We are so pleased to present our inaugural issue for you to feast and delight your eyes upon. From poetry on familial brokenness and the injustices women face to gorgeous female-empowering imagery, we aim for this issue, from seventeen talented artists, to comfort and inspire you on this warm summer day. Don't forget to check out our exclusive interview with illustrator Jocelyn Tsaih, whose poignant illustrations capture the loneliness and need to connect with others in this mad, mad world.
We hope that you enjoy and share our first issue with others.
Elizabeth | Founder/Editor-In-Chief
Table of Contents
2 Poems by Merry Benezra
2 Photographs by Elizabeth O'Connell-Thompson
2 Poems by Saquina Karla C. Guiam
"my girlfriend's wife" by Emily Blair
"REDWOOD" by Janet Malotky
"Hagiography For Wicked Women" by Caroline Shea
"For A Child Beaten" by Deanna Paul
"How Don Did It" by Penny Perkins
"Self-Portrait (2013)" by James Croal Jackson
2 Illustrations by Pigeon
2 Poems by Amar Clair
"Invisible Destruction" by Sarah Bigham
"The Lovers Grimm" by Katherine Orozco-Verderber
"Look For Me, I'll Be Around." by Tori Eberle
"Those Damn Shoes" by Kristine Brown
"Schnitzel Haus" by Meghan Rose Allen
3 Pieces by Jocelyn Tsaih / Interview With Jocelyn Tsaih
I found my father in a tangled
field, one night.
Amazing, he said, to be consoled
by small weather
after such storms...
Fireflies marked their
coordinates in volumes of air
steamship moon chugged a
across the sky.
How small he grew, standing
and soon only a smudge against
the night, a disturbance
in the porous air.
And how long I stood and waited,
and waited for the moon to moor.
trinket called dark-haired-mother and
nothing-harder around her neck. It keeps
her sad but who else
will wear it?
Or swaddling shadow — the way the rising moon
got tangled in the branches, or the cradle,
swaying on the treetop.
Merry Benezra is a poet and householder living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her poems have been published by IthacaLit.
As both a poet and photographer, I have yet to find an instance in which forcing myself to choose one medium over another has led to any kind of clarity. While my writing explores what can be done with the malleability of memory, my photography provides a clearer answer: this is what was there, this is what it looked like, and if they argue, show them. It is very much about textures, creating as close to a physical experience as possible; I want viewers to reach out to touch, feel grit in their eyes.
stop bringing your regrets to a knifefight Heretic and Acolyte
I can hear this small town scream
DISGRACE WALKS AMONG US
and I laugh—the sound of distant
bells at night—because the people
don’t know they’re talking about me.
It could never be you—you’re a kind
of divinity invisible to everyone but me,
as I become your satellite, your north
star, devotion taking human shape.
The spitting whispers surge
as we lie in the temple I built
for the days I howl and pant
at your side by my own hand.
You once asked if I was a wolf
in a dream; I never told you
I was always one in every incarnation,
always next to a version of you.
I pray to you when I should be praying
to the god at the cross,
but he never comes around and doesn’t
take calls, so I gave up on believing in
men once they pack up and leave.
when you are taught
to be kind, to have
your hand unblemished
but the world outside
your door teaches you
to be otherwise:
you grow teeth
other than your mouth,
the skin around your
palms dry up and wrinkle,
there’s miles of ash
in your fingernails.
in the mirror,
wanting to get out.
you put a blanket
on every reflective surface
through the world
thinking it’ll be easier
without the softness
of your past
at your heels.
Saquina Karla C. Guiam is a writer from General Santos City, Philippines. She is currently a graduate school student, taking up a Master's degree in English at Ateneo de Davao University. Her work has appeated or will appear in Transcending Shadows Review, The Machinery, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Fem Lit Mag, and others. She's the Roots nonfiction editor of Rambutan Literary.
my girlfriend’s wife
I wonder where the line draws itself
between what we possess
& what we are
we do not know
the true constitution
flowers beneath my fingernails,
stringy, bruised, & stained
Emily Blair is the product of blue-collar Appalachia and an abiding fascination with bodies in space. Her work is forthcoming or has recently appeared in The Lavender Review, Crab Fat Magazine, The Fem Lit Magazine and Spry Literary Magazine, among others. She is currently pursuing an MA in English at the University of Louisville.
