Russian architect offered to buy me bulk
candy if I watched a German film with him, and
no boy, no, don’t you dare try to buy me, and deep
down, I’m really such a good girl, and in this three-
act play, I end up leaving the couple at the bar, alone
with their fantasies, return to my date—chug his beer.


TRIPLE SONNET FOR CHARGING ADMISSION

Rita says I need to charge admission,
because my dress keeps riding up during
a performance, and that’s what I call art.
That’s what I call power. That’s what I call
walking into the room in the nude, and Alexa,
play something that takes me to the pink section
of the nail salon, also known as Yena’s favorites,
also known as the pink pussy section—orgasm
on the cheeks in the greatest shade of all time,
and thanks to you and you, and of course, you,
and aren’t fingers the most delicate feature on
a woman, other than the collar bone, and I love it
when celebutantes are asked what their favorite
body part is, and they all point to their collar bone,

like it’s some kind of hot girl secret code,
and brush on some highlighter there, ladies.
I love nuance, like a whiff of coconut milk cream,
also known as not giving it all away. But baby,
if you want to give it all away, I won’t blame you.
I won’t blame you if you want to march into the room,
skirt riding up, feeding ice cream to an audience
member, and save a little for me, why don’t you.
And I love nuance, or how in Art History 200,
we’re taught to study the way artists painted
the hands of their muses, or in the words
of a boyband, Do you want to hold her hand?
Does she come alive out of the canvas?

And I think of Raphael’s La Fornarina:

Margherita Luti holding up that gossamer fabric
over her breasts, and oh, that smirk, and oh,
that look into the camera. My heart pounds
for her, and I think wow, she really knew what
was going on, didn’t she, Raphael’s name on fabric
over her arm, and I heard he was the dreamiest
Renaissance man, marking his paintings with
one look into the audience, because in the words
of today, having a camera around makes life
just a little more worth living, which is a wise
saying by a wise woman. And Rita says I need
to charge admission, because my dress
keeps riding up during a reading, and all
I have to say is buy a ticket. Baby, I own it. I own you.


TRIPLE SONNET FOR LOSING MY VIRGINITY AGAIN

I dream of losing my virginity again
in Singapore when I’m in a deep sleep
on a queen bed with fluffed pillows
and white sheets—Good night, Dorothy.
And sometimes in life, I feel like a virgin,
because my ears aren’t pierced, no tattoos—
aren’t I such a nice girl for you to take home
to Mommy? Let me bake cookies for her,
messing up in pigtails and a frilly apron
in the kitchen, while the intercom yells,
Baking is a science, or some other gibberish
I don’t care for—I’m such a nice, wholesome
girl licking the batter, and cookie dough’s
the best topping for brownies and ice cream,

and I flash you on the countertop, a pink thong
exposing my butt cheeks, straight out of your
pornographic memory, straight out of a home
video—press play, lick my cake, press play,
lick my cake—go ahead and lick whipped cream
off my nipples, off my chest, and I dream
of losing my virginity again in deep sleep
in Singapore, but now I’m transported to
an office, sitting on an office chair, answering
office emails, and an office man opens the door,
and he’s got the same face as a man I knew
from college. I get up, stroke his hair, tell him
to sit down, and I want him to enter me, oh
so badly, and he enters me right then and there

on the office chair, my pink panties tossed
aside, and I moan in pain, I moan in pleasure,
but isn’t that so cliché, reading like romance
novels, or remember in the early 2000s
modeling competitions when girls faced off
with looks serving Harlequin covers—look,
she’s a milkmaid and he’s a farmhand. Look,
she’s a poor girl and he’s from the upper crust,
and back in the office, I moan more, then wake
in Singapore on a white bed with fluffed pillows,
and I feel pain. I feel like I’m bleeding, only
there’s no blood. I think about my double loss
of stupidity and how no pain will ever top
the pain I feel right now as I’m awakened again.


