Joanna C. Valente
THEMED PHOTO FEATURE—
WHERE I CREATE
j/j hastain & Juliet Cook
GIRLS WHO STRUGGLE
Our name is glue. Our name is rust.
Our name is lure and rustle. Our name to you
means glut. Means get her. Means rule. To you,
our name is let. Ruse. Re-use. Our name is slug.
Our name is a scuffle, a sludge. Our name means legs
that require tying when they try to run. Our name is gurgle.
Our name is the eta and the tug. Our name is gust.
Our name is a tress you want to sever and knot. Our name
a stress you trek. A tremble. Your trust-fund.
Your trudge and grudge. To you, our name is dump-truck.
A tube you try to squeeze us through. A fistful of skull.
A drum. Our name is something to correct. To pummel.
MISSING WOMAN UNWITTINGLY JOINS SEARCH PARTY LOOKING FOR HERSELF
and did she find herself
at the highway lip
in gravel god-gazing
the slow clouds or
were wolves minnowing
the distant forest
scenting milk or
sap fenugreek like
fear or was it a gas
stall in Holland
when the bus
stopped for snacks
that she found
herself still peeking
through a cracked
door to the mirror
where she colored
a new mouth, palmed
with drying nails -
how long before any
of those strangers noticed
her in the search party,
alone in the pack
the same prey
Joanna C. Valente
DEFINITION OF THE END OF THE WORLD
There was a constellation
in your mouth that I poked holes
through with my fingers
but couldn't get out, so now
I sit inside and can't see
beyond the fence of your teeth
imagining the rooms you sleep in,
the name you go by, the name
no one calls me
the reasons you have to read
by candlelight even though you
were born in the dark,
stop-motioned in a whirlpool
where gravity made you
beautiful in the black iris
of a dying swan’s eye
and it calls you a ghost:
there you are in a room
with no windows alone
as if your body is the ceiling,
fingerprints on the door
haunting every drawer
in a void where even birds
are afraid to look down
at us, our bodies buried
beneath horse skulls, no one
inside them, not even us
floating elsewhere covered
in black so black
nothing can breathe
on its own.
F train comes engorging
Fist-first into the belly
Of the stop like blood
From warm places,
Dripped on the platform
And dried. Stoop, girl.
That’s red you remember
And recognize from Friday.
You packed a jam sandwich
But won’t get to eat it now.
Just a few meters down, and
It’s holding breath solid,
Suspended vision in a tunnel
Of piss, no rain, no sunlight,
Always three AM,
Mother’s earrings you
Leave behind on the dresser
In revised historical fantasy,
Clickety-coo under small feet
Not so far from your
Own persistent ankles.
after Thomas Sayers Ellis
If artifice, or
if a coiffed, shape-
Swift: satisfying, or
if facelift, then
a gift, or
if a Jennifer,
or a Guinevere,
if xx (and no y),
a plaintive Iphigenia
stifled into a stiff,
a trifle, if
merely a riff—
VISIT OUR FINAL THEMED PHOTO GALLERY, "WHERE I CREATE," HERE.
We went crabbing: reedy marsh,
jellyfish, plastic bucket filled
with crawling crabs. I had no body.
No one in my family remembers.
Crabs hissed, dropped in the black pot’s
roiling river. He grabbed me in the tub.
Flashes, knife of light, footsteps creak.
Crabs shift, crawl on each other.
Memory roils. I drown
in a black river, heavy hands.
His mottled shadow in every bed.
I was six, my stepfather left my bed
my voice balled in his fists.
Conjured doubts rack my body.
I tremble, curled in a ball
sensation my body’s voice.
Photo of toddlers: me, my brother
my mother says, You loved those
raincoats. You wore them every day.
Is this memory polluted, a river black
as any in which I’d rather drown than know?
Stung by sea nettle jellyfish.
Crabs boiled in his beer.
My stepfather threw the crabs
one at a time. Threw me
in the bath. Steamer big as me.
j/j hastain & Juliet Cook
The opposite of coiffed,
slime molds attached to
disconnected pony tails,
gripping and dripping out
A ramp of spasms.
A reoccurring dream of rings
being taken off of fingers by
cutting the fingers off.
"Cupcake Makeup Glitter Eye
Shadow Jar" filled with red signals
of nails and finger tips and ring tones.
Antennas inserted into
the wounds to sing out
a high-grade scream.
Tell me what you know about dismemberment.
I know the sharp curve of the boti
its iron feet held down by calloused flesh
on the concrete floor of a hot kitchen
I know how it feels to have a heart cleaved
by the choice between comfort and desire
to have feet in more places than I have legs
To feel torn and made whole
by the same sharp thing
my tongue keeps thirsting for
I know the silence of surrender
once I’ve agreed to brutality
know how to work to break even
and feel unsatisfied
my children cut from me
their hungry mouths and hands
reaching as they recede
I know what it is to let someone
cut my voice from my throat
and leave my smile intact
—a rotary engine
You say all engines move suspiciously alike,
each piston in its shaft. Must we
build our world in metaphors
of ourselves? I ask if you’ve heard
of the rotary engine—a triangle twirling
in an oval, opening and closing
its valves, intake, compression, ignition,
exhaust—each triangle-turn condenses the mix
of air and gas in each dwindling chamber
until the spark plug lights it,
spins the triangle back around.
