Casey Zella Moir
Jeannine Hall Gailey
Hali F. Sofala
Casey Zella Moir
IN THE BEGINNING
I’ve been wondering about
the beginning: the rending of light
from dark. Whose hands were doing the
guiding, the drawing back of that curtain,
what was it made of, what told him to pull
at that split to turn me in two?
It is always a long walk to face my accuser. The last time it was through a forest of books,
shelves rising up over my small body, a shadow of myself. I wanted to drop to my knees, crawl.
In the old testament the whole story is told twice
The second time there is a long list of names to
begin the telling
I wonder if I can name them all, the blurred faces.
All of them men all of them seeking the part
of me that can create new worlds – this light I can
hardly see in
myself And how did they know where I hid it and where were
my hands when they were finding it where was my voice when they
rested with heavy deep satisfied breaths: the work they had done.
And why is it always the woman dragging
a long trail
of dead snake
I’ve been thinking
about whether there’s a god who has
been watching all of this
has he been guiding the hands? Do they
do his work? When it says Eve knew nakedness it must mean the snake rubbed her so
raw she could not longer stand her own body.
And if it says he made day and night does it really
just mean that it has been since the beginning that man
split woman into two parts
Did god decide that I can have only one light half and the other can be torn into darkness
with just a pair of hands (where are my hands to
stop them and why am I naked and why are his hands
between my legs)
There is morning There is night I am naked and ashamed
He says It is good.
AFTER YOUR FUNERAL
I throw your leather jacket,
your sheets, your handwritten
letters, into the river.
Broken wine bottles stud
the river’s cusp, glass shards
slice the sky, drawing blood—
thick drops blot my skin
like cigarette burns on a car seat.
Our rope swing strings
that tree—tattered, unspooling.
You’re the thick pill
I can’t swallow,
the cyst in my esophagus.
You, the sore
I can’t quit tonguing.
The prayer I recite before sleep—.
I plunge into rust-red water,
sink in the mud.
EATING DINNER WITH ANNE
We have spoons two, which is, to that. There is a certain run-on of sharp, you not saying you only eating, but perhaps remembering when you thought fantasy fiction could save you when poetry could save you when philosophy when gender studies when conversation could save, when an exact syntax but so save so, when a new name, a better name, a letter just phoneme could savior, indeed yet from the go you perceive the world as forked and fucked and this language (which you have been tonguing into a polish these many years) does not reflect hope. Survival rather. Careful more study on which enumerated ways the world will most finest hate you with insistence, so to that. The soup on the lips is good. You trust me for my ear, though bowls root and stem from the hand. Here, a lamp sounds orange upon spoons, one.
Jeannine Hall Gailey
A NARCISSIST'S APOCALYPSE
If my own light is burning out, then it feels right
that the earth’s should too. Shut down the sun,
let the crops wilt and suffer. As my blood stops running,
so too should the rivers and seas, no longer reliable
in their courses, no longer teeming with life. My spirit
is dim as this forever-twilight and the animal inside me
noses around the forest, confused. If this is the end,
let me tell the story. Let me write it in stone, send it out
into the universe on a rocket. Rage, rage against the dying.
Go supernova. Once I twirled my hair in my fingers,
once my lips kissed other lips dry and warm. Once my heart
beat and the world spun on its axis. Nothing wobbled.
Nothing was uncertain. There was a house on a street
with a smiling sky above. There were wars and rumors of wars.
Mass extinctions. Yes, the occasional earthquake, tsunami, tornado.
yes, the occasional storm, crying out, asking for attention.
But now, everything quivers, restless and itching, waiting
for the final signal, the shutdown, the last penetrating burst,
the eyelids stuttering closed, the last breath exhaled, the soul unlit.
Hali F. Sofala
In Samoan culture, Taualuga symbolizes the conclusion
of an arduous task and the final beautifying touches involved.
I was fifteen when my mother drove
me to a white doctor who had never
seen a Samoan before. He laid me flat
on his table, pulled the paper smock
from my body as if he were not the first
man to see me without the armor of clothing.
The first violation.
He surveyed me as specimen: the tufts
of black hair, the darkness of skin,
the plump swells of belly and breast.
Even my feet, too big for my mother’s shoes,
did not escape the scrutiny of his gaze.
Abnormal, he said. This is what you are, he said.
He told me to write an essay on being abnormal.
