Prose Trauma

Names Have Been Changed by Susan Triemert

Shot, Shot, Shot,  Joe chants when his college roommate walks in. 

My boyfriend Joe bought his first house, and we are ready to celebrate. Within the hour, a plastic cup of red wine spills, and bleeds its way deathly close to a white rug. His twin brother stacks a pyramid of empty Budweiser cans inside the garter snake’s cage. After I slam a few Screwdrivers, the party becomes a blur of broken lamps and hearts, tear-induced laughter, and drunk girls cackling down in the basement. Just before 3:00 a.m., I hear mating calls from the spare bedroom and spot a guy snuggling up to a decorative pillow in the bathtub. 

Joe and I fall into bed, and my head spins on the pillow. I wake to grey and plaid shadows, the sheen of a wrist watch. I hear the tinny sound of a mattress coil before I see what looks like Kirk, Joe’s friend from his bartending days, toppling off the foot of the bed. I recall images of Kirk–seconds earlier–trying to jam his hand down the front of my half-zipped pants. I rub my eyes as I try to make sense of it all. I had been lying next to my boyfriend, had felt safe enough to feel the electric heat of his body, to inhale his dank, boozy breath.

I rattle Joe awake, and he tumbles back to sleep. I tiptoe into the next room. Kirk appears to be asleep in the LazyBoy, with his mouth hanging open–he looks like a baby turkey vulture. I stare at his half-open mouth, imagine drool dripping from his hungry upper lip. I want to shake him, turn on the lights, wake the whole damn house, ask: Why, Why, Why?

 I stop. Have I dreamt this whole thing? A side effect of my antidepressants is that they heighten the sexuality in my dreams.

I slip back into the bedroom, shake my boyfriend harder this time. I insist that he go and check. I tell him that Kirk is faking, that he’s not asleep. Joe moans and sighs as he is ripped awake, as I tell him what happened, about the thud on the carpeting. A water cup knocks to the ground, an overhead light buzzes on, the mattress bows as he scooches out. I follow Joe to the next room, still wondering if I’d been dreaming–I did increase my dose of meds. Kirk is no longer in the chair. Joe walks to the front door. Soft flurries had collected on the mounds of hard, stubborn snow. He checks for footprints in the fresh flakes–reports there hadn’t been any. No freshly grooved tire tracks either. 

Later that day, Joe calls. How could you be so sure? he says. Your drugs make you crazy.

I bite my lip. Know he is done listening.

Before hanging up, he adds, I’d never be friends with someone who would do something like that. 

I imagine going to my psychiatrist later in the week, to inquire about the drug’s side effects. Was it possible, I’d ask, that I’d imagined it all?

 Flinch as the doctor grazes his hand over an exposed knee, across a sleeveless shoulder, and tells me it’s all in my head.

Susan Triemert holds an MA in Education and an MFA from Hamline University in Minnesota. She has been published or forthcoming in various online and print journals, most recently (mac)ro(mic), Gone Lawn, and North Dakota Quarterly.. She lives in St. Paul with her family, where the animals outnumber the people. You can find her on Twitter at @SusanTriemert

Poetry Trauma

Electroconvulsive Therapy Made Me Forget Many Things But Not Grief by Ashley Sapp

It’s quiet when you forget. At first.
They warn you that the stimulation will result
in memory loss, but they don’t tell you that
what you’ll be left with is grief.
You will trade your recollection for your mind.
You will face a gaping hole where experience used to be.
There is sadness in forgetting, but you’ll regain yourself, too.
Pain fades and scars emerge.
It is slow but not gentle — unfortunately.
There is a price for everything. This, too.
That is why there is grief – you are better
and yet you cannot remember how or why.
It is quiet when you forget because
the silence is what remains. After.
The silence is a sorrow sonnet, reminding you not of what was lost
but instead of the fact that you lost it.
Say hello, though, now.
Introductions are my new saviors,
tiny initiations of person, place, and thing. Petrified and preserving,
I am returning. It is not so quiet.