Dorothy Chan is the author of Chinese Girl Strikes Back (Spork Press, forthcoming), Revenge of the Asian Woman (Diode Editions, 2019), Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold (Spork Press, 2018), and the chapbook Chinatown Sonnets (New Delta Review, 2017). She was a 2020 finalist for a Lambda Literary Award in Bisexual Poetry for Revenge of the Asian Woman, a 2019 recipient of the Philip Freund Prize in Creative Writing from Cornell University, and a 2014 finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship. Her work has appeared in POETRYThe American Poetry ReviewAcademy of American Poets, and elsewhere. Chan is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Poetry Editor of Hobart.

Categories
2020 Poetry

Nanya Jhingran

GRIEF

Today my gut is squashed-blackberry rotting on sidewalk. 
I want to say purple or spilled but I keep swallowing Bruise
And perhaps it is indigestion or constipated grief 
But it has valleyed into sour harvest and, besides the hedging,  
I am not doing a damn thing to clean up this rot.
Today I am reaping valor in futuring my own decay. 

I like to believe that I am mothering it, this decay.
That I found it, abandoned, on some dingy sidewalk,
That I didn’t have the heart to leave it laying in the rot, 
That I chose it, it chose me, and I brought it home, this bruise. 
I am swaddling it and feeding it ripe cherries and hedging 
A fence around its heart so it doesn’t fossilize to grief. 

The OED marks obsolete all meanings of the word grief.
Suggesting: for lack of evidence the word is in decay. 
To say that this very morning, as I found myself hedging 
against the bile come up my throat directly onto sidewalk, 
apologizing to strangers for spilling my invisible bruise, 
Grief seemed to be the only way to language this rot?

It is known that radiation turns poisonous when it starts to rot. 
Say when they first drop the bombs: it is grief, 
When your children play in its snowfall: a bruise, 
When you give birth to a grape or an octopus: decay.
I don’t know where to begin cleaning up: soiled sidewalk 
in a body fissuring to waste beside immaculate hedging. 

For this reason, I must begin with the hedge.
It stands so prepared, dressed so well, to witness my rot.
So confidently a part of and apart from this sidewalk. 
Under it, too, lay vines smothered in grief. 
Yet, it sits on its florid, nauseating throne of decay, 
And I stutter apologies around my lacerated bruise. 

I want to say purple or spilled and I keep swallowing bruise
Because I am trying to say it’s in the hedging: 
In it soured the greed and apathy. It is decay 
that they seed the poison, the bombs, the rot
then leave it all outside and abandon grief. 
All you are left with is uninhabitable sidewalk. 

So I am staying with decay and excavating the bruise, 
I am hacking at both sidewalk and hedging, 
And I am calling it rot but I mean: Grief. Grief. Grief. 


LET’S SAY THAT UNKINDNESS, TOO,

Let’s say that unkindness, too, 
can wear the look of care. 
Say one in the hand, is
worth two in the bush.
In these cherry-stained grasslands,
sincerity makes heady promises.
In rage I lemon-ball your eye,
find: an emerald glacier in pre-melt rest.
Say, hospitality looks different house by house,
house by house, I lose my grounding.
In the yellow one, all the tables are too tall;
my elbows a little skinned after dinner.
In the blue one time passes so quickly
I am always at angles with the furniture.
This year, everything lays within measure.
The whole house rolled out foot by foot.
I enter the room, piles of folded clothes
line the floor. Say, this too is 
An unkindness. On an August night, 
with all the loves of my life
stoking a makeshift campfire,
I no longer thirst for gardenias. 
I peel the floorboards, find marigolds
shrining a pilgrimage of ant-hills.
Despite basal tears over tonsured hair, 
I now write of the Hawthorne  
Docks in a baptismal way. Say, unkindness dissolves
  into kindness in the image of Home.
House by house, I dander into couches and
fall to the skin of so many cabinets.


