This issue is edited by Aimée Baker, Emma Bolden,& Dustin Brookshire.

LW #8 - Protest Issue, Part 1: 11/7/22

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Alison Pelegrin

Pronouns: She/Her

3 Poems

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Ballade of the Insurrectionists

         The traitor has the best patriot costume.

                        Japanese proverb, translated by W. S. Merwin

 

I have seen the morons of my generation

diapered in the Gadsen flag,

chicken daddy camo boys hunkered down

in mommy’s man cave bunker,

Incel central, their culture wars gone underground.

They think they’re brave! Undercover, but easy to spot

stampeding to Stop the Steal. Let’s face it,

the traitor has the best patriot costume

 

I spy zip ties! A velcro vest, each pocket

tailored to fit hand grenades and pencil-dick

cartridges stockpiled to infinity. Molon Labe

their battlecry. They are serious. They took a bus.

They think they’re freedom riders standing

for their rights. Is this a history lesson?

Did I doze off? Because all I’ve learned

is that traitors have the best patriot costumes.

 

Most were camo clowns, but some

were militia with training and they marched

through the gates in formation. Where’s backup?

Where’s Pence? What makes this a few bad apples

and not a coup? If not for selfies and live streams

we wouldn’t have any names. I’ll repeat it

for those in the back like the lady I am:

traitors have the best patriot costumes,

 

and I’m pissed enough to pledge my bad aim

to the cause. I’d rather pour libations,

act a fool, but today I empty my clip

at target practice--traitors in patriot costumes.

Body Horror

 

Am I the last one to notice that horror

movies and evangelicals have the same rules?

Daylight is a designated safety zone

unless you’re having sex in the woods.

Evil’s first contact is a disembodied voice

or a mirror twin snarling out of sync with your face.

 

On screen I’d have been the friend--pretty face,

but fat enough to be the first one killed. A typical horror

trope--brief chase, hand muffling my voice,

phallic blade from behind. Those are the rules--

the final girl runs braless through the woods,

her band nerd sidekick catapulted from the friend zone

 

to a wet-tee wonderland, to the prom date zone.

The killer watches--you just know it’s his face

camouflaged in deceptively sun-dappled woods.

Slasher flicks are as much comedy as horror--

Aesop teenagers won’t listen or follow rules

and when the wolf comes no one hears their voices.

 

Reality shocks most of all--they ignore our voices,

talk over us and keep the fetish cam zoned

in with a steady hand. According to the rules,

we brought this on ourselves with painted faces.

The Bible must say that sluts deserve body horror,

that if you don’t want to turn up dead in the woods

 

don’t let yourself get drugged in witchy woods.

Avoid dreamscapes with victim-blaming voice-

overs, fight harder with your thighs pried apart in horror.

They want us shackled in the forced breeder-zone,

zombie mommies with burlap sacks on our faces.

They get hard while we squirm against these rules.

 

They gloat. Rejoice. Spit their post-Roe rules

in our faces. I think of witches bound on wooden

pyres, wonder if I’d be able to steady my face

while the watchers taunted in a single voice.

Out of body, raging in the handmaid zone,

I feel flesh drip from me with horror.

 

In this American horror story, I run

for the woods, safer among wolves than voices

screeching psycho rules in my face.

Zen as Fuck

 

F-bombs calm me down. My zen

is stitching curse words, as thrilling as

raiding the liquor cabinet used to be. Fuck

 

cross stitched pumpkins in July and fuck

finishing what I start. Back-stitched zen

spreads like a spider’s lace, as badass as

 

ripped fishnets at the roller derby. As

long as I have needle and floss the world can fuck

off. (Not everyone, just rich assholes.) Zen

 

stitches slow me down. I’m focused, zen as fuck.

Alison Pelegrin (she/her) is the author of four poetry collections, most recently Our Lady of Bewilderment with LSU Press. She is the recipient of fellowships from the NEA and the Louisiana Division of the Arts.

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Denise Duhamel

Pronouns: She/Her

7 Poems

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Daycare

 

All unwanted children should be allowed to live at the Supreme Court building…

      -Howard Stern, June 24, 2022

 

Let Samuel Alito burp and feed them.  

Let Clarence Thomas roll on the floor

with a rattle and blocks. Let Neil Gorsuch

change their diapers. Let Brett Kavanaugh

worry about each one getting shot

as he drops them off at the school bus stop.

Let Amy Coney Barrett start their college funds.

