Check out the submission guidelines for our FINAL THEMED PHOTO GALLERY documenting the lives of writers, "Where I Write."
Alix Anne Shaw
Alexis Rhone Fancher
McKenzie Lynn Tozan
Nancy Chen Long
Justin Phillip Reed
Christine Stewart Nuñez
The pain is most likely not of cardiac origin.
caperberry rib gum, and soft
lung mesh inflating
in coppery, zealous
pleats. It comes and goes,
the abrupt barrel
of a cold gun jutting
into the sweetness
under the arm or tightly
gripped by an angry lover,
slat-bruising from the
a gaping, stunned fish
in a waterless bucket.
Alix Anne Shaw
ON BEING CALLED TINY FOR THE UMPTEENTH TIME
Because you see me and think thimble, think cupcake, firefly,
think snapped like a matchstick,
think such petite fruit,
because you think my lips are moving, think there are only small words in my mouth
you said I had no size to spare
Wonder wastes my pound
Wonder stings me more than does the Bee
I say Thumbelina
held in her body a landscape vast as the fields of Troy.
A thousand watchfires burned in her each night.
To you who say my hands
are little fluttering birds
I say raptor, I say currency. As in
the force that animates,
and then again the force that craves its end.
a force so big it scares her, pushing aside the blood
leaving her faint and white in the gust's arm
And I say all flesh must vanish
as in the virtual world
when we meet there mind to mind, cold fields of light.
Then the beetle flew down and placed her on the daisy. She wept to be so ugly that even
the terrible insect had nothing to say.
Because you see me and think fingernail and wire nail and hair
Think thumb and thumbtack, curtsey, courtesy—
Even the wren upon her nest knows more than Daisy dares
some little way she cannot guess to make that Master glad
Then the green leaf floated away on the brook, and the butterfly flew with it, for he was
fastened with the ribbon, and could not get away.
To those who say sit pretty
to those who say lie still, I tell you I will reckon, I will row
with my two oars of white horsehair, sleep in my grass blade bed
curled like a fetal walnut in its shell. Her brain I mean
they could not pick it out. Not with a nutpick, not with a silver pin
Nobody but the bobolink, and his a silver scruple
But let me tell you reader, when I look in my magic mirror
I see a freight train, charging down the grade.
Its food is hard dark carbon, and it burns
in all its chambers, burns and scalds. See
how the piston churns
against the wheel?
Have you a heart in your breast sir? Sir is it set like mine
Have you a little chest to put the alive in?
Or I say I see a third rail, crackling in the dark—
"You are going to be married, said the mouse. "My neighbor has asked for you. Your
clothes will be woolen and linen. For nothing must be wanting, when you are the mole's
To you who say eat bitter
to you who say sing sweet
I say no bird in either rode
no bee nor flesh is light
though the body may be lighter
and you tell me I could take you
and you might.
Lines in boldface italic are sourced from Emily Dickinson's The Master Letters and "Little Tiny, or Thumbelina" by Hans Christian Andersen.
a girl amuses. her body tastes. her body & a girl. a girl. slip of body thing. opens, you taste a girl on your hands or face. her face opens & closes. a girl takes one bite. she disappears. you think what was that & then forget. you think more to come & then forget. a girl forgets. her body never forgets. a girl forgets she has a body. tells body to burn up. be an offering. be devastated. a girl is empty of devouring. then full, then empty. lick the spoon. lick your fingers. turn away. a girl needs. [you break against that] a girl wants to please. she has an ordinary devotion. you wipe your fingers of her. [ash against nothing] you put your fingers in her mouth. she won’t speak. you put yourself in her throat. she won’t make a sound. a girl takes more than you want to give. she folds up tender, useless heart. she betrays herself. she swallows everything you are.
Alexis Rhone Fancher
These photos of Catherine and Zöe Hinton are part of my ongoing photo-essay about tattooed women and their children. I’m especially interested in capturing the love/competition that I often see between teenaged girls and their mothers. Catherine is Zöe’s stepmother. Zöe is almost sixteen in these shots. Kevin Hinton, her father, is a well-known tattoo artist in Los Angeles. Shot in my downtown L.A. studio on December 21st, 2014.
A little girl is tap dancing on the tiles
of the dry goods aisle.
She studies me as I pluck a box
from a shelf and says,
You have bird-beak hands.
I could say:
If I had bird beaks for hands
I would have two easy mouths.
I could tease the dirt for a free lunch.
I could savage something.
I could snap a moth mid-flight after dark,
my beak-hands folding over weak, colorful wings.
If I had bird beaks for hands, I could make them sing.
Out of the palms would come
my mallet-tipped fingers
keeping rhythm, better than
a male mourning dove on the make.
But instead I say, I guess you're right, and duck
around the corner. I wouldn't want a little girl to witness
my solid beaks breaking into ten knobby strands,
stiff and twisted as broken twigs,
one of them rubbing an eye, not a bird's.