Nanya Jhingran is a poet, scholar & community organizer from Lucknow, India currently living in Seattle, WA. Her work has appeared in Cathexis Northwest Press and is forthcoming in The Crossing and TRACK//FOUR. She holds an MA in Literature from the University of Washington-Seattle where she is now working on her PhD. When not reading books or writing poems, she is found cooking large meals for friends and chasing her cat, Masala, around the house. Twitter: @nanya_biznes

Categories
2020 Essays

Kat Moore

TREES, MONSTERS, WITCHES: FRAGMENTS OF BEING A GIRL

Taylor’s cute and kind. He’s seventeen, I’m sixteen. He’s the valedictorian, I’m the weird girl with the dead brother, dead from AIDS, back when so many gay men were dying. One night, we sneak out and meet each other at a park. We walk through the tall grass next to a golf course. A policeman pulls into the nearby parking lot, and shines his lights across the field. We collapse into the weeds, among the tiny bugs that have been nipping our ankles. We flatten ourselves, our backs in the earth, as the bright white light sweeps over us, barely missing our bodies. The cop eventually drives off. Probably doesn’t want to bother with two kids or the overgrown grass. When we raise up, my hair has dirt in it, tangled flecks of green, and I worry about how I look. How Taylor sees me. The day before, he said that he preferred girls who didn’t wear make-up, and so, on this night, my face is clear, no eyeshadow, no lipstick, no coverup, nothing at all. In the night, under the distant streetlamps, I wonder if he notices. If he thinks I look pretty, if he understands this transformation is for him.

~

Metamorphosis is the action or process of a person (the meta, the self) changing forms, usually by supernatural means. No wonder men think they are little gods.

~

Perhaps, I’m Daphne, daughter of a river god, friend to animals, adoring of the leaves on the trees, and the babbling water of creeks, chaste, like the goddess Diana. It is my body after all. But then there’s Apollo, thick muscles, all brawn and brute, and his gaze lands on me. I feel it, the weight in his look, the intention, the violence, and I run. My legs pump, my calves ache, Apollo, so close to seizing me, his fingers close to grabbing my flesh, and I open my mouth and cry out to my father, the river god, and plead that he change my body, transform me into something other than girl. I stiffen into a tree.

~

My senior year in high school, unpopular, Taylor, the cute boy, now off at college in another town, and it’s common knowledge around my school that my father is a drunk. The jock boys and my history teacher constantly pick on me, call me names, point at me in the hallway, whisper slurs about my brother who died. I fall in love with the riot grrrl movement. In an edgy teen magazine, I read about the riot grrrl band Bikini Kill. The pic is of them on a beach, but they aren’t sun-kissed with blonde hair and perfect bodies. One of the grrrls, Kathleen, has jet black hair with bright red fringe bangs. Tobi has a short red punky bob. Kathi’s blonde but pale and wears her hair short. Kathleen, in a bra and black skirt, tattoos on her arm and stomach, leans against Tobi. I buy all their records from a local shop, and listen to each and every song, and read each and every word in the liner notes. I learn about riot grrrl.

On a fall night, mere months after discovering them, Bikini Kill performs at small punk dive bar in my town. I dance around and sing along. Kathleen, the lead singer, wears a short dress with an image of a beefcake man on it. She’s notorious for her clothing. Sometimes she performs in a sequined top and black panties, and when her midriff shows, the word “slut” appears on her belly in black magic marker. Sometimes she wears her hair in pigtails like a little girl and howls their song, “Suck My Left One.” Their music makes me feel visible, makes me feel heard. Kathleen distorts what it means to be a girl. She has become something other than girl, other than the social construction of what a girl is. A rebellion of semiotics, she alters the symbol, and controls the signification. I stop shaving my legs and armpits, though, I start to wear make up again, black eyeliner, and bright red lipstick. At the same time, I cut off my long brown hair with a pair of dull scissors which mangle any consistent length, and I dye it black as coal. A dissonance between girl and me—a becoming—now, grrrl.