Let the five justices tear out their hair

as each child throws a tantrum. Let them lose sleep

when the kids go through puberty

screaming I hate you! I never asked to be born!

 

 

Poem In Which I Invite Melodrama

 

I’m shoveling toxic waste with other post-menopausal women.

(Yes, once upon a time I read The Handmaid’s Tale and watched

the Hulu series too. In fact, the crew was filming the last two episodes

of its fifth season when Roe v. Wade was overturned.)

But then there was no more cable, only state TV. I was caught

smuggling teas that would bring on periods—even if/especially if

my young friends thought they were pregnant. I had a safe

full of condoms and expired birth control pills and used

my online minister credentials to perform marriages for lesbians

and gay men. All my money would have been transferred

to my husband’s or father’s name, but since I am not married

and my father has passed, my accounts disappeared

into a government fund. I am completely “unloved”

according to the state. I lost my teaching job when colleges closed

themselves to women. All my poetry books—the ones I wrote,

the ones I read—have been burned. The resistance we put up

didn’t work. All the sisterhood I so believed in fell apart.

The guards put a hood over my head when they transported me

with all the other useless old ladies. We try to help each other

with our arthritis, our carpal tunnel, our sciatic backs,

but all our meds have been confiscated and we are forbidden

to talk. Just a kind smile between us is cause for a whack

from men so young they could be our grandsons. Sometimes

they rape us for laughs. Sometimes they tell us how ugly we are.

We sleep on the ground, our ankles chained to each other

though there is nowhere to escape in this version of America.

 

 

 

 

Poem In Which I Banish Sorrow

 

I am alive, walking, sun freckling my nose,

no worry yet of my annual mole check.

I have my mother in my pocket—her face

on the prayer card we had printed for her wake.

I ate oatmeal with maple syrup for breakfast

so how can the front page news hurt me?
I lift my zippered wrist pouch where I keep

my keys safe. I am Wonder Woman

using her “bracelets of submission”

to deflect the terror of the world.

I know it’s a long fight—this untangling

from male power. I am collecting information

about at-home abortions. I am writing down

everything I know about joy as a guide

future generations—Apples, banana bikes,

cubbyholes, Dunkin Donuts, Evergreens…

 

 

 

 

June 24, 2022

 

To calm myself I walk into the sea—that womb

which is full of seagrass. I’ve just listened to Biden’s

tepid, unconvincing speech. The sea is calm—

or so I thought, the lifeguard hut’s flag green.

Lifeguard, the one who guards life, I muse

when a rogue wave rises out of nowhere

and I’m under, saltwater/saline—no longer

allowed—flushing through my nose, my mouth.

*

A child is holding the string of a kite

shaped like a duck. The yellow plastic swoops

toward her mother who is on the phone, crying.

Look mom, says the child and the mother gives

a sniffly thumbs up. I think, Ducklings follow

the first moving object they see after hatching.

What will become of this little girl and her

freedom? Or this duckling in the wind?

 

 

 

 

1973-2022

 

An astrologer once told me

I should get a viral plant

and watch it grow in the corner

of my computer screen

so that I’d have more sense

of time passing, more sense

of the earth since I am an air sign

and often need some grounding.

She said Never get close to a Pisces

or you’ll drown. Clarence Thomas’s

birthday was yesterday, a Cancer,

another water sign.

 

 

 

 

Free Write

 

Free, right? Free Willy (the movie), willy-nilly freedoms,

“Born Free” (a song from the movie of the same name),

“Born to be Wild” (Steppenwolf). “Be there. Will be wild!” (Trump)

Wild child, love child, foster child. Foster good will,

the will of the people, people who bleed. Bleeding liberals,

liberal arts degrees, the third degree, six degrees of separation.

Separation at the border, borderline personality,

disordered personality, disorderly conduct,

conduct unbecoming to a president. Becoming (Michelle Obama),

coming clean, cleaning up the crime scene, love scenes,

“All You Need is Love” (The Beatles).

Needy mouths to feed, the news feed, the news room.

A Room of One’s Own (Virginia Woolf), a womb of one’s own,

a tomb of one’s own, a tomb of the unknown.

 

 

 

 

Roe v. Wade Haiku (June 24, 2022)

 

wade in the water

row, row, row your boat gently

to another state

Denise Duhamel’s (she/her) most recent books of poetry are Second Story (Pittsburgh, 2021) and Scald (2017). Blowout (2013) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. A recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, she teaches at Florida International University in Miami.