He wanted me to write myself into shame.
I was fifteen—that age when a girl is still unsure
of her body, unsure of what to name
any of her parts.
When I am twenty-one in Samoa,
I watch my grandmother, le tina o lo’u tama,
braid caramel candies into leis for the Faifea’u.
And grandmother is bare breasted beside me,
her lavalava knotted at her waist. She is all softness
and the pale scars of birthing ten children
mark her almond skin. No straight edges to her body—
just full round hills of flesh. And she is beautiful.
Her image awash in the midday sunlight
that streams through the slat blinds
and pools upon us both.
CONFRONTING MY OWN BLOOD
I AM STILL BLEEDING
YOU KNOW YOU WANT IT
My most recent collection, which is still being completed in order to exhibit, is on sexual violence. I am a victim who survived being sexually abused by a family member at the age of four. Then at fifteen I was violently raped by a boy I liked at school, he too was fifteen, [Read more of Charlotte's story here. —Ed.] I was further sexually assaulted twice when I was hospitalized after the rape in an adolescent psychiatric unit. I have C-PTSD as a result. This project is me taking back power, healing and breaking the silence. This collection is for us all – women, men and children from every ethnicity, social background, sexuality, religion and lifestyle. My hope is to give us a voice to tell those who have abused and violated us that we can take our power back.
My power was taken. I am affected. My life is a daily struggle. I am a victim and I am a survivor.
THE END OF THE ORDINARY BODY
After the accident,
I was redrawn as light,
my body a suit.
A blossom of blood
bursting from my feet.
Rupture gave way to bone,
Smoldered through me
A gleam of tinsel
and rubber peeling away.
I couldn’t speak.
The sag of being.
The car’s fragmenting: a thief.
when you told me you loved me / but didn’t want to be with me anymore / we were just children / and like all children I
acted / without thinking / no repent / I wanted to / but I unraveled / threw the bracelet you gave me / into metal on
metal / it sang and as it died / I remembered how you promised to bring me flowers and never did / I almost squeezed /
my hand down there too
DITCH POEM #6
we’re all becoming animals here
our scaly skins showing through the stained glass
why now why slither
the rainbow gate beneath suit sleeves
beneath chiffon and tweed
the rainbow plexus in our throats
once a wren ever an abalone shell
we were whole once
wander detritus wonder
the furs in the soft air
gentle browns of wood and bark
as the furs gallop by
in recent lavas
we were the hands holding
we were the under
to speak in soil tongues
to be called into ditches
to be summoned
wet black eros pitch
leaf matter and dirt cake
the cavity of I root
small declivities of teeth
along the rim
how the mouth knows
we were once rose quartz
we were agate
smashed and smashed
among the rock
your smooth body a reminder
WHEN I AM OCEANS OF BLOOD, I WILL LEARN TO SPEAK THE LANGUAGE OF GOD
& if I try to resist the heirlooms in my bones
bending me so hard the words bubble
effortlessly to the surface, pour from my wrists
like my mouth is a broken faucet, a stuck valve
swollen with rust, if prayers spill from my belly
like bloodshed, if these scissored fault lines
covering my veins are sacraments,
if every keloid scar marring my flesh
brings me another droplet closer to heaven,
if I am sacrifice, if my fingers draw to a pinch
around thin steel, if I am bleached bone & china plate,
if this glistening silver tooth in my hand loosens
a pound of bubbling fat from all the body
my arm can reach, am I suddenly a prayer?
A penance? If my mouth is filled with copper,
enamel, flecked with chips of tooth & gum,
my lip chewed to gnarled fiber from concentrating
so fiercely on the hum of pulse that I can see it –
a writhing coil of angry serpents buried
under tendons trapped, if I am given unto myself
the key, the picked lock, if there is so much blood
on my tongue it catches fire, if the flames purge
rot from my throat, will the blade be burned clean,
or made holy – every slash, every bite,
every blossoming fountain of rosewater & saline –
holy! All that I am. Holy.
LAST SCENT, HELD LIKE WINTER IN MY LUNGS
Months after the hunt
and I’m still spent. All shed bare.
Spring comes and I don’t have
one howl left within me, not
a crooked tooth in my jaw,
not a single bristled hair
or hoof or bloodied claw.
Just this forked tongue, brittle,
and an instinct kept hot in the shell
of my fist. I spread myself here—
spine to the dirt, throat to the sky.