~

Older, in a college level lit class studying Metamorphosis, I realize that most women are changed into animal or tree in order to either escape violence from a man, or as a punishment for being the victim of violence from a man. I google the word morph and my browser suddenly takes me to morphe.com which features a colorful palate of eyeshadows on its home page. How appropriate, another way that women morph. Remember the you tube make-up tutorial, the one showing women how to shade their cheekbones, and the woman cackles, “wait until they find out we can shape-shift” but they, this masculine they, a patriarchal they, have always known. I mean, women have always burned for being witches.

~

At twenty-eight, I pile into Becca’s old Toyota, the small boxy kind from the eighties, the kind that doesn’t dent so easily, or fold in like plastic. Becca’s newly sober, like me. Both of us loud. Both of us lost with longing, unable to yet know what sobriety will transform us into. Both of us so delighted to not be in the twenty-seven club with Jimi, Janis, and Kurt. We are on our way to stalk, something Becca has talked me into. We think one of our friends, Kim, the nurse, the one who loves to dance and stick her tongue out, has snuck off with the guy I’m dating. We drive past Kim’s house first, and it’s dark on top of the little hill where her house, the one she’s renting in an attempt to offer her daughter some stability, quietly sits surrounded by freshly mowed grass. Kim hated mowing the yard, the way it slanted, and she always cursed over and over as she pulled the mower along the incline. Her house is dark and lonely up on that hill in the glow of Becca’s headlights.

Becca and I head to Rod’s apartments. We smoke cigarettes and blast music like we’re teenagers, and not women. We circle the parking lot of his apartments, and don’t see Kim’s car. I feel relieved, and silly, and a little embarrassed. Becca and I laugh at ourselves, and then let the guilt of doubting a friend sink into us. Becca turns onto a side street, and suddenly I see Kim’s black car, the one with the yellow paint on the bumper from where she backed into a pole.

“Stop!” I yell. Becca hits the brakes and stops parallel to Kim’s car. A fire surges through me. I don’t even care about hot Rod. I can’t believe Kim would do this to me. I want to find a brick and smash Kim’s windshield. I want to kick her car doors until they dent. I want to key “traitor” into the paint. I want to unleash curses on her. Sadly, I still want Rod to want me.

Becca asks, “What do you want to do?”

“Go,” I yell, and Becca’s tires screech as we pull out of there.

~

Or could I be Circe, born ugly in a family of beauty, but with a knack for magic spells, and I use my power against Kim as Scylla, causing dogs to bark where her legs once opened. All because of jealousy over a man. The gods banish me to an island, my own paradise over-run with animals, seafaring men who I transform into beasts, into lower creatures. On my island, I hold the top position of the hierarchy. I was forced out of society, yet, men still find their way to me, and one, Odysseus, tames me to his desires. My might no match for him. My sting gone.

~

When I’m twenty-two, a man rapes me. I transform into even more of a drug addict. I dive deeper into addiction, and pulsate with a need to obliterate. I don’t want to be more of an addict, I want to be gone. I feel gone. No longer grrrl, not woman, an absence where there was once meaning. The ultimate abjection of the self from the body. I steal my mother’s credit cards, and I rock shut, like Sylvia, until someone has to pick the bugs off me, so close to death, like all women who can’t be who they are and have to change. Is this our only means of survival? Like a caterpillar to a butterfly but more violent, a gross leaky woman into a junky with bruises on her arm.

~

Now, I’m Medusa, the one the goddess Athena turns into a monster with snakes for hair. My hair hisses and writhes, and my face turns men into stone. A woman turned monster as punishment for being raped. Yet, instead of a snake biting me, or tricking me to eat an apple, I am now the snake. Now, men can’t look at me. If they do, they will turn into stone. What wonderful powers! What if Apollo had been turned to stone? What if the man who raped me had stiffened in this way, limbs turned to rock, unable to move, when he first saw me? But if men can’t look, if men can’t control you, then you become monster.

