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.


Poetry Trauma

2 Poems by Joshua Morley

The Warm Spandex of Wonder

Before picking your words like peanuts between chopsticks because you worry

that you can never clear the fog, crack the shell that has immured your mind,

your words interned within a ribcage of twine. Before you ever needed to hand 

a shrink your peanuts because they were the offspring of your heart’s kiln and 

before there could be a dying fire, vacillating fire, convolving fire, a vortex, no fire,

held in the cells of your seeds and laid bare by suave attentive shoveling. Deft,

snoopy, unnerving. An inculcated effortlessness in your therapist’s facility, their

muscles of facial expression loyal to the truth of their mechanical motility. Call it

operant conditioning, muscle memory. Call them skilled. Call when you need them.

Before burning life into your nerves void of sensitivity. Before breaking your own

heart to feel something. Before the steps of fibrous tissue on your arms weaved a path

that kissed the first gates of heaven, remembered the metallic tango of blade and blood,

remember the transcendence of your mother’s scream into ultrasonic inaudibility

as you watched her and your soul stretched out to her from an elastic leash bound

around your brainstem and produced through your eye socket. Before you blacked out

even. Before your dark-cloud age. And before you started looking in on the outside

Before you learned to lie that you fell and be believed. Before all these, there was a boy

who loved the stars, unbothered, crooned uncalculated songs and delved into the world

with a transparent polythene bag of wonder hugging his eyes like spandex. He was warm.


the half-life of a fast-acting love potion

you fell in love with a boy

       who came alive only at night

        too much of your pills

                               & the receptors amass 

disdain for your panacea,


                           the only constant thing

that is not to say //       too much

         wouldn’t kill you // would kill you

                         wouldn’t kill you //           you really don’t know

how to love the same

       person // everyday

                 too much // would kill you // wouldn’t kill you

your boy put all of his love in a bottle

          &         only sees you when he drinks

&         his eyes—

he // & you withdraw // to repress

       your tolerance to love

you fell in love with the boy

who only came online at night


Joshua Morley, 18, is a Nigerian writer, artist, and undergrad student at the University of Ibadan whose works explore mental illness, identity and queerness. When not observing the motions of things with personal abilities of clairvoyance, Morley can be found making music or visual art. Or sleeping.

Poetry Trauma

The Body Is a House to Scars by Idowu Odeyemi

Salah and I escaped the blast that ate our mother

And turned our father to the offering

God punished Eli’s sons for eating


Looking for the safest tattered house to sleep:

A bullet entered through Salah’s forehead,

While we were fleeing from gunshots,

I smiled and took it from the back of his skull

& put it in my pocket

(I cannot carry a dead body with me &

I have to show the world I have a lineage)


My eyes have seen the ground inhume blood

of people I love with all of my heart.

Our playground turned to a red sky.


Smiling all the time is a sign

the mind is depressed and the body a house to scars.


I grew up believing I will become some mothers’ prayer

every morning they wake up to pray for their children.


Now all that is preventing me from killing myself

is the thought that the world was beautiful

& the world will be beautiful again.


Idowu Odeyemi is a Nigerian poet and essayist. His poem Love Only Kills A Poor Boy won the Liverpool based Merak Magazine 2019 annual literary recognition Awards for Best Poem of the Year. He was shortlisted for the 2018 Nigerian Students Poetry Prize and the Christopher Okigbo Poetry prize. His poems have appeared or forthcoming in the anthology 84 Bottles of Wine dedicated to the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, Constellate Journal, Kalahari review, Praxis magazine, Lite Lit One, Perhappened Magazine, among others.

Poetry Trauma

Poem by Lee Alder Ketcham Seguinte

I held your hand in a hot car
while you cried and the radio played
a song about falling.

I held your hand and we leaned back
and looked at the stars through the sun roof.

I held your hand
because there was nothing else for me to do.
Because I couldn’t show you
how to meet the eyes of that pain
crowding like a nightmare-beast in the corner,
hung like thorn roses around your neck.

I held your hand
and offered the heart I hide behind the panels of my ribs
behind the slabs of my chest.
The one gone soft like a bruised peach.

I held your hand silently.
in the car,
in the dark.
Held your hand, and, looking upward,
told the stars what I could not tell you.

“There are ways to wear your bruised heart,
to wear your necklace of pain.
Even ways to wear that beast with night’s eyes.
There are ways to hold your fear so they will not consume you.

Ways to hold their hand.”

Lee Alder
Lee is old enough to know better, but doesn’t. He might be a changeling, but wouldn’t tell you if he were. He lives in Sacramento, California with his husband, five cats with lofty names, a dog named after a Pokemon, and another debatably-Arcadia. His other work can be found at