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LW #8 - Protest Issue, Part 2: 11/15/22

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Zorina Exie Frey

Pronouns: She/Her

1 Poem

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Batman & Karen

 

     “In abortion debate, echoes of another battle: Reproductive rights for Black women.”

     Akilah Johnson, Washington Post, June 10, 2022

 

I’ve seen Batman and Karen march to protect fetuses

with rifles cocked when brown bodies marched

to protect their babies. 

 

Karen called the cops on

            Black barbecues to

            barbecue Blacks.

And white friends & relatives spoke 

            what they really think your of skin culture

            since their president did.

 

Dark knights in dark times

Batman’d Ahmaud,

the Black man for running.

 

Grabbing pussies was condoned as long

            as taxes remained low.

And more strange fruit swung.

 

Sandra Bland mysteriously died

            in police custody because

            she got mouthy.

And “Fuck Christmas” because

            The First Lady said so.

And arrest the Black Hispanic journalist reporting

            live on CNN to send a message to fox-

            plotting heathens.

 

I’d be lying if I said

            I didn’t partake. 

            Slicing my piece of the blood, white, & blue cake.

            Slaying things

            that got in the way

            in the name of progress

            when it took up space 

            to my discomfort,

And sipped tea dumped centuries ago

            in the sea where my ancestors were aborted

            sleeping like a baby. 

Zorina Exie Frey (she/her) is an essayist, screenwriter, spoken word poet, content writer and digital designer. She is an English Instructor at Converse University and a writing instructor for Writing Class Radio. She’s the Editor-in-Chief for 45 Magazine Journal and Poetry Editor for South 85 Journal.

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Reyzl Grace

Pronouns: She/Her

1 Poem

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On Being Jewish in Post-Roe America

Maternal mortality rises
over the conclave like a chimney

of white smoke. They have chosen

new keepers of keys,
crowned Jephthah our patron
saint (wherefore they will dry

California and drain the Colorado,

in observance of the tekufah).

No more shall Caesar tread
upon the serpent with his Marian

heel, violate the ancient
prerogative of the church
to leave a withered hand
unhealed on the Sabbath.
The law, by satisfied inaction
makes forbidden burnings blameless.

Let the rabbis cry in the streets,
like the prophets, what God commands—
that the laws that order creation
should be unknit in the wombs of the merciful

if it will save a life,
for one is the whole world.
They will quote Jeremiah
and David as we’re jailed and numbered.

 

Men, born of women,
will watch women die
while they paint us in the
blood of Christian children—

claim the adoption of Abraham

and Sarah, name their daughters

Rachel and Leah, and call us

Christkillers, baby-

 

killers. As though everything

wills the destruction of what created it;

as though everything longs

to be unborn.

Reyzl Grace (she/her) is a transfeminine Ashkenazi writer and librarian with recent or forthcoming acts of literary defiance in So to Speak, the gamut magJupiter Review, and An Áitiúil. Unable to protest fast enough for events on her own, she has started translating classic Yiddish-speaking women revolutionaries like Khane Levin, Dine Libkes, and Hinde Roytblat. Find out more about her in the mastheads of Psaltery & Lyre and Cordella Magazine.

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Gregg Shapiro

Pronouns: He/Him

1 Poem

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Damnation nation

 

Self-described Christian nationalists hate drag

queens because they can’t get pregnant. Can’t

hasten the systematic demise of fragile Mother

Earth with overpopulation, Armageddon prophesy

fulfillment, thereby bringing about the rapture

delusional zealots have been praying for forever.

 

Hating drag queens because they look like women

they could be attracted to, for the purpose of

procreation. But they would never admit that.

It’s why they despise all queer people, because

to them queer sex doesn’t result in further

 

unnecessary planet-killing births. More wailing

and fussing hungry and toothless mouths to feed.

“Nature abhors a virgin -- a frozen asset.” Isn’t that

what unmarried writer Nancy said in The Women,

paraphrasing Aristotle? How unsettled they must

have been when lesbians and gay men found

 

alternative ways to start families, to make them

envious. How dare we enjoy sex as much as we do!

