A Short History of Honey
for Dorianne Laux
Because I am Your Shadow
for the women surviving womanhood
is a senior in Central Washington University’s Creative and Professional Writing Bachelor’s program. She enjoys experimenting with poetry and fiction. Her work draws inspiration from nature and women’s issues. She tutors on the side and loves windy days.
there’s an angel, but with a sword
he’s talking about the weather,
how crazy kids are these days, but we’re not so crazy after all,
he’s still standing there, in your doorway,
rambling, even more so for a dead man or a spirit,
i’m only awake because i was too afraid to drink water
too afraid not to hold your hands in prayer while i slept,
even the dead take up space, and too much of our time,
who really knows what ghosts sound like?
or, if they’re ghosts at all? was it real? i don’t have enough days to answer.
A Wand with Your Name
what is something sweet? sweetheart,
tell me a life story – something overkill,
like pulpy flowers, over pollinated, sagging
petals, almost too tired to be used, something
honorable but almost forgotten.
my dead boyfriend stills follow me on instagram,
what did you ever do?
gemini connects in venus,
your stars are tainted.
you are a broken piece of glass:
Stephanie Athena Valente
lives in Brooklyn, NY. Her published works include Hotel Ghost, waiting for the end of the world, and Little Fang (Bottlecap Press, 2015-2019). She has work included in Reality Hands, TL;DR, and Cosmonauts Avenue. She is the associate editor at Yes, Poetry. Sometimes, she feels human.
Softly the light unveils a room
gasping for breath
quiet woman gentle
in her melancholy shivers
against formless desire
Exhale into emptiness dreams
awake and unbending
Tulips bloom in a vase on the mantle.
What we kill is beautiful.
In this space between
morning and day
between darkness and
the dawning of a coral sunrise,
the need for you overtakes effortlessness.
I am weightless
here among the clouds,
above borders and limitations of
time and space.
Where I am,
when I am:
it doesn’t matter.
This path leads only to you.
I have not asked for silence
but you give it freely
Is this how the flowers feel
when the monarchs migrate?
Do they miss the sound of wings?
is a middle school counselor in Austin, Texas. Her poetry often explores themes of queer love (romantic and platonic), brain injury, and education. You can find her work in the Stonewall’s Legacy poetry anthology, Nixes Mate Review, MockingHeart Review and Trouble Among the Stars (she favors small, quirky literary magazines). An INFJ, Rae can often be found curled up with a novel to discuss with her students, or watching science fiction shows with her partner and their two rescue bunnies. You can find her on Instagram @mistress_of_mnemosyne where she talks about books, shares poems, and posts entirely too many pictures of her bunnies.
Woman or Mountain
I saw her grow
ripping the earth
wounding the height
in a wave,
solid and full.
I saw her rise
from her own insides
full of soil and blood,
of a treasure
nobody ever chased.
She rose and I saw her,
in my eyes,
The open throat
the life at her feet.
The flowers drinking her.
I take the human out of me
now that the lights have vanished.
It’s like they knew.
Sharp ends stroke the air
in a scale of greys and reds.
The night outside like carbon paper
unfolding the old beast,
chewing glass and spiting smoke,
a solid chain of hours,
a parade I get to see.
Foam staining the carpet,
a silent ocean starts to move,
bringing a pink nightmare
I try to reach with both hands.
A simple animal need.
I whisper something
and something whispers back.
The ceiling watches,
a white serpent raining on me,
My eyes roll back and dance.
The night shakes.
My vision has gone blurred
and it softens the shapes;
they become part of me.
I was something now I’m not.
My nature lays spread open.
A simple animal need.
The following poems refer to my life as a dancer. Martha Graham’s masterpiece,
PRIMITIVE MYSTERIES, a dance in three sections, was the first piece I performed of
Graham’s in 1964 which was a revival. The work debuted in 1931 and is based on an all
female, Native American interpretation of the Crucifixion seen through the Virgin Mary’s
eyes. This was the dance that placed Martha Graham on the innovator’s map with Pablo
Picasso, Igor Stravinsky and Frank Lloyd Wright.