~

When I’m twenty-five years old, I check myself into a long term rehab facility. When I arrive, I look sick, yellow skin, and dull eyes. After a month, my skin tone blooms back, my eyes bright and alive, healthy. My mother brings me new clothes to wear. Tops and jeans that fit me and aren’t falling apart like the clothes I had brought with me. The rehab is coed. The men on one side, the women on the other. We all share common spaces, but aren’t allowed to speak to the opposite sex. I’m young, thin but curvy, and the men stare at me in the dining room, in the day room when I play ping pong with another woman, and during group time.

One day, the director, Ms. Nola, takes the women for a walk around the neighborhood. She’s an older woman, and has been sober for twenty years. Her voice reminds me of my grandmother’s. We walk on the sidewalk, past the run down bungalow houses with shutters that hang lopsided around windows, porches held together by splintered wood. Ms. Nola tells us young women, “You know the men will look.” And I look at the leaves on the trees whose branches we pass under. “They will look, and it is your job to keep them from looking.” I only half pay attention to what she says. I am more enchanted by the way the wind rattles through the trees. One of the trees has white buds blooming, and I wonder if I’m really done with drugs, done with the life I had been living, done with being the addict I had become. Ms. Nola suddenly grabs my hand, and says, “Your momma has to bring you some oversized t-shirts, until then, you can’t be in the common areas with those men.”

~

I sit on the floor of Becca’s living room. We sit on the dull blue throw rug, an ashtray for cigarettes in between us. Becca flips tarot cards to tell me my future. “Oh, Miss Kitty,” she says, using the nickname my mother called me, and intentionally adding the Miss as an allusion to the prostitute on Gunsmoke. We love fallen women.

“I see hope,” she says as she points to the Empress card, “This is you.”

We stay on the floor. Read more cards until we get the answers we want. The ones that make us happy. Make us forget we are both newly sober. Barely hanging on. Her card, the Queen of Cups, the blonde ruler, full of intense emotions. Loud. Outspoken. A Katharina, still a shrew, still at the beginning of the play. That night, we both have futures.

~

Katharina exclaims, “If I be waspish, best beware my sting.”

Married to the man who responds, “My remedy be to pluck it out.”

Katharina goes from a woman with a fierce spirit to a woman beneath her husband’s heel. Her final speech at the end of Taming of the Shrew places me on the edge of tears, a knot in my stomach, as Katharina renounces her former strength, and calls for all women to stay in their lower places because their minds are as weak and soft as their bodies. Total obedience and submission to her husband, “thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,/ thy head, thy sovereign…” But why does a play, a fiction, one often labeled as comedy, cause me to cry? Because the beliefs contained inside Kate’s speech are still present today, still firmly planted in the mainstream. Because my name is Katherine and I’m always being told to simmer down. When I was little, I heard of Kate the shrew, and I couldn’t wait to read the play, to see this fierce young woman raise a ruckus. Then I read the play. Katharina is abused. How comedic. How funny. We all know the common joke:

What do you tell a woman with two black eyes?

Nothing. She’s already been told twice.

~

Years later, just before Thanksgiving in 2018, Becca’s husband shoots her, and then shoots himself. They both die. No one knows what happened. But many speculate. Almost everyone believes that Becca ran her mouth, snapped at her husband, possibly hit him in the head. A woman, a mutual friend says, “You know how Becca could be.”

~

Perhaps, Becca is Eurydice dancing with nymphs. Imagine them all beautiful among the flowers, the sun in their hair, arms reaching out and up to the sky, not a care in the world, that feeling of freedom as wind blows through them, the pollen kicks up dust like swirls of confetti. In another version, a man sees her beauty and chases her, a woman running through fields, fleeing from a man, her feet tapping earth as she runs. In both, a snake bites her, and she dies. Her husband Orpheus descends into hell for her, and woos Hades with his lyre playing. Hades allows Eurydice to follow her husband out of the underworld. Hades warns that Orpheus mustn’t look at her. Almost out of the underworld, the light from the world filtering in up ahead, unable to hear her footsteps, Orpheus worries she is no longer behind him. He turns to look at her, and as his eyes see her, she disappears. Did Hades suck her back in as mere punishment for not following his directions? Or did Hades know that while Eurydice was still a shade, not a fully corporeal form, she wouldn’t be able to withstand his gaze? Perhaps the point is that the male gaze causes women to cease to exist.