No matter how many times they insist to the contrary,

nowhere in the New Testament, the original fake

news, does it mention homosexuality. They must

 

have confused their supposed god of love, their

prince of peace, with his unforgiving, cruel daddy

from the Old Testament. Smiting, vengeful trickster

and plague-bringer. Cantankerous AF and hypnotic

as a snake clenching temptation’s apple in its spring-

loaded jaws. One minute they pretend to boo-hoo

about climate change from behind the wheels

of their monster pickup trucks idling in drive-thru

lanes at Chick-Fil-A and the next day take away

the one thing that will save the dying planet in

the long run. But abortion interferes with dominion

 

theology, the insidious plan for world domination.

As long as I have breath in me, as long as I have

a voice, a fist to punch the air, I will fight off these

assaults on our rights. Gathering with others to stop

traffic, take over streets and parks. Make posters and

carry placards, emblazoned with words of resistance

 

in day-glo colors, held high over our heads. Chant

slogans and rage to the sky, to the air, the wind,

so our message reaches bystanders, newscasters

and TV cameras, people standing on rooftops and

balconies, lining the sidewalks, either in support or

 

opposition. This is an old and recognizable song,

sung by those protesting the lack of Republican

response to AIDS deaths in the 1980s and 1990s,

the persistent threat of gay bashing, violence

against Black lives, children separated from their

parents at the border, the blatant mistreatment

 

of public schoolteachers, lack of common-sense

gun control laws, and every senseless war for

profit. Watch me, or better yet join me, marching

arm in arm with women, sisters, and brothers all,

familiar and stranger alike, united, never divided.

Gregg Shapiro (he/him) is the author of eight books including the poetry chapbook Fear of Muses (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2022). Recent/forthcoming lit-mag publications include The Penn Review, Book of MatchesRFD, GargoyleMollyhousePoetic Medicine, and Impossible Archetype, plus the anthologies Proud to Be: A Pride Poetry Collection (Red Penguin, 2022) and Sweeter Voices Still: An LGBTQ Anthology From Middle America (Belt Publishing, 2021). An entertainment journalist, Shapiro lives in South Florida with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.

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Kerry Trautman

Pronouns: She/Her

1 Poem

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The Chicken or the Egg     6/24/22

 

On my poetry conference lunch break

I can’t decide between the café’s

chicken salad sandwich, or an omelet.

 

A father in the next booth

feeds his daughter sips of juice.

 

Poets scribble at conference tables.

 

Elsewhere, men adorn throats in silk neckties

and flick pen-strokes to alter lives.

 

My phone tings a text from a friend

wishing peace to all the women he knows—

and with that I know

what I didn’t want to know.

 

Tapping online, food glopped

in my throat like a foreign tongue

I read Roe v. Wade has been

suctioned from the nation’s belly.

 

Which comes first—the chicken or the egg?

 

Not fearing for my old eggs anymore but

my five children.

My eyes swell hot like fried eggs.

 

“We’re Not Gonna Take it”

comes on the café speakers, but

we have and we will

because when your wings are clipped

you have only one fence-line.

 

Two of my children are still children,

but one a girl so still a sparkling moving target.

 

The other three reluctantly are not children,

but one a girl so still a chicken beholden to her eggs.

 

Which comes first?

 

Poets try to hash it out in notebooks.

 

Women’s insides exposed like

the Visible Woman doll, awaiting a man to pluck her

apart, decide what’s of use to him.

 

The waitress asks how we doin?

 

Elsewhere, a farmer hopes his new rooster

won’t attack his hens like the last one and the last.

 

My children don’t know what their options aren’t.

 

My daughter turns twenty-one next week—

smart enough not to sip everything

a man puts toward her mouth.

 

The dead hens were smart too.

The roosters didn’t care.

 

At conference tables, poets choose anger.

In their hotel rooms, they choose tears.

 

The waitress delivers a plate of sunny-side eggs

to a man in a necktie.

I think what are you smiling about?

Do I say it aloud?

And to the man or to the eggs?

 

Which comes first?

Kerry Trautman (she/her) was born and raised in Ohio. Her work has appeared previously in Limp Wrist, and in other journals, including The Disappointed Housewife, Midwestern Gothic, Thimble, and Gasconade Review. Her poetry books are Things That Come in Boxes (King Craft Press 2012,) To Have Hoped (Finishing Line Press 2015,) Artifacts (NightBallet Press 2017,) To be Nonchalantly Alive (Kelsay Books 2020,) and Marilyn: Self-Portrait, Oil on Canvas (Gutter Snob Books 2022.) Her next collection is forthcoming from Roadside Press.

