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
Heart with two diamonds glued to their teeth.
Heart in their bed, lilac blankets washed up on their legs like wave caps at
sunset watering the flowers that someone left wilted on their skin.
Heart drinking coffee, a drop of java cascading down their chin, so focused on
lines of charcoal they don’t notice. They smudge the brown into the paper.
Heart with me, they tell me about the ghosts that haunt their apartment and
the woods that make them feel alive and how they have always been afraid of
the dark. Freckles like fingerprints, they trace them like constellations, eyes
closed tight when they reach each one and they tell me how much they wish they
could kiss me. They don’t tell me why they can’t and I don’t ask. We just sit.
Empty the contents of your cannibal Heart. What do you see? A smile with
two diamonds on teeth. Heart is lovely. I want to know them in the dark but their
fear holds me back behind a gauzy veil. I think they are in another universe.
I promise not to touch them, “it makes it worse,” they say. Instead, I lay in bed
while they paint on my back, creating a galaxy. “Somewhere we could live,” they
said. We are my favorite color palette. And I can feel them wishing on my stars
with every pause their brush makes.
There’s an artist named Valeska Soares who curates books with “love” in the
title spanning over several languages such as Italian, French, Spanish, and
English. Soares researches the titles of these books and has them reprinted to
match their first edition press with the cover color corresponding to the language
they were originally printed in. These books are then displayed as a group of five
hundred over four shelves, two hundred and fifty over two shelves, or one
hundred and twenty-five on one shelf. Inside each book, the pages are blank.
I find myself in daily movement:
in that second when the streetlamps are lit
in that strange shiver before the plane takes off
in the excitement of questions yet to be answered.
I dread the will you stay with me
because I do love you
—I do I do I do--
but everything with roots dies and
I do not want to die yet.
It’s easier to write about these things in English because I cannot write about home without
writing in Spanish. Not really. What’s in a language that when using one I can deny my
homeland safely and when using another the words get stuck in my throat like hungry worms?
The word for home in Spanish is hogar. In the dictionary, there’s six definitions for hogar:
a place to live
home can also be
a place where a fire is lit
What does a paper girl do
with a bonfire?
Home: an answer
The truth about home is
that no matter where you are it never ceases to exist:
it’s not a jail or a chain
but a gravitational center to which one can always return.
When you think about the bonfire
think too about the background noise of the cafeteria at university
and of the sky after class on winter evenings
—sometimes like fresh spilled blood
sometimes like a week-old bruise
sometimes like a raw apricot.
Think about the flower shop down the street:
a splash of color so bright in the middle of the smoky asphalt streets of Madrid;
think about the pine trees you get to see every weekend
when you take the bus to go and hug him tight
—and yes, everything smells like a bonfire there
and there’s always some bird singing
and there’s always someone clapping you in the back.
Home does not exist to hold you back,
but to hold you when you need it.
two poems: what sad girls talk about when they’re not sad / for us to gain much more than just bread by Sol Camarena Medina
what sad girls talk about when they’re not sad
tw: depression + sex mention
Sad girls, when they’re not sad –
they talk about love,
and war. Their own unfinished poems,
and mostly, mostly
bacchanals for joy.
Sad girls, when they’re not sad – they talk about washing their hands before
touching their own wounds. They list
each and every function for laughing
hold parties, and throw pillows at each other –
nobody ever mentions
the way tears are now engraved on sheets, and so to sleep is now an adventure
meant for sagacious lady sailors.
Sad girls, when they’re not sad – they write less,
and they dance more. They do so with no need for drunkenness –
just like putting on pajamas
right before going to bed. Sad girls, when they’re not sad – they talk
about washing their own panties on time
so they aren’t left with none.
Sad girls, when they’re not sad – they don’t ever forget
about sadness. They put together a small nest for her, with what’s left of ex girlfriends’
bouquets of flowers, and a canopy for her bed which they embroider
with beautiful words. They care for their own sadness
they breastfeed her – their chests cold
they play being Mom and Dad
even though they’re still scared
of being able to have daughters themselves.
Sad girls, when they’re not sad – they hoist less flags but that’s because, for once, they
to read manifestos preceding them. They’ve got time left
for something other than due soup,
or worn out dreams.
Sad girls, when they’re not sad – they fuck less
they love less
but they do it all
a lot better. They moan at more sympathetic volumes
for the sake of their neighbors’ work hours. They masturbate
for some other reason than just inertia,
Sad girls, ultimately, are
a lot more than just sad girls
a lot less than healthy women
but they’re forever
going to remember
something nobody can take away from them.
for us to gain much more than just bread
(for friends at ASIEM, a mental heath org meeting I was invited to at my city; they're doing some wonderful work for mentally ill & mad people like me here at Valencia, so I wrote it for them all as an expression of gratitude for their invitation!)
We basted loss on a worn-out cloth,
and we tore the embroidery in order to find the needle
we misplaced years ago. It’s no haystack
but it’s close.
We’re lord & lady knights for withered roses,
and underground carnations,
and bleeding poppies,
we’re here, despite it all. Kissing life’s wrists,
and finding tiny lights within the night,
and embracing that which is dark out of our own insides,
and making a home out of the edge of the wind.
We crumbled prejudices within gazes,
and we unleashed litters, and we took down
spikes. There’s no prison left for this dream
for getting better which we promised.
For laughter’s our own sail within this ship –
and tears are joy’s loyal companions. For hope’s
squeezing our own hands with her caress,
and to resist –
that’s no longer
the only thing we’re doing.
we’re also doing the living.
You are the most important person in your life. it’s true. you are the single most important thing needed for your own health and safety. that does not mean you are the center of my universe or anyone else’s but you shouldn’t be. you are the center of your own universe. don’t let this concept let you become arrogant or self righteous. you can be your own worst enemy you can hate yourself and want to no longer exist but despite that your heart continues pumping and your lungs continue to breathe and your brain may be an asshole but at its base, the brain stem it keeps you alive. there are so many things pulling for you and trying to keep you here and i for one am one of them. live for the good times that come in the future for you. live for the laughter and loving your friends and your family and your pets. live for all the experiences you would miss out on if you ceased to exist. live for yourself and all that you are going to do that is worth living for. how about that- if you have a moment listen to “Its All Worth Living For” by an artist named Levi the Poet. he expresses a similar sentiment far more eloquently than i. but always remember. you are the most important person in your universe and staying alive is the most important thing to you. don’t deny all the years of evolution that have culminated in you. if you were weak you would have been elimated a long time ago and if you got this far, you can make it all the way. your shoulders can bear the load. don’t be afraid to ask for help. you do not need to be atlas. ask your friends or family or significant other or your community. if you don’t have anyone else, ask me and i will led my strength
but don’t forget it.
you’re so important to me
and you’re the most important to yourself