Becca is no longer here because of her husband.

~

Or maybe Becca is Medea, full flight in a chariot, the sun god chasing her across the sky.

~

I’m five years old, and I run with a whole pack of kindergarten girls, Medusa, Eurydice, Katharina, Circe, Becca, Kim, girls with ponytails and pigtails, and Velcro tennis shoes, rays of sun hit our faces, small beads of sweat form on our temples, and all of us girls, little goddesses, panting in pursuit of a fifth grade boy. The boys do it to us. The kindergarten boys. They chase me almost daily, and when I cry, I’m told that the boys just like me. So none of us girls understand what’s wrong with our lungs pumping, legs running, little arms reaching out to the older boy.

We’re scolded. We sit in punishment atop the hot asphalt, the heat stings through my jeans. Circe complains, tells them that they will all be sorry. Medusa and Kim hiss at the teachers. Becca and Eurydice ignore everyone and braid each other’s hair. Katharina kicks one of the boys in the shin. Teachers, red-faced, shout, point, and condemn us girls as un-ladylike.

The next day, Timmy chases me, reaches out his leg and trips me, and as I fall, I see the clouds in the sky, hear the babble of the creek behind the playground, almost touch the edges of the stiff tree so close to where I land. No one comes to yell at Timmy, no one comes to tell him not to chase me, not to trip me, not to make me fall face first in dirt and split my lip. After all, boys will be boys.


Kat Moore has essays in Brevity, Passages North, Diagram, The Rumpus, Entropy, Hippocampus, Whiskey Island, Salt Hill, New South, Split Lip, and others, as well as forthcoming in Image Journal, and Hotel Amerika. Her fiction can be found in Cheap Pop Lit, Hobart, and Craft, An essay of hers appears in the anthology Bodies of Truth: Personal Narratives on Illness, Disability, and Medicine.

Categories
2020

Zackary Medlin

LEFT

alone like a cabin gutted by fire
until naught but black bones
stand scorched. Ribs of a roof
that used to shelter shed soot
like the antithesis of snow
when the wind blows through.
The kudzu that consumes so much
of the state wraps itself around
the rafters, crawls through
the empty sockets left in the wake
of windows broken by the kids
that explore sites like this as
a sort of rite. But this is not
a haunted place; rather, what’s left
after the ghosts go home. Imagine it
in an auburn hour in late autumn,
when the groundcover crackles
with each step through a litter
of rusted leaves and the air’s gone
dry as a husk. It’s a form of grief,
to stay upright in a state like this.
The want is for those invasive vines
to strangle you back into the earth,
to become corpse covered, in time,
by a small copse of black tupelo
surrounded by red oak. The want is
for all the leaves that died bright
but brittle in their burning to be
rattled loose by the fall winds.


Zackary Medlin is the winner of the Nancy D. Hargrove Editor’s Choice Prize, the Patricia Goedicke Prize in Poetry, and a recipient of an AWP Intro Journals Award. He holds an MFA from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and is currently a doctoral student at the University of Utah. His recent work can be found in The Cincinnati Review, Jabberwock Review, Cutbank, and Colorado Review.