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Jan Beatty

Pronouns: She/Her

3 Poems

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Hot in the Striped Boy’s Heart*

It’s hot in the loading bridge,
hot in the birth canal,
it’s hot in the striped boy’s heart—
we’re two women driving to D.C. for an abortion
in my beater sea-green LeMans with the SEX,

DRUGS, AND ROCK ‘N ROLL sticker on the bumper.

It’s hot living in my car with the mattress
in the back, the windshield wipers disintegrating

and so it’s raining all the way to D.C. and
my friend is terrified, let it go too long
with a guy she loves but he could care and
she can’t face her parents. Borrowed money
from the waitresses we worked with,
saline solution for a second trimester abortion,
it’s hot in the Silverman’s teeshirt I’m still
wearing from sixth grade with gold and blue stripes,

hot in the men’s store buying my first real shirt
with my girlfriend Patty. I was a boy then, not
yet a woman following the sightlines
from the silver hood ornament to the double yellow.

Hot in the Pontiac trunk of clothes and boxes and

the cheap hotel in Silver Springs for the early

morning procedure, two women in their twenties

out of state for treatment, hot in this traveling altar,

these bodies run amok. Body of light, body
of doubles. Body of never telling anyone, never

seeing her again. Hot in my striped boy’s heart
in this car dragging home with no talk,
still bleeding.

*"Hot in the Striped Boy’s Heart" was previously published in The Body Wars (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020).

Abortion with Gun Barrel

The 12 year-old walks thin, like a child/
her hair alive in vibrating threads
in the clinic light.
Her mother: My daughter. I give my permission.

And the girl cannot be real, or the sky

would burn—not bleed like it does in
the waiting room of grown women.
The mother in the brittle inner office scribbles
her name small on the collapsing form.
Now move the flying hands of the counselor
who becomes the first bird,
stripping the sky blank with air leaving.
Now she walks back to the maze of illuminated

bodies to find a way to make herself dissolve:
Not what I wanted for you, not this.
In the inner body of the clinic, the divining
of this choice: the small name solid,
the songbird stopped/
the singing continues.
I am the counselor,
there are cracks in the barrel of the gun/
there is aiming/
shots of sorrow—
shots of light.
I am ruinous with light, we are ruinous with making

our lives in the procedure room.
The 12 year-old opens the leaving door—
a bird let loose, no clear note to sing.
Song of sorrow and praise as she wears
the skin of herself,
this idea of skin that she’s learning.

*"Abortion with Gun Barrel" was published in Jackknife: New and Selected Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017).

Not Homeless, Just Moving

I wasn’t homeless, just had my mattress
in my ’69 Chevy, clothes underneath boxes

in the trunk. Everyday stuff in the front-seat

backpack. I moved 14 times that year,

drinking and drugs but still working

my waitress job. I was in motion.

Driving, working, hoping
to stay with a friend for a night,

I was pregnant but kept moving, and then

days later, fired from my downtown job

for trying to start a union—I wasn’t—

just arguing a waitress policy.

So, the night before my abortion staying
with a bartender (not the father) on his couch,

his girlfriend came home late and rightly

kicked me out. I wasn’t homeless,

just moving, 14 times that year,

and I was alone with it.

*"Not Homeless, Just Moving" was previously published in The Body Wars (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020).

Jan Beatty’s (she/her) seventh book, American Bastard, won the Red Hen Nonfiction Award (2021). The Body Wars was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. In the New York Times, Naomi Shihab Nye said: Jan Beatty’s new poems in “The Body Wars” shimmer with luminous connection, travel a big life and grand map of encounters. Beatty worked as a waitress, abortion counselor, and in maximum security prisons. For years, she directed the Madwomen in the Attic workshops at Carlow University.

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Carolina Hospital

Pronouns: She/Her

2 Poems

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LW #8 - Protest Issue, Part 3: 11/23/22

Last Picture at Jekyll Island

Once the verdant forest reached

the shore. Now stripped trees rise

among fallen trunks and upturned

roots, like exposed hearts, larger

than me and him. Gray weathered

stumps with barks of elephant seal

skins design sculptures on the sand,

slanted branches flowing like wind,

a tangled Dios pointing to the sky,

a fitting place to end our road trip

circling Georgia, on the morning

the highest court strips our rights

meandering over battered remains

on a stunning driftwood cemetery.

Words → Palabras → Parables

the male is an incomplete female

- Valerie Solanas*

1.