Draw a place:
where trees solid as silos
the bark a landscape of centuries
Now roll your eyes
inward and see the tree’s
niches of habitation
nested each within the next.
Here the largest and
draw the tolerance niche,
in which to die slowly of need.
Sketchily bounded within it
scribe its fundamental niche,
a scarcely survivable plot.
Draw only the bones of a house
and none of a home.
and with exceeding care,
circle the realized niche,
its breathing locus
sloping oceanward and
perched on the head of a pin.
Consider how an impossibly
mingled breath of variables
shifts it nearer to this or that
Now draw how a seed, a mite, and
a dew point shift in coastal fog
Janet Malotky lives a life suffused in language, by day as a speech/language pathologist and by evening as a poet. She especially delights in the mysteries at the intersection of language, science, and the inner world of human experience.
Hagiography for Wicked Women
I carry with me
only the requisite courage
and a personal hagiography —
psalm of the women before me, sick and angry.
Anthem as refusal of erasure.
The buoyancy of June — peeled from the thick pelt of winter —
rustle of skin and air uninterrupted, intimate.
Summer is slick with possibility and sweat.
Dirt-crusted band-aids on the edge of the bath
like scavenged relics in the Holy Land — not the wound,
but the memory of it. Season of razor-nicked kneecaps
and feet tanned leather-tough.
Stasis swamps and suffocates. I cannot live in the lull.
I need the bustle of town, the half-baked crusade of days
bursting with being. Oh, Virginia, they always mean well,
mistaking seclusion for protection. The best cure, though,
has always been in the work of living. Work that risks injury
by definition. So many women saved from themselves —
straight-jacketed, silenced, second-fiddled.
I am made and remade by my own hand. I too create desolation.
Inchoate edges sharpening themselves on the whetstone
of humid lilac haze. Days daisy-chain across the calendar
and a bumper sticker blares — “WICKED WOMAN
SAVED BY GRACE,” and I think how happy,
how blessed are the unsaved.
Caroline Shea was the Editor in Chief of the 2014 Kenyon Young Writers Workshop anthology, where her work was featured. She recently was a featured poet on Pankhearst and her poetry has appeared in WOLVES Magazine, Yellow Chair Review, and Moonsick Magazine. She lives in Vermont where she avoids hypothermia, writes for The Vermont Cynic and is Co-Editor in Chief of Vantage Point magazine.
For a Child Beaten
Auntie rooted her love in Latin,
where discipline was derived directly
from instruction. She taught me well
with a belt buckle,
grooming my back
in smooth burning blows.
The body is regulated
for stability. We are more survival
than evolution and I was a butterfly —
surrendering in vibrant, violent colors
bleeding out in perfect symmetry.
By the time rigor set in I was on autopilot.
The beating slowed with my pulse
and a cold that radiated. I was small,
stiff and catatonic. I glowed.
My eyes closed.
I dreamt I was a hippo
bleeding black and sinking
through a crack in the ceiling.
Auntie was depraved of
(now I am deprived of)
The doctors ruled my death consistent.
*A person is guilty of Murder in the Second Degree when, under circumstances evincing
a depraved indifference to human life, she recklessly causes the death of such person.
Deanna Paul is a New York City criminal attorney by way of Miami Beach, Florida. She is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at Fordham University School of Law and a member of the New York City Bar Association's Domestic Violence Committee. Her work has appeared in Word Riot, Drunk Monkeys, and Kind of a Hurricane Press (Pyrokinection). Twitter
How Don Did It
After getting home from his job of pouring concrete for Becker Construction, Don sat down on the couch. Bits of dried concrete stuck to his work pants. He picked off a spot of the grey, like a scab, and flicked it to the floor. He let out a long sigh. He was tired and exhausted from work. He was tired and exhausted from life. He was tired and exhausted from Carol leaving him. He was tired. He was exhausted. He sank into the couch like the great dead weight he was becoming. Like a block of concrete.