PRIMITIVE MYSTERIES, I – HYMN TO THE VIRGIN
HELLO step-heel-toe, snap-other-foot-to-ankle in Martha Graham’s Primitive Mysteries,
this solemn, ritual walk, its heel-pounding sound bracketing the entrances and exits in
this three-part masterpiece.
HELLO first section titled Hymn to the Virgin where we, the chorus, frame the Virgin
Mary in primitive, stick figure friezes. Four of us hold Her as She splays against our
string-taut bodies. Another four cradle-rock their arms to herald the Holy One within.
HELLO to each frieze that effects a collective love song.
THANK YOU Martha Graham onstage in twelve devotees following her like we follow
the Virgin, circling our Mary in countless repetitions of step, step, turn, step, step, add a
hiccup jump, accelerating to breakneck speed. Inside this rumpus Mary squats to birth the
little one, her pose mirroring da Vinci’s Pieta.
THANK YOU Mary who, in a billowing white gown, floats between an aisle of four
kneeling dancers on either side. Our hands in prayer, She exchanges blessings with each
acolyte in an arm reach soft as baby’s breath.
THANK YOU Yuriko who plays Mary. When she blesses me, the last girl, our eyes
embrace linking our souls; we are one.
GOODBYE to dancers who starve to look like a long drink of water. We’re not the
wide-hipped women on whom Martha created this dance in 1931 after she came back
from the Southwest where she traveled with composer Louis Horst, to study movement
and sound in Native American tribes on Guggenheim grants.
GOODBYE months of work to bring life to this 1964 revival, months of prayer at the
Temple of Ritual Walk to give step-heel-toe snap-other-foot-to-ankle more weight.
GOODBYE to Martha’s hatred of revivals. Quoting Negro League pitcher, Satchel
Paige, she’d declare, Never look back, they may be gaining on you.
GOODBYE to dreams where I’m performing, wake drenched in anxiety, What’s next?
GOODBYE to being drawn to the impossible; how desperate we are for the petroglyphic
style to become skin; one girl snaps her meniscus.
GOODBYE and THANK YOU for our after-performance satisfaction, a foot-stamping,
PRIMITIVE MYSTERIES, II - CRUCIFIXUS
How the movement in Crucifixus purposefully imprisons our bodies.
How we ten acolytes, in two groups of three and one of four dancers, trudge shoulder to
shoulder along the floor as one grieving body.
How our elbows touch each other in a V-shape, which Martha adds because we need to
look more constrained.
How my C-curved, hunched spine is nailed to its own cross.
How I fear this is beyond what I can do.
How during one rehearsal Martha shares, Christ asphyxiated on the cross, then later
mutters, This is the cruelest dance I ever made.
How Louis Horst’s mournful oboe score underlines human suffering.
And how center stage, Mary inches forward, Her face a Noh mask, Her cupped hands
below Her eyes to catch invisible tears.
And how on either side of this tormented Mother, two dancers point to an imaginary
cross; Look, look! their pointers seem to say but Her inward gaze remains.
How Mary breaks through them, Her arms a cross piece, My son is dead.
How we ten women circle our lost Mary in a marathon of fifty-eight leaps before we and
the music stop, walk off stage in our solemn step-heel-toe, snap-other-foot to ankle while
the audience has yet to breathe.
PRIMITIVE MYSTERIES, III – HOSANNA
As if we corps of twelve women could not bear it
any longer yet came back for more
as if those blood-letting hours to get the Hosannas right--
leg raised, arms splayed as the cross piece
simulating some barbaric rite to celebrate
the rise of Mary’s dead son--
as our limbs break through to announce His resurrection,
a brutal dance
wrapped in arms in a cross, jumpjump
over and over to convey
a brimming joy in the
while center stage Mary places her hand
over an acolyte’s for support through her loss.
At one point the dancer back bends
into a hungry Mary’s arms
as if She were laying to rest Her boy’s body,
a goodbye for the many last times.