His → tory
His → torian
Hys → teria
Hys → terectomy

Hysterical Hysterectomy

Man → ly

Man → ifest

Man → ifesto

Man → made

Man → acle

Sola → nas Sola

Her → story

2.

Matanzas → Massacre

Massacre River

Massacre Bay
Massacre Beach
Massacre Inlet
Massacre State Forrest
Fort Massacre
Massacre Wildlife Management Area

Massacre High School

Massacre on the Bay Bar and Grill

3.

Femelle ≠ Masle

Hominen → human

Humus → earth/dust/mud

Hum→ility
Fer → tility
Wo → man
Woe → man
Wow → man
Fe → male
Fe → iron
Fe → trust
Feliz

*Valerie Solanas was a writer, author of the radical feminist SCUM Manifesto.

Carolina Hospital’s (she/her) books include the poetry collections Key West Nights and Other Aftershocks (Anhinga Press), The Child of Exile: A Poetry Memoir (Arte Público Press), and Myth America (Anhinga Press) a collaborative collection with Maureen Seaton, Holly Iglesias, and Nicole Hospital-Medina; as well as the novel A Little Love, under the pen name C. C. Medina (Warner Books). Her work has appeared in publications such as the Norton Anthology of Latino Literature and Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Occupy the Workplace.

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Clayre Benzadón

Pronouns: She/Her

3 Poems

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Halsey’s Interlude*

 I’d like to be wrung out              a bit more

 

             I want a fist               around my throat

 

Can you hold my full head          in your hand

 

            I want everything                  I asked for

 

              that means                                  you

 

               I want power,                     If I can’t have

         

         a clementine, let me             smash  the worst

 

            (sorry) honey               willowleaf lily, castle

 

      crammed of night/mares       grave/yards stuffed

 

          monarchs   nymphalidae    common tiger  wanderer

 

                                                nympho

 

                      I’m not a woman                 I’m a queen

 

                                  who needs                 (no) god

*"Halsey's Interlude" was previously published in Anti-Heroin Chic.

Twist

 

Say Twist. Say the day

after rape.

Remember his stupid face

On your 21st birthday,

 

near the shore.

You were stupid,

hearing his voice,

the lady doth protest

 

too much, too far away

in the dark,

trespassing at the beach.

 

(did you really not

think of the consequences?

How many times

 

will it take before you’ll

finally stop acting so hope-

bound, naïve, to think

 

it wasn’t going to happen,

not at a gay bar,

not in an instant,

I was resisting,

 

you think,

when he’s breaking

the condom package

 

with his teeth,

you weren’t watching,

you had your back to him,

 

you were quiet in your

revolt, you did cry,

cried stop, but it

 

was too still

for the waves to hear,

and then the police

 

came chasing

to punish you.

How twisted,

 

how un-

contested

you are.

Linguistic Rewilding / Rebobinas Linguísticos*

                

A dream as loose

as incomprehensible

 

wobbles like teeth

falling out  depleted

like power outage

 

language  cut

from gum   bomb/

    illa

 

trozos de carne asada

con sabor carnal   ass-

heavy

 

strong as la menta /

                      la mente

 

encendida inside the mouth

like lengua   as automatic—

 

*

  

 Perra sucia.

 

With the replacement

of just a few letters

 

it’s easy to convert

the vowel from “o”

 

to “a”, to swap the sound

when it’s convenient.

 

How can la libertad

be a woman when she is

            basura

            cocina
         doméstica

with the replacement

of just a few letters

letra / let her/

       roar

 

                                               

como una mujer man-

íaca, trapped man-

 

tenida como un

trapo sucio,

 

manchada,

hasta que convierte

en mugre.

 

*

 

To preserve something

means to serve before

anything else,

 

to persevere with

the masculine standard

form. The language

 

regulator is Él, como

un padre quien me prescribe

mi rol de género:

 

ese no es como se sienta

una señorita,

 

   as if there

   were no room

   for women

 

to feel. The “ita”

is only added

as a kindness.

 

*

I sit pretty, even when

“los hombres”, used to
  mean “people”,

   does not include me,

 

and “hembra” merely

refers to female animals,

stands in as slang for chick.

 

*

 

When I’m a girl, I take the Spanish

into my mouth;  it sparkles.

I leave my door open

 

when I change and my

father walks past me

as I strip into

 

a nude sparkler,

just like the words

I play with are,

 

bare in mi mano,

desnudo.

 

He barely sees me

but still flinches.