Nothing in nature works like this.
It is banned from some races:
It takes longer to redline,
has none of the most at-risk parts,
no crankshaft or connecting rods.
In that way, you say, it sounds like you.
You wink closed the valve of your eye
as what’s behind ignites.
WHAT YOU WILL NOT SAY
Write it across my back with
your cuttlefish fingers, draw
a swell of ocean over my shoulders
and sink it. My spine is a column
of bubbles releasing it all
to the depths. My ribs are minnows,
fleeing. In the morning, trace it
to see if it has begun to grow
algae or barnacles, if damselfish
have found their way home.
If only one of us needs to breathe
it might as well be you.
Issue Eight Contributors
Khairani Barokka is a writer, poet, artist, PhD maker-researcher at Goldsmiths, and an arts and disability (self-)advocate. She is published, works, and teaches internationally. Her current projects include co-editing HEAT, an anthology of Southeast Asian urban writing (Buku Fixi Publishing, 2016), and the poetry-Braille-art book Indigenous Species (Tilted Axis Press, 2016).
Virginia Bell's first collection of poetry, From the Belly, was released by Sibling Rivalry Press in 2012. Her poetry is forthcoming in FifthWednesday Journal, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and has appeared in Gargoyle, Cider Press Review, Cloudbank, Spoon River Poetry Review, Calyx, Poet Lore, Pebble Lake Review, Wicked Alice, The Burden of Light: Poems on Illness and Loss and other journals and anthologies. Bell is a Senior Editor with RHINO Poetry and an adjunct professor at Loyola University Chicago.
Carol Berg’s poems are forthcoming or in Sou’wester, The Journal, Spillway, Redactions, Pebble Lake Review, Fifth WednesdayJournal, qarrtsiluni, Verse Wisconsin, and elsewhere. Her most recent chapbook, Her Vena Amoris is available from Red Bird Chapbooks, and her previous collections, Ophelia Unraveling and The Ornithologist Poemsare available from Dancing Girl Press.
Juliet Cook is a grotesque glitter witch medusa hybrid brimming with black, grey, silver, purple, and red explosions. Her poetry has appeared in a peculiar multitude of literary publications. You can find out more at www.JulietCook.weebly.com.
Barbara Duffey is a 2015 NEA Literature Fellow in poetry and the author of two collections: Simple Machines, which won the Washington Prize from The Word Works and is forthcoming in 2016, and I Might Be Mistaken (Word Poetry, 2015). She is an assistant professor of English at Dakota Wesleyan University and lives in Mitchell, SD, with her husband and son.
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.
Lauren Gordon is the author of four chapbooks, Keen (Horse Less Press, 2014), Meaningful Fingers (Finishing Line Press, 2014), Generalizations about Spines (Yellow Flag Press, 2015) and Fiddle Is Flood (Blood Pudding Press, 2015). She is also a Contributing Editor to Radius Lit and a Reviews Editor for Damfino Press.
j/j hastain is a collaborator, writer and maker of things. j/j performs ceremonial gore. Chasing and courting the animate and potentially enlivening decay that exists between seer and singer, j/j, simply, hopes to make the god/dess of stone moan and nod deeply through the waxing and waning seasons of the moon.
Seema Reza is a poet and essayist based outside of Washington, DC, where she coordinates and facilitates a unique hospital arts program that encourages the use of the arts as a tool for narration, self-care and socialization among a military population struggling with emotional and physical injuries.. An alumnus of Goddard College and VONA, her work has appeared or will appear on-line and in print in The Beltway Quarterly, HerKind, Duende, Bellevue Literary Review and California Journal of Poetics among others. When the World Breaks Open, a collection of essays and poetry, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press in Spring 2016.
Wendy Scott is the author of Soon I Will Build an Ark, published in 2014 by Main Street Rag. Her poems have appeared in the Harpur Palate, Paterson Literary Review, Potomac Review, Gravel, Cobalt, and Fourth River, among others. She has an MFA in Poetry from the University of Pittsburgh, and she taught creative writing and composition for thirteen years at a variety of institutions, including the University of Pittsburgh and a women’s halfway house.
Joanna C. Valente is the Managing Editor for Luna Luna Magazine. She is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014) and received her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College. Her second full-length collection Marys of the Sea is forthcoming from ELJ Publications in 2016. She also has two chapbooks, The Gods Are Dead & Xenos, forthcoming from Deadly Chaps Press and Imaginary Friend Press. Some of her work appears, or is forthcoming, in The Huffington Post and Columbia Journal, among others. She founded Yes, Poetry in 2010. Her ghost resides at her website: joannavalente.com.