THE LONG NOW 18 (FROM POWAY)
What there is citrus groves
before they were vulgar estates where I hid
there, behind the trees
and no one saw
That child’s borrowed face
for I was always leaving was a deserter
which it is in my blood to be and one night
—in the dark apparition of a tree—I hid
watching wide-set Cadillac eyes pass
and circle as if to capture and return me
to the home in which I would be eaten alive
I was always then am leaving still
that skin in which I hid
The condition of thereness is other
could slip away into dumbness
if set in the noun being
not the verb to be
or becoming active
in moving away from
from those figures fooling the bees
sloping red and clay-tiled roofs
neo-Spanish-style facades not agency
not my city in the country
my home is not my home
I hid, had, then how
the long yawp in the hollowed drum
of open space the present participle
and everything stopped
Now everything is new, unfurls
into the first language I’ve ever truly understood
in my bones
that’s how, at least, the story goes
I am never only me again
will / sing already full of voices—
a figure as through a glass
turned into its other, more embodied being
is always about the poetic process
is how I lost myself into my selves
and now write that summer
from its residual haze act out of
memory: that most fallible of speakers
I have need of no other
self than the multiple of this moment
ici commence here I write over and over
in enactment of the word Holy
the word reverie
in the sentence
as long as the breath
Pummeled by dreams
the returning ones
most of all
the city shines under water
where the seat of God’s power
is bed, bed, and bed
manufactured in fragments
loved by so few
I wonder how Demeter appeared to you
in the dream of harvest those children torn up
from the earth
and her imagined voice
did it call out for her daughter
who, in the dark room changes shape
recedes beneath her shroud
her figure is the death of form
but form proceeds
to speak of
the nothing to say
Already I have sloughed the cells
you held, the skin of my hand lost
to the steering wheel or the sink,
pieces abraded into the laundry
or across one of the dogs, and
every hint of you vanished with them.
The mouth you touched is gone
(and yours, too, both what you left
on mine and what you took away
with you), and even though I know
it doesn’t work this way, I like to think
I am pulsing outward, my organs
moving to muscle, my muscles churning
to skin. Already, I have begun to
begin. And in seven years, I'm told,
I will be new. And so will you.
Maybe then I will be able to forget
the seam between our edges and
the one between our palms, the ridge
of rib you trailed your fingers on.
We are like speech—wait long enough
and we are gone. So why do I hold
my hand to my mouth without you?
What taste do I find there that cannot
be yours? How long—seven years?—
before I have turned inside-out for
you? This is the place where I'm
supposed to say it's finished. Or it is
the place where I'm supposed to say
whatever I become I'll gift to you.
McKenzie Lynn Tozan
These are all my small casualties, scattered thick along
the back fence—the miscarries and birds, lost jobs and pets, names
of friends who met hard and fast with the ground. These stones
with names carved or written are widowed: this is how I talk
about the afterlife. One night, along a riverbank, I waited for a blonde girl
to break open, wide and seizing like a star. As if it were as simple
as all that—her bathing suit was cream like her skin, the flailing curls wet
and swinging against the evening air: she stood out against the black
and spun down from a tree into the water, only a sharp crack when I expected
broken limbs or heart. I wrote lucy later on a rock, a lack of capitals,
because this was only a name I had given her, like the man who appears
in my dreams, and everything unfolds: soft winter dance and friend, talks
under a sky at once filled with trees and oranges, limbs, more birds—but the waking,
the discovery he has yet to find my porch, knock on the door, and let himself in.
I am reminded that he is a ghost like all the others, he never born, nameless
anywhere else. Fake name written on a stone, cast out to the edge with all
the real ones, a quip against the stars and everything they cover up.
FROM SOFTBODIES EXTRA
My work evolves around the human body and mind, earlier in form of painting, now with a focus on drawing, video and photography. Former research on the mind and collaborations with neuroscientists has nourished my understanding of life. My approach is direct always trying to keep the means simple, the vision focused, the work poetic.
The series of ink drawings Bodies, as well as the series Softbodies-Extra, refer to body in an organic, cellular idea. The delicacy of thin-layered ink alludes to the fragility of body.
The cellular permeable membrane has always fascinated me functioning as border and as passage. So I would like to think the outline of those organic shapes as such, a thin line that defines inner and outer, that serves as barrier, filter, just like the skin, that envelops and protects, physically as well as mentally.
The ‘tentacles’ or ‘hair’ in some drawings seem to reach out, in others, they seem to shield the body from intrusion, a soft down fluff preserving the core. There is also a sensual aspect in those drawings, the female body in the most vulnerable and giving state of being, thick, inner linings of internal body, internal body mirroring the complex and vulnerable being.