We, the chorus, are the outside world
immersed in His return
while Mary transitions from pain to acceptance
in Hosanna’s last Shiva-like image.
With a dancer hidden behind the Virgin, we see
four arms rising towards heaven
to mark Her Son’s journey
and release the sorrow within.
We all breathe into this silent language of the soul
and rise out of ourselves.
In first grade I wore denim shorts to school every single day, even in the winter. I
was trying to prove something. My parents were divorcing, and I wanted to be
tough. So I wore my long denim shorts, hand-me-downs from my older brother, and
I wore my black Raiders jersey and a backwards baseball cap. It was a costume that
lasted a long while, a uniform that meant I wouldn’t cry or talk about my feelings.
And after a while of not talking about them my feelings went away, like gods
without any worshipers.
In high school my plan was to be a weather girl. I was pretty enough for it, or at least
my friends said so. Weather girls seemed polished and glamorous on television, and
they all spoke with such confidence about this storm or that stretch of sunshine.
Maybe wanting to be a weather girl was less about the weather and more about
wanting to know something, anything. Wanting to look up at the sky and
three poems: After the Full Moon, an Egg Cracked Open / Self Half Seen / Between the Laundromat and the Nail Salon by Caitlin Thomson
After the Full Moon, an Egg Cracked Open
Alone on the boat deck I read
the falcon cannot hear the falconer.
The sound of water lapping against the boat,
the sound of memory erasing itself.
Below deck my mother cooked bacon,
my brother sung a 50-cent song to himself.
My father was silent, the dog snuggled
in his lap, a whimper away from sleep.
Men in white t-shirts approach us on a zodiac.
There were no falcons.
Italics From The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats.
Self Half Seen
There is a way to be alone,
that used to be a part of me.
I was made of solitude, mangos,
and wind through the hole in the eaves.
I never meant to meet my lover.
The person I was before, wild only in her late night
sleeplessness and coffee drinking ways.
That first winter was so cold, everything
we had thought about ourselves
was irrelevant to who we were becoming.
Between the Laundromat and the Nail Salon
The stranger digs her elbow into my back. I am in pain
and paying for it, the shoulder muscles click and pop.
Unbalanced, she says, the Russian of her accent, rich.
As a child I imagined massages to be pleasurable, the kind
of luxury my mother would never reward herself with.
I only pay for one when migraines make me retch,
my shoulders roped together by invisible strings,
knotted like an abandoned necklace, my old landlord
managed to untangle while talking about advanced
mathematics. My husband tries to loosen the tightness
sometimes but he’s too attentive to my pain
to make headway. I let myself gasp with him.
With the stranger my lips are sealed, my fingernails
digging into my palm sometimes, invisible
under the blanket. A way to redirect focus.
The pain I give myself, always the most manageable.
When I first figured that out at nine, I bit
a canker sore into the side of my own mouth.
three poems: by a thread / hello doctor, my old friend /love notes to self, despairing - VII by Lauren Bender
by a thread
I go where I exist, to the dim sunken corner, your leg
wedged between my two legs,
single curtain to shut out the unwanted, lyrics white
on black above the bed, and I don't think
about the creepy man from the sandwich shop who likes
how pudgy I am, and I don't think
about the lamppost that flew through your window
during the hurricane, and I only think
off and on about our sicknesses, and I don't think
about the sad words on the walls or
that night the ambulance came or how I am always
crawling into your lap in inappropriate
places. It is four thirty in the afternoon, and I am late
for living up to my last name. I have left
the house to work out its own feelings, all terrible
ones like anger and jealousy and disgust,
and could it be that a nap with you will solve
this monumental problem, thinks
the busted adolescent brain. But I am so tired,
and you are so, so tired
that when my sister asks what's fun about going over
to a friend's house just to sleep,
I default to my classic response to questions from
healthy people and stare at her
in silence, hate pooling in my eyes. The world asks
too much to demand I explain sadness too.
hello doctor, my old friend
I follow your legs up the stairs
and talk to them about my feelings;
this is always what I'm doing.