I’ve only come back for a moment
to catch this last scent
of a stolen season.
You know, we could have tried.
Circling the remains of this place,
we could have stayed—even bruised
and then rebirthed into new scales,
under other stars. Now, tracking
back, you’ll find only a woman-
where the secret beast
once lurked, bucked,
Issue Eighteen Contributors
Melissa Eleftherion grew up in Brooklyn. A high school dropout, she went on to earn an MFA in Poetry from Mills College and an MLIS from San Jose State University. She is the author of huminsect, prism maps, Pigtail Duty, the leaves the leaves, green glass asterisms, and several other chapbooks. Her first full-length collection, field guide to autobiography is forthcoming from H_NGM_N Books. Melissa lives in Mendocino County where she works as Teen Librarian, teaches creative writing & manages the Poetry Center Chapbook Exchange. More of her work can be found at www.apoetlibrarian.wordpress.com.
Sarah Escue is an MFA candidate at Naropa University and the Assistant Editor at The Adirondack Review. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Gulf Stream, DIALOGIST, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, So To Speak, Hermeneutic Chaos Journal, Wildness, Damselfly Press, MilkJournal, and elsewhere. You can find her on Twitter at @SarahEscue.
An activist for mental illness, anti-rape culture, neurodiversity, and disability rights issues, Charlotte Farhan has dual nationality between France and Britain, and lives in the vibrant city of Portsmouth, UK, with her husband Mohammed, 3 cats, and her psychiatric assistance dog. Farhan is an international visual artist, a published illustrator, feature writer, Editor-in-Chief of ASLI Magazine, and Managing Director / co-founder of the non-profit Art Saves Lives International. She says that receiving art therapy has taught her more about art than any lesson or teacher. Find her on the web at Charlotte Farhan Art—Creating Change.
Jeannine Hall Gailey recently served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She is the author of five books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter and, forthcoming in fall 2016, Field Guide to the End of the World. Her web site iswww.webbish6.com.
William James is a poet, punk rocker, and train enthusiast from Manchester, NH. He's the founder & editor-in-chief of Beech StreetReview, a contributing editor for Drunk In A Midnight Choir & the author of rebel hearts & restless ghosts (Timber Mouse, 2015). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in SOFTBLOW, Word Riot, Radius Lit, Hobart, Atticus Review, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter (@thebilljim) or at http://www.williamjamespoetry.com.
Sarah Katz has work in MiPOesias, RHINO, and The Rumpus. She earned an MFA at American University and has been awarded the 2015 District Lit Prize and a residency at Vermont Studio Center. Her poetry manuscript was a finalist for Tupelo Press's 2016 Dorset Prize. Sarah works at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs and is Poetry Editor of The Deaf Poets Society, an online journal of disability literature and art (www.deafpoetssociety.com)
Casey Zella Moir is a 12th grade English teacher in Boston, MA who gives poems to students as gifts. She graduated in 2012 from Hampshire College with a degree in many subjects. She loves the desert, the ocean, the moon, and trigger warnings. She recently received the following feedback from a young person she taught: "Ms. Moir should make fewer faces at students."
Born and raised in a semi-suburban ravine in Toronto, Canada, Emily Paskevics is the author of The Night Was Animal, or: Methods in theArt of Rogue Taxidermy (Dancing Girl Press, 2014). Her poetry, essays, and short fiction can be found in Hart House Review, VallumMagazine, Acta Victoriana, and Luna Luna Magazine, among others. Her poetry translations have appeared in various international publications. Find her at her website, http://www.creativetroublemaking.org/, or reach out on Twitter @epaskev.
Hali F. Sofala is a Samoan-American poet and teacher originally from Eatonton, GA. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a PhD in English and Creative Writing from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Her most recent work can be found in Blue Mesa Review, Fugue, The Missouri Review, and The Bitter Oleander. Sofala-Jones lives in Milledgeville, GA where she teaches literature at Georgia College.
Connor Stratton is an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Minnesota. His work has been published or is forthcoming in DIAGRAM, Everyday Genius, and Artichoke Haircut. He received Oberlin College's Academy of American Poets prize in 2013. Raised just outside Chicago, he most recently lived in lower Manhattan and worked as a paralegal.
Elizabeth Tsung is a poet in Queens, NY. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @ElizabethTsung.