Fragments by Hester Dade

Do not stare. People had been very clear on that, endlessly repeating it. Do not stare. But do make sure to meet people’s eyes. Rude to stare, rude to look away.

Sounds congealed in the air around her; screeching metal, bird song, chatter, footsteps, forming a physical mass. Those footsteps came to her, bringing that din with them. Someone stood near and this decision primed itself to pounce. If eyes were a window, the blinds could be shut, curtains drawn.

Something about this person tugged at her attention, eking her thoughts and holding them taut. There was some peculiarity here that she had not identified, a snag in her subconscious, some hidden information.

What people hadn’t told her was the optimal duration of gaze wandering, tipped it over the brim from herbivorous curiosity to socially-punishable scrutiny, a mythical period of time that strangers experienced together, a blending of minds, each one yielding slightly before the other, look at my eyes, they spoke a language she could never hear.

The shoes. In the past, no one had been offended by shoe examinations. These were scuffed along the left side more than the right, one of the laces had a double knot, the other beginning to falter.

The lights at the end of the platform changed colour, her train heaved itself around the final turning and into the station. Orange LED lights to take her home.

Sitting down now, avoiding the table seat, facing the direction of travel, she noticed the person had not moved. They half-leant against the fence, hands in pockets, double-knotted shoe tapping on the floor. Finally she could examine their face without retribution.

Their eyes locked with hers. That was all she could remember afterwards; intense brown eyes fringed with long black eyelashes. A physical sensation of gazes slotting together, barbed, impossible to disentangle. Do not stare, for they might stare back.

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Hester Dade is an autistic writer and illustrator creating work to untangle the knots in their mind. Their works have been published in science-fiction and anthologies and they were a past contributor for Herstory Arc (now F-Bomb). Hester also wrote letters for other people to send, drafted healthcare policy, and made numbers add up. They can be found at @hesterdadewords on twitter and @spellfoxart on instagram.

You Suffer With Me and Premature Emergency by Rami Obeid

1.

One human body suffering

Two amphetamines to wake up

Three am alarm clock

Four am shower

Five o clock the bus leaves

Six days before the weekend

Seven hours before I can leave

Eight dollar lunch

Nine minutes to wait for it to start

Ten minutes before it’s over

Nine times I asked what bus is this

Eight buses at the station

Seven trains at the station

Six ways it can go

Five minutes before my bus leaves

Four minutes stuck in traffic

Three minute walk home

Two benzos to sleep

One human body suffering

 

 

 

2.

His bones are on

Fire

Take heed

To my words

I say

His bones are on

Fire

 

Ashtray knees,

Fortify his ground

And when that isn’t enough,

He calls in his superiors:

 

Expired orange juice, cheap cigarettes, drug overdoses,

loud neighbors, dusty water, and abscessed teeth

 

These things,

Made a man out of him

And killed his boy,

In the process

 

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Rami Obeid is a poet from Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

Animal Farming by Maurice Charles

My feet are Peking out the squad car;
I assume the position to hog tied;
Apple in my mouth
It’s a shame I got a Charlie Horse
They didn’t want the ticket to see a Bull on Parade
I kid, I kid
I Triumph, I Triumph
Ativan…

 

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Maurice has been battling mental health issues since 2016. He has been attempting to balance his activism with his personal care while finding ways to heal his anxieties, pains, and depressions. He had been trying to make sense of the sociological context of “race,” while questioning systemic institutions using economics to wage war-fare. This is his first published work with a publication; his poem depicts when “peaceful protest” and inability to demonstrate disparity of class/genus went terribly wrong.

Segments by Tyler Turner

–          I peel myself clean; thumb splitting porous skin;

       Brittle nail breaking vein. 

–          I tug at the small white strings and imagine them

       Exposed nerves, grateful for my touch 

       Despite the pain.

–          I pull vulvic lips of flesh

       Like petals plucked in times of doubt 

       That only reveal themselves once the body has been split in         two.

–          I suckle on a segment and remember what it is to taste

       Any flavour other than metallic;

       To fill my mouth with something other than an idle tongue.

–          I drop a pip into the ditch at my eroded teeth, bury it there

       So that it might take root in my cushioned gums

–          And I recall my mum’s warning about swallowing seeds,

But figure that there are fates worse than becoming a tree.

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Tyler Turner is a writer and rat mom based in Sheffield, UK. Recently, she graduated from university with a BA in English and History and is to start studying for a MA in Creative Writing. In 2017, she was short-listed for the Wicked Young Writer Award. 

Major Recurrent Depression by Samantha Moya

2:30am, a glass of water straight from the tap,

somewhere between violets and lilies –

(I stopped buying flowers because they were too expensive.)

 

Kicking off the blanket because it’s too hot, pulling it back up because it’s too cold.

 

I loved your dimples and thought they were kind, and so did everyone else.

 

I inherit this disposition; my childhood home is falling apart,

and it’s almost funny because it seems like a metaphor but it’s quite literal.

The roof is caving in, the floor is sinking,

and I think the cobwebs have ruined my VHS tapes.

 

I smashed the clock I remember from my youth.

I wasn’t trying to stop time but I was trying to stop something else from moving.

 

Everyone says don’t take it personally but how is it ever not personal

Sometimes I read Virginia Woolf’s suicide letter to her husband –

it’s unbearably sad but it’s also a love letter.

 

Scars are figurative and very real –

I have the stretch marks from my old body

and the place where I stuck a razor when I was 26.

 

It’s embarrassing how old habits don’t die,

you’d think that eventually it should all wash away,

like runoff in the gutter.

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Samantha Moya is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder. She studies Political Science and does her own writing and arts on the side. She is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico and currently resides in Boulder, CO with her partner and two dogs.

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.

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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 mariaspicone.com.

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.

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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.

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…

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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 charlotteakello.wordpress.com

Guillotine Blues by Avra Margariti

I read once that Catherine Howard, Queen of England practiced her imminent execution by placing her head on a chopping block. She was just eighteen years old. It reminded me of how I would practice my own death throughout my childhood: stand on the edges of tall buildings, see how many pills I could fit like marshmallows in my mouth, call it an accident when I cut my fingers on sharp objects.

Years later, I learned that King Charles I wore two heavy, layered shirts during his public beheading. He didn’t want to shiver, he said, lest the spectators think he was afraid. I looked down at my arms, the long shirtsleeves hiding all unhealthy practices-turned-habits. I rolled up my sleeves and let the cool air nip at my skin, let myself shiver.

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Avra Margariti is a queer Social Work undergrad from Greece. She enjoys storytelling in all its forms and writes about diverse identities and experiences. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly, The Forge Literary, Longleaf Review, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, and other venues. Avra won the 2019 Bacopa Literary Review prize for fiction. You can find her on twitter @avramargariti.

In Patient by H.E. Casson

These metal beds 

On either side

Up, up they rise

And here I lie

 

Tucked in with arms 

Crossed in an X

 

The floor is cold

It cools my back

I count, I track

The seconds tick

 

I hope I’ll soon 

Be done with this

 

The hospital

My second home

I’m home alone

I hum along

(I know this song)

I fall asleep

I’m hidden here

 

Between these beds

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H. E. Casson is a writer, a Torontonian, and an all-around-somewhat-okay human. Their words have recently been published by Malarkey Books, Lunate, Taco Bell Quarterly, Terse, and Writers Resist. Their SSRI of choice is Cipralex, though their anxiety prefers Ativan.