Moth Instead of Mother
Moth’s apron is moth-eaten
from the time she ran out of food stamps a week early.
Moth only cooks TV dinners
and only for herself.
Moth buys me button-downs from men’s clearance
and doesn’t think I’ll notice.
Moth’s had the same haircut since 1962 (and has brought
the same men home since then, too).
Moth gives them the good stuff
and makes me eat government cheese.
Moth says if I hike up my hemline, I deserve
the nasty hissing that follows.
Moth is looking for a new husband; noises follow
her, too, but she likes the whistle.
Moth thinks this man will stay, but I found a spiny carcass
of the last one under her bed.
Moth understands only half
of “feast or famine.”
The Radiator is Still Broken
Hooray for cold men, snow men,
frost coming in. Let’s celebrate
the icy silence. Let’s highlight
space between our shoulders,
two deliberate inches,
an unfelt caress. Let’s not talk
about how you cried on the phone
last night, wished for your gun
but it’s locked in the pawn shop
on 6th Street. Let’s celebrate
bullets without a chamber,
its ringing, empty sirens.
Training the New Girl
Wear this blouse, these shoes, this hat.
Be satin and shine like fresh steamed milk.
Swirl behind the register.
Blend with crema: brown and white.
Rosettas and ferns. Hearts and flowers.
We are all plants and organs here.
Find your beating center,
learn to pour it in a cup.
Give yourself away for $4.19.
Give yourself away again.
Art requires precision:
build a cap of foam
and scrape it back to reveal
your rich, hot interior.
It Was All I Could Do
Because it was the last time.
I didn’t want to, but it felt good
and it was easy. I drank
to feel pity for a man
pouring drinks to see my tits,
so I could stare at the floor
when he wanted my eyes suffering
into his, so I could take his mouth
and give nothing back.
Katie Longofono is a writer pursuing an MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College; she received a BA in English from the University of Kansas. She is currently a poetry reader for Lumina and the poetry editor of Stone Highway Review. Her first chapbook, The Angel of Sex, was released earlier this year from dancing girl press; she also has a collaborative chapbook with Mary Stone Dockery, titled Honey and Bandages, forthcoming from Folded Word Press.
Lost on the New Jersey Turnpike: A Pantoum
I bought outlet covers and a small stuffed rhino
with beady eyes and a stitched white mouth.
The vitamins churned my stomach—
I went through three bottles.
You have beady eyes and a stitched white mouth
in my dreams, but I cradle you like we just
went through three bottles.
Milk dribbling down your tiny chin.
In my dreams, I cradle you. Like we just
mistook the spilling blood and you get to have that
sweet milk smell on your tiny chin
like we imagined. But we didn’t
mistake the spilling blood; you get that
pinecone smell instead, from the rest stop bathroom.
We imagined, but didn’t
ever think we’d lose you on the Jersey Turnpike.
Pinecone smells and a rest stop bathroom
are the only gifts that I could give you.
He said he didn’t think we’d lose you. On the Jersey Turnpike
we pay toll after grisly toll.
The only gifts that I could give you
are outlet covers and a small stuffed rhino.
Now we pay toll after grisly toll;
the road rhythm churns my stomach.
Crystal Schubert lives in Seattle with her husband and her two cats. Her poetry has previously been published in YARN.
I tried on Mom’s gown at fifteen; already
too small to zip past my hips. Paint it
red. Dining room birds of paradise. Cocktail
shrimp. Hawk’s tail. Brick or birth or a pick-up
you used to drive that we kept keys for. Paint it that living
color I see at “swelling”, “asphyxia”, “inheritance”. The check
arrived day before yesterday. One-thousand-eight-hundredand-nine
dollars (that red again) shotgun for the wedding. No father-
daughter dance. Confession: I had a baby once, can’t forgive
myself or the drink that bled him from me (and more wine)
what does the riverbed look like from the other side?
Could I walk to you? Will the tide turn our color?