In the series Bodies there is also the idea of a pair, two bodies being connected; the cord between the two stabilizes each, fortifies the duo and binds them equally, which may also be interpreted on a psychological level. The shapes may recall organs or embryos being attached to a counterpart, a twin, another half of the self.
Nancy Chen Long
ELECTRIC YELLOW, WE ARE WATERMARKED
Choirs chant a palm-full of psalms.
By a rookery of cranes, near a waterway,
we pray, too, caroling. We’re psalms,
we sing. The sun, even. We chant with our hands,
a new writing. Red ink on feint-ruled parchment.
Marginal sketches in scarlet. Faintly-ruled epistles.
Letters that fade. Newly mown and marginal,
we make notes—in song, in hieroglyph—
of ground cover, slugs, of girdling,
bookmark the beehive where our benefactors
once prayed. Faint yellow ellipses
in our rock-edged beds, my sisters and I live
in a manicured garden. We strain to speak.
Of bees. Of gilded trespassers.
Justin Phillip Reed
in a sea of men, a sense of drowning, naturally. this is not yet your concern.
purification by way of penetration is neither new nor the end of this body’s
story of immersion. in essence, innocence moves the other way—runs out:
foam at the mouths of rivers, foam where the falls end, feathers where
the angel fell, white where semen lands. red: fell ikaros, a man in angel drag.
fellatio in a red sedan. barn outside and coral moon slung over secret fields.
this trucker-father and you shifting your lost head down, up, down deep
in the denim lap. later, you and trucker in the autumn house bathroom.
the haunted one at the top of the stairs. red gagging. the hands, missing.
coat the bulb in red like latex. or don’t. makes no difference. the mood
is static, the mind unmade, the bed a black door. this here red lit dorm room
is a museum of your history of bowing before the body. [don't make me. no,
never mind. screw it in.]
screw it. the body’s response to being transacted, re-worn: it frays. it feels
as if it will keep enduring. it locks away safely the soft moronic object.
showers run cold, clear. scrubbed skin ripples away from you, a copper ash.
you catch a cop, carry the man on your back and together you rut
a great divide into the sheets, threaten the wall with a loud hole.
[¿me quieres, papi?] [sí, te quiero] meaning hurt me. ache blossoms
make the air red as poppies. you lose the used condom somewhere
in a black fold, a last nod to whispered law. home to a phantom weight.
wreck-deep canal between two unmapped oceans: two husbands storm
your orifices, trust-fall into you, wear you like a wedding band, share you
like oil slick on a red tide. bareback. the panic fans out. [wait, stop] comes
your wish silent as undertow. red scare. risky kid, overflown.
body as no man’s land, as scars and scores. land as solid where heavens end.
ending as fixed point-of-reference for reflecting on causes in tangent.
field to be rent. battle to lose. body not as temple but as altar carnage.
you and the uncut man like two trees eclipsed: one in a stage of late maroon;
the other fathoming depths, laying rose root, leafspeaking [clean] and [i
promise] and [yeah? like that?] fell tree, spreading forth, bowed over
in the seedy breeze of the best sex, unbelieving, breathing [please, be
relentless] as if begging the angel to cross the threshold, as if a blood cell.
the body manifests red fury in self-preservation. skin-deep stop lights
signal screech this to a halt. you, losing air— [stop] to punctuate
the rambling flesh. [stop] to separate time and again. [stop] for breath.
[stop] as in quit it. addict and desist. validate him, [no.] touch and
[don’t.] the transmissions like the treacherous river [run.] crimson
BOY AT REST, AFTER JULIE ZICK'S LITHOGRAPH GIRL AT REST
While sleeping, the child vanishes from his life.
—Carolyn Forché, The Angel of History
In Girl at Rest, I saw only a hazy
silhouette of a child’s body—the navy
blue frame of her arms, head,
and a bit of torso, and I read
the artist’s choice of ochre, taupe, and light
gray (shades shifting only slightly)
to imply background, table and skin
with wonder—the colors nearly vanish
the child. When I study my son
asleep, it’s in full dimension:
eyelids threaded with a blue vein,
a freckle emerging on the outline
of his lip. There’s no facial stress,
but I don’t need to guess:
rest is an illusion, not a feature
of a brain beset with seizures.
By day, they complicate the spelling
of C-A-T, how each sound, rolling
into the next, infuses meaning.
When sound does fall through the screen
of seizures, a word often fails to find its place
on his tongue. The spells also erase
memories of lunchtime pizza, gym-class
tag, the answer to What’s your last
name? the need to look both ways before
crossing the parking lot outside the store.
On the monitor, I hear him speak,
a midnight phrase thrown from deep sleep,
and I wonder what words emerge
(despite the seizure’s surge)
from the visual play of his dreams.
What world does he vanish to? It seems
impossible to draw in ink or words
more than a sleeping child’s curves
and angles. When I tiptoe into his room
to re-tuck his blanket, I will only assume
that wherever he’s at, he’ll come back.
