that’s what i see
when i look too long in the mirror
Whose face is this with pink lips and darkened eyes?
this face feels wrong
like plastic wrap
my soul is reckless and freckled
it is sun burnt
it is the plainest kind of beautiful
it is mine
but souls don’t have faces
I am stuck with this
Elliot Anderson is a non-binary queer person, college kid, feminist, future social worker, and occasional writer.
I’d forgotten what a haunting costs.
My old callouses trace back down the row
Hoed quick and straight in the fear of god
And of love soured into vice, twisted and sharp.
Your eyes are steadier than I am strong
So I’ll walk the walls with you
If this quaking breath is stolen by shades
And wait in your arms till we can coax it home again.
Hännah Ettinger is a storyteller on a quest.
I. and if i could choose to do it all again i would change my eyes. and my body, which seems oddly out of place. eyes burn fire in the mirror. grey-fired eyes. nevertheless it screams out truth. i know who i am and yet i don’t know who i am. it’s the paradox of being human. not image of god and being human simultaneously, no, that’s not really a mystery since it can be easily explained away. sinner and saint, nice concept that. but the idea that we know ourselves in full and yet not fully seems more interesting to me—
II. she sits in the mirror eyes burning grey fire and nothing has changed. leastways nothing significant or new. same body. same eyes. same damn thing. everything the same, depressing and frustrating. sighs and climbs into the shower—she can’t stand the mirror, mirror on the wall, tell us who’s most fucked of all—
III. i’ve always kind of loved theology. it’s always been a safe space for me and my antics. lately it’s been keenly put in front of me that in some spheres heresy is even a good thing. which, based on my past i guess, i find horribly ironic and freeing. but theology is a safe haven. whatever. a theology raised me. a theology of self-doubt and awareness of my own sinfulness. by sin nature tainted me too deeply, my thoughts, emotions, not trustworthy—
IV. she gets out of the shower and towels off her too short hair. too short. too butch. too un-femme. but you know, it happens. and then she moves down her body. takes the towel down her body. her flat chest because not enough hormones happened during puberty she guesses. arches her back and thrusts forward to towel her back down. then dry off the unpleasant parts of her and feel shame—
V. i’m a sinner i guess. too unsure to see myself fully and can’t know myself truly—
she feels feminine but not fully—
and i know the truth is that i am a sinner but i don’t—
and her body doesn’t scream out woman or true—
i’m so unsure of myself and i thought theology was safe for a homeschooler where you can glorify god all the fucking time—
she puts on her clothes—
and i know this only despite my sinful heart—
and she feels like the person she should be—
Johanna is a trans girl trying to accept herself and learning to write.
Arise, O Lady of the Night
Spread your wings and take to flight
On evening’s gilded shadows fly
O, thou, dusk’s dark and maiden sprite
As through the clouds thy prey you spy
Your flight is hid to human eye
Flee, O Man, toward dawn’s first light
For death’s dark shadow’s drawing nigh
Can any mortal hear her song?
Or scoff her maidens as they throng?
Tremble, Man, at thy Lady’s door
Death at last will sound her gong
The piercing scream of Lady’s roar
Stealing lives as evening’s whore
Beware, O Death, when thou doth strike
Else thy power be no more.
When clouds at last unveil the moon
And ‘luminate the darkest boon
Terror strikes at Man’s weak heart
With no escape from Death’s dark tune.
Winging down, the shadow darts
And enters into man’s weak heart
There her song predicts his death
He can’t survive against her art
Mara is a geeky mid-20-something who lives in the foothills and attends an all-women university. Her imagination unfettered, she continues to express herself in the only way she had growing up—the written word.
I felt the wheels humming under my feet
as they dragged us home. Keeping the traction
because we didn’t quite know how.
“Do you ever learn a goddamn thing?” I asked,
not entirely sure if the question was directed toward
you or my own passenger seat filled with fallen
ashes and apathetic movement.
Phantom hitchhikers on a free falling highway
haunting the tired sinners as they stumble to their
beds wondering at what point in time that sharp
corner got there and why they can’t seem to get
through their path without damaging a knee cap or shin.
The bed bogarts comfort and you spend your days
seeking a moment alone with the damn thing.
Sleep is fleeting and comfort is stationary.
“Please don’t leave,” the bed whispers, “Stay
a little while longer. Bring your world to me.”
