Two Poems by Travis Hedge Coke

Young Lady on a Bus

America is born on an ancient Indian burial mound.
Aren’t we all?

Young lady on a bus reading
popcorn, like cornbread and eating corn
was invented by white people when they discovered Indians
didn’t know what to do with it.

In mysteriously cultivated gardens
– you might think someone turned this soil – 
the bus goes down, downtown, sad.

Aren’t we all?

“There’s a green one,” someone says
dun dun dundundun and someone else
takes a puff hidden in their cupped palms,
and says, “When did all our moms start working?” like this is new.

But our lady on the bus
– how’s that? –
easy as a ten year thing going
out of bounds and heading out of town as fast as the bus seat will take her
is farther away any time.

Aren’t we all?

“Send tits!” somebody says
from the cab of a truck going the other way
slow back into America.

Give it this: What America can’t sex up it will parcel
and sell
or haven’t you noticed what you pay now, someone will ask you to pay on again tomorrow?

Aren’t we all?

 

The Purple Manner

Have you seen the well-designed door fob of the purple manner
in a thousand and four fractures of showy facet, hidden
in eleven countries of men’s men and lady’s women
Until it stops?

Hey cos hey cos
Hey cos you only gave us rights cos

Queer bars tend to the side entrance
Either by design of luck

Have you opened a door with the back of your shoulder
turned away to open and enter, kept your back to the door
your eye to the cautious street that clearly doubts you and
Given it all? I

either by luck of design
more hungry babies
dance across these floors every night

And to see it all sedated now erased how they do when they
erase everything you well someone worked for isn’t
what is important not who worked what but someone
Some someone did?

Hey cos hey cos
Dancing up these floors every night

In eleven cautious countries of worker’s rights
In eleven cautious countries of worker’s rights
In eleven other countries in event nights
In a thousand and four hidden fractures of showy facet

 

Travis Hedge Coke is a writer, editor, and teacher, working with Along the Chaparral to story interred veterans at the Riverside National Cemetery. The former writer of the Hugo-longlisted Pop Medicine column, they currently write for the weekly Patricia Highsmash, for Comic Watch.

Two Poems by Jaye Elizabeth Elijah

ana-    or up against

cages are not useful      whereas caves are
or crates

                Weimaraner 
                                curls

                                her long



                                body
into the plastic    it might be a womb

                                                                a dream    scape


what can fire do to brick    sesame 
                                                                oil?
                                               cave paintings    sculptures altars
              our sleeping bags    chrysalides
unzipped    
to touch skin    rock    simultaneous

“what do you know about a U-Haul?” you ask
              “I don’t
              I’m thinking about urges”

                                denoting a specific type of scene
urge to rush    to unbutton to sever    to stay

“come back, I want to live together”
can it be earnest?    “can I still hit?”


hollow witch
square pages    against my better judgement

what if these two lovers are new to each other?


this is what a breast tastes like                face of a waterfall
                                wet with algal networking
this is what a breast tastes like
              I find you in the world music section
              release another record that crosses a mountain

every bound body unbound
sweaty worker    woven basket of sorghum
                                (radish/reddish)


                                                                   it is an opening


              the row


              a thread runs through
yanking westward

                                            this is the territory of the creek

topography of a forest             appropriated

                                            (name/remembrance)




I am from the middle


                                                                            you are from the middle



                                            many acres away
and years

there must be imagination in bondage

the way a tooth might be holed from gum    paper stuffed
                in the gaping place

                                            love notes    receipt of fare a bill

you sing to me after the sex

 

Jaye Elizabeth Elijah is a visual artist, writer, orbweaver, and the Nightboat Books Fellow. Their words and images have appeared in Polly Magazine and Rookie Magazine, and were recognized by the Cincinnati Arts Overture Awards. Jaye Elizabeth is pursuing a BA in Literary Studies at The New School, and lives in Brooklyn.

One Poem by Bogi Takács

Refraction, Also Berries

 

I.

This poem is a collaboration between the author and eir computer; a Markov chain process run on the author’s previous poetry manuscripts and the outputs manually sorted and handpicked. It is thus an interaction between two stochastic processes: one on the author’s hard disk and one in the author’s brain.

The author confesses having used this technique in previously published poems. Speculation is welcome and endorsed.

II.

Never veins.

You need the simple, curled up insects
  your words await
in the vehicle 
I would watch for heat, leaving who I am —

I cause pebbles
Please describe thwarted
Do not lore.