The rains of spring swell me quivering;
flood devours our path to each other.
I am your daughter. I will not cry, can’t
unclasp my bones like fingers
falling to fist post-prayer.
Can’t Be Helped
Pretend this all a peep show—curve
fallen past hem, spit,
salt, your one good hand.
Let me dumb
down my legs. Call this war
time. Say “dynamite” and burn
comes. Say “honey”—I will melt without
stinging. I will pretend
I am not carrying groceries. No. Drowsy
eyes, fat lip. What would you
if I? Pretend your tiny
daughter can’t see this oily
dance. Pretend you are alone, sweating
sin into palm with a weak shudder. Did you
discuss with your brothers at breakfast? What
of the chauffeur who slowed
limo to leer? Yours. And
the one who pushed past
near the station, whispered how much
then again, and louder, and a third
time. Your blood too. The command
to smile, how it is no order
for mouth. How it wants to choke
strut from me same as dropping
one more quarter before
window is wall.
My pictures are Polaroid
in the top drawer of a desk:
ass up on the unmade bed
reading some glossy, glancing
over my shoulder, sure.
Film an unstable widow’s web.
I found yours in the Vice
a night vision crime
scene, your breasts
the pane of a Xerox
machine, your mouth
a green-gray smear
across fourteen pages.
When I am alone
in front of the mirror
I wonder at what might be lost—
if someone could carve that full
white curve from me and can it,
an unwilling ghost.
Emily O’Neill is a proud Jersey girl who tells loud stories in her inside voice because she wants to keep you close. Her most recent work is present or forthcoming in Sugar House Review, Weave Magazine, Whiskey Island, Paper Darts, and FRiGG Magazine. She edits nonfiction for Printer’s Devil Review. You can pick her brain at http://emily-oneill.com.
this is not an act
Recent winter. Femininity in the form of warm clothing and crocheted accessories. Snow in a pretty, nonthreatening way. An evening like some kind of sitcom.
When I meet up with a man I am not-dating in the snow, I am hyper-aware of what is not happening. We are holding hands, and no one is watching. We are walking down the sidewalk, and no one is following us. Until, in a moment that I cannot believe, he pulls me to him amidst the crowd on the crowded sidewalk. I don’t know what he’s doing until he’s kissing me. People step around us, and they are not angry. When I hear yelling, I break away and brace myself for violence. People are smiling and cheering. Another straight-appearing couple is clapping. I am thoroughly confused. Later, he kisses me at his train platform. I enjoy this until I remember the last time I kissed someone at this train platform. This time, no one gives a shit. I tell him our privilege is showing, and I walk up the stairs to my platform. No one follows me. When I sit down on the train, an apparent woman sits down next to me. I, too, an apparent woman.
this that is not an act
An older spring. A collage. At a college. New job, new peers, same body.
I cannot easily forget the moments of a new job. A man in the front lobby hesitant to meet with me.“Obviously you only like to work with women,” he says, looking me up and down. His hand on my thigh under the table during our appointment. Me hesitant to tell my superiors. My superiors hesitant to tell their superiors. Me silent after that. Or co-workers in the back room unwilling to understand me partnered but not-lesbian. “Have you been fooling us?” “Is she an experiment?” I remember myself in a queer theory class one year prior, giving a presentation on transgender-exposé episodes of talk shows. I imagine myself in the trickster archetype, Sally Jessy rooting up photographs from my past. Me, carving out a space for myself, inside myself. These same new peers excitedly describing success for “gay marriage.”
neither act nor action
A recurrence. Friendly appropriation: How to intellectualize experience for an academic audience.
When my friend wants to describe what the word queer means in a political context meaning something different from gay, she cites an internet cartoon. An inked drawing: two white men in front of a white picket fence. The caption: “We’re just like you. Racist, classist, sexist.” My friend cites this cartoon and says, “Queer means not that.”I take this punchline as my own. In trainings, I define queer as “not that,” and then I proceed to define that. This works well until I think too much about implication, until I remember the reclaiming of the word through institutionalization, the assumed whiteness and actual privilege inherent in all of this. Nothing is good enough. I say as much. The university officials in the training nod.
an act or an action
Another older spring. To publicly negotiate gender in a same-sex not-divorce.