 

            *

 

before he can say any-

thing,

 

I yank my mouth

open with my tongue:

 

voy hacer lo que

quiera como mujer,

 

y ella puede hacer

lo que le da

 

la gana con su

propio cuerpo,
lengua.

 

*

I restore a remnant of

my tongue, my self—

 

the salvaje refuses

to leave me.

*An earlier version of "Linguistic Rewilding / Rebobinas Linguísticos" was published in the American of American Poets website.

Clayre Benzadón (she/her) received her MFA at University of Miami, and currently works as an educator at Miami Dade College. Her chapbook, Liminal Zenith was published by SurVision Books. Her full-length collection, Moon as Salted Lemon was a finalist for the 2021 Robert Dana-Anhinga Poetry Prize and Semifinalist for Sundress Publications' Reading Period. She has been published in places including Academy of American Poets (2019 Alfred Boas Poetry Prize winner), Anti-Heroin Chic, Bluestem Magazine, Olney Magazine, and SWWIM.

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Tyler Mills.webp

Tyler Mills

Pronouns: She/Her

2 Poems

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Still Life with Obstacle

 

You look like a burrito the surgeons said

as they gently lifted me down.

The blood I’d been bleeding for days

had clotted a blackish brown.

 

They tucked the cornflower gown around

my chest and numbing legs.

My fingers printed the memory foam slab

beneath me & touched the straps of the brace.

 

What’s shredding me open, taking me with it

will be snipped out and lifted away soon.

I’m in too much pain to be put to sleep I said

to the faces illuminated around me in the room.

 

Furry flies landed on my arms before the elevator

door opened to my wheeled bed rolling inside.

They’d shot a vial of morphine straight to the vein.

By the time I was in the OR, I could not cry.

 

At home, when I closed my eyes a gray

door appeared at the end of a long—

but not that long—linoleum hall.

Terrible light in the crack. Throat walled off to song.

 

So I went to the ER. It’s like the worst labor contraction

I said to the intake doctor

while I huddled in my pjs at 3 AM.

He wrote in a report, pain manageable. They forgot her,

 

I wrote in the scrunched-up furrows of my brain.

They waited to page the OB after lunch the next day.

She came right then. I don’t want to go, the night says

when it can’t stay with the pink light coming anyway.

 

I said that too, over & over. A man said—typed on Twitter—

It’s God’s Will some pregnant women will die.

Tiny astronaut jammed in my doomed balloon

of stars. 3 weeks of cells. To live, I say goodbye.

 

The tools looked like carving knives

in the theatre lit up by silver lights.

The Weekend sang on a playlist from 2 flatscreen TVs.

It had been 15 hours. One long fluorescent night.

 

The anesthesiologist stood quietly like a guard

behind my head when I stopped talking & lay still.

Gasping, I woke in a curtained room, bed facing in.

But I could see gray apartments out of a windowsill.

Blue Rooms

       after the D & C

 

I want to reach inside of me,

              the water of me, to yank you out.

                            But you’re gone. And I’m painting a room

 

blue and my palms crack and scar

              like I pushed on the breathing ribs

                            of the sea: all surface, all froth,

 

the sun searing my heart line.

              I listen to Bowie sing about the stars.

                            My downstairs neighbor lights a bong.

 

I open the window wider. When I shake

              the heavy can of paint, I hear lungs

                            gulping to swallow water. When I stir

 

a flat stick into it, veins

              marble then blend into the whole.

                            These are the things I think about

 

now I’ve left my bed, sealed

              tight with a tarp so I would not crawl

                            back in. So the droplets would not blue

 

the pillow. I roll the sticky sky

              all over the walls. Your absence tilts

                            like a bell within the truss of me. All I

 

am & all I was. My belly blown

              like an egg. The last time I saw you

                            floating in the deepest waters

 

of a screen, your eyes

              little pearls, your cheeks trumpeting,

                            I believed you              I believed you              were alive.

Tyler Mills (she/her) is the author of City Scattered (Snowbound Chapbook Award, Tupelo Press 2022), Hawk Parable (Akron Poetry Prize, U Akron Press 2019), Tongue Lyre (Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award, SIU Press 2013), and co-author with Kendra DeColo of Low Budget Movie (Diode Editions 2021). Her nonfiction manuscript, The Bomb Cloud, recently received a Literature Grant from the Café Royal Foundation NYC. She teaches for Sarah Lawrence College’s Writing Institute and lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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