They ask me if I am turning
   increasing everything.

You can cry
    help;
      living weapon,
         alas, it is! all right to see flowers are possible;
edifices
in the entrance of your body, and the Academy.

Overhead
   it uncoils
to Talmud, transition.

We live and the fatigue inside this
is marking a home.

III.

Covered outputs creak.

I paint the luminous shame —
can you react
and whisper with a knife in hand?

I wonderstand — you don’t know our mindset
    and if I could, I would —

why, come!
I am unknown.
All tears for the magic;
and for I am you,
would you do it?

IV.

We are still material,
it’s par for the course.

Suppose it’s for the recognition;
I am an invision display,
I am what a jellyfish is producing
and some kind of dimension gate
blessing you with words of speech.

                We are less, we are real,
                               we constantly move away from pain.

 

Bogi Takács is a Hungarian Jewish agender trans person (e/em/eir/emself or they pronouns), טומטום, and an immigrant to the US. E is a winner of the Lambda award for editing Transcendent 2: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction, and a finalist for the Hugo and Locus awards. Eir debut poetry collection Algorithmic Shapeshifting was published by Aqueduct, and eir debut short story collection The Trans Space Octopus Congregation—currently a Lambda award finalist—was published by Lethe Press, both in 2019. You can find Bogi talking about books at bogireadstheworld.com, and on various social media as @bogiperson.

One Story by Zoë Johnson

Making It To Taste

It’s late October at the house just outside of campus. From where you’re lying on the couch, the party is loud, the room is soft around the edges, and you haven’t felt this okay in weeks. Only one person called you “she” today and there’s banana-flavored Laffy-Taffy on the table by the drinks. No one else likes banana-flavored Laffy-Taffy so you get to have as many as you want.

“Being mentally ill fucking sucks,” your friend complains from a nearby beanbag chair, drunk.

“For real,” you agree, because being mentally ill fucking sucks.

“Fuck the establishment, maaaan!” someone ends up saying, sing-song giggling, because it’s easier to manage than: ​higher education doesn’t give a fuck about us, huh?

It makes you smile. Most things people like you are scared about turn into jokes. They kind of have to.

You’re tired of being scared all the time.

See, you’re someone who tends to notice things—lots of things. More things than most.

They’re things worth being scared of and not worth being scared of, alike. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which with all the things you notice. Things like the way she’s looked at you since you made out at the party last New Year’s Eve.

It’s nice, being wanted. Nice but dangerous. Like making a drink to taste after you’ve already had a few. You don’t exactly trust yourself.

You’re too sad and scared and lonely to trust yourself with things that make you feel good.

She’s sitting on the couch across from you and you are falling sideways into the cushions, snickering. You’re doing that thing again; you’re letting too much slip. You wonder how many jokes you can make about handcuffs and riding crops before she realizes it’s one of those ​things​. Something serious that you joke about to make it less powerful. Less important.

It occurs to you, drunk with a face full of couch, just how much you are always holding back because of fear. And it’s ​stupid,​ you think. You know her. She listens with tilted-head interest, is so considerate it makes you ache, but your biology has you hardwired for terror at every turn.

Later, in the dark after more people have left, you slur an apology—a confession—into the soft shoulder of her sweater.

“Sorry ‘m not more, like, physically affectionate when ‘m sober.” You’re holding her hand and it feels wonderful. Dangerous. “Just nervous all the time. Doesn’t mean I don’ like you.”

Affection is something that enters and exits you in corkscrews.

You want her to touch your cheek, to stroke (maybe pull) your hair. To tell you that you are good. You don’t trust yourself to believe it on your own. She has never called you by a word or pronoun you haven’t asked her to, and that kind of trust is a rare commodity for someone like you.

You feel small with her hand on your knee. It’s a good kind of small. A safe kind of small.

“That’s okay,” she says.

You’re not sure how to do anything besides want from inside your own head. If you try to tell her any of this you fear it might all come rushing out at once: your selfishness, your off-center desires, your need, your ​need​.

There’s so much you want. There is so much you don’t trust yourself to have.

Fuck. Most people probably don’t engage in this level of self-sabotage​.

The two of you go out into the backyard and join the lazy, wobbling circle of people passing around a joint. It’s cold enough that your left hand ends up inside her right coat pocket. A handful of minutes later you hear yourself, clumsy, rambling out your entire worldview, zig-zagging around stories you’re not allowed to tell until there is snow on the ground. ​Listen to yourself​, you think. ​You ​knew​ you would say too much​. 

