Anita Olivia Koester
Lisa Marie Basile
Anita Olivia Koester
WAYS IN WHICH THE BODY LIES
Flashes of light as I press my hand to your chest,
flashes of light like a detonation in the desert of your body.
The world around us accepting the reign of death,
planes dropping tumors into their bodies.
Your hands shape the soft clay of my flesh ruthlessly,
erasing young Neruda’s Poemas de Amor from my body.
The sheets taste like freedom, like the ability to say yes,
to mean yes from deep inside the voice box, rib cage, body.
We are not alone, there are others gathered around,
pressing their weight against our borders, against our bodies.
Some of them are dead, long gone, over, lost, but still
projecting shadow puppets on our minds with their bodies.
We think of the body as a cavern we spend years filling,
but you empty me out, remove what was useless in my body.
You tell me, the body is a temple, and that temple is a prison,
that my body will only double the guard, that I must remove my body.
I say, but my hair is water, my skin a pillow, my eyes a blanket,
my tongue bread, my body a cot, I say, my body, my body, my body.
My mother points at the black vase
glistening under halogen bulbs,
its cracks sealed with gold streams
that almost trickle. It’s beautiful she says.
I want to take this for her, hold it
between my hands so that its gold
could sieve through my lifelines
as if they were mesh wire
in a miner’s pan, filtering gold
through my body and blood
that I could give to my mother,
gold I could return to her joints
where it would ebb into the coves
of her knees and meniscus,
settling like silt that soothes the debris
of walking. She says Keep Looking
then smiles, sits, and rubs her knees.
There isn’t a cure. Her immune system
excavates cartilage, creates canals
around her patella, fibula, and femur.
Her antibodies are rabid vigilantes
like California’s forty-niners
staking claims inside her marrow.
Rings refract light from her hands
like a pair of silver gauntlets
and her necklace glints around her neck—
a single strand of chainmail.
This is who my mother is: the warrior
who fought my father in the kitchen,
who marched to my school and found
the boys who taunted the color of my skin,
who taught me to read, write, and
speak solely in English, the best defense
she could think of to keep me safe.
I don’t want to believe in Calafia
because even if she lived and shared
our bloodline, the Conquistadors and miners
share it too, as if they’re the reason
our bodies spend our entire lives
destroying their own cells,
its only method of healing.
With each year, my mother’s walk slows
and the rheumatologist injects
his needle between her bones
like the potter who inoculated
this vase with molten gold, but
she says the medicine feels more like
ice, the sensation of an approaching storm
that makes her joints swell in spring and winter
as if her bones are the clouds surrounding
thunder’s crack, the sound of her walking.
ESPECIALLY THE AMERICAN VARIETY WHICH CAN BE TAUGHT NOT TO TALK
and to always use breath mints
and to always stay in character
and to enhance magical moments
and to maintain a jolly attitude
and to enjoy a leisurely meal
and to listen
and to receive meaning
and to have a good grip on each child
and to have hands visible at all times
and to hand back anyone handed to you
and to always be escorted
and to replace this with something better
and to NEVER promise anything
and to never assume they can walk
or to never be seen
talking on a watch
handling a phone
or to land on your head in the sunken living room
or to monitor your movements
or to run away while asleep
or to jerk the roots out
or to swallow pins
or to walk barefoot in the snow
or to warrior for umbilical cords
or to drive through rising water
or to find yellow jackets in the door locks
or to keep calling for mercy
or to get away leaving arms and legs behind
or to have no nerve endings
or to fall off the roof
or to wash all the green mold off
or to own a pretty girl outright
or to grow up ugly and nobody cares
or and to reach the end of your life intact
Puella pilosa – woodcut from Aldrovandi’s Monstrorum Historia, 1642
My hairs tug in the stiff ruff, get caught
in crewel work. It hurts me, but I stand
it, stand for hours as he takes my likeness
(the famous dog girl! on display for all
the continental crowns – to what else am I like?
And how, and why, would he take its like from me?)
I want to play and chase my little ball,
but know he’ll gape, grip toes within his slippers
guessing I mean next to chew his shoes.
He will feign bravura, reach his hand
to pet my head. I will be tempted to growl,
to mount his leg. He supposes sex
already; already his eyes probe beneath
my modest brocade how far my fur extends.
And suddenly, the urge to tear this dress
to show him, show them all— By dressing me
in an embroidered bodice, Bruxelles lace,
they thought to make of me an absurdity,
thought to make me finer, even svelte.
But no brocade so fine as my own pelt.