They are flawless and hairless,
and I can't stop staring.
They seem to fall out of your black skirt
announcing you – here I am, your savior,
at least the one you hired this week.
They keep interrupting my stories
with questions about why I love them.
And I tell them, I don’t know;
why does anyone love anything?
Maybe when they catch the light, they look like me,
my legs, if I was living another life,
your life, where I could be happy, no doubt,
and not fall asleep tucked in question marks.
Even though you are a presentation,
never mind seeing beneath the surface. Not now.
Playing dress-up is only the beginning
of growing up, of the transformation.
Can I imagine such a world,
where eyes find themselves at my hemline
and envy fogs away the self?
love notes to self, despairing - VII
can you keep your eyes open
you set your phone's alarm for half an hour later curl on the couch hold it in your hands pressed against your chest like a stuffed animal that sings and purrs out of nowhere and makes your ❤ pound so hard
(and you can't remember if having a ❤ was like this before if this is just what a normal ❤ feels like)
sweet❤ she has to cancel
you say no problem fine whatever I'll therapist myself? surely I've clocked enough hours to get the job done
check your phone and it (you) says calm down your life is not ruined calm down calm down calm down life is always a mess and loud and you can be such a good little self-soother when you bother to try
you slam your fist against anything not working keep hitting hard and the more you hit things the more you want to hit things things that would shatter things that would say stop you're ridiculous
and well I'm a little worried about your ❤ with this have you been trying to--
you're not listening to a word I say are you
lives in Burlington, VT. Her work has appeared in IDK Magazine, The Collapsar, Gyroscope Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Yes Poetry, and others. You can find her on twitter @benderpoet.
Hand Over Heart
When I wake I am flat on my back. Paddle my legs
to get up. Black hairs all through the bed. To tell
the truth, some little stains. I am so ashamed. I
rake up the linen, ball it in the corner of the room.
I hide under the bed then I am hungry. Breakfast.
I must have it. A boiled egg explodes hot in my
mouth like a bladder. My tongue is burnt.
Rubbery stump. I try not to show it. Ashamed.
Today, no one wants to touch me. Black hair on
the back of my neck. I meant to take a shower.
The train is exciting when it arrives. Inside, I am
sleepy. I lean against a woman, carefully. When
she gets up she pushes off from me with a hard
swing of her hipbone, nudge to say, Back in your
place. Someone else sits down. Doggedly, I
follow my nose to my classroom. I put my hand
over my heart when I feel love. I kiss my students
ecstatically as they come in. I try to calm down. I
pretend to fall over. Let’s go out to the field and
play. I can’t help myself in the game. A frenzy
comes upon me. When I am finished with the ball
I have ruined it. The children stand in little packs
snuffling. In recess they tell their secrets to the
door-ajar teacher. She reports to the top.
Escalated to formal complaint. Ashamed. I find a
can of tuna in the staff room cupboard. I have
always hated olives. The children are sleepy in
the classroom. I know every face and name. I take
them to the pool. We hold our hands over our
hearts, and howl. Tune-free. We feel our pulses.
We hunt for bugs. Those who don’t have their
bathers are allowed to swim naked. Then
everyone wants to. Everyone does. The pepper
tree is dropping spicy leaves, peppering the deep
end with shade. Where the light bites the
shadows, the dragonflies skate. I am hungry. I
herd the children back in to their clothes before
the bell. There is a pool of water underneath me
on the train. The wrong kind of clean. I shake.
People move away. Cold breath of the freezer
strays the hairs on my neck. Ashamed. Sleep. Eat.
The TV. At night someone lies next to me. Smells
spayed. I feel fixed. You can hardly hear her
breathing: how she shows me she’s awake. She
holds my hand and puts her face to my face. I
have never been so happy. Then the midnight
crack of the gate. I make a formal complaint.
Hungry. Chocolate I hid away. She comes out
crumpled. I am on my haunches, wrapper
wagging on my tongue. Her seeing eye fixed on
mine. Ashamed. For the first time, I have the
thought: I can’t die today.