High and a little drunk and you still can’t stop cringing at your constantly leaking edges. You hate yourself for being so ​much​ sometimes. ​Here​, you want say—want to offer her the loose ends of your marionette strings—​let me not be a person for a little while​.

She is soft in her words and her eyes and it makes you hope so much that it aches.

You have a theory that maybe this is why so many people like you are into BDSM. Maybe they don’t want to be scared of feeling good. Maybe they just want to be able to trust other people for a change.

The two of you head back into the house where almost every room is dark now. You stumble, laughing, and follow her like a lost puppy. She invites you to sleep in her bed instead of on the couch. It’s so much easier to just say “yes” than to have asked. You wish she would ask you other things you would say “yes” to.

That night you dream of autumn leaves. Of banana Laffy-Taffys and pot smoke. Of leather cuffs around your wrists. When you wake, it is to find her asleep beside you with a hand on your stomach and a leg over yours.

You don’t trust yourself to do anything but take her hand.

 

Zoë Johnson is a queer transgender non-binary writer living in mid-Michigan. They are an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and a creative writing MFA candidate at the Institute of American Indian Arts.
Their fiction has been shortlisted for PRISM International‘s 2019 Jacob Zilber Prize for Short Fiction and was a finalist for the 2018 Lascaux Review Prize for Short Fiction. Work of theirs has been published in PULP LiteratureEastern Iowa ReviewPlentitude MagazineSonora Review Online, and been anthologized in the Lascaux Prize Vol. 6, as well as Public Poetry‘s 2019 contest finalist anthology “ENOUGH.” Their work is forthcoming bilingually in The Polyglot #6, and as part of “Trans Bodies, Trans Selves” from Oxford University Press in 2021. When not writing, Zoë spends their time doting on their cat Strawberry, learning their tribal language of Anishinaabemowin, and getting far too invested in podcasts.

One Poem by kiki nicole

I’M GONNA LOOK FOR MY BODY, YEAH

for all i know, i am
a museum of vacant stares
i pronounce myself                         little nigga of the void

a they fulla    sockets—
more    holes    than i know what to do
with.                                    find a bitch
slipping in                        + out    theyself                         for
all            i know                       i am a mumble rap
i study any

skt skt

for evidence       i allegedly     was once here
in a          body                                so far removed
from diaspora    i almost      forgot    that it       is there                                 a  theoretical    mass
        i have      yet    to    witness             i    was      not    made
for    the    eye                                  to capture             nor the tongue to
      comprehend    for    the    roof    of    the
                               mouth assigned                         mouth                                       at                          birth

at    night    i      crawl      in    through      my      lips

                                              +     swallow thousands of me

 

kiki nicole is a Black, Queer, and Non-binary multimedia artist and poet. They’ve received invitations to fellowships such as Pink Door Writing Retreat, The Watering Hole, and Winter Tangerine. kiki hopes to lend a voice for the void in which Black femmes not only exist in plain view, but thrive. Find them at kikinicole.com.

Two Poems by L. Reeman

WE’VE ALL DONE THINGS WE’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO DO WITH OUR BODIES 

were i to subject my brain to confession the way i do to therapy, perhaps
i would begin & end with each of your names the way i know my 
name has also bookended the list of sins the confessor & i had
demanded of our bodies, so i am considering your conflicting
doctrine, & how little i know of you except what my hands
remember. i’ve been having dreams about you again. in
them i consented in your hometown, we ate local berries, 
i checked a state off my list. but instead i’m hollowed out 
in the most peculiar sense: filling someone else. i mean
i’m having a hard time not leaving (again). i’m eating
until we’re both crying. i’m sober until i’m not. 
my symptoms are more honest than i am: stress-
related paranoia ongoing feelings of emptiness 
impulsive behavior risky behavior success 
sabotaging behavior: most of the time before 
people know me the way i need them to, 
they G–gle me, & i mean they can: my mug-
shot(s) my legal name my lovers who oscillate 
between prose, who disappear vilified & 
are brought back to my mouth with docu-
mented [redacted] admissions. forgive me,
g_d of a war that was supposed to make
sense. you & someone you hate say 
y’all share the same origin myths so 
i don’t know if i believe in your bed-
room anymore. i watched you undo
the decorations. how you walked
out of yourself & into some-
one’s bad archetype. O, g_d
of giving up the punchline:
send someone else to 
hol[y/d] me. give me law
& liquor: a fifth of each:
with which to confess
where i hid the rest 
of the ________.