My new friends are beginning to implement what I have taught them about the vocabulary of genderqueer and trans* identity, about preferred pronouns. They observe her masculinity in their memory and accidentally support her in undercutting mine. When they ask how things are going, they omit pronouns, or they use a hesitant ze to refer to her. I smile. I state a simple, “She prefers feminine pronouns.” What I want to do is yell, She’s a she! What I want to do is admit, She’s a butch. She’s outside of your frame of reference because she’s outside of mine.
was this an act or an action
An older winter. Long day at a conference in a neighboring city. Impromptu dinner with this man I know.
I am on something like a date with a man who identifies as straight. I happen to be dressed as something like a man. When we walk close together down the city street, I hear shouting and I listen. We have been called fags. He is unaffected; he never felt called to listen. I guide us into a restaurant. The waiter exclusively talks to me. We have a nice meal.
enact or inaction
Recent winter. Traveling for a job. A room, two double beds. Three women and a not-woman. White linens. A desperate desire for sleep.
I share a hotel bed with a woman I’m attracted to. This is not for sex, but for economy. I am expected to behave straightly—chastely—not only as not interested in women but also as a woman—for this night. The thing about this woman’s body is that it reminds me of my not-partner’s body. When I get into the bed, she is already asleep. I am careful not only to not disturb her, but also to not touch her. I have been accused of hyper-sexuality before. Probably all of us have. I leave what I think is a one-foot trench in the center of the bed, but I often mis-judge the size of my body. I am not surprised, then, when I feel her against me. But I am surprised, violently, by the feel of her against me: the curve of her belly fitting into the curve of my back. The warm heat of this spreads to my entire length, like something that should be relaxed into; at this proximity, the gentle hairs of her belly pricking my skin. When I move away and away from her. When I start to slip from the edge of the bed. When I realize my skin is not exposed. When I know that I can’t possibly be touching her, but that I can still feel the warmth and the prickling. Only then do I start to understand the weight of memory. I move back into the bed. I attempt to remind myself of what is real, and what is not real. And when I struggle to sleep, I dream of her—not of the straight woman I am bedded with but of the butch woman she reminds me of—and also—thank you for the also—of a man I love. In the dream, he genders me correctly.
M. Mack is a poet and editor in the D.C. area. Mack holds an M.F.A. from George Mason University, where ze served as managing editor of So to Speak: a feminist journal of language and art. Ze is a founding co-editor of Gazing Grain Press, an explicitly inclusive feminist chapbook press. Poem-things from the same book project as “Not This” are forthcoming in Gargoyle.
Not a token or a key that became lost
but a sentence. Lost, completely lost under the trestle where you might once, at one time, have stood, leaning back in childhood’s pants, overcome by shyness. Might have waited, as you wait now, sundered from the play, the orchestra and crew and left now with only the audience whom you scatter crumbs to but who demand wine, or tofu – and the lilies that you used to tend have left you, to be tended by someone older and wiser or younger and stupider, and you’ve left the hyacinth simply to die. You have – as happy as it made you, it made you that sad. How to stand it? Sometimes, oh in the past, the answer has been dance, like it was just the ribbon needed to either tie up the present or to bind your feet – whatever was most culturally relevant and in seed.
The tragedy is in the making,
cellar-bound to wait with the jams in jars for some sunny morning when it will be called for, made use of. Industry. Hold onto the girl, would you please. She wiggles so. Brace her, like this. Put these two seashells in her ears – one apiece – she is easily convinced by the sound alone that we’ve returned her from the city, that she’s back where she feels she belongs. And guard the door in case compassion comes along, meddling in situations without bothering to learn the context, or troubling to see the logic. Bumbling as usual, and taking everything so personal.