He stared at the TV. It was turned off, but he stared at it anyway. He put his hand on the round coffee table that he had built the first year he was married to Carol and slowly spun the top of it. Spinning the table top — something he had yelled at the girls for doing many times. But they weren’t here now. No one was. Just him. Home alone after work. The house had a quietness that unnerved him.Then it sunk in:
They weren’t coming back.
He watched the table spin slowly, and then more slowly, until it came to a halt. The end of motion hung in the air.
They really weren’t coming back.
Carol wasn’t changing her mind. The girls didn’t want to see him.
He felt ashamed. Not for what he had done to drive them away. But for being left. How could he be king of his castle if there was no one in the castle to be king of? How pathetic to be king of himself. They had left him. It was humiliating. Embarrassing. A slap in the face. For 16 years, he had had a wife and kids. And then one day, unexpectedly, he didn’t. Everything gone. Just like that. No warning. Who was he without his fiefdom to rule? His kingdom was empty and his throne mocked him. He had no idea who he was without the people he ruled over.
How dare she do that to him?!
And now on top of it, this ridiculous deadline. He had 30 days to sign the papers. The papers which made it official to have his wife and kids surgically removed from him. A surgery he hadn’t asked for, didn’t want, wasn’t expecting. A great chopping off, without anesthesia—and now he was truncated and pruned, and hemorrhaging all over the place.
Tomorrow was the deadline. He was supposed to sign the papers by tomorrow. What bullshit. Because if he didn’t sign the papers, after the thirty days were up, they would go into effect anyway. The divorce would be real whether he agreed to it or not, whether he wanted it or not, whether he signed the papers or not. Out of his hands. Out of his control. Everything was out of his control. He couldn’t control the train wreck his life had become. He could hear it. He could hear the whistle of the train coming right at him, barreling down right on him, and the whistle from it blasted a hole through his chest. And the train wreck itself—the screeching of steel on rails, the sparks and smoke and calamitous sound of metal crunching and folding and twisting and ripping, the glass breaking and flying, the unbearable sight of something that shouldn’t be seen—was unfolding in slow-motion all around him. He was at the center. He was the train and he was the wreck, both and each, and there was no stopping the onrushing momentum of catastrophe.
He got up from the couch. He paced the room. Not that there was much room for his pacing. The big, round coffee table took up the middle of the room. The orange and brown couch, the orange E-Z chair, the stuffed yellow chair with the matching footstool. The console TV in the middle of one wall. The wire magazine rack next to the couch. It all took up all the room in the room. Barely room for him. Almost no room for his pacing.
Can’t a man pace in his own house?!
He had to get a grip. He had to do something. He couldn’t continue like this. His pain. His thoughts. His paralysis. His emptiness. His shame at being left. What kind of man was he? How could he be left and still be a man? How could he be a man without a wife and kids? How could he be head of the household if there was no household to be head of?
He looked down the hallway and saw his guns hanging on the wall on the rack he had made.
Yes, that made sense.
Men hunt. He was a hunter. Therefore, he was a man. Yes, thank god, he was still a man.
That’s what he would do instead of pacing. He would take care of his guns. He would polish up his manhood. He would clean out the cobwebs of his mind by cleaning out his guns.
He went to the closet in the dining room—such a weird place to have a closet, but nonetheless there it was—and got out his blue metal case of gun-cleaning materials. Everything he needed was in the case: the cleaning solvent, the gun oil lubricant, a bore brush, a patch holder and patches, a cleaning rod to attach the patches, cotton swabs, a soft cloth for polishing, and a tiny flashlight to look into the dark spaces of internal mechanisms.
Back in the living room, he put the blue, metal box on the coffee table and unbuckled the two snaps on either side. Then he stopped. He’d forgotten something. He needed newspaper to protect the polyurethane sheen of his oak coffee table. He was so proud of his handiwork that even in this tortured state of mind he was still careful to protect and not scrape the wood. He grabbed an old, Sunday paper which had been on the kitchen table for weeks, along with empty aluminum trays of several spent TV dinners, and spread the newsprint out over the coffee table to protect it. Then he unloaded the pieces of the gun cleaning kit and put them on the table. The familiar ritual helped him feel calmer. A little more in control. For the first time in weeks, he felt like he knew what he was doing.