 

GOOD MORNING DELAWARE VALLEY METROPOLITAN AREA I’M CRYING 
              ABOUT BEING DISABLED AGAIN

i name each ailment after a cryptid because i like the idea of my limbs given excuses for their magic acts: finally reasons for immobility: a defiant belief against my body’s traditional connotation: how i used to split night-pavement in combat boots: before i forgot how to hold my breath: i swam a mile every other day: now my nerves bulge: my hip disappears: a pain accused of being imagined: an improbable monster: there is no science to explain why my skin bloats: like that: as a child my spine was scrutinized for a scoliosis experiment: i expected to hold a booking number during my mugshot(s) i mean: let me blister into a joke but no, now, every doctor’s measurement feels like a driver’s license seance: pull whoever my bones belonged to before all this shit happened out of my phlemed-up throat and ask them to state their age and address for the camera: i promise i am still angry about how much childhood i lost to doctors’ disappointing hands and still, now, when i wake up surgery after surgery in only more debt not less pain: i can remember not being disabled the way i remember being happy– i’m not sure i could tell you— but i must have felt it: the root word of “cryptid” is “hidden”: so that’s what i call this invisibility: how last month the stairs didn’t matter and now i am crying: at the top of them separated from something i need, again: or an amorphous mythology: how can i expect anyone to believe me: amateur cryptozoologist of my own body: when i can’t tell you how i got here: when science can’t either: when all i know is one day i woke up knowing: something had gotten lost: inside of me–

 

L. Reeman is a disabled transsexual cryptid from the Jersey Shore. As a slam poet they toured and competed internationally and hosted prelim/final stages and open mics. They have work in the 2017 Bettering American Poetry anthology and pieces from their most recent chapbook INVENTION OF THE MOUTH (Dream Pop Press, 2019) have been nominated for multiple Pushcart and Best of the Net prizes. They want to hear about your favorite bridge. 

Two Poems by Quinn Lui

alternate fifth colours of the rainbow

i wear the name you give me for / three years before it thins out threadbare / which is to say for three years    /    i let you call me a moonshard   /   a toxin-bright bloom   /   forktongued and lovely / poison-flowering snakeplant / jade slipped cold into a colourless throat / lined by ghosts with ink-stamped faces / smiling tight-lipped to hide the teeth / call me sovereign of little sorrows / time-lapse of ungrowth / call me anything / but a treasure again / i stole the jadestone from my name and / sold it for gold / melted it down into rivers / and like the drip of mountaintop snow / one day it will all be swallowed / by the ocean / all of its mouths opening and closing fishlike / around their own once-names / forgotten — 


ghost-town girl

bright                   in the way of cerussite: too soft
to be metal-touched. all flash 
& glimmer, saying goodbye
               once every year you’ve known her, 
the routine of the runaway act
                                 something safer to measure by
than a nebulous new year. don’t worry   
                                               what my hands will do.
in every story i’m the only one 
who winds up                  with an open throat.

one time a girl with signal-fire hair 
knelt over me on slick-glowing floor,
laced me back up 
                                 & promised to do it again 
long as i needed it. & next time 
her back was turned                     i asked someone
               to burn down the building.

                                             this is the damnation 
               of the rabbit-heart. i don’t know 
if those ever want anything more than to see 
the warmth of home                       last beyond 
your own meaning, to live 
                                             a little longer, to not 
freeze in the field        as the shadow of death  
falls from above. it’s not 
               that i think i had wings in the womb, 
or that they snapped off          at the first touch        
of this world’s air
                               but i should’ve come out something 
                                              that makes its home high 
instead of tied landbound, left 
lovesick for flight. 

don’t you dare give me to the ground. i’ll come back 
                just to tell you    
                                              you’ll never be forgiven.


Quinn Lui is a Chinese-Canadian student who has been described as 1) mostly made up of caffeine and bees and 2) dedicated to being a menace. Their work has appeared in Occulum, Synaesthesia Magazine, Okay Donkey, and elsewhere, and they are the author of the micro-chapbook teething season for new skin (L’Éphémère Review, 2018). You can find them @flowercryptid on Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram, or sharing a fire escape with raccoons.