Lisa Marie Basile
I miss the things we were, changing form
into decrepit suction fucking
and the red-roomed us and them,
the sunday gloom:
grotesque corridor of the body
and an expurgation of things simple and clean.
I’ll tell you the secret:
I liked to hide the boys behind bookshelves & unbraid my hair
so, so slow my fingers forgot themselves & I became ritual
These photographs are part of a series called Light Experiments. They are layered explorations of people and spaces that feel both familiar and unfamiliar to me. They are visual intersections meant to commemorate and acknowledge the way visual, emotional, or physical moments and experiences can overlap and create one image that becomes almost otherworldly. "Unconscious," "Visitors," and "Diffused" are particularly focused on bodily abstractions and the feeling of being "split" from oneself, one's surroundings, and even one's concept of identity.
When that warm stream pulsates,
a gummy broth surge, I dig below.
Pull the gelatinous rope from elastic folds,
collect the stubborn string between
my fingers, pass the glue
back and forth until it cools. A milky syrup.
A piece of bending glass, blurred.
Peeking around its cloudy parts,
before I roll the sap and bring it to my lips
as if I could kiss some unripe drop
of circular flesh.
A grape thing, somewhere in the paste,
with codes to my color
at its roots, design of my iris,
the pattern of my breath.
I want to name the wetness, the lifeless
thing in this sticky liquid,
the colorless sweetness
of its loamy scent.
But I haven’t earned
the privilege to baptize it. This,
a kind of birth with no labor,
does not make me woman.
You would think I would be more careful
as I press the flat of my feet
and wash my hands of it. Palms dry
above the sink,
the nectar sliding down the tube.
In four weeks, still no lover,
no honeybee chasing after it.
THE WORST THING IS THAT THE STORY I TELL MYSELF IS NOT MY STORY ANYMORE
Jenny Holzer’s project Lustmord, partially inspired by the ethnic cleansing of the Bosnian war, consisted of cropped photographs of naked skin upon which text was written. Lustmord was first presented in the Suddeutsche Zeitung Magazin (1993) where the cover of the magazine reproduced one of the texts in red ink mixed with a few drops of blood provided by women volunteers. The card stated: “I am awake in the place where women die.” The blood was treated to kill contaminants, and then mixed with printing ink.This mingling of fluids caused an uproar in the media. Lustmord triggered fear of blood in general, of women’s bodies in particular, the notion of impure blood, whether racial or viral.”—Joan Simon (curator for the Whitney Museum of American Art 2004-2009)
She wants you to touch it
with one fingertip
not just to know but to feel
a mashing teeth and
this horror show matinee
plays all night long
what is inside you will come out
and this will make people want to
Skin is a sealant
a silence we cannot hear
so much blood
our parts that
aren’t supposed to
not want you, ever.
to know is not enough
she wants you to feel it
It’s not enough to show the
victim’s viewpoint but also:
enter the white space
the red space
the pink space
ending in no words: blackness
it is impure
to give what is inside
to heat up
to not bandage
what one has done
Some words in italics are taken from the artist herself, published in Jenny Holzer by Phaidon Books.
To follow the rules, you must be playing Dance Yrself Clean by LCD Soundsystem. You must have expired bread, expired olive oil, expired goat cheese. Your sandwich meat must be slimy. And you must, at all costs, be wearing a grey t-shirt with grey sweatpants. When you're making the sandwich, you must drop the goat cheese, and swipe it up with your fingers, afterwards rubbing your hands together in some sort of ritual to rid yourself of the dirty. As your hair falls in your face from your slept-in ponytail, you must tuck the too-full mug between the crease of your elbow and your ribs, balance the sandwich plate in your left hand, and the cumbersome computer playing your song in the right. You must take half steps. You have the time, and you must not spill any more water than you've already spilled. You are on your way to the stained green couch, after all, and you must follow all the rules. The rules define the year, and the year is twenty-three.
PORTRAIT OF WRECKS
She carried the body like a painting. And when
she was done, pushed the color out.
See the portrait now. The glass cracking
into lines of red. A mouth painted without color.
A brush of fur and wool scraping the last
of the hue from the shell. My mother cuts
a switch from the tree, first a branch, now a limb.
Pulls all the tiny splinters from her fingers
with a pair of cold metal tweezers. To shake out
of her grasp. To be caught by her and then
to escape. To bring your uncovered head. To eat
with your hands. To be asked if you have memory
or a mouth. This boy still made of both flinch
and blush. This dark color clinging to the top of the
water thick. See the portrait now. The breaded fish
tongue glowing over the hot pot. Roasted almonds
and cold sweat from his back pooled into a clean cup.