He got the guns from the rack in the hallway and brought them to the living room. He put the rifle on the couch next to him. The shotgun he held in his hands. He held it as if he were going to shoot it. He aimed it at the front door. He imagined Carol coming through the door. A slight smile lifted his lips. Then he put the gun in his lap.
The first rule of gun cleaning is to check the chamber and make sure there is no bullet. Even though he knew there was no bullet in the gun— he always emptied the chamber before he put his guns away—he checked anyway. Out of habit.
He opened the chamber.
To his surprise there was a shell in it.
He wasn’t expecting that. He wondered how it had gotten there.
But he had been under so much stress lately. These last thirty days — ever since Carol left with the girls — had been a blur. Maybe he had shot the guns and didn’t remember. Maybe he had left a round in the chamber afterwards. He couldn’t be sure. He couldn’t even remember the last time he had taken the guns out. He was shocked that he had left the gun loaded. It couldn’t be.
Still, there was the shell.
He lifted it out of the chamber. He inspected it. Fingered its blunt, round end. Brought it close to his eye. Peered at it. Then he slowly lifted the shell to his head and touched it right in the middle of his forehead. He held it there for a second. Not sure of what he was thinking. Not sure why he was doing it. Just doing it. Holding the shell against his head with the end pushed into his forehead gave him a tingly feeling in the spot. Not unpleasant. Just odd.
He removed the shell from his forehead and picked up the cleaning cloth. So soft. With the cloth so soft he wiped the spot on his forehead where the shell had been. Then he put the shell back in the gun chamber and closed it. He took the cloth and began polishing the shot gun barrel with slow, deliberate strokes.
Next he soaked a cotton patch with cleaning solvent and pushed it through the bore, the inside of the barrel, with the cleaning rod. After he pushed the patch through, he took the bore brush and ran it back and forth several times to loosen any debris that was still inside. Then he soaked another cotton patch and pushed it through the bore with the cleaning rod to gather the debris loosen by the brushing. He was very methodical. He had done it hundreds of times in his life. The robotic mechanics of it were soothing.
But this time something was different.
This time there was the shell. In the chamber. Lying. Waiting.
That subtle difference produced an enormous amount of energy. A shell in the chamber. The gun was loaded and he was cleaning a loaded gun.
Was the shell another piece of the train wreck? Or the solution to it?
After the last cotton patch came through clean, he picked up the small flashlight and shone it into the barrel. He squinted his right eye and put the barrel up to his left. Now he had the barrel pointed to his head. He was looking inside the barrel, making sure it was clean. He couldn’t see much. Couldn’t see down into the barrel. Something was in his eyes. Water. Tears. He was surprised to find himself crying.
He rested the barrel against this forehead. The same spot where he had pressed the end of the shell. He wiped his eyes. Then he closed them. There was something natural about it all, almost inevitable. Like the barrel should be there, resting against his skull. But his neck was bent at an awkward angle, and so he moved his head away from the barrel.
What was he doing? Was he sitting down to clean his guns? Was he sitting down to clear his head? Was he clearing his head of thoughts? Deep dark sad maudlin thoughts? Or was he sitting down to clear his head completely of everything—of gray matter, of brains, of cells, of consciousness? What exactly was he doing when he sat down? What was he doing now with the barrel at his head?
He didn’t know. Maybe he was just trying it on for size. Maybe he was just seeing what it felt like to put the barrel against his head.
With the same forward momentum that seemed unstoppable, he tried another position. He opened his mouth. He moved the barrel inside it. Maybe he just wanted to see what it felt like. Maybe he had no intention of going through with it. Maybe he just wanted to see what thoughts ran through his head while the metal tube rested inside his mouth, covered with his lips. What did it feel like to have the gun metal clank against his teeth, and match up with the metal in his molar fillings? What did it taste like to have the barrel in his mouth? How was it that while the gun was in his mouth his tongue took on a life of its own, like a worm exploring a foreign object in its chamber with eager curiosity, sticking itself into the small round hole of the barrel.