Ashley Sapp resides in Columbia, South Carolina, with her husband and furbabies. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of South Carolina in 2010 and has written for various publications. Her work has previously appeared in Indie Chick, The Daily Drunk Mag, All Female Menu, and the Common Ground Review. She is a bibliophile who enjoys traveling, tattoos, and photography. Ashley has written two poetry collections: Wild Becomes You and Silence Is A Ballad. Twitter: @ashthesapp

Poetry Serotonin Trauma

8:05 am by C. Cimmone

I chewed up two of your Norco for breakfast

9:16 am The dirt daubers were busy twitching their abdomens in the garden, hauling away tiny bits of mud I’ll never do anything with, so I smoked the rest of your weed you had in a socket.

11:25 am I got carried away thinking about what to do with all of your t-shirts until I smelled the skillet burning bacon grease.

3:45 pm I used all of my Xanax up; I dug around in the medicine cabinet and gobbled up your leftovers, too. 

10:57 pm I forgot to lock the front door, so I laid there on your side of the bed, hoping an armed stranger would burst in and save me from thinking anymore about you being gone.

C. Cimmone is an author, editor and comic from Texas. She is alive and well on Twitter @diefunnier

Poetry Trauma

Two Poems by Isabel Wallace

“there was tickweed where I fell”

five exits down, on the shoulder of the highway
golden yellow scratches against epicardium
and loss finally rings bright against loss,
bladelike, (thin as coreopsis, her favorite flower,)
sharp as the intent that smithed it with bleeding hands.
and there’s a vow in the sound it makes:
it says, “I’ve been here before and will come again;”
it says, “I’ll climb;”
it says, “these roads I line came after me;
I was the first guide;”
it says, “I am a life held between trembling fingertips,
and a weapon both;”
it says, “in either shape, I am a stage of grief.’
knees buckle in roadside soil, the door alarm clicks and
it says to me, “you ran very far, but I grow
everywhere you can go.”

“you shaped me for sacrifice”

I exist in three places. In the first, I’m nine and digging a little grave for the first rattlesnake I killed. I bury it in two parts: body and shovel-separated head. I hate myself, but the dog doesn’t die. In the second, I’m four and being dragged past the rabbit hutch. There’s one less. I can’t count them but I know, I know, I know that there will be rabbit blood on blue sheets. In the third, I’m twenty-four, sitting on a park bench, and thinking about being nine and being four. I’m thinking about how I was taught to buy protection with pieces of me. If I lied about the abuse, he wouldn’t kill a rabbit. If I swallowed any feeling for the rattlesnake, I could protect the dog. They said the rattlesnake cost less, but it wasn’t the rattlesnake’s fault (wasn’t mine—). Saving the rabbits cost all of me, but I never shook the conditioning (“you’re saving them, a little hero”). I was a price. I was a price and I paid my price. I paid it without understanding the worth, the lie.

Grass and gravel crunch beneath my shoes. I’m twenty-four and saying, “No surprise I’m fucking broke.”

Isabel J Wallace is a queer writer and registered nurse working in North Florida. The swamp has left her predisposed towards ghost stories and the certainty that something is always lurking just out of sight. She’s been published in Malaise: a Horror Anthology, as well as in Smitten: this is what love looks like. Wallace has upcoming publications with Stone of Madness Press and Passengers Journal.

Poetry Trauma

smile baby, smile by Shelby Bevins-Sullivan


forgive me--
     i don't mean to disturb you,
the thunder in my head rattles every night,

your eyes, a somber shade of lapis,
whimper, isn't my love enough?
       and it is, it is, it's always enough--

i just forget that when a hand
       lands firmly on my shoulder,
it's your pink, plump, sugared lips

awaiting our wake-up kiss,
               not the thin grin of a breathing gargoyle,
               the one that clawed my breasts,
               tore my labia til they bled. 

being still helps me get through the hours,
                 you say, they all say:
                 smile, baby, smile,
                 ssss mmmm iiii llll eeee

but smiling is what got me 
hurt in the first place. 

Shelby Bevins-Sullivan is an attorney. She has published work in And So Yeah MagazineThe Harpoon ReviewThe Blue Hour, and other places. Her poems are largely confessional, focusing on sexual trauma, the denial of justice, religious hypocrisy, and their interconnectedness. 