The cup lifted to her lips.
Issue Fifteen Contributors
Fisayo Adeyeye is an MFA candidate at San Francisco State University. He has works published in The Collapsar, Little River, PotluckMagazine, and has work forthcoming in Winter Tangerine Review, Inferior Planets, and The Wildness. Talk to him on firstname.lastname@example.org about ants, whales, or other animals/objects of comparable size.
D. Allen (thebodyconnected.com) is a queer poet and interdisciplinary artist from the south who now lives in Minneapolis, where they are an MFA candidate in creative writing at the University of Minnesota. D.'s work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology, Poets.org, and cream city review. D.'s writing process often involves old dictionaries, rusted objects, sewing thread, and the human skeleton. They are currently at work on a manuscript about connective tissue.
Madeleine Barnes is a writer and visual artist from Pittsburgh, PA. She earned a BHA from Carnegie Mellon University, a M.Phil in Creative Writing from Trinity College Dublin, and an MFA in poetry from New York University. She is the author of the chapbook The Mark My Body Draws in Light (2014), and her poems have appeared in places like Pleiades, Fields, YEW Journal, Jai-Alai Magazine, The Rattling Wall (by Narrow Books), North Central Review, Oakland Review, and others. She is the recipient of several design awards, and her artwork has appeared in the PhilaMOCA Gallery in Philadelphia, PA, The Miller Gallery in Pittsburgh, PA, and WORK Gallery in Brooklyn, NY. Find her on the web at www.madeleinebarnes.com.
Lisa Marie Basile is the author of Apocryphal (Noctuary Press) and a few chapbooks. She keeps a diary at IngenueX.com and is the founding editor at Luna Luna magazine. Her work can or will be see in Thrush, Tinderbox, PANK, Tarpaulin Sky, The Atlas Review and Ampersand Review.
Heidi Czerwiec is a poet and essayist who is poetry editor for North Dakota Quarterly and teaches workshops at The Loft Literary Center. She is the editor of North Dakota Is Everywhere: An Anthology of Contemporary North Dakota Poets, and the author most recently of Sweet/Crude: A Bakken Boom Cycle and the forthcoming Maternal Imagination.
Tiffany Firebaugh is a freelance writer and poet, but by day she works in the non-profit sector. She is a Brooklyn based Texan enamored by the mind-body connection and will always stop to ask if she can pet your dog. You can follow her on twitter at @tifficaltiff.
Anita Olivia Koester is a Chicago poet. Her chapbook, Marco Polo, is forthcoming with Hermeneutic Chaos Press. Her poetry is published or forthcoming in Vinyl, Tahoma Literary Review, CALYX Journal, Unsplendid and elsewhere. Her poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and won the Jo-Anne Hirshfield Memorial Poetry Award as well as the First Night Evanston Poetry Contest. Her writing has been supported by Vermont Studio Center, Art Farm, and SAFTA. Visit her at- www.anitaoliviakoester.com.
Jennifer MacBain-Stephens went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and now lives in the DC area. Her chapbook Clown Machine is forthcoming from Grey Book Press this spring. Her first full length poetry collection is forthcoming from Lucky Bastard Press. Recent work can be seen or is forthcoming at Jet Fuel Review, Pith, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Inter/rupture, Cider Press Review, and decomP. Visit: http://jennifermacbainstephens.wordpress.com/.
Steven Sanchez is a Lambda Literary Fellow, a CantoMundo Fellow, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Fresno State. His poems have appeared in Crab Creek Review, Nimrod, and Word Riot, among others. His chapbook, To My Body, is forthcoming from Glass Poetry Press. He currently teaches at Fresno City College.
Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad was born and raised in New York. Her poetry has appeared in Passages North, Narrative Northeast, TheCommonline Journal, The Coe Review, Kudzu House Quarterly, The Chiron Review, and is forthcoming in Stillwater Review, Orange CoastReview, apt, and Riprap Journal. She currently lives in New York and practices matrimonial law.
Julia Tranchina is a writer, poet, and municipal employee; who has recently been named a 2016 Lambda Literary Fellow. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in places like The Rusty Toque, Bone Bouquet, Monkeybicycle, Permafrost and Juked. She was born, raised, and lives still, in San Jose, California (before it was never cool) with her wife and four-year-old twins. To find more of her work, please visit clodhopper.com.