While most of his brain was taken up with processing the sensations of the gun in his mouth and the feel of the outside of the barrel in his hands, a small part — a part that he paid little attention to — flashed a series of rapid-fire memories through his mind: Clay surprising him from behind, and then the pain and fear of Clay pressing himself into him; his father beating him with a hickory switch; drinking and laughing with his army buddies; his wedding day; having sex with Carol the first time; and then, thirteen years later, having sex with his daughters, first the oldest and then the younger one; endless times touching himself while thinking of these things, too.
Now his hands were reaching for something else. He wasn’t surprised to realize that it was the trigger he was searching for. But his fingers were having trouble finding it; his hands were at an awkward angle. Finally, one of his fingers touched the trigger. He fingered it. Traced its gentle curve.
He wondered what to do.
Maybe he didn’t even make a conscious choice. Maybe he slipped. Maybe he was leaning against the coffee table and the top turned, threw him off balance. Maybe he accidentally fired the gun. Maybe he meant to and maybe he didn’t. Maybe he was just trying suicide on for size, just pretending, but — surprise! — it got the better of him. That damn hair-trigger.
Either way, whether he consciously meant to or not, the trigger got pushed back. The firing mechanism launched into action.
And then, in that split second, it didn’t matter whether he meant to or not.
There was only the graphic, stark reality of the aftermath:
The explosion of the shell rushing through the barrel of the shot gun and exploding into his head.
The slaughter of his face.
The top of his head blown off like Mount Saint Helens. But instead of ash and lava, it rained blood and brains and shotgun pellets everywhere.
Blood and gore soaking into the cloth of the couch. Blood and gore splattered all over the walls. Not just the wall behind him, although that one got it the worst, but all the walls in the living room, and the ceiling and the floor, and down the hallway, too. And even into the dining room. Everywhere. Blood and brains everywhere. The stench. The ooze. The goo. The force of a shotgun blast at close range—so powerful, so terrifyingly awesome. So destructive to human flesh.
His limp body slumped on the couch, upper torso blasted over. Feet on the floor. And the gun caught between his legs, resting on his crotch, still pointing up to his face, like a final metal erection.
And the weirdest part of all: some chunk of brain ricocheting off the hallway wall and bouncing all the way into the kitchen, to the opposite side of the room, where it knocked off the handset from the phone on the wall.
The buzz of the dial tone the only sound in a house that was otherwise tomb-silent. Except for a few minutes later when gravity gathered the weight it had been working on and Don’s body — which had been slowly sliding off the couch — fell to the floor with a distinctive, and final, squishy, sickening thud. Splattering more blood and brains on the wall, baseboard, and hardwood floor.
Also, to note: that unlikely ricochet of a chunk of brain knocking the phone off its hook was an important piece of the aftermath. Because, with the handset knocked off the phone, anyone who called received a busy signal. And when Don didn’t show up for work the next day —and when everyone who called to find out why only got a busy signal—then that was the clue for Don’s boss to call Don’s neighbor and ask him to go check on depressed, divorced Don. Now depressed, divorced, dead Don.
Penny Perkins holds an MFA in creative writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM. Her short story “Car Ride Through Corn Fields (1975)” was the winner of Beecher’s Magazine 2014 Fiction Contest. Recent short stories and poems have been published or are forthcoming in The Pine Hills Review, On the Veranda, Fiction Fix, Perversion Magazine, Rocky Mountain Revival, Waxwing, The New Verse News, Entropy/Enclave, and HOAX. She teaches creative writing at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
shoelaces (untangled. tangled.)
a flattened box (pabst blue ribbon)
bologna sandwich (paper bag lunch)
lips (peanut butter. honey)
god (paperback books)
James Croal Jackson is a writer, musician, and occasional filmmaker whose work in film and TV in Los Angeles led to a rediscovery of his love of poetry. His poems have appeared in magazines including The Bitter Oleander, Lines+Stars, and Columbia College Literary Review. He is the winner of the 2016 William Redding Memorial Poetry Prize via The Poetry Forum. He lives in Columbus, Ohio. Visit him at jimjakk.com.