Categories
2020 Poetry

Kevin Madrigal

GUALMAR

after Terrance Hayes

I come from a long line of code-switching enunciations
Gualmar, Cosco, Estánfor, & Piksa Hoot all in my neighborhood
& matter of fact everyone I know works there. I was once asked
to report anything “suspicious” as I drove by a kids toy motorcycle
straddling highway dividers that made me question illicit definitions.
I’m from “hijos de su chingada madre” straight out the
hocico of mi chingada madre. Phrases as sacred, aftermath not
calculated till A+’s in algebra & English teacher scolded parents
nuisance & unfocused & illiterate & diction deficient
“hijo qué dijo tu maestra” y “nada, no te preocupes” translating signs
from English to Spanish soon as I learned to breathe. CA my home
they say it’s empathy’s fault that causes these quakes. I took cover
when the 4.3 hit, sister shouting to stop shaking her bed. My ancestors
whispered in my ear to unfinish degrees advised otherwise, true to
blood that circulates through these frijolero veins. I’ve been asked:
What the 5 fingers say to the face? What the fajo say to the nalgas?
What the chubby boy say to esteem? Self-doubt express the only way
I know home. I’m from a technicality, youngest in my family
miscarried unmet sister would have beared a beautiful
first communion dress, instead it was me. My search history reeks
of fermented agave & missing employee names + obituary. South City
& Zapopan raised me. Dutch crunch sandwiches & tortas ahogadas
would test positive in my curly hair, if my culture was considered
a drug; a threat. Which it is. I come blessed like the
15 Virgen de Guadalupes found in my home. They say I never stay
put & yet laid me in a crib. When the morning came I was out
the door crawling, walking, running
& I haven’t stopped since.


Kevin Madrigal is a decolonizer of food, art, and health. He is a Chicano first-generation child of inmigrantes Mexicanos from Sur San Francisco. In 2016, he founded Farming Hope in San Francisco to provide employment opportunities in food for folks experiencing homelessness. Through his writing he hopes to honor his ancestors and work towards a better future within his community. He is working on a collection of poems about anxiety and promoting positive mental behaviors through acknowledging, identifying, and countering disruptive thoughts. In his free time, you can find him listening to hip-hop / rap and on the dance floor with friends.

Categories
2020 Poetry

Alexa Doran

FOR MY SON WHO ASKS WHY

Maybe we only get to be a mother once
and the rest is repetition I keep thinking
I’ll get another chance at the garden
to glow slick with some stamen to honey
and honey this womb Have you seen the
conifer twirled in winter this is the gentle
with which I would shimmer if I could
double and brew but puff puff pass out
is hardly a bedtime story even if the dragon
is delicate not gory even if the sirens
shed their sex dredged sweat and invite
you to tarry who is to say I deserve two
I never thought of semen as another kind
of dreaming but lately it has the same
oracle bright shade crystal balls emanate
and if I could just gather in its gloss
muck my ovaries and toss in its wake then
what then I could fan out: so many blades


Alexa Doran is the author of the chapbook Nightsink, Faucet Me a Lullaby (Bottlecap Press 2019), and is currently a PhD candidate at Florida State University. Her series of poems about the women of Dada, “The Octopus Breath on Her Neck,” was recently released as part of Oxidant/Engine’s BoxSet Series Vol 2. You can also look for work from Doran in recent or upcoming issues of Passages North, Salamander, Pithead Chapel and Harvard Review, among others.

Categories
2020 Poetry

Dujie Tahat

BALIKBAYAN FOR MY STEP-SISTER FOR THE FIRST & ONLY TIME WE MET

Sorry I made you cry. I was crying, too, at
your door in your crying father’s arms. I
didn’t know you’d be there. I was yelling
when I hung up on pops last. A weaker conn-
ection. A crack in a golden Beamer’s wind-
shield. A hairline. Then all at once black &
yellow static slid into the astonished gap
between his lips. Not a word since. What else
have I been silent about? To whom? I have to
say: I love you. It’s almost impossible to be-
lieve. My son is your age; my youngest, your
sister’s. In my bed they still sleep, so some
nights when I rise, it’s from your dreams.


Dujie Tahat is a Filipino-Jordanian immigrant living in Washington state. He is the author of Here I Am O My God, selected by Fady Joudah for a Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship, and SALAT, selected by Cornelius Eady as winner of the Tupelo Press Sunken Garden Chapbook Award. Their poems have been published or are forthcoming in POETRY, Sugar House Review, ZYZZVA, Southern Indiana Review, and elsewhere. Dujie has earned fellowships from Hugo House, Jack Straw Writing Program, and the Poetry Foundation, as well as a work-study scholarship from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. They cohost The Poet Salon podcast.