But sinner, I saw you. I saw you yesterday
in mirrored walls. Slurring your speech to the heavens.
pleading for a moment away from the fire. The devil
giggled like a school girl in lust, knowing the heavens
weren’t listening. Like a 911 call in vain, the operator
has turned a deaf ear to your promise
just as you soon will, sinner.
Sara Khayat was born and raised in Los Angeles. She is currently a 22-year-old creative writing major at California State University Northridge. She is editor-in-chief of Paper Plane Pilot Publishing (thepaperplanepilots.com).
Three prose poems from the series REVENGE IS THE BEST REVENGE
you said “don’t be a girl” but that’s just your witch talking. next time, beat your heart slower. kill a second bird. I know you like the ring of the gun shot, I know you like the hunt. I’m the widow of everything dies. I’m the widow of everything dies but you. fuck you, patriarchy. I keep asking WHAT JUST HIT ME and never get an answer. the lake talks back. the boats on the lake talk back. but talking back isn’t an answer, and rebellion doesn’t solve anything except the water in your shoes. where’s the nearest exit?
the first round of birth pangs is on me. I’ll sit here tensing and turning my hands into temples other sinners can hide in. I’ll get up to stretch my legs. I want the inhale too much. I want to let the weight of my pelvis fall on my whole pelvis. I want to wear my body like a nest. but the blood king in my heart tried too hard, the blood in my heart failed the acid test. I thought hard about hymning vs. humming and chose the conifers because I don’t trust any green that only lasts a season. “not enough woods for the both of us” you said as the macaws faded away into the trees. rare birds don’t do that. rare birds sing only for you. I heard you make her buy the song now. a quarter. another quarter. I don’t know if silencing counts as revenge. I want it to.
animal farm is my life. I don’t mean bacon. the thing that defines a man is his bray. I bought you the three musketeers in your mother tongue. holding hands on the train they tried to make us russian nesting dolls. where’s the blame go? most people can’t unhammer; thats just not how physics works. men just grunt and swing away. shopkeeper, meet me in the lighthouse. my joan of arc. if the door is locked, lick your way through.
Alisha Bruton lives and cries and writes in Portland, Ore., where she is about to start medical school. Other poems can be found in The Diagram, Ampersand Review, and 751 Magazine.
Pray fives time a day
Love God above everything
That is not your song to sing
What you don’t understand
He is bigger than you will ever be
Five times a day
Love myself above everything
I don’t let anyone do that for me
What I don’t understand
I am bigger than what you ever thought of me
Samah Fadil is a 26 year-old former closed-minded bigot. Time has taught her to be more respectful of the unknown, and age has shown her that the only truth in life is love.
Unmasking the image that is my body is like peeling away the thin paper
folds between the pages
The folds that adorned a body so flat, so uninteresting, so dimensionally
That when you turn the page, you forget about it and it just becomes another
body lost in the
Another pair of ass and tits and mounds of flesh that make up the singular
point of my physical
An existence so burdened with the shame of my own skin, and the imaginary
lines I draw from
chin to navel
From nipple to toe
From eyelash to ribcage
That I can barely see where I begin and the pages end
Read more at Serenity’s tumblr. Serenity is 25 years old. She holds a bachelor’s in journalism and works as a paid writer and poet. She seeks to share her story and religious upbringing, not in hopes to condemn, but to help open the eyes of those who unknowingly oppress men, women, and children in such societies.
Nobody ever thinks,
There must be centuries of wreckage inside her head;
buried somewhere, under
all that glitter.”
She is the incarnation of hollow progress.
You continue to downplay
the fuckery she endures
because inertia is a concept you have not yet mastered.
She slips back, because
you believed you’ve moved forward.
Still, others tirelessly reject her
and her ghosts;
call her damaged goods;
Write her off.
She is still contemplating
the purpose of this slow, painful life.
Jena is a poet/artsy person/mad scientist slowly freezing to death in MN. She hasn’t felt up to telling her whole story because she’s not sure she has the proper grasp of intersectionality regarding religion, race, class, adoption, LGBTQ issues, and mental health. Here’s hoping.
She is not just beautiful;
she blesses others with her beauty;
her presence is her alms;
our gaze is our gift.
It is as if we say to her, “We are weary travelers.
Please, bless us with a glance,
with a smile,
with the sight of your eyes.”
And she, without the slightest effort and with the utmost grace, grants our request.
We don’t just see her,
we receive and behold her beauty.
John Daniel Holloway is a student of biblical studies, a social activist, a musician, and a poet.