Heartbreak on a side divan
– not even a main place, just a reference place, something to tag as representative. She clutched our hand so tightly and had a snake delivered to her. How the quiet gestation was embellished by a few remarks, a few small interactions, getting undressed in the dark, weary of the inconveniences of propriety and weary in general. And how she would never pick her points but would leave them buried with the mice behind the city prison – the one with the narrow views. (You can’t see them but they can see you.)
The fence, the faucets –
all the rendered parts of the house in full or partial bloom, extracted from the main by pulverizing the yard-woman’s written instructions. Oh what a process! The meal that’s required for the rendering – a paste – is dark and gloomy and has an effect on us. First, on our ponytails – it subtly changes the muscle caps of our brains so we may, if we wish, swish them without moving our heads. In short, we grow a rudimentary tail. Next come the secondary feelings which are hard to grant vocabulary to and upon which has been written a great deal. And when we are done and have sculpted the window-frames and toilet bowls (sometimes taking inspiration from the sea) and the handles and the formative walls, we can sit down. It is usually then and only that that we wonder what it was she had written.
Her voice is light
and moaning over there by the bar.
His march is interminable; the length he can go with the laces in his dress shoes.
Her goal is plantless, horned, a given.
His son is calling but he will go downstairs.
The band is playing.
The portion of her brain devoted to the passage of time is given no attention.
She concentrates on the always-changing pattern of the men’s legs as they come down into the room.
She sings on a stool.
Relaxes her many jaws.
Opens her body like a yawn, naked and in front of men.
He pauses, thinks of his children.
Elisabeth Blair is a writer, artist and musician currently based in Chicago. Her work has been published and/or is forthcoming in Drupe Fruits, Humble Humdrum Cotton Frock, The Literary Bohemian, Fortunates, Paramanu Pentaquark, zafusy, Can We Have Our Ball Back?, Lilliput Review, Shampoo, ken*again, Be Which Magazine, and Acumen Literary Journal.
A Meteor Entering Suburban Closets
When Mars was closest to the Earth,
divorce became the center:
Crooked spaces surrounded the family
room with beige lampshades tipped
over and red nail polish spilled
permanently where you sat
for a short time.
I thought I saw a painting hung and
massacred with bullet holes.
I tugged at my skin and saw that those threats on the wall
in truth were
similar to that of paw prints.
The reality makes tortuous sense
like the child and her first birthday
party: a clown with muscles,
a male stripper
hidden behind fantasy
brought only to entertain,
brought only for destruction.
It smells like someone lit a match.
Yes, it’s you.
You yell so quickly like freezing rain.
My insides: heart, uterus, stomach
jump like bunny seeds,
blast and boil like your temperament.
Found in Part
Story of the door: cold, scanty, embarrassed;
what the two love in each other.
Though time has been created
she has her death warrant written
legibly upon her wrinkles.
I made sure she was insane.
I hope she has nightmares when I sleep.
Richelle Dodaro earned her BA in English-Creative Writing from Seton Hill University. Her work has appeared previously in Yawp, Mad Swirl, and Eye Contact. She is currently working on a full length poetry collection, Unrebel, as well as a novel.
Inside the Balloon
A woman has two options: full or
not-full. The cavity contracts and empties.
I used to say: I break to make love.
I used to say: do so in remembrance of me.
Solid to spector: outside in: chocolate bunny,
doll head, paper lantern.
A body panics, a pattern of exquisite bleeding.
Go inside to find pleasure. Show me
I can cause it. That it’s findable.
The invite and leave. The repeat.
The take in and let go: The repeat.
My orgasms too, like a fish gasping for water.
I want to love someone with the fierceness I have while breaking.
Jessica Ankeny is from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and now lives in Brooklyn with her cat, Joni Mitchell. She has a chapbook about bullets and sex forthcoming from dancing girl press called One Simple Step to Keeping a Clean Gun. Her work can be found in Metazen, The Boiler, and scattered all over her desk.