Poetry Trauma

Same by C.C. Hannett

We sit at a diner / Two West Coast ladies / Once known for sophisticating the Monaco / We sit at a diner / Two West Coast ladies / I’m a recent swat / My wings no longer fashioned with petal pinch / I wear pink instead / My apologies to you / Your Stingers for Antenna, loaded with triggers / I should have told you why I gave up the lamp / It was a zap machine / You’ve always known /  I’ve always been a nonbeliever / My apologies to myself / For looking back / You abused mental health practices / Monopolized trauma / You listed point-by-pin-point your account and dropped your mic expecting grovel / Having never questioned what I might be expecting from you / I lie with my smile smeared on the table, my body on my wings, kicked in the ribs figuratively and then, later, more fucking real / You manipulated our history / Denied the dumb union / Because to accept it, you’d have to accept what you’d achieved / The scale you’d tip / The bowling ball on your head / You’ve choked me out / You choked me out and ripped my shirt and bruised my already sore legs because I wasn’t open minded enough to follow through with our plan of having a threesome / Sorry for being a bitch lol / What about the time you fucked me in my sleep and wrote a letter, breaking down your disgust with me / You advanced in the academy of monstrosities but never finished, placing the guilt on me / What about the time I could hear you two fucking / You’d come in after and force your southern party onto my moaning lips / Funny / It was always about what you had survived / My hell was inherently deserved / You always knew the pain I was born into and how it carried itself into the scene of humping the couch during the pilot episode of Power Rangers / I told you my theories / I told you my truth / Austin Powers one night, my idol brother threatening to have me taken from my mother the next, because he would never, ever, do that to me and I were dreaming and, I were dreaming; I were having gay fantasies and it’s okay but they had a lawyer / And so what if personal is embarrassing / And so what if none of this makes me better / Thx for making me feel the same 


Barracuda Guarisco / C. C. Hannett / Kris Hall is a bisexual crybaby obsessed with cheesesteaks who enjoys absurdity at varying levels. Barry is the author of several books, including Uncomfortable Music (Vegetarian Alcoholic, 2021) and The Gold Boys Are Back In Gold Town (Really Serious Literature) with Joshua Robert Long. He is the Founder and Editor of Really Serious Literature. His work has been placed with Maudlin House, Silent Auctions, Dream Pop, The Night Heron Barks, South Broadway Ghost Society, Thirty West, DREGINALD, among others. You can find him if you want to and it’s pretty easy.

Poetry Trauma

They Made Me by Maria Picone

go to the darkened room to perform my trauma,

no warning, threatening to expel me if I refused.


feel small, a tiny mote of protest swirling in a vast

maelstrom, arms bound by this mandatory evaluation.


risk my scholarship on a one-afternoon “fitness” test

a run without screaming, a gauntlet without swords


present myself red eyes bound hands to the bored

professional who took one look, said “You’re probably fine.”


This is not a big deal.


pull my bones from the wash cycle, proclaiming

I was normal, then I was not. Okay.

Picone Headshot

Maria S. Picone has an MFA from Goddard College. She’s interested in hybrid and experimental forms as well as free verse. Her hobbies are learning languages, looking at cats on the internet, and painting. Her poetry appears in Mineral Lit Mag, Ariel Chart, and Eleventh Transmission: 45 Poems of Protest. Her Twitter is @mspicone, and her website is

Prose Trauma

Roaches by Kristin Ryan

Its clawed hands scrape along the inside of my skull until all I can hear is jagged humming. It doesn’t matter that I have a book coming out, a husband who loves me, or that I haven’t purged in eight years. When the humming becomes unbearable, I calmly tell my husband I want to die over breakfast. 


I watch from the ceiling. Two lovers sobbing, one restraining the other on the floor. Dirty, dirty, I’m dirty, the woman howls as she tries to claw at her arms, tries to lunge toward the bathroom to rid herself of what she cannot name. 


In the backyard, he pressed my five-year-old spine up against the fence. I felt cool air for the first time. Dead grass clung to my dress. Wasps hummed in my ears. My bare feet burned when I ran from the house, the lie propelling me forward.


Children often mistake hands for roaches and other bugs when recalling memories, Bree gently tells me in her office. 