Issue Seven Contributors
Kenzie Allen is a descendant of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, and is a graduate of the Helen Zell Writers' Program at the University of Michigan. Her work can be found in The Iowa Review, Drunken Boat, SOFTBLOW, The Puritan, Kweli, DIALOGIST, and other venues, and she is the managing editor of the Anthropoid collective. Find her online at kenzieallen.co or tweeting @cerena.
Megan Burns is the publisher at Trembling Pillow Press and edits the poetry magazine, Solid Quarter. She also hosts the Blood Jet Poetry Reading Series in New Orleans. She has two books Memorial + Sight Lines (2008) and Sound and Basin (2013) published by Lavender Ink. Her latest chapbook i always wanted to start over was released from Nous-Zot Press in 2014. Her third book, Commitment, was published in 2015.
Alexis Rhone Fancher is is the author of How I Lost My Virginity To Michael Cohen and Other Heart Stab Poems (Sybaritic Press, 2014). Her photos are published worldwide, including Blue Lyra, River Styx, Blink Ink, Fine Linen, HeART Online, and the covers of Witness and The Mas Tequila Review. She is photography editor of Fine Linen Literary Magazine, and publishes The Poet’s Eye, a monthly photo essay about her ongoing love affair with Los Angeles, in Cultural Weekly. www.alexisrhonefancher.com.
Ruth Foley lives in Massachusetts, where she teaches English for Wheaton College. Her work appears in numerous web and print journals, including Antiphon, The Bellingham Review, and Sou’wester. She is the author of two chapbooks, Dear Turquoise and CreatureFeature, and serves as Managing Editor for Cider Press Review.
Ashley Hutson has work featured or forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, DOGZPLOT, TheLascaux Review, Calliope, TheEEEL, Hermes Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. She lives in Sharpsburg, MD, and can be found on the web at www.aahutson.com.
Nancy Chen Long received a BS in Electrical Engineering Technology and an MBA, worked as an electrical engineer, software consultant, and project manager, and more recently earned an MFA. She was born in Taipei, Taiwan and, as the daughter of a military man, grew up while living in various parts of the U.S. Nancy currently calls south-central Indiana home, where she works at Indiana University.
James Meetze is the author of I Have Designed This for You and Dayglo, which was selected by Terrance Hayes as winner of the 2010 Sawtooth Poetry Prize and published by Ahsahta Press. He is also the editor, with Simon Pettet, of Other Flowers: Uncollected Poems by James Schuyler (FSG, 2010). His fifth chapbook, Dark Art 1-12, was published in 2013 and his next book, Phantom Hour, will be out from Ahsahta Press in March, 2016. He spends his time between Los Angeles and San Diego, where he is Assistant Professor of English at Ashford University.
Justin Phillip Reed is a South Carolina native and the author of the forthcoming chapbook, A History of Flamboyance (YesYes Books). His poems appear / are forthcoming in Jai Alai Magazine, Kenyon Review, Obsidian, Vinyl Poetry, joINT., The Offing, Boston Review, and elsewhere. He lives in St. Louis, where he is a Junior Writer-in-Residence at Washington University.
Alix Anne Shaw is the author of two poetry collections: Dido in Winter (Persea 2014) named one of the best poetry books of the year by Library Journal, and Undertow, winner of the Lexi Rudnitsky Poetry Prize (Persea 2007). Her poems and reviews have appeared in journals including Harvard Review, Black Warrior Review, Denver Quarterly, The Los Angeles Review, and New American Writing. She is also a sculptor. Her work can be viewed online at anneshaw.org.
Poet and essayist Christine Stewart-Nuñez is the author of Untrussed (forthcoming 2016 from the University of New Mexico Press), Snow, Salt, Honey (Red Dragonfly Press 2012), Keeping Them Alive (WordTech Editions, 2011), and Postcard on Parchment (ABZ Press 2008). Her piece “An Archeology of Secrets” was a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2012. She is an Associate Professor in the English Department at South Dakota State University.
Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Simone Stoll studied in Berlin and in London, lived in France and has since returned to Germany. Her work has been in shows and festivals in Europe, Canada, Australia and the USA. In 2007, she was part of the Biennale of Québec and received the Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant. In 2011, she took part in the Bienal Internacional de Fotografía de Tenerife and was given the Fotonoviembre Award. Find her on the web at www.simonestoll.com.
McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives and writes in South Bend, Indiana, where she teaches composition at Indiana University South Bend. She received her MFA in Poetry from Western Michigan University, where she worked as the Layout and Design Editor at New Issues Poetry and Prose. She specializes in poetry, stories, and book reviews; and her poems have appeared in such places as Encore Magazine, Sleet Magazine, and Analecta. For more, visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com.