So I said, That was the very best, sweet-
heart, that I have ever had. It wasn’t the last
time, but close to it. Should
have been closer. Mine
was a complex lie, designed to hurt
in the short term, me, soothe
you, but ultimately
get me back the stage. Me, the liar,
me the self-abaser, me the praiser,
me the bottom feeder, grouper and star-
gazer, lying low
with my legs and my mouth splayed,
waiting for you
to fuck up again.
You replied—with something
I won’t repeat. Not that it was so painful.
You were as cruel as you could be
but by then you had slipped me
so many cruelties
that I had grown huge,
hairy and insatiable, a frogfish.
My hidden lips sucked up
punishments twice my size, and I
begged for more, just to see
what you in your disgust could say.
I never moved from my deep place
underfoot—biologists call it
both bed and floor, and both
were mine—I took
and took, but even the frogfish may betray
a gleam in her golf-ball eyes. I had the look
a misplaced home surveillance system
blinking with an urgency dismissed
as habitual, the better to be ignored.
Well you did that, you could kick
without looking but it meant you never saw
that you only gave me pause
when I chose which response to feign--
delight or pain?
One long breath—I learnt from you--
will buy the weeper
time for either.
I got used to you. And yet I lived
on tenterhooks, swam
like I sensed a lightning rod in the water.
I expected the sting, I watched for it--
but watching mortifies
the frogfish. Drifting round corners, her eyes
on stalks, the frogfish cannot believe
her wobbling face is met with laughter
when it’s obviously the disguise
of the predator vigilant,
creeping, unseen. Then I knew.
The sting was me.
I stuck with you, even though you
were so stupid as to believe
that I was true to you, and not
merely waiting for my moment--
not in the sun but spot-lit
by the private luminescence we deep-
sea divers specialize in.
I lay with my mouth open, all
lit up by my organs, waiting
for the moment in which
I would swallow you whole,
without a scene.
Evangeline Riddiford Graham
is an artist and writer from Aotearoa New Zealand. She is the author of the poetry chapbook Ginesthoi (hard press, 2017), and her writing has been published in journals including Min-A-Rets, Sport, un magazine, and takahē. Evangeline’s recent exhibitions include solo shows La belle dame avec les mains vertes (Rm Gallery, 2018) and Look Out, Fred! (Enjoy Public Art Gallery, 2017). She currently lives in New York City, where she is pursuing an MFA at The New School.
Oh the furious women
I'd let my lungs crawl out
If it meant you'd give me back my voice
Oh how many times
Did you decided
Your heartbeat would engulf mine
Choking the blood out of my brain
Who are you
You injurious monster
You quiet beast
So ready to tear out
Craddling my cheeks
Sending shots of pain
Through my panicked eyes
I would've bitten you
I would've fought with every last bit of desperate energy
My wretched and weak body could hold inside
I would've yelled
I would've dismembered my shoulders
To escape your merciless hands
Oh i am inhabited
By something bigger
Something larger than my anger
Something even you couldn't bleed the life out
Oh don't think i'll forget so easily
I've built myself on bruises and memories
Every inch of skin raw and scarred
Don't you think i know
From which caves of my mind
These scabs emerged from
Oh i may be monstrous and wounded
You're not done hearing my screams
Oh i hope i'll haunt you
Oh i hope you'll remember
The edge of my teeth
And how it felt
When i finally gut your heart out of your mouth
-i promised i'd dance on your grave
It seems wrong for me
To write about this dangerous word
Do I know faith
Is it the kind of thing
You get taught
Is it a thing that people
Plaster their own meaning on
Before handing it to you
Or is it how you name
What you feel
When you leaf through
The book that helped you
Through all those years
Or when you wander through
A forest bathed in sunrise
And it feels like the word morning
Was only meant for you
The universe is big
Unconceivable for our
We still stare in awe
At autumn leaves
And far away planets
As a wave drip on our
Maybe one day I'll let
Myself put on that tide
A title that'll say
I do not know
The proper words and
The correct vocabulary of
But this absence explains
Why I need you