I wanted to pretend it / was a dream, but / every morning I choke / on weeds. // Choke on sunlight / and fences, the / hum of wasps / splinters in my back. // The bathroom, / where the nightlight flickered. / The tub full of soap scum and dirt. // A shadow, more cool air, / roach in my underwear. / I start peeing behind bookshelves, / avoid bathrooms, / take short showers. // For a decade, I purge behind dumpsters, / in cars, and fields / until there’s blood, until there’s bone.


 Think of it more as resting. You’re sick, and you need to rest a while, the psychiatrist says.

The nurse passes out used crayons, explains how coloring is a coping skill we can use once we’re released instead of killing ourselves. 


In the den, I change clothes behind the couch, hurry up, hurry up nightgown over leggings; he can’t see me the sound of cartoons crashing in the background. 

While I was crying in her office, Bree said: most predators have cartoons on to distract children. Most likely he was trying to groom you. 

No, no. I should have been smarter. I should have known. 

You were a child. It wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t. 


I’m given Risperdal, the kind that melts slowly under the tongue. I wrap myself in a thin, white blanket. I stare at my reflection in the glass, fighting sleep. Later, the nurse finds me covered in sweat, thrashing as she stands over my bed. You kept shouting stop. 

By morning, I sit on my bed and weep, too afraid to move. My parents come to visit. They don’t know why I’m crying, or why I’m here. My husband comes to visit. I tell him the thoughts and memories keep getting worse, and I don’t know what to do. He takes my hand and cries.


Kristin Ryan is a poet working towards healing, and full sleeves of tattoos. She is a recipient of the Nancy D. Hargrove Editor’s Prize in Poetry, and her work has been nominated for Best New Poets and Best of the Net. Her poems have been featured in Glass, Jabberwock Review, Milk and Beans, and SWWIM Everyday among others. She holds an MFA from Ashland University and works in the mental health field. Her full length poetry collection, MORNING, WITH BANDAGES is forthcoming from Bone & Ink Press.

Prose Trauma

Translating My Worries Into Something More Palatable by Charlotte Akello

Mother asks if I can go and stay with my uncle,

I know widows swallow responsibilities that their husbands died from and sometimes their eyes hold death/but they know they are the only hope;

I want to tell her no/I want to tell her guys are not being trusted/that sometimes blood becomes the thing that takes life from you

I crawl out of my skin and put my thoughts into words (in my notebook that stays under my bed)

What’s the world without a mother/how not to show a man that you love him/how do we cut blood ties/how to deal with men who come in the night/synonym for uncle/how to kill a man who touches you in places mother warned you about/how to fake my own death or make it real.

I don’t want to go…


Charlotte Akello is a Ugandan poet and writer. She was shortlisted for Babishai Haiku poetry award in 2017, Writivism award for fiction in 2018 and Brigitte Poirson poetry award in April, 2019. She has been published in print in Odokonyero by Writivism, Wondering and wandering of hearts by Femrite, Streetlights at noon eclipse by Lantern meet of poets. Her works have also appeared online in Kalahari Review, Praxis magazine and writer’s space Africa among others. She is currently a student of medicine and surgery at Makerere University, Uganda and blogs at

Poetry Trauma

Three Poems by Lamont B. Steptoe




with a broken heart




with your tears

write with your fears


with your hope


with the diamonds

of separation

turn pain into blues


there will be good news…




do you

know what it’s like

to come under

mortar fire?

do you know

what it’s like

to pray

between the pauses

of the firing and detonations?

do you know

what it’s like

to think this may be your last

day or hour or minute or second?

do you know what it’s like?

do you know what it’s like?


Dusk Is A Purple Heart


from blueness

above blueness


jagged foam

to verdant green

tropical water world

where the wind

is a bloody cloth

where songs are sung

by machine guns

where songs are sung

by machine guns

where sun and moon

are ambushed

where dusk

is a purple heart

and Buddha is thrown

from helicopters

uttering haikus…


Lamont B. Steptoe is a poet / photographer / publisher born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is the winner of an American Book Award and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. Steptoe is a father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, founder of Whirlwind